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Philosophical Anthropology

Lord, What is Man?

Eugene S. Poliakov

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ABSTRACT: In this essay, philosophical anthropology is considered from the viewpoint of biblical exegesis. Our summons to self-knowledge is discussed in the light of immanence of the Kingdom of God in the human being. Humanity is argued to consist of a three-fold structure: outer, inner, and divine.

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Psalms 144:3

The theme of my paper is philosophical anthropology in its proper sense, i.e., the understanding of human nature. Philosophy is a speculative discipline and we have to choose a basis for our reasoning. Let us consider the human being from the viewpoint of the Holy Bible. I chose the Bible, but I am sure that any Scripture of the world's religions might be such a source.

It is superfluous to point out that using the Bible as the ground for reasoning of philosophical anthropology should not imply any theological bias. Otherwise it would be not philosophy but something else.

Let us determine the association among the following sayings, which I select to juxtapose by their clear references to the Kingdom of God. "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which ... when it is grown ... is the greatest among herbs" (Mt 13:31). "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field" (Mt 13:44).

These sayings I put on one side, and the following ones on the other:

"Behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Lk 17:21). "Seek ye first the kingdom of God ... and all ... things shall be added unto you" (Mt 6:33).

From all the above said we emerge with the following idea. Inside a human being there is something little and hidden, a treasure, which may be found in spite of its small measure. But when it is discovered it may and must become unimaginably great.

This conclusion is probably hard to reach, but it is even harder to find this least thing and to be faithful in it (cf. Lk 16:10). It is very difficult to arrive at knowledge of what is least, for "the king-dom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Mt 11:12)—that is, the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by strength, and those who take it are those who employ force. Is it not this same effort and this same labor that is the subject of the well-known parable: "Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them ... is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock" (Lk 6:47)? I have stressed the words "digged deep," for they are the most weighty key images.

Hitherto I have quoted only the Gospels, not referring to any other texts in the Bible. It would be more than strange if the Apostles had not touched upon this subject. Here is what Paul writes: "Take heed unto thyself ... for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Tim 4:16). Thus, Paul requires a continuous effort of taking heed of oneself. The same idea is expounded in Corinthians: "Examine yourselves ... prove your own selves" (2 Cor 13:5).

I can summarize all I have said above in a short formula: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God which is within you." Understanding the importance of this search, I can combine the two following commandments of Jesus: "Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Mt 5:6), and "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Mt 7:7). I can add here the natural observation that knocking at the door always implies entering in, and never going out.

Therefore it is necessary to dig deep in oneself, to know oneself. So what is it there within a man? The kernel of the answer to this question will be no perplexity—for he who hears and does is like a man "who digged deep in building a house, and laid the foundation on a stone" (Lk 6:48). And Paul writes clearly, "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 3:11). The Holy Bible testifies to the presence of God in human beings. There is some indirect evidence. E.g., "God ... be all in all" (1 Cor 15:28); "It is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Cor 12:6). These few verses should be enough to demonstrate the idea of the Divine presence within a man. A fuller demonstration would take some time, but we have no need of exercises in logic, for we have an abundance of direct evidence regarding the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, all abiding within a man.

I begin with the testimonies of the presence of God the Father in a man.

"Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them" (2 Cor 6:16); "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 Joh 4:4).

All the clear testimony of God's presence within a man is borrowed from the New Testament. This does not mean that the Old Testament testifies differently. But the evidence of the Old Testament is hidden testimony: "The Lord thy God [is] a jealous God among you" (Deut 6:15). I take this as hidden evidence because "God among you" may be understood also as "God within you." Darby and Young have translated these words as "God in thy midst."

Now let us return to Paul and add one more remarkable passage, which alone would be enough to prove and testify to the presence of God the Father within a man. "One [is] God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph 4:6). Now let us turn to the testimonies of Christ's presence in a man.

"Abide in me, and I in you" (Jn 15:4), so declares the Son. The next verse includes testimony of the Father's presence overlap-ping with the same declaration regarding the Son: "Ye shall know that I [am] in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you" (Jn 14:20). The same motif is apparent also in the following passage: "In him [Christ] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him" (Col 2:9). The point here is not some individual part of God, for God can not be divided into parts, but His complete fullness. This observation leaves no space for speculations concerning the well-known "spark of God" within a man. We read further in the same epistle: "Christ [is] in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27).

"Christ as a son over his own [the Father's] house; whose house are we" (Heb 3:6).

What is possibly the most important is the motif clearly heard throughout the entire Scripture—the motif of the necessity of entering in. The role of Christ in this task is inestimable, for He said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (Jn 10:9). The list of evidence concerning the presence of the Son within a man can be concluded with Paul's question, "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor 13:5). The presence of the Holy Ghost within a man cannot be left without attention. Here Paul raises another rhetorical question, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor 3:16). Later he continues, asking, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you?" (1 Cor 6:19).

We have gathered together the evidence for the presence in man of the three hypostases of the Godhead or of the three persons of the Trinity.

Nevertheless, the conclusions we have reached should not cause self-deception concerning the Divine nature of the human being, for in spite of the fact that man is created "in the image of God" (Gen 1:27), we are not allowed to forget that "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord" (2 Cor 5:6,11). The summons to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13:15), to take heed unto ourselves, can be combined with the commandments of seeking of God and His Kingdom. Isaiah formulates this in the following way, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near" (Is 55:6). The same commandment can be found formulated extremely elegantly in Acts.

He "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us " (Acts 17:26).

