Resources for Psychological Adventures

March 3, 2010 — 1 Comment

[This post is part of the Adventures in Psychology series]

You can’t actually click to look inside, but recently I’ve been working through this book as part of on-going research on this topic. The book itself is a bit dated, but it still more or less presents the major approaches to the two topics in question. I find myself agreeing very strongly with David Powlison’s chapter in the book on the Biblical Counseling model, but then again, that is nothing new, I tend to agree with most of what Powlison says.

Interestingly though, I also found Robert C. Roberts’ chapter on the Christian Psychology model to be helpful. I think in many respects, he and Powlison are on the same page, but Roberts is dealing more with constructing a Christian psychology out of the Bible and Christian theology, while Powlison is mainly (but not only) concerned with constructing a counseling model that is faithful to Scripture. I would find myself then concerned with taking both of these author’s approaches into account and proceeding from there.

The other two approaches I would tend to disagree with more than I could agree with. I think that David Myers’ model is epistemologically muddled and simply wrong-footed. I think he tries too hard to make psychology and Christianity divergent rather than convergent. Some of this I think is the fault of his understanding of Christianity, theology, and philosophy, but that may not be entirely the case.

Lastly, Gary Collins argues for an Integration Model, which is more or less the approach I would reject. I think Powlison and Roberts do a much better job of recognizing the issues with trying to integrate in the way that Collins does, and while Roberts is more amenable to the idea of integration than Powlison, they both recognize that trying to blend together secular models of counseling and Christian ones is a risky business, and neither follows the traditional approach to integration that Collins offers.

It seems the best approach, and what I have argued for elsewhere (in the Change series) is to build a primarily Christian psychology and counseling theory from the Scriptures and from Christian theology and then to incorporate insights from outside when valid and helpful. The problem I think comes in when those trying to integrate are not discerning enough to construct their theory from the former (Scripture and theology), and are too naive about the latter (non-Christian thought and psychology).

[UPDATE: The book pictured is actually the updated edition which features a fifth view that I do not discuss here. Look for a series of posts going through this book in more detail in the near future]

This issue is addressed in the book to the right here. It is a collection of essays written by several authors from various perspectives, some I would wholeheartedly agree with and others, well not so much. I think the first chapter by Powlison is gold (Questions at the Crossroads: The Care of Souls & Modern Psychotherapies) and is worth the price of the book alone. Most of the insights I presented in the Change series are from this essay. If you happen to be in the counseling program here at DTS, you need to read this. Immediately.

Interestingly, and probably on purpose, right after Powlison is an article by Stanton Jones (An Apologetic Apologia for the Integration of Psychology and Theology), which basically illustrates the above point about issue in integration, and is somewhat antithetical to Powlison’s article. Jones is far more conversant with contemporary psychology than he is in Christian theology, so there are several notable mis-steps in his thinking on the subject. He essay is built around several questions that in my estimation are very wrongly framed, which he then proceeds to answer. Some of them actually constitute straw men, thought not all of them are necessarily so.

For instance, consider his first question “Does Scripture provide an exhaustive account of what we need to know about helping people, and can we know anything of value from psychology to aid our task?” This is framed in a way that suggests that some people (like probably Powlison) answer yes to the first and no to the second part. In reality though, no one that I know of would say that Scripture provides an exhaustive account of anything. That’s not the claim that people make. It is rather that Scripture is comprehensive in scope and sufficient to orient one to start helping people. Likewise, no one that I know of denies that psychology can offer anything to aid that task, it is rather whether or not psychology should be in the driver seat, whether it should ride shotgun, or whether it should sit in the back and offer insights here and there for the journey. My own view is that of secular psychology in the back seat in the middle leaning forward and either being acknowledged by the front or told to get back in its seat.

From there, Jones is rather off on some of the issues from a theological standpoint, and seems to be looking at the issue in much the way that a non-Christian would. Not to say Jones is at all a non-Christian, just that his approach to the issue does not have a solid theological foundation to it, and is not necessarily distinctively Christian. With stronger theological underpinnings, I would suspect that much of Jones says could prove useful to the Christian counselor, but his thought seems to be slanted too often in a secular direction.

Turning the corner now, the other chapters I read so far were by Robert C. Roberts (Outline of Pauline Psychotherapy) and Bryan N. Maier & Philip G. Monroe (Biblical Hermeneutics & Christian Psychology). The latter of these explains a little why a scholar like Jones would make mis-steps theologically. Being highly trained in psychology, his training in theology and exegesis is rather sparse. At this point in my education, my training in that area far outweighs Jones in that regard. What Maier and Monroe are calling for (and they get bonus points for being conversant with Van Til) is for Christian psychologists (which is what Jones is) to study hermeneutics more thoroughly to understand how to read the Bible and do theology in a more professional fashion. I think honestly, this may reduce many of the issues in that are argued about in the integration debates. But then again, it might not.

Finally, Roberts essay is a phenomenal attempt at constructing a psychotherapy out of Paul’s letters. His contention is that we need to necessarily look with out to build a psychology, but have the tools we need within the Christian tradition. I found his exegesis of Paul to be rather solid and his understanding of psychology as well to be rather spot on. His Pauline psychotherapy might not be appropriate to all counselees in all situations, but I like the track he is taking and might explore that further on here. In light of that, I’ll have more to say on Roberts later, but for now, hopefully this has been a helpful update on some reading I’ve been doing on the topic.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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