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The Fathers and Theosis
09-10-2009, 02:45 PM,
Quote:--Theopoiesis is the voluntary act of God descending to our meagre level attach ourselves to Himself, thus transmitting a type of godliness to us, which is dependent on our continued connection to Him.

-- Theopoiesis is the completion of our salvation . . .this connection shall never be broken once it is attained.

This has turned out to be a profitable day in this thread!

Quote:We participate in our salvation by partaking of the sacraments, worshipping God, obeying the Law, and doing good in this world, but these things do not invoke a progression on the road of Theosis as some claim, but rather is a parallel to the parable of the virgins keeping the wicks trimmed and their lamps lit.

Thanks Marc, this very cool. And, I hope you remember that I am not hostile at all as I ask the following question in a continued attempt to understand a bit:

With the exception of what seems to be something akin to a "once-saved-always-saved" mentality . . . can you think of one thing that would be different in what is shared today, about theopoiesis, that would not also describe definitively a classic Calvinist (sacramental approach)? Many Calvinists are non-sacramental in their churches/approaches.

I really don't like labels very much, but this seems to be shaping up to be a kind of Sacramental Calvinism pretty quick.
09-10-2009, 03:22 PM,
Calvanism is truly a once-saved-always-saved mentality as you state it. But Calvanism has a number of other components as well, that differentiate it:

There are 5 tenants of Calvanism identified in the acronym TULIP

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Preservation of the Saints.

In general, the Calvinists believe that those of us who are saved were made to be saved and there is nothing we can do to affect that. Inversely, others never had a chance and were always condemned. Furthermore, they believe that human beings in and of themselves are completely incapable of doing good, and that any occurrence is strictly God acting through us.

We believe, that we can fall from Grace and that while we may be on the track to salvation at some point, we can get off-track and be condemned. Predestination for us then is not the individual plan for each person set-up from the beginning, but rather the plan and goal of salvation as a whole as set-out from the beginning by God. So if we think of predestination as a bus on route to somewhere, then its destination is salvation and if we are on that bus, we are free to get off at any time. and just as our ability to reach the destination is completely dependent on the bus driver, so is our salvation dependent on God's Grace.

Sacramentalism in Calvanism was doomed to failed, because there was no soteriological benefit to it because if you are guaranteed saved then there is no temporal factors that could improve or diminish the likelihood of one's success.

We partake of the sacraments to preserve and (for lack of a better term) increase the Spirit of God within us, thus keeping us prepared for the return of our Lord. If we fall asleep (spiritually speaking) and, after our Lord returns, we go looking for Him, then He will say, "I do not know you." And this may not just be in the event of the Second Coming, but also on the day that our life in required from us (our temporal death), which some say was the case with King Solomon, where he fell into sin and idolatry later in life, but earlier, his writings were considered inspired by God. Did Christ retrieve Solomon from Satan when He descended into Hell between His crucifixion and His resurrection as He did with others who were born under the Law of Moses? This is an unanswered question and such is the same with our own salvation.
09-10-2009, 03:34 PM,
I'm really sorry Marc, I didn't do a very good job at all asking my question. :oops:

When you wrote:

Quote:We participate in our salvation by partaking of the sacraments, worshipping God, obeying the Law, and doing good in this world, but these things do not invoke a progression on the road of Theosis as some claim, but rather is a parallel to the parable of the virgins keeping the wicks trimmed and their lamps lit.

and when you wrote:

Quote:Theopoiesis is the voluntary act of God descending to our meagre level attach ourselves to Himself, thus transmitting a type of godliness to us, which is dependent on our continued connection to Him.

This sounds like what is being said is that we do our part, and either God saves us or He doesn't.
09-10-2009, 03:58 PM,
Well, when it comes down to it, that is true. There are two essential components in salvation: our participation and God's participation. God will not save us if we don't want to be saved, but if we do want to be saved it is still by His Grace that we are saved and not by our ability to attain it without His consent per se.

As we say in Orthodoxy, we are saved by Grace and works; Grace being God's participation and works being our participation.
09-10-2009, 04:44 PM,
marc hanna Wrote:Well, when it comes down to it, that is true. There are two essential components in salvation: our participation and God's participation. God will not save us if we don't want to be saved, but if we do want to be saved it is still by His Grace that we are saved and not by our ability to attain it without His consent per se.

Marc, thanks very much for your time here, very gracious of you, this has been very helpful in terms of clarifying what we are talking about.

