Visions of Daniel
A Contemporary Picture of Jesus
This study has finally come to its promised conclusion. We have discussed the major problems that contemporary thought poses regarding an understanding of Jesus. We have summarized the conclusions that contemporary biblical scholarship offers about Jesus himself and about the New Testament understandings of Jesus. We have reviewed the teaching of the christological councils and offered an interpretation of them in light of subsequent speculation and contemporary concerns. Now Part III of this book presents a synthesis of all this material. It develops a coherent presentation of Jesus Christ as is allowed by contemporary scholarship and demanded by traditional belief. The present chapter presents an overview of this contemporary christology. Chapter Eight is a summary statement. The following two chapters treat in detail certain important issues and implications of this understanding about Jesus. Here begins my answer to the question, How can one understand Christian belief about Jesus Christ today? What do you make of Christ?
A New "Model" of Jesus
In 1981, John E O'Grady published Models of Jesus . Emulating Avery Dulles's very useful and widely acclaimed Models of the Church , Models of Jesus presents six different contemporary pictures of Jesus.
The idea is that Jesus Christ can be understood in different ways. He is different things to different people. Jesus is "The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity," God become flesh, passing through our world. Jesus is "The Mythological Christ," an inspiring and saving message which, however, would hardly be true to the historical Jesus. Jesus is "The Ethical Liberator," the hero and inspiration of Liberation Theology, calling for social justice, for economic, social, and political liberation, in anticipation of the Kingdom of God on this earth. Jesus is "The Human Face of God," a remarkable human being who changed our notion of both humanity and divinity. Jesus is "The Man for Others," the servant of others in this world. Finally, Jesus is "Personal Savior," the transformer of people's lives, known especially within the charismatic renewal movement.
Models of Jesus provides a useful, popular overview of contemporary christology. Each chapter summarizes a major approach to Jesus. The resulting array of models evidences the plurality of opinions prevalent today. The very shift from one authoritative statement to a variety of models in christology is a noteworthy phenomenon. It suggests that no comprehensive christological account is available. In the end the reader is left to decide for himself or herself which is most adequate, most congenial. The uncertainty that currently rules the field is obvious. Models of Jesus is an excellent exhibit on contemporary christology.
By the same token, that book also exhibits the major shortcomings in the contemporary scene. It is astonishing in itself that "Jesus as the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity" would appear as one model among six, all claiming to account for Jesus Christ. Granted, there are many ways of understanding Jesus; Jesus means different things to different people. But what Jesus means for me or for you is one thing; what he is in himself may be quite another. The many faces of Jesus in Christian piety is one thing; a comprehensive and adequate theological account of Jesus Christ is another. Yet in an array of models, Jesus-for-me and Jesus-in-himself are mixed together. The difference between the two may be lost. The traditional Christian understanding of Jesus Christ in himself may appear as just another instance of what some people consider Jesus to be for them. The shift from ontological to functional thinking-indeed, the implicit devaluation or obliteration of ontological thinking-goes unnoticed.
A methodology that is useful for study of the church is not necessarily also adequate for the study of Jesus Christ. Ecclesiology is a very new theological specialization. It is still far from achieving any widely accepted systematic formulation. In this field, kerygmatic statement still leads the way. The same can be said about the question of revelation and so justify Dulles's later book, Models of Revelation . However, the same is not true for christology.
Already by 325 C.E., Christianity achieved a fundamental clarification about Jesus Christ, formulated in a nascent systematic form. Subsequent thought and official teaching went far beyond Nicea's first step. The usual process of human explanation seems to move from poetic inspiration and suggestion, to standardly accepted metaphors and images, to consolidation of images into overriding models, and finally to theoretical breakthrough and systematic formulation. In christology, to revert again to models is to step backwards.
O'Grady does not suggest, of course, that all six models are of equal value. He evaluates each, noting its advantages and liabilities. Moreover, he insists that a complete christology would have to take into account the contributions of all six models. Yet, here is the telling issue: no single model appears capable of effecting the synthesis. Only the first, Jesus as the Incarnation, and the fourth, Jesus as The Human Face of God, qualify as possible paradigms-master-models that could become the basis for a comprehensive, adequate christology. As is obvious, these two models are expressions of the two basic modes of contemporary christology: from above and from below.
What is needed is a seventh "model" of Jesus. It would combine the valid insights of the more traditional christology from above with those of the more contemporary christology from below. This new "model" would give full emphasis both to Jesus' eternal divinity and to his historical humanity. It would use the ontologically conceived distinctions between creature and creator, person and nature, and humanity and divinity from traditional christology to construct a basic understanding of Jesus Christ. Onto this it would engraft an understanding of Jesus' humanity and its potential, its development, and its social significance, as developed in contemporary thought. That is, this seventh model would integrate an ontological understanding with psychological and existential understanding.
Such a synthesis is possible today because the modern "turn to the subject" has finally resulted in a systematic account of human subjectivity and its development. Moreover, an analysis of this dynamic subjectivity can ground metaphysics. This achievement provides a systematically constructed bridge over the gap between classical metaphysical and modern psychological concerns. Applied to christology, the result would be more than a "model." It would be a systematic account of Jesus Christ. It would provide the basis and the criteria of validity for any piety's model of Jesus. It would be a paradigm.
The complete name of this "model" would necessarily be cumbersome: "Jesus as the Eternal Son of God Become Human and in His Humanity Divinized so that All Humans Might Likewise Be Divinized." More concisely, it could be called "Jesus, the Human True to Himself." Here "the Human" indicates Jesus' complete and unmixed humanity. The term is a substitute for the more familiar but sexist term "The Man." No doubt Jesus was a man, but the significant issue is not that he was male but that he was one of us, human. "Himself" indicates his divine identity as Eternally-Begotten-of-the-Father and so presupposes the incarnation. "True to" serves to indicate the human, historical achievement of his perfect fidelity-fidelity, first of all, to himself and so, secondly and automatically, also to his heavenly Father. This fidelity resulted in his death and glorification-which, transforming this one human being, by implication also transformed the ultimate meaning of all human life. This "model" would combine incarnational, resurrectional, and soteriological emphases into one, comprehensive, coherent understanding of Jesus Christ. This "model," a paradigm, would be capable of absorbing and integrating all the other models of Jesus. The following presentation sketches such a paradigm, a systematic christology.
Two Movements in Christology
A complete understanding of Jesus Christ comprises two movements. The first is the movement of God to us. The supreme moment of this movement was the incarnation of the Eternal Word as the Son of Mary, Jesus Christ. This first movement introduced into human history an absolutely unique human being. Of course, in one way every human being is unique. Each is himself or herself and no other. None will be repeated. But the uniqueness of Jesus Christ goes beyond this common uniqueness. Jesus' identity was not human but divine. The one born of Mary was none other than Eternally-Begotten-of-the-Father. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is that he was God born into human history. This movement of God into history is the first christological movement. It is the movement from above.
The second is the movement from below, the movement of the human being to God. It is the movement of historical, human growth common to all human beings. Yet in the case of Jesus Christ, this movement takes on another unique significance. Because of who he is and simply by being in history who he is, Jesus Christ had the possibility of a human fulfillment that was unique to him. The second christological movement is Jesus Christ's human growth toward perfect historical expression of himself and, as a result, to ultimate human fulfillment in God. Through his human life and not until his resurrection, the human Jesus Christ achieved as perfect as humanly possible a participation in divine qualities. Such human participation in divinity could and should have been his from the beginning. After all, he was Eternal-Son. But it was not. In divine wisdom his Father conferred it on him only in the end because in his human life he was perfectly faithfully Son of the Father.
The first christological movement, the incarnation, is the condition for the possibility of the second movement, the divinization of the human Jesus. Because of who he is, Jesus' human life is open to a human consummation unlike any before him. Even as human, if he but be himself, he will share in qualities proper to God alone. Furthermore, the completion of the second movement in Jesus' case has implications for every other human being ever to live. Through the confluence of these two movements and because of his connection with all through the human history he entered, Jesus Christ changed the ultimate possibility for human fulfillment. Attaining that fulfillment in himself, he opened a new possibility to all. With the help of the Holy Spirit, all people could now likewise attain that fulfillment. He saved humankind.
I will elaborate in turn each of these two christological movements and then their implication for human salvation.
The Movement from Above: the Incarnation of the Eternal Word
The presentation of the development of conciliar christology in Chapters Six and Seven already significantly details the movement from above. Here a brief summary will suffice.
