Thursday, February 21, 2008

That We Might Become God

I read this yesterday in the Catholic Catechism, and felt a little confused by it (emphasis added):

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":[] "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

Footnotes are as follows:
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.

I do not understand in what sense man might become God. This sentiment, which as far as I know is found only here in the Catechism, reminds me of the Orthodox notion of deification. I was unaware of its firm position within Catholic thought as well. My understanding is that the Orthodox position qualifies the meaning of "become God" to such an extent that I no longer see the purpose of using those words. If I mean to say that in my walk of faith, I can be blessed by the Holy Spirit to take on the very qualities of God's holiness, why not say just that? Why say, "you can become God, but of course I don't mean that in an ontological sense"? Words are delicate things, and weak minds like mine are easily confused and made afoul. Perhaps this is my own problem, and not the Church's though.

10 comments:

Amy said...

Yup, it can be VERY confusing. And yet it's in the Bible (2 Pet 1:4). We don't become God in the sense that there will be more than one God, we become "partakers of the divine nature" as St. Peter says. In the Eastern Rite it's called the process of divinization. It's what Jesus meant when He said to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. The result of the process of sanctification that we go through here on earth is to bring us to heaven, to perfection.

Every time we receive the Eucharist, our union with God deepens, but it's still only a tiny glimpse of what our union with him in heaven will be. The closer we get to God, the more like Him we become. We sin less and we love more, imitating Christ who never sinned and always loves.

Since we were created with a human nature, we will continue to have a human nature in heaven, but we will become fully what we were always intended to be: children of God by adoption, but not by nature. This is the sense in which we'll become "gods" but not "Gods" since there is only one God. It's why God became man, to lead us to perfection.

Gil Garza said...

By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion. 2 Pet 1:3-4 NJB

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

"Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." (1 Cor 6:16) If we become one flesh with the prostitute, a fortiori we become one flesh with Christ, in the consummation of the marriage of the Bride and Groom, of which our own present marriages are a type (Eph 5:22-32; Rev 19:7).

But Christ's flesh is divine. To become one flesh with Christ is to participate in the hypostatic union, i.e. the incarnation. That is how the incarnation saves us. We come to God through the hypostatic union, through that union of the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. To be joined to Christ's human nature is to be joined to His divine nature, because His human nature is joined to His divine nature in His Person. John 6 makes much more sense when we understand this.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

StBasil said...

Well, grace is a participation in divine life so it really shouldn't be shocking to say that through Christ we may "become God." We partake of the divine nature by grace. That is amazing reality of what Christ gives to us through His glorious cross!

And really what's the difference between St. Peter saying we become "partakers of the divine nature" and of saying we "become God?" What is being said is the same thing.

Incidentally, I think Catholics and Eastern Orthodox take for granted a view of the whole - i.e. that people won't look at one dogma without keeping in mind them all. That's why we can say Mary is the Mother of God because the expectation is that people will not understand that apart from everything else we believe. We speak of becoming God because we believe people will keep in mind the whole, i.e. that we are always created beings who will never be ontologically equivalent to a divine being.

Protestants tend to look at doctrines in greater isolation, in my experience. There is very little broad cohesion of the faith.

Pax Christi tecum.

TheDen said...

Thos,

I don’t disagree with anything written but think that it needs to be “fleshed out” a little more.

Our salvation is dependent through Christ. The only access we have to heaven is through Him. Christ tells us in John 14/15 that we remain in Him and He in us if we keep His commandments. If we remain in Him, He will remain in us.

So, when we become Christians (through Baptism), we become united to His Body. Through the Church—we become one with Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13/Catechism #12650 specifically, we are crucified with Him in His death(Galatians 2:19/Romans 6:3).

Through Him, we are saved as we are one with Him. To be one with Him is to be dead to sin and to reject Satan. To be one with Him means that it's no longer I who live but rather Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:19-20)
If we ever “choose to leave” the Body of Christ—through mortal sin or rejecting God then we must return and be “reconciled” to His Body. Without reconciliation, no Salvation.

This is the reason why the Catholic Church declares no Salvation outside of the Church. Because the only way we understand Salvation is to be a member of the Body of Christ which means to be a member of the Church.

Once in the Body of Christ, we receive the Eucharist—i.e. “Body of Christ” to unite ourselves to Christ. At that point, we have physically united ourselves to His Body and per John 6, this unity gives us eternal life. Because of the Eucharist’s importance, Paul reminds us that this should not be taken lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).

So, as we enter into the Body of Christ—through Baptism, we must remain in Him—through obedience and participation in the Eucharist and if we ever leave (like the Prodigal Son), we must be “reconciled” to His Body through the Sacrament of Penance.

So, the Catholic mentality is not that we are “clothed in His righteousness” but rather that we become one with God.

Kim said...

Hey Thos, have you ever posted on the CHNI forums? You might get more feedback there. It's a great place to ask questions like this. :)

George Weis said...

Yeah, that is way to close to what mormons think YIKES. Now I am asking some different questions!

