Wesleyan Theology I - Lesson 11
Doctrine of Humanity (Part 2)
The characteristics that give a human personhood belong to another order of explanation than that explored by biology. Sartre, who is an existentialist, says that existence precedes essence. In other words, each person determines their own nature by the choices they make. Others would say that your choices determine your character but that’s separate from your nature. Postmodernism teaches that the self is only a social and linguistic construct. Some scientists have argued that humans do not have a soul, but that cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method. If God is dead, humanity is dead. Human beings are more than the social groups in which they participate. Humans are animals, but not merely animals.
Doctrine of Humanity (Part 2)
I. ROGER SCRUTON ON HUMAN NATURE
II. VARIOUS DEFICIENT ANTHRPOLGOIES
1. No universal truths
2. Reality is unknowable
3. Truth and knowledge are simply constructions of language and social location
4. Value judgments are not objective or universal
5. Postmodernism denies an enduring, unified self
D. Identity politics
E. Consequences of denying the "imago dei"
III. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
For the first 5 centuries after Christ, the theology of the Christian Church was ecumenical. Since then, you have differences in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, and then the Reformation with different Protestant traditions. The Church has a history of promoting and preserving knowledge in all fields of study. Ideological secularization is characterizing theological ideas as irrelevant and not academic. Structural secularization is the process of marginalizing the subject of theology in the academy. Both revelation and reason are both important elements in the discussion of philosophical and theological subjects. God is transcendant, which means that he is distinct from everything that has been made. God is immanent, which means that the Spirit of God can be communicated in time and space through media, but is not the media itself.
God can only be fully know by revelation. However, we can know some things about God by observation and reason. Thomas Aquinas gave 5 reasons that supports the idea of the existence of God. We can perceive motion and there must be something that caused the motion. Nothing can come from nothing, so something must exist at all times, which is God. Humans are contingent beings, but God’s essence is to exist. There are different degrees of goodness and complexity in organisms, so there must be a being of a highest form of good. Design and purpose must be at work because it’s not reasonable that the universe resulted from chance. Dembski also estimates that the mathematical odds for everything happening from a single cell at less than 1 in 10 to the 150th power.
Humans are both material and spiritual and have the capacity to experience transcendence. Without God, you are describing a diminished view of humanity. John Calvin says that wisdom is the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. Revelation of God comes from Scripture (the most important), tradition, reason and experience. Theology should be participatory and result in transformation. …Wesley’s theology describe in two words would be, “holiness” and “grace.” Wesley’s theology is conjunctive. Holy love is a tension. Holiness results in separation and love results in community. Wesley’s view of grace includes both cooperant grace and free grace.
Two sources for knowledge are revelation and reason. Empiricism teaches that you get knowledge from your senses. Rationalism teaches that you get knowledge from the operation of your mind. Kant said that the mind makes a formal contribution to knowledge by organizing it. All knowledge begins with experience but it does not all arise out of experience. Reason can only take us so far. Humans are the only species that worship God.
Scripture is unique, the word of God and inspired by God. Scripture is the source of truth and provides a norm for truth. Wesley gives four arguments for inspiration. They are miracles, prophecy, goodness of the doctrine and the moral character of the penmen. Characteristics of Scripture include the sufficiency, clarity and wholeness of Scripture.
Univocal refers to a one-to-one correspondence between the language we use and the reality of God. Equivocal refers to the idea that human language does not correspond directly to describing God, so it acknowledges ambiguity and more than one interpretation. Analogical refers to language used to describe God using analogy. “Via Negativa” is describing characteristics that God is “not.” “Via Positiva” is describing a characteristic that is true of God, using analogy. Aseity means that God’s essence is to exist. Eternity means that God transcends the limitations of time-space. There is not a space where God is not. Omniscience of God means that God knows all things. Omnipotence of God means that God is all powerful. Once God creates, there is an order in creation, and God works within the framework he created. Immutability means that God’s essence does not change. Leslie Weatherhead describes three aspects of the will of God as the intentional will of God, circumstantial will of God and the ultimate will of God. Wesley describes God’s holiness as purity and simplicity. The wrath of God can be described as God’s unending determined opposition to evil.
Triunity describe God’s nature. The concept of the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and taught explicitly in the New Testament. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all active in creation, baptism of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus. The Trinity is three distinct persons with the same essence. The distinctiveness has to do, not with their nature or essence, but with the relations. Person is different than an individual. According to Wesley, the Trinity is an invitation to participate in the deeper life of God. The gospel is the universal love of God, manifested in the person of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness apart from love can result in legalism. Love apart from holiness can result in sentimentality and wishful thinking.
God created humans in his image so we have both a physical and spiritual nature. Sometimes biologists make statements about evolution that are outside of what can be examined and verified by science. According to young earth creationism, creation took place in 6, 24 hour days and the earth is about 6,000 years old. According to theistic evolution, once the process of evolution began, no special supernatural intervention was required for it to continue. The opposite of a naturalistic explanation for life is not supernatural, but intelligent causes. Intelligent design makes information theory and mathematical probability integral to its overall approach. Irreducible complexity argues against gradualism in the evolutionary process.
God freely created the world and chooses to govern within the framework of the created order. The moral law is consistent with the character of God. God uses the moral law to convict the world of sin, bring us to Christ and keep us alive. Natural law is a body of moral principles that can be discerned by reason. Natural law is the will of God expressed in a created order. Deep conscience refers to the interior witness to the foundational principles of the moral law. Four characteristics of our moral design that are evident at the level of the species are interdependence, complementarity, spontaneous order and subsidiarity.
Adam and Eve were created, not just as physical beings, but also spiritual beings. The image of God includes relationality as well as the capacity for rational thought. Wesley describes it as a natural image, political image and moral image. Wesley says that the natural image of God means that we have physical bodies and also a spiritual nature. Humanity is the conduit for God’s blessing of the rest of creation.
The characteristics that give a human personhood belong to another order of explanation than that explored by biology. Sartre, who is an existentialist, says that existence precedes essence. In other words, each person determines their own nature by the choices they make. Others would say that your choices determine your character but that’s separate from your nature. Postmodernism teaches that the self is only a social and linguistic construct. Some scientists have argued that humans do not have a soul, but that cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method. If God is dead, humanity is dead. Human beings are more than the social groups in which they participate. Humans are animals, but not merely animals.
Lucifer brought sin into the world with his sin of pride. The sin of Adam and Eve was unbelief. Wesley describes unbelief as the perversion of the relationship between God and humanity, a lack of faith in God, resulting in alienation. He distinguishes three types of death as physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. Satan was self-tempted when he sinned. Adam and Eve were tempted by something external to them, Satan. Wesley sees Adam as a representative of all humans, so all humans inherit Adam’s sin nature.
There are orders of creation and preservation, like family and marriage, that can mediate the grace of God. God sustains creation, and also relates to people as persons. The three-fold circle of divine providence is the outer ring of the whole race of humans, the second smaller circle is all that are called believers and those who profess to be believers, the innermost circle only the true disciples of Jesus who worship God in Spirit and in truth. Wesley doesn’t deny that bad things happen to good people, both from other people and from events in nature. If God eliminated all evil, it would require eliminating freedom, which would also eliminate love.
