"Image of God'' and Object Relations Theory of Human Development: Their Integration and Mutual Contribution to Development of God-Images, God-Concepts, and Relationship with God
Date of Award
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology
Rodger K. Bufford, Ph.D.
Gerry E. Breshears, Ph.D.
Kathleen A. Gathercoal, Ph.D.
In an endeavor to further the work of integration of psychology and theology, this theoretical-conceptual research study examined (a) the meaning of the biblical description of humanity's creation in God's image (Gen. 1.26-27), (b) the relationship between the conceptualization of humans as "image of God" and object relations theory of human development, and (c) the mutual contribution of "image of God" and object relational development to the internal god-images (object-representations) and cognitive god-concepts that persons develop. It was proposed that (a) creation in the image of God is foundational both to understanding humankind as a spiritual-socio-psycho-physiological species and to human object relational development, and that (b) healthy object relational development leads to mature, healthy, whole-object god-representations and the potential for mature, healthy relationship with actually existing deity.
The distortion and pathology that has entered the universe and human existence influences negatively the capacity humans have to reflect accurately God's likeness in their relationships, which, in turn, compromises the overall development of human object relationships. Consequently, immature or pathological object relational development may occur and affect negatively the development of all internal and external object relationships, object-representations, and cognitive concepts of objects. Internal god-images (object-representations), conscious cognitive god-conceptualizations, and relationship to actually existing deity, all may be compromised from healthy development. However, the original good design of humans as "image of God" leads to the potential for evaluation and correction, reparation and restoration of internal and external object relationships, and to the place of hope for lasting, positive growth and change.
Palik, Laura Emily, ""Image of God'' and Object Relations Theory of Human Development: Their Integration and Mutual Contribution to Development of God-Images, God-Concepts, and Relationship with God" (2001). Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). 289.