Theosis

What is it like to live the life everlasting that is promised to Christians? The question has arisen in the last few days both over at View from the Right, where Lawrence Auster is contemplating his own incipient death with awesome magnanimity and serenity, and at Charlton’s Miscellany. Both Charlton and Auster make important points. I had reactions to both posts, so I figure it makes most sense to consolidate them here.

Charlton points out that in Romans 8:14-21, Galatians 4:3-7, and Ephesians 1:3-6, Christians are promised adoption as sons of God, and wonders, first, why Christian apologists and evangelists have made so little of this promise, which would seem to subsume and transcend every other that the faith makes; and, second, what the promise means, concretely.

Christianity promises to the faithful, not just that their sins will be forgiven and that they will be righteous and, therefore, OK with God, and as a result extremely happy, but that they will be adopted as his children and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos and Second Person of the Trinity. It promises, that is, that they will become sons of God; or, to put it baldly, will become gods, simpliciter; for in the ancient Near East, “son of God” was just a way of saying “god” (in just the way that to call a man the son of a bitch is to call him a dog). In the religion of ancient Israel, the sons of God, the members of the Heavenly family and council, were the angels. The angels were not at all themselves the same sort of thing as the Eternal One, God the Father, El Elyon, God the Most High, the Ancient of Days; for while they shared certain properties with him – as being, e.g., immortal – they were created, subsidiary beings. Nor were they mere aspects or emanations of El Elyon, or icons, or appearances, although insofar as they were faithful to him, and ergo inspired by him, and their wills at one with his, they were indeed at least these things. Rather, they were really separate, actual created beings, with lives different than that of their Father, lives that had begun but that would never end. As his obedient messengers and ambassadors and agents, the angels could speak and act for God, and in perfect unanimity with him, so that he spoke and acted through them. But they were disparate beings, who could disobey God if they so chose, as indeed Satan and his minions did do.

YHWH was different from all the other angels, in that he alone was begotten of El Elyon, and thus co-eternal with him, rather than created. His natural sonship meant that he was naturally and essentially the image of his Father, and therefore shared his Father’s essential being and nature. This meant that YHWH was God before he was a god. While he had an angelic nature, he was not just a god among gods, but also God himself, and therefore the God of the angels, whom they worshipped. This made him the King of the Angels, Captain of Sabaoth, the Heavenly Host, and President of the Heavenly Council. As the image of the Father, YHWH was identified (by the Alexandrian Platonist Philo Judaeorum) both with the Stoic Logos that ordered and ordained all things, and (by Saint John) with the Platonic Demiurge, without whom was nothing made that was made. His angelic nature was, not a diminution of his eternal transcendent nature, but a particular concrete instantiation of it. Thus it was not the case that his angelic being was all there was to him, as was so for Gabriel or Michael. Rather, his angelic nature was one among many manifestations of his infinite, manifold actuality.  

For a Christian man to become a son of God, then, meant that he would take on an angelic nature, in addition to his merely human nature; or, rather, that his humanity would be divinized. There is an analogy here with the way that the Logos takes on an angelic nature. Just as the Logos did not lose his Godhood when he took up angelic nature, so when a man becomes a son of God, he takes up the angelic nature without divesting himself of his human nature.

We see the same sort of thing happening all the time, on a lesser scale but no less mysteriously. For example, I have taken on the nature of a father, in addition to the nature of a man. That we are so accustomed to such transitions that we find them unremarkable does not at all mean that we understand them. How is it, exactly, that I am able to change from non-father into father, while remaining myself? It is not an easy question, and while I think I have learnt an answer, I am not altogether satisfied with it.

I have taken on all sorts of other natures, too: brother, husband, blogger, financial guy, outdoorsman, chorister. None of these changes detracted from my character as a human male. On the contrary, they were each in their different ways a florescence of manhood. Likewise, for me to take on an angelic nature would not be for me to become a different sort of being altogether, any more than being an investment guy makes me something other than a man. If I were to take on the nature of a carburetor, I could no longer be a man. But there is nothing incompatible, apparently, between being a man and being a god. Indeed, if Saint Paul is right, to be fully and completely a man would seem to be the same thing as to be a god. The Christian promise is not that we will become a completely different sort of being than we now are, but rather that we will become perfectly the sort of being that we now are.

