A Renewal of Interest and a Need for Clarity


Hallonsten. Gösta, “Theosis in Recent Research: A Renewal of Interest and a Need for Clarity”, Partakers of the Divine Nature, ed. M.Christensen & J. Wittung, (Baker Academic, 2007) 281-293.

 “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter It isn’t just one of your holiday games:”

—T. S. Eliot, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”


These words of T. S. Eliot are apt to our present discussion, for it seems to me that the concept of theosis is becoming increasingly unclear. The popularity of this concept has risen in Western theology and academic research from the low of Harnack’s depreciation of it in the nineteenth cen­tury up to today’s high interest. Theosis, deification, or divinization is no longer a topic limited to Eastern Orthodox thought. It is found almost every-where: in Luther and Thomas Aquinas, Lancelott Andrewes, and St. John of the Cross.I The recent publication of an English translation of Jules Gross’s classical The Divinization of the Christian according to the Greek Fathers (2002) is just one sign of the renewed interest.2 The introduction to the En­glish edition, written by Kerry S. Robichaux and Paul A. Onica, testifies to the effort to re-appropriate this doctrine by Protestant theology.’ I will not comment upon that risky undertaking,4 but will instead focus upon two sub­stantial contributions to the discussion of possible theosis doctrines within the Western tradition. One is the well-known renaissance for Luther Re-search in Finland by Tuomo Mannermaa and his school.5 The other is the monograph by A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas.6 A few observations on the terminology used by those two rep­resentatives of a renewed interest in deification will be offered, which will lead to a more general deliberation on the doctrine itself. I will then offer a proposal on how to use the terminology in future discussions.



The Finnish school of Luther research is characterized by ambivalence to-ward the terminology of theosis. Dr. Mannermaa himself, in several pas-sages, states that Luther in fact has a doctrine of deification.’ Some of his students, such as Simo Peura, on the other hand, consistently speak of a “Theme or Motif” of theosis in Luther’s writings.8 The latter way of speak­ing is certainly to be preferred. No one can doubt that the theme of deifi­cation is to be found in the writings of Luther; this was well known even before the rise of the Finnish school. Yet even Peura does not think that Luther’s use of this theme is merely rhetorical, for it has a relation to what is in fact the main thesis of the Finnish school: that Luther’s doctrine of jus­tification does not exclude but rather implies a “real-ontic” renewal of the justified that in the end leads to union with God. There is a real renewal, a transformation or transfiguration of the justified, which can be described as participation in divine life through Christ. Mannermaa contends that this is the core of patristic and Eastern deification doctrine and that this core is to be found in Luther as well.’

This brief description of the Finnish school leads to some immediate con­clusions that are of general relevance regarding the revival of interest in the doctrine of deification. First, the presence of the theme of theosis is taken as an indication of a doctrine of theosis. That this is a premature conclusion, I will argue later. Second, the core or the very point of a doctrine of deifica­tion is defined as participation in divine life or union with God.


A. N. Williams’s monograph offers more extended references to patristic and Eastern Orthodox doctrines of deification, yet she never expressly defines what she means by a doctrine of theosis.1O She frequently uses this termi­nology as a characterization not only of Gregory Palamas’s theology but also for that of St. Thomas.l 1 She concedes, however, that Thomas himself only seldom speaks about theosis expressis verbis.12 Further, while the title of the book seems to equate deification with union with God, sometimes the author, almost in passing, defines theosis as sanctification.13 While these two doctrines are not mutually exclusive, a doctrine of theosis traditionally includes sanctification and is in fact much more comprehensive.14 If we find in Thomas a doctrine of sanctification that is compatible with the con­cept of sanctification included in the Eastern doctrine of theosis, this does not mean that the doctrine of sanctification in St. Thomas necessarily im­plies a doctrine of theosis. This comment applies to the Finnish school as well. If, as the Finnish school maintains, Luther conceives of a “real-ontic” [283] transformation in the justified, this does not necessarily mean that Luther has a doctrine of theosis, not even when taking into account the presence of the theme of theosis in Luther.15

In addition to the lack of clear definition of theosis in Williams’s book, there is also a methodological flaw. When beginning her analysis of St. Gre­gory Palamas, she states: “We examine Palamas by the same means we used for Aquinas: by seeking direct references to deification and using the themes we find in these passages as a guide through the work as a whole.”16 This may be an appropriate way to analyze Palamas, who is part of the Eastern tradition. However, with regard to Thomas it is misleading, or rather, it leads to an implied understanding of deification as equal to filiation, adoption, in-dwelling of God, or union with God.’ Those themes, as might be expected, are to be found in nearly every Christian author throughout the ages, re­gardless of provenience. This is quite natural given that the motives referred to are biblical. The problem, however, is that one ends up with a very gen­eral understanding of deification, which is not at all helpful if the distinctive mark of the Eastern doctrine of theosis is to be singled out. Clearly, there-fore, there is a need for a clarification, and I would like to offer the follow­ing proposals.


