The Integrated Model for Relating Psychology and Christianity:
A Critique in the Light of BiblicaI Creation
Paul D. Ackerman
The "Integrates Model," as described by John D. Carter and Bruce Narramore in their book The Integration of Psychology and Theology, is examined in the light of the biblical doctrine of creation. A basic component of the Integrates Model is the assumption of the "unity of truth," which has the problem in application of placing the reading of Scripture on the same plain as the reading of scientific data in understanding reality. The unity of truth doctrine overlooks the unique character of Scripture as propositional revelation introduced by God into a fallen world for purpose of communicating to fallen man. An approach is suggested that would center on the concept of captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5) based on the Ten Commandments rather than integration.
Christlike thinking regarding a system of thought requires, among other things, an examination of the system's basic assumptions in the light of the Genesis record of creation. In this light, the present paper will examine an approach to relating biblical Christianity and psychology called the Integrates model. The Integrates model has been expounded and defended in The Integration of Psychology and Theology by John D. Carter and Bruce Narramore (Carter & Narramore, 1979). A recent survey found The Integration of Psychology and Theology to be one of the most influential books among psychology faculty teaching at Christian colleges and universities (Staff, 1987). The book is part of the Rosemead Psychology Series which "seeks to present current thinking on the subject of the integration of psychology and the Christian faith by examining key issues and problems that grow out of the interface of psychology and theology" (p. 5).
We assume that both psychology and theology offer a great deal toward an understanding of the human race. Consequently, no effort has been made to establish the validity of either psychological methods or biblical revelation.... This volume assumes a basic commitment or openness to the data of psychology.... Most of these efforts are based on one essential philosophical underpinning—the belief that all truth is God's truth, wherever it is found. This proposition is frequently referred to as "the unity of truth" (pp. 12-13).
As these statements reveal, the essential feature of the Integrates model is that the products of Bible study and psychological research have equal claim upon our view of reality. Based upon this assumption, the Integrates model seeks to integrate biblical and psychological-research revelations into a unified view of human nature. The resulting Weltanschauung is ever in flux, however, owing to the continually advancing and expanding scope of scientific knowledge and theory.
Carter and Narramore present the Integrates model in contrast to three alternate models which are rejected. The first of the rejected models is the Against model which views Christianity and psychology as essentially incompatible with no real possibility for integration. ´´Proponents of this model frequently set psychology and theology against each other in ways that suggest that they are mortal enemies" (p. 73). The Against model is common among Christian fundamentalists.
The second rejected model is the Of model which finds value in certain biblical concepts but redefines them in ways that remove their supernatural content. Illustrative of this approach are attempts to subject biblical characters and events to psychological analysis in a manner that explains away their miraculous and divine aspects. It is common among Christian liberals.
The third rejected approach is the Parallels model which recognizes both psychology and Christian theology as legitimate but makes no attempt to integrate them. The Parallels model keeps theology and psychology in separate secular and sacred compartments. This can be done in an unreflective way in the manner of the "common man." In a more reflective form, psychology and Christian theology can be recognized as expressing the same truths, and effort can be expended to translate between the two. An example of this approach would be a pastor's use of psychology to illustrate and support biblical teaching. Carter and Narramore prefer the Parallels model to the Against and Of models, but as professional psychologists they still reject it in favor of "the possibility of genuine integration" (p. 94).
The Integrates Model in the Light of Genesis
Carter and Narramore are Bible-believing Christians and as such accept basic biblical doctrines including those pertaining to the nature of man. They fully accept the view of man as created in the image of God as well as his subsequent Fall. Quite properly, both of these doctrines are included in their formulation of the Integrates model.
The assumption that gives the Integrates model its unique and questionable thrust is the proposition of "the unity of truth."
Most of these efforts are based on one essential philosophical underpinning —the belief that all truth is God's truth, wherever it is found. This proposition is frequently referred to as "the unity of truth."
Christianity affirms that God is the Creator of all things and that this establishes a basic unity of all truth, whether found in scriptural revelation or scientific experimentation (p. 13).
