Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Personhood and Christ: Are you a Person?

It is argued that personhood does not exist by those who favor Eastern religion over the so-called "rational" doctrines of the West.   The argument is that individual personhood dissipates upon death and is either subsumed into the eternal, infinite cosmos, or ceases to exist.  The former is congruent with a New Age Pantheism, similar to Hinduism, while the latter is in concord with Naturalism, which teaches that there is nothing except that which we can verify through empirical sense-data.  Naturalism holds that there is no god, no angels, no demons (certainly no devil), no afterlife, no soul.  Most naturalists are materialists, believing that only matter exists; however, some naturalists do believe in immaterial entities: namely the laws of nature (gravity, cause and effect), or the laws of logic (law of non-contradiction, law of identity, and law of excluded middle).

What reason would someone give for denying individual personhood?  Some argue that a personal afterlife, such as the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is inconceivable and that personal dissipation is to be preferred.  However, when put to the test, and asked about whether persons exist at present, if it often suggested that even personhood itself is an illusion.  This is, again, in deep concord with the Hindu doctrine of evil and "maya," or illusion.  Hence, there are no distinctions between good and eviil.   It makes sense, does it not?  That someone would deny individual person hood would, with a consistent worldview, deny objective good and evil.  For, when someone is violated in this life, it is very personal.  A woman who has experienced rape has been violated in her personhood.   She is a real person, not a random collocation of chemicals.  Denying personhood denies ethical commands, which require a Person who issues those commands.   Why is this the case?

It is the case because given Pantheism, "God is all."  That is, the universe is permeated by and is equivalent to, God.  That means that worms are god.  Strawberries are god.  The stream is god.  The flowers and sun and sky are god.  And best of all, you yourself are god.  But there's a darker side to this.  It also means that everything that occurrs in life is a manifestation and outworking of god.  So, all of the evil in the world and all of the good in the world are both, equally, god.  A Hindu once told me that a little girl who gets violated by a man is "getting what she deserves" because she "did something bad in a past life."  That's Karma at work:  the suffering you experience now is due to the evil you did in a past life.  Not only is that sick and wrong, but it's a contradiction: if evil is an illusion, how can it be that someone must suffer for something evil they did in a past life?

Given naturalism or pantheism, we have a monist worldview, where "all is one."  In either scenario, individual personhood is denied, and the value of human life and dignity are destroyed.  If naturalism is true, then biological determinism is true.  If biological determinism is true, then whatever you do in this life is due to your brain chemistry, genes, and environment.  That is, you have no choice to do anything to the contrary given a particular situation.  In fact, the concept of choice is a farse and is "maya," an illusion.  Now, if biological determinism is true, then even one's thoughts on religion are also predetermined by these aforementioned factors.  This means that even the concept of truth itself is a misnomer, and non-existent.  Lastly, if biological determinism is true, then relativism is true.  This means that your beliefs are on equal footing and "value" as anyone else's.  "Value" is here in quotes because given relativism, there is no such thing as values, because they are relative.  Relativism is also a contradiction and should be rejected, because person A's brain is not person B's brain, and there can be nothing to bring them into uniformity to make correct conclusions about the world about us.

On the Christian view, the Triune, personal God made man in his image and gives man his revelation through authoritive Scripture.  The penultimate word is through the Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is truth embodied in a divine person.  "I and the Father are one" he says.  "I am the way, the truth and the life," he asserts.  "I came down from heaven to do the will of God" Jesus says.  "I have come to fulfill the law and the prophets," and "One greater than Solomon is here."

Only Christianity gives humans dignity, person hood, and hope in the resurrection of the dead.  Monist systems of thought, whether New Age Pantheism, or Naturalism, destroy individuality at the expense of cosmic "oneness," or worse cosmic non-existence.  But ask yourself: if I am not a person; if I am only a random collocation of chemicals flitting about in the brain; if I will not outlast this current existence; then why do I speak with the "I" when referring to...myself?"

No comments: