Athanasius of Alexandria – 20140112

In a discussion of the idea of Theosis in the Bible, based largely on Maximos the Confessor, Jaroslav Pelikan (a noted author on the Eastern Church), points out that the idea goes beyond individual passages of Scripture. He writes:

The purpose of the Lord’s Prayer was to point to the mystery of deification. Baptism was “in the name of the life-giving and deifying Trinity.” When the guests at the wedding in Cana of Galilee … said that their host had “kept the good wine until now,” they were referring to the Word of God, saved for the last, by which men were made divine. When, in the Epistles of the same apostle John, “the Theologian,” it was said that “it does not yet appear what we shall be,”: this was a reference to “the future deification of those who have now been made children of God.” When the apostle Paul spoke of “the riches” of the saints, this, too meant deification.”  

Even when the objection is raised that often these texts are taken out of context, exegetes are not overly concerned. Even nowadays, Eastern theologians feel much more comfortable with the idea of  the   spiritual interpretation of Scripture.
Eastern theology is lived theology rather than analytical speculation. In fact, definite limits are set on human inquiry into things divine by apophatic theology, very characteristic of Eastern theology, that proceeds mainly by negation.
Apophetic theology is an approach to the study of God which proceeds by saying what God is not. It is an approach which believes that we can never truly know who God is, since comprehension of Him is truly beyond the capacity of our understanding. We can only, with any true assurance, say what He is not (example: God is not limited – He is beyond any limitations).
What theology is able to say about God and God’s dealings with humanity are mainly what these things are not rather than what they are.
The idea of theosis permeates much of the liturgy and prayer life in the Eastern Church. A good example is the Canon for Matins of Holy Thursday in which the church confesses in its worship: “In my kingdom said Christ, I shall be God with you as god.” The ancient liturgy of St. James proclaims:

Thou has united, O Lord, Thy divinity with our humanity and our humanity with Thy divinity. The life with our mortality and our mortality with They life; Thou hast received what was ours and has given unto us what was Thine, for the life and salvation of our souls, praise be to Thee in eternity.

For me personally, the Eastern approach is much more acceptable. Think about this! How presumptive of humanity to think that it can, in some way, define God. Our western society, because of the scientific approach, seems to need to define God. Let us not presume to know Who God IS. Let us praise Him!

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