A Bonaventurean Account of Psychological Well-Being

This paper will argue that Bonaventure’s treatment of the volitional life of Christ provides a model and exemplar for human spirituality and psychological well-being. The conciliar view that Christ has two natural wills—the divine will and a discrete human will, assumed in the incarnation—receives further refinements in medieval scholastic theology. Developing and synthesizing reflections from previous theologians (especially Hugh of St Victor, Peter Lombard, and John of Damascus), Bonaventure posits a fourfold manner of willing in Christ: the divine will and three modes of his human will—the rational will, the will of piety, and the will of the flesh. According to Bonaventure, these wills are hierarchically ordered, and, while they may sometimes differ in their objects, they are always consonant with and never contrary to one another. So, for example, the will of the flesh naturally shrinks back from death (evidenced in Gethsemane), but that natural disposition is subjected to the rational will, which is, in turn, assimilated to the divine will, which itself wills the passion for the sake of human redemption. On Bonaventure’s telling, Christ’s volitional life presents us with an exemplar—indeed, the exemplar—of a well-ordered human life. After a brief sketch of Bonaventure’s account, the paper will apply Christ’s exemplar to the problems of human spiritual formation. It will explore how a Bonaventurean account of Christ’s humanity might inform psychological flourishing, with the psychotherapy known as internal family systems enlisted as a dialogue partner.

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