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The Strategic Adoption of Deification in the Cappadocians J.A MCGUCKIN MICHAEL BOMBAK, 5832940.

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Presentation on theme: "The Strategic Adoption of Deification in the Cappadocians J.A MCGUCKIN MICHAEL BOMBAK, 5832940."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Strategic Adoption of Deification in the Cappadocians J.A MCGUCKIN MICHAEL BOMBAK,

2 A WORKING DEFINITION OF THEOSIS  In the Greek Christian understanding, the concept of deification is the process of the sanctification of Christians whereby they become progressively conformed to God; a conformation that is ultimately demonstrated in the glorious transfiguration of the “just” in the heavenly kingdom, when immortality and a more perfect vision (and knowledge and experience) of God are clearly manifested in the glorification of the faithful.”- 95

3 Discussion: Your Guess is as Good as Mine…  I’m not entirely sure what is mean by McGuckin’s next line: “This should serve as a working definition and as a brief initial introduction to a notion that moves with a tensile dynamic from the moral domain into the anthropological in a profoundly suggestive way that closely relates it to the parallel Christian notion of transfiguration (metamorphosis).” -95

4 A Brief Prehistory  “…Christian deification theory assumes its true grandeur, for it breaks down, at least in the best of Greek patristic thought, the limiting “differentiation” between soteriology and creation theology.” – 96  The doctrine of Theosis allows for an integrated soteriology and theology. Later on we also so how it also allows for an integrated anthropology as well.  McGuckin refers to this as the “true life of the creature and the restoration of communion.” - 96

5 Development Through Fathers of the Church  “…it remains evident enough that the term Theosis itself is not explicitly advanced by scriptural authority- something that makes Gregory Nazianzen apologize for his “boldness” in using it to sum up the message and meaning of the Scriptures.” -96  Although we have seen in class some examples of scriptures interpreted with deification in mind, the concept originated in a Greek classical setting.  Discussion Question: How should we feel about Theosis being the message and meaning of the Scriptures when they the concept itself is not explicitly outlined there? What does this say about Revelation?

6 Irenaeus of Lyon  First to develop the doctrine imaginatively.  Developed: 1. Its dynamic as a soteriological term 2. Its rootedness in the concept of creation’s purposes 3. Its close relation to the ideas of corruption and immortality 4. Its essential closeness to the concept of transactive substitution in the Incarnation of the Logos-96  “The Word of God was made man and He who was Son of God was made Son of Man united to the Word of God, in order that man should receive adoption and thereby become the Son of God. How else could we have received incorruption?”

7 Alexandrian Theologians  These theologians develop Theosis along Incarnational lines, each contributing something to develop the doctrine further. – 97  Clement: Emphasizes that it is related to the Divine gift of salvation. This will differentiate it from previous pagan ideas. – 110  Athanasius: Provides a “binary emphasis” for deification: It served a “pedagogic” task in the Word showing humanity the lost Image of the Father, and the “physical” task of entering humanity and creation and restoring the gift of immortality  Because of their “hypostatic” term of reference, Theosis would be associated in the future with the communion of hypostases. - 97

8  Dionysius the Areopagite: By this time in history (early sixth century) “deification” is used relatively frequently as a soteriological term. -97  Maximus the Confessor: Brought the concept of Theosis to a peak of development in the early seventh century The creature is called back to the original destiny of creation 2. This is a totally free gift on the part of God 3. This gift proceeds from God alone 4. Amplified the ascetical context of the doctrine, saying that the practice of love on earth can allow the mystery of divinization to shine out even in this life. -98 “This fertile theme, therefore, beginning with Irenaeus, loops its way forward rather than being linearly or progressively developed.” - 98

9 Discussion: Soteriological Models  The Syrians at the time of the Cappodocian Fathers flatly refused to frame salvation in terms of Theosis, preferring instead the terms of “adoptive sonship.” – 97  In the Western Church, there are many different models which describe salvation, whereas in the east, it appears that much of our theological formulations have been integrated with Theosis.  Has the east “put all her eggs in one basket?” What implications does that have when approached with “Justification” or “Adoptive Sonship” or “Atonement”? If Theosis is true are these false, or are they different vantage points on Theosis?

