As regards the questions 'what is human nature?' and 'what are natural human activities?', I would like to zero in on the remark of Chrysostom that "not the nature of the ground, but God Himself, brings it all to pass."
Here you can see the distinction I am trying to make between 'by nature' and 'according to nature'. 'By nature' (phusei
) implies instrumentality on the part of nature (nature as 'efficient cause'). Does new life spring from a dead seed (forget modern science for a moment
) because of "the nature
of the ground"? Chrysostom says no; it is the power of God Himself that "brings it all to pass." Likewise, it is not by
nature that a man is raised from the dead; nor, for that matter, is it by
nature that a man walks on water, heals the sick, casts out demons, commands the waves of the sea. It is rather by
the power of God.
Nevertheless, we would not
say that to do these things is contrary
to [human] nature, if indeed we believe that man is himself created in the Image of God and called to grow into His Likeness; rather, we would say that to do these things is wholly consonant
with man's ultimate purpose or end (nature as 'final cause'?), and thus is 'according
to [in agreement with/not opposed to] nature' (kata phusin
). Super-nature is not necessarily against-nature. The super-natural is 'above' nature in the sense that nature cannot 'reach' it on its own, but in the case of a human being, nature itself is 'oriented' towards what is higher than itself.
In communion with God, man can indeed transcend the limitations of his own nature, without
, so to speak, leaving behind that nature, but rather carrying it up with himself into God's freedom and sovereignty, of which man is called to partake: the created, as
created, showing forth the Uncreated Light. St. Athanasius writes,
By nature, of course, man is mortal, since he was made from nothing; but he bears also the Likeness of Him Who is, and if he preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt. ...though they were by nature subject to corruption, the grace of their union with the Word made them capable of escaping from the natural law, provided that they retained the beauty of innocence with which they were created. That is to say, the presence of the Word with them shielded them even from natural corruption.
Well, do we even exist at all "by nature", then?
I would say, JLatimer, that it is actually natural for man to be in communion with God and to be energized by his grace.
As would I, but again, in the sense of 'according to nature', according to man's telos, but not 'by nature', not self-causingly.
...it is God alone Who exists.