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Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, Volume One (Princeton Theological Monograph) Paperback – April 1, 2006
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... These twin volumes are a scintillating gift to Christianity's ongoing revelation in the third millennium. Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Alastair McIntosh The Expository Times, Volume 126, No 2, November 2014) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Stephen Finlan is a post-doctoral Fellow at Fordham University, and has taught at Drew University and at the University of Durham. He is the co-editor of Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Pickwick, 2006), The Apostle Paul and the Pauline Tradition (2008), Options on Atonement (2007), Problems with Atonement (2005), and The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors (2004). Vladimir Kharlamov is an Assistant Professor of Spiritual Theology at Sioux Falls Seminary. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I was drawn to the book at first by the glowing editorial review and the fact that Stephen Finlan is a widely recognized authority and author on the subject of Atonement, a matter with strong ties to the doctrine of Theosis. Finlan and co-editor are responsible for the introduction and Finlan wrote two of the articles. Co-editor Kharlamov wrote two additional articles. The upper tier of authors is rounded out by Gregory Glazov who covers the Old Testament. The lower tier of authors is four scholars near their fledging with degrees. In spite of the variation in credentials, the quality of the writing and scholarship throughout is uniform.
Theosis is the Christian doctrine which declares that salvation is accomplished by being deified, to some extent, reversing the path Christ took in his incarnation as the man Jesus. The process is not a complete mirror, as God brooks no `additions' to the Trinity.
The doctrine is simple enough. What is fascinating is how the doctrine was so strong in the earliest Apostolic Fathers (1 - 2nd Century CE), how it bloomed with 4 - 5th century patristic fathers, especially in the Greek speaking eastern church, and how it virtually died in the western Latin speaking church. Augustine, for example spoke very little of it.
The doctrine remained alive in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but was heavily criticized by western scholars up to the early 20th century. Three very different movements in 20th century are giving it new life. The first is the 19th century Russian mystic, Vladimir Soloviev, who surveyed the meaning of Christian live in more depth than may have been done since Abelard in the 12th century. The second is the Scottish Reformed theologian, T. F. Torrance, who demonstrates how Calvin did not really discard the concept, even if he did not make it his centerpiece.
The most interesting revival of the idea I find is in the "Finnish School" of Lutheran interpretation, lead by Tuomo Mannermaa. This is exciting to me as it poses the possibility of building a theological bridge between Luther's theory and modern Discipleship praxis, especially as exemplified by the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The irony of a rebirth in the interest in emulating Jesus is that its greatest proponent shared with the Apostolic Fathers the threat, and then the fact, of being executed for his beliefs and acts based on those beliefs.
You can read this book in a long afternoon, and it will ignite interest in those who have written so brilliantly on this sometimes forgotten subject.
Christian Doctrine of Deification:
A well diversified collection, of importance to explorers of the Church doctrine. There are some which provoke contemplative thought and most promote further research, given the abundance of bibliography within the introduction. A reader friendly for new comers to the ancient Alexandrine doctrine, a fact which is made clear by Norman Russell but was evidently unclear in the introduction and the mind of some of the essay writers. As an advocate of Alexandrine orthodox teaching and a promoter of Coptic mystical tradition.
It is still applicable what, the eminent Patristic scholar Fr. Sydney Griffith wrote, in a book review, "One does not mean to complain immoderately, nor to appear ungrateful for what is on its own term a good study of a timely and an important topic; nor does one want to review a book the author never intended to write," as I enthusiastically give my comments.
It is worth stressing what my learned friend Didaskalex was critical of leaving Cyril the doctor of the Catholic Church, and benchmark of orthodoxy out. Also his grand theological master and founder of Systematic biblical theology, Origen. The first exegesist who introduced the concept of divinization, elaborated by Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria.
A. No Theosis without Kenosis:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20
"I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. ... I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me." (II Cor 12)
Theosis, Mystical union:
"Albert Schweitzer devoted his Mysticism of the Paul the Apostle explaining this mystical union with Christ, but on the whole Protestants have remained attached to justification by faith. More recently, E. P. Sanders and others have also raised the issue of the importance of participation in Paul's theology, but Sanders also humbly mentions that he and others really don't know what that means. It is the deeper meaning of Paul's participation statements that is our interest and not that of thinly veiled restatements of Paul's language. As such, I agree with Sanders' argument that Paul's letters speak of a reality that is not fully captured in categories or explanations given by scholars to date." Ben Blackwell, The union of believers with Christ in Paul
B. Maximus following Cyril:
The quotation from 2 Peter was altogether more problematical. It was first used by Origen (thrice), then by Athanasius (six times), and subsequently by Cyril (more than forty times). It appears in the Macarian Homilies (ten times), but not in the Cappadocians and is not used again until Maximus the Confessor (twice). Thereafter it turns up very infrequently in Byzantine writers. Symeon the New Theologian appeals to it only once, so far as I am aware. Theophylact of Bulgaria passes over it rapidly in his commentary on 2 Peter. It re-emerges in the Palamite dispute when Akindynos uses 'partakers of the divine nature' to oppose the existence of the energies, forcing Palamas to give a detailed exegesis of the text. Why did this expression, 'partakers of the divine nature', present such difficulty? Why was it popular with Cyril but not with Maximus? Why was it practically ignored by the Byzantines in spite of the fact that the doctrine of deification was accepted without question? These are the problems to which we shall attempt to find solutions." Norman Russell, "Partakers of the Divine Nature" in the Byzantine Tradition
C. Origen on Divinization:
Joseph Trigg wrote, "In his discussion of the inadequacy of human language, Origen addresses topics that were elaborated in the following century by the Cappadocians..." on Origen's commentary on John, illustrates Origen's interest in Christ's divine and human natures and multiple aspects as they relate to human transformation through participation in Christ." Trigg writes quoting (Book 32.339), "The mind that has been purified and has surpassed all material things, so as to be certain of the contemplation of God is divinized by those things that it contemplates.
Origen conceived salvation as a dynamic process of 'transformation into the image of God,' which eventually takes the believer into a gradual participation in God's own nature, given his human free will is in tact, amidst this transformation which necessitates God's grace, wherein human thought and will cooperate with the Spirit of God to partake of His nature.