I’ve learned some interesting concepts from class #23: Eastern Orthodoxy. The podcast is one from the Ancient and Medieval Church History class from Covenant Theological Seminary. First, let’s have a little background. (Incidentally, the seminary is a Presbyterian seminary.)
The Eastern Orthodox Church officially split with the Catholic Church in 1054. The Pope excommunicated the Patriarch in Constantinople, so the Patriarch did the same to the Pope. There had been some different emphasis on theology for quite some time. For example, while the Catholic Church claimed that the Pope held all the leadership, the Orthodox Church held a much less central authority. The Orthodox belief of revelation is that God speaks through these councils, not one central person.
There were seven early councils (such as the Nicene Council.) These edicts of these councils are usually considered scripture in the Orthodox church. The various Orthodox churches (Russian, Greek, etc) are quite a bit more autonomous. The Orthodox church even holds out that there could one day be an American Orthodox church, if membership warrants such an organization.
Even before the official split, there were many tensions between Rome and Constantinople. In the podcast, the teacher refers to Rome as the “Western” church, and Constantinople as the “Eastern” church. The western church spoke mostly Latin, while the eastern church spoke mostly Greek. In the West, the church had an emphasis on:
The eastern church agrees, but has a larger emphasis on:
- Apophaticism – an emphasis on the mystery of God.
I’d like to talk about Theosis. Theosis is a greek word meaning Deification, as in the deification of humanity. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the teacher, but anyone can download the podcast to hear him directly. I’d like to quote the teacher directly.
“[Theosis] is the word that really sums up salvation. In the West, we talk about sin and justification as a way of understanding salvation. In the East, the emphasis is on theosis or deification. We are changed so that we become like God, or Eastern theologians will say it even more strongly than that. As Athanasius put it, ‘God became man, that man might become God.’ That’s theosis, or deification.
Well, that strikes the western mind as kind of a problematic way to understand theology and to understand the transforming effect of grace. The eastern mind though sees that as the real purpose of Christ coming into the world, to transform us that we become like him. In some ways, we can see that if we’re talking about union with Christ, or becoming more and more like Christ or becoming more and more like God. But in the eastern expression of theosis, it is stated so strongly that Christ became man, that we might become God that most western thinkers pull back from that. It sounds like a kind of heresy of some sort. I expect closer examination of the eastern idea of theosis, will reveal that the eastern theology doesn’t for the most part, go over the line, but it uses language that can be suggested of something that western Christians would want to avoid.
The people in the west that pick up this same idea are the mystics, and in the west, they were constantly accused of pantheism. Because, to the western mind, this kind of language, and this kind of expression goes too far because it tends to blur the distinction between God and his creation.”
I decided to look up theosis on Wikipedia, and found this interesting quote from St Ireneaus (who lived 130-202 AD.) He is considered a saint in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. “St. Irenaeus explained this concept in Against Heresies, Book 5, in the Preface, “the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.”
It seems to me that mormons have much in common with this idea of theosis. This sounds quite similar to Lorenzo Snow’s quote, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” Comments?