This past Sunday afternoon I re-read Jonathan Jacob’s thoughtful paper “An Eastern Orthodox conception of theosis and human nature.” In his paper Jacobs advances the thesis that “God is—or, properly speaking, the divine energies are—metaphysically built into the structure of true human nature.” Jacobs understands this thesis as a metaphysical or ontological claim. “Just as the body is literally a metaphysical component of a fully human person,” he writes, “so too those who accept the Eastern conception of theosis outlined above should think that the divine energies are literally a metaphysical component of a fully human person.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I find this a provocative thesis. It just doesn’t feel like this is the best way to put formulate theosis, but heck if I can explain why. I think my unease has something to do with the idea of God as being a “component” of anything he has made ex nihilo. If God (or if one prefers, the divine energies) are constitutive of human nature, then does that mean that when I attempt to offer a definition of human nature, I need to include God within it? This sounds to me like a confusion of nature and grace.
But it simply may be that the Orthodox conception of deification resists all theological formulations (as all divine mysteries do). When I speak of theosis, I use phrases like “maximal union of the divine and human” and “the interpenetration of divinity and humanity,” neither of which illuminates much of anything, I suppose.
This is all quite minor, perhaps even trivial; but it’s needling at me. Can anyone help me out there?