“On Earth Peace”1
The Judaic scholar Martin Buber, in his now-famous aphorism, declared, “In the beginning, is relationship.”2 Relationship is the foundation and nature of reality.
Human beings have long pondered the nature of reality. In his reflections on physical reality, the Greek philosopher Democritus (460?-370? BCE) suggested that cosmic space is an empty void and that discrete particles, called atoms, of differing sizes, shapes and arrangements, have formed all known objects. Such a mechanical view of the universe has persistently recurred until our time.
However, with the development of quantum physics, we now realize that space is not an empty void; it is a quantum field. Although this field is invisible, unpicturable and unobservable, it exists. It is the ground of all physical reality. From this field the constituent particles and waves that comprise the physical universe emerge. And into this field these same particles and waves return and disappear.
Thus, the physical universe does not consist of autonomous, self-contained entities that exist apart from relationship. Rather, all parts of the observable universe are in intimate relationship with the invisible quantum ground or field that pervades all space. And all parts of the observable universe are manifestly related to every other observable part through such modalities as space, time, gravity and radiation. The universe thus exists because of relationship.
The Quantum Field and Observable Reality
This relationship between the quantum field and the observable universe provides a parable, analogy or metaphor for the relationship within divinity. “God the Father” constitutes the invisible, unapproachable Ground or Field of all Being. The “Word” constitutes the creative, metaphoric, observable expression of all Being. Thus, Divine Being itself only exists in relationship.3 In a profound sense the universe is made in God’s own image.
Furthermore, the One God — who is both the invisible, unpicturable Ground or Field and the creative Word or Metaphor — became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14). John Polkinghorne calls this incarnational event the “greatest sacrament.”4 Philip Gilbertson, writing in The Cresset, declares that “God’s Incarnation is an underlying metaphor for this fusion of all realms of reality”5 — the reality of the:
- Divine Ground or Field
Divine Word or Metaphor
- Universal quantum field
Observable physical universe
- Postulated biological and conscious fields (?)6
Observable biological and conscious universe
The Incarnate Word repeatedly declared himself to be the “Son of Man.” He lived as the Son of Man (Matthew 8:20). He died as the Son of Man (Matthew 26:45; John 8:28). He rose transcendent as the Son of Man (Luke 24:7). He is visibly returning as the Son of Man (Matthew 26:64). Nancy Roth has shown that the term “Son of Man” has profound implications. The word “Man” is derived from the Hebrew adamah, which means “earthly.”7 Thus, the Word declared himself to be the “Offspring of the Earth.” He declared that the Earth is his reality, identity, inheritance and destiny.
In earlier reflections on the resurrection, we assumed that the risen, transcendent Christ is present as the Spirit — and so he is (Matthew 28:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:17). However, our further assumptions regarding his full and complete presence inevitably led us away from the earnest expectations of future transcendence. A future Parousia8 (Second Coming) presence became virtually redundant. But these further assumptions were extrapolations of earlier simplistic, mechanical views of reality embraced in the modern worldview — a worldview that now is collapsing as a postmodern worldview emerges.
The evidence now strongly indicates that by his resurrection Jesus is proleptically (anticipatorially) present to humanity as Spirit. Spirit is not the articulative, revelatory, metaphoric Son of Man. Rather, Spirit may be regarded as the Ground or Field for conscious human existence. Just as the divine Word is grounded in the divine Paternal Field, so humanity is grounded in the “Spirit.”9
However, neither Jesus’ humanity nor our humanity has yet been fully disclosed. This disclosure awaits the Parousia. “Then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Just as Jesus has a tripartite relational nature:
- Divine Ground
- Metaphoric and Creative Word
So humanity also will have a tripartite relational nature:
- “Spirit” ground
- Metaphoric and creative consciousness
In the Parousia the Son of Man will come to complete his relational reality, to claim his inheritance, to establish his final identity with the Earth and with humanity. At the Parousia humanity will find its complete relational reality, full inheritance and final identity in the human God, who has found his identity in the Earth and in all other human beings.
Two thousand years ago angels, appearing over the desert skies of the Middle East, sang, “ . . . [O]n earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). That peace is the peace of realized relationship, a state of relational completion and rest. That peace has not yet come either to the Middle Eastern desert or to the Earth. Indeed, as William Butler Yeats foresaw, the skies of the Middle East are filled with warlike falcons in a “widening gyre,” and in the Middle Eastern desert a “rough beast” with “a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun” is “slouching [eastward] to be born.”10
Nevertheless, the growing awareness of man’s stewardship of the Earth and kinship with all other human beings is a harbinger of impending Parousia.11 Human beings are not compelled to war. We can elect peace — “on earth peace, good will toward men.” The peace of Parousia, the peace of a fulfilled and transcendent relationship, can take place in our time.
The Son of Man is expectantly inviting us to choose that future. He is asking us to actively acknowledge our irrevocable relationship to the Earth and all other human beings. To paraphrase Martin Buber, “In the end, is relationship.”
- Luke 2:14, KJV. (go back)
- Martin Buber, I and Thou (1923) (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958). (go back)
- Understanding the relationship between the nature and agency of the “Holy Spirit” and the “spirit of man” requires further reflection and development, as do all other aspects of this presentation. “Now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Addendum Note: See “The End of Human Alienation,” subhead “The True Resolution of Human Alienation”: “The ‘Intermediatorial’ Presence of the Transcendent,” Outlook (Prolepsis 1994.7), originally published August 1994 under the Quest imprint and pending online publication as an Outlook Prolepsis; cf. Norman Jarnes, “Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice — A Way Forward,” subhead “Man in the ‘Image of God,’” Outlook (Addendum 2021.2): “ . . . God himself is the creative bridge that is essential for ‘human’ I–Thou relationality. In view of its bridging relationality, the ‘Spirit’ (relationality) of this Unseen Presence has been called God’s ‘intermediatorial’ presence (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-47; 2 Corinthians 3:17; cf. Matthew 18:20). That is, God reaches us through our neighbors. We reach him through each other. We reach each other and our own objective selves through him. Thus, ‘that which is born of the Spirit [bridging Spirit of “intermediatorial” relationality] is spirit [human I–Thou relationality]’ (John 14:16-18). This constitutes man in ‘the image of God.’”(go back)
- John Polkinghorne, One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), p. 98. (go back)
- Philip N. Gilbertson, “Shipwreck, Household, and the End of Nature,” The Cresset 53, no. 9 (October 1990): 6. (go back)
- See note 3. (go back)
- See Nancy Roth, A New Christian Yoga (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1989), pp. 11, 12. (go back)
- The Greek word parousia, translated, means both “presence” and “coming.” See Wikipedia — The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Parousia,” at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parousia: “Parousia . . . is an ancient Greek word meaning presence, arrival, or official visit.” (go back)
- See note 3. (go back)
- William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, cited by Laurent A. P. Daloz, “Slouching toward Bethlehem,” Continuing Higher Education (Winter 1990), p. 3. (go back)
- See note 8. (go back)
This article was originally published December 1990 under the Quest imprint.