Called by God to be a Human Being

I’ve been trying to construct a working theological anthropology for a couple years. I’ve been trying to find a name for what I’m trying to articulate. I would call it either an “elective” or a “vocative” anthropology. (Any suggestions for a better name would be appreciated.)

What do I mean by “elective” / “vocative” anthropology? Mostly this: what makes us human, what constitutes our humanity is not anything that might be construed as intrinsic to us. It is construed “eccentrically” (to borrow David Kelsey’s term); what makes us human is the electing call of God to be human.

This means several important things. First, being human is primarily a relational category. We are human by virtue of a particular relation with God, that is, the relation of election. Normally election is used in theology when talking about salvation, but I would like to suggest that election may be an equally fruitful category when talking more broadly about our vocation to be human beings. Our status as human beings is conferred upon us by God. It is a status that is maintained by the faithfulness of God. This means, hypothetically, that the only way we could be or become “not human” would be by a revocation of our status by God.

Secondly, and consequently, no other factor determines our status as human beings, including race, ethnicity, social class, developmental disability, or gender identity, to name a few disparate examples. Not even sin determines our status as human beings, because sin does nothing to destroy God’s call placed upon us to be human beings. (In this way, sin can be partially construed as a refusal on our part to be what God has already called/declared us to be: human beings.)

I think that an elective or vocative theological anthropology could have a lot of interesting implications for a Christian social theory, and also for a Christian interpretation of evolutionary biology, especially as it relates to the question of an historical Adam and Eve. If evolutionary biology is correct in its way of explaining the world (and, as a scientific “way-of-seeing,” we have to concede the possibility that it could be quite wrong), what makes Adam and Eve (and all human beings) qualitatively different from monkeys or ape-like humans (or any other living creature)? From the standpoint of an elective or vocative anthropology, it is not DNA, or capacities for emotions or cogitation, or any other biological factor that makes one a human being. Could it be that it is only the external election of God that makes one a human being?


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