Why is this amazingly attractive potential career seldom mentioned as an important sequela of Christian faith?

The only explanation I can come up with is that it might be embarrassing to Christians – and indeed, to Jews, as it has been since roughly 600 BC – because the religion of Israel to which we all ascribe insists that only God is God, and that the gods or angels are a completely different sort of being altogether, and not therefore worthy of worship – admiration, veneration, yes; worship, no. God is the God even of the gods; the primary activity in the courts of Heaven is the angelic worship of God Almighty. So, talk of godhood for Christians – of theosis, as it has been called from the very beginning – might confuse this distinction, and open the door to idolatry, that ubiquitous temptation. Preachers therefore avoided it, or referred to it only obliquely.

Yet the faith has always taught that we are ultimately destined to godhood, and that only the disobedience of Adam has – temporarily – frustrated our arrival at that destination. The whole point of the Incarnation, Passion and Atonement was to put us back on track. “God became man,” said St. Athanasius – the author of the Athanasian Creed, and prime mover in the composition of the Nicene Creed – “that men might become gods.”

The whole point of the Incarnation, then, is by atoning for the sin of Adam to make it possible again for us to become gods. And the point of the Christian religion is to take advantage of that renewed opportunity to become gods by participating in the redemption offered to us by God.  

Now, back in the days when Athanasius was writing, and for thousands of years before him, the process of theosis was widely understood. It was a basic aspect of the sacrificial cults that everywhere pervaded the ancient world, of which Christianity is the apotheosis, perfection and fulfillment. As consecrated to the god, the sacrificial victim effectually became his avatar, his Presence, his Face (prosopon, persona, mask, vestment, vicar, image), and his being was subsumed in the being of the god to whom the meat of his body was offered as food, in rather the way that the particles of the food we eat become parts of us without ever losing their particular characters. The sacrificial victim was worshipped, and expected to take his place after death in the Heavens as a god, embodied in a star. This was how all those Greek heroes – Herakles, Dionysus, Adonis – became demi-gods. They died.

Martyrdom is the same procedure, in Judaism and Christianity. The martyrs who sacrifice their lives for the sake of YHWH are glorious – they glow with the uncreate light of the Father in Heaven. And they are routinely resurrected. See, for example, the stories of the seven sleepers of Ephesus, the pickled boys brought back to life by Saint Nicholas (another palmary exponent of the Nicene Creed), the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and so forth. Resurrection is a recurrent theme in the Old Testament as well as the New: Lazarus, Isaac, Ishmael, Joseph, Daniel, Elijah’s resurrection of the widow’s son in Kings, the Prodigal Son, and the repeated resurrection of Israel herself may be adduced in support of this notion. The same goes for what happened to the body of Jesus in the Transfiguration – Moses had to cover himself with a veil when he came down from his mountaintop conferences with YHWH, so that the Israelites would not be terrified at his glorious face – and Ascension – viz., e.g., Enoch and Elijah. Indeed, the Heavenly Ascent and a Transfiguration to an angelic nature was the objective and lure of Israelite Merkavah mysticism, as practiced in the schools of the prophets. In Heaven, the mystic was clothed in the raiment of the angels – he took off the clothing of his mortal body of death and put on the clothing of his resurrection body – and was given all the knowledge of all the ages of all the worlds. The Ascent could happen in this life, or in the next; so, likewise, for Descent. Theosis, then, is possible to us here below, as sanctification; and the fact that Christians called each other “the saints” shows that theosis was taken to be a basic aspect of Christian life, however imperfectly realized. To be a Christian at all is to be a little tiny bit saintly, a little tiny bit evangelic (literally, “goodly angelic;” Satan and his host of demons are dysangelic: still angels, but no longer good).

Theosis, then, was well understood by the ancients as the procedure whereby a man left behind the defective bits of his creaturely predicaments and assumed the perfection of his nature in Heaven, there to enjoy the knowledge and power we here below ascribe to the gods and angels, but that are there revealed as quite natural to us.

