The Destiny of Man
Man is not destined to achieve “singularity” or “oneness” — that is, to absorb deity or be absorbed by deity. Man is not destined to become a demigod or demiurge (a lesser god). Man is not destined to endure repeated or cyclical reincarnations. Nor is man destined for extinction or oblivion. Rather, through the presence of the Risen Christ, man (male and female) is destined to become truly and fully human in collegial fellowship with the human God and in relationship with all other human beings, with oneself, and with the universe. As Jesus declared, “No longer do I call you servants . . . but I have called you friends . . . ” (John 15:15, RSV).
From the “beginning” (Genesis 1:1), God’s purpose in Creation has been to attain this destiny for his intended humanity. God’s concern, therefore, is for the “other.” Because of his concern for the “other,” God himself is not the universe, nor is the universe God. God does not imprison the universe, nor does the universe imprison God. Some primal “essence” or substance is not the universe, nor is the universe some primal “essence” or substance. “Nothing” is not the universe, nor is the universe “nothing.” Rather, in the beginning of the age-long process of Creation, God’s command formed time and space out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). He then arranged for cosmic time and space, as the “other,” to respond to his command with the emergence of matter and energy, form and structure (creatio continua). In time and space, God again spoke, bringing forth life (creatio vivificatio). He then arranged for life to respond to his command through the process of emergent evolution (creatio continua). It is thus that the cosmos was formed and continues to expand. The formation of stars and planets included Earth, which provided a home for innumerable living forms — microbial, plant and animal.
The Role and Limitations of Law in Creation
God has always been present in effecting his creative purposes. However, in order to preserve the integrity of the “other,” that presence is not “immediate.”2 Rather, it has been mediated.3 God has always employed the mediatorial instrument of natural law — physical, chemical and biological — to govern energy, matter and life.
The laws that God himself created and ordained have been essential to the emergence and preservation of natural reality. They have provided stability and boundaries for physical, chemical and biological entities. Nevertheless, because even God’s laws are “creatures” and are imposed commands, they have limitations.
1. Laws are commands directed to another, duties imposed on the other, requirements of obedience from the other. Because of this, laws inevitably generate a relationship of domination and submission. Ultimately, therefore, law is predatory. Under the administration of law, there is no escape from predation, for legal justice always involves domination by one party and submission by the other. Because it thus generates alienation, law can suffice only for an inanimate world and for a world of prehuman life.
2. Laws themselves cannot confer or evoke positive aims or purposes. Moreover, laws cannot produce creativity in the sense of self-determination or final causation.
With no final causation toward some ideal possibility, no role exists for ideals, possibilities, norms, or values to play. . . . With no self-determination aimed at the realization of ideals, no value can be achieved.4
In themselves, therefore, laws are incapable of conveying purpose, freedom, responsibility, value or meaning to life.
3. Law is command, but human personhood is not commandable.5 Is human personhood therefore “antinomian” — that is, against law and its administration? No. Rather, human personhood transcends law. Personhood exists in a realm above and beyond the commands, demands and consequences of law. In this realm personhood takes precedence over law.
We have seen that law is limited. It is predatory, requiring both domination and submission and generating alienation. It cannot confer purpose, value or meaning. Finally, it does not reach to the domain of human personhood. Personhood is not predatory. Its relationships with others are not those of domination and submission but of faith, hope and compassion. Thus, human personhood is not commandable but creative. It is characterized by purpose, freedom, responsibility, value and meaning. In light of personhood, the limitations of law have profound implications for humanity today.
Implications of the Limitations of Law
We therefore conclude that law cannot be the vehicle by which man is able to reach his human destiny. Obedience to law is essential to the operation of the universe and to the existence of the inanimate world and prehuman life. But law cannot extend to the emergence of human personhood. Law is thus wholly incapable of helping man to reach his final destiny with God, others, himself and the universe.
For those longing for humanity — for human personhood — it is therefore critically important to reexamine our religious presuppositions. If the purpose of religion is to unite man with God, then obedience to law as the means to such union must be explored in light of the limitations of law.
No law — natural, positive, moral or otherwise — and no obedience to law are capable of conferring humanity upon mankind. No external law, internal law, autonomous (self-contained) law, “self-evident” law, rational law, or irrational law can elevate mankind to human personhood. In this regard the fundamental presuppositions of Judeo Christianity for the last 4,000 years are faulty. Let us be clear. Obedience to law with or without ritual, with or without sacrament, with or without Christ, with or without mediation, is incapable of elevating mankind to true humanity.
Law has an essential role in ordering the universe. It occupies an essential place in sustaining prehuman life. Law and obedience to law are necessary in the transitional period of man’s emergence and transformation from animal to human. But to interpose law and obedience to law between man and his destined humanity is to interpose an insurmountable obstacle. The stark reality is that this is the ultimate delusion — the ultimate “antichrist.”
Law and the mediation of law in the presence of God are essential to nonlife and to prehuman life. But law and the mediation of law are obstacles to the realization of humanity. It is supremely for this reason that God acted to become the incarnate Christ. It is for this reason that he was made “under the law” (Galatians 4:4). It is for this reason that he transcended the dominion of law. It is for this reason that he became “the end of the law for righteousness” (Romans 10:4). God is now ultimately present to man, not as a commanding legal presence, but as an invitational personal presence (Matthew 11:28-30; Revelation 3:20). Through this new mediatorial presence he invites us to accept humanity, to embrace personhood, to rejoice in faith, hope and compassion, to enjoy meaning, value and purpose in life. The time for the disclosure of our humanity is at hand.
Man is destined for fellowship with the human God, with all others, with himself, and with the universe. This destiny was discerned by God from the beginning of Creation.
God has employed and necessarily maintained law as the mediator of his presence for the creation and integrity of the universe and of prehuman life. Yet law cannot reach to human personhood. In the realm of human personhood, law can only generate predatory domination, submission and resulting alienation. It can only perpetuate restriction, purposelessness, meaninglessness and valuelessness. Because of the limitations of law, God condescended, as Jesus Christ, to establish human personhood so that he might become the Mediator of personhood in relationship with mankind.
The time has fully come for man to go beyond the legal barriers that bind him to a prehuman state. The time has come for mankind to discern the mediatorial presence of the Risen Christ. Indeed, the time has come for us to welcome his invitation to our imminent destiny — the freedom to be truly and fully human.
- R. C. Mortimer, “The End of Man,”, in The Elements of Moral Theology (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1947), pp. 1-6. (go back)
- An “immediate” presence is nonrelational. It is to absorb or possess the “other” or to be absorbed or possessed by the “other.” (go back)
- A “mediated” presence is relational. It thus retains the integrity and identity of the “other.” (go back)
- David Ray Griffin, The Reenchantment of Science: Postmodern Proposals (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988), p. 2. (go back)
- See Viktor E. Frankl, The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theology (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975). (go back)
This article was originally published January 1995 under the Destiny imprint.