“From the point of view of Christian faith, personality is not something given, which only needs development, but it is a relation. Personality is rooted in relation to God. It is the “self” of man which is called into existence by the divine “Thou”. Its centre is responsibility, understood as the response of man to God’s call. Its true realisation, and therefore the true humanity, is existence in divine love becoming concrete in love towards our neighbour.”Emil Brunner, Christianity and Civilisation, II, Specific Problems. (London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd, 1949), p. 54.
(Photo Credit – Unsplash)
Everything comes back to the the basic worldview questions and how we answer them:
– Who am I?
– Where am I?
– What’s wrong?
– What’s the remedy?
(This version comes from Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton in The Transforming Vision.)
We could easily add several more essential questions to this list – “Why am I here? Why is anything here? How did I/it get here? Is there anything after death?”, etc. Walsh and Middleton’s formulation has the beauty and simplicity of subsuming all the other possible issues as corollaries of their four.
Over and over again in this blog and in the “Third Way” series, we have brought out Brunner’s statement that “personality is rooted in relation[ship] to God…. the response of [hu]man[ity] to God’s call.”
We are still persons if we refuse the call to relationship to the Creator, but we can never be the sort of person we are meant to be, we can never fully discover and become what being human truly is and is meant to be.
We live in an age and culture which insists on the complete equality of all responses, all conceptions of being and exploring being—especially of being human. But we know in our gut that all forms of exploring and being human are not equal. We are equal as being designed and created as humans and in experiencing our humanity. But while much of our human experience is “the same” no two of us experience even the “sameness” in an identical way.
You cannot live my life for me or I for you. I was not born to your parents (unless you are my full sibling) nor you to my mine. Even growing up in the same family does not extinguish the differences in how we experience our humanity, how we process even our common experiences. Genetic makeup and environmental factors preclude all such “equality”. Some are endowed with more or less intelligence, height, physical strength, beauty, and on and on. Much of our western education system has degenerated into a Neo-Marxist dreamland of somehow eliminating the natural gifting and limitations we all have to deal with so that no child experiences the trauma of “losing”, of being left out, of being traumatized by discovering that others are smarter, stronger, faster, more popular, etc. – or, on the opposite end, of experiencing the thrill of success, the joy of excelling, of winning something as a reward for their effort and ability.
It is a complete denial of what nature, left to its evolutionary side, shows us—that we supposedly survive as individuals and a species by being the “fittest” – (viz. strongest, fastest, healthiest, most intelligent, most agile, most clever and cunning, etc.). Having spent forty years as an educator, one learns that no matter how compassionate and accommodating one is, you cannot enable the one child to outdo the other in an area where the other simply has the innate aptitude to excel, at least when the one so naturally gifted sets him-/herself to excel.
This drive to create the “great leveling” actually denies the humanity of all those who supposedly will benefit from it. For, as Brunner said, our humanity is fundamentally rooted in relationship with our Creator first and with one another second. But the two cannot be separated, even if the “one another” part of our humanity appears and is presumed to be most important – to the very exclusion of the Creator from the equation.
Without the Creator we relegate ourselves to animality – to being accidental evolutionary outcomes. With and in relationship to the Creator, personhood and personality are the very essence of being and becoming fully human. They are not accidents; they are gifts. They are not a survival strategy but the essence of purpose and the expression of the Creator’s being in and through His/Her creative handiwork and artistry.
We see God’s signature everywhere and in everything – every singularly different galaxy, star, solar system, and planet on the cosmic scale, and every microbe, mouse, and living thing on the micro-scale. While we seem to randomly come into existence through the agency of our parents, there is nothing random about it, for it is all made to live and move and have being within the incredible design and living action of the One who gives it , and us, life and movement and being.
The Third Way in its perfection is the way modelled, lived, taught, and passed on by its ultimate incarnation, Yeshua/Jesus. It is the way of redemption, of reconciliation, of repentance (as in turning around, turning back to the One who made us for communion with Him), and integration into His family, His Kingdom, and relationship with Him.
The struggle we face in this age, for as long as it continues, is finding the way to bring it as much into our lives and the life of our communities and nations as we possibly can, even in the face of the hostility of the system which rejects it because it contradicts so much of how we humans want things to work to validate our claim to primacy and even demi-deity.
The Third Way is not a way of right or left, Conservative or Liberal, Socialist or Capitalist. As Jesus put it, paradoxically, he came to bring both peace and a sword. Too often those claiming to speak and act for him have resorted primarily to the sword. The peace mission of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed and Sent One, is universal, as so much of the story declares. When Simon-Peter took out a sword and struck one of those arresting Jesus to have him crucified, Yeshua rebuked him, “Enough of that! Put away your sword! Those who live by the sword die by the sword!”
Yeshua taught that his rule was opposite to all the coercion and manipulative control by fear and cajoling and threat of violence implicit in how our systems work. But until He returns to rule in person, those claiming to follow and emulate him are in the thick of the dilemma of being called out of “the world” (the old system of power-politics and power-games for selfish gain) but still living in it and having to navigate not being “of” the system.
So it is not a game of right versus left, but of justice versus injustice, personal wealth and well-being versus commonwealth, restraining evil and stopping evildoers while offering them restoration and reconciliation. It is not a question of personal privilege and absolute personal rights, but of personal and mutual responsibility and respect for one another as equally entitled to just treatment and fair opportunity, just as we have been gifted by the Creator. And where our sin (failing) has robbed any of this mutuality and equity, it is a question of finding the path to removing the injustice and restoring what has been stolen.
It is delusion to create a false sort of equity which says that the tall and strong must be penalized to compensate the short and feeble. It is a question of learning how to serve one another so that my gifts serve you and yours serve me in those areas where I cannot do what you can do. It can never be about denying your individuality, gifts, abilities, and personality, and your enjoyment of them and their special strengths in order to “level everything for everyone” in the name of a false “equal opportunity”. At 5 ft. 4inches, you cannot justly give me an equal opportunity to play in the NBA. You may legislate it, but it is not just.
There are real equalities of opportunity – such as the equal opportunity to choose good or evil, to choose service to others rather than self-promotion over everyone else. We all equally have a choice to seek and be found by the Creator and so discover our true purpose in Him/Her, or to seek all the personal advantage I can right now and discover how empty it all was when my hearts and breath stops and I cross over to meet my Maker.
Even my very opportunities flow from my personality and bodily gifts – as in my unique personhood as gifted by the One. When I focus fanatically on discovering “my true self” and “self-discovery and self-actualization” as the whole story, I paradoxically lose myself in the maze of endless byways and blind alleys. As Yeshua put it, “The one who goes seeking his/her life [in the selfish quest of self-deification] will lose it, but the one who loses his/ her life for my sake will truly find it.”
The Third Way is the Way of Yeshua, and not the way “Christianity” – as in “the Church” as a system or an institution. The way of Yeshua may well be partly found in such places, but has also been lost there.
It is not a call to found a new nation in any “normal” sense. It is not a call to political revolution as in setting out to tear down Fascist, Communist, Capitalist, and/or Liberal Democratic states. It is another path which operates like “leaven in the lump”. It is like the unseen essence of life found in a seed which only appears when it is planted and watered and nurtured.
What it looks like is a subject with no definable boundaries in our “normal” way of talking about human societies. It is also impossible to fully know in “this present age” even though those who find the Door into it begin to experience it as they travel its road. For the Door is a Person, not a place or a thing. And the path is a relationship, not a set of doctrines, dogmas, or commandments. At best, such things can be signposts, but they must not be mistaken for HIM.
Peace be with you in your seeking and finding.