‘We Are Being Transformed’: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

Festival of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Companions of Our Lord
29 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my brief review of We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul’s Soteriology by M. David Litwa:


A generally awful book written under the guise of neutrality and objectivity. Litwa is unconcerned with reading Paul as Paul intended to be read. He also, haphazardly, will refer to non-Christian, non-Jewish, and non-canonical documents to prove his points when the canons (Old Testament Scriptures and New Testament Scriptures) would exclude many of his points. Leaving aside the validity of the canon(s) itself (themselves), one still should have to contend with why these and other documents are not included and that the included documents form the basis for orthodoxy within the communities. Finally, Litwa treats pagan and semi-Jewish texts up to the third century CE, but makes only scant reference to patristic authors (only when their statements minus context and consideration help his argument) even though he admits that their chronological proximity to Paul means they are probably better interpreters of his word.

All-in-all, even though this book defends deification in Paul, something I am personally interested in, the route it takes to get there is, in my opinion, unacceptable.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley


Thesis Extract: ‘The Role of Humanity in Creation’

 David Russell Mosley

Commemoration of Bridget of Sweden, Abbess of Vadstena, 1373
23 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is another brief extract from the second chapter of my thesis on Creation and deification. I hope you enjoy.

The Role of Humanity in Creation

Creation of Eve

This brings us to role and place of humanity in creation. We will discuss more fully in the section below humanity being made in the image and likeness of God and how nascent humanity was both to serve as priest and to await its deifier. Here, however, we should look at the priestly role of humanity from creation’s point of view. That is, that creation is incomplete without humanity.

John Paul II writes, ‘So the very sacramentality of creation, the sacramentality of the world was revealed in a way, in man created in the image of God.’1 The world is revealed, in a sense to itself, in humanity. Since in creation, only humanity can accept creation as a gift, it is clear that humanity completes, in a qualified sense, creation. If we accept that God creates in order to deify, in order to return all things into himself, as argued above, then we must ask how this is to take place. For Maximus, it takes place through humanity’s interconnectivity and kinship to all creation:

For humanity clearly has this power of naturally uniting at the mean point of each division since it is related to the extremities of each division in its own parts. Through that capacity it can come to be the way of fulfilment of what is divided and be openly instituted in itself as the great mystery of the divine purpose. It proceeds harmoniously to each of the extremities in the things that are, from what is close at hand to what is remote, from what is worse to what is better, lifting up to God and fully accomplishing union. For this reason the human person was introduced last among beings, as a kind of natural bond mediating between the universal poles through their proper parts, and leading into unity in itself those things that are naturally apart from one another by a great interval.(Amb. 41.1305B-C).

What Maximus is arguing is that humans by being both material and spiritual have within them an aspect of every part of creation. This allows humanity to serve as a bridge between the material and the spiritual. A bridge that will unite the two realms, allowing all to return to God. Maximus goes on to say that the way Humanity effects this union by shaking off hindrances (like sexual difference) and seeks union with the undivided God. This unifies heaven and earth in the human person (Amb. 41.1305 C- D). Then, by attaining angelic knowledge humans unite the intellectual and the sensible (Amb. 41.1308A). Finally,

And finally, beyond all these, the human person unites the created nature with the uncreated through love (O the wonder of God’s love for human beings!), showing them to be one and the same through the possession of grace, the whole [creation] wholly interpenetrated by God, and become completely whatever God is, save at the level of being, and receiving to itself the whole of God himself, and acquiring as a kind of prize for its ascent to God the most unique God himself, as the end of movement of everything that moves toward it, and the firm unmoved rest of everything that is carried towards it, being the undetermined and infinite limit and definition of every definition and law and ordinance, of reason and mind and nature (Amb. 41.1308 B-C).

Thus, the human person in one sense deifies creation through its own deification. Just as Christ’s having deified his humanity reached through to all humanity,2 so that deification reaches to all creation, ‘except to the level of being.’ ‘[B]y being divinized, the world is perfected as world.’3 We have begun to encroach on an important aspect here, however, that I will deal with more fully below and in the fourth chapter. For now, however, note that just as creation, if its end is a return to God, cannot effect that end on its own without humanity, so too, humanity cannot affect that change on its own.


1 John Paul II, The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1997), 76.


2 Gregory of Nazianzus Theological Oration  30.21.

3 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 257.


Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

‘Cottage Economy’ by William Cobbett: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley


Feast of St Mary Magdalene
22 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

In that same post on facebook and twitter I mention here, another thing people asked for was more book reviews. To that end, I have collected some of my book reviews written on goodreads and shelfari and will repost them. I may occasionally expand them and will eventually get to a point where I start writing more reviews for the blog, but for the time being, I hope you enjoy my mini book reviews.

