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The Person in Complete Context

The Whole of Theological Anthropology Distinguished

Section I: The Person in Human Context

 

Chapter 3   The Human Condition from the Beginning

 

Sections

 

Condition Emerging from the Beginning

Distinction between Fact and Reality

Its Ongoing Implications

 

preFace

Ch 1

Ch 2

Ch 3

Ch 4

Ch 5

Ch 6

Ch 7

Printable pdf of entire study

Table of Contents

Scripture Index

Bibliography

 

You will not be reduced.

                                                                                          Genesis 3:4

      

            The human condition prevailing in the human context has been noticeably lacking or absent in theological anthropology discourse. Either too much is assumed about this condition or too little discussion takes place about it. And not enough is said when discussion does focus on the human condition. This is curious because how significantly can we discuss, define, determine, know and understand the person in human context without factoring in the human condition? The consequence for theological anthropology and its ongoing implications reverberate throughout human life, notably converging on the development and survival of the whole person.

            In 2008, the United Nations declared rape as an act of war, no longer accepting the determinism by men on women. That is to say, by this declaration the U.N. essentially ceased being complicit to what can be considered acts of natural selection, enacted by selfish genes. Such acts are demonstrated, for example, in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa, where HIV infected men purposefully rape virgin girls (even as young as 3) with the false notion that they will be cured for survival.[1] Many would call this global condition a moral issue. There is certainly some truth in this but the underlying and prevailing issue involves how the human person is defined (as in reduced terms from outer in), and on this basis determining how they are related to and treated (such as fragmentary objects)—the issue of the human condition.

            The prevailing human condition from the beginning has been the hardest on the female person but is the most consequential on the male person. In spite of the constraints of the human condition, all females of any age also need to reject their position as objects determined by males and raise their voice in a vital expression as subjects in human agency; their survival not as females but as persons depends on it. Compared to females, all males are faced with the more vulnerable shift to the qualitative inner-out subject engaging in reciprocal relationship together—not a simple shift under the dominating influence of the human condition. Yet, like females, their emergence, development and survival as whole persons also depend on it.

            Theological anthropology has the pivotal position and provides the vital function for this outcome for all persons, without human distinctions. The full truth in the above condition involves theological anthropology and the ontology and function it distinguishes for the whole person. This is the only person who can emerge and develop to address, confront and make whole the human condition, not merely a moral condition.

 

Condition Emerging from the Beginning


            If selfish genes have dominated human development from the beginning, there is no other composition to the human narrative. I contend, however, this does not compose the human condition, nor can natural selection account for the whole in human development. Human development and progress in human achievement have to be differentiated, since the former is qualitatively oriented while the latter is quantitatively oriented. Consequently, what each lens pays attention to or ignores is different, with different and even conflicting results. For example, social media has greatly expanded the quantity of human connections and, in the progress, reduced the quality of human communication and relationships, along with the persons so engaged.[2] This modern reduction pervades further by hookup relationships dominating youth-young adult culture in the U.S.

            What unfolds here emerges from redefining the human person in quantitative terms from outer in (mainly preoccupied with the secondary over the primary). This reduces the person to one’s parts (notably in multi-tasking or insignificant connections) and results in fragmenting both the whole person in ontology and function as well as persons’ relationships together. Such results cannot be confused with human development, yet human achievement is often mistaken for it and such so-called progress becomes a pervasive substitute for it. Moreover, if such results occur from natural selection, physical determinism certainly has a dark forecast for human life that perhaps warrants fatalism. At the same time, for theological anthropology to shed light on the human narrative, it must clearly illuminate the human condition from the beginning in order to spotlight who and what distinguishes the whole person—whose whole ontology and function are needed to emerge, develop and survive to expose, confront and make whole the human condition.

