Over the 40 plus years of our profession’s existence, Christian counselors have tried in numerous ways to model the relationship between Christianity/theology/bible and the study of psychology. Unfortunately, many model building efforts created more barriers than dialogue among brothers and sisters. Counselors staked out territory with titles such as biblical counseling, integration, levels of explanation.
However, in recent years, more authors have tried hard to articulate a distinctly Christian view of persons and a humble articulation of the change process that builds on the good insights of others (e.g., McMinn & Campbell’s Integrative psychotherapy, Johnson’s Foundations of Soul Care, Malony & Augsburger’s Christian Counseling, etc.). These authors have taken the time to examine their control beliefs, theological assumptions, and more in order to make their psychology truly Christian and not merely a rehash of secular ideas.
If you like thinking about epistemology and yet still interested in application to real life, you ought to check out John Coe and Todd Hall’s Psychology in the Spirit: Contours of a Transformational Psychology (IVP, 2010). I’m just getting into it and so do not have much to say just yet. However, this is a great time to be a Christian psychologist. After a decade or more of avoiding these kinds of treatises for being practical (to a fault) and superficially Christian in our psychology, we have something substantive to sink our teeth into. This is no superficial treatment of Christian theology and human efforts (and their failings) to understand the nature of persons-in-relationship. For example,
1. They start out with the Fall. They acknowledge its full impact on human knowing and observing, that psychology from human eyes will always contain some distortion.
2. They acknowledge that redemption and not merely creation is what shapes our identity. “By creation, human love, and natural goods, we discover a “self.” By redemption and transformation, we are enabled to slowly die to our autonomous self and open to our new identity as self-in-God.” (p. 35)
3. “Ultimately, we are not merely arguing for a new model or a way to relate psychology to Christianity; rather, we are arguing for a new transformational model for doing psychology and science, which inherently and intrinsically is already Christian and open to the Spirit.” (ibid)
4. They are interested in a spiritually formative and relational psychology that cares about the person, the process, and the product (p. 37)
I’m looking forward to the ride. Not sure I’m going to be happy. I’ve read a bit further and am not sure why they spend more time knocking down models that most of us would consider their first cousins (e.g., Christian psychology). That seems to be something from our profession’s past that isn’t as helpful. However, I really appreciate that an early chapter tells both of their stories; their maturation through a period where their faith wasn’t as central to their work as Christian professors of psychology. Often, these kinds of books do NOT include admissions of growth and change. Too often, authors act is if they have always thought this or that way.
I’ll keep you posted with book notes as I go.