With All the Fullness of God: Deification in Christian Tradition 1978707266, 9781978707269

Christians confess that Christ came to save us from sin and death. But what did he save us for? One beautiful and compel

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With All the Fullness of God: Deification in Christian Tradition
 1978707266, 9781978707269

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With All the Fullness of God

With All the Fullness of God Deification in Christian Tradition

Edited by Jared Ortiz


Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Chapter 3: This essay is based on and draws directly from Spirit and Salvation: A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016), Chap. 11. The publisher has kindly granted the copyright permission. Published by Lexington Books/Fortress Academic Lexington Books is an imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www​.rowman​.com 6 Tinworth Street, London SE11 5AL, United Kingdom Copyright © 2021 by The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available ISBN: 978-1-9787-0726-9 (cloth: alk. paper) ISBN: 978-1-9787-0727-6 (electronic) ∞ ™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.


Acknowledgments vii Introduction 1 Jared Ortiz PART I: DEIFICATION IN THE TRADITIONS 1 The Whole Christ: Deification in the Catholic Tradition Jared Ortiz 2 Eucharistic Personhood: Deification in the Orthodox Tradition Nikolaos Asproulis

5 7 29

3 Justification as Union and Christ’s Presence: Deification in the Lutheran Tradition Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen


4 The Gospel’s End and Our Highest Good: Deification in the Reformed Tradition Carl Mosser


5 God’s Transforming Grace: Deification in the Anabaptist Tradition Brenda B. Colijn


6 From Offspring of God to Sons of God: Deification in the Anglican Tradition James Salladin





7 “As Far as Our Capacity Allows”: Deification in the Baptist Tradition Myk Habets


8 The Royal Way of Love: Deification in the Wesleyan Tradition Michael J. Christensen


PART II: DEIFICATION IN PERSONAL AND PASTORAL PERSPECTIVES 9 Theōsis That Means Something: My Journey Stephen Finlan

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10 Living into the Fullness of God: A Protestant Pastoral Perspective on Deification Wyndy Corbin Reuschling


11 More Than You Could Ever Imagine: A Catholic Pastoral Perspective on Deification Bernie Owens, S. J.


Index 265 About the Contributors



I want to thank Matthew Hunter, the founding genius of this book, for his work in initiating the project. It was Matthew’s idea and invitations that brought together such a diverse group of Christians to share the gifts of their own traditions on the meaning of deification. Without Matthew, this book never would have come to be. I also want to thank Jacob Mazur-Batistoni who was my steady companion and thoughtful interlocutor through the first phase of the editing process. I am grateful for my colleagues at Hope College, especially Sandra Visser, Jack Mulder, Jeff Tyler, and Steve Bouma-Prediger. I also want to express my gratitude to Daniel Berhanemeskel for permission to use his beautiful Ethiopian Orthodox icon of Pentecost on the book cover and for the folks at Hope College’s Kruizenga Museum for photographing it. Lastly, I am grateful for the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation and the Jacob E. Nyenhuis grant program for supporting parts of this work.


Introduction Jared Ortiz

All Christians agree that Christ came to earth to save us from sin and death. But there seems to be less agreement about what he saved us for. One ancient answer was formulated by the great fourth-century bishop Athanasius who said, “God became human so that humans might become God.”1 While this claim sounds shocking to many modern ears, Athanasius was merely developing what he understood as a traditional biblical understanding of salvation. Paul, for example, offers a formula which very well could be the basis for Athanasius’ when he says, “Though Christ was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Here, poverty is understood as humanity, while richness is understood as divinity. Christ became what we are so that we could become what he is. We do this by becoming united to Christ (Rom. 6:3), by sharing in his sonship (1 John 3:1), and, as Peter says, by “becoming partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). When we partake of God’s nature, we are transformed “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18) until we become filled, as the title of the book says, “with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). The traditional name for this teaching is “deification” or “divinization” or theosis, and for much of Christian history, it was not a terribly controversial teaching. To greater and lesser degrees, and in a variety of forms, deification can be found in the West and the East; in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions; and in ancient times, through the Middle Ages and Reformation periods even until the modern day. Still, in the last century, it has not always received a warm welcome and, for many Christians today, the idea of deification smacks of ancient emperor worship, New Age s­ pirituality, or Mormonism. Deification, it is thought, is a pagan import that blurs the ­distinction between the Creator and his creation and leads us into heresy. 1


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This concern is common not only “in the pews” but among many contemporary Christian theologians as well. How did we get here? How did we get from a teaching that was common to all Christian traditions to a general suspicion of one of the most inspiring visions of salvation? While it is a long story in all its history and detail, we might highlight one particularly influential scholar: Adolf von Harnack, the great Protestant historian of dogma at the turn of the twentieth century.2 Harnack proposed a theory about the development of Christian doctrine which set the terms for the next hundred years. Harnack’s theory was simple: the history of Christian doctrine was fundamentally one of decline. Starting from the simple moral teachings of Christ, Christian doctrine became corrupted due to the pernicious influence of Greek philosophy. Harnack argued that the main culprit in this decline was the doctrine of deification which early Greek Christians imported from the pagans. While the West was only mildly infected with this doctrine, it became, he claimed, the defining feature of Eastern Christianity. Harnack’s thesis became the standard line of interpretation in Protestant circles, though parts of it were adopted by Catholics and Orthodox as well. The Orthodox—many of whom had recently migrated West after the Russian Revolution—especially picked up on his argument, though they modified it in an important way. Orthodox theologians accepted the idea that deification defines Eastern Christianity, but for them, rather than being a mark of a great apostasy as Harnack taught, deification was the hallmark of true believers. For the Orthodox, Western Christians, Catholic and Protestant, were the apostates who had abandoned the deep meaning of salvation. Despite readily available counterevidence, this narrative has dominated the scholarly and popular conversations around deification—as well as ecumenical dialogue— up until our own time. Recently, though, there have been a number of people starting to push back against this standard account. The past thirty years have seen nothing short of a renaissance of deification thinking which has spanned all the major branches of Christianity: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. Scholars and pastors from all of these traditions have warmly embraced deification and shown how it is a robust articulation of biblical and traditional Christianity. In some circles, deification is becoming popular and it is not uncommon to meet young people, young scholars, and seminarians eager to learn more about this powerful vision of salvation. Nevertheless, as welcome as these developments have been, the ghost of Harnack still haunts these conversations. Often, one finds the assumption that the West lost deification at some point and that Eastern Christians have been the sole guardians of this precious teaching. Deification, they say, must now be imported from the East to the West: “eastern deification” must be grafted onto a “Western soteriology” which, while admittedly awkward, is desirable and necessary in order to get a full picture of the Gospel.



As the chapters in this volume will demonstrate, these claims simply do not hold up: deification is as native to the West as it is to the East. It is just as much at home in Catholicism and most denominations of Protestantism as it is in Orthodoxy. The chapters here will show, hopefully once and for all, how deification is biblical, traditional, and a constitutive part of all the major expressions of Christianity. It forms a common heritage for Orthodox, Protestants, and Catholics. Moreover, each tradition has its own resources for thinking about deification. Deification, then, is not an oriental import, but a native good in each tradition. The different traditions represented in this volume may pick up different strands or emphases of deification thinking, but each “owns” it in its own way. Bringing together Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Anglican, Baptist, and Wesleyan voices, we conceived this volume as an exercise in what has been called “a receptive ecumenism.”3 This ecumenism is not about debates or joint statements but about hospitality and “an exchange of gifts.” Each author, rooted in his or her own particular tradition, was tasked with opening up the treasures of that tradition and sharing the riches with the rest. Each tradition has something unique and beautiful to offer, a source of intellectual or spiritual wealth that can enrich the whole Body of Christ. While written by scholars, these chapters are not written for specialists. They are written for any thoughtful Christian who wants to learn more about the glorious destiny God has in store for us. They aim to introduce Christians of all confessions to a beautiful heritage that is theirs by right. Our hope is that our readers will read generously in these chapters, knowing that all truth is God’s truth. There are delightful surprises and insights in every tradition here. Wisdom has set a table before us. We encourage you to feast on the rich fare in these pages! And we pray that the God we all hold in common, in his Son and through his Holy Spirit, will fill each and every one of us “with all the fullness of God.”

NOTES 1. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 54. 2. I am indebted to Carl Mosser for this line of thought. For a more fully developed argument, see his discussion in the section entitled, “Neither Absent from the West nor Distinctively Eastern,” pp. 40–48, in “An Exotic Flower? Calvin and the patristic doctrine of deification” in Reformation Faith: Exegesis and Theology in the Protestant Reformations, ed. Michael Parsons (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014), 38–56. 3. Originally, we also had a chapter on deification in the Pentecostal tradition, but due to unforeseen circumstances the author had to withdraw from the project.

Part I


Chapter 1

The Whole Christ Deification in the Catholic Tradition Jared Ortiz

The goal of the Christian life is to become gods. This claim probably strikes many Christian ears as exaggerated at best and, at worst, heretical. But this is the very thing for which a Catholic priest (or deacon, if present) prays every day at every Mass as he mixes water and wine in preparation for the consecration of the Eucharist: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”1 This prayer is telling us that the mingling of water and wine is both a symbol of and a vehicle for our sharing in God’s divine life, what the Christian tradition has called divinization or deification or, in Greek, theosis. The priest is telling us—to borrow a phrase from Augustine—that through the sacraments God “turns his worshipers into gods.”2 While this claim sounds foreign to many of us, I would argue that this is the goal God established for us in the very creation of all things; it is revealed to us in the Scriptures; and is the deep meaning of what Catholics do every time they celebrate the sacraments.3 This is the traditional way that Catholics have always understood salvation, even if Catholic awareness of their own teachings has waxed and waned over the centuries.4 This is also how the current Catechism of the Catholic Church frames its whole presentation of the faith. The first line of the Catechism reads, “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.”5 The Catechism teaches that God is a communion of Persons who created us for communion with himself. “To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”6 God sent his Son so we could become sons and daughters in the Son and so share in his eternal communion of love. This communion is divine life. 7


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In this chapter, I want to spell out what this means and what it looks like that God created us to “share in his own blessed life.” Drawing on the Genesis creation stories, the meaning of Christ, and the Catholic understanding of the sacraments, my argument will have three basic points: 1. God created us to worship him and by worshiping him to be transformed into him. 2. In his Incarnation, life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Christ fulfills this perfect worship of the Father. 3. Through the Church’s worship, especially the Spirit-infused liturgical celebration of the sacraments, we enter into Christ’s perfect worship and are thereby transfigured into gods. I will freely draw on the whole Catholic tradition—biblical, Patristic, medieval, modern; East and West; scholarly, devotional, and popular—to show that this teaching has been widely held by Catholics of all times. CLARIFYING TERMS Before we delve into Scripture, we should clarify our terms and make some distinctions. First is the term “deification” itself. This word comes from two Latin words deus, which means “god,” and facere, which means “to make.” So, deification means “to make into God or a god.” The words “divinization” and theosis are synonyms of deification. For various reasons, Catholics have not always used this technical terminology (which is one of the reasons they are accused of not believing the teaching), but the idea can be found in many Catholic authors in such complementary terms as union with God, sanctifying grace, participation, ascent, transfiguration, transformation, adoption, divine filiation, contemplation, life in the Spirit, image and likeness to God, imitation, perfection, angelic life, immortality, incorruption, re-formation, and the very bold “becoming God” or “gods.” Each of these terms gets at the content or some dimension of deification. As a working definition, we can say that deification is the process by which the Holy Spirit unites us to the Father by conforming us to Christ. On the Catholic understanding, deification begins in this life with the first touch of God’s grace—either in baptism or in the first stirrings of faith which lead to baptism—but is not completed until after the resurrection in the next life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, especially in the sacraments, we are united to God and, while never ceasing to be human, our union with God transforms us into the one to whom we are united. By cooperating with God’s grace, we advance in likeness to Christ—as St. Paul says, “being changed

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into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18)—until we see God “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). Then, as St. John says, “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This likeness to God is not external or merely metaphorical: rather, we are like God because God shares himself with us and we participate in him. The early Church Fathers used the image of an iron in the fire to explain this participation in God: the iron remains iron, but it becomes so permeated with fire that it takes on the qualities of fire. So, too, when we are immersed in God, we become permeated with God and take on his qualities. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that we can never become God as God is, but only by participation. In other words, God is Creator and we are his creatures. We never cease to be creatures. We become what God is; never who God is. We never become uncreated, self-existent, omnipotent, or eternal—we are never a God in our own right. But, because God loves us, he can share himself with us. So, we can take on many of the qualities of God—like the iron takes on the qualities of fire—all the while remaining human creatures. God can communicate some of his divine qualities to us, such as, for example, immortality and incorruptibility (1 Cor. 15:54), holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16), perfection (Matt. 5:48), divine love (1 John 4:8; Rom. 5:5), light (Matt. 5:14; Eph. 5:8), glory (2 Cor. 3:18), wisdom (Col. 3:16), and divinity (2 Pet. 1:4), so that they become our qualities too. While the tradition boldly uses the language of “becoming God” or “gods,” and so will I, we should always keep in mind the dictum of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215): “Between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying a greater dissimilitude.”7 In other words, no matter how much we become like God through grace, there is always a greater unlikeness between God and the human beings he deifies. GENESIS 1–3: CREATED FOR DEIFYING WORSHIP Let us turn now to the opening of Genesis to see how the opening chapters of Scripture establish a framework for deification. My goal here is not to provide a comprehensive account of these chapters but to highlight a few elements which show the biblical basis for my argument that we are created for worship and that worship is meant to deify us. In Genesis 1, God creates all things in seven days. I understand these days not so much as 24-hour periods, but as a literary framework which the author of Genesis used to show us the deep reasonableness of creation, the power of God to bring it into being, and to show us what Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) calls “the Sabbath structure of creation.”8 The first six days of creation match up rather nicely into sets of three. Day 1


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corresponds to Day 4; Day 2 to Day 5; Day 3 to Day 6. If we arrange the days in columns, this becomes more clear: 1. Day and Night 2. Sea and Sky 3. Land and Vegetation

4. Sun and Moon/Stars 5. Fish and Birds 6. Animals and Human Beings

Everything in the second column finds its place in the space created in the first column: the sun and moon fit into the day and the night; the birds and fish fit into the sea and the sky; humans and animals fit into land and vegetation. Genesis 1 is not a farfetched mythological account but is a description of the world as we experience it.9 There is a logic to creation which bears the mark of the Logos through whom it was made (see John 1:3; Col. 1:16). At the pinnacle of all the created things is man, male and female, made in the image and likeness of God. The topic of the imago Dei is too large for us to treat well in this space, but I will offer a couple of brief suggestions about how Christians have traditionally understood this and how it relates to deification. First of all, to be made in the image of God means that the human being alone among the earthly creatures has intellect and will.10 In this, he is a reflection of God himself. Because the human has these faculties, he is able to know and to love and, more importantly, to know and love the God who made him. Moreover, because of these faculties, God gives humans “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Human beings share God’s power of understanding and loving and so they are enabled to share in God’s rule, God’s providential sovereignty over creation. Human beings were meant to be the wise kings and queens of creation. Second, God creates “man” as “male and female.” We are in the image of God not only because of our intellect and will but also because we are male and female. We reflect God in our individual souls, but we also reflect God in our bodies and in what Ratzinger calls our “relationality.”11 Our bodies have a kind of in-built relationality. We are all conceived from a relationship and we are grown and born in relationship. Every human that ever has existed (besides Jesus, Adam, and Eve) comes from a relationship of a man and woman—together they form one organism, one unit, one flesh. Once conceived, we are in intimate relationship with our mothers who nurture us from their own bodies and give us birth. We are born into the relationship of a family; in fact, our birth establishes relationships: it makes husbands and wives into fathers and mothers and their siblings into aunts and uncles. This relationality is an echo or a sign or an image of God’s own relationality. God is a Trinity, a relationship of Persons, a family of love, an eternal communion. For us, too, relationality is constitutive of our existence.

The Whole Christ


It is fascinating that even though the human being is made in the image of God, he is not said to be “good.” God creates each thing and calls it “good,” but not humans and, interestingly, not the heavens either on Day Two. Perhaps this is because humans have a natural tendency to worship the heavens, to mistake the highest thing in creation for the Creator who transcends creation, a classic problem that Paul highlights in the first chapter of Romans. Whatever the reason, it is significant. The term “good” in Genesis means, “fit to the purpose” or “complete.” Precisely because he is made in the image of God, precisely because he has intellect and will, humans are the only creatures who can deviate from their purpose (squirrels, narwhals, and tulips generally do not rebel against their Creator). The human being is not created complete—he remains to be fully formed. His completion is a task, a task in which he is called to freely participate. We are called to freely complete ourselves (as we will see) with God’s grace, but—and this is what makes us ambiguous creatures in Genesis 1—we can freely ruin ourselves as well. Still, according to God, the whole of creation, with incomplete human beings at the pinnacle, is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). We said above that there are two meanings of the phrase imago Dei: (1) intellect and will and (2) relationality. Now we can see how the two meanings are related: the human being is called to use his intellect and will to know and love God, to be in intimate relation with his Creator. The more he knows and loves God, the more intimate his union with him, and the more he becomes like the one to whom he is united. This union with God makes him more divine, completes his being, and thus makes him “good,” that is, fit to the purpose or complete. Interestingly, as we become more divine, we become more truly human. We can deepen this insight by reflecting on the Sabbath, the seventh day of creation. The six days of creation are ordered toward the seventh, toward God. Creation without the Sabbath is incomplete, which means that creation finds its end or fulfillment not in itself but only in God. We have a transcendent destiny and we are not fulfilled until we order our lives toward it. On the Catholic account, all of creation has a kind of intrinsic God-torque written into its being, an in-built dynamism toward God which can only be fulfilled by God because the goal is to be transformed into God. As Augustine famously said, “You made us for Yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”12 It is God, not creation, who gives this rest. The Sabbath is the day of rest, the day when we participate in God’s rest. We participate through worship, which is the human counterpart to God’s rest. In the biblical sense, “rest” does not mean the cessation of all activity; rather, it means not becoming but being fully what we were made to be. It means freedom from tedious work, but, more importantly, freedom for participation in God’s abundance, that is, his eternal repose. Ratzinger says,


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“Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented toward worship. It fulfills its purpose and assumes its significance when it is lived, ever new, with a view to worship. Creation exists for the sake of worship.”13 In Catholic parlance, another word for worship is “liturgy,” which Scott Hahn helpfully defines as “the ritual public worship of God’s covenant people.”14 In Greek, the word leitourgia is a combination of the words “work” and “people,” so the liturgy is often thought to mean “the work of the people.” But this misses both the ancient meaning of leitourgia and the meaning of the Christian liturgy. Leitourgia really means “work on behalf of the people,” such as the public works of government (like road maintenance) or of wealthy patrons (like Carnegie libraries). Liturgy—Christian worship—is God’s work on our behalf; it is his work in us which we participate in. In this sense, we do work on the Sabbath, but it is God’s work in us, bringing us to know and love him and so making us fully who we are. This is rest in the biblical sense. Our Sabbath worship on earth is a foretaste of the eternal rest we will enjoy when we join the heavenly hosts praising God who then “will be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28; see Heb. 4:9-11). Genesis 2 deepens the connection between creation and worship. God creates man and places him in a garden called Eden. For the author of Genesis 2, the garden is understood as a kind of primordial Temple, with original man, as a High Priest.15 It is no accident that Genesis 2 was written during the time of the united monarchy of Israel in the tenth century B.C., perhaps the height of Israelite worship in the Temple. The garden is in the East, a place of light and revelation. There are four rivers that flow from Eden, so the garden is elevated and a source of life. Indeed, there is even a tree of life which in the Temple at this time was symbolized by the lampstand (see Lev. 24:2-4). Genesis 2 mentions gold and onyx, both of which are used in the decoration of the Temple, and bdellium, which the manna, the Bread of Heaven, is likened to (Num. 11:7). Moreover, God “walks” in the garden (Gen. 3:8), suggesting his regular and intimate presence there, and this is the same term which is used to describe God’s presence in the Tabernacle (see Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14; 2 Sam. 7:6-7). The man is told to “till” and “keep” the garden (Gen. 2:15)—this latter command is the same one given by Moses to the Levites, the priestly class, who were charged with “keeping” or guarding the sanctuary (see Num. 17:12–18:6). After man and woman are expelled from the garden, it is guarded by cherubim, the same angelic creatures who adorn the tabernacle (see Ex 25:18-20). So, the garden is intimately related to the Temple or, more accurately, is considered by the author of Genesis 2 to be the primordial Temple. The meaning of Genesis 2, I would suggest, is similar to Genesis 1: human beings were made for worship; they were meant to be the High Priests of creation. Genesis 3 continues the story of man and woman in the Temple-garden. Now, the Fall of our first parents may seem to throw a wrench into my

The Whole Christ


thesis: I am arguing that God wants to transform worshipers into gods, but in Genesis 3, man and woman are expelled from the Garden for trying to become like gods. Isn’t deification, then, the false promise of the serpent? Rather than contradicting my thesis, I think it confirms it all the more. In order to understand what is happening in Genesis 3, we need to reflect upon the serpent’s temptation. The serpent promises wonderful things: “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). It is important to note that the serpent does not tempt the woman with anything beneath her, like food or pleasure or riches. These are temptations for us fallen humans but not for man and woman in the garden. Original man and woman do not have disordered desires (that is a consequence—not a cause—of the Fall), and all their basic needs are abundantly provided for; they lack nothing earthly. The serpent knows this and so tempts the woman with something above her, a spiritual temptation. The serpent tempts her with something which she does lack and which is part of her destiny—the serpent tempts her with (false) deification: “you will be like gods.” Remember, God created us incomplete but with the capacity to be completed by being conformed to his likeness through worship. It is precisely this incompleteness that the serpent exploits. The serpent puts woman’s destiny before her, but in a distorted form. The sin of man and woman, then, is not that they wanted to become divine, but that they reached for divinity without God. Augustine put it this way: We wished to be God ourselves when we fell away from him, after listening to the Seducer saying, “You will be like gods.” Then we abandoned the true God, by whose creative help we should have become gods, but by participating in him, not by deserting him.16

Instead of “sharing in the divine nature,” the serpent says, “On your own you can become like gods.” Instead of receiving God’s life as a gift, the serpent says, “Reach out and take it. It is within your grasp.” Instead of accepting the moral order as God made it, the serpent says, “You can decide for yourself what is right and wrong.” Ratzinger eloquently makes this point: The limitations imposed by good and evil, the inner standard of the human person, creatureliness: all of this is placed in doubt [by the serpent]. Here we can at once say that at the very heart of sin lies human beings’ denial of their creatureliness, inasmuch as they refuse to accept the standard and the limitations that are implicit in it. They do not want to be creatures, do not want to be subject to a standard, do not want to be dependent. They consider their dependence on God’s creative love to be an imposition from without. But that is what slavery


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is and from slavery one must free oneself. Thus human beings themselves want to be God.17

At its heart, sin is a denial of the truth, it is a rejection of reality. Sinners live in falsehood and in an imaginary world of their own projected desires. They imagine that they are gods who can determine for themselves what is good and evil. To live in falsehood and unreality is death (cf. Rom. 6:23). This brief tour through Genesis 1–3 has shown us a few things: God created all things with a dynamic orientation toward himself; human beings are created incomplete and called to completion in the Sabbath; and, as wise rulers and high priests made in the image of God, we were made to worship God so as to become like him through his grace. Sin disturbed all of this by asserting a false deification. The rest of salvation history is the story of God restoring his fallen creation back to its original intention: to turn worshipers into gods. Let’s turn now to Christ who came to restore true worship and thereby set us on the path to true deification. CHRIST: AN ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE One way the Church Fathers summed up the significance of Christ’s coming is with what is called the “exchange formula,” most famously articulated by Athanasius: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”18 We find another version of this formula in Thomas Aquinas, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”19 We give Christ our humanity; he gives us his divinity. We give him our sins; he gives us his eternal life. This formula has biblical roots. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Richness here means Christ’s divinity, while poverty means humanity. Christ became human so that by his humanity we might become divine. From his self-emptying Incarnation in Mary’s womb to his sacrificial death on the cross to his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, Christ’s whole life should be understood as an offering to the Father.20 By stating it this way, I want to highlight the profound liturgical context within which Christ understood his own mission and within which his followers came to understand him. To name just a few illustrative examples: Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29); he refers to his own body as the true Temple (John 2:21); Jesus freely lays down his life during the Feast of the Passover. It is interesting to note that when Jesus celebrates the Passover liturgy with his disciples at what we now call “the

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Last Supper,” there is no lamb as part of the meal. Jesus is the lamb; he is the ultimate Paschal sacrifice who definitively reconciles us to God. By becoming “an acceptable sacrifice to God” (Ps. 51:17; cf. Heb. 10:1-18), Jesus gives the Father true worship. In the Bible and Catholic teaching, worship and sacrifice cannot be separated, but “sacrifice” has to be understood properly. “Sacrifice” in Latin means “to make holy.” In the biblical sense, it means to set aside as an offering to God. Sacrifice is not destruction or a “giving up” but re-creation which allows us to participate in God’s holiness. God wants to recreate us, to reconcile and heal us, to enable us to make our lives into a self-offering, just as Christ did. Ratzinger says, “now sacrifice takes the form of the Cross of Christ, of the love that in dying makes a gift of itself. Such sacrifice has nothing to do with destruction. It is an act of new creation, the restoration of creation to its true identity.”21 The cross is not the end but the beginning of new life. It is true life because here, for the first time, a human being offers God true and perfect worship—Christ does (and models) what all creation was designed for.22 In the Resurrection, God conquers death and “perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity.”23 In ascending into heaven, Christ, our great High Priest (Heb. 8:1), “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands . . . but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:24). As our heavenly High Priest, Christ “is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.”24 As I said above, Christ’s whole life is an offering to the Father. Even in his ascended state, he leads us in worshiping the Father. This is the worship we were made for. Our true home now is heaven where Christ has taken our humanity and where we will worship God forever. But even now, Catholics believe, we can participate in this worship through the Church’s sacraments. THE WHOLE CHRIST In ecumenical discussions, the sacraments are sometimes treated as though they are of secondary importance: they are nice things to do but not essential for the Christian life. Nothing could be further from the Catholic understanding. The sacraments are constitutive of Christian existence not only because Christ himself willed them but also because they are the means through which God communicates his divine life. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16)?25 The sacraments deify us through our participation in them. To understand this, we need to grasp the


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outlines of how Catholics understand the origin of the sacraments and how this relates to the nature of the Church and her worship. For Catholics, the sacraments pour out of the pierced heart of Christ. In his account of the crucifixion, John relates how the Jews asked that the crucified bodies of Christ and the two criminals be taken down because the Sabbath was approaching. The soldiers break the legs of the first two criminals, but when they see that Jesus is already dead, they do not break his legs (John 19:32). This is likely an allusion to Christ as the unblemished Passover Lamb (cf. Ex 12:46). But to make sure that he is dead, “one of the soldiers pierced his side (in Greek, pleuron) with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). The Catholic Church has generally interpreted this episode as St. John Chrysostom did in the fifth century: “Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. . . . From these two sacraments the Church is born.”26 To understand Chrysostom’s logic, we have to see how the gospel writer is drawing on Genesis 2 (in the Septuagint translation) to show Christ as the New Adam.27 In Genesis 2, we read that “God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man” (Gen. 2:21) and, similarly, Christ falls asleep in death (cf. Acts 7:60). Genesis continues, “And while he slept [God] took one of his ribs (pleurôn) and closed up its place with flesh” (Gen. 2:21). Note that John uses the same word pleuron (translated “side” or “rib”) which the author of Genesis does. “And the rib (pleuron) which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:22). God takes the pleuron of Adam and forms it into his bride and so too does God take the pleuron of Christ, the New Adam, and form it into his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph. 5:23ff). Chrysostom says, “Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam.”28 Now, Adam’s bride is also his body; so, too, Christ’s Bride is his Body (cf. Eph. 5:29; 1 Cor. 12:27). So, what does this have to do with baptism and the Eucharist? Baptism makes us a member of Christ’s body: we are “baptized into Christ Jesus,” as Paul says (Rom. 6:3). The Eucharist, of course, is also called the body of Christ (cf. Lk. 22:19). These sacraments pour out of the wounded heart of Christ; they come from the side of Christ and they are what constitute the Church. They are the way we become his body and his bride. They are the way that we have intimate union with Christ and share in his divine life. Chrysostom makes this point beautifully, “Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.”29

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We have heard the idea that we are “the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27) so often that we have ceased to recognize how truly shocking and remarkable it is. As Christians, we form one organism with Christ. He is the Head and we are his Body. Together, we form what Augustine calls, the Christus Totus, “the whole Christ.”30 This beautiful idea helps us make sense of something Paul says that sounds blasphemous to many Christian ears: “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24). Didn’t he do it all on the cross; what could possibly be lacking in Christ’s sufferings!? What is lacking is our participation. We fill up this “lack,” as we will see, by making our lives a Christ-like sacrifice poured out for others. It is this oneness with Christ that makes the Church’s liturgy so powerful that allows it to be, as Ratzinger says, “the animating center of the Church, the very center of Christian life.”31 The official Vatican II document on Christian worship, Sacrosanctum Concilium, puts it this way: The liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. . . . In the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.32

The liturgy is primarily the work of Christ, the High Priest, who presides in the heavenly liturgy, which is united to, or one with, the earthly liturgy of the Body of Christ. It is God’s work on our behalf, in which we can participate. It is Christ’s work—in this case, his worship—which we enter into and which makes our work pleasing to the Father. “Through Christ,” the author of Hebrews exhorts, “let us offer God a continual sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15, emphasis added). The heavenly liturgy takes place, so to speak, within the Trinity, but through the action of Christ in his body, especially in the sacraments, our worship participates in the heavenly liturgy. To understand this better, let’s take a closer look at the Catholic understanding of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, the three sacraments that make us Christian, unite us to God and one another, render our worship pleasing to God, and therefore transform us into him.33 BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION What happens in baptism? “Do you not know,” Paul says, “that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Rom.


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6:3)? There are two things to consider in this verse: first, we are incorporated into Christ; we were outside his body, but through baptism, we are now a member of his body. As the sixteenth-century Council of Trent put it, we are “translated from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior.”34 Because we are now “in Christ,” we share in the whole reality of Christ. Second, part of the reality in which we share is Christ’s death and, if we read on a bit, his resurrection: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:5). By his sacrificial death, the Catechism teaches, “Christ liberates us from sin,” and “by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.”35 This new life is divine life. “The first effect of Baptism,” bishop and popular 1950s television personality, Fulton Sheen, says, “is the restoration to friendship with God which was lost by original sin. The baptized person is made a partaker of the divine nature [2 Pet. 1:4] and, therefore, a sharer in divine life.”36 Everything else about the meaning of baptism and the Christian life flows from this central reality. Baptized into Christ we share in the things that are his. He is the Son, so we, too, become sons (and daughters). “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Bishop Sheen says, “baptism gives Him millions of adopted sons because it makes them partakers of His divine nature.”37 This radical identification with Christ causes Augustine to say that in baptism “we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself.”38 After baptism, Catholics are clothed in a white garment, a tradition that goes back to the early church. It is meant to reflect the purity of the newly baptized, to be an outward sign of the internal change that has occurred in baptism. It is a sign that the newly baptized have been transfigured. I use that word deliberately. In the Transfiguration, Christ goes up the mountain with three of his most intimate disciples and is changed before them. His clothes shine bright as the sun, a light-filled cloud overshadows him, and God’s voice is heard declaring that Christ is his beloved Son. The cloud is a sign of the Holy Spirit, the glory cloud that used to dwell in the temple, which now returns to Christ, the true Temple. In baptism, the Holy Spirit comes upon us, makes us into other Christs, beloved sons and daughters, and dwells in each and every one of us, who are now also “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). We, too, become transfigured; we become resplendent with divine light. Because we are baptized into Christ and partake of his divine nature, Christ’s divinity shines through our humanity. That is why Catholics wear a white garment after they are baptized. Intimately related to baptism is the rite of confirmation which completes it. There is much confusion about the meaning of confirmation, so, here, I would

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like only to highlight a few ways this sacrament augments our participation in the divine life. Catholics believe that confirmation is a new Pentecost, a radical outpouring of the Holy Spirit through which we receive the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord.39 In the Catholic tradition, these are called “sanctifying gifts,” because through these gifts we are made holy. There is only one who is holy, but through his grace we can share in his holiness (cf. 1 Pet. 1:16). These gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to perfect—that is, complete—our virtues and draw us into a deeper God-likeness. The rite of confirmation consists of anointing and the laying on of hands. Here, I would like to make only one comment on the meaning of anointing. The anointing rite hearkens back to the Old Testament where priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil. In confirmation, we too are anointed with oil, but this is a sign of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who restores us to our Edenic status as priests of creation and kings of the Kingdom who can proclaim his word with power (see Rev. 1:6; Matt. 19:28; 1 Pet. 2:9). I would argue that if baptism conforms us to Christ’s death and resurrection, confirmation conforms us to Christ’s ascension. We share in his glorious life in heaven. EUCHARIST Both baptism and confirmation are ordered toward the Eucharist which deepens the divine union with God and continues to transform the one who partakes of it. This union is often understood in nuptial terms. Indeed, the white garment received after baptism was traditionally called a wedding garment which gains us access to the Eucharist, “the table of the heavenly bridegroom.”40 For Catholics, the Eucharist is both a representation and a re-presentation. On the one hand, it is deeply symbolic. Following an ancient tradition, Augustine compares the process of making the Eucharist to the process the catechumens undergo as they prepare for incorporation into the Church. The congregation is like scattered grain which is gathered together, ground in exorcism (which separates the wheat from the chaff), mixed with the water of baptism, baked with the fire of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, and transformed into the Eucharistic bread.41 But the Eucharist is no mere symbol: it effects the very change it symbolizes. This is because Christ is truly represented in the Eucharist, that is, made present again. In 1981, John Paul II sent this eloquent message to the Eucharistic Congress at Lourdes: The sacrifice of the Cross is so decisive for the future of man that Christ did not carry it out and did not return to the Father until he had left us the means to


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take part in it as if we had been present. Christ’s offering on the Cross—which is the real Bread of Life—is the first value that must be communicated and shared. The Mass and the Cross are but one and the same sacrifice. Nevertheless the Eucharistic breaking of the bread has an essential function, that of putting at our disposal the original offering of the Cross. It makes it actual today for our generation. By making the Body and Blood of Christ really present under the species of bread and wine, it makes—simultaneously—the Sacrifice of the Cross actual and accessible to our generation, this Sacrifice, which remains, in its uniqueness, the turning point of the history of salvation, the essential link between time and eternity. (emphasis added.)42

Catholics are sometimes accused of believing that Christ is sacrificed repeatedly on the altar, but John Paul II makes clear that the Eucharist is not another sacrifice of Christ but the same sacrifice made present again. For Catholics, “Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12) and in the Eucharist this one sacrifice is made present again. This is possible because “all that Christ is—all that he did and suffered for all men—participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all.”43 The Eucharist makes this reality present in a way we can participate in. As Paul says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16)? For Catholics, the mystery of baptism and the mystery of the Eucharist illumine one another. There is not only a symbolic relationship but also a kind of mystical identity between the baptized and confirmed congregation and the Eucharist: in baptism, one is truly incorporated into the Body of Christ; in the Eucharist, the bread truly becomes the Body of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist, the congregation offers itself up on the altar along with the bread and wine. This is part of our priestly calling given to us at baptism and confirmation. The Body of Christ (the baptized congregation) offers itself along with, and precisely as, the perfect sacrifice of the Body of Christ (the Eucharist). We see Augustine sharing this insight with his congregation, “So if you are the Body of Christ and its members, it is your mystery that has been placed on the Lord’s table; you receive your own mystery. . . . Be what you see, and receive what you are.”44 The Eucharist is both a model for the Christian life and a grace which helps bring it about. The Eucharist is creation transformed into the Body of Christ. Augustine tells his congregation that they should become the same: “become what you are.”45 African Cardinal, Robert Sarah, makes this same point: “This little Host [the consecrated bread], which carries within it the entire universe and the history of mankind must be the center of our life . . . we must become this white Host, allow ourselves to be ‘transubstantiated’, and resemble Christ himself in every feature.”46

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For Catholics, partaking of the Eucharist brings about this mysterious transformation. Leo the Great says, Sharing in the Lord’s Body and Blood does nothing else but that we become what we receive, and we carry everywhere, in body and in spirit, him in whom and with whom we have died, have been buried, and have risen.47

As we are changed more and more into Christ, we take on more and more the quality of the one we consume in the Eucharist. In the words of your grandmother, “You are what you eat!” The reality of Christ’s presence in the sacrament is the cause of our transformation. The medieval theologian St. Bonaventure made this point nicely: “This sacrament contains Christ’s true body and immaculate flesh in such a way that it penetrates our very being, unites us to one another, and transforms us into him.”48 Normally, when we eat something, we transform it into ourselves. I had a sandwich for lunch today. I chomped it, I digested it, and now it is coursing through my veins. It has become a part of me. But the Eucharist is not ordinary food: it maintains the trappings of bread, but in essence it is Christ fully present—body, blood, soul, and divinity.49 When we “eat Christ,” we are taken into him; “we become what we receive,” as Leo said. We do not transform him into us, but we are transformed in him. This is the deifying power of the Eucharist which transforms us into the Body of Christ and therefore renders us “an acceptable sacrifice to God,” just as Christ is. LIFE IN CHRIST In my church, we have been singing a beautiful contemporary hymn during communion which powerfully expresses the relationship between deification, the sacraments, and living a Christian life. Picking up on some themes we saw above in Augustine, Benedictine sister Dolores Dufner composed this chorus: “Amen to the Body of Christ we receive, bread for the fullness of life. Amen to the Body of Christ we become, bread for the life of the world.”50 We say “amen” to the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, which gives us “the fullness of life,” that is, God’s divine life. We also say “amen” to our transformed selves, “the Body of Christ we become.” The Eucharist transforms us into what we eat, but this is not merely a matter of personal piety. Having been “transubstantiated” (as Cardinal Sarah put it), we are now “bread for the life of the world.” We are transformed so we can be food for others, so that we can nourish them with God’s divine life, so that we might be “men living to transfuse the Blood of God into the souls of men.”51 Christ came to give his life for us so that we might have life, divine life. He gives us his blood—which for the Jews meant life—so that we could have


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divine blood in us, so we could share his life. Christ is not Dracula—a figure of the anti-Christ, who takes our blood to feed himself. Christ is the Divine Physician who heals us and the Divine Blood Donor who gives us his blood. We have, so to speak, spiritual cancer, and Christ gives us a “blood transfusion,” so that we can not only live but live on a new level of being. Cardinal Sarah states, “Jesus gives us his Body and Blood to configure us to himself and to make us one with him. We become Christ, and his blood makes us his kin, men and women immersed in his life, with the Holy Trinity dwelling in us. We become one family: God’s Family.”52 But once God has transformed us and made us part of his family, he wants us to share in his apostolate, his work of drawing all people into communion with him. Sr. Dolores’s hymn draws out this element beautifully as each stanza focuses on a different work of mercy from Matthew 25—feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, welcoming the stranger. Transformed into Christ, we are to do what Christ does. But, the reality is even more profound. We are Christ in the world, transmitting his life to others, but each of those we encounter is also Christ. “What you did for my loved ones, My poor and my least ones,” we sing using Christ’s words, “That you do also for me.” Christ encounters Christ in the poor. Christ in the Eucharist makes this possible. Christ tells us that if we are to live a Christian life, we need to stay united to him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If we want to be alive in Christ, then we need to abide in him, to cling to him, and allow his divine life to course through our spiritual veins. The steady source of this divine life is the sacraments.53 But the sacraments are not magic. They truly communicate God’s life, but if they are to bear fruit in us, we need to be properly disposed.54 We need to be in intimate, personal relationship with God. We maintain this spiritual intimacy with God through prayer and good works. Now, adding good works is going to give some people pause, but good works need to be understood properly. Catholics and Protestants agree that apart from God, there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Anything done apart from God cannot be truly good or “meritorious.” Good works, properly understood, are God’s good works in us—they are a grace, a free gift of God. Because they are his works, they are “meritorious,” that is, pleasing to God and deserving of reward (see Rom. 2:6-8). But, on the Catholic account, we are not passive in this process; in fact, we are more free and more active when God is in us. God’s grace does not destroy free will; it is the very condition for any true freedom at all. “Do we, then, by grace empty free choice?” Augustine asks. “Let that be far from our thoughts! Rather, we establish free choice even more.”55 Paul expresses the same paradox in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in

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you.” We can work—we are commanded to work—precisely because God is at work in us. The Eastern tradition calls this “synergy,” from the Greek syn-, “together,” and ergon, “work.” God works and we work together, but this is not a half-and-half proposition but a whole and whole one. The Western tradition calls this “co-operation,” which has the same etymology, though in Latin. The work between God and human beings is not part and part, as though we did something apart from God which added to his part of the work. Rather, God is fully at work in us which enables us to freely participate in his work with our works. They are truly our works because they are truly God’s work in us. We are “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9). We can see this dynamic at work in the wonderful stories of the saints. The saints are like “glowing coals,” to borrow Matthias Scheeben’s updating of the traditional image. On our own, we are cold, dirty, useless lumps of coal. But we have a capax Dei, a capacity for God, which can receive his life. We receive it, as we have said, by being united to Christ. Scheeben says, “Christ’s divinity is the fire that is to pervade, illuminate, and transform the whole human race; but His humanity is the glowing coal in which the fire dwells and from which it is diffused over the whole human race.”56 Through baptism we are joined to the fiery flesh of Christ. The closer we cling to him, the hotter we get until his own divine life permeates our whole being the way fire permeates a piece of coal. There is a great story from one of the Desert Fathers that conveys this dynamic as well. Lot went to Joseph and said, “Abba, as far as I can, I keep a moderate rule, with a little fasting, and prayer, and meditation, and quiet: and as far as I can I try to cleanse my heart of evil thoughts. What else should I do?” Then the hermit stood up and spread out his hands to heaven, and his fingers shone like ten flames of fire, and he said, “If you will, you can become all flame.”57

This story may seem fantastic to us, a pious legend, but even if it is not “literally true,” it gets at a real truth of the Christian life: God wants to set us on fire with his own divine life. We can read a twentieth-century version of this from the Italian historian of Christian spirituality, Don Giuseppe De Luca, who visited the Franciscan friar and stigmatist, Padre Pio. De Luca’s description of his encounter with Padre Pio powerfully conveys what a deified life actually looks like. Padre Pio, dear Papini, is a sickly, ignorant Capuchin, very much the crude southerner. And yet . . . God is with him, that fearful God that we glimpse in reverie and which he has in his soul, unbearably hot, and in his flesh, which trembles constantly . . . as if battered by ever more powerful gales. I truly


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saw the holy there, holiness not of action but of passion, the holiness that God expresses. Although he is a man of very meager intelligence, he offered me two or three words that I have never found on the lips of other men, and not even (and this is harder to admit) in the books of the Church. . . . There is nothing of ordinary spirituality about him, nor is there anything extraordinarily miraculous, stunning, or showy; there is merely intelligentia spiritualis, a free gift from God. And there is a passion, even a human passion, for God, dear Papini, that is so beautiful, so ravishingly sweet that I can’t tell you. The love of woman and the love of ideas are nothing by comparison, they are things that do not go beyond a certain point, whether near or far. While the love of God, how, I do not know, burns, and the more it burns the more it finds to burn. I have the absolutely certain sensation that God and man have met in this person.58

St. Catherine of Siena famously said, “Love transforms one into what one loves.”59 Padre Pio, like Sts. Francis and Catherine before him, was so in love with Christ that not only was his soul conformed to Christ but also his body which received the wounds of Christ. On fire with Christ, body and soul, a few words from Padre Pio was enough to set others on fire.

CONCLUSION In the original creation, God intended for us to worship him and to be transformed into him. But humans turned away from God and asserted an independent divinization instead. Christ came to restore the right relationship between God and human beings, to restore us to holiness, and to restore true worship. This worship is found in the sacraments which insert us into Christ and unite our worship to his. By partaking of the sacraments and living in accordance with them, we share in eternal life, so that our life on earth already participates in the life to come. We share in Christ’s life and in his mission, so that we are to do what Christ does, transmitting God’s divine life to others. This life begins now for true worshippers, but this process is never complete on earth. It will be complete only in the resurrection when we see God “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12) and when, as St. Paul proclaims, God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

NOTES 1. See A Commentary on the Order of Mass of the Roman Missal, ed. Edward Foley (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011), 224. The practice of mixing water

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and wine and its attendant symbolism seems to go back to the earliest practices of the Church: see, for example, Cyprian, Letter 62.13. 2. Augustine, City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson (London: Penguin Books, 1984), 10.1. 3. For Catholics, there are seven sacraments—baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, confession, matrimony, holy orders, and anointing of the sick—each of which communicates God’s divine life in different ways to the person receiving the sacrament. 4. See Called to Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification, eds. Fr. David Meconi, S.J. and Carl E. Olson (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2016), which provides an account of deification in the Catholic tradition from Scripture to the most recent popes. See also Deification in the Latin Patristic Tradition, ed. Jared Ortiz (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019). 5. Catechism of the Catholic Church (abbreviated CCC hereafter), U.S. Catholic Conference (New York: Doubleday Religion, 2003), 1, emphasis added. Numbers refer to paragraphs. 6. CCC 1, emphasis added. 7. Fourth Lateran Council, Chapter 2, in Heinrich Denzinger, Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals, 43rd edition, ed. Peter Hünermann (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2012), § 806. 8. Joseph Ratzinger, ‘In the Beginning…’: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, trans. Boniface Ramsey (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 30. 9. See Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 1998), 37ff. 10. See CCC 1701–1715, but especially 1705. 11. Ratzinger, In the Beginning, 47. 12. Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1. 13. Ratzinger, In the Beginning, 27–28, emphasis added. 14. Scott Hahn, Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy (New York: Doubleday, 2005), 11. 15. The following is drawn from the fine discussion in Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering’s Holy People, Holy Land: A Theological Introduction to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005), 23–40. 16. Augustine, City of God, 22.30. 17. Ratzinger, In the Beginning, 70, emphasis added. 18. St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3, quoted in CCC 460. 19. St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1–4, quoted in CCC 460. 20. See CCC 606–618. 21. Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2000), 34. Ratzinger also says, “If ‘sacrifice’ in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization, worship now has a new aspect: the healing of wounded freedom, atonement, purification, deliverance from estrangement” (ibid., 33). 22. All of creation participates in the worship of God and shares in the joy of salvation. See, for example, Ps. 19 and Isa. 49:13. To get a sense of what this might look like, sing robustly all the verses of “All Creatures of Our God and King.”


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23. CCC 648. 24. CCC 662, cf. Heb. 9:11; Rev. 4:6–11. 25. The Greek word for “participation” here is koinonia, which could also be translated, “communion.” 26. St. John Chrysostom, Catecheses, 3, 13–19, https​:/​/ww​​w​.cro​​ssroa​​dsini​​tiati​​ ve​.co​​m​/med​​ia​/ar​​ticle​​s​/blo​​od​-an​​d​-wat​​er​-fr​​om​-hi​​s​-sid​​​e​-st-​​john-​​chrys​​ostom​/ (accessed July 15, 2016); see also CCC 766 and 1225. This beautiful passage of Chrysostom is read every Good Friday as part of the Office of Readings. 27. Most early Christians, including the New Testament authors, used the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures called the Septuagint. 28. St. John Chrysostom, Catecheses, 3, 13–19, https​:/​/ww​​w​.cro​​ssroa​​dsini​​tiati​​ ve​.co​​m​/med​​ia​/ar​​ticle​​s​/blo​​od​-an​​d​-wat​​er​-fr​​om​-hi​​s​-sid​​​e​-st-​​john-​​chrys​​ostom​/ (accessed July 15, 2016). 29. Ibid. 30. See, for example, Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 28.1. 31. Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, 7. 32. Second Vatican Council. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December, 1963,” 7, https​:/​/ww​​w​.ewt​​n​.com​​/libr​​ary​/C​​OUNCI​​LS​/V​2​​ LITUR​​.HTM (accessed July 12, 2016). In this same paragraph, SC speaks eloquently about the powerful presence of Christ in all parts of the liturgy. 33. These are considered the “sacraments of initiation,” the sacraments constitutive of or foundational to the Christian life. See CCC 1212. 34. Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Chapter 5 in The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H.J. Schroeder, O.P. (Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 1978), 31. Divine filiation is how Trent frames its whole discussion of justification. 35. CCC 654. 36. Fulton Sheen, These Are the Sacraments (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962), https​:/​/ww​​w​.ewt​​n​.com​​/libr​​ary​/D​​OCTRI​​NE​/SA​​​CRAME​​N​.TXT​ (accessed July 13, 2016). 37. Ibid. 38. Augustine, Tractates on John, 21.8, my translation. Leo the Great makes a similar point: “Those who are received by Christ and who receive Christ are no longer after the bath what they were before baptism; the body of the person who has been reborn becomes the flesh of the Crucified” (Sermon 63.4). 39. See CCC 1302 and 1831; cf. Isa. 11:2. 40. John the Deacon, Letter to Senarius, 6 in Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources, vol. 4, ed. Lawrence J. Johnson (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009), 41. The “wedding garment” is a reference to Matthew 22:1112, Christ’s parable about the wedding banquet. 41. See, for example, Augustine, Sermon, 229.1 and 272; compare, for example, Didache 9. 42. Quoted in James T. Connor, The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005), xii. Cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11. 43. CCC 1085.

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44. Augustine, Sermon 272, my translation. 45. Ibid. Ratzinger comments astutely on Augustine’s insight, “St. Augustine could say that the true ‘sacrifice’ is the civitas Dei [the City of God], that is, lovetransformed mankind, the divinization of creation and the surrendering of all things to God: God all in all (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28). That is the purpose of the world. That is the essence of sacrifice and worship” (Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, 28). 46. Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2015), 127, emphasis added. 47. Leo the Great, Sermon 63.7, in St. Leo the Great: Sermons, trans. Jane P. Freeland and Agnes J. Conway, Fathers of the Church, vol. 93 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of American Press, 1996). 48. Quoted in Meconi and Olson, Called to Be the Children of God, 130. 49. CCC 1374. 50. Dolores Dufner, “Amen to the Body of Christ,” in Oramus Cantando/We Pray in Song (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, 2013), #765, http:​/​/www​​.hymn​​ary​.o​​rg​/hy​​mn​ /OC​​2013/​​​page/​​856 (accessed August 2, 2016). 51. Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., The Soul of the Apostolate (Charlotte, NC: Tan Books, 2012), 2–3. 52. Sarah, God or Nothing, 125. 53. The image of vine, branches, and fruit is likely a reference to grapes and, subsequently, wine. The context of the Last Supper where Christ gives us his blood in the form of wine confirms this suggestion. 54. See CCC 1128 for a discussion of the sacraments acting ex opere operato (literally: ‘by the very fact of the action’s being performed’), as well as the necessity of a proper disposition. 55. Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 30.52, translation mine. 56. Matthias Scheeben, Mysteries of Christianity, trans. Cyril Vollert (New York: Crossroad, 2008), 459. 57. The Desert Fathers: Sayings of Early Christian Monks, ed. Benedicta Ward (New York: Penguin, 2003), 131. 58. Quoted in Patricia Snow, “Dismantling the Cross: A Call for Renewed Emphasis on the Celibate Vocation,” First Things (April 2015) http:​/​/www​​.firs​​tthin​​ gs​.co​​m​/art​​icle/​​2015/​​04​/di​​smant​​li​ng-​​the​-c​​ross (accessed July 20, 2016). 59. Catherine of Sienna, The Dialogue, trans. Suzanne Noffke, O.P., Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), chap. 60, 115–116.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Augustine, Saint. City of God. London: Penguin Books, 1984. Catherine of Sienna. The Dialogue. Translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. New York: Paulist Press, 1980. Chautard, Jean-Baptiste. The Soul of the Apostolate. Charlotte, NC: Tan Books, 2012. Chrysostom, John. Catecheses, 3. https​:/​/ww​​w​.cro​​ssroa​​dsini​​tiati​​ve​.co​​m​/med​​ia​/ar​​ticle​​ s​/blo​​od​-an​​d​-wat​​er​-fr​​om​-hi​​s​-sid​​​e​-st-​​john-​​chrys​​ostom​/ (accessed July 15, 2016).


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Connor, James T. The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005. Denzinger, Heinrich. Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals, 43rd edition. Edited by Peter Hünermann. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2012. Dufner, Dolores. “Amen to the Body of Christ,” #765. In Oramus Cantando/We Pray in Song. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2013. http:​/​/www​​.hymn​​ary​.o​​rg​/hy​​mn​/OC​​ 2013/​​​page/​​856 (accessed August 2, 2016). Foley, Edward, ed. A Commentary on the Order of Mass of the Roman Missal. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011. Freeland, Jane P. and Agnes J. Conway, trans. St. Leo the Great: Sermons, Fathers of the Church, vol. 93. Washington: Catholic University of American Press, 1996. Hahn, Scott. Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy. New York: Doubleday, 2005. Johnson, Lawrence, ed. Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources, vol. 4. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009. Meconi, David Vincent and Carl E. Olson, eds. Called to Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2016. Ortiz, Jared, ed. Deification in the Latin Patristic Tradition. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019. Ratzinger, Joseph. ‘In the Beginning…’: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995. ———. The Spirit of the Liturgy. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2000. Sarah, Robert. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2015. Scheeben, Matthias. Mysteries of Christianity. Translated by Cyril Vollert. New York: Crossroad, 2008. Schroeder, H.J., ed. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 1978. Second Vatican Council. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December, 1963.” https​:/​/ww​​w​.ewt​​n​.com​​/libr​​ary​/C​​OUNCI​​LS​/V​2​​ LITUR​​.HTM (accessed July 12, 2016). Sheen, Fulton. These are the Sacraments. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962. https​:/​ /ww​​w​.ewt​​n​.com​​/libr​​ary​/D​​OCTRI​​NE​/SA​​​CRAME​​N​.TXT​ (accessed July 13, 2016). Snow, Patricia. “Dismantling the Cross: A Call for Renewed Emphasis on the Celibate Vocation,” First Things (April 2015). http:​/​/www​​.firs​​tthin​​gs​.co​​m​/art​​icle/​​ 2015/​​04​/di​​smant​​li​ng-​​the​-c​​ross (accessed July 20, 2016). U.S. Catholic Conference. Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday Religion, 2003. Ward, Benedicta, ed. The Desert Fathers: Sayings of Early Christian Monks. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Chapter 2

Eucharistic Personhood Deification in the Orthodox Tradition Nikolaos Asproulis

INTRODUCTION The Status Questionis It is difficult to start with a precise and clear definition of the Christian concept of theosis. While it is widely recognized today that theosis or deification1 occupies a central place in Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality as a sort of a “religious ideal of Orthodoxy,”2 one would be hard put to find, throughout history, a formal definition that could claim doctrinal authority. Despite the great variety of biblical and patristic references (see below), there is not a commonly accepted definition of theosis, issued, for instance, by an Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church. This paradoxical lack of a clear definition does not lead, however, to an obscurity of the spiritual view, shared by the Fathers and the Church, since Christian life is not primarily about concepts and abstract reflection but about experience and life. This lack of an official doctrinal formulation of theosis finds its equivalent in the definition of the Church. In words of Georges Florovsky (1893–1979), the pre-eminent twentieth-century Orthodox theologian of the Russian Diaspora:3 The Fathers did not care so much for the doctrine of the Church precisely because the glorious reality of the Church was open to their spiritual vision. One does not define what is self-evident. This accounts for the absence of a special chapter on the Church in all early presentations of Christian doctrine (emphasis in original).4

In this light, we might say that theosis itself was experienced and practiced more as an actual reality in the ecclesial context, related to the final goal and 29


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destiny of humanity, rather than as a topic which required an official doctrinal formulation or abstract speculation. Modern Objections Over time, however, the concept or reality of theosis emerged not only as an important point of reference but also of theological dispute. At the beginning of the twentieth- century, deification was already attracting the interest of theologians belonging to different Christian traditions beyond Eastern Orthodoxy, due to its “exotic” connotations. It was the massive work History of Dogma, of the leading liberal Protestant theologian of the time, Adolph von Harnack (1851–1930), who boldly reacted against the alleged hellenization of the Gospel. In his view the philosophical and metaphysical idea of theosis, rooted actually in the apotheosis of the ancient world, resulted in more or less distortion of the original biblical message.5 At the same time, albeit from quite an opposite angle, Karl Barth (1886–1968) and other dialectic theologians, because of their fear of an over-appreciation of anthropology and its role in Christology, became quite reluctant to accept deification as a core aspect of the Christian message.6 In this perspective, theosis was mainly considered as “not only strange, but arrogant and shocking to modern ears;”7 an unbiblical and “thoroughly objectionable” concept,8 while the liberal Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng (1928–) was to argue that what was needed “is not the deification but the humanization of man.”9 These objections or even negative attitudes toward deification, on the side of eminent Christian theologians coming from different traditions, did not remain unanswered. Responding to the numerous critical reservations against theosis, Jules Gross10 provided one of the first systematic and detailed studies about deification, based on biblical and patristic material. While the process of attaining likeness to God was not foreign to antiquity, Gross demonstrated, by virtue of the Pauline soteriology, that deification was a legitimate “development of the biblical ideas of divine filiation and incorporation into Christ,” which should be understood in distance from the pagan apotheosis.11Alongside with Gross, Eastern Orthodox theologians, especially of the Russian Diaspora began to insist on the centrality of deification in Orthodox spirituality and tradition, in the context, however, of a polemical confrontation with the West in their attempt to form a distinctively Eastern Orthodox identity.12 TOWARD A DEFINITION OF THEOSIS Although being a fundamental aspect of ecclesial life and patristic spirituality,13 theosis was (and is still) considered a “fluid term,”14 to the extent that

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there was “no unilateral consensus among early Christian authors about the precise meaning of this notion.”15 The variety of concepts, expressions, and terms used over the centuries to define the reality of deification notwithstanding, the concept of theosis was firmly based directly or indirectly on important biblical references. Beginning with Psalm 82:6 (“you are gods, all of you are children of the most High”- KJV) or later on with 2 Peter 1:4 (“so that through these you might become partakers in the divine nature”)16 early Christian authors attempted to give expression to an idea that may have often sounded quite strange, esoteric, or irrelevant, if not a “scandal” altogether, to the people mainly outside the boundaries of the Church. The idea that a human being could “partake” in the divine nature or could be defined as “god” is indeed an idea that requires careful and deep consideration in order to overcome the pitfall of an interpretation that would regard it as a Christian improvement and further development of the pagan concept of apotheosis, present in the ancient heroes and Roman emperors.17 Being based on their ecclesial and ascetic experience, primarily as presiders of local Eucharistic communities but drawing also on resources available in their surrounding settings (rabbinic literature and Greek philosophy), the Fathers of the Church tried to mark the boundaries and bring to the fore different aspects of deification: participation in the divine life through the sacramental life of the Church; a (philosophical) ascent of the soul to God (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Origen); a regaining of and attaining the divine image or likeness (e.g. Cyril of Alexandria, Dionysius of Areopagite); the eschatological participation via Incarnation (cf. the Christological framework in Maximus the Confessor) in the transcendent divine nature; or finally as an experience of God through the divine energies construed in terms of the uncreated light (Hesychasm in the fourteenth century).18 Norman Russell summarizes, in his magisterial book, the whole range of the development of the early and the later ecclesial and patristic understanding of deification: Until the end of the fourth century the metaphor of deification develops along two distinct lines: on the one hand, the transformation of humanity in principle as a consequence of the Incarnation, on the other the ascent of the soul through the practice of virtue. The former, broadly characteristic of Justin, Irenaeus, Origen and Athanasius is based on St. Paul’s teaching of incorporation into Christ through baptism and implies a realistic approach to deification. The latter, typical of Clement and the Cappadocians, is fundamentally Platonic and implies a philosophical or ethical approach. By the end of the fourth century the realistic and philosophical strands begin to converge. . . . Through Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor deification became established in the Byzantine monastic tradition as the goal of the spiritual life.19


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As it was evident, over the whole of all this patristic period, various aspects of deification were stressed by different individual Fathers in their endeavor to come to terms with the need for articulating the reality of this divine–human communion, which was established as “one of the fundamental theses of patristic thought and spirituality.”20 The reality of theosis was by no means regarded in any historical period of Christianity as a “marginal”21 aspect of Christian life, at least as far as it concerns Eastern Orthodoxy, but rather as “a central dynamic in the process of salvation of each person.”22 Despite the uneasiness of the early Fathers to give a specific conceptual content to deification, they soon employ different terms, such as theopoiein (deifying; e.g., Clement of Alexandria)23 or theosis (deification; e.g., Gregory of Nazianzus),24 in their effort to find the most adequate way of expressing their central soteriological belief. It was not until Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (sixth century) that the first theological definition appeared due to the special attention given to it by the great mystic theologian of the early Byzantine time. As Vladimir Kharlamov argues: In Pseudo-Dionysius, who masterfully and consistently integrated different aspects associated with the deification theme and combined them with a wide variety of other theological issues, we encounter the first speculative foundation for the theology of theosis.25

According to Pseudo-Dionysius, “theosis is the attaining of likeness to God and union with him so far as possible.”26 While there are certainly Platonic philosophical connotations, in this very first definition of deification, it is also clear that Pseudo-Dionysius wanted to express a vision that “grew out of a comprehension of primarily practical soteriological and Christological aspects of Christian everyday life and spirituality,”27 both on the level of communal and individual life. PATTERNS (OR TYPES) OF DEIFICATION Despite the vagueness of the concept of theosis in the history of the Church, the content of deification has been more implicitly or explicitly described in various ways by individual patristic authors. That content would include the following: a. The so-called exchange formula28 or admirable commercium.29 This constitutes an almost universal pattern in the early patristic literature. It was Irenaeus of Lyons (130–202 AD) that clearly stated it in the

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following way: “in his immense love he became what we are, that he might make us what he is.”30 The most famous patristic exposition of this “admirable exchange” is found, however, in Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373 AD), who in his much celebrated De Incarnatione, states that “He became human that we might become God.”31 Similar expressions of this popular pattern can be found in various individual authors, where the same view is expressed in more or less nuanced terms, such as in Clement of Alexandria (150–215 AD), where Christ by his Incarnation and descent into the human condition becomes the very path of the ascent of human being to Godhead,32 or in Cappadocian Fathers, like Gregory of Nanzianzus (329–390 A.D.) where it is stated that “we are becoming as Christ, because Christ became like us.”33 In this pattern, the relevance of the Incarnation, in particular, and the Christological factor, in general, becomes central in construing the “doctrine” of deification. As Louth aptly put it, this “is the place where deification fits,”34 highlighting thus from another angle the dialogical character of theosis, where God initiates in Christ a mutual dialogue with his creatures in history. Yet it is the (positive) response of latter, the very condition, by which the transformation of human nature is possible. b. The “adoption formula”: The dialogical aspect of deification brings also to the fore the personal and ontological nature of this dialogue to the extent that a Trinitarian person, the Son of God and not any, so to say, impersonal divine power is incarnated. This means that human persons “become gods,” without ever ceasing to be creatures. This “face-toface encounter” should be understood as the very goal and destiny of humanity.35 The same Christological background of deification implies a holistic view of human being, since the very Incarnation of the Word of God includes every aspect of human nature and not only a higher aspect of it (e.g. nous/mind or soul), which means that the whole human being is destined for union with God. As a result of this primarily personal character of theosis and the exchange formula, deification comes to be understood through the lens of “filial adoption,” which by being firmly based on biblical and patristic roots expresses the realization of theosis at the level of the mode of existence, namely at the level of hypostasis36 and certainly not of nature.37 This is so because no nature can exist in a naked state, without its hypostasis (and vice versa),38 which clearly indicates the proper understanding of the biblical saying “partakers of divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).39 In this light, the eminent Orthodox theologian of our time, John Zizioulas argues that, Theosis is not simply a matter of participating in God’s glory and other natural qualities, common to all three persons of the Trinity, it is also, or


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rather above all, our recognition and acceptance by the Father as his sons by grace, in and through our incorporation into his only-begotten Son by nature (emphasis in original).40

What I call the “adoption formula” should be understood as a hermeneutical expansion of the “exchange formula,” rooted in the firm Christological faith of the Church, to the degree that it aims at understanding theosis on the grounds of a personal communion, stemming from the incarnational descent of Christ and human being’s ascent “through our adoption by grace as sons in the [Incarnate] Son.”41 Or, in the words of Cyril of Alexandria, we become “sons in the Son.”42 In this light, deification is more properly regarded as “Christification” (see below), since the telos and the destiny or goal of humanity is not any “abstract change of the nature (human) into another (the divine)”43 but rather its incorporation into the Incarnate Logos. c. The “Essence-energies44 formula”: There was another, however, line of reception and interpretation of the early “exchange formula,” which put a dominant emphasis on the word “nature” of the well-known biblical verse of 2 Peter 1:4 “partakers of the divine nature.” This line of interpretation, while it could already certainly be traced back to the Cappadocian Fathers, et. al.,45 was mainly conceptualized by the fourteenth-century great spiritual father and theologian, Gregory Palamas, having become since then the “authoritative source”46 of understanding the meaning of theosis in Eastern Orthodoxy. A brief account of the history of this doctrine is necessary to understand its parameters and relevance for our topic. The hesychast controversy of the fourteenth century, centered on the dispute between Gregory Palamas (1296–1359) and Barlaam of Calabria (1290–1348), was one of the last important theological and philosophical developments that took place in the late Byzantine Empire decades before its Fall. The issue at stake in this controversy did, in fact, revolve around theosis or in more concrete terms around the possibility on the side of human beings to achieve a vision of the divine nature through ascetic effort and prayer. While this vision was considered by Barlaam,47 a renowned byzantine humanist of his era, as a clear deviation toward the Messalian heresy48 of the early fourth century, for Gregory Palamas it was regarded as the backbone of any real possibility of the experience of deification. In his view, expressed throughout his work and especially in his treatise “On Theosis,” Palamas would stress the paradox that, while God’s knowledge is apophatic, this does not imply that God is fully inaccessible to human beings.49 The Athonite monks claimed that in contemplating the divine light they did, however, have no access to the divine nature itself but rather to God’s divine glory, a

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contemplation which is a real and not symbolic experience. As Gregory himself put it, the monks experience is “an illumination immaterial and divine, a grace invisibly seen and ignorantly known. What it is, they do not pretend to know.”50 This divine light is identified in the hesychast tradition, following in this respect the line of the long patristic tradition, with the divine energies. Against Barlaam who held that “the light which the monks see is not divine, it is a created symbol of divinity. It is therefore grace not God, that is experienced,” Gregory would counterargue, that “the deifying light is essential, not symbolic, but it is not itself the essence of God.”51 As Vladimir Kharlamov summarizes Palamas’ reception: This ousia/energeiai distinction for Palamas attempts to explain the human ability to participate in God with the subsequent achievement of theosis, and at the same time to preserve the incomprehensibility and impracticability of God in his essence. Energies reveal God himself without revealing God in himself.52

To sum up, in order to classify this pluralization with regard to the nature and content of theosis, one could make use of the two-fold distinction between an “ousianic” and “hypostatic model,” suggested recently by Jonathan Ciraulo.53 In his perspective, the former model is evidenced in the over-emphasis put by both Western and Eastern theologians on an understanding of deification in terms of participation in the nature of God or from an Eastern hesychast point of view, in the divine energies, while the latter accounts for our incorporation into the hypostasis of Christ; an adoption by grace (in the Spirit) “as son(s) in the Son,” ultimately understood as Christification.54 It is this second view that is being followed in this study as the one closer to the common roots of Christian faith within an ecumenical perspective. ONTOLOGICAL PRESUPPOSITIONS AND FOUNDATIONS OF AN ORTHODOX CONCEPTION OF DEIFICATION It is now the time to turn firstly to the ontological presuppositions that lie behind any effort to give a conceptual expression to the theme of deification and then to the foundations upon which the language and reality of theosis is founded, even though both presuppositions and foundations are closely interlinked. If it is true that the concepts seek to describe an already existent reality or experience in a more or less comprehensive and systematic way, one should explore the prerequisites that lead to a particular understanding of theosis.


