vni1nxiNc iN iiviNr Nn1Uir

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PARTAKING IN
DIVINE NATURE
Deihcation and Communion
Paul M. Collins
Published by T&T Clark International
A Continuum Imprint
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writing from the publishers.
Copyright © Paul M. Collins, 2010
Paul M. Collins has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act, 1988, to be identihed as the Author of this work.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
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ISBN: 978-0-567-03187-7 (Hardback)
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Printed and bound in Great Britain by the MPG Books Group
v
ccN1rN1:
1 Introduction 1
A problematic doctrine 2
Deication in the context of Christian Tradition 4
Method 5
Elements of the metaphor of deication 9
Methodological approach 10
2 Popular Piety, Philosophy and Scripture 12
Introduction 12
Apotheoˉ sis in the ancient world 13
Philosophy 18
Later Platonism 23
The Jewish and Christian scriptures 27
A patristic proof text 32
Wisdom literature 35
New Testament 38
3 Early Church Witness 49
Before Nicaea: didaskaleia, apologetics and exegesis 51
Nicene orthodoxy: apologetics and polemics 61
The Cappadocian Fathers 65
Later witnesses 69
4 The Doctrine of Deication in Orthodoxy 74
Twentieth and twenty-rst centuries 77
Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 87
The Middle Ages 95
vi
CONTENTS
5 The ‘Architecture’ of the Metaphor in the West 111
Introduction 111
Theologia Mystica 112
The Medieval mystics 122
The early modern mystics 131
Mystical theology in the twentieth century 137
Deication in the traditions of the Reformation 141
Anabaptists 150
The English Reformation 152
The Great Awakening and ‘Christian Perfection’ 156
The Oxford Movement and its legacy 159
Holiness, perfection and the Holy Spirit 163
Contemporary Roman Catholic teaching 166
6 Transformation and Community 171
The methodology of Mystical Theology 173
Dynamic participation 177
Sacraments as symbols of deication 182
The practice of the Virtues 188
Conclusion 193
Bibliography 195
Index of Subjects and Names 207
Index of Scripture References 217
1
1
iN1iciUc1icN
The idea that you or I might be ‘partaking in divine nature’ is for many
people something which rarely if ever occurs to them. It is, of course, a
reference to an ‘unlikely’ text in Scripture (2 Peter 1.4). For many faithful
Christians as well as for those who discourse in the academy it may seem an
abhorrent or presumptuous, esoteric or irrelevant idea. However, over the
past 20 years or so there has been something of a renaissance in theological
discourse concerning the doctrine which is variously referred to as ‘deihca-
tion’, ‘divinization’ or ‘theoˉ sis’: in 1987 Panayiotis Nellas’ work, Deication
in Christ, was published in English; more recently, George A. Maloney’s
work, The Undreamed Has Happened: God Lives in Us (2003); and
Norman Russell’s works, The Doctrine of Deication in the Greek Patristic
Tradition (2004) and Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on
Theosis (2009). Two collections of essays have also appeared. In 2006
Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov published Theoˉ sis: Deication in
Christian Theology and in 2007 Michael J. Christensen and Jeffrey A. Wittung
published Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of
Deication in the Christian Tradition. Each of these collections includes an
investigation of understandings of deihcation beyond the Eastern Orthodox
Tradition.
Yet for many in the ‘West’ the words ‘deihcation’, ‘divinization’ and
‘theoˉ sis’ are opaque and problematic.
1
One of the purposes of this book is
to investigate whether the words and the doctrine(s) they indicate are neces-
sarily opaque, problematic or esoteric. At the present time much energy in
theological discourse is directed towards the exterior, to the external world.
The words ‘practical’, ‘political’ and ‘public’ are often to be found in con-
junction with the word ‘theology’. Theologians are engaging with matters
beyond the conhnes of academic and ecclesial discourse, in order to engage
with the relationship that the believing community of the Church has with
1
I will generally refer to ‘deihcation’ on the assumption that deihcation, divinization and
theoˉ sis are interchangeable terms which have the same meaning.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
2
the city and society and the world. Much attention is given to mission and
missiology, to Fresh Expressions of Church, to making the Christian Gospel
accessible in the cultures in which it is proclaimed today. In relation to all
this outward engagement, the study of theoˉ sis seems inward and introverted,
something which deals with the interior realm of the individual and her
soul; something which is not accessible to any kind of external evaluation;
something which is intensely personal and framed by the promise of the
future. Can such a doctrine or set of practices be relevant in the present day?
Does a focus on theoˉ sis not seem like withdrawal from engagement with the
world into an escapist journey of interiority? But for me, far from being an
irrelevant distraction, the analysis and discussion of the doctrine of ‘theoˉ sis’
is of crucial importance for the Church today. Using sources from Scripture
and Tradition, and from the experience of the revivalist spiritualities of
different times and places such as the Hesychasts, the Evangelical Revival,
the Wesleyan Holiness movement and the Pentecostal and Charismatic
movements, I will argue for a ‘functionalization’
2
of the doctrine of deihca-
tion understood in a broad sense. I will structure this ‘functionalization’
through an application of Thunberg’s phrase ‘energetic communion’
3
used
to describe the process and outcome of theoˉ sis. Thus, the project of this
book is to investigate the corporate and collective dimensions of theoˉ sis in
Scripture and Tradition and to relate these to an understanding of the
dynamics of the divine–human relationship premised on an appeal to com-
munion [koinoˉ nia].
A problematic doctrine
Before proceeding further I want to acknowledge the problematic status
of the concept of ‘theoˉ sis’ or deihcation. It is a disputed and contentious
doctrine. The idea that the word ‘god’ should be used to describe a Christian
believer remains a ‘scandal’. While the Apostles’ Creed refers to a ‘commun-
ion of saints’ and the Nicene Creed refers to the holiness of Church, many
Christian believers prefer to emphasize the fallen and sinful reality of the
believer and the Church. Holiness is the attribute of God, and the concept
of participating in that holiness is seen by many as a distant and eschatologi-
cal calling. However, the Revivalist movements do appeal to the calling
to ‘perfection’ in the present. Perhaps the appeal to ‘perfection’ is more
2
I am indebted to Pecknold, C. C., ‘How Augustine Used the Trinity: Functionalism and
the Development of Doctrine’, Anglican Theological Review (Winter) (2003): 127–42,
for the exploration of the notion of ‘functionalization’.
3
Thunberg, C., Man and the Cosmos: The Vision of St Maximus the Confessor
(Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), p. 143.
INTRODUCTION
3
‘hearable’ than an appeal to become ‘god’. Similarly an appeal to the calling
to ‘immortality’ may be more palatable than the language of ‘divinization’.
These differences of language and emphasis already suggest that the explo-
ration of what may pass for an understanding of ‘theoˉ sis’ may turn out to
be very broad indeed.
Nonetheless, it needs to recognized from the outset that there remains a
deep-seated suspicion and hostility towards any notion of ‘partaking in
divine nature’. One of the most famous condemnations is to be found in the
writings of Adolf von Harnack.
4
The core thesis of Harnack’s attack was
that the Early Church has allowed the original pristine Christian kerygma to
be overlaid by pagan and ‘Hellenistic’ thought forms and concepts, which he
rejects in the strongest of terms. Jules Gross has argued that such views
underestimate the Greek Fathers. He argues that they were not unaware of
their context and of the issues which Hellenism and the philosophy of the
time raised. Christian understandings of deihcation may easily be confused
with pagan notions such as ‘apotheoˉ sis’, but there is evidence that the Early
Church writers were aware of these difhculties and sought to avoid and
combat them. Another area of concern regarding deihcation is voiced by
present day Protestant writers who raise objections to what they perceive is
the eliding of the Creator–creature difference in the construction of theories
of deihcation. A particular feature of this critique is Protestant abhorrence
at the language of divine–human synergy, which seems either to elide the
difference between the divine and the human or to suggest their ‘equality’ or
‘symmetry’.
Another form of this suspicion is to be seen in relation to the Protestant
construal of ‘justihcation’. Writers in the Middle Ages in the West tend not
to distinguish between justihcation and sanctihcation as different events
or processes, a distinction which the Reformers on the whole do make.
The Reformers see union with Christ as ‘total’ in terms of justihcation but
‘partial’ in terms of sanctihcation. Medieval writers took justihcation and
sanctihcation together and saw union with Christ as a single ‘growing’
process. This latter stance tends to make Protestant and Evangelical authors
nervous, leading many to repudiate the notion of divine–human ‘union’.
The twentieth century also saw theologians calling deihcation into question.
The Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng, writing in a post-war, post-
Holocaust context, suggests that there is a need for human beings to be
humanized rather than divinized.
5
It will form part of the agenda of this
book to address these concerns, and if possible, to allay these fears.
4
von Harnack, A., History of Dogma (London: Williams & Norgate, 1896–99),
Vol. 3, pp. 121–304.
5
Küng, H., On being a Christian (Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd, 1974),
p. 442.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
4
Deication in the context of Christian Tradition
So where does deihcation ht in the Christian Tradition? Is it a doctrine of the
Christian ‘East’ rather than the Christian ‘West’? Is it an esoteric idea which
need not detain the majority of Christian believers, or is it of crucial rele-
vance to a proper understanding of the claims of the Gospel and the Christian
Tradition?
The notion of human ‘partaking in divine nature’ or deihcation relates to
foundational concepts and raises key questions in Christian theological dis-
course: what are the divine purposes or intentions in creating and redeeming
the cosmos? What is the purpose and goal of human existence? What is a
human being? What does it mean to speak of human being as created in
the image and likeness of God? What is the human condition? What does
it mean to speak of salvation or of sanctihcation? In response to these
questions as they relate in particular to the formulation of a metaphor of
deihcation, I will examine discourse concerning the relationship between
creation, theological anthropology, salvation, justihcation and theoˉ sis. This
will necessitate some reference to models of salvation, but it is beyond the
scope of this book to pursue an in-depth enquiry into these.
‘Partaking in divine nature’ in particular raises questions of theological
anthropology and human psychology. If the human person is understood to
be simul justus et peccator, is it possible to construct a concept of deihcation
on this basis? How are such notions as mind, soul and body to be under-
stood theologically in the present day? Can the writings of the Early Church
and the Middle Ages offer any insights for a theological psychology today?
What if anything can be retrieved from traditional understandings of the
human person in relation to ‘the Fall’? Does it make sense to speak of a
pre- and post-lapsarian human condition? Does Early Church theological
relection on the ‘garments of skins’ (Genesis 3.21) have anything to contrib-
ute to contemporary understandings of human sexuality and gender? Is
there ‘a deiform faculty’ in the human person? These questions will inform
the structure of the discourse of this book. The examination of discourse
relating to creation, theological anthropology, salvation, justihcation and
theoˉ sis will need to bear in mind the following questions. Does an appeal to
deihcation require the kind of overarching doctrinal framework, which is to
be discerned in Eastern Orthodoxy? How does the language of deihcation
operate as a metaphor in relation to ontological claims? How is experience
to be received in the construal of a doctrine of deihcation? Are the claims
concerning holiness and perfection found in the spirituality of the Revivalist
movements to be treated as parallel with and equal to the understanding of
theoˉ sis as taught in the Orthodox traditions?
Caponi frames three crucial questions around the construction of a doc-
trine of deihcation: what conditions within a human being make divinization
possible? What does it mean to actualize these conditions? How is this
INTRODUCTION
5
actualization accomplished?
6
In relation to a broad construct of deihcation,
Hallonsten usefully suggests that clarifying whether the distinction between
‘theoˉ sis’ and ‘union with God’ points to different concepts. He argues that
this distinction is rooted in the use of a particular vocabulary to express
particular understandings of teleology, relating to the doctrines of creation
and of salvation. He concludes that ‘theoˉ sis’ and ‘union with God’ are not
to be seen as precisely meaning the same thing but that they are not mutu-
ally exclusive.
7
The pursuit of a doctrine construed around a concept of koinoˉ nia will
entail an appeal to the doctrine of the Church which raises a further set of
questions. How do models and metaphors of the Church resonate with a
doctrine of theoˉ sis? How is the Church to be understood as the context for
the collective reception of (mystical) experience? How is the collective expe-
rience of the sacraments to be related to understandings of union with God?
Furthermore is ‘theoˉ sis’ an ‘ecclesiastical’ doctrine, as the doctrine of the
Trinity is understood to be? The language of theoˉ sis has not been adopted
by the Church universally. The creeds speak of ‘the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting’ (The Apostles’ Creed), and ‘the resurrection of the
dead, and the life of the world to come’ (The Constantinopolitan-Nicene
Creed of 381). In each of these statements an appeal to ‘immortality’ may be
discerned. It is the use of the language of immortality in the New Testament
documents which I believe is the main impetus towards the emergence of
the metaphor of deihcation in the Early Church. Deihcation is not a creedal
claim. But the later understandings of deihcation are predicated on the
Chalcedonian statement of the person of Christ, as well as the soteriological
implications of the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. Although theoˉ sis
is one metaphor for redemption among others, the construal of the doctrine
in relation to the councils indicates that there is a basis for claiming it as an
‘ecclesial doctrine’ if not of the same order as the doctrine of the Trinity.
Method
Before proceeding further, the question of what method or methods could or
should be used in analysing and constructing a doctrine of deihcation needs
to be addressed. In particular, what approach should be used to interpret
historical expressions of the doctrine? How are the antecedents to and
6
Caponi, F. J., ‘Karl Rahner: Divinization in Roman Catholicism’, in M. J. Christensen
and J. A. Wittung (eds), Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Develop-
ment of Deication in the Christian Tradition (Madison, Teaneck: Fairleigh
Dickinson University Press, 2007), p. 259.
7
Hallosten, G., ‘Theosis in Recent Research: A Renewal of Interest and a Need for
Clarity’ in Christensen and Wittung, Partakers, p. 287.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
6
imperatives behind the emergence of the doctrine of deihcation to be
interpreted? How are different ideas, terms and authors to be understood to
relate to each other? Assuming that they do relate to each other, which may
be questionable. An analogy for how ideas, terms and authors may be placed
in relation to one another could be that of stamp collecting or of threading
beads on a string. These activities place commodities in relation to one other,
usually in terms of the place of origin and chronology for a stamp collector.
A stamp collector has criteria to which she works in placing the stamps and
creating the collection. In terms of the expression or construction of the
doctrine of deihcation how are different authors to be ‘placed’? What crite-
ria are to be used? A brief acquaintance with those who have recounted the
‘history’ of the doctrine of deihcation will demonstrate that there are self-
evident schools of thought or traditions by which authors, such as ‘the
Fathers’ are ‘placed’ in relation to one another. Usually of course the place-
ment is chronological, but, within an overall chronological structure,
historians of doctrine have discerned pathways or trajectories of develop-
ment. Such trajectories will be examined in Chapters 2 to 5. The notion of
development, particularly chronological development is questionable; some-
thing that is chronologically later need not necessarily be a development of
the earlier or be better than the earlier. The Orthodox tradition perceives
that the doctrine of ‘theoˉ sis’ hnds a dehnitive expression in the writings of
Maximos the Confessor and Gregory Palamas. From the writings of these
two theologians modern Orthodox theologians have constructed a synthe-
sized and systematized view of the divine purposes in creating and redeeming
the cosmos of which ‘theoˉ sis’ is a central feature. In pursuit of a more
broadly conceived doctrine I will argue that this is not the only way to con-
strue the metaphor of deihcation.
To return to the question of method, is it possible to discern a method
which is appropriate to the study of deihcation in Christian Tradition? In
recent literature on deihcation the question of method has become explicit.
Russell
8
draws upon the work of Eric Osborn: The Beginning of Christian
Philosophy (1981),
9
whose brief but positive review of the use of the meta-
phor of deihcation stresses the need to be clear about method in relation to
any analysis of the ‘development’ of the doctrine of deihcation. Osborn sets
out various possible methods: cultural, polemical and elucidatory. The latter
he subdivides into doxographical, retrospective or problematic. These meth-
ods had already been identihed in an article on the historical development
8
Russell, N., The Doctrine of Deication in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2004) pp. 7–9.
9
Osborn, E., The Beginning of Christian Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1981), pp. 111–20, 273–88.
INTRODUCTION
7
of philosophy by John Passmore: The Idea of a History of Philosophy
(1965).
10
The method of Passmore and Osborn may be summarized as follows.
A cultural approach to deihcation elicits the question: how does it relect
the culture in which it emerged? This would interpret all components of a
doctrine of deihcation in relation to the sociocultural setting from which
they emerged. A polemical approach raises questions such as: does it make
sense? Is it true? It looks for strengths and weaknesses and for the truth
or falsity of the arguments used. As regards the elucidatory methods,
Osborn suggested that the doxographer asks: ‘What has been said and how
is it related to what other writers were saying?’ She looks for connections
between writers. The focus of this method is not the context of the writer or
the issues to which a writer is responding, but how what is written relates to
predecessors and contemporaries.
11
Osborn argues that though doxography
is widely used, it has severe limitations. When dealing with ancient literature
the gaps in chronology mean that arguments are constructed on limited
evidence, or from a surviving text, which is elevated beyond its actual impor-
tance.
12
Another limitation is that doxography often ignores the framework
of an argument. It tends to add up citations, which does not prove the extent
of an idea.
13
Rather what is necessary is the careful weighing of arguments.
Osborn does not dismiss doxography but argues that it needs to be supple-
mented by other methods. The doxographer tends to ignore logical questions
and does not address problems which philosophers and theologians are
seeking to ‘solve’. A second form of elucidation is retrospective method. This
asks how is it possible to assess and place a theological ‘opinion’. It compares
ideas and authors with historical sources rather than contemporary ones.
Retrospective method relates to the ‘history of ideas’, where certain moments
are identihed as peaks. Osborn argues that the elevation of Chalcedon and
Nicaea as such ‘peaks’ of thought distorts the appreciation of writings from
the second century, for the concerns of the second and fourth centuries were
very different.
14
In terms of the concerns of the twenty-hrst century, the
second century probably has more to say than the fourth because of the
pluralism of the context in the second century.
Retrospective method with its ‘history of ideas’ is very different from ‘cul-
tural history’, which focuses solely on the contemporary context. Passmore
argues that there are inherent weaknesses in cultural and retrospective histories.
10
Passmore, J., ‘The Idea of a History of Philosophy’, History and Theory (Supplement),
4 (1965): 1–32.
11
Osborn, The Beginning, p. 277.
12
Osborn, The Beginning, p. 278.
13
Osborn, The Beginning, p. 279.
14
Osborn, The Beginning, p. 285.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
8
They sit at opposite extremes from one another. In cultural histories succes-
sive philosophers remain unrelated to one another, while in retrospective
history philosophers are assembled together too tightly in a continuous
pattern.
15
Passmore prefers the problematic approach, which he summarizes
as the analysis of the construction of systems.
16
He expounds the notion of
the development of ideas around the suggestion that certain types of prob-
lems recur, sometimes in different ‘shapes’. Philosophers look for and suggest
‘solutions’ to these problems. Through careful analysis of the ideas of differ-
ent authors and their arguments an advance in understanding may be
discerned. In a problematic approach the following questions emerge: ‘What
problem as he trying to solve?’ ‘How did this problem arise for him?’ ‘What
new methods of tackling it did he use?’
17
Passmore goes on to argue that the
problematic historian needs to be a philosopher as well as an historian and
that the problematic approach is the only one which sheds light on the
‘inner’ development of philosophy. In a problematic approach to deihcation,
the quest would be to identify the problems to which it is given as the
solution. Osborn argues that without the latter approach any writing about
deihcation is pointless.
18
This study of deihcation will draw upon authors and their texts across
two-and-a-half millennia. This raises enormous questions in terms of histo-
riography and the ‘translatability of texts’ from one culture to another.
19

MacIntyre suggests such ‘translatability’ is taken for granted in scholarship
which relies upon the presuppositions of the ‘Enlightenment view’ of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
20
He argues that the Enlightenment
understanding of rational debate assumed that a conclusive outcome could
be reached. This would ensure the refutation of error and the vindication
of truth. In the present day he argues that there is a more inclusive under-
standing of debate and a weaker conception of rationality. He concludes
that this means that, ‘There is no theoretically neutral, pre-theoretical
ground from which the adjudication of competing claims can proceed.’
21

The problem of the ‘translatability of texts’ raises two further questions:
who speaks to whom? And how?
22
In contemporary philosophy there are
many different approaches to questions of the reception and interpretation
15
Passmore, The Idea, p. 23.
16
Passmore, The Idea, p. 27.
17
Passmore, The Idea, p. 29.
18
Osborn, The Beginning, p. 113.
19
MacIntyre, A., Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy and
Tradition (Gifford Lectures 1998) (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press,
1990), p. 171.
20
MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions, p. 172.
21
MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions, p. 173.
22
MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions, p. 196.
INTRODUCTION
9
of texts. MacIntyre appeals to the model of ‘conversation’ as a means of
understanding and using texts from a variety of contexts and historical peri-
ods. If a text is seen as a moment in a conversation, it will be interpreted
from the standpoint of the participants in that conversation. Each partici-
pant will have his or her own point of view and history. In addition, there
will be different points of entry into a conversation and different under-
standings of why the conversation is happening, and the conversation may
be extended over time.
23
The questions and concerns identihed in this exploration of appropriate
methods for an exposition of the doctrine of deihcation, will be marshalled
to answer the question: what imperatives are behind a given discourse
on ‘deihcation’? Each example in the overall exposition will be discussed
and analysed in relation to its context and its tradition(s). These may be
self-identihed or attributed, and the analysis will need to encompass any
traditions that it relates to or opposes. It will be necessary to investigate
each example’s place within a narrative of ‘development’. This will entail
identifying the characteristics of the context of each example, such as the
‘Hellenist’ environment of the Early Church; the identihcation of heresy; the
emergence of scholasticism in the Middle Ages in the West; the motivation
for reform and change at the Reformation; and the ways in which the
various revival movements have expressed the spirit of the age, where the
‘shift to subject’ is perhaps manifest in the spiritual goals of perfection and
holiness and ‘romanticism’ is manifest in the appeal to the aesthetics of
experience. This brings me to the investigation of experience. Each example
will be examined in terms of the existential dimensions of religious or mysti-
cal experience. This is particularly relevant in the analysis of Hesychasm, the
Western mystical texts, the charismatic and mystical phenomena associated
with the radical reformers and the later revivals. This will entail the acknowl-
edgement of experience in terms of either rapture or contemplation. This
will extend the discourse beyond the discussion of cognitive elements of the
doctrine of deihcation and into the realm of what is understood as mystical
and aesthetic, although it is beyond the scope of this book to examine the
psychology of such experiences.
Elements of the metaphor of deication
I begin from the premise offered by Russell that deihcation is to be under-
stood as a metaphor.
24
The ‘metaphor’ is generally expressed in terms of one
of two main ‘models’, which have antecedents in Plato. The hrst model is
23
MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions, p. 196.
24
Russell, Deication, pp. 1–3.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
10
‘imitation’ of the divine and an extrinsic understanding of deihcation. The
second model is ‘participation’ in the divine which is an intrinsic under-
standing of deihcation. In spite of there being a clear distinction between
these models, both may result in (a) emulation of or a sharing in the divine
attributes, such as incorruption, immortality and stability; (b) the ascent of
the soul to God, which implies particular understandings of intellectual and/
or epistemological progress; and (c) transformation of the human subject or
believer, which raises ontological questions. The identihcation of these out-
comes of deihcation raises a further set of issues, which need to be borne in
mind when analysing different texts and authors. First, there is an ontologi-
cal concern about the difference between or potential merging of the created
and uncreated orders of existence. The question of ontic difference has been
a perennial concern in the construal of deihcation, and clarity about this
area is fundamental for any exposition of the doctrine. Second, there is the
approach of an author to the notion of the ineffability of God. What are
the epistemological consequences of an appeal to divine ineffability? Does
this manifest itself in an apophatic approach to the construal of doctrine?
Is the goal of theoˉ sis a knowledge of God?
Methodological approach
What I take forward from the exploration of method will be based upon
what Passmore and Osborn identify as a problematic approach. I will iden-
tify where certain types of problems recur, what ‘solutions’ are offered and
whether it is possible to speak of an advance in understanding. It will be
important to bear in mind the issue of the ‘translatability of texts’ from one
culture and period to another. And I will draw upon Russell’s distinction
that the metaphor of deihcation is either an ethical or a realistic construct.
25

Three key questions will be addressed to each example of the formulation of
the doctrine of deihcation: what is the structure of deihcation? What is the
essence of deihcation? What are the means of deihcation?
26
In addition,
I will ask of each author why does he write about deihcation? What
question(s) is he seeking to answer by discussing or positing a theory (or
doctrine) of deihcation? What is the outcome of asking the question(s)?
I am writing this as an adherent to the Christian tradition and, specihcally,
as a priest in the Church of England. I understand myself to be working
within the hermeneutical community of the Church and that, as a herme-
neutical community, the Church continues to shape the hermeneutical
tradition of Christianity as well as being itself shaped by that tradition.
The approach to theological relection which I will use in pursuing this
25
Russell, Deication, p. 2.
26
Caponi, ‘Karl Rahner’, p. 259.
INTRODUCTION
11
analysis and interpretation of the metaphor of deihcation will be the
‘Anglican’ method expressed in the work of Richard Hooker, in which Scrip-
ture, Tradition and Reason illuminate each other in the quest to receive the
Christian faith afresh in the contemporary context. To Hooker’s triad, I will
add Wesley’s appeal to experience as well as an appeal to context. The appeal
to Scripture and Tradition is made with an acknowledgement that the use
made of the Bible and patristic sources by systematic theologians has been
called to account in recent times.
27
In treating the different stances of the
interpreters of the doctrine of deihcation, I shall draw upon Lindbeck’s
categorizations of doctrine as cognitive, experiential-expressive or a com-
bination of these.
28
My own preference is the latter combination of a
cognitive with an aesthetic approach to theological relection, to which
I add Kaufmann’s understanding of the (theological) imagination.
29
The
doctrine of deihcation is a good example of the way in which the theological
imagination and the aesthetic of experience have been used in theological
relection in the past. I will endeavour to continue this use in the present.
The book is divided into hve further chapters. In Chapter 2, I examine the
sources of the Christian use of a metaphor of deihcation in the popular piety
and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome as well as in the Jewish and
Christian scriptures. In Chapter 3, I analyse how the metaphor emerges in
Christian discourse in the early centuries of the Church, particularly around
the construal of heresy and orthodoxy. In Chapter 4, I examine the correla-
tion of the construal of theoˉ sis with the self-understanding of the Orthodox
tradition. In Chapter 5, I narrate the usage of elements of the ‘architecture’
of the metaphor in the traditions of the West in order to reclaim Western
understandings of deihcation for the present. Finally, in Chapter 6, I have set
out a vision of a relational understanding of deihcation for today in terms
of personal and ecclesial transformation, construed in terms of ‘virtue
ecclesiology’.
27
Barnes, M. R., ‘Rereading Augustine’s Theology of the Trinity’, in S. T. Davis,
D. Kendall and G. O’Collins (eds), The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the
Trinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 145–76.
28
Lindbeck, G., The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age
(London: SPCK, 1984).
29
Kaufmann, G., The Theological Imagination (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1981).
12
2
vcvU¡ni vir1., vni¡c:cvn.
nNi :ciiv1Uir
Introduction
The developed doctrine of deihcation may be traced to a variety of sources
in the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans, some of them within
popular piety; some within the philosophical traditions; and others within
the Scriptures of Judaism and the New Testament. The extent to which
Christian understanding is closely dependent on non-Scriptural sources is a
matter of debate and interpretation. One of the major differences between
Christian tradition and other traditions and practices in the ancient world
relates to the conceptuality of ‘salvation’ and of the perceived need in
Christian tradition to be saved from sin and death. This means that the level
of dependency on non-Scriptural sources is often tenuous. Nonetheless, the
effects of the context of the ancient world on the development of broad
understandings of deihcation and emerging terminology in Christian tradi-
tion should not be underestimated.
The emergence of the language of deihcation can be traced in various
practices and examples in the popular piety and philosophical traditions of
the ancient world. These ideas and practices of divinization in the ancient
world may be ascribed to the general human desire for immortality. Such
‘immortal longings’
1
have manifested themselves in various ways through-
out documented human history. The ancient world seems to have taken
it for granted that human beings could become ‘gods’. The gods of the
ancient religions were little more than immortal human beings. Such an
anthropomorphic notion of divinity puts the concept of transcendence at
risk. The difference between divinity and humanity remains a fundamental
ongoing question for theology. Does an over emphasis on the complementa-
rity between the divine and the human inevitably dissolve claims for divine
1
Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Act 5, Scene 2.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
13
‘otherness’? This question will inform this investigation of the Christian
doctrine of deihcation.
The ancient world envisaged apotheoˉ sis for the individual in terms of four
possible pursuits or activities, which may be labelled as follows: educational,
ethical, mystical and ritual. The educational path is associated with the pur-
suit of ‘academic’ philosophy or popular, less elitist expressions of philosophy.
This path focused on the soul or the mind and often appealed to metaphors
of light and to concepts of enlightenment or illumination. The ethical path
could be pursued in its own right but was often associated with one or more
of the other pursuits and was focused on training the human will through
living a virtuous life. The mystical path had elitist and more popular mani-
festations, some of which included the practice of contemplation. This path
was rooted in personal, spiritual experience of some kind and an appeal to
metaphors of light. The ritual path was manifested in elite and popular
forms and might include magical or liturgical practices to enable the indi-
vidual to hnd deihcation for the soul. As the investigation proceeds it will be
useful to bear these different paths in mind in order to place the different
examples of deihcation theory and practice in relation to each other.
Apotheoˉ sis in the ancient world
The notion of apotheoˉ sis in the ancient world was construed around two
key concepts. The hrst of these is the status of the gods as immortals and a
second relates to the phrase: ‘Know thyself’.
Immortality
The status of the gods as immortals in the religions and myths of the ancient
world is assumed. To be a god is to be immortal. This is the fundamental
distinction between what is human (mortal) and divine (immortal). Jules
Gross argues that the works of Homer, the Iliad and Odyssey, make clear
the assumptions of the ancient world about divinity and also the possibili-
ties for humankind to rise to it. He is clear that there is a strong association
of divinity with immortality. He goes so far as to suggest that ûto, [God]
and oûovo¬o, [immortal] are synonyms.
2
The acquisition by a human being
of ‘immortality’ inferred that the person had become ‘divine’. There were
different usages or registers of what it meant to ‘become god’. It is possible
that within the works of the same writer that there were different ‘kinds’
of god. Insofar as there are different levels of deity, there may be different
levels or kinds of apotheoˉ sis. The identihcation of divinity with immortality
2
Gross, J., The Divinization of the Christian according to the Greek Fathers, trans.
Paul A. Onica (Anaheim, CA: A & C Press, 2002; originally published in French by
Editions J. Gabalda, 1938), p. 11.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
14
in the ancient world is key to understanding the development of Christian
deihcation. What did St Paul expect his readers to take from his claim that
As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the
man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne
the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man
of heaven.
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: lesh and blood cannot
inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imper-
ishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will
all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last
trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imper-
ishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on
imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When
this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts
on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulhlled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks
be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15.48–56)
St Paul may not have a conception of deihcation in his mind comparable
with that of the Orthodox doctrine of eighth or fourteenth centuries, but
the language and imagery of this passage from 1 Corinthians, when set in
the context of the ancient world, has strong resonances with the identihca-
tion of what is immortal with what is divine. This is not to say that St Paul
or the Christian Tradition more widely considers that salvation is simply a
matter of becoming ‘immortal’ and in that sense ‘divine’. Rather the Christian
Tradition takes such understandings and reworks them. Belief in God who
is transcendent as expressed in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures con-
fronts the anthropomorphic gods in Greek and Roman mythology. This
confrontation is the basis upon which the conceptuality of apotheoˉ sis is
reworked into a conceptuality of theoˉ sis premised on transcendent divinity.
Know yourself
The phrase, ‘Know yourself’, was written on the walls of the forecourt
of the temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece. Delphi was the site of
the famous ‘oracle’ whom people came to consult to discover their future
fate. The aphorism, ‘Know yourself’, is known in various ancient writers.
3

3
For example, Chilon of Sparta, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Solon of Athens,
Thales of Miletus, Phemonoe.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
15
The imperative to ‘Know yourself’ points to an inward journey of discovery
which brings self understanding. The imperative echoes the quest for self-
knowledge and the need for personal change in the Allegory of the Cave in
Plato’s Republic.
4
The quest to ‘know yourself’, invites each person to
enquire: Who am I? What am I? What is a person? The search for the real
within oneself could also be a search for the divine; the imperative to know
may also be interpreted as an imperative hnd or become (like) God. Those
who followed the path of ‘knowing yourself’ sought the divine within them-
selves. As a consequence, they often came to see this world as illusory and
sought to escape from its ‘reality’. The aphorism not only expresses what
the philosophers taught about human personhood but was also used by
Christian theologians. Philosophers argued that personal apotheoˉ sis was
possible because of what a person is or has within him or herself. Many
Christians came to accept this philosophical premise. Gregory Thaumaturgus
(the Wonderworker, c.213–70), a pupil of Origen, appeals to the aphorism,
‘Know thyself,’ in his panegyric for Origen and argues that it forms the basis
for attaining apotheoˉ sis.
5
Origen himself appealed to the aphorism and saw
the imperative to ‘know yourself’ as a means of looking into the soul, where
one could hnd relected the image of the divine mind. Here are to be seen
some of the building blocks of a Christian doctrine of deihcation.
Expressions of apotheoˉ sis
Within the culture of ancient Greece and the wider Mediterranean world
various traditions of apotheoˉ sis may be identihed. ‘Apotheoˉ sis’ refers to the
exaltation of a human person to divine rank or stature. Apotheoˉ sis was
understood to be possible for the individual in (a) mystery cults, (b) Orphism
and (c) the religious instincts of Platonism. Mystery cults such as Mithraism
instructed adherents in the theory and practice of the journey of the soul
into the afterlife and in some cases into divine status. Orphism is a name
given to a set of religious beliefs in ancient Greece, which included the
understanding that the soul is divine and yet needs to be rescued or saved in
order to attain ultimate communion with the gods. Much Orphic mytho-
logy focused on the descent of Orpheus and others into Hades and included
ideas of resurrection and rebirth. The tradition of Platonism focused on the
immortal potential of the soul and the human possibility of imitating or
participating in the divine. These notions of the possibility of apotheoˉ sis are
supported by Greek and Roman mythology, in particular the example of
Heracles or Hercules.
6
Heracles was understood to be the offspring of the
4
Plato, Republic, Book 7.
5
Gregory Thaumaturgus, The Oration and Panegyric addressed to Origen,
Chapter 11 (11 PG10, 1081D–1084A: especially 1084C).
6
The well-known hero is known as Heracles in Greek mythology and Hercules in
Roman.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
16
god Zeus and a human mother Alcmena. He was understood to be an exam-
ple of the ‘incarnation’ of divinity in a human life. While this example is not
apotheoˉ sis as such, the myth of Heracles is a further example of the cultural
milieu in which apotheoˉ sis is understood and ‘practiced’. It is an interesting
parallel with the Christian understanding of incarnation, which became a
core component in the construction of the doctrine of deihcation, as well as
the paradigm of what Christian salvation understood as deihcation, both
meant and looked like. Not all Christians see this is as a positive parallel,
and some have rejected the model of incarnation because of possible asso-
ciations with such myths as that of Heracles.
The Imperial cult
Another key expression of the cultural currency of apotheoˉ sis is the cult of
the Roman Emperor. In the period before the Emperor Constantine, the
general polytheistic milieu of the Roman Empire meant that the concept of
the apotheoˉ sis of a human being was widely accepted. So the notion that the
emperor himself was divine was by no means extraordinary. The Imperial
cult served to reinforce the person of the emperor as a focus of social unity,
identity and cohesion.
In the ancient world many of the cults in local temples had arisen around
human persons who had acquired divine status. Each city built a temple to
the Roman Emperor. From the time of Augustus each emperor was pro-
claimed ‘god’ after death and from Domitian onwards emperors were seen
as divine during their lifetime. There is evidence that these developments did
not receive universal acclaim. While the populace on the whole accepted the
Imperial cult, the intellectual elite tended to be more critical and dubious.
However, even Jews and Christians found ways of living with the Imperial
cult. Jews were content to pray for the emperor and to offer sacrihce for him
in the Jerusalem Temple prior to its destruction. Early Christian theologians
accepted the cultural reality of polytheism and did not see it as a great prob-
lem, since the ‘gods’ were former human beings. During times of persecution
Christians did not acknowledge the emperor as ‘god’, but at other times
Christians were often prepared to accommodate themselves to the general
cultural expectations, particularly as the Imperial cult was a unifying factor
in society. Scholars have tended to see the emergence and acceptance of the
apotheoˉ sis of the emperor as part of a wider development of the possibility
of apotheoˉ sis of other individual persons. The apotheoˉ sis of an emperor was
enacted through the imperial funeral rites. This became the inspiration for
a ‘democratization’ of apotheoˉ sis for ordinary citizens of the empire. From
the second century there is evidence that ‘apotheoˉ sis’ referred to and indi-
cated no more than ‘solemn burial’. This demonstrates that the aspirations
of the ordinary citizen were to be understood in terms of ‘immortal
longings’.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
17
Theurgy
The last example of the expression of apotheoˉ sis in the ancient world are the
ritual or liturgical practices known as ‘theurgy’ [ûtoupyio] from the words
theos and energeia, meaning ‘divine working’, ‘energy’ or ‘action’. Rituals
were enacted, which were sometimes understood to be magical in nature,
with the intention of invoking the action of one or more gods, specihcally
with the aim of uniting an individual with the divine. This union known as
henoˉ sis was understood to bring about the perfection of the individual or
her soul. The oldest surviving record of the term ‘theurgy’ is found in the
mid-second-century work, the Chaldean Oracles.
7
There are examples of the
theory and practice of theurgy to be found in the philosophical works of
the later Platonists as such Iamblichus. Plotinus urged that those who wished
to perform theurgy should practice contemplation, as part of the overall
goal of reuniting with the Divine. The school of Plotinus was evidently a
school of meditation or contemplation. Iamblichus of Calcis (in Syria) was
a student of Porphyry, who in turn was a student of Plotinus, he taught a
more ritualized method of theurgy that involved invoking the gods and
magical ritual. Iamblichus believed that the practice of theurgy was a form
of imitating of the gods. In his work, On the Egyptian Mysteries, he described
theurgic practice as ‘ritualized cosmogony’, which bestowed on embodied
souls the divine responsibility of creating and preserving the cosmos.
Iamblichus understood that the divine cannot be comprehended through
contemplation because what is transcendent is beyond reason. He argued
that theurgy is a series of rituals and practices with the goal of attaining the
divine essence by discovering traces of the divine in the different layers of
being. Through these processes the practitioner of theurgy seeks the soul’s
innate divinity as well as reunion with the Divine.
It is possible to understand Christian worship as a form of theurgy. The
rituals of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are understood in the writings of
St Paul as means of participating in the death and resurrection of Christ and
in the Body and Blood of Christ. Such New Testament understandings are
reinforced in the developed doctrine of the Latin Medieval Church in the
concept of the transubstantiation. The change of substance of the bread and
wine understood in this doctrine suggest that when the communicant
receives the sacramental elements, there is an assimilation of the communi-
cant with the divine in Christ. The Eucharist understood in terms of the
change of substance or of the Real Presence may be interpreted as a kind of
theurgy in the sense that it contributes to the divinization of the participants.
In the Greek Orthodox tradition some scholars have explicitly understood
7
Chaldean Oracles, Greek text found in Kroll, W., De Oraculis Chaldaicis
(Hildesheim, Olms Verlag, 1962; Breslau 1894).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
18
the Liturgy as a form of theurgy; indeed Vladimir Lossky refers to ‘Christian
theurgy’. Sacramental rituals and other forms of worship may be under-
stood in a thaumaturgical way, which is a nuanced re-reception of the
theory of theurgy within Christian tradition. Christian thaumaturgy seeks
to understand the liturgy in terms of ‘miracle’ or ‘wonder’, while excluding
any magical connotation, by stressing the divine initiative of grace and the
human response of faith.
Philosophy
There are at least two reasons why philosophical traditions should be
included in a narrative of the emergence of the Christian doctrine of
deihcation. First, popularized expressions of philosophical teaching, deliv-
ered in ‘schools’ around ‘guru’ hgures explicitly developed notions of and
practices to enable ‘divinization’ of individuals. Second, the more formal
expressions of the great philosophical traditions of ancient Greece provide
the conceptual framework and terminology which are core components in
the emergence of a language of deihcation. In this section my focus will be
on Plato and his much later ‘disciple’ Plotinus, but the narrative will include
other hgures and examples as well.
In any discussion of Plato (429–347 BCE) and his contribution to later
Christian thought, the hrst thing to note is the style in which Plato delivers
his teachings. Plato’s writings are dialogues between persons holding differ-
ent understandings. Some dialogues may represent the actual views of
historical persons, while others may be constructs based on alternative per-
spectives which Plato thought it important to express. This dialogical and
dialectical style means that it is not always possible to be certain what Plato
himself thought, or to discern ‘development’ or change in his thinking. This
is particularly the case when analysing Plato’s understanding of the idea of
human imitation of or participation in the ‘divine’. Nonetheless, it is impor-
tant to attempt to discern something of his understanding in this area,
insofar as later Christian writers were inluenced and inspired by Platonism
in the construction of notions of deihcation. Imitation is understood in terms
of the practice of the virtues and is an ethical approach. Participation sug-
gests an outcome which is more ‘realistic’ and has ontological implications.
So I will ask: why does Plato write about the possibility of human imitation
of and participation in the divine? What questions is Plato seeking to answer
by discussing or positing these theories about imitation and participation?
What is the outcome of asking these questions?
Statements of the conceptuality of imitation are found in the Republic
(613), in Phaedrus where it is expressed in the myth of the Charioteer and
in Theaetus (176a f.) where the core statement of this idea is to be found.
One of the main reasons for Plato’s concern with ‘imitation’ relates to his
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
19
understanding of evil as ‘vice’ and ‘ignorance’ (Sophist 228 c,d). ‘Ignorance’
is a lack of symmetry between the soul and truth, leading to evil. These con-
cerns are voiced in the allegory of the cave found in the Republic (Book 7,
514a–20a). Although evil has made its home in human nature, Plato sug-
gests that salvation is possible through assimilation to God: o µoiooi, ûto,
which he dehnes in terms of growing in holiness, justice and wisdom, and,
in other words, developing godlike characteristics. Imitation and participa-
tion are offered as solutions to the problems of evil and of the corruption of
human nature.
There are two issues which emerge from this appeal to imitation. One
concerns the theory of ‘the forms’ and the other concerns the possible inter-
pretation of Plato’s works in terms of a growing interest in the divine. The
human soul might imitate the forms or imitate God. Does the imitation of
the divine imply the use of the conceptuality and terminology of participa-
tion used in relation to the forms? If this were so, does ‘participation’ suggest
the same notion of an inadequate resemblance to an (ideal) exemplar? How
does the imitation of the forms relate to the imitation of God? ‘If man imi-
tates God, does he no longer imitate or participate in the form of “man”?’
8
The question of what may be understood as ‘divine’ in Plato’s works is
complex. One answer might be the gods of mythology, the souls of the
ancients and the divine heroes, who were the ‘visible’ gods of the heavens.
Another might be the world itself, or the soul of the world, that which is the
intellect which gives order to all things, or the answer might be ‘the forms’
and their ultimate expression ‘the Good’. Each of these might be said to refer
to the divine. The idea of the Good was to be identihed with the notion of
being (Theaetetus, 186a). Plato’s works suggest a hierarchy of being or what
is really ‘real’. At the bottom are ‘receptacles’, which are not really ‘real’
(Timaeus, 52b). Above this is the world of becoming, which is ‘real’ insofar
as it participates in a higher form of reality (i.e. the realm of forms; Timaeus
50b, 51de, 52b; Phaedo 100d) This is the sensible world, the world of par-
ticulars, which is intermediate between true being and its opposite (Republic
477 f, 479c). Though Supreme Being cannot be found here, it is found in the
higher realm which gives space-time its (partial) reality. Finally, there is
the higher realm, the world of forms, in which the many individuals of the
sensible world participate (Republic, 596a). The extent of this world is not
dehned by Plato but may include not only the ideas of sensible objects and
sensible qualities but also ideas of moral qualities and relations such as
‘greater’ or ‘less’ and categories of the ‘same’ or the ‘other’ (Parmenides, 130;
Phaedrus, 250b; Republic, 479c, Timaeus, 30cd, Phaedo, 103de, 101af;
Theaetetus, 185cd; Sophist, 254–55) ‘To be’ is understood to mean partici-
pating in ‘being’ (Sophist, 252a). So it may be argued that ‘Ultimate Reality’
8
Rutenber, C. G., The Doctrine of the Imitation of God in Plato (Philadelphia, PA:
King’s Crown Press: 1946), p. 2.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
20
is Supreme Being, that is, God. In the Republic, the Good is seen as the
source of intelligibility and existence of all things (Republic, 509b), but
the Good is NOT ‘essence’; it far exceeds this. And yet the Good enters
into relations and is sometimes called a form or idea (Republic, 517b, 526e)
The notion of the ‘divine’ in Plato’s writings is multilayered and offers the
later conceptualization of deihcation a number of core components.
The further question of human imitation and participation is rooted in the
understanding of anthropology which emerges from the creation myth as
told in Timaeus 29e, which declares that all human beings should as far
as possible be like the ‘divine’ (Demiurge) [¬opo¬iqoio tou¬o ]. This under-
standing is expressed in a variety of ways in other writings. The soul is said
to be like God (Phaedrus, 247c-e), and human beings are exhorted to follow
in the steps of God, for they are ‘like’ (oµoio,) God (Laws, 716bc). Plato
argues that there is a human likeness to God (oµoiooi,) (Theaetetus, 176a)
as well as a likeness of the cosmos to God [¬opo¬iqoio] (Timaeus, 29e).
Such likeness is the ground for both, µtûtçi, [participation] and µiµqoi,
[imitation]. Mtûtçi, refers to the participation of ‘forms’ in immanent things
(Phaedo, 100cd; Republic, 476a); it is the presence [parousia] of ‘forms’ in
things and the communion [koinoˉ nia] of the ‘forms’ with things.
Despite the language of likeness and imitation and participation, Plato
argues that human beings are dissimilar to God in terms of nous [mind],
which affects the potential of the human acquisition of knowledge. Although
any acquisition of knowledge is understood as imitation of God, human
beings struggle to acquire knowledge. Categorizing knowledge in terms of
‘truth’, Plato suggests that there several stages by which the human mind
achieves ‘truth’ and identihes two main stages (1) opinion, and (2) knowl-
edge, each of which is subdivided further. The two stages of opinion are
(1) ti|ooio, a very foggy state of mind, and (2) ¬io¬i,, a step higher but
which only relates to sensible objects. The two stages of knowledge are
(1) öiovoio the divisions of the sciences, and (2) voqoi, is true knowledge.
This hnal stage of knowing is achieved through dialectic. This is the ability
to analyse and synthesize in the abstract. The philosopher is understood be
a dialectician, imitating God, who is the supreme dialectician (Republic,
531d). The acquisition of knowledge is not for the lazy. Only the disciplined
are able to see and know. For human beings attaining to knowledge is a long
and arduous path, for the eye of the soul has been corrupted through its
contact with the body. The educative process requires the pursuit of the
virtues and other disciplines; this enables the human mind to acquire the
skills of the dialectician, by disengaging the mind from the distractions of
the senses. The educative process culminates in the vision of the idea of the
Good (Republic, 505a–509c [Allegory of the Cave]). It is at the point where
the human subject attains insight into the Good that she becomes most
godlike and is transferred into the likeness of God’s image. In summary it is
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
21
in the acquisition of knowledge that the human subject becomes like god.
This understanding has resonances with the narrative of Genesis 3 and the
eating of the fruit of the ‘tree of knowledge’. ‘Knowing’ in Plato’s writings
is understood in terms of contemplation, another feature of the later under-
standings of deihcation. Plato argues that God contemplates (Phaedrus,
246–9; Timaeus, 29a) and that the human subject is a contemplator (Phaedo,
79c–80a). Contemplation is understood to bring knowledge of God, and
likeness to God, and indeed enables the contemplator to become like God
(Theaetetus, 176b–177a).
The outcomes of questions concerning imitation and participation are
expressed in terms of the imitation of God by human beings: o µoiooi, ûto
and the imitation of God by the cosmos: ¬opo¬iqoio tou¬o. However, if
human beings imitate their ‘form’, what ‘space’ would there be for the imita-
tion of ‘God’? A ‘form’ is understood to be the eternal, changeless and perfect
pattern, which is imitated by things. This imitation is limited; the ‘limit’ may
be pursued but it is never reached: (Philebus, 54b f.; Phaedo, 75ab). The
pursuit of its possibilities by each particular is through the attainment of
excellence or virtue: opt¬q . ‘Virtue’ is the correct functioning of a thing
according to the purpose for which it exists (i.e. its telos; Gorgias, 506d;
Republic, 444d, Phaedo, 75ab; Philebus, 54b; Laws, 653a; Meno, 87d). On
this basis a human being is understood to embody in time and space, ‘man-
ness’, or perfect ‘manhood’, which is the goal of human life (Laws, 770d;
Gorgias, 507de; Phaedo, 114c). This understanding of imitation and partici-
pation seems to preclude any imitation of ‘God’. The notion of paideia as
the perfection of character in accordance with its nature may assist in under-
standing the notion of the imitation of the divine in the later writings of
Plato. ‘God’ understood as the self-moving soul, and as perfect goodness
and wisdom, is a model to be imitated by living/moving creatures. This
offers a basis for resolving the conlict between the imitation of forms and
the imitation of God. ‘God’ in Plato’s thought is the ensoulment of the Good,
the Beautiful and the True. But God is not the form of ‘the Good’; rather
‘God’ is the highest possible ‘moving Good’. So God does not exist in com-
plete static immutability like the forms. ‘Thus just as God himself is a kind
of middle term between forms and things, so the imitation of God is a kind
of mediated imitation of forms.’
9
On this basis, it is possible to see that
Plato argues that the imitation of God for human beings is a special case
because human beings are moral creatures. Human beings have a mind
[vou,] which enables them to make the conscious achievement of true ‘man-
hood’ a possibility. This true humanity is seen in terms of the forms of justice,
wisdom and temperance, of which God is the ‘ensoulment’, so making God
the human subject’s larger ‘self’. ‘As such he serves as a dehnite, individual
9
Rutenber, Imitation of God, p. 37.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
22
example for imitation. The likeness of humanity is also the image and likeness
of God’ (Republic, 501b, 589d).
10
God as the human subject’s larger ‘self’ is
ontologically signihcant for humankind’s imitation of God. Human imitation
and participation is not in the form of ‘manhood’ but in ‘God’. Human beings
vary in their likeness to God (Phaedrus, 248 cf.) and not all are like God
(Phaedrus, 249b). The gap between God and human beings remains unbridge-
able, despite the potential human likeness to God. The ‘divine’ is an ideal,
which human beings endeavour to attain, but will never realize.
The recognition of the difhculty of attaining to the likeness of the divine
leads not only to an understanding of the limitation of achieving this goal as
such but also of the number of human beings who are able to do this at all.
Plato argues that the true imitator of God, who is most like God, is the
philosopher (Phaedrus, 278d, 248d). Only a philosopher is able to enter
communion with the gods at death (Phaedrus, 82bc). Plato laments that
there are so few philosophers in his own day (Republic, 494a, 496ab), but
argues that the philosopher is a superior creation, whose gifts and character
enable him to achieve imitation of the divine (Republic, 535b–36a). As a
lover of all wisdom, all truth, beauty and being (Phaedrus, 248d, 249c;
Republic, 485a) the philosopher seeks assimilation with the truth (Republic,
533bc, 490ab). By participating in Wisdom the philosopher is himself assim-
ilated to God, growing in likeness to God, so that the secular, temporal self
is remade in likeness to the eternal (Phaedo, 78b–84b). Plato argues that
only God knows all truth, while the philosopher seeks insight into truth:
‘The imitator of the God whose essence is vou, is the man who knows.’
11

God’s mind is complete and eternal, but even the philosopher’s mind remains
potential, until it is ‘begotten’ through assimilation to the divine realm
(Republic, 490b; Timaeus, 51e, 46d).
Is this outcome of imitation and assimilation achieved through a kind
of ‘religious mysticism’? Later Platonists such as Plotinus argued that assi-
milation to God [oµoiooi, ûto] was achieved through ecstasy or mystical
experience in which the soul became like God and was united with God.
This union was rooted in a purihed moral life. Plotinus argued that assimila-
tion was based on a high degree of interiority, in which ‘god’ and the ‘human’
became ontologically identical. At hrst sight the language used in Book 7 of
the Republic seems very similar to this. However, in Plato’s understanding
the vision of the Good is not religious mysticism. Plato’s understanding is
akin to a non-religious mysticism, based on the experience of oneness with
the truth. Evelyn Underhill identihes hve stages of religious mysticism:
(1) awakening (2) self-knowledge or purgation (3) illumination (4) surren-
der and (5) union and unitive life. It seems fairly clear that Plato’s description
10
Rutenber, Imitation of God, p. 38.
11
Rutenber, Imitation of God, p. 59.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
23
concludes at stage three, which does not necessarily mean that Plato was
unspiritual.
A further outcome of imitation and participation is transformation. The
person who loves knowledge is understood to be a seeker after God; so
that, in discovering the truth a person discovers God, and in this discovery,
there is a transformation of the human will and morals. The contemplation
of beauty, truth and goodness leads towards the outcomes of perfection
[¬titio¬q,], adequacy [i|ovo¬q,] and self-sufhciency [ou¬op|tio]. This
achievement is based upon a life of temperance. But in relation to imitation
this raises a question as to whether God practices temperance? If temper-
ance is the self-control of bodily pleasures (and God has no body) does this
mean that the human subject needs to be emotionless in order to imitate
God? Plato suggests an intriguing possibility of combining wisdom and
‘pure pleasure’. He suggests moderation rather than the elimination of pleas-
ure as such. He appeals to the notion of a state of graciousness [ iitov]
which he sees as a condition of the ‘divine’. Plato rejects extreme asceticism,
distinguishing between bodily pleasures which are mixed with pain, relative
pleasures and pure pleasures. ‘Like God in the cosmos, man in making a
cosmos out of his own inner life takes what is already present and brings it
to maximum order and value, eliminating only in extreme cases.’
12
Later Platonism
A discussion of later Platonism (what has often been called Neo-Platonism)
follows in order to set out and analyse together the main inluences and
sources of the Christian understanding of deihcation. There will be further
discussion of Plotinus and others in this era in the next chapter, in order to
examine the context of Christian writers. Plotinus (c.204–70) was a philoso-
pher and teacher in his own right as well as being a signihcant inluence
upon Christian thinking. The thought of Plotinus may have been inluenced
in certain respects by Christian theology, which sometimes leads him to
oppositional conclusions. My interest in the writings of Plotinus relates
particularly to his understanding of ‘deihcation’. What were the questions
he sought to address by positing a theory of deihcation? What outcomes
emerge from asking these questions? Later Platonism emerged from a revival
of interest in Platonism in the hrst century prior to the common era. A lead-
ing author at this time, Eudorus of Alexandria, working c.25 BCE, wrote of
‘likeness to God’ as the telos of human life. This became a key focus in later
Platonism. Prior to this the Stoics had seen ‘conformity to nature’ as the
telos of human existence. The change of focus to the ‘likeness to God’ raised
12
Rutenber, Imitation of God, p.71.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
24
two major questions. What aspect of the divine were human beings expected
to become like? And what aspect of human being could become like God, so
that such likeness could be attained?
Theos ‘God’ or ‘a god’ was certainly more than human. The ‘divine’ in
philosophical understanding was equivalent to ‘true being’. For the ancient
Greek philosophers, ‘being’ was contextual; things did not simply exist, they
existed in a particular way. ‘Being’ was understood to have degrees of being
or reality. The most ‘real’ was the ‘divine’. To be dehcient in being was to be
dehcient in divinity. For Plato the highest level of reality was the ‘Forms’.
The form of the Good was understood to be transcendent and the cause of
all lesser degrees of being. Below this there was a dynamic or cosmogenic
aspect of the divine, the demiurge, and below the demiurge were the gods of
polytheism, in a descending hierarchy. Aristotle (384–322 BCE) did not
accept the conceptuality of the Forms and the mythology which Plato
embraced. For Aristotle the divine was immaterial, eternal substance, whose
only activity was intuitive knowledge (Metaphysics, XII, 6–7). This divinity
was the ‘unmoved mover’, a perfect living and intelligent being below which
were the moved movers. Later Platonism developed a synthesis of the
thought of Plato and Aristotle and gave rise to a notion of the ‘really real’.
In this understanding the ‘divine’ is nous [mind], whose self-intellection is
the divine ‘forms’.
In relation to the question of what aspect of the divine human beings
become like, Plotinus constructed a descending hierarchy of deity. The ‘One’
was beyond being and intellection. There was a second hypostasis, nous,
produced from the One, because the perfect is productive. A third hypo-
stasis, psyche, produced from the second, as the second is from the hrst, is
also rational. This third hypostasis is understood to be the immanent power
of life and growth. This hierarchy of divinities disclosed the One at a variety
of levels. Both nous and psyche were to be found in each human being.
This became a core concept in later Platonism. Following Plato, it was
understood that the soul as a unity was not composite and, therefore, was
indestructible and immortal and possessed the recollection of memory. Plato
had allowed for passions and desires within the soul. This acknowledged
that there was struggle and conlict within the human psyche. Yet the nous
was ‘a god to each person’, ensuring that the notion of immortality was
attached to the human soul. Aristotle taught that parts of the soul are
immortal. This meant that human beings could become immortal if they
strove to live in accordance with the immortal parts of the soul. Later think-
ers taught a duality of the soul, in which the soul was divided into the
rational and irrational. The embodiment of the composite soul was seen as
a kind of ‘fall’.
Premised on these concepts of the divine and the soul Plotinus taught that
although the soul was one ousia, it needed to be freed from its lower parts in
order to attain oneness with the psyche [the world soul]. Further purihcation
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
25
and abstraction was required for the soul to attain union with the One
(Enneads, V.5.4.8). This hnal stage of the soul’s journey was completed
through an annihilation of all duality. The soul became one with what it
sought, yet was not absorbed by it. This process is described as one full of
fear and pain. The union is described in terms of vision. However, vision
implies a duality of the seer and the seen. Union is also described as touch,
blending, self-surrender, ecstasy and erotic mingling. The union is under-
stood in terms of the superimposed centres of two circles, which become
indistinguishable and yet can be seen separately if they move apart. This
union with the One is thought of as a ‘dizzying leap’ and yet is not some-
thing outside the human person. Plotinus argues that ‘We do not need
to become gods but simply to realize what we are, which we attain in its
fullness through union with the One: “for a god is what is linked to that
centre.”’
13
Despite these understandings of the deiform nature of the soul, the con-
ceptuality of ‘deihcation’ remained problematic because of the doctrine
of the ‘undescended soul’. The potential for deihcation was opened up by
Iamblichus (250–325), who rejected the doctrine of the ‘undescended soul’.
As a consequence the three divine hypostases came to be understood as a
hierarchy of different essences. These essences could be ‘participated in’, and
the individual might ascend and descend without compromising the tran-
scendence of the higher hypostases. Plotinus’ pupil Porphyry (c.234–305)
had anticipated this change, himself using the technical language of deih-
cation for hrst time about the year 300. He argued that to become like God
was to attain the godlike quality of incorruptibility which was understood
as ‘being deihed’ (Ad Marcellam, 17). Iamblichus, who was Porphyry’s pupil,
recast the context of deihcation by arguing that the human soul is non-divine.
This meant that for deihcation to occur an ontological change becomes
necessary. This placed further emphasis on the need for preparation for the
ascent to the divine. Iamblichus argued that the transformation from human
to divine was achieved through the practice of theurgy, which he understood
as both intellectual as well as ritual. The works of Iamblichus provide virtually
the only examples of the language of deihcation in philosophical discourse
prior to hfth century.
In the context of philosophy the conceptuality of deihcation was under-
stood in terms of two different outcomes the ethical or the realistic. In the
ethical outcome, ‘deihcation’ is understood in terms of a likeness to God
achieved through ascetic and philosophical practices. Certain divine attributes
could be attained by the human person through ‘imitation’ (homoiosis)
[attaining likeness to God]). In the realistic outcome, human beings are
in some sense transformed through a participation in God (methexis).
Homoiosis and methexis are terms used in Plato and later Platonism and
13
Russell, Deication, p. 41.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
26
have different but overlapping meanings. Methexis suggests a more concrete
outcome, but both concepts explore the relation between ‘being’ and
‘becoming’: that which exists ‘absolutely’ and that which is contingent.
‘“Participation” (methexis) is the name of the “relation” which accounts for
the togetherness of the elements of diverse ontological type in the essential
unity of a single instance.’
14
In the instance of the togetherness of ‘holiness’
within a holy person there is a relation, which is substantial and not just
an appearance and which is asymmetrical (i.e. not of equals). ‘Likeness’
(homoiosis) is another construal of the ‘relation’ between elements of differ-
ing ontological kinds but is weaker and non-constitutive, namely, holy
people resemble each other and share in holiness. However, ‘participation’
may itself be strong or weak, for it may be used literally [|upio,] or hgura-
tively [|o¬o_qo¬i|o,].
15
Another key aspect of the architecture of the doctrine of deihcation is the
ancient Greek conceptuality of the going out from and return of the cosmos
to its divine Creator. This notion relates in the thought of Plato to the under-
standing of the creation as an emanation from its (divine) origin. However,
in the Christian reception of this concept it is reconstrued in terms of the
conceptuality of creatio ex nihilo. In other words, the conceptuality of going
forth (exitus) and of returning (reditus) to the divine is reconceived in terms
of an ontological difference between the Creator and the created order. But
the movement of lowing out and of return is retained. This is to be seen
in the work of both Maximos the Confessor and Thomas Aquinas. The
conceptuality of exitus and reditus becomes a metaphysical construct, which
informs not only the doctrines of creation and of salvation (deihcation) but
notions such as the missio dei. In other words the potential to ‘become
divine’ for the human creation and perhaps for the whole cosmos (e.g.
Romans 8. 22, 23) is part of the fabric of the creation, imprinted upon it by
the divine intention and initiative in the act of creating. It is around these
concepts that the later Christian doctrine of deihcation is constructed.
Does this examination of the antecedents of the doctrine of deihcation
in ancient Greek philosophy and practice imply that there is direct or
wholesale inluence of Platonism and other world views on the development
of Christian doctrine, as Adolf von Harnack claimed. The works of Plato
exercised a profound inluence upon philosophers and theologians such as
Philo of Alexandria, Plotinus, Porphyry, Gregory of Nazianzen, Augustine,
Ps-Dionysius and Eriugena. Christian thinkers were as much part of the
culture and world views as any of their contemporaries in the ancient world.
But this does not mean that Christian belief was adversely affected by or
changed into Greek philosophy. Many scholars argue that Christian belief is
14
Bigger, C. P., Participation: A Platonic Inquiry (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State Uni-
versity Press, 1968), p. 7.
15
Russell, Deication, p. 2.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
27
‘other’ in comparison with such ‘systems’ as Platonism. Dörrie argues that
there is a ‘pseudomorphosis’, that is to say only the outward elements of
Greek thought are used by Christians and that these have been inhabited
and made their own by Christian writers.
16
‘They can have nothing but
the outward appearance, the words and the images which may seem to be
Platonic . . . in fact are completely alien to the metaphysic they seem to
reproduce.’
17
Not all scholars agree with Dörrie, but it is important to
acknowledge that both later Platonist writers as well as Christians were not
simply repeating the ideas of Plato. They produced innovative understand-
ings, which in the Christian tradition were as much as inspired by the Gospel
tradition as any contemporary world view.
The Jewish and Christian scriptures
Filiation, perfection and holiness are foundational forms of expression for
an understanding of divine – human intimacy, union or deihcation. The
extent to which such concepts are found in the Hebrew Scriptures or the
Septuagint is a matter of debate. But within these texts are instances of
phraseology or conceptuality upon which a metaphor of deihcation can be
constructed. Filiation, the divine adoption of human beings as sons and
daughters is probably the most problematic of the three concepts. In patris-
tic exegesis Psalm 82 verse 6 is used as a ‘proof text’ for hliation. There are
other examples in the Hebrew corpus such as texts in Job and Psalm 29,
which have been associated with ‘hliation’. These texts have been translated
using ‘sons of God’, but in the New Revised Standard Version the phrase is
rendered ‘heavenly beings’. Texts which refer in Hebrew to the ‘sons of God’
possibly indicate beings such as angels which inhabit the divine realm. These
texts demonstrate an understanding of beings intimately related to the divine
to an extent that they are called ‘sons of God’. Examples from the Septuagint
suggest an idea of adoption. In the Wisdom of Solomon (chapter 5), a text
related to those who have been persecuted, suggests that they have
‘been numbered among the children of God’ (Wisdom of Solomon 5.5). In
Ecclesiasticus with reference to the poor and oppressed, it is suggested that
‘you will then be like a son of the Most High’ (Ecclesiasticus 4.10). These
examples demonstrate that persons were held by their peers in the status of
a child of God because of certain virtuous attitudes and actions. This may
be interpreted as entirely metaphorical, but it demonstrates a shift in under-
standing from that in the Hebrew corpus. There is evidence in the Septuagint
16
Dörrie, H. S., ‘Jahre Forschung zum Thema Platonismus und Kirchenvästerhe’
in Platonica minora (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1976), pp. 508–23.
17
Vogel, C. J., ‘Platonism and Christianity: A Mere Antagonism or a Profound
Common Ground?’ Vigiliae Christianae 39 (1985): 7.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
28
texts of an understanding of the potential for human beings to become per-
fect, which in the Hebrew corpus is understood to be a divine attribute.
18

