A framework for Christian anthropology: A study of Lonergan's self-transcending subject and Kegan's evolving self

Thomas Robert Berchmans, Marquette University


There have been many significant attempts to renew Catholic moral theology. In general, they have not been very fruitful; mostly because these attempts have been predominantly anchored in the old mode of faculty psychology--a psychology which regards the human person preeminently as an agent of various faculties, such as the intellect, the will, etc. Such a framework has not succeeded in satisfactorily addressing contemporary moral challenges and issues. To cast off this 'cognitive entrapment' of faculty psychology, we need an alternate framework for doing Christian anthropology. Contemporary developmental psychology conceives of the human person as an integral whole and not a bundle of faculties. We need a framework that regards the human without fragmentation (body, soul, mind, intellect, will, etc.), dichotomization (natural/supernatural, grace/nature, matter/spirit, etc.), polarization (male/female), and isolation from the rest of creation. This framework, while corroborated in developmental psychology, must be rooted in Christian Scripture and tradition. This dissertation finds a remarkable parallel between Robert Kegan's theory of the Evolving Self and Bernard Lonergan's notion of the self-transcending subject. For Kegan, to be human means to be a meaning-maker. According to his theory, by making meaning, we progress from lower to higher stages; we transcend. For Lonergan, the human subject, through a Heuristic process of addressing questions (seeking meaning) which lead to deeper questions, achieves self-transcendence. Even as we accept that self-transcendence is integral to bring human, we cannot deny the reality of the experience of human finitude. Both are undeniable. Human finitude paradoxically harbors within itself infinite possibilities. We may say that the human person is "bounded boundlessness." We find support for this framework in the early Greek Fathers. While accepting the fragility of creatureliness, they also firmly believed that humans are created in God's image (imago Dei ). A spark of divinity permeates the whole person and leads him/her ultimately to God. They taught that humans have been created to become divine (theosis ). Transcendence which humans strive to actualize throughout life is the craving for divine participation. The framework presented here is holistic, and integral, having its basis in scriptural and traditional understanding of God as the source of human origin and the goal of human destiny.

Recommended Citation

Berchmans, Thomas Robert, "A framework for Christian anthropology: A study of Lonergan's self-transcending subject and Kegan's evolving self" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9929149.