Sunday, May 3, 2009

The World-in-God View of Gregory of Nyssa

Although the World-in-God view was implicit in Jesus' teachings, the first successful attempt to state it explicitly was made by the fathers of the Eastern Christendom in the first few centuries after Christ. What follows is how I understand the thought of Gregory of Nyssa in this regard.

All that exists can be divided into two: Created and uncreated existences. The created existence exists within the limits of time and space, but the uncreated existence has no such limits. Thus, the uncreated existence is infinite, but the created existence is finite. Because the uncreated existence is infinite, the created existence exists within it. Because the created existence changes according to time and space, it depends on the uncreated existence, which is changeless. Because the created existence is finite, there is an unbridgeable gap between the created and uncreated existences, viewed from the side of the created existence. But viewed from the side of the uncreated existence, no such gap exists. In our everyday language, the uncreated existence is called God, and the created existence is called world. Such a division exists only when viewed from the side of the world; from God's view, nothing exists apart from God, because God is infinite, and the world is finite.

God -One and Three

Viewed from the side of the world, God appears to be a separate reality from the world. Because of this, God also appears in three forms with three different functions. But viewed from the side of God (uncreated existence), God is one. Father is the absolute standard and source. Son, born from the Father, incarnates, taking upon himself the limits of time and space, thus identifying with (or becoming) the created existence. The Holy Spirit, generating from the Father, guides the Son (thus, the created existence).

The finitude of the created existence involves a possibility and potential for change and growth. The Father represents the fundamental and stable principle and standard upon which everything else happens, but the Son represents endless growth and development. The finitude of the world is not something apart from God, but something that happens within God.

The human presence makes the created existence conscious. The limits of time and space give Man the potential for endless growth. His growth is not automatic; he has to choose to grow. He also has to choose the path of his growth. His growth is self-directed. This privilege gives man a special responsibility. He has to take care of the rest of the world as his own body.

The limits of time and space is like a blindfold for man. He can't see the future at all. Also this makes him enter the world with no knowledge at all. He has to toil to keep himself alive through time. He has to fight against the forces of death for a bare survival. But he is not without help. Always available is the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus human life is a journey toward the Father, along with the Son (or as the son), with the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit.
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