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Re: Shroro articles "Sanctification" by Dr. Susan Jacob

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  • Reg Mueller
    Thank you for posting this. It is the first time I have read your journal. However, I have a question about one of the articles Sanctification by Dr. Susan
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 14, 2008
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      Thank you for posting this. It is the first time I have read your journal. However, I have a question about one of the articles "Sanctification" by Dr. Susan Jacob.
      "http://www.socdigest.org/articles/01dec07.html

      Here is aquote that I find troubling."For the followers of Christ, personal sanctification comes in three stages: The first stage is recognizing our sinful nature, acknowledging the need for the grace of God, confession of our sins, and being born again(John 3) in the Holy Spirit. For those who want to know what Jesus said about being born again, look up the gospel of John chapter 3. The second stage is justification through faith. The third stage is the sanctification and the delivery from the bondage of sin by the Holy Spirit. The payment being the blood and death of Jesus."

      To me this sounds like Fundamentalist or Evangelical Protestantism. There is no mention of "Theosis", (sometimes translated as deificatiion or divinization) the doctrine of theology in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

      Theosis is also described as the process of becoming like Christ. The word divinization is taken from 2 Peter 1:4 "that you might be partakers of the divine nature". St. Gregory of Nyssa, an early Greek father wrote: "When the Son of God took flesh, he joined together and assumed our human nature so that what was human might be divinized without being confounded with God. Thus the makeup of our human nature is completely sanctified by Christ, the firstborn of creation."

      Vladimir Lossky in his book "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" wrote that the Orthodox maintained that theosis is the call to man to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in the resurrection. Isn't theosis part of the Syriac Orthodox tradition as well?

      See for example the following texts:
      *Nicholas Arseniev, Mysticism and the Eastern Church, translated byArthur Chambers (London: Student Christian Movement, 1926)

      *Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church(London: James Clarke and Co. Ltd., 1957)* John D. Zizioulas, Being As Communion (Crestwood, New York: StVladimir's Seminary Press, 1985)

      *Georgios I. Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man (Crestwood, NewYork: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984)

      Reg Mueller
    • Dr. Thomas Joseph
      Dear Reg, Theosis is indeed part of the Syriac Orthodox theological tradition. The doctrine is, as you cite, to be found in the writings of several
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 21, 2008
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        Dear Reg,

        "Theosis" is indeed part of the Syriac Orthodox theological
        tradition. The doctrine is, as you cite, to be found in the writings
        of several fourth-century Greek Fathers who are also Fathers of the
        Syriac Orthodox Church. The German scholar Adolf von Harnack alleged
        that this doctrine was a result of the hellenization of the
        primitive Gospel. However, we find this in the writings of St.
        Ephrem the Syrian, the least hellenized among the early Fathers.
        Prof. Sebastian Brock dedicates several pages in The Luminous Eye
        (Cistercian Publications: Kalamazoo, MI, 1992; pp. 148-154) to St.
        Ephrem's writings on this topic - in his Commentary of Genesis
        (II.20,23), Paradise Hymns (3:8, 9:20; 12:15-18), Nisibene Hymns
        (69:12), and Hymns on Virginity (48:15-18).

        I'll quote Prof. Brock's conclusion to this topic:

        "In Ephrem's hands, the doctrine of theosis is by no means the
        outcome of 'the poison of the pagan Greeks'; rather it turns out to
        be firmly rooted in his exegesis of the Paradise narrative and in
        his understanding of the whole aim and purpose of the Incarnation.
        The juxtaposition of two epigrammatic expressions of this doctrine
        will provide an appropriate conclusion to our discussion of this
        topic. The first is well known and comes from Saint Athanasius: 'God
        became man so that man might become god"; the second from St
        Ephrem's Hymns on Faith (5:17) is hardly any different in basic
        content:

        He gave us divinity,
        we gave Him humanity."

        My recollection is that the Shroro article you reference is not
        necessarily unacceptable from a Syriac Orthodox point of view;
        however, I agree that it does not address the Orthodox perspective
        in its fullness.

        Your message highlights an issue of grave concern to the Church
        today. There are far too many of our faithful including our clergy
        who today are unfortunately not well-grounded in the faith and
        traditions of our Fathers. The generation of bishops and clergy who
        were immersed in the writings of the Fathers of the Church are
        nearly gone. In their place, we have clergy and faithful heavily
        influenced by Western (Protestant and to a lesser extent Catholic)
        modes of thought, and thus estranged from the theology of the
        Church. Easy access to Protestant and Catholic writings in
        contemporary languages results in recycling in our publications,
        media and spiritual gatherings, often masquerading as Orthodox
        doctrine. There are exceptions, of course, particularly in matters
        where Protestants challenge us to engage - such as with the
        Intercession of the Holy Virgin and the Saints or the Commemoration
        of the Departed; however, beyond these our knowledge of the Syriac
        Orthodox perspective is collectively quite meager.

