By: Elder David Leong
Things in the physical realm tend towards decay or entropy. But this is not the case for the spiritual realm. In the spiritual world, things are supposed to move upwards, towards the goal of perfection or completion. God’s will is for His children to grow upwards and forward in sanctification, from spiritual infancy to maturity. The goal is for every child of God to be complete and mature in Christ. Only when we become mature then we can fully enjoy a deep fellowship with God. And that is what He desires of each of us – no exceptions.
We borrow a term from philosophy, “entelechy” to describe this. First introduced by Aristotle, entelechy means the condition of a thing whose essence is fully realized; actuality. It is that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely just a potential. The concept is intimately connected with Aristotle’s distinction between matter and form, or the potential and the actual. He analyzed each thing into the stuff or elements of which it is composed and the form which makes it what it is. Aristotle used this term to describe the full realization of form out of process. Hence, the entelechy of an caterpillar is to be a butterfly. A person is first formed, at the point of conception, as a zygote. The zygote then becomes an embryo and an embryo after about 8 weeks of pregnancy, a fetus, which by full term, is born a neonate. Similarly, you could use this term to describe the process of growing up from an infant, to a toddler, a pre-schooler, a pre-teen, a youth and then into adulthood.
Entelechy, I believe, can help us better understand this spiritual tendency to Christ-likeness or spiritual perfection brought about and enabled only by the Holy Spirit. The entelechy of a new disciple of Christ is to be a mature disciple of Christ. Entelechy makes actual what is otherwise only a potential.
All of the upward movement or growth is fulfilled in the spiritual realm, what we so call as the unseen reality, a world which we cannot perceive using our physical eyes.
God however assures us that we can “see” this unseen world. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church is that “…we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” (2 Cor. 4:18). To “see” the unseen reality, we need a different kind of attention. To focus on the unseen requires us to be deeply aware that the unseen is the always-present background of something other than what we can touch or manipulate. It means we need to consider the unseen in every decision and act of ours. It requires us not to focus on entropy or physical decay and degeneration but on entelechy. Physically, all of us are definitely moving towards degeneration, death and decay. But, spiritually, even right at this moment and by God’s grace, we are participants in the eternal factors that have a wondrous end.
Once again, consider what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:16-18
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Whatever hurts, pains, sufferings, wrongs that we have to endure become less wearisome and perhaps much more bearable when we know that God is certainly doing a renewal work in us. There is an entelechy in our spiritual being towards maturity, powered by God through the Holy Spirit. As we become constantly conscious of that and allow Him to work in and through us, it would eventually bring us to perfection on that day when we will all see Him face to face!
Thoughts gathered from T.W. Hunt, Seeing the Unseen: Cultivating a Faith that Unveils the Hidden Presence of God (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2011)