"God became man so that man might become God" -- This famous saying by St. Athanasius of Alexandria (4th c.) sums up the message of Orthodoxy. God created mankind in His own image so that mankind might become like God, sharing in His eternal, divine life. God's good will toward His creatures was not limited to the act of creation, however. Seeing that man was unable to realize the likeness of God in himself because of his sinfulness, God sent His own Son, the very "Image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3), into the world to take human nature upon Himself and restore it to its original glory in the image of God. In other words, God--the Creator of all things--became man so that we might become like Him. In the words of the Liturgy of St. Basil, "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being likened to the body of our lowliness, that He might liken us to the image of His glory." This is known as theosis--or deification. This is why the world was created. This is why you were born. This is the truth of Orthodoxy.
But what does it mean to become like God or to be a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4)? When the Church answers this question She is engaging in "theology," which literally means "a word about God." The Church is able to make statements about God because God has revealed Himself to mankind. Through His act of creation, through His many acts of mercy and displays of power throughtout history, as recorded in the Bible, and especially in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, God has made Himself known to those whom He had created in His own image.
Thus, the Church's theology--what She says about God--is based upon what God has revealed about Himself. For this reason, when the Church answers the question, "What does it mean to become like God?" She does not look to the theories of modern psychology or sociology for the answer. Rather, She turns to the teachings and life of Her Lord: "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27).
Copyright 1997 by Clark Carlton