The New World Order
Man the animal is the product of evolution. Because man (male and female) possesses superior predatory instincts, he has been successful in becoming the highest member of the animal hierarchy.
In order to maintain his predatory supremacy, man has domesticated other forms of life. Not satisfied with successfully domesticating many plants and animals, man also has sought to domesticate and subdue the entire natural world, his fellow man, and even God.1 It is by achieving evolutionary dominance, power and control over all other life that man seeks to assure his own identity, existence and freedom.
God’s Transcendent Purpose for Man
However, man has largely failed to understand that evolution (including his own) is not an end in itself. It is an instrumental process — a means to an end. Its purpose is not to lead to man’s supreme predatory dominance and control over all other life. Rather, it is used by God to foster the emergence of a responsive Creation.2
To state this another way, God himself stands behind, above and beyond the process of natural evolution. It has been his transcendent purpose to elevate and transform man the animal into man the human being.3 From the time of man’s first emergence, therefore, God has been present with him to foster this transformation to true humanity.
Not only has man exhibited the evolutionary attributes of animals. Because of the purpose and presence of God, man has long exhibited premonitory human attributes. Human attributes are defined by an existence that is conscious, willing, committed and meaningful. This existence by man as a person is in the presence of God, the world, other men, and himself. Such relational existence may be called “existential personhood.”
Unlike animal attributes, man’s human attributes are not instinctual or intuitive. Thus, they are not possessed by any other living form. They are exhibited by man only through the mediatorial presence of God.4
Jesus and Man’s Historic Struggle
Because of man’s dual nature as an animal and a human being,5 he has long been the focus of a historic struggle. Throughout history man’s instinctual animal drives have appeared to triumph over his human “existential personhood.” For example, in Old Testament times the prophets proclaimed God’s presence to call mankind to accept the attributes of personhood. However, these prophetic pleas generally fell on deaf ears. Only rarely did man forsake his predatory instincts to accept the promise of human personhood.
Finally, God himself came down as Jesus Christ, adopting the creature as his own reality. By his incarnation, life, death and resurrection, Christ defined human personhood. The Christ event reveals that personhood is not predatory. It does not seek to domesticate either man or God. It does not seek to possess, dominate or control other beings. Instead, personhood lives in freedom and responsibility. It is characterized by free will and the strength of decision. It exists in loving compassion and commitment in the presence of others. Personhood is truly egalitarian — that is, committed to human equality. As Jesus himself declared to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants . . . but I have called you friends . . . ” (John 15:15, RSV).
By his death and resurrection, Jesus has assured mankind that he is prepared to deliver them from their animal nature and raise them to eternal human personhood with himself. From the moment of his resurrection, therefore, Christ has been present with us to fulfill this transcendent purpose.6
The Tragic Detour of Christianity
After Christ’s resurrection, his followers truly acknowledged and worshiped him. However, they soon proclaimed him, not so much as the “present” God who had risen into history, but more as the “absent” God who had ascended out of history. Tragically, in Christ’s presumed absence the Christian church turned to acknowledge and worship the dominating, hierarchical “God,” projected by its own instinctual animal drives, rather than the egalitarian, human God revealed in Jesus. Then, assuming that in God’s absence they were his representatives to reflect his purposes, the church religiously proceeded to domesticate (conquer) the world on his behalf.
With its failure to grasp the egalitarianism (human equality) revealed in Jesus, it is not surprising that Christendom — whether Eastern or Western, medieval or modern, Catholic or Protestant, liberal or fundamentalist — has had a bloody history. No religion has been more violent than Christianity.7 The blood of unnumbered millions, shed in the name of Christ, cries out to him for life and transformation to true human personhood.
The Modern Attempt to Introduce Human Egalitarianism
The great controversy between man as an animal and man in human personhood still rages. Over the past 300 years mankind has sought to introduce, perhaps unconsciously, the radical egalitarianism (human equality) of the historical Jesus. For it was Jesus who first proclaimed the equality of all mankind regardless of ethnic origin, gender, age, political power, social privilege or economic status.
However, modern egalitarianism attributes this equality, not to personhood through the presence of Christ, but solely to the intuitive possession of transcendent reason. Modern egalitarianism thus views man as autonomous — that is, self-contained, “free” and independent of all objective entities.8 Very simply, each individual is equal because each is like a container in which is found the identical attribute of intuitive reason. This autonomous (nonrelational) view of human equality thus regards all entities other than the individual’s own intuitive reason and consciousness as fundamentally irrelevant. Clearly, such autonomy divorces man from his “existential personhood” — his relational existence in the presence of God, the world, others, and even his own objective self.
By attributing human equality to man’s autonomous (self-contained) possession of intuitive reason, man is unavoidably reduced to his own predatory, animalistic drives. For it is man’s animal attributes that are instinctual and intuitive. Human attributes, on the other hand, are exhibited by mankind only through the mediatorial presence of God.9 With man left solely to his own predatory, animalistic drives, is it any wonder that we now observe a world order that is rapidly fragmenting and disintegrating — religiously, politically, socially, economically and naturally?
