Psychology Student, Liberty University
Many people have chosen over the years to debate whether the science of psychology is compatible with Christianity. This long-standing debate has brought to creation many different models that attempt to prove whether integration of the two ideologies is possible. Of all the models created, the author believes that the Allies model provides the best source of reasoning as to why integration is in fact possible. In addition to understanding what makes the Allies model reliable in its claims for integration, abundant strengths and limitations of this model will be presented. These strengths and limitations aim to help support a possible integration of both psychology and Christianity, while also taking into perspective other models and their comparison beliefs. Understanding these differences is the key to then determining the best model of integration that exists. While no model perfectly encompasses real-world circumstances and as such will be imperfect, it is the ability of a model to work within its boundaries and limitations which will determine its overall usefulness among society and denominations.
Many different debates have taken place over the years as to whether or not psychology and Christianity are compatible, and able to work together in an efficient manner. This argument has allowed for different viewpoints to be created, as well as corresponding ways in which to view these viewpoints. While overlap has been observed, questions still are raised by individuals who desire a clear understanding as to which model is in fact the best way in which to approach an integration of psychology and Christianity, and even whether that is possible. Among the various models that have been formulated, the Allies model best displays a strong relationship between psychology and Christianity. Although there have been many different models formulated, the Allies model is the best model to use for integration as it allows for both psychology and Christianity to have meaning in application, even with its flaws considered.
Methods of Knowing
There are different ways in which one attempts to understand any given fact or ideology. Entwistle brings to focus four ways in which an individual can navigate an understanding to claims of knowledge. Each of the four methods that he discusses provides a procedure that is used to deepen an individual’s understanding. The four methods of knowing that Entwistle discusses are appeals to authority, logic, empiricism, and hermeneutics.
Appeals to authority is a method of knowing that Entwistle (2015) describes as being passed down by authority figures. The term “authority figure” can refer to individuals such as a pastor, family member, and licensed professional, to just name a few. Reliability for this method of knowing depends on four different items according to Entwistle. The first component that Entwistle (2015) claims must be present in order for information being passed down to be reliable is that the base of knowledge coming from the authority must be relevant(p. 103-104). This means that the information being passed down must be connected with what one is attempting to validate. This would prove that prior research had been completed, therefore providing the basis for reliability. The second component of reliability that should be present is that the authority figure had a sound level of knowledge regarding the situation(Entwistle, 2015, p. 104). For example, this could be thought of as medical professional giving a correct diagnosis. The third component of reliability requires that the knowledge that is being presented, be presented in an honest manner(Entwistle, 2015, p. 104). In other words, whatever information is being presented, must be done in a truthful way. The fourth and final component needed for reliability is that the information that is being presented or passed down must be useful in a way that the receiver is able to understand what is being communicated accurately(Entwistle, 2015, p. 104).
The second method of knowing that Entwistle discusses is known as logic. This method stems from the thought that the fact concerning the argument at hand can be alienated from the belief by examining the sensible uniformity of the argument’s reasoning(Entwistle, 2015, p. 105). In order for this reasoning to occur, a deduction must be made that affirms theories and be combined to reach a conclusion. There are different elements that help to make logic reliable. This means that different steps are taken to ensure that an argument is sound. If an argument is not sound, then it cannot be accepted and is considered flawed(Entwistle, 2015, p. 106).
Entwistle’s third method of knowing is empiricism. This particular method relies on experience in order to evaluate whether knowledge claims are sound. An example that Entwistle uses from history is how the apostle Luke did not simply rely on philosophical speculation. Instead, Luke took it upon himself to evaluate other sources of information to be sure that the information he was preparing to present was in fact accurate.
The fourth and final method of knowing that Entwistle discusses is hermeneutics. This particular method flows from empiricism as well as logic. It requires that steps be taken, similar to the scientific method, which will provide a special type of lens through which the present argument can be viewed. From a Christian perspective, this means simply that one analyzes God’s Word, scripture, in an effort to ascertain its true meaning. However, God’s Works are also used as way of interpreting meaning under the method of hermeneutics.
Understanding how Entwistle’s four methods of knowing operate helps to lay the foundation for a more solid argument as to whether the integration of psychology and Christianity can be made, as well as to how the two should be integrated. Appeals to authority show that reliability of the source of information is in fact coming from a reliable source. Logic helps to provide that the argument contains sound information and can be accepted. Empiricism takes experiences of others to verify that what is being presented is accurate. Hermeneutics attempts to find a special and different way in which to view the facts of an argument in order to ascertain its validity. Each of these four methods of knowing can be used when an individual is working to persuade another that both psychology and Christianity can be used together. While all four of Entwistle’s methods can be used, when applying them to an argument, they must be combined and validated with scripture, as this is the very basis, the solid rock necessary for a Christian foundation.
The Allies model seeks to show that both psychology and theology can put light on human behavior, and are compatible with each other. It shows two different entities, psychology and Christianity, coming together to be successful in achieving a common goal. In other words, the Allies model displays a coming together so that more can be done together than if psychology and Christianity were kept apart. This model also recognizes that psychology itself is a unique discipline. It supports individuals who work in any capacity, theory, research, or praxis.The Allies model possesses special ways in which to be immersed in the discipline of psychology in the way in which it presently exists(Entwistle, 2015, 248). However, Entwistle (2015) claims that individuals in psychology must be vigilant to the beliefs of the world. He gives this caution as he believes that worldly beliefs will in fact influence the shape in which psychology will receive criticism from those practicing from a Christian perspective (Entwistle, 2015, p. 248).
