DEIFICATION IN JOHN OF DAMASCUS
John of Damascus (c. 675-749) is the last Christian writer of the Greek patristic age. His most important works, The Fount of Knowledge and On the Divine Images, constitute an important source for our understanding of the theology of the Greek Fathers. The doctrine of deification is the teaching that, since God united Himself to human nature in Christ Jesus, human beings may also become one with Him and become God in Him. "God became man that man might become God" is the common phrase in the tradition. The goal of the paper is to analyze the concept of deification as it appears in the writings of John of Damascus. The doctrine is seen in its biblical, historical, and philosophical contexts. These are the conclusions which the paper upholds: (1) The foundation for the doctrine is found both in the Bible and in the philosophical world-view which the Greek Fathers accepted. The dissertation explains the biblical vocabulary and the related philosophical terms and concepts. (2) God's will is that all men accept deification as the goal for their lives. God determines the extent of this deification and does not absorb human nature. (3) The sources of deification are God's actions in creation and the Incarnation. Human beings exist and have the attributes of reason and free will only because they participate in God's being. In addition, human nature has also been united to God in Christ. (4) The condition of deification is human free will. God does not force Himself on anyone; each person must choose to cooperate with God. (5) The normal means of deification is God's action in Baptism and the Eucharist. In Baptism human beings are united to Christ and made Christ. In the Eucharist the believer is united to God, whose substance becomes his sustenance. (6) The evidence of deification is a life of virtue. It is not ascetic practices nor the sensible experience of deification. The evidence of deification is most perfectly seen in the lives of the saints. (7) The culmination of deification is resurrection and life in God in His kingdom. Both body and soul share in this participation in the divine illumination. The doctrine claims that human beings have a Creator who desires to draw His children into Himself and to give them every possible good.
MAURICE FRED HIMMERICH,
"DEIFICATION IN JOHN OF DAMASCUS"
(January 1, 1985).
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