Justification, Theosis, and Theological Anthropology in the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue Christopher Brenna

“Jesus Saves” I see displayed in gigantic black letters on a faded white background, an even larger cross looming brightly on top of a dirty, brick building in Milwaukee. The words stand alone; they need no elaboration. We each provide our own meaning for them, culled from our own unique experiences of faith, refined by the particular tradition from which we have acquired our theological lenses. Such simple words with such profound hope ought to lead us to the goodness of brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity, or so we hope. Sadly, it is in the moment that we begin elaborating the deeper meaning of "Jesus saves" that we encounter our differences. We have too many words to say about the matter. We cannot leave these two to stand by themselves. Each leads to its own questions. Who is this Jesus? How does he save, and why? Contained in these two words are all of what we term our christological and soteriological questions. The doctrine of justification is both a christological and a soteriological answer to who Jesus is and how and why he saves. It says that salvation is being made or declared righteous solely on account of the righteousness of Jesus Christ made manifest on the cross. It describes both the identity of the Savior and the manner of the salvation. Though this is an important and vital doctrine of salvation, especially for Lutherans, but also for the Anglican communion, it is but one facet among many in a matrix of salvific imagery for the Christian faith. We stand or fall on this doctrine, it is true, but we have two feet after all. That our account of salvation takes many forms has become more abundantly clear in the encounters that Lutherans and Anglicans have had in recent decades with the Christians of the Orthodox East. The Lutheran-Orthodox and Anglican-Orthodox ecumenical dialogues have shared the peculiarity arising from the fact that neither of these sets of partners have ever been in direct conflict with each other. We do not seek to heal a rift we created together; we must envision a new unity, one that takes into account the very different emphases each tradition has created as part of its own history. Because the East never encountered anything quite like the Protestant Reformation that shook the Western church and continues to do so, we are often perplexed at the distinct ways of formulating the doctrine of salvation upon which the heirs of the Reformation have relied as expressions of their own unique identities. We prefer the imagery of transfiguration through mystical theoria, a process of purification, illumination, and glorification, of divinization or theosis. This preference has led some of our scholars or clergy to misunderstand the doctrine of justification as Lutherans especially explain it, so greatly as to have made the grievous mistake of denying that

2 the East has such a doctrine. This is a terrible error, rooted in lack of patience and real desire to understand our Protestant friends. Yet we have struggled in our respective dialogues to find common ground between the doctrine of justification in the West and ways of describing salvation such as theosis in the East. The Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues have been characterized by efforts to equate the two concepts. The worst syntheses of the two have made theosis into a process entirely subsequent and unnecessary to justification, or have jettisoned the doctrine of justification almost entirely as the useless appendage of a needless conflict. Fortunately, the Anglican-Orthodox dialogues have not suffered from the same difficulties inherent to the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues. I would like to submit that this creates for the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues have made. It is an opportunity to establish common ground in a theological anthropology that the dialogue has already begun to adumbrate. It is the missing word in the little phrase with which I began: Jesus saves us. In this little offering, I want to show that failing to define who we are as humans, and more importantly why we need saving leads almost inevitably to a confused answer to the question of how Jesus saves. Furthermore, the kind of theological anthropology we need in order to unify our respective soteriologies is truly a christological anthropology. We must define the “us” in terms of “Jesus” in order for the “saves” of “Jesus saves us” to make sense. This way of viewing humanity as having an inherent capacity for divinization or theosis has long been endemic to Orthodox theology. But recently modern Anglicans have recognized it as a vital thread running through their own tradition. Though it has made its way into the Anglican-Orthodox dialogues in a very small way, it has not yet enjoyed the attention it deserves. A hopeful sign for our dialogue is the current focus on theological anthropology in the international Anglican-Orthodox dialogue. Recognizing in the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues the danger of proceeding to define soteriology before establishing a foundation in theological anthropology, I offer my own recommendations for how the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue could proceed, established firmly on this foundation, to discuss justification and theosis together. Christological anthropology “God made himself man that man might become God.”1 This statement from the fathers forms the foundation of the christological anthropology I want to discuss. Contained within this patristic phrase is this insight: not only was God revealed to humanity in the Incarnation, but something about humanity was revealed that leads us back to God. As that great Orthodox ecumenist Constantine Scouteris said, “The dimension and the full potential of the human person were made evident in the theandric hypostasis of Christ…”2 Human beings lack something before the Incarnation, something that is revealed in Christ’s coming. It is the manner in which he came, the Word of God enfleshed, that implies that we have a capacity to be unified with God.3

