Malcolm JEEVES, Human Nature: Reflections on the Integration of Psychology and Christianity. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006, pp. 245 . $24.95, pb. ISBN 1-932031-96-0.
Reviewed by Nathan KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 14618

Do the words “mind,” “brain,” “soul,” and “spirit” refer to the same or different things? If the same, why use four words? If different, what are the differences? If both the same and different, how are they connected? Do the scientific world and the Christian Evangelical world use them in the same sense? What are the relationships between historic Christianity and contemporary science in answering these questions?

These are some of the questions that Malcolm Jeeves, a leading Scottish neuropsychologist seeks to answer in this text. Although this text was originally published in 1997 by Baker books, the answers, and the discussion surrounding them, are still relevant today. The bibliography is slightly updated to support Jeeves’ general argument about the meaning of these terms, their connection to each other, and the consequences of this meaning and relationship in sciences for Christianity. Each chapter clearly defines the task, reviews the literature, and argues for one answer to the topic under consideration.

There are thirteen chapters some dealing with modern psychology, past science-faith debates, and contemporary neuropsychology’s views on the mind-brain, brain-behavior link; others, with describing human nature, human needs, consciousness, and free will in both Biblical and psychological perspectives.

Jeeves approaches both science and religion by asking “What are the facts?” “What is your experience?” “What bias do you have toward both the facts and the experience?” The result of this approach means that the psychological sciences must also give evidence of data, especially quantitative, to support their claims.

The contemporary sciences associated with mind, brain, and consciousness, according to Jeeves, enable us to claim the following: 1) the brain exists, the mind exists, they are intimately linked; 2) metal activity and correlated brain activity are seen as inner and outer aspects of one complex set of events that together constitute conscious human agency, 3) genes predispose us to certain behaviors and their expression can often be modified by changing environmental conditions, 4) because animals and humans possess common properties, it does not follow that humans are therefore “nothing but” animals (quoting Pascal “It is dangerous to show man too clearly how much he resembles the beast, without at the same time showing him his greatness. It is also dangerous to allow him too clear a vision of his greatness without his baseness. It is even more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both.”), 5) personology, those parts of psychology that deal with theories of personality and the theory and practice of psychotherapy, should admit that do not have scientific proof of its theories, 6) the same lack of scientific evidence for popular, current lists of human needs is also true, 7) consciousness as a fact of experience withstands any form of reductionism.

Jeeves supports the contemporary findings of biblical scholars and rejects any literalist, or fundamentalist, understanding of the bible. That means we should acknowledge that when we use English words like body, soul, mind, spirit, remembering, and memory they do not mean the same thing to us as the Hebrew words they translate meant to the writers and early readers of the bible. The same can be said of “human nature.” “The bible’s main concern is with what God thinks about humans. It has little interest in one human’s analysis of another person’s human nature. It is a God-centered view and is preoccupied with relationships…” especially the relationships of God to humans and humans among themselves.

In order to understand the relationship of religion and science, we must, according to Jeeves, reject those post moderns who claim that all scientific knowledge is subjective. Our world and its technologies are based on the fact that it is not subjective. At the same time we must always be wary of absolutizing either our theological or our scientific ideas. All ideas must be subject to test, challenge, and revision when required. We must sit humbly before the data of revelation and science. Both reveal God’s truth. Let each challenge the other but let each do so subject to test, challenge, and revision.

From a Roman Catholic perspective he fails to take into account the tradition(s) of Christianity between the time of the bible and today as well as the importance of the community for salvation. He accepts contemporary biblical scholarship and certainly advances a holistic view of nature, human nature, and our relationship to each other. Thus, for fundamentalist Roman Catholics he would not be acceptable. For those who use contemporary psychological theories and lists of human needs in ministry he demands that they ask for scientific proof of these claims and proof while recognizing the need for God as imperative in understanding human nature. This is a text worth spending your time and money on.

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