What is Deification of Man in Christianity?

Deification Front CoverDeification is the transformation of man into god through the grace of God. Predominant in the theology of Eastern Christianity, but marginalized and obscured in contemporary interpretations of the theology of Western Christianity, Bartolo-Abela explores how it is deification, not just salvation, that was and remains the intent of God for mankind, with deification occurring not solely in patria, but in via and in patria. This is an understanding of deification which has been largely lost and needs to be recovered in the Western Church.

Examining the works of the Church Fathers on both sides of the East-West divide in Christianity, Bartolo-Abela shows that rather than being restricted to the East, deification featured consistently in many theological works popular in the West, with the most prominent being those of Aquinas, Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, Irenaeus and Jerome. Bartolo-Abela argues that it was deification, not just salvation as commonly understood, that was also inherently referred to by Paul VI in the universal call to holiness found in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

Deification is the process of man becoming god and attaining theoria, seeing God, after purification of the heart and illumination of the heart of the soul have ensued through baptism in the Holy Spirit, as understood throughout tradition. Deification from this life, not solely the next, is the desire of God for mankind in accord with the words of Christ and Peter, “I said you are gods” (Jn 10:34) and “partakers of the divine nature” (2 P 1:4).

On deification – 14

“This union will enable persistence to the end with a pure spirit in the most narrow relations with God” (Gregory Palamas, II.2.20). Such relations were defined as “direct relations with God in which no intermediary such as an angel intervenes” (II.3.27-28). Deification is not hypostatic: “Hypostatic union Continue reading

On deification – 13

“Deification is also the invocation of the great God and Father, the symbol of the authentic and real adoption, according to the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the bestowal of which grace the saints become and will remain the sons of God” (Gregory Palamas, III.1.28).

On contemplation and deification – 2

“Perfect contemplation of God and divine things is not only a stripping away, but beyond this, a participation in divine things, a gift and possession more than stripping away” (Gregory Palamas, The triads, I.3.18).

On contemplation and deification – 1

“If contemplation may not be equated with the via negativa, neither is it identifiable with the via positiva: contemplation is not simply abstraction or negation but a union and a divinization that occurs mystically and ineffably by the grace of God” (Williams, on Gregory Palamas I.3.17).

On deification – 12

“To understand the nature of God is to become deified; those who know that God is Spirit are those who become god completely and know God in God … [they] see God by God (Gregory Palamas, II.3.68; II.3.52).

On deification – 11

“Those who have been purified … make themselves worthy to contemplate invisible things, the essence of God remaining beyond their attainment; but those who are worthy of this contemplation can be initiated into it and make it the object of their understanding; thus they participate Continue reading

On deification – 10

“Deification is both the light encountered (inasmuch as it is a visible apparition) and something that attaches to the person, becoming one with her and changing her. It is both God as other and God transforming the human person from within” (A. N. Williams, 1999).

On deification – 9

The deifying gift of the Spirit is “the deifying energy of the superessential divine essence, although not the totality of this energy … Deification is … everywhere, ineffably present in the essence and inseparable from it, as its natural power. But if [the divine manifestation] seizes a suitable material, free from every veil … Continue reading

On deification – 8

“Deification is an enhypostatic and direct illumination which has no beginning but appears in those worthy as something exceeding their comprehension. It is indeed a mystical union with God beyond intellect and reason, in the age when creatures will no longer know corruption. Thanks to this union, the saints, Continue reading

On deification – 7

“What belongs to the divine nature is predicated of the human nature—not, indeed, as it belongs wssentially to the divine nature, but as it is participated by the human nature. Hence, whatever cannot be participated by the human nature (as to be uncreated and omnipotent), is nowise predicated of the human nature” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.16, S ad 3).

On deification – 6

“When it is said that the Father doth not give the Spirit by measure … it may be referred to the gift which is given the human nature, to be united to the Divine Person” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.7,11 ad 1).