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The God–World Relationship, the Incarnation of Christ, and Theosis Since the early period of the Christian Church, what occupied a central place in the theology of the Fathers was the way that the world was related to God. A critical question then emerged with regard to how was it possible to secure the absolute transcendence of God, while bringing at the same time the Creator and the creation into a dialogue, without making, however, the latter a necessary aspect of God’s very being. While the Church needed to break the inherent ontological continuity and affinity between God and the world evident in classic thought (e.g. the world understood as a close and unfree system, the prioritization of the One over the Many, the unity over the otherness, etc.),55 at the same time it sought, for soteriological purposes, to find the necessary means of freely and unconditionally linking the two, insofar as if Creation is left in itself, this would account to its non-existence. In their attempt to address this core problem, the Fathers of the Church needed to go beyond the given conceptualization of the relationship toward a new understanding that would justify both the communion (relationship) and the otherness between God and the world. According to one dominant strain in classic philosophy,56 the concept of Logos (and mind) was primarily perceived as an intellectual principle. In this perspective, it was considered that the human mind possesses the responsibility and capacity to bring into relation God and the world via contemplation and knowledge. What was at stake, however, in this case, it was an abolition of the boundaries between the divine and human mind, which amounts to a negation of the real otherness of both sides.57 In contrast to such an understanding, patristic theology and Maximus the Confessor in particular58 identified the Logos concept with a Person, the Son of God the Father, who bears or rather unites in himself the logoi of creation. By doing so, Maximus succeeded to move beyond any totalitarian and unfree account of ontology, since now it is through a Person, ultimately through the very Incarnation that the logoi are truly linked with God.59 This line of thought secured both the ontological otherness of the two sides, while bringing God and creation (the human person included) into a real ontological relationship, personal and dialogical encounter. To sum up, this new interpretation, conceptualized by the Fathers, preserves both the ontological character (i.e., real and not symbolic) of the relationship between God and Creation, and deification, which accounts for nothing less than the incorporation into the hypostasis of the Incarnate Logos (a sort of adoption) but also the indispensable relevance of Christology (in terms of the Incarnation) as the very prerequisite and foundation of the divine–human communion.60 Therefore, the telos of any human being is not

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regarded as a sort of dissolution in the infinite magnitude of divinity (where one loses its own particularity and otherness, that is the freedom to be one’s own self) but as a personal communion, as a “face-to-face” free encounter between God and human being in Christ by the Holy Spirit (in other words within the Church). This is not, however, the only way proposed by Orthodox theology toward the bridging of the gap between God and creation. One should also refer to the divine essence—energies distinction, which bears, as it was mentioned before, an almost binding character for a major part of Eastern Orthodox conceptualization of theosis. It was Gregory Palamas or rather his modern successors (the so-called Palamism or neo-palamite school)61 that gave to this distinction an excessive role in theology. Despite the merit of Palamas’ creative re-interpretation of this particular aspect of patristic tradition, one should be careful and point out the hermeneutical insufficiencies or onesidedness of such a proposal. While the hypostatic (personal) character of union between God and Creation highlights simultaneously the relevance of the person of Christ for the purpose of deification, this is not the profound result with Palamas’ view, insofar as energies in themselves, being primarily a manifestation of divine nature (even though operated only by persons), are indeed common to all the Trinitarian persons, who share in the first place the one divine nature. From this angle, deification could finally be understood as a sharing in the divine nature or a transformation of human nature to a divine. By saying this, the personal, “face-to-face,” encounter between God and human being in Christ, “an encounter which God takes the initiative by meeting us in the Incarnation, where we behold ‘the glory as of the Only-Begotten from the Father’ (John 1:14)”62 is put in jeopardy. It is my contention, that the essence-energy distinction, although an important patristic doctrine itself, as it has been primarily received in contemporary Orthodox theology, especially by Lossky and others, cannot be useful per se for a theology of deification without being seen through the lens of a personalist ontology that gives priority to the personal Incarnation of the Word of God and the personal relationship between God and the world. The God–World Relationship in Christ and the Cosmic Dimension of Theosis The close link between Incarnation and deification, already implied in the famous patristic “exchange formula,” further highlights the broader cosmic dimension of theosis in Orthodox theology. By this, it is meant that creation itself as a whole—and not one aspect of it, even the most central, like the human being—must and will to be constantly linked to God as the very source of life, so as to live eternally. At the same time, however, the human being acquires an


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important priestly role63 by which this close link will be realized. Although not widely developed in patristic thought, God’s desire to communicate with his creation is a mystery already “hidden from the beginning in God” (Eph. 3:9). Following the biblical narrative and especially St. Paul (Rom. 5:12) sin is identified with or resulted from death, which is a condition shared by creation in its entirety, due especially to its creation ex nihilo,64 out of nothing. In this light, sin is not primarily viewed as a psychological or ethical problem, inherited by the human race due to Adam’s fall but as an ontological reality that permeates humanity as a whole. What constitutes the “ultimate enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26) of creation is not sin (which moreover concerns principally the human being) but death itself, which destroys the relationship between God and the world and undermines the eternal survival (the “ever being” and not just the “well-being”) of the human being, in particular, and the whole creation, in general. From an ontological point of view, death as the “wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23) does not account simply for a moral destabilization of the natural order as a result of disobedient human beings to a certain divine or natural law but mainly refers to the ultimate decay and destruction of created being itself. From this perspective, the motive of Incarnation should be seen from a broader (cosmic) perspective. Despite the lack of any formal discussion and elaboration in patristic tradition, the question was indirectly raised here and there (cf. the “patristic phrases”)65 in relation to the ultimate motive of Incarnation, in other words the relation between the Incarnation and the very purpose of Creation. It seems that the wider cosmic perspective must be put side by side with the anthropological dimension, which dominates most theological reflection. Although it is true to say that “the purpose and the effect of the Incarnation were defined precisely as the Redemption of man and his restoration to those original conditions which were destroyed by the fall and sin,”66 one should not simply reduce the basic motive of Incarnation to redemption from the slavery of sin. Rather, as Bulgakov says, “The Incarnation is the interior basis of creation, its final cause.”67 Insofar as the question of the motive of the Incarnation was never explicitly raised in the Greek patristic tradition,68 one should be very cautious in dealing with it. Maximus the Confessor was one of the few who dealt in a clearer way with this problem. Basing himself on 1 Peter 1:19-20, Maximus argued that the Incarnation should be regarded as the absolute and primary “purpose of God in the act of Creation.”69 For Maximus, the person of Christ is the Divine purpose, which was thought of before the beginning of Creation, and which we call an intended fulfillment. All creation exists on account of this fulfillment and yet the fulfillment itself exists because of nothing that was created.70

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It is clear then, that a cosmic dimension is deeply presupposed in the Incarnation motive, which amounts to an ontological and Christological understanding of deification itself. In this light, Andrew Louth, a leading Orthodox patristic scholar, drawing primarily on Sergius Bulgakov’s (1871–1944) work, would express with more clarity this Maximian vision,71 about the close interlink between Creation and Incarnation. As he put it, deification is not to be equated with redemption. Christ certainly came to save us . . . but deification belongs to a broader conception of the divine οἰκονομία (economy): deification is the fulfillment of creation, not just the rectification of the Fall. (emphasis in original72)

In order to elaborate further on his argument, Louth makes use of a metaphor of two arches, one stretching from creation to deification and one lower from the Fall to redemption. Instead of seeing the Incarnation as simply the result of the Fall or the means of redemption, focusing in this regard on the lower arch, Louth would constantly insist on the necessity of regaining the lost sight of the greater arch (creation-deification) which highlights a positive, philanthropic, and finally cosmic perception of deification. Theosis is the final goal, the ultimate telos of human being and creation in its entirety, irrespective of humanity’s fall. This is due to the fact that deification simply means to become god by grace, that is, to participate in the state of incorruptibility. Deification constitutes a process which has its initial roots in the purpose of creation, in the person and work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, who perfects creation.73 The Ecclesial Context of Theosis74 The communal and relational character of ecclesial existence was a common reference in the primitive Church.75 The background idea expressed by this was that the Church is a body constituted of persons in constant relationship and mutual love. Insofar as theosis can be really regarded as Christification,76 it means that incorporation into the hypostasis of Christ accounts for a realization of the Body of Christ, of the Church. If Jesus Christ is considered as the very link between Creator and Creation, and the human being is created in the image of God, that is Christ himself (cf. Col. 1:15-18),77 then becoming Christ is the very goal of Christian life and spirituality. Christification then is nothing less than being adopted by Christ himself in the Spirit, by becoming Christ himself, as a member of his body, through the constitutive sacraments of the ecclesial identity, Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist.


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According to the Greek patristic tradition, represented here, for instance, by Irenaeus of Lyon (130–202 AD),78 Adam, being created according to the image of God, was not ultimately created perfect but he was bestowed with the freedom of gradually maturing in love and wisdom in the historical (i.e., dialogical and ascetical) course of fulfilling his destiny and telos that is his communion with God. However, due to his failure in accomplishing this initial task, God found it necessary to adjust his original plan to the new condition, by sending his own Son, the second and final Adam to ontologically restore (not to radically change though) the direction of the divine plan back toward deification. With his Incarnation, the Son of God offered the most precious gift to humanity.79 He revealed a new way of being, his own Trinitarian way of existence, which is best understood in terms of mutual love and freedom, realized in the Church, a community of persons par excellence. It was the constant effort and struggle of the Fathers of the Church to explicate this new way of being in experiential and practical terms. Based on their ecclesial or more concretely Eucharistic experience, they succeeded in describing the very being of God as primarily a communal/societal being, mainly realized in the context of the Eucharistic community and mystical body of Christ. As Zizioulas put it, this ecclesial experience “revealed something very important: the being of God could be known only through personal relationships and personal love.”80 This implies that the new mode of existence, manifested at the Incarnation of Christ, reveals the very divine way of being—understood as communion and love—as the ultimate goal of creation. This means that in order for human beings to experience eternal life, that is to achieve theosis, to be incorporated into the hypostasis of the Incarnate Son, they should be modeled according to this personal way of existence, revealed in Christ, that is, according to the very image of God, which is Christ himself. It is in this light that theosis is primarily regarded as Christification, as an adoption of a new hypostatic way of being, which amounts to a real and ontological change in the constitution of human being. While this was the original plan of God the Father, the human being and creation in its entirety deviated from their goal, due to the Fall, thereby distorting the imago Dei. On the side of humanity, the restoration of the “broader arch” from creation to deification requires the incorporation of human being into the body of Christ, which necessarily involves a fundamental re-constitution of human being in terms of a personal and loving (open and ecstatic) entity. The possibility of this reconstitution is provided by the sacramental life of the Church, in Baptism and Eucharist. This means that if the ultimate goal of theosis and its deeper content is chiefly the attainment of the personal mode of existence that characterizes the very life of God himself, meaning a life without death, the only way toward this end is to realize this personal life of God on the level also of the human existence or rather of the whole

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creation. Otherwise the “final enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26), death itself, which constitutes the constant threat of creation, would account for its eternal condemnation. This is so, since without a continuous relationship with the fountain of eternal life, God himself in Christ, humanity and creation in its entirety do not possess any natural means of overcoming the non-existence that constantly threatens creation. Had not a philanthropic initiative taken place on the side of God (the Incarnation of the Son) that ultimately conquered death with his Resurrection, the whole creation would have been stuck on death. In this light, the common natural birth of human being is not enough for it to overcome the annulment of its own being.81 Although one, following a common understanding of the Fall as simply a judicial disobedience, could think that by following or practicing some Christian virtues (love before all) or commandments one would be able to achieve the goal of theosis, reality itself contradicts this claim to the extent that death will continue to have the final word over one’s eternal destiny.82 The present state of human being, namely its fallen state, demonstrates that human being does not have in itself the capacity of overcoming corruption and finally death, since its very way of constitution is closely bound with death due to its finite nature. Therefore, the only way to finally overcome any return to non-being is a new constitution of the human being, a new birth, what is called Baptism (cf. 1 Pet. 3:23), further enacted in the Eucharist and the overall sacramental and ascetic life of the Church. By being incorporated into the Church, the human being is bestowed with the capacity of constituting its own self in a way that does not follow the deterministic laws of creation, which finally annul being itself. Liberated from the necessity of created nature the new birth “from above” (John 3:3, 7) offered in Baptism leads then to a reconstitution of humanity. The latter does not, however, take place in an automatic way, but it needs to pass through an ascetic enterprise by which the human being would practice itself in virtue so as to be capable of receiving the divine grace. The disobedience of Adam to the initial divine call is now through Baptism and ecclesial life put again on the right track by the philanthropic divine initiative to send his Son for “our salvation.” Deification is always a divine gift, meaning that it is impossible without the grace of God, which creates (in an ontological manner) the human being “anew” through Baptism. With the sacrament of Baptism, the new born Christian is introduced into a network of relationships which are based on freedom from any necessity inherent in our fallen created nature, while at the same time these relations, which are mainly determined by unconditional and mutual love, strengthen communion between the members of the Body of Christ, without compromising their particularity and otherness, as is the case with God himself too. With Baptism every Christian becomes himself Christ, to the degree that one


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assumes a new hypostatic way of being that bestows eternal life (by grace, that is in the Spirit) to the new born. Theosis as Christification is firmly grounded in the sacramental life of the Church as it is initiated through Baptism. By being incorporated into a body, the Body of Christ, the human being experiences a new way of life grounded in the very Trinitarian way of God himself, where interdependence and an interplay of love dominates and is conferred to the created order by the Christological link between God and creation. That is why the Christological background of theosis presupposes a re-constitution of the human relations in a way that they could not be threatened by death any more. The ecclesial life to which the people are introduced due to their being “born anew” in the Baptism constitutes the very beginning of the new era—of the eternal life fully experienced in the coming Kingdom. In this ecclesial (and ascetic) course toward deification, Baptism should not, however, be regarded as the final step, insofar as human beings and creation in its entirety still experience the tragedy of corruption and death. It was exactly the same problem they both faced since their creation ex nihilo, which, as has been mentioned, cannot be overcome by any ethical, psychological, or even created means of deification present in the history of the Church.83 But if death still determines the existence of human beings, the Incarnation notwithstanding, how is it possible eventually for creatures to attain theosis? Given that Christ, by virtue of the original divine plan and subsequently via divine economy, has reintroduced the whole creation into his Trinitarian and filial state (i.e., by conferring the “horizontal” relationship he shared with his Father in the Spirit to his “vertical” relationship with humanity and the entire creation), this new reality of the intra-Trinitarian relations of mutual communion and otherness that were activated by the Baptism can only be realized dialogically (i.e., ascetically and freely) within the present historical reality through the ecclesial body of Christ, especially in the context of Eucharist. Personhood is now for humanity a possible and historic mode of existence, with the condition that the Eucharist will be rightly understood, as a synaxis (assembly), a community, or rather a “network of relations,”84 by virtue of which the human being seeks to overcome its fallen, that is individualistic and ego-centric, way of existence. By being the very heart of the Church, the Eucharist provides the baptized persons with the only historical, albeit proleptical and partial, foretaste of their final goal, which will be fully accomplished in the end that is in the Kingdom of God. The adoption by grace into the hypostasis of Christ is only possible through the dialogical participation in the Eucharist,85 where the divine life is offered as a “momentary”86 taste of the eternal life, “predestined since the beginning of the divine plan for Creation.”87

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The Ascetic Dimension of Theosis But what is really the actual role of humanity in this process of deification? As it has been already stressed, this process takes place in the light of a dialogical that is ascetic attitude on the side of human beings. To the extent that the incorporation in the authentic image of the Father, that is Christ himself, constitutes the very prerequisite of the “image of God,” it means that for the human being to attain its likeness to God, an ascetic effort on the side of the person is required, apart from the divine initiative. This ascetic enterprise will further facilitate its commitment to the bestowed human powers. This sort of mutual dialogue is implied in the very Incarnation of the Word of God who unconditionally moved toward humanity, asking for permission in the person of the Virgin Mary to be incarnated. In the dialogical, the “faceto-face” encounter between God and humanity, a necessary cooperation, what is traditionally called “divine–human synergy” is boldly needed if the freedom of creation is to be preserved. Theosis is by no means a reality to be imposed on the freedom of human beings. On the contrary, it is a goal that, albeit divinely offered, requires the practice of virtues in everyday life on the part of human beings.88 A “spirituality of love” (cf. 1 John, 4)89 is then clearly put forth. The unconditional love toward the other, experienced in the framework of the Eucharist (primarily as peace90 and reconciliation), will become pointless, if it is not conditioned by the Cross of Christ, as the sacrifice and subject of our own will to the will of the other, finally God himself. The continuous ascetic struggle of the Christian toward the overcoming of all the obstacles that block the way toward the “hypostatic” union with God becomes then an ultimate condition in the process of deification, “that will render it capable of pure prayer, that is, authentic communication with God, in which the intellect or the heart, the spiritual principle of the human person, attains its ultimate goal,”91 namely theosis. This ascetic dimension, an important component of Christian spirituality, should not be regarded, however, as apart from the Eucharist, but it is necessary to integrate into the heart of the sacrament, where the whole of the creation and the material constitution of the human body experience an eschatological taste of incorruptibility. In this line, the real purpose of Christian asceticism and spiritual life is not any condemnation of human materiality (body or even of the passions)92 but chiefly the restoration of human capacities in order for the human being to be hypostasized in a manner reflecting the very being of God’s own life. The Eschatological Outlook of Theosis One last important point should be stressed here as regards the character of deification. Although the process of theosis is deeply rooted in the very


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constitution of human being, according to the “image of God” as well as in the initial divine plan of the creation, its eschatological orientation,93 found already in the divine call of attaining the likeness of God, can by no means be obscured or diminished. It is a common understanding of patristic tradition that theosis will be fully realized at the Kingdom of God, at the eschatological state of existence, where Christ in his glory will finally judge the very truth of creation in its entirety (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). In Zizioulas’ words, “the truth and the ontology of the person belong to the future, are images of the future,”94 and this points to the very dialectic state of the historical existence, the tension between the “already” and “not yet,” as this dialectic is primarily experienced in the Eucharist. This eschatological dimension safeguards the notion and reality of theosis from any superficial understanding of the human capacity to attain the likeness to God based on its own natural powers. Theosis will always be a gift granted to humanity at the end of its historical journey, albeit already foretasted, even partially in the present state of history. What the first Adam failed to accomplish by simply having to follow the divine call, the second Adam, that is, Christ, offered himself proleptically to humanity in the Eucharist, without however compromising the freedom and otherness of creatures. Finally, the eschatological dimension of theosis stresses the importance of history as the very locus where the encounter and dialogue/synergy between God and humanity takes place, away from any escapist tendencies quite often present in various expressions of the spiritual life in Orthodoxy. In such an understanding of theosis from an eschatological standpoint, one can describe the afterlife condition in terms of a network of relations firstly articulated in the historical body of Christ, the Church and then more or less preserved and confirmed at the eschatological state of being. At the end of times, the Church will not be really disappeared but it will be ultimately identified with the very Kingdom of God, fully participating now in Christ, where love and freedom, peace and reconciliation prevail against any historical or cosmic forms of evil.95 BY WAY OF CONCLUSION: TOWARD A RECONTEXTUALIZATION OF THEOSIS Even though the Christian theological concept of theosis96 has not been formally and clearly defined by the Church, it is commonly recognized that it occupies a central place in both the fore- and background of Orthodox theology, tradition, and spirituality. This means that the theme of theosis determines (at least in theory) all the aspects of the daily life of the faithful, their struggle to come to terms with the challenges posed by the surrounding reality both on the individual and the collective level. In other words, there is no

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area or field of our life, social, political, professional, and so on that it is not related or rather determined by this final goal of Christian life. If deification is regarded as the very telos of the life of humanity in this world, if further the hypostatic union with God is presupposed at the very beginning of one’s historical journey, then all our decisions, desires, failures, prospects, and so on should have something to do with theosis. It is true that such a close tie with everyday life is not always clear to the extent that the discussion about theosis is often limited around what I would call a “theology of patristic quotations,” without paying the necessary attention to how such a provocative, true, understanding of humanity’s call fits to all aspects of the actual life. If we understand theosis primarily as Christification, this necessarily implies that every aspect of human life has been already assumed by the Logos of God in his Incarnation, being thereby capable of transformation in terms of deification. This is the case, for instance, with politics.97 While any underlying link between politics and deification is, in the first place, considered as at least superficial, because of the alleged, on the one hand, escapist from the world tendencies inherent in certain understandings of theosis and the total irrelevance of politics to spiritual issues, a closer analysis will demonstrate that “theosis has everything to do with politics: the mystical is the political.”98 Although a bold statement, due to the often negative connotations implied in politics in terms of morality, authoritarianism, and so on, the inherent relational understanding of theosis as a “face-to-face” encounter and dialogue with God constitutes the precondition toward the attainment of the eternal life and likeness of God. If the human being and the creation in its entirety created, according to the initial divine plan, for communion with God, then all the relations that take place in this journey between the human beings and the creation play a decisive role for the successful fulfillment of this divine–human communion. This historical journey, however, is mainly tested by the capacity of human beings to practice the higher of all virtues and commands—to love God with “all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27). According to Papanikolaou, “Christian asceticism is a tradition of thinking on the kinds of practices one needs to perform so as to make oneself available to God’s love,”99 which is always a gift on the side of God. A relational understanding of virtues put forth by Maximus the Confessor emerges here, where one aims at building loving relationships (of trust, common concern, etc.) with the other and the surrounding reality. Without being trained in the acquisition of virtues, human beings cannot be able to acquire the capacity of loving the other. Commenting on 1 John 4, Dirk van der Merwe argued that “Christian spirituality is the encounter of God’s love in the acknowledgement of Jesus as Revealer and Saviour” and continues that “this life of love . . .


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becomes evident and experienced in the mutual love of the community”100 What accounts for theosis in this context is simply the obedience to the divine call to love as God loves his creation so as to send his “beloved” Son, that is, to love God and other human beings in the way God loves us, without any condition. Again an “exchange formula” is at work here, related this time to love. As Papanikolaou argues again, “if the Christian calling is to learn how to love, then an ascetics of divine-human communion cannot be confined either to the monastery or to the church”101 but is necessarily extended to the whole world, to every single aspect of human life. The application of this loving exchange formula in the entirety of human relations and the creation implies that “politics cannot be irrelevant to an ascetics of divine–human communion,” to the extent that both politics and the “doctrine” of theosis attempt to determine the human life according to their own premises and goals. To the extent that politics could be construed as a “secular” model of organizing human life and relationships, as an involvement with the daily life of the people, then one is justified in claiming that it is exactly in the midst of the political community that theosis as communion with God in freedom and love is primarily practiced. A “theology of politics” is then at work where “the political community is not the antithesis to the desert but one of the many deserts in which the Christian must combat the demons that attempt to block the learning to love.”102 Another instance where theosis acquires a broader theological significance is related to the field of ecumenical relations between the diverse Christian Churches and denominations. As it has already been made clear, a great interest in theosis continues to emerge quite apace “with the primary lode in the past few years coming from the western theological tradition”103 toward an attempt to understand the Christian concept of theosis as a potentially fruitful place of dialogue between the Eastern and Western Christian traditions.104 Theosis as a Christian theme with a long history provides the means of a mutual rapprochement of the diverse theological and ecclesial traditions, insofar as, on the one hand, it has not yet been formally defined, remaining a fluid term to be explicated, while, on the other, this kind of doctrinal fluidity allows for a more inclusive construal of its meaning, based on the variety of receptions and nuances in the history of theology. By virtue of a careful study of the long ecclesial history and tradition, different aspects of the “doctrine” of theosis emerge, providing a very good opportunity and ground for a future common vision of the Christian Churches. As far as theosis runs as a thread throughout all the Christian doctrines (from creation theology to eschatology), then it is legitimate to strive for an ecumenical consensus on this theme in terms of a unity in diversity, where, while the goal remains the same, the means toward its fulfillment could vary (i.e., a more ethical or ontological accent in different instances), to the degree

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that the union with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit is considered as the common destiny of humanity. This ecumenical vision does not amount to any doctrinal relativism, often feared by certain conservative or traditionalist groups, but on the contrary, it refers to the very telos of human being which shares a common “existential concern”105 regardless of any ethnic, sexual, racial, and other diversities. This is the dynamic of theosis, as gift and call simultaneously to unite with our God the Father in Christ by the Holy Spirit. A particular emphasis then on a revival of the ecclesial (both Eucharistic and ascetic) dimension of theosis, as it is understood from a certain Orthodox standpoint of view, could contribute further to the restoration of a common ground upon which the much desired Christian unity could be based.

NOTES 1. The Greek term theosis (θέωσις) is often translated as deification (or more rarely as divinization). For the purposes of the present text we use theosis and deification interchangeably. Referring to theosis we use the term doctrine in order to describe it, with the qualification that it has not been defined yet as such by any Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church. 2. Emil Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology. An Evaluation and the Theology of Dumitru Staniloae (Carlise, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1999), 7. 3. For the personality and the work of Georges Florovsky, see for instance, Andrew Blane, “Sketch of the Life of Georges Florovsky,” in Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual, Orthodox Churchman, ed. A. Blane (Crestwood, NY: St.Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), 11–217 and Paul Gavrilyuk, Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 4. Georges Florovsky, “The Church: Her Nature and Task,” in Idem, Bible, Church, Tradition, Collected Works, vol. 1 (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1972), 57. 5. Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. 2, trans. Neil Buchanan (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1901), 318; Panayotis Bratsiotis, “The Greek Patristic Doctrine of Deification of Man,” Theologia 42/ 1–4 (1971): 37 (in Greek); Paul Collins, Partaking in Divine Nature. Deification and Communion (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 3. Cf. also Paul Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-Despised Archaism Became an Ecumenical Desideratum,” Modern Theology 25/4 (2009): 647. 6. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV. 2 The Doctrine of Reconciliation, ed. G. W. Bromiley and T.F.Torrance (Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1958), 81–82, as cited in Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification,” 647. 7. W.R Inge, Christian Mysticism (London: Longman, 1933), 356, as cited in Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, 7. 8. D. Caimes, The Image of God in Man (London: Collins, 1973), 109, as cited in Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, 7.


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9. Hans Kung, On Being a Christian (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1978), 442. Cf. also Collins, Partaking in Divine Nature, 3; Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, 7. 10. Jules Gross, La Divinisation du Chretien d’ après les Peres Grecs. Contribution Historique sur la Doctrine de la Grace (Paris: Lecofire, J. Gabalda, 1938). 11. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification,” 649; Ben Blackwell, Christosis. Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 6. 12. See for instance, Vladimir Lossky, “Redemption and Deification” in Idem, The Image and Likeness of God, ed. John Erickson and Th. Bird (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974/2001), 99. Cf. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification,” 648. It is not the purpose of the present chapter to fully overview the historical development of the “doctrine” of deification throughout the centuries, beginning with its primitive Church roots until its later development in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period. For this purpose one should consult among others, Myhhra Lot-Borodine, “La deification de l’ home selon la doctrine des Peres grecs,” Revue d’ histoire des religions, 105 (1932): 5–43; George Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man according to Gregory Palamas (Crestweood, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 1997); Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) and idem, Fellow Workers with God. Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009); E. Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology; Panayotis Nellas, Deification in Christ. Orthodox Perspectives on the Nature of the Human Person (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987); Collins, Partaking in Divine Nature. Deification and Communion; Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov, “Introduction,” in Theosis. Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 1, Princeton Theological Monograph Series (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2006), etc. 13. Against the contention of many that theosis cannot be considered as central in the Latin patristic tradition, one should argue that although “the Latin Fathers do not extensively employ the technical terminology for deification . . . deification holds a place of ‘structural significance’ in their theology.” See Jared Ortiz “Introduction,” in Deification in Latin Patristic Tradition (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019), 3–4. 14. Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, 9. 15. Vladimir Kharlamov, “Theosis in Patristic Thought,” Theological Reflections 9 (2008): 156. 16. See also 1 John 3:2; John 17:21. 17. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification,” 649. 18. For those unfamiliar with Hesychasm, the latter is considered as the mainstream tradition of mystical prayer in Eastern Orthodoxy which running throughout the tradition of the Church. It can be summarized as an experience of God through the divine energies construed in terms of the uncreated light. According to Kallistos Ware, hesychasm as a term (from the Greek word ἡσυχία/hesychia), includes the following important aspects: a solitary life used already in the early centuries of

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Christianity, the practice of inner prayer, aiming at union with God on a level beyond images, concepts and language, already present in various Church Fathers, such as Maximus the Confessor; a particular psychosomatic technique in combination with the Jesus Prayer, already found in the 13th century, and finally the theology itself of the most known representative of Hesychast tradition, St. Gregory the Palamas. For more see, Kallistos Ware, Act out of Stillness: The Influence of Fourteenth-Century Hesychasm on Byzantine and Slav Civilization, ed. Daniel J. Sahas (Toronto: The Hellenic Canadian Association of Constantinople and the Thessalonikean Society of Metro Toronto, 1995), 4–7. 19. Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification,” 14–15. 20. George Th. Kurian, “Divinization or Deification,” in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, vol. I, ed. by G. Kurian (Blackwell Publishing, 2011). 21. Kharlamov in his brief survey “Theosis in Patristic Thought” (156) argues for the “marginal” character of the “deification theme in the first five centuries of Christian theology”. This claim, however, ignores the centrality of deification as experience in the life of the Church since the beginning, despite the variety of understandings. 22. Bruce V. Foltz, “Theosis,” in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, vol. IV, ed. G. Kurian (Blackwell Publishing, 2011). 23. Kurian “Divinization or deification,”; George Patronos, “The Deification of Man in the light of the eschatological perspective of Orthodox Theology,” part I, Theologia 51/2 (1980): 367 (in Greek). 24. Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov, “Introduction,” in Theosis. Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 1 Princeton Theological Monograph Series (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2006), 1; Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification,” 249. 25. Kharlamov, “Theosis in Patristic Thought,” 158. 26. Ps-Dionysius, “Ecclesiastical Hierarchy,” I, 3 PG 3, 376A: “ἡ δε θέωσις ἐστιν ἡ πρός θεόν ὡς ἐφικτόν ἀφομοίωσις τε καί ἔνωσις.” It is noteworthy to mention that the same definition is similarly given to another system term central to Ps-Dionysius, that of “hierarchy” (cf. “Ecclesiastical Hierarchy,” 3, 2 PG 3 165A), which better expresses his twofold approach to the term from an ecclesiastical and philosophical point of view (Cf. in more details Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification,” 261). Another less known definition of deification is found in Anastasius of Sinai (7th century), who defines theosis (PG 89, cap. II, 77C.) as an “ascent of human nature towards the divine light without compromising the divine nature.” Cf. Bratsiotis, “The Greek Patristic Doctrine of Deification,” 34. 27. Kharlamov, “Theosis in Patristic Thought,” 157. 28. Collins, Partaking in Divine Nature, passim. 29. Andrew Louth, “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,” in Partakers of the Divine Nature. The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, eds. Michael J. Christensen and Jerrery A. Wittung (Cranbury, NJ: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp, 2007), 34. 30. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Adversus Haereses,” 5, praef, PG 7, 1120. 31. Athanasius of Alexandria, “De Incarnatione,” 54. Cf. Collins, Partaking in Divine Nature, 62. Cf. also Irenaeus of Lyon, according to whom the Son of God


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“became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.” cited in Norman Russell, “A Common Christian Tradition: Deification in the Greek and Latin Fathers,” in Deification in Latin Patristic Tradition, ed. Jared Ortiz (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019), 274. 32. Patronos, “The Deification of Man,” part I, 367. See also Lossky In the Image and Likeness of God, 97. 33. Gregory Nanzianzus, “Homily” 1,5, PG, 35, 397C. Cf. also Patronos, “The Deification of Man,” part I, 371. 34. Louth, “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,” 34. 35. Ibid, 34. 36. In classic thought hypostasis was usually indentified with substance and referred to the common existence of a being. It was the merit of the Cappadocian Fathers of the 4th c. to disassociate hypostasis from substance, and indentify the former with personhood, to mean the concrete, the particular instead of the common. To further clarify the term let’s follow the definition given by Maximus the Confessor (7th c.), Opusculum 26 PG 91, 276AB: “a hypostasis is for the philosophers an essence with idioms. For the Fathers it is the particular man, who is personally distinguished from other men.” Cf. also Dionysios Skliris, On the Road to Being. St. Maximus the Confessor’s Syn-Odical Ontology (Alhabra, CA: St. Sebastian Orthodox Press, 2018), 35–48. For a general overview of the above developments, see the now classic Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 27–49. 37. One further word is needed here to avoid possible misunderstandings. According to Gregory Palamas, a 14th theologian and spiritual leader of the Hesychast movement, the saint unites with God not “by essence” (leading to a conflation between created and uncreated), not “by hypostasis” (leading again to another problem, to the separation of essence in multiple hypostases) but only “by energy” (cf. Gregory Palamas, Against Acindynos, 3:14, 51). By defining the union with God as “hypostatic” in this text, we principally mean that Christ himself is capable of incorporating in his, one might say, corporate hypostasis, that is his Body the Church, the multiple human hypostases, without endangering both their natural and personal otherness. For further discussion in this regard see, N. Loudovikos, “Striving for Participation: Palamite Analogy as Dialogical Syn-energy and Thomist Analogy as Emanational Similitute,” in Divine Essence and Divine Energies. Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy, ed. Constantinos Athanasopoulos and Christoph Schneider (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2013), 122–148. 38. This a common axiom in the Greek patristic tradition, See for instance, Basil, “Letter,” 38,2, PG 32:325 ff.; Maximos the Confessor, “Ambigua,” 42, PG 91:1341D ff. 39. See also below next section on divine essence-energies distinction. Cf. the way this verse has been understood in Byzantine tradition, Norman Russell, “‘Partakers of the Divine Nature’ (2 Pet. 1:4) in the Byzantine Tradition,” in ΚΑΘΗΓΗΤΡΙΑ: Essays presented to Joan Hussey for Her 80th Birthday, ed. Julian Chrysostomides (Camberley: Porphyrogenitus, 1988), 51–67. 40. See. Athanasius, “Contra Arianos.” 2.59, PG 26, 273; cf. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Haer.” 3.19.1; 3.20.2–5, PG 7, 939; 1035. Cf. Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness, op. cit. 41. Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness, 31, fn. 51.

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42. Cf. Cyril of Alex., “Dial. Trin.” 5, PG 75, 976; Cf. Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness, op. cit. 43. Jonathan Ciraulo, “Divinization as Christification in Erich Przywara and John Zizioulas,” Modern Theology, 32/4 (2016): 479. 44. The divine essence (ousia of God)–divine energies (activities) distinction is a central principle of Eastern Orthodoxy. By this kat’ epinoian (“by the mind,” see Loudovikos, “Striving for Participation,” op. cit. 126–127) and not merely real, logical or formal distinction, the Orthodox maintain that while God’s essence (God’s very life ad intra) as uncreated is inaccessible and incomprehensible in toto by the creatures, this is not the case with energies (God’s activities ad extra), which as uncreated belonging to the divine being, but they are radiated to the Creation, being experienced and participated by human beings. For an overall historic and systematic discussion of this distinction see Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997); Christos Yannaras, Elements of Faith (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991), 26–31, 42–45; K. Ware, “God Hidden and Revealed: The Apophatic Way and the Essence-Energies Distinction,” Eastern Churches Review 7 (1975): 125–136; Alexis Torrance, “Precendents for Palamas’ Essence-Energy theology in the Cappadocian Fathers,” Vigiliae Christianae 63 (2009): 47–70. 45. Cf. Alexis Torrance, “Precedents for Palamas’ Essence-Energies Theology,” 47–70. 46. Ciraulo, “Divinization as Christification,” 480. 47. See for instance John Meyendorff, “Un mauvais théologien de l’unité au quatorzième siècle: Barlaam le Calabrais,” in L’église et les églises, 1054–1954, vol. 2 (Chevetogne: Nestle/Delachaux, 1955), 47–65. 48. A heresy condemned by the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus, 431AD, according to which the ascetics maintained to see God directly with their physical eyes, while at the same time they devalued the sacramental life of the Church. For a general introduction, see J. Arendzen, “Messalians,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), Retrieved March 2, 2017 from New Advent: http:​/​/www​​.newa​​dvent​​.org/​​cathe​​n​/102​​​12a​.h​​tm (last accessed at February, 18, 2017). 49. Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification,” 305. 50. Gregory Palamas, “Triad” 2, 3, 8, ed. J. Meyendorff, 403, 17–20, as cited in Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification,” 305. 51. Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification,” 305. 52. Vladimir Kharlamov, “Basil of Caesarea and the Cappadocians on the Distinction between Essence and Energies in God and its Relevance to the Deification Theme,” in Theosis. Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2 Princeton Theological Monographs Series, ed. Vl. Kharlamov (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011), 101. 53. Ciraulo, “Divinization as Christification;” Cf. also for similar typologies, Russell, “The Doctrine of Deification;” Daniel Keating, “Typologies of Deification,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 17/3 (2015): 267–283; Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification.” 54. Nellas, Deification in Christ, op. cit. employs throughout his book the Christification language as the most appropriate way of understanding deification (see


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below). Cf. also Patronos, “The Deification of Man,” part. I; Kharlamov, “Introduction” in Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, 18. See also Zizioulas’ chapter on “Creation and Eschatology” (courtesy by the author), from his forthcoming book titled, Remembering the future. Towards an Eschatological Ontology (T&T Clark), where he constantly repeats his understanding of theosis in terms of Christification, with strong ecclesiological connotations. 55. John D. Zizioulas discusses these ancient ideas in Being as Communion, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 27–30. 56. Cf. Parmenides, Fragm. 5d, 7; cf. Plato, Parmen. 128b, as cited in Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness, 21. 57. Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness, 22. 58. Ibid. 59. What lay behind this Maximian rehabilitation of the Logos concept was his firm grounding on Chalcedonian doctrine, according to which, “the unity between God and the world takes place while the divine and the human natures unite in a Person without ‘confusion,’ that is, through a communion that preserves otherness.” Cf. Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness, 23. 60. Norman Russell in his “A Common Christian Tradition: Deification in the Greek and Latin Fathers,” 273, defines theosis as “christologically driven” and not just a product of “philosophical reflection” (courtesy by the author). 61. Beginning mainly with Vladimir Lossky (1903–1958) the so-called “palamite or neo-palamite” school attempts to articulate Palamas theology in a more systematic way, focusing on an excessive perception of the divine essence-energies distinction as the absolute criterion of theological discourse: For a critical overview of this trend see T. A. Pino, “Beyond Neo-Palamism: Interpreting the Legacy of St. Gregory Palamas,” Analogia 3:2 (2017): 53–73. 62. Louth, “The Place of Theosis,” 34. 63. For this see John D. Zizioulas, The Eucharistic Communion and the World, (London and New York: T&T Clark and Continuum 2011). 64. For this important Christian doctrine see the excellent study by G. May, Creatio ex Nihilo. The Doctrine of ‘Creation out of Nothing’ in Early Christian Thought, trans. A. S. Worral (Edinburg, TX: T & T Clark, 1994). 65. Florovsky, “Cur Deus Homo?,” 164. 66. Georges Florovsky, “Cur Deus Homo? The Motive of the Incarnation,” Creation and Redemption, Collected Works, vol. 3 (Belmont, MA: NordlandBelmont, 1976), 164. 67. Serge Bulgakoff, Du Verbe incarné (Paris: Aubier, 1943), 97–98, as cited in Louth, “The Place of Theosis,” 36. 68. For the first the question was explicitly raised by the medieval theologian Rupert of Deutz (12th c.) followed by Duns Scotus and others scholastics theologians. See Florovsky, “Cur Deus Homo?,” 165–167. 69. Ibid, 168. 70. Maximus the Confessor, “Questiones ad Thallasium Questio LX,” PG, 90, 621A, quoted in Florovsky, “Cur Deus Homo?,” 168. 71. Cf. Louth, “The Place of Theosis,” 35–36. 72. Louth, “The Place of Theosis,” 34–35.

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73. Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, 334; Basil of Caesarea, “On the Spirit,” 9, 22. 74. Cf. also in this direction, Russell, “A Common Christian Tradition: Deification in the Greek and Latin Fathers,” 276–277. 75. Cf. St. Basil, “Holily on Psalms,” 14.6. Cf. Kallistos Ware, How We Are Saved? The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition (Light & Life Pub Co, 1991). 76. For this understading of theosis, one should consult Nellas, Deification in Christ, 40, representing an Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the biblical and patristic tradition, and especially Nicolas Kavasilas’ work The Life in Christ (see Nellas, especially 121–140 and Kavasilas, The Life in Christ, PG 150, 680A-684B) and a Lutheran point of view by Jordan Cooper, Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014). 77. For a full discussion of this important aspect of the patristic understanding of “image”, see Nellas, Deification in Christ, 23ff. 78. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3.22.4; 3.23.5; 4.38.1–2. 79. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 27. 80. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 16. 81. In this respect we follow the excellent presentation of the two ways of existence of human being (biological and ecclesial), developed by John Zizioulas in his most celebrated Being as Communion, ch. 1. 82. An understanding of death closely linked to the finite character of humanity and creation itself is of great importance for a dialogue of Christian theology with strict sciences which observe the presence of death since the very first moment of the existence of our universe. 83. For instance, it would be quite difficult for the “immortality of the soul,” which is commonly regarded as the goal of Christian life despite its platonic and later Gnostic connotations, to be formally accepted as a Christian view without a bold qualification by the creedal belief in the “resurrection of the dead.” 84. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 60. 85. One cannot forget that the Eucharist should not be understood as the, so to say, magic moment of the Church’s life par excellence, that automatically or mechanicaly transform the state of afairs of the human condition. On the contrary, alongside with Eucharist, a new sacrificial ethos is put forth as a continuous ascetic application to the surrounding setting (cf. neighbor etc) of the divine grace, received during the synaxis of the people of God. 86. For this understanding see Paul McPartlan, The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993). 87. Cf. Maximus, Mystagogia, 20, PG 91, 697. 88. For the importance of virtue practicing both in the Fathers and contemporary Orthodox theology, see Demetrios Bathrellos, “Passions, Ascesis and the Virtues,” in The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, eds. Pauline Allen and Bronwen Neil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 287–306. 89. Cf. for this, Dirk van der Merwe, “‘Lived Experiences,’” of the Love of God According to 1 John 4: A Spirituality of Love,” In Die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi, 51/3 (2017): 1–8.


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90. It is common in the Eastern Orthodox rite of the divine liturgy for the participants to embrace and offer to each other the “kiss of peace,” as an indication that they have been already reconciled before the communion of the body and the blood of Christ. 91. Louth, “The Place of Theosis,” 37. 92. In accordance with certain instances of the ascetic tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy, even passions possess a positive dimension. In that case the task is not to cancel the passions themselves but primarily to transform them according to their initial logos of nature. See, Kallistos Ware, “The Passions: Enemy or Friend?,” In Communion, 17, Journal of Orthodox Peace Fellowship (Fall 1999): 1–8. 93. Based on a survey of the common patristic tradition in East and West, Norman Russell highlights too the “eschatological orientation” of theosis, See Russell, “A Common Christian Tradition: Deification in the Greek and Latin Fathers,” 278–279. 94. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 62. 95. To the great question if all the people will be finally saved there is no any real consensus between the Fathers of the primitive Church. See for instance, Ware, How We Are saved?. 96. Understood as “one of the oldest Christian symbols of salvation.” By V.M Kärkkäinen, One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification, (Collegeville, PA: Liturgical Press, 2004), 8. 97. In this section we draw mainly from Aristotle Papanikolaou, The Mystical as Political. Democracy and (non) Radical Orthodoxy (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2012). 98. Papanikolaou, The Mystical as Political, 1. 99. Papanikolaou, The Mystical as Political, 3. 100. Dirk van der Werwe, “‘Lived experiences,’” 4,5. 101. Papanikolaou, The Mystical as Political, 4. 102. Papanikolaou, The Mystical as Political, 4, Cf. also the Greek translation (trans. Nikolaos Asproulis, Volos: Volos Academy Publications, 2016) of this book with the quite relevant title “The Politics of Theosis,” and the preface on this occasion. 103. Keating, “Typologies of Deification,” 267. 104. See for instance in this ecumenical direction the interesting volumes or studies: Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, eds. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Augsburg Fortress Publications; First edition, 1992); Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, eds. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998); Anna N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Veli-Matti Karkkainen, One with God; Dallas B. Pitts, “Theosis: An Analysis of the Doctrine and Its Influence on the Soteriologies of Selected Western Theologians” (PhD Thesis, America Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013), S.W. Park, “The Question of Deification in the Theology of John Calvin,” Verbum et Ecclesia 38/1 (2017), a1701. https://doi​.org​/10. 4102/ve.v38i1.1701, etc. 105. By which we refer to the life-death issues pertaining humanity since its appearance.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Arendzen, J. “Messalians.” Ιn The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company; 1911. http:​/​/www​​.newa​​dvent​​.org/​​cathe​​n​/102​​​12a​.h​​tm (last accessed at February, 18, 2017). Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, IV. 2, The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Edinburg, TX: T&T Clark, 1958. Bartos, Emil. Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology: An Evaluation and the Theology of Dumitru Staniloae. Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1999. Bathrellos, Demetrios. “Passions, Ascesis and the Virtues.” In The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, edited by Pauline Allen and Bronwen Neil, pp. 287– 306. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Blackwell, Ben. Christosis. Pauline Soteriology in light of Deification in Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Blane, Andrew. “Sketch of the Life of Georges Florovsky.” In Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual, Orthodox Churchman, edited by A. Blane, pp. 11–217. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993. Braaten, Carl E., and Robert W. Jenson. Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998. Bratsiotis, Panayotis. “The Greek Patristic Doctrine of Deification of Man.” Theologia vol. 42, no. 1–4 (1971): 30–42. Bulgakoff, Serge. Du Verbe incarné. Paris: Aubier, 1943. Caimes, D. The Image of God in Man. London: Collins, 1973. Ciraulo, Jonathan. “Divinization as Christification in Erich Przywara and John Zizioulas.” Modern Theology vol. 32, no. 4 (2016): 497–503. Collins, Paul. Partaking in Divine Nature. Deification and Communion. London: T&T Clark, 2010. Cooper, Jordan. Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014. Finlan, Stephen and Vladimir Kharlamov. “Introduction.” In Theosis. Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 1. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2006. Florovsky, Georges. “The Church: Her Nature and Task.” In Bible, Church, Tradition, Collected Works, vol. 1. Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1972. ———. “Cur Deus Homo? The Motive of the Incarnation.” In Creation and Redemption, Collected Works, vol. 3. Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1976. Foltz, Bruce V. “Theosis.” In The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, vol. IV, edited by G. Kurian. Blackwell Publishing, 2011. Gavrilyuk, Paul. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. ———. “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-Despised Archaism Became an Ecumenical Desideratum.” Modern Theology vol. 25, no. 4 (2009): 647–59. Gross, Jules. La Divinisation du Chretien d’ après les Peres Grecs. Contribution Historique sur la Doctrine de la Grace. Paris: Lecofire, J. Gabalda, 1938. Inge, W.R. Christian Mysticism. London: Longman, 1933.


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Kärkkäinen, V.M. One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004. Keating, Daniel. “Typologies of Deification.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, vol. 17, no. 3 (2015): 267–283. Kharlamov, Vladimir. “Basil of Caesarea and the Cappadocians on the Distinction between Essence and Energies in God and its Relevance to the Deification Theme.” In Theosis. Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, edited by Vladimir Kharlamov. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011. Kharlamov, Vladimir. “Theosis in Patristic Thought.” Theological Reflections vol. 9 (2008): 154–64. Kung, Hans. On Being a Christian. London: Fount Paperbacks, 1978. Kurian, George. “Divinization or deification.” In The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, vol. I, edited by George Kurian. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2011. Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997. Lossky, Vladimir. “Redemption and Deification.” In The Image and Likeness of God, edited by John Erickson and Th. Bird. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001. Lot-Borodine, Myhhra. “La deification de l’ home selon la doctrine des Peres grecs.” Revue d’ histoire des religions vol. 105 (1932): 5–43. Loudovikos, N. “Striving for Participation: Palamite Analogy as Dialogical Synenergy and Thomist Analogy as Emanational Similitude.” In Divine Essence and Divine Energies. Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy, edited by Constantinos Athanasopoulos and Christoph Schneider, pp. 122–148. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2013. Louth, Andrew. “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology.” In Partakers of the Divine Nature. The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jerrery A. Wittung. Cranbury, NJ: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp, 2007. Mantzaridis, George. The Deification of Man according to Gregory Palamas. Crestweood, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 1997. May, G. Creatio ex Nihilo. The Doctrine of ‘Creation out of Nothing’ in Early Christian Thought. Edinburg, TX: T & T Clark, 1994. McPartlan, Paul. The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue. Edinburgh, TX: T & T Clark, 1993. Meyendorff, John. “Un mauvais théologien de l’unité au quatorzième siècle: Barlaam le Calabrais.” In L’église et les églises, 1054–1954, vol. 2, pp. 47–65. Chevetogne: Nestle/Delachaux, 1955. Meyendorff, John, and Robert Tobias. Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1992. Nellas, Panayotis. Deification in Christ: Orthodox Perspectives on the Nature of the Human Person. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987. Ortiz, Jared. “Introduction.” In Deification in Latin Patristic Tradition, edited by Jared Ortiz. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019. Papanikolaou, Aristotle. The Mystical as Political: Democracy and (non) Radical Orthodoxy. Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame University Press, 2012.

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Park, S.W. “The question of deification in the theology of John Calvin.” Verbum et Ecclesia 38, no. 1 (2017): 1–5. Patronos, George. “The Deification of Man in the light of the eschatological perspective of Orthodox Theology.” Theologia, vol. 51, no. 2 (1980): 367 (in Greek). Pino, T. A. “Beyond Neo-Palamism: Interpreting the Legacy of St. Gregory Palamas.” Analogia, vol. 3, no. 2 (2017): 53–73. Pitts, Dallas B. “Theosis: An analysis of the Doctrine and its Influence on the Soteriologies of Selected Western Theologians.” PhD Thesis, America Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013. Podmore, Simon. Struggling with God: Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2013. Russell, Norman. “A Common Christian Tradition: Deification in the Greek and Latin Fathers.” in Deification in Latin Patristic Tradition, edited by Jared Ortiz. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019. ———. The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ———. Fellow Workers with God. Orthodox Thinking on Theosis. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009. ———. “‘Partakers of the Divine Nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) in the Byzantine Tradition.” In, ΚΑΘΗΓΗΤΡΙΑ: Essays presented to Joan Hussey for her 80th birthday, edited by Julian Chrysostomides, pp. 51–67. Camberley: Porphyrogenitus, 1988. Skliris, Dionysios. On the Road to Being. St. Maximus the Confessor’s Syn-Odical Ontology, 35-48. Alhabra, CA: St. Sebastian Orthodox Press, 2018. Torrance, Alexis. “Precendents for Palamas’ Essence-Energy theology in the Cappadocian Fathers.” Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 63 (2009): 47–70. van der Merwe, Dirk, “‘Lived experiences’ of the love of God according to 1 John 4: A Spirituality of love,” Die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi vol. 51, no. 3 (2017): 1–8. von Harnack, Adolf. History of Dogma, vol. 2. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1901. Ware, Kallistos. Act out of Stillness: The Influence of Fourteenth-Century Hesychasm on Byzantine and Slav Civilization, edited by Daniel J. Sahas, pp. 4–7. Toronto: The Hellenic Canadian Association of Constantinople and the Thessalonikean Society of Metro Toronto, 1995. ———. “God Hidden and Revealed: The Apophatic Way and the Essence-Energies Distinction.” Eastern Churches Review vol. 7 (1975): 125–136. ———. “The Passions: Enemy or Friend?” In Communion, 17. Journal of Orthodox Peace Fellowship (Fall 1999): 1–8. Williams, Anna N. The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Williams, Rowan. “Introduction to Heroism and the Spiritual Struggle.” In Sergii Bulgakov: Towards a Russian Political Theology, edited by E. Williams. Edinburg, TX: T&T Clark, 1999. Yannaras, Christos. Elements of Faith. Edinburgh, TX: T&T Clark, 1991. Zizioulas, John. Being as Communion. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997. ———. The Eucharistic Communion and the World. London: T&T Clark/Continuum 2011.

Chapter 3

Justification as Union and Christ’s Presence Deification in the Lutheran Tradition Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

PART I: A NEW INTERPRETATION OF MARTIN LUTHER’S ACCOUNT OF JUSTIFICATION A New Emerging Paradigm of Considering Luther’s Theology of Justification Reformation theology, in general, and Lutheran tradition, in particular, have had a hard time in trying to reconcile the idea of theosis with the doctrine of justification.1 Historically, these two traditions have been considered diametrically opposed to each other. A corollary problem is that for Lutherans the Eastern soteriology entertains problematic notions of the freedom of the will, too positive an anthropology, and, worst of all, the idea of human–divine synergia in salvation. It is not uncommon among Lutheran theologians to consider any reference to theosis as a form of Osiandrism, that is, a Lutheran heresy according to which “the presence of God in Christians amounts to a participation in the majestic divine essence.”2 It is also a fact that poorly read Protestants have insisted that the Eastern Orthodox idolatrously make us all little gods or that they think of participation in the divine nature only in “physical” terms.3 It is safe to say that until recent decades, the standard Lutheran assessment of theosis as a controlling metaphor has been ignored or, if need be, resisted and rejected. I am not aware of any major historical Lutheran theologian or Lutheran theological community that have lifted up theosis as a favorable soteriological concept notwithstanding the fact that related concepts such as union and participation of course belong to the Lutheran theological thesaurus. 59


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Against this historical background, one of the most unexpected and theologically ecumenically most promising developments in international Lutheran studies is the rise of a “New Perspective on Luther’s soteriology” which can be named as “salvation as union” or “salvation as Christ’s ‘real’ presence in faith through the Holy Spirit.” Under the leadership of the late Finnish Professor Tuomo Mannermaa, a number of Luther scholars at the University of Helsinki have not only helped radically revise the canons of the interpretation of the Reformer’s own theology but also accomplished unprecedented ecumenical achievements.4 It was a great surprise that important commonalities were discerned between Luther’s theology of justification and the ancient concept of theosis, widely embraced by Eastern Christianity—notwithstanding the largely negative (or dismissive) reception of deification among Protestants. The breakthrough came at the end of the 1970s, thanks to ecumenical contacts with the Orthodox tradition (of Russia). The Lutheran–Orthodox dialogue produced a highly influential soteriological document in Kiev (Russia) 1977 titled “Salvation as Justification and Deification.” The preamble to the theses claims that until recently, there has been a predominant opinion that the Lutheran and Orthodox doctrines of salvation greatly differ from each other. In the conversations, however, it has become evident that both these important aspects of salvation discussed in the conversations have a strong New Testament basis and there is great unanimity with regard to them both.5

It was found that the doctrine of deification covers the idea of a Christian’s life as righteous and sinful at the same time, as Lutheran theology has always emphasized. The idea of deification makes more explicit what is sometimes in danger of being under-emphasized in Lutheranism, namely the sanative role of grace: “When the Christian has been justified, he takes a new road leading to deification.”6 Soon it was also discovered that important convergences could be discerned between the soteriologies of Luther and of Catholics—and even beyond. The basic theses and claims of this new Lutheran interpretation can be summarized as follows: 1. Luther’s understanding of salvation can be expressed not only in terms of the doctrine of justification, but also as deification. Thus, while there are differences between the Eastern and Lutheran understandings of soteriology, over questions such as free will and understandings of the effects of the Fall, Luther’s own theology should not be set in opposition to the ancient idea of deification. Concepts such as “union” and “participation” speak the same language as deification.

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2. For Luther, the main idea of justification is Christ present in faith (in ipsa fide Christus adest, “in the faith itself Christ is present/indwells.” Justification for Luther means a participation in God through the indwelling of Christ in the heart of the believer through the Spirit. Obviously, this is “more” than merely an “external” forensic declaration of justification although it does not have to dismiss it. 3. In contrast to the theology of the Lutheran Confessions, the Reformer Martin Luther himself does not typically make a categorical and programmatic separation between forensic (that is, the believer is “pronounced” righteous similarly to an accused person in the court) and effective justification (that is, the change of the believer), but rather argues that justification includes both. In other words, in line with Roman Catholic theology, justification means both declaring righteous and making righteous. 4. Therefore, justification means not only sanctification but also good works, since Christ present in faith makes the Christian a “christ” to the neighbor.7 The purpose of this chapter is to consider carefully the possibility and conditions of the new perspective on Luther’s understanding of salvation. Furthermore, it also seeks to assess what the liabilities of this new interpretation under the leadership of Helsinki Mannermaa School might be and what are the areas of further investigation. While a new interpretation and in many ways strongly contested, some leading ideas of Mannermaa’s interpretation have been echoed by some other contemporary scholars as well. The late Wolfhart Pannenberg with the concept of “adoption” as the key metaphor of explaining the meaning of the Lutheran doctrine of justification with a focus on the transformative union comes to mind here. That said, he did not specifically address the Helsinki School paradigm although he was aware of it, and in his theology, deification plays no role in his soteriology. Furthermore, the chapter also seeks to advance ecumenical discussion of Luther’s theology of salvation by looking at resources in a trinitarian-pneumatological orientation, oftentimes left to a junior role in this theological tradition. This chapter will not attempt an ecumenical dialogue between either Lutherans and Orthodox or Lutherans and Roman Catholics; that task has been attempted elsewhere. The focus will be on Lutheran contributions to and perspectives on salvation as union and participation. Justification as Renewing Union with and Participation in Christ The standard account of Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith is something like this: whereas the forensic declaration of the sinner as just


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is something that happens “outside” the believer in the sense that it is not conditioned on the inner change of the justified, sanctification as the second step is meant to refer to the improvement of life. But as important as the latter is (sanctification), the success (or lack) thereof has little or no effect on the foundational status of the sinner as the justified. As a result, in some popular preaching—or at least: anecdotally—Lutherans may even speak of “bold sinning.”8 No wonder, Roman Catholic theology at the mid-sixteenth century Council of Trent, in response to Protestant Reformation, vehemently and fiercely attacked the alleged lack of pursuit of holiness. Similarly, the Orthodox tradition casts serious doubts on an account of salvation which is divorced from the renewal and holiness of life. Be this caricature true or not, it helps us set the stage for an interpretation of Martin Luther’s own view in which even when forensic declarative terminology is being deployed, the “big picture” is that of linking tightly together justification as the change of status and change of the believer’s life as the follower of the Triune God. Justification in Luther can be described with the help of several closely related concepts, such as participation in God, the presence of Christ in the believer through the Holy Spirit, union with God, perichoresis (mutual indwelling between God and the human person), and, occasionally also, deification. Regardless of the term used, Luther saw justification as the union between Christ and the believer, as Christ through faith abides in the Christian through the Spirit. In fact, Luther says, Christ is “one with us”9 and “Christ lives in us through faith.”10 For the Reformer, Christ is the divine and inestimable gift that the Father has given to us to be our Justifier, Lifegiver, and Redeemer. To put on Christ according to the Gospel, therefore, is to put on, not the Law or works but an inestimable gift, namely, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, peace, comfort, joy in the Holy Spirit, salvation, life, and Christ Himself.11

For the reception of this wonderful Gift, the Wittenberg theologian uses the important term “apprehension” (apprehendere) rendered in English as “taking hold”: “[F]aith itself is a gift of God, a work of God in our hearts, which justifies us because it takes hold of [apprehendit] Christ the Savior.”12 The Latin term apprehendere (which occurs in various forms in his mature commentary on Galatians [1535] about 300 times!) is a key scholastic philosophical concept denoting not only “intellectual apprehension when seen in terms of understanding and comprehension” but also the idea that “the object of knowledge becomes the property of a knowing subject.” For Luther, this means “knowing Him as God who gives Himself to and on behalf of all sinners,” in other words, participation and union; Christ indeed is the righteousness of the Christian.13 The frequent use of this key term alone tells us how very deeply union-driven Luther’s conception of justification is.

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While insisting on this idea of union and participation, Luther also has in the background of his thinking an important Medieval Catholic teaching which he saw as detrimental to a proper understanding of grace and salvation. It is often referred to in its Latin form simply as the principle of ordo caritatis. It was a central theological motif for St. Thomas Aquinas. It means that love as a natural capacity may reach out to the highest end, which is God. In other words, the human being is able (and under certain conditions, willing) to love God, the highest good. Technically put, love is the “form of faith” (fides caritate formata). In other words, faith coupled with love is the key to loving God, to be saved. While Luther himself highly appreciated love correctly understood, he adamantly denied any such capacity to fallen human person when it comes to the access to salvation. To express his opposition to the Thomistic teaching, he rather insisted on making “Christ the form of faith” (fides Christo formata).14 In place of love, he put faith in Christ, indeed Christ himself, as the key to justification. Hence, as cited above, “Therefore faith justifies because it takes hold of [apprehendit] and possesses this treasure, the present Christ.”15 Keeping in mind the thick meaning of “taking hold” of Christ helps us appreciate his union-driven view of justification totally focused on Christ, not on the human person and his or her natural capacities. For Luther himself justification is not only—and perhaps, not even primarily—a matter of forensic declaration of the sinner (although it is of course also that). Rather, as a union and participation—“taking hold of” Christ— justification is an inner change, renewal, sanctification. Theologians often name the latter aspect of justification as “effective” justification as it speaks of the effects to the believer of God’s renewing work. Having been trained and immersed in late-Medieval debates and thought forms, Luther was fond of expressing this coupling of forensic and effective justification with the help of two widely used Scholastic concepts, namely “gift” (donum) and “favor” (favor), the latter of which was usually understood as the forgiveness of sin.16 Whereas Lutheran Confessions typically (but not exclusively) focus justification on the latter aspect, namely the forgiveness of sins, Luther himself typically (but not exclusively!) wished to keep the gift and favor tightly linked with each other. Luther states it unambiguously: “But ‘the grace of God’[favor] and the ‘gift’ are the same thing, namely, the very righteousness which is freely given to us through Christ.”17 This is also at the heart of Roman Catholic teaching before and after Reformation. In this regard, with all his critique toward the ordo caritatis principle, Luther remained a faithful son of the Catholic Church. The focus of Luther’s conception of justification just explicated here is important in the sense that it can be found both in Luther’s earlier and one of the latest main writings which is the final form of the Commentary on Galatians (1535) from which the above references to “taking hold” mainly come from. And recall that it is this major writing of the mature Luther


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which is endorsed “officially” by the drafters of the Formula of Concord (the official “summation” of Lutheran Confessional teaching on disputed issues among various fractions in the emerging new church) as a reliable guide to the Lutheran doctrine of salvation.18 Importantly, this commentary presents justification as participation in Christ, and thus goes beyond and amplifies the forensic paradigm.19 Justification as “Christ Present in Faith” In an important passage, already alluded to above, Luther makes this programmatic statement of the nature of true faith: “It takes hold of Christ in such a way that Christ is the object of faith, or rather not the object but, so to speak, the One who is present in the faith itself [in ipsa fide Christus adest].”20 In this light it is understandable that, as discussed above, the distinction between effective and forensic righteousness does not play an important role in Luther. That said, another kind of distinction is crucial, namely that between two kinds of righteousness: the righteousness of Christ and the righteousness of the human being. The first kind of righteousness Luther defines as “alien” righteousness. It is being infused to us from outside in a sense that it does not come from within human resources. It comes from Christ and it is that kind of righteousness that Christ is in himself, Christ who is the righteousness of faith. This kind of righteousness of Christ makes the human being just.21 This type of righteousness is given without our own works, solely on the basis of grace.22 This is the famous sola gratia, “grace alone.” Any allegedly meritorious human activity is totally excluded in this process. As explained, the “infusion” of this righteousness is more than mere forensic imputation, though; it also means the realization of the righteousness of Christ in the believer. On that basis, Luther calls the other kind of righteousness “our” righteousness.23 It is a result of the first kind of righteousness and makes it effective, “perfects” it.24 Even though it is called “our” righteousness, its origin and source are outside the human being, in the righteousness of Christ.25 In other words, it is not something the human person brings about; it is “ours” in a sense that it indwells us. Indeed, Luther says, Christ present in faith “absorbs all sin in a moment,” since the righteousness of Christ infused into the human heart is “infinite”; at the same time, the power of sin and death is deteriorating day by day but is not fully destroyed until death.26 This means that the central Lutheran principle of simul iustus et peccator “simultaneously just and sinner” is not dismissed. It is in the daily repentance and return to the regenerating grace given in the sacrament of water baptism that the “old Adam” is being “drowned” and put to death. The believer is not partially just and partially sinner but simultaneously both, waiting for the final eschatological consummation of God’s renewing justifying work.

