Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Multivariate Theory of God Concept, Religious Motivation, Locus of Control, Coping, and Spiritual Well-Being

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Multivariate Theory of God Concept, Religious Motivation, Locus of Control, Coping, and Spiritual Well-Being

Article excerpt

A previous factor analytic study of the same data set was published as an incremental validity study of a new scale (Wong-McDonald & Gorsuch, 2000). The current analysis examines the multivariate domains of God concepts, motivation, religious coping, and locus of control for the prediction of Spiritual Well-Being. Questionnaires were completed by 151 Christian undergraduates. A traditional benevolent conceptualization of God and Intrinsic motivation were found to relate to greater Spiritual Well-Being (SWB). Moreover, Self-Directing coping associated negatively with SWB, while locus of control in God and Surrender coping related positively with it. Results indicate that acting independently from God relates to a lesser sense of Spiritual Well-Being, while reliance and intimacy with God contribute to greater well-being. Implications for Christian educators and counselors were discussed.


Psychology of religion has been captivated by how religion relates to health, happiness, and various problems. The guiding research question seems to be "What are the practical implications of knowledge about the role of religion in enhancing and retarding personal and societal well-being?" (Paloutzian & Kirkpatrick, 1995, p. 5). The focus is not on what people should believe, but on how they utilize their beliefs in dealing with life's problems (Paloutzian & Kirkpatrick). Yet Scripture states that the object of one's beliefs must be true (i.e., not a myth, delusion, or superstition) or the believing would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-2; 2 Thes. 2:11). The source and content of religion would shape and determine the utilization of religion for the enhancement or retardation of well-being. The focus of research in the integration of psychology and Christianity needs to stem from the what rather than the how.

Historically, research in the psychology of religion have reported ambiguous results on the relationship between religiousness and well-being (Hathaway & Pargament, 1990; Schaefer & Gorsuch, 1991), with some studies finding a positive relationship (Baker & Gorsuch, 1982; Bergin, Masters, & Richards, 1987; Koenig, Kvala, & Ferrel, 1988; McFadden, 1995), some reporting a negative relationship (Graff & Ladd, 1971), while still others suggesting that the two domains were unrelated (Markides, Levin, & Ray, 1987). This ambiguity was somewhat clarified by the differentiation of religiousness into multivariate domains (Gorsuch, 1984). Another explanation offered was that the problem was due to suppression effects by mediating variables (Hathaway & Pargament, 1990). We propose that the ambiguity can be further clarified by incorporating theology as a research premise.

Theologically, the what of Christianity centers on the Who, the Person of Jesus Christ (Jer. 9:24; 2 Tim. 1:12). It is the knowledge of God (i.e., knowing Him) which shapes the believers' relationship with God which will in turn affect their behavior and well-being (Acts 17:28; Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn. 2:5-6). It is upon this theological premise that the current study is based. Building on previous research, this study is designed to incorporate the multivariate domains of religiousness (Gorsuch, 1984; Hathaway & Pargament, 1990; Schaefer & Gorsuch, 1991) and to examine the roles of such variables within a theological framework.

Knowledge of God precedes spiritual birth and the relationship with God (Jer. 24:7; Jn. 17:3). Knowledge of God can be expressed as conceptualization of God (Gorsuch, 1968; Schaefer & Gorsuch, 1991, 1992) while the believer's relationship with God can be described as religious motivations (Gorsuch, 1994; Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989; Gorsuch & Venable, 1983). Both of these domains have been established as significant predictors of psychological adjustment (Donahue, 1985). The way believers think about and relate to God will shape their perceptions of the world and affect their behaviors (Eph. …

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