Cottage Economy by William Cobbett:

Portrait of William Cobbett for use on the Wil...

Portrait of William Cobbett for use on the William Cobbett article . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the book Cottage Economy William Cobbett seeks to teach labourers and tradesmen how they can produce much of their own food and drink so they will no longer be dependent on the Government (who taxes them too much) nor their local publicans (who poison them). Somewhat haphazardly, Cobbett goes through all the things he thinks someone with forty rods of land can do for themselves, namely: brew beer instead of tea; bake bread; raise a cow; chickens; pigs; a goat; enough vegetables for the table; bees; and more. The book rounds off with a few recipes from Mrs Cobbett.

What Cobbett lacks in food science he makes up for in passion for being self-sufficient. Cobbett sees tea as atrocious and the tea table fit only to teach boys to lazy and girls to be harlots. He is unaware of the health benefits, but he understands that the time taken to brew tea, in an age before electric kettles, could be put to better use. Cobbett also hates potatoes, but only because he sees them being eaten in place of bread. One could not come away from Cobbett’s Cottage Economy with the tools necessary to live as he describes. The book is too much a product of its time. Nevertheless, this book can inspire us to do more, to be better connected to our food and drink and to work more for our meals. Many of the things Cobbett describes, when done well, are still cheaper when done at home than when we pay others to do them for us. I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in food, brewing, and growing vegetables.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extract: ‘Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways as Evidence of Deification’

David Russell Mosley

Festival of St Gregory of Nyssa and St Macrina
19 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today, I wanted to share another portion of my thesis. Sadly, this section neither features Gregory of Nyssa, nor his sister Macrina. Instead, it focuses on some work I’ve done concerning Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways or Proofs of God and their relationship to deification. I hope you enjoy.

Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways as Evidence of Deification

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas' proofs of God's e...

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas’ proofs of God’s existence was based on teleology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A. N. Williams in her work, The Ground of Union, suggests and demonstrates, ‘In seminal form, the Five Ways argue not only for God’s existence, but also the existence of a Thomistic doctrine of theosis.’1 For Williams, the Five ways do this first by creating a ‘deep ontological and conceptual divide,’ between Creator and creature.2 This provides safety from the danger that deification can have of appearing like pantheism. By showing how utterly other God is than his creation, the Five Ways not only disallow pantheism, but, in fact, allow for deification. This relates to one of our necessary categories for deification in the first chapter, namely, the Creator-creature divide. For Rudi A. Te Velde, ‘What Thomas is looking for [in the Five Ways] is not so much rational certainty as intelligibility; to wit the intelligibility of the truth expressed and asserted by the proposition “God exists.”’3 Thus, for both te Velda and Williams, the Five Ways are not intended as full blown proofs that God does in fact exist.4 The Five Ways show God’s connectedness and graciousness in sharing his own life, his very nature with his creation, especially the attributes, being, goodness, and perfection.5 Therefore, we shall take a brief look at the God described in the Five Ways to see the both the intelligibility of the God described and whether this God shows forth in this simple set of definitions is a God who deifies.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. (ST Ia. 2, 3)

In the first way, Thomas shows that change leads to God, that is, because things change, and change because of causes, there must be a ‘first cause of change not itself being changed by anything else’ (ST Ia. 2, 3). What Aquinas is doing here is, in one sense, showing the shortcomings of physics. Physics and natural science attempt to explain motion but cannot account for its existence.6 Thus Aquinas argues that for motion to exist there must be one who causes motion, is in fact, the first cause of all motion. As Te Velde notes, ‘The argument shows that being-in-motion, which is an essential feature of physical objects cannot be understood as being unless it is reduced to a first mover, which is itself not part of the domain of mobile being. As a consequence the domain of physics appears to be a finite domain, as being in motion cannot constitute the ultimate nature of reality.’7 This begins to build Aquinas’ implicit argument that there is a qualitative difference between God and creation. God is not merely a first or prime mover. If he were, then God would be just another thing within creation, even if greater than all other things in creation. Instead, at least as relates to motion, Aquinas posits God as being utterly different from all things that move/are moved.

This on its own is not enough to prove Williams’s point that the Five Ways show God as deifier, but this first way does show, as noted above, God as distinctly separate from creatures. Unlike all of creation, which is changeable, God is not changeable but is the first cause of all change. While not directly an argument for creation out of nothing, the first way shows forth a God that might create out of nothing. In fact, creation out of nothing would lead us to understand God as the first mover. As we saw in the previous chapter, for deification to work there must be a sharp distinction between Creator and creation. The first way leads us in that direction.

