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Interesting Implications of the Christian doctrine of Creation (Pt. 1)
October 16, 2014 richardstevenpark

Interesting Implications of the Christian doctrine of Creation (Pt. 1)

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Often we feel that Christian theology is too abstract or irrelevant or both. Today I would like to discuss how the Christian doctrine of Creation bears very interestingly on our everyday life as a Christian; and do so by looking specifically at two implications of this doctrine that are often overlooked.

 

First, the doctrine of Creation commends a self-sacrificing life as the most satisfying life. We can know this truth be considering the theological notion of perichoresis. In the Greek, the term literally means: to dance (choreio) around (peri). (“Perichoresis” and “choreography” share the same etymological root.) More poetically, perichoresis is “divine hospitality”: each person of the Godhead “making room for,” bringing glory to, celebrating the others.

 

Furthermore, Christ, who created the cosmos (Col. 1.16-17; Jn. 1.1-3), both in the overflow of the Trinitarian perichoresis made all things, and in his Incarnation modeled the perfectly flourishing human life. As one theologian writes: “the way to thrive is to help others to thrive; the way to flourish is to cause others to flourish; the way to fulfill yourself is to spend yourself” (Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, 22). Or, as Jesus himself said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10.39). Jesus calls us to a love of him, which surpasses even that of our dearest family (v. 38); and this “cost” of discipleship yields the most rewarding, because rightly lived, life. A self-sacrificing life, for the sake of Christ and others, is the most satisfying.

 

This is the first interesting implication of the Christian doctrine of creation: that Christ, who out of perichoresis made the universe, also models the perfect perichoretic human life; and that the Christian view of Creation commends and commands a costly, flourishing life of perichoretic, joyful, sacrifice.

 

The second point to be made about the doctrine of creation is that human persons, created in the image of the Triune, communal God, are inherently communal beings as well. Whereas the first point has to do with living for others, this second point has to do with our living with others.

 

Human persons are naturally relational beings. From the moment of birth – indeed of conception (!) – to the continuation of life to the moment of death the human need of others is evident and inherent in our being. From pre-natality and nourishment to education and entertainment to parenting to politics – every aspect of human lives are thoroughly interactive and dependent on other human (and non-human) beings. No human is an island. (Indeed, even islands are so defined in relation to other geographical bodies!) Every human is a child of some parents; every parent is responsible for a child; every brother is a sibling to another; every human being relates to every other human being, whether directly or distantly, mindfully or merely as a member of the same species.

 

Hannah Arendt, the famed mid-twentieth century social and political theorist, puts it as follows: “The theatre is the political art par excellence; only there is the political sphere of human life transposed into art.”[1] What explains this connection between politics and theatre, Arendt continues, is the fact that “[a]ction . . . is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act”. In other words, political action, like dramatic acting, is both others-oriented and effective only “in constant contact with the web of the acts and words of the other men” (Arendt, The Human Condition, 188).

 

Going further, Arendt insightfully observes: “The whole factual world of human affairs depends for its reality and its continued existence upon the presence of others who have seen and heard and will remember” (95) this social reality. As Arendt reminds us, in the classical world, “to die is the same as ‘to cease to be among men’ . . . no living creature can endure it for any length of time” (20). For this reason, Aristotle could write with little controversy that “man is by nature a political animal.”[2] Thus, human persons are not only naturally relational, but necessarily so.[3]

 

So we can learn from non-Christian thought – all truth is God’s truth – confirmation of what we know from the Christian doctrine of Creation. In the next post, I shall discuss several other hopefully helpful and interesting implications of the Christian doctrine of creation.

 

[1] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 188. Except where indicated otherwise, the quotations in this paragraph and the next are from Arendt’s The Human Condition, the references of which are cited in parentheses in the text.

[2] Aristotle, Politics, Bk. 1, Ch. 2.

[3] Necessity, I realize, is a nasty if nebulous notion within philosophy; the kind of necessity I have in mind here is a nomological sort, i.e., having to do with nature, specifically human nature (which too is a much disputed notion). To the disputes over important ideas there seems no end.

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