In the Book of Wisdom (4.10–14) the text suggests that a perfected human-
ity is possible, although it seems only on the basis of removal from this
world. Similar examples are to be found in the book of Ecclesiasticus.
19
The
notion of sharing in the divine attribute of perfection is a possibility availa-
ble at least to certain human beings. But it is an exclusive elite who achieve
this end.
The concept to being holy as God is holy is, however, a key understanding
in the book Leviticus in the Hebrew corpus; chapter 11. 44, 45 is a key text:
44
For I am the Lcii your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be
holy, for I am holy. You shall not dehle yourselves with any swarming
creature that moves on the earth.
45
For I am the Lcii who brought
you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for
I am holy.
This and other examples from Leviticus may be understood in terms of
ritual holiness or purity. The inference of such a claim being that there is a
marked difference between ritual purity and moral holiness. Whether such
a sharp distinction is justihed is questionable, as the Levitical law code may
be understood to comprehend an understanding of holiness which is both
ritual and moral.
20
These phrases and concepts in the Hebrew Scriptures and
Septuagint provide a basis for understandings of hliation, perfection and
holiness in the New Testament, and they also provide a basis for the emer-
gence of the metaphor of deihcation in the Early Church.
Covenant’ is a pervasive concept in the Hebrew, Septuagint and Christian
scriptures. It is word used in a variety of ways, but the usual understanding
of covenant is of a ‘relationship’ or agreement between God and ‘his people’.
This intimacy between the human and the divine is rooted in the notion that
humankind is made in the divine image and is the basis for the Incarnation.
Such intimacy also provides the basis for the idea of a synergy of wills. The
following passage from the prophet Jeremiah promises a ‘new covenant’
which is more intimate:
31
The days are surely coming, says the Lcii, when I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
32
It will not
be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them
by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that
they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lcii.
33
But this is the
18
For example, Deuteronomy 32.4; 2 Samuel 22.31; Psalm 18.30.
19
For example, Ecclesiasticus 31.10; 44.17 (Noah); 45.8 (Moses); 50.11.
20
See Leviticus 19.2; 20.26 and Numbers 15.40.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
29
covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,
says the Lcii: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on
their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34
No
longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the
Lcii’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great-
est, says the Lcii; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their
sin no more. (Jeremiah 31)
21
The concept of covenant is found extensively in the Wisdom literature of the
Septuagint corpus. The concept of a covenant relationship between God and
his people remains of crucial importance for the construction of a doctrine
of deihcation in the present context which demonstrates the relational
dimensions of partaking in the divine nature.
The phrase ‘image and likeness’ has been the focus of much attention in
Christian theology, among those who want to exploit the phrase to formu-
late a Christian anthropology as well as among the detractors of such
terminology. Among the theologians of the Early Church Clement of
Alexandria brought together the understanding of ‘image’ in Genesis 1.26
with that of Plato in Theaetetus 176b, as Philo of Alexandria had done pre-
viously. The phrase occurs in the hrst creation narrative of Genesis.
Then God said, ‘Let us make
humankind in our image, accord-
ing to our likeness; and let them
have dominion over the hsh of
the sea, and over the birds of the
air, and over the cattle, and over
all the wild animals of the earth,
and over every creeping thing that
creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in
his image, in the image of God he
created them; male and female he
created them. (Genesis 1.26, 27)
22
Wherefore we ought to ly away
from earth to heaven as quickly
as we can; and to ly away is to
become like God, as far as this is
possible; and to become like him,
is to become holy, just, and wise.
(Theaetetus, 176b)
23
The Genesis narrative articulates the belief that human beings, male and
female, are made in the ‘image and likeness’ of God. However, it provides no
21
See Hebrews chapter 8.
22
From the NRSV: in Hebrew the word translated as ‘humankind’ is ‘adam’. There is
further articulation of the imago dei in the blessing of Noah and his sons at the conclu-
sion of the Flood narrative in Genesis 9.6.
23
Plato, Theaetetus (trans. Jowett), 176b.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
30
content to this notion. It seems to be a means of establishing the distinctive-
ness of human being over against other sentient creatures. Subsequent
generations have sought to puzzle out what such an extraordinary claim
might mean. One understanding of imago dei has been in terms of human
capability for language and reason. Another text from the Hebrew Scriptures
may explain why this has been the case:
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of
anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them
or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. (Exodus
20.4, 5)
The association of image and likeness with idolatry has had considerable
consequences upon Christian thinking about the imago dei and has tended
to direct conceptualizations of the divine image away from anything mate-
rial, reinforcing an emphasis upon rationality. At various moments in the
history of the Church there have been violent disputes about images, such as
during the Iconoclast Controversy among the Eastern churches and at the
time of the Reformation in the West. These conlicts have tended to reinforce
a cerebral or spiritual understanding of the divine image in humankind. In
addition, in some traditions a distinction has been drawn between ‘image’
and ‘likeness’ which often relates to the outcome of the Fall. In the Ortho-
dox tradition it is usual to distinguish between the divine image which
remains part of human nature after the Fall and the divine likeness which is
lost and needs to be restored. Understandings of the divine image are shaped
by the desire to speculate on what human nature was like before the Fall in
comparison with afterwards. Within the Orthodox tradition the comparison
of the pre- and post-lapsarian state of humanity is often focused on the
phrase ‘garments of skin’ as well as understandings of the divine image and
likeness. In the aftermath of the disobedience of Adam and Eve there is a
catalogue of consequences or curses (Genesis 3.14–19). At the expulsion of
Adam and Eve from the Garden, ‘The man named his wife Eve, because she
was the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made garments of skins
for the man and for his wife, and clothed them’ (Genesis 3.20, 21). The
clothing of Adam and Eve in ‘garments of skin’ gives rise to whole raft of
ideas about pre-lapsarian human nature, including questions of gender,
sexuality and reproduction. Some scholars
24
have drawn a parallel between
the ‘garments of skin’ in Genesis 3 with the text of Genesis Rabbah, a
midrash on the Torah, which speaks of Adam and Eve being clothed by
God with ‘garments of light’ on the sixth day of creation (Genesis Rabbah
24
Barker, M., The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God (London: SPCK, 2007).
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
31
XX.12).
25
The inference being that a potential for ‘immortality’ is lost
through the clothing in ‘garments of skin’ implying bodily mortality. Adam
and Eve having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and
in that sense having become like God, are expelled from Eden in order to
prevent them eating of the tree of life and becoming immortal (Genesis
3.22–4). Despite the lack of any direct reference to ‘deihcation’ in the
Hebrew Scriptures, there are strong resonances with the later conceptuali-
ties upon which the doctrine of deihcation was constructed.
On the whole the consensus of scholarly opinion is agreed that the Hebrew
Scriptures contain little or nothing which explicitly suggests a notion of
deihcation. However, later exegesis, both Jewish and Christian, has inter-
preted elements within the Hebrew corpus as the basis for the metaphor of
deihcation. These Jewish ‘post-biblical’ schools of exegesis are known as
Rabbinic, Hellenist and Enochic. The main texts on which later understand-
ings of deihcation are construed are narratives concerning Enoch, Moses
and Elijah. These texts relate stories of the exaltation of a human person
to God and to a heavenly status. On the whole readings of the Hebrew
Scriptures have suggested that there is deep gulf between the Creator and
the creation and that the fate of human beings at death is in the shades of
Sheol (e.g. Job 7.9, Psalm 6.5, Proverbs 1.12) Pre-exilic texts suggest that
there is no continuation of human existence beyond death. But it is interest-
ing to note that among the references to Sheol, some speak of being rescued
from Sheol (1 Samuel 2.6, Psalm 30.3, Psalm 49.15), and others speak of it
as a place not devoid of God (Psalm 139.8). Another tradition suggests that
some human beings are taken up into heaven, in particular Enoch (Genesis
5.24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2.11). The text suggests that Enoch had a close
relationship with God. The interpretation of the phrase, ‘God took him,’
came to be interpreted as meaning more than physical death. In the light of
such interpretation, some biblical scholars place the stories of Enoch and
Elijah among the post-exilic texts of the Hebrew Bible.
It is only in the post-exilic literature of the Hebrew Scriptures that any-
thing approaching the metaphor of deihcation may be discerned. An example
is the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37.1–14, and the vision of the throne
chariot of God, in Ezekiel 1.1–28; 10.1–22; 43.1–5. These texts suggest not
only a vision of the divine in the here and now but also the potential for a
vision of God, which unites the individual with God in the courts of heaven,
perhaps eternally. The ideas found in the post-exilic text of Ezekiel may
be traced in the texts of the later Wisdom and Apocalyptic literature. In
these texts grades of angels and demons are portrayed, which connect God
and the creation and ideas of immortality and resurrection hnd explicit
expression along with the translation of the heroes of the faith into heaven.
25
See Psalm 104. 1,2.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
32
These trends were reinforced by the destruction of the second Temple in 70.
In Judaism the Messianic expectations were brought into doubt, and, in the
place of such expectation, there is a renewed emphasis on the study of
Torah, and there emerges a spirituality of assimilation to the life of the
angels or of ‘angelihcation’. If the angels are understood to be ‘gods’, this
can be seen as a kind of deihcation. In some understandings it was possible
to anticipate this in the present life through ‘an ecstatic ascent to the vision
of the throne-chariot of God’.
26
A patristic proof text
The use of proof texts by the theological writers of the Early Church is
focused on Psalm 82. This appeal emerges not so much from a reading of
the Hebrew Scriptures or Septuagint as from a key text in the Gospels. In the
narrative in the Gospel of John following the ‘Good Shepherd’ discourse,
there is an attempt to arrest Jesus for blasphemy, during which Jesus himself
cites Psalm 82 verse 6.
The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have
shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are
you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work
that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though
only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it
not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the
word of God came were called “gods” – and the scripture cannot be
annulled – can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctihed
and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son?”’
(John 10.31–6)
The passage makes play of the correlation between the claim to be ‘gods’
and the claim attributed to Christ of being God’s Son. Here something of the
later architecture of the metaphor of deihcation in terms of ‘hliation’ may be
discerned. The later notions of becoming a ‘god’, being the Son of God and
becoming a child of God are traceable to this text. Psalm 82.6 is the most
often cited ‘proof text’ in early Christian sources for the emergent under-
standing of what became the doctrine of deihcation. The text of 2 Peter 1.4
may seem to the contemporary eye to be much more relevant, but this is a
view from hindsight and has probably acquired more standing in the light
of the construction of the later doctrine.
26
Russell, Deication, p. 53.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
33
Harnack and Bousset
27
among others argued that in constructing the
doctrine of deihcation early Christian writers had borrowed from ancient
philosophical traditions, the mystery religions and the Imperial cult, and
had overturned the original eschatological Gospel message. In particular,
these critics pick up on the appeal made to Psalm 82 through the text of
John 10. They interpreted this appeal as a justihcation for the development
of something foreign to the Christian tradition. In their view, ‘The patristic
appeal to Ps. 82.6 was thus an ex post facto justihcation for deihcation that
did not contribute to the origin of the doctrine.’
28
Carl Mosser argues that
such a view misrepresents the biblical basis for the doctrine of deihcation
and seriously misunderstands the way in which the early Christian writers
approached Scripture.
29
Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria
are the earliest examples of this appeal to John 10 and Psalm 82.
30
Psalm
82.6 is not simply read out of the Gospel text, but New Testament notions
are being read into it by the early writers. Christians were developing ideas
and not simply reiterating traditional, received understandings in the form
of a scriptural warrant.
31
What becomes evident is that Christians not only inherited the Hebrew
Scriptures but also received some of the different traditions of scriptural
interpretation in Judaism. However, the interpretation of Psalm 82 in the
rabbinic literature of the Second Temple period is difhcult to establish, since
most patristic sources pre-date Jewish texts, other than 11QMelchizedeck of
the Dead Sea Scrolls. 11QMelchizedeck and the Gospel of John are two
examples of the interpretation of Psalm 82 in Second Temple Judaism.
Mosser argues that what is of particular importance for early Christian
writers is the declaration of sonship rather than the question of ‘godhood’
per se.
32
Mosser argues that Justin, Irenaeus and Clement understood Psalm
82.6–7 as a summary of the narrative of the Creation and Fall of humanity.
God had created the human race to be his immortal ‘sons’. If humanity had
not fallen they would have matured in their likeness of God. The Fall dis-
rupts God’s intentions in creating the cosmos. The glory of the garden of
Eden, the intimate relationship of a child of God and life itself are lost, and
in their place the fate of humanity becomes corruption and death. However,
the phrase, ‘the scripture cannot be annulled’ (John 10.35) was interpreted
27
For example, Bousset, W., Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the
Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1970), pp. 420–53.
28
Mosser, C., ‘The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents, and
the Origin of Christian Deihcation’, Journal of Theological Studies, 56(1) (2005): 33.
29
Mosser, Psalm 82, 34.
30
The earliest example is in Justin Martyr, The Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 124.
31
See Mosser, Psalm 82, 35.
32
Mosser, Psalm 82, 64.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
34
to mean that the divine intentions are not destroyed by the Fall. Verse 6 of
Psalm 82 was seen as prophetic, pointing to the Incarnation and resurrec-
tion of Word, which fulhls the divine intentions of creation by recapitulating
the fate of Adam. Mosser argues that the early writers came to understand
that verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 82 pointed to a ‘Complete fulhlment . . . found
in the new humanity consisting of those who are baptized into the death
and resurrection of this new Adam’.
33
This interpretation led to a conceptu-
ality upon which later understandings of deihcation are constructed. ‘The
conceptual synonymy between ûto,, oûovo¬o, and o¢ûop¬o, and the syn-
onymous parallelism of Ps. 82:6 allowed for the patristic writers aptly to
summarize their eschatological-soteriological expectations in terms of being
made ûto, / ûtoi.’
34
This vocabulary becomes the basis for the terms used
later: ûto¬oito and ûto¬oiqoi,. The particular question which arises from
these understandings of Psalm 82, is whether this interpretation has any
Jewish antecedents, or does this play into the hands of those who condemn
deihcation on the grounds that it is based upon pagan conceptualities and
terminology. Moser suggests that there is such evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls
and the Enochic literature.
35
An examination of this evidence follows.
The hgure of Enoch, a son of Cain, known from Genesis chapters 4 and 5
became the focus of relection and speculation in the period from the third
century BCE. Enoch came to be understood as a mediator between heaven
and earth. In later Rabbinic texts the worship of Enoch is prohibited, which
suggests that some saw him as a manifestation of Yahweh. In the hrst Book
of Enoch and in the texts of the Qumran community the hgure of Enoch
becomes allied to a notion of transcendent life beyond ‘death’. This idea in
these contexts may have emerged independently of any direct Greek inlu-
ence. The texts of the Qumran community express the notion that the
righteous are predestined to transcend death and join the company of the
angels. The leader of the Qumran community was seen as the ‘new Moses’
who would lead the community towards ‘angelic life’. These ideas were
based upon passages from the Psalms which were understood to refer to the
heavenly court. The ‘Sons of Heaven’ who are angels are often referred to as
elohim or elim, based on Psalm 82.1. The writings of the Qumran commu-
nity suggest that the boundary between heaven and earth is either permeable
or dissolved, suggesting an inaugurated eschatology.
36
These understandings
provide the basis on which the worship of the Qumran community came to be
understood in terms of an anticipation of the ‘divine life’ of the heavenly court.
33
Mosser, Psalm 82, 59.
34
Mosser, Psalm 82, 59.
35
See Mosser, Psalm 82, 66–7. Jewish sources include Dead Sea Scrolls: 1QS
4.20,22–3; 1QH 4.15; also 2 Enoch 31.1; 4 Ezra 3.7; Sibylline Oracles 1.50;
Wisdom 2.23; 3.4,7; 2 Baruch 73–4, for example, 74.3.
36
1QS 11.5–9; 1QH 3.21–2.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
35
In both the Book of Enoch and the writings of Qumran community there
are the beginnings of a democratization of these expectations in that all of
the righteous are admitted to the heavenly court, and take part in the heav-
enly liturgy of the angels.
The signihcance of Moses is expressed in a drama dating from the second
century BCE, Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian, which is written in Greek
verse. Some fragments of this survive in the Stromateis (1.23.155–6) of
Clement of Alexandria and Praepatio Evangelica (IX, 28.1–3) by Eusebius.
The Exagoge suggests Moses’ superior status over Enoch, because of his ascent
to the divine throne, his revelatory vision and his ‘deihcation’ on Sinai.
In the Exagoge, Moses does not merely ascend and have a vision of
God’s throne: God bids Moses to sit on his divine throne. Moses
is given God’s own scepter and crown, God’s insignia. Moses shares
God’s throne: he is divinized. Moses thus not only sees God’s throne as
did Enoch: he rules from God’s own throne. This is a signihcant devel-
opment in the Mosaic tradition: Moses, the human, is the patriarch
who not only ascends, but shares God’s dignity. It brings to mind Philo’s
later understanding of Moses as god and king, as well as rabbinic mid-
rashism on Deut 33.1 which claims that Moses was a man when he
ascended Sinai, and a god when he descended.
37
(emphases in original)
Moses’ ascent to heaven and sitting on the throne of God not only implies
deihcation but also suggests that he is restored to the glory lost by Adam
and becomes a prototype of a new humanity. Rabbinic sources provide evi-
dence of the evolution of an understanding of deihcation, which is related to
‘Merkabah mysticism,’ a spiritual practice which emerged from meditation
on Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot throne of God. This strand of Jewish tradi-
tion was an alternate to the view of the ascent to God understood in Greek
philosophy. In this rabbinic tradition the exegesis of Psalm 82.6 interpreted
the ‘gods’ as those who attain immortality through proper observance of the
Torah. There is evidence that this interpretation strongly inluenced later
Christian understandings of deihcation. The Enochic texts make a fundamen-
tal contribution to the emergence of a doctrine of deihcation in Christianity.
This dependency is witnessed in that survival of these texts is due mainly to
their use and preservation by the Christian community.
Wisdom literature
The book, the Wisdom of Solomon, dating from the hrst-century BCE, sits
within the broad tradition of Wisdom literature that is found within the
37
Ruffatto, K. J., ‘Polemics with Enochic Traditions in the Exagoge of Ezekiel the
Tragedian’, Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha, 15(3) 2006: 204.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
36
Hebrew Scriptures and the wisdom texts of the ancient Near East and
Greece. The Book of Wisdom brings to expression a Jewish idea of ‘blessed
immortality’, which emerges from contact with and inluence from ancient
Greek philosophy. The beginning of the personihcation of ‘Wisdom’ can be
found in the texts of Jewish Wisdom literature, such as Proverbs chapter 8.
But in Hebrew Wisdom literature immortality is understood in terms of
leaving a son after oneself, while in the Book of Wisdom the personihcation
of Wisdom indicates something much closer to the ‘being’ of God, expressed
in the vocabulary of ‘emanation’ and ‘image’ (Wisdom 7). The connection
between personihed Wisdom, understood as an emanation form God, and
human beings, brings about an intimacy with God so that human beings are
called the ‘friends of God’ and are not separated from God by death.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets; (Wisdom 7.27)
The Book of Wisdom may pre-date the writings of Philo of Alexandria,
in which case this text is the hrst example of an appeal to immortality in
‘Hellenistic Judaism’. This construal of an immortal destiny for humankind
is based upon the concept of personihed Wisdom. Passages from Wisdom
3.1–9 and 5.15 suggest that the dead become immortal and live forever in
the presence of God. Immortality [oûovooio] or incorruption [o¢ûopoio] is
the telos for which human beings are created. The human soul is not natu-
rally immortal, but God bestows immortality on merit. ‘Incorruption’ is a
divine attribute, which the Epricureans saw as the difference between the
divine and the human. In the Book of Wisdom incorruption is ascribed to
human beings on the basis of the divine image:
for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it. (Wisdom 2.23–4)
The understanding of immortality as divine gift is reinforced in the reference
to ‘manna’, described as the food of the gods, the ‘ambrosial food’ in Wisdom
19.21. This is the food of immortality, which bestows the divine gift on
human beings and has resonances with later eucharistic understandings.
The writings of Philo of Alexandria (20–50 BCE) are of interest for an
analysis of the emergence of a Christian doctrine of deihcation for a number
of reasons. In particular Philo is an example of an adherent to Judaism who
lived and worked in the context of the cultural milieu of the ancient city of
Alexandria, renowned for its philosophical schools. He is of signihcance
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
37
because several Early Church writers explicitly refer to his writings, particu-
larly Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Basil of Caesarea. Philo had been
educated in the traditions of the contemporary understandings of Greek
philosophy, and he took up an apologetic task of presenting Judaism in
ways which would commend it to educated Jews and gentile converts.
His apologetics are rooted in an Alexandrine tradition of allegorical inter-
pretation, which can be seen in the interpretation of the works of Homer.
Philo argued that between God and human beings there is a chain of being,
which nonetheless meant that God remained transcendent. This ‘chain of
being’ allowed for the possibility of the ascent of the soul to God through
the practice of philosophy.
The interpretation of the relationship between Jewish and Greek tradi-
tions in Philo’s writings is a matter of some dispute. Wesche argues that
Philo brought together Hebrew and Platonist categories in a synthesis, which
was taken up later by Origen.
38
For example Philo writes that the mind
[nous] is ‘intimately related to the divine Logos, being an imprint or fragment
or effulgence of that blessed nature’ (De Opicio Mundi, 46). This divine
Logos is ‘begotten of God’ and mediates between God and creation. But
Dörrie argues that this is not so much a synthesis as a ‘pseudomorphosis’, in
which only the outward elements of Greek thought remain. In this under-
standing Philo’s contribution to Jewish and Greek thought is much more
innovative.
The Wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, and possibly of the
Septuagint, is extended by Philo. Using Platonist concepts Philo sets out
four different ways by which the soul ascends to God. The hrst is a religious
approach (De Specialibus Legibus I.269–72) in which the soul abandons
idolatry and turns to the true religion. Second, there is a philosophical
approach (De Migratione Abrahami 194–5) in which the mind rises from
sensible to intelligible objects through contemplation. Third, there is an
ethical approach (Legum Allegoriarum I.108) which leads to immortality,
through the practice of the virtues, making the soul ‘godlike’. Finally there is
a mystical approach (De Somniis 2.32.2). On this path the true philosopher
goes out of herself and attains the highest level possible for a human being
to pure mind (nous). Moses was such a person. He embodied wisdom and
so occupied a mediating position between God and human beings. But even
Moses is called ‘god’ only ‘hguratively’, on the basis of sharing in the divine
attributes of incorporeality and immortality.
39
The philosophical and exegetical traditions of those Jewish writers inlu-
enced by the ‘Hellenistic’ environment of Roman Empire provide a context
38
Wesche, K. P., ‘Mind and Self in the Christology of Saint Gregory the Theologian:
Saint Gregory’s Contribution to Christology and Christian Anthropology’, Greek
Orthodox Theological Review, 39(1) (1994): 45.
39
Russell, Deication, p.11.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
38
for early Christian writers which can be summarized in four distinctive
understandings which form the basis for a Christian metaphor of deihcation.
First, these traditions suggest that immortality is a gift from God, rather
than an innate property of the soul. Second, the human soul enjoys a kinship
with the divine glory but, nonetheless, remains distinct from the divine.
Third, the possibility of moral progress allows the soul to participate in
certain of the divine attributes. Finally, there are rare examples of human
beings attaining an ecstatic encounter with God even in their earthly lives.
40
New Testament
The texts of the New Testament contain no explicit reference to ‘deihcation’.
For some this will endorse their view that the metaphor of deihcation is
foreign to the primitive Gospel. In my exploration of various themes in the
New Testament I will endeavour to demonstrate that many of the features
of the later metaphor are to be found throughout the writings of the New
Testament. This is not surprising if one accepts that the metaphor arises
from relection on the New Testament witness. The metaphor of deihcation
arises not only from relection on the text of the New Testament but also
from relection on the experiences to which it testihes. The narrative of the
Transhguration provides a particular and important instance of an experi-
ence which Christian theologians believed was reiterated in the lives of the
faithful.
The hope of immortality is set out in 1 Corinthians 15. The play on the
difference between mortal and immortal, perishable and imperishable is
striking and resonates with the understanding that the divine is immortal
and imperishable. The defeat of death and the putting on of immortality is
seen in terms of the reversal of the fate of Adam:
41
Christ has been raised from the dead, the hrst fruits of those who have
died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of
the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam,
so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ
the hrst fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then
comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father,
after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For
he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last
enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15. 20–6)
40
Russell, Deication, p.77.
41
See also Revelation 2.7, ‘To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat
from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.’
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
39
The hope of immortality is related by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 to the pos-
sibility of the resurrection of a ‘body’ after the burial and decomposition of
the mortal remains of a person. The possibility of the ‘resurrection body’ is
construed in relation to a notion of a ‘last Adam’ as well as a ‘hrst Adam’.
The hrst Adam is understood to be ‘a living soul’ [¢u_qv Çooov] ‘from the
dust of the earth’, while the second Adam is ‘a life-giving spirit’ [¬vtuµo
Çoo¬oiouv] ‘from heaven’. In the resurrection of believers, the body of ¢u_q
from Adam will be transformed into a body of ¬vtuµo from Christ. For
those still living at the moment of the second coming there will be an instan-
taneous and radical transformation. The psychikon body will become the
pneumatikon body.
The Gospel of Matthew is the only one of the four gospels to include the
extended passage of teachings called the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, in which is
found the command to be perfect, in imitation of the divine perfection.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and
hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father
in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and
sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love
those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-
collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,
what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do
the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5. 43–8)
This command to imitate the divine perfection is given concrete content
as the passage above reveals. This godlike attribute of patient acceptance
and inclusion is seen as the goal and standard for human behaviour. The
passage itself makes no assumptions about becoming godlike as such. But
the practice and habit of such behaviour is no doubt assumed to bring about
a fundamental transformation of ‘sinful’ human attitudes and actions.
The potential for attaining to divine attributes became a core element in the
expression of the metaphor of deihcation. The passage is the core text in
John Wesley’s construal of Christian Perfection and of the later Holiness
movements in the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions to which I will
return.
42
The notion of the divine image is found in Colossians 1 where the ‘image’
is understood in relation to the person of Christ rather than humankind.
42
Wesley, J., ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection’, in T. Jackson (ed.), The Works
of John Wesley (1872), vol. 11, pp. 366–446; Wesley also appeals to other texts,
for example, Hebrews 6.1; Philippians 3.15; 1 John 4.18.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
40
This passage became the basis for the interpretation of the imago dei in later
Christian thought. The passage sets out a detailed and complex faith state-
ment in relation to Christ, on the basis that he is the image [eikoˉ n@of the
invisible God. But how does this use of image relate to the human race in
general? The understanding that Christ in his particular role and relation-
ship with God is understood as ‘icon’ and that human beings are also
‘icons’ of God could be interpreted in terms of either difference or similarity.
Kathryn Tanner argues for the latter.
43
She suggests that any notion that
the human and the divine are in ‘competition’ is a misunderstanding of the
Christian Tradition. Christ as the icon of the invisible God allows humanity
to be understood as perspicacious of the divine.
The human potential of perspicacity of the divine is to be found in the
gospel narrative of the ‘Transhguration’ or ‘metamorphoˉ sis’ of Christ. The
‘event’ of the Transhguration, which is recounted in each of the Synoptic
Gospels,
44
becomes a core component in the construal of deihcation in the
Orthodox tradition. Indeed icons of the Transhguration are the pictorial
expression of the metaphor of deihcation:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother
John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was
transhgured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his
clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them
Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it
is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still
speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the
cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well
pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the
ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them,
saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they
saw no one except Jesus himself alone. (Matthew 17.1–8)
The narrative of the Transhguration has a number of elements which become
key in the construction of the doctrine of deihcation. The hgures of Moses
and Elijah are notable not only as key hgures of Judaism but also as those
who had their own ascent to the divine. There are several aspects to the
story to highlight in terms of the later doctrine. The event occurs on a high
mountain, which is a symbol of the ascent to the divine. It is a place of vision
and light. The three disciples see the transhgured Christ and witness the light
43
Tanner, K., Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2001), for example, chapter 1.
44
Matthew 17.1–8; Mark 9.28; and Luke 9.28–36.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
41
from his face. The vision of God [theoˉ ria] becomes a key factor in the con-
strual of deihcation. Vision and light suggest contemplation, illumination
and enlightenment, each of which becomes a core element in the theorization
of deihcation. The revelation of the divine light on Mount Tabor may be
seen as comparable with ‘Resurrection light’ and the ‘tongues of lame’ on
the day of Pentecost. This appeal to light and illumination has strong echoes
of Plato’s allegory of the Cave. The Transhguration is a model of the trans-
formation for the Christian believer. The paradigmatic status of the narrative
is to be understood in terms of the much later conceptuality of the ‘Hypo-
static Union’ expounded by the council of Chalcedon. The perichoˉ rȘsis of
the human and divine revealed in Christ’s transhgured face on Mount Tabor
becomes an exemplar of human redemption and sanctihcation. Furthermore,
the perichoˉ rȘsis of the human and divine in Christ may be understood in
terms of a ‘synergy’ of wills. The perspicacity of the human for the divine as
witnessed in the narrative of the Transhguration is not only a matter of
ontology but also a matter of moral intent and of divine–human synergy.
This comes to be understood as absolutely central to the construal of what
is meant by deihcation in the Christian tradition.
An example of the concept of the synergy of wills in the New Testament
texts is the core Christian prayer: the ‘Our Father’. The Lord’s Prayer as used
liturgically is based on the Matthean text:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one. (Matthew 6.9–13)
The phrase in verse 10 concerning the divine will may be understood as
an invitation to conform one’s human will to the divine, and so enter into
a synergy of wills. This interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer became wide-
spread as the doctrine of deihcation came to be accepted, particularly in the
Orthodox churches.
The passage in 2 Peter 1.4 is the clearest statement of anything approach-
ing ‘deihcation’ in the New Testament. But among the earliest Christian
writers this verse does not evoke much interest. Later theologians such Cyril
of Alexandria and John of Damascus and the post-Reformation writers do
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
42
cite this verse in relation to their understandings of deihcation.
45
However,
in terms of biblical texts 2 Peter 1.4, together with Genesis 1.26 and John
10.34-5, provide the strongest basis for a theology of deihcation.
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and
goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and
very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the
corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become par-
ticipants in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1.3, 4)
In this passage from 2 Peter, the understanding that ‘divine power has given
us everything we need for life and godliness,’ means that through God’s
promises Christian believers ‘may participate in (literally, ‘become sharers
[koinoˉ noi] of’) the divine nature’ escaping from the corruption in the world
which is caused by evil desires.
46
Karl Barth interpreted this passage to mean
nothing more than ‘the practical fellowship of Christians with God and on
this basis the conformity of their acts with the divine nature’.
47
But for expo-
nents of a Christian understanding of deihcation the passage in 2 Peter 1.4
is a key text, which offers not only a strong biblical basis for the notion of
human participation in the divine but also relates this verbally to the con-
cept of koinoˉ nia.
There are two major themes in the letters of St Paul to examine in relation
to the later understanding of deihcation in the Christian tradition. They are
hliation, adoption as sons or daughters of God and ‘Christihcation’. I have
chosen the word ‘Christihcation’ as an alternate to ‘deihcation’ to emphasize
that Paul does not write of becoming divine explicitly. He does write of
becoming closely identihed with Christ, which Albert Schweitzer described
as ‘in Christ mysticism’. While Paul himself had ‘mystical’ experiences, the
use of ‘mysticism’ can be misleading in terms of a general exposition of
Paul’s concepts of becoming identihed with Christ. The identihcation of the
believer with Christ occurs through a variety of means. It is possible through
ritual or liturgical practices, specihcally Baptism and Eucharist. There is
also an ethical path in which the believer pursues the virtues or the gifts of
the Spirit. In each of these cases Paul appeals to the metaphor of the Body of
Christ. And in each case he argues that the believer has some kind of per-
sonal experience. In terms of Baptism the believer needs to experience death
45
See Benea, O., Theosis in the Biblical and Eucharistic Ecclesiology of Patristic
Theology, MA Th, Lampeter University (Dissertation) p. 184.
46
Rakestraw, R. V., ‘Becoming Like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis’,
Journal of Evangelical Theological Studies, 40(2) 1997: 258.
47
Barth, K., The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV, 4, Lecture Fragments (Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 28.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
43
and resurrection for himself as moral ‘conversion’ from sin to new life.
St Paul uses various expressions for ‘participatory union’: ‘in Christ’, ‘with
Christ’, ‘Christ in us’, ‘sons of God’. Paul’s expressions became the basis for
relection which informed the emergence of the metaphor of deihcation.
There is a strand within the writings of St Paul which some scholars inter-
pret in terms of a mystical understanding of the vision of and possible union
with God. Paul writes of his own experience of ascent to the third heaven
(2 Corinthians 12.2–4). This experience is parallel with the revelation of the
eschatological life, which is found in esoteric traditions such as Gnosticism.
In this instance it is clear that the detail of the revelation is personal to
him. The experience is parallel with Merkabah revelatory experience, and it
is possible that Paul was aware of traditions like that of Qumran. Paul’s
writings are full of references to ‘union’ expressed in phrases such as being
‘in Christ’, ‘in the Spirit’, the ‘spiritual life’ and ‘life in God’, but such phrases
are not used in relation to mystical experience as such.
The two themes of adoption (hliation) and Christihcation in the letters are
not mutually exclusive, and passages where one theme is used explicitly may
also suggest the implications of the other. The idea of becoming one with
Christ (Christihed) is expressed by Paul in various ways. A foundation for
this idea and experience is Paul’s identihcation of Christ and Adam. Adam
is seen as a type of Christ in Romans 5.14, while Christ is seen as the second
Adam in 1 Corinthians 15.45. The persons of Christ and Adam and their
actions have consequences for whole human race, and it is on this premise
that Paul speaks of the experience and process(es) of Christihcation. Paul
also identihes Christ and Abraham, in relation to the notion of a covenant
for all. In Galatians 3.23–29 Christ is understood in relation to Abraham
and his seed, so that those who have ‘put on’ Christ in Baptism are the chil-
dren of God. In Romans 8 Paul describes participation in Christ as a process
of successive stages: liberation from demonic powers, sharing in the suffer-
ings of Christ, sharing in Christ’s glory; indeed the whole creation groans
waiting for liberation from vanity and corruption. There are references to
being in Christ through the indwelling of the Spirit, the outcome of which is
adoption, for those who call upon God their Father as ‘Abba’. Paul explores
the work of the Spirit within the believer in 1 Corinthians 2.10–16.
48
Paul
distinguishes between the spiritual and the unspiritual, indicating that the
Spirit interprets for the spiritual the consequence of which is to have the
mind of Christ. This passage has strong resonances with the practice of a
school of instruction gathered around a spiritual teacher, a practice which
was often found in the ancient world and has been identihed as a key
element in the emergence of practices around the doctrine of deihcation.
48
Other instances of being ‘in Christ’: 1 Corinthians 15.22; 1 Corinthians 1.2;
2 Corinthians 5.17; Romans 6.23.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
44
Paul writes of ‘putting on’ Christ in Baptism, and extending the metaphor
appeals to the image of being clothed in life and incorruption.
49
The passage
in Romans 6 on Baptism is a particular instance of the experiential as well
as theological in the process of Christihcation:
How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that
all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into
his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into
death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been
united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with
him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6.3–5)
This ritual or liturgical example demonstrates that Christihcation is an
experience with moral as well as eschatological consequences. This passage
anchors the later doctrine of deihcation in a ritual and sacramental context,
which was equivalent to contemporary theurgical praxis. Paul’s teaching on
the Eucharist is not without its moral implications, but the emphasis in
1 Corinthians is on the twin understanding of the Body of Christ, where the
one loaf is the material and ritual means of becoming and expressing the
metaphor of the one Body of Christ, the Church. The one eucharistic bread
is the means of expounding the relation of the one and the many in terms of
koinoˉ nia.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing [|oivovio] in the
blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing [|oivovio]
in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many
are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians
10.16–17)
Paul reiterates the collective understanding of ecclesial belonging in
1 Corinthians 12.27, ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually
members of it.’ The ecclesial metaphor of the Body of Christ and its sacra-
mental equivalent is a core element in Paul’s understanding of Christihcation
and is central to the construal of the later doctrine of deihcation. This is
central to a (re-)reception of the doctrine and practice of deihcation today.
The construal of deihcation around corporate sacramental worship is the
basis for a renewal of understanding which has a strong emphasis on the
corporate and collective aspects of deihcation alongside the individual expe-
rience of partaking of the divine nature by each person.
49
See Romans 13.14, 1 Corinthians 15.53; Galatians 3.27; Ephesians 4.24;
Colossians 3.10.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
45
The second and related theme in Paul’s letters is that of hliation or adop-
tion as the sons, daughters or children of God. Paul writes that the faithful
become sons of God by ‘adoption’ in Romans 8.14–15, Galatians 4.5 and
Ephesians 1.5. He declares that the faithful are heirs of God and fellow heirs
with Christ in Romans 8.17, Galatians 3.29 and Ephesians 1.14. The pas-
sage in Galatians 3 as noted previously is constructed on the basis of an
identity between Christ and Abraham, which implies that the once-exclusive
covenant is now extended to all people. There are precursors to this under-
standing in the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, Genesis 12.3 where God
promises to Abraham that, ‘in you all the families of the earth shall be
blessed.’ The prophet Hosea (1.10) extends these ideas further still in his
vision of the eschatological community, where all are invited to become
‘children of the living God’, members of a restored covenant relationship,
enjoying intimacy with God. St Paul’s understanding of hliation builds upon
these precursors in the Hebrew Scriptures, but he is the hrst Jewish writer to
use the term ‘adoption’ [uioûtoio].
50
In Romans 8.12–17 Paul extends the
idea from adoption as children of God, to becoming fellow heirs with Christ,
suggesting that the Holy Spirit as the agent of adoption is contrasted with
spirit of slavery. The outcome of adoption will be an end to present suffering
and the arrival of the joy of the end times.
In the Deutero-Pauline letters such as Ephesians there is a further exten-
sion of the idea of ‘adoption’. In Ephesians 1.5 the adoption of believers
as sons through Jesus Christ is seen as part of God’s plan ‘to sum up
[ovo|t¢oioooooûoi] all things in Christ’, which has resonances with the
later understanding of recapitulation in the work of Irenaeus. In Ephesians
1.10 the metaphor of the Body of Christ is changed, for here Christ is head
of Body. This change of metaphor may indicate a change of emphasis. As
head of the Body, Christ provides access [¬oppqoio] to the Father for his
adopted brothers and sisters. Access to the Father relates to the notion of
‘imitation’. There are examples in the letters of Paul of his encouragement to
his ‘spiritual children’ to imitate Christ through him.
51
In Ephesians 5.1
there is an exhortation to the faithful to ‘be imitators of God’, which leads
to the possibility of being ‘hlled with all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians
3.19). The imitation of God is based upon the claim that the faithful are
already saved and enthroned with Christ (Ephesians 2.6). Although salva-
tion is assured, there is still room for development and growth until the full
stature of Christ is attained. There are fewer references in the Pauline corpus
to imitation than participatory union, but Paul does write of imitation
and obedience, and this understanding is given further ethical emphasis in
Ephesians. The themes of participation and adoption are also found in the
letter to the Hebrews.
50
See Romans 8.15, 23, 9.4; Galatians 4.5; Ephesians 1.5.
51
See 1 Corinthians 4.16, 11.1; 1 Thessalonians 1.6.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
46
Scholarly opinion is divided over the interpretation of Pauline teaching
concerning Christihcation and adoption.
52
Sanders argues that ‘the very
diversity of the terminology helps to show how the general conception of
participation permeated his thought.’
53
The emphasis on participatory union
with Christ is not disputed, but whether it is to be understood as soteriologi-
cal is another matter. The outcome of participation is also disputed. Albert
Schweitzer argued that while Paul stressed union of the believer with Christ,
he did not speak of being one with God,
54
while other scholars have argued
that there are grounds for understanding ‘participation’ in the Pauline
corpus in terms of ‘deihcation’. The balance of opinion is on the side of
Schweitzer, as it is usual to argue that Christ was not understood to be
divine until the writings of the second century. On this basis, union with
Christ is not the same as union with God. Paul does not relect on ‘participa-
tion’ per se; rather it is a means to an end, which may be ecclesial or liturgical
or eschatological. Paul’s use of terms is understood to be metaphorical, but
later writers reworked this into a technical language. It is for such reasons
that I used the term Christihcation rather than deihcation. However, this
does not preclude an understanding of participation which includes ‘real
change’. In 1 Corinthians 10 it is clear that Paul considers that eating food
sacrihced to idols is a participation in a certain kind of reality. Eating and
drinking the eucharistic elements is seen as a ‘real’ participation in Christ,
and by implication in the new creation. On the basis of such understanding,
‘participation’ is not to be understood as something solely within the
subjective self-understanding of the believer. ‘Participatory union’ refers to
something considered ‘real’ rather than being just a hgure of speech. It may
be difhcult to categorize this ‘reality’. There remains a difference between
Christ and those ‘in Him’, but he is not isolated from his people. In Christ
believers are ‘renewed inwardly’ (2 Corinthians 4.16) and advance from
glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3.18). Such passages do not amount to a
doctrine of deihcation. But they provide core elements which became
the components of the architecture of the later doctrine, and they offer the
potential for considered theological relection on the calling and destiny of
the human creation within the divine purposes of creating and redeeming.
The Johannine corpus in the New Testament has many parallels with the
Pauline corpus in terms of the themes of adoption and Christihcation, even
if the vocabulary and phraseology are different. What is of particular inter-
est for me are those texts which inspired an understanding of perichoˉ rȘsis.
52
Deissmann, A., Paul (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927); Schweitzer, A.,
The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1957).
53
Sanders, E. P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion
(London: SCM Press, 1977), p. 456.
54
Schweitzer, Mysticism, pp. 3, 26.
POPULAR PIETY, PHILOSOPHY AND SCRIPTURE
47
Perichoˉ rȘsis emerged as a theological concept in the writings of Gregory
Nazianzen in the context of the discussion of how divinity and humanity
relate to each other in the Incarnation. But in the Gospel of John the notion
of indwelling is not only of the Father and the Son but also of the faithful
with and in the Father and the Son. The Christological and Trinitarian devel-
opments of the notion of perichoˉ rȘsis are important in applying the doctrine
of deihcation in the present day. But at this juncture what is important is the
concept of the human indwelling in the divine, with the implications for
participation in, adoption by and union with God. Within the Johannine
corpus there are high expectations for the destiny of the Christian believer.
55

In John 17 the unity of believers with the Father produces an outcome of
receiving glory and of becoming completely or perfectly one. The unity of
the Father and the Son is shared with the faithful, and the faithful receive the
divine gifts of life, love and glory (light).
that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you,
may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have
sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that
they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may
become completely one, so that the world may know that you have
sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John
17.21–3)
The element of missiological witness in this text reinforces the potential for
the metaphor of deihcation to be re-received today in the collective context
of the Church and to provide the basis for an enriched understanding of
mission as well as a renewed understanding of the cosmic dimensions of the
divine purposes.
The understanding of salvation in the Christian Tradition is something
which was never the subject of ‘dehnition’ by an ecumenical council. The
work of Christ in the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection ultimately
remains a mystery beyond dehnition, yet the New Testament texts and the
writings of the Early Church theologians bear witness to a profound sense
of being ‘saved’ through these events in human history. St Paul uses a multi-
plicity of metaphors to express the experience of being saved, and these
have informed Christian discourse ever since. Some metaphors are more
favoured in certain Christian traditions more than others. The metaphor of
deihcation is a clear example of such preference. But whatever preference a
Christian believer may hold, within whichever tradition, attempts to ‘explain’
the outcomes of the historical events of Christ’s birth, ministry, death and
55
For example, John 14.23; 1 John 3.24.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
48
resurrection remain metaphors of ‘salvation’. This is as true of deihcation as
it is of any other metaphor of salvation. The metaphorical status of deihca-
tion is particularly important to hold on to, as the language of imitation and
participation may suggest a level of experiential reality which goes beyond
the metaphorical. This is in no way to deny the reality of the experience
of ‘mystical union’ with God. But it is a warning against reducing the
mystery of Christ to the mechanism of human words. This is why the notion
of ‘unknowing’ remains so crucial in the discussion of the metaphor of
deihcation.
I have shown that philosophical and scriptural sources each make use of
the language of imitation and participation. The authors of the New Testament
may be dependent on the philosophical traditions of the ancient world for
some of their preconceptions, but, on the whole, while the language may be
shared, their conceptual frameworks are very different. This is particularly
the case in terms of ‘salvation’. The philosophical and scriptural traditions
understand that the human predicament requires some kind of ‘solution’.
Although imitation and participation are premised on philosophical under-
standings of the ‘forms’ in Plato, they are premised on the Person of Christ
in Paul. Christ is the Logos ‘made lesh’. This is as much a challenge to philo-
sophical understandings as an adoption of them by the Church. Nonetheless,
the corporate and collective dimensions of the metaphor of deihcation were
predicated on philosophical conceptions of communion as well as the
Church’s experience of divine fellowship.
49
3
rni¡. cnUicn vi1Nr::
The purpose of this chapter is to discern how the metaphor of deihcation
was used in the period of the hrst hve centuries and to assess how the Church
today can receive the witness of this common patristic heritage in order to
understand and live out the divine purposes in creating and redeeming the
cosmos. The expression of the metaphor of deihcation in the texts of the
patristic era has been examined in great detail by authors such as Jules Gross
and Norman Russell. This chapter does not in any sense to try to replicate
the detailed investigation which is found in those works. My concerns are to
examine the imperatives, which lie behind the use of the metaphor, and
to discern what reciprocity there was between Christianity and other world
views. I will also identify how components of the later expression of the
metaphor were inherited from the patristic era. This is not to suggest
that the ‘patristic era’ was in any sense homogenous. The Christian Tradi-
tion emerged through the very varied use of vocabulary and metaphor and
the use of the theological imagination and speculation in relecting on
the Gospel tradition and the experience of the Christian life. Different
approaches to theological relection emerge and develop and wane across
the Christian world in the early period. One of the intriguing aspects of the
trajectory of the metaphor of deihcation in the hrst hve centuries is the
gradual spread of the broad appeal to the metaphor by theologians, only for
that to disappear during the hfth century because of a growing sense of
‘orthodoxy’ within the Tradition.
There are hve basic components used in the patristic era to express the
metaphor of deihcation. Three are pairs of opposites and two are pairings
from the philosophical/theological tradition. The pairs of opposites are
uncreated and created, immortal and mortal, divine and human, and the
pairs of concepts are image and likeness, and ousia [essence] and energeia
[energy]. The conceptuality of deihcation is also constructed around a variety
of formulae. The philosophical tradition of ancient Greece provides at least
three of these: (1) imitation of the divine, (2) participation in the divine and
(d) the ascent of the soul to the divine. Each of these relates to the immortal–
mortal pairing. Imitation relates closely to the practice of the virtues.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
50
Participation and ascent relate to a concept of contemplation or ‘theoˉ ria’
[vision], which suggests an encounter with divine light. In the Judeo-Christian
Tradition the pairing of image and likeness plays a complex role. In particu-
lar, the notion of the ‘restoration’ of divine likeness holds a key place in the
Orthodox understanding of deihcation, premised on the biblical narratives
of the Creation and Fall in Genesis 1–3. The texts of the New Testament
suggest a further set of concepts which become core elements in the con-
strual of a notion of deihcation. The most fundamental of these is ‘hliation’
or adoption. Being adopted as a son or daughter of God suggests transition
or transformation, which is certainly the understanding of the text of
Romans 8. Such change or transformation is premised on the idea of divine–
human exchange. This is most graphically illustrated in the Gospel narratives
of the Transhguration or Metamorphoˉ sis of Christ. The notion that God
becomes human in order that human beings might become divine has come
to be understood as the ‘exchange formula’ which is found in many early
writers and continues to be used liturgically as well as theologically to
the present time.
1
Also premised on the paradigm of the Incarnation or the
Hypostatic Union is the core notion of divine–human synergy. This in turn
relates to the use to the essence–energies pairing in Palamite understandings
of deihcation. The appeal to the sacraments is fundamental to the construc-
tion of a doctrine of deihcation. Its ecclesial and corporate aspects extend
deihcation beyond the realms of personal experience and individualistic
piety. Baptism and the Eucharist express relational aspects of the doctrine.
The correlation between Eucharist, being deihed and communion [koinoˉ nia]
is crucial to the possibility of presenting a relational understanding of
participating in the divine life. The appeal by Thunberg and Zizioulas to ‘an
event of communion’ in respect of theoˉ sis resonates with a notion of inclu-
sion within a dynamic divine living and being, earliest evidence for which is
found in the texts of Origen. This too is important in the development of a
relational understanding of deihcation.
The outcome of deihcation was understood in radically different terms,
within the patristic period. Theologians used a wide variety of concepts and
categories to express the metaphor of deihcation, and these are relected in
the considerable variety of outcomes of deihcation. There are three ways in
which the outcome of deihcation is most often expressed: nominal, analogi-
cal and metaphorical. In a nominal usage the word ‘gods’ is applied to
human beings as an honorihc title. The analogical use extends the nominal;
a biblical example is found in the text of Exodus 7.1 where Moses is said to
be a god to Pharaoh. The use of metaphor is more complex, for there are
two distinct means in which metaphor can be employed which suggest dif-
ferent outcomes: ethical and realist. In the ethical construal of the metaphor
1
For example, the exchange formula is used among prayers at the offertory in the con-
temporary Roman Rite of the Mass.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
51
deihcation is understood in terms of the attainment of likeness [homoiosis]
to God through ascetic and philosophical practices. In other words, an
individual might achieve some divine attributes by ‘imitation’, possibly by
practising the virtues. In the realist construal of the metaphor, human beings
are in some sense transformed, on the basis of a model of participation
[methexis] in God. These outcomes do not suggest any collapsing of the
creator–creature distinction. Deihcation remains a metaphor for God’s
intended destiny for the human race and is a metaphor for the intimacy
between the divine and the human in the present and in ‘ta eschata’.
I will split the examination of patristic texts into two chronological sec-
tions, the hrst looking at the period until the Council of Nicaea and the second
looking at the period after Nicaea. In the hrst part I will focus on the vocabu-
lary used to express the metaphor of deihcation in the writings of Christian
philosophers and theologians, including those who taught in the didaskaleia.
Before Nicaea: didaskaleia, apologetics and exegesis
Probably the hrst evidence of the idea of being deihed beyond what became
the New Testament corpus is to be found in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch.
I say ‘probably’ because there are issues regarding the dating of Ignatius’ life
and, therefore, with the dating of the letters themselves. Evidence for Ignatius’
birth is scant, and dates for his martyrdom range between 98 and 117. The
corpus of letters attributed to Ignatius is known in a shorter and longer
collection. The shorter collection is usually deemed to be the more ‘authen-
tic,’ but even these are contested because of what is seen as an appeal to a
‘monarchical’ episcopate, which would suggest a date in the fourth century.
2

