Wednesday, June 28, 2006

St. Irenaeus: "Tripartite Anthropology"

Irenaeus (ca. 130-202) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church; the latter considers him a Father of the Church. He was a disciple of Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of John the Evangelist. His feast day is 28 June.


Defense Against Gnosticism:


Nature of Gnosticism:

“Gnosticism began with the same basic, pre-philosophical intuition that guided the development of Greek philosophy -- that there is a dichotomy between the realm of true, unchanging Being, and ever-changing Becoming. However, unlike the Greeks, who strived to find the connection between and overall unity of these two 'realms,' the Gnostics amplified the differences, and developed a mytho-logical doctrine of humankind's origin in the realm of Being, and eventual fall into the realm of darkness or matter, i.e., Becoming. This general Gnostic myth came to exercise an influence on emerging Christianity, as well as upon Platonic philosophy, and even, in the East, developed into a world religion (Manichaeism) that spread across the known world, surviving until the late Middle Ages. …. It should be noted, however, that the early Church Fathers, like Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Origen, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, and even 'pagan' philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry, who have preserved for us accounts and occasionally some original documents of philosophers and theologians whom they term `Gnostic,' were also contemporaries or near contemporaries of many of the figures and schools that they criticize and interpret. The insights of these writers, then, who were living and working side by side, and almost always in conflict with, members of the Gnostic sects, should be given priority over any modern attempts to revise our understanding of what Gnosticism is.”[1]
Man: Enfleshed "I"

One of the principal survivors of Gnosticism and dominating the thought of the present day is Cartesianism with the dualism of thought and matter. The only experience we are permitted to acknowledge – and with it, “reality” - is the perception of the external senses, "truth" being dumbed down to the measurements of that sensible experience. The second tier of experience, that is disclosed by Wojtyla in describing the acting person – an ontological “I” with the consciousness of freedom, responsibility, joy, peace, guilt, etc. – still escapes the intellectual landscape as "real." Benedict XVI has railed hard and long on the dictatorship and totalitarian character of positivism and consequent subjectivism that leaves us vulnerable and progressively damaged in our being as persons. Notice that the key to the solution is so close to the error and the disease. The key is to recognize the “I” as being, and therefore the ontological criterion and grounding of absoluteness in moral activity. The key is the recovery of the “I” as being through the recognition of the experience of self-determination in conformity with the truth-of-being made in the image of the divine Persons. The “truth of freedom” as absolute criterion is the gift of self. This is not subjectivism but its opposite, objectivity undistorted by any mediation. But, neither is it “nature.” As we are being told in “Deus Caritas Est,” the Being of God is Love, Agape, that is not sentiment of faculty but ontological orientation of Being. "Love" (Agape) is Person-Being that is Relation as pure self-gift. We are made in the image and likeness of that, and become who we are only by achieving that relationality. This is the meaning of Jesus Christ, and it is the meaning of the human person.


Tripartite Anthropology:

The goal here is to introduce the opinion of Cardinal Henri de Lubac that Irenaeus is suggesting (without developing it) an anthropology that cannot be construed as “pure nature.” As Christianity transformed the God of Greek philosophy into the Relational Being ("I AM") of the Creator and Logos, so also it understood man as image of that Relationality and never "from below" as mere “individual substance of a rational nature,” or “rational animal.” Hence, the meaning of person in Christianity explodes the body-soul dualism of the individual substance of Greek thought which "must be criticized as entirely insufficient" (J. Ratzinger, "Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology," Communio 17 [Fall 1990] 448).

St. Paul: “May the God of peace make you perfect and holy, and may your entire being, spirit, soul and body, be kept safe and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5, 23).

Commentary of Irenaeus: “Through the hands of the Father, which is to say, by the Son and the Spirit, it is man, and not a part of man, who becomes the image and the resemblance of God. Now the soul and the spirit can be a part of man, but in no way man: the perfect man is a mixture and union of the soul who has received the Spirit of the Father and who has been mixed with the flesh modeled according to the image of God….

“Under the name of `perfect,’ the Apostle designates those who have received the Spirit of God… He also calls them `spiritual;’ they are spiritual through the participation of the Spirit, but not through a voiding and a suppression of the flesh. In fact, if one dismisses the substance of the flesh, that is of the modeled work, in order to consider only what is properly spirit, such a thing is o longer the spiritual man but the Spirit of the man or the Spirit of God. By contrast, when this Spirit, in mixing with the soul, is united to the modeled work, thanks to this effusion of the Spirit, the spiritual and perfect man is achieved, and it is he himself who has been made in the image and resemblance of God. When, on the contrary, the Spirit is absent in the soul, such a man, remaining in all truth natural and carnal, will be imperfect, possessing indeed the image of God in the modeled work, but not having received the resemblance by means of the Spirit.”
[2]

