Body and Soul – an Excerpt from Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith

The following is an excerpt from Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith, by Paul Moes and Donald Tellinghuisen.

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Cover ArtWe hope to steer between the extremes that are often present in science, psychology, and the church.

We reject the one extreme, which suggests that the only part of us that matters is the soul, and that only a “spiritual” approach to counseling or any effort to change humans will be effective. This same approach also places excessive responsibility on individual behavior, as if we are all equally capable of transcending our bodies, relationships, and social existence.

We also reject the other extreme, which paints human beings as nothing but biological computers, determined entirely by the physical and environmental forces that shape us, and ultimately incapable of truly responsible “agency” (e.g., the ability to freely choose).

Instead, we wish to promote a more holistic view of human beings and how we should help people change their behavior. We need to focus on the whole person—their genetics, their bodies, their relationships, and their spiritual growth.

As physician James L. Wright has written when referring to the unity of the person in cases of Alzheimer’s disease, “Dementia confronts us with the fact that our entire person, mind and soul are as subject to decay as our heart, joints and muscle.” He states earlier in his paper that “As one witnesses the slow loss of personality traits, memory, independence and identity seen in Alzheimer’s Dementia, one is struck by how this clearly resonates with the Psalmist’s complaint, ‘My soul [nephesh] melts away . . .’ (Psalm 119, v. 28, NRSV).”

©2014 by Paul Moes and Donald J. Tellinghuisen. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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