Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why Does Our Stance on Scripture Matter?

What you believe about the primacy of Scripture in the life of believer matters. It shapes pretty much everything you think when it comes to integrating various disciplines. It will impact whatever model of integration you propose and it will shape how you assess information. For instance, if you don't really care if a finding in a discipline contradicts Scripture then you will more likely adopt that belief. However, if you hold that Scripture is the lens by which we see the world you will filter all contradictory claims through that lens.

Ultimately your view of Scripture is a worldview question.

It is one I wrestle with as a psychology and Bible teacher. Much of psychology seems to contradict what we find in the Bible. At times psychology sets itself as a sort of anthropological God. It is tricky waters navigating being both a teacher committed to the Bible as the inspired, authoritative Word of God and yet also holding to the legitimacy of psychological discovery. I have had many conversations with Christians who think psychology should not be studied at all or, if it is, we must dismiss most of it as unbiblical. I disagree, but that is because I believe we can integrate the two. 

But how that integration occurs is a question of tremendous debate. This is where David N. Entwistle's book Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity: An Introduction to Worldview Issues, Philosophical Foundations and Models of Integration comes in. David lays a foundation for thinking biblically about integration. Most of the book is rock solid but there is one major pitfall that I think hurts the book severely. I'll get to that in a minute.

The over half the book, Entwistle lays out various worldviews and philosophical perspectives held throughout history. His introduction to these issues are sufficient. It serves as a really good introduction to many worldview issues. The foundation he lays is great.

My problem really comes in when he starts discussing various models. He sees that there are three primary models of integration: antagonistic models (models against psychology--he calls these "enemies"), intermediate models (labeled "spies", "colonialists" and "neutral parties") and finally integrative models (labeled "allies"). In order to understand my problem, you have to grasp the intermediate models in a bit more depth.

"Spies" are those that basically highjack the language of psychology but filter it so much through the lens of Christianity that it really ceases to be psychological. It is neither theological or psychological but some bizarre mashup. "Neutral parties" are those who say that Scripture has its realm and psychology as its realm but the two should not really intertwine. Don't mix them together.

I reject both of these views because, as Entwistle rightly points out, they are sub-biblical. But what about the "colonialist" perspective? It basically says that provided that psychology does not contradict Scripture, we can use psychology. However, if psychology contradicts the Bible we must reject psychology. Entwistle rejects this perspective, adopting instead the "two books" model. This model says that both creation and the Bible are God's books by which we can learn from Him. If one contradicts the other, we should inspect our interpretation of either one to see if we have misinterpreted either the Bible or the science. Much of what we think contradicts the Bible really just contradicts our interpretation of the text.

But here is the rub (and I think the downfall of the book). Entwistle tends to lean toward the idea that most of the time we are misinterpreting the Bible, not misinterpreting the science. Yet, what happens if psychology contradicts historic orthodoxy? Is that open for negotiation? If it is, Entwistle is going against what has largely been handed down through 2,000 years of church history. Further, is it more likely that we have misinterpreted the Bible for 2,000 years or that the science is wrong? These are, of course, worldview questions.

Image result for integrative approaches to psychology and christianityI would also ask, "What is so wrong with using Scripture to critique psychology?" I agree with the general thrust--I think we need to always be inspecting our interpretations. But if a contradict really exists, Scripture wins. Always. Entwistle would disagree and say that I essentially hold to an intermediate model. That is fine. Why? Because we have to assume that when we call the Bible the Word of God, no truth will ultimately contradict that. If there is a contradiction I tend to think it is going to fall more on the side of recent scientific interpretation than 2000 years of church history.

Those taking aim and saying that I am doing nothing more than pulling a "Catholic faith vs. Galileo" scenario are wrong. The church has often been on the cutting edge of science. While the church has often been slow in adopting new science, I don't think it is without warrant. Much of psychology is in flux. Yesterday's quirks are today's disorders. Our understanding of how the brain is changing quickly due to pioneering work in neuroscience. Yet there is still much we don't know on how the brain works. Yet we know much on how God operates and how humans operate. Church tradition is a powerful testimony and should not be dismissed quickly.

I think Entwistle would agree. I just don't think his "two books" solution is nuanced enough to stand as a serious proposal for theologians. Unfortunately, that hurts his book since it is essentially proposing a "third way" of integration.

The book can be read with profit but I cannot give it full marks.

*Thanks to Cascade Publishing for the free review copy in exchange for a fair review*

No comments:

Post a Comment