Book Reflection: The Gospel of Happiness by Christopher Kaczor
Can science and faith work together for the common good? Are the aims of psychology and theology similar in nature? Can psychology illuminate theology and theology support human flourishing as envisioned by psychology?
Christopher Kaczor once saw faith and psychology as inhabiting two different and parallel worlds, with little need for interaction. Both could provide useful insights for human flourishing but their truths remained hermetically sealed from one another. Kaczor changed his mind when he discovered the positive psychology movement, championed by Martin Seligman. He discovered that positive psychology edified Christian truth, and Christian truth fulfilled positive psychology.
In his discovery of the intersection of theology, spirituality, and psychology, Kaczor is reaffirming the wisdom of John’s Gospel and its affirmation that the Logos, Divine Wisdom, moves through all things and enlightens all creation; Jesus’ promise that that he came that we might have abundant life; and the insights of the second century Christians, who proclaimed that wherever truth is found, God is its source. Christian truth and secular truth are part of one dynamic reality, inspired by the creative wisdom of God.
Long ago, Augustine asserted that we are made to seek God and that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. Positive psychology studies human flourishing and discovers that resiliency in all the seasons of life emerges from the interplay of belief and behavior. Moreover, the Christian virtues of faith, hope, love, service, thanksgiving, sacrifice, and mission not only bring us closer to God and our neighbor but promote health of body, mind, and spirit.Kaczor is on the right track philosophically, theologically, scientifically, spiritually, and pragmatically. Our lives are lived as a whole and not piecemeal. We live in one rather than many universes. In the interdependence of life, what is good for the spirit is good for the body and what promotes physical and psychological well-being is good for the spirit. Our incarnational faith as Christians not only allows but encourages us to seek truth wherever it is found. While scientific and psychological movements can become as dogmatic as certain religious viewpoints, faith is stronger when it addresses science with a positive spirit, and science finds perspective when it is open to the spiritual dimensions of life.
The battles between science and religion over the age of the earth and the processes of evolution have hurt Christianity. Conversely, the atheism promoted by a handful of scientists often portrays Christianity and other religious traditions in simplistic ways. Kaczor’s book bridges the gulf between faith and science, and theology and psychology, and achieves the goal of promoting what both fields hold in common, the quest or healing and abundant life.
Read an excerpt from The Gospel of Happiness at the Book Club here!