3 It is characteristic of human nature to be deified because that is how Adam was created, as a composite of body, soul, and Spirit. The Orthodox draw this imagery chiefly from Irenaeus, who believed that this Spirit is not a created spirit of man but the very Spirit of God. If he lacks this Spirit, he is imperfect. Though Irenaeus’ statements about the nature of the soul are sometimes confusing, whenever he speaks of the Spirit, he is unequivocal. Gustaf Wingren explains: If the Spirit were a supernatural addition to what is human, so that body and soul by themselves constituted a whole [person], the resurrection life could then be understood as an addition or extra gift received by [humans]. [A person] would then throughout remain [human], but in the resurrection [s]he would be given this gift of the Spirit, the gift, that is, of eternal life, which in itself does not belong to [her]. But when Irenaeus asserts that [humanity] as such has been destined for eternal life, that death is an enemy, something contrary to nature, and that the Spirit’s dominion over soul and body in the life of the resurrection will make [humanity what it is] in the true sense, he is saying quite simply that the Spirit is something characteristic of [us], or distinctive in [us], that immortality is an attribute of [humanity], and that it is part of [our] nature to be divine, and also little by little to become that which [we] rightly [are], namely, God.4 This may seem like a tertiary issue, but the Orthodox would adamantly insist that just as the divine Word truly took flesh as his own, it must be in the nature of the human being to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, Scouteris says that “…human nature does not simply receive divine grace; it is not sealed only with the rich inpouring of divine grace, but is united hypostatically with God the Logos, and remains thereafter, in unity with him.”5 The Anglican-Orthodox dialogue seems to have recognized this insight. In the Cyprus Statement 2.25, they say together that "the presence of the Spirit constitutes the humanity of the incarnate Son." In the same way, insofar as we participate in Christ, we receive this same Spirit, and this restores in us our true humanity. But the point I wish to return to is that Adam is created with the capacity for union with God through the proper indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his very nature. Adam was not created perfect from the beginning, not in the sense of any weakness or defect in his nature, but simply because his perfection had to take place dynamically in time and is expressed as a “capacity for change, improvement, and promotion to adopted divine sonship.”6 Irenaeus uses the analogy of a mother giving her infant solid food. She can certainly do so, but she doesn’t since her child must mature to the point of being able to receive it. In this sense the child has a latent capacity, just as we have a latent capacity for deification into which we must grow.7 This is the insight about human nature that is the essential component for a dialogue partner with the Orthodox. Theosis in Anglican theology Fortunately, as many modern Anglican scholars have noted, the Anglican tradition can trace the presence of this idea, humanity’s capacity for theosis, through its own history. It is not a reappropriation of the Orthodox expression of the idea, but belongs uniquely to the Anglicans; it is expressed within its own context. E.C. Miller, Jr.

4 in his book Toward a Fuller Vision, published in 1984, established his own belief that Anglicanism might stand as a kind of “Western Orthodoxy,” with the idea of theosis taking a prominent place. He finds theosis as a major theme running through the thought of Lancelot Andrewes, James Sibbald, and Michael Ramsey. Four years later, A.M. Allchin published Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in the Anglican Tradition, where he found the deification motif in Richard Hooker, Charles Wesley, Williams Pantycelyn, E.B. Pusey, John Henry Newman, and John Keble. Dan Edwards, in an article one year later, added William Porcher DuBose to the list of Anglican theologians who have championed theosis as the destiny of human nature. The natural home theosis has within Anglicanism presents a significant advantage in the dialogue with Orthodoxy, perhaps over any other dialogue partner. Though the Finnish Lutherans famously advanced the idea that the “Christ present in faith” of Martin Luther represents a real ontological participation in the divine nature, this thesis has met with opposition from other Lutherans, most notably in the American Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue. In contrast, Anglicans can speak of theosis where it resides: in their own tradition, present in many theologians, somewhat neglected according to some, but available to the task of interfacing corresponding Orthodox ideas. Justification and Theosis in the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues The Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue has been in comparison to many other dialogues a relatively successful endeavor on both the regional and international level. However, the lack of attention to theological anthropology earlier on in these dialogues demonstrates the need to establish commonalities in this area before moving on to soteriological issues. Recognizing these deficiencies will help prove the need for this commonality in the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue. A few brief illustrations will suffice. The first Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue to address the issue of salvation was the Finnish Lutheran-Russian Orthodox dialogue that began in the 1970s. In 1977 at Kiev, the "New Finnish Theologians," men like Tuomo Mannermaa and Jukka Thuren, first attempted to synthesize the Lutheran concept of justification and the Orthodox belief in theosis. Since this first meeting, many Finns at the University of Helsinki theology program, such as Simo Peura and Risto Saarinen, have expanded and developed this attempt at finding common soteriological ground. This has given the impression that the Finnish Lutheran-Russian Orthodox dialogue was tremendously successful and provided a long-awaited solution to the apparent disparity between Lutheran and Orthodox soteriology. The reality is that Mannermaa's thesis was received dubiously by both the Orthodox and by his fellow Lutherans. Risto Saarinen notes that from the Finnish minutes of the meeting in Kiev it is clear that the convergence of the ideas of justification and theosis in Mannermaa’s presentation was strongly debated. The idea of theosis was still very foreign to the Lutherans, and recognizing in the terms “new creation,” “divine life,” or “presence of Christ in faith” an analogy to the Orthodox view of deification was seen as very debatable.8 Over time, Mannermaa would refine his presentation, but the objections

