Friday, December 12, 2008

Irenaeus on being a man and becoming a god

Irrational, therefore, in every respect, are they who await not the time of increase, but ascribe to God the infirmity of their nature. Such persons know neither God nor themselves, being insatiable and ungrateful, unwilling to be at the outset what they have also been created mean subject to passions; but go beyond the law of the human race, and before that they become men, they wish to be even now like God their Creator, and they who are more destitute of reason than dumb animals [insist] that there is no distinction between the uncreated God and man, a creature of today. For these [the dumb animals], bring no charge against God for not having made them men; but each one just as he has been created, gives thanks that he has been created. For we cast blame upon Him, because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness. He declares, "I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all sons of the Highest." But since we could not sustain the power of divinity, He adds, "But ye shall die like men," setting forth both truths the kindness of His free gift, and our weakness, and also that we were obsessed of power over ourselves. For after His great kindness He graciously conferred good [upon us] and made men like to Himself [that is] in their own power; while at the same time by His prescience He knew the infirmity of human beings, and the consequences which would flow from it; but through His love and His power, He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil.
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How, then, shall he be a God, who has not as yet been made a man? Or how can he be perfect who was but lately created? How, again, can he be immortal, who in his mortal nature did not obey his Maker? For it must be that thou, at the outset shouldest hold the rank of a man, and then afterwards partake of the glory of God. For thou dost not make God, but God thee. If, then, thou are God’s workmanship, await the hand of thy Maker which creates everything in due time; in due time as far as thou art concerned, whose creation is being carried out. Offer to Him thy heart in a soft and tractable state, and preserve the form in which the Creator has fashioned thee, having moisture in thyself, lest, by becoming hardened, thou lose the impressions of His fingers. But by preserving the framework thou shall ascend to that which is perfect, for the moist clay which is in thee is hidden there by the workmanship of God. His hand fashioned thy substance; He will cover thee over too within and without with pure gold and silver, and He will adorn thee to such a degree, that even "the King Himself shall have pleasure in thy beauty." But if thou, being obstinately hardened, dost reject the operation of His skill, and show thyself ungrateful towards Him, because thou wert created a mere man, by becoming thus ungrateful to God, thou hast at once lost both His workmanship and life. For creation is an attribute of the goodness of God; but to be created is that of human nature. If, then, thou shalt deliver up to Him what is thine, that is, faith towards Him and subjection, thou shall receive His handiwork, and shalt be a perfect work of God. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1:522-523)

Its irrational for men to be impatient for eternal life (time of increase) and blame God for their fallen nature. These impatient people don't know God, are ungrateful, and can't accept their current fallen state. These people impatiently wish they were like God now. These irrational people don't see a difference between uncreated God and man in his current fallen state (creature of today). Animals are content that God has created them as they are. We shouldn't blame God but praise him that we are made first men and then will eventually be made gods (lowercase g). We were made men first because we would not be able to sustain the power of divinity and would have fallen anyways. This is saying, this is why we are given time to repent and sanctify ourselves through Christ. This is why the angel was placed to guard the way of the Tree of Life so that we couldn't partake of the fruit and live forever in our sins. But that we could repent first, be sanctified by the transformative power of Christ and the Holy Ghost and then partake of the tree of Life again when we are ready to "sustain the power of divinity."

God made man like Himself "in their own power" to act for themselves and not be acted upon and to know good and evil. But God knew man would fall because of our fallen nature. But God will overcome our fallen natures through the transformative power of Christs atonement and the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. It was part of the plan that man, who is made in the likeness of God, learn good and evil from experience before being made immortal. How can anyone who hasn't first gone though morality first be a God? How can that person be perfect who was just created (born). How can a man hope to be immortal if he does not obey God? We first must become a man then afterward receive the glory of God. We don't make God, but God makes us. Patiently await the hands of God who will make us gods in due time. Offer God a broken heart and a contrite spirit, or a malleable soul as we were at the time we were first created (children are pure and malleable and only later become hardened). Then God can work us, change us, shape us, transform us, fashion us and adorn us. But if we harden our hearts against God and are ungrateful, we have lost our eternal life. To be created or formed and shaped is that of human nature, and we are to deliver up to God what is ours only to give which is our will. If we give our will and our whole souls to God, then we shall continue to receive his handiwork, shaping, and forming (sanctification is a process) until we become perfected in Christ.
I think the LDS doctrine on theosis is similar to the ECF concept. I like how this passage talks about the transformative and sanctifying power of God. The LDS temple ordinances and covenants are for the purpose of sanctification. These covenants which have to do with dedicating and consecrating your life to God could be referred to as sanctifying ordinances. Remember the opposite of created is not eternal and visa versa. Something can both be created (organized) and eternal. Because we see that man who is created, is being shaped and formed and purified to become like God.

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