Let us note: God is not simply not distant from some particular one among us, but He is not far from every one of us. After all, Paul said those words not in a Christian assembly. God is not far from an Australian, and a Greenlander, though the distance between them is great. This can be possible only in the case that He dwells within every one of us. Here is the solution to the problem of Job, which continues to exist for many even up to this time, "Oh that I knew where I might find him! ... Behold, I go forward, but he [is] not [there]; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold [him]: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see [him]" (Job 23:3). Thus, based on the Holy Bible, we have proved that God dwells within man. We arrive at the idea of God's immanence in the human being. Will this idea make us modify our understanding of Jesus' formula, "In my Father's house are many mansions" (Jn 14:2)? You see, everyone within whom God dwells is His abode just for this reason. The problem of human nature is not yet solved completely. Therefore I proceed to Paul's teaching of the inner and the outer men which he expounds in several epistles.

Let us return to Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, where he wishes:

"that he would grant you ... to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph 3:16); "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph 3:19).

In the Romans Paul writes: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom 7:22).

There is another mention of the same thing in Corinthians: "though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day" (2 Cor 4:16).

These statements point out that the creature called a human being consists of at least two components, that is, of an inner man and an outer man, clearly opposed to one another.

The theme of the division inside man is indirectly attached to Jesus' summons "that all may be one" (Jn 17:21). But is it reasonable to address the summons to accept the Spirit of adoption to someone who is already a son? Is it sensible to address the summons to be perfect to someone who is already perfect? That's why the initial state from which it is possible to come to unity is nothing other than the state of division.

The very existence of the outer and inner parts implies a division between them, their separation by some barrier whose overcoming allows the outer to enter inside. After all, the point is to enter in; but "the kingdom of God is within you."

Putting together the preliminary results, we can conclude that Scripture reveals the presence of outer and inner parts, as well as the presence of God, within a man. Let us note that God is different from both the outer and the inner part, for the simple reason that He can neither perish like the outer man nor be renewed like the inner man, for with Him there "is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jam 1:17).

Let me recall now the symbolism of the human being as a temple, of which I have already spoken. One can discover that the description of the temple also includes the concepts of outer, inner and the innermost parts.

The prototype for the temple was the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a tent set up by Moses in the wilderness for the Divine service, ac-cording to the instruction of God. Outside of the tabernacle gathered "all the congregation" (Lev 8:3). Therefore it is called "the tabernacle of the congregation [or, gathering]" (Ex 27:21). Let us note further that the inner part of the tabernacle is separated from the outer part by curtains: "he ... coupled the curtains one unto another ... so it became one tabernacle" (Ex 36:13); and with a hanging or a veil (Ex 26:36).

Let us once more seek the help of Paul. In Hebrews, he turns his eyes to the tabernacle: "There was a tabernacle made; the first ... which is called the sanctuary [or, holy]" (Heb 9:2). Actually there were two veils, the first an outer one and a second veil inside. Let us read further: "And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all [or, Holy of holies]" (Heb 9:3). Let us now sum up our preliminary results. The prototype of the temple of God represents the outer area for the gathering of all the people, which is separated from the inner room with the curtain or the veil. Further inside the inner room there is the innermost, the Holiest part, separated from the inner room with the second veil. Is this not the same result we obtained earlier? Let us transfer the symbolism of the temple to anthropology, and say that the outer man is separated from the inner by a certain veil. But the inner man, being renewed day by day, is not yet God, who is al-ready perfect, and according to the symbolism of the Old Testament the inner man in turn is separated by a second veil from the abode of God—the innermost room, the Holy of holies.

Let us pose a question: Was it not the second veil which "was rent in twain from the top to the bottom" (Mt 27:51), as the crucified Jesus yielded up His spirit? The Apostle Paul's description testifies that there can be no two opinions on this point, for Paul summons "Having ... boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Heb 10:19). It is no effort to show that it was the second veil, separating the inner room from the innermost one, which was rent by the redemptive offering of Christ. This follows from the simple fact that if it had been the outer veil which was rent, this would have meant the elimination of the barrier between the outer area and the inner room—it would have meant the fall of the first tabernacle. But Paul writes, "The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was is yet standing: Which [is] a figure for the present time [DBY]" (Heb 9:8).

Christ opened a way from the holy to the Holy of holies, having destroyed the separating obstacle. After Christ's offering the temple should consist only of two parts divided by just one veil. Speaking of such a structure of the temple, we can not help remarking that the Eastern Orthodox Church to a greater degree, and the Roman Catholic Church to a lesser degree, preserved these images in the letter of their traditions. Their temples consist not of the three parts, as with the Jews, but of two: the space for the gathering of all the people and the sanctuary separated from it, where women are not allowed to enter in. Without taking any particular care to understand this point, the Eastern and Western churches thus have nonetheless pre-served the mystery of the faith in the miraculous transformation of human beings achieved by the sacrifice of Christ. As for the prohibition of women's entering into the sanctuary of the Christian temple, while this restriction makes little sense according to the letter, it has a very deep meaning in the symbolic sense. However let us read once more: "while as the first tabernacle is yet standing." It means that the first tabernacle which is an image for the present time will not stand forever! The new time is coming, and the image for the future time is different! And when the first tabernacle falls it will open the way into the holiest of all. This is de-scribed in the Revelation: "Behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" (Rev 15:5). I must note that the story of the temple is not a literal description of the abode of God, but it is a portrayal of the symbolic structure of a human being. A purely literal understanding of the temple of God, as only a building erected by the hands of people for meetings and the Divine service, is dashed into little pieces by the testimony of the Bible.

"God ... dwelleth not in temples made with hands " (Acts 17:24). The passages just cited do not at all contradict the proposition that "the Lord [is] in his holy temple" (Hab 2:20). On the contrary, this statement is one more evidence that God's abode is specifically within man. We just must strictly distinguish between the temple made with hands and the true holy temple not of human making, which is the human being. The final emphasis is easy to place, again with Paul's help. Of course, the Lord [is] in his holy temple, "which [temple] ye are" (1 Cor 3:17).

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