07 April 2006

Weird Thought for the Day

What is the genus maiestaticum? Theosis in action!

In Christ our Lord, it is the confession that because of the personal union, the divine nature communicated its energies to the human nature, truly divinizing it, without the human nature becoming itself the divine nature. The iron placed in the fire takes on the attributes of fire without ever essentially ceasing to be iron.

So too with the Christian, a similar thing happens, though not through personal union but through mystical union which is accomplished via faith. The God-Man Christ communicates to us His divine energies, thus divinizing us without those properties of His divine nature ever becoming essential characteristics of the human nature.

How far does such divinization reach? Luther in Great Galatians:

"The one who has faith is a completely divine man, a son of God, the inheritor of the universe. He is the victor over the world sin, death, and the devil. Hence he cannot be praised enough... Therefore the Abraham who has faith fills heaven and earth; thus every Christian fills heaven and earth by his faith." (LW 26:247,248)

The implications of the above for the intercession of the saints is significant, it seems to me, for whom it is true that "they know" even as they have been known.

33 comments:

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Pastor Weedon,

Interesting post. I think your enthusiasm for finding Orthodoxy in Lutheranism is again overly optimistic.

My three cents:

There is a legitimate theosis in Luther but one founded on a faith principle and an extra nos character which Orthodoxy does not share.

Only in so much as the Christian despairs of all in himself and lives only in the Christ who is only and always other to Him and comes to him in promise and is grasped only by faith is there theosis. Theosis for Luther, is, I think, always one by faith which means always outside oneself, only faith, only the promise never internally, never a process but always a grabbing of the whole promise (the whole Christ) by faith. That faith thens is the way in which Chrsit is present in the beleiver and so theosis occurs. I do not get this radical sense adn faith and promise in Orthodoxy.

Also for Lutherans, doesn't the intercession of the saints thing always crash on the rock of certainty. How can I know? How can I know such a thing is certain? How can faith have a place to stand in such a practice? To acclaim them in worhsip and to acknowledge that we join in their praises (for which there is a Biblical basis ...Isaiah 6 Revelation) is one thing but to aks that they intercede in matters of earthly concern is another and one which comes dangerously close to matters of trust which are reserved to Christ alone.

My three cents. Always enjoy your thoughts and your contributions to the Lutheran Witness (!).

Alms

Chris Jones said...

Fr Alms,

There is a legitimate theosis in Luther but one founded on a faith principle and an extra nos character which Orthodoxy does not share ... I do not get this radical sense of faith and promise in Orthodoxy.

How do you know what Orthodoxy does or does not share? If you do not "get a sense" from Orthodoxy of that which you expect and value as a Lutheran, that may be because it is not there, or it is there but for some reason you are not able to "get a sense of it".

Theosis in Orthodoxy is based on concrete sacramental realism. Theosis is possible because we are united with Christ in and through the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. And that union with Him is not notional, but concrete and real, because the forgiveness, life, and salvation which are given to us objectively in the sacraments are concrete and real. As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.

I must admit that, in light of that sacramental union with Christ, the whole extra nos thing is puzzling to me. If our salvation, our theosis, is utterly dependent on Christ and Him alone, and if we have truly been united with Christ, if it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me, then how can anything be extra nos?

I don't mean to be un-Lutheran here, but I thought that a spirituality, a soteriology, and a doctrine of theosis that is firmly centered on the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, centered on receiving forgiveness and the new life in Christ through the Church's kerygma and her objective, covenanted mysteries, was just as Lutheran as it is Orthodox.

Am I missing something?

Chris Jones said...

Apropos of my last comment: just so there will be no confusion, the Church's kerygma and her objective, covenanted mysteries is Orthodox lingo which translates to Word and Sacrament.

