For many people, the teaching from Meister Eckhart, which we treated in our meditations on advent–that humans are meant to birth the divine son within us–sounds shockingly new.
Yet New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton emphasizes how this was the teaching of Paul, the first author in the Christian Bible. Says Chilton: “Paul puts the deep content of this experience so economically that its pivotal reference has been missed by some commentators: God determined ‘to uncover his Son in’ Paul….God’s Son, who is ‘in’ (en) Paul, within his consciousness in an experience uniquely his. Paul calls what was disclosed within him God’s ‘Son.’”
Thus Eckhart’s calling for our birthing the son of God in us was not so unique after all—it sounds so because Christianity detoured to run an empire and in the process squelched some of its deepest teachings.
Eckhart develops this consciousness of ourselves as sons and daughters of God in an extended way, using John’s writings as much or more than Paul’s. He concludes that Christmas is as much a remembrance of our birthing God’s son as Mary’s doing so.
Chilton comments: “Readers today think exclusively of Jesus when they hear the words the ‘Son of God.’ But the phrase had a life of its own before it was applied to Jesus…referring to angels (Genesis 6:2), the whole people called Israel (Hosea 11:1), and to the king in David’s line (Psalm 2:7). Direct revelation extends God’s favor to people and angels; each is ‘the Son,’ ‘the beloved,’ as Jesus became in his vision at his baptism (Mark 1:11).”
It also had a life of its own at the time that Jesus lived and when the gospels were being written because “the world of Jesus made no distinction between politics and religion. The Romans not only obeyed the emperor, they worshipped him as God’s son, Divi filius.”
To democratize the notion of “Son of God” was an affront to the Empire. Surely Paul and the Gospel writers knew this. That phrase plus the phrase “Kingdom of God” that Jesus used so often were both red flags to the ruling Empire of Jesus’ day.
For Paul it is in baptism that “God sends the Spirit of his Son into every believer, who cries to God, ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6). The believer becomes a Son, just as Jesus called upon his father; as Paul says in the same sentence, God sends his Spirit ‘because you are Sons.’ Baptism marks the moment for Paul and for us that one discovers oneself “as a Son of God, because Jesus as God’s Son was disclosed in one’s heart,” observes Chilton.
What does it mean to Paul, to become a “son of God”? Chilton sees it this way: “When Paul felt the divine Son uncovered within himself, he encountered the divine presence he had sought for in the Temple, but now it was available inside him.” It means the presence of God among and within us.*
*Bruce Chilton, The Way of Jesus: To Repair and Renew the World, pp. 138f.
See Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 3. And Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 325-338.
What does birthing the Son/Daughter of God mean to you? To your work? To culture/