Simul iustus et peccator - Die Anthropologie der Rechtfertigungslehre Luthers (German Edition)

Jesus Christ and the Modern Sinner: Karl Barth's Retrieval of Luther's Substantive Christology
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Protestant theology's focus on scripture allows for perceiving the different views on the beginning of life.


The biblical basis of a Christian anthropology therefore is not as unambiguous as the church statements insinuate. The beginning of life is a multidimensional event from a biblical perspective. There is a social, a biological and a creation- theological dimension:. Utzschneider f. As such, God's act of creation cannot be identified or reduced to the biological act of procreation. The Christian image of man, which serves as the foundation for the church position on bioethical topics in the German speaking context, is a mix of biblical motives, a Kantian interpretation of the concept of human dignity and an interpretation of the German constitutional law inspired by the Catholic tradition of natural law.

Debating man and debating God. A couple of years ago, James D. Watson, who, together with Francis Crick, had discovered the double helix structure of the DNA in and thus created the foundation of the modern genetic technology, described the Christian image of man as a disruptive factor for research. He added that the reference to a Creator God and his commandments justify unnecessary suffering, which can be avoided through gene technology and eugenics Watson The philosopher Ronald Dworkin understands fears about the danger of eugenical abuse of gene technology.

The alternative, however, would be an 'irresponsible cowardice to face the unknown' Dworkin The possible risk of abuse is outweighed by the hope to reduce the number of genetic defects and deformations and possibly to improve desirable traits such as intelligence. It would be wrong to be morally enraged about this superhumanism or transhumanism without providing counter arguments.

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Furthermore, it would be theologically fatal to withdraw to the safe domain of faith. In the ethical discourse of a pluralistic society, it is not sufficient to recite religious certainties as decisionist confessions. There is no rational final foundation for faith; however, there are good reasons to be put forward with reasonable arguments to support positions founded in faith.

No genuinely theological reasoning is necessary to problematise a reductionist image of human beings, which sometimes is deduced from the insights of molecular biology. The question of the essence of man cannot be answered in a biological fashion. To answer this question with reference to man as animal rationale defines the human person as an animal and reduces the essence of man to a differentia specifica, which distinguishes him from other animals.

One thing is clear: the debate about the essence of man is not only an interesting question for a philosophical seminar. Different understandings of the essence of man will ultimately decide about the right of existence of human beings. The question of the image of man does not only deal with a definition of the essence of man; anthropology also searches for reasons to justify the existence of man. If individual human beings cannot justify themselves with respect to their right to existence, for example because they are not born yet, because they are mentally challenged, because they are in a coma or because they have permanently lost consciousness, who or what will justify their right to live?

The answer provided to this question in the Protestant tradition of Christianity is: God justifies the life of each human person. The human person is justified by God and because of that they do not have to justify their own existence. This is the main point brought into the ecumenical discussion about the Christian image of man by the Protestant Churches and this can be seen as the theological grounding of the idea of human dignity and indefeasible human rights as universal, categorical and individual.

As Paul says in the context of the doctrine of justification: 'There is no personal favouritism with God', which means that God does not show preference of certain individuals. In a similar way, the letter of James demands that Christian believers must not have the faith of Jesus Christ with respect of person Ja This means that all members in the Christian community, the poor as well as the rich, are worthy of the same respect, which can be understood as the ethical consequence of the insight in everyone's need for God's forgiveness and grace.

In this idea we may see an analogy to the idea of the impartialness of modern human rights. However, the Protestant image of man, in particular, and the Christian image of man, in general, are both open for debate. The radicality of the Protestant tradition to justify sinners through faith alone corresponds with the radicality of the Protestant view of sin.

The 'radical evil' Kant is seen as being so radical that even the justified sinner is considered to be justified and a sinner at the same time - simul iustus et peccator. At least, this is the paradoxical and vexing way Martin Luther puts it, which is still provocative today.

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And one has to acknowledge that we will not find the modern idea of human dignity and human rights in the works of Luther, Zwingli or Calvin. In a theological context one must bear in mind that all reasoning on the topic of human dignity by the argument of justification is a relecture and an advancement of reformation theology. A post-Enlightenment modern consciousness finds it hard to deal with the supposed pessimism of such anthropology, whilst, in the ecumenical dialogue, this radical position of Luther also causes considerable problems of understanding.

What lies behind the different ways of speaking about the topic of sin? This remains an open question, especially with regard to whether it is only a difference in language or whether it is an unbridgeable theological difference. The struggle over simul iustus et peccator in the context of the 'Joint declaration about the doctrine of justification' of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church has shown that.

The debate about man and the debate about a theologically appropriate image of man ultimately refer to the debate about God himself. God's existence as well as his goodness and his justice are debatable. This is the problem of theodicy. Theology as 'a science of conflict' Bayer , reflects upon the inner connection between the dispute about God and the dispute about man's existence. It is because of the reciprocal relation of God and men, even in the contradiction of human sin, that the Protestant tradition emphasises the connection between the doctrine of justification of the sinner through faith alone and the problem of theodicy.