Charlton points out that, “in order for humans to be adopted as Sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ, it would seem that we must be of the same order of being as God and Christ – the same kind of entity. How else could we be adopted and become heirs? This cannot happen to beings of a different basic order. (You cannot adopt a lower animal as heir – a dog or a mouse – it makes no sense.) Thus, these passages imply – by common sense interpretation – that God, Christ, Men are of the same type, or species.”

But while Christ and men are of the same species – being, all, men – God and men are not. God as Incarnate in the man Jesus of Nazareth does not express the being of God exhaustively, for there is more to God than just Jesus. So, while God is indeed man in Christ Jesus, it is not the case that God is nothing but a man. In the Incarnation, God takes up human nature in exactly the same sort of procedure (albeit on an entirely different scale) by which I took up a paternal nature. In so doing, I did not leave behind my nature as a son, brother, husband, outdoorsman, and so forth, but rather added to those natures. So likewise God as incarnate in Jesus does not obviate God as eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, immense, and so forth. At the Incarnation, God did not stop being God in order to become a man. Likewise, we will not stop being men when we take up an angelic nature.

Communicating the gist of the notion of theosis to those unschooled in theology and metaphysics, as Dr. Charlton rightly thinks to be important for our evangelical purposes, is really pretty straightforward. Christians believe that the destiny of every human being is to become a god like Dionysus, or if you like an angel like Michael (albeit of a far lower order than either Dionysos or Michael), but with our own beings – our own souls and, eventually, our spirits and bodies – perfected and healed of all their defects. All it takes to become a god is a decision to be a saint, starting now: to follow, trust, and obey God in Christ, acknowledging him as the Lord of your life, and to welcome into the operations of your heart the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth – which is to say, the Spirit of the Logos, who is himself the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Then you will be inspired by God more and more, until eventually you leave behind your mortal body of death altogether and put on your immortal resurrection body. That transfiguration can begin now; it can be completed at the end of this created order, when this world will be resurrected, with all its defects cured.

While he expresses a wonderful confidence in our ultimate destiny, and a fitting, and indeed thrilling hope for his own, Auster writes of the impossibility of comprehending, from our perspective as damaged, defective, sinful creatures here below, what our life everlasting might be like. In this he agrees with St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13:12). It follows that any creedal statements we might devise to communicate what we are so far able to understand of everlasting life are inadequate to the reality they describe; indeed, such inadequacy is inherent in statements, per se, and about anything. By definition, models do not suffice to their phenomenal referents.

What is it like to be a human god? How the heck could we yet know? Nevertheless, as Auster indicates, the Nicene Creed gives us quite a good indication of what to expect, without trying to be too specific: “we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” I.e., we look for a new world, with a life, an economy of actual beings interacting with each other, where we will live an embodied life as we do now, but perfected. The 21st chapter of the Apocalypse of that Platonist, St. John, gives more detail:

  1. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

  2. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

  3. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [i.e., Jesus] is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself [i.e., the Logos] shall be with them, and be their God.

  4. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

  5. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

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29 thoughts on “Theosis

  1. Man, oh man. You have identified YHWH as “the Son”, and said that YHWH has an angelic nature. What you are teaching is tantamount to saying that El-Elyon and YHWH are not consubstantial, and are therefore two distinct Gods. This essay is so clever that it creates untold numbers of problems. I am disappointed.

    • No. I’m not teaching anything about YHWH except what the Hebrews believed. And an angelic nature for YHWH does not contradict his consubstance with El Elyon any more than his human nature does. The three natures are not in conflict. If they were, Athanasius would have been doubly wrong: God could not have become man, nor could men ever become gods.

