Eastman - Second-Personal Knowledge of Divine Action: A View from the Apostle Paul


Additional Information

Category Lecture
Speakers Eastman, Susan
Year 2014

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Respondent: Andrew Pinsent

In this paper I shall argue that we know and recognize the presence of God in the same ways that we know and recognize other human beings as different from ourselves and yet personally engaged with us. Knowledge of divine action is not primarily inward, private, esoteric, ineffable and other-worldly but interpersonal, embodied, and embedded in communal interaction. Such an argument requires two subsidiary arguments: first, concerning the sources of our capacity for thought, including the knowledge of self and others; and second, concerning the mode of knowing and experiencing God’s action. For the first argument it will be important to clarify two contrasting approaches to infant development and problems of mind in psychology and philosophy – a first- or third-personal approach starting with the self, and a second-personal approach starting with relationship. These approaches may also be discerned in different presumptions about what constitutes the knowledge and experience of divine action, or “spiritual experience”. For the second half of my argument concerning the mode of knowing God, I will draw on the writings of the apostle Paul, in whom one finds a second-personal understanding and expression of knowing and being known by God in relationship with other people through the Spirit indwelling the community of faith.

SUSAN GROOVE EASTMAN is Associate Research Professor of New Testament and Director of the Doctor of Theology program at Duke University Divinity School. Her scholarly focus is on Paul’s letters in relationship to the formation and transformation of Christian identity. She is the author of Recovering Paul’s Mother Tongue: Language and Theology in Galatians (Eerdmans, 2007), which explores Paul’s use of relational imagery to proclaim the gospel’s transforming and sustaining power in the life of Christian communities. More recent work has focused on Paul’s understanding of Israel in Galatians and Romans, and on the theme of the incarnation as divine participation. Her current research and writing investigates questions of participation, imitation and identity formation through a close reading of key Pauline texts in their first century context and in conversation with contemporary work in the fields of experimental psychology and neuroscience. She is ordained in the Episcopal Church and served numerous parishes prior to her current appointment.

ANDREW PINSENT is a research fellow of Harris Manchester College, Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, and a member of the Theology and Religion Faculty at Oxford University. He was formerly a high energy physicist on the DELPHI experiment at CERN, has degrees in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a second doctorate, in philosophy, from St Louis University. He is the author of The Second-Person Perspective in Aquinas’s Ethics: Virtues and Gifts (Routledge, 2012) and a wide range of publications on virtue ethics, neurotheology, science and religion, the philosophy of the person, divine action, and the nature of evil. His is a regular contributor to engagement by the public and in the media with science and religion issues.