Integration began to come alive for me during my first year of doctoral studies at Wheaton College. I had completed my MA and was returning for additional graduate work. One of the first articles we read was by Alvin Plantinga. He helped me begin to make sense of what integration might entail. Alvin Plantinga is a Christian philosopher – one of the leading epistemologists in the field – and the paper was the address he delivered when he was inaugurated as the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. It was titled “Advice to Christian Philosophers.” What stood out to me at the time was that Plantinga was saying that Christians in the field of psychology (if we make the shift here from philosophy to psychology) have their own questions to ask, their own topics to address:
Christian [psychologists] … are the [psychologists] of the Christian community; and it is part of their task as Christian [psychologists] to serve the Christian community. But the Christian community has its own questions, its own concerns, its own topics for investigation, its own agenda and its own research programs. (p. 6)
What impressed me was this: Can Christian psychologists expect non-Christian psychologists to ask about or care about the questions, topics, and research agendas that Christians care about? It seems to me that Plantinga is suggesting that one of the reasons we need Christians in psychology is to explore the issues, answer the questions, research the topics of importance to the church. Of course, there are many issues for Christians to study – so many topics that touch the lives of Christians. But we cannot expect others to do it for us. We have to be in the field doing the work. That is part of the integration task.