Monday, March 13, 2017

Catholics on deification


Earlier today, in the combox of a recent thread here at AF, an astute reader wrote:

So I think maybe the whole realm of "how does one get saved", hasn't been quite fleshed out properly as the 1st centuries were so focussed on getting Christology right, maybe some of the implications of Jesus' taking up human nature, wasn't thought out fully. This can be seen in that the East & West have diverged on: vicarious atonement vs theosis & divinization and what that means in practise. (LINK)

There is no question that the EO churches have placed a much greater emphasis on the doctrine of "theosis & divinization" (i.e. deification) than the churches within the Latin/Western tradition. However, with that said, there have been a number of Catholic theologians who have embraced the concept of deification. In doing so, they follow a rich tradition found throughout the writings of the Church Fathers (see THIS THREAD). In two prior posts (first; second), I have touched on deification within the Catholic tradition. The following selections will bring to the fore a number of other Catholics who have written on the doctrine:


G. H. Joyce

God, says St. Peter “has given us most great and precious promises that by these you may be made partarkers of the Divine nature (2 Pet. i. 4). Startling as the words are, the teaching which we have already considered will have prepared us for them. They signify that the sonship conferred on us through Jesus Christ raises us so far above our creaturely condition, that by it we partake in the life which is proper to the Three Divine Persons in virtue of Their nature. The passage does not stand altogether alone. When our Lord prays to His Father on behalf of the apostles and all who through their word should believe in Him, “that they all many be one, as Thou, Father in Me and I in Thee, that they may be made perfect in one” (John xvii. 22, 23), His words can hardly signify less than this. If our union with God is comparable to that which unites the Father and the Son, it can only be a union bases on a share in the Divine life...The fathers of the Church from the earliest times with one consent take the apostle’s words in their literal sense. There is no question of any figurative interpretation. They do not hesitate to speak of the “deification” of man. By grace, they tell us, men become gods. (G.H. Joyce, S.J., The Catholic Doctrine of Grace, London: 1920,  pp. 34, 35)

Matthias Joseph Scheeben

 If man is to be reunited to God as his Father, God Himself must raise him up again to His side...God must again draw man up to His bosom as His child, regenerate him to new divine life, and again clothe him with the garment of His children, the splendor of His own nature and glory...this transformation of the will is essentially bound up with the inner elevation of our entire being by the grace of divine sonship and participation in the divine nature...The children of God participate as such in the divine holiness of their Father, in His very nature. (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, B. Herder Book Co.: St. Loius, pp. 615, 616, 617, 619 - emphasis mine - German first ed. 1865; English ed. 1946, translated from the 1941 German ed.)

What we cannot claim by right, the infinite liberality of God gives us in grace. Although we are not by nature the children of God, we become such through grace, and so true is this that, as adopted children, we are put on par with the natural Son of God. We become by grace what He is by nature. What He has in Himself, that we obtain through participation in His nature. (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Glories of Divine Grace, Tan Books, 2000, p. 96.)

“But the Son is not only kindred or similar to the Father, He is one with Him as the branch is one with the tree, the ray of light with the light, the brook with the fountain. So too, grace makes us one with God, not in the same perfect manner [i.e. ‘by nature’], but in a similar way. And yet it is not a question of a mere relationship or similarity, but on an intimate union which makes us, as it were, one being with God” (Ibid., p. 154).

“Thus, when we are united to God by grace [i.e. not ‘by nature’, as is the Son], we not only obtain and direct into our soul a ray of divine glory, a small stream of divine life, but we may also consider as our own the divine Sun itself, the foundation of divine life, and we may rejoice at God’s perfections as though they were ours” (Ibid., p. 158).  

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P

 …we must bear in mind that grace is really and formally a participation in the divine nature precisely in so far as it is divine, a participation in the Deity, in that which makes God God, in His intimate Life…Grace is a mysterious participation in this essence, which surpasses all natural knowledge…Grace makes us participate really and formally in this Deity, in this eminent and intimate life of God, because grace is in us the radical principle of essentially divine operating that will ultimately consist in seeing God immediately, as He sees Himself, and in loving Him as He loves Himself. Grace is the seed of glory. In order to know its essence intimately, we must first have seen the divine essence of which grace is the participation. (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Christian Perfection and Contemplation, St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1937 – reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, 2003, pp. 55, 56.)

The Deity as we know it here on earth contains only implicitly the divine attributes deduced from it. But when we shall see it as it is in itself there will no longer be any need for deduction. We shall see explicitly in the eminence of the Deity, superior to being, to unity, to goodness, all the infinite perfections and the three divine persons. (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Our Saviour and His Love For Us, St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1951 – reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, 1998, pp. 351, 352.)

