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Author Topic: Theosis and Chalcedonian Christology  (Read 2312 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: March 02, 2010, 09:03:09 PM »

I would really only like OO responses to this post. Thanks. Smiley

I am reading The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation by Clark Carlton. It is a very good book, but since the author is EO there is of course the inevitable Chalcedonian influence. I am still an Orthodox infant, and unfortunately much of what I learn comes via EO teachings (there just aren't many OO books written in English). Kallistos Ware's book The Orthodox Church, Father Seraphim Rose's biography, Matthew Gallatin's Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells, Daniel B. Clendenin's Eastern Orthodoxy, and this book I am currently reading have all helped me to understand the Orthodox Faith. But I am always careful to keep an eye out for the erroneous Chalcedonian Christology that is ivariably contained in such works.

But today I read this passage which claims Chalcedonian Christology as the basis for the doctrine of theosis.  I don't think this can be right. I would appreciate any thoughts from my OO brothers and sisters as to how to refute this idea. Here is the passage:

     "The Orthodox understanding of theosis is also based on the Christological definition at the Council of Chalcedon. At the council, the Fathers decreed that Christ's human and divine natures were united 'without mixture or confusion and without separation or division.' In other words, what the Church says about the deification of human nature is exactly what She says about Christ's human nature.
     Man is not naturally divine. He is a creature and will alwyas remian a creature. Just as Christ's human nature did not become mixed or confused with His divine nature, so we, in the resurrection, will not become mixed or confused with God. In Christ the human and divine natures remain distinct, and they shall remain so for all eternity.
     Thus, there is an irreducible gulf between the nature of God and the nature of man. The fact that this gulf is irreducible, however, does not mean that it is irreconcilable. St. Paul affirms that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). The definition of Chalcedon not only affirms that there is no confusion between Christ's divine and human natures, it also affirms that they are uniteed without separation or division. Therefore, it is as incorrect to separate Christ's divine and human natures as it is to mix them together."
 [The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation by Clark Carlton p. 120]


Selam
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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2010, 09:04:12 PM »

^Above post not finished yet. Sorry.

OK, finished now.

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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2010, 02:02:45 PM »

I think what is meant is that a correct idea of theosis is only possible in a Christological framework in which the divine and human natures in Christ are understood to be united inseparably yet unconfusedly in a single Hypostasis. Nestorian Christology does not allow for theosis because there is no true union, and a Monophysitic/Synousiast Christological scheme that confuses the human and divine would inevitably lead to 'apotheosis' wherein man becomes god by nature.

Traditional OO Christology teaches neither a division of Hypostasis, nor a confusion of natures, and therefore allows for an Orthodox understanding of theosis.
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2010, 03:04:53 PM »

Indeed.  I suspect that part of the issue St. Cyril might have had with Nestorius is that at best even if Nestorius didn't believe in two personist Christology, his theology had repercussions in the personal life of any Christian in relation to Christ in every aspect, and one of the most important repercussions was an eradication of theosis.

Alexandrians very much loved the "mia physis" language in its implication for theosis, while stressing the unconfused unity.  Everything was always "one" in Alexandrian minds, and we wanted to be "mia" with God by grace as Christ's humanity and divinity were "mia" in "nature."
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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2010, 06:33:13 PM »

What does St. Athanasius mean when he says that "God became man so the we may become God"? We do not become divine by nature, but we become one with God through His grace? Is that right? If so, then in what sense do we become one with God?


Also, I would like a simple argument to refute the assertion that Chalcedonian Christology is the foundation for the doctrine of theosis.


[BTW, please keep your responses as simple as possible. I am a theological novice, and need things explained very plainly. Thanks. Smiley]


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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2010, 07:29:52 PM »

What does St. Athanasius mean when he says that "God became man so the we may become God"? We do not become divine by nature, but we become one with God through His grace? Is that right? If so, then in what sense do we become one with God?

St. Peter the Apostle says that we "become partakers of the divine nature" (nature here does not mean essence, but refers to God's divine energies). We become by grace what God is by nature through participation in His divine life. But there is no confusion of our person with His, nor of His essence with ours.