Wesley describes total depravity as "a want of original righteousness," and also in terms of a "natural propensity to sin.” Luther, Calvin and George Croft Cell agree. Eastern Orthodox teaches that Adam and Eve were not so fallen as to be unable to respond to any subsequent proffered grace. Wesley teaches the total depravity of humans and the sovereign act of God in salvation. He uses prevenient grace in two distinct ways. The “narrow” sense refers to all those degrees of grace that come before justifying and sanctifying grace. The “broad” use views all grace as prevenient and emphasizes the prior activity of God because he is always ahead of us and takes the initiative. Prevenient grace can be understood as both cooperant and free grace.
God acts preveniently to give humans revelation by communicating his divine attributes. God places in humans a moral law that is expressive of the image of God. The Holy Spirit restored to all humans a certain measure of free-will. Original sin makes it impossible for people to respond to God on their own without God restoring their personhood, which they need to be able to respond to God’s grace. God doesn’t do it in a way that overruns a person’s personality.
The incarnation is a foundational teaching of the Christian faith. Since Jesus claimed to be God, it’s not an option that he could be just a good person. Paul teaches that Jesus has the same nature as God and that Jesus created all things. Ebionites rejected the divinity and virgin birth of Jesus. Adoptionism taught that Christ was a good man that was penetrated by God’s nature at his baptism and becomes divine, which treats divinity as an acquired attribute. Arias taught that Christ was not coeternal with the Father. He was more than mere man but he was created so he wasn’t equal with God. The first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 affirms the divinity of Christ in response to the teaching of Arias. Wesley affirmed that Jesus existed as one person with both a human and divine nature. To affirm the essential equality of Christ with God the Father, Wesley often used the terms, “the only-begotten Son of God,” and “the Word of God.” The Son of God is the creator and sustainer of all things and the redeemer of humanity. The difference in the Godhead is relations, not nature.
1 John 4:2 describes the incarnation as Jesus coming to earth in the flesh. Jesus is also referred to as the Son of David in the Gospels. Jesus was able to become the mediator between God and humanity because his divinity meant that he was not a part of the problem of sin and his humanity meant that he could fully identify with humans. This is a unique and distinct role that can only be accomplished by Jesus, the God-human. Jesus suffered physically and emotionally and then died and was resurrected to new life. This qualifies him to be priest, a mediator between man and God. The title, Son of Man also emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. Apolliniarism taught that Jesus had a human body and soul, but a divine mind rather than a human mind. Docetism taught that Christ is pure spirit and only seemed to have a body. Gnostics view the body as lowly and the mind is considered higher. Monophysitism taught that the divine and human nature of Jesus was mixed into one nature. Nestorianism teaches that the divine and human natures of Jesus were sharply separated. Wesley viewed Jesus as the expression of the God of holy love, maintaining divinity while becoming human.
As a prophet, Jesus proclaimed the coming kingdom of God. Messiah in Hebrew has the same meaning as Christ in Greek. It means, “the anointed one.” The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of his public ministry. When Satan tempted Jesus, the temptation was real because of the humanity of Jesus. It was necessary for Jesus to experience temptation. Jesus as a preacher, went from place to place, proclaiming the kingdom of God. As a teacher, Jesus taught in the synagogues and the listeners described him as teaching with authority. Christ as a lawgiver is seeking to communicate wisdom to humanity. This moral law is connected to God’s character. Jesus performed miracles to heal the sick, bring people back from the dead and demonstrate his power over nature. Christ as priest, became the mediator to bridge the gap between God and humanity. At the cross, what the holiness of God required, the love of God provided. Theories of the atonement are the best attempts of thinking about how to express the atoning work of Jesus.
Penal substitution asserts that atonement primarily involves Jesus’ taking the sinner’s place (‘substitution’) in bearing the penalty (hence ‘penal’) for his or her sin. That penalty was no less than God’s wrath and the sinner’s death. God’s wrath is his unswerving opposition to evil. The moral influence theory teaches that without the fall, that amazing instance of the love of God to humanity would have never existed. Penal substitution and moral influence theory complement each other. In the governmental view, the death of Christ illustrates the punishment which sin may attract and therefore serves good government by acting as a deterrent. Jesus raised from the dead into an immortal body. Only life can give meaning to human existence. Death destroys all meaning. The first time Christ came as a redeemer. As king, Christ is coming again to rule . Three roles of king are giving laws, restoring people to the image of God and reigning in all believing hearts.
The personhood of the Holy Spirit is revealed by the roles of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples that he would send an advocate. The Holy Spirit is an advocate, teacher, proclaims truth, provides direction and assists in prayer. Four characteristics of the Holy Spirit that indicate his deity are eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. The Filioque controversy is a difference between how the Eastern Orthodox and Western Traditions describe the nature of the Holy Spirit.
At the beginning of creation, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and brings understanding as people read it. The Holy Spirit makes effective the completed work of Christ and gives us the power to live out the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is personal, not an impersonal force. The believers received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after Christ ascended to heaven. The gifts of the Spirit are for the common good of building up the body of Christ. We should be cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and his influence should be evident in how we interact corporately.
John Wesley's beliefs understood from an historical and theological perspective
Dr. Ken Collins
Wesleyan Theology I
Doctrine of Humanity (Part 2)
We've been talking about humanity created in the image and likeness of God. And we've expressed that in a number of ways by referring to the Jewish theologian Martin Buber. Then we took a look at what Emil Bruner, a 20/20 century theologian, had to say on this matter. And then, of course, we talked about John Wesley in terms of the Imago day and relationality and and all of that. And to show you just how important this topic is and that it's with us even today, it's a very lively topic. I want to talk about the work of Roger Scruton, Roger Scruton, who is a philosopher. He's written a wonderful little book on human nature, which was published a short while ago, and I find his work interesting because you're going to see that it's very much in harmony with the kinds of things we've been saying in terms of key theological thinkers. And so Scruton points out that some philosophers, Aquinas notably, but also Locke, and can't argue that it is a person, not a human being. That is the true name of our kind. And what he's meaning by this, he's underscoring the importance of considering a human being as a person and all and all that that entails. Now, Scruton is not denying that we are animals, he writes. We are animals, certainly, but we are also notice this language here. He's a philosopher, but he uses theological language. We are also incarnate persons, incarnate persons with cognitive capacities that are not shared by other animals. And he develops the understanding of self conscious that we have self conscious thought. Now, of course, scrutiny is a philosopher, so he's going to be raising the question. Whence? Or how does personhood arise out of a material substratum, so to speak, out of the body? How do we understand that relation? And so he writes, I would suggest that we understand the person as an emergent entity rooted in the human being, but belonging to another order of explanation then that explored by biology.