Justification as Union and Christ’s Presence


The Finnish theologian Arto Seppänen summarizes the core idea of Luther’s doctrine of justification in a succinct manner: Through faith the Christian and Christ are one, the union of which is pictured in the union between a bride and bridegroom. On the basis of this union [literally: being one] the Christian possesses all that Christ has in the same way the bride has everything that belongs to her bridegroom. Similarly, the sins of the human being become Christ’s possession. It is the unio which makes possible this participation. The whole of Christ is donated to the believer. The donation takes place through faith in Christ. “Happy exchange” is related to the essence of faith and is a natural consequence of the union with Christ.27

The indwelling of Christ through faith in the Holy Spirit, the union, results in continuous renewal to the measure that rightly understood the Christian can be called “christ” (lower case) to the neighbor. Christian as “Christ” to the Neighbor What is truly important to Luther’s union-driven account of justification is that as a result, good deeds follow “our” righteousness.28 Good deeds are the fruit of justification, not a human merit—a suspicion among the drafters of Lutheran Confessions in their mixed relationship to good works. Similarly to the fact that the human person depends solely on grace, sola gratia, with regard to initial justification, the resulting good deeds are also attributed to the indwelling Christ rather than human achievements. To repeat, good works spring from the union, Christ’s presence through Spirit in the believer. All works except for faith have to be directed to the neighbor. For God does not require of us any works with regard to himself, only faith through Christ. That is more than enough for him; that is the right way to give honor to God as God, who is gracious, merciful, wise and truthful. Thereafter, think nothing else than that you do to your neighbor as Christ has done to you. Let all your work and all your life be turned to your neighbor. Seek the poor, sick, and all kinds of wretched people; render your help to those; surrender your life in various kinds of exercises. Let those who really need you enjoy you, insofar as that is possible with regard to your body, possessions, and honor.29

Indeed, opines the Reformer, if we do not use everything that we have to serve the neighbor, we rob him or her of what we owe her according to God’s will.30 In keeping with his idea of justification as participation in the Triune God through the indwelling of Christ in the heart through the Spirit, Luther


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simply believes that the human being also participates in the characteristics or “attributes” of God, or as he often puts it, of the Word of God. On the one hand, this participation means putting down those human traits that are contrary to the righteousness of God and, on the other hand, participating in the goodness, wisdom, truthfulness, and other characteristics of God. Luther also expresses this truth by saying that God in fact becomes truthful, good, and just in the human person when God himself makes the person truthful, good, and just. Never is there reason to boast, though, since even the presence of Christ and its consequences are always hidden in the Christian.31 Astonishingly, Luther is so bold as to claim that the Christian not only becomes a “work of Christ,” but even more, a “christ” to the neighbor; the Christian begins to do what Christ does. “[S]ince Christ lives in us through faith . . . he arouses us to do good works through that living faith in his work, for the works which he does are the fulfillment of the commands of God given us through faith.”32 Says Luther: “I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.”33 Mannermaa succinctly summarizes: Therefore “sanctification”—that is, the sanctity or holiness of the Christian—is, in fact, only another name for what Luther speaks when discussing the communication of attributes, the happy exchange, and the union between the person of Christ and that of the believer. Christ, is the true agent of good works in the Christian. . . . Because of the Christians’ union with Christ, his or her works are works of Christ himself. . . . In this argumentation Luther’s view of Christians as “Christs to their neighbors” finds its ontological realization. Luther argues that Christ who is present in faith becomes, as it were, incarnate in Christians’ works.34

Of course, the human being left to his or her own devices would be incapable of fulfilling this divinely mandated law of love—and Luther would be the first to remind us of it. It is possible only through Christ, who fulfilled the law. Those who participate in Christ, in other words those Christians in whose hearts through faith Christ indwells, are capable of fulfilling the law. They do the works of Christ through Christ’s presence in them and so meet the requirement of the Second Table of the Law: Love is the common virtue of all virtues, their fulfillment and source. Love feeds, gives drink, clothes, consoles, prays, makes free, helps, and saves. What do we say then? It gives itself, body and life, possessions and honor and all its power internally and externally to meet the desperate need of the neighbor for his benefit. It does not hold back anything either from a friend or fiend with which it can serve other people. Therefore, no virtue can be compared to it, neither is

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it possible to describe or name any specific work for it as with regard to other virtues, which are actually partial virtues, such as purity, charity, patience, and goodwill, etc. Love does everything . . . so much so that Saint Paul says that all the commandments are included in this summa: love your neighbor.35

It is to be noted that Luther differs from those well-meaning contemporary (to us) teachers who emphasize that in order to be able to love the neighbor one has to love one’s self first. Realistically, Luther believes that every person already knows how to love oneself;36 what is lacking, rather, is the capacity and desire to love another person, especially when nothing good is to be expected in return. Before turning to an assessment of this new interpretation of Luther’s soteriology and connecting it to a wider Lutheran thought, for the sake of the focus of this current set of chapters in the book, it is worth asking if term deification has any currency in Lutheran theology. What about Deification? Is It a Part of Luther’s Vocabulary? Following Western Christian tradition, differently from the East, Lutheran theology rarely deploys the ancient term deification. That said, for Luther himself, it is not a totally foreign concept. Indeed, Helsinki scholars have credibly shown evidence that at times Luther’s view of justification can also be called deification.37 The term “deification” and its cognates appear about thirty times in Luther’s corpus.38 It is not much in ratio to his extensive writings but nor is it meaningless. The core of the doctrine of deification from Luther’s viewpoint is the idea of real participation in the divine life in Christ. We receive the salvific gifts through participation in Christ. This is in keeping with the wider Lutheran tradition which holds to the idea of God living in the believer (inhabitatio Dei). This for Mannermaa is analogous to the doctrine of deification even when the term itself is not employed. He reminds us that according to Luther, Christ and thus his person and work are present in the faith itself.39 Justification and deification, then, as the “participation” of the believer in Christ is also a participation in the triune God himself, because Christ is God. Of this participation, Luther says boldly: “[I]t is true that a man helped by grace is more than a man; indeed, the grace of God gives him the form of God and deifies him, so that even the Scriptures call him ‘God’ and ‘God’s son.’ ”40 And: “Just as the Word of God became flesh, so it is certainly also necessary that the flesh become Word. For the Word becomes flesh precisely so that the flesh may become Word. In other words: God becomes man so that man may become God.”41 It is easy to see that Luther presents here the idea of deification with the help of formulations from the Church Fathers such as Athanasius and


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Irenaeus, as a union of logos (Word) and “flesh” (human nature). This is what the patristic doctrine of theosis foundationally means: Divine life has manifested itself in Christ. In the church as the body of Christ, man has a share in this life. Man partakes thereby of “the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). This “nature”, or divine life, permeates the being of man like a leaven in order to restore it to its original condition as imago Dei.42

In other words, Luther himself joins the ancient patristic line of teaching as a key formulation of his soteriological doctrine. Pneumatological implications of this new approach of Luther scholarship are obvious. The leading idea, Christ present through faith, can also be expressed pneumatically: it is through the Spirit of Christ that the mediation of salvific gifts is accomplished. Participation in God is possible only through the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of adoption.43 Yet another way of considering the idea of justification and deification in Luther is in reference to the concept of “giving” and gift. For Luther, the divinity of the triune God consists in that “God gives” himself. The essence of God, then, is identical with the essential divine properties in which he gives of himself, called the “names” of God: Word, justice, truth, wisdom, love, goodness, eternal life, and so forth. Says Mannermaa: “The theosis of the believer is initiated when God bestows on the believer God’s essential properties; that is, what God gives of himself to humans is nothing separate from God himself.”44 God is, as Luther says, the whole “beatitude” (beatitudo) of his saints: And so He gives Himself, and He does not give, but is Himself the good and complete blessing of the saints. For as it is said that “God gives Himself to the saints,” which means that “God is the good [beatitudo] of his saints,” so also His name gives Him to them, that is, it is their good. But the name of God is Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Word by which He verbalizes Himself and the name by which He calls Himself in eternity.45

We can summarize hence like this: while the idea of union and participation points to the same direction as does deification and its cognate terms, understandably it is not typical for Lutheran tradition to deploy that language. PART II: RE-AFFIRMING AND RE-STATING THE MANNERMAA SCHOOL’S ECUMENICAL PROPOSAL For Orientation To no one’s surprise, responses to the Mannermaa School’s reinterpretation of Luther have been varied.46 Roughly put, the responses can be classified

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like this: Whereas the Continental, particularly German, Luther scholarship has been deeply critical,47 a number of leading American Lutherans have enthusiastically endorsed it.48 Understandably, conservative Lutherans (Missouri Synod), along with many evangelicals, to whom the forensicimputational template is the only correct interpretation, have expressed deep reservations.49 The reasons for the German and conservative American criticism of Mannermaa’s paradigm are the ones listed in the beginning of the essay, that is, a general hostility toward any notion of deification and corollary misunderstandings of its nature, for example, a danger of pantheism. Furthermore, these critics are not convinced at all that a critical distinction between Lutheran confessional and Luther’s own theology can or should be drawn; or, if it be made, then the Confessional side should be followed. While I myself materially adopt the basic insights of the Mannermaa School, there is also a felt need for the sake of ecumenical rapprochement to critically assess its liabilities and propose some new revisions. Let me list here what I see some of the liabilities not only of this particular Lutheran School but also more widely and then suggest briefly some constructive ideas for a remedy: • The need to envision salvation as justification as union and participation in pneumatological-trinitarian terms, not only in christological terms • To imagine justification, while being one with and participating in Christ, also through the lens of the “eccentric” nature of faith, that is, faith resides in Christ • While critiquing the one-sided Lutheran confessional focus on justification by faith as forensic declaration, there is also a need to rehabilitate, so to speak, the proper role of forensic justification as an integral part of justification as union and participation • Coupling justification as union and participation with an “active reception of gift” in order not to make the justified merely passive recipients of justification without any effects on life and ethics The Pneumatological-Trinitarian Form of Salvation as Participation in Divine Life There is a curious trinitarian deficit in most Protestant soteriological accounts, in general, and Lutherans, in particular, when it comes to the doctrine of justification. Quite striking is the passive (or almost nonexistent) role of the Spirit in most accounts of justification as opposed to the Eastern theology of deification.50 In a typical Protestant conception of justification, the Spirit’s role is somewhat external; as the Pentecostal Frank Macchia puts it: “the Spirit function[s] from the outside, inspiring faith in the gospel” without


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having to do with the “substance of justification,” and the Father “seems to be a relatively passive spectator who happily accepts Christ’s advocacy” without having an active role to play.51 Referring to passages such as Titus 3:5-7, which speaks about the “washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly,” the Reformed Jürgen Moltmann laments the pneumatological deficit. He rightly emphasizes that “‘regeneration’ as ‘renewal’ comes about through the Holy Spirit” when the “Spirit is ‘poured out.’ ”52 By making further reference to John 4:14, the metaphor of the divine “wellspring of life” that begins to flow in a human being, he contends that “through this experience of the Spirit, who comes upon us from the Father through the Son, we become ‘justified through grace.’”53 Indeed, the Christ event itself, reconciliation, has an integral trinitarian form.54 The identification with humanity in incarnation and the voluntary suffering at the cross through which the Father shows himself to be just (Rom. 3:25) are followed by the raising to new life “for our justification” (Rom. 4:25) of the Son by the Father, and the ascension, which propel the Pentecostal pouring out of the Spirit.55 Even when the forensic/legal aspects of justification are in the forefront, the Spirit’s role is not excluded: the Spirit as the Paraclete is both Advocate and Judge according to the Johannine testimony (John 14 and 16).56 The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Roman Catholics and Lutherans got it right: “Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father.”57 Perhaps unbeknownst to many, Martin Luther’s theology of salvation is not void of this proper pneumatological-trinitarian element although most Lutheran accounts do not usually highlight it. His focus on justification as the presence of Christ through the Spirit exhibits an integral trinitarianpneumatological focus as evident in his remarkable comment on Galatians 3:7. Therein, Luther equates righteousness “imputed” to the believer with the gift of the Spirit: Now is not the fact that faith is reckoned as righteousness a receiving of the Spirit? So either he proves nothing or the reception of the Spirit and the fact that faith is reckoned as righteousness will be the same thing. And this is true; it is introduced in order that the divine imputation may not be regarded as amounting to nothing outside God, as some think that the apostle’s word “grace” means a favorable disposition rather than a gift. For when God is favorable, and when He imputes, the Spirit is really received, both the gift and the grace. Otherwise grace was there from eternity and remains within God, if it signifies only a favorable disposition in the way that favor is understood among men.58

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The Spirit’s role comes into play also in the central concept of Luther concerning the “ecstatic” nature of faith as something rooted in and finding its source “outside” the believer, that is, in Christ. Union and the “Ecstatic” Nature of Faith Every Lutheran trained in catechism knows this statement of Luther’s: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.59

Luther rightly saw not only the necessary role of the Spirit in making possible faith in Christ but also the eccentric (or “ecstatic,” as in ek-stasis, “to stand outside of oneself”) nature of faith. Faith places trust “outside” of itself, in Christ. Luther’s profound statement in the early pamphlet The Freedom of a Christian (1520) puts it succinctly: We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God [rapitur supra se in deum]. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor. Yet he always remains in God and in his love.”60

It is the Spirit which makes this eccentric nature of faith possible. Building on this key insight, Pannenberg states that through faith in God the Spirit lifts us “up to participation in the sonship of Jesus Christ” and “binds believers together in the fellowship of the body of Christ.”61 Faith has this “outside of ourselves” (extra nos) character62 and at the same time “links believers to Jesus Christ as they rely on him and on the promise of salvation that is given in his message and history”; indeed, this means nothing less than the believer’s participation in the filial relation of the Son to the Father.63 As a result, Pannenberg selects—surprisingly to his Lutheran readers— “adoption” as the overarching and determining concept of his ordo salutis. Whereas the importance of the concept of adoption is of course nothing new in Lutheran (or Reformed tradition), making it an overarching concept that also regulates justification is new.64 The surplus of opting for adoption as the main framework, namely, that “[b]eing God’s children is thus of the essence of the Christian life,” helps utilize not only the Pauline theology (Rom. 8:16, among others) but also Jesus’ teaching (Lk. 18:17; Mark 10:15; Matt. 5:9).65


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Adoption in this theological template means that the believer is lifted up by the Spirit through faith into the filial relationship with Christ and is united with other believers in the same body. What about the Theological Significance of the Forensic Aspect of Justification? Although the rediscovery of the centrality of union, participation, and adoption as controlling metaphors has helped contemporary Finnish Lutheran theology to establish a more satisfactory and integral account of justification, an account which materially approximates deification, the downplaying of the forensic element (particularly by the Mannermaa School)66 also calls for reconsideration. It does not do—nor is it necessary—to pit union against forensic justification; that was the valid critique of the Council of Trent against the Protestant Reformers. In this respect, Lutherans have had a chance to correct themselves as in that joint declaration with the Roman Catholics they affirm justification as both forgiveness of sins (forensic) and making righteous (effective).67 Those interpreters who advocate the effective understanding of justification (i.e., justification includes also the inner change) understandably have undermined the idea of “imputation” (of Christ’s righteousness), a key mainstream Protestant idea. The reason is self-evident: in Protestantism at large imputation has been seen merely as a forensic act. But does it have to be so? I don’t think so. Only if justification as imputation is understood exclusively as a forensic act that blocks the way for making righteous is the opposition justified. But what if, as the most recent research has allowed us to understand,68 the concept of imputation of Christ’s righteousness does not have to be solely (or even primarily) forensic but could also include the process of change and renewal? Indeed, as argued above, Luther’s own concept of “Christ present in faith” (in ipsa fide Christus adest) is just that: the “imputed” Christ’s “real” presence in the believer also instantly brings about the lifelong process of change.69 Even semantically, “imputation” has a number of meanings, from commercial exchange and accounting (the primary meaning in Protestant orthodoxy) to personal (not to count the friend’s mistake as a reason for breaking relationship) to hermeneutical (to consider one’s own experience as the key to understanding), and so forth.70 What clearly comes to the fore in Luther’s theology is the personal orientation. As Mannermaa’s successor in Helsinki, Risto Saarinen importantly argues: whereas in Augustine righteousness could be imputed to the believer in a nonpersonal manner (as a liquid is poured into a container), in Luther it is always a matter of personal trust, personal relationship.71 That justification is more than forgiveness (forensic

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declaration, “favor”), however, should not hinder us from lifting up its significance in a proper manner. Active Reception of the Gift of Justification Back to the concept of gift and giving: it was noted above several times that another way of speaking of union and participation is to speak of gift. In Luther’s theology, the meaning of divine Gift serves as a defining feature: God’s love seeks that which is worthless in itself and donates not only gifts but oneself. The basic Greek verb didōmi (to give or donate) appears over 400 times in the NT alone!72 Macchia rightly reminds us that “‘justification’ refers fundamentally to the gift of righteousness (or ‘just relation’) that is granted to the sinner.”73 With this in mind, worth hearing among the Lutherans (and others) is the justified critique of the British Radical Orthodox John Milbank of the overly “passive” reception of justification in mainstream Protestant tradition. Rightly he demands that “an account of the arrival of grace must . . . also mean an account of sanctification, and of ethics.”74 This is what Milbank names “active reception” of gift.75 Although common sense is not always the best guide in matters theological, I believe it is here: it just does not make any sense to think of the recipient of a gift—say, a child at a birthday party or a spouse on an anniversary—as totally passive; a gift can also be “unreceived,” as when a spouse who is transgressed against by the partner in adultery wishes to forgive. “After all, the creature is not destined to act without any element of choice involved, and God does not commit violence on creation.”76 Christian tradition at large agrees that all human response is graced and that—again, following common sense—no parent (the heavenly Father in this case) would enjoy giving a gift to a “robot” rather than to a child who passionately and “actively” looks forward to a gift (say, for Christmas). I argue that the paranoid fear of “works righteousness” of much of Protestantism, certainly including Lutheranism, has to be challenged and corrected by the “synergistic” (Eastern Orthodox) and “cooperational” (Roman Catholic) understanding of (“prevenient”) grace—while at the same time (in agreement with the whole of Christian tradition), all forms of Pelagianism must be resisted. Here John Wesley’s robust theology of grace as “therapeutic” is a needed reminder for other Protestants; the “sanctifying” grace begins to heal and change the person the moment the person is justified, the founder of Methodism taught.77 Luther’s profound theology of the Christian as “christ” to the neighbor is the needed pointer in this direction.


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Concluding Remarks The purpose of this chapter is to shed light on Lutheran, particularly Martin Luther’s, resources for conceiving salvation as union and participation, features which approximate materially what the ancient doctrine of theosis means to say. Rather than a comparative exercise between Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox soteriologies, the current one chose to delve into defining texts in Reformer’s own theology of justification. (Another comparative task, namely that between Martin Luther’s own theology and the theology of Lutheran Confessions was also forfeited.) As can be guessed from the get-go, Luther did not speak of salvation in terms of deification. When he very rarely and occasionally chose to deploy that terminology, he was linking his soteriology with that of Church Fathers, particularly Irenaeus and the Eastern Fathers. Luther’s own way of speaking of justification is focused on the idea of union and participation. The key motif has to do with the presence of Christ in faith through the Spirit in the believer that integrally also leads to the daily renewal of life as the Christian begins to seek to do the kinds of deeds the indwelling Christ did while on earth. Although in Lutheran diagnosis the Christian is simultaneously just and a sinner, the indwelling Christ effects continuous renewal. The well-spring of justification is Christ’s righteousness. Therefore, it can be called “alien” righteousness as its origin is Christ rather than the human person. This same “alien” righteousness, however, becomes “ours” as it is graciously donated to the Christian through the indwelling of Christ in faith through the Spirit. Therefore, to the nature of faith belongs its eccentric, “outside of us,” characteristic. Faith springs from and resides in Christ but not so externally as not to be also ours as Christ indwells us. This is a short, non-technical explanation of what I call in this chapter a new interpretation of Luther’s theology of justification. It is not necessarily a total alternative to what is more commonly known as a “two-stage” account of salvation found typically in Lutheran Confessions in which the initial justification as a forensic declaration is separated, or at least definitively distinguished, from the need for renewal (sanctification). But, as argued, Luther’s own account links these two aspects integrally together and focuses on indwelling Christ’s sanative, efficient work in the believer. In the constructive part, it was suggested that a more robust role be given to the whole Trinity in the account of justification as union and participation. Christ’s justifying and renewing work comes to us through the Spirit and is founded on Father’s participation in the economy of salvation. Similarly it was recommended that Lutherans imagine the divine gift in more active terms so that they cannot be content with merely passive reception.

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Insightful and constructive ecumenical exchanges between Lutherans (and other Protestants) and Eastern Orthodox await the ecumenical guild. The work so far has yielded remarkable results but much more is needed, for example, to tackle the dramatically differing accounts of theological anthropology, particularly the nature of human will and the effects of Fall. The Roman Catholic–Lutheran joint declaration on justification further enriches and inspires this kind of continuing ecumenical exploration.

NOTES 1. This chapter is based on and draws directly from my Spirit and Salvation. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), Chap. 11. The publisher has kindly granted the copyright permission. 2. Risto Saarinen, “Justification by Faith: The View of the Mannermaa School” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther's Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L'ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 259–260 (259). This essay (pp. 254–264) helps put the new Mannermaa School interpretation (to be discussed in this article) in a wider historical context in Lutheranism and its traditional resistance to the doctrine of theosis and related emphases. 3. Georg Kretschmar, “Die Rezeption der orthodoxen Vergöttlichungslehre in der protestantischen Theologie,” in Luther und Theosis: Vergöttlichung als Thema der abendländischen Theologie, eds. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio, Schriften der Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft 25 (Helsinki and Erlangen: Martin-Luther Verlag, 1990), 61–80. 4. In English, see Tuomo Mannermaa, Christ Present in Faith: Luther’s View of Justification, ed. Kirsi Stjerna (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2005 [1979]); consult also Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, eds. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998); for a succinct introduction, see Mannermaa, “Why Is Luther So Fascinating? Modern Finnish Luther Research,” in Union with Christ, ed. Braaten and Jenson, 1–20. A fullscale presentation of Helsinki scholars’ interpretation of Luther’s theology at large is Engaging Luther: A (New) Theological Assessment, ed. Olli-Pekka Vainio (Eugen, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010). 5. In Dialogue between Neighbours: The Theological Conversations between the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church, 19701986, ed. Hannu Kamppuri (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola Society, 1986), 73. 6. Dialogue Between Neighbors, ed. Kamppuri, 75. 7. For various aspects of the discussion, see Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004); idem, “Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous: The Ecumenical Promise of a New Interpretation of Luther.” One in Christ 37, no. 2 (April 2002): 32–45; idem, “The Ecumenical Potential of Theosis: Emerging


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Convergences between Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and Pentecostal Soteriologies,” Sobornost/Eastern Churches Review 23, no. 2 (2002): 45–77. 8. An excellent up-to-date account with rich and comprehensive bibliography is Mark Mattes, “Luther on Justification as Forensic and Effective,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther's Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L'ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 264–273. Highly useful and accessible is also Robert Kolb, “Contemporary Lutheran Understandings of the Doctrine of Justification: A Selective Glimpse’. In Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debate?, eds. Mark Husbands and Daniel Treier (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2004), 153–176. 9. Martin Luther, “Heidelberg Disputation,” (1518) in Luther’s Works. American ed. (Libronix Digital Library), 55 vols, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehman, vol. 31 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2002), 56 (hereafter LW). 10. LW 31:56. 11. Luther, “Lectures on Galatians” (1535); LW 26:353. 12. LW 26:88. 13. Olli-Pekka Vainio, Justification and Participation in Christ: The Development of the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification from Luther to the Formula of Concord (1580) (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 20–22, 26 (pp. 21, 22). Luther often uses the expression of Christ as the “form of faith” (forma fidei), for which see p. 27. 14. Among many other passages, representative is LW 26:128–130. 15. LW 26:130; see Vainio, Justification and Participation, 27–36. 16. For discussion on the Galatians commentary (1535), see Vainio, Justification and Participation, 36–42. 17. Luther, “Lectures on Romans. Glosses and Scholia” (1515–16); LW 25:306. 18. Formula of Concord [Part II] ch.3, #.67 (other numbering 3.59) in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, tr. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1959), 571. 19. For a detailed analysis, see Vainio, Justification and Participation, chap. 2. 20. Luther, “Lectures on Galatians” (1535); LW 26, 129). 21. Luther, “Two Kinds of Righteousness” (1519); LW 31:297. 22. LW 31:299. 23. LW 31:299. 24. LW 31:300. 25. LW 31:298. 26. LW 31:298–299. 27. Arto Seppänen, Unio Christi: Union ja vanhurskauttamisen suhde Anders Nohrborgin postillassa, Suomalaisen Teologisen Kirjallisuusseuran julkaisuja 211 (Helsinki: STKJ, 1997), 37 (my translation). 28. LW 31:299–300. 29. Weimarer Ausgabe (the Weimar edition of Luther’s works [hereafter: WA]), vol. 10 I, p. 2, col. 168, 18–26 (Advent Postil, 1522; my translation). 30. Luther also describes the essence of sin as “robbery of God,” for example, in “Against Latomus” (1521); LW 32, 224.

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31. Antti Raunio, Die Summe des christlichen Lebens: Die ‘Goldene Regel’ als Gesetz der Liebe in der Theologie Martin Luthers von 1510 bis 1527. The Publications of the Systematic Theology Department 13 (Helsinki: Yliopistopaino, 1993), 172–177 especially. This monograph is a major study on the concept of love, both divine and human, in Luther’s theology and its relation to Christ’s presence through faith in the believer. Unfortunately, it is not available in English. 32. LW 31:56–57. See further, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, “Christian as Christ to the Neighbor.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 6, no. 2 (April 2004): 101–117. 33. Luther, “Treatise on Christian Liberty” (1520); LV 31, 367. Speaking of Paul, Luther explains the agency of Christ in the believer: “Paul, living in himself, is utterly dead through the Law but living in Christ, or rather with Christ living in him, he lives an alien life. Christ is speaking, acting, and performing all actions in him.” Lectures on Galatians (1535), LW 26:170. 34. Mannermaa, Christ Present in Faith, 50. 35. WA 17 II, 100, 26-101, 4 (Lent Postil, 1525; my translation). 36. “Therefore I believe that with this commandment ‘as yourself’ man is not commanded to love himself but rather is shown the sinful love with which he does in fact love himself, as if to say: ‘You are completely curved in upon yourself and pointed toward love of yourself, a condition from which you will not be delivered unless you altogether cease loving yourself and, forgetting yourself, love your neighbor. For it is a perversity that we want to be loved by all and want to seek our interest in all people; but it is uprightness that if you do to everyone else what in your perverseness you want done to yourself, you will do good with the same zeal as you used to do evil” LW 25, 513. 37. A whole monograph on the topic has been written by one of the students of Prof. Mannermaa, the Bishop Simo Peura, Mehr als ein Mensch? Die Vergöttlichung as Thema der Theologie Luthers von 1513 bis 1519. Veröffentlichungen des Institus für Europäische Geschichte (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1994). Unfortunately, that work is not available in English. 38. Simo Peura, “Vergöttlichungsgedanke in Luthers Theologie 1518-1519,” in Thesaurus Lutheri, eds. T. Mannermaa, et al. (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Society, 1987), 171–172. 39. Tuomo Mannermaa, “Theosis as a Subject of Finnish Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 4, no. 1 (1995): 42–44. 40. Luther, “Defense and Explanation of all the Articles” (1521); LW 51:58. 41. WA 1:28.25–32, quoted in Mannermaa, “Theosis as a Subject of Finnish Luther Research,” 43. 42. Mannermaa, “Theosis as a Subject of Finnish Luther Research,” 42. 43. For a brief summary of the idea of adoption in Luther, see Risto Saarinen, “The Presence of God in Luther’s Theology,” Lutheran Quarterly 3, no. 1 (1994): 9–10. For pneumatological implications, see Kenneth L. Bakken, “Holy Spirit and Theosis: Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38, no. 4 (1994): 409–423. 44. Mannermaa, “Why Is Luther So Fascinating?,” 10.


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45. Luther, “First Lectures on the Psalms,” (1513–14); LW 10:253; see Simo Peura, “Christ as Favor and Gift,” in Union with Christ, eds. Braaten and Jenson, 50. 46. An important dialogue with critics is Olli-Pekka Vainio, “Luther and Theosis: A Response to the Critics of the Finnish Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 24, no. 4 (2015): 459–474. 47. The leading German scholar Bernhard Lohse (Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999], 221) virtually dismisses the Mannermaa School’s insight altogether. 48. See Braaten and Jensen, eds., Union with Christ, among others. 49. See Robert Kolb, “Contemporary Lutheran Understandings of Justification: A Select Glimpse,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, eds. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 153–176. 50. Frank Macchia, Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 5; see also idem, “Justification through New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls,” Theology Today 58, no. 2 (July 2001): 202–217. 51. Macchia, Justified in the Spirit, 5; see also, p. 39. 52. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, tr. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001), 146. See further, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, “ ‘By the Washing of Regeneration and Renewing by the Holy Spirit’: Toward a Pneumatological Account of Justification in Christ,” in Spirit and Christ: Essays in Honour of Max Turner, eds. Howard Marshall, Cornelis Bennema, and Volker Rabens (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 303–322. 53. Moltmann, Spirit of Life, 146. See also, Bakken, “Holy Spirit and Theosis,” 410–411. 54. For a trinitarian theology of reconciliation (and atonement), see chap. 13 in Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christ and Reconciliation: Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013). 55. See also, Macchia, Justified in the Spirit, 7–8. 56. Macchia, Justified in the Spirit, 6, emphasis in original. 57. Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church, Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), #15; http:​/​ /www​​.vati​​can​.v​​a​/rom​​an​_cu​​ria​/p​​ontif​​i cal_​​counc​​ils​/c​​hrstu​​ni​/do​​cumen​​ts​/rc​​_pc​_c​​hrstu​​ ni​_do​​c​_311​​01999​​_cath​​-luth​​​-join​​t​-dec​​larat​​ion​_e​​n​.htm​l (5/10/2018). 58. Luther, “Lectures on Galatians” (1519), on 3:7; LW 27:252; for comments, see Macchia, Justified in the Spirit, 63–64. 59. From the third article of the Small Catechism (1531) in Book of Condord, ed. Tappert, 345. 60. LW 31:371. 61. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, tr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 134–134 [hereafter, ST 3]. 62. Pannenberg, ST 3:136–137. 63. Pannenberg, ST 3:211. 64. See the long and detailed section 4, titled “Adoption as God’s Children and Justification” (pp. 211–236), in ST 3.

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65. Pannenberg, ST 3:211–212. 66. So also Risto Saarinen, “De iustificatione” Teologinen aikakauskirja 118, no. 4 (2013): 291–304 (this section is indebted to it). 67. See section “4.2 Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous” in Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. 68. The key investigation is the massive study by Sibylle Rolf, Zum Herzen sprechen: Eine Studie zum imputativen Aspekt in Martin Luthers Rechtfertigungslehre und zu seinen Konsequenzen für die Predigt des Evangeliums (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2008). Unfortunately, it is not available in English. 69. This is the brilliant conclusion of Saarinen (“De Iustificatione,” 295–297), combining Rolf’s and the Mannermaa School’s insights. 70. Saarinen, “De Iustificatione,” 296, with reference to Rolf, Zum Hertzen sprechen, 27. 71. Saarinen, “De Iustificatione,” 296; for details, see Rolf, Zum Hertzen sprechen, 33–40. 72. For a detailed discussion, see Risto Saarinen, God and Gift: An Ecumenical Theology of Giving. Unitas Books (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005), 36–45. 73. Macchia, Justified in the Spirit, 3, emphasis in original. 74. John Milbank, Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 138. 75. Milbank coins the term “active reception” in his essay “Gregory of Nyssa: The Force of Identity” in Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric, and Community, eds. Lewis Ayres and Gareth Jones (London: Routledge, 1998), 95. 76. Macchia, Justified in the Spirit, 25. 77. See further, Theodore Runyon, The New Creation: John Wesley’s Theology Today (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998), 27–30.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Bakken, Kenneth L. “Holy Spirit and Theosis: Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing.” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38, no. 4 (1994): 409–23. Braaten, Carl E., and Robert W. Jenson, eds. Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. Kamppuri, Hannu, ed. Dialogue between Neighbours: The Theological Conversations between the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church, 1970–1986. Helsinki: Luther-Agricola Society, 1986. Kolb, Robert. “Contemporary Lutheran Understandings of the Doctrine of Justification: A Selective Glimpse.” In Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debate? edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel Treier, pp. 153–76. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2004. Kretschmar, Georg. “Die Rezeption der orthodoxen Vergöttlichungslehre in der protestantischen Theologie.” In Luther und Theosis: Vergöttlichung als Thema der abendländischen Theologie, edited by Simo Peura and Antti Raunio, pp. 61–80. Helsinki and Erlangen: Martin-Luther-Verlag, 1990.


Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. “ ‘By the Washing of Regeneration and Renewing by the Holy Spirit’: Toward a Pneumatological Account of Justification in Christ.” In Spirit and Christ: Essays in Honour of Max Turner, edited by Howard Marshall, Cornelis Bennema, and Volker Rabens, pp. 303–22. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012. ———. Christ and Reconciliation. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013. ———. “Christian as Christ to the Neighbor.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 6, no. 2 (2004): 101–17. ———. “The Ecumenical Potential of Theosis: Emerging Convergences between Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and Pentecostal Soteriologies.” Sobornost/Eastern Churches Review 23, no. 2 (2002): 45–77. ———. “Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous: The Ecumenical Promise of a New Interpretation of Luther.” One in Christ 37, no. 2 (2002): 32–45. ———. One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2004. ———. Spirit and Salvation. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 4. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016. Lohse, Bernhard. Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999. Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. American ed. (Libronix Digital Library). 55 vols, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehman. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002. Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. http:​/​/www​​.vati​​can​ .v​​a​/rom​​an​_cu​​ria​/p​​ontif​​i cal_​​counc​​ils​/c​​hrstu​​ni​/do​​cumen​​ts​/rc​​_pc​_c​​hrstu​​ni​_do​​c​_311​​ 01999​​_cath​​-luth​​​-join​​t​-dec​​larat​​ion​_e​​n​.htm​​l. Macchia, Frank. “Justification through New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls.” Theology Today 58, no. 2 (2001): 202–17. ———. Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. Mannermaa, Tuomo. Christ Present in Faith: Luther’s View of Justification. Edited by Kirsi Stjerna. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005. ———. “Theosis as a Subject of Finnish Luther Research.” Pro Ecclesia 4, no. 1 (1995): 37–48. ———. “Why Is Luther So Fascinating? Modern Finnish Luther Research.” In Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, pp. 1–20. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. Mattes, Mark. “Luther on Justification as Forensic and Effective.” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, pp. 264–73. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Milbank, John. Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. ———. “Gregory of Nyssa: The Force of Identity.” In Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric, and Community, edited by Lewis Ayres and Gareth Jones, pp. 94–116. London: Routledge, 1998.

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Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. Translated by Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001. Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Systematic Theology. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. Peura, Simo. “Christ as Favor and Gift.” In Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. ———. Mehr als ein Mensch? Die Vergöttlichung as Thema der Theologie Luthers von 1513 bis 1519. Veröffentlichungen des Institus für Europäische Geschichte. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1994. Raunio, Antti. Summe des christlichen Lebens: Die “Goldene Regel” als Gesetz in der Theologie Martin Luthers von 1510-1527. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001. Rolf, Sibylle. Zum Herzen sprechen: Eine Studie zum imputativen Aspekt in Martin Luthers Rechtfertigungslehre und zu seinen Konsequenzen für die Predigt des Evangeliums. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2008. Runyon, Theodore. The New Creation: John Wesley’s Theology Today. Nashville: Abingdon, 1998. Saarinen, Risto. “De iustificatione.” Teologinen aikakauskirja 118, no. 4 (2013): 291–304. ———. God and Gift: An Ecumenical Theology of Giving. Unitas Books. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005. ———. “Justification by Faith: The View of the Mannermaa School.” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, pp. 254–64. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. ———. “The Presence of God in Luther’s Theology.” Lutheran Quarterly 3, no. 1 (1994): 3–13. Seppänen, Arto. Unio Christi: Union ja vanhurskauttamisen suhde Anders Nohrborgin postillassa. Suomalaisen Teologisen Kirjallisuusseuran julkaisuja 211. Helsinki: STKJ, 1997. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, tr. Theodore G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959. Vainio, Olli-Pekka. Justification and Participation in Christ: The Development of the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification from Luther to the Formula of Concord (1580). Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008. ———. “Luther and Theosis: A Response to the Critics of the Finnish Luther Research.” Pro Ecclesia 24, no. 4 (2015):459–74. ———, ed. Engaging Luther: A (New) Theological Assessment. Eugen: Wipf & Stock, 2010.

Chapter 4

The Gospel’s End and Our Highest Good Deification in the Reformed Tradition Carl Mosser

For more than a century the consensus of eminent Protestant and Eastern Orthodox historians of dogma was that deification is a distinctively Eastern doctrine incompatible with the Western theological tradition. For the Reformation traditions, deification was said to be especially precluded by total depravity, predestination, and justification by faith alone. These claims habituated generations of scholars to presume soteriologies of deification are alien to the Protestant tradition. From the beginning, however, this commonplace was apologetic propaganda presented in the guise of critical scholarship.1 It fails for the simple reason that examination of the primary sources of the Protestant tradition shows it to be false. Scholars have increasingly recognized this in recent years, but the claim is not new. Writing in the 1960s, already Jaroslav Pelikan observed, “Western theology and spirituality spoke in such language also; so, for that matter, did the Reformers and other Protestant divines.”2 The thesis of this chapter is simple. The patristic doctrine of deification found in such writers as Irenaeus, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, and Augustine is a biblical doctrine of the universal church affirmed by the Reformers and their immediate heirs. It is neither an exotic import nor invasive species in the garden of Reformed theology. Like Nicene Trinitarianism, creatio ex nihilo, and the canon of the New Testament, it is a constitutive part of the catholic inheritance which the Reformers sought to uphold and defend. Early Reformed theologians affirmed that it is appropriate to describe the goal or telos of salvation in terms of deification. Be that as it may, deification as a concise and appropriately evocative description of the gospel’s end and our highest good receded into the background. Christians in the Reformed 83


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tradition do well to retrieve the Reformers’ catholic doctrine of deification for the sake of theological and spiritual renewal.3 THE EARLY PATRISTIC DOCTRINE For many people, deification and divinization immediately bring to mind the apotheosis of Roman emperors, Neoplatonic notions of henosis and theurgy, and medieval mystics who posit undifferentiated union with God. In those contexts, deification means either to become a deity or merge with God like a drop of rain that loses its identity in the sea. To be deified in any of these senses is to cease being human. That is not what deification means in the context of patristic theology. It is important to clarify this because several scholars, apparently unfamiliar with the relevant patristic texts, equate deification with these ideas and on that basis insist the Reformers rejected it. The Reformers did, of course, emphatically reject idolatrous notions like these but it would be fallacious from that fact to infer opposition to the patristic concept. Other scholars erroneously equate deification with late Byzantine formulations of theosis. These scholars then assert deification cannot be present in Western soteriologies because they do not employ Gregory Palamas’ essence/energies distinction or commend Hesychastic forms of prayer and ascesis. That simply begs the question while creating a standard that inadvertently precludes the prototypical soteriologies of deification found in Irenaeus and Athanasius. For the sake of clarity, it will be useful to provide a brief sketch of the early patristic doctrine and its biblical foundation. In antiquity, the Greek word for “god” (theos; pl. theoi) was especially associated with immortality, incorruption, and glory. The Apostle Paul describes the resurrected body in precisely those terms (1 Cor. 15:35-54). Jesus himself taught that “the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom” (Matt. 13:43; cf. Dan. 12:3). Similar language appears elsewhere in the New Testament as well. God will grant eternal life to “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption” (Rom. 2:6). When Christ returns, he will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Christ Jesus “abolished death and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). The resurrection of Jesus secures for us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” and believers are already “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable” (1 Pet. 1:4, 23). In this light, it is easy to see why it was very natural for second-century Christians to paraphrase the New Testament’s redemptive vision in terms of being made theos/theoi. However, patristic writers did not understand this as a vision of autonomous immortality and glory such as a deity might possess. Scripture is clear: God “alone has immortality” (1 Tim.

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6:16) and believers are called to God’s own glory (1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3). Thus, in order to receive the gift of incorruptible divine life and glory, believers must be united to God through participation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Second-century writers like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria observed that in Psalm 82:6 “gods” and “sons of the Most High” are synonymously parallel. Drawing on earlier Jewish interpretations, they understood the declaration “I have said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you’” to express God’s original intention to grant immortality to humans on the condition that they obey his commands. Adam and Israel disobeyed, forfeiting the gift of immortal life. Christ assumed our mortal human nature in order to perfectly obey the Father’s commands, suffer for sin, and conquer death on our behalf. On this reading, Psalm 82:6 points to New Testament passages about resurrection life, becoming children of God, and adoption as sons. Thus, Irenaeus can say the gods of Psalm 82:6 are “those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the ‘adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father’” (AH 3.6.1; cf. Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15).4 For this reason, deification, immortalization, and adoption are frequent synonyms in patristic literature. The heart of the patristic doctrine is found in the pattern of thought captured by the patristic exchange formula. Here are the two most commonly quoted examples from Irenaeus: For it was for this that the Word of God was made man, and he who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. (AH 3.19.1) But [we follow] the only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is Himself. (AH 5 pref.)

Subsequent writers adapt the formula in various ways. Athanasius states, “He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God” (Inc. 54). Gregory Nazianzus makes the point with the plural, “Let us become as Christ is, since Christ became as we are; let us become gods (theoi) for his sake, since he became man for our sake” (Or. 1.5). Hilary of Poitiers writes, “For when God was born to be man the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost, but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be borne to be God” (De Trin. 10.7). Ephrem the Syrian is more concise: “He gave us divinity, we gave him humanity” (H. de Fid. 5.7). None of these writers take the exchange to be perfectly symmetrical, but they do believe the incarnation leads to the transformation of human nature in Christ such that those


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who are united to Christ will also be transformed to be “like him” (1 John 3:2). The thought pattern expressed by the exchange formula is already found in the New Testament. • “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) • “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) • “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Gal. 3:13) • “our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us, so that . . . we might live” (1 Thess. 5:9-10) • “though he was in the form of God . . . [he] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him.” (Phil. 2:7-9) Though limited in scope, even this brief sketch shows that the patristic doctrine of deification derives from a broad range of biblical passages, not just Psalm 82:6, 2 Peter 1:4, and 1 John 3:2. Patristic writers can teach the concept of deification without quasi-technical terms (e.g., Greek: theopoiesis, theosis; Latin: deificatio). Irenaeus has no special term for the doctrine. Cyril of Alexandria abandoned use of theopoiesis after the outbreak of the Nestorian controversy but deification nonetheless permeates his later writings. His commentary on John, for example, articulates a robust soteriology of deification by means of the exchange formula and such notions as sharing divine life, participation in God, partaking of the divine nature, and the life-giving flesh of Christ. Cyril’s commentary is notable because it was highly valued by early Reformed scholars like Martin Bucer, John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Girolamo Zanchi. While they quibbled with a couple statements that seemed incautious or hyperbolic, they agreed with Cyril’s basic theology of union with Christ and participation in the divine nature. WHY WE SHOULD EXPECT DEIFICATION IN THE REFORMED TRADITION From an historical standpoint, there are several prima facie reasons we should expect deification in the theology of the Reformers and their heirs. First of all, deification is arguably a biblical doctrine available to any careful reader of

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scripture. The Reformers prized the careful reading of scripture. Second, the Reformers’ reading of Scripture was informed by patristic and medieval writers who explicitly describe salvation in terms of deification. Deification simply wouldn’t have been a foreign concept to any well-read sixteenth-century theologian. Third, the Reformation was, in one sense, a deliberate attempt to recover the “purer” theology of the church fathers. The Fathers were sometimes misread and misused, and on occasion openly contradicted, but on the whole early Reformed theologians were deferential to patristic teaching. The First Helvetic Confession even goes so far as to affirm: “Where the holy fathers and early teachers, who have explained and expounded the Scripture, have not departed from this rule, we want to recognize and consider them not only as expositors of Scripture, but as elect instruments through whom God has spoken and operated” (Article III).5 The Fathers have an authoritative voice subservient to Scripture. Fourth, the Reformers and their heirs were deeply committed to catholicity. For them, the Reformation was not really a debate between Protestants and Catholics but, rather, a debate about who are the true Catholics. The Reformers claimed “that it was they, and not Rome, that truly represented the Catholic Church and Catholic doctrine.”6 It is implausible to think they disagreed with the soteriology of deification they encountered in both Greek and Latin Fathers without so much as a word to that effect. Finally, the Reformers championed the dogmas of Incarnation and Trinity against a wide variety of heterodox movements and figures. This provided ample opportunity to reflect on the soteriological foundations and redemptive implications of these dogmas. DEIFICATION AT THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE REFORMED TRADITION According to Bruce McCormack, because the churches of the Reformation are in doctrinal chaos, many Protestant theologians have lamentably “turned their longing eyes toward Rome and Constantinople” for their “soteriologies of transformation.”7 He complains about the “undignified flight to the East” on the part of Reformed theologians who develop a “fascination with classical Orthodox themes like theosis.”8 These soteriologies of transformation are supposedly incompatible with the forensicism of the Reformed doctrine of justification. Yet, if we turn our eyes to Zurich, Strasbourg, and Geneva, we find soteriologies of transformation there, too. The deification of believers is affirmed as the gospel’s end alongside a forensic doctrine of justification. Here we will survey deification in some of the writings of Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and John Calvin.


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Huldrych Zwingli On January 29, 1523, Huldrych Zwingli gave an account of his teaching to the Zurich City Council, deputies of the Bishop of Constance, and some 600 scholars, priests, dignitaries, and laity. In preparation, Zwingli wrote the Sixty-Seven Articles. The published Articles initiated the Reformation in Switzerland much as Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses did in Germany a few years earlier. Unlike Luther’s Theses, however, Zwingli’s Articles are already fully Protestant. Article XIII states: Where this (the head) is hearkened to one learns clearly and plainly the will of God, and man is attracted by his spirit to him and changed into him.9

Some translations mute the force of the last phrase by rendering it “drawn to him by his Spirit and transformed into his likeness” or, worse, “converted to him.” Zwingli’s intent, however, is clear from the exposition of the Sixtyseven Articles he published six months later. Commenting on the second part of the article, he says “that a person is drawn to God by God’s Spirit and deified, becomes quite clear from scripture.” The phrase in Zwingli’s Swiss German is in got verwandlet, more literally rendered “transformed into God.”10 He explains further: For absolutely everything, even sin, helps the Christian to achieve the good. Thus one must be drawn to God and deified (in inn verwandlet) so that we might be fully emptied, cleaned and able to deny ourselves, no longer trusting in our own mind, heart and works but putting all our confidence in God our sole hope to which we cling. For thus we are being transformed into God (in gott verwandlet). This is not the work of the flesh but of the Spirit of God.11

Deification appears again in Zwingli’s 1525 Commentary on True and False Religion. This work has been described as “the earliest truly comprehensive treatise on Protestant theology.”12 In it he says: The Spirit of God . . . deigns to draw the wretched spirit of man to itself, to unite and to bind it to itself, and wholly to transform it into itself (ac prorsus in se transformare). This thing feeds and rejoices the heart and assures it of salvation. What else is this than the food of the soul? By what comparison can it be more fitly expressed than by that of food? For as the starving stomach rejoices when food comes into it, wherewith the used-up breath and heat and strength are replenished, so the starving soul, when God discloses Himself to it, leaps for joy, and daily grows and increases in strength more and more, being transformed into the likeness of God (formam Dei transformatur) until it develops into the perfect man.13

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In July 1531, a few months before his death, Zwingli prepared A Short and Clear Exposition of the Christian Faith for King Francis I of France which Heinrich Bullinger published as a booklet in 1536. Here Zwingli describes the Beatific Vision as the hope of seeing “God Himself in His very substance, in His nature and with all His endowments and powers, and to enjoy all these, not sparingly but in full measure, not with the cloying effect that generally accompanies satiety, but with that agreeable completeness which involves no surfeiting.” Furthermore, “The good which we shall enjoy is infinite and the infinite cannot be exhausted; therefore no one can become surfeited with it, for it is ever new and yet the same.”14 In Zurich, we discover a soteriology of transformation inscribed in the Reformed tradition’s first confession and its earliest dogmatic treatises. Echoing late medieval mystical themes, for the Swiss Reformer, deification is a work of the Spirit whereby believers are drawn to him, united to God, and transformed. Deification begins with the self-disclosure of God to the soul and involves self-emptying, self-denial, daily growth, and sanctification on the path to perfection. That path is also filled with joy, culminating in the infinitely joyous vision of God. Martin Bucer Turning our eyes to Strasbourg, we discover that Martin Bucer promoted a vision of redemption which culminates in the believer’s deification. Satisfaction, justification, and reconciliation are all vital to a proper soteriology but are not salvation’s ultimate goal. According to Bucer, redeemed humanity will be restored to a much more elevated position than that from which it fell, endowed with divine glory and immortality.15 Commenting on John 1:14, he says “for the Father wanted to make gods out of men” (voluit nanque Pater ex hominibus deos facere), therefore, the Word, through his incarnation, became the Mediator who perfects and elevates the elect. Bucer refers to this as apotheosis and the “deification of the elect” (deificationem electorum).16 Bucer’s interpretation reflects affirmations of deification found in the patristic commentaries he utilized in the composition and revision of his commentary on John.17 The three editions of Bucer’s commentary were influential both in their own right and because of the attentive reading they received from Calvin in preparing the 1536, 1539, and 1541 editions of the Institutes as well as his own commentary on the fourth gospel (1553).18 Deification appears in the Tetrapolitan Confession which Bucer wrote for the Diet of Augsburg (with the assistance of Wolfgang Capito and Caspar Hedio).19 Article III states a Reformed doctrine of justification but is immediately followed in Article IV with the statement, “we are sure that no man can be justified or saved except he supremely love and most earnestly imitate


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God.” Drawing on Augustine, the faith by which we are justified is described as one that is “efficacious through love.” “By this only,” the Confession continues, “are we regenerated and the image of God is restored in us.” The believer is not passive in this but actively cultivates the virtues and exercises them through good works for the benefit of others. Because those foreknown by God are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29), the Confession lays down the dictum “as in the glory of a blessed life, so in the cultivation of innocence and perfect righteousness.” The reason is simple, we were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). However, “no one can love God above all things, and worthily imitate him, but he who indeed knows him and expects all good things from him.” The Confession then brings together what Norman Russell distinguishes as the nominal, realist, and ethical senses of deification.20 By this, although we are born corrupt, our thoughts even from our childhood being altogether prone to evil, we become good and upright. For from this we, being fully satisfied with one God, the perennial fountain of blessings that is copiously effluent, show ourselves to others as gods—i.e. true children of God—by love striving for their advantage so far as we are able . . . . For whatever the law of God teaches has this end and requires this one thing, that at length we may be reformed to the perfect image of God, being good in all things, and ready and willing to serve the advantage of men; which we cannot do unless furnished with virtues of every kind. (Article IV)

Read by itself, Article IV might be taken to call believers gods only in a nominal or metaphorical sense. After all, the Tetrapolitan Confession does exactly that when it later calls those who exercise public power “gods” because the office of the magistrate is a most sacred function (Article XXIII).21 However, when read in light of Bucer’s explicit affirmation of the “deification of the elect” and his understanding of final redemption as an elevation of human nature, when Article IV speaks of the restoration of the imago Dei and imitation of God, it appears that more is in view. For Bucer, redemption is ultimately an eschatological elevation of human nature that has already happened in principle as a consequence of the Incarnation. The Father desired to make “gods” of men, therefore Christians should act as gods now by imitating the Father’s philanthropy. In Bucer, we find a soteriology in which a forensic doctrine of justification, deification, and the role of good works in restoring the image of God coalesce. Peter Martyr Vermigli Central to patristic accounts of deification is the idea that human nature has in principle been transformed by the Incarnation and humiliation of Christ so

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that believers, united with Christ, participate in the divine nature. Though the word “deification” is never used, the Italian-born Reformed theologian Peter Martyr Vermigli clearly expresses this understanding of the Incarnation and redemption in his exposition of the Apostle’s Creed. He writes: There is no need for me to discuss at length just how far the qualities and gifts of Christ’s humanity exceeded the endowments granted Adam . . . . Let me instead focus on what may be most useful for our consideration. Everyone reborn in Christ ought to contemplate the great love God has shown towards us. He did not loathe our nature, dirty and filthy because of sin, but instead purified it and clothed himself with it, so that we might share in his divine nature.22

Vermigli is aware that idolatrous myths frequently depict gods taking human form. These theophanies, however, were not designed to cleanse humanity. The poets depict gods performing adultery, fornication, and other wicked and dishonest deeds. Had worshippers of these gods tried to imitate them, “they would have had to surrender to their unruly passions.” In sharp contrast, “the divine Word, through his humble assumption of our nature unto reconciliation and divine blessing, has sanctified it and filled it with grace. This he did not only for his own humanity, but also for all who by faith are joined to him as living members.” Furthermore, clothed in human nature, he “exemplified holy righteousness, patience, temperance, prudence, wisdom, and humility. In the contemplation of his life, there is an incomparable pattern for all who would do works of sincerity and valor.”23 When Christians live undisciplined, lascivious, and dissolute lives, they not only despise the beautiful design of holiness and righteousness exemplified in Christ, they “contaminate” the divine nature they share by union with Christ (Vermigli does not appear to understand that in a metaphysical sense). Vermigli challenges such Christians to “try to explain how their lifestyle is consistent with the divine nature received from Christ.” No such explanation is possible, of course. Therefore, “It would be fitting for the children of God, when they receive a divine nature through Christ, to live in a godly way, leaving bestial and unregenerate conduct to those who are still men on account of their unbelief, and who have degenerated into beasts because of their disordered lifestyle.”24 Vermigli later reiterates the point when he says, “If Christ in all his works and sufferings showed himself to be true man, we in turn receiving such help have a responsibility to live a life on earth that is not merely human, but in harmony with what is celestial and divine.”25 Vermigli distinguishes between people who share in Christ’s divine nature and those “who are still men.” The former are regenerated and reconciled to God, the latter live “merely human” lives that degenerate into beastliness due to unbelief and a disordered lifestyle. According the Vermigli, then, human


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beings have the capacity for divinization through union with Christ or bestialization through dissolute living. Christ exemplified true humanity harmonious with what is celestial and divine. Believers have a responsibility to follow his example. Christians are objectively partakers of the divine nature; they are called to increasingly live in accord with that reality. By the Spirit of Christ, Vermigli tells us, we receive both the remission of sins while living in his church on earth and the hope of resurrection in heavenly glory. The life everlasting will not only pertain to the good of the soul but also the good of the body. First of all, “the body shall be free from all the distresses, toils, pains, and difficulties which at present, in this vale of misery, we are constrained to bear” (cf. Rev. 21:4).26 But more than that, our body will be completely renewed and endowed with “heavenly qualities” that “are already revealed in the resurrection of Christ and in some of his miraculous works performed during the days of his flesh.” These include Christ’s ability to enter a room behind closed doors, walking on the waters of the sea without sinking, being lifted through the air and ascending to heaven, governing his body in such a way that no one could touch or even see him against his will. Common to expositions of the doctrine of deification, the Transfiguration provides Vermigli’s culminating example. “Think of Mount Tabor, where he was transfigured, and his body became bright shining as the sun. We have some reason to hope that our bodies will be capable of experiencing these conditions in the life everlasting, since it is fitting that the members be like their head.”27 Immediately after mentioning the glory of Mount Tabor, Vermigli turns to practical implications for life now. “Therefore,” he writes, “whoever really cares about his body and flesh will sense the impropriety of yielding to them in this life when things repugnant to such a blessed end are involved. He must rather, as far as the favor of divine grace enables him, submit to the good pleasure of the Spirit, by whom he shall at the last be raised and led to the noblest state.” Moreover, Vermigli warns that the person “who spares his soul from mortification and withdraws from the cross that God sends him . . . deprives his own existence of everything he might have enjoyed perennially with Christ in eternal blessedness.”28 Elsewhere Vermigli describes mortification and the pursuit of good works as “the beginnings and first steps of eternal life” and “stairs up which God draws us to a perfect life.”29 In good Protestant fashion, Vermigli is careful to say they are “not merits.” They are, nonetheless, “a journey and first steps” by which “we may prove ourselves God’s children in this beginning resurrection, as we really are.”30 For Vermigli, justification by faith alone should not lead to passivity in the Christian life. To the contrary, those “justified through Christ have in this life a supreme desire to love God their Father as required, with all their heart, soul, and strength. Since they perceive themselves to fall far short of this, the

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awareness of failure brings them constant and deepest pain.”31 But, Vermigli asks, “can you imagine their delight in being able to fulfill completely this proper and strong desire?” Then Christians will be finally delivered from the assaults of their own flesh, live in perfect harmony with the Spirit, and be able to love their neighbor “purely, rejoicing in his blessedness no less than in ours.”32 Vermigli anticipates the day when we will know Christ as our firstborn brother in a glorious and triumphant state and be united with God. “In that day, we shall not only be joined to him but also to the eternal Father.” Christ will present us to the Father “as a well-administered kingdom gained through his victory, so that our blessed God and Father . . . may be all in all.” Nothing higher or better can be imagined. “All that can be useful, delightful, honorable, decent, beautiful and good in any way, God our blessed Father will be to us . . . . Of this final blessedness Saint Peter saw a foreshadowing, a foretaste, a spark on Mount Tabor.”33 John Calvin The theology of John Calvin does not define the Reformed tradition, but more than anywhere else other than Scripture and the Confessions, Reformed Christians have turned their eyes to Geneva for instruction. Commenting on 2 Peter 1:4, Calvin wrote, “We should notice that it is the purpose of the Gospel to make us sooner or later like God; indeed it is, so to speak, a kind of deification (quasi deificari).”34 The older translation conveys the thought more adequately: “Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.”35 Calvin’s additional comments on 2 Peter 1:3-4 suggest deification is shorthand for such things as being clothed with God’s glory, endowed with God’s power, restored in God’s glorious image, God himself being possessed by the redeemed such that what is his becomes theirs by grace. It does not, however, mean “that we cross over into God’s nature so that His nature absorbs ours” as some fanatics taught. Calvin insists the word “nature” does not denote God’s essence. What the apostles were concerned to teach here and elsewhere is that “when we have put off all the vices of the flesh we shall be partakers of divine immortality and the glory of blessedness, and thus we shall be in a way one with God so far as our capacity allows.” Calvin here recapitulates the main themes of the patristic deification tradition, even qualifying the notion in much the same way Pseudo-Dionysius does in his famous definition: “theosis is likeness to God and union with him so far as possible.”36 When Calvin published his commentary on 2 Peter in 1551, he was familiar with erroneous divinizing notions propounded by Servetus, the Libertines, the ancient Manicheans, and others. He knew talk of deification could be


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misinterpreted, hence his “if we may so speak.” Calvin did not normally speak in terms of “deification,” but this was the traditional term for salvation that culminates in perfect union with God. He was also aware that it was entirely orthodox to speak in terms of “becoming God” or “gods” in the sense that the Church Fathers did. When Cardinal Sadoleto attempted to win Geneva back to the papacy, he prefaced his main discussion with an oration on the nature and importance of salvation that concludes: “God descended to the earth, that he might become man, and man was raised to heaven, that he might be God.”37 In his reply, Calvin questions the Cardinal’s motives for spending so much space rehearsing something that is simply not in dispute. The topic of Sadoleto’s preface, Calvin says, “deserves to be sounded in our ears by day and by night, to be constantly kept in remembrance, and made the subject of ceaseless meditation.”38 Similarly, “I readily agree with you that, after this sanctification, we ought not to propose to ourselves any other object in life than to hasten towards that high calling; for God has set it before us as the constant aim of all our thoughts, and words, and actions.”39 Calvin’s vision of union with God is already well-developed in his earliest works. In the Psychopannychia he writes: For it is admitted by all, that perfection of blessedness or glory nowhere exists except in perfect union with God. Hither we all tend, hither we hasten, hither all the Scriptures and the divine promises send us . . . . [T]hat kingdom, to the possession of which we are called, and which is elsewhere denominated “salvation,” and “reward,” and “glory,” is nothing else than that union with God by which they are fully in God, are filled by God, in their turn cleave to God, completely possess God—in short, are “one with God.”40

Calvin’s Treatise Against the Anabaptists similarly emphasizes perfect union with God: There is no one who does not concur that the perfection of our beatitude consists in our being perfectly united with God. It is the goal toward which all the promises of God point us. For what was formerly said to Abraham is equally addressed to us: that God is our highest reward (Gen. 15:1). Hence the end of our beatitude, of our glory and salvation, is to belong wholly to God, to possess Him, and for Him to be wholly in us.41

It comes as no surprise, then, that according to Calvin, “The highest human good is to be united with God who is the fountain of life and of all good things.” Because our unworthiness keeps us from approaching Him, “it is therefore the proper office of the Mediator to help us here, and to stretch out His hand to lead us to heaven.”42 Calvin was aware that ancient Greek

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philosophers also taught a deifying union with God similar to the Christian hope. “This teaching was not unfamiliar to Plato, because he defines the highest human good in various passages as being completely conformed to God.”43 However, while Plato “recognized man’s highest good as union with God,” he was unable to “even dimly sense its nature” since “he had learned nothing of the sacred bond of that union.”44 Calvin’s theology of union is thoroughly Trinitarian. We must “learn to view Christ humbled in the flesh, that He may lead us to the fountain of blessed immortality. For He was not appointed our leader just to draw us to the sphere of the moon or the sun, but to make us one with God the Father.”45 Therefore, “the only bond of our union with God is union with Christ.”46 In turn, “the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.”47 Christ is the channel and bond of unity with the Father; the indwelling Spirit is the channel and bond of unity with the Son. Our highest good and greatest happiness are found in a threefold union with the triune God. J. Todd Billings has observed that “a key area of richness in Calvin is the way in which he held together biblical images of salvation that are legal and forensic with those which are transformational, in a way that is nonreductive.”48 Calvin’s emphasis on salvation as union with God creates no tension with his forensic understanding of justification. Quite the contrary, Calvin believed deifying union with God—something which he, the church fathers, and contemporaries like Cardinal Sadeleto all agreed about—was not possible unless a Reformational understanding of justification is true. “When we hear mention of our union with God,” Calvin says, “let us remember that holiness must be its bond.” Scripture is clear on this point: without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Nonetheless, this is “not because we come into communion with him by virtue of our holiness!”49 Christ assumed the role of Mediator to bring about union between God and humanity, first in his person, then in the members of his body the church. The obstacle we face is that union is impossible as long as we are sinners who offend the holiness of God. “This then is our life—to be united to God; but this union with God cannot be hoped for by us while he imputes sins to us.”50 We do not possess the ability within ourselves to remove sin or merit the righteousness for which God declares his very self to be the reward. A change in our legal status is required for union with God to be initiated. “The union of God with us is true and real salvation; but no one can be united to God without righteousness, and there is found in us no righteousness; hence God himself freely imputes it to us; and as we are justified freely, so our salvation is said to be gratuitous.”51 Thus, rather than attempt to make ourselves holy in order to obtain union with God, “we ought first to cleave unto him so that, infused with his holiness, we may follow whither he calls.”52 By partaking of Christ, “we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled


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to God through Christ’s blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by Christ’s spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.”53 For Calvin, justification is a forensic declaration that necessarily leads to transformation by the Spirit. Perfect union with God requires both. Several variations on the patristic exchange formula appear in Calvin’s writings which illustrate how deeply the structure of his soteriology was influenced by the patristic deification tradition. This is evident already in the first edition of the Institutes (1536) where Calvin says: “Christ, the true son, has been given to us as our brother by Him in order that what belongs to him by nature may become ours by benefit of adoption.”54 The variant found in his first Catechism (1538) bears even greater resemblance to patristic formulations: “Indeed, he put on our flesh in order that having become Son of Man he might make us sons of God with him; having received our poverty in himself, he might transfer his wealth to us; having submitted to our weakness, he might strengthen us by his power; having accepted our mortality, he might give us immortality; having descended to earth, he might raise us to heaven.”55 The most famous example of the exchange formula in Calvin’s corpus appears in discussion of the Eucharist. Partaking of this sacrament, we “have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours” because he took our sins upon himself as if they were his. Calvin elaborates: This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.56

A few paragraphs later Calvin returns to the exchange motif, this time stating explicitly that Christ shared our mortality in order to make us partakers of his divine life. Rather, he had been given as such to us by the Father and showed himself as such when, being made a sharer in our human mortality, he made us partakers in his divine immortality; when, offering himself as a sacrifice, he bore our curse in himself to imbue us with his blessing; when, by his death, he swallowed up and annihilated death; and when, in his resurrection, he raised up this corruptible flesh of ours, which he had put on, to glory and incorruption.57

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Calvin does not believe the body and blood of Christ are locally present in the elements of the Eucharist. Nonetheless, when partaking of the sacrament in faith, the body of Christ and its benefits are truly communicated by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this regard, Calvin appropriates one of Cyril of Alexandria’s favorite images for conveying the doctrine of deification, the life-giving flesh of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the living bread . . . if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). Calvin comments: Since this secret power of bestowing life of which He is speaking might be referred to His divine essence, He now comes to the second step and tells them that this life resides in His flesh so that it may be drawn from it. It is a wonderful purpose of God that He has set life before us in that flesh, where before there had only been material of death . . . . For as the eternal Word of God is the fountain of life, so His Flesh is a channel to pour out to us the life which resides intrinsically, as they say, in His divinity. In this sense it is called life-giving, because it communicates to us a life that it borrows from elsewhere.58

For Calvin, “the ultimate aim of our adoption is that what has, in order, come first in Christ, shall at last be completed in us.”59 The fullness of the spiritual benefits Christ secured for us lie “hidden under the guardianship of hope, until, having put off corruptible flesh, we be transfigured in the glory of him who goes before us.”60 The glory we will possess in conformity to Christ is presently incomprehensible. “For if the disciples could not endure the slight taste which He gave in His transfiguration, which of us may comprehend its fullness? Let us now be contented with the testimony of our adoption, and we shall know the riches of our inheritance when we enjoy them.”61 While we do not fully know what is entailed in that inheritance, we do know “Christ came to restore our nature from its catastrophic downfall, and raise it up to a better state.”62 In short, Calvin tells us, “participation in the glory of God will exalt it above nature.”63 THE DEIFICATION OF CHRIST’S HUMAN NATURE Some scholars claim that deification is incompatible with Reformed theology (or at least with Calvin’s theology) because union with Christ is union with Christ in his humanity.64 They understand the deification of Christ’s humanity to be precluded by the Reformers’ position on the communicatio idiomatum or communication of properties between his divine and human natures. If Christ’s humanity is not deified, then neither can ours be. It should be evident that this attempt to argue against the possibility of a Reformed doctrine of deification on a priori grounds fails in the face of


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the unambiguous affirmations of deification surveyed above—affirmations which these scholars assiduously avoid addressing.65 Nonetheless, a few comments should be made about the underlying confusion that grounds the objection. The first thing to observe is that phrases like “deification of Christ’s humanity” can have three referents in early Reformed literature depending on context. Sometimes it refers to a variety of heterodox Christological notions found in the teachings of Michael Servetus, Caspar Schwenckfeld, and certain Anabaptists. More often it refers to the Lutheran doctrine of ubiquity which claims omnipresence among the properties Christ’s humanity obtains by virtue of the hypostatic union, the so-called genus majesticum. From the beginning, Reformed theologians firmly rejected the deification of Christ’s humanity in both of these senses. However, they affirmed the deification of Christ’s humanity in the sense found in patristic writers like Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, John of Damascus, and the Sixth Ecumenical Council.66 It is this latter sense which grounds patristic teaching about the deification of believers. For the Reformed, the communicatio idiomatum is a hermeneutical principle that explains why it is appropriate to ascribe properties of the divine and human natures of Christ to his Person. We can, for example, say the person of Christ suffered and died though, strictly speaking, his divine nature did not because it is incapable of suffering and death. Likewise, we can say the person of Christ is omnipresent, though his humanity is incapable of universal location. He is omnipresent by virtue of his divinity but his body is finitely located at the Father’s right hand. For the Lutherans, the communicatio idiomatum is a metaphysical principle that says Christ’s humanity became omnipresent by virtue of its union with his divinity.67 This allows them to explain how the physical body of Christ can be locally present in the Eucharistic elements while rejecting the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Classic Reformed theology teaches that the humanity of Christ retained all of its essential properties with integrity, including finitude. Had it been deified in such a manner that it became omnipresent, it would have ceased to be human. On this basis, modern scholars sometimes assert that Calvin and other early Reformed theologians believed the humanity of Christ did not change at all. However, as we saw above, early Reformed theologians did ascribe various changes to Christ’s resurrected and ascended humanity which testify to the transformation believers will experience in the resurrection. What classic Reformed theologians rejected was any ascription of change that would violate the parameters set by the Council of Chalcedon—which, in their opinion, the ascription of omnipresence would do. They insisted there were no changes that led to the loss of any essential or defining human attribute; they did not claim there were no changes at all. The distinction is important.

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When early Reformed writers address the deification of Christ’s humanity, they do not always have the same thing in view. We must pay attention to the specific doctrines and kinds of changes they rejected. Doing that allows us to see why early Reformed sources can both affirm and reject the deification of Christ’s humanity without contradiction. For example, the Second Helvetic Confession clearly has heterodox and Lutheran doctrines in view when it says: “For neither do we think or teach that the body of Christ ceased to be a true body after his glorification, or was deified, and deified in such a way that it laid aside its properties as regards body and soul, and changed entirely into a divine nature and began to be merely one substance” (Article XI).68 The Confession is clearly rejecting particular notions of deification considered erroneous from a Reformed perspective, not deification per se. Only by a leap in logic can one infer from denials like this that Calvin or others had a “fear of anything that might have led to the admission of any deification of man, even by way of Jesus Christ and even in His person.”69 Conclusions like that are non-sequiturs that contradict the explicit teaching of Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, and other early Reformed theologians. The fact is the deification of Christ’s humanity in the sense taught by the Church Fathers was accepted by early Reformed theologians. They saw that as quite a different issue than debates with Lutherans about ubiquity. For example, in his important and influential attempt to systematize early Reformed theology, Gulielmus Bucanus (d. 1603) states: “What is the effect of this personal union? The conferring of gifts, by which the human nature in Christ’s person was adorned and by which he excels all creatures in wisdom, goodness, holiness, power, majesty and glory; which the Fathers call the deification of the flesh, the Scholastics habitual grace.” Bucanus then says this sense of the deification of Christ’s humanity is a separate issue from the communicatio idiomatum.70 Thus, Bucanus had no difficulty affirming that in the life eternal, the redeemed will participate in the divine nature in such a way that their essence is not transfused into God, but God nonetheless communicates to them certain divine qualities (qualitatum divinarum). In particular, he names immortality, glory, virtue, wisdom, righteousness, and the image of God. Moreover, their flesh will be made resplendent in the similitude of Christ’s resurrection glory.71 That is a straightforward Reformed affirmation of the patristic doctrine of deification even if the word is not employed. CONCLUSION In the nineteenth century, Albrecht Ritschl and his students invented the notion that deification is a distinctively Eastern idea incompatible with the Western theological tradition, especially its Protestant forms. This supposed


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historic insight served as the linchpin in their attempt to dispense with the dogmas of Trinity and Incarnation as the offspring of an illicit affair between Christianity and Hellenism. They saw themselves as Martin Luther’s heirs, completing his work through the creation of a Germanic Christianity freed from the superstition and pagan accretions of its Latin and Greek precursors. Theirs would be a Christianity for the modern world in which soteriology consists of nothing more than justification by faith alone. (Of course, justification by faith alone removed from its dogmatic framework isn’t really Luther’s doctrine.) The earliest discussions of deification by modern Orthodox scholars show that their characterization of deification as the distinctive patrimony of the Eastern Churches was appropriated directly from Ritschlians like Adolf von Harnack.72 In the writings of scholars associated with the Neo-patristic movement, deification became the intellectual boundary between the East and the West. Its continued role in Orthodox theology and spirituality represented modern Orthodoxy’s fidelity to Christianity’s biblical and patristic foundations. In contrast, the alleged absence of deification in the Western theological tradition proves Catholicism’s and Protestantism’s apostasy. Ritschlian historians of dogma cast a very long shadow indeed. It is unsurprising that Reformed theologians like Bruce McCormack remain deeply suspicious of deification while many Orthodox seem to think they have possessory rights over the doctrine. People in both camps would agree with Orthodox theologian John McGuckin when he asserts that “the Reformed tradition decisively moved away from the richness of the tradition of deification theology.”73 Yet, examination of the tradition’s primary sources in light of McGuckin’s own working definition proves otherwise. The concept of deification is the process of the sanctification of Christians whereby they become progressively conformed to God; a conformation that is ultimately demonstrated in the glorious transfiguration of the “just” in the heavenly kingdom, when immortality and a more perfect vision (and knowledge and experience) of God are clearly manifested in the glorification (δόξα) of the faithful.74

When we turn our eyes to Zurich, Strasbourg, and Geneva, we find deification of this kind clearly affirmed by some of the tradition’s most influential figures. Indeed, what we find in Geneva is an even more robust notion grounded in a threefold union with God. Paul Gavrilyuk, another Orthodox theologian, predicts that “deification, provided that its full implications are realized, will work like a time-bomb in due course producing ‘creative destruction’ of the soteriological visions developed by the Churches of the Reformation.”75 To the contrary, it will

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lead the churches of the Reformation back to their original catholic vision of ultimate salvation but away from none of the soteriological insights for which the Reformers sacrificed so much. Nonetheless, Reformed Christians may still worry that deification somehow endangers the Creator/creature distinction. An astute observation from Rowan Williams addresses this point nicely. That we are “deified” by our communion with Christ in the Spirit is, by a nice theological irony, the one sure way of avoiding the illusion that we are or can become gods. Calvin, with his clear insistence on both the deifying effect of the Incarnation and the total dependence of the redeemed on an act and initiative that is not theirs and not guaranteed by anything other than the loving will of the Trinity, would have understood and relished such irony.76

Deification is a Scriptural doctrine of the undivided early church which the Reformers affirmed. From the beginning, it was a simple category error to depict deification and justification as mutually exclusive alternatives that attempt to do the same theological work. One concept concerns the goal or telos of redemption, the other pertains to the mechanics of obtaining right standing before God. Affirming deification does not represent an undignified flight to the East but a journey back to the places in which the Reformed tradition was birthed. Paying greater attention to the telos of salvation helps orient the spiritual life, provides insight into God’s redemptive purposes for humanity, and supplies resources for the contemporary theological task. In the realm of discussion between traditional Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians, deification does not represent a boundary to be overcome through negotiated compromise or a wall to be raised against improved relations. Rather, the early patristic vision of salvation should serve as a common starting point from which we address our deep similarities as well as historic differences. For all these reasons, deification should be on the agenda for constructive Reformed theology.

