In Christian theology, divinization (deification, making divine, or theosis) is the transforming effect of divine grace, the spirit of God, or the atonement of Christ. It literally means to become more divine, more like God, and/or take upon a divine nature.
New Testament 
Paul the Apostle taught in numerous passages that humans are sons of God (as in of Paul's Epistle to the Romans). Paul conceives of the resurrection as immortalization.[Bible 1] Paul also writes that the saints would judge the world and the angels,[Bible 2] and "all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."[Bible 3] In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he writes "we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another."[Bible 4] The fact that Christians attain "the same image" indicates a close union and even identification with Christ, the image of God.[Bible 5]
In, Jesus is described as defending himself against a charge of blasphemy,
"The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?"
There are several biblical passages which state that men may become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.[Bible 6]
Latter-day Saints believe that they are received into the "church of the firstborn," meaning they inherit as though they were the firstborn.[Bible 7] Those who become as God shall inherit all things, become one with Christ and with the Father and receive glory, although man will always be subject to God.[Bible 8]
Patristic writings 
There were many varied references to divinization in the writings of the Church Fathers, including the following:
- Irenaeus (c. 130-200)
- "[T]he Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself."[Primary 1]
- "'For we cast blame upon [God], because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness."[Primary 2]
- "For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God."[Primary 2]
- Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)
- "[T]he Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God."[Primary 3]
- "For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God"[Primary 4]
- "[H]is is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God; and that man becomes God, since God so wills. Heraclitus, then, rightly said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.” For the Word Himself is the manifest mystery: God in man, and man God"[Primary 4]
- "[H]e who listens to the Lord, and follows the prophecy given by Him, will be formed perfectly in the likeness of the teacher—made a god going about in flesh."[Primary 5]
- Justin Martyr (c. 100-165)
- "[Men] were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest."[Primary 6]
- Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373)
- "Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us"[Primary 7]
- "for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh."[Primary 8]
- "For He was made man that we might be made God."[Primary 9]
- Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430)
- "'For He hath given them power to become the sons of God.'
Western Christian theology 
Roman Catholicism 
The importance of divinization (theosis) in Roman Catholic teaching is evident from what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says of it:
The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "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."[Primary 11]
Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.[Primary 12]
He also wrote of God's "special love, whereby He draws the rational creature above the condition of its nature to a participation of the Divine good".[Primary 13] and he ultimately roots the purpose of the incarnation in theosis.[Primary 14]
Of a more modern Roman Catholic theologian it has been said: "The theological vision of Karl Rahner, the German Jesuit whose thought has been so influential in the Roman Catholic Church and beyond over the last fifty years, has at its very core the symbol of theopoiesis. The process of divinization is the center of gravity around which move Rahner's understanding of creation, anthropology, Christology, ecclesiology, liturgy, and eschatology. The importance of this process for Rahner is such that we are justified in describing his overall theological project to be largely a matter of giving a coherent and contemporary account of divinization."
The Roman Rite liturgy expresses the doctrine of divinization or theosis in the prayer said by the deacon or priest when preparing the Eucharistic chalice: "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
The Catholic Church teaches that God gives to some souls, even in the present life, a very special grace by which they can be mystically united to God even while yet alive: this is true mystical contemplation. This is seen as the culmination of the three states, or stages, of perfection through which the soul passes: the purgative way (that of cleansing or purification), the illuminative way (so called because in it the mind becomes more and more enlightened as to spiritual things and the practice of virtue), and the unitive way (that of union with God by love and the actual experience and exercise of that love).
The writings attributed to St. Dionysius the Areopagite were highly influential in the West, and their theses and arguments were adopted by Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure. According to these writings, mystical knowledge must be distinguished from the rational knowledge by which we know God, not in his nature, but through the wonderful order of the universe, which is a participation of the divine ideas. Through the more perfect knowledge of God that is mystical knowledge, a knowledge beyond the attainments of reason even enlightened by faith, the soul contemplates directly the mysteries of divine light. In the present life this contemplation is possible only to a few privileged souls, through a very special grace of God: it is the θέωσις (theosis), μυστικὴ ἕνωσις (mystical union). Meister Eckhart too taught a deification of man and an assimilation of the creature into the Creator through contemplation.
Deification, to which, in spite of its presence in the liturgical prayers of the West, Western theologians have given less attention than Eastern, is nevertheless prominent in the writing of Western mystics.