Lugwig Ott

 The Church prays in the Offertory of the Holy Mass : “Grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His divinity, who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity.” Similarly in the Preface of the Feast of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven : “He was assumed into Heaven in order that we might be partakers in His divinity.” Cf. D 1021.

According to 2 Peter 1, 4 the Christian is elevated to participation in the Divine nature...Again, the scriptural texts which represent justification as generation or birth from God  (John 1, 12 et seq. ; 3, 5 ; 1 John 3, 1. 9 ; Tit. 3. 5 ; James 1, 18 ; 1 Peter 1, 23), indirectly teach the participation of man in the Divine nature, as generation consists in the communication of the nature of the generator to the generated.

From the scriptural texts cited, and from others (Ps. 81, 1. 6 ; John 10, 34 et seq.), the Fathers derived the teaching of the deification of man by grace (θείωσις, deificatio). It is a firm conviction of the Fathers that God became man so that man might become God, that is, defied. (Dr. Lugwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 256 - German ed. 1952; English 1955.)


George D. Smith

 The application of all this to the question of sanctifying grace will be seen more and more as we proceed, but for the present we simply assert the magnificent truth that grace is not only a positive reality in the soul, not only a reality which no created being could produce, but a reality which in itself is higher than the whole order of created things (even angelic) and is truly divine. This brings us at once to a wonderful phrase of St Peter, who says that we are made “partakers of the divine nature.” Catholic theology has ever clung to the belief that here we have no mere figure of speech but the declaration of a definite fact. We really are made to be partakers of the divine nature. It is not merely that our spiritual faculties of intellect and will establish a special likeness to God in our souls; that is true enough, but over and above this natural likeness to God a wholly supernatural quality is given to us which makes us to be of the same nature as God...St Augustine puts the matter thus: He descended that we might ascend, and “whilst retaining his own divine nature he partook of our human nature, that we whilst keeping our own nature, might become partakers of his.” St Thomas Aquinas, echoing the constant teaching of the past, declares in a passage which the Church uses for the feast of Corpus Christi: “the only-begotten Son of God, wishing to make us partakers of his own divinity, took upon himself our human nature that having become man he might make men to be gods.” And we know how the Church has enshrined this wonderful truth in one of the most beautiful of the prayers at Mass. “O God, who in creating human nature, didst marvellously ennoble it, and hast still more marvellously renewed it, grant that by the mysery of this water and wine we may be made partakers of his Godhead, who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.” (The Teaching of the Catholic Church, edited by Canon George D. Smith, 1960, volume 1, pp. 553, 554.)

Both St John and St Paul exult in proclaiming this act of divine condescension. “Dearly beloved,” the first writes with all the earnestness of the disciple of love, “we are now the sons of God: and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is. And everyone that hath this hope in him sanctifieth himself.”...In light of such luminous teaching it is clear that is in a very special sense that we are children of God...Sanctifying grace, as we have seen, is a positive reality infused into the soul by which we are made to share the divine life...By sanctifying grace the very life of God is imparted unto them. (Ibid. pp. 556, 557.)

Catherine Mowry LaCugna

 Jesus Christ, the visible icon of the invisible God, discloses what it means to be fully personal, divine as well as human. The Spirit of God, poured into our hearts as love, (Rom. 5:5), gathers us together into the body of Christ, transforming us so that “we become by grace what God is by nature,” namely, persons in full communion with God and with every creature. (God For Us, p. 1.)

Saint Joseph Daily Missal

 Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per hujus aquae et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

O GOD, Who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it, grant that through the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His Divinity, who has condescended to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord: Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen. (Saint Joseph Daily Missal, 1961, pp. 660, 661.)

John Paul II

 This is the central truth of all Christian soteriology that finds an organic unity with the revealed reality of the God-Man. God became man that man could truly participate in the life of God—so that, indeed, in a certain sense, he could become God. The Fathers of the Church had a clear consciousness of this fact. It is sufficient to recall St. Irenaeus who, in his exhortations to imitate Christ, the only sure teacher, declared: “Through the immense love he bore, he became what we are, thereby affording us the opportunity of becoming what he is.” (John Paul II, Jesus, Son and Savior, 1996, p. 215 - General audience address September 2, 1987.)

John Paul II – Dominum et Vivificantem Thus there is a supernatural “adoption,” of which the source is the Holy Spirit, love and gift. As such he is given to man. And in the superabundance of the uncreated gift there begins in the heart of all human beings that particular created gift whereby they “become partakers of the divine nature.” Thus human life becomes permeated, through participation, by the divine life, and itself acquires a divine, supernatural dimension. (The Encyclicals of John Paul II, p. 318.)