NOTES 1. This is briefly illustrated in Carl Mosser, “An Exotic Flower? Calvin and the Patristic Doctrine of Deification,” in Reformation Faith: Exegesis and Theology in the Protestant Reformations, ed. Michael Parsons (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014), 40–47, idem, “Deification: A Truly Ecumenical Doctrine,” Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought 30/4 (2015): 8–14, and Mark McInroy, “Before Deification Became Eastern: Newman’s Ecumenical Retrieval,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 20/2 (2018): 257–263.


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2. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Light of the World (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962), 82. Thanks to Bertrand Rickenbacher for alerting me to this passage. 3. Cf. Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, Reformed Catholicity: The Promise and Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015). 4. More detailed discussion can be found in Carl Mosser, “The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents, and the Origin of Christian Deification,” Journal of Theological Studies 56/1 (2005): 30–74. 5. Arthur C. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 101. 6. Randall C. Zachman, “Who Is Actually Catholic? How Our Traditional Categories Keep Us from Understanding the Evangelical Reformations,” in Crossing Traditions: Essays on the Reformation and Intellectual History in Honour of Irena Backus, eds. Maria-Cristina Pitassi and Daniela Solfaroli Camillocci (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 436. 7. Bruce L. McCormack, “What’s At Stake in Current Debates Over Justification?,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, eds. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 105. 8. Bruce L. McCormack, “The End of Reformed Theology? The Voice of Karl Barth in the Doctrinal Chaos of the Present,” in Reformed Theology: Identity and Ecumenicity, eds. Wallace M. Alston, Jr. and Michael Welker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 51, n. 10. 9. Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., Selected Works of Huldreich Zwingli (14841531), the Reformer of German Switzerland (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901), 112. 10. The intent is confirmed by the contemporaneous translation by Zwingli’s close associate Leo Jud: Deinde per spiritu dei in deum trahutur & veluti transformant. 11. E.J. Furcha, ed., Huldrych Zwingli Writings, vol. 1: The Defense of the Reformed Faith (Allison Park, PA: Pickwick, 1984), 57. 12. William Walker Rockwell, Preface to vol. 3 of The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, ed. Clarence Nevin Heller (Philadelphia: The Heidelberg Press, 1929), iii. 13. Ibid., 3.208. Latin insertions from Zwingli, De vera et falsa religione (Zurich: 1525), 235. 14. William John Hinke, ed., The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: The Heidelberg Press, 1922), 271. 15. E.g., Martin Bucer, Epistola D. Pauli ad Ephesios (Strassburg, 1527), 28v; 42r. See Willem van’t Spijker, The Ecclesiastical Offices in the Thought of Martin Bucer, trans. John Vriend and Lyle D. Bierma (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 39–40. 16. Irena Backus, ed., Martini Buceri Opera Latina, vol. 2 Enarratio In Evangelion Iohannis (1528,1530, 1536) (Leiden: Brill, 1988), 44. Apotheosis is typically used in reference to pagan notions, but there is some precedent among the Fathers for its use in the context of Christian theology. See Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 337.

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17. Bucer utilized the Johannine commentaries of Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Augustine (Irena Backus, Introduction to Martini Buceri Opera Latina, vol. 2, xiv). Bucer’s comments on John 1:14 echo Cyril in particular. 18. François Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, trans. Philip Mairet (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 139–140. 19. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions, 51–88. 20. Cf. Russell, Doctrine of Deification, 1–15. 21. Early Reformed theologians generally interpreted Psalm 82:6 as a reference to magistrates or judges as “gods” due to the dignity of their office in which divine prerogatives are exercised by delegation. That interpretation was motivated by debates with Anabaptists over the role of the magistrate in religious affairs and whether Christians can serve as magistrates. Nonetheless, the theology which the Fathers used Psalm 82:6 to articulate was generally retained. That was easily done since its real basis lies in the Pauline and Johannine passages the Fathers saw as fulfillment of the psalm’s declaration. 22. Peter Martyr Vermigli, The Apostle’s Creed: A Plain Exposition of the Twelve Articles of the Christian Faith, trans. Mariano Di Gangi in Early Writings: Creed, Scripture, Church, ed. Joseph C. McLelland (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, 1994), 37. 23. Ibid., 38. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid., 44. 26. Ibid., 75. 27. Ibid., 76. 28. Ibid. 29. Peter Martyr Vermigli, “Oration on Christ’s Resurrection,” in Life, Letters, and Sermons, trans. John Patrick Donnelly (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, 1999), 227. 30. Ibid. 31. Vermigli, Plain Exposition, 77. 32. Ibid. 33. Ibid., 78. 34. John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St Peter, trans. William B. Johnston (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 330. 35. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1855), 371. 36. EH 1.3, PG 3.376a. Calvin was critical of Dionysius as excessively speculative but acknowledged some of his works contain things which are not altogether to be despised (cf. Comm Acts 17:34; Comm 2 Cor. 12:4; Inst. 1.14.4). 37. Deus descenderet in terras, ut fieret homo, et homo erigeretur in coelum, ut esset Deus (CO 5.373). 38. John Calvin, Tracts and Treatises of John Calvin, 3 vols, trans. Henry Beveridge (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002), 1.33. 39. Ibid., 1.34.


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40. Ibid., 3.463–464. 41. John Calvin, Treatises Against the Anabaptists and Against the Libertines, trans. Benjamin Wirt Farley (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), 146–147. 42. John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St Peter, trans. William B. Johnson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 101. 43. Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St Peter, 331; cf. Inst. 1.3.3. 44. Inst. 3.25.2. 45. John Calvin, The Gospel according to St John 11-21 and The First Epistle of John, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 90. 46. The Gospel according to St John 11-21, 130. 47. Inst. 3.1.1. Except where noted otherwise, quotations from the Institutes are from John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1960). 48. J. Todd Billings, “John Calvin’s Soteriology: On the Multifaceted ‘Sum’ of the Gospel,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 11/4 (2009): 442. 49. Inst. 3.6.2. 50. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets: Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, trans. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1848), 83. 51. Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, 84. 52. Inst. 3.6.2. 53. Inst. 3.11.1. 54. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 Edition, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 76. 55. I. John Hesselink, Calvin’s First Catechism: A Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 23. 56. Inst. 4.17.2. 57. Inst. 4.17.4. 58. John Calvin, The Gospel according to St John 1-10, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), 167; cf. 172. 59. John 11-21 & 1 John, 267. 60. Inst. 2.9.3. 61. John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 283. 62. John Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, trans. John W. Fraser (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1960), 339. 63. Tracts and Treatises, 3.452. 64. Jonathan Slater, “Salvation as Participation in the Humanity of the Mediator in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion: A Reply to Carl Mosser,” Scottish Journal of Theology 58/1 (2005): 39–58 and Bruce L. McCormack, “Union with Christ in Calvin’s Theology: Grounds for a Divinization Theory?,” in Tributes to John Calvin, ed. David W. Hall (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), 504–529.

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65. Slater goes so far as to deliberately restrict his discussion to the Institutes, allowing him to simply ignore several passages where Calvin appears to affirm deification, most notably the commentary on 2 Peter 1:4. 66. The key texts are surveyed and discussed in George Dion. Dragas, “Exchange or Communication of Properties and Deification: Antidosis or Communicatio Idiomatum and Theosis,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 43/1–4 (1998): 377– 399 and Richard Cross, “Perichoresis, Deification and Christological Predication in John of Damascus,” Mediaeval Studies 62 (2000): 69–124. 67. Richard Cross has recently argued at length that this commonplace is probably true of second-generation Lutherans but was not Luther’s own position. See Communicatio Idiomatum: Reformation Christological Debates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). Cross shows that for Luther, Christ’s body occupies a place repletively, which is a mode of existence proper to somebodies (according to the medievals) such that a body “is simultaneously present in all places whole and entire, and fills all places, yet without being measured or circumscribed by any place, in terms of the space which it occupies” (63). This stands in contradistinction to “circumscribed” (i.e., normal) and other modes of location. While Luther wouldn’t agree that Christ’s human nature has the property of “being omnipresent,” he would agree that the Second Person of the Trinity has the property “being bodily omnipresent.” The subtle distinction was easily lost on Luther’s followers and critics alike. 68. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions, 244. 69. François Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, trans. Philip Mairet (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 259; cf. 224, 235. 70. Gulielmus Bucanus, Institutiones theologicae: seu locorum communium christianae religionis, rev. ed. (Geneva: S. Chouët, 1648), Loc. II.XXIII. The full passage reads: Quod est effectum unionis illius Personalis? Donorum collatio, quibus eft ornata humana natura in persona Christi, & quibus antecellit omnibus creaturis, sapientia bonitate, sanctitate, potestate, majestate, & Gloria: quam Patres, Carnis Deificationem, Scholastici Gratiam habitualem vocant, à communione ἰδιωμάτων (quae. est alternata, & τῆς ὀνομάτων ἀντιδοσις) prorsus distinctam. 71. Inst. Loc. XXXIX.XIII.5–6. 72. In 1906 Ivan Popov published the first scholarly article on deification from an Orthodox perspective. A professor of patristics at the Moscow Clerical Academy, Popov spent the 1901–02 academic year on leave in Germany studying in Berlin and Munich. He took courses from several German professors, including Harnack. His article cites modern scholars only half a dozen times; two of those references are to Harnack. The article is translated as Ivan V. Popov, “The Idea of Deification in the Early Eastern Church,” in Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, ed. Vladimir Kharlamov (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011), 42–82. The Ritschlian school’s ironic influence on the modern Orthodox understanding of deification can also be seen in early treatments of the topic by Sergei Bulgakov and Vladimir Lossky. 73. John McGuckin, “Deification,” in The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, ed. Adrian Hastings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 156. 74. J. A. McGuckin, “The Strategic Adaptation of Deification in the Cappadocians,” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the


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Christian Traditions, eds. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 95. 75. Paul L. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-Despised Archaism Became an Ecumenical Desideratum,” Modern Theology 25/4 (2009): 657. 76. Rowan Williams, Christ the Heart of Creation (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 167.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Allen, Michael, and Scott R. Swain. Reformed Catholicity: The Promise and Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. Backus, Irena, ed. Martini Buceri Opera Latina, vol. 2. Enarratio In Evangelion Iohannis (1528, 1530, 1536). Leiden: Brill, 1988. Billings, J. Todd. “John Calvin’s Soteriology: On the Multifaceted ‘Sum’ of the Gospel.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 11/4 (2009): 428–47. Bucanus, Gulielmus. Institutiones theologicae: seu locorum communium christianae religionis. Rev. ed. Geneva: S. Chouët, 1648. Bucer, Martin. Epistola D. Pauli ad Ephesios. Strassburg, 1527. Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948. ———. Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets: Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai. Translated by John Owen. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1848. ———. The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Translated by John W. Fraser. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1960. ———. The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Translated by T.H.L. Parker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. ———. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and The First and Second Epistles of St Peter. Translated by William B. Johnston. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963. ———. The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960. ———. The Gospel according to St John 1-10. Translated by T.H.L. Parker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961. ———. The Gospel according to St John 11-21 and The First Epistle of John. Translated by T.H.L. Parker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959. ———. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T. McNeill. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1960. ———. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 Edition. Rev. ed. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. ———. Tracts and Treatises on Reformation of the Church, 3 vols. Translated and edited by Henry Beveridge. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1851. ———. Treatises Against the Anabaptists and Against the Libertines. Translated by Benjamin Wirt Farley. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

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Cochrane, Arthur C. ed. Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003. Cross, Richard. Communicatio Idiomatum:Reformation Christological Debates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). ———. “Perichoresis, Deification and Christological Predication in John of Damascus.” Mediaeval Studies 62 (2000): 69–124. Dragas, George Dion. “Exchange or Communication of Properties and Deification: Antidosis or Communicatio Idiomatum and Theosis.” GOTR 43/1–4 (1998): 377–99. Furcha, E.J. ed. Huldrych Zwingli Writings, vol. 1: The Defense of the Reformed Faith. Allison Park, PA: Pickwick, 1984. Gavrilyuk, Paul L. “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-Despised Archaism Became an Ecumenical Desideratum.” Modern Theology 25/4 (2009): 647–59. Heller, Clarence Nevin, ed. The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, vol. 3. Philadelphia: The Heidelberg Press, 1929. Hesselink, I. John. Calvin’s First Catechism: A Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997. Hinke, William John ed. The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, vol. 2. Philadelphia: The Heidelberg Press, 1922. Jackson, Samuel Macauley ed. Selected Works of Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531), the Reformer of German Switzerland. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901. McCormack, Bruce L. “The End of Reformed Theology? The Voice of Karl Barth in the Doctrinal Chaos of the Present.” in Reformed Theology: Identity and Ecumenicity, edited by Wallace M. Alston, Jr. and Michael Welker, pp. 46–64. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. ———. “Union with Christ in Calvin’s Theology: Grounds for a Divinization Theory?” in Tributes to John Calvin, edited by David W. Hall, pp. 504–29. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010. ———. “What’s At Stake in Current Debates Over Justification?” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, pp. 81–117. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004. McGuckin, John. “Deification.” in The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, edited by Adrian Hastings, p. 156. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ———. “The Strategic Adaptation of Deification in the Cappadocians.” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: the History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung, pp. 95–114. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. McInroy, Mark. “Before Deification Became Eastern: Newman’s Ecumenical Retrieval.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 20/2 (2018): 253–68. Mosser, Carl. “The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents, and the Origin of Christian Deification.” JTS 56/1 (2005): 30–74. ———. “An Exotic Flower? Calvin and the Patristic Doctrine of Deification.” in Reformation Faith: Exegesis and Theology in the Protestant Reformations, edited by Michael Parsons, pp. 38–56. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014.


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———. “Deification: A Truly Ecumenical Doctrine.” Perspectives: a Journal of Reformed Thought 30/4 (2015): 8–14. Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Light of the World. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962. Popov, Ivan V. “The Idea of Deification in the Early Eastern Church.” in Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, edited by Vladimir Kharlamov, vol. 2, pp. 42–82. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011. Russell, Norman. The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Slater, Jonathan. “Salvation as Participation in the Humanity of the Mediator in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion: A Reply to Carl Mosser.” Scottish Journal of Theology 58/1 (2005): 39–58. Spijker, Willem van’t. The Ecclesiastical Offices in the Thought of Martin Bucer. Translated by John Vriend and Lyle D. Bierma. Leiden: Brill, 1996. Vermigli, Peter Martyr. The Apostle’s Creed: A Plain Exposition of the Twelve Articles of the Christian Faith. Translated by Mariano Di Gangi in Early Writings: Creed, Scripture, Church, edited by Joseph C. McLelland. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, 1994. ———. “Oration on Christ’s Resurrection.” in Life, Letters, and Sermons. Translated and edited by John Patrick Donnelly, pp. 223–27. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, 1999. Wendel, François. Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought. Translated by Philip Mairet. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997. Zachman, Randall C. “Who is Actually Catholic? How Our Traditional Categories Keep Us from Understanding the Evangelical Reformations.” in Crossing Traditions: Essays on the Reformation and Intellectual History in Honour of Irena Backus, edited by Maria-Cristina Pitassi and Daniela Solfaroli Camillocci, pp. 435–46. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Zwingli, Huldrych. De vera et falsa religione. Zurich, 1525. Williams, Rowan. Christ the Heart of Creation. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Chapter 5

God’s Transforming Grace Deification in the Anabaptist Tradition Brenda B. Colijn

Denominations in the Anabaptist tradition are known for their commitment to believer baptism, their pacifism (or more properly, nonresistance), their emphasis on ethical living, their distinctive community life, and (in some cases) their old-fashioned mode of dress. However, all of these external practices derive from their understanding of salvation. God’s grace in Christ, appropriated through faith, results in an ontological change in the believer, beginning a process of transformation that enables the believer to reflect the character of Christ, share his life, and enter into communion with the triune God.1 Many of the early Anabaptists called this process deification. This understanding of salvation was so common among them that Thomas N. Finger calls deification “Anabaptism’s primary soteriological notion.”2 ANABAPTIST ORIGINS AND THEOLOGICAL INFLUENCES Anabaptism began in the sixteenth century in scattered areas of Europe as the new ideas of the Protestant Reformation circulated among the population. Belief in the authority of Scripture over the decrees of the church hierarchy led many to ask what a true church based upon the New Testament would look like. Some came to radical conclusions but remained in their churches, content to practice a spiritualized faith that required no outward reforms. The magisterial reformers—that is, those like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin, who retained the Christendom union between church and state—gave to the governing authorities the final say regarding the pace and direction of church reform. 109


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Others, however, were dissatisfied with both the limited reforms of the magisterial Protestant churches and the private faith of the spiritualizers. They believed, on the one hand, that the Protestant churches had reformed doctrine but not life; the new preaching was not making its hearers any more like Christ than they had been before. On the other hand, a spiritualized reform was an inadequate response to the commands of Christ, who required outward obedience as well as inward conviction. Loosely connected movements began in Switzerland (around Zwingli), in the Netherlands, and in Germany and Austria, which attempted to form a visible church that reflected what they saw in the New Testament, including voluntary membership (as opposed to the territorial or state churches), the necessity of personal conversion and regeneration, the practice of believer baptism, the commitment to a life of discipleship, and a strong emphasis on community. Because all state authorities of the time believed that unity of religion was essential to social order, these Christians were persecuted by all other Christian groups, both Catholic and Protestant. These reformers were called Anabaptists, meaning rebaptizers. Many were martyred, as the authorities brought to bear the Code of the Emperor Justinian (AD 529), which had made rebaptism a capital crime. Those who were re-instituting believer baptism, however, regarded themselves not as rebaptizing but as being baptized for the first time according to the command and example of the New Testament. Their infant baptism, they said, was just a water bath. The Anabaptist movement gave rise to several different denominations: The Dutch Anabaptists eventually took the name Mennonites, after Menno Simons, an early leader. The Swiss were known as the Swiss Brethren. In Germany and Austria, one group of congregations was led by Pilgram Marpeck, an engineer in Strasbourg. Another group was forced by circumstances to pool their resources and decided to hold all things in common, as the church did in Acts 2. They became known as Hutterites, after their leader, Jacob Hutter. The Mennonites, their seventeenth-century offshoot the Amish, and the Hutterites still exist today. Other groups such as the Brethren in Christ and the Brethren Church/Church of the Brethren are either descended from the Anabaptist movement or strongly influenced by it. Counterintuitively, perhaps, Baptists are not descended from the Anabaptist tradition, although they share with Anabaptists an emphasis on congregational government and believer baptism. The Baptist movement began independently among English dissenters in the seventeenth century. Some of their early leaders, however, did participate in a Mennonite congregation in Amsterdam while they were exiled from England.3 They also made use of the writings of an early nonpacifist strain of Anabaptism. The Anabaptist commitment to voluntary church membership, believer baptism, and non-sacramentalism clearly locate them in the Radical Reformation.

God’s Transforming Grace


However, while the early Anabaptists were radical in their ecclesiology, they were more conservative than the magisterial or state church reformers in their soteriology. Regarding salvation, the magisterial Protestants were the true radicals, teaching a forensic, declarative justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ rather than the traditional view of justification as a synergistic process of moral growth. They introduced a sharp distinction between justification, on the one hand, and regeneration or sanctification, on the other.4 Anabaptists were Protestant in their understanding of salvation by grace through faith. However, while they acknowledged and sometimes accepted Luther’s understanding of justification,5 they found it inadequate as a model of salvation because it did not require actual holiness in the lives of believers. Unlike Luther, who emphasized Christ’s work for us, the Anabaptists emphasized Christ’s work in us.6 Unlike the magisterial reformers, Anabaptists retained the medieval understanding that justification and sanctification could not be separated. Justification was not merely a legal declaration of righteousness but the initiating of actual righteousness in the believer.7 Even more than justification, Anabaptist theologians emphasized regeneration, the essential need for corrupted humans to be reborn or recreated in Christ by the Holy Spirit so that they could become like God as God had intended in their original creation. The Anabaptists regarded divine grace not as forensic but as a transforming divine energy.8 Many Anabaptists expressed these ideas as deification, whether through explicit use of that terminology or through references to becoming gods or participating in the divine nature. For example, according to the Dutch Anabaptist leader Dirk Philips, “[B]elievers become gods and children of the most high through the new birth, participation, and fellowship of the divine nature.”9 Among the various Anabaptist groups, the Swiss Brethren, some of whom had studied with Zwingli, made little use of the concept, but it flourished among the German and Austrian Anabaptists, and especially among the Dutch.10 Alvin Beachy has stated, “It would, I think, not be incorrect to say that grace understood as the act whereby God renews the divine image in man and makes the believer a participant in the divine nature held the same centrality within the Radical Reformation as did the concept of grace as God’s act of forensic justification within the Magisterial Reformation.”11 The Anabaptists acquired their understanding of deification from Scripture, from the medieval mystical tradition, and in some cases, from reading the church fathers. The central Scripture passage for the Anabaptist understanding of deification is 2 Peter 1:4, which declares that believers have been saved in order to escape the world’s immorality and participate in the divine nature. Anabaptists also noted Psalm 82:6 (cited by Jesus in John 10:34-35) which


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says to God’s people, “You are gods.” They also drew on participatory language in the New Testament, such as the mutual indwelling between Christ and believers described in John’s Gospel and Paul’s concepts of dying and rising with Christ and the Christian life as lived “in Christ.” The ministries of the Holy Spirit described by both John and Paul play a significant role. Scholars agree that the Anabaptist movement, like that of the spiritualizers, was influenced by the medieval mystical tradition, especially Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, and the anonymous German Theology published by Luther.12 According to C. Arnold Snyder, the South German/Austrian Anabaptists were characterized by “a ‘protestantized’ late medieval mystical spirituality.” They retained the emphases of the German Theology while Luther went in a new direction.13 Meister Eckhart describes a process of deification that requires the purging of inordinate attachments to the things of the world. Tauler and the German Theology called this process Gelassenheit, which is often translated “yieldedness.”14 This term became very important in Anabaptist soteriology and spirituality. It describes the necessity of submitting first of all to Christ, then to the community of faith, and finally (if necessary) to suffering in order to allow Christ to be formed within.15 Since Anabaptists insisted that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were the pattern of deification, Finger has called their view “Christomorphic divinization.”16 Anabaptist writers drew on the church fathers primarily to legitimate their doctrine and practices, especially believer baptism and the Lord’s Supper. For example, since the magisterial reformers’ apologetic for infant baptism relied heavily on Augustine, the Anabaptists used earlier fathers, especially Tertullian, to refute it. They wanted to show that they were not innovators but faithful heirs of the orthodox tradition that other Christian groups, both Catholic and Protestant, had strayed from.17 Anabaptist leaders Conrad Grebel (Swiss Brethren), Balthasar Hubmaier (Swiss Brethren, South German/Austrian), Dirk Phillips and Menno Simons (Dutch), Peter Walpot (Hutterite), and Pilgram Marpeck (South German/Austrian) were familiar with the church fathers, either from reading the original sources or from reading excerpts compiled by others.18 Thomas Müntzer, the pre-Anabaptist radical theologian and activist who influenced many in the movement, was widely read in both the medieval mystics and the church fathers. So was Caspar Schwenckfeld, a spiritualizer who debated with Anabaptists, especially the South German theologian Pilgram Marpeck.19 DEIFICATION IN DUTCH ANABAPTISM The peculiar flavor of Dutch Anabaptism derived from Melchior Hoffmann, an itinerant prophet and evangelist who influenced Anabaptist leaders such as

God’s Transforming Grace


Dirk Philips and Menno Simons. Hoffman developed a docetic and monophysite Christology that formed the basis for his understanding of deification.20 In theory, he affirmed that Christ was both divine and human, but to ensure that Jesus remained free from the corruption of original sin, he developed the notion of the “celestial flesh” of Christ. He argued that all of Christ, both his divinity and his humanity, came from heaven. Had Jesus taken on ordinary human flesh, which is inherently sinful, he could not have redeemed us. Thus, Christ must not be tainted with “creatureliness.”21 Instead, according to Hoffman, Jesus received his human nature directly from God rather than from Mary, declaring, memorably, that the God/Man “passed through Mary like water through a pipe.”22 He drew upon an outdated reproductive biology that ascribed solely to males everything necessary to conceive a child, while females merely provided the incubator in which the child would grow. Since no human male was involved in Jesus’ conception, he must have received his human nature from God, which made it heavenly and therefore sinless. Salvation, then, is union with this divine Christ, which takes place in regeneration, as the new believer is joined to Christ in a spiritual marriage, participating in his essentially divine nature. Those who have been thus deified form the church, the pure and spotless Bride of Christ. Menno Simons and Dirk Philips carried on Hoffmann’s concept of the celestial flesh of Christ, although they knew it to be heterodox and preferred not to teach or defend it publicly. They also retained Hoffman’s basic dualism. However, they rejected his over-spiritualized understanding of salvation and the church. Salvation, they believed, was not simply a spiritual reality. It would be evident in the acts of faithful discipleship performed by individual Christians and by the gathered church.23 Just as Christ’s solidarity with humanity had been visible in the incarnate Lord, believers’ solidarity with Christ should be visible. Menno and Dirk speak of deification in terms reminiscent of the church fathers. Like Irenaeus, Dirk declares that human beings were created according to the image of the not-yet-incarnate Christ, who is the image of God. God created them “for eternal life, as an upright, immortal, and divine being.”24 They had a “divine character” by virtue of the divine image.25 However, they failed to “remain in the first creation [and] lost the image of God through disobedience.”26 Like other Anabaptists—and like the Eastern Orthodox tradition—the Dutch thought of sin as a disease or corruption that must be healed by Christ the Physician.27 In the incarnation, Christ participated in human nature so that human beings could again participate in the divine nature through their union with him.28 Through the atonement, Christ destroyed the works of the devil and renewed the divine image in humanity.29 Then in regeneration, believers are “born again . . . to a new divine being . . . created anew after the image of


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God and to his likeness through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.”30 They are “elevated through Christ and transposed into God, participants of the divine nature.”31 Anabaptists often supported their use of deification with the analogy that like begets like.32 Those who are born of God will share the nature of God. As Jesus declares in John 3:6, “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit” (NRSV). Like the church fathers, Dirk and Menno envision deification in terms of immortality, incorruption, and moral purity. However, they also give deification a distinctive Anabaptist flavor. Dirk asserts that “the beginning of the Christlike being in us is that we make genuine improvement of life, bring forth true works and fruits of repentance . . ., believe the gospel, and be baptized upon the knowledge of our faith in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”33 Because they participate in Christ’s divine nature, believers also participate in his divine character. They demonstrate Christ-like virtues and conform to Christ in obedience.34 According to Dirk, the corporate evidence of deification is a church of peace, unity, and brotherly love.35 However, since this assertion appears in a letter admonishing a fractious group of believers, it’s clear that deification does not take place automatically! Unlike the magisterial reformers, Menno and Dirk describe salvation as a synergistic process. In particular, the concept of deification creates an organic relationship between justification and sanctification, which were sharply distinguished by the magisterial reformers. Believers are born of the seed of the Word and the power of the Spirit, appropriated by faith. In this new birth, believers receive a divine power that creates in their hearts a new divine life that purifies them and drives them toward the “eternal divine life” from which it came.36 This new power is ascribed generally to God’s grace and specifically to the Holy Spirit. In fact, divine grace seems to serve a similar role in Anabaptist thought as the divine energies do in Orthodox thought: God’s grace transforms the believer to be godlike but does not make the believer God. The act of believer baptism both represents a person’s rebirth and concretizes it, eliciting from the candidate a pledge of future faithfulness. Energized by their new divine life, and empowered by the Spirit, believers flee worldly corruption and follow Christ in discipleship.37 While they share the divine nature through their rebirth, believers can also grow in it. They imitate Christ so that “[they] thereby might become partakers of his nature in the Spirit, to become like unto Him.” They develop Christ-like virtues such as holiness, justice, mercy, and humility.38 This is a clear rejection of the Lutheran adage that the believer remains at the same time justified and sinner.39 The Lord’s Supper nurtures the divine nature in believers by the power of the Spirit through faith. As a synergistic process, deification can be lost.

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To avoid this, those who “have the character and nature of Christ” must “hold the beginning of his being firm to the end.”40 The strong matter/spirit dualism among the Dutch results in a very negative view of earthly human nature. They have a profound sense of the pervasiveness of sin, even in believers: “Therefore, although someone has become participant of the spiritual and divine nature, he nevertheless remains frail and sinful, for he remains a human being; he is flesh and blood, and therein dwells nothing good, just as Paul says.”41 Dirk here goes beyond Paul’s assertion that sin remains in the believer to imply that to be creaturely is inherently to be corrupt. In this, he follows Melchior Hoffmann. One consequence of this belief is a rather weak theology of creation. However, the Dutch Anabaptists’ version of deification gives them a very optimistic view of redeemed humanity. Just as they see Christ as essentially divine, they see regeneration as translating humans to the divine sphere. The Dutch Anabaptists tend to use terms such as spiritual, heavenly, and divine as virtual synonyms. To be born of God is to experience a new heavenly reality as spiritual beings and thus to participate in the divine nature. Both Menno and Dirk reject the notion that divinized human beings become God. They distinguish between the incarnation of Christ from God (van)—that is, begotten of God’s own nature—and the “reverse incarnation” of believers out of God (uit)—that is, deification by the gracious action of the Holy Spirit.42 Believers receive by grace what Christ enjoys by nature—participation in the life of God.43 In his use of language, however, Menno is not always careful to maintain the distinction between Creator and creature. For example, he says that the new believer is “so united and mingled with God that he becomes a partaker of the divine nature and is made conformable to the image of His Son.”44 Dirk, a more rigorous theologian, is more precise. While we partake of the divine nature, are in the world as Christ was, and will be perfected with him at his coming, we never become God.45 Creatures are too weak to adequately portray the divine nature.46 Even believers cannot “share fully in the divine nature” because they lack the celestial flesh of Christ.47 However, they will receive their glorified immortal bodies in the resurrection, at which time their participation in the divine nature will be complete.48 In principle, Dirk and Menno acknowledge that human beings do not become perfect upon conversion. The old sinful nature remains and must be overcome by the Holy Spirit.49 As Menno often says, believers obey God “in their weakness.”50 However, in practice, both Dirk and Menno have very high expectations for the behavior of Christians and the purity of the church. Although deification usually applies to individuals, the church also “participates in the divine nature” as the Bride of Christ, who is “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.”51 This eschatological image of the pure and spotless


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Bride, applied to the church in the present, results in a very strict use of church discipline, known as fraternal admonition and the ban. The Dutch go so far as to require marital avoidance—that is, they instruct believers not to share in bed or board with an excommunicated spouse, because their marriage to Christ takes priority over their marriage to their spouse.52 The practice of shunning caused divisions among the Dutch and Swiss Anabaptists and eventually contributed to the separation of the Amish from other Anabaptist groups. DEIFICATION AMONG THE GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN ANABAPTISTS The South German and Austrian Anabaptists also understand salvation as deification, and they agree with the Dutch in their inclusion of corporate and ethical dimensions. Leonhard Schiemer describes deification as the goal of creation: “Man too is not created in order that on the sixth day he remain a man, but in order that he comes into the seventh day, indeed that he becomes deified and comes to God.”53 Deification begins with justification, which Schiemer views as participatory: “[Justification] can never happen apart from Christ who is our righteousness, that is, when his conception, birth, death and resurrection occurs in us.”54 It is nurtured through suffering, as worldly things are removed and believers learn to love God alone. At the same time, they must separate themselves from all those who refuse to submit to Christ and join in communion with other believers, holding all goods in common. The process concludes with the deification of the body in the resurrection: “[I]f I knew God truly my spirit and soul would be so jubilant that the inward joy would surge into my body so that even my body would be completely insensible, impassible, immortal and glorified.”55 The communitarian Hutterites take a similar approach. For Peter Rideman, deification begins with regeneration; people must be born of Christ in order to share his nature. The gospel “makes man at one with God, begets us as sons, so that man becomes a new creature and of divine nature.”56 Those who surrender to God and respond to the gospel with faith will be united with Christ by the Holy Spirit: “For where the word is believed, there the Lord will give the increase and make the word living, and plant those who believe into his nature through the gift of the child-like Spirit.”57 Believers thereby “become one plant and one organism together with [Christ].”58 Rideman usually connects deification with Christ-like character: “For through this, [Christ’s] actual strength or working, he guides us into his nature, essence and character.”59 Anyone who shares the nature of Christ “will empty himself of himself and of his glory” just as Christ did.60 Believers who are surrendered to

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God and to one another as they share together in Christ’s nature will likewise share their material goods, holding them in common. The communal reality of deification is shown most clearly in the Lord’s Supper: Christ “has now planted us into the true divine nature and character that we, all, who eat of the loaf with him are one loaf and body with him, he the head and we members one of another, in so far as we become like unto his death and suffer with him that we also may be raised to glory with him.”61 DEIFICATION IN PILGRAM MARPECK Pilgram Marpeck, like the Dutch and the Hutterites, emphasizes regeneration over forensic justification. Believers are “children born of the Spirit and nature of Christ.”62 He can describe this rebirth in very material terms. The “seed of the Word” from which believers are born is “the semen that comes from God’s nature and impregnates the heart.”63 Even justification seems to be a change of condition rather than a change of status: “Grace, and the justification which leads to true devotion and which proceeds from faith, transfers man from the earthly to the eternal, heavenly state.”64 However, unlike the Dutch, Marpeck rejects dualism in both anthropology and Christology. He insists that “flesh itself is not sin,” and he explicitly rejects the notion of Christ’s celestial flesh, declaring that Christ “became flesh in and of Mary.”65 This gives him a more robust creation theology. He affirms that creation is good, and creatureliness is good; otherwise the Son of God would never have become flesh.66 Though fallen, all human beings still bear the image of God.67 The redeemed human is not a celestial spirit in corrupt flesh but “one integrated entity which enjoys participation in . . . the divine Spirit.”68 Both the individual believer and the faith community are integrated physical/spiritual entities.69 Marpeck bases his more holistic understanding of deification on the incarnation of Christ, which he likes to call “the humanity of Christ”—meaning not Christ’s human nature but the incarnate Lord, both divine and human. Not the eternal Word but the God/Man is the source and model of deification. Salvation comes only through the humanity of Christ,70 because it is the incarnate Christ who taught, healed, suffered, died, and rose for humanity’s salvation. According to Marpeck, it is Christ’s humility, expressed in the incarnation, that makes deification possible: “[O]nly the deep humility of Christ brings any possibility of salvation.”71 Because of it, we can know Christ better, emulate him better, and thereby “more fully partake of the divine nature and spiritual good.”72 As Christ identified fully with humanity in the incarnation, those who want to be saved must identify fully with Christ. The Holy Spirit starts this process


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by transferring new believers “from the earthly to the heavenly” through regeneration. “Thus, [says Marpeck,] man is created an earthly creature but, through the incarnation of Christ, the earthly may become heavenly.”73 Believers’ identification with Christ is expressed and reinforced as they unite themselves with him in baptism,74 understood not as a sacrament but as a commitment to solidarity. Such solidarity requires a willingness to suffer with Christ. Through this fellowship of suffering, one comes to know Christ and becomes like him, thus participating in the divine nature.75 Here is Marpeck’s description of conversion as deification. The Holy Spirit first brings people to know Christ in a new way. Then, [t]he more one now learns to know Him and see Him spiritually . . . the more one learns to love Him, to become friendly and pleasant toward Him and, through such knowledge, receives him into the heart and grows therein. . . . Finally, one jumps with Peter himself, freely and voluntarily . . ., into the sea of tribulations and concentrating on Christ, casts aside the mantle or the old garment. Through such a knowledge of Christ, man also comes to the knowledge of God . . . and partakes of the divine nature, but only if he is willing to flee from the lusts of this world, under God’s rule.76

Note his emphasis on the ethical dimension of deification. The new believer then becomes “spiritually minded according to the humanity of Christ.”77 The incarnate Christ is the example of how to live, as well as one’s companion on the journey. Rather than seeing regeneration, as the Dutch do, as the main event of deification, Marpeck regards it as the first step in the process of deification. Compared to the Dutch, Marpeck has a tempered optimism regarding Christian behavior and the purity of the church. Both the individual and the community are growing into the likeness of Christ, and transformation requires patience. Believers grow in the divine nature by the power of the Spirit through faith, as they increase in Christ-like character.78 The church has a critical role in this process because of the interdependent relationship between outward ceremonies and inward spiritual growth. This interdependent relationship characterizes Marpeck’s understanding of the sacraments. Anabaptists rejected the traditional sacramental understanding of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They often described these practices as signs, using the analogy of a sign outside an inn that points to the wine inside but is not the thing itself.79 Thus, for example, the elements of the Lord’s Supper remain bread and wine and do not become the body and blood of Christ. The glorified body of Christ is seated at the right hand of God in heaven and is not on earth.80 However, if participated in by faith, the church’s practices reveal God and encourage believers to open themselves

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to the Spirit’s work. They also reinforce the bonds of fellowship in the community. They are thus not means of grace but occasions of grace, as they both express and nurture the union between Christ and his church and between fellow believers: “[A]s the bread is made a loaf by the bringing together of many grains, even so we, many human beings, who were scattered and divided, of many minds and purposes are led by faith into one, and have become one plant, one living organism and body of Christ, cleaving to him in one Spirit.”81 Marpeck also refers to ceremonies as signs that symbolize inner spiritual realities.82 However, more than other Anabaptists, he stresses the necessity of such outward ceremonies, partly because he is engaged in debates with the spiritualizer Schwenckfeld. Because humans are creaturely, he argues, we must come to know God through God’s “creatures” (material things). The Holy Spirit works through the creatures of water, bread, and wine to enable us to know God, commune with God, and become like God.83 In all the church’s practices, not just baptism and the Lord’s Supper, inner and outer work together in this way; the outer ceremonies and the Holy Spirit are “co-witnesses” to the gospel, which must be received by faith.84 For Marpeck, the supreme example of knowing God through the creaturely is, of course, the incarnation. This emphasis on the creatures sets Marpeck apart from the Dutch; Dirk Phillips, for example, believed that matter could not mediate spirit.85 However, while Anabaptists generally are non-sacramentalists, they do have a sacramental understanding of the church. Marpeck especially regards the church itself as a means of grace for believers. While the glorified body of Christ is in heaven, his “unglorified body,” the church, is still on earth.86 The church is the “prolongation of the incarnation”—the literal hands and feet of Christ carrying on Christ’s ministry.87 As it demonstrates a common life of peace and love, the mark of those “born of [God] in His manner and nature,”88 the church community becomes the locus of the Real Presence of Christ in the world. His process-oriented understanding of salvation leads Marpeck to a more humane practice of admonition and the ban. Because human flesh is not yet glorified, the process of deification will not be complete in this life.89 Marpeck counsels Anabaptist churches not to “run ahead of Christ” but wait until God reveals the outward evidence or “fruit” of people’s sin before judging them. To do otherwise would be to bury them alive.90 He urges his churches to emphasize the restoration of the sinner over the purity of the church. DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRADITION After the Reformation, Anabaptist groups continued to emphasize regeneration, sometimes expressed as deification, over justification. A statement of


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faith by a Dutch Anabaptist group in 1610 retains the concept of deification, explaining that it comes about through solidarity with Christ: We must know Christ according to the Spirit that he may baptize us, and wash us with the Spirit and with fire, feed us with heavenly food and drink, and make us partakers of his divine nature. . . . In this power we can crucify the old being in us, becoming like him in his suffering and death. We through him rise and are resurrected to a new life, to a different knowledge through the power of his resurrection, to the glory and honour of God our heavenly Father.

This confessional statement was the basis for a union between Dutch “Waterlander” Mennonites and members of an English Separatist congregation led by John Smyth.91 The Dordrecht Confession of 1632 was developed to unite various Flemish, Frisian, and High German Anabaptist groups, but it came to have broad influence not only among European Anabaptists but also in the Americas and in twentieth-century Mennonite missions abroad. It describes initial salvation as follows: “By this faith we receive forgiveness of sins, are justified and sanctified, and are made children of God—yes, partakers of his image, nature, and being: born again from above by the incorruptible seed.”92 However, while the Confession cites numerous biblical passages for the section of which this statement is a part, it does not include either John 3 or 2 Peter 1:4. The intense persecution experienced by Anabaptist groups during and after the Reformation led them to withdraw from active engagement in the larger society. With the end of persecution, their changed circumstances permitted constructive engagement with other groups. The ensuing interactions affected their theological development. While the Dutch Mennonites largely abandoned the celestial flesh idea by 1800, they retained their view of the church as the pure and spotless Bride of Christ,93 which resulted in continuing disputes over church discipline. Over time, their thinking about the new birth moved away from a focus on personal regeneration toward an insistence on outward conformity to the evidences of regeneration as understood by the group.94 This shift tends to happen in Christian groups that take holiness seriously. As time passed, some branches of the movement, such as the Amish and Hutterites, continued to live separated lives, while others, such as the Mennonites and Brethren in Christ, formed connections with like-minded non-Anabaptist groups. Mennonite groups were affected by the continental Pietist movement and later by classical liberalism and revivalism. Some Mennonites engaged with mainline Protestant denominations and participated in ecumenical activities, while others identified with the fundamentalist and evangelical movements.

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The Mennonite Church USA, a merger in 2002 of two other Mennonite groups, expresses its faith in the Confession of Faith in Mennonite Perspective. The confession’s discussion of salvation emphasizes reconciliation as the leading theme but includes transformation: “As we experience grace and the new birth, we are adopted into the family of God and become more and more transformed into the image of Christ.”95 A section on the Christian life is cast in participatory language: “Through grace, God works in us to recreate us in the image of Christ, himself the image of the invisible God. Wherever Christian faith is active in love and truth, there is the new creation. By the new birth, we are adopted into God’s family, becoming children of God. Our participation in Christ includes both salvation and discipleship.”96 This confession of faith by the Conservative Mennonite Conference shows the influence of evangelicalism in its description of salvation: Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace based on the work of Jesus Christ (the shedding of His blood on the cross, His resurrection and present intercessory ministry) and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Those who receive God’s gift of salvation by faith become children of God, justified in their relationship to God, sanctified in their walk and work, and secure in an ongoing faith expressed and fostered by obedience to Christ. Justification is extended to all people in regard to Adamic guilt and by personal repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and His provision in regard to personal guilt.

While the statement contains a traditional Anabaptist emphasis on obedience, it depicts salvation in a legal justification/sanctification framework rather than in a deification or transformation framework.97 Although the Brethren Church and the Brethren in Christ Church identify with evangelicalism, they both retain an emphasis on transformation. In their Articles of Faith and Doctrine, the Brethren in Christ affirm the necessity of regeneration: “We become new creatures in Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit. This change of heart becomes evident in the development of Christlike character and a walk of obedience to God. Conversion is expressed in a changed life with new direction, purposes, interests, and values.”98 The Centennial Statement of Faith (1983) of the Brethren Church avoids technical terms but describes salvation as relational and transformative: “God adopts believers as His children, forgiving their sins and giving them His Holy Spirit. They in turn demonstrate their faith by obeying the commands of Christ and following His example in daily living. Scripture uses various terms to describe aspects of salvation, but ultimately it means Christ-likeness—conformity to the image of God’s Son by the work of His Spirit within us.”99 In general, while the language of deification has faded, most Anabaptist groups continue to understand salvation as ontological transformation.


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Modern Mennonite and Brethren scholars have enriched this perspective by retrieving the language of deification from the Anabaptist heritage. Among the various Anabaptist groups, Marpeck’s churches left no ecclesiological descendants. Nevertheless, Marpeck’s version of deification is especially worth retrieving today. It will probably appeal most to those traditions that emphasize regeneration or sanctification in their understanding of salvation. It holds out the possibility of constructive dialog among groups that may seem to have little in common.100 Such conversations hold promise not only for scholarship but also for our common life in Christ. NOTES 1. For example, Frances Hiebert declares that the work of Christ makes possible “ontological transformation” that brings believers into “full communion with the Trinity.” Frances F. Hiebert, “The Atonement in Anabaptist Theology,” Direction 30, no. 2 (2001): 132, 131, https​:/​/we​​b​-a​-e​​bscoh​​ost​-c​​om​.pr​​oxy​.a​​shlan​​d​.edu​​:2648​​/ehos​​ t​/pdf​​viewe​​r​/pdf​​viewe​​r​?vid​​=5​&si​​d​=53f​​0f16c​​-3ef3​​-4fb5​​-81fe​​-​67fe​​abcb1​​75f​%4​​0sess​​ ionmg​​r4009​(accessed July 25, 2018). 2. Thomas N. Finger, A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 131. Finger discusses Anabaptist soteriology in the context of Reformation discussions of justification. 3. On the wall of a historic Mennonite church in Amsterdam is a plaque with a chronological list of its teachers that includes the names of John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, early leaders among the Baptists. 4. See C. Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 1995), 49; Neal Blough, Christ in Our Midst: Incarnation, Church and Discipleship in the Theology of Pilgram Marpeck (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2007), 68–69, 218; Alister E. McGrath, Justitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 1: 182–187. 5. See Dirk Philips’ description of justification as justification by grace through the imputed righteousness of Christ. The Writings of Dirk Philips (Scottdale, PA/ Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 1992), 78. 6. C. Arnold Snyder, “Introduction,” in Sources of South German/Austrian Anabaptism, eds. C. Arnold Snyder, trans. Walter Klaassen, Frank Friesen, and Werner O. Packull (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press/Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), xxi. 7. See the discussion in Blough, Christ, 68–69. 8. Alvin J. Beachy, The Concept of Grace in The Radical Reformation (De Graaf/Brill, 1977), 71; cited in Thomas N. Finger, “Anabaptism and Eastern Orthodoxy: Some Unexpected Similarities?,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31, no. 1–2 (Winter-Spring 1994): 76, https​:/​/we​​b​-a​-e​​bscoh​​ost​-c​​om​.pr​​oxy​.a​​shlan​​d​.edu​​:2648​​

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/ehos​​t​/pdf​​viewe​​r​/pdf​​viewe​​r​?vid​​=7​&si​​d​=53f​​0f16c​​-3ef3​​-4fb5​​-81fe​​-​67fe​​abcb1​​75f​%4​​ 0sess​​ionmg​​r4009​ (accessed November 18, 2015). 9. Dirk, Writings, 145. Neither Dirk Philips nor Menno Simons have true surnames; their first names are followed by shortened forms of patronymics indicating their fathers’ names: Philipszoon and Simonszoon, meaning Philip’s son and Simon’s son, respectively. 10. See the discussion in Finger, “Anabaptism and Orthodoxy,” 77–78. As Finger observes, however, the Swiss Brethren did emphasize the necessity of regeneration. He calls their view “ontological transformation” rather than deification. Contemporary Anabaptist Theology, 131. 11. Allvin J. Beachy, “The Grace of God in Christ as Understood by Five Major Anabaptist Writers,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 37, no. 1 (January 1963): 17, https​ :/​/we​​b​-a​-e​​bscoh​​ost​-c​​om​.pr​​oxy​.a​​shlan​​d​.edu​​:2648​​/ehos​​t​/pdf​​viewe​​r​/pdf​​viewe​​r​?vid​​=9​ &si​​d​=53f​​0f16c​​-3ef3​​-4fb5​​-81fe​​-​67fe​​abcb1​​75f​%4​​0sess​​ionmg​​r4009​ (accessed July 28, 2018). 12. See, for example, Werner Packull, Mysticism and the Early South GermanAustrian Anabaptist Movement 1525-1531 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977); Finger notes that the “Rhineland mysticism” that influenced South German/ Austrian Anabaptism was derived from medieval Catholicism. “A Sixteenth-Century Anabaptist Social Spirituality,” Conrad Grebel Review 22, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 93, https​ :/​/we​​b​-a​-e​​bscoh​​ost​-c​​om​.pr​​oxy​.a​​shlan​​d​.edu​​:2648​​/ehos​​t​/pdf​​viewe​​r​/pdf​​viewe​​r​?vid​​=11​ &s​​id​=53​​f0f16​​c​-3ef​​3​-4fb​​5​-81f​​​e​-67f​​eabcb​​175f%​​40ses​​sionm​​gr400​9 (accessed July 28, 2018). 13. Snyder, “Introduction,” xx. 14. Finger, “Anabaptist Spirituality,” 94–95. 15. The idea of yieldedness shielded the Anabaptist understanding of salvation from works-righteousness. One did not earn salvation through obedience; one merely stopped resisting the transformative work God desired to do. 16. “Social Spirituality,” 97–98. See also Contemporary Anabaptist Theology, 131–132. 17. Andy Alexis-Baker, “Anabaptist Use of Patristic Literature and Creeds,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 85, no. 3 (July 2011): 477, 479, 481–482, https​:/​/we​​b​-a​ -e​​bscoh​​ost​-c​​om​.pr​​oxy​.a​​shlan​​d.​ edu​​:2648​​/ehos​​t​/pdf​​viewe​​r​/pdf​​viewe​​r​?vid​​=13​&s​​id​=53​​ f0f16​​c​-3ef​​3​-4fb​​5​-81f​​​e​-67f​​eabcb​​175f%​​40ses​​sionm​​gr400​9 (accessed July 28, 2018). 18. See the survey in Alexis-Baker, “Anabaptist Use.” I should note that it is difficult to identify an early Anabaptist leader with a single place, since persecution forced them to move frequently. 19. Robert Friedmann and Werner O. Packull, “Müntzer, Thomas (1488/91525),” in Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (Mennonite World Conference Faith and Life Commission, 1987), http:​/​/gam​​eo​.or​​g​/ind​​ex​.ph​​p​?tit​​ le​=M%​​C3​%BC​​n​tzer​,​_Tho​​mas_(​1488/​9-152​5)&ol​did=1​60766​ (accessed July 21, 2018); William Klaassen and Peter C. Erb, “Schwenckfeld, Caspar von (1489-1561),” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (Mennonite World Conference Faith and Life Commission, 1989), http:​/​/gam​​eo​.or​​g​/ind​​ex​.ph​​p​?tit​​le​=Sc​​hwenc​​kfeld​ ,​​_Cas​​par​_v​​on_(1​489-1​561)&​oldid​=1213​01 (accessed July 21, 2018).


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20. Snyder, Anabaptist, 357. Docetism is an early heresy that taught that Jesus was divine but only appeared to be human. The monophysite understanding of the nature of Christ is that he had only one nature (divine) rather than two (divine and human). 21. Snyder, Anabaptist, 357. 22. Snyder, Anabaptist, 357, citing Klaus Deppermann, Melchior Hoffmann: Soziale Unruhen und Apokalyptische Visionen im Zeitalter der Reformation (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), 190. 23. See the discussion in Snyder, 308–309, 360–361. 24. Dirk, Writings, 294. 25. Dirk, Writings, 352. 26. Dirk, Writings, 320. 27. For example, Pilgram Marpeck, The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck (Kitchener, ON/Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978), 408–409. 28. Dirk, Writings, 146, 161, 258. 29. Dirk, Writings, 320. 30. Dirk, Writings, 295. 31. Dirk, Writings, 146. 32. Menno Simons, Complete Writings (Scottdale, PA/Kitchener, ON: Herald Press, 1984), 54–55, 57. 33. Dirk, Writings, 303. 34. Dirk, Writings, 604, 294. 35. Dirk, Writings, 409. 36. Dirk, Writings, 149. 37. Dirk, Writings, 280. By connecting deification with moral improvement, Dirk is sticking closely to the context of 2 Peter 1:4. 38. Menno, Writings, 55. 39. Walter Klaassen, ed., Anabaptism in Outline: Selected Primary Sources (Kitchener, ON/Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981), 42. 40. Dirk, Writings, 311; see also Menno, Writings, 59. 41. Dirk, Writings, 285. 42. Hiebert, “Atonement,” 130. 43. John D. Rempel, The Lord’s Supper in Anabaptism: A Study in the Christology of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, and Dirk Philips (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993), 175. 44. Menno, Writings, 58. 45. Dirk, Writings, 145. 46. Dirk, Writings, 156. 47. Dirk, Writings, 39–40, 52–53. 48. Dirk, Writings, 146. 49. Dirk, Writings, 284–285; Menno, Writings, 901. 50. Menno, Writings, 505. 51. Dirk, Writings, 378. 52. Dirk, Writings, 584. 53. Klaassen, ed., Anabaptism in Outline, 56.

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54. Snyder, Sources, 74. 55. Snyder, Sources, 76. 56. Peter Rideman, Account of Our Religion, Doctrine and Faith Given by Peter Rideman of the Brothers whom Men Call Hutterians (Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, Hutterian Society of Brothers, 1970), 77, 67. Verbs from this text have been modernized. 57. Rideman, Account, 170; on surrender, see 163–164. 58. Rideman, Account, 62. 59. Rideman, Account, 36; see also 46, 87, 91. 60. Rideman, Account, 217. 61. Rideman, Account, 192–193. 62. Marpeck, Writings, 195. 63. Marpeck, Writings, 240. 64. Marpeck, Writings, 430. 65. Marpeck, Writings, 108, 467. 66. Snyder, Anabaptist, 361. 67. Marpeck, Writings, 60. 68. Stephen Boyd, Pilgram Marpeck: His Life and Social Theology (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), 124; cited in Snyder, Anabaptist, 359. 69. Snyder, Anabaptist, 359. 70. Snyder, Anabaptist, 361. 71. Marpeck, Writings, 434. 72. Marpeck, Writings, 62–63. 73. Marpeck, Writings, 430. 74. Marpeck, Writings, 187. 75. Blough, Christ, 33. 76. Marpeck, Writings, 63. Only the Scripture references are omitted. 77. Marpeck, Writings, 100. 78. Marpeck, Writings, 66. 79. Balthasar Hubmaier, Balthasar Hubmaier, Theologian of Anabaptism, translated and edited by H. Wayne Pipkin and John H. Yoder (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1989), 87–88. 80. Walter Klaassen and William Klassen, Marpeck: A Life of Dissent and Conformity (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2008), 360. 81. Rideman, Account, 86. 82. Marpeck, Writings, 266, 285. 83. Klaassen and Klassen, Marpeck, 345. 84. Marpeck, Writings, 423. John Rempel examines Marpeck’s concept of cowitness in Lord’s Supper (see, for example, 151). He notes that for Marpeck, the ceremonies include not just baptism and the Lord’s Supper but “all acts of ‘external, physical obedience’ to the commands of Christ” (125). 85. Rempel, Lord’s Supper, 219. 86. Blough, Christ, 150. 87. See the discussions in Snyder, Anabaptist, 359; Rempel, Lord’s Supper, 155, and Blough, Christ, 226.


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88. Marpeck, Writings, 523. 89. Blough, Christ, 130. 90. Marpeck, Writings, 323–324, 334, 354. 91. Karl Koop, ed., Confessions of Faith in the Anabaptist Tradition 1527-1660 (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press/Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2006), 135, 147. 92. Koop, Confessions, 286, 299. 93. Snyder, Anabaptist, 363. 94. Snyder, Anabaptist, 371–372. 95. Mennonite Church USA, “Article 8. Salvation,” in Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, http:​/​/men​​nonit​​eusa.​​org​/c​​onfes​​sion-​​of​-fa​​ith​/​s​​alvat​​ion/ (accessed July 26, 2018). 96. Mennonite Church USA, “Article 17. Discipleship and the Christian Life,” in Confession of Faith in Mennonite Perspective, http:​/​/men​​nonit​​eusa.​​org​/c​​onfes​​sion-​​of​ -fa​​ith​/d​​iscip​​leshi​​p​-and​​-the-​​​chris​​tian-​​life/​ (accessed July 26, 2018). Footnote omitted from the text. 97. Conservative Mennonite Conference, “Statement of Theology,” http:​/​/cmc​​ rosed​​ale​.o​​rg​/ab​​out​-u​​s​/sta​​temen​​t​-​of-​​theol​​ogy/\​ (accessed July 26, 2018). Footnotes are omitted from the text. 98. Brethren in Christ US, “Jesus Christ and Salvation,” in What We Believe, https​:/​/bi​​cus​.o​​rg​/ab​​out​/w​​hat​-w​​e​-bel​​ieve/​​artic​​les​-o​​f​-fai​​th​-an​​d​-doc​​trine​​/jesu​​s​​-chr​​ist​-a​​ nd​-sa​​lvati​​on/ (accessed August 2, 2018). 99. The Brethren Church, “Salvation,” in What We Believe, https://www​ .brethrenchurch​ .org​ /salvation (accessed August 2, 2018). A dash is added after “Christ-likeness.” 100. Thomas Finger is one Anabaptist scholar who has explored the possibilities of deification in both his writing and his ecumenical activities.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Beachy, Alvin J. The Concept of Grace in the Radical Reformation. Houten: De Graaf/Leiden: Brill, 1977. Blough, Neal. Christ in Our Midst: Incarnation, Church and Discipleship in the Theology of Pilgram Marpeck. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2007. Boyd, Stephen Boyd. Pilgram Marpeck: His Life and Social Theology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992. Deppermann, Klaus. Melchior Hoffmann: Soziale Unruhen und Apokalyptische Visionen im Zeitalter der Reformation. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979. Finger, Thomas N. “Anabaptism and Eastern Orthodoxy: Some Unexpected Similarities?” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31:1–2 (1994): 76. Klaassen, Walter ed., Anabaptism in Outline: Selected Primary Sources. Kitchener, ON/Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981. Koop, Karl, ed. Confessions of Faith in the Anabaptist Tradition 1527-1660. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2006.

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Marpeck, Pilgram. The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Kitchener, ON/Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978. Philips, Dirk. The Writings of Dirk Philips. Scottdale, PA/Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 1992. Rideman, Peter. Account of Our Religion, Doctrine and Faith Given by Peter Rideman of the Brothers whom Men Call Hutterians. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, Hutterian Society of Brothers, 1970. Simons, Menno. Complete Writings. Scottdale, PA/Kitchener, ON: Herald Press, 1984. Snyder, C. Arnold. Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 1995. Snyder, C. Arnold, ed. Sources of South German/Austrian Anabaptism. In Classics of the Radical Reformation Series, edited by Karl Koop. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001.

Chapter 6

From Offspring of God to Sons of God Deification in the Anglican Tradition James Salladin

INTRODUCTION The Anglican pursuit of real participation in Christ goes back, at the very least, to some of the first prayers ever authorized for common worship in the English language. The Church of England was reformed, in great measure, through its common prayer. And if the prayer of a people expresses the deepest Godward desires of that people, then the Church of England gave her people the words, and through them, shaped the desires of a nation toward a vision of real participation in Christ. The climax of their new common prayer was the service of Holy Communion. And in that most penetrating, most sacred, most sober of divine liturgies, they were taught to ask to eat and drink. That is no surprise, but what comes next matters a great deal. The people, through the words of the priest, asked “to eate the fleshe of thy deare sonne Jesus Christ, and to drinke his bloude, that . . . we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.”1 The aim, the telos, the result of eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ was mutual indwelling between Christ and his church. And moments later the idea re-emerges in new words. The priest, at the moment of consecration, asks God that as the people receive the sacrament, they “may be partakers of his moste blessed body and bloude.”2 The great miracle of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the benefit that gathers up all the other benefits, is that through it the church enjoys participation and mutual indwelling in Christ. That is, the elements are consecrated with an explicit intent for Christological–soteriological participation.3 When the church learned to pray in English, her deepest desire, nested in her highest liturgy, was real participation in Christ.4 This chapter explores this theme of Christological participation in the Anglican tradition and does so as a contribution to ecumenical studies of 129


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deification. Anglicanism is a vast tradition, and there is no single view of deification to articulate.5 This chapter will trace some Anglican approaches to participation and recommend a particular approach as wise, but it cannot speak for all Anglicans, and many great thinkers will not appear6 and many complexities passed over. The aim of this chapter will be a modest one: it will seek to share some of the wisdom derived from nearly 500 years of asking God to make us partakers of Christ and offer that wisdom as a gift to the wider church. We will find this wisdom in the thought of Richard Hooker and in the further reflection of three key movements in the history of Anglican theology. Richard Hooker was priest and theologian in the late sixteenth century who defended the Church of England as biblical, wise, reformed, and catholic against Puritan critique. He is a giant in the land of Anglican thought, and this chapter will argue that his articulation of participation provides wisdom that is valuable for ecumenical theological development. In particular, Richard Hooker distinguished between what I label creational participation and soteriological participation, and also ordered them toward a unitive complementarity. This insight from Richard Hooker will provide a framework for observing and analyzing three trends in Anglican participation thought. I will illustrate these three trends by pointing to the Cambridge Platonists, the early evangelicals, and the Oxford Movement. Each of these movements valued participation in the divine nature deeply, but each approached it differently. Each movement’s emphasis exhibits a portion of Hooker’s vision, without any of them embracing the wholeness of it. The argument is not that each movement read Hooker and tried to embody his thought, but that Hooker integrated various strands or trends of participation theology that later movements usually considered only individually. The chapter will conclude by commending a ressourcement of Hooker’s thought and the importance of pursuing an ongoing and wise remembering. RICHARD HOOKER’S DIVINE PARTICIPATION(S) Richard Hooker wrote his famous book, entitled The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, in an attempt to preserve wisdom that was in real danger of being lost. A radical element within the Puritan movement was agitating to completely reorder the Church of England, and Hooker’s task was both to vindicate the coherence of the Church’s liturgy and order and to critique his opponents from a theological perspective. Hooker’s opponents erred, he argued, in part through a mistaken understanding on the relationship between nature and grace. Hooker’s contribution lay, at least in part, in his capacity to see nature and grace not as opponents but as complementary aspects of an overall vision.

From Offspring of God to Sons of God


He could describe, affirm, distinguish, and relate them together so that nature was affirmed in its service of a supernatural end (see III.8 McGrade 158).7 It was this careful distinguishing and relating that gave a rationale for why the Church of England has divine sanction to reasonably order itself, all the while maintaining its allegiance to both supernatural revelation and the supernatural end of the church in union with God (V.50 McGrade 139).8 Richard Hooker lived in a universe shot through with the life of God, for all things in his universe participated in God for their being and was oriented toward God as their end.9 This participation was, to use a contemporary image, the operating system upon which many of his richest insights ran. Hooker employed two distinct versions of participation theology, both necessary and complementary for this overall vision.10 The first is a creational participation. It is concerned with natural ontology and natural dependence upon God, and it explains why it is that all creation, and especially humanity, desires union with God. This is Hooker’s explanation of created nature and its goodness. This vision in turn yielded a high expectation that this natural world, and natural human faculties like reason, will cohere with grace and will be of great use to grace when it is being redeemed. Yet for all the goodness of creational participation, there remains another gift, and another vision of participation: soteriological participation or real participation in Christ. Here the thing given is a new relationality. The created natural world is ontologically God’s “offspring,” but not automatically God’s “sons,” not God’s “children.” This more personal, more familial, more relational, more intimate language describes the real participation in Christ enjoyed by the church and not by all. This relational participation in Christ further subdivides into two categories of gifts: those given whole and without degrees (adoption and imputation of righteousness in particular), and the gift of infused grace that grows over time and culminates in heavenly glory. I turn now to the details. Offspring of God: Richard Hooker’s view of creational participation in God The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity are, in great measure, an apology for the goodness of created nature. Central to this is the argument for the role of natural reason as a good gift that must have its role, not as an authority apart from Scripture,11 but as a God-given faculty of apprehending the way in which God himself is reflected in created structures of this world.12 Hooker builds this case with a strong affirmation of created nature’s dependence upon God for its being, and also with several careful qualifications that guard against the risks that could emerge from such a view. Hooker takes up creational participation in the midst of his discussion of Christology and the church’s union with Christ.13 He has just reviewed


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classical technical Christology and the ways in which the persons of the Trinity mutually indwell one another. But then he turns to discuss the relationship between creator and creature. “All other things that are of God have God in them and he them in themselves likewise” (V.56.5 McGrade 158). This is a bold statement of mutual indwelling between God and creation. He anticipates the reader’s shock and concern and immediately adds: “Yet because their substance and his wholly differs, their coherence and communion either with him or amongst themselves is in no sort like unto that beforementioned” (V.56.5. McGrade 158). That is to say, while God and creation may be said to mutually indwell one another in some way, it is not that they share substance with each other. This is, of course, absolutely crucial to the maintenance of the creator–creature distinction. If a Christian view of participation in the life of God posits a sharing of essence between the creator and the creature, then the whole vision collapses into a sort of pantheism and at the very least calls into question the whole project of monotheism. Hooker steers well clear. But this then begs the question: In what way does creation partake of God? The answer draws together themes of essentialism and causality in Hooker’s notion of participation. “God has his influence into the very essence of all things, without which influence of deity supporting them their utter annihilation could not choose but follow. Of him all things have both received their first being and their continuance to be that which they are” (V.56.5 McGrade 158). The creation has no autonomous being without God’s continuous influence. The creaturely essence itself is not the thing shared with God, but rather it is God’s continuous influence that causes the creaturely essence to exist (the gift of being), and to endure (continue in a state of being). All this could sound rather cold and distant, the mere mechanisms of essence and causality but that would misread Hooker. This creational participation creates a close causal bond between God and creation. “All things are therefore partakers of God, they are his offspring, his influence is in them, and the personal wisdom of God is for that very cause said to excel in nimbleness or agility, to . . . reach unto every thing which is” (V.56.5 McGrade 158-159). This is strong language, but it is not foreign to Christian thought. Indeed, editors of Hooker have long referenced Acts 17:28-29 where Paul quotes the Greek tradition to assert that “In [God] we live and move and have our being . . . . For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Thus, Hooker affirms very strongly that natural dependence upon God as creator and sustainer, creational participation in God, results in a close causal connection between God and the created order. This is important for Hooker’s overall argument because it means that God’s wisdom permeates the created order, and that therefore natural human reason, itself a creaturely participation in divine life, is capable of discerning that wisdom, however imperfectly.

