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

Hand-written Notes: How I do Research (A Post for Matt Moser)

David Russell Mosley

 

My Desk at Home

My Old Desk Set Up at Home

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

Dear Friends and Family,

Matt Moser, who blogs over at Christ & University, has asked that I write a letter on how I use my research journal. I thought I would oblige.

Truth be told, I stole this idea (of using a research journal) from a colleague here at Nottingham, though we use them slightly differently. Initially, my reasons for using a hand-written research journal were romantic as well as quasi-neo-luddite. Essentially, I worry sometimes about the effects the impermanence of the digital might have on us individually and corporately, but that is a letter for another day.

Here’s a rather narcissistic 16 minute long video I did on the subject. NB, I know longer use quite that many journals/notebooks:

Still, for nearly three years now, I’ve been taking primarily hand-written notes for my now nearly complete doctoral thesis, so at the very least this has worked for me. So here’s what I do:

The Notebook

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Since living here in the UK and having a Ryman’s nearby, I have favoured the Ryman’s A5 Ruled Notebook with 384 pages. I dedicate the first fifteen pages or so for a preface. From there I number the pages 1-approx. 369 and start using it.

The Pen

Frankly, I tend to use whatever I have on hand, but always ink, never pencil. The reason for this is again one of permanence. Pencil is too quick to fade, or be erased, ink lasts. For the most part I favour a fountain pen my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. Otherwise, I prefer fine-point pens, typically black.

The Use

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With the pen and notebook in hand, the only thing left to do is write in it. I’ve a few different methods for note-taking, but what I have found works best is underlining in books I own and using tabs or post=its in one I don’t. As I’m reading, I’ll underline or mark what I want to write down. Then, once I’m done with the book (or as I’m reading it, depending on my mood), I sit down to evaluate what I’ve underlined/marked and write down the important stuff in the notebook. Sometimes, if what I want from the book is too long to write down in one sitting, I’ll just note what is on the page in a few words.

Here’s how a note-taking session tends to work for me. Wherever I’ve left off previously, I write down the date, so I know when I interacted with the text. Then, if I’m starting a new book, I write out a full bibliographic entry for the text with an asterisk to the lefthand side, noting that I’ve started a new entry. Starting with the first page on which I’ve underlined/marked something worth noting, I start writing out the quotations/notes. If it’s modern book, I write down the page number first followed by the quotation. If it’s an ancient text or the Bible, I write the abbreviation for the text followed by book and paragraph number or chapter and verse. Then I just keep writing until I’ve got down everything I want.

As I add new books, I try to make sure to write down the title and the page number on which I’ve started the book in my journal in the Table of Contents, though I’m not very good at keeping up with.

The key for all of this, however, is that I then type up the notes in a word document where the pages of the word document match up to the pages of the journal (for cross-referencing and spell-checking purposes). This might seem laborious, but it does three things I find really helpful. First, it solidifies the information in my head. Reading the text, then rereading it to write it out by hand only to reread it again in order to type it out, helps me keep a better handle on what I’ve got when it comes time to write. Second, when I finally get around to indexing my journals, having a digital copy will really come in handy. However, perhaps the most useful part of typing it out is it makes my notes much easier to use when I write. Rather than following the exact same referencing system as my journal, I use the digital copy to get a head start on footnotes. Rather than beginning each quotation or note with the page number, I end it with a properly formatted footnote. This way, when I go to put my notes in an outline or in the text I’m writing, I can simply copy and paste and hey presto! I have footnotes that only either need to be shortened or changed to ibid. (assuming I don’t have to change styles completely, but even then it’s typically not too hard).

Alongside eventually making indices, I also hope to put together a continuous digital copy. Rather than splitting pages based on the hardcopy, splitting them wherever the text would naturally split based on what’s written.

Anyway, this is how I do it. How do you take notes for your research (if you’re lucky or unlucky enough––depending on perception––to have to do research?

