The Personalist Project

"Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of Glory May come in!"

This being, in the Catholic Church, the great Solemnity of Christ the King, a couple of quick reflections—or fragments of reflections, since I am writing on the fly—on its implications for personhood.

The first is a question: Apart from the fact that we are told in Scripture "we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God," can we establish through philosophical reflection that the very concept of personhood entails royalty?  

The second is about justice.  I love this verse in Isaiah: "Say to those whose hearts are frightened: fear not, here is your God. He comes with vindication."  And this in the Psalms: "He will rule the nations with justice and the peoples with equity."

It seems to me that without this hope and promise of ultimate justice, human life would be unbearable.  The dignity of the person demands justice, which it seldom finds here on earth.

Comments (4)

Matt Chominski

#1, Nov 21, 2011 6:15pm

Interesting question about personhood and royalty. An initial thought: since royalty would imply some notion of sovereignty, would a person's self-possession and self-determination bring us towards a concept of royalty as being part of the very concept of the person? As in, since the person has control over a certain domain, namely himself, there is some sense of ruling as well as responsibility to himself as a king or queen would be responsible to his/her subjects and realm. 

I must admit that I was not initially inclined towards acknowledging an essential link between the person and it entailing royalty. But I am open to persuasion. 


#2, Nov 22, 2011 3:02pm

The royalty of personhood is quite a beautiful meditation.  Matt, I understand your point about sovereignty. And Katie, I appreciate your desire to engage in a philosophical reflection apart from Scripture as it were.  However, "royalty" generally connotes ancentry. Therefore, I think applying the term to "royalty" to personhood apart from Scripture is misplaced. Instead, I think the fullness of the "royalty of personhood" comes to light in Scripture/salvation history- beginning with life in the Garden of Eden before the Fall and 'ending' with the Incarnation, the Passion and the Ascension of Our Lord. Though really is no "end" our love affair with God (which is why I put is in semi-quotes) as the Saints are loving on high as sons and daughters of the King.  I must say though that this quick, mini-reflection on the royalty of personhood has had its sweetness by revealing the *beauty* of the truth that we are indeed "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God".  For, only in relation to God is our status elevated to such majestic heights. 

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Nov 22, 2011 9:25pm

Josie M, Nov. 22 at 3:02pm

However, "royalty" generally connotes ancentry.

That's one dimension of it, true.  But surely not the only one.  I'm thinking of things like moral stature, majesty and loftiness, authority, sovereignty (as Matt says), dominion, dignity...

These are things that I think might be said to belong to persons as persons.  But I feel a little out of my depth and wish better philosophers than I would jump in and help.

Josie M, Nov. 22 at 3:02pm

For, only in relation to God is our status elevated to such majestic heights. 

Yes.  I agree.  But to be a person, is, after all, to be in relation to God.  Each and every person bears His Image and Likeness.  

Ruan Kelly

#4, Nov 29, 2011 7:55am

Greetings all,

I'm a student of theology and am currently attempting to put together a thesis in trinitarain theology. I have been interested in the concept of personhood for a good while now. It seems to me that personhood and all that it entails (ancestry, moral stature, majesty, authority, sovreignty, dominion, dignity, uniqueness etc.) is the image and likeness of God. Or to be a person is to be a being in relation both to others and to God. The image and likeness is born by each and every person but its not actualised by each and every person because of the reality of sin  and its manifestation in the world in it various forms ( unequality, injustice, deprivation, violence). The mission of Christ and of the Christian it seems to me is the restoration of the human person as the image and likeness of God through a restoration of a right relationship with God which entails justice (to our diginity and that of others) and althought we believe as Christian that is not to take place till the eschaton its is to be strived for here and now. 

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