  2. Bit of a newbie here, so bare with me.
    This post, the links it gave, and some things from the linked sites, give me questions I need answers to. I’m sure you guys can help me out.
    First of all, I have never been one of Auster’s readers, and think I may be poorer for it. He had important things to say, I wish I had listened earlier. I will pray for him.
    Like I said, reading the linked articles, and what you, Kristor, wrote, and some other recent things from Auster’s blog, gave me a few questions I’m sure some here could answer.
    1) A few of Auster’s readers gave some strange comments to his post, one of them made me scratch my head in particular. He was saying that reports of near death experiences gave him hope for the afterlife. He then said “These experiences also point to a separation of soul from body. I disagree with the Catholic view about the resurrection of the body; the body is material and will pass away, but it is the soul that is immortal.” Now this gave me pause, not his doubt, but that the resurrection of the body was a Catholic view, now this I know (because I am Catholic), but I was not aware that it was a Catholic specific belief only. I had always thought even the breakaway Protestant sects (the main line churches) believed in this. Am I wrong in that? And don’t the Orthodox churches believe in this as well?
    2) I take it that Mr. Auster is not a Catholic, he was a Christian of some sort though, correct? I know, I know, dumb question, but if he was why would he need to have his Catholic friend tell him about the resurrection of the body? Wouldn’t he alredy believe this? Seem again this links to question #1.
    Now back to this piece
    3) First, to the author of this post. I’m aware of the religious backrounds of some of the bloggers here: Proph, Bonald, and Jim Kalb are Catholics for example, and Alan Roebuck is a Protestant. What are you, if I may ask?
    4) Also, I take it your name has some kind of special meaning to it? Unless I’m mistaken and that is your real name, what is the significance behind it?
    5) A nice portion of the article confused the heck out of me. I think Finn McCool was on to something, I’ve never heard of some of this stuff, or at least it’s said in a way I’ve never been taught before. Jesus the angel? President of a heavenly council? I’m gonna become the god of drunken debauchery after I die? Ok, that last one was thrown in for a joke. ;)
    6) This whole sons of God concept, or becoming gods, what is the difference between an orthodox christian belief in becoming gods, and the Mormon belief that they will become gods. I have been told there is a big difference, what is it exactly?
    Then on an unrelated topic, but still of importance:
    7) I was reading some of the recent posts on Auster’s site, and he had something about George Washington there. Good ol’ G.W. is someone I have mixed feelings about, mostly because I’m not sure who the real man is. Was he the man of legend, the pious Christian, the praying general, the true father of the American nation, one of the greatest men of his age? Or is the more recent view of him the truth? The sneaky, self-serving landowner, who gained his acres by cheating others of it? The man who could not be bothered to go to Church later in life. The duck and cover deist, who his his real beliefs and only masqueraded as a Christian? They are two very different pictures if Washington, and I do so wonder which was true? Was he like many of the founders were in reality? Or was he the man people used to believe he was? I used to look up to the guy, but that was before reading more recent histories on him. And I’m not talking about stuff from hack writers, I mean trustworthy guys like Christopher Ferrara, and other traditionalists. They don’t paint a pretty picture of the man.
    I know this last question was off topic, but it has bothered me for some time, and I thought maybe somebody here could help me out?

    • Auster’s Christianity is somewhat idiosyncratic, I think he is Episcopalian, and he is no bible thumper, meaning a guy who could quote book, chapter, verse all over you all day long, that’s for sure. His readers are an eclectic spiritual group of hard-righters, but they never got in line to get orthodox Christian teaching from him. I’ve never looked into NDEs so I don’t know, but there is enough testimony to sound interesting.

      I have the Ferrara book but haven’t started it yet.

    • Oberon, I’ll be glad to try to help with your questions, so far as I am able.

      1. The resurrection of the body is orthodox doctrine for all Christians.

      2. Lawrence Auster converted to Christianity thanks to a theophany he enjoyed during a High Anglican liturgy. The beauty of the rite, and of the language, and of the ideas conveyed by the language, came together in a “perfect storm” and he was overwhelmed. He has however, for reasons obvious to any Traditionalist, had serious disagreements with the Episcopal Church, and has concluded that it is no longer a Christian body. He has not been able to find another Christian body that he feels better about, I guess.

      3. I’m a High Anglo-Catholic.

      4. Kristor is my real Christian name. It is quite common in Scandinavia, where most of my ancestors lived. It means the same thing as the Christian name, “Christian.” I am one of those Christers, as a man who practices law is a lawyer or a man who cuts wood is a sawyer.

      5. Your confusion is not uncommon. This stuff is rarely taught. In this, it is no different than the rest of the doctrines of the faith – or, for that matter, its origins, the meanings and significations of its symbols and terms, and so forth. I never would have learned about any of it myself, if I hadn’t stumbled upon the right books.

