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Psychology & Christianity: Five Views [Paperback]

David G. Myers , Stanton L. Jones , Eric L. Johnson
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 7 2010 Spectrum Multiview Books
This book represents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity. David A. Powlison offers the biblical counseling model, the levels-of-explanation model is advanced by David G. Meyers, Stanton L. Jones introduces the integration model and the Christian psychology model is put forth by Robert C. Roberts and P. J. Watson. This second edition includes an entirely new chapter by John H. Coe and Todd W. Hall presenting a fifth view - the transformational psychology model - along with new responses from the other contributors.

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Psychology & Christianity: Five Views + Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling: The Surprising Relationship Between Our Sin and God's Grace + Christian Counseling: An Introduction
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars frustrated Sept. 16 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book, Aug 10 and for classes that started Sept 9. My shipping date immediately fell in that category. However, now that classes have starter, I just got an email stating it won't come until Oct 9 ish. This is after my report that this book is needed for is due. Not helpful at all.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book July 26 2011
By Jacob Sweeney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Those familiar with the seminary know that just over ten years ago a significant debate took place concerning the relationship of Psychology and Christianity. The school emerged with an adjusted position. They now advocate a practice of counseling known as "Biblical Counseling". This approach - championed by Jay Adams beginning in the 70's - is defined by its commitment to Scripture and the conviction that psychology is unhelpful for understanding or healing.

A rash conclusion would be to see the Biblical Counseling position as the only viable option for Christians. In fact, committed Christians do maintain divergent opinions on the subject of counseling, psychology and Christian confession. I have long enjoyed multi-view titles that many Christian publishers have been making available. InterVarsity Press has Psychology and Christianity: Five Views as part of their immensely helpful Spectrum series.

This book serves as an introductory text to the various approaches to psychology and counseling from a Christian perspective. This updated version has chapters devoted to "Level-of-Explanation", "Integrated", "Christian Psychology", "Transformative" and "Biblical Counseling" approaches. The defining characteristic of the multi-view books are the short chapters following the presentations of each view. Those short response chapters allow the authors of different views to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement. This makes short work for readers who wish to discover the crux of debate.

Despite the historical vitriol this subject has known, each contributor is calm and gracious towards their dissenters. Additionally, each response chapter is helpful, clarifying and avoids unnecessary generalizations or unfair characterizations.

The only chapter that I found less helpful than the others was the "Levels-of-Explanation" chapter. I read the chapter slowly and attempted to engage with his presentation the best I could and I did not feel he had explained his approach clearly. However, I found the other chapters helpful and enjoyable to read. This is a title that I will return to once again and refers others to as well. It is a welcome and helpful guide in this discussion.

NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission I would like to state that I received the aforementioned title for the purposes of review. I was not required to furnish a positive review.
26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I quick look at what this book has to say. Jan. 8 2011
By Hellen Blake - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The scope of "Psychology and Christianity Five Views" is to show the five primary views of Psychology in relation to Christianity, or as the editor (Eric L. Johnson) says, "Our goal in a book like this is ultimately to discern God's view of psychology and Christianity (5 Views, 295)." The book's aim, on the other hand comes in the form of application, it hopes to educate and help counselors understand and develop a Christian Philosophy for counseling, "it does this by exploring five major positions evangelicals have taken regarding the relationship of psychology and the Christian faith (5 Views, 38)." As can be surmised, this book deals with the field of psychology, and in particular it deals with how five different Christian experts try to understand this broad field of study.
A logical question that most modern readers may have is the relevancy of Christian psychology. The answer to that question can be shown briefly through history, claims the editor. The fact is that Christianity brought psychology to the West through great thinkers such as Roger Bacon, Descartes, Copernicus and many others (5 Views, 10). The editor goes on to say, "...if we define psychology broadly as a rigorous inquiry into human nature and how to treat its problems and advance its will-being, Christians have been thinking and practicing psychology for centuries (5 Views, 14)." The editor also notes that late modernism was a reaction against history, thus Christianity. The "moderns" in the West kept trying to exclude biblical study as well as philosophical reflection, while at the same time trying to turn psychology into a natural science (5 Views, 19). This in turn created tension between the tradition of the "aged" church (which had been around for centuries) and the "modern" science of psychology. The question or "...focus in this book, of course, is on two traditions interested in the nature of human beings and how to promote their well-being...the Christian and the (late) modern (5 Views, 25)."
