How can I hope in humanity

Hope, action - and suffering. On the Christian understanding of man from the theological point of view

On the occasion of the bioethics congress in Berlin

Prof. Dr. Eberhard Jüngel DD / University of Tübingen

"It is wretchedly difficult to lie if you don't know the truth" is the first sentence in Péter Esterházy's latest novel Harmonia Caelestis. (1) But other people are wrong, lies and worse accuseObviously, the less you know the truth, the easier it is. One can also experience the same thing in the most recent bioethical discussion about problems of human life that is arising and passing away. The purpose of this event is to counteract this.

The following remarks are made, however Not tell what one do can and may and what you are absolutely not allowed to do, even if you could. Rather, they take a step back from the ethical problem and ask about the being of human beings, in order to then deal with human beings as acting, hoping and suffering beings based on the Christian understanding of human existence. I have divided the following into six sections, each of which is summarized in a thesis. You have to have the theses in front of you in writing. But not everything that you own in black and white can confidently be carried home. In any case, the sentences given to you are not the endpoints of theological reflection, but rather something like markers on a path of thought that demands and that needs to be followed while walking in the first place paved becomes.

So you will not hear from me an ethical statement - no plea for or against - that provides simple answers to the questions raised by the highly complex problems of bioethics. The following remarks are intended to make you think - nothing more. And you want to make you think in a way that would encourage you, ladies and gentlemen, to use your own understanding while observing a genuine theological question: sapere aude!

To this sapere aude it is, however, necessary to do justice to Jesus' request, in all ponderable cases either Yes / Yes or but No no to say (Mt 5:37). To speak out in favor of research on imported embryonic stem cells, for example, while at the same time calling for a ban on the production of embryonic stem cell lines in one's own country - that makes no sense either logically or ethically. The following applies here: either Yes / Yes or but No no. What is above it is evil.

That does not mean that the decisions to be made always have to be permanent. You can also say yes or no for a limited period. The Bundestag can, for example, approve the import of embryonic stem cells for a limited period or prohibit them for a limited period. Because new findings can also reveal new dangers or new opportunities that suggest a revision of the decision made. In this respect, this should also be part of the courage to use one's own understanding, to admit to oneself: even thinking takes its time. With such difficult decisions as the bioethical discussion demands, hasty thinking would be the worst way of thinking.

We need time to do even that correct distinctions to meet without the the decisions go wrong or threaten to go astray altogether. A relatively harmless example: there are ethically unacceptable wishes. But the criticism of these wishes must not be identified with the criticism of the research that makes the realization of these wishes to be criticized possible. Another example: it is reprehensible to analogize research on embryonic stem cells with the destruction of the supposedly "life unworthy of life" in Hitler's Germany. According to Martin Luther, a correct distinction is to be made between the highest art of human reason. The task of using one's own intellect therefore includes self-commitment clean distinctions and to differentiated thinking.

After all, part of the courage to use one's own intellect, also this, is that everyone always has the Aporias admits that implies the position he represents. The refusal to perceive and admit the aporias implicit in one's own position leads to moral fanaticism. The admission of such aporias, on the other hand, could lead to sharpening the mind for the lowest risk decision.
But now to the task assigned to me to present the Christian understanding of being human!

The first widely formal Section applies the genuine theological questionthat asks about people. And at the same time it applies to what results from this question modus loquendiwhich theological discourse demands of man. The following sections are more content-oriented, but without the formal basic structure to lose sight of the destiny of being human. The formality rather, it will all by itself materials, content Take on character.



what is the human? The Christian understanding of man is guided by the biblical texts.

a) This already applies to the question. Because the Christian talk of man must be consistent, it must orient itself in all its sentences, therefore also in its questions, that God himself came into the world as a human being in order to be together with human beings and at the same time to be one with them to enable successful togetherness among each other. Whatever content is to be said about the being of man: its basic determination is that of being together, so that being human is definitely the structure of the To be with ... Has. A person reduced to himself would be nothing more than - a corpse.

