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Orthodox salvation

Yesterday, I thought I was posting some of George Fox's hardest-to-accept moments, but judging by the comments, it sounds like people would like to see more of the same.

I don't have more of Fox right now, but I do have some related ideas that come from a very different place, focused on the nature of salvation.

I won't attempt to claim that there's a direct line between Eastern Orthodoxy and Quakerism as others have tried to claim for Quakerism and various mystical traditions. The Orthodox emphasis on changelessness, going back to the apostles, and the Quaker idea of Primitive Christianity Revived may have brought them to similar places, however different they appear on the surface. They both emphasize at their foundations a particular stream of New Testament thought that seems to have largely disappeared in Western Christianity. (I'll talk more about why that may have happened later.)

In The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, Jaroslav Pelikan outlines briefly how this doctrine looked in the time of Maximus the Confessor, under the headline "The Changeless Truth of Salvation":

"The chief idea of St. Maximus, as of all Eastern theology, [was] the idea of deification." Like all of his theological ideas, it had come down to him from Christian antiquity and had been formulated by the Greek fathers. Salvation defined as deification was the theme of Christian faith and of the biblical message. The purpose of the Lord's Prayer was to point to the mystery of deification. Baptism was "in the name of the life-giving and deifying Trinity." When the guests at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, as described in the Gospel of John (John 2:10), said that their host had "kept the good wine until now," they were referring to the word of God, saved for the last, by which men were made divine. When, in the epistles of the same apostle John, "the Theologian," it was said that "it does not yet appear what we shall be," (1 John 3:2) this was a reference to "the future deification of those who have now been made children of God." When the apostle Paul spoke of "the riches" of the saints, this too, meant deification.

But there were two principal passages of the Bible in which the definition of salvation as deification was set forth: the declaration of the psalm, "I say, 'You are gods,'" which was quoted in the New Testament (Ps. 82:6; John 10:34); and the promise of the New Testament that believers would "become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

The first of these meant that righteous men and angels would become divine, the second that "being united with Christ" was the means of deification. For similarity to Christ was a deifying force, making men divine. Greek paganism had already known that one should rise from the active life to the contemplative, but Greek Christianity discovered that there was a third step beyond both of these, when one was taken up and was made divine. From the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite the devotees of contemplation had learned that God was not only beyond all existing realities, but beyond essence itself; and thus they had come to the true meaning of deification.

The presupposition of salvation as deification was the incarnation of the Logos of God, for "the purpose of the Lord's becoming man was our salvation." (10, paragraph breaks added.)

There are some clear differences between this set of beliefs and that of the early Quakers, most notably baptism - but at the same time this fits extremely well with the message that "Christ has come to teach his people himself" and with Fox's moving through England as a holy man.

This is just the beginning, but it's already a lot to digest. If you'd like more on "deification", or theosis, this Wikipedia article seems like a good place to start. It's also interesting to go back with this in mind and re-examine Romans 8, which I wrote about earlier.