Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Social Psychology in Christian Perspective: Exploring the Human Condition

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Social Psychology in Christian Perspective: Exploring the Human Condition

Article excerpt

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY IN CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE: EXPLORING THE HUMAN CONDITION: Angela M. Sabates. Downers Grove, IL: Intervaristy Press, Pp. 567, Hb. Reviewed by Duane Kauffman (Goshen College/Goshen, IN).

It was with both anticipation and appreciation that I learned of the publication of a textbook exploring social psychology within the context of Christian faith assumptions. Social psychology, a laige and active domain of theory and research, has been too often overlooked by those working on issues of dialogue and "integration" between psychology and religion, and by those seeking to understand the interpersonal and intergroup behavior of those who call themselves followers of Christ (there are of course a few notable exceptions to both these points). The lack of a textbook, and the limited number of faculty role models, has also seemed to result in a less than desirable number of students with a faith commitment choosing social psychology as a focus of their advanced study.

Following an introductory chapter which discusses social psychology and its methods, Sabates' provides a chapter entitled "What has Christianity to do with Social Psychology?" In this chapter Sabates' outlines what she perceives as key elements of Christian faith that have implications for the exploration of social psychology. These she summarizes under the acronym CFR (Creation, Fall, and Redemption), a set of faith statements to which she returns throughout the book. The central thread of the CFR paradigm is that human nature is first and foremost relational (to God and to our human contemporaries). Relationships are integral to social psychology, thus making for a natural framework within which to discuss faith perspectives and research findings. In both these introductory chapters, Sabates contrasts her preferred faith perspective to the naturalistic philosophy and evolutionary assumptions she attributes to mainstream social psychology. A key argument is that CFR assumptions allow for not only a critique of these current interpretations of social psychology findings, but the possibility that one might use these beliefs to formulate novel hypotheses that extend our understandings of common human behaviors.

The majority of the book is comprised of standard chapters focused on the types of attitudinal and behavioral issues common to textbooks in the field of social psychology, in particular, the self, social perception, attitudes, aggression, prosocial behavior, and interpersonal relations. The author has clearly done her homework and provides an almost encyclopedic review of the concepts, theories, and research findings relevant to the chapter themes. The author is very careful to consider the complexity of the social psychological phenomena she discusses. Every effort is made to outline the key findings while also noting alternative results and warning the reader that there is still much to learn. Periodically throughout the various chapters, and usually also at the end, the reader is provided with a section specifically devoted to how the material might be considered differently in the context of the CFR paradigm. …

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