Book Review: Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity by David N. Entwistle
Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration by David N. Entwistle covers an extremely topical and controversial issue of whether psychology and theology can be successfully integrated into contemporary counseling practice. In fact, the author starts his book by emphasizing that psychology and Christianity have been largely considered as mutually incompatible and exclusive. However, Entwistle (2010) does not agree with this idea and supposes that faith can be an integral component of all daily activities, including counseling practice. This idea is usually not supported by secular psychologists, theologists and church representatives who consider these two sciences to be drastically different due to their varying underlying natures. Psychology relies on truth and knowledge, as well as an investigation of human psyche and cognitive processes, while theology is based purely on faith. The author reviews these assumptions in detail in his book.
Entwistle challenges the view about incompatibility of theology and psychology, as “The interaction of psychology and theology is virtually inevitable due to their mutual interest in understanding the ambiguities and mysteries of human behavior, and healing human brokenness” (Entwistle, 2010, p. 51). This statement may serve as the key idea preserved throughout the entire book since the author strives to prove that psychology and Christianity can be integrated and even effectively used for the benefit of counselors and their patients. In addition to providing a historic overview of the relations between the two sciences, foundations for their integration, as well as assumptions and worldviews, the author provides five basic models of disciplinary relationships that include enemies, spies, colonialists, neutral parties, and allies (Entwistle, 2010, p. 154). Final chapters of the book are dedicated to understanding the truth within the psychological and theological mindsets and discussing various real-life scenarios that can involve raised issues. Withal, the author makes it clear that it is possible to improve comprehension of the human psyche through the integration of psychology and Christianity, giving rise to the profession of Christian psychologist who develops and uses respective counseling techniques aimed at benefitting patients and professional community, in general.
Reading this book has challenged my understanding of the relationship between psychology and theology. Personally, I have always tried to separate them, even though remaining true to my faith and observing major religious practices, but still, I think psychology has been more of a purely secular science from my viewpoint. Hence, based on my former convictions, which were challenged by the book under consideration, I could be classified as a spy in line with Entwistle’s models (Entwistle, 2010, p. 141). I still remember how my grandmother, who was a devoted Christian and attended church weekly, did not approve of my decision to study psychology. She did not doubt my abilities or did not want to openly try to prohibit majoring in this discipline, but she implicitly questioned its wisdom. She always repeated to me “All is in God’s hands” and did not consider psychology as a valuable science, as people could find solace and solve their problems through prays and faith. Subconsciously, her words made me doubt my decision for a moment, but clearly separating my church life from my professional aspirations allowed me to overcome the doubts I had.
The book under consideration is a well-written and cohesive piece of writing that covers the raised issue quite in detail and provides an overview of the key dimensions of the topic. The author is clear and honest about his views and provides a wide range of personal experiences and opinions on issues he discusses. Besides, the book content is a masterful combination of theoretical material and empirical information, which contributes to the comprehension of the relationship between theology and psychology. The author’s conviction in the possibility to integrate psychology and Christianity is evident throughout the entire book and his position raises no doubts. On the one hand, it is one of the book’s strength, as readers do not have to guess Entwistle’s personal views on the issue discussed and clearly understand the perspective from which the relationship between the two sciences is covered. On the other hand, it may be viewed as a weakness due to the lack of objectivity and a strong emphasis on arguments, in favor of integrating the two sciences. Such obvious subjectivity of the author may raise some doubts among skeptics about the book’s credibility, since opponents’ views are not extensively covered. Besides, the book seems to be oriented primarily at psychology students and specialists who have background knowledge in this science and at least a general understanding of theology. Such an orientation is evident from the way the author presents information and his frequent implicit assumption that readers already know many facts about counseling and just require clarification from the perspective of the two integrated sciences. However, it may complicate comprehension of the book for common readers who have been persuaded to read all the chapters by the author’s introduction, where he states that the book is meant to assist all readers in integrating faith into all domains of life. Nonetheless, the book is extremely thought-provoking and totally worth reading, since it manages to prove that integration of Christianity into counseling is possible and feasible, as well as beneficial for both counselors and clients.
With respect to the impact of the book on my personal views, it has significantly broadened my worldview and my view of the chosen profession, in addition to challenging my professional considerations. I have realized that psychology and theology can and should be integrated, even though it may seem as a complicated process. However, I plan to do that in my counseling. First of all, I will always respect my clients’ versatile worldviews and assumptions, while trying to provide them with customized counseling. Secondly, I will use the Entwistle’s five models to understand how each client views the place of faith with respect to psychology, as it may impact the choice of counseling strategies and methods that would be the most effective in each case. Finally, I have to spend more time thinking about all the issues raised in the book over and making some of them an integral part of my worldview, while rejecting the ones that will be found unjustified. However, the main impact of the book on my counseling in future is my new desire to become not only a counselor, but rather a Christian counselor, as it will allow me to combine my religious and secular beliefs in a productive and rewarding way.