Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 12, No. 2, February 2016
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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An Adequate Anthropology for the Anthropocene



Editorial Essay: An Adequate Anthropology for the Anthropocene

The Geopolitics of Cheap Oil, by John Feffer

Anthropocene Working Group: Yes, a new epoch has begun, by Ian Angus

The Biggest Threat to Global Economy? Climate Change, by Nadia Prupis

Is the Gross Planet Product shrinking?, by Felipe Manteiga

Climate change adaptation is not just about vulnerable countries, by William Moseley

Climate Change: War Footing or Peaceful Solidarity?, by Gill Conquest

Basic Income, Basic Issues, by Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark

The Paris Agreement: Successes, Disappointments, and the Road Ahead, by Catherine Devitt

Gender and Climate Justice in the Paris Agreement, by Paula Sendin

2016: Oil Limits and the End of the Debt Supercycle, by Gail Tverberg

Stuck in the Game of Likes, by Carlos Cuellar Brown

Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change, by Rajesh Makwana

Book Review of Megan K. DeFranza's Sex Difference in Christian Theology ~ Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God, by Luis T. Gutiérrez


Advances in Sustainable Development

Directory of Sustainable Development Resources

Strategies for Solidarity and Sustainability

Best Practices for Solidarity and Sustainability

Fostering Gender Balance in Society

Fostering Gender Balance in Religion

Meditations on Man and Woman, Humanity and Nature

An Adequate Anthropology for the Anthropocene

"There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology." Pope Francis, Laudato Si' #118

But what is an "adequate anthropology" for the Anthropocene? St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body (TOB) is fully adequate, because it reconstructs the original divine plan for man and woman in communion with each other and in harmony with nature. However, care must be taken not to read the TOB through a patriarchal lens. The patriarchal mindset of male domination, of women by men, and of nature by humans, is the root cause of the ecological crisis. Now that the patriarchal era is passing away as families increasingly evolve from sole male (father) headship toward joint male-female (father-mother) headship, a new anthropology of the family is emerging that may pave the way for humanity to thrive in the Anthropocene.

Ludwig Feuerbach's dictum, "theology is anthropology," meant for him that God is just a projection of human needs and desires; whereas, for Christians, theology is "faith seeking understanding" (fides quaerens intellectum). However, the notion that "theology is anthropology" encapsulates an element of truth, i.e., even though we are, individually and collectively, the image of God, we often manufacture a God in our own image. Such is the case when we image God as a patriarch, an old man with a long beard, as in Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. The following cartoon may not be so sublime artistically, by aptly depicts our propensity to push God into boxes of our own making:

The God Box, by David Hayward, 14 January 2015

The Theology of the Body (TOB) comes to the rescue. The body is male or female, but the human person is created male and female. In the TOB, the "or" is always used in reference to the body, while the "and" is used in reference to the person. Man (person) is created as a body made of dust, but becomes a "living soul" when God-Yahweh breathes life into him (Genesis 2:7; TOB 14:4, page 183). Then the body, in its masculinity and femininity, visibly expresses the person and becomes imago Dei; individually, and even more so as a communion of persons. "The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine." (TOB 19:4, page 203). This is an adequate anthropology. The TOB is not a patriarchal theology. It does not conflate the patriarchal gender binary with revealed truth about humanity:

"Bodiliness and sexuality are not simply identical. Although in its normal constitution, the human body carries within itself the signs of sex and is by its nature male or female, the fact that man is a "body" belongs more deeply to the structure of the personal subject than the fact that in his somatic constitution he is also male or female. For this reason, the meaning of "original solitude," which can be referred simply to "man," is substantially prior to the meaning of original unity; the latter is based on masculinity and femininity, which are, as it were, two different "incarnations," that is, two ways in which the same human being, created "in the image of God" (Gen 1:27), "is a body."" Source: TOB 8:1, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, page 157. See also note 12 in page 158.

So the human being is a body, and thus any bodily trait, such as sex, is constitutive of the person. The body is not determinative, however, because the personal subject is a body but is not only a body: a person is a body animated by a soul, a "body-soul." Thus the body is a sacrament of the entire person, but is not the entire person. Each and every human person is a body-soul, a unique instantiation of imago Dei; consubstantial, of the same flesh, of the same nature, but with a unity that comes from our Creator and subsists along the entire spectrum of human diversity, sexually and otherwise. The somatic homogeneity of man and woman means that sexual differentiation, while undoubtedly being a gift, is also a limitation of embodied human nature. A man cannot be a mother. A woman cannot be a father. A man is bodily a man, and a woman is bodily a woman, but they both share a common humanity:

"The woman is made "with the rib" that God-Yahweh had taken from the man. Considering the archaic, metaphorical, and figurative way of expressing the thought, , we can establish that what is meant is the homogeneity of the whole being of both; this homogeneity regards above all the body, the somatic structure, and it is also confirmed by the man's first words to the woman just created: "This time she is flesh from my flesh, and bone from my bones" (Genesis 2:23). Nevertheless, the words quoted also refer to the humanity of the male human being. They should be read in the context of the statements made before the creation of the woman, in which, though the "incarnation" of man does not yet exist, she is defined as a "help similar to himself" (see Genesis 2:18, 20). Thus, the woman is created in a certain sense based on the same humanity." Source: TOB 8:4, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, page 160.

