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,


Friday, March 3, 2017

Infant salvation: the Lutheran tradition

This fourth installment of my continuing series on INFANT SALVATION, will examine the conservative Lutheran position, as delineated by Charles Porterfield Krauth. C. P. Krauth was a conservative, 19th century, American Lutheran scholar. I first became aware of Krauth after purchasing his massive book, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (Augsburg Publishing House, 1963 reprint edition), back in 1990s during one of my frequent visits to Powell's Books. The back-flap of the book's dust cover has the following to say about the author:

Charles Porterfield Krauth, 1823-1883, was a parish pastor, teacher, editor, church leader and champion of conservative Lutheranism in America . . . regarded by many as the most eminent Lutheran in America of the 19th century. Through his recognized ability as a public speaker and with his prolific pen—particularly with this volume, considered his magnum opus—he set the stamp of his own theology upon a whole generation and more of American Lutheran ministers. (An in depth, two volume biography is available in an online PDF version, here.)

Krauth's thoughts on infant salvation are referenced in his aforementioned book. The following selections from this contribution will be from the 1875 edition, Google Books PDF version (LINK).

Krauth's theological reflections on infant salvation are inextricably linked to the early Lutheran understanding of the doctrine of 'original sin,' as delineated in the original Augsburg Confession. From Krauth's book we read:

The Article teaches us what original sin would do if there were no redemption provided in Christ. The mere fact that Christ has wrought out His work provides a sufficient remedy, if it be applied, to save every human creature from the effects of original sin. Let not this great fact be forgotten. Let it never be left out of the account in looking at the mystery of original sin, that there is an ample arrangement by which the redemption of every human creature from the results of original sin could be effected ; that there is no lack in God's provision for saving every one of our race from its results. "Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man."

2. It is not the doctrine of our Confession that any human creature has ever been, or ever will be, lost purely on account of original sin. For while it supposes that original sin, if unarrested, would bring death, it supposes it to be arrested, certainly and ordinarily, by the Holy Spirit, through the divine means rightly received, and throws no obstacle in the way of our hearty faith that, in the case of infants dying without the means, the Holy Ghost, in His own blessed way, directly and extraordinarily, may make the change that delivers the child from the power of indwelling sin. Luther, in his marginal note on John xv. 22, says: "Denn durch Christum ist die Erbsünde auffgehaben, und verdamnet nach Christus zukunfft niemand. On wer sie nicht lassen, das ist, wer nicht glenben wil." "Through Christ original sin is annulled, and condemneth no man since Christ's coming, unless he will not forsake it (original sin), that is, will not believe." (Pages 428, 429 - bold emphasis mine.)

Over the next couple of pages, Krauth cites Luther and other early Lutheran theologians concerning the necessity of baptism for salvation. It is deduced that baptism is necessary only when it, "refers to the ordinary mode which God observes in saving men", and that,  "the matter is different in a case of necessity, when any one cannot obtain it" (p. 430).

Krauth then writes:

Both Luther and Bugenhagen discuss at large the argument for, and objections against, the doctrine of the salvation of unbaptized little children, and demonstrate that it is no part of the faith of our Church, that Baptism is absolutely necessary : that is, that there are no exceptions or limitations to the proposition that, unless a man is born again of the Water of Baptism, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Luther and Bugenhagen condemn those who refuse to unbaptized children the rites of Christian burial, and who object to laying their bodies in consecrated ground, as if they were outside of the Church. "We bury them," say they, "as Christians, confessing thereby that we believe the strong assurances of Christ. The bodies of these unbaptized children have part in the joyous resurrection of life." (Pages 432, 433 - bold emphasis mine.)

Earlier in his work, Krauth lists this issue of baptism as one of the doctrines in which the Lutheran Church, "has been mispresented" (p. 129), and then writes:

Baptism. The Lutheran Church holds that it is necessary to salvation to be born again of water (baptism) and the Spirit, (John iii. 5, and Augsburg Confession, Art. II. and IX. ;) but she holds that this necessity, though absolute as regards the work of the Spirit, is, as regards the outward part of baptism, ordinary, not absolute, or without exception ; that the contempt of the sacrament, not the want of it, condemns ; and that though God binds us to the means, he does not bind his own mercy by them. From the time of Luther to the present hour, the Lutheran theologians have maintained the salvability and actual salvation of infants dying unbaptized. (Page 129 - bold emphasis mine.)

I will conclude this post with Krauth's following portrayal—and contrasts—of the Lutheran position on infant salvation:

The truth is, no system so thoroughly as that of the Lutheran Church places the salvation of infants on the very highest ground.

The Pelagian system would save them on the ground of personal innocence, but that ground we have seen to be fallacious. The Calvinistic system places their salvation on the ground of divine election, and speaks elect infants, and hence, in its older and more severely logical shape at least, supposed not only that some unbaptized, but also that some baptized infants are lost. (Page 434.)

Grace and peace,