Who Are We? Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities

By Bunch, Wilton H. | Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Who Are We? Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities


Bunch, Wilton H., Anglican Theological Review


Who Are We? Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities. By Jean Bethke Elshtain. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. 178 pp. $20.00 (cloth).

The issue of personhood has been central to the development of ethics in the last quarter century. The intensity of the debate on this subject has increased so that today we have reached the point that it has been said that there are only two types of bioethicists: those who explicitly distinguish between "humans" and "persons" and those who make the distinction implicitly. Jean Elshtain enters the conversation by asking, "Who are we?"

Her first answer, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is, "Whoever I am, 0 God, I am thine." This is not the answer of the autonomous, sovereign, personal decision maker who is in control of every element of life. We belong, we do not own. Her second answer is equally evident, "VVe are fallen," and that changes everything.

To understand the present consequences of the fall, she compares the exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pope John Paul II. For Bonhoeffer, man is in rebellion against his remote, totally different creator. Despite rebellion, the created is totally dependent on God and also dependent on relationship with others. It is only in relationships with others that one can be free. We do not have bodies, we are body and soul, enmeshed in one another without possibility of distinction. Yet, after the Incarnation, this rebellious piece of earth is also in the image of God, the whole person is fallen, but the whole person is redeemed.

John Paul II is more concerned with "from the beginning," who we were before the fall. We were created for communion; communion with God and with each other. After the fall, redemption is proffered early and humans begin, as historical beings, to live within this theological perspective. The authentic reflection of the image of God is found in the communion of persons, the existence of a person for another. Through mutual recognition of each other, we come to know the meaning of our own bodies.

Bonhoeffer places more emphasis on the sovereign, remote Creator who comes close to us only through the Incarnation and the cross. John Paul places more emphasis on the continuing relationship between the Creator and the created. Both write powerfully against the individualistic and voluntaristic constructs of human life and freedom. Both oppose the contemporary notion of an independent, self-sufficient, wholly autonomous self. Both stress the need to be at God's disposal.

Elshtain considers two generic sins that result from our fallen state: pride and sloth. Pride is evil action, sloth is evil inaction. Pride causes us to engage in the culture of the world, sloth is the acquiescence to the conventions of the world. Both are sins.

Pride causes us to seek to become our own point of origin. In the world of pride we are neither Bonhoeffer's shattered creatures who must throw ourselves on the cross nor are we those described by John Paul II who yearn for more intense relationships. Instead, we normalize pride and selfsufficiency and call it good.

We fall into utilitarian thinking without realizing that we need a common value in order to judge the various alternatives. For Hume, this common value was happiness; today it is money. This means that everything and everyone has a price. Such thinking is the antithesis of the anthropological presuppositions of Bonhoeffer and John Paul II who believe that human life is Godgiven and not made for the market. The market, like all human institutions, is distorted by sin, and to allow it to make life a commodity is to sin again. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Who Are We? Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.