5 have remained the same. Trying to isolate one concept in Luther’s thought as corresponding to Orthodox theosis is problematic, not only theologically, but methodologically, since Luther’s thought does not necessarily equal modern Lutheran theology. What became clear in this regional dialogue was that many of the connections each side attempted to make with the other's doctrine of salvation were stymied by a clear disagreement about theological anthropological issues. These issues were not addressed initially, and indeed never received their own dedicated session. Issues such as the nature of free will and the definition of the image of God in humanity came out sporadically in discussions of soteriology. The International Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission had their first meeting in Espoo in 1981. For the decade of the '80s, the commission never addressed issues of soteriology or theological anthropology. But the issue of soteriology kept coming up under other contexts so often, that in the 1990s, the commission decided it needed to address it. Again, this dialogue neglected to define a common theological anthropology, instead framing justification and theosis in terms of authority. “Justification and Glorification” fell under an outline of “Authority in and of the Church” in the common statement issued at Cyprus in 1995. The theological anthropology that forms the basis of the Orthodox view was only hinted at. Justification was defined as “liberation from the dominion of the devil and the restoration of our communion with God. Those who are justified are glorified (Rom. 8.30) in the body of Christ, the church.” 9 Both sides agreed with this statement, but without a common theological anthropology, how could they be certain that the communion to which we are being restored is predicated upon a common view of humanity's status while the communion was broken. Not only did these dialogues suffer from a common theological anthropology, they also tried rather unsuccessfully to synthesize their two distinct ways of describing salvation. Some were extremely creative, like the New Finnish Lutheran interpretation of Luther. They sought to find theosis in Luther’s thought. But most were aimed at placing justification within the Orthodox description of salvation, or placing theosis within the system of justification. In the former case, many Orthodox responded by rejecting the doctrine of justification, or refusing even to use the term. This tendency arose from a misconception that some Orthodox had that justification can only be expressed in forensic terminology. Faced with a stereotyped view of justification, these Orthodox threw the justified baby out with the forensic bathwater. In the latter case, theosis was sometimes identified with one or another step in an ordo salutis. The most common method was to identify theosis with sanctification. This might seem a very natural thing to do, since the description of theosis often sounds rather similar to sanctification. However, the fact that many Lutherans believe justification to encompass the entirety of the act of salvation left theosis (and sanctification!) as a dangling appendage in the doctrine of salvation. Theosis was a nice thing, but ultimately unnecessary for salvation. The attempt to fit an entire doctrine within the system of another was not something for which only the Lutherans were culpable. At one dialogue, justification was identified by some Orthodox as similar to

