Sunday, August 12, 2018

Another Take on Being Itself (this time I've got it)

Being itself has kind of come up again, I'm on summer vacation, be back in a couple of weeks


Discussing the concept of being itself on my message board and my dialogue partner introduced me to a  blog article written several years ago by an atheist who read this blog and was considering it, I like this guy because he's an atheist but links to my blog, I am the only Christian blogger he linked to at that time. This Guy, "Tocho" is the only  name I can see for him, struggled to thinkof what being itself might mean,
The conceptualization of God as 'Being Itself' was, to my knowledge, first proposed by theologian Paul Tillich in the early 20th Century. It has been brought to my knowledge by a thoughtful blogger, discussant, and professional theologian with the pseudonym Metacrock ( If you can get through his posts (sorry, Meta, your writing style is a bit... difficult), you'll find that they are extremely intelligent in nature and they actually pose even greater challenges to non-believers than the arguments of more well-known Christian apologists. His conception of God is fairly unique and has required substantial thought for me to comprehend it in a manner that enables me to write about it.[1]
 At least We know the guy is very perceptive, ;-) he get's that by my reckoning (that is Tillich's) God is not a being but being itself. He tries to understand what kind of thing being itself might be, Actually the concept goes back to the Platonic Christianity of the orthodox church [2]  Tillich seems to draw part of it from St. Augustine. [3]

He recognizes the serious nature of the problem, that is for a Christian who has a "personal relationship with God to think of God as being itself, which could hardly be a person in the conventional sense of the   wed is a difficulty, "These questions seem to me to be serious problems of this view, especially to professed Christians like Metacrock, who hold onto the idea of a personal God." [4] Yet this article was written in in 2011. I've made some progress in solving the problem since then, But let's follow the guy's reasoning. He resorts to a solution in the distinction between entities and properties. He figures God is not an entity but a perpetuity, the property of being. Now the two are related in that entities have properties but properties need not be entities, "An entity is 'a thing with a distinct and independent existence,' whereas a property is "an attribute, quality, or characteristic of something" [5] I think this is actually a very intelligent solution and what's even more perceptive he sees it as a language problem, he uses a linguistic difference to sort out the problem:
"The sky is blue." Most every English speaking person would understand what is being conveyed by this sentence. What it truly means is that the sky has the property of being blue. But, it could be interpreted incorrectly as "The sky and blue are synonyms." This, of course, is incorrect, and there is a category error involved in the logic behind the statement. "The sky" is an entity, whereas "blue" is a property. They cannot be the same thing.....The distinction between the conceptualization of God as "a being" and God as "Being Itself" is that the former treats God as a specific entity and the latter treats God as a specific property. A being is a type of entity, namely an animate one. The concept of God as "a being" holds that God is an entity with whatever properties the conceptualizer claims God to have. It is worth mentioning that this concept is not limited to the view that God is a "big man in the sky," as God doesn't need to be thought of as a being with a physical body or even a spatial existence. It just requires us to view God as a thing with properties. The concept that God is "Being Itself," however, does just the opposite — requiring us to view God as a essential property of all things as opposed to a thing itself...[6]
 He even works it out where this makes a dandy God argument, one i was once tempted to use:
"Being Itself" is an essential property of all entities. It, to the best of my understanding, can be defined as the property of existing. All entities must exist, by definition, and therefore, all entities have the property of existing. This makes the logical necessity of God seem self-evident, as the following syllogism demonstrates...:
  1. God is the property of existing.
  2. Entities exist.
  3. Therefore, God is.[7]
That would sure come in handy but there's a problem. I am sincere when I say that the solution he attempts is cleaver, intelligent, perceptive, but there is a problem.. Being is not a property. This is is basically the same mistake as the  one Kant, and latter Bertrand Russell, pointed out in arguing against the The ontological argument, in saying "existence is not a predicate."
 Kant, himself a theist, argued that the ontological argument illicitly treats existence as a property that things can either possess or lack. According to Kant, to say that a thing exists is not to attribute existence to that thing, but to say that the concept of that thing is exemplified in the world. The difference, and its significance for the ontological argument, are described below.[8]
Etinne Gilson, the Great Neo Thomist, tells us that being is an act.[9] I f the statement by Holt is right it's the act of exemplifying the concept of something namely being, Gilson tells us being is "the act par excellance." in other words God's act of being is the most significant, the greatest and the original act of being, It;s an eternal act. Now you might thin this makes it worse because how could God be an act? Things act, acts don't just do themselves, Here Tocho offers us a solution without realizing it. In his analysis of the phrase "the sky is blue: he says this could be taken literally the sky is synonymous with the color blue, of course the context rules that out. The sky, which is the unlimited expanse of space above the earth, appears blue from the surface of the earth, 
He is right in saying that entities have properties, properties don't act by themselves, At the same time there is no problem with God being an entity, as long as he is not a localized entity, That's the problem with big man in sky. This also means we have to recognize Tillich's language as metaphor. Saying being itself is a way of separating us from the idea of God as a being, one of many, localized and man-like). Tillich gives us a clue in discussing the fifth-Sixth century mystic pseudo-Dionysius the Aireopagite (around 500AD). Tillich and others filter it through Heidegger, saying God is being itself. In history of Christian thought Tillich interprets Dionysius to say God is the ground of everything, the super essential God beyond everything, inclining Platonic ideas and essences, he says Dionysius thought God is God beyond God (Ibid). That ties the Dionysian concept decisively to Tillich's view. The important thing to note is that these phrases, God beyond God, and ground of everything, are phrases Tillich uses to designate his concept of God. Thus He is clearly identifying Dionysius' idea with his own,He's trying to translate Platonic Christianity into modern existentialist ideas.[10]

If such is the case then it behooves us to understand Dionysius' concept. I have written about it om this blog.[11] The concept is that of universal mind. Translator Edwin Rolt explains:
The basis of their teaching is the doctrine of the Super-Essential Godhead (ὑπερούσιος θεαρχία). We must, therefore, at the very outset fix the meaning of this term. Now the word “Essence” or “Being” (οὐσία) means almost invariably an individual existence; more especially a person, since such is the highest type that individual existence can in this world assume. And, in fact, like the English word “Being,” it may without qualification be used to mean an angel. Since, then, the highest connotation of the term “Essence” or “Being” is a person, it follows that by “Super-Essence” is intended “Supra-Personality.” And hence the doctrine of the Super-Essential Godhead simply means that God is, in His ultimate Nature, Supra-Personal.
Now an individual person is one who distinguishes himself from the rest of the world. I am a person because I can say: “I am I and I am not you.” Personality thus consists in the faculty of knowing oneself to be one individual among others. And thus, by its very nature, Personality is (on one side of its being, at least) a finite thing. The very essence of my personal state lies in the fact that I am not the whole universe but a member thereof.
God, on the other hand, is Supra-Personal because He is infinite. He is not one Being among others, but in His ultimate nature dwells on a plane where there is nothing whatever beside Himself. The only kind of consciousness we may attribute to Him is what can but be described as an Universal Consciousness. He does not distinguish Himself from us; for were we caught up on to that level we should be wholly transformed into Him. And yet we distinguish between ourselves and Him because from our lower plane of finite Being we look up and see that ultimate level beyond us. The Super-Essential Godhead is, in fact, precisely that which modern philosophy describes as the Absolute. Behind the diversities of this world there must be an Ultimate Unity. And this Ultimate Unity must contain in an undifferentiated condition all the riches of consciousness, life, and existence which are dispersed in broken fragments throughout the world. Yet It is not a particular Consciousness or a particular Existence. It is certainly not Unconscious, Dead or, in the ordinary sense, non-Existent, for all these terms imply something below instead of above the states to which they are opposed.[12]
So the answer is God is universal mind and the act of being in which that participates is the ground of all being. Tillich used the phrases interchangeably but I  think ground of being is more meaningful because less misleading, since it implies an act apart from an actor.


[1] Tocho, Logocal implications of God as being itself. Reasonable Soup
Tuesday, (March 15, 2011) Blog URL:

[2] Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity. New York:Penguin, 1964, 65.
[3] Paul Tillich, Theology of Cultuire , Lomdon, Oxford NewYork Oxford University press, 1959,12-13.
[4] Tocho, op cit
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Tim Holt,  "Existence is not a Predicate," Philosophy of Religion 


[9] Etinne Gilson, God and Philosophy, New Haven,London: Yale Diversity Press, Powell Lectures On Philosophy at Indiana State University Second Edition, 1941. 63-64.
[10] Paul Tillich, A History of Christian thought, New York, NY:TouchStone books. 1967, 92
[11] Joseph Hnman. "The Super Essential Godhead (God is Being Itself)," Metacrock's Blog (TUESDAY, MAY 03, 2016) URL)
access i/10/17

[12] Dionysius the Areopagite: on Divine names and the Mystical Theology, trans. Clearance Edwin Rolt , New YorkNew York: Cosmio 2007, from original 1920 publication.  see also online versionChristian Classics Ethereal Library, on line version, The Author and his Influence, trans by, 1920  website URL:  by
visited May 13,


Mike Gerow said...
yes, I bet you're right to question it, since someone might think your friend's argument is a nearly perfect example of the onto-theological-error-in-itself? - i.e. "God grounds Being, therefore God is a being..."?

Myself, I think you try to walk a quite tricky theological line....but that doesn't mean you're wrong of course....& I do really wanna read your Tillich book someday.

How close is Tillich's "God is an act" to "God is an Event" or "God is the Gift" ala Jean Luc Marion and those peeps?
Joe Hinman said...
God makes himself a gift to us that is orthodox. Now that I got the GDS book in the que I want to start tweak the Ground of being book.
Eric Sotnak said...
I'm not convinced that "being itself" doesn't make the same kind of mistake as "cheese itself". Suppose Ferd says, "I love all different kinds of cheese. Swiss, Havarti, Brie, ... But I would really like to try eating that which is the ground of all the cheeses; cheese itself!" Ferd has made a mistake. Apart from all the different kinds of cheese, there is no 'cheese itself'.
Joe Hinman said...
there are qualities that all of those cheeses share that makes them cheese that n one of them has apart from the others. Damn you Eric, now I want some Gorgonzola!

The problem is these qualities are an abstraction that can't be separated from actual cheese. You can't sell a pound of cheese itself. But in terms of being universal mind might exhibit that quality if we understand the contingencies as products of mind, thoughts in the mind so to speak. The primordial act of being displayed by the mind that gives rise to all other forms of being might be described as being itself but I think the phrase ground of being comes closer to cutting it and avoids the problem of mere abstraction.
Joe Hinman said...
Tillich answers that in system 1 but I don't remember I would have to look it up and I don't have it. I can send you my chapter from my o far unpublished Ground of Being book.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

We have met the enemy

Related image

A new study, however, suggests that the main threat to our democracy may not be the hardening of political ideology, but rather the hardening of one particular political ideology. Political scientists Steven V. Miller of Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M have released a working paper titled "White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy." Their study finds a correlation between white American's intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Being itself, and the Personal God

One of "those other" being itself guys

Hans Urs Von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Balthasar one of the most interesting and brilliant figures of the twentieth century, yet hardly anyone has heard of him outside the confines of academic theology. Even most theological students in the Proestant world are not very familiar with his works. He was a friend of John Paul II, called “the most cultured man of our time by Henri de Lubac. His achievements are called ‘breathtaking’ my one of the major catholic theologians of the century, Carl Rahner.[1] He wrote over a thousand books and articles. He was born in Lucerne Switzerland, 1905, and Grew up a Catholic, son of a pious mother.[2] He took his doctorate from the Liberal Protestant University of Zurich, having grown up educated by Benedictines and Jesuits. He became a Jesuit priest. He worked as a student Chaplin in the 30s. He became good friends with Protestant theologian Karl Barth, one of the greats of the century.

Balthasar was unable to work as a full fledged Jesuit priest due to the war years and the arrangement the government had between Protestants and Catholics, he was seen as belonging to the area of south Germany. He made a living as a translator and lecturer and editor. He ran publications and started a spiritual community. He spent most of his adult life this way, in association with a woman named Speyr who was never recognized as a mystic by the church. He had miracles and visions but being unrecognized, Balthasar’s community was not accepted and he was unable to gain a post. This situation dominated his life in the 40s,50’s, and 60s. He had to leave the Jesuits. He also lectured in these years on spiritual topics and made a living that way, but his health deteriorated as a result. In the 60s he began to be recognized as a theologian and was given honors and doctorates. In 1988 John Paul II made him a cardinal. That was also the year of his death. His community of st. John was a publishing house and he ran a journal called Communio. These eventually found great success in the 70s and were recognized by the Vatican. The major avenue to his success was his books and his lectures.[3]

Balthasar’s overall theological project centers upon the dualities between human conflict with ourselves and our place in being. Examples of the dualities that fascinate Balthasar include: our own contingency and that of the world around us in contrast to the sense of being 
itself. [4] Balthasar openly and obvious equates being with God. In his work about Balthasar’s live, David L. Schindler includes a short article by Balthasar himself called “a Resume of my Thought.”[5]He begins this “resume” by talking about the dilemma between human contingency and limitation in contrast to the infinite nature of being. This does not necessitate asserting God up fornt although he’s not concerned with a “proof.” His thesis is that all human philosophy either explicitly or tacitly concerns itself with this topic and by implication tacitly affirms the infinite and the absolute.[6] He comes to the conclusion that the duality is inescapable. The finite is not the infinite. Even the monism of the east is seen through nuanced dualities. Thus he asks the question “why are we not God?” The basis of the question is that we are aspects of being. We are products of being, yet we are contingent being, Why are we contingent and not necessary? The solutions that he ponders seem to end in one way or another with an indignant God creating a finite world out of need or alienation from his own infinity. He finds that only the God of the Bible offers a satisfactory answer, and that answer is in a sense the opposite of what we would think.

The common human tendency is to think God created because he needed something. Balthasar is hinting, I think, that God creates because its his nature as being to foment more being, in other words, its creative and God is Creative. It is not for God’s need that he creates but for what will become our need once we are created. In other words, God created us so that we can enjoy being, not because he needed us because once a part of being we would need and would be fulfilled in the need by love.

No Philosophy could give a satisfactory response to that question [why did infinte create finite?] St Paul would say to philosophers that God created man so that he would seek the Divine, try to obtain the Divine. That is why all pre Christian philosophy is theological at its summit. But, in fact, the true response to philosophy could only be given by Being himself, revealing himself from himself. Will man be capable of understanding this revelation? The affirmative response will be given only by the God of the Bible. On the one hand this God, creator of the world and of man, knows his creature. “I who have created the eye do not see? I who have created the ear do not hear?” And we add who who have created language, could not speak and make myself heard?” This posits a counterpart: to be able to hear and understand the auto-revelation of God man must in himself be a search for God, a question posed to him. Thus there is Biblical theology without a religious philosophy. Human reason must be open to the infinite.[7]

Notice how he capitalizes “B” in being and refers to being as “himself.” He personifies being and clearly speaks of it as the creator.

Balthasar sees the understanding of the revelation of “being himself” (my phrase based upon his) to humanity as rooted in the most fundamental human relationship. He says, “the infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter the horizon of all unlimited opens unto him.”[8] What he means by that is it is only through being por soir, for itself, in other words, consciousness, that we are able to comprehend the infinite and that only in contrast to the finite. Before we can do that, however, we have to become aware of ourselves so we can know we are finite. I think he’s making an implication that love is a link to being itself, and that through our encounter with love, the mother, we encounter the father, so to speak—by way of encountering love. We can see this in four truths that Balthasar finds rooted in this encounter: (1) realizing that he Is other to the mother, the only way the child realizes he loves the mother; (2) love is good, therefore, being is good; (3) love is true, therefore, being is true; (4) love evokes joy therefore being is beautiful.[9] Notice the link between being and love. He is one of the rare theologians to point out this curial link.

The one, the true, the good, the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of being, because they surpass all the limits of essence, and are coextensive with Being. If there is an insurmountable distance between God and his creature, but if there is also an analogy between them which cannot be resolved in any form of identity, there must also exist an analogy between the transcendentals—between those of the creature and those in God.[10]

In this quotation he as much as equates being and God, since he speaks of the attributes of being then connects the understanding of these to the link between God and the creature. There is more to be said about Balthasar based upon this observation and it will figure importantly in two more chapters, including the last one, and the over all conclusion.

Balthasar confirms for me so many things I thought but didn't have the courage to say, or that I "sort of thought" but didn't have the intellect to formulate. I think he boldly and unabashedly resoled the problem of paradox between personal God and being itself. He was the first to show me the link bewteen being and love (although Tillich does mention it but I saw it in Balthasar first). He capitalizes "B" in "Being" and speak of Being a "he." The idea that God created not because he "neededs to" but because his nature is creative.


[1] Joel Graver, “a Short Biography,” website:Hans Urs Von Balthasar, an Internet Archieve. URL sighted: (visited 12/3/10).
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid, “overview of Balthasar’s project: URL:
[6] Ibid, 1
[7] Ibid., 3
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Salvation of The Modern Individual

Image result for Metacrock's blog

There is a trend in evangelical thinking to a turn from the highly individualistic self of the enlightenment, where salvation is a matter of the individual finding herself in relationship with God alone, to communal sort of thinking where one is part of the tribe as in identity politics. "This culture [of the enlightenment individuality] has also deeply affected the Church of the West. All of our songs are wrapped in the language of me, rather than us. Our taking of the Eucharistic table of the Lord (communion) is highlighted by each one making sure they have no unaccounted for personal sins before taking..."[1] Of each one making sure he or she has no uncounted sins is in the New Testament.  I see the potential in this movement for political control. Ironically at the same time secular scholarship is coming to see Christianity as the basis of enlightenment individualism,

An example of the trend in the church is found in the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Randolph Richards and Brandon O'Brien. [2] They argue that most of the time when Paul writes "you" it should be read as a collective second person address,such as our southerner "you all," (that's not it, it's really "Y'all") "you guys" as you Yankees say. Direct application is found in passages such as 1 Cor 6:19 "do you not know that your bodies are Temples of The holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God, you are not your own." Our modern translator has made the individual's bodies into each a temple so we have multiple temples. This new collective understanding sees that the Greek for temple is singular and You is plural.So you all are the temple not individual temples. Does that mean smoking is not a sin? where was this passage 40 years ago when I needed to show my Mom? 

Another such passage is 2 Cor. 5:17 "therefore if any one is in Christ he is a new creature." NASB. The NIV says "New Creation has come" giving it a more collectivist potential. One has joined the collective of the new creation (the Church itself is the new creation).  The problem is the Greek is individualistic. "Ei Tis en Christo" --if anyone is in Christ...It's not plural, anyone is a highly individual word, It does say old things are passed away all things have become new, Or could be "the new has emerged" --yeyonin  kina, the new has emerged, The passage ends "Moreover, all things are of the one God." de ponta ek tu theou tou. Sort of summing it all up with a reassuring reference to God's all pervasive originating creativity, This all things implies a collective but it includes the individual as part of the new things.

That's all fine and good, Individualist  mentality is too acquisitive. We need more "socialism" (?) in the Gospel. We need more emphasis upon social cohesion in  the modern church and we need more understanding of the cultural perspective of the first century in reading the New Testament,But salvation itself is and  always will be an individual  matter. We cannot be saved by following orders or being part of the heard or by letting others decide our actions for us,Paul's sense of membership did not exclude personal relationship with God nor did it exclude personal responsibility. First Paul's metaphor of the body of Christ does assume coordination and that requires unity, yet it also recognizes the individuals and their differences that make up the body. That's the point of the gifts,each has a different gift according to her function. Individuals and their individual functions make up the body and their coordination and cooperation make it a functional body.

We see Paul Himself acting as an individual when he stood up to Peter for giving preference to the delegation from James over the Gentile members. Lest we think this is only because he was an apostle there were cultural influences behind him from both his Hebrew and  Greaco-Roman upbringing, that made his individualism possible. First there is a scholarly move to see individualism as predicated upon the Hebrew faith as well as the Greeks. Even though the Hebrews were tribal and collectivist, nor did they manifest a primary value of individualism many scholars now feel that their culture contained in the law and it's moral nature the basic elements that made individualist possible in Christianity. Moral philosophers understand personal morality to be a prerequisite for individuality. Ilan Wurman Makes this argument, He uses two other books,which are come from opposing ends of the spectrum, to illustrate.[3]  

Yoram Hazony’s new book, The Philosophy of the Hebrew Scripture,  . Joshua Berman argues the Pentateuch was written to be read as a whole and in order.[4][5] What both agree upon is the notion of a coherent whole. Berman in Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thoughtargues the egalitarianism of the Pentateuch is communitarian, while Hazony's ideal is more Hierarchical. What it looks like Hazony has done, from the description by Wurman is to take the old Prophet vs Priest split that can be traced back to Nietzsche, and either reading into or re-discovered in the Pentateuch (Nietzsche got it from someplace). Wurman combines the two views to argue that Hebrew ethics made individualism possible.[6]

There is a much more pronounced individualism among the Greeks, even though they too had their collective spirit. Some have argued that the Greeks had no individualism that view (a manifestation of 20th country anthropology) is ably refutted by Gary W. Burnett, in this work, Paul and The Salvation of The Individual [7] Writing against and extreme form of this view he warns that anthropological approaches that attempt to emphasize the difference in ancient world and ours smother the humanity of the people of antiquity to overplay the dominance of the social.
The trends in modern anthropology, which recognize the importance of self consciousness, an cognitive models of culture combined with the classical scholarship just reviewed, indicates strongly that human beings of early and classical Greece, and the inhabitants of the Greaco-Roman world of the first century CE were human beings fully in the sense in which we understand the modern person--self aware, conscious of himself or herself as a unique person pro-active in the world, making sense of the culture ad world around and contributing to the continual change of their era...there can be no doubt that these societies were much more collective in outlook than our own, Western individualistic society, but individuals were persons in this important self conscious sense.[8]

Paul benefited from both the Hebrew law and the Greaco-Roman individualism,  Having grown up in Asia minor he would have exhibited the cosmopolitanism sophistication and Greek cultural ferment for which Jews of Asia minor were known.  Larry Siedentop argues that Pauline thought overturned the established assumptions of natural inequality. It's that understanding of leveling between us and the stranger that enables us to see ourselves in them.[9]
...[Paul's] understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection introduced to the world a new picture of reality. It provides an ontological foundation for ‘the individual’, through the promise that humans have access to the deepest reality as individuals rather than merely as members of a group …For Paul, Christian liberty is open to all humans. Free action, a gift of grace through faith in the Christ, is utterly different from ritual behaviour and the unthinking application of rules.For Paul, to think otherwise is to regress rather than progress in the spirit. This is how Paul turns the abstracting potential of Greek philosophy to new uses. He endows it with an almost ferocious moral universalism. The Greek mind and the Jewish will are joined”[10] 
We can see these effects of individualism on Paul. Everything Pal says is about him,He boats of his background and education, he's constantly referring to his experiences and what he's been through,He boasts of his relationship with Jesus, He acts as an ethical lone individual in the face of controversy and moral conviction (in the conflict with Peter and with James). He  is willing to stand up against the authority of the church in Galatians 2:11 I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong." This upstart who never met Jesus in the flesh was not there when Jesus was crucified and who actually imprisoned Christians is willing to stand up to Jesus' no.1  side kick, to his face and tell him he's wrong. Yes that is being an individual.

Salvation is still about a personal 1x1 relationship with God. We see that on the cross where Jesus tells the thief "you will be with me this day in paradise," (Luke 23:43). Unless we are willing to think He was saying all thieves are now saved he's speaking to an individual not to a collective. Then one of the foundation passages in the OT establishing the fact of a new covenant puts it in very personal individualistic terms. Jeremiah 31:

 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]
declares the Lord.
33 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

The reason the new covenant can't be broken is because it's not predicated upon merely obeying law but is actually internalized by the individual. He says "you will all know me from the greatest." That is a clear statement of individuality and personal relationship with God that supersedes orders from church authorities, or government, or anyone else. While we need to take solidarity seriously and work together to spread the gospel,we need to be sensitive to the leading of the spirit and to cultivate our relationships with God 1x1. that passage (Jer 31:31-24), is quoted in full in Hebrews (8:8-12). I read a good article by Daniel J.Harrington  on the overall use of the passage in NT.[11]

The great irony is that at a time when the church is moving away from the individual of modern Western thought and towards a collectivism,the secular world of scholarship is waking up from Marxist collectivism and beginning to recognize Christianity as the origin of modern enlightenment individualism. We've seen an allusion to this already in the quote above by Burnett. His reference to new trends among anthropologists (en 8). Ian Burkitt points out that it was the Greeks who first used the concept of the persona, which shows up again in the Trinitarian doctrine. He points to Stoicism and the development of  biography as hallmarks of individuality.[12]  Charles Taylor  starts reckoning the dawn of the modern self with St Augustine, (that's ancient Rome).[13]

Siedentop is scoring great apologetics points to make reviewers like Nicholas Lazard of  the Guardian change from a life time of witting off Christianity as having nothing to do with modernity and turning to it as the major source of the modern self:
It comes towards the end of this remarkable book, which made me rethink a great deal. Like many, I had assumed that notions of individual liberty didn’t come into play until the latter end of the Enlightenment. It was something to do with Voltaire, perhaps, or the second sentenceof the American Declaration of Independence. If the Church had anything to do with individuality, it was as a brake on it, or a countermeasure. We were all just anonymous units before the power of God...
it is Christianity we have to thank, and particularly the Christianity that was being formed in the dark and early medieval ages, for our concept of ourselves as free agents. He starts in ancient Greece and Rome: there, the faculty of reason was only to be found in the ruling elite, which, in effect, meant men of a certain class in a city state. If you were a woman, merchant, or slave, all you could really use your brains for were, respectively, gossip, mercantile calculation, and unthinking obedience. (A glance at newsagents’ shelves these days may make you suspect that civilisation has gone retrograde in these respects, but let us pass on that for the moment.) Even philosophers, who had no direct alleçgiance to a specific place, were for a while suspect. However, seeds were sown, and things got interesting when Greek- and Latin-speaking urban dwellers around the Mediterranean started encountering the Jewish diaspora...But the book is, once you get past the superficial difficulties, not too hard to grasp, and its basic principle – “that the Christian conception of God provided the foundation for what became an unprecedented form of human society” – is, when you think about it, mind-bending.[14]


[1] J. Scott Lencke, "Misreadimg Scriptire with Western Eyes (4) Idividualism and Collectivism," The prodigal Thought.  (May 4, 2013) blog, URL:  (accessed 6/9/17)

J. Scott Lencke: Candidate in Doctorate of intercultural studies and missology  at Fuller Theological Seminary MTS from Fuller Theological Seminary. 

[2] Randolph Richards and Brandon O'Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. Downer's Grove Ill.: IVP, 2012 no page indicated.

[3] Ilan Wurman, "Individualism, Community, and Moral obligation in The Hebrew Bible," Public Discourse, The Witherspoon institute, Ryan T. Anderson Editor, On line Resource, UTL:
(accessed 6/10/17)

[4] Yoram Hazony’s new book, The Philosophy of the Hebrew Scripture, Cambriodge, Lodom:
Cambridge University Press,  2012.

[5] Joshua Berman  Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011

[6] Wurman, op cit.

[7]  Gary W. Burnett Paul and the salvation of the individual, Leiden, Boston,Koln: Brill, 2001, 45-46

Dr. Burnett (Ph.D.) Taught New Testament at Queens University Belfast.

[8] Ibid. 

Larry Siedentop, Inventing The Individual" The Origins of Western liberalism. Cambridge Mass.:Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014, 60.

Sir Larry Alan Siedentop CBE (born Chicago 1936) is an American-born British political philosopher with a special interest in 19th-century French liberalism.received a DPhil from the University of Oxford (equivalent to a PhD elsewhere) for a thesis on the thought of Joseph de Maistre and Maine de Biran, written at Magdalen College, Oxford, under the supervision of Sir Isaiah Berlin.
From 1965 to 1968, Siedentop was a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, but he spent most of his academic career as a Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and a University Lecturer.(wik)

[10] Ibid., 63-640.

[11] Daniel J. Harrington, "Jeremiah 31:31-34 and the New Testament," Bible Odyssey, (2017 no other date given) On line resource URL:
(accessed 6/10/17)

[12]  Ian Burkitt , Social Selves : Theories of Self and Society. London:Sage Publications Ltd. second edition, 2008, aoriginally 1992, 5.

[13] Charles Taylor, Sources of The Self:The Making of The modern Identity. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992,127-143.

[14] Nicholas Lezard, "Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism By Larry Siedentop--review," The Guardian (Jan 27,2015) on Lime addition accessed 6/10/17)URL
(accessed 6/10/17)