To say that the Word became flesh, that the Eternal Son became human, is to affirm that a particular preexisting individual became human. The one in question is the Eternal Son. This one is not the Father; nor is he the Holy Spirit. Only the Son became human, the Son as distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are two others who are God but who did not incarnate. The exact identity of the one who became human is Begotten-of-the-Father. The Son's "begottenness" distinguishes him from the Father, for the Father is not begotten. Rather, he is Without-Source. That "begottenness" likewise distinguishes the Son from the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is also not begotten. Rather, he is Proceeding-from-the-Father-and-the-Son. The exact distinguishing quality of the Son, that which gives him identity in contrast to every other, human and divine, is his eternal "begottenness" from the Father. His identity is to be begotten of the Father. Who he is is Begotten-of-the-Father .
As Begotten-of-the-Father, the Eternal Son is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet what or what kind the Son is as God is the same as what the Father and the Holy Spirit are-namely, divine, God. Since the Eternal Son is God, it is accurate to say that in Jesus Christ God became human, despite Nestorius's objection. Still, considering that the Father and the Holy Spirit are also God, the statement "God became human" is not altogether without ambiguity. This statement in itself could be taken to refer to the Father or to the Holy Spirit or even to a unitarian God wherein distinct subjects in God are disallowed. The absolutely precise and unambiguous statement is "The Eternally-Begotten became human."
The point of insistence is this: some one became human, not some what. What the Eternal Word brought into the world with him was himself, his identity, and not his divinity. His divinity he "gave up" when he became human. That is to say, as human, Begotten-of-the-Father no longer acts through his divine nature. His way of acting was now solely human. In the incarnation, the Eternal Word "stripped himself of glory," he "emptied himself" (Phil. 2:7). He limited himself to a human way of being. His divine prerogatives-infinite knowledge and power-he left behind. In all his activity on earth, he prescinded from those divine qualities. He surrendered his former principle of activity, divinity, and in his human actions limited himself to a new principle of activity, his humanity. This does not mean that he stopped being God. His divinity is indistinguishable and inseparable from himself as Eternally-Begotten-of-the-Father, and as God he continued to be one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. Nonetheless, he prescinded from acting as divine when he became human and lived on the earth. Chalcedon's teaching that Christ's humanity and divinity were "without confusion, without change" insists on this point. There is no inflow of omniscent knowledge and omnipotent power into the human Jesus. The Eternal Word did not bring divine power and knowledge with him when he came into this world. That is precisely what he left behind. He did bring himself. Then Eternally-Begotten-of-the-Father began living as one of us, fully and completely human, and only so.
Jesus' Miracles What, then, about Jesus' miracles? Do they not show his divine power? Certainly popular presentation sees Jesus' miracles as signs of his divine power. Yet, it must be remembered, every miracle Jesus performed has some precedent in the Old Testament. Only Jesus' resurrection has no precedent in the Old Testament. Besides, Christians and non-Christians today are rediscovering the gift of healing and again doing "miracles." If such miracles are an indication of divinity, then we must conclude that the Old Testament prophets and many other people are also divine, just as Jesus is. The conclusion is unacceptable. According to Christian belief, Jesus is unique in his divinity. It follows, his miracles are not correctly understood as expressions of his unique divinity. They are better understood as expressions of extraordinary humanity.
As human beings, all of us have powers far beyond what we imagine. Some people are especially gifted in these extraordinary powers. Especially holy people tend to have such special gifts. Jesus, an extraordinary human being and a uniquely holy human being, knew how to use powers that God has given to many-or even all-human beings. This is to say, Jesus' miracles are not necessarily signs of divinity; they are rather signs of developed humanity.
The same can be said about Jesus' extraordinary knowledge on many occasions. It is not at all uncommon to meet people who in one way or another can "read" other people. They pick up "vibes." They can sense what someone is feeling or thinking or likely to do. They have this ability, not because they are God, but because they are human beings deeply in touch with themselves and with others. Jesus' extraordinary awareness could also be understood in this way.
We are learning more and more about the powers of the human mind. In the process, we have less reason to suppose that the verified extraordinary activities of the historical Jesus were expressions of his divinity. Rather, they indicate his extraordinary humanity. Such an interpretation is in full accord with the teaching of Chalcedon, which forbids mixing human and divine powers in Jesus.
At the same time, any extraordinary occurrences-miracles--can be occasions to consider God's action among us. In some way God is behind everything that happens, so he is also behind Jesus'-and anybody else's-miracles. In this sense, miracles are signs of God's work among us. They point us to God. They become indicators of something more than themselves, unusual occurrences. Understood in this sense, Jesus' miracles are indications that he is from God and that God is in him. Indeed, it is in this sense that the gospel of John speaks of Jesus' deeds not as miracles but as signs.
The Word Became a Real Human Being While living on earth, the Eternal Word limited himself to acting humanly. He was restricted by the confines of space and time, just as all humans are. He could only be in one place at one time, and his life moved on minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Where it was going remained to be seen. Whatever he knew, he knew with a human mind. Whatever he did, he did with human freedom and human potential. His experiences, his feelings, the joys and longings of his heart-all were those of a human being. He had no memories of his eternal life in God. His memories were those of a human mind, and that human mind had its beginning at his birth. His personality and his ways of behaving were developed among his family and associates. He grew up in a small town in early first-century Palestine. This experience formed his language and thought patterns and general outlook on things. Like all of us, he was a product of his environment. As noted in Chapter Five, we know very little detail about Jesus' concrete biography. Still, what must be said in general about any human being must also be said about Jesus. Once come to earth, for all practical purposes the Eternal Word was human and solely so.
O'Grady's model of Jesus as The Incarnation of the Second Person of The Blessed Trinity summarizes the standard presentation of the christology from above. According to it, the incarnation is the central event of Christianity. In the incarnation humanity and divinity come together. Nothing more is to be expected. Jesus' earthly life is the automatic consequence of that central event. His teachings announce that marvel, and his deeds confirm his words. His death is a lesson about the wickedness of sin, and his resurrection, the ultimate confirmation of the truth of the incarnation. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection add nothing that was not already there in the incarnation. The story is over as soon as it begins.
The present account unfolds differently. By giving equal and balanced emphasis to the teaching of all the councils-Nicea's insistence on the absolute divinity of Jesus Christ, Constantinople I and III's insistence on his complete humanity, Ephesus's implicit distinction between the who and the what in Jesus Christ, and Chalcedon's exclusion of mixture between his humanity and divinity-this account presents the christology from above, not as the sum of the story, but only as its beginning. To recognize that Jesus Christ has a full humanity, unmixed with his divinity, is to acknowledge the introduction into human history of a human being whose future is yet to be determined. Eternal Word though he is, Jesus must live his own human life starting from birth, just as every other human being. What he will do with his life remains to be seen. How he will exercise his human freedom and use his exquisite talents is his own to decide. The movement from above set a beginning, but it did not resolve the whole issue. Uninformed speculation on the case might suggest that things could or should or did occur differently. Yet history alone reveals God's good wisdom. As it in fact was, this beginning only opened the possibility for the consummate union of God and a human, but the full actuation of that possibility remained to be achieved. Not only the incarnation but also the human freedom of Jesus throughout some thirty years of living would determine the outcome. The first movement of christology leads to a second. Without it the first was not to be completed. What was possible in the first movement still needed to be made actual in the second.
The Movement from Below: The Divinization of Jesus
The second movement is that from below. It is the growth of the human Jesus. Its goal is his glorification, his divinization. Divinization does not mean that somehow the human being became God. Jesus Christ already was God; he did not have to become God. Besides, no one, nothing, can become God. Jesus Christ was not a human being who became God. Still, something did happen to him between the incarnation and his return to the Father. His life did make a difference. The change was in his humanity. He was divinized. Divinization means that Jesus' humanity came to participate to some extent in certain qualities proper only to divinity. According to this account, christology from below does not deal with a supposed move from humanity to divinity; a human being does not become God. Rather, christology from below deals with the perfection of a human being to the point even of sharing to some extent in divine prerogatives. The human who is divinized remains human. Yet certain ideal human potentials, which one would not ordinarily expect to be actualized, are actualized. The result is still human, yet the humanity is transformed. It reaches a perfection that surpasses ordinary expectation. The human remains human. By the same token the human remains also created. A creature does not somehow suddenly become uncreated. Yet the creature shares in qualities proper only to divinity. In question is a created participation in divinity. Precisely such a created participation in divinity was the final result of Jesus' human life. More explanation is necessary.