The New World Order of Human Personhood
While the old age is passing away, a new world order is aborning. Though now unseen,10 the Risen Christ is present to grant mankind the premonitory gifts of human personhood.11 These gifts embrace identity and relationships, value and meaning, freedom and responsibility. They include the will and decision, faith and hope, love and commitment of a human person.
At this critical juncture in history, man’s only hope is to acknowledge the failure of the old world order and to live by faith in the existential presence of God, the world, his fellow man and himself. To embrace this relational existence is to embrace true personhood and a truly human egalitarianism. Such equality is not grounded in man’s supposedly autonomous (self-contained) possession of intuitive reason. It is grounded in the gift of existential (relational) human personhood.
At the Parousia12 (Second Coming), Christ will visibly return to fully transform mankind into his own human image. This is man’s final hope. This is the new world order. Our responsibility is to understand and embrace God’s historic purpose. Our challenge is to proclaim the good news of Christ’s mediatorial,13 redemptive and transformative presence.
Man first emerged in the evolutionary process as an animal endowed with superior predatory instincts and drives. These predatory instincts have led him to domesticate plants, animals, his fellow man and, finally, himself. Man’s object in this has been to achieve dominance, power and authority over the world. However, his predatory drive for autonomy (self-contained existence) has now led him to destroy his own existential (relational) presence. This existential presence alone defines true human freedom and responsive choice. It alone defines the trust, relationships and commitment of man’s personhood in the presence of God, the world, his fellow man and himself.
Confronted with the predatory destruction of such “existential presence,” civilization already has begun to visibly fragment and disintegrate. This collapse will continue until we recognize the failure of predatory autonomy and proclaim that the Risen Christ is mediatorially present to preserve, redeem and transform mankind to his destined existential humanity. This goal Christ will fully accomplish at his appearing.
- See Karl W. Luckert, Egyptian Light and Hebrew Fire: Theological and Philosophical Roots of Christendom in Evolutionary Perspective (Albany, NY: State Umvers1ty of New York Press, 1991); cf. “Mankind Between Two Worlds,” Outlook (Prequel 1994.8). (go back)
- See “The Openness of God,” Outlook (Prequel 1994.4). (go back)
- See “Mankind Between Two Worlds.” (go back)
- Rather than a nonrelational, immediate presence, in which we absorb the Transcendent (“God in us”) or are absorbed by the Transcendent (“us in God”), the evidence indicates that the Risen Christ mediates his presence with us in history. That is, he reaches us through our neighbors. We reach him through each other. We reach each other and our own objective selves through him. This relational “reaching” may therefore be referred to as Christ’s “intermediatorial” presence, which is defined by the gifts of faith, hope and compassionate love. See “The End of Human Alienation,” Outlook (Prequel 1994.7). (go back)
- See “Mankind Between Two Worlds.” (go back)
- See T. J. J. Altizer, “Replies: The Self-Realization of Death,” chap. 6 in R. P. Scharlemann, ed., Theology at the End of the Century (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1990), p. 131: “Now nothing is more important in that history than the historical advent of self-consciousness, a self-consciousness that apparently did not actually or fully exist until the advent of Christianity.” (go back)
- See Robert D. Brinsmead, ed., “Savage Christians,” Verdict (Essay 30, 1987); Robert D. Brinsmead, ed., “Religion and Violence,” Verdict (Essay 35, 1988).
Austrian historian, Friedrich Heer, states: “There is no world religion, and no human society, that has again and again amassed in its bosom the quantity of dynamite that ‘Christian society’ has . . . Again and again it has manufactured its ‘deadly enemies’ and its scapegoats. The church constituted itself the permanent pyre for the burning of ‘heretics’ of right and left.” — Quoted in Walbert Bühlmann, God’s Chosen Peoples (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992), p. 125.
And John Hick, himself a Christian scholar, confesses: “Christianity . . . has generated savage wars of religion and supported unnumerable ‘just wars’; has tormented and burned multitudes of heretics and witches in the name of God; has motivated and authorized the persecution of the Jews.” — John Hick, The Non-Absoluteness of Christianity,” in The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, ed. John Hick and Paul F. Knitter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987), pp. 29, 30.(go back)
- See “Mankind Between Two Worlds.” (go back)
- See notes 4, 6. (go back)
- See “The Unseen Presence,” Outlook (Prequel 1994.9). (go back)
- See notes 4, 6. (go back)
- The Greek word parousia, translated, means both “presence” and “coming.” See Wikipedia — The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Second Coming, Terminology” at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming#Terminology. See also James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 2006: “Parousia is an ancient Greek word meaning presence, arrival, or official visit” (p. 299). (go back)
- See note 4. (go back)
This article was originally published November 1994 under the Quest imprint.