John Paul II - Redemptor Hominis The Church has only one life: that which is given her by her Spouse and Lord. Indeed, precisely because Christ united himself with her in his mystery of Redemption, the Church must be strongly united with each man. This union of Christ with man is in itself a mystery. From the mystery is born “the new man,” called to become a partaker of God’s life. (The Encyclicals of John Paul II, p. 79.)

Second Vatican Council

For Jesus Christ was sent into the world as the true Mediator between God and men. Since He is God, all the fullness of the divine nature dwells in Him bodily (Col. 2:9); as man he is the new Adam, full of grace and of truth (John 1:14) , who has been constituted head of a restored humanity. So the Son of God entered the world by means of a true incarnation that he might make men sharers in the divine nature; though rich, he became poor for our sake, that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). (Ad Gentes Divinitus, from Vatican Council II - The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, General Editor, Austin Flannery, O. P., New Revised Edition 1992, p. 815.)

The New Catechism

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “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.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “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.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 edition, p. 116.)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

[The following quotes are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, provided via the official Vatican website: link.]

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

[Footnotes: #78 – 2 Pet 1:4;  #79 – St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,19,1: PG 7/1, 939; #80 – St. Athanasius, De inc., 54,3: PG 25, 192B; #81 – St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57: 1-4 ]

1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face:596

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment - and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven - have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.597

[Footnote #597 – Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000: cf. LG 49]

1721 God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us "partakers of the divine nature" and of eternal life.21 With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ22 and into the joy of the Trinitarian life.

[Footnotes: #21 – 2 Pet 1:4; Jn 17:3; #22 – Cf. Rom 8:18 ]

1726 The Beatitudes teach us the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom, the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God.

1812 The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature:76 for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.

[Footnote #76 – 2 Pet 1:14 ]

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:36 

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.37

[Footnotes: #36 – Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1-4; #37 – St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1,24: PG 26, 585 and 588 ]

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:48

[Footnote #48 – Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39 ]


And lastly, I must mention a recent book of collected essays by Catholic authors concerning the doctrine of deification:



Grace and peace,

David

14 comments:

Rory said...

Hi Dave.

Twenty years ago, I remember dialoguing with Mormons who would be surprised that as a Catholic I would not back away from what they called deification. For some reason, they seemed to want to accuse Roman Catholics of deemphasizing the doctrine.

Yesterday you wrote: "There is no question that the EO churches have placed a much greater emphasis on the doctrine of "theosis & divinization" (i.e. deification) than the churches within the Latin/Western tradition."

Okay. Maybe I don't know how much emphasis is enough. It seems like every day at every Mass (Ludwig Ott, St. Joseph Missal) should count for something? Heh. Have there been any Roman popes or cardinals denying that we can be adopted sons of God the Father who wills to exalt us and make us His heirs alongside His only Begotten Son? I think they are at least on board with the Mass of Pius V.

When Roman moral theologians or mystics speak of this, they do not hesitate to affirm the teachings of the Fathers of East and West...even daring to use the term "gods". You could have quoted scores of other highly revered saints and doctors of the Western Church who affirm a doctrine of deification.

I am sure you will note that I didn't say "the" doctrine. That is because depending on where you start with God, deification is greater or lesser.

What great thing is it if Mormons believe in a deification that makes one partake of a "divine nature" that isn't even omnipotent? Roman Catholics draw a line when it comes to participation in the divine nature that makes adopted sons, less than the Only Begotten Son, Who was Uncreated, and of course less than the Father, from whom His Only Begotten Son received His Divinity. Nevertheless, the very Angels envy us because of the privileges given to man, because the Son became a Man, and calls Himself, the Son of Man, willing to give us a participation in the Nature that He received.

There is no question that the West teaches degrees of exaltation. We do not become the Most High. Are we for this to be accused of diminishing deification? If the East says that the deified are equal with God and in possession of all the omnis and have become uncreated then yes, I am happy to admit that the East gives more emphasis to deification. I doubt that they teach that. If they do. Fine. They win "the prize" for teaching some extreme form of deification that is incompatible with the faith revealed to the Apostles.

And as for my LDS friends, the starting point isn't the same God. Who is more exalted, the adopted son of the omnipotent and immaterial God of the neo-Platonists (as some of them would have it), or the absolute equally exalted natural son of a material God who is the same species as the material creatures of earth, and who has material limitations? I don't think Roman Catholics fall behind the Orthodox, and if we do, too bad for them. I know we don't fall behind the LDS.

