From Bedlam to Shalom : towards a practical theology of human nature, interpersonal relationships and mental health care
In essence this investigation seeks to answer three central questions: 1. What does it mean to be a human being? 2. What does it means to relate in a specifically human way? 3. What is mental health and how might the church enable people to develop and sustain it even in the midst of mental illness? The thesis will argue that these three questions are in fact inextricably intertwined. In order to understand mental health it is necessary to understand human nature and the character of interpersonal relationships. In answering these questions the investigation aims to provide an understanding of human nature, interpersonal relationships and mental health which the church can utilise as a constructive analytical framework that will enable it to structure, critique and develop its practice and understanding. The investigation examines the human condition from a variety of perspectives, theology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, social psychology and psychiatry, as it seeks to develop a holistic picture of human beings, a specifically human way of relating and an adequate, inclusive understanding of mental health. The study argues that human beings are essentially relational creatures, made in the image of a relational God. Although relational by nature, human beings have fallen into patterns of distorted relationships. There is therefore the need for a process of relational redemption. This process was initiated by Christ and continues to be sustained by the church as it works with him towards the fulfilment of his ultimate purpose of shalom. The development of mental health is intricately tied in with this eschatological movement towards shalom. This movement towards shalom forms the eschatological framework within which the study works itself out. The inquiry argues that authentic human existence is fundamentally personal existence, and that the most appropriate embodiment of this is to be found within the relationship of friendship. Friendship mirrors and reveals the nature of God and shows clearly what it means for human beings to live their lives in His image.