Thursday, May 14, 2015

Salvation, the Spirit, and Theosis


As I continue my exploration of what salvation entails, I am working with the idea of theosis (divinization), which I'll be introducing to the congregation on Sunday. I've written a few pieces already, and more is to come.  Eastern Christianity has a strong Trinitarian basis, and so when we think of salvation we can't separate out the work of Christ from that of the Spirit. As Veli-Matti Karkkainen has pointed out in his book One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification (which I've found very helpful in my exploration of the concept), "a healthy soteriology needs a balance between the work of Christ and the Spirit." 

Karkkainen writes:
Since the divine Spirit is the Giver of life, his main soteriological operation is the divinization of human beings. So the role of the Holy Spirit in Eastern soteriology is highlighted by the ultimate goal of salvation. Redemption has our salvation from sin as an immediate aim, but salvation will have its ultimate realization in the age to come in our union with God, the deification of the created beings whom Christ ransomed. But this final realization involves the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.  [One with God, pp. 32-33].
For salvation to truly take place, both Christ and the Spirit will be present and active.  

The Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky, whom Karkkainen quotes, puts it this way:
If our individual natures are incorporated into the glorious humanity of Christ and enter the unity of His Body by baptism, conforming themselves to the death and resurrection of Christ, our persons need to be confirmed in their personal dignity by the Holy Spirit, so that each may freely realize his own union with the Divinity. Baptism -- the sacrament of unity Christ -- needs to be complemented by chrismation -- the sacrament of diversity in the Holy Spirit. [quoted in Karkkainen, One with God, p. 33]. 
 It would seem that our full union with God in Christ, or salvation, requires the presence and work of the Spirit. 

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