As you may have surmised if you have been following this article over that pass months, there is a pronounced difference in orientation in the understanding of Christ and salvation between the East and West. According to Eastern theology, Latin tradition have been dominated by legal, juridical and forensic categories. Eastern theology, on the contrary, understands the need of salvation in terms of deliverance from mortality and corruption for life everlasting. Union with our God is the goal of the Christian life – Theosis or deification. This is quite different from the goal of the Christian life that is espoused in Western theology. I would hasten to assert that one orientation is not right and the other wrong. They are just two different ways at looking at the meaning and purpose of life.
Eastern spiritual theology sees like as being given to us to help us develop our spiritual nature so that we can embrace the immortality that God has won for us through His incarnation in the Person of Jesus. Eastern spiritual theology looks at the Incarnation as the means that God ordained to reveal to us how to achieve union with Him. The idea of divine-human cooperation in salvation is not only accepted but is enthusiastically championed, although it is not understood as nullifying the role of God’s help or grace.
One Eastern theologian has stated it in this manner: “the descent of the divine person of Christ makes human persons capable of an ascent in the Holy Spirit.” It is our vocation, as human beings, to use the challenges of life to accomplish union with God – Theosis.
It is important to note that Eastern theologians do not speak of deification only as a metaphor. They stress the reality of the union with God, promised to the faithful through the revelation made to us through the Person of Jesus.
It is St. Peter who first expressed the fact that our human vocation is to become partakers of the divine nature. He leaves no doubt as to the “reality of the union with God which is promised us”.
Eastern theology, however, struggles with the compatibility of the two seemingly opposite ideas: namely, “the absolute incommunicability of the divine being and a real partaking of humanity in God”. By holding Theosis as the true goal of this earthly existence, Eastern spiritual theology does not, in any manner, nullify the distinction between God and the human person. Eastern theology does not espouse pantheism. God still remains God and humans remain human though participating in the divine. Admittedly this is not an easy idea to comprehend. Hopefully as I share more it will become clearer.