Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Christian Worldview

Here's a quote from an essay, Obedience, by Herbert McCabe:

Just as what I called the modern view is based on a certain notion of the human being as an individual of sheer autonomous will whose life is the development of her individual personality (the view we call liberal individualism), so our view is based on another notion of the human being, a more ancient notion, perhaps a more primitive notion, but any way I think a more accurate notion. (We could even call the modern view Protestant and ours characteristically Catholic, but that would be to oversimplify.) For the modern view society is made of individuals, for our view the individual is made of societies. There is simply no such thing as the sheer me existing prior to, and in isolation from, the very many societies or communities in which I have a role. I came into existence as the fruit of community, the union between my parents which itself depended on a social community to which they belonged. My process of growing up and developing the personality I have was the process of being brought into, having a role in a whole succession of communities, family, school, church, university, the political and economic world, the Dominican Order. These are all networks of human relationship, which is to say that they are forms of love, for love just is that specifically human relationship. In so far as a school or the political order succeeds in being a form of love it is a good school or political order, in so far as it doesn't - it isn't. The political order is not the same form of love as the family, and if it tried to be it would fail to be a form of love altogether. All these are different forms of love each valid in its own way.

All this means that I find myself, my unique personality, not in dividing myself off from others, not by looking for some unimaginably private me existing prior to my relationship with others, but precisely in my relations with others. I discover myself not by standing back from but by entering into community. I am my membership of community - not of course one but many. For me to exist is for me to be a citizen of the Irish Republic, a Dominican, a teacher in a university, the brother of my various siblings, the friend of these and these men and women, a creature of God, a child of God. There is no me apart from all that. As St Thomas says:

Since a man is a part of a family, or a city, he has to consider what is good for him in terms of his good sense with regard to the good of the community. For the good disposition of a part depends on its relation to the whole (ST IIa IIae, 46, 10).

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