Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Evolution of Soul: Theosis for the 21st Century

"For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the Unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality."

- Athanasius

As a Protestant/Pentecostal, I had never before encountered the term theosis until reading The Story of Christian Theology.[1] While satisfied with the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement as a manner of understanding grace and salvation, there has always been a part of my mind that saw and understood the act of Christ’s death as a means of defiance. Indeed, reading and theologians like Walter Brueggemann, or even the popular Tony Campolo, tend to foster the idea of Christ as a dissident; but, more so, it just seemed like Christ’s decision to be crucified, early on, in front of his mother, in spite of Judas, was an act composited from a thousand errands of defiance. Jesus died spectacularly, and the spectacle with which he died is often lost in our conversations about what it meant simply for Him to be a sacrifice.

So, when I begin to read about Christus Victor, I get hints of the revolutionary Jesus who not only undid the curse of the law, but who also used the manner of His death as a subversive statement against common Messianic expectation and the mechanical Roman Empire. And, the more I have learned about Christus Victor, the more I have come across theosis as a compelling centerpiece for what Christ has actually made available to His followers; that is, we are able to become more like Him, not just in the pleasant ways, but in the truly meaningful and counter-cultural critical ways that He employed in a kind of social disruption.

My investigation of theosis, fostered by learning somewhat of Christus Victor, has given me a new perspective on what the crucifixion means to me as a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m not entirely prepared to say that I have completely changed my theology, but I am more than prepared to say that this complement to my growing understanding of the vast array of theological discussion has invigorated my convictions that Jesus is offering us all a better life and a better humanity through Himself.

In this article I will endeavor to unpack the relevance and potential application for an understanding of theosis in the 21st Century.

[1] Roger E.Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform. (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1999).

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