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2024 | OriginalPaper | Buchkapitel

Christian Humanism on the Individual and Human Dignity

verfasst von : Julia A. Lamm

Erschienen in: Religion and Social Criticism

Verlag: Springer Nature Switzerland

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Abstract

This chapter examines two necessary elements of any humanism: the human person as individual, and the irreducible dignity of each person. It does so from the vantage point of Christian humanism, focusing on three authors from different eras: Julian of Norwich (1342–ca. 1416), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), and Pope Francis (1936–). Their respective accounts of selfhood and human dignity have much to contribute during a time of hyper-individualism marked by violence. In particular, these three humanists, however different their explanations might be from one another, all give insight into how to check and repair the dislocation and distortion of the ideas of the individual and dignity.

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Fußnoten
1
Hollenbach describes intellectual solidarity as “an orientation of mind that regards differences among traditions as stimuli to intellectual engagement across religious and cultural boundaries. It is an orientation that leads one to view differences positively rather than with a mindset marked by suspicion or fear. It starts from a posture that welcomes foreign or strange understandings of the good life into one’s mental world in a spirit of hospitality, rather than standing on guard against them. This receptive orientation expects to be able to learn something valuable by listening to people who hold understandings of the good life different from one’s own. It also expects to be able to teach something valuable to those who are different by speaking to them respectfully about one’s own understanding of the human good” (2002, 138).
 
2
Because I am working with two different versions and will be moving between Middle English and Modern English translation, and because there are so many editions of Showings, references will be to ST or LT with chapter number, then to page number in the critical edition by Watson and Jenkins (2005) or in the translation by Colledge and Walsh (1978).
 
3
Broadly speaking, David Hollenbach defines a universalist position as one that “presumes that human beings are sufficiently alike in that they all share certain very general characteristics in common and that the same general outlines of well-being are shared in common as well” (2002, 152). Hollenbach responds to “the postmodern suspicion of universalism” (151) by developing what he calls a dialogic universalism (152–59). Gregory MacDonald defines universalism from a narrower, theological perspective: “At the most simple level Christian universalism is the belief that God will (or, in the case of ‘hopeful universalism,’ might) redeem all people through the saving work of Christ” (2011, 1). MacDonald takes the title of his volume of essays on the topic from Julian herself: “All Shall Be Well”: Explorations in Universalism and Christian Theology from Origen to Moltmann. See Robert Sweetman’s essay on Julian in that same volume: “Sin Has Its Place, but All Shall Be Well” (66–92). See Lamm (2019) for review of the literature and a new argument regarding Julian and universal salvation (312–27).
 
4
Throughout the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, the notion that Schleiermacher stood for individualism, subjectivism, and pantheism was largely the result of intra-Protestant theological and philosophical debates (See Dole 2004, 2008). In the 1980s, those ideas became concretized in the relatively new field of religious studies with such works as Wayne Proudfoot’s influential book Religious Experience (1985). Citing a handful of passages from the first edition of the Speeches, Proudfoot accused Schleiermacher of retreating into some privatized inarticulate experience, an “autonomous moment … invulnerable to rational and moral criticism” (1985, 2). Subsequent scholars have repeated those charges without further scrutiny—without, that is, studying either the primary text or engaging with the vast secondary literature produced in conjunction with production of the new critical edition. A recent example of this is found in the work of Stephen Bush (2014, 26, 57, 166), whom Miller places in the same methodological lineage as Proudfoot (2021, 192). My criticism here is aimed primarily at Religious Experience as an artifact an earlier time and at those who just assume its veracity; it is not aimed at Proudfoot himself, who is a careful scholar, who has revised some of those earlier claims, and who cannot be blamed for the negligence of some of his readers. Moreover, in his defence, it might be said that he was trying to develop a typology, and typologies always involve broad sketches. That notwithstanding, we should heed Luke Timothy Johnson’s caution: “It is important … not to allow typology to become stereotyping” (2009, 141).
 
5
Barth (1951, 162, 163). Barth’s main target in “The New Humanism and the Humanism of God” was existentialist philosophy.
 
6
For more on this relation between the finite and the infinite in the Speeches, as well as Schleiermacher’s interpretation of the association of the ideas in Plato’s Sophist, see Lamm (2021, 172–73, 174–78, 190–206, 220–26).
 
7
In his revisions to the second Speech in 1806, Schleiermacher substantially changed how he understood (what I call) “The Three.” In the first edition, he was dismissive of “metaphysics” and “morality,” which he defined simplistically and set in antagonistic relation to “religion.” In the second edition, he presents “thinking” and “acting” much more complexly and positively, setting them in dynamic relation to each other and to “religion” while maintaining the distinctiveness of each. See Lamm (2021, 155–62).
 
8
“Romantic” here could be meant in a generic sense or it could be targeted toward Romanticism and its celebration of the lone individual discovering him or her true self in relation to nature, cut off from society. Such a caricature has been wrongly applied to Schleiermacher.
 
9
It should be noted, however, that his understanding of “a particular dignity above other creatures” explicitly rejects earlier interpretations which used a claim of superiority for rationalizing “absolute domination over other creatures”; he demands instead that we “protect the earth” by “tilling” and “keeping” it (§67). For Francis, our “particularity dignity” is attributed not so much to reason as to our capacity to know, to love, to enter into relation, and to transcend.
 
10
Francis closes Laudato Si’ with two prayers, one for all those who believe in a creator, and one specifically for Christians. The former is intended both for the other Abrahamic religions and for non-Abrahamic religions that believe in a creator—for instance, Hinduism as well as various indiginous religions. In Fratelli Tutti, an encyclical devoted to what he calls social friendship, he writes, “I have felt particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, with whom I met in Abu Dhabi, where we declared that ‘God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters’” (Pope Francis 2020, §5).
 
11
For the neurobiological basis of these, see Dacher (2023).
 
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Metadaten
Titel
Christian Humanism on the Individual and Human Dignity
verfasst von
Julia A. Lamm
Copyright-Jahr
2024
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-48659-3_3

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