Saturday, 14 January 2017

Called to be the Children of God

Fr. David Meconi, SJ and Carl E. Olson (editors), Called to be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification, 2016 Ignatius Press

The doctrine of theosis or deification, that the end of salvation is to become one with God, a partaker of the divine nature, is most associated with Eastern Orthodoxy. However, it has always been a part of the theology of the Roman Catholic Church and is clearly expressed in her catechism. This book traces the history of how Catholic theologians have expressed the doctrine of theosis. This collection of essays begins with the Scriptures, then moves across history, looking at such important figures as Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Blessed John Henry Newman. It concludes with an essay by David Fagerberg on the relationship between the liturgy and divinization. The author of this essay identifies Mary as the ultimate model for human deification.

While the bulk of this book deals with the western theological tradition, one of the essays deals with theosis in the Eastern Church Fathers, the common heritage of both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. I did wonder if there had been no post-schism theological developments among the Eastern-rite Catholic churches. It would have been interesting to have had an essay discussing the doctrine of theosis within the theological and liturgical context of the Easten-rite Catholic churches, not just the Byzantine, but the Alexandrian, Armenian and Syrian rites. Given the emphasis on western theology, I do wonder if it was appropriate to have a Greek Orthodox icon on the cover. The essay on the Franciscan theological tradition was enjoyable. I think I am a fan of Franciscan theology. There is some overlap between some of the essays, for instance, Matthias Scheeben is discussed in several of the chapters.

This is a really valuable exercise in historical theology and was very edifying.

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