What Is Man? (Patristic Anthropology)
In examining the peculiar subject of patristic anthropology, the chancellor of Theosis Institute, Dr. Shawn Smith, did not intend to delve into the secular sciences which attempt to study man, such as cultural anthropology which compares human societies and views their development; physical anthropology which studies human species according to the Theory of Evolution; philosophical anthropology which is the science of human works; literary accomplishments and ideologies, nor even social anthropology which studies the customs and beliefs of various people and their origin and development. After the first three modules on theology, Christology and Soteriology, in this fourth module, everything presented up to this point will intersect and interrelate with the patristic understanding of what man is, because man is the beneficiary of salvation; he is truly represented in the incarnation of the logos who is truly God and truly man, and he is the motivation in the heart of God to call forth creation.
Therefore man is the central piece of all of this different theological aspects, and it is therefore in understanding the church father’s understanding of man that many of these other aspects are going to be more greatly appreciated. The chancellor presented the basic principle of hermeneutic upfront that you cannot end right unless you start right; that is locating the proper starting point to possess the proper grammar to interpret that which you are examining. Theology does not begin outside of God. Patristic anthropology is the study of the origin, nature, constitution and destiny of man according to the understanding of the apostolic church fathers.
Presented the basis of the module, Dr. Shawn Smith started off with a Greek philosophical maxim or aphorism inscribed at the entrance of the temple of Apollon in the city of Delphi in Greece, “Gnothi Seauton” translated, “Know Thyself” (II Corinthians 13:5). This statement encapsulates the essence of anthropology which delves into the deep knowledge of the true self. The greatest of all sciences is to know oneself, but paradoxically to know ourselves, we must look beyond ourselves for the simple reason that man is created in the image of another than himself: man is an icon (portrait) of God, and it does not depict that which we are in ourselves, it depicts the image of another, as such, man is the image of the image.
One must know the logos to find one’s true self, in other words the Lord Jesus Christ is the one in whom one encounters the real image he is created to portray. Jesus Christ being true God and true man presents to us an astounding reality that God and man are paradigms of each man: when the invisible God becomes visible, it is as man that He expresses Himself (the hominization of God).
Throughout day one of the Module, the chancellor exegeted the constitution of man (monism, dualism, tripartatism, and man as an intricate unit of spirit, soul and body), the four views of the Image of God (Imago Dei) with the following views examined: the substantive view, the functional view, the relational view, and the teleological view.
On day two the life of Maximus the Confessor, who is known for holding unto the view that it is through the divine will that we are saved, was examined.
Through day three, four and five, the chancellor examined the Triadic perspective of man which states that God always speaks thrice (literal, moral and allegorical), the five-fold fall of man as understood by Maximus the Confessor, the Union of the Five Polarities Mediated by Jesus Christ, that is: male and female; the world of civilization and paradise; the intelligible and the sensible, heaven and earth; and finally the uncreated and the created.
The chancellor equally studied the origin of man (the origin of the soul) from the perspective of church fathers such as Origens, Tertullian, Methodius of Olympus, and Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Cappadocian fathers. In presenting these different subjects, the chancellor answered crucial contemporary controversial questions such as the ethical and philosophical implications of the origin of human life, at what point does the human life originate, pre-existence (theology of origins), etc.
The chancellor equally visited Patristic spirituality in the three-fold stages of spirituality: praktiki (the practice of virtues), physiki (perception of true structure of nature), and theologia (Christification or face-to-face encounter with God).
The module closed with the students taking their end of module test after submitting an assignment they had been given on day one to carry out a poll on anthropology. Their findings were submitted as a two-page report.
Theosis Institute is an institute of patristic and apostolic understanding, it is "A revelatory and educational program to reclaim the ancient apostolic and patristic vision of the cosmic and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ."...Read More...