|Dr. Susan Eastman speaking on Paul and Personal Flourishing|
for the 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship
The title of the 1st lecture was Being Bodies: Paul's Body Language and Ours. The content of the lecture was interdisciplinary and engaged literature from the ancient world of Paul, the cognitive sciences, and philosophers who engaged with the cognitive sciences.
The central thesis of this lecture was that the internal logic of Paul's body language is solidarity. She shared how the cognitive sciences explain how our neural networks are designed to create cognitive space for "we". Our bodies want to communicate with each other. This is not willed. It is an innate response. It is a shared imitation, examples of which include how babies imitate facial expressions; that is, they see each other through another person's gaze even though the baby is not even aware he or she has a face.
Human beings are shaped by their environment. We imitate larger social realities. Ancient views of the body understood that the concept of self-hood includes input from the body, the brain, and "what is out there" which feeds information back into our conscience experience as a systemic loop. Self is a constant traffic between what is outside and inside. The physical body is not a barrier but a bridge to our surroundings, to people, and to God. Bodies are conductors between us and those around us. We internalize our relationships to the point where they become constitutive of who we are.
If the social systems which we internalize through unconscious imitation are corrupt, fallen, and sinful, it results in damage to ourselves and ultimately death. It takes a divine action to set us free from the social systems and sin which we have internalized.
There is more, but I'll let you watch and hear the lecture yourself (below) courtesy of Covenant Church's youtube channel. Susan Eastman is outlining here what she calls a participatory anthropology (jump to 1:42 for the start of Lecture 1)
The title of the 2nd lecture was: Knowing God: Cognition and the Spirit in Paul's Thought. Here she gave an exegetical interpretation of Romans 8 and explained the Spirit's role in cognition. She focused on divine communication between God and believers through the mediation of the Spirit. There are depths of human awareness that cannot be discovered by human agency alone but are revealed through divine intervention. We can only know when the Spirit gives us new modes of speaking and new ways of knowing.
One of the most profound moments in the lecture was when Dr. Eastman used the example of facilitiated communication among autistic children to describe how the Spirit works. "How do I talk and connect with others when my lips do not move and my body does not cooperate?" From this question and subsequent answer, she goes on to discuss how believers speak through our bodies as a shared speech act with the Holy Spirit who – through the interpersonal, interactive relations between the body of believers – mediates to us how to pray, how to speak to each other, how to know one another and God within the church. Hear more from Dr. Eastman directly through the video below (jump to 1:33 for the start of Lecture 2)
Hope to see you there! MJL