The impetus for this comes partly from my theology series and partly in relation to Dean Knisley’s post on an elevator pitch on the Gospel. (And please note that we’re shooting at two related but different objectives.)
Here it is:
Christianity is “about” participating in the very life of God through incorporation into the Body of Christ—mystically, sacramentally, and communally—which is evermore being transformed into the likeness and mind of Christ in thought, word, and deed.
(You can tell I’ve been reading Ephesians.)
A few notes here:
- “participation in the very life of God”: this is at the heart of it for me. We’re plugged into God’s being at his invitation.
- “incorporation”: I chose this word specifically because f the reinforcement of the concept in the Latin root.
- “Body of Christ—mystically”: Again, as in the first bullet this is supernatural “oogie-boogie” stuff here. That mustn’t be minimized or rationalized away.
- “Body of Christ—sacramentally”: We are joined to the Body through Baptism and our participation in it is deepened in and through the Eucharist. A sacramental church structure is necessarily required by this point.
- “Body of Christ—communally”: You can’t be a Christian by yourself. (Ephesians is leaking in here.) One of the fundamental images in the New Testament is Christ as the new Temple being built of living stones who are the individual believers. While individuals must be invested, this is not an individualistic endeavor.
- “which”: Building on the previous point, this relative pronoun does not modify an individual but modifies “Body of Christ” particularly in its communal manifestation. We as individuals are called to imitate Christ and to be transformed into the mind of Christ but not by ourselves or for our own sakes. This is where Ephesians 4 is so central for me: “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” We are only growing properly as individuals when our growth is benefiting the whole community.
- “being transformed into the likeness and mind of Christ”: This occurs through both natural and supernatural means. It means acquiring virtues through practice and habit as well as gifts of grace that are embraced and nurtured.
- “likeness and mind of Christ”: Normally I just use “mind of Christ” as shorthand for this, but that can be mistaken and misunderstood as being cerebrally focused. “Likeness” makes it clear that it is a full imitation that includes character and action, not just thought.
- “in thought, word, and deed”: Again, this emphasizes that the transformation of the whole community relates to our comprehensive ways of being in the world: what we think, what we say, what we do.