A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being Human Is Not the Problem: Some Further Thoughts

I suggested in a post  on Tuesday that the problem with our condition is not our humanity but our sin. If I may quote myself by way of reminder:
Through millions of years, the divine goal in evolutionary progression was to bring into existence human beings made in God's image, to reflect the divine character in God's world. But something went wrong. We became sinners, and our sin made us less than human, our sin warped, distorted, cracked the image of God in us. To be sure, human beings still reflect the imago dei-- the image of God as it is expressed in Latin-- but it is blurry. It is rather like looking at our distorted and warped appearance as reflected by the mirrors in a fun house. The problem is that the loss of God's perfect image in us has not resulted in much fun for humanity. When we became sinners we became cracked icons and our sin has made all of us less than human.
I also suggested ways in which we human beings demonstrate our inhumanity. A couple of examples will suffice:

The person or persons who planned and carried out the attacks at the Boston Marathon yesterday did so not because they are human, but because they are sinners. Their act reveals their inhumanity.
When we hoard our blessings in this life and surround ourselves with luxuries justifying it by saying we earned it and deny poor and destitute children their daily bread, we demonstrate our inhumanity.
But it is important to remember that though the image of God is marred in us thus diminishing our humanity, that same divine image is not completely lost in us. In the midst of our inhuman ways, we also acts in ways that remind us that our humanity, like God's image, continues to be reflected in our lives.

When athletes at the Boston Marathon, after running many miles with their legs feeling like lead pipes, kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood for innocent victims, we demonstrate our humanity.

When ordinary people living ordinary routine lives tore off their clothing to make tourniquets for those bleeding to death, we demonstrate our humanity.

When first responders came running into the chaos of the pandemonium not knowing if there was more danger lurking in order to rescue those who were injured, we demonstrate our humanity.

When politicians and civic leaders put aside their political difference to unite together to give assistance, we demonstrate our humanity.

When churches gather together to pray, we demonstrate our humanity.

When an amputee soldier, who was wounded in Afghanistan, goes to the hospital to comfort those who have lost limbs, we demonstrate our humanity.

When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, we demonstrate our humanity.

When we give of our time to mentor children in need of guidance we demonstrate our humanity,

In the letter to the Colossians, Paul and Timothy write of Christ:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (1:15-20)
Jesus Christ who truly reflects the image of the invisible God has come to restore that image in us. In so doing he works to reconcile all things. This can only be fulfilled when as icons we are no longer cracked. It is Jesus the God/Man who can restore the divine image in us and only Jesus can make us truly and fully human.

God's kingdom does not come through deeds of love and mercy, though such deeds are stamps of the divine image, but rather the kingdom comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And we do not bring the kingdom. The kingdom's arrival is a divine act. The followers of Jesus bear witness in word and in deed that the kingdom has already come. Not all good work is kingdom work, but all good work reveals our humanity; and only Jesus can expunge the inhumanity within us.

Being human is not the problem.


John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Maybe our missteps (sin), as a race of beings, are just a part of the psycho-social evolution we need to go through, as a race of beings, as we move toward living into the image and likeness of God.

We already know that God brought us into being, as a race of beings, through an evolutionary process, and so it seems that such a process was developed by God as God's preferred method for our growth and development, and thus we can expect that it is on-going.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your comments.

I think theological reflection assists us here. The process of restoring the divine image in us is a work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. John Wesley referred to this as sanctifying grace.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

There is a difference between our theologies: you see the process of Weslyan sanctification as an individual one of restoration to a status (Image of God) which pre-existed or perhaps which was intended to exist, but failed due to our shortcomings as individuals. I see the process as species-wide one, with individual manifestations, and the process is one of maturation, on a species-wide basis into beings bearing the image and likeness of the Creator, and further into both horizontal relationships with each other and vertical relationships with the Creator, all of which was only envisioned by the Creator and which has never yet happened.

For me the process has not failed, it has just not come into fruition.

Speaking metaphorically, I would not call the inability of a 10 year old child to hit a home run like his father a failure, rather, I would say that he has just not had the chance to mature - that given time and training he will be far more likely to accomplish the feat in later years. And while I would encourage the training and nourish the growth, I would not judge him at all negatively for his lack of accomplishment.

That is not to say that terrible deeds are not perpetrated by people for which consequences should not follow - we need only look at the Boston Marathon bombings for evidence of this. But the "sins" of the perpetrators do not represent for me a falling away from the Divine Image, but demonstrate just how far they, and we, are from living into that Image.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I do not see it as primarily individual. I see it as primarily ecclesiological.

John said...

But the Church must work within our limitations, as species or individuals.

And even though the problem IS ecclesiological, when we speak of sin, repentance, redemption, and even sanctification, we are speaking of events in the life of the individual. Perhaps if we truly embraced the matter as ecclesiological sin would be less a central of our focus.