Thursday 20 April 2017

Banging on-and-on about salvation but ignoring theosis

I think this may be counterproductive, overall, in the modern West.

Of course, salvation is the most essential - whereas theosis (spiritual progression, sanctification or deification - the becoming-more-divine while during mortal life) can seem like a sort of 'optional extra'; but that is not really the case, because one without the other leads to trouble.

Those of us who got beyond childhood must know what to do in our lives - and a purely salvation -orientated Christianity cannot tell us that. It is extraordinary how Christians know, on the one hand, that anybody may saved in a moment (by repentance and acceptance) - yet they also apparently assert that the whole of the rest of life is also about retaining, securing this salvation.

In fact the rest of life ought to be about becoming more divine - theosis.

But within theosis there is a large range of assertion - the Eastern Orthodox understand theosis mainly in terms of the primacy of the ascetic, monastic (or hermit) life; and how closely this can be approximated. Other traditions see theosis mainly in terms of Good Works of various types.

Furthermore, there is a tendency to regard theosis as a process of convergence upon a single template - all humans trying to become more like the great Saints or a specific Saint, or Christ - 'modelling' all human lives towards convergence upon what is known of the life of (say) Francis of Assisi or Jesus.

It depends what you suppose the ultimate purpose of creation to be. If you suppose that the creator wanted all humans to be the same-kind-of-perfect, like 'clones'; then theosis will indeed be a single model or pattern. Many Christians do understand Heaven to be a state in which all that is individual is discarded - included the sexes as well as whatever is distinctive about our ultimates selves...

- But, if you agree with the idea that God wants us each to develop towards being ultimately, a fully divine but utterly unique, and individual, and distinct son or daughter of God...

- Then you will need to regard your own theosis as (although, of course, constrained/ guided by the commandments and constraints of Christianity) ultimately an unique destiny which you, personally, must discover and develop.

This, is a worthy focus of a human life, no matter what is nature or length - a goal both in general and also in all particulars; a goal that is absolutely personal and also harmonious with the creation.