            The fragmentation of the whole person from inner out to outer in emerged from the beginning—not in an evolutionary process of simple objects but in a qualitative relational process of complex subjects. In the creation narrative, a critical dynamic took place in the primordial garden that has been oversimplified (e.g. by spiritualizing it) or lacking in understanding (e.g. not understanding its repercussions on the whole person). As introduced earlier (and discussed further in chap. 4), wholeness is the irreducible and nonnegotiable created ontology and function constituted integrally by the qualitative and relational. Anything less and any substitutes for the human person and persons in relationship together are simply reductions of creation; this condition is what unfolds in the primordial garden (Gen 3:1-13).

            This critical dynamic unfolding in the primordial garden underlies (and ongoingly contends for) the reduction of persons to compose the human condition. What we need to understand fully is less about what Satan does and involves more what the persons do. In the female person’s perceptual field (with her brain fully engaged), the fruit she saw evoked feelings of delight, feelings which cannot be reduced to mere sensory matter (as Damasio does, noted in chap. 2). She desired it as a means for gaining knowledge and wisdom in referential terms (a prevailing practice today, Gen 3:6), even though she already had whole knowledge and understanding in relational terms (an overlooked practice today, Gen 1:27-28; 2:25). Whether she thought about the fruit as an alternative means prior to this pivotal moment is unknown, but she appeared clearly satisfied with her created condition in whole ontology and function integrated in whole relationship together (implied in bosh, “without disappointment or dismay” about both persons being “embodied whole from inner out,” 2:25); and thus she also appeared satisfied with the Creator in relational terms. Additionally, along with the Creator’s creative action from inner out being satisfying, the Creator’s communicative action directly (not indirectly or implicitly) in relationship with them was not displeasing (“but God said,” 3:3). This all changed when a sweeping assumption was framed as a fact: “You will not surely be reduced” (3:4, NIV).

            In the reality of relational terms, the feelings evoked by the fruit should also have evoked—as Cacioppo identified in the social brain (noted in chap. 2)—feelings of insecurity, perhaps even pain, about losing whole relationship together with the Creator and with the other person. Why the feelings about the fruit had more influence than the feelings about whole relationship involved the above assumption, and therefore this person’s perceptual-interpretive framework and lens making the following pivotal shift in function:

The shift from inner out to outer in (focused on bodily nakedness), from the qualitative to the quantitative (focused on fruit), from the relational to the referential (of knowledge and wisdom), therefore from what is primary to secondary things (“good for food…a delight to the eyes…desired to make one wise”) that preoccupied human function accordingly.

            This pivotal shift involved a higher level human function, which reveals the absence of supervenience assumed by nonreductive physicalism. Rather, what is unfolding is the encompassing reality of the reductionist dynamic of the human condition. What emerged is ongoingly evidenced in the pervading human effort for self-determination and the prominent human shaping of relationships on self-conscious terms (“clothed” and “hiding”). This shift makes evident when self-consciousness (“naked and fragmented”) emerged to displace person-consciousness (“naked and whole”). What fully accounts for this pivotal shift from wholeness and its resulting fragmentary actions is reductionism (insufficiently defined as disobedience) and its ongoing counter-relational presence and influence: that which counters the whole in creation and conflicts with the whole of the Creator, thereby elevating the quantitative as primary over the qualitative and substituting referential terms for relational terms to renegotiate the primacy of relationship together.

            The shift from wholeness, simply stated, is the shift to anything less and any substitutes. The knowledge and understanding of this pivotal shift cannot be overstated. Nor can it be understated that anything less and any substitutes will be reductions. We make sweeping assumptions that our knowledge and understanding are not reductions when they are framed as facts or sound theories. Anything less and any substitutes have prevailed in the human narrative and have even been presented as whole for human life—all counter to the reality that nothing less and no substitutes constitute the whole. The sum consequence on human being and being human—and who and what can emerge or develop—is the human condition, emerging from the beginning by the seemingly reasonable assumption “we will not be reduced,” especially if our knowledge and understanding have some basis in the probability framework of fact.

