Karl Barth's anthropology in light of modern thought : the dynamic concept of the person in Trinitarian theology and object relations psychology
This study exposits Karl Barth's theological anthropology, and asks some leading questions regarding the relation of Barth's doctrine of the human person to the human sciences. Specific comparisons are drawn between Barth's doctrine of the person and the anthropology of British object relations psychology --especially as it has been articulated by the Scottish psychoanalyst, W. Ronald D. Fairburn. After a historical survey of the problems with which Barth dealt in formulating his doctrine of humanity, I show why it is important to focus upon Barth's mature anthropology. An accurate assessment of Barth's anthropology and its relation to the human sciences can only be undertaken after one acknowledges the extent to which Barth has made some significant modifications of his earlier dialectical theology. In Barth's more mature anthropology contained in volume III/2 of the Dogmatics he formulates his anthropology upon his understanding of God as triune. Barth achieves a very 'dynamic' understanding of the human person, based upon the idea that the human person reflects the dynamic nature of the triune God. Therefore, rather than stressing bodily and soulish substances, or innately endowed faculties, Barth emphasises that 'real man' is composed of certain vital relations to God, self and others. A leading question for this study is this: does a trinitarian theology such as Barth's necessarily exclude any dialogue between itself and other sciences? Based upon the evidence that Barth's mature theology shows an increasing amount of dialogue with the human sciences, I begin to question the attacks upon Barth's so-called 'positivity of revelation'. Furthermore, I build a case for the position that the dynamic anthropology which Barth espouses bears certain intriguing analogies to the dynamic anthropology of modern object relations psychology. Based upon these analogies, the relation between Barth's theology and the human sciences does not need to be seen as one of alienation or hostility. To the contrary, Barth's dynamic anthropology could open up the possibility of increased dialogue betwen theological anthropology and the findings of human science. This is because both indicate the importance of interpersonal relationships in the formulation of any adequate concept of the person. The parallels between Barth and object relations psychology build a case for a 'dynamic' understanding of the human person, demonstrating how the person is shaped at the deepest level by certain primary interpersonal relations. Both Barth's anthropology, and object relations psychology indicate, within their respective fields of study, how the human essence is social in origin. The faculties which differentiate human persons from all other creatures arise only within the shared experience of interpersonal relations. Barth discovered the relational character of human personhood by probing the nature of the triune God and expositing its implications for Christian anthropology. Object relations has discovered the same truth in an altogether different plane by examining the ways in which human behaviour develops--especially in the earliest stages of life. I propose that there exists an analogous relation between the two: each on its own level testifies to the fact that human personhood develops only as a shared experience between God, self and others.