FRIDAYS WITH GODFATHER – When ultimates become absolutes – Bradley Jersak

David Goa

When ultimates become absolutes

FRIDAYS WITH GODFATHER are journal entries I make as I spend time absorbing the wisdom of my godfather, David Goa. The ideas are his, distilled and poorly interpreted by me.

When ultimates become absolutes, they become presumptions and idolatries. But ultimates cannot be fixed and they are not some thing.

For example, when we read John 14:6, it is important to understand Jesus’ claims as ultimate rather than absolute. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And for the Christian, this is ultimate in that we see Jesus Christ as the revelation of God as love and of what it means for humanity to live as those whom God loves. And we hold his Way, this Truth, that Life as ultimate for us.

Holding these truths as ultimate becomes our vocation as a royal priesthood “for the life of the world.” Through Christ and his followers, the Abrahamic blessing is to be extended to all the families of the world. Where we see Christ as ultimate, we live with an expansive vision through self-giving love.

But if we reduce the ultimate to an absolute, John 14:6 shrinks to an us-them, in-out presumption, a boundary marker for exclusion in which the Church holds a monopoly on Jesus Christ and their territory marks the horizon of the Kingdom of God. In this model, Christ is diminished to an idol held in captivity by those who make him their absolute. And our expansive proclamation of “peace on earth, good tidings to all people” is perverted into a dehumanizing colonialist project.

The difference, then, between ultimates and absolutes is hardly subtle. The two orientations stand opposed as competing ways of seeing Christ, seeing humanity, and seeing the world. They virtually represent two kingdoms (one a commonweal, the other a hegemony).

One could even say that what is opposite of the ultimate, is not what is temporal, but what is absolute—it is anti-Christ and inhuman because instead of being open and life-giving it becomes death-dealing and closed.

Picture of Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Bradley Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More