This essay addresses the need for a fuller, more integral and embodied understanding of salvation in Protestant, especially Reformed theology. Specifically, it makes a case for retrieving the early Eastern Christian notion of theosis/deification for contemporary Reformed theology. After reviewing classical formulations of theosis and other notions of salvation in the broader Christian tradition, it considers conventional Reformed objections to theosis. Then it explores new directions in Calvin research indicated by Carl Mosser, J. Todd Billings, and Julie Canlis, as well as the constructive theology of incarnation presented by Wendy Farley, with a view to determining their potential to assist in this retrieval. In the end, the author formulates some ‘grammar rules’ for articulating theosis in a Reformed-ecumenical, gender-sensitive discourse.
See e.g. Myrrha Lot-BorodineLa déification de l’homme selon la doctrine des pères grecs. (Paris: Éditions du Cerf1970). This work is based on an earlier essay “La doctrine de la ‘déification’ dans l’Église grecque jusq’au XIe siècle” which first appeared in 1932. See also Vladimir Lossky The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd. 1957); Panayiotis Nellas Deification in Christ. Orthodox Perspectives on the Nature of the Human Person (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press 1987); Norman Russell The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press 2004).
Martha NussbaumLove’s Knowledge. Essays on Philosophy and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press1990); Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (New York Cambridge University Press 2001).
F.W. Norris“Deification: Consensual and Cogent,”Scottish Journal of Theology49:4 (1996) 411–428; Robert V. Rakestraw “Becoming like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis” Journal of Evangelical Theology 40:2 (1997) 257–269; Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification Collegeville: Liturgical Press 2004; Patricia Codron “Theosis Revisited” (no date) http://www.pcts.org/meetings/Codron.theosis.pdf; Stephen Finland and Vladimir Kharlamov Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Eugene: Pickwick Publications 2006); Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (eds.) Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2007); Roger E. Olson “Deification in Contemporary Theology” Theology Today 64 (2007) 186–200; Adrian Pabst and Christoph Schneider (eds.) Encounter Between Eastern Orthodoxy and Radical Orthodoxy. Transfiguring the World through the Word (London: Ashgate 2009); Paul L. Gavrilyuk “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-Despised Archaism Became an Ecumenical Desideratum” Modern Theology 25:4 (2009) 647–659.
Carl Mosser“The Greatest Possible Blessing”; J. Todd Billings, “John Calvin: United to God through Christ,”The Harvard Theological Review98:3 (2005) 315–334. For an abbreviated version of this essay see Christensen and Wittung (eds.) Partakers of the Divine Nature 2007 200–218; Calvin Participation and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (New York: Oxford 2007); Julie Canlis Calvin’s Ladder; “Calvin Osiander and Participation in God” in International Journal of Systematic Theology 6:2 (2004) 169–184; Roland Chia “Salvation as Justification and Deification” Scottish Journal of Theology 64:2 (2011) 125–139; Billings and I. John Hesselink Calvin’s Theology and Its Reception. Disputes Developments and New Possibilities. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 2012). See esp. Billings and Michael S. Horton on “Union with Christ” (49–71; 72–94).
Billings“John Calvin: United to God through Christ”316. See also his Calvin Participation and the Gift; “John Calvin’s Soteriology: On the Multifaceted “Sum” of the Gospel” in International Journal of Systematic Theology 11:4 (2009) 428–447.
CanlisCalvin’s Ladder73. Canlis adopts the term ‘relational ontology’ from Christoph Schwöbel. See his “Christology and Trinitarian Thought” in Trinitarian Theology Today ed. Christoph Schwöbel (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark 1995) 141.