I don't know who else talks about any kind of deification besides those three.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks much for taking the time to respond. You wrote:

==Twenty years ago, I remember dialoguing with Mormons who would be surprised that as a Catholic I would not back away from what they called deification. For some reason, they seemed to want to accuse Roman Catholics of deemphasizing the doctrine.==

It has been my experience, that many Catholics (most?) don't know what the Church has actually taught on this important doctrine; and this true, even concerning some RCC apologists who should know better.

==Yesterday you wrote: "There is no question that the EO churches have placed a much greater emphasis on the doctrine of "theosis & divinization" (i.e. deification) than the churches within the Latin/Western tradition."

Okay. Maybe I don't know how much emphasis is enough. It seems like every day at every Mass (Ludwig Ott, St. Joseph Missal) should count for something? Heh. Have there been any Roman popes or cardinals denying that we can be adopted sons of God the Father who wills to exalt us and make us His heirs alongside His only Begotten Son? I think they are at least on board with the Mass of Pius V.==

One can add Augustine and Aquinas to the list who have taught the doctrine. Further, I know of no Pope who has denied the doctrine. However, with that said, it is rare to find Catholics who emphasize the doctrine to the extent that a number of EO theologians have. For many EO folk, deification primary focus of their overall soteriology—I do not think the same can be said for the vast majority of Catholics.

==When Roman moral theologians or mystics speak of this, they do not hesitate to affirm the teachings of the Fathers of East and West...even daring to use the term "gods". You could have quoted scores of other highly revered saints and doctors of the Western Church who affirm a doctrine of deification.==

I would greatly appreciate further quotes from your pen when you have the time to post them.

==I am sure you will note that I didn't say "the" doctrine. That is because depending on where you start with God, deification is greater or lesser.

What great thing is it if Mormons believe in a deification that makes one partake of a "divine nature" that isn't even omnipotent?==

Mormons are divided amongst themselves as to what 'omnipotence' means. The most important chasm between the Gods of Mormonism and the God of Catholicism for me is that the Gods of Mormonism are not the only uncreated realities in the universe/world of existence.

==And as for my LDS friends, the starting point isn't the same God.==

Exactly, and that is where dialogue between Catholics and Mormons should begin.

==Who is more exalted, the adopted son of the omnipotent and immaterial God of the neo-Platonists (as some of them would have it), or the absolute equally exalted natural son of a material God who is the same species as the material creatures of earth, and who has material limitations?==

Excellent question. I personally, would say it is the former.

==I don't think Roman Catholics fall behind the Orthodox, and if we do, too bad for them. I know we don't fall behind the LDS.==

What do you mean by, "fall behind the Orthodox"?

==I don't know who else talks about any kind of deification besides those three.==

A few Anglicans...


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Hi again Dave.

David
It has been my experience, that many Catholics (most?) don't know what the Church has actually taught on this important doctrine; and this true, even concerning some RCC apologists who should know better.

Rory
Do you think that the ordinary Greek and Russian Orthodox in the pew are much more familiar with this fantastic doctrine than their western counterparts?

David...it is rare to find Catholics who emphasize the doctrine to the extent that a number of EO theologians have. For many EO folk, deification primary focus of their overall soteriology—I do not think the same can be said for the vast majority of Catholics.

Rory
I tend to think we use different language. Perhaps we less often speak of becoming "gods". To speak of the Beatific Vision is to speak of deification and we certainly speak of that. It is not in man's nature to be able to apprehend God in His essence. We are taught that God must elevate our natures, and indeed give us a share of His if we are to see Him "face to face", as Moses desired and as St. John promises. Matthias Scheeben explains:

"The immediate intuition of God in His very essence is in itself natural and proper only to the three persons who possess the divine nature. If the creature is to be elevated to such power, he also must be made to share in the divine nature by a communication of the divine light, in which alone the divine essence can be rendered visible." (The Mysteries of Christianity, B. Herder Book Co. 1946, p. 659)

But I believe it is well understood by attentive listeners of parish sermons and adult catechisms that the end of our salvation begins with a condescension of God to take our nature so that it may end as He when He share His with us. A further aspect of deification that cannot be overemphasized is that it begins in this mortal life. Eternal life (God's life) begins with Baptism and continues in us and grows by means of actual and sacramental graces. We can do nothing pleasing to God without a participation in the life of God and this has been plainly taught where I go to Mass.

The faithful who understand the life of grace as it works in their souls might be at a loss to follow the way our own mystical theologians describe deification. But for practical purposes deification is frequently preached to us and sometimes even using terms like divinization and deification, albeit carefully and with precision.

