Science in Christian Perspective



Integration Efforts of Some 
Christian Psychology Faculty

Theodore Hsieh
Associate Professor Psychology 
Judson College Elgin, Illinois 60120

From: JASA 34 (December 1982): 239-241.

The desire to integrate faith and academic discipline is one of the most unique and prominent features of evangelical Christian college faculty. The growing involvement among Christian psychologists in the integration of psychology and theology is manifested by a tremendous growth in the number of publications in this area over the last ten years. This is exciting, but it is a troublesome excitement. For one thing, there seems to be very little consensus on what and how to integrate. Recent evaluations of and reflections on the "state of the art" readily confirm this feeling (cf. Farnsworth, 1980; Koteskey, 1980; Larzelere, 1980; and Collins, 1980). An emerging problem, the proliferation of integration terms, may seem rather superficial, but it does create confusion. Examples: ,'models" of integration- "territorialism" (Even, 1977), "certainty" (Farnsworth, 1978), "privatization" (Burwell, 1979), "against" and "isolation" (Carter and Narramore, 1979), and "exclusivity" (Rambo, 1980). These all seem to describe a mode of denial of the possibility or necessity of integration. The lack of consensus on what and how to integrate may produce a sort of creative anxiety among Christian psychologists. But the proliferation of terms can reduce the effectiveness of communication. In spite of these growing pains, however, the level of integration activity does reflect both the excitement and vigor of this unique evangelical enterprise.

The purpose of this paper is to report on a type of integration involvement among evangelical Christian college psychology faculty. Clement and Warren (1973) identify four types of integration activities: conceptual-theoretical integration, integration through research, integration through professional practice, and intrapersonal integration. They treat these four types of activities as disjointed categories. Each is significant in its own right. A Christian psychologist, by implication, may concentrate on and become expert in one type of activity without touching the others. For a Christian psychology professor, however, it may be more productive to view these four types of activities as the integral parts of a whole and balanced professional lifestyle. Therefore, for example, to be a Christian psychologist is more than just a Christian in psychology who manifests certain personal characteristics while doing psychology (professional integration?) or practices certain psychological insights he teaches in his/her Christian walk (intra-personal integration?). A Christian psychology professor really cannot practice personal and professional integration satisfactorily without making contributions to this discipline from a uniquely Christian perspective through research and publication. On the other hand, conceptual-theoretical integration could be the most foundational activity of all. Commenting on the list by Clement and Warren, Mathisen (1980) contends that conceptual-theoretical integration is "essential to the other three ... We cannot adequately proceed to the other challenges of integration until we have a firm theoretical basis on which to base our future efforts" (p. 222). This important issue deserves further discussion but is beyond the scope of this report. The present report deals only with the research activity of the faculty seen through their publications.

In January, 1982, a letter was sent to all 63 institutions listed in a membership brochure of the Christian College Coalition. The letter was addressed to the chair of the psychology department, requesting lists of publications of every teaching member in the department. The purpose of the request (gathering material for the March psychology faculty conference sponsored by the CCC) was indicated in the letter. Twenty-three departments responded with lists of publications. A total of 46 psychology faculty members from these 23 colleges were included in this report. They represented 28.2207o of a total of 163 psychology professors in the CCC schools.

Not every responding department sent lists covering its total faculty. For example, there was one response out of five members from one school and seven out of thirteen from another. Eleven other departments responded with either letters or phone calls indicating that they could not provide such a list.

Within the time limitation and the limited objective of getting a "feel" for the faculty involvement, this report deals only with those articles published in the refereed professional journals. Articles published for the general public in such magazines as Christianily Today, Eternity, or His were excluded. Books and chapters in books were not included. Books reviews were not included. Articles-in-press were not included, Papers presented before professional associates were not included.

The selected articles were then divided into two broad categories: those published when one was associated with a non-Christian institution and those published while a faculty of a Christian college. This was determined by examining the author affiliation listed in an article. When a journal was not readily available, a request for a reprint was sent to the author. In every case the request was promptly honored. In the case where an author's current Christian college affiliation was mentioned in a footnote because the change of affiliation took place after the research was completed, the non-Christian institutional affiliation was recorded.

The Table shows seven subject areas into which the articles were grouped. These were conventional subject areas in psychology except for "integration-research" and "integration-theory". Any empirical article that dealt with religious behavior or was related to a theologically-derived concept was assigned to the "integration research" category. Any non-empirical article of psychotheological nature was put in the "integration-theory" category.

A total of 167 articles were published by the 46 faculty members in 23 Coalition colleges. These Christian psychology professors published 122 articles when they were affiliated with non-Christian institutions and 45 articles when they were associated with Christian colleges. The number of publications by individual faculty members ranged from one to sixteen and the mean number of articles published by the group was 3.63. The Table presents the numbers of published articles according to subject matters and affiliations.

A major weakness of this study is the problem of representativeness of the sample. The sample is obviously biased toward those who had at least one article published. Ellison (1973) reported a study of Christian college psychology faculty based on 69 subjects. Over half (54.5%) indicated that they had not published any journal articles. The mean number of articles published by the Ellison group was 1.3, compared with the American Psychological Association estimate of 1.0, and 3.63 in the present study. The sample bias here is quite obvious. In spite of this weakness, one can still get a "feel" for the kind of involvement of our faculty by this limited examination of publication trends and content.