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

The second way is related to the first in that it focuses on causation. This time, however, Thomas wants simply to look at causation as such and not motion. Again, as with the first way, God is the source of all causation. If anything has a cause, it will be found ultimately in God. Here again, while all things in creation are caused and have effects, God is uncaused and is the source of all causation, creating a qualitative distinction between God and creation. The Creator-creature distinction is reiterated. The God described as both first mover and first efficient cause is a God utterly unique. It is a God that is not merely qualitatively different from creation. While we are not yet to the aspects of participation and analogy in Thomas’ thought at this point, clearly the God described in the first two of the Five Ways can lead toward the God in whom all things participate.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence––which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

The third way shifts emphasis to necessity. Thomas reasons that all created beings are not necessary. If they are not necessary, then at some point they did not exist, for it is not necessary that they exist. This leads Thomas to question why there is anything at all then, for if nothing is necessary then at some point there was nothing at all. Therefore, there must be a being whose being is necessary in order to bring into being all unnecessary being. This necessary being is, again God. Thomas has now, in the first three ways, firmly established that God is completely and ontologically other than all creation. He is the only one who causes change without changing, who causes causation without being caused, and whose very being is necessary in order to bring all other being into existence. This third way begins to evidence to us deification. God as necessary being and the cause of all being is a God who shares himself with all unnecessary being, which is all other being besides himself.

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

Then, in the fourth way we see God defined as the something from which all being receives its perfection. Here again we have the hints of deification. The fourth way shows us a God who is the source of all comparison. When we say something is beautiful, it is only insofar as it relates to God who is the source of beauty. This would perhaps not be enough to give us a notion of deification if Thomas did not say, ‘There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfection they have.’ Thus, God is not solely the source of comparison, he is also the cause of perfections in created beings. As both source and cause of perfection, the God described in the fourth way is a God who shares of himself with his creation. This is a God who would be likely to deify.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

Finally, in the fifth way we reach what is often called the teological argument, that is, everything in nature has a goal for which it is intended and God is the director who directs created beings to their telos, their end. While Thomas does not make it evident here, this end is God himself (cf. ST 1a. 44, 4). Thus not only does the fifth way describe a God who progressively perfects his creation to an end, but it suggests that the end described is God himself. Thus again, we see the evidence that the God described in the five ways is a God who would deify.

This skeletal depiction of God is one of a God who seems to desire to make creatures and then make them more like himself. By being truly distinct from his creations, God can make them more like himself. By being their mover, their first and final cause; indeed by making them partakers of himself, the God described in the Five Ways is a God who deifies, perhaps at varying levels, his creations at least in part because he created them.

1 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 41.

2 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 40.

3 Rudi A. Te Velde, Aquinas on God: The ‘Divine Science’ of the Summa Theologiae (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 39.

4 Despite Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969).

5 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 41.

6 Rudi A. Te Velde, Aquinas on God: The ‘Divine Science’ of the Summa Theologiae (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 51.

7 Rudi A. Te Velde, Aquinas on God: The ‘Divine Science’ of the Summa Theologiae (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 55.

Let me know what you thought.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extract: ‘The Four Aspects of Deification’

David Russell Mosley

17 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration (...

Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration (Theophanes the Greek, ca. 1408). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Friends and Family,

I recently asked some friends on facebook and twitter what they would like to see more of on my blog. One of the ideas was to write more about my thesis, maybe give extracts. There is a hard line to balance here. If I put too much, publishers might view this as already published material and not wish to publish it themselves, but to do nothing at all is, to me unhelpful, since I believe in the sharing of ideas. For now, then I will occasionally post sections from my thesis, or do posts discussing the sections I’m working on. I’m not sure precisely how this will work out, so please bare with me. Below is a section from my first chapter wherein I try to describe how I define deification or theosis.

The Four Aspects of Deification

Earlier [in the chapter] I mentioned the aspects that make up realistic and ethical deification Russell: participation and transformation for the former and imitation and virtue for the latter. While I will not be making the distinctions Russell makes concerning ethical or realistic deification, I do find this fourfold method of understanding the aspects of deification helpful. Each aspect of deification will now be examined, each in their turn, so as to understand what it is that makes up deification when it is examined in the subsequent chapters. These different aspects and defined below are interpenetrating. Particularly in the pairs of participation/transformation and imitation/virtue. However, it is equally not uncommon to see references made between the pairs.

