Christian Anthropology

Discussion in 'Theology' started by Thomas, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It should not be overlooked is that the idea of the 'person', so cherished in Western culture, has its root in the development of the lexical meaning of the term the Christian Scholastic theology, the prolongation in the West of the Hellenic (and primarily Platonic) philosophical tradition.

    The Scholastic development was 'kick-started' by dialogue with Islamic metaphysics, the product of its own internal development of Aristotelian philosophy in light of the Qran, and most evident in the works of St Thomas Aquinas, who makes no bones about his debt to the great Moslem philosophers Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Mohammed al-Ghazali (the 'Masters' in his writings), and through them, to Aristotle ('The Philosopher').

    In the Christian East, anthropology remained rooted in the Patristic Theology of the previous millennium, the Council of Chalcedon, and moved off from there in a different and more symbolic and speculative direction, under the tutelage of one of Chalcedon's primary architects, St Maximus the Confessor (who 'baptised' Platonism and gently corrected Origen), and to a lesser degree under his brother-contender against Hellenist dualism, Leontius of Byzantium.

    My own theological anthropology is firmly based in the Eastern Tradition, the two mentioned being formative in my thinking on the nature of man, but the metaphysical question, of a nature as such, reaches its apogee for me, in the West, in St Thomas.

    +++

    The idea of the person, of an individual human being, existing as a God-created entity in its own right, is founded in Hebrew philosophy. According to their Scriptures, man is a created thing, a being which exists in and as a unity of body and soul, matter and spirit, but inescapably one thing, and furthermore made to exist in union with the Uncreated, its Maker.

    In Christian Scripture this is inescapably affirmed, "Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Luke 12:7), and the idea of this existential unity resists sublimation in its every encounter with duality in every age.

    The Enlightenment hoped to deliver the mortal blow to this idea by severing it from its ontological source, by refuting the idea of the Uncreated as known and knowable. Not only can man not know God, he cannot even know the world, nor even himself, with any certainty.

    Alongside this, he determined that by the application of science, he would fashion a Garden of Eden by his own hand, to bend nature to his own will (read Francis Bacon) and create a Paradise on earth according to his own wants and desires. Right up until the close the the last millennium man still believed that science and technology would answer all his ills.

    In many ways it is, but its price was the Industrial Revolution. In a trice, the biblical lifespan of three score years and ten was cut by half. Science freed man from toil in the fields, to a life of toil in the factories and mills; from plagues to industrial diseases. From a life of constant labour simply to survive, we promised ourselves that technology would set us free to enjoy the leisure of living, and here we are, slave to the device in the time-starved techno-cultures of today.

    The Romance Movement of the nineteenth century was a revolt against industrialism of man, his worth as a being measured by his output in service of the economy. His place in the cosmos being shifted ever from its centre, to a point of meaninglessness, ephemeracy — and existential hopelessness — on its periphery.

    Whilst (it seems to me) whilst we looked to the past in a sprit of maudlin sentimentalism — of the Gothic, of the Sublime — we put all our eggs in one basket, recoiling from the Enlightenment we rejected all that went before, and in so doing we rejected the very language by which it could be refuted from within, and instead looked East, to a hope in something entirely new, the novelty of the different, the strange, the Oriental, for a solution to our tragic situation. Is it no wonder then that Tibet, the most alien, the most unknown, the most secretive and mysterious, should suddenly became the rock of our spiritual aspirations, our new theosophies? How quick were we to declare that even Christ must have travelled there, for nowhere else on the planet could such wisdom be found!

    Meanwhile, at home, the idea of the person suffers continual erosion, Every quality, every character, every facet of human nature is reduced to accidence, to contingency, to ephemeracy, there is no core of being, no center, no ontological object that experiences subjectivity. Man is just an eddy in the swirl of data, here one minute, gone the next, he derives a self-identity not from being but from process, everything, including himself, is conditional, experiential, relative, everything is beyond his control, hidden from him, caused by things he cannot discern, the world is run by conspiracy ... he is the helpless victim of circumstance, of his age and of his time.

    There is no such thing as truth, all one can rely on is narrative.

    But the narrative is just the account of things happening. What is the thing that they are happening to? Surely a narrative requires a narrator?

    That is where the person is. That is the 'still, small voice' that we must seek, to find ourselves, the silence that is us, and us alone, and in so doing, to find the voice of the One who talks to us:

    Exodus 14:13-14
    "And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD ... The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."