Jesus' Unique Possibility When he entered human history, the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ, had a unique possibility. No one before had ever been a divine one made human. Of course, born as human, Jesus shared a common possibility with all other humans: he could be true to himself. But as Eternally-Begotten-of-the-Father become human, this possibility was unique in his case. By being true to himself, he would live out in human history the identity he has eternally in God. He would express historically who he is eternally. Now, his whole identity, that which is his alone, is to be Begotten-of-the-Father. This is what distinguishes him from the Father and from the Holy Spirit. His whole self is to be "of-the-Father." That which makes him uniquely himself is absolute, total dependence on the Father. Accordingly, to be himself in history is to be totally dependent on the Father, to live in complete surrender to the Father, to spell out in word and deed a constant awareness of utter "self/giftedness" from the Father. The Eternal Word's historical expression of himself Would be absolute fidelity to the Father. And he would be absolutely faithful to the Father simply by being faithful to himself. By being himself he would be in history perfectly Son-of-the-Father. To be himself, and so to be in history perfectly Son-of-the-Father, was Jesus Christ's unique possibility.
Obviously, this "being true to himself" implies no such thing as following his own whim. Its meaning is not that of the current slogan, "Do your own thing." The sense here is more that of Shakespeare:
"This above all: to thine own self be true,
The sense is that of John Donne: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." The sense is that of Paul:
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.... For the body does not consist of one member but of many.... If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1 Cor. 12:4-6, 14, 26)
Were Jesus Christ to be absolutely true to himself in his human life, ipso facto he would be in history perfectly Son-of-the-Father, and ipso facto he would be perfectly faithful also to the Father. To be true to himself would automatically be to be true to the will of God. To be true to the will of God would likewise automatically be to be true to all that is right, good, noble, and worthwhile for all others.
By being true to himself, he would "historicize" his eternal "begottenness." That is to say, he would express in history what he is in eternity. He would effect an historical expression of his own self. Historically as well as eternally, humanly as well as divinely, he would be Son-of-the-Father. In contrast, by being himself, he would not be "historicizing" his divinity. Divinity is his divine way of being. That is precisely what he left behind. That is what he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Divinity is not what would be expressed historically if in history the Eternal Word were completely himself. Rather, total and absolute dependence on the Father, "bornness" of the Father, "self/gift-edness" from the Father, is what would be expressed. Who he is-not what he is-is the link between his eternal being and his historical being. The union is hypostatic. Jesus' human life does not express the divine nature. It expresses a divine identity. Jesus' human life is the historical expression of Begotten-of-the-Father.
Jesus, Ever Faithful In fact, Eternal-Son-of-the-Father was true to himself in his human life. At great cost, at the price of death, he was ever true to himself.
The New Testament insists on Jesus' fidelity, though it gives precious little detail about Jesus' moments of anguish. The temptation accounts and the passion narratives suggest that Jesus did face the uncertainty of life, as we all do. But each time he chose the path of faith. He entrusted himself to the love of his Father. What he had was a flame burning in his soul. There was a love he felt, which he chose never to abandon. Where it would take him was yet to be seen. What it would cost him was becoming ever more clear. But that he would be faithful to it was never in doubt. The path of worldly possessions, the path of power and fame, the path of selfish use of talent-all these were options for him, and he refused them all. They were discordant with who he was. He would not be untrue to himself. In Jesus we have one who is able "to sympathize with our weaknesses ... one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.... In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears,... and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was Son, he learned obedience through suffering" (Heb. 4:15; 5:7-8).
Like every human being Jesus lived with the awesomeness of life's uncertainty. He had no script to follow. No plan was written out. No mission was spelled out for him. The "plan of salvation," the Son's "mission on earth,"-the things we now speak of-were known after the fact. They were written down and spelled out after they happened. Their marvelous coherence is seen only in hindsight. It was Jesus who worked them out. It was he who determined their course. It was he who took on, as every human must, the overwhelming responsibility for each moment's decisions. It was he who decided, from the depths of his loving heart, what he would do. He acted, not because some script called for it, but because the moment called for it. Ever true to himself, ever faithful to his Father, he did what was called for by every unpredictable, contingent moment of human life. The flame burning in his heart was his only guide. Invisible to the eye, elusive to concepts, inexpressible in words, impossible to define, it was nonetheless real. In touch with the depths of his very self, he was in touch with that flame. He had a sense of himself. It would be too much to say he knew who he was. Knowledge is clear and precise and articulate. He had no such easy thing to go on. What he had to follow was more elusive than that-a hunch, an intuition, some vague but insistent sense. It was obscure, hidden, secret. But it was real, and he followed it. Despite what it cost, despite where it led, he would be true to himself.
Jesus, Challenged As We Are: A Homily Poor Jesus! Poor, poor Jesus! Sometimes we think we have it hard. We wonder what we should do with our lives. Consider his case. What he was had never happened before. There was no precedent for him to follow, no model to imitate. There were no words even to suggest it, no concepts to fix it in mind. He could not "become a carpenter," or make a career as a "teacher," or become a "doctor" or a "lawyer" or a "businessman." It would not do to "get married" or "get into sales" or become a "writer" or "typist" or "house contractor." He would not be himself were he simply to "raise a family" or "take up a hobby" or "hang loose for a while." Whatever he would make of himself would fit no pre-formed mold. He would inevitably fall through the cracks of society's structures and categories. Who in history was so alone as Jesus? Who else so clearly had to determine his or her own fate? Who ever had to live with such trust in God? His only guide was his sense of himself, his sense of utter dependence on his Father. Neither he nor others could comprehend it.
Sometimes I like to imagine what might have been happening at Caesarea Philippi. Of course, the Gospels do not give us enough information to make accurate conclusions about Jesus' emotional and psychological experiences. Unlike us, the early Christians did not seem to be much interested in such things. Nonetheless, I like to speculate. And since Jesus is as human as we are, there is some basis for speculation. Jesus was becoming more and more aware of where his chosen path was taking him. This awareness disturbed him. He did not want to provoke hostile reactions. He did not want people to be confused. And he did not want to get himself killed. Yet he would not be untrue to himself, unfaithful to his heavenly Father. In his anguish he turned to his friends. He hesitatingly began to share with them his life's scenario as he saw it inevitably unfolding. He wondered how they saw him. What were people saying about him? He hoped his friends would support him. He wanted some encouragement to adhere to the path he knew he had to follow. It is easier to be virtuous when others give their support. So he dared to expose himself, to reveal his anguish. And the reaction: "Oh, come on, Jesus! Don't talk that way. You're going to be great. Forget this talk about suffering." And it was Peter who led the group-as always. Jesus could not share the questions of his innermost heart. Not even his closest friends understood.
Of course, this account is purely speculative. It is completely homiletic. It is at least one remove from Mark's account, which is itself is at least one remove from the actual historical occurrence. It is a kerygmatic statement. Who knows if Jesus and his followers talked so personally? Who knows what they were really feeling on any particular occasion? The gospels simply do not give us that kind of information. Such speculation is purely homiletic. But it does serve a purpose, just as all good preaching does. It helps to translate Jesus' life among us into terms that we can understand. It helps us to appreciate that he was just like us.
I also like to speculate about what might have occurred at Jesus' trial. Again, actual Gospel evidence is meager even regarding the procedure of the trial(s). Nonetheless, could this have happened? They call in the witnesses. Jesus blatantly broke the Sabbath law. He disrupted the regular functioning in the temple. He uses blasphemous ways of speaking about and praying to God. He counters the Law of Moses and claims to have authority over it. He is disrupting the stability of Judaism and the peace of the province. It was clear where all this was leading. Legal or not, they were going to get rid of him. And Jesus? How easy it would have been to back off. "Wait a minute.... Don't take these things so seriously. You misunderstand me. Let's talk this over. Just let me explain." A few words is all it would have taken. Jesus could so easily have hedged a bit, toned down his words, covered himself. A little bit of compromise goes a long way in a tight situation. He would have been safe. Dishonest? Yes. Discredited? Well, a little bit. But safe, safe to live out his now petty life in the fear of again offending the authorities, in the self-contempt of compromised integrity. No, for Jesus it was not to be that way. He was who he was, and he would be true to himself. He said what he said, and he was honest in that. He would not take it back. Better to die hanging on a cross than to extinguish the flame of love in his soul. Death would easier to bear-and more promising-than dishonesty. His yoke was light and his burden, sweet.
Jesus' Human Freedom Things might have been different, but they were not. In fact, Jesus was true to himself throughout his life. He was faithful to his heavenly Father. Despite the cost, despite even death, he was ever true to himself.
His fidelity was the effect of his human freedom. Whatever he did, he did freely. He chose his own life each step of the way. He himself made himself to be what he was as daily decisions slowly expressed and forged the historical expression of his unique identity. The freedom he exercised was human freedom. As a human being, the Eternal Word freely lived his human life in absolute fidelity.
