Becoming One in Christ

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Today I stumbled across one of the few good things I have found in a book by Alan Jones.

from Soulmaking
Alan Jones

The device of the vocal quartet, becoming a quintet, becoming a sextet, and on and on--until everyone is singing is a vivid metaphor for the truth that each of us sings our own unique melody, and all contribute to one great and glorious sound: all sounds mix and rise together to become unending music. It is thus that I find my "home" in harmony with all other creatures. . .

The Christian understanding of God is concerned with holding together unity and diversity. And the belief in God as the Holy and Undivided Trinity speaks directly to our desire to be one without being swallowed up. . . .

The other day I read a blog post--either a post or a comment in which the commenter suggested that our goal as Christians is to all become one and thus lose any individual identity we would have. I had a number of thoughts about this. For example--then why create individuals? Wouldn't it do just as well to create some sort of syncitial organism (with respect to souls) that incorporates all in one? Doesn't God cherish each of us individually, as we love each of our children for their own unique personalities and aspects? Somehow the idea of being blended together in a big grey mass of personality doesn't seem particularly heavenly or delightful. And why would it entail a resurrection of the body? If one were to simply become one in Christ without identity, what point?

But this notion of oneness--the idea of individual voices all singing the individual melodies that blend together to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. This seems (pardon the pun) sound and accurate. The Saints--those whose lives more closer mirror oneness in Christ than does my own--they are each unique, individual, separate. Each one has a distinct personality, each one distinct talents, each one a special mission.

So perhaps becoming one in Christ is harmonizing with all around--singing our own God-given melody in such a way that it unites those around us and corporately moves all of us closer to salvation. In Calvinist theology, salvation is a very lonely, one-on-one business. And to some degree that is truth (I think). My own salvation necessarily impacts others, but it does not necessarily "save" them. And yet I think there are ways of thinking about salvation that are not so lonely, and the Church has long recognized the communal aspect to salvation. Our actions do affect one another (one of the reasons for the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation) and we can be effective instruments of grace to our traveling companions. We harmonize with those around us. We learn our own parts, and coach others in learning their's in such a way as to make the greatest sound of joy to the Lord. Imagine the glorious sound of a octogiga-et, a sound, that ironically could be channeled back to the beginning of time (as suggested by the Ainur at the beginning of The Silmarillion and sing creation into being. A truly wonderful ouroboros.

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A couple days ago I read something from Oscar Romero that spoke of individual as well as communal conversion (and blogged about it too). I had never considered communal conversion, but it makes sense, since so much of our Christian lives are spent living in the community. I thought of that when you wrote about the communal aspects of salvation.

I like the image of individuals - each different and unique - creating a harmony for God. We are created by God as individuals, and there should be no conflicts among being myself, being part of a community, and accepting others who are different than me as long as it's all focused on the greater praise and glory of God.

the commenter suggested that our goal as Christians is to all become one and thus lose any individual identity we would have.

There's at least one "Catholic" theologian who teaches that. (I don't remember her name offhand.) The sister who ran the parish I attended back in 1995-1997 was really impressed with her theology.

It horrified me.

The mentioned commentor needs to familiarize himself/herself with Catholic Personalist Philosophy along the lines of Karol Wojtyla, John Crosby, Norris Clarke and others. To lose oneself to the whole, like an organ in a body, is depersonalizing. Boethius defines a person as persona est substantia individua naturae rationalis or 'a person is an individual substance with a rational nature'. Another anceint definition comes from Roman Law 'persona est sui iuris et alteri incommunicabilis' - 'A person belongs to himself and is not another'. We, as persons, are NEVER a mere part of a whole. We are called to act as free persons. To do that we must maintain our own ability to think, decide, and act. To be dissolved into some whole means we lose ourself to that whole. For a true interaction between persons there must be an 'I' and a 'Thou' (as per Martin Buber). With only 'we', there is no possibility of true interpersonal interaction. I would highly recommend The Selfhood of the Human Person by Dr. John Crosby as an excellent treatment of these topics.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 13, 2004 11:24 AM.

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