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Christ's Humanity Key To Universe

Fr. George Dragas

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"The Transfiguration" (left) and "The Incarnation" (right)

"The Transfiguration" (left) and "The Incarnation" (right)

1. The Anthropic Principle: The "Anthropic Principle" has become quite popular in modern science because of the new physics developed after Einstein and the overturning of Newtonian physics and Newtonian cosmology. The universe now looks quite different because relativity theory and other related developments have radically altered the perspectives of science. This has given rise to a new philosophy which is based on the new physics -- a philosophy which is pursued not only by philosophers, but also by other scientists, including theologians. It all comes under a new heading, the Anthropic Principle, which is variously described, but begins with a specific starting point: the relation of man to the cosmos. A search in the web on this theme reveals countless entries and titles related to it. It all started a good number of years ago by scientists, mainly physicists and mathematicians, who developed a new philosophical perspective on the basis of relativity theory, and especially the realization that the universe is not infinite, but contingent and measurable. We can measure it and observe it in ways which reveal its limits and relativity, in spite of its seemingly infinite magnitude.

2. Stanley Jaki's Position: Here is how a contemporary scientist-theologian, whom I had the privilege to meet personally during a Conference at Princeton has put it: "The Anthropic Principle is certainly indicative of the extent to which man is able to conquer the universe as an object of scientific cognition... and not this only. This cognitive ability which man has developed vis--vis the cosmos which surrounds him constitutes roof that the universe can not conquer man," according to Stanley Jaki, a Benedictine priest and Distinguished Professor of Physics at Seton Hall University. In his book, "Angels, Apes and Men," Jaki develops his thought in a chapter called "The Unconquered Man," and opens with the words of Pascal: "The universe surrounds me and swallows me like a spot within its infinite space. But I also surround it with my thought (Pensees, No. 265)." Jaki also points out that the Anthropic Principle is diametrically opposed to anthropocentricism "because it eliminates the most sophisticated form of subjectivism, which is embodied in a priori theories about man's knowledge of the world... It is one thing to pour idealism into scientific cosmology and quite another to face the cosmic facts in their enormous singularity and specificity, as modern science has done...

The specificity of the universe (in its macrocosmic and microcosmic perspectives) as a quantitative feature," which is measurable and knowable, "is a very telling aspect of cosmic existence." The Anthropic Principle tells nothing less than that man can literally measure the universe. For this reason, it has an all-important epistemological significance and, by the same token, carries a far-reaching message for an anthropology which has the courage to face head-on the question: What is man in the final analysis?

3. T.F. Torrance's Position: In his Templeton Prize Lecture for Advancement in Science and Theology (Address of the Sixth Presentation of the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion, 1978), my Professor from Edinburgh University, Tom F. Torrance, provided the following definition of the Anthropic Principle: "This vast universe is the kind of universe it is because it is necessary for the existence of man. Somehow, man and the universe are profoundly bracketed together. Many years ago, when Einstein first formulated the general theory of relativity, Hermann Weyl pointed out that... light occupies a unique metaphysical place in the universe. But now, even from the way that astrophysical science is developing, it appears that man occupies a unique metaphysical place in the universe." The Anthropic Principle, then, has to do with the interconnection of man and the universe, and especially with man's distinctive position in it.

4. The Theological Viewpoint: Approaching this theme in a theological way, this contemporary scientific and philosophical perspective does not contradict orthodox theology, and is actually embedded in its very bowels. The universe, in spite of being so vast, magnificent and incomprehensible, actually has a human face. The human being, as the key to the universe, is a principle that the Fathers of the Church had already explained from a theological perspective and on theological premises. Following the clues I was given by my professor in Scotland, under whom I started my doctoral research, when discussions on the Anthropic Principle were new and fresh, I have worked out my own perceptions on it: Since then, as I pursued my own research and studies in Patristics (the Theology of the Fathers), and I realized that this principle was always central to Patristic Theology.

5. Man's Relation to the Universe: Man is the highest being in the universe, the pinnacle of creation. This Biblical and Patristic view is now affirmed both by modern science, and also by our own present experience and perception. There have been all kinds of speculation concerning the possibility that there are other life forms higher more advanced than human in the universe. But no one has proven it. The highest life form that we know is the human one, and that is because of human intelligence.

The intelligence of the universe is actually related to the intelligence of the human being. The mind of creation is the human mind. Of course, one might respond to this by saying that it sounds quite egotistical; or that it is a rather arrogant claim that man, a small entity in the vast scheme of the universe, is the key to it.

This would have been right, but for the Incarnation. The fact that God, Who created the universe, not only created man in His image, but actually became a human being Himself by taking to Himself the human form of being (i.e., human nature) is the proof. If God Himself has become a human being, then the human being has not only been confirmed as the highest life form in the universe, but has also been upgraded. He has certainly been confirmed as the key to the universe, because the Creator Who is this Key has become a man.

6. The Incarnation: The above theological conclusions are based on theological science and logic. Theologically speaking, we can not any more think about man and the world apart from the event of the Incarnation. Theologians can not go behind the theandric and zoarchic Person of Christ to search for God and His relation to the universe and man, for Christ is the ultimate revelation of God. In Saint Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, the various revelations of God, in many different ways and at different times, have found their eschatological and final meaning in the revelation of His Son. The Son is the Incarnate Son, the Son of God Who became Son of Man without ceasing to be Son and Word of God and Creator of the cosmos.

