My husband and I are Protestants seriously considering the Catholic faith. We are reading through the catechism line by line and learning a lot! Last night we came upon the following paragraph:
460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81
The last two sentences, which are quotes from Aquinas and Athanasius, I believe, give me the most trouble. I understand the idea of partaking in God nature, i.e., becoming more like him in our holiness, and I understand being adopted as sons of God. The use of the term gods applied to humans is where I’m struggling.
How is this different than the Mormon concept that they become gods in heaven?
How is it different than the concept in some charismatic Christian circles (Word of Faith movement) that men are little gods who have the same power as the Son of God has?
How does this terminology jive with the idea expressed earlier in the Catechism that there is only one God with three distinct persons?
If saints become gods in heaven, why don’t Catholics worship them?
I’m sure there are great answers for these questions and I look forward to hearing them!
It is only an expression and is nothing at all like the Mormon concept, so first of all, there’s no need to panic. In modern English writing, the word “gods” would have double quotes around it, i.e. make men “gods” to indicate that the word is not used in its full force. We are Nicene Christians, so the idea of any more than one God is unacceptable. So first of all,
The Catholic Church does not teach that men will become gods.
So now about the quote. It has do to with partaking of the divine nature, as you mentioned, but for Catholics, it’s not merely “becoming more like him in our holiness”, i.e. imitating him, but actually having a real share in his divine, supernatural life. Catholics call this sanctifying grace. It transforms us to have a share of God’s own life, and adoption to sonship has a lot to do with it.
I put it this way. I have two dogs. I adopted them and made them my own. But no matter how much love and care for them, they will only and ever be my pets. They will never be my children ever. They will have no rights under the law that my children have, and they have will never be entitled to inheritance if I die ahead of them.
Why? Because simply put, they do not share my nature. They are dog, I am man.
Well, we are lower down the chain from God than dogs are from men. Such was God’s love for us that he wanted to adopt us and make us his children. But in our natural state, we are only his creatures. We can never be his children, unless he himself would transform us and in a manner of speaking, make us “God” too. This is what the quote is saying. The grace of adoption is not a mere abstraction or something God merely “considers” us to be. It’s a very real gift, a change that makes us what we were once not. When we say we partake in God’s divine nature, we mean that in a very real, literal sense.
We do not become gods in the way Mormon’s conceive it. It’s about partaking of the divine nature, of God sharing his divinity with us (particularly in the next life), so we share in the grace (and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us) but our own human nature is unchanged. We do not become creators of universes or gods of worlds, God just invites us to view/participate in his own existence, to bask within the love and joy of the Trinity.
It is best to understand the phrase as being able to partake in the divine life of God.
Through baptism we are claimed as adopted siblings of Christ. By Christ becoming man and dying on the cross, he opened the gates of heaven to mankind. Remember in the context of the time that quote was written, pagan religions were still abundant and only pagan gods could enter into the realm of other gods. So by opening the gates to heaven, we are able to participate and bask in the divine presence as only gods could. That has always been my understanding of that phrase.
[2Pt:13 **According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.]
We receive God’s very nature indwelling us. As the example porthos11 posted with the dog. We can’t give the dog our very nature but God can and does give us His very divine nature. I think the early fathers used to say Christians are a new race of people because we have something no other race has. The divine nature indwelling us we are a new creation.
that we share in the Divine nature, but we do not become Divine Persons (as are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)?
that we will always remain human persons, but human persons who (if they are in the state of sanctifying grace) have not only their human nature, but also a share in the Divine nature (or a human nature that has received a share in the Divine nature)?
I don’t understand why people are saying we are God’s adopted children. We ARE his children he directly created us. It’s not him but us who choose to honor that relationship or turn away from him. I am really confused by this “adopted” children talk.
Saint Paul himself says we are adopted in Ephesians 1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, 4 as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love 5 he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, 6 for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
Anyway, there is a significant difference between being a mere creature and an adopted child. The former can be slaves, servants. The latter becones family with a covenant bond.
Yes, God is the Father of all since He is the source of our natural life. Thus, in this sense, He remains Father even of those who “turn away from Him”.
But God desires to bestow in us (wants to “father”, so to speak) more than just natural life. He desires us to also receive a share of His supernatural life (Sanctifying grace; participation in the divine nature). We need to be born anew/from above/again in Baptism. It is in this new birth that we are adopted as His sons.
John 3:3-7 Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you, 'You must be born from above.’
Wasnt there a verse where God says something to the effect of ‘and now man will become like us’ (implying god like)? It seems there was a lot of debate about this verse, some wondering why ‘us’ was used.
We are God’s children by adoption. That he made us makes us merely his creatures. It is the grace of adoption that makes us his children.
Yes, we can say that God is our Father in the natural order too, but that’s a broader understanding of the concept. The grace of adoption makes us truly his children in the covenant family, and entitles us to the inheritance due to children.
These are great questions! Others have given good answers. I’d add that even the good pagans had the idea that man was somewhere between the brutes and the gods. Man, with his reason and free will, can in a sense ascend to the level of God or fall to the level of the brutes. There is a limit to how far we can ascend. We can never be God. We can be more like Him. Even now we are like God in some ways and hopefully becoming more like Him by allowing Him to work in our lives.
I think this is an area where we are free to speculate somewhat. I think there is a tendency to underplay how much we will be transformed. Jesus resurrected body could do all sorts of things that would be considered magical like move through walls or travel great distances quickly. We will, if we obtain Heaven, someday have such a body.
This is different from the Mormon idea in part because their teachings, as I understand, are very specific. They also teach a sort of endless series of men becoming gods.
I don’t know enough about Word of Faith to comment. It sounds to me like they push the idea too far without any authority or revelation.
Worship is a tricky word. You can come across the idea of worship of the Saints. But if you do it is based on the idea of giving someone their worth. It is in the sense that a man may worship his wife. We can and should honor the Saints. They lived a good life and finished the race. That honor shouldn’t be an honor due only to God. In Protestantism there is a tendency to think any honor of a creature takes away from God. In Catholicism there is more of a recognition that God uses human instruments and they can be praised because they cooperated with God.
I was speaking with our priest and he told me we were consubstantial with Christ. That took me by surprise. He referenced Pope Gregory the Great. This is how it is described in “Did the Saviour See the Father?: Christ, Salvation, and the Vision of God” By Simon Francis Gaine
The council of Chalcedon wrote that Christ is ‘perfect in humanity’, possesses a ‘rational soul’, is ‘consubstantial with us as to humanity, like us in all things, except sin’, and that the ‘proper character’ of the human nature is preserved in the union of his two natures in one person.
So Jesus is consubstantial in his humanity with us, and consubstantial in his divinity with the Father. So I can see how someone could move from that understanding to the statement, “Jesus became man, that we may become god.” (note lower case ‘god’). Since we share our nature with at divine being.