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

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).

My 3 Books (or The Post Where I Steal Ideas from The Theology Studio)

David Russell Mosley

Second Week of Advent
10 December 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Over at The Theology Studio, run by excellent gents Tony Baker and Scott Bader-Saye, they have a virtual bookshelf of books that have most influenced the writing and thought of the theologians they interview. While I certainly do not even remotely put myself in the same category as the women and men they interview, I nevertheless thought it would an interesting exercise to try to determine what books have most influenced me in my theology (since I’ve not published multiple books or journal articles yet I thought more appropriate to talk about what has more generally influenced my theology). Without further ado, then, here are my three books:

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This book served both as my introduction into patristic theology and my introduction into deification. While Cassian himself never uses the language of deification, it was reading Cassian that led me to the Cappadocians, Augustine, Athanasius, etc. Without this book, and Cassian’s understanding of grace, I probably would not be doing my PhD on deification.

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While I admittedly do very little philosophical theology in my PhD, John’s work in TST on the secular confirmed much for me as well as taught a whole new way of talking about society, secularity, and theology.

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I’m cheating a bit here, but really Tolkien’s work on sub-creation, the purpose and place of fairy stories, and his practice of sub-creation in The Silmarillion have significantly influenced how I think about humanity’s role in the cosmos. Without this article and this book I wouldn’t be doing the work on poetry, faerie, and fantasy I’m doing in some side projects and in my PhD.

Next week, I’ll probably do a runners-up list. What about you? What books have most influenced your thinking/theology? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Life Update 2: Twins and the USA

David Russell Mosley

babymosleytake2
Festival of King Edmund
20 November 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire
Dear Friends and Family,

Well, it is has been an interesting week. Last Thursday, Lauren and I went in for our 12 week scan. We were still a little nervous. For us, this scan was going to make the pregnancy real for both of us. Lauren has had the usual symptoms of pregnancy, but isn’t really showing yet; since the changes aren’t happening to me, I really don’t get to experience the pregnancy. So this scan was going to make it all real and settle any fears we might have had.

We go into the Queen’s Medical Centre, wait, get called into the room and get settled. The technician puts the ultrasound wand on Lauren’s stomach and nonchalantly announces, ‘You’re having twins.’ Lauren and I both assume he’s joking. He then proceeds to say, ‘I love shocking people,’ but not in a way that makes us think he’s serious. It isn’t until he says we’re going to label this one Twin A that it finally dawns on us; this isn’t a joke. We’ve been in a state of shock and joy ever since.

baby a one

Twin A

baby b one

Twin B

We’ve since found out that there is some history for twins on Lauren’s side of the family. Even so, its so remote and only one cousin has had them, with no guarantee that it came from the Peterson side of the family, that we had no notion, no inkling that this could happen to us.

Having twins means a lot of changes are coming our way. For starters, it means having to get two of everything instead of just enough for one baby. It also means our original plans of not finding out the gender have gone out the window. In Lauren’s words, ‘I need to be as prepared as I can be.’ There is another change, however, that the twins aren’t causing, but helping to facilitate.

Ever since Lauren and I made the decision to remain in England and pursue ordination in the Church of England we have felt unsettled. We thought we’d feel content. We expected hardships and doubts, but not to the extent we were having them. We had no time, no breathing room to figure things out. It all needed to happen so fast, too fast. Since finding out we’re having twins, our priorities have needed to change. This means, for the time being, we’re putting a pause on the ordination process.

