“That God May be All in All”: Deification, Nothingness, and Creaturehood
Dr. Jared Ortiz
At the close of the 19th century, Adolf Von Harnack sparked an unintentional return to interest in the doctrine of deification. In his History of Dogma, he accused the doctrine of being little more than Greek philosophy in Christian dress. In turn, a number of scholars came to the defense of deification in the early-to-mid 20th century, and currently a growing pool of scholars is taking especial interest in the doctrine. Amongst these, John Zizioulas has recently given an account of deification in his works Being in Communion and Communion and Otherness. Therein, Zizioulas argues for a doctrine of deification that creates an ontological bond between God and the world at the level of God’s hypostasis or personhood while allowing distinctiveness to remain between God and the world on the level of being. But can Christians articulate deification in this way? To what degree ought Christians to think of God’s relationship with creation as an ontological one? In my paper, I will outline Zizioulas’ account of deification before providing an analysis. For the analysis, I introduce voices from the Christian tradition and recent philosophy concerned with ontotheology. These help to show that, while Zizioulas aims to uphold an appropriate ontological difference between Creator and creation, he ultimately collapses the two in a manner inconsistent with Christian affirmations of divine transcendence. Finally, I give a positive account of deification based on the works of Maximus the Confessor and Søren Kierkegaard. These show that a Christian doctrine of deification neither should nor does it have to encroach upon divine transcendence. Ultimately, this study aims to provide the Church with an understanding of how its work partners with God’s in the world.
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