Divinization?


#1

This is a concept about which I read a few things once and never have gotten back to it or found anything really illuminating to increase my knowledge of it - does anyone here understand what it is exactly and do other rites or the Orthodox have it? If so - can someone enlighten me a little?


#2

Here is a link to an article that I found. It is from a Catholic source, it isn’t necessarily obvious until you get well into the article. The article is about Theosis, which is the same as Divinization. Theosis is a word that is often used in the Eastern Catholic Church, as well as Eastern Orthodox. The meaning is the same as divinization, and divinization is mentioned in the article.

home.nyc.rr.com/mysticalrose/grace3.html


#3

[quote=e-catholic]Here is a link to an article that I found. It is from a Catholic source, it isn’t necessarily obvious until you get well into the article. The article is about Theosis, which is the same as Divinization. Theosis is a word that is often used in the Eastern Catholic Church, as well as Eastern Orthodox. The meaning is the same as divinization, and divinization is mentioned in the article.

home.nyc.rr.com/mysticalrose/grace3.html
[/quote]

Thank you so much!


#4

[quote=HagiaSophia]This is a concept about which I read a few things once and never have gotten back to it or found anything really illuminating to increase my knowledge of it - does anyone here understand what it is exactly and do other rites or the Orthodox have it? If so - can someone enlighten me a little?
[/quote]

Theosis (Eastern term) or Divinization (Western term) are key components of our theology. It is found in both Catholic and Orthodox theology. The article that was cited in an earlier post is an excellent summary of the teaching of theosis/divinization so I will not repeat that, but did want to address the other part of your question about who “has it.”

There is an additional point I want to make. St. Peter tells us that we are “to share in the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4) This sharing is the result of theosis – we share, not in the essence of God, but in the uncreated energies of God. That is, in fact, the whole purpose of our life – to arrive at that sharing. In this life we can have an imperfect sharing, but in the next we will “see [God] as He is.” (1 Jn 3:2)

Deacon Ed


#5

Once again, we have an excellent question from HagiaSophia.

I have nothing to add to the responses, except to say that Theosis cannot be considered in isolation, it is not like some optional charism or spirituality. It is integral to Eastern spirituality, like a framework upon which all other concepts, practices and struggles hang. It is the way one attains to salvation and doctrinally everything else is understood with the process of Theosis assumed. It is a very positive concept that requires of us continual effort, the Ladder of Divine Ascent written by John Climacos in the sixth century should be read in this light. (The Ladder is traditionally read by Eastern Christians every Lent). Theosis is the rationale behind the seemingly harsh asceticism and strict fasting in the east, these practices are a striving, not a means of temporal punishment.

With Theosis one becomes a spiritual athlete, with Saint Paul we pray that we have not run the race in vain.

+T+


#6

[quote=Deacon Ed]Theosis (Eastern term) or Divinization (Western term) are key components of our theology. It is found in both Catholic and Orthodox theology. The article that was cited in an earlier post is an excellent summary of the teaching of theosis/divinization so I will not repeat that, but did want to address the other part of your question about who “has it.”

There is an additional point I want to make. St. Peter tells us that we are “to share in the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4) This sharing is the result of theosis – we share, not in the essence of God, but in the uncreated energies of God. That is, in fact, the whole purpose of our life – to arrive at that sharing. In this life we can have an imperfect sharing, but in the next we will “see [God] as He is.” (1 Jn 3:2)

Deacon Ed
[/quote]

I am really having a difficult time with it I must say. I understand the “words” but I can’t quite say what it IS exactly. What is meant by the “uncreated energies of God”?


#7

[quote=Hesychios]Once again, we have an excellent question from HagiaSophia.

I have nothing to add to the responses, except to say that Theosis cannot be considered in isolation, it is not like some optional charism or spirituality. It is integral to Eastern spirituality, like a framework upon which all other concepts, practices and struggles hang. It is the way one attains to salvation and doctrinally everything else is understood with the process of Theosis assumed. It is a very positive concept that requires of us continual effort, the Ladder of Divine Ascent written by John Climacos in the sixth century should be read in this light. (The Ladder is traditionally read by Eastern Christians every Lent). Theosis is the rationale behind the seemingly harsh asceticism and strict fasting in the east, these practices are a striving, not a means of temporal punishment.

