At the Gate: True Humanity

Sitting at the gate, I see the recovery of true humanity– a view of who we are that has been too-much lost. Last month, I wrote about three Bibles I read most days: nature, the Perennial Tradition, and the Hebrew/Christian scriptures. All three reveal true humanity.

This recovery is necessary and urgent. We are in the grip of a false humanity, one that arises from egotism/ethnocentrism, not the imago dei. Thomas Merton saw this decades ago, writing that a Promethean humanity (e.g. self-aggrandizement and self-assertion) has eclipsed true humanity bringing us to a state of war within and among ourselves. He called for the recovery of authentic spiritual identity. [1] He summed up this authenticity in the words “life in Christ.” [2]

False humanity has given rise to separateness and sectarianism, with its inevitable supremacies that do great harm. Daily we see the direct and collateral damage inflicted on the world, often “in Jesus’ name” or at least with the alleged blessing of God. But that is not the focus of this post. Suffice it to say that false humanity is diminishing, demeaning, and destroying life as God intends for it to be. Paul Chilcote powerfully exposes four ideologies that are fostering false humanity in our day: fundamentalism, nationalism, dispensationalism, and antinomianism. [3] It is an exposure by which he aims to foster true humanity that lives an active faith.

Paul’s writing falls within a larger genre seeking a contemporary recovery of true humanity, a recovery itself within an even larger context we call a New Awakening. [4] Living into true humanity, we are moving on the trajectory called the new creation (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:9-10). The movement is interdisciplinary, conjoining religion and science in transforming ways. Learnings from the last fifty years (and still continuing) are generating new understandings of the cosmos and our place as human beings in it.

Theologically, the recovery of true humanity is occurring through Christology, specifically the universal Christ, whom Paul said “is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Scientifically, the recovery is occurring through small (genetics, quantum physics) and large (astro physics, cosmology) aspects of our existence.

There are far too many discoveries to describe here. In fact, this post is an invitation for you to explore them for yourself. The following intentionally short list is a starting point in both religion and science…

E. Stanley Jones, ‘The Christ of Every Road’
Richard Rohr, ‘The Universal Christ’

Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, ‘The New Universe and the Human Future’ (see the website:
Brian Swimme, ‘Cosmogenesis

Religion/Science Combination
Thomas Berry, ‘The Sacred Universe’
John Philip Newell, ‘Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul’

We are living in an axial-age people, following what some call the Wisdom Pattern: order, disorder, reorder. [5] We are in the disorder phase, a phase of intention to recover true humanity that is met with pushback by those who benefit from false humanity. We journey with hope. [6] The light of true humanity is already shining, and the darkness cannot extinguish it.

[1] Thomas Merton, ‘The New Man’ (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1961).
[2] Merton’s words moved me to write ‘Life in Christ’ (Abingdon Press, 2020), using Paul’s letter to the Galatians as the biblical lens for seeing this life.
[3] Paul W. Chilcote, ‘Active Faith’ (Abingdon Press, 2019).
[4] I have written on the New Awakening here on Oboedire. You can access the series on the right-hand sidebar of the Oboedire home page.
[5] Richard Rohr, ‘The Wisdom Pattern’ (Franciscan Media, 2020). Walter Brueggemann writes similarly about this pattern in relation to the Psalms and prophets: orientation, disorientation, re-orientation in his books, ‘Spirituality of the Psalms’ and ‘Journey to the Common Good.’
[6] Paul W. Chilcote and Steve Harper, ‘Living Hope’ (Cascade Books, 2020).

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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