An Image of The Image



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EucharistI want to wrap up this short series which began on morality and has evolved into a discussion on the freedom of the human will and our salvation.  If you are interested in catching up, here is the first, second, third, and fourth post in the series.

In the last post I ended by saying purification and illumination lead to union with God (theosis).  It is through this union where we can truly call ourselves free and autonomous beings.  Theosis is the central focus of salvation; it is the final destination of our journey to perfection in Christ.  Salvation is far deeper than acceptance into heaven; it is seeking the Will of God in all things so that His Will becomes our will.  It is repairing the damage done at the Fall where humankind placed their will before God’s.

Humans were created as the final masterpiece of all creation.  God, having spoken everything into existence, took extra care with us.  He formed us out of the dust and then breathed life into us.  It is humanity alone that is made in His image and by “cleaving” to God “like a shadow” we were in “a state of blessedness” (Athanasius).  We are rational beings whose will was in union with the Will of the Creator.  That is, until we chose to disregard His Will which damaged the union, beginning the movement towards that final state of separation from God—death.  Death does not enter into the picture as a punishment so much as it is the inability of the creature to live independently of the Creator; when we break union with the Source of life the only recourse is death.

God was not finished with His creation though.  A new Adam appeared in history and completed the work which began in Eden.  Humans, created with flesh, then imbued with the Divine Spirit, fell away from that state of grace due to the exertion of our own will.  It was only when God, uncreated and ever-existing, took hold of His creation through the incarnation in a body, that humanity was lifted back to a place where union was once again possible.  Death for Christ was necessary because His humanity would not have been complete if He did not experience the same fate as us.  Since He was in perfect union with God, being fully God and fully man, death was defeated since it had no claim to Him.  Christ then becomes the first man as truly The Image of God, and it is in Christ’s image which we are created.  He has shown us that the way to salvation, the union of God and humanity, is possible by putting to death our own will so that God’s Will can reclaim its rightful place.

How are we free if the goal is to subject our will to something outside of ourselves?  This is like asking, “How can we be free to breathe if we are required to need air?”  Central to our will is desire, but a desire for things created can never satisfy our appetites.  This is why the richest in the world still desire more.  It is why scientists will still seek to answer the question “why” even if they find the elusive “god particle”.  The desire which drives our will is a creation, created to seek its Creator; it can only be satisfied by “cleaving” to The Image in which it was created.  This is why we can now say that the Christian life is not directed by a morality or even a “herd instinct”; the desire for joy is directly related to our existence (existential).  Salvation through union with God (theosis) is not morality, social evolution, or anything observed around us; it is nothing less than the sole purpose of our existence.  Finally, since we have all been created unique, we will never truly find our divine identity until we come back into communion with God.  It is where we finally love, not based upon a desire for comforting emotions or heavenly reward, but because it is simply in our nature to do so.

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”—1 John 4:17

Atheism and Eternity: Some Final Thoughts


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In the previous post I made a claim about the nature of our origins.  Often this claim is not well received in the public discussion—by Christians or Atheists.  The claim I made boils down to the opinion that the history of the universe is a study best left to the scientific community.  Likewise, the search for God and our relationship to Him is an endeavor the faithful must undertake.  Faith is not concerned with the material processes through which the universe formed, only that it was the work of our Creator.  Science in turn cannot delve into experiments regarding an Uncreated Deity so has nothing to say in regards to God’s Being.  People on both sides of the debate find this unacceptable.  The Atheist is not satisfied with a dependence on ignorance for understanding the universe.  Christians are uncomfortable with handing over an understanding of the universe to those not concerned with faith.  I believe this is a false dichotomy.

Classifying the distinction between science and religion’s goals is not meant to divide people into separate camps.  When it is said that science and faith are not asking the same questions it does not mean scientists must remain over here with their science and the faithful must stay over there with their Bibles.  I do not want people to leave the advances of science to the secular community so the faithful can enter into a ghetto of ignorance regarding those advances.  It is not an attempt to tell people they have no need of science in regards to their faith so they should ignore it altogether.  Science is an art.  The ability to use our faculties of reason to dive into the micro and macro-cosmic happenings of the universe is a gift from God.  What if preventing those who have the desire for exploration is stifling an individual’s gifts?  We would not protest a composer’s innovation in musical arrangements.  The faithful need not cast science to the wind, believing it does not concern them.  The vocation of the scientist should not hinder their faith as they enter into worship of the One who transcends those discoveries.  Classifying the end goals of science and faith only aims to strip away a manufactured opposition between them.

I understand why the opposition is there though.  It would be ignorant to disregard the fact that Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism, Natural Selection, and modern science in general have been presented as the “more reasonable” counterpart to faith in God.  Atheists have used these scientific theories as a way to undermine the Christian worldview.  In a reactionary response, Christians declare heresy and in turn develop their own scientific theories in order to prove God exists.  They do not need to.

I spent many years as a Young Earth Creationist so I do understand the emotional and theological thought processes involved with this belief.  I have had many debates as a Creationist with those who believe the universe is billions of years old.  What I found is what I stated in the beginning of this entire discussion.  The debate goes nowhere and in the end, all I have accomplished has been to set a stumbling block in front of a person who has not come to the faith.  Sometimes these stumbling blocks are unavoidable, but I wanted to be sure about this one.  I came across one question which allowed me to “lay down my arms.”  If the universe is billions of years old instead of six to ten thousand, how does that affect the nature of the Christ?  The only honest answer I could find was, “It doesn’t.”  Some may say that the Bible becomes unreliable if we do not take a Creationist position.  I disagree and will hopefully tackle this issue in upcoming posts.

Michelangelo illustrates the unbridgeable gap between created and uncreated as the finger do not quite touch.

Michelangelo illustrates the unbridgeable gap between created and uncreated as the fingers do not quite touch.

It is hard to describe how I felt when letting this burden go.  No longer did I have to ride on this dizzying merry-go-round and was able to move forward with matters of actual truth.  Not scientific truth, although, as a lifelong lover of science, I did enjoy embracing the complexities of God’s creation along with the new discoveries we make every day.  No, I am referring to spiritual truths.  The weight of the creation debate blocks everyone from focusing on the actual theological realities found in the early chapters of Genesis.  Young Earth Creationists will claim science lacks the ability to answer the questions about our being, and they are right.  Though listening to the apologists I never hear a discussion on ontology and this is the tragedy of that debate.  Our ontological (study of the nature of our being) origins become an aimless search for our cosmological (study of the evolution of the material universe) origins and so the experience of God does not reach its full potential.   Even if we are able, as Christians, to separate the two on our own, we neglect to give the truly important information to the world because we are so concerned with a phantom threat to our faith.  I have personally chosen to ignore that threat, and in turn have found that it lost interest in me.

Go to the first post in this discussion.