With Theosis one becomes a spiritual athlete, with Saint Paul we pray that we have not run the race in vain.

+T+
[/quote]

Am I to understand then that it is a “process” or a spiritual exercise which brings about a transformation of self (as St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises) - I am really struggling with it - light bulb just won’t go on over my head.


#8

[quote=HagiaSophia]Am I to understand then that it is a “process” or a spiritual exercise which brings about a transformation of self (as St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises) - I am really struggling with it - light bulb just won’t go on over my head.
[/quote]

ACtually, the bulb seems to be burning brightly. Theosis is a life-long process. In fact, there are some writers who believe it continues after death!

Deacon Ed


#9

[quote=Deacon Ed]ACtually, the bulb seems to be burning brightly. Theosis is a life-long process. In fact, there are some writers who believe it continues after death!
[/quote]

That sounds really interesting - care to explicate a little - keep it simple remember I’m Theosis 101. :stuck_out_tongue:


#10

[quote=HagiaSophia]That sounds really interesting - care to explicate a little - keep it simple remember I’m Theosis 101. :stuck_out_tongue:
[/quote]

The mere fact that you are asking the questions is a great start. The subject is far too deep to be encapsulated in a posting or two, I’l just try to give a sense of it.

Let’s remember that we westerns tend to compartmentalize things and sometimes prefer to see them in isolation. So just as a Roman Catholic might see Carmelite spirituality, Franciscan spirituality and Ignatian spirituality as useful variant ways to find holiness, it might be thought that theosis is just another option.

In fact, it is fundamental to eastern spirituality. It is the basis for everything an eastern Christian, Catholic or Orthodox, will do. It is the systematic approach to holiness in the east, and this crosses over into the Oriental Eastern churches as well because it’s roots are so ancient it precedes the schisms.

I am only trying to construct an example, so please do not think that anything I say will be criticism, I will leave that for those other “hostile” threads and posters.

Imagine if you will, the primary basis for your own striving for holiness. I presume that you would like to see God face to face, just as I would. What immediately comes to mind when you see this task in front of you? What is it about you that makes you wonder if you’ll see the pearly gates?

I am not trying to put words in your mouth, I will speak of an anonymous western Christian just for example :slight_smile:

Most likely a western Christian would respond that we are sinful by nature, we need to expiate those sins to get right with God, and we need to make up for those past indiscretions. This is why we need to do penance, and say that our lifetime is not enough, we need purgatory to cleanse us of those sins.

Hopefully, with sorrow for our sins, confession and penance we will become acceptable to the Lord Our God. With this in mind let us say that the basic premise in western thinking is that if we are to become saints we must become less and less sinful. This is the fundamental driving force behind most of the various western approaches to spirituality: become less and less sinful while using every suitable method we can find to prevent ourselves from falling into sin again.

The goal then is to remove all of those demerits, all the minus signs, the goal is something like zero.

  • I can remember when times were a lot harder on me than now, I was in debt with no assets, my big goal in life was to pay off those debts! Eventually I finally did, I was flat broke and happy.*

Some Protestants (also from the west originally) cannot take all of that uncertainty, they just want to be saved once and for all. Like declaring bankruptcy, they would just like to rub out those sins with a declaration and feel free forever.

{continued}

+T+


#11

{continued from #10 }

The Eastern approach is one of a different perspective, one goes from zero to positive mentally. One wouldn’t automatically take the perspective that we start out bad and spend the rest of our lives trying to make up for it. It is more like a striving to become one with God, recognizing our own limitations and weaknesses we must struggle with ever greater effort to overcome these handicaps. We fight against our nature, and the demons who constantly threaten to distract us from our goal.
http://nesusvet.narod.ru/ico/books/mlvjvch/7c.jpg

The goal is partaking of God. (at this point it is important to understand that no creature can approach God’s essence, we partake of God’s energies, which might be thought of as Grace, but this Grace is not created)

We know we make mistakes along the way, this fills is with mourning, or penthos (compunction). We cannot change what we have done and we dare not presume to be able to make up for those mistakes. We cannot count the cost for our errors, there is no keeping score and no recourse except to the loving kindness of God. We pray to our just God for mercy.

