Friday, June 25, 2010

Luther and Gerhard Dig Theosis.

A couple of quotes that will likely make the low churchy and existentialist Lutherans among us go bonkers.

First Luther:AE 26:247.  Luther writes of the person of faith in the Galatians commentary of 1531-5: 

"“The one who has faith is a completely divine man, a son of God, the inheritor of the universe."

From Gerhard in On Christ, 144.  In discussing what the goal or end of the Incarnation is, Gerhard writes:

 "However, because God wished out of His immense mercy to turn our disgrace and misery away from us, to join us to Himself again, and to restore to our possession the goodness that was lost, He used this manner and means: that He personally united His Son with our nature that we might in turn be joined to God through Him who touches us by kinship and nearness of the human nature."  Gerhard then goes on to cite Irenaeus: "Because of His immense love, the Son of God became what we are, to perfect us to be what He is.  He became a partaker of our nature to make us sharers in the divine nature."  

Hence Gerhard views the true goal of the Incarnation as being what the Patristic theologians referred to as theosis.

Update: Just to clarify, this does not mean I am even remotely interested in going EO.  I think that this is the logical outworking of the Lutheran idea of the gospel is divine-self donation as it is expressed in our sacrament theology in general and the Christological doctrine of the genus maiestaticum in particular.


  1. There's also FC SD VIII 77: "And these testimonies we do not understand, as though only the divinity of Christ were present with us in the Christian Church and congregation, and such presence were to concern Christ according to His humanity in no way whatever; for in that manner Peter, Paul, and all the saints in heaven, since divinity which is everywhere present dwells in them, would also be with us on earth, which the Holy Scriptures, however, testify only of Christ, and of no other man besides."

  2. Theosis is consistant with our Lutheran doctrine of sanctification and glorification. The problem with the east is that they substitute this for Justification. Theosis makes a lousey doctrine of justification. The Fins are so wrong on this point.
    The whole coment about low churchiness confuses me though. I don't see how this at all relates to the question of say contemporary worship. Or perhaps you mean low churchiness in another sense but most use it in a Lutheran context to refer to liturgical practice.
    I can see this as driving the 'radical Lutheran' followers of Gerhard Forde nuts. How about Bayer though? How would he see this? I suspect he would see this like Forde. Does this contradict Bayer's perspective?

  3. One more thought, the comments in Forde and Bayer that seem inconsistant with theosis seem to be rooted in Luther's commentary on Genesis. Did Luther change his attitude on these matters from the writing of the Galatians commentary to the time of the Genesis commentary?

  4. When I say low-churchy people, I'm thinking of those persons in the American Lutheran Church who are not into Church-growth, but are suspicious of any sort of Lutheran catholicity. They refer to people like me as "hyper Euros." They're the sorts who follow Herman Otten and Greg Jackson, who complain about Ft. Wayne driving people to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, simply because they emphasize Lutheran continuity with the Patristic heritage- something that Luther and the Lutheran Scholastics were only too happy to do. They're hung up on the Red book and the KJV. If they had their way, no one would wear vestments, everyone would wear Geneva robes. I've been encountering a lot of these people lately on the internet.

    Anyways, Forde would definitely not like this. The reason is that he takes so much of his theology from Karl Barth and Barth, being Reformed, goal was always to distance God and humanity from one another. I think that there is danger in this if one does substitute theosis for justification. With the except of the Finns and Melanchthon's translation of the Augusana into Greek (which in the article on Justification actually does monkey with things so as the appeal to the Greeks) I'm not certain that any Lutherans have really ever done this.

    Also, I would say, that this is another danger of construing theosis as a means of escaping our creatureliness and believing that our goal as Christians is to in a sense transcend mere human existence. If you see how this functions in EO and Catholicism, then there is that danger.

    For Luther though, things are different. If we read freedom of a Christian, then his whole point is that the Christian because he shares all and all with Christ, can return to the world, not transcend it. He also makes this point about Christ, who possessed the fullness of divine glory and therefore was capable of giving all. In other words, deification was automatic, wasn't something you strive for. Hence, one doesn't seek to escape the world through striving after it. One already has it! Hence one loses nothing if one stays in the world. In fact, because one possesses all in Christ, then one is free to give all to all, and spread the wealth around.

    In this sense, just as God makes guilty to justify, he deifies to make human!

    Regarding Bayer, I'm not certain what his attitude would be. To the extent I've read him I don't think he's commented on it. He of course does have an emphasis on the doctrine of creation and vocation, but as I've noted this doesn't contradict that.

    I'm not certain what you're referring to in the Genesis commentary. Luther does definitely think that Adam and Eve would have transcended their earthly existence had they not fallen. This suggests a doctrine of theosis as well, since the Patristic theologians assumed that deification was always on God's agenda and the fall just interrupted this movement towards heavenly existence. So, I see nothing in the Genesis commentary contradicts his other remarks in this regard. In fact, Luther's view of what would have happened without the fall seems to suggest that he interpreted this in the same way as Patristic and Medieval theologians who always thought human destiny was theosis.

  5. a "bronzie" (bronze-age Lutheran) can mean a lot of different things. In this context it refers to conservative LCMSers from the mid-late-20th century who are sacramental fundamentalists, if you will. Lutheranism is thought of as primarily a set of doctrinal principles (Brief statement, for example). The heroes are Walther and Pieper.

    Oh, and it's pejorative.


  6. George as one who loves the brief statement and Walther and Pieper I would not see that as determinative for a Bronzie but you are right bronzies would love all those things as well. For me a Bronzie not only loves historic LCMS theology as set forth in Walther and Pieper and the Brief Statement but also seek to repristinate the ethos and church culture of an earlier time in LCMS history. This is what I thought Jack was getting at with the comment about TLH and KJV and Geneva gowns. I am not culturally a Bronzie but the theology of Walther, Pieper and the Brief Statement is my own.

  7. Sure, Gregory. I also love Pieper and Walther -- even TLH!

    The central issue is that of "sacramental fundamentalism." That is, their view of scripture is as a flat-line revelation of facts which ends up in doctrines which are determinative of the Church. They do tend to be traditionalists, but in a liturgically minimalist way.

    I don't dislike bronzies (if you will). In fact, come of my best friends are bronzies. ;)

    Anyway, I often find that although they can be frustrating to talk to, at least they _want_ to be orthodox. Doctrine matters to them and they aren't looking for the newest trends. They're happy with early 1900s lutheranism.

  8. Flat line revelation of facts? As opposed to facts embeded in a narrative? P.E. Kretzman's Popular commentary for instance is not blind to the narrative component to Scripture. Or perhaps you mean blind to the law gospel narrative structure of Scriptue. I don't think our fathers can be justly accused of either error. Then perhaps you mean a denial of typical-prophetic exegesis and the insistance that each passage of Scripture has one and only one meaning. This last one I think may actually be descriptive of the position of LCMS Church Fathers.

  9. I think I know what you're talking about. That's sort of what I meant. They want to defend Lutheran orthodoxy, but that means to them having a service like people in the LCMS had in 1940. I like the red book , that's what my Dad used. I think I also associate the Genevan robe with him (which I don't like), because that's what he wore. I find the attachment to the KJV a little strange (my father encounter this a lot, but knew enough about the original languges and the textual criticism of the NT to not be big into KJV).

    I mean, I don't mind those sorts of people, because so many of them are my relatives. The point is that I think there's a little bit of a danger of confusing Lutheranism of a particular era stylistically with the substance of the faith.

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