In the line of thought leading from John to Ignatius to Irenaeus , the Logos is not so much a lesser hypostasis, a lesser form or power of being in God, but is much more God himself as revealer, as his self-manifestation. Irenaeus calls salvation anakephalaiosis, or recapitulatio , recapitulation, pointing to Ephesians I: All things in heaven and earth alike should be gathered up in Christ. Irenaeus constructs the idea of the history of salvation in connection with these words of Ephesians. For Irenaeus it means that the development which was broken in Adam namely the similitudo or immortality is taken up again by Christ and is fulfilled in him. In him the new mankind has started, that which mankind was supposed to become, namely a decided and tested new reality: this, mankind has become in Christ, after Adam had not been able to bring it about. But it’s not only mankind which finds its fulfillment in the appearance of the Christ, but it is the whole cosmos. But in order to do this, Christ had to participate in that nature which broke away from this straight development, namely, in the nature of Adam. To fulfill it, he had to participate in it. So he has become the beginning of the living, as Adam has been the beginning of the dead. Adam is fulfilled in Christ, which means that Christ is the essential man, the man Adam was essentially, and should become but did not become. That which Adam i. e., mankind as a whole, seen essentially has not reached but from which mankind has broken away, that is now the work of the Christ: to actualize this in himself. Adam was not fulfilled in the beginning; he could not have borne fulfillment, as Irenaeus says; he lived in childish innocence.
Now here we have a profound doctrine of a (let me call it) transcendent humanism, a humanism which says that Christ is the fulfillment of essential man, namely of the Adamic nature, but that this fulfillment was necessary because it didn’t occur in a straight way a break occurred, and this break in Adam, who fell away from what he essentially was supposed to become, was fulfilled in Christ. The childish innocence of Adam of course has been lost, but now the man who is tested and decided can become what he was supposed to become, namely fully human, and he can become so because we can participate in this full humanity as it has appeared in Christ. And don’t forget that this always includes eternal life. It means similitude with God with respect to participation in infinity. That’s what Christ does, and that’s what we can do too.
I always am surprised, when I go into these matters, how much better the old Christian theology was than the popular theology which developed in the 19th century how much profounder, how much more adequate to the paradox of Christianity without becoming irrationalistic or nonsential or absurd. It never did.