But before we dive into these five Christian views of psychology there are five items that the editor wishes that the reader pay extra attention to, so that the reader may be able to distinguish the five different Christian approaches to psychology from each other (5 Views, 40). These five items can be sought out by having the reader answer these five questions. (1) How are they different? (2) Is the author "more critical" or "more trusting" of contemporary psychology (5 Views, 40)? (3) Does the given author believe that we should pursue a "distinctive understanding of human nature...or a universal understanding that all psychologists...can recognize (5 Views, 40)"? (4) Who does the author ally with, the church or the established scholars in the field psychology? (5) Finally, does the author view psychology as a task of acquiring knowledge, or does he view psychology as a task of changing lives (5 Views, 40)? With these five questions we will now began our journey through the five different views.
There are various responses to this "new" modern psychology in evangelical Christian circles. We will begin by looking at the "Level-of-Explanation" model that is held by David G. Myers, who has pinned this chapter. Myers views psychology as science, psychology is "the science of behavior and mental process" no more, no less (5 Views, 49). Myers also believes that Christianity and science, in this case psychology, "fit together nicely" and that they support each other (5 Views, 49). Myers feels that Christians need to be open toward empirical evidence that the scientific community offers by saying that, "Openness to scientific inquiry becomes not just my right but my religious duty (5 Views, 51)." What this shows is that Myers is more trusting of contemporary psychology than he is of the church; he feels it is "Better to humble ourselves before reliable evidence than to cling to our presumptions (5 Views, 53)." By presumptions Myers means beliefs that most Christians regard as truth but that empirical evidence says other ways, such as sexual orientation (5 Views, 72-74). As such Myers believers that psychology should be able to be used universally and accepted by all Psychologists, not just those who profess to be Christian. This is shown by Myers when he states that, "Psychological science has shown the correlates between an active faith and human health (5 Views, 75)." What Myers is saying is that psychology has proven that individuals that have an active faith are generally healthier than those who do not. Thus, all truth can be tested and verified under one universal psychology. As has been shown, Myers allies himself with contemporary scholars and against the majority of Protestant Churches. This is obvious when one readers Myers views, "On the question of sexual orientation (5 Views, 72-75)." Myers claims that, "The Bible has little if anything, to say about an enduring sexual orientation (a modern concept) or about loving, long-term, same-sex partnerships (5 Views, 74)." Myers also sees the acquisition of knowledge as the primary task of Psychology. For Myers, the more knowledge we have, the more tests we can run, thus the more truth we can find and apply. The Levels-of-Explanation view is the most contemporary Christian view; its polar opposite is Biblical Counseling.
