An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


A term used in the tradition of Orthodox theology to refer to the participation of the human person in the life of God. It is also known as deification or divinization. It means “being made God” and reflects the dominant Orthodox understanding of salvation in Christ. Athanasius urged that God became man so that we might become divine. Humanity and God are understood to be infinitely distant from each other, but finite humanity and the infinite God are fully joined in Christ. As stated by Cyril of Alexandria, “We are made partakers of the divine nature and are said to be sons of God. . . not only because we are exalted by grace to supernatural glory, but also because we have God dwelling in us.” The saving benefit of theosis is rooted in the Incarnation and the activity of divine grace. The active presence of the Holy Spirit brings us into communion with God. A central image for theosis is Christ’s transfiguration (Mk 9:2-8 and parallels). Theosis is associated with the gift of divine glory (Jn 17:5, 22-24), adoption as children of God by the indwelling Spirit (Rom 8), and participation in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4).

Although theosis has not been emphasized in Anglican theology of salvation, it is compatible with William Porcher DuBose’s understanding of humanity’s destined union with God through the saving process of divine grace. Richard Hooker emphasized the theological significance of sacramental participation in Book V of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. An understanding of theosis is also implicit in the collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day, which prays, “Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ. . . .” (BCP, p. 214). See DuBose, William Porcher; see Hooker, Richard; see Orthodox Churches.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.