In other words, after I submit my PhD in the Fall of next year we will be coming home to the USA. We aren’t sure what that’s going to look like yet. We’ll want to spend time with family; I’ll need to spend time preparing for my Viva (the defence of my thesis back in the UK), but other than that things are up in the air. We’re going to be very sad to leave England. We have and do love living here. Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to coming home and spending time with friends and family, sharing the gift of our twins with everyone we can. In terms of ordination in the CoE, I’ll be keeping in touch with our DDO and if God has called to ordination in England, then he’ll bring us back. For now, we’re just going to trust in him, thank him for our twins, and pray that I get my thesis written. And on that note, I’ve got some reading and writing to do.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

A Life Update: Ordination News, Thesis Update, and Babies

David Russell Mosley

 

22 October 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I thought it was necessary to do another life update as we’ve announced a few things recently and there are a few others I simply haven’t written about.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Lauren and I are now in the midst of the discernment process for me to be ordained in the Church of England. This past Monday we had our first meeting with the DDO (the Diocesan Director of Ordinands). She was absolutely lovely, and it went really well so far as I can tell. She simply wanted to get to know Lauren and I and understand why we think this is the direction God is calling us. We’ll have a few more meetings and hopefully get me into a Diocesan Panel by February so I can go on to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel in time to get the funding necessary to begin the training in September of 2014. If this is where God’s calling us, it’s all going to happen rather quickly. This is both terrifying and exciting.  One of the things Sue did mention is me doing a placement (following a vicar around for a little while) in order to ensure I know what various congregations are like in the Church of England. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this at the parish church in Beeston since Lauren and I don’t drive. Prayers on this front are most definitely appreciated.

One of the other major things we have going on this academic year is, of course, my thesis. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but this will the last year of my PhD. I am now in what is called the write up or Thesis Pending Period. Essentially what this means is I get fewer meetings with my supervisors, and have to be done by the end of next September (that’s right the same one I’d start my training in if all goes towards ordination), or else! I have half of my thesis written and plan to have the other half done by no later than May so I can spend the summer editing and getting it ready for submission. Prayers are also certainly appreciated on this front as well.

The final, and perhaps biggest news we have, as well as another reason for me needing to have the thesis written by May, is that Lauren and I are pregnant. Yes, technically she’s the only one who is actually growing a human child, but as its my child too, and we’re one flesh, I think I can say that we are pregnant.Image We are absolutely ecstatic about this! Having kids has been one of our biggest dreams since before we even got married. I’m sure there will be many more baby posts to come in the future, but for now I will say this: Lauren is doing well; we’re intentionally not finding out the gender; and our little one is due on 24 May 2014 (our sixth anniversary).

These are all the main things going on in right now in the Mosley Family (UK). Otherwise life is going on as usual. We’re getting stuck-in as the British would say, in our new church, and finally making some British friends. I hope you all are well. Look out for my next posts on Creation, food, and more.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extracts: Why We Need a Deifier

 David Russell Mosley

 

1 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here’s another extract from my second chapter on Deification Creation. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave comments below:

English: The Nativity of Christ

English: The Nativity of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Need for a Deifier

What is left, in the end, is a created order that is good, that has an end which is God, and which it cannot achieve on its own. The universe needs humanity to fulfil its end in God, for without humanity, there is no one to receive creation as a gift and to mediate between creation and God as recipients. In humanity, then, there is the given vocation of serving as icons and priests to the rest of creation, showing forth the attributes of God. However, even though humanity has an innate desire for the divine, for divinity, for God, but this mad desire, as de Lubac calls it, cannot be met or fulfilled by humanity. The desire may be natural, but its fulfilment must be super- natural. Creation needs a deifier, one alongside of whom it can work. As Vladimir Lossky writes, ‘Certainly man was created by the will of God alone; but he cannot be deified by it alone. A single will for creation, but two for deification. A single will to raise up the image but two to make the image into a likeness.’1 God can create in his image, but cannot make man a god, according to Lossky. Instead, man must also will this. Lossky will go on to argue that humanity, prior to the Fall, may have been able to deify itself.2 In fact, in commenting on the Fall, Lossky seems to suggest that hu- manity would have enacted its own deification which would have made bridgeable to the gap between Creator and creature: ‘The infinite distance between the created and uncreated, the natural separation of man from God which ought to have been overcome by deification became an impassable abyss for man after he willed himself into a new state, that of sin and death, which was near a state of non-being.’3 This, how- ever, seems unlikely given both Scripture and the Fathers. Instead, it seems more likely that God requires our cooperation in order to deify us. That is, even though humanity wills to be like God and God wills it for them, the two wills must work together. So far I agree with Lossky. However, it seems that more than this is necessary in order to deify.

