Trinity College

The Human Person in Orthodox Tradition

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Last Offered: 
Fall 2016
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Pastoral care in the Orthodox Christian tradition begins with a thorough understanding of the human person in the Scriptures and in Holy Tradition. Only with an understanding of how we are created by God and what He has called us to become can we identify and diagnose the sicknesses and disorders of the fallen state and apply the appropriate spiritual cure.

The Orthodox Christian understanding of the human person stems primarily from Divine Revelation. In theological terms the question of God and humanity are two equations.  The first is a precondition for the other, and the other stems from the first. The human person is a creature that emerges through relationships, existing and eventually reaching its fullness in dynamic relationship with God and all creation.

Practical Orthodox Christian theological anthropology observes the human person as a central being in all creation. Its importance stems from the fact that all things exist through the human being and in the human being all creation accomplishes its own salvation. This accomplishment is actualized through personal free union with the uncreated God, in Christ. To speak about the human person in Christianity means to speak not about the human being itself, independent of God, the Church and the world, but a human who in fact is a person through whom the essential bond between creation and God is made possible. The salvation of the world through the human person is discerned as a service – liturgy – in which the human being is realized as a true person that strives to become an eternal and unrepeatable being in communion with God and the world in Christ. In any other context, the human being ceases to be a person, the image of God in the given world.  It is in this fact that we find the fundamental difference between Orthodox Christian anthropology and many other anthropologies that exist.

This course provides theological foundations for the practice of pastoral ministry in the Orthodox tradition by introducing students to the most significant teachings in applied Orthodox theological anthropology, beginning with the Cappadocian fathers, Maximus the Confessor and others. The course will also explore some contributions by modern scholars such as Bulgakov, Yannaras, Zizioulas, Behr, Vlachos and Von Balthasar who have enriched the study of the human person in Orthodox tradition and informed applied pastoral care. This course will also compare and contrast practical anthropological ideas developed by western, modern era philosophers such as Nietzsche, Freud and Sartre. The course will also explore some modern bioethical, technological and social issues that pose new questions regarding the human person and have direct implications for the practice of pastoral ministry.