The Deification of Man, HH Pope Shenouda III



  • Wax mixed with wax is a Cyrillian analogy :)
  • Here's a great article written by Fr.Athanasius Iskander about this subject. I recommend reading it as he distinguishes between Theosis and Theopoiesis, which in this forum this difference has not been made.
  • ^For the simple (and good) that the distinction does not exist. As a fan and lover of Abouna Athanasius Iskander, I have to say that the article does little for the topic. 

    Theosis or Theopoesis (if you so insist) is not a theology of words. 
  • edited March 2015
    I agree. I presented quotes from St. Athanasius and St. Cyril who are much more provocative in their language on how we partake of the divine nature. Theosis and theopoiesis makes no difference. The Cappadocians are just as much authoritative as the Alexandrians. We believe in both theosis and theopoiesis.

    Edit: I don't know what Fr. Athanasius' intentions were, but I think this thesis needs an update.
  • LOL, Cyril, 

    If you +1000 all the posts you like, why don't you just be normal and just +1 the posts you like. Or just start a scoring method. For example, I think Minasolimans post was really just about a +984 :P
  • Lol. +1000.5
  • edited March 2015
    Was doing some more research on theosis in the modern Coptic Orthodox Church and again it seems that most priests and servants will encounter the teaching of Theosis identified as a controversial or banned topic.

    In the Arabic book called New Heresies Shenouda III/Arabic Books/New Heresies - Arabic.pdf the following books and booklets have been referenced as dangerous:
    1) "The Pentecostal" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007), 147,149)
    2) "Divine incarnation in the teaching of Cyril the Great" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007),148, 209-211)
    3) "The Eucharist" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007), 155)
    4) "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007), 150, 151)
    5) "St. Paul. His life and Theology" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007), 207)
    6) "The bridegroom" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007), 208,209)
    7) "The birth of Christ and the birth of man" (Referenced in "New Heresies" (Cairo: Anba Rues Press, 2007), 212)

    Here are specific references of the books in question:
    Mattá al-Miskīn, "Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way" (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003),112
    Mattá al-Miskīn, "Divine incarnation in the teaching of Cyril the Great" (Wadi El-Natroun: St. Macarius' Monastery Press,1978),21-44
    Mattá al-Miskīn, " The Pentecostal in the early Fathers' Tradition" (Wadi El-Natroun: St. Macarius' Monastery Press,1979),31-39
    Mattá al-Miskīn, "St. Athanasius: His life and Theology" (Wadi El-Natroun: St. Macarius' Monastery Press, 1981),484-541
    Monks of St. Macarius' Monastery, "The adoption in Jesus Christ according to the early Fathers " (Wadi El-Natroun: St. Macarius' Monastery Press,1994)
    Monks of St. Macarius' Monastery, "The incarnation and the Birth of Jesus according to the early Fathers " (Wadi El-Natroun: St. Macarius' Monastery Press,1995)
    Monks of St. Macarius' Monastery, "The Divine aim from creating the man according to the early Fathers " (Wadi El-Natroun: St. Macarius' Monastery Press,1994)
  • Anba Youssef has used it and explicitly stated that we are called to take part in theosis.

    Katanikhoros could you share the links or references where Sayedna has mentioned this.

    There is one quote I'm aware of that mentions deification of humanity (if anyone has more that would be great):

    "Upon this Glorious Feast of the Nativity let us all give homage to the miraculous birth of the One who deified humanity."

    H.G. Bishop Youssef, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, Quoted in St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church (Hayward, CA, USA) Newsletter, December 2008, Volume 2, Issue 83,

    While it is a fully ardent response, it shows that his grace endorses/subscribes to the doctrine of Theosis.
  • Q: How does Coptic theology approach and explain the subject of 'theosis'? Chalcedonians use the Palamite terms 'essence' and 'energy': man participates in God's energies but not in His essence.

    A: Theosis or Deification means "union with God" taken from the Greek Theos - God, and the word Enosis - union. Our Lord Jesus Christ asked God the Father "They also may be one in us" (Jn 17:21). He also gave us the command of Theosis "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Mt 5:48), our goal in life is to accomplish perfect union with God through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and then sin created a gap between God and mankind, causing damage to our souls. All Christians through baptism receive the seed of Theosis, which is not only to the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation and justification, but also a restoration of God's image. The sinful inclination of our human nature should not govern our behavior anymore; instead we should strive to live a holy life looking towards Jesus Christ the author of our faith, and growing in His knowledge and sonship. The restoration and sanctification of Theosis brings us back into relationship with the Creator. St. Athanasius' presentation of Theosis was summarized as "the reintegration of the divine image of man's creation through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit conforming the redeemed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and also of the believer's transition from mortality to immortality so that he is enabled to participate in the eternal bliss and glory of the kingdom of God."