And, from here as we might move back to a comparison between theopoiesis and theosis, as we have in the past . . . I wonder if you know that what you are describing in this quote is what I understand to be a classic description of the doctrine of cooperation in Eastern Orthodoxy?

And, also, I wonder if you know that this is what lies at the heart of theosis as understood in Eastern Orthodoxy.

And, in this doctrine of cooperation, between man and God it is also part of mainstream Eastern Orthodoxy to know that even if we do our part, either God saves us or He doesn't.

So there does not seem to be any difference between what is being presented as theopoiesis and theosis, at this point.

Neither one teaches that anything that we do, on our part can invoke a progression; but, that this progression is only a voluntary act of God. This includes the forms of participation that you have listed above as well as all forms of hesychastic prayer and asceticism. All of these are viewed as either tools or means/methods to help us in our quest for theosis . . . and these may or may not do so.

For example, as you know, in Eastern Orthodoxy, the Jesus Prayer is different from the Prayer of the Heart. The Jesus Prayer is something we do, something we pray out loud or silently to ourselves throughout the day. We can pray the Jesus Prayer 10,000 times per day, everyday of our lives . . . but, unless through a voluntary act of God, He moves in us to bring this to a true Prayer of the Heart, then there is only a method or a tool here, and nothing more.

Do you see what I mean? Any act of participation, any aspiration for communion on any level, whether it be by means of the participation you have spoken of, or hesychastic activity or asceticism in its many manifestations . . . these are not viewed as magic bullets in any way . . . just as you say in theopoiesis it is in theosis, it is: "by His Grace that we are saved and not by our ability to attain it without His consent per se."

We can position ourselves in different ways, in the hope of not falling from grace, and we may practice our piety 'each as is appropriate for oneself, but all of this is much different from working with magic methods and techniques that bring salvation on oneself based on one's own efforts, based on one's own hard work. It would be error to describe the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis as a reward or something due or any kind of compensation for anything that we do.

So now, after our lightening round Smile I am left wondering exactly what the difference is between theopoiesis and theosis?
09-10-2009, 04:54 PM,
I am still in the process of studying hesychasm, but much of what I've learned from a theological point of view, differs much from the average EO's understanding and practice of it. My primary source of learning regarding hesychasm is Gregory Palamas as he seems to be the fore-runner of its usage in the modern age, and he is certainly respected by the EO's as a doctor of this theology.

I will have more to say on this later on in my studying of Gregory Palamas and other EO saints.

I should also note that, theosis is a process and occurs gradually by receiving contribution from God of the Divine Energies. Theopoiesis is an end result, and in OO theology there is no doctrine of Divine Energies or distinction between them and the Divine Essence. The intellectual concept of theosis is borrowed from Plato and while we OO's do accept that some truths are revealed or mirrored through others such as pagans and secularists, we do not subscribe to Plato's concepts as universal truths within our theology.

To then make another comparison then

theopoiesis is to patiently waiting for the arrival, as theosis is to pursuing in order to obtain.
09-10-2009, 05:06 PM,
Please note that my posts are intent with the humblest respect. I know sometimes I may come off as somewhat abrupt. My apologies if I present as rude or abrasive at times.
09-10-2009, 05:16 PM,
Sounds good Marc. And, I would also suggest that you do some reading in some of the more contemporary writing theologians in Eastern Orthodoxy in order to get a sense of the meaning of and practice of various means and methods/techniques to be found in Orthodoxy. Some of these just put it out there in a way that can be easily understood, as opposed to some like Palamas that really make you work for it and sometimes necessitiate an understanding of his theology as a whole in order to interpret what is said in just a part.

You know, I think at one point there was an assertion that things have changed in that from Gregory Nazianzus forward theopoiesis had become theosis . . . and, I'm not sure if Gregory taught anything different; but, the point is what is presented as the early father's doctrine of theopoiesis is what I think you will find is what is understood as the mainstream doctrine of theosis in Eastern Orthodoxy today.

