In The Image Of God
One of the things we set ourselves out to do at The Neighborhood Liturgies was to craft a "creed". We have a desire to give the bare minimum of "belief" to allow for varying theological traditions and accommodate reconciliation. In doing so, one of the first questions we received was "how do we know you have right belief". We are so glad that this was asked and we are going to discuss The Neighborhood Creed at length to explain where we are coming from. Please note that each section of the creed was not created by Allie and I exclusively. We each interpret the creed in the light of grace and our personal experiences. I will get into the heart behind the first part of the creed in true catechism style.
"We believe in the pursuit of beauty, that all people are created in the image of God and are worthy of love."
In the Christian tradition there are two key concepts of humanity in relation to God:
- Imago Dei
For us to understand Theosis we have to have a working understanding of the concept of the Imago Dei. Imago Dei simply means "Image of God". This concept is not exclusive to Christianity but is shared by Sufi Muslims and Jews alike.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? I was taught growing up that it means that like Genesis Ch. 1 says we are made in the likeness of God. Further, in Genesis Ch. 2 we are formed by the physical hand of God and fashioned from the dirt of the earth. I was told this is why we have hands and feet and why God if "Father" because Adam was made with his same genitals. It's absurd I know. Now that I am older I understand that God is spirit and that according to Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the "Image of the invisible God" by essence. This is called the incarnation. God being spirit becomes flesh and blood to look like us. It's amazing to think that this spirit God who we are made in the image of comes down to wrap himself in human flesh to reconcile and relate to us as we are. At our deepest parts we are like God in the fact that we can love, empathize and create.
During advent I started reading "On The Incarnation" by Saint Athanasius. This writing is a masterpiece of the early church. In it there is a great quote about the nature of Christ:
"...this is the wonder, as man He was living a human life, and as Word he was sustaining the life of the universe." - St. Athanasius
Our human life is Godly. Our love, our hope and our reconciliation with all things is found in that we are born of the spirit of God. That Jesus now as a result of his human life is forever representing us in the holy trinity in flesh and blood. We are reconciled by both spirit and flesh. This does not mean we are the same essence of God though. This leads us to Theosis.
Theosis is the concept of humanity becoming by grace what God is by nature, divine. It's important to understand the second part of St. Athanasius' quote by saying as Word that Christ was sustaining the life of the universe. Jesus is the same essence as God "The Father" in being divine and the giver of life in the universe by being the "Word" of God or commonly referred to as the cosmic Christ. It's pointing to the divine nature of Christ holding all things together in the invisible while still being the visible image of God on earth like us. Christ's incarnation is the revealed nature of God and his divine nature is the invisible aspect of God. As a result of the incarnation we by the words of Saint Peter the Apostle "you may become partakers of the divine nature" in Christ understand that humanity has been reconciled to become like God. This is very hard to understand and is a mystery of God that we must wrestle with.
Our being like God in both image and by grace his nature is the beauty in all of us that we should pursue. To become like God who is definitively love. Following in the example of Christ, we are love and must see everyone as worthy of love because now we are all reconciled with God.
We are stardust formed by the hands of the cosmic Christ as a prophetic image of his incarnation.
May we all pursue beauty and be the revelation of the love of God on earth. Amen.