Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Creation

"But once the male and the female are so created, man is then procreated out of their blood through the divine blessing. Although this procreation is something has in common with the brutes, it detracts nothing from that glory of our origin, namely, that we are vessels of God, formed by God Himself, and that He himself is our Potter, but we are His clay, as Is. 64:8 says. And this holds good not only for our origin but throughout our whole life; until our death and in the grave we remain the clay of this Potter."

Luther (Genesis Lectures AE 1:84)

Transcendentalists often ask 'what is the self.' The value of “self” is that which the Trinity makes clear by announcing the creation of man in his Own image. Formed of the dust of the ground and from the midst of nothingness men took form and breathed the breath of life from God.

The biblical account of creation is most valuable regarding the philosophical wanderings of this notion of 'self.' Other cosmological accounts (non-biblical) of the universe and humanity make men into play things of the gods with no free will, only to be thrashed about with no divine plan. I believe this is what truly distinguishes and sets apart the biblical account from the Greek and roman traditions. In Genesis we see this very intimate relationship in the garden where the Lord God walks in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve. Strolling casually in the garden with God sounds perfect until the great fall caused by the first sin against God.

There is little within my “self” which I might hallow and say “this is good!” In my own case, introspection and meditation on the self only reveals my own degradation. I see selfishness, violence, idolatry, deceit, and hatred. Even the thoughts or acts which society might deem as “good” are tainted with various degrees of depravity. My act of charity toward my neighbor is tainted with selfish desire for better standing in my neighborhood with regards to image or expectation of repayment. My love toward family and friends is imperfect in true concern and sacrifice.

It is inherently visible for many that something in the universe has gone horribly awry. War, genocide, famine, and discord reveal the alienation between God and man. There is a faint cry in the heart which insists that somehow ‘things are not the way they are supposed to be.’ The reconciliation between the self and God is not found through abstract intellectual discourse with wine, and flirtatious servants found in The Symposium. I don’t believe it is found through a long and feverish litany of virtues and a disciplined will such as that by Marcus Aurelius. His belief that human philosophy is the key to freeing the man from inner demons is faulted in that this very philosophy and inward movement is subject to these very demons which he speaks of.
As a Christian to speak of the “self” as an autonomous unit or abstract principle apart from what God reveals in scripture is enough to make me uneasy and often frightful of the human imagination and its conception of itself. There are two general conceptions which seem to dominate the human understanding of the self and its relationship with God. One is to elevate God and his role, clinging to scripture with its various covenants, mysteries, and salvation. This role goes very much against human reason or basic common sense. For example, what “sense” does it make to consume the flesh and blood of a man for an eternal presence with God? This sounds barbaric, primitive, absurd, anti-rational, and antithetical to the modern age. The other trend is to elevate man and his own personal ability to discern the reality of his existence. Here we find a rather optimistic faith that scientific method with empirical analysis is the key to the ultimate mystery of the “self” in regards to its birth, origin, and relationship to the universe and God.

The dialogue between Abraham and God establishes a covenant which has been inherited throughout the ages with its final summation of the sacrificial system on the cross at Golgotha. The self is therefore born of sin with inclinations away from that of God. The reconciliation between man and God is the central reality for the self. The soul with dying flesh in a dying world clings to this in faith not leaning on his own understanding.

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