First, a distinction should always be made between the theme and a doctrine of deification. By a doctrine I mean here a rather well-defined complex of thought that centers on one or more technical terms. It is quite natural that the theme of deification can be found throughout the Western tradition. This has been shown in an excellent way by the article “Divinisation” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite. is The reason this theme is omnipresent in the Latin tradition is twofold. First, it has a certain connection to places in Scripture like 2 Peter 1:4 and Psalms 82(81):6.19 Further, these two verses have a clear affinity to other more prominent scriptural themes such as adoption as sons of God, fil­iation, “indwelling of” and “union with” God, and finally, beatific vision. Sec­ond, the presence of the theosis theme in Western theology is promoted by the liturgical tradition, especially the Christmas liturgy.20 Therefore, it’s not by coincidence that the clearest references to theosis in Luther are found in this context.21 Yet employing the theme is not the same as making a doctrine out of it. This can be illustrated by reference to St. Augustine, who clearly uses the theosis theme, together with adoption and filiation, in his sermons.22 Yet in his treatises on grace it is almost absent. What is more, the very fact that Augus­tine developed a doctrine of grace in distinction from the preceding patristic and ongoing Eastern theology, which uses the word in a wider nontechnical sense, illustrates the distinction I’m making here between theme and doctrine.23

[284] We must also consider here what exactly is meant by a doctrine of deifi­cation in the Eastern sense. The Finnish school, as well as Williams and many other contemporary scholars, seem to think that the core of the doc­trine of deification is participation in divine life.24 This conclusion seems obvious once one takes as the point of departure the theme of theosis, which as a matter of fact touches primarily upon the goal in terms of participation in divine life. Further, this is suggested by the two main scriptural references. Yet, if the doctrine of theosis according to the Greek Fathers or present-day Orthodox theology is examined, it will be realized that deification as doctrine is not solely about the final goal but is conceived of as a comprehensive doc­trine encompassing the whole economy of salvation. Before I develop this further, I would like to address a related question.


Current research on deification in the Latin tradition tends to choose St. Gre­gory Palamas as its preferential point of reference for a comparison between East and West. Whereas the description of the patristic doctrine of deifica­tion stands out as unengaged and unsystematic with little or no references in present-day Orthodox theology, Palamas often is subject to a thorough analysis. This is the case not only in Williams but also in the discussion around the Finnish Luther research, as exemplified by the thorough analy­sis by Reinhard Flogaus.25 Yet it could very well be asked if Palamas is the most adequate point of reference. Of course, I am not calling into question the fact that Palamas is one of the greatest theologians in the Eastern tradi­tion or that his theology widely influences present-day Orthodox theology. The theology of St. Gregory Palamas is marked by its special polemical con-text, which focused on the question of knowing and experiencing God through his energies and on the experience of mystical prayer. This, in turn, fits very well with a pre-understanding of deification as meaning primarily participation in divine life. It is far too easy to overlook the elements of this doctrine that are certainly presupposed in the theology of Palamas but not prominent in his polemical writings.26 Those are the elements, however, that are integral to the doctrine of deification if it is looked at from the perspec­tive of a continuous tradition of Eastern theology.


The doctrine of deification is typically a comprehensive doctrine in the East.27 It is not as well defined as, for example, the Augustinian doctrine of grace [285] or the Anselmian doctrine of satisfaction. In fact, I would propose that this doctrine is not necessarily dependent upon theosis language, nor, alternatively, is the latter necessarily connected to the former. St. Irenaeus is normally taken as the founder of theosis doctrine. If this is so, and I think it is, it shows that the doctrine of theosis is not necessarily connected to theosis language even if it is normally expressed through this language.28 The comprehen­siveness of the theosis doctrine, on the other hand, is clearly to be found in Irenaeus. It comprises: a certain view of creation, especially of human beings; a soteriology, including the meaning of the Incarnation; a view of Christian life as sanctification connected to the Church and sacraments; and the final goal of union with God. The whole structure of this comprehensive doctrine is determined by a teleology that implies that creation and human beings from the very beginning are endowed with an affinity and likeness that potentially draws them to God.