Death, the Definitive Human Act In human freedom Jesus Christ chose to be himself. Even in the face of death, he did not deny himself. He was who he was, and he expressed that indentiy faithfully. Death itself gave the final and best opportunity for Jesus to express in perfect fidelity his absolute "self/giftedness" of the Father.
With every decision of life, we determine our fate, we create the historical expression of our selves. Life is a process. To be humanly is to become. Where I will live, what work I will do, what people I will befriend-all these decisions make me concretely to be who I am. There is a cost attached to each: to live here I cannot also live there; to do this work I give up that; to have these friends I invest the time I might have spent with those. These costs are little deaths. They draw the line between what for me is and, on the other hand, what could have been but now is lost forever. But all such decisions are incomplete, and none is irreversible. As long as we are alive, we may not be able to retrieve the past, but we can change our minds. We can change our lives. We can change ourselves. In this respect, our actual physical death is different from those minor deaths. Death is final, and complete. The choice that death expresses is complete. The surrender of self in death leaves nothing more to give. The choice that death expresses is irreversible. At death the time for choices ends. Thus, death becomes the perfect expression of oneself. In death one's whole self is at stake, and irreversibly. How one dies becomes the consummate expression of one's life and self.
The Consummation of Jesus' Human Becoming Even in death Jesus was true to himself. He went to his death because of his fidelity. So his death expressed perfectly, completely, and irreversibly the self that he was all along: totally dependent on the Father, totally Begotten-of-the-Father. Jesus' moment of death was the culmination of his life: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" (Lk. 23:46). Through his fidelity even unto death, in a definitive way he made himself to be historically who he is eternally. He spelled out in history his eternal identity. He who is completely "of-the-Father" became by human self-determination wholly the Father's. He who is eternally Son-of-the-Father became also historically perfectly Son-of-the-Father. Because of his fidelity, even to the end, Jesus' human life became the historical expression, most perfectly possible for a human being, of his ultimate identity. Through his human life and consummately in his act of death, Jesus Christ became in historical concreteness what he is eternally in God. He ever chose to be who he was. Daily he confirmed that reality in his life. Finally, through his death, completely and irreversibly, he became in history who he is in eternity-totally of the Father.
Jesus' Fidelity, Not his Death, as Valuable Obviously, the important issue was Jesus' absolute fidelity-fidelity even at the cost of death. Not the physical suffering, not the emotional anguish, not the actual experience of death itself, but the fidelity expressed through all these, the fidelity constant despite all these, made Jesus' death valuable. Of course, Jesus' absolute fidelity did not come to expression apart from his death. Nonetheless, when the distinction is drawn, not his death, but his fidelity, was what mattered. God neither willed nor wanted nor enjoyed the murder of his Son. However, with his Son's perfect integrity and constant fidelity the Eternal Father was, indeed, well pleased.
Jesus, Faithful Son, Raised from the Dead Jesus' human life did make a difference. At the end of it he was different from what he was at the beginning. Through his human living, by every free decision of every day, he grew and developed. Like all of us, he made himself be what he would be. With every new decision, he expressed his very self more and more fully in history. Humanly he expressed his eternal identity, that which constitutes him as distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit in eternity, his being born of the Father. Throughout his human life, he was being himself. In his fidelity unto death, completely and definitely, as perfectly as is humanly possible, he was Son-of-the-Father on earth. Poured out in death, as human he became empty and was nothing of himself. Rather, he was totally dependent on the Father for his very being, even as he is eternally Begotten-of-the-Father.
So the Father raised him up. It was not proper that Eternal-Word, wholly the Father's on earth as he is eternally in heaven, should lie in the defeat of death. For, in fact, death was no defeat but rather the point of victory for Christ. Christ used death as a tool. Through it Eternal-Word became himself completely in his humanity. Not even by appearance, then, not even to the shallow eyes of history, should death appear to have the last word. Eternal-Son, who became wholly Son on earth through his human life, should be glorified in a way fitting for Only-Begotten-of-the-Father.
So God raised up his Son. He restored to him the glory that was his before the world began. God gave divine glory to Jesus Christ-not only in his divinity; for in his divinity the Son is glorified eternally. God gave divine glory to Jesus Christ in his humanity. Eternal-Son-Become-Human was raised up not merely to the height of human perfection. Through his death Jesus had already achieved that perfection. Rather, he was raised up to perfection beyond what is proper to a human. Insofar as it is possible for a human to share in the divine way of being, Eternal-Son as human would so share.
For Jesus such sharing would be appropriate. Because of who he is, he ought to share that fullness. For him it would be expected. Indeed, from the point of view of human wisdom, such fullness should have been his from the beginning. Once made human, he should already have enjoyed the fullest perfection proper to a human-and more. In fact, following just this line of thought, a former and commonly accepted christology did attribute to Jesus divine prerogatives even during his earthly life: he knew all things from the first moment of his human existence, he was able to do all things. Misunderstanding of the Gospels' intent made such a christology possible. Yet, as we now understand in still another context, God's ways are not our ways. According to divine wisdom, Jesus Christ-Eternal-Son though he is-was to live our human life as every other human does. Through the process of ordinary human life, he was to determine what he would be in the concrete reality of history. He must be faithful to himself, faithful to his eternal identity in God. He would complete that human task by the passage through death. Only then would the fullness of glory be given to him.
So Jesus rose from the dead. The kind of human life he could and should have had from the beginning was given to him. In his humanity he was divinized.
Divinization I use the term "divinization" to indicate what happened to Jesus in his resurrection. [In my later writings, I say, instead, deification and use the more common and more accurate term. See my Human Core of Spirituality , p. 17, n. 1.] Divinization means that a human being shares, insofar as possible, in God's own qualities. What exactly this sharing entails cannot be fully explained in itself. It is something we affirm in faith and only gropingly approximate in understanding. We do not understand what the resurrection is. We know what it is not: it is not a mere resuscitation to our ordinary human way of being. Beyond that, we can only hint. Even to say it is "a human sharing in God's own qualities" does not explain it. All our conceptions of God-total understanding, perfect knowledge, complete power, infinite love, all perfection eternally-are but human suggestions that attempt to make some sense of "God." We do not know what God is. Then we can hardly understand what it might mean to share in God's way of being. Still, some suggestion can be made to help understanding. Indeed, to make that suggestion is the task of theology.
Consider that our minds are insatiable in their curiosity. We want to know more and more. We want to understand everything.
As things are, perhaps only some people sometimes actually allow such unbridled curiosity. Perhaps for most people, life is routine and dull, and questions are rare. They say that children are full of questions. With bright and excited eyes, they are constantly asking "What is it?" and "Why?" They also say that most children lose most or all of that initial curiosity. By the sixth grade they have learned well. They have learned not to ask questions. Instead, they have learned to pass exams! In reality, there is little place left in the contemporary world for the "pure and unrestricted desire to know." Few pursue pure scholarship or science, asking questions and seeking answers, simply for the joy of knowing.
Nonetheless, if unleashed, our minds do have an insatiable curiosity. We want to know and understand everything about everything. More than this, from one point of view, our minds are, indeed, geared to know everything about everything. Knowledge is the correct affirmation of what really is. What is correctly affirmed as so, is what is. According to this understanding, reality and knowledge are correlates. The structure of our minds parallels the structure of reality. Reality is all there is to be known. Conversely, whatever there is to be known is real. Our minds are open to whatever there is to be known. Our minds are open to whatever is real. They are open to all reality. In fact, the ideal goal of our minds is to know everything about everything.
Nonetheless, there is a discrepancy here. The ideal goal of our minds may be to know everything about everything. Moreover, we may indeed want to know everything about everything. In fact, however, we do not know everything about everything; and bound by the limitations of ordinary human life, we cannot know everything about everything. Though our minds in themselves might be ideally open to such a thing, in fact, they do not attain it. For other factors enter in. Our learning is a process of accumulation. We know bit by bit. Our knowing is limited. So we cannot know everything about everything, for such knowledge would represent the ideal goal of the process of human knowing. To know everything about everything would take us beyond the pale of human knowledge. Moreover, we are embodied beings. We are not simply pure mind turned loose on all there is to be known. Our potential to know is limited: we know in the body, and we only know what is also somehow in the body. Whatever is not somehow embodied-like God-we could not know. Within the ordinary limitations of human knowledge, we cannot know God. In fact, then, we cannot know everything about everything.
There is a tension built into the actual human situation. Our minds themselves are open to and want to know everything about everything. Yet the limitations of our earthly life preclude such an achievement.
