God Became Human, So That We Might Become God

This is the 30th and final blog in this series which began with the blog Being and Becoming Human. The previous blog is God Became Human.  Humanity begins from God, and according to the Orthodox understanding of salvation, our ultimate end is in God.  Humans are created in God’s image, which makes it possible for the Word of God to become human (incarnation), which leads to humans being able to become divine (theosis).   This is God’s narrative for humanity as recorded in the Scriptures and as taught by the Church.

“… those beautiful words of St Athanasius of Alexandria (+373): ‘God became “sacrophore”—bearer of our flesh—so that mankind might become “pneumatophore—bearer of the Holy Spirit.’”  (Michael Quenot, THE ICON, p 55)

God created the universe, the beginning of space and time, which through science is detected as the Big Bang.  Humans are brought into being in this already existing universe.  Still, theologically speaking, human origins are in God.   Christianity proclaims that the unfolding of history, as linear as it may be leads humanity back to God.  The whole purpose of history is to move us to union with our Creator, to make it possible for us “to become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).    The Word calls humanity into existence and the Word becomes flesh to ensure that humanity shares in the divine life.  This is our history, our narrative, our story.

“… for [St.] Irenaeus, the divine economy is directed towards the becoming truly human of both God and human beings, first realized ‘in the last times’ in Jesus Christ, and to be fully realized for the adopted sons of god in the eschaton.  . . . It is a movement from animation to vivification: as Adam was animated by the breath of life, so the resurrected Christ is vivified by the life-creating Spirit.”   (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 86)

Fr. Behr’s piquant phrase, “the becoming truly human of both God and human beings…”, is both delightful and challenging.   Our understanding of Scripture and history is that God intended for humans to be fully united to divinity.  We were created for this purpose.  God’s plan for our salvation is God’s effort to make it possible for us to be united to divinity despite our falling away from holiness, the very hallmark of God’s being.

“Perhaps the most striking aspect of Irenaeus’s theology is the intimate link between theology proper and anthropology: the truth of man is revealed in the Incarnation, which at the same time is the primary, if not the sole, revelation of God.  Adam was created as the type of the One to come, and the manifestations of God in the Old Testament were always prophetic revelations of the incarnate Son.  Adam was animated by the breath of life, which prefigured the future vivification of the sons of God by the Spirit…”   (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 209)

We humans were created not only so that the Persons of the Holy Trinity could share their love with us but so that God’s self-revelation could be possible.  In Christ not only God’s plan but God Himself is revealed to us.  To be fully and truly human is to reveal God!

Christmas, the feast of the incarnation is also a feast celebrating humanity.  The Nativity of Christ is fully about what it is to be human.

 “Furthermore, the Incarnation is considered as part of the original creative plan, and not simply as a response to the human fall.  In this regard, it is perceived not only as a revelation of God to humanity but primarily as a revelation to us of the true nature of humanity and the world itself.”  (John Chryssavgis, BEYOND THE SHATTERED IMAGE, p 55)

How completely intertwined is humanity with divinity!   Our true existence is inseparable from God.

“’For the glory of God is a living man, and the life of man consists in beholding God: for if the manifestation of God affords life to all living upon earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word give life to those who see God.’ (Irenaeus)”  (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 109)

In creating beings with whom the Persons of the Trinity could share their love and life, the triune God reveals truth about divinity.   Christ says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”  (John 14:6).  The person of Christ, incarnate as a human being reveals the truth concerning God, God’s humility and God’s love.

“’The work of God is the fashioning of man’ …: this is the basic structure of Irenaeus’s thought.  It determines his theology at all levels: God has revealed himself, uniquely, as man . . . to become truly human is to become that as which God has revealed himself.”  (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 116)

Humanity in itself, in the fact that we exist at all, is a revelation of God.  We reveal God in our very being, not only in what we do.

“The only thing God requires of us is that we do not sin. But this is achieved, not by acting according to the law, but by carefully guarding the divine image in us and our supernal dignity. When we thus live in our natural state, wearing the resplendent robe of the Spirit, we dwell in God and God dwells in us. Then we are called gods by adoption and sons of God, sealed by the light of the knowledge of God (cf. Ps. 4:6. LXX).”   (St Symeon the New Theologian, THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 35314-18)

God became human, so that humans might become God.   In this phrase is held the meaning of what it is to be human.   To understand humanity we must understand the incarnate God.

 “Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy through the God-man.  And we Orthodox, by confessing the God-man, indirectly confess the Christ-image of man, the divine origin of man, the divine exaltation of man, and thus also the divine value and sacredness of the human personality.

In fact, the struggle for the God-man is the struggle for man.  Not the humanists, but the people of the Orthodox faith and life of the God-man are struggling for true man, man in the image of God and the image of Christ.”  (St. Nikolai VelimirovichTHE STRUGGLE FOR FAITH,  p 102)

God created us humans to be the mediator between the rest of creation and divinity.  God created us to be a microcosm of the entire universe.  Humanity will never be fully understood if we reduce human beings to genetics, chemistry or physics.  Even though each of these sciences offers us truth about being human, none can fully reveal the nature of humanity, created in God’s image and capable of full union with God.

“Of course, it is impossible for us, of ourselves, to contain in our heart the whole universe.  But the Maker of all that exists Himself appeared in our form of being and effectively demonstrated that our nature was conceived not only with the ability to embrace the created cosmos but also to assume the plentitude of Divine Life.  Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5) but with Him and in Him everything becomes attainable…”  (Archimandrite Sophrony, ON PRAYER, p 76)

12 thoughts on “God Became Human, So That We Might Become God

  1. Pingback: God Became Human | Fr. Ted's Blog

  2. Where in the Bible is spoken about Incarnation and/or re- Incarnation?
    When the Divine Creator appeared in our human form and could be seen by many His Words that human beings cannot see Him or fall death, have no use, so why did He frighten human beings with it?
    Telling in His Word that we are created in His image why should He have come down to earth to “demonstrate that our nature was conceived not only with the ability to embrace the created cosmos but also to assume the plentitude of Divine Life”?