10 Cappadocian Fathers  “…they are probably best understood as the theologians who successfully transformed this largely Alexandrian theologoumenon into a universalized tradition of the church.” – 97  Both Gregory Nazianzen and Basil wished to re-present Plato as a “door into Christianity.” – 99  Basically, they wanted to Christianize Plato to help evangelize the educated classes of their day. - 99

11 New School Platonism  Plato’s core contribution to the doctrine of Theosis: “The theme of initiation signifies also that the philosopher has the opportunity to return, by spiritual ascent, to the clarity and radiance of the authentic state of being, which was the stasis, the foundational condition, of the transcendent mind, and to this extent the real and godlike nature of noetic being.” – 100  Present in Plato is the idea that there is an ideal which we can strive for and achieve.  Origen would interpret this as a return to the pre-fallen state of man – 100  Gregory Nazianzus would take this further saying there is a post-death transfiguration, a “third creation” which will make us more able to contemplate God

12  “Contemplation is the engine that drives the process of Theosis” – 100  Origen even states: “…even the Logos is deified by his incessant contemplation of the Father’s divinity.” -101 With the Arian crisis the two Gregories are careful to nuance what Origen said using an idea of “degrees of participation” regarding this. (although the author does not explain how this works)

13 Gregory of Nazianzus  Revises Athanasius, making the syllogism: “And since, then, God is made man, so man is perfected as God, and that is my glory.” – 101  Adam was deifiied by his “inborn propensity toward God” and this is the root of our return to God in the deified life. – 102  The key to deification for Gregory of Nazianzus is a sort of “Divine orientation.”  In this life the process is begun, but the greater glory will come in the next life

14  Approaches Theosis, as Athanasius did, from a Trinitarian perspective. He emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  He may have found Plato’s phrase “assimilation to the divine” troubling. He emphasized that it is a gratuitous gift far above the limits of material natures.” He did not want people to be confused with immortality the way Socrates spoke of it in Phaedrus  Gregory’s statement would later bother Maximus the Confessor because it could be misread in a way that would dispense with asceticism and moral effort.” – 113  Gregory says that there is an ontological change and the saint is transfigured into angelical form. This is not possible for earthbound intellects (because he is talking about the nous) -103 How does this line up with St. Seraphim of Sarov and other saints who have been transfigured?

15  Gregory of Nazianzus synthesized: Platonic- Assent, communion and contemplation With Biblical themes- Generous love of the Trinity, access of Divine Presence through images of liturgical service (Holy of Holies.) - 104

16 Gregory of Nyssa  Is more constrained than the other Gregory when discussing Theosis. – 104  He describes how humanity was created to find communion with God. – 104  His view of “spiritual kinship” is taken much further than Plato’s idea of “ontological assonance” as a person is called to transcendent life. – 105 Disagrees with Origen: “[both Gregories] reject the presupposition that sin happened before embodiment, and thus that the fall of the body to mortality is a punishment of guilt.”- 105

17  The Resurrection plays a key role in the restoration of the original design of the human race. – 105  Gregory called the return of the alienated created order to unity with God “the reconstitution.” – 105 (We see here again the integrated aspects of cosmology, soteriology and anthropology) More disagreements with Origen:  “…replacement of [Origen’s] concept of perfection as a conditional stasis with his own dynamic notion of perfection as an endless progress into the divine life.” - 106

18  “But whereas there perfections are found in God ontologically, or essentially, and as something that is proper to him, humans possess the same things, or at least their copies (as types from the archetype), as a gift by participation.”  Participation of humans in the being of God is the whole purpose of life. Humanity is called to become “Priests of the cosmos” rendering dynamic engagement with the world’s order. (This is reminiscent of Catherine Doherty and the “Restoration” of the world, or Schmemann’s approach to Sacraments in “For the Life of the World.”)

19 Conclusion  The two Gregories were enthusiastic disciples of Origen, who used him to help evangelize. They were not uncritical however.  Gregory of Nazianzus enthusiastically endorsed Theosis language to deliberately (McGuckin’s opinion) appeal to intellectuals of his time and encourage them to come to Christianity  “Gregory’s [of Nyssa] doctrine of metanoia theo (I think) is clearly the Origenian doctrine of Theosis, but now with a new language code, designed to clear up once and for all the critical differences between Christian deification theory and Platonic assimilation language.” -108  It is ironic that Gregory of Nazianzus has become the standard theological authority for the Byzantine world, whereas Gregory of Nyssa wanted to tone down his work regarding the Origenian belief. We now have the opportunity to see their common mission that was carried out in different ways.


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