    Our full union with God is a union with the "energies" of God. These energies, while an extension of God, are not to be confused with the "essence" or "substance" of God, which is unknown by humans and is shared only by the Holy Trinity. Our union with God will not make us gods but will make us partners in the Divine nature in works not in essence. We will not acquire the unique characteristics of God such as being the Creator, the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent, but it will make us partners with Him in building the Kingdom by our own salvation and by winning the souls of others to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • I'm glad sayedna speaks about it.
  • edited March 2015
    The topic of Theosis seems to be trending in the Church.
  • Hopefully for the better
  • I hope so.
  • "Orthodox theology is not only a form of intellectual reflection. It is also experience: it arises from experience and it pushes one on to have the experience which it expresses. Orthodox theology is a theology of glory.

    It is a development of the theology of the experience of God’s kabod, the fiery energy of God which Moses experienced and which St. Paul and St. John took up to express how God enables us to share in the divine life. Although we cannot know the divine nature or essence directly or completely, we do share in the divine nature by means of God’s glory, which is a deifying uncreated energy, graciously given to the faithful to varying degrees in this life. This glory transforms us by its power in our bodies, intellects, and spirits, so that we can experience as a pledge or down payment the glory that is to come after this earthly life is over. It is a glory that we shall share with Christ, the Most Holy Mother of God, and with the souls of the Saints in Paradise, where the Saints await with joy the reunion of the souls with their bodies in the Age to Come. This final Resurrection will complete our union with Christ as we become with him priests of Creation, uniting matter to spirit and hallowing it.

    What are the fruits of deification in our experience as Christians? Firstly, there are the virtues of unshakable faith and sure hope. Secondly, inward joy bears fruit in love, not only of our friends but also of our enemies and those who are indifferent to us. This love cannot function without humility, for how can we approach others if we are proud?

    Prayer is the hidden fuel for the good works which can be seen. Prayer should be unceasing. St Paul said:

    Pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17)

    A standard recent commentary says that this means that Christians should be prayerful people but “obviously he does not mean this to be taken literally.” There is a strong tendency in Orthodoxy to take this command literally and to seek to attain unceasing prayer with every breath and moment of our lives. It has two aspects. Firstly, it is a humble awareness of our own need for grace as we say “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” Secondly, it is the glorification of God in that, having received glory from God, we give it back to him and so enter the community of love of the divine Trinity, where each person glorifies the others.

    There are dangers in the life of prayer especially in becoming deluded and misinterpreting our feelings as divine inspirations. On the other hand, we must not be timid that when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords offers us fellowship with him. We should ask for great spiritual gifts and not insult the King of Kings by asking for mean and petty things.

    It is a great help to be in the Church in the concrete sense of being together with other faithful people. In the Body of Christ, there is the Eucharist to nourish us for incorruptibility and sacramental Confession as the medicine for our faults. There are the prayers of the Church which we can turn to even when alone, which remind us of our communion with the faithful on earth and the Saints in Paradise. There are the dogmas, or teachings, of the Church to ensure that our giving of glory to God is the right glory, so that our whole life may be a true “doxology” equally to God the Father, to God the Son who is eternally begotten and who became incarnate for our sakes, and to God the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and whom Christ sent to be our Advocate and Comforter—Three Persons in One God, for ever!"

  • edited February 2016
    Deification of Man -  Interpretation of "Partakers of the Divine Nature" (2 Pet 1:4) by H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy 
  • edited February 2016
    Hi Joe,

    As expected, HE Metropolitan Bishoy takes these quotes out of context.

    Deification does not mean I become equal or consubstantial with God, but that I receive divine life in His Son. The divine power which is in His humanity is given to us so long as we partake of His life-giving humanity. Unity with God is what we are made for. If we are only made for morality, there is no point in the incarnation. We might as well be Muslims.

    There is another thread in Tasbeha, oopnevma va pipnevma, where these are discussed in detail and the arguments of HEMB are refuted. (If you go to page 3 of this thread, the I provided the links, and there's a poster before me who provided excellent patristic quotes)
  • I was simply adding this resource for some balance to the argument.

