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Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Tradition
Baker Academic / 2008 / Paperback
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Here Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic scholars explain "deification"---that we are created not simply to be saved from sin, but to be transformed into God's image---revealing a centuries-old biblical concept central to the doctrine of salvation in various traditions. A comprehensive exploration of Paul, John, Greek philosophy, Anselm, the Reformers, Wesley, Rahner, and more. 320 pages, softcover from Baker.
This critical volume focuses on the concept of deification in Christian intellectual history. It draws together Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant scholars to introduce and explain the theory of deification as a biblically rooted, central theme in the Christian doctrine of salvation in diverse eras and traditions. The book addresses the origin, development, and function of deification from its precursors in ancient Greek philosophy to its nuanced use in contemporary theological thought. The revival of interest in deification, which has often been seen as heresy in the Protestant West, heralds a return to foundational understandings of salvation in the Christian church before divisions of East and West, Catholic and Protestant. Originally published in hardcover, this book is now available in paperback to a wider readership.
"The contributors to this rich and varied volume have reached across the divides of time, place, and culture to explore the deepest hopes and wildest aspirations of Christians in their relationship with God. Historians, students, ecumenists, and the burgeoning company of enthusiasts for spirituality will all enjoy the abundant and provocative feast that is served up here." -Kathleen McVey, J. Ross Stevenson Professor of Early and Eastern Church History, Princeton Theological Seminary
"This groundbreaking, panoramic collection of studies on the theme of deification/theosis is most welcome. These essays clearly demonstrate that the grand and sublime calling of every human being to participate in the very life of God has always been central in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. They also convincingly reveal that this high calling was intuited by the ancient Greek philosophers, and has been present in varying forms in the thought of major figures in Western Christianity from Anselm to Karl Rahner. I believe this finely conceived and well-crafted volume will help significantly to deepen the understanding and appreciation of salvation as deification for all who read it." -David C. Ford, associate professor of church history, St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary
"This is a timely book that offers a fuller scope and history of the theme of deification than is possible for a single author. This [can] be a basic textbook for general, wide-ranging courses on 'Deification in the Christian traditions.'" -John Behr, professor of patristics, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary
"This is a welcome contribution to ecumenical theology! Over the last twenty years the theme of deification has become one of the most significant and fruitful settings of Christian theological dialogue, standing at the nexus between Eastern and Western Christian traditions. There has been no lack of provocative proposals, or stern critiques. But we have lacked---until now---a broad and reliable collection that places the various specialized contributions in perspective and provides a sense of what is at stake. All who are interested in this important topic should begin here!" -Randy L. Maddox, professor of theology and Wesleyan studies, Duke University Divinity School
"One of the great values of this volume is that it expands the discussion of theosis, often confined largely to the Early Church Fathers and Orthodoxy, to include a repertory of outstanding thinkers, philosophers, theologians, and historians from the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Copto-Arabic, and Protestant traditions from the early church to the present. Hence, it is a welcome and valuable contribution to the bibliography and analysis of the theme of theosis." -S. T. Kimbrough, United Methodist scholar
"These essays analyze the history of exegesis of major biblical passages that teach that the faithful are becoming 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4), tracing the debate through its Pauline and Johannine analogues, and through patristic, medieval, Reformation, and modern Christian developments. Protestant historical theologians will find instructive the sections on Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, as compared with the Cappadocians, Ephrem, Maximus, and Anselm, as well as more recent writers such as Bulgakov and Karl Rahner. They establish the persistence and the renewal of interest in this theme in recent research." -Thomas C. Oden, general editor, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
Jeffery A. Wittung is a PhD candidate at Drew University and an editor at Baker Academic in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Michael J. Christensen (PhD, Drew University) is director of the DMin program and teaches spirituality and religious studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.
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