Now, that's a that's a very interesting statement that this philosopher makes. And in some sense, it's countercultural. It's countercultural in this way that we often think of a human being simply in terms of their body. We rarely think about a human being in terms of person or to use the language earlier, a vowel. We rarely do that. And so Scruton, as a philosopher, is calling us to that. He's calling that us to that. And so he writes in another place, quote, What we are trying to describe in describing personal relations is revealed only on the surface of personal interaction, the personal eludes biology. It eludes biology. The personal is not in addition to the biological, it emerges from it. Okay. And so what Scruton is arguing here, he's arguing once again for a focus on personal relations, responsibility, accountability, and therefore the avoidance of what we call reductionism. And you're all familiar with reductionism. When we define a human being, we say a human being is nothing, but a human being is nothing but chemical, physical operations or in the 20th century. B.F. Skinner said a human being is nothing but a repertoire of behaviors. That kind of reductionism. I mean, we have experienced that again and again in 20th century, thought in 21st century thought as well. And so Scruton is criticizing that he wants to avoid the reductionism that is so prominent in our culture. Accordingly, he writes, quote, I have argued that while we human beings belong to a kind that kind cannot be characterized merely in biological terms, but rather only in terms that make a sensual reference to the web of interpersonal reactions. Okay, that is so very similar to what we have been saying, both in terms of Wesley's understanding of the Imago Day and also in terms of Emil Bruner as well.
And so what I want you to say is that here is a world class philosopher thinking about anthropology. In other words, what does it mean to be a human being? And he too, is focusing on this issue of interpersonal relations. You know, I vow to use boogers language and showing the danger of the kind of reductionism, how we reduce human beings in the thought forms that are celebrated in our cultures. And so therefore, he's very helpful. He writes even more pointedly take away religion, however, take away philosophy, take away the higher aims of art, and you deprive ordinary people of the ways in which they can represent their apart. Ms. Or another way of saying it, their distinctiveness. And so Scruton talks about, you know, these reductionist understandings of a human being as living down, as living down. I in my own vocabulary, when I, you know, when I encounter these diminished anthropologists, I referred to a dimmed down just sort of like turning down a light, a dimmed down existence, that that's what's going on here, That's what's happening here. And and by way of contrast, you know, even William James in the early 20th century when he wrote the varieties of religious experience, when he considered religion and all that's entailed in religion in terms. Of its ecstasy in terms of its going beyond. He used the language that to live in the religious mode was to live life to the hilt. Yes, to the hilt. And so once again, the world has it backwards. They think that Christians are living a dim down existence, and it's quite the reverse. It's quite the reverse. They're living life to the hilt. They are living life to the hilt because they are participating in something in someone much greater than themselves.
And so again, getting back to Scruton here, he writes, quote, Nowadays we might use the word self instead of soul in order to avoid religious connotations. But this word is only another name for the same metaphysical mystery around which our lives are built. The mystery of the subjective viewpoint. I think that's a wonderful statement. It's a very pregnant statement. It's rich. It's rich with meaning. He, first of all, is pointing out the habit in our culture, especially Western culture. People are objecting to the language of soul, objecting to the language of soul. Although when I look at those objections, none of those objections really carry much weight because the soul is not the kind of thing that could be either proved or disproved by any sort of empirical test. And if you think it has been disproved by some sort of empirical test, you don't understand what a soul is and what we mean and what theologians mean when they use the language of soul. And so Scruton is well aware of this criticism that's gone on in our culture. And some of this is driven by a materialistic philosophy, philosophical materialism. But he's saying, well, you know, if you take exception to use of the word soul, you're going to take exception to the use of the word self, because we actually, through either word, we're referring to the same reality, which we all know, which most of us know in which we participate, in which we live our lives. This is a very human way of existence. We know this. And so I like to say, as I've noted earlier, I like to think of myself as an embodied soul. I certainly am a body, to be sure. And that body brings with it limitations.
But I am not fully expressed by a body that I transcend the body in terms of my own spiritual nature, in terms of the worship of God, in terms of personal relationships with others, to enjoy the third ness of love, to experience the intangible, the invisible, which is most important of all. And that raises for us the kind of paradox, you know, scrutiny and others are raising for us a paradox that which is very amenable to empirical proof. Like, you know, a soda can is not very important. It's not very important at all. But that which is not amenable to the scientific method, such as relations, thou ness, soul, self, personhood, etc. these are the most important things of all. So we're living with that kind of dissonance in our day to day world because we live in cultures that move our our ideational thought in our thinking in one direction. Okay? But we live our lives and experience relations with others in another venue. And that's problematic. And so I appreciate a philosopher like Scruton who is making a case once again for this important terminology. All right. Let's take a look then at some of the other ways of understanding a human being that have played out in the 20th century and some of them into the 21st century. And I want to lift up, first of all, the work and I've read widely in the work of Sort John Paul site. I taught a course one time existentialism and literature. We read his books along with Camillo de Czapski and others. And for Assad, he. Basically denies that there is any such thing as a human nature. Okay. So sorry. It is going to be a contrast to what we have been saying in terms of a theological anthropology.
A theological anthropology is going to affirm that there is a human nature, something to be reckoned with, if you will. So it is going to deny that he denies that there is any such thing as a human nature, and he expresses that teaching with a very pithy statement. Existence precedes essence. Existence precedes essence. And what so it is saying by that is that and I think he's been influenced by Heidegger here. You know, human beings are thrown into the world. They exist before they have a nature. And what nature they will have according to sort is utterly a function of the decisions that they will make over time, that they will carve out their own nature as to who they are by the decisions they make over time. And so sort of central assertion is of human freedom. Human freedom. And he makes a distinction between consciousness, which is the for itself and non consciousness, which is the inner self and conscious beings, by their very nature, can conceive what is not the case. And that's actually a very powerful thing. The fact that those who are in the mode of the fore itself can conceive of what is not. Okay. And if I can conceive of what is not, then I bring before myself a range of possibilities, a range of possibilities of what I might choose or reject. Okay. And so there's this powerful mechanism here, if you will, that ultimately carves out human nature in sort of philosophy. And so the power of negation for sort is the same thing as freedom. I can conceive of what is not, as I consider the maintenance of choices, I make choices and thereby determine carve out what nature I will have. But there is no definite human nature.
What we will be will be a function of the decisions we make in the context of freedom that we have over time, our freedom and hence our responsibility according to sort extend to everything that we think and do now. So it has been criticized, as you might imagine, for how this is going to play out in an anthropological direction. Buddha Chayefsky, we referred to his work earlier, the Roman Catholic scholar. He believes on one level what's happening here in science work is that he is confusing human character and human nature and human nature. No one is denying that our free choices and decisions will to some extent create human character. But human nature is something else. Human nature is something else. It's more basic, it's more primal, it's more foundational then then human character. And so this is the first level of criticism. We grant that in some sense, what character we evidence is, a function is a function of our free choices. However, human nature is a much more fundamental and enduring consideration than character. And I believe this is what Buddha Chayefsky is arguing. And so contrary to saw it, human nature is a given that continues through time and is the canvas, so to speak, upon which various configurations of character can be written. So that's one level of criticism that we have to make a distinction between human nature on the one hand and then human character on the other. I mean, let me pose this question for you in a in a slightly different way so you can see what's at stake. You can see what's at stake. Think of an acorn. Think of an acorn. You have an acorn. You put it in the ground. Okay. What will you get from that acorn? You are going to get you're going to get an oak tree.
