“To understand how God is communicating with us through Jesus and through the Bible, we need at the same time to understand ourselves”. I agree with this culminating statement and all that James said leading up to it. However, let me point out two ways of reading the language he uses: one I find I can accept quite comfortably and the other is—for some reason or another, and I’ll take a stab at why below—remarkably discomforting.
(i) “To understand how God is communicating with humanity through Jesus and through the Bible, we need at the same time to understand what made humans human and what being human necessarily entails.”
(ii) “To understand how God is communicating with me through Jesus and through the Bible, I need at the same time to understand who Andrew really is.”
The former strikes me as an assertion that theology is best investigated obliquely as a sort of concavity perceptible in the output of anthropological research—and I concur, thankful to James for giving me the language to express with clarity what I’ve long struggled to wrap my head around. The latter strikes me as self-indulgent and most unlikely to bear fruit.
Of course (i) and (ii) are related. I am a human, and as I learn more about humanity and human nature I will learn more about the Andrew who posts on online discussion forums. All the same, while I suspect there are marvelous lessons to be learned in pursuing (i) that can never be touched if we restrict ourselves to (ii), and while I don’t want to neglect where (i) and (ii) overlap, … I don’t actually (at this point) believe there is anything of value to be uncovered in (ii) that can’t be found in (i). This means that the only things left to be found in the part of (ii) that is only (ii) and not part of (i) are the fantasy worlds romantics make of themselves. That’s why I described (ii) as discomforting. I don’t see what it has to offer. I fear it leads to losing sight of one’s neighbors, which would mean living human life poorly.
I suppose this could just be one of Andrew’s irrational fears sired by a lack of self-confidence, and perhaps I’ll get over my discomfort as I proceed through the lessons. But it’ll be difficult because, as of now, I can’t imagine addressing a lack of self-confidence since I don’t actually believe Andrew has an individuated self to put confidence in. And I believe that I’m quite like everyone else in this respect. I don’t think any of us has an individuated self we could sort out so as to better communicate with God. I do, however, believe that for every possible “we” there is a collective self which, when properly oriented, speaks the Word of God.
Do you suppose it’ll cause me to lag behind the JFV instruction if I stick exclusively to interpreting James as I did in (i)?