Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thoughts at the end of classes this spring

Dogmatics has been a fascination of mine for a few years now and this post will be very closely tied in with that. For our first semester of dogmatics, I wrote a paper on the image and likeness of God (and posted it in the dogmatics section of my class notes. Even though the paper is finished, the topic has remained on my mind and an incipient idea that showed in that paper seems to finally be crystallizing.

In Orthodoxy we have a wonderful way of looking at history, at life, at creation, and even at God. We draw outlines, conscious of our failings and the failings of our endeavors. Our dogmas are guideposts not an exhaustive system, our theology a mixture of things we know and things we cannot know, our hymns a vision of the heavenly seen and expressed in even the most mundane things. Beyond all the theory, Orthodoxy is a way of life; a life not of this world, but rooted in God Himself.

The Fathers said in regards to Christ's humanity that whatever is not assumed, is not saved, thus implying that He took on the whole of our humanity. This was one of the starting points of my thought. I cannot claim to comprehend the unity of God and man in Christ, but I can try to look at some of the implications of that union. A popular Orthodox saying (attributed, if I remember correctly, to at least St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasios) says that "God became man so that man can become god." In Orthodoxy we understand man by relating him to God - in the theandric union of Christ and in the creation in the image and likeness of God.

It seems to me that we have tried to understand the image of God in various ways: as the soul, the mind, freedom, unity in diversity, a generic 'humanity'... The more I think about it, however, the more it seems like there has to be more to it than that; more than a specific characteristic that we can identify. God calls us to be holy as He is holy - a broad, encompassing statement whose consequences I am trying to slowly understand.

My current understanding is that the call to holiness applies to every facet of our lives: private, familial, societal, and universal. In each of these, we are called to immitate God; to grow in His likeness. But - as the Fathers said about our humanity as assumed by Christ - can there be likeness without an image? It seems to me that there is an aspect of the image of God in every aspect of our lives and it is through that image that we are to grow in the likeness of God in every aspect of our lives.

In this way, our entire lives grow from the seed that is planted within us and towards the goal of unity with God. In this way, there can be no break between the people we are on Sunday in church and the people we are the rest of the week. It's just an idea, but maybe there's a seed of truth in it.

I think that, at this point, I need to go to sleep.


Blogger Jim N. said...

"God became man so that man could become God"

As for St. Irenaeus, I don't know. But definitely St. Athanasius. I just finished reading Honorable Marriage According to St. Athanasius and it was all over the place. Much of his arguing against the Arians directly 'bled over' into his views on marriage.

Thanks for this post!

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Normally, the "g" in the second "god" is put in lower-case so as to make it clear that man is god in so far as he participates in God's energies, though not His essence.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Fr Joseph Huneycutt said...

Yet, someone correct me if I'm wrong, I believe there was no distinction in "g's" in the original. That is, rather, a contemporary construct.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Virgil Petrisor said...

I will try to find a more definite answer, but I would not be surprised if the distinction were modern given the following two factors. 1. In the early NT manuscripts which have survived, I seem to remember all the letters being the same case. 2. The terminology of the Church has developed through time.

7:49 AM  

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