Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Theōsis in the West and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

This weekend I will be presenting a paper at the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in Pittsburgh, entitled, "Temple Liturgy, Eschatology, and Theōsis: The Jewish Context of Paul's Teaching on the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11".

Suffice it to say, I'm very excited about the paper.

One of the things that struck me in preparing it was the statement on what the fathers called theōsis in paragraph 460 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” [2 Pet 1:4]. . . “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”[1] “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.”[2]

The first quotation comes from St. Athanasius, a figure who is often cited in discussions of theōsis in patristic theology. 

The second, however, comes from a figure who is rarely associated with theōsis theology: Thomas Aquinas. 

In fact, recent scholarship is now demonstrating that the commonly held view that theōsis is a uniquely--or primarily--Eastern emphasis is problematic. One key book in this regard is David Meconi, S.J., The One Christ: St. Augustine’s Theology of Deification (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2013).

That Aquinas often speaks of deification should therefore be no surprise. Indeed, some key works are now highlighting this theme in Thomas. Here I have to mention the fine work of Daniel Keating. See his book, Deification and Grace (Naples: Sapientia Press, 2007) as well as his article, “Justiication, Sanctification, and Divinization in Thomas,” in Aquinas on Doctrine: A Critical Introduction (eds. T. Weinandy, D. Keating , J. Yocum; London: T & T Clark, 2004), 139–58. 

Our new contributor to this blog, John Kincaid has also turned me on to a great dissertation by Daria E. Spezzano, “The Grace of the Holy Spirit, the Virtue of Charity and the Gift of Wisdom: Deification in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, Volumes One and Two (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 2011).

In fact, as a growing number of scholars are now recognizing Aquinas is far more Augustinian than most realize. See Michael Dauphinais, Barry David, and Matthew Levering, eds., Aquinas the Augustinian (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2007).  So it should be no surprise that, as in Augustine, theōsis soteriology is found in Aquinas. 

All that said, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was published well before this resurgence of interest in theōsis traditions in the West in scholarship, highlights both Athanasius and Aquinas as representatives of such views. 

I think you have to say it was pretty much ahead of the curve here. Just another reason I love the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What a masterpiece of theological research! 


[1] St. Athanasius, De inc., 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
[2] St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57: 1–4.


Susan Moore said...

I'd like to hear your presentation. Is the Pittsburg event also open to just common Bible readers, like me?
And I'm assuming you mean Pittsburg, PA.

Luisa said...

I am very interesting in reading your presentation. Is it being published somewhere?

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

It seems likely that John 5:26 is relevant here.