|Five Views 2024
Geoffrey W Sutton & Bing AI
The second edition of Psychology
and Christianity: Five Views is
an expanded version of the 2000 edition. Edited by Eric L. Johnson, the book
presents ways to understand the relationship between psychology and
The Five Views
1. Levels-of-Explanation View by David
Myers, Hope College
view suggests that psychology and Christianity operate at different levels of
explanation. Psychology operates at the level of human behavior and mental
processes, while Christianity operates at the level of meaning and value.
2. Integration View by Stanton Jones,
view proposes that psychology and Christianity can be integrated in a way that
both can contribute to a fuller understanding of human nature.
3. Christian Psychology View by Robert
Roberts (Baylor University) and P. J. Watson (University of
view argues that a distinctly Christian psychology is needed, one that is
grounded in the teachings of the Bible and informed by a Christian
understanding of human nature.
4. Transformational Psychology View by John
Coe and Todd Hall, Rosemeade Graduate School of Psychology
view emphasizes the transformative power of Christianity and suggests that
psychological change must involve spiritual transformation.
5. Biblical Counseling View by David
Powlison, Westminister Theological Seminary
view argues that the Bible provides the most accurate and helpful guidance for
counseling, and that secular psychology should be used cautiously.
The authors present their viewpoints with
humility, understanding the complexity of relating psychology and
Christianity. The first two views focus on clear descriptions and arguments,
while the last three views provide practical illustrations and examples,
considering the real-world application of psychology. The book has become a
standard introductory textbook for students and professors of Christian
Johnson, E. L. (Ed.). (2010). Psychology
and Christianity: Five Views (2nd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Available on AMAZON
I approached this text with my usual analytic approach to opinion articles. I earned my PhD in psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia at a time when the emphasis was on the science of psychology, which embraced the scientific experiment as the gold standard for obtaining reliable evidence about human nature. It was not a faith-unfriendly place. At least four of the faculty I routinely encountered identified as Christian and so did several students. Nevertheless, religion and spirituality were not included in the curriculum. At the time, mid-1970s, only a few psychologists had written about Christianity and psychology and they focused on psychotherapy rather than psychological science.
Although I could understand the importance of faith to patients in psychotherapy, other aspects of psychological science seemed removed from such discussions. For example, how would a Christian perspective change what we learned about the functioning of the brain, the assessment of brain functions, and the problems associated with brain injuries? As another example, I wondered how it would make a difference in psychological evaluations. Christian and non-Christian psychologists administered the same tests to Christian and non-Christian patients, scored them the same way, referred to the same criteria for diagnoses, and made recommendations for interventions based on the best available treatments.
Psychological science deals with the natural world. Christianity includes the supernatural realm, which is beyond the scope of psychology. Sometimes psychology and Christianity do offer perspectives on the same or similar topics like parenting, marriage, alcohol abuse, and forgiveness. Although, Christians often differ among themselves and with psychological findings on the best way to parent, treat alcohol dependence or abuse, and deal with the expression of forgiveness and the related concept of reconciliation.
A full integration or a full reconciliation of Christianity and psychological science does not yet exist. And in my view, there are too many nonoverlapping concerns to have a synthesis that most Christian scholars would say yields a fully integrated model. After all, serious thinkers have addressed the topic for several decades. Furthermore, I suggest that Christians often end up reinterpreting the scriptures to accommodate a scientific finding such as the evidence supporting a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychopharmacology to treat depression.
Regardless of my concerns about a viable model of integration or a reconciliation of Christianity and psychology, I do think this book or a similar set of views is worth considering by graduate students who wish to understand different perspectives on the relationship between faith and psychology.
Geoffrey W. Sutton, PhD is Emeritus Professor of Psychology. He retired from a clinical practice and was credentialed in clinical neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. His website is www.suttong.com
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