In honor of David Bentley Hart’s lecture at Notre Dame Seminary here in NOLA last night, I want to post a quote from an appreciative article he wrote on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. In it he contrasts the rapidly ascending “trans-humanist” worldview that sees the mastery of (human) nature as the final eugenic solution to human suffering, with the Christian humanism that St. John Paul proposed. While both visions seek divinization (becoming God) as the goal, one proposes to achieve it by manipulation and destruction, while the other proposes to achieve it in freedom by love of God and neighbor, with a special reverence for those whose disabilities permit them to resemble the crucified God.
For the Christian to whom John Paul speaks, however, one can truly aspire to the divine only through the charitable cultivation of glory in the flesh, the practice of holiness, the love of God and neighbor; and, in so doing, one seeks not to take leave of one’s humanity, but to fathom it in its ultimate depth, to be joined to the Godman who would remake us in himself, and so to become simul divinus et creatura. This is a pure antithesis. For those who, on the one hand, believe that life is merely an accidental economy of matter that should be weighed by a utilitarian calculus of means and ends and those who, on the other, believe that life is a supernatural gift oriented towards eternal glory, every moment of existence has a different significance and holds a different promise. To the one, a Down syndrome child (for instance) is a genetic scandal, one who should probably be destroyed in the womb as a kind of oblation offered up to the social good and, of course, to some immeasurably remote future; to the other, that same child is potentially (and thus far already) a being so resplendent in his majesty, so mighty, so beautiful that we could scarcely hope to look upon him with the sinful eyes of this life and not be consumed.