After considering the distinction between religion and theology and their affinity, it now remains to examine in detail the object of religion, for from it spring all the religious laws and standards by which the religious consciousness in man is satisfied. We may think of religion, its truths, its laws, and its standards, as the area of a circle which has as its center the object of religion. Then let us divide this circle into its natural parts – the subdivisions of religion:
- The section concerned with catechetical instruction;
- The section concerned with the ordering of worship.
These may be divided again into more specific sections, such as:
- Liturgics, the study of worship and ritual.
The doctrinal section also is called religious theology and the moral section also is called religious morality. Religious theology, religious morality, and the study of worship – together with catechetical instruction – make up the circumference of religion as a whole, and this depends upon its center, which is the object of religion. When religion is understood in this way and its center is recognized, then it also must be recognized that man, religious by nature, is placed in one of the segments of the circular area and longs to procure his salvation by means of the religious truths and laws as they are contained in the catechetical and liturgical sections of religion, both in knowledge and in practice. He also looks to the object of religion upon which all religious truths depend, and from which alI religious laws proceed. An inquiry now must be made into the nature or the object of religion.
In order to discover by logical thinking what comprises the object of religion, we must consider the nature of religious consciousness and the purpose of religion, because it is from them that we shall learn the nature of the object of religion. Religious consciousness has been defined as a longing for reconciliation and friendship with God, or as a longing for salvation, or as a longing for the sanctification which our nature needs. The purpose of religion is the satisfaction of man’s religious consciousness – the attainment of reconciliation and friendship with God, and the procurement of salvation and sanctification. Between the nature of religious consciousness and the purpose of religion arises the demand for the existence – and this is a sine qua non – of an object which concentrates in itself the following purely religious qualities:
- The ability to reconcile sinful man with sinless God, and to restore friendship between them;
- The ability to save man from danger;
- The ability to sanctify man in his need of purification and sanctification.
The ability to reconcile two wills which are in a state of enmity and make them friends, is a mediatory quality, and he who possesses it is a mediator. The ability to save from danger a person in peril is a saving quality, and he who has it is a saviour. The ability to wipe away offences and to sanctify man’s nature, previously defiled by sin, is a sanctifying quality, and he who has it is holy.
Therefore, the object of religion is a mediator, a saviour, and one who is holy – a mediator inasmuch as he reconciles sinful man with God; a saviour inasmuch as he saves man from eternal condemnation and death; holy insofar as he shares holiness and immortality with man who has been condemned to death for sin. It is the special task of the mediator to have exact knowledge of the will of those at enmity in order for the mediation to be successful. In the religious reconciliation of sinful man with sinless God, the parties involved are God and man, both independent and acting of their own free will.
While man appears as a sinner and by his very nature is in need of salvation and immortality, God appears sinless and merciful out of love and goodness, and is willing to show mercy to man who has erred, but now is asking for grace and His divine mercy. These two wills, of God and of man, seek reconciliation and friendship. The one is the will of a lawgiver and a judge, and the other is the will of man to whom the law has been given, and who is being judged by the law of righteousness, possessing a will guilty of transgressing the moral law of God.
Here we have God of His goodness willing to show mercy to man, although man is deep in sin, and on the other side, man earnestly desiring the mercy and grace of God. These two wills inevitably need a mediator, and this is all the more necessary because God cannot be seen by man because of His inaccessible essence, nor can man appear in the presence of God because he is conscious of his guilt and the justice of the condemnation which he has incurred for his guilt in transgressing the moral law.
Let us ask which of these two the mediator could have been – God or man? The mediator could have been neither God nor mere man. On the one hand, as God, by His nature He could not be seen by men, since the divine nature is inaccessible to us; on the other hand, as man, through the weakness and sinfulness of man’s nature, he could not be a mediator between God and man, for as a sinner he would have had need of a mediator and of mediation because of his own sins against God. Consequently neither God nor mere man could have been the mediator.
What other possibilities are there? Perhaps an angel could have acted as mediator, but such would have been completely impossible. Man is the most perfect of beings, and has the most perfect objective in the scale of beings. The angels are lower than man, and have a lower destiny than man in creation. Therefore, how could God have saved the highest creature through an inferior creature? Man, because he is the most perfect being created by God and has the most perfect objective in the scale of beings, is worthy both of the most perfect care by God and of the most perfect love of God. God’s perfect care and the love which He bears for His most perfect work, man, excludes the notion that God could have saved man by any method other than that which He ultimately chose.
Whoever acknowledges that man is the most perfect of God’s works, inevitably admits also that both his salvation and his perfecting came to pass by a perfect means, through a perfect mediator. For if man as a perfect work of God was created by a perfect means, how will he, after sinning and being led astray and suffering ruin, be fashioned anew except by a perfect means?