The Incarnation of God and the elevation of His creature are stupendous, fantastic truths that makes one feel at a loss for words or deeds. We could never deserve this. So what can we do? It makes the Christian love God for loving us. Without these truths advancement in sanctity would seem impossible. These truths are central to the very Gospel. Where the Good News is preached and practiced these truths necessarily permeate our being to the core. By grace, reflection on these truths will help us obey our good God. Reflection on these truths will help us by grace to praise Him and even to dare to call Him Our Father. The reasonable response to these truths is willingness to die for them.

I alluded in my first post to the fact that Catholics cannot believe in unlimited deification. What we get through "partaking" is absolutely beyond what we can even imagine anyway. But I fear that there are some who would pooh pooh "limited deification". I am sure LDS would disapprove. But what of the Orthodox? Surely they don't speculate that we become very God of very God, elevated to the status of the Blessed Trinity?

Maybe over the weekend I can defend why we place limits. Thanks for your consideration Dave. I have about eight years of sermons to try to find some good stuff for you to hear. I am going to start listening to them at work and then I'll give you some quotes from Sunday sermons.

Later.

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks much for your thoughtful response to my last combox post. You asked:

==Do you think that the ordinary Greek and Russian Orthodox in the pew are much more familiar with this fantastic doctrine than their western counterparts? ==

I can't answer that with any confidence due to the fact I have never attended an EO congregation, nor I have I had any face-to-face dialogue with EO lay folk. My knowledge of EO thought has come from two sources: books and articles by EO theologians, and dialogue with EO apologists online.

You also wrote:

==I alluded in my first post to the fact that Catholics cannot believe in unlimited deification.==

I think there is some truth to the above; and yet, one should not discount the following:

>>What we cannot claim by right, the infinite liberality of God gives us in grace. Although we are not by nature the children of God, we become such through grace, and so true is this that, as adopted children, we are put on par with the natural Son of God. We become by grace what He is by nature. What He has in Himself, that we obtain through participation in His nature. (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Glories of Divine Grace, Tan Books, 2000, p. 96.)>>

==What we get through "partaking" is absolutely beyond what we can even imagine anyway. But I fear that there are some who would pooh pooh "limited deification". I am sure LDS would disapprove. But what of the Orthodox? Surely they don't speculate that we become very God of very God, elevated to the status of the Blessed Trinity? ==

From what I have read, Catholic theologians (and official doctrine) go further than their EO counterparts concerning deification. While Catholics believe that redeemed mankind will participate in the very essence of God, the EO folk limit this participation to God's "energies".

Thanks again for your thoughtful insights...


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Hi Dave,

Scheeben himself makes a comment on p. 100 of the same book that you quoted which alludes to the important distinction that prevents anyone from ever claiming that the glorified in a Catholic heaven results in polytheism. First the quote from p. 96 as cited by you:

"We become by grace what He is by nature. What He has in Himself, that we obtain through participation in His nature." (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Glories of Divine Grace, Tan Books, 2000, p. 96.)

Then from p. 100:

"Now the only-begotten Son has the Divine Nature entirely in His being; we, on the other hand, have it only in those perfections that can be communicated to creatures. Our supernatural birth is exceedingly different from the divine because as St. Athanasius says, first we are born and then only reborn of God; whereas, the only-begotten Son, through His divine birth receives His being and the same substance as the Father." (p. 100, op. cit.)

Other authors of the spiritual life, taking their lessons from St. Thomas, emphasize that by grace our participation in the divine nature is accidental, whereas for Christ it is substantial. This accounts for why Scheeben alludes to perfections which "can be communicated to creatures." This would of course be opposed to those perfections which cannot be communicated to creatures.

David Waltz said...

Happy Saturday Rory,

I agree with Scheeben that there are limits concerning the deification of redeemed mankind. However, given the fact that God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, I remain 'open' concerning the extent of this said deification.

Hope you have a great weekend. Go Ducks and Zags !!!

David

Dennis said...

Hi David,

Just a disclaimer prior to my comments. I was raised a Catholic & currently attend a High Anglican church & a Chrisitan meditation group populated by Catholics.

Both Rory & yourself have highlighted some good points showing there is a vein in Catholicism that understands deification.

In regards to the Eastern view of deification, from what I've read, they believe we participate in Gods "Energetic" nature not in the life of the Trinity itself, which would make us as divine as the Trinity is. This I think is correct.

Although Catholicism has a good understanding of deification, it seems to remain in the background. I think a lot of the monastic orders like the Carmelites, have a pretty good practical grasp on "being changed into His image.

