Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 12th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Protestants cannot fearfully avoid theosis


Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature (γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως), after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. – 2 Peter 1.4, NAB-RE

I’ve got my dissertation to work on, but I really want to knock out 100 pages on a project on theosis that is bubbling in my mind.

Protestants have often avoided the doctrine of theosis for fear of “making themselves gods.” Yet, the doctrine itself speaks of the gift of grace by which God invites humanity to participate in the divine character, the character of love, sacrifice, generosity, and self-giving that is revealed in the relationship between the Father and the Son. The doctrine of theosis cannot be understood apart from the love of the Father for the Son and the love of the Son for the Father. For it is the Father, in 2 Peter, who gives to the Son glory and honor, bestowing on him these gifts in testimony of the love that he bears for this one whom he names as “my beloved son.” Believers only come to share in the divine nature by knowing and seeing the relationship of love lived out in the Trinity.1

Any actual Wesleyan, theologian or congregational member notwithstanding, will quickly see theosis as part and parcel of Wesleyan thoughts on perfection/sanctification.

For me, I believe that theosis is not only the goal of the Christian, but the explanation of theodicy/suffering. I believe that this hypothetical theology can be examined canonically, showing that from Genesis to Revelation there is the idea that God has intentioned this reality to bring His creation into the divine nature. This isn’t determinism, only a larger concept of the Pauline notion of “schoolmaster.”

  1.  Ruth Anne Reese, 2 Peter and Jude (The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 205.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. 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).


6 Responses to “Protestants cannot fearfully avoid theosis”
  1. I wonder if the influence of Augustine has been a stumbling block here; if you language is legal and forensic rather than healing, I think it is more difficult to go full-bore on divinization. It’s no accident that Wesley is always careful to say “perfection in love,” which is a more cautious take than Patristic and Eastern sources on theosis.

    Nevertheless, we need to recover the full vision of holiness that theosis promises.

  2. Have you read Andrew Perriman’s comments on theosis?

  3. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to all. I’m convinced that within Wesley’s views on the witness of the Spirit and Christian perfection there is a resonance with theosis. I’d also add that his views on Pentecost and the role of the Methodist revival in the Spirit’s renewal of the earth there are additional echoes of this.

  4. What does ‘sharing in the divine nature’ actually mean though? Joining the ‘homoousios’?

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