If we discuss this question with anyone who denies the revelation of the Logos in the world, we shall silence him by the following questions. Simply inquire of the man who does not believe in Christ or His divinity: “Tell me – is man of a lower or higher order among the beings in creation?” If he answers, “In a lower order,” ask, “What is there above him?” Nothing. On the other hand, if he says that the highest being in the scale of beings is man, ask him – “Is he not also the product of God’s most perfect activity?” Yes, the product of God’s perfect activity. Is he not also the product of His perfect care and might? ls he not a product of His perfect love? Yes, he is such a product. Hence, was he not created by God by a perfect means? And is not this means the Logos of God?
Then, when it is admitted that man has become a transgressor of the moral law – and the reproach of the conscience bears witness to this – and since man is unhappy by reason of his sin and its consequences, how could God, who is good, have left the very best of His works of creation, in misery and death? How could God in His goodness have been incapable of saving His creature, when that creature was seeking salvation and longing for it through the religious consciousness implanted in him? In His willingness to save man, how could God have granted eternal salvation except by a perfect means-one which would correspond to man’s destiny, to God’s love for man, and to the worth of God’s most perfect work?
Therefore, as in creation God created man by means of perfect wisdom, perfect power, and perfect action, so also in creating him anew it was fitting for Him to have re-created him and guided him toward his destiny by a perfect means. This means could not have been anything else but the same method that He used for the creation of man. This method consists of a perfect mediator who possesses knowledge of the nature of God and of the nature and destiny of man, and who understands the laws and means by which man is reconciled with God, saved from eternal death, sanctified, and perfected.
Only Jesus Christ is a mediator such as this. The message to the unbeliever is that Christ is to be identified with the perfect means of the creation of man, the eternal hypostatic Logos of God, who was in the beginning with God, who is God, and who Himself is the eternal Logos of God incarnate. Thus Christ is God by nature, in that He is the eternal Logos of God, and He is also man, in that He is Son of man, born in time. Thus if the unbeliever is a man who listens to reason, he will believe in the divinity of Christ, by recognizing and accepting with good reason the impossibility of man’s salvation by any other means. This is because as far as God is concerned, no method is more perfect than the perfect one-which is the revelation and incarnation of the Logos of God.
The unbeliever does not deny either:
- That man is the most perfect being in the scale of beings, and that he longs for the infinite, which is God Himself; or,
- That man is a transgressor of the moral law, forlorn, with a miserable existence in this present life.
These two truths underlie the revelation of the Logos of God and the impossibility of man’s salvation and re-creation by any other means, because no method more perfect than this exists.
Man’s reconciliation and salvation could not have been achieved either by an angel or by any other inferior being. It could be done only through the dispensation and incarnation of God the Logos. The Logos of God incarnate was set between God and sinful man as mediator, saviour, and one who could share and supply holiness. Thus we have the Logos-mediator, the Logos-saviour, and the Logos-giver of sanctity and forgiveness of sins.
But as He became incarnate and took to himself the body and soul of man, the Logos had to take human nature from man as well. The Logos had to be sheltered in the womb of a pure, holy woman – one who was a worthy dwelling for the most pure Logos. He had to be established as essence and ground and foundation, and had to take human nature from her also. The Logos had to be born of woman alone, since He is divine essence and comes down from the bosom of God the Father. Then the almighty Spirit of God had to bring the human nature of the Logos to perfection out of the undefiled body of the Aeiparthenos and Theotokos Maria.*
Moreover, it was incumbent upon the Logos to be born as man in order that through His human will He might resist sin and moral evil, and by overcoming the world and the Devil, the ruler of this world, might destroy the dominion of death and sin, and set free those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage (Hebrews 2:15). It was correct that innocence should gain control in the world through a human will which overcame moral evil, just as sin acquired its dominion through a human will, when Adam long ago was defeated in his struggle with moral evil.
Here, then, is the perfect means for our salvation, and the means of our perfection and theosis – the incarnate Logos. Here is the mediator who intervenes between God and sinful man. He is perfect God and perfect man – He is the Theanthropos, God-man, in one essence, but in two natures, united without confusion or mingling.
His revelation in the world and His taking of flesh from the Ever-virgin, match man’s destiny and nature; it is an action by God the Logos which corresponds to man’s nature and destiny. The nature and destiny of man require the incarnation of the Logos, for it is a necessary prerequisite for man’s salvation, recreation, and eventual theosis. If we compare man’s nature and destiny with this act of God the Logos – the revelation of the Logos in the world – we discover that it is equal and comparable in every respect, in character and in agreement, with both the nature and the destiny of man.
The true object of true religion, therefore, is Jesus Christ alone.
*Ever-virgin and God-bearer Mary.