The Word Made Flesh Makes Us Divine (Authentically Human)

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. Making the same point over and over. Case in point, my recent post. Actually most of my posts I guess. Well, so be it…

So, here we go again…

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We share the divinity of Christ Jesus by grace because He shared in our humanity. Salvation is the reconciliation – reunioning or re-at-one-ment-ing – of God and man. Our former state of being and life are forgiven. Well, actually the old is more than just forgiven. It dies. We die to death and sin, we don’t just have it forgiven. We die to life without the divine nature (living death, alienation), thereby receiving our authentic humanity (new life) which, by definition means being “God breathed” again.  We do not become God, we become fully human. But not only are we reunited with God. We are also reunited with one another and the whole created universe in and through Christ Jesus. The dividing wall of hostility and alienation in all categories or aspects is removed.

This is the great gift of Christmas and of Easter. St. Peter testifies, “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1.3-4 (NASB)

St. Peter goes on to talk about maturing in this salvation, the purification and illumination that is essential to it. Notice that I said essential to it. Not extra. Salvation and sanctification are not distinct. Maturing in new life and the growth in holiness is an essential aspect of our salvation.

This is THE Good News. The Church Fathers referred to it as “theosis” and “deification.” The true doctrine of salvation is this and grows out of this root. All depends on it and must be understood in light of it. Indeed, this doctrine is not a doctrine. It is a person – theanthropos – the God-man – Christ Jesus.

Ironically, this is not what I hear from the Protestant/Evangelical/Charismatic pulpit on Sunday mornings. Sad. This is so basic to any right appreciation of the self-offering of Christ Jesus on the cross. The reason for His death and resurrection. It is Christianity 101. Here is a modern translation of Hippolytus’s (170–235) articulation of deification. (If you want to read the excerpt in a more literal translation that retains the word “logos” instead of “word,” it can be found here.)

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Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command. God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.

The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that by taking a body from the Virgin he re-fashioned our fallen nature. We know that his manhood was of the same clay as our own; if this were not so, he would hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were of a different substance from me, he would surely not have ordered me to do as he did, when by my very nature I am so weak. Such a demand could not be reconciled with his goodness and justice.

No. He wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves, and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, he slept. Without protest he endured his passion, he submitted to death and revealed his resurrection. In all these ways he offered his own manhood as the first fruits of our race to keep us from losing heart when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as he did, since we know that we possess the same humanity.

When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and co-heirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine.

Whatever evil you may have suffered, being man, it is God that sent it to you, precisely because you are man; but equally, when you have been deified, God has promised you a share in every one of his own attributes. The saying Know yourselfmeans therefore that we should recognise and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognised and acknowledged by our Maker. The treatise of St, Hippolytus On the Refutation of All Heresies, Book 10, Chapters 32-33

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2 thoughts on “The Word Made Flesh Makes Us Divine (Authentically Human)

  1. Hippolytus says, when we know God, both our souls and bodies will be incorruptible. I have heard of a very few saints whose bodies are thus. What about the rest of us? I understand theosis to be a long, gradual process of transformation that probably will go on after this life; and salvation to occur in that moment of belief when the relationship of love and process of transformation begins; and that we are assured of salvation from that moment (“He who begins a good work in us will not fail to complete it”). Otherwise, this sounds very much like it’s drifting toward works-oriented teaching.

    Also, I’m a little uncomfortable with the admonition to recognize and acknowledge God within us. I’m straining toward “getting it” but would like some amplification, please?

    • Susan,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I will attempt to put more words on all of this. If it makes things less understandable or if I make a theological misstatement, forgive me. I am a fellow struggler/pilgrim, and am integrating all of this along the way just like you… I will use “” marks as a way to emphasize certain words not just to quote you.

      The Good News invites us into a new paradigm when it comes to “when” and “how much.” Thus, linear thinking and conceptualizations no longer cut the mustard. Instead, we realize that such terms, when used, also point beyond themselves. So, time is not just “chronos” but “kairos” as well. Time has a fullness about it. Salvation is not about being assembled like a jigsaw puzzle where missing pieces are added one day that were missing the previous day. Salvation is about maturing into what already is fully true. So, our life “here and now” is always about the realization of “what shall be and yet already is.”

      Our salvation is a “…long, gradual process of transformation” as you put it. When will certain aspects of our bodily or spiritual transformation be manifested? I don’t know. God knows. What I do know is that today (actually every moment) I have the opportunity to participate/cooperate in that realization through the various forms that obedience in faith and love takes in my life.

      If we think of all of this in the linear, “either/or” paradigm we are used to using rather than the paradigm of union and synergy, then it is inevitable that “…this sounds very much like it’s drifting toward works-oriented teaching.” But, it is not. In fact, there is no adversarial relationship between faith and works. Such an adversarial relationship is artificial and a result of our misunderstanding of the essence of “faith” and “works” which is the result of attempting to fit the Gospel into a paradigm that is contradictory to it. The Gospel carries with it its own paradigm. The death of one paradigm and birth of another is an essential aspect of salvation as well.

      “Getting it” is not about “getting it” as much as it is about “letting go” of what keeps the revelation from being integrated into our hearts, minds, and bodies. So, often I have found that what prevents me from getting it is attempting to “get it.” That attempt to “get it” is the old paradigm of “trying hard” and “figuring it out.”

      Our “getting it,” at least for mine anyway, is often really about pride and my inordinate need to fit everything into nice neat categories and have an “answer.” It is about having things be the way “I” want them to be instead of the “good and perfect way” of God. It is not about trusting, and hoping and loving more fully. It is not about letting my life be a paradox I live, because there is really no room for paradox because it is not “practical.” (End of confession.)

      God has given us an ability to comprehend the mystery. That capacity is in our heart not our head. It is the eye of our heart, the nous. That capacity has been clouded, relegated to a minor role or disengaged. But, thank goodness, not lost. It must be cleansed and reestablished as the primary way in which we “get it”. Our attempts to “get it” in our head gets in the way of comprehending and living out the mystery from our heart — noetically. And, oh yes, that is a gradual journey too… See Romans 12.2 and Ephesians 1.18.

      “How much is what I do and how much is what God does?” no longer is the question in the new paradigm of the Kingdom. The question is, “Am I fully participating?” And the answer is, always “yes and no.” Knowing the “no” and repenting of it – leaning into the wound that it is in truth, trusting God will redeem it – is essential to it becoming an area in my life that becomes a “yes.”

      “Also, I’m a little uncomfortable with the admonition to recognize and acknowledge God within us.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the indwelling of the fullness of God. The citations in the New Testament of the indwelling of God and the fullness of the Kingdom are soo numerous as to be overwhelming.

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