Tetelestai for Good

David Russell Mosley

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Advent
12 December 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, I’m behind on sharing this news by a few days, but for those who don’t already know: I am completely done with my PhD! In many ways I still can’t believe. In other ways, this is an unbelievably underwhelming time for me. It’s difficult to get too excited since everything has happened while I’ve been physically removed from the University of Nottingham (where I did my PhD).

Last time I wrote you was right after I had passed my Viva. Since then, I had to resubmit my thesis with all the necessary corrections in October. I found out in mid-November that my corrections had been accepted. I was overjoyed at that news. There was a not-so-small part of me that worried I had not done enough, but evidently I had, for Rev. Dr. Alison Milbank (my internal examiner) emailed me a few days before the official word, telling me that she was happy to pass my thesis with the corrections I had made. Once I got the official word I had to get my thesis printed and bound and submitted to the appropriate people at the University. That was slightly difficult to manage from the States, but in the end it got done and I graduated, in absentia, on 8 December 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

As I said, I am overjoyed, but it has been a strange process. In a way, it has been a bit like becoming a husband or a father for me. That is, it is something that comes on gradually with new complexities at each stage. When does one become a father, after all? Is it when you find out your wife is pregnant? Is it when the baby is born? Or what about becoming a husband, after all, the process starts when you begin dating your spouse and changes once you become engaged, and changes again during the wedding ceremony, and changes once again on your wedding night. Becoming a doctor has been something like that. Was I a doctor when I passed my viva? Or when my corrections were accepted? Or when I graduated? And let’s not forget all the writing that went on before that, like dating before marriage, or having sex before conception. Becoming a doctor, of course, is not exactly the same as becoming a father or a husband, but the process, the gradualness of slowly passing stages that further your steps toward the end goal, that is the same.

Whatever the case, I am, unequivocally, and irrevocably, Dr. David Russell Mosley. I thank you all for your support, for your love, prayers, and interest during this process and while I wrote this blog, occasionally updating you on what I was doing toward getting my doctorate.

A final piece of news: As you already know, I am publishing a work of fiction with Wipf and Stock Publishers.
I am also pleased to announce, though this has been the case for some time, that I will also be publishing my thesis12304154_908706462544609_6750187958427026235_o, Being Deified: Poetry and Fantasy on the Path to God, with Fortress Press in their Emerging Scholars series.

In light of all this good news, I could still use your prayers. I am still applying for jobs, teaching theology at the undergraduate and/or graduate level(s), but have not landed one yet. Please pray that one of the jobs I have already applied for, or, if not one of those, then one I will apply for in the near future, will come through and that I will be employed at an academic institution for the 2016/2017 school year. This is, perhaps, ambitious as many of my colleagues from Nottingham and elsewhere who have finished before me are still looking for work. Nevertheless, I pray for it for myself and for them and I ask that you do the same. In the mean time, I will continue to apply for jobs, write letters to you all here, and attempt to move forward with some new research topics. Until next time I remain,

Sincerely yours,
Dr. David Russell Mosley

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Creativity as Deifying: An Extract from My Thesis Part I

David Russell Mosley

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Lent
3 April 2014
On the Edge of Elfland Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Inspired by this post from Artur Rosman, ‘John Paul II, the Artist in You, and Coleridge’, I thought I would share a portion of my thesis on a related topic. This extract comes from my fourth chapter which focuses on the Christian life in light of the Ascension and the Indwelling and how deification continues and grows in us during this time. The portion I want to share is a bit long, so I’ll be sharing it in parts. Please, let me know what you think.

