Today, many people have an urge to find a deeper understanding about reality and God. Unity and an experience of reality’s or God’s presence is something to look for. Generally, there are two theories on approaching to God. The first one of these world views is called the Emerging Church view and is promulgated by the Emerging Church movement. The other is called the Biblical view.

The first opinion cannot be called a biblical stand because it does not search the connection through the Bible alone, but also from eastern mysticism and syncretism (Religious syncretism is “the fusion of diverse religious beliefs and practices.” Encyclopedia Britannica). Many individuals unite Christianity with other religions and come to a conclusion that humankind has a collective consciousness and conscience which can tap into God and become essentially one with God. A common approach to faith and reality is that love is the core of God and humanity, uniting the world without an absolute truth. When experiencing the joining with God, humanity can encounter salvation (merged general and individual justification and sanctification).

The other position gets its views from the Bible alone, seeing that God differs from humanity in essence and only Jesus and His Word, the Bible, are the truth. Jesus brought the only salvation and justification on the Cross (general justification). When one receives justification through Christ’s blood (individual justification), the consequences are good works, love, obedience to God and His Word (sanctification), and unity in truth. Another belief in the Biblical view, which is connected substantially with the subject “Getting closer to God” is that Jesus, in the Heavenly Sanctuary, is the only mediator between God and man.

Before going more deeply into the discussion, and in spite of the obvious early history of the Christianity, which is found in the Bible, we are going to look at a short history of the coming of the eastern mysticism into modern and postmodern thought. The answer to the question “How did eastern thought become synchronized with postmodern western thought?” lies in the activities of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, which is a Catholic ecclesiastical, educational, political and counter-reformation army. From the 16th century until now, the Jesuits have continued the Catholic tradition of connecting other religions with Christianity by education and proclamation, and by infiltration of Protestant schools and congregations (Christensen & Göransson, 1975, pp. 157, 230, 248, 321; d’aubigne, 1861, p. 104). One of the most famous Jesuits, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, said: “My approach… would be… to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity… by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheist aspect of Christianity” (1995, p. 56). Much of the Emerging Church’s thought is based on pantheism, as we are going to see next. (In this composition, Pantheism is understood as a world view which believes that God is in everything, including human beings, in His full essence. Actually, this is one of the main views among many pantheistic circles.)

“What is man”? (Ps 8:4) What is the essence of humanity? How can a person get close to God? These are the questions we need to ask, in order to understand the answer to the question, “Can human beings merge into God and be one with Him?” According to the eastern religions and philosophies, we can find an enlightenment from emptiness over meditation, which is understood as tapping into God. Dominican monk Johannes Tauler, one of the most influential mystics of the Middle Ages, believed that the human being can find himself as a spirit from the chaos of the Spirit or as a god from darkness (deepness and chaos), because he believed that the darkness and chaos are the essential reality or “God” (Illingworth, 1898). This says a lot about the pantheistic roots of Catholic thinking, which has direct links to Buddhism. Buddhism states that the consciousness is composed of the “Universal Mind” (the collective consciousness), which term Hegel (1807) also used, and there cannot be one’s self, because one’s personality consists only of thoughts following other thoughts (Mishra, 2005; Snelling, 1990). This is why eastern mysticism and the Emerging Church come to the conclusion that humanity and divinity can become one by their essence, because the essence of a being includes its personality and character. “Members” of the Emerging Church think that Universal mind, or “Cosmic Christ”, as de Chardin called it (Terego, 2013), is God.

Separately from the Emerging Churce’s view, the Bible says that there is nothing good in human beings (Jer 17:9; Isa 53:6; Rom 7:18). People are only vapor (Ps 62:9, ISV). Hebrew religion, which was the early type and base for Christianity, was substantially different from its surrounding beliefs and practices. God, as a real person, approached Abram; and Abram did not find God from some spiritualized and mystical Universal mind through his own meditation. The Bible says: “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” (Isa 45:19) There are many illustrations in the Bible of a God who sees (Gen 1:10), speaks (2:16), gets angry (Ps 2:5), rejoices (Isa 62:5) and grieves (Ps 78:40). Even though, the Creator is a real character, He does not live in human temples (1Kings 8:27). Moreover, God created human being in His image (Gen 1:27), which means also that souls have their own personality, consciousness and conscience. The biblical view is logical, because from thoughts come decisions; and the world view, built over decisions, partly, forms the character and the personality. This means that both God and man have individual personalities, and God’s essence is as far from humanity’s essence as the heaven is from the earth (Isa 55:8, 9). Only God is holy (Isa 6:3; Lu 5:8), immortal (1Ti 6:16) and the truth in a person (John 14:6). However, how can we find an understandable truth, when we are just mortal and limited human beings?

From the fact that God is the truth, we come to the second issue in our contrast, which is, “How can God be truth?” When comparing the Emerging Church’s view to the Biblical view, Emerging Church turns the biblical conviction upside down. It argues that faith and truth are the essence to be found in every religion, and finally there will be only one humanity in humanity itself (not in truth). According to this, there is no absolute truth outside of humanity, but only a common truth, which can be found via the collective consciousness, whether one is talking about religious pluralism or inclusivism.

