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Summary

Entwistle’s Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity offers a case for incorporating Christian faith with psychology. This book follows the symbolism initially put forward by Tertullian (pp. 160-225) in showing Athens and Jerusalem as the voice of reason and virtue of faith respectively. Entwistle questions whether Christianity and psychology can be integrated or they are at variance with each other. From the book, one thing that distinguishes psychology from either theology or philosophy is its utilization of particular methods to describe man’s physical as well as behavioral observations. Entwistle (2004) then presents a theme that is echoed all through the book, “All truth is God’s truth” (p.16). As a result of this, it does not matter which opinion is very close to the truth whenever there is a disagreement.  According to Entwistle (2004), both psychological and Christian views originate from God.

Entwistle offers a historical background regarding the debate on faith vs. reason. During the previous years, both organized religion and scientists have been enemies and allies. For instance, in the times of Galileo and Copernicus, scientists were persecuted by the church for inquiring about the truth. Similarly, scientists like J.W. Draper demeaned people who expressed faith in God as less intellectual. The author goes ahead to elaborate on another fundamental concept i.e. worldview and interpretation. From the book, people seeking the truth are prejudiced to a certain extent by the way they view the world. It is the belief of a Christian that God created man in His own image to glorify Him. Entwistle (2004) draws attention to the significance of examining people’s individual presuppositions because it is a determinant of the way people interpret both the world and the bible. Viewing science as the world’s descriptive as opposed to its prescriptive, opens the door for the integration of both psychology and Christianity. According to Entwistle, providence is the likely explanation for cases of miracles that take place without a possible scientific explanation. However, science remains the sole answer for most occurrences from the secular worldview. 

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Entwistle also gives a description of five integration models i.e. Enemies, Neutral Parties, Colonists, Allies and Spies. For instance, Enemies, as originally mentioned by Tertullian, have the belief that reason and faith can never be in harmony. It is the belief of Christian combatants and secular combatants that the Bible and science are the sole truth respectively. Spies, on the other hand, have a psychological background; however, they are also involved with the religious community. It is vital to mention that they do not believe in Christian tenets, but view activities like forgiveness and prayer as helpful to the secular world. According to Entwistle (2004), Colonists refer to religious advocates who involve themselves within the scientific community with the hope of converting other people to view life from their perspective.

In addition, Neutral parties view psychology and Christianity as two equally exclusive disciplines that have no or little overlap. Allies on the other hand, view psychology and Christianity as two methods that complement each other in discovering the truth. From the book, a possible disagreement that may occur between these two disciplines is due to flawed interpretations. Entwistle concludes the book by maintaining that the sole correct integration model is the Ally paradigm. He reiterates the assertion of Francis Bacon that Christianity tries to discover the truth via the word of God; the Bible. On the other hand, psychology tries to find out the truth via the world, which is the works of God. Once more, the key theme of the book comes to light, “All truth is God’s truth” (p.260).

Personal Relation to the Book

Reading this book made me recall an instance that happened to one of my cousins when I was young, which brought confusion on whether to side with the voice of reason, or Christian beliefs. My cousin, Amanda was nine years when she was gang-raped; an act that resulted in a pregnancy. Her parents being staunch Christians, but at the same time, having their daughter’s interest at heart, disagreed on whether to abort the baby. It was obvious; keeping the baby would interfere with their daughter’s education. In addition, Amanda was very young to assume the responsibilities of a mother then. On the other hand, aborting the baby was against the Christian beliefs of Amanda’s parents. After a long debate, they finally decided to terminate the pregnancy since it was the best option at that time. However, they still live with that guilt of terminating human life to date.

Reflection

This book is indeed very informative, comprehensive and interesting. Entwistle does a very good job in exploring the connection between Christianity and psychology, as well as providing a detailed analysis of how the two disciplines integrate. In history, scholars have either supported or opposed the incorporation of Christianity and psychology, and Entwistle does an amazing job in investigating their arguments, as well as the tensions resulting from the arguments. People’s worldview impacts how they comprehend and relate to the world. They presume that their suppositions are right, and consequently, filter knowledge and information via the lens of their worldview. Entwistle maintains all through the book that viewing the world from a Christian perspective is vital to effectively integrate the truths that are gathered from psychology to theology. The author therefore, lays for his readers a basis for comprehending the way human beings learn and respond to information and truth.

Despite the numerous strengths of the book, it is not without its fair share of weaknesses. For instance, I am not in agreement with the author’s ‘two-book theory’ i.e. that the bible and the world are equal. In my opinion, the world despite being God’s work, is full of sinful men and women who are corrupt, greedy and dishonest, and in no circumstance, can it be compared to the bible, which was written by persons who believed in God and were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To me, the world and the bible can never be in the same level. Another concern, is the way Entwistle gives negative labels to the people he does not agree with regarding the integration of Christianity and psychology. For example, he uses names like combatants, enemies etc., to refer to people whose views contrast his. In my opinion, labeling someone as an enemy simply because their views do not concur with yours is ridiculous and does not make sense.

Action

This book offers a very informative and detailed overview regarding the relationship between Christianity and psychology, in addition to the integration models. However, I think, not everything expressed here is absolute truth i.e. Entwistle is just trying to convince the readers that his perspective regarding the above topic is better than others. Considering the negative manner in which he labels those whose views do not agree with him, I come to the conclusion that he does not accept criticisms. Consequently, I do advise people planning to read this book to have an open mind while reading, knowing that the facts expressed here are the author’s personal assumptions regarding the integration of the two disciplines. In my opinion, some of the author’s arguments are biased, and I would highly recommend that this book be read together with others like Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark McMinn in order to get a deep understanding of how psychology relates to Christianity.

In conclusion, Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity offers good background information regarding the correlation between psychology and Christianity, and how they are integrated. I would not hesitate to recommend it to people who are interested in Christianity and psychology.

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