    2 Chronicles 20:15-17
    "Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude (the world); for the battle is not yours, but God's ... Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you."

    Psalms 4:4-5
    "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
    Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD."

    Psalms 46:10
    "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."

    Thomas
     
  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I've read it and re-read it.

    With G!d I exist, but this evil enlightenment doesn't wish me to?

    I don't see how a 'person' is changed by what theology or science thinks.

    I can see how we could treat a person differently based on a doctrine, but time has proven jews, christians, atheists no matter were all happy to enslave 'persons' and use them as property, chattle.
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Wil —

    Nope. In religion there is certainty ... in the Enlightenment, there is none, as objectivity was declared beyond us. I doubt the philosophers ever thought we'd end up where we are.

    D'you think it's evil? I don't ... but I do think it's misguided, and the source of many of man's ills, although most people would say the problem lies elsewhere.

    A classic case is the environmental/ecological debate which holds religion responsible for man's attitude to then planet, yet the prevailing attitude towards nature was shaped by the Enlightenment and not by Scripture, and the Enlightenment saw nature as a wayward and wanton women who must be brought to heel ... so not our fault ...

    Similarly, in Christianity, there is freedom, but in the Enlightenment, there is none, for two reasons:
    1: We cannot know 'reality', so we are really prisoners of our own subjectivity,
    2: God is absent in man, but 'hard-wired' as it were (Kant).

    What? You don't think a person's sense is self is determined by how he thinks about himself, and how he thinks about himself is according to the data he accepts?

    There are many who think the West's self view was fundamentally altered when that picture appeared of the earth from outer space.

    So? This is your 'accentuate the negative' approach to anything, it seems to me ... what should we do then, face facts and give up?

    By the same token, why bother saying 'namaste' when what that means to me is a rigid caste system into which peope are born, without option or chance of freedom ... at least in slavery there is hope ... at least in slavery the owner can actually realise his error, and set his slave free.

    Thomas
     
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Certainty? The majority of early Christians were certain that G!d lived in Heaven above the clouds, and hell was in the earth... (early meaning prior to say 1950...and some of this continues today) the certainty of religion changes as the science supercedes its speculation and then the apologists come out and say..well we never believed that anyway...and we still aren't wrong...inerrant doesn't mean without errors, or that it is all fact or..or..or
    my bad, reading your op seemed you were intimating evil
    And your preference is what? That we follow the teachings of whatever we are born into without question despite what our eyes see and our ears here and we learn in science?
    How so? The only folks that were altered would be those that were hung up on some arcane idea.
    I have a negative approach to everything. Quite interesting, as i must be around many negative people in my life as they always wonder why I am upbeat and positive and enjoy life so much! How is facing facts giving up??
    Namaste (the light in me sees, honors, salutes the light in you) How the heck does that mean rigid caste system?? You condemn a wonderful greeting because of the language it is spoken in? And you say I am negative??
    Ah, now that to me is a wonderful analogy describing exactly your OP. However I don't see the chains of religion being released by the Church, in our cases the slaves escape to enlightenment.

    Thomas,

    My response to your OP was a couple of questions so I could understand and respond in the manner dictated by the theology board. Your response posed questions to me, that I needed to answer from my perspective, so I did, I apologise I don't have references for my opinion.
     
  5. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Thomas

    Unfortunately this refers only to Man. As fallen man we've become part of the Beast so are not the quality of Man being referred to.

    Of course. without feeling a connection to higher consciousness Man turns to the earth for meaning and reconciles the contradictions through imagination often defended by righteous indignation.



    It cannot be otherwise. Societal life is an expression of Man's fallen collective "being." Having lost the connection with the higher, nothing else is possible.

    It is no wonder the ego would grumble at this. Where the soul of man has such importance, as we are without a soul, we are on the periphery.


    As Christendom became more and more a tool of the Great Beast, more people felt the hole in the heart and looked to the east. Unfortunately as more and more Western "improvements" are added by "experts" in self deception, the Eastern traditions suffer the same fate. This is good for the Beast but not for Man.

    Yes this is the human condition.

    Yes, and we have a myriad of "experts" to guide us in acquiring "acceptable" interpretations."

    The narrator is the collective whims of the Beast within us that supports and maintains the human condition within us.


    This only appears rarely in us. The human condition doesn't allow it.

    Jacob Needleman on the soul The Search For Integrity

    "Know Thyself."
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Wil —

    Well all I can say is read without the eye of symbol, then there is a whole dimension to Scripture that is lost. Why go up the mountain? Why walk into the wilderness? Why walk on the waters?