        To compound matters, in Kerala, we have a generation of clergy in
        India now trained at a theological seminary in a curriculum
        formulated by Serampore University - an institution with heavy
        Protestant leanings. This was necessary since it was socially
        important for our clergy to get an accredited degree and there were
        no Orthodox institutions that afforded the necessary affiliation. As
        a result, at a time, we even had Protestants in teaching positions
        at the Seminary! I am not deprecating by any means the yeoman
        services rendered by those have shaped this institution; the clergy
        that have graduated from the institution have a broad education and
        exposure to the world equipping them with skills required in
        contemporary society and ability to handle their pastoral duties.
        Yet, it is very important that the institution develop a curriculum
        that is steeped in Syriac and Oriental Orthodox theology. There are
        pragmatic difficulties involved, especially in adding an Orthodox
        curriculum on top of a 4-year program. If status quo prevails, the
        Syriac Orthodox will remain in name, outward rituals and customs,
        but not in matters of faith over time.

        Happily, in the West, we see an emerging appreciation of the Syriac
        tradition in academic institutions. Several prominent universities
        such as Oxford, Leiden, Harvard, Brown, Duke, Catholic Univ of
        America, Univ of Toronto, Notre Dame, etc., are among institutions
        where there are a number of Syriac scholars who offer Syriac
        language instruction and other programs in Syriac tradition. Many
        books on these topics are being written in English and the writings
        of the Fathers are slowly being translated. (At
        http://www.gorgiaspress.com/ you will find the vast publications of
        Gorgias Press which has made very signficant contributions in this
        regard.) Further, the venerable monasteries of the Church in the
        Near East, such as Mor Gabriel in Midyat, Turkey, continue to offer
        a true immersion in the Syriac tradition. I hope that the rising
        generation in this Church, particularly the clergy, takes advantage
        of these facilities and make its fruits available to the Church at
        large. And it is our collective responsibility to assist and
        encourage those who take the initiative.

        Rgds,
        Thomas Joseph, Ph.D.
        ID: 0202


        --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Reg Mueller wrote:
        >
        > Thank you for posting this. It is the first time I have read your
        journal. However, I have a question about one of the
        articles "Sanctification" by Dr. Susan Jacob.
        > "http://www.socdigest.org/articles/01dec07.html
        >
        > Here is aquote that I find troubling."For the followers of Christ,
        personal sanctification comes in three stages: The first stage is
        recognizing our sinful nature, acknowledging the need for the grace
        of God, confession of our sins, and being born again(John 3) in the
        Holy Spirit. For those who want to know what Jesus said about being
        born again, look up the gospel of John chapter 3. The second stage
        is justification through faith. The third stage is the
        sanctification and the delivery from the bondage of sin by the Holy
        Spirit. The payment being the blood and death of Jesus."
        >
        > To me this sounds like Fundamentalist or Evangelical
        Protestantism. There is no mention of "Theosis", (sometimes
        translated as deificatiion or divinization) the doctrine of theology
        in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
        >
        > Theosis is also described as the process of becoming like Christ.
        The word divinization is taken from 2 Peter 1:4 "that you might be
        partakers of the divine nature". St. Gregory of Nyssa, an early
        Greek father wrote: "When the Son of God took flesh, he joined
        together and assumed our human nature so that what was human might
        be divinized without being confounded with God. Thus the makeup of
        our human nature is completely sanctified by Christ, the firstborn
        of creation."
        >
        > Vladimir Lossky in his book "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern
        Church" wrote that the Orthodox maintained that theosis is the call
        to man to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this
        life and later consummated in the resurrection. Isn't theosis part
        of the Syriac Orthodox tradition as well?
        >
        > See for example the following texts:
        > *Nicholas Arseniev, Mysticism and the Eastern Church, translated
        byArthur Chambers (London: Student Christian Movement, 1926)
        >
        > *Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
        (London: James Clarke and Co. Ltd., 1957)* John D. Zizioulas, Being
        As Communion (Crestwood, New York: StVladimir's Seminary Press, 1985)
        >
        > *Georgios I. Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man (Crestwood,
        NewYork: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984)
        >
        > Reg Mueller
        >
      • Dr. Susan Jacob
        Recently, after returning from a vacation in Kerala, while I was trying to clear my mail I came across the SOCM digest 2490. There was a question asked about
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 7, 2008
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          Recently, after returning from a vacation in Kerala, while I was trying to clear my mail I came across the SOCM digest 2490. There was a question asked about my talk on Sanctification from Reg Mueller. I felt I should answer it.