Catherine of Siena had God say: "They are like the burning coal that no one can put out once it is completely consumed in the furnace, because it has itself been turned into fire. So it is with these souls cast into the furnace of my charity, who keep nothing at all, not a bit of their own will, outside of me but are completely set afire in me. There is no one who can seize them or drag them out of my grace. They have been made one with me and I with them."[Primary 15]
John of the Cross wrote: "In thus allowing God to work in it, the soul... is at once illumined and transformed in God, and God communicates to it His supernatural Being, in such wise that it appears to be God Himself, and has all that God Himself has. And this union comes to pass when God grants the soul this supernatural favour, that all the things of God and the soul are one in participant transformation; and the soul seems to be God rather than a soul, and is indeed God by participation; although it is true that its natural being, though thus transformed, is as distinct from the Being of God as it was before."[Primary 16]
Anglican views 
Out of the English Reformation, an understanding of salvation in terms closely comparable to the Orthodox doctrine of theosis was recognized in the Anglican tradition, for example in the writings of Lancelot Andrewes, who described salvation in terms vividly reminiscent of the early fathers:
Whereby, as before He of ours, so now we of His are made partakers. He clothed with our flesh, and we invested with His Spirit. The great promise of the Old Testament accomplished, that He should partake our human nature; and the great and precious promise of the New, that we should be “consortes divinae naturae”, “partake his divine nature,” both are this day accomplished.[Primary 17]
Protestant views 
Theosis is not emphasized in Protestant theology except among Methodists and Wesleyans, whose religious tradition has always placed strong emphasis on entire sanctification, and whose doctrine of sanctification has many similarities with the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox concept of theosis or divinization.
Early during the Reformation, thought was given to the doctrine of union with Christ (unio cum Christo) as the precursor to the entire process of salvation and sanctification. This was especially so in the thought of John Calvin.
Henry Scougal's work The Life of God in the Soul of Man is sometimes cited as important in keeping alive among Protestants the ideas central to the doctrine. In the introductory passages of his book, Scougal describes "religion" in terms that evoke the doctrine of theosis:
... a resemblance of the divine perfections, the image of the Almighty shining in the soul of man: ... a real participation of his nature, it is a beam of the eternal light, a drop of that infinite ocean of goodness; and they who are endued with it, may be said to have 'God dwelling in their souls', and 'Christ formed within them'." 
Theosis as a doctrine developed in a distinctive direction among Methodists, and elsewhere in the pietist movement which reawakened Protestant interest in the asceticism of the early Catholic Church, and some of the mystical traditions of the West. Distinctively, in Wesleyan Protestantism theosis sometimes implies the doctrine of entire sanctification which teaches, in summary, that it is the Christian's goal, in principle possible to achieve, to live without any (voluntary) sin (Christian perfection). In 1311 the Roman Catholic Council of Vienne declared this notion, "that man in this present life can acquire so great and such a degree of perfection that he will be rendered inwardly sinless, and that he will not be able to advance farther in grace" (Denziger §471), to be a heresy. Thus this particular Protestant (primarily Methodist) understanding of theosis is substantially different from that of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican Churches. This doctrine of Christian perfection was sharply criticized by many in the Church of England during the ministry of John Wesley and continues to be controversial among Protestants and Anglicans to this day.[Primary 18] Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed the convictions of Athanasius when he wrote "He became like human beings, so that we would be like him"[Primary 19]
More recently, the Finnish school of Lutheran thought has drawn close associations between theosis and justification. Primarily spearheaded by Tuomo Mannermaa, this line of theological development grew out of talks between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church between 1970 and 1986. Mannermaa argues in his book, Christ Present in Faith, that the real exchange between Christ and sinful humanity, a theme prevalent in Luther's writing, is synonymous with Eastern views of theosis. It is in this real exchange which Mannermaa says "the union between Christ and the believer makes the latter a ‘completely divine [person] [sic]." While this departure from traditional Lutheran thought is sometimes hailed as "the threshold of a third Luther Renaissance," other Lutheran scholars disagree and argue that the idea of theosis violates Luther's theology of the cross principles by ignoring the real distinction that is axiomatic for not only Luther, but for orthodox Christianity as a whole. One of the most prominent scholars is Robert Kolb, who primarily roots this critique in Luther's use of marriage metaphors concerning the Christian's relationship with God. Kolb writes "This view ignores the nature of the ‘union’ of bride and bridegroom that Luther employed so far."