After the Jesuits’ influence on postmodern societies, schools and congregations, the unity of the world is achieved through a movement called Post-liberalism and its education, which is virtually the same as the Emerging Church movement. Dr. James Fodor, a writer of contemporary theology study books, defines the three main aims of Post-liberalism as follows: “(1) Faithful yet creative retrieval of the Christian tradition; (2) ecumenically open renewal of the church; and (3) compassionate healing and repair of the world” (2005, p. 229).

Nevertheless, Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17); and, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) The Bible continues, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Act 4:12) In other words, the Emerging Church movement lowers the truth to human level, when we can pick and choose our own essences. This belief does not lift human beings to God’s reality and truth. The truth is compromised in order not to hurt other people’s feelings. The world is being united to the detriment of Jesus being spiritualized and the Christian gospel being replaced with the social gospel. But, according to the Bible, Jesus is the only salvation from sin and death, and Christians should unite in truth (John 4:24; 16:3; Eph 4:15).

Finally, after dealing with the essentials of reality and truth, the topic “Getting Closer to God” culminates into two main questions, “How can I get closer to God and be saved?” and “What is salvation?” The Catholic Church is clear about its position on this matter. Eucharist in the Catholic Church depends on the pantheistic belief that the priest can bring God into matter as bread and wine (an act called Transubstantiation) which has come also to many protestant churches. Catholics believe that a person does not only get closer to God by the Communion, but he or she is even saved by it, which means to be saved by a human mediator (the priest) and human works (when one comes to the Communion, where “Christ is Crucified”) (“Joint Declaration,” n.d., 4.4. 28-30). This is called merged justification and sanctification. Furthermore, I have heard with my own ears that some people in Celebration Christianity, which is sometimes called Protestantism, argues that through hypnotic and ecstatic praise one can get closer to God and even experience victory over sin. Here we can see another form of sanctification that has got influences from pantheism. A third example is the mystical nothingness, emptiness and silence, or oneness with the universe or deeper reality, which is already discussed. The common idea among mysticism, Catholicism and “ecstatic Protestantism” is sanctification (or salvation, justification, merging of justification and sanctification, enlightenment or “spiritual high”) by an experience or an act.

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the matter of Salvation. In Christianity, Jesus brought justification once and for all on the Cross at Calvary, which means that Jesus took the legal penalty of sin as the substitute for humanity’s sin (as an essence) and sins (as acts). After shedding His blood and tasting death, Jesus’ resurrection ensured the salvation from death. Human beings can bring nothing more to this general Atonement that became reality through Jesus. ”For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
The Emerging Church movement is winning many souls in its ranks by making God, in His full essence, to be experienced in the human level. Even though, we cannot understand the full essence of God, the Bible is clear that God is a real person, only Jesus and the Bible are the truth, and God wishes people to unite in truth. Jesus is the only mediator between God and souls (1Ti 2:4-5) and the only way into salvation and getting close to God. Human being’s own righteousness is like a dirty rag (Zec 3:3). Good works and obedience are consequences of receiving the justification implemented on the Cross.

Not only did Jesus justify humanity; He went up to Heaven to work for humanity. Jesus is the sole High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary (Heb 8:1, 2), who is praying for the righteousness of His followers and for the good of humanity. This means that after receiving justification from God, the Christian’s spiritual life continues and needs an ongoing relationship with Jesus (sanctification), which is a part of an individual’s salvation. The personal growth towards the likeness of Jesus begins. As it was mentioned, this does not mean that human beings can become like Jesus in essence, as if they would become gods. Sanctification is for God’s children to learn more about humility, and become more like Jesus in their will to love and obey God and His commandments.

Even though human beings have the freedom of choice and their own wills, and they should make their election sure (2 Pet 1:10), their sanctification, good works and everything happens in Jesus, without whom they can do nothing (John 15:5). When a Christian surrenders to the Lord, Jesus takes care of him or her and is the mediator even for His children’s joy and praise (Lev 9). Everything is perfect and acceptable to the Heavenly Father only through Christ’s righteousness (Rev 5).

Literature:

Christenssen T. & Göranson S. (1975). Kirkkohistoria 2. Tapiola: Oy Weilin+Göös Ab:n kirjapaino.

d’Aubigné M. (1861). History of the Reformation in the sixteenth century (Vol. 3). Retrieved 2016, from https://archive.org/stream/historyreform1603merluoft/historyreform1603merluoft_djvu.txt

de Chardin, P. T. (1995). Christianity and Evolution, SCP Journal, 19(2/3).

Ford, J. (2005). Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian theology since 1918 (3rd ed.). Malden, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Hegel, G. W. F. (1807). The phenomenology of mind.

Illingworth, J. (1898). Divine Immanence: An Essay on the Spiritual significance of Matter. University of California Libraries.

Joint declaration on the doctrine of justification by the Lutheran World Federation
and the Catholic Church. (n.d.). In The Holy See. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

Mishra, P. (2005). An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. Picador.

Snelling J. (1990). Buddhalaisuus. Finland: Tammi.

Terego, A. (2013). Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Cosmic Christ (A Handful of Catholics Book 1). Kindle Edition.

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