Integrating Psychology and Theology

The Students for Psychological Integration club seeks to help students balance what they learn in class with real life lessons.


Tyler Otte

Ryan Barrios and Gary Phillips are vice president and president of the new club at Biola, Psychological Integration. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

Ethan Froelich, Writer

Ryan Barrios and Gary Phillips are vice president and president of the new club at Biola, Psychological Integration. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

With new clubs starting up at Biola, one student was inspired to create a club that would specifically address how to use what he was learning at Biola and apply it to his faith.

The club is Students for Psychological Integration and was started by junior psychology major Gary Phillips, the president of the club, with the assistance of junior philosophy major Ryan Barrios at his side as vice president.

Using what was learned in the classroom

Fuller Theological Seminary defines psychological integration as answering the question:
“What contribution can the profession of psychology make to theology and the ministry of the church?”

The idea for the club started over the summer when Phillips was taking an Introduction to Psychology Integration class at Biola with John Coe. The club blossomed from this idea with a mission to integrate what students learned in the classroom and apply it to their everyday lives.

“If you don’t use [psychology] you lose it,” Phillips said.

Barrios said that he joined the club after prayer and direction by the Lord and wants to challenge people spiritually, as well as lend a hand to Phillips in the management and direction of the club.

“I want [members] to get in and get hooked,” Barrios said.

Learning how to combine faith and Psychology

Christian professionals often run into ethical and moral quandaries when their career demands something that their faith would not. These types of issues are brought to the forefront in Phillips’ and Barrios’ club. Phillips emphasizes that the real question is how psychology can be integrated into spiritual formation, rather than faith being formed around one’s profession.

Phillips envisions having a group of people dedicated to discussing aspects of psychology and how they apply to spiritual formation, as well as guest lecturers.

Both Phillips and Barrios recognized that Biola had leading Christian psychologists in professors such as Coe, Todd W. Hall, and Pete Hill and emphasized that it would be a shame to let all their teaching go to waste only because students did not learn how to practically integrate psychology concepts into their faith.

From its birth, Rosemead School of Psychology has aimed at the integration of psychology and theology; publishing the Journal of Psychology and Theology in 1973, the first journal of its kind.
Biola’s Psychology program takes advantage of the traditions of Rosemead and allows students to learn from the graduate program’s list of accomplished professors. Students who need practical experience using what they learned in their classes have the opportunity to work at the Biola Counseling Center where they gain real life experience working with individuals.

Students for Psychological Integration use Galatians 4:19 — in which Paul talks of being in the “pains of child birthing until Christ is formed in you” — as their key verse. Both Barrios and Phillips have that type of passion for forming Christ in people, specifically members of their club.

“We need spiritually-led people before psychology-minded people,” Phillips said.

Phillips wants the club to ask what Christ being formed in us looks like. Phillips’ passion summed up what he felt about integrating psychology and faith, when he concluded by saying “I want to embed psychology into their skulls so when they leave they can’t escape integration.”

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