Vulnerability and Theology


I’ve been away at a conference in Heidelberg, Germany on the topic of Vulnerability and thus have not posted for a few days. It’s an interdisciplinary conference and I was invited there to speak on the Greeks and vulnerability on the basis of my Wounded Heroes book, but most of the conference has been more theologically oriented, which I have enjoyed greatly. We began the first day by looking at the vulnerability of the body from a phenomenological perspective; the role of institutions and law both as vulnerable and as potential sources of harm to vulnerable individuals; how Homer, parts of the Torah and prophets, and modern Jewish accounts of disasters like floods, address vulnerability. Then yesterday was primarily a day of mostly Protestant theology (with me sometimes raising a Catholic perspective!). We had a speaker argue that any theological anthropology must include the question of bodily, psychic, and systemic vulnerability as part of its basis. Another argued that vulnerability is not a capacity to be wounded, as most of us argued, but a capacity for change, and that arguing too much in favor of the negative possibilities misses the potential for good change over time, ie, the glory of being a vulnerable creature. There was an excellent talk on whether God in God’s divinity can be vulnerable or only Jesus in his humanity and, if so, how one can make the argument and how to avoid certain theological problems with it. Then further talks on whether our response to our own vulnerability can cause sin, ethics and vulnerability, phenomenology, and contemplation capped off the day. I’m still thinking about and absorbing the wide range and richness of insights that I’ve encountered in my time here.

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