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Integrating Faith and Psychology: Twelve Psychologists Tell Their Stories.

Glendon L. Moriarty
Published by IVP Academic in 2010

Efforts toward the integration of Christian theology and academic disciplines are not easy undertakings and can look quite disparate across the disciplines. What can be easily lost in these pursuits are the unique callings that drive integration efforts and the individuals that engage in them. Glendon Moriarty’s book provides a unique reflection on the “integration journeys” of twelve clinical psychologists who are leaders in the integration of Christianity and the discipline of psychology. Moriarty recognizes that there are superb texts that provide descriptions and reviews of Christian integration with psychology; however, he proffers that the personal narrative approach upon which this edited volume is structured will “naturally teach integration.” His overall desire is that the reader might “catch” integration, or that he/she will gain “wisdom, guidance, comfort, and peace” in his/her attempts and struggles to resolve personal and theological questions along the integration journey. In this respect the book is quite successful.

The foreword and introduction truly work to pull together what might otherwise be considered disconnected narratives into a cohesive whole. It is in the foreword, written by Gary Collins, a leader in the literature of psychology integration, that one catches how Moriarty’s vision for the book is set within a broader historical context of the psychology and faith conversation and the associated professional struggles. Collins calls for readers to tell their own stories in order to help developing generations of integrationists, which could be a call for scholars across all disciplines who are engaged in integration. The introduction describes Moriarty’s own narrative in engaging his discipline with his faith, and how personal experiences sanctify us and influence our integration. The introduction also lays out the structure of each narrative with explanations for Moriarty’s selected structure

One of the true strengths of this book is the presence of both unity and diversity in these narratives. There is unity in the common structure of each narrative. Corporately, this book values the role that life events, key relationships, personal struggles, experiences of God, and therapeutic experiences play in the overall journey toward and development of one’s model of integration. Toward this end, each author presents a historical progression of his or her life and work in an initial section termed “Development.” Next, in a mentoring section, special attention is paid to key figures of influence in that journey. This is followed by a section in each narrative, “Personal Struggles,” dedicated to the significant place that struggles and doubts have in the individuals’ developing model of integration. The following two sections, “Spiritual Disciplines” and “Therapy,” outline the key practices and lessons practiced and learned in relationship with God and with others, both as growing individuals and as therapists.

Diversity is represented in the way each author uniquely approaches this common structure out of a desire to engage thoughtfully in and provide reflective evaluation of his or her own experiences with integration. The narratives are presented in a holistic manner with each narrator linking his or her personal development as a Christian, scholar, and clinician with the development of his or her integrative work. In general, each story/chapter provides a portrait of humble leadership, in which the narrator recognizes that God has led him or her along this journey through His grace. In their diversity, these narratives provide important perspectives for psychology students interested or engaged in the integrative task. They show how there is no “one model” of integration, and how spiritual, personal, and professional growth contributes to integrative thought and practice. Diversity is represented not just in the models of integration or the roles these individuals hold, but also in the settings in which they serve, the topics that stir their passions, and their geography, ethnicity, and gender.

These authentic and vulnerable reflections would be engaging in several ways to the broad academic field engaged in integration, as they represent Christian professionals who take their work seriously and demonstrate different approaches to the integration of their discipline with their Christian faith. The authors as a whole are open, providing windows into the world of scholars who are deeply affected by their particular life events and interpersonal relationships. For those dedicated to academic work on the fringes of both church and secular scholarship, these stories might be especially encouraging. Further, for those earlier on in their own integrative journey, this book can be both inspirational and instructive in many helpful ways. Readers will catch the vision of valuing integration and the role that struggles and relationship play in this journey. They may be drawn to greater reflection upon their own travels, how they have come to their current place, and what or whom they might wish to invite along in the next steps. The diversity of experiences represented in this book offers numerous opportunities for connection to the reader, whether dedicated to research, teaching, or practical applications of integration.

This book is also challenging in several ways. Particularly challenging is Cameron Lee’s proposition that for psychologists, psychological narratives of humanity are often more coherent than theological ones. This proposition is a call not only for psychologists to take their faith and their theological history seriously, but for theologians to consider the accessibility and coherence of their work in the church where many of these individuals (and their charges) acquire their theology. Further, though the narrators are psychologists engaged in integration, their journeys depict the variation in approaches to integration. M. Elizabeth Lewis Hall summarizes a particular difference in her reflections on the debate about whether integration is primarily (or exclusively) experiential or conceptual, with the conclusion that both types of integration (conceptual and experiential) are interwoven and necessary in order to mature personally, spiritually, and professionally.

One final section entitled “Letter of Advice” is quite unique and deserves mention. The chapters as a whole felt as if they were written with aspiring integrationists in mind, but this specific section is dedicated to whoever may happen upon their words. Yet even more specifically, each letter is written with the narrator’s students in mind, those who may look to the words as valuable offerings from their mentor. It is obvious that these professionals, for the most part, see their integration journey as relational. With the impression of camaraderie and connection that the book provides, readers will not feel lonely in their efforts toward integration.

In short, we would highly recommend this book for any Christian scholar, particularly those within the social sciences, looking for a refreshing perspective on the developmental process of integration. This text offers an opportunity to experience fellowship in the field and consider how one might find one’s self in this rich integration tradition.

Cite this article
Kelly S. Flanagan and Abby Hurley, “Integrating Faith and Psychology: Twelve Psychologists Tell Their Stories.”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 41:1 , 95-97

Kelly S. Flanagan

Wheaton College
Kelly S. Flanagan, Psychology, Wheaton College

Abby Hurley

Abby Hurley, Psychology, Wheaton College