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Psychology in the Spirit

Psychology in the Spirit: Contours of a Transformational Psychology
by John H. Coe and Todd W. Hall
Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2010
444 pages
Reviewed by Abbie Smith

In the past few decades, a great deal of energy has been put forth into understanding and integrating Christian spirituality and psychology. The timeliness of Psychology in the Spirit, coauthored by John H. Coe and Todd W. Hall, is inestimable. Grounded in components of relationship, love, and the work of the Spirit toward a transformational psychology, the contents move far beyond praxis and theory into holistic movements of integration and healing.

With a goal of “doing psychology and science that is intrinsically Christian, and inherently a unified, holistic investigation into the reality of the believer” (38), this theologian and psychologist duo provide a model that has been absent for far too long. As part of the Christian Worldview Integration Series, edited by J. P. Moreland and Francis J. Beckwith,Psychology in the Spirit offers insightful journeys through topics of spirituality and psychological development as well as humanity, human development, sin, and growth in the Spirit (sanctification).

Of particular interest to spiritual directors and those interested in correlations of body, soul, and mind is the section “The Content of a Transformation Psychology,” which explores ideas such as implicit and explicit memory—namely, that memory resides in emotions, body, and images at a gut-level more so than in words or rational interpretation. In other words, “memories of relational experiences with emotionally significant people are etched into our soul and become filters that shape how we feel about our self, God and others, and how we determine the meaning of events in our life” (260). These associations are unparalleled for a spiritual director.

Be forewarned that Psychology in the Spirit is not the feel-good, fanciful read we spiritual types often gravitate toward. Rather, Coe and Hall have crafted something profoundly academic and technical, yet bound to strike at the heart and practice of any willing learner. For the spiritual director who is interested in psychology and wants a sturdy manual depicting relational interactions with our selves, others, and most fundamentally God, I daresay this is your book. Furthermore, for thoughtful conversations about psychological integration with spiritual direction and related means of soul care, you will be well pleased.

Abbie Smith is an author, speaker, and spiritual director based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. She holds degrees in religion and spiritual formation and soul care.

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