The tragedy of humanity deeper than sin, and lodged deeper down in the mysterious abysses of the heart, cannot be understood in the context of Western Christian teachings about the Fall. This is why Western Christianity has always, more or less, seen fallen humanity as puny, nasty, silly. There is no gravitas afforded our human error..
The Christian West has always belittled the human, so that we are small by definition, and lorded over by a huge, majestic divinity far above. This reflects nothing but the immense and destructive gap between the monarch, at the apex, and the peasants, at the bottom. They must bend the knee, in fear and enforced but insincere ‘respect’, in an act of obedience that acknowledges they are subject to the big boss. Such lowly ‘subjects’ of the exalted monarch have no freedom, no dignity, no bigness of their own. There is no love lost between such small beings and their vast ‘lord.’ They do as he wants– or else. When he is patronisingly charitable to them, he feels no warmth for them, nor any compassion for their reduced circumstances. They belong where they are.. If he throws them a few crumbs from the master’s high table, he does so merely to show off how magnanimous he is. The ‘cold charity’ reinforces his superiority to the inferiors who need it.. Thus it humiliates any remaining pride in them to take it. They are forced, by their impoverished station, to take the hand out, but they resent needing it, and resent having to accept it.
To say that the relationship between the ‘top and bottom’ here is loveless is to put it mildly. Yet on this model, Western Christians try to please the remote patriarchal deity, and so it is hardly surprising they could not see anything in the Cross except Christ taking the punishment meant to come to humanity for their sin, sent by a cold and exacting ‘father.’ How does love ever enter this relationship of father and his disobedient children? It cannot..
In Protestantism, this internalised self-loathing of the lowly and insignificant masses toward their high and important ‘lord’, was taken to a final extreme. Thus, as a result of the Fall, humanity has nothing good left in them. Humanity is wholly devoured by evil. Consequently, we are like worms, crawling face down in the filth of this world, and anything God does to rescue us from that perilous condition must be on the model of the ‘condescension’ of the all-wonderful lord towards his useless subjects; the divine perfection has to engage in an arbitrary, deus ex machina, lifting of the imperfect human out of its debacle of sinking totally into sin. There is, on this extreme Satanic belief, nothing like God, nothing of God, in our humanity that can inherently and voluntarily respond to God, when God holds out a helping hand to us.
This is why it is only in Western Secularism that attempts have been to find in the human a hidden god, a potential similarity to, or an analogy with, divinity. Many of these attempts to excavate an inherent, or innately given, ‘human bigness’ are Luciferian [for example, Jung’s ‘Individuation’ and Nietzsche’s ‘Superman’’]. But that is the result of official Western Christian doctrine conveying such a low estimate of humanity.
That low estimate is Satanic.
It is only in Eastern Christianity that the tradition — officially and as a whole — asserted the teaching that not only is there a God-created, and thus innate, bigness in humanity, from our beginning, and surviving even after the Fall, but something further which is far more radical. God created humanity not ‘to be the best we can be’, for why limit yourself to being the best person in the world? We were destined to be as God. This means, we were called to grow from our original humanity into a final divine-humanity, or Godlikeness. According to the Biblical description, we start as ‘the image of God’, but we continue to grow over the whole span of evolution and history, into the ‘likeness to God.’ We will end up still human, yet divinised; and this possibility was always in us, and not destroyed at our Fall. The Fall put the Image on ice, and therefore blocked the dynamic movement toward the Likeness. None the less, the seed and spark of our divinization remains the key to our humanity. We are great and hooked on the valueless, deep and caught in the shallow, at once. We wrestle in that paradox.
Those who try to be big by getting rid of their smallness — the Lucifer path — come unstuck; the attempt to be a god to ourself fails. Equally, those who try to be small by getting rid of their bigness – the Satanic path – are derailed; the attempt to find a god outside ourself fails. ‘Neither this, nor that.’