As a matter of fact, what is most striking when the Western present-day authors to which I have referred are compared with Orthodox descriptions of the doctrine of deification, or with that of the Greek Fathers, is this: the lack of references to anthropology and especially to the notion of image and likeness.29 Many present-day Orthodox theologians, on the other hand, put precisely this distinction at the basis of their description of deification.3o Humanity is created in the image of God—referring to the constitutional as­pect of anthropology—and in the likeness of God—referring to the goal of growing into communion with the Creator. The favorite scriptural text of the fathers in this connection is Genesis 2:7; God forms Adam from the earth and breathes his Spirit into him. This text then is combined with the dis­tinction between image and likeness in Genesis 1:26. Although not all of the Greek Fathers link this distinction to the fundamentally dynamic anthropol­ogy that characterizes the doctrine of deification, all of them link the fact of being created in the image of God dynamically to the goal. The meaning of Christian life is to assimilate to God, to grow according to the prototype.31

This distinction between image and likeness is also to be found in the Latin tradition. There, however, it is not connected to a dynamic anthropology of the Eastern type.32 It seems that Tertullian, who was highly dependent on Irenaeus, eventually abandoned Irenaeus’s “anthropological” model. In the early writings of Tertullian, the thought that the spiritual part of the human being is a partaking of the Holy Spirit breathed into its body can still be found. Hence humanity is dynamically oriented toward full communion with God.33 Tertullian’s later writings, however, are marked by the strong opposition to Gnosticism and hence stress more emphatically that the human as a created being, notwithstanding its spiritual part, is of a clearly distinct genus or species. Through this, Tertullian aims at avoiding the Gnos­tic thought of a divine spark in human beings and hence a predetermined

[286] salvation for the few.34 Tertullian’s emphasis on the relative independence and special character of creature in relation to Creator, however, seems to be a common inheritance in the subsequent Latin tradition.35 Thus, we see the tendency to distinguish between nature and grace in a way that is foreign to Eastern tradition.36


What I have just said means that anthropology is the fundamental feature that marks the Eastern doctrine of deification and is thus the key to an accu­rate understanding of this doctrine.37 Further, this anthropology is connected to a view of the relation between God and creation that is significantly dif­ferent from that of the Latin tradition. In the East, creation from its very be-ginning is seen as a participation in God; hence grace cannot be separated from creation but inheres in it and potentially leads it to union with God. It is the Platonic concept of participation that is the background here. The world and human beings are seen as caused by God in the sense of formal causality, whereas in the Western view efficient causality takes its place: God and the world are distinct beings, even if the world participates in Be­ing in an analogical sense. As a result the Eastern tradition has worked out the distinction between God’s essence and energies, a distinction that makes no sense to the scholastic point of view according to which God is charac­terized by simplicity. Hence, philosophically speaking, the essence and ex­istence of God coincide.38

Referring back, now, to Williams’s comparison between Aquinas and Palamas, the striking thing is that she leaves out this whole problem. Her the­sis is that both thinkers have a doctrine of participation of human beings in the life of God, which is true. As has been said earlier, the sole fact of hav­ing a doctrine of participation of whatever kind, together with the use of words like deification, partaking of divine nature, adoption, and filiation, to Williams equates with having a doctrine of deification.39 What is lacking in her book is a real discussion of differences between the two types of partic­ipation that Aquinas and Palamas teach respectively. This is an inevitable consequence, so far as I can see, of lacking an understanding of the integral doctrine of theosis according to the Eastern tradition.4°

The Finnish contention that Luther teaches a “real-ontic” participation in God exhibits the same shortcoming. It is easy to see that Luther’s thought here is clearly original. His notion of participation in God’s life does not accord with that of scholastic theology or philosophy, and yet it definitely does not coin­cide with the Eastern view either.41 So, what is missing in these two promi­nent exponents for the renaissance of interest in deification is a clear con­sciousness not only of similarities but also, and most needed, of differences.