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It also explains why it is that all of created nature desires union with God. Hooker writes: there can be no goodness desired which proceeds not from God himself, as from the supreme cause of all things; and every effect does after a sort contain, at leastwise resemble the cause from which it proceeds: all things in the world are said in some sort to seek the highest, and to covet more or less the participation of God himself. Yet this does nowhere so much appear as it does in man. (I.5 McGrade 54)

All things desire and covet the participation of God, yet nothing desires this participation in God like humanity desires it.14 This is a natural desire for the supernatural. It is natural because it is woven into the fabric of the created order by virtue of God’s causality in creating and sustaining natural essences. Put differently, all things, and humanity above all, desire God because they are his offspring. I pause to point out an implication of this. If all creation derives its being from God’s direct action, and if this direct action is such that it weaves into creation a natural desire for the supernatural, and if further the supernatural end of all creation is participation of God himself, then it follows that divine participation is the telos of the whole universe. This implication matters because it means that participation in God is not ancillary to other concerns in Hooker’s universe. It is not that participation in God is a very helpful metaphor on the way to a grander vision. No, participation in God is creation’s deepest desire and highest end: God’s offspring desire God. But this also raises a serious question. Richard Hooker is so strong on creational participation in God—both as a fact by virtue of God’s act of creating and preserving and also as the deepest aspiration of creation—that one must ask: Does this creational participation impart the resources necessary to achieve the desire for union with God? That is, if we are all God’s offspring by nature, and if we all have a natural desire for participation in God, then does this imply that all the required resources for satisfying this desire are somehow vested in created nature? Perhaps the natural desire for the supernatural, combined with the fact that we are naturally God’s offspring, means that the process of higher participation in God is simply one of development rather than a breaking in of something new. To answer this question, we must turn to Hooker’s vision of soteriological participation. Sons of God: Richard Hooker’s View of Soteriological Participation in Christ Creation is God’s offspring, but that does not mean that all people are sons of God. “Let hereunto [that is, to creational participation] saving efficacy


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be added, and it bringeth forth a special offspring amongst men, containing them to whom God hath himself given the gracious and amiable name of sons” (V.56.6 McGrade 159). Notice the shift from “offspring” to “sons.” All things are offspring of God, but sonship language is reserved for a new sort of participation.15 This is more intimate than mere creational participation, and it is a participation that enjoys the love of the Father toward the Son. This soteriological participation is grounded in the biblical notion of koinonia and highlights the relationality between God and the church, grounded very specifically upon Christ’s redemptive work.16 “God therefore loving eternally his Son, he must needs eternally in him have loved and preferred before all others them which are spiritually since descended and sprung out of him” (V.56.6 McGrade 159). And lest we be confused that perhaps this is simply the elaboration or evolutionary development of what was implicit in creational participation, Hooker adds: “These were in God as in their Saviour and not as in their creator only. It was the purpose of his saving goodness, his saving wisdom and his saving power which inclined itself towards them” (V.56.6 McGrade 159). He is emphatic in differentiating a participation in God as creator from participation in God as saviour, and the difference is God’s saving intention toward these special people who are called God’s “sons.”17 This intention is rooted in eternity past, invoking election to strengthen the distinction between creation, in general, and the “sons” of God, in particular. But then, Hooker insists, God’s choice and foreknowledge, his eternal love directed toward those will be called his “sons” does not itself save. “But in God we actually are no longer than only from the time of our actual adoption into the body of his true Church, into the fellowship of his children. . . . Our being in Christ by eternal foreknowledge saves us not without our actual and real adoption into the fellowship of his Saints in this present world” (V.56.7 McGrade 160). Notice both the familial and filial language, always more intimate than creational participation (sons and children by actual adoption, not just “offspring” in a creational manner), and also at the same time the ecclesiological character of this family participation. God adopts into his family, and into the church, in the same act. This does not mean that every person in the visible church is infallibly a true partaker of Christ and true child of God. Weeds still grow with the wheat. But it does mean that all who are true partakers of Christ and are true children of God are of the church (III.1 McGrade 138). But as fundamental as the church is to this soteriological participation, the ecclesiological focus is derivative from the Christological grounding. That is, the fundamental ground of this soteriological participation is a partaking of Christ himself. “We are therefore adopted sons of God to eternal life by participation of the only-begotten Son of God, whose life is the well-spring and cause of ours” (V.56.7 McGrade 160). This is the heart of Hooker’s

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soteriological participation. God created all and therefore all may be called God’s offspring, but something very different occurred to draw humanity to its true supernatural end. This required not only God’s creative act but also the incarnation. Classic expositions of deification often rest on some sort of exchange formula. Sixteenth-century English reformer and martyr John Bradford, echoing St. Athanasius and others, put it this way: [Christ] “wast made ‘the Son of man’ with us, that we with [him] might be made ‘the sons of God.’”18 That is Hooker’s logic in the middle of Book V of the Laws. He establishes his Christological theology in chapters 51–55, and then applies this to soteriological participation in chapter 56, culminating in his theology of adoption by participation in the person of the incarnate Christ. This is the participation that satisfies creation’s desire. And this is the participation in the divine nature described in 2 Peter 1:4 (V.56.7 McGrade 160). Or put differently, it is Christological participation in the Holy Spirit. “[E]xcept we be . . . really possessed of [Christ’s] Spirit, all we speak of eternal life is but a dream” (V.56.7 McGrade 161). And the participation of the Holy Spirit effects union with Christ that is “the highest and truest society that can be between man and him which is both God and man in one” (V.56.8 McGrade 161). Hooker now gives details within this soteriological participation in Christ. When the church partakes of Christ, the church by definition partakes of all of Christ. Christ’s person cannot be divided. One cannot partake of only a little bit of Christ. Thus, there is a way in which participation in Christ is a binary distinction: one either is or is not a partaker of Christ (V.56.10 McGrade 162163). Yet by the same token, there are benefits of participation in Christ that clearly admit degrees. One can have only a little holiness, for example. How can these two realities reconcile? How can the church partake of all of Christ, and yet in another way only exhibit a relative degree of certain benefits of that participation? The answer is “we participate Christ partly by imputation, as when those things which he did and suffered for us are imputed unto us for righteousness; partly by habitual and real infusion, as when grace is inwardly bestowed while we are on earth, and afterwards more fully both our souls and bodies made like unto his in glory” (V.56.11 McGrade 163). This is an important moment. Hooker distinguishes the benefits of participation in Christ into two categories: those benefits that admit no degrees, they either are, or are not, versus those benefits that do admit degrees. Christ’s presence is either communicated or not. One is either adopted or not. If one partakes of Christ, then by definition Christ’s righteousness is imputed to that person in full. There is no partial imputation. It is either given or not, and it is given with the gift of participation in Christ. On the other hand, habitual infusion of grace works differently. This gift admits degrees. One might partake of Christ truly but


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demonstrate only a small degree (relatively speaking) of holiness because only a small degree of infused grace has been given or received. This has two large implications for Hooker’s soteriological participation. The first is that by placing imputation at the heart of participation in Christ, he has retained a centerpiece of Reformation soteriology. And not only has he retained it, he has given justification by faith alone a privileged position in the larger theology of participation.19 Justification by faith alone, with all of its forensic connotations, may seem an odd partner in a participation theology. But for Hooker, it explains how it is that all real partakers of Christ are equal before God. Justification serves to level the field, for all partakers of Christ are equally considered righteous before God (V.56.12 McGrade 163). Yet by the same token his paring imputation with infusion presses a vision of real growth in holiness. Imputation of righteousness is not the end of salvation; it is rather only a part of the benefit given through real participation. The church united to Christ in the Spirit gains by infusion the “seed of God” (V.56.11 McGrade 163). It is a foretaste of heavenly grace, tasted now, and given in much greater measure in the glory that waits the church (V.56.11 McGrade 163). The union of imputation and infusion within real participation in Christ allows him to say, “[as] all are sons they are all equals, some haply better sons than the rest are, but none any more a son than another” (V.56.12 McGrade 164). Central to Hooker’s gift to the wider deification conversation and the broader conversations about participation theology is his ability to employ both creational participation and soteriological participation and deploy them both in complementary fashion.20 Nature and grace are both gifts, and both must be valued, and error results from ignoring either. But error also emerges when they are fused together and creational participation becomes the basis for soteriology. Hooker rejects both errors, and contemporary theology will be wise to attend to his wisdom. Hooker’s Soteriological Participation and Sacramental Theology Room does not allow a full exposition of Hooker’s sacramental theology, and yet it would be deeply incomplete to pass over it entirely. Real participation in Christ is the goal of the whole of creation, and especially humanity’s end, and therefore covers the whole of churchly life. By the same token Hooker applies his exposition of real participation (soteriological participation) to the sacraments with special focus.21 In particular, Hooker uses his exposition of real participation in Christ to navigate the sacramental debates of his day, especially around eucharistic presence, in an effort to create consensus on these matters. I will briefly address his discussion to show the centrality

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of real participation to his sacramental theology, with particular reference to the eucharist. Hooker is consistent in drawing out the coherence between participation in Christ as the basis of salvation and the sacraments given by the Lord himself (V.57.6 McGrade 166). In the midst of bitter debate throughout Christendom on the nature of the eucharist, Hooker argued that the central gift given through the Lord’s Supper is real participation in Christ. The sacrament teaches, but it does more than just teach (V.57.1 McGrade 164). The more is the mutual indwelling between Christ and his church, that mutual indwelling and infusion of grace that admits degrees and must grow up and increase into glory. Hooker is both polemical and irenical at the same time. He argues against both Rome and the Lutheran view, dismissing a mere memorial view along the way, but he also wants to present an alternative perspective that might create unitive potential.22 To do this, he employs a careful strategy. Most eucharistic debates of the day were concerned with the question: Where is Christ and what happens to the elements on the altar/table? That is, the camera angle, so to speak, is held on the bread and wine, waiting to see what miracle God will effect on that altar/table. Hooker wants to change the camera angle. Instead of focusing the camera on the bread and wine, Hooker wants the camera to turn to the church itself, to the effect the sacrament has on the people of God. Put differently, he sets the camera less to capture the means of grace and more to capture the telos, the goal, the fulfillment, of that means in the church and the Christian communicant. Just as real participation in Christ is the goal of creation, so real participation in Christ is culmination of the sacrament of the body and blood, and so that is where Hooker wants to turn our mind. Thus, “The fruit of the Eucharist is the participation of the body and blood of Christ” (V.67.6 McGrade 225). More controversially, Hooker will say: “The real presence of Christ’s most blessed body and blood is not therefore to be sought for in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament” (V.67.6 McGrade 225). This will raise alarm for some. If the presence of Christ is only to be found in the worthy receiver, then does that mean that the efficacy of the sacrament rests on some “worthy” performance on the part of the communicant? Is this an overly subjective account? This is a common critique of some versions of receptionism. Whatever the validity of this critique for other thinkers, Hooker will avoid it in two strokes. First, the power received through the sacraments is power from God himself. It is God who makes the sacraments efficacious—not the sacraments in themselves (V.57.4 McGrade 165). But then we must quickly note the second insight. The bread and wine, consecrated, are themselves causally related to the grace communicated. In this causal way, they are named the Body and Blood of Christ. “The bread and cup are his body and blood because they are causes instrumental upon the receipt


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whereof the participation of his body and blood ensues” (V.67.5 McGrade 224). It is God’s power that communicates grace of real participation, and the elements of the sacrament are causal instruments toward that end, but the focus is always on the final goal of all creation, the real participation of the church in Christ. Hooker retains both an objectivity to the sacramental grace, and also a focus on the subjective result of that grace: Christ assisting this heavenly banquet with his personal and true presence does by his own divine power add to the natural substance thereof supernatural efficacy, which addition to the nature of those consecrated elements changes them and makes them that to us which otherwise they could not be; that to us they are thereby made such instruments as mystically yet truly, invisibly yet really work our communion or fellowship with the person of Jesus Christ as well in that he is man as God, our participation also in the fruit, grace and efficacy of his body and blood, whereupon there ensues a kind of transubstantiation in us, a true change both of soul and body, an alteration from death to life. (V.67.11 McGrade 227-228)

This transubstantiation in us is the real participation in Christ that is the goal, the desire of the universe. Consider again the camera shift. The altar/table is still in view, but it is not the center, it is not the focus. The camera aims beyond the altar/table, beyond the elements themselves, and focuses in on the receivers, the sinners-turned-saints, transfigured from death to life. Hooker took a bold move here, for in re-deploying the charged word “transubstantiation,” he reoriented the sacramental conversation around the deifying transformation of the believer in the church. Whatever we might say about the means, Hooker points us to the end, that is to say, real participation in Christ. This reorientation did not originate with Hooker. Hooker’s work was, in large measure, aimed to provide a lex credendi for the Church of England’s lex orandi, the Book of Common Prayer. And the Prayer Book anticipated this reorientation already in its prayer of consecration. In the first edition of the Prayer Book (1549), the priest asks God to sanctify the bread and wine “that they maie be unto us the bodye and bloude of thy moste derely beloved sonne Jesus Christ.”23 The camera is aimed at the altar/table, though the “unto us” anticipates the change that was coming. That change came just a few years later, and the prayer that shaped Hooker read: “Heare us O merciful father, we besech thee, and graunt that we receivyng these thy creatures of breade and wine, accordinge to thy sonne our saviour Jesu Christes holy institution . . . may be partakers of his moste blessed body and bloude”24 The new prayer reorients the camera to focus on the church’s real participation in Christ. The elements are not out of view, but there is also a new focus. Hooker the priest prayed this prayer each time he served at the sacrament; and Hooker the theologian

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saw how it reframed the sacramental life, and the church’s life, and indeed the whole of the cosmos, around the final end of real participation in Christ. THREE STREAMS IN ANGLICAN PARTICIPATION THOUGHT The aim of this chapter so far has been to outline how Hooker presented the structure of both creation and salvation along participationist lines, so that we can say that soteriological participation is a cosmic goal. This soteriological participation is a relational mutual indwelling between Christ and the church (encompassing both imputation and infusion), and this real participation is the good gift strengthened in the eucharist. This is the central insight that this chapter commends. The aim of the rest of the chapter is to point out three examples of Anglican movements that have profoundly valued participation theology: the Cambridge Platonists, the early evangelicals, and the Oxford Movement. These three do not exhaust the Anglican approaches to participation thought. Rather they are three key movements that exert influence in the history of Anglican theology, and they serve as case studies for common trends in the tradition. In each case, I will briefly state their fundamental insight, and then compare their broad approach to the insights we observed in Richard Hooker. This will give us a grid for analysis, appreciation, and critique. I privilege Hooker in this argument in part because of his deep wisdom and in part because of his wide reception in Anglican theology. I do not argue that these three movements derived their insights from Hooker or even wanted to embody his thinking. It is rather that Hooker provides a wise conceptual background for analyzing distinct developments in Anglican participation theology. The Cambridge Platonists and Creational Participation Anglicans who value deification often ground it in a robust vision of participatory metaphysics, or what I termed creational participation earlier. The Cambridge Platonists are illustrative of this stream. Caught up in the horrors of the English Civil war, with all its religious implications and theological battles, these scholars of Cambridge (and a few other places) looked for an alternative vision for the Christian life and society than that of the two warring partisans. The Puritan left and the Laudian right were, quite literally, at each other’s throats.25 The Puritans seemed to require the godly to “peep into those hidden records of eternity”26 for assurance that they were elect. The Laudians also were narrow and could prove intolerant of dissent.27 Could there be a different path?


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Their inspiration came from their retrieval of the philosophical tradition of Platonism, along with the Christian iterations of this tradition from the early centuries of the church. Benjamin Whichcote fathered this retrieval, and he taught and preached a different form of Christian spirituality than either of the two dominate parties had to offer. The spirituality of the Cambridge Platonists valued a strong view of participation in the life of God. Henry More claimed the term deification and invoked St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and the theology of Theologia Germanica as authorities that went before him.28 And John Smith could speak of the “beatifical vision” as including a likeness to God that is the participation in the divine nature.29 “True Religion [writes Smith in another place] is a . . . participation of the divine Nature . . . . True Religion is such a Communication of the Divinity, as none but the Highest of created Beings are capable of.”30 Deification and participation in the divine nature were key ways to describe the goal of their religion. But what is most interesting for our purposes is the philosophical–theological grounding they utilized to build their vision of deification. Benjamin Whichcote was very concerned to affirm the goodness of creation and the validity of deep intellectual inquiry into it as a means to God-likeness. Where some versions of Platonism have viewed the material world suspiciously, these Cambridge Platonists Christianized the tradition, like many before them, and saw the creation’s participatory dependence on God such that nature could be celebrated. Within this framework, Whichcote and (many of) his students spoke of a “Candle of the Lord,” implanted in humanity at creation, which served as a “deiform seed.”31 This deiform seed is right reason, Recta Ratio, which is both implanted by God at creation and also lights the way toward union with God. It is “a form of grace implanted in our very being as a ‘divine life’ and form of grace acting within us, rather than outside us. If we truly desire Christ—and we have the free will to choose—we can receive such ‘stamps and impressions’ of God.”32 Because all beings long for union with God, and because the light of reason is available to all, Nathaniel Culverwell can anticipate the deiform light of reason to shine from non-Christians.33 This might imply that they had no view of human fallenness or the corrupting effect of sin, but that is not so. John Smith states: Since Mans fall from God, the inward virtue and vigour of Reason is much abated . . . those Principles of Divine truth which were first engraven upon mans Heart with the finger of God are now, as the Characters of some ancient Monuments, less clear and legible then at first.34

Yet notice the effect of sin. Sin mars, but it does not destroy. The candle of the Lord, the deiform seed of reason, is still there, albeit obscured. Sin

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makes the task harder, but not impossible. That is to say, the resources for deification are primarily given in created nature and not destroyed by sin. This is not to say that grace has no place in this scheme—it does.35 For Ralph Cudworth, grace is the formation of Christ in the heart, resulting in holiness.36 “Grace is holiness militant.”37 If we ask: what is the act of God that bears the primary load of weight for their vision of deification? Then we must answer that it is the deiform seed, implanted in created nature, marred by sin and restored by progressive formation of Christ in the heart. They looked into their own heart to see the reflection of the divine in their holiness and growth.38 This growth requires God’s assistance, but that assistance is more healing and directing what is present in nature than it is imparting something above nature.39 This has implications for spirituality and growth. Consider Cudworth’s concept of adoption. When is the Christian adopted? When may the Christian cry out “Abba, Father”?40 Cudworth answered this question in a sermon before Parliament: When our heart is once tuned into a conformity with the word of God, when we feel our will perfectly to concur with his will, we shall then presently perceive a spirit of adoption within ourselves, teaching us to cry, Abba, Father . . . we shall find a copy of God’s thoughts concerning us written in our own breasts.41

“When . . . then” is crucial. “When” conformity happens, “then” adoption occurs, or at least that is when it is perceived. Adoption is the goal toward which the Christian strives. In Hooker, adoption is the basis, given through participation in Christ, from which the Christian strives. Both views affirm moral effort, but they differ in the basis. And this difference seems to derive from a difference in navigating the relation of nature and grace. Both Hooker and the Cambridge Platonists affirm the goodness of creation, reason, and nature on the basis of creational participation in God. All things are God’s offspring, by nature. Yet Hooker distinguishes carefully between this participation and soteriological participation in Christ. This second participation is a gift given to the church, and when it is given, adoption (with imputation) is given immediately. Progressive moral growth proceeds from this basis. Cudworth’s vision emphasizes the natural capabilities which are progressively drawn out by the grace of Christ toward adoption and holiness. All this demonstrates that whereas Hooker distinguishes creational participation from soteriological participation, and grounds the latter on Christological and pneumatological gifts that differ from nature, the Cambridge Platonists prioritize a participation that moves from creational participation to deification in a more linear and progressive fashion.42


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The Evangelicals and Soteriological Participation If one stream of Anglican thought emphasizes creational participation for deification, there is another that sees soteriological participation as something that breaks in on nature. The evangelical movement surprised the Church of England with a remarkable vital force, and this spiritual force grew, at least in part, out of a recovery of a strong vision of participation in the divine nature. It is less that the evangelical movement established a dogmatic or systematic theological account of divine participation.43 It was, of course, a movement that cared a great deal for theology and produced a great amount of it. However, its greater contribution was primarily as a spirituality of divine participation rather than a theoretical one. Deification and soteriological participation is never content to rest in theory—it is a vision that wants experience, transformation, growth, and holiness. It wants a spirituality. The early evangelical Anglicans read of divine participation, desired it and sought it, and then having tasted it, they proclaimed it so that others tasted it to. In this way, many evangelical Anglicans who never spoke in explicitly participationist or deification terms never the less lived “the life of God in the soul of man.” That was the title of one of the most important books for the emergence of evangelical Anglican spirituality in the eighteenth century. In the early 1730s, John and Charles Wesley, along with George Whitefield, read a book by Henry Scougal entitled The Life of God in the Soul of Man. It changed their lives, because it changed their view of what it is that animates real religion. Henry Scougal (1650–1678) was the son of the Bishop of Aberdeen in the 1660s and 1670s, when the Church of Scotland still retained an episcopal structure. Henry died as a young man and left this one book. But in it he articulated a vision for real Christianity that centered on the participation in the divine nature. Real religion is not what many people think it is. Some reduce it to mere assent to orthodox doctrine, others to performance of moral duty, and others to emotional experience, but all this misses the essential heart of religion.44 What is the essential heart of religion? Scougal answers, “true religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the Apostle’s phrase, ‘it is Christ formed with in us.’ Briefly, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a divine life.”45 But what is this divine life? Is it a development of natural resources? Scougal values natural appetites and desires and believes these can be directed to good ends through reason and proper training. Indeed, he believed that moral endeavors are truly valuable in seeking the divine life.46 He came

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from an intellectual milieu that was influenced by the Cambridge Platonists we discussed above. However, the divine life that animates real religion is something above and something outside simple nature. He warns we must not “lay the stress of religion upon our natural appetites or performances.”47 This is partially because natural humanity is driven by self-love, and the divine life is love to God that rules over this natural self-love. Thus, so long as a person remains natural in religion, the divine life will seem “insipid.”48 This “love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the divine perfections, which makes the soul resign and sacrifice itself wholly unto him, desiring above all things to please him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with him, and being ready to do or suffer any thing for his sake, or at his pleasure.”49 Yet if natural humanity is consistently ruled by self-love, and the divine life is a devoted love to God, how does this change occur? Scougal affirms both human agency and also at the same time affirms the sovereign gift of God outside of human resources. Let us arise, and be doing, and the Lord will be with us. It is true, religion in the souls of men is the immediate work of God, and all our natural endeavours can neither produce it alone, nor merit those supernatural aids by which it must be wrought. The Holy Ghost must come upon us, and the power of the Highest must overthrow us, before that holy thing can be begotten, and Christ be formed in us. But yet we must not expect that this whole work should be done without any concurring endeavours of our own. We must not lie loitering in the ditch, and wait until Omnipotence pulls us from thence. No, no: we must bestir ourselves.50

Scougal paints a beautiful picture of the divine life, in terms of supernatural love to God, and one that values natural human engagement. However, he also minds the boundary between nature and grace. Nature is good, and capable of goodness, but grace is something above nature, and not just a development of native resources. This careful navigation between nature and grace, and above all the vision of a supernatural Christianity, helped ignite the evangelical revival. For it was this divine life, articulated by Henry Scougal, that nearly sixty years after his death awakened John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield to desire true religion. In the early 1730s, the Wesley brothers read Scougal and distributed it to their Holy Club disciples, notably George Whitefield. Whitefield in particular devoured it, and internalized its vision, and it changed his life.51 Scougal convinced Whitefield that he had to be “born again.” That is, Whitefield could not rely on his own nature or the


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development of his natural abilities to attain the divine life. Instead, the divine life had to transform him in an immediate and experiential manner.52 And this reading of Scougal set the stage for his remarkable conversion, and the ministry that followed: “In Whitefield’s published narrative it was thus his reading of Scougal that set up his conversion at the end of May 1735.”53 And it was the same desire for the divine life that drove the Wesley brothers. On the morning of John’s heart-warmed experience at Aldersgate Street, his Bible reading was on 2 Peter 1:4.54 That is, just as George Whitefield was meditating on Scougal’s vision of the divine life when he was converted, so John Wesley was meditating on participating in the divine nature on the morning of his own conversion. The gift they sought was the gift of the divine life, supernaturally imparted through what they would call the experience of the new birth. And this remained the gift sought for the movement these men helped birth. Bruce Hindmarsh has demonstrated the enduring influence of Scougal’s work not only on the first fathers of evangelicalism but upon the whole of the revival over the following decades.55 Evangelicalism was a spirituality that pursued real participation in the divine life, real soteriological participation.56 I name it soteriological participation because of the strong differentiation between nature and grace. This is not the divine participation that undergirds nature and creation. The evangelicals sought something above nature, and their primary concern was not creational metaphysics. But there is another aspect to the soteriological vision that we must note. Whitefield and the Wesleys sought the divine life described in Scougal through justification by faith alone. Justification is not a major theme in Scougal, but it became a major theme for the early evangelicals through their association with the Moravians and other Protestant groups.57 Whitefield saw “the necessity of being justified in [God’s] sight by faith only.”58 And once again, when the Wesley brothers were coming to evangelical conversion, the turning point was seeing the “nature of that one true living faith, whereby alone, ‘through grace we are saved.’”59 This is talking about justification by faith alone, the recovery of the Reformation doctrine, redeployed as the gateway to experiencing Scougal’s vision of the divine life. Evangelicalism is not always viewed as a happy home for a high vision of participation in the divine life. However, it was arguably, in its early and perhaps most vital form, precisely a pursuit of that vision. If the Cambridge Platonists emphasized creational participation, the evangelicals championed a distinctly soteriological vision. And in this way they are something of a complementary foil. They were not concerned with creational metaphysics, but they echo Hooker’s clear orientation toward the uniquely soteriological

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real participation in Christ and his strong value for justification by faith alone. The Oxford Movement and Sacramental Participation If the Cambridge Platonists championed a vision of creational participation and the evangelicals championed a personally received soteriological participation, then it fell to the Oxford Movement to reemphasize the objectivity of divine grace through the church and her sacraments. The doctrines of the church and her sacraments had faded from view in large portions of the Church of England by the early nineteenth century. This, combined with the authority of the State over the Church of England, led to what John Keble feared was a “national apostasy.”60 Further, the evangelical revival had continued and spread, but it risked an individualist subjectivism. These matters rose to a crisis in the early 1830s and sparked a movement that sought to restore a catholic view of the Church of England. Alongside this came an emphasis upon the objectivity of grace: the gift given in grace is God himself, the presence of Christ.61 If the evangelicals wanted to restore the priority of divine in-breaking in personal conversion and holiness, the Tractarians sought to restore divine in-breaking into this world through the church.62 And this divine breaking in through church and her sacraments contributed to a revitalized vision of divine participation.63 Edward Pusey’s vision is particularly rich, and his thought emphasized the objectivity and priority of divine grace in ways that corrected weakness in the earlier tradition. His vision is not one of human exertion performing and earning up to the divine life. It is a spirituality of ascent, but it is ascent to heaven through the downward movement of Christ himself. Pusey writes: No thoughts of Christ, however holy; no longings after Him, however sanctified; no wish to be with Him, however purified; no thoughts on His Cross and Passion and Precious Death, however devout; no devotion of self to Him; no acknowledgement of Him as our Priest, Prophet, King, and God . . . no reliance upon Him as the Only Anchor of our soul, however real, comes up to the truth . . . [all this should be done . . . ] . . . but all this does not make us yet partakers of Him, for man cannot make himself a partaker of Him; He must give Himself.64

Notice the spiritual movement. It is not from below that real religion emerges, but rather, as good as our human devotions are, the real gift must come from above. There is something similar to Henry Scougal’s correction of Cambridge Platonist spirituality. Human devotion to God is important, but the decisive gift must come from above. Nature is good, but it has need of


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grace, and it has need of gracious and objective in-breaking.65 And this, for Pusey, is the pattern for deification: To dwell in God is not to dwell on God only. It is no mere lifting up of our affections to Him, no being enwrapt in the contemplation of Him, no going forth of ourselves to cleave to Him. All this is our seeking Him, not His taking us up; our stretching after Him, not our attaining Him; our knocking, not His Opening. To dwell in God must be by His Dwelling in us. He takes us out of our state of nature, in which we were, fallen, estranged, in a far country . . . and takes us up into Himself. . . . By dwelling in us, He makes us parts of Himself, so that in the Ancient Church they could boldly say, “He Deifieth Me;” that is, He makes me part of Him, of His Body, Who is God.66

The key to this indwelling of God, the key to Christ giving himself as a gift to the Christian, is the sacraments. Christ gives himself, and the Christians partake of him, through the eucharist.67 We saw the privileged place Hooker gave to the eucharist as a key means for our real participation in Christ. The Tractarians recovered this emphasis, and Pusey in particular drew out its centrality for real participation in Christ. Notice also that, again reminiscent of Hooker, the focus is upon participation in Christ.68 That is, there is an objectivity that comes out in Pusey’s thought that is not always emphasized in other Anglican traditions. True religion is not, merely, measured by the effect upon the Christian. It is first a matter of Christ, and receiving Christ in his church, through his sacraments. Christ is there, to be received. That is the message that stands out. A risk of Cambridge Platonist spirituality is that divine participation is measured merely by ethical conformity that can reduce to a sort of moralism. A risk of evangelical spirituality is that divine participation is measured by experience that can reduce to an unhealthy subjectivism. Both movements could avoid these risks at their best, but often the camera angle is on the Christian, on the effects of divine participation. Pusey turns our eyes from ourselves to Christ, objectively received in the sacrament. “All is of Christ. His is the grace, which brought us out of the mass of our natural corruption in Adam.”69 This does not mean that life-change is unimportant. Far from it. But the objectivity of Christ in the church, and the objectivity of Christ in the sacraments is a particular focus of Pusey’s thought. The re-emergence of a value for the objective grace (as presence) of Christ through the sacrament is no surprise. The Oxford Movement was a ressourcement of earlier thought, and central to this project was a rehabilitation, or a remembering, of the High Church theologians of the seventeenth century, often called the Caroline divines. Hooker was central to this, as was Lancelot Andrewes70 and many others. They also resourced much earlier

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pre-Reformation sources, but they used the Caroline divines to demonstrate that their theology was still loyal to the Church of England. This resourcing of the Caroline divines, along with earlier Patristic sources, often carried with it a distancing from Reformation themes. This led some Tractarians to shy away from themes of justification by faith alone and certain elements of atonement theology, in preference to incarnational thought.71 Pusey gave preference to what he called the “ancient church” over-against the Reformers,72 and John Henry Newman highlighted “the Sacraments, not preaching, are the sources of Divine Grace.”73 This distancing created tension with Hooker’s thought at points and arguably opened the movement to its own set of vulnerabilities. Ritualism became a particular temptation. Yet the heart of the Tractarian contribution was their recovery and emphasis upon the objective grace of Christ that deifies. REVIVING REAL PARTICIPATION What task remains for Anglicans today? The task is to consolidate and rediscover the formidable wisdom in Anglicanism’s past and to redeploy it in a coherent synthesis. Each movement within the tradition bears both wisdom and vulnerability. The Cambridge Platonists represent a stream of Anglican thought, particularly strong on creational participation, but it can prove vulnerable to moralism. The evangelicals represent a stream of thought that emphasizes conversion and holiness rooted in soteriological participation, but it can prove vulnerable to subjectivism and individualism. The Anglo-Catholics represent a stream of thought strong on objective grace rooted in soteriological and sacramental participation, but it can prove vulnerable to ritualism. These are complementary strengths and vulnerabilities, and they can each learn from each other. Hooker’s thought can help this happen. Indeed, his thinking might prove to give new gifts after these strands of tradition emerged, even though he preceded them. I say that because from our present vantage point, we can see the strength and weakness of each, and Hooker can help fill in the gaps and teach these movements to engage each other. With Cambridge Platonism, Hooker gives us creational participation. With the evangelicals, Hooker focuses upon the fruit of grace in the soul of the Christian. With the Anglo-Catholics, Hooker grounds grace in an objective gift of Christ in the church and through the sacraments. There are many other areas that need attention. This chapter has not addressed preaching and prayer, the role of Bible reading and meditation, or the influence newer Anglican liturgies have exerted over sacramental theology; all of these play essential roles in a robust and Anglican approach to


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soteriological participation. Thus, there is much work to be done. This chapter is aimed to encourage wise remembering.

CONCLUSION Anglicanism is a pursuit of real participation in Christ. It has been so from the first church-authorized prayers prayed in English. This is true even in seasons when the concept was not explicitly emphasized as it might have been. There were seasons when the theoretical apparatus was set forward and other times when the spirituality and experience was ascendant. Sometimes it has been articulated wisely and sometimes it has not. And there have been times yet again when real participation in Christ appeared to lay dormant in the words of the Prayer Book. Yet the real underlying reason why Anglicanism is a pursuit of real participation in Christ is that the gospel is a story of Christ pursuing humanity’s real participation in him. That is, the pursuit of the church is a reflection of God’s pursuit in Christ. And that may be why Anglicanism has no absolutely unique approach to participation in Christ, for it claims no unique gospel. In other words, Anglicans should assume that whenever the gospel is proclaimed, participation in Christ will be the happy result. For the gospel is the news that the Son of God became what we are, human, in order than we might become what he is, the child of God. Anglicans have no other gospel, for we partake of no other Christ.

NOTES 1. Holy Communion, 1559. Brian Cummings, ed. The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011), 136. 2. Emphasis mine. Ibid., 137. 3. Louth sees the Sacraments to be one of the few places where deification thought was preserved in Western Christianity. Andrew Louth, “Manhood into God: the Oxford Movement, the Fathers and the Deification of Man,” in Essays Catholic and Radical, ed. Kenneth Leech and Rowan Williams (London, UK: The Bowerdean Press, 1983), 74. 4. I borrow the term “real participation” from Richard Hooker. See Arthur Stephen McGrade, ed. Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 2: Book V (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014), 123–124. 5. Anglicans are sometimes cautious of deification language, but also note that the underlying theology of deification in present in its liturgies and hymns. See

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Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission, Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue 1976: Moscow Agreed Statement (London, UK: SPCK, 1977), I.3. 6. Lancelot Andrewes, William Porcher DuBose, Evelyn Underhill and Michael Ramsey stand out. 7. I will use Arthur Stephen McGrade’s critical edition of Hooker. The words are spelled in modern manner, but he retains the text very closely to Hooker’s original. See Arthur Stephen McGrade, ed. Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 1: Preface, Books I to IV (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014). 8. ———, Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 2: Book V. I will cite in parentheses from this point forward. 9. A. M. Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition (London, UK: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1988), 8–9. 10. Paul Anthony Dominiak analyses these two visions of participation in technical detail. He observes a “weak, extensive or exiting” sense of participation as well as “a strong, intensive, or returning sense” of participation. The first corresponds to what I call creational participation and the second to what I call soteriological participation. See Paul Anthony Dominiak, “The Architecture of Particiption in the Thought of Richard Hooker” (University of Durham 2017), 15. 11. Note the priority of Scripture, especially in areas of doctrine (V.8.2, McGrade, 25). 12. W. Bradford Littlejohn, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), 42. 13. On the Christocentrism of Hooker’s Laws, see, ibid., 46. 14. Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition, 10–11. 15. Kirby notes the tension between what he calls two “platonisms” in Hooker. The two participations I note here echo his observation. For how he suggests the tension resolves, see W.J. Torrance Kirby, Richard Hooker: Reformer and Platonist (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005), 29–43. 16. For the koinonia grounding of this soteriological participation, see John Booty, “Book V Introduction,” in The Folger Library Edition of The Works of Richard Hooker: Introductions; Commentary, Preface and Books I-IV, ed. W. Speed Hill (Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1993), 198–199; Dominiak, “The Architecture of Particiption in the Thought of Richard Hooker,” 87 and 101 n216. 17. Hooker differentiates these participations, and thereby differentiates nature and grace, but on the other hand Hooker always relates these differentiated realities in complex ways outside the scope of this chapter. For the complex relationship between nature and grace, see ———, “The Architecture of Particiption in the Thought of Richard Hooker,” 107–112. 18. John Bradford, English Reformer and Marian Martyr. Kenneth Stevenson Geoffrey Rowell, Rowan Williams, ed. Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003), 58. 19. For a full account of his theology of justification, see Richard Hooker, “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and How the Foundation of Faith Is


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Overthrown,” In The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, Vol. 5: Tractates and Sermons, edited by W. Speed Hill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1990), 105–69. 20. For helpful discussions of Hooker’s participation theology, see W.J. Torrance Kirby, “Angels descending and ascending: Hooker’s discourse on the ‘double motion’ of Common Prayer,” in Richard Hooker and the English Reformation, ed. W.J. Torrance Kirby (Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), 122–125. For a detailed account see Dominiak, “The Architecture of Particiption in the Thought of Richard Hooker.” For a short overview, see Littlejohn, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work, 171–174. 21. Though Hooker is clear that all he says about the sacraments presupposes the ministry of the Word (instruction) and prayer. See V.50.1 McGrade p. 138. 22. Hooker sees “a general agreement, concerning that which alone is material, Namely the real participation of Christ and of life in his body and blood by means of this sacrament.” See V.67.2 McGrade, 223. 23. Holy Communion, 1549. Cummings, The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662, 30. 24. Emphasis mine. Holy Communion, 1559. Ibid., 137. 25. The Puritans agitated for a more thorough re-structuring of the Church of England along the lines of the Reformed Churches in Switzerland, and the Laudians valued traditional structure and episcopally led church order. 26. Ralph Cudworth, “A Sermon Preached Before the Honorable House of Commons at Westminster, March 31, 1647,” in Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, ed. Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply (New York, NY and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 62. 27. The Cambridge Platonists were strongly against religious persecution. See Jaroslav Pelikan, “Preface,” in Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, ed. Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply (New York, NY and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 3. 28. Henry More, Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, or, a Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure of Enthusiasme (London, UK, 1656), 299–300. 29. John Smith, “The True Way or Method of Attaining to Divine Knowledge,” in Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, ed. Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply (New York, NY and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 157–158. 30. C.A. Patrides, ed. The Cambridge Platonists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 148. 31. Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply, “Introduction to Cambridge Platonism,” in Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, ed. Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply (New York, NY and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 14–15. 32. Ibid., 14–15. 33. Ibid., 27. 34. Patrides, The Cambridge Platonists, 150. 35. They added a notion of grace, often from the Greek Fathers, to their Platonism. See ibid., 23. 36. Cudworth, “A Sermon Preached Before the Honorable House of Commons at Westminster, March 31, 1647,” 77.

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37. Cudworth, “A Sermon Preached Before the Honorable House of Commons at Westminster, March 31, 1647,” 79. 38. Ibid., 61–62, 76–80. 39. Radical Orthodoxy movement has been inspired by the Cambridge Platonists, and also themselves promote a similar approach to deification. Specifically, Ralph Cudworth exerts influence. See Fergus Kerr, “A Catholic Response to the Programme of Radical Orthodoxy,” in Radical Orthodoxy? - A Catholic Enquiry, ed. Laurence Paul Hemming (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 49. Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward John Milbank, ed. Radical Orthodoxy (London, UK and New York: Routledge, 1999), xi. 40. See Romans 8:15. 41. Cudworth, “A Sermon Preached Before the Honorable House of Commons at Westminster, March 31, 1647,” 62–63. 42. Similarly, Daniel Haynes, in his discussion of deification in Radical Orthodoxy, suggests that the grace of deification is “not extrinsic to the human being. Instead, there is a paradoxical supernatural empowering of an already graced “created nature.” He later cites Acts 17:28 as basis for deification, whereas in Hooker’s thought this verse relates to creational participation and not soteriological participation. See Daniel Haynes, “The Metaphysics of Christian Ethics: Radical Orthodoxy and Theosis,” The Heythrop Journal LII (2011), 668 and 560. 43. Of course theologians like Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley were giants who articulated deep theological accounts, but as a movement, Evangelicalism’s primary aim was to experience real religion, not just describe it. 44. Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Boston: Nichols and Noyes, 1868), 4–6. 45. Ibid., 6. 46. Ibid., 38. 47. Ibid., 20. 48. Ibid., 20. 49. Ibid., 21–22. 50. Ibid., 74–75. 51. Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, A History of Evangelicalism: People, Movements and Ideas in the English-Speaking World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 73. 52. D. Bruce Hindmarsh, The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018), 33. 53. Ibid., 33. 54. John Wesley, The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal, ed. Augustine Birrell and Percy Livingstone Parker (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1903), 43. 55. Hindmarsh, The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World, 79–87. 56. Allchin highlights the hymns of evangelicalism as a source for deification thought. See Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition, 24–49. 57. See Hindmarsh, The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World, 34.


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58. Whitefield, quoted in Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, 79. 59. Wesley, The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal, 42. 60. John Keble, “National Apostasy,” A. R. Mowbray & Co, http:​/​/ang​​lican​​histo​​ ry​.or​​g​/keb​​le​/ke​​​ble1.​​html (accessed January 9, 2019). 61. Louth, “Manhood into God: The Oxford Movement, the Fathers and the Deification of Man,” 74–75. 62. See John Henry Newman, “Advertisement,” in Tracts for the Times (Oxford, UK: Project Canterbury, 1834). 63. Allchin helpfully points out how Pusey’s thought mitigates against the evangelical risk of individualism. Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition, 58–59. 64. Pusey, in Owen Chadwick, The Mind of the Oxford Movement (London, UK: Adam & Charles Black, 1960), 195–196. 65. See Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition, 61. 66. Geoffrey Rowell, Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness, 398–399. 67. Chadwick, The Mind of the Oxford Movement, 196. 68. I do not mean to imply that Tractarianism is identical with Hooker. Hooker is careful to point out that the sacraments themselves do not confer grace inevitably, but he emphasizes that is through the power of God and received by faith. Still, Hooker does carry an objectivity in that it is Christ that is the gift, and God that imparts the gift, and that therefore Hooker and Tractarianism share interests. See Littlejohn, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work, 165–168. 69. Chadwick, The Mind of the Oxford Movement, 114. 70. See Nicholas Lossky, Lancelot Andrewes, the Preacher (1555-1626): The Origins of the Mystical Theology of the Church of England (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1991). See also Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition, 15–23; E.C. Miller, Toward a Fuller Vision: Orthodoxy and the Anglican Experience (Wilton, CT: Morehouse Barlow Company, Inc., 1984), 7–44. 71. Clement Charles Julian Webb, “Tractarian Doctrine of Justification,” in Religious Thought in the Oxford Movement (London, UK: SPCK, 1928). 72. Chadwick, The Mind of the Oxford Movement, 51. 73. Newman, “Advertisement.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY Allchin, A. M. Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition. London, UK: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1988. Booty, John. “Book V Introduction.” In The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker: Introductions; Commentary, Preface and Books I-Iv, edited by

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W. Speed Hill, pp. 183–231. Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1993. Chadwick, Owen. The Mind of the Oxford Movement. London, UK: Adam & Charles Black, 1960. Cudworth, Ralph. “A Sermon Preached before the Honorable House of Commons at Westminster, March 31, 1647.” In Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, edited by Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply, pp. 55–94. New York, NY/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. Cummings, Brian, ed. The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011. Dominiak, Paul Anthony. “The Architecture of Participation in the Thought of Richard Hooker.” University of Durham, 2017. Haynes, Daniel. “The Metaphysics of Christian Ethics: Radical Orthodoxy and Theosis.” The Heythrop Journal LII 2011: 659–71. Hindmarsh, D. Bruce. The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018. Hooker, Richard. “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and How the Foundation of Faith Is Overthrown.” In The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, Vol. 5: Tractates and Sermons, edited by W. Speed Hill. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, pp. 105–69, 1990. Keble, John. “National Apostasy.” A. R. Mowbray & Co, http:​/​/ang​​lican​​histo​​ry​.or​​g​/ keb​​le​/ke​​​ble1.​​html (Accessed January 9, 2019). Kerr, Fergus. “A Catholic Response to the Programme of Radical Orthodoxy.” In Radical Orthodoxy? A Catholic Enquiry, edited by Laurence Paul Hemming. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. Kirby, W.J. Torrance. “Angels Descending and Ascending: Hooker’s Discourse on the ‘Double Motion’ of Common Prayer.” In Richard Hooker and the English Reformation, edited by W.J. Torrance Kirby, pp. 111–29. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003. ———. Richard Hooker: Reformer and Platonist. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. Littlejohn, W. Bradford. Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015. Lossky, Nicholas. Lancelot Andrewes, the Preacher (1555-1626): The Origins of the Mystical Theology of the Church of England. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1991. Louth, Andrew. “Manhood into God: The Oxford Movement, the Fathers and the Deification of Man.” In Essays Catholic and Radical, edited by Kenneth Leech and Rowan Williams. London, UK: The Bowerdean Press, 1983. McGrade, Arthur Stephen, ed. Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 1: Preface, Books I to IV. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014. ———. Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 2: Book V. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014. Milbank, John, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward, eds. Radical Orthodoxy. London, UK/New York: Routledge, 1999.


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Miller, E.C. Toward a Fuller Vision: Orthodoxy and the Anglican Experience. Wilton, CT: Morehouse Barlow Company, Inc., 1984. More, Henry. Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, or, a Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure of Enthusiasme. London, UK, 1656. Newman, John Henry. “Advertisement.” In Tracts for the Times. Oxford: Project Canterbury, 1834. Noll, Mark A. The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys. In A History of Evangelicalism: People, Movements and Ideas in the English-Speaking World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003. Patrides, C.A. ed. The Cambridge Platonists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. Pelikan, Jaroslav. “Preface.” In Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, edited by Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply. New York, NY/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. Rowell, Geoffrey, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams, eds. Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003. Scougal, Henry. The Life of God in the Soul of Man. Boston: Nichols and Noyes, 1868. Smith, John. “The True Way or Method of Attaining to Divine Knowledge.” In Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, edited by Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply, pp. 157–64. New York, NY/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. Teply, Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. “Introduction to Cambridge Platonism.” In Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, edited by Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply. New York, NY/ Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. Webb, Clement Charles Julian. “Tractarian Doctrine of Justification.” In Religious Thought in the Oxford Movement. London, UK: SPCK, 1928. Wesley, John. The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal. Edited by Augustine Birrell and Percy Livingstone Parker. New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1903.

Chapter 7

“As Far as Our Capacity Allows” Deification in the Baptist Tradition Myk Habets

THE APOTHEOSIS OF AN IDEA Few doctrines have enjoyed as much popularity in recent Christian dogmatics as theosis.1 Once a relatively unknown piece of theological mysticism, the knowledge and practice of which was reserved for holy men on Mt. Athos, or some other remote but sacred sounding place, theosis has come out of the shadows and pitched its tent on the mainland.2 Even contemporary Baptist theologians are retrieving theosis and exploring its dogmatic contours. While the doctrine has not gone unchallenged in Protestant theology, it has established itself as a particularly powerful way to account for the entire economy of salvation. As a Protestant working in the broadly Reformed tradition, and as a Baptist theologian and ordained minister, my intent is to highlight how contemporary Baptist theologians are retrieving a doctrine of theosis compatible with a baptistic account of dogmatics and to offer a comment on what is distinctive about such an account. As a means to do this, recent Reformed accounts of theosis will serve as a vehicle of entry into a specifically baptistic account. In many ways, there is no formal Baptist theology of theosis; rather, there are ways Baptists can articulate a doctrine of theosis compatible with Baptist theological emphases. This is particularly acute when the ecclesial locus of theosis is considered. Theosis is largely synonymous with another term, theopoiēsis. Literally, theosis means “becoming god,” and theopoiēsis, “making divine” or “making into a god.”3 In English, theosis is often expressed by the terms “deification” and/or “divinization.” It is best to take these terms as synonymous.4 However, due to the contested nature of theosis, its radical language, and misunderstandings that surround the term, I prefer to retain the Greek theosis (θεωσις) in order to emphasize the fact that we are speaking of a specifically 155


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Christian construal of God’s reconciling activity in the economy. This is particularly important to acknowledge in a Baptist doctrine of theosis. Where the term theosis is not grammatically correct, when requiring an adjective, for example, I will use the term theopoetic. Theosis is not a univocally settled issue. There is no single doctrine of theosis. Theosis is like soteriology or hamartiology, it is the name given to a locus of theology, but that name does not define the content of that locus. When theosis is adopted one has to ask: “What exactly is meant by that term and how is it employed?” and the question has to be asked precisely because there are doctrines of theosis. Doctrines of theosis have a well-rehearsed history; from the ancient world, through Scripture, the early church, medieval disputes, Byzantine theology, and into contemporary Eastern Orthodoxy. Less well-rehearsed but no less present is the history of theosis in Western theology from the early church to the present day.5 Theosis is categorically not an Eastern doctrine, it is a Christian doctrine, equally at home in the work of theologians from the East and the West. Along with an acknowledgment that there is no single doctrine of theosis but rather doctrines, we must also reckon with the fact that there are doctrines and themes of theosis. In an influential essay, Gösta Hallonsten highlighted the need to distinguish between theosis as a theme and as a doctrine and rightly concluded that “employing the theme is not the same as making a doctrine out of it.”6 Hallonsten teases out the implications of this distinction by articulating what a doctrine of theosis consists of. Rejecting the notion that the central tenet of theosis is participation in divine life (an astounding claim!), Hallonsten’s contention is that theosis is “a comprehensive doctrine encompassing the whole economy of salvation”7 (an uncontested claim). He goes on to stress what he considers to be the constituent features of a doctrine of theosis, namely: a certain view of creation, especially of human beings; a soteriology, including the meaning of the Incarnation; a view of Christian life as sanctification connected to the Church and sacraments; and the final goal of union with God. The whole structure of this comprehensive doctrine is determined by a teleology that implies that creation and human beings from the very beginning are endowed with an affinity and likeness that potentially draws them to God.8

In addition to these central points, Hallonsten argues that there are three different phenomena which may refer to theosis and may or may not be connected; namely: (1) the theme of theosis; (2) a specific dynamic-teleological Christological anthropology;9 and (3) theosis as a comprehensive doctrine that encompasses the whole of the economy of salvation. According to Hallonsten, and he is not alone, theosis is the unique preserve of Orthodox theology, as for instance when he asserts, “the label ‘doctrine

“As Far as Our Capacity Allows”


of theosis’ should preferentially be reserved for the integral doctrine of deification as presented by the Eastern tradition.”10 Similarly, Andrew Louth believes that theosis “is no longer part of the pattern of either contemporary Catholic or Protestant theology; Western attempts to understand it have consequently assimilated it to an alien framework, and not surprisingly, it fits very awkwardly.”11 The contention that theosis is an Eastern doctrine is historically incorrect, not to mention offensive to theologians with ecumenical interests. What the comment does highlight, however, is that when theosis is used as a doctrine and not simply as a theme, it serves an architectonic end. In the rush to adopt theosis, many Western thinkers have simply incorporated it into their existing systematic theologies whereby it simply renames another doctrine—typically sanctification—or acts as a metaphor for a doctrine—typically glorification. Within a specifically Reformed context, theosis has often been subsumed under such rubrics as participation, union with Christ, communion, sanctification, and the language of exchange. In the hands of Baptist theologians, theosis has often merely served as a cipher for sanctification or glorification. In these guises a concept—or better, a theme—of theosis has been generally acceptable. I suspect it is this practice that has occasioned the ire of Eastern theologians who want to reserve theosis as a description for a full-orbed doctrine. It has only been more recently as the language of participation and theosis has become more prominent that Baptist theologians have turned their attention to this as a distinct doctrine and are now starting to take sides over whether theosis (as a doctrine) is possible on Protestant soil. To qualify as a doctrine, theosis acts as a structuring motif for the whole, not a segment or part of another system. I suspect it is this practice that has occasioned the ire of Western Protestants (typically Reformed and Presbyterian) theologians, who have often reserved this place for the doctrine of the Divine decrees or secret will of God (the pactum salutis). As will be shown, Baptist theology can easily accommodate a robust doctrine of theosis and its unique ecclesiology has added insights to offer the articulation of such a theology. THEOSIS IN REFORMED AND BAPTIST THEOLOGY As stated earlier, one way to consider theosis in Baptist theology is to first locate the doctrine within recent Reformed theology. The rationale for this move is based, first, upon the fact that being Baptist does not mean that each loci of theology is reconceived. Rather, Baptist theology is largely a contribution to ecclesiology. There is, for example, no distinctively Baptist doctrine of God, or eschatology. There are Baptist ways of doing theology and Baptist distinctives, however, which influence how a doctrine is conceived.


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Second, as a species of Protestant theology, Reformed theology has begun to articulate a doctrine of theosis largely compatible with a Baptist account. Third, a Baptist account of theosis has its most significant contribution to make in ecclesiology, and so the locus of theosis is affected and accounted for here. What I will argue for is a construal of deification which I define as: a transformative theopoetic journey into the life of the triune God made possible by the incarnation of the Son who divinizes human nature. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit he enables human persons to be conformed to Christ’s image and in that transformation, to commune with God the Father in immortality and eternity, in light and love. The locus for theosis is the covenanting community of faithful disciples gathered around Word and sacrament anticipating the great consummation of all things in Christ Jesus.

If Baptist theology can be directed to speak of human participation in the divine life as union and communion with Christ in his human nature, as participation in his incarnate Sonship, and so as sharing in him the divine life and love, all within the gathered covenanting community of disciples, false notions of theosis may be avoided. What follows is an attempt to do just that. Reformed Antecedents A number of Reformed theologians have begun to retrieve a doctrine of theosis. Here we might note both ancient and modern theologians, including John Calvin,12 Jonathan Edwards,13 Thomas F. Torrance,14 Carl Mosser,15 Kyle Strobel,16 Gannon Murphy,17 Heleen Zordrager,18 Oliver Crisp,19 Slavo Eždenci,20 Michael Horton,21 and in a qualified sense, my own work.22 Other Reformed theologians sympathetic to theosis include Todd Billings23 and Julie Canlis.24 A brief survey of Reformed accounts of theosis will lead into a Baptist account. Given the scope a doctrine of theosis demands if a comprehensive account is attempted, all that is possible here is an effort to get to the heart of the matter for a Reformed variant of the doctrine.25 At the center of a Reformed doctrine of theosis is the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a direct consequence of the doctrines of the homoousion and the hypostatic union flows the concept of the vicarious humanity of Christ whereby Christ becomes the “Last Adam” and “New Man” to whom all humanity is ontologically related and must participate in, for communion with God to be realized. The work of theosis is first a work of God in Jesus Christ—literally a theopoiēsis—and only then a reality applied by the Holy Spirit to specifically redeemed human persons.

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Theosis is not so much the “divinization” or “deification” of humanity, as popularly (mis)understood, but the re-creation of our lost humanity in the dynamic, atoning interaction between the divine and human natures within the one person of Jesus Christ, through whom we enter into the triune communion of God’s intra-trinitarian life. As Reformed theologian Thomas Torrance states: “our ‘deification’ in Christ is the obverse of his ‘inhominization.’”26 This is what distinguishes theosis in Reformed thought from other expressions of deification or divinization on offer in the tradition. While there are many models of theosis in the tradition, two stand out for mention here: the ousianic and the hypostatic models.27 According to an ousianic understanding of theosis, the human person is united to the divine Being in some way and in that union, they are ontologically transformed. This model of theosis is most typically associated with Palamite conceptions of deification, as popularized in, for example, the work of Vladimir Lossky. In such a model, the Creator–creature distinction is blurred and the radically Christocentric essence of salvation is removed. Central to a Palamite or ousianic model of theosis is the distinction between the essence and energies of God. Obviously, this model is incompatible with Reformed theology.28 Alternatively, the other popular model of theosis is the hypostatic. According to this model, as a believer is united to Christ they come to share in all his benefits precisely because they are in full communion with Christ. As Michael Horton stated, this union that we enjoy is effected for and in us not by an impersonal process of emanations, by a ladder of participation, or by infused habits, but by the Holy Spirit, who gives the ungodly the faith both to cling to Christ for justification and to be united to Christ for communion in his eschatological life. Mediation is not a principle or a process, but is located in a person.29

In communion with the incarnate Son, persons are con-formed to his image and likeness and participate in his filial relationship with the Father as adopted children of God, heirs and co-heirs with Christ. Even when a so-called ousianic model is distinguished from a so-called hypostatic model of theosis, the differences between the two cannot be exaggerated, as for instance, when Jonathan Ciraulo concludes his discussion with the following: The “ousianic” and the “hypostatic” models of divinization do not, therefore, have to be separated any more than the divine Persons and the one Essence are. Indeed, rather than the two models standing in opposition to one another, they should be thought in tandem, provided, of course, any discussion of ontological change or participation neither abolishes the maior


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dissimilitudio between creaturely and divine Being nor dismisses the particularly Christic character of divinization.30 A fundamental axiom of Reformed theology is arguably the fact that to know God we must know his being in his act. God is in his own Being what he is as God’s revealing Word and saving Act toward us. Through Christ and the Spirit we are given access to God as he is in himself. This access to God includes the form of knowledge of God as he is in himself, in his internal relations as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Jesus Christ is homoousios with God in being and in act. The logical step beyond this assertion of Christ’s oneness with God is to apply the homoousion to the Trinity as a whole and to see this heuristic device as stating the ontological relation between the economic and the immanent Trinity. What God reveals to us in Jesus Christ is nothing other than a self-revelation of his own being. The Holy Spirit is the other Paraclete whom Christ sends to act in his place. In his homoousion with Christ in being and act the Spirit is Christ’s other self through whose presence in us Christ makes himself present to us. The God who acts ad extra is the God who is in se. Because of the oneness in being and act between Christ and God, salvation, knowledge, and theosis are possible. Before this can be applied to human persons, it first of all becomes a reality in the person of the Mediator, Jesus Christ. The homoousion thus conditions the hypostatic union, the distinct instantiation of communion between God and humanity in the person of the Son. Despite the radical distinction between divine and human being in the Reformed tradition, room is still left for a real communion between the two. This is effected through theosis, the participation of human being in the divine being through the incarnate Son and by the Holy Spirit. A Reformed doctrine of theosis posits an ontological, not a metaphysical union. A metaphysical union is the underlying idea of a pan[en]theistic concept in which the believer becomes dissolved into the essence of the divine being so that they cease to exist as a distinct entity. Working within a Reformed understanding of theosis we may say that humans can participate in the divine life, but this is a thoroughly personal and relational experiencing of the Triune relations and is only ever experienced in the incarnate Son. We may affirm that in the Son and Holy Spirit one comes to see, hear, and know God as he is in himself, but they do so in a creaturely way that is at once a revelation of the hiddenness of God—Deus semper maior. In this way, we affirm the eternal distinction between God and creation both in the incarnate Christ (hypostatic union) and in our participation in Christ through the reconciling exchange. Theosis is the work of the triune God in graciously allowing human persons to participate or partake of the divine life precisely because salvation is found only in union and communion with Christ, made possible by the Spirit. It is technically understood

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as participation in the Triune communion or perichoresis. Through being united to Jesus Christ, the God-man, we are united to his divinized humanity and through that relationship we enjoy fellowship with God. The goal of the incarnation is that we may be gathered up in Christ Jesus and included in his own self-presentation before the Father and in that relationship, to partake of the divine life in all its manifold richness. We participate in the divine life as human creatures, however, never as more than that and certainly never less. To envision the ends of human life as flourishing as children of God, in the incarnate Son, full of the Spirit, before the Father, is to assume a dynamic theological anthropology which is itself also a Christological anthropology. We can say that human nature has an internal dynamism, a transcendental determinism, toward the divine life, provided that the maior dissimilitudio be preserved inviolable. Baptist Contributions The account of a Reformed doctrine of theosis above is compatible with a Baptist account, given the fact that Baptist theology traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation and grew out of a largely Puritan context and forms part of the contested sociological phenomenon known as evangelicalism.31 A Baptist construal of theosis should, then, accept the fundamental premises of the Reformed account above, but with a few accent changes and one significant addition; namely an emphasis upon a certain ecclesial locus of theosis. While it is true there are many kinds of Baptists, and each might construe theosis differently, there are core Baptist emphases that make speaking of Baptist in the singular justified.32 As with the Reformed tradition, we see themes and doctrines of theosis redolent within a number of Baptist scholars, including but not limited to historical figures such as Benjamin Keach,33 John Gill,34 Charles Spurgeon,35 and Alexander Maclaren;36 and contemporary figures which include Robert Rakestraw,37 Clark H. Pinnock,38 Stanely J. Grenz,39 Douglas Harink,40 Paul S. Fiddes,41 Ben C. Blackwell,42 Mark S. Medley,43 Lucas Stamps,44 Vladimir Kharlamov,45 and Dongsun Cho.46 Each offers an account of theosis either as a Baptist (Rakestraw, Pinnock, Grenz, Fiddes, Medley, Stamps) or the beginnings of a specifically Baptist account (Kharlamov, Cho).47 Medley has pointed out that within most of these Baptist scholars there is no attempt to construct a full doctrine of theosis rather to use the terminology introduced earlier, what we find are themes of theosis, rather than doctrines. It is also true that often we are talking about Baptists writing theology not theologians writing Baptist theology. So it would appear that what constitutes Baptist theology is one of three things: the theologian is a Baptist, the theologian is developing a core Baptist conviction, or both. What follows is my attempt


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as a Baptist theologian to espouse a doctrine of theosis that develops a core Baptist theme. BAPTIZING THEOSIS In an earlier work, I provided ten theses on what a doctrine of theosis should conform to. I draw on several of these theses and include an additional one (the final one) to further explain the contours of a Baptist doctrine of theosis: the thesis appears in italics followed by a brief description.48 Jesus Christ is the Imago Dei, the one human who perfectly images God and has full communion with God. Human beings are created with a telos— to image the Image—Jesus Christ. This is only possible through union with Christ by the Holy Spirit. The hypostatic union of Jesus Christ ensures his uniqueness as the one Mediator between God and humanity. He, who is the Son of God by nature, became a son of man so that we who are humans by nature might become the sons and daughters of God by the grace of adoption. The hypostatic union applies uniquely to the incarnate Son of God and thus in him humanity is “divinized” and divinity is “humanized.” By his life, death, resurrection, and ascension Jesus Christ perfectly, fully, and finally, unites humanity to divinity. Without ceasing to be God, the eternal Word takes to himself a human nature, healing and restoring this nature to its intended telos—intimate communion with the triune God. By means of the Holy Spirit, the Word incarnate lives a life of perfect obedience to the Father, dies a sinner’s death in our place, and then defeats sin and death through his resurrection. At Pentecost, the Spirit of Christ is given to believers to recreate within them the life and mind of Christ. Theosis is thus Christologically conditioned from beginning to end as humans are united to the humanity of Christ, and in that union, they participate in the Divine life and love. Believers are united with the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ and thus participate in his continuing mediation and ministry for us and on our behalf. In our union with Christ we are justified and sanctified, declared righteous and made holy. Through participation in the humanity of Christ, believers commune with the triune God in worship, ministry, and mission. Through the Church, the one Body of Christ on earth, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and to one another by Word, sacrament, and communal life. By these means the Christ-like life is recreated in us. Our responses to Christ constitute our participation in Christ’s present ministry at the right hand of the Father in his ascended humanity. The sacraments49 instituted by Christ, along with the progress of sanctification are the visible means by which believers commune with God and progress in theosis as they participate in Christ’s worship which moves from the Spirit through the Son to the Father.50

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Worship and mission are understood as the act in which believers participate through the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father, with the Spirit, to the world. The vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ is salvific for humanity. Those united to Christ participate in his ministry, his worship, and his communion with the Father by the Spirit. Christ’s continuing life of vicarious worship becomes the spiritual means of theosis. At the resurrection, the believer is given a new body like that of the risen Lord Jesus Christ and enabled to more fully participate in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father by the Spirit. With the sin nature removed, the believer is enabled to see God more fully, to know God more clearly, and to participate in the Triune communion more completely. The communicable attributes of God are now able to be experienced by resurrected believers in such a way that perfect communion between God, humanity, and creation (the new heavens and new earth) is realized, without collapsing any one into the others. In this dynamic nexus of activity and rest, the believer experiences the eternal realization of theosis—Trinitarian communion in which the Father is glorified through the Son by the Holy Spirit, but never apart from the ongoing presence of Jesus Christ, the one to whom believers are eternally united. The locus of theosis is the gathered covenanting community of Christ’s disciples, those who share faith and life together in radical discipleship, in anticipation of the consummation of all things in Christ. Each Christian communion has its own articulation of how to order the ecclesia, for Baptists, however, the church consists of local covenanting communities who gather around the Word written to discern the voice of the living Word, Jesus Christ, within the context of a community of radical disciples: those baptized into Christ upon confession of faith and committing to love and serve the Lord among these people in this place.51 It is within this context that we are “made divine”, or better, that we more fully come to participate in the divine life and love. It is important in any discussion of theosis to comment on how theosis is worked out in ministry and worship now, and more fully in the eschaton at the final resurrection, as the theses above highlight. This is especially acute for a Baptist account of theosis. According to Baptist sensibilities, it is within the covenanted and gathered community of Christ’s disciples that the blessings of theosis are realized. As Paul Fiddes has noted, from the earliest Baptist traditions it has been argued that salvation does not occur somewhere outside from, or part from, but within the church.52 The local church is the locus of theosis, the place in time and space where our transformative theopoetic journey into the life of the triune God is nurtured until the eschaton. Collectively, the children of God form the church, the body of Christ, within which theosis becomes a reality made possible by the Holy Spirit. The mutual mediation of


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Christ and Spirit is extended into ecclesiology constituting the church as the communion of theosis. Union with God, most comprehensively subsumed under a doctrine of theosis, is realized by the Spirit through the church’s covenanting together, sacraments, ministry, and worship (which includes good works).53 Here we must work out of a self-consciously corporate vision of salvation where the Spirit unites us to Christ through incorporation into his body, the church. The Holy Spirit actualizes union and communion with God through Christ in the structure of our physical, personal, and social being. The work of the Spirit creates and calls forth from humanity a response of faith and obedience, worship and prayer. The central purpose of the church is to glorify God through the progressive theopoetic journey of God’s people: that is—the church exists for theosis, “so that through union with [Christ] in Spirit and Body the Church participates in the divine nature and engages in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.”54 As the body of Christ and the communion of saints, the church is the place created by the intersection of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of union with Christ. The vertical dimension relates to communion with God and the horizontal relates to communion with each other. As such, “the Church is the atonement becoming actual among [believers] in the resurrection of a new humanity corresponding to the resurrected Body of Jesus.”55 This is part of the sanctifying transformation into Christ-likeness or Christification. The process of theosis is also the church’s means of mission in the world as it lives into the resurrected life of Christ.56 The central ecclesial acts of the church, as Baptists typically understand it, are: Baptism, Eucharist, and the reading/preaching of the Word—each conducted within the gathered community of covenanting disciples, and good works conducted both in and outside of the church.57 Each are powerful witnesses to the reality of union and communion with Christ and the ongoing transformation of believers into Christlikeness. Salvation consists in participating baptismally, eucharistically, and missionally in the incarnate Christ by the Spirit. This is how union with Christ is enacted in the life of believers and how theosis is personalized. This covenantal sharing creates a fellowship among the participants and witnesses to the powerful reality of the corporate dimensions of theosis. The ecclesial context provides a prime example of how theosis occurs, of how the transcendent God can be experienced, participated in, and known by finite human persons. By means of these acts believers are elevated by the Spirit to participate in the incarnate Son’s self-presentation to the Father (the sursum corda). But at the same time, Christ himself comes to the church in and with the water, bread, wine, word and Spirit to be present with the Church in the vicarious humanity of his body and blood. Here we acknowledge a twofold movement of the Spirit—through Christ to the Father and from the Father

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in Christ—so that believers are transformed into the likeness of the incarnate Son and enabled to participate in his filial relationship with the Father by the Spirit. This is what it means to be an adopted child of God. In the mystery of the Holy Spirit “we are,” as Thomas Torrance maintained, “brought into such a communion with the Father through the Son and in the Spirit, that we are made to participate in the real presence of God to himself.”58 Participation in the sacraments and the life of the covenanting community is thus the path to participation in the divine life, a mystery of the faith that unites the believer to Christ by the Spirit, and by the same Spirit and through the same Christ, enables the believer to commune with the triune God. The theme of Jesus Christ as our true worship and the Spirit as the one who enables communion between the church and Christ is a hallmark of any theology that utilizes theosis as a doctrine. Baptist theology has been insistent on the goodness of creation and the reality of sin which necessitates salvation, and as such it has consistently taught that what God accepts as our true worship is Christ himself.59 As such, only those savingly united to Christ are able to worship the triune God and enter into the filial relationship of the incarnate Son. “Worship of the Father in spirit and in truth is the life of the Son in us that ascends to the Father in such worship,”60 writes Thomas Torrance. Outside of Christ nothing is acceptable to the Father, so prayer and worship can only be offered in and through Christ. “All our prayer and praise and worship are sinful and unworthy but through the Holy Spirit breathed upon us they are cleansed in the sacrifice of Christ and absorbed into intercession and praise and worship within the veil.”61 The Spirit thus creates the bond between the believer and Christ and takes what is ours to Christ and what is Christ’s to us so that his prayer and his worship of the Father becomes ours. Along with Torrance, we can affirm: “Jesus Christ is our worship, the essence of it and the whole of it, and we may worship God in Spirit and in Truth as we are made partakers of his worship.”62 Worship and theosis are thus seen to be two parts of the same reality. The Spirit breathed upon the disciples by Christ is the Spirit of our response to Christ and, through him, to the Father. This is worked out in believers’ prayer, worship, good works, ministry, and mission. More specific discussion of the actual transformative process of theosis can be found elsewhere, but this at least has established the trinitarian frame of worship, life, and theosis within the gathered covenanting community of Baptist ecclesiology.63 CONCLUSION A result of including theosis in Baptist theology is that salvation is no longer thought of as exclusively from sin, alienation, and hostility (all within an


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individualistic setting), although those themes are clearly part of any biblical soteriology. Instead, union, communion, and participation are more meaningfully incorporated. The ultimate goal of salvation is not to appease the wrath of an angry God but to attain to participation in the divine life through the incarnate Son by the Holy Spirit with all the saints in the new heavens and earth. This still necessitates judgment on sin and justification of the sinner, but it does not end there. Salvation in a theosis-centered theology is accomplished by the incarnation in the hypostatic union which is then worked out in human lives within the locus of the covenanting and gathered community of faith. As Russian Baptist theologian Vladimir Kharlamov concluded: Theosis is a message of salvation; it is a message of encouragement; it is a message of love; it is a message of reconciliation; it is a message of healing; and it is a message of ultimate happiness. Baptist theologians can easily engage theosis in the fields of systematic theology, historical theology, ethics, practical theology, and missiology. It is a powerful tool in addressing social issues, such as race, ethnicity, gender discrimination, inequality, corporate exploitation; most of all, it is a source of hope.64

