So, in previous entries I have discussed how the purpose of life is theosis: that is our deification. When I first heard about this, it rubbed me the wrong way. Many people are likely to think, why should we even desire to be deified, to be gods? That doesn’t even sound Christian.
Second Peter states that we are “partakers of the divine nature;” Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me.” In 1John 3 we are told, “it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him…” We cannot be unified to God, partake of His divine nature, and be like Him without being changed. Either He pulls us up to deification, or we pull His nature down to mere mortality. If the two natures are being united, as the Bible states, then something is going to change.
Clarification: Energies and Essence
This does not mean that we all become equal to God. We partake in the divine nature, but the God-head remains separate. To help understand this, the Orthodox teach that God has Divine Essence and Divine Energies. The Essence is what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share. It is what makes them distinctly God. This is a self-existing and self-sustaining Essence.
God in His love wishes to pour Himself out onto others; He does that through His Energies. They include love, grace, mercy, creativity, justice, life, compassion, etc. The Divine Energies are uncreated, which is important. The Roman Catholics teach that His Energies, such as Grace, are created. However, if they were created, they would be something outside of God; something other than God Himself. To unite with the Energies would not result in divinization if they were created and outside of God. We would simply be uniting to yet another created thing. That would leave us in a place that is not much different than where we are now.
Why Energies and Essence
Also, if the Energies were created, things like love, grace, and compassion would not be part of God’s nature. That would mean the Bible is false in saying that “God is love.” It could say “God has love,” or “God has created love for us,” but it couldn’t state that “God is love.”
So why complicate things with this whole “Energies and Essence” thing? Because we unite to God through His love and grace. Therefore, there must be something that still keeps the Holy Trinity distinct from us. That is why, through experience in theosis and encounters with God, the Orthodox have come to understand that God is both Essence and Energies. Otherwise, when we unite to God and his love and grace, we would be uniting with the Essence of God Himself and there would cease to be any God at all because all things would become God.
That is what some of the Eastern religions teach; and while it contains seeds of truth (that we will be deified) it lacks the fuller understanding of what that means.
Wrapping up soon
This is a deep topic. I’m just an infant in the Orthodox Church and I therefore feel uncomfortable about going much more deeply into it. I have one more post planned in which I discuss some practical steps that have helped me and are necessary to begin this beautiful journey.