The analogy of iron and fire is often used. By being placed in fire, iron becomes imbued with heat and light - both properties of the fire.

Quote
Also, I would like a simple argument to refute the assertion that Chalcedonian Christology is the foundation for the doctrine of theosis.

What do you need a refutation for? He is not saying Chalcedon is the foundation of theosis, he is saying that the Christology expressed at Chalcedon (as it is interpreted in the EO tradition) is the foundation of theosis - i.e. that there is neither confusion nor division of humanity and divinity in Christ. The Cyrilline Christology of the OO is the very same thing. So what is it you wish to refute?
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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2010, 10:28:58 PM »


Also, I would like a simple argument to refute the assertion that Chalcedonian Christology is the foundation for the doctrine of theosis.


I don't think it needs a refutation, as much as it needs an explanation. 

The author of the book you are reading is a Chalcedonian, and he is of course addressing Chalcedonian readers.  Chalcedon and its language is how they frame their Christology, so it is natural that he should express himself in this way.  It doesn't mean theosis was invented at Chalcedon, or was even first developed there.

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

The Chalcedonians, when speaking of theosis, will go back to Chalcedon and its definition, since that is where their Christology was most fully expressed.  As has been pointed out countless times by wimpy ecumenists like myself  Smiley , the Christology of the Chalcedonians (at least today) is pretty near, if not identical to our own.  So I wouldn't worry about the author identifying theosis with Chalcedon.  We all know it existed before Chalcedon, but he is just using Chalcedon as a frame of reference.
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2010, 11:37:43 PM »


Also, I would like a simple argument to refute the assertion that Chalcedonian Christology is the foundation for the doctrine of theosis.


I don't think it needs a refutation, as much as it needs an explanation. 

The author of the book you are reading is a Chalcedonian, and he is of course addressing Chalcedonian readers.  Chalcedon and its language is how they frame their Christology, so it is natural that he should express himself in this way.  It doesn't mean theosis was invented at Chalcedon, or was even first developed there.

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

The Chalcedonians, when speaking of theosis, will go back to Chalcedon and its definition, since that is where their Christology was most fully expressed.  As has been pointed out countless times by wimpy ecumenists like myself  Smiley , the Christology of the Chalcedonians (at least today) is pretty near, if not identical to our own.  So I wouldn't worry about the author identifying theosis with Chalcedon.  We all know it existed before Chalcedon, but he is just using Chalcedon as a frame of reference.

Thanks! That's pretty much what I thought, and I'm glad you clarified it for me.

If you can ever find a specific quote where St. Dioscorus utilized this Christological formula, please let us know. That would be awesome to know for sure that he used it prior to Chalcedon.

Selam
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2010, 11:49:17 PM »

What does St. Athanasius mean when he says that "God became man so the we may become God"? We do not become divine by nature, but we become one with God through His grace? Is that right? If so, then in what sense do we become one with God?

St. Peter the Apostle says that we "become partakers of the divine nature" (nature here does not mean essence, but refers to God's divine energies). We become by grace what God is by nature through participation in His divine life. But there is no confusion of our person with His, nor of His essence with ours.

The analogy of iron and fire is often used. By being placed in fire, iron becomes imbued with heat and light - both properties of the fire.

Quote
Also, I would like a simple argument to refute the assertion that Chalcedonian Christology is the foundation for the doctrine of theosis.

What do you need a refutation for? He is not saying Chalcedon is the foundation of theosis, he is saying that the Christology expressed at Chalcedon (as it is interpreted in the EO tradition) is the foundation of theosis - i.e. that there is neither confusion nor division of humanity and divinity in Christ. The Cyrilline Christology of the OO is the very same thing. So what is it you wish to refute?


OK, I think I've got it now. The iron in the fire absorbs the properties of the fire, in essence becoming one with the fire while remaining iron and remaining distinct from the fire itself. So by grace we absorb God's divine energies as we experience Him more and more in our lives, and thus we become "deified" - restored to His likeness - although we do not become God. (Are the divine energies synonymous with the divine attributes, or are these two things different?)

Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps I was being overly sensitive to the author's claim that theosis originated with Chalcedonian Christology. On the one hand, I do believe that EO and OO Christology is essentially the same. But on the other hand, I know that many Saints fought and sacrificed to preserve the pure Tewahedo doctrine of Our Lord's One nature, so I don't want the common assertions of Christ having two natures to go unchallenged.

Selam
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2010, 11:52:43 PM »

(Are the divine energies synonymous with the divine attributes, or are these two things different?)

The divine essence of God is utterly unapproachable, incomprehensible, inexplicable, unknowable, etc. We can only speak of God as we experience Him through His divine energies. So yes, to associate the energies of God with His attributes would be correct as far as I understand it.
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« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2010, 12:06:29 AM »

(Are the divine energies synonymous with the divine attributes, or are these two things different?)

The divine essence of God is utterly unapproachable, incomprehensible, inexplicable, unknowable, etc. We can only speak of God as we experience Him through His divine energies. So yes, to associate the energies of God with His attributes would be correct as far as I understand it.

Thank you.

So is it correct to say that "essence" is synonymous with "nature," and "energies" is synonymous with "attributes"?


Selam
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« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2010, 12:24:35 AM »

So is it correct to say that "essence" is synonymous with "nature,"

Not if you are speaking in terms of OO Christology, in which case "nature" equals hypostasis, not essence.

But yes, in most of the literature you're likely to encounter, "essence" and "nature" are synonyms - and that is how I've used the terms above.

Quote
and "energies" is synonymous with "attributes"?

When we speak of God's attributes we are certainly speaking of His divine energies, since His nature/essence is entirely ineffable. I'm not sure I'd call them synonyms though, since the word "attributes" seems to denote something much less concrete than "energies".
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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2010, 11:02:33 AM »

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

Ya, I believe one can extract the quotes from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon itself when St. Dioscoros was defending himself.
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« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2010, 12:42:16 AM »

Actually, contrariwise, I believe some of the Anti-Chalcedonian Fathers indicated that it is rather Miaphysitism that is the basis for theosis. I think I recently read something from Philoxenus along those lines. I will try to scrounge it up.
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« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2010, 08:27:37 PM »

Actually, contrariwise, I believe some of the Anti-Chalcedonian Fathers indicated that it is rather Miaphysitism that is the basis for theosis. I think I recently read something from Philoxenus along those lines. I will try to scrounge it up.

That seems to be how I understood it.  Antiochian Christology in the affirming of two natures really didn't leave much room for an interaction between the divine and human.  Maybe St. John Chrysostom can be considered the anomaly, but for the most part, they kept the two separate so much so as to stress the moral aspect of Christianity, not the mystical aspect as the Alexandrian fathers tended to do, which logically lead them to Miaphysitism.
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2010, 09:27:58 PM »

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

Ya, I believe one can extract the quotes from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon itself when St. Dioscoros was defending himself.

I believe St. Cyril first used this formula in a letter to Severus of Antioch. I'll look it up when I get home.
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« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2010, 11:04:29 PM »

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

Ya, I believe one can extract the quotes from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon itself when St. Dioscoros was defending himself.

I believe St. Cyril first used this formula in a letter to Severus of Antioch. I'll look it up when I get home.
St. Severus wasn't born yet when St. Cyril was around.
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« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2010, 12:25:17 AM »

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

Ya, I believe one can extract the quotes from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon itself when St. Dioscoros was defending himself.

I believe St. Cyril first used this formula in a letter to Severus of Antioch. I'll look it up when I get home.
St. Severus wasn't born yet when St. Cyril was around.

Sorry!  I realized that shortly after I wrote it.  I meant St. Cyrll's letter to Succensus bishop of Diocaesarea. 

