Psychology and Theology

1. Which of Entwistle models of integration (enemies, spies, colonialist, neutral parties, or allies) most closely approximates most closely approximates your personal view and why?

Entwistle’s models of integration attempts to create a unified approach to the seemingly perennially conflicting fields of psychology and theology. By their nature, psychology and theology are engaged in constant tension because while psychology seeks to understand the self, theology seeks to understand the nature of God. However, on deeper reflection, these two are intimately intertwined because both seek a deeper understanding of man and how to lead a meaningful and purposive life. The integration of theology and psychology is something that comes naturally as a byproduct of our desire to understand life and our place in God’s greater plan.

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I believe that psychology and theology need not be counter to one another. On the contrary, I believe that psychologists or counselors are made more effective at their profession when they are buttressed by a deep spirituality. In my case, I believe in the ally model of integration. This allied model refers to the concept of a symbiotic relationship between psychology and faith, wherein one complements and underpins the other. The term “allies” in Entwistle’s models of integrations is directly related to the mutually beneficial relationship that is possible if these two fields come together and work for the common good of everyone concerned. This model best approximates my personal beliefs because I have always believed that faith and the calling to help others always hand in hand. One cannot be accomplished without the other.

David Entwistle (2004) makes a convincing point about the how psychology and theology are two sides of the same coin. God created both psychology and theology when he created man. In His infinite wisdom and love for mankind, He gave us the means to understand ourselves and our Creator. By His words, we are able to understand God, and by His works, we are able to understand ourselves. Of course in our limited and imperfect wisdom, we cannot grasp these truths in its entirety, but we are given moments of clarity. The union of psychology and theology is a truth that abides regardless of how man interprets them. They are both working for the same purpose, that of bringing man and God closer. And this is what the allies’ paradigm is all about; being able to recognize the truth that psychology and theology are the instruments that God has given us to better understand our purpose to God and to one another.

2. What is your personal epistemology? That is, what sources of knowledge are most authoritative? Understand what circumstances and why (revelation, empirical sources, personal experiences and reason).

I believe that our personal experiences, coupled with sound reasoning are one of the best ways for any one individual to arrive at his personal truth and realize the meaning of his life. Very few of us ever get to experience revelations on a regular basis; but when it does come, I truly believe that these revelations are a product of an openness of mind and spirit. Empirical sources, while good for scientific research is not always applicable for a personal sense of truth. One’s personal journey is highly intimate and unique to the individual, such that no amount of empirical research can validate a personal truth unless the individual arrives at the truth independent of any external process.

David Entwistle once wrote in his book that many events in our lives “call out for theological and psychological explanation…” (2004, 10) That means that we have to journey through life with an open mind and a heart full of faith for many things that will shake us to the very core. While we may go through life with a critical mind, we should also have faith in the things that cannot be explained by science or logic. There are too many mysteries in life for science to  unravel and explain them all; and where science falls short, faith them comes in to fill in the blanks.

3. What is your personal cosmology; that is what is the relationship of the natural order and the supernatural or the relationship between Gods two books (book of word and the book of works)

My personal cosmology revolves around keeping aligned with the natural order of the world, even as I keep an open mind to the supernatural. God has created a world that is both perfect and logical as it is mysterious and elusive. Perhaps in His perfect knowledge, God created a world that will always put our faith to the test so that we will always run to Him when all else fails. The book of work refers to the world of order and deliberation, where truth is based on facts that are consistent and reliable, regardless of time and circumstance. This is where psychology comes in and is where my job as a counselor should be solidly grounded on. Counselors should be logical and their reasoning should be based on life’s realities. However, at the same time, counselors should use their personal spiritual support to be able to provide inspiration and encouragement to those who seek their guidance.