 

Distinction between Fact and Reality


            The human context, by the nature of its limited epistemic field, imposes limits that preclude conclusive knowledge and understanding of human life. When the prevailing human condition is factored into the human context—a condition that is inescapable, though commonly ignored or even denied—not only are there limits imposed but also constraints. The dynamic interaction between limits and constraints also unfolded in the primordial garden. When the question was raised “Did God really say that?” (Gen 3:1, NIV), not only was the epistemic field limited to only the human context but the epistemic field was further narrowed down and constrained in interpretation and meaning to a reductionist bias. In other words, the constraints of the human condition are always imposed to fulfill a reductionist purpose, and therefore quite naturally and very conveniently converge with the limits of the human context for this result. This is further demonstrated by the assumption “You will not surely be reduced.” Their convergence makes constraints less distinguishable and limits more reasonable, despite the pervasive existence of this defining interaction between them.

            The constraints, now inseparable from the human context, explicitly or implicitly diminish, minimalize or distort our knowledge and understanding of human life, such that without epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction human life is rendered to epistemological illusions (e.g. “not be reduced”) and ontological simulations (e.g. “covered” and “hidden”). That is, not rendered necessarily to fictions—though many essentially live a lie or believe in lies about themselves—but to various facts of life that in actuality do not adequately or truly represent reality in human life, only the limits and constraints of the human context. Any anthropology is subjected to these same limits and constraints, but whether a discourse is subject to them depends directly on having epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction from a larger epistemic field (discussed further in Sec. II).

            This prompts questions about our knowledge and understanding, their level and their basis in fact or reality. There is no doubt that fact and reality certainly overlap at various points. A fact may reliably observe and represent what exists, but whether it observes the extent of reality and represents its depth involve the further issue of validity. Validity statements on the extent and depth of reality cannot be based on a limited epistemic field that is also narrowed down by the constraints of a biased interpretive framework. A reliable fact does not necessarily mean it has validity for reality, but only reliable on the basis of its limits and constraints. Therefore, fact and reality should not be considered synonymous or confused as the other.

            There is a critical distinction between fact and reality that needs to be maintained:

Facts are from the limited epistemic field of the human context, which are observed and interpreted from a framework and lens influenced by the constraints of the human context—and thereby raising issues of how valid the facts represent what truly exists (what is). Reality is subjected to these limits and constraints, and to some extent is shaped by them but not defined and determined by them as facts are; and reality also can go beyond these limits and constraints, and does so when constituted in an epistemic field beyond the human context. However, facts are unable to go beyond these limits and constraints by the nature of their probability framework that inescapably limits and constrains them to the human context and the reductionist bias of the human condition.

            The parameters of anthropology are defined by the human context. Understandably, anthropology depends on the facts from this narrow and biased epistemic field to compose its discourse. Given the above limits and constraints under which anthropology works, theological anthropology must be clearly distinguished from its counterpart in order for its own discourse to go beyond the limits of the human context and rise above the constraints of the human condition—and thereby compose validity statements. In its primary function, theological anthropology must fully account for the human condition and unmistakably distinguish the reality of the whole person in ontology and function from any reductionism.

            Our knowledge and understanding of reductionism need to advance to the depth level of its counter-relational work. The primary means for this heuristic epistemic process is contingent on ‘the presence of the whole’ for the integral function to expose reductionism and illuminate the whole (to be discussed in Sec. II). Indeed, the reality of reductionism also needs the definitive presence of the whole, since reductionism’s sole purpose for existence is to counter the whole—the whole of creation, the whole person and the whole of God.

            The qualitative relational presence of the whole emerged in the human context from the beginning prior to reductionism’s unfolding, which is why those persons knew what is “good and not good (apart from the whole)” before experiencing reductionism. Ever since, however, there has been an ongoing difficulty, struggle and even confusion distinguishing the reality of the whole and its distinction from reductionism. This reflects in part the genius of reductionism to confuse fact (and related assumptions) and reality and blur their distinction, hereby obscuring the primary focus on what is whole from inner out with a secondary focus on fragmentary parts from outer in.

