Science in Christian Perspective



Models for the Integration of Psychology and Theology
Trinity College
Deerfield, Illinois 60015

From: JASA 30 (March 1978): 6-9.

Contemporary attempts at integration of psychology and theology are described by MacKay as "piecemeal" rather than "basic," because of their emphasis on end products rather than basic processes. This emphasis characterizes the popular acceptance of psychology as it is and theology as it is. with no more than a review of their findings to see if they agree, are at least complementary, or if one can be recast in the other's terms. Five examples are presented: the Certainty Model, the Conformability Model, the Convertibility Model, the Compatibility Model, and the Complementarity Model. The argument is developed that basic integration is possible only when humanness and human/divine encounter are incorporated into psychology and theology, allowing integration to become a process of living with God. This is called process integration. For process integration to be possible, changes are needed regarding the conduct of both psychological and theological inquiries, which tend to deny and restrict humanness, respectively. Finally, comparisons are made between product or conceptual integration and process or embodied integration, in terms of motives, emphases, requirements, procedures, results, and basic questions.

"We don't start far enough back. We take science and Christianity as given systems. Basic integration means starting from God."1 This is the distinction Donald MacKay makes between what should be "basic integration"-and what usually is - "piecemeal integration." It is a useful distinction in describing contemporary attempts at integrating psychology and evangelical theology. Such piecemeal attempts tend to start with end products rather than starting with the basic processes used in obtaining the products. This emphasis on product rather than process, on achievement rather than activity,2 is an acceptance of psychology as it is and theology as it is (as given systems). What is then called integration is merely a review of psychological and theological findings to sec if they agree, are at least complementary, or if one can be recast in the other's terms.

Basic Models

The psychological and theological findings or products that appear most often in the integration literature generally are of four types.3 (1) psychological techniques to apply to problems of living; (2) scriptural rationales for psychological findings; (3) descriptions of Christian experience and human experience in general; (4) psychological prescriptions and scriptural imperatives for everyday living. These products are then integrated in various combinations, through the the utilization of the following five models:

1. Certainty4 -using psychological understanding only if it is directly supportive of and subsumed under one's faith system; treating verbalized, propositional truth dogmatically as "exclusive truth."

2. Conformability-reanalyzing psychological data and! or restating psychological conclusions in the perspective of a Christian world view;5 bringing more of psychology, through reinterpretation, "under the authority of Scripture" than the Certainty Model, by taking psychology at face value, can tolerate.

3. Convertibility -incorporating a psychological conclusion, such as Freud's safety valve view of sexuality,6 into biblical interpretation when such additional information promises to flesh out a difficult passage of Scripture; reifying a construct and then "deifying the reification,"

4. Compatibility -looking for where psychology and the Bible seem to be saying the same thing;7 lining psychological findings up on one side and theological findings on the other, point for point, and "zipping them up."

5. Cornplernentarity-utilizing different levels of description to form a hierarchy: one level presupposes another and reveals its significance in fresh categories;8 the religious account of reality is "higher" than the scientific.

The Certainty Model seems to he the most popular model among theologians, while the Compatibility Model seems to be most popular among psychologists. All five of the models, however, fall short of what I would regard as basic integration. The Compatibility Model, for instance, builds bridges in the air between two towers of knowledge-what is missing is the building of a foundation on the common ground of psychology and theology. I believe that common ground is the humanness of each inquiry.


Basic integration must, in MacKay's terms, start from God. This means to me that if we are to know God's truths, we must enter into dialogue with God. To know His truth is to know Him, which is a matter of communication. This is where humanness becomes the basis for integration, for in order to have contact with God, there must be some basic similarities with Him:

In other words, for man to receive spirit, man must be spirit in himself. If man is to receive sense impressions, he must he sensual; if he is to assimilate food, he must he organic in nature; if he is to receive images and ideas and hold them, he must be intellectual; if he is to be held responsible to certain prescriptive laws, he must be volitional. Likewise, if God is to come as Holy Spirit and dwell with man, man must be spirit to be truly "present" with God This can only mean, in modern terms, that God is Person, and man is person, and that they are truly and fully "present" with each other only on the level of interpersonal relationship.9

Person to person, Spirit to spirit-that is the common ground for interaction with God and for the basic integration of psychology and theology. It is this person/spirit quality that I am calling humanness. But

We need to accept the balanced, biblical view of the whole person.

it is precisely this quality that is controlled out of the participants in the "well-designed psychological experiment," by the systematic assignment of personal feelings, meanings, and values to contaminating variables, crc or variance, and residual matrices. Person/ spirit qualities are treated as "epiphenomena," "mental way stations," and "explanatory fictions,"10 so the subject is dehumanized; personal participation is denied, so the experimenter is dehumanized. This amounts to one non-person studying another non-person! We are left with what C. S. Lewis called "men without chests." And how does the Person of the Holy Spirit contact a non-person?

