Irenaeus on Theosis

Gary, one of the reasons I like Irenaeus is his position on the Creator and the Creature. There is no separation…

Icon of monks falling into the mouth of a drag...

Icon of monks falling into the mouth of a dragon representing hell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Irrational, therefore, in every respect, are they who await not the time of increase, but ascribe to God the infirmity of their nature. Such persons know neither God nor themselves, being insatiable and ungrateful, unwilling to be at the outset what they have also been created — men, and before that they become men, they wish to be even now like God their Creator, and they who are more destitute of reason than dumb animals [insist] that there is no distinction between the uncreated God and man, a creature of today.  For these, [the dumb animals], bring no charge against God for not having made them men; but each one, just as he has been created, gives thanks that he has been created. For we cast blame upon Him, because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness.  He declares, “I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all sons of the Highest.” But since we could not sustain the power of divinity, He adds, “But ye shall die like men,” setting forth both truths – the kindness of His free gift, and our weakness, and also that we were possessed of power over ourselves. For after His great kindness He graciously conferred good [upon us], and made men like to Himself, [that is] in their own power; while at the same time by His prescience He knew the infirmity of human beings, and the consequences which would flow from it; but through [His] love and [His] power, He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil. (AH – 1.4.38.44)

via Theosis of the Early Church Fathers.

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Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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6 thoughts on “Irenaeus on Theosis

  1. For October, and Halloween (pumpkins):

    St Irenaeus of Lyons Against the Heresies, Vol 1, (how can you not like this guy!)
    “Do not these men seem to you, my dear friend, to have had in mind the Homeric Zeus more than the Sovereign of th universe”

    “that they might appear more perfect than the perfect and be more knowledgeable of the truth than the Gnostics….Oh you nonsense-blabbering pumpkins!”

    Your quote from Irenaeus,
    “unwilling to be at the outset what they have also been created — men, and before that they become men, they wish to be even now like God their Creator”

    SciFi meets Zeus (TALOS) meets DoD…

    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131013/DEFREG02/310130005/US-Army-Seeks-Iron-Man-Armor-Commandos

    Obviously man seeks gnosis! Irenaeus can’t seperate knowledge from vegetables. He’s got some more about cucumbers, but I lost my reference.

  2. Hi Joel,

    Not having read much of Iraneus, I can’t say whether your statement that he thought there was no separation between the Creator and the Creature is correct. However, I don’t think the quoted passage necessarily proves your point. God is uncreated, we are created. We want to be equal to God, even though we are not. We are mortal and corruptible, and it is only by God’s efforts – not ours – that we can become immortal and incorruptible. That seems to suggest that there is a rather large qualitative difference between God and us. If that is what you mean by “separation,” then I think this passage argues that there indeed is one.

    • Bilbo – let’s speak in ontological terms. We are created as immortal beings, given the divine-ness. We are called, after the Fall, to get back to that. The East calls this Theosis. Wesleyans have their version as well. If we are created in this regarded and are now meant to end there as well, then there is still no separation – not in the sense gnostics and others would have us believe.

      • Hi Joel,

        Perhaps you are correctly stating or interpreting Iraneus’s view of the matter. I wouldn’t know. But from the passage, it doesn’t sound as if Iraneus saw us as originally immortal, but as mortal:

        “For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility….”

  3. And I thought Irenaeus didn’t have a sense of humor. The original Veggie Tales was written by the Gnostics, according to Irenaeus. “With this Cucumber there coexists a consubstantial Power to which I give the name Pumpkin. These Powers – Gourd, UtterEmptiness, Cucumber, and Pumpkin – begot the rest of the multitude of delirious Pumpkins of Valentinus.” Now I know where Charlie Brown and Snoopie got the idea of the Great Pumpkin. Charlie Brown and Snoopie were Gnostics!

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