      6. I’m no expert on Mormonism, but from what I have read the main difference between the orthodox doctrine of theosis and the Mormon version is that the Mormons believe that El Elyon was once himself a man, who earned theosis and became the Almighty God of our region of reality. Or something like that. In other words, the problem with the Mormon doctrine is not with the bit about theosis, but the notion that El Elyon or YHWH are creatures.

      7. I’m afraid I am not the man to ask about who the real George Washington was. I’m sure he was a very great sinner, and a dilatory Christian, like me. To his everlasting credit, however, he refused the monarchy. I often wish he hadn’t …

      • 3.”I’m a High Anglo-Catholic”
        That’s a high church Anglican, right?

        4. Oh I didn’t know that, interesting!

        5. Can you give me any of the names of those books? I’d like to read up on that topic! :)
        I didn’t mean to sound like I was questioning your credentials btw, sorry about that. It’s just like I said I had never heard any of that before. I wonder why no one talks about that much? Is it because it’s really high level theology? Or perhaps it’s just not that well known?

  3. @Kristor – that was a very interesting meditation.

    But I don’t think you really confronted the main point I made.

    “in order for humans to be adopted as Sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ, it would seem that we must be of the same order of being as God and Christ – the same kind of entity. How else could we be adopted and become heirs? This cannot happen to beings of a different basic order. (You cannot adopt a lower animal as heir – a dog or a mouse – it makes no sense.) Thus, these passages imply – by common sense interpretation – that God, Christ, Men are of the same type, or species.”

    To me it looks like this doctrine implies that God and Man differ in degree (a degree which may be vast) rather than in kind – quantitatively rather than qualitatively.

    BTW – why do you use YHWH rather than the traditional anglicized version? This is not being confrontational! – but it does make it seem like you are addressing post-1960s professional Biblical scholars…

    • There are some ways in which God and man are alike in kind, differing only in degree, and others in which they differ in kind. On the one hand, God and man (and angels) are rational, intelligent, free, powerful – that is to say, actual – scient, and so forth. On the other, God is eternal, and everything else whatsoever is not; God is pure act, and nothing else is; and so forth.

      If I were to adopt a son, likewise, there would be certain important respects in which he would be similar to my natural sons, and others in which he would categorically differ – as, e.g., not having been begotten by me. Now, we would not say that I cannot adopt a boy because he is unlike my natural sons. We would say only that I cannot come to have begotten a boy that I had not in fact begotten, *so that* the only way I can treat him as a son is to adopt him. It is the categorical difference between my natural sons and all other boys that generates the category of adoption in the first place.

      I use YHWH only because it seems somehow more fitting. Without the vowels – whose absence reminds me at every use that I have no good idea how the Name is really pronounced – it feels much more vast and mysterious than Jehovah. I never really gave it much thought, beyond that.

      • Is the possibility of theosis, then, another truth embedded within the teaching of man being made in the iamge of God (aside from the conventional implications of free will, intellectual and volitional powers, etc.)?

      • That does seem to follow, no? But it seems more likely to me that the discoveries happened in the opposite order: mystics experienced the Heavenly Ascent and Transfiguration very early on – the tradition goes back to shamanism – and the doctrines of angelology, theosis and the imago dei were developed on that phenomenal basis.

        The specifically Christian version of the doctrine is adequately founded upon Mark 12:25 – “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” Note that Jesus does not say we will *be* angels, but that we’ll be *like* them.

  4. Now this gave me pause, not his doubt, but that the resurrection of the body was a Catholic view, now this I know (because I am Catholic), but I was not aware that it was a Catholic specific belief only. I had always thought even the breakaway Protestant sects (the main line churches) believed in this. Am I wrong in that? And don’t the Orthodox churches believe in this as well?

    Indeed, it is in the Apostles’ Creed, which predates any hypothetical Romish dalliance that even the most rabid Protestants might contrive. Yes, Auster’s Christianity is quite idiosyncratic. He’s Jewish and lives in NYC. What would you expect? To hear him tell it, it seems he was converted by the mere beauty of the liturgy. There are worse ways to come to Jesus.

  5. Good ol’ G.W. is someone I have mixed feelings about, mostly because I’m not sure who the real man is. Was he the man of legend, the pious Christian, the praying general, the true father of the American nation, one of the greatest men of his age? Or is the more recent view of him the truth?