The Biblical Counseling view is the harshest reaction against modern psychology and it is presented by David Powlison (5 Views, 31). The scope of biblical counseling advocates "...that Christians should focus their attention in counseling primarily on repentance from sin (since sin causes most problems that modern psychology tries to address) and Christ as God's solution to our problems (5 Views, 31)." The aim than is for the counselor to use the Bible for the "spiritual needs of God's people...(5 Views, 31)." But to do this Powlison says, "It is important to see how Christian faith and practice relate in different ways to each aspect of what comes under the monolithic heading of Psychology (5 Views, 262)." Powlison addresses this issue by redefining psychology and placing it into six different categories that range from "Psych-1: Detailed knowledge of human function (5 Views, 249-256)" to "Psych-6: A Mass of ethos (5 Views, 261-262)." Powlison then explains how Biblical Counseling deals with each category of psychology, and how modern psychology fits or in most cases why it does not, and therefore, should be left out. As the reader has probably guessed Biblical Counseling is more critical than trusting of contemporary psychology. Those who hold these views of Biblical Counseling even go one step further by saying that they are "critical of the writing and practice of Christian counselors, who they believe {are} synthesizing Christianity with secular thought (5 Views, 32)." As such Powlison pursues a distinctive understanding of human nature by claiming that, "Christian faith is a psychology (5 Views, 245, 256)." Powlison also allies himself with the church. One reason for this is that Powlison claims that "Psychology is not a neutral, technical expertise (5 Views, 257)." It should be based largely on the Word of God, the Bible. Another reason is that, "...all counseling attempts pastoral work, shepherding the souls of wandering, suffering sheep (5 Views, 258)." Thus, as Freud put it, "Secular psychotherapy is `pastoral work' done by `secular pastoral workers,'...(5 Views, 258)." In Powlison's opinion this is ghastly, because the "Christian faith is demonstrably truer, wiser, more loving, and more effective than the pop psychology ideas and assumptions that sound the keynote in contemporary society (5 Views, 261)." The task of psychology for Powlison is very clear; he sees Biblical Counseling as an attempt to change lives. Powlison goes on to state that, "The attempt to change people is qualitatively different from scientific study and efforts to understand what is (5 Views, 260)." Thus, Powlison believes that the church or parachurch should provide this agent (pastor, chaplain, counselor) of change who can "meditate the life changing truth and love that is in Christ (5 Views, 261)." As was stated earlier Biblical Counseling is the polar opposite of the Levels-of-Explanation and these two views are so distinct that they are easy to compare and contrast. The next three views that will be presented are not quite so clear.
The next view that we will review is called Integration, and the author and practitioner of this view, Stanton L. Jones, gives us this definition of "integration: Integration of Christianity and psychology is our living out--in this particular area--of the lordship of Christ over all of existence by our giving his special revelation--God's true Word--its appropriate place of authority in determining our fundamental beliefs about and practices toward all of reality and toward our academic subject matter in particular (5 Views, 102)." Thus, the scope of Integration as presented by Jones states that, "Our goal is to assist the Christian counselor to ground her work in biblical truth, to appropriate the creative and helpful aspects of secular approaches to psychotherapy in a way consistent with the biblical truth, and to approach the practice of psychotherapy in a way that has Christian integrity (5 Views, 118)." As has been shown the chief aim of Integration is to join Christian Faith and contemporary psychology, allowing them to address both the human nature and its development (5 views, 34-35). It is somewhat difficult to say if Jones is more critical or trusting of contemporary psychology, but it is somewhat apparent that he sees himself to be more critical of it. In Jones view science is much more than just facts; it also is dependant upon human experiences. Jones claims that, "It is this reality that offers us the chance to be Christian scientists--Christians who allow (even insist) that our fundamental convictions as believers shape our work as scientists, even as we maintain a scientific commitment to strict accountability to empirical evidence (5 Views, 114)." When asking if Jones is in pursuit of a distinctive understanding or a universal understanding it is an easier question to answer. Jones believes that there should be a universal understanding of the human being, because he believes that "Science ultimately is a public enterprise (5 Views, 115)." That is why Jones claims that "Christians should be in the thick of psychology, contributing their ideas, submitting their hypotheses and theories to the test (5 Views, 115)." Jones would say we need to be in the world, but not of it. To the question of allegiance, it is a difficult to say because Jones holds both the church and secular psychology in high regards. But ultimately Jones says, "...clinical integrationists will use secular conceptions and methods selectively and cautiously, striving all the while to reflect first the character of Christ and their grounding in a profoundly Christian view of persons (5 Views, 120)." This seems to suggest that Jones is pro church but with a taste of secular psychology, which is what he is advocating. Jones further says that, "Integration means approaching the discipline and profession of psychology with a commitment to having one's Christian convictions shape every aspect of one's work (5 Views, 125)." So in the end, Jones appears to side with the church, but ultimately this question is up to the reader. Jones views the task of psychology as primarily involved in changing lives with the use of Christ, empirical evidence, and some contemporary practices. The next view that will be presented has many similarities to Integration.
