July 16, 2009

The Theological Roots of...Human Dignity: Dr. David Gushee

David Gushee provided a survey of the concept of human dignity throughout the Old and New testaments. Below are a few highlights.

Old Testament
"Transcendent legal/moral standard over human life creates a critically important human equality before the law. "

"The grounding of all moral obligation in God's law had a deep impact on the understanding of human law."

On Shalom
Shalom - the dream of God for a redeemed world, for an end to our division, hostility, fear, drivenness and misery.

Shalom happens when humans stop killing each other, and therefore life's dignity is honored at its fundamental level.

Shalom means: Delight, obedience to God (the precondition of shalom), the healing of broken bodies and spirits, enough to eat and drink, an inclusive community, the rebuilding of the human community

New Testament
Matthew 4 - Jesus did 2 new things
1. turned the eschatological future into an inaugurated eschatological present
2. Embodied the kingdom of justice, peace, and healing, in which human beings at last treat others and are treated, as God originally desired.

Jesus' inclusive ministry in a religious culture in which:
  • Women were devalued
  • Leaders subjugated human well being to legal observance
  • Sinners treated as beyond the pale of God's care
  • Children were devalued
  • The sick ere often cast out of the community
  • The occupying Romans were hated
  • Tensions between jews and Samaritans
  • A woman on her own faced desperate financial challenges
  • Social-economic divisions were acut
In sum, Jesus smashed the religious, cultural, economic, and political barriers of his context and demonstrated love, respect, and inclusion toward people of all descriptions. Jesus taught "good news" that God loves human beings with an immeasurable love.

"The paradox of the incarnation is that when divinity stooped low and took on humanity, humanity revealed its loliness and yet was elevated through God's mercy."

Jesus died for "the world" - everyone, people in all states, conditions, nations and orientations toward God and neighbor. Everyone should matter to us because everyone matters to God

Christ rose in a body, the victory of God over evil, and the resurrection marks the triumph of life.

Acts depicts rapidly growing church...more inclusive and hospitable community ethos.
Paul offers an expansive theological effort to defend transformation of relationships (Gal 3:28) All divisive human distinctions are transfigured and overcome through Jesus Christ.

Momentum toward radically inclusive and egalitarian community
Multi-ethnic, multi-racial, gender-inclusive, class-inclusive community

What emerged...
Congregations that believed that in their own experience of transformed human relations lay the beginnings of the redemption of the world.
"Only because God became human is it possible to know and not despise real human beings...this is not because of the real human being's inherent value, but because God has loved and taken on the real human being. The reason for God's love for human beings does not reside in them..." D. Bonhoeffer
"A secular, rootless human dignity ethic may be the best that our culture thinks it can manage. But Christians know not only that we can do better but that we must do better and that the resources for doing better are embedded in our tradition."

We must claim our own rich, theological heritage.

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