The letters of Ignatius use the language of ‘participatory union’ rather than
any technical terms for deihcation, which may suggest an earlier rather than
later date in this respect at least. Ignatius refers explicitly to Christ as ‘God’.
On this basis it is inferred that if Christians participate in Christ, then they
participate in God. In other words, to be ‘in Christ’ or to be ‘Christihed’ is
to be ‘deihed’. The letters explore themes such as participation in God, the
Eucharist, martyrdom, Church unity, attaining to God and the imitation
of God.
3
These ideas may be interpreted as evidence of a move away from
2
For example, Ruis-Camp, J., The Four Authentic Letters of Ignatius the Martyr;
A critical Study Based on the Anomalies Contained in the Textus Receptus (Rome:
1979); Hübner, R. M., Thesen zur Echtheit und Datierung der sieben Briefe des Ignatius
von Antiochien (Berlin: 1997).
3
Ignatius writes of believers’ intimacy with God, for example, ‘God-bearers’ (Ephesians
4.2); ‘God-runners’ (Philadelphians 2.2); ‘participate in God’ (Ephesians 4.2):
‘are wholly God’ (Ephesians 8.1); ‘are full of God’ (Magnesians 14.1); ‘have God in
themselves’ (Romans 6.3).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
52
the eschatological understandings of the New Testament writings to a con-
ceptuality of the resurrection of believers through an ascent of the soul to
immortality, which suggests the inluence of ‘Gnostic’ sources. But Ignatius
has a thoroughly ecclesial and collective outlook rather than a focus on the
individual which is associated with Gnostic writings. The impetus behind
Ignatius’ rhetoric of intimacy and union with the divine is the explicit claim
that Christ is ‘God’. It is this Christological basis which is the predicate for
human participation in the divine, which is achieved through becoming ‘in
Christ’ in the ecclesial context of the sacraments.
The didaskaleia
Ignatius was a bishop and pastor and had explicated the ecclesial tradition
as he understood it. During the hrst half of the second century there is evi-
dence of the emergence of didaskaleia or ‘schools’ which were groups of
disciples or students gathered around a teacher. This relects the growth of
Christianity among those who were more educated, and perhaps schooled
in philosophy. Christian didaskaleia were to be found in the main cities of
the empire, modelled on philosophical schools. The clientele of these schools
sought deeper spiritual insights, which can be seen to have apostolic sanc-
tion in such passages as 1 Corinthians 2.6–13. While these schools were in
some sense independent, they were not usually separated from the local
Church and its bishop. Among those who taught in this way were Basilides
and Carpocrates in Alexandria, Aristides in Athens and Marcion, Valentinus
and Justin in Rome. Evidently some schools had a more ecclesial basis than
others. Some teachers focused on esoteric knowledge, which related to those
who understood themselves to be ‘true Christians’. Some schools followed
the path of ‘Know thyself’ and sought the divine within. Others taught that
this world was an illusion and, on this basis, sought unity with God outside
a pattern of salvation focused on the Church and the ‘reality’ of this world.
One such teacher was Valentinus (c.100–175) who was born near
Alexandria and educated there. He claims to have studied under a disciple
of St Paul, and prior to the year 140 had moved to Rome, where he founded
a school. There he developed doctrines which would become a source of
Christian heterodoxy for centuries to come. The teachings of Valentinus
survive only as quotations in the works of those who argued against them,
such as Clement of Alexandria and Hippolytus of Rome. The Gospel of Truth
a text which survives in Coptic among the Nag Hammadi texts may possi-
bly have been authored by Valentinus. It is possibly ‘the earliest surviving
sermon on Christian mysticism’
4
and encourages believers to turn inwards, in
order to hnd true knowledge and through Christ return to the source of being.
4
Layton, B., The Gnostic Scriptures (London: SCM Press, 1987), p. 250.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
53
The Gospel of Truth suggests that the material world is illusory, while the
truth is unchangeable. It suggests that ordinary believers are subject to
the error of the soul’s forgetfulness, which was standard, contemporary,
Platonist teaching. The solution to this ‘error’ was gnosis, which was under-
stood to be personal and experiential rather than philosophical. However,
the process of acquiring and pursuing gnosis is through a solitary path of
‘self-discovery’. The believer is to stretch upwards for salvation and in doing
so discovers that gnosis reaches down to them. The hnal goal of this process
is repose in the Father, for all who emanate from Father will return to him.
However, knowledge of the Father is never ‘total’ for he always remains
hidden, unnameable and indescribable. Such teachings inluence the forma-
tion and construction of the Christian Tradition insofar as orthodoxy emerges
over against these ideas. Equally some of these ideas become accepted within
the Christian Tradition. For example, Origen taught the descent and ascent
of the soul, and similar ideas are found in the works of Evagrios Ponticus
and Gregory of Nyssa.
Among those who formed a didaskaleion in Rome was Justin Martyr
(c.100–165). This has been described as being akin to the school of Plotinus
described by Porphyry. Among the disciples of Justin was Tatian and possi-
bly Irenaeus. The writings of Justin include two Apologies, addressed to the
Roman Emperor and the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Justin’s main moti-
vation for writing was to explicate the Christian faith, particularly for the
beneht of those who were not Christian. Justin may also be identihed as a
seeker after truth. He took his bearings from both Stoicism and Platonism,
and he understood that the goal of life was to ‘see God’. However, he seems
to have doubted that philosophy could achieve this by itself. He poses a
fundamental question (from an old man on the seashore) ‘What afhnity is
there between us and God?’ Is the human soul divine and immortal as
understood in Platonism?
5
Here is an example of a key question in relation
to the construal of a doctrine of deihcation: what is the distance or compat-
ibility between the divine and the human? Justin’s answer rests on an
understanding that the afhnity between the human and the divine is not only
an ontological concern but relates to what is moral. In other words, in order
to ‘see God’ the believer requires righteousness and therefore virtue. Justin
rejected the notion that the soul is immortal, that is, unbegotten, arguing
that only God is unbegotten. Justin argued that the soul cannot see God
without the Holy Spirit and needs Christ to ‘open the gates of light’, so that
illumination is understood to be a gift from God. This gift of God is con-
strued in relation to knowledge and experience of the incarnate Logos,
which is attained through the grace of Baptism and the Eucharist. Thus
knowledge is not extrinsic but is personal and leads to restoration of the
5
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Dialogue 4.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
54
‘Adamic state’. In the Dialogue with Trypho, Justin makes an explicit refer-
ence to the language of ‘deihcation’ in relation to the exegesis of Psalm 82.6.
Justin argues that Christians are the ‘New Israel’ that the ‘gods’ are those
who are obedient to Christ. It is Justin’s endeavour to give an account
of Christianity in terms which his non-Christian audience, either Pagan or
Jewish, would understand that leads him towards an understanding of
deihcation. This is based upon a critical reading of either philosophy or the
Hebrew Bible, in relation to his own commitment to an understanding of
the Incarnation of the Logos in Jesus Christ.
According to Eusebius, Tatian (c.120–80) was a pupil of Justin, and after
a period in Justin’s school he returned to live in his native Mesopotamia.
Tatian is best known for his harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron.
One of his core understandings is that the Christian life is lived in order to
recover immortality lost by Adam. He rejected the standard philosophical
understanding of the human subject as a rational animal capable of receiv-
ing nous and knowledge. He preferred the biblical notion that human beings
are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1.26). The human soul
is to seek union with divine pneuma which was lost through the Fall. This
union is achieved through the Holy Spirit, given to human beings as a gift
from God, in order to participate in immortality and to recover the divine
image and likeness. Some of Tatian’s ideas are parallel with those of
Gnostics. But for him knowledge is available to all and is not esoteric. How-
ever, in order for the soul and body to become immortal it is necessary to
refrain from the eating of meat and drinking of wine and sexual activity.
Tatian describes the achievement of the deihcation of the body in terms of
putting on a royal robe, which has parallels in the Gospel of Thomas:
The believer indeed transforms his body through deihcation. He is
able to do it precisely because Jesus is not unique, having twins, or
‘multiple personalities’, since the historical personality of Jesus is only
vaguely dehned. All this comes as a result of the quest for true wisdom,
which the believer can now embrace.
6
Deihcation, a sharing in divinity and immortality, results from the acquisi-
tion of wisdom but is predicated on an understanding of the divine image
and likeness:
The celestial Word, made Spirit from the Spirit and Word from power
of the Word, in the likeness of the Father who begot him made man an
image of immortality, so that just as incorruptibility belongs to God,
6
Siverstev, A., ‘The Gospel of Thomas and Early Stages in the Development of the
Christian Wisdom Literature’, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 8(2) (2000): 332.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
55
in the same way man might share God’s lot and have immortality also.
(Oratio ad Graecos, 7.6–10)
7
Tatian seems to understand that immortality is the outcome of individual
deihcation in this life, which would indicate a wholly realized eschatology.
Furthermore, the distinction between the divine Logos and human beings is
blurred through the use of the same terms to describe both. This appears to
indicate an identihcation of humankind with the Logos.
Tatian’s ideas are intriguing in that they demonstrate a close connection
with the trajectory within mainstream Christian Tradition exploring the
biblical concepts of the divine image and likeness and the recapitulation of
Adam’s fate, while placing a strong emphasis on an appeal to wisdom and
immortality and a realized eschatology. His writings demonstrate how
varied, luid and exploratory much early Christian writing could be. They
demonstrate that deihcation was a recurring theme, relating to God’s origi-
nal intentions in creating the world as well as in the outcomes of the
redemption of ‘fallen’ humanity and the cosmos.
If Tatian is an example of a disciple of Justin who took the Tradition in
a direction which would soon be seen as heterodox, Irenaeus (c.202) is
hailed as a champion of orthodox belief. Irenaeus, teaching in Lyons was
faced with a different set of problems. He perceived that the teachers of
Gnosticism focused on esoteric knowledge. His response was to proclaim a
true Christianity available to all. In his polemic against Gnostic teachings
Irenaeus developed the baptismal possibilities of Psalm 82.6, in which he
sought to assure Christian believers that the attainment of immortality as
‘gods’ is possible for all. This claim is predicated on the Incarnation and
participation in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Irenaeus did
not develop a technical language of ‘deihcation’ and only refers to ‘gods’ in
relation to Psalm 82.6. He explores the conceptuality of the recapitulation
of the fate of Adam, which is resolved in the adoption of believers as the
‘sons’ of God, based upon the exchange formula that God had become
human, in order that the human might become divine. Salvation is construed
in relation to Christology, but in a way totally unlike Tatian’s formulation.
For Irenaeus it is the deihed Body of Christ which is the basis of human
participation in the divine: ‘the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who
did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that He might
bring us to be even what He is Himself’ (Preface of Book 5, Against Heresies).
This is an exchange of properties, but it does not produce an identity of
substance rather it makes believers into ‘sons’ by adoption. Adoption relates
to the distinction Irenaeus draws between the divine image and likeness
7
Siverstev, Gospel of Thomas, p. 335; see M. Whittaker (ed.), Tatian: Oratio ad Graecos
and Fragments (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
56
(Against Heresies 5.6.1, 5.11.2, 5.16.2; Proof of Apostolic Preaching 11).
The image is of the yet invisible Son, which is manifested in Adam’s body.
The divine likeness is communicated by the Spirit and is manifest in Adam’s
participation in the divine life and the freedom of the Son. On this basis,
Irenaeus understands that the divine likeness conveys two gifts: hrst, life,
which human beings participate in but do not possess, and second, freedom,
the possibility of exercising free will. True freedom is understood in terms of
obeying the divine will. This notion has within it the seeds of a later under-
standing of divine–human synergy.
In responding to the esoteric teachings of the Gnostics, Irenaeus begins a
line of thought which considers who Christ is, in order for salvation to be
achieved. Irenaeus argues that
Such is the reason why the Word was made man and the Son of God
made the Son of man so that man, in being mingled with the Word and
in receiving in this way the hlial adoption, becomes the Son of God.
(Against Heresies 3.19.1)
8
Irenaeus receives St Paul’s exposition of an Adamic Christology and extends
these understandings to form ‘recapitulation’ as his main metaphor for
salvation.
On the far side of the empire from Lyons, Alexandria was a city of long-
standing intellectual traditions and was a leading centre for philosophical
and theological thought and speculation in the second century. It is in this
city that two of the most creative Christian theologians of the early centuries
had their home, Clement of Alexandria and Origen. As an intellectual
centre, Alexandria would have been host to a number of didaskaleia at
any one time. Among the Christian schools some were ecclesial, and others
independent, as Clement and Origen’s schools were. Among the teachers
in Alexandria at the end of the second century was Ammonius Saccas
(c.160–242), whom Porphory reckoned was an ex-Christian. He had a
didaskaleion, which may have been attended by Plotinus and Origen. This
indicates something of the luidity of thought among the intellectual class
in Alexandria at the time, which included the teachings of such hgures as
Valentinus and Basilides. Alongside the private didaskaleia, there were ofh-
cial catechetical schools, sponsored by the bishop. At the end of the fourth
century even these catechetical schools were closed down because of the
controversy which by then surrounded Origen’s thought.
In the works of Clement of Alexandria (c.150–215) there is the beginning
of a direct appeal to deihcation as a metaphor for salvation. Clement’s
8
See Smith, D. A., ‘Irenaeus and the Baptism of Jesus, Theological Studies’, 58(4) (1997):
618–42.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
57
reasons for doing so were polemical and apologetic. Clement is the hrst
Christian theologian to develop a ‘technical’ language for deihcation. He
wrote that the Christian is deihed by a heavenly teaching (Protrepticus
11.114.4), and when fully perfected after the likeness of his teacher, he
‘becomes a god while still moving about in the lesh’ (Stromateis 7.101.4).
He was clear not to conlate the human with the divine. God remains tran-
scendent, while human beings are not naturally divine (Stromateis 2.16.73);
however, the telos of human existence is to become divine. Clement holds
these ideas together by appealing to an understanding of the divine image
and likeness, in both Genesis 1.26 and Plato’s Theaetetus 176b, as Philo had
done previously. Clement appeals to a notion of participatory union with
Christ, akin to the ideas found in the writings of St Paul and Irenaeus.
Clement develops a specihc vocabulary to express his ideas of deihcation,
using qeopoie/w and e0kqeo/w as ‘to deify’ and qeopoio/j as ‘deifying’. He used
qeopoie/w three times in a specihcally Christian context, while qeo/w and
qeopoio/ j are used within a philosophical framework to indicate ‘dispassion’.
As Irenaeus before him had done, in relation to the exegesis of Psalm
82.6 Clement taught that the baptized were adopted by God as ‘gods’, to
which he added a philosophical dimension, that the ‘gods’ were those
who have detached themselves as far as possible from everything human
(Stromateis 2.125.5). Through overcoming the passions and contemplation
of the intelligible, he taught that one could transcend the corporeal state and
participate in the divine attributes. Clement links these two approaches –
the ecclesiastical and the philosophical; though attaining the divine likeness
required intellectual effort, it was at heart the ‘restoration to perfect adop-
tion through the Son’ (Stromateis 2.134.2).
Some scholars have argued that Clement produced a synthesis of Gnostic
and Platonist concepts, with the more problematic elements removed. But
Russell argues for an ecclesial and Philonic synthesis, drawing out his appeal
to Baptism and Psalm 82.6 which had already been used by Irenaeus
and Justin.
9
In this interpretation deihcation is understood in terms of
an inaugurated eschatology, which begins now and is fulhlled in heaven.
Clement avoids Philo’s rejection of the body and argues that the body
becomes immortal through adoption in the Son, the incarnate Logos. In this
way all perfected Christians become ‘gods’, not in essence, but in title and by
analogy. They participate in the divine attributes, through freedom from
passion and through the grace and immortality given by Christ.
The shape of the later Orthodox doctrine of deihcation is formed around
these developments which emerged in the luid and speculative context of
Alexandria. Justin and Irenaeus had provided a basis for the doctrine, but
the development of a technical language; a philosophical framework; the
9
Russell, Deication, p. 139.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
58
use of Hellenistic motifs, together with an allegorical exegesis of Scripture;
and emerging Christological developments are Alexandrian contributions.
Clement and Origen provide the means for deihcation to become a key
metaphor for salvation.
Unlike Justin and Clement of Alexandria, Origen (c.185–253) was not a
convert from paganism, which probably means that he had a different
approach to the intellectual traditions of Alexandria. He is less inclined to
appeal to philosophy than Justin or Clement, and his focus was primarily
on biblical exegesis. Origen is often cited as a writer who ‘promotes’ the
conceptuality of deihcation, yet there are only seventeen references to deih-
cation in his extant writings. He uses deihcation language as a metaphor for
salvation, although it is not altogether clear what his motivation for doing
this was. He never appeals to Clement by name, but he does cite him occa-
sionally and uses parallel terminology for deihcation. Origen uses a narrower
vocabulary than Clement and does not use apotheoˉ sis or qeo/w. Most com-
monly he uses qeopoie/w which he employs eight times in a Christian context
and nine times pejoratively, and he uses qeopoio/j once (Selecta in Ezechielem
1.3). Christians are referred to as ‘gods’ in relation to Psalm 82.6. To some
extent Origen stood in a ‘tradition’ which used the metaphor of deihcation,
but unlike Clement, Origen understood deihcation in terms of the soul’s
return to an unfallen condition. The study of the Scriptures was part of this
process. He wrote of the outcome of this study and prayer to his former
pupil Gregory Thaumaturgus:
If you have done well or not in venturing, God and his Christ know,
and anyone who partakes of the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.
May you too be a partaker and ever increase the participation, that
you may say not only, ‘We have become partakers of Christ’ (Hebrews
3.14), but also, ‘We have become partakers of God.’ (Philocalia, 13.4)
10
For Origen deihcation is the participation of rational creatures in the divine
through the operation of the Son and the Holy Spirit in the divinity of the
Father, who alone is understood to be the ultimate source of divinity. The
Father is o9 qeo/j and au0to/qeoj, while the Son and Spirit are qeo/j and qeopoiou/
menoj. The Son is uniquely qeopoiou/menoj in relation to the Father, but
qeopoio/j in relation to human beings, for he is the prime agent of deihca-
tion. The Holy Spirit makes human beings spiritual so that the divine Son
may make them sons and gods. In Origen’s understanding human beings
need to recover the divine likeness and become ‘gods’ in order to contem-
plate the source of divinity, the Father and thus partake in life, goodness,
immortality and incorruption, which are the attributes of the Father alone.
10
Russell, Deication, p. 141.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
59
This construct of participation is rooted in the conceptuality of the depend-
ence of the contingent upon the self-existent and the dynamic reaching out
of the Persons of the Trinity in order to endow rational creatures with divine
attributes.
Origen’s emphasis on the ascent of soul to God is quite different from
Clement’s understanding of deihcation in terms of the perfection of the
‘Christian Gnostic’ through ethical purihcation. In Origen’s view deihcation
is participation of the rational creature in a dynamic divinity, so there is
less of an emphasis on ethics and more on the dynamic relationship which
connects the contingent with the self-existent. Russell argues that this
conceptuality of participation is closer to Plato and Philo than Clement’s
understanding of participation.
11
For Origen the emphasis on ‘living with
the life of God’, is a reconstrual of Paul’s understanding of participation,
in terms which are more dependent on philosophical concepts. Origen’s
relational and collective understandings of the processes of deihcation pro-
vide the conceptual basis for an attempt to craft a trinitarian and ecclesial
understanding of deihcation today.
Apologetics and religious experience
The cultural milieu of the North African Christian community in the Roman
province of ‘Africa’ was different from that of Alexandria and in particular
it was Latin speaking. This was the context in which Tertullian (c.155–220)
worked as an apologist for the Christian faith and sought to confront here-
tical views. He wrote to defend Christianity against ‘pagan’ views and to
commend the faith to those in authority in the Roman Empire and also
wrote for catechumens. Tertullian’s creativity and theological imagination
hnds a parallel in the writings of Origen, and like Origen he too came under
ecclesiastical suspicion, particularly as later in life he become a member of
the Montanist ‘movement’. This was a group which experienced the charis-
matic gifts of the Holy Spirit and were deemed by the mainstream Church
to have become overenthusiastic in their pursuit of these gifts. In particular,
the group understood that the Spirit might reveal new truths contrary to the
Apostolic faith. Tertullian was the earliest Latin author (whose writings sur-
vive) to use expressions which convey an understanding of deihcation. He
crafted an exegesis of Psalm 82, arguing that this did not contain a reference
to polytheism and that the ‘gods’ were not divine (Against Marcion 1.7. I).
But he argued from the same text that human beings might become ‘gods’
by the grace of God (Against Hermogenes 5). In this interpretation he may
have been inluenced by Irenaeus. Also in Against Marcion Tertullian alludes
to 2 Peter 1.4 which would be about 10 years earlier than Origen’s appeal
to the text in De Principiis. Tertullian suggests that the divine response to
11
Russell, Deication, p. 154.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
60
the Fall is to take humanity into divinity, which he qualihes as human beings
being invested with ‘an incorruptible nature’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.52–3)
(Against Marcion 3.24). Tertullian’s writings demonstrate that elements of
the metaphor of deihcation were acceptable and relatively commonplace
expressions of God’s purposes in creating and redeeming by the late second
century.
The elements of the metaphor of deihcation are also to be found in the
texts of Christian communities which spoke Syriac, Coptic and Chaldean
as well as in the Greek- and Latin-speaking world. It is possible to see a
common thread across the different linguistic communities expressed in the
exchange conceptuality used by Irenaeus. The Son of God had become
human so that human beings might become divine. Although within the
Syrian traditions the metaphor of deihcation was known, it never had a
prominent place in theological discourse. Deihcation was expressed in poetic
literature and was explored through the use of symbolism and typology,
rather than through the development of a technical vocabulary. There is a
general consensus in the Syrian traditions that human destiny is to recover
that which was lost by Adam and to share the divine life.
A leading theologian in this tradition is Ephrem the Syrian (c.306–73). He
was born in the city of Nisibis and was baptized as a youth. Bishop Jacob of
Nisibis appointed Ephrem as a teacher in the city’s Christian school. He was
ordained deacon and in his role as teacher began to compose hymns and
write biblical commentaries. Later in life he taught in the school at Edessa.
He was a contemporary of Athanasius and possibly used elements of the
metaphor of deihcation before Athanasius. Ephrem uses poetic imagery to
express his understanding of deihcation but does not develop a technical
language. His understanding of deihcation emerges from an exegesis of the
narratives of the Creation and Fall in Genesis. Deihcation is the aim and
purpose of the Incarnation. In the Odes of Solomon, he writes of ‘putting on
Christ’ (7.4; 13.12) and of clothing ourselves in holiness (13.3) and of being
clothed with Christ’s name (39.3) and he crafts a version of the exchange
formula: ‘He gave us divinity, we gave him humanity’ (Hymns on Faith
5.17). Ephrem probably did not know Greek, but it is possible that some
of the works of Irenaeus had been translated into Syriac. In the outcome
of deihcation Ephrem sees no merging of the human and divine. Deihcation
is the product of grace and does not bring equality. While human beings
become God by grace, the Second Adam is God by nature. Deihcation is seen
an ‘exchange of names’, which preserves the ontological gap between crea-
tor and creature.
12
Another source of Syrian teaching is found in the Macarian Writings
which are associated with Macarios of Egypt (c.300–91); however, the
12
Brock, S., The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of St Ephrem (Kalamazoo,
MI: Cistercian Publications, 1992), p. 154.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
61
context of these writings is Syrian monasticism. The use of ‘makarios’ may
be as a title rather than as a specihc person’s name. These writings are often
compared with the work of Evagrios Ponticus, but while his works are
characterized by an appeal to the intellectual tradition of Platonism, these
writings are the product of relection on the experience of prayer and of
the Holy Spirit. It is worth remembering that both sets of writings hnd a
place in the Philokalia of 1782. There are three collections of Macarian
texts: the Homilies, Erotapocriseis (Questions and Answers) and an asceti-
cal treatise (Epistula Magna). Russell suggests that these were written in
the 380s in Mesopotamia or eastern Anatolia.
13
The writings draw on the
rich poetic imagery of the Syrian tradition but have been associated with
Messalianism. The Messalians taught that the soul was occupied from birth
with a demon. As this could not be removed by Baptism alone, constant
prayer was also required. The goal of the Messalians was a personal experi-
ence of the Holy Spirit, manifest in ecstatic devotions. The Macarian writings
focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual life, but scholars on the
whole agree that this experience is not predicated on the same understand-
ing as the Messalians. The Macarian writings expound the spiritual life
in terms of three stages. In the hrst stage the believer turns to God, but his
heart remains dominated by sin; in the second, the heart becomes a battle-
ground; and, hnally, in the third, sin is driven out through the cooperation
of the human will with the Holy Spirit. In this stage the believer attains a
higher state than that in which Adam was created, and it is this which is
sometimes referred to it terms of deihcation. In the Homilies there is fre-
quent use of metaphors of mingling and participation, and the biblical
passage 2 Peter 1.4 is cited in relation to the discussion of mixing and min-
gling. (Collection II, Homilies, 44.9) The relation of the divine and human
in the spiritual life is expressed through metaphors of interpenetration and
transformation. In relation to this Ezekiel’s vision of the throne chariot is
linked to Christ’s Transhguration (Collection II, Homilies, 1.2). The Syrian
tradition demonstrates how elements of the metaphor of deihcation perme-
ated theological relection and discourse on the divine response to the human
condition. It is a tradition which values the use of poetic language and draws
on believers’ experience. These continue to be core elements in the reception
of the metaphor of deihcation today.
Nicene orthodoxy: apologetics and polemics
The response to the controversy concerning the views of Arius (c.250–336)
resulted in the inclusion of the ‘homoousion’ in the conciliar statement
of 325. This was an ontological solution. But the issues which Arius raised
13
Russell, Deication, p. 241.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
62
also impacted on soteriology and theological anthropology. In many respects
Arius had expressed the logical out-workings of the biblical and philosophi-
cal traditions in construing the person of Jesus Christ as a creature, or a
lesser god. But this conlicted with the believer’s existential and sacramental
experience of the appropriation of salvation. Church practice and personal
belief claimed that salvation was a divine initiative and gift bestowed
through the divinity of the person of Christ, who being divine had become
human in order that human beings might become divine. The authenticity of
this ‘exchange formula’ as an interpretation of the New Testament tradition
by the early fathers is called into question by some scholars, who continue
to accept the critique of Adolf von Harnack. But this is to underestimate the
dynamics of Pauline texts such as, ‘For you know the generous act of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became
poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich,’ (2 Corinthians 8.9) the
kenotic hymn (Philippians 2.5–11) and the claims about incorruption and
immortality in 1 Corinthians 15. Following the Council of Nicaea in 325 the
controversy did not subside, but took on new forms, in which the ‘homoou-
sion’ was qualihed with the appeal to ‘homoiousion’ and the status of
the Holy Spirit was disputed. The period between 325 and the Council of
Constantinople in 381 (and later) is a time when the claims made at Nicaea
produce all kinds of different polemics. In this section I will examine some
of the key writers who relect upon the outcome of Nicaea in relation to
the metaphor of deihcation, to ask why they are doing so and with what
effect.
One of the main protagonists for the Nicene understanding of Christ and
the Godhead was Athanasius (c.293–373), Patriarch of Alexandria. He was
a staunch defender of the homoousion and wrote a number of polemical
works against those who sought to promote the conceptuality of Arianism.
His uncompromising stance meant that he was several times exiled from
Alexandria and deposed as Patriarch. Athanasius did not write systemati-
cally about deihcation. An analysis of his surviving writings shows that in
many works, such as the Festal Letters and the Life of Antony, he does not
mention deihcation. But in those texts where he does refer to deihcation, the
concept is used as a polemical tool to defend Nicene orthodoxy against (Neo)
Arianism. Athanasius appeals to the exchange formula to assert not only the
divinity of Christ but also the divine reality of salvation. So Athanasius
asserts that, ‘God became man so that man might become God’ (On the
Incarnation 54:3). Athanasius employs a particular vocabulary for deihca-
tion, mainly using qeopoie/w in relation to salvation, but refraining from
using this in relation to the attainment of moral perfection. The language
and conceptuality of deihcation are used in the conlict with Arianism, in
order to demonstrate that the ‘unbegotten’ or ‘agenetic’ status of the Son
enables him to deify. The Son is only able to make human beings ‘gods’ if he
is of the same substance as the Father.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
63
Athanasius’ writings demonstrate that understandings which are found in
the writings of Origen were received during the fourth century in different
and complex ways, by authors writing from very different perspectives.
Origenism not only fuels neo-Arianism but is also a source for those who
defend Nicene orthodoxy. In particular, Athanasius took the idea of dynamic
participation in the divine from Origen, but Athanasius expounds this on
the basis of a more apophatic approach than that of Origen. Athansius
argued that human beings could only be deihed by means of participation
in the deihed lesh of the Incarnate Logos. Athanasius’ modihcation of
Origenist understandings of deihcation entails the rejection of Origen’s
speculative anthropology. Human beings are not fallen noes who can rise up
the scale of logika; rather they are separated from God by a deep ontological
difference, so human beings can only participate in the deihed lesh of
the incarnate Logos. This is achieved through participation in the ‘Body of
Christ’, by which believers participate in the divinity with which the ‘Body’
is endowed. On this basis the believer could participate in incorruption
and immortality, and in the resurrection life of heaven. It is probable that
this ‘apophatic’ development in the writings of Athanasius gives rise to the
emphasis on participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which
is seen in later theorization of the doctrine of deihcation. This emphasis in
the works of Athanasius continues to provide a basis for an ecclesial and
corporate understanding of deihcation today.
Another staunch defender of Nicene orthodoxy was Hilary of Poitiers
(c.315–67) who lived and worked in the province of Gaul. He was well
educated and became a Christian, and c.353 he was elected bishop of
Poitiers. His episcopate provides the context for his writings. Though Hilary
wrote in Latin, he does not draw on the works of Tertullian, probably
because Tertullian’s status was suspect. This may have inhibited the discus-
sion of deihcation within the Latin-speaking community. Hilary is often
described as the Athanasius of the West in that he shared his anti-Arian
stance. He spent 4 years in exile in Phrygia (356–60) where he learned Greek,
and it is possible that he came to know some of the works of Origen.
14

During his exile he wrote De Trinitate, but there is no evidence that he drew
explicitly on any Greek writer. In the concluding books of De Trinitate he
used the exchange formula, which is parallel with the usage found in the
writings of Irenaeus and Athanasius. He argues that the goal of human life
is that believers may become ‘god’ in his earlier commentary on Matthew
(On Matthew, 5.15). In Hilary’s understanding the deihcation of humanity
is achieved in Christ. Christ’s humanity becomes fully deihed at his Resurrec-
tion, and human beings share in this at their own resurrection. At the general
resurrection human beings will be changed from corruption to immortality
14
Jerome argues that Hilary imitated Origen in his Commentaries on the Psalms.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
64
and from human weakness to divine glory. Thus, in Hilary’s construal of the
metaphor, deihcation is essentially an eschatological reality. Hilary’s works
demonstrate the use of the metaphor of deihcation in the defence of Nicene
orthodoxy and roots it in a Trinitarian context.
The witness of the texts of Evagrios Ponticus (345–99) demonstrates that
the appeal to experience and speculation did not disappear in the period of
the reception of Nicene orthodoxy. Evagrios, who is known as ‘the Solitary’,
was a protégé of Basil and Gregory Nazianzen and became an Archdeacon
in Constantinople during the time of Gregory’s patriarchate. After the
Council of Constantinople, Evagrios experienced various temptations and
as a result decided to follow the vocation of a monk at hrst in Palestine and
later in Egypt. Although his ideas were condemned by the second Council
of Constantinople in 553, his writings remained in circulation, and some
were included in the Philokalia of 1782. Evagrios undertook to record and
systematize the writings of the Desert Fathers, as well as to write his own
relections on the spiritual life. Although his work is seen as contributing
to the Orthodox understanding of deihcation, he himself did not use the
language of deihcation. Apollinarius, bishop of Laodicea (d.390), who had
defended Nicene orthodoxy but had denied that Christ had a rational human
soul, had used the language of deihcation. So the lack of an appeal to this
language in the works of Evagrios may demonstrate a kind of polemic
against the stance of Apollinarius. Evagrios witnesses to the beginning of the
end of the use of the language of deihcation in early hfth century and to
a move to the language of participation. This can be traced in the works
of Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria. The explicit language of the
metaphor of deihcation had become unhelpful, because of the controversy
surrounding Origenism and Apollinarianism, and it came to be seen as
incompatible with Nicene orthodoxy.
15
Evagrios developed the speculative side of Origen still further, seeing
the spiritual life as a process in which created intelligences returned to the
divine source of their being. These ideas were strongly attacked by the eccle-
siastical authorities, which led eventually to his teaching being condemned.
He argues that the use of ‘gods’ in Psalm 82.6 is metaphorical. He has a
strong sense that the human and the divine are different orders of being. The
divine is ineffable, so in order to approach the divine, the believer needs
spiritual training, in which the passions must be eliminated and the mind
purihed of all material images. Only in this way can the ascent of the mind
to God take place. Evagrios expounds the goal of the spiritual life in terms
of utter assimilation to Christ, in which all the material elements which
make up the individual are removed. This in effect is an understanding of
deihcation parallel to that found in the writings of Gnostics. The inclusion
15
Russell, Deication, p. 235.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
65
of Evagrios in the Philokalia meant that his ideas were to some extent
rehabilitated, but it is his omission of the language of deihcation which is of
particular interest.
The Cappadocian Fathers
I will examine the contribution of the Cappadocian Fathers separately
below, but I begin with an introduction to the background to their separate
and distinction contributions to the construal of deihcation. How are their
contributions to be situated? Scholars tend to agree that the Cappadocians
reappropriated Origen for their fourth century context, and following the
reassertion of the signihcance and values of classical antiquity in the short
reign of the Emperor Julian ‘the Apostate’ (361–3) they sought to reach out
to non-Christian rhetoricians. In doing so, the Cappadocians evolved and
pursued a missionary strategy in relation to late Platonism. They used the
terminology and conceptuality of deihcation as an element of their apolo-
getics in relation to of this ‘strategy’ and in their polemics against Eunomius
and Apollinarius. Their apologetic and polemical use of the conceptuality of
deihcation relied upon their re-reading of Origen. Russell draws attention to
the work of Brooks Otis, who interprets the re-reception of Origen by the
Cappadocians.
16
Otis argues that the Cappadocians recovered the angelogi-
cal and anthropological elements of Origen’s teaching and reinterpreted
them by relating them to the anti-Origenist stance of Athanasius. In terms
of the discussion of deihcation, the construal of the divine likeness and
the ascent of the soul to God in Origen are related to Athanasius’ distinction
between an ‘agenetic’ Trinity and a ‘genetic,’ created order. Athanasius
expounded the concept of the fully divine Logos as the mediator between
the agenetic and the genetic through the deihcation of the human lesh of
Christ. The Cappadocian fathers sought to relate this ‘Nicene’ understand-
ing of salvation with the Platonist tradition of the soul’s attaining likeness
to God.
The father of Basil of Caesarea was a professor of rhetoric, and Basil him-
self (c.329–79) was educated in Athens. He was initially drawn to monasticism
but decided to live a ‘philosophic’ life. It was only in 370 that he became
bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Basil does not frequently appeal to the
conceptuality of deihcation, but it has been argued that when he does so, he
draws on the Alexandrian tradition. It is by no means a straightforward task
to discern the sources which Basil draws upon. He mentions Philo only
once, but some argue that there is evidence that he draws on Philo more
16
Russell, Deication, p. 6: Otis, B., ‘Cappadocian Thought as a Coherent System’,
Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 12 (1958): 95–124.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
66
than this. He cites Clement of Alexandria directly, and again it can be argued
that his inluence and that of Origen is evident in his writings. Basil’s grand-
mother Macrina the elder had been baptized by Gregory Thaumaturgus, the
pupil of Origen, who had evangelized Cappadocia, but it is difhcult to assess
the extent of the inluence of Origen. Some scholars, McGuckin among
them, have argued that Basil and Gregory Nazianzen had selected and edited
works of Origen for their hrst major work the Philocalia. But Basil only
cites Origen directly once (On the Holy Spirit 29.73). So while Basil knew
Athanasius personally and held Origen in high esteem, he drew mostly from
Clement of Alexandria rather than more recent theologians. In Basil’s under-
standing deihcation is a gradual process, in which human beings may be
referred to as ‘gods’ only in the hnal state. With Athanasius he argues for the
divinity of the Holy Spirit on the understanding that the Spirit is able to
deify. But Basil does not appeal to the deihcation of the lesh as Athanasius
did, nor does he identify becoming ‘gods’ with Baptism. For him the ‘gods’
are those who attain perfection through the practice of virtue. Such views
stand closer to a Platonist understanding, and when this is taken together
with his apophatic approach, Basil’s writings closely parallel the work of
Clement of Alexandria. Basil argues that when human beings contemplate
God they look on an incomprehensible beauty, and in so doing become ‘like’
God, imitating the divine moral excellence. So ‘gods’ is used by Basil in a
titular sense.
Like Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen (c.330–90) belonged to the
landed aristocracy of Cappadocia. He was born in Nazianzus where his
father (also Gregory) was bishop. He was well educated, including 10 years
that he spent in Athens (348–58), where he studied rhetoric, and came to
know Basil. He returned to Cappadocia to live the ‘philosophical life’ on the
family estates and was eventually ordained priest (361) and then bishop
(372). Following his father’s death in 375 he withdrew to a monastery at
Seleukia, but in 379 he was requested to go to Constantinople to become
Patriarch, in order to promote Nicene orthodoxy in the city. He was the
victim of various political intrigues and acts of violence, but in 380 was
conhrmed as Patriarch. Under his leadership the Council of Constantinople
was convoked, but during the Council he decided to return to Nazianzus
and remained there as bishop there until 383. Due to ill health he decided
once more to take up the monastic life in the monastery of Arianzum, where
he lived until his death. Gregory Nazianzen was a popular and well-respected
theologian in his own day, which is evident in the ascription of ‘the Theo-
logian’ given to him. He was held as a standard theological authority for
many centuries, as witnessed in the appeal made to him by John of Damascus.
It is only since the Second World War that Gregory of Nyssa has received
more attention.
As a well-read theologian, philosopher and rhetorician Gregory Nazianzen
seems to use the language of deihcation as part of an apologetic attempt to
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
67
address fellow philosophers and rhetoricians. He relates deihcation to the
‘homoousion’ status of the Son and the Holy Spirit, as Athanasius had done,
in the struggle against Eunomius and Apollinarius, which is a polemical use
of deihcation. Gregory is credited with coining the technical term theoˉ sis,
but there is a question as to whether this language and conceptuality is to
be seen as ‘core’ to his theology. Between 362 and 363 in response to the
policies of Julian ‘the Apostate’ Gregory wrote his Invectives against Julian,
in which he criticizes the emperor’s morals and intellect. In the Invectives
Gregory argues that Christianity will overcome imperfect rulers such as
Julian through love and patience. This process as described by Gregory is
the public manifestation of the process of deihcation (theoˉ sis).
There is a variety of expression of the metaphor of deihcation in Gregory’s
writings. He sets out a version of the exchange formula (Oration 29.19) and
refers to the philosopher as a ‘god’, which suggests that Gregory had a hgu-
rative, rather than realist view of deihcation. Gregory was well aware of
Plato’s understanding of pre-existent noetic being, which returns by spiritual
ascent to the authentic state of being (Oration 26–7), and he emphasizes the
return of the soul to a transcendent condition, which is achieved through
God’s purihcation of the soul and the insight of the soul into divine beauty.
So it is that contemplation (theoˉ ria) lies at the heart of the process of deihca-
tion (Commentary on John 32.27). Gregory uses the vocabulary of metousia
as well as theoˉ sis in the expression of the metaphor of deihcation. He argues
that in Christ humanity was ‘brought to participate in the very deity itself’
(Contra Eunomium 3.4.22). Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa use
the conceptuality of deihcation as a means of expressing Origen’s great and
mystical vision of cosmic mystery and of the soul’s long journey to union
with God within that mystery. Gregory understands this in terms of an
‘imitation’ of Christ. But he does not see imitation as an external ‘following’;
rather it means becoming like the incarnate Son through the sacraments and
the practice of philosophy. Through this process human beings transcend
their limitations and experience transformation (metamorphoˉ sis) by ‘min-
gling’ with the divine light. The vocabulary of ‘mingling’ is particular to
Gregory Nazianzen, but he does not intend that the difference between
the created and uncreated is abolished. Russell argues that while Gregory
developed the vocabulary of theoˉ sis, this does not necessarily mean that
he develops a conceptuality of deihcation any more than Athanasius had
done. Theoˉ sis became a key word and concept for later writers, such as
Ps-Dionysius and Maximos the Confessor. Gregory had emphasized the
moral dimension of deihcation but did not take up Athanasius’ understand-
ing of participation. This is something which Gregory of Nyssa would do.
Gregory of Nyssa (330–94) was the brother of Basil of Caesarea and a
friend of Gregory Nazianzen; unlike them he did not attend a major school,
but he was educated in philosophy and theology. In 372 he became bishop
of Nyssa, adjacent to the diocese of his brother Basil. Two landmark studies
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
68
of Gregory were published in 1942 by Jean Danéliou and Hans Urs von
Balthasar, and, since the Second World War, Gregory’s writings have been
the focus of attention of scholars from a wide variety of Christian traditions.
In his work, God according to the Gospel: The Triune Identity (1982),
Robert W. Jenson argues that Gregory of Nyssa, perhaps more than Gregory
Nazianzen or Athanasius, took from Hellenistic philosophy, but reinter-
preted and reused its categories in the light and service of the Christian
gospel. More recently, Sarah Coakley and Morwenna Ludlow have sought
to resituate and reinterpret Gregory’s ideas.
17
Gregory’s works continue to
be the focus of much scholarly attention, which means that the reception of
his ideas are coloured by many layers of interpretation.
Gregory of Nyssa, like the other Cappadocians uses the metaphor of
deihcation in his polemic against the neo-Arians and in his exploration of
the Origenist legacy. Related to his understanding of deihcation is Gregory’s
understanding of anthropology and gender in terms of the ‘garments of skin’
(Genesis 3.21).
18
Gregory is often referred to as a speculative theologian
which may be misleading, but he is a theologian who is not afraid of making
connections and perhaps of using his imagination. In his work To Abablius:
On ‘Not Three Gods’ Gregory draws out the connection between the word
for the Godhead qeothj and the words qea [beholding] and qeathj [beholder]
(Non Tres Dii PG 45, 121D). Gregory of Nyssa uses the phrase metousi&a
qeou= in order to express the metaphor of deihcation, in the context of moral
philosophy. Encouraged by Basil and Macrina, Gregory employs philosoph-
ical speculation in order to develop a new language code to clarify the
differences between concepts of Christian deihcation and Platonist under-
standings of ‘assimilation’. Some scholars have argued that Gregory has a
strong focus on deihcation, but he refers to the doctrine rarely. For Gregory,
deihcation is predicated primarily on an understanding of the lesh assumed
by the Son at the Incarnation and by extension on the sacraments. Basil and
the two Gregories all appeal to reception of the Eucharist as a means of
deihcation. Gregory of Nyssa in particular stresses this, in relation to his
understanding of the Incarnation and the deihed lesh of Christ.
Deihcation is the human participation in the divine attributes and attain-
ment to ‘likeness’ to God. Russell argues that Gregory of Nyssa found the
language of deihcation inappropriate for the paradoxical ‘union’ of human
and divine that he wished to express. While Gregory Nazianzen had been
content to use the language of deihcation as a metaphor for human growth
towards fulhlment in God, Gregory of Nyssa does not do so. Russell suggests
17
Coakley, S., Re-Thinking Gregory of Nyssa (Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell
Publishing, 2003); Ludlow, M., Gregory of Nyssa, Ancient and (Post) modern (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2007).
18
For example, Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses 22.
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
69
that this may be so because Gregory thought that this might compromise
the utter transcendence and unknowability of God. In place of the language
of deihcation he used the language of participation to express the ever-
deepening relationship with God through union with the divine energies,
while the divine essence remained beyond human comprehension.
19
The texts of the Cappadocian fathers witness to a varied appeal to the
metaphor of deihcation in terms of why and how the appeal is made. In
particular, they demonstrate a developing trend towards a collective under-
standing of deihcation in terms of participation in the sacraments and a
moral understanding in terms of a life lived in pursuit of the virtues.
Later witnesses
Another strand in the defence of Nicene orthodoxy is witnessed in the
writings of Augustine of Hippo (354–430). A convert to Christianity, he was
baptized by Ambrose in Milan in 387 and became bishop of Hippo in 396.
Augustine was a North African, whose language was Latin. Despite his
mother Monica’s Christian faith, he chose to live as a pagan intellectual, and
his journey to faith is recounted in his Confessions. It is in the Confessions
that Augustine wrote ‘Thou hast made us for thyself. Therefore, our hearts
are restless until they hnd rest in thee, O God.’
20
It is in these words that
Augustine shows that he understands that God is the goal of human exist-
ence. Indeed Augustine refers to forms of expression of deihcation more
frequently than any other Latin writer.
21
Augustine’s references to deihcation
are rooted in the biblical example of Psalm 82, as it had been received in
Church tradition.
22
Despite this clear evidence, commentators on Augustine
have argued that he was not faithful to earlier patristic tradition and had no
understanding of deihcation. Orthodox writers have claimed that Augustine’s
psychology left no room for ‘a deiform faculty’ in the human person.
23

Lot-Borodine argues that Augustine’s construal of ‘beatitude’ is not equiva-
lent to an Eastern understanding of deihcation, because he allows for no
interpenetration of the divine and the human.
24
These views are echoed
19
Russell, Deication, p. 232.
20
Augustine, Confessions 1.1; R. J. Deferrari (ed.), The Fathers of the Church
(Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1953), vol. 21, p. 4.
21
For example, De Vera religione 46(86); De natura et gratia 33.37; Contra Adimantum
93.2.
22
For example, In Johannis evangelium tractatus 2.15; Sermon 166.4.
23
Drewery, B., ‘Deihcation’, in P. Brooks (ed.), Christian Spirituality (London: SCM,
1975), pp. 35–62.
24
Lot-Borodine, M., La Déication de l’homme (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1970),
pp. 39–40.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
70
by writers from the Church of the Latter Day Saints, who argue that for
Augustine, God’s absolute oneness and otherness was so different from
humanity’s created status that salvation, dependent on divine grace alone,
could not bridge the gap between the eternal Creator and the creatures
contingent upon him.
25
So how is Augustine’s work to be received and situated? Augustine knew
less Greek than Tertullian and Hilary, and he seems to have asked Jerome
for translations of Origen’s commentaries. But once Jerome had embarked
on a refutation of Origenism, these were never produced for Augustine.
So there is little evidence to suggest that Augustine was inluenced by Origen.
But Augustine was profoundly inluenced by contemporary philosophy.
Following his Baptism Augustine lived in Numidia with a community of
servi Dei [believers] who sought to live the Christian life in its fullness. The
community focused on preparing for death by seeking deihcation, through
freeing themselves from worldly constraints. In Letter 10.2 Augustine uses
the phrase ‘deicari in otio’ [to attain deihcation in a life of scholarly seclu-
sion], which may be taken from Porphyry’s Sententiae ad intelligibilia
ducentes. Augustine could have known the works of Porphyry from the
introduction to the Enneads of Plotinus in the Latin translation of Marius
Victorinus. Most commentators agree that Augustine held together his
Christian beliefs with contemporary Platonism. On this basis Augustine
understood that the human soul was ‘divine’ in the sense that that God is
always present to it. In other words, the human person participated in God’s
being simply by existing. Alongside this belief Augustine understood that the
soul is alienated from God by sin but is never separated from God’s pres-
ence. These views are comparable with those of Basil of Caesarea and
Gregory of Nyssa for whom the Fall is a slipping away from a very close
afhnity between God and humanity and a veering off the true path.
In his early work, De vera religione (390/1) Augustine argues that God
confers divine status on the rational creation in common with Porphyry, and
in his later work De Civitate Dei he continues to cite Porphyry and Plotinus
as authorities for the understanding that divine likeness is the goal of human
life. Augustine construes the imitation of the divine nature as an equivalent
of deihcation:
man is said to be after the image, on account, as we have said, of the
inequality of the likeness; and therefore after our image, that man
might be the image of the Trinity; not equal to the Trinity as the Son is
equal to the Father, but approaching to it, as has been said, by a certain
likeness; just as nearness may in a sense be signihed in things distant
25
Norman, K. E., ‘Deihcation, Early Christian’, in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1
(New York: Macmillan, 1992).
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
71
from each other, not in respect of place, but of a sort of imitation. For
it is also said, Be transformed by the renewing of your mind; to whom
he likewise says, Be therefore imitators of God as dear children. For it
is said to the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge of God,
after the image of Him that created him.
26
He writes that those who imitate God come to be penetrated by intelligible
light and enjoy the participation of God (The City of God 10.2), which
refers to John 1. Augustine’s exegesis of Psalm 82.6 (cf. Psalm 116.11) shares
the earlier understanding that the ‘gods’ referred to by the psalmist are the
baptized. He develops a notion that human beings are deihed by grace,
which makes a connection between his concerns for justihcation with deih-
cation. The outcome of deihcation is that believers become ‘sons’ of God
(cf. John 1.12) and fellow heirs with Christ (Enarrationes in Psalmos 49.2).
Deihcation can be known ‘now’ but its fulhlment is eschatological, which
relates to the possibility of the beatihc vision, through which believers
participate in God (The City of God 22.30). In this way Augustine employs
the language of ‘participation’ to suggest a relationship between the contin-
gent and the self-existent. For Augustine human nature was never entirely
freed from ‘sin’, which meant that even the baptized where never literally
like God, but the believer receives the possibility of not sinning as a gift from
God. The believer is bestowed with the gift of ‘gratia increata’ [uncreated
grace] by the Holy Spirit, which Kärkkäinen argues is ‘the personal presence
of the Triune God in man through the Holy Spirit’.
27
The model of parti-
cipation lies at the heart of Augustine’s construal of redemption but is always
qualihed. Human persons can never become the same as God, even if they
share in his lesh through the sacraments. For Augustine deihcation always
remained beyond human explanation: ‘that he should make men gods is
to be understood in divine silence’ (Contra Adimantus, 93.2). Deihcation
remains at the level of metaphor and analogy in Augustine’s writings, it is
appropriated through Baptism and the Eucharist, and its fullness is only
achieved in the eschaton, always remaining a mystery. Deihcation is con-
strued in relation to the Trinity and a trinitarian understanding of the imago
dei and in relation to the sacraments, so it has a strong collective and ecclesial
26
‘Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity Book 7.6.12’, in P. Schaff (ed.), Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 3 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing
Co., 1887).
27
Kärkkäinen, V.-M., ‘The Ecumenical Potential of the Eastern Doctrine of Theosis:
Emerging convergences in Lutheran and Free Church Soteriologies’, in Toward Healing
Our Divisions. Reecting on Pentecostal Diversity and Common Witness. 28th Annual
Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Springheld, MO, 11–13 March 1999,
vol. I, p. 27.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
72
dimension in Augustine’s thought. This remains crucial for contemporary
exploration of the metaphor.
The hfth century was a time when the language of deihcation began to
recede and disappear from mainstream theological discourse. I have drawn
attention to some of the reasons for this in the discussion of the work of
Evagrios Ponticus. Another witness to these changes is Cyril of Alexandria
(c.378–444). He was born into an inluential Christian family. His mother’s
brother, Theophilus, was Patriarch of Alexandria. Cyril was given a thor-
ough education in rhetoric, philosophy and theology. In 412, following the
death of his uncle, Cyril was appointed Patriarch of Alexandria. Cyril is
known as a great controversialist in the Christological debates, which led to
the calling of the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), and was
a staunch defender of the Alexandrian tradition of Christology. He hercely
attacked the opinions and person of his opponent Nestorius (c.386–451),
who was the Patriarch of Constantinople between 428 and 431.
Cyril developed his understanding of deihcation in relation to his polemic
against Judaism, Apollinarianism and Nestorianism. But he was reticent
about using a technical language for deihcation even before the controversy
with Nestorius. In his earliest writings he had followed the example of
Athanasius and had used the terminology of deihcation, but in his later
writings he ceased doing this. In its place he used the phraseology of
2 Peter 1.4: ‘partakers of the divine nature’. It is this Cyrilline usage which
brings the New Testament phraseology into mainstream theological discourse.
The phraseology had previously been employed Origen, Athanasius and
Theophilus of Alexandria, but only infrequently. The issue at stake in using
the phraseology of 2 Peter 1.4 surrounds the word physis [nature] and the
relationship of this to ousia [substance or essence]. Cyril seems to use physis
in a more dynamic sense than ousia. In other words physis is that aspect of
the divine which is communicable to human beings. This means that his
construal of ‘deihcation’ rests more on the recovery of the lost divine like-
ness, than an Athanasian transformation of the lesh. For the hrst time Cyril
brings together an understanding of moral endeavour and the sacramental
life in a construal of deihcation. He constructs an understanding of ‘dynamic
participation’, which begins with reception of the Holy Spirit in Baptism.
The Spirit then dwells in the baptized, who achieve adoption as ‘sons’ and
‘gods’ through God’s grace. The Holy Spirit and Son enable sanctihcation
and hliation, which lead to incorruptibility. Cyril distinguishes between the
corporeal and spiritual aspects of this process. Through participation in
the Eucharist, the Son dwells within the participants corporeally. The Spirit
motivates the believer’s moral life towards an inward transformation. Cyril
argues that the human will relates to the divine image, so that human beings
can choose the good and in doing so may participate in the divine. Based on
his understanding of Christ’s human soul, Cyril construes deihcation in
terms of a unity of body and soul, which involves the human will and the
EARLY CHURCH WITNESS
73
pursuit of virtue. He holds together moral progress towards divine likeness,
with participation in the Eucharist and assimilation to Christ, which is the
hrst fully rounded understanding of deihcation.
The combined effect of the leadership of Athanasius and Cyril contributes
to the eclipse of the Alexandrian tradition of the didaskaleia. In its stead a
biblical and Irenaean approach emerges towards deihcation which has four
main features.
28
Each of these provides a hrm basis for a relational under-
standing of the doctrine of deihcation today. First, there is a strong emphasis
on the convergence of transcendence and immanence in Christ, and through
participation in Christ the believer manifests the hrst fruits offered in Christ
to all humanity. This conceptuality is rooted in St Paul’s language of being
‘in Christ’ and is extended by Irenaeus and Cyril. Second, there is a focus on
a notion of participation as a way of understanding how what is ‘becoming’
can share in ‘being’ at an ontological level. That is to say how the created
may share in the uncreated without losing its contingent status, and on a
dynamic level how the created and contingent can partake increasingly of
the divine nature through the work of the Holy Spirit and attain the image
and likeness of God. Third, there is a clear rejection of any collapse of the
gulf between the created and the uncreated. Mediation between the two
orders is achieved through the exaltation of Christ’s humanity. Finally, the
ecclesial context of deihcation is brought to the fore. There is a move away
from individual contemplation to the practice of the virtues and the recep-
tion of the Eucharist in the synaxis of the faithful. The transformation of the
believer begins in Baptism and is continued by the gift of the Spirit and
the ongoing reception of the Eucharist in communion with the Bishop.
28
Russell, Deication, pp. 203–4.
74
4
1nr icc1iiNr cr iriricn1icN
iN ci1ncicx.
In this chapter and the one which follows I have constructed a narrative of
the use of the metaphor of deihcation in theological discourse in the period
since the hrst hve centuries. I have decided to recount this narrative in two
chapters each delineated by geography as well as chronology. In making this
geographical division in the narrative I am following the contours of the
discourse concerning deihcation which emerged particularly in the twentieth
century. I have made this decision despite the increasing unease within con-
temporary theological discourse with the designations of types of theology
as ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’ and ‘Greek’ or ‘Latin’. For centuries theologians
and historians have been using such designations as Roman or Latin Catholic,
Eastern or Greek Orthodox, and Protestant. In recent times theologians
have become increasingly aware of the problematic surrounding the desig-
nation of texts and their authors. One strand of this awareness is to be seen
in the critique of the so-called de Régnon paradigm, and another is to be
seen in the critique of Neo-Palamism. The caricature of Trinitarian theology
as a competition between an Augustinian West and a Cappadocian East was
a working paradigm among systematic theologians in the twentieth century
largely as a result of the interpretation of the work of the Jesuit author
Théodore de Régnon,
1
by Eastern Orthodox writers such as Vladimir Lossky.
2

This polarization and valuation of East against West is now challenged
by patristic and systematic theologians alike.
3
Vladimir Lossky along with
1
de Régnon, T., Études de théologie positive sur la Sainte Trinité, 3 vols, (Paris: Retaux,
1892–98).
2
Lossky, V., The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Cambridge and London:
James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1957), chapter 3, especially pp. 56–8.
3
For example, Louth, A., ‘Unity and Diversity in the Church of the Fourth Century’, in
E. Ferguson (ed.), Recent Studies in Early Christianity: A Collection of Scholarly Essays,
(London: Garland, 1999), vol. IV, pp. 1–18.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
75
John Meyendorff is seen as responsible for reawakening interest in the work
of the fourteenth-century monk of Mount Athos, Gregory Palamas.
4
Here
again the ‘Eastern’ view is deemed to be more adequate and, therefore,
preferable to the ‘Western’ view of divine activity, grace and the human
knowing of God.
5
The construal of the ‘East’ and ‘West’ as perceived from
the standpoint of the ‘Byzantine’ Orthodox tradition has been re-assessed
recently by Christos Yannaras and Aristotle Papanikolaou.
6
So although this
chapter is focused on the narrative of the use of the metaphor of deihcation
in ‘Eastern’ Orthodoxy this is by no means an attempt to privilege the ‘East’
over the ‘West’.
The concept of ‘orthodoxy’ emerges from a long-standing hermeneutical
tradition within Christianity, which is premised on distinguishing truth
from falsehood, or, indeed, orthodox views from heretical views. McGuckin
7

