In a comment to Bonald’s post Dives in Hell, Bruce Charlton says, inter alia,
A near exclusive focus on the binary event of salvation/ not salvation simply fails to capture the broad characteristics of the Gospel. The Gospel must be GOOD news, it is about saving sinners, it is joyous, hopeful, positive; but on the other hand and equally, universal/ compulsory salvation is not consistent with the Bible.
Theosis is necessary because if (as I believe) salvation is ‘easy’ and straightforward (because Christ made it easy for us) then salvation is not the focus of the Christian life for most people who live beyond their conversion – the focus then should move to theosis – which is where things like sacraments, good works, Good Living (marriage and family) come in (in a word – Love).
Charlton is right that salvation is, so to speak, ‘easy.’ It can occur in an instant, when we repent and trust Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. It is not like sanctification, which is worked out over a lifetime.
But there is a problem with his next step (apparently a reasonable deduction) that therefore salvation ought not to be the focus of the Christian life.
The problem is this. All people, including Christians, naturally believe that religion is about trying to please God by being enough of a do-gooder. Even those who have been properly instructed in Christianity are prone to fall back into this belief. Therefore if we are not constantly reminded about our salvation coming by grace alone, through Christ alone, based on who he is and what he did, and that we receive this salvation through repentance and faith and not through works, we naturally fall into unbelief, even if it is pious unbelief. Pious unbelief is thinking yourself a Christian because of your good works, and not because of your faith (trust) in Christ.
Therefore is it always of the utmost importance that Christian pastors and teachers constantly remind their flock that their salvation is only through Christ and his work.
Furthermore, the motive power, the gasoline in the engine, of sanctification (another word for theosis) is knowledge of our salvation. Without this assurance, we cannot pull ourselves up by our theological bootstraps.
As a side point, Christian pastors and teachers are constantly tempted to emphasize the need for works over the need to know and believe the gospel for two basic reasons. Firstly, man does not naturally want to hear that he is a sinner who cannot save himself. Secondly, it is relatively easy to manipulate parishioners by telling them what they (allegedly) can do themselves in order to be blessed by God. That’s what man naturally wants to hear. If a pastor is ambitious and wants to attract a large flock, by far the best way to achieve this goal is to emphasize what might be termed “pseudo-sanctification:” How to have a better marriage, how to raise better children, how to be financially successful, how to avoid feeling depressed, and so on. These topics have little if anything to do with genuine sanctification (at best, they are results of sanctification, not its focus), but they are, if presented in an attractive and pious-sounding way, topics about which people naturally hunger to hear.
For these reasons, and many more, organized Christendom is perennially tempted not to teach what it ought: faith in Christ through Scripture and sacraments, for your salvation.