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Nikos A. Nissiotis

"Secular and Christian Images of Human Person"

Theologia 33, Athens 1962, p. 947- 989; Theologia 34, Athens 1963, p. 90-122.

II. Scientific approaches to the Human Person and their Challenge to Christian Anthropological Visions

The interpenetration of anthropology and cosmology on the basis of a genuine Christology of nature has a direct positive bearing on the dialogue between secular understanding and Christian images of the human person. Certainly, science, psychology and political ideology rightly want to possess the whole of nature, of man, and society as their own field of research and action. But the main issue is this wholeness, i.e. how one understands and serves it best. It is the right of science to investigate all things thoroughly towards achieving the fuller knowledge possible, while the interpénétration of anthropology and cosmology proves this legitimate effort to be ultimately inaccessible. It is not the notion of mystery, very popular in theological circles, especially in the East, which makes this enterprise futile. It is not the dimension of the sacred in cosmos and man either which proves science to be limited only to one part of the cosmic reality. It is more the nature of created things and the historical predicament in the cosmos, which makes scientific research and concepts of man relative in connection with a possible holistic knowledge of them. The further authentic science develops, the more this missing dimension of holism referring to man's image becomes evident, especially when anthropology and cosmology are interpenetrated fields of scientific research. If Christian anthropology has to be corrected and saved from its anthropomonism, because of the notion of the absolute uniqueness of man in creation, similarly scientific cosmology has to be complemented by anthropology in order to enlarge its research field and ultimate reference.

In reality, science has not and cannot have anthropology in the sense of ethology, philosophy and theology. Perhaps, introspective psychology is closer to anthropological issues than other applied system of knowledge. It is true, indeed, that scientific researches are, in principle, by their methodology, deprived of their probable extension to anthropology. This is understandable and to a certain extent welcome on the part of anthropological sciences. But at the same time, one has to recognize that scientific research by its conclusions can exercise a direct influence on the anthropological sciences. Especially, at times of advanced secularization its repercussions are immediate in conceiving the human person, its origin, essence and destination. In some cases, the impact on anthropology is decisive when there is no systematic reference to it on the part of science, psychology and political ideology. Their concern for human applied knowledge, composition of matter, function of physical laws, the molecular constitution of the human body and its effects on psychic functions, the study of conscious and subconscious life and finally the relationship between economy, society and man as well as the reasons given for the struggle for a just and sustainable world community become basic introductory principles towards an unsystematically written anthropology. It has convincing power and direct bearing for conceiving an unwritten popular image of the human person with an immediate practical, ethical application.

The encounter between scientific-secular and Christian images of man should take this difference seriously into consideration. The wish from the Christian point of view, however, should be always expressed that sciences, in view of this encounter, might think also anthropologically, by trying to reflect on their missing dimension of anthropology when they interpret nature. Because, most of the misunderstanding and one-sidedness, or polemic attitude against traditional Christian expression of man's nature have been caused by a popularized vulgarization of great scientific theories, like the evolution of species. The practical application of easily generalized scientific conclusions against traditional images of man in many cases are due to the absence of concern for real anthropology in a deeper and holistic dimension on the part of the initiators of scientific theories.

It must, therefore, be clarified that a genuine encounter between secular and Christian images of man can be affected only if these limitations are acknowledged on both sides and Christian anthropologists are ready to take into their interests cosmology and scientists converge also towards anthropology. Unless this reciprocal movement is there, the debate will be without point of contact and will remain two parallel monologues. We have to be conscious, however, that at this moment we have still very few examples of such converging attitudes and we are not yet, among the great majority on both sides, fully aware of our lack of holistic trends in anthropology. Theology is unable to construct a genuine cosmology, and science is reluctant to develop a consistent application of scientific research in holistic anthropology. Perhaps, here in this issue we touch one of the most delicate issues in anthropology. Upon this issue the debate about the quality of human life depends especially in so-called Christian world, which bears a major responsibility for the progressive separation of man from nature. This separation is against the authentic interpretation of man from nature. This separation is against the authentic interpretation of the biblical message regarding the wholeness of Creation as cosmos and ktisis. It is this attitude, to a certain extent, which made science operate in an autonomous field of knowledge and action, based on human aspirations for domination over nature and for serving human welfare and progress.
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