Commentary of Cardinal Henri de Lubac: “From all the evidence, Irenaeus counts here three elements in man. But is it simply a matter of man or of the perfect man? Or rather, to speak without ambiguity, is it simply a question of the `perfect’ man, which is to say, complete in his nature, or man divinized through the participation of the Spirit of God? Or indeed, does Irenaeus mix the two things? The text that follows will perhaps enlighten us:

“Modeled flesh alone is not the perfect man: it is only the body of man, thus one part of man. Neither is the soul alone man: it is only the soul of man, thus one part of man. Nor is the Spirit man: one gives it the name of Spirit, not that of man. It is the mixture and union of all these things that constitute the perfect man. And this is why the Apostle, in explaining himself, has clearly defined the perfect and spiritual man, beneficiary of salvation, when he says in this First Letter to the Thessalonians: `May the God of peace make you perfect and holy, so that you may be fully complete and so that your whole being – to wit, your Spirit, your soul and your body – may be preserved without reproach for the coming the Lord Jesus.’

“What motive did he have in asking that these three things, to wit, the soul, the body and the Spirit, be preserved whole for the coming of the Lord if he had not known that all three were to be restored and reunited and that there is for them but one and the same salvation? This is why he calls `fully complete’ those who present these three things without reproach to the Lord. Thus those are prefect who, all at once, possess the Spirit of God, remaining always with them, and maintain themselves without reproach with respect to their souls and their bodies, which is to say, preserving faith toward God and keeping justice toward their neighbor” (Adversus Haereses 1, 5, c.6, n.1 [153: 77-81])

De Lubac continues: “The hesitation remains…:” He then partially concludes: “These explanations seem to us akin to those of Father Jean Meyendorff, with respect to man `composed of flesh, soul and Holy Spirit:’ `This view,’ he observes, `which sounds strangely pantheistic if one judges it according to later theological categories, shows in fact a dynamic concept of man that excludes the notion of `pure nature.’ Man is created so as to share the existence of God: This is what distinguishes him from the animal and is expressed in the biblical account of the creation of Adam `in the image of God.’”[3]


The Modern Period:

Overcoming anthropological dualism both in modern Scholasticism as well as in the university philosophy springing from Cartesianism.


De Lubac quotes from the Russian theologian Sergius Bulgakov: “Although it is a creature, a certain eternity of creation, a certain non-creation, are proper to the spirit… Spiritual existence is rooted in the eternity of God, the created spirit itself is similarly eternal and uncreated.” Bulgakov then explains the mystery of the Incarnation from this understanding of anthropology:
“The postulate of the divine Incarnation is a certain original identity between the divine I and the I of man, an identity that does not abrogate their essential distinction… The human hypostatic spirit… draws its divine and uncreated origin from the `breath of God’… Through his spirit, man communicates with the divine substance and he is fit to be `divinized’…. Man is… god-man by predestination, potentially, through his formal structure. At the same time he is flesh… through the `animated’ body, he sums up the entire world… Man is made of an uncreated divine spirit, hypostasized by the I of the creature, and of a soul and of a body created from the psycho-somatic being.”[4]

De Lubac goes to his conclusion:

“This leads us far from the narrow anthropological dualism that triumphed in modern Scholasticism as well as in the university philosophy springing from Cartesianism. `Saint Paul,’ noted R.M. Albares, `had distinguished three orders: the carnal, the intellectual, and the spiritual. The Cartesian dualism had fused together the intellectual and the spiritual, and rationalism had gradually reduced the spirit thus created to being only an intellect without transcendence, without dynamism or immortality, destined only to understand and to organize the world.’ On the other hand, for all sorts of reasons that we do not at all have to seek here, but in particular because of a certain poverty in its common philosophy, Christian thought did not seem able to fill the void thus created in man. It must not, therefore, be surprising that the inevitable reaction was produced n para-Christian forms. `If a scholar,’ Andre Preaux recently wrote, `encounters the old doctrine that man is composed of a body , a soul and a spirit, he has scruples about considering it, for what do `soul’ and ‘spirit’ mean… Unfortunately, in a society where science is the supreme authority, this silence is equivalent to a negation. What dissolves the errors and complexes, what protects against neuroses and fantasies, is precisely that which is silently and discreetly dismissed.’”[5]

[1] Taken from the “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.”
[2] Irenaeus, “Adversus Haereses,” 1, 5, c. 6, no (153:75-77).
[3] Henri de Lubac, “”Tripartite Anthropology,” Theology in History, Ignatius (1996) 130-136.
[4] Sergius Bulgakov, “Du Verbe incarne” (Agnus Dei).
[5] De Lubac, “Tripartite Anthropology” op. cit. 172-174.

1 comment:

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