The justification of the sinner is thus, at the same time, a self-justification of God i. It is not only human beings who accuse God; rather the existence of the sinful and potentially evil human person brings about the question about the justice of God.

What this is aimed at are not only other human beings, but at myself! It is my own existence and my actions, which causes other humans to challenge the justice of God and to doubt his existence.

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The saying above the entry to the oracle of Delphi, 'gnothi seauton - know thyself! As Luther points out in his exegesis of Psalm 'Appropriate object of theology is man as encumbered and lost in sin [ homo reus et perditus ] and God as the God who justifies and saves the sinner [ Deus iustificans vel salvator ].

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Only they who know themselves as justified sinners i. From this vantage point, the world is perceived as the good creation of God; however, knowledge of God might be obscured through the power of sin or through lack of faith. In the first of the two tales of creation in the Old Testament, God says:.

Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. The biblical God forms man according to his image and this constitutes the inviolable human dignity. The biblical myth of creation guides readers to see the world and oneself virtually with the eyes of God. As a consequence, the anthropological question about the essence of man and his dignity takes a surprising turn.

In Psalm 8 the believer of the Old Testament asks: 'What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? In form of a prayer, the question about the essence of man is not directed at human beings themselves, but at God. The essence of man is determined according to biblical belief through the contrast between his greatness and nothingness, which is mentioned by the psalm, but also that he is the man of God. Humankind's position within the universe is not a result of its special abilities or skills, but of God's grace. It is through thankful and humble amazement that the psalmist asks how man has deserved to be cared for by God.

Only such an attitude of amazement, for example in the work of an observing natural scientist or a caring physician, guarantees recognition of human dignity in its entire depth according to theological conviction.

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However, to look at the world through the eyes of God, as hinted at in the biblical myth of creation, does not imply that human beings should follow the self-demand of God to create man according his own image. The often mentioned warning of human hubris, which is supposedly the driving force behind biomedical progress, fails to provide a convincing argument.

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In view of the progress in natural science, technology and medicine, humans possess a responsibility, which cannot simply be denied by referring to the supposed intractability of life. According to anthropological conviction as well as biblical testimony, a crucial dimension of humanity is the necessity for a conscience, that is, an accountable way of dealing with their own lives, as well as the life of others.

This manner of dealing also has to be justified ethically; in a theological perspective face to face with God. The question therefore is: what forms of world-handling and self-handling are in accordance with human beings as a creation of God, as well as being created in his image, and what forms contradict it? Part of an ethical and religious way of life is a conscious way of dealing with the human body. Manipulation in the natural constitution of the human person can be in tune with the commitment to God, but can also be in opposition.

Medical-technical manipulations are not, as such, an attack on the integrity of creation. To the contrary! They can equally be the practical expression of faithfulness to creation trying to live according to the biblical designation of man under the condition of the scientific-technological age.

Humanity in modern biomedicine after the death of God. The bioethical discussion shows how difficult it is for human beings to remain human after the supposed end of the Christian God. This does not mean that the idea of human dignity can only be founded on Christian convictions; however, the aporias should be noticed when trying to deny the possibility of providing a religious justification. This has been shown by the debate that originated in Peter Sloterdijk's essay 'Rules for the human park'.

In a controversial and possibly wrong-headed interpretation of Martin Heidegger's 'Letter on humanism', Sloterdijk maintains not only the antiquity of man, as we know him, but also the antiquity of the occidental humanism. Moving from Heidegger to Friedrich Nietzsche, but also referring to Plato's Politeia, Sloterdijk interprets the word 'humanism' as the unsuccessful attempt of domesticating man as the 'animal not ascertained'. In view of the new biotechnology, he asks whether self-breeding should take the place of self-domestication; a new form of 'anthropo-technology' would take the place of old-fashioned humanism and its image of man.

A new super-man, indeed a 'super-humanist' ibid. Bidding farewell to Christian tradition might be premature; nevertheless, its task is to recover its potential and critical power. The new super-humanists are wrong, if they believe that the eugenical use of gene technology will lead to a final emancipation of human beings from fate. The truth is that progress in the field of medical genetics, as well as predictive and reproductive medicine, lead to new forms of fate.

The Christian belief in God, which sees man as the image of God, is not just a version of the belief in fate, as Dworkin thinks. Rather, in a historical perspective, it leads to a depotentialisation of fate, which determined even the lives of the gods in antiquity. Therefore, the modern denial of the Christian God, put in the formula of the death of God, did not lead to the final liberation of humankind from fate; rather, as the philosopher Odo Marquard puts it, fate returned, that is, fate created new contingencies Marquard The development of new contingencies can be witnessed closely in the field of predictive medicine.