Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 3 - Become divine to be saved? (Video)

No. 3. >>DR. THOMAS E. MANTEUFEL: Do you agree with the Eastern Orthodox teaching that people need to become divine in order to be saved? And how does this idea relate to the Orthodox concept of Theosis? I remember hearing a lecture not long ago on research being done among the Finnish Lutherans regarding the relationship between the Orthodox view of Theosis and Luther's own views on sanctification. >> This concept of Theosis is in itself a biblical idea. Peter states it in II Peter 1:4 where he says that God has given us great and precious promises so that after you have escaped the corruption that lust brought into the world you might by these promises share in the divine nature. He doesn't mean that Christians are exalted to Godhood. And the Orthodox have never taught that, either. But rather what he's saying is that the Christian shares in the qualities of God. Like goodness and holiness and so forth. As Peter says: Be holy in all your ways like the holy one who called you. That's in I Peter 1:15. In the Christians' renewal in the image of God, his new self is continually renewed in knowledge to be like him who created him, as Paul says in Colossians 3:10. Christ our redeemer makes us God in this sense, by transfiguring us into his own likeness. Listen to II Corinthians 3:18: We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord change into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of our God. And so we see that the Holy Spirit -- rather Christ through the Holy Spirit shares his own glory with us. The Eastern Orthodox have applied this classic statement of biblical truth by Saint Athanasius about the Son of God. He was made man that we might be made God. But they have distorted this biblical idea by making the sanctifying renewal of Theosis part of the basis for justification and acceptance with God. The Confession of Dositheus, which I referred to earlier, states the traditional Orthodox view of justification in these words: We believe a man to be not simply justified through faith alone but through faith which works through love, that is to say through faith and works. He has that in his Decree 3. And a modern theologian, George Mastrantonis, says the same thing. He puts it this way: Almighty God accepts good works as worthy of receiving justification as a condition through his compassionate mercy for God rewards each faithful one according to his works. God himself ordained these works as contributing to the justification of man. Mastrantonis wrote "a new-style Catechism" as he calls it. And I just read from there. Saint Anthony the Great, who is a church father much used by the Eastern Orthodox put it this way: Through likeness to God we become united with God. And this union is achieved through imitation of God by the help of grace. The Orthodox also hold that even Adam in the Garden of Eden did not have perfect communion of God at the time of his creation because he had not yet progressed that far in Theosis, which was interrupted by his fall. However, fallen man has retained his innate goodness and his free will which are brightened in conversion and which provide a natural inclination toward God from which Theosis can begin anew. Timothy Ware, who took the name Kallistos when he joined the Eastern Orthodox Church, wrote about it this way. He said: To describe the relation between the grace of God and the free will of man Orthodoxy uses the term cooperation or synergy. And from that Greek word for synergy, synergos, we get the common word the synergist, meaning cooperation with God's grace. What I just quoted for you there was from Ware's book called "The Orthodox Church." And in that same book he goes onto say that Orthodox do not say as Calvin said that man after the fall was utterly depraved and incapable of good desires. And then he quotes again from Dositheus who said: A man, therefore, before he is regenerated is by nature able to incline to what is good and to choose and to work moral good. He's not able of himself to do any work worthy of a Christian, although he has it in his power to will or not to will, to cooperate with grace. To quote Father Mastrantonis again, he puts it this way: The Orthodox church believes that the corruption of the Godlike image of man was not complete. That man's will became blurred. But did not disappear. The church fought against these two extremes, he says. First that in the innate sinfulness of mankind, human nature is able to practice virtue by itself, making Christ's sacrifice a moral example which is pelagianism. Orthodoxy rejects that. And then second, it rejects the theory that the human soul is totally corrupted and that man's salvation is God's work alone, which was the teaching of Augustine. Here Mastrantonis is saying this in his little book "The Fundamental Teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church." So they say that the image of God in man was not destroyed by the fall but remains. Covered over by sin. But it contains seeds of virtue, though hidden. When grace begins to change the sinner, these seeds of virtue are manifested as he begins the work of Theosis. Lutherans regard all of this as a combination of Theosis, the biblical concept, with a false optimism about man. However, Martin Luther did state the idea of Theosis in his theology. Finnish Luther scholars led by ***Professor Uomo Manama have devoted much attention to this theme of Luther's thought. And it's been very important in dialogue between the Lutherans and the Orthodox, which you asked about. I'm thinking especially of the conversations that took place in the 1970s and the 1980s. These exchanges have been very enlightening in regard to Luther's understanding in his theological work. But unfortunately the Finnish Luther scholars have fallen into the Orthodox era of mixing forensic justification, justification by declaration by God and transformational justification. Justification by faith and works. And thus, the Finnish scholars have really misunderstood Luther. Luther did, indeed, sometimes use the language of Theosis. For example, he said in a sermon: God pours out Christ, his dear Son over us. And pours himself into us and draws us into himself so he becomes completely humanified and we become completely deified and everything all together is one thing, God, Christ and you. He's stating the biblical teaching of Theosis here. In his well-known book "The Freedom of a Christian" Luther writes: We conclude, therefore, that a man lives not in himself but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise, he's not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith and his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor. And yet he always remains in God and in his love. Here Luther is treating Theosis as an application of the famous happy exchange theme which his book "The Freedom of a Christian" introduces with these words: The incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh. And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage, indeed, the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage, it follows that everything that they have, Christ and the church, they hold in common the good as well as the evil. Accordingly, the believing soul, Luther says, can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it was his own. And whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. In a Christmas sermon Luther says this: As the Word became flesh, so it is certainly necessary that the flesh should also become Word. In other words, God becomes man in order that man should become God. Thus, strength becomes weak in order that weakness might become strong. The ***Lugus puts on our form and figure and image and likeness in order that he might clothe us with his image, form and likeness. Thus, wisdom becomes foolish. In order that foolishness might become wisdom. And so in all other things which are in God and in us. In all of which he assumes ours in order to confer upon us his -- that is his things. In these and other passages, Luther is using the biblical concept of Theosis. He does not, like the Orthodox, link it to the idea of justification by works, which he repudiates everywhere in his theology. For example, he says in his second Galatians commentary: As long as we live we are not justified or accepted by God on account of the keeping of the law.