"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
mattress,/
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Catholic Treatments of Divinization

Just before Christmas I heard a bewildering story from a trusted friend about people at Mass at a Catholic university reacting negatively to a homily that suggested theosis or divinization (deification) is a part of Catholic tradition. I thought such fatuousness was slowly dying out, aided by any number of recent books on the topic, not least Daniel Keating's careful 2007 study, Deification and Grace (Introductions to Catholic Doctrine), or the several articles on theosis in Catholic tradition in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions. But apparently there are still people who think this.

I am happy to report that such people really will have no excuse whatsoever for persevering in their ignorance and prejudice after the appearance, early in the new year, of a rich collection which I have perused in draft form. My editor at Catholic World Report, Carl Olson, has teamed up with the Jesuit theologian David Meconi of Saint Louis University to edit a very rich and promising looking collection with articles on deification from some prominent Catholic scholars.

Meconi is no stranger to the topic, having authored The One Christ: St. Augustine's Theology of Deification (Catholic University of America Press, 2013), 296pp.

Olson, too, is no stranger to the topic, having authored this lengthy essay in 2008 on how he came to the topic.

Their new collaborative collection is entitled Called to be the Children of God: the Catholic Theology of Human Deification, and it is to be published in 2016. I've already talked to the editors about an interview once the book is in print.

Ignatius tells us this about the book:
The first generations of Christians saw in their new lives in Jesus Christ a way to transcend all the limitations of sin and death and become new creatures. St. Peter expressed this as "participating in the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4), while St. Athanasius stated it succinctly 300 years later: "God became a human, so humans could become God." This is the heart of the Christian faith and the pledge of the Christian promise: that those baptized in Christ become "divine" through their partaking in God's own life and love. This is why Christians can live forever, this is the source of their charity and their holiness, this is why we do not need to live in a world ruled by fallen instinct and sinful desires. We have been made for more, for infinitely more.
This book gathers more than a dozen Catholic scholars and theologians to examine what this process of "deification" means in their respective areas of study. It offers fifteen chapters showing what "becoming God" meant for the early Church, for St. Thomas Aquinas and the greatest Dominicans, the significance it played in the thinking of St. Francis and the early Franciscans. It shows how such an understanding of salvation played out during the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent, as well as in French School of Spirituality, in various Thomist thinkers, in John Henry Newman and John Paul II, at the Vatican Councils, and where such thinking can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church today.
No other book has gathered such an array of scholars or provided such a deep study into how humanity's divinized life in Christ has received many rich and various perspectives over the past two thousand years. This book therefore hopes to bring readers into the central mystery of Christianity by allowing the Church's greatest thinkers and texts to speak for themselves, showing how becoming Christ-like, becoming truly the Body of Christ on earth, is the only ultimate purpose of the Christian faith.
"Rescue from sin and death is indeed a wonderful thing—but the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ is incomparably greater. And that is the subject of this book. In all its parts, this book, like Christianity in all its parts, is about salvation. But that means it's about everything that fills our lives, on earth and in heaven."
— Dr. Scott Hahn, Author, Rome Sweet Home

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