Today I discovered the Psychology and Christianity Project at Cambridge University, UK, which contains a wealth of information on the integration of Psychology and Christianity. The project is lead by Dr. Fraser Watts, who has avery impressive resume, and is well published in the field. I have added the project as a link on my sidebar to keep up with their development. To access the treasure of resources he has gathered, go to the site and click on Links. I am pleased to see that they have included Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) on their list of websites! I will definitely be pursuing a relationship with them in the future; the possiblities for collaboration are exciting.
I found two reviews of Dr. Watts' book, Theology and Psychology: The first review is by C. R. Albright and appears in IngentaConnect. The second review is by Gavin d'Costa of the Univeristy of Bristol.
I. Review by C. R. Albright: Source: Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Volume 28, Number 4, December 2003, pp. 241-244(4)
In his recent book Theology and Psychology, Fraser Watts explores an area of interdisciplinary dialogue that has become active on many fronts. He traces the main areas of engagement while limiting his purview mostly to psychological explorations of the formation of the human spirit and of religious experience, and theology directed to parallel concepts. Psychology is largely pursued within its subdisciplines pertaining to introspective psychologies, neuroscience, and social psychology. The theology is mostly within the Christian, and especially Anglican, tradition, yet the variety of voices here is also well known. Within these broad limits, and with impressive depth and breadth of scholarship, Watts addresses topics as diverse as evolutionary theory, the nature of consciousness, artificial intelligence, the foundations of morality, the soul, immortality, divine action, the doctrine of the Fall, eschatology, and the origin of belief. Although he provides fair representations of various views, he consistently rejects 'greedy' forms of 'nothing buttery', because he believes that the human person and religious experience are so multifaceted that they cannot be grasped from any single standpoint. In addition, as he points out, various reductionistic claims are simply inaccurate. It is suggested that Watts's thinking shows many parallels with theories developing within the new sciences of complexity. Further development of his work along these lines might have significance both for his own contribution and for the growing field of complexity studies.
II. Review by Gavin d'Costa
Fraser Watts is uniquely qualified to write this book. He is currently Starbidge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Science at the University of Cambridge and comes to that post with 25 years experience in psychology, including a long period at the Medical Research Council. He is remarkably well read in both fields and writes with a tough and thorough lucidity. As a theologian reviewing the book, I found his theological probing sensitive, informed, and very carefully thought-through. I am not a trained psychologist, so am not able to comment on the materials from that viewpoint. However, I would register a slight disappointment not to find the Freudian tradition as well respresented, especially through its practioners who do engage with religious themes in a most illuminating manner (Lacan, Irigaray, and Kristeva for example). However, Watts does provides an indispensable guide to both theologians and psychologists on why knowing about each others disciplines and methods will make for richer development and growth when each goes about the task of exploring their routine agendas. For example, theologians concerned with divine action, salvation history and eschatology will listen into, be challenged, and learn from discussions in psychology. We see how conscience is explored through psychology’s understanding of cognitive processes that develop in a hierarchical manner and are socially cultivated. This goes well, as Watts points out, with Aquinas and MacIntyre. There are endless and rich connections. One might say that psychology’s contribution to theology is theologically taking seriously the Word made Flesh. Watts constantly shows that rather than there being a war between science and religion, as propounded by scientists like Dawkins, we can find many areas of mutual illumination and even marriage.
Psychologists are called to take notice of theologians when dealing with their recent curriculum: evolution, neuroscience, and computer intelligence. Watts chapter on the latter was a conversion experience for me, fed previously on mainly theologian critiques of artificial intelligence. Watts is careful never to reduce the disciplines to each other, nor to keep them in boxes tightly and smugly, and his book is a superb illustration of what the Ashgate series hopes to achieve: a flourishing interdisciplinary debate.