Okay. So we, in a sense, can understand the nature, what that is the acorn in terms of what it becomes in terms of its oak tree ness, so to speak. Well, with a human being. With a human being, a human being in community. Now, I do add that, in other words, a human being being raised in the context of community, you will invariably get certain things, certain things, A, B, C, D, in other words, people who participate in a moral realm. People who can appreciate beauty, people who make moral judgments. People who can discern spirit. You will invariably get that. Now, no one doubts that there will be great diversity among human beings in terms of what characters they evidence by the choices they make. But there will be a common human experience, a human experience that can be expressed on a number of levels of commonality. That commonality is what we mean by human nature. Human nature. And it seems, you know, that sort has confused this this issue here in the way he has set it up. I think a second criticism that would pertain to sort and this is one I would level myself, is that it seems in sorts works in his existentialism, in his existentialism in particular, that humanity is a void. It's an emptiness because he's denying a definite human nature. And that understanding itself has been informed by a rampant individualism, a rampant individualism that is pervasive throughout SOTS works. And so when in my conception of a human being, which would be informed by not only Scripture but also by reason, in terms of philosophical arguments, we have to have the context of relationality, of personhood, etc. and that really is absent in science work. We have almost, you know, akin to this enlightenment soul individual, you know, carving out in a heroic fashion his or her nature over time by the free choices that they make.
Well, that itself is an abstracted view because all human beings are best understood in the context of the relations in which they participate and which help to define their being. And so that would be the second level of criticism in terms of the anthropology suggested by my sort. Then there is the anthropology that is offered by postmodernism, by postmodernism, and, you know, postmodernism in some respects a reaction, a response, a criticism of the enlightenment of the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, and arguing that there are no objective truths, there are no universal truths, like the Enlightenment had maintained that there were universal truths that could be discovered by reason. Postmodernism is reacting against that, arguing that there are no meta narratives. In other words, there are no grand narratives. There is no view from above or view from nowhere. There are no objective universal truths. I mean, this is what many postmodern authors have argued, although the postulation and I have to say this, of course, the postulation that there are no meta narratives might itself be a meta narrative, and therefore you are already involving contradictions, self-contradiction. So I did have to say that because this the statement that there are no merit meta narratives, there are no objective universal truths that seems to function as an objective truth, as a universal, and therefore we're already involved in levels of self-contradiction. When I look at a. Then you have thought I am always looking for coherence and consistency that that you don't contradict yourself in in a later part of your thought. On another plank of postmodernism and here I am abstracting from many things that have been read. Reality is unknowable, reality is unknowable. All that we can know is our own social location, our own linguistic world.
And so here is an emphasis on social location. One thinks of Peter Berger's important work the social construction of reality, which in a sense really is a good marker for the rise of postmodernism. Peter Berg is important work the social construction of reality to look at the context, the social context and various contexts in which thought arises. And so when postmodernism is going to look at the Enlightenment, it is going to be critical of someone like a Ican't, for example, in that comment did not realize his own social context and environment out of which his thought was coming, and therefore it wasn't as universal perhaps as he might have imagined. Okay. And so this perspective, that reality is unknowable color colors everything and bespeaks of nothing larger when you get down to it of our own experience or the experience of the groups in which we participate. But if reality is unknowable, is the statement that reality is unknowable, Is that real? Is that to be trusted? So, again, you know, we're already encountering levels of contradiction in postmodern thought. Or thirdly, truth and knowledge are simply constructions of language and social location, that truth and knowledge, they arise out of social contexts. They are the creations of linguistic maneuvers, if you will. They do not point to any objective reality beyond. Okay, so this view would be very contrary to what we were suggesting earlier in terms of natural law, in terms of understanding the human qua human. This would be a much different view. The postmodern affirmation may itself be contradictory, since it denies any objective reality, while at the same time it affirms that its affirmation of a denial of an objective reality is actually true. And then another plank of postmodern thought is that value judgments are not objective or universal.
Therefore, there's no basis for any value judgments. One cannot say, for example, that one culture is better than another, or that one culture is more technologically advanced than another. You'd not be able to say that there are simply different cultures reflective of social and linguistic diversity. No basis. Therefore, if you cannot make moral judgments, then there is no basis for talking about progress. Because if you want to talk about progress, you have to say that Position B is better than position A, And if you cannot even make that kind of moral judgment to say that position B is better than position A, there's no basis for talking about progress. There's no way one could possibly recognize it. Postmodernism, as another major plank here denies an enduring unified self. And so, you know, we in the church, we think of ourselves as being created in the image and likeness of God as having a discrete human nature. Postmodernism argues that the self is actually a linguistic and social construct. It's a constructed entity, and therefore, since it is a constructed entity by language, by our social context, therefore it would be subject to the vagaries of those contacts and therefore would be a very amorphous, very fleeting thing. Simply a reflection of one social setting. And we see this expressed oftentimes in the kind of tribalism that comes out of postmodernism, whereby people are defined simply in terms of the groups in which they participate, whether it be a racial group, whether it be a gender group, a class group, an economic class group, etc., etc., that are social location, are group identifications become determinative and actually configure the self, which is fleeting. It's fleeting because the social context itself is fleeting. Okay, so given what postmodernism is arguing here in terms of a human being, humanity is basically dead.
This is dead humanity. It's an emptiness, it's a void. It's a void. And so in the absence of any basis of affirming and enduring self that goes through time, postmodern anthropologists are limited to the anthropological offerings of science. I mean, that's about as far as it's going to go, other than of the appeal to a particular social location or linguistic group of which one is a part. You know, this is, as you can gather, not a good reflection of what we know ourselves to be. This, too, is a diminishment. This is a diminishment of what a human being actually is. A human being is far greater than is reflected in postmodern thought. Far greater, far, far greater. We can even speak of glory and wonder and a beauty that cannot be recognized in this particular viewpoint, in this particular viewpoint. Another anthropology that's out there, of course, is the anthropology that arises out of science. In other words, we were talking about this before. Some scientists, not all, but some scientists not content with doing science, want to do philosophy. They want to do theology as well. And so they pontificate in areas beyond their method. And so science, you know, some scientists have argued and said there is no soul. That is not a scientific statement. It's not a scientific statement because the soul is not the kind of thing that could either be affirmed or denied by scientific method. It's something beyond science. And in the same way, if science denies the reality of spirit, that's not a scientific statement either. That statement is very much open because spirit or soul or God or angels are not the kinds of things. They're not things in the world. They're not the kinds of things that could either be proved or disproved by any sort of scientific empirical test.
