Thursday, December 14, 2006

Becoming gods

I chose that title purely to get your attention, but it is relevant... as you'll see. Irenaeus wrote:
"we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods...." [Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:38:4, in ANF 1:522.]
What I'm about to say might not have been Irenaeus' point, but I'll say it because I think it's true anyway...

These days, I think we don't appreciate spiritual growth nearly as much as we could, or perhaps should. There are many ways in which Christianity is significant for people.

It can be something that meets my needs. It becomes for me. I am hurt, I am fearful, I feel sinful and bad and I find acceptance and love from God. This can be true and important and good.

It can be about what I do for others. Something from me. I help others, I show compassion, I give my time and energy and friendship and love for the sake of those around me. This also can be true and important and good.

But I have recently been thinking that Christianity is also about who I am. Something in me. It's about my very person, my thoughts, my emotions, my heart - and all those things about who I am that I just can't express.

I think this because I see many people (Christians and others, and myself at times) whose hearts are small, timid, and weak. We live in a generation of lonely people. People who are not satesfied and not able to understand why. People who can hardly handle being alive and scarcely manage being in love. People think it's acceptable that they can be this way, because they have love and acceptance and care from God, and with luck other people. And it is acceptable...

But we could be so much more than small, timid, weak spiritual infants. And I think God wants us to be more, to be more mature, because it's better. I think he wants us to help us become people with hearts that are big, bold and strong. Not always remaining as children - with childish minds and feelings and problems - but becoming fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers... The wise old men and women we look up to because they are people who have learned to be people well.

This ties in with my previous post about salvation. I don't think God wants to save us so that we can merely be forgiven of our shortcomings and not feel so bad about our faults. He surely doesn't want to leave us as we are - children. He wants us to grow. You could even say he's saved us from the death of not growing into life... because to live is to grow. He wants us to transform us, to teach us the art of living. The skill, the discipline, the art, and the beauty of being people who are people well, people who are truly alive. He wants to give us the wonderful pleasure of becoming persons with hearts that aren't immature, but have become and continue to become like God's heart. Because I think it is wonderful that in this way we should become, so to speak, little "gods".

I want to be one.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. Totally with you on that one :)

Katherine said...

Totally not sure whether to be with you on that one or not. Currently tossing up between that premise and its complete opposite - that God didn't mean us to be gods, that he made us as He wanted us and doesn't want us to grow or change. Like maybe that was our idea, not His. Can't decide.

Good thoughts though.

incognito said...

Kat, thanks for you comment. I'm not quite sure how you could justify the complete opposite - that God doesn't want us to grow or change. You say he made us "as he wanted us" as if humans are some kind of static and unchanging things. Like we always stay the way we are born or something. But God has clearly made us in such a way that we grow, phyiscally and mentally. Surely this very fact that we grow physically and mentally may reflect that we also grow spiritually. And I think we do, whether we like it or not. Maybe the important thing is what we grow to become, not whether or not we grow... Your further thoughts?

Jim said...

there could be a difference between growing as humans... and changing to be come some sort of "god- thing"

whether you treat it as allegory or history, I'm fairly sure one of the things the serpent said to eve to get her to eat the fruit is that it will make you like more God...
and it is implied that this desire to be equal with God was not right...

and yet you have Jesus talking about people being called "gods" and new testament concepts of us becoming joint heirs with him...

another thought...
isn't the desire to see our heart go from "small, timid and weak" to "big, bold and strong" kinda essentially a me thing... like you mention in your third paragraph anyway..

incognito said...

Hey Jim, clearly we both don't have much work to do at the moment =)

The idea of deification, to which I allude, only makes sense through a more ancient idea of divinity. It doesn't make sense through the modern idea of divinity.

I think it's because of this ancient understanding of divinity that Jesus could quote the Psalms in John 10:33-36 (which I presume was one of the passages you refer to):

"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'?"

I seems very much like he is saying that they - mere men - were called "gods", and thus the Pharisees had no right to accuse him of blasphemy for also claiming such position.

Now I think it's wrong to desire equal position to God, and that's not what I'm suggesting here. I'm saying we should be growing to be "like" him in character and behaviour.

Regarding your last point: yes, it's about the individual. But I refer to the strength and boldness to think, feel, say and do what is right. If a murderer develops the strength of character to stop killing people, is that good for him or good for others? Surely it's good for both him and others. This is how I see it as not being purely about a "me" thing, because other people are involved in my life and I affect them - so who I am matters both for me and for them.

More thoughts?