Evangelical scholarship has yielded yet another view of theosis. Patristic scholar Donald Fairbairn has argued that theosis in the Greek Fathers is not an ontological exchange between the Son and the Christian. In general Fairbairn argues that the change that occurs in theosis is "something more than mere status but less than the possession of God's very substance." In his book, Life in the Trinity, he argues that through our relationship with the Son we are brought into the same kind of relationship with the Father (and Spirit) that the Son has. He supports this argument by identifying a distinction between the Son's warm-fellowship with the Father, and his ontological union with the Father. He argues that the Greek Fathers, primarily Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria were clear that we never share ontological union with God, but only this intimate fellowship.
Like Athanasius, but with much more precision, Cyril distinguishes two kinds of unity between the Father and the Son. The first is a unity of substance, and the Father and the Son do not share this kind of unity with us in any way whatsoever. The second, though, is a unity of love or fellowship that the father and the Son have enjoyed from all eternity precisely because of their unity of substance.
Nevertheless, similarities of doctrine notwithstanding, within the whole of the conception of the Christian life which the idea of theosis is intended to comprehend, differences of doctrine are disclosed especially in differences of practice among the various branches of Christianity.
Eastern Orthodox theology 
The teaching of deification or theosis in Eastern Orthodoxy refers to the attainment of likeness of God, union with God and/or reconciliation with God. Deification has three stages in its process of transformation: katharsis, theoria, theosis. Theosis as such is the goal, it is the purpose of life, and it is considered achievable only through a synergy (or cooperation) between humans' activities and God's uncreated energies (or operations). Theosis is an important concept in Orthodox theology deriving from the fact that Orthodox theology is of an explicitly mystical character. Theology in the Eastern Orthodox church is what is derived from saints or mystics of the tradition, and Eastern Orthodox consider that "no one who does not follow the path of union with God can be a theologian." In Eastern Orthodoxy, theology is not treated as an academic pursuit, but it is based on revelation (see gnosiology), meaning that Orthodox theology and its theologians are validated by ascetic pursuits, rather than academic degrees (i.e. scholasticism).
Vision of God 
Through theoria, the contemplation of the triune God, human beings come to know and experience what it means to be fully human (the created image of God); through their communion with Jesus Christ, God shares Himself with the human race, in order to conform them to all that He is in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. As God became human, in all ways except sin, He will also make humans as "god" (i.e., holy or saintly or divine), in all ways except his divine essence (uncaused or uncreatedness).
As a patristic and historical teaching 
For many Church Fathers, theosis goes beyond simply restoring people to their state before the Fall of Adam and Eve, teaching that because Christ united the human and divine natures in Jesus' person, it is now possible for someone to experience closer fellowship with God than Adam and Eve initially experienced in the Garden of Eden, and that people can become more like God than Adam and Eve were at that time. Some Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Jesus would have become incarnate for this reason alone, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned.
Ascetic practice 
The journey toward theosis includes many forms of praxis. The most obvious form being Monasticism and Clergy. Of the Monastic tradition the practice of hesychasm is most important as a way to establish a direct relationship with God. Living in the community of the church and partaking regularly of the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, is taken for granted. Also important is cultivating "prayer of the heart", and prayer that never ceases, as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (1 and 2). This unceasing prayer of the heart is a dominant theme in the writings of the Fathers, especially in those collected in the Philokalia. It is considered that no one can reach theosis without an impeccable Christian living, crowned by faithful, warm, and, ultimately, silent (hesychast), continuous Prayer of the Heart. The "doer" in deification is the Holy Spirit, with whom the human being joins his will to receive this transforming grace by praxis and prayer, and as Saint Gregory Palamas teaches, the Christian mystics are deified as they become filled with the Light of Tabor of the Holy Spirit in the degree that they make themselves open to it by asceticism (divinization being not a one-sided act of God, but a loving cooperation between God and the advanced Christian, which Palamas considers a synergy). This synergeia or co-operation between God and Man does not lead to mankind being absorbed into the God as was taught in earlier pagan forms of deification like Henosis. Rather it expresses unity, in the complementary nature between the created and the creator. Acquisition of the Holy Spirit is key as the acquisition of the spirit leads to self-realization.
