Published Humanitas, Volume XXVI, Nos. 1 and 2, 2013

I wonder about the presuppositions when voices are raised concerning the fragmentation of society and problems of disconnectedness. At the heart of these concerns is a philosophical anthropology, i.e., one’s beliefs about what it means to be human. What is it exactly that is fragmented or disconnected? It is probably incumbent on me to disclose my own beliefs before proposing a response.

I subscribe to the belief (not original with me) that human beings are already disconnected or fragmented at birth. (See, e.g., Schaeffer, 1982, 1–114, especially at 69 ff. ; Bonhoeffer, 1937/1959, 77–85; Buber, 1938/1972, 118–205, at 177ff.; von Rad, 1972, 96 and 101.) Each of us is born broken along four dimensions: we are born broken from the natural world (red in tooth and claw), from other human beings, within our own minds, and from the divine ground of being. In other words, we are broken physically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually. This is one way for me to understand the doctrine of original sin—not as something anyone did, but as a condition of being separated or fundamentally disconnected.

Which is not to say that humans are incapable of closing these fissures. For instance, we find ways to engage…

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