In the most ancient of civilizations we find a very basic principle. We read in the African continent of the divinity of the Pharaohs and in the Americas, the worship of the Mayan rulers. Not far removed we find the imperial cult of the Romans in Europe and the emperor worship of the Japanese in Asia. From the elevation of Buddha, to the feats of Hercules, to the superiority of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, man has sought one goal – to become a god.
In some sense this could be seen as a unifying theme of the religious tradition of the entire world. The ultimate desire of the world religions could be simply seen as a process of attempting to make men into gods. Indeed, in the Bible, we find that the first sin was committed in order that man could be like God and that the first perversion of religion was found in the attempt to reach a tower to heaven. “If only we can reach heaven,” they imagined, “we can take our rightful place again.” Every civilization has taught different methods of becoming a god, but they all hold to the same basic thesis.
No doubt, the same essential thought prevails today. Nietzsche well captured the view of his burgeoning modernistic society by teaching that man could become god only by overcoming the inhibitions of society and religion. Post-modern philosophy takes this principle a step further. The post-modern worldview holds that all men are equal gods. We all deserve to be “supermen.” What each man speaks is absolute truth to him. The cardinal sin is to offend the esteem and worship due to the deity who lives across the picket fence. Man controls his own fate. Man makes or destroys his own universe. All men have become gods.
In the face of these paradigms, the Christian religion stands with pure exception. Only in Christianity do we find the opposite! Man cannot become a god. In fact, man cannot even become good. Man is hopeless because of his sin. In spite of all God’s actions, man only demonstrates his inability to even begin to make things right with God. Oh what a helpless state man is in! But here comes the greatest paradox in the religious traditions of the world. There is no man that becomes god to lead others to godhood, rather God all God, robed in glorious splendor, transcendent, majestic, and clothed in light, becomes man!
And why would such a God reveal Himself in such a manner? Was it to bring judgment on the rebellious men whom He had created? Was it to mock and to scorn those who could not attain divinity? No, God became man so that He Himself might bear man’s judgment, mockery, and scorn so that He might reconcile man to God.
Only in the Gospel do we find such a radical philosophy, namely that man cannot become a god, but that God became a man to bring all men to God!