Fr Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Alms,

Not that it matters that much to me at this point, but I'm not so sure that Luther is as Lutheran as you make him out to be. The research of the Finns shows a side of Luther which is not quite so "extra nos" as he has been popularly presented. And, it seems to me, the emphasis on the "extra nos" after Luther is to protect Lutheranism against the attacks of the counter-Reformation. Even in the Formula of Concord, Osiander is condemned for saying that we are saved by the indwelling of the divine nature of Christ, not the indwelling of Christ *simpliciter.*

The problem for any western presentation is that, since the west denies any distinction between the essence and attributes of God, it cannot allow that the grace by which we are saved could be *in* us, and be uncreated. For if the grace by which we are saved is in us, and is uncreated, then being saved means being God. There are only two ways to escape this: by saying saving grace is created, a la Rome; or by saying that saving grace is simply imputed, a la the Reformation (though not always so clearly in Luther). I would be interested in what Dr. John Stephenson, a Luther expert whose views I prize highly, might say on this topic.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

PS we just got back from the fifth Akathist service. What a marvelous tying together of the whole Old Testament witness! "Hail, O bride without bridegroom!"

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Weedon,

Is it more proper to say, perhaps, that theosis is the genus maiestaticum in action? The genus maiestaticum is the foundation, in the Second Article, for theosis, in the Third Article.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Hogg,

Yes, in regards to us; but I'm also still reflecting on the Ann Rice book on our Lord and the way she offers an interpretation of: "and he grew in wisdom and stature." Recognizing that the humanity never existed for one instant apart from the divine nature, that this iron was literally formed IN the fire, if you will, is there still room to speak of that iron as growing ever hotter and brighter?

Paul Gregory Alms said...

The “extra nos” is the key to Lutheran theology and piety.

Christians are always sinners. Their righteousness is never their own, always Christ’s. Thus our faith is always outwardly directed. It is extra nos for it is always and only in Christ and not in us. Christians do not look inward but outward in their relationship to God. Righteousness is never an inner process but always trust in Christ for us.

Thus for Lutherans faith is the basis of our relationship with God not love. Love is directed not towards God but towards the neighbor. Faith is vertical love is horizontal.

Ethics do not lead to nearness with God. Nearness to God is found in your wretchedness and abandonment by God for in your wretchedness you find the God who loves sinners and who creates out of nothing, the God of the cross. The nothingness of your sin and wretchedness is the place where faith finds Christ for Christ died for sinners. The sacraments are not medicine that heals us so that we can perform better and thus be accepted by God they are promises whereby sinners grasp the righteousness which is always comes to them extra nos.

It is in this strange paradox that Christ is present … in faith. This present Christ transforms the Christian so that he loves the neighbor. This love is not the basis for a relationship by God. It is its fruit. Love is directed to the neighbor not to God.

I recommend a book that draws out the distinctiveness of Lutheran theology quite well. Diane Hampson, Christian Contradictions. Cambridge, 2001

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Alms,

If Lutheran theology is distinctive, it is wrong.

And the stress on "extra nos", as you put it, doesn't map well on certain passages of the Scripture themselves, which refer to us being strengthened in the inner man, and that the Kingdom of God is within us, and our being filled with all the fullness of God etc.

How interesting you should say that love is not directed toward God. I just wrote a sermon on Luke 7:36-50. "She loved much," said Christ, speaking of the woman's devotion to him who is our God.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Paul Gregory Alms said...

I did not really say it Luther did but the speaker is not important.

My point and Luther's, I think, is that forgiveness is not based on our love but God's. Our nearness to God is not predicated upon our becoming more and more like God through the ministration of the church and our inner (and outer!) selves being transformed.

Righteousness is not a process it is a God given reality grasped only by faith. My standing before God does not depend on my ascetic ascent up a ladder of purity. It depends on the Word of God which declares me righteous being recevied in faith, by which faith none other than the Incarnate Christ dwells and lives in me. It is He who lives in me in fact not I and He who does whatever works I do.

I am ever the sinnner before God. My love affects my standing with Gdo not a whit. I am always the always the beggar, always the corpse. My works whatever they are are unknown to me ("when, Lord, did I see you?).