            This contrary and pivotal dynamic emerged from the beginning and continues its predominant influence today to confound our knowledge and understanding of human persons, including our own. Does this signify being embedded in the human context and the need still to be redeemed from the human condition?

            And as far as theological anthropology goes (or doesn’t go), has reductionism in fact composed its human narrative and its assumed “reality” of human being and being human?

 

Its Ongoing Implications


            Anything less and any substitutes of the whole, particularly the whole ontology and function of the person, can be found along a wide spectrum of expression. We tend to look at human fragmentation and reduction at one end of this spectrum, located in more extreme forms of expression. The genius of reductionism even promotes this perception so that our interpretive lens either does not pay attention to or even tends to essentially deny the wider range of the spectrum, thus making it difficult to locate anything less and any substitutes of the whole.

            What the persons in the primordial garden paid attention to and ignored due to their shift to a perceptual-interpretive framework focused on the outer in are critical to understand. This reduced lens supposedly would have given them greater perception (“your eyes will be opened”) but in reality did the opposite instead—unmistakably fragmenting what was integral for the whole:

  1. What the Creator created, by obscuring the qualitative with the quantitative.
  2. What the Creator communicated in the primacy of relationship, by narrowing the epistemic field with a biased lens to redefine the terms of relationship (in reality, God did say that).

Countering God’s creative and communicative actions was the result of these persons transposing their perception from inner out to outer in and inverting their priorities from the primary to the secondary—common and prevailing practices engaged along a wide spectrum to this day, even by the theological academy and church. The loss of both the qualitative and the primacy of relationship together are distinctly evident throughout contemporary human context, not only prominently amplified by modern social media and hookup culture.

            What we pay attention to and ignore about sin as reductionism are what we pay attention to and ignore about defining the person and engaging in relationships. They overlap inseparably and interact both unmistakably in the human context and undeniably in theological engagement. Therefore, a weak or insufficient view of sin is consequential for reductionism of the person and relationships. Conversely, any reduction of the person and relationships results in not paying attention to, ignoring or simply not understanding reductionism operating in the entire spectrum of human life and in its dynamic process fragmenting God’s whole.

            Thus, at the risk of understating it, it is critical to recognize and understand:

For reductionism, the part(s) is primary over the whole, with any sense of the whole (if considered at all) determined only by parts (even their sum); therefore, reductionism always counters the whole by fragmenting it, operating under the false assumption “you will not be reduced” that legitimates preoccupation with the secondary—which then promotes epistemological illusions and ontological simulations of the whole.

            This contrary dynamic is ongoingly consequential most significantly for the person and relationships, and this immeasurable influence has shaped our theology and practice. The accumulation of knowledge (“desired to make one wise”), for example, emerged from the beginning to define many human identities and status today, which are clearly enhanced and embellished by reductionism’s referential knowledge (as evident in the academy). The redefinition of the person based on the parts of what they possess and can do in referential terms becomes the defining basis by which relationships with other persons so defined are engaged according to these reduced terms—evidencing the inescapable issues for ontology and function. Consequently, it is further critical to recognize and understand:

Basic to reductionism counteracting God’s whole is its ongoing counter-relational work, inverting the primacy of reciprocal relationships together—with the shaping of relationships with others (including God) on one’s own limited terms as its most subtle practice located on the full spectrum of anything less and any substitutes. The relational consequence is converting complex (vulnerable) relationships into simple associations with a minimum of involvement measured according to one’s own self-definition from outer in. One’s own terms are composed at the loss of both the qualitative of the whole person from inner out and the relational of persons together in wholeness in their innermost.

If we do not acknowledge and understand the loss of the qualitative and the primacy of relationship together that emerged from the beginning, we certainly have no significant basis to recognize their loss in our midst, including in our own person and relationships.

            The emergence of reductionism is not a human construction, for example, by selfish genes in natural selection, though such thinking does emerge from reductionism. The initial appearance of reductionism is often insufficient to understand the scope of this contrary dynamic in both its breadth and depth, and thus its ongoing implications. We, therefore, also need to recognize unmistakably and to understand entirely:

Reductionism by its nature routinely imposes a narrowed perceptual-interpretive framework that reduces our lens with the following consequences:

  1. limits the epistemic field to fragment our epistemology,
  2. diminishes the ontology of all persons,
  3. minimalizes any and all relationships.

