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THE RETRIEVAL OF DEIFICATION: HOW A ONCE-DESPISED ARCHAISM BECAME AN ECUMENICAL DESIDERATUM

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Abstract

Adolf von Harnack and Karl Barth were equally incensed by the detrimental impact that the notion of deification had had on Christian theology. Lately, however, theosis has been discovered in Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, the Wesleys, and an impressive number of other western authorities. This essay considers this sensational development and finds that (1) there is little agreement on what is constitutive of deification, making the notion an ecumenist's dream and a philosopher's nightmare; and (2) the agreement between the Greek Fathers and Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin on deification amounts to their endorsement of some form of participatory metaphysics. Calling for greater precision, this essay argues that the Greek patristic doctrine of deification includes synergistic anthropology and sacramental realism that are in tension with the Reformation understandings of participation in God.

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