The Incomplete Human: Homo Faber, Homo Sapien, and Homo Adorans in Search of Homo Spiritualis (Reflection)

Miriam_Anselm-Friedrich-Feuerbach1I am indebted to both the brilliant philosophy of Karl Marx and the exquisite theology of Alexander Schmemann for having a chance to reflect today on understanding our humanity, though I am, admittedly, only crudely reflecting anthropologically, and not necessarily philosophically or theologically.

Broadly, the term homo sapien refers to the modern human species as differentiated from earlier hominid species and, of course, other so-called lesser animal species. Homo sapiens were distinguished because of their ability to think critically and to develop complex language. However, this being accepted cosmologically doesn’t tell us anything ontologically about homo sapiens. It doesn’t add anything to the question, why or what is a human? Homo sapien is woefully incomplete as a descriptor of human beings.

For a deeper understanding, we need only to discover that early homo sapiens were already burying their dead in what is likely an indication of humans as religious beings: homo adorans. Whether this is thought to be primitive behavior because of early homo sapiens limited brain development is not so easily proven. The historical record indicates, most provocatively, that to be human is to be religious, that is, to be in awe of a being of divine origin. However, for most mainstream Christian theologians, stuck in a box of magisterial or dogmatic doctrine, this empirical observation may become ammunition for the continued belief in the reductionistic notion, paraphrased from both the Westminster Creed and the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, that the chief end of humans is to glorify God. Anthropologically speaking, homo adorans is certainly not the chief end nor the primary distinguishing factor of humanity. It is but one, albiet important, factor. Thus, homo adorans is, as well, limited and incomplete in understanding the ontology of humanity.

This is true, furthermore, because long before homo were sapien or even adorans, they were homo faber—hominid beings who worked with tools and creatively produced. Now, other “lesser” animals did work with tools, but, again, the distinguishing factor here is the significant degree in the difference between early homo and their closest relatives in the animal world. The fact of homo faber may be why Marx has used homo faber as the primary (or even sole) basis for examining the material and historical record of homo sapiens (at first cooperative but then through increasing class struggle). Nevertheless, Christians should not be scared off by Marx’s discarding of homo adorans in favor of homo faber. Homo faber is no more empirical (or material) than homo adorans simply due to the length of time that homo has been involved with an activity. Certainly, the later capacity of homo sapiens to discern the reality of divine transcendence could be considered as empirical/historical evidence of the evolution of the species, not simply metaphysics.

It is homo sapien becoming homo adorans, not homo faber becoming homo sapien, that makes us more human. Yet, from a Scriptural point of view, conversely, we ought not disagree too hastily with Marx, because the Scriptures clearly indicate that immediately after humans were “created” they were put to work: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there God put the human, who had been created, to cultivate and keep it.” (Genesis 2:8; 15). Still, homo adorans, though created by a mythologically perfect divine being, is, again, incomplete because “It is not good for humans to be alone” (Gen 2:18). (Being human is “very good,” but it is not good to be separated from the rest of life which is also “good”.)

Thus, it is homo spiritualis that we aspire to, because it is only homo spiritualis whose very existence can be understood to be “inspired” by the breath of the Divine, and it is homo spiritualis who is contemplating ultimate meaning because of her or his inter-connectedness with all of life. It is homo spiritualis that can bring homo faber, homo sapien, and homo adorans to completion. It is homo spiritualis, then, that can mystically and scientifically discern how to live and work in harmony with all of life, politically, economically, and socially. It is homo spiritualis who has the potential to integrate together abstract thought, phenomenon, creative work, and worshipping awe to become truly Human.

© Paul Dordal, 2018

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Faith is the Victory (Reflection)

Cornelia PetreaI don’t “believe” in god! To believe in god is to construct a thing, an object. It is to conceptualize an idea and give it a fixed, rigid shape. To believe in god is imaginary; it is childish magical thinking. The god that most people believe in is the god they created or had created for them by another, therefore not the God that created them. Our creeds and religions force feed us a patriarchal notion of god, which unfortunately cannot deepen a connection to God, but only further abstracts the object/idol of our own making.

So, how can I claim to be a Christian and not believe in god. Surely, I must have some belief. No, I do not nor do I want to “believe” in god in that way.

I am, however, distinguishing faith from belief. Faith is the victory, as the old gospel hymn goes. Faith is the actual experience of God. Faith is the know-ing of God (John 17:3), not the thought or idea of god. Faith is the concretizing of the abstract, the process of real-izing the Spirit of God that is within and without. “The Spirit joins with our spirits to assure us of our participation with God” (Romans 8:16).

