Friday, March 25, 2011

The Problem of Humanity

  The problem of humanity is that we are invited or called to worship God. There is no demand in Jesus Christ to worship Him. It is problematic for us that "this call of to be understood in the light of Jesus Christ, not as a purely categorical imperative or a moral law, but as the call of God to communion with Him the Creator, and through Him to communion with" (pg. 73) the rest of humanity. The invitation to worship God through His Revelation would be much easier for us to accept if it was not a call at all.

   If God issued forth a categorical imperative instead of a hypothetical imperative, we would have no choice but to worship. For a categorical imperative is something that we have to do. It is an ontological ought (to continue in the language of Kant), a command that is innate in the core of our being that we have to follow. This would take away our choice, which we would protest, but at the same time, get rid of many difficulties.

   God's hypothetical imperative tells us that we should worship Him, not that we have (ought) to worship. The hypotheticalness of it tells us that it is up to us to decide how to answer. It places the responsibility on us, not on God. We would much rather be free of such responsibility than to have it. It is a burden that sometimes feels to heavy for us.

    We then, after hearing the call, have to respond. We can respond with a Yes and join in with communion with God (and thus the rest of the created order) OR we can respond with a No and reject community in favor of solitude. ( However, "this Either-Or", this Yes or No, "is not that of divine Creation; it is only as a result of the wrong answer, which is the result of sin, that this "Either-or" confronts us as an alternative." (pg. 73) When the individual answers No, he or she creates the Either-Or situation.Our freedom is not to choose, but it is a freedom to be "in the love God, which fills his whole life." (pg. 73) )

  Yet when we answer No to the call, we are not just answering No to God. We are answering No to ourselves. For " the true existence...can only be completed in the answering act of man." (pg. 73) When we deny the invitation to community and choose solitude, we also choose to be incomplete, to have an ontological lack (to use the language of St. Augustine). True human existence is only "existence-in-love" (pg. 73) and when we reject love, we reject true existence and become inauthentic, incomplete. "When man decides against this divine destiny he is in opposition, not only to an ideal destiny, but also to his own nature, and this self-contradiction is now within himself." (pg. 73)

   When humanity answers no, there is "a change in man's relation to God; it is the break in communion with God, due to distrust and defiance." (pg. 92) Out of this distrust and defiance, it is revealed that "the fundamental cause for this breach in communion" is humanity's "desire to be "as God". Man wants to be on level with God, and in doing so to become independent of Him." (pg. 92) However, we do not realize the mistake in breaking off relation with God. "Man's divine destiny means being "like God". freedom. Man is intended to be free, to be like God; but now man wants to have both apart from dependence upon God." (pg. 92) We were created to be free, but to be free in community, not in the solitude that we continually create.

   "Sin", for Brunner, "is throwing off restraint, denial of responsibility hence emancipation from that which makes us responsible, in whose Word we have both our freedom and our bondage. Sin is the desire for the autonom of man, therefore, in the last resort, it is the denial of God and self-deification; it is getting rid of the Lord God, and the proclamation of self-sovereignty." (pg. 93)

   This has been the Modern philosophical project, to assert that Man is autonomous, a law unto itself, and that we can throw off the shackles of anything that limits us. The desire to be autonomous is the desire to be God.


  1. Dan,

    Very interesting stuff. Jeff's book actually deals with the issue of freedom nicely and might be of some interest here. I would be curious what he would think about your statement concerning worship as hypothetical. You write, "The invitation to worship God through His Revelation would be much easier for us to accept if it was not a call at all." Is this even possible?

    Would this make worship a secondary act? (Second to the primary call to life.) If so, would that not diminish the importance of worship?

    Another concern I have with this statement is that the ubiquitous call to worship is ignored. Are we not called to worship God in all things? Is the fundamental call to worship not also the basic call to love God and live a fruitful life?

    I guess I see a much more dynamic relationship happening in the call to worship that a categorical imperative does not accurately describe. Nonetheless, I do think there is an imperative in the call to worship: Live!

    Thanks for the interesting stuff here.
    Larry Baker

  2. Larry,
    There is an understanding that under the Law, the Old Covenant, we are not invited to worship, but are commanded\demanded to worship. Now, I do not hold to that, as I think that forced praise is not worship at all. What I meant is that if the command to worship was an ontological ought we would accept it with less revolt than if it was not. If we did not have the freedom to worship, the decision would not be a problem.

    In response to your second question, I think that Brunner would say that worship is the proper response to the call to life. Existence-in-faith, I think is how he would phrase it. So, it is not a secondary act, but a primary act from the side of humanity. We are not, for Brunner, truly living if we are not worshiping God. I think this fits in with your third concern. We worship God in all things because the Love of God is existence.

    I think you might mis-understand what Brunner and I are saying. The call to worship is not, cannot be a categorical imperative. Life is dynamic and is a response to the call in worship. Life, properly understood for Brunner, is what you are talking about here. If the call was a categorical imperative, then it would not be a relationship, thus it would not be life.