Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective is an introductory, one-semester course, appropriate for high schoolers. It is available only as an ebook in PDF format. When you order the text, you also receive files with tests and answer keys.
The course can be easily adapted for average, college-prep, advanced, or honors level students, and it can be expanded into a full-year course as well if students complete additional assignments. All of these options are explained on pages four and five. One-third of this 153-page book is tests and answers keys, so the book itself is fewer than 100 pages in length. Answering end-of-chapter questions, completing enrichment activities, doing independent reading of books from the suggested list, and writing papers are all used to varying extents depending upon what type of course you are designing.
Enrichment activities for some chapters are recommendations of specific movies to watch; students are instructed to write short essays in response, such as, “Choose a character and write a ﬁve-paragraph essay on how his/her needs motivated actions” (p. 65). There are other types of enrichment activities such as the one for Chapter Thirteen: “Interview your pastor or a Christian counselor and write a one-page paper on his/her counseling style.”
The course is presented in 15 chapters. It begins with biology as the first three chapters cover the physiology of the brain, senses and perception, and genetics. Chapter Four reviews the science of learning under topics such as “Pavlov and the Conditioned Response,” “Skinner and His Rat Boxes,” “Principles of Learning,” and “The Biological Basis of Learning.”
Chapter Five: History of Psychology from Ancient to Pre-modern Times focuses primarily on disorders with snippets of how those exhibiting symptoms of mental illness or demonic possession were treated in the past--both negatively and positively.
The next chapter continues with more modern developments in psychology as we learn about the work of the Nancy School in France, Jean Charcot, Joseph Breuer, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, and Victor Frankl. This chapter concludes with a discussion of behaviorism.
The next two chapters explore communication, needs, and motivation. This is where we learn about topics such as body language, cultural differences in communication, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and his concept of self-actualization.
Chapter Nine: Looking at Personality and Theory seems unjustifiably brief. It mentions that there are numerous theories and teachings about temperament, personalities, and gifts, yet it gives only a brief overview of one of them: Gordon Allport’s theory. Enrichment suggestions for this chapter include links to two online personality profiles, both based on the Myers-Briggs personality test. The Myers Briggs assessment is based in turn upon Jung’s ideas which were discussed in Chapter Six. Including them here rather than in Chapter Six could be justified if these were two very different types of personality tests. This chapter needs further discussion of other theories and tools for identifying personality types. For example, discussion of spiritual gifts tests that are popular in Christian circles might also be useful here.
The tenth chapter explores sleep and dreams while Chapter Eleven is an extensive discussion of abnormal psychology. Chapter Twelve: Psychological Testing actually gives most attention to academic assessments as it describes IQ tests, achievement tests, diagnostic tests, and career assessments.
The next chapter on Christian counseling compares and contrasts biblical (exhortational) counseling with integrated Christian counseling. The final chapter, “How to Help a Friend in Crisis,” is a practical way to conclude the course. Many teens and young adults suffer from psychological problems, and their friends might be those most aware and able to suggest appropriate help. Phone numbers are provided for emergency resources.
Students can work through this text independently although a parent or teacher will need to plan out which of the enrichment activities might be used and to evaluate written work. Some chapters would benefit from discussion, but it isn’t required.
Answer keys for end-of-chapter questions as well as for tests are at the back of the textbook. I suggest separating out this part of the book and storing it where students will not have access.
The course is clearly written from a Christian perspective as you can see from this quote from Chapter Eight: “The argument that Christians often have with Maslow is the emphasis on self. We are never taught to be self-centered. The idea of being self-consumed is abhorrent to Christians. Maslow is a humanistic psychologist, believing that man can be his own god.” (p. 63). Likewise, some homework questions are framed from within a Christian viewpoint such as, “Think about two Christians that you know that set good examples of Christian living. Do you see any b-values or attitudes in their lives?” ( p.65).
At the same time, some Christians might take issue with the content in some instances. For example, in the section on “Genetic Counseling” it recognizes the typical lack of spiritual input from genetic counselors when faced with decisions about children in utero with serious, diagnosed problems. So while it says that there might be better choices than abortion, it implies that in vitro fertilization might be a good option for those concerned about passing on serious genetic diseases. This fails to recognize the destruction of embryos which is typically part of the in vitro process—another form of abortion. Some Christians might also question Chapter Five’s treatment of demonic possession, since it seems to imply that all forms of exorcism as a treatment for demonic possession are based only upon superstition.
In spite of these possible weak points, the course fills a need that no one else seems to be addressing, that is, for a high school level psychology course that is suitable for Christian students.
Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective Lesson Plans is an inexpensive book that will help those who want to make the class more interactive. The lesson plans list objectives, and activities, but I suspect the most helpful content will be the internet links to videos connected to the various topics. While the primary text lists movies that students might watch and write about, internet links makes video content more readily available.