argues that this hermeneutic has been operating at least since the earliest
Church histories were written, for example, by Eusebius of Caesarea and
that the same instincts are seen in the New Testament texts of the Johannine
letters and Pastoral epistles. The main premise of the hermeneutic is that
Church was born in truth and later became infected with heresy. Theological
relection on the need to challenge mistaken or heretical views led to a
conceptualization of ‘orthodoxy’ in which ‘Church fathers’ are understood
to be raised up providentially to defend the truth. This conceptuality is
reinforced in particular by the Arian controversy. For example, Athanasius
wrote the Life of Antony the Great in which he depicts Antony as one
of hrst of the ‘fathers’ who represents a standard of truth, holiness and
orthodoxy. Later Gregory Nazianzen identihed Athanasius as the great
defender of Nicene orthodoxy (Oration 21 and Oration 33.5). By the hfth
century the concept of ‘authoritative fathers’ had emerged. For example,
Cyril of Alexandria compiled a collection of the ‘sayings of orthodox fathers’
which he appealed to in his controversy with Nestorius. This conceptuality
is endorsed in the canons of Ecumenical Councils (e.g. Ephesus 431: Canon 7).
In this way the Council itself becomes part of the formulation of what ortho-
doxy is, by claiming to continue the tradition of the orthodox fathers. The
broad conceptuality of ‘orthodoxy’ is part of a shared Christian heritage.
But this shared understanding came to be the designation of a ‘tradition’
4
See Finch, J. D., ‘Neo-Palamism, Divinizing Grace, and the Breach between East and
West’, in Christensen and Wittung (eds), Partakers of the Divine Nature.
5
See Lossky, Mystical Theology, chapter 4.
6
Yannaras, C., Orthodoxy and the West (Brooklyn, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press,
2006), especially chapters 1 and 2; Papanikolaou, A., ‘Orthodoxy, Postmodernity,
and Ecumenism: The Difference That Divine-Human Communion Makes’, Journal of
Ecumenical Studies, Fall (2007): 527–46.
7
McGuckin, J. A., ‘Patristics’, in The Westminster Handbook of Patristics (London:
Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), pp. 252–4.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
76
within the Christian tradition, so that some churches claim to be ‘Orthodox’
as distinct from those who either do not claim this designation for them-
selves, or are denied this designation by the ‘Orthodox’. The structure of this
distinction and separation relates to many factors, such as the claims of the
Papacy, the fall of the ‘Western’ Roman Empire, the rise of Islam as well as
doctrinal disputes involving the lioque. Perhaps a symbol of this distinc-
tion is to be seen in John of Damascus’s work The Defence of the Orthodox
Faith [de de orthodoxa] in the eighth century.
A major component in the construction of the identity of the Orthodox
‘East’ during the twentieth century was the perception that the doctrine of
deihcation is a touch stone of what it means to hold Orthodox beliefs over
against a Catholic or Protestant ‘West’. Writers such as Dimitru Staniloae,
Andrew Louth and Norman Russell have argued that the doctrine of
deihcation, which is a core feature of Orthodoxy, is part of an overarching
conceptuality of the divine purposes in creating and redeeming the cosmos
in Orthodoxy. The emergence of Neo-Palamism within Orthodox theologi-
cal discourse in the twentieth century shaped the interpretation of the
‘evolution’ of the doctrine of deihcation. Within this discourse two hgures
dominate the landscape, Gregory Palamas and Maximos the Confessor. The
conceptuality of deihcation in Orthodoxy today is a synthesis of the ideas of
these two writers constructed by Orthodox authors in the twentieth century.
Texts of the Early Church and Medieval periods are interpreted in the light
of these twentieth-century constructs of deihcation. In addition, the inter-
pretation of the reception of the collection of texts known as the ‘Philokalia’
and published in the eighteenth century is of vital importance in the con-
struction of a narrative of the metaphor of deihcation and of Orthodox
identity in the twentieth century.
The focus of the chapter is on the emergence of a doctrine of deihcation in
‘Byzantine’ Orthodoxy. This will be related to the emergence of Orthodox
identity, particularly in the twentieth century. The structure of the chapter is
a series of chronological surveys of the narrative of the metaphor of deihca-
tion, beginning with the present and successively proceeding into the past
to a hnal section on the ‘classic’ statement of deihcation in the sixth to
eighth centuries. I begin with twentieth and twenty-hrst centuries, which
have seen the re-emergence of Orthodox self-understanding in its own
right as well as in relation to the dynamics of the Ecumenical Movement.
This section will provide an overview of the metaphor of deihcation in the
Byzantine Orthodox tradition as it is understood today. I then examine the
expression of deihcation in Byzantine Orthodoxy in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. This will focus in particular on the publication of the
Philokalia in the late eighteenth century and the inluence that this has had
subsequently, particularly in Russia in the nineteenth century. Following
this, I examine examples of the understanding of deihcation in Orthodoxy
in the Middle Ages. The main focus here will be upon Gregory Palamas
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
77
and the Hesychast controversy. I will also examine the work of Symeon the
New Theologian, and the work of Cydones who translated texts of Thomas
Aquinas into Greek. In the concluding section I examine the work of earlier
writers who are understood within the Orthodox tradition to contribute
to the emergence of a ‘classic’ understanding of deihcation. This will include
an examination of the texts of Ps-Dionysius the Aeropagite, Maximos the
Confessor and John of Damascus. The purpose of proceeding in this manner
is to highlight the hermeneutical processes in the reception of ancient texts
in the present day.
Twentieth and twenty-rst centuries
It is clear from even a cursory reading of the works of Orthodox theologians
of the twentieth century that ‘deihcation’ is understood to be a core element
in the construal of Orthodox identity. The metaphor is used partly as a polemic
against those outside the Orthodox tradition, and partly as an apologetic to
them. From my perspective ‘deihcation’ has been construed as a touchstone
of Orthodoxy, as a symbol of what distinguishes Orthodox belief from
the beliefs of other Christians. It demonstrates a new self-understanding,
identity and conhdence among Orthodox communities, both those within
traditional homelands and those in diaspora. The claims made about deih-
cation symbolize an ‘escape’ from a history of perceived ‘Westernization’.
Westernization included the acceptance by the Orthodox church of the Latin
Church’s dogma of seven sacraments and the inluence on Orthodox theo-
logy of the thought of Aquinas as a result of Cydones’ translation of his
works. The revival in Orthodox self-understanding can be seen in the emer-
gence of a Neo-Palamite theological movement and the construction of the
Aquinas/Palamas controversy. This revival encourages the construal of the
metaphor of deihcation as part of a comprehensive theological conceptual-
ity of the doctrine of creation and redemption. The metaphor is presented
in terms of an appeal to experience and the transformation of the human
subject. This construction of the metaphor is assembled from the texts of
authors such as Maximos the Confessor, Gregory Palamas and Seraphim
of Sarov. Their understanding that experience is often to be found within
the corporate activities of the Church such as the Liturgy and the reception
of the sacraments is particularly important. These theurgical and ecclesial
dimensions of deihcation are important components for a contemporary
interpretation of the doctrine.
In this discussion of Orthodox theologians of the twentieth and twenty-
hrst centuries, I will focus on the work of Bulgakov, Sophrony, Lossky,
Nellas, Staniloae, Louth, McGuckin, Papanikolaou and Zizioulas. It would
have been possible to highlight the work of other theologians such as
Kallistos Ware, Hilarion Alfeyev and Christos Yannaras, and I have drawn
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
78
on their contribution to the discourse on deihcation elsewhere. My selection
here has been determined mainly by the way in which a theologian approaches
the ecclesial dimension of the metaphor of deihcation.
There are a number of basic preconceptions to a contemporary Orthodox
understanding of deihcation. The metaphor of deihcation is constructed
on an a priori understanding that each person is created in the image and
likeness of God (Genesis 1.26). This is the premise for the possibility of
eternal life and a relationship with God. Furthermore, every human person
is free and autonomous and as a creature made in the ‘image of God’ can
intentionally seek and acquire the divine ‘likeness’. Deihcation is premised
on the notion of Divine philanthropia, that is, God’s unconditional love for
human beings, which is manifest in God’s desire that all people should be
saved. Salvation is required because through disobedience human beings
lost their divine potential and are now subject to bondage to sin, disintegra-
tion and corruption. Despite their fallen state, human beings are called to
live out their lives in response to God. This means that there is a need to
raise awareness of the transcendent goal of human life. In order to achieve
this awareness and his or her divinely human potential, each person requires
forgiveness and reconciliation. This is achieved through God’s initiative in
kenoˉ sis and obedience in the Incarnation, through which the God-Man
[theanthropos / bogochelovek] re-perfects human nature. The outcomes of
the Incarnation need to be applied to and appropriated by each person
through an inner journey, whereby each is re-imaged and participates in the
glorihed divinely human nature.
8
Sergei Bulgakov (1871–1944) was a highly creative and speculative theo-
logian, whose sophisticated and collective conceptualization of theology
continues to inspire theological enquiry today. He was a Russian Orthodox
priest, who had left Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution and founded
l’Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge, in Paris, where he was profes-
sor until his death. His ideas were not universally welcomed among the
Orthodox theological community. Georges Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky
distanced themselves from what they saw as his speculative work on sophio-
logy, and in 1935 Bulgakov’s notions surrounding sophia were condemned.
Bulgakov is inluenced by Vladimir Solovyov in a number of different
areas, one of which is his collective and historical understanding of salva-
tion, which he argues reaches its hnal stage in the work of Christ. Christ’s
work enables believers to grow in and achieve salvation, understood in
terms of deihcation. Milbank argues that for Bulgakov to become divine
8
See Golubov, A., ‘Foreword’, in D. Staniloae (ed.), Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical
Guide for the Faithful and a Denitive Manual for the Scholar (South Canaan, PA:
St Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002).
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
79
now means constantly to shape better images of deity.
9
This relates to how
the difference or distance between the divine and the human is ‘calculated’.
Milbank argues that Bulgakov’s understanding of deihcation suggests that
the divine creative economy is such that all human working is a coming
to know. Inversely, coming to know is a constant process of collective just
distribution: ‘economy is knowledge in action; knowledge is economy in
theory’.
10
In relation to his collective construal of deihcation Bulgakov
espouses a theurgic understanding of theoˉ sis, for in his view all theology is
theurgic; because ‘God only reaches us through the liturgical invocations
latent in all human creative bringing forth of the unanticipated.’
11
Bulgakov
sympathized with the neo-Palamite revival of the Jesus Prayer associated
with the Russian émigrés and their understanding that praying the prayer
itself brings about the energetic presence of the Divine Person. This notion
is predicated on the belief that ‘in some ineffable way the sonorous patterns
and other sensorial resonances of human language have become attuned
over the ages to a certain receptivity of transcendence.’
12
However, for
Bulgakov the premise for the metaphor of deihcation is not the distinction
which the neo-Palamites draw between energies and essence in the divine;
rather human beings can become God because God is constantly becoming
human. The precondition of the possibility of Incarnation is the eternal
descent of God into the Creation as Sophia and the eternal raising of human-
ity through deihcation.
13
Bulgakov’s construal of a collective understanding
of the divine–human potentiality and its outcome in deihcation supports a
relational understanding of the doctrine for today.
Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov 1896–1993) another remarkable
Russian émigré, who after living in Paris and on Mount Athos settled in
England and became a founder of the monastery at Toleshunt Knights in
Essex. Sophrony was a disciple of St Silouan of Mount Athos and published
a number of works on him, in which he sets out his teaching on and experience
9
Milbank, J., ‘Sophiology and Theurgy: The New Theological Horizon’ (Paper delivered
in December 2005) http://www.theologyphilosophycentre.co.uk/papers.php (accessed
2 June 2009). Milbank argues that the reshaping of the understanding of divinity in the
exposition of the doctrine of deihcation is also to be found in the Hermetic corpus,
p. 35. See ‘Asclepius’, in B. P. Cophenhaver, Hermetica (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press 1992) paragraphs 22–4, pp. 79–81.
10
Bulgakov, S., Philosophy of Economy: The World as Household (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press 2000), p. 131.
11
Milbank, ‘Sophiology and Theurgy’, p. 36; see Bulgakov, ‘The Unfading Light’, in
R. D. Williams (ed.), Sergii Bulgakov (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1999), pp. 149–59.
12
Milbank, ‘Sophiology and Theurgy’, p. 36; see Williams, Sergii Bulgakov ‘General
Introduction’, pp. 1–19.
13
Milbank, ‘Sophiology and Theurgy’, p. 53.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
80
of ‘transhguration’.
14
In his spiritual testimony Sophrony vividly describes
his own experience of the divine light.
15
Sophrony’s life is an important
example of the monastic vocation to pursue conformity to Christ, from
which lowed his remarkable testimony to the mystical experience of com-
munion with God. This appeal to ‘raw’ experience remains a key factor in
the understanding and reception of the doctrine of deihcation within Ortho-
doxy at the present time. Sophrony also had a profound personal inluence
on John Zizioulas, which is most evident in his construal of personhood.
Vladimir Lossky (1903–58), another Russian émigré, settled in Paris fol-
lowing the Bolshevik Revolution. He was one of the main contributors to
the Orthodox revival in self-understanding and conhdence in the twentieth
century. He is probably best remembered for The Mystical Theology of the
Eastern Church, published in French in 1944 and in English in 1957. Lossky
pursued a strong polemic against the ‘West’ as he expounded and defended
the ‘East’. In so doing he constructs or reconstructs the self-identity of
Orthodoxy. In particular he reworked Russian Orthodox theology against the
sophiology of Bulgakov, which he thought was ‘philosophically tainted’.
16
Lossky perceives the doctrine of deihcation as the crowning achievement
of Byzantine theology.
17
He understands deihcation as mystical union with
God, through a participation in the uncreated energies. In making this con-
struction, he polarizes the ‘dynamic’ theology of ‘East’ against the ‘static’
theology of ‘West’. Lossky goes so far as to state that theoˉ sis is ‘echoed by
the fathers and the theologians of every age’.
18
This is an overstatement and
is part of his polemical assertion of the status of the doctrine of deihcation
in the patristic period and within later Orthodoxy. Referring to 2 Peter 1.4,
Lossky argues that
The words of St. Peter are explicit: partakers of the divine nature. They
leave us in no doubt as to the reality of the union with God which is
promised us, and set before us as our hnal end, the blessedness of the
age to come. It would be childish, not to say impious, to see in these
words only a rhetorical expression or metaphor.
19
14
For example, Sophrony, A., The Undistorted Image: Staretz Silouan, 1866–1938
(London: Faith Press, 1958); The Monk of Mount Athos: Staretz Silouan 1866–1938
(London: Mowbray, 1973); Wisdom from Mount Athos: The Writings of Staretz Siloan
1866–1938 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1975).
15
Sophrony, A., We Shall See Him As He Is (Essex, England: Stravropegic Monastery of
St John the Baptist, 1988).
16
Papanikolaou, A., Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Com-
munion, (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), p. 1.
17
See Lossky, V., In the Image and Likeness of God (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s
Seminary 1985), especially pp. 97–98; and Mystical Theology, chapter 10.
18
Lossky, Mystical Theology, p. 134.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
81
Thus, Lossky defends a realistic and ontological understanding of deihcation.
Whether this is truly representative of the tradition is another matter. As
Russell suggests deihcation is a metaphor for understanding the goal and
outcome of the divine purposes in creating and redeeming. This may include
ontological claims, but such claims need to be made within a careful and
nuanced framework, rather than as a piece of polemic. This is not to dismiss
the inluence which Lossky exerted on Orthodoxy and the reception of
Orthodox understandings more widely. But it is to recognize his polemical
approach. Nonetheless, Lossky does make important contributions to the
discourse concerning the human person, preparing the ground for Ziziouolas’
understanding that in an ontological sense ‘person’ refers to the same kind
of reality in the human as well as the divine. This modelling of ‘person’ ech-
oes Lossky’s mystical interpretation of the human person.
20
These concepts
of personhood are important in relation to how the deiform characteristics
of the human person are understood in relation to the viability of the meta-
phor of deihcation.
Panayiotis Nellas (1936–86) provides an important lay voice in Orthodox
discourse on deihcation. He taught in a high school in Athens, after studies
in Athens, Lille, Paris and Rome. His work on deihcation is another land-
mark book of the twentieth century, bringing home the full sense of the
way in which deihcation is a core feature of Orthodox theology.
21
The book
is premised on the understanding that until the twelfth century ‘East’ and
‘West’ shared a (more or less) common understanding of salvation but that
from the twelfth century onwards East and West diverge and expound dif-
ferent understandings of anthropology, soteriology and ecclesiology. Such
an understanding of doctrinal development is an expression of the Orthodox
unease with scholasticism in general and the writing of Aquinas in particular.
His writing may be seen as part of a renewal of self-understanding in
Orthodoxy, in which the centrality of deihcation becomes primary and is
closely related to a renewed ‘Orthodox’ understanding of anthropology and
Christology.
His concern to restate the doctrine of deihcation is rooted in the existen-
tial question, ‘what is a person?’ Kallistos Ware suggests that Nellas’ concerns
are related to the question found on the walls of the Oracle at Delphi: ‘know
yourself,’ raising questions for the individual: who am I? What am I? Nellas
is clear that the human person is created in the divine image and likeness,
and he sees the notion of ‘image’ as an axis in Orthodox anthropology, cos-
mology and Christology. Yet he argues that there is a ‘mysterious, indehnable
19
Lossky, Mystical Theology, p. 67.
20
Lossky, Image and Likeness, pp. 111–23.
21
Nellas, P., Deication in Christ: Orthodox Perspectives on the Nature of the Human
Person (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
82
character of person’ and that God’s ‘icon’ within the human being and the
human race is ‘incomprehensible’. In arguing so he sets out an apophatic or
‘negative anthropology’. Drawing upon Gregory Nazianzen, Nellas argues
in a more positive vein that the human person is ‘a living creature that is
being deihed’ [zoˉ on theoumenon] (Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 38.11). So
the human person is not only a rational or political animal, nor just one who
laughs, but is primarily an animal called to share consciously in the life and
glory of God. This calling Nellas understands is mirrored by the human
being’s sense of ‘inspiration’. He relects on this phenomenon and argues
that it is the nature of the human person to experience this ‘inspiration’,
which he understands as ‘the inclination towards God’. In other words,
human beings made in the image of God are, ‘simultaneously earthly and
heavenly, transient and eternal, visible and invisible, truly and in fact “a
deihed animal”’.
22
The outcome of human growth is to attain ‘full stature’
in Christ; Nellas designates this with the term ‘Christihcation’, by which he
signihes the connection between anthropology and Christology. He strongly
argues for a Christological structure of the human person.
23
This claim
relates to the notion that the incarnate Logos is the ‘Archetype’ of the divine
image and of human life. The divine ‘image’ is understood to be a gift but
is also a ‘goal’ and a pledge; thus, the ‘iconic’ or potential being of a human
person is in the possibility to become ‘authentic’. Nellas argues that ‘Man
hnds in the Archetype his true ontological meaning.’
24
In other words, the
anthropological outcome of deihcation is Christihcation. Nellas is a key
exponent of the renewed understanding of deihcation in Orthodoxy for an
Anglophone audience and offers a clear exposition of the core components
of the metaphor of deihcation in contemporary Orthodoxy.
Another very signihcant hgure in the development of Orthodox theology
in the twentieth century is Dumitru Staniloae (1903–93), a Romanian
Orthodox priest and theologian, who studied in Bucharest and Munich.
He taught at the University of Bucharest and worked for the Romanian
Orthodox Church. Between 1958 and 1963 he was imprisoned by the Com-
munist regime in Romania. One of Staniloae’s main works is his Orthodox
Dogmatic Theology (1978) known in English translation as The Experience
of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, of which the second volume is entitled
The World: Creation and Deication. Staniloae became aware of the need to
liberate Orthodoxy from its so-called ‘Western captivity’ expressed in the
frequent use of Latin theological categories in Orthodox theology from the
seventeenth century onwards. Yet Staniloae’s own thought is inluenced by
many different voices, including Bulgakov, and the philosophers Kant, Hegel
22
Nellas, Deication, p. 15.
23
He draws on Origen and Athanasius in making these claims: for example, Origen,
Against Celsus 6.63; Athanasius, On the Incarnation 3, 4; Against the Greeks 2.
24
Nellas, Deication, p. 37.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
83
and Schopenhauer. Later he became aware of the Hesychast tradition
through studying the works of Gregory Palamas, which led him to take up
the work of translating the Philokalia into Romanian. It is from these differ-
ent inluences that Staniloae develops his understanding of deihcation, partly
as a statement of Orthodoxy’s distinctiveness; partly in interaction with
Christians of other traditions; and partly to respond to the contemporary
context.
Ion Bria argues that in the Dogmatic Theology Staniloae sought to use a
different approach and method from the predominant method which had
been constructed by Vladimir Lossky. Bria suggests that Staniloae challenges
Lossky’s cataphatic style of theologizing and sets an apophatic method
alongside a cataphatic approach, seeing the two approaches not as competi-
tors but rather as interdependent. Staniloae challenged an institutional view
of the Church and was one of the hrst Orthodox theologians to construct a
relational ecclesiology rooted in an understanding of koinoˉ nia. Emerging
from his experience of the Communist state in Romania, Staniloae pursued
a theology of the world, in which the world was understood as God’s crea-
tion, called and destined for deihcation.
25
His construal of deihcation is
rooted in his understanding of Christology.
In Christ is concentrated and realized all that is expressed in Christian
dogmas: there is expressed the divine inhnity in which his human
nature participates and in which everything else, through his common
human nature, has power to participate.
26
The mystery of the person of Christ is the mystery of the communion between
the divine and the human. Staniloae uses Maximos the Confessor’s under-
standing of the human person as microcosm of the cosmos and of the world
as macro-anthroˉ pos.
27
This is the premise for a reciprocity between Christ,
the human race and the cosmos, which means that salvation is as much a
collective as an individual reality. Unusually for an Orthodox Staniloae devel-
ops a theologia crucis, but in doing so he overcomes the polarization usually
found in a Protestant construal of the Cross, which sets up creation and sal-
vation, nature and grace in opposition to each other. Rather he argues that
The impossibility of separating human persons from cosmic nature
means that the salvation and perfection of persons is projected onto
the whole of nature, while it simultaneously depends upon nature.
28
25
See Bria, I., ‘Preface’ in Orthodox Spirituality, pp. vii–xiv.
26
Staniloae, D., The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (New York:
T&T Clark, 2000), vol. 1, p.79.
27
For example, Maximos the Confessor, Letter 6, PG 91, 429D.
28
Staniloae, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1, p. 324.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
84
Staniloae’s construal of deihcation is rooted in the experience of living the
Christian life. He understands that the practice of the virtues is not just
a question of obeying commandments but is growth in transformation.
Christian spirituality concerns the experience of the perfection of the
faithful in Christ, which is achieved by participation in Christ’s divinely
human life. This union with God is understood as an unending process; it is
a perfection achieved through purihcation. Deihcation or participation in
divinity is understood to be the goal of a believer’s life, which is achieved by
a believer’s participation in the divine energies. Staniloae’s understanding of
salvation, deihcation and the Church in terms of communion is another
important instance of the possibility of expounding a relational doctrine of
deihcation.
Andrew Louth’s understanding of deihcation sits within the construal of
Orthodox theology which distances itself from ‘Western Theology’.
29
His
understanding that deihcation lost ground in the West from the twelfth
century places his thought within a neo-Palamite stance. He argues that
deihcation relates to the whole of Orthodox theology and that this suggests
a theological framework in which the divine purposes in creating and
redeeming the cosmos are understood in terms of a human–divine union or
communion designated by the term theoˉ sis. He draws on the texts of the
Fathers and argues that the events of deihcation and of Incarnation are par-
allel events (Athanasius) and that the event of deihcation is a consequence
of the event of the Incarnation, whose outcome is ‘incorruption’ (Irenaeus).
In distinguishing these ideas he argues that a Western understanding predi-
cates redemption on a restoration from the consequences of the Fall, and
he cites the text of the Exsultet [Easter Proclamation]. In the Eastern view
deihcation is God’s intention from the moment of Creation, and the Incar-
nation is the interior basis of Creation and its hnal cause, so the purpose of
Creation has always been deihcation. He describes deihcation as intimacy
with God, rather than transcending what it means to be human. Deihcation
is the fulhlment of what it is to be human. The Christian tradition does not
advocate ceasing to be human, but deihcation does mean transformation;
it is the transhguration of the ‘human’. The ‘divine’ remains beyond compre-
hension, so deihcation is beyond comprehension and is a mystery. In other
words, Louth espouses an apophatic theology of divine–human union.
He suggests that there are two different ways in which ‘apophatic’ may be
understood. He refers hrst to Christos Yannaras, who argues that an apophatic
approach suggests poetry and images rather than cerebral dogma. This
relates to understandings of the ‘beauty of soul’ in its ascetic struggle and its
participation in the celebration of the liturgy. Yannaras explains his under-
standing by an appeal to etymology: |oiio, [beauty], which he suggests
29
Louth, A., ‘The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology’, in Christensen and Wittung
(eds), Partakers of the Divine Nature, pp. 32–44.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
85
relates to |oitiv [to call]. The beauty of the soul is about being called back
to God. Second, Louth refers to Ps-Dionysius in whose view ‘unknowing’ is
‘apophatic’, which transcends the limits of language. In his understanding
theoˉ sis is itself apophatic, for the human person encounters God through
the gates of repentance. Louth provides another nuanced understanding
of the metaphor of deihcation in its place in the overall landscape of an
Orthodox theological framework.
John McGuckin another contemporary Orthodox theologian constructs
an understanding of theoˉ sis in relation to communion. He argues that deih-
cation is to be understood in terms of sanctihcation, which is a process of
being conformed to God. This process is construed in terms of the ‘meta-
phor’ of transhguration. The just believer will share in the glory of the
Kingdom by means of a ‘metamorphoˉ sis’. He argues that even though the
words theoˉ sis and theopoiesis are not used in the New Testament, they
are evocative of the destiny to which all human beings are called. He argues
that deihcation is the ascent of the creature to communion with the divine,
which is based on the prior divine election and ‘summoning’ of the creature
to fullness of life. Thus, deihcation and salvation are understood in terms of
a restoration of communion between the human and the divine.
30
The question which Aristotle Papanikolaou, a contemporary Orthodox
writer working in the United States, poses is whether contemporary Ortho-
dox theology may only be expressed in neo-Palamite terms. In order to
pursue this question he has provided a critique and comparison of the work
Lossky and Zizioulas on the themes of communion and divine–human union
or theoˉ sis.
31
The difference which emerges from this critique concerns the
approach to ontology and epistemology as it is understood not only in trini-
tarian theology but also in respect of Christology. Although Papanikolaou is
clear that neither Lossky nor Zizioulas construe the doctrine of the Trinity
as a soteriological doctrine per se, he does argue that elements of trinitarian
theology are used to construe the doctrine of salvation (as deihcation). It is
this difference concerning the construal of the soteriological implications of
the Trinity and the Incarnation which brings into question the dominance
of neo-Palamite theology in Orthodoxy today. In his careful exposition and
critique of the understandings of Lossky and Zizioulas he argues that while
Lossky understands that the divine energies are a core component in the
realization of divine–human communion, Zizioulas rejects the notion that
the energies have a soteriological role. In place of the energies, Zizioulas
construes the notion of hypostasis as the core theological understanding in
the realization of divine–human communion. This difference has implica-
tions not only for the construal of deihcation but also for epistemology: for
30
McGuckin, J., ‘The Strategic Adaptation of Deihcation in the Cappadocians’, in
Christensen and Wittung (eds), Partakers of the Divine Nature, pp. 95–114.
31
Papanikolaou, Being with God.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
86
understanding how God is unknowable and knowable, incommunicable
and communicable, transcendent and immanent. While Lossky argues that
God’s essence is unknowable in accordance with his neo-Palamite under-
standing, Zizioulas rejects such absolute apophaticism. Zizioulas agrees that
the what of God’s existence, that is, God’s ousia, is completely transcendent
and unknowable and that theology has nothing to say about the divine ousia.
But for him apophaticism does not extend to God’s Trinitarian existence,
that is, the how of God’s existence, which is a personal existence, revealed
to and known experientially by human believers.
32
The Son in whom is
the communion of the uncreated and the created is made present in the
Eucharist. This is an expression of the immanent Trinity, that is, God’s being
itself. ‘To give expression to this afhrmation, the crucial distinction is not
that between essence and energies, but between the existence of God and the
way in which God exists.’
33
This distinction is attributed to the Cappadocian
fathers. Zizioulas goes on to argue that God is known (if only in a certain
way) and that this leads to an ontology of personhood, both divine and
human, which is the ground for divine–human communion.
Papanikolaou argues that Zizioulas has constructed a more convincing
understanding of the possibility of theoˉ sis. In Zizioulas’ construct deihca-
tion is Trinitarian because of the unity in the hypostasis of Christ, which is
not possible in Lossky’s thought.
34
Papanikolaou concurs with Zizioulas
that an understanding of divine–human communion requires a distinction
in the divine other than between energies and essence, and that is the distinc-
tion of hypostases, which Zizioulas argues emerged in the writing of the
Cappadocians.
Hypostasis is that in and through which divine-human communion is
realised, and is a distinction necessary not simply for conceptualizing
how such a communion is possible in Christ, but how it is possible at
all. In this sense, Zizioulas’s ‘ontology’, though not explicit in the Greek
fathers, may be interpreted to be consistent with their own logic.
35

(emphasis in original)
The concept of hypostasis is reworked by Zizioulas on the basis of the real-
ism of divine–human communion in Christ – who is fully human and fully
divine. In Papanikolaou’s understanding this use of hypostasis opens up lan-
guage in a way in which essence language could not do.
32
Papanikolaou, A., ‘Divine Energies or Divine Personhood: Vladimir Lossky and John
Zizioulas on Conceiving the Transcendent and Immanent God’, Modern Theology,
19(3) (2003): 373.
33
Papanikolaou‚ Divine Energies‘, p. 373.
34
Papanikolaou, ‘Divine Energies’, p. 377.
35
Papanikolaou, ‘Divine Energies’, p. 378.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
87
Papanikolaou argues that divine–human communion understood in terms
of the Incarnation sets before the world and the churches the understanding,
‘that God has created the world for so as to effect a communion between
God and the world’.
36
On the basis of this understanding, Papanikolaou
argues that the mystical and the political are not opposed to one another.
Rather the mystical is not to be understood only in personal terms, and ‘any
experience of the love of God must be embodied and manifested in particu-
lar relations.’
37
Such an understanding does not identify the divine with
worldly structures but refers rather to the Orthodox understanding that the
world is ‘sacramental’. ‘The world is already participating in God’s life, and
the challenge for humans is to create the kinds of relationships, both politi-
cal and ecclesial, that would maximize the degree of participation of the
world in God.’
38
He sees the outcomes of divine–human communion and/or
theoˉ sis in terms of ‘a world in which particularity, otherness, difference,
relationality, and freedom are the norm and relect the glory of God, which
is the presence of God’s love that is always striving to show itself’.
39
The use
of these categories is crucial in the realization of a relational understanding
of deihcation.
Despite the polemic in the crafting of the East–West differences and the
propagation of false conlicts in terms of the ‘de Régnon paradigm’ and the
artihcial dispute between Aquinas and Palamas, there is much inspiration
to gained from recent Orthodox relection on deihcation. In the construal of
the doctrine in relational terms, Bulgakov provides the basis for an appeal
to the collective; Sophrony, to experience; Lossky, to personhood and
anthropology; Nellas, to Christihcation and, by extension, to ecclesio logy;
Staniloae, to the cosmic and the practice of the virtues; Louth, to the an
overarching framework; McGuckin, to communion; and Papanikolaou,
to alterity and relationality.
Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
The period of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a time in which
Orthodox theology was faced with a number of extraneous inluences. The
outcomes of the interaction between the Orthodox tradition and Western
theological and philosophical traditions produced a revival, in the monas-
teries at least, in the Hesychast tradition of contemplative prayer. Kallistos
Ware has suggested that the second half of the eighteenth century was a
moment when Orthodox theologians and monks began to recognize that
36
Papanikolaou, ‘Orthodoxy, Postmodernity, and Ecumenism’, p. 541.
37
Papanikolaou, ‘Orthodoxy, postmodernity, and ecumenism’, p. 545.
38
Papanikolaou, ‘Orthodoxy, Postmodernity, and Ecumenism’, p. 545–6.
39
Papanikolaou, ‘Orthodoxy, Postmodernity, and Ecumenism’, p. 546.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
88
their tradition was threatened by the inluences from Roman Catholicism,
Protestantism and the Enlightenment. In Ware’s view, while the Fall of Con-
stantinople in 1453 was an event of enormous signihcance in terms of the
Orthodox understanding of Christendom, in many ways the Orthodox tra-
dition continued to function more or less on the same intellectual and
spiritual premises as it had before the Ottoman period.
40
By the second half
of the eighteenth century it became evident that there were new intellectual
developments among educated Greeks. This has been termed ‘modern
Hellenism’, which was more secular in outlook and looked back beyond the
Christian era to ancient Greece for its inspiration. It was also inluenced by
the philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire and Encyclopaedists.
41

The inluence of Latin theology upon Orthodox theology and spirituality
had been evident from at least the thirteenth century, and this too begins to
be questioned. A spiritual and theological revival associated with a group of
monks from Mount Athos known as the Kollyvades, which commended the
practice of frequent communion among other things, emerged in the second
half of the eighteenth century. Among that group were Makarios of Corinth
(1731–1805) and Nikodimos the Hagiorite (1749–1809), who are under-
stood to be the editors of the collection of texts known as the Philokalia,
published in Venice in 1782.
42
The Philokalia
43
Perhaps the hrst thing to recognize about this collection of texts from the
Patristic and Medieval periods is that the reason for its publication is an
awareness among Orthodox monks and theologians that there is a problem.
A problem associated with the new learning of the Enlightenment as well as
the different perspectives of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In other
words, the Philokalia may be interpreted as a product of the Enlightenment.
It is a deliberate collecting together of early and medieval Christian sources
in support of a tradition of Hesychast or contemplative prayer, which is seen
as a distinctive Orthodox practice. The motivation behind and purpose of
40
Ware, K., ‘The Inner Unity of the Philokalia and its inluence in East and West’, in
S. Alexander (ed.) (Athens: Onassis Public Beneht Foundation, 2004), p. 1.
41
The main exponent of ‘modern Hellenism’ in the eighteenth century was Adamantios
Korais. See Ware, Inner Unity, p. 3.
42
The Philokalia of the Holy Neptic Fathers, 1iio|oiio ¬ov Itpo v Nq¬¬i|ov, published
in Venice in 1782. Partial English translations of the Russian of Theophan the Recluse
were published by Faber and Faber in 1951 and 1954. A full English translation is still
in production in hve volumes by Faber. The hrst four volumes are currently available
the hrst was published in 1979.
43
‘Philokalia’ means love for what is beautiful and good, love for God as the source
of beauty and goodness, and also love for what leads to union with the divine and
uncreated beauty. Philokalia can also mean ‘anthology’.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
89
the Philokalia was to offer an answer, a distinctive answer to the issues
which the Enlightenment and the perspectives of Roman Catholicism and
Protestantism brought to bear upon Orthodoxy. This answer is rooted in an
appeal to two core practices: nepsis and hesychia. Nepsis [vq¢i,] relates to
the virtues of sobriety, temperance and lucidity; vigilance and watchfulness;
and hesychia [qou_io] to the inner stillness of the heart. In other words, this
is an appeal to inner, rather than external action and to the concerns of the
kingdom within each believer. Second, this collection of texts is concerned
with deihcation. The words of hrst sentence of the preface state that
God, the blessed nature, perfection that is more than perfect, the crea-
tive principle of all that is good and beautiful, Himself transcending all
goodness and all beauty, in His supremely divine plan preordained
from all eternity the deihcation [theoˉ sis] of humankind.
44
Transforming union with the living God is the ongoing theme throughout
the Philokalia, which is to be achieved through the constant invocation of
the Holy Name of Jesus. In this way the grace of Baptism which becomes
obscured during life is to be reactivated.
The editors of the Philokalia express in this collection the perspective that
the Greek Church and nation need to be reminded of their distinctive herit-
age and that this is best done through reading the mystical theology of the
patristic and medieval periods. The method of the editors is to use these
sources as a kind of ressourcement in order to combat in particular the per-
spective of the Enlightenment philosophers. So the purpose of the Philokalia
is primarily practical and is intended not just for specialists, that is, monks,
but for all the Orthodox. The title page states that it is for the ‘beneht of all
the Orthodox’ [ti, |oivqv ¬ov Opûoöoçov o¢titiov]. Most texts included
in the collection were written by monks for monks, but the editors had a
much broader audience and purpose in mind. Nikodimus understood that
the vocation to ‘pray without ceasing’ is for all Christians, those married as
well as monks; those with families; and farmers, merchants and lawyers.
The preface of the Philokalia recognizes that not everyone agrees with this
broad ‘democratic’ intention and purpose. Indeed there might even be risk
involved in making the texts available. The editors were clear that obedience
to a spiritual father was very important, and yet they took the risk of pub-
lishing the Philokalia. In this way the Philokalia may be said to be a product
of the Enlightenment in that its promotion of a democratic reception of the
tradition is akin to the agenda of the encyclopaedists.
The scheme of the book is a simple chronological order, with no system-
atic classihcation and no indication which texts were for beginners or which
44
Ware, Inner Unity, p. 2.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
90
were meant for the more experienced. The texts advocate ‘a scientihc method’
of continual prayer to Christ in which the whole intellect is turned towards
the inner self. This ‘spiritual and scientihc work’ evokes the virtues against
the passions in order to reactivate the grace of Baptism. The predominating
approaches to prayer and deihcation in the Philokalia are the ideas of the
writers Evagrios of Pontus from the fourth century, a colleague and friend
of the Cappadocian fathers, and Maximos the Confessor from the seventh
century. Ware argues that the editors were followers of the interpretation
of Hesychasm associated with Gregory Palamas. Nikodimos edited a three-
volume collection of Palamas’ works, although this was never published.
However, the fourteenth-century Hesychast writings occupy no more than a
quarter of the collection of the texts and the Heyschast texts chosen contain
little about the experience of divine light and the essence–energies distinc-
tion associated with the Heyschast controversy. Andrew Louth suggests that
the editors created a ‘canon’ for the Hesychast tradition.
What the Philokalia does is to canonize a tradition of hesychast
spirituality stretching right back from the hesychast controversy to the
fourth century; quite what lies behind this creation of a canon is not
clear, though it is very likely that the selection derives from many
years, probably centuries, of monastic formation: these are the kinds
of works monks were recommended to read by their spiritual fathers,
especially in the Athonite tradition. . . . But once seen as part of a tradi-
tion, works are read with presuppositions that may be foreign to the
spirit in which they were originally written.
45
So how are the preconceptions and intentions of the editors to be understood
and received? Some scholars have argued that Nikodimos was inluenced
signihcantly by Roman Catholic spirituality, canon law and theology. This
is evidenced in his translations of The Spiritual Combat published originally
in 1589 by Lorenzo Scupoli, renamed Unseen Warfare, and the Spiritual
Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. He appealed to Roman Catholic canon
law in The Rudder, and Roman Catholic inluence is also found in his man-
ual on sacramental confession, the Exomologetarion. The inluence of
Western pietistic moralism is to be seen in his Chrestoethia of Christians.
Ware argues that while Nikodimos adapted to a Western audience by using
Western texts and approaches, this is not the case in the Philokalia. Nikodimus
does not use texts from the Counter Reformation in the Philokalia. The
collection is not framed as an attack on ‘the West’; rather the collection is
45
Louth, A., ‘Light, Vision, and Religious Experience in Byzantium’, in M. T. Kapstein
(ed.), The Presence of Light: Divine Radiance and Religious Experience (Chicago and
London: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 89.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
91
offered to all Christians: monks and laity as ‘a mystical school of noetic
prayer’.
46
As an inluential collection of texts, the Philokalia may be said to be a
‘hermeneutical hlter’ which conditions the self-understanding of the Orthodox
as well as the perception of the Orthodox by the ‘non-Orthodox’. Although
the intention of the editors was that the collection should be available to
all Christians, the texts were published in their original form of the Greek
language which most Greeks in 1782 and since would not have found par-
ticularly accessible. Only from 1957 has there been a project to produce the
Philokalia in modern Greek, facilitating its use by a much broader audience.
It was the Slavonic translation published in 1793 made by Paissy Velitchkovsky
and encouraged by Metropolitan Gabriel of St Petersburg which meant
that the Philokalia had a popular audience in Russia. The 1793 collection
was enlarged in the edition of Theophan the Recluse in 1877. The Philokalia
was regularly reprinted throughout the nineteenth century and became very
popular. It was an inluence upon Seraphim of Sarov who encouraged its
dissemination, and it was popularized in the publication of The Way of the
Pilgrim. The Philokalia has been translated into many languages during the
second half of the twentieth century. Staniloae published a Romanian trans-
lation which was complete by 1981. An English translation based on the
Russian edition of Theophan was published by Faber and Faber through the
encouragement of T. S. Eliot and spread the collection’s inluence and popu-
larity to an Anglophone audience. Thus, the Philokalia is a hermeneutical
hlter between the early and medieval sources and their reception in the
twentieth century, offering to the Orthodox themselves as well as to ‘non-
Orthodox’ Christian traditions a sense of Orthodox identity and practice. In
summary Louth writes that
The Philokalia . . . has had an enormous impact on modern Orthodoxy:
virtually all the great names of twentieth century Orthodox theology –
Lossky, Florovsky, Meyendorff, Greeks such as Nellas and Mantzaridis
and even Yannaras, the Romanian Staniloae, and such representatives
of monastic theology as Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex and Bishop
Hierotheos Vlachos – can be regarded as standing in a ‘Philokalic’
or ‘Neo-Palamite’ tradition. This tradition of ‘Byzantine mysticism’ is
then a living tradition, which only makes it the more difhcult to
approach it in a critical, scholarly way. Most scholarly work on
Byzantine mysticism that has been done in the past hundred years,
including the edition of texts, has been done from within this tradition,
with the result that the perspective represented by the Philokalia has
been taken for granted.
47
46
Ware, Inner Unity, p. 12.
47
Louth, Light, Vision, and Religious Experience, p. 88.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
92
The Russian Hesychast revival
Although it would be oversimplistic to suggest that the only developments
within Orthodoxy took place in Russia in the late eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, I will focus on two hgures from the Russian landscape of theology
and philosophy as examples of the inluence which Russia has on the devel-
opment of Orthodox theology. One is primarily an experiential example,
and the other, theoretical. However, the experiential has doctrinal implica-
tions, and the theoretical is rooted in personal mystical experience. Both
examples testify to the impact of the revived interest in the experience and
practices witnessed in the Philokalia.
The witness to the experience of deihcation in the life Seraphim of Sarov
(1759–1833) is to be seen against the background of the adoption of aspects
of the Western European Enlightenment in the Russian Empire from the
late seventeenth century onwards. The reforms of the Church by Tsars such
as Peter the Great and Catherine II led to the closure of many Russian
monasteries. However, during the second half of the eighteenth century
there was a spiritual revival within the monastic life. The life of Seraphim of
Sarov provides a clear witness to this revival. His understanding of spiritual
warfare and his theology and experience of ‘charismatic shining’ sits in the
tradition of the Philokalia and the practice of the Jesus Prayer. Seraphim was
inluenced in particular by Paissy Velitchkovsky (1722–94) a staretz from
Moldova. He translated the Philokalia into Church Slavonic which was
published in St Petersburg in 1793 under the title Dobrotoliubie. Some
scholars claim that it is through this translation that the Philokalia attains
its widest inluence in Orthodoxy. Velitchkovsky is credited with beginning
a neo-Hesychast revival in Russian and Moldovan monasteries, and which
contributed to a revival of starchestvo [staretsism] the practice of spiritual
leadership and direction which St Seraphim developed after his time as a
hermit. Further evidence of the inluence of this movement can be seen in the
nineteenth-century publication, The Way of a Pilgrim, the work of an anony-
mous Russian monk, which details the practice of the Jesus Prayer and the
study of the Philokalia.
48
Tikhon of Zadonsk, bishop of Voronezh (1724–82)
is another witness to this revival. He experienced visions of the divine light
and wrote of the transhguring power of the resurrection, mediated through
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Despite his ascetical life and mystical experiences Seraphim was not
elitist in his understanding of prayer and spirituality. He encourages his
lay disciple Nicholas Motovilov in his catechism on the Holy Spirit by insist-
ing that God makes no distinction between the monk and the lay man.
‘The Lord hears the prayers of a simple layman just as he does a monk’s,
provided they are both living in true faith and loving God from the depths
48
The Way of a Pilgrim (London: SPCK, 1972).
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
93
of their heart.’
49
Such an understanding is an important aspect of Orthodox
tradition which is often perceived, perhaps especially by those hostile to
or sceptical about theoˉ sis, as a tradition which favours a spiritual elite of
mystic monks. Here in the teachings of Seraphim is evidence of a corporate
and ‘democratic’ understanding of the spirituality which accompanies the
metaphor of deihcation.
Vladimir Solovyov [Soloviev] (1853–1900) is one of the main hgures in
the landscape of Russian philosophy and theology in the nineteenth century.
In his early years he rejected Christianity but found faith again in his late
teens and stands within the Russian Orthodox tradition. His approach to
faith and religion led him to a strong interest in ecumenism particularly
between Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic Church. He taught philosophy
in the University of Moscow and was known as a poet.
50
It is through poetry
that he expressed his mystical experiences. These experiences and his philo-
sophical enquiry together inform his theological views, in which ‘unity’
plays an important role. It is in relation to this focus on unity that he explores
the concept of Sophia and expounds his notion of sophiology and his under-
standing of God-manhood.
51
His experience of the divine light, which he
associates with wisdom [Sophia], is expressed in the concluding stanzas of
the poem, Three Meetings:
Still the slave of the vain world’s mind,
But beneath rough matter’s rind,
I’ve clearly seen eternal violet, rich royal purple,
And felt the warm touch of divine light!
Triumphing over death in wisdom’s light,
Stilling the dream of time from its unyielding light,
Eternal Beloved, your name is held hid by my utmost plight,
And forgive my timorous song!
52
Solovyov’s exposition of sophiology is something which in the long term
was ofhcially rejected by the Russian Orthodox Church but continues to
49
Cited by Bobrinskoy, B., ‘Introduction’ in V. Zander, St Seraphim of Sarov (Crestwood,
NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999), p. xii.
50
For example, Solovyov, V., The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Postivists,
(Lindisfarne Press, 1996); Three Encounters (Three Meetings) 1875.
51
Solovyov, V., ‘Lectures on Godmanhood’ (1878) in V. S. Solovyov and E. L. Radlov
(eds), Collected Works of V. S. Solovyov (St Petersburg, 1911–14; Brussels, 1966).
52
Solovyov, V., concluding stanzas of the Three Meetings (http://www.poetry-chaikhana.
com/S/SolovyovVlad/ThreeMeeting.htm), accessed 2 June 2009. English version by
Ivan M. Granger.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
94
fascinate theologians today.
53
However, I shall focus on his understanding of
unity and God-manhood, which are generally deemed to be more within a
traditionally Orthodox framework of Christian theology.
The expression of Solovyov’s understanding of unity has particular
implications for the construal of ecclesiology and a relational interpretation
of deihcation. His focus on unity is manifest in his understanding of the
universal character of Christianity, which he expresses in the terms: pan-
wholeness, worldwideness and globalism. This ecclesial manifestation of
unity is rooted in prior Christological claims: ‘The all-connecting pivot in
the unity is the Godman Christ. “Godmanhood” [bogoƛeloveƛestvo] is the
historical-theological realization of pan-unity.’
54
He understands that the
union achieved in Christ is a union of things divine and human, a union of
spirit and matter, eternity and time; it is the culmination of evolution and
the beginning of the deihcation of humankind and world. ‘God-manhood’ is
an uncommon term, which, in Solovyov’s usage, encompasses not only the
divine Incarnation but also its outcome – redeemed humankind. Solovyov
expresses his understanding of redemption in the terms: obožestvlenie
[deihcation], preobrazovanie [transformation] and pereoždenie [rebirth],
which he understands as not so much as a future outcome as a present reality.
‘Redemption is considered to be a harmonic-evolutionary process, instead
of an eschatological break in history; and as a cosmic and collectively human
event, instead of an appeal from God aimed at the individual human being.’
55

God-manhood is then a collectivist concept, for Christ’s ‘act’ of redemption
is contained in his cosmic function of re-creator of mankind. Solovyov
rejects Western understandings of redemption, both Catholic and Protestant,
as satisfaction for the ‘disturbed legal relation with God’. Although he
understands salvation to be collectivist, he warns against any political or
ideological understandings of salvation, particularly those associated with
socialism, for salvation is understood to be based solely on the divine–human
unity, found in Christ and presently in the Church. Thus, he understands
that the task of the Church is to bring about unity for all humankind.
56
The
Church is the ‘world-wide [vsemirnaja] organisation of true life’. The Church
is the mediator between divine life and physical life; it is the divine–human
life in which eternity is achieved in time and which is at the same time the
realization of divine love in human freedom. It is in effect an instance of col-
lective divine–human synergy. Solovyov’s inluence is received mainly through
his appropriation by Bulgakov. But his understandings of redemption as
53
For example, Milbank, ‘Sophiology and Theurgy’.
54
Bercken, W. Van den, ‘The Ecumenical Vision of Vladimir Solovyov’, Exchange, 28(4)
(1999): 314.
55
Bercken, ‘Ecumenical Vision’, p. 314.
56
Solovyov, V., History and Future of Theocracy (1889); Russia and the Universal Church
(published in French 1889).
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
95
deihcation and of the Church as the corporate means of achieving God-
manhood in the present remain key concepts for an understanding of
deihcation which goes beyond the interior experience of the individual.
The reception of the Philokalia in nineteenth-century Russia facilitated
not only a spiritual revival but also a theological renewal which was based
on the core element of experience. The concepts which Solovyov developed
contribute to an understanding that deihcation is not simply a private con-
cern or experience but something which forms and frames the Church as a
believing community in its relationship with God’s purposes for the whole
cosmos. This conceptuality provides a strong basis for my own purposes in
construing the metaphor of deihcation as a relational doctrine today.
The Middle Ages
The reception and interpretation of the work of theologians in the Middle
Ages by neo-Palamite writers in the twentieth century is focused mainly
around two authors, Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas.
Their place in the hrmament of the defenders of Orthodoxy is secured partly
through their inclusion in the Philokalia and in the case of Palamas through
the vindication of his views in the outcome of the Hesychast controversy in
the mid-fourteenth century. Their place in the construal of Orthodox history
is a further indication of the importance of the Philokalia as a means by
which present-day Orthodoxy has come to understand itself. Symeon and
Gregory are key hgures in the presentation of a Hesychast understanding of
prayer and of the outcome of the Christian Life in deihcation. The period
from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries in the Byzantine Empire and
the Orthodox Church was one in which controversy and the threat of the
Ottoman Turks were never far away. The period witnesses the ongoing
struggles relating to the lioque controversy with the Latin Church, which
informs the context of the Hesychast controversy. During this period there
is a movement of renewal in secular learning and ‘humanism’ which is also
part of the background to the Hesychast revival. I will focus primarily upon
the hgures elected by the neo-Palamites: Symeon the New Theologian and
Gregory Palamas, but in addition I will illustrate the theological temper of
the period with a brief examination of the ideas of Michael Psellus, and
Gregory Scholarius, who became the hrst Patriarch following the Ottoman
conquest of Constantinople as Gennadios II. It will also be important to
acknowledge the work of Prochorus Cydones, a monk of Mount Athos,
who represents another dimension of this period – the increasing interest in
Latin theology among some Orthodox theologians.
The work of Michael Psellus (c.1018–78) provides a remarkable example
of the renaissance in learning which occurred in the Byzantine world
from the eleventh century onwards and produced what has been called a
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
96
‘Christian Hellenism’.
57
Psellus was a polymath working in many disciplines,
including philosophy and theology. In relation to the metaphor of deihca-
tion he explores the use of image and likeness,
58
the understanding of
deihcation in terms of perfection,
59
and he reiterates the conceptuality of
the exchange formula.
60
He employs the technical language of ûtoûqvoi
[to become one with God] and µiçti [to mingle] in order to express the
metaphor of deihcation. The work of Psellus provides clear evidence of an
ongoing tradition of deihcation in Greek theology in the eleventh century.
The life of Symeon the New Theologian spans the tenth and eleventh
centuries (949–1022); however, some scholars have suggested later dates.
He became a monk in 977 having been employed in imperial service. His
discussion of deihcation is set out in traditional terms, but he also writes of
his own experience of participation in the divine light. This focus on the
divine light places him alongside other witnesses to the divine light such as
Gregory Nazianzen and the Hesychasts of the fourteenth century.
Andrew Louth argues that Symeon is a newcomer to a Greek audience
and is more well-known and popular in Russian tradition.
61
Symeon’s work
is included in the Philokalia, where three texts are attributed to him, but
most scholars agree that the third text on the Jesus Prayer is not Symeon’s
work. In the twentieth century Symeon has become more widely known,
through the work of Basil Krivocheine,
62
and Symeon is now established as
a major resource for neo-Palamist theologians. Many scholars have assumed
that Symeon was a precursor of the Hesychasts of the fourteenth century
because of the way in which he draws on the experience of divine light. Louth
questions this assimilation of Symeon into the Hesychast tradition. This
interpretation of Symeon may be an example of the effect of the Philokalia
on the reception of the Orthodox mystical tradition. But rather than situat-
ing him in the tradition, some have seen Symeon as ‘the great exception’. It
is interesting to relect that he acquires the title ‘the New Theologian’, which
sets him alongside the two other ‘Theologians’ of the Orthodox tradition:
John the Evangelist and Gregory Nazianzen. Perhaps the acquisition of
this title, given to him by his immediate disciples, is evidence of the desire to
establish him as an orthodox hgure despite his unconventional appeal to
57
Pelikan, J., The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600–1700) (Chicago and London:
The University of Chicago Press, 1974, 1977), p. 243.
58
Psellus, M., in L. G. Westerink (ed.), De omnifaria doctrina (Utrecht, 1948), p. 15.
59
Psellus, De omnifaria doctrine, p. 71.
60
Psellus, On The Annunciation PO 16, 518 Eöti yop ¬ov¬o, ûtoûqvoi ¬ov ovûpo¬ov,
u¬tp¢uou , ¬u_yovov¬o, ¬poyµo¬o, |o¬oiiqiov tivoi |oi ¬o ¬pooiµiov. Lio ¬ou¬o
Xpio¬o, tvqvû¬o¬qotv, o¬i ¬tûto¬oi ¬q |oivq ¬po, ou¬ov µiçti o ovûpo¬o,.
61
Louth, ‘Light, Vision, and Religious Experience’.
62
Krivocheine, B., In the Light of Christ: Saint Symeon the New Theologian (Crestwood,
NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986).
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
97
experience and the controversy which he caused. Louth argues that the ‘life’
written by his follower, Nicetas Stethatos, is to be seen as an attempt to
rehabilitate Symeon. But he suggests that the text of the life obscures or
distorts why Symeon encountered so much opposition. On the whole, mod-
ern scholarship has accepted the life of Symeon as recounted by Nicetas,
which has given him his place in the Hesychast tradition.
63
John McGuckin has argued that attempts to interpret Symeon as a
Hesychast is wilful misrepresentation, which emerges from a misreading of
Symeon’s account of experience and the way in which he appeals to the
paradigm of Christ’s Transhguration.
64
Louth and McGuckin argue that
this stems from the crudely ‘realist’ interpretations of Symeon by modern
writers. ‘A properly critical approach needs to treat Symeon’s visions not
simply as straightforward records, but as literary texts composed for a pur-
pose by someone who was certainly not ignorant of the skills of rhetoric.’
65

This means that there is a need to distinguish between those texts in which
Symeon appeals to ‘vision’ as a metaphor rather than necessarily referring to
actual experience and those “epiphanic” visions, where Symeon does give an
account of his own experience of visions. In recounting his own experience
Symeon follows the example of St Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. McGuckin sets
out a typology for interpreting such ‘Epiphanic visions’, based upon three
biblical paradigms: (1) ‘Sinai paradigm’, for example, Moses’ vision of God
on Mount Sinai and Christ’s Transhguration; (2) ‘Pauline paradigm’, for
example, Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus and his third heaven
rapture; and (3) ‘Open heaven paradigm’, for example, as witnessed at the
martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7.55). The second and third paradigms sit
in an apocalyptic context, and Louth suggests that there is not much to
distinguish between them. Using this typology McGuckin argues that the
Transhguration is the least suitable paradigm by which to interpret Symeon’s
writings and experiences, as he appeals to the Transhguration only once
explicitly. It is on these grounds in particular that Symeon may be said to be
different from the Hesychasts, as they drew heavily on the paradigm of
the Transhguration as interpreted by Maximos the Confessor. McGuckin
suggests that the ‘Pauline paradigm’ is probably the most appropriate inter-
pretation of Symeon’s experience. Paul used his account of his vision to
reinforce his authority, which Symeon does for himself and his spiritual
father, Symeon ‘Eulabes’. Louth argues that Symeon’s stress on the conscious
63
Louth, ‘Light, Vision, and Religious Experience’, p. 95.
64
McGuckin, J., ‘The Notion of Luminous Vision in 11th-Century Byzantium: Inter-
preting the Biblical and Theological Paradigms of St. Symeon the New Theologian’,
in M. Mullett (ed.), Work & Worship at the Theotokos Evergetis [Acts of the Belfast
Byzantine Colloquium, Portaferry 1995] (Belfast: Queens University Press, 1997),
pp. 90–123.
65
Louth, ‘Light, Vision, and Religious Experience’, p. 95.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
98
experience of divine things, especially of divine activity in the sacraments, is
a feature of a longstanding tradition in Byzantine monasticism. Louth sug-
gests that Symeon may have reasserted this tradition in the face of growing
hierarchical authority in Constantinople at the turn of the millennium.
The background to Symeon’s appeal to experience may have been the
growing intellectual and formal approach to theology, witnessed in the work
of Michael Psellus. Some have seen this move toward a more philosophical
theology as the beginnings of a scholastic turn in Orthodox theology. In the
Discourses, Symeon warns the monks of whom he is the abbot:
brethren in Christ, let us not desire to learn by mere words that which
is beyond utterance; it is equally impossible both for those who teach
about such matters and for those who listen to them. Those who
teach about intellectual and divine realities are not able to supply clear
proofs, . . . or to express their truth concretely. Nor are their pupils
able to learn by mere words the meaning of that about which they
speak. It is by practice and effort and labours that we must be anxious
to grasp these things and attain to contemplation of them. (Discourse
14.5)
66
Symeon’s understanding of deihcation as the outcome of mystical experi-
ence is related to the standard conceptualizations of theoˉ sis in terms of the
exchange formula, an appeal to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as
well as to theoˉ ria [the vision of light]. He sees the metaphor of deihcation as
the core expression of salvation. The deihcation of humanity is understood
to be the purpose of the Incarnation: ‘Why did God become man?’ ‘So
that man might become god’ (Ethics 5.31–4; 7.59–8). Believers put on the
divinity of Christ in Baptism and receive the ‘wondrous exchange’ of the
Incarnation in the Eucharist. So as well as his appeal to mystical experience
his understandings of deihcation are hrmly rooted in ecclesial and corporate
contexts. Symeon was criticized for his teachings, in particular for his ven-
eration of his spiritual father Symeon the Studite immediately following his
death and for his understanding of deihcation in relation to the divine light.
Critics at the time saw deihcation as a goal locked away in the future
eschaton.
While it may be correct to separate Symeon from the fourteenth-century
Hesychast revival, his appeal to the experience of the divine light is impor-
tant in the development of an understanding of the place of experience
within Orthodoxy and of the relationship between experience and deihca-
tion. This understanding has been received in the twentieth and twenty-hrst
centuries as an indication that participation in the divine life is not only a
hope for the future but also for the present.
66
Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses (London: SPCK, 1980).
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
99
There are a number of different questions which emerge when seeking to
situate Gregory Palamas (1296–1359) or as he is more often known within
Orthodoxy, Gregory of Thessaloniki. First, there is the question of the
place of theoˉ sis in theological discourse in Orthodoxy in fourteenth century.
Russell has suggested that most theologians did not read the Orations of
Gregory Nazianzen or the works of Maximos the Confessor, so that theoˉ sis
was used in general theological writing as a metaphor for baptismal adop-
tion by grace and the hnal outcome of resurrected life.
67
However, he does
suggest that the texts of Gregory Nazianzen and Maximos were read and
understood by the pioneers of the ‘Hesychast revival’. Second, was ‘Palamism’
a forgotten strand in Orthodoxy until the renewal of interest in the twentieth
century, as was argued in the 1974 edition of Istina?
68
Both Yannaras and
Barrois have argued fervently that this was not the case.
69
Rather the defence
of the Hesychast vision of divine light at the synods in Constantinople in
1341, 1357 and 1351 and also in the formal statement of the Hagioretic
Tome issued by monks of Mount Athos (1340–1) are acknowledged formal
additions to Orthodox belief, which are reafhrmed each year on the hrst
Sunday of Great Lent, in the reading of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy. Yet
despite these formal declarations the Hesychast controversy was never quite
resolved, and any resolution there might have been was overtaken by fall of
Constantinople in 1453. Arising from this lack of resolution a third question
emerges: were the teachings of Gregory Palamas in continuity with the tra-
dition or were they innovatory? Russell argues that Palamas not only stands
in continuity with but also develops the tradition. Indeed Palamas acknowl-
edged that his teaching was a ‘development’ of the fathers, for in the Council
of 1351 he acknowledges that his understandings are an ‘anapryxis’ [unfold-
ing] of what fathers had said.
70
In terms of a doctrine of development this
claim corresponds to what Maurice Wiles understood as a ‘logical’ model of
development, in which implicit understandings are later drawn out. The
evolutionary model was expounded by Newman, and Wiles proposed a
third model of ‘change through alteration of perspective’ in which new
insights are acknowledged. Russell argues that Palamas approaches theoˉ sis
from a new perspective, from the particular understanding and experience
of Hesychasm, which is no doubt why Palamas’ understandings were
questioned and rejected by his opponents. Palamas builds upon the appeal
to experience found in the writings of Macarius ‘the Great’ (c.300–91) and
67
Russell, N., ‘Theoˉ sis and Gregory of Palamas: Continuity or Doctrinal Change?’
St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 50(4) (2006): 357.
68
Istina, 19(3) (1974).
69
Yannaras, C., ‘The Distinction between Essence and Energies and Its Importance
for Theology’, St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 19(4) (1975): 232–45; Barrois,
G., ‘Palamism Revisited’, St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 19(4) (1975): 211–31.
70
Russell, ‘Theoˉ sis and Gregory of Palamas’, p. 378.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
100
Symeon the New Theologian, and he gives this appeal a rationale. The expe-
rience of the divine light through the practices of prayer in the Hesychast
revival are construed around the distinction between the divine essence and
energies in order to preserve the unknowability of God in se, while asserting
that the outcome of prayer is an ‘uncreated’ deihcation of the believer. The
experience of the divine light, to which the Hesychasts bear testimony, is
given a rationale in the terms of a highly sophisticated, if not always consist-
ent epistemology. Palamas produces a hrst defence of deihcation against
overt criticism, which led the Orthodox Church to grant an ofhcial status to
the doctrine of deihcation.
Gregory Palamas became a monk at age 20, and around the year 1318 he
visited Mount Athos and encountered those who followed the Hesychast
life, a life of prayer and of withdrawal from world, in order to seek partici-
pation in the uncreated energies of God. Gregory began a correspondence
with Barlaam of Calabria, a leading philosopher in Constantinople, con-
cerning the problem of the knowledge of God. In relation to this quest for
understanding in 1337 Gregory published the hrst of his Triads in defence
of Hesychast understanding and practice. Gregory maintained the ineffabil-
ity of the divine essence while arguing that human beings could know and
participate in God, through the divine energies. Barlaam rejected any claim
that human beings could participate in God and in Against the Messalians
he accuses the Hesychasts of the same heresy as the Messalians of the fourth
century; that is, through constant prayer a corporeal vision of the divine
essence could be achieved. In 1340 Palamas was accused of heresy; in his
defence, he expounded a theory of deihcation, arguing that human persons
are transformed by God, through real experience of the vision of divine
light, which is both perceptible and completely spiritual. This was construed
on the basis of the distinction between energies and essence: the divine
essence remaining imparticipable and transcendent. The Taboric Light
(referring to the Mount of Transhguration) is understood by Palamas to be
‘symbolic’ but nonetheless ‘real’. The Taboric light is not just an external
phenomenon; it is enhypostatic and is related to the hypostasis of the person
of Christ, who is both human and divine. So the Taboric light is an ‘enhypo-
static symbol’ which enables the beholder to participate in the divine. But
Barlaam argued that a symbol was something other than the reality it repre-
sents. Thus, while Barlaam accepted a notion of theoˉ sis, he understood that
the believer shared in a ‘created’ divinity because there is only one uncreated
divinity. Palamas argued in response that Barlaam’s notion of ‘created divin-
ity’ meant in some sense that God was a creature! Through his appeal to
the essence–energies distinction Palamas was able to leave the divine tran-
scendence uncompromised, while the believer participated in the uncreated
divine life. It is this very point which remains a contested issue among those
who pit Palamas against Aquinas. The Orthodox who champion Palamism
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
101
argue that Aquinas’ understanding of deihcation only permits the believer to
participate in created grace.
There were other dissenting voices within Orthodoxy. Prochorus Cydones,
an Athonite monk, wrote against Palamas in 1360s. Cydones is also known
for his translation the works of Aquinas. Cydones denied that God can be
divided into essence and energies and that God could be participated in. He
asserted that God IS light, so that divine light is of the divine essence.
Cydones did not reject the term ‘theoˉ sis’, but he argued that any change in
the believer was qualitative, rather than substantial. On Mount Tabor the
Apostles had been changed, but there was no change in Christ himself. On
this basis, theoˉ sis is understood as a relational term and believers become
‘gods’ only in title or analogy. Cydones’ interest in and translation of
Aquinas into Greek is understood by many scholars as a symptom of the
‘Westernization’ of Orthodoxy, which twentieth-century Palamism sought
to redress. His own views may have been inluenced by his study of Aquinas’
works.
The main interest in Palamas’ teaching relates to his exposition of the
Hesychast experience, within a monastic context. However, there is evidence
in his preaching of a much greater emphasis on the Incarnation, where dei-
hcation and immortality are attained through Baptism and the imitation of
Christ. Palamas understands the outcome of theoˉ sis not in terms of created
grace, that is, a change brought about in the believer by divine action, but
rather theoˉ sis ‘signihes a real participation in the life of God, making us
homoethoi and gods by grace’.
71
Palamas achieves an understanding of dei-
hcation which brings the creature to share in the life of the creator, without,
in his own terms, compromising either the createdness of the creature or the
uncreatedness of the creator, and without overthrowing the unknowability
of God in se.
The philosopher and theologian George Scholarios (c.1405–72), who
became the hrst Patriarch after the fall of Constantinople as Gennadios II,
bears witness to the ongoing controversy surrounding Hesychasm a century
on from the time of Palamas. Two anti-Barlaamite texts of Scholarios survive,
72

in which he defends the stance of Palamas in favour of the Heyschasts and
in particular endorses the essence–energies distinction. Scholarios wrote
various works after his resignation as Patriarch in 1459. These are mainly
works of apologetic in which he defends Orthodox Christian belief in the
71
Russell, ‘Theoˉ sis and Gregory of Palamas’, p. 376.
72
Gennadius II Scholarios, in L. Petit, X. Siderides and M. Jugie (eds), Oeuvres
Completes de Georges Scholarios, volumes I–VII (Paris: Maison de la Bonne Presse,
1928–36) Anti-Barlaamite texts: (1) ‘Against the Partisans of Acindyne’, (2) ‘The dis-
tinction between the divine essence and energies’, in vol. III (1930), pp. 434–52.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
102
Trinity and the Incarnation for a potential Muslim audience. Scholarios
had attended the Council of Florence (1439) and that stage had supported
reunion with Rome. But later he changed his mind and became a staunch
advocate of Orthodoxy over against the Latin West. This polemic was
enhanced by his knowledge of scholasticism and of the works of Aquinas,
some of which he had translated into Greek. Scholarios is a witness to the
ongoing controversy surrounding a Palamite construal of mystical experience
and deihcation. As Patriarch he endorses the acceptance of Palamism as
Orthodox, but his main energies were devoted to a polemic against the
‘West’ and an apologetic to the Ottoman Turks and their Muslim faith.
The lack of resolution to the Hesychast controversy in the Middle Ages
demonstrates the extent to which the combination of the publication of the
Philokalia and the neo-Palamite revival in the twentieth century have shaped
the acceptance of the metaphor of deihcation and the identity of Orthodoxy
in recent times.
A new beginning or revival?
By the late hfth century the language of deihcation and its underlying con-
ceptuality were not much in use in theological discourse, for the appeal to
deihcation as a metaphor for salvation was no longer in vogue. The reason
for this is mainly to be found in the suspicion surrounding the teachings
of Origen and those who shaped theological relection along similar lines.
Suspicion had accrued to Origen’s texts insofar as some of his ideas were used
by Arius, as well as the ‘orthodox’ such as Athanasius and the Cappadocian
fathers. Epiphanius of Salamis publicly condemned Origen’s teachings in
394 in Jerusalem. Others such as John of Jerusalem and Ruhnus had sought
to defend his work at this stage. However, during the sixth century, Origen’s
theological stance was ofhcially condemned, a synod in Constantinople in
544 condemned hfteen propositions attributed to Origen, and the Second
Council of Constantinople in 553 (the Fifth Ecumenical Council) reiterated
this condemnation. This council was concerned to defend the orthodoxy of
the Chalcedonian understanding of the Person of Christ and condemned a
number of other theologians who were considered to have strayed from the
understanding of the Hypostatic Union enunciated in 451.
73
It was against
this background that Ps-Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximos the Con-
fessor ‘revive’ the language of deihcation. Later generations have interpreted
their work as the classic construction of deihcation in the late patristic
period. The question which emerges is whether this construction is to be
understood as a revival or in effect a new beginning in terms of the discourse
73
Among those condemned in 553 at the Second Council of Constantinople for their
heretical understandings of the Person of Christ were Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius,
Apollinarius Nestorius, Eutyches, Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
103
concerning theoˉ sis in the Tradition. The background to this question may be
understood in relation to the two ecumenical councils which followed the
Second Council of Constantinople. The Third Council of Constantinople in
680–1 dealt with the issue of how many wills are to be understood as func-
tioning in the Person of Christ. The notion of a single will, the so-called
‘Monothelite’ heresy was condemned, and it was declared as orthodox to
believe that Christ exercised two wills, human and divine, parallel with the
Chalcedonian construal of the two natures. The following council, the
Second Council of Nicaea in 787 dealt with the iconoclast controversy
and reiterated a Chalcedonian understanding of the Hypostatic Union.
74

The texts of Maximos the Confessor and of John of Damascus inluence the
outcomes of these councils, which in part rests upon their advocacy and
exposition of the metaphor of the deihcation, grounded in their interpre-
tation of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. As the analysis of Ps-Dionysius and
Maximos unfolds I will assess whether it is possible to answer the question
whether this is a new beginning or revival.
Diadochos of Photike (d.c.486) provides a useful witness to hfth-century
usage. He had been a student of Evagrios, and as bishop of Photiki attended
the Council of Chalcedon. His principal work On Spiritual Knowledge and
Discrimination: One Hundred Texts is a classic text on mystical experience
and prayer.
75
He draws upon the ascetical theology of Evagrios combined
with an appeal to experience found in the Macarian writings. Diadochos sets
out a detailed understanding of the stages of the spiritual life, of which the
hnal goal is divine – human communion, understood as an eschatological
reality. But he avoids the language of deihcation, presumably because it was
too suspect to be used. Diadochos draws a distinction between the divine
image and likeness in the human person. He argues that while the image
remains after the Fall the likeness was lost. He expresses the difference
between image and likeness in terms of an analogy of cartoon and hnished
portrait. In order to recover the likeness the believer needs to hnd a way of
ascent to God. Diadochos understands the spiritual ascent in terms of the
imagery of light and hre, with increased illumination being achieved at each
successive stage. To be perfect is to be permeated with divine light and love,
but even this is not described in the language of deihcation, for only at the
end of time would the human subject attain to the fullest communion with
the divine. Diadochos demonstrates that while the language of deihcation
was not in vogue in the hfth century, interest in the spiritual life remains, the
outcome of which was understood in terms of divine–human intimacy.
74
Among those condemned in 787 at the Second Council of Nicaea were Origen,
Evagrius and Didymus, for their ‘mythical speculations’.
75
‘On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: 100 texts’ is cited in the Philokalia,
vol. 1, (1979).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
104
If Diadochus typihes a reticence in expressing the metaphor of deihca-
tion in the theological discourse of the hfth century, Dionysius initiates
a new boldness of expression in the sixth. The identity of the person who
called himself ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’ remains a mystery. ‘Dionysius the
Areopagite’ refers to the man named as one of those who joined St Paul as
a believer after he addressed the people of Athens on the Areopagus (or
Mars Hill; Acts 17.34). His claim to be the Areopagite gave his writings
an almost apostolic status. The authenticity of the claim was questioned
as early as the sixth century by Hypatius of Ephesus and much later in the
West by Nicholas of Cusa, but it was not until the period of the Western
European Renaissance that hgures such as Erasmus openly suggested that
the author lived much later than St Paul’s convert. In order to situate the
writings of Dionysius it is usual to refer to his dependence on the ideas of
the pagan philosopher Proclus (c.412–85). Some modern scholars suggest
that the author was a pupil of Proclus and of Syrian origin. As the hrst
known citation of his work by Severus of Antioch is dated between 518 and
528, it is generally accepted that the Corpus Areopagiticum was complete
before 532. Dionysius seems to have been inluenced by the writings of
Gregory Nazianzen as well as by Proclus, combining Gregory’s emphasis on
the ascent of the soul and Proclus’ on ‘unity’. Proclus was probably the hrst
non-Christian philosopher to borrow the language of deihcation which had
developed in Christian theological relection. Dionysius uses the language
of deihcation as the equivalent of being ‘saved’ and is particularly interested
in the liturgy as the locus of the realization of deihcation as much as in
any mystical experience. He appeals to the idea of exchange – that God
became human, that the human might become God in Epistle 4 – and to the
experience and concept of theoˉ ria, illumination by the divine light in the
Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2.3.1.
Dionysius is the hrst Christian theologian to offer a dehnition of deihca-
tion [ûtooi,]: ‘theoˉ sis is the attaining of likeness to God and union with him
so far as is possible’ [q öt ûtooi, to¬iv q ¬po, ûtov o, t¢i|¬o v o¢oµoiooi,
¬t |oi tvooi,] (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 1.3). Some commentators have
argued that this dehnition demonstrates a high level of dependency on phi-
losophy, mediated through Plotinus and Proclus. The task of evaluating
Dionysius’ writings is complicated. Some see him as primarily a philosopher
while others see him as a Christian apologist who is writing for the educated
classes of the day. Louth has argued that different works suggest different
perspectives for different audiences; the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and the
Divine Names are examples of such difference. The main discussion of deih-
cation is set in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, while in the Divine Names, which
is closer to the philosophy of Proclus, Dionysius sums up the goal of the
Christian tradition as unihcation of the whole created order with God through
a movement of return effected by a process of purihcation, illumination
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
105
and perfection. But in this work he does not appeal to the metaphor of dei-
hcation to express this.
76
The discussion of deihcation is understood in relation to the ‘earthly’ liturgy
rather than to the divine darkness and to the operation of the sacraments
than to the intellectual work of the philosopher. The ecclesial context of
his understanding of theoˉ sis places Dionysius alongside the earlier work of
Origen, Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria. In his exposition of Baptism,
Dionysius argues that this ‘divine birth’ raises a believer to a ‘divine level of
existence’ ((Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2.1). This is achieved on the basis of the
Incarnation of the Word, which transforms human nature, enabling it to
receive a ‘god-like’ form. This salvation is to be appropriated through the
ascent of mind and the imitation of divine will, and the Incarnation supplies
grace in terms of light and beauty in order to achieve this. Dionysius’ eccle-
sial perspective on deihcation is parallel with his philosophical take expressed
in terms of ontology and ethics. Theoˉ sis is understood to be both likeness
and union with God, which are not separate activities, but are focused in the
effort to return to the source of being and attain the highest realization of
the self. Dionysius sets out this understanding in the Divine Names, which
is expressed in a language closest to Proclus’ own usage. Proclus argued that
the return of the human soul to the divine was achieved through asceticism
and virtue, whereby the human soul participates in the divine soul. Through
philosophy the human subject is able to participate in divine intelligence.
However, Proclus understood that the highest level of union is beyond
philosophy and is achieved through love, aided by theurgy. The appeal to
theurgy in Proclus is comparable with Dionysius’ appeal to the sacraments.
However, Russell argues that while Dionysius locates the language of deih-
cation in relation to the sacraments, this language refers to the intellectual
reception of symbols rather than physical participation in the sacrament
(i.e. the body and blood of Christ), which raise the mind to unity and sim-
plicity.
77
Dionysius understands deihcation in terms of participation in the
divine attributes of goodness, wisdom, oneness and deity. The human sub-
ject returns to the supreme cause and becomes a ‘god’. The supreme cause is
understood to be beyond all intellection and being, yet Dionysius does not
simply understand deihcation as an intellectual process. The return is a
reaching out to a personal triadic God, who actively responds, not only with
gift of the capacity for deihcation but also with the gift of himself in his
attributes.
78
76
Louth, A., ‘Review of Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin), Et Introibo ad Altare Dei: The
Mystagogy of Dionysius the Aeropagita, with Special Reference to Its Predecessors in
the Eastern Tradition’, Journal of Theological Studies, 48 (1997): 713.
77
Russell, Deication, p. 261.
78
Russell, Deication, p. 262.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
106
The writings of Dionysius brought the conceptuality of deihcation into the
mainstream of theological discourse at the beginning of the sixth century.
This emerges from a renewed interest in the writings of Proclus and from a
desire to understand salvation in ecclesial and liturgical terms. Dionysius
connects the appeal of Proclus to theurgy and the sacramental tradition of
the Church in order to expound the effects of Baptism and Eucharist in
bringing about divine–human communion. Dionysius became an apologist
for these concerns among the educated classes and practising believers.
He is a ‘mystical theologian’ in the sense that he explicates and encourages
intimacy and union with the divine, but his apologetic is not necessarily
based on personal mystical experience, although it has been used to provide
a rationale for such experience.
Around the beginning of the sixth century Dionysius had presented the
notion of deihcation as a core concept in theological relection. In the sev-
enth century Maximos the Confessor (c.580–662) took this a stage further
and discussed the topic in its own right for hrst time. ‘Deihcation’ had been
used in the Christian tradition as a metaphor for salvation and sanctihca-
tion, but during the sixth century the metaphorical use was supplemented
by Dionysius’ ‘dehnition’, so that deihcation became a technical term. ‘That
is to say, the same truth which was originally expressed in metaphorical
language came in the early Byzantine period to be expressed conceptually
and dogmatically.’
79
This suggests a step change in the understanding of the
role of deihcation in theological discourse as well as in the self-understanding
of ‘Orthodoxy’.
The main question which drives Maximos’ exploration of the doctrine of
deihcation is, how can what is mortal participate in what is transcendent?
In other words, he has an interest in the ‘distance’ which separates the human
and divine and seeks to understand how the divine purposes in creating
and redeeming not only the human race but the whole cosmos are resolved
in the understanding that God seeks to be all in all. The motivation for pur-
suing this enquiry may arise from his own personal spiritual quest and
experience, particularly his vocation to the monastic life, although his appeal
to experience is oblique. The core answer to his main question is expressed
in a theandric understanding of cooperation between the mortal and tran-
scendent, modelled on the paradigm of the Hypostatic Union. This relects
the ongoing debates concerning Christology in the Eastern Church at that
time, particularly the question of how many wills are to be predicated to the
Person of Christ. Using the Incarnation as his paradigm Maximos argues
that the divine and human interpenetrate each other in the believer, without
becoming confused, changed, divided or separated, according to the four
adverbs of the Chalcedonian statement. So it is axiomatic for Maximos that
79
Russell, Deication, p. 1.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
107
God became human that human beings might become god; in other words,
the divine kenoˉ sis produces human theoˉ sis. Deihcation is understood as
not just another way of expressing a Christian understanding of salvation;
rather, it is the purpose for which Adam was created. Adam lost this possi-
bility, but it is restored through Christ, and since the human person is a
microcosm of the cosmos, deihcation does not only concern the human
creation but the entire cosmos (Ad Thalassum, 60, 73–5)
The construct of theoˉ sis found in the writings of Maximos centres on the
possibility of a union with God, which is a gift from God and by which
human beings become ‘gods’. This is achieved through attaining likeness to
God (as far as possible for human beings), by participating in the divine
attributes through a virtuous exercise of the will. Human beings become
what God is – but remain creatures. Theoˉ sis begins in the present life but
only reaches completion in the eschatological state. The main discussion
of theoˉ sis is to be found in Maximos’ works: Commentary on the Lord’s
Prayer, Mystagogia, early Ambigua; Quaestiones ad Thalassium (630–3);
Ambiguam ad Thomam (633 or later); and Chapters on Theology (630–4).
Maximos construes theoˉ sis according to several different approaches,
namely, deihcation as the goal for which human beings are created; as moral
effort and divine grace; and as participation in the divine attributes (espe-
cially eternity). Maximos does not appeal to 2 Peter 1.4 as Cyril of Alexandria
had done. This is possibly because of the use of physis [nature] in the
passage could be interpreted as the equivalent of ousia, which Maximos
understood was non-participiable.
The narrative of the Transhguration [Metamorphoˉ sis] of Christ is a key text
in Maximos’ construction of deihcation. He discusses the Transhguration in
three places, which are all relatively early works, before he became involved
in the Monothelite controversy (Difculties [Ambigua] 10; Centuries on
Theology and the Incarnation, 2.13).
80
Louth argues that Maximos’ under-
standing of the Transhguration emerges from a common antecedent tradition
established by Origen.
81
The Transhguration operates as a kind of matrix
for theology, but it is something to be experienced as the believer’s ascends
to communion with God. The Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer focuses on
the possibility of the synergy between the divine and human wills, which is
premised on an understanding of divine–human reciprocity. The possibility
of the ascetic habit of the virtues and the manifestation of love rests upon
this inherent divine–human reciprocity. (Epistle 2 PG 91 401C) This is
understood in relation to the imago dei
82
and the freedom of the human
80
See Louth, ‘Light, Vision, and Religious Experience’, pp. 91–5.
81
There is also an assimilation of Christ on Tabor and Moses on Sinai, which may be seen
the writings of Ps-Dionysius, Gregory of Nyssa and Clement of Alexandria.
82
See Thunberg, L., Man and the Cosmos: The Vision of St Maximus the Confessor
(Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), pp. 54–5.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
108
will and energy to be able to respond to God, without being annihilated in
the resultant exchange (Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate
Dispensation, 2nd Century 83).