Participation/Grace/Adoption Participation

The first aspect of deification goes by several names: participation, grace, adoption, union. For this section I will look at examples of each of these four mostly synonymous terms. It would not be true to say that the existence of any of these terms in a text would equal a notion of deification. They are, however, all terms used often with deificatory significance. Now, this beginning notion in deification is that humans in general and Christians in specific derive all things from God. From a Christian understanding, the notion of participation finds its source in 2 Peter 1:4.1 However, the Platonic tradition was also essential to configuring a notion of participation for Christians. It would seem, that there are two ways participation ought to be understood. The first is the notion that by nature of our existence we, along with all created beings, participate in God. Yet, as noted above, the other terms that are often used as synonymous with participation, grace and adoption, suggest something more specific. Yes, all nature is graced, just as all nature participates in God, but only some are adopted. More on this below. It is important before continuing to note an interesting aspect of participation. Participation, especially as will be seen below in its synonyms is something that is simultaneously active and passive. As noted above, in one sense participation means that humans have being. This is not something in which we actively participate. It is passive, it is done to us. On the other hand, there are methods by which humans can actively participate in God (i.e. prayer, contemplation, etc.). This will be discussed in more detail when come to the section on Redemption and the life of the believer in chapter #. Instead, then, of trying to understand participation via active or passive voice, perhaps the grammatical middle voice would be helpful here. Normally, the middle voice would be evidence of reflexion, the subject does something to itself. In this case, however, the middle ought to be understood as meaning something that is both neither active nor passive, and active and passive.

For now, let us focus on the specific kind of participation. As John Meyendorff suggests, ‘The view of man prevailing in the Christian East is based upon the notion of “participation” in God. Man has been created not as an autonomous, or self-sufficient, being; his very nature is truly itself only inasmuch as it exists “in God” or “in grace.”’2 This is true not only in the East, but in the West as well. Origen, one of the early figures says the Christian can become deified through the Son by participating in the Son’s participation in the Father. In order to realise this potentiality, it is necessary for Christians to have a life dedicated to prayer and virtue.3 Despite the suggestions of subordinationism, what Origen is suggesting is that a very specific kind of participation takes place between the Christian and Christ. This is more, beyond, the notion that all things which have being do so only via participation in God. Interestingly, even here in Origen, the notion of participation is not passive. It is not something that simply happens to a person, but it is something in which the Christian actively participates. Prayer, virtue, obedience are all essential to being deified.

The essential aspect of this deificatory participation is our participation specifically in Jesus Christ. Carolyn Schneider writing on deification in Athanasius says, ‘The incarnate one, after completing this mission [reversing evil], sends his Spirit to us so that humans can participate in him and thus become and remain children of God, since it is the Son of God’s own Spirit.’4 Here there is a hint of another synonym for participation, viz., adoption. To become children of God is to be adopted into God’s family. Augustine also views our participation as being in the Word, ‘Our enlightenment is to participate in the Word, that is, in that life which is the light of men (Jn 1:4). Yet we were absolutely incapable of such participation and quite unfit for it, so unclean were we through

sin, so we had to be cleansed.’ (De Trin. 4.2.4)5 For Augustine, this participation cannot be of the kind by which all creatures exist, for it is only possible after purification. I will discuss more in my chapter on the Fall, why there are two kinds of participation, but for now, note well that for Augustine humans do participate in the Word, and that doing so leads to enlightenment.

Another essential aspect of this second kind of participation is linked to Christ’s nature. Athanasius argues, according to Khaled Anatolios, ‘that the Son is proper to and not external to God by participation but essentially, whereas all other creatures are related to God by participation.’6 Deification, because it is so inextricably tied to the Incarnation means that in whatever sense humans are deified it must be by participation. Humans are not God by nature, but Christ is. In his becoming human he became by nature what humans are. Humans then can become what he is, but by participation.

Clearly, participation references humans coming to what humans are not by nature. However, ‘It is the nature of created things to participate in external Forms because the Word of God, in whom all forms cohere, orders all things and connects them to himself, so that they reflect the Word’s unity and participate in the Word’s life.’7 So in one sense, participation is natural to us. It is what created beings do. However, the deificatory participation is that participation by which humans transcend what is natural to them and receive that which is non-natural to them.


Each of these four terms––participation, grace, adoption, and union––are nearly synonymous. However, not well that while usually synonymous each can be, and often is, used in a slightly different manner. Nevertheless, grace is quite similar to participation, viz., it ought to be conceived of under two guises. The first is the idea that all nature is inherently graced. 8 As all creation is a gift from God, it is graced. However, there is a second understanding of grace, one that takes creation from where it is and moves it forward to transcend its current, specifically fallen state. Again, Weinandy shows that for Athanasius, ‘We remain creatures while becoming God by grace, as Christ remained God in becoming man by the Incarnation.’9 Especially in the early centuries, one of the key aspects of deification is that what Christ is and does by nature, humans can only do by grace (or adoption or participation). While safeguarding Christ’s divinity, the Fathers were equally reminding us that all we have, including deification, is ours only by gift, by the grace of God. I will look more deeply at the language of grace in the subsequent chapters, particularly the chapter on Redemption.


The next synonym is union. Specifically, this is when in reference to union with Christ, God, the Trinity, etc. Thomas Weinandy, writing about Athanasius, said, ‘Since the Son is himself God who became man, humankind can be deified by being united to his glorious humanity.’10 See the connection to the incarnation. Here, by nature of the incarnation, humans can be united to Christ. Paul Collins, writes, ‘The construct of theōsis found in the writings of Maximos the Confessor centres on the possibility of a union with God, which is a gift from God and by which human beings become “gods”.’11 This becoming gods is a kind of union with God. For Lossky, union itself is synonymous with deification. Not only that, but it is necessary to be on the path to deification to be a theologian:

‘To know God one must draw near to Him. No one who does not follow the path of union with God can be a theologian. The way of the knowledge of God is necessarily the way of deification.’12 See the various ways Lossky describes deification: knowing, drawing near, union, deification. All these terms are centred around that concept of union with, for Lossky is synonymous with deification.


What Christ is in nature, humans can only be by adoption.13According toWeinandy, ‘Athanasius perceives that the salvific work of the Incarnate Son must first progress within his own humanity and only then, after he himself has been made perfect and so deified, are human beings by being joined to him, able to progress themselves in the process of deification.’14 The Son cannot be made divine by his participation in the Father but must be so in nature, otherwise no others could participate in Him, nor could he deify if he had not first deified the flesh.15 As shown above, Athanasius uses both the paradigms of adoption and deification to show that what some humans are called throughout the Scriptures, i.e. sons and gods, is only possible because of the Word’s true Sonship and true divinity and humans adoption and participation into his sonship and divinity. 16

In a similar way to how Athanasius turns to deification and adoption as evidence that the

Word must be both fully God and Son, John Cassian in De Incarnatione 3.217 turns to condescension and adoption. Humans, specifically Moses and the addressees in Psalm 82, are called gods by God not because of who they are but because God condescends to give them these titles. If, for Athanasius, men cannot be called sons and gods unless the Word is Son and God; for Cassian men can only be called gods because the true God so calls them. Cassian also briefly mentions adoption noting that Jesus is not called God by adoption but by nature. The implication here is that what Jesus is not called by adoption those others God has called sons are so called by adoption.


The next major aspect of a doctrine of deification is often tied to participation, viz., transformation. As noted above, this is not transformation into something non-human. Instead this means a transformation into being truly human. This is reminiscent from passages such as in Ezekiel 36 where God promises Israel he will change out their hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. C. S. Lewis,

in Mere Christianity, envisages it as change from bios to zoe: ‘A man who changed from having Bios to Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changes from being a carved stone to being a real man. And this is precisely what Christianity is all about.’18 While humanity’s being is always dependent on God for its existence, humans still do not have being as they were meant to have it. Therefore, the transformative aspects are as if humanity went from in-animation to animation. Lewis later compares the process to a tin soldier becoming an enfleshed one. The only problem is enfleshment is uncomfortable and at least remaining tin would not be different. Nevertheless, it is essential for the tin soldier to become flesh, for it was intended to become flesh all along, it just was not always intended to hurt.19 Simply going from tin soldier to an enfleshed one, however, is not all there is to it. For the model into which humans are being transformed is Christ.

Lewis sounding not unlike Athanasius, points out in Mere Christianity––as well as in the Screwtape Letters––writes, ‘Every Christian is to become a little Christ.’20 The thing, or better, the one

into whom humans are being transformed is Christ. He became what humans are, so humans might become what he is. Thus, the transformation is more than a return to the pre-fallen state. Instead, humans are to go beyond the point reached by Adam and Eve for we have the benefit of the Incarnation. Without Christ having become human, how could humans have ever hoped to become gods. It may only be done by participation/grace/adoption, but it happens only because he did the reverse first. Humans are not, however, the only ones transformed. Christ’s becoming a creature, has far reaching implications for all of Creation. As Vladimir Lossky writes, ‘The world thus created will always exist, even when time is abolished, or rather, since time itself is a creature, when it is transformed into the eternal newness of the apocatastasis.’21 I will explore this notion more, however, in the next chapter.


If participation and transformation show the primarily or ambiguously passive (or middle) aspects of deification, then imitation and virtue give the primarily, but ambiguously, active (or middle) aspects of deification. On the one hand, these aspects of deification show how one actively participates in and so is transformed into God. On the other hand, however, both of these aspects are things only accomplishable by divine aid. This is the beauty of deification that our actions and God’s grace are inextricably tied. ‘To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ.’22 Lewis describes this ‘dressing up’ as an activity of which Christians do in order to be conformed to the image of Christ. Nevertheless, if is only with Christ’s help this can hope to be accomplished, this conformation.23

The main emphasis of imitation is imitation of Christ. If Christ is the one into whom humans are being transformed, then it stands to reason that part of that process would be an active attempts to be like him. If Christ is truly God, then it stands to reason that we are indeed, attempting to be like God. Lewis notes Christ’s words in Matthew 5:48, ‘The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas, Nor is it a comment to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words.’24 David Brakke writes that for Athanasius, ‘The available patterns [for imitation] included the biblical saints and more recent virtuous Christians, but the ultimate pattern was God and his word; thus, self-formation through imitation, in that one became as like to God as possible, was the ethical facet of the process Athanasius called ‘divinization’ (θεοποίησις).’25 This is reminiscent of Paul’s injunction that believers ‘join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us,’ (Phil 3.17). The idea being that as each of person endeavours to imitate Christ, she ought also look toward those in the past and in her times who exemplify imitation of Christ.

Acquisition of Virtue

The final main aspect of deification is the acquisition and employment of virtue. This, while seemingly the most active aspect of deification, is equally as passive as it is only through Christ that Christians can acquire and employ virtue. This acquisition of virtue is directly tied to the imitation of and transformation into Christ, for all virtues find their source ultimately in God. Daniel Keating reminds us, ‘It is important to recognize that when the Fathers speak of attaining virtue, they are not recommending a path of self-improvement or giving facile acceptance to moral practice in the ancient world. Rather they are issuing a call to “put on” Christ himself and the new way of life he teaches and models.’26 Deificatory virtue is not selfish. It is not a reference only to the individual, but the individual in relation to Christ, and to all of creation. I will return to the subject of virtue chapter #, but for now, it is enough to note these two things. First, virtue here must ultimately mean imitation of Christ. Second, virtue is something that the individual actively seeks to acquire, but must also be infused with by God.

1 ‘4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.’

2John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (Oxford: Continuum, 1974), 138.

3 Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 142.

4 Carolyn Schneider, ‘The intimate connection between Christ and Christians in Athanasius,’ in Scottish Journal of Theology (58 (1), 2005), 11.

5 Augustine, The Trinity (De Trinitate), translated by Edmund Hill and edited by John E. Rotelle (New York: New City Press, 2005), 154-55.

6 Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought (London: Routledge, 1998),105. 7Carolyn Schneider, ‘The intimate connection between Christ and Christians in Athanasius,’ in Scottish Journal of Theology (58 (1), 2005), 5.

8 I do not have the time to go into the grace and nature debates, here.

9 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. members of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (London: James Clarke and Co., LTD., 1957), 87.

10. Thomas G. Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2007), 99.

11 Paul M. Collins, Partaking in Divine Nature: Deification and Communion (London: Continuum International Publishing, 2010), 107.

12 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. members of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (London: James Clarke and Co., LTD., 1957), 39.

13. Romans 8:14-16 ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’

14. Thomas G. Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2007), 97.

15. Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought (London: Routledge, 1998), 105.

16. Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004),178.

17 Give citation from NPNF.

18C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 159.

19C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 179. 20C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 177.

21Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, trans. by Ian and Ihita Kesarcodi- Watson (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 61.

22 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 188.

23C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 189.

24C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 205.

25. David Brakke, Athanasius and Asceticism (London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 167.

26Daniel Keating, Deification and Grace (Naples: Sapientia Press, 2007), 79.

I hope you enjoyed this section and that it wasn’t too long. As I’m sure you’ll note, it is still a work in progress with some missing footnotes and more. I’d love comments on it. Let me know what you think.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

A Year of Blogging in Review

David Russell Mosley

16 July 2013
Commemoration of Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury, 1099
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I can hardly believe I’ve been at this for a year. I’ve had many blogs in the past. I believe it all started with Xanga for me. Then I moved to a Myspace blog, then a Facebook blog. After that I discovered blogger and used it to create several different blogs. I was never able to keep one going, so this is kind of a big deal for me.

To celebrate, I want first to thank everyone who reads or has read my blog. Here is screen-shot I took of density map that shows every country in which my blog has been read.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 06.18.18

I’m overwhelmed both by the number of people who have read my blog and the diversity of people who have read it. So again I say to everyone who has read my blog, thank you.

Top Ten Most Popular Posts

Since this is a year in review, I thought I would start by listing off the top ten most popular posts I’ve done over the past year:

A Day in the Life of PhD in Theology

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: John Milbank

Faeriean Metaphysics: Seeing the Soul and the Perilous Realm

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Conor Cunningham

A Day in the Life of a PhD in Theology Part 2: The Differences between and American and British PhD

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Simon Oliver

What is Radical Orthodoxy?

Why Edmund isn’t Judas: The Chronicles of Narnia, Allegory or Supposition?

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Philip Goodchild

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alison Milbank

Honourable Mention

Here are a few post who didn’t make the top ten cut, but were pretty darn close.

In Defence of Harry Potter, Or Harry Potter and the Magic of Christianity

“God, Gods, and Fairies” by David Bentley Hart

Is Evolution Anti-Christian? Conor Cunningham, Charles Darwin, and the God who Creates

Top Ten Favourite Blogs

Finally, here are some of my favourite blogs and websites I’ve encountered since I started blogging.

First is my wife’s blog: My Homespun Haven. She always has great recipes that I get to eat. One of my favourites is her Brown Butter Blondies with Maple Icing and Bacon Sprinkles. Make them and eat them, now.

Second is a blog from one of my best friends, Peter Stevens and his blog, Life, the Universe and Everything. Peter primarily does book reviews now, but also posts on particular saints in the Christian past, and many other things besides. Pete’s blog has been going since 2008. One of my favourite posts from Peter is Thoughts on the new Pope and Christian Leadership.

Next up is a blog I’ve featured before, it is The Flame Imperishable from Jonathan S. McIntosh. Jonathan is a theologian, philosopher, and Tolkien scholar and he brings all these things together in his blog. One of my favourite posts of his is From Fairy-Story to Evangelion.

Then there are the infrequent, but excellent posts from friend and fellow pipe smoker Colin Nicolle. Many of his posts centre around his home in Halifax, his training to be a vicar, and his love of the Latin Verse & a Pipe and listen to the dulcet tones of his voice as he reads ancient poetry to you.

From infrequency to incredible frequency we move to Father Aidan Kimel and his blog Ecletic Orthodoxy. Father Aidan is priest in the Orthodox church and many of his posts are commentaries based on very close readings of specific texts by the Church fathers. Check out his post, The Fifth Theological Oration: The Spirit Teaches his Divinity which deals with topics near and dear to my heart, namely, the Spirit and deification.

Another blogger I want to highlight is Jarrod Longbons over at The Art of the Good Life. Jarrod writes about anything from interviews with theologians, to commentaries on popular or contemporary culture, to how ecology and theology work together (which is, broadly, the topic of his dissertation at the University of Nottingham). Check out his post Review of the CoTP’s International Conference: “The Soul”.

The last blog I want to highlight is written by a former preacher of mine, Craig Cottongim. Craig’s blog focuses more on how we are to live life with splashes of social commentary. His blog is always uplifting and helpful. Check out his post: Distracted by DOMA.

Now I want to move to a few websites I’ve come to really enjoy.

The first is the Centre of Theology and Philosophy. This is your go to place for all things theology and philosophy, often, but not exclusively, related to Radical Orthodoxy. This website is frequently updated with forthcoming books, upcoming conferences, and also includes drafts of papers written by the members, including John Milbank, Conor Cunnigham, Karen Kilby, and others.

Next there is the Theology Studio, run by Scott Bader-Saye and Tony Baker. This site includes audio, and some video, interviews with prominent theologians, a blog with multiple contributors, long lists of books that are mentioned, and the three (often more) most influential books for each of the theologians they interview. This is a great place to pick up resources if you’re interested in theology.

Finally, there is the Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Philosophy, Politics Journal. This is a primarily online, and therefore free, journal which doesn’t simply tow the RO party line, but welcomes any and all articles that are concerned with Theology, Philosophy, or Politics, which is to say, nearly anything. I’m told there are some “staffing” changes being made, so we should definitely be on the look out for another online journal soon. They also do a yearly print version which can be purchased through Wipf and Stock.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the links. Definitely make sure to go check out the other blogs I linked to above.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Faeriean Metaphysics: Seeing the Soul and the Perilous Realm

Mushrooms. A fairy ring in a lawn. Measures 7 ...

Mushrooms. A fairy ring in a lawn. Measures 7 feet in diameter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Friends and Family,

Several times now on this blog have I written about Faerie and the enchantment of our universe. Today I wanted to reflect on a few different things I’ve come across lately in relation to this.

What Is Faeriean Metaphysics?

Faeriean is an adjective I made up at the recent Centre of Theology and Philosophy Conference on the Soul after hearing John Milbank’s response to William Desmond’s paper. I’ll come back to that in a moment. I got the idea for the phrasing from Jonathan McIntosh, who has an excellent blog called The Flame Imperishable, and a whole category called The Metaphysics of Faerie, where he does some work on theology and philosophy in J. R. R. Tolkien. For me, Faeriean Metaphysics is the act whereby we recognise the enchanted nature and mystery of our universe. It helps us to see the world with fresh eyes, eyes willing to see wonder in everything. Faeriean metaphysics is the act whereby we recognise that ontology, that is being, is not static, reducible, or de-mythologised. I’m still working on this notion, but I think it is important that our metaphysics include, and be shaped by, Faerie.

The Secret Commonwealth

English: The Minister's Pine According to loca...

English: The Minister’s Pine According to local legend, the spirit of the Reverend Robert Kirk who is said to have had contact with the faerie world is trapped within the tree. To this day people still tie pieces of material or “clooties” to the branches of the tree in the hope of having their wishes granted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Secret Commonwealth, are the peoples who make up what is known as Faerie, Fairyland, Elfland, The Perilous Land, Logres (in Britatin), and many other names. A certain Robertus Kirk wrote a book by this title in the Seventeenth Century. In this book, Kirk argues that there are some who are born with second sight, that is the ability to see those things in nature which are typically invisible, faeries, aspects of the future, etc. Kirk even seeks to connect this to the prophets in Bible. They were imbued with the second sight from birth and this accounts for the ability to hear directly from God and see visions. It also meant, however, that they could see elves and fairies. David Bentley Hart in an article on First Things entitled The Secret Commonwealth, comments that Kirk’s understanding of the world is, at the very least, better than the sterilised vision of the world given to us by Modernity. Hart writes:

Moreover, even if one suspects this is not a matter so much of illusion as of delusion, again that is of no consequence. A delusion this amiable is endlessly preferable to boredom, for boredom is the one force that can utterly defeat the will to be, and so the will to care at all what is or is not true. It is only some degree of prior enchantment that allows the eye to see, and to seek to see yet more. And so, deluded or not, a belief in fairies will always be in some sense far more rational than the absolute conviction that such things are sheer nonsense, and that the cosmos consists in nothing but brute material events in haphazard combinations. Or, I suppose, another way of saying this would be that the ability of any of us to view the world with some sort of contemplative rationality rests upon the capacity we possessed as children to see in everything a kind of articulate mystery, and to believe in far more than what ordinary vision discloses to us: a capacity that endows us with that spiritual eros that allows us to know and love the world, and that we are wise to continue to cultivate in ourselves even after age and disillusion have weakened our sight.

In the end, as Puddleglum would agree, if the make-believe is better than the real world, I’ll take the make-believe every time.

John Milbank, Faerie, and The Soul

Finally, I noted at the beginning that I came up with the word faeriean after John gave a response to William Desmond’s paper at the Soul Conference in Oxford. John said, and I’m paraphrasing here, to believe in fairies is to believe in the soul. For John, Faerie leads us to the soul, the form of our bodies (in an Aristotelian sense), for both can only be seen when we have the eyes to see. I want to turn this ’round, however. To believe in the soul is to believe in Faerie. Kirk thought only some were born with the second-sight. I would agree when it comes to prophets, especially those who see the outcome of current and future events. However, I believe every Christian who is a temple of the Holy Spirit is imbued with the second-sight, with the ability to see Faerie.

We only need to change our perception and we shall see the world rightly. This we must do, or we shall go blind.

So, do you believe in Faerie?


Related Articles

“God, Gods, and Fairies”

Why Edmund isn’t Judas: The Chronicles of Narnia, Allegory or Supposition?

Lies Breathed through Silver or How God Creates History: Myths and Christianity

The Enchantment of Creation Or, I Do Believe in Faerie

In Defence of Harry Potter, Or Harry Potter and the Magic of Christianity

More Tolkien: Looking forward to the Hobbit

Before The Hobbit

In Defence of Father Christmas