rethinking our human and divine nature
My Dear One,
In a previous WayPost, I spoke of the great potential in expanding our concept of God from a Trinity to a Quaternity, thus providing a space in which to understand ourselves and all the rest of creation existing within the divine, not separate from the divine. I’m thrilled to see Richard Rohr’s upcoming book The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe is along these same lines. But rather than expand the three to four, Rohr suggests that we properly understand ourselves and all of creation as contained within the second person of God, and that “Christ is another name for every thing.”
(Note: Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation has also recently launched his first ever podcast in support of this book launch. Just when I think I’ve gotten the gist of what Richard has to offer, he always surprises me with more!)
Whether by expanding our concept of God from three to four or by including ourselves within the three, seeing ourselves as part of the divine and the divine in us has profound implications for our understanding of God.
First of all, for Christians the only reason we are able to have this conversation is because of Jesus. But this is not all that radical of a concept for other faith traditions. For instance, in the Upanishads, a sacred text of Hinduism, it is proclaimed that “you are that,” with “that” being the ultimate reality, the oneness of all, the divine. In Christian theology and cosmology, it is precisely because of Jesus of Nazareth, that this concept can be explored. In his incarnation, Jesus shows us it is indeed possible for a being to be both fully divine and fully human. These are not mutually exclusive notions. There is nothing that is “incompatible” between the divine nature and the human nature. Not only can they co-exist within one person, but when they do we see what the fulfillment of our human potential looks like. Want to know what God looks like? Look at Jesus. Want to know what a fully-realized and mature human looks like? Look at Jesus. It is all there.
But then we almost immediately let ourselves off the hook and said, “Yeah but that was JESUS and I’m not Jesus.” This is true. We are not Jesus. But that was never intended to let us off the hook. Jesus himself promised that through the gift of the Holy Spirit we would be empowered to continue his life and ministry.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:11-13
And yet we then proceeded to put Jesus up on a pedestal and worship him for the next two millennia instead of following him as our model. Jesus never asked to be worshiped. He asked to be followed.
The number of times the gospels record Jesus inviting someone to “Follow me”: 23
The number of times Jesus asks someone to “Worship me”: 0
And yet that’s largely what we’ve done. Rather than taking Jesus as our model, we took him as our God and placed him in that same “other/transcendent/beyond” category we’d always placed God in. This is truly tragic when so much of his message was clearly intended to elevate our concept of humanity rather than simply our concept of him.
When Jesus said we should call God “Abba” which means “Daddy” his aim was to pull that relationship into the realm of the intimate and familial. We are God’s children, not God’s condemned, fallen creation. We find this spoken of in many places in the Bible:
I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;” Psalm 82:6
[Jesus said] “The Father and I are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? John 10:30-36
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:1-4
Participant of the divine nature! These are perhaps the most radical words in the Bible. So radical that the Church decided to ignore and at times even suppress their message. We are told all about our sinful, human nature and encouraged to fall with fear and trembling at the feet of God’s mercy. How often have we been told that through the life of Jesus we are shown the way to stand in boldness as the presence of God ourselves? As Rohr put it in the first episode of his podcast, we skip right past the first two chapters of Genesis which describes our original blessing in God and go straight to the third chapter and focus instead on our separation and “the problem.” We risk missing the whole point.
How then should we live?
I believe, of course, there is nothing wrong with choosing to worship Jesus. I do every week. Many others do not worship Jesus but hold him and his teachings in highest regard. But either way, the invitation to all of humanity, Christian or not, is to be the universal presence of the love of God, what some of us, like Rohr, understand as the call to be Christ.
Precious little has ever been said in the Church about our call to become as Christ, at least in Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) Christianity. Some have at least hinted at it. Two pillars of the early Church, Irenaeus, and Athanasius said that “God became what we are to make us what he is.” Martin Luther, the great reformer of the faith, once said the call of Christians is to be “little Christs” to one another. However, these and similar sentiments have largely been dismissed as mere platitudes when taking them seriously would have changed the world.
Though largely ignored in Western civilization, this is a predominant theme in Eastern Christianity where it is called “deification” or “theosis.” Theosis posits that our ultimate identity is bound up in the very identity of God and that though, they would say, we ourselves are not divine we are moving towards an increasing “divinization” of becoming more and more like God, or “deified” to be more like the deity.
In the West, one of the most compelling writers along these lines was the Jesuit Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who similarly spoke of humanity and creation’s “Omega Point.” The Omega Point, he says, is understanding that the final destination of all that exists is to become completely unified with God. In Teilhard’s teachings, if Christ is both Alpha and Omega, then all things are a becoming towards that end, itself a return to our beginning. Here are several key quotes from him:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
“Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.”
“Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”
“Through the incarnation God descended into nature in order to super-animate and take it back to him.” (Mysticism of Science, 1939, VI, 178)
Or, as Peter put is so long ago, we are participants in the divine nature.
Now please hear what I am NOT saying. I am not saying we are called by God to be Jesus Christ. Jesus was a once-in-history human being. Christian creeds and confessions are not being overturn by our newfound commitment to be a continuing incarnation of Christ. You are not called, expected, or able to become Jesus Christ. But you are completely called, expected and able to be You Christ. For Christians, this is our direct call. But I would hope that people of all faiths could translate this into terms they are comfortable with as well. The living, loving presence of the divine, this is what we are all called to be.
This is our goal. This is our purpose in life. To love God and others with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength.
following The Way,
The Week’s Elder: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
To learn more about Teilhard de Chardin, a priest, theologian and noted scientist, you can watch this short video.
Here are two excerpts that give you a taste of his writings:
“It is through the collaboration which he solicits from us that Christ, starting from all creatures, is consummated and attains his plenitude. St. Paul himself tells us so. We may, perhaps, imagine that Creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues in still more magnificent form in the highest zones of the world….Our role is to help complete it, if only by the humble work of our hands. This is the real meaning and the price of our acts. Owing to the interrelation between matter, soul, and Christ, we lead part of the being which he desires back to God in whatever we do. With each of our works, we labor automatically but really to build the Pleroma, which is to say we help towards the fulfillment of Christ.” (“The Divinization of Our Activities” in Modern Catholic Thinkers [Vol. 1], New York: Harper 1960.)
“Lord Christ, you who are divine energy and living irresistible might: since of the two of us it is you who are infinitely the stronger, it is you who must set me ablaze and transmute me into fire that we may be welded together and made one. Grant me, then, something even more precious than that grace for which all your faithful followers pray: to receive communion as I die is not sufficient: teach me to make a communion of death itself.” (Hymn of the Universe, NY: Harper and Row 1965.)
A good general reader can be found from the Modern Spiritual Masters Series available at
Note: Amazon will give a portion of the purchase of books from links on this page to support following The Way.
Our Practice this Week:
Pray by repeating this mantra over and over:
“I am in God and God is in me.”
See how a deeper awareness of this truth changes you.