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From Early Christianity
to the Crisis of the Subject
Chapter 3


Early Christianity required a particular type of subject formation on the part of its believers. This expectation on the part of the churches hasn’t substantively changed, even as subject formation in the last century has experienced increasing change, and has turned out to be implicated in Nikolas Luhmann’s ‘crisis of hardening’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘dissolution of the Subject’. This change in the formation of subjects hasn’t been without consequence for the churches. The disappearance of congregations in central Europe must be understood in the context of the all too apparent ‘crisis of the Subject’. It is therefore incumbent to more closely examine the role and meaning of the Subject in the history of Christianity, in the spirit of a critical theology and contemporary religious studies. Here, it will be shown that the classic figure of subject formation – developed under the influence of Judaism – brought with it permanent crisis, inasmuch as collective law can only entertain a dualistic relationship with individual life-force (or will-power). This dualistic relationship means a lasting conciliation between unity and difference is not possible. Even as viewed historically, this stage of development was of great value, allowing the development of legal relations between individuals patterned on the religious-legal relationship with God.
Here, we will make the argument that Christianity offers the chance of reaching conciliation between unity and difference, overcoming this dualism, or the related view that is fixated on unity. It is the revelation by God’s son of the possibility of charity that holds out this possibility. Charity is a precondition for the ‘divinization’ of human beings, through the emulation of a relationship modelled on the teachings of the Christian trinity.
The eschatological precepts of Christian teachings therefore demand both a confrontation with subjective- formation and the investigation of the chances of a metamorphosis in the old, ‘strict’ subject. The relationship with God – which has been described as ‘force-related’ by G. Palamas – must be experienced through its extension into acts of charity. The dualism between inner-life and outer-life, as exemplified by the anthropological ‘four-sided’ model, might be healed with the help of the capacity to establish a polar relationship ‘s integrative power. We must reemphasize that it is time to liberate ourselves from the dead ends that the old oppositions lead to, such as (for example) cloister versus world, a world animated by god versus materialism. Thus, careful consideration of the current ‘crisis of the Subject’ becomes an indispensable prerequisite for developing a Christian anthropology.

(→ The figures in parenthesis refer to the footnotes given in the book.
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