Full Text for Man: 1971 (Text)

Man: 1971 A NTHKOPOLOGY, THE SCIENCE of man, has become the con temporary concern of mankind. Not metaphysics or the- ology, not even the behavioral sciences, but anthropology, a word about man. The old metaphysics, the not so old critic says, bound man to his world in a macro-microcosmic structure. The old theolo- gj., and for the contemporaq critic most theology seems to fall with- in the categcry, bound man to a non-temporal, non-spatial, other- worldly being who could only rvith the greatest difficulty submit to definition and was constantl~ being subjected to varying kinds of existence proofs by theologians who felt uneaslT without them and philosophers who felt uneasy with them. on$ anthropology, rec- ognizing as it does the unique contribution of existentialist thought to a maturing understanding of human freedom, could set man free and view him as a creature who is totally "open to the worid." Interestingly enough, anthropology has never been per se in- imical to theology. \Volfhart Pannenberg observes that modern an- thropology, rooted and oriented as it is to man's openness to the world, has its historical roots in Biblical thought. And of course he is correct! Christian theolo~ lays the foundation of all genuine anthropology by insisting that man bears the Imago Dei and is freed from a world in which he is but a pawn to become the world's donzirzzrs. As hfax Scheier has pungently stated it, the unique free- dom of man to move bevond his world is his precise capacity to move into openness to and with the world. Biblical anthropology in- sists that man simply is not bound to a cosmic necessity nor a biological-sociohistorica~ acculturated existence. Man finds hs Bestimmu~zg elsewhere-to phrase it in the now pass4 Tillichian theology, in the onomous relationship and understanding. Only Inan, of all the creatures, is truIy open to his world. Man has a world; other creatures belong to the world. Man has not mere- ly been assigned a place, even the choicest or supreme place, in the cosmic order. Man experiences the world, of which he is admittedl! a part, from the remarkable vantage point of self-reflection and other- relatedness. Pannenberg once again helps us understand that man's openness to the world does not lie in the fact that the whole world -in contrast to a few objects-can become human environment; rather openness to his world means that man is always directed to the "open." Hc can always go that very significant step beyond what he has and has experienced. He is open beyond his conceptual grasp of the world at any given moment; in fact, his searching mind never permits him to come to rest with any picture of reality he is capable of contemplating! Furthermore man's openness to his world permits no conling to final tenns with his transformation of nature into anv giwn culture. >Ian finds no ultilllate satisfaction even in his owl; creations and contructs. This is creative richness. And this fact constitutes the new diffcre~ztirr specifics of holno sapiens. Con- temporary anthrol3ology can be neither appreciated nor properly as- esssed apart fro111 thc recognition that basic to the huinan creature is what rlrrlold Gehlen rather appropriately denoininates man's al- most innate sense of indefinite obligation. Somewhat simply and a bit unscientifically put, lnnn is ever striving, never satisfied: Alan, it lllust be insisted, is free from the world and open to the world. It must also be insisted that man is never totally outside what St. Paul caIIs the elemental constitution of the world. b4an can be master of his world. He can change, remake, reorder, and now supposedly destroy his world. But until he attains that dread- ful summit of hullIan capability, he is as the Scriptures state it ver) much in the world. And as long as he is in his world man is depend- ent upon it! Pannenbcrg speaks in this connection of human drives and impulses quite similar to those belonging to the animal. He then posits the concept of infinite dependence which builds the bridge he wants to have extend beyond the finite. And the entity upon which he would have man infinitely dependent is that being upon which our language has bestowed the name, God. Man's ulti- mate Rcsfinzmzing is thus determined by God. Anthropology reaches its zenith in theology. \Vhether Pannenberg is correct at this point is open to debate. Let's rather return to what might not inappropriately be called a Voraussetzung of contemporary anthropology: man is, in his state of openness to the worId, nonetheless conditioned by, restricted to, and therefore in a certain sense limited by the very world over which he exercises his freedom of openness and decision. Now contempo- rary anthropoIogy is not onIy rooted in Biblical thought; that same theological stance emphasizes that the world incIudes not only the divine presence but is itself totally dependent upon him! Rllan is driven by this presence who has determined human Bestimmung, but who in unponderable grace offers man a spiritual destiny totally unattainabIe, and in fact unseekabIe, without his grace. It is, further- more, in his world, in the concrete historical world, not in phantasy, vision and esoteric private consciouslessness or atemporal moment, that God is known to man. The task of theology is to communicate God's presence. He confronts man in Jesus Christ, in his Word. He calls man to trust in his Word. Again, this takes place in man's world, in the con- crete, the historical, the visible. In a sense, theology has always been anthropocentric : it is a word about God's creation, redemption, and salvation of man. It is time that anthropology, whether contempo- rary or not, realize that it is actually theocentric: a word about man's openness to the world in which God continues to come to man in judgment, but above all in compassion, grace a~d restoring for- giveness. In short, what Man: 1971 requires is what Everyman re- quires: openness in freedom to the world which is God's creation and in which he speaks his word of redemption and reconciliation in Christ, which, as Kierkegaard would say, truly determines hu- man existence.