If you find anything new or interesting in your research, I'll be here. Now where did that cigar get to that I was supposed to smoke and think of the birth of your last child? Honestly, Marc, that is somewhat of a rip-off! Big Grin

PS Just saw your last post, no apologies needed, for sure, from where I sit! I appreciate it very much that we can cover so much ground in such a short time as this. But, then again, I can be about 80 grit sometimes myself, so Hmmm . . . Smile
10-10-2009, 07:25 PM,
There is a problem with the way theological/traditional topics are often approached; and it is that they are often approached in isolation and not in the context in which they exist. It is true that the doctrine of participation is something that both EO's and OO's share, but in and of itself, it does not define our theologies or make them essentially the same. I think it is possible that there is a return in the general understanding of EO's that is similar to what OO's have always believed, that salvation cannot be achieved intellectually or spiritually on one's own accord; not that I'm saying this was the case, but there was definitely a spirit of such at times in the past.

Like the RC's the EO's have had an evolving tradition, theologically and practically speaking, whereas the OO's have not. The OO's have had no doctrinal development since Cyril of Alexandria, whose we believe is simply a clarification of what the earlier fathers understood. The three traditions existed as early as Athanasius of Alexandria and before and while when we read the common fathers we see evidence of them all, we should not assume that these were universally held precepts.

But focusing then on the East; let's discuss these two traditions and frame out that which is proper to each. This will have to follow in another post, I'm out of time for now.
15-10-2009, 11:47 AM,
marc hanna Wrote:It is true that the doctrine of participation is something that both EO's and OO's share, but in and of itself, it does not define our theologies or make them essentially the same.

I guess this is the question then concerning the topic at hand, what is unique about the OO doctrine of cooperation, what is *unique* about theopoiesis in distinction from theosis?

I'm not seeing any difference in these doctrines at this point.
15-10-2009, 12:51 PM,
Again, theosis is a process that takes place gradually over one's lifetime whereas theopoiesis is rather an event that occurs when our salvation is complete. The two are distinctly different, just as the car-ride is not the same thing as actually reaching the destination. In OO theological tradition, there is no doctrine of theosis, neither a doctrine of the distinction between divine essence and energies, neither do we believe that someone can work toward seeing the Divine Light. But those components, as such, are integral in EO doctrine of theosis and the way of hesychasm. This spirit of the two traditions may be observed in the way our monks practice. The Coptic monks work and pray, humbly waiting for our Lord, the monks on the Holy Mountain recite a mantra, the Jesus Prayer, with breathing exercises in order to obtain a higher state of spirituality.

The fact that the leading theologians in both our traditions avoid each other's terminology suggests that the theology is different. I personally can't see how the two can be confused as being the same. It appears to me that many contemporary writers seek to blend the two, which could be for various reasons, such as unity efforts, but this is strictly speculative as to their motives. I personally don't think that blending or confusing the theologies gets us any closer to unity anymore than pretending black people aren't black in order to improve racial relations. Unity is more likely to occur through respecting and understanding our differences and agreeing to disagree on issues that are not critical for our salvation. Their are a lot of points that we all agree on, and I don't see why we can't agree to live in unity each within his own respective tradition - it worked for St Athanasius and St Gregory Nyssa.
15-10-2009, 01:34 PM,
Marc--Last April, you wrote:

marc hanna Wrote:I'm going to go ahead and open a Pandora's box here . . . There are two traditional teachings here that are commonly referred to as theosis but are indeed two separate teachings: theosis and theopoiesis.

And, now six months later, the "Pandora's box" boils down to conversation about the difference between a journey and a destination, and a pointing to the more passive Coptic monks and the more active Athonite monks.

I would think that OO's would see both a journey in the life of Christ and a destination with somewhere around 99.9% of people experiencing theopoiesis after death, just as the EO do with theosis . . . and I think we can see both more passive and active approaches from those pursuing the Way in early Church History.

So, to be honest Mark, I think you are creating artificial separations/divisions where they do not exist in fact.

I've been hanging in here, for six months to the day, trying to see the difference between what you are presenting as separate teachings, and I have to tell you that I can only see very minor differences which most appear to be contrived/artificial (or a result of being misinformed).

I think I was hoping to see something here, because what you are presenting is more inline with what I have believed in the past as it was spun by a certain branch of Protestantism . . . but, if we are to be academically honest, or just plain honest, our evidence folder is empty here.
15-10-2009, 04:53 PM,
Well I'm sorry to disappoint you, and further sorry that you're unable to appreciate the difference between the two. The EO's have worked hard to reconcile Gregory Nyssa and Athanasius, and that means reconciling these to terms in order to convey that the two spoke the same. Athanasius is held in such high esteem by EO's and OO's alike yet the EO's rarely quote him, instead they quote the "pillars of orthodoxy" of which none are Athanasius or Cyril. It is my opinion, that this is because EO theology does not agree with them - sure there are small isolated quotes here and there but it is highly disproportionate compared to the importance that these Saints held.

