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Lecture compares theology and anthropology

| Sunday, October 12, 2014

Notre Dame professor of theology Celia Deane-Drummond discussed the interconnections between theology and anthropology in her presentation “Evolution, Humans and Other Animals: Theology and Anthropology in Dialogue,” an installment of the Snite Museum’s Saturday Scholars series.

Drummond discussed the attempts of anthropology and theology to explore the role of human agency and human interaction with the environment. She said the main concern with both fields is how they intersect in light of new discoveries in evolutionary biology.

According to Drummond, both anthropology and theology need to create stronger dialogue in order to provide greater perspective regarding human nature and human agency.

“I believe there are tensions here that need to be faced, and if we refuse to face them we end up merging the two areas [theology and anthropology] in a way that is not necessarily intellectually responsible,” she said.

Drummond said anthropology’s focus on human and human interaction with the environment compliments theology’s focus on humanity’s relationship and identity to God.

In exploring the different dimensions of human biology and human evolution, Drummond explained their relation to our actions toward our environment and our role in history. She discussed how studies centered on human-animal interaction shape both human and animal communities, and she said these studies compel theologians to expand their worldview of the human relationship to God.

“Although anthropologists can describe what’s going on in these [human] communities and give us a sense of our entanglement with other creatures, how are we to think about our own human responsibility that might be in the context of such entanglement?” she said. “What is the goal of the human from a theological point of view?”

Drummond  introduced the concept of “theo-drama,” a concept developed by Catholic Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, which establishes God as a central actor in human interaction and views history in light of the “future hope.” Drummond defined theo-dramatics as the “performative understanding of who we are as humans.”

Theo-dramatics is analogous to niche construction, the way in which humans shape and interact with their environment, Drummond said. The theo-dramatic view of humanity and human history provide a unique integration of theology and anthropology, she said.

“[Theo-dramatics] replaces the kind of stale defensiveness between evolution and creationism that has been the mantra of so much public discourse,” she said. “It’s doing something different; it’s doing something creative by actually drawing on the science and using it in a way that is helpful.”

Drummond said both anthropology and theology have created frameworks that allow people to understand their identity toward both their environment and God.

“There are family resemblances between the way theologians construct their work and the way that scientists can think about our own human identity,” she said. “If we’re in touch with how the biological world works, it will actually illuminate our theology in new ways.”

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