To draw our discussion to a conclusion, let me once again quote T. S. Eliot:

You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter,

When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.4z

I think that the discussion of deification could profit from the insight that there are three different names for it, or more accurately, that theosis might refer to three different phenomena, which may be interconnected—but not always. They are as follows:

1.  First, there is the theme of theosis, which most often is connected with similar scriptural themes like adoption and filiation. While the theme of theosis is surely to be found in most Christian writers throughout the ages, this should not, however, mislead us into speaking as frequently about a doctrine of theosis. For the sake of clarity, I would like to underscore here that the theme of theosis includes the theme of “happy exchange,” the admirabile commercium.43

2.  Second, theosis is connected to a certain anthropology, often based on the dis­tinction between image and likeness and always teleologically oriented in a dy­namic way toward the prototype. This prototype, the real Image of God, is Christ. Thus the importance of the Incarnation as the central point in the economy of sal­vation. This anthropology, further, is based on or implies a view of the relation between creation and its Creator that is characterized by formal causality and im­plies the continual presence and action of grace or the energies of God from the beginning to the end.

3.  Third, theosis is a comprehensive doctrine that encompasses the whole of the economy of salvation. The whole plan of God and its accomplishment from the creation through the Incarnation, salvation, sanctification and the eschaton are included in this comprehensive vision.44

Points 2 and 3 belong intimately together, whereas point 1 is more indepen­dent. No doubt other classifications exist, for the comprehensiveness of this topic is somewhat elusive. Yet, I hope my main point leads to further discus­sion, namely, that a distinction should be made between the theme and doc­trine of theosis, and that the label “doctrine of theosis” should preferentially be reserved for the integral doctrine of deification as presented by the Eastern tra­dition. Promoting mutual Christian understanding is a good thing. We do not reach that goal, however, simply through interpreting similarities as identities.


Eliot’s poem in the epigraph is from The Complete Poems and Plays 1909—50 (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1952), 149. This paper was first given in the Eastern Orthodox Study Group at the Annual Meeting of the AAR in Atlanta, November 2003. Notes have been added. [288]

1.  Cf. A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999), 201; and David Bentley Hart, “The Bright Morning of the Soul: John of the Cross on Theosis,” in Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology 13, no. 3 (2003): 324–44.

2.  Originally published as La divinisation du chretien d’apres les peres grecs: Contribu­tion historique a la doctrine de la grace (Edition J. Gabalda, 1938).

3.  See viii–xvii.

4.  See esp. xii–xiii, where an effort to twist the doctrine to suit Protestant concerns is undertaken.

5.  Among many writings produced by this school of research, see esp. Tuomo Manner­maa, Der im Glauben gegenwartige Christus: Rechtfertigung; and Vergottung. Zum oku­menischen Dialog, Arbeiten zur Geschichte and Theologie des Luthertums, N.F. 8 (Hannover: Lutherisches Verlagshaus 1989), and Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans 1998).

6.  See note 1.

7.  Mannermaa’s terminology is not altogether consistent, however. In the introductory es-say “Why is Luther so Fascinating? Modem Finnish Luther Research,” in Union with Christ, Mannermaa speaks both of a “doctrine of theosis” in Luther (2, 10-11, 17-18, 19) and uses words like “theme” (3) or “concept” of theosis (10, 18). Cf. further the following formulations: “doctrine of real participation or divinization” (3), “concept of real participation in God” (9), “idea of participation” (9, 13), “notion of theosis” (9) and “theology of participation” (20). It is clear that Mannermaa prefers to speak of a doctrine of theosis and/or participation. Con­cept, notion, and “theme” seem to function as stylistic variations. See further, Mannermaa, “Justification and Theosis in Lutheran-Orthodox Perspective,” in the same volume, esp. 25–26.

8.  See esp. “Die Vergottlichung des Menschen als Sein in Gott,” in Lutherjahrbuch 60 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993), 39–71. In this article Simo Peura consistently speaks about “Das Thema der Vergottlichung” or “Das Motiv der Vergottlichung” but avoids the term doctrine. He also uses “Vergottlichung” without further qualification. In his contri­butions to Union with Christ, “Christ as Favor and Gift (donum): The Challenge of Luther’s Understanding of Justification,” 42–69 and “What God Gives Man Receives: Luther on Sal­vation” 76-95, Peura, however, does not use “theme” or “motif’ but rather terms like “notion,” “concept,” “idea,” or “issue” of theosis. He also speaks of theosis or “participation” without a qualifying term. This slight difference in terminology between the German and English lan­guage writings of Peura is illuminating. The primary language of the Finnish Luther Research publications has clearly been German. This is only natural given the subject matter and also the connections between Mannermaa and the German Catholic Luther scholar, Peter Manns. The translation into English language points, however, to a fundamental flaw in the termi­nology of the Mannermaa school.