But suppose that somehow these limitations were lifted. Suppose the ideal potential of the human mind were freed. Suppose that the space-time limitations of the physical world were transcended and that God were present to a human being through the immediate presence of a human to himself or herself. If in being present to himself or herself that human were ipso facto present to God and if the spatial-temporal, bit-by-bit boundedness of human knowledge were surpassed, then that human would know God and, in knowing God, would know everything about everything. That human would know even as God knows. He or she would share in God's way of knowing. In such a case, he or she would share humanly what is proper to God alone. A human would share in a quality of divinity. To this extent, it could be said that a human was divinized.
A similar analysis can be made about the human desire and capacity to love. We would like to love everything that is lovable and to love it to the extent that it can be loved. We would like to love perfectly. Moreover, in the ideal there seems to be no real reason why we could not love that way. People who love deeply claim some apprehension of such perfect love. It appears to be the elusive but nonetheless ideal goal of human loving.
In fact, however, our loves are quite imperfect. And the scope of even our most perfect love is restricted by the sheer limits of space and time. The same tension, inherent in the human situation, appears again.
But suppose that these limitations were lifted. Suppose a human being were enabled to release the powers of love and love everything insofar as it is lovable. Suppose a human could love perfectly, absolutely, without bounds. In such a case, a human would love even as God loves. A human would share in what is proper to God alone-to love, in fact, all that is lovable and to the furthest extent that it is lovable. A human would share in a quality of divinity. To this extent, it could be said that a human was divinized.
These considerations suggest what divinization means: to share, insofar as it is possible for a human being, in qualities proper to God alone. So conceived, divinization is a created participation in divinity. It is a participation in divinity because it allows a human to enjoy certain qualities proper to God alone, like universal knowledge and perfect love. It is participation because a human shares, not what is proper to humanity, but what is proper only to divinity; a human shares in what is other than his or her own. Moreover, it is but a participation in divinity because a human shares only certain qualities of divinity, like infinite knowledge and love, but does not share other qualities, like God's eternity or God's necessity. A human does not become God. No creature can become Creator. Finally, the participation is created because that which is shared is not the eternal, uncreated existence of God. Rather, God grants a human the disproportionate perfection of his or her created humanity and sustains in being this human and her or his disproportionate perfection. The participation in divinity exists and perdures through God's creative Power. Divinization is a created participation in divinity.
The disproportionate nature of this created participation in divinity must be emphasized. To know and love with infinite and perfect knowledge and love is not proper to human beings. These acts exceed humanity's expected achievement, as explained above. Infinite knowledge and love are proper to God, not to humans. Said more generally, divinization is possible, but it is disproportionate to humanity. Though not in opposition to humanity's intrinsic potential, it is a fulfillment that is beyond human. It is unexpected, gratuitous, gift-precisely in this sense: it is not proper to humanity.
Now, in the resurrection Jesus Christ was divinized. This is my understanding of the resurrection. He is that human being who attained a created participation in divinity. Because of his fidelity even unto death, Jesus Christ, Eternal-Word, expressed as perfectly as humanly possible in history precisely who he is eternally in God. Ever true to himself, through his every human decision and consummately in death, Eternal-Son-of-the-Father made himself to be also in the concreteness of his contingent, historical existence perfectly Son-of-the-Father. What he was-indeed, what he became by his own doing-on earth expressed as perfectly as humanly possible who he is eternally. So the Father raised him up and gave him a glory that surpassed that which is proper to any human being, but a glory proper to Son-of-the-Father even as human. Jesus was divinized. The limitations of his human life were suspended. His human mind and heart shared in ideal measure the knowledge and love of God. This human being now knows and loves even as God does. In his resurrection, Jesus Christ himself moved to a perfection beyond what is proper to human beings. In Jesus Christ a human being was divinized.
The Objective Reality of the Resurrection It is obvious that I presuppose an objective and a concrete understanding of the resurrection. The resurrection was something that happened to Jesus Christ. It entails a transformation in that man, Jesus. It indicates the entry of an objective new reality on the human scene, though the point of entry is on the crossover between history and eternity. Granted, Jesus' resurrection also has implications for his disciples. In one sense, it was their experience and not Jesus'. The resurrection does mean the disciples' post-crucifixion experience of Jesus. Granted, too, the New Testament seems more concerned to explicate the resurrection's faith-transforming implications in the disciples than to detail its transforming effect in Jesus himself. Nonetheless, to suggest that the resurrection is merely a way of indicating the transformed faith of the disciples is to evacuate the resurrection of any ontological significance. To confess that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is to say something about Jesus as well as something about the faith of the confessors.
This presentation takes concretely the faith affirmation about something that happened to Jesus and attempts to provide some reasonable account of what that something might be. New Testament scholars generally agree that the empty tomb accounts are later additions to the original Easter preaching. But this fact does not imply that those accounts are false. They intend to say something about Jesus' body and about his tomb-the body rose, the tomb was empty. They are not merely another way of insisting that the disciples found themselves somehow revitalized in faith after Jesus' death. Jesus himself was transformed in the resurrection. He, in his human, physical body, was raised from the grave. This is the meaning of Christian Easter faith.
The above presentation on divinization gives some account of the spiritual dimension of Jesus' transformation in the resurrection. His human capacity for knowledge and love was advanced to its furthest possible perfection. This spiritual transformation presupposes that in some way his physical dimension was also transformed. His physical body was freed from its space-time-bound limitations. What might this physical transformation be?
With a limited knowledge of physics, I confess that I am working here from pure imagination-imagination formed, no doubt, by artists' conceptions and childhood musings about Jesus' resurrection, but confirmed by the contemporary realization that the ultimate nature of physical matter remains a mystery. Extensive treatment of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body remains to be done. Twentieth-century developments in the field of physics make this a challenging and exciting area of research. Be this as it may. It is part of Christian belief that Jesus' resurrection affected Jesus himself, the whole human race of which he is a part, and the physical cosmos in which he also shares. Unable to explain it, Christianity nonetheless affirms a very concrete understanding of the resurrection.
It must be so. If one would make the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on integral part of christology-if one would unite the movement from above with that from below-the resurrection must be as real as the incarnation. Relying on Nicea and the constant belief of the Christian Church, Christians affirm the reality of God-Become-Human in Jesus Christ. Relying on Easter faith and constant Christian hope for salvation through Christ, Christians affirm the reality of the resurrection in Jesus Christ-a transformation of him that entails a promised transformation of us. The incarnation reaches its completion in the resurrection, and the resurrection is the link between the Eternal Word's human life and a concrete transformation, the salvation, of the world. Just as something new really happened when the Word became flesh, so something new really happened when Christ rose from the dead. The Christ of the incarnation is not the same as the Christ of the resurrection. Something happened in between. A human life intervened-and if it was real, it made a difference. At the incarnation Jesus had a unique possibility. At the resurrection that possibility was fully actualized. The human being, Jesus Christ, was divinized. And that happening made all the difference in the world-the real world, the human world, the world of spirit and body.
Complementarity of the Two Movements
This account speaks of the divine in Jesus Christ in two senses. First, Jesus Christ is God the Only-Begotten-of-the-Father. His ultimate identity is eternal and divine. He is the one born eternally of the Father. Second, through the resurrection the man Jesus Christ came to share in certain qualities of divinity even in his humanity. He was divinized. The first sense indicates Jesus' eternal and natural divinity. Because of it we can rightly say Jesus Christ is God. The second sense indicates Jesus' created human participation in divinity. Because of it we can say Jesus Christ was divinized. Through the resurrection, also as human he came to share in some of the prerogatives of divinity. The first sense is Christ's necessary and eternal divinity. As Eternal-Son-of-the-Father, he is eternally God. He does not ever and cannot stop being God. In this sense, even during his pre-resurrectional earthly life when he prescinded from acting through his divinity, he is God and he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in eternity. This is the issue clarified in the discussion at Ephesus. The second sense is Christ's contingent and human participation in divinity. It had a beginning, namely, at the point of Jesus' glorification in the resurrection. The first sense is the adequate meaning of the decree of Nicea: Jesus Christ is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not Made, one in being with the Father. The second sense is a legitimate understanding of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. The first sense is key to the first christological movement, the movement from above. The second sense is key to the second christological movement, the movement from below.
