(The following is excerpted from my forthcoming book, Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart (available in stores June 2, 2015). Pre-Order your copy TODAY!)
There is an ancient, yet still surprising and little known Christian doctrine that asserts God’s intention to make each of us a god; perfect, immortal, and partaking in his very own divinity for all of eternity. This teaching, known by theologians as the doctrine of theosis or divinization is the ultimate destiny for the Christian. That’s right. As Christians, we are not merely called to become the best version of ourselves. It is not enough for us to be merely “good.” Instead, our true destiny is, ultimately, to be transformed into gods through God’s grace. As St Thomas Aquinas put it, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (For more supporting evidence of this claim, see my previous post on this topic here).
Divinization is a gift that we receive as we run with abandon into the loving arms of the God who made us and who longs to complete his miraculous work in us. But how is this different from the common claim by the New Age/Neopagan movement that all humans are divine? There are three important points that popular theologian, Peter Kreeft, says separate the Christian view of divinization from the New Age pretense of a quasi-divine humanity; piety, objective morality, & worship (1988).
Piety compels the Christian to proclaim that there is something greater than us. For the most part, New Agers and neopagans believe that humans are divine on our own merits (Zeller, 2014). But the Christian view of divinization recognizes that we do not claim divinity as an essential dimension of humanity. “If you, Lord, keep account of sins, then who could stand” (Ps 130:3)? Christians recognize that especially in light of the Fall, humanity is deserving of anything but deification. It is only through Jesus Christ, Our Savior, that we are able to achieve the greatest of heights, daring to look God in the eye and see him, not as our Master, but as our “friend” (Jn 15:15) with whom we can rightfully expect to enter into a total union through his infinite, divine mercy.
Second, Christians acknowledge an objective morality. The New Ager believes in many moralities and a multiplicity of truths. The moral reasoning of the modern neopagan represents a polytheism of “many gods, many goods, many moralities” (Kreeft,1988). In the New Age model of human divinity (or divine humanity) I am the author of my own truth, not God. It is my self-anointed right to pretend that I am capable of making reality whatever I say it is simply by closing my eyes and wishing on myself.
By contrast, the Christian acknowledges that there is a natural, objective order to the world, which was ordained by God, and to which his children are obliged to adhere, not out of a sense of slavish devotion to alien rules, but so that we might fulfill our incredible destiny to become gods through God’s grace. Our ability to accomplish this awesome task depends in large part in our active participation in this divinely created moral order because “nothing unclean can enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Rev 27:21).
The third point that distinguishes the Christian notion of deification from the New Age notion is that the modern neopagan, fails to worship anyone, ultimately, besides himself. He takes his de facto divinity for granted and demands that you acknowledge it too despite all appearances to the contrary. He believes he can do what he will–even if it hurts you–because he is divine, the master of his own destiny and responsible only to his own personal sense of self-fulfillment.
In contrast, the Christian approaches the notion that he is destined to become a god with a sense of wonder, awe, amazement, gratitude, and not a little bit of fear born from the recognition that there are serious forces at play within this promise. And yet, even that understandable fear is cast out by the perfect love (c.f., 1 John 4:18) that flows from the heart of the God who calls to us, runs to meet us on the road and wraps his finest cloak–his divinity–around us (c.f. Lk 15:22).
The Christian call for each person to participate in God’s plan to make men gods is not an exercise in narcissism, or wish fulfillment. It does not serves as a get-out-of-morality free card. It is an invitation, rooted in the love of our Heavenly Father for each one of us and extended to all of humanity through the saving work of Jesus Christ. To discover how you can more effectively cooperate with God’s grace to fulfill your ultimate destiny in Christ, check out my latest book, Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart. (Pre-order today. In stores June 2, 2015)
Kreeft, P. (1988). Comparing christianity and the new paganism. Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian apologetics. Ignatius Press.
Zeller, B. (2014). Ultimate reality and divine beings. Patheos Religion Library: New Age. Retrieved 5/24/14 at http://www.patheos.com/Library/New-Age/Beliefs/Ultimate-Reality-and-Divine-Beings.html