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The New Humanity



"But this principle of freedom from the Law has now to be applied to all religion. Christianity in the course of time has built up its own structure of law and religion, of ritual and dogma and organization, which have now become a barrier, separating the Christian churches from the rest of humanity. So also Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism have developed their own structures of law and ritual and are divided from one another. We have to learn to go beyond all these differences in the external forms of religion and discover the hidden mystery which lies at the heart of all religion. In Christianity it was the mystery of the resurrection which gave this insight into the ultimate meaning of religion. The resurrection of Jesus was seen as the passage beyond time and space to the eternal transcendent Reality. This was accomplished, not merely for Jesus himself, but for all humanity. The resurrection marks the beginning of a new humanity and, as St Paul says, a"new creation." "

The New Humanity

[Bruno Barnhart]: In ' New Vision of Reality', Bede looks at the Christian Mystery from a universal and an evolutionary perspective. Jesus came to bring the Holy Spirit, which would create a 'new humanity,' and immediately with his death and resurrection the boundaries of Israel, which had circumscribed the biblical 'history of salvation,' are burst and the Spirit is poured forth into all peoples. As the barriers of the Jewish Law are swiftly dismantled, the utter simplicity, luminosity and power of the Mystery are manifest in the world. It is in the light of this simple, all-embracing Mystery that the narrowness, rigidity and fragmentation which have plagued historical Christianity are clearly revealed.

If, in the last text,[95] we felt primarily the interior gravitation of the Mystery, here it is the expansive power of the Spirit that is evident, reaching out to embrace all creation. This is the breadth of the vision[96] which has emerged from the Pauline letters, especially those to the Colossians and Ephesians. Its length stretches from the first moment of creation over the whole span of evolution, as all reality is gathered into the one 'Cosmic Person' who is Christ. We shall look at this synthesis in more detail later.[97]

[Bede Griffiths]: If we look for the basic inspiration which underlies Christianity, it is to be found in the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus came to set Israel free from its bondage to the Law, that is, to its religious tradition, and to take it back to the source of all religion. It is clear that Jesus left behind no definite structure of religion. He chose twelve disciples, whom he called"Apostles," and by all accounts gave Peter a position of leadership among them. He also left behind a"memorial"of his death and resurrection, the central"mystery"of his life, but beyond that it is difficult to discern with certainty any other formal structure. What he communicated to his disciples was the gift of his Spirit, which was to lead them into all truth. The essential mystery of the Gospel is this gift of the Spirit, that is, the opening of humanity to the life of the Spirit, which had been lost at the Fall, and its return to the communion with God in which the meaning and purpose of human existence is to be found. It was this which was to lead his disciples to discern the significance of his life and teaching and to enable them to become the nucleus of a new humanity.

It was St Paul who had the deepest insight into this matter of religion and law. He himself had been brought up as a Jew"educated according to the strict manner of the Law," [98] but his conversion brought about a radical change in his understanding of the place of law in religion. He was able to discern that the whole law of Israel, though holy in itself and given by God, yet had only a relative value. All the sacred rites of Israel, circumcision, the worship of the temple, even the institution of the Sabbath were all seen as of relative importance and could be dispensed with. So he was able to say," neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, but a new creation."[99] In this way he broke through all the restrictions of Judaism and opened the way of salvation to all humanity. As he said," There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, but you are all one in Christ Jesus."[100] Thus all the barriers, economic, social, political, even the division between the sexes, were overcome and the fundamental unity of mankind was proclaimed.

But this principle of freedom from the Law has now to be applied to all religion. Christianity in the course of time has built up its own structure of law and religion, of ritual and dogma and organization, which have now become a barrier, separating the Christian churches from the rest of humanity. So also Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism have developed their own structures of law and ritual and are divided from one another. We have to learn to go beyond all these differences in the external forms of religion and discover the hidden mystery which lies at the heart of all religion. In Christianity it was the mystery of the resurrection which gave this insight into the ultimate meaning of religion. The resurrection of Jesus was seen as the passage beyond time and space to the eternal transcendent Reality. This was accomplished, not merely for Jesus himself, but for all humanity. The resurrection marks the beginning of a new humanity and, as St Paul says, a"new creation."[101] Just as Israel closed in on itself and saw salvation in terms of its own limited existence, so the Christian churches have closed in on themselves and separated themselves from humanity as a whole. But in the wider perspective which we can discern today, Jesus died for all humanity and the salvation which he achieved was won for all humanity. We must never forget that in its deepest reality all humanity is one being, just as the whole creation is one being. As St Gregory of Nyssa, one of the greatest of the Greek Fathers, proclaimed," All men from the first man to the last are one image of Him Who Is."Adam in the book of Genesis represents humanity as a whole, and when this Adam falls all humanity falls with him. So also Christ is the new Adam, the new representative of redeemed humanity, and with his resurrection humanity as a whole is redeemed from sin and death.

Bede Griffiths]: It is of great significance that Jesus left his disciples with the understanding that he would return again at any time and bring the world to an end. In a real sense it can be said that the resurrection itself brings the world to an end. It is the passage of human nature beyond time and space, and reveals the whole of this spatial temporal world as a passing phenomenon. We see the one Reality reflected through the changing forms of space and time, but we know that these forms are conditioned by our present mode of consciousness. When we pass beyond this limited mode of time-space consciousness, we shall see the eternal Reality as it is. As St Paul says," now we see in a glass darkly but then face to face."[102] The whole of human history is a passage from our present mode of existence and consciousness into the eternal world where all the diversities of this world are seen in their essential unity. Our present mode of consciousness is dualistic, but as the mystics of all religions have discerned the ultimate reality is non-dual. This new mode of being and consciousness is the 'nirvana' of the Buddha, the 'brahman-atman' of the 'Upanishads,' the 'l haqq' of the Muslim mystics and the kingdom of heaven of the Christian Gospel. It is here and here alone that we can find the meeting place of all religion.

As we saw earlier, the sin of humanity had been their separation from the Spirit, their falling back into the separate self, and thereby coming into conflict with nature, with their fellows, and with God. Jesus comes as the man who offers himself in sacrifice in total surrender, to God, to the Supreme, and in doing this he reverses the sin of Adam. Adam, the primal Man, had fallen by disobedience, by following his mind and will rather than surrendering to the Spirit. Jesus, the new Adam, the Son of Man, the representative Man, makes a total surrender to the Spirit, to God, to the Father, and by that he overcomes humanity's separation from the Father, from God, reuniting humanity as one body in himself. He breaks down all the barriers that have been set up and finally he reconciles creation with himself, as a new creation.

This then is the birth of a new humanity and it can be regarded as a new stage in evolution. Humanity had developed through various levels of complexity, through the hunting, the pastoral and the agricultural stages to the great civilisations. Now with Christ a new stage is taking place and a new humanity is being born. The new humanity is born"not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," Jesus is the new Man who is born of God, who is the Son of God."

The One Light - Bede Griffiths' Principal Writings
Chapter II, West: Part One Civilization and Christianity, p. 117-120
Edited and with Commentary by Bruno Barnhart
Templegate Publishers, Springfield, Illinois

Notes:
[94] ' New Vision of Reality', 104-112.
[95] See text n.16.
[96] See Ephesians 3:14-21.
[97] See text n. 102.
[98] Acts 22:3.
[99] Galatians 6:15
[100] Galatians 3:28
[101] 2 Corinthians 5:17
[102] 1 Corinthians 13:12




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