            Referentialization of our epistemic source—which includes the creation narrative and the Word—is the most significant, and least understood, consequence emerging from the dynamic of reductionism: “Did God really say that?...you will not surely be reduced.” Moreover, this dynamic has unfolded, been long established and continues to extend itself in human contexts, even as the norm for the common notion of ‘the common good’. This addresses us both to the globalization of reductionism and the matter of globalization as a social phenomenon of growing reality.

            If it is not apparent in your daily life, the influence of modernism as a worldview and its primacy of rationalizing in search of knowledge and truth have prevailed in determining the quality of life in most human contexts. We are all ongoingly influenced and shaped by the outcome of the modern enterprise of progress—whether from the physical and natural sciences or from related applied technologies, and even from theology. A most far-reaching result of this human project impacting humanity in its innermost is the globalization of the economy; and, as noted earlier, we are only beginning to grasp the impact of media technology on persons and relationships. Positive or negative, further development of globalization can be expected—and needs to be anticipated by those in the theological context—since, as sociologist Anthony Giddens states, “Modernity is inherently globalizing.”[3] Both how globalization is unfolding and why it has emerged are equally important to recognize and understand. And understanding this age we live in necessarily requires understanding the scope of reductionism.

Along with the economic impact globalization has on peoples of the world, there is a dual phenomenon somewhat paradoxically characterizing globalization. On the one hand, the process is distinctly reductionist, for example, reducing the whole of persons and people to cheap labor, disposable goods or market pawns. On the other hand, globalization is breaking down national boundaries and provincialism to give us a glimpse of the interrelated whole of humanity, albeit in a convoluted sense.

Systems theory (for example, in ecology and family process) has provided further understanding of a whole as a working system of interrelated parts. There is a general tendency to perceive the sum of these parts as determining the whole, without the need for further understanding; yet in a process of synergism the whole functioning together is greater than the sum effects from the function of its individual parts. Inherent to the whole, however, is not merely a quantitative effect greater than the sum of its parts but more importantly a qualitative effect. Systems theory is a quantitative framework the use of which tends not to account for qualitative aspects. Thus its value is limited though nonetheless useful to help us understand the whole.

While philosophical postmodernism insightfully has exposed the reductionism in modernity and perhaps points to a holistic direction, postmodernity is neither instrumental in fully grasping reductionism nor significant in understanding the whole. Since the main voices of postmodernism do not speak of a definitive whole—only the need for it—a part (e.g. a person) cannot truly know the importance of who one is and is a part of, nor understand the primacy of what one is apart from, therefore never really understanding the full significance of how being apart from the whole reduces that part(s) to something qualitatively less (or as God said, “not good”). In other words, we need a definitive whole in order to fully understand reductionism—acknowledging the presence of the whole emerging from the beginning and affirming the whole’s trajectory in the human context. Without the ongoing presence and trajectory of the whole, we have no epistemological, hermeneutical, ontological and relational means to recognize, expose, confront and make whole the fragmentation of persons and relationships together to reduced ontology and function in our midst.

            It is evident today that there is a critical gap in our understanding of the human condition, and perhaps a failure to take the human condition seriously. Directly interrelated, and most likely its determinant, a reduced theological anthropology not only fails to address the depth of the human condition but in reality obscures its depth, reinforces its breadth, or even conforms to this inescapable and unavoidable condition. The repercussions for us, of course, are that we do not account for our own practice of reductionism, and, interrelated, that we do not address our own function in the human condition. Our function manifests in three notable areas, which are three interrelated issues of ongoing major importance for ontology and function (addressed throughout this study):

  1. How we define the person from outer in based more on the quantitative parts of what we do and have, and thereby function in our own person.
  2. On this basis, this is how our person engages in relationships with other persons, whom we define in the same outer-in terms, to reduce the depth level of involvement in relationship together.
  3. These reduced persons in reduced relationships together then become the defining and determining basis for how we practice our beliefs and consequently how relationships together function as the church and in the related academy.