9.  See “Justification and Theosis in Lutheran-Orthodox Perspective,” in Union with Christ, 27: “Thus, the doctrine of divinization rests more profoundly on the presupposition that a human being can participate in the fullness of life that is in God. It is precisely this par­ticipation that is called theosis in the tradition of the early church and in the Orthodox Church.” Cf. Der im Glauben gegenwartige Christus, 12–21.

10.      See Williams, “The Patristic Concept of Deification,” in Ground of Union, 27-33.

11.      Williams very frequently uses wordings like “doctrine of theosis,” “the root idea of de­ification,” “doctrine of deification,” “doctrine of divinization,” “the fact of theosis,” alternating with the simple terms such as theosis, divinization, and deification. She also speaks expressly about a “Thomistic view of deification” (37), “Thomistic doctrine of theosis” (36, 41), and “Thomistic conception of divinization” (38).

12.  Williams, Ground of Union, 34: “Thus, while Aquinas uses the technical vocabulary of theosis sparingly ...”

13.  Ibid., 32: “there is a firm core that distinguishes this doctrine from some other model of sanctification.” Cf. also 174.

14.  Chapter 1, sec. 3, “The Patristic Concept of Deification,” shows that Williams is basi­cally aware of the comprehensiveness of the patristic doctrine of deification. Yet the way she treats it in this part of her book is very confusing and does not contribute to a clarification of her conceptual apparatus throughout the book. The following elements that should have been analyzed and brought into relation with each other can be found in the same chapter: “notion of deification,” “theosis became the dominant model of the concept of salvation,” “The earli­est Christian tradition spoke of deification using the same themes and images we will en-counter in Aquinas and Palamas” (27); “The most extended early treatment of divinization occurs in the chief works of Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses” (28; What is the relation between this statement and the obvious fact that Irenaeus does not yet use the terminology of diviniza­tion? Cf. statements on 29 and 30 for the first occurrence of theopoiein and theosis in Clement of Alexandria and Gregory Nazianzen, respectively. “This simultaneous emphasis on the un­breachable divide between creature and Creator and on the creature’s likening to the Utterly Other we will refer to as the two poles of deification. What is most characteristic of a doctrine of deification is the delicate balancing and negotiation of these two themes.” Doesn’t this statement basically imply that Christian theology generally contains or at least implies a doc­trine of deification?); “This, then, is the patristic tradition of deification. While we find few actual definitions of the term, a clear enough pattern has emerged that we may make some generalizations. It asserts the imago Dei and the Incarnation as the basis of deification and construes theosis overwhelmingly in terms of knowledge, virtue, light and glory, participa­tion and union” (31). On 32, Williams summarizes her survey of the patristic doctrine of de­ification and lists three characteristics: “First, we can safely say that where we find references to human participation in divine life, there we assuredly have a claim specifically of theosis.” This obviously is the fundamental presupposition that guides Williams throughout the book. She clearly singles out some common Christian “themes and images”(cf. 27) as markers for this doctrine of theosis = participation in divine life. Here, on 32, however, she warns that this “is carefully to be distinguished, however, from the idea of divine indwelling in the human person. Both schemes of sanctification draw on the notion of union, but whereas the latter locates sanctification within the creature and in via, the former locates it at the level of the divine and insists upon the inseparability of life in via and in patria.” This is an interesting distinction that does not seem to play any role in the analysis of Thomas and Gregory Palamas. If it had played a role, then the use of “themes and images” could not have acted as markers of a doctrine of theosis without further qualification. The second characteristic follows from this: “A second infallible marker of the doctrine, then, is the union of God and humanity, when this union is conceived as humanity’s incorporation into God, rather than God’s into human­ity, and when conceived as the destiny of humanity generally rather than the extraordinary ex­perience of the few. Adoption also functions as a signal of a doctrine of deification, albeit a somewhat weaker one than participation and union.” According to Williams, union and adop­tion function as markers for a doctrine of theosis, notwithstanding that you might distin­guish between union (and adoption?) in the sense of participation in God and as God’s in-dwelling in man. In addition to this obvious contradiction, one might wonder if participation and indwelling necessarily function as alternatives in Christian tradition. Both notions might be possible to use in various combinations with other “themes and images” without neces­sarily presupposing the same view of the relation between creatures and Creator.

