Learning Our Faith from the Church Fathers / Athanasius of Alexandria – 20131229

indexIn this article I have been sharing thoughts about Father Athanasius on the Deifying Work of the Redeemer. We have already seen that many did not understand what he proposed. It was not until John of Damascus that the distinction was explicated between the Son’s adoption of our human nature considered as a whole at the Annunciation and the adoption of individual persons or hypostases through baptism and the cooperation of faith. One author believe that the most recent historical research has revealed that the negative critique of Athanasius’ work to be a shortsighted “reduction” of the patristic doctrine of divinization to the acquisition of incorruptibility only.
You will recall that some who critiqued Athanasius’ work deduced that our human divinization was just limited to the acquisition of incorruptibility. The Greek Fathers refused to say that the our redemption is only limited to a “physical” redemption. Rather, our redemption includes every aspect of out human person.  
One author maintains that Athanasius’ theory of deification is not a Greek speculation, but the decisive element in the salvific work of Christ, which, through his true humanity, is very different from a mechanical restoration. Divinization is not limited to a restoration of some sort of original nature but, rather, is the purpose of this earthly existence. We are put here on earth to spiritually grow – to discover who we are as God’s creatures and to learn how to live as He created us to live. It appears that Athanasius understood that the redeemed person may become a son of God only by participation, which implies that far from be-ing mechanical or automatic, the sonship of the redeemed is contingent and mutable: “From this it  clearly appears that men can lose their sonship which they have by participation, and what one can lose one cannot be by nature”.
Hopefully this is beginning to make more sense. While we are called to be children of God, we can preclude our experience of this by how we live. The most interesting aspect of this is that God wills that we come to experience our union with Him and we are given all sorts of opportunities to come to a deep understanding of this. It may take more than one lifetime – remember life after physical death is dynamic, ever changing and growing. We don’t understand, however, what it will be like.
God’s goal for His creation is that it will ever move in the direction of being in union with Him. The challenges and opportunities of life are designed to help us move in that direction. How  we respond to these challenges and opportunities, however, is subject to our free will. Regardless of how we respond, however, God will not discontinue the opportunities to spiritually grow. If we remember that this earthly exixtance is given to us to “learn” how to be spiritual beings, then we look at life in a different manner.

Comments are closed.