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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description: This volume gives a Judeo-Christian perspective on psychological issues such as human nature, motivation, and change. The integration of psychology and theology makes for interesting reading. There is a need for such a volume because the field of psychology seemed to divorce itself from such issues for a good part of the twentieth century.
Purpose: According to the editors, "This volume is the result and final report of a scholarly process initiated by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew issued a challenge to eight academic disciplines: Assemble a panel of senior scholars to identify the dominant models within your discipline, comparing and contrasting them with historic Christian perspectives regarding human nature. The identified disciplines were economics, history, law, literature, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology" (p. 5). The editors continue: "The psychology panel chose to compare regnant psychological models with Judeo-Christian conceptions of human nature rather than focusing on Christianity alone" (p. 5). Lastly, "within a broad overall theme of 'Personhood, Human Motivation, and Change,' the panel focused its initial meeting on five broad issues: (a) the role of human identity, volition, and personal agency; (b) the role of values in human motivation and change; (c) scientifically testable hypotheses from Judeo-Christian teachings; (d) what behavioral science has to offer to religious people; and (e) transformational change" (p. 6). This was a two year project. Those are worthy objectives and the editors' met them.
Audience: The editors do not really state who the target audience is. I believe that professionals and graduate students alike would enjoy and learn much from this volume. This would be an excellent textbook for classes which integrate spirituality and psychology, in both religious and secular universities. The editors and contributors are credible authorities in the subject matter of the book. They have impeccable credentials and display great interest in the fields of psychology and theology in their various chapters.
Features: The book addresses basic psychological constructs such as: the nature of the human person; motivation, virtues, and values; and transformation, change, and development. It tackles the tough questions of life in a thoughtful manner. I really enjoyed Chapter 3 (Self and Volition) because Baumeister discusses the ability to freely choose, of how one can exert free will versus the idea of instinctual or over-determined responses. His concluding sentences are thought provoking: "Put another way, the Judeo-Christian view of human freedom is not just an idle theological opinion but rather a form of social influence that can promote socially desirable behavior. Psychologists should be aware that rejecting that doctrine can harm society. From where I sit, nothing in the current research journals is compelling enough to justify taking that step" (p. 70). Also, Jones and Hostler write about sexuality (Chapter 6) in a very interesting way, providing a sophisticated understanding of the Christian perspective. This book thoroughly fulfills its stated purpose. It is not light reading but very worthwhile.
Assessment: It is so rare to see a book like this. Psychology has become alienated from spirituality so this volume really is a breath of fresh air. Many of the contributors are passionate about theology and/or philosophy. In addition, they have the psychology background to combine the fields successfully. If you are interested in learning about the weighty issues of life from an integrative approach, this book will satisfy your thirst.