It is these perspectives which should be emphasized by a Baptist account of theosis. More, much more, in fact, remains to be said but this is enough to offer a dogmatic outline of what such future work might look like. As a good Baptist theologian, I affirm the commitment that the coloring in of this sketch requires a community of disciples and to such as these my own work acts as an invitation. NOTES 1. For an overview see Myk Habets, Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance. Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), 1–14. 2. The reasons for the rise of theosis in contemporary theology have been well rehearsed elsewhere. Norman Russell, Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009), 13–31, is as good a short introduction as any. 3. Geoffrey W.H. Lampe, ed., A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961), 649. 4. Reformed theologian Carl Mosser prefers to use the term theopoiēsis and wants to reserve the term theōsis to “the Byzantine development of the patristic deification tradition and its contemporary exposition by Eastern Orthodox theologians” (“The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents, and the Origin of Christian Deification,” JTS 56 [2005]: 31, n. 3). In an earlier essay I argued for the use of theosis over deification or divinization. Deification I reserved

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for the Byzantine tradition, with its essence-energies distinction, and divinization I reserved for Western construal’s of theosis which tended to collapse the Creatorcreature distinction in a form of mysticism (“Theosis, Yes; Deification, No,” in The Spirit of Truth: Reading Scripture and Constructing Theology with the Holy Spirit, ed., Myk Habets [Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2010], 124–49). My aim in this essay was Bruce McCormack, “Participation in God, Yes, Deification, No: Two Modern Protestant Responses to an Ancient Question,” in Denkwürdiges Geheimnis: Beiträge zur Gotteslehre. Festschrift für Eberhard Jüngel zum 70. Geburtstag, eds. I.U. Dalferth, J. Fischer, and H-P. Großhans (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2004), 347–74. The terminological distinction was for rhetorical effect only. I note Ben C. Blackwell, Christosis: Engaging Paul’s Soteriology with His Patristic Interpreters (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), 265 prefers christosis or christopoesis over theosis, due to the “particularly Christo-form, nature of the experience.” That has merit, but I don’t see the need to create a neologism here, especially when we already have in use the term Christification. 5. For a brief history see Myk Habets, “Reforming Theosis,” in Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, eds. S. Finlan and V. Kharlamov (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2006), 146–67; and for essays across the Christian traditions see Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology; Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, eds., Michael J. Christensen and Jeffrey A. Wittung (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007); and Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, ed. V. Kharlamov (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011). 6. Gösta Hallonsten, “Theosis in Recent Research: A Renewal of Interest and a Need for Clarity,” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, 283. Hallonsten’s distinction has not gone unchallenged, as seen for instance by the resposne of Daniel A. Keating, “Typologies of Deification,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 17 no. 3 (2015): 273–77. While Keating’s points are worth considering, the basic distinction between a theme and a doctrine is still a useful one, despite disagreements over the technical requirements for each. 7. Hallonsten, “Theosis in Recent Research,” 284. 8. Ibid., 285. 9. Ibid., 286. 10. Ibid., 287. 11. Andrew Louth, “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Tradition, 33. 12. John McClelland, “Sailing to Byzantium,” in The New Man: An Orthodox and Reformed Dialogue, eds., John Meyendorff and John McClelland (New Brunswick: Agora Books, 1973), 10–25; Carl Mosser, “The Greatest Possible Blessing: Calvin and Deification,” in Scottish Journal of Theology 55 (2002): 36–57; idem., “An Exotic Flower? Calvin and the Patristic Doctrine of Deification,” in Reformation Faith: Exegesis and Theology in the Protestant Reformation, ed. Michael Parsons (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014), 38–56; Habets, “Theosis, Yes; Deification, No;”


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and A. J. Ollerton, “Quasi Deificari: Deification in the Theology of John Calvin,” Westminster Theological Journal 73 (2011): 237–54. 13. Kyle Strobel, “Jonathan Edwards and the Polemics of Theosis,” Harvard Theological Review 105 (2012): 259–79; idem., “Jonathan Edwards’s Reformed Doctrine of Theosis,” Harvard Theological Review 109 (2016): 371–99; Michael McClymond, “Salvation as Divinization: Jonathan Edwards, Gregory Palamas and the Theological Uses of Neoplatonism,” in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, eds. Oliver Crisp and Paul Helm (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 142–55; Oliver Crisp, Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 275–85; W. Ross Hastings, Jonathan Edwards and the Life of God: Toward an Evangelical Theology of Participation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015), 265–321. 14. Habets, Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance. 15. Mosser, “The Greatest Possible Blessing: Calvin and Deification,” 36–57; “An Exotic Flower? Calvin and the Patristic Doctrine of Deification,” 38–56. See also his essay in this volume. 16. Kyle Strobel, “Jonathan Edwards and the Polemics of Theosis;” and “Jonathan Edwards’s Reformed Doctrine of Theosis.” 17. Gannon Murphy, “Reformed Theosis?,” Theology Today 65 (2008): 191–212. 18. Heleen E. Zorgdrager, “On the Fullness of Salvation: Tracking Theosis in Reformed Theology,” Journal of Reformed Theology 8 (2014): 357–81. 19. Oliver Crisp, “Theosis and Participation,” in Being Saved: Explorations in Soteriology and Human Persons, eds. S. Mark Hamilton, Marc Cortez, and Josh Farris (London: SCM Press, 2018), 85–101. 20. Slavo Eždenci, Deification and Union with Christ: A Reformed Perspective on Salvation in Orthodoxy. Latimer Studies 74 (London: The Latimer Trust, 2011). This is not as much a defense of theosis as it is a sympathetic comparison between an Eastern Palamite version of theosis and key elements in Reformed thought, especially union with Christ. 21. Michael S. Horton, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 272–307. In Horton’s work, theosis is a strong theme rather than an organising doctrine. 22. Habets, “Reforming Theosis;” “‘Reformed Theosis?’ A Response to Gannon Murphy,” Theology Today 65 (2009): 489–98; Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance; and “Theosis, Yes; Deification, No.” 23. J. Todd Billings, “United to God Through Christ: Assessing Calvin on the Question of Deification,” Harvard Theological Review 98 (2005): 315–34; Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 24. Julie Canlis, “Calvin, Osiander, and Participation in God,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 6 (2004): 169–84; and Calvin’s Ladder. A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010). There are, of course, many other Reformed theologians who are either using theosis as a theme or as a full-orbed doctrine. Zorgdrager, “On the Fullness of Salvation: Tracking Theosis in Reformed Theology,” for instance, alerts us to Wendy Farley, Gathering Those

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Driven Away: A Theology of Incarnation (Louisville: WJK Press, 2011), 169–85, who offers a brief and idiosyncratic account of theosis. 25. The following section draws upon my earlier work Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009). 26. Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 189. 27. For a concise overview with examples see Jonathan M. Ciraulo, “Divinization as Christification in Erich Przywara and John Zizioulas,” Modern Theology 32 (2016): 479–503. 28. Several Reformed theologians have adopted the essence-energies distinction (but not a Palamite doctrine of theosis), the most recent of which is Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 129–32, 612–15; and Covenant and Salvation, 211–15, 268–77. I have outlined my argument as to why this is not compatible with Reformed theology in Habets, “‘Reformed Theosis?” 492–95. Horton appears to endorse a hypostatic model of theosis in his systematic theology when he writes, “So there is deification without pantheism, union without fusion. . . . To be deified is to be transfigured, so that the rays of God’s energies . . . permeate . . . the creature,” The Christian Faith, 691. 29. Horton, Covenant and Salvation, 183. 30. Ciraulo, “Divinization as Christification,” 501. 31. Baptists trace their roots back to the Reformers, notably Calvin, Bucer, and Bullinger, via the English Seperatists. Steven R. Homes, Baptist Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012), sensibly notes that: “Baptists are evangelicals with a particular baptismal practice, or another strand of the Reformed movement” (7). No attempt is being made in this essay to represent or narrate a General Baptist or a Particular Baptist account; rather, what is offered is a Baptist account compatible for both General and Particular Baptists. 32. See Homes, Baptist Theology who rightly notes that Baptists have little to no common confessional basis for their unity; instead they have a family likeness based on certain ecclesial convictions which cluster around two foci: the individual believer and the local church. The first emphasis includes believers’ baptism while the second asserts Christ’s rule over the local congregation (pages 6–7). The central Baptist distinctives for Holmes are summarized as: “the unmediated Lordship of Christ over each individual conscience and over each gathered congregation.” (9). 33. Benjamin Keach (1640–1704), The Display of Glorious Grace (London: S. Bridge, 1698), especially page 64. Online: http:​/​/www​​.grac​​e​-ebo​​oks​.c​​om​/li​​brary​​ /Benj​​amin%​​20Kea​​ch​/Ke​​ach​%2​​C​%20B​​enjam​​in​%20​​Displ​​ay​%20​​of​%2​0​​Glori​​ous​%2​​ 0Grac​​e​.pdf​; and An Exposition of the Parables (London: Paternoster, 1858), especially 421, 577, 606. Online: https​:/​/ar​​chive​​.org/​​detai​​ls​/ex​​posit​​ionof​​par​a0​​0keac​. Keach made clear the Creator-creator distinction and argued Christians participate in the communicable attributes of God. 34. John Gill (1697–1771), A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, reprint, (Woodstock, Ontario: Devoted Publishing, 2016), 482. Online: https​:/​/bo​​oks​.g​​oogle​​.co​.n​​z​/boo​​ks​ ?id​​=SzJm​​DAAAQ​​BAJ​&p​​g​=PA4​​82​&lp​​g​=PA4​​82​&dq​​=john​​+gill​+​%22s​​et​+hi​​m​+up+​​


Myk Habets

as​+th​​e​+pat​​tern+​​of​+th​​eir​+s​​onshi​​p​%22&​​sourc​​e​=bl&​​ots​=y​​nbSaJ​​l9uN&​​sig​=p​​AIQkg​​ K9YFU​​T7ago​​pinxC​​pPC0K​​8​&hl=​​en​&sa​​=X​&ve​​d​=2ah​​UKEwi​​S8ozC​​u​-HcA​​hVNFY​​ gKHeH​​EBQkQ​​6AEwA​​HoECA​​EQAQ#​​v​=one​​page&​​q​=joh​​n​%20g​​ill​%2​​0​%2​2s​​et​%20​​ him​%2​​0up​%2​​0as​%2​​0the%​​20pat​​tern%​​20of%​​20the​​ir​%20​​sonsh​​ip​%22​​&f​=fa​​lse. Gill uses the Patristic exchange formula and speaks of theosis as likeness to Christ in its full moral and ontological senses. Like Keach, he reasons that humans cannot participate in God’s incommunicable attributes. 35. According to Dongsun Cho, “Deification in the Baptist Tradition: Christification of the Human Nature Through Adopted and Participatory Sonship Without Becoming Another Christ,” Perichoresis The Theological Journal of Emmanuel University 17, no. 2 (2019): 51–73, Charles Spurgeon (1834–92), often makes “a theological balance between the explicit denial of a human being’s becoming God and the biblical affirmation of a human’s real transformation in some divine sense by the grace of participation in God (2 Pet. 1:4) throughout The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1969). Spurgeon, as with Keach and Gill, goes beyond a moral assimilation to God in arguing for a realistic doctrine of theosis. That is, this is more than a symbol or a theme for these Baptist forebears. 36. For Alexander Maclaren (1826–1910), “the principal meaning of the incarnation is that the divine becomes partaker of the human in order that the human may partake of the divine,” Cho, “Deification in the Baptist Tradition.” Extensive references to Keach, Gill, Spurgeon, and Maclaren, and an overview of their use of theosis is found in Cho, “Deification in the Baptist Tradition.” See especially Maclaren’s exposition of 2 Corinthians 8:9 in I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians 1–3. Exposition of Holy Scripture, vol. 14 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), 134–5. 37. Robert V. Rakestraw, “Becoming Like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 2 (1997): 257–69. Rakestraw’s work is among the first evangelical accounts of theosis in the West. 38. Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 149–57. Pinnock’s work is the first of its kind to offer a concise dogmatics through the lens of the work of the Spirit. It is aimed squarely at an evangelical audience. 39. Stanley J. Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei (Louisville: Westminster, 2001), 323–28. This forms part of a larger and incomplete series Grenz was working on at the time of his death—The Matrix of Theology—and is written by a Baptist for an evangelical audience. 40. Douglas Harink, 1 & 2 Peter, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009), 137–45, who provides a theological commentary on 2 Peter 1:4. 41. Paul S. Fiddes, Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christian Idea of Atonement (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1989); “Participating in the Trinity,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 33 (2006): 375–91; Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2000); “Church and Trinity,” in Tracks and Traces: Baptist Identity in Church and Theology. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 13 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003), 65–82; and The

“As Far as Our Capacity Allows”


Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000). 42. Ben. C. Blackwell, Christosis: Engaging Paul’s Soteriology with His Patristic Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016). 43. Mark S. Medley, “Participating in God: The Appropriation of Theosis by Contemporary Baptist Theologians,” in Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, eds. Vladimir Kharlamov (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011), 205–46. Medley provides a survey of the thought of Pinnock, Grenz, Harink, and Fiddes. Medely points out that with each of theologians he examines none “offer any unique or distinctive contribution to a dogmatic understanding of theosis,” 246. 44. R. Lucas Stamps, “Baptizing Theosis: Sketching an Evangelical Account,” Perichoresis The Theological Journal of Emmanuel University 18, no. 1 (2020): 99–115. Stamps, a Southern Baptist, develops an evangelical account of theosis adopting Bebbington’s famous “evangelical quadrilateral” of biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism. 45. Vladimir Kharlamov, “Can Baptists Be Deified? The Significance of the Early Christian Understanding of Theosis for Baptist Spirituality,” Baptistic Theologies 7, no. 1 (2015): 69–84. Kharlamov, a Russian Baptist, has written a number of substantial works on theosis but this is the first in which he contributes to a distinctively Baptist understanding of theosis. In recommending theosis to Baptists Kharlamov is seeking to counter certain forms of North American evangelical theology that has tended to emphasize salvation as a momentary, transactional event. 46. Cho, “Deification in the Baptist Tradition.” Cho believes it is better to speak of the early Baptist theologians he examines—Keach, Gill, Spurgeon, and Maclaren—as holding to a doctrine of Christification, properly speaking, rather than deification, given the emphasis on union with Christ. 47. The two others—Harink and Blackwell—offer biblical-exegetical studies. 48. Habets, “Theosis, Yes; Deification, No,” thesis 5–10 (142–49). What I have added in this version is an additional thesis that speaks of the locus of theosis within the gathered covenanting community of Christ’s disciples, and an extended discussion of that in the next section. 49. In Baptist theology the sacraments (if they are called that) typically include Baptism, Eucharist, the preached Word, and the Gathered community. Of course, when gathered, other quasi-sacramental acts come into focus such as drinking coffee and eating donuts—Dunkin Donuts of course, for obvious reasons! On Baptists and sacraments more fully see the essays in the two edited volumes by Anthony R. Cross and Philip E. Thompson, Baptist Sacramentalism. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 5 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003); and Baptist Sacramentalism 2. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 25 (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008). Ultimately, however, there is only one Sacrament, the Lord Jesus Christ, as Karl Barth, Colin Gunton, and Thomas F. Torrance, amongst others, have convincingly argued. 50. See Harinck, 1 & 2 Peter, 144. 51. On Baptist notions of covenant and covenanting communities see Paul S. Fiddes, “Communion and Covenant,” in Baptists and the Communion of Saints: A Theology of Covenanted Disciples, eds. Paul S. Fiddes, Brian Haymes, and Richard


Myk Habets

Kidd (Baylor: Baylor University Press, 2014), 127–55. Fiddes rightly shows how Baptists understand the term covenant in two simultaneous ways: vertically and horizontally—with God and with each other. 52. Fiddes, “Church and Salvation,” 127. Fiddes develops this Baptist theme around an interpretation of the slogan “there is no salvation outside the church,” in Tracks and Traces, 1–20, 21–47, 48–64, 65–82, 228–48, 249–59; and Fiddes, “Church and Salvation,” 120–48. See Medley, “Participation in God,” 224–27. 53. See Malcolm J. Enger, “Whatever Happened to the Covenant Community? Baptist Church Meetings in the Nineteenth Century,” The Baptist Quarterly 42, no. 8 (2008): 519–38; and Helen Dare, “‘In The Fray’: Reading the Bible in Relationship,” in The ‘Plainly Revealed’ Word of God? Baptist Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice, eds., Helen Dare and Simon Woodman (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2011), 230–52. 54. Thomas F. Torrance, The Royal Priesthood, Scottish Journal of Theology: Occasional Papers No. 3 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1955), 29. 55. Thomas F. Torrance, Conflict and Agreement in the Church: vol. 1: Order and Disorder (London: Lutterworth, 1959), 221. 56. This idea is brought out powerfully by Michael J. Gorman when he speaks of becoming the Gospel in, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015); and developed in his later work Abide and Go: Missional Theosis in the Gospel of John. The Didsbury Lecture Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018). 57. Here see Andrew Picard, “‘On the Way and In the Fray’ in Aotearoa: A Pākehā’s Covenantal Reflections from the Context of a Treaty People,” The Pacific Journal of Baptist Research 11 (2016): 44–58. 58. Thomas F. Torrance, “The Ministry of Women,” in The Call to Serve: Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Ministry in Honour of Bishop Penny Jamieson, ed. Douglas A. Campbell (Sheffield: Academic Press, 1996), 282. 59. While not a Baptist, the same idea is worked out in Thomas F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation: Essays Towards Evangelical and Catholic Unity in East and West (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1975), 139. 60. Ibid. 61. Ibid., 249. 62. Ibid. 63. Elsewhere I have outlined what theosis might mean for those with mental and physical disabilities. Myk Habets, “Disability and Divinization: Eschatological Parables and Allegations,” in Theology and the Experience of Disability. Perspectives from Voices Down Under, eds. Andrew Picard and Myk Habets (London: Routledge, 2016), 212–34. For reflections on the process of theosis see Murphy, “Reformed Theosis?”; Wyndy Corbin Reuschling, “The Means and End in 2 Peter 1:3–11: The Theological and Moral Significance of Theōsis,” Journal of Theological Interpretation 8 (2014): 275–86; and Harinck, 1 & 2 Peter, 145–52. 64. Kharlamov, “Can Baptists Be Deified?,” 84.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Billings, J. Todd. Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. ———. “United to God Through Christ: Assessing Calvin on the Question of Deification.” Harvard Theological Review 98 (2005): 315–34. Blackwell, Ben C. Christosis: Engaging Paul’s Soteriology with His Patristic Interpreters. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016. Canlis, Julie. “Calvin, Osiander, and Participation in God.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 6 (2004): 169–84. ———. Calvin’s Ladder. A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. Cho, Dongsun. “Deification in the Baptist Tradition: Christification of the Human Nature Through Adopted and Participatory Sonship Without Becoming Another Christ.” Perichoresis the Theological Journal of Emmanuel University 17, no. 2 (2019): 51–73. Christensen, Michael J., and Jeffrey A. Wittung, eds. Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. Crisp, Oliver. Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. ———. “Theosis and Participation.” In Being Saved: Explorations in Soteriology and Human Persons, edited by S. Mark Hamilton, Marc Cortez, and Josh Farris, pp. 85–101. London: SCM Press, 2018. Cross, Anthony R., and Philip E. Thompson, eds. Baptist Sacramentalism. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 5. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003. ———. Baptist Sacramentalism 2. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 25. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008. Dare, Helen. “‘In The Fray’: Reading the Bible in Relationship.” In The ‘Plainly Revealed’ Word of God? Baptist Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice, edited by Helen Dare and Simon Woodman, pp. 230–52. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2011. Enger, Malcolm J. “Whatever Happened to the Covenant Community? Baptist Church Meetings in the Nineteenth Century.” The Baptist Quarterly 42, no. 8 (2008): 519–38. Eždenci, Slavo. Deification and Union with Christ: A Reformed Perspective on Salvation in Orthodoxy. Latimer Studies 74. London: The Latimer Trust, 2011. Farley, Wendy. Gathering Those Driven Away: A Theology of Incarnation. Louisville: WJK Press, 2011. Fiddes, Paul S. “Church and Trinity.” In Tracks and Traces: Baptist Identity in Church and Theology. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 13, pp. 65–82. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003. ———. “Communion and Covenant,” in Baptists and the Communion of Saints: A Theology of Covenanted Disciples, edited by Paul S. Fiddes, Brian Haymes, and Richard Kidd, pp. 127–55. Baylor: Baylor University Press, 2014.


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———. Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2000. ———. “Participating in the Trinity.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 33 (2006): 375–91. ———. Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christian Idea of Atonement. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1989. ———. The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000. Finlan, Stephen, and Vladimir Kharlamov, eds. Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2006. Gill, John. A Body of Doctrinal Divinity. Reprint, Woodstock: Devoted Publishing, 2016. Gorman, Michael J. Abide and Go: Missional Theosis in the Gospel of John. The Didsbury Lecture Series. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2018. ———. Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015. Grenz, Stanley J. The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville: Westminster, 2001. Habets, Myk. “Disability and Divinization: Eschatological Parables and Allegations.” In Theology and the Experience of Disability. Perspectives from Voices Down Under, edited by Andrew Picard and Myk Habets, pp. 212–34. London: Routledge, 2016. ———. “Reforming Theosis.” In Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, edited by S. Finlan and V. Kharlamov, pp. 146–67. Eugene: Pickwick, 2006. ———. “‘Reformed Theosis?’ A Response to Gannon Murphy.” Theology Today 65 (2009): 489–98. ———. Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance. Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. ———. “Theosis, Yes; Deification, No.” In The Spirit of Truth: Reading Scripture and Constructing Theology with the Holy Spirit, edited by Myk Habets, pp. 124– 49. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2010. Hallonsten, Gösta. “Theosis in Recent Research: A Renewal of Interest and a Need for Clarity.” In Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, edited by Christensen, Michael J. and Jeffrey A. Wittung, pp. 281–93. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. Harink, Douglas. 1 & 2 Peter. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009. Hastings, W. Ross. Jonathan Edwards and the Life of God: Toward an Evangelical Theology of Participation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. Homes, Steven R. Baptist Theology. London: T&T Clark, 2012. Horton, Michael S. Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. ———. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Keach, Benjamin. The Display of Glorious Grace. London: S. Bridge, 1698.

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———. An Exposition of the Parables. London: Paternoster, 1858. Keating, Daniel A. “Typologies of Deification.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 17 no. 3 (2015): 273–77. Kharlamov, Vladimir. “Can Baptists Be Deified? The Significance of the Early Christian Understanding of Theosis for Baptist Spirituality.” Baptistic Theologies 7 no. 1 (2015): 69–84. ———, ed. Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2. Eugene: Pickwick, 2011. Lampe, Geoffrey W.H. ed. A Patristic Greek Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon, 1961. Louth, Andrew. “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology.” In Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, edited by Christensen, Michael J. and Jeffrey A. Wittung, pp. 32–46. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. Maclaren, Alexander. I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians 1–3. Exposition of Holy Scripture, vol. 14. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974. McClelland, John. “Sailing to Byzantium.” In The New Man: An Orthodox and Reformed Dialogue, edited by John Meyendorff and John McClelland, pp. 10–25. New Brunswick: Agora Books, 1973. McClymond, Michael. “Salvation as Divinization: Jonathan Edwards, Gregory Palamas and the Theological Uses of Neoplatonism.” In Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, edited by Oliver Crisp and Paul Helm, pp. 142–55. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004. McCormack, Bruce L. “Participation in God, Yes, Deification, No: Two Modern Protestant Responses to an Ancient Question.” In Denkwürdiges Geheimnis: Beiträge zur Gotteslehre. Festschrift für Eberhard Jüngel zum 70. Geburtstag, edited by I.U. Dalferth, J. Fischer, and H-P. Großhans, pp. 347–74. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2004. Medley, Mark S. “Participating in God: The Appropriation of Theosis by Contemporary Baptist Theologians.” In Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, edited by Vladimir Kharlamov, pp. 205–46. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2011. Mosser, Carl. “The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents, and the Origin of Christian Deification.” Journal of Theological Studies 56 (2005): 30–74. ———. “An Exotic Flower? Calvin and the Patristic Doctrine of Deification.” In Reformation Faith: Exegesis and Theology in the Protestant Reformation, edited by Michael Parsons, pp. 38–56. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014. ———. “The Greatest Possible Blessing: Calvin and Deification.” Scottish Journal of Theology 55 (2002): 36–57. Murphy, Gannon “Reformed Theosis?” Theology Today 65 (2008): 191–212. Ollerton, A. J. “Quasi Deificari: Deification in the Theology of John Calvin.” Westminster Theological Journal 73 (2011): 237–54. Picard, Andrew. “‘On the Way and In the Fray’ in Aotearoa: A Pākehā’s Covenantal Reflections from the Context of a Treaty People.” The Pacific Journal of Baptist Research 11 (2016): 44–58.


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Pinnock, Clark H. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996. Rakestraw, Robert V. “Becoming Like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 2 (1997): 257–69. Reuschling, Wyndy Corbin. “The Means and End in 2 Peter 1:3–11: The Theological and Moral Significance of Theōsis.” Journal of Theological Interpretation 8 (2014): 275–86. Russell, Norman. Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis. Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009. Stamps, R. Lucas. “Baptizing Theosis: Sketching an Evangelical Account.” Perichoresis The Theological Journal of Emmanuel University 18, no. 1 (2020): 99–115. Strobel, Kyle. “Jonathan Edwards and the Polemics of Theosis,” Harvard Theological Review 105 (2012): 259–79. ———. “Jonathan Edwards’s Reformed Doctrine of Theosis.” Harvard Theological Review 109 (2016): 371–99. Torrance, Thomas F. Conflict and Agreement in the Church, vol. 1. Order and Disorder. London: Lutterworth, 1959. ———. “The Ministry of Women.” In The Call to Serve: Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Ministry in Honour of Bishop Penny Jamieson, edited by Douglas A. Campbell, pp. 269–84. Sheffield: Academic Press, 1996. ———. The Royal Priesthood. Scottish Journal of Theology: Occasional Papers No. 3. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1955. ———. Theology in Reconciliation: Essays Towards Evangelical and Catholic Unity in East and West. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1975. Zorgdrager, Heleen E. “On the Fullness of Salvation: Tracking Theosis in Reformed Theology.” Journal of Reformed Theology 8 (2014): 357–81.

Chapter 8

The Royal Way of Love Deification in the Wesleyan Tradition Michael J. Christensen

INTRODUCTION On Wednesday, May 24, 1738, John Wesley records in his journal a profound religious experience he had at a group meeting in the Moravian chapel on Aldersgate Street, London: In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.1

Earlier that day, before his heart was strangely warmed, Wesley was meditating on a particular verse of Scripture—2 Peter 1:4. “I think it was about five this morning that I opened my Testament on those words . . . ‘There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.’”2 The phrase and promise in 2 Peter 1:4 to become “partakers of the divine nature” is the biblical grounding for a bold doctrine conceived in the Patristic era and developed in the various Christian traditions. “God became man so that man might become God” is how Athanasius (293-373) interpreted this verse in relation to the Incarnation.3 His famous line has been repeated and developed through the centuries as a doctrine of deification or theosis (lit. becoming divine). The idea is that through a process of spiritual participation (communing with God, partaking of the divine 177


Michael J. Christensen

nature), the children of God can grow up to become God-like, as far as possible, in how we live our lives and love each other. Inspired by this compelling patristic notion of theosis, John Wesley sought to live a holy life, worthy of his calling as a divinity student at Oxford University and as a parish priest in the Anglican Church. Well-read and informed by the Church Fathers about the promise and possibility of perfection and even deification, he led the “Holy Club” at Oxford in seeking God’s blessing as they tried to live morally and spiritually perfect lives according to their vision of primitive Christianity. Years later, and after professional and personal failures in his mission to America, he felt spiritually bankrupt and open to new direction and light. After his heart-warming experience at Aldersgate, Wesley came to believe that what had happened to him that day was part of God’s sanctifying work in redemption, offering him the gift of assurance of salvation. Instead of perpetual striving after God’s favor, he felt like he did trust in Christ alone for salvation. Rather than viewing the promise of deification as a static notion of “becoming gods” resulting in some kind of absolute perfection, he came to understand God’s promise of “Christian perfection” in more relational and dynamic terms of becoming more and more like God in perfect love. Theologically, how similar are these two ideas—deification and perfection—and what is the relationship of Wesley’s so-called doctrine of Christian perfection to the older, patristic conception of theosis? Are all these terms more or less synonymous or critically distinctive? Is Wesley’s eighteenthcentury understanding of perfection in continuity with more ancient views of theosis, or does the difference constitute a new doctrine of Christian perfection? In another theological essay on the topic, I make the case that Wesley’s understanding of perfection is not only similar to, but also in continuity with, older ideas of theosis in selected patristic writers of the East.4 This chapter assumes that Wesley’s promotion of Christian perfection depends on and is an outgrowth of the broader Christian tradition of deification and aims simply to articulate the Wesleyan version of perfection as a derivative doctrine. It also seeks to contribute distinctively Wesleyan theological resources and spiritual practices to the growing ecumenical discussion of human deification and perfection in Christ. BIBLICAL BASES FOR DEIFICATION AS PERFECTION SUMMARIZED What are the biblical bases for Athanasius’s striking statement: “God became man so that man might become God”?5 As a practical theologian in the

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Wesleyan tradition, I read 2 Peter 1:4 about becoming “partakers of the divine nature” and similar Scriptures in light of Wesley’s personal, warm-hearted, experiential testimony to God’s “exceedingly great and precious promises” to help us live holy and godly lives. As children of God, we grow in love to become more and more like God. In Psalm 82, the Lord God is envisioned presiding over the great assembly of gathered gods and mortals. What God says to mortal humanity is meant to shock: “I declare, ‘Ye are gods; you are all sons of the Most High’” (Ps. 82:6). In its scriptural context, it is a call to humanity, created in the image and likeness of God, to act in justice as God would act: “to defend the cause of the weak and needy, and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” When Jesus cites this verse in the Gospel of John, he is responding to criticisms that “he, being a man, made himself to be God” (10:34). Jesus turns the accusation around and repeats the declaration of the psalmist: “I say, ‘Ye are gods.’” Here, to be God-like is to be perfectly good, just, and righteous in faithful action in the world. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples to “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Also, James writes, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas. 1:4). Seeking to fulfill the command of Jesus to be perfect, the Apostle Paul is “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), and then adds, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). Likewise, the writer of Hebrews encourages the faithful: “Let us go on to perfection, [beyond] the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1-2). Whether or not perfection and deification are synonymous terms, individual commentators tend to agree that these verses point to the divine promise of completion (teleios) and fullness of salvation. What God is by nature, humanity can become by participation, first in image and then in likeness, following the prototype of Christ, “the firstborn of a large family” (Rom. 8:29). The writer of 1 John states: “Now we are the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”—perfect in every way (3:2). When this spiritual vision occurs, Paul adds, “we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, will be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). Many Christians through the centuries, including John Wesley, in reading these inspiring words of Scripture—“changed into his likeness, from glory to glory”—name this spiritual transformation either “sanctification,” “deification,” or “perfection.”6 John Wesley cited and preached on these texts and others in promoting his understanding of what it means to become like God.7 For example, his


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translation of Matthew 5:48 is “Therefore ye shall be perfect; as your father in heaven is perfect.” This emphasis converts the imperative of the KJV (“Be ye perfect’) into the promise (“ye shall be perfect”). Likewise, Wesley understands that the Greek words translated into Latin as perfectus in Hebrews 6:1, Philippians 3:15, and Colossians 3:14 are forms of telos, teleioi, and teliosis, which mean end, goal, or destination and carry the sense of completion, fulfillment, and consummation.8 In his Notes Upon the New Testament, Wesley comments on Philippians 3:12-15: “There is a difference between one that is perfect, and one that is perfected. The one is fitted for the race, ver. 15: the other, ready to receive the prize.”9 Holiness, full salvation, entire sanctification, and Christian perfection are the names he gave to his biblical understanding of perfection and participation in the divine nature. The fruit of this spiritual transformation, according to Wesley, is agape: unconditional; humble; gentle; patient; “perfect love” for God, neighbor, and self. “CHRISTIAN PERFECTION” AS TAUGHT BY JOHN WESLEY Deification in the Wesleyan–Methodist–Holiness tradition is best understood through the lens of what John Wesley called “Christian perfection,” “entire sanctification,” and “holiness of heart and life” (which are more or less synonymous terms in the Wesleyan tradition).10 In its simplest sense, Christian perfection is having a pure heart of intention and an undivided will habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor. In its fuller form and more technical and theological sense, the experience of Christian perfection is a crisis point in spiritual development and an instantaneous moment of grace, preceded and followed by a lifelong process of sanctification (being set aside for holy purpose), whereby Christians grow in faith into perfection or completeness (teleios)—fully mature and entirely sanctified sons and daughters of God. Christian perfection, according to Wesley, is a dynamic quality of a pure heart, expressed in holy intentions, habitual dispositions, and acts of love for God and others. It is a “purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God. It is the giving God all our heart; it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. It is the devoting, not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God.” Rather than a static or absolute perfection, Christian perfection is a relationship to God through “loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves” resulting in a cleansing from all sin, wholeness of faith and everincreasing love. In short, it is a “renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, the full likeness of him that created it.”11 Christian perfection, like deification, is a creative and complex doctrine, well worth breaking it out into several component parts, including: (1) John

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Wesley’s use of the biblical words “sanctification,” “perfection,” and “purity of heart” in his doctrine of Entire Sanctification; (2) his understanding of the nature of sin; (3) the divine impartation of spiritual qualities to Christians by grace; and (4) instantaneous and progressive reception of Christian perfection by faith. (1) Entire Sanctification Entire sanctification is the term Wesley and his followers used early in the Methodist movement to describe a second great work of grace, subsequent to “regeneration” and prior to death. For Wesley, initial sanctification occurs in the regeneration or redemption from sin, and then the process of sanctification continues as believers grow in grace and God completes the work of salvation. After death, the final deliverance and transformation called “glorification” occurs. The arc and order of this salvation process is delineated in John Wesley’s own retrospective collection of essays, sermons, and Conference minutes from his previous publications on the subject titled A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766) [AP]—his most important and enduring single work on the subject. Pedagogically, Wesley organizes his material as a kind of catechistic anthology—with questions and answers, sermon abstracts, poetry and hymns, and doctrinal minutes from previous Methodist Conferences, for the benefit of his preachers and followers. In so doing, he demonstrates his consistency of thought over a period of forty years of teaching the doctrine of Christian perfection or entire sanctification (essentially synonymous terms). For example, at the first Methodist Conference (1744) in London, Wesley lays out a simple understanding of sanctification as a short catechism: Q. What is it to be sanctified? A. To be renewed in the image of God, ‘in righteousness and true holiness.’ Q. What is implied in being a perfect Christian? A. The loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul.12 (Deut. 6:5)

Loving God with one’s whole heart, Wesley explains, “implies, that no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions, are governed by pure love.”13 Pure love is a quality of a pure heart. Purity of heart means purity of intentions, to will one thing (the good and holy), to have a single eye (no longer divided or double-sighted), and to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Sometimes called the “circumcised heart,” it is attained by grace through faith, involving an act of the will to become fully consecrated and devoted to God’s will as a “living sacrifice,” sanctified or set apart for God’s holy


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purpose. When persons repent of their sins, they are forgiven by God and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Set apart for holy purpose, the forgiven sinner receives the gift of initial sanctification. Yet there is more. Wesley called it a “second work of grace,” namely: Christian perfection—having a pure heart free from sin and habitually filled with the love for God and neighbor. To those who ask “How shall we avoid setting perfection too high or too low” than human capacity allows, he responds: “By keeping to the Bible, and setting it just as high and nothing lower than Scripture does. It is nothing higher and nothing lower than this, the pure love of God and man—the loving God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. It is love governing the heart and life, running through all our tempers, words, and actions.”14 (2) Nature of Sin The Wesley brothers and their followers believed that the blood of Christ cleanses the believer from all sin. “Q. Does this imply that all inward sin is taken away? A. Undoubtedly; or how can we be said to be ‘saved from all our uncleanness’? Ezek. 36:29.”15 For Wesley, “inward sin” or “inbred sin” refers to the residual of original sin within sinful nature of human beings. Yet when believers are fully sanctified, they are also cleansed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a pure and holy life with perfect love and “without sin.”16 “Sin may remain, but not does not reign” in believers, he often preached.17 In A Plain Account, a further question is posed: “But is sinless perfection really possible in this life?” Wesley’s answer: It depends on one’s definition of sin. In his sermon titled “Christian Perfection” (1741), Wesley taught that a “Christian is so far perfect as not to commit sin.” However, he defined “sin” (hamartia) as not simply “missing the mark” but shooting for the wrong mark, aiming in another direction. Sin is a conscious, voluntary transgression of the known law of God. Involuntary violations (such as falling short by unintentional error, weakness, or ignorance) were “sins improperly socalled.” To those who mistakenly think Wesley teaches “sinless perfection,” he explains the limits of human perfection in Question 6 in his published “Thoughts on Christian Perfection” (abridged in AP): [Q. 6…A] To explain myself a little farther on this head: (1) Not only sin, properly so-called, that is, a voluntary transgression of a known law, but sin, improperly so-called, that is, an involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or unknown, needs the atoning blood. 2) I believe there is no such perfection in this life as excludes these involuntary transgressions which I apprehend to be naturally consequent on the ignorance and mistakes inseparable from mortality. 3) Therefore “sinless perfection” is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to

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contradict myself. 4) I believe a person filled with the love of God is still liable to these involuntary transgressions. 5) Such transgressions you may call “sins” if you please: I do not, for the reasons above mentioned.18

(3) Divine Impartation of Spiritual Qualities by Grace In the transformative experience of Christian perfection, Wesley believed, divine properties (fruit of the Spirit and other godly virtues and qualities of character) are imparted directly to the seeker through an indwelling or baptism with the Holy Spirit, increasing the human capacity for “‘rejoicing evermore,’ ‘praying without ceasing,’ and ‘in everything give thanks.’”19 Sanctification brings a “real change” to the Christian believer, and not only a “relative change” as in justification, according to Wesley.20 Relative change brings forgiveness of sins while real change in the heart brings freedom from sin and the fruit of righteousness: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, and so on (Gal. 5:22-23). In response to those who claim that the fruit of the Spirit are already present in believers when they are justified by faith, we can almost hear Wesley shout: What! Total resignation to the will of God, without mixture of self-will. Gentleness, without any touch of anger, even the moment we are provoked? Love to God . . . excluding all pride? Love to man, excluding all envy, all jealousy and rash judging? Meekness, keeping the whole soul inviolably calm? And temperance in all things? Deny that any ever came up to this, if you please. But do not say all who are justified do.21

These spiritual qualities may be present in a general sense and to some extent in justification, Wesley admits. But he insists that in entire sanctification, subsequent to regeneration, these godly characteristics are imparted in abundance to sanctified believers and that “they never need lose what God has given, or feel sin anymore.”22 (4) Instantaneous and Progressive Perfection by Faith In the doctrinal minutes from the second Conference (1745), other technical questions about sin and sanctification were raised and discussed, including these: Q. When does inward sanctification begin? A. In the moment a man is justified. Yet sin remains in him, yea, the seed of sin, till he is sanctified throughout. From that time a believer gradually dies to sin, and grows in grace.


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Q. Is this ordinarily [not] given till a little before death? A. It is not to those who expect it sooner. Q. But may we expect it sooner? A. Why not?23

Why not receive the gift of entire sanctification or Christian perfection here and now, Wesley taught his followers to ask. Though Christian perfection is possible in this life, such a gift is often given near or at the time of death, Wesley observed, and he called this occurrence “the article of death.”24 Wesley taught: “Everyone must be entirely sanctified in the article of death” as death draws near; yet, some believers will enjoy freedom from sin and perfection in love on this side of death’s door. All believers are expected to grow in grace and come “nearer and nearer to perfection” so that the prayer of the Apostle Paul will come true: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly. And I pray God, your whole spirit, soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”25 Wesley himself summarizes his teachings in A Plain Account in four simple points: “(1) that Christian perfection is the love of God and neighbor which implies deliverance form all sin; (2) that this is received merely by faith; (3) that it is given instantaneously, in one moment; (4) that we are to expect it (not at death, but) every moment—that now is the accepted time, now is the day of this salvation.”26 Wesley continues in another place, “This great gift of God is no other than the image of God stamped on our hearts. It is a renewal of believers in the spirit of our minds, after the likeness of him that created them” so that we can have the whole mind of Christ and walk as he walked. Not that we “have already attained” all that we shall attain when our salvation is complete, but daily we “go on to perfection.” From “strength to strength” and “glory to glory” we are changed more and more into his likeness which we behold, even now, as through a glass, “by the Spirit of the Lord.”27 PASTORAL CONCERNS Once transformed by perfect love, believers begin to see God and the world in a new light. New issues arise as do practical concerns about how best to love God and neighbor. Works of mercy, divine ordinances, spiritual practices, and means of grace are the way sanctified believers “go on to perfection.” Beyond preaching the doctrine of entire sanctification, John Wesley had a pastoral concern for how best to live out holiness with humility and compassion. Distinct from “speculative theology,” Wesley referred to spiritual practices, experiential faith, personal piety, and pastoral concerns as applied theology or “practical divinity.”28

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In a series of sermons on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Wesley reflects on the text “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). In it, he asks and answers the practical question: what do the pure in heart actually see (and what do they merely imagine themselves seeing, when they see God)? For Wesley, the blessing of the pure in heart is to see the hand and heart of God in nature and ordinary life, working providentially for good in all things: They see Him in the firmament of heaven; in the moon, walking in brightness; in the sun, when he rejoiceth as a giant to run his course. They see Him “making the clouds his chariots, and walking upon the wings of the wind.” They see Him “preparing rain for the earth, and blessing the increase of it; giving grass for the cattle, and green herb for the use of man.” They see the Creator of all, wisely governing all, and “upholding all things by the word of his power.” They see his hand ever over them for good; giving them all things in weight and measure, numbering the hairs of their head, making a hedge round about them and all that they have, and disposing all the circumstances of their life according to the depth both of his wisdom and mercy . . . . They see him, as it were, face to face, and “talk with him, as a man talking with his friend;”— a fit preparation for those mansions above, wherein they shall see him as he is.29

Such an intimate vision of God can be an occasion for spiritual pride and excessive enthusiasm, Wesley warned. In the wake of spiritual revivals in London in the 1760s, many enthusiasts claimed to have been sanctified and perfected in their life to such an extent that their imaginations led them astray, according to Wesley. For example, two leaders of the London Society (Thomas Maxfield and George Bell) boldly proclaimed the possibility of achieving an “angelic” state of perfection such that there is no further need of growth. Others supposed that they would never die. A few “ran into other extravagances, fancying they could not be tempted, that they should feel no more pain, and that they had the gift of prophesy, and of discerning of spirits.”30 On the one hand, Wesley praised God for the miracle of the New Birth and Christian perfection. On the other hand, he confronted self-deception, spiritual pride, and excessive enthusiasm: “Watch and pray continually against pride. If God has cast it out, see that it enter no more.”31 If God sanctifies you entirely so that you are able to love God and neighbor perfectly, completely, and without blame—this may be an experience about which you give thanks and testimony to God’s mighty deeds, but never an occasion to feel spiritually superior to others who do not claim the experience (indeed John Wesley never testified to be entirely sanctified or perfected in love).32


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The pure in heart who professed Christian perfection were also prone to excessive enthusiasm, Wesley taught. To guard against this temptation, he included questions and answers on pride and enthusiasm in A Plain Account as a pastoral corrective to what we might call today the “shadow side” of Christian perfection. “Beware of that daughter of pride, enthusiasm. O keep at the utmost distance from it,” he exhorted followers. “Give no place to an heated imagination. Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil. Therefore, ‘believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God.’”33 Spiritual enthusiasm in the Age of Reason was considered by intellectuals to be a dangerous superstition and a suspicious emotion. The Methodists were often called “enthusiasts”—persons who were fanatical and fanciful in their faith (what we might now call religious fanaticism). Wesley believed not only in a reasonable faith, but in experiential religion of the heart, with a moderate dose of enthusiasm. But “excessive enthusiasm” was dangerous, he taught, because it can lead to false doctrines and gnostic notions of deification and ascent. For example, the godly desire to grow in grace, infected with spiritual pride and excessive enthusiasm, has led some to fancy themselves as climbing the rungs of Jacob’s ladder, as if there were higher and higher realms of knowledge and perfections available to the believer above that of pure love for God and neighbor. The very desire of “growing in grace” may sometimes be an inlet of enthusiasm, Wesley taught. In A Plain Account, he describes the excess of claiming special knowledge of God and new degrees of spiritual development not clearly contained in Scripture: As [Christian perfection] continually leads us to seek new grace, it may lead us unawares to seek something else new, beside new degrees of love to God and man. So it has led some to seek and fancy they had received gifts of a new kind, after a new heart; as—(1) The loving God with all our mind; (2) with all our soul; (3) with all our strength; (4) oneness with God; (5) oneness with Christ; (6) having our life hid with Christ in God; (7) being dead with Christ; (8) rising with Him; (9) the sitting with Him in heavenly places; (10) the being taken up into His throne; (11) the being in the New Jerusalem; (12) the seeing the tabernacle of God come down among men; (13) the being dead to all works; (14) the not being liable to death, pain, or grief, or temptation. One ground of many of these mistakes is, the taking every fresh, strong application of any of these scriptures to the heart, to be a gift of a new kind; not knowing that several of these scriptures are not fulfilled yet; that most of the others are fulfilled when we are justified; the rest the moment we are sanctified. It remains only to experience them in higher degrees. This is all we have to expect.34

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First Corinthians 13 is known as the “Love Chapter” of the New Testament. In it, the Apostle Paul speaks of supernatural gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in the tongues of men and angels, prophetic powers, esoteric knowledge, and faith to move mountains. Higher than these gifts, he says, is the supreme gift of love. Instead of imagining and seeking new and special charisms (i.e., revelations, raptures, or unusual manifestations unsupported by Scripture), Wesley wisely counsels, seeking the “highest gift of God— humble, gentle, patient love” (1 Cor. 13).35 Higher than signs and wonders, tongues of angels, and miracles of healing, love is the mark of Christian perfection (and deification). Agape is the royal way to the fullness of God, as Wesley so wisely and eloquently writes: The heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else. If you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, Have you received this or that blessing? if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the [Royal] way, and putting them upon a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth of Corinthians. You can go no higher than this till you are carried into Abraham’s bosom.36

“For now we see through a glass, darkly;” St. Paul writes, “but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12). In the bosom of Abraham, with all the saints, the pure in heart will see God face to face and know as they are known. In the meantime, we see the hand and heart of God in all things and follow the royal road the best as we can. SPECULATIVE CONCERN: CAN PERFECT LOVE TRANSFORM ANIMALS? If human beings can be transformed by perfect love, to what degree, if any, can nonhumans participate in God’s redeeming and sanctifying love? Wesley refers to the restoration of the “whole brute creation” in A Plain Account and explores the implications of cosmic redemption, including the possible perfection of animals, in his sermon titled “The General Deliverance” (1781).37 Reflecting on Romans 8:19-2238— about how the whole creation groans and travails as it awaits and anticipates its full redemption—Wesley claims that the redemption of all creation includes the restoration of both humans and nonhumans in the scale of beings with the potential for immortality. His practical theology, if not his evolutionary biology, is reasonable and coherent:


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God is good and merciful and cares about suffering, including the suffering of innocent animals. Humans are creatures who bear the divine image and are “capable of God”—capable of directly “knowing, loving, and obeying” their Creator.39 Nonhuman animals are creatures that also reflect the divine image but are not capable of knowing, loving, or obeying God directly. Humanity is their mediator with a sacramental responsibility to be the “channel of communication” between God and the rest of brute creation.40 At the present time, due to the Fall of creation, all creatures suffer pain, sorrow, decay, death, and all manner of evil. Animals have lost their liberty and volition and are now “utterly enslaved to irrational appetites.” (Only domesticated animals “retain more or less their original disposition.”41) God permits this “temporary evil” until the time of cosmic redemption when “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19-22). In Wesley’s eschatology, the new creation is not simply a restoration of original creation. Rather, than a return to the Garden of Eden, redeemed humanity and all creatures great and small continue to grow and change together in a new heaven and earth. Wesley imagines this great transformation and perfection of nature: “The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigor, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm.” Animal affections will be restored “with vast increase” from what they enjoyed in the Garden. Creaturely liberty will be restored “and they will be free in all their motions.” The animals will be “delivered from all irregular appetites, from all unruly passions, from every disposition that is either evil in itself, or has any tendency to evil. No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood.” Here, Wesley invokes the imagery of Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom: “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (Isa 11:6-7, 9).” 42 In the Great Chain of Being, humanity occupies the higher place: “a little lower than the angels,” yet one day will be raised and “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:7-8). Nonhuman creatures, proceeding downwards in accordance with their likeness to the Creator, might “move up” one level in the chain, Wesley speculates, and some animals might therefore join humanity in becoming “capable of God.” In the restoration of all things, when humans rise to the level of the angels in perfection, Wesley surmises, animals may rise to the level

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of the human race in their capacity to know, love, and obey God. “What, if it should then please the all-wise, the all-gracious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him, when he makes us ‘equal to angels,’ to make them what we are now—creatures capable of God; capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being?”43 Extending the logic of Wesley’s vision: If human beings, who bear the divine image, can be sanctified, perfected in love, and restored to the likeness of God, rising to “angelic” nature through participation in the divine nature, so, too, God’s animal creatures can be made “capable of God,” perfected in love, and rise to a new level of knowing God through their participation in God’s redemptive work. Imagine the lion and the lamb (or even your cat or dog) living in peace and harmony together, knowing God directly, having become “partakers of the divine nature” in the new creation—what a striking thought!44 REFINEMENTS TO THE WESLEYAN DOCTRINE OF ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION After Wesley’s death, his teachings on the nature, time, and extent of entire sanctification continued to be debated and refined by Methodists in England and America. The Articles of Religion, adapted by John Wesley from the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, contain no new doctrinal statement on Christian perfection or entire sanctification. Rather Wesley’s “thought,” “plain accounts,” and scriptural reflections on perfection are to be found in his sermons, tracts, letters, and conference doctrinal minutes. Not until 1939 did a new article appear in Methodists doctrinal statements seeking to clearly define Wesley’s teaching. In the Uniting Conference of 1939 (a merger of three Methodist branches forming the Methodist Church in America), a new article “Of Sanctification” was offered by The Methodist Protestant Church Constitution and Discipline that sought to clarify Wesley’s doctrine: Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanseth from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless.45

However, in the merger of 1968, “On Sanctification” was not one of the articles of the new Constitution of The United Methodist Church. Rather, a new Statement on “Our Theological Task” was adopted to encourage Methodists


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to think critically about their faith experience in relation to Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.46 By applying this “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” to theological issues in contemporary contexts of our time, we fulfill “Our Theological Task.”47 Historically, it has been difficult for Methodist theologians to agree on the exact nature and function of sanctification. Similar to historical and theological notions of deification, the doctrine of entire sanctification admits to multiple visions of human transformation and wholeness, as well as the timing and extent of Christian perfection in this life and in the life to come. In the Wesleyan–Holiness–Methodist tradition (in which I am rooted), theological discussion has focused dialectically on at least six issues and trajectories of thought: (1) Is sanctification instantaneous or progressive? (2) Is Christ’s righteousness actually imparted or only imputed to the believer? (3) Does entire sanctification imply eradication or transformation of our sinful nature? (4) Is sanctification primarily moral holiness or relational wholeness? (5) Is holiness primarily forensic or therapeutic? and (6) How can sanctification be understood in terms of relational theology, spiritual formation, and pastoral care? 1) Is Sanctification Instantaneous or Progressive? Affirming the possibility of the experience of instantaneous perfection is a distinctive element of Wesley’s teaching and theology. Yet, he also insisted on the progressive element of “going on to perfection.” The Wesleyan Holiness movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in America may have gone further than Wesley in its emphasis on the “instantaneous” timing of entire sanctification and the “eradication” of original sin as the full extent of the mature Christian life. Some holiness preachers, such as Phoebe Palmer, promoted an “altar theology” (consecrating one’s life as a living sacrifice on the altar of God’s will) as a “shorter way to holiness” and entire sanctification.48 The twentieth-century Holiness Pentecostal renewal movements also emphasized a crisis point of instantaneous sanctification and transformation by “fire” or “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”49 Most Wesleyans today believe in the continuing process of “going on to perfection” (which Wesley also taught), understanding holiness of life and loving actions as a progression and maturity of faith, with occasional slips and turns throughout life. Contemporary United Methodists (of which I am now part) tend toward the progressive dynamic of “going on to perfection.” We have preserved the historical language of the doctrine, engage in lively debate over Wesley’s original teaching, but enjoy a freedom and openness to reinterpret its meaning for today.50 Theologians in the Church of the Nazarene (a twentieth-century Holiness offshoot of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America) have tried to affirm both instantaneous and progressive

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models of perfection, maintaining that entire sanctification is a gradual and lifelong process of Christian growth and spiritual maturity that begins with a crisis moment of deeper commitment and full devotion to God’s saving work in Christ. In this moment of decision, God sanctifies the heart and empowers the spirit to live a holy and godly life, progressively realized.51 2) Is Christ’s Righteousness Actually Imparted or Only Imputed to the Believer? “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Theological interpretations of this text generally agree that Christians are justified by grace through faith by what Christ has done for us on the cross—that our sinfulness has been exchanged for his righteousness. Where interpretations differ is on whether Christ’s righteousness has been imparted or only imputed to us in the atonement for our sins. In other words, does God actually change our nature and make us righteous or do we remain sinners and God only sees us as righteous because Christ is our substitutionary covering? Imputed righteousness is a theological concept of how the sinlessness, holiness, and righteousness of Christ are credited to us in a sacrificial act of exchange for our sins. Even though we are not without sin, we are forgiven; though we are not perfect, we are accepted as perfect by God on account of Christ who bore our sins on the cross. Our righteousness is his righteousness, and not part of our new nature. Perfection is our positional status before God, not our actual state of nature. Imparted righteousness is a theological concept of how, in addition to the imputed righteousness of Christ being ours, there is an impartation of righteousness and holiness, a cleansing from all sin, and a perfection of the will in order to love God fully—as part of our new nature in Christ. The Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection describes the process of being remade in the image and likeness of God through imparted holiness (righteousness). As sinful creatures set apart for a holy purpose, the holiness of God (virtues, characteristics, and fruit of the Spirit) are actually imparted to the new nature of our Christian existence and not only imputed to our Christian faith. Both spiritual realities are offered by grace and appropriated through faith on the basis of what Christ accomplished on the cross. 3) Does Entire Sanctification Imply Eradication or Transformation of Our Sinful Nature? Martin Luther dismissed the possibility of eradication of sin in the Christian life and becoming perfect in word, thought, and deed with a simple stroke of his pen: Simul justus et peccator (the Christian is at the same time both


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righteous and a sinner). Luther remained confident in God’s saving grace but doubted that Christians could in this life perfectly love God, neighbor, or self. John Wesley insisted that the problem of human failure is an existential—not a theological—problem. The promise and process of perfection holds true for Christians in general, even when individual believers “backslide” or fail to live holy lives worthy of their calling. Second and third generation Wesleyans more readily admit that living a holy and blameless Christian life is nearly impossible. Entirely sanctified believers, set apart for holy purpose, are not always as “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect.” We do not always love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Our human failures often are more than inadvertent, “involuntary” transgressions of a divine law, sins “improperly so-called” as Wesley insisted. Therefore, we must continue to confess our sins in word, thought, and deed; surrender to God’s will; and dedicate our lives to holy purpose in order to “go on to perfection” in this life and the next. 4) Is Perfection Primarily Moral or Relational? Second- and third-generation Wesleyans have always had an uneasy relationship to the term “perfection” in their doctrinal statements, which can be described in moral and ethical terms or in more dynamic and relational terms.52 Methodist theologians in the nineteenth century tended to be pessimistic about the possibility of perfection in this life, while Holiness theologians tended to be more optimistic about moral perfection as a possible state of grace.53 Most contemporary Wesleyan theologians agree that perfection in the Bible does not mean “without fault, defect or need for improvement.” Rather, teleios (translated “perfect” in KJV and in many modern translations) means “complete, mature and whole” with more dynamic and relational connotations and implications.54 Wesleyans also are careful to point out that the doctrine of Christian perfection is not Divine perfection but Christian perfection; that creaturely perfection is of a different order than the perfection properly applied only of the Creator; and that it is important not to blur the essential distinction between human nature as finite and fallen and the divine nature as infinite and perfect in every way. Kenneth Collins adds to this discussion that Wesleyan perfection is fundamentally distinct from deification in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, as well as from modern psychologies of transformation. He tries to clarify the Wesleyan doctrine of perfection by pointing out its differences with older notions of theosis and deification, especially in Pseudo-Macarius from whom Wesley drew wisdom. Whenever Wesley encountered the term

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theosis in Macarius’s Homilies for his Christian Library, Collins asserts, “he simply removed it and substituted his more easily understood (and Western) term sanctification” by which he meant holiness of heart and life.55 Other Wesleyan scholars, myself included, argue for a more derivative or closer similarity of sanctification to theosis.56 5) Is Holiness Primarily Forensic or Therapeutic? Is the doctrine of holiness similar to the doctrine of justification and redemption—implying moral, legal, or forensic completion of God’s salvific work? Or is holiness better understood as a therapeutic or healing process (e.g., as in Is. 53:5, “by his stripes we are healed”)? While Luther and other Protestants see sin, repentance, and forgiveness as moral and judiciary terms (as if God has put us on trial and found us guilty), and Christ’s atonement as a substitution for divine punishment (i.e., “Christ died in our place”), there are other theological options for understanding atonement and salvation in the Wesleyan tradition. For example, atonement literally means at-one-ment, implying that we are “made one with Christ” in identifying with his death and resurrection and accepting by faith God’s gift of sacrificial love. Soteria (translated “salvation”) is a broad term in the Greek and points to different meanings, including rescued from harm, delivered from danger, restored to soundness, health, and well-being. The English word “salvation” comes from the same linguistic root as the word “salve”—a healing ointment or balm— which connotes healing and wholeness in body, soul, and spirit. Salvation may have more to do with healing the deep wounds of human existence than being rescued or saved from punishment. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved,” writes the prophet Jeremiah. “Is there no balm in Gilead? [Is there no ‘salve,’ no ‘ointment’?] Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored” (Jer. 8:22)? The Christian answer is, in the words of an old Negro Spiritual: “There is a balm in Gilead/To make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead/To heal the sin-sick soul.” In Responsible Grace, Wesleyan theologian Randy Maddox makes the case that Christian perfection is less of a moral, sinless, or absolute perfection and more of a therapeutic or healing process of spiritual transformation with significant parallels with deification in Eastern Christianity. “Understanding the doctrine of entire sanctification in its therapeutic, soteriological context,” he writes, “has significant parallels with the Eastern Orthodox theme of deification (theosis)”—a tradition that also has soteriological connotations of health, healing, and wholeness.57 Holiness means wholeness in body, soul, and spirit for many Wesleyans today.


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6) How Can Sanctification Be Understood in Terms of Relational Theology, Spiritual Formation, and Pastoral Care? There have been critical theological and psychological refinements to John Wesley’s doctrine of sanctification by contemporary Wesleyans who seek to articulate the experience and process of spiritual growth and development in light of modern theology, developmental psychology, and neuroscience. Steve Manskar, for example, describes the healing work of the holiness experience this way: “Christian perfection is the work of divine grace that, through faith in Jesus Christ, restores the human soul, damaged by sin, to wholeness.”58 Nazarene scholars Michael Lodahl and Thomas J. Oord interpret sanctification through a lens of “open theism,” characterized by a process theology of a more limited God, therapeutic wholeness of body, soul, and spirit; combined with a dynamic, relational love for God, self, and neighbor.59 Wesleyan developmental psychologists Warren Brown and Brad Strawn make a compelling case that the doctrine of holiness and the care of souls in the classical Christian tradition need to be re-appropriated in light of what we now know about human brain functioning and physical existence without the popular myth of a disembodied soul.60 And Rex Matthews suggests that contemporary Wesleyans would do well to reinterpret—or retranslate—the concept of Christian perfection “by speaking instead about ‘Christian maturity’ or ‘Christian adulthood,’” not necessarily tied to the psychological paradigm of human growth and development, but rather to a cooperative theological understanding of divine grace and human spiritual formation.61 Reading Wesley today in light of current scientific knowledge helps us understand the doctrine of Christian perfection in its dynamic, relational, therapeutic functions, grounded in the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). In these six trajectories, and in many other ways, a distinctively Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification and perfection developed over a 200-year period. What is most common among Wesleyans is that Christian perfection is a way of personal devotion and spiritual maturity, resulting in a holy walk of faith with Christ and not just an intellectual set of beliefs or a judicial pardon from sin. Holiness of heart and life requires a personal relationship with God and growth in grace that increasingly makes one more Christ-like in this life and in the life to come. Where Wesleyans theologically disagree is on the exact nature, extent, and timing of the experience of entire sanctification as a second work of grace. Fortunately, in Wesleyan/Methodism, there is much elbow-room, a quadrilateral for reflection, and many good places to land.

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SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION Entire sanctification, assurance of salvation, and practical divinity, marked by freedom from sin, a heart strangely warmed, habits of love, works of mercy, prayer without ceasing, and fruit of the Spirit—these are the wonderful gifts of the Wesleyan way of deification/perfection. One of the aims of this book is to clarify theological distinctions in the various traditions about salvation as deification in order to enrich the dialogue, encourage new discussions, and foster ecumenical relations. Our hope is that Christians of goodwill, with sharp minds and warm hearts, will transcend historic differences in their traditions and articulate more fully the reality to which their distinctive doctrines point. What Wesleyans can contribute to the ecumenical conversation about deification are at least four good things: (1) a distinct doctrine of Christian perfection informed by broader notions of deification in other traditions; (2) a unique emphasis on “assurance of faith” as a constitutive part of personal experience and participation in the divine nature; (3) a pastoral concern for spiritual maturity and transformation of the heart; and (4) a bold optimism of grace in how best to live a holy life worthy of our calling. 1) A Distinct Doctrine of Christian Perfection John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection is a primary text for Wesleyans seeking to understand and extend the doctrine of Christian perfection in relation to deification in other traditions. Rather than viewing salvation as a static act of God in the past, salvation is a dynamic process that begins with justification and new birth and continues as spiritual formation and Christian perfection until we are restored to the image and likeness of God. The transformation implicit in entire sanctification is not simply a “relative change” in our status before God but a “real change” in our hearts and lives as we surrender to God’s will and work in the world. Sanctification is considered a “second blessing” in Wesleyan theology—a new and fresh experience of grace subsequent to justification with the effect that the Holy Spirit takes full possession of the heart, cleanses the soul, sanctifies the spirit, and empowers the will so that one can love God, self, and others blamelessly in this life. As creatures set apart for a holy purpose, the holiness of God (as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit) is actually imparted to our nature as a gift and not only imputed to our Christian faith. Further, the power of sin in one’s life is rendered inoperative as one participates in the higher life of the divine. The fruit of this participation in the divine nature


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is agape—perfect love, faith filled with the divine energy of unconditional love. 2) A Unique Emphasis on Assurance of Faith Assurance of faith or salvation is perhaps Wesley’s most important contribution to the broader conversation about deification as salvation. From his formative “Aldersgate experience” of 1738 through his final breath of faith in 1791, Wesley linked together assurance of faith with other “exceeding great and precious promises” by which we might become “partakers of the divine nature” (1 Pet. 1:4). Within this link lies a critical distinction between Christian perfection and other notions of deification. The Wesleyan tradition offers rich theological resources about how to experience what Wesley called personal “assurance” over perpetual seeking and hoping for salvation. In as much as inward assurance is absent in other traditions, it may constitute the most significant contribution of the Wesleyan tradition to date. 3) A Pastoral Concern for Spiritual Maturity “Practical Divinity”—John Wesley’s term for personal experience, devotional life, personal piety, spiritual practices, and growth in grace—is the essential complement to theoretical and “speculative theology” about deification, sanctification, and perfection (and even the redemption of animals). A heartfelt relationship with Jesus Christ and pursuit of perfect love for God, self, and neighbor—through the power of the Holy Spirit—is how Wesley and Wesleyans understand the supreme aim and end of spiritual life. Pastorally (practically) concerned about spiritual pride and enthusiasm, Wesley cautioned his followers against false doctrine and distractions. Rather than trusting in special knowledge and power, we can find spiritual assurance in God’s Word and in our hearts by faith that we are the children of God. Theologically concerned with preserving the essential distinction between creature and Creator, Wesley guarded against a mysticism of absorption into divinity in favor of communion with God in prayer. And rather than becoming God, we can become more and more like God through participation in the love of God “shed abroad in our hearts by faith.” 4) A Bold Optimism of Grace Beyond a distinct doctrine of Christian perfection, a unique emphasis on inner assurance of saving faith, and practical concerns for spiritual maturity, an optimism of grace in how to live a holy life is evident in the Wesleyan tradition. Perfect love and goodwill, properly understood, is possible in this

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life, though not a perfection in knowledge or judgment nor a freedom from infirmities and temptation. Cleansing from all sin is possible in this life, often in an instantaneous act of grace. Purity of heart and intention is possible in the spiritual life, and blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see the hand of God here and now, in nature and life. Great and wondrous things are in store for those who love God, we are promised in 1 Corinthians 2:9.62 Supernatural gifts and manifestations are possible within limits, but the greatest and highest gift of the Spirit is love (1 Cor. 13). Therefore, perfect love is the royal way to deification in the Wesleyan tradition (even for animals!). “May the spirit of Christ give us a right judgment in all things,” John Wesley hoped and prayed, “and fill us ‘with all the fullness of God,’ so that we may be ‘perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’”63 NOTES 1. Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738. Whether it was a personal crisis resolution, a participatory moment of divine encounter, or some other kind of mystical experience, Wesley felt his “heart to be strangely warmed” as he trusted in Christ alone for salvation. His doctrine of personal assurance had its origins here. The Journal of John Wesley, Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http:​//​ www​​.ccel​​.org/​​ccel/​​wesle​​y​/jou​​rnal.​​vi​.i​i​​.xv​.h​​tml (Accessed February 20, 2019). 2. Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738. The Journal of John Wesley, Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http:​/​/www​​.ccel​​.org/​​ccel/​​wesle​​y​/jou​​rnal.​​ vi​.i​i​​.xv​.h​​tml (Accessed February 20, 2019). 3. Incarnation of the Word 54, in NPNF 2 4:65. 4. See my essay on “Theosis and Sanctification: John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine” in Wesleyan Theological Journal (Vol. 31, No. 2, Fall, 1996); my article “Partakers of the Divine Nature” in the Korean Journal of Christian Education and Information Technology (2005); and my chapter on “John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: Deification in the Christian Traditions, eds. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery Wittung (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 2007). 5. These bold and memorable words first appear in Christian theology in the writings of Ireneaus of Lyon in Against Heresies 5, pref.; ANF 1:526) and are rephrased and repeated by Athanasius (293–373) in Incarnation of the Word 54, in NPNF 2 4:65. 6. Major proponents of deification or perfection in the early Christian tradition include: Ireneaus (130–202), Clement of Alexandria (150–215), Origen (145–215), Ephrem (306–73), Gregory of Nyssa (335–99), Gregory of Nazianzus (328–90), Cyril of Alexandria (370–444), and Maximus the Confessor (580–662). For an historical survey of theosis in Church History, see Partakers of the Divine Nature: Deification in the Christian Traditions, eds. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery Wittung (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 2007).


