This Sunday I talked about the sacramental life at the corps. It was a nice service with good worship (Thanks Boris) and the teaching flowed nicely. As I am preaching my way through my “Life is my religion” teaching we where talking about life as a spiritual practice and apart from sacramental living we got into a discussion about apotheosis, deification or divinization.
Divinisation is the teaching that the church has held for the first 1500 years. That the goal of salvation and the Christian life is to become more and more like Jesus until we are at the same footing as Jesus. The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology has the following article on deification:
Deification (Greek theosis) is for Orthodoxy the goal of every Christian. Man, according to the Bible, is ‘made in the image and likeness of God.’. . . It is possible for man to become like God, to become deified, to become god by grace. This doctrine is based on many passages of both OT and NT (e.g. Ps. 82 (81).6; II Peter 1.4), and it is essentially the teaching both of St Paul, though he tends to use the language of filial adoption (cf. Rom. 8.9—17; Gal. 4.5—7), and the Fourth Gospel (cf. 17.21—23).
The language of II Peter is taken up by St Irenaeus, in his famous phrase, ‘if the Word has been made man, it is so that men may be made gods’ (Adv. Haer V, Pref.), and becomes the standard in Greek theology. In the fourth century, St. Athanasius repeats Irenaeus almost word for word, and in the fifth century St Cyril of Alexandria says that we shall become sons ‘by participation’ (Greek methexis). Deification is the central idea in the spirituality of St. Maximus the Confessor, for whom the doctrine is the corollary of the Incarnation: ‘Deification, briefly, is the encompassing and fulfillment of all times and ages,’ . . . and St. Symeon the New Theologian at the end of the tenth century writes, ‘He who is God by nature converses with those whom he has made gods by grace, as a friend converses with his friends, face to face.’ . . .
Or to express it simply, when you are filled with the spirit and the spirit flows out of you with power and love, then you are god manifest, you are the christ (the anointed one) in that particular moment. As I was carefully choosing my words explaining this. Tomas raised his hand and asked: Excuse me but what is the controversy here? Why is this a problem?
I agree with him, there is no controversy here, or at least there should not be. This s the good news, this is sacramental language, the idea that I am in god but at the same time god is in me and therefore when I walk in the spirit or when I am in the will of god I am the manifestation or incarnation of god at that place in that moment. Yet, this kind of language seems scary and threatening to many church goers and especially church leaders.
But really what’s the controversy? There is no difference in saying: Jesus is my brother or I am a child of god. Or even saying I am Jesus hands and feet in this neighbourhood. This should not be controversy, rather it should be orthodoxy. How does it work? I don’t know its a mystery (gr. mysterion translated in Vulgate as sacramentum). I think we need to return to the mystery, the sacrament: Christ in me the hope of glory!