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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Systematics Journal Entry #7

The syllabus heading for class today says “Anthropology.” Now, up until this point, I had not connected this word with theology, not known that it had a particular theological definition; but this appears to be so. According to my dictionary, anthropology may be defined as “that part of Christian theology concerning the genesis, nature, and future of humans, especially as contrasted with the nature of God.” Given this, it seems appropriate that we follow our discussion of creation with a study of ourselves as creatures.

We were assigned portions to read from four different texts today, which initially sounds quite labor-intensive; in fact, I found the reading easier to absorb than I expected. This was due, in part, to commonalities between the texts. Williams, Migliore, and feminist writer Mary Aquin O’Neill all placed significant emphasis on humanity’s dependence on God and one another as a vital component of being human. They do not see this as an inhibition of our ability to function as free beings, able to make independent choices. On the contrary, recognition and acceptance of both our need for God, and to support and be supported by one another, is shown to be liberating knowledge, which enables us to be able to live fully into our possibilities. “To be human,” Migliore notes, “is to live freely in relationships of mutual respect and love.” (p. 122) He says, in fact, that this, not our physical attributes, is what it means to be created in the image of God: to live in “self-transcending life in relationship with others-- with the ‘wholly other’ we call God, and with all those different ‘others’ who need our help and whose help we also need in order to be what God intends us to be.” (p. 122).

Then, however, the authors take this commonality of interconnected nature, and veer off in quite different directions with it. O’Neill holds it up as direct contradiction to individualistic models of understanding; the “androgynous and unisexual images so prevalent in the culture, as well as the tradition of complimentarity in the Roman Catholic church.” (p. 150) She then holds up for consideration Mary, the mother of Jesus, as part of an anthropological corrective to the problem. I was taken aback by one or two comments seeming to ascribe something of a redemptive nature to Marian devotion; I’m not comfortable taking it that far. However, O’Neill does offer an alternative insight, including Mary in some scriptural understandings that I found very intriguing.

Migliore, on the other hand, moves from the nature of created humanity, to fallen humanity; and a lengthy discussion of the nature of sin-- as both active, self-chosen act and passive, universal condition; as presumption as well as resignation; as “not only titanic, Luciferian rebellion but also the timid, obsequious refusal to dare to be fully human by God’s grace.” (p. 131)

It is this arena into which Rutledge steps, with her sermon on “God-damned Christians.” (Ch. 16) She delves fully into pervasive sin: that which we easily recognize in ourselves and society, as well as that which we prefer to write off as mistake, or error in judgment. She holds up the Cross as a mirror to help us see “the God-forsakenness of sin,” as well as “the victory of God over sin,” (p. 132) and thereby reminds us again why the horror of the crucifixion is also “at the very center of the Christian message.” (p. 133)


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