6 illumination in the Orthodox triad of purification-illumination-glorification. Thus, we can learn from the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue both a theological and a methodological lesson. I will now outline how I believe we can in our Anglican-Orthodox dialogue create a better environment for fruitful exchange. Justification properly framed Unlike the Lutherans, the Anglicans have not yet directly addressed the issue of salvation in dialogue with the Orthodox. And while they have also not directly addressed the issue of theological anthropology until the current session, they have included in their dialogues significant evidence of the kind of theological anthropology necessary for a fruitful soteriological discussion. In the Cyprus Agreed Statement of 2006, the humanity of Christ is discussed within an ecclesiological and pneumatological context. In section 2, paragraph 28, it says: The humanity of Christ, conditioned by the Spirit, does not conform to our humanity, but passes judgment on it, calling us to repentance and conformity to his humanity. It judges us not from above but from within our human condition. Whether at Gethsemane, on the Cross, or ‘with the Spirits in prison’ (1 Peter 3.19), Christ’s humanity is the criterion by which ours is judged…Christ’s humanity brings into being a new humanity by which we are called to measure ourselves as human beings. The humanity of Christ, constituted by the Spirit, has anthropological consequences. (p. 32) Though a brief interlude in a statement devoted mostly to the Trinity, this paragraph stands out as an excellent exposition of just the kind of christological anthropology our dialogue needs in order to begin defining the doctrine of salvation together. A prolonged, detailed discussion of theological anthropology needs to take place before a common expression of soteriology makes sense. Establishing the common theological anthropology inherent to both Orthodox and Anglican traditions is essential for articulating concepts like justification and theosis. Both Orthodox and Anglican theological anthropologies are rooted in the Incarnation, in a belief that the capacity for union with the divine has been actualized in Christ. Unlike some Lutherans, Anglicans have a native language for explaining how this capacity for union with the divine is actualized in salvation, making the atmosphere for our future discussions much more salutary. What we can look forward to with such a foundation is describing justification and theosis together as common themes in our respective traditions. Differentiated consensus, the process by which each ecumenical partner agrees to accept the other’s description of a theological concept without trying to conform it to its own, should guide our efforts in this area. We use common terminology to describe our theological anthropology, a benefit we can hope will be utilized by the current session of the International Anglican-Orthodox dialogue.

7 However, we must be very careful not to assume that both Anglicans and Orthodox can agree on the idea of theosis. We must be content with the fact that Anglicans and Orthodox developed in a vastly different milieu. They answered different questions about who Christ is and what he accomplished for us, or were confronted with different challenges to their own tradition. Though there is surprising convergence in our theology, the systems of thought and the terminology employed by both groups should be expressed independently. Anglicans should describe justification and theosis in a way that makes sense of their own tradition. In the struggle for Anglican identity, these two ways of describing salvation need careful articulation, with an understanding that justification and theosis may not fit together in the Anglican mind as they do in the Orthodox mind. As for the Orthodox, the first task ahead of us is to recover our own doctrine of justification, or rather, to express the underlying concerns that this doctrine seeks to address. It is at the very least preposterous and at most dangerous that some Orthodox have denied that this doctrine is a part of our tradition. It is clearly established in the scriptures and preserved in the thought of the fathers. We may not express it in the very particular way that the West has more recently stated it, but we must acknowledge our need of it. We must also acknowledge that it is possible to understand theosis without upholding the distinction we make between the essence and the energies of God. That Anglicans do not use this language has been established in the Moscow statement. A differentiated consensus on theosis would have to include the acceptance on both sides of the presence or absence of this language in describing it. We have before us a great opportunity, to discover in each other’s traditions a way of speaking about salvation that we can both agree is theologically sound. Along the way, we may discover things about our own traditions that lead to spiritual renewal. That task awaits us, the task of describing how it is that “Jesus saves.” But I hope I have convinced you all that our task will be that much richer and more rewarding if we describe how it is that “Jesus saves us.”

1 2 3

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 54. Scouteris, "Church and Justification," 145.

Vladimir Lossky devotes several pages to establishing a definition of the oneness of Christ before discussing the deification of humanity. Vladimir Lossky, "Redemption and Deification," in In the Image and Likeness(New York: St. Vladimir's Press, 1974). Gustaf Wingren, Man and the Incarnation: A Study in the Biblical Theology of Irenaeus (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1959), 207-09. So also Klebba Die Anthropologie des hl. Irenaeus, 181ff. and John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham Univ Press, 1974), 138.
4 5 6 7 8 9

Scouteris, "Church and Justification," 146. Finch, "Irenaeus on the Christological Basis," 91. Against Heresies 4.38.1. Faith and Holiness, 40.

Cyprus statement, II.6. Jeffrey Gros, Thomas F. Best, and Lorelei F. Fuchs, Growth in Agreement. III, International Dialogue Texts and Agreed Statements, 1998-2005, vol. 204, Faith and Order Paper (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 2007), 16.

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