The Fathers and Theosis
15-04-2009, 07:58 PM
I'm going to go ahead and open a Pandora's box here, and make a comment on theosis. I will post more on the topic later. There are two traditional teachings here that are commonly referred to as theosis but are indeed two separate teachings: theosis and theopoiesis. Theosis is the teaching of the Cappadocian fathers and thoepoiesis is the teaching of Clement, Athanasius and Cyril, which is the adoption spoken of by Paul. The Cappadocian teaching of theosis is quite similar to that which belongs to Greek philosophy, and is riddled with philosophical terms. The problem begins with the translation of these two terms into a single English word: deify. Through reading the bible and the works of Athanasius I came the understanding of theopoiesis before I even knew the term and it wasn't until later that I learned there was a difference between it and what the Cappadocian fathers taught as theosis.
Theosis is becoming God by ascension through meditation and spiritual elevation and appears to include sharing in the divine substance when we finally reach full communion with God in Heaven. In theosis we become one with God by becoming a part of God.
Theopoiesis, is the being made a god through sonship by adoption. We unite with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb and the sonship which Christ has is transmitted to us only because of our connection to Him, much like the magnetic properties are transmitted to a piece of steel when it unites with a magnet. We do not become what God is but we become one with Him as a married couple becomes one.
A quick example of this:
Gregory Nazianzen, from his 21st oration:
Whoever has been permitted to escape by reason and contemplation
from matter and this fleshly cloud or veil (whichever it should be
called) and to hold communion with God, and be associated, as far as
man's nature can attain, with the purest Light, blessed is he, both from
his ascent from hence, and for his theosis there, which is conferred by
true philosophy, and by rising superior to the dualism of matter,
through the unity which is perceived in the Trinity.
St Athanasius, Four Discourses against the Arians:
it follows that He had not promotion from His descent , but rather Himself promoted the things which needed promotion; and if He descended to affect their promotion, therefore He did not receive in reward the name of the Son and God, but rather He Himself has made us sons of the Father, and deified (etheopoiese - past tense) men by becoming Himself man.
Gregory speaks of theosis and the ascent of man and it being attainable by man's nature and further equates it with "true philosophy"; but Athansius speaks of theopoiesis and the descent of Christ in order to promote us. These are not the same doctrines.
Now this was not meant to rock anyone's faith, but to initiate a real investigation into this topic. I am not presenting this to expose saints as heretics, but rather to identify the different teachings for consideration.
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 - marc hanna - 15-04-2009 07:58 PM