However the point I was making was to show that a different emphasis in the Western vs Eastern wing of the church, results in a difference in how salvation is "worked out". In the East there seems to be a lot more emphasis in "getting your heart right". Whereas in the West it seems more like getting your dogmas right (although that seems to be changing in some quarters & depends on a variety of factors).

My parent's Catholicism of the 50s' seemed to be to "tick all the right boxes", do good, go to church, obey the rules, but their heart wasn't in it. It seems that although the vicarious atonement was a "known thing", it had no real meaning connected to an individual. It was sort of like, Christ forgave us so that now we can live morally upright lives with eachother & not get toasted by God at the end. There was no meaningful connection to destroying our own personal sin & giving us power to be transformed. I must say though that some of my meditation partners have this heartfelt "knowledge".

Whereas in the East the emphasis is that we are saved so that we can have our nature restored to what it should be and be transformed into God's image. The emphasis is on healing our diseased and sinful nature.

This sounds good, but I've met a few Greek Orthodox who don't seem to have a "pious" lifestyle, which indicates they don't understand this or it isn't emphasised in their parish.

There is one further problem that sits between these 2 and that is faith. It seems to me that in a lot of cases faith is taken as a "given" because of baptism. Just because congregants are baptised, there is an assumption that faith is automatic and that they will automatically understand the implications of following Christ through the Church. This is the "elephant in the room", because without real faith, it is impossible to please God or to understand Him.

So with faith, one can understand the need of vicarious atonement & "theosis" and allow God's Spirit to do His work. Without it, one falls into dogma which causes the church to overshadow the full manifest work of Christ in His divinity & humanity to save us. The emphasis goes to rules & methods rather than the inner heart. And I think this explains why many monastic communities have fallen & glossed over the paedophile religious.

So the church should have a good look at patristics again (I think this is happening in some quarters) and re-assess theology in the vein of TF Torrance.

Cheers
Dennis

David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks much for taking the time to comment. There is a lot of 'meat' in your post, but I would first like to touch on your current church affiliation. I have a deep respect for conservative, High Anglican folk. I think they retain a healthy balance between Scripture and Tradition. However, with that said, it is difficult for me to discount Newman's in depth critiques of his former church. His two volume, Certain Difficulties Felt By Anglicans (LINK), is a must read IMO.

Moving on, you wrote:

==In regards to the Eastern view of deification, from what I've read, they believe we participate in Gods "Energetic" nature not in the life of the Trinity itself, which would make us as divine as the Trinity is. This I think is correct.==

I posted the following in this thread to something Rory wrote:

>>From what I have read, Catholic theologians (and official doctrine) go further than their EO counterparts concerning deification. While Catholics believe that redeemed mankind will participate in the very essence of God, the EO folk limit this participation to God's "energies".>>

I 'struggle' with the EO distinction between God's essence and energies, especially as it relates to the 'Beatific Vision'. The Catholic teaching on this issue is that redeemed mankind will see God in His essence, whilst the EO deny this, relegating the vision to God's energetic 'light'. I think Scripture teaches the former.

You also said:

==In the East there seems to be a lot more emphasis in "getting your heart right". Whereas in the West it seems more like getting your dogmas right (although that seems to be changing in some quarters & depends on a variety of factors).==

I think there is a lot truth to the above assessment; but with that said, there exists a good number of Catholics works that reflect on the need to live a Godly, saintly life.

==There is one further problem that sits between these 2 and that is faith. It seems to me that in a lot of cases faith is taken as a "given" because of baptism. Just because congregants are baptised, there is an assumption that faith is automatic and that they will automatically understand the implications of following Christ through the Church. This is the "elephant in the room", because without real faith, it is impossible to please God or to understand Him.==

Well put. Interestingly enough, in a recent phone conversation with Rory, he pointed out the writings of a 19th century Catholic who had some stern warnings against baptizing those who have not given full assent essential Christian truths, and the willingness to live according to those truths. (I hope Rory sees this comment, and shares some of his thoughts on this issue.)

==So with faith, one can understand the need of vicarious atonement & "theosis" and allow God's Spirit to do His work. Without it, one falls into dogma which causes the church to overshadow the full manifest work of Christ in His divinity & humanity to save us. The emphasis goes to rules & methods rather than the inner heart. And I think this explains why many monastic communities have fallen & glossed over the paedophile religious.==

Excellent points Dennis, though I could use some further clarification on what/who constitutes, "the paedophile religious."