Quote from: First Letter of St. Cyril to Succensus
6. And so, we unite the Word of God the Father to the holy flesh endowed with a rational soul, in an ineffable way that transcends understanding, without confusion, without change, and without alteration, and we thereby confess One Son, and Christ, and Lord; the same one God and man, not someone alonside someone different, but one and the same who is and is known to be both things.  For this reason he sometimes speaks economically as man, in human fashion; and at other times, as God, he makes statements with divine authority. It is our contention that if we carefully examine the manner of the economy in the flesh and attentively investiage the mystery, we shall see that the Word of God the Father was made man and made flesh but did not fashion that sacred body from his own divine nature, but rather took it from the virgin.  How else could he become man except by putting on the human body?  As I have said, if we understand the manner of the incarnation we shall see that two natures come together with one another, without confusion or change, in an indivisible union.

This letter dates between 434-438.
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« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2010, 03:30:26 PM »

(Are the divine energies synonymous with the divine attributes, or are these two things different?)

The divine essence of God is utterly unapproachable, incomprehensible, inexplicable, unknowable, etc. We can only speak of God as we experience Him through His divine energies. So yes, to associate the energies of God with His attributes would be correct as far as I understand it.

Thank you.

So is it correct to say that "essence" is synonymous with "nature," and "energies" is synonymous with "attributes"?


Selam

No, not entirely. Because the Energies are not a static reality that describe who "God is", so to speak. They're much more related to action and emanation. The point is that action and emanation is all that we can know about God, because His inner being is utterly unapproachable.
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« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2010, 03:33:38 PM »

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

Ya, I believe one can extract the quotes from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon itself when St. Dioscoros was defending himself.

I believe St. Cyril first used this formula in a letter to Severus of Antioch. I'll look it up when I get home.

Cyril and Severus were never even on this Earth at the same time. Severus was born about 20 years after Cyril reposed. So that's an impossibility. Cyril did, however, I believe, write to Eutyches, and it's possible that that is who you were thinking of.
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« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2010, 03:34:54 PM »

Theosis is really based on Orthodox Christology, as has been expressed through the ages by all our theologians, including St. Iranaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Dioscoros, and so on.  In fact, it is my understanding that St. Dioscoros first used the four qualifiers, "without mixture or confusion and without separation or division," and that he also used the analogy of the iron in the fire in one of his letters.  (Mina, or someone else, correct me if I am wrong.)

Ya, I believe one can extract the quotes from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon itself when St. Dioscoros was defending himself.

I believe St. Cyril first used this formula in a letter to Severus of Antioch. I'll look it up when I get home.
St. Severus wasn't born yet when St. Cyril was around.

Sorry!  I realized that shortly after I wrote it.  I meant St. Cyrll's letter to Succensus bishop of Diocaesarea. 

Quote from: First Letter of St. Cyril to Succensus
6. And so, we unite the Word of God the Father to the holy flesh endowed with a rational soul, in an ineffable way that transcends understanding, without confusion, without change, and without alteration, and we thereby confess One Son, and Christ, and Lord; the same one God and man, not someone alonside someone different, but one and the same who is and is known to be both things.  For this reason he sometimes speaks economically as man, in human fashion; and at other times, as God, he makes statements with divine authority. It is our contention that if we carefully examine the manner of the economy in the flesh and attentively investiage the mystery, we shall see that the Word of God the Father was made man and made flesh but did not fashion that sacred body from his own divine nature, but rather took it from the virgin.  How else could he become man except by putting on the human body?  As I have said, if we understand the manner of the incarnation we shall see that two natures come together with one another, without confusion or change, in an indivisible union.

This letter dates between 434-438.

Oh! Ok. It looks like you might be right about this. I wonder if it's possible if they even predate Cyril, however.
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Faith: Oriental Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Posts: 12,958


Strengthen O Lord the work of Your hands(Is 19:25)


« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2010, 09:07:07 PM »

From the first session of the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (using a google books search):

Quote
262.  The most devout Oriental bishops and those with them exclaimed: 'Eutyches says this.  Dioscorus says this.' 

263.  Dioscorus the most devout bishop of Alexandria said:  'We speak of neither confusion nor division nor change.  Anathema to whoever speaks of confusion or change or mixture.'
« Last Edit: April 30, 2010, 09:08:56 PM by minasoliman » Logged

Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.
Tags: theosis St. Cyril 
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