The focus is on our attitude and our determination to move forward toward the God we love. We become ever mindful of God, we have many practices and devotions to help us interiorize this particular attitude. We want to be more godlike, and hopefully the occasions for sin will be less and less as we take this path. We are sinners and we know it, we turn away from it. We struggle to overcome those sinful inclinations and strive to be holy.

Since the notion of Original sin is more on the order of a handicap, we find ourselves struggling to do what should have been easy for Adam. We recognize our inherent weaknesses and resolve to try harder. By “practicing the presence” of God the demons will have no power over us.

Interestingly, many of the very same types of devotions that help us to interiorize our faith are used in the western sense too. Devotions we use to dispel sinful thoughts can be common to east and west. There is a lot of overlapping in practice, and historically there has been a lot of borrowing both ways between the east and west.

Western monasticism has been greatly influenced by eastern theology and spirituality (through people like St John Cassian), therefore much of what I have said about the east will sound like familiar material to anyone who has read the works of monks, nuns and hermits in the western contemplative tradition.

I hope that this helps somewhat, like I said it’s hard to capture in a couple of posts. :slight_smile:


#12

Please see my posts 220, and 221 in the Smithsonian Statement on the Book of Mormon thread.

Mormons teach “divinisation” which posits that after death faithful “worthy” Mormons will become “godS”, with their own worlds to rule and become “godS” over.

This is substanially different from the Catholic and Orthodox beleif in THEOSIS, which teaches that although we may come to share in the energies of God also teaches that we will never come to share the essence of God.


#13

Sorry, make that posts #s 219 and 220 please.


#14

Hi Deacon Ed,

You posted:

There is an additional point I want to make. St. Peter tells us that we are “to share in the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4) This sharing is the result of theosis – we share, not in the essence of God, but in the uncreated energies of God.>>

The distinction between God’s “essence” and His “energies” is an Eastern Orthodox doctrine, not a Catholic one. From an EO perspective, this teaching was formalized by Gregory Palamas (14th century) and is pretty much accepted as “official” doctrine by the EOC.

IMO, this EO distinction borders on heresy for it forces the EO to (in essence) reject the Beatific Vision of God; for while Catholics believe that the saints will see God in His essence, the EO reject such a thought, and limit the vision to His “energies”.

And further, I know of no official Catholic document which explicitly states that the saints will not participate in God’s essence; and truth be known, I believe the scriptural and early patristic evidence strongly implies that the saints will participate in God’s essence (without losing their personal identity).

Grace and peace,

David


#15

[quote=AugustineH354]Hi Deacon Ed,

You posted:

There is an additional point I want to make. St. Peter tells us that we are “to share in the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4) This sharing is the result of theosis – we share, not in the essence of God, but in the uncreated energies of God.>>

The distinction between God’s “essence” and His “energies” is an Eastern Orthodox doctrine, not a Catholic one. From an EO perspective, this teaching was formalized by Gregory Palamas (14th century) and is pretty much accepted as “official” doctrine by the EOC.

Grace and peace,

David
[/quote]

I hate to break this to you, but this is Eastern Catholic theology.

There is no difference between the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox churches and their sister Catholic churches on this point.


#16

What is that supposed to mean? :confused: The essence of God is love. How can we NOT share in the essence of God if we are divinized?

How can God be divided into parts, i.e. how can one conceive of a division that separates God’s *uncreated * essence from his *uncreated * energy? God is simple and not divisible into parts - all the Church Fathers taught this truth.


#17

To clarify: what I posted is standard Eastern Catholic theology, and there is an equivalent Western theology, although stated much differently.

The “essence (ousia) of God” is what makes God God. It is, in effect, His Nature. We have a human nature and can never participate in the Divine nature because that would mean changing us from what we are into God Himself. We do not do that. Rather, we participate in the uncreated energies of God. That is, we can see God as He is, but we cannot be God (even though St. Athenasius said “God became man that man might become God.” What he was referring to here is the sharing of those energies which are an integral part of God, but are not God. We become, in effect, god-like in that we participate in the Divine Life of God.

