Monday, May 7, 2012

Christian Anthropology, Part 02

Man as He was First Created, continued

Man was Created Body and Soul

And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
Man is unique in all of creation in that he is compounded of matter and of soul. Man, by uniting himself the material and the immaterial, proves them not mutually exclusive. Man is superior to the animals, who lack the soul of man; and Man is superior (ontologically, if not morally) to the angels, who lack bodies. (Man is also superior to the angels on account of his unique destiny. While human beings are destined to become sons and daughters of God, angels are destined to remain the servants of God – and of God’s children.) Man is thus the apex of creation. (Christians are the true Humanists.)

To be composed of body and soul is another facet of being “in the image” of Christ, Who is both God and Man, indivisibly and without confusion. In mankind, creation is endowed with reason and comes to consciousness. In mankind, the creation has the possibility of offering itself to God. Man was created as the priest of creation, as the soul and mind and voice of the whole natural order.
We are therefore responsible for the world. We are the word, the logos, through which it bespeaks itself, and it depends solely on us whether it blasphemes or prays. Only through us can the cosmos, like the body that it prolongs, receive grace. For not only the soul, but the body of man is created in the image of God. “Together they were created in the image of God,” writes St. Gregory Palamas. ( Lossky, op. cit., p. 71.)
Fr. Alexander Schmemann emphasizes that man was created to be the priest of creation:
So the only natural (and not “supernatural”) reaction of man, to whom God gave this blessed and sanctified world, is to bless God in return, to thank Him, to see the world as God sees it and – in this act of gratitude and adoration – to know, name and possess the world. All rational, spiritual and other qualities of man, distinguish¬ing him from other creatures, have their focus and ultimate fulfillment in this capacity to bless God, to know, so to speak, the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life. “Homo sapiens,” “home faber” … yes, but, first of all, “homo adorans.” The first, most basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God – and by filling the world with this eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him. (Schmemann, Life of the World, p. 15.)
Body and soul are not opposed to one another, as though one were evil and the other good, or one were mortal and the other immortal. Neither of these is the case. The body is neither some tomb of the soul nor some evil prison of the soul. In fact, in biblical terminology, “flesh” and “soul” are sometimes even interchangeable. “All flesh” refers to the complete human being as in Genesis 6:12; or in the broader sense, to all living creatures, as in Psalm 136:25. “Every soul” or “living soul” means the same thing, as we read in Acts 2:43 or Romans 13:1. The terms are shorthand for the same, complete reality of body plus soul, both of which constitute Man, who was made for immortality, and yet failed to achieve it.

Nor is “flesh” anything bad in itself. After all, St. John writes that “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) and Jesus bids us eat His flesh and drink His blood. (John 6:51-56) St. Luke proclaims that “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6)

“Carnal” does not always denote something evil, either. St. Paul, requesting donations for the Jewish-Christian famine victims in Jerusalem, writes, “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in carnal things.” (Romans 15:27)

What is wrong is to live carnally; that is, to live according to either our bodies or our souls, for their demands are alike self-serving and therefore opposed to the Holy Spirit. Bodily pleasures are not evil in themselves, but to live for them, instead of living for Christ, is evil. Soulish pleasures (emotional security, intellectual delights and such) are also not evil in themselves, but living for them is as self-serving (as unloving and ungodlike) as to live for bodily sensations.

Note that evil here is the corruption of something good. Its existence depends upon there being something good for it to corrupt, just as a parasite depends upon there being a host from which it can suck its existence. This is why Orthodox theologians sometimes call evil “parasitic.” They mean evil is not something God created, but a corruption of His work. Evil has no being of its own, independently of good.

Man was not created perfect.

