The first thing to understand about this book from the start is that it is not a scholarly examination of the texts written by the Alexandrian mystics, though it will make you want to go to those texts, or return to them if you are already familiar with them; but there are a number of fairly in-depth appendices and an extensive glossary which fill out a lot of the history and terminology. Rather, it is a wake-up call to Christians of all stripes to look again at the Person of Christ, to reject our dualistic understandings of the Incarnation, and to return to the way major Christian thinkers in the first centuries of the Church saw Jesus, and to find there a vision which is capable of uniting different denominations, recognizing, maintaining and creating real continuity between ancient, modern and post-modern Christianity.
Healing The Divide is something like a spiritual handbook to accompany you as you read the Alexandrian mystics for yourself, and touches on many different issues, theological and practical. There are questions at the end of each chapter for those who want to really study, but it can also be dipped into more informally, once you’ve got the basic argument. Smith I think correctly diagnoses what’s wrong with so much that passes for Christianity today, and nobody gets a free pass, yet he is never cynical and always hopeful that real transformation is possible; indeed, that is what this book is for. For myself, I am someone by nature liberal (perhaps a stereotypical member of the Church of England!), but have become unsatisfied with my approach to Jesus, which has largely consisted of trying to fit Him into structures created by what I take to be the best available historical reading of who He was – itself an endless scholarly minefield where no final agreement is ever going to be likely. I’ve come to see this view as a fatally flawed and narrow approach, and Smith’s book has helped me to see what an impoverished Christ I have been making do with.
The unified, mystical understanding of Christ as elucidated by Cyril, Athanasius and the other Alexandrian mystics is infinitely richer than this wishy-washy liberal Jesus, the fluffy New Age sage, or the rather fearsome creation of the fundamentalists, all of which Smith rejects, or at least relativizes. The Jesus Paradox (as Smith calls it, the technical term is Miaphysite) also has the benefit of being undeniably far more ancient than any of these, and has been carried through the whole of Christian history in the theology of the Oriental Orthodox Church.
One quote which for me cuts through so much ponderous theological musing I’ve trawled through over the years in an attempt to get to grips with the words in the creeds, and which illustrates neatly the difference this mystic understanding of Christ makes, was this from Athanasius:”How is the Son equal to God?” “Like sight is equal to the eyes”.