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

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Malysz on Dependence and Independence

In preparing for my next series of posts on the law (It will start with Gerhard Forde, but... be patient; tomorrow would be the soonest), I came across this quote from Piotr Malysz. I don't remember if it figured into my first (literally) post on dependence and independence, but its thesis is strikingly similar. See my previous posts: Dependence and Independence and Self-Generation; Dependence and Independence Cont.. I find the paradox of being dependent on the created order to show superiority over that created order to be intriguing. We all do it (to a certain extent or another) without recognizing the absurdity of it. It reminds me of Jonathan Swift's "Yahoos." As such we fight over, and strive for power (over God's creation), prestige (from God's creation), popularity (from God's creation), love (from God's creation), acknowledgement (from God's creation); we strive to subdue (God's creation), create (from God's creation), bring under control (God's creation); we use our bodies and minds (that are created) to set ourselves apart from the rest of mankind (God's creation). We do this, much like the Yahoos, without realizing that (without God) we are just animals rolling around in the mud.
"Sin is also enslavement to imperium-- control and, if need be, violence-- as a means of preserving one's integrity. Adam and Eve destroyed their relationships not only by fearing a violation of their trust on another's part but also by chronic suspiciousness of another's, that is, God's self-giving. They saw in God's giving an attempt to confine them into reciprocation, thereby exerting control over their independence. Human life has thus become a struggle for control as a means of survival. This, in turn, has brought about the enslavement of man to creation. Man has abandoned his God-appointed role of creation's steward and endeavours to place himself above the created order as God's equal. But as a creature he can only claim equality with and independence from God by violently lording it over creation, not merely because this is the way he now understands God's being, but also because he recognizes his dependence on creation, which is God's work, and thus on God himself. Exploitation of God's things gives an allusion of power. In this way, creation is necessary for man as a means of self-assertion. The continued increase of his control over the created realm, including other human beings, creates the impression of approximating divinity. Put differently, in order to preserve his integrity, man must enslave. He is both enslaved and enslaver. Paradoxically this only deepens human dependence on the now-hostile creation.

"The isolation and enslavement of sin underscore that-- at bottom- it is a debilitating inability to love and trust, which "like spiritual leprosy, has thoroughly and entirely poisoned and corrupted human nature" (FC SD I, 6). As such, sin undermines everything that human nature was created to represent. Instead of allowing oneself to receive another in his self-giving, and thus to gain oneself, the sinner attempts his self-realization by going in the opposite direction, to the inside. Sin, to use Luther's dictum, makes man into a homo incurvitas in se ipsum. This turning in on oneself is the inevitable price of the trust-destructive misinterpretation of God's being, and thus also of failing to acknowledge one's humanity in its relational richness. In other words, the price of the knowledge of good and evil is the recognition of oneself as evil. Man cannot know evil without at the same time seeing it in himself, in his lovelessness and distrust.

"The tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from was not, contrary to their expectations, a vehicle of secret wisdom. The knowledge originated within man together with the deed, with his choice of un-love, with his rejection of God's self-giving. It came on the heels of man's attempt to be like God, in which the former isolated himself from his Creator and other human beings, abandoning his unique position within the created realm as the recipient of God's love and blessing. It came with man turning in on himself and the resultant collapse of his being. It is now with great difficulty that man preserves his integrity. He can do so only by a violent, self-centered and self-enslaving exercise of supremacy. Therefore, in so doing, he not only knows evil in himself but also actively propagates it.

"Consider the dreadful ambiguity that underlies all human desire to be creative. Ethically speaking, even the best of human works are tainted by vested interests, resentment, or distrust. Moreover from the scientific perspective, man's harnessing of creation's resources exposes his potential for self-destruction and thirst for more power, as much as it shows ingenuity. Finally, much as he may wish to avoid and ignore it, man meets with disintegration throughout his life only to be confronted by it conclusively at the point of death. The all-consuming presence of death reveals that creation without its steward has gone wild-- it dies both from lack of proper care and from the abuses it suffers at the hand of man. It has become the devil's playground. Man himself-- having separated himself from the life-giving love of God-- faces the same destiny as the creation he was so hasty to abandon in pursuit of self-realization. In isolation from God he is dust and to dust he must return (Gn 3:19). In a word, life without love and trust is deadly. It not only kills the isolated and enslaved human being but also spreads death around in spite and because of human attempts to avoid the inevitable. "Whoever tries to keeps his life will lose it" (Lk 17:33)."

-Piotr Malysz, “Third Use of the Law in Light of Creation and the Fall,” Logia 11, no. 3 (2002), 14-15.

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