    Would you (or anybody else) be so kind as to summarise in simple terms 1. the Greek Orthodox stance,  2. that of the contemporary Coptic fathers like Pope Shenouda and HE^ and 3. your own view(s).

    Many thanks.
  • Dear joe9y,

    I'll try my best.

    1.  I can't really speak for the Greek Orthodox.  At best, I can say that they do have a strong essence/energy distinction, something that I am realizing we don't necessarily have.  But this distinction in the Greek Orthodox has been receiving different interpretations within their own Church.  I think the best interpretation is "essence/action", that is the Greeks believe one does not partake of God as if we are capable of doing so on our own, but one partakes of God as He draws near to us.  That I find agreeable with a lot of Church fathers I have read.

    2.  The stance of our blessed and contemporary fathers is that 

    a. they confuse deification with consubstantiality, or co-essentiality.  They believed that to be deified means to be equal to God in essence and power.  

    b. They also believe that when St. Peter said "partake of the divine nature", it means something moralistic and abstract, not literal, which is essentially "to stop sinning".  

    c. They also believed that it is impossible for the infinite God, especially the infinite hypostasis of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in and deify a finite created being.

    3.  "My" views are that which I believe are the views of at least St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Severus of Antioch.  Based on the lettering I gave in the previous number: 

    a. That is a strawman argument.  God is not deified, but He deifies.  A person who is deified is not and cannot be consubstantial with God.  We make a distinction between partakers of divinity, and divinity itself.  The Trinity is the latter, we are given the opportunity to become the former.  See quotes from St. Athanasius in next post.

    b. You cannot stop sinning without the grace of God.  "Grace" is the presence of God in someone.  If "partaking of the divine nature" is abstract and merely moralistic, then God is not truly present, and if God is not truly present, then there is no grace, and if there is no grace, man by his own power can stop sinning.  If man by his own power can stop sinning, we do not need God.  But as I have shown, grace, which is the uncreated presence of God working in man, aids man in destroying sin.  Therefore, partaking of the divine nature is not abstract, it is real partaking of the uncreated nature of God.  See quote from St. Cyril of Alexandria in next post.

    c. If it is impossible for the infinite God to dwell in man, it is impossible for the infinite God to incarnate, which means Christ is not God incarnate, and we are still in our sins. God became man so that man might become god.  The fullness of God was revealed bodily (Col. 2:9) that we may be filled with ALL the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19).  The Holy Spirit, though infinite and uncontainable, is powerful enough to dwell in any man and all men at all times.  See quotes from St. Severus of Antioch in next post.
  • edited March 2016
    Quotes from St. Athanasius:

    Further it is through the Spirit that we are all said to be partakers of God. For it says: ‘Know ye not that ye are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’  If the Holy Spirit were a creature, we should have no participation of God in him.  If indeed we were joined to a creature, we should be strangers to the divine nature inasmuch as we did not partake therein.  But, as it is, the fact of our being called partakers of Christ and partakers of God shows that the unction and seal that is in us belongs, not to the nature of things originate, but to the nature of the Son who, through the Spirit who is in him, joins us to the Father.  This John taught us, as is said above, when he wrote:  'Hereby know we that we abide in God and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.'  But if, by participation in the Spirit, we are made 'sharers in the divine nature', we should be mad to say that the Spirit has a created nature and not the nature of God.  For it is on this account that those in whom he is are made divine.  If he makes men divine, it is not to be doubted that his nature is of God. (Letter to Serapion 1.24)


    From what follows, also, we may see how the Holy Spirit is partaken and does not partake.  (We must not mind repeating ourselves.)  For, 'It is impossible', it says, 'for those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good Word of God…'  The angels and the other creatures partake of the Spirit himself; hence they can fall away from him whom they partake.  But the Spirit is always the same; he does not belong to those who partake, but all things partake of him.  But if he is always the same and always partaken; and if the creatures partake of him — the Holy Spirit can neither be an angel nor a creature of any kind, but proper to the Word.  And being given by the Word, he is partaken by the creatures.  For they would have to say that the Son is a creature, of whom we are all made partakers in the Spirit. (Letter to Serapion 1.27)

  • edited March 2016
    Quote from St. Cyril:

