The Incarnation of God: The Cause of Man’s Theosis
The Church Fathers say that God became man in order to make man a god. If God had not taken flesh, man would not be able to achieve Theosis.
In the years before Christ, many wise and virtuous people had appeared. For example, the ancient Greeks had reached quite high standards of philosophy about the good and about God. Their philosophy, in fact, contained seeds of the truth, the so-called “spermaticos logos.” Moreover, they were very religious people, but of course they did not know the true God; they were idolaters, yet very pious and god-fearing people. They were not atheists, as certain ill-informed contemporaries of ours represent them; those who do not know enough about these things. For this reason, by attempting to remove its faith in God from the psyche of our devout people even without their consent, educators, teachers, politicians and civil governors act in a way inconsistent to the memory of the Greek race, and so they commit “hubris” in the ancient meaning of the word. In essence, they attempt to de-hellenise our people, because the Tradition of the Greeks (throughout our ancient, recent and modern history) is a Tradition of piety and respect for God.
All the worldwide cultural contribution of Hellenism was and is based on this piety and respect for God. In the philosophy of the ancient Greeks we can perceive a certain yearning for the unknown God… for the experience of God. They were faithful and devout, but they did not have the true and completed knowledge of God, as they still lacked communion with Him, so that Theosis was not possible for them.
In the Old Testament, we also find many just and virtuous people, but the full union with God, Theosis, only becomes possible –is only achieved– with the incarnation of the Divine Logos.
This is the purpose of the incarnation of God. If the purpose of man’s life was simply to become morally better, there would be no need for Christ to come into the world, or for all these events of divine Providence to happen; for the incarnation of God; the cross, the death and resurrection of the Lord, and all that we Christians believe to have happened through Christ. The human race could have been taught to become morally better by the philosophers, by the righteous men and teachers, or by the prophets.
We know that Adam and Eve were beguiled by the devil and did not want to collaborate with God; they desired to become gods not through humility, obedience, or love; but through their own power, their own willfulness–egotistically and autonomously. That is to say that the essence of the fall is egotism. Thus, by adopting egotism and self-assertion they separated themselves from God, and instead of attaining Theosis, they attained exactly the opposite: spiritual death.
As the Church Fathers say, God is life. So whoever separates himself from God separates himself from life. Therefore, death and spiritual necrosis (i.e. physical and spiritual death) are the outcome of the disobedience of the first-created.
Falling away from Theosis
We all know the consequences of the fall. Separation from God threw man into carnal, bestial and demonic life. The brilliant creation of God fell seriously ill, almost to death. What had been made “in His image” was darkened. Since the fall, man no longer has the qualifications he needs to proceed to Theosis, as he had before he sinned. In this situation of grave illness, almost lifeless, he can no longer re-orient himself towards God. Thus there is a need for a new root for humanity; a need for a new man, who will be healthy and able to redirect the freedom of man towards God.
This new root, the new man, is the God-Man, Jesus Christ, the Son and Logos of God, who incarnates to become the new root, the new beginning, the new leaven of humanity.
As St. Gregory Nazianzen, the Theologian, says in his theological writings, with the incarnation of the Logos, a second communion between God and humanity is realised. The first communion was in Paradise. This was broken. Man was separated from God. The all-good God then provided for another, a second communion which can no longer be severed, a union of God and men. This second communion of God and men happens in the person of Christ.
The God-Man Christ, the Son and Logos of God the Father, has two perfect natures: divine and human. These two perfect natures are joined “without change, without confusion, without separation, and without division” in the one person of Christ, according to the famous definition of the Fourth Holy OEcumenical Synod at Chalcedon, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To summarise, this definition forms the whole theological armoury of our Orthodox Church against Christological heresies of all kinds throughout all ages. So we have one Christ with two natures, divine and human.
Now, because Christ is the eternal God-Man through the hypostatic union of the two natures in the person of Christ, human nature is irrevocably unified with the divine nature because Christ is eternally God-Man.
As the God-Man, He ascended to heaven. As the God-Man, He sits on the right hand of the Father.
As the God-Man, He will judge the world at the Second Coming.
Consequently, human nature is now enthroned in the bosom of the Holy Trinity. No longer can anything cut human nature off from God. Now, after the incarnation of the Lord –no matter how much we as men sin, no matter how much we separate ourselves from God– if, through repentance, we wish to unite again with God, we can succeed. We can unite with Him and so become gods by Grace.
(End of part 2)
(Source: The book “Theosis the true purpose of human life“, by Archimandrite George, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos)