Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adam, the Son of God

A summary of the sermon I gave at St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Houston, on 12/18/2011. Listen to the sermon here.  

Luke traces the ancestry of Jesus back to the first human being on earth, Adam, and finally he says that Adam was the son of God. I believe that nowhere else in the Bible is Adam called so. In the Genesis story it says that human beings were created in the likeness of God. This might mean the same thing, for it is a child who receives a parent’s likeness.  If Adam is a child of God, obviously all people on earth must be God’s children. Obviously every human being is born with God’s likeness, as God’s child.
If all people are God’s children, the world must be a family, and all people must be brothers and sisters to each other. Luke believed this. Jesus also believed this. That is why he taught us to address God as “Our father”.
However, we don’t see people on earth living together as a family. We don’t see people treating each other as brothers and sisters. Many of us Christians like to think that all Christians are God’s children but all the non-Christians are not.  A lot of Muslims think that they are God’s children and non-Muslims are not. A lot of Hindus think so. Some people from every religion and religious group think in the same way.
There has been a different view in Christianity. By fourth century, Christianity spread all over the Roman Empire, which consisted of most of Europe, the northern Africa and the western-most part of Asia. Latin was more common in the western part of the empire, and Greek was more common in the eastern part. The Latin Christianity eventually evolved to become the Roman Catholic Church and protestant churches. The Greek Christianity eventually became the Orthodox churches. Augustine and Jerome were the primary fathers in the Latin west, but the Cappadocian fathers were the primary ones in the east.
According to the Latin fathers, human beings were originally God’s children, but they lost this position when they chose to disobey God. They probably based their theory on the story of Adam and Eve, according to which they were cast out of the Garden of Eden when they disobeyed God. The Greek fathers had a more sophisticated view. They agreed with the Latin fathers that human beings lost their position as children when they disobeyed. But from whose view? God’s view or man’s view? The Greek fathers argued that the change was not from God’s view but from man’s view. They based their theory on a beautiful story told by Jesus—of the prodigal son. When the younger son left his father, and lived eating the food of the pigs, he had lost his sonship.  Even then he was a son to his father. Later when he realized that he had been viewed as a son by his father even when he had rejected his father, he returns to his father.
If Adam is like the son who leaves his father, Luke presents Jesus as the son who returns to the father. If the first Adam is disobedient, the new Adam is fully obedient.
Friends, this is what we have learned from our fathers. God loves all people impartially. All human beings on earth are viewed as children by God. However, all people on earth do not realize this.  Those who realize this return to God claiming their sonship, but those who don’t realize this stay away from God, leading a miserable life.


Rudy Carrera said...

Well-stated, John. From Christopher Hitchens to the Christian hypocrite, we all receive God's love, but a lot of us either don't realize it, don't feel ourselves worthy of it, or simply don't care enough to be bothered with it.

John Kunnathu said...

Thank you very much for taking time to read and to leave a comment.

Anonymous said...

John, good reading, no doubt. But, your statement that many Hindus think that they alone are God's children is "dharmically" incorrect. It is only the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths claim exclusivity for being the "chosen" people and thus they alone are "God's children". The Eastern Dharmic traditions are non-exclusivist, as you very well know. All panentheistic spiritual traditions treat all sentient and non-sentient as the "leela" of Brahman, the energy (chi) of Tao etc. Thus in the eastern spiritual traditions, all are "beings" emanated from the immanent God, Chi, Brahman, Nothingness! Unfortunately, in Christianity in particular the exclusivity phenomenon arose more sternly after Constantine and in Islam, it came after Mohammad.
C. Alex Alexander

John Kunnathu said...

Dear Dr. Alexander,
Thank you for reading and commenting. Mar Gregorios asserted in his Chicago address that one can be inclusivistic or exclusivistic. We find this in all religions. The exclusivistic ones are also called fundamentalists. When someone believes that he/she is in custody of ultimate truth,he/she is exclusivistic or fundamentalistic. In his dialog with EMS, Mar Gregorios claimed that there are even Marxist fundamentalists.
I agree with you that Hinduism is much more open than the abrahamic religions. However, we cannot claim that all hindus are inclusivistic without any fundamentalistic trace in them. Although most of Hindus are inslusivistic, there are a lot of them who claim that they are in custody of ultimate truth. I think this is true of all religions and religious groups.

Anonymous said...

