Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The American Context of Ministry: An Exploration with Daniel W. Hardy

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The American Context of Ministry: An Exploration with Daniel W. Hardy

Article excerpt

One of Anglican theologian Daniel W. Hardys continual occupations was with God's ways with the world, and particularly with the human creature in God. In order to do justice to this topic, he adopted a very distinct style of writing and speaking. He would at times develop neologisms, such as "sociopoiesis"; other times he would shape the meaning of a term through innovative (some might say idiosyncratic) use, such as "extensity" or "sociality." His motivation for this, in part, was wanting to sidestep more common technical terms in order to avoid narrowing the realities of God and world to one or another ready-made reduction, whether theological or philosophical: tidy playing fields that he found many content to play within, but much too small, he thought, to be confused with the real.

He also worked to conceive of God and God's ways with the world visually as well as conceptually. Near the end of his life, inspired by analogous efforts by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he worked to diagram what he termed "the energetics of attraction."* 1 This is an attempt to draw together God's ways with the world in a large-scale, comprehensive manner.

The "energetics of attraction" was his way of describing what he saw as God's working within creation to create sociality, a dynamism he termed "sociopoiesis." Hardy observed that the process of being made into social groupings of various sorts is intrinsic to creation when functioning as it ought. This happens spontaneously and healthfully: it is the flourishing of human creation. This sociopoiesis is itself the ongoing act of God in and for the creation, and more specifically, within civilization (including family, government, and other overlapping social groupings).

But sociopoiesis, the creation and flourishing of sociality, is not simply for the sake of creation but rather is the means by which creation is attracted to God. Being attracted to God, humans fulfil their God-given capacity for relation with God and with others.2 This capacity is a part of being creatures; it is the "godwardness" of all creatures. Drawing on Coleridge's use of the term, Hardy called this process of attraction "abduction," a process of being drawn to the divine light and thus "closer to all things."3

And yet there was a manifest and darker possibility, too. Creatures are created to move toward God, yet at least human creatures have also the capacity to resist this "towardness." This comes in several different manners, which have a converging form: Hardy talked about it in terms of pathology-obsessiveness-and also self-reference or self-absorption: the "inertia of self-attraction."4 Not to be attracted to God is to resist God's acting and the directionality of the creation.5 He summarized it in the Augustinian phrase, of humanity being "curved in on itself."

He further explained that being created is a matter of being "dispersed"; he often also talked about the "extensity" of creation in relation to the "infinitely intense identity of the Lord." Although at points he referred to extensity as a neutral or simply given condition of creation, there are points where dispersion and extensity seem to be conditions to be overcome in the abductive attraction of creatures to God. Dispersion and extensity constitute a "counter attraction" to God, being distracted by the multiplicity of things and failing to engage their depths.6

And yet there is within the creation not merely its directionality, but its life, both the dynamism of sociopoiesis and abductive attraction to God, which I would suggest might be appropriated as the work of the Holy Spirit. This work can be resisted and, at points, even thwarted, but this does not close down the possibility of the Spirit continuing to work.

A superficial reading of Hardy's work here might prompt one to worry about a loss of self. If being turned toward oneself is a violation of the elemental directedness of creatures, and if the route to healing is through the attraction of God, an attraction which turns creatures away from "self-engagement" and toward God and the created other, then it might sound as if the self disappears. …

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