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Psychological Science and Christian Faith

Insights and Enrichments from Constructive Dialogue

Malcolm Jeeves Thomas E. Ludwig

Is it possible to integrate scientific psychology with a Christian understanding of human nature? Are science and religion locked in an inevitable conflict, or is there an underlying harmony between these two sources of knowledge about humans? This book goes to the heart of the past and present dialogue between Christianity and psychology, comparing three models that have been used to describe the relationship between them.

Because Christianity and psychology deal with different levels of truth and speak vastly different languages, efforts to unify them often create more problems than they solve. What is needed is a better way to think about the relationship—an approach that does justice to the emerging insights from psychological science and biblical scholarship and that can enrich our understanding of both. In this volume, two accomplished psychologists show how this complementary dialogue can unfold, giving us a broader, deeper understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and our place in the cosmos.

Preface / ix

Chapter 1 Resetting the Agenda / 3

Chapter 2 The Conflict Motif in Historical Perspective / 21

Chapter 3 From Conflict to Concordism / 43

Chapter 4 Integration under the Microscope: Historical Perspective / 61

Chapter 5 Integration: Contemporary Views / 77

Chapter 6 Insights from Neuropsychology: An Overview / 99

Chapter 7 Insights from Neuropsychology about Spirituality / 125

Chapter 8 Insights about Conversion, Morality, Wisdom, and Memory / 151

Chapter 9 Insights from Evolutionary Psychology / 173

Chapter 10 Insights about Human Needs and Motivation / 193

Chapter 11 Social Psychology and Faith: Stories of Conflict, Concordism, 
and Authentic Congruence (by David G. Myers) / 209

Chapter 12 The Way Ahead for Psychological Science and Christian Faith / 229

References / 245

Name Index / 275

Subject Index / 283

"This is a thoughtful, wide-ranging exposition of the evolving interaction between psychological science and Christian faith. From the mind-body relationship to conversion experiences to moral behavior, Jeeves and Ludwig tackle fundamental questions with religious sensitivity and scientific integrity. I concur with their central thesis—that psychological science can and should inform religious faith deeply even though it can never replace faith (science simply cannot bear that weight). This very approachable book by two reputable psychologists will appeal to anyone interested in the psychology/faith interface—believers and unbelievers as well as those who simply wonder about it all the time!”

William Newsome, PhD, professor of neurobiology, Stanford University

“A stimulating analysis of the relationship between psychological science and theology. The authors advocate a complementary relationship in which each discipline can provide insights and enrichments for the other, and they illustrate this with forays into neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and the psychology of emotion and morality. I’ve been a clinical practitioner and researcher for 45 years, and tried to live consistently a life of faith and a professional identity. I learned a lot from this read! My bet is that you will, too.”

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., PhD, author of 'Coming to Peace with Psychology' (InterVaristy Press)

“A scintillating engagement with one of the most important dialogues of our time. Highly recommended.” 

Alister McGrath, DPhil, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford

“This spirited and clearly written book argues that scientific psychology and Christian theology can provide complementary accounts of the human person. The authors are distinguished scientists who show how our understanding of humans is greatly enriched by seeing them as physically embodied creatures, but they reject reductionist accounts that see us only as products of mechanistic ‘bottom-up’ processes.”

C. Stephen Evans, PhD, professor of philosophy and humanities, Baylor University

“A comprehensive and very welcome exploration of the relationship between faith and psychology. Based on a lifetime's experience and up-to-date research, the book offers a map for mutually enriching interdisciplinary conversations between science and Christian theology.”

Joanna Collicutt, PhD, Karl Jaspers Lecturer in psychology and spirituality, Ripon College Cuddesdon

Choice–December 2018 Vol. 56 No. 4

"A refreshing, balanced presentation of what is often a difficult intersection: science and religion. . . . Going beyond the conflict motif that places science and religion at odds, Jeeves and Ludwig explore various avenues of perception and relationship, including concordism, integrative approaches, complementary perspectives, and mutual insight and enrichment between psychology and theology. One important chapter on social psychology and faith is contributed by the prominent social psychologist David Myers, who argues that collaboration between advances in scientific research and biblical scholarship can mutually enrich our understanding of spirituality. This text is clearly written, well researched, and documented with a valuable list of references. The text is suitable for collections in Christianity and also psychology off religion collections. Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals."

J. Bailey, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

Christian Scholar’s Review

"[A]nother excellent addition to the literature addressing the relationship of psychology to the Christian faith."