Sunday, September 6, 2009

Anthropology

Lesson 3: Anthropology

In order to understand how any comprehensive worldview fits together and operates in the real world, you must have some notion of what being "human" entails. If the Christian view of the world is to be believed, it must serve to explain human nature and how that nature works in the world as it really is.

To follow on the implications of the "cosmic cube," our understanding of human nature must make sense of both the physical and non-physical aspects of reality. On the Christian view, man is not just a lump of "stuff" controlled by a deterministic computer made of meat (the physical brain). There is more to him than that. Philosopher Dallas Willard (in his book, Renovation of the Heart) defines "human life" as consisting of the following:
  • Thought (images, concepts, judgments, inferences)
  • Feeling (sensation, emotion)
  • Choice (will, decision, character)
  • Body (action, interaction with the physical world)
  • Social Context (personal and structural relations to others)
  • Soul (serves to integrate all of the above)
Even if we couldn't categorize these as a philosopher does, we instantly recognize the reality of each of these in our own lives. Notice that the body -- the only aspect of man that the "cosmic cube" can account for -- is a very small part of what makes us human. In fact, when considering the meaning and purpose of life, the body is the least significant aspect of them all.

Though Willard goes into great detail about each of these facets of humanity, a way to think of these in Biblical terms is:

Body:
The physical part of us that expresses our real inner nature within the world

Soul: The non-physical aspect of our human nature. It consists of the heart ("decision central," the connection between mind and body), and mind (where our thoughts and feelings originate). This is what animates us and contains our character.

Spirit: Though the Bible seems to use the terms soul and spirit interchangeably at times, the spirit is what sets us apart from the rest of nature. This is the part of our non-physical make-up that gives us the ability to contemplate, seek and relate to our Creator.

Dr. Tackett points out that man was created innocent and in the image of God (imago dei), made the free-will decision to rebel against God and was therefore relegated to a fallen state from which only Christ can offer redemption that leads to eternal life.

The world's view is quite different. On that view man emerged and evolved from the cosmic 'stuff,' exhibits a basically good nature, and his highest aspiration is to attain fulfillment through self-actualization.

So which of these views makes the most sense of the world as we find it?
  • If man is only the product of the physical stuff in the box, how did he come to display things like consciousness that are not physical?

  • If man is basically good, how do we explain all the evil we see perpetrated in the world?

  • If self-actualization is the ultimate goal, why have so few found comfort, peace and fulfillment in its worldly promises?

2 comments:

  1. Question: You got me to thinking about this statement found in Genesis "Let us make man in Our image." In what way are we made in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit's image?

    While I acknowledge that it is a true statement because I believe the bible is true, I can't wrap my head around the concept of being in God's image. I don't believe physically, because God became man. It can't be in our nature, because by nature we are selfish, prideful, dishonest, manipulative, lacking integrity, easy to anger, vengeful. So, in what way(s) are we made in "their" image?


    We talked about this in our breakout group discussion and all agree that this is a difficult concept to understand. What we do know is that all humans share the imago deo in common. We all have a sense of moral awareness (conscience), creativity, hunger for knowledge, and an appreciation of and respect for beauty and truth. Even the most ardent atheist has these traits -- though they may not acknowledge their origin.

    We also know that other creatures seem to have some form of a "soul" -- a non-physical aspect to their being. We recognize this even in animals who display some level of mind, will and emotion. In fact, the Hebrew term used to describe the higher order animals as they were created in Genesis 1 (beginning of creation day 6) as nephesh which can be translated as the soulish animals.

    So, the imago dei and the spirit that God has placed in man seem to refer to the same thing -- the non-physical aspect of our being that allows us to relate to, contemplate and seek relationship with our Creator, God. This is how I would explain the imago dei.

    Hope it helps ...
    Bob

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  2. Question: As he was discussing the “implications” of being an imago deo vs. imago goo with clearly the former being far more attractive than the later, I was puzzled by why the series did not begin with establishing the reality of God (perhaps a cosmological or ontological, or whatever argument) and then proceed onto the topics.

    As I’m processing what Tacket is saying, I’m trying to translate what he presents to how I would present it and how it might be received by my skeptical colleagues. What they might say is “Yes, Christianity offers a better explanation for evil in the world or the nature of man and the implications are more attractive, but these are conjectures and wishful thinking.” As William Provine might respond, “Just because you don’t like the thought of having evolved from goo doesn’t change the fact that you have.”

    So, I was wondering why Tacket didn’t begin with a discussion of science, which is the battle ground most skeptics wish to fight on (although skeptics often confuse or confound science and philosophy without knowing it), and then proceed from there with philosophy and ethics, then anthropology, and so forth.


    Response: First, remember that the Truth Project is not directed toward skeptics. It is directed to believing Christians. The purpose is to put the oxygen mask on the church first because the church needs to be awakened to the cultural influences it has unknowingly accepted.

    That said, I suspect he picked the order he did because our culture and the naturalistic paradigm we are fighting has as one of its premises that there is no such thing as truth in an objective sense. So, if you are addressing an audience of skeptics (or believers who have been listening to the skeptics), they have no reason to trust the truth claims of any scientific, philosophical, or ethical system if they don't even believe you can know the truth in the first place.

    Once the reality of objective truth is established, Tackett goes on to critique the philosophical and ethical views that descend from that objective reality. Without those set in place, science has no foundation from which it can evaluate evidence.

    The science is secondary to the philosophy.

    As you said, many of the so-called scientific arguments are not scientific at all -- they are philosophical claims -- so we have to anchor the philosophy first, then evaluate the science from that point of view.

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