Strange as it may sound, the affirmation that man was not created perfect does not mean he was created imperfect! It means he was created a spiritual infant. As an infant, Adam was perfect, and innocent, too; but he had yet to acquire the perfections of mature adulthood. (If he had been perfect from the beginning, he could not have fallen into sin, for perfection is not corruptible.) Rather, our first parents were intended to develop and grow, to increase in wisdom and in favor with God and their fellow man, just as Christ did, in Whose Image they had been made. Adam and Eve walked and conversed with God as with a familiar Friend; but they did not behold His Essence, as some suppose. They had every earthly happiness, but spiritual joys – which come from participating in God’s own Life – lay mostly ahead of them. Life as spiritual beings had only begun, had yet to be learned.
God transferred him from the earth, out of which he had been made, into Paradise, giving him the means for advancement in order that, maturing and becoming perfect, and even being declared a god, he might thus ascend into heaven in possession of immortality. For man had been made a middle nature, neither wholly mortal nor altogether immortal but capable of either… St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 2, 24. (Romanides 125))
Had man been created perfect from the beginning, then his goodness (or wickedness) would be a function of his nature and not of his will. It would be involuntary, that is, and thus morally meaningless. Romanides writes, “He was made needing to acquire perfection, not because he was made flawed in nature and morally deficient but because moral perfection is achieved only in total freedom.” (Romanides, op. cit., p. 126.)

Man was not created naturally immortal.

Again, this assertion, paradoxically, does not mean man was created mortal, either. Our Fathers tell us man was created for immortality, but without having it as a part of his nature. Immortality is not natural, but supernatural, a divine attribute. Not having the divine nature, Adam had no divine attributes such as immortality. Having been created out of nothing, he had no immortality in his own nature, either. God indeed breathed life into Adam, and that life was immortal, but it was also contingent. Being contingent meant the life Adam had was a communion in God’s Life, not yet his own. To secure it for himself, he would have had to grow into a mature spiritual man in a communion with God such as could never more be disrupted. Meanwhile, his life, although immortal, was borrowed, was derived from such nascent and on his part irresolute communion as he already had with God. There was no fountain of life within him; he had continuously to tap into God’s Well of Life.

St. Irenaeus says it is diabolical that man should ever suppose
that the incorruptibility which belongs to him is his own naturally, and by thus not holding the truth, should boast with empty superciliousness, as if he were naturally like to God. For he (satan) thus rendered him (man) more ungrateful towards his Creator, obscured the love which God had towards man, and blinded his mind not to perceive what is worthy of God, comparing himself with, and judging himself equal to, God. (St. Irenaeus, op. cit., 3, XX, 1.)
That man was not created immortal becomes an even more important doctrine in view of modern heterodoxies. If man had been created immortal, then nothing could have killed him – except, presumably, God alone. Such a view inescapably paints God as the as Original Murderer. Of course the heterodox immediately add that in killing man, God was entirely justified; indeed, they say (compounding the slander), His Justice required it. Christ, of course, teaches us the murderer of mankind is and always was satan, not God. (john 8:44)  St. Theophilus likewise teaches:

“If God had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. On the other hand, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Rather, He made him neither immortal nor mortal…but capable of being either one in order that, should he incline toward things of immortality and keep the commandment of God, he would be rewarded by him with immortality and become god. If, however, he should turn to things of death by disobeying God, he would be the cause of death to himself For God made man free and sovereign. (St. Theophilus of Antioch, op. cit., 2, 27.)
to be continued...


David Garner said...

I think I understand what you are saying, but I have a brief question. You write:

Had man been created perfect from the beginning, then his goodness (or wickedness) would be a function of his nature and not of his will.

If I'm reading this correctly, you are indicating that man's goodness is a function of his person -- his perfection dependent on his use of the will.

The reason I ask is I spent quite some time in our own conversion from Lutheranism (where, as you know, the will is considered "bound") studying the Fathers and Councils on the human will. The 6th Ecumenical Council indicates (contra the monothelites) that the will is natural -- that the nature of our will is to be free. I assume, then, that you are not indicating the will is personal, but rather man's use of the will is what is at issue, and that use of the will always requires a personal choice.

As I've seen it written, "natures don't sin, people do," etc.

Am I off base?

Thanks for writing this, by the way. It is excellent.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thanks,, Davie, for the words of encouragement.

Yes, you are quite right in your explication of what I mean. It's a valuable postscript, top. Maybe someday I will revise the text to reflect this.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I didn't mean to say "Davie," I meant "David". Sorry.

David Garner said...

Ha! No worries -- I too have fickle fingers when it comes to typing.