Welcome back to our discussion on theosis and deification. If you haven’t been following the series thus far, I’d like to suggest that you scroll down to the end of the article and take a look at the links I have listed. For without the background of these articles, very little of what is said in the remainder of this series is going to make sense to you.
Now, as you know, the genesis of this series was a question posed by a friend of mine. He wanted to know if the Eastern Orthodox concept of theosis (“becoming one with God”) was related to Oswald Chambers’ “Christian Perfectionism.” So I began the series by unpacking 2 Peter 1:3-11, the most famous text upon which this presumably Eastern theology is built. Following that, I moved the discussion forward by exploring significant Catholic thinkers who have defended the theology as well.
So the question that lies before us today is this: is theosis (or deification) taught by significant Protestant and evangelical theologians? When I first started this series, my immediate, ill-considered impulse was to answer this question with a rather non-committal “probably not.” But the fact of the matter is, I could not have been more wrong. As it turns out, Western theologians, as far back as Augustine himself, have taught a version of theosis. Consider this list of Western theological giants: Anselm of Canterbury, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, and N.T. Wright. All of them, without exception, have wrestled with the concept of theosis, and all of them, without exception, have defended the idea that through our union with Christ – by being “in Christ” – we are in some way deified, and made into a “god.” Lewis himself says it most clearly (to our modern ears), when he writes in Mere Christianity:
“[God] said that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him-for we can prevent Him if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for.”
And so there you have it. Whether we are comfortable with it or not, there is no doubt that in the historical, orthodox teaching of the universal Church, theosis and deification have been taught. And for those of us in the Western, Protestant, evangelical tradition, this probably comes as something of a shock to our systems. What are we supposed to do with this? Is this idolatry? Wasn’t this the sin of humanity at the Tower of Babel? All of these are great questions, and as the series continues, I will unpack some of these ideas and more. But for now, I wish to leave you again with the words of C. S. Lewis. May you ponder them as you look upon the people that surround you in your everyday life.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . .”
—C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Recommended Reading in this Series on Theosis and Deificaiton:
 While it is true that Augustine lived and worked prior to the Great Schism that divided the East and the West in 1054 AD, he is generally thought of as a Western theologian, primarily because the Western Catholic Church and the Western Protestant Church has leaned upon him so heavily.
 N.R. Kerr, “St Anselm: Theoria and the Doctrinal Logic of Perfection,” in M.J. Christensen and Jeffrey A. Wittung, eds., Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
 In his writings, Luther used the term Vergottung, to express this idea. Moreover, he most explicitly defended this doctrine in his Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, where he refers to the justified Christian as ein gottliche Creatur (“the divine creature”).
 J. Todd Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). It should be noted that amongst this list of theologians, Calvin’s doctrine of deification would be the weakest as he maintained the largest gap between a Holy God and a totally depraved humanity. Nevertheless, his writing in The Bondage and Liberation of the Will provides the clearest understanding of Calvin’s understanding of union with God though Christ.
 S. T. Kimbrough, “Theosis in the Writings of Charles Wesley,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 52 (2008), pp. 199-212.
 Richard B. Steele, “Transfiguring Light: The Moral Beauty of the Christian Life According to Gregory Palamas and Jonathan Edwards,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 52 (2008), pp. 403-449.
 Lewis touches on this theme in multiple works including (but not limited to): The Weight of Glory, A Grief Observed, and even his classic, Mere Christianity.
 See http://dunelm.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/nt-wright-and-theosis/. For an audio mp3 of the actual lecture, you can follow this link: http://media.intervarsity.org/mp3/N.T.Wright2-Glory.mp3
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1976), 174-75.
 C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1976), 45.