The Beatific Vision is not rejected by the Orthodox, but the philisophical explanation is because it depends on concepts and ideas that are not part of Orthodox theology. The biggest problem we have in communicating is that the Latin Catholic and Orthodox theological expressions are generall 180 degrees out of phase. Orthodox (and Eastern Catholic) theologians use apophatic theology while Latin Catholic theologians use *cataphatic *theology. The former defines God by what He is not (incomprehensible, uncontainable, unapproachable, etc.) while the latter uses definitions of what he is (omniscient, omnipresent, almighty, etc.). These very differences mean that we express theology in a different way, but it doesn’t mean that either is wrong – just different.

Deacon Ed


#18

To clarify: what I posted is standard Eastern Catholic theology, and there is an equivalent Western theology, although stated much differently.

The “essence (ousia) of God” is what makes God God. It is, in effect, His Nature. We have a human nature and can never participate in the Divine nature because that would mean changing us from what we are into God Himself. We do not do that. Rather, we participate in the uncreated energies of God. That is, we can see God as He is, but we cannot be God (even though St. Athenasius said “God became man that man might become God.” What he was referring to here is the sharing of those energies which are an integral part of God, but are not God. We become, in effect, god-like in that we participate in the Divine Life of God.

The Beatific Vision is not rejected by the Orthodox, but the philisophical explanation is because it depends on concepts and ideas that are not part of Orthodox theology. The biggest problem we have in communicating is that the Latin Catholic and Orthodox theological expressions are generall 180 degrees out of phase. Orthodox (and Eastern Catholic) theologians use apophatic theology while Latin Catholic theologians use *cataphatic *theology. The former defines God by what He is not (incomprehensible, uncontainable, unapproachable, etc.) while the latter uses definitions of what he is (omniscient, omnipresent, almighty, etc.). These very differences mean that we express theology in a different way, but it doesn’t mean that either is wrong – just different.

Deacon Ed


#19

Hello again Deacon Ed,

There is no question that many of the apparent differences between Catholic and EO thought are due to misunderstandings; however, I do not think that the “essence and energies” distinction is one of those misunderstandings. EO theologians emphatically teach that the saints will never have a vision of the divine essence, while Catholic popes and theologians emphatically state that they will. Further, Catholics have rejected, and continue to reject the “essence and energies” distinction made by EO theologians. Note the following excerpt:

The other element of fourteenth-century Hesychasm was the famous real distinction between essence and attributes (specifically one attribute – energy) in God. This theory, fundamentally opposed to the whole conception of God in the Western Scholastic system, had also been prepared by Eastern Fathers and theologians. Remotely it may be traced back to neo-Platonism. The Platonists had conceived God as something in every way unapproachable, remote from all categories of being known to us. God Himself could not even touch or act upon matter. Divine action was carried into effect by demiurges, intermediaries between God and creatures. The Greek Fathers (after Clement of Alexandria mostly Platonists) had a tendency in the same way to distinguish between God’s unapproachable essence and His action, energy, operation on creatures. God Himself transcends all things. He is absolute, unknown, infinite above everything; no eye can see, no mind conceive Him. What we can know and attain is His action. The foundation of a real distinction between the unapproachable essence (ousia) and the approachable energy (energeia) is thus laid. For this system, too, the quotations made by Hesychasts from Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, especially from Pseudo-Dionysius, supply enough examples.>>


#20

Continued from post #19:

The Hesychasts were fond of illustrating their distinction between God’s essence and energy (light) by comparing them to the sun, whose rays are really distinct from its globe, although there is only one sun. It is to be noted that the philosophic opponents of Hesychasm always borrow their weapons from St. Thomas Aquinas and the Western Schoolmen. They argue, quite in terms of LatinAristotelean philosophy, that God is simple; except for the Trinity there can be no distinctions in an actus purus. This distinct energy, uncreated light that is not the essence of God, would be a kind of demiurge, something neither God nor creature; or there would be two Gods, an essence and an energy. From one point of view, then, the Hesychast controversy may be conceived as an issue between Greek Platonist philosophy and Latin rationalist Aristoteleanism. It is significant that the Hesychasts were all vehemently Byzantine and bitter opponents of the West, while their opponents were all latinizers, eager for reunion. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. VII [1910 ed.], p. 301.)>>

More on this in my next post.

Grace and peace,

David


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.