Alms

William Weedon said...

Pastor Alms,

I am honestly befuddled by your reply because it does not seem to reflect the contents of the original posting at all. The question was not about justification.

You consistently seem to imply that to speak of theosis is to speak of something with justification as the goal, instead of seeing justification as the foundation upon which theosis is built.

The foundation for the Orthodox, at least as I understand them, is that salvation is always, fully, and only gift from the Blessed Trinity - the Blessed Trinity giving us the gift of communion. "And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son." Of course that fellowship is "in" the Holy Spirit. That's life - and you can give up ever thinking that anything you ever do or will do can "earn" or "deserve" or "merit" that love. It's a gift pure and simple.

But the gift freely given is an enlivening gift. It makes the Christian able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the putting to death of the flesh and to live the new life that flows from communion with the Blessed Trinity. This life IS a process. A process that the Larger Catechism describes in explicit detail under Holy Baptism.

While God's love for you is not effected on whit by your growth in sanctification (divinization, if you will), it is most certainly true that your love for him (and concommitantly, for others) grows as you "draw nigh" to Him. (Yes, "draw nigh" is Bible language - assuming that you have not discarded James from your Bible! ;) )

Back to the image of the fire and iron - if Christ is the iron in the fire and he unites Himself with you, He will cause you, the longer he is united to you, to glow and burn more and more. This is what Luther was describing as the gift of Baptism that is ongoing in the Larger Catechism. Again, because one cannot seem to say it often or clearly enough, such transformation of the sinner through the mystical union is not the CAUSE of God's love of the sinner; rather God's love of the sinner is the CAUSE of the mystical union and its resultant transformation.

Wishing you, as always, every good thing in Jesus Christ - above all that you would rejoice in the mystery of Christ who is IN you through Baptism, Eucharist, and the Word, so that you might say with St. Paul: "Christ in you, the hope of glory!"

William Weedon said...

From the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

It was You who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away, You raised us up again, and did not cease to do all things, until You had brought us up to heaven and bestowed on us the Kingdom which is to come. (Preface)

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. I believe also that this is Your own most pure Body and that this is truly Your own precious Blood. So I pray You: Have mercy on me and forgive me all my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary, of word or deed, known or unknown, committed in knowledge or ignorance. Make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Your most pure mysteries for the remission of sin and unto life everlasting. Amen. (Prayed by all communicants)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Weedon, you asked:

"Recognizing that the humanity never existed for one instant apart from the divine nature, that this iron was literally formed IN the fire, if you will, is there still room to speak of that iron as growing ever hotter and brighter?"

Rx:

I don't think so; for the union between the humanity and the divinity was between full humanity and full divinity from the beginning, and subsisted in the Person. The fullness of the divine perfections were poured out on the humanity from the get-go, and I don't for the life of me know what it would mean to grow in such perfections.

Even the Transfiguration was no change in the humanity, but only the revelation of what already was, to others.

Perhaps it would help if you had some patristic citations in mind to set forth this idea.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Hogg,

Pooh on you! ; ) Good thought, though, to check the Fathers. The question is not directly addressed, but perhaps alluded to in these words of St. Cyril of Alexandria on Luke 2:

2:40-52. And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him. And again; But Jesus increased in stature and wisdom and grace with God and men.

TO say that the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him, must be taken as referring to His human nature. And examine, I pray you, closely the profoundness of the dispensation: the Word endures to be born in human fashion, although in His divine nature He has no beginning nor is subject to time: He Who as God is all perfect, submits to bodily growth: the Incorporeal has limbs that advance to the ripeness of manhood: He is filled with wisdom Who is Himself all wisdom. And what say we to this? Behold by these things Him Who was in the form of the Father made like unto us: the Rich in poverty: the High in humiliation: Him said to "receive," Whose is the fulness as God. So thoroughly did God the Word empty Himself! For what things are written of Him as a man shew the manner of the emptying. For it were a thing impossible for the Word begotten of God the Father to admit ought like this into His own nature: but when He became flesh, even a man like unto us, then He is born according to the flesh of a woman, and is said also to have been subject to the things that belong to man's state: and though the Word as being God could have made His flesh spring forth at once from the womb unto the measure of the perfect man, yet this would have been of the nature of a portent: and therefore He gave the habits and laws of human nature power even over His own flesh.

