The attacks come from two different directions – and the object is the destruction of man.
This, for me is a short summary of a consistent prophetic word I have heard from Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas for the past 15 years. The Archbishop is set to retire on March 31 of this year. With his retirement, one of the strongest voices for the dignity of man will be heard less often.
For the Archbishop, the only guarantee for the dignity of man is the doctrine of the incarnation – the fact that God became man in the God/man, Christ Jesus. Man is created in the image of God and nothing affirms nor defines this to the same fullness as the incarnation of Christ.
The first attack comes from a culture which seems married to the proposition that human beings are infinitely malleable. We are glorified animals with the nifty ability, through modern technology, to increasingly shape and mold our existence. Genetics holds promise against certain diseases, but it also holds promise for man the consumer, America’s highest definition of the human. We are drawn like a moth to a flame at the thought of designing our children. Perhaps not so concerned with their eyes but certainly concerned to have a “good product.” Some of the fads that promise to make our young ones into Einsteins point to this parental craving. The worth of a child can become dangerously confused with his or her ability to perform.
The second attack comes from within the modern denominations. There, the erosion of the doctrine of the incarnation also erodes the fundamental basis of our Christian doctrine of human worth. If Christ is not the God/man, but merely a good man, then we are merely men and not even so good. Many denominations have lost a sense of any particular value within genders and many have joined the onslaught on the unborn (as well as supporting euthanasia). It can be dangerous to belong to certain denominations.
In it all lurks the modern heresy that man can be remade, if not in the image of God, then at least in the image of a better man. But, of course, if we have to vote on what makes a better man we are truly lost. Hitler had a clear idea of what made a better man, and millions had to die for that idea. Lesser men don’t matter much. And make no mistake, though there was a Christian resistance to Hitler, he had plenty of Christian support. Liberal theology has no true foothold in dogma and cannot resist the fashion of this world.
His Eminence, when he speaks directly about the Orthodox Church, usually does so in the context of this ideological erosion. He has frequently stated that only within the Orthodox Church are the dogmas secure and the place of man properly identified. Only here is the Divinely Given dogma of the God/man safe. Only here is the gospel proclaimed in its fullness, among the last voices that speaks for the dignity of man.
It is ironic that in a world where “humanism” enjoys a positive meaning, that the last true humanists are Orthodox Christians. It’s because our Lord and Maker was the first humanist. “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.”