Entwistle (2004) maintains that both psychology and theology are God’s creations. Theology corresponds to the book of God’s work and refers to the nature of God’s divinity. When God created man, he created psychology as well so as to provide mankind with the wisdom to understand himself and others, and thus be able to help each other in the process. This process of unraveling and understanding human behavior corresponds to psychology or the book of God’s words. In our imperfection, we may perceive these imperfectly, but these truths remain absolute independent of man’s shortcomings.

The word cosmology refers to the totality of the universe and an individual’s place in that vast reality. Entwistle refers to cosmology in a similar fashion; that is man’s place in the God’s greater plan. And in this regard, I will do all the work that life demands of me, even as I hold on to God’s word. The books of God’s word will guide me in my journey to fulfill the book of God’s word.

4. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong and how do you counsel others in ethical decisions making based on your personal ethical presuppositions.

I believe that every individual is born with the innate ability to discern between right and wrong. As such, I believe that the concept of right and wrong is not relative; the laws that determine what is right and wrong are not arbitrary, but they may be skewed or warped by circumstances and one’s value system. My ethical presuppositions are strongly anchored on my faith as a Christian. As a counselor, I am aware that I will be constantly asked to give advice on matters requiring ethical decisions. In such cases, I use as guide the tenets of my religious beliefs, Christianity. However, I make it a point to never impose my religious beliefs and color my decisions in so far as being a counselor is concerned. Being a Christian counselor is not an excuse to be short-sighted.

When making an ethical choice, I will always base my decisions on the best interests of my counselee. I will endeavor to be a moral compass, slowly guiding them in the way of truth and goodness, but I will never be one to pass judgment on them because once I pass judgment, then I waste my only chance at being able to reach out and help someone. In my job as a counselor, I abide by the words of Christ, “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. (John 12:47)

5. What is your theory of personhood; that is what makes one uniquely human?

I believe that we are made human by our capacity for compassion and rational thought. We feel pain in the presence of suffering, ours or somebody else’s and we are compelled to action when faced with injustice or wrongdoings. Our innate capacity to discern wrong from right and take appropriate action are what bounds us in our common humanity. I believe that it is not enough for man to know right from wrong, but there should be a corresponding reaction as well. The ability to deliberately choose the appropriate course of action to take is what ultimately distinguishes us from the rest of God’s creation. We can take matters into our own hands and set the course of our destiny. Unlike animals, we are not dictated by instinct or the seasons; our actions are a product of deliberate and careful choice. Of course that is not to say that our decisions are always right, but that the choices we make are the result of our free will.

I believe that what makes us uniquely human is not an attribute of our environment or genes. Those are merely incidental, and vary from person to person. We share our genes and environment with all of God’s creations. However, mankind’s power for lucid thinking is something that goes beyond those incidental elements. Of course much has been said about how free will makes us humans. Ultimately what makes us uniquely human is the power to use our free will in ways that are beneficial to others and not just ourselves.

6.    How would you define spiritual counseling? Please include references from Henri Nouwen’s writing (reaching out) in your answer.

Henri Nouwen once wrote, Our God is greater than our own heart and mind, and too easily we are tempted to make our heart’s desires and our mind’s speculations into the will of God. Therefore, we need a guide, a director, a counselor who helps us to distinguish between the voice of God and all other voices coming from our own confusion or from dark powers far beyond our control. (1986)

These words have been my mantra as a counselor. Being a position where people look to me for guidance and listen to what I have to say is indeed a privilege. As such, I have taken it upon myself to be fully aware of God’s will and be firmly grounded in His words. This is the only way that I can provide spiritual guidance and counseling. Spiritual counseling, as described by Nouwen, refers to the act of helping people hear and recognize God’s words in a sea of deafening noises. Spiritual counseling is a support system that allows us to keep our faith even in the face of the many challenges of life.

As I see it, spiritual counseling is God’s way of using man to help himself and another find their own individual paths to God and salvation. We were placed here on earth to act as stewards of one another, and by spiritual counseling, we remain faithful to our responsibilities to God and to one another.