Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Richard Crossman

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


1. This thesis is an examination and critique of Emil Brunner’s theological anthropology from the Neo-Thomistic perspective. Emil Brunner’s doctrine of man is examined under three thematic headings: first, man and knowledge (or theology and the philosophy of science), second, man and God (ontology), and third, man in the world (ethical implications). In the first section Brunner argues that man can only be properly understood in light of the complete revealed Christian system. This is because man is in some way separated from his origin in God and engaged in persistent rebellion against Him. Thus, the human quest for knowledge is inhibited insofar as it approaches the ‘personal centre’ of man’s being. Human sciences, in other words, are more prone to error than natural sciences since they constitute an attempt to understand something which can only be known in and with Christian revelation. In the second section (man and God), Brunner represents man as wholly determined by God in the personal form of his existence and history. Apart from this relation, which God initiates and controls, man has no real being, purpose, or destiny. In the third section, Brunner develops the temporal (ethical) implications of his theological anthropology. Since man has neither being nor self-knowledge apart from God’s gracious act, he cannot be truly good or moral apart from the self-understanding and ‘goodness’ conferred upon him through special revelation. 2. The critique of Brunner’s doctrine of man follows the same topical format. In the first section, we have argued that Brunner’s strict division between general and special revelation is untenable, since it implies that a proposition can be true in one instance but not in another. In the second section, we have pointed out that human freedom and consequent moral culpability is contingent on a certain ontological distinction between man and God. In the third section we have developed the critique further in view of some of Brunner’s ethical writings, and argued that Brunner’s lack of a clear concept of natural law undermines his attempt to provide a consistent method of moral judgement. 3. In the third section, we have presented the views of Austin Farrar and E.L. mascall in relation to the main problem areas of Brunner’s doctrine of man. First, there is a summary of the main points of Austin Farrar’s 1958 Gifford Lectures on natural law and freedom of the will. Farrar argues that moral intuition is a universal faculty, realized in relation to a (natural) moral law grounded in the very nature an inherent worth of humanity. mascall presents an understanding of redemption and the Fall which limits sin to man’s immoral choices, and does not demand an incapacitation of his cognitional structures. This eliminates the qualitative abyss with Neo-orthodoxy sets up between general and special revelation, and does away with self-contradictory distinctions between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ truths about man. The thesis concludes with an attempt to reconcile the ‘personal’ emphasis of Brunner’s anthropology with the Thomistic affirmations of an objective, discernable moral law grounded in the fabric of creation.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season