As I finish up the final paradigm, the one in which God's Logos or Reason functions at Jesus' soul, so that God is literally a human being walking around on earth, I want to address how this alters the pattern of salvation. Because we have here a christology in which God and the flesh meet, forming an extraordinary human being, the goal of this paradigm is for all humans to experience this same transmutation, a perfecting that alters their humanity in the same way that it had altered Jesus'. This is a process called theosis and it is captured in the words of many of the church fathers from the east, "God became man so that man can become God."
How was this achieved? Largely it happens through the sacraments. It begins through baptism when one is "reborn of water and spirit" (John 3:5). It is a REBIRTH. The person's soul is literally born anew. It was believed that the waters purified the person while the spirit infused the soul, altering it so that the soul and person was created anew reflecting God's image.
This transmutation was maintained through the person's participation in the eucharist. In John 6, the author is not speaking about cannibalism, eating the flesh and blood of the historical Jesus. Rather the person is supposed to consume a sacred or divinized flesh, the extraordinary body of God. This body the person's eats is "the bread of life" which has "come down from heaven." This heavenly bread is Jesus' divinized flesh, and when consumes, yields life eternal to the one eating it. This incorporation of the sacred body worked like divine medicine, immortalizing the person over time. It is familiar to us in our adage: "You are what you eat."
So here, in John's gospel, we have our third and final paradigm, one that understands the eucharist as an experience of at-one-ment in contrast to the sacrifical model familiar to the Pauline tradition of "atonement." The devotee incorporates the sacred elements to imitate the ensoulment of Jesus, since at the moment of consumption a unification between God and the human is experienced. When this happens regularly, a process of transmutation is undergone, and eventually theosis will be achieved.
Since I got a very positive response to continuing this series beyond the foundational paradigms, I have decided to move forward into the second-century and trace with you what happened to these paradigms in the theology and practices of the Christians up to Nicaea. So my posts will begin a "new" series called Jesus on the Road to Nicaea.