32 Be not therefore offended, considering perchance within thyself, How can God increase? or how can He Who gives grace to angels and to men receive fresh wisdom? Rather reflect upon the great skill wherewith we are initiated into His mystery. For the wise Evangelist did not introduce the Word in His abstract and incorporeal nature, and so say of Him that |30 He increased in stature and wisdom and grace, but after having shewn that He was born in the flesh of a woman, and took our likeness, he then assigns to Him these human attributes, and calls Him a child, and says that He waxed in stature, as His body grow little by little, in obedience to corporeal laws. And so He is said also to have increased in wisdom, not as receiving fresh supplies of wisdom,----for God is perceived by the understanding to be entirely perfect in all things, and altogether incapable of being destitute of any attribute suitable to the Godhead:----but because God the Word gradually manifested His wisdom proportionably to the age which the body had attained.

The body then advances in stature, and the soul 33 in wisdom: for the divine nature is capable of increase in neither one nor the other; seeing that the Word of God is all perfect. And with good reason he connected the increase of wisdom with the growth of the bodily stature, because the divine nature revealed its own wisdom in proportion to the measure of the bodily growth.

Chaz said...

Fr. Hogg,

You are the first person in the East I've ever heard criticize the West on the basis of not distinguishing between essence and attributes.

I thought the issue was essence and energies. Am I missing something?

I think I'm maybe not enough of a Palamite (thanks be to God!) to get it. ;-)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Weedon, you quoted these words, among others, from St. Cyril:

And so He is said also to have increased in wisdom, not as receiving fresh supplies of wisdom,----for God is perceived by the understanding to be entirely perfect in all things, and altogether incapable of being destitute of any attribute suitable to the Godhead:----but because God the Word gradually manifested His wisdom proportionably to the age which the body had attained.

Rx:
Here's the key.The humanity *receives* nothing new, after the incarnation itself, from the divinity; but the Lord *manifests* "His wisdom proportionably to the age which the body had attained."

Chaz:
"Energies," in the east are, roughly speaking, equivalent to "attributes" in the west. To see what knots Lutheran theology gets itself into on this question, see Robert Preus' discussion in _Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism_, the volume on the doctrine of God.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Pastor Weedon,

My point is this: theosis for Lutherans and the Orthodox are two different things. Union with God for Lutherans is always based on justification by faith which means the continual reaching outside oneself to Christ in the promise. There is no progress here. It is always through faith in the promise. That is always our existential condition: the condemned sinner accepted by God on account of Christ.

Luther could never write this :

… which nature becomes transformed by entering into an ever-closer union with deifying grace … All the conditions necessary for attaining this final end are given to Christians in the Church. But. union with God is not the result of an organic or unconscious process: it is accomplished in persons by the co-operation of the Holy Spirit and our freedom.
Lossky, Mystical Theology, 218.

Indeed he could have never written that entire chapter entitled, “The Way of Union”. There is no via of union for Luther. It is not a way it is promise ever received by faith. I am already in heaven by faith; how can I try to get there though love and mystical ascent? That is why love does not try to get into heaven it only serves the neighbor.

Just trying to make the differences clear.

William Weedon said...

Pastor Alms,

Do you really think that Luther would disagree with 2 Cor. 3:18?

A blessed Palm Sunday to you and your family! "Hosanna in the highest!"

Chaz said...

I've studied Dr. Preus' discussion of the attributes when I studied doctrine of God with Dr. Weinrich.