It's just a mistaken use of methodology here. And so if we mistake mistaking its scientific method for a window on everything. And that's that's where I think we often go wrong. Some scientists have denied the reality of the human soul. If you want to understand yourself in terms of being an embodied soul, you're free to do that. No one has disproved the reality of soul. If that's helpful to you, if if it gives organizational power to your own life, to your own self reflections. Go ahead. You are free. You're entitled to do so. No one has disproved the reality of soul and you're not adult or Yahoo! For thinking of yourself in light of being an embodied soul. Now there is the work of Yuval Noah Harari. I've read all his works, the recent ones, the trilogy that's come out of late. They are very interesting on a number of levels. And listen to what Yuval Harari writes. Quote, Over the last century, as scientists opened up the sapiens black box, they discovered they're neither soul nor freewill nor self, but only genes, hormones and neurons that obey the same physical and chemical laws governing the rest of reality. Okay, this is 21st century. But, you know, in a sense, it's not new because this is the same kind of reductionism that we have encountered earlier in the 20th century that basically said human beings are nothing but bodies, they're nothing but chemical, physical operations. And so the same kinds of critiques that we could bring to bear on 20th century diminished views of human beings we can bring to bear in terms of Harari as well. He goes on to write. However, once we accept there is no soul and that humans have no inner essence called the self, it no longer makes sense to ask How does the self choose its desires? It's like asking a bachelor How does your wife choose your clothes? In reality, there is only a stream of consciousness and desires arise and pass away within this stream.
But there is no permanent self that owns that owns the desires. Hence it is meaningless to ask whether I choose my desires deterministically, randomly or freely. End of quote. Wow. Wow. What Harari is saying, he is denying that there is a self. In a similar way that postmodernism has denied there is a self and enduring self. And he argues that there is only this stream of consciousness. See, I'm participating in a stream of consciousness right now. But if if that is the case, then I don't know what I'm going to say next. You know, because there's no self that is organizing and orchestrating my thought, directing it to certain ends. But there is no self and there simply is a stream of consciousness. Who knows what I'll say next? This could be a very dangerous lecture. I mean, if you take some of these statements at face value, they're absurd. They're absurd. Of course, I have a self and I am orchestrating my thought right now. I am intentional. I am deciding what I shall say next. I am deciding how consciousness will be expressed. Okay, I am doing that. Now, I grant you that the self that is doing that is not available to you. It's not available to any of you. And it's not available in any sort of empirical test. It is available to you indirectly in that through my speech and hearing my thoughts, you can discern that I have a self just like you or a self or I am a self, I should say, just as you are. So you don't have direct proof of that, but you have indirect and I think very good indirect proof of that, that I am a self which is a transcendent self, not immediately available to any sort of empirical test.
And it is precisely that transcendent self that is not available. That's orchestrating my thought right now and deciding what I shall say, what I shall not say. It is not simply a stream of consciousness and who knows what I'll say next. We have a huge problem here. I think you can see it by now. We have a huge problem here and the church needs to respond because what it means to be a human being has been gutted. It has been gutted. It has been utterly put aside. And so I'm going to drop back to a 19th century philosopher engaged in some theological reflections, Ludvig for Bach in his work, the essence of Christianity. And in that work, he basically argued that all theology is simply anthropology. In other words, theological language is simply taking very human products and projecting them on to God. And so you take human attributes and qualities and characteristics and then magnify them, perfect them, and then you come up with God. So all in all, theology, in a sense, is anthropology. A word about God is actually a word about humanity. That's what for your boxset nature in the 19th century, in his writings, he, of course, is famous for saying that God is dead. Now I want to make the connection between nature and for your back end and agree on some level. What for you? Bok That I do think the question of God and humanity are connected. I do think they are connected not in the way that for you Bach is expressing it. In other words, what theology really is, is anthropology. Now I think we can do genuine theology, but I do think there is a connection between word of God, word of humanity, and in this sense that.
If you give nature his proclamation that God is dead. Okay, let's give him that. He's going to argue God is dead. That has consequence necessarily so for how we understand a human being. Because if God is dead, humanity is dead. If God is dead, humanity is dead as well. Especially if theologians are going to argue that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. So if God is dead, the image and likeness in which we have been created is dead, is nothing and has been swept aside. And so I think that one of the greatest challenges of our current age and I hope that theologians recognize this, is that a theological anthropology is now necessary more than ever. We need to fill in this void, this vacuum that has been left by Harari and others, to argue and to carefully articulate a basis for the humanism, to argue that there is a human nature and it's actually a precious thing. It is reflected a reflective of nothing less than the image and likeness of God. Well, there's another way that human beings are being understood today, once again in very diminished ways. Dimming down like. Like turning down a light. Turning down a light or, you know, we can change the analogy, analogy and use drugs. It's like the stoop ification of humanity stupefying. Increasingly dimming down, dumbing down so that the human being does not realize the full glory of their own being in which they have been created. What am I thinking of here? I'm thinking of identity politics. I'm thinking of identity politics. Individuals have no worth in and of themselves. Instead, what they value is utterly a function of the groups in which they participate. Groups are evaluated by the preferred ideology that's playing out in identity politics.
In the following In the following way, I suppose I can put this up on the screen. We might as well put this up on the screen and be bold. And so. Here. I'm thinking I'm maybe editing myself. I'm trying to see I'm trying to decide which direction I'm going to go. It's not just the stream of consciousness. I'm trying to decide which way I'm going here. I think I'll put up what I'm going to. Let's put up. Good. And then let's put up. Evil, good and evil. We could use the word bad. And what I'm going to do here, I'm going to flesh out. How groups are being defined in terms of identity politics. Okay. Now what is identity politics? You say? Well, I know enough of political philosophy to realize that in the 20th century there emerged a new left, a new left, which was critical of the old left. And how was the new left critical of the old left? Well, the old left think of Marxists and socialists. They basically read the economic writings of Marx and Engels and considered economics material, the mode of production and a given society, the mode of production. Is it the capitalist mode where the means of production are privately owned, or is it the socialist mode where the government owns the means of production? That's the pivot, that's the key. Are you no relation in Marxist thought? And so it works out very in an economic understanding and an economic materialistic understanding of things. In other words, to achieve the utopia, you need to change the mode of production in a given society from private ownership of the means of production to the government ownership of the means of production. So and a great focus on economics.
What happens with the new left? They realize that the revolution wasn't coming from the working class and they began to see that there are more. There are other issues to be considered beyond economics, that there are issues. What is called cultural Marxism issues in terms of race, gender, or a number of different things, and now even sexual orientation. And so out of the new left, which is critical of the old left, because it simply focused on, you know, economic understandings, the new left was open to considering oppression in terms of race, in terms of gender, in terms of a number of different things not considered by the old left. And that has emerged into a full blown identity politics whereby people are understood principally in terms of the groups in which they participate, that our identity is a function of the racial, gender, economic, sexual orientation, whatever kinds of groups in which we participate. Are you with me? Do you see where I'm going with this? Okay. So, you know, there actually is an Italian philosopher, Gramsci, who actually talked about cultural Marxism, that that describes this kind of shift that I've just. Pointed to. Okay, Here I'm thinking about groups. I'm thinking simply about groups. I'm going to put up good and evil. And this is where identity politics is today. Okay, so here. Good. We would have people of color. That's that's their language. How they would describe it here, we would have whites. Okay. And, you know, they talk about white privilege, white oppression simply by being white. In other words, by simply being a particular race. Okay. Women would be listed here. Women. A good men would be listed over here. We would have a homosexual over here. Homosexual over here.
