April 30, 2008

To Build the Pleroma: A Review of Teilhard de Chardin's The Divine Milieu

A very readable theology of the divinisation of our activities and passivities.

The basic idea is that most Christians see their lives, their work, their play, their interests, as separate from the sanctification and unification with God that they desire. We feel like the living of our everyday lives is nonproductive (or even counterproductive) to the life in Christ that bring us to maturity and wholeness in Him. We hold faith and life in two different hands. Many believers actually begrudge their occupations, their interests, as enemies of the life of God being formed in them. This has been true in my own life. For years I would not read any fiction because I felt that life was short and I had no time for "trivial" matters like literature and poetry. My reading was self-limited to nonfiction and theology. Some people will only listen to "Christian" music. Some will watch only "Christian" television.

Teilhard de Chardin was well aware of the anxiety of dualism in our understanding of life and activity. For Chardin, the main point was for us to simply see things as they really are. Teilhard believed that each soul exists for God, and each soul is linked in mystical union to the Incarnate Word. The universe, says Teilhard, exists for the soul. "Everything forms a single whole" and exists for the glory of God. "We must perceive the existence of links between us and the Incarnate Word" and the "interconnections revealed to us in every order of the physical and human world."

Through this interconnectedness (sounds really Zen-like, doesn't it?), God is fulfilling St Paul's words in Romans 8.18-23. "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Teilhard says, "In each soul, God loves and partly saves the whole world..." And God does this through our activities! "Owing to the interrelation between matter, soul and Christ, we bring part of the being which he desires back to God in whatever we do" (emphasis his). We do this "to build the Pleroma." (The consummation of "the mystery of the creative union of the world in God," i.e., the kingdom of God in its completed form).

This is the divinisation of our activities. If we but see that we are workers together with God in all that we do, that vision brings an excitement and joy to our everyday, mundane, ordinary lives. Through living those lives God saves the world. "But it is essential to see - to see things as they are and to see them really and intensely."

"By virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see."

"Right from the hands that knead the dough, to those that consecrate it, the great and universal Host should be prepared and handled in a spirit of adoration."

Our lives have divine responsibility. We are to give them wholly to God. Not by making them religious, but by truly seeing that there is no such thing as a division between religious and secular. The universe is the Lord's, and "the Christian knows that his function is to divinise the world in Jesus Christ." As we do this, a transparency occurs. We learn to see in all things the continual creation of God and the beauty of the ultimate unity in Christ.

[He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ..." (Ephesians 1.10 AMP)

"...in him all things were created...and in him all things hold together..." (Colossians 1.16-17 NRSV)

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