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Chalcedonian Personalism

Rethinking the Human

Colin Patterson

We all have a sense of what it means to be a person, but how do we conceptualize that intuition? What is the connection between a person and their human nature? Where does mind fit in to the picture? This book draws upon the work of Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, both of whom developed a perspective on these questions that is grounded in the early Church’s teaching on Christ and the Trinity. The possibilities of that teaching for understanding human personhood were generally lost for about fifteen centuries, but Ratzinger, in a bold assertion, believes that its retrieval has the power to challenge and reshape the whole of human thought.

The first part of the book offers an account of how von Balthasar and Ratzinger arrived at their theological understanding of personhood, paying particular attention to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century personalist thought. The second part draws out a number of the implications of this work and, in doing so, makes use of recent psychological theory. Finally, as a means of bringing into the picture the related philosophical notions of self, freedom and the soul, the book introduces and explores the concept of a «semblant».

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Chapter 11: The Scriptures through the Lens of Chalcedonian Anthropology


← 308 | 309 →CHAPTER 11

The Scriptures through the Lens of Chalcedonian Anthropology

A major goal of this second part of the work has been to bring together what I have called Chalcedonian personalism and empirically based theories of human functioning into a distinctive form of theological anthropology. The central role of conscience, dominance, coalition grouping and attachment motivations in human life, and how these relate to persons-in-relation; the subordinate role assigned to intellectual functions; the essentially relational character of personal existence; participation in Christ as the foundation for free actions, all these and other themes we have considered converge upon Christ and specifically upon the way the Church has come to understand the relationship between the divine and human in Christ. Now Christological understanding early in the Church’s history relied upon a limited number of explicit Scripture texts for its justification (e.g. mainly texts within the Johannine writings together with a few isolated texts such as Mt 28:19, Phil 2: 6f), but when further developed and reflected upon it was seen to connect with much more within the sacred writings, mainly by means of the practice of typological reading of the Old Testament. So too, having extended that Christology so as to shape a Chalcedonian anthropology, we should find that it likewise is able to find connections with much of the scriptures beyond the relatively lean pickings (e.g. the imago dei texts of Genesis 1: 26, 27) upon which theological anthropology has traditionally drawn.

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