The connection between psychology and Christianity has been a subject of discussion for a long time. Psychology, as the study of the human psyche, does not exist in a vacuum – it relies on the conditions of society, environment, and many other different factors, but most importantly, on the human psyche itself. However, to study psychology, one must have not only an understanding of the psyche, but also of what a person’s essence is, and what constitutes their nature. Determining the main aspects that together form a personality is one of the key issues for each branch of psychological studies.
In Christian psychology, a person represents an image of God as His creation, they have an immortal soul and specific features unique to religious faith. When a person confesses their allegiance to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit makes His home in them (King James Bible, John 14:23; Eph. 3:17) and God communes with their every being (King James Bible, Rev. 21:3). Psychology in this light is seen not as existing in itself, but as created for the service of humans. Entwistle’s (2021) Allies model proposes a strong framework for the relationship between Christian faith and psychology, declaring that both operate under God’s authority and explaining how they can be integrated into each other. According to the author (2021), the two disciplines, while innately different, still converge at some point, offering varied perspectives on understanding human behavior. Thus, this model seems to offer the best theoretical base for capturing the essence of the connection between them.
Christian Methods of Knowing
In modern society, the view of the opposition between religious and scientific methods of knowing has become widespread. However, this point of view is based on a misunderstanding of the foundations of modern science and the history of its emergence. Christian theologians had a very respectful attitude towards science because the knowledge of the world also contributes to the knowledge of God. In the Western Church, under the influence of Thomas Aquinas, Aristotelian philosophy began to be considered the most appropriate to the Christian picture of the world.
The problem of obtaining knowledge must indeed be the basis of any philosophical system. However, the latest theories of knowledge were built in the era of the fundamental separation of philosophy from religion – in the era of secular culture. Within them, not much development was given to the Christian methods of knowing, and only materialistic approaches were offered. For a Christian thinker, this position is unacceptable; however, the question of how should knowledge be obtained precisely in the light of Christ remains. Thus, Christianity teaches: that ideally, corporality should be correlated with spirituality, and merge with it. A person should cultivate in themselves not the only reason, but also feelings, through which personal richness and uniqueness are revealed.
Christian psychology proceeds subsequently from Christian anthropology and the concept of man. The purpose of Christian psychology is the study and development of the knowledge of the human psyche as a necessary and precious instrument of life given by God (Entwistle, 2021). Christian methods of knowing help in finding a person of his destination, meaning, and salvation, and in it, they depend on psychology. Christianity, which seeks to substantiate the concept of personality, inherited interpretations of the problem of “I” in the ancient philosophical tradition that are very rare in their worldview arrangement (Entwistle, 2021). Thus, Christian thinkers have repeatedly turned to this tradition in search of an affirmation of personalist thinking. The process of personal enrichment was conceived as creative, and individual, and thus, a person faces many possibilities.
Entwistle’s Allies Model Overview
Entwistle proposed a new understanding of the relationship between Christianity and psychology, one that is consistent with the ways both obtain knowledge about human nature and the world. The model unites the scientific and theological approaches to try and discern the intricate ways of functioning that operate the human psyche. In this framework, psychology integrates its varied methodologies and sub-theories into the Christian understanding of faith and religious practices, discerning their place in the development of knowledge (Entwistle, 2021). In this regard, psychology does not replace spiritual work but helps to eliminate numerous psychological obstacles along the way. Thus, the Allies model relies on the objective foundation of psychological knowledge about the human soul, implemented into the Christian faith and understanding of God’s reason. The key belief of the Allies model lies in the assumption that all knowledge – especially psychological – comes from Scripture, as it is the book of God’s words.
Thus, the basis of the Allies model is the psychology of personality development and the Christian understanding of personality. It is in Christianity that the value of a person is most fully expressed, as they are given the opportunity of eternal life and to meet God. However, to achieve it, it is necessary to rise to a certain level of personal development – this is where psychology comes into view. The Allies model proceeds from the fact that a person is an inhabitant of two worlds – the natural and the supernatural. Without mysticism, just as without the spiritual, a human is only homo sapiens, an animal. The psychic aspect of personality understood as a connection between the mystical, the anthropic, and the social, comprehends a person immeasurably deeper. Psychological and theological perspectives converge at this point, creating a more individualized approach to understanding the human psyche.
Allies Model’s Views on Two Books Concept
The duality of two books of God – the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature – has been discussed by Entwistle in the Allies model. The model accepts the concept of two books as complementary sources of divine truth (Entwistle, 2021). It fully supports the view that God and God alone were the Creator of everything, and He is the author of the Scripture and the Book of Nature, as stated by John 1:3 (King James Bible). Moreover, it also agrees that each book should be read and understood separately to create a strong foundation for one’s beliefs. By applying different methodologies to reading each book, the Allies model proclaims that they require a certain proficiency in spiritual texts from the reader (Entwistle, 2021). Overall, the concept of the two books fits perfectly into the integrated approach, as it serves to diversify and enrich one’s understanding of both God’s reason and personal faith.
Strengths and Limitations of the Allies Model
The first and most important advantage of the Allies model is that it can use theoretical frameworks, knowledge, and methodologies of both psychology and Christianity. By integrating them instead of dividing them, the model allows for a more comprehensive look into the issues that concern one or both perspectives (Entwistle, 2021). Moreover, by integrating two disciplines, the Allies model recognizes their strengths and limitations, and thus offers a more subjective way of assessing knowledge. It is a significant advantage of the theory, as when the researchers operate from only one point of view, they might lack some crucial concepts of the other to fully understand the issue at hand. Finally, the third relevant strong side of the Allies model is that it promotes the use of tools and methods from psychology to develop one’s understanding of themselves faith and God. By applying scientifically proven methods of self-recognition to the process of reflecting on one’s relationship with God, the model offers a person an easier part to self-development.
However, there are also limitations to the use of the Allies model, as Entwistle (2021) himself stated. First of all, it cannot define with absolute surety what is a specific Christian perspective of psychology in its nature. Seeing as Christianity is a diverse religion with various branches each of which has its core values, it is rather difficult to narrow down the definition of Christian psychology (Entwistle, 2021). From there, another barrier rises: how does one fully integrates modern science with the Christian tradition, if there is no unity in the latter. A scientific approach requires consistency, accuracy, and exactness that cannot be fully achieved in the condition of too diverse values and variables (Entwistle, 2021). Thus, the third disadvantage also follows: lack of uniform opinion restrains the process of integration, even causing more discussions and opposition. To be able to fully unify psychology and Christianity, a specific theoretical base must be designed that would develop on the presence of values and traditions accepted by the absolute majority.
Entwistle, D. N. (2021). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration. Cascade Books.
King James Bible. (2022). King James Bible Online. Web.