So, faith does come by “hearing” the Word, even the Christ (John 6:68). It is not a word or words, but the Word or Logos. Faith comes by “hearing” the unconstructed Spirit of God—the real God which is beyond the grasp of language and thought.

Faith is the participation of Christ and our openness to Christ’s active participation in our lives.

Faith is the penetrating energy of Love.

Faith inspires compassionate action on behalf of God’s creation.

It is the God of faith that ought to be obeyed and followed: The God of the Kin-dom.

 

© Paul Dordal, 2018

Zoe, Agape, Kairos: A Material Spirituality (Reflection)

dance editThe material world is, and the spiritual world is. As we live in the here and now of the material, temporal realm, we, nevertheless, integrate our spiritual, eternal lives in the here and now as well. Spiritual people do not separate the natural from the supernatural; they never negate the physical to validate the metaphysical.

Yet, the body is barren without the breath of the spirit (pneuma), as the spirit is formless without the body (soma). Beauty cannot exist without both as the body is lifeless without the soul, and the soul cannot be beheld without the body.

The relational perichoretic of the Trinity brings this notion to the really real—the supranatural. The Father is the creator of biological life (bios) and gives second-birth by the spiritual life (zoe). The incarnated Child takes physical love (eros) and elevates it through the self-sacrificial Cross (agape). The Mother Spirit labors to effect the movement of evolution (chronos) and moves to effect needed revolutions at just the right time (kairos).

Thus, matter/intellect and spirit/emotion are always working together, as positive theses and anti-theses, to generate new syntheses that create the possibility of an eschatologically free, equal, just and beautiful world: The City (polis) of God.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

Nothing Else Matters (Reflection)

Nothing20Else20MattersFaith (God)
At the foundation of our lives is our faith, whether we are aware of it or not. Now, faith is not just a simple belief in something or someone; faith is where we place our hope, trust, our dependence. As small children, our faith was in our parents, who provide everything for us. As we got older, and more independent, we begin to adjust our faith dependency to other people or even things: teachers, friends, religions, political systems/figures, intellect, science, money, self-image, etcetera.  But, if we are honest, we soon come to realize that our parents or other people or things or systems or intellect are not 100% worthy of our trust. These people, things, etc., are very fallible and sometimes (or oftentimes) harmful or unhealthy.

However, if we were fortunate to have been brought up in a healthy, nurturing family system that emphasized a truly loving, gracious God as foundational or we later discovered a truly loving, gracious God (without being constrained to a strict dogmatic religious construct) our faith may be said to be based on the eternal spiritual foundation of love. This is what St. John discovered when he said, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Thus, what matters, first and foremost, is expressing our faith in love as the meaning and purpose of our lives: “When we are in Christ, being religious or not doesn’t mean anything. What matters most is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:6).

Family (Jesus)
Moving forward from this eternally existent foundation of faith as the crux of what matters in life, we practice faith expressing itself in love in our present lives to our fellow beings. We live and love out of the “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) This is filial love, the love of other not as other but as an extension of our very own humanity—our family. The Christ that is in me is the Christ that is in you. We are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our view of the world then becomes this: there are no borders, or nations, or religions, or politics, or any constructs that can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus. We are all interconnected by a Divine Reality. When we move beyond the dualistic belief that there is a material reality separate from the spiritual reality, and instead move towards an integrated spiritual/material reality, the barriers that separate us are broken down. As I said in my last post, the dividing veil has been torn in two. We were blind, but now we see through the veil (or the pall), and the indwelling Christ compels us to love the world.

Future (Holy Spirit)
Therefore, we recognize that to live in the here and now as faith expressing itself in love means that we are being called to co-create another world—a just world—a Society or Commonweal of Love—the eternal City of God. The divided world we are now living in needs reconciliation (re-integration), and the movement towards our preferable future is no less than a social revolution. Prior to being able to co-create this world means, of course, destroying the idolatrous world of harmful dualistic beliefs, systems, and structures which are not life-giving, but life-destroying. Our call, especially as those who name the Name of Christ, is to become revolutionaries who struggle, yes even with those who do not name the Name of Christ, but who understand the struggle and need to co-create God’s Commonweal of Love.

So, nothing else matters except our eternal God-given faith in Christ expressing itself in love to our family (the whole world) and participating with the Spirit in the co-creation of the eternal City of God.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

For or Against? Being Good News to the World (Reflection)

ForOrAgainstJesus came bringing the Good News (the Gospel) of salvation to the world, and charged his followers to do the same (Mk 1:14; 16:15). Yet, there has been much talk recently about the presentation of Christianity as unattractive, especially in America – as often not being Good News, but bad news of condemnation of people who are not Christians.