These ongoing issues are the three inescapable issues for our ontology and function needing accountability. The pivotal shift from “embodied whole from inner out and not confused, disappointed in relationship together” to “embodied parts from outer in and reduced to relational distance” has ongoing consequences; and their implications directly challenge our theological anthropology and hold us accountable for its assumptions of ontology and function.

            This shift to reductionism expressed in these inescapable issues for our ontology and function further expresses itself in interaction with three unavoidable issues for all practice that are necessary to account for in all moments:

  1. The presentation of the person: the outer-in parts of our person presented to others that define and determine our primary identity, thereby conveying to others who and what we are—an ongoing presentation of self (e.g. “naked from outer in”).
  2. The integrity and quality of our communication: our communication becomes ambiguous or misleading in the presentation process with others and how this communication compromises the integrity of relationship together (e.g. “the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate,” Gen 3:12).
  3. The depth level of involvement in relationship: the involvement level engaged in this relationship is shaped by our identity presented and its related communication, and thus determined by levels of relational distance, not depth (e.g. “…they covered up,” “I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself,” Gen 3:10).

Regardless of who we are and what our place is in the human context, we all must account ongoingly for the type of person presented, the nature of our communication and the level of involvement engaged in our relationships. These are unavoidable issues that interact with the three inescapable issues, which together influence and shape our lives and need accountability even in the commonest expressions along the full width of the spectrum locating anything less and any substitutes of the whole.

            The qualitative and relational aspects in human life necessary for whole ontology and function are neither sufficiently addressed nor deeply accounted for in theological anthropology discourse—including with the prominence of dualism, the emergence of supervenience and the focus on relationality. In spite of recent focus on the latter, there appears to be a status quo in theology and function above which we rarely rise—perhaps evident of a lack of qualitative sensitivity and relational awareness—and from which likely indicates our need for a critical and pivotal shift from reductionism back to the whole. This prompts a related question for theological anthropology: On what basis is the human condition defined and its resolution determined? The answer is either good news in relational terms or so-so news in referential terms, or perhaps disappointing news because it lacks qualitative and relational significance.

            The surrounding human context (namely culture) commonly establishes the priorities of importance for life and practice. In the current global context, this larger context is having a further effect in reducing the priorities of local contexts by increasingly shifting, embedding and enslaving persons in secondary priorities and away from the primary qualitative and relational priorities. And, as neuroscience would confirm, this development is taking its toll on the minds and bodies of those affected.

            The shift to the primacy of the secondary must further be understood in the underlying quest for certainty and/or the search for identity. This process engages a narrowing of the epistemic field to better grasp, explain and have certainty, for example, about what holds the person and world together in their innermost. Functionally, the process also necessitates reducing the qualitative-relational field of expectations from inner out (too demanding, vulnerable with uncertain results) to outer in for quantitative- referential terms that are easier to measure, perform and quantify the results of, for example, in the search for identity and finding one’s place in human contexts (including church and academy). In other words, the shift to the primacy of the secondary and its preoccupation are not without specific purpose that motivates persons even in the theological task and the practice of faith. Yet whatever certainty and identity result in secondary terms can only be incomplete, ambiguous or shallow.

