Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Converging Horizons for Relational Integration: Differentiation-Based Collaboration

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Converging Horizons for Relational Integration: Differentiation-Based Collaboration

Article excerpt

"Integration is meaningless without the sharing of power: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968/1986, p.317)

We appreciate the invitation to reflect on the past, present, and future of the integration of psychology and Christian theology. Our primary interest is to explore integration through a relational lens which moves relationality to the foreground. Our approach to integration prioritizes attention to relational dynamics between actual psychologists and theologians (as opposed to abstract bodies of knowledge), as well as relational dynamics across various forms of diversity which are part of social integration. We offer a Trinitarian understanding of differentiation-based relationality as the heart of a theological anthropology which values community, mutual recognition, alterity, and social justice for shaping hospitable interdisciplinarity. We suggest that differentiation-based collaboration, intercultural competence, and ministry training are central to the future of relational integration.

Historical Horizons

Forty years ago, evangelical Christians made significant strides in organizing integrative efforts to make a place for psychology within conservative Christianity. The 1970s have been described as "a turning point for evangelicals in psychology" (Johnson, 2011, p. 31). Clinical psychology training programs had been started at Rosemead (Biola University) and Fuller Seminary, this journal was founded, and early integration leaders such as Clyde Narramore and Gary Collins were advocating for the legitimacy of psychology for practical Christian living. During the 1970s, key leaders of the integration movement entered the field of psychology, including Bruce Narramore, Larry Crabb, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Everett Worthington, Charles Ridley, David Myers, Hendrika Vande Kemp, and Warren Brown. In the same decade, Jay Adams developed an alternative to integration with a biblical counseling organization that rejected most of psychology and argued for the segregation of counseling within churches. The early twentieth century fundamentalist/modernist tensions were very much alive in the Christianity of the 1970s, although the doors to dialogue were opening.

While evangelicals engaged in debate about the legitimacy of psychology, several socially integrative developments were happening in the United States. In 1971, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld busing programs intended to speed up racial integration in Swan v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education. In 1972, Title IX was passed, making it unlawful to discriminate against females in educational programs and activities; and 1976 marked the first sexual harassment legislation in the U.S., seeking to protect women in the workplace. The 1970s also marked the first significant influx of women and persons of color into theological seminaries in the U.S., although gender and racial integration would come much later for evangelical seminaries. It is fascinating to note that as psychologists were trying to gain acceptance among evangelicals, women and persons of color were fighting to secure the social justice of access to basic educational and employment opportunities. As a male psychologist and female New Testament scholar at an evangelical university in 2011, we look back with profound respect and gratitude for those who struggled and even suffered to promote various types of relational integration.

Disciplinary Developments

Intentional integrative efforts among academic disciplines have emerged in part in response to the tendency in the modern academy toward increased specialization and therefore isolation of disciplines. For example, Beker (1992) has spoken of a triumph of a "narrow specialization" in academic disciplines in seminaries (p. 515). In New Testament studies (Jeannine's field), early integrationist efforts benefited from the recognition that the methods used in the study of the New Testament already included multidisciplinary approaches, including historical criticism (with its range of sub-criticisms; e. …

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