What does it mean to be human? 

This is a question that I recently wrestled with for a research paper in my systematic theology course. While this may seem like a rather obvious question at first glance, it turned out to be much more complex than I initially assumed. 

Indeed, there is a superficial naivety to the question; much like embarking on a journey of oceanic exploration in nothing more than a rowboat. One has barely set out before an awareness of the size and scope of the project and the limited capacity of the vessel begins to overwhelm. Yet despite the flimsy nature of the question itself, immediately below the surface is a vast world teeming with life and endless curiosity worthy of the adventure. One cannot even begin to ask the question without the proper humility required.

What does it mean to be human?

It is a question that seems to have only become more complicated with time and resources. As we have made great strides in our understanding of the world that we participate in, our understanding of ourselves has only grown more convoluted. Biology, psychology, physics, philosophy, religion, sociology, gender studies, political-science, the arts: at the intersection of these disciplines we find humanity - struggling to make sense of it all. And with so many complex schools of thought arriving at such disparate conclusions one might wonder if it is even possible to answer such a question in our time.

What does it mean to be human?

Perhaps it is an answer in flux. Because culture evolves and our understanding of the world around us has expanded to include new ways of thinking, so too has our need to struggle with our place in it. For instance, as science has opened up new possibilities around stem cell research, transplants, and even cloning, this has forced us to broaden our definitions. What is a human being when we can grow them either in part or in whole in a laboratory? Are we mere biology - flesh and blood? Or is there more to us than our biological functions? And what happens to us when those functions stop? To further complicate things, advancements made in the field of neuroscience and psychology have challenged many of our classic notions of the human soul.

So what does it mean to be human when so many of our previous categories for understanding ourselves have come under a new light? This is particularly important for the church in our time. What does it mean to claim that humanity is made in the image of God in the twenty-first century following in the wake of so many scientific shifts?  

“Nobody seems to recognize that historically as well as existentially the concept of the person is indissolubly bound up with theology.” - John Zizioulas

With such a disorienting amount of upheaval going on in our time, perhaps what is needed for the church is an entry point back into the conversation. This is something I want to explore leading into Easter. 

Now, I realize that I usually suck at keeping up with any sort of blog series (I blame school), but this time I'm mostly just converting a paper I wrote into several posts so it should be possible. There's some themes that I would like to touch on that I think could create some fun interaction. So, feel free to jump in in the comments.