    The only difference between history and hagiography is in what gets left out.

      • Also the “inner” reply dialog doesn’t seem to work on my Firefox version (probably old) at work: Specifically, I can type, but there’s no “post comment” button.

        All’s well with Safari apparently. Although I am seeing textual lightening and darkening depending on where I mouse over, which I personally find annoying, but which feature probably employed 100s of people on generous salaries…

  6. Kristor, I was looking over some of that material you mentioned, and it got me thinking…is any of it truly valid? Or is it just the opinions of certain biblical scholars? Biblical scholars have a long tradition of making people’s eyes roll, after all. *cough* Jesus Seminar *cough*
    Put it this way, is this stuff that the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Church, etc would ever accept as authentic? Or are these the pet theories of over paid professors?

    • There are winds of academic fashion at work here, to be sure. A Biblical scholar might say that the recent reaction against the liberal skepticism heretofore rampant in that field is just the normal process of discourse in any scholarly field – correcting the errors of prior scholars and so forth.

      I see no reason why any Church would reject the most recent turn of academic fashion, because it lends new and very strong support to orthodox doctrine and the traditional understanding of the history of the Church, the life and ministry of Jesus, etc.

      Much of what you’ll find in the two books I recommended constitutes in any case an exploration of how ancient Israelites and Greeks understood such concepts as angels, inspiration, life after death, the Cross, the Incarnation, and so forth. They don’t suggest any changes to orthodox doctrine handed down from the Fathers, but rather flesh it out. Many of those understandings have disappeared from our common parlance, but since I began learning about them it has become obvious to me that they were quite familiar to educated Christians even down to the hymners of the 19th Century. They seem odd and novel to us, but such as Donne or Luther or Dante would have taken them on board with nary a blink.

      • Thank you for that very helpful reply, Kristor! :)
        Part of me is always at least a little skeptical when I hear about biblical scholarship, it has a sordid past.
        But there was more to it than that.
        I guess I was just turned off by the one author’s book about the Israelites being a polytheistic people originally, with monotheism being a much later development…and only then because of some hebrew nationalistic movement which started a “cultural revolution”, took over, and then wiped out the older memory of the temple. Or something like that.
        Then there was the fact that Amazon used what I had looked up to keep recommending me “Did God have a wife?”.
        I suppose it didn’t help that I looked up one of the books blurb’s authors, and found him to be huffpo nut. “Why do some people believe in the bible in this day and age? Who knows, so lets take it back and keep it as a cultural artifact instead!” Sheesh. But I digress.

        But anywho, thank you very much Kristorm you have been very helpful.

        Actually, if you had the time, do you think you could explain the whole ‘ancient jews were different than we once thought they were’ thing? Or maybe even some of this stranger stuff about God.
        I actually think it would make quite a compelling post on the Orthosphere, if you had the time! :)

      • Part of what makes this stuff scary for Christians is finding out such things as that the early Israelites were indeed polytheistic. Like all their neighbours, they thought that the angel or god of their nation was but one among the many gods of the nations. Only under the influence of revelation by the Holy Spirit through such men as Abraham and Moses did they slowly, slowly learn that the Shepherd of Israel, YHWH, was, not just a run of the mill god like the angels of other nations, but the only begotten son of El Elyon, and thus consubstantial with him, and a perfect image of his father – and, ergo, co-eternal with El Elyon, and like him the creator God of all that is as well as, in particular, the God of Israel.

        This notion was extremely difficult for the Hebrews to understand, and to follow. Much of the Old Testament, and especially Exodus, is the story of their education.