I guess I'm too western to see the problem with it. I'm cool with that. :-)

I'm not smart enough to be Orthodox.

You contentedly dumb Lutheran,

Chaz

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Try this, Chaz (quotes from Preus):

1. Attributes as identical with divine substance

Attributes are nothing else than inadequate conceptions of the divine essence . . . Since our finite intellect cannot adequately conceive of the infinite and absolutely simple essence of God by a single adequate conception, it therefore apprehends the same by distinct and inadequate conceptions which represent only inadequately the divine essence. These inadequate conceptions are called the properties and attributes of God, properties because they have to do with the divine essence and denote it, attributes because they are attributed to the same by our intellect.

The attributes of God, although they are considered separately, are actually all one with the divine essence. In this way the immutability of God is safeguarded. Since there is neither composition nor accidents in God, this must be the case: the attributes cannot actually (realiter) differ from the divine essence, but are distinguished from God's essence only according to our way of thinking.

2. Attributes as (apparently) distinct from divine essence

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that, because the divine attributes are one with the divine essence, they are therefore only phenomenal or nominal or illusory. The attributes are real and they are in God prior to any conceptualization of ours.


Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Hogg,

First you say the West doesn't distinguish between the Divine Essence and Attributes, and then you provide us a quotation in which a Lutheran systematic theologian DOES distinguish between them. How odd.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

The west, in general, does not distinguish between the divine essence and attributes. Thus, Boethius says that "Whatever is in God that is not person, is God" (here I'm quoting from memory).

The citations from Preus say both that the attributes are in us ("inadequate conceptions of the divine essence") and that they are in God ("the attributes are . . . in God prior to any conceptualization of ours"); that they are identical with the divine essence and, implicitly, distinct from it (by referring to attributeS that are in God). Perhaps you can set forth an intelligible way of harmonizing those statements. Give it a try.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Chaz said...

Fr. Hogg,

Who died and left logic boss? :-)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Chaz,

They call it "systematic" theology for a reason.

Fr. Gregory

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

The attributes are not distinguished in God Himself. When Preus says "the attributes are . . . in God prior to any conceptualization of ours," he means they are in Him as One. Otherwise, he would be contradicting what he said in the previous paragraph, that "there is neither composition nor accidents in God." The distinction is between God as He is in Himself, and God as He is perceived by creation. So we definitely do distinguish between the divine essence and the divine attributes. In fact, "Essence and Energies" is philosophically the same distinction.

Chris Jones said...

Eric,

The distinction is between God as He is in Himself, and God as He is perceived by creation. So we definitely do distinguish between the divine essence and the divine attributes. In fact, "Essence and Energies" is philosophically the same distinction.

If so, then what is there left to disagree about?

I am by no means an expert on this part of Church history and the theological issues involved, but as I understand it, the point at issue between St Gregory Palamas and Barlaam was whether "God as He is perceived by creation" is a created effect or is God Himself interacting directly with His creation. Or, to put it another way, whether the energies, by which God manifests Himself ad extra are in fact themselves divine.

The soteriological import of the disagreement is clear when you work out its implications for the question "what is grace?". If God interacts with His creation only via created effects, then grace itself becomes a created effect, a supernatural, yet still created, "stuff" that God gives us. But if God's interaction with His creation is direct, if God's energies are not merely notional but are God Himself at work in His creation, then grace is uncreated and deifying. Grace is God Who is at work within you, both to will and to work his good pleasure.

From where I sit, St Gregory Palamas's distinction of essence and energies is a genuine clarification of the Biblical teaching and the patristic tradition, and is thus truly theological. The unwillingness to accept it because it seems to compromise divine simplicity (which it does no more than the Trinity does) is, to me, merely philosophical rather than truly theological.

Eric Phillips said...

Chris,

"If so, then what is there left to disagree about?"

Good question. I haven't gotten a good answer to it yet, myself.

