Tag Archives: Deification

How Catholics Have Always Believed and Taught Deification

by Jared Ortiz

Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox all have an unfortunate habit of thinking that deification is somehow the exclusive provenance of the Orthodox. This claim is unfortunate not only because it has no basis in reality, but because it blinds us to the riches to be discovered in the tradition and because it slows down ecumenical progress.

The Reformed theologian Carl Mosser has done the most interesting work on how we all came to adopt such an odd prejudice (see his essay here). The details are too complicated for a short post, but let me summarize briefly.  Many people know that Adolf von Harnack, the great Protestant historian of dogma at the turn of the twentieth century, proposed a theory about the development of Christian doctrine which cast the tradition primarily as one of decline. Starting from the simple moral teachings of Christ, Christian doctrine became corrupted due to the pernicious influence of Greek philosophy. What many people don’t know is that Harnack argued that the main culprit in this decline was the doctrine of deification which early Greek Christians imported from the pagans.  While the west was only mildly infected with this doctrine, it became, he claimed, the defining feature of eastern Christianity. Continue reading

Image and Likeness and Profound Cognitive Disability Rethinking Patristic Categories

by Petre Maican

The distinction between image and likeness is one of the recurring themes in the patristic writings and one of the main building blocks of modern Orthodox theology. But is this distinction useful for answering the anthropological question from the perspective of disability? Is it useful to speak about image and likeness in the cases of persons with profound intellectual disabilities? I think not. Especially, when the main requirement for attaining likeness is ethical freedom.  As I will point out further, since the movement from image to likeness is dependent on the use of freedom, persons with profound cognitive disabilities are excluded from attaining the goal of their own existence, perfection in Christ.

It is part of Orthodox identity to remain faithful not only to Scripture or the ecumenical councils, but also to the Tradition of the Fathers. And there are good reasons for this. Without a strong common ground, the faith of the Church becomes the sum of all individual beliefs, with personal opinions and experiences receiving the status of dogmas. Unfortunately, however, the Fathers did not answer all the questions humanity might have throughout the ages. They could not have since they inhabited a different world. They did not have access to the same technology nor did they have the same concerns. Thus, they did not have a doctrine of the Church nor a very developed anthropology. Continue reading

Why Are Orthodox Christians “Unethical”? The Virtue-Ethical Task of Orthodox Christians in the West

by Stephen Meawad

A quick glance at the modern field of ethics might convey a false reality—one in which Orthodox Christian are decades, if not centuries, behind the West in developing viable ethical frameworks. In fact, Orthodox Christians might often be hesitant or even reluctant to speak in terms of ethics, since the language of ethics challenges the integrity between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Yet, it seems that a critical tool by which Orthodox Christians are to witness in the West to the transformative power of Orthodox Christian life is by conceptually transliterating Orthodox praxis into Western ethical language. Becoming a vessel of this transliteration is no small task; it requires not only a faithful embodiment of one’s own tradition but also an awareness of and willingness to engage one’s surrounding context. The payoff, however, is well worth the toil; it would allow Orthodox Christians to make fundamental contributions to contemporary Western ethical discussions not just for the sake of joining the conversation but in order to offer a distinct means by which to navigate the myriad of difficulties in this broken, ever-mending, world. Continue reading

Does the Filioque Undermine Theosis? An Augustinian Perspective

by Christopher Iacovetti  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

Over the course of the past century, Augustine’s theology has been generally regarded by Orthodox as problematic at best and disastrous at worst. This is perhaps most obviously true where Augustine’s trinitarian thought is concerned, for it was in his treatise On the Trinity that Augustine so influentially advanced what one might call an early formulation of the filioque (i.e., the claim the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father). By doing so, John Romanides and other Orthodox have argued, Augustine infected the Western tradition to follow him with the disease of “filioquism,” a disease whose theological repercussions extend far beyond the narrow domain of pneumatology. Indeed, for Romanides and his ilk, the filioque is not so much an isolated doctrinal error as it is a corrosive agent whose effect is to erode the trinitarian foundations upon which Christianity stands.

While not all Orthodox have been as extreme in their pronouncements as Romanides, Eastern theologians as noteworthy and influential as Vladimir Lossky have nevertheless shared Romanides’ overarching conviction that the broadly Augustinian pneumatology of the West poses a grave threat to Orthodoxy. In particular, according to both Lossky and Romanides, the filioque is fundamentally incompatible with theosis (“deification,”or divine-human communion), the doctrine at the very heart of Orthodox thought and practice. The verdict is therefore clear: a choice must be made between the (mutually exclusive) doctrines of filioque and theosis.

This is a claim, however, which has been called sharply into question by recent scholarship on Augustine. Continue Reading…