Christians are frequently, but unfortunately, known, by unbelievers and some believers alike, for the bad they are against rather than the good they are for.  There is a hypocrisy here that is without question, as the focus of some Christians is to create “scapegoats” of the “bad people” in the society, while these same Christians view themselves as the “good people.”

My wife, Martha, reminded me of how often, growing up, she heard Romans 1:18-32 used in the pulpit to condemn homosexuality (vv 26-28), while completely ignoring the sins committed by just about everyone in the congregation (vv 29-31). Hence, Christian traditionalists are routinely judged for their unbalanced stance against:  homosexual marriage, divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex, alcohol consumption, evolution, and the list can go on and on.

It seems to me that too often the political, religious, and/or social conversations which take place in the United States start from a polemic of for or against.  This makes the conversation over contentious issues often more a diatribe, rather than a dialogue that will help promote spiritual growth and mutuality. Interestingly, for those who are accused of being against something, those same people can usually make an anti-statement read like a pro-statement.  For instance, most theologically conservative Christians are anti-abortion, but refer to themselves as pro-life. Thus, perspective comes into play when making the statement that someone may be more negative than positive. But let’s not be naïve here and simply use semantics to make ourselves out to be the good guys and the other the bad guys.

Fortunately, there are many Christians who would like the (religious, social, and political) public square conversations to become more positive and dialogical.  What would it be like for Christians to be known more for what they are truly for rather than against (and I am not talking attitudinally, like being more loving or compassionate)?   I believe if Christians would shift the emphasis of the conversation from the overly sensual moral issues of our day to the more justice oriented teachings of Jesus, we would find more allies and have a greater opportunity to witness for the life-changing Gospel of Christ.

Jesus said, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Lk 9:50, NET).  We have more allies for the faith than we sometimes think.  Conversely, if we believe that the world is against us, then we will assume a posture of being on the defensive, condemning the “bad people,” rather than being proactive by finding what Christians have in common with others of different or no faith.

I believe there are three Gospel imperatives which Jesus clearly taught which can be areas where more traditional Christians could find excellent ground for collaboration with progressive Christians and non-Christians (and atheists), and which will foster God’s Kingdom advance in the world.  Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are unaware of or simply disregard Jesus’ clear teachings in these areas, so it is important to note that this blog post is written not to the world, but to the Christian who is either ignorant of or ignoring important Biblical truths proclaimed by Christ.

First, and foremost, Christians should be known for peace.  I find it almost impossible to understand how Christians have historically twisted the clear non-violence teachings of Christ in order to support wars and oppression of all kinds.  Jesus said, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt 5:39, NET). Christians are clearly called to be pro-peace (Mt 5:9), which would also be understood as firmly against the use of violence (anti-war).   We ought to always stand for peace and against war in all situations.  We should be for the development of the capacities of people and vehemently against the arms trade which brings so much death.  Since many Christians erroneously see patriotism as a biblical imperative, Christians have, sadly, not been united in this area.  It is high time for Christian leaders, especially Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic ones, to clearly join the chorus of the peace-promoting Christian groups (Mennonites, Quakers, many Mainline Protestants, Red-Letter Christians, and others).

Second, American Christians ought to be known for justice.  This would mean that Christians would be against practices like the death penalty, the use of torture, the slave trade, institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and anything that diminishes the inherent dignity of humans (with as much fervor as they are opposed to abortion). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6,NET).   Christians who are justice seekers are not happy or satisfied because of what they get, but what they give to others.  Justice oriented Christians see Jesus in the poor, the marginalized (people of color, women, homosexuals, etc.), and those are very different from them.  This leads to third imperative in our day: the love of the immigrant.

American Christians have a clear scriptural duty to be for the alien.  Ironically, most American citizens who are Christians are either immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants.  Have we forgotten what God said to the Israelites, “So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Dt 19:19, NET)?  Borders are meant to divide and nation-states were constructed to separate, but Christ wants to bring all people into global citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29, NET). Our being for the alien is not just an advocacy, but a love of those different from us.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the [oppressors] do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the [unbelievers] do the same, don’t they?” (Mt 5:46-47, NET).

Clearly, we have Gospel mandates that are just (and maybe more) important than some of the social issues that many conservative Christians overemphasize.  Can we seek a balance between the either/or and for/against polemics for which we are often responsible?  Jesus boiled down our mission to love of God and neighbor.  And just who is my neighbor: those who I might think are my enemies; people who are differently situated than me; and; people from other lands who would like to dwell in community with me.

© Paul Dordal, 2015