Deification and Union with Christ


Sometimes it takes a trip away in order to appreciate the comforts and security of home. The same may be true of our Christian beliefs: it can take a visit to another theological tradition to appreciate what we have in Christ as explained in biblical Christianity.

My most recent ‘trip’ was Slavko Ezdenci’s Deification and Union with Christ: A Reformed perspective on Salvation in Orthodoxy. In order to compare the Eastern idea of Deification with the Reformed idea of Union with Christ, Ezdenci gives a brief summary of both positions.

Here are a couple of differences I found significant:

1. First is of course the definition of salvation itself. In Eastern Orthodoxy (E.O.), deification means sharing the essence of God, not his nature. In Reformed undertanding, we remain distinct even when we are united to Christ.

2. Second is that for E. O. God and man must co-operate if the believer is indeed to enter his or her inheritance. Starkly, ‘Certainly man was created by the will of God; but he cannot be deified by it alone’ (p. 14, citing Lossky). It follows very clearly that salvation can be lost, under the E. O. understanding. Compare the Reformed position: the privileges of the Christian are solely based on Christ’s work and they are God’s gift. There is no risk of losing them (p. 32f.).

I am glad indeed to know that I am saved by grace and kept by grace.

I heartily recommend this Latimer Study, available from the Latimer Trust website (link above)