    1. Fr. Ted

      The Bible does speak about re-incarnation, that is a totally different idea than incarnation. In John 1 we read that the Word of God who is God became flesh. Becoming flesh is the meaning of the word incarnation. Also in Philippians St. Paul says that though he was in the form of God, Jesus became man. That too is a description of the incarnation.

      God reveals in the incarnation what He created the entire universe in general and human in particular for. God intended to be united to us and intends for us to be united with Him.

  3. Is the evangelist John not speaking about the Word. A word is something which comes into being by the speaking of somebody. The apostle looked at Jesus as the beginner or creator of the New World and writes his books as the Old Testament, starting with ‘the Beginning’ or Bereshith, having God speaking and it or him becoming into ‘being’. God spoke and it was. When we look at the text of John it can be translate in English as:
    “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” or “The Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” (The New Testament in An Improved Version) or “In the beginning existed the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was a god.” (The Monotessaron)

    It clearly speaks about “the Word” or the God speaking, showing us what the Voice of God came to say.

    “In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word.” (Emphatic Diaglott – interlineary side)
    In the Garden of Eden God spoke to the sinners he was going to send humankind some one to save them from the death curse. The speaking of God, His promise was fulfilled by the placing of the only begotten son of God in the womb of the virgin Mary. When Jesus was born he was the fulfilment of God’s promise and as such the speaking of God, the Word of God became flesh. No where in John can we see that it was God who came into the flesh … there is written ‘the word’ which mean the ‘Speaking’, denoting to the ‘Promise’.

    You also write:
    “God reveals in the incarnation what He created the entire universe in general and human in particular for. God intended to be united to us and intends for us to be united with Him.”
    Why does he reveals that with “His incarnation”? In the Old Testament He revealed Himself more than once and gave already a good impression of what He wanted from humankind and how He thinks and what His expectations are from man. What could an incarnation add to that what was already written before?

    We clearly can see that unification with Christ and with god is necessary and that the flaw between God and man had to be solved. Jesus according to the Scriptures is the Way to solve the rift between God and us. The New Testament gives enough examples how we should not only follow Jesus Christ, but also become like him, putting on his armour. Like Jesus is one with his heavenly Father and one with his apostles, we also should become one with Jesus. This would not make us to be Jesus like the unification of Christ with God did not make him God, otherwise the Bible indicates that in case Jesus is God we also becoming Jesus would also be God. and we do not think that is what it means, is it not?

    1. Fr. Ted

      In the 2000 year history of Orthodoxy, the understanding of the Gospel is that in fact God become incarnate and yes this does imply that humanity becomes fully united to divinity. 2 Peter 1:4, says we become partakers of the divine nature. We are not merely to imitate Jesus, we become one with him. That is the understanding of the early Church. Read St. Athanasius ON THE INCARNATION. Jesus is both God and human and His very person is united God to humanity and bringing about the salvation of the human race. Death is separation from God. Christ triumphs over death because He is God and human and destroys anything that separates humans from God, including death.

  4. St Athanasius is, according to our knowledge, no accepted writer of God and as such can not be found in the canonical Scriptures. In those Holy Scriptures to our knowledge nowhere is written about such an incarnation you are talking about.Or where is it indicated in the Bible?
    Why can Christ not triumph over death as a human being? And when he is God, meaning he can not die, how can he be lower than angels, like Christ was before made higher by his God, and how can he be a mediator between himself and man?

    1. Fr. Ted

      Yes, according to “your knowledge” but did God declare your knowledge correct or have you declared it yourself? The Christian Church in its long history recognized in St. Athanasius a man who was defending the scriptural revelation. God continues to work in His people. God did not choose a book, he chose a people to whom He entrusted His revelation. Jesus himself chose disciples, not a book, and He entrusted His mission to those chosen ones. The chosen ones through the centuries have carefully and rightly handled the Word, receiving it and its interpretation and passing it on to the next generation. The bible did not drop from heaven as one already made book. It was written by God’s chosen servant and assembled together by God’s chosen servants – all inspired by God.

      The entire bible is a witness to the incarnation of the Word. In Genesis 1, God speaks and His Word takes form, this to is an incarnation. This is what John in his Gospel echoes in chapter 1, except now in Christ the real understanding of the Word becomes flesh (that is the incarnation, by the way) is manifested. God’s plan, which was God’s mystery is now revealed in Christ. The entire bible bears witness to this truth. You want one verse, I offer the entire bible as evidence. The bible is one coherent whole and is not to be chopped up into a series of terse verses.

      You think it strange that God waited so long to reveal His plan in Christ, yet you ignore 2000 years of church history and somehow imagine that your interpretation of the bible is correct. So answer your own question: why did God wait so long to show that your interpretation is correct? What tradition do you follow and when did it begin? You are willing to dismiss 2000 years of church history and its understanding of the Scriptures which were given to the Church.

      1. We follow the tradition of the first century church and of Jeshua and his disciples. They believed in only One True God: the God of Abraham and read the Hebrew Scriptures, accepting that they were the revealed Word of God.

      2. Fr. Ted

        And how did the tradition get through time to you? Do you have a succession of teachers that carried that tradition through all the centuries of the church’s existence?

      3. Yes, throughout the centuries there have been always people keeping to the teachings of the Jewish man Jeshua, known to you and many people as Jesus Christ. We still consider him as the Messiah and follow his teaching which you can find in the New Testament.

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