Western rejection of Eastern Orthodox hesychasm as a path to theosis 
The practice of ascetic prayer called hesychasm in the Eastern Orthodox Church is centered on the enlightenment or deification, theosis of man. Roman Catholic theologians have generally expressed a negative view of hesychasm.
The (hesychasm) doctrine of Gregory Palamas won almost no following in the West, and the distrustful attitude of Barlaam in its regard prevailed among Western theologians, surviving into the early 20th century, as shown in Adrian Fortescue's article on hesychasm in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia. In the same period, Siméon Vailhé described some aspects of the teaching of Palamas as "monstrous errors", "heresies" and "a resurrection of polytheism", and called the hesychast method for arriving at perfect contemplation "no more than a crude form of auto-suggestion"
The twentieth century saw a remarkable change in the attitude of Roman Catholic theologians to Palamas, a "rehabilitation" of him that has led to increasing parts of the Western Church considering him a saint, even if uncanonized. Some Western scholars maintain that there is no conflict between Palamas's teaching and Roman Catholic thought. According to G. Philips, the essence-energies distinction is "a typical example of a perfectly admissible theological pluralism" that is compatible with the Roman Catholic magisterium. Jeffrey D. Finch claims that "the future of East-West rapprochement appears to be overcoming the modern polemics of neo-scholasticism and neo-Palamism". Some Western theologians have incorporated the theology of Palamas into their own thinking.
Among the treasures of "the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches" with which Pope John Paul II said Catholics should be familiar, so as to be nourished by it, he mentioned in particular "the teaching of the Cappadocian Fathers on divinization (which) passed into the tradition of all the Eastern Churches and is part of their common heritage. This can be summarized in the thought already expressed by Saint Irenaeus at the end of the second century: God passed into man so that man might pass over to God. This theology of divinization remains one of the achievements particularly dear to Eastern Christian thought."[Primary 20]
Other Christian theologies 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
The Latter Day Saint movement teaches the doctrine of exaltation, by which is meant a literal divinization. Certain similarities can be drawn between the two, though a significant difference exists in that Mormons believe that humanity may not only be given God's holiness and perfection but also his essential divinity or godhood. This doctrine stems from the movement's founder Joseph Smith, Jr., who taught that God the Father is an advanced and glorified man. According to Smith, through obedience to Christ and the gradual acquisition of knowledge, the faithful may eventually become gods in the afterlife. Although they achieve this status, they continue to worship the Father in the name of Christ.
Latter Day Saints believe that all humans are spiritually begotten (Hebrews 12:9, Acts 17:28-29) sons and daughters of God. Because we are literally God's children, we can also be heirs of His glory, and joint heirs with our brother Jesus Christ (Romans 8:16-17). Mormons believe that the "glory of God is intelligence, in other words, light and truth" (D&C 93:36 ), therefore the process of inheriting His glory is a process of learning. As a crucial step in this process, all of God's spirit children had the choice to come to earth in order to receive a body and continue their development. Mormons believe that the fallen state of humanity (mortality) was not a "change of plans", rather it was necessary in order to create an environment to learn and grow in the face of opposition (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2 ). Thus the purpose of earth life is to gain knowledge and experience—overcoming trials and mistakes through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and using the lessons learned to become stronger and wiser, more like our Father (D&C 98:3 ). Those who endure to the end (Matt 24:13, Mark 13:13) while in Mortality will be able to dwell in the presence of God, where they can continue to grow in light and truth, which "light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day"(D&C 50:24 ). Mormons believe that the Father and the Son both possess glorified, immortal bodies (D&C 130:22 ), and that thanks to Christ's resurrection, humans will also resurrect and inherit this same type of body (1 Cor 20-22).
Christian universalist views 
There has been a modern revival of the concept of theosis (often called "manifest sonship" or "Christedness") among Christians who hold to the doctrine of universal reconciliation or apocatastasis, especially those with a background in the charismatic Latter Rain Movement or even the New Age and New Thought movements. The statement of faith of the Christian Universalist Association includes theosis in one of its points.
A minority of charismatic Christian universalists believe that the "return of Christ" is a corporate body of perfected human beings who are the "Manifested Sons of God" instead of a literal return of the person of Jesus, and that these Sons will reign on the earth and transform all other human beings from sin to perfection during an age that is coming soon (a particularly "universalistic" approach to millennialism). Some liberal Christian universalists with New Age leanings share a similar eschatology.
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