I almost forgot to do my weekly Latin mass write-up! Today, we had the priest who likes to talk about love in his grandiose voice. There are just some seasons of time when we have him! But that’s not a bad thing, for his sermons usually encourage me to be a better person. He gives us basic Christianity: love God, and love your neighbor!
Today, he was talking about becoming united with God at the Eucharist, and actually becoming God! Yes, he said that. But he said that we’re not trying to usurp God’s power, but rather our aim is to see the world as God does, with love.
The Armstrongites had the concept of a “God family,” in which humans could become god-like spirit beings. Interestingly, the church fathers and prominent Christian thinkers also talk about Christians becoming God! The idea was also a feature of ancient philosophical schools. Armstrongites like to appeal to Christian thinkers to show that their belief in a “God family” is not unorthodox. Bob Thiel cites patristic sources in which church fathers talk about believers becoming God. And, on his radio program, Ron Dart referred to Mere Christianity, in which C.S. Lewis made a similar sort of claim: believers will become like God!
I don’t know if these Christian thinkers and Armstongites mean the same thing by “becoming God,” however. People have told me that the patristic position is that humans can “become God” in the sense of being moral like God, or of having immortality, a divine attribute. That may indeed be what the Christian thinkers mean. But the way they phrase it, man! No wonder Armstrongites quote them as supporting their “God family” sort of position.
Speaking of becoming like God morally, I listened to a sermon today by David Swaim, who preaches at High Rock Church in Massachussetts. Swain was a colleague of mine at Harvard, and I always wondered how he preached, since he spoke so powerfully in a class he and I had together. Well, I have an opportunity to listen to him through the Internet.
The topic of his sermon this week was on “Anger” (you can find it by clicking on Sermons). He talked about Christians who don’t think they should be angry because that’s un-Christlike, and he cited the Psalm passage affirming that God is angry at the wicked every single day! He was trying to move us in the direction of having righteous anger, the sort that God has against injustice, people’s unawareness of God’s love, etc.
I have to confess that, most of the time, I have selfish anger. I have difficulty seeing the world as God does. But Swaim’s sermon went into that as well: he talked about trying to identify why we are angry, listening to others, and other valuable thoughts. And he drew from his own personal experience, acknowledging that he struggled in this area as well.
Years ago in a Christian small group, a lady was criticizing someone for always being angry. “This girl thinks everyone is out to get her,” she said. She may even have questioned whether this person had the Holy Spirit, or was a real Christian, or was doing things right, or whatever. Someone then responded: “Not so fast! Jeremiah had bouts of anger and depression! But his anger wasn’t about himself, but out of concern for others!” The thing is, I read Jeremiah 18 this evening, and Jeremiah wished peril on his enemies because they had mistreated him!
I don’t really live by the rule that “a real Christian doesn’t have selfish anger.” That may be true or false. The fact is that I do have selfish anger, and I have to deal with it somehow. I am where I am. And I believe in a God who’s there to help me. Unfortunately, in a lot of Christian and spiritual settings, it’s hard to be honest about this, especially when I want others to view me as mature, insightful, and spiritual!
But I wonder how to get to the point where I am united with God, where I am so filled with him that I see the world as he does, with righteousness and love. The priest this morning seemed to suggest that this comes through eating a wafer. Pentecostals and charismatics have told me I should pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As frustrated as I may be with God over what does or does not happen in my life, I try to be like Jacob: I will not let go of God until he blesses me! And even that’s a beginning rather than an end, for if I see the world as God does, then there’s a lot of work to be done. But what can I do about that right now? I’m sure God doesn’t want me to wait for a spiritual baptism before I can help others, as important as God’s anointing may be!