Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What are you reading, Thomas Frederick?

I am profoundly interested in the topic of integrating psychology and theology, and the title Counsel from the Cross captured my attention. I wanted to find out how the authors connect broken people to the love of Christ. Having now read the book, I would highly recommend it. It is useful for personal study and application, as well as for integration purposes. I think anyone in the social sciences who is a Christian would benefit from this book.

Counsel from the Cross challenged me to think through the notion of atonement. Namely, if I am a Christian, and I believe that Christ died for me, I will be changed. The question for me, though, is how? This salvific death, however, is not just about the forgiveness of sins. It is also about healing, health, and restoration into community. The authors provided concrete methods for me as a counselor and a Christian to engage in discipleship based on Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection.

Perhaps my number one take-away is this: to develop Christlikeness, we have to recognize the critical roles that listening to the preaching of the gospel, experiencing the sacrament of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the need for fellowship with other believers all have in fostering sanctification. In other words, discipleship or sanctification is formed in a Christian community characterized by sacraments, fellowship, and kerygma.

The authors also develop a view of human nature using the concept of the inner person. Fitzpatrick & Johnson see the main aspects of the inner person as being the locus of thought and rationality, emotions (affect) and will (motivation, intent, choice). In their estimation, the inner person is crucial for fostering Christlikeness. That is, the inner person provides a landscape that reveals our deepest longings and motivations. It also contains the deepest wishes and the locus (affectively, cognitively) of humanity's loyalties. The inner person is also the locus of personal transformation.

I did take issue, however, with the authors' views on professional therapy. In a brief part of the text and endnote, the authors disavow the efficacy of current psychotherapy methods. For them, psychotherapy is not necessarily evil, but it does not provide a healing or meaningful basis upon which to conduct therapy. To the authors' credit, though, I contacted them about this and we began a dialogue concerning integration and the use of "secular" psychotherapy models in treatment.

My normal reading habits include books dealing with theology, psychology, and philosophy, and I usually read science fiction just for fun. Next on my list will probably be The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story by John Dominic Crossan.

Thomas V. Frederick, Ph.D., LMFT, is Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy and has been teaching here at HIU since 2005. His academic interests include psychotherapy process research, the integration of psychology and theology, and Solution Focused Therapy.

Counsel From the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson, Crossway Books, 2009.

This book may be purchased at, Barnes and Noble, and Better World Books.

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