Mind you, this insight already determines the Question, with which the Bible asks about people. A certain inconvenience is immediately noticeable, which consists in the fact that with the being of the human being, a basic situation of human existence is always discussed. The being of man is gazing at one relationship, one relation he asks: what is man that you think of him, and what is man's child that you take care of him? (Ps. 8,5; cf. Ps 144,3). According to biblical judgment, man is obviously a Relationshipsthat has always been on other being related and only in such relations is it itself. (2) Martin Luther therefore rightly asserted that only in praedicamento relationis (and not in praedicamento substantiae) can be talked about. (3)

b) This initially very formal decision has far-reaching consequences. For example, the question of the status of the human embryo is very different when one considers its existence praedicamento relationis and not in praedicamento substantiae tried to determine. The Tübingen Nobel Prize winner Ms. Nüsslein-Vollhard has drawn attention to the scientific relevance of this insight several times. The fertilized human egg cell needs the mother in order to be able to develop into a human being. For this reason alone, I consider the claim that human life is "an embryonic person" from the time of fertilization onwards to be extremely problematic. Every human being in this world has undoubtedly been a fertilized egg cell at some point. But not every fertilized human egg cell - in England one even speaks of a pre-embryonic status with regard to the time before pregnancy - becomes a human.
If the zygote remains in vitro, it will inevitably perish. It should not be confused with a bird's egg or a plant seed, which only need warmth and, in the case of the plant, soil, moisture and minerals in order to develop into a complete individual. In humans, the seedling has to implant itself in the uterus and connect to the womb via the placenta. It is known that in addition to nutrients and defense substances, other foreign substances also reach the expectant person via the mother's blood. It is quite conceivable that psychological, perhaps even character-forming influences will also have an effect in this prenatal mother-child relationship. In any case, it is only after weeks of close interaction with the maternal organism that a person capable of survival is born.

This suggests a categorical distinction between human life and the life of a human being. (4)

c) At the biblical question there is also a second point of importance. The question of man has here dialogical Character. It is the question of a conversation, and precisely not that of a self-talk. Rather, you are asked to whom the questioner already has a concrete relationship.

The question so is not one here First. she is Re-question and as such already presupposes a lot. If one compares this question, for example, with the question of Immanuel Kant, which is characteristic of modern man, it is noticeable that the famous four questions What can i know What should I do? What can I hope for? what is the human? have been formulated in the model of a self-discussion with the aim of self-understanding: I communicate with myself about myself. The transcendental-philosophical ego communicates with itself about itself. If one wanted to translate the biblical question into that of the Kantian self-talk, then one would have to ask: whoif I scream, can you hear me? who is reliable? On whom can i hope Whom can i believe But whoever asks like this is no longer just with himself. The ego asking this question is already oriented beyond itself to the other, whom it asks about what it actually is: the person ...

What is man that you think of him? The question posed in this way already contains a decisive answer, namely: it is man that you, God, think of him.

Thesis 1: The Christian understanding of man is due to the biblical texts that address us to God and therefore understands the being of man as relational being (in praedicamento relationis) even in the question posed. A person reduced to himself would be nothing more than - a corpse. The biblical form of the question about the human being has a dialogical character and refers the human being who inquires about his own being to the one who takes care of him: God. The fact that God came into the world as a human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth shows that human beings are destined to be together with God and to be successful with their fellow human beings: To be means to be together, to live means to live together.


a) The relational constitution of the human ego is built up from several basic relationships that make the human being a being that is extremely rich in relationships. These basic relationships include (1.) the relationship between humans and themselves, (2.) the relationship between humans and their social environment, (3.) the relationship between humans and their natural environment and (4.) the relationship between humans to his god. But all these relationships are in turn owed to God's relationship to man, which in turn can be defined in three ways, namely (1.) as a creative relationship, (2.) as a saving relationship and (3.) as a perfecting relationship.

b) That God is not only to man as Creator, but also as a savior and as a finisher encountered, this has its reason in the self-inflicted situation of the Unrelatedness or sinthat man always conjures up when he has one of the fundamental relationships inconsiderate, that is, realized at the expense of the other basic relations.