        Once the lesson had been learned and institutionalized, there remained a constant temptation to defect to the worship of the Phoenician, Canaanite and Philistine angels who still had temples in Judah and Israel, some of them even sponsored (for political reasons) by King Solomon, and thus established by the state as effectual arms of the royal cult. It was to purge the land of these tempting, confusing, and therefore dangerous idolatrous cults that the Deuteronomical reforms of circa 600 BC were enacted. The need for reform was engendered in part by the syncretic, idolatrous, polytheist confusion of Near Eastern cults – and, ergo, cultural confusion and moral rot – that the reformers had seen overtake the Northern Kingdom (including Samaria and Galilee), and which apparently led to the vicious fraction of Israel that made it easy prey for Assyria. But in their zeal, the Judean Deuteronomists of the Southern Kingdom threw out the baby with the bath water (a problem endemic to reformers, who often turn out to be little more than iconoclasts), and apart from a few adepts in the mystical school of the Temple (of whom Ezekiel, that archetypal exponent of the mystical ascent, was perhaps one) who were abjured to keep it secret from the hoi polloi, the lore of the angels was driven underground – or, at any rate, out of Jerusalem and the official cult. It survived in the schools of the prophets in the deserts of Judea, the Negev and Sinai, in Galilee, Samaria, Arabia and Egypt. When the Brahmins of Judah – the Puritan, iconoclastic class – was exiled to Babylon in 586 BC, many of the peasants who remained were still old school, and the old religion with its angel lore and high places outside Jerusalem was maintained.

        When the exiles returned from Babylon, courtesy demanded that before they began to rebuild the Temple, they obtain permission from the uninterrupted priesthood of the Samaritans. The Exiles and the Samaritans apparently cooperated amicably for some time before relations soured. A similar prejudice – albeit not a mutual excommunication, as with the Samaritans – eventually developed between the Jews of “Galilee of the Gentiles” and the Judeans. This mutual scorn is evident in the Gospels, if you look for it.

        The Jerusalem Church – its core mostly Galilean – synthesized ideas and practices from a number of different strains of Israelite religion, including those of the Pharisees and Essenes. It seems that the “large number of priests who became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7) must have been Essenes, for they were the only sect that both affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and had a large priesthood (Pharisees affirmed the notion of the resurrection, but had few priests, and the Sadducees, who ran the Temple and had many priests, denied the resurrection). Even if the early Galilean contingent of the Jerusalem Church had not brought the angelology of their native country into the Church, the Essene priests would have, for the Essenes were utterly fascinated with angels.

        There is in any religion that allows for more than one sort of celestial being a risk of falling into confusion and idolatry. At the core of polytheistic religions, anthropologists have discovered there generally lies somewhere a Most High God, creator of all that is, and ruler of the subsidiary gods of the pantheon. This suggests the intriguing possibility that idolatrous polytheism is everywhere a degraded, errant monotheism, and that the model of an eternal, inscrutable Most High God surrounded by a cloud of created derivative deities is something like a “deep grammar” of human religion, that was first expressed in the religion of Adam, and of Noah.

  7. I continue to pray for Mr. Auster, both for the health of his body and for the health of his soul.

    May the God he loves and longs for guide and protect him.

  8. You have noted some VERY important points here, and, at the same time, have also included some frankly overt heretical statements. This is to be expected, as you are approaching the subject of theosis from a warped perspective, simply because, as Anglo-Catholics, you are deriving your thought through at least two false prisms… darkly. It’s not your fault, but it does need to be pointed out. So, if you’ll bear with me….

    First, because you assume that Anglicanism in her ‘ultra-catholic’ phase has the pleroma of grace, she should be able to grasp the ‘deep things of God.’ Unfortunately, the stream from which you are deriving your catholicism, is Rome. Secondly, Rome is considered ‘no true church’ by both your ecclesial ancestors (the Reformers, even the most Anglo-catholic of them, i.e., Pusey, etc.) as well as by the Orthodox, whose own, much-fuller analysis of ‘theosis’ has long been the norm to which ANY study of the ‘en-god-ed-ness’ of the Believer should be directed.

    Thirdly, because Mr. Auster is an incomplete convert to Christianity (in that he has never, to my knowledge, ever repudiated his ‘jewishness’) then his views are that much more incomplete. The assumption that the graceless jews could EVER attain to knowledge of such deep things, post – AD 70, is tantamount to believing the Romanist lies that the Jews (who clearly, and unequivocally converted en masse in the 8th century to TALMUDISM, and not biblical Mosaicism- vide Koestler’s “The Thirteenth Tribe” and the recent DNA confirmation of the Nobel-prize winning author’s 1976 book) are the ‘Israel of God’s ‘ [Gal. 6:16] ‘elder brothers.’ They are not.

