Reynolds on Orthodox theosis at the NSDC II

Reynolds per Aaron this afternoon, live from Utah:

The Orthodox notion of theosis is not what some Mormons say it is. It historically refers to imitating God’s energies or becoming like the incarnate Christ, but explicitly reject the idea that we can become like God’s essence


  1. You got that right. Evangelicals in the I-15 Corridor ought to be sharing sermons and promoting conferences on this glorious topic.

    To be like Christ is the chief real joy of the Christian in the hunger to glorify God.

    When we get to John 17, our church family could end up studying this chapter for several months easily.

  2. To be like Christ is noble indeed, but what exactly does it mean to be like Christ and can that meaning be consistently read throughout Scripture?

    Also, even though I agree with Dr. Reynolds, I don’t think his assertion can be demonstrated historically. In other words, it is impossible to tell whether his theosis is consistent with the theosis of Christians throughout history.

  3. I’ve always acknowledged that the E. Orthodox preserve the ontological distinction between God and humanity that Mormonism collapses. No argument from me there.

    But it does rather take the wind out Evangelical arguments that Mormons are “arrogant” to desire to become deified. Handled correctly, the desire to become “like God” is not arrogant, but rather the appropriate and humble aim of all Christianity.

    But a lot of fundamentalist shouting does not take these distinctions into account. And in their haste to condemn Mormons, they find themselves taking unbiblical positions. The notion of becoming like God through Christ is almost bleeding out of the pages of the New Testament. But many Evangelicals are unwilling to admit this because they feel like it would concede too much to those crummy Mormons.

    Essentially – alarmed at how much Mormons “familiarize” God, a lot of Evangelicals are running too far in the opposite direction and alienating Him contrary to the call of the Bible.

    These kind of theological mistakes are the natural result of when our interactions become more about “defending my turf” than about drawing closer to God.

  4. Jondh, let’s just for a moment, look at the text in John 13.

    I am to be like Christ for he says: “ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (13:14).

    But for Jesus to wash feet? I am astounded!

    I think of his exalted position, his ultimate dignity: “he was come from God, and went to God” (13:3).

    But then LDS friends share with me, “Todd, you are just like Christ. You came from God’s presence, too, and will be going back to him.”

    In so doing, this destroys the dramatic exalted uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ, while using the most precious terminology.

  5. Todd, you make a really good point. Given the only begotten nature of Christ, we Mormons must be more careful how we describe him and our relationship to him. I, for one, would be extremely uncomfortable claim to be “just like Christ,” because I am not. I am not God.

  6. Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, “The Son of God became man, that we might become God.” . The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: “He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him,” (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with Athanasius and Thomas regarding theosis.

    In the words of an LDS Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: “There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to who all the others are subject”. Becoming like God is not saying we will ever by equal to him, frankly we won’t and can’t. He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.

  7. the concept of theosis among orthodox holy fathers , is taken for granted that we dont share our god ousia or essence, it is the particpation in divine nature , not the essential participation as between the son and the father, and the holy spirit, who are all one in ousia or substance or nature or essence, one god , one nature but three hypostases, so it is strange to hear some teachers, alas among copts here in egypt claim that theosis is not a christian patristic doctrine, it is shameful that even pope shenouda the head of the coptic orthodox church antagonises the theosis and attacks every book or author of a book dealing with theosis, like father matta elmeskeen or bebawi or others, some academic theologians who have the role of translating the patristic writings from greek or english into arabic, bishop bishoi one of the ignorant men in theology attacks theosis severly and bitterly , thinking he follows the steps of his tutor pope shenouda, the third who is described among the hypocrites as athansius of the age, what a stupid description, cause he the first man opposing the doctrine of deification that was adopted by all the church fathers , especially st. athanasius the great, i am deeply sad to hear in my church that the participation in the divine nature, and theosis both are blasphemy and unbelief. oh my god.

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