Unification News for May 2002
Nature of God and Man; the Purpose of Life
Divine Principle Section 1 -- Part 1
Thou didst create us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee -- Saint Augustine
It has been said that every generation asks the same questions about God, man and human destiny, but that each puts them in some special form. When in 1966 the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands issued a new type of lay catechism, they expressed for the modern age some of the questions which have perplexed humankind since antiquity. Among the questions these bishops raised were: "What is the point of this world?" "How did our life begin?" "Is it an accident that things strive upward through such new and wonderful phases -- existence, life, feeling, thought?" "How can we harmonize all the sickness, disappointments and cruelty of this world with an infinitely good origin?"
Such questions, of course, are not necessarily new. The prophets and priests of the Hebrew Bible wrestled with similar issues, and so have modern theologians and laymen. Earlier, Greeks from Plato to Plotinus considered them; nor were they overlooked by Hindu saints and Muslim sages. Even Karl Marx recognized the need to address these issues, and today these same questions are still being asked by Christians and non-Christians, theists and humanists, dogmatists and doubters.
Regardless of one's particular religious or irreligious faith, every individual sooner or later asks himself certain fundamental questions about human nature and destiny. A person must find his place in the society of which he is a member. He must relate himself in a positive fashion to the wider universe surrounding him. Ultimately, if the above passage from St. Augustine is correct, one must even come to terms with God.
Polarity: Creator and Creation
In asserting that the Lord has "created us for Himself," St. Augustine has touched upon the first characteristic and activity of God. He is the Creator. The Hebrew Bible, the foundation for the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, opens with the verse, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Similarly, in the Apostles' Creed, the first article is: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth."
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, then, God is the ever-active Creator, an infinite and invisible spirit who fashioned the universe in the light of His perfect reason and holy will. Whether we read the creation story in Genesis, the beautiful nature hymns in the Psalms or the majestic poetry of Job, we are reminded by the Biblical writings that behind and throughout everything visible, man can sense the activity of the invisible. Wherever one looks he beholds the handiwork of God.
Reflections of God
Even though God is an invisible spirit, He can be known through His creation. An artist's work is a visible expression of his invisible character. Shakespeare could only write Shakespeare; Picasso could only paint Picasso. In the same way, the universe reflects the personality of God. As we can sense an artist's character through his works, so we can perceive God's nature through His creation. If, as now asserted by scholars of body-language, our facial expressions, gestures and overall appearance reflect our inner nature and attitudes, so we may say that the universe reflects God's nature. In that sense, the universe becomes God's body. The majesty of Mount Everest, the beauty of a sunset, the power of a storm, the harmony of the cosmos -- all reflect something of God. The temporal manifests the eternal. Reflecting this fact, the Apostle Paul wrote to his fellow-Christians in the first century A.D.:
"Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible nature, namely His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom 1:20).
Beyond the natural creation, however, Divine Principle teaches there is a more direct way of receiving God. "What is mind that Thou art mindful of him?" the Psalmist asks -- and answers in the same breath that this creature has been made only a "little less than God" (Ps 8:4-5). Man, we are told, was created in God's image. According to the writer of Genesis:
"So God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27).
This affirmation, of course, has found considerable support in the millennia since it was written. As the Russian scholar Vladimir Lossky has pointed out, the founders of the early Christian Church devoted no little energy to identifying God's image in man, variously defining it as the soul, the intellect, and the power of self-determination. In addition, it was identified with the gift of immortality, the ability of knowing God, and the possibility of sharing the divine nature. In the modern age, Archbishop William Temple, noting that the revelation through nature is "incomplete and inadequate," has stressed that "personality can only reveal itself in persons. Consequently, it is especially in Human Nature -- in men and women -- that we see God."
God, then, is revealed most directly in people.
With Archbishop Temple, Divine Principle distinguishes between the revelation of God through nature and His revelation through man. While through man there is a direct expression of God, in the case of the universe there is an indirect relationship. God is expressed not actually, but symbolically. Nevertheless, both man and creation serve a revelatory function. By recognizing the fundamental characteristics inherent in both man and the cosmos, Divine Principle teaches us that we can comprehend the basic nature of God.
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