Saturday, August 8, 2009

Creating Jesus 24: Transmutative Soteriology

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.

4 comments:

Pastor Bob said...

Good! I was about to say that this isn't exactly what was said at Nicea or at Calcedon. Are you going to take us to Calcedon too? I hope so.

April DeConick said...

Pastor Bob,

You are right! This isn't what was determined at Nicea or at Chalcedon. Yes I can take you to Chalcedon.

mellow roc said...

April, I am reading with interest your blogs, and was thinking of this process of theosis while attending church this past week. We are using a liturgy form that is predominantly Catholic, confession at the beginning of the service, and the Sacrament mid way through the service. If Transmutation is a process, would one become less a sinner and more like God as time passes, or does the sin nature also evolve as the person transmutes if you will?
David (mellow roc)

April DeConick said...

David, this is a very good question and one that the orthodox church (whose emphasis is on this paradigm and theosis) has had to work out. The orthodox do not see the human situation as totally depraved. The human being can choose to do good. So there is a great emphasis in this tradition on living piously in imitation of Jesus. Again the idea being that through such imitation, transformation into the imitated can be achieved. This combined with the sacraments and contemplation is a very powerful anthropological and theological statement.