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Archive for May, 2013

I saw these insightful comments by Leonard Sweet (E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew Theological School in NJ) today on Facebook. Given the relevance to my blog’s name, I thought I would share them here:

Jesus does not show us the way to God so that we can be more like God. God does not want us to be more like God. That is what got us into trouble in the first place: wanting to be like God. We didn’t know our place, and respect the place where God put us. Our place is a human place . . . Jesus shows us the way to ourselves, to our humanity, to our authentic human status as the highest of all God’s creation, carrying within out being the very reflection of God’s being.

One of the most misunderstood quotes in Christian history is this one from St. Athanasius of Alexandria, which has been used umpteen times to explains the doctrine of “theosis:” “The Son of God became man, that we might become God.”

Athanasius did not mean by this that it is possible for created beings to become God, or even part of God, but through the power of the Holy Spirit breathing in us we can know what it means to be fully human and inhabit our creaturely status as the created image of God.

In other words, “theosis” is not “essence” or “being” language, but relational and participatory language. The Orthodox Study Bible provides a theological clarification to the “theosis” doctrine of “deification:”

“What deification is not: When the Church calls us to pursue godliness, to be more like God, this does not mean that human beings then become divine. We do not become like God in His nature. That would not only be heresy, it would be impossible. For we are human, always have been human, and always will be human. We cannot take on the nature of God.

“Theosis” means humans get to participate in the life and love of God, not ontologically but relationally. We aren’t mimicking what Jesus did, but actually living his resurrection life with him. Human beings are creatures who share the Creator’s life. This is what it mean to “become god” for Eastern orthodoxy, or what it means to “be perfect” for holiness theology.

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