==So the church should have a good look at patristics again (I think this is happening in some quarters) and re-assess theology in the vein of TF Torrance.==

Have you seen/read the first two threads under the, Thomas F. Torrance, label?


Grace and peace,

David

Dennis said...

Hi David,

Firstly a rant alert for readers...

OK, I would love to spend time reading up on some of this stuff, but between a job, IT studies & a family, it is unlikely. I agree I would most likely find lots of holes in Anglicanism along with Newman, however what is the alternative "on the ground" ? Sydney has about 4 high churches (all aging), 1 infected with liberal theology.

IF I went the Orthodox path, I would have to get past the nationalism & exclusivity. Also do they interface with the Aussie community well...I doubt it.
Now I've had some experience with Catholicism. When I was 15 I asked my priest what faith was as I didn't want to go to church out of obligation but because I believed. He gave me a flyer that was so convoluted it confused me. I left & found faith with the Pentecostals...what a ride !

I've just been recently interfacing with Catholicism again. There are some great churches close by with priests that are Vatican 2+. I've found the Carmelites great as well. Now for the downside.

I worked at a Catholic school for a while & noticed they have a good internal pastoral program. I asked what happens when the kids leave school, are there Youth Groups in the churches ? That caused some serious scoffing. Most churches have nothing. Once the kids leave, they're on their own. Pretty discouraging for someone with a 9 yo.

Next looking at the theology & history (& reading your experience with Dave Armstrong), I noticed there is such an insistence on accepting certain dogma, that I can't in good conscience, "go all the way". The way I see it is that even though the RC & EO have Apostolic Succession, to me this was "1 side of the coin" to safeguard the faith. The other was faithful transmission of Apostolic teaching. Most of the heretics in the early church came from the line of "Apostolic Succession". Apostolic teaching comes down not only via the succession of leaders but via the "Vincentian agreement", the Councils, creeds and the baptised faithful.

So when West & East divide over issues like original sin, atonement, purgatory, immaculate conception etc, it seems that Apostolic teaching got skewed somewhere. It wasn't as "air tight" as they make us believe. I'm sure you've read the political controversies at the Ecumenical Councils, the double-dealing, number stacking and violence and one wonders how the Spirit was able to work at all !
On top of that you have extremist monastics as well, not to mention the papacy.

So in the light of this, what can be salvaged as mandatory to the faith ? If Apostolic Succession was "water tight", there would be no divergences in teaching. I think one has to go over the history & recognise the church is like an extension of Israel where each time it falls & fails, God has to call it back to himself and the tradition handed down. Most of what the West & East teach are the deposit of faith I believe, but as there was a "Development of Doctrine" there was also a corruption of doctrine. As time progressed, maybe the enormity of the 1st 3 or 4 Councils were slowly lost & emphasis moved away from the implication of who Christ was to overly technical abstractions (like the last 3 Councils). The requirement for faith gets replaced by adhering to dogmas & "ticking boxes", on one side & taking baptism as the proof of faith, on the other. This ends in legalism coming from any side.

Dennis said...

As to the EO theology of energy & essence. I must admit I like it. I haven't read extensively on it, but to me it makes sense that we can only be united in His divine nature to His energies otherwise we would also be a part of the Trinity itself. I think scripture can be used to back this up as whenever there is a revelation of God, man can take "only so much". He can never "look God in the face". What does it mean that the pure in heart will "see God" ? It's one thing to see Him & another to fully comprehend Him or know Him. Does our experience of "growing in God" end in heaven or does it continue because He is eternal ? Can a creature ever be a part of the essence which created it ?

As to the paedophile religious, you can check this report from Australia:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-06/royal-commission-into-child-sexual-abuse-begins-in-sydney/8242600

I'm sure the stats are going to be quite awful around the world. This is another reason I can't trust Catholicism. There is no self-correction. The triumphalism of "infallibility" is a self-poisoning wound. The secular society "blew the cover" on these horrific issues. I can't think of anything worse or more hypocritical. On one hand you have the defense of the unborn only, to rip it away in sexual abuse & then attempt to cover it up.

What I can't understand is how the supposed "spiritual" wing of the church (monastics) can end up being some of the most prevalent abusers. I can understand a handful of backslidden priests, but the numbers are staggering. How can the writings of Benedict, Cassian or St Francis end up being so neglected that this stuff happens ? The stuff of the heart gets overwhelmed by politics & dogma, I think.

OK. Enough ranting. I'll check out you Torrance stuff some time.

Cheers
Dennis

Rory said...

Hi Dennis,

There is an expression that some Roman Catholics use that seems not distant from the Orthodox use of "energies". They refer to the "light of glory", apparently as the means by which we will see God face to face, as St. John speaks about.

