Btw, Fr Anthony Coniaris is a Greek Orthodox priest, not Coptic.
Sorry, my bad. I just assumed he was Coptic since his article was on a Coptic Orthodox website.
In any event, the point is that the Coptic Orthodox Church certainly does advocate the concept of theosis as it has always been understood by the early Church. This can clearly be seen in His Eminence Metroplitan Bishoy’s article, as well as a summary of the teachings of H.H. Pope Shenouda on this issue which I will paste below.
I was looking through my book collection and found one titled Overall Perspectives on the Works of Fr. Matthew the Poor: An analytical Study of his Spiritual Treasury
by Fayek Matta Sihak (Professor Emeritus). In Chapter 8: Divination and the Union with God
, he states regarding Fr Matta’s stance on this issue, that by Divination (Theosis) he:
“GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âªdoes not mean the metamorphosis of the human nature so as to be divine. It is simply a preparedness for the life with God and union with Him. This is, above all, a life of charity and communion through the consecration of His Blood and partaking of the Holy Communion.
Viewed in this context, divination in the full sense of the term, becomes more meaningful after the resurrection of the body. But as God has given us the ways and means of grace and showed us how to surmount sin and the corruption of the world, a new vista has been opened for us to taste this union with God.”
If this is the context in which Fr Matta employs his terminology, then I cannot find anything wrong with it, especially considering the fact that prominent Orthodox figures of the early church indeed used quite strong terminology themselves to communicate the concept:
“The Word could never have divinized us
if He were merely divine by participation and were not Himself the essential Godhead” (St Athanasius)
"He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God
" (St Athanasius)
“Souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes . . . abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God
.” (St. Basil)
If you have some primary source material of Fr Matta, in which he in his own writings employs strong terminology in a heretical context, then I would be grateful if you could please point it out for me. Also, do you have more information concerning the nature of the dispute, and how H.H. and H.G. have responded exactly? Did they or either one of them really come up with a new expression in the face of the early patristic one of: “God became man, so that man may become god”, as I heard?
Thanks in advance brother.
With all due respect to His Grace and His Holiness, I have serious objections to Metropolitan Beshoy's and Pope Shenouda III's turns of phrase.
The use of phrases and expressions should not be looked at in a vacuum, but rather according to the context in which the proponent of new terminology feels the need to diverge from or replace the original terminology in order to adapt to the circumstances at hand (this is after all what the EO will argue happened at Chalcedon right?).
To take an extreme example into account, I would have absolutely no problem with the expression: “God became man, so that man might become god”, nor would I have a problem vocally expressing it in front of a group of Orthodox believers who perfectly understand the context in which I understand it, and who themselves understand it in that same context. However, I would have a major problem with vocally expressing it in front of a group of Mormons, and hence would feel the need to diverge from or qualify it in one way or another.
Now I don’t know the exact situation in which H.H. Pope Shenounda or His Eminence Metropolitan bishoy feel the need to diverge from such early patristic expressions (nor am I even certain if they truly have diverged from these expressions --- remember, I have only spoken from hearsay
in the hope that someone more educated with the raw facts might jump in and either affirm or correct what I have said), and hence it wouldn’t be sound to pass judgment on the appropriateness or reasonableness of it until more concrete facts are available. If they are directly addressing and facing a severe problem in which certain people have taken theosis to an heretical extreme, then this certainly needs to be taken into consideration.Here is an article from suscopts.org in which the author has briefly summarised H.H.Pope Shenouda’s position on the issue of theosis, which is perfectly Orthodox and in line with early patristic thought:
Deification is an ancient theological term used to describe the process by which a Christian becomes more like God. A distinction must be drawn between the idea of deification as “becoming God” (theosis) and as “becoming like God” (homoiosis theoi).
What Deification is not:
When the Church calls us to pursue godliness, to be more like God, this doesn’t mean that human beings then become divine. We do not become like God in His nature. That would not only be a heresy, it would be impossible. For we are human, always have been human, and will always remain human. We cannot take on the divine nature of God. God said it clearly, “My glory (of the divinity) I will not give to another” (Isa 42:. In (Jn 10:34), our Lord Jesus Christ, quoting (Ps 82:6) repeats the passage, “You are gods”. The fact that He was speaking to a group of hypocritical religious leaders who were accusing Him of blasphemy makes the meaning very clear: our Lord was not using “god” to refer to divine nature. We are gods in that we bear His likeness, not His nature. Moreover, the same Holy Psalm says in the next verse, “You shall die like men and fall like one of the princes” (Ps 82:7).
What Deification is:
Deification means we are to become more like God through His grace. When the Son of God assumed our humanity in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the process of our being renewed in God’s image and likeness was begun. Thus, those who are joined to Christ through Faith, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist begin a re-creation process, being renewed in God’s image and likeness. We become as St. Peter writes, “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pet 1:4).
What St. Peter means is partaking of the divine virtues and not the essence of the Godhead. He therefore shows us the way by saying in the same verse, “GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (1Pet 1:4). Those who misinterpret St. Peter’s words fall into the deception of Satan who said to Eve, “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5), the devil convinced her that they would be divine!