The two senses of the divine in Christ-just as the two movements in christology-are complementary. In God's plan of salvation as it actually is , each without the other is incomplete. The incarnation without the resurrection would have been an interesting experiment, a fascinating historical curiosity. But in the last analysis, it would have been without significant effect on human history. It would have been a Jewish version of the Greek myths about the gods. It would have left us-had we ever come to know about it-with the memory of an extraordinary human being, a great hero and model, a remarkable teacher, to be recalled with nostalgia and romantic aspiration. Another prophet, another great philosopher, would have passed through human history. But it would have changed nothing. Such, at least, is one possible scenario, produced by imagination turned to that utterly useless speculation about what might have been . On the other hand, the resurrection without the incarnation would be without an adequate base. As things in fact unfolded, the one who was raised to divinized glory is no other than Eternal-Son, human and faithful to the end. That such a one be divinized is completely understandable and appropriate. This one deserved divinization. Divinization is his birthright. Human wisdom would have granted it to him from the first moment of his human existence. That divinization should come to him at the end is, finally, as it should be. The resurrection is the rightful completion of the incarnation. The two are complementary.
The Effect of Jesus' Divinization: Salvation to Humankind
The confluence of the two christological movements results in a new reality in creation: a divinized human being. This occurrence has implications for every human being. It introduces into history a new possibility for human becoming. It changes the ultimate meaning of human life.
The Parameters of Human Possibility Human reality, historical reality, is contingent reality. It is what it is, not because it must be so, but merely because it happens to be so. Only God is necessary; all else is contingent. So human life is limited by possibilities, though the outer limits of those possibilities have still to be clarified. Thus, history is an open system.
Not all that is possible already is. There is room for speculation about what humanity might still become. On the other hand, all that already is is certainly possible. Real possibility is known through what is actual. What is, certainly can be. What is mere speculation perhaps could be; then, again, perhaps it really could not be. In a contingent world, we know what is really possible by noting what has already actually occurred. That a human and a horse could mate to produce an intelligent horse or a swift footed child is impossible. It has never happened. That a child could be born with six fingers on each hand is, unfortunately, possible. It has happened. What has happened indicates what is really possible.
The Divine-Human Possibility When Jesus Christ, a human being, was divinized, a new possibility was introduced into human history. What happened to one human could happen to others. It is really possible. What was for the incarnate Word a unique possibility became, given the proper conditions, a possibility for everyone. In the resurrection the very meaning of humanity changed. The ultimate possible fulfillment proper to humans was surpassed. A human being shares in divine qualities. The goal of human development is no longer merely human. Now it is also divine. To be human means more than it used to mean. So everyone who is human is, by that very fact, involved in something beyond the human. Each one is opened to participation in the divine. Humanity now shares a divine-human possibility.
The Solidarity of the Human Race The achievement of Jesus Christ opens a new possibility for all humans because of the solidarity that binds the human race as one. By our very nature, we humans are solidary beings. It is folly to suppose that the human individual is ever an isolated being. One may be an individual, but the very humanity that makes one human binds one with every other human.
The family offers the clearest and most immediate example. Members of the same family resemble one another. This is so not only physically. Shared genes, shared eating habits, shared personal health and hygiene practices, and living together explain physical resemblance in shape and behavior among family members. But the resemblance also includes values and interests, patterns of thinking, outlooks on life. Not only physically, but also in much of their thinking and acting, family members are like one another. They become what they are through their relationships with one another. The humanity which they share in common with all humans is specified in its concrete development through shared experiences. What they, in fact, become depends on their interaction with one another. Human sociality sets the conditions of human becoming.
The example can be expanded, for the same issue applies also to larger social groups-communities, regions, nations. Though it is foolish to assume that the people of any nation are all alike, it is also foolish to deny any common nationality traits. In broad and general ways, people who live together become like one another. They influence one another's becoming what they are.
The human is a social phenomenon. Individual and social are but different perspectives on the same phenomenon. Our most prized human qualities are social in nature. The language we use to speak and to think is a social product, a social inheritance. Only through social interaction does a child learn to speak. And, granted that thinking is internalized conversation, only through social interaction does a child learn to think. The very development of mental capacity and the eliciting of responsible choice occur in social interaction. Even a hermit who goes off alone to a cave takes along a whole set of social encounters that, internalized, evince their presence in the hermit's very feeling and thinking and acting.
Human consciousness itself is no private possession. If it were, communication through symbols-language-could never be explained. How does one know what the symbols mean? Does one deduce the meaning of present symbols on the basis of past ones? Then how explain the functioning of the past ones? Explanation by infinite regress will not do. The same question, pushed back a few steps, still remains. How does the process start? Somewhere along the line-everywhere, in fact-something more than external signs, visible and auditory, passes between people. We are in touch with one another on levels of mind that generally escape our notice. In some way our very minds interpenetrate one another. Otherwise how do we know what we and one another are thinking? One and the same thought is in more than one mind. Consciousness itself, the basis of thought, must be a shared reality. At heart the human is social.
The whole human race is bound up as one. Our hopes for advancement lie with one another. What one has achieved through a lifetime of labor, once achieved, can soon become the common property of all. The solidarity of the race even bridges generation gaps. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and they see farther through our eyes. The successes of ancestors provide the base for life today, and the dreams of today are the achievements of tomorrow. Those who have gone before us live on in us, as we will live on in our children. In some way each of us embodies the history of the race. Success for those who went before us depends on those who come after us. The destiny of all is bound up together. We stand or we fall as a whole. The life and the world that anyone has is never that one's alone. Our life is shared, and our world is shared. A solidarity binds all humans as one.
Human Solidarity, the Basis of Our Union in Christ In Christ the solidarity of the human race becomes the vehicle for divine life. Because he is a member of the human race, his achievement affects all humankind. The divinization of this one human introduces the real possibility for divinization in all. For all share the same life and world; all share the same destiny.
The fulfillment of the human race is one, common to all. By entering the human race, Eternal-Son introduced a new ingredient into the pot of human history. By living true to himself, he fulfilled the unique human possibility of his calling. By rising from the dead, he achieved a new highpoint in human advancement. Henceforth, under the proper circumstances, some participation in divinity is possible for all humans. The link is the humanity that he and all share.
Divinization is a disproportionate fulfillment for humankind. Obviously, then, something more than common humanity is needed if divinization for all is to be explained. That more is the Holy Spirit, and I will treat it presently.
Here, another critical point must be stressed. The solidarity of the human race is essential to the spread of Jesus' achievement to other human beings. Too easily we attempt to explain our unity with and in Christ by appeal to "mysterious" factors. The result is almost magic or fantasy. We suppose some "mystical" bonds, some "rays of supernatural force." We appeal to metaphors-radio waves, invisible to sight yet acting through the air. Yet our link with Jesus is the same one that binds us to one another and to every human being ever to live. The solidarity of our race-nothing more mysterious than that, though marvelous it is-the solidarity of our race is the vehicle by which the divinization of Jesus becomes a real possibility for us.
Salvation is transmitted through the concrete realities of our worldly living. The elements of history become the conveyers of grace. The bodies in which we live, the consciousness we share, the meanings and values that make us concretely what we are-that which binds us as one people also conveys divine fulfillment to us. Jesus Christ has transposed the significance of all these things. They are now caught up in the glory of that human's divinization.
For this reason Christianity understands faith and grace to come to us through earthly word and sacrament. Concrete historical elements are our source of divine life. We have saving contact with Christ through the Church's living tradition-a "handing down" that passes through the signs and objects of the Christian religion and especially through the hands and very being of Christians who precede and surround us. And we ourselves, the contemporaries of our race, stand on the moving front of salvation in Christ as it passes on through history. In Christ the solidarity of the race becomes the communion of saints. Our very sharing in humanity is our link with the human who was divinized, Jesus Christ.
The Need for the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ introduced into history a new possibility for human becoming. The model was set. The possibility was actualized. Through the solidarity of the race, divinization is now a real, universal human possibility.
However, another factor is needed before the achievement of Christ can be reproduced in us. Something more is required before the possibility becomes actual in us. Jesus' divinization in the resurrection was depended on his becoming perfectly Son-of-the-Father also in his human life. And that human becoming, in turn, was dependent on his actually being Eternal-Son-of-the-Father. His divine identity set the unique possibility that, when actualized in his humanity, resulted in his divinization. Divinization is a fulfillment disproportionate to humanity. It is explained in Jesus Christ because of who he is. This divine factor in Jesus makes his divinization understandable. By being true to himself, he was on the way to divinization. Disproportionate to humans, divinization for him was nonetheless appropriate; indeed, it seems required. After all, he is Only-Begotten-of-the-Father.
