Stanley P. Rosenberg
Executive Director, Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford
Faculty Member, Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology and Wycliffe Hall
UK Regional Director, Green Scholars Initiative
One typically reads that deification, or theosis, was the view held among the Eastern churches and something quite foreign to the West. In such works one finds Augustine presented as the preimenent champion of ransom theory as the way of understanding redemption. But then one reads in the City of God, “God Himself, the blessed God, who is the giver of blessedness, became partaker of our human nature, and thus offered us a short cut to participation in His own divine nature.” This sounds suspiciously like deification. Could this really be there? In fact, yes and it is what one should expect to find in Augustine. How could others’ readings of Augustine missed this? Such have arguably been preoccupied with only one portion of Augustine’s works—his books, unduly emphasized the anti-Pelagian writings, and confused Augustine’s doctrine of redemption with later formulations in the High Middle Ages, the Reformation and especially among the scholastic Reformers.
1.Sermons indicate normative teaching. Sermons incorporate complex teaching but not experimential ideas; they also indicate broader understandings / popular religious views. These imply deificatio;
2.The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo as shaped by Augustine's own cosmological interpretations implies this position. His structural cosmology—formation, deformation, reformation—implies deificatio;
3.The centrality and pervasiveness throughout his thought of the notion of evil as a privatio boni likewise leads to this position. Deificatio heals the corruption caused the privatio boni; this provides a coherent and structured understanding of the loss and renewal of paradise. This requires deificatio.
This theological vision, then, is neither accidental nor incidental but is driven by his use of privation theory. Therefore, even if his use of deificatio is not as prevelant or developed as thoroughly as that found among the Cappadocian authors, one should understand this approach as a critical aspect of his doctrine of atonement.