If our destiny is to become the divinised humanity, which is also a humanised divinity, then Christ came to help us recover the Image, and continue growing toward the Likeness. The point is, the Likeness to God is Christ, and the Image is a pretaste, a foreshadowing, a prefigurement, of Christ. Thus long before Christ came, intimations of the Likeness abound, and Christ affirms, and confirms, these old ways of bigness in the world. He validates all of human bigness, not condemning it as inadequate, but dragging it further along its own trajectory of dynamic motion, revealing it as incomplete. He is where it was always aimed.
Thus Eastern Christianity’s outlandish claim, ‘God became man, so that man might become God.’
However, Christ also accepts the human paradox, that despite the eruptions of bigness in human cultures all over the globe in the past, the harsher truth is that human bigness has in the main tragically failed. The sins that follow from this put the seal on the tragedy. Yet they do not cause it.
The Fall of our bigness, not the resultant unworthiness in all our sinning, is the real problem.
This has slowed, even stalled, our evolution, and turned our history into a nightmare. This is more than ‘sin’ could have achieved on its own. The absence of any bigness of heart has meant humanity has hit existential shipwreck, and closely related to this, has lost the gumption needed to fight to take the world back from the devil.
‘We need a hero.’
It is the absence of the Image of God – the non-functioning and in-action of our primordial akinness to God — that is the human tragedy which becomes the world’s tragedy. We cannot really become what we were created to become; as a result, all natural beings flee us and nature hides her secret from us, while the world that is open-ended in possibility becomes, in the absence of any human heroism to challenge it, the playground of the devil= people swept up in evil rule the roost, set the agenda, make most of the running.
Where are the heroes to step into the breach?
Eastern Christianity saw the Image of God in humanity, the promise of our destiny to become the Likeness to God, the divine-humanity, in mystical, and sacramental, terms. Restoration of the Image becomes Temple based.
This is not wrong but it is incomplete. If its incompleteness is taken for completeness, then it becomes seriously misleading.
The Image of God is, fundamentally, existential. The Image of God is the big heart, and its ardent passion; it is the heroism of the king, the warrior, the prophet, the reversal clown, the wise sage, and all other holy callings, which trust the heart and therefore give the heart to the world.
This heart-ful and passionate deed toward the world is markedly evident in St Peter. Whatever the tragedy of this enworlded bigness, it is open to redeeming precisely because of, and in the thick of, its tragic failure. St Peter, the most impulsive and variable of all the disciples, only became the Rock of steadfastness and long-suffering, bearing the unbearable and enduring the unendurable, through the paradox of the human condition. He was the first to step up, and the first to fall down; yet by courageously facing this failure of heroism and weeping over it, and staying with the tragedy, not bailing out from it prematurely, his was the most extreme ‘weakness’ that could receive Christ’s ultimate strength. St Peter was the fiery and the broken heart; giving this contradiction to the Redeemer is our crucial cooperation with redemption.
The Image of God is enworlded. It cannot grow to the Likeness to God if the world is ‘left behind.’ It cannot come to itself in the sacred precincts of the Temple, or in heaven far from the earth. Our true name ‘names’ the heart we have, and its peculiar passion, for the repair of the world.
The Image of God is the innocent heart, the primal passionateness, that loves trustingly, and un-self-consciously. Its radical calling is to the destiny of the world. Our outcome ‘as God’ is bound hand and foot to the outcome of the world. If the world goes down, the Image of God goes down with it.
Given this existential reality of the Image and Likeness, then we need to not only have more compassion for human error at all levels, and in all forms, but we need a genuine respect for human suffering– for what we have wrestled with, however badly or well. God respects this human suffering.
That is why he sent the Messiah– to validate and encourage it, to change it at source, in the foundation, in the depth.
Saving= the Goodness reclaimed from ignorance, greed, hatred.
Redeeming= the Truth only ‘won’ from the dark, the suffering, the deep.
Saving= ‘reasonable worship.’
Redeeming= ‘inexplicable hard road.‘