Yes indeed, I can agree with Bryan, but the wording on this statement leaves the reader understanding only what it states. That statement alone I cannot agree with. But we are indeed co-heirs with Christ. Yes, in being joined in the flesh of Christ we are in a way being joined to God. Become GOD? Not so much!

-george-

Ilan said...

I had a thought long time ago, and that's how I came to this posting..
It only reflects my opinion about the topic. I'm not a catholic..

In my opinion, we are here to become gods. Meaning, that GOD made us as human beings, so we can learn and understand the bad and the good. That is a good beginning because not every creature can differ between the good and the bad.

After a long period of time we might develop into a very intelligent beings, and in the end become the rulers of the universe.
When it will happen (it is all in our hands - impossible is nothing - hope we manage it..) we will have the fullest understanding of our universe and even beyond, then we might become gods..

We are children, that are born into this world and begin to ask questions. The more time we spend in this world, the more complicated questions we ask. The
longer our civilization exists, the more knowledge we gain. And some day we will understand things that are now beyond our imagination..
I think that this is the meaning of the Pyramids of Giza. Step after step, we develop, we progress and we aim to the top. This is our nature.

As our children are born to this world and have no idea that one day will come and they will replace us, the adults, to rule this world and decide
it's and others destiny, so are we brought to this world to climb the pyramide...
In any case, the expirience we gain through our life can not disappear after death, it must be "saved" somewhere or at least "converted" in some other form, maybe energy - or else life has no meaning..

If you look closely, everything in this world gives us clues to the understanding of our existence, meaning of life, the structure of laws, the functioning of our and the hidden from us "higher" world.

The spider that is surrounded by his web - imagine it as a galaxy and the sun, or universe and god. If you see only the web - you can not claim that there is no spider.

The trees that have their roots in the earth - wenn you first see a tree in your life, you may have no clue that it has roots in the earth, and if you turn it upside down, you will see that it actually reflects itself in different world, and without the roots it can not exist - it is very like the human and his
soul. We can not see the roots but they exist, in some form in different world...

This all is a puzzle that we must solve in any way...

Here, I said it...

Thos said...

Ilan,

Thank you for sharing, and I wish I had replied sooner. I think there is a great revelation of truth observable from nature. It is the primary (first) evidence to me that there is a God who made this infinitely complex environment in which we roam.

From there I can deduce something else though, namely that we are broken people who violate the natural order. This is why people kill each other, perform violent rapes, torture or abuse their children, etc. This all has destructive effects. Your aspirations for humanity ascending the pyramid are noble, but surely you at least recognize the major setbacks of such disordered behavior? You know that abuse victim children (for example) spend a lifetime trying to pick up the pieces of the dysfunction they inherited, and try not to pass it on to their own children. This is all evidence that we are broken.

So if God made this amazing universe that we are free to take hold of as you intimate, and we are broken people who hurt one other regularly, does this make God bad (for making us this way) or does it mean that we abused our freedom at some point to start the disorder? Think in terms of the Second Law of Thermodynamis, which tells us about ever increasing entropy -- all things seek equilibrium, meaning they all break down to their elementals. Entropy says the universe is unstable and breaking down. We are in a struggle to keep up with that. We have to hew back our lawn and landscaping, we have to fight to keep our cars running, our bodies tire, our clothes wear out, our food spoils over time. I think this evidences that the creation of God was broken at some point. I believe this was sin entering into the world, which had to be caused by human abuse of the freedom you note that we have (and which we had in a pure form, methinks). And I believe that humans cannot right this deficiency (sin, brokenness of creation, whatever you want to call it) on our own, because we caused it, and it has causes in is (we are impure, broken, so unable to put our full creative efforts at solving problems you note -- for instance, we wind up fighting world wars). Therefore we need God to interact once more with us and give us the super-natural ability to redeem (make whole again) this fallen creation. I believe, as is no surprise from my blog, that this was the event of Jesus Christ being incarnated in the world, being broken by sinful men, and then overcoming death (the effect of entropy on man, the effect of sin). We have the help that he offers available to us now (we call this "grace"), and the purpose of life is a period of probation, to validate that you accept this healing grace and seek to cooperate with God's plan to redeem the broken world and return it to perfection, or to reject this grace and look to yourself (with its brokenness that is common to man) as the source of wellness for the world.

I would love to chat more about this if it strikes you, or to hear more of your thoughts.

Peace to you,
Tom

Anonymous said...

I think it is more literal than that. In addition to the command to "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" Paul also addressed people who thought it was too much to think that we could someday be equal with God through the power of the Atonement. Phil. 2:5 reads "Let this same mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Couldn't be any clearer than that. To deny that the power of Christ is great enough to make us perfect and thus heirs with Christ of all His glory is to deny the true power of the Atonement. The world would have you believe it is too much to hope for. We are sinners and can never be forgiven. Not so, Isaiah says "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." Of course Satan loves that we all do not believe it is possible, that makes his job all the easier.