Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Doctrine of Theosis (QEWSIS)

An interlocutor wrote:

"[Charles Taze] Russell, in the following issue of his publication, again elevated his followers to Godhood, announcing, 'Ye are Gods.' He further concluded that, 'When we claim on the scriptural warrant, that we are begotten of a divine nature and Jehovah is thus our Father, it is claiming that we are divine beings - hence all such are Gods.' Absent from Russell's assertion that we can become gods is any reminder of Satan's lie to Eve in the garden, 'You will become like God!' (Genesis 3:5), Lucifer's fall from glory for wishing to be as God (Isaiah 14:14), and the words from Yahweh himself, stating that 'The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish [SIC] from the earth and from under the heavens.' (Jeremiah 10:11)"

My comments are below:

In Eastern Christendom, an often heard refrain has been: "God became man, in order that man might be shown how to become God (divine)." The Greek theologian Maximus wrote: "All that God is, except for an identity in OUSIA, one becomes when one is deified by grace" (Max. Ambig. 41).

His explanation of QEWSIS left a way for the Greek theologians to preserve a distinction between the Creator and the creature. Gregory Palamas also suggested that "the deifying gift of the Spirit is not the superessential OUSIA of God, but the deifying activity [ENERGEIA] of the superessential OUSIA of God." In other words, 2 Peter 1:4 was not viewed as describing an identical participation of the finite referent in the "superessential OUSIA of God." To the contrary, humans were supposedly able to participate in the divine OUSIA by the wonderful divine work of deification. Thus one would go from corruptibility to incorruptibility, as a result of God's XARIS (See The Christian Tradition, Vol. II, pp. 267-268).

This view of Eastern Christendom is not just an obsolete, antiquitous view. Even in 1953, Russian writer Vladimir Lossky, while presenting a synopsis of the Grecian idea of QEWSIS said:

"The descent (KATABASIS) of the divine person of Christ makes human persons capable of an ascent (ANABASIS) in the Holy Spirit. It was necessary that the voluntary humiliation, the redemptive self-emptying (KENOSIS) of the Son of God should take place, so that fallen men might accomplish their vocation of QEWSIS, the deification of created beings by uncreated grace. Thus the redeeming work of Christ--or rather, more generally speaking, the Incarnation of the Word--is seen as directly related to the ultimate goal of creatures: to know union with God. If this union has been accomplished in the divine person of the Son, who is God become man, it is necessary that each human person should in turn become god by grace, or become 'a partaker in the divine nature,' according to St Peter's expression (2 Peter 1:4)" (See Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, pp. 413-414).

As we read the thoughts of orthodox theologians and the ancient fathers of the church, Russell's comments seem mild by comparison. In actuality, his views were evidently scriptural. Christians who are "born again" DO have the hope of sharing in the divine nature. By making this statement, Russell was not saying that some mystical type of QEWSIS would take place whereby the individual Christian referent would be absorbed into God Himself. To draw this conclusion from 2 Peter 1:4 would be to cross the forbidden line between Creator and creature. McGrath warns against the potential danger of such inferences:

"A distinction must be drawn between the idea of deification as
'becoming God' (QEWSIS) and as 'becoming like God' (HOMOIOSIS QEOI).
the first, associated with the Alexandrian School, conceives of
deification as a union with the SUBSTANCE of God; the second,
associated with the Antiochene school, interprets the believer's
relationship with God more in terms of a participation in that which is
divine, often conceived in terms of ethical perfection. The distinction
between these approaches is subtle, and reflects significantly
different Christologies." (McGrath 414).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The Idea that Christians would be given immortality and incorruption thereby be considered "gods" is found throughout the writings of most of the church fathers. While we today might consider this a very extreme form of hyperbole, patristic writers were quite comfortable applying the Word QEOS to chistians and even angels. Two Biblical citations were regularly used by patristic writers as proof texts to back up this claim, ps 82 and later 2 Pet 1:4. This is common knowledge amongst the scholarly community due to numerous studies on the doctrine of deification but is usually kept under wraps or downplayed by most modern day 'apologists' since it dramatically undermines their favorite argument, in a nutshell, that "Jews and early christians were strict monotheists allowing no one in christian belief to be either called 'god'or be deified in any positive way. Only Almighty God is God." Thus for them it means that becuse Jesus is called 'God' he must be part of almighty God". Obviously to broadcast the truth that the word QEOS was applied so casually to Christians in the patristic writings would be quite an embarrassment against their worn out 'monotheism' argument. What is even more ironic is that belief that christians would be deified and become gods in some positive sense was so entrenched in Athanasius mind that he used it as an argument to PROVE the Deity of Christ. His argument was based on two false assumptions: 1)redemption entailed deification and 2) redemption of mankind was attained by the incarnation, i.e. the WORD joining to the Flesh of Christ, Divinizing Humanity. His argument claimed that humanity could not have been deified if joined to a being that was less than Deity therefore the Son had to be Deity inherently to accomplish the deification of humanity. See Athanasius' Against the Arians 2,70 While Athanasius made a distinction between Christ's sharing in Deity by inherent nature versus Christians being Deified by participation, Origen, 80 years earlier taught that Christ Was himself Deified through attracting Deity to himself and therafter shared from his own Deity to make others Gods. See Origens Commentary on John 2.2&3. notice the phrase applied by Origen to those receiving Deity,[QEOTHTOS} they were 'truly gods' See also "The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition" by Norman Russell 2004