“And the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”
Due to the “Law/Gospel” structure of the Bible, people have a tendency to get dualistic about divine history. “The Old Testament was when God was mean and judgmental, and obsessed with rituals and hierarchy; the New Testament was when God was all about love and mercy, and more spontaneous and democratic about rule in the church.” Or, they’ll say the Father is the wrathful, judgmental one, but Jesus is the kind, loving one who appeases the Father’s wrath.
Jesus’ words for meditation today refute both views. Whatever Jesus is, is because that is what the Father sent Him to be. Jesus is a picture of the Father’s heart. Jesus is God’s primary work.
If there is a dualism, the dualism is between God’s revealed Word in Christ Jesus, and God as He operates outside of the Word and Christ. What does this mean?
God is everywhere. God is in control of everything. But theology makes a distinction between God’s primary work and His alien work. His primary work is giving life and sustaining it. His “alien” work is to condemn. The world and Satan are instruments of God’s alien work. When people understand God outside of Christ and the Word, they will run up against God’s alien work. This is a terrifying place to be. It’s a place of judgment, wrath. This is the world understood as a an existential abyss. What’s the meaning of life? What’s the reason for suffering?
Those who find God through Christ and the Word will find God as He intended to be known, through Christ crucified, as a life-giving Spirit, as a loving Father. This transforms our vision of the so-called “alien” works of God. What we hear from the Word and receive by grace spills over in our spiritual “vision” of the whole creation. All the world bears His goodness, and even the trials and dark valleys we see as God’s discipline leading to our ultimate good.
So really, the dualism is not in God, but in us. The dualism is between believers and unbelievers. Believers see the entire creation under God’s authority being worked for their good, by a good and merciful God. They see the world from the perspective of the divine liturgy and holy sacrament, their vision transformed by the true transformation that occurs in the bread and wine, those created elements.
Unbelievers see only an angry and vindictive God setting up systems and structures of power, or an arbitrary God who yes, is in that sunrise, but that same sun is scorching tribes to death elsewhere in the world. There is no answer to the problem of evil; therefore evil triumphs. These are the Gnostics who then have to resort to projecting a supramundane God from their own desires and relying on that.
Those who would seek the meaning of the world would go to none other than Christ. For He speaks not His own word, but the Father’s word. He speaks what the Creator of this world wants to be said about this world. No philosophy, no science, no experience can compare to the words of the Gospel. They are our philosophy. They are our science. They are our experience.
So often we can fall into the sectarian way of thinking, that Christianity is simply our “philosophy of life,” or that the event of the cross is our little event that defines what we believe. No, the cross marks the very essential meaning of the cosmos. Christ’s words, every one of them, is the philosophy that puts to end all others.
“Let the little children come to me” is a metaphysical truth far deeper than anything Aristotle came up with. “When you pray, say [the Lord’s Prayer]” is the ultimate statement of what humanity is reaching for in the depths of transcendent meaning. “Take up your cross and follow Me” is a life time’s worth of ethical training for how the human person should situate himself in this cosmic order.
On and on we could go. There is no need for human searching when divine truth is revealed through Christ’s words. For His words are not His own, but the Father’s, the world’s Maker.
Science is a fun tool to help make cool things, but other than refining the wheel, the alphabet, and fire, it doesn’t do much more, and cannot. Philosophy is wonderful at revealing the depths to which humanity will go to justify themselves, as Nietzsche smartly observed.
But only the Gospels unveil the meaning of it all, the point of life. Now, that being the case, consider what it means that, of all the ways God could have made known the ultimate meaning of the world and of life, He sent the Person Jesus, the one hanging on a cross, the one who healed everyone who cried “Lord, have mercy,” the one who freely gave.