It cannot be emphasised enough that deification is the intended end for crea- tion from the very beginning. As Andrew Louth writes, ‘[D]eification is the fulfil- ment of creation, not just the rectification of the Fall.’4 Elizabeth Theokritoff simi- larly writes, ‘The Incarnation is not primarily a remedy for something gone wrong; it inaugurates the union between God and his creation for which all things were created.’5 It would be wrong to picture deification as merely a response to human- ity’s sin. It is not simply the resolving of this issue, though it is that, it goes beyond, it is the intended goal for creation from the very beginning. This is not, however, a goal creation can complete on it is own.

Creation Incomplete on Its Own

Maximus has reminded us that created beings cannot reach their own ends. They cannot fulfil themselves.6 Even any deathlessness humanity may have possessed in the story of the garden was not by nature. Aquinas tells us that it was by grace ‘that man was deathless before sin happened’ (ST 1a. 76, 5, ad 1). Adam, while without sin and incorruption, was still subject to becoming.7 Just as creation was in- complete without humanity, incapable of attaining its own end, so too is humanity incomplete without a deifier, without someone to raise him up to the status of divinity by participation, by grace, by adoption. Anthony Baker again reminds us, ‘Perfection is God’s gift to creation––the gift, in fact, of creating––and in sharing this creative work the divine nature opens itself entirely to creatures, extending to us the gift of our true and ultimate telos.’8 This gift, however, must be received and even then, it must be given. And while it is partially given in the act of creation itself, even this is not enough. Creation is still incomplete for it is not perfected. As I argued above, creation is incomplete without humanity, but humanity as well cannot bring about its own end, it cannot complete itself. Something much more surprising must happen. If God were truly the divine watchmaker or deism, then it would stand to reason that the telling of time (the end for which a watch is made) would occur naturally and re- quire only maintenance, but not divine aid in reaching its end, it would have been created at its end, that is the moment it started telling time it would have accomplished its end. This, however, is not the understanding of creation or its end the Father’s had. Instead, it seems that something more is needed for creation to reach its telos.

Creator Must Cross the Creature-Creature Divide

‘Christ assumed an individual and concrete nature that was in no wise “the” human nature as such. Yet what is more, by means of this partial contact, he touched nature in its entirety, a nature that is indivisible and continuous. And by this vital unity, he transmits grace, resurrection, and divinization to the entire body, thus uniting all mean, and through them, all creation to himself.’

-Hans Urs von Balthasar 9

What Balthasar notes in the quote above perhaps takes us beyond the purview of this chapter, but necessarily so. As I argued above, creation is incomplete without humanity, but humanity too is incomplete on its own. The only way creation’s telos can be completed is if the creator crosses the divide that separates him from creation. Only in this manner can deification reach to all of creation. Just as humanity takes within itself all of creation, so Christ by becoming man takes on all of creation and unites to it his divinity. More on this, however, in chapter 4. De Lubac writes concerning Augustine:

[Augustine] also realized the great gulf in any circumstances between the creation and Creator, and the madness of the creature’s dream, inspired by the Creator, to raise himself up to him for everlasting union. And in the revelation of Jesus Christ what he could see was principally the declaration that this mad dream could become a reality because it corresponded to the entirely gratuitous plan governing creation.10

We have noted this before, but it bares repeating, while humanity desires its proper end, it cannot accomplish it for its proper end is well beyond what it could even dare to hope for, union with God. The entire second chapter of Balthasar’s A Theological Anthropology is dedicated to the notion that humanity cannot perfect itself.11 Again, as Thunberg writes concerning Maximus, there is a gulf between humanity and God which only the ‘will of God can overbridge.’12 This is explicitly not something humanity can accomplish on its own.

