Essential Biblical Assumptions about Human Nature: A Modest Proposal

By Puffer, Keith A. | Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Essential Biblical Assumptions about Human Nature: A Modest Proposal


Puffer, Keith A., Journal of Psychology and Christianity


A review of the literature discussing the state of human nature by Christian mental health professionals indicates there has been ample discussion, but the content suffers either a paucity of breadth, depth, or economy. In response, the author proposes an alternative, a compendium of seven essential biblical assumptions. This collection provides a fundamental level of description of humanness derived from God's three major actions - creation, redemption, and sanctification - toward humankind and balances both comprehensiveness and parsimony. Each assumption is discussed with important implications highlighted. Limitations of this proposal and its potential contributions are delineated.

Human nature refers to the "essential features of human beings" (Pasnau, 2002, p. 2). It is regarded as the basic design or the common characteristics present in all humans differentiating them from other organisms in the universe (Kaplan, 1977).

Throughout the history of psychology, mental health professionals have generated theories that not only imply the existence of human nature, but also formulate some specifications about its contents (Buss, 1999). Each theory reveals the author's assumptions or control beliefs about personhood and competes for attention.

But, who is man or woman in the sight of God? What defining features about the human condition has God revealed in Scripture? Specifically, which biblically-derived traits collectively provide a fundamental level of description of humanness that is both comprehensive and parsimonious? Furthermore, what compendium of assumptions is most essential to Christian mental health professionals for comprehending, evaluating, and developing psychological theories?

Over the past four decades, Christian mental health professionals have addressed the question "What is a human being?" from a biblical perspective. A review of the literature reveals there has been ample discussion that is both diverse and spirited. Often-discussed aspects of human nature include constitutional models, state traits (e.g., fallenness), agency, and functional capacities (e.g., rationality, morality).

State traits, the facet of human nature pertinent to this article, refer to the condition of humans prior to the imposition of social or environmental influences (Grohol, 2005; Schultz & Schultz, 2001). They are innate dimensions of personhood. Several features related to the state of human nature have been discussed in the literature. These include creatureliness (Cloud & Townsend, 1992; Crabb, 1987; Jones & Butman, 1991; Kirwan, 1984; Mavis, 1964), being an imager of God (Collins, 1977, 1988; Entwistle, 2004; Jeeves, 1997; Vitz, 1987), fallenness or an innate sin nature (Beck, 1999; Ellens, 1989; Johnson, 1987; Kotesky, 1980; Meier, Minirth, & Wichern, 1982; Menninger, 1973; Westphal, 1987), a transcendent drive (Benner, 1981; Benner & Palmer, 1986), and dominion, sociability, sexuality, and dignity (Kirwan, 1984; Van Leeuwen, 1985, 2002). Other mentioned characteristics relevant to human nature include persons being redeemed or converted (Beck, 1999; Briggs, 1987; Hiltner, 1989; Jones & Butman, 1991), being indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Farnsworth, 1985; Ridgway, 1983), being an instrument of righteousness (Beck, 1999), and experiencing the sanctification process (Ridgway, 1983).

However, there are noticeable gaps in this literature base. First, most discussions lack breadth. Authors do not connect state traits together into a comprehensive model, but commonly address only one to three core characteristics. Moreover, the frequently mentioned traits are rarely derived from all three of God's major works-creation, redemption, and sanctification-toward humankind (Oden, 1998). Second, the content on the state traits is underdeveloped, even superficial in many instances. Authors appear to assume their readers have sufficient knowledge about the assumptions. Third, the few inclusive and thorough discussions lack parsimony. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Essential Biblical Assumptions about Human Nature: A Modest Proposal
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.