    The language of symbol enriches our lives with a poetic and metaphoric sensitivity and sensibility, without which we are left impoverished and which I think belongs to the wonder of innocence and the nature of simplicity. True, there are those who are perhaps less founded in the material 'facts' of things and open to their 'significance', and there are those whose insights and wisdoms seem naive if not naff ... but the image of God 'up there' and the bad 'down there' is universal and, I would argue, constituitive of the human soul. It is entirely adequate and in tself illuminative, given the allowance for hyperbole which is inevitable in the absence of intellectual rigour.

    Such a symbolic vision is regarded in the East as a gift and a grace, they call it 'holy innocence', something which, in the sophisticated west, we are very quickly disabused of.

    (Yet do you not yourself talk about 'the God within'? Is this somehow more logical, more reasonable? Does God live in the gut then?)

    And would you, by that selfsame rule, consign all native American spirituality, Aboriginal spirituality, Africa spirituality, and anything else not empirically-founded, Enlightenment-informed, to The Enlightened Seekers' Book of Stupid Human Endeavour ... I don't think so.

    Depends on your religion, I suppose. I don't think the Traditional Christian has changed the eschatalogical certainty of his religious belief in 2,000 years. In fact, with every new wonder of science, my certainty increases ... but that's me.

    And yet, would you have me trade that certainty (doubtful as you might find it) for a certainty in a science which has, on more than one occasion, shown itself to be wrong? How can I be sure that those scientific axioms you ask me to believe in will not, in a hundred years time, be the object of mild ridicule?

    Biblical Criticism is a case in point. It was begun by a Catholic, picked up by Protestants, and then Enlightenment anti-religionists (Reimarus, et al, fathers of 'the historical quest for Jesus') tried for a home run. Today, their assertions — that all history is bunkum — ago are dismissed as exagerations, polemics and bad science ... archaeology proves them wrong ... whilst the doctrine of 2000 year in my case, or of time immemorial in the Hindu Tradition, remains fundamentally unchanged.

    In many ways the Enlightenment was like the settlers trading with the Native Americans. What has it given us? Bright shiny things, broken promises, and a whole new raft of diseases.

    An open heart, not a closed mind.

    Wil my friend, You're the one ruling out the idea of God communicating Himself to man, you rule out the supernatural, the Mysterium ... you're the one reducing everything to its bare literal minimum ... you're the one killing the spirit by the letter ... you're the one living by the (empirical) law, not me.

    If I'm wrong, then OK, I'm a romantic, but hey ... I gave the Cosmos it's best shot.
    If you're wrong, then OK, you're a humbug, who never gave the Cosmos a chance.

    Again with the prejudicial assumptions of ignorance, which I refute, because unlike you, it seems to me, I have read both sides of the argument. May I also remind you that a fair chunk of the science you follow was given to you by men who had no trouble in believing in a religion.

    My Church and my faith calls on me to question ... your Church and your faith tells you there's no need, science has got all the answers, trust me ...

    That's what I'm asking you. If all there is are the negatives ... what's the point? What the heck am I supposed to do?

    Because the people who invented the term invented the system, too (now who's turning a blind eye?) Face facts, Wil, namaste comes from the tradition that invented the caste system.

    No, I used your analoguy of showing that there are two sides to the coin. You only look on one side, the bright side of yours, the dark side of everyone else's.

    You have no hesitation in condemning a wonderful idea because of the imagery it uses.

    Damn right. You haven't offered me one positive yet.

    Then why have a religion Wil? Why do you belong to a Church if you fundamentally don't believe in it ... for the company? It should be called 'The Lab' or something ... church is a misnomer.

    Take the blinkers off, Wil. In the Enlightenment is called that because they believed they had finally overthrown the tyranny of faith in God. In the Enlightenment there is no God, just pragmatism.

    Thomas
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —

    I said:
    You said:
    It's a shame that your experience tells you such ... it's a pity, and I can see how it leaves you impoverished, and flailing in the dark.

    I dialogue with It all the time ... but then I have consistently tried to indicate to you that what you call 'blind faith' is in reality an illumination you cannot see, but you, locked in yourself, simply insist that because you are blind, everyone else is, too.

    Thomas
     
  8. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Scary stuff. Now you know why I'm not a modern Catholic.
     