Sub-Creation

I want now to turn my attention to human creativity and the role it plays in the life of redemption and deification. John Milbank has suggested in Beyond Secular Order, that the human creatures is a fictioning creature, that is, a creature who shapes and re-shapes the nature around them, ‘Likewise, they are as animals fictioning creatures, or in other terms cultural and historical creatures, whose very nature is artificially to question and reshape (though not thereby to destroy) this nature.’1 This is based, for Milbank first in the Incarnation’s ability to re-shape history, ‘If the Incarnation permitted a reshaping of the world, then it was to be expected that time would bring forth beneficial innovations, including technological ones, in which the Holy Spirit was at work through human hands.’2 Note how Milbank argues that if the Incarnation has reshaped the world then as a result of this reshaping (a reorientation of humanity in a general sense towards its end) the Spirit, who is given in one sense to all humanity and in another to Christians in a particular way, will be active in bringing about additions to creation, or new parts to the Poem. This is all even further based in the notion that culture and creativity are themselves gifts and deifying participations in the divine creativity:

The ‘cultural supplement’ to which our purely animal natural reason is already, through our ‘trans-naturality’, obscurely drawn by the lure of the supernatural implanted within us, simply is, as revealed in the light of the Incarnation, the supplement of grace, the beginning of the work of deification which is always (as Sergei Bulgakov saw, through his eastern appropriation of western experience) the work of a further participation in divine creativity.3

Thus, for Milbank, culture is a gift and our participation in culture is an aspect of our deification. For this reason, the rest of this chapter will look specifically at the work of George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis for modern examples of what Tolkien would come to call sub-creation, as a kind of sub- poetical contribution to the Poem which in turn contributes to our becoming Theo- poems.

Participation in the Poem

Humans, then, are to play a role as poets, participating in the Poet and in a real, but qualified sense, adding to the Poem. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has written, ‘Our highest vocation as human persons is to reproduce on earth, so far as this is possible for us, the movement of mutual love that passes eternally between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’4 What God is, which is what we participate in and are in the image of, we are to recreate, re-poetise here on earth. George MacDonald, writing on the importance of imagination, writes, ‘man may, if he pleases, invent a little world of his own, with its own laws; for there is that in him which delights in calling up new forms–which is the closest, perhaps, he can come to creation.’5 These worlds which we can create, however, must hold to the moral law (one of the only laws in Elfland, as Chesterton told us above). To do otherwise is to inherently create inconsistent world. Again, MacDonald writes, ‘In the moral world it is different [from the physical]: there a man may clothe in new forms, and for this employ his imagination freely, but he must invent nothing. He may not, for any purpose, turn its laws upside down. He must not meddle with the relations of live souls. The laws of the spirit of man must hold, alike in this world and in any world he may invent.’6 For MacDonald the moral world can be recast in new clothes, but it cannot change its substance.

If we can, as I have already suggested, in some ways equate poetry and fantasy, or at least poetry and Faerie, which all have to do with creation, then this human activity is immanently important to theology and philosophy. Josef Pieper, writes:

poetry and philosophy are more closely related to one another than any of the sciences to philosophy: both, equally, are aimed, as one might say, at wonder (and wonder does not occur in the workaday world)––and this by virtue of the power of transcending the everyday world, a power common to poetry and philosophy.7

Note that Pieper equates poetry with a world beyond the workaday. His own point here is that a utilitarian world misunderstands the point of both philosophy and poetry. These are searches for wonder. Tolkien, writing about Fairy-stories, says, ‘Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability. If they awakened desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded.’8 This desire which is awakened is akin to the wonder that Pieper writes about, or even the joy that haunted Lewis in his pre-Christian days.9 Therefore it is necessary here to discuss fantasy and its implications in our deification.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

1 John Milbank, Beyond Secular Order: The Representation of Being and the Representation of the People (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013), 220.

2 Ibid., 218.

3 Ibid., 213.

4 Kallistos Ware,  ‘The Holy Trinity: Model for Personhood-in-relation,’ in The Trinity and an Entan- gled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology, ed. John Polkinghorne (Cam- bridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 113.

5 George MacDonald, ‘The Fantastic Imagination,’ in The Complete Fairy Tales, ed. by U. C. Knoepflmacher (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 5-6.

6 Ibid., 6.

7 Josef Pieper, Leisure The Basis of Culture, trans. by Alexander Dru (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), 95.

8 J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘Tree and Leaf,’ in The Tolkien Reader (New York: The Ballantine Publishing Company, 1966), 63.