Humanness has been operationally defined out at the level of psychological investigation and also at the level of integration, which seems to be based on two assumptions; (a) science/psychology and theology are man-made; the Bible and Nature are God-made;12 (b) the knower need only possess intellectual honesty and personal integrity;13 the known is created and ordered. Integration, then, is possible because psychology and theology both investigate the same created, ordered universe, and the investigator retains his/her scientific and Christian standards with unfailing honesty and integrity. God's place in all of this is simply a passive cause for agreement. He is active only in upholding what is being investigated.

We need an integration model that recognizes (1) the personal participation of the knower in the knowing process, 14 (2) that in the process of knowing we are in-formed by the thing understood while simultaneously we give form to the thing we understand,15 and (3) God's activity in the process of the investigation, i.e., during the generation of the data. By thereby incorporating humanness and human-divine encounter into our inquiry and integration, God permeates even the doing of psychology, and living with God becomes the vehicle for interpreting His natural and propositional revelations. This is what I would call process integration, whereby God is continuously revealing Himself through His creation and is active in the doing of psychology and theology.16

The focus of process integration shifts from integrating the products of psychology and theology to the process of living with God. Note that the shift is one of changed focus. It is not a relativistic position (there are no facts). It assumes that "integration" occurs only because God is active in all of His creation, upholding every activity, scientific or otherwise, in the universe. To focus directly on integration itself (e.g., the Certainty, Conformability, Convertibility, Compatibility and Complementarity Models) is to give it an nntic dignity and status it does not deserve. 17

In order for process integration to he possible, we will need a change of focus not only in the working out of our individual integration systems and in the conduct of our psychological inquiry, but equally important, in the conduct of our theological inquiry. While we need a psychology that does not dehumanize me by reducing me to a machine, denying my personhood,18 we also very much need a theology that does not despiritualize me by reducing me to a mind, restricting my personhood. It seems to me that as modern psychology has overemphasized behavior as the unit of analysis, evangelical theology has overemphasized thought as the unit of analysis. The propositional thoughts contained in Scripture are seen by many as the necessary and sufficient means to all truth -as exclusive truth, negating any need for further revelation in any form from the Lord our God. It is almost as if the Bible has become for them a modern idol!

The Wholeness of the Person

But God does not traffic only in ideas. That is hard to appreciate, because we have gotten away in our modern scientific age from the wholeness of the person, from the unity of our bodily/mental/soulish functions.1 All of the product models of integration listed above are models of conceptual integration, aimed solely at the mind. Somehow it is forgotten that phenomenolngically much of our involvement in life is at a nonverbal, preconceptual, feeling level. We are involved bodily/preconceptually in our situations even before we have words for them. In short, the body is a communication system, not a mere "container for the soul." Could not God, then, reveal His will to me through feelings as well as through thoughts? As for those who automatically disparage feelings, cannot thoughts lead one just as far astray as feelings? For example, it is easy for us to rationalize away what we know "in our heart" to be true, even while knowing "deep down" that we are being only superficially rational.

We need to accept the balanced, biblical view of the whole person. The division of people into rational (the accuracy of reason) as good, and irrational (the untrustworthiness of feelings) as bad, reflects our rebellion against God and our own created nature.20 Perhaps it is just such a mind-bias that typifies present-day evangelical theology, that causes us to experience our integrative efforts all in our heads, to become top-heavy, and to fall flat on our faces!

Motives for Integration

Perhaps we also need a change of focus in our motives for integrating. One way of looking at motives is our attempt to demonstrate through integration our belief in regard to God's intervention or nonintervention in modern culture. The following summarizes the various options:21


In conclusion, to more vividly highlight their differences (but not necessarily their deficiencies), I offer the following summary of the primary characteristics of product modeling (pm) and process modeling (PM):

(pm) Psychological and theological products of knowing
                  (PM) Psychology and theology as ways of knowing
(pm) Similar products
                  (PM) Similar processes
                   (pm) Intellectually compare products of knowing conceptual integration
                   (PM) Become bodily/mentally in-formed through the process of knowing-embodied integration23
                   (pm) Talk about truth-exposit---put truths on the world
                   (PM) Live truth-embody--live truth in the world
                   (pm) Solve problems
                   (PM) Commit ourselves over time to the appropriate authority(ies) by which we may have an      interpretive framework for our experience and guide for responsible choices, in all areas of our existence and at every level of our awareness24
                  (pm) Defend the faith-fight against the world transforming the word (the Bible)
                  (PM) Affirm the faith-facilitate the Word (Jesus Christ) transforming the world
                  (pm) Know about God
                  (PM) Know God
Basic Question
                  (pm) What is God's truth?
                  (PM) How does human-divine encounter take place?


