The Concept of Theosis

WEDNESDAY

I like Athanasius. He is one of my church history heroes because he was used by God to lay the foundation for understanding the relationship of the Persons within the Godhead.

And I like Irenaeus. He was discipled by Polycarp who was discipled by the Apostle John.

But both of these men made statements that have been interpreted by the Eastern Orthodox that led to the development of the concept of deification or theosis. Irenaeus said, “If the Word is made man, it is that man might become gods.” A little over one hundred years later, Athanasius said, “God became man so that men might become gods.” Don’t get hung up on the idea of men being called ‘gods’ because Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34 appropriately call men ‘gods’ (proper interpretation will have to come in a future blog!)

But what is alarming is interpreting Irenaeus and Athanasius to be saying that the purpose of the incarnation is to make men ‘gods’. Modern Eastern Orthodox writers have taken this to mean that if humans are to share in the glory that is God’s, they (humans) must be deified. Where did this thinking come from? The Eastern Orthodox answer by pointing to 2 Peter 1:4 – their prime justification for their concept of deification:

NAU 2 Peter 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.


If we just examined the above underlined phrase out of context, we might conclude that Christians become ‘gods’ as they partake more and more in the divine nature. But where in the verse (or the Bible for that matter) is the idea that we need to accumulate grace in order to eventually partake in the Divine nature? The context very clearly states that whatever ‘partaking of the divine nature’ is comes as a result of God granting (not man earning) through His promises (not man’s efforts)!


2 Peter 1:2, 3 further dispels the Eastern Orthodox concept of deification. The grace which the Eastern Orthodox attempt to acquire through deification is granted (according to Peter in verse 2) through knowledge from God and Jesus, and results (according to Peter in verse 3) in everything pertaining to life and godliness!


NAU 2 Peter 1:2
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

Clearly, the Eastern Orthodox have read ‘deification’ into the text instead of allowing the context to shape such an important concept.

What is your concept of salvation and sanctification? Are you attempting to acquire enough grace to be made like Him, or are you resting in the promises of God in the work of Jesus?

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