15.  Although the discussion on the correctness of the Finnish interpretation of Luther is an important one, my interest in this article is not to take sides in that debate. It could very well be that Luther has a “real-ontic understanding of the union of the Christian with Christ/God,

but this does not necessarily mean that he teaches a doctrine of theosis. On the other hand, if the critics of the Finnish interpretation are right, this does not necessarily diminish the im­portance of the theme of theosis in Luther.

16.  Williams, Ground of Union, 102; cf. 34, as regards Thomas.

17.  This is clear throughout the chapters on Thomas Aquinas. The analysis, however, to some extent is predetermined by chapter 1 (“The Problem and Its History”). Cf. earlier n. 13.

18.  Dictionnaire de spiritualite, vol. 3 (Paris: Beauchesne 1957), s.v. “Divinisation,” cols. 1370–1459.

19.  In the recent research I discuss here, the tendency is to put most of the weight upon 2 Pt 1:4 and less on Ps 82(81):6. In patristic literature, however, the latter reference is more important. Cf. Gross, Divinization of the Christian; and “Divinisation,” in Dictionnaire de spiritualite.

20.  Cf. preface 3, for Christmas in the present Roman Missal as well as the collect for the Mass of Christmas Day.

21.  It is no coincidence that the most important text testifying to the presence of the theo­sis theme in Luther is his Christmas Sermon from 1514. Cf. Flogaus (see below note 25), 301–52. It is also well known that the theme of “happy exchange” is to be found in the Christ­mas hymns not only of Luther himself but those of later Lutheran authors. Cf. Flogaus, Theo­sis bei Palamas and Luther, 18.

22.  For references, see “Divinisation,” 1395–97; and Gerard Philips, L’union personnelle avec le Dieu vivant: Essai sur l’origine et le sens de la grace cree, rev. ed. (Louvain: Leuven University Press, 1989). After having given several references of this kind, Philips adds: “On pourrait continuer pendant longtemps pareille anthologie. Elie est abondante a souhait .. . [One could long continue such a collection of examples. There is an abundance ...]” (30).

23.  For the development of a doctrine of grace in the technical sense by Augustine in contrast to the foregoing patristic theology, see Alfred Schindler, “Gnade,” in Reallexikon ffir Antike and Christentum, ed. Theodor Klauser, col. 386–441 (Stuttgart: Hierseman, 1950), esp. 418–30.

24.  See notes 7–8.

25.  Theosis bei Palamas and Luther: Ein Beitrag zum okumenischen Gesprach, Forschun­gen zur systematischen and okumenischen Theologie Bd 78 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997). The brief description of the patristic doctrine of theosis by Flogaus (19–27) is more consistent than in Williams. Yet Flogaus focuses exclusively on Palamas in his analy­sis and comparison.

26.  Cf. Yannis Spiteris, Palamas: La grazia e l’esperiecza; Gregorio Palmas nella discus­sione teologica (Roma: Lipa 1996). Spiteris writes in relation to the aspect of sacramentality in the theology of Palamas: “Infatti, nel contesto della polemica in cui it dottore esicasta era impegnato, egli si vide constretto a soffermarsi di preferenza sul fatto stesso della diviniz­zazione, sugli effetti carismatici e sulla collaborazione del fedele affinche la divinizzazione possa svilupparsi. E sintomatico it fatto che la maggior parte dei testi che si referischono alla sacramentalita della divinizzazione si trovino nelle sue Omelie, scritte e pronunziate al di fuori della rovente atmosfera della polemica [As a matter of fact, in the polemical context of the hesychast controversy, Palamas was forced to focus primarily on the very fact of divinization as well as on the charismatic effects and the cooperation of the believer that is necessary for the development of divinization. It is symptomatic that the major part of texts that refer to the sacramentality of divinization are to be found in the Homilies, written and held outside the hot atmosphere of polemics]” (79).