If I had time, I would surely love to put together a comprehensive paper on this, maybe in five years or so, but in the end you will present it to your authorities who will dismiss it as drivel, and you will be of the same opinion still. This is human nature.

If there was no difference in our theology, there would have never been a grounds for schism. The EO's say our theology was heretical, but we only adhered to the words of Cyril "One incarnate nature of God the Word." Many scholars hold the opinion that the only reason Cyril escaped being labeled a monophysite is because he died before Chalcedon.

I'm not exactly sure what you were looking for, I have my suspicions, but then again you never really outright asked for it either. We sort of danced around a "banner" topic, which I suspected was in order to back door a connection to the theology of Baptists and Mennonites. But I digress, if we can not recognize the fundamental difference, then we have no hope of digging down into the finer details; it will simply be a back and forth as on so many other forums.
15-10-2009, 05:17 PM,
Well, I guess we are winding down here Marc . . . but, in one final attempt to make the point (hopefully without going down to 80 grit here!), . . . as you wrote in your last post of:

-- Athanasius
--Gregory (Nyssa)
--The EO/OO Schism
--Monophysite controversy
--and other

This is representative of the majority of the posts here, in this thread, in the fact that even if I did want to present something to my authorities, there is nothing to present . . . nothing to consider. This has nothing to do with human nature.

If you and I went back through this thread and made a bullet point list of all of the differences between theosis and theopoiesis, we would have a very short list void of substantival data. Honestly, I don't see anything here to even go back and forth on.

So, I will just say thank you very much for your time here in this thread! Smile
15-10-2009, 06:48 PM,
I agree a bullet-point list of the differences are hard to pin down http://in a vacuum, and so this is why I've made the greater attempt to first contextualize the teachings. When we strip the context away, many will say that we are just splitting hairs, but the truth is, context is everything! And this is first the biggest hurtle when discussing any topic between EO's and OO's, that we can't even agree on the context. First of all, the OO's are grouped as monophysites by the EO's - which we are not, monophysitism is ascribed to a particular heresy whose theology is foreign to our's - and so our understanding of the fathers is dismissed as flawed.

Now I'm probably coming off as a little abrasive now, but I knew from the onset of your EO influences, and I know there is nothing I can say that will not be immediately dashed apart by those whom you refer back to, and this is because of the ancient practice of EO's taking/isolating quotes of the fathers out of context - let's look back at the dialogues between Severus of Antioch and John the Grammarian - to this day EO's still reference John after it was plainly revealed that he repeatedly misquoted Cyril. So yes, I have to first lead you down a long road of contextualization before I get down to the "meat and potatoes" of this issue, and you have to be willing to see it from our perspective, or else we will get no where. Theosis and theopoiesis are not isolated issues than can be plucked out of context and examined. They are both intertwined into the theological traditions from which they originate. Cyril recognized the importance of commonality of terms and this is why he took so much exception to Nestorius' prosopic union because it inevitably leads to two wills, two natures and two Sons.

There has been a lot of corrective action in EO theology over the centuries, which I applaud when compared to the RC's unwillingness to correct flawed theology. Unfortunately, the EO's don't admit that there was any corrective action but that it was a mere clarification of what was always believed. It seems to me, that if we had just skipped the Council of Chalcedon and went straight to Constantinople II, we would have avoided schism altogether.

I don't concern myself much with the protestants because their theology is hopelessly diverged from ours; but for the lay person who understands nothing of theology and has faith like a child, I believe none of this matters. I would rather you dismiss me as a lunatic and continue on in your faith, than me get into telling you which fathers were right and which ones were wrong, because then I tread on dangerous ground by repeating the same mistakes that resulted in schism to begin with. I don't know where you are at in theology, but I have observed that some of the people you refer back to are not exactly open-minded to OO theology, and if they are your guides, then I don't think there is much hope for a true conveyance of my points.

I am a firm believer in going straight to the source, and while I believe commentaries are useful in opening our minds to things we haven't considered, they are also equally to blame for imposing biased points of view. This is why for myself, I have found it important to learn Ancient Greek, so that I am not reliant of the theological leanings of the translator. But again, I digress.

God bless, and may your learning be fruitful.

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