The sexual duality of man and woman, which is known to include intersex exceptions, not only does not cancel their ontological unity in one and the same human nature, but actually reveals that this unity in diversity is intended to make all humans, men and women, a "communion of persons" (communio personarum) in the image of the Triune God:

"Following the narrative of Genesis, we observed that the "definitive" creation of man consists in the creation of the unity of two beings. Their unity denotes above all the identity of human nature; duality, on the other hand, shows what, on the basis of this identity, constitutes the masculinity and femininity of created man. This ontological dimension of unity and duality has, at the same time, an axiological value. From the text of Genesis 2:23 and the whole context, it is clear that man has been created as a particular value before God ("God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good," Genesis 1:31), but also as a particular value for man himself: first, because he is "man"; second, because the "woman" is for the man and, vice versa, the "man" for the woman." Source: TOB 9:1, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, pages 161-162.

The TOB goes on to clarify that, while the body, as male or female, is constitutive of the human person, differences in somatic attributes do not cancel the fundamental unity of man and woman in one and the same created human nature:

"Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is "constitutive of the person" (not only "an attribute of the person"), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as "he" or "she." The presence of the feminine element, next to the masculine and together with it, signifies an enrichment for man in the whole perspective of his history, including the history of salvation. All this teaching on unity has already been originally expressed in Genesis 2:23." Source: TOB 10:1, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, page 166.

It should be reiterated that, per the TOB 8:1 paragraph quoted above, body is existentially deeper than sex. If sex is "in some way" constitutive of the person, it must be in a subsidiary way due to the fact that sex is an attribute of the body. Sexuality is certainly a very significant attribute that affects "the psychosomatic compositum of the human subject," (TOB 72:4) but is nevertheless subsidiary to the body which, in unity with the soul, is the core of the created human person. Furthermore, the body — male or female — is constitutive of the human person as an embodied being, but only the creative act of the Creator determines the unique and unrepeatable existence of each human person as a triune body-soul-spirit:

"These words allow us in some way to reread in a new way — that is, in all its depth — the whole revealed meaning of the body, the meaning of being man, that is, an "incarnated" person, of being, as a body, male or female." Source: TOB 69:5, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, page 401.

"The creation of man, according to the biblical account, is an act of enlivening matter by the spirit, thanks to which "the first man Adam became a living being" (1 Corinthians 15:45)." Source: TOB 70:7, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, page 404.

"One cannot forget that what is at issue here is not anthropological dualism, but a basic antinomy. What is part of it is not only the body (as Aristotelian hyle), but also the soul, or man as "a living soul" (Genesis 2:7)." Source: TOB 72:5, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, page 411.

In brief, any sacramental theology that makes sexuality to be determinative (rather than just constitutive) of a person, human or divine, is contaminated by patriarchal gender ideology and has been superseded by the TOB. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is the "Son of Man," but was the "Son of God" a male before the incarnation? For the redemption and the sacramental economy, is the human masculinity of Jesus more important than the color of his eyes? Is "filling and subduing the earth" more important than "working it and taking care of it" (Genesis 1:28, 2:15)?

In a recently published book, Sex Difference in Christian Theology ~ Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God, Megan DeFranza comprehensively documents the historical evolution of our theological understanding of sex and gender in the Christian world, including the TOB. A book review is included in another page of this journal. It is an excellent book that also poses some good questions that must be answered for an adequate Christian response to current issues of social and ecological justice; for, as is well known, human development, if not engendered, is endangered.

The ecological crisis is a blessing in disguise. Impending challenges such as "climate change," and the consequent moral imperative for new mitigation and adaptation initiatives, convey the voice of God as it continues to resound in the events of history. If the ecological crisis is anthropogenic, then an adequate anthropology becomes indispensable to avoid the dangers and seize the opportunities that are emerging as the crisis unfolds. The Anthropocene is an opportunity to begin reconstructing the originally intended communion between man and woman, and well as the harmony between humanity and nature. We have a lot of work to do!

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"Theology is anthropology."

Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)


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