Entwistle, D. N. (2010). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity 2nd ed. Wipf and Stock.
In explaining life and human nature, two disciplines are often consulted to provide its perspectives. Psychology and Theology are disciplines that often argue on some conflicting and controversial issues. While Psychology studies human nature, Theology spreads biblical truths that able guide humans to live an upright and peace-filled life. However, when they are fused together, endless debates about science (Psychology) and bible truths (Christian beliefs) ensue, confusing humans on which discipline actually reveal real truths.
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Entwistle’s (2010) book offers a refreshing perspective on compromising both sides. It integrates theories from both in order to forge a more harmonious and productive relationship that would ably guide people on living the life God expected them to live here on earth.
Since both Psychology and Theology both work towards knowing the person inside out and healing whatever is broken, many of its principles align. However, there are gaps that may still prevent both to be fully fused as one. The book attempts to reconcile differences so as to result in integration and wholeness.
Integration reflects God’s desire to reconcile humanity and the larger created realm to Him. Even Christians ask metaphysical questions that harmonize with their faith and the answers may support and strengthen it instead of undermining it when they are introduced to well-considered and clearly articulated world and life-views. Such questioning has implications for an integrative paradigm.
The book discusses various models in describing the relationships of Psychology and Christianity, ranging from the extreme Enemies paradigm which polarizes the “Secular Combatants” (psychology) and the “Christian Combatants” (Christianity), and proposes fierce loyalty to one discipline while rejecting the other. Other models like the Spies, Colonialists and Neutral Parties have tendencies to vacillate between the two disciplines.
The fully integrative paradigm is the Allies. It sees the value of both camps of Christianity and Psychology, that taken together will give a fuller and more accurate picture of the truth. It is a truth that God has revealed in both the bible and in practical life. It is such a credible truth because it comes from the One who reigns supreme over both disciplines. It proposes that in seeking truth, we must study both books of God’s word (the bible, Christianity) and God’s work (the world, people, Psychology).
When one thoroughly investigates both books will reveal that mutual interaction of principles is what can guide him in understanding God’s truths.
In case inconsistencies arise in pursuit of the truth, one should carefully evaluate both theological and psychological evidences and lean on which one is clearer to him.
Since God is the author of all truths, we should discern His truth from both camps to the best of our abilities. Long-held truths may still be questioned if new evidences surface and point towards more reasonable and credible explanations. But as long as we remain staunchly devoted to the belief that all truths is God’s truth, we should not be easily swayed by dictates of human-made traditions and authority. The aim of integration is for people to apply what they learn from God’s word and works. This is achieved in a life of service and love for others as an expression of praise and glory for God.
So many situations came to my mind while reading the book. There have been countless times when I have secretly questioned some painful events in my life, doubting God’s love for me. I would feel that His eyes were not upon me when such painful events happened, but being a good Christian, I would rationally think of more logical explanations for it. For example, when a close friend or family member dies, I go through the various stages of grief (Kübler-Ross, 1969). which includes some stages implying one’s questioning God’s will.
At that moment, I would feel I had enough reasons to conclude that God was unfair in taking that person away from me. I could scientifically justify that the person was too young, he or she may not have died had one significant turn of event did not happen, and many more reasons that I frantically hold on to. However, eventually, I succumb to the feeling of powerlessness and raise my hands up in desperation that indeed, I do not have enough wisdom to understand all the why’s and wherefore’s in this life and only God knows why things happen the way they do.
On hindsight, I knew that the influence of both Psychology and my own Christian beliefs were struggling to be heard. Listening to both caused me confusion at some point, but eventually, as I learned to accept the situation, things became clearer to me. I realize it takes a large dose of humility to accept my limitations as a human being and to allow God to take over.
Aside from being greatly illuminated on many aspects of my Christian life and the psychological principles I have firmly believed, Entwistle’s book developed in me a deeper awareness of my own world perspective as well as made me critically question some points of contention. One basic question is, if there is an obvious conflict between Psychological theory and Christian dogma, is there is a foolproof way for a person to know exactly which one to choose, stand by his decision in the belief that God will understand? Or if he chooses the wrong decision, will he be considered more sinful in the eyes of God? I ask this knowing that sometimes, what is right in God’s eyes may be unpopular in man’s or vice versa. Is there a middle ground to it? Or is being a passive fatalist makes things worse?
Being in a position of questioning deeply ingrained beliefs may be uncomfortable. However, this state disequilibrium is what is needed for a person to spring to action because he wants to be at peace with himself (Nouwen, 1975). Upon careful deliberation, one becomes more confident in making a stand. When one makes Jesus as a model, emulating his behavior and following his teachings, it gives him a steady anchor and a credible roadmap to living his life in accordance to God’s will.
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Jesus’ use of parables adds color to his teachings and gives people opportunities to interpret it in ways that may suit their life situations. One question that comes to mind, though, is if the bible, filled with various figures of speech, is meant to be interpreted in just one way or different ways in order to help people in their own life context? In the same way, how come there are so many Psychological theories that are developed on the same issues? Is it because Psychology can also be used to explain such issues to suit people’s needs in their own situations?
I am humbled at the validation of the fact that as a human being, I am flawed. Adam and Eve’s hunger to be God-like has led them to resort to disobedience to his will because of their human greed for knowledge and power. In the end, God was not pleased with them and banished them from paradise. I can relate to such hunger for knowledge, but this book has enlightened me to accept and be comfortable in my humanness. God’s will is always the best for His children and although I may be recalcitrant in searching for the truth with scientific evidence, I should be obedient enough to listen to what God wants me to do with my life. Being humble enough to accept that we I am flawed opens me to the reality that indeed, I need God’s light and guidance.
This realization will direct me to counsel problematic friends to acknowledge their “humanness” and need for God, and have hope that His ultimate wisdom will guide them to do the right thing. Knowing God in a more personal manner will make it easier to understand that He accepts us for all our strengths and weaknesses and is unconditional in loving us. I will also advise to my counselee that they should strengthen their efforts to search for solutions to their problems on their own but always pray for God’s guidance to ensure that they do the right thing.
Entwistle, D. N. (2010). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity (2nd ed.). Wipf and Stock.
Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York, NY: Macmillan.
Nouwen, H. (1975), Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.