The outcome of this process is described
by commentators in terms of deihcation and communion. The connection
between the paradigm of the Hypostatic Union, the process of deihcation
and the goal of communion is explored by Thunberg, in his analysis that
Maximos understands imago dei as imago trinitatis.
83
It is on the basis of
this understanding, together with the notion that the Incarnation is an
instance of neither assimilation nor assumption, but of reciprocity that
Thunberg writes of an ‘energetic communion’.
84
Despite the appeal to synergy, which is the cause of so much suspicion
among many Protestant commentators, Maximos retains a distance between
the human and divine. God and the human being are understood to be para-
digms of each other, rooted in the concepts of image and likeness. The
process of theoˉ sis results in a perfect coinherence without change of nature,
so that deihcation remains analogous and nominal rather than realistic.
There is an experiential component to Maximos’ writings: he draws upon
the reality of the contemplative life and in doing so secures deihcation as
the goal of the monastic spiritual life in Orthodoxy. But Maximos does
not locate deihcation in private mystical experiences; he locates it in the
experience of the Liturgy, and he understands the Eucharist to be a prime
source of the grace of theoˉ sis. Overall, Maximos establishes ‘deihcation’ as
a core doctrine in Orthodoxy. The status of ‘deihcation’ was also related to
the ongoing Christological controversy and process of dehnition seen in the
councils of the hfth, sixth and eighth centuries. This was not part of the expe-
rience of the Latin Church of the ‘Dark Ages’, and it is this as much later
developments which causes divergence between the traditions.
Another example of the self-understanding of Orthodoxy in terms of
the metaphor of deihcation is seen in the writings of John of Damascus
(c.676–750). The context of these writings was two different but crucial
developments for Eastern Christianity, which are the rise of Islam and the
Iconoclast controversy. Evidence suggests that John, like his father before
him, had worked in the service of the Caliph in Damascus, but around the
age of 30 he left that work and followed his vocation to become a monk in
the deserts of Palestine at the monastery of Saint Sabas. John wrote a defence
of the use of icons and a work in three sections the Fountain Head of Knowl-
edge, the third section of which is known as the Defence of the Orthodox
Faith [De Fide Orthodoxa]. John’s writings are designed to defend and
inform. He predicates his understanding of deihcation on the Hypostatic
Union and in particular on the concept of ‘theandric energy’ which he
83
Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 47.
84
Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 143.
THE DOCTRINE OF DEIFICATION IN ORTHODOXY
109
ascribes to Dionysius.
85
John’s construal of deihcation is based largely on
the writings of Gregory Nazianzen, but he also draws on Maximos the
Confessor. John sets out a theological anthropology in which deihcation is
understood to be the goal of human life. In Paradise human beings were a
composite of matter and spirit. Adam was created perfect and was a micro-
cosm of the cosmos, but he misused his free will and ‘fell’. John distinguishes
between image and likeness; the image relates to the mind and the will,
whereas the divine likeness can be only be attained by virtue. The likeness
was lost by Adam, but the image remains intact. Christ took on himself
human nature in order that human beings might become incorruptible and
partake of divinity. This goal is attained through Baptism and Eucharist,
whereby the believer is incorporated into Christ and deihed by the Spirit.
John’s defence of the Orthodox Faith against the background of the rise of
Islam and the Iconoclast controversy provides him with the opportunity to
state the priorities of the Gospel and the Christian Life as he understood
them. It is evident that the deihed human nature of Christ and the theandric
synergy of the divine and human in Christ are core concepts for John. These
form the basis for what he construes to be the outcome of salvation for the
Christian believer. In time John’s defence of the Orthodox Faith acquired an
elevated status and his focus on the theandric outcome of salvation in theoˉ sis
became a key element in the construal of Orthodox self-understanding.
The interpretation of the collective status of these writers will depend on
the perspective of the person evaluating the contribution to the Christian
tradition which Dionysius, Maximos and John make. Undoubtedly these
theologians have had enormous inluence on the reception of the Tradition
within Eastern Christianity. From the perspective of Orthodoxy, it is impor-
tant to claim that their construal of deihcation is part of an ongoing
orthodox tradition, which set its face against anything understood as ‘inno-
vation’. Innovation has long been equated with heresy. But Gregory Palamas
was able to suggest that he had ‘unfolded’ what the fathers had taught.
Certainly Dionysius and Maximos are at least part of a move to revive the
language of deihcation, and Dionysius can probably be credited with initiat-
ing this move. Between them Dionysius and Maximos dehne and bring
deihcation to the centre of theological discourse in a way in which it had not
been previously. Deihcation becomes a key component in the theological
edihce of God’s purposes in creating and redeeming the cosmos. This emerges
from the Church’s ongoing endeavour to clarify the nature and implications
of the Incarnation understood in terms of the Chalcedonian concept of
the Hypostatic Union. While Dionysius, Maximos and John each in differ-
ent ways understand deihcation in ‘mystical’ terms, they all emphasize the
collective and ecclesial accessibility of deihcation for all believers in the
85
See De Fide Orthodoxa, book 2, chapter 19.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
110
sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Intimacy and union with the divine
are understood to be personal and corporate. Divine–human communion
which is the goal of deihcation is no esoteric or elitist endeavour.
It is celebrated by and for the Church through God’s grace in the sacraments
and is manifested in living out the virtues. The exposition of deihcation to
be found in Dionysius, Maximos and John provides a rich resource for a
present day construal of a relational doctrine of deihcation.
In this chapter I have examined how the metaphor of deihcation is used in
Byzantine Orthodoxy today, and how present usage relates to the use of the
metaphor in the past. I sought to trace the interplay between the use of the
metaphor and the self-understanding of the Orthodox tradition. I narrated
how the doctrine of deihcation emerged in Byzantine Orthodoxy beginning
with the present and proceeding into the past in order to highlight the
hermeneutical processes which have been used in the reception of texts. In
doing so I demonstrated how texts have been re-received in different eras
and how this process of reception has been used to form and change doctri-
nal and ecclesial identity in the Orthodox tradition. In particular I sought to
demonstrate how neo-Palamism within Orthodox theological discourse in
the twentieth century shaped the interpretation of the ‘evolution’ of the
doctrine of deihcation. I mapped the contours of the reception of the meta-
phor of deihcation which have emerged as a result of the publication of the
Philokalia, in relation to the hesychast revivals of the eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries, and the texts of the Middle Ages, and the patristic era. In
doing so, I have attempted to expound the narrative of the use of the meta-
phor of deihcation in ‘Eastern’ Orthodoxy, without privileging the ‘East’
over the ‘West’. Yet I hope that it is evident from this narrative that the use
of the metaphor of deihcation is a distinctive feature of Orthodoxy, which
has changed and evolved over time and which continues to provide a rich
resource for all church traditions today in seeking to interpret the divine
purposes for the cosmos. The main ecumenical question which emerges from
the contemporary take on deihcation in Orthodoxy is whether it is possible
for the Orthodox churches to accept that there might be different ways
of construing the doctrine of deihcation. Traditions such as Pentecostalism
have equivalent understandings of the destiny of the human person but
express this in very different terms and within very different overall theo-
logical frameworks. Is it possible for the Byzantine Orthodox tradition to
acknowledge a formulation of the doctrine of deihcation other than it has
been construed in neo-Palamism? Papanikolaou suggests that Zizioulas has
provided the basis for a different formulation; could such an understanding
assist in bringing different approaches to deihcation closer together? The
narrative of this chapter will form the background to the narrative of the use
of the metaphor of deihcation in the ‘West’, which is discussed in the next
chapter. A comparison of the narratives may provide the basis for an answer
to these questions.
111
5
1nr ‘nicni1rc1Uir’ cr
1nr ·r1nvnci iN 1nr vr:1
Introduction
On the whole, the metaphor of deihcation has been absent from mainstream
theological discourse in the West. This rather bald statement is true of the
Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions of Western Christianity. The
renewal in Orthodox self-understanding during the twentieth century placed
the metaphor of deihcation at the heart of the theological enterprise within
Orthodoxy, which means that deihcation is not simply a metaphor for
salvation but is a core feature of the doctrines of God, creation, theological
anthropology, sanctihcation, the sacraments and eschatology. By compari-
son there is no equivalent in the West. The doctrines of grace or of justihcation
by faith have been employed in ways which have an effect on the construal
of an overall theological pattern or system, but in ‘modern’ theology it is
epistemological concerns which have exercised a controlling effect more
than the doctrines of grace or justihcation. Within what is understood as
mainstream Western theological discourse from the early Middle Ages until
the present time, the metaphor of deihcation has largely been ‘off the radar’.
It is not so much that deihcation as a metaphor and concept was deliberately
rejected; for many theologians it was simply not ‘recognizable’; it was not
a possibility because of the ways in which the divine and the human, the
created and uncreated, sin and grace were construed. Yet within Western
traditions there are constant traces of the metaphor of deihcation, both
within the mainstream as well as in what are perceived to be the ‘peripheral’
traditions. What distinguishes these traditions has been an appeal to (religious)
experience. While on the whole Western theological discourse has found it
difhcult to draw on experience as a resource for theological relection, it was
a major source of Gregory Palamas’ defence of Hesychasm. It was the experi-
ence of the Jesus Prayer, in the Hesychast revival which was the source of
Palamas’ relection on and defence of theoˉ sis as a core theological concept.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
112
Relection upon experience has often been the source for those in the West
who have embraced the metaphor of deihcation. The medieval mystics, the
Anabaptists, the Wesleys and Pentecostals, who appeal to forms of expres-
sion of deihcation do so on the basis of primary religious experience, which
is often related to the practice of prayer.
I have drawn on authors and texts in this chapter in order to highlight
my interpretation of how the metaphor of deihcation has been used in the
‘West’. On the whole these are texts which are either from the margins of
the tradition or have been marginalized. It will become evident that the
use of the metaphor of deihcation has often been tenuous and fragile. The
writers that I have drawn on do not necessarily see themselves in a tradition
of using the metaphor of deihcation, but I have highlighted their texts
because in my view they are using the architecture of the metaphor, even
if they do not use the explicit language of ‘deihcation’. I am reinterpreting
their usage. So in this chapter I will endeavour to re-receive the use of the
metaphor of deihcation in Western sources and reclaim a tradition which
was pushed to the margins and exists only in traces. The use of the metaphor
is often ‘marginal’ even when used by mainstream writers such as Lombard,
Bernard and Aquinas. Luther and the Wesleys used the metaphor when they
were at the margins of the mainstream of theological discourse, but when
the church traditions which owe their identity to them became mainstream
they tend to turn their backs on the metaphor. The chapter will follow a
chronological shape, beginning with an analysis of mystical theology in the
Middle Ages and the early modern period. I will then examine the use of the
metaphor in the traditions of the Reformation. This will be followed by an
examination of the metaphor in various revival and holiness movements
and conclude with contemporary Roman Catholicism.
Theologia Mystica
The Schoolmen
The Theologia Mystica of this title refers to the work by Ps-Dionysius the
Areopagite, which circulated widely during the Middle Ages and became a
source of inspiration around which to construct a theology rooted in mysti-
cal experience and prayer. These medieval constructions did not necessarily
arise out of the authors’ personal experience. Dionysius himself does not
draw explicitly on personal experience but crafts a ‘mystical theology’ on
the basis of a philosophical and metaphysical set of references which provide
a framework in order to be able to communicate the processes and outcomes
of the ascent of the soul and of union with divine to other Christian believers.
In this section I will examine those theologians who worked and taught in
the context of what would become the universities of Western Europe.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
113
In the following section I will examine those who write from the perspective
of personal mystical experience.
I begin the narrative of the use of the metaphor of deihcation in the
‘West’ with a discussion of the work of John Scottus Eriugena (c.800–77).
He is understood to have been Irish by birth, the adjectives ‘Scottus’ and
‘Eriugena’ both referring to Irish origin. Much about his life is difhcult to
substantiate, but there is evidence that he worked in the ‘palace school’
of the Carolingian king, Charles the Bald (823–77). It is probable that
Eriugena began his education in Ireland and that it was here that he hrst
learnt Greek. Today Eriugena is understood to have been of one the most
signihcant intellectuals of his time. His inluence and standing varied during
the Middle Ages, because some of his views were condemned as heterodox.
However, the importance of his work as a theologian, translator and
commentator should not be underestimated. Where is Eriugena to be situ-
ated: at the close of the patristic age or at the beginning of the Middle Ages?
Perhaps he is best seen as someone with a very creative and original mind,
who stands out from both eras.
Eriugena’s familiarity with Greek allowed him access to the Greek theo-
logical tradition, in particular the works of the Cappadocian fathers, who
were almost entirely unknown in the Latin West at the time. He translated
the works of Ps-Dionysius the Areopagite and wrote commentaries on
them and translated Gregory of Nyssa’s De hominis opicio and Maximos
the Confessor’s Ambigua ad Iohannem. Eriugena was able to analyse the
underlying Platonist framework of the theology of the Greek fathers and
to use this to develop a highly original cosmology, where the highest prin-
ciple, the ‘the immovable self-identical one’ [unum et idipsum immobile]
(Periphyseon, CXXIII), creates all things and draws them back into itself.
Eriugena understands this inhnite, transcendent and ‘unknown’ God to be
beyond being and non-being. Through a process of self-articulation, proces-
sion or ‘self-creation’, the divine proceeds from his ‘darkness’ or ‘non-being’
into the light of being and speaks the Word who is understood as Christ and
at the same timeless moment brings forth the Primary Causes of creation.
These Causes, which are understood to be diverse and inhnite in themselves,
are actually one single principle in the divine One. Thus, the whole of reality
or nature is understood to be involved in a dynamic process of outgoing
[exitus] from and return [reditus] to the One. In the dialogue Periphyseon,
Eriugena argues contrary to traditional Platonism, that this hrst and highest
cosmic principle is called ‘nature’ [natura] and includes both God and
creation.
Eriugena had little inluence in the centuries immediately following his
death. His thought was perhaps too conceptually advanced for the philoso-
phers and theologians of his time, as well as being heterodox in certain
aspects. There was renewed interest in his main work, Periphyseon, during
the twelfth century, but this was condemned in the thirteenth century, for
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
114
promoting the identity of God and creation. Despite this, Eriugena contin-
ued to be read in the fourteenth and hfteenth centuries and had an important
inluence on thinkers and mystics such as Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of
Cusa. The hrst printed editions of his works appeared in the seventeenth
century, but it was not until the nineteenth century that there was a renewal
of interest in him, especially among Hegelians who interpreted Eriugena as
a forerunner of speculative idealism. His life, works and inluence have come
to be appreciated much more during the twentieth century.
1
In terms of his interest in and contribution to the understanding of deihca-
tion, Eriugena’s relections on the works of Gregory of Nyssa and Maximos
the Confessor, lead him to construct a particular understanding of pre-
lapsarian humanity, in which the human person enjoyed a purely spiritual
nature in communion with God. Eriugena argues that humanity is called
to return to that state, through a process of deihcation, on the basis that
‘relations between God and the world, and between all existing things, are
not conceived as external contacts between self-subsisting entities but as
mutual participation.’
2
Eriugena states that ‘Everything that is, is either
participant, or participated, or participation, or (both) participated and par-
ticipant at once’ (Periphyseon III) and argues that there is no opposition
between nature and grace because ‘every perfect creature consists of nature
and grace.’ (Periphyseon III). He discovers the conceptuality of deihcation
in his reading of Gregory of Nyssa and Maximos and Ps-Dionysius and
expresses regret that the doctrine is not found in Latin theology. In Nyssen,
Eriugena found a ‘neoplatonizing interpretation of theoˉ sis’, which was con-
strued on the basis of a strong understanding of the incompatibility between
participation in divine life and materiality or ‘animality’. The issue at stake
here is whether matter including the material human body is transhgured
into divine life. Does the return to God allow any permanent value for
matter? In relation to this issue, Eriugena borrows his understanding of
human gender from Gregory of Nyssa. In other words, gender was created
only in view of the forthcoming Fall. Meyendorff argues that ‘beyond the
specihc issue of gender, the Neoplatonic understanding of deihcation deprives
human activity, human creativity, and therefore the exercise of human free-
dom in this world of ontological meaning.’
3
Nonetheless, Eriugena strongly
emphasizes the reality of deihcation, arguing that God not only will be all in
all at the end of time but always was and is all in all the foundation and
essence of all things.
1
For example, Cappuyns, M., Jean Scot Erigène: sa vie, son oeuvre, sa pensée (1933);
O’Meara, J. J., Eriugena (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
2
Meyendorff, J., ‘Remarks on Eastern Patristic Thought in John Scottus Eriugena’, in
B. McGinn and W. Otten (eds), Eriugena: East and West, (London and Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), p. 56.
3
Meyendorff, ‘Remarks’, p. 57.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
115
Eriugena provides an example of a highly sophisticated thinker, who draws
upon the works of the Greek fathers, in order to express his understandings
of the divine purposes in creating and redeeming the cosmos. He crafts his
understanding of deihcation around the concept of participation, albeit that
his thought is trapped within the structures of ‘Neoplatonist monism’. His
emphasis upon the metaphor of deihcation provides later thinkers and mys-
tics with the conceptual framework and tools to be able to articulate their
ideas within the tradition of the Latin West. The re-reception of his ideas
would enhance a dynamic and relational understanding of the metaphor of
deihcation today.
Peter Lombard (1095–1160) was one of the leading scholastic theologians
of the Middle Ages, who inluenced the shape and methods of theology
for many centuries. Peter taught at the cathedral school of Notre Dame in
Paris, and it was here that he wrote the Libri quatuor sententiarum [The
Four Books of Sentences]. The importance of Peter Lombard’s works rests
on the status given to his Sentences in medieval theology. Earlier dogmatic
theologians, such as Isidore of Seville, Alcuin and Paschasius Radbertus, had
attempted to assemble a compendium of the teaching of the Church from
Bible texts and quotations from the Fathers. In the eleventh century this
method gave way to a dialectical and speculative method in the interpreta-
tion of traditional texts. Peter Lombard began his academic career during
this period of change, when the new methods were still widely questioned.
At this time various scholars produced ‘text-books’; of these, the one which
attained greatest status was Lombard’s Sentences.
The hrst book of the Sentences focuses on the evidences for the existence
of God, and on the doctrine of the Trinity, appealing to analogies used
since Augustine. The second book of the Sentences deals with creation and
the doctrine of the angels. Peter, following Hugh of St Victor, considers the
‘image’ and ‘likeness’ of God in the human person as distinct (Sentences
Book 2, Distinction 16, chapter 3). The third book focuses on Christology
and salvation. Peter’s understanding of redemption is inluenced by Abelard’s
views. He argues that Christ as man is perfect and made sufhcient sacrihce
to achieve reconciliation, through the revelation of God’s love made in his
death; however, ‘the death of Christ justihes us, when by it love is awakened
in our hearts.’ The fourth and hnal book deals with the sacraments. Peter
Lombard’s most controversial doctrine in the Sentences is his identihcation
of charity with the Holy Spirit in book 1, distinction 17. According to this
doctrine, when the Christian loves God and neighbour, this love literally is
God. The believer becomes divine and is taken up into the life of the Trinity.
This idea was never declared unorthodox, but few theologians have been
prepared to follow Peter Lombard in this teaching. Peter continues to explore
the metaphor of deihcation, in relation to the Incarnation and the deihed
humanity of Christ in the Sentences book 3, distinction 5, chapters 14–16
(1–3), and distinction 6, chapters 17–22 (1–6). It is evidently signihcant
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
116
that this work which so shapes and informs Western medieval theology
should have a clear understanding of salvation in terms of the metaphor
of deihcation. The inluence of Lombard’s Sentences meant that deihcation
was understood in relation to the Incarnation and, on the basis of the
exchange formula, was never absent from Western theological discourse, at
least in the Middle Ages. It may not have had the pivotal place in the con-
struction of a theological scheme which it has in the Orthodox tradition, but
contrary to popular understanding the metaphor of deihcation was one
option (alongside others) for understanding salvation and sanctihcation and
the goal of human existence.
The theological endeavour of Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) is related to
the rediscovery of Aristotle’s works in Western Europe in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries. This was a new departure in comparison with the
main developments in patristic thought, which had on the whole been rooted
in Platonism. Aristotle’s philosophy was mediated to the West through the
writings of both Islamic and Jewish philosophers. It was the radical thought
of Averroes which evoked much controversy in Aquinas’ life time and in
which his own thought became embroiled. The reception of Aquinas’ work
varies considerably. Some scholars interpret Aquinas’ work in terms of a
standard understanding of scholasticism, while others such as Burrell and
Phelan
4
have sought to interpret Aquinas’ approach to theology in ways that
refute charges of rationalism or formalism. It is against this background
of disputed interpretations of Aquinas that the comparison with Gregory
Palamas has been constructed and the debate concerning the knowledge of
God and of essence and energies has been conducted.
5
How then is Aquinas to be interpreted in relation to the exposition of
the metaphor of deihcation? The contemporary Catechism of the Roman
Catholic Church endorses the notion of deihcation and appeals to Scripture,
Irenaeus, Athanasius and Aquinas in doing so. Contrary to what might be
expected, Aquinas is claimed alongside two of the main proponents of deih-
cation, as another and equal champion of the doctrine:
The Word became lesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’.
(2 Peter 1.4)
4
Burrell, D. B., Aquinas: Action and Being (London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul, 1979)
and Phelan, G. B., Selected Papers (Toronto: 1967).
5
For example, Barrois, G., ‘Palamism Revisited’, St Vladimir’s Theological Quar-
terly, 19(4) (1975): 211–23; Yannaras, C., ‘The Distinction between Essence and
Energies and Its Importance for Theology’, St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 19(4)
(1975): 232–45; Williams, A. N., The Ground of Union: Deication in Aquinas and
Palamas (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). It is beyond the scope
of this book to analyse the Aquinas–Palamas dispute.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
117
For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became
the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the
Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.
(Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 3, 19, 1)
For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.
(Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 54, 3)
The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his
divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men
gods. (Thomas Aquinas, Opuscula 57, 1–4.; Catechism of the Catholic
Church, revised edition 1999, section 460)
In the texts by which Aquinas is generally known, such as the Summa Theo-
logiae and the Summa contra Gentiles, he tends not to employ traditional
forms of the metaphor of deihcation. Keating argues it is in the biblical com-
mentaries that Aquinas explores the concept of deihcation using the more
traditional forms of expression. Careful study and comparison between the
earlier commentaries and the later Summa, Keating argues, reveals that
Thomas continued to expound a doctrine of deihcation.
6
The conceptualiza-
tion of justihcation, sanctihcation and divinization in Thomas’ thought were
not discrete stages in a process, but were held together to ‘depict . . . the
passage or transit of the human race from a state of sin and separation from
God to one of righteousness, new birth, and union with God through Christ
in the Holy Spirit’.
7
In his Commentary on John on the passage 1.14–17
Thomas explicitly makes the connection between the Incarnation of the
Word and the purpose of the Incarnation, which he understands to be the
grace of transformation (divinization) of the human race. Thomas cites
Chrysostom and Augustine as authorities for the notion that the Word
became lesh in order that human beings might become ‘Sons of God’; in this
way Aquinas identihes himself with hliation and the formula of exchange as
expressions of the metaphor of deihcation. He also appeals to Nyssen’s idea
that the Logos assumed human nature in order to repair it. Aquinas afhrms
the uniqueness of Christ but argues in relation to John 1.14b that believers
can participate in God with the result that there are many sons of God, ‘sunt
multi lii Dei per participationem,’ which is understood to be an allusion
to Psalm 82.6. So there is evidence, particularly in the commentaries that
Aquinas uses the language and imagery of the patristic account of deihca-
tion. He argues that these outcomes depend on divine grace. Christ who is
full of grace and truth (John 1.14b) allows human beings to participate in
6
Keating, D.A., ‘Justihcation, Sanctihcation and Divinization in Thomas Aquinas’, in
T. G. Weinandy, D. A. Keating and J. P. Yocum (eds), Aquinas on Doctrine: A Critical
Introduction (London and New York: T & T Clark, 2004), p. 139.
7
Keating, ‘Justihcation’, p. 139.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
118
grace and truth, but only partially and imperfectly. In relation to John 1.16b,
Aquinas interprets ‘grace upon grace’ in terms of a hrst grace, which is
justifying and prevenient (i.e not given because of works), and a second
grace which is eternal life, and is in part dependent on human merits, but
primarily deihcation depends on prevenient grace.
In his commentary on Ephesians 2.8–10 a classic ‘Pauline’ text on salva-
tion by grace through justihcation Aquinas argues that the human person is
saved by grace and he equates being saved with being justihed. He holds
faith together with the infusion of grace, so that faith does not originate
within the human person and so is not determined by human desire, rather
faith is the gift of God through grace. Notably Aquinas interprets Ephesians
2.10a ‘for we are his workmanship’ and ‘whatever good we possess is not
from ourselves but from the action of God’ by equating justihcation with
creatio ex nihilo. The hnal clause of Ephesians 2.10 ‘good works, which
God prepared beforehand to be our way of life’, he interprets in relation to
his understanding of human free will, so that believers are to cooperate with
God, becoming coworkers with Christ. Aquinas holds together the grace of
justihcation with salvation, sanctihcation, the remission of sins, the infusion
of grace and spiritual regeneration through the Holy Spirit. God remains
principal agent in the achievement of personal salvation, yet for Aquinas
there is no opposition between divine and human agency in justihcation.
Both are required but there is an order and priority.
A typical interpretation of Aquinas suggests that he holds a generic notion
of grace, which is infused into soul. This approach focuses on the created
effect of that generic grace. A critique of this stance suggests that there is a
worrying disjunction between the newly graced nature and the indwelling of
the Trinitarian God.
8
A. N. Williams seeks to hold these two understandings
together when she argues that the concept of divinization found in the
Summa is construed around an understanding that grace is the equivalent
of divine indwelling. This means that grace is not an entity distinct from
God, and she argues that contrary to the understanding of Peter Lombard,
Aquinas does not use the language of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Williams argues that Aquinas prefers the language of ‘infusion’, thus clearly
maintaining a distinction between the creator and the creature. However,
Keating argues that the commentaries demonstrate that Aquinas does use
the language of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believer. For Aquinas
even the initial event of conversion includes a participatory relationship
with Christ through the Spirit, and that justihcation and regeneration are
mediated sacramentally through Baptism and the Eucharist.
The metaphor of deihcation is evidently to be found in the works of
Aquinas. Divinization is rooted in the Incarnation of Christ and understood
8
Keating, ‘Justihcation’, p. 149.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
119
in terms of hlial adoption (Sentences Commentary, III, d. 5, q. 1, a. 2), which
is received by grace in Baptism through the Holy Spirit. This hliation is
understood by Aquinas to be a participation in Christ’s own Sonship and
is conformity to Christ. This is construed in relation to the ‘divine image’ by
which God communicates his very goodness to believers. Aquinas’ appeal
to the texts of 2 Peter 1.4 and Psalm 82.6 demonstrates his close afhnity
with patristic tradition. He often uses 2 Peter 1.4 in the treatise on grace in
the Summa. It is crucial to recognize this, for it offsets the tendency to inter-
pret his doctrine of grace as the application of Aristotelian categories to
Christian theology, that is, the view that sanctifying grace is an accidental
quality of the soul.
9
Aquinas’ doctrine of grace is rather a doctrine of the
divinization of soul. Through Christ the soul participates in the divine
nature, which means that graced nature is participation in the divine life.
I began this section by looking at the work of John Scottus Eriugena who
stands on the threshold between two eras. I conclude the section by examin-
ing the work of Nicholas of Cusa (1401–64), who stands on the threshold
between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern era. Nicholas was educated
at the school of the Brothers of the Common Life at Deventer and was inlu-
enced by their leader Geerte Groote (1340–84), as well as by the mystical
writings of Meister Eckhart (c.1260–1328). Cusanus became involved in the
religious controversies of the time and was called upon by the Pope to assist
with the Council of Florence (1438–45), convoked in an attempt to heal the
breach between Rome and Constantinople. He was sent to Constantinople
to accompany the Patriarch to the Council, and there became acquainted
with the works of some of the Greek fathers.
Cusanus was the hrst theologian to separate himself from the methods of
scholasticism. He developed a logic based on the coincidence of opposites,
which was at variance with Aristotelian-scholastic logic, which is based on
the principle of contradiction. Cusanus drew on the works of Augustine,
Ps-Dionysius, Eriugena and Bonaventure. On his return from Greece he
wrote one of his main works, De docta ignorantia (1440), which develops
an understanding of ‘learned ignorance’ and creates a unique version of
negative theology. In de liatione Dei (1445) he begins his exploration of
deihcation, which became a theme permeating his later works. Cusanus is
variously interpreted as a scholastic and a hdeist, as a medieval or an early
modern man, and as a philosopher as a monist or pantheist. His ‘Platonized
Christianity’ is seen as stressing the immanence of God in creation, to
the detriment of the divine transcendence. In his exposition of deihcation
Cusanus explores ideas of identity or similitude with God and of being
closely united with God. So where did Cusanus hnd the resources for his
exposition of the metaphor of deihcation? It is probable that he knew
9
Keating, ‘Justihcation’, p. 154.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
120
Berthold Moosburg’s Commentary on Proclus’ Elements of Theology and
had possibly read the works of Eckhart and Eriugena, and Ps-Dionysius.
Through this reading he became acquainted with the works of Gregory
Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximos the Confessor and Origen.
10
Cusanus
draws on the concept of ‘hliation’ to articulate his understanding of deihca-
tion and used the metaphor of the mirror. He construes deihcation in relation
to Christology and the development of the intellect.
Cusanus argues that the incarnate Logos is the medium for sonship and
that divine Sonship is to be understood as unity with Inhnite Reason. On
this basis deihcation is the realization that there is no otherness between
God and the intellectual spirit. Since the created order traces its origins to
the unfolding of divine being itself, deihcation is understood as ‘an original
condition for all things’. As God is present in creation, theoˉ sis is an already
realized destiny. This construal of deihcation is criticized for the lack of an
imperative towards deihcation because it is simply an intellectual process of
perceiving that the One or God is the immanent cause of all things. However,
Cusanus argues that deihcation is not the same as a theophany or divine
self-manifestation. In the third book of de docta ignorantia Christ is seen
as the goal and fulhlment of all creation. Deihcation is not construed as a
monist concept but on the basis of the autonomous existence of the created
order and its return towards God. Christ draws all things into union with
himself and through himself into union with God the Father. So the question
emerges: is deihcation based on philosophy or theology? Is it intellectual
ascent to God or based on the Incarnation and Christology?
Cusanus brings together learned ignorance, mystical vision and hliation
(sonship), which leaves open the questions as to whether deihcation is
reached by the natural powers of the intellect or through divine revelation.
It is a question of the relation between nature and grace. As a Platonist
salvation is based on wisdom, in which the mind [mens] is the locus of the
imago dei. If this were his only understanding then union with the divine
would be achieved through philosophical relection and Christian notions
of grace, and the Cross would be lost. However, if the transformation of the
human person occurs through divine agency and is communicated by means
of revelation, and if transformation includes the sinful condition of the
human being, then, in that case Cusanus remains within the Christian tradi-
tion, albeit from a highly unique perspective.
The exploration of the metaphor of deihcation in medieval ‘Mystical
Theology’ in the schools and universities is focused mainly on the ascent of
the soul to God and the attainment of mystical union. This is not simply
predicated on the categories of Platonism but is also constructed around an
appeal to the ‘exchange formula’ and, therefore, rooted in the Incarnation.
10
Hudson, N. J., Becoming God: The Doctrine of Theosis in Nicholas of Cusa
(Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007), p. 3.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
121
The metaphor is explored in terms of hliation: a being ‘in Christ’ achieved
through participation in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.
Elements of the metaphor relate to the processes of sanctihcation and include
the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and of grace. Although the metaphor of
deihcation had no ofhcial doctrinal status, it remained an ongoing element in
Western discourse on salvation and sanctihcation, and spiritual practice. But
insofar as it was marginal to the mainstream theological endeavour, issues
concerning the implications of deihcation remained unresolved. Gregory
Palamas’ insistence on the essence–energies distinction enabled him to con-
struct a clear understanding of epistemological and ontological issues arising
from the metaphor of deihcation. In the medieval West, these issues are not
resolved. Nicholas of Cusa has been interpreted as a pantheist in the light
of his understanding of the creation and its potentiality for deihcation.
Others who wrote enthusiastically about mystical union laid themselves
open to charges of abolishing the distinction between the uncreated and
the created, the divine and the human. It is this kind of critique which meant
that the reception of Mystical Theology by the Reformers would, on the
whole, be so negative.
The narrative of the rejection of Mystical Theology is traced in an essay
by W. J. Sparrow-Simpson (1859–1952) an Anglican theologian and patris-
tic scholar.
11
He pays particular attention to the way in which Eriugena’s
interpretation and presentation of the writings of Ps-Dionysius and of
Mystical Theology as a ‘sub-discipline’ inluenced the Western tradition in
the Middle Ages. While Sparrow-Simpson does not address the reception
of Ps-Dionysius and Mystical Theology at the Reformation, he traces the
critique of the work of Ps-Dionysius, which culminated in the dismissal of
deihcation by Harnack. Sparrow-Simpson begins by highlighting the work
of Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860) who was one of the founders of
the Protestant school of theology at the University of Tübingen.
12
He argued
that Ps-Dionysius in his explorations of Platonism and mysticism had reduced
the doctrine of the Trinity to mere names. Etienne Vacherot (1809–97) a
French philosopher, another critic of Ps-Dionysius, argued that his work is
Platonism disguised as Christianity, in which the soul is far removed from
God and the Trinity is an abstraction.
13
The Lutheran theologian, Izaak
August Dorner (1809–84) in particular questioned Ps-Dionysius’ commit-
ment to the uniqueness of the Incarnation in Christ, which he saw as a
11
Sparrow-Simpson, W. J., ‘The Inluence of Dionysius in Religious History’, in Dionysius
the Areopagite: The Divine Names and the Mystical Theology, trans. C. E. Rolt
(London: SPCK, 1940), pp. 202–19.
12
Baur, F. C., Christliche Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit und Menschwerdung Gottes, vol. 2
(Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1842).
13
Vacherot, E., Histoire critique de l’école d’Alexandrie, 3 vols (Paris: Librairie
Philosophique de Ladrange, 1846–51).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
122
consequence of his mystical explorations.
14
The Roman Catholic theologian
Joseph Bach questions Ps-Dionysius’ highly speculative approach to Christo-
logy and soteriology.
15
Finally Sparrow-Simpson highlights the critique of
the Anglican bishop B. F. Westcott (1825–1901), who argued that the work
Ps-Dionysius is barely recognizable as Christian.
16
Sparrow-Simpson does
not mention the work of Harnack, but it is evident that scholars in the
nineteenth century had a very negative view of Ps-Dionysius and mystical
theology. This is a consequence of an ‘Enlightenment reading’ of medieval
sources and a utilitarian understanding of doctrine which emerges from the
work of Schleiermacher. I will return to Harnack’s critique of deihcation
later in this chapter. But it is important to be clear that the negative recep-
tion of the metaphor of deihcation in the West is as much the product of
the Enlightenment as it is of the Reformation. In recent works a negative
reception of the work of Ps-Dionysius is found in the work of Gunton,
17
but
a more positive reception and reinterpretation of Ps-Dionysius is found in
the contemporary work of Turner, McGinn and Coakley.
18
The Medieval mystics
The distinction between the ‘mystics’ in this section and the schoolmen in
the previous section may seem rather arbitrary. I have sought to make a
distinction not only on the basis of the appeal made to experience by writers
but also on the basis that the ‘mystics’ understood that they themselves had
experienced ‘mystical union’ or ‘rapture’ or some kind of ecstatic experience
and are relecting on that personal experience in their works. Some school-
men may have had such experiences, but what distinguishes the ‘mystics’ is
their deliberate choice to offer to a public audience access to their own per-
sonal experience of the divine. I am not going to attempt to verify the claims
which the mystics make about such experience, nor am I going to attempt
any kind of analysis of these experiences in terms of the modern discipline
14
Dorner, I. A. (J. A.), Entwicklungsgesch. der Lehre von der Person Christi, 4 vols
(1846–56); English translation: History of the Development of the Doctrine of the
Person of Christ, 5 vols (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1861–63).
15
Bach, J., Die Dogmengeschichte des Mittelalters vom christologischen Standpunkt,
2 vols (Vienna, 1873, 1875; Frankfurt: Minerva, 1966).
16
Westcott, B. F., Essays in the History of Religious Thought in the West (London and
New York: Macmillan, 1891).
17
Gunton, C. E., Act and Being (London: SCM Press, 2002).
18
Turner, D., The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995); McGinn, B., The Foundations of Mysticism.
Origins to the Fifth Century (New York: Crossroads, 1994); Coakley, S., ‘Introduction:
Re-thinking Dionysius the Areopagite’, Modern Theology, 24(4) (2008): 531–40.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
123
of psychology. I shall take the claims made at ‘face value’ and interpret them
in relation to the metaphor of deihcation. Some of the writers may have had
no explicit intention of relecting on their experience in terms of the meta-
phor of deihcation, but it is a legitimate enquiry to ask whether understandings
of ascetical practice, contemplative prayer and mystical union may not be
understood in relation to the process and outcome of deihcation. The main
criterion for making such a judgement relates to the writer’s understanding
of the connection between the experience of mystical union and of ‘being
saved’, since the metaphor of deihcation is understood primarily as a means
of expressing what it means to be saved in Christ and sanctihed in the Holy
Spirit. This exploration of the writings of the medieval mystics of Western
Europe will enable me to examine further how the metaphor of deihcation
continued to be part of the Western tradition, and, crucially, it will give voice
to the experience and thoughts of women.
I have chosen to begin with Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) because he
provides an example of a ‘mainstream’ mystical theologian who used the
metaphor and technical language of deihcation. At the age of 19, he was
drawn to the newly founded order of the Cistercians. It is in this context
that Bernard wrote this works. The high esteem in which Bernard was held
by contemporaries is seen in Pope Urban II’s commission to ‘preach’ the
second Crusade in 1146. Bernard’s approach to theology was an interesting
mix of attention to the Tradition as well as an appeal to the emotions.
Bernard’s use of the metaphor of deihcation is construed around the typical
medieval notions of the beatihc vision and mystical union with God, and he
writes of ‘hlling ourselves with God’.
19
A number of questions emerge relat-
ing to Bernard’s understanding of ‘mystical union’. First, how does Bernard
conceive of union with God? Second, what is the role of knowledge in this
union? Third, is this union possible only for the few or for all? And hnally
what is the relation between ‘union’ and the institutional church? Bernard
understands that mystical union does not abolish the difference between
the divine and the human; rather he sees union as a union of love and of
wills. Union with God is not a union of essence(s) but is a ‘spiritual’ union.
Bernard writes with a strong emphasis on love. For Bernard the ‘knowledge’
of God is connected with this love. It is an experiential rather than a theo-
retical knowledge of God, and it is a knowledge of God’s goodness. He
argues that it is not possible to know the divine essence and that this would
be useless anyway. Nonetheless, union with God is a union with the Holy
Trinity, and signihcantly he argues that the Church is the indispensable
context for union. Mystical union is based upon the ongoing process of
sanctihcation, which he understands is a lifelong growing in the love of God
19
See Clendenin, D. B., ‘Partakers of Divinity: The Orthodox Doctrine of Theosis’,
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 37(3) (1994): 368.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
124
and neighbour. Union with God would only be consummated in the hnal
resurrection. Bernard represents a strand in the Western tradition’s diverse
understanding of deihcation, which is rooted in an appeal to the emotions
and to the experience of prayer and contemplation, as well as to the collec-
tive reality of the Church.
My second example of a mystical writer Marguerite Porete (d. 1310) was
very much on the margins of theological discourse. A French mystic, she is
understood to be the author of The Mirror of Simple Souls, a work describ-
ing the encounter of the soul with Divine Love.
20
After a long trial Marguerite
was condemned for heresy and burnt at the stake for heresy in Paris in 1310.
The details of Marguerite’s life are known only from the records of her trial.
This means that what is known of her life is probably biased and incom-
plete. She was associated with the ‘Beguines’, who were women who lived
a ‘religious life’ but not within the usual ecclesiastical norms of religious
orders. Although generally acceptable to the authorities, Beguines were at
times accused of heresy. Marguerite has also been associated with the Free
Spirit movement, a group which was considered heretical because of their
antinomian views, but this connection with the ‘Free Spirits’ is rather
tenuous. Other mystics such as Meister Eckhart were condemned and later
rehabilitated by the Church, but it seems unlikely that Marguerite will be
recognized in this way.
It was only realized that Marguerite was the author of the Mirror in the
twentieth century. The Mirror which was published after her death, refers to
a simple soul who is united with God and has no will other than God’s.
Originally written in old French, the book was translated into Latin and
other languages and circulated widely. Some of the vocabulary relects a
familiarity with the style of courtly love which was popular at the time and
is evidence of Marguerite’s high level of education and sophistication. The
Mirror is in the form of a conversation or dialogue between three female
allegorical ‘persons’: Love, Reason and the Soul on the theme of the life of
perfection. The focus of the conversation is the attainment by the soul of a
state of perfection by divine ‘fruiction’ or ‘peace of life’ (French 1:4–5). This
state of perfection is understood to involve the annihilation of the soul’s
creatureliness and is described in terms of absolute fulhlment and absolute
deprivation. The soul progresses through various stages towards this state.
In the sixth stage, which is experienced only briely in this life, the soul ‘sees
not herself, through the abyss of her humility, nor God, through the height
of his goodness; but God sees himself in her by divine majesty’ (French 118:
175–7).
21
Watson interprets the outcome of this state:
This becoming God’s mirror means that it can only be said of the soul
that she experiences God at all because God is all that exists for and in
20
Porete, M., The Mirror of Simple Souls, trans. Ellen L. Babinksy (Paulist Press, 1993).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
125
her – so that the ‘she’ who experiences is nothing but God experienc-
ing himself in her.
22
In other words, God has become ‘“all in all” and the soul is melted, fused,
drowned in his inhnity.’
23
Such conceptuality is comparable with Bernard of
Clairvaux’s work De diligendo deo [On Loving God].
24
Bernard wrote:
To become this is to be deihed. [Sic afci deicari est] Just a drop of
water place in a great quantity of wine seems to lose itself entirely, and
as hery, glowing iron becomes like a hre, and as air pervaded by the
sun’s light is transformed into the same luminous clarity, so every
human affection in the saints must in an unspeakable manner melt
from itself, and the will be wholly transposed into God. Or how else
will God be all in all? (1 Corinthians 15.28; De diligendo deo, 10.28)
The main difference between the understanding of Porete and Bernard is
that while Bernard reserves such a state to the next life, apart perhaps from
momentary realizations in this, Marguerite speculates about the possibility
of achieving such a state in this life. In this state the ‘Annihilated Soul’ gives
up everything but God through Love. The soul is truly full of God’s love and
is united with God in a state of union which causes it to transcend the con-
tradictions of this world. In this beatihc state it is unable to sin because it is
wholly united with God’s will. In this vision of the soul united with God
through Love, and returning to its source the presence of God in everything,
Marguerite shares much in common with the ideas of Eckhart. Porete and
Eckhart may have had acquaintances in common, but it is not clear whether
they ever met or had access to each other’s work. Marguerite writes of the
outcomes of perfect union between God (Love) and the Soul:
I am God, says Love, for Love is God and God is Love, and this
Soul is God by the condition of Love. I am God by divine nature
and this Soul is God by the condition of Love. Thus this precious
21
Watson, N., ‘Melting into God the English Way: Deihcation in the Middle English
Version of Marguerite Porete’s Mirouer des simples âmes anienties’, in R. Voaden (ed.),
Prophets Abroad: The Reception of Continental Holy Women in Late-Medieval
England (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996), p. 27.
22
Watson, ‘Melting’, p. 27.
23
Watson, ‘Melting’, p. 28.
24
See Bernard, ‘De diligendo deo’, in J. Leclerq, C. H. Talbot and H. M. Rochais (eds),
Sancti Bernardi opera, 6 vols (Paris: Editiones Cisterciennes, 1957–77), vol. III,
pp. 119–54; and Williams, W. (ed.), ‘Select Treatises of S. Bernard of Clairvaux: De
Diligendo Deo’, in B. R. V. Mills (ed.), De Gradibus Humilitatis et Superbiae
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
126
beloved of mine is taught and guided by me, without herself, for she is
transformed into me, and such a perfect one, says Love, takes my
nourishment. (The Mirror of Simple Souls)
Marguerite expresses an outcome of union which can be described in terms
of deihcation. Her understanding is highly nuanced in that, even in such a
state of perfection, the soul is understood to be God ‘by condition of Love’
and not by ‘nature’. It is evident that Marguerite understood that this state
of perfection related to ‘being saved’ and that mystical experiences are not
a means of bypassing the economy of salvation.
25
Porete’s writings became
suspect with some Church authorities, because of her claims that the soul in
this perfect state was above conventional morality and the teachings and
control of the Church. The soul was above the demands of ordinary virtue,
not because virtue is not needed but because in its state of union with God
virtue becomes automatic. Although such ideas were held to be orthodox as
such, some Church authorities nevertheless claimed that it was amoral. Two
centuries later St John of the Cross expressed an almost identical view of the
nature of the soul’s union with God in his The Ascent of Mount Carmel, but
his views were not denounced as a heretical.
Today Meister Eckhart (c.1260–1328) is one of the best known medieval
mystical writers, but in his own day his work was marginalized. He became
a Dominican friar (c.1275), and it seems that his teaching and preaching left
a deep mark on his hearers. However, his teaching aroused suspicion, and he
was accused of holding heretical views. In his sermons preached in vernacu-
lar German, he often used bold language, which came to be misinterpreted.
It seems that Eckhart was summoned before the tribunal of the Inquisition
at Cologne, which was led by Franciscans. To some extent Eckhart’s mis-
fortune is due to the rivalry between the two Orders of Dominicans and
Franciscans. Despite professing himself willing to withdraw anything in his
writings contrary to the teaching of the Church, this did not put an end to
the matter, and Eckhart was required to go to the Papal court at Avignon for
a further trial. It seems that Eckhart died there in 1328. In 1329 views attri-
buted to Eckhart were condemned in the papal bull In agro dominico. This
condemnation has never been ofhcially rescinded, although in 1987 Pope
John Paul II spoke of Eckhart’s ministry in a positive light. Due to his sus-
pect status Eckhart’s work was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered
in the twentieth century. His legacy was perpetuated to some extent through
the work and inluence of his more circumspect disciples Johannes Tauler
(c.1300–61) and Henry Suso (c.1295–1366).
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Dominican Order promoted
the ideal of human self-discovery. It is in the context that Meister Eckhart
25
Porete, The Mirror of Simple Souls, p. 181.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
127
wrote and preached. He pursued an analysis of the self-movement of the
intellect, which represented the possibility of self-discovery. For Eckhart the
goal of the rational form of life is to live in and with spiritual perfections
and at the level of transcendental being to live in and from the absolute One,
in and from the divine nature as presupposition-less unity. He understood
that the ground of the soul is something uncreated and is one with the divine
nature or ‘ground’. Hie ist gotes grunt mîn grunt und mîn grunt gotes grunt
[Here, God’s ground is my ground and my ground God’s ground] (Predigt
5b; DW I, 90, 8). The human person is not simply on the way towards unity
[unio]. Instead, unity is something that has always already been achieved.
This being-unihed is alone what matters (Predigt 12; DW I, 197, 8–9; Predigt
39; DW II, 265, 6–266, 2) because the human person as reason has left
behind everything that stands in the way of living in and from unity. This
true equanimity or letting-go [Gelâzenheit] is the goal of human life. Living
in and from unity is the goal of self-discovery which becomes possible
through a change in intellectual disposition. Conversion in disposition leads
the intellect to the uncreated and ‘uncreatable’ ground of the soul, whose
movement, as a process of reason, reaches its goal in the absolute One. This
goal is itself nothing other than the ground of the soul.
In his sermons Eckhart demonstrates a vivid understanding of union
with God. He appeals to Scripture and to an understanding of God’s grace
to instruct his hearers in the kind of union with God which is possible to
attain:
The more that the soul receives of the Divine Nature, the more it grows
like It, and the closer becomes its union with God. It may arrive at
such an intimate union that God at last draws it to Himself altogether,
so that there is no distinction left, in the soul’s consciousness, between
itself and God, though God still regards it as a creature.
26
(The Self-
communication of God)
In a second quotation Eckhart appeals to St Paul’s understanding of being
‘in Christ’ and to the effects of grace. When Christ lives in the soul, it
comes to resemble the divine and to be ‘full of God’. ‘The man who is wholly
sanctihed is so drawn towards the Eternal, that no transitory thing may
move him, no corporeal thing affect him, no earthly thing attract him. This
was the meaning of St Paul when he said, “I live; yet not I; Christ liveth in
me.” . . . This immovable sanctihcation causes man to attain the nearest
likeness to God that he is capable of’
27
(Sanctication). Eckhart’s mystical
26
Field, C., Meister Eckhart’s Sermons: First Time Translated into English (London:
H. R. Allenson, 1909), pp. 38–9.
27
Meister Eckhart’s Sermons, pp. 44–5.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
128
theology describes the soul’s partaking in the divine nature, which is based
upon being ‘in Christ’. On this basis it is possible to conclude that despite
the highly speculative nature of much of Eckhart’s writings that his under-
standing of mystical union is an expression of the metaphor of deihcation
and of the effects of salvation and sanctihcation. The reception of Eckhart’s
ideas remained problematic in the Middle Ages as is testihed by Nicholas
of Cusa, who was clear that despite claims to the contrary that Eckhart did
not identify the creature with the creator. He recognized Eckhart’s great
scholarship and insight, but he thought that that Eckhart’s books should be
removed from the public sphere because they could confuse and misled the
less well informed.
28
The works of John of Ruusbroec (c.1293–1381) provide another example
of the use of elements of the metaphor of deihcation. In 1304 he joined
his uncle Jan Hinckaert, a canon of Sainte-Gudule in Brussels, to live an
‘Apostolic life’. At the age of 24 he was ordained and spent the following
25 years attached to Sainte-Gudule, living an ascetic life in company with
Hinckaert and Frank Van Coudenberg. In 1343, Ruusbroeck, together
with Hinckaert and Van Coudenberg, left Brussels to found a hermitage at
Groenendaal. They were soon joined by others, and in 1349 it became nec-
essary to form the community around the rule of the Augustinian canons.
Ruusbroec became known as a spiritual director and people came from far
beyond Flanders to seek his counsel. Among those who visited Groenendaal
were Johannes Tauler and Geert Groote.
The best known of Ruusbroec’s works is The Spiritual Espousals, which is
divided into three books, focusing on the active, the interior and the contem-
plative life.
29
He focuses on the virtues of detachment, humility and charity
and emphasizes light from the world; meditation upon the Life of Christ,
especially the Passion; abandonment to the Divine Will; and an intense per-
sonal love of God. In his exposition of mystical theology Ruusbroec begins
with God and descends to the human level and then rises again to the divine
plain and in doing so demonstrates the close unity between the divine and
the human. He wrote that ‘Man, having proceeded from God is destined to
return, and become one with Him again.’ But he was careful to add that
‘There where I assert that we are one in God, I must be understood in this
sense that we are one in love, not in essence and nature.’ Despite this evident
qualihcation of his assertions of divine–human unity, many readers of his
work have found his language bold and incautious. Among these was Geert
Groote. Later Jean Gerson wrote that he found traces of ‘unconscious
pantheism’ in his works. Nonetheless, Ruusbroec did not teach that the soul
28
Nicholas of Cusa, ‘Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae’ in R. Klibansky (ed.), Nicolai de Cusa
Opera Omnia, vol. II (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 1932), pp. 25, 7–12.
29
Ruusbroec, J., The Spiritual Espousals and other works (New York: Paulist Press,
1985).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
129
is fused with God and that, even at the summit of the ascent, the soul still
preserves its identity. At the beginning of the third book of The Spiritual
Espousals, on ‘The Contemplative Life’, Ruusbroec writes of the soul’s union
to God in terms of the relationality of the divine persons of the Trinity.
He expresses an understanding of participation in the divine nature which
not only is an expression of the metaphor of deihcation, in terms of salva-
tion in Christ, but in terms of the perichoretic unity of Father, Son and
Holy Spirit.
The hidden divine nature is eternally active in contemplation and love
as regards the Persons and is constantly in a state of blissful enjoyment
insofar as the Persons are embraced in the Unity of the divine being.
All interior spirits are one with God through their loving immersion in
this embrace, which takes place within God’s essential Unity; they are
that same oneness which the divine being is in itself according to the
mode of blessedness.
30
In this passage, Ruusbroec might be seen to advocate a universalism; how-
ever, this text needs to be balanced with others which appeal directly to
Christ. Ruusbroec’s construal of participation in the divine life is a prime
example of an understanding of ‘deihcation’ construed in relation to divine
communion.
The Cloud of Unknowing produced during the second half of the four-
teenth century in Middle English is a spiritual manual on contemplative
prayer, which encourages the reader to be a perfect follower of Christ. The
path of contemplative prayer is construed in terms of ‘unknowing’ a concept
which many scholars accept is dependent on the Mystical Theology of
Ps-Dionysius. The Mystical Theology had long been available in Eriugena’s
Latin translation, and in the mid-fourteenth century, a version in Middle
English Dionise Hid Divinite began to circulate.
31
The reader of the Cloud
is counselled to reject the normal ways of knowing in her approach to God
in contemplation and to seek God in ‘naked intent’ and a ‘blind stirring
of love’. The language of deihcation per se is not found in the text of The
Cloud of Unknowing, but there are various expressions, metaphors, ana-
logies and allegories which may be interpreted in terms of the metaphor
of deihcation. The text does not appeal directly to the notion of ‘Spiritual
Marriage’ as a metaphor for the union of the soul with the divine but in
continuity with patristic tradition it does occasionally appeal to the person
of Moses and to the Ark of the Covenant as examples of union and com-
munion with the divine. Much more frequent is the use of the language of
30
Ruusbroec, The Spiritual Espousals, pp. 145–6.
31
See Underhill, E., ‘Introduction’ to The Cloud of Unknowing (London: John M. Watkins,
1922), pp. 6–7.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
130
perfection and of union. Both of these possibilities are understood in terms
of the practice of the virtues and of a ‘right’ approach to contemplation.
That is to say in ‘naked intent’ and a ‘blind stirring of love’. In chapter 67
there is an appeal to the traditional interpretation of John 10.34 and Psalm
82.6 in order to describe the outcome of contemplation. The author of the
Cloud understands that this becoming ‘a god’ relates to the human coinci-
dence with the divine in Creation and the human separation from the divine
in the Fall. The union of the believer with God is predicated on the Spirit,
love and a coincidence of the divine and human wills. But the state of union
is qualihed, and the distinction between Creator and creature is not lost. The
Cloud of Unknowing may not employ the technical language of deihcation,
but it does appeal to the classic components of the doctrine and, in that
sense, is comparable with the understanding with Maximos the Confessor.
The strong emphasis on the calling to ‘perfection’ in the text is an indication
of the Western preference in expressing the metaphor of deihcation.
In the writings of Julian of Norwich (c.1342–1416) there is another
example of an English mystic whose work bears witness to the metaphor of
deihcation. Little is known of her life, but when she was 30 years old she
had a severe illness and believed that she was dying. During this period she
had a series of visions of Jesus Christ, which hnished when she recovered
from her illness on May 13, 1373. As soon as she was able she committed
these visions to writing, and then 20 years later wrote up a relection on
them in more theological depth. These relections are the source of her main
work, the Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (c.1393). This is understood
to be the hrst book written in the English by a woman. Julian came to be
well known throughout England as a spiritual guide, for example, Margery
Kempe (c.1373–1438) records that she went to Norwich to speak with her.
Julian lived through troubled times. There were virulent outbreaks of Plague
during the fourteenth century and a series of civil disturbances, including
the ‘Peasants’ Revolt’ (1381). Despite these events Julian’s understanding of
the divine love remained optimistic. Julian understood that suffering was
not a punishment which God inlicted, which was a common belief. Rather
she believed that God loved and wanted everyone to be saved. Some have
interpreted these understandings as incipient universalism, particularly as
she understood that behind the reality of hell is the greater mystery of God’s
love. But she never explicitly suggested more than a hope that all might be
saved. Although her teachings were atypical for the age in which she lived,
she was not challenged by the ecclesiastical authorities, probably because of
her status as an anchoress.
In the Revelations she writes constantly about the practice of contem-
plative prayer and its goal of union with the divine. She expresses her
understanding of the divine–human union in terms of Christology, the
Triune reality of the divine and of soteriology. Union with God is by no
means an avoidance of the economy of salvation. She uses the language of
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
131
perfection in relation to this ‘union’, but she does not use the language of
deihcation. However, the text of the Revelations provides evidence of the
structure of the conceptuality of deihcation, which relates not just to the
practice of contemplation but also to the outcome of salvation. In chapter
53 of the Revelations, Julian writes in her own way of the exitus and reditus
from and to the divine and of what being made in the image and likeness
of God means for the human person and specihcally the human soul. She
reafhrms the economy of salvation and then goes on to describe the basis for
salvation and for union with the divine.
So man’s soul is made by God and in the same instant joined to God.
I understand man’s soul to be made. I mean, it is made, but of nothing
created. . . . Thus is created nature rightly united with its Maker who
is essential nature and uncreated: in other words, God. From which it
follows that there can be nothing at all between God and man’s soul.
(Revelations of Divine Love, chapter 53)
32
In this passage Julian not only sets out an optimistic view of human nature
and of salvation, but she does so on the basis of something which looks very
like a Platonist, or Origenist, set of assumptions about the afhnity between
the divine and the human. It is on this basis that the soul is able to be saved
and to be (re)united with the divine. Julian’s understandings are based upon
highly personal experiences, and in her relections on these experiences
she bears witness to an ongoing readiness to accept the architecture of the
metaphor of deihcation in the later Middle Ages.
The early modern mystics
The tradition of mystical writing continued into the Early Modern period
and is known particularly in the works of Teresa of Ávila and John of the
Cross. The reception of their works since the sixteenth century has placed
them in the mainstream of mystical and spiritual theology. However, in their
own day they often struggled to be heard. Their writings demonstrate that
elements of the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation continued to be
used in the expression of spirituality, even if in the academic discourse of the
universities this was not so.
Teresa of Ávila (1515–82) is an outstanding author in terms of the expres-
sion of mystical experience. In recognition of this Pope Paul VI named
her as a Doctor of the Church in 1970. At the age of 20 Teresa entered the
32
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,1966),
p. 155–6.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
132
convent of the Carmelites outside Ávila. There she was aflicted with illness.
During in her incapacity, she experienced religious ecstasy as she read a
devotional book the Third Spiritual Alphabet, written by Francisco de
Osuna (1527). In her relections on these experiences during her illness, she
writes that she progressed from the lowest stage of prayer: ‘recollection’, to
the ‘devotions of silence’ and to the ‘devotions of ecstasy’ – perfect union
with God. In the mid-1550s those around Teresa began to suggest that her
experiences were diabolical, rather than divine. This led her to inlict various
tortures and mortihcations of the lesh upon herself. However, her confessor,
Francis Borgia was able to reassure her that her experiences and relections
were divinely inspired. On St Peter’s Day in 1559 Teresa testihes that she
became convinced that Christ had presented himself to her in bodily form,
although remaining invisible. These visions of Christ continued for almost
2 years. In another vision, which has become very well known, Teresa testi-
hes that a seraph drove the hery point of a golden lance repeatedly through
her heart, causing indescribable pain.
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there
seemed to be a little hre. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times
into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he
seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on hre with a great
love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so
surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not
wish to be rid of it. (Teresa of Avila, Life 29.17)
It is this vision which inspired Bernini’s Ecstasy of St Teresa, located in the
Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria Rome. Some commentators have inter-
preted both the vision and the sculpture in terms of an erotic encounter. The
memory of this experience served as an inspiration to Teresa for the rest
of her life and was the motivation for her imitation of the life and suffering
of Jesus.
Teresa remains one the most read authors on mental prayer. Her approach
to mystical theology arises directly from relection on her personal experi-
ences, and she communicates a practical approach to prayer and the ascent
of the soul to God with insight and directness. Her understanding of prayer
is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: ‘Contemplative prayer
[oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between
friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know
loves us’ (CCC 2709). The understanding of the soul’s union with the divine
in Teresa’s writing is expressed in a variety of metaphors and analogies,
of which ‘Spiritual Marriage’ is most prominent. The basis for union is not
understood in terms of particular experiences, but in terms of a coincidence
of the divine and human wills, akin to synergy. But Teresa draws a distinc-
tion between various stages or states of union, of which Spiritual Marriage
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
133
is the metaphor of the closest union achievable. In The Interior Castle she
explains that in this state of union the intimacy achieved is a merging of the
soul and God.
33
This understanding of union may be interpreted as an
expression of the metaphor of deihcation. The language used by Teresa is
more explicit than would be found in the Greek fathers. Teresa is not so
much abolishing the distinction between Creator and creature as expressing
the possibility of continuity between the two. Nonetheless, she understands
the reality of human weakness and of sin. The union of Spiritual Marriage
is not achieved by many but is nonetheless the potential of all human
persons.
In 1563 John of the Cross (1542–91) entered the Carmelite order, and the
following year he moved to Salamanca, where he studied theology and phi-
losophy at the university and in 1567 he was ordained priest. At this time
he sought to join the Carthusian Order in order to led a life which was more
solitary and given to silent contemplation. Before he could do this, he met
Teresa of Avila. She spoke to him of her ideas to reform the Carmelite Order
and asked him to delay joining the Carthusians. The following year, she
started a reform of the Order at Duruelo and John assisted Teresa in the
work of reform until 1577. The foundation of new houses and the reform
of the Order were resisted by a great number of Carmelite friars, some of
whom felt that Teresa’s interpretation of the Carmelite calling was too strict.
This led to a separation in the Order, in which the followers of John and
Teresa called themselves the ‘discalced’, ‘barefoot’ Carmelites. John is well
known for his writings, and particularly for his poetry, which many com-
mentators consider are outstanding examples of Spanish literature.
On the night of 3rd to 4th December 1577, because he had refused to obey
his superior’s orders and allegedly for his attempts to reform the Carmelite
order, he was taken prisoner by his superiors, and jailed in Toledo, where he
was kept under a brutal regimen. Nine months later he managed to escape
on 15 August 1578. During this time he composed a large part of his poem
the Spiritual Canticle, which draws on his harsh sufferings and spiritual
endeavours during imprisonment. These were to become the subject of
relection in all of his subsequent writings. The Spiritual Canticle relates the
search of the bride (representing the soul) for the bridegroom (representing
Jesus Christ). The bride is anxious at having lost the groom but both are
hlled with joy upon reuniting. The poem has been seen as a free-form Spanish
version of the Song of Songs. In the Dark Night of the Soul John narrates
the journey of the soul from her bodily home to her union with God. It
occurs during the night, to represent the hardships and difhculties the soul
encounters in seeking detachment from the world and the light of the union
with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in
33
The Interior Castle, The Seventh Mansion, chapter 2.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
134
successive stanzas. The poem focuses on the painful experience of growing
in spiritual maturity and union with God.
John’s understanding of the union of the soul with the divine is parallel
with that of Teresa’s understanding. He too uses the metaphor of the
Spiritual Marriage to describe the highest state of union. In the Ascent of
Mount Carmel, John sketches an anthropology in which he distinguishes the
afhnity between the human person and God on the basis of Creation, from
the afhnity which develops as an outcome of the transformation of love,
through the practice of contemplative prayer, in God’s grace. John writes,
when we speak of union of the soul with God, we speak not of this
substantial union which is continually being wrought, but of the union
and transformation of the soul with God, which is not being wrought
continually, but only when there is produced that likeness that comes
from love; we shall therefore term this the union of likeness, even as
that other union is called substantial or essential. The former is natu-
ral, the latter supernatural. And the latter comes to pass when the two
wills – namely that of the soul and that of God – are conformed
together in one, and there is naught in the one that is repugnant to the
other. And thus, when the soul rids itself totally of that which is repug-
nant to the Divine will and conforms not with it, it is transformed in
God through love. (Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, chapter 5.3)
34
However, in describing the state of Spiritual Marriage, John is perhaps more
reticent and cautious in his forms of expression and of the conceptuality
he is using. Complete union with the divine is really something only to be
known in the life to come (Spiritual Canticle stanza 12: 7–8). John’s own
experiences of suffering inform his construal of union with the divine and
do so in relation to redemption and the Cross. Although John does not use
the language of deihcation, his understanding of the union of the soul with
God may be seen as an expression of the outcome of the metaphor. John’s
writings are testimony that the mystical tradition in West continued to
draw implicitly on the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation in the
early modern period. The continued interest in his works demonstrates that
Western Christians and theologians envisage the purpose and goal of human
existence in terms of union with the divine, which is a communion or
partaking in the divine love and life.
To conclude this section I will highlight the work of Angelus Silesius
(1624–77) who was born Johann Schefler, but he is generally known by
the pseudonym Angelus Silesius [Silesian messenger], under which his
34
John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, trans. Allison Peters (3rd revised
edition).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
135
poems were published. Schefler was brought up a Lutheran and educated
as a scientist and physician. In 1649 he became physician to the Duke of
Württemberg-Oels. During this time he met Abraham von Franckenberg
(1593–1652), the biographer of Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), a Protestant
mystic, who had held heterodox views. Franckenberg introduced Schefler
to the writings of a number of different mystics, including Tauler.
Franckenberg himself was a poet, and he encouraged Schefler to write down
his relections, in the form of short verses. These became part of the
Cherubinic Wanderer. Schefler sought to have some of his poetic work pub-
lished but found that the Lutheran pastor of the court of the Duke had
prevented this. This event in his life probably played a signihcant part in his
decision to convert to Roman Catholicism in 1652, which also took place
against the background of the reconversion of Silesia to Catholicism. In
1654 Schefler became court physician to Emperor Ferdinand III in Vienna,
and in 1661 he returned to Breslau and was ordained priest; later on, he
became coadjutor to the Prince-bishop of Breslau.
In 1657 he published two collections of poetry one of which was repub-
lished in 1674 under the name The Cherubinic Wanderer and Holy Joy of
the Soul. The latter is a collection of 205 traditional pastoral poems in which
Christ is portrayed as the loving shepherd and the soul as a loving bride.
Some of these became popular hymns and were included in contemporary
Protestant hymn books. The Cherubinic Wanderer is a collection of rhyming
couplets, which express a form of mystical panentheism and demonstrate
the inluence of Jakob Böhme. Silesius sought to express a paradoxical
mysticism. He writes of the essence of God, which he sees as love. But God
could love nothing inferior to himself; he could not be an object of love to
himself, without going out from himself and manifesting his inhnity in a
hnite form, in other words, by becoming human. In this sense God and the
human person are essentially one.
Silesius’ writings present a fascinating example of the religious milieu of
the mid- to late-seventeenth century. He himself crosses over from Protestant
to Catholic allegiance and is inluenced by heterodox thought which empha-
sizes the afhnity between the divine and the human. Many of the verses of
the Cherubinic Wanderer were written while he was a Lutheran, yet his
work is received as from a Catholic. The metaphysics underlying the verses
are remarkably inclusive, yet he is famed for a series of tracts against the
‘wrongs’ of Protestantism, published under the title Ecclesiologia. The cou-
plets of the Cherubinic Wanderer
35
express not only the afhnity between
the divine and the human but also a union or merging of the two. While
the couplets in no way represent a systematic approach to theology, they
do contain the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation. A selection of
35
Angelus Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer (New York: Paulist Press, 1986).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
136
couplets demonstrates something of Silesius’ sense of the possibility and
reality of becoming divine.
God is the hre in me and I in him the shine;
Are we not with each other most inwardly entwined? (11) Book 1
This couplet, as many others do, expresses the afhnity and reciprocity
between the divine and the human.
The spirit which God breathed when he had made me hrst,
In essence must return and stand in Him immersed. (74) Book 1
This expresses something of union in terms of the return to God, which
echoes the structure of the conceptuality of the exitus and reditus.
The noblest prayer will a man so much transform
That he becomes that which he does adore. (140) Book 4
This couplet suggests the transforming power of prayer and the identity and
union which are produced.
To be like unto God is highest divine service,
To have the form of Christ in love, in life, in bearing. (150) Book 4
This expresses something of the Christological shaping of divine–human
union.
It was not the hrst time, God to the Cross was nailed,
It was already Abel in whom he has been slayed. (103) Book 5
The Passion of Our Lord did not end on the Cross:
By night and also day he suffers still for us (159) Book 5
These couplets demonstrate something of Silesius’ heterodox thoughts, in
this instance concerning salvation. But they might be interpreted in terms of
an orthodox understanding of the Cross and of the inhnite salvation and
forgiveness available in Christ. Overall in these couplets various compo-
nents of an understanding of deihcation can be seen, including elements of
soteriology. Silesius does not present a neat understanding of the process
of deihcation or union with the divine. But he offers resources for mystical
theology and demonstrates that interest in ‘becoming divine’ as an under-
standing of the calling of humankind continued despite the religious struggles
of the seventeenth century, the beginning of the Enlightenment and the for-
malism of much ‘mainstream’ theology.
The writings of the medieval and early modern mystics follow the classical
pattern of the process of divine–human union: purihcation, illumination
and divinization. The soul cleansed of sin through Baptism and living a good
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
137
moral life is led to a deep and intimate communion with God by letting go
of one’s will and egotistic desires, rising above all creatures in the world, and
by turning inwards in a state of inner unity, calm and silent contemplation.
Several of these authors draw not only on personal mystical experience but
also draw upon the experience of suffering of one kind or another which
informs and possibly ‘allows’ the mystical experiences which they have.
The mystical experiences of Maximos the Confessor also emerge against a
background of incapacity and suffering. This is an important insight for
mystical theology and the construal of divine–human communion.
What is important to notice is that while many of the authors in the medi-
eval and early modern periods do not use the language of deihcation, they
do use extravagant, and perhaps incautious, language to describe the
processes of becoming united with God. Teresa of Avila and John of the
Cross use the metaphor of Spiritual Marriage in order to conceptualize this
divine–human union, and other authors appeal to ‘Perfection’, to express
the intimacy they experienced and sought to communicate. One of the con-
sequences of not depending upon and utilizing an explicit metaphysical
framework is that the distinction between the Creator and the creature, and
between the uncreated and the created, is often compromised, whether
intentionally or otherwise. This is particularly to be seen in the forms of
expression in the writings of Teresa of Avila and the Cherubinic Wanderer.
Such incaution often reinforces the views of those who hnd mystical theo-
logy in general and the metaphor of deihcation in particular repugnant. This
difhculty of maintaining the distinction between God and the human crea-
ture may in part result from the ways in which the mystical theology of
Ps-Dionysius was received in the West. While in the Orthodox tradition the
writings of Ps-Dionysius were part of a corpus of patristic material and were
interpreted together with the writings of Maximos the Confessor and John
of Damascus, the parallel of this process in the West was a reception via the
writings of Eriugena. So while in the East, Gregory Palamas defended the
mystical experience of the Hesychasts on the basis of the distinction between
God’s essence and energies, with the purpose of preserving the distinction
between the uncreated and the created, there is no parallel framework in
the West.
Mystical theology in the twentieth century
A renewal of interest in mysticism and mystical theology began in the mid-
nineteenth century and has continued into the twentieth and twenty-hrst.
The main focus of this renewal of interest centred on the kinds of experiences
the authors describe and identify as ‘mystical’. This was rooted in the newly
developed disciplines of psychology and psychoanalysis. One of the works
which inluenced understandings of mysticism in the early twentieth century
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
138
and continues to shape the discourse surrounding mysticism and mystical
theology is The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) written by the
American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910). James
was personally interested in the phenomena of mystical experience and took
various drugs to stimulate these in himself. He defended the notion of
‘mystical experience’ as such but denied that it was communicable to others.
This raised questions about the reality and validity of the experiences which
mystics such as Teresa of Avila had recounted in their works. This in turn
raised the question as to whether ‘mystical union’ (with the divine or tran-
scendent) is to be understood in terms of ‘exotic’ experiences such as trances,
visions and levitation or whether it is to be understood in terms of ‘ordinary’
experiences such as the pursuit of the virtues and participation in the liturgy
of the Church.
Detailed discussion of the mystical experience of the great mystics such as
Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and of the mystical theology which
emerges from relection upon this experience is to be seen in works pub-
lished at the beginning of the twentieth century, such as Friedrich von Hügel’s
Mystical Element of Religion (1909),
36
James Henry Leuba’s The psychol-
ogy of religious mysticism (1925)
37
and Albert Farges and S. P Jacques’
Mystical Phenomena Compared with Their Human and Diabolical Coun-
terfeits: A Treatise on Mystical Theology in Agreement with the Principles of
St. Teresa Set Forth by the Carmelite Congress of 1923 at Madrid (1926).
38