    A. Are we not saying that on earth humankind has been made in the image of God?
    B. Surely.
    A. Is it not the Spirit who gives us the divine image and, like a seal, imprints on us the superterrestrial beauty (...)?
    B. But not as God, he says, only as a minister of the divine grace.
    A. Is it therefore not Himself, but the grace which, through Him, is imparted to us?
    B. It seems.
    A. Then it would be necessary to call humankind the image of grace rather than the image of God....But when they were established in being, they were formed like God, the breath of life having been breathed into them. After losing their holiness...they were not called back to the original and ancient beauty in a way different from the beginning. Indeed, Christ breathed upon the holy apostles saying: “Receive [the] Holy Spirit,”...If the grace given by Him was separate from the essence of the Spirit, why does the blessed Moses not clearly say that, after having been made the living being, the Demiurge of the universe breathed grace into this one by the breath of life? And [why does not] Christ [say] to us: Receive grace by the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Now the first says: breath of life. This means that the nature of the Deity is real life, if it is true that we live, we move, and we exist in it. In its turn, the voice of the Savior says: Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit whom, in truth, He makes indwell and whom He brings into the souls of the believers, by whom and in whom He changes them into the original form, that is to say, into Himself, into His own likeness by means of sanctification, renewing us in that way to the archetype of the image, namely, the nature of the Father,...[and] the Son. But the complete and physical similitude (...) of the Son is the Spirit. Configured to Him by sanctification, we are shaped just like the very form (...) of God. This is what the word of the apostle teaches us: “My children,” he exclaims, “whom I beget once again, until Christ be formed in you.” Now He is formed by the Spirit, who through Himself restores us according to God. Since then we are formed according to Christ, who is Himself indeed engraved and reproduced in us by the Spirit, as if someone who is physically like Him (...), the Spirit of God—He who makes like God, not as by a ministerial grace, but by giving Himself to the righteous one in the participation of the divine nature.
    B. I have nothing to correct in what has just been said.
    A. We are called, and we are, temples of God, and even gods. Why? Question the adversaries whether we actually partake only of a grace, bare and devoid of hypostasis (...). But it is not so. For we are temples of the Spirit, who exists and subsists; because of Him, we are also called gods insofar as, by our union with Him, we have entered into communion with the divine and ineffable nature. If the Spirit who deifies (...) us through Himself is actually foreign and separate, as to essence, from the divine nature, then we have been defrauded of our hope, assuming for ourselves who knows what vain glory. How, indeed, would we then still be gods and temples of God, according to Scripture, by the Spirit who is in us? For how would the one who is deprived of being God confer this capacity on others? But we are in reality temples and gods....The divine Spirit is therefore not of an essence different from that of God (...). (Dialogues of the Trinity 7, 75:1088b-1089d; quoted from Jules Gross, “The Divinization of the Christian According to the Greek Fathers”)

  • Quotes from St. Severus:

    For, while he is one and the only Son, and completely above all human phantasy, the whole of him is in virtue of a gift in every man, and in each [one] by presence, not being divided nor cleft asunder, but [above] everything by nature, and in everything as God. (St. Severus of Antioch, Letter XXV, quoting St. Cyril of Alexandria)


    Even though the Word of God is infinite, the whole of him was united to the flesh that was received from the holy Virgin, the God-bearer and ever-virgin Mary, even the very person of the Word and not a partial operation as in the prophets. How then is it anything but ridiculous for us to say that he who was in the actual divine hypostasis wholly united to a body naturally as well as miraculously is without flesh, even in the greatness of his infinite Godhead? For "there is no limit to his greatness" (Psalm 144:3 LXX), as David said, and he fills everything, and is above everything, and cannot be comprised by anyone. And the subtlety of the mystery cannot be explored by reason and intellect, how the whole of him was in flesh, and the whole of him is in all things and the whole of him is superior to all things and he himself is Ruler of all in infinity. But, that we believe that the very hypostasis of God the Word became incarnate, according to the apostolic tradition of the church that has been handed down from of old, it is superfluous for us to demonstrate by testimonies to those who have once believed in the Gospel, when John who was divine in words beyond the evangelists said, "The Word became flesh and came to dwell in us" (John 1:14). (St. Severus of Antioch, Letter XXV)

  • Also the last quote provided by HE Metropolitan Bishoy contradicts his stance. By the Holy Spirit, St. Athanasius says, we are knit into the Godhead. How is that he can quote this and say "we don't partake in the divine nature"? If the Holy Spirit knits us into the divine nature, we partake of and in Him. He is in us and we in Him.

    The semantic is silly in this paper by the blessed Metropolitan, and sadly it only shows a certain sense of desperation to support his earlier views against deification.
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