"God as He is perceived by creation" is clearly still God, and not a created effect. That's what Palamas said, and that's what Preus says also in the quotation offered by Fr. Gregory. So why do EOs act as it this Essence/Energy thing is an insight into the faith that is unique to their own churches? As far as I can tell, it's just one way of saying something that is recognized by every theologically perceptive Christian tradition.

Chris Jones said...

Eric,

So why do EOs act as it this Essence/Energy thing is an insight into the faith that is unique to their own churches?

Two possible answers: (1) they're being triumphalist; or (2) a lot of Westerners treat hesychast spirituality as if it were some sort of syncretistic freak show, so the Orthodox conclude that the Palamite (and Maximian, and Basilian, and Athanasian, and Irenaean (and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- Pauline and Petrine)) theology of theosis that hesychast spirituality is based on must be unique to Orthodoxy.

You decide which it is.

Eric Phillips said...

I'm trying to. I'm sure there's some of both going on, but I'm not sure that's _all_ that's happening.

For instance, in the post above this, Pr. Weedon says there is an _ontological_ difference between Essence and Energies. That doesn't make any sense to me. If God-as-revealed is still God, then He has the same ousia as God-in-Himself, so where is the ontological difference? Is our host using the wrong word?

Chris Jones said...

Ontological

This is where my poor brain is incapable of going farther. I don't know whether Fr Weedon is using the right word or not, because I am not sure that I really understand what "ontological" means.

If he means that the distinction (between essence and energies) is an actual, not just a notional, distinction, then he is surely right. Just as the distinction between hypostasis and ousia in the Godhead is a real distinction, not just a conceptual category without meaning outside of our own heads, so the essence/energies distinction is real rather than conceptual.

But I think "ontological" is more specific than that. So if Fr Weedon means more than simply to say that the distinction is real, he will have to enlighten us further (or me, anyway).

Eric Phillips said...

Yes, "ontological" is more specific than that. It means "having to do with ousia / essence."

William Weedon said...

Eric and Chris,

Chris wrote:

If he means that the distinction (between essence and energies) is an actual, not just a notional, distinction, then he is surely right.

Weedon writes:

That's exactly what I meant; an actual distinction, one that truly *exists*, and not one that is due to our perception.

Eric Phillips said...

Pr. Weedon,

Thanks for clarifying.

I think you're suggesting a false dichotomy now, though. In this case, what we have is a distinction that is both real AND due to our perception. When we perceive God to be the Good, the True, the Beautiful, etc., we are perceiving Him not subjectively, but objectively, as He actually is in the World (Energies), though in Himself He is beyond all perception and definition (Essence).

Anonymous said...

man's commentary and suggestion should only originate from the Mind of God, the Spirit, through Faith in the Person, Jesus Christ... the Father REVEALS Himself, by the Holy Spirit... any REASONING and THOUGHTS of man are satanic in nature... see why Jesus rebuked Peter's thought as coming from the source of all thoughts that EXALT themselves above the knowledge of God... His Word is Truth and only the Spirit, can interrupt what He wrote through man... called the Cannon of Scripture... we CAN receive the Glory Jesus has, by being One with Daddy God... the Glory always revealed in the Word is the ONENESS of the Messiah with the Father... of course by the Power and Love and Sound Mind of the Holy Spirit... thus, man is NOW offered the INCARNATION given to Mary, but mature, in the Gift of the Holy Spirit who only reveals the Father and His ONLY Begotten Son... natural thoughts of man are WAR against the truth... the whole battle of FAITH is what we BE and LIVE by... the lack of BELIEVING that JESUS is enough for ALL, leads to SIN... when ADAM (Woman) "believed the LIES of the Evil ONE, INSTEAD of believe the consequence God had already told them", SIN (taking control by NOT believing in God's goodness and Truth) entered into ALL man-kind... thank God for the Second Adam, our Savior and Lord... the Son of Man and the Son of God... even Jesus! amen!