This view is the most neutral view that is presented in this book, it is called Christian Psychology; the authors of this chapter are Robert C. Roberts and P. J. Watson. These authors define their view as such, "Psychology is a science that studies the behavior and mental processes of persons as understood in Christian texts and traditions of interpretation (5 Views, 87)." That being said the scope of Christian Psychology is to create a psychology that is based on the Christian faith but can be demonstrated to be accurate using the standard empirical methods of secular psychologists (5 Views, 36). Thus, the aim is for "Christians in psychology to develop their own theories, research and practice that flow from Christian beliefs about human beings--while continuing to participate actively in the broader field (5 Views, 36)." The above quote adequately demonstrates that these authors are definitely more critical of contemporary psychology. The authors say that, "Christian psychologists eschew establishment psychology's goal of universal psychology that aptly describes all human beings generically, believing that it is less scientific than it might be (5 views, 155)." Thus, the authors have stated that they believe in a distinctive understanding. The authors acknowledge that, "To the positive psychologist who supposes (with the rest of the psychological establishment) that psychology must be a single body of thought and information equally acceptable to any rational person, regardless of metaphysical commitments, our proposal of a Christian psychology may seem parochial and unscientific (5 Views, 154)." So when it comes down to which side the authors' ally themselves, it is an easy answer, the church. The primary reason that the authors gravitate to the Church is that they believe if "we lose touch with our own psychology and replace it with the psychology of the establishment, we will lose touch with the apostolic faith (5 Views, 174)." The closest Christian Psychology comes to being "contemporary" is in its use of empirical research, but this only lasts for a moment. "A Christian empirical psychology will begin unapologetically with an explicit normative understanding of human beings and will thus be more methodologically honest than any clinical or personality psychology that even implicitly purports to be "unprejudiced" but which, in fact, must orient itself by a contestable ideal of proper functioning (5 Views, 165). Christian psychologist view the task of psychology as a task of change, their job is, "To know how to help the sufferer `pluck out the lustful eye' (5 Views, 161)." However, to do this the Christian psychologist will also want to know (like most secular psychologists) what kind of environmental influences, as well as choices are promoting this sinful action (5 Views, 162). Christian psychologist place an emphasis on the person doing the psychology, the next view will take it one step further and want to place an emphasis on the spiritual state of that person.
The final view that we will be looking at is called Transformational Psychology, and it was written by John H. Coe and Todd W. Hall. The scope of Transformational Psychologists is focused on "the personal, ethical, experiential and spiritual matters" in regards to the counselee and counselor (5 View, 37). "It attempts to provide a comprehensive and coherent scientific methodology that is capable of relating psychology to faith...and of providing the wisdom and insight necessary for a robust understanding of therapy (5 Views, 141)." The Transformational Psychologists aim is to show that how the counselee and counselor live out their spiritual walk is a vital and often forgotten step, in the field of psychology and counseling (5 View, 37). They feel that the "bottom line will be that doing science and, in this case, psychology is ultimately an act of love (5 Views, 199)." Coe and Hall are more critical of contemporary psychology because Transformational Psychologist base their psychology on a spiritual formation approach which bases the spiritual-emotional transformation of the psychologist as the foundation for understanding (5 Views, 200)." What that means is that only a psychologist who is spiritually in tune with God can get truth and use it appropriately. But Coe and Hall also argue that they believe in a universal understanding of psychology by saying, "...that our transformational psychology is uniquely committed to a single, unified methodology that is capable of providing a science or `psychology' of both created and distinctively Christian realities--for it makes no distinction between them methodologically (5 Views, 206)." They further stress this point when they say, "A transformational psychologist is committed to developing a science or methodology for psychology as a single vision of study that is open to all relevant reality as legitimate data for psychological theory, research and therapy (5 Views, 225)." What they are saying is that the Transformational Psychologist is attempting to create a universal understanding of the human nature. But to Coe and Hall, "This is less a model of relating psychology to faith and more a transformation of psychology--indeed, science itself--into something that is intrinsically a single act of faith and love (5 Views, 200)." It is apparent that Coe and Hall would say that they are allied more with the church, but they also believe that, "Doing psychology within a tradition {church} should be secondary to the primary tack of doing psychology anew in the Spirit (5 Views, 201)." Transformational Psychology is not primarily about a single or even multiple theories or traditions; it is primarily driven "by the person and the process of doing psychology (5 Views, 203)." This implies that Transformational Psychologists can learn from unbelievers, but that we need to realize that their wisdom in regards to psychology is "truncated in part, for only the believer has the possibility to know and live out these principles [those related to psychology] as one ought in relation of God (5 Views, 211)." Coe and Hall argue that the task of psychology is to change the person, "The person and process determine the product (5 Views, 215)." In this sense the "...transformative psychologist is to produce a body of knowledge and theory in the Spirit...(5 Views, 223)." This Spirit will allow the Transformational Psychologist to truly see, speak, and show truth to the counselee.
