Aristotle posited his “Four Causes” as a way to surround and suffuse the existence of things with categorization and subsequently, fundamental understanding. For the church in the West, it would seem some of the direction has been lost in the shuffle. John wrote “Beloved, now are we the sons (and daughters) of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2) There’s a lot to this, and John is essentially speaking of our bodily form when we arrive at Heaven. But when he says that “it doth not yet appear what we shall be“, I’m hard-pressed to even see what we as a church are now. And so, I present to you the Four Causes. Aristotle’s means of scaffolding and substantiation as filtered through the “cause of Christ”. Maybe with these qualifiers in place, we can shed a new light on the mission statement of Jesus and what it means for us. As an aside, Thomas Aquinas was nearly as devoted to Aristotelian thought as he was to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Bereft of the latter though, the former doesn’t go to the top floor.
We’re here at this moment, and in this season, and on this earth at exactly the right time. God made sure of it. And whether the stars align, or the weather’s just right, or even whether or not you’ve had the worst day of your existence recently, take heart: “all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28)
Aristotle sought to sum up the ways and means of things with his Four Causes. The first being the “Material Cause”: Fundamentally, everything is made of something. Break it down into its constituent atoms and molecules and work your way up. There is a sort-of closure when you understand these things.
The artist Paul Gauguin said: WHERE DO WE COME FROM. WHAT ARE WE. WHERE ARE WE GOING. While he didn’t place a question mark at the end of each of his three sentences, the wondering remains—until we’ve met Jesus.
“Doth not even nature itself teach you… (1 Corinthians 11:14a)
I think that most of modern science’s efforts at unraveling the substance of the universe is merely an effort at understanding something that, by its very nature, cannot be understood without knowing God, through Jesus. After all the questions are answered and mere “material” has been pulled apart and analyzed, where do we go from there? The stars? Love is more than a chemical reaction in the brain. True love cannot originate out of anything but God’s heart. It flowed from there, to Jesus, and through Him to us.
“for one star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:41b)
Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth: “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” (1 Corinthians 15:38-39) I cite all of that to say this: “Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Romans 9:20) Existence is a gift. And whatever “material” we are made of, it’s physical. This might sound odd and disjoint, but we need a container for our spirit and our soul. It’s called “our body”, and as complex and wondrous as it is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the complexity of the mind, the will and the emotions. let alone the spirit. Unraveling those will take eternity. A lifetime of childlikeness. Jesus said as much: “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19) We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). And whether we assent to evolution or Creation or anything in between, I think we can agree on that statement, as-is. And whereas the Christian can look at their hand or up at the stars, or under the microscope, and let flow their exuberant awe to God, someone who isn’t inclined to believe in a Creator should feel the same emotion for the mere “material”. Cause or no.
“Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father glorify Thy name…” (John 12:27-28a, emphasis mine) The same could be said for us.
We are here to glorify God in this thing called our body. Man and woman alike.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present you bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)