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Divinization

Salvation as At-One-Ment

Divinization
Friday, July 28, 2017

Yesterday we explored the metaphor of a wedding to describe what God is doing—preparing and drawing us toward deeper intimacy, belonging, and union. The Eastern Fathers of the Church were not afraid of this belief, and called it the process of “divinization” (theosis). In fact, they saw it as the whole point of the Incarnation and the very meaning of salvation. The much more practical and rational church in the West seldom used the word divinization. It was just too daring for us, despite the rather direct teachings from Peter (1 Peter 1:4-5 and 2 Peter 1:4) and Jesus in John’s Gospel: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20-21).

Jesus came to give us the courage to trust and allow our inherent union with God, and he modeled it for us in this world. Union is not merely a place we go to later—if we are good. It is a place of deep goodness that we naturally exist inside of—now.

For persons and for creation, transformation must be real and in this world. Paul’s most used phrase, “en Christo,” suggests a shared embodiment. The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) then takes the form of a meal so we can be reminded frequently of our core identity (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). As Augustine said, “We are what we eat! We are what we drink!” [1]

This development of love consciousness is the true Second Coming of Christ. I am convinced of it. Our union with God will finally be allowed and enjoyed, despite our relentless resistance and denial. When God wins, God wins! God does not lose. Apokatastasis (universal restoration) has been promised to us (Revelation 3:20-21) as the real message of the Universal Christ, the Alpha and the Omega of all history (Revelation 1:4, 21:6, 22:13). It will be a win-win for God—and surely for humanity! [2] What else would a divine victory look like?

The clear goal and direction of the biblical revelation is toward a full mutual indwelling. We see the movement toward union as God walks in the garden with naked Adam and Eve and “all the array” of creation (Genesis 2:1). The theme finds its shocking climax in the realization that “the mystery is Christ within you, your hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). As John excitedly puts it, “You know him because he is with you and he is in you!” (John 14:17). The eternal mystery of incarnation will have finally met its mark, and “the marriage feast of the Lamb will begin” (Revelation 19:7-9). History is not heading toward Apocalypse, Armageddon, or “The Late Great Planet Earth” kind of conclusion. Jesus says, in any number of places and parables, it will be a great wedding banquet.

Gateway to Silence:
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

References:
[1] Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 272, “On the day of Pentecost, to the infantes, concerning the sacrament” in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, pt. 3, vol. 7, Sermons, trans. Edmund Hill (New City Press: 1993), 300-301.
[2] For more on universal restoration, see David Burnfield, Patristic Universalism: An Alternative to the Traditional View of Divine Judgment (Universal Publishers: 2013). Christians deserve to know how many Fathers of the early Church, particularly in the East, understood cosmic salvation to be the whole point. This is just one more recent and well-sourced example of a rediscovered theme in the Christian world.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, New Great Themes of Scripture, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 1999), CD;
and Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 212.

Image credit: The Yellow Christ (detail), Paul Gauguin, 1889, Albright–Knox Art Gallery

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