Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Forgotten Christianity: Perfection Surpasses Being

As members of the natural order, we are rather obviously imperfect, and no matter how much we try to improve ourselves, we fall short.
We have, historically, had gods, and I wish we had a different word for God, because the gods are not God. The gods represent bigger, better, more powerful conceptions of beings already in the natural order. They would be, if they were real, at the apex of the natural order.

Within the natural order, improvement, not perfection is the order of the day. We can approach perfection, but at a certain point we reach the asymptote. We would also reach the limits of our being. We see the sometimes perverse reality of this today with the transhumanist movement. They have the existential urge, the need really, to become God, but since we've really dropped the ball, they have no understanding of the fact that God became man so that we could become God.
So, they use an array of good improvements, ones that respect humanity, but they have a lot of potentially destructive plans when it comes to dealing with the asymptote. A technological faux after-life is a particularly scary fraud that could conceivably be perpetrated upon many people.

It is the uniqueness of Christianity that says God became man so that men could become God. In modern America, I suspect it is even more clear to say perfection became man so that man could become perfect, because then the Trinity can start making sense. The visual heresy of God the Father as an old man, is a heresy precisely because it destroys the deeper truth. Perfection surpasses being, and thus, perfection can be three persons in one being, especially since perfection has a plan. So, before the visual heresy began, God the Father would be depicted as light, or an empty throne- ineffable, unknowable, unattainable- because perfection is unattainable under our own power.

Jesus Christ is both God and man, and herein lies that crucial factor you cannot find in other religions. Jesus is the way, not because God wanted the entire planet to speak a name composed of two syllables, which is really the English bastardization of the Greek's way of saying the Hebrew name Yeshua, but because Jesus is the result of perfection solving the problem of the asymptote for us. Thus the biblical exhortations to be perfect, which, if you take them seriously, seem rather unfair unless you get what's going on here. Infinity is out of bounds to us, but the Infinite can handle the asymptote. Jesus is the way to perfection.

Like any practice, that which strengthens, humbles. The very actions that can make you bigger, stronger, or faster can make you feel quite puny, weak, and slow.
And for most practices there will always be a weight you can't lift or a race you can't win, but perfection holds out a promise of itself to those who would pursue it. I do not see this in other religions. Paradise, nirvana, or reincarnation- none of these actually answer our existential needs; they only defer or subjugate them. Even should the religion perceive their God as perfection, sans Christ you have this servant relationship with a servant's reward and no chance to achieve perfection.

Of course, this is lost on much of Christianity too. American Christianity is a fat lady with a Jesus loves me bumper sticker, driving erratically down the road, refusing to do a damn thing to improve her state, and deflecting every unfortunate brush with reality with nostrums hacked out of biblical texts. She has very little will, but an overdeveloped ego, so she keeps up her ego-driven practices long past the point that it is obvious she is helping no one, not even herself. At this point, the fat lady could get better with evolutionary theory as a framework for a little self-experimentation with a view to self-improvement. Once she got away from the T.V., the brain-addling pseudo-foods, and various artificial environments we find ourselves in modern life, she might become functional again. But I digress.

Perfection surpasses being.

Update: I changed this from 'perfection surpasses being' to 'perfection surpasses form' in the hopes that it might be more clear.

Update 2: I have changed back to 'perfection surpasses being'. I had an interesting exchange on my Western Traditions post with Stan(Heretic). After reading the version with the word form being used he said this:
Very thought-provoking! An idea of a formless perfection (*) or an idea of a human being attaining the maximum possible for a human (**) - that is very different from the fundamental Christianity or churches' created image of Jesus. A friend of mine pointed precisely that out to me. He told me that when he spoke to J. through a channel, what came through was nothing about "salvation" but rather what you wrote in that link more-or-less.

So, I conclude 'form' doesn't work to convey my precise meaning, because perfection is self-forming, not formless. Nor am I suggesting that we would attain the maximum possible for a human, but that we would attain perfection, which is far more than the maximum possible for a human.

Due to the inexplicable manner in which it arose in my mind, I should have stuck with 'perfection surpasses being' regardless.


Amy said...

August, I'm enjoying your blog. I meditate upon this matter daily - through Jesus we are saved, and Christianity is unique in this aspect.

I would disagree that we become God, but that we become more like Him as we turn to Him and if we walk with Christ, and we will be with Him in such bliss as we cannot comprehend with our earthly minds and bodies.

As for the Jesus is my Boyfriend crowd, I have pity for Churchians and I pray that they might come to see their errors. Many professed Christians have either never read, or have barely read, the Bible and selectively quote passages that back up their own particular whims. None are versed in apologetics or the philosophies of Aristotle (I consider this a necessary precursor to understanding the foundations of Christian philosophy), Augustine, Aquinas, More, Luther, Calvin...I am a Catholic and I find it illuminating to read the Protestant philosophers as a foil to what Catholicism's particular doctrines espouse.

Atheists also engage in similarly vapid arguments based on poor understanding of Biblical passages.

And Kurzweil's singularity crowd frighten me. Their professions of faith in rationality and Futurism are as much a "religion" as environmentalism or feminism or leftism. They are worshiping a false idol and engaging in hubris. They have no comprehension of eros or agape or filos. It's pure narcissism, and we know to what end that leads, forever rooted and condemned to wither.

August said...

Deification and theosis are arguably part of our tradition, though if you google them you'll find Eastern Orthodox are the ones talking about it. This goes back to the Church Fathers- you know, the ones we have in common with them- but in the meantime it seems we've collected a thousand novelties to play with.

Bibilically speaking, we do not know what we will be like, but we know we will be like Him. Certainly, on this side of the veil, there is no end state. I won't be waking up one day and saying, okay, now I am like Him enough.

August said...

Just for the sake of completeness, let me also mention that both 'being saved' and 'bliss' are promised by other religions. There is not anything particularly unique about this sort of language. The muslims expect some sort of paradise, and they certainly have mystic traditions in which people experience bliss. They would not understand why your 'saving' and 'bliss' is any different from what they have.