According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Being Human 5
by RJS
posted May 31, 2011

Chapter 3 of Joel Green’s book Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible deals with the topic of sin and freedom. I am going to devote a few posts to this topic because it is one that troubles me far more than the debates over heaven and hell. What is the nature of sin? How can we view ourselves as, in any sense, free to act? Dr.Green outlines a common view, perhaps predominate view, especially within Christian circles:
“For many, a distinguishing characteristic of humanity is the capacity to decide. Earthworms, goldfish, and jaguars do not leaf through a register of options before acting; they simply do what they are genetically programmed and hardwired to do. They act on instinct. They are possessed by “animal desires.” Humans, on the other hand, possess the capacity to step back from the precipice of innate desires or inborn patterns of behavior in order to elect for or against them, so that even when a human action follows the path of instinct this is nonetheless the product of a decidedly human reasonableness. Those who prove incapable of controlling there animal desires are beastly, brutish, somehow subhuman, irrational.” ( p. 75)
There are aspects of this sketch though, that are seriously flawed. It is not that the sketch is completely wrong, but that human control of behavior is far more subtle and complex.

Is the moral compass and the ability to evaluate and control behavior a distinguishing characteristic of humanity?

Is this capacity something attributed to the human soul?

Dr. Green starts this chapter with the sketch of a case study of a man who was convicted of child molestation (p. 73-74). The antisocial behavior started suddenly without any indication that it would, he was an upstanding married school teacher. He began to collect child pornography and made subtle advances toward his step daughter. He solicited a prostitute and could not keep himself from making advances after he was convicted toward the staff at a facility where he was being evaluated for treatment vs. Imprisonment.

As he was to appear for sentencing he complained of headaches and suicidal thoughts. He was taken to a hospital and evaluated by MRI. an egg-sized tumor was found and removed. After recovery his behavior and uncontrollable urges went away. Within a year headaches resumed and an urge for pornography resurfaced. An MRI revealed tumor regrowth and surgery to remove the tumor again returned to him the ability to control his ” animal desires.”

The issue in this case was not so much the “natural” desires themselves but the ability to exercise impulse control. The man still had a moral compass and he knew that what he was doing was wrong. When the tumor was present he could not control those urges.

There is an inseparable connection between what we think, feel, and do and the bodies within which or as which we exist. We all know this on one level. No matter how much my friend and I loved baseball as 12-year old kids, checked out books on pitching and catching and practiced in the basement and outdoors, we would never play at a high level. As girls it would never happen, and even the boys from our gene pool wouldn’t make it. Some things are “gifts.” But we don’t expect this to be the case with moral decision making.

I will go into this topic more deeply in future posts. Dr. Green looks at both science and scripture for an understanding of the nature of human freedom. Philosophy has to play a role here as well alongside science and theology. Scot’s posts on the book by Keith Ward More Than Matter?: Is There More to Life Than Molecules? are a welcome complement to the discussion in Green’s book.

Today I would like to stop here and put up a question for consideration.

First, does this example change anything in your view of human nature and the nature of the soul?

Second, how should an appreciation for the embodiedness of human behavior change our approach to Christian faith, life, and gathering as the church?

The second question will come up in later posts as well as we continue through this series. The fully embodied nature of human persons, whether this includes a soul in a wholistic dualism or some form of Christian monism, is an important concept as we consider the Christian life and the role that the gathering, the church, plays in the Christian life.

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