"God cannot be grasped by our intellect. We know Him here below by grace, and we shall know Him in Heaven by 'the light of glory', but our knowledge will even then remain imperfect. We shall not fully know the divine essence, or else we would be God."

Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, The Spiritual Life, St Thomas Aquinas Seminary Editions (2014), p. 50

In my opinion there are a lot of apparent differences between East and West, that upon closer analysis, with a view to unite instead of divide, are actually quite similar. I would ask our host David, if in his opinion, there is a significant difference between "the light of glory" in the West as opposed to "the energies of God" in the East.

In both cases, it seems to me that East and West are aware that face to face is an unimaginable privilege from Him Who Is to us who are not. I do not doubt that the East would in some way reconcile their doctrine on the energies of God with St. Peter's "partaking of the divine nature", just as the West does in speaking of the light of glory, while affirming that only God knows God in His fullness.

Do you think it would be okay to stop being so dogmatic about God being "I am Who Am"? I think it would be the destruction of true devotion, and the meekness and humility to which we are called, if it was ever forgotten that God basically told Moses to tell the people of Israel that He Who Exists, with all of its ramifications, was the "name" of the God who sent Moses to them.

According to the author I quoted above, the revealed truths about God are essential to growth in holiness and ultimate union with God. This is why the saints "tick boxes", In another place he quotes the following:

"The reason why the knowledge of God is the rule of virtue is evident. The perfection of man consists in union with God, his first beginning and his last end. Now Now this union originates in knowledge. The first union with God begins by intelligence. From that follows the union of heart by hope and charity."

Fr. Leonard Lessius (1554-1623), The Names of God and Meditative Summaries of the Divine Perfections, translated by T.J. Campbell, S.J., The America Press, NY, 1912, p.141

Dennis said...

Hi Rory,

You may be right that there is some overlap between East &West over God"s energetic light. But in the West, how often is it preached that the end game of salvation is union with God in a transformed nature ? The emphasis seems to be the forgiveness of sins so that one doesn't get "toasted". The East"s approach seems to be a lot more wholistic on account of theosis.

I would rather go with Augustine on knowledge. "Seek not that you understand that you might believe but believe that you might understand". That comes by grace. There is only so much a corrupted intellect may understand of God...

Cheers
Dennis

David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the 'rant' alert; but IMO, it was unwarranted, for I found your assessments and questions to be cogent and thoughtful. You wrote:

==I agree I would most likely find lots of holes in Anglicanism along with Newman, however what is the alternative "on the ground" ? Sydney has about 4 high churches (all aging), 1 infected with liberal theology.==

Having never lived in Australia, I have virtually no clue as to what the valid ecclesiastical options would be for one who seeks to integrate Scripture, tradition and history with a living, growing, spiritual life. With that said, I cannot help but believe that God will lead you to those options that are best for you and your family. The following words from our Lord comes to mind:

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matt. 7:7, 8)

Shall end this post with a bit of a 'rant'. We are living in an age when so many, "call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

In first couple of decades following the Second World War, there was the rise of the "death of God" movement. For awhile, that seemed 'fashionable' to many; but, the utter hopelessness of a world without God eventually took the steam out of that movement.

Today, we are living in an age of what I would term the, "Death of Scripture". Sacred Scripture is becoming marginalized by a number of factors: higher criticism, private interpretation, 'spiritualized' and 'cultural' readings, and wholesale neglect. In my country (the USA), it is a sad commentary when far greater numbers of Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses are reading the Scriptures with much greater devotion than Evangelicals and Catholics.

And yet, I can say with high confidence that God has faithfully preserved His Word for us. I also embrace and endorse the promise of our Lord who said:

"That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

I pray that God will lead all those who seek His will to that church...


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

I read the recent posts by Dennis and yourself this morning. As you can see, I have already responded to Dennis; however, since that reply I have been pondering over the following you wrote:

==I would ask our host David, if in his opinion, there is a significant difference between "the light of glory" in the West as opposed to "the energies of God" in the East.==

It has been over a decade since I last read two very important contributions on deification that touch on your question—Aristotle East and West - Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom, by David Bradshaw; and The Ground of Union - Deification in Aquinas and Palamas, by A. N. Williams. After my workout and lunch, I have been rereading portions from the above books. I have come to realize that your question is a much more complex one than it initially appears be; as such, I shall reserve my answer until I have completed a bit more reading and reflection.

BTW, thanks for the quote from Lissius. I was able to find a PDF copy on line which I have downloaded, and plan to read later this week.


Grace and peace,

David