27.  In addition to Gross’s classical book, an important contribution to the understanding of the Eastern doctrine of theosis is Myrrha Lot-Borodine, La Deification de l’homme, selon la doctrine des Peres grecs (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1970), originally published as articles in Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, 1932–33. My interpretation of the Eastern doctrine oftheosis is further based on writings of contemporary Eastern Orthodox theologians like Vladimir

Lossky, John Meyendorff, and Dumitru Staniloae.

28.  As is well known, Irenaeus did not use the terminology itself. Cf. Gross, Divinization

of the Christian, 120–31.

29.  Although Flogaus (Theosis bei Palamas and Luther, 20ff.) mentions this aspect of the

patristic doctrine, it does not influence his comparison between Luther and Palamas. The same is the case with Williams’s comparison between Thomas and Palamas. The distinction is

clearly to be found in Palamas. See Spiteris, Palamas, 71–74. Further, the Finnish Luther

research ignores the distinction altogether and does not even discuss the role of the notion of the image of God in Luther, a point that would most naturally come into mind in a compari‑

son between Orthodox and Lutheran doctrine. For the notion of imago Dei in the theology of Luther see Bengt Hagglund, De Homine: Manniskouppfattningen i aldre luthersk tradition

(Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1959).

30.  Cf. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, NY: St.

Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), chap. 6.

31.  Both points stand out clearly in Gross’s survey. Cf. further John Meyendorff, Christ in

Eastern Christian Thought (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1975), 114: “There is no consensus patrum for a complete exegesis of Gen 1:26–27.... There is, how-ever, an absolute consistency in Greek patristic tradition in asserting that the image is not an external imprint, received by man in the beginning and preserved by human nature as its own property independently of its relationships with God. `Image’ implies a participation in the

divine nature.”

32.  An obvious example is St. Hilary of Poitiers in whom the language of theosis is promi‑

nent. That this is an influence from St. Athansius is clear. However, it seems that St. Hilary is building more upon the foundation of the salus carnis theme of Irenaeus and Tertullian than on the specific connection between the theology of image and theosis in Athanasius. For this crucial distinction, see further below, note 43. For St. Hilary, see Michael Durst, Die Escha‑

tologie des Hilarius von Poitiers (Bonn: Borengasser, 1987).

33.  See De Baptismo 5:7: Ita restitutitur homo deo ad similitudienm eius, qui retro ad

imaginem dei fuerat. Imago in effigie, similitudine in aeternitate censetur. Recipit enim illum dei spiritum quem tunc de afflatus eius acceperat sed post amiserat per delictum. CCL 1:282. [“In this way is man being restored to God, to the likeness of him who had aforetime been in God’s image—the image had its actuality in the man God formed, the likeness becomes ac­tual in eternity—for there is given back to him that spirit of God which of old he had received of God’s breathing, but afterwards had lost through sin.” Tertullian’s Homily on Baptism: Edited with an Introduction, trans. and commentary by Ernest Evans (London: S.P.C.K.,


34.  See especially Paul Mattei, “Adam, posseda-t-il l’Esprit? Remarques sur l’etat primitf

de 1’homme et le progres de 1’hstoire selon Tertullian,” in Recherches des Etudes Augustini­ennes 29 (1983): 27–38. Cf. also Jean Danielou, Les origines du christianisme latin (Paris:

Cerf, 1978), 298–306.

35.  Tertullian distinguishes between the spiritus dei and the flatus dei. Man consists of cor‑

pus and flatus. It is because God has blown his flatus into man that makes him the image of God. This image/flatus, however, is not identical with the Spirit of God. It is of a distinct or-der and hence image. The spirit is given to human beings only in Christ. See Mattei, “Adam,

and Danielou, Origines du christianisme latin, with references to Tertullian.

36.  In many ways recent Tertullian research has revised the picture of Tertullian as the

“Father of Latin Theology” and especially as the creator of Ecclesiastical Latin. Yet, his influence should not be played down either. In connection with anthropology Tertullian an­swered to a situation that possibly had long-term consequences for Latin theology. Cf. the ver­dict of Danielou, Origines du christianisme latin, 306: “Sur ce point, la pensee de Tertullien

est profondemement originale, et elle sera d’une tres grand pollee pour 1’avenir de la theolo­gie latine. C’etait donner en effet a la personne humaine, a l’homme interieur, a la subjectiv­ite, une place essentielle. On this point Tertullian’s thought was profoundly original and of great importance for the future of Latin theology. As a matter of fact it gave a central role to the human person, to the interior man or to subjectivity].”

