Theosis

A: So the whole point of the essence-energies distinction is to articulate a theology of grace?

B: I take it that way.

A: God can be considered either as in himself or as able to be participated in by creatures?

B: Right.

A: But then why don’t we say that Christ doesn’t take part in the essence of man but only in his energies?

B: I don’t get the problem.

A: If we are going to qualify the man-God unity in beatitude, why not qualify it in the Incarnation? There were centuries of disputes about how far to press Christ’s humanity and they always took the most extreme position. Why do we pull back from doing the same when we talk about the divinity of the blessed, or about the ways in which grace makes us partakers of the divine nature? The claim is not that we partake of a divine institution or a divine group or a divine team, but a divine nature. But every nature I take part in makes me that thing itself. When Pinocchio takes part in human nature, that means he’s a real boy.

B: What – you can’t mean we become persons of the Trinity! You can’t be suggesting that we start worshipping the saints!

A: Adopted sons aren’t due the same honors as any other sons?

B: That “adoption” metaphor seems to be saying we aren’t divine by nature, so no. And at any rate there is not the slightest trace of saint worship being approved by any sect that was even close to Christian orthodoxy.

A: I can certainly agree that divinization cannot make us divine persons any more than Incarnation can make Christ a human person. So reserve worship for divine persons. But why would this rule out the assuming of the divine nature? Don’t we have two hundred years of proofs that natures can be assumed in concreto without supposits being the same as the nature?

B: Still, this has a wacky-Mormon feel to it.

A: So you think I’m arguing “what man is now, God once was?”

B: No. But you’re still articulating a Gospel that no one can recognize. If you heard this idea rather than dreaming it up, you’d of thought it as crazy as I do.

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2 Comments

  1. Geoff Smith said,

    December 14, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Thanks for this. That was fun, but I was hoping you’d solve the problem for me!

  2. Dylan said,

    December 15, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    The distinction is also epistemological. See, e.g. St. Basil:

    “The quibble is just as though any one were to say, Do you know Timothy? Oh, if you know Timothy you know his nature. Since you have acknowledged that you know Timothy, give me an account of Timothy’s nature. Yes; but I at the same time both know and do not know Timothy, though not in the same way and in the same degree. It is not that I do not know in the same way in which I do know; but I know in one way and am ignorant in one way. I know him according to his form and other properties; but I am ignorant of his essence. Indeed, in this way too, I both know, and am ignorant of, myself. I know indeed who I am, but, so far as I am ignorant of my essence I do not know myself.”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf208.ix.ccxxxvi.html

    It is also relevant the the energies are referred to as “natural energies” in the definition of the faith from the Sixth Ecumenical Council:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xiii.x.html

    There is, thus, a closer connection between nature/essence and energies than how the distinction is sometimes portrayed, though personally I still think it is legitimate and helpful.


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