There are two books that are taken into consideration when attempting to understand and explain psychology from a Christian perspective. The two books that are taken into consideration are God’s Word and God’s Works. The Allies model claims that both books are to be accepted (Entwistle, 2015, p. 255). Both books are accepted on the grounds “that God’s truths are revealed” (Entwistle, 2015, p. 250) in God’s Word by way of scripture being written down for generations to come, and God’s Works through the clear visibility of the creation that surrounds everything. Both books allow for examples of different kinds to be visible to allow for a furtherance in understanding and further application of Christianity with the field of psychology.
Every model will have strengths which those who follow the model will hold to as being proof that their model is best. However, the Allies model is different from other model in the that it was created for integration, while others simply realized a connection between psychology and Christianity, but could not bring the two together in a cohesive manner. It bridges the gap between a theoretical connection between psychology and Christianity and successfully models a method whereby the two may be linked to the benefit of both.
The Allies model begins strong in requiring an individual to examine their worldview. This is done in the process of presenting three questions at the outset to ascertain one’s stance. The first two questions, “Where am I?” and “Where am I trying to go?” are the framework of a person’s worldview. An individual’s answers to these two questions will then determine their answer to the third question, “How can I get there?” (Entwistle, 2015, p. 249). This third question is very essential as it sets the stage for an individual to begin engaging with psychology while bringing with them their Christian faith, which has led them to this point. This helps to eliminate the idea that one must simply side with one spectrum, Christianity or psychology, in order to be correct. Furthermore, Johnson approaches an integrative approach the same way Entwistle does. Johnson (2010) claims that in order to understand how psychology and Christianity have a relationship, an individual can never escape the three questions mentioned above (p. 101). Scripture provides many different examples as to how people should not allow themselves to be separated based on certain things. In this instance, individuals should realize that only together can a greater and stronger understanding be felt. Colossians 3:11(English Standard Version) says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” If people can have nothing that keeps them from being together under Christ, then two ideologies can be brought together to create one solid foundation to solidly help others.
Another strength of the Allies model is that it does the best of the best at holding true to the belief that both God’s Word and God’s Works were created in Him and by Him. This is done by displaying that everything, on earth and in Heaven, are under God’s hand. By including “on earth” in this strength, is to say that God’s word (scripture) and Works (creation) were and still are under a greater hand then their own personal human one. In this instance psychology is the particular discipline that will be applied. This connection works just as theology does in stemming from a connection with God. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, God spoke through Paul to the people of Corinth about the importance of unity. Paul wrote about how the Lord desired them to be unified and without division amongst them in their mind and thought (1Corinthians 1:10, ESV). Just as God desires unity without divisions among His people, the same is true for how both psychology and Christianity should be viewed.
A third strength of the Allies model is that is seeks to make both ideologies, Christianity and psychology, valuable by showing that both have a value which is greater combined than separate. This model works to show how the two can successfully work together, even when answers are found outside of scripture, because both avenues to obtaining answers remains under His domain (His Works). Johnson (2010) affirms this belief in his writings by stating that because Scripture does not provide all of the answers, psychology’s role is in fact more legitimate as it does in fact serve a purpose (p. 101). Therefore, it is concluded that one model does not necessarily have to be picked over another. Instead, the two can work together and provide beneficial sources of information for people, with the sum being greater than either part individually.
Every model that has been formulated throughout history will have limitations. One of the issues that Entwistle brings to point is how the core convictions of Christianity can be identified while still leaving room for other approaches from a Christian perspective(Entwistle, 2015, p. 251). This is a task that is difficult to work through as mentioned above, there are many different ways in which Christians will both believe and approach beliefs within the Christian faith. Divisions within the Christian faith exist in way of how each interprets their own creed(Entwistle, 2015, p. 251). These creeds can range from the Apostle’s Creed to the Nicene Creed, and then there are some who choose not to embrace a creed (Entwistle, 2015, p. 252). The issue that is run into when denominations choose to adhere to a specific creed is that certain theological distinctions are then emphasized, which creates more separation within the Christian denomination. There are no clear theological convictions that can be identified across all the spectrums of Christianity. Therefore, attempting to involve psychology with Christianity is an argument that cannot be sustained due to the questions that will be raised in reference to the accurate interpretation of scripture or even beliefs of Christianity.
Every model that works toward integrating psychology and Christianity will have different ideas as to how the two go together or do not go together. The Allies model is both different and similar to other models such as the Enemies or Spies model. The Allies and Enemies models differ in that the Enemies model believes that psychology and Christianity are two different ideals, while the Allies model believes that psychology and Christianity come together to be more efficient in accomplishing a common goal(Entwistle, 2015, p. 248). The Spies and Allies models are similar in that it is believed that good psychology can in fact be found in religion(Entwistle, 2015, p. 248). However, the Allies model does not believe that religion is only of value as a means to express the truths and benefits of psychologically. The three remaining models, Rebuilders, Colonialists, and Neutral Parties, are similar to the Allies model. However, the differences between these three named models is manifest in the limitations contained within each. While clear differences are visible, understanding these differences allows for the Allies model to still be presented as the best model to use for an integrative approach to Christianity and psychology.
Overall, the Allies model presents the most solid case that integration is in fact possible between psychology and Christianity. Even with both strength and weaknesses being present in the Allies model, it lays a solid foundation for integration to be present and thrive. Ultimately, the Allies model allows for both God’s Word and Works to be seen through both Christianity and psychology. When both work in harmony, greater good may be accomplished together than may be accomplished by either alone.
Entwistle, D. N. (2015). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction
to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
Johnson, E. L. (Ed.). (2010). Psychology and Christianity: Five views (2nd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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