We would have heterosexual. Okay, heterosexual or we could bringing class here, we'd have lower class. The impoverished, we'd have upper class, I think also middle, upper and middle. Over here we would have atheists and secularists. I'm just going right. Secularists are the. And then here of we would have Christians. Notice I would not put Muslims here Islam because Islam would be seen as a good group in identity politics. And so then here we could put down even views in terms of abortion, pro choice. That's their own language that they use. And then over here, pro-life. Okay, I put this schema up here to be descriptively accurate. You all know what I talk about, what I'm talking about, what I'm referring to when I put this up. This is not new to you. Okay. So because I can imagine some people already there, they'll already be criticizing me because I dared to put this up there. No, I'm being descriptively accurate. I can fill this out again and again with writings who evidence this kind of schema. Okay. What? Excuse me for this. Oh, many, many sources. That. That's my point. That's. That's what I'm saying. That I find this expressed in many different writings. What I find very interesting about identity politics, in other words, that we as persons are principally defined by the groups in which we participate. So, you know, if you're a white male, heterosexual, middle class, evangelical Christian. You know, you are going to be criticized in this culture, in this environment, because you are seeing the way things are set up as the epitome of evil and oppression, that sort of thing. And then control wise, if you are a person of color, female, homosexual, lower class, you are viewed in a very positive way.
You know, and so we have these kinds of judgments. The thing that I find so amazing is that I encounter this in the church. People bring this kind of schema into the church and they slap the name of Jesus on top of it and say that this is the gospel. This is the coming of the kingdom of God. And the way they do that, they call this whole thing all we are aiming at social justice. We are aiming at social justice. But what I would argue in light of identity politics is that if you set things up this way, you have set one group in antagonistic relation to another. You've set one group in an antagonistic relation to another because you have basically said this group is the oppressed and this group is the oppressor, you know the oppressor, and you've made value judgments and you set things up this way. I would offer in light of those kinds of judgments and those judgments are offered again and again. I hear them in the church all the time. All the time. I hear bishops make these kinds of judgments. They bring this schema in to the discussion. They call it the approach to the kingdom of God, because it is the social justice that's going to lead to the kingdom of God. And they never recognize the group antagonisms that are embedded in identity politics, where one group is really set in opposition to another group and it's a zero sum world, that sort of thing. And the key thing that's missing here that's found very clearly in the works of Martin Luther King Jr is reconciliation. This is not set up for reconciliation. It is not. This is set. It set up for increasing one group's power at the expense of another group's power.
It's a zero sum game. It really is. It's not about considering what are the issues of social injustice. And there are many. No one's denying that. No one's denying that for a moment. There are grave issues of social injustice. But we have to think about those issues of social injustice in a way that's going to lead to reconciliation, because at the end of the day, are people of color and whites are going to have to sit down at the table together. And that's exactly the kind of language that Martin Luther King Jr used. He could have argued otherwise. He could have argued social justice as a zero sum game, one group against another. But he did not. He was faced with that choice. He rejected it, and rightfully so, because we have to come together as a community. And that process is going to be painful. It is going to be painful. It's going to be painful for people of color. It's going to be painful for whites. It's going to be painful all around. But but we have to aim at reconciliation. Reconciliation. And so I would argue that anthropology today is in a very bad state, that it has been gutted by a number of key thinkers along the way. And what is filling in the vacuum? Because something always fills in the vacuum. What is filling in the vacuum now is an identity politics that's driven by group identification, that who we are as human beings is being made a function of the groups in which we participate. And many of those groups, by the way, we did not choose. We were simply born into that. We were born into them. There no choice of our own, so to speak. And so I think this is a clarion call, a clarion call for the necessity of good and sound theological anthropology.
In order to bring a word of hope and promise into a very difficult into a very difficult situation. Into a very difficult situation indeed. All right. Let me say a few concluding things here in terms of what would be some of the consequences of denying the Imago day. And I think if we assume a theistic perspective, if we see humanity as coming out of from the hand of God, then we understand a human being as something that is glorious, something that is glorious, that all people, all people are created in the image and likeness of God, regardless of class, regardless of gender, regardless of race, all people and all means all all people are created in the image and likeness of God. This constitutes their identity and nature that no social location could ever obscure. No social location can ever obscure. This could ever wipe it out. Janitors are glorious. Ditch diggers are glorious. Why? Because not because of their social role. That's not their identity. Their identity consists in that they are glorious. They have been created in that precious image and likeness of God. Human beings, therefore, are much more than the social groups into which they are born. Many of these group identifications have to be challenged, especially when they are oppressed as utterly defining our identity. So human beings are much more than the social groups in which they are born and in which they participate. All human beings are animals, to be sure. No one's denying that we are physiological beings, physical beings. But we are not merely animals. We are not merely animals. We are more than that as Reinhold Niebuhr in the nature and destiny of man. So clearly, so clearly argued, and as Bruner argued in his theology of existentialism, postmodernism, science, identity politics have robbed humanity better than any thief could have ever done.
They have robbed humanity in failing to acknowledge human glory and failing to acknowledge the Imago day. Each of these movements represents a diminishment, a diminishment of what it means to be a human being. And so what they have offered and this is my own language, they have offered a dim down existence, a dimmed down existence. We are not merely animals. We are not simply products of chance. We are not meaningless. All these deficient anthropologists need to be challenged today, and the church has the resources in which to do it. We must rediscover and it will be a rediscovery for some. We must rediscovery rediscover the glory of humanity, of the splendor of personhood that we are aptly described by both finitude and transcendence. The Imago day represents what the healing of humanity should look like. Its restoration is the goal of all reform. Okay, let me take some questions or comments that you might have in terms of anything we said. It seems like in thinking about these kinds of situations personally and in our culture, that as we understand more about. From Scripture, who we are and how God has made us and our purpose in God and what it means to live our lives and holy love that if we do that on an individual basis with the people that we interact with, and then that carries out into our sphere of influence with people that maybe we come in contact with just on an occasional basis or something like that in our community and, and even in public forms that as we understand more about who we are in Christ and what it means to be. Created in his image. And we do that as we live our lives, that that's a way to make a difference, because institutionally, it seems like to try to figure out how to solve that on an institutional level immediately would be really difficult.
Do you agree with that? Yeah. I like what you're saying. I was tracking with you quite well until you got to the end there. And you talked about institutions, and then I had to sort of think, Oh, did I really understand what he was saying? So let me express it as I've understood it, because I think you were talking about something important and I'm going to fill it out in my own way. And if it's not quite what you intended, you can come back and correct me. Here's what I hear you saying, that our personal relationships are face to face. Relationships of our daily existence are incredibly important. They're incredibly important. And I agree. I totally agree with that. You know, our relationship to our spouse, our relationship to our brothers and sisters, our relationship to our parents, our relationships to siblings, our relationships to friends are terribly important and that they all have to be treated with the respect and dignity that's in accordance with being created as the kinds of beings that we are. What I heard you saying also, there is a beyond that. And yes, there is a beyond that. And I think the next ring would be a ring of acquaintances. And so, for example, you know, I have friends, I have intimate friends, which would be few in number, but beyond that, I would have acquaintances, you know, people that I know, people who know me, but I don't know them at a very deep level. Okay, We're acquaintances. They, too, have to be treated with dignity and respect. But then even beyond that, when we have acquaintances, there would be the casual encounters we have, let's say, with the post woman or, you know, the T, the cashier, etc., whatever.