In the main, these works do not consider the outcome of mystical experience
or of union with the divine in terms of the metaphor of deihcation. Evelyn
Underhill (1875–1941) in her classic exposition, Mysticism: A Study in
the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1911)
39
is
dismissive of the concept. She writes
Unless safeguarded by limiting dogmas, the theory of Immanence,
taken alone, is notoriously apt to degenerate into pantheism; and into
those extravagant perversions of the doctrine of ‘deihcation’ in which
the mystic holds his transhgured self to be identical with the Indwell-
ing God.
40
36
von Hügel, F., Mystical Element of Religion: A Study of St Catherine of Genoa
(London: Dent, 1908).
37
Leuba, J. H., The psychology of religious mysticism (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner
& co., 1925).
38
Farges, A., and Jacques, S. P., Mystical Phenomena Compared with Their Human
and Diabolical Counterfeits: A Treatise on Mystical Theology in Agreement with the
Principles of St. Teresa Set Forth by the Carmelite Congress of 1923 at Madrid (Burns,
Oates and Washbourne, 1926).
39
Underhill, E., Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of man’s spiritual
consciousness (London: Methuen, 1949).
40
Underhill, Mysticism, p. 99.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
139
Dom Cuthbert Butler, in his work, Western Mysticism: The Teaching of
Augustine, Gregory and Bernard on Contemplation and the Contemplative
Life (1922),
41
recognizes the use of the metaphor in the work of Bernard
of Clairvaux and the Greek fathers and a parallel usage in the works of
Ruusbroec and John of the Cross.
42
But he argues that ‘deihcation’ is an idea
to be treated with caution, and as a consequence he does not explore it in
any depth. An avoidance of any discussion of the metaphor of deihcation
in relation to the outcome of mystical experience is to be found in later
works, such as Rowan Williams’ The Wound of Knowledge (1979)
43
and
Ursula King’s Christian Mystics (2001).
44
In The Study of Spirituality
(1986)
45
‘deihcation’ is only discussed in relation to the Greek Fathers. The
lack of recognition of the metaphor of deihcation in relation to the discus-
sion of mystical experience and theology relates to the scepticism of the
psychologists such as James and to the pervading inluence of the views
expressed by Harnack.
This is not the whole picture, some have understood that any investigation
of the shape and outcome of mystical theology needs to include some discus-
sion of the metaphor of deihcation. Among those who recognize this need
is Dom David Knowles (1896–1974). In his work What Is Mysticism?
(1967)
46
he acknowledges the metaphor of deihcation in his appeal to the
tradition of the ‘exchange formula’ by citing the prayer accompanying the
mixing of water with the wine of the chalice at Mass, which says, ‘we may
be sharers in the divine nature of him who deigned to share with us in our
human nature.’
47
He afhrms the afhnity between the divine and the human,
bestowed by God in the creation of humankind, which he suggests is often
ignored. ‘We do not in common life realize even what a likeness of the divine
powers we have been given as human beings by our capacity to know and
to love.’
48
These are the premises upon which Knowles discusses mysticism
and its outcomes, although he does not provide any extensive analysis of
the terminology or conceptuality of deihcation. Dom Illtyd Trethowan, in
41
Butler, C., Western Mysticism: The teaching of Augustine, Gregory and Bernard on
contemplation and the contemplative life (London: Constable, 1967; 1st edn, 1922;
2nd edn, 1926).
42
Butler, Western Mysticism, pp. 108–10.
43
Williams, R. D., The Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New
Testament to St. John of the Cross (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1979).
44
King, U., Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages (London
and New York: Routledge, 2001, 2004).
45
Jones, C., Wainwright, G., and Yarnold, E. (eds), The Study of Spirituality (London:
SPCK, 1986).
46
Knowles, D., What Is Mysticism? (London: Sheed and Ward, 1967).
47
Knowles, What Is Mysticism? p. 15.
48
Knowles, What Is Mysticism? p. 15.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
140
his work Mysticism and Theology (1975)
49
recognizes the need to discuss
‘deihcation’ and argues that union with God ‘is the ordinary goal which
the Christian sets before him, the purpose for which the human life is
ordered. . . .’
50
The ‘ordinariness’ of religious (and mystical) experience is
afhrmed by Nicholas Lash in Easter in Ordinary: Reections on Human
Experience and the Knowledge of God (1988).
51
In this work Lash provides
a response to William James’ construal of the incommunicability of religious
experience and suggests that all may seek and hnd the divine – as Herbert
wrote, ‘Heaven in ordinary’ (Prayer).
Much of the discussion of ‘mysticism’ in these works is focused on an
individualistic take on mystical theology and union with God, which is not
surprising, given that these works are premised on modern psychology. But
this does not represent the whole picture. Thomas Merton (1915–68) in his
work The Waters of Siloe (1949)
52
relects on the collective dimension of
contemplation and union with God. He writes that ‘the eternal, insatiable,
unlimited, and unlimitable love, for which the monk lives is to be found
within the monastic community.’
53
Love is the life of the monastery, as it is
of the whole Church. ‘This love holds them together and is the one life prin-
ciple which vitalizes and perfects them all in one.’
54
This love is the Holy
Spirit, Vinculum perfectionis [bond of perfection], which creates and sus-
tains the Church, the Body of Christ. Merton argues that the monk’s times
of contemplation in solitude are not moments of isolation or separation;
rather in contemplation the monk enters into communion with the divine,
becoming united with God and with his brothers.
In its highest expression, the fraternal charity of the contemplative
seeks a union with other men far beyond mere benevolence and mutual
tolerance and good fellowship. It is a union in which all souls are fused
into one – into the soul of the Mystical Christ, in Whom they all
become one Person. Now, the true end of monastic vocation is the
perfection of the Mystical Person, not only the perfection of individual
sanctity.
55
Merton conhrms that the contemplative’s union with the divine is an eccle-
sial calling and reality, which expresses the divine love and fellowship as it
49
Trethowan, I., Mysticism and Theology: An essay in Christian metaphysics (London:
Geoffrey Chapman, 1975).
50
Trethowan, Mysticism and Theology, p. 79.
51
Lash, N., Easter in Ordinary: Reections on Human Experience and the Knowledge of
God (1988).
52
Merton, T., The Waters of Siloe (London: Sheldon Press, 1950).
53
Merton, The Waters of Siloe, p. 337.
54
Merton, The Waters of Siloe, p. 337.
55
Merton, The Waters of Siloe, p. 246.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
141
instantiates the Body of Christ, through the divine gifts of grace and love
and faith. Merton’s writing expresses an understanding which enhances
the metaphor of deihcation by including within the mystical experience
of divine–human communion the corporate and ecclesial dimensions of
participating in the divine nature.
Deication in the traditions of the Reformation
The reception of the metaphor of deihcation within the Reformation tradi-
tions of the West may be traced in two trajectories from the sixteenth century
through the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revival movements to the
present day. These twin trajectories were reinforced through the writing of
Adolf von Harnack and Albrecht Ritschl in the nineteenth century. Both
theologians were Liberal Protestants inluenced by the agenda of the Enlight-
enment. But each construed the effect of the Enlightenment upon theology
in a different way, and this becomes particularly evident in their modelling
of the reception of the metaphor of deihcation. It is important to recognize
the inluence which the Enlightenment has had upon the reception of the
doctrine of deihcation not only in the West but in the Orthodox East. It is in
response to the secularizing agenda of the Enlightenment that Nikodimos
and Makarios undertook their work of editing and publishing the patristic
and medieval texts which make up the volumes of the Philokalia (1782). As
a ‘product’ of the Enlightenment the Philokalia has inluenced and shaped
the reception not only of Hesychast practice but also of the doctrine of
deihcation in contemporary Orthodoxy. In a different but parallel way the
philosophy of Kant shaped theological discourse and in doing so has inlu-
enced the reception of the metaphor of deihcation in the West to the present
day. The different takes on the metaphor of deihcation as expressed in the
works of Harnack and Ritschl provide an equivalent hermeneutical hlter in
the West, to the Philokalia in the East.
Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) was a church historian and theologian,
and his work is seen as a classic exposition of Liberal Protestantism. He
and Ritschl were exponents of what was called Kulturprotestantismus
[Culture-Protestantism], which sought to express Christianity within the
modes of thought of contemporary culture. This apologetic approach may be
traced to Schleiermacher, in his work On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured
Despisers (1799). The credibility of Kulturprotestantismus was challenged
by Barth, when leading theologians, including Harnack, wrote a letter sup-
porting the Kaiser’s prosecution of the First World War.
The presuppositions of Harnack’s theology correspond with the Enlight-
enment agenda of questioning historic authorities and of focusing on the
‘subject’, which produced a quest for the original or authentic ‘Gospel’. In
terms of the metaphor of deihcation, Harnack identihes this development as
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
142
evidence that the Greek fathers had subverted the ‘true Gospel’ by their
appeal to pagan and Hellenistic sources (History Dogma III, 121–304).
56
He
laments the transformation of the ‘living faith’ of ‘the glowing hope of the
Kingdom of Heaven into a doctrine of immortality and deihcation’ (History
Dogma I, 45). In his refutation of the doctrine of theoˉ sis, Harnack rejects
any appeal to the mindset of a writer’s context in order to pursue the apolo-
getic and missionary task. Yet he himself was making precisely such an
appeal within his own context. Harnack attacked the expression of deihca-
tion in the ‘exchange formula’ as something derived from mystery cults. He
states that
when the Christian religion was represented as the belief in the incar-
nation of God and as the sure hope of the deihcation of man, a
speculation that had originally never got beyond the fringe of religious
knowledge was made the central point of the system and the simple
content of the Gospel was obscured. (History Dogma II, 318).
He sees the construal of salvation in terms of deihcation as the ‘the abroga-
tion [Aufhebung] of the natural state by a miraculous transformation of
our nature’, which excluded any understanding of the atonement and which
was based on Christological formulas, rather than the Jesus of the Gospels
(History Dogma III, 164–6). Harnack interpreted the patristic appeal to the
divine image and likeness as ‘soteriological naturalism’, by which he under-
stood that physical contact with the incarnate Logos mechanically deihed
human nature.
On the whole current theological discourse is no longer premised on the
kind of presuppositions to be found in Harnack’s work. The notion of the
simplicity of the Gospels is no longer current, but the inluence of Harnack’s
view of deihcation is still found in those who portray deihcation as unbibli-
cal or irrational.
57
Those scholars who have studied the patristic texts closely
disagree with what is seen as Harnack’s simplistic understanding of the
method and self-awareness of the fathers.
Far from being under the inluence of Hellenic superstitions, the Greek
fathers, as Gross depicts them, were deliberate and studied in their
advancing of the doctrine, giving to it a viability in Christian thought
that has long outlived any theoretical pagan roots. Thus, while not
56
Harnack, A. von, History of Dogma, vol. 3 (London: Williams & Norgate, 1896–99).
57
For example, Rashdall, H., The Idea of Atonement in Christian Theology (London:
Macmillan, 1919); Werner, M., The Formation of Christian Doctrine (New York,
1957), pp. 168f.; Lawson, J., The Biblical Theology of Saint Irenaeus (London: 1948),
p. 154.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
143
denying a Hellenic precursor, Gross goes far to show that divinization
in the thought and teaching of the Greek fathers is thoroughly
Christian and highly defensible for Christian faith.
58
While Harnack’s construal of the metaphor of deihcation in the light of his
understanding of the relationship between the Gospel and culture is no
longer acceptable for most theologians, Harnack’s concerns pose the ques-
tion of how the experience of God is to be expressed in language which
makes sense in any particular context. In a secularized culture such as that
of the West today, to what extent does it make sense to speak of an experi-
ence of becoming divine, or of becoming one with the God, in a context
where most people do not have the language to articulate their spiritual
instincts and experiences and where God-talk is all but disappeared?
The second trajectory is expressed by Albrecht Ritschl (1822–89) who
understood himself to be following and developing the theology of both
Luther and Schleiermacher. Ritschl was inluenced by Kant’s critique of
the claims of ‘Pure Reason’, the understanding of the value of morally con-
ditioned knowledge and the concept of the kingdom of ends, and by
Schleiermacher’s historical treatment of Christianity, his appeal to the idea
of religious fellowship and his emphasis on the importance of religious feel-
ing. In his approach to the metaphor of deihcation he provides something of
a response to the question of how to speak in a secularized context. He
agreed with Harnack that in Protestant tradition it is more usual to speak
of salvation in moral terms rather than quasi-physical ones.
59
Ritschl was
utterly dismissive of ‘mysticism’. He insisted that there was an absolute
opposition between justihcation and mysticism and argued that the ‘subor-
dination of public revelation to mystical experience is not acceptable.’
60
This
rejection is based in the reality that there was and perhaps is no consensus
regarding the meaning of ‘mystical’.
In order to understand Ritschl’s take on the metaphor of deihcation, it is
important to note that he is critical of a ‘Churchly theology’ in Lutheranism,
which he suggests sees no connection between justihcation by faith and the
functions of Christian perfection. He argues that this disjunction produced
‘the decomposition of Evangelical Christianity’ at the time of the Enlighten-
ment, which Protestant theology in the nineteenth century had not been
able to address (The Christian Doctrine of Justication and Reconciliation,
58
Robichaux, K. S., and Onica, P. A., ‘Introduction to the English edition’, in J. Gross, The
Divinization of the Christian according to the Greek Fathers (Anaheim, CA: A & C
Press, 2002) p. ix.
59
See Ritschl, A., The Christian Doctrine of Justication and Reconciliation (Edinburgh:
T & T Clark, 1900), vol. 1, pp. 8–21.
60
Ritschl, A., Justication and Reconciliation, vol. 3, p. 113.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
144
pp. 656–7) Ritschl was convinced that religious conceptions are ‘social’
that is to say they relate to the world ‘on the part of God, and those who
believe in Him’. (Justication and Reconciliation, p. 27) On this basis, he
constructs an argument that religion includes consciousness of a common
salvation, which is understood to be a fellowship which is more than the
similarity of all its members. Justihcation and reconciliation need to be
examined in relation to the individual and the community, which means
that religion is understood to be a striving after ‘goods’ a summum bonum.
One expression of summum bonum is the Kingdom of God, which is an
operation of God towards human persons and a human common task to
render obedience so that God’s sovereignty is realized. Ritschl is indicating
that there is something collaborative or reciprocal in the idea of the Kingdom,
and he extends this idea to justihcation and faith. Justihcation is the product
of divine operation (grace) in the human person, but it is no mere mechani-
cal process, for it includes the response of faith, which is also part of divine
operation. So he argues faith is part human and part divine, and ‘the concep-
tions of the Kingdom of God and justihcation are homogeneous’; both are
expressions of divine grace and of personal independence (Justication and
Reconciliation, p. 33). Ritschl construes an understanding of human voca-
tion in relation to the Person of Christ and argues that ‘it is possible for us
to enter into His relation to God and to the world,’ which means that ‘the
disciples of Jesus take the rank of sons of God (Matthew 17.26), and are
received into the same relation to God in which Christ stands to the His
Father’ (John 17.21–23; Justication and Reconciliation, p. 387). Ritschl
goes on to recognize that the ‘mutual relation between the Godhead of
Christ and the raising of the members of his community to mastery over the
world as their true destiny’ relates to the Greek church’s teaching: ‘The com-
munication of o ¢ûopoi o through the teaching – otherwise the Incarnation –
of the Divine Word, is regularly described also as ûto¬oiqoi,.’ In support of
this understanding of ‘being made god’ Ritschl cites Aquinas and Luther’s
hymn: Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schaar – in which the exchange formula
occurs: ‘God became man that man might become God’ (Justication and
Reconciliation, p. 389). In addition to this exposition of the doctrines of
justihcation and reconciliation in terms of a reciprocity of wills, hliation and
the exchange formula Ritschl explores the notion of Christian Perfection.
He appeals to the witness of the Augsburg Confession for an understanding
of faith in God’s fatherly providence, prayer, humility, and moral activity,
which he argues ‘are the expression of our consciousness of reconciliation,
and also of Christian perfection . . .’ (Augsburg Confession xx.24; Justica-
tion and Reconciliation, p. 647). Furthermore, he argues that while Roman
Catholicism understands perfection in terms of the monastic vocation,
rather than in terms of living ‘in the world’, the Reformers understood the
calling to Christian Perfection as the calling of all Christians (and not just
the Religious).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
145
It would be reasonable to expect that Ritschl’s reconceptualization of the
doctrines of Christology and justihcation in terms of ‘value’ would leave no
room for a doctrine such as deihcation. But instead Ritschl conhgures his
understandings around some of the core elements of the architecture of the
metaphor of deihcation. Not only does he do this but in his appeal to a
social and ‘worldly’ understanding of the Kingdom of God, he reiterates
the Anabaptists’ claim that hliation and perfection are for all people rather
than just for some. The democratization of these outcomes of salvation is
something which was of consequence not only in his day but is of crucial
importance today.
The mainstream rejection of deihcation in the West, expressed by Harnack,
is challenged by the subtlety of Ritschl’s construal of the nexus of issues
which surround the metaphor of deihcation. In the discussion of the works
of Luther and Calvin and the Anglican divines which follows, it will be
crucial to bear this in mind. The writings of Luther, Calvin, Hooker and
Andrewes perceive the complexity of the issues which surround the formu-
lation of the doctrines of salvation and sanctihcation in ways in which many
of their contemporaries or followers failed to do.
Martin Luther’s (1483–1546) dispute with the Church’s hierarchy in 1517
began the Protestant Reformation. Many of his writings are highly polemi-
cal and he produced nothing comparable with Calvin’s ‘systematic’ account
of Christian belief in the Institutes. This means that the interpretation of
Luther’s thought is open to considerable variation. Nonetheless, Luther’s
work is focused on what he saw as core beliefs and doctrines, such as Justi-
hcation by Faith. Luther’s desire was for a ‘gracious God’, for a salvation
which could not be bought and sold, which was the free gift of God. Given
this focus in Luther’s writings, it is surprising to hnd that some interpreters
have seen a strong emphasis on deihcation in his work. This is surprising,
given the normative view of mainstream Protestant theology that the
reformed doctrines of Justihcation and of Grace are incompatible with any
notion of deihcation. This incompatibility is premised on the understanding
that a doctrine of deihcation is constructed around notions of divine–human
‘likeness’ and of a synergy of wills, which are considered ‘impossible’ in rela-
tion to a Protestant understanding of the holiness of God and the sinfulness
of the human person. A caricature of the doctrine of justihcation holds
that for Luther ‘to justify’ meant to declare a believer righteous or just, but
not ‘to make’ her righteous or just. In other words, ‘justihcation’ is about an
extrinsic justice which in the view of some commentators is a spiritual hc-
tion. Many Lutheran scholars hold that this understanding of Justihcation
is inadequate and that it is construed around a negative perception of a
‘law-court metaphor’ which reduces Luther’s insights to legalism. Such a
caricature fails to acknowledge Luther’s understanding that Christ’s person
and work is ‘present’ in ‘faith’, so that ‘the present Christ’ is the link between
faith and good works.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
146
In recent decades a ‘Finnish School’ of Lutheran studies led by Tuomo
Mannermaa
61
has provided a radical interpretation of Luther’s writings.
62

In Mannermaa’s view an idea of theoˉ sis is to be discerned at the heart of
Luther’s theology. On this basis he claims that ‘The Lutheran understanding
of the indwelling of Christ implies a real participation in God and is ana-
logous to the Orthodox doctrine of participation in God, or theosis.’
63

Mannermaa premises this interpretation in relation to his understanding of
the inluence of Kantian categories upon ‘modern Protestant thought’. In
Mannermaa’s view, ‘classic Lutheranism was familiar with the notion of
God’s essential indwelling in the believer [inhabitatio Dei]’ and rejected ‘any
notion that God . . . does not “dwell” in the Christian and that only [God’s]
“gifts” are present in the believer.’
64
The later Lutheran statement of faith
the Formula of Concord (1577) distinguished between ‘justihcation by faith’
and God’s ‘indwelling’ in the believer, which, according to Mannermaa,
implies that justihcation is forensic and that indwelling is only a consequence
of being justihed. Mannermaa states that Luther himself does not distin-
guish between the Person of Christ and his work, ‘Christ is, in this unity of
person and work, really present in the faith of the Christian [in ipsa de
Christus adest].’
65
And he claims that Luther understands that the idea
of Christ’s presence is ‘real-ontic’ and not just a subjective experience
[Erlebnis] or God’s effect on the believer [Wirkung] as the neo-Protestant
school has held.
66
Mannermaa focuses in particular on Luther’s words:
in ipsa de Christus adest’ [in faith itself Christ is really present], in
order to contrast them with ‘a purely forensic concept of justihcation,
in which the Christus pro nobis [Christ for us] is separated from the
Christus in nobis [Christ within us].
67
61
Mannermaa’s ideas were hrst presented in Der im Glauben gegenwärtige Christus.
Rechtvertigung und Vergottung zum ökumenischen Dialog (Hannover: Lutherisches
Verlagshaus, 1989).
62
See Turcescu, L., ‘Soteriological Issues in the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration
on Justihcation: An Orthodox Perspective’, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (2001), and
Vandervelde, G., ‘Justihcation and Deihcation – Problematic Synthesis: A Response to
Lucian Turcescu’, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (2001): 75–8.
63
Mannermaa, T., ‘Justihation and Theosis in Lutheran-Orthodox Perspective’, in
C. E. Braaten and R. W. Jenson (eds), Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpreta-
tion of Luther (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), p. 25.
64
Mannermaa, ‘Justihcation and Theosis’, p. 27.
65
Mannermaa, ‘Justihcation and Theosis’, p. 28.
66
See Mannermaa, T., ‘Theosis as a Subject of Finnish Luther Research’, Pro Ecclesia,
4(1) (1995): 38–42; also Kärkkäinen, V.-M., ‘The Ecumenical Potential of the Eastern
Doctrine of Theosis: Emerging convergences in Lutheran and Free Church Soterio-
logies’ in Toward Healing Our Divisions. Reecting on Pentecostal Diversity and
Common Witness. The 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies,
Springheld, MO, 11–13, 1999.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
147
Mannermaa argues that ‘In Luther research there is a long tradition of
solving the problem of the presence-of-Christ motif with the help of tran-
scendental effect-orientation,’
68
which means that there is no human
knowledge of God, but only of his effects. Christ being present through
faith is not a ‘real’ event; at least it cannot be known except in its effects.
69

The conclusion which Mannermaa draws from his interpretation is that
Luther’s own writings on justihcation by faith imply a participation in God,
which is parallel with the Orthodox doctrine of deihcation.
The writers of the Finnish School suggest that a statistical analysis of
Luther’s work reveals that deicatio and Vergöttlichung occur more often
than the phrase theologia crucis.
70
This reinforces the view that Luther’s
works are understood in the light of nineteenth-century scholarship which
focused on justihcation rather than deihcation. While the evidence of statics
provides useful information, it is problematic to base interpretation simply
on quantity. George Vandervelde goes on to argue that ‘the issue is not sim-
ply whether and how justihcation by faith and theosis are compatible but
whether and how a notion of renewal that lows from the Lutheran notion
of “forensic” justihcation is compatible with the notion of divinization.’
71

A crucial hermeneutical question arises: does Luther’s use of ‘Vergottlichung’
[becoming like God/deihcation] and of being ‘vergottet’ [deihed] mean that
the language of righteousness, holiness, love, adoption and union with Christ
are to be interpreted in terms of divinization? Vandervelde argues that it is a
more authentic interpretation of Luther to understand that ‘the language of
Vergottlichung [is] his way of underscoring the superlative reality of the new
life of holiness as God’s gift, evidence of God’s being truly present in Christ.’
72
Luther does use language which appears to express the metaphor of deih-
cation. An explicit example comes from Luther’s Sermon for the feast of
St Peter and St Paul (1519):
For it is true that a man helped by grace is more than a man; indeed,
the grace of God gives him the form of God and deihes him, so that
even the Scriptures call him ‘God’ and ‘God’s son’.
73
67
‘Preface: The Finnish Breakthrough in Luther Research’, in Braaten and Jenson, Union
with Christ, p. viii.
68
Mannermaa, ‘Finnish Luther Research’, p. 42.
69
See Kärkkäinen, ‘The Ecumenical Potential’, endnote 46: For an analysis of underlying
philosophical presuppositions and their effects on Luther interpretation in neo-Kantian
traditions, see Saarinen, R., Gottes Wirken auf uns. Die transzendentale Deutung des
Gegenwart-Christi-Motivs in der Lutherforschung (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1989).
70
The terms deihco / vergotten / durchgotten appear thirty times in Luther’s works.
71
Vandervelde, ‘Justihcation and Deihcation’, p. 77.
72
Vandervelde, ‘Justihcation and Deihcation’, p. 78.
73
D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimar, 1883), section 1, vol. 2,
pp. 247–8 (English translation, Kärkkäinen, ‘The Ecumenical Potential’).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
148
Earlier at Christmas 1514 Luther had preached that
Just as the word of God became lesh, so it is certainly also necessary
that the lesh become word. For the word becomes lesh precisely so
that the lesh may become word. In other words: God becomes man so
that man may become God. Thus power becomes powerless so that
weakness may become powerful. The logos puts on our form and
manner.
74
In the tradition of Irenaeus and Athanasius Luther premises his language
of deihcation on the union of logos and lesh. The divine does not cease to
be divine as the human does not cease being human, but there is a real com-
munion of divine and human. The metaphor of deihcation is expressed by
Luther in terms of the presence of Christ in faith, participation in God,
union with God and perichoˉ rȘsis. The understanding of the real presence
of Christ in believer is core to Luther’s soteriology, but the centrality of
the conceptuality of deihcation in Luther’s thought remains a contested
interpretation.
John Calvin (1509–64) became involved in attempts to reform the
Catholic Church in France, but violent opposition to these attempts led him
to lee in 1535. In 1536 he was persuaded by Farel to join the attempt to
reform the Church in Geneva, and in the same year he published the hrst
edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
75
Although I suggested
earlier that this was a ‘systematic’ exposition of belief, it does not mean that
the Institutes should be seen primarily as a work of logic or system. The
work was addressed to the Catholic king of France, Francis I, and in that
sense is an apologetic work. T. F. Torrance argued that Calvin himself saw
the Institutes as a summa pietatis and that the inluence of Calvin’s spiritual-
ity in the work should not be underestimated.
The idea of including Calvin in a work on deihcation may seem preposter-
ous to some readers. Patrick Gillespie Henry argues that in Calvin’s view,
‘God became by nature man that men might know dehnitively and without
excuse just how far from God they are.’
76
Yet in the opening passage of Book
3 Calvin writes of becoming one with Christ, being indwelt by him, through
‘the secret efhcacy of the Spirit’. Various scholars have argued that Calvin
74
Luthers Werke, Section 1, vol. 1, pp. 25–32 (English translation, Kärkkäinen, ‘The
Ecumenical Potential’).
75
Calvin, J., Institutes of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1989).
76
Henry, P. G., ‘A Presbyterian Response to the Orthodox Agreed Statement’, in P. Fries
and T. Nersoyan (eds), Christ in East and West (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press,
1987), p. 197.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
149
drew on notions of the beatihc vision and mystical union with God from the
works of Bernard of Clairvaux. Norris argues that at the beginning of the
Reformation, the reformers were exploring ideas of union with Christ [unio
cum Christo] as the premise to the entire process of salvation and sanctihca-
tion and that this was especially so in the thought of John Calvin.
77
Calvin
explores this in relation to Romans 6 and Paul’s concept of dying and rising
and being united with and in Christ through Baptism. This does not mean that
Calvin accepted the validity of mystical experience. He rejects ‘mysticism’
referring to the Theologia Deutsch (Institutes 1.14.4) and criticizing the
work of Ps- Dionysius and of Osiander for his the idea of ‘absorption’
into God (Institutes 3.11). However, Tamburello argues that Calvin’s use
of mystical theology from the Middle Ages is more positive than is often
acknowledged.
78
Calvin wrote of ‘union with Christ’ in terms of a ‘mystical
union’ (Institutes 3.11.10) and often cites Bernard of Clairvaux in the Insti-
tutes, but only on one occasion in relation to union with Christ (Institutes
3.22.10).
Moreover, lest by his cavils he deceive the unwary, I acknowledge that
we are devoid of this incomparable gift until Christ become ours.
Therefore, to that union of the head and members, the residence of
Christ in our hearts, in hne, the mystical union, we assign the highest
rank, Christ when he becomes ours making us partners with him in the
gifts with which he was endued. Hence we do not view him as at a
distance and without us, but as we have put him on, and been ingrafted
into his body, he deigns to make us one with himself, and, therefore,
we glory in having a fellowship of righteousness with him. (Institutes
3.11.10)
The use of unio mystica in the Institutes lacks precise dehnition. He does not
envisage that union abolishes the difference between the divine and the
human. For Calvin union with Christ is the immediate consequence of faith
and is fundamental to Christian experience. So union with Christ is not a
union of essences but is a ‘spiritual’ union, which is achieved through the
Holy Spirit. Calvin does not use the phrase ‘union of wills’ to describe unio
cum Christo, but he does understand that to have faith is to keep God’s
commandments, especially love of God and neighbour. And he understands
that the cognitive element of faith is knowledge of God’s will and God’s
goodness. He sees that the Church is the indispensable context of union; for
77
Norris, F. W., ‘Deihcation: Consensual and Cogent’, Scottish Journal of Theology, 49(4)
(1996): 422.
78
Tamburello, D. E., Union with Christ: John Calvin and the Mysticism of St Bernard,
(Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), p. 2.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
150
example, he writes, ‘Paul, addressing believers, includes communion with
Christ in the sacraments, as when he says, “As many of you as have been
baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3: 27). Again, “For by one
Spirit we are all baptised into one body” (1 Cor. 12: 13.)’ (Institutes 4.14.7).
Calvin separates justihcation from sanctihcation, so that in terms of justih-
cation ‘union’ is achieved totally, but in terms of sanctihcation, only in part.
An assessment of the signihcance of Calvin’s appeal to union with Christ
does not inevitably lead to the recruitment of Calvin into the band of theo-
logians who espouse the metaphor of deihcation. But even the solitary use
of ‘mystical union’ in the Institutes suggests that Calvin’s theology and spir-
ituality contain something of the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation.
Anabaptists
Alongside the groups which were attached to the main reformers such as
Luther, Zwingli and Calvin there were other groups, who often rejected
involvement in the state or civil society, which emerged during the 1520s
and are referred to collectively as the ‘Radical Reformation’. Among such
groups were those who understood that only believers should be baptized
and who re-baptized those who joined them who had been baptized as
infants. They became known as ‘Anabaptists’ by mainstream reformers,
because of their practice of baptizing a second time. In Britain this group
became known simply as ‘Baptists’ and in North America a number of
groups emerge from this origin: Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, Church
of the Brethren, Brethren in Christ. The Anabaptists appealed to an under-
standing of ‘perfection’ or sinlessness, achieved through the rejection of
involvement in ordinary human or civic life. This led to accusations of ‘anti-
nomian aberrations’.
The Anabaptists were critical of the contrast made by the mainstream
reformers of salvation by faith and grace against salvation by works. In their
view the reformers construed grace not so much as having transforming or
ontological power but as a declaration of pardon and favour. The classic
Protestant understanding of the human person as always ‘justihed and a
sinner’ [simul justus et peccator] was seen by the Anabaptists to lead to
an understanding that all ‘works’ are corrupted by sinful dispositions
and motives. In other words, ‘works’ were righteous because God counted
them as such on the basis of Atonement, but they were not ontologically
righteous.
79
The Anabaptists challenged any notion of salvation which they
considered to be ‘forensic’. For them, Christians were not only to be declared
79
Finger, T. N., ‘Post-Chalcedonian Christology: Some Relections on Oriental Orthodox
Christology from a Mennonite Perspective’, in Christ in East and West, pp. 155–69.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
151
righteous, but they were actually to be righteous. So the Anabaptists were
distinguished from the mainstream Reformers on the basis of not only
their understanding of ‘works’ but also their explicit articulations of the
metaphor of deihcation. Nonetheless, it would be mistaken to suggest that
Anabaptists believed that salvation was not based on grace and faith.
Mainstream Protestantism has found great difhculty with the concept of
divinization. The idea that a human believer actually becomes what God
is seemed to deny the fundamental difference between the Creator and the
creature. Divinization appeared to depersonalize grace. It seemed to reduce
the Incarnation to a ‘natural fact’ and ‘to the mere penetration of human
substance by divine substance. It conceived the sacraments as the more-
or-less automatic “infusion” of the latter.’
80
The Anabaptists were clear that
divinization is not impersonal and based their claim on a subtle construal of
grace, in which grace is understood to create love, which is itself the essence
of God. God’s grace is not understood to begin as a response to sin; rather,
the creation is grounded in grace. ‘Grace is God’s personal act of creating
ex nihilo. It requires no mediating conditions or means for its operation.’
81

Salvation is understood to be a new creative divine act, which is not earned
by human action. Dirk Phillips (1503–68), who, with Menno Simons
(1496–1561), became the founder of the Mennonites, provides a concise
statement of the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation in the Mennonite/
Anabaptist tradition:
All believers are participants of the divine nature, yes, and are called
gods and children of the Most High, they yet do not become identical
in nature and person itself to what God and Christ are. Oh, no! The
creature will never become the Creator and the leshly will never
become the eternal Spirit itself which God is. But the believers become
gods and children of the most high through the new birth, participa-
tion, and fellowship of the divine nature.
82
Salvation is not merely forensic or merely imputed but is a participation in
the divine, which has to be expressed in actions (works) of a new quality.
The Anabaptists understood that ethical behaviour was not pursued in order
to be saved but because one was already saved.
A question which is difhcult to answer is whether there is evidence to sup-
port the idea that the sixteenth-century Anabaptist writers were dependent
on patristic writers. There is a convergence between the early Free Church
80
Finger, ‘Post-Chalcedonian Christology’, p. 162.
81
Finger, ‘Post-Chalcedonian Christology’, p. 163.
82
Dyck, C. J., Keeney, W. E., and Beachy, W. A., The Writings of Dirk Philips, 1504–1568.
Classics of the Radical Reformation 6 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992), pp. 145–6.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
152
theologies and the Eastern view of salvation. This may only be due to a simi-
larity of language, and it remains unclear whether terms, such as ‘divinization’
have the same meanings in the two traditions. Nonetheless, Anabaptist
writers crafted a subtle understanding of grace and of deihcation which was
unusual in the Protestant tradition. It became the source of inspiration for a
strand within Western Christianity which embraced the view that the out-
come of salvation may be understood in terms of union with the divine,
sharing in the divine nature and in a certain sense ‘becoming god’.
The English Reformation
The period after the Elizabethan Settlement (Act of Uniformity 1559) allowed
for a period in which mature relection on what the English Reformation
meant. Richard Hooker (1554–1600) and Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626)
in different ways typify the development of an Anglican theological method
and style in this period. This development was often crafted against the
background of controversy with an element within the Church of England
which sought further reform of the institution and its practice. These were
the ‘Puritans’ who looked to the Calvinists in continental Europe for their
theology. Hooker and Andrewes were widely read scholars who drew on a
variety of traditions contemporary and historic. From these riches they con-
strued a doctrine of salvation which included the metaphor of deihcation.
The extent to which this element of their theology became inluential may
be seen in the works of the Cambridge Platonists and later still in the work
of the Wesleys. But the metaphor of deihcation did not become a common
topic in theological discourse and preaching in the Church of England.
Hooker’s most inluential work, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,
83

was published in 1593 in a total of eight volumes. Although Hooker’s work
primarily focused on the institution of the Church, it deals, nevertheless,
with issues of biblical interpretation, soteriology, ethics and sanctihcation.
Hooker is clear that theology is rooted in prayer and is concerned with
traditional doctrines but is aware that theology is ‘applied’ to use an anach-
ronism. Hooker understood that salvation is grounded in the person and the
work of Christ and that, although God takes the initiative in salvation, the
believer needs to display a rational faith. Hooker’s notion of justihcation has
been variously interpreted.
84
Gordon Rupp
85
argues that Hooker’s view of
83
Hooker, R., ‘Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity’, in J. Keble (ed.), Works (1836), vol. 1.
84
See Simut, C. C., ‘Pigeonholing Richard Hooker: A Selective Study of Relevant Second-
ary Sources’, Perichoresis, 3(1) (2005): 99–112.
85
Rupp, E. G., Studies in the Making of the English Protestant Tradition (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1949), pp. 166–91.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
153
justihcation is forensic. But Lee Gibbs
86
argues that in Hooker’s view
sanctihcation is the source of justihcation, not vice versa, which is a more
Catholic approach to soteriology. In the Laws he explores the metaphor of
deihcation, writing that
No good is inhnite, but only God; there he [is] our felicity and bliss.
Moreover desire leadeth unto union with what it desireth. If then in
him we are blessed, it is by force of participation and conjunction with
him. . . . Then are we happy . . . when fully we enjoy God, even as an
object wherein the powers of our soul are satished, even with everlast-
ing delight; so that although we be men, yet being into God united we
live as it were the life God. (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, I.11.2)
Hooker uses the language of participation and union to describe the out-
come of salvation. He is clear that that there is no blending of natures
between human and divine; in this, he is faithfully following in the tradition
of the Greek fathers, whom he cites in the Laws.
The present-day reception of Andrewes, whose prose is not always easy
to read, has been greatly inluenced by T. S. Eliot’s regard for his work.
87
Andrewes drew widely on patristic sources and presents an understanding
of salvation which relies on forms of expression which are comparable with
the Orthodox doctrine of theoˉ sis. In this extract from a Christmas sermon
preached at court in 1605 Andrewes is exploring the Incarnation as the
model for salvation, drawing upon the dynamics of the exchange formula
and making a strong claim for participation in the Eucharist as a means of
deihcation.
Now ‘the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body, of
the lesh, of Jesus Christ?’ It is surely, and by it and by nothing more
are we made partakers of this blessed union. . . . we also ensuing His
steps will participate with Him and with His lesh which He hath taken
of us. It is most kindly to take part with Him in that which He took
part in with us, and that, to no other end, but that He might make the
receiving of it by us a means whereby He might ‘dwell in us, and we in
Him’. He taking our lesh, and we receiving His Spirit; by His lesh
which He took of us receiving His Spirit which He imparteth to us;
that, as He by ours became consors humanae naturae, so we by His
86
Gibbs, L., ‘Richard Hooker’s Via Media Doctrine of Justihcation’, Harvard Theological
Review, 74(1) (1981): 212–13.
87
Eliot, T. S., For Lancelot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Order (London: Faber,
1928).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
154
might become consortes Divinae naturae, ‘partakers of the Divine
nature’. (Preached on Christmas Day, 1605)
88
The theology of Lancelot Andrewes is ‘at once practical and mystical, look-
ing to the deihcation of man, [and] his participation in the divine nature’.
89

Andrewes does not craft a systematic exposition of the doctrine of deihca-
tion, but he does appeal to core elements of the patristic exposition of the
metaphor of deihcation.
In the mid-seventeenth century a group known as the ‘Cambridge
Platonists’ emerged, who were associated with the University of Cambridge.
They share an interest in and commitment to the philosophy of Plato and
Plotinus but otherwise have varied concerns, some of which related to con-
temporary philosophers such as Descartes and others to patristic sources.
They also shared a common interest in theological issues, which makes them
of interest in this context. As Platonists they defended the rationality of
religious faith against the anti-intellectuals among the Puritan movements
and defended the existence of God and the immortality of the soul against
the attacks of rationalists. The via media between these two extremes which
the Cambridge Platonists walked meant that they continued to hold a place
for ‘mystery’ within the Christian faith. That mystery centred on the connec-
tion which they perceived between
the mundane and the celestial, the visible and the transcendental,
Nature and Grace. The ‘mystery’ is not denied; it is in fact accentuated.
It is accentuated because the candle of the Lord was said to enable
man to attain an almost mystical awareness of God at the point where
the rational and the spiritual merge.
90
The mysticism of the Cambridge Platonists is to be distinguished from the
emotional language of the Spanish mystics and from the language of
‘unknowing’. Their mysticism is more akin to that of the Brothers of the
Common Life. As well as a Platonist understanding of the immortality of the
soul the works of the members of the group construe an understanding of
human deiformity in terms of the metaphor of the ‘seed’. They appeal to the
expression ‘the seed of woman’ (Genesis 3.15) understood as a prophecy of
Christ and to the notion that the ‘seed’ is the Word of God implanted in the
human soul. This deiformity of human nature is the basis for understanding
88
Lancelot Andrewes Works Sermons (vol. 1: Sermons of the Nativity) (Library of Anglo-
Catholic Theology, 1841).
89
Lossky, N., Lancelot Andrewes the Preacher: The Origins of the Mystical Theology
of the Church of England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 355.
90
Patrides, C. A. (ed.), The Cambridge Platonists (London: Edward Arnold, 1969), p. 17.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
155
the Incarnation, through which the ‘God-man’ deihes human nature and
overcomes the seed of the evil one.
91
I will focus on the exposition of deihca-
tion in the sermons of two of the members of the group Benjamin Whichcote
(1609–83) and Ralph Cudworth (1617–89).
In his sermon, The Manifestation of Christ and the Deication of Man,
92