The problem with the "unity of truth" doctrine is that it ignores the fundamental distinction between scriptural revelation and the stimuli which come to our senses from the creation. Scriptural revelation is not fallen. It consists of propositional statements introduced by God after the Fall for the purpose of communicating to fallen man. As such it takes into account man's and the rest of creation's fallen condition.
The Bible teaches that the creation, including the power of human reason, is fallen. Therefore, the interpretations and conclusions drawn from study of data emanating from the creation cannot be given equal status with clear and simple declarations found in Scripture, and the last thing Christians want to do is cloud the propositional teachings of the Bible by integrating them with the shifting sands of scientific theories and models. On the contrary, the crucial work of the believer is to preserve and advance that "once-for-all-entrusted-to-the-saints" faith which provides a fixed framework not only for lawful and productive science but for every aspect of life.
Unfolding the Integrates Model
To state it again, the fatal misstep of the Integrates model is its assumption of the "unity of truth." From this assumption the model proceeds to a position in which scriptural revelation and scientific theory are on equal footing.
In almost every area of psychology, Scripture has much to say that can influence our understanding of psychological research, theory, and practice. This is what we mean by the term integration. Psychology is raising questions and providing data that bear on our theological understanding of the human being, and theology expresses divinely revealed truths that speak to psychology's developing view of humanity (p.20).
The logic is simple. Scripture is true but so are the data emanating from the creation. Man is fallen, however, and, therefore, fallible. Thus, his or her interpretation of both Scripture and the data from the creation are less than certain. (Again, the problem with this conclusion is that it ignores the unique status of Scripture as an unfallen revelation by God introduced into the fallen world for the purpose of communicating to mankind.)
Despite its Christian trappings, the Integrates model, because of its unity of truth assumption, begins to have a humanistic flavor. The logic proceeds as follows: because of human fallibility, man is embedded in uncertainty, and the role of life becomes the quest for truth. This quest is conducted by striving to combine or integrate all of the "truth" available at any given time. Because we are always learning, our integrated understanding of the truth is ever advancing. The Scripture itself may be fixed, but our understanding of it will soar to ever higher comprehensions as its teachings are continually integrated with the advancing knowledge that stems from scientific research.
But we must venture out if we are going to build a meaningful integration. We need more empirical data to shed light on innumerable problems confronting the church. We need new scriptural insights and new theoretical concepts to understand better the nature of the human being and human functioning. And we need increasing application of our research, theory, and biblical interpretation. But if these are pursued in an isolated fashion, we will make very little progress. We must be willing to re-evaluate the answers that have been given to some old questions. And most of all, we must be willing to bring all conceivable sources of understanding to bear on our study of the human being and the human dilemma (p. 121).
More Than a Model
For Carter and Narramore the Integrates approach is more than a mere model for integrating psychological and theological concepts. It is a way of life:
"By now it should be apparent that from our perspective integration is more than simply a matter of relating separate subject areas. Underneath our discussion is the assumption that integration is also a way of living and a way of thinking. (p. 117)
The humanistic aspects of the Integrates model become manifest. The Integrates way partakes of a childlike openness to the world. A person in this way is viewed as a sojourner moving through life in a quest for higher truth and understanding. The central characteristic of this journey is a fearless and uninhibited learner's spirit:
Our discussion... Ieads us to what is perhaps the major hurdle to deeply integrative thinking. This is our own personal anxiety and consequent defensiveness, which forces us to be less than fully open to the truth about ourselves and others.... We become rigid, closed, or intolerant because we fear the consequences of openness. We have learned that it is safer to restrict our awareness (p. 120).
As Christians we may affirm a partial wisdom in all this but only within the context of a certain, fixed and encompassing biblical framework. Contrary to the spirit of the Integrates model, the Bible warns Christians to be cautious and walk circumspectly. The sense of Scripture is that we are not to be conformed to this world but transformed to the mind of one who spoke not as the scribes but as one having authority. There is no evidence in the details of Christ's life to indicate that he operated in the manner of the Integrates model. On the contrary, the example of His life coincides with the plain sense of apostolic teaching which calls us not to integrate the world's knowledge with revelation but rather to bring the world's knowledge into captivity to the revelation. Far removed from the spirit of the Integrates model, the Christian's marching orders are set forth in 11 Corinthians 10:5 which instructs us to "[cast] down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." We are not to engage in a quest for truth but rather to proclaim that we have been visited by truth and that God's Word is truth.