They too must be treated with dignity and respect. Now, here's where I'm going to go with this. Are that when I think of your question and I'm saddened when I think about some of this, I think about social media and that whole context that's playing out now, you know, given the kind of technology that we have. And so we have this opportunity to be in contact with literally thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook and that sort of thing, and these people, you know, we will never know them other than as a like or as a comment that they make to us, that sort of thing. And one thing that I have noticed of late, I am I've been very saddened when I look at how Christians are relating to each other in social media. I quite frankly am aghast at how they treat one another in social media. I am so saddened by that that I do not participate in social media and that's intentional. I am on Twitter, but I've never tweeted. I just follow I follow key people. I see what they are thinking. But I've never tweeted. I've never said, okay, I think this about something. I've never done that and I'm not on Facebook. And that's intentional. And the reason I have focused on smaller relationships rather than the grand the large is because I am in grief over how Christians treat one another in social media. It is sinful. I'm going to name it. It is sinful. John Wesley wrote a sermon, The Cure of Evil, speaking what I see playing out on Twitter and what I see playing out on blogs is evil speaking. It's what Wesley would call evil speaking. It is not the love of neighbor.
It is not It is hateful speech. It is destructive speech. It is speech inappropriate between two people who are created and nothing less than the image and likeness of God. And so I like your question. I understood it in this venue that we need to be appropriate when we participate in social media. And we need to, even though we disagree with a person, we need to be respectful of that person in terms of their basic humanity and in terms of the glory of the image in which they're created. Yes. Yes. And I think that one aspect of that that's unique from other contexts we have is anonymity versus personal. Contact. Because when I'm in a public setting and I show common courtesy to someone regardless of their. Regardless of their group that they're in. I don't pay attention to that because I'm showing common courtesy to another person and hopefully that comes across to them and they see me as somebody that is demonstrating common courtesy regardless of my group that I'm in. So that as we have those interactions, rather than focusing on what we're doing or not doing because of what group somebody is in, but just respecting them as a person, just respecting them and honoring them as somebody who is also created in the image of God. And as we live our lives like that in our personal relationships as an example to people, then hopefully that makes a difference. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah. I want to respond to what you said. I want to go a slightly different direction with that and sort of get at some of this stuff in the process. And I'll start out with an example that we're all pretty much familiar with. We know this happens.
We know it goes on. Okay. And so let's take the example of, you know, I talked about a janitor. Okay. Now, if we were utterly to understand that person, him or her, in terms of what they do. Okay. Some people are going to treat that person in a certain way. Okay? Because in their mind, that person is utterly, utterly what they do in terms of their job. That that that explains the whole personhood of who they are. And so then they come in and then they start making value judgments of that person in terms of what they do. I find that terribly problematic. Terribly so. Okay. Because my first understanding when I encounter that person is that they are glorious. Okay. They are. They are. And I can recognize easily the thou in which they have been created. The thou that they are. Okay. Now, I want to take that observation and, you know, you know what I'm talking about. And I want to apply it to identity politics. See what's going on today. People think they know me. They think they know Ken because they know I'm white. I'm a male, heterosexual, etc.. They they think they've got me all sized up. No, you don't. No, you don't. No, you don't. You don't know who I am and who I am as a person. I will only reveal to a very small group of people, to my intimate friends. They will know who I am. They will. And they will have proper judgment in terms of me. But not some stranger on Facebook who's got me all sewn up because I'm in these categories that they don't like. And the gospel is quite contrary to that, because God loves all people. It's the universal love of God, you say.
And so the gospel message is so contrary to where this stuff goes. This stuff ends in division. Division. Strife. War. Anger, hatred. I don't want that. I don't want that for me. I don't want that for you. Because there is a better way. There's a much better way. And we can talk about it in church because we have the resources. We have the tools to do that. To talk about that. So I like your questions. I know where you got this guy. This guy who? This guy has the greatest questions. I don't know where you got him from, but he's really good. I understand that we had to be really careful as it was stereotypes of insisting that if someone is perceived to fit in a specific group, that therefore they as an individual, as a person exhibit, they possess the qualities that are stereotypically true of that group. The other side of that is that stereotypes. Can be generally true. I mean, would is that would that I would not want to treat you a certain way because you fit into a certain stereotypical category. But. Stereotypes can be generally true. I mean, would you would you say because you and you were speaking in real strong terms. But I think it's because how. How I would evaluate you as a person. But we decided yeah, I like the question. Your rephrased it any way you want because you give me the opportunity to say that, you know, I think there are. Social justice issues that need to be addressed. I believe there is racism that needs to be addressed. I believe there is sexism that needs to be addressed. So, you know, if you're understanding me in a way that doesn't recognize that you would be misunderstanding, I'm just suggesting and I'm offering it as a different way because I think this is a dead end.
I do. It's a dead end. Yeah. We're going to realize that maybe in another decade this is a dead end. I think we're going to have to find other ways to deal with very real problems. The problems of racism, sexism, economic inequality, those sorts of issues. Poverty. I'm very concerned about the poor. And so but we're going to have to do it in a different way. And what I'm trying to suggest is that the church has some of the resources to do this work because the church has done this work before. Okay. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. There's a rich body of of good ethical and theological thinking. That's that's a part of the church's tradition that can be brought to bear on the very real problems we have today. So I don't deny that we have problems. I am just picking at what is being offered as the solution that this this is the way to the kingdom. I'm very clear in my own mind I've thought this through. It is not this is not the way to the kingdom. I know that already. Okay. And I would like to offer a different way. And one of the first steps. In that new way is to go back and to bring forward what the church has thought about what it is to be a human being. Because that's that's washed out here. That's washed out here. And it's been informed by diminishing texts and scripts that have preceded it, you know, in the form of Marxism, for example, in the forms of other ideologies and and such. And so, you know, I agree with you. There are some very real problems. I'm just picking at what's being offered as the solution. Yeah.
Thank you. I'm glad you drew me out that way because there is the possibility for misunderstanding. Yeah. I don't see how personhood can be understood separately from the conditions which we encounter merrily by the group that we are born into. We are affected by how you treat me, how it treats me. So I'm not talking about how I treat people now, but as. A woman or as. Yeah, yeah. My daughters, I can tell you they were born in another country brought here. I can tell you they weren't looking for injustices, but I can tell you they're treated differently. Right. So that has defined part of their personhood. Right. So I'm not sure how we can ignore that. It's not simply somebody galvanizing them into action. They seek a group which will address that. And it's not being addressed in the churches here. It's not been acknowledged in many churches. I mean, I came up from the south where I won't say the name of the church, but certain people were banned. So it informed me as a person here. Yeah. So I guess my question is, I'm not sure why we're coming down harder on identity politics than we were on the previous ones. Okay. Yeah, a couple of things in response to. On one level, I, I do not deny that we all are a function. In some sense. I would underscore the phrase in some sense of our social occasion. You know, I, as a male, would have a very difficult time understanding how females view the world and how they view things because of their own situations. I grant you that I you know, again, I think we are informed by our race, our gender, our social location, economic status, our religion, those things.