    I do not mean to insult someone as they contemplate their deaths, but this is a critical faux pas that all of the baptismal liturgies of historic catholicism (i,e,. prior to Vatican II) clearly required- the repudiation of either Judaism, Islam, or other heresies, BEFORE being baptized. Anglican formularies (from the 1662 to the 1928, to the 1979) have NEVER had that element in their baptismal liturgies, prcisely due to the protestant nature of the view of the Sacrament of Cranmer and his heirs. The Liturgical Commission of the BCP by the Russian Orthodox, in 1905, pointed out numerous ‘incomplete’ elements that were to have been addresed (and weren’t) had Anglicans taken up St. Tikhon’s offer back when. While there is still some measure of grace toward Anglicans, those deficiencies of liturgy, and sacramentology still stand, and need to be addressed… especially when talking about theosis!

    One cannot assume that Mr. Auster (or those who revere him, as you seem to do) can grasp ‘theosis,’ when he truly, honestly, hasn’t even dealt with the ‘milk’ of the ‘elemental things’ of the Catholic Church’s entrance into the Covenant- namely, his repudiation of his very ethnicity! Brother Nathanael Kapner, [www.realzionistnews.com] HAS, and that he chose Orthodoxy, is telling in that he has received ‘grace upon grace’ thereby…

    However, one comment you made is ‘spot on’ and it speaks volumes; I congratulate you on it. If you grasp NOTHING but this fact, you will have come a long way towards your salvation, as the Fathers say.

    You wrote: “Charlton points out that, “in order for humans to be adopted as Sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ, it would seem that we must be of the same order of being as God and Christ – the same kind of entity. How else could we be adopted and become heirs? This cannot happen to beings of a different basic order. (You cannot adopt a lower animal as heir – a dog or a mouse – it makes no sense.) Thus, these passages imply – by common sense interpretation – that God, Christ, Men are of the same type, or species.”

    That ‘species’- for both the Incarnate Christ, as well as the Mankind predestined for salvation AND theosis- is “Adamkind.” Adam, in the Hebrew, means ‘fair, ruddy, able to [visibly] blush.’ This is the definition of the word in Strong’s Concordance to the KJV- THE Bible for trad. Anglicans. IF only this ONE idea gains hold among your readers (and yourself) you will see WHY the last hundred years has been a century of LIES and DELUSIONS, when applied to both statecraft, church growth, liturgical experimentation, etc. It is what our ancestors- Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, etc. all KNEW to be true.

    You have with this one statement, decimated any and every attempt by NON-Adamics, to presume that the Covenant, the ‘child of Promise’ was to be given, to save, any BUT ‘His People.’ [Matt. 1:21] This racial element of the Elect of God, is also the very antithesis of Jewish claims to ‘special status’- which is why ‘truth is hard to swallow.’

    I have written on this factoid for over five years on my blog.

    Having said that, any FURTHER discussion or insights into theosis you and your readers may desire to glean, can only be given legitimacy by recourse to the Orthodox side of the Bosporus; not to the ‘faithless Jews,’ not to the ‘Catholi-schism’ devotees (the modern post-Vatican II ‘Church’ is fast approaching hemorrhage, after bleeding herself to death for the last fifty years), nor to the ‘cut-off’ elements of pseudo-traditional filioquist theology, that infect (yes, no stronger word can be used) all Western theologies.

    I beg of you, to see that only in the unchanging Church of the ages, which is only to be found among the traditionalist Orthodox, can any true insights (or grace) be restored to historic Anglo-catholics such as yourselves. (I know, I once was one)

    Pax. and Lux,
    Fr. John+

  9. Pingback: A Work of God? or a snare of Satan? | Thewhitechrist's Weblog

  10. As I am now heading to bed (it being the Day of Resurrection/Pascha in the Orthodox tradition, 2013) I’ll point you to a couple of posts over at my blog that may answer your question, as far as showing you that CS Lewis (my fave man!) believed in the ethnic uniqueness of Adamkind, before and above any claims to theosis of all hominids.

    http://thewhitechrist.wordpress.com/2008/06/06/no-negroes-in-narnia/

    There’s much more ‘proof’ if one desires it. I’m just dealing with the comment about Lewis. The rest for another day. Christ is Arisen, Glorify Ye Him!

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