37.    The first part of Paul Evdokimov, L’Orthodoxie (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, [1959] 1990) is dedicated to anthropology. This is the foundation for the rest of his introduction and contains a chapter entitled Anthropologie de la deification.” Cf. Lot-Borodine, Deification de l’homme.

38.    The difference is well described by Yves Congar, “Deification in the Spiritual Tradition of the East,” in Dialogue Between Christians: Catholic Contribution to Ecumenism, ed. Yves Congar, 217–31 (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1966).

39.    Cf. notes 10–14.

40.    On the different understandings of participation in the life of God according to East-ern and Western theology, see esp. Congar, “Deification,” 223–24. Cf. H.R, Schlette,”Teil­habe. IL Problemgeschichtlich and systematisch” in Handbuch theologischer Grundbegriffe, II (Munchen, 1963), 634–41, and David L. Balas, MsTOUaia OEOU: Man’s Participation in God’s Perfections According to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Studia Anselmiana 55 (Roma: Herder, 1966). See also Andre de Halleux, “Palamisme et scolastique,” in Patrologie et oecumenisme: Recueil d’etudes, BEThL XCIII, ed. Andre de Halleux, 782–815 (Leuven, 1990).

41.    This has been worked out in an illuminating way by Flogaus, Theosis bei Palamas and Luther, in his chapter on Martin Luther (chap. 3). See esp. the summary, 375–80. Cf. 381: “Schon ein fluchtiger Blick auf unsere bisherigen Ergebnisse lasst indes deutlich werden, wie gross die Unterschiede zwischen beiden Theologen sind. Es steht ausser Zweifel, dass Mar-tin Luther, hate er die Theosislehre des Metropoliten von Thessaloniki gekannt, diese in Baush and Bogen abgelehnt hate and sein Urteil fiber ihn sicker nicht wesentlich anders aus­gefallen ware als fiber den Ps.-Areopagiten. Zu eng ist die Theologie des Palmas mit dessen Theologie [this must be a misprint for “Anthropologie”], als dass man rich hieruber irgend­welchen Illusionen hingeben konnte. Viel zu entschieden ist auch Luthers Ablehnung der scholastischen Metaphysik, als dass man annehmen durfte, er hate vielleicht doch die Gotteslehre and Anthropologie des Verteidigers der Hesychasten gutheissen konnen [Al-ready a cursory glance on our findings makes it clear how large the differences are between the two theologians. There is no doubt that if Martin Luther had known the theosis doctrine of the metropolitan of Thessaloniki, he would have rejected it outright. His judgement would not have been substantially different from that over against the Pseudo-Areopagite. The an­thropology of Palamas is too closely connected to Pseudo-Dionysius that there would have been another possible option. The firm rejection by Luther of scholastic metaphysics, also, makes it difficult to imagine that he would have been willing to endorse the anthropology and doctrine of God that was conceived by the defender of hesychasm].”

42.    Eliot, Complete Poems and Plays, 149.

43.    The theme of “happy exchange” is almost omnipresent in Christian theology since Irenaeus, as is the theme of theosis. Those two themes belong basically together but are not necessarily present at the same time in every context. Fundamental to both themes seems to be the energetic rejection of Gnosticism by Irenaeus and Tertullian, which results in the no­tion of salus carnis. Salus carnis/admirabile commercium/theosis make up a common basis for the development of soteriology in East and West. A real doctrine of theosis, however, is to be found only in the East. For the development of patristic soteriology and especially the role of the salus carnis theme see Basil Studer, Trinity and Incarnation: The Faith of the Early Church (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993), and Studer, Soteriologie in der Schiff and Patris­tik, Handbuch der Dogmentgeschichte Bd. III Faszikel 2a. (Freiburg: Herder, 1978).

44.    In his article “Redemption and Deification,” Vladimir Lossky writes, “Even ifredemption appears as the central aspect of the incarnation, i.e., of the dispensation of the Son toward the fallen world, it is but one aspect of the vaster dispensation of the Holy Trinity to-ward being created ex nihilo and called to reach deification freely—to reach union with God, so that `God may be all in all.”‘ In the Image and Likeness of God, ed. John Erickson and Thomas Bird (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001), 102–3.

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