Status Viator

“Life is a journey” has become a common phrase in the West.  In the present culture it seems it is the trip taken, not the destination that matters.  Many, including Christians, blithely ask each other about their spiritual “journey” without considering the source of the term or its general implications in society.  According to some Eastern religious views, life is not about ends but about process.  The idea is not so much that one is on the way to somewhere but simply out and about.  Story, character, and relationship are artificially separated from conclusion, destination, and truth.

Hindu beliefs, for instance, claim the soul is on a cosmic journey to purify itself as it is reincarnated over and over in other bodies.[1] One can purchase a “Life is a Journey” clock which “reminds us that every path in life is apart of the journey, the destination isn’t the goal, it’s making the trip . . . “[2]

Anime[3] creators were having a discussion this month comparing the concepts of journey versus destination.  One cartoonist is “convinced that storytelling’s a matter of preparation and resolution; ‘getting there’ might be diverting, but there ought to be a ‘there’ to get to and I’m not happy if I’m asked to supply the ‘there’ myself.”[4]

Scripture sets the standard for destination.  There are paths of uprightness[5], justice[6], and life[7].  Individuals are also given paths: Jeroboam, Ahab, Balaam, David, and Paul[8].  Clear teachings in both testaments establish an eternal end for believers and nonbelievers from Job[9] to David[10] to Malachi.[11]

History, intentionality, identity, and consummation must form the framework for our path toward Christian residence with Jesus.[12] Jesus, whose constant linkage with the Old Testament established the historic roots of the Christian message, says that He himself is “from the Father” laying out His eternal history.[13] Our Lord’s strict teaching about a “narrow path” demands designation, not wandering, as our goal in life.[14] Our identity with Christ is clear.[15] And Jesus’ teaching about “ends” (e.g., heaven and hell) is more than any other speaker in the New Testament.

So what does this teaching about the Christian path mean for everyday life?  Jesus is the way, the path, which leads to life.[16] There is only one road on which one’s end is eternal life.  Life is not about “finding oneself” on some nebulous “search.”  A “journey” for the Christian always has a final outcome, a goal, an end, a destination.  Believers should be careful in using seemingly benign terminology to express how we live.  Because of Providence, our plans, our ways, are ordered by Heaven.[17] We should revisit the straightforward and famous injunction from Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Alan Jacobs, quoting Joseph Pieper writes, “’The concept of the status viatoris is one of the basic concepts of every Christian rule of life.  To be a ‘viator’ means ‘one on the way.’  The status viatoris is, then, the ‘condition or state of being on the way.’  Its proper antonym is status comprehensoris.  One who has comprehended, encompassed, arrived, is no longer a viator, but a comprehensor.’

 

If we Christians can learn to think of our lives as . . . stories that move along recognizable paths, paths followed by our predecessors and indeed by our contemporary companions in the faith—we will be better prepared for the status viator, better protected from the twin dangers of presumption and despair, better able to see changes in the road as continuations of it rather than detours from it or dead ends.”[18]

A Christian’s life is one of being “on the way” given by one Guide, with clearly marked, true directions on a specific highway leading toward a final destination.

Dr. Mark Eckel has been “on his way” since 1957 now on the path in Indianapolis, IN.


[1] http://www.godrealized.com/

[2] The explanation given for a “life as a journey” wall clock available at http://shop.cafepress.com/item/life-is-a-journey-wall-clock/

[3] “Anime” most often refers to artwork in comic books and video animation with a Japanese origin.  One characteristic of anime are characters with large, doe-like eyes.  Anime cartoons had early success in the 1980’s and have a plethora of online sites and television shows for both child and adult storylines.

[4] http://animanachronism.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/destination-or-journey/

[5] Proverbs 2:13; 4:11.

[6] Proverbs 2:8; Isaiah 40:14.

[7] Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 2:19; 5:6; 15:24.

[8] 1 Kings 13:33; 2 Kings 8:27; 2 Peter 2:15; 2 Chronicles 11:17; 1 Corinthians 4:17.

[9] Job 14:7-14; 19:24-27.  Job is possibly the oldest book in the Old Testament, hence, its position here.

[10] Psalms 16, 39, 49, 73, etc.

[11] 2:17-3:5; 4:1-6, the latter section is a prophecy of John the Baptist as “Elijah” and Jesus as “the sun of righteousness.”

[12] John 14:1-4.

[13] For instance, Matthew 5-7.

[14] Matthew 7:13-14.

[15] “My sheep hear my voice” John 10

[16] John 14:6; 10:10

[17] Isaiah 55:7-9.

[18] Alan Jacobs. Looking Before and After: Testimony and the Christian Life. Eerdmans 2008, p 80.

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