My friend Brett has posted an article about spiritual growth and being "conformed" to Christ. It is posted here. There is a rich, rich symbolism behind the word "form" which his article revolves around. So, here are some things that begin to swirl in my head about "form", as in formation, conformed, transformation, etc.
Let us begin with the word "form". Form has been a big word in Christian Theology from its inception (indeed, since Plato in 500 BC) until we began to give up on beliefs in universals in the late middle ages and the reformation. Now we do not talk about "forms" as much because we tend to take it for granted that there cannot be forms or archetypes which exist as the metaphysical basis for reality as we know it. To put it another way, we have given up faith in universals and only believe in particulars these days. Yet, for the great theologians before the rise of nominalism in the 1300's, knowing something's "form" (i.e. universal nature and purpose) was essential to knowing what it was. Then came Nominalism, which is in part, a belief that universals are not real entities, but merely names- nomina- that we give to general sets of traits. Nominalism is just one of a scad of deconstructive philosophies and theologies throughout the centuries that deny the unity and purpose of the universe in big and small ways.
So, in talking about form, we come to a big divide in worldview. Do you believe that there are universal forms and purposes for every created thing, or are we just a bunch of particulars, existing in the chaos of our world, trying to make the best sense we can out of it? Did He who is form and purpose, the Incarnate Logos, create us with form and purpose? If so, what is that form, that purpose, that logos, for which our lives are made? The Fathers of the Eastern Church maintain that we are created "logikos" (as rational, purposive creatures) to reflect the "Logos" (our Creator who is Reason and Purpose).
So, our entire life as children of God can be seen to revolve around our "formation".
First, we are FORMED: we are given an imprint of the Logos on our very selves. We are made with cognition, affection, and volition, that we may think and feel and act... just as He does. We are given self-reflective consciences, that we may stand outside ourselves and our world, transcending them and connecting to Him who is transcendent. We are formed for the purpose of eternal loving union with Him who is eternal Love: Father, Son, and Spirit.
Then, we are DEFORMED: We have been given the most triumphant and tragic gift that can be given to anyone, anywhere. We can actually refuse our Creator. We can bite the hand that feeds us. We can cut ourselves off from our own source of Love, Purpose, and Being. We can destroy what the Almighty God has created: we can destroy, deface, and deform ourselves. And this we do, with gleeful abandon, imagining that either (a) we are the source of our own form, our own Logos, or that (b) there is no form or Logos at all, and thus we can give up on it all and live for whatever pleasures us. In the words of Padme in the latest Star Wars movie: "So this is how liberty dies - with thunderous applause." With thunderous applause we deform ourselves, deny our maker, and spiral into nothingness and misery.
Then, we are REFORMED: We see our evil. We see Christ is the only way out. We repent, receive Christ, and are Baptised back into His life, death, and resurrection (cf. Rom 6). We are re-formed into the image of Him who descended that we may ascend (cf. Irenaeus). He was formed as a human, that we may be reformed into children of God. He became one of us, so that we might become one with Him. The Divine was made man that man might be made divine (cf. Athanasius). This repentance, this turning around, this descent-ascent, this burial-and-raising, this immersion into Christ is what reformation is.
Then, we are CONFORMED: This leads us to the long process of being con-formed, or with-formed, to Christ. Like a sculptor, we trace the forms and shapes of the Original statue (that of the Incarnate Logos) and try to re-make it in our own block of granite, so that we are con-formed to the Original. We get one side done, only to rotate the statue and find that there are still huge chunks and imperfections that need to be conformed to the Original. It is a life-long process. A life-long sculpting to make ourselves like our Logos. Yet, the paradox runs deeper... for as we are conformed to Christ, we begin to realize that we are not the sculptor after all. He is. We merely offer ourselves to His skilled hands. It has felt that we were sculpting ourselves for so long, but the whole time it was Him. Or was it us? Or was it Him? Are we passive stone being hewn into, and conformed to, the image of our Creator? Or are we active participants in our own completion? I think the wisest answer is yes. The answer to both is yes.
The means for all of this is INFORMATION: Information is such a funny word to us. We tend to think of it as bits of data floating around us, which we catch and put together in the puzzle of our minds, trying to make some sense of it. And, if you do not believe in the concept of form, of logos, then that is all information is: bits of data. Random. Meaningless until rendered meaningful by humans, who are the meaning makers.
But, if you believe in form, in Logos, in the purposive nature of the universe, you come to see information as a trail of clues leading to union with Him who is Purpose. We may not see the pattern and purpose of information for years, or lifetimes, or centuries... but at some point all pieces of data, all this "information" will make sense, and find meaning in Him who is Meaning-Incarnate.
You see, the purpose of data, of information, is to in-form, or form-within, the image of Christ within us. Many of us are fond of saying "All truth is God's truth". Well, all true information is given by God to form Christ IN us, to conform us to Him who is the Form, and who formed us in His image.
But here's the trick about information: you can't MAKE people use it. You can't force people to allow information to trans-form them into Christ's image. Trans-formation is a mystery, whereby the will of the Form works with the will of the person being formed. It is a free acceptance of in-formation. All we can do, as agents of transformation, is offer the information that God has given us to all who will receive it, in hope that they will reform, and allow themselves to be conformed to the image of Christ, that they may be transformed creatures showing forth the glory God.
We inform people, that a deformed generation may be reformed by Christ, transformed in Christ, and conformed to Christ. All of this so that we may attain the original purpose for which we were formed: to Love the Lord above all and share His Love with every creature formed in His image.