The Truth Divide I wrote about before is one major piece of the puzzle in determining why the world is the way it is, and why people think the way they do, but it is not the entire thing. Another crucial piece is the affect it had on the way people view themselves. I’ll call this the human divide, or the person divide, as just like with truth, people began to have a two-story view of themselves.
As we talked about before, humans began to view truth in a fragmented way, with the lower story belonging solely to physics and math, and therefore to facts, and the upper story belonging to everything else. The upper story included things which were only subjective, because they could not be tested via the scientific method, or verified by the senses. These were things like love, meaning, ethics, morality, religion, and purpose.
Consequently, people began to question what it means to be a human being. This is something that people have asked since forever, but with this two story framework in place, people began to develop a fragmented view of the self. Scientific discoveries and advancements translated down to the public into new machines, and people began to make connections between the machines of the day and the way the human body operates. In today’s terminology, we often hear how the brain is much like an advanced computer.
Classically, cultures have divided the human self into the physical/biological portions and the spiritual portions. With the divided view of truth solidly in place, the only thing that was on the lower story was the physical body. The upper story contained everything that made human life worth living. Things like meaning and purpose, love and hope, ethics and morality. In psychological terms, the things in the upper story would be referred to as the “I” or the “self” , and then you have the body, which is a biological organism, or a biochemical machine.
Important in this discussion is the idea of autonomy. Since this is something that cannot be tested by science or interpreted by the senses, it is, by necessity, an upper story concept. The body is basically something that carries out the will of the “self”. The upper story (call it mind, soul, spirit, what have you) is autonomous (makes free decisions) and in cause and effect style, the body responds. In a way, this gets around the discussion of determinism/free will by simply shifting the determinism into the lower story and the free will into the upper story.
The lower story can be determined by a number of things. Biological forces determine how our body reacts to certain things, and our autonomous (upper story) self makes choices that determine what the biochemical machines known as our bodies will do. Interestingly, this is an attempt of the upper story worldviews (heirs of the Romanticism tradition) to take over the lower story worldviews (heirs of the Enlightenment tradition). Some of this came about when quantum physics discovered that things aren’t as “solid” as we originally thought. The connection was made that if things weren’t as solid as we thought they were, then maybe the scientific and mathematic communities aren’t the sole bearers of truth they were thought to be.
This is a radical departure from the Christian approach to our bodies, which holds that our bodies are fallen, but ultimately redeemed and are part of what makes us partakers of the image of God. This fragmented view of the human body has important implications on the current issues of our day. Next we will take a look at those issues and determine how to best respond to them in ways that are both meaningful to the world, and helpful to the cause and glory of God.