In particular, I’m talking about the concept of deification (also called “manifest sonship” or “Christedness”). In the early church this was called theosis. It in essence teaches the following:
God became what we are so that we could become what he is.
Yes, I’m talking about being what God is!
We are gods!
Doubtless, this will raise some eyebrows as well as some questions as to what exactly I mean by “being what God is.”
Are you saying we are God?
I dunno. Maybe. Depends on what the question means.
I certainly do believe we are united and one with God; the scriptures seem pretty clear about that.
But I’m not particularly concerned about articulating the details of this union.
There was a time when I was determined to figure out what it all meant. As I was pondering this one day, Jesus whispered to me, “Ty, you don’t have to figure it all out. Actually, you can’t. Your ability to satisfactorily describe it with words will not add anything to it (and you’ll never arrive at such a point anyways). It’s a mystery that’s meant to be experienced and enjoyed. That’s what really matters – you and me, this relationship. Otherwise, it’s just a doctrine.”
But some are bound have a difficult time conceiving of this possibility, so let me give a hinting idea.
I wrote in a previous post about the idea of creatio ex deo, creation out of the substance of God. If we really were made out of God himself, it shouldn’t be difficult to see ourselves as “deities.”
Now, onto a sampling of scriptures pointing to this.
The passage that says it most blatantly is perhaps Psalms 82:6 – “You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.” Jesus quotes this passage in John 10:34.
“We were made a little lower than God for a little while“ (Psalm 8:5, emphasis mine). So, then, what about after the “little while”? The implication is that we are no longer lower than God, therefore equal with God.
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). This is not talking about Jesus being the first “believer.” It’s about being the first child of God. (Paul teaches that humans are sons of God in numerous other passages too.) But if one is a child of God, that implies that God gave birth to them. So what kind of beings does God give birth to? Cats give birth to cats. Humans give birth to humans. So God gives birth to…humans? No, gods!
Further, as God’s children we are “…heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:17). We inherit God.
I will close with the following (non-exhaustive) list of quotes related to deification that demonstrates that it is not a new age teaching but a common early church teaching that can also be seen in the writings of later prominent theologians.
“[T]he Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” – Irenaeus (130-200)
“‘For we cast blame upon [God], because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness.” – Irenaeus
“For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God.” – Irenaeus
“The Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God.” – Clement (150-215)
“For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God” – Clement
“[H]is is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God; and that man becomes God, since God so wills. Heraclitus, then, rightly said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.” For the Word Himself is the manifest mystery: God in man, and man God” – Clement
“[H]e who listens to the Lord, and follows the prophecy given by Him, will be formed perfectly in the likeness of the teacher—made a god going about in flesh.” – Clement
“[Men] were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest.” – Justin Martyr (100-165)
“Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us.” – Athanasius (296-373)
“for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh.” – Athanasius
“For he was made man that we might be made God…and…he himself has made us sons of the Father, and deified men by becoming himself man.” – Athanasius
“‘For He hath given them power to become the sons of God.'[John 1:12 ] If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods.” – Augustine (354-430)
“God wanted to be the Son of Man and he wanted men to be the Sons of God.” – Augustine
“Let us become as Christ is, since Christ became as we are; let us become gods for his sake, since he became man for our sake.” – Gregory the Theologian
“…the Word became incarnate so that by becoming as we are, he might make us as he is.” – Gregory of Nyssa
“He became Son of man, who was God’s own Son, in order that he might make the sons of men to be children of God.” – John Chrysostom
“He gave us divinity, we gave him humanity.” – Ephrem the Syrian
“For when God was born to be man, the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be god.” – Hilary of Poitiers
“[The Savior] was made the son of man, so that we could be the sons of God…and…He united humanity to himself in such a way that he remained God, unchangeable. He imparted divinity to human beings in such a way that he did not destroy, but enriched them, by glorification.” – Pope St. Leo the Great
“Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.” – Thomas Aquinas
“For the Word becomes flesh precisely so that the flesh may become word. In other words: God becomes man so that man may become God.” – Martin Luther
“This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.” – John Calvin
“He became like human beings, so that we would be like him.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Deification is precisely this free and conscious participation in the divine life, which is proper to man only. Because of that, the union with God mentioned by the Fathers never amounts to a disintegration of the human person into the divine infinite; but, on the contrary, it is the fulfillment of his free and personal destiny. Thence also springs the insistence on the necessity of a personal encounter with Christ, the consequence of which is the deification of the whole man by the anticipation of the general resurrection of the bodies.” – John Meyendorff
“[Christianity] signifies not merely an exterior imitation of Christ through moral effort, but direct union with the living God, the total transformation of the human person by divine grace and glory—what the fathers termed ‘deification’ or ‘divination’ (theosis, theopoiesis).” – Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia
“Mankind is god-kind.” – Francois Du Toit
“In the incarnate Christ we have God defined and man deified.” – Jeff Turner
“There is no problem in claiming deification, as long as we never lose sight of its source.” – John Crowder