Geoffrey’s post about theosis deals with one of the most important topics for Christians, and one which we in the West do not foreground the way they do in the East. The notion is misunderstood by Mormons. It comes from 2 Peter 1-4:
”Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Read literally, one can see how some people have reached the hubristic and heretical conclusion that we become gods. But St. Peter is explaining that partaking in the eternal life requires our flight from the corruption that is in the world through lust, esteeming the value of our precious salvation, and holding fast to the divine promises. That the heresy is an old one is shown by the fact that both St. Athanasius and St. Cyril wrote on it.
St. Peter himself emphasized this concept in his first epistle by saying, “Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet 13-16).
The original Greek text should be translated as “partakers of the divine nature”. It never appeared in any language with the preposition “in” which is “en” in the original Greek language in which the epistle was written. It is not possible that any creature partakes in the nature, being, or essence of God. Whoever claims this is caught in a great theological error against the faith in God, and against the superiority of His essence and nature over all creation. This claim is also the type of pride that the devil previously fell into when he said, “I will be like the Most High” (Is 14:14). May we be kept from such an error and such presumption.
By saying “partakers of the divine nature” St. Peter simply means that we become partakers with God in His eternal life through partaking in His Holiness, paraphrasing the commandment “Be holy, for I am holy”. Even being partakers of the holiness of God is relative, and not absolute. Perfection of the creation is relative but perfection of God is absolute. Holiness of God is natural and not acquired but our holiness is acquired.
To be human is to be Christ-like in the sense that God intended creation to reach its climax in ‘the Word made Flesh’, and so, thanks to His redeeming work the road to theosis is open; for to be human is to be called to an eternal destiny.
Through our selfishness and disregard for God’s Law, we have erred and strayed, and the image of Him in us is marred and obscured. Christ’s coming allows that process to be reversed, and we can, once again, attain the eternal destiny.
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