Human Potential in an Age of Anxiety
Early Christian writers such as Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd c. AD and Gregory of Nyssa (4th c. AD) were cosmic, creative and bold in their thinking. The incarnation of God for them was not narrowly conceived as a remedy for sin but a much more exciting venture of growth, development and new life. Because the physical world reveals a divine capacity, they wrote, materiality is oriented toward perfectability. We can become something more, something better and whole precisely because God is at the heart of the material world. They called this movement toward more divine-human life, divinization. As Irenaeus wrote, salvation is not a path to God but a process by which humans become God. The human person is on a path of transformation from an incomplete form to a unified, glorious, eternal and transcendent form, a new divinized nature. Gregory too thought that human nature is open, developmental and capable of becoming something more in God. To be a person is not to be a separate or independent being, he said, but to stand out as a relationship within a shared being [our common humanity], as an individuated or distinctive self. This is true of God who is Trinity and of humans. For Gregory, we human persons each distinctively express the one human being that is named in Scripture as “Adam” [Adamah]; that is, to be image of God is not to possess an individual existence; rather, it is to become human persons together, truly one. We human persons each distinctively express the one human being [Adamah]. Only collectively are we “image of God.”
Our systems have created structures of dependency that have virtually depleted the divine power within us. We have become a frightened, fragile people. The institutional Church continues to hold God ransom in structures of patriarchy and fear of violating a thousand laws, essentially thwarting the words of Jesus: “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). The ecclesiastical control of God has created secular systems bereft of God. Scholars have noted how technology and consumerism have replaced religion in the 21st century, building on human powers to invent, create and transcend ourselves.
Technology, in particular, is radically changing human personhood. Through technology and the science of information we are beginning to realize that all matter is plastic, variable, changeable, hybrid-able; the human person is no longer a given but a person-in-transition. It is time for us to acknowledge our growing powers and begin to take responsibility for them. Drawing from the message of Jesus, we are to die and be transformed into something more wonderful, whole, good, compassionate, life-giving and glorious. Such death is not after earthly life; it is earthly life. Life seeks more life precisely because God is life, and the life of God is the heart of every aspect of earthly life. This is the meaning of incarnation. The person of Jesus reveals what it means to be human: trust, pray, hope, act by daring to cross thresholds. God is doing new things, not for us but in us and through us. We are Christ in evolution.
On November 20th I will be giving a webinar on “Human Potential in an Age of Anxiety,” showing why we need to trust the chaos of our lives, where God is flowing in the power of unconditional love. I will elaborate some of the ideas of early Christian writers and discuss how these ideas have been hijacked by transhumanists, who seek perfectability and human enhancement through artificial intelligence. I will also talk about the philosophy of the new materialisms, which are abounding today among continental thinkers but, without religion, cannot empower us to attain the wholeness of life we seek.
Teilhard de Chardin saw something precious and beautiful in Christianity and I must admit, I do as well. It has nothing to do with triumphalism or the “true religion” idea, which actually depletes the Christian message. Rather, it has to do with the core, fundamental belief in the incarnation. Matter is filled with God, and God is in love with matter, and this mattering of God renders this whole physical universe an evolution in love. It is a wonderful and exciting relationship that can animate every aspect of planetary life today.
I want to note as well that the Center for Christogenesis will hold a December conference on “The Infinite Within: Who we are and what we are called to be.” We have a fantastic lineup of speakers, and a number of workshops, which will help draw out the mystery of infinite love that lies deep within everything that exists. This hidden infinite love, within and ahead of us, is the power of our future.
We have just elected a new president for a new era. Life is never a closed system; it is constantly open to the future. This is our cue. We can contribute to the making of a new world order, new systems of planetary life, new ways of living with a vital, religious spirituality of wholeness by trusting the power of love at the heart of our lives. This is the essential message of the Gospel and it is the heart of our Center for Christogenesis.
Each one of us is a vital center where Christ is being born where the dynamic energy of the Spirit continues to draw us together into a God-woven-theandric life. Because each of us plays a vital role in what this world becomes, I see a new world ahead; a new people, where the poor, the marginalized, the imprisoned and all those left outside the circles of comfort and security, will no more be alone or abandoned. It is a vision of the future, a new religion of the earth, which unfolds in the present, in this moment. We can and we must trust the divine power within us, lean on this power, drink from its fountain fullness, return love for love. We are co-creators with God in the working out of our future. Our lives make a difference to God. As Irenaeus wrote, the glory of the human person is God fully alive.
When Did Jesus Become God?
[God is another name for personhood. The Christian mutation is the development of personhood in freedom and love.] In an article on “The Emergence of Devotion to Jesus in the…