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Basic Christian Doctrine (DO501)

3/17/2010 7:25:00 PM

The Christian Doctrine of Humanity (Human Anthropology)


When discussing the doctrine of humanity, or human anthropology, it is helpful to first define what exactly it means to be a person or to display personhood. Classical Definition of a Person in Western Christianity: An individual substance of a rational nature. Boethius A More Complete Definition of a Person: A social being with conscious life who exercises reason, imagination, emotions, and will in moral choices, freedom, creativity and responsibility.

Implications of Trinity for Doctrine of God (Triune God is a Personal Being) I. The concept of Trinity introduces the personal nature of God. As Im sure Dr. Coppedge has mentioned previously, the Jewish understanding of God was completely different from the view of their neighboring cultures. For the rest of the world, the gods were part of nature. They were what we know to be created things, such as the sun, stars, the elements, and the like. The Jewish understanding of God differed from other cultures in that God is understood to be outside of Creation, not part of it. o He is not the sun, stars, air, water, earth, etc. o But he is also not simply energy, or matter, or some sort of force. Instead, God is recognized as a personal Being before Creation. o If we take Boethius definition of personhood, God must simply be an individual substance capable of making rational decisions.

o However, when we begin speaking of God as Trinitarian, we begin to see that God is also social in his being. The individual members of the Trinity relate to one another in such a way that they share a common will.

Implications of Beginning with Jesus With the coming of Christ, we have been given a new window into the nature of God as Trinitarian. If we start by looking at Jesus, we find: I. A Different View of God Moves from monotheism to Trinitarianism II. Balanced view of the relationship between supernatural and natural. Jesus connects transcendence and immanence (indwelling). He is both God and man, so he both transcends Creation and inhabits it. III. Starting with Jesus expands our understanding of the roles of God. He offers a fuller expression of how God works, both within the Trinity and with his relationship to Creation and humanity. IV. Gives us a clearer comprehension of the holiness of God. Specifically, we see in Jesus a model of holiness in human persons. V. Gives is a fuller understanding of the providence of God. Jesus demonstrates how providence and freedom work.

VI. Clarifies the concept of personhood. Jesus models what a person is intended to be like.

The Image of God in Persons

I. People are not like God in Absolute Attributes: Asiety (??), Infinity, Immutability Relative Attributes (relative to Creation): Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence II. People are like God in Personal attributes: Characteristics of a personal being (cf. definition of personhood) Moral attributes: Holiness expressed in Love, Grace, Goodness, Truth, Righteousness, and Purity.

Jesus Reveals Personhood I. Social Being: Persons in relationships II. Personality: Capacities of personhood Reason Jesus was able to make decisions about life and ministry. Imagination Jesus displays imagination in the telling of parables. Emotions Jesus displays emotion at the death of Lazarus, with the temple money changers. Will His will was common with that of the Father and Spirit, even in human flesh. III. Conscious Life Consciousness awareness of ones surroundings. Self-Consciousness (in particular) this is the capacity for self reflection. We see Jesus engaging in this sort of reflection in the Garden at Gethsemane, as he wrestles with surrendering himself to Gods plan. IV. Moral Image Moral Capacity Not only are humans commanded to be holy, but we are also capable of such a thing. God has not given us a directive that cannot be fulfilled. Next week, when we discuss the doctrine of sin we will see that this is not something that is attainable on our own, but by grace we have the ability to truly live transformed and holy lives.

Conscience Among other things, this is an innate sense of what is right and wrong. A guiding rubric for life, if you will. Moral Holiness - Through Jesus, we see that humanity does has the capacity (albeit through Gods grace) to live a holy life. V. Freedom With Jesus we see not only a freedom of choice (in daily matters), but also a freedom of the will. One good example might be the story of the rich young ruler from the Gospel of Mark, who came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him simply to go, sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, then follow Jesus. Scripture then tells us that the rich young man went away sad, because he had much great wealth. This is not a parable about the dangers of wealth as much as it is a glimpse of humanitys freedom to choose Jesus, or reject him. We can either submit our will to Gods will, or we can choose to live into our own desires. We see many other examples of freedom in Scripture, but we see our freedom to choose God more explicitly in Jesus interactions with people.

VI. Creativity We see in Scripture that the third person of the Trinity is active in every stage of Creation. As the incarnate Son, Jesus embodies that creativity in human flesh. His creativity is not stifled or bound in the Incarnation. Instead, we see all around us that human creativity (in music, art, the written word) that mirrors Gods creativity. We even see this in the telling of scripture. Take a moment to read over the Gospel of John or Revelation in particular, and you will see the creativity of the author in the construction of the message he is conveying. VII. Responsibility Responsibility is always linked very closely with freedom. Without the true freedom to make moral choices, we cannot be considered responsible for those choices in any meaningful sense. This is one of the greatest weaknesses to arguments for predestination to salvation. Calvinists would tend to argue that persons are free in that those whom God has elected choose him in return, and those

whom he has not elected reject him and are thus responsible for their choice. While this sounds ok on the surface, probing deeper will reveal that, while a choice is still being made at some level, there is no real freedom in that choice. Those who are elect will always choose Christ, while those who are not elect cannot ever do so. Through Adams sin, our capacity for choosing God has indeed been marred. But this freedom of the will has been restored through Gods prevenient grace. Humans can freely choose or reject God, but only because he has enabled us to make that free choice. In this way, God is always the initiator and foundation of a relationship with him, but human persons are left with the dignity of making that free choice.

The other Half of a Proper Evaluation of Man The image of personhood that we see revealed in Jesus is only one half of a proper evaluation of humanity. Because humanity is made in the image of God, humanity is inherently good Because of sin, something is now wrong There is a tension between these two statements that must be kept in balance: o An over emphasis on the goodness of humanity as made in the image of God leads to a too optimistic view of humanity to the extent that persons are no longer in need of saving grace. o An over emphasis on sin may lead to a view of humanity that is too pessimistic, and therefore does not view life as precious and redeemable. o Some real world examples of an over emphasis one way or another are Marxism, which views the individual person as elite and in no need of God and communism, which holds a low view of the value of individual persons as created in Gods image.

3/17/2010 7:25:00 PM

3/17/2010 7:25:00 PM