          Reg, I was one of five speakers at the conference with two of us being lay people. The topic of discussion was sanctification and I was asked to speak on a specific aspect of the subject. It was personal sanctification and what it involves. There was also a limit on time. What I did was talk about the steps we human beings have to take to get to the point of deification. Most of what I said is found in the Bible in the gospels and in the epistle of Paul, Peter, James and John. There was no chance to talk about Theosis. I agree that Theosis is part of the core beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

          Theosis is a fascinating doctrine. As you quoted, it is process of becoming like Christ. It is very interesting to read the thoughts and arguments of various monks and ascetics ( spiritual fathers) who thought out the doctrine thoroughly. There have been various statements made over the centuries; for example St. Athanasius wrote that � God became human so humans would become gods�. This statement sounds dramatic especially as it is not possible for any one to become ontologically God or be part of the essence of God, but we can partake in the energy of God. Sounds confusing, but the best explanation I came across was by St. Gregory Palamos and its expansion by Mathew Steenberg in his writing on Deification: The Restoration Of Humanity.

          St. Gregory used the model of the sun as explained by Steenberg. �The sun has a unique nature that is its own and belongs to nothing other than the sun itself. It is a gaseous, atomic sphere made up of specific compounds engaged in a specific chain of reactions. This is its distinction, its nature, the very thing which makes it the sun, and which no other object or thing has a part in. This is its essence.� The sun has certain attributes which are aspects of its nature as such. Radiating from the sun is heat, emanating from it are also rays of light, yet neither these rays of heat or light are part of the nature or essence of the sun. They are rather manifestations of the sun in the universe, or can be called its energies.

          The light which we see and the heat we feel are not distinct or separate from the sun yet it is not part of its core essence. Without the sun its manifestations will disappear. �They are an aspect of what the sun is, though they do not constitute the foundational nature of the sun itself�.

          St. Gregory describes the energies of God as �processions, manifestations, and natural operation of one Spirit wrought into the created world through the grace of the creator�. It is these energies that humanity is able to participate in should the individual is prepared to do so: but it can not be part of God�s essence. So theosis is really the participation and union of the human individual with the energies of God but not with his essence. To follow through on the model of the sun, the heat and light of the sun is there for us but we have to participate in it. On the other hand if we prefer to live underground or in a dungeon in chains and in darkness ( in sin) either because of ignorance or lack of faith we cannot receive the heat or light. In other words, we can not take part in the energies of God given to us freely through His grace. So our part is to recognize our sinful nature and acknowledge the need for the grace of God; confess our sins and in faith be born again in the Holy Spirit and then we will be sanctified through God�s grace , in other words be deified. If you truly read and understand the New Testament, I believe, that is what the disciples are talking about.

          Again as far as I, a lay person understands the deification, it is the union or participation of human life in the divine. � it is life turned in to Life, darkness transformed into light. In the sense that the church fathers spoke of it, deification holds true to its name; the transformation of an earthly existence into a divine life�. I think this was what Adam was meant to be when he was created. To quote Steenberg again, �the sub-human existence which the world calls �natural� and which sin strives to maintain is stripped away through the journey called deification. The enslaving chains with which humanity holds itself back from its true Self are loosened, and the individual is freed to become what he or she was always meant to be; a full and complete person, in the real scope of the world. Deification is a return of the person to God�.

          Theosis is a doctrine that has been examined, argued about, and developed over centuries and has always been part of the spiritual thinking of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Catholics, Protestants, Latter Day Saints, Wesleyans and even Hindus and Buddhists have some form of the doctrine of deification in their religious teachings. It is difficult for lay people to learn these things in all its details, however fascinating it is. One needs to be a theologian. I have found that the bishops of our church and the clergy whom I have come in to contact with, in their journey through Houston are very knowledgeable in the teachings and faith of the Syrian Orthodox Church. They are willing to teach and talk about our faith. The wonderful part is these bishops who include Thomas Mor Themotheos, Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Yeldo Mor Titus Yeldo, Mathews Mor Aphrem and others are very knowledgeable not only about the orthodox writings and teachings but also about the protestant teachings and sometimes about other religions. Yet their faith in the orthodoxy is unshaken. Because of their exposure to other denominations they are able to explain our faith to us lucidly without drama and condemnation of others. They are so sure of their own faith that they do not become defensive in a debate. They are able to step into the world arena of Christian spirituality confidently and are able to hold their own.

          If any of the clergy would like to add to my understanding of Theosis it will be very welcome.

          Dr. Susan Jacob


          --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Reg Mueller wrote:
          >
          > Thank you for posting this. It is the first time I have read your journal. However, I have a question about one of the articles "Sanctification" by Dr. Susan Jacob.
          > "http://www.socdigest.org/articles/01dec07.html
          >
          > Here is aquote that I find troubling."For the followers of Christ, personal sanctification comes in three stages: The first stage is recognizing our sinful nature, acknowledging the need for the grace of God, confession of our sins, and being born again(John 3) in the Holy Spirit. For those who want to know what Jesus said about being born again, look up the gospel of John chapter 3. The second stage is justification through faith. The third stage is the sanctification and the delivery from the bondage of sin by the Holy Spirit. The payment being the blood and death of Jesus."
          >
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