Recent years have seen increased interest in using theism (the perspective that assumes that God is currently actively in the world) as a conceptual framework for scientific inquiry. This interest has built particular momentum in psychology where several scholars have expressed that traditional naturalistic approaches limit understanding and investigation of psychology's subject matter and thus are insufficient to fully account for human phenomena. Others have previously made the case for the consideration of theism as a legitimate alternative basis for psychological theory, research, and practice. This dissertation begins with that consideration and examines what would be required to move a theistic approach to psychology forward. In other words, if God is assumed to be active in the world (including the psychological world-theism), what difference would that make for the ideas, methods, and practices of psychology? As the current activity of God is the foundational assumption of theism, clarity about what that activity would entail is especially essential for those seeking to develop a theistic approach to psychology and to describe how their discipline would be different from that perspective. Unfortunately, there is currently a lack of clear and explicitly articulated conceptions of God's actions in and for psychology. This dissertation provides a conceptual analysis of the activity of God that synthesizes disparate approaches to divine action into a tentative conceptualization or taxonomic schema. This schema organizes the scholarly literature from across several major traditions into six major heads and elucidates multiple subordinate concepts. The conceptualization serves as an orientation to important issues such as strong v weak theisms, the limitations of naturalism, and practical theistic applications for psychology. Detailed illustrations of these concepts as applied to psychological theory, research (both in the qualitative and quantitative modes), and practice further demonstrate the utility of such a conceptualization. These examples provide a specific focus on the unique contributions of a theistic perspective over and against those of naturalism.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





God, theism, theistic approaches to psychology, strong theism, weak theism, deism, dualism, interventionism, supernaturalism, naturalism, science, philosophy, physics, grace, invitation, theory, research, practice, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, psychology, divine action, worldview



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Psychology Commons