In order that the fulfillment appropriate to Jesus might also be appropriate to us, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the final factor needed to account for our divinization. The Spirit given to us is God-Breathed-Forth by the Father and the Son. So God now dwells in us. Given to us as our very own, the Spirit becomes a divine principle in us. In this case, we become like Jesus Christ, the divine one who, in taking on our humanity, became like us. In Jesus and in us there are now both a divine and a human principle. The divine principle in us, the Holy Spirit, is God's own life in us. Through the Holy Spirit, a new life is ours. We are reborn. Like Jesus, each of us is now a child of God. By pouring the Holy Spirit into our hearts and, thus, renewing us, God has made us adopted sons and daughters.
The Work of the Holy Spirit Poured into our hearts, the Spirit dwells in us as a constant companion. The Spirit is our Paraclete. Inspiring and motivating and guiding our ways, the Spirit transforms the movements of our hearts. The Spirit is present in the very depths of our being, closer to us than we sometimes are to ourselves. Therefore, being present to ourselves, in the very same act we are present also to God, the Holy Spirit within us. Like a flame burning in our souls, the Spirit leads us forth. Invisible to the eye, impossible to define, elusive to concepts, inexpressible in words, that burning presence is nonetheless real. It leads us to where we do not know. We follow only in faith. Like Jesus now in all things, we lead our lives trusting in our heavenly Father, who leads us through the Spirit within.
Being true to ourselves, we are true to the Spirit within, and true to the Spirit, we are faithful to the Father. Faithful to the Father, we become more and more in our concrete selves sons and daughters of the Father. We reproduce in our own lives what Jesus achieved in his. We conform ourselves more and more to the image of God's Son. We become more totally like Jesus, our brother. Heeding the Spirit within and freely choosing day by day to become what we will be, we follow the path that Jesus first trod. We go the way he opened for us. We move toward the divine glory that that human first achieved.
When in death we confirm our fidelity, as Jesus Christ did his own, the Father will bring to completion the divine life poured into our hearts. Divinization will be ours, as well. In our case, now, just as in Jesus' own, such fulfillment would be appropriate. For we are sons and daughters of the Father.
God, All in All Our divinization in Christ is not widely preached. Nonetheless, human divinization is a central theme in the Christian tradition. 2 Peter teaches that we are called to God's own "glory and excellence" and we are to "become partakers of the divine nature" (1:4). 1 John 3:2 says that, indeed, "we are God's children now" and "we shall be like him." The early fathers of the Church preached at length about this mystery. A prayer still used in the Roman Catholic Mass during the mixing of the water and wine sums up this patristic teaching: "By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
Our ultimate salvation is the reproduction in us of the divinization that was first Jesus Christ's. He saved us by opening the way through human history to divinization. The Holy Spirit assists us by becoming the divine guiding principle in the depths of our own souls. Our own free self-determination in the Spirit leads us to disproportionate divine fulfillment. Our own daily life in Christ becomes the substance of divine life growing in us. The Father completes our salvation by granting final divinization. We come to share in the Father's divine way of being, shared eternally with the Son and the Holy Spirit, attained insofar as possible in his humanity by the incarnate Son, and, through the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit, given finally, in some measure, also to us. So God becomes all in all. The plan of salvation reaches its fulfillment.
Jesus and We as "Divine" Human salvation is the reproduction in us of the divinization first achieved in Jesus Christ. Yet there are important differences between our case and Jesus'. Jesus is the natural Son of the Father. His "bornness" of the Father is eternal. It is what determines his eternal identity. He is God-Born-of-the-Father. On the other hand, we are "adopted children" of the Father. Our natural status is creature. We are not God; we cannot become God. For love of us, the Father chooses to share with us certain aspects of his own divine way of being. Over and above the life God gave us in creating us human, the Father also offers us a share in certain divine qualities. Pouring the Holy Spirit into our hearts, the Father gives us a share in divine life and so adopts us as children. We are, then, adopted children in the divine life and natural children in our created, human life. But the Eternal Son is the natural child of God in the divine life and through Mary also makes his very own a second natural childhood in created, human life.
There is a second contrast. After the resurrection, Jesus can be said to be divine in two senses. First, he is eternally divine-he is God-as Eternally-Begotten-of-the-Father. Second, he is also divine insofar as his humanity shares in certain qualities proper to divinity; he is divinized. On the other hand, we are divine in only one sense, the second. We can be said to be divine insofar as we are divinized. More accurately, we will be divine in some way when we share fully in the new possibility Jesus Christ opened to us. We are divine only in an analogous sense of the term. We are not God. We merely share in certain qualities proper to God.
It might be suggested that we are divine also in another sense, insofar as the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts. But that would be inaccurate. It is the Holy Spirit in us who is divine, not we ourselves. Though the Spirit touches the depths of our being and transforms us, that intimacy does not cancel the distinction between the Holy Spirit and us. All retain their distinct identities. We are not swallowed up into and lost in the Divinity. The divinity that is within us is the Spirit's, not our own. The transformation that the Spirit effects in us is our sanctification, our growing salvation. It is none other than our incipient divinization. Even though the uncreated, divine Holy Spirit is given to us, only in the second sense can we ourselves ever be said to be divine.
A third contrast summarizes the others. Our divinization is derivative. It depends on that of Jesus Christ. His is originative. It is the source of our own. Because of him and in him, we share in divine life. That is why we profess that Jesus Christ is our savior. Our salvation-our divinization-comes through him. It depends on his own.
Implications for Spirituality These contrasts between Jesus Christ and us take on critical importance in view of increasing contemporary interest in spirituality. For these contrasts determine the uniqueness of Christianity in comparison with other accounts of a supposed human divinization. Some Eastern accounts also propose that we are to share in divine life. Yet their understanding is significantly different.
The Christian understanding holds that we are not God; we are creatures. Our creation in God's "image and likeness" (Gen. 1:26) does not suggest that we are God. Rather, it suggests that we are like God-like God in that we are made responsible for creation and we are to "create" our own life and world. We are given a human spirit, alert, intelligent, reasonable, responsible. We are given capacities that set us over all creation. In this we are like God. We share with God in the work of making and caring for our world. If Christianity allows that there is, indeed, a divine principle in us, that principle is the uncreated Holy Spirit given to us. The Christian understanding is rooted deeply in the Jewish awareness of God's inviolable transcendence. The Christian understanding never confuses the created human spirit with the uncreated Holy Spirit, God in us.
On the other hand, some Eastern accounts assume that we will share divine life because we, in fact, are divine from the beginning. Our deepest nature is supposedly a "spark of the divine." Our most hidden self is supposedly God. Such accounts suggest that all humans are more or less what Christianity affirms only about Jesus Christ. This is to say, they blur the distinction between what is human and what is divine.
The further result is that these accounts tend not to affirm the validity of the physical world in which we live. Obscuring our own created status, they undervalue our experience in this world. Then, not worldly experience, but some supposed reality beyond this world is considered really real. The doctrine of reincarnation follows-I cannot be sure if you are really you or someone else reincarnated in you. Such a view devalues the world as we know it. Its goal for spiritual growth is to free oneself from this world and to attain ever more subtle degrees of internal "spiritual" experiences. This view is basically dualism: a devaluation of the physical and an exaltation of the spiritual. That both physical and the spiritual in us are created is overlooked. The spiritual, because it is more subtle, is identified with the divine; and the physical is thought to be an opposing-or even an evil-principle.
Such an understanding is in clear conflict with Christianity's basic incarnationalism, the affirmation of the worthiness of God's creation, capable even of conveying divine life. The practical implications of these different views for lived spirituality are far-reaching. What Christians believe about Jesus tends to determine how we understand and live our own lives. It is important to keep clear the contrasts between the divine in Jesus Christ and in us. No less than the uniqueness of Christianity is at stake here.
A New Paradigm
This present christology is intended to be a comprehensive understanding about Jesus, one that reconciles contemporary concerns with traditional Christian belief. It locks together in one systematic presentation an understanding of the incarnation, Jesus' human life, death, and resurrection, and the salvation of humankind. Might this christology serve as the new paradigm? Can it stand as the master-model that integrates the available data, addresses the relevant questions, and incorporates all other models?
Judgment on the first score will rest on what is already said or will be said elsewhere in this book. Here there is the need for a brief statement about this christology's ability to include other contemporary models of Jesus. The focus of this book has required extensive treatment of doctrinal and philosophical issues. It may appear that the resultant christology is overly abstract, tediously technical, and, above all, narrowly traditional. A comparison with John O' Grady's six models of Jesus, one by one, will show that this is not the case. Indeed, the present christology seem able to unite all six models, to preserve what is best in each, and to avoid their shortcomings
Obviously, the present christology is a combination of the two most important contemporary models: The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity (the christology from above) and The Human Face of God (the christology from below). The present christology retains what is valid and useful in both while avoiding the shortcomings in each.
