Ingraffia on Paul’s Idea of Dualism

Brian Ingraffia, Postmodern Theory and Biblical Theology:

But biblical thought, because it is based on the Hebraic not the Greek conception of humanity, does not understand human beings as a dualism of body and spirit, as Platonism does, nor as a dualism of mind and body, as Descartes does. Paul’s division between the flesh and the Spirit is not a metaphysical-ontotheological dualism, but rather a redemptive-eschatological separation between those alienated from God and those reconciled to God.

Both Paul and Heidegger draw upon a traditional vocabulary in developing their anthropological concepts, and yet both thinkers give new meaning to this used linguistic currency. Paul uses the everyday vocabulary of the Greco-Roman world of his time and the language of the Torah (especially from the Septuagint translation), while Heidegger uses the language of modern metaphysics and also borrows terminology from the New Testament and Christian theology (especially Augustine, Luther and Kierkegaard) . Both writers reshape the language of Greek metaphysics and contemporary, everyday uses of their language in an attempt to express a vision of humanity that is radically different from the metaphysical anthropologies of ontotheology.

But a similar qualification must be made about the so-called “theological anthropology” of the Apostle Paul. Paul is in no way interested in developing an independent definition of the essence or constitution of man. He is not interested in humanity as an end in itself, but in humanity as created and redeemed by God. Here we can make a preliminary connection between Paul and Heidegger.

Just as Heidegger is interested in Dasein only in its relation to Being (including Being-in-the-world and Being-with-others), so is Paul interested in anthropos only in its relationship to God (and how this relationship should determine the way one conducts him or herself in the world, especially towards others) . This is not to equate Heidegger’s “Being” with Paul’s “God.” I do not want to make this equation which Heidegger explicitly denies and which leads away from the God revealed in the Bible towards another god ofontotheology. But the structural parallels between Paul’s biblical theology and Heidegger’s fundamental ontology should not be overlooked. Paul begins his epistle to the Romans with a description of anthropos in terms of our relationship to God. He states that even though we were given an understanding of God – “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1: 1 9) – – we have chosen to forget God – “since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Romans 1 : 28) .

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