A Bigger Story

Christ in Paul’s Eyes

A Bigger Story
Friday, March 1, 2019

To legitimate our religion’s status in the Roman Empire, Christians felt that we had to prove that Jesus was independently divine. After the Council of Nicaea (325), Jesus was said to be “consubstantial” with God, and after the Council of Chalcedon (451), the church agreed on a philosophical definition of Jesus’ humanity and divinity as being united as one in him. All true, but such oneness largely remained distant academic theory because we did not draw out the practical and wonderful implications for humanity.

As a rule, Christians were more interested in the superiority of our own group or nation than we were in the wholeness of creation. Our view of reality was largely imperial, patriarchal, and dualistic. Things were seen as either for us or against us, and we were either winners or losers, totally good or totally bad—such a small self and its personal salvation remained Christianity’s overwhelming preoccupation up to now. This is surely how our religion became so focused on obedience and conformity, instead of on love in any practical or expanding sense.

Without a Shared and Big Story, all humans retreat into private individualism for a bit of sanity and safety.

Perhaps the primary example of Christians’ lack of attention to the Christ Mystery can be seen in the way we continue to pollute and ravage planet Earth, the very thing we all stand on and live from. Science now appears to love and respect physicality more than most religion does! No wonder that science and business have taken over as the major explainers of meaning for most people today (even many who still go to church). Christians did not take this world seriously, I am afraid, because our notion of God or salvation didn’t include or honor the physical universe. And now, I am afraid, the world does not take Christianity seriously.

Hope cannot be had by the individual if everything is corporately hopeless.

It is hard to heal individuals when the whole thing is seen as unhealable.

We are still trying to paddle our way out of this whirlpool—with a very small paddle! Only with a notion of the Preexisting Christ can we recover where this Jesus was “coming from” and where he is leading us—which is precisely into the “bosom of the Trinity” (see John 1:18). “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:3), the Christ has promised. That might just be the best and most succinct description of salvation in the whole New Testament.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 45-46.

Image credit: St. Paul Preaching in Athens (detail), Raphael, 1515, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: “You, all of you, are sons and daughters of God, now clothed in Christ, where there is no distinction between male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28). “You are the very temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

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