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7. John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2015), 16 (hereafter, AP). 8. See Rex D. Matthews, “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered,” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 39. 9. For further discussion on Wesley’s understanding of perfection and teleios (and related terms), see Rex D. Matthews, “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 43–45. 10. John Wesley’s central teachings on the doctrine of Christian perfection are contained in his A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766). 11. AP, 27, 158–159. 12. AP, Q.[9], 86. 13. AP, Q.[1], 82. 14. AP, Q.[9], 86. 15. AP, 17., 70. 16. AP, Q.[3], 83. 17. “On Sin in Believers” in The Sermons of John Wesley, Thomas Jackson, editor (1872 edition), Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https://www​.whdl​.org/ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 18. AP, [Q.6…A], 85. 19. AP, 26.7, 155. 20. AP, Q.17, 121. 21. AP, Q. 23, 124. 22. AP, Q.24, 125. 23. AP, 17, 71. 24. Wesley’s “Article of Death” is the theological confidence in God’s final justifying grace that entire sanctification will occur during the time of death, if it hasn’t occurred before. 25. AP, 72–74. 26. AP, 81. This summary is abridged from his Introduction to the second edition of Charles Wesley’s Hymns for Those that Wait for Full Redemption (1749). 27. AP, 13, 55. 28. Wesley contrasted “speculative divinity” and “mystical divinity” with the more down to earth “practical divinity” focused on spiritual disciplines, works of piety, and worship hymns and devotional texts to nurture Christian faith. 29. “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: Discourse Three (Sermon 23)” in The Sermons of John Wesley, Thomas Jackson, editor (1872 edition), WesleyanHoliness Digital Library: https://www​.whdl​.org/ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 30. AP, 20., 100. For extended discussion on spiritual extremism in Wesleyan perfection, see Rex D. Matthews, “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered,” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 32–34. 31. AP Q.32, 131. 32. Maddox states in Responsible Grace: “Wesley never claimed entire sanctification explicitly. Indeed, he once said he had not yet arrived. (Letter to the Editor of Lloyd’s Evening Post [5 Mar. 1767], Letters [Telford], 5:43–44).” Randy Maddox,

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Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), footnote 218 to Chapter 7. 33. AP, Q.33, 133. 34. AP, Q.33, 135. Wesley’s illustration of gnostic ascent is rather astonishing and seeks to correct the excesses of enthusiasm inherent in the pursuit of holiness, sanctification and perfection. 35. AP, Q.33, 135. 36. AP, Q.33, 136. 37. “The General Deliverance” (1781) in The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 60, Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https​:/​/ww​​w​.whd​​l​.org​​/gene​​ral​-d​​elive​​rance​​​ -serm​​on​-60​ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 38. “The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected it: Yet in hope that the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:19-22, KJV). 39. “The General Deliverance” (1781) in The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 60, I.2. Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https​:/​/ww​​w​.whd​​l​.org​​/gene​​ral​-d​​elive​​ rance​​​-serm​​on​-60​ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 40. “The General Deliverance” (1781) in The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 60, I.7. Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https​:/​/ww​​w​.whd​​l​.org​​/gene​​ral​-d​​elive​​ rance​​​-serm​​on​-60​ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 41. “The General Deliverance” (1781) in The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 60, II.2. Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https​:/​/ww​​w​.whd​​l​.org​​/gene​​ral​-d​​elive​​ rance​​​-serm​​on​-60​ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 42. “The General Deliverance” (1781) in The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 60, III.3. Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https​:/​/ww​​w​.whd​​l​.org​​/gene​​ral​-d​​elive​​ rance​​​-serm​​on​-60​ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 43. “The General Deliverance” (1781) in The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 60, III.6. Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https​:/​/ww​​w​.whd​​l​.org​​/gene​​ral​-d​​elive​​ rance​​​-serm​​on​-60​ (Accessed February 28, 2019). 44. For a contemporary Wesleyan perspective on the restoration and immortality of animals in light of modern understanding of biological evolution, see Ryan Patrick McLaughlin, “Redemption in John Wesley’s ‘The General Deliverance’: Theological Hope vs. Biological Reality” https​:/​/ww​​w​.aca​​demia​​.edu/​​57398​​06​/ Re​​dempt​​ion​_i​​n​_Joh​​n​_Wes​​ley​_s​​_The_​​Gener​​al​_De​​liver​​ance_​​Theol​​ogica​​l​_Hop​​​e​_vs.​​ _Biol​​ogica​​l​_Rea​​lity (Accessed February 28, 2019). For a more general theological treatment of non-human redemption, especially references to John Wesley, C.S. Lewis and John Polkinghorne as proponents of a “classical resurrection model” of redemption extended to nonhumans (particularly those animals that humans “tame” and thus “humanize” by interaction with people), see Bethany N. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall (New York: Routledge, 2019), 173–174.


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45. The article “Of Sanctification” from the “Twenty-Five Articles of Religion” of the Methodist Protestant Church Constitution and Discipline (1808-1939). The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Methodist Church). Dennis Bratcher, ed. http:// www​.crivoice​.org​/creed25​.html (Accessed September 20, 2020). 46. “Our doctrinal affirmations assist us in the discernment of Christian truth in ever-changing contexts. Our theological task includes the testing, renewal, elaboration, and application of our doctrinal perspective in carrying out our calling ‘to spread scriptural holiness over these lands.’” Section Four, Our Theological Task, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016 (The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), http:​/​/www​​.umc.​​org​/w​​hat​-w​​e​-bel​​ieve/​​secti​​on​-4-​​our​-t​​h​eolo​​ gical​​-task​(Accessed April 1, 2019). 47. “Theology is thinking together about our faith and discipleship. It’s reflecting with others in the Christian community about the good news of God’s love in Christ. . . . In John Wesley’s balanced and rigorous ways for thinking through Christian doctrine, we find four major sources or criteria, each interrelated. These we often call our ‘theological guidelines’: Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.” United Methodist Member’s Handbook, Revised, George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 61, 64–65 (Accessed April 1, 2019). 48. Phoebe Palmer, The Way of Holiness (New York: Palmer & Hughes, 1845), Section 1. http:​/​/utc​​.iath​​.virg​​inia.​​edu​/c​​hrist​​n​/che​​sp​pa3​​f​.htm​l (Accessed February 2, 2020). 49. For a study of some of the debate in Methodism over the timing and extent of sanctification, especially in relation to John Fletcher and language about the “baptism with the Holy Spirit,” see Lawrence Wood, Pentecost & Sanctification in the Writings of John Wesley and Charles Wesley With a Proposal for Today (Lexington: Emeth Press, 2018). Here is a good summary of the practical theology of American Holiness preacher, Phoebe Palmer as proponent of “instantaneous” sanctification by a simple act of faith at the public altar prayer, Marg. Mowczko, “Phoebe Palmer: The Mother Of The Holiness Movement,” https://margmowczko​.com​/phoebe​-palmer/ (Accessed February 28, 2019). See also Charles Edward White, The Beauty of Holiness: Phoebe Palmer as Theologian, Revivalist, Feminist and Humanitarian (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008). 50. See The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (Nashville, TN: UM Publishing House, 2000), 47. 51. See Paul Basset, Exploring Christian Holiness, Vol. 2, The Historical Development (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1985), 208–9. 52. See, for example, Thomas Jay Oord and Michael Lodahl, Relational Holiness: Responding to the Call of Love (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2005). 53. See Rex D. Matthews, “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered,” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 26–28. 54. For example, see James 1:4, “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” See also Matthew 5:48, 19:21, Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:13, Colossians 1:28, and Hebrews 5:14.

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55. See Kenneth J. Collins, John Wesley: A Theological Journey (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007), Chapter 8. 56. See Michael J. Christensen, “Theosis and Sanctification: John Wesley’s Reformation of a PatristicDoctrine,” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Fall, 1996): 71–94; and Michael J. Christensen, “John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine,” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: Deification in the Christian Traditions, eds. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery Wittung (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 2007). 57. Randy Maddox, Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 122. See also Kenneth Collin’s denial of this perspective in “The Promise of John Wesley’s Theology for the 21st Century: A Dialogical Exchange,” in The Asbury Theological Journal, Vol. 59, No. 1&2 (Spring/ Fall 2004), 172. 58. Quoted in Rex D. Matthews, “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 53. 59. See Thomas Jay Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2015). 60. Warren S. Brown and Brad D. Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life: Neuroscience, Psychology, And The Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 61. Rex D. Matthews, “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered,” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 57. 62. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9, KJV). 63. Prayer of John Wesley, AP, 21, 102. Ephesians 3:19 and James 1:4.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Basset, Paul. Exploring Christian Holiness, Vol. 2, The Historical Development. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1985. Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Nashville, TN: UM Publishing House, 2000. Brown, Warren S., and Brad D. Strawn. The Physical Nature of Christian Life: Neuroscience, Psychology, and the Church. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Christensen, Michael J. “John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine.” In Partakers of the Divine Nature: Deification in the Christian Traditions, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery Wittung. Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 2007. Collins, Kenneth. “The Promise of John Wesley’s Theology for the 21st Century: A Dialogical Exchange.” The Asbury Theological Journal, Vol. 59, No. 1&2 (2004): 171–80. ———. John Wesley: A Theological Journey. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007.


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Maddox, Randy. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994. Matthews, Rex D. “John Wesley’s Idea of Christian Perfection Reconsidered.” Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (2015): 25–67. McLaughlin, Ryan Patrick. “Redemption in John Wesley’s ‘The General Deliverance’: Theological Hope vs. Biological Reality.” Nampa, ID: Wesleyan Theological Society, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/5739806/Redemption_in_John_ Wesley_s_The_General_Deliverance_Theological_Hope_vs_Biological_Reality. Oord, Thomas Jay. The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2015. Oord, Thomas Jay and Michael Lodahl. Relational Holiness: Responding to the Call of Love. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2005. Sollereder, Bethany N. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall. New York: Routledge, 2019. Wesley, John. The Journal of John Wesley. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http:​ /​/www​​.ccel​​.org/​​ccel/​​wesle​​y​/jou​​rna​l.​​html. Wood, Lawrence W. Pentecost & Sanctification in the Writings of John Wesley and Charles Wesley with a Proposal for Today. Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2018. ———. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. Edited by Randy L. Maddox and Paul W. Chilcote. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2015. ———. The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M. Edited by Thomas Jackson. Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library: https://www​.whdl​.org/

Part II


Chapter 9

Theōsis That Means Something My Journey Stephen Finlan

Deification is the process of transformation into the likeness of Christ, the believer coming to reflect the Godly nature, taking on (in a very limited way) God’s character. If this sounds too grand (and of course it does!), we need to recall that it thoroughly saturates the New Testament message, especially the teachings of Jesus and Paul. Deification thinking has been a crucial part of my spiritual journey. For the most part, my reflections were not shaped by my particular denominational backgrounds, neither by the Catholicism in which I was raised, nor by the evangelical stream to which I converted, nor by my time with the Methodists, nor by the United Church of Christ (where I have finally arrived at my proper denominational home). My theological journey is a history of ongoing reflection on Christian revelation and writings of all kinds. Sometimes my personal religious growth has put me in tension with my Christian community on attitudes toward spiritual growth and learning (not on theōsis as such, which is rarely discussed). My denominational journey has not been shaped by theology so much as by my quest for the best ethics and responsibility in a church setting. By defining itself as a non-creedal church, the UCC affirms the freedom of the individual. By standing for congregational polity, the UCC puts responsibility in the hands of the membership of each church. In this chapter, I will recount some of my personal growth in connection with deification theology. I am also using this chapter to give attention to the authors from whom I learned about deification. It is a dual-purpose chapter: spiritual-autobiographical and source-appreciative, paying attention to the sources in their own right. I cannot do justice to each of these texts, but I can provide a taste of their theotic (an adjective from theōsis) teachings. I will follow my personal chronology rather than historical chronology. 205


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INITIAL RESTIVENESS I was raised Roman Catholic, and I took it seriously, even as a young boy. Increasingly, however, I felt ill at ease with the very harsh version of Catholicism that I encountered (not yet reflecting the effects of Vatican II). As a young teen, I became an agnostic, reading science fiction and starting to write it as well. As an older teen, however, the spiritual question emerged again. At age 19, I had a born-again experience, and my life was transformed. Suddenly, I knew I was loved. My heart blossomed. I started attending two evangelical churches, and I wrote and performed spiritual songs. I eventually became restive in the two churches. I loved the Free Will Baptist Church in Agnew, California. In hindsight, I should have stayed there. The spirit there was genuine. But the young people at that church were being drawn away to a church that was led by a radio evangelist, and I went with them. Before long, I became disillusioned there. The pastor was always the center of attention, and the young Christians were donating their labor to paint his house. Why were we serving the minister’s personal needs? But I seemed to be the only one who was asking that question. And so I became an independent, intellectual Christian, focusing on books, occasionally visiting churches but mostly haunting libraries and bookstores. I wrote historical novels about the prophets Micah and Hosea but found no publisher for them. I began focusing more on the New Testament and on nonfiction. I began hungering for insight into certain amazing Bible verses that nobody seemed to be interpreting. Some questions were slowly growing within me: Why were people not more amazed and curious about the teaching: “You . . . may become participants in the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4)? No one (of my acquaintance) was noticing this passage. And there were others. There was Jesus’ command “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). These passages certainly seemed to speak of a spiritual re-making, a sea-change in one’s self. Why were preachers not exploring the stunning implications of such sayings, and also the mysterious passage: “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (John 10:34)? And what was the “transformation” about which Paul repeatedly speaks (Rom. 8:29; 12:2; Phil. 3:21)? Did people think it was just symbolic, and not real, when Paul (or a successor of his) said “Clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God . . . . Be imitators of God” (Eph. 4:24; 5:1)? If the only purpose of such a passage were to encourage right behavior, there would be no need to claim so much: the actual imitation of God. More than just a cultivation of righteousness was going on here. What is the “new self”?

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I could not have articulated these questions in the beginning, but they gradually emerged for me. Of course, there were people who had explored this issue. As I searched, I found a partial answer in the Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard: God Shall Be All in All Teilhard’s whole philosophy seems to be an attempt to understand the big picture of creation, evolution, and the divinization of the cosmos and the human race. Teilhard had the remarkable idea that Christ is the overseer of evolution, the Alpha Point who started it going, and also the Omega Point toward which the whole cosmos is evolving. Life is not an accident in the universe, nor is human intelligence, nor is the socializing influence of Christianity. The Incarnation set in motion “the omnipresence of christification. . . . The human layer of the earth is wholly and continuously under the organizing influx of the incarnate Christ.”1 The biblical passage that really focalizes Teilhard’s interest is 1 Corinthians 15:28, which he understands to be describing the climactic perfection of the time space universe. He rephrases it: “When [Christ] has gathered everything together and transformed everything . . . . Then, as St. Paul tells us, God shall be all in all.”2 This can be called the “spiritual renovation of the earth.”3 This is not a “fusion and confusion” of everything; rather, “this state is obtained not by identification (God becoming all) but by the differentiating and communicating action of love (God all in everyone).”4 In what many now consider to be an excessive optimism in his philosophy, he says that humanity, “by its very structure, cannot fail eventually to achieve peace.”5 Such optimism may be justified if he is really focusing on the eventual end. The principle that God will triumph in the end is promised in a number of biblical verses: “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14; cf. Is. 11:9). “The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (Is. 61:11). Social Gospel Authors Also exercising an influence on me were some Social Gospel authors, liberal and scientific-minded pastors and theologians from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries: Lyman Abbott, Shailer Mathews, Harry Emerson Fosdick. These thinkers were open to history, science, and sociology, while promoting a deeply religious understanding. One line that greatly influenced me was written by the early twentieth-century Congregationalist pastor, Lyman Abbott (who uses the male pronoun to refer to all humanity): “The


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individual man is partly the animal from which he has come, and partly the God who is coming into him.”6 The work Christ does is ongoing: Christ came “not merely to show divinity to us, but to evolve the latent divinity which he has implanted in us.”7 In brief, “What Jesus was, humanity is becoming.”8 Now that I am with the UCC, I can look back at Abbott as being part of my denominational, as well as my intellectual, background. Another Social Gospel author was the University of Chicago professor, Shailer Mathews. His focus was on the ethical and spiritual emphasis in Jesus’ teachings. I thought he understood the spiritual basis of Jesus’ teaching: “A moral regeneration of the individual is presupposed before society as such can be perfected.”9 Mathews avoided short-sighted politicizing of Jesus’ message: Jesus “was neither socialist nor individualist . . . . He was endeavoring to inculcate attitudes in the individual soul rather than to organize a new state or to urge political reform.”10 Yet, there will be a real social effect, when this spiritual regeneration takes place: “We too wait for a city in which God shall be King and Father and in which love shall lead to justice.”11 I think that other Social Gospellers lacked Mathews’ understanding. Christians have identified the gospel with certain political positions, and this has accelerated in our day (on the Right as well as on the Left). This weakens the Christian capacity for drawing together people of differing social viewpoints. Just as the early church was able to draw together Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, our churches should be drawing together people with differing social views and backgrounds. Only a genuinely spiritual message and focus can get people to transcend social barriers and political philosophies. The ideals of the Social Gospel continued into the mid-twentieth century, especially through the popular preacher and author Harry Emerson Fosdick, who wrote “Jesus was no sentimentalist. . . . He could blaze with indignation against human evil. . . . But always beneath his realistic appraisal of man’s depravity was his faith in man, something divine there if one could only get at it, appeal to it. . . . Dig deep enough in man, and you will find something divine.”12 What he found extraordinary was not what the New Testament said about God but what it called human beings: “Temples of the living God; children of God; sons of light . . . partakers of the divine nature.”13 It is this hope and faith that inspired me when I was in my twenties and thirties and which still inspires me today. My hope for humanity and for God’s work upon humanity received a great boost from this period of my study. My next period was less optimistic in its immediate focus, but this did not cause me to lose faith in God’s eventual triumph within the human race.

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INTEREST IN RUSSIA In the period from 1976 to 1989 I was very active in human rights advocacy, which opened my eyes to the extraordinary amount of evil going on in the world. I was particularly outraged by the Soviet Union’s imprisonment of all kinds of Christians: priests, ministers, novelists, poets, mystics. I worked for the release of Russian prisoners from labor camps and psychiatric hospitals, and I met a number of them after their release. I was greatly impressed by such courageous people as General Petro Grigorenko and the psychiatrist Anatoly Koryagin. Both of these men exposed the misuse of psychiatry to imprison and punish dissidents. During this time, I developed a strong interest in Russian literature and religious thought, and I discovered the remarkable writer Nicolas Berdyaev. Berdyaev was part of a group of Christian intellectuals kicked out of the Soviet Union in 1922. Nicolas Berdyaev: Spiritual Freedom What rang true to me were Berdyaev’s sense of personal responsibility, the spirituality of creativity, and the sharpness of the battle between spirituality and repression. He developed a philosophy of Christian personalism, and deification was part of it, but freedom and creativity were the real centers of his philosophy. “True life is creativeness and not development, freedom and not necessity. . . . Moral life must be eternal creativeness.”14 Now that’s some fiery insight with which a young Christian could identify! Berdyaev is sharply aware of the responsibilities and dangers of freedom, and he says some remarkable things about how some people seek to surrender their freedom. He finds that only Christ can make freedom safe: “Only the New Adam can take from freedom its deadly effects without compromising freedom itself.”15 Berdyaev’s Christology is inseparable from his understanding of Christ’s sponsorship of our deification: “Christ is God-Man. He redeems and restores human nature to its likeness unto God.”16 Berdyaev was uncomfortable with medieval concepts of reward and punishment: “The Kingdom of God is not a reward but the attainment of perfection, deification, beauty and spiritual wholeness.”17 “In Christianity, the central idea is that of transfiguration, not justification. . . . The spiritual and divine world has to come into our fallen natural reality by transfiguring our nature.”18 Aside from such statements, however, he does not develop what “transfiguration” would look like. Berdyaev has little to say about how the churches should incorporate these insights, yet the social element is strong in his thought: “Salvation is the


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reunion of man with man and with the cosmos through reunion with God. . . . Crucifixion, pain and tragedy will go on in the world until all mankind and the whole world are saved, transfigured and regenerated.”19 Berdyaev had a profound influence on my thinking about the responsible use of freedom and the stance of spiritual resistance to tyranny. He did not argue for individualism, but he was highly individualistic and independent, which was a point of attraction for me. Vladimir Soloviev: True and False Theōsis Not long after this, I discovered Vladimir Soloviev. Soloviev helped shape my understanding of ethics, deification, and the role of the church in resisting false prophets. Vladimir Soloviev (or Solovyov) was not only influential in Russia but also in Europe, and eventually in the United States. There is a freshness and spiritual optimism in his philosophy. One of his main ideas is that of a gradual deification of the whole human race: “Only the Christian (or, what is the same thing, the Messianic) idea of the Kingdom of God gradually revealing itself in the life of mankind gives meaning to history.”20 “Christ came not to destroy the world, but to save it; the socially-political organism of humanity—the world in the narrow sense—must not be destroyed by the holiness of Christianity, but saved by it . . . transformed, spiritualized.”21 It is crucial to point out that this is rooted in Christology. In an 1891 article, he wrote “The Kingdom preached by Christ is . . . . within us, and yet it is manifested outwardly; it grows in mankind and in the whole world through a certain objective organic process . . . . The Kingdom of God is the complete realization of the divine in the naturally human through the God-man Christ.”22 Extreme negativity about humanity is incompatible with the Christian revelation: “The argument that God is everything and man is nothing . . . . this false humility is rebellion against God, for He loved and magnified humanity in Christ, from whom Christians must not sever themselves.”23 Soloviev is actually reluctant to say much about the effects of deification on the individual, preferring to emphasize the cosmic movement of Divinity into the world, seeking to transform the whole human race. The goal is “the gradual spiritualization of humanity through the inner assimilation and development of the divine principle.”24 Soloviev writes of the world soul, which needs to be guided by the Divine principle so that it may realize its innate tendency toward reunification with the Divine. “The divine principle has the same goal as the world soul, namely, the incarnation of the divine idea, or the deification (theosis) of all that exists.”25 The faithful individual can participate in the

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work of the triune God. As Oliver Smith observes, “Reverence was not for Soloviev merely an intuition of the divine but the real experience of, and participation in, God,” which turns into “all-embracing and limitless love” for God.26 In some places, he identifies the world soul with Sophia (Wisdom), an important figure in Russian Orthodoxy, with roots in the Jewish Scriptures (Proverbs 8; Wisdom of Solomon 7–9).27 Among his several definitions of Sophia is this one: “Sophia is ideal or perfect humanity, eternally contained in the integral divine being, or Christ.”28 There is no doubt that his concept of Sophia draws heavily upon theosophy, Hermeticism, and Kabala,29 but he attempts to bring it under the control of orthodox Christian thought. Sophia is “the body of Christ,” the outward manifestation of Christ’s inward spiritual activity, and “Christ is the eternal spiritual center of the universal organism.”30 There is much in Soloviev’s philosophy with which one could argue—confusing Sophia concepts31 and hints of pantheism, for example.32 But Soloviev surely embodies a sincere passion for unity with the divine, for the spiritual transformation of humanity, and for the unification of the churches. Further, at some risk to his career, he vigorously opposed anti-Semitism.33 His final work is a short novel that contains a sober and fascinating tale of the Antichrist. In the story, the Antichrist seduces the world with a false liberalism, gets himself proclaimed world Emperor but is resisted by reverent Jews and by three church leaders who represent Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism. The Emperor feigns respect when he proposes to build “a world museum of Christian archaeology,”34 but he loses his cool when the Elder John (who stands for Eastern Orthodoxy) says, “what we value most in Christianity is Christ himself,” and challenges the Emperor to “confess his name,” which makes the Emperor angry, leading Elder John to say, “Little children, it is Anti-Christ!”35 This work is not an utter rejection of Soloviev’s earlier optimistic philosophy,36 but it is a sober warning about false self-deification, and a cautionary word regarding the whole subject of deification. In my personal journey, I have drawn strength from observing Soloviev’s whole career, his visionary beginning, his sober final period, his courageous self-critique, his optimism about eventual spiritual triumph, and his generosity of spirit throughout. If we would be loyal to Jesus’ fervent prayer “that they may become completely one” (John 17:23), then we need to take seriously Soloviev’s hope for collaboration and understanding between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. He always retained this hope, and it was in his most sober period that he gave it its finest expression (in the story of the Anti-Christ). He showed respect for each of the main branches of Christianity and also for Judaism. The greatest


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ecumenical contribution comes from real spiritual living and from sensitivity to the spiritual values of others. I drew hope from Teilhard and Abbott, courage from Berdyaev, but it is ultimately love and sensitivity that I drew from Soloviev, “and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). SEMINARY AND UNIVERSITY In 1994, I enrolled in seminary, and my studies became more systematic. Atonement became my primary area of focus but Jesus studies, deification theology, and the Hebrew prophets have also absorbed much of my attention. In 1997, I went to Drew University in Madison, N.J., to start a PhD but moved to the University of Durham, in England, to get my Ph.D., writing on atonement in the Apostle Paul. A Deification Conference After I came back from England and was working at Drew, a conference was held there entitled “Partakers of the Divine Nature: Deification/Theōsis in the Christian Traditions.” This intriguing conference was held in May, 2004, organized by Michael Christensen, Jeffery Wittung, and Vladimir Kharlamov. It featured a broad range of scholarly papers, generating two academic collections, with a third following some years later.37 These works demonstrated a strong interdenominational interest in deification, both historically and currently. The conference played a pivotal role in my own theological development. My personal reflections were enhanced by what I learned about historical theology. I gained new conversation partners. My appreciation for certain theologians (for instance, Irenaeus and Martin Luther) was forever changed by what I learned about them at this conference and from the articles. Rather than comment on what I learned from participating in this conference, I want to remain focused on the earliest sources for my own theotic thinking. Gregory of Nazianzen Both before and after that conference, my thinking was influenced by Gregory of Nazianzen. Gregory and his brother, Basil of Caesarea, were great Trinitarian theologians living in the fourth century. Gregory actually coined the term theōsis,38 and he used it repeatedly. One of the basic patterns of theōsis is that of exchange: “Let us become as Christ is, since Christ

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became as we are; let us become gods for his sake, since he became man for our sake.”39 The deification of believers is a result of Christ’s Incarnation. “Since he was mingled with God and became one, the higher nature having prevailed, that I might become a god in the same measure that he became a man.”40 Since the term “gods” is used in Psalm 82:1; John 10:34, Gregory has no problem describing our future status as being “gods,” although he makes it clear that this does not mean that the difference between Creator and created is ever obliterated.41 Nor is there a basis for becoming egotistical about being divinized. In the Bible, ‫( םיִהֹלְֶא‬elohim) in Psalm 82:6 and θεοί (theoi) in John 10:34 refer to humans taking on divine qualities, due to “their proximity to the self-revealing God. . . . The people receiving revelation are divinized, transformed.”42 For Gregory, it is crucial that one recognize that Jesus was a real, physical, human being: “He still pleads even now as Man for my salvation; for He continues to wear the Body which He assumed, until He make me God by the power of His Incarnation.”43 In the Incarnation, the deity of the Son came into the human race, and by his touch (so to speak), we may be deified. Gregory uses a parable of Jesus’ to make this point: “If the clay was leavened and has become a new lump, O ye wise men, shall not the Image be leavened and mingled with God, being deified by His Godhead?”44 Deification seems to be a normal and expected part of the Christian experience, for Gregory. In fact, introducing people to theōsis was a normal part of Gregory’s duty as a pastor: “to make Christ dwell in the heart through the Spirit, and in short to deify (θεὸν ποιῆσαι) and bestow heavenly bliss on whoever has promised heavenly allegiance.”45 The result is not a disappearance of the human identity but its glorification, through imitation of God and embodiment of Godly virtues. Gregory’s descriptions are vivid, yet always well-balanced. He is one of the best sources to answer the worries of those who see theōsis as potentially dangerous. THE KEY IDEA BEHIND THEŌSIS AND ITS BIBLICAL FOUNDATION This section addresses two Biblical texts that have been foundational for my theotic reflection since I was 19 years old, although I will be speaking from my current level of education and reflection. This serves as my summary statement about theōsis itself. The foundational principle behind theōsis is spiritual growth. Of course, it is driven by God’s transforming power, but the observable human pattern is steady growth from stage to stage of spiritual development. Really it is


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transformative growth. We see this in Paul’s “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18) and in Jesus’ “seed . . . grow[ing], he does not know how . . . . first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head” (Mark 4:27–28). There are stages in spiritual growth, just as there are in the growth of a plant. We grow toward Christlikeness (see “Transformed into Christ’s Image,” below). Let us look at the two key passages, the first from Jesus, the second from Paul. The Kingdom Within One of the seriously neglected (and now, mistranslated) sayings of Jesus is, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:21 NIV [1978], NCV, KJV, NRSV in the margin), a saying so radical that many twentieth- and twentyfirst century translations have nervously swept it under the rug. The word translated “within” here is ἐντός (entos). The only other time it is used in the NT, it is translated “inside” (“clean the inside of the cup,” Matt. 23:26).46 The Harvard professor François Bovon comments, “‘Within’ . . . fits well here, since the text contrasts the exterior to the interior, the visible to the imperceptible.”47 The great British scholar, C. H. Dodd, correctly argues that “ἐντός is properly a strengthened form of ἐν used where it is important to exclude any of the possible meanings of that preposition other than ‘inside’ . . . . When Luke means ‘among’, he says ‘ἐν μέσῳ.’”48 The pronoun “you” in the saying is plural, but this simply means that everyone has the kingdom within. The inwardness of each person is affirmed. Unfortunately, the pendulum of scholarship has now swung far away from supporting the uniqueness and spiritual power of the individual. Recent translations of 17:21 give bland readings such as “in the midst of you” (RSV) or “among you” (NAB, NRSV). Those translations are weak not only because they ignore the primary meaning of ἐντός (entos, “within”) but also because they give the kingdom a spatial and outward location, whereas the saying rejects a spatial and outward meaning: “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’” (17:20–21 NRSV). These contrasts are emphatically stressing a spiritual and inward meaning, moving the reader or listener away from anything that can be outwardly “observed” (17:20). Of course, once the kingdom manifests within persons, it will also be manifested in the group. Jesus’ frequent emphasis upon the heart (loving God with all one’s heart, being pure in heart) is reference to an internal quality and an inner life. “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good” (Lk. 6:45). “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup. . . . Give for alms those things that are within” (Lk. 11:39, 41). The fact that the “kingdom within” is addressed to Pharisees (17:20) is not a problem; Luke often shows some

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Pharisees in a positive light (Lk. 13:31; Acts 5:34–39; 23:6–9). Here Jesus is trying to awaken the Pharisees to the spiritual potential that lives within them. Jesus appears to be saying that the kingdom exists (or at least potentially exists) even within those who are not responding to his teaching. Nor do I think that Jesus is referring to himself as the kingdom in their “midst,” since then they could say “here it is,” and his point is not really Christological here. He is offering the idea of the kingdom within, which is fully consistent with his teachings throughout the gospels. Jesus respects people’s inwardness, their deep motives and hopes, if they are sincere. He repeatedly honors people’s faith, seven times telling them “your faith has saved you.”49 He draws attention to the individual, to the downcast woman who anoints his feet, to the blind men who call out for healing, to the needy woman who touches the hem of his robe, to the Samaritan leper who returns with joy and thanks.50 Jesus sees the kingdom alive and moving in the hearts of these people. He empowers them, involves them in their own healing or forgiveness, and sets them free. He is content to help them rediscover joy, health, and new purpose. He assumes they will be fully capable of going off and living their lives, with God’s help. Jesus expressed an astonishing faith in people—in us! And why wouldn’t he, if it really is true that the kingdom of God is within us! Jesus’ parables often highlight the value of the individual: the one sheep whom God wants to rescue, even at the risk of leaving the ninety-nine; the one coin for which the woman searches diligently until she finds it (because the one coin has value); and the lost son whose behavior was immoral but who then humbles himself and returns to his rejoicing father.51 The whole of Jesus’ ministry reveals his valuation of individuals, widows, tax collectors, “sinners,” paralytics, even a thief on a cross. “The kingdom of God is within you” puts the wellspring of spiritual life within the individual. It affirms the individual’s legitimate spiritual power and potential but does not mean isolating a person from social life. Jesus highlights the power of an individual’s faith when he says “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.”52 And he draws attention to the fact that the truly spiritual person is unappreciated by his contemporaries: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”53 The one has power. Forever will the message of Jesus empower the “one” who resists conformity and mediocrity, not because the one is perfect, but because God values the individual and fosters each person’s spiritual growth, and because the ideal society needs mature and responsible individuals. It is in connection with growth that we must approach one of Jesus’ supposedly difficult sayings: “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). It is gradually and step by step that we do this. It refers to a process of perfecting, not to being perfect. It is not meant to turn us into


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anxious perfectionists who are judgmental of ourselves and others. We will never be perfect like God, but we can be perfectING, moving toward God— with God’s help. And what could perfecting mean, but to increasingly reflect Godly qualities, and to love the way that God loves (something that only Jesus perfectly demonstrated)? These sayings of Jesus have had a profound effect on my personal faith, strengthening my feeling that God is shepherding me, and every other believer, on our personal paths of spiritual growth. It is crucial to me that God cares for the individual and not just the community. I know it is necessary for the individual to make adjustments to the group, and I know that the value of many individuals is greater than the value of one individual. Nevertheless, I have never shared the common preference of community over individual. I am deeply grateful that Jesus made it clear that he values the one sheep, the one lost son, the one unappreciated prophet, the one downcast person whose faith has saved him or her. God is not the source of the individualitysuppressing effect that institutions, including churches, can have. Jesus clearly valued every quirky, needy person, affirming their potential to do great things. That is salvation for THIS quirky individual. Yet, I need community as much as anyone does. And I know that “God sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6 NIV). One aspect of deification is deeper socialization, the ability to “live in harmony with one another” (Rom. 12:16; 15:5). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another” (Eph. 4:32). In my view, our denominations would be healthier if the emphasis was on spiritual living and sharing and less on doctrinal differences. Spiritual unity is about walking together and worshiping together rather than believing exactly alike. Even in the passage on “one hope . . . . one Lord, one faith” (Eph. 4:4–5), the emphasis is on living. In my understanding, “hope” and “faith” are not primarily intellectual and doctrinal but are about spiritual living. They have primarily to do with loving and trusting, although they also include intellectual content. I think spiritual unity has more to do with trusting alike than with believing exactly alike. Otherwise, how would Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox be able to experience spiritual unity? Deification is a normal part of God’s work with people. Even in the old covenant, it was revealed that “the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Ps. 138:8 KJV). And in the New Covenant: “The one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). God is working to grow us, to guide us, to perfect us. I am certain that God will do these things. This has settled my mind and soothed my heart. I have confidence in the goodness of God, as seen in these promises. Now, of course, the vast majority of the deifying effect will take place in the afterlife. The Apostle Paul will deepen our understanding of that subject, but before I examine what he said, I want to clarify a possible point of confusion.

Theōsis That Means Something


It is important to point out that deification is not a weakening of Christology. Rather, deification is an essential component of Christ’s effect upon the believer. In the NT, divinization of the human being does not mean anyone becomes Christ or becomes God and ceases to be himself or herself. Only some extracanonical writings imply that: “The Son of Man is within you”;54 “You saw Christ, you became Christ.”55 Such Christ-claiming actually dilutes and drains away the uniqueness of Christ. Deification in Christian faith means a limited taking-on of some divine qualities—and that is extraordinary and (obviously) life-changing. Because there is no biblical teaching that humans ever become God (as God is in Godself), “divinization” is really a more accurate term than “deification,” but since the latter is more widely used, I retain it. Transformed into Christ’s Image Especially astonishing is the place where Paul speaks of being transformed into the image of Christ, who himself reflects the glory of God: “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another . . . . the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . God . . . has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:4, 6). I agree with scholars who understand “the same image” (τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα [tēn autēn eikōna]) to refer to Christ.56 What an astonishing promise this is! Believers are to reflect Christ and to be “transformed into that same image which they reflect.”57 Surely this is a real spiritual change, an “ontological” change, if you like. The “degrees of glory” speak of progressive growth, with stages of achievement along the way and with ever-increasing reflection of the divine glory. Partly on the basis of the presence of Genesis allusions (“image of God” and “Let light shine out of darkness”) in 2 Cor. 4:4, 6, and noting the mention of the death of Jesus in 4:10, Pauline scholar Ben C. Blackwell argues that the “image” refers to the human Jesus, and therefore to a “cruciform” imitation of Christ, a replication of Christ’s sufferings.58 “Cruciform” is a term used by another Pauline scholar, Michael J. Gorman.59 The point is valid, and “cruciform” living is a frequent theme in Paul’s letters, but these same chapters particularly stress the resurrected and divine Jesus (“glory,” “Jesus Christ as Lord,” “this extraordinary power belongs to God,” “the life of Jesus,” “raised”; 2 Cor. 3:8, 10–11, 18; 4:5, 7, 11, 14). And so I repeat an assertion I made some years ago, that “Theosis in Paul always involves both cruciform and anastiform living, but points to a thoroughly anastiform destiny, when the believer will ‘be with Christ’ (Phil 1:23).”60 I coined the term anastiform from the word ἀνάστασις (“resurrection”)61 in response to the term “cruciform.”62


Stephen Finlan

Deification means a real spiritual change that imparts (to some degree) divine qualities to the individual. Paul speaks of a permanent spiritual change in the believer who reflects Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16–18). If Paul can be so bold as to say “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16; cf. Phil. 2:5), or that we will be transformed so that we can “discern what is the will of God” (Rom. 12:2), then he is speaking of a real spiritual change in this lifetime. Of course, there is a more thoroughgoing ontological change to come in the afterlife, when we will “be conformed to the image of his Son” or “conformed to the body of his glory” (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:21), but it starts happening now, when we receive “righteousness from God” (Phil. 3:9), for “everything has become new . . . . so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:17, 21). Reflection on these passages has strengthened my confidence that God is truly working on us, molding us, directing us toward our future spiritual path. Only one more essential point needs to be made: For all orthodox thinkers, without the Incarnation, there would be no theōsis. As Irenaeus put it, “How shall man pass into God, unless God has first passed into man?”63 Christians follow the trail that Christ blazed. Christ has gone ahead of us, to “prepare a place for you” (John 14:3). Theōsis is an extraordinary promise for us, but for any Christian who loves Jesus, there can be no higher hope than that “we will be like him” (1 John 3:2). I take comfort in knowing that I will not lose my personal identity, although I will be deeply changed. I recognize that I need to be changed, and I have been. No one who has meet Jesus will ever be the same again. I need to reach that place where I am known by a Jesus-like love. I have been set free by truth, truth that comes from Jesus, my Savior. It is fundamentally a personal relationship. NOTES 1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper & Row, 1960; orig. Paris, 1957), 123–24. 2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, transl. Bernard Wall (New York: Harper & Row, 1959; orig. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1955), 294. 3. Ibid., 245. 4. Ibid., 309–10. 5. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Faith in Peace,” in The Future of Man, transl. Norman Denny (New York: Harper & Row, 1964; orig. Paris: 1959), 152. 6. Lyman Abbott, The Evolution of Christianity (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1893), 255. 7. Ibid., 250. 8. Lyman Abbott, The Theology of an Evolutionist (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1897), 76.

Theōsis That Means Something


9. Shailer Mathews, The Social Teaching of Jesus: An Essay in Christian Sociology (New York: Macmillan, 1897) 196. 10. Shailer Mathews, Jesus on Social Institutions (New York: Macmillan, 1928), 103, 107. 11. Mathews, Social Teaching, 229. 12. Harry Emerson Fosdick, “Who Do You Think You Are?,” in What Is Vital in Religion? (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955), 181, 184. 13. Ibid., 179. 14. Nicolas Berdyaev, The Destiny of Man, transl. Natalie Duddington (New York: Harper & Row, 1960 [original English edition: Geoffrey Bles, 1955]), 142. 15. Nicolas Berdyaev, Freedom and the Spirit (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935), 135. 16. Nicolas Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act, transl. Donald A. Lowrie (London: Victor Gollancz, 1955 [original 1916]), 111. 17. Berdyaev, Destiny of Man, 291. 18. Berdyaev, Freedom and the Spirit, 176–77. 19. Berdyaev, Destiny of Man, 294. 20. Vladimir Soloviev, “On Counterfeits,” in A Solovyov Anthology, ed. S. L. Frank (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001), 49. 21. Vladimir Soloviev, “The Philosophy of History,” in A Solovyov Anthology, ed. S. L. Frank (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001), 187. 22. Soloviev, “On Counterfeits,” 44–45. 23. Ibid., 47. 24. Vladimir Soloviev [spelled “Solovyov”], Lectures on Divine Humanity, revised ed., ed. Boris Jakim (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne, 1995), 147. 25. Ibid., 137. 26. Oliver Smith, Vladimir Soloviev and the Spiritualization of Matter (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2011), 235. 27. Wisdom is said to have been present at the creation (Prov. 3:19; 8:22–31; Wis 7:24–26; 9:9). 28. Soloviev, Lectures on Divine, 113. 29. Kristi A. Groberg, “The Feminine Occult Sophia in the Russian Religious Renaissance: a Bibliographical Essay,” in Canadian-American Slavic Studies 26 (1992): 202, 204–6. 30. Soloviev, Lectures on Divine, 132, 155. 31. V. V. Zenkovsky, A History of Russian Philosophy, vol. 2, transl. George L. Kline (New York: Columbia University Press, 1953), 2:507–9, 531. 32. A concern raised by his friend, Prince Eugene Trubetskoy; Ibid., 2:808. 33. Vladimir Soloviev, Politics, Law, Morality: Essays by V. S. Soloviev, transl. and ed. Vladimir Wozniuk (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), xxi, xxiii, 287–88, 291–92, 303 n.13. Also Smith, Vladimir Soloviev, 160–62. 34. Vladimir Soloviev [spelled “Solovyov”], War, Progress, and the End of History: Three Conversations Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ, transl. A. Bakshy, rev. Thomas R. Beyer, Jr. (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne, 1990), 181. 35. Ibid., 183–84.


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36. A point made repeatedly by Smith, Vladimir Soloviev, 168, 178–79, 182, 193 n. 135, 206, 213. 37. The collection of conference papers was Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, ed. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2007). A collection written by many of the same authors was published the previous year: Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 1, ed. Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov (Pickwick, 2006). A few years later, Vladimir Kharlamov edited Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2 (Pickwick, 2011). 38. In Oration 4.71; Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 214. 39. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 1.5, quoted by Russell, Doctrine of Deification, 215. 40. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 29.19, quoted by Russell, Doctrine of Deification, 220. 41. Russell, Doctrine of Deification, 224–25. 42. Stephen Finlan, “Deification in Jesus’ Teachings,” in Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2, ed. Vladimir Kharlamov (PTMS 156; Eugene: Pickwick, 2011), 32–33. 43. Gregory of Nazianzen, “Fourth Theological Oration,” or Oration 30.14, in NPNF 2: 7:315. 44. Gregory of Nazianzen, “Epistle 101,” in NPNF 2: 7:441. 45. Oration 2.22, quoted by Russell, Doctrine of Deification, 218. 46. R. Alan Culpepper, “Luke,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IX: Luke, John, ed. Leander E. Keck, et al (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), 329. 47. François Bovon, Luke 2. Hermeneia, transl. Donald S. Deer (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 516. 48. C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), 84 n.1. The point about ἐν μέσῳ is supported by Bovon, Luke 2, 516. 49. Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42; Matt. 9:22; Mark 5:34; 10:52. The verb sesoken (perfect tense of sōzō) can be translated “made well” (Matt. 9:22) or “saved,” but “saved” is closer to the primary meaning of the verb. 50. Luke 7:37–50; Matt. 20:30–34; Luke 8:47–50; 17:17–19. 51. All these are in Luke 15, not long before 17:21. 52. John 14:12. 53. Matt 13:57 NIV. This is correct; the words ἔστιν προφήτης are singular, but the NRSV wrongly pluralizes them: “prophets are,” and it does the same with Mark 6:4. 54. The Gospel of Mary, page 8 in the Coptic, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 3rd, rev. ed.; ed. James M. Robinson (San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1988), 525. 55. The Gospel of Philip, page 61 in the Coptic, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 147. 56. James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 263, 468. Also Ben Blackwell (see next footnote).

Theōsis That Means Something


57. Ben C. Blackwell, Christosis: Engaging Paul’s Soteriology with His Patristic Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016; originally Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 188. 58. Blackwell, Christosis, 193, 195. 59. Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001). 60. Stephen Finlan, “Can We Speak of Theosis in Paul?” in Partakers of the Divine Nature (Associated University Presses, 2007), 78. Discussed in Blackwell, Christosis, 9. 61. This word is frequently used to refer to the resurrection of believers (Rom. 6:5; 1 Cor. 15:12, 21, 42). 62. Finlan, “Can We Speak of Theosis,” 74. 63. Adversus Haeresis 4.33.4. Downloaded from http:​/​/www​​.earl​​ychri​​stian​​writi​​ ngs​.c​​om​/te​​xt​/ir​​enaeu​​s​​-boo​​k4​.ht​​ml.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Abbott, Lyman. The Evolution of Christianity. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1893. ———. The Theology of an Evolutionist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1897. Berdyaev, Nicolas. The Destiny of Man. Translated by Natalie Duddington. New York: Harper & Row, 1960. Original English edition, Geoffrey Bles, 1955. ———. Freedom and the Spirit. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935. ———. The Meaning of the Creative Act. Translated by Donald A. Lowrie. London: Victor Gollancz, 1955. Original 1916. Blackwell, Ben C. Christosis: Engaging Paul’s Soteriology with His Patristic Interpreters. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016; originally Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Bovon, François. Luke 2. Hermeneia. Translated by Donald S. Deer. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013. Culpepper, R. Alan. “Luke.” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IX: Luke, John, edited by Leander E. Keck, et al., pp. 1–490. Nashville: Abingdon, 1995. Dodd, C. H. The Parables of the Kingdom. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936. Dunn, James D. G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. Finlan, Stephen. “Can We Speak of Theōsis in Paul?” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung, pp. 68–80. Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 2007 (now distributed by Baker Books). ———. “Deification in Jesus’ Teachings.” in Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology, edited by Vladimir Kharlamov, vol. 2. pp. 21–41. PTMS 156. Eugene: Pickwick, 2011. Finlan, Stephen, and Vladimir Kharlamov, editors. Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology. PTMS 52. Eugene: Pickwick (Wipf & Stock), 2006. Fosdick, Harry Emerson. “Who Do You Think You Are?” in What Is Vital in Religion? pp. 177–86. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.


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Gorman, Michael J. Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. Gregory of Nazianzen, “Epistle 101,” in Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzen, in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series [NPNF 2], vol. 7. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2012 (originally 1894). ———. “Fourth Theological Oration,” or “Oration 30,” in Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzen, in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series [NPNF 2], vol. 7. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2012 (originally 1894). Groberg, Kristi A. “The Feminine Occult Sophia in the Russian Religious Renaissance: a Bibliographical Essay.” Canadian-American Slavic Studies 26 (1992), 197–240. Irenaeus, Adversus Haeresis. http:​/​/www​​.earl​​ychri​​stian​​writi​​ngs​.c​​om​/te​​xt​/ir​​enaeu​​s​​ -boo​​k4​.ht​​ml. Kharlamov, Vladimir, editor. Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 2. PTMS 156. Eugene: Pickwick, 2006. Mathews, Shailer. Jesus on Social Institutions. New York: Macmillan, 1928. ———. The Social Teaching of Jesus: An Essay in Christian Sociology. New York: Macmillan, 1897. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 3rd, revised edition. Edited by James M. Robinson. HarperSan Francisco, 1988. Russell, Norman. The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Smith, Oliver. Vladimir Soloviev and the Spiritualization of Matter. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2011. Soloviev (spelled “Solovyov” here), Vladimir. Lectures on Divine Humanity. Revised and edited by Boris Jakim. Hudson, New York: Lindisfarne, 1995. Based on the translation by Peter Zouboff published by Dennis Dobson, London, 1948. ———. “On Counterfeits.” In A Solovyov Anthology, edited by S. L. Frank. London: Saint Austin Press, 2001 (originally London: SCM, 1950). ———. “The Philosophy of History.” In A Solovyov Anthology, edited by S. L. Frank. London: Saint Austin Press, 2001 (originally London: SCM, 1950). ———. Politics, Law, Morality: Essays by V. S. Soloviev. Translated and edited by Vladimir Wozniuk. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. ———. War, Progress, and the End of History: Three Conversations Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ. Translated by Alexander Bakshy. Revised by Thomas R. Beyer, Jr. Hudson, N.Y.: Lindisfarne, 1990. Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Divine Milieu. New York: Harper & Row, 1960; orig. Paris, 1957. ———. “Faith in Peace.” in The Future of Man, pp. 149–54. Translated by Norman Denny. New York: Harper & Row, 1964; orig. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1959. ———. The Phenomenon of Man. Translated by Bernard Wall. New York: Harper & Row, 1959; orig. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1955. Zenkovsky, V. V. A History of Russian Philosophy, vol. 2. Translated by George L. Kline. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953.

Chapter 10

Living into the Fullness of God A Protestant Pastoral Perspective on Deification Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

These rich chapters on deification across theological traditions remind me of three fundamental realities of the Christian life: (1) Who we understand God to be matters; (2) who we understand God to be matters for who we understand ourselves to be; and (3) who we understand ourselves to be matters for how we live our lives. Perhaps these are obvious claims to some readers. However, I suggest that in the lives of actual Christians living in actual communities and contexts, the temptation to compartmentalize these three threads are ever present. There are a variety of reasons why this may be so. In our highly pragmatic societies of the West, paying attention to the means for how we accomplish our tasks is often given short shrift. We may tend to value what works more than what is right; our end goal is simply getting things accomplished with scant attention to the means by which we accomplish our desired ends. Another possibility is the way in which Enlightenment legacies have privatized religious belief in favor of what was deemed to be reasonable for persons to agree on in a pluralistic world. This compartmentalization is seen in the distinctions made between the private and public; the sacred and the secular; and faith and reason. Faith is seen not as a product of reason but as a personal preference, a private matter best left to one’s self. This compartmentalization, when coupled with the over-personalization of Christian faith due to the influence of individualism (i.e., each individual Christian has her or his own “personalized” version of the faith and preferences for practicing it) has eroded the deeply communal nature of Christian experience and the communal-shaping reading of Scripture and our theological beliefs. Some Christian traditions which emerged from and were shaped by the revivalist histories of our traditions made “getting saved” the end of the Christian life.1 223


Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

In these tributaries of the faith, the ends of the Christian life are not union with God but the avoidance of damnation and assurance of one’s eternal life. In more recent times, the growing divorce between religion and spirituality have further pulled apart the three claims I make for how we understand God, ourselves, and how we ought to live. The result is that one can be spiritual without being religious. Starting with some of the trends discovered by Richard Bellah and his co-researchers in Habits of the Heart, the growing expressive individualism of the mid-to-later twentieth century saw the erosion of religious belief and faith communities as significant for the formation of identity, meaning, and belonging.2 Religion is reduced to spirituality, an amorphous concept whose value is measured by how it enhances self-discovery, self-help, and self-development. The paragon of this is “Sheilaism,” named for one of the respondents who affirmed her own role and priorities in synthesizing an amalgam of beliefs that reaffirm what she already believed to be true based on what meets her needs.3 Personal experience is elevated as normative based on one’s needs, while theological beliefs and belonging in Christian traditions are relativized, if not downright minimized.4 The result? Belief in God may matter, albeit imprecisely. An understanding of one’s self becomes its own telos apart from community and traditions, and we are left to our own devices in determining the nature of the good life, how to live it, and how to achieve it.5 It is in these contexts, of a vacuous spirituality, personalized belief, and disregard for theological and communal norms that the fullness of God and a robust understanding of deification, or theosis, can help us in reconnecting our understandings of God with our identities, and with the means for choosing and living a good life in light of the fullness of God which we grow into now even as we anticipate its fullness. Deification itself can become a context of sorts for resisting the temptations of pragmatism and privatization. Deification can reorient the ends of our lives by challenging the notion that the point of the Christian life is just “getting saved,” which is to say, the point lies strictly in our post-mortem condition rather than in the continuity and integrity of our lives. Deification, however, is more than a context and ends. Deification is a present possibility in the Christian life, one that changes our very existence so that the end of union with God infuses the means by how we live out this end in our lives now. The means for living out the ends of deification are significant. This intersection between “means and ends” is crucial for the formation of Christian experience and for growth in moral coherence and maturity.6 In this chapter, I will probe the implications of deification for Christian formation and ministry. My hope is that connections will be made for how deification is important for forming an integrative image of the Christian life, one where God matters for who we are, and who we are becoming, and for how we live as we grow into the fullness of God.

Living into the Fullness of God


In order to give direction and focus, I will use the three threads, God, our identities, and how we live our lives and attempt to weave them together to offer a more cohesive picture of the whole and holy life in light of a commitment to deification.7 I will end by suggesting some practices that maintain this dynamic relationship crucial for Christian formation and various practices of ministry: who we understand God to be matters; who we understand God to be matters for who we understand ourselves to be; and this matters for how we live our lives. GOD MATTERS A common complaint I hear from some seminary students in theology classes stems from a misunderstanding about the purpose of theological belief and reflections on our beliefs. The most common complaint is this: “The study of theology is impractical; we need ‘tools’ which we can use immediately in ministry.” This criticism may be the result of previously arcane learning experiences in theology, along with the growing consumeristic nature of our educational systems, even in theological education. Thankfully other students will chime in and offer alterative perspectives. One went so far as to state this: “I cannot imagine a more practical exercise: who we understand God to be is one of the most useful questions we can ask.” I am indebted to this student for this reminder that who we understand God to be matters, a most central and practical topic that has immediate implications for our lives. In light of deification and what it communicates about God, God’s purposes and God’s relationship to humanity, we are prompted to ask again, “Who is God?” I see God as an inviter of humanity into God’s own life, into relationship, and into partnership with God’s redeeming work in the world. This invitation actually changes our lives and reconnects us with our original destiny as God’s image bearers. In the creation narratives of Scripture, we see God not only calling humans into existence and into relationship with God and each other but God inviting humans to work in and participate in the good stewardship of God’s creation.8 In spite of sin and rebellion, God’s invitation continued to be offered to Noah, Abraham, and their descendants to be God’s people in the world. Moses, called by God, led the Israelites to become a new community, invited by God into a covenant that formed a people to be a witness to the only true God. In spite of the twists and turns of the judges and monarchs, God continued to invite, hoping that people would respond by renewing commitments and covenants with God. This invitation often came through the prophets who, in spite of their harsh words and indictments, still invited God’s people to repent and turn back to God, to be with and for God in covenantal relationship.


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And then we have Jesus. His forerunner, John the Baptist, like the prophets, called people to repent and prepare for this new way of Jesus, beautifully pictured in Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7; Lk. 6:17-49). We are called by Jesus into his Kingdom and invited to imagine an alternative way of being and living in the world. This One, the “visible expression of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), sent to restore humanity, making us a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), makes possible a new way of being with God and invites us to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation and redemption. In the New Testament examples and letters, we see the twists and turns of a people called the church attempting to realize the invitation of Jesus, as Christ’s body, in all their twists and turns. God invites us, perhaps in spite of us and always because of us as beloved creations of God. God invites us to be in relationship with God’s self, and with others. God invites us into God’s work. Here it is that deification provides the important notion of “ends,” a telos toward which our lives are oriented and will find their ultimate fulfillment in relationship and union with God. In Christian moral thought, this idea of a telos connotes a desired end, a goal, a completion of intention.9 Deification, however, is not just the goal of Christian life, something for which we wait. In many ways, deification is like the inaugurated Kingdom. It is both now a reality in our lives that we experience and live into and it is not yet, waiting for its perfect fulfillment. Deification is a process of growth, one we can experience now as we respond to God’s grace-filled invitation. Deification grounds the processes of Christian formation as we grow in faith, spiritual maturity, and Christlikeness. We are changed, we are changing, and we will be changed. Our ultimate fulfillment and purpose will be found in relationship with God and in union with God both now and in the final consummation of all things. It is into relationship that God invites us; it is through Jesus that this is possible; and it is by the Holy Spirit who works in our lives in this mean time as we grow into and realize this “end” more fully and completely over the course of our lives. Deification reminds us that we are invited to participate in the fullness of God in relationship and union. However, God not only invites us to God’s self. God invites us into God’s work in the world. This invitation is extended to humanity because God chooses to use humanity to embody and extend God’s purposes in the world. We are invited into God’s redemptive work in the world. Jesus commissions us as witnesses to all the world (Matt. 28: 16-20; Acts 1:6-8). Paul identifies us as ambassadors, those sent with a message of reconciliation, solidifying the dynamic relationship between our reconciliation with God with what we understand to be the mission of God in the world: the reconciliation of humanity to God for the purpose of relationship and restoration (2 Cor. 5:20).

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Who God is matters. God continues to extend an invitation to us to be in relationship with us, and to be in union with God, growing into being the persons we were meant to be and fulfilling God’s good work of reconciliation in the world on behalf of God. This sets a new, more Scriptural and theologically rich context for who we understand ourselves to be. We are invited by God into relationship with God which is the start of our growth into all the fullness which God offers us. WHO GOD IS MATTERS FOR OUR IDENTITY Questions about identity, or who we are, crop up in all sorts of ways. Casual conversation at parties often start with the question, “What do you do?” Identifying ourselves might then start with an occupation. Sometimes the uncomfortable question might be asked, “How many children do you have?” Now identity might be established by children, putting those with no children, for whatever reason, in a position of wondering, “Then who am I if childless?” Pundits in our political seasons capitalize on identities: nationality, sexuality, ethnicity, the otherness of others, economic class, and social location. When we fill out forms at doctors’ offices, banks, and other places requiring information about who we are, we are asked to respond to a host of questions: social security numbers, marital status, race, income bracket, etc. We are often identified by our family relationships, where we live, our hobbies, and where we go to church. Identity is that which we are known by, often by others and ourselves. While physical characteristics and traits may be common markers of identity, most persons hopefully realize that “who we are” goes far deeper than appearances and various external signage. To identify someone or something is to name it properly, trying to capture the essence of who they actually are. So, who are we? If God is an inviter, then reciprocally we are invitees, the ones to whom God extends an invitation. An invitation is a sign of hospitality, bidding its receivers to experience the gracious gifts of the Host, along with other invitees. The Host welcomes others to join in the festivities and to enter into the space which the Host provides. Deification is God’s gracious gift as a welcoming Host into communion with God and community with others. This is reflected in the inviting Trinitarian posture depicted in Andrei Rublev’s icon, “The Trinity.” Catherine LaCugna notes: How fitting indeed that hospitality, and the quite ordinary setting of a household, should have emerged as the inspiration for this icon and so many other artistic expressions of the Trinity. . . . One has the distinct sensation when meditating on the icon that one is not only invited into this communion but, indeed, one


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already is part of it. A self-contained God, a closed divine society, would hardly be a fitting archetype of hospitality. We should also not miss the significance of the eucharistic cup in the center, which is, course the sacramental sign of our commitment to God and with one another.10

We are invited to join, we are welcomed to participate, and we freely enter into the relational space which God provides to join with others in grateful responses to God’s work in our lives and God’s work in the world. Our identity is marked by our belonging to God, therefore making our identity both stable and formed in on-going relationship with God. This corrects two poles common in debates about what it means to be a self that tend to make identity too fixed, or too unstable and fluid. The first is the notion that our selves are un-narrated, free floating, with identities made up as we go along in our pursuit of what we deem matters in life. This is the self-made person, with a fixed identity that is self-determined and self-enclosed. Alasdair MacIntyre notes a deep irony about this self-made person in his book, After Virtue.11 According to MacIntyre, individualism is a narrative which “tells the story” of our lives, even though we do not recognize it as a story per se. Individualism, however, remains a story that leads us to believe that we have no story, and certainly do not need a story. We, therefore, are free to make up our own. We do not necessarily become individuals. We think we are already individuals with little need of changing the basic assumptions of who we are and who we should be. In another irony, Christopher Lasch in his book, The Culture of Narcissism, observes that individualism means we now have competing stories from which to choose. Narcissism is the ultimate expression of individualism gone to seed, where ironically the grandiose self really is no self. Lasch writes: Notwithstanding his [sic] occasional illusions of omnipotence, the narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem. He cannot live without an admiring audience. His apparent freedom from family ties and institutional constraints does not free him to stand alone or to glory in his individuality. On the contrary, it contributes to his insecurity, which he can overcome only by seeing his “grandiose self” reflected in the attentions of others, or by attaching himself to those who radiate his celebrity, power, and charisma. For the narcissist, the world is a mirror, whereas the rugged individualist saw it as an empty wilderness to be shaped to his own design.12

When there is nothing left to ground who we are, we are left open to having our notions of selves constructed for us. This is the second pole in debates about what it means to be a self. While the first pole reflected by MacIntyre

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and Lasch was the notion that we make ourselves, the second is our selves are constructed by others and by forces beyond our control, often making us unaware of the ways in which ourselves and what we value are shaped. This, too, prevents us from answering the question, “Who am I?” Even when we think we are free to make up our own story, one is eventually constructed for us through consumer and social forces that narrate images of the ideal person and shape desires for what we want (or think we actually need). While individualism might over-internalize our understandings of who we are, socially constructed selves are over-externalized, potentially robbing us of what it is that actually makes us a self, created in the image of God, invited by God to be in relationship, and in relationship with others, oriented toward a telos that both stabilizes our identity and provides the context for our on-going growth toward union with God. Deification stabilizes our identity while making it necessarily open to change in growth and development. We are human beings and we are becoming certain kinds of human beings in relationship with God and others.13 Deification creates stability for our sense of self as one loved by God and invited by God into relationship because of who we are and who we are meant to be as God’s image bearers. We are created in the image of God as individuals with sanctity conferred by God that has nothing to do with accomplishments.14 Deification also provides the formational context for the growth of ourselves. Deification is the context for how we become the selves God created us to be, fully and joyfully human in relationship with God and others. While union with God is the telos of our lives, this union is not a submersion of ourselves into God, therefore losing identity, and running the risk of “being God.” Nor is deification the transcendence of ourselves, the denial of our humanity, and another form of losing identity. Deification is the means for coming to understand and growing into our true selves in this journey of union with God. Deification is the transformation of ourselves, through the work of the Holy Spirit, into the likeness and image of Jesus, the true image of God, enabling us to become the persons created and recreated in God’s image, designed for partnership and union with God. This divine community of Three Persons-inOne creates space for us to enter into appropriate relationships with the members of the Trinity as ones created and loved by God, redeemed by the Son, and recreated by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The formation of our identities is deeply social while retaining our uniqueness, difference, and individuality, in some ways parallel to the Trinitarian relationship of oneness and difference. We are in relationship with God as those who are different from God. We come to understand who we are both in relationship to God and by our difference from God even as we are growing in oneness with God.


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GOD MATTERS FOR WHO WE ARE AND FOR HOW WE LIVE One of the simplest songs I learned as a child was this: “God is so good; God is so good; God is so good; He’s so good to me.” While easy to learn, the song reflects a key insight about God’s own being and character. God is good, and God extends this goodness to us. Some could interpret this extension of God’s goodness as God’s provision for us. For example, the unemployed might say, “I finally found a job. God is so good!” Or someone undergoing cancer treatment may attribute a less than dire diagnosis as a sign of God’s goodness: “God is watching out for me. God is so good!” In these examples, God’s goodness is extended and interpreted in some way. Yet, it is always predicated on the earlier affirmation: “God is so good.” In Christian moral thought, any notion we might have of what is ultimately good is rooted in the being and character of God as good. God is the ultimate good, from which any definitional or aspirational notions of our own goodness derive. Goodness in Christian thought and practice is not like the abstract, aloof, and ethereal notions of the Good in Greek philosophical thought, which remains an idea. Goodness in the Christian life is embodied, concrete, and visible, giving order and shape to all other human goods. A theological notion of goodness connotes moral excellence or completeness, a perfect coherence between who God is and how God purposefully acts in the world for the good of humanity. It is here that there is an important link with deification, and therefore with who we are and how we live. Who God is matters. God is good in being and character. There is no separation between who God is and God’s character. This is a picture of wholeness or completeness where there is no differentiation or separation between God’s being and attributes. God is God’s attributes, God’s being is expressed in how God lovingly, mercifully, and justly acts in the world. God is good, the source of all that is good, and God created and named a good creation designed to reflect and serve the good purposes of God. God’s goodness is the telos which orients our lives, the summmum bonum, the ultimate and highest good of all creation.15 The Christian formation of our identities is concerned with becoming good, becoming whole, becoming more coherent in who we are and how we live, where our own essence is expressed in how we live. Deification is more than just a state of being in relationship and union with God. Deification, as the ground for Christian formation, also enables us to grow in integrity, where who we are, and who we are becoming, become reflected in how we live. As a desired end, deification also requires a parallel process by which this end is realized and embodied. Deification, therefore, is also a process; a process of becoming the persons God created us to be as we learn to live to embody the goodness of

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God. The Christian moral life is about both being good and becoming good as we grow more in the image of Christ and in union with God.16 Deification provides the context for an understanding of virtue ethics from a Christian perspective. I think virtue ethics provides a helpful link between deification as a theological concept and as a moral one. Virtue ethics is concerned with the formation of right desires, character, and the habits and dispositions that both emerge from this formation, as well as facilitate it. Our lives are oriented around what we ultimately love.17 How we live out these desires is a product of character. Virtue ethics focuses on both an ethic of being (who we are) and an ethic of doing (how we live), less in a linear fashion and more in a dynamic, living relationship. Virtue ethics relies on a picture of the “good” that gives meaning to the traits that enable us to “be” good. Deification as a means of Christian formation helps us to bring together who we are, those invited by God into participatory relationship, with how we live, those who are committed to God’s goodness and seek to learn how to live it out in our lives. This coherence between character and action is reflective of the moral excellence of God’s own being and character. We can see this dynamic in 2 Peter 1:3-11.18 It is God’s own glory and goodness, God’s own moral excellence that provide the context and motivation for “life and godliness” (vs 3) which changes us and starts us on a path of spiritual growth. We are invited by God to participate in this good life and are enabled to do so through the formation of a virtuous life.19 We see in 2 Peter 1:5, a list of virtues reflective of the divine life in which we are called to participate: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. While a catalog of virtues was common in ancient moral philosophy, we ought not to read this list as simply a catalog, flipping through pages and lists where we pick and choose which virtues seem most appealing or necessary. Nor ought we to read this list as comprehensive of all the virtues which contribute to a life of moral excellence. We should read this list in light of its context: the means by which we participate in and reflect God’s own goodness which directs us toward the end, “entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11). The capacity to acquire these virtues does not start with some kind of Stoic self-determination. Instead these virtues start with God’s invitation, and God’s own power to realize them in our lives, predicated on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about these fruitful virtues (cf. Gal. 5:22-26). This starts with faith and a willful response to God’s invitation to participate in God’s very life through the formation of virtues which reflect God’s goodness. An aspect of virtue ethics important to remember is that the formation of virtue is deeply social and relational. While the formation of personal character is an important dimension of virtue ethics, this is not the same thing as personalized piety or one’s own personal code of ethics.20 Virtues are learned.