9 See C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Orlando: Harcourt Inc., 1955).

Being a (Non-Roman) Catholic Evangelical: Liturgy as a Way of Living Differently

David Russell Mosley

My prayer station at home.

My prayer station at home.

29 January 2014
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

A few weeks ago now at our church, St Nicholas (an Anglican church in the Church of England), our rector, Steve gave a sermon on Acts 2.42-3.10. The gist of the sermon (you can listen to the whole series here) is about our public impact as we attempt to live life together. At the end of the sermon, Steve enjoined us to start a conversation about how we could live differently. You see, Steve pointed out something I think often all too true. If you asked a Christian what Christians believe, they could give you some kind of answer. If, however, you asked them what do Christians do? They might have a much harder time answering that question.

There are, of course, many answers to this question of what Christians do and how we can live differently within our communities. The most obvious answers are perhaps social justice and evangelism. Feeding and caring for the poor, the oppressed, the widowed is an essential aspect of Christianity. In fact, in the passage Steve preached from, Peter and John, in healing the lame man, were doing an act of social justice that was also an act of evangelism. These two things are essential in any attempt to live in our world, but differently from it. However, there is another that I think often underplayed as an aspect of living differently.

I’ve written more about liturgy on this blog than almost any other topic, which is perhaps ironic since I do not come from a particularly liturgy affirming tradition. That being said, I want to suggest that liturgy is the other main way we can actively live differently within our societies.  Consider how different it would look if on high feast days and high solemnities, like Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, etc., we all went to church for a service and then had a feast (on the feast days). And not just go to church, what if we actually had day long events and did our best to get out of work for the day? What if we invited people over for Twelfth-Night? What if on Ash Wednesday we all showed up to work with an ashen cross on our foreheads?

What if we actually treated Sundays as the first day of the week and not simply the precursor to the Monday work week? What if the start of Advent was more important to us (as the start of the Church Calendar) than New Year’s Eve? What if all our churches offered at least Morning and Evening Prayer services so people could come and experience fixed hour prayer? What if we thought of time differently? What if our day was broken up into set times of prayer (whether following a set liturgy or praying on our own)?

I firmly believe that if we treated the Church Calendar, the week, and the day as the Church has understood them in centuries past as what is really real, as opposed to the way modern society has chosen to organise our time, we would stand out. Liturgy is more than a method, but I would suggest it is as important as social justice and evangelism for living differently in the world. You can look over some of my past posts to see why I think this is, but ultimately, it is because I think God upholds every minute of every day and liturgy helps to live within such a rhythmic way as makes this reality known.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Faerie and Logres: Interviews and Sermons

David Russell Mosley

4 November 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

The last two weeks have seen me give a couple of presentations that I thought I’d share with you.

Faerie Ring bw

Faerie Ring bw (Photo credit: Marion Doss)

Last week, on Sunday, I was interviewed by fellow PhD Student on his show ‘Good Reasons to Believe’ on The Place on ustream. Alan, my interviewer, has been running this show for a while now I think, focusing primarily on apologetics, or really, any good reason to believe in the Christian God. Now, I don’t normally do apologetics, and to an extant, this interview was no different. Alan and I discussed the role of Faerie and fantasy in theology (as I have written to you on this subject many times). The interview is about 25 minutes long and there should be a part 2 coming in the next week or two.

English: King Arthur as one of the Nine Worthi...

English: King Arthur as one of the Nine Worthies, detail from the “Christian Heroes Tapestry” dated c. 1385. “Arthur among the Nine Worthies is always identified by three crowns, which signify regality, on his standard, his shield, or his robe.” — Geoffrey Ashe, The Quest for Arthur’s Britain 1969. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, on Sunday, I gave my first sermon in about 7 years. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. Not only has it been seven years since I last preached, its been around 8 years since I took a course on preaching. I wasn’t sure if I’d remember how to do it. Fortunately for me, the main texts and title were assigned. I preached on Genesis 6.1-8 and Luke 17.20-37. The sermon was entitled Fallen Culture, but I added a subtitle to it, Fallen Culture: Britain vs. Logres. My sermon was primarily about being the kingdom of God in the midst of the fallen cultures of this world. I preached this at the more traditional service at St Nicholas’ Church in Nottingham. You can listen to it here (it’s the 9 o’clock service one, with my name next to it): http://stnics.org/Groups/226018/Genesis.aspx

I have to say, it’s been a while since I given talks that weren’t paper presentations at conferences. It was a nice change of pace and I hope I have some more opportunities to do so in the days to come.

Please, give each, or either, talk a listen and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extract: ‘The Four Aspects of Deification’

David Russell Mosley
https://elflandletters.wordpress.com/

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.

Grace

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.

Union

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.

Adoption

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.

Transformation

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.

Imitation

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

Celebrating Theology and Religious Studies Faculty from the University of Nottingham: The Wrap Up

Humanities Building, University Park Campus

Humanities Building, University Park Campus

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, today I just wanted to do a quick wrap-up of the past few weeks. I had the idea to start highlighting some of the members of our staff that I knew well and who, in my opinion, were not well known outside their specific circles. I wanted to introduce people to some of the truly stellar members of our faculty about whom they might not have heard. This quickly turned into short pieces on all our staff members, thanks to the encouragement of one Peter Watts, a colleague of mine here at the university who has recently submitted his thesis and teaches some of our Biblical Studies classes. I know some of our faculty members better than others, that’s just the nature of doing a specific degree in such a diverse department.

I cannot stress enough how excellent our faculty are here in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. If you’re thinking of doing undergraduate, Master’s level, or PhD studies in Theology and(/or) Religious Studies, I can whole heartedly recommend our department as an excellent choice.

One final mention I want to make is to those who are even more unsung, our administrative staff and those on short-term contracts. In the latter category I wish to highlight Sam Kimbriel, a recent Cambridge grad who took over for Conor Cunningham this past year while Conor was at Princeton. I’m not sure what Sam’s plans are for next year, but be on the look out for some excellent work to come from him. Also, as I said, I want to celebrate our administrative staff. Our department would not function without them. If you are interested in studying at Nottingham, get in touch with any of them and they’ll connect you to the right person. Contact them here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the videos and will benefit from the bibliographies I’ve posted. I will try to update these as new videos come out or as faculty members join or leave our department.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about studying Theology and Religious Studies at Nottingham at atxdm2_at_nottingham.ac.uk.

Yours,
David

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Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Tom O’Loughlin

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Richard Bell

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Roland Deines

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alan Ford

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Philip Goodchild

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: John Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Karen Kilby

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Frances Knight

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Carly Crouch

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Conor Cunningham

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Celebrating Theology and Religious Studies Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Agata Bielik-Robson

Celebrating Theology and Religious Studies Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Jon Hoover

Celebrating Theology and Religious Studies Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Jon Hoover

20130618-113138.jpg
Dear Friends and Family,

Today I want to introduce you to our Islamic Studies associate professor, Dr Jon Hoover. Jon, as well as his wife, often teach courses on the history of Islam as well as the relation of Islam to other religions, both historically and contemporaneously.

Jon did his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. From there, his interests seem to have changed and he received an MA in Theological Studies from the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana. He received his PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Birmingham. Jon then spent several years teaching in Beirut and learning Arabic in Cairo. He joined our faculty in 2010.

Bibliography

  • Editor, Hiwār al-haqīqa min ajl al-hayāt ma‘an / Dialogue of Truth for Life Together, vol. 2 (Beirut: NEST Publications, 2008).
  • Ibn Taymiyya’s Theodicy of Perpetual Optimism (Leiden: Brill, 2007). [Google books]
  • “Ibn Taymiyya,” in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Vol. 4 (1200-1350), ed. David Thomas and Alex Mallett (Leiden: Brill 2012), 824-878. [pdf]
  • “Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya,” in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Vol. 4 (1200-1350), ed. David Thomas and Alex Mallett (Leiden: Brill 2012), 989-1002. [pdf]
  • “Ibn al-Ḥājj al-ʿAbdarī,” in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Vol. 4 (1200-1350), ed. David Thomas and Alex Mallett (Leiden: Brill 2012), 893-896. [pdf]
  • “God’s Wise Purposes in Creating Iblīs: Ibn Qayyim al-Ğawziyyah’s Theodicy of God’s Names and Attributes,” in A Scholar in the Shadow: Essays in the Legal and Theological Thought of Ibn Qayyim al-Ğawziyyah, ed. Caterina Bori and Livnat Holtzman, Oriente Moderno monograph series, 90.1 (2010): 113-134. [pdf]
  • “The Apologetic and Pastoral Intentions of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s Polemic against Jews and Christians,” The Muslim World 100.4 (2010), 471-484. [Open Access]
  • “God Acts by His Will and Power: Ibn Taymiyya’s Theology of a Personal God in his Treatise on the Voluntary Attributes,” in Ibn Taymiyya and His Times, ed. Yossef Rapoport and Shahab Ahmed (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2010), 55-77. [pdf]
  • “The Lord’s Prayer: A Mennonite View,” in On Spirituality: Essays from the third Shi’i Muslim Mennonite Christian Dialogue, ed. M. Darrol Bryant, Susan Kennel Harrison, and A. James Reimer (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2010), 99-114. [pdf]
  • A Common Word: ‘More positive and open, yet mainstream and orthodox’,” Theological Review of the Near East School of Theology 30.1 (April 2009), 50-77. [pdf]
  • “Islamic Universalism: Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s Salafī Deliberations on the Duration of Hell-Fire,” The Muslim World 99.1 (Jan. 2009), 181-201. [Open Access]
  • “Islamic Monotheism and the Trinity,” The Conrad Grebel Review 27.1 (Winter 2009), 57-82. [Publisher’s corrected version]
  • “Writing the Resistance: Recent Books on Hizbullah from Lebanese Perspectives,” Theological Review of the Near East School of Theology 28.1 (April 2007), 47-69.[pdf]
  • “The Justice of God and the Best of All Possible Worlds: The Theodicy of Ibn Taymiyya,” Theological Review of the Near East School of Theology 27.2 (November 2006), 53-75. [pdf]
  • “Ibn Taymiyya as an Avicennan Theologian: A Muslim Approach to God’s Self-Sufficiency,” Theological Review of the Near East School of Theology 27.1 (April 2006), 34-46.[pdf]
  • “An Anabaptist Perspective on Conversing with Muslims,” in Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation: Essays in Honor of Wilbert R. Shenk, ed. James R. Krabill, Walter Sawatsky and Charles E. Van Engen (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press, 2006), 120-129, 287-288.
  • “Perpetual Creativity in the Perfection of God: Ibn Taymiyya’s Hadith Commentary on God’s Creation of this World,” Journal of Islamic Studies 15.3 (Sept. 2004): 287-329. [pdf]
  • “Revelation and the Islamic and Christian Doctrines of God,” Islamochristiana 30 (2004): 1-14. French translation, “La révélation et les doctrines musulmane et chrétienne sur Dieu,” Chemins de Dialogue: Penser la foi dans l’esprit d’Assise 28 (2006): 167-190.
  • “A Typology of Responses to the Philosophical Problem of Evil in the Islamic and Christian Traditions,” The Conrad Grebel Review 21.3 (Fall 2003): 81-96.

Videos

Why Study Ibn Taymiyya?

Why Study Islamic Studies?

I hope you’ve enjoyed Jon’s videos. Hopefully some renewed interest will mean Jon will be in some more. However, if you look around youtube, you can also find Jon serving as interviewer for several other University of Nottingham videos on aspects of Islam.

Yours,
David

Related Posts

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Simon Oliver

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Mary Cunningham

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alison Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Tom O’Loughlin

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Richard Bell

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Roland Deines

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alan Ford

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Philip Goodchild

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: John Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Karen Kilby

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Frances Knight

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Carly Crouch

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Conor Cunningham

Celebrating Theology and Religious Studies Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Holger Zellentin

Celebrating Theology and Religious Studies Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Agata Bielik-Robson