Monday, May 27, 2013

Are You God?


     Throughout the Philokalia we are instructed that we are becoming gods by grace. More specifically, it teaches us that we are gods not in the sense of those to be worshiped but those who are being made immortal and incorruptible because of the indwelling presence of God. However, I think for most modern Christians hearing something like this for the first time might make them uncomfortable. In fact, it was too long ago that someone from my own church thought I was promoting something from the New Age movement. However, the doctrine of divinization is something very central to Christianity. Its mentioned throughout the scriptures and is even taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For example, the following scriptures say Genesis 1:27 “we are the image of God”, Psalms 82:6” we are gods”,  2 Peter 1:4 “share in God’s nature”,  1 John 3:2 “we will be like God” and in the Catechism (par.460) "men will be made god". It might sound difficult at first but to embrace this vital truth can reveal to us one of the greatest acts of God’s love.
     In my opinion what makes divinization difficult to grasp is how many have come to understand their soul. The common understanding of the soul is that it is immortal. Even though this is true the way the soul has immortality is normally not understood. A more complete understanding about the immortality of that soul, and every part of us, is that we are “made for" immortality instead of being immortal by ourselves. Being made for immortality instead of being immortal is a big difference and demonstrates that we only become immortal by the grace and goodness of God. Most often when you have the first position to hear about divinization sometimes makes you feel like the next step in your immortality is to take the place of God. However, the more complete understanding demonstrates that immortality is something only proper to God and if the soul is made for it then it involves participation in what God is or an act of divinization.
     When it comes to understanding divinization the Holy Scriptures teach us that unlike any other creation man was made to be what God is. This is also seen in many teachings of the early church fathers who would often reference Gen. 1:26, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness", to show how we become God. For example, St. Columbanus of Luxeuil writes: “God bestowed upon man the image of His Eternity, and the likeness of His Character”. In showing that we have this ability many of the fathers demonstrated that the natural state of man was literally to become what God is through obedience and love. It was through obedience and love that man was given the opportunity to grow in his experience of the presence of God that was in him. So you could say that man's deity status was dependent upon the measure he was grated to experience what God is. Unfortunately, man was tempted to become a god in another way by the devil, which led to the fall from our original state. As a result, the ability to become what God is became obscured and it would not be completely restored until the time of Christ.
     As the early church fathers taught God became man so we could {again} become what God is. Not to go into great detail but Christ by his whole life returns us to what we are called to. He gives us again the ability to participate in the divine nature (2peter 1:4) in a complete way or to become gods by grace. He does this first and foremost by giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit through life in the Church, which is to say that now in our bodies dwells everything that God is. Having everything that God is we can now give every part of our lives to Him, allowing Him to eternally transform us. So it really isn’t a strange thing to think of ourselves as gods as it says in Psalms 82:6. No, we are not God himself or an extra version of the Trinity. Rather, we are just sharing in what He is through grace, which is what we are designed for.
     When it comes to how we are designed I think a good analogy is to understand how a light bulb works. A light bulb is not light of itself but depending upon its wattage it can become light. We are very much like light bulbs but with an unlimited wattage. A light bulb can only become light based on its watts but there is no end to the amount of divinity that we can contain. If you think about this level of intimacy that God offers us by divinizing us it is breathtaking. He loves us so much that he lets us experience everything that He is and this is unending. From now until all eternity we will continue to become what He is by grace. Sometimes not having this understanding of divinization leaves people with the notion that what God offers just happens after we die. This of course could not be farther from the truth. Today is the day of salvation (2cor. 6:2)! This is the time that God has called us to the deepest intimacy with Him and it only gets better each day. Everything of God is in us and God has called us to make it our own. As St. Athanasius proclaimed “God became man so that we might become God”.

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