Answer the following questions. Explain, as to someone with no background in religion, how the intellect and the will show humans have a tendency to go beyond what humans can grasp. Pick one...

Answer the following questions.

  1. Explain, as to someone with no background in religion, how the intellect and the will show humans have a tendency to go beyond what humans can grasp.
  1. Pick one element of Christian anthropology (free-will, sin, hell, resurrection, incarnation); describe this idea as related to Christian anthropology and explain how this idea relates to the Christian understanding of God.
Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One particular aspect of Christian anthropology that reflects much about both the religion and its understanding of the divine is the notion of human sin. When examining Christian anthropology, we are looking at how human identity is constructed in the face of the divine:  

One aspect studies the innate nature or constitution of the human, known as the nature of humankind. It is concerned with the relationship between notions such as body, soul, and spirit which together form a person, based on their descriptions in the Bible.

This understanding of Christian anthropology is critical in the construction of human sin.  In many views of Christianity, human sin was forged by Adam, the first man, in the Garden of Eden. Adam precipitated the fall of mankind because he knowingly disobeyed the word of God by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, something that God directly told him not to do.  In his rebellion, human sin was formed.  Christianity views Adam's rebellion as the base from which all mankind's condition is derived. The Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests that human sin is inextricably linked from Adam's transgression:

By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans.  Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin". As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence")

The Church's interpretation of Original Sin is a significant aspect of Christian anthropology. It is essential the construction of the religion. It suggests that Adam's actions have been "transmitted to their descendants."  This helps to develop a condition in which human beings are "weakened," "subject to ignorance" and predisposed to "sin."  The condition of humanity's sinful nature makes it necessary to submit to the divine and take the teachings of the Bible to heart.  The anthropology suggests that humanity cannot "make it" without doing so.

This element of Christian anthropology is also critical to how the individual is meant to perceive God.  As a result of Original Sin, human beings contain "both the powerful surge toward the good because we are made in the image of God, and the darker impulses toward evil because of the effects of Original Sin."  In coming to God, being baptized, and following the teachings outlined in the Bible, the religion stresses that individuals can come far in mitigating the effects of Original Sin.  Humanity is condemned to sinful nature unless it actively acts towards counteracting these effects.  The condition of sinful behavior is a part of human nature and being able to submit one's own individual identity to this understanding of God is the only path to salvation. The belief in God, the heavenly father, his son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is what enables the individual to counteract the effects of Original Sin, which amounts to the transgressive nature intrinsic to humanity.  The condition of Original Sin is what helps to primarily construct the Christian understanding of God.

The first task is something that lies beyond the space offered in enotes.  It should be noted it is not absolutely certain that humans do have a tendency to go beyond what can be grasped.  I think that a case can be made that there are many who are find what can be grasped as perfectly acceptable to their condition of being.  However, if we were to entertain the idea that humans possess the intellect and the will to go beyond what can be grasped, then we would suggest that there is an innate ability to question the conditions of the world around them.  "To go beyond" necessitates a particular dissatisfaction with what is around the individual.  It is in this capacity where human beings possess the will and intellect to ask questions such as how do I know that this is real, or is this it, or even questions such as what defines the nature of being in the world.  To merely broach such questions reflects the propensity for human beings to possess the will and intellect to "seek more:"

The vast array of religions are a testimony to the human tendency to grasp at the divine. This in itself is perhaps the strongest testimony to God’s existence. It can be said that all humans have an innate desire; an emptiness that they feel must be filled. The human quest for power, riches, sensual pleasure, security, fame and indulgence in natural pleasures is a response to the heartfelt desire for a higher goodness. Temporal pleasures and even natural love is often transitory and ultimately unfulfilling. As humans indulge in their passions their desires continue to go unfulfilled. Many attempt to fill the void with increasing worldly pleasures with little results.

It is only through a particular and perceived shortcoming with the world around that the transformative capacity to see to "go beyond" emerges.  Individuals who are content with that is around them tend to not really seek anything more.  There is no real need to do so.  If one is surrounded with contentment, then there is no compulsion to "go beyond" that which is around them.  It is only though the perception that there is something more that individuals demonstrate the will and intellect to sense something more.  Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in The Republic speaks to this condition:  “How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?" It is only when human beings "move their heads" because of the desire to move towards a perceived light that they possess the intellect and the will to "go beyond" what is around them.

hermy27 | Student

Oddly enough, the concept of Hell in Christianity is more of an amalgamation of other religious ideas of a punishment in the afterlife.  Biblically speaking, Hell is never mentioned.  There is reference to states of punishment, shame, torture, and abandonment (Abaddon, Hades, Sheol, Tartarus, or even Gehenna), but the term or idea of an eternal imprisonment to where sinners go after they die was not added to Christian mythology until several hundred years after the life and death of Jesus.  In fact, the closest idea to this concept that was touched on by Jesus was in the New Testament:

"Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. ...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

—Matthew 25:41–43 
The concept of Hell in Christianity is maintained mainly for the same reasons as its similar concepts in other religions: as a fear tactic.  The threat of eternal damnation as punishment for actions made during one's lifetime is a useful tool for any organization that seeks to control the behavior of its masses.

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