Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: David N. Entwistle, Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity


Entwistle, David N. Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity: An Introduction to Worldview Issues, Philosophical Foundations, and Models of Integration. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010.

(This post has been my most popular for three years. Use of any part of this critique requires proper citation. If the post has helped you with your critique, would you kindly bless me with a comment and a blog following? Thanks in advance!)
           Entwistle’s book is a densely packed work that explores the relationship of psychology and theology and provides an in-depth analysis into integration of the two disciplines. Historically, scholars have either opposed or advocated integration of the two perspectives, and the author investigates their claims and the tensions that arise from their arguments.
            Our worldview or life perspective affects how we understand and relate to our experiences and the world (Entwistle, 56). We assume our presuppositions are correct and filter information, truth, and knowledge through the lens of our worldview. The author maintains throughout the text that a Christian worldview is essential for effective integration of truths gleaned from psychology into theology (Ibid, 63).
Entwistle lays for the reader a foundation of understanding how humans learn and respond to knowledge and truth. Epistemology is described as the “pursuit of intellectual virtue” (Ibid, 760). Whether used to evaluate observable and testable data or the interpretation of God’s natural or special revelation, the pursuit of knowledge is “contingent, limited, and fallible” (Ibid, 82-83). As we realize our limitations, considering alternate perspectives becomes all the more imperative (Ibid, 91).
            Metaphysics is concerned with human thinking and response to reality (Ibid, 97). Scientists and Christians make metaphysical assumptions regarding knowledge through their own presuppositions. Philosophical anthropology attempts to validate assumptions made by theologians and psychologists about human nature and behavior. (Ibid, 113).
            Upon this foundation, Entwistle builds five models of relationship between psychology and theology. He often refers to what Francis Bacon described as the two books of God--the book of God’s Word or the Bible, and the book of God’s Works or His creation, as two sources from which we can derive truth (Ibid, 136). The author examines the models with these books in mind. Enemies are antagonistic toward integration and see the two disciplines as mutually exclusive. They are only willing to obtain truth from God’s Word or His Works, but not both (Ibid, 137, 168).
            Spies seek to extract from religion what they can use to the benefit of man. They rely on the effects religion has on man rather than fostering a commitment to the religion (Ibid, 142, 183, 186). Colonists accept and modify select psychological findings to bolster their research while remaining suspicious and relatively ignorant of the discipline (Ibid, 144, 188).  Neutral parties compartmentalize the two disciplines while appreciating and comparing information gained in each (Ibid, 192). Allies acknowledge that all truth is God’s truth, and seek to integrate truth from both disciplines with their allegiance being to neither discipline but to God (Ibid, 149, 207).
            Entwistle concludes his work by putting the reader on a road toward integration with proper caution, yield, and stop signs. Keeping both books of God in mind, theories, knowledge, and research that is not in harmony with the God’s Word and Works must be modified or rejected altogether. (Ibid, 256).
          Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity comes highly recommended by this author for pastors, counselors, social workers, pastoral counselors and all those who are called to touch the lives of others by helping them from the circumstances of life to discovering and obtaining the good plan and purposes that God has promised them.

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