            The persons in the primordial garden redefined their theological anthropology and reduced their whole persons (from inner out with the qualitative heart in the primacy of relationship) in order to substitute an identity from outer in based on the secondary of what they had and did and thereby reshaped relationships. The consequence was the loss of wholeness in both the qualitative and the relational. In further understanding these critical dynamics, since their action to give priority to the secondary was made apart from the primacy of relationship, by implication the person (self) acted autonomously in the relationship based on one’s own terms. Of further significance then, having assumed an identity apart from the primacy of relationship necessitated being involved in the effort of self-determination. If they had functioned inner out focused on the primary, they would have engaged the above situation by the primacy of relationship. This would have avoided the fragmentation of wholeness in relationship created by their self-autonomy and made unnecessary their attempt to construct an identity in the human context by self-determination, efforts which necessarily involve their shaping of relationships. Their loss of whole relationship together was evidenced in the relational consequence: “the eyes of both were refocused to outer in and they knew that they were naked and they covered their person…. ‘I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself’” (Gen 3:7,10). These dynamics were extended further with the overlap of self-determination into the need for self-justification: “The woman whom you gave to be with me in the primacy of relationship, she gave me fruit…I ate” (3:12). For the person to be defined from outer in and determined by what they have and do, always necessitates a comparative process with human distinctions of ‘better’ or ‘less’, which then inevitably will involve efforts of self-determination. This self-definition forms the basis for self-conscious engagement in relationships, which make evident the inescapable issues for ontology and function discussed above.

            All these dynamics converge to define the human condition and its engagement in the sin of reductionism. We need to broaden and deepen our understanding of sin to fully account for the human condition in our midst, notably efforts of self-determination and the human shaping of relationships. If we think that the human condition is about sin but understand sin only in terms of conventional moral-ethical failure (e.g. disobedience in the garden), then we do not account for the loss of the qualitative and the relational in everyday human life (even in the church and academy) that God clearly distinguished in created ontology and function of human persons—that qualitative image and relational likeness distinguishing the whole of God (discussed in chap. 4). The relational consequence “to be apart” unfolding from the primordial garden is the human condition of the loss of the primacy of whole relationship together and its prevailing relational distance, separation, brokenness, and thus loneliness—which even threatens the integrity of the human brain (per Cacioppo) as further evidence that this condition “is not good, pleasant, beautiful, delightful, precious, correct, righteous for persons to be apart from whole relationship together.” How we tend to do relationship and what prevails in our relationships today are reductions of the primacy God created for whole relationships in his likeness; and the human shaping of relationships composes the human relational condition, which then is reflected, reinforced or sustained by any and all human shaping.

            Furthermore, the whole person from inner out signified by the qualitative function of the heart needs renewed focus for understanding the human condition and needs to be restored in our theology and function—yet, merely discussing spirituality is inadequate. We cannot avoid addressing the human heart (our own to start) and the feelings associated with it because the whole of human identity is rooted in it—along with the consciousness of self noted by Damasio—and the depths of the human condition is tied to it. If neuroscience can talk about feelings as integral to the human function, why doesn’t the theological academy discuss feelings as at the core of the human person? A major part of the answer relates to our theological anthropology having redefined the person without the primacy of the qualitative and relational; but interrelated, the main reason involves the human condition, that is, our intentional, unintentional or inadvertent engagement in the reductionism composing the human condition—notably in the self-determination preoccupied in the secondary (“good for...a delight to…desired to”) and in the shaping of relationships (“unexposed and distant,” cf. Gen 2:25). Consciousness as a person necessarily involves feelings—even for the whole of God (e.g. Gen 6:6; Jn 11:33,35; Eph 4:30)—which Damasio defines as essential for the self but locates feelings only in brain function to integrate mind and body. Theological anthropology, however, can and needs to go deeper to inner out to get to the qualitative function of heart to distinguish the whole person. Yet, as noted in the previous chapter, this is not about dualism, which goes ‘inner’ for an elusive soul but not ‘out’ adequately to embody the whole person without fragmenting into parts (soul and body); and nonreductive physicality has ‘outer’ but not sufficiently ‘in’ to constitute the depth of the whole person in ontology and function. The whole person is pointed to but is either fragmentary or not distinguished.