Man was originally made in the Image of the Word and Son of God, but now, through His Incarnation, this creation in His Image has been taken up by the Word Himself, Who is the unaltered Image of God, in order to redeem human existence, and to restore and renew humanity's superior position in the universe. So when we think from a starting point in Christ, we then inviolably and justifiably understand and confess what we mean when we say that man is the key to the universe. We literally envisage the humanity of Christ, and our humanity in Christ -- the man in Christ. This is the heart of the science of Theology. Here, we are concerned not with man in and of himself, and not just with man in the universe, but with the man in Christ. It is He who is the key to the universe.

7. The Patristic Tradition: This Christocentric approach to the Anthropic Principle is the basis of Patristic cosmology. The center of gravity in Patristric cosmology is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son and Word of God, Who differentiates it from the kind of cosmologies developed by the ancient Greeks, the Jews and the Hellenistic Jews, which represented a combination of Greek and Jewish perspectives. The Patristic view is characterized by a radical shift from a cosmos-centered perception to a man-centered one. This is due to the Incarnation of the Creator, through Which man's position in the created universe was restored.

The event of the Incarnation has reconfirmed the theological dimension of human existence, which is connected with man's capacity to communicate with God, and to participate in God's uncreated energies and properties, which perfect creation. This is the reason why man is placed in a superior position in the universe, and makes him a key to its life and development. Through the Incarnation, the world, too, has become the realm of the presence of God, whereby it is renewed and set on its final course of development towards perfection. To use theological language, the world has entered its eschatological face because the event of the Incarnation, which was injected in it, has revealed the eschatological face of man.

8. The Eschatological Dimension: The Incarnation and the Inhomination of God the Creator, which constitutes the basic chapter of Theology, makes the cosmos the context of God's revelation, and of His renewing action upon it, whereby it is brought back to its natural evolution towards its final fulfillment. In theological terms, we would say that the cosmos has entered its eschatological orbit, its final phase, because the Inhomination of God, which has been engrafted or transplanted within it, reveals its eschatological image, which is the risen human existence. Christ is the "eschatos Adam," the Ultimate Man, towards Whom the whole of mankind is moving, and with it, the entire universe. Our days are the ultimate days, as we move from the old to the ultimate new.

This transposition is in the language of Saint Paul, the "consummation" of all things "in Christ," which are traveling toward their final "restoration." This is what Patristic and Orthodox Theology teach, and this is indeed the Anthropic Principle from a theological perspective. The humanity of Christ and our humanity "in Christ" -- i.e., the redeemed (justified) and perfected (sanctified) human nature -- are actually the basis for the future of the world, which is at work. The world is being reconstructed by God, although we can not yet fully see it because we are caught in the process of being transformed from the old to the new Anthropic Principle. Although death has been conquered, we still lie in the shadow of death. We are still in the process of moving towards the resurrected body -- while we are being resurrected in spirit. This is why the death of the body is the sign of our first resurrection. In other words, when we die, we die in order to rise again, to rise in body. In a real sense, we rise. When we die, we rise to our first renewal and spiritual resurrection, which leads us onto the final and complete resurrection. This is the perspective drawn by the Church Fathers, which helps us see the universe in a different, anthropic perspective. It is the eschatological perspective of the final resurrection of man, which introduces him into the heavenly places. Death is no longer a dreadful and indecipherable mystery. The Fathers see it as a step which brings man closer to the Lord of Glory, Who is the Risen and Ultimate Adam, the aparche (first-fruits) -- i.e., the perfect fruit of the Incarnation -- the final and normative form of the resurrected and restored humanity (see "Space, Time and Resurrection" by T.F. Torrance). This is the Anthropic Principle from a theological perspective. It is not connected with man per se, but with man as he is "in Christ." We belong to it because we are made in the image of Christ, and with it, we shall be perfected through assimilation. To the extent that we are assimilated with this Anthropic Principle, which constitutes the key to the universe, we too become its proleptic manifestations and witnesses.

9. The Eager Longing of the Universe: If a human being is indeed great in this life, how much greater this being will be when he or she reaches the fullness of his or her potential, which is revealed in Christ. This fullness is the "future glory," presented by Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (8.18), which becomes perceptible when it is accepted that man is the key to the world, and not the other way around; that the entire universe is impatient about man reaching his fulfillment, so that it also may be perfected with him, and not vice versa. This is what Saint Paul means when he speaks about "the eager longing (hope) of creation, as it awaits the revelation of the sons of God (Romans 8.19)," or when he says that "this very creation will be delivered from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the children of God (Romans 8.21)... For we know that the whole of creation groans and is in travail along with us until now (Romans 8.22)." Our failure to see this is due to the fact that we have willingly subjected ourselves to the world, and we uncritically accept that we were made by the world for the world (i.e., secularism). The result is that we have subordinated both ourselves and the world to corruption and death. But theological science assures us that the opposite is the case. As the Gospel puts it,

"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark, 2.27)." In other words, it was not man who was made for the world, but the world for man. Again, according to theological science, the reason for this is that man was made by God for God, and he is the one who opens up the world to the beneficent and perfecting energy of God. So man is the real soul and leader of the world. This basic truth is derived from the most important datum of theological science: the Incarnation. Humanity and its position in the universe, or its relation to the universe, has been specified by the Incarnate God and Creator, Jesus Christ.

As He Himself put it, "For the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew, 12.8)." Christ, then, expresses the true man and, at the same time, the true icon of the world, which is the Church, His Body. The Church is, in turn, the true face of the world, while its soul is our restored humanity -- i.e., our humanity as it was restored by the Creator Himself through His Incarnation, the union of humanity with the divine, which presupposes the Resurrection.

Father Dragas is Professor of Patrology and Patristics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He delivered the above address at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on the occasion of his receiving the University's Aristeion (annual award for excellence in scholarship) this past Spring. Part I is published here.

Read the entire article on the National Herald website (new window will open).

Posted: 24-Aug-06

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