Thus the reckless self-realization of the human being leads to the fact that for the ego all other being comes into consideration only as a means to an end. Now the other person, instead of being interesting for his own sake as the image of God, becomes a mere means of asserting my own interests and purposes. Now the you becomes the id. And the I-It relationship, which defines the relationship to the natural environment, shrinks to such an extent that the non-human creature is transformed into mere material in the hands of humans. Nothing matters more than itself. The only thing that matters is what you can do with it or what you can do with it. And the being of man himself is reduced in his relationship to his natural environment to the being of a maker. Yes, the relationship with God is also ruthlessly subordinated to one's own self-realization, so that one is instrumentalizing God for one's own purposes and "everything divine becomes serviceable": "all heavenly powers are used up". (5)

But not only one's own relationship to oneself, but also one's relationship to God can be so ruthlessly realized that the other fundamental life relationships are, so to speak, "overturned". Religious fanaticism then produces, both in its individual and in its collective form, a "poisoning from God" that terrorizes all other basic human relationships. We have just seen the terrorist consequences of such poisoning from God.

In all such self-inflicted, elementary ruthlessness, the original wealth of relationships of human existence is replaced by a growing lack of relationships. Theology calls this self-inflicted urge to become unrelated factual sin and the urge to urge to be unrelated that emerges from this urge original sin. And because life itself goes along with life relationships dies, she sees death at work wherever relationships break up and the lack of relationships grows. Because death is the onset of complete lack of relationship.

c) The Christian understanding of man cannot abstract from the fact that man has always been in the situation of such self-inflicted growing lack of relationship and thus exists as a sinner. But it cannot at all abstract from the fact that God also renews himself to sinful man creative turned towards, to be sure now creative Behavior increasing to a person from his self-inflicted deadly lack of relationship saving Action that makes man a being of peace: peace, which, according to the biblical understanding, consists in the fact that all fundamental life relationships, instead of arguing against one another, are in proportion to the greatest possible mutual benefit.

Thesis 2: The Christian understanding of human beings understands them as being rich in relationships, whose wealth of relationships is built up from the relationship of the human I (1.) to itself, (2.) to its social environment (fellow human beings), (3.) to his natural environment and (4.) to God. All these basic human relationships are owed to the creative, saving and all his works perfect relationship of God to man, who, however, always has the richness of relationships that characterizes him, in which he corresponds to the eternal God - through the ruthless realization of one of the fundamental life relationships at the expense of other life relationships - is about to be destroyed and insofar falls into a self-inflicted lack of relationship, ie exists as a sinner. But stronger than human sin is God's grace (Romans 5:20 b), which enables that peace in which all fundamental relationships in life are in proportion to the greatest possible mutual benefit.


a) Faith in God the Creator is essential for the Christian understanding of man. In believing in the Creator, man experiences himself as a creature among creatures (and to this extent in a fundamental solidarity with all creatures), but at the same time as the creature created in the image of God, who is God's creative action divine benefit is destined to be recognized and to be boasted.

Creation is not only to be understood as an initial divine act of production "in principio", but also as a divine action that determines one's own presence, through which man comes into being as a creature affirmed by the Creator.

So being created means more than just being produced, more than just being made. Man is more than the work of an arbitrary divine productive force. Rather, he is in his creature otherness in relation to the creator of this irrevocable affirmed and thereby to Self-affirmation legitimized. But affirming oneself means that freedom to have something with oneself and one's world to begin. In this freedom of being able to begin, man is the image of the divine Creator.

b) This insight determines the Christian understanding of Personality of the human. The concept of person is - as its Trinitarian use already suggests - strictly in praedicamento relationis to think so that in theological judgment there is a deficient Concept of person, if it is understood in the tradition of John Locke (6) as a rational and self-conscious being who is concerned about the respective moment of the I think has a past and a future and can therefore have wishes and fears about one's own future. (7) Rather, to be a person means to exist from and towards others and in such ek-sistence a aliis and ad alios affirmed and accepted be.

c) Affirmation and recognition by human People can of course be revoked. In this respect, a person could be made a non-person by other people. But this is opposed by the fact that man - regardless of whether he knows about it or not - from his Creator irrevocable is affirmed and recognized. The Gospel of the justification of the sinner confirms this insight insofar as it denies that humans can even make themselves impersonal. Because just as I cannot make myself who I am, I cannot destroy my personhood either. This is the deeper meaning of Luther's thesis that my actions do not constitute my personhood: opus non facit personam, sed persona facit opus. (8) That man exists primarily from his creator and as an irrevocably affirmed and recognized creature, which has the right to understand this being affirmed and recognized in its relationship to himself - that is what defines man's personality. As a person, I therefore don't find my identity in myself. As a person, I only come to myself with someone else.

