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Theosis

March 26, 2008

Q:  Does faith unite one to Christ?
A:  Yes
Q:  Is Christ God?
A:  Yes

Well, there you have it.  Now one must go on to question what sort of union believers have in Christ.  I haven’t quoted Nevin in a while, and I’ve recently been looking back through his The Mystical Presence.  What an excellent book.  This paragraph in particular is VERY IMPORTANT:  

The relation of believers to Christ, then, is more again than that of simply legal union.  He is indeed the representative of his people, and what he has done and suffered on their behalf is counted to their benefit, as though it had been done by themselves.  They have an interest in his merits, a title to all the advantages secured by his life and death.  But this external imputation rests at last on an inward, real unity of life, without which it could have no reason or force.  Our interest in Christ’s merits and benefits can be based only upon a previous interest in his person; so in the Lord’s Supper, we are made to participate, not merely in the advantages secured by his mediatorial work, the rewards of his obedience, the fruits of his bitter passion, the virtue of his atonement, and the power of his preistly intercession, but also in his true and proper life itself, We partake of his merits and benefits only so far as we partake of his substance …. In the Lord’s Supper, accordingly, the believer communicates not only with the Spirit of Christ, or with his divine nature, but with Christ himself in his whole living person; so that they may be said to be fed and nourished by his very flesh and blood. (The Mystical Presence, 53, 54.)  

Therefore, believers are united to Christ’s substance.  His body and blood truly dwells in us – in a spiritual, non corporeal manner.  If this ain’t theosis then call me a Zwinglian. It’s o.k. to say this. Don’t worry…this is Reformed.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2008 9:39 am

    Yeah but be prepared to come across the Mercersburg men rejecting the term “deification.” They were concerned about preserving Chalcedon and remained unconvinced that folks promoting deification in their day had done so.

    I’m not sure if this means they misunderstood the intent of that term or not, as I don’t know who exactly they were opposing.

  2. March 26, 2008 1:00 pm

    I’m not too savvy on the history of Mercersburg myself. These buzz words (deification, theosis, etc.) are commonly misunderstood in our day for sure. I bet those against whom the Mercersburg guys were writing were not using “deification” in the same sense Luther uses it: “[God] pours out Christ his dear Son upon us and pours himself into us and draws us into himself, so that he is entirely humanized and we are entirely divinized … and all with one another are one reality – God, Christ, and you.” According to Bruce Marshall this is all included, for Luther, under union with Christ. I think Nevin would agree with this. In the introductory essay (which Nevin did not write but still endorsed enough to include) it is stated, “The proper expression to denote the fact is therefore, not ‘the unity of the divine and human,’ which is too general, and liable to be taken in a pantheistic sense; but what is far more definite and concrete, ‘the union of God and man.'” I’m sure Nevin would say something similar.

  3. March 27, 2008 4:23 pm

    You’re darn right this is Reformed.

    “Christ, by the incomprehensible virtue of his Spirit, infuses his life into us and makes it common to us, just as in a tree the vital sap diffuses itself from the root among the branches, or as vigour from the head spreads to the limbs.”

    *St. Calvin, “The Best Method of Obtaining Concord,” Theological Treatises, 326.

  4. March 27, 2008 6:35 pm

    It’s good to be Reformed. A while ago I was beginning to doubt that. Thanks for stopping by Jonathan.

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