Human Life

Outler, Albert C.

Commonweal: 60 Neo-neo-orthodoxy HDMAN LIFE A Biblical Perspective for Bioethics J. Robert Nelson Fortress Press. $10.95,194 pp. Albert C. Outler THE multitudes who have read Karl Barth's...

...To his analysis of the new aspects of perennial problems in Christian anthropology, Nelson brings a rich ecumenical experience...
...3), designed by God with "three dimensions": physical-biological, psychic-moral, and zoetic (from the New Testament term zoe with its distinctive connotations of self-transcendence and "eternity...
...What of the human person as responsible agent responsible to what or to whom...
...His career began as general secretary of Faith and Order back in its glory days...
...Altogether, his book is a significant addition to the long line of provisional answers to the perennial question in Psalm 8; Where on earth does the humanum fit into God's larger scheme of things...
...An ample view of the first principles is here, but how and why do they apply...
...What is the human possibility (perfection in love...
...This was followed by a deanship in "the old South" where he had to lay his job on the line for conscience's sake in a civil rights case (he lost the job but won the moral victory...
...This is not to say that Nelson is a "Barth-ian" (his doctorate is from Zurich under Emil Brunner in ecclesiology) but rather that he stands in that distinctive tradition of biblical anthropology thatBarth strove so mightily to rehabilitate...
...On the other side, there is what some will perceive as a lack of full-scale case-studies, of actual instances of practical perplexities emerging in medical practice, family life, and global politics...
...The chief difference between Nelson's neo-orthodoxy and the older Protestant orthodoxy is his emphatic repudiation of its traditional body-soul dualism (in which the body was conceived of as a machine and the soul as its Ideological 25 January 1985: 61 operator...
...Then followed a teaching stint in India and a year as lecturer at the Greg-orianum all before settling into his present post at Boston University...
...To glorify God and to enjoy him, forever...
...Nelson's answer is still another variation on an ancient affirmation (as in the Psalm, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, et passim in the Christian tradition...
...If it is a "quality," what then is its ontic status...
...Why should human life, so obviously intended by God to be grace-full ("holy and happy" as John Wesley put it) be so tragically flawed and so often grace-less...
...All along he has been deeply involved in the dialogue between Christian theology and modern science...
...Albert C. Outler THE multitudes who have read Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, III, 2 will already have the general drift of Human Life in mind save for Barth's bold Christomonism and Nelson's impressive expertise in current bioethics...
...Some of the more abstruse questions about "humanness" are not pursued very far...
...By the same token, however, one can now read Human Life, without having read Barth, and get a compact, updated version of the neo-orthodox tradition: of the human as God's special creation, a psychophysical unity mirroring God's image rooted in nature but oriented toward the divine...
...and why should this so often exceed our grasp by so far...
...Here, then, is a distinguished theologian (Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences) willing to brave the obloquy of appearing old-fashioned, with only his obvious up-to-dateness in modern biology and genetics as compensation...
...By contrast, Nelson "rediscovers' ' the biblical view of' 'human life as unitary" (ch...
...For all this, there are not many essays in this field as well-written as this one and few as wise...
...The result is an interesting exercise in aggiornamento in much the same sense as what John XXIII encouraged us to dare...
...Nelson is opposed to abortion and euthanasia without being strident, "straight" without being puritanical, sensitive without confounding compassion with moral acuity, zealous for justice without a doctrinaire agenda...
...Commonweal: 62...
...Hu-manness is the distinctive quality implied by the symbol of 'the image of God' . . . Everyone's [personal] identity is the creation and endowment of God...
...Human Life is a summing up of one aspect of that involvement...
...What are we to make of the paradox of the bracketings of humanity's outreach of infinite aspirations and by their obvious finitude...
...Such questions are not ignored, but neither are they plumbed...
...Why should ethical consensus be so hard to come by, even among those men and women of avowed good will...
...What is the metaphysical import of such genuinely new ideas as artificial intelligence...

Vol. 112 • January 1985 • No. 2


 
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