This essential for my identity Relation to externality Luther formulated the person almost classically when he wrote: "... a Christian man lives not ynn yhm himself, but ynn Christo and seynem next, ynn Christ through faith, ym next through love: through faith he passes over yn god, apart from god he breaks aries among himself through love, and yet ymmer ynn god and divine love ... "(9)

Thesis 3: The Christian understanding of the human being understands him as a person constituted by God's creative action and at the same time irrevocably affirmed and recognized person, who can and should understand his affirmation in the relation of the ego to himself, in such self-affirmation but also the external relation of his personhood affirms: I only come to myself with someone else. Because man is a person in his being affirmed and recognized by God, no one can, nor can he, make himself a non-person. Man remains a person as a sinner and as a person to be in the image of God, i.e. determined to be free to do something with himself and his world to begin.


For the fulfillment of human life it follows from the insight that the human being cannot and does not need to make himself the person he is, the priority of human existence over the making, acting, working of the human being.

a) If the human person is constituted by the creative action of God, then the human person, before anything - for himself or for others - is to do can, an unconditional self-worth. And that means: she has dignity. She has a dignity that is not first constituted by her own actions. That is why human life must never be commercially negotiated. (10) And that is why our dealings with very young people, who can still do nothing for themselves, and with old people, who can hardly do anything or nothing for themselves, are the criterion for the humanity of our society . But the same applies to dealing with those people whose crimes they have put under lock and key: are they only perceived there as the sum of their crimes and thus made non-persons, or do they remain people who can be distinguished from their deeds and crimes behind prison walls ?

b) The primacy of being over action has found its institutionalization in the Jewish Sabbath and in the Christian Sunday - that is, in the day on which the human being does not required and certainly not Overwhelmed becomes, but can rejoice in the fact that he is at all and not rather is not.

Hence, first and foremost one thing is part of the human life creative passivityin which I become aware that I receive myself, that I am gifted with myself. In such creative passivity man verifies that he is a creature, indeed that he is one of God beloved creature is. That is the sovereign one indicative of grace, of all Imperativesthat challenge us to act precedes.

c) From this sovereign indicative of creative passivity, however, human action and the imperative that demands us emerge directly. Because people should do something with themselves and with their world. He should educate himself and shape his world through his own work. The world challenges him. Yes, man is even supposed to rule the world. However, domination cannot under any circumstances uncontrolled To rule. Rather, the Christian understanding of man makes it our duty to learn to rule and then - to rule. This is what is meant when the Bible refers to the people dominium terrae empowered.

d) It is part of the personality of the agent that he is responsible for his actions can be attributed got to. He is for what he does - not: for his being! - responsible. And it is not only in front of strangers, in front of external authorities, but it is also in front of the internal authority of one's own conscience.

But the conscience can only judge before and then again after the act. In the act of acting itself, the conscience is necessarily suspended. If it wanted to have a say in the action itself, it would make action impossible. That is why Goethe is right with his abysmal sentence: "The doer is always unscrupulous". (11) It is all the more important that a person carefully examines what he intends to do before taking action.

So much the worse when he is condemned by his own conscience after the deed is done. Then he threatens, condemned by his own conscience, to become a hopeless case.

But the Christian understanding of man knows no hopeless case. Because it knows that guilty People as one justified Sinner who care to hope may that he has a future that is distinguishable from his own deeds and that comes from God. Our deeds threaten - if only because they usually perpetuate the conditions under which we started - only to prolong the past. They can be extrapolated and accumulated. But they do not really create a new future, which, according to I. Kant, arises only from the ability to start a state of its own. But the Christian hopes in God, who is free to begin a state of his own. He even hopes in looking at that end of your own life and in view of that end the world to a God who can make a new beginning with us. And hoping anticipated