Yes, they are a part of who we are and they affect how we view things. I grant all of that, all of that. And so if you've taken my words earlier, in a sense that I'm recognizing and not recognizing that I am. What I'm picking at here is the kind of and I use specific terms here, cultural Marxism and cultural Marxism is a definite entity. And it is it works with that key distinction of oppressor and oppressed. See, Marx gives us this distinction, oppressor and oppressed. He thought of it originally in terms of an economic distinction between the proletariat and the and the bourgeoisie. What has happened in in cultural Marxism is that oppressor and oppressed are now understood in terms of race and gender, in other words, not simply economic lines. And so, you know, at the end of your questioning, you're asking, well, why am I focusing on identity politics? Because the damage that it is doing is so great now. It is so great and it is what's happening today in the 21st century. But hear me clearly when I say that I am very cognizant of the importance of our social location and that how it will affect our various worldviews. What I'm criticizing is those who come along and say we are simply all, for the most part, just a function of the groups in which we are participating. And that, I think, leads to very damaging consequences down the road. There are there are several people now, you know, who are pointing out this kind of thing. Roger Scruton is one. I'm another. But, you know, there are many voices now who are picking at this because we know where this goes. This is tribalism. This is tribalism. This is not the universal love of God.
This is not aiming at reconciliation. This is a zero sum game where one group is set against another. I'm not interested in that. That doesn't solve the very real problems that we have in terms of race and gender, etc., etc.. And so I think you need to here in in what I'm saying, then I'm well aware of the perspectival nature of our experience in terms of some of these elements. I think it becomes a problem when it is ideologically driven. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but thank you. Thank you for your question. It's another good question. Very good question. Eileen or Emily. Want to jump in? Okay. I'm just thinking about the church and its role. Yes. And as you were stating previously, that the church used to take care of this, pretty much getting more involved with their congregation and and teach them more the love of God and how to relate and and actually get out in. I'm not talking social justice or anything like that, but just get out in the community more. And I to me I see the church now has receded and gone on its own little reservation and some of them don't even want to talk about this to the congregation because it might offend somebody. Right. And so what do we do about that? Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I hear what you're saying. Well, first of all, in this country and I'm speaking just for the United States of America, the church has a rich heritage in terms of social justice. I mean, we can look in the 19th century, for example, of the work of evangelicals with respect to abolitionism, Theodore Weld and others. We can look at women's issues, feminist issues in especially in terms of the Holiness movement, which would be a Wesleyan movement that women were ordained early on, far earlier than women were ordained in mainline denominations in the mid-twentieth century.
And those judgments were made coming out of the gospel. In other words, Galatians 328, that is neither male or female, junior or gentile slave nor free. Think of race. Think about the think about the black church in terms of the civil rights movement and think of the enormous good that the church has done in turning back the social evil of racism. The church has been intimately involved in issues of social justice. I mean, again, think of someone like, oh, oh, gosh, my mind just went blank. Oh, oh, gosh, it it just went black. There's a key leader. What? He said. It'll come to me in a moment. Charles Finney. Oh, there it is. I had to run the Rolodex quickly. Charles Finney Everywhere the gospel is preached, there must also be reform. Okay. And and that gets it right, that everywhere the gospel is preached, there must also be reformed, that we have to be other directed. I mean, we've been saying that all along in going beyond ourselves. Other directed. That is the mode not only of a being created in the image and likeness of God, but of the church of the body of Christ that we are for the other. And so I like Finney, I like Finney statement there. And if you want to explore this whole topic further, Don Dayton has written a book which has been reissued 25 years later, Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage. And he goes through the history of the 19th century and he shows that at one point the gospel and social reform went hand in hand. Okay. Now, why are we in a situation today, in the 21st century when yours you're making the observations that you're making? Well, a part of that has to do with the history, some of what happened in the early 20th century, because there was the breakup, you know, a kind of great divorce that happened in evangelicalism between the gospel and social justice.
And what happened is the evangelicals focused on the gospels and the, quote unquote, liberals focused on social justice. I mean, we can we can date that and we can look at that as something that happened in the early 20th century. And people like Don Dayton and others have written about this. We're still oddly enough, we're in the 21st century now. We're still living in that that basic divorce. Okay, We're theological. Liberals are not concerned about the soul, but are concerned about social action. And evangelicals are concerned about the soul, but they're not concerned about social action. I'm surprised after all these years that we're still living into that narrative, a narrative that is very long lived and has been with us since the early 20th century when there was this great breakup and a scholar, Moberg has written about that, that breakup. That sort of thing. And so in response to you, I'm arguing and we'll argue in the days ahead that we have to have both and that we have to have personal and social salvation, that the church should have consequence for the community beyond the church walls, that we must love our neighbor well enough to care about our neighbors and to be among them and to, you know, spread the glad tidings of salvation in a number of ways and both in terms of material needs of people, but also in terms of their spiritual needs as well. Yes. Emily, did you have something? This topic is just really interesting to me. Just because I'm bombarded by it all the time with people that I know and just obviously, like you said on social media. So I'm always just processing these things. But social justice, I'm thinking it might be difficult and maybe even be too general just with Christians, which issues to fight for.
Because I think looking back, you think of abolitionists and civil rights movement, it looks very righteous and it is. But now the Liberals are kind of making their what they fight for. Look that righteous as far as like homosexuality. They're treating it like a civil rights movement, you know. So it might be confusing for Christians because what we fight for is going to be looked at as evil. So I don't know exactly what I'm getting at, but social justice might be difficult to do because as Christians, we might be fought against even harder. I know, given the environment in which we exist. Yes. No, I think I do hear what you're saying. And I think you're raising an important issue because as the church enters a broader environment and as it seeks to aim at the goods, that it knows that it will be criticized by others and called all sorts of names. I mean, this is going on today. I mean, we're called bigots. We're called haters. We're called, you know, all of these things by other groups who who don't really don't understand us and haven't taken the time to sit down and talk to us and reason with us what we are aiming at and what is the good that we desire. And so I'm agreeing with you. I and I see what you say. I see the church going beyond the church walls, trying to do good, trying to help others. And in the process they are called by others bigots and a whole bunch of very negative names. And that means we're going to have to think critically about all this, what's going on. Because the way I would look at it good is being called evil, and evil is being called good.
Okay? And so we live in that cultural mishmash today. We live in a culture where good is called evil, and evil is called good. There's that kind of confusion, that kind of confusion. And so therefore, I think we need to be clear in our own mind and in the church. What is that good that we are aiming at that we can bring to our brothers and sisters that will lead to human flourishing? It will lead to human flourishing. It will, you know, how do I best love another human being? Well, I best love them when I will for them the same good that I will for myself. What do I will for myself? I will that my being might be completed in the knowledge and love of God and and I would will for that for other people as well that they would experience such a great good. Now there are many smaller steps along the way in operationalizing that and bring that about. We do that through social service. We do that through care. We do that through spending time with people, loving them, assisting them in all sorts of ways. Okay? But our larger goal and purpose we know is good. It's not evil. It's good. Although we may be called all sorts of things along the way, but when we're called those things, if we sat down and had a conversation, I think we could show that actually what we're aiming at is good.