Like the first, the present christology is faithful to traditional Christian teaching, clearly preserves the divinity of Jesus, and allows for much theoretical expansion, expansion that could incorporate Jesus' mission, miracles, knowledge and lack thereof, resurrection, and relationship to the Christian community, the Church. In addition, the present christology does find a basis in Scripture, does not eclipse the meaning of the humanity of Jesus, does not stifle theological thinking-or responsible Christian living-by adhering to defined doctrine, and furthers Christian piety by insisting that the believer identify with the human Jesus.
Like the second model, The Human Face of God, the present christology affirms Jesus' human life in every detail, not only as the expression of the revelation of God, but, indeed, also as the very life of God, the Eternal Son himself. Furthermore, this christology relates Jesus to real human life like our own. It avoids any false dichotomy between the human and the divine by affirming a union between the two-hypostatic in Christ and through the Holy Spirit in us. It restores a balance by emphasizing the material as well as the spiritual. By highlighting the role of the Holy Spirit, it emphasizes the importance of the present and does not either canonize the past or live in the future. It is in full accord with contemporary biblical scholarship about Jesus. And it is open to effective pastoral application. Unlike the second model, this christology is not likely to lose awareness of the divinity and degenerate into a mere humanism, nor to forget the afterlife, not to become anti-intellectual, nor to lose the distinction between God and humans and so fall into a form of pantheism.
The present christology also integrates the insights and meets the concerns of the other four models of Jesus. Like the model, The Mythological Christ, the present christology retains a message that inspires and challenges. It is pastorally relevant, and it frees dogma from imprisoning ridigity. Yet unlike The Mythological Christ, teh present christology affirms the objective truth of Christian belief and grounds its inspiration in objective reality.
Although the present christology understands ultimate salvation in terms of divinization, it does not discredit partial expressions of that ultimate in finite history. That is to say, this christology can also incorporate the model, Jesus, The Ethical Liberator. The present christology sees the Holy Spirit within us as the root of all true liberation-freedom from sin and ultimate death and, so, freedom for justice and love, peace and virtue, and advancement of all that is right and good among humankind. In his own time and place and as was appropriate then and there, Jesus made the coming of God's Reign the central theme of his preaching and even knew God's Reign to be present in himself. Become somehow like Jesus through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, yet in our own time and place and in ways appropriate here and now, we, too, must proclaim a Reign of Justice and Peace and exercise our part in the transformation of our world. In this work, the Holy Spirit takes the lead, enabling us to do in our historical situation what the man Jesus did in his own. Here there is no slavish imitation of Christ. Rather, there is the faithful response to the Holy Spirit, who brings to completion in us in our concrete case what Jesus brought to completion in his particular case. The Holy Spirit inspires us to achieve in our lives what Jesus achieved in his, perfect fidelity to the Father. But the Holy Spirit does not lead us to do always exactly what Jesus did; indeed, activities appropriate in Jesus' culture may not be appropriate or even right in our own. Moreover, the lead of the transcendent Holy Spirit keeps us from identifying definitively with any particular social order. No order is perfect; each needs to be corrected. The Reign of God is not identical with the structures of this world.
As is obvious, the present christology does not advocate a pie-in-the-sky notion of salvation. It is not oblivious to this-worldly concerns. Our ultimate salvation, divinization, is intrinsically linked to, and is the fulfillment of, faithful living in this world. According to this christology, avoidance of this life for the sake of one to come entails the loss of both. Thus, the present christology can integrate the model, Jesus, The Ethical Liberator.
However, in principle the present christology is perhaps even more revolutionary than this other model. The Ethical Liberator model seeks a basis for human liberation in Jesus, the liberator, but is hard pressed extensively to develop that image of Jesus on the basis of contemporary information about the historical Jesus. The present christology has no need to find in Jesus a model of liberation that corresponds to contemporary political needs. Rather, in this case and in every other that concerns our own daily living, the present christology gives way to a pneumatology. It highlights the Holy Spirit's role in guiding us through our lives. By Spirit-guided fidelity to the heavenly Father, through our human pursuit of justice, we will achieve that ultimate salvation that includes all others and that the incarnate Son made available to us-participation in the very life Of God.
By the same token, the present christology can also incorporate the model of Jesus as The Man for Others. The present christology presents Jesus as a real human being. There is no docetism here. Jesus is deeply engaged in this world, responding to life's challenge moment to moment and, so, determining his own fate. His fidelity to himself, Eternal Son, does not separate him from concern for others. On the contrary, true to himself in his human state, he is aware of his connection with all humanity, and he lives out his life in loving service. His very fidelity to himself in every concrete situation is his service to others. Through it he makes the contribution that he alone among all human beings could make. In this he gives us, each unique in his or her own way, an example. Now it comes clear that the dichotomy between "self-serving" and "altruistic" is misconceived and misleading. The telling difference is rather between "authentic" and "inauthentic." The path to Jesus' own divinization and the path to the redemption of others is one and the same. It is a path of fidelity to oneself and, so, the path of life-giving and lasting service to others-in and through this world and even beyond this world. For us, then, the one supremely true to himself is the supreme example of the servant of others.
Here again, there is no room for pie-in-the-sky religion. The Holy Spirit in us leads us to do in our lives as Jesus did in his. Moreover that Spirit links us most powerfully with all others-all humankind-who possess the same, one Spirit. We are all one body. To be true to ourselves is to serve one another, and vice versa. In the Spirit and so in Christ, we grow in divine life precisely through our living in this world, not by fleeing this world. The very human life we all share has, in Christ, become the vehicle of divine life. The present christology gives solid theological basis for this-worldly Christian concern and service. It easily incorporates the model of Jesus as The Man for Others without neglecting other aspects of traditional christological belief.
Finally, the present christology can also incorporate the model, Jesus, Personal Savior. The present christology includes soteriology as an integral part of its conception. More narrowly, then, this christology and its soteriology include concern for personal salvation. Moreover, emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in human salvation makes the present christology attractive to the charismatic renewal movement, where the model, Jesus, Personal Savior, is most prominent. And acknowledgement of Jesus' miracles as acts of a particularly gifted human being who does God's work gives a nuanced and theologically sound basis for enthusiastic acceptance of charismatic gifts like tongues and healings. On the other hand, the solid doctrinal basis of the present christology, its correlative emphasis on both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, its firm insistence on the social nature of the human, its dependence on historical-critical interpretation of the Scriptures, and its emphasis on human freedom and responsibility in all human activities counter the excesses to which the model, Jesus, Personal Savior, is prone. It appears, then, that the present christology can easily incorporate this model and all the other models of Jesus. It recommends itself as a master-model. It can become the new paradigm that contemporary christology is seeking and contemporary Christianity needs.
Here is a new "model" of Jesus, indeed, perhaps a new paradigm. It is a comprehensive systematic christology that integrates the christology from above, the christology from below, and an account of Jesus' saving work, the redemption of the human race. It is a master-framework into which other models of Jesus can be incorporated.
The focal features of this comprehensive christology are the identity of Jesus Christ as Only-Begotten-of-the-Father and his perfect human fidelity to himself and, so, to his heavenly Father. Only-Begotten-of-the-Father surrendered his divine prerogatives and became human. In his earthly life he would live fully within the limitations of humanity.
Nonetheless, his divine identity presented him a possibility unique in human history. By being faithful to himself, he would at the same time be faithful also to his Eternal Father. Moreover, he would express in historical concreteness that which makes him be who he is eternally: total dependence on his Father. By each moment's free human decision, in historical reality he would be a perfect Child of God.
At the price of misunderstanding, persecution, and death, he was faithful. The Father raised him from the dead, transforming his humanity so that it could share in divine qualities-insofar as such a thing is possible to any human being. That is to say, the human Jesus was divinized. The personal integrity of a lifetime culminated in the definitive transformation of this human being. He was now perfectly humanly-as he is eternally divinely-Son of God.
However, because of his entry into human history, this change in Jesus' humanity had effects beyond Jesus himself. Jesus had introduced something new into human history. The ultimate possible perfection of a human being was now divinization. So the divinization of Jesus Christ introduced a new possibility for all humankind. Jesus Christ had opened humanity to new life in God. Jesus had redeemed the human race. And through the Holy Spirit all humans could now follow the path of Jesus to participation in God's own divine qualities.
This "model" shows Jesus as "The Eternal Son of God Become Human and in His Humanity Divinized so that All Humans Might Likewise Become Divinized." More briefly, this is the "model" of "Jesus as the Human True to Himself." Jesus' human fidelity to his divine identity is the source of divinization for himself and all humankind. Chapters Nine and Ten treat certain aspects of this christology that call for further elaboration.