Whichcote takes as his text, Acts 13.24 ‘Of this man’s seed hath God, accord-
ing to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour Jesus’, which refers to the
metaphor of the ‘seed’ mentioned previously. He explores what benehts
arise from the Incarnation of the Word and argues that, by indwelling human
nature, the Word has worked righteousness to overcome sin. Then he
explores how these benehts are appropriated by the believer:
Now, let us look for the Explication of this, in our selves; in our Nativ-
ity from above; in Mental Transformation, and DEIFICATION. Do
not stumble at the use of the Word. For, we have Authority for the use
of it, in Scripture, 2 Pet. 1.4 Being made Partakers of the Divine Nature;
which is in effect our Deication.
93
(emphases in original)
This exposition of the metaphor of deihcation draws directly on the text of
2 Peter and is related to an understanding of the effects of the Incarnation in
terms of the exchange formula. It speaks of deihcation as being born from
above, and in terms of transformation, which are understood to be the out-
come of being delivered from sin and sanctihed. This is a very explicit and
classic understanding of deihcation.
A Sermon Preached before the House of Commons, March 31, 1647,
94
was
delivered by Ralph Cudworth and was ‘the only exposition of Cambridge
Platonism ever addressed to such an inluential body. The sermon was pub-
lished on the express “desire” of Parliament.’
95
Cudworth explores how God
is truly to be known, and argues that
The Gospel is nothing else, but God descending into the World in Our
Form, and conversing with us in our likenesse; that he might allure,
and draw us up to God, and make us partakers of his Divine Form.
Oto , ytyovtv ovûpo¬o, (as Athanasius speaks) ivo qµo, tv tou¬o
ûto¬oiqoq , God was therefore incarnated and made man, that he
91
Patrides, The Cambridge Platonists, p. 20.
92
Anthony, Third Earl of Shatesbury (ed.), Benjamin Whichcote, Select Sermons (1698),
part II, sermon III, pp. 331–60.
93
Cited by Patrides, The Cambridge Platonists, p. 70.
94
Cudworth, R., A Sermon Preached before the House of Commons, March 31, 1647
(Cambridge, 1648).
95
Patrides, The Cambridge Platonists, p. xxv.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
156
might Deie us, that is, (as S. Peter expresseth it) make us partakers of
the Divine nature.
96
(emphases in original)
Here again there is direct reference to 2 Peter and to the classic exposition
of the exchange formula by Athanasius. This is a remarkable expression of
the metaphor of deihcation, all the more so because of the context in which
it was delivered. In these texts the classic conceptuality of deihcation is
brought to the audience of the English Reformation in explicit forms of
expression. These understandings of salvation and sanctihcation did not
become widely accepted in theological discourse or preaching, but they
bear witness to an ongoing reception of deihcation within the context of
the English Reformation, which fed into the revival movements of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Great Awakening and ‘Christian Perfection’
From the late seventeenth century a movement developed hrst within Luther-
anism, and later within other Protestant traditions, including the Anabaptists,
which is known as ‘Pietism’. This movement inluenced and inspired the
Wesleys, leading to the formation of Methodism, and Alexander Mack,
leading to the Brethren movement. Pietism had a particular emphasis on
individual piety, and a vigorous Christian life, which was manifest in an
appeal to ‘perfection’. In 1311 the Council of Vienne declared that any idea
‘that man in this present life can acquire so great and such a degree of per-
fection that he will be rendered inwardly sinless, and that he will not be able
to advance farther in grace’ (Denziger §471) was heretical. This condemna-
tion indicates from the outset that the concept of ‘Christian Perfection’ is
controversial. I do not propose to attempt to trace the origins or develop-
ment of the Evangelical Revival in Britain; I will simply focus on some
key hgures associated with that Revival who promoted understandings of
Christian Perfection and explored forms of expression around the metaphor
of deihcation.
The Scottish theologian and minister Henry Scougal (1650–78) whose
father had been Bishop of Aberdeen, produced a number of works while he
was a professor of divinity at King’s College in the University of Aberdeen.
His work, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (1677),
97
was written origi-
nally to provide spiritual counsel for a friend. This became a seminal text of
‘the Great Awakening’. George Whiteheld is credited with saying that he
96
Patrides, The Cambridge Platonists, p. 101.
97
Scougal, H., The Life of God in the Soul of Man (1677) (Cambridge: John Wilson and
Son, 1868).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
157
never really understood what true religion was until he had read Scougal’s
work. The Life of God in the Soul of Man is a text which presents the archi-
tecture of the metaphor of deihcation before a Protestant and Evangelical
audience. In the introductory passages of his book, Scougal writes, ‘I know
not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling
it a divine life’ (The Life of God in the Soul of Man, p. 7). He continues that
this life is
wrought in the souls of men by the power of the Holy Spirit; but also
in regard of its nature, religion being a resemblance of the divine per-
fections, the image of the Almighty shining in the soul of man: it is a
beam of the eternal light, a real participation of his nature, it is a beam
of the eternal light, a drop of that inhnite ocean of goodness; and they
who are endued with it, may be said to have God dwelling in their
souls, and Christ formed within them. (The Life of God in the Soul of
Man, p. 13)
Understandings of partaking in the divine life, which in the view of some
commentators is parallel with deihcation developed in Methodism and in
other branches of Pietism where there was renewed interest in the asceticism
of the early church and some of the mystical traditions of the West. Wesleyan
traditions in particular developed an understanding akin to deihcation which
taught a doctrine of entire sanctihcation which implies that the Christian’s
goal is to live without any sin. This is the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian
Perfection, which was sharply criticized by commentators in the Church
of England during John Wesley’s life time (1703–91) and continues to be a
matter of controversy to this day. Wesley’s understanding is more nuanced
than the phrase ‘Christian Perfection’ might suggest. Perfection is under-
stood in terms of the process of sanctihcation and is a work of grace. It is
‘purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God’ and having ‘the mind
which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked’. It is ‘loving God
with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves’ (A Plain Account of
Christian Perfection, 109). Furthermore, it is ‘a restoration not only to the
favour, but likewise to the image of God,’ our ‘being hlled with the fullness
of God’ (The End of Christ’s Coming, 482). However, for Wesley, perfection
is not sinlessness or a state of being unable to sin, but rather a state of choos-
ing not to sin.
98
Wesley’s understanding of perfection means a change of life
and freedom from wilful rebellion against God. It was a state which was not
necessarily permanent. Perfection in Wesley’s understanding is closely allied
with holiness.
98
See Wesley’s sermons ‘On Christian Perfection’ (40) and ‘On Perfection’ (76) in
T. Jackson (ed.), John Wesley Sermons text from the 1872 edition.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
158
In his exploration of the union of the believer with God, Wesley expresses
many of the features of the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation in his
sermons. In the following text he explores the outcome of the Incarnation in
terms of immortality and union:
What is the very root of this religion? It is Immanuel, God with us!
God in man! Heaven connected with earth! The unspeakable union of
mortal with immortal. For ‘truly our fellowship’ (may all Christians
say) ‘is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. God hath given
unto us eternal life; and this life is in his Son.’ What follows? ‘He that
hath the Son hath life: And he that hath not the Son of God hath not
life.’ (Human Life a Dream, Sermon 121, August 1789)
For Wesley this union of divine and human, mortal and immortal, in which
believers share as a consequence of the Incarnation, produces an outcome
which reverses and goes beyond the destiny of Adam and produces a cosmic
communion with the Trinity (The New Creation, Sermon 64). In another
sermon, Wesley appeals to the text of 2 Peter 1.4 and draws out the soteri-
ological implications of participating in the divine. He goes on to speak of
conformity, if not synergy, of the divine and human wills premised on the
work of the Holy Spirit, who enables the believer to live according to the
virtues (On grieving the Holy Spirit, Sermon 138, written 1733). These texts
demonstrate that John Wesley was familiar with the key components of the
doctrine of deihcation. He uses these to express his understanding of the
divine purposes in creating and redeeming the cosmos and the outcome of
grace and sanctihcation in a believer’s present as well as future life. The use
of the metaphor is also seen in Charles Wesley’s (1707–88) hymns. Charles
draws upon classic elements of the metaphor of deihcation such as the
exchange formula to construe the Incarnation of God in Christ as the means
not only of human justihcation and salvation but also of deihcation and
perfection.
These core understandings of Wesleyan Methodism inluence later Holiness
Traditions.
99
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
100
and David Bundy
101
have argued
that there are shared theological roots between Pentecostal-Holiness and
Eastern Orthodox traditions. A number of scholars have found evidence of
99
See Dayton, D., Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson,
1988).
100
Kärkkäinen, ‘The Ecumenical Potential’.
101
Bundy, D., Vision of Sanctication: Themes of Orthodoxy in the Methodist, Holiness
and Pentecostal Traditions, Unpublished manuscript, 1997, 22 pp; cited in Kärkkäinen,
‘The Ecumenical Potential’.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
159
Orthodox themes within Wesleyan theology,
102
including Albert Outler, who
claims that Wesley’s reading of Greek patristic texts inluenced Methodist
theology,
103
but such interpretations of Wesley are not uncontested. Bundy
104

argues that a particular
strand of Eastern Christianity can be traced from Clement of Alexandria
to Origen to Pseudo-Macarius to Wesley to Madame Guyon and from
both of them to the Holiness theologian Thomas Cogswell Upham,
Phoebe Palmer, and from them to formative theologians of Pentecos-
talism including William Seymour, Minnie Abraham and Thomas Ball
Barrett.
105
In his sermons John Wesley spoke of the goal of the Christian life in terms
of ‘Christian perfection’, which he understood as a movement toward hnal
unity with God. In common with Orthodox spiritual writers, Wesley empha-
sized prayer as a means for achieving contemplation of God and the ascetic
life as a means of struggling for victory over the ungodly inluences in life.
Kärkkäinen argues that ‘this was undoubtedly the mentality of (early)
Pentecostal meetings where power from on high was expected to hnish what
was lacking in sanctihcation and empowerment for service.’
106
The Oxford Movement and its legacy
Through the study of patristic texts and the works of the Anglican Divines
of the seventeenth century the leaders of the Oxford Movement rediscov-
ered and re-received the metaphor of deihcation in their polemic against the
‘apostasy’ of the Church of England in the early nineteenth century. In his
Lectures on Justication
107
Newman explored salvation in terms of being
hlled with the divine life and partaking in the divine nature,
108
while Keble
expounded the metaphor in terms not only of deihcation being the outcome
of salvation but also in terms of the process of being saved, referring to
102
For example, R. Maddox, ‘John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy: Inluences, Conver-
gences and Divergences’, Asbury Theological Journal, 45(2) (1990): 29–53, and
Campbell, T. A., John Wesley and Christian Antiquity: Religious Vision and Cultural
Change (Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1991).
103
Outler, A., John Wesley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964).
104
Bundy, ‘Vision of Sanctihcation’, p. 2.
105
Kärkkäinen, ‘The Ecumenical Potential’.
106
Kärkkäinen, ‘The Ecumenical Potential’.
107
Newman, J. H., Lectures on Justication (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1838).
108
Newman, Lectures on Justication, p. 197 (reference to 2 Peter 1.4).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
160
‘a deifying discipline’ [deica disciplina].
109
Deihcation is a strong element in
the works of Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800–82). An outcome of Pusey’s
research and theological relection may be seen in the sermon which he
preached before the University of Oxford in May 1843, The Holy Eucharist,
a Comfort to the Penitent. The re-presentation of doctrine in this sermon led
to Pusey being suspended from preaching for 2 years. An immediate conse-
quence of his suspension was the sale of 18,000 copies of the condemned
sermon. The sermon and its consequences made Pusey one of the most inlu-
ential people in the Church of England for the next quarter of a century.
In The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent, Pusey produces a
catena of patristic quotations, taken from Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom,
Augustine and Ephrem the Syrian, in order to make it clear that his under-
standing of the Eucharist is entirely patristic in its contours and that this
is the understanding which is the inheritance of the Church of England.
He also refers to earlier Anglican Divines such as Lancelot Andrewes, who
had similarly construed the heritage of the Ecclesia Anglicana. The outcome
of this Eucharistic doctrine is a construction of the metaphor of deihcation
in a sacramental and ecclesial context, which draws on an understanding of
the Incarnation in terms of the exchange formula. This is extended into sac-
ramental theology so that the sacraments become the locus of deihcation,
construed as participation in the divine nature.
‘We are,’ adds Saint Cyril, ‘perfected into unity with God the Father,
through Christ the Mediator. For having received into ourselves,
bodily and spiritually, Him Who is by Nature and truly the Son, Who
hath an essential Oneness with Him, we, becoming partakers of the
Nature which is above all, are glorihed.’ ‘We,’ says another, ‘come to
bear Christ in us, His Body and Blood being diffused through our
members; when, saith Saint Peter, we become “partakers of the Divine
Nature.”’ (The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent)
110
Pusey was primarily concerned to convince the Church of England that its
heritage is the common patristic corpus. It is on this basis that he defends
and promotes a doctrine of deihcation. In his polemic against what he
sees as a reductionist Protestant understanding of the Church of England’s
theological heritage Pusey has re-received the understandings not only of
the ancient fathers but also of the earlier Anglican Divines. On this basis, the
109
See A. M. Allchin, Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in Anglican Tradition
(London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1988), p. 53.
110
Pusey, E. B., A Sermon Preached Before the University in the Cathedral Church of
Christ in Oxford on the Fourth Sunday after Easter (Oxford: John Henry Parker,
1843).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
161
Oxford Movement all too easily seems focused on the past. But Pusey’s
construal of the doctrine of the sacraments and of deihcation was directed
to contemporary understanding and practice, which is why it provoked such
a furore.
The publication of Lux Mundi in 1889 demonstrates how the legacy of the
Oxford Movement continued to inluence theological relection in England.
The purpose of the authors was primarily apologetic, ‘to put the Catholic
faith into its right relation to modern intellectual and moral problems’.
111

Both John Richardson Illingworth (1848–1915) and the lead editor Charles
Gore developed understandings of deihcation arising from this goal. The
Lux Mundi group stands in the tradition of Oxford Movement but explores
the Tradition in the light of the contemporary world. In his later work,
Personality, Human and Divine (1894),
112
Illingworth developed a theologi-
cal anthropology construed on a relational understanding of the triune
Godhead.
And this new insight into the divine nature, threw a new light upon the
destiny of man, as capable, through the Incarnation, of being made
holy in the Beloved, and so raised . . . to be a partaker of the eternal
love of God. Thus the actual Trinity of God explains the potential
trinity of man; and our anthropomorphic language follows from our
theomorphic mind. (Personality, Human and Divine, 101)
Illingworth does not construe an understanding of deihcation around the
traditional elements of the metaphor but opens another set of possibilities
premised on a ‘social’ doctrine of the triune God. Russell argues that the
outcome of Illingworth’s exploration of the doctrine is that
To become partakers of the divine nature is, therefore, to share fully in
the relationship of love between the Father and the Son that was made
accessible to us through the Incarnation. Only in this way do we real-
ize the full potentiality of our personhood.
113

Illingworth became a source of inspiration for the work of Gunton and
Schwöbel in their pursuit of a relational understanding of divine and human
persons.
114
Illingworth’s work provides a core element in the endeavour to
111
Gore, C., (ed.), ‘Introduction’, in Lux Mundi: A Series of Studies in the Religion of the
Incarnation (London: John Murray, 1889).
112
Illingworth, J. R., Personality, Human and Divine Being the Bampton Lectures for
the year 1894 (London: Macmillan & Co, 1903).
113
Russell, Deication, p. 313.
114
Schwöbel, C., and Gunton C. E., (eds), Persons Divine and Human (Edinburgh:
T & T Clark, 1991).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
162
construct a collective and relational understanding of the metaphor of
deihcation.
Through his editorship of Lux Mundi Charles Gore (1853–1932) devel-
oped new approaches to theological relection. This included a kenotic
understanding of Incarnation, which led him to consider the architecture
of the metaphor of deihcation. In his work The Body of Christ (1901) he
came to express a collective vision of deihcation focused on the corporate
experience of the Eucharist, which was informed by Anglican Divines such
as Hooker and Daniel Waterland (1683–1740). Gore writes that
in the sacraments we are made and continued members of Christ’s
body, of His lesh and of His bone. Our union with the Deity rests
entirely upon our mystical union with our Lord’s humanity, which is
personally united with His divine nature.
115
He also expresses the view that the outcome of Holy Communion is ‘the ind-
welling of Christ in the soul of the individual and in the living Church’.
116
Such collective understandings of the metaphor of deihcation are reiter-
ated in the work of Lionel Spencer Thornton (1884–1960). Thornton
addresses ‘the problems which beset the Christian society in the modern
world’.
117
He draws upon the work of Irenaeus and Whitehead in order to
interpret the Incarnation in relation to the divine purposes of creating and
redeeming. He understands the person as a microcosm of the processes of
creation and re-creation, in which humanity ‘is taken up on to the level of
deity’.
118
Thornton appeals to the work of Athanasius as well as Irenaeus as
examples of the patristic understanding of deihcation expressed in the
exchange formula.
119
In his later work, Revelation and the Modem World
(1950), Thornton reproduces in great detail the entire architecture of the
metaphor of deihcation, construed in particular on Irenaeus’ understanding
of the recapitulation of Adam’s fate in Christ, in which he argues that ‘Christ
sanctihed and deihed all human nature.’
120
This forms the basis for a new
kind of society in which the ‘Body of Christ’, will
115
Gore, C., The Body of Christ: An Enquiry into the Institution and Doctrine of Holy
Communion (London: John Murray, 1902) p. 51.
116
Gore, The Body of Christ, p. 141.
117
Thornton, L. S., Revelation and the Modem World (Westminster: Dacre Press, 1950),
p. x.
118
Thornton, L. S., The Incarnate Lord (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1928),
p. 255.
119
For example, Thornton, L. S., The Doctrine of the Atonement (London: John Heritage,
1937), p. 127.
120
Thornton, Revelation and the Modern World, p. 129.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
163
be clothed with the extended image of deity in Christ [and] . . . become
an integral participator in that image as actualized in the redeemed
society; and this in turn means to be taken into the response of ‘the
perfect man’ to his Creator, the response of the incarnate Son rendered
through the Spirit to the Father. So by his rebirth into Christ the
redeemed man is renewed in that image of the Trinity according to
which he was created. (Revelation in the Modern World, 187)
Thornton’s collective understanding of the outcome of redemption con-
strued in terms of the conceptuality of deihcation provides a vivid sense of
the possibility of constructing a contemporary doctrine of deihcation which
is ecclesial and sacramental and cosmic in its dimensions.
Interest in the metaphor of deihcation is to be found in the work of Arthur
Michael Ramsey (1904–88) who had a particular regard for the Orthodox
concept of ‘glory’, which is articulated in his work The Glory of God and
the Transguration (1949). While Ramsey is cautious about the use of the
term ‘deihcation’, he expounds a doctrine that ‘salvation consists in an actual
participation in the life of God wherein we become by grace what Christ is
by nature.’
121
Ramsey prefers to employ biblical categories and refers to
terms such as ‘Godlikeness’ and ‘Christlikeness’. A relational understanding
of deihcation is also expressed in the work of Eric Mascall (1905–93).
He stood in the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England and
had a profound interest in Eastern Orthodoxy, as well as being an exponent
of Thomism. His exploration of deihcation is in the line of thought of
Illingworth. In his work, Christ, the Christian and the Church (1946), he set
out an understanding of deihcation rooted in the participation of the bap-
tized in the love of the Son for the Father.
122
These examples from the
twentieth century demonstrate how the Oxford Movement and its legacy
provide a witness to the reception and exploration of the metaphor of deih-
cation in Anglicanism and offer key resources in the construction of the
metaphor of deihcation as an ecclesial and collective doctrine.
Holiness, perfection and the Holy Spirit
The Holiness Movement is premised on the understanding that fallen human
nature can be cleansed through faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the
Holy Spirit. In this state the believer is endowed with spiritual power and
an ability to maintain purity of heart. This doctrine is typically known in
121
Miller, E. C. Jr, Toward a Fuller Vision: Orthodoxy and the Anglican Experience
(Wilton: Morehouse Barlow, 1984), p. 122.
122
Mascall, E. L., Christ, the Christian and the Church (1946), pp. 96–7.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
164
Holiness churches as ‘entire sanctihcation’, which is the equivalent of the
Wesleyan concept of Christian Perfection. The Holiness Movement is asso-
ciated with promoting a faith which is understood to be personal, practical,
life-changing and thoroughly charismatic. The Movement emphasizes regen-
eration by grace through faith; entire sanctihcation as a second dehnite
work of grace, received by faith, through grace and accomplished by the
power and ministry of the Holy Spirit; the assurance of salvation by the
witness of the Spirit; and living a holy life. In 1836 two Methodist women,
Sarah Worrall Lankford and Phoebe Palmer, began a ‘Tuesday Meeting’ for
the Promotion of Holiness in New York. In the following year Phoebe expe-
rienced what she called ‘entire sanctihcation’. At the Tuesday Meetings,
Methodists soon enjoyed fellowship with Christians of different denomina-
tions. Thomas Upham was the hrst man to attend the meetings, and his
participation in them led him to study mystical experiences, looking to hnd
precursors of holiness teaching in the writings of the German Pietist Johann
Arndt, and the Catholic mystic Madame Guyon. Other non-Methodists
contributed to the Holiness Movement. In 1836 Asa Mahan experienced
what he called a ‘Baptism with the Holy Ghost’. Mahan believed that this
experience had cleansed him from the desire and inclination to sin.
Thomas C. Upham (1799–1872), who joined the ‘Tuesday Meeting’, was
an American philosopher and psychologist and became an important leader
of the Holiness Movement. In his work, A Treatise on Divine Union,
123
he
explores as the title suggests various ways in which the human person is
united with the divine. His understanding of this union is an expression of
the metaphor of deihcation. He writes of the union of the human will with
the divine and of the destiny of human beings in God’s creative and redemp-
tive purposes to be God’s ‘sons’ and ‘children’. He writes of the outcome of
union, ‘So far as we have faith in God, we have a portion of the divine life,
and, of course, a portion of the divine power’ (A Treatise on Divine Union,
p. 61). Phoebe Palmer (1808–74) one of the founders of the ‘Tuesday Meet-
ing’ promoted the doctrine of Christian Perfection in her writings. In her
spiritual journal The Way of Holiness,
124
she writes,
23 Feb. 18-
. . . now the calm sunshine of God’s presence illuminates my soul.
The precious words ‘whereby are given unto us exceeding great and
precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine
123
Thomas C. Upham, A Treatise on Divine Union, Designed to Point Out Some of the
Intimate Relations between God and Man in the Higher Forms of Religious Experi-
ence (Boston: George C. Rand & Avery, 1856).
124
Phoebe Palmer, The Way of Holiness (New York, 1854).
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
165
nature,’ were applied to my soul with much power this evening. . . .
What! am I to be made a partaker of the divine nature? Shout, O heav-
ens! Be glad O earth! (The Way of Holiness p. 118)
Here again is an appeal to core elements of the metaphor deihcation. In
other passages she writes of being conformed to God’s image, sharing in the
divine life and knowing God’s presence, which are related to understandings
of redemption in Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.
Two later writers, who were evangelists in the Church in China, Watchman
Nee (1903–72) and Witness Lee (1905–97), stand in the revivalist tradition
of Holiness and Pentecostal gifts. Both became victims of the Chinese com-
munist revolution. Watchman Nee remained in China, while Witness Lee
led hrst to Taiwan and later to the United States, where he founded a church
in Los Angeles and ‘Living Stream Ministry’.
Watchman Nee, Nee Shu-tsu, whose English name was Henry Nee, was
born of second-generation Christian parents in Foochow in China. He
became the founder and leader of an assembly-type movement prior to the
revolution. In his written works he explores the metaphor of deihcation
as the outcome of the God’s purposes and the goal of human life. Angus I.
Kinnear, the editor and translator of the 1957–8 editions of The Normal
Christian, working in Bangalore in India, recalls that the text is based on
spoken addresses given during Nee’s visit to Europe in 1938 and 1939. His
location in India indicates the broad global audience that Nee’s works reach.
In his work, The Normal Christian Life,
125
Nee presents a detailed under-
standing of the union of the believer with God.
In respect of His divinity the Lord Jesus remains uniquely ‘the only
begotten Son of God’. Yet there is a sense in which, from the resurrec-
tion onward through all eternity, He is also the hrst begotten, and
His life from that time is found in many brethren. For we who are
born of the Spirit are made thereby ‘partakers of the divine nature’
(2 Peter 1:4), though not, mark you, as of ourselves but only, as we
shall see in a moment, in dependence upon God and by virtue of our
being ‘in Christ’. We have ‘received the spirit of adoption, whereby we
cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are children of God’ (Rom. 8:5, 16). It was by way of the
Incarnation and the Cross that the Lord Jesus made this possible.
Therein was the Father-heart of God satished, for in the Son’s obedi-
ence unto death the Father has secured His many sons. (The Normal
Christian Life, p.51)
125
Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, trans. Angus I. Kinnear, (1958).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
166
This passage demonstrates Watchman Nee’s detailed conceptualization and
expression of deihcation. Later in the same work he asserts of Christ’s work,
‘It has made us partakers of the very life of God Himself’ (p. 55). A similar
understanding is to be found in the works of Nee’s coworker, Witness Lee.
In his hymnody, he writes of being hlled with God’s life by being ‘in Christ’
and uses the language of blending or mingling to express this experience. He
also uses the metaphors of adoption and sonship to describe the outcomes
of salvation. Lee founded Living Stream Ministry, whose publishing arm
A&C Press is the publisher of the new English translation of Gross’ work on
deihcation. In the Introduction to the English Translation, Kerry S. Robichaux
and Paul A. Onica relect on the Orthodox understanding of deihcation but
make no explicit connection with the works of Watchman Nee and Witness
Lee. However, Robichaux and Onica do argue that deihcation, with its
collective, ecclesial implications, is a useful counterbalance to the overt indi-
vidualism of much Christianity today.
126
Contemporary Roman Catholic teaching
The articulation of a doctrine of deihcation in the contemporary Roman
Catholic Church can be traced to various sources. One source of this devel-
opment is a renewed awareness of the shared patristic tradition and another
is the effect of the ecumenical movement and the rapprochement between
the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Rome, symbolized by the rescinding
of the mutual anathemas, following the meeting between the Ecumenical
Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in 1964. An ecumenical dimension
continues to inluence the formal teachings of the Catholic Church. It is
clear that Catholic theologians, and the Pope himself, employ elements of
the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation with enthusiasm. This does
not mean that the overarching doctrinal conceptuality, of which deihcation
is a core element in Orthodoxy, has been adopted in ofhcial Roman Catholic
teaching. Rather the use of elements of the patristic doctrine of deihcation
by Rome remains piecemeal.
The ‘rediscovery’ of the metaphor of deihcation in twentieth-century
Catholicism is to a great extent the result of the ressourcement movement.
These explorations were to some extent anticipated in the nineteenth cen-
tury in the work of John Henry Newman (1801–90). Before his reception
into the Roman Catholic Church, Newman had authored a number of
works, in which he explored the patristic understanding of salvation, such
as Lectures on Justication. In this work he explored the architecture of the
126
Gross, Divinization of the Christian, pp. xiii, xviii.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
167
metaphor of deihcation, appealing, for instance, to 2 Peter 1.4.
127
Following
his reception into the Catholic Church, he continued his work on patristic
sources and published a detailed analysis of Athanasius’ work on deihca-
tion.
128
Newman’s work has some parallels in continental Europe, although,
on the whole, European patristic scholars were disdainful of the doctrine of
deihcation in the nineteenth century.
The research of von Balthasar into the works of Gregory of Nyssa and
Maximos the Confessor and of Daniélou into the works of Nyssa provide
clear evidence of an awakening to a shared patristic inheritance in which
deihcation is signihcant. The Catholic theological faculty of the University
of Strasbourg in particular pursued this held of enquiry in the 1930s led by
Amann and Chavasse.
129
Jules Gross, a Roman Catholic priest who taught
in the faculty at Strasbourg, published his doctoral thesis on divinization in
1938.
130
Probably due to the outbreak of the Second World War his work
was not as widely received as it might have been, although it does feature in
the gradual re-reception of the doctrine into mainstream theological dis-
course during the twentieth century. Gross set out to provide a counter
argument to Harnack. He appeals to the biblical roots of deihcation and
argues that it is the equivalent of the notion of ‘sanctifying grace’ in West.
131
The acceptability of elements of the metaphor of deihcation in the second
half of the twentieth century can be seen in the work of Karl Rahner
(1904–84) and Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–88), who typify two main
trajectories in Catholic theology. Rahner sought to engage with modernity,
while von Balthasar sought to challenge it; nonetheless, they explore ele-
ments of the doctrine of deihcation in their theological writings. In the
context of this approach to the theological task, Rahner appeals to the con-
ceptuality of deihcation while avoiding the terminology. His understanding
of revelation and of the Godhead in terms of the axiom that ‘the “economic”
Trinity is the “immanent” Trinity and the “immanent” Trinity is the “eco-
nomic” Trinity’ suggests that the interplay of the three Trinitarian persons
in salvation history offers a window into the eternal divine life. When this
is used to explicate salvation, Rahner’s axiom suggests that salvation is to
127
Newman, Lectures on Justication, p. 197.
128
Newman, J. H., Select Treatises of St Athanasius in Controversy with the Arians
(vol. II: Being an Appendix of Illustrations) (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.,
1895), pp. 88–90.
129
I am grateful to Professor Michael Denken of the Catholic Theology Department of
the University of Strasbourg for background information.
130
Gross, J., La Divinisation du Chrétien d’après les Pères Grecs: Contribution historique
de la doctrine de la grace (A thesis for a doctorate in theology at the University of
Strasbourg) (Paris: J. Gabalda et Co., 1938).
131
Gross, Divinisation, p. vi.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
168
be understood in terms of the believer’s participation in Jesus’ relationship
with his heavenly Father. In other words, salvation is the outworking of
the perichoretic relationality of the Trinitarian persons, which is akin to
Illingworth’s construal of the metaphor. The possibility of this participation
is rooted in Rahner’s construal of the status of the human creation. In his
understanding, God ‘does not originally cause and produce something dif-
ferent from himself in the creature, but rather that he communicates his
own divine nature and makes it a constitutive element in the fulhlment of
the creature’.
132
Catherine Mowry LaCugna echoes Rahner’s Trinitarian
construal of the outcome of salvation, but she is concerned to use the term
‘theoˉ sis’ rather than avoid it. She argues that
Since theoˉ sis means the true union of human and divine, the model for
which is Jesus Christ, in a theanthroponomous ethic persons are
dehned neither autonomously nor heteronomously but with reference
to the coincidence of divine and human, Jesus Christ. The ultimate
good of human beings is to achieve theoˉ sis, to realize the fullness of
our humanity in union with the Trinity.
133
God is the ultimate goal of salvation and the fulhlment of the identity of
human persons. Salvation is participation in the life of the triune God. To
become saved is to realize much more than an alteration in juridical status.
To become saved is to be transformed through the shared ‘being’ of persons
divine and human. Both Rahner and LaCugna situate deihcation in a
Trinitarian and ecclesial context, in which the divine love and communion
are the means and outcome of transformation.
In contrast to Rahner, von Balthasar grounds his exploration of deihcation
in a love of the fathers of the Early Church. He sets out a somewhat idiosyn-
cratic conceptualization of deihcation in his work Theologik III, Der Geist
der Wahrheit.
134
However, von Balthasar is perhaps more aware than other
Catholic theologians of the architecture of deihcation in Orthodoxy. In his
work on Maximos he demonstrates an understanding that God the Holy
Trinity caused the expansion [diastole] and contraction [systole] of the cos-
mos that God may be all in all, bringing everything into unity with him
135

132
Rahner, K., Foundations of Christian Faith, An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity
(London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1978), p. 121.
133
LaCugna, C. M., God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (New York: HarperCollins,
1991), p. 284.
134
von Balthasar, H. U., Theologik III, Der Geist der Wahrheit (Einsiedeln: Johannes
Verlag, 1987), 169ff.
135
von Balthasar, H. U., Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe according to Maximus the
Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, [1988] 2003), p. 281.
THE ‘ARCHITECTURE’ OF THE METAPHOR IN THE WEST
169
through the Hypostatic Union. It is against this background of rediscovery
that Popes John Paul II (Karol Jozef Wojtyla, 1920–2005) and Benedict XVI
(Joseph Alois Ratzinger) (1927–) have themselves explored the doctrine
of deihcation in their ofhcial teaching. During his pontihcate John Paul II
appealed to the metaphors of adoption and hliation to express union with
God and the unity of the Church, doing so from his hrst encyclical Redemp-
tor Hominis (1979).
136
David V. Meconi suggests that there are three elements
in John Paul II’s teaching which demonstrate how his thought relates to the
metaphor of deihcation.
137
First, John Paul II appeals to the imago dei as
the basis upon which divine grace effects union between the divine Creator
and the human believer.
138
Second, he expounds an understanding of how
the persons of the Trinity share divine life within human persons. This is
premised on the Incarnation of the Son, which allows human beings to
become one with God.
139
Third, John Paul holds that the sacraments are a
means of deihcation, insofar as they extend the Incarnation throughout
time. In Orientale Lumen (1995), commemorating the centenary of Pope
Leo XIII’s encyclical Orientalium Dignitatis (1894) on the Eastern Churches,
John Paul II wrote,
In the Eucharist, the Church’s inner nature is revealed, a community of
those summoned to the synaxis to celebrate the gift of the One who is
offering and offered: participating in the Holy Mysteries, they become
‘kinsmen’ of Christ, anticipating the experience of divinization in
the now inseparable bond linking divinity and humanity in Christ.
(Orientale Lumen, section 10, 1995)
In appealing to the phrase ‘kinsmen’ of Christ he referenced works of
Nicholas Cabasilas, Cyril of Alexandria and John Chrysostom. This demon-
strates that the Catholic Church’s interest in the language of deihcation
arises in part from a desire to foster better ecumenical relations with the
Orthodox. Throughout the work of John Paul II, it is possible to descry
contours of the conceptuality of deihcation. His primary concern is with the
understanding of the human person, but insofar as this anticipates the pur-
pose and goal of human existence, John Paul II construed an understanding
of divine–human communion which is radically ecclesial in its expression.
Similar concerns are found in Benedict XVI’s work. In his hrst encyclical
Deus Caritas est (2005) he wrote of human union with God, rooted in an
136
John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (1979), for example, sections 11 and 18.
137
Meconi, D. V., ‘Deihcation in the Thought of John Paul II’, Irish Theological
Quarterly, 71 (2006): 129.
138
For example, John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, (1988) section 8.
139
For example, John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater (1987) section 51.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
170
understanding of ‘mystical knowledge and experience’ (Deus Caritas est,
section 10). Divine love evokes ‘the most intimate union with God, through
which the soul is totally pervaded by him’ (section 41). But Benedict warns
against understanding union as ‘mere fusion’ and argues that ‘it is a unity
which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves
and yet become fully one’ (section 10). He writes of a sacramental ‘mysticism’
(section 13), which gives expression to an ecclesial understanding of union.
this sacramental ‘mysticism’ is social in character, for in sacramental
communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communi-
cants. As Saint Paul says, ‘Because there is one bread, we who are
many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor 10:17).
Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives him-
self. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in
union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own.
Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also
towards unity with all Christians. (Deus Caritas est, section 14)
This ecclesial and ecumenical understanding of union with God in Christ,
construed in relation to the Eucharist provides a vivid basis for crafting a
doctrine of deihcation which expresses a collective outcome of the divine
purposes of creating and redeeming.
In this chapter, I have narrated the use of elements of the metaphor
of deihcation in Western theological discourse across a wide variety of
traditions. The usage is itself varied and often implicit, in the sense that the
architecture of the metaphor is discernible even though the explicit termi-
nology of deihcation is absent. The traditions of mystical theology and those
who appeal to holiness and perfection present mystical or intimate union
with God as the goal of human existence. The appeal to ‘partaking of the
divine nature’ is a common strand across the different traditions. But some
authors use the language of deihcation only once across the entire range of
their (surviving) works. Other authors explicitly appeal to the metaphor in
their earlier writings but not (so much) in their later writings. All of this
makes it difhcult to interpret their usage. My purpose is to re-receive and
reclaim the usage of the metaphor in Western discourse and to build upon
the appeal made by Anglican theologians since the Oxford Movement for
the construal of deihcation in ecclesial and relational terms. This endeavour
is shared and promoted by the Holiness and Pentecostal movements as well
as in the writings of popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. And it is reiterated
in particular in the writings of Zizioulas and Papanikolaou. In the conclud-
ing chapter, I will draw these different strands together in order to present a
contemporary relational expression of the metaphor of deihcation.
171
6
1inN:rci·n1icN nNi
cc··UNi1.
In this concluding chapter I will pursue the question: What does it mean
to claim that believers participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1.4), in the
contemporary context? My context is the contemporary ‘West’, by which
I mean a pluralist, ‘secularized’, consumerist context typihed by the United
Kingdom where I live and work and exercise ordained ministry in the
Church of England. The context of late or postmodernity and of ‘late capi-
talism’ has been described and analysed by many scholars, and I do not
intend to replicate such analysis here. I offer this construal of the doctrine of
deihcation in a context where to acknowledge God explicitly is in itself to
speak of something of which many people have little or no vocabulary by
which to express their spiritual or ‘God’ experiences. So to speak of sharing
in the nature or life of God, or even of becoming ‘god’, is perhaps doubly
difhcult. But to speak of deihcation is as much to ask about human nature
and potential and experience as it is to ask about the transcendent. The
doctrine of deihcation not only proclaims the transcendent and the divine
purposes in creating and redeeming the cosmos but also proclaims the abso-
lute worth and wonder of that cosmos in general and of the human person
in particular. The worth and wonder of the human person as construed in
a doctrine of deihcation questions many of the values of the present day
context and offers a different set of values and a challenging vision of the
human person as a creature created in the ‘image and likeness of God’. This
is not to forget about or to ignore the fall and its consequences for the
human person. The doctrine of deihcation is not a denial of, or escape from,
human sin and guilt, but it is an afhrmation of what God’s initiative and
grace calls the human person to, through the forgiveness of sin and the
healing of guilt. The doctrine of deihcation proclaims a transformation of
the person (and the cosmos) and does so in the context of community and
through an appeal to the concept of communion. In constructing a doctrine
of deihcation for the contemporary context I will be drawing upon the riches
of the Tradition in order to point to key components which can be used in
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
172
the construal of the metaphor of deihcation today. In earlier chapters I have
highlighted the witness of the Tradition to a collective understanding of
deihcation in terms of process and context.
In this chapter I will focus on four themes which arise from the Tradition
which seem to me to be useful in drawing up an architecture of the meta-
phor of deihcation for today. First, there is the methodology of ‘Mystical
Theology’ with its appeal to the aesthetic of the believer’s experience. In
classic Mystical Theology the experiences of the union of the believer with
God are understood in terms of ‘unknowing’ and of ‘vision’ [theoˉ ria]. This
is articulated in particular in the writings of Ps-Dionysius, who was, and
remains, profoundly inluential on the spiritual traditions of both ‘East’ and
‘West’. This approach may seem highly individualistic, but ‘Mystical Theology’
as much as any other ‘theology’ is an ecclesial endeavour which seeks to
interpret and explicate the profound inner experiences of the believer in
the context of the believing and worshipping community. For example, the
hermit desert fathers and mothers were baptized Christians and members
of a Eucharistic community. The appeal to experience is crucially important
for the explication of the doctrine today. The life of prayer of the ‘ordinary’
believer and the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as witnessed in the
Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions, as much as the ‘ecstatic’ experience
of Teresa of Avila, are examples of an experience of intimacy with God upon
which deihcation is premised. Second, there is the concept of a dynamic
participation in the life of the communion [koinoˉ nia] of the Persons of the
Holy Trinity. This was hrst articulated in the writings of Origen and reart-
iculated in the work of the Cappadocian fathers as a ‘horizontal’ rather
‘hierarchical’ set of relations. This provides the conceptuality for a relational
understanding of the metaphor of deihcation. This brings me to the third
element in the articulation of deihcation, which is ‘Sacramental Theology’.
Zizioulas argues that the understanding of the Godhead in terms of koinoˉ nia
arises from relection on the experience and praxis of the Church as a com-
munity which baptizes and celebrates the Eucharist.
1
The sacraments of
Baptism and Eucharist are the tangible moments in the life of the believer
when she or he is ‘united’ with Christ and hlled with the Holy Spirit and
drawn into the life of communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Fourth,
there is the lived reality of the believer as a disciple called to a virtuous life
in Christ. The pursuit of the virtues is a key element in many patristic articu-
lations of the metaphor of deihcation. Not only is this the calling and pursuit
of the individual believer, it is also a collective responsibility which provides
the basis for understanding the Church as a ‘virtuous community’
2
and the
1
Zizioulas, J. D., Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and Church (London:
Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985), p. 17.
2
See Mannion, G., Ecclesiology and Postmodernity: Questions for the Church in Our
Time (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007), pp. 192–236.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
173
possibility of ‘virtue ecclesiology’.
3
I will relate this to the classical exposi-
tion of the virtues in relation to the collective context of the city [polis] and
to re-reception of the Enlightenment concept of the ‘cosmopolis’ in late
modernity.
The methodology of Mystical Theology
An initial response to the inclusion of the methodology of ‘Mystical
Theology’ in support of a collective understanding of deihcation might be
one of surprise. Surely mystical experience and mysticism is the stuff of
which LaCugna is rightly critical, with its tendency towards solipsism.
I want to suggest that Mystical Theology properly understood is itself a
bastion against such solipsistic understanding of mystical experience. The
experiences of the union of the believer with God understood in terms of
‘unknowing’ and of ‘vision’ [theoˉ ria] provide an important contribution not
only to theology in general but also to the doctrine of deihcation in particu-
lar. Mystical Theology provides a methodology, a framework for interpreting
inner experiences, which allows those experiences to be expressed and
received in the community of faith. This provides the basis for the democra-
tization of experiences which might otherwise be perceived as individualistic
and elitist; it hrmly places those experiences within the context of the com-
munity of faith, as shared experiences, and as instances of the vocation to
union with God to which all are called.
Mystical Theology places experiences of union with God, the ascent of
the soul to God, unknowing and the vision of God [theoˉ ria] with their
consequent methodological implications in the arena of public theological
discourse. How then is ‘inner’ or ‘mystical’ experience to be of use in con-
structing a doctrine of deihcation today? One of the hrst questions which a
Mystical Theology raises concerns the makeup of a human being. In what
does a human being consist? What are the components of a theological
anthropology? This is often answered in terms of a simple dualism of body
and spirit, but in terms of the developed theology of the patristic witness the
answer is more complex. The complexity emerges from the inluences of
Greek philosophy, particularly Platonism, but this is also to be seen in the
New Testament writings, where the person is understood in various texts to
have a spirit, a soul and/or a mind. The idea that a person has a soul has
itself been expressed in terms of many different understandings, including
the pre-existence of the soul or its immortality. Such understandings it seems
to me are matters entirely of speculation which are probably best avoided.
The soul suggests an element of human reality which is independent in some
sense of physical or leshly reality and which points to the enduring reality
3
See Mannion, Ecclesiology, pp. 215–22.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
174
of the human individual beyond the present earthly existence. In the writ-
ings of the mystics the concept of the soul often plays a crucial role in seeking
to hnd mastery over earthly passions. Generally speaking, the soul is under-
stood to be created rather than uncreated but is also often associated with
understandings of what it means for the human person to be created in the
image and likeness of God. The claim that the person is more than just a
‘body’ is also expressed in the sophisticated appeal to ‘mind’ [nous]. In con-
temporary scientihc and philosophical discourse ‘mind’ still eludes dehnition.
Biologists and psychologists sense that ‘mind’ and the related notion of
(self-)consciousness are not simply to be identihed with the physical brain.
In Mystical Theology the ‘mind’ [nous] is sometimes seen as the equivalent
of the soul or is a nuanced addition to or rehnement of the understanding of
the soul. Mind [nous] implies something about understanding, perceiving
and intelligence. Within the methods of Mystical Theology it suggests some-
thing about the potential for intimacy with God. The mind may even be seen
as the divine likeness or a divine or uncreated element within the human
person. But rather than conhrming the divine image and likeness straight-
forwardly in terms of rationality, the concept of ‘unknowing’ suggests that
‘mind’ [nous] is about transcending the norms and the limits of rationality.
It is perhaps here that the tradition of Mystical Theology is closest to Michel
Foucault’s valuation of mystical experience, as subversive of (political) norms.
4

The questions of theological anthropology which Mystical Theology brings
to the construal of the metaphor of deihcation relate fundamentally to how
inner human experience is to be received and shared in the wider commu-
nity and particularly in the worshipping community of the Church.
The experience of the mystics is often expressed in terms of union (of the
soul) with God and/or ascent of the soul to God. The conceptualization of
these experiences and processes varies not only between the traditions of the
East and the West but also within those traditions. Both of these metaphors
express spiritual aspiration and a sense of the human contribution to the
process of acquiring intimacy with the divine, without of course precluding
the divine initiative and grace involved in achieving such intimacy. On the
face of it, these metaphors present a very positive and realist expression of
the potential for and process towards human intimacy with the divine. They
represent a cataphatic form of expression in Mystical Theology. But the
content of these experiences is usually qualihed by appeal to apophatic
forms of expression such as ‘unknowing’ and the qualihed understanding
of ‘vision’ [theoˉ ria]. This duality in the forms of expression and of metho-
dology in Mystical Theology also informs the construal of the metaphor of
deihcation. The conceptuality of ‘unknowing’ is taken as fundamental to the
4
Foucault, M., Les mots et les choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1966); The Order of Things
(London: Tavistock Publications, 1970).
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
175
expression of mystical prayer and union with God, as is witnessed in the
classic English mystical work, The Cloud of Unknowing. At this juncture it
is important to register that there are instances of theological discourse
where mystical experience is peripheral to or excluded as a source of theo-
logical relection and where the conceptuality of ‘unknowing’ is itself seen as
highly problematic, if not irrelevant.
Karl Barth is an example of a theologian who deliberately rejects any
understanding of revelation as an anthropological phenomenon rooted in
the conscience of the individual and adopts an understanding of God as the
‘Subject’ of revelation. Barth construes his doctrine of revelation as divine
self-revelation in his conceptualization of the doctrine of the Trinity.
5
The
form of revelation in the Church Dogmatics is construed around the notion
of ‘unveiling’ (Enthuellung). Barth argues that ‘Revelation, revelatio, a)poka/
luyij, means the unveiling of what is veiled. If this is meant strictly and
properly, then all that is distinct from revelation is concealment, the hidden-
ness of the veiled.’
6
The notion of unveiling is further dehned as self-unveiling
(Selbstenthuellung)
7
and as an act of sovereign divine freedom, rather than
an unveiling initiated by the human subject. This is an expression of Barth’s
cataphatic approach, which contrasts with the anagogic methodology of
Schleiermacher and Troeltsch. The divine act of self-unveiling has a further
function in relation to Luther’s understanding that behind the Deus revela-
tus [revealed God] there remained a Deus absconditus [hidden God]. This is
rejected in the notion of divine self-unveiling, in which God is said to reveal
himself as such. However, the notion of unveiling is complemented by the
notion of veiling. Barth juxtaposes veiling and unveiling in a paradoxical
claim that revelation is both.
8
This paradox rests on the understanding that
the God who reveals himself is the same God ‘who by nature cannot be
unveiled to men. . . .’
9
The concept of the hidden, unveiled God
10
may seem
perilously close to the concept of the Deus absconditus. However, the notion
of the hiddenness of God rests upon the claim that God is unknowable with-
out the assistance of grace and the knowledge of faith. For the human subject
without faith, God remains hidden and inapprehensible (unerfasslich),
11
and
even in revelation God is known to faith ‘in his hiddenness’.
12
Barth also
5
Barth, K., Göttingen Dogmatics, vol. 1 (1925), (Grand Rapids, MI: 1991), see section 5,
pp. 87–109.
6
Barth, K., Church Dogmatics [CD] (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936–69), 1.1,
pp. 118–19.
7
Barth, CD, 1.1, p. 315.
8
For example, Barth, CD, 1.1, p. 175.
9
Barth, CD, 1.1, p. 315.
10
Barth, CD, 2.1 § 27.1.
11
Barth, CD, 2.1, p. 187.
12
Barth, CD, 2.1194.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
176
accepts that the God, who reveals himself, always remains a mystery.
13
His
understanding of the divine mystery may be different from the apophatic
approach of the patristic witness, but it is parallel with that approach.
Barth’s concept that the divine self-revelation is not only an unveiling but also
a veiling suggests an epistemic reticence despite his cataphatic approach.
The appeal to ‘unknowing’ in Mystical Theology is not to be confused
with what Barth might call ‘the hiddenness of the veiled’; rather it is an
attempt to express the outcome of an experience of intimacy and union with
the divine in terms of what is ‘understood’ or ‘known’ of God. The language
of ‘unknowing’ is not an attempt at ‘mystihcation’ or an attempt to locate
revelation in the conscience of the individual; rather it is an attempt to com-
municate profound inner human experience in a way that recognizes God is
ultimately a mystery who may be encountered in prayer and in the other
means of grace. The language of ‘unknowing’ is a recognition of the need for
epistemic reticence rather than extravagance in making claims about inti-
macy with God. Such epistemic reticence is also methodologically important
in the construal of the expression of the form and content of deihcation.
This is particularly the case when deihcation is premised on the basis of
mystical prayer and experience or the reception of the gifts of the Holy
Spirit. The conceptuality of ‘vision’ [theoˉ ria] in Mystical Theology is a fur-
ther example of epistemic reticence. Ps-Dionysius in the Mystical Theology
claims that ‘to see’ God is to experience darkness, silence and unknowing.
The vision of God is expressed in terms of a silence and a darkness which in
some sense is light and vision. The contemplation and vision of God con-
strued in this sense is understood not only to produce union with God but
also to produce in the one contemplating what she contemplates, in other
words deihcation.
14
The ‘vision’ of God produces a new understanding of
knowing and of the intellect which may be understood in terms of a thean-
dric Christology and the experience of Transhguration. The practice and
experience of theoˉ ria as expressed by the mystics may seem very removed
from everyday life. Yet mystical union and the transformation to which it
refers is surely the calling of all believers, indeed of all human persons.
St Paul expresses this calling: ‘And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the
glory of the Lord as though relected in a mirror, are being transformed
[transhgured] into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for
this comes from the Lord, the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3.18). This calling and
process of transformation is understood by Tamara Grdelidze in terms of an
existential change in which
human beings experience a deep repentance for their fallen state and
spiritually, in prayer and devotion, advance towards new life in Christ.
13
Barth, CD, 1.1, pp. 321 and 324.
14
Plato, Timaeus, 90bd; Origen, Commentary on John, 32.27.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
177
Conversion to the Christian faith is a lifelong companionship with
Christ; human beings are converted progressively from one stage of
faith to another.
15
Mystical experience is one expression of the process of transformation to
which all are called; it is a reminder that the outcome of salvation is nothing
less than the vision of God, a vision in which the believer is transformed and
deihed. Sophrony recalls that ‘Contemplation is a matter, not of verbal state-
ments but of living experience. In pure prayer the Father, Son and Spirit
are seen in their consubstantial unity.’
16
The mystic or visionary recalls the
Church to its focus on the triune God, and each believer to a collective
understanding of salvation expressed in the metaphor of deihcation in terms
of an unknowing and vision which enters into the mystery of the divine
communion.
Dynamic participation
The concept of a dynamic participation in the communion [koinoˉ nia] of the
Persons of the Holy Trinity is the key element in the construal of a relational
expression of the metaphor (and process) of deihcation. The articulation
of a dynamic participation in the life of the Trinity in the works of Origen
means that to some extent this conceptualization has been suspect.
However, the reworking of Origen’s conceptuality in the writings of the
Cappadocian fathers, now re-received in the work of John Zizioulas, pro-
vides a crucial basis for understanding not only personhood and the Godhead
but also the ‘participation’ implied in deihcation.
17
I will explore three core
components in seeking to construe an understanding of ‘dynamic participa-
tion’ in the ‘divine nature’. First, I will examine how the divine–human
relationship may be construed in the light of understandings of the creation
and fall. Second, I will explore how a theandric understanding of the Person of
Christ, when construed in terms of a Chalcedonian notion of the Hypostatic
Union, may be viewed as the premise upon which concepts of divine–human
and intra-divine relationality may be drawn together in the metaphor of
deihcation. This will include an exploration of the relationship between the
divine and human in Christ in terms of perichoˉ rȘsis and synergy, which is
15
Grdelidze, T., ‘“God, in Your Grace, Transform the World”: Bible Study on
2 Corinthians 3:18’, Ecumenical Review, July (2004).
16
Archimandrite Sophrony: His Life Is Mine (Oxford: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press,
1977).
17
See Papanikolaou, A., ‘Divine Energies or Divine Personhood: Vladimir Lossky and
John Zizioulas on Conceiving the Transcendent and Immanent God’, Modern Theology,
19(3) (2003): 377–8.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
178
the premise upon which deihcation of the believer is construed. A theandric
Christology is also the wellspring for a collective understanding of deihca-
tion, expressed in the context of the Church, the Body of Christ. Finally,
I will examine understandings of the Godhead and the three divine Persons
in terms of koinoˉ nia as the basis for a conceptual framework on which a
collective understanding of the metaphor of deihcation may be constructed.
Understandings of the divine–human relationship in the light of the
creation and fall vary signihcantly within the Christian Tradition. For some
there is an unbridgeable difference or ‘abyss’ between the Creator God and
the created human person. This difference is further exacerbated by the
‘Fall’. Marilyn McCord Adams and Kathryn Tanner have both called such
understandings into question. McCord Adams suggests that the ‘size gap’
between the divine and the human has been premised on social analogies.
In these God is conceived as king, patron, husband or parent, and human
beings as subject, client, wife or child. While projecting human social sys-
tems onto the divine–human relationship may have advantages, it is also
lawed ‘because God is too big to squeeze into social roles of human
devising.’
18
Kathryn Tanner has argued that theological discourse has often
suggested a false dichotomy between the divine and the human, which is
long overdue recognition and can be overcome through a rereading of
Chalcedon which does not polarize divine over against human.
19
The recon-
strual of divine–human relations on a paradigm which is not ‘competitive’
is fundamental to any crafting of the metaphor of deihcation. The conse-
quences of the ‘Fall’ premised on the narrative in Genesis 3 are seen by most,
if not all, Christians in terms of a disconnection from God, which also
disconnects human beings from each other, resulting in a disruption and
disharmony in the creation. There is a consensus that the ‘Fall’ is not part of
the divine intentions for the cosmos or the human creature but that, as a
consequence of the Fall, God responds to this changed situation. God’s
response is manifested in the Incarnation, the Cross and the Resurrection of
Christ. The patristic witness suggests that the Incarnation is a reversal of the
Fall. Some writers argue that the Incarnation was part of God’s original plan
in creating the universe. In this tradition the divine intention to become
incarnate as a human person also becomes a remedy for the consequences of
the Fall.
20
The incarnation of the Logos becomes the means of the recapitula-
tion of the fate and calling of Adam, and the restoration of the divine image
18
McCord Adams, M., ‘Face to Faith: The “Size Gap” between God and Man Invariably
Leads Us to Create Systemic Evils’, The Guardian, Saturday 16 May 2009.
19
Tanner, K., Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology (Edinburgh:
T. & T. Clark, 2001), for example, chapter 1, ‘Jesus’.
20
See Nellas, P., Deication in Christ: The Nature of the Human Person (Crestwood, NY:
St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987), pp. 54–60 and 81–5; Maximos the Confessor,
Ambigua, PG 91, 1308D.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
179
and likeness in humanity. In this tradition of patristic witness the process of
the appropriation of recapitulation, restoration and deihcation rests upon a
paradigm of divine–human exchange or reciprocity.
21
This is founded upon
an understanding of the Hypostatic Union.
22
The reciprocity between the
divine and the human in the hypostasis of Christ is the paradigm for a
general reciprocity between God and humankind, which is also expressed
through the notion of perichoˉ rȘsis. The possibility of an inherent divine–
human reciprocity is also understood in relation to understandings of the
imago dei
23
and of the freedom of the human will to be able to respond to
God, without being annihilated in the resultant exchange.
24
This possibility
is described in terms of ‘synergy’. The divine–human relationality has also
been premised on the idea that the imago dei may be understood as imago
trinitatis.
25
Catherine Mowry LaCugna raises a number of concerns with
regard to an Augustinian understanding of the human subject as imago
trinitatis. She warns against understanding the human person in terms of
a soul which ‘images God, and . . . returns to and is united with God by a
process of inwardness and self-relection’.
26
Rather she suggests that human
and divine natures should be understood in relation to the person of Jesus
Christ.
27
In a comparable understanding Barth suggests that the relationship
between the divine and the human be understood in terms of an analogia
relationis.
28
LaCugna’s appeal to Christology as an antidote to the soul’s solipsistic
self-relection suggests that the hypostatic relation of the two natures in
Christ is the premise for a much more corporate and collective understand-
ing of the outcome of salvation in deihcation. A ‘theandric’ understanding
of the Person of Christ is the basis for such a collective understanding of
deihcation premised on the Hypostatic Union. By following this approach it
is possible to avoid imposing a social or collective understanding on the
doctrine of deihcation as an external demand. Rather a collective conceptu-
alization of deihcation is constructed upon the corporateness of the Incarnate
Lord, in terms of the metaphor of the Body of Christ and the communion of
21
Maximos the Confessor, Ambigua 10, PG 91, 1113B.
22
See von Balthasar, H. U., Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe according to Maximus the
Confessor (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2003), p. 125.
23
See Thunberg, L., Man and the Cosmos: The Vision of St Maximus the Confessor
(Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), pp. 54–5.
24
Maximos the Confessor, Centuries on Theology and the Incarnation, II.83 PG 90,
1164AB; also Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, pp. 62–3.
25
Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 47.
26
LaCugna, C. M., God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life (New York:
HarperCollins, 1991), p. 103.
27
LaCugna, God for Us, p. 293.
28
Barth, K., CD, 3.2, pp .218–22.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
180
the triune Godhead. The classic expression of the doctrine of theoˉ sis in the
writings of Maximos the Confessor is premised on a ‘theandric’ Christology.
Maximos argues that the divine purposes in creating and redeeming the
cosmos are focused in the Hypostatic Union of the Logos with human nature,
before the creation, as the foundation and goal of the cosmos.
29
The Hypo-
static Union of the divine and human in Christ produces the goal of the
deihcation for humankind. A theandric Christology is also construed around
the notion of the perichoˉ rȘsis, interpenetration or mutual indwelling of the
two natures in Christ. This is a strict interpretation of (neo-) Chalcedonian
orthodoxy which avoids a synthetic understanding of the person and natures
of Christ and is extended into the understanding of the process and outcome
of deihcation in general. A perichoretic understanding not only avoids a
synthesis of the two natures in Christ but also of the wills and energies in
Christ.
30
Thus, the process of deihcation in the human person can be said to
bring about a perfect coherence with God, without any change of nature,
will or energy.
31
This is faithful to the four adverbs of the Chalcedonian
statement, in which the two natures in Christ are ‘to be acknowledged . . .
without confusion, without change, without division, without separation’.
In Maximos’ writings the process of participation in God is characterized
by causality and intentionality. Based upon his construal of the Hypostatic
Union the process of deihcation achieves an intentional communion between
God and the human person. The process of deihcation, which is achieved
through grace and issues in love, does not abolish the difference between
divine and human nature, will or energy. Through the mutual intentionality
of God and the human person grace renders human freedom capable of
entering into a dynamic, perichoretic relation with the goodness of God.
32

On this basis, the language of ‘synergy’ is consistent with the paradigm
of the Hypostatic Union. In Christ the natural operations of the human
and divine enter into a perichoretic exchange, and the human will is re-
established in communion with the divine will, in synergy.
33
It is this synergy
of communion manifest in Christ which is set before humankind as its voca-
tion and salvation in the fulhlment of love. It is my understanding that this
synergy of communion or, as Thunberg expresses it, this ‘energetic commun-
ion’, may also be related to the divine koinoˉ nia, and by extension, to the
29
Maximos the Confessor, Ambigua 7, PG 91, 1080C, 1084C, 1097BD; Quaestiones ad
Thalassium, 60, PG 90, 621B.
30
Maximos the Confessor, Opuscula 7, PG 91, 88A.
31
See Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 17; Maximos the Confessor, Opuscula 7,
PG 91, 81A.
32
Maximos the Confessor, Epistle 2, PG 91, 401 D.
33
See Maximus’ exposition of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane. For example,
Opuscula 3, PG 91, 48D–49A.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
181
perichoretic relations of the divine hypostases of that communion. This
would still be understood in terms of the qualihcations of causality and
intentionality. Participation in the divine nature is not unqualihed and is not
absorption into the perichoˉ rȘsis of the Holy Trinity. But it may justihably be
characterized as an ‘energetic communion’, within the Hypostatic Union of
Christ and the perichoˉ rȘsis of the three divine hypostases. The promise and
actuality of enhypostatized hlial adoption in Christ is imprinted on human
nature by the Holy Spirit.
34
The believer is conformed to that same synergy
of wills and enters into the communion of love between Father, Son and
Holy Spirit.
35
In order to craft a conceptual framework for this collective shaping of
the metaphor of deihcation in terms of an ‘energetic communion’,
36
I will
use the category of koinoˉ nia which has become a sine qua non of much
trinitarian theology and ecclesiology. Constance J. Tarasar has argued that
the discussion of ‘communion’ is not only a discourse of categories and con-
cepts but is also a discourse about a theological understanding of life.
37
She
suggests that to be in communion with God is to be in a relationship of love
with God, with fellow human beings and with the whole of creation.
38

In other words, she points to the collective implications of ‘being in com-
munion’ which are both intimate and cosmic at the same time. Zizioulas
has argued that the use of the category of communion was introduced into
theological discourse in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus and
Athanasius, who as bishops
approached the being of God through the experience of the ecclesial
community, of ecclesial being. This experience revealed something
very important: the being of God could be known only through per-
sonal relationships and personal love. Being means life, and life means
communion.
39
(emphases in original)
Zizioulas argues that from their relection on the Eucharistic experience of
the Church, Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers were able to develop
an ontological understanding of communion. They formulated a concept of
the being of God as a relational being, which was expressed in their use of
34
Maximos the Confessor, Orationis Dominicae, PG 90, 905 D.
35
See the passage on the Baptism of Christ, Maximos the Confessor, Ambigua, PG 91,
135D– 1349A.
36
Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 143.
37
Tarasar, C. J., ‘Worship, Spirituality and Biblical Relection: Their Signihcance for the
Churches’ Search for Koinoia’, Ecumenical Review, 45(2) (1993): 219.
38
Tarasar, ‘Worship, Spirituality and Biblical Relection’, p. 220.
39
Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p. 16.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
182
the terminology of communion. This communion was understood in terms
of God’s inherent reality as Trinity. In his discussion of the conceptuality of
koinoˉ nia, Zizioulas appeals to the concept of an event of communion
40
to
denote the dynamic quality of the communion and freedom of the Godhead,
which he understands, hnds expression in a mutually constituted commun-
ion of the three divine persons. The concept of event is used to explicate the
dynamic quality of the relational ontology of koinoˉ nia. Such conceptualiza-
tion of the divine being provides a framework for the appeal to a collective
understanding of the metaphor and process of deihcation in the present
day. George Pattison relects on the outcome of a relational understanding
of deihcation. He argues that ‘Theosis does not mean that we get a new
essence or substance, that we stop being human beings or get an injection of
“Goodness.” It means that in our most decisive personal being we come to
know ourselves as we are in and through the relation to the personal God.’
41

