Developing a theology of personhood : the case of dementia.


Developing a theology of personhood : the case of dementia.


Dementia -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
Theological anthropology -- Christianity.
Church work with people with disabilities.
Human body -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
Memory -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
Dementia -- Patients -- Religious life.


By Janice M. Hicks, 2017. "1. The argument in this thesis is that the over-valuing of rationality in Western culture has distorted our view of personhood, especially as applied in the case of dementia. Christian and secular philosophers and theologians, as well as contemporary science, “our local culture,” have privileged rationality. 2. It is not just rationality that makes us human. It is not just intellect that makes us closer to the divine nature. But we still fall into the Cartesian idea that the rational part, thinking, defines “who am I?” The human brain is more complex than previously thought, and consciousness that arises from it distinguishes us from other animals and serves as the source of the properties previously attributed to the soul. Qualities such as emotion, instinct, love and spirituality also make us human. 3. We cannot know all the subtleties the person with dementia is experiencing. Some of the qualities may not be diminished even in severe dementia. 4. In our society, dementia functions like the “otherness” of disability, and that created by racism, sexism, classism, and heteronormativity, etc. The illnesses that cause dementia are illnesses of the brain, no more and no less, and we should not stigmatize it. 5. David Kelsey’s theological anthropology does the work of re- establishing the balance that can include those previously treated as other. The basis for the value and relationship of the human being lies in God, that is, outside the human beings themselves. Kelsey says that personhood is “a status before God” dependent on God’s relating to who I am (a vertical orientation) and others’ relating to who I am (a horizontal orientation.) God’s relating is not lost in dementia or any illness; rather, our ultimate context is that God seeks us more than we seek God. Secondly, the community is accountable to maintain the quotidian identity of the person in the proximate context. 6. The lens of science and theology together with stories can help us understand the physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of dementia." -- (p. 6-7)


Hicks, Janice M.


See record for print copy in VTS Library Catalog.


Virginia Theological Seminary




This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives-4.0 International License, © Copyright Janice M. Hicks, 2017.
Date Added
June 26, 2017
VTS Masters Theses
Hicks, Janice M., “Developing a theology of personhood : the case of dementia.,” Bishop Payne Library at Virginia Theological Seminary, accessed December 2, 2023,