  9. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist Staff Member

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    Jeremiah 31
    27 "The days are coming"—[this is] the LORD's declaration—"when I will sow the house of Israel (AA) and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and to tear them down, to demolish and to destroy, and to cause disaster, so will I be attentive to build and to plant them," (AB) says the LORD. 29 "In those days, it will never again be said:
    The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children's teeth are set on edge. (AC) 30 Rather, each will die for his own wrongdoing. (AD) Anyone who eats sour grapes—his own teeth will be set on edge.

    The New Covenant

    31 "Look, the days are coming"—[this is] the LORD's declaration—"when I will make a new covenant (AE) with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 [This one will] not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them" (AF) —the LORD's declaration. 33 "Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days"—the LORD's declaration. "I will place My law [i] within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying: Know the LORD, (AG) for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them"—the LORD's declaration. "For I will forgive their wrongdoing (AH) and never again remember their sin." (AI)​
     
  10. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    In Christian tradition humans are created by God in the image of God. As I am currently reading in a book, "The roots of our present ecological disaster have been plumbed many times by various thinkers. Lynn White Jr., in a 1967 article, 'The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis,' cites the 'orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature' as an important root . . . The Earth is created by the deity for our use: People are to 'subdue, dominate, and name the things of the Earth.' The root cause of the state we now find ourselves in, according to White [Lynn White Jr.], can be traced to these new definitions of humans and the world. The roots are of a religious nature," specifically from scripture (Cordova 208-9). I'm still reading this book, so I just wanted to share with you some Native American views on the subject, since you reminded me of bringing the Native American viewpoint with your short reference to Native Americans, Thomas. Here Native Americans would sorely disagree with you saying, "Its not our [Christianity's] fault." From my understanding of what you are saying, it is like, "it is not the Christian view of the world at fault for the ecological crisis, but look at the Enlightment!" While they "saw nature as a wayward and wanton woman who must be brought to heel," I disagree that Christianity is faultless here.

    For example, Cordova says that Christianity "alienates humans from the world," or the Earth (209).

    "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen 1: 28).

    Briefly, to sum up her account of alienation from the Earth in the book of Genesis, Cordova says that God created humankind in a perfect place, the Garden of Eden. Later, they are banished from Eden. "The deity sees this ouster as temporary and promises to lead his people back into an appropriate home eventually. That home is presumed to be on this planet. Christianity, building upon this initial promise, has the deity offer his own son to the descendants of Adam and Eve as a leader who will guide the people to a new and rightful home. The son, however offers a different conception of 'home.' He says, 'My kingdom is not of this world.' Whatever degree of alienation from the Earth is caused by the Judeo-Christian account in Genesis, it is enhanced in the Christian postulation of 'another world' as the true home of mankind" (209). Also, for a short brief summary of further alienation, she talks about St. Augustines connection with this world and another world with his concept of the soul. Here she is talking about dualism, "the idea of an immortal soul that is separate and different from the body, has had a long history and significant effects on Western thought" (210). The result is that humans are superior to other life forms and, therefore, "occupy a place ont eh planet that elevates them from their planet" (210).

    From a Native American standpoint, we do not see ourselves in any way superior to the Earth, for Mother Earth is a living being. All beings are equal, so even the concept of slavery, which is accepted in the Christian scriptures, is foreign to us. Also, the idea that we are "elevated" or superior to other forms of life is rejected. Native Americans see themselves as dependent upon other life forms. There are "interrelationships between man and tree, man and water, man and animals, and so on" (211).

    Here is one of many questions that I found interesting . . .

    Cordova asks, "What if there existed a culture that described the planet as a whole, living organism, itself teeming with numerous forms of life forms, rather than as an inanimate object that exists merely as raw material for human use?"

    While I think that the Native American view could claim, "it is not our fault," I do not think that the Christian worldview can do the same. Well, this is what I get lately from my current readings . . .

    Amazon.com: How It Is: The Native American Philosophy of V. F. Cordova: Linda Hogan, Kathleen Dean Moore, Kurt Peters, Ted Jojola, Amber Lacy: Books
     
  11. nativeastral

    nativeastral fluffy future

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    though a brilliant botanist its been said Aristotle set back physics for hundred of years. proponents of 'the friendship between science and religion' fail to acknowledge the immense contribution of Islamic scientific developments and instead take the credit by calling the birth of western science a judeo-christian fruit. The enlightenment or 'rise of reason and age of rationality' was informed and reacted against religious dogmas which also set it back, as we all know.


    List of Christian thinkers in science - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     

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