He also suggests a relational understanding of human personhood mirrors
perichoˉ rȘsis ‘in its own deepest reaches, (which) expresses or opens out into
that same inner divine conversation’. Pattison suggests ‘conversation’ is a
way of understanding the inner divine communion. He goes on to write
To come to know who we truly are is to come to know ourselves as we
are in and as participants in the divine conversation, and, as partakers
in that conversation, hnding ourselves being partakers of the divine
way of being, namely this being-as-conversation itself.
42
This dynamic participation is no mere sharing in a divine essence rather ‘we
become in our human way divine.’
43
Sacraments as symbols of deication
One of the commonest features in the patristic witness to deihcation is an
appeal to the sacraments as an example, perhaps the example of being ‘in
Christ’ and of being hlled with the Holy Spirit. The sacraments of Baptism
and the Eucharist in particular are seen as means of participating in the life
of communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The sacraments are a sine qua
non of an architecture of a collective construal of the metaphor of deihca-
tion, for they are the expression not only of each person’s being ‘in Christ’
but also of incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church. The claim to
40
Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p. 17.
41
Pattison, G., A Short Course in Christian Doctrine (London: SCM Press, 2005), p. 40.
42
Pattison, A Short Course in Christian Doctrine, p. 40.
43
Pattison, A Short Course in Christian Doctrine, p. 41.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
183
understand the Godhead in terms of koinoˉ nia arises from relection on the
experience and praxis of the Church as a community which baptizes and
celebrates the Eucharist. It is the participation of the Church in the divine
Trinitarian communion which is the premise for the believer’s participation
in the divine life. In this sense, the sacraments function in a way parallel with
what the ancient world understood as ‘theurgy’. Theurgy relates to ritual
practice aimed at invoking the divine presence, in order to achieve union
with the divine. Christian sacraments are understood as instances of the
divine initiative and of divine grace rather than as examples of ritual ‘incan-
tation’. Nonetheless, the Christian sacraments fulhl the role of theurgy in
pagan equivalents of theoˉ sis. For example, the celebration of the sacraments
of Baptism
44
and Eucharist
45
are central to the process of deihcation as
envisaged in the works of Maximos the Confessor. A sacramental encounter
with the theandric Christ is an instance of the exchange formula being
symbolically enacted, so that as the Word who became human is encoun-
tered, the human believer by sharing in the material elements ‘becomes
divine’.
The sacrament of Baptism is a sharing in and incorporation into Christ’s
death and resurrection as expounded in Romans 6, and a spiritual rebirth in
John 3. The language of the prayer of thanksgiving following water Baptism
in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) rite uses many concepts and phrases
which are part of the architecture of the metaphor of deihcation:
We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased
thee to regenerate this Infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for
thine own Child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy
Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead
unto sin, and living unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ
in his death, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole
body of sin; and that, as he is made partaker of the death of thy Son,
he may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that hnally, with the
residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting
kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Ministration of Publick
Baptism of Infants BCP 1662)
The prayer does not use the language of participating in the divine life
explicitly, but its reference to adoption and incorporation, regeneration and
abolishing ‘the whole body of sin’, as well as dying and rising with Christ
demonstrates the classic elements of what it means to share in the divine
life. Baptism is seen as the appropriation of Christ’s recapitulation of the
44
Maximos the Confessor, Ambigua, PG 91, 1348 BD.
45
Maximos the Confessor, Orationis Domincae 2, PG 90, 877C.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
184
outcome of the Fall, which enables the recipient to be liberated from earthly
passions, by experiencing conversion, faith and grace. This sets the believer
on the path of self-discipline and love of neighbour and the pursuit of the
virtues. Teilhard de Chardin in Le Milieu Divin writes of divinization of the
believer in terms of human ‘activities’ and ‘passivities’,
46
which is premised
on his understanding of ‘Holy Matter’.
47
He connects the celebration of the
sacraments and the sacramental elements themselves with the divine pur-
poses in creating and redeeming the cosmos. The Baptism of Christ is seen
as a moment when God’s salvihc purposes effect a transformation of the
whole creation, ‘as he emerges (from the river Jordan), in the words of
St Gregory of Nyssa, with the water which runs off his body he elevates
the whole world.’
48
This establishes a direct relationship between deihcation,
its context and the transformation of that context itself.
The sacrament of Eucharist is understood to be a communion in body and
blood of Christ in the light of the passage in 1 Corinthians 10. The words of
the Prayer of Humble Access echo the idea of communion in 1 Corinthians
and explicitly pray for the mutual indwelling of Christ and the communicant:
grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the lesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ,
and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.
(The Order of the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy
Communion, BCP 1662)
The Prayer of Thanksgiving following reception of Holy Communion in the
1662 rite clearly articulates the consequences of receiving the sacrament in
collective terms in relation to the Body of Christ:
we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us,
who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of
the most precious body and blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
and dost assure us thereby . . . that we are very members incorporate
in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all
faithful people. (The Order of the Administration of the Lord’s Supper
or Holy Communion, BCP 1662)
46
de Chardin, P. T., Le Milieu Divin (London: William Collins & Sons, 1960; published
in French, 1957; written 1927), see parts 1 and 2.
47
de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 106.
48
de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 110.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
185
These texts from the rites of the Anglican Reformation demonstrate clearly
the architecture of a collective understanding of the outcomes of the
sacraments, and I would argue of the classic elements of the metaphor of
deihcation, without explicitly using its terminology. The reception of Holy
Communion in the Eucharist is the instantiation of fellowship [koinoˉ nia]
with God the Holy Trinity and with fellow believers in Christ. The Eucharist
is a gathering [synaxis] of the Body of Christ, in which communicants receive
what they are and will become ‘the Body of Christ’. The reception of Holy
Communion can be seen as an end in itself, but it is also a means to an end,
whereby the Church is a ‘being-in-Christ’ expressed and renewed in the
synaxis of the Eucharist and entered by Baptism. Constance Tarasar argues
that the koinoˉ nia of the Church is not ‘occasional’. The Body of Christ is the
metaphor for an organic relationship (e.g. Vine), and Baptism and Eucharist
renew that being-in-relationship as members-in-Christ.
49
The process of
deihcation of the individual believer is set in this context of organic relation-
ship, which God the Holy Trinity creates and sustains through the sacraments
in order to bring all (believers) to a sharing in the divine communion and life.
In the construal of a collective understanding of the metaphor of deihca-
tion, the question emerges as to what purpose, if any, the collective context
may have beyond the appropriation of salvation by the individual. Ion Bria
clearly identihes the celebration of the sacraments with the divine purposes,
‘The ecclesial koinonia is indeed constituted by the participation of the
baptized in the eucharistic communion, the sacramental actualization of the
economy of salvation, a living reality which belongs both to history and to
eschatology.’
50
But Bria is very conscious that this can seem self-serving and
inward looking; he offers a clear critique of such a stance and argues that
the collective context of deihcation is not an end in itself but is an expression
of the divine purposes for the whole of the human creation and indeed of the
cosmos. He writes that
the Liturgy is not a self-centred service and action, but is a service for
the building of the one Body of Christ within the economy of salvation
which is for all people of all ages. The liturgical assembly is the Father’s
House, where the invitation to the banquet of the heavenly bread is
constantly voiced and addressed not only to the members of the
Church, but also to the non-Christians and strangers.
51
The celebration of the sacraments in the collective context of the Church
sets the process of deihcation in relation to the Church’s participation in
49
Tarasar, ‘Worship, Spirituality and Biblical Relection’, p. 221.
50
Bria, I., Liturgy after the Liturgy (Précis) http://www.rondtb.msk.ru/info/en/Bria_en.
htm (accessed on 24 July 2009).
51
Bria, Liturgy after the Liturgy.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
186
God’s mission [missio dei] in the world. The calling to deihcation, and the
processes of being deihed are not esoteric or elitist but are part of the
Church’s witness to the purpose and value of human life and of God’s pur-
poses in calling all things into existence so that God may become ‘all in all’.
(1 Corinthians 15.28; Ephesians 1.23)
A further question emerges in relation to this construal of the process of
deihcation in the light of a theandric Christology and that is the question of
whether the Incarnation is ‘extended’ in some sense in the life of the Church
and the celebration of the sacraments. If the Church itself is understood as
a ‘theandric reality’ does this mean that it must be understood as an exten-
sion of the Incarnation of the Logos in the present? Thomas Hopko provides
a lucid statement of a theandric understanding of ecclesiology and suggests
that this is in effect an extension of the Incarnation. He writes that the
Church is
the divine presence of the Kingdom of God in human forms on earth,
the mystery of the fullness of the divine being and life, truth and love,
dwelling in the community of human persons headed by Christ and
animated by His Spirit, the community which is dogmatically and
spiritually identical and continuous as the gracious incarnation in men
of all the fullness of divinity, and whose essential content and form is
sacramental and mystical.
52
Such understandings of the Church are hercely contested by those who see
such claims as ignoring the broken and often ‘sinful’ reality of the life of the
Church. Many would wish to express the distance between the reality of the
present-day Church and that of the coming Kingdom much more. In seeking
to construe a collective understanding of the metaphor of deihcation it is
possible to hold together a theandric ecclesiology, premised on a theandric
Christology while also acknowledging the brokenness of the Church’s exist-
ence in the present. This mirrors the process of deihcation of the individual
which is not achieved all at once and which probably entails numerous times
of regression and stumbling along the way. De Chardin suggests a particular
understanding of the relationship between the individual, the community of
the Eucharist and the Incarnation. He argues that in reality there is only one
Mass and one communion, which is celebrated in each Eucharist; on this
basis, he argues that the Incarnation is realized in each individual through
the Eucharist.
53
As the communicant assimilates the material world in the
52
Hopko, T., ‘Catholicity and Ecumenism’, in All the Fullness of God: Essays on Ortho-
doxy, Ecumenism and Modern Society (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press,
1982), p. 103.
53
de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 124.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
187
bread of the Eucharist, the ‘Host’ assimilates humanity: ‘the Eucharistic
bread is not consumed by me, but rather it consumes me . . . the Eucharist
must invade my life.’
54
So the Eucharistic transformation goes beyond and
completes the transubstantiation of bread on the altar, and the Eucharist
‘invades the universe’.
55
De Chardin expresses the outcome of this exchange
in the sacraments as a deihcation of the human subject which includes the
deihcation of the world:
My life must become, as a result of the sacrament, an unlimited and
endless contact with you – that life which seemed . . . like a baptism
with you in the waters of the world, now reveals itself to me as com-
munion with you through the world.
56
There is another aspect of the construal of the process of deihcation in rela-
tion to the sacraments which is the cosmic and ecological implications of the
divine desire to be ‘all in all’. Bria recognizes that
There is a double movement in the Liturgy: on the one hand, the
assembling of the people of God to perform the memorial of the death
and resurrection of our Lord ‘until He comes again’. It also manifests
and realizes the process by which ‘the cosmos is becoming ecclesia’.
Therefore the preparation for Liturgy takes place not only at the per-
sonal spiritual level, but also at the level of human historical and
natural realities.
57
The collective context of deihcation is itself caught up in the divine purposes
of creating and redeeming, of which the human subject of deihcation is her-
self a ‘microcosm’.
58
Participation in the material elements of the sacraments
is not only a means of sharing in the divine life but also demonstrates that
the whole cosmos is the subject of God’s love and calling into transforma-
tion. ‘For God so loved the world [cosmos] that he gave his only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’
(John 3.16). The present ecological crisis is a challenge to recognize that
salvation as understood in terms of deihcation concerns not only the fate of
54
de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 126.
55
de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 125.
56
de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, pp. 126–7.
57
Bria, Liturgy after the Liturgy.
58
For example, Maximos the Confessor, Quaestiones ad Thalassium 60, 73–5; John of
Damascus, De Fide Orthodoxa, book 1, p. 12; Thornton, L. S., The Incarnate Lord
(London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1928), p. 255; and Thunberg, L., Microcosm and
Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor (Lund: Gleerup,
1965).
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
188
humankind but the entire created order. The reception of the sacraments
entails not only personal transformation but also a responsibility to value
the non-human creation and to seek its transformation:
The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God has inaugurated the
hope that the time will come for all creatures, including those who
now are subject to sin, to be restored to their original form and thus
‘a harmony of thanksgiving will arise from all creation.’
59
The practice of the Virtues
The calling of each Christian disciple is to a virtuous life in Christ. In the
classic statement of deihcation the ascetic following and development of the
Virtues
60
is pursued towards participation in the divine communion of love.
This is not only an individual calling but is also a collective responsibility
which leads to an understanding of the Church as a ‘virtuous community’
61

and to the possibility of ‘virtue ecclesiology’.
62
This is a crucial element in
authentic testimony to Jesus Christ in the world today. The Church as
Eucharistic Community is sent into the world to confess the Gospel and to
be involved in the struggle for human dignity and liberation. It is in this
context as much as in relation to the quest for personal spiritual growth that
the disciple is called to live out the Virtues.
The tradition of the virtues is found in the Scriptures as well as in Greek
philosophy. In addition to the three great theological virtues of faith, hope
and love (1 Corinthians 13.13), in the letter to the Galatians St Paul desig-
nates a list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit which may be understood as
‘virtues’, which are related to an ascetic of ‘crucifying the passions’:
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law
against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have cruci-
hed the lesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let
us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5.22–5)
59
Grdelidze, ‘God, in your grace’, quotation from Gregory of Nyssa, The Great
Catechism, in Nicean and Post-Nicene Fathers of Christian Church (Edinburgh: T&T
Clark, 1988), p. 494.
60
For example, Maximos the Confessor, Ambigua, PG 91, 1249C; Epistle 2, PG 91, 393B
& 401; Centuries on Theology and the Incarnation, II.95 PG 90, 1169D–1172A;
Mystagogia 5, PG 91, 677B.
61
For example, Mannion, Ecclesiology, pp.183–4.
62
For example, Mannion, Ecclesiology, p.192.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
189
Aristotle records a list of virtues, which are seen as a middle way between
the extremes of being overconcerned or not concerned enough with the
pursuit of the virtuous life: courage, temperance, liberality, magnihcence,
magnanimity, proper ambition/pride, patience/good temper, truthfulness,
wittiness, friendliness, modesty, righteous indignation.
63
The virtues are
pursued in the quest for eudaimonia which can be translated as ‘well-being’,
‘happiness’ or ‘blessedness’. The term has been taken up in the context of
virtue ethics and is often understood in terms of ‘human lourishing’.
64
In
classical philosophy eudaimonia is understood to characterize the well-lived
life, irrespective of the emotional state of the person experiencing it. In this
sense the outcome of living the virtues is seen in terms of objectivity rather
than subjectivity. The pursuit of eudaimonia by the human person consists
in exercising the quality of reason, which is the soul’s proper activity. Like
Plato before him, Aristotle argued that eudaimonia was an activity that
could only properly be exercised in a collective context, that is, the polis or
city-state. In virtue theory eudaimonia describes that goal achieved by the
person who lives a proper human life, an outcome which can be reached by
practising the virtues. In this understanding a virtue is a habit or quality
which brings success in relation to a desired goal or activity. For example,
the virtue of a knife is its sharpness, while for a racehorse its virtue would
be speed. In order to identify virtues for human beings, it is necessary to give
an account of human purpose. There is, however, little agreement about this.
In After Virtue Alasdair MacIntyre observed that while thinkers such as
Homer, Aristotle, the authors of the New Testament, Thomas Aquinas and
Benjamin Franklin have all proposed lists of the virtues, these lists do not
often overlap.
65
From this philosophical understanding of the virtues two areas emerge
which inform the construal of a collective and relational understanding
of the metaphor of deihcation: hrst, the question of purpose in relation to
‘human lourishing’, and second, the context in which such lourishing is
envisaged, that is, the polis. The conceptuality of deihcation itself provides
an understanding of ‘human purpose’, in the pursuit of the virtues which
produce human lourishing. This lourishing is conceived as a perichoretic
and synergistic participation in the divine communion of love. Contempo-
rary theories of communication reinforce the quest to situate this pursuit of
the virtues and human lourishing within a collective context. Indeed they
call the Church beyond the conhnes of confessional identity into dialogue
63
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book II, p. 7.
64
For example, Pojman, L. P., and Fieser, J., Virtue Theory in Ethics: Discovering Right
and Wrong (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009), pp. 146–69.
65
MacIntyre, A., After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (London: Duckworth, 1985),
p. 181.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
190
and life within the ‘polis’ and what Enlightenment philosophers have under-
stood as the ‘cosmopolis’. The concept of a virtuous community is something
which has been explored in depth in contemporary philosophical and theo-
logical discourse, by writers such MacIntyre, Hauerwas and Adams.
66
This
provides a basis for ‘Virtue Ecclesiology’ which Gerard Mannion has pro-
posed in his work Ecclesiology and Postmodernity.
67
As a ‘virtuous community’ the Church aspires to be an embodiment of
love (caritas), of the very being of God. This corresponds to a theandric
understanding of ecclesiology and provides a framework for understanding
the Church as a collective context of deihcation. Such construals of ecclesi-
ology need to bear in mind the challenge to relate to the broader context
of the world (cosmos) itself. In order to attempt to relate the concept of a
virtue ecclesiology to the contemporary context, I will explore the possibi-
lity of appealing to contemporary understandings of the city [polis] and to
the re-reception of the Enlightenment concept of the ‘cosmopolis’ in late
modernity. Leonardo Boff provides a theological basis for such an endeav-
our when he argues:
Here are the Trinitarian roots of a Christian commitment to the trans-
formation of society; we seek to change society because we see, in
faith, that the supreme reality is the prototype of all other things, and
that this supreme reality is the absolute communion of three distinct
realities, each of equal dignity, with equal love and full reciprocal com-
munion of love and life. Furthermore, we wish our society, our visible
reality, to be able to speak to us of the Trinity through egalitarian and
communitarian organization, and thus afford us an experience of the
three divine persons.
68
There has been a strong critique of the Trinitarian premise for social
concern. Scholars have argued that this is to project human political ideals
onto the Godhead.
69
But Mannion argues that the approach of Boff and
others is not projection: ‘For, as we shall see, this is not so much to project
human ideals onto our understanding of God, but rather to enable the
church to strive, however imperfectly, to be both sign and mediator of that
perfect community of love.’
70
66
For example, MacIntyre, A., After Virtue; Hauerwas, S., A Community of Character:
Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre
Dame Press, 1981); Adams, R. M., Finite and Innite Goods (Oxford: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1999).
67
Mannion, Ecclesiology, p. 215.
68
Boff, L., ‘Trinity’ in Sobrino and Ellacuria (eds), Systematic Theology, pp. 77–8.
69
For example, Kilby, K., ‘Perichoresis and Projection: Problems with Social Doctrines of
the Trinity’, New Blackfriars (October, 2000): 432–45.
70
Mannion, Ecclesiology, p. 185.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
191
The shape and content of a ‘virtue ecclesiology’ might be structured around
an appeal to an ethically based understanding of community such as that
found in MacIntryre’s After Virtue and to such notions as ‘A Community of
Character’ in the work of Stanley Hauerwas.
71
The concept of the Church
as a ‘moral community’ has also been addressed by the Faith and Order
Commission and the Justice, Peace and Creation team of the World Council
of Churches in a series of documents on Ecclesiology and Ethics.
72
And
there has been discussion of the Church as a ‘school of virtue’.
73
All of these
contribute to the possibility of a virtue ecclesiology. Alongside such under-
standings, I want to draw on Jürgen Habermas’ concept of ideal speech
communities. This conceptuality of communication and community pro-
vides a means of correlating the twin concerns of human purpose and the
collective context of the (cosmo)polis. It also offers further possibilities for
crafting a virtue ecclesiology which holds together an understanding of
relationality rooted in intersubjectivity with an understanding that ‘emanci-
pation’ emerges from the communication which is the expression of that
relationality. On this basis the Church can re-receive her calling to mission
in the context of the (cosmo)polis. The Church can explore new ways of liv-
ing as part of the ‘political’ community as she herself seeks to be a virtuous
community where together her members hnd participation in the divine life.
These processes can be understood in relation to Habermas’ understanding
of ‘the corporate and communicative nature of language’,
74
which
entails and ensures sociability: any speech-act implies a desire to
communicate and a commitment to the possibility of the creation of
mutual understanding and shared meaning. Such conversations can be
harnessed in the service of emancipatory principles and practices, by
acting as the testing ground for rationality and political strategy.
Speech therefore establishes relationship and reveals intentions to
forge moral-practical or aesthetic-practical reason.
75
In his construal of ideal speech communities Habermas argues that a notion of
intersubjectivity emerges and functions. This is the basis on which Habermas
offers a re-visioning or reconstructing of concepts of community at local
and international levels, which are reworking of Kant’s conceptions of world
71
See Hauerwas, A community of character.
72
Best, T., and Robra, M., Ecclesiology and Ethics: Costly Commitment (Geneva: WCC,
1995).
73
Mannion, Ecclesiology, p. 216.
74
For example, Habermas, J., Knowledge and Human Interests (London: Heinemann
Educational, 1972).
75
Graham, E., Transforming Practice: Pastoral Theology in an Age of Uncertainty
(Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2002), p. 146.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
192
citizenry and cosmopolitan right. Kant set out an understanding of the uni-
versal community in which all are entitled ‘to present themselves in the
society of others by virtue of their right to the communal possession of the
earth’s surface.’
76
This lies at the heart of Habermas’ commitment to and
vision of the reconstruction of community. He sets this reconstruction in
relation to his understanding of everyday communication.
77
The most basic
relationship between human beings is the act of communicating through
language. When such everyday communication is ‘authentic’ Habermas sug-
gests that ‘a bit of ideality’ enters ordinary human existence. The city and
the ‘cosmopolis’ are the location for this communication and of the recep-
tion of ‘ideality’. The collective context of the polis provides the space for
intersubjectivity to lourish and produce communicative action and a virtu-
ous life. It is the (cosmo)polis which is the context of the Church’s life and
witness and the collective pursuit of deihcation. The Church shares in the
possibility of the emergence of ‘ideality’ in everyday life. In her life as a virtu-
ous community of believers, the Church is called not only to share in that
ideality but herself to be a context in which it emerges for the beneht of all,
those within the believing community as well as those ‘beyond’ it. As com-
munication discloses moral and virtuous intentions and the possibility of
‘emancipation’ it also reinscribes the intersubjectivity of those who partici-
pate in it. The communal life of the (cosmo)polis is itself the bearer of
relationality and virtue, as in Christian Tradition the ‘Body of Christ’ is both
the context and the content of fellowship and salvation. This correlation of
relationality, context and moral intent found in the thought of Habermas
helps to frame the construal of a collective and relational understanding of
deihcation and of virtue ecclesiology.
But what would it mean to shape the Church around the pursuit of the
virtues? First, it is necessary to determine the kind of ethics which the Church
would embrace upon which the virtues would be pursued. Mannion suggests
that the choice is often perceived between deontological ethics based on
obligations and consequentialist ethics based on outcomes.
78
But he appeals
to the understanding of the virtues themselves as a middle way between
extremes and suggests that following this via media will avoid the extremes
of exclusivism and relativism. As an alternative he recommends an under-
standing of the virtues as ‘dispositions’ which focuses not only on interior
human motivation but also on the public pursuit of the common ‘good’.
76
Kant also assumed that such conceptions of the universal community would lead (even-
tually) to ‘perpetual peace’. Kant, I., Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf
(Könisberg, Friedrich Nicolovius, 1795, 1796).
77
Habermas, J., Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984,
1987).
78
Mannion, Ecclesiology, p. 218.
TRANSFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
193
This he suggests is the basis for a ‘dispositional’ ecclesiology.
79
This would
provide the parameters for a virtue ecclesiology which avoided extremes
and focused on the pursuit of the common good and the theological virtues
of faith, hope and love.
It is one thing to pursue framing the metaphor of deihcation in a theoreti-
cal discussion of the city or cosmopolis, but the reality of cities in the present
day seems far removed from the ‘ideal’ context which Kant and Habermas
seem to portray. Cities are often places of violence and depravation and
exclusion. These conditions are symbolic of human alienation and sin. How-
ever, the appeal to the context of the (cosmo)polis in the construal of the
metaphor of deihcation is not naïvely optimistic or idealistic. Habermas’
appeal to ‘ideality’ is precisely an appeal to a quality of communication and
relationality which addresses the deep-seated problems of city life and seeks
emancipation from them. The collective pursuit of the virtues in the Church
is to be premised on just such an understanding.
The work of Illingworth and Thornton provides a rich theological under-
girding to these claims and helps to give further shape to a virtue ecclesiology.
Illingworth argued that deihcation could be premised on a ‘social’ doctrine
of the triune God and that the content of deihcation was to be understood
in terms of the realization of human personhood through partaking in the
relationship of the persons of the Holy Trinity. This collective and relational
construal of deihcation is premised on a sharing in the theological virtues of
faith, hope and love, as an instantiation of the divine love. Thornton took
this conceptuality a stage further, applying Christ’s recapitulation of the
consequences of the fall to all humankind, and to the formation of a ‘new
kind of redeemed society’ in which the ‘Body of Christ’ is ‘clothed with the
extended image of deity in Christ’.
80
These understandings offer a possibility
of constructing a contemporary doctrine of deihcation which is ecclesial and
sacramental and cosmic in its dimensions.
Conclusion
I began by asking whether the metaphor of deihcation is irrelevant today,
because it is often seen as esoteric or elitist or ‘un-biblical’. I hope that I have
demonstrated that it is none of these things. The goal or outcome of the
metaphor of deihcation can be understood in terms of St Paul’s claim that
ultimately God will be all in all. This is equivalent of claiming that the
believer is called to participate in divine nature. It is my understanding that
79
Mannion, Ecclesiology, p. 220.
80
Thornton, L. S., Revelation and the Modem World (London: Dacre Press, 1950)
pp. 129, 187.
PARTAKING IN DIVINE NATURE
194
this is the calling and destiny of all human persons. Theoˉ sis is not an esoteric
or elitist set of practices; it is the content of true discipleship of Christ; it is
what it means to be ‘in Christ’. Theoˉ sis concerns the soul and the body; it
concerns the practice of the virtues, and it is rooted in and often experienced
through the practice of prayer in various forms. The outcome of deihcation
may be compared with the Gospel understanding of God’s Kingdom ‘on
earth and in heaven’. The Kingdom is not a reality distinct from deihcation.
Rather the deihcation of the believer is an aspect of the coming of the
Kingdom. There are no parallel ‘processes’, one of which concerns being dei-
hed, while the other is the coming of the Kingdom. Deihcation is the content
of the Kingdom for the believer. Indeed if this were not the case the Kingdom
would be extrinsic and ‘imposed’ from without. This is an argument for a
partially realized and interior understanding of eschatology.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was
coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with
things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or
“There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among (within) you.’
(Luke: 17.20, 21)
As the text of the Lord’s Prayer suggests, ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be
done.’ A divine–human communion and synergy predicated on a theandric
Christology lies at the heart of this understanding of the coming of the
Kingdom. It is also to be predicated on the paradigm of theandric Christology:
the Transhguration. Deihcation is an expression of the divine purposes in
creating and redeeming: and expression of the calling to transformation or
transhguration so that God may be all in all. This is a transhguration which
entails the transformation not only of the believer but also of the Church, of
society and of the cosmos.
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as
though relected in a mirror, are being transhgured into the same image
from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the
Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3.18)
195
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207
iNirx cr :Uv]rc1: nNi Nn·r:
Abraham 43, 45
Abraham, Minnie 159
Absolute (the) 127
act (divine) 26, 151, 175
action (divine) 17, 101, 118
Adam 29 n.22, 30, 31, 34, 35, 38, 39,
43, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 107, 109,
158, 162, 178
adoption 27, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50,
55, 56, 57, 72, 99, 119, 147, 165,
166, 169, 181, 183
alterity 87
Ambrose of Milan 69
Amish 150
Anabaptists 112, 145, 150, 151,
152, 156
analogy 57, 71, 101, 103
Andrewes, Lancelot 145, 152, 153,
154, 160
angelihcation 32
Angelus Silesius 134, 135
animality 114
anthropology (theological) 4, 20, 29,
62, 63, 68, 81, 82, 87, 109, 111,
134, 161, 173, 174
Apocalyptic literature 31
Apollinarius (Apollinarianism) 64, 65,
67, 72, 102 n.73
apophaticism 10, 63, 66, 82, 83, 84,
85, 86, 174, 176
Apostles’ Creed (the) 2, 5
apotheoˉ sis 3, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 58
Aquinas, Thomas 26, 77, 81, 87, 100,
101, 102, 112, 116–19, 144, 189
Arianism 62, 63
Aristides 52
Aristotle 24, 116, 189
Arius 61, 62, 102
Ark of the Covenant 129
Arndt, Johann 164
ascent (of soul or mind) 10, 25, 32, 35,
37, 40, 43, 49, 50, 52, 53, 59, 64,
65, 67, 85, 103, 104, 105, 112,
120, 129, 132, 173, 174
asceticism 23, 105, 157
assimilation 17, 19, 22, 32, 64, 68,
73, 108
Athanasius 60, 62, 63, 65, 66, 67,
68, 72, 73, 75, 82 n.23, 84, 105,
116, 117, 148, 155, 156, 162,
167, 181
Athenagoras (Ecumenical
Patriarch) 166
Aufhebung 142
Augustine of Hippo 26, 69–72, 115,
117, 119, 160
Averroes 116
awakening 22, 156
Balthasar, Hans Urs von 68, 167, 168
Baptism 17, 42, 43, 44, 50, 53, 55,
57, 61, 66, 71, 72, 73, 89, 90, 98,
101, 105, 106, 109, 110, 118, 119,
121, 136, 149, 172, 182, 183, 184,
185, 187
Barlaam of Calabria 100
Barrett, Thomas, B. 159
Barth, Karl 42, 141, 175, 176, 179
Basil of Caesarea 37, 64, 65, 66, 67,
68, 70
Basilides 52, 56
Baur, F. C. 121
beauty 22, 23, 66, 67, 84, 85, 89, 105
Beguines 124
Benedict XVI (Pope) 169, 170
Bernard of Clairvaux 112, 123, 124,
125, 139, 149
blending 25, 153, 166
208
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
body (human) 4, 5, 14, 20, 39, 54, 56,
57, 72, 114, 173, 174, 183, 194
Body of Christ 17, 42, 44, 45, 55, 63,
105, 140, 141, 149, 150, 153, 160,
162, 170, 178, 179, 182, 184, 185,
192, 193
Boff, Leonardo 190
bogochelovek (God-man) 78
Bonaventure 119
Book of Common Prayer (1662) 183
Bousset, W. 33
Brethren (movement) 150, 156
Bria, Ion 83, 185, 187
bride 133, 135
bridegroom 133
Brothers of the Common Life 119, 154
Bulgakov, Sergei 77, 78, 79, 80, 82,
87, 94
Butler, Cuthbert 139
Cabasilas, Nicholas 169
calling (human) 2, 3, 46, 82, 130, 136,
140, 144, 172, 176, 178, 186, 187,
188, 194
Calvin, John 145, 148, 149, 150
Cambridge Platonists 152, 154
Cappadocian fathers 65, 68, 69, 74, 86,
90, 102, 113, 172, 177, 181
Carmelite (Order) 132, 133
Carpocrates 52
cataphatic (approach) 83, 174, 175, 176
cause 84, 105, 113, 120
chariot throne (throne chariot) 31, 32,
35, 61
Charioteer (myth of) 18
charismatic gifts 59, 92
Charismatic tradition 2, 39, 164, 172
Christian Perfection 39, 143, 144, 156,
157, 159, 164
Christihcation 42, 43, 44, 46, 51, 82
Christology 55, 56, 72, 81, 82, 83, 85,
106, 115, 120, 122, 130, 145, 176,
178, 179, 180, 186, 194
Clement of Alexandria 29, 33, 35, 37,
52, 56, 57, 58, 59, 66, 159
Cloud of Unknowing (the) 129, 130, 175
communion, passim
community 45, 144, 171, 191, 192
community (of faith) 1, 10, 95, 169,
172, 173, 174, 181, 183, 186,
190, 192
consciousness 127, 138, 144, 174
Constantinople (Council of) (381) 5,
62, 64, 66
Constantinople (2
nd
Council of) (553)
64, 102, 103
Constantinople (3
rd
Council of) (680–1)
103
contemplation 9, 13, 17, 21, 23, 37, 41,
50, 57, 67, 73, 98, 124, 129, 130,
131, 133, 137, 140, 159, 176, 177
conversion 43, 118, 127, 177, 184
cosmopolis 173, 190, 192, 193
cosmos 4, 6, 17, 20, 21, 23, 26, 33, 49,
55, 76, 83, 84, 95, 106, 107, 109,
110, 115, 158, 168, 171, 178, 180,
184, 185, 187, 190, 194
covenant 28, 29, 43, 45
creatio ex nihilo 26, 118
creation 4, 5, 20, 26, 29, 31, 33, 34, 37,
43, 46, 50, 60, 70, 77, 79, 83, 84,
111, 113, 114, 115, 119, 120, 121,
130, 134, 139, 151, 162, 177, 178,
181, 184, 188
Creator (God) 3, 26, 31, 51, 60, 70,
101, 118, 128, 130, 133, 137, 151,
163, 169, 178
Cross (the) 83, 120, 134, 136, 165, 178
Cudworth, Ralph 155
Cydones, Prochorus 77, 95, 101
Cyril of Alexandria 41, 64, 72, 73, 75,
105, 107, 169
Cyril of Jerusalem 160
Daniélou, Jean 167
de Chardin, Teilhard 184, 186, 187
de Régnon paradigm 74, 87
de Régnon, Théodore 74
Dead Sea Scrolls 33, 34
deiform (faculty) 4, 25, 69, 81
deiformity 154
Delphi 14, 81
demiurge 20, 24
democratization 16, 35, 145, 173
209
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
Descartes, René 154
Desert Fathers and Mothers 64, 172
deus absconditus (hidden God) 175
Diadochos of Photike 103
diastolȘ (expansion) 168
didaskaleion (ia) 51, 52, 53, 56, 73
difference (ontological) 10, 12, 26, 36,
38, 40, 63, 67, 79, 87, 123, 149,
151, 178, 180
Dionysius (Pseudo-) the Aeropagite 26,
67, 77, 85, 102, 104, 105, 106,
109, 110, 112, 113, 114, 119,
120, 121, 122, 129, 137, 149,
172, 176
dispassion 57
Dörrie, H. S. 27, 37
ecclesial being 181
ecclesiology 81, 83, 87, 94, 181, 186,
190, 193
Eckhart, Meister 114, 119, 120, 124,
125, 126, 127, 128
economy (of salvation) 126, 130,
131, 185
ecstasy 22, 25, 132
ecumenical movement 76, 166
election (divine) 85
Elijah 31, 40
Eliot, T. S. 91, 153
energeia (energy) 17, 49
energetic communion 2, 108, 180, 181
energy (ies) (divine) 17, 49, 50, 69, 79,
80, 84, 85, 86, 90, 100, 101, 108,
116, 121, 137, 180
Enlightenment (the) 8, 88, 89, 92, 122,
136, 141, 143, 173, 190
enlightenment (illumination) 13, 41
Enoch 31, 34, 35
ensoulment 21
Ephesus (Council of) (431) 72, 75
Ephrem the Syrian 60, 160
Epiphanius of Salamis 102
epistemology 85, 100
Erasmus, Desiderius 104
Eriugena, John Scottus 26, 113, 114,
115, 119, 120, 121, 129, 137
eros 25, 132
eschatology 2, 33, 34, 43, 44, 45, 46,
52, 55, 57, 64, 71, 94, 103, 107,
111, 185, 194
essence (divine) 17, 20, 22, 25, 49, 57,
69, 72, 79, 86, 100, 101, 115, 116,
123, 135, 137, 151, 182
essence-energies 50, 90, 100, 101, 121
Eucharist 17, 36, 42, 44, 46, 50, 51, 53,
55, 63, 68, 71, 72, 73, 86, 98, 106,
108, 109, 110, 118, 121, 153, 160,
162, 169, 170, 172, 181, 182, 183,
184, 185, 186, 187, 188
eudaimonia 189
Eudorus of Alexandria 23
Eusebius 35, 54, 75
Evagrios Ponticus 53, 61, 64, 65, 72,
90, 103
Evangelical Revival 2, 156
event conceptuality 182
event of communion 50, 182
Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian 35
exchange formula 50, 55, 60, 62, 63,
67, 96, 98, 104, 116, 117, 120,
139, 142, 144, 153, 155, 156, 158,
160, 162, 179, 183
exclusion 193
existential (approach) 9, 62, 81, 176
exitus 26, 113, 131, 136
experience (mystical) 5, 22, 42, 43, 48,
80, 90, 92, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100,
101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 108, 113,
122, 123, 124, 126, 131, 132, 134,
137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143,
149, 164, 166, 170, 173, 174,
175, 176, 177
experience (religious) 2, 4, 9, 11, 13, 38,
44, 47, 49, 61, 64, 77, 95, 103, 111,
112, 140, 143, 162, 171, 172, 183, 190
faith 18, 69, 92, 93, 111, 118, 141,
142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148,
149, 150, 152, 163, 164, 175, 177,
184, 188, 190, 193
Faith and Order (Commission) 191
Fall (the) 4, 24, 30, 33, 34, 50, 54, 60,
70, 84, 103, 114, 130, 171, 177,
178, 184, 193
210
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
Father (God the) 32, 38, 39, 41, 43, 44,
45, 47, 53, 54, 58, 62, 70, 120,
129, 144, 158, 160, 161, 163, 165,
168, 177, 181, 182
fellowship 42, 48, 140, 143, 144, 149,
151, 158, 185, 192
hliation 27, 28, 32, 42, 43, 45,
50, 72, 117, 119, 120, 144,
145, 169
lioque 76, 95
Finnish School 146, 147
Florence (Council of 1439) 102, 119
Florovsky, Georges 78, 91
forms (the) 19, 20, 21, 24, 48
Foucault, Michel 174
Free Spirits 124
freedom 56, 57, 87, 94, 107, 114, 157,
175, 179, 180, 182
fullness (of God) 25, 45, 157, 186
garments of light 30
garments of skins 4, 30, 31, 68
Geert Groote 119, 128
gender 4, 30, 68, 114
Gennadius II Scholarius 95
gift (divine) 36, 38, 53, 54, 62, 71,
82, 105, 107, 118, 141, 145, 146,
147, 149
gifts (of the Spirit) 42, 59, 73, 165,
172, 176
gnosis 53
Gnosticism 43, 55
Godhead 62, 68, 161, 167, 172, 177,
178, 180, 182, 183, 190
God-manhood 93, 94, 95
good (the) 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 89
good works 32, 118, 145
Gore, Charles 161, 162
Gospel of Thomas 54
grace 18, 53, 57, 59, 60, 70, 71, 72, 75,
83, 89, 90, 99, 101, 105, 107, 108,
110, 111, 114, 117, 118, 119, 120,
121, 127, 134, 141, 144, 145, 147,
150, 151, 152, 154, 156, 157, 158,
163, 164, 167, 169, 171, 174, 175,
176, 180, 183, 184
Grdelidze, Tamara 176
Gregory of Nazianzen 26, 47, 64,
66, 67, 68, 75, 82, 96, 99, 104,
109, 120
Gregory of Nyssa 53, 64, 67, 68, 69,
70, 113, 114, 120, 167, 184
Gregory Palamas 6, 75, 76, 77, 83,
90, 95, 99, 100, 109, 111, 116,
121, 137
Gregory Thaumaturgus 15, 58, 66
Groenendaal 128
Gross, Jules 3, 13, 49, 142, 143,
166, 167
ground (of God) 127
Gunton, Colin E. 122, 161
Habermas, Jürgen 191, 192, 193
Harnack, Adolf von 3, 26, 33, 62, 121,
122, 139, 141, 142, 143, 145, 167
Hauerwas, Stanley 190, 191
heavenly court 34, 35
Hegel, G. W. F. 82
Hellenism 3, 88, 96
henoˉ sis 17
Heracles (Hercules) 15, 16
hermeneutical community 10
Hesychast(s) 2, 77, 83, 87, 88, 90, 92,
95, 96, 97 98, 99, 100, 101, 102,
110, 111, 137, 141
hesychia 89
hidden God see deus absconditus
hidden(ness) 53, 129, 175, 176
hierarchy (of being) 19, 24, 25
Hilary of Poitiers 63, 64, 70
Hippolytus (of Rome) 52
holiness 2, 4, 9, 19, 26, 27, 60, 75, 145,
147, 157, 170
holiness (moral) 28
holiness (ritual) 28
Holiness Movement 2, 39, 112, 158,
159, 163–6, 170
Holocaust 3
Holy Spirit 45, 53, 54, 58, 59, 61, 62,
66, 67, 71, 72, 73, 92, 117, 118,
119, 121, 123, 129, 140, 149,
157, 158, 163, 172, 176, 181, 182,
183, 188
Homer 13, 37, 189
211
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
homoiosis (imitation) 25, 26, 51
homoiousios (-n) 62
Hooker, Richard , 11, 145, 152, 153, 162
Hopko, T. 186
Hügel, F. von 138
Hugh of St Victor 115
human condition 4, 61
human lourishing 189
Hutterites 150
hypostasis (-es) 24, 25, 85, 86, 100,
179, 181
Hypostatic Union (the) 41, 50, 102,
103, 106, 108, 109, 169, 177, 179,
180, 181
Iamblichus 17, 25
icon 40, 82, 108
Iconoclast controversy 30, 103, 108, 109
ideal speech communities 191
ideality 192, 193
idolatry 30, 37
Ignatius of Antioch 51, 52, 181
Ignatius of Loyola 90
Illingworth, J. R. 161, 163, 168, 193
illumination (enlightenment) 13, 22,
41, 53, 103, 104, 105, 136
image (icon) [eikoˉ n], 30, 36, 40, 56, 64,
79, 163, 176, 193, 194
image (and likeness) 4, 14, 15, 20, 22,
28, 29, 30, 36, 39, 49, 50, 54, 55,
57, 70, 71, 72, 73, 78, 81, 82, 96,
103, 108, 109, 115, 119, 131, 142,
157, 165, 171, 174, 178
imago dei 30, 40, 71, 107, 108, 120,
169, 179
imago trinitatis 108, 179
imitation 10, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25,
39, 45, 48, 49, 51, 67, 70, 71, 101,
105, 132
immanence 73, 119, 138
immortal 12, 13, 14, 15, 15, 24, 31, 33,
37, 38, 49, 53, 54, 57, 158
immortality 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14, 24, 31,
35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 52, 54, 55, 57,
58, 62, 63, 101, 142, 154, 158, 173
Imperial cult 16, 33
imperishability 14, 38
Incarnation (the) 28, 34, 47, 50, 54, 55,
60, 68, 78, 79, 84, 85, 87, 94, 98,
101, 102, 105, 106, 108, 109, 115,
116, 117, 118, 120, 121, 142, 144,
151, 153, 155, 158, 160, 161, 162,
165, 169, 178, 186, 188
inclusion 39, 50
incommunicability (of God) 86, 140
incorporation (into the Body of
Christ) 182, 183
incorruption 10, 36, 44, 58, 62, 63, 84
individualism 166
ineffability (of God) 10, 100
infusion (of grace) 118, 151
intellect 10, 16, 19, 25, 56, 57, 58, 61,
67, 69, 88, 90, 98, 105, 120, 127,
161, 176
interpenetration 61, 69, 180
intimacy 27, 28, 36, 45, 51, 52, 84,
103, 106, 110, 133, 137, 172,
174, 176
Irenaeus of Lyons 33, 45, 53, 55, 56,
57, 59, 60, 63, 73, 84, 116, 117,
148, 162, 181
Jacob of Nisibis 60
Jenson, Robert W. 68
Jesus Prayer (the) 92, 96, 111
John (the Evangelist) 32, 47, 96
John Chrysostom 169
John of the Cross 126, 131, 133, 134,
137, 138, 139
John of Damascus 41, 66, 76, 77, 103,
108, 109, 110, 137
John of Jerusalem 102
John Paul II (Pope) 126, 169, 170
Judaism 12, 32, 33, 36, 37, 40, 72
Julian of Norwich 130, 131
Julian ‘the Apostate’ 65, 67
justihcation (by faith) 3, 4, 33, 71, 111,
117, 118, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147,
150, 152, 153, 158, 159, 166
Justin Martyr 33, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 58
Kant, Immanuel 82, 141, 143, 146,
191, 192, 193
Kärkkäinen, V-M. 71, 158, 159
212
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
Keble, John 159
King, Ursula 139
Kingdom of God (Heaven) 14, 38, 41,
85, 89, 142, 143, 144, 145, 183,
186, 194
Knowles, David 139
koinoˉ nia 2, 5, 20, 42, 44, 50, 83, 172,
177, 178, 180, 181, 182, 183, 185
Kollyvades 88
Krivocheine, Basil 96
Kulturprotestantismus
(Culture-Protestantism) 141
Küng, Hans 3
LaCugna, Catherine Mowry 168, 173,
179
Lankford, Sarah Worrall 164
Lash, Nicholas 140
late modernity 173, 190
Leo XIII (Pope) 169
Liberal Protestants (ism) 141
likeness 4, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26,
29, 30, 33, 49, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56,
57, 58, 65, 68, 70, 72, 73, 78, 81,
96, 103, 104, 105, 107, 108, 109,
115, 127, 131, 134, 139, 142, 145,
155, 171, 174, 179
Lindbeck, George 11
Logos 37, 48, 53, 54, 55, 57, 63, 65, 82,
117, 120, 142, 148, 178, 180, 186
Lossky, Vladimir 18, 74, 77, 78, 80, 81,
83, 85, 86, 87, 91
Lot-Borodine, M. 69
Louth, Andrew 76, 77, 84, 85, 87, 90,
91, 96, 97, 98, 104, 107
love 22, 39, 47, 55, 67, 78, 87, 94, 103,
105, 107, 115, 123, 124, 125, 126,
128, 129, 130, 132, 134, 135, 136,
139, 140, 141, 147, 149, 151, 161,
163, 168, 170, 180, 181, 184, 186,
187, 188, 189, 190, 193
Ludlow, Morwenna 68
Luther, Martin 112, 143, 144, 145,
146, 147, 148, 150, 175
Lux Mundi 161, 162
Macarian writings 60, 61, 103
Macarios of Egypt 60
MacIntyre, Alasdair 8, 9, 189, 190
Mack, Alexander 156
macro-anthroˉ pos 83
Madame Guyon 159, 164
Mahan, Asa 164
Makarios of Corinth 88, 141
Maloney, George A. 1
Mannermaa, Tuomo 146, 147
Mannion, Gerard 190, 192
Marcion 52
Mascall, E. L. 163
materiality 114
Maximos the Confessor 6, 26, 67, 76,
77, 83, 90, 97, 99, 102, 103, 106,
107, 108, 109, 110, 113, 114, 120,
130, 137, 167, 168, 180, 183
McCord Adams, M. 178
McGinn, B. 122
McGuckin, John 66, 75, 77, 85,
87, 97
Mennonites 150, 151
Merton, Thomas 140, 141
Messalianism 61
metamorphoˉ sis (transhguration) 40,
50, 67, 85, 107
methexsis (participation) 25, 26, 51
Methodism 156, 157, 158
Meyendorff, John 75, 91, 114
Milbank, John 78, 79
Milieu Divine (le) 184
mind (nous) 4, 10, 13, 15, 20, 21, 22,
24, 37, 43, 64, 71, 93, 105, 109,
120, 157, 161, 173, 174
mission 2, 47, 186, 191
Monothelite (heresy) 103, 107
Moses 31, 34, 35, 37, 40, 50, 97, 129
Mosser, Carl 33, 34
Motovilov, Nicholas 92
Mount Athos 75, 79, 88, 95, 99, 100
Mount Sinai 35, 97
Mount Tabor 41, 100, 101
Mystical Theology 89, 112, 120, 121,
122, 128, 129, 132, 136, 137, 138,
139, 140, 149, 170, 172, 173, 174,
176
mystical union (unio mystica) 48, 80,
120, 121, 122, 123, 128, 138, 149,
150, 162, 176
213
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
mysticism 22, 35, 42, 52, 91, 121, 135,
137, 138, 139, 140, 143, 149, 154,
170, 173
Nag Hammadi (texts) 52
Nellas, Panayiotis 1, 77, 81, 82, 87, 91
Neo-Palamism 74, 76, 110
nepsis 89
Nestorius 72, 75
Newman, John Henry 99, 159, 166, 167
Nicaea (Council of) (325) 5, 51, 62
Nicaea (Second Council of) (787) 103
Nicene Creed (381) 2, 5
Nicene orthodoxy 61, 62, 63, 64, 65,
66, 69, 75
Nicholas of Cusa 104, 114, 119, 120,
121, 128
Nikodimos the Hagiorite 88, 90, 141
Normal Christian (the) 165
nous (mind) 20, 24, 37, 54, 174
Onica, P. A. 166
ontology 41, 85, 86, 105, 182
Origen 15, 37, 50, 53, 56, 58, 59, 63,
64, 65, 66, 67, 70, 72, 102, 105,
107, 120, 159, 172, 177
Orpheus 15
Orthodoxy (Byzantine) 76, 110
Osborn, E. 6, 7, 8, 10
otherness 12, 70, 87, 120
ousia 24, 49, 72, 86, 107
Palamism 99, 100, 101, 102
Palmer, Phoebe 159, 164
pantheism 128, 138
Papanikolaou, Aristotle 75, 77, 85, 86,
97, 110, 170
parousia 20
participation, passim
participatory union 43, 45, 46, 51, 57
Passmore, John 7, 8, 10
Pattison, George 182
Paul (St) 14, 17, 39, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46,
47, 48, 52, 56, 57, 59, 73, 97, 104,
127, 149, 150, 170, 176, 188, 193
Paul VI (Pope) 131, 166
Peasants’ Revolt 130
Pentecost (day of) 41
Pentecostal (tradition) 2, 39, 110, 112,
158, 159, 165, 170, 172
perfection 2, 4, 9, 17, 21, 23, 27, 28,
39, 59, 62, 66, 83, 84, 89, 96, 105,
124, 126, 127, 130, 131, 137, 140,
145, 150, 156, 157, 158, 170
perichoˉ rȘsis 41, 46, 47, 148, 177, 179,
180, 181, 182
person (human) passim
person of Christ 5, 39, 43, 48, 62, 83,
100, 102, 103, 106, 140, 144, 146,
152, 177, 179, 180
person(s) (of the Trinity) 59, 79, 129,
167, 168, 169, 172, 177, 178, 182,
190, 193
personhood (human) 15, 80, 81, 86,
87, 161, 177, 182, 193
Peter Lombard 112, 115, 116, 118
Phelan, G. B. 116
philanthropia 78
Phillips, Dirk 151
Philo of Alexandria 29, 35, 36, 37, 57,
59, 65
Philokalia of the Holy Neptic Fathers
(1782) 61, 64, 65, 76, 83, 88, 89,
90, 91, 92, 95, 96, 102, 110, 141
Pietism 156, 157
Plague (the) 130
Plato 9, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24,
25, 26, 27, 29, 41, 48, 57, 59, 67,
154, 189
Platonism 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26,
27, 37, 53, 57, 61, 65, 66, 68, 70,
113, 116, 120, 121, 131, 154, 173
pleasure 23
Plotinus 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 53,
56, 70, 104, 154
Porete, Marguerite 124, 125, 126
Porphyry 17, 25, 26, 53, 70
post-lapsarian (condition) 4, 30
postmodernity 171
pre-lapsarian (condition) 30, 114
Protestant(ism) (tradition) 3, 74, 76,
83, 88, 89, 94, 108, 111, 121, 135,
143, 145, 146, 150, 151, 152, 156,
157, 160
Psellus, Michael 95, 96, 98
psyche (soul) 24
214
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
psychoanalysis 137
psychology 4, 9, 123, 137, 140
psychology (theological) 69
Pusey, Edward Bouverie 160, 161
Qumran community 34, 35, 43
Rahner, Karl 167, 168
Ramsey, Michael 163
rapture 9, 97, 122
Ratzinger, Joseph see Benedict XVI
Real Presence 17, 148
recapitulation 45, 55, 56, 162, 178,
179, 183, 193
reciprocity 49, 83, 107, 108, 136,
144, 179
recollection (of memory) 24
reditus 26, 113, 131, 136
Reformation (the) 9, 30, 112, 121, 122,
141, 145, 149, 150, 152, 156, 185
regeneration 118, 164, 183
relationality 87, 129, 168, 177, 179,
191, 192, 193
resurrection (of Christ) 17, 34, 47, 48,
63, 92, 165, 178, 183, 187
(of believer) 5, 15, 31, 38, 39, 43, 44,
52, 63, 124
resurrection light 41
revelation 120, 143, 167, 175, 176
Revivalist (movements) 2, 4, 9, 141,
156, 165
Ritschl, Albrecht 141, 143, 144, 145
Robichaux, K. S. 166
Roman Catholic (ism) (church)
(tradition) 88, 89, 90, 93, 111,
112, 116, 135, 144, 166
Russell, Norman 1, 6, 9, 10, 49, 57, 59,
61, 65, 67, 68, 76, 81, 99, 105, 161
Ruusbroec, J. 128, 129, 139
sacrament(s) 5, 50, 52, 55, 63, 67, 68,
69, 71, 77, 98, 105, 110, 111, 115,
120, 150, 151, 160, 161, 162,
169, 172, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186,
187, 188
salvation, passim
sanctihcation 3, 4, 41, 72, 85, 106,
111, 116, 117, 118, 120, 121, 123,
127, 128, 145, 149, 150, 152, 153,
156, 157, 158, 159, 164
Sanders, E. P. 46
Schleiermacher, Friedrich 122, 141,
143, 175
Schopenhauer 83
Schweitzer, A. 42, 46
Schwöbel, Christoph 161
Scougal, Henry 156, 157
seeker (after God / truth) 23, 53
self-consciousness 174
self-intellection 24
self-surrender 25
self-unveiling (of God) 175
Septuagint 27, 28, 29, 32, 37
Seraphim of Sarov (St) 77, 91, 92
Severus of Antioch 104
sexuality (human) 4, 30
Seymour, William 159
silence 71, 132, 176
Silouan of Mt Athos (St) 79
Simons, Menno 151
Solovyov, Vladimir 78, 93, 94, 95
Son of God 32, 56, 60, 117, 158,
165, 188
Sophia (wisdom) 78, 79, 93
sophiology 78, 80, 93
Sophrony, Archimandrite 77, 79, 80,
87, 91, 177
soteriology 62, 81, 122, 130, 136, 148,
152, 153
soul (psychȘ) passim
Sparrow-Simpson, W. J. 121, 122
Spirit of God 58
Spiritual Marriage 129, 132, 133,
134, 137
Staniloae, Dumitru 76, 77, 82, 83, 84,
87, 91
starchestvo 92
Stethatos, Nicetas 97
Stoics (ism) 23, 53
subject (human) 10, 20, 21, 22, 23, 54,
77, 103, 105, 175, 178, 179, 187
substance 17, 24, 55, 62, 72, 151, 182
surrender 22
Symeon the New Theologian 77, 95,
96, 97, 98, 100
Symeon the Studite 98
215
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
synergy 3, 28, 41, 50, 56, 94, 107, 108,
109, 132, 145, 158, 177, 179, 180,
181, 194
Taboric Light 100
Tamburello, D. E. 149
Tanner, Kathyrn 40, 178
Tarasar, Constance J. 181, 185
Tatian 53, 54, 55
Tauler, Johannes 126, 128, 135
Teresa of Avila 131, 132, 133, 134,
137, 138, 172
Tertullian 59, 60, 63, 70
theandric (understanding) 106, 108,
109, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 183,
186, 190, 194
theologia crucis 83, 147
Theologia Deutsch 149
Theophilus of Alexandria 72
theoˉ ria 41, 50, 67, 98, 104, 172, 173,
174, 176
Theos (ho) (the God) 17, 24
theoˉ sis 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 14, 50,
67, 79, 80, 84, 85, 86, 87, 89, 93,
98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 104, 105,
107, 108, 109, 111, 114, 120,
142, 146, 147, 153, 168, 180,
182, 183, 194
theurgy 17, 18, 25, 105, 106, 183
Thornton, Lionel S. 162, 163, 193
throne-chariot 31, 32, 61
Thunberg, Lars 2, 50, 108, 180
Tikhon of Zadonsk 92
Torrance, T. F. 148
transcendent (God) 14, 17, 24, 37, 55,
57, 86, 100, 106, 113, 138, 171
transformation 10, 11, 23, 25, 39, 41,
50, 61, 67, 72, 73, 77, 84, 94, 117,
120, 134, 142, 155, 168, 171, 176,
177, 184, 187, 188, 190, 194
Trethowan, I. 139
Trinity (the) 5, 59, 65, 70, 71, 85, 86,
102, 115, 121, 123, 129, 158, 161,
163, 167, 168, 169, 172, 175, 177,
181, 182, 185, 190, 193
Troeltsch, Ernst 175
truth 7, 8, 19, 20, 22, 23, 53, 75, 98,
106, 117, 118, 186
Tuesday Meeting 164
Turner, Denys 122
unbegotten 53, 62
Underhill, Evelyn 22, 138
unio mystica (mystical union) 149
union (divine-human) passim
unknowing 48, 85, 129, 130, 154, 172,
173, 174, 175, 176, 177
unmoved Mover 24
Upham, Thomas C. 159, 164
Valentinus 52, 56
Vandervelde, G. 147
Velitchkovsky, Paissy 91, 92
Vergöttlichung 147
Vienne (Council of) (1311) 156
Virtue Ecclesiology 11, 173, 188, 190,
191, 192, 193
Virtues (the) 18, 20, 37, 42, 49, 51, 69,
73, 84, 87, 89, 90, 107, 110, 128,
130, 138, 158, 172, 173, 184, 188,
189, 192, 193, 194
virtuous community 172, 188, 190,
191, 192
vision (of God) 31, 41, 97, 100, 125,
173, 176, 177
(beatihc) 71, 123, 149
Ware, Kallistos 77, 81, 87, 88, 90
Watchman Nee 165, 166
Waterland, Daniel 162
Way of a Pilgrim 92
Wesley, Charles 158
Wesley, John 11, 39, 112, 152, 156,
157, 158, 159
Wesleyan Holiness Movement 2
Westcott, B. F. 122
Whichcote, B. 155
Wiles, Maurice 99
will (human) 13, 23, 41, 61, 72, 107,
130, 132, 158, 164, 179, 180
(divine) 41, 56, 105, 107, 128, 130,
132, 134, 158, 164, 180
Williams, A. N. 118
Williams, Rowan D. 139
wisdom (of God) (Sophia) 21, 22, 36,
93, 105
216
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND NAMES
Witness Lee 165, 166
Word (of God) 32, 34, 54, 55, 56,
105, 113, 116, 117, 144, 148, 154,
155, 183
Yannaras, Christos 75, 77, 84, 91, 99
Zizioulas, John D. 50, 77, 80, 85, 86,
110, 170, 172, 177, 181, 182
217
Genesis
1.26, 27 29, 42, 54, 57, 78
3 21, 3, 178
3.14–19 30
3.15 154
3.20, 21 30
3.21 4, 68
3.22–24 31
5.24 31
9.6 29 n.22
12.3 45

Exodus
7.1 50
20. 4, 5 30

Leviticus
11.44, 45 28
19.2 28 n.20
20.26 28 n.20

Numbers
15.40 28 n.20

Deuteronomy
32.4 28 n.18

1 Samuel
2.6 31

2 Samuel
22.31 28 n.18

2 Kings
2.11 31
Job
7.9 31

Psalms
6.5 31
18.30 28 n.18
29 27
30.3 31
49.51 31
82 32, 33, 34, 59, 69
82.1 34
82.6 27, 32, 33, 34,
35, 54, 55, 57,
58, 64, 71, 117,
119, 130
104.1, 2 31 n.25
116.11 71
139.8 31

Proverbs
1.12 31
8 36

Jeremiah
31.31–34 29

Ezekiel
1.1–28 31
10.1–22 31
37.1–14 31
43.1–5 31

Hosea
1.10 45
iNirx cr :ciiv1Uir
irrrirNcr:
Quotations from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament are
from the New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition),
unless otherwise stated.
218
INDEX OF SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
Apocrypha (Septuagint)
The Wisdom of Solomon
2.23 34 n.35
2.23,24 36
3.1–9 36
3.4, 7 34 n.35
5 27
5.5 27
5.15 36
7 36
7.27 36
19.21 36
Ecclesiasticus
4.10 27
4.10–14 28
31.10 28 n.19
44.17 28 n.19
45.8 28 n.19
50.11 28 n.19
Pseudepigrapha
1 Enoch 34
2 Enoch
31.1 34 n.35
4 Ezra
3.7 34 n.35
2 Baruch
73–74 34 n.35
New Testament

Matthew
5.43–8 39
6.9–13 41
17.1–8 40
17.26 144

Mark
9.28 40 n.44

Luke
9.28–36 40 n.44
17.20, 21 194
John
1 71
1.12 71
3 183
3.16 187
10 33
10.31–6 32
10.34 130
10.34–5 42
10.35 33
14.23 47 n.55
17.21–23 47, 144
Acts of the Apostles
7.55 97
13.24 155
17.34 104
Romans
5.14 43
6 44, 149, 183
6.3–5 44
6.23 43 n.48
8 43, 50
8.12–17 45
8.14, 15 45
8.17 45
8.22, 23 26
9.4 45 n.50
13.14 44 n.49
1 Corinthians
1.2 43 n.48
2.6–13 52
2.10–16 43
4.16 45 n.51
10 46, 184
10.16–17 44
11.1 45 n.51
12.27 44
13.13 188
15 38, 39, 62
15.20–6 38
15.22 43 n.48
15.28 125, 186
15.45 43
15.48–56 14
15.52–3 60
15.53 44 n.49
219
INDEX OF SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
2 Corinthians
3.18 46, 176, 194
4.16 46
5.17 43 n.48
8.9 62
12 97
12.2–4 43
Galatians
3 45
3.23–29 43
3.27 44 n.49
3.29 45
4.5 45, 45 n.50
5.22–25 188
Ephesians
1.5 45, 45 n.50
1.10 45
1.14 45
1.23 186
2.6 45
2.8–10 118
3.19 45
4.24 44 n.49
5.1 45
Philippians
2.5–11 62
3.15 39 n.42
Colossians
1 39
3.10 44 n.49

1 Thessalonians
1.6 45 n.51
Hebrews
3.14 58
6.1 39 n.42
8 29 n.21
2 Peter
1.3,4 42
1.4 1, 32, 41, 42, 59, 61,
72, 80, 107, 116,
119, 155, 156, 158,
159 n. 108, 165,
167, 171
1 John
3.24 47 n.55
4.18 39 n.42
Revelation
2.7 38 n.41
Aquinas, Thomas
Commentary on John
1.14–17 117
Commentary on Ephesians
2.8–10 118
Opuscula
57, 1–4 117
Sentences Commentary
III, d. 5, q. 1, a. 2 119
Aristotle
Metaphysics
XII, 6–7 24
Athanasius
On the Incarnation
54, 3 62, 117
Augustine of Hippo
Confessions
1.1 69 n.20
Contra Adimantus
93.2 71
De natura et gratia
33.37 69 n.21
De Vera religione
46 (86) 69 n.21
Enarrationes in Psalmos
49.2 71
In Johannis evangelium tractatus
2.15 69 n.22
Letter
10.2 70
Sermon
166.4 69 n.22
220
INDEX OF SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
On the Trinity
Book 7.6.12 71
The City of God
10.2 71
22.30 71
Clement of Alexandria
Protrepticus
11.114.4 57
Stromateis
1.23.155–56 35
2.16.73 57
2.125.5 57
2.134.2 57
7.101.4 57
Dead Sea Scrolls
11QMelchizedeck 33
1QH 3.21–2 34 n.36
1QH 4.15 34 n.35
1QS 4.20, 22–3 34 n.35
1QS 11.5–9 34 n.36
Dionysius the Areopagite
Ecclesiastical Hierarchy
1.3 104
2.1 105
2.3.1 104
Epistle 4 104
Ephrem the Syrian
Hymns on Faith
5.17 60
Odes of Solomon,
7.4 60
13.3 60
13.12 60
39.3 60
Eusebius
Praepatio Evangelica
IX, 28.1–3 35
Genesis Rabbah
XX.12 31
Gregory Nazianzen
Commentary on John
32.27 67
Contra Eunomium
3.4.22 67
Oration
21 75
26–27 67
29.19 67
33.5 75
38.11 82
Gregory of Nyssa
To Abablius: On ‘Not Three Gods’
PG 45, 121D 68
Gregory Thaumaturgus
The Oration and Panegyric addressed
to Origen
Chapter 11 (PG10, 1081D)
15 n.5
Hilary of Poitiers
On Matthew
5.15 63
Ignatius of Antioch
Ephesians
4.2 51 n.3
8.1 51 n.3
Magnesians
14.1 51 n.3
Philadelphians
2.2 51 n.3
Romans
6.3 51 n.3
Irenaeus
Against Heresies
3.19.1 56
Preface of Book 5 55
5.6.1 56
5.11.2 56
5.16.2 56
Proof of Apostolic Preaching
11 56
221
INDEX OF SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
John of Damascus
De Fide Orthodoxa
Book1 187 n.58
Book 2, Chapter 19 109 n.85
John Scottus Eriugena
Periphyseon
III 114
CXXIII 113
Justin Martyr
Dialogue with Trypho the Jew
4 53 n.5
124 33 n.30

Macarian Writings
Collection II, Homilies
1.2 61
44.9 61
Maximos the Confessor
Ad Thalassum
60, 73–5 107
Centuries on Theology and the Incarnation
2.13 107
2.95 188 n.60
Difculties [Ambigua]
10 107
Epistle
2 107, 188 n.60
Two Hundred Texts on Theology and
the Incarnate Dispensation,
2
nd
Century 83

108, 179
Origen
Philocalia
13.4 58
Selecta in Ezechielem
1.3 58
Peter Lombard
Sentences
Book 1, distinction 17
115
Book 2, Distinction 16, Chapter 3
115
Book 3, Distinction 5 Chapters, 14–16
(1–3)
115
Book 3, Distinction 6 Chapters 17–22
(1–6)
115
Philo
De Migratione Abrahami
194–5 37
De Opicio Mundi
46 37
De Somniis
2.32.2 37
De Specialibus Legibus
I.269–272 37
Legum Allegoriarum
I.108 37
Plato
Gorgias
506d 21
507de 21
Laws
653a 21
716bc 20
770d 21
Meno
87d 21
Parmenides
130 19
Phaedo
75ab 21
78b–84b 22
79c–80a 21
100cd 20
100d 19
101a f 19
103de 19
114c 21
Phaedrus
82bc 22
246–249 21
247c–e 20
248 c–f 22
248d 22
222
INDEX OF SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
Phaedrus (Cont’d)
249b 22
249c 22
250b 19
278d 22
Philebus
54b f 21
Republic
444d 21
476a 20
477 f 19
479c 19
485a 22
490ab 22
494a 22
496ab 22
501b 22
505a–509c 20
509b 20
514a–520a 19
517b 20
526e 20
531d 20
533bc 22
535b–536a 22
589d 22
596a 19
613 18
Sophist
228 c,d 19
252a 19
254–55 19
Theaetetus
176a 20
176a f. 57
176b 29
176b–177a 21
185cd 19
186a 19
Timaeus
29a 21
29e 20
30cd 19
46d 22
50b 19
51de 19
51e 22
52b 19
90bd 176 n.14
Plotinus
Enneads
V.5.4.8 25
Porphyry
Ad Marcellam
17 25
Psellus, Michael
On The Annunciation
PO 16, 518 96 n.60
Sibylline Oracles
1.50 34 n.35
Tatian
Oratio ad Graecos
7.6–10 55
Tertullian
Against Hermogenes
5 59
Against Marcion
1.7. I 59
3.24 60

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