1Donald M. MacKay, "Basic Versus Piecemeal Integration," keynote address for the Thirty-First Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, Wheaton, Illinois, August, 1976.
2Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.
3Numbers 1-3 are taken from Clinton W. McLemore, "The Nature of Psychotherapy: Varieties of Conceptual Integration," paper read at the Twenty-Third Annual Convention of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Santa Barbara, California, June, 1976.
4The Certainty and Compatibility Models are similar to "indoctrination" and "interaction" (Holmes, op. cit.), and "the apologetic response" and "the correlational response" (Samuel R. Schutz, "Christian Authority: A Detriment to Psychological Theory?" Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 1975, 27, 66-68) Both Holmes and Schutz espouse a third category as a corrective: "integration," which emphasizes activity as opposed to achievement; "the radical response," which emphasizes activity as opposed to propositional certainty.
5Rooald L. Koteskey, "Man in Christian Psychology," paper read at the Twenty-First Annual Convention of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Stone Mountain, Georgia, April, 1974.
6For a discussion of some of the inadequacies of the Freudian view of sexuality, see Kirk E. Farnsworth, "The Myth of the Machine," His Magazine, 1974, 34 (5), 28-30.
7John D. Carter, and Richard J. Mohline, "The Nature and Scope of Integration: A Proposal," paper read at the conference, Research in Mental Health and Religious Behavior, Atlanta, Georgia, January, 1976.
8Donald M. MacKay, The Clock Work Image: A Christian Perspective on Science, Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1974;
Richard H. Bube, The Human Quest: A New Look at Science and the Christian Faith, Waco: Word, 1971,
9Arnold B. Come, Human Spirit and Holy Spirit, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959, p. 73.
10This is descriptive terminology employed by B. F. Skinner. See T, W. Warm (Ed.), Behaviorism and Phenomenology: Contrasting Bases for Modern Psychology, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1964,
11C, S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York: Macmillan, 1947,
12"God made the world, and God gave the Bible. Men make science and men make theology"Richard H. Bube, "Towards a Christian View of Science," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 1971, 23,3.
13Schultz, op. cit.
14Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
15Rollo May, Love and Will, New York: Norton, 1969.
16Kirk E. Farnsworth, "Integration of Faith and Learning Utilizing a Phenomenological/ Existential Paradigm for Psychology," paper read at the Twenty-Third Annual Convention of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Santa Barbara, California, June, 1976.
17This is an application of an idea generated by Al Dueck, "Interpretations of Christ and Culture: The Church, the World and the Profession," paper read at the TwentyThird Annual Convention of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Santa Barbara, California, June, 1976.
18See Asnedeo Giorgi, Psychology as a Human Science: A Phenomenologically Based Approach, New York: Harper & Row, 1970; Ernest Keen, Psychology and the New Consciousness, Monterey: Brooks/Cole, 1972; David L. Wolfe, "Could There Be A Humanistic Science of Man?" paper read at the First Annual Psychology Colloquium, Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois, February, 1972.
19Come, op. cit.
20See Emil Brunner, God and Man: Four Essays on the Nature
of Personality, London: Student Christian Movement,
1936. In Chapter IV, "Biblical Psychology," Brunner described the schism between "the chill of reason" and "the warmth of feeling," which causes reason to become impersonal and feeling to become the focus of the irrational. To restore both of these important aspects of our created nature, as well as the balance between them, he emphasizes the need for a proper view of feeling, stating boldly, ". . . If I mistake not, feeling is the true crux of all psychology" (p. 169). Similarly, "feeling can be much more sensitive than reason can ever be sensible"Viktor E. Frankl, The Unconscious God, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975, p. 39.
21The list of motives is an application of Niebuhr's categories, in H, R. Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, New York: Harper, 1951.
22Niabubr's categories have also been employed by John D. Carter, "Four Models of the Integration Process," paper read at the Second Annual Meeting of the Western Association of Christians for Psychological Studies, Santa Barbara, California, May, 1975. The correlation of Carter's models with those appearing in this paper would appear to be: (1) The Scripture Against PsychologyCertainty Model; (2) The Scripture Of Psychology-Convertibility Model; (3) The Scripture Parallels PsychologyComplementarity Model; (4) The Scripture Integrates Psychology-Compatibility Model.
23Kirk E. Farnsworth, "Embodied Integration," paper read at the Twenty-First Annual Convention of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Stone Mountain, Georgia, April, 1974.
24Walter R. Thorson, "The Concept of Truth in the Natural Sciences," Themelias, 1968, 5 (2), 27-39.