Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I what therefore I am? Deep anthropology & incarnation

Have you ever wondered what it is that makes you human? Rene Descartes tried to rescue our humanity from a mechanical universe, where other animals were reduced to mere unfeeling automata. The phrase cogito ergo sum or I think therefore I am says that what makes us human is our rational capabilities. Yet we've seen that humans are not Vulcans, and that other creatures are not automata. We are different in degree and not in kind. A closer reading of Genesis 1 would remind us that there are creatures and creator; we don't sit in a third category from a material ontological sense but from a functional one.

But what interests me is not only that we can't isolate who we are just to our brains, but we need to include our surroundings. We carry more bacterial cells than our own and many of these are actually beneficial. And think of all the things we rely upon in our extended environment to produce food (nitrogen fixing bacteria for example), purify water (vegetated watersheds), pollinate our plants (bees), and produce our oxygen (photosynthetic algae). To be human requires a whole planet, to say nothing of other humans.

Two things follow from this deep anthropology. When it says in John 1 that the Word (logos) became flesh (sarx) it means Jesus didn't just become human but matter, human matter connected to other matter. The incarnation is deep because anthropology is deep (yes I'm aware sarx has a variety of uses, but here in John I think it works on both the level of creatures in general as well as human in particular). Secondly, when in Colossians 1 it says that Jesus reconciles all things, it really does mean all things (ta panta). Jesus becomes matter because matter matters - and humans are matter made conscious and told to rule wisely and care for matter.

I am because God, and the am that I am is connected to all that is. Hence I work to care for all that is that I can care for.