Course Description

An introduction to the Eastern Christian teaching on Theosis (Deification or Divinization), the fundamental anthropological and soteriological doctrine expressed by the early patristic phrase: “God became a human being so that human beings might become God.” Eastern Christianity never expressed much interest in the debates that raged in the West between Catholics and Reformers regarding questions of justification, because the latter was seen as simply a preliminary step toward the much more crucial issue: how human beings can enter into such union with God that renders them “partakers of the Divine nature” (2Peter 1:4)

The course will familiarize students with the teaching of the Fathers, esp. St. Irenaeus of Lyons and St. Athanasius of Alexandria, regarding the salvific economy and specifically Theosis, through readings, lecture and discussion. Theosis will be examined from biblical, philosophical, patristic, medieval and modern perspectives (the latter drawn from both Eastern and Western Christian sources). Its central position in Eastern Christian theology and spirituality will be examined.

Students should begin working on required readings before the course, so as not to fall behind during the semester. Additional readings will be assigned during the course. Each student will make class PowerPoint presentations, preparing an appropriate handout. Participation in discussions is graded. Research paper on an approved topic, final oral exam.

Class presentation with written handout: 10%
Participation in discussions: 10%
Research paper (12-15 pp.) 40%
Final Oral Exam: 40%

Michael J. Christensen, Jeffery A. Wittung , eds, Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Press, 2008.
Daniel Rogich, Becoming Uncreated: The Journey to Human Authenticity: Updating the Spiritual Christology of Gregory Palamas. Minneapolis: Light and Life, 2009. Both available through and Additional required and recommended readings will be announced at the beginning of the course.

Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford Early Christian Studies),Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Further bibliography of recommended works will be distributed.