The marked reduction in number of publications by faculty during Christian college affiliation may not necessarily alarm us when we consider the relative youth of some members and the recency of this affiliation of several others. For example, one professor who had just joined a Christian college faculty had 8 perception articles published under her name while affiliated with a non-Christian institution. In another case, a new Ph.D is credited with 5 articles in social-personality under a non-Christian institution affiliation. These recent transfers might continue their productivity given more time with their new affiliation. But a dramatic change in publication productivity is reflected in one case where a professor published 16 scientific articles before he joined a Christian college. And then he published none except 3 in the "integration-theory" area.

It may be reasonable to expect some reduction in productivity of professional journal articles by Christian college psychologists. Increased emphasis on teaching and teaching load, more demand for writing for Christian and denominational magazines, and the lack of research facility and incentive, all should contribute to a decline of scientific publications in the general area of psychology. However, an increase of productivity of Christian college faculty in the integration area should be expected.

The twenty integration articles published by Christian college psychologists (see the Table) do not reflect all of their involvement. More than two-thirds of the respondents list book reviews, articles in general and denominational magazines, and papers presented at conferences of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies and the American Scientific Affiliation that deal with integration. The numbers of such papers range from one to fiftysix. Therefore, any future study of faculty integration efforts will do well to examine these works.

Most "integration-research" articles are "correlational" (Carter and Narramore, 1979) in nature. There is little interaction between empirical research and integration theorizing. Typically, a research integrationist adopts a popular psychological construct (e.g. purpose in life or locus of control) and applies it to a Christian population. The results are informative and interesting but of minimal theoretical significance. The theoretical integrationalist seems to have a completely different agenda. He talks about the inadequacy of certain integration models or styles. He is in search for some comprehensive and all-encompassing paradigms. His tone is always philosophical, usually somewhat mystical, but very seldom behavioral.

Let me make some comments here that go beyond the data of the present report but apply to our general integration efforts seen through the pages of several important evangelical journals (i.e. Journal of Psychology and Theology, The Bulletin of CAPS and the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation). It is the Christian clinician whose activities make him/her sensitive to the implications of theory, therapy and theology (Timpe, 1980). Surprisingly, no empirical research has been conducted to test a uniquely "Christian" therapeutic technique that is derived from a theologically informed theory. Car-ter and Narramore (1979) recognize that, at the present time, there is no general theory of behavior in Christian psychology. Nor do we have a definitive theory of personality or even pathology. I suspect that this is a most fundamental problem in the integration enterprise. We have a desperate need for theories that are explicitly informed by theology but adaptable to empirical testing. Precious insights gained from some theologically derived concepts on the nature of man may be biblically correct and philosophically coherent. But their psychological "legitimacy" tends to be suspect. I venture that there is a good chance that our efforts will be viewed not only as "unscientific" but also as "nonpsychological."

We ought to make serious attempts to establish empirically derivable theories and to conduct theoretically oriented research and then take the additional step to reciprocally interact with our clinical practitioners. Unless we expand our efforts in these directions,

Articles Published by Christian College Psychology Faculty According to Subject Areas and Affiliation (N = 46)

Subject areas                    Non-Christian College             Christian College
Affiliation Affiliation

Social/personality                             39                                                7
Learning/perception                         24                                                 4
Developmental/educational               24                                                 5
Clinical/counseling                            10                                                 4
Physiological                                      8                                                 2
Integration-theory                             14                                               15
Integration-research                            3                                                 8

Total                                                122                                              45

our attempts at integration purely on the theoretical level will be of limited value. Much of what is done is of value for apologetics, for devotions, or for affirmation. Now let us determine to direct more of our integrative efforts as Christians to the more complete development of psychology as a discipline.

Burwell, R. J. Integrative strategies in a secular age. Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 1979, 31, 199-201.

Carter, J.D. and B. Narramore. The Integration of Psychology and Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Clement, P.W. and N.C. Warren. Can religion and psychotherapy be happily married?-An experiment in education. In Cox, R.H. Religion Systems and Psychotherapy. Springfield, IL.: Charles C. Thomas, 1973.

Colins, G. Integrating psychology and theology: Some reflections on the state of the art. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1980, 8, 72-79.

Ellison, C.W. Profile: psychology faculty in Christian college. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1973, 1, (2), 51-63.

Evens, C.S. Preserving the Person. Downers Groves: Intervarsity Press, 1977.

Farnsworth, K.E. Dialogue. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1980, 8, 169.

Koteskey, R. L. Reaction: theory or data? Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1980, 8, 240-243.

Larzelere, R.E. Response to Farnsworth and to Kotesky. Journal of Psychology and Theology. 1980, 8, 244-246.

Mathisen, K. Back to the basics: a broad conceptual model for the integration of psychology and theology. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1980, 8, 222-229.

Rambo, L.R. Reflections on the task of integration. Journal ofPsychology, 1980, 8, 64-71.

Timpe, R.L. Assumptions and parameters for developing Christian psylchoogical systems. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1980, 8, 230-239.

Presented at the Christian College Coalition Psychology Conference, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, March 18-20, 1982.