            The qualitative inner out signified by heart function is more definitive to distinguish the whole person, with its integral function irreplaceable for both the body to be whole and relationships together to be whole (discussed in chap. 4). Therefore, a turn away from the heart in any context or function has an unavoidable consequence of the human condition. The qualitative loss signified in the human condition emerges when we become distant from our heart, constrained or detached from feelings, thereby insensitive or hardened—just as Jesus exposed (Mk 7:6; Jn 5:42) and Paul critiqued (Eph 4:17-19). This increasingly embeds human function in the outer in and reduces human ontology to ontological simulation. This is evidenced in the function of “hypocrites” (hypokrites, Mk 7:6). In referential terms, hypokrites and hypokrisis (hypocrisy, cf. Lk 12:1) are limited to pretension or falsehood, in acts to dissemble or deceive. In relational terms, the dynamic involves the person presented to others that is only from outer in and thus different from the whole person distinguished from inner out. Just as ancient Greek actors put on masks in a play, hypokrites engages in ontological simulation not necessarily with the intent to deceive but from what emerges by the nature of function from outer in. In other words, whatever the person presents to others, it is not whole and consequently cannot be counted on to be who and what the person is, which is not about the outer-in issue of deception but the inner-out issue of righteousness (who, what and how the person truly is). This dynamic engages the pivotal issue involving the ontology of the person and its effect on relationships. The consequence of such function in relational terms is always a qualitative relational consequence that may not be apparent at the quantitative level from outer in. The outer-in simulation masking its qualitative relational consequence is exposed by Jesus notably in the relational act of worship: “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me” (Mk 7:6). Paul also later confronted Peter and exposed his outer-in simulation (hypokrisis) by the role-playing he engaged in focused on secondary matters, which even influenced Barnabas and others to function outer in (Gal 2:11-14). All this magnifies the three unavoidable issues for all practice that must be accounted for ongoingly.

            The qualitative function of the heart is irreplaceable and inseparable from the primacy of whole relationship together. They are the irreducible and nonnegotiable outworking of the creation, for whose wholeness they are integral; therefore, their conjoint function are the keys for being whole that cannot be ignored or diminished. Anything less and any substitutes of the qualitative and the relational are reductions, which only signify the presence, influence and operation of the human condition. Any reductions or loss of the qualitative and relational render the person and persons together in relationship to fragmentary terms of human shaping; and this condition cannot be whole and consequently simply functions in the “not good to be apart” from God’s whole—in spite of any aggregate determination made in referential terms. The reduction to human terms and shaping from outer in—signifying the human person assuming autonomy apart from the primacy of relationship—prevail in human life and pervade even in the church and the academy, notably in legitimated efforts of self-determination and self-justification (functionally, not theologically). The interrelated issues of self-autonomy, self-determination and self-justification are critical to understand in terms of the sin of reductionism if we are to pay attention to the human condition in our midst.

            The breadth and depth of reductionism by its nature is anything less and any substitutes of the whole. This irrefutably composes a wide spectrum of shapes and expressions, even among Jesus’ disciples and within gatherings of church (discussed below). All of these shapes and expressions of human ontology and function constitute the human condition, which prevail in the human context with the following consequence:

To define human being and determine being human, to construct human identity and shape human relationships, under the limits and constraints of the quantitative over the qualitative, the referential over the relational—all preoccupied with the secondary over the primary, even embedded in secondary information/details about the primary, under the long-standing assumption: “You will not surely be reduced.”

            In reality, from the beginning to the present, theological discourse must be lived, and lived whole-ly, or be subject to the limits and constraints of the human context. Anything less and any substitutes in both our theological anthropology and its human ontology and function either ignore or reinforce the human condition in its depth, and therefore either sustains or even conforms to its breadth. This state of our theological anthropology and its ontology and function of the person in the human context counters the whole person constituted in God’s context.

            What assumptions do we make that “we have not been reduced”? And on what basis can we claim that “our eyes have been opened”?


 

[1] These systematic rapes are documented in a video by Michealene Cristini Risley, “Tapestries of Hope,” 2009.

[2] The effects of technology on the quality of human life are discussed by Sherry Turkle in Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011).

[3] Anthony Giddens, The Consequence of Modernity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 63.

 

           

 

 

 

 

©2014 T. Dave Matsuo

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