Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Human Condition: A Theological Recollection from the Christian Tradition

Saint Paul, who was a highly seasoned scholar in the Hebraic tradition, seriously acquainted with the Hellenistic culture, and utterly committed to the vision of the kingdom of God, wrote the following to the ancient church of Philippi: "And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."
Just blindly submitting to the dominate culture with little to no questioning of what it might mean in terms of one's true human self or journey to wholeness, is foolishness. As a gentle cynic steeped in the Christian tradition, I reflect on a full-bodied expression of sin and the fully human Jesus. This entails taking into account the reality of sin (metaphor: missing the mark).
A full-bodied expression of sin, according to James McClendon (Doctrine*), calls for dimensions of divine proportions. Sin is measured against the “full faithfulness” of Jesus Christ. Our humanness falls short of “true humanity” as measured against “authentic, undiminished humanity,” embodied in Jesus, who is “the truly human one.” And if Jesus is the archetype of a fully human person, our selfhood, as afar as it is sinful, falls short of true humanity. Borrowing from McClendon’s clever image, we are “Swiss cheese folk poked with holes from head to heel.” Possessing gaping holes, we are to be filled with human wholeness in every aspect of life through the embodiment of Jesus Christ. Taking the image further into the larger society, sin is a “puzzling vacancy or disorder in a God-created world” that is too complex for the concept like “original sin.”

This vantage point knocks the wind out of confusing sin with being human; for Jesus was human, yet portrayed without sin. Instead, we see ourselves as lacking in the vital wholeness that God through Jesus Christ fills with grace and truth. Thus the prayer of St. Paul, i.e., the answer to it, comes into play. What part does human initiative play alongside the monumental divine initiative to remedy the human condition in the fully human son of God?**

*James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Vol. II (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 124.
**"Son of God" refers back to the original myth of humanity in the person of Adam 

Artwork: White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall, 1938, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago