by Fr. David G. Bissias
If it were not well-intentioned, Petre Maican’s article “Image and Likeness and Profound Cognitive Disability: Rethinking Patristic Categories” (published on Public Orthodoxy, July 2, 2019), could be offensive. In the final analysis, it is simply misguided due to several failures: of coherency, doctrinal perspective, and a failure to grasp the full “spectrum of human existence” for which he rightly expresses concern.
Maican’s argument is unconvincing for several reasons. It is summarized in a few sentences from his opening paragraph:
Is it useful to speak about image and likeness in the cases of persons with profound intellectual disabilities? I think not. Especially, when the main requirement for attaining likeness is ethical freedom. As I will point out further, since the movement from image to likeness is dependent on the use of freedom, persons with profound cognitive disabilities are excluded from attaining the goal of their own existence, perfection in Christ.
Maican properly believes a “robust” Orthodox anthropology must affirm why any person, including the profoundly disabled, “should live” and why such a life is “worth it.” Continue reading
by Petre Maican
The distinction between image and likeness is one of the recurring themes in the patristic writings and one of the main building blocks of modern Orthodox theology. But is this distinction useful for answering the anthropological question from the perspective of disability? Is it useful to speak about image and likeness in the cases of persons with profound intellectual disabilities? I think not. Especially, when the main requirement for attaining likeness is ethical freedom. As I will point out further, since the movement from image to likeness is dependent on the use of freedom, persons with profound cognitive disabilities are excluded from attaining the goal of their own existence, perfection in Christ.
It is part of Orthodox identity to remain faithful not only to Scripture or the ecumenical councils, but also to the Tradition of the Fathers. And there are good reasons for this. Without a strong common ground, the faith of the Church becomes the sum of all individual beliefs, with personal opinions and experiences receiving the status of dogmas. Unfortunately, however, the Fathers did not answer all the questions humanity might have throughout the ages. They could not have since they inhabited a different world. They did not have access to the same technology nor did they have the same concerns. Thus, they did not have a doctrine of the Church nor a very developed anthropology. Continue reading
by Paul Ladouceur | ελληνικά
Patristic anthropology, the theology of the human person and human rights are intimately related. Recognition of the close relationships among these three areas is essential to the elaboration of a sound Orthodox theology concerning the nature and status of human existence in the face of secularism, technology, violence and other challenges to what it means to be human.
The reflections of the ancient Fathers about what it means to be human in the light of divine revelation though Jesus Christ still shine as beacons illuminating dark shadows in modern thought and life. The Fathers meditated in particular on the significance of the two terms used in Genesis concerning the creation of humanity, “image” and “likeness” (Gn 1:26). For the Fathers, the divine image in humans was inherent in human nature and could not be totally erased or destroyed, however much it may be obscured by personal evil. The Fathers saw the likeness, on the other hand, as characteristics to be acquired, the purpose or “program” of human existence, the movement towards union with God, typified in the word theosis. The patristic distinction between image and likeness is as relevant today as it was in their time.