Dear John,
Not to be argumentative, but rather to generate more introspection and further dialog, I venture to state (from my modest knowledge of the Dharmic traditions)that followers of non-Abrahamic faiths more often define truth through "negation" and not "assertion" or "certainty".

I have not come across any follower of the Dharmic tradition (including the Dalai Lama) who asserts orally or in writing, that he or she is the custodian of "ultimate truth".

And, none of the eastern Dharmic traditions are "history-centric" as Rajiv Malhotra has eloquently detailed in his recent book, BEING DIFFERENT, whereas the Abrahamics are very history-centric and thus are dependent on "exclusivity" since the origin of humankind starts in the Garden of Eden.

From my own observations, I can say that I have seldom seen a Muslim, Jew or Christian ever set foot into a Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Taoist etc temple in order to reverently participate in a worship ceremony of any kind.

However, I am sure that you like I have seen many Hindus throng to Churches and Dargas in India known for their "miracles of healing" and reverently participate in the rituals taking place in such places of worship. And, they still remain as Hindus with no guilt associated with such behaviors.

While there are inclusivists in all monotheistic faiths, they are the exceptions. But, in the Dharmic traditions, it is neither sacrilegious nor unacceptable to hold an inclusivist view or even an atheistic view. None of that will result in condemnation by their co-religionists.

On the other hand, in the Abrahamic traditions, inclusivism becomes a heresy, theologically speaking.

By creed, all those who are even nominally practitioners of the Dharmic faiths, cannot claim exclusivism. Hindu fundamentalism in particular, is not in my view, based on any assertion of being in custody of "ultimate truth" but rather on its objection to the assertion of those of Abrahamic faiths of the latter's expositions of "exclusivism".

I would like to hear from you and or others on this interesting topic.

C. Alex Alexander

John Kunnathu said...

Dear Dr. Alexander,
Please check out these links.

Anonymous said...

Dear John:

The issue that I raised was that none of the Dharmic faiths including Hinduism claims exclusivity of the "ultimate truth" whereas tha Abrahamic faiths do.

With that in mind, I took the time and trouble to track down your citations and read the items in detail. None of them, not one, claimed that Hindu fundamentalists claim exclusivity in any way to "ultimate truth". All of them are reports on the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India, UK and elsewhere.

Given below are my brief comments on each one of your citations.

This site is not written or owned by Hindus. It is a polemic essay to degrade Hinduism. Even, in this essay, there is no assertion that only Hinduism possesses the ultimate truth!

This site too is not maintained or authored by any Hindu organization. This is yet another screed to dwell on the Hindu fundamentalists. But, nowhere in this article is there a mention of Hindus being the custodians of the ultimate truth!

This is a report by Dhariwal about Hindu fundamentalists in UK donating funds to support Hindu fundamentalists in India. No assertion anywhere that Hinduism has the exclusive ownership of the ultimate truth.

This is a 2002 report in UK’s Guardian newspaper about the Gujarat Hindu Muslim riots and violence. It has no assertion anywhere that Hindu fundamentalists were in any way advancing ownership of the “ultimate truth”.

John, I am truly surprised that you will cite such polemical reports on Hindu fundamentalists, to argue against my assertion that the Dharmic faiths, including Hinduism and its adherents do not theologically hold on to the proposition that they have the corner on the "ultimate truth".

I am sorry to say that your citations do not advance your contention that at least some Hindu fundamentalists proclaim that they alone have the insight into the "ultimate truth". How can they?

Sanatana Dharma of Hindus contends that the Absolute Truth (Brahman) is sought through perpetual "negation", neti, neti, neti.

I very much hope that you will not only publish my comments but also explain the relevance of your citations within the context of exclusivism of the Abrahamics vs. the non-exclusivism of the Dharmics.

None of your citations said a word about that.

Thank you for your time in looking up and providing the web citations. Peace! Shanti!!

C. Alex Alexander

John Kunnathu said...

Dear Dr. Alexander,
I agree with everything you say. My point is that no knowledgeable people in Hinduism or of any religion can be a fundamentalist. The great people in Hinduism like Vivekandanda, Dr. Radhakrishnan, Sri Narayana Guru, Ramana Maharshi and people who understand and follow the vision of such great men cannot be fudnamentalits. But there are those who are not knowledgeable of their vision within Hinduism. Although they are born and brought up in Hinduism, they are not real Hindus, and they are the ones who bring shame to Hinduism.
This can be said of all religions.