1 Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, translated by Ian and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 73.

2 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), 136.

3 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), 135.

4 Andrew Louth, ‘The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,’ in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Tradition, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 34-35.

5 Elizabeth Theokritoff, ‘Creator and creature,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, edited by Mary B. Cunningham and Elizabeth Theokritoff (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- sity Press, 2008), 69.

6 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 132.

7 Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 2nd Edition (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995), 144.

8 Anthony D. Baker, Diagonal Advance: Perfection in Christian Theology (SCM Press, 2011), 141.

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9 Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, translated by Mark Sebanc (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 134-35.

10 Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology, translated by Lancelot Sheppard. (New York: Crossroads Publishing, 2000), 17.

11 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Theological Anthropology, trans. by Benziger Verlag (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967), 43-72.

12 Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confes- sor, 2nd Edition (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995), 51.

 

Sincerely yours,
David

‘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:

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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 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

Centre of Theology and Philosophy Soul Conference: Reflections

Oxford2013_Poster

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, I’m up, if not at ’em, this morning and back in Nottingham after the Centre of Theology and Philosophy’s conference on The Soul. The conference was, in a word, excellent. Never have I attended a conference so large, so full of varying positions on the conference theme (as well as other issues) and yet so friendly and cordial. I made many new friends and got to spend time with some old ones.

My paper was given on Saturday and I am told it went well. I will be submitting for review and hopefully publication with the other conference papers given. I’ll let you know the results of that as well as who the publisher will be once I know.

Both the plenary sessions and the panel sessions were filled with excellent papers. Some of my favourites, in terms of plenary papers, would have to include both David Bentley Hart’s and John Milbank’s which both sought to show that we cannot think of ourselves or the world without a notion of the soul. For both presenters, the soul is not something one has, as if, in kind of Cartesian sense, one could still be a human without a soul, but that to be human is to be made of body and soul and to reflect on this will turn us to see God.

Before John and David, however, there was Iain and Conor. Iain McGilchrist gave an interesting presentation on the brain and the mind. McGilchrist was not wanting to go the direction of fully reductive materialism (I think), but his presentation put most of its emphasis on how the two halves of the brain were split to see things either in parts or as whole. Cunningham’s presentation, however, wanted to insist on why we need to think in terms of soul. For Cunningham (and I’m inclined to agree) pure materialism leaves you in a nihilistic vacuum where nothing can be good or bad. For Cunningham, the soul, and specifically, the Christian understanding of the world is the only way we can truly call things good and bad and have those words mean something.

Marilynne Robinson’s presentation, in part on the need for further beauty in theological writing, was beautifully presented. Robinson speaks with the voice of the unadulterated, the pre-industrialised Midwest. Though I disagreed with her, or at least did not understand her at points, her talk was beautiful. As was the response given by John de Gruchy, which was one of the most charitable responses ever given.

On the last day we heard from both Mary Midgely and later, William Desmond. Midgley, who will be 94 this September, did an excellent job, retaining the vim and vigor of her mind, if not quite her body. Midgely was one of the first to tackle Richard Dawkins back in, I believe, the 1980’s. Desmond rounded out the conference by speaking on Soul Music versus Self Music. As I understood it, the basic point of his presentation is that soul music goes beyond purely the self, that is the individual and connects all to all in expressing our innermost being.

Desmond finished off his presentation, after Milbank gave an excellent response, the fashion you’ll see below.

I definitely didn’t see this coming and was overjoyed when it did. Desmond also mentioned that enjoyed one of my favourite movies from when I was a child, Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

All in all, this was an excellent conference and certainly plan to continue attending them so long as we have the time and money for me to do so.

Yours,
David