-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Only Time Will Tell

Here are some very interesting thoughts from Helmut Thielicke on the relation between person and structure. I am ever amazed at the timelessness of much of Thielicke's writing. Right now, at this very moment, this is the very ideological and anthropologic struggle that is going on in Iraq. It is a reflection of the old proverb: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Only time will tell how this relation between person and structure will play out.

"Nevertheless, it is also a fact of experience that new structures can change the awareness of men and therefore men themselves. While it can be very dangerous to introduce a democratic system of government before people are ready for it, in some cases the system can itself produce the necessary maturity. Similarly social legislation can foster a respect for humanity and thus help to engender a new state of mind. It is thus correct that structures can change men and open them up to a recognition of their neighbors as fellow-men.

"All the same, one cannot infer from this that the causal relation of "first the person and then the structure" may be reversed. Instead we must ask: Who is pressing for structural change, who wants this first, perhaps by immediate revolution, and therefore who is not ready to begin by creating intellectual readiness for the new structures? Of the initiators at least we must say that they can will the new structures only because their own consciousness has reached a point where their structural postulates are possible.

"If, then, structural changes can change men, the revolutionary or reforming pioneers at least must have been changed or, in some sense, "converted" before they could work out their program of structural change. If not, the role of Karl Marx is impossible to understand.

"In the heads of the elite, then, there must have formed a conception of the relation between person and structure. In other words, they must have developed a specific understanding of man which has normative significance for this relation. This understanding will either respect man as unconditioned and see him as an end in himself or it will treat him as the mere bearer of a function and thus evaluate him pragmatically. On this alternative will depend whether man is made for the sabbath (i.e., institutions) or the sabbath for man (Mark 2:27)."

-Helmut Thielicke, The Hidden Question of God, trans. Geoffry Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1977), 83.


Jason Goroncy said...

Great stuff Joel. Thanks for posting.

Joel Woodward said...