The Christian's resolve must be to avoid ultimate ties of loyalty not only to the Integrates model, but to any model. This is true not because of any human condition of perpetual uncertainty as claimed in the Integrates model, but rather because all models themselves are human constructions and thus beneath us. This would be true even if we were not fallen. Our fallen condition simply adds a practical reason (i.e. We cannot take human theories seriously because they are, in principle, fallible.) to the eternal wisdom which says that the creator does not bow down to his creation.
A Biblical Model for Psychology
In keeping with the spirit of the second commandment against bowing down and worshipping idols (works of our own hands), scientific models and all ideas regarding how to deal with scientific models must be viewed as servants and not masters. We remember this in proper servitude and loyalty to our own creator and, also—in keeping with the example God has set for us—we do this realizing that we ourselves are greater than any model or theory we can create or derive. If we are obedient in refusing to worship the works of our own hands, we will discover a marvelous freedom. Our would be masters of scientific models and theories will become instruments and tools. In our freedom we will encounter occasions when wisdom calls us to operate in an "against" mode. At other times the "parallels," "of" or conceivably even something like the "integrates" mode will be proper. But the only "model" that can be allowed any claim upon our loyalty is the revealed model of obedient and faithful endeavors including those aimed at bringing the imaginations of the world into submission to God and His Word (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).
Viewed in their New Testament context, the Ten Commandments provide an encapsulation of the Christian's "model" for approaching psychology or any other discipline. Commandments six through ten — against murder, adultery, stealing, Iying and coveting —provide the framework for moral and ethical professional conduct. For the scientist, the ninth commandment — against bearing false witness—is especially significant in that it rules out Iying about or misrepresentation of data. Love of truth is foundational to all scientific endeavor and, indeed, all Christian life.
The spirit of the fifth commandment—to honor thy father and mother — mandates in the present context an appropriate deference and respect for one's cultural heritage and social institutions. Commandment four — to remember the sabbath —warns us not to neglect our moment by moment walk with God through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Commandment three —´´Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" —would in the present context adjure against the presumptuous use of Scripture or God Himself, as in some private vision or word of knowledge, to prop up a pet theory or model.
The first two commandments—"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" among other things embody the principal argument of this paper which is that the products of human research and reasoning, however well established they may appear, cannot be placed on the same level as the revelations of Scripture. This is true because (1) scientific models are, in contrast to Scripture, human creations and thus beneath us; (2) the data on which they are based emanate from the creation and are thus affected by the Fall; and (3) man is fallen and therefore all theories he produces are fallible.
Through His Word, God has provided a framework in which there is both structure and freedom. If we stand in firm, childlike faith in its clear declarations, refusing to be impressed by our own works and speculations, we will be blessed and enjoy the fruits of a productive and Godly psychology. In the freedom of Christ's Kingdom we will discover all the good and true things He has for us in the domain of psychology. As we research and discover, the sure truths of God's revelation can never be merely integrated with psychology's theories and models but rather provide a fixed, encompassing structure for advancing the science in Godly captivity.
Basic scriptural doctrines and categories can not be brought down to the level of man's theories and concepts in the manner called for by the Integrates model. If we do such a thing, the result will be both bad Christianity and bad psychology. If we remain firm and steadfast in faith and submission to the whole counsel of Scripture and not just those doctrines that seem to pass muster in terms of contemporary philosophy and science, we will find the freedom and structure needed to conduct truly productive science. Within this context, and only within this context, will a place be found for the open, tolerant and undefensive learner's spirit that Carter and Narramore value. In Christ and in His Kingdom, the Word of God will become to us not yea and nay, but yea (Il Corinthians 1:1 7-20).
Carter, J. D., & Narramore, B. (1979). The Integration of Psychology and Theology,. Grand Rapids, Ml: Academie Books, A division of Zondervan Publishing House.
Staff. (1987, August). Trends studied among psych faculty: 1972-1984. Christian College News, p. 2.