Over at the Kern Pastors Network, Greg Forster points to Rev. Robert Sirico’s speech from this year’s Acton University, drawing particularly on Sirico’s emphasis on Christian anthropology. “One may not say that we are spirits inside of flesh,” Sirico said, “but that we are spirits and flesh.”
Christianity teaches that the human person is, in Sirico’s words, both corporeal and transcendent. We cannot make sense of ourselves if we are only bodies. How could a strictly material body think for itself and make its own decisions, much less be aware of itself as it did so? Yet it is equally mistaken to locate our humanity only in the transcendent, as if we are spirits trapped inside bodies. It feels liberating at first to think that the mind and the will are all that matters, and that the body is an appendage to be used and reshaped however we wish. But whenever we try to live that way, our lives quickly become arbitrary and meaningless.
How we approach such matters impacts everything we do. When it comes to economic life, that means everything from our daily work to the economic systems we work within:
The worker who knows that his spirit and body are integrated on equal terms is able to find satisfaction in work. Unlike the materialist, he knows that work can have dignity and meaning. Unlike the Gnostic, he knows that the ultimate source of that dignity and meaning are outside himself. He can see the possibilities for transcendent satisfaction in so-called “menial” work, and he hears the call to humility and service in so-called “mind work” that others would use to glorify themselves.
Christian anthropology makes a difference to economic systems as well….A society that knows that the spirit and body are integrated on equal terms is able to honor the dignity of each individual, while also sustaining cultural integrity. Unlike the materialist society, it knows that work is deeply personal and meaningful for each worker, and thus needs a social context of individual freedom and fair play. Unlike the Gnostic society, it knows that the meaningfulness of work depends upon concepts of virtue, character, service, generosity, and the higher good that cannot be merely the arbitrary preferences of isolated individuals. It can say a firm “no” to paternalistic systems that reduce individuals to dependent clients of the state; it can say an equally firm “no” to libertarian systems that encourage selfishness and cultural disintegration. Only such a society can go on saying “yes” to a real reconciliation of generosity and free enterprise grounded in moral character, rather than in the triumph of some economic ideology or political faction.
Read the full post here.