Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

There's Room for All of Us: Discerning Your Role in the Integration Movement

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

There's Room for All of Us: Discerning Your Role in the Integration Movement

Article excerpt

There are many creative ways to combine psychology with religious am spiritual beliefs, as shown in recent writings on the interface between Christianity and psychology (Johnson. 2010 Stevenson. Eck. & Hill, 2007). To help Christ ans with interests in psychology begin to discern where they might best fit within this larger integration movement, this brief article areas several practical questions. The questions focus on live areas: bases for truth claims, Personal strengths and weaknesses, desired amount of uniformity in faith perspectives, wounds or negative past experiences. and sources of motivation and passion. These questions are presented in a personal style wIth the am of encouraging self-reflection. By considering dues lions such as these. along with factors such as personality traits and seasons of life, Christians who are unsure of their place in the world of psychology may begin to identify areas where they could make distinctive and meaningful contributions.

There are many creative ways to combine Christian faith and psychology, as described in several recent edited volumes (Johnson, 2010; Stevenson, Eck, & Hill, 2007). In the Johnson (2010) book, chapter authors described several frameworks that combine Christianity with psychological principles: levels of analysis (Myers), integration (Jones), Christian psychology (Roberts & Watson), transformational (Coe & Hall) and Biblical counseling (Powlison). While learning about these approaches, I didn't feel any desire to attempt a grand, unifying vision or to try to prove that one vision was the best. Instead, the reading compelled me to do some personal reflection about where I fit--and where others might fit--in the integration movement.

The basic organizing question for this article is a practical one: If Christians with interests in psychology wanted to combine these perspectives but felt unsure which direction to take, what types of questions might help to provide some clarity? This short article will raise a few such questions, all of which are speculative but have been helpful to me in clarifying my own thoughts and feelings. My hope is that by reflecting on these questions, readers who are new to the field will be able to identify key areas where they might fruitfully contribute. Some who are already involved in the field might also discover some possible changes--large or small--that they could make to increase their sense of engagement and enjoyment. I believe that the field as a whole can benefit from this type of personal self-reflection by its members, because people are likely to pursue goals in more vigorous, creative ways if they find them personally meaningful.

I'll begin by trying to explain some personal reactions that my colleagues' writings (Johnson, 2010) stirred up for me. Next I will present several broad themes and questions that might help people to clarify their roles in the Christianity/psychology area, and in some places I refer back to my own experience. I realize that this first-person, self-help style is unusual for a journal article. Also, much of the discussion may seem to relate more to professional development than to integration per se. Nonetheless, my hope is that the ideas raised here will encourage self-reflection by some readers, especially those trying to find their niches as Christians with interests in psychology.

Some Personal Responses to the Essays on the Interface of Christianity and Psychology

Reading and reflecting on the essays in the Johnson book led to some surprises. I initially assumed that I would feel most kinship with the empirically oriented approach to psychology and the associated "levels of analysis" approach so thoughtfully and dynamically presented by David Myers. I certainly agree with Myers that much can be learned from empirical studies. And much of my day-to-day work at a university does center on research tasks: designing and implementing studies, analyzing data, writing and evaluating papers, and training others to do the same. …

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