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They are learned in the context of morally shaping relationships. They are learned by practice and habit. They are visible to others. They are lived out. We see this dynamic of virtue formation in 2 Peter 1:3-11. We are exhorted to “make every effort” to live out our faith in the pursuit and exercise of these mutually reinforcing virtues as we move closer to our eternal union with God in Christ’s Kingdom. Now we might be able to see how our three threads come together when oriented by deification. Who God is matters for who we are and for how we live. God invites us into relationship. We are known by our belonging to God, ones who said “yes” to participate in God’s life now and in ultimate union. We are called to participate in God’s life now through God’s own glory and goodness, the context for the formation of virtues, the means by which we live and reflect God’s own moral goodness in the world. SOME IMPLICATIONS What difference might deification make for our practices in ministry? What needs to be made explicit prior to these suggestions is that practices of deification in ministry are predicated on the ways in which those who are ministering God’s grace and love in the world have, in fact, been changed by God’s grace and love in their own lives. We cannot extend to others what we have not experienced ourselves. If we believe that God’s grace and God’s deifying work actually can change the human condition, and point us toward the good ends which God has in store for us, then it must be true and real in our own lives. Deification does not give us techniques in ministry to shape programs or build “successful” churches. Instead, and much more powerfully, it gives us Spirit-changed, Spirit-led, and Spirit-empowered persons who have experienced the Triune God themselves and who are living into this fullness as the life-source of Christian ministry. Having said this, allow me to conclude by identifying some implications and suggestions for practices that assist communities of faith to grown in the fullness of God. First, deification makes Christian ministry essentially participatory. We participate in God’s life and God’s work in the world. God invites us to participate; we respond in kind. We invite others to participate in the life of God. It is God’s mission of redemption and reconciliation that provides our “mission and vision statements” and orders our priorities in ministry. This provides the theological grounding for all ministry practices in a society enamored with techniques and entertainment for the sake of church growth. My own context, the United Methodist Church, reflects the trend of declining attendance in mainline denominations in the United States. Two questions are often asked: “Why aren’t new people coming to our church?” and “How can we get more people to attend worship?” While assumptions of the church’s

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identity and mission may be in the background, the solutions suggested are often deeply pragmatic and programmatic and have very little to do with fundamental understandings of who God is, who we are, and the implications for how we live our lives. In one strategic planning meeting, one of my colleagues prodded us to think more deeply about our identity as Christians who claim a Wesleyan heritage. He suggested we might want to reflect on some statements which Jesus made about those who choose to follow His ways. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard to find that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13) “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

My colleague did not invite us into an exercise in proof texting or religious pride for being “chosen.” Instead, he encouraged us to think about more fundamental questions: Who is God and what is God about in the world? Who are we and what “marks” us a Christian community? Are we inviting others to grow in relationship with God through the spiritual disciplines? Does this offer a compelling, attractive way of life to a watching world? Do our various ministries reflect God’s work in the world, enable us to participate in this work, and invite others into relationship with God and others? Understanding ministry through the prism of deification helps us to address these fundamental questions that guide our understandings of ministry and programming choices we might make. Second, we come to understand “all the fullness of God” and grow in our knowledge and experience of this through the preaching and teaching ministries of the church. This becomes more vital in a post-Christian age where leaders can make few assumptions about congregants’ interests in and knowledge of Scripture, basic theological ideas, the church’s history, and how to grow in the Christian life. I’m not arguing for a return to some kind of golden age, where the church in the United States, particularly mainline churches, had privileged places in society as mediators of respectable culture and middle-class belonging. Nor am I suggesting that sermons be systematic theological treatises, assuming if people just know the right things, they will do the right things. What I am hoping for is that the church returns to its fundamental and distinct identity as the people of God and be changed by this as communities called by God into relationship and invited to participate in God’s work in the world. Preaching that invites hearers to hear the Scriptures again (and again and again), listening for God’s call and word directed at our


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lives is central, especially in Protestant traditions with our commitment to the centrality of the living Word read, preached, and heard. Preaching that opens up God’s claim on our lives in Scripture is essential to reshaping our fundamental perceptions of who God is, and why this matters for who we are, and what we ought to be about in the world. Third, we grow into the fullness of God by a return to a fundamental commitment to Christian discipleship as the norm of the Christian life. If the telos of our lives is union with God, then the means for how this happens is significant. Wesleyans talk about three kinds of grace: prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. In all of these graces, God beckons us, God calls us, God changes us, and God invites us. Through prevenient grace, God stands ever ready to invite us. Through the Holy Spirit, we are made aware of God’s gracious invitation and enabled to respond to this gift or we can choose to reject it, even as the invitation remains open. We are justified by God’s grace and restored to fellowship and right relationality with God. In many ways, prevenient and justifying grace is the beginning of the Christian life. It is sanctifying grace where we grow in holiness and into the fullness of God on our way to union with God.21 Participation in God’s sanctifying grace is not automatic for us. It involves co-participation with God, starting with our willingness to grow, recognizing we do need to “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5) to “abide in Christ in order to bear fruit” (John 15:1-11). This is where spiritual disciplines from our various theological traditions are means by which we grow into the fullness of God. There is a danger in making deification too mysterious. While I want to retain the glorious gift and mystery that is deification, I also want to avoid making it overly abstract and otherworldly. God’s invitation to participate in the goodness of God happens now, and we can enjoy it through participating in some fundamental practices of Christian faith such as prayer, worship, confession, service, fasting, Bible study, and partaking of the Sacraments. These practices change us. These basic, everyday practices ought never to be discounted as significant means by which we both participate in the life of God and are shaped and prepared for union with God “on that day.”22 Deification provides a much richer context for discipleship strategies in our churches. So much of our Christian education and training is beholden to Western, linear assumptions about how we learn new things. I have found throughout the years the stress is on getting right information into people’s hands, focusing on didactics and dogmatics as the source of knowledge of growth. I am not against knowledge but I question the one-sidedness and even naivety of an approach that assumes that if persons just know the right things they will do the right things, and that right knowledge can fully prepare one for right living. Deification is participatory, which means our strategies of Christian discipleship ought to be participatory as well. I am always struck

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by the example of Jesus and his relationships with his disciples in this regard. We sense the tensions in reading the gospels that the disciples did not quite understand who Jesus was, what Jesus came to do, and how radically different Jesus the Messiah was from their own messianic expectations. Yet while Jesus was ministering, he was inviting his disciples to do the same: feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching, and preaching good news (Matt. 10:5-15; Matt. 14:13-21; Matt. 15:32-39; Mark 6:7-13). Jesus sent them out not as full-knowers who had all of the answers but as disciples, invited by Jesus to be with him and participate in his mission. In their participation, they came to understand more fully who Jesus was, and therefore who they were, and what they were to be about in the world. I was on the pastoral staff of a large church during the time when the formation of small groups became the latest ministry rage in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I worked with my colleague in helping small groups to form that would provide a sense of community and place in a large church. However, what I quickly discovered was that persons expected their small groups to be safe, making them less open to new persons and new experiences. Members also saw their small groups as means by which they could study the Bible, share their Christian journeys, and be encouraged in their faith. All good things! Yet I pressed on the ways in which small groups also needed to be outward in focus, understanding how these smaller communities participate in God’s life and mission in the world as a crucial, if not essential aspect of Christian formation. To this end, we required (as much as one can do in a church) that small groups take on a ministry commitment as a practice of discipleship and community, from helping in the nursery, to ushering, to working in the food pantry, to volunteering local social services agencies. I was saddened by the number who refused these opportunities seen as disruptive to their small groups and irrelevant to growing in Christian faithfulness. Those, however, who did choose to participate, thus expanding their ideas of discipleship and Christian community to include participation as important, recounted how much their group dynamics changed for the good when they served together and invited others in to participate in the life of God through a Christian community. Their biggest discovery? They learned to experience anew God’s grace in their own lives and were changed in ways they did not expect. Reframing our conceptions of discipleship through deification can open up avenues not just for personal growth and change but the reshaping of communal identity and practices which help us participate in the life and mission of God. Fourth, deification, therefore, can expand our notions of discipleship, enabling us to see our participation in the life of God in a much more expansive way, encompassing all of creation as the place where we participate in the goodness of God and extend this goodness in a multiplicity of ways.


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A question I pose to students at the beginning of their courses in Christian ethics is this: “what difference does being a Christian really make for how you think about (fill in the blank) and for how you respond to (fill in the blank)?” Detrimental to Christian discipleship is compartmentalization, what I identified in the opening paragraphs to this chapter. Deification is about participating in the goodness of God, therefore making it a comprehensive concept that informs and orients how we live. Participating in the fullness of God matters for our economic choices, our family relationships, our community involvement, our care for creation, our politics, our commitment to the poor, and our practices of justice. Deification brings together spirituality with morality. A life of growing in the goodness of God is the aim of spiritual and moral formation. I suggest in my book, Desire for God and the Things of God that growth in goodness and focusing on the good of others are interrelated dynamics in Christian spirituality and morality.23 Just as God’s goodness was incarnated supremely in Jesus Christ, so now is God’s goodness embodied in the lives of God’s people who are growing in God’s goodness and desire what God desires for the good of the world. There is no aspect of life beyond the purview of God’s care and loving redemption, where God desires good for God’s creation. So it should be with us. The fullness of God is lived out in our work environments, where our presence and practices are attentive to the needs of others, and where we examine the power of our choices for how they impact others. The fullness of God is lived out in our consumption practices, sensitizing us to pay attention to how we might be shaped by the constructed desires of the market which are idolatrously threatening to our love of God and to the lives of others. We live out the fullness of God in our neighborhoods, the places where we share spaces with others. The fullness of God orients our family lives, where we live often in closest proximity and where our deepest obligations are put to the test on a daily basis. The fullness of God is extended to God’s creation by how we steward a finite creation, caring for the planet because it is created by God, called good, and the place where humans live. We so need the fullness of God in our political life where we should be pressed to see how the promises, policies, and platforms of political leaders defy the goodness of God for others. God’s invitation to us to participate in God’s life and work in the world is boundless and erases the boundaries we have erected that separate our understanding of God from who we understand ourselves to be and how we live. Who God is matters. Who God is matters for who we understand ourselves to be. Who we understand God to be matters for our identities, which matter for how we live in the world. This grand and gracious invitation, with its means and ends of deification, is full. We are invited into this fullness of God, which overflows with grace and goodness to all the world. May our lives brim with all the fullness of God as we are changed in the here and now,

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in the places where we live, extending God’s goodness through our various traditions and their practices, inviting all to participate in this goodness we call deification. NOTES 1. See chapter 3 in my book, Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008). See also Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). 2. Robert Bellah, Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler and Steven Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). 3. Ibid., 221, 235. 4. I am located in and shaped by a Wesleyan context. The Wesleyan quadrilateral identifies four sources for establishing a “method” for theological reflection and belief, ethics, and practical theology: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I affirm that experience is vital to the Christian life. Yet the role of experience remains tricky, especially for how it functions to establish norms. Whose experience are we talking about? Is experience a static concept? How do we make judgments about experiences that are morally troubling? I think deification can help here for the ways in which it assists us to understand the nature and growth of Christian experience in light of a relationship with God. I will say more about this later in the chapter. 5. See The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979). Lasch notes the deep irony of how the search for one’s self, devoid of any informing traditions, leaves one’s self open to formation by market desires; therefore, a self is created in spite of what we believe. See also Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984) and Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 6. See chapter 3 in my book, Desire for God and the Things of God: The Relationships between Christian Spirituality and Morality (Eugene, OR; Cascade Books, 2012) for a fuller articulation of the relationships between means and ends in spiritual and moral formation. 7. See Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation by Jeannine Brown, Carla Dahl and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011). 8. I am mindful that in painting the Scriptural narrative with such a large brush that I am oversimplifying the complexity and diversity of the material we find in Scripture. While I understand Scripture to be a narrative, and read it as such, I do not believe that everything can be collapsed into a tidy Narrative (note the capital “N”). However, I do believe there needs to be some coherence in our reading and theological reflection on Scripture, and this is a choice we make “all things considered.”


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9. See the entry “Theological Theories of Ethics” by Scott Paeth in Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, edited by Joel Green, Jacqueline Lapsley, Rebekah Miles, and Allen Verhey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 766–769. See also my article, “The Means and Ends in 2 Peter 1:3-11: The Theological and Moral Significance of Theōsis,” in Journal of Theological Interpretation 8.2 (2014): 121–132. 10. Catherine LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 84. 11. See chapter 3 in MacIntyre, After Virtue. 12. Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism, 10. 13. In Becoming Whole and Holy, I stress the necessity of affirming human being as well as a commitment to human becoming. Humans must be able to be, and have this recognized and honored in order to become certain kinds of persons. See pages 112–114 in Becoming Whole and Holy. 14. See chapter 2, “The Image of God and the Soul of Humanity: Reflections on Dignity, Sanctity, and Democracy” in Timothy Jackson’s book, Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2015) for an interesting discussion on the difference between dignity and sanctity. 15. Chanon R. Ross, “Goodness,” in Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, 334–335. 16. See my more extensive interaction in Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation, 129–134. 17. See the recent book by James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016). 18. See my article, “The Means and Ends in 2 Peter 1:3-11: The Theological and Moral Significance of Theōsis,” for a fuller elaboration of this idea. 19. While the writer of 2 Peter does not reference the Holy Spirit, I will assume, in light of the Scriptural narrative that the Holy Spirit is at work in the formation of a virtuous life. Wesleyans would identity this as the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, moving us toward Christian perfection. 20. See chapter 4, “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” in my book, Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008). 21. See Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality edited by S.T. Kimbrough, Jr. (Crestwood, NY: Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002). 22. There is important work that focuses on the everydayness of our lives as morally forming and significant. Examples of this work are: Dorothy Bass, editor, Practicing our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People, 2nd edition (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010); Christine Pohl, Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011); Julie Hanlon Rubio Family Ethics: Practices for Christians (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010); Miroslav Volf and Dorothy Bass, editors, Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002); and David WeaverZercher and William Willimon, editors, Vital Christianity: Spirituality, Justice, and Christian Practice (New York: T and T Clark, 2005). 23. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling, Desire for God and the Things of God: The Relationships between Christian Spirituality and Morality.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Bellah, Robert, Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven Tipton. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. LaCugna, Catherine. God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979. MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984.

Chapter 11

More Than You Could Ever Imagine A Catholic Pastoral Perspective on Deification Bernie Owens, S. J.

After all our theologizing about deification, if it is going to mean anything practical to us, we must ask ourselves: What does this sacred process look like in daily life and how might we help each other realize this glorious, awesome destiny that is ours? To that end I am offering in this final chapter a description of specific experiences essential to our journey to being deified, also called being transformed in Christ or divinized. I will draw extensively from the biblical themes that are the basis of the meditations and contemplations in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556). His book is designed to be used by someone guiding a Christian praying with these exercises. OVERALL STRUCTURE OF THIS CHAPTER First, we will reflect on: the absolute necessity of our experiencing God loving us, personally and unconditionally, just the way we are at any moment, since this is the foundation of everything good in our spiritual life; next, on the importance of awakening to how self-centered and sinful we are, and how greatly we need a Savior; then, on the critical necessity of experiencing God’s ever greater love expressed in his compassion for us and boundless mercy. Then, we will look at the centrality of Christ through whom we experience God’s unconditional love, our sinfulness and need for salvation, and our coming to know God as unbounded mercy and loving acceptance. We will look at how Jesus embodies what is called the Kingdom of God, a radical new way of being and relating as God’s children, and how each of us as loved sinners 241


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are called, out of great gratitude for being forgiven, to join Christ in building the Kingdom of God. Then, we will consider the primacy of regular personal prayer in our life if we are to know and love Jesus and be a strong and committed disciple of his; then, our vocation to love as the overarching call of all followers of Jesus, and how we come to freedom from disordered attachments, thanks to his Holy Spirit, to live peacefully and wisely as men and women of discernment. Lastly, we will consider the Church and its many ways of being the continuation of Christ’s presence among us through the Scriptures, its sacramental rituals, the rich Tradition built up over twenty centuries with its members pondering the hidden implications of the original revelation, and through the shepherds ordained and appointed to preach, teach, and govern. Here in the Church is where the baptized are nourished in their daily living to eventually be transformed in Christ, deified, and share fully in his divine nature. It is from here that the risen Christ sends us out to the world, to those who do not know Christ, and to proclaim to a broken, self-centered world his gentle welcome and call to repentance, justice, and reconciliation. THE MEANING OF BEING DEIFIED First, it must be said from the outset: God alone deifies. Humans do not. But humans must believe in God as loving them and trust and work with God’s initiatives if there is going to be any impact of divine grace and noteworthy growth in this holy process. Humans can resist the Holy Spirit and sabotage the intent of God. It must also be said: to be deified, or as I prefer, to be divinized, is to live habitually from the core of our being the way God does. It is to live God’s life, what we were baptized into, to the full; in other words, to love God with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and all our strength, and to love our neighbor as our self. What, then, is distinctive about God’s life? Being relational by nature, God is divine persons forever giving themselves totally to each other and receiving each other to the full. What specifically are they doing in this giving and receiving? It is their knowing and loving each other to the full and, in turn, allowing themselves to be fully known and completely loved, being totally transparent with each other. Knowing and loving are the two main activities of God and so too of us his creatures. As images of God revealed in Jesus, we are most true to ourselves and filled with peace and joy when we, in imitation of the divine Persons and with their help, try to relate with the same divine, loving generosity and transparency. Pastoral programs need to keep this as their ultimate focus.

More Than You Could Ever Imagine


INITIAL EXPERIENCES Wise pastoral outreach always begins with the Good News of our being loved by God in Jesus, always! Not with our sinfulness but with God’s unconditional love for each of us. Sin is appreciated for what it is only after we have opened to and accepted God’s personal love for us. Until then, the theme of sin usually elicits Pharisaic-like or Pelagian efforts to make ourselves acceptable and worthy of a reward. Preaching on sin is often heard, then, as a threat and manipulation through guilt. A premature emphasis on sin makes us want to hide from what is often a grave distortion of who Jesus and Abba Father are. We are made for love, and at some level of ourselves we will back away or even hide from what we sense is distorted. Without first experiencing God’s love for us, we will tend to rationalize our sin or reduce it to mere psychology, or even deny it outright. It is critical, then, in this process of our being divinized that first we be strongly grounded in the consoling, experiential knowledge of being deeply loved by God for who we are; that we experience ourselves as being known by name and precious in God’s eyes. Pastoral leaders and caring parents who want to help their children know and love the real God need to contemplate and absorb the Good News of key Scriptures regarding God’s profound, personal love for us. Otherwise, they cannot speak with conviction, with the authority and tenderness of Jesus, if they are to pastor as Jesus would pastor. We all need to hear God tell us how much we mean to him, how we are the apple of his eye (Ps. 18:7), always welcomed as a son or daughter, and invited to let him hold us close to his heart, as any good Abba or Amma would do. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 is a wonderful source of prayer for our gaining such personal knowledge and nourishing the same in those we serve.1 In this text, Israel hears God say that he chose them for his own, not because they are the most numerous of peoples because, actually, they are the fewest in number. No, he chose them because he loves them and is being faithful to the promise he made to their ancestors. When applied to our own self, this scriptural passage will often speak directly and profoundly, revealing to us a personal God whose love is utterly unmerited and freely given. I have witnessed many directees and people making retreat manifest a sense of being so humbled and consoled by this text, moving them even to tears in some cases. Another important source for our being blessed with a personal knowledge of God’s love is our own life history; with its key people, wisdom figures, and significant events of joy and pain; friendships, forgiveness, and reconciliation; risking, failing, and succeeding; creating, laughing, and coming to greater self-acceptance. If we pray over such specifics, we will discover the hand of God active in our lives: challenging, rescuing, and healing us, showing us the way, giving us the strength to walk in his light and have


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indomitable hope. When our eyes are opened to this divine, loving presence working in our life, we are inspired, often powerfully, to express great gratitude, praise, adoration, tears sometimes, and to experience a strong desire to return that love. Lastly, many people find great meaning and are often emotionally touched by God’s dynamic presence in nature: at the macro level in the mountains, skies, planets, stars, and cosmos; and at the micro level of animals, trees, vegetation, flowers, weather change, and in the vast worlds in the seas and under the microscope. To witness the majesty, beauty, and intricate order of creation, human and otherwise, is to read what can be likened to a book of countless expressions of divine life, love, and joy. Psalm 8, especially verse 5, “You have made [us] little less than God,” gives expression to such prayerful wonder.2 In general, all human experiences are potential encounters with the Divine Mystery. Every creature is revelatory of God’s unending love, even in moments of disaster, pain, and our own sin. We need faith and a basic trust to open our eyes and recognize the God who is present in these events waiting for us to discover and welcome him. Gratitude and humility are pre-requisites for our being disposed toward allowing God’s Holy Spirit to transform us in the image of Christ Jesus and become divine. What evokes and intensifies these critically necessary attitudes is a second key experience for our journey to God: an awakening to our own sinfulness. Spiritual maturity demands knowing the truth of ourselves, and part of that truth comes in recognizing the ways, in contrast to God being so personally loving toward us, how we, in many instances, have been anything but loving toward him and our neighbor. It is embarrassing and sometimes quite painful to be in the presence of anyone who has so loved us when we recognize how in many ways we have not loved him or her. It is through the juxtaposing of God’s love (core experience #1) over against our waking up to our self-centered, sinful ways (core experience #2) that our conversion and healing begin, with heart-felt sorrow, healthy guilt and shame, and an appreciation of our need for a Savior. An attentive reflection on the Ten Commandments is, of course, an obvious first step when looking at our sin, both at our behaviors and their underlying attitudes. We also need to consider the seven capital sins and in what sense they name sinful deeds and attitudes in our life: pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, gluttony, and lust. Then there is the power of the Scriptures which offer us many compelling instances of what sin is like in the lives of people: for example, Adam and Eve, King David, and the rich man opposite Lazarus, the beggar; also in attitudes and movements of the heart as described by St. Paul, especially in Romans 7:14-25.3 In this passage, Paul goes to the heart of the mystery of sin

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and confesses with great frustration how he does not do the good he wants to do but rather does what he hates, that is, evil. The evil that he does not want to do he does. He says in conclusion there is a law or power at work in him that betrays him to evil, and the only way out of this wretched state of living is to experience the all-powerful, merciful love of Jesus (verse 25). There is no other way to salvation and freedom. Note that it is not a great preacher, teacher, or any human being but only God who reveals sin for what it is: as ingratitude, forgetting God’s blessings, an abiding self-centeredness, and even hard-heartedness. We can help establish the conditions for people coming to this self-knowledge, but only God’s Holy Spirit can give the humility and freedom necessary for our acknowledging this truth. It is essentially a divine blessing to know our sin for what it truly is. These two experiential graces, being loved by God and awakening to our sinfulness, come together and are powerfully moving when we are brought to the cross to look intently at Jesus hanging there. The fruit of sin is death, for both Jesus and ourselves. John the Evangelist steers our focus four times in his Gospel to ponder this wrenching, riveting scene of Jesus being lifted up, hanging on the cross while bleeding and suffocating to death and still trusting his Father whose presence he does not feel.4 John underscores this shocking image in the post-Resurrection scene with Thomas, the apostle, placing his hand in the side of Jesus and exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) This is an intimate moment that invites us to do the same as Thomas did, to rest for some time at the opening of Jesus’s pierced side and know the love of Jesus and the Father like never before. Ignatius of Loyola does something quite similar when he counsels a person making his Spiritual Exercises to pray with the following meditation: Imagine Christ our Lord present before you upon the cross, and begin to speak with him, asking how it is that though He is the Creator, He has stooped to become man and pass from eternal life to death here in time, that thus He might die for our sins. I shall also reflect upon myself and ask: what have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ? As I behold Christ in this plight, nailed to the cross, I shall ponder upon what presents itself to my mind.5

Ignatius’s contemporary, Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), a Spanish Carmelite woman religious, brings her classic, The Interior Castle, to an end with the advice: “Fix your eyes on the Crucified and everything [else] will become small for you.”6 The image of the Savior hanging on the cross and dying for each of us is such a strong reminder of his love, like nothing seen before. Jesus hanging on the cross is especially a Christian mandala or centering icon


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that draws forth sorrow for our sins, love filled with compassion for a broken, sinful world, and profound gratitude for him as our Savior, whose great sacrifice gives endless hope to us and to a world desperately in need of him. The grace of repentance comes when we know in our gut that it is divine Love in whose presence we are and that this One knows us, loves us and, yes, accepts us as we are but too much to leave us in such a state. Divine Love comes in Jesus Christ to lift us up, welcome us back home, and save us from our sinful ways. He alone through his unparalleled, merciful love, the love of the Good Shepherd finding the lost sheep, can save us from a barren, miserable life, and spiritual death. This experience of divine mercy, then, is the third of three initial experiences launching us on our way to being deified or transformed in Christ. It takes the first experience, that of God’s very personal love for me, and deepens it significantly. The power of our experiencing this special blessing is proportionate to the degree we have savored God’s love for us as compassionate, tender, and respectful, so patient, unconditional, and ever faithful. I have witnessed some people, and have experienced such in myself, being so full of praise and fired with a spiritual pain to love back with everything that is theirs, with their whole life. Once we have received the courage and self-honesty to acknowledge our sinfulness and realize that God has known this difficult truth about us all along yet did not reject us, we then experience God as mercy itself; we see how mercy is the distinctive and most beautiful characteristic of all the attributes of God’s love. It gives us the freedom in spirit to accept ourselves as accepted, loved, forgiven, and understood by God in Jesus. We now know that this Love is truly unconditional and unprecedented. We may have come from a very troubled family with some unreconciled relationships. Maybe we ourselves wandered far away from God for years or were massively wounded by another and lived with profound hurt, anger, resentment, and a desire for revenge. Maybe we have realized we have been living with a heart that is greedy, materialistic, and marked by lust and pride. Whatever our history, when we experience God’s mercy in Jesus, flowing from his open heart while he hangs on the cross, we will be taken to a level of our soul deeper than all the hurt, fury, and pride that was paralyzing us and know at last a peace only the risen Jesus can give. It will empower us to let go of holding on to our sorry past and give it all to God, letting him give us a future in him and be healed of the paralyzing powers of sensuality, pride, and anger with the desire to retaliate. The Gospels are replete with stories of divine mercy saving a lost sinner, bringing home the lost, raising the dead to life. John 21:15-19 is a prime example.7 In this post-Resurrection text, we watch Jesus heal Peter of his sin, of his shame and humiliation too. Peter had denied three times even knowing

More Than You Could Ever Imagine


Jesus when Jesus was beginning his Passion and greatly needed Peter’s presence and support. Instead of Jesus shaming Peter by asking him why he denied him three times, Jesus asked him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter knew what Jesus was doing when asking this question not once, not twice, but three times. Jesus was amazingly gentle and so caring in bringing Peter back from this disastrous moment in his life into the peace and mutual care they had previously experienced in their wonderful friendship. Jesus was like the father of the prodigal son bringing his son back to life and so too in his saving the life of the woman caught in adultery. These three blessings or core experiences addressed so far form the essentials of the spiritual journey toward our deification. In a sense, the entire spiritual journey toward deification consists of numerous repetitions and an ongoing deepening of these three experiences. But that can happen only if Jesus, the Christ, is the center of all these repetitions. He is the only Love strong enough to keep attracting us further and further into this mystery of divine metamorphosis we are undergoing. Like a house needing a rock for its foundation, we, who are being made God-like, that is, deified, require many significant encounters with Jesus, the God-Man. Like no one else, Jesus makes powerfully real our experiences of God’s love, of our sinfulness and felt-need for a Savior, and of joy when being in the presence of his divine mercy, rescuing and healing and bringing forth in us our divine potential. THE CENTRALITY OF CHRIST JESUS It is at this point of the spiritual journey that the centrality and all-pervading importance of Jesus become manifest. When we know we are loved for who we are; when we have faced our self-centered, sinful tendencies and experienced our powerlessness to save ourselves from these tendencies; when we have encountered the forgiveness and unconditional acceptance of an all-merciful God; we will then be deeply moved to say to God something like, “You have so loved me. In your tender mercies you have given me another chance. You have even given me the best you have to give, your own Son who gave his life for me. How might I love you back? I have never been loved before like you have loved me. I have never before met anyone like you! Whatever you wish, I am at your disposal. Anything you want, you have it. So, speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”8 To such a generous, grateful offer God honors us with an invitation, a call to make our life with Jesus and what he is about. In effect, God says, “Get to know and love him and what he is about. Learn to make him the center of your life. That’s how you can thank me and love me back.” (See Matt. 17:59


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where God the Father counsels us to listen to his beloved Son and implicitly, to follow him closely.) God has given Jesus a mission, and the meaning and fruitfulness of our lives depend on our making this mission our own. There are not many missions, mine and yours, and that of other believers. The only mission with lasting meaning and worthy of the deepest aspirations of the human soul is the one the Father gave Jesus, the work of building the Kingdom of God. If we are to take on the mind and heart of Christ, if we are to make ourselves available for God deifying us, then we need to know what the kingdom of God is and what it involves while finding our place with Christ in his bringing it forth. We need to perceive our life’s work, joys and struggles also, as our contribution to letting God bring about the Kingdom as his family. We need to be able to find God in such places and situations or not at all. While there are three basic, recurring experiences in the spiritual journey as explained above, the foundation informing all three and underlying the entire journey is the encountering of Jesus again and again as the revelation of the Father and of the Kingdom. Pastoral programs that are authentically Christian and Gospel-based will not just teach about Jesus but will provide opportunities for their participants to encounter Jesus person to person, as friend to friend, and in him to encounter the Father. They need to help people meet Jesus as a person who is living now, as someone real who embodies the traits of the Kingdom. The hope of these pastoral efforts is for Jesus to become the joy and raison d’etre of our life, the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in the field. He is to be the one worth giving our all, our last two coins like the poor widow did (Lk. 21:1-4). REALIZING THE KINGDOM HERE AND NOW First, however, before the call to friendship with Jesus, there is the call to share with him in the work of bringing forth the Kingdom, known also as the rule or reign of God in our own daily affairs and of all the world’s people. Attracted by his goodness and personal integrity but also by his vision for the salvation and spiritual transformation of all humanity, we trust his call summoning us to join him in this great work. Essential to good pastoral education that intends to mobilize people for Christian ministry and service is informing them about what is the Kingdom in the concrete and what are the practicalities involved in living the call of Christ to join him in his mission. Good formation will necessarily include, then, studying the numerous Kingdom parables Jesus gives in the synoptic Gospels. It will highlight the Beatitudes and the centrality of forgiveness as the most Godlike trait of Jesus’s disciples and of the Kingdom. It will stress

More Than You Could Ever Imagine


that we have all been forgiven much and are expected, out of gratitude, to extend the same favor to any and to all. It will emphasize how we should cultivate an attitude of wishing peace to everyone, of resisting temptations to jealousy and envy, and of not seeking honors and praise but being selfeffacing in public. It will encourage careful speech, an avoidance of gossip and slander, always being truthful, not creating suspicion but being inclined to assume good intentions rather than bad ones. It will also discourage greed and encourage being generous, a readiness to share possessions with those in need. It will promote respect and love for others rather than relating to them as objects for our sexual satisfaction. It will discourage work that becomes more important than seeking the Kingdom and does not respect the Sabbath; it will also challenge narrow nationalism, violent speech motivated by resentment and anger-inspired revenge, as well as violence in politics and international relations. Rather, it will urge a concern for justice toward anyone being wronged and a seeking of God first and in all our endeavors. Above all, it will encourage an abiding trust in God as provident and a patience and gentleness toward each other inspired by this kind of God. This overview of the traits of the Kingdom is essentially a summary of the Beatitudes but also a vivid portrait of Jesus and what is so characteristic and admirable about him. Deification implies not only joining Jesus in working to foster these values but also, by imitating him, to experience ourselves more and more being shaped by and embodying these same traits while becoming another Christ. THE PRIMACY OF PERSONAL PRAYER I mentioned above our being invited by Christ to share in the work Abba Father gave him as his mission but also being encouraged to grow toward a deep friendship with him. In the Catholic tradition, since the earliest times of the desert Fathers and Mothers, there has been an emphasis on personal prayer, first in its rational and imaginative forms but especially in its purely contemplative form. Why so? Because followers of Jesus who have been faithful to personal prayer in its various forms discover contemplative prayer as the deepest and most effective and rewarding way for becoming a close friend and even beloved disciple of Jesus. Growth in personal prayer usually begins through the recitation of scripted prayers composed by others. Later we learn to use our minds and imagination to be present to Jesus in scenes of the Gospel, while allowing the Spirit to speak to us in them and through one or other of the characters opposite Jesus. Reflecting on and imagining our self in such a scene, being emotionally engaged with Jesus there, has proven through the centuries to be a very


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effective way of taking on the mind and heart of Jesus. Ignatius of Loyola encourages us when praying this way to beg to “know Jesus more intimately, love him more dearly, and follow him more closely.”10 Eventually, the Spirit will lead those who are faithful over the years to these discursive and imaginative kinds of prayer to contemplative prayer, a more simplified, quieter, and deeper form of prayer. It is prayer without thoughts or images and is emotionally quieter. It consists of simply being with God, focusing steadily on God while reciting very quietly in the rhythm of our breathing a prayer-word or mantra (e.g., Abba Father or Maranatha) to maintain our focus. We deliberately avoid using our memory, intellect, and imagination but do use our will by choosing to abide or rest in the God of Jesus, “the one thing necessary” (Lk. 10:38-42). Praying this way demands a greater need for our body to be still, as well as our mind and heart, and to have courage and the patience with God to initiate and inspire us directly rather than through what were our earlier ways of praying. Praying contemplatively allows us to go deeper, eventually very deep into our own depths, and experience powerfully and know intuitively our capacity and thirst for being deified, and so too the depths of Jesus and his boundless love for the Father. AN EXAMPLE OF PRAYING CONTEMPLATIVELY There is a natural progression in our coming to these depths, God’s and our own, when we stay with a biblical passage that has significantly attracted our soul and through which God is nourishing us with his love, goodness, truth, and beauty. For example, you may choose to focus on Jesus during the last minutes of his crucifixion while imagining yourself standing at the cross with his mother and aunt, with Mary Magdalene, and with John, the beloved disciple (John 19:25-30). The first time you pray you spend most of your time (30, 45, or 60 minutes) noticing the specifics of the whole scene, while maybe uttering a word of comfort to those standing with you, but beyond that saying nothing else, simply being present to Jesus out of deep love and respect. Let us suppose that in the last fifteen minutes you are drawn to his eyes that reflect the agony of his labored breathing and loss of blood and strength. You find yourself held right there on that detail. The entire scene of the crucifixion with those standing around the cross is now concentrated in that look of his. This experience tells you what to return to and focus on when you pray again. This is where the Spirit has led your spirit. Instead of giving attention to anything else in that Gospel scene, you remain there in the power of what drew you initially and you, like the watchman waiting for the coming of the dawn (Ps. 130:6), wait for the Spirit of Jesus to take you even deeper, should that happen.

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Let us say you are taken deeper, in mind and heart. While you gaze with wordless love into his eyes suppose you are captured by the depths and vastness of divine Love embracing you and the entire world. Through Jesus’s anguish, tears, and sense of being abandoned, you have an intuitive sense of the tears of the Father who gave his all, his very best, and how tragic that this gift was not only spurned but even murdered. It becomes almost too much for you to take in, yet grateful love tells you to stay with him and do what perhaps feels awkward: you offer as comfort, out of your poverty, whatever love you have, and maybe you are blessed to give to Jesus and the Father even your tears. You finish by placing your hand on the heart of Jesus, then into his open wound; and finally, going deeper, you place your hand on the heart of the Father whose suffering you sense is beyond description. You know it is important for you to stay there in that holy “place,” in the heart of Jesus and in the depths of the Father, and rest your head on God’s chest for however long. In the lengthy stillness, this image sometimes opens out into the boundless infinity of God. This is “the place” to which you have been called. You know this is enormous gift, that you have not invented this experience. As a response, you might place your hand on the corpus of a crucifix at the point of the wound in Jesus’ side; or maybe not. How you respond might be entirely interior. In any case, you know you are to be lovingly silent or to repeat a word of love that keeps you focused in that infinity of love and guards you against wandering in your attention. This discovery, this very personal revelation to you of the Father and Jesus, the Savior, strongly holds your attention and disposes you to know intuitively something of the infinite reaches of divine love. You might not be conscious of yourself as a self but are taken “out of yourself” into an indescribable communion with this Beloved one. Only some seconds or minutes later, after coming out of this very blessed state of consciousness, you realize something of your potential for and God’s promise of deification unfolding in your own self. To taste this deeply, the divine mystery will attract you back again and again to drink of the divine waters flowing from these springs of salvation (Is. 12:3). Your thirst to know and love Jesus, the Christ, the joy of your being, intensifies and sometimes makes you feel as though it will consume you. THE INTERIOR SENSES OF OUR SOUL Ignatius of Loyola, like so many great teachers of prayer in centuries before him (e.g., Bernard of Clairvaux, d. 1153, and Bonaventure, d. 1274), speaks about the interior senses of our soul, which are spiritual sensitivities analogous to the five senses of our body.11 These can open us to profound depths in our spirit far greater than the earlier forms of prayer. Ignatius’s Spiritual


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Exercises are designed for us who enter a Gospel scene to spend up to five distinct periods of prayer, more if we desire, in that scene. Each succeeding period of prayer is meant to open us to a deeper level of engagement with Jesus and our own self. After we have become quite familiar with the details of a Gospel scene and experience ourselves being drawn to one detail that has significant meaning for us, we give all our attention to it, like in the example above, and allow ourselves, perhaps after three or four repetitions, to enter with one or more of these interior senses into the deeper reality, the divine mystery “behind” that detail. Specifically, Ignatius encourages us to see what we see with the eye of our heart; or to hear deeply the love and wisdom God’s Word is “speaking” to us; or to “smell the infinite fragrance, and taste the infinite sweetness of the divinity;”12 or to allow ourselves to be touched by and then in turn to touch the God we have encountered but is now present to us in a way far deeper than what an image or thought could mediate. It often takes some years and perseverance in regular personal prayer to trust and become comfortable with this kind of prayer as our preferred way of praying. Many people never grow into it, for various reasons, but are still quite blessed with the earlier kinds of prayer that are discursive, imaginative, and especially engage us in our emotions. LOVE AND DISCERNMENT We will not be judged in the end by how deep our prayer became but instead on how much we loved. To love our neighbor, and ourselves and God too, fulfills the one and only commandment Jesus gave us on the last night of his earthly life: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). It behooves us, then, to be studious disciples of Jesus, listening carefully to him schooling us in the way of living and loving like he does, like God does. Being his disciples requires of us more than sincerity and good will but especially good judgment and discernment when making choices, lest some choices serve what opposes Christ, collectively referred to as the anti-Kingdom. The anti-Kingdom is a way of self-centered living that thrives on fear, sensuality, greed, and especially pride, the desire for and illusion of our being in control of and the center of our lives. Being a disciple of Jesus heightens our appreciation for how our hearts are a battleground where the Spirit of God and the spirits of the anti-Kingdom struggle for our allegiance. The Bible contains some important principles for discerning well, so too the desert Fathers and Mothers, so too the Fathers of the Church and many of the male and female mystics of Christian history. Perhaps the most helpful and frequently used set of discernment principles are those Ignatius of Loyola compiled as

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an appendix in his The Spiritual Exercises. They reflect the wisdom teachings of Jesus, of Sts. Paul and John the Evangelist, and of the prophets too, but also Ignatius’s perceptive understanding of how God’s Holy Spirit and the Evil One act inside us, and then his counsels on what we can do to cooperate with or resist these interior motions. We learn that God and the Evil One speak through our feelings and thoughts. Their initiatives will prompt inside us consolations and desolations or feelings of an increase or decrease of faith, hope, and love.13 Paying attention regularly to this amazing ebb and flow of spiritual life in us sensitizes us to appreciate greatly how real and close is the Holy Spirit as our best friend and how involved the Evil One is in our life as our arch enemy, the Father of lies and deceit (John 8:44). FREEDOM FROM, FREEDOM FOR To know the good does not guarantee we will choose it. We can discern well and God shows us what is his will for us among the options we are considering, but then we do not choose it. There is another very important factor, then, that must be considered in a spirituality of deification or divinization. We need to be sufficiently detached, free from disordered attachments, competing values, and self-centered thinking if we are going to choose what God wills. Ignatius of Loyola dramatizes this critically important element in our living spiritually free when he presents as a meditation in his Spiritual Exercises the case of three people inheriting a very large sum of money. They all claim they want to do God’s will regarding the disposition of the money. Yet while the first person has many good ideas regarding what the money could be used for, he never acts. In effect, he keeps it all in his possession and little by little uses it for his own immediate needs. The second person engages in a long reasoning process, manipulative of Scripture and common sense, and ends up convincing himself that his keeping the money and using it according to his own likes is what God wills. The third person says he does not yet know what God wants regarding his disposition of the money. In the meantime, he is putting the money aside while he focuses in prayer on Jesus and their relationship to make sure that whatever he chooses, his choice will deepen his relationship with Jesus. He might keep some of the money and give some of it away or he might give it all away or use all of it for a great need his children have. Whatever the case, his focus is always first on the relationship with Jesus. His disposing of the money is secondary and done only in companionship with Jesus. He is therefore spiritually free in Christ to do the will of God, while the others think they are free but their actions show they are not. This twofold action of seeking the light and guidance of Christ’s Holy Spirit in order to know the will of God, and second, to be spiritually free to


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choose God’s will among many options, imitates the interior life of God; namely, knowing and loving with all one is and allowing each to be known and loved by the other two persons with full transparency. It is, therefore, essential to the process of our being deified that we learn and be freed to live and relate this way to God, to our neighbor, and to our own selves. This is to live and move in the Holy Spirit, to have our being and depths divinized or Christified, and eventually expanded infinitely as is the state of the ascended, cosmic Christ. THE GIFT OF THE CHURCH The gift of Jesus, the original sacrament of God, continues to be available to us through every created reality but in a privileged and specific sense in the Church. Christ’s presence is continued especially through the proclaiming of the Scriptures and in celebrating the Church’s sacramental moments. It is also continued through the Church’s ordained shepherds preaching, teaching, and governing the faithful. Perhaps the Church’s most intimate and important moments of encountering the risen Christ happen when a new member is baptized or when the community of the baptized gather to pray the Eucharist. These two beautiful, sacramental rituals trace their origin to and find their ultimate meaning and spiritual power in the water and blood flowing from the open, pierced side of the crucified Jesus (John 19:34). God continues to reveal himself while each generation of the Church ponders the Scriptures and finds deeper implications, richer insights, and connections in them. Through the centuries, the writings of outstanding Christians reflecting on the Scriptures and on life in the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ have given expression to treasures buried in the Bible and oral traditions of the Church. This ongoing prayer and reflection together have formed a Tradition of truths about God, about his nature and ways of relating to us; so too this holy process has led to an articulation of fundamentals for living the Christian life. As long as we the Church exist, the revelation of God will continue and the Church’s Tradition of God-given knowledge and wisdom will grow, thanks to the faith and continued contemplation by the Church’s members. Experiencing Jesus happens as well in the saints of the Church, and especially in Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Saints are ordinary believers made extraordinary by God’s Holy Spirit empowering them to live courageously, generously, sometimes heroically their lives with faithful love for Jesus, our Father, and for our neighbor, even for our enemies. For many Christians, saints become our heroes and heroines, modeling Gospel values and inspiring us to live authentically our own lives. When we learn about the particularities

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of their lives, we are usually struck by how very ordinary they were, how they loved greatly in situations like what we sometimes find ourselves in and did so with impressive depth and sacrifice. Believing they are already a part of the heavenly communion of saints, we, as their friends asking for help, invoke their prayers to intercede for us before Christ. Mother Mary is the most impressive and exalted of all God’s saints. For centuries, she has been the refuge for Christians and most invoked of all the saints. The Gospels of Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, and Book of Revelation testify to the unique place God has given her in the redemptive work of her divine Son. The most telling scene of her role in the work of redemption is shown at the foot of the cross during Jesus’s dying moments (John 19:26-27). He says to her while referring to John, the beloved disciple, “Woman, behold your son.” And then he says to John, “Son, behold your mother.” The Greek text of verse 27 then adds, “From that hour the disciple took her to his own,” meaning that he took her into his care and, as Jesus meant it, to be his own mother. Anyone who comes close to Jesus as a beloved disciple or aspires to be such will love what he loves and therefore will cherish Mary as his or her own mother and relate to her as one of the most beautiful gifts Jesus ever gave to him or her. We will come often to ask for her intercessory prayer and guidance. God has given her, then, a major role in the life of each believer, especially in the life of anyone aspiring to be a “beloved disciple.” Besides her honor of being the one who brought us the Savior, she is the archetype of the Church. This means God’s extraordinary, singular blessings realized in her afford us a glimpse of what each of us is to become once God finishes deifying us, just as he did for her. While the risen Christ Jesus is the first-born of God’s new creation, Mary can be said to be the second-born and therefore she becomes a further encouragement, after the resurrected Jesus, to our hopes in what God promises us in Christ. Mary is never about herself. There is never a question of anyone worshipping her; she is involved only in pointing us to her divine Son, in bringing us to him, and like the best of mothers, in praying for us even if we don’t ask her to do so. I have seen this amazing fact even among Muslim women who honor her in their Scriptures, the Quran, and come to the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers, Algeria, to unburden themselves to her while seeking the help of God through her. I have been to the Shrine in Lourdes, France, a place where Mary appeared eighteen times over five months in 1858 to a simple, illiterate 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous. In this place, Mary guided Bernadette to uncover an underground fountain of pure water, which flows abundantly to this day. She directed Bernadette to tell the people to repent before God of their evil ways and be cleansed of their sins in the water. Hundreds, even


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thousands have been healed there. Five to six million pilgrims come there each year. Since 1858, the healings of 65–70 pilgrims who were cured there, people who were blind, deaf, or paralyzed, were medically verified and declared miraculous. Teams of doctors, many of whom were non-Christian, agnostic, and atheistic, examined them closely and declared there is no scientific explanation for their healings. I served as a chaplain at Lourdes during the summer of 2009. I met there a married woman from England who was with her daughter, about 4 years old. Her husband and she had brought their daughter to Lourdes the previous summer with hopes of her being cured of a paralysis in both legs. The girl had been wearing metal braces from the bottom of her shoes to high up on her thighs. Her parents took her to the grotto where Mary had come to Bernadette, prayed there for their daughter’s healing, and took home some of the abundant water gushing from the nearby rocks. A few days later, this little one came to her mother with amazement, “Mommy, I don’t need these braces anymore. Look, I can walk!” From that day, she walked normally, as I could see with my own eyes. I asked the mother why she was now back at Lourdes. While pointing to her daughter she said, “My husband and I, and her siblings too, had to come back and say ‘thank you’.” I will never forget that moment when I witnessed something of this miracle and how God is there for us all, through our deified Mother, given to us by Jesus. Anyone who will take the time to note the details of the story of Bernadette and the opposition she endured from her mother, the pastor of her church, and the atheistic mayor of Lourdes, as well as agnostic civil governmental figures cannot see anything but the hand of God in this event. (Even the mayor became a believer and one of the strongest proclaimers of God’s ongoing healing presence to us all in that village of Lourdes.) God comes to us in Jesus but also through his deified mother, who is our mother, and does so even through other saints like Francis and Clare of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, and yes, even through you and me and the people around us. We can all be channels of God’s grace when we are humble enough to let God work through us to bless someone. And, in turn, each of us can be blessed through any one of God’s creatures, even non-Christians, when we are childlike and open to receive whatever he wants to give us through them. THE SACRAMENTAL NATURE OF ALL CREATION Our faith, then, is an incarnational faith, and so the events and people of our daily existence become arenas in which God speaks his Word to us. Family, friends, and community are primary places where we encounter that Word but so too through people we struggle to love or reconcile with. Meeting the poor,

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the stranger, and the sick can be special ways to take us from our habitual comfort zone and open us to the presence of Christ in surprising ways. Then there is our work, our leisure times and the Sabbath, hobbies and sports, times in nature, and moments of entertainment: these are typical avenues for meeting God and experiencing his blessings that help us along the journey to him. So too our times with animals, plants, and the rocks or minerals of the earth. For many people, these basic parts of our earthly existence connect us powerfully to the divine Source of everything and therefore are recognized as sacred or sacramental. Lastly, the arts and sciences are media through which many Christians encounter with never-ending fascination the beauty, power, and order of creation and therefore of God. BEING POOR IN SPIRIT An all-important chapter in the story of salvation and our being deified is made up from our learning how weak we are as humans: being out of control and powerless about so many dimensions of our life. This powerlessness can be thrown at us through experiences like some moral failure on our part or that of another person we had so admired. Or perhaps we fall short of some long-term goal and feel humiliated by this. Maybe we get demoted or even fired from our job; maybe we get divorced, or become a victim of violence, get seriously sick, learn that a loved one committed suicide, or we feel abandoned by God. This lesson in life can come in less dramatic ways, like seeing your marriage or your children turn out rather differently than you had hoped, or you feel the temptation to leave the church whose leaders have greatly hurt us, or the experience of aging and feeling older, slower, and more dependent. Like Jesus in his Passion we hopefully learn to appreciate the ultimate powerlessness of our humanity to manage and save ourselves. Difficult moments like those referred to above hollow us out like Jesus experienced during his trial, passion, and dying. To be prepared to share in the divine nature we must sooner or later be humbled, maybe many times. We need to be made completely available to the Beloved—just as the divine persons relate toward each other—before being exalted to the divine heights. Experiences of loss and being humbled are commonly perceived as disaster in our lives, but for those who try to trust God these events become in God’s time and way the moments of our greatest blessings. It is not in spite of but precisely in and through our innate poverty as mortal human beings that we are transformed, as Teresa of Avila says, like the silk worm into a gorgeous butterfly.14 Our poverty as limited humans, this thorn in our side (2 Cor. 12:7-10), is the arena in which God saves the world and transforms, deifies us, his sons and daughters in Christ. It is God’s “method” for saving us, certainly not what the


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prevailing wisdom of the world, given to success and wealth, would advise, but for those who have been called and do respond, it is the place where the wisdom and power of God are found (1 Cor. 1:22-25). Jesus teaches us this as the core of his Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). It takes some time to accept and trust this way of God saving us, if ever we do. It is so counter-intuitive. Our pride rebels against it; we do not want to accept ourselves to be this much in need. However, when blessed to come closer to God in prayer and ministry, and when we “see” God’s overwhelming purity, beauty, and taste the “sweetness” of his spirit, we are much more sensitized to recognize by contrast our sin, our radical self-centeredness, and need for continuous conversion and healing. We see, as if in a mirror, how impure and lacking in truth and integrity we are over against God. This is the necessary humbling and sharing in the cross of Jesus we must undergo if we are to be exalted like the Father exalted him. These are prime sacramental moments in our spiritual journey, bringing us face-to-face with Jesus and our own very poor selves. The great saints knew this intuitively, and hence were so attracted in their prayer to be with Jesus in his passion. It inspired and empowered them to become what St. Paul calls fools for Christ (1 Cor. 4:10), so captured were they by the generosity and uniqueness of his love. It is Jesus’s unparalleled mercy toward sinners, shown above all toward his murderers while they were gloating over killing him (Lk. 23:34a), that has inspired many down through the centuries to imitate Jesus and a God whom the world deems foolish, even insane, because he loves beyond all norms of logic. BEING RADICALLY PURIFIED In early stages of our journey, God calls us to conversion and a change of our behaviors. We are encouraged like a trusting child to be obedient to him as a wise, loving parent, and live his commandments. If we respond positively, we experience soon a certain peace in our souls and growth in spirit in our daily living. This is a touch of the power of the resurrection. We come to know a certain harmony between ourselves, God, and our neighbor as well. As we mature in spirit and grow closer to God through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, we become more sensitive to the roots of our un-Christ-like behaviors still very much alive in us. Here is where the deeper redemptive, purgative work of God’s Spirit is focused during the latter stages of our spiritual journey. We come to appreciate what Paul Tillich says, that before sin is an act, it is a state of being. It is a state of alienation or separation of our self from our

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self, self from neighbor, and self from God.15 Such alienation is experienced in the struggle to accept ourselves as we are and the temptation to project our dissatisfaction on our neighbor and turn our back on God in little ways and sometimes in big ways. God did not create us alienated or separated from self and others. Rather, there was with the earliest humans a “reaching for” what we are not. From Adam and Eve up to our own time and life, we “reach” or strive to make ourselves gods, in the sense that we want control, security, esteem, and success. We want to be somebody other than who we are, to be more than what we are seen to be. We want to guarantee our future and be independent of God and any others. This is the root of all sin, mine and yours. We want to be completely autonomous, in a sense infinite, and, above all, we want it all on our terms. (How true this is in present Western civilization with its cult of individualism and attitude of entitlement!) Ironically, God assures us in Christ that if we trust him we will become gods, we will share in the divine nature; but it will be on God’s terms and by God’s way, not ours. We will be gods in a very different sense than what we had thought divinity to be. What, then, is that difference? God is above all humble, completely poured out, given in Christ with nothing left to give.16 To be like God, to be in union with God, Jesus and the saints and angels, we too must take the path that requires our being poured out, given completely in other-centered love. The self-centered world abhors this message. There is no other way, however. John of the Cross (d. 1591), a Spanish Carmelite and author of brilliant poetry and insight into the deification process, argues most persuasively that in meaningful relationships, especially the relationship of God and humans, contraries cannot coexist.17 That is, we cannot be face-to-face with the allpure God if there is the least bit of pride or any other self-centered attitude, value, or behavior still alive inside us. Such must be purged, either in this life or thereafter, before our being deified is complete and we are ready for our heavenly destiny. The more we appreciate how extensive is the need for our conversion and healing at these deeper levels, conscious and unconscious, the more this insight about our needing purification, in this life and most likely in the next, becomes obvious. John of the Cross treats this topic brilliantly in his classic, Dark Night.18 The lives of the prophet Jeremiah and Job illustrate what this “dark night” looks like. Jesus in Gethsemani, feeling abandoned by Abba while hanging on the cross and dying, is a dramatic instance of it. The dark night is essentially an intense experience of being challenged to believe and trust God while God seems absent. If we have tried to live the Christian life, then we all get our turn in experiencing, more than once usually, something of this radically purifying chapter in God’s divinizing us. Yes, this process feels like “bad news” while we are living through it but eventually it becomes “good news,” in fact, the best of good news because


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it constitutes and effects our sharing in the Paschal mystery, our dying and rising; our passion, death, resurrection, and transformation in Christ. To be deified, we must be fashioned through the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ to be just like God, humble and completely poured out in a love that knows no limits and contains no elements of self-centeredness. Obviously, as I said in the beginning of this chapter, only God can bring about this miracle of transformation, but we must cooperate for it to be realized. To fight against this process is to risk, at most, eternal loss, or to make the unfinished bit of our transformation an extensive, involved work for God in the hereafter. In that instance, it will come about by our being “exposed,” and without any relief or distraction, to the full intensity of God’s personal love for us, expressed above all in the gift of his crucified, risen Son.19 Our ways of being contrary to God that we had procrastinated about or were just too “undeveloped” in the spiritual journey to finish while in this life will be purged. We will be freed from all our “contraries” that make us unlike God and finally be readied to radiate our true self in Christ with the ecstatic joy of divine life. Once transformed, whether in this earthly life as happens for some singularly graced people, or in our heavenly state, we will see as God see, feel about things the way God “feels” about them, love what God loves, and consider as worthless what God considers worthless. In complete union with God, we will be living the life of Christ with the characteristic freedom of the risen Christ Jesus yet be more fully our true self than ever. We will finally know who we are, fully, in Christ, and what is our place in the realization of God’s plan for all of creation lifted up and transformed in Christ (Rom. 8:21-23). COMMUNAL DEIFICATION We cannot stop at this point of addressing deification only in terms of what happens to us as individuals. The mission the Father gave Jesus was to bring forth a Kingdom or family. The work of God accomplished in Jesus with our cooperation is to realize a communion of men, women, and children who with Jesus and the Father will constitute a single, eternally enduring reality, what St. Paul refers to as the Body of Christ and others call the cosmic Christ. This will not be some new being distinct from us individuals, as if we lose our identity. Rather, it is a new creation, already established in its beginning stages, with the risen Christ as its first-born and, as I suggested earlier, mother Mary as its second-born. The basic story of this family that God is forming through the Paschal mystery, with its pattern of dying and rising to new life, is reflected in the stories of each one of us, with our own personal ways of embodying it. We

More Than You Could Ever Imagine


are a people of the resurrection, and it is a great grace to have our eyes opened to see where this resurrection mystery is happening in the present moment in our neighbor, in public life, and in our own self. In a most beautiful way God in Christ’s Spirit is bringing this new creation, an emerging process, creative and redemptive, to a climax, to a pleroma (Col. 2:9f) or fullness. It is what St. Paul describes as the deification of all human reality in which “God will be All in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). We will have become “the perfect man” with the fullness of Christ himself, which the author of the letter to the Ephesians refers to in 4:13. This writer envisions the entire human family, with Christ as its head, coming to completion as one reality, as one Christ, and each member living fully the life of the risen Christ. The life of this new reality we are to be born into will be to know and love each other with divine fullness and depth, while allowing anyone else in this heavenly communion to know and love our self with the Trinitarian, divine fullness and depth. This almost-too-good-to-believe transformation can be likened to the transformation of the bread and wine during the Eucharist into the Body and Blood of Christ. All of creation is the bread and wine now being informed, changed by the Spirit of the risen Christ, not just in its meaning or in some outwardly way but transformed in its very essence. It is becoming the new creation, the one Christ, to be forever. Once our journey of becoming divine is realized, we will be more than ever what is characteristically human, our own true selves but now freed from sin and any self-centeredness, from all that made us less than human and our best self. No longer will we say that to sin is to be human. We will appreciate how the truth is just the opposite, that to be fully human is for us to share in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Once our humanity is fully realized in Christ, we will relate to each other like God can, loving and knowing as God does; that is, completely poured out and completely receptive to the other. This will be our communal reality. This new, glorious creation anticipated in the preaching of Jesus and in St. Paul’s theology will be the final and everlasting realization of the deepest thirsts of all humans and, yes, of all non-human creation too (Rom. 8:22). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen!

NOTES 1. Other texts: Psalm 103 and 139:1-18; Isaiah 43:1-7; and 49:14-16 Matthew 3:13-17; John 3:1-17; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:19b-20. These passages testify to how much we mean to God and how great is his personal love for each of us.


Bernie Owens, S. J.

2. Other texts for praise and adoration among many others are the following: Psalms 100, 104, 136, 150; Daniel 3:52-90; Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:20f. 3. Other texts to pray with are: Genesis 3:1-24; 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25; Psalm 51; Wisdom 2:24; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 12:16-21; Galatians 5:16-26. Praying with these passages can facilitate our receiving the grace of being embarrassed at our selfcentered ways and help move us to repentance and conversion. 4. These texts are: 3:14; 8:28; 12:32; and 19:34,37. 5. Louis J. Puhl. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: A New Translation (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1959), 28. 6. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Vol. II, trans. Otilio Rodriguez and Kieran Kavanaugh, (Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1980), Seventh Dwelling Places, 8.4, 446. 7. Other powerful texts are: Mark 2:1-12; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 15:1-32; Luke 23:34a; John 8:2-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Psalms 51 and 107; Ezechiel 36:24-28 and 37:1-14; also Wisdom 11:21-12:2. 8. Bernie Owens. More Than You Could Ever Imagine: On Our Becoming Divine (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015), 35f. 9. This scene of God the Father’s counsel during the transfiguration of Jesus to listen to Jesus is recorded also in Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35. 10. Puhl, #104, 49. 11. Ibid., #121-126, 54f. 12. Ibid., #124, 55. 13. See Galatians 5:16-26 for concrete instances of these feelings and the thoughts that often accompany them. 14. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, Fifth Dwelling Places, II, 2-9, 341-345. 15. Paul Tillich, “You Are Accepted,” chap. 19 in The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948), 153–63. 16. Ilia Delio, The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 15–67. 17. John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel” in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1973), Bk I, 4.2, 78. 18. Ibid. 295–389. 19. Francis Kelly Nemeck and Marie Theresa Coombs, The Spiritual Journey: Critical Thresholds and Stages of Adult Spiritual Genesis (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1987), 164–67.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Delio, Ilia. The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005. John of the Cross. The Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night. In The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. Translated by Otilio Rodriguez and Kieran Kavanaugh. Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies Publications, 1973.

More Than You Could Ever Imagine


Nemeck, Francis Kelly, and Marie Theresa Coombs. The Spiritual Journey: Critical Thresholds and Stages of Adult Spiritual Genesis. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1987. Owens, Bernie. More Than You Could Ever Imagine: On Our Becoming Divine. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015. Puhl, Louis J. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: A New Translation. Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1959. Teresa of Avila. The Interior Castle. In The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Vol. II. Translated by Otilio Rodriguez and Kieran Kavanaugh. Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies Publications, 1980. Tillich, Paul. “You Are Accepted.” In The Shaking of the Foundations. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948.


Adam, 10, 16, 18, 38, 40, 41, 44, 64, 85, 91, 121, 146, 244, 259; Christ as new, 16, 18, 40, 44, 158, 209 adoption, 7, 8, 18, 33–36, 39–42, 61, 68, 71–72, 77–78, 85, 96–97, 121, 131, 134–35, 141, 159, 162, 165. See also children of God angels, 8, 12, 185, 187–89, 259 anointing, 19, 215 ascent, 8, 31, 33–34, 96, 145, 165, 186 asceticism, 31, 34, 40–45 baptism, 8, 16–20, 23, 31, 39–42, 64, 109–12, 114, 118, 120, 164, 169n31, 183, 190 body: Christ’s physical, 14–15, 44, 98– 99, 113, 115, 117–18, 120, 164, 213, 218; human, 24, 26n38, 43, 65–66, 84, 92, 116, 163, 180, 184, 193–94, 250–51 body of Christ: church as, 3, 15–18, 20–22, 39–42, 68, 71–72, 95–96, 117, 119, 134, 162–64, 226, 260; Eucharist as, 16, 20–22, 96, 98, 118, 129, 137–38, 146, 261; Sophia as, 211 children of God, 7–8, 18, 26n34, 30–31, 33–34, 42, 71–72, 85, 90–92, 96,

111, 116–17, 120–21, 131, 133–36, 148, 159, 161–63, 165, 178–80, 188, 196, 208, 241, 257–58 church. See body of Christ communicatio idiomatum, 97–99 confirmation. See anointing contemplation, 8, 34–36, 91, 146, 241, 243, 249–51, 254 demons, 46, 235 devil, 113, 186, 253 discipleship, 110, 113–14, 121, 158, 163–66, 234–36, 242, 252, 255 divine filiation. See children of God divine nature. See 2 Peter 1:4 ecstasy, 40, 71–72, 260 Ephesians 3:19, 1, 3, 187, 197, 224, 233–36 essence and energies, 31, 34–37, 50n37, 51n44, 84, 114, 159, 167n4, 169n27 ethics, 31, 42, 46, 69, 73, 90, 109, 116, 118, 146, 166, 192, 205, 208, 210, 231, 236. See also virtue Eucharist, 7, 16, 19–22, 39–44, 96–98, 136–37, 139, 146, 164, 228, 254, 261. See also body of Christ evil, 13–14, 23, 44, 90, 188, 208–9, 245, 255




exchange formula, 14, 32–34, 37, 46, 65–66, 85–86, 96, 135, 157, 160, 191, 212 faith, 8, 34, 60–72, 74, 83, 90–92, 97, 100, 109, 114, 116–19, 120–21, 136, 144–45, 159, 163–65, 177, 179–81, 183–84, 186–87, 189–91, 194–96, 208, 215–17, 223–24, 231–32, 244, 253, 256 fall, 12–14, 34, 38–41, 60, 75, 140, 188. See also Adam fasting, 23, 234 flesh. See body forgiveness, 62–63, 72–73, 120, 182, 183, 191, 193, 215, 242–43, 246–49 freedom, 11–12, 22, 37, 40–41, 43–44, 59, 71, 183–84, 188, 195, 209–10, 228, 242, 245–46, 253–54, 260 garden. See Paradise Genesis 3. See fall; gods glorification. See glory glory, 1, 3, 9, 18–19, 29, 33–34, 37, 44, 84–85, 89–90, 92–94, 96–97, 99– 100, 115–17, 118–20, 131, 135–37, 157, 163–64, 179, 181, 184, 188, 207, 213, 214, 217–18, 228, 231–32, 234, 241, 261 gods: becoming, 1, 7–9, 14, 33, 39, 59, 67, 85, 89–91, 94, 101, 111, 115, 177–78, 206, 217, 259; in Genesis 3:5, 12–14; in Psalm 82 (81, LXX), 31, 85, 111–12, 179, 213 happiness, 95, 166 healing, 15, 22, 25n21, 73, 113, 117, 141, 162, 166, 187, 193–94, 215, 235, 243–44, 246–47, 256, 258–59 Holy Spirit, 3, 7–8, 18–19, 37, 39, 47, 60, 62, 65, 70–71, 85, 95, 97, 111–12, 114–19, 121, 135, 158–60, 162–66, 182–83, 190, 194–96, 226, 229, 231, 234, 242, 244–45, 253–54, 258, 260–61

humility, 90–91, 114, 117, 184, 210, 244–45 illumination, 23, 35. See also knowledge; light; mind image and likeness. See image of God image of God, 8, 12–14, 31, 39–40, 43–44, 90, 93, 99, 111, 113, 115, 117, 120–21, 142, 158, 159, 162, 179, 180–81, 184, 188–89, 191, 195, 213–14, 217–18, 225, 229, 231, 244 imitation, 8, 89–91, 114, 206, 213, 217, 242, 249, 254, 258 immortality, 8–9, 84–85, 89, 93, 95–96, 99–100, 113–15, 116, 158, 187, 199n43 incorruption, 8–9, 39, 43, 84–85, 96, 114, 120 John 10. See gods justification, 59–75, 83, 87, 89–90, 92, 95–96, 100–101, 111, 114, 116–17, 119–21, 136, 144–45, 147, 159, 162, 166, 183, 186, 191, 193, 195, 209, 234 kenosis, 14, 86, 88–89, 116 knowledge, 10–12, 19, 34–36, 40, 62, 90, 93, 97, 100, 114, 117–19, 120, 160, 163, 182, 186–87, 188–89, 196– 97, 207, 218, 231, 233–35, 241–54, 260–61 light, 9, 12, 18, 31, 34–35, 84, 140, 158, 178, 208, 217, 243, 253 likeness. See image and likeness mind, 33, 36, 45, 88, 162, 181, 184, 186, 192, 218, 242, 245, 248, 250–51. See also illumination; knowledge; light obedience, 38, 41, 46, 85–86, 110, 113–15, 121, 162, 164, 188–89, 258


Paradise, 12–13, 19, 188 peace, 43–44, 62, 114, 119, 183–84, 188–89, 207, 242, 246–47, 249, 258 perfection, 8–9, 15, 19, 39–40, 64, 85, 88–90, 92–94, 96, 100, 115, 141, 162–63, 177–97, 206–11, 215–16, 226, 261 poverty, 1, 14, 22, 65, 86, 96, 193, 208, 236, 248, 251, 256–58 priesthood, 7, 12, 15, 17, 129, 138, 145 Psalm 82 (81, LXX). See gods purity, 18, 43, 67, 93, 96, 113–15, 118–20, 180–82, 185–87, 197, 214, 258–59 rebirth. See regeneration recreating, 15, 111, 121, 162, 229 regeneration, 26n38, 70, 90–91, 110–22, 181–83, 208, 210 renewal, 61–65, 70, 72, 74, 84, 92, 111, 113, 181–84, 189–90 restoration, 14–15, 18–19, 24, 38, 40, 43, 47, 68, 89–90, 93, 97, 119, 141, 145, 162, 187–89, 193–95, 209, 226, 234


righteousness, 60–66, 70, 72–74, 84, 86, 90–91, 95–96, 99, 111, 116, 131, 135–36, 162, 179, 181, 183, 190–92, 206–7, 218 sacrifice, 14–17, 19–21, 25n21, 27n45, 43, 96, 143, 165, 181, 190, 246, 255 sanctification, 8, 19, 61–63, 66, 71, 73, 74, 89, 91, 94, 96, 100–111, 114, 120–22, 131, 138, 145, 156–57, 162–64, 178–97, 229, 234 sons of God. See children of God suffering, 17, 20, 70, 85, 91, 98, 112, 116–18, 120, 135, 143, 183, 188, 217, 245, 251 transfiguration, 3, 18, 92–93, 97, 100, 138, 169n27, 209–10 2 Peter 1:4, 1, 9, 18, 31, 33–34, 68, 85–86, 93, 111, 120, 135, 144, 177, 179, 206, 231–32, 261 virtue, 19, 31, 41, 43, 45, 66–67, 90, 99, 114, 140, 183, 191, 213, 228, 231–32. See also ethics

About the Contributors

Nikolaos Asproulis is deputy director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies (Greece) and lecturer at the Hellenic Open University (Greece). He is co-editor with John Chryssavgis of Theology as Doxology and Science: Essential Writings by Nikos Nissiotis (Lexington/Fortress Academic, 2019). Michael J. Christensen is a practical theologian affiliated with Drew University, Point Loma Nazarene University, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and the Episcopal School for Ministry in San Diego. He is the author of C. S. Lewis on Scripture (World Books, 1979); co-editor of Partakers of the Divine Nature: Deification in the Christian Traditions (Baker Academic, 2008); and co-author of three posthumous books by Henri Nouwen known as The Nouwen Trilogy: Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation and Discernment (HarperOne, 2015). Brenda B. Colijn is professor of biblical interpretation and theology at Ashland Theological Seminary and author of Images of Salvation in the New Testament (InterVarsity Press, 2010). Stephen Finlan is the pastor at The First Church of West Bridgewater, MA (United Church of Christ). He has taught at Fordham and Drew Universities and is the author of Problems with Atonement (Liturgical, 2005), Bullying in the Churches (Cascade, 2015), and co-editor and co-author of Theōsis: Deification in Christian Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2006). Myk Habets is professor of theology, director of research, dean of faculty, and head of Carey Graduate School, at Carey Baptist College, New Zealand. He has published articles on constructive systematic theology 269


About the Contributors

in international journals and has authored five books including Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance (Ashgate, 2009); The Anointed Son: A Trinitarian Spirit Christology (Pickwick, 2010), and Heaven (Cascade, 2018), in addition to editing over twelve books including Third Article Theology (Fortress, 2016). Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, and docent of ecumenics at the University of Helsinki. His most recent major publication is the five-volume Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World (Eerdmans 2013–17). Carl Mosser most recently served as professor of Christian theology at Gateway Seminary and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Notre Dame. He has edited three books and published articles in such journals as the Scottish Journal of Theology, Journal of Theological Studies, and Trinity Journal. Jared Ortiz is associate professor of religion at Hope College and author of You Made Us for Yourself: Creation in St Augustine’s Confessions (Fortress Press, 2016) and editor of Deification in the Latin Patristic Tradition (The Catholic University of America Press, 2019). Bernie Owens, S.J. is author of More Than You Could Ever Imagine: On Our Becoming Divine (Liturgical Press, 2015). A spiritual director, retreat master, and professor, he has taught at the University of Detroit Mercy and Hekima College in Nairobi, Kenya, led the ministry training program at the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and was part of the team in training spiritual directors at Mwangaza Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Nairobi. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling is professor of ethics and theology at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio.  She is author of Desire for God and the Things of God:  The Relationships Between Christian Spirituality and Morality (Cascade, 2012) and Reviving Evangelical Ethics:  The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality (Brazos Press, 2008).  She is also co-author with Jeannine K. Brown and Carla M. Dahl of Becoming Whole and Holy:  An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Baker Academic, 2011). James Salladin is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church in New York City. He wrote his dissertation on True Grace is Divine: Special Grace as Participation in Divine Fullness in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards at St. Andrews University and has written articles on deification in Jonathan Edwards.