In summary we have briefly journeyed through five of the most popular Christian views regarding Psychology as they are presented in Psychology and Christianity Five Views. We have also seen the historical evidence that links Christianity to psychology. We then followed the editor's advice and discovered five answers to five questions; (1) the reader was presented with each model's different scopes and aims allowing them to distinguish the models from each other, (2) the reader was presented with the different ways the models thought about secular psychology, (3) the reader was presented with the ways the models understand psychologies aim, (4) the reader was presented with who the authors appear to ally with, and (5) the reader was presented with the author's opinion of modern psychologies' task. This book's purpose was to present the five models so that the reader could become educated on the subject of counseling, thus, the reader should become a better counselor as a result.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychology & Christianity June 26 2013
By Patrick Lavey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I must start by saying that Psychology & Christianity: Five Views is easily one of the most helpful books I have ever read on the topic of psychology. This book begins with a history of the Christian influences in the field of psychology. At times this part was dry but it was still cool to see how Christianity has actually had a big influence on the field. The rest of the book contains chapters written by different authors. Each author in the book is writing from their viewpoint on how we as Christians should practice psychology. One author will write about their viewpoint and then the other four authors respond to that chapter. They talk about the things they agree or disagree with. This is extremely helpful because every single argument is dissected. You see the flaws (if there are any) in the argument made.

It was really great to see what the five main viewpoints are that Christians take on Psychology. The men who contributed to this book are strong Christians who are trying to understand God's creation. While they have all taken different stances, (from Biblical Counseling to a more liberal approach in psychology) they are all in search of the same things: Wisdom & Understanding. I have been in many "debates" where people took up positions on either extremes (psychology is ungodly or biblical counseling is too harsh). I encourage everyone who reads this book to read it with an open mind and with an open bible. As editor Eric Johnson put it, "It would be a serious mistake to assume that there is only one correct position among the five such that the others are wholly in error" (Johnson, 292). I highly recommend this book to Christians who a) are studying psychology in school, b) are considering entering the field of psychology, or c) want to know more about psychology and how Christians tackle this controversial topic.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a good resource to help the Christian pastor Aug. 7 2014
By Erik Willis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a good resource to help the Christian pastor, counselor, or layperson frame the different integration arguments. This us a complex subject but Five Views and Eric Johnson do a good job of presenting each position. Unfortunately, the material includes mention of Exodus International, the failed gay conversion therapy ministry. Even still, this is a good resource for understanding integration views.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview for Christians approaching Psychology July 9 2013
By High Seven - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book provides a nice overview for those who aren't afraid of combining their faith with science. It presents five different ways that people do this (although you are not limited to these). Each view has its strengths and weaknesses and the book points these out in a nice way. Worth looking into if you're curious and/or want some guidance on how to be a Christian Psychologist/Counselor.
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