Theosis (Lat. For “deification”) Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 1191

My point here in this brief introductory article is to be make this information as accessible as possible in order to raise the question: Is the Emergent Church heading into its own “re-imagined” version of the deification of man? Is this emerging conversation actually leading us right back into an aberrant (or worse) theosis of some sections of the Church of Rome or the Eastern Orthodox Church? Here is a quick background by Jon Zuck on what is meant by the term theosis from a website qsympathetic to this idea as a reality:

There is an idea which is constant in Judeo-Christian mysticism, in a more “spiritual” sense, not seeking to use words, where words will surely fall short. The Bible does not skimp on the idea which Catholic mystics sometimes call “theosis” and which Orthodox call “divinization.” It comes from our creation in the image of God in Genesis 1, and our call to grow into the dignity of that image, with its love and holiness throughout the rest of the Scriptures. See Psalm 82, “mere men” are “gods” by virtue of being sons of the Most High.

The writings of St. John develop this much more in the NT. John 1:12 speaks of a spiritual birth to becoming “children of God” born not by “human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” 1 John 3:1-2 goes even farther declaring that we who know him will go from being children of God now to being “like him,” when he appears: St. Paul also says that ultimately we will no longer be looking through “a glass, darkly” (KJV) but we will “know fully as we are fully known” 1 Cor 13.12, and in 1 Cor 15:22-28, one of the most grand cosmological portraits of redemption in the Bible, the picture is of all evil eventually being brought to nothing, until Christ is “all in all,” which, whatever else it might mean, implies no separation between Him and the rest of his Creation. (http://www.kheper.net/topics/christianmysticism/themes.htm, emphasis added)

It is interesting to note here that there is a resurgence in and fascination for the “spiritual disciplines” practiced by Roman Catholic mystics within the Emergent Church e.g. Tony Jones in his book The Sacred Way. Then a little further down on the page cited above we come to this little bit of “enlightenment” about the Roman Catholic mystic St. Francis of Assisi, who is quite highly thought of by so many within the Emergent Church:

The Divine Family

St. Francis of Assisi’s famous Canticle develops the idea of a Divine family. Even the elements of creation are alive, and not only that, but brothers and sisters to us, children of one Father. One translation of the modern Franciscan rule of life is to “protect all life, animate and inanimate” (ibid., emphasis added)

Re-Imagining “Christian” Mysticism

Let’s examine a little bit from that Canticle by “St.” Francis of Assisi:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all the weather’s moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful is he, how gay! Full of power and strength.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those She finds doing your will!
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.

Quantum Panentheism

Now with this above foolishness in mind let’s take a look at an excerpt from “Emergent Church: Quantum Shift To Panentheism” where we exposed the “New Light” teachings of Emergent theologian Leonard Sweet. You will clearly see Sweet is teaching this New Light spirituality which is most definitely panentheistic and opens the door for theosis as its logical conclusion. Under the sub-heading “With All Of Nature: Priests Of Creation”, which tips us off to the panentheism to follow we read:

In an ecological model of the church, the earth is not separate from us; indeed, we are in symbiotic relationship with the earth. Creation spirituality is of tremendous help here in weaning us from this homocentric warp… Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. New Light pastors are what Arthur Peacocke calls “priests of creation”70–earth ministers who can relate the realm of nature to God, who can help nurture a brother-sister relationship with the living organism called Planet Earth. This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation.

The OxfordDictionary of the Chnctian Church (sic)(1974) identifies the difference between pantheism and panentheism: Pantheism is “the belief or theory that God and the universe are identical”; panentheism is “the belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in Him, but. . . that His Being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the Universe.”77 New Light spirituality does more than settle for the created order, as many forms of New Age pantheism do. But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan– or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian. (124,125).

The View Of A Real Mystic

For now we close out our initial look at this important question: Is the Emergent Church heading toward a return to theosis? As we do we consider this from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:

Theosis is closely connected to the creation of humankind in God’s image. In attaining salvation in this fuller sense of being recreated in the image of God is a fulfillment of the Trinity’s original purpose in creating human beings (1191).

And I found the following from another article by Jon Zuck, whom we heard from earlier, entitled What’s all the Pomotion?, rather insightful. As I looked around his site where this work is found I didn’t see any indication that he would claim to be a born again believer, but Zuck is a self-proclaimed mystic as you will see, which to me makes his very astute observations all the more compelling:

Since I joined the Catholic Church ten years ago, I haven’t kept up much with the happenings in the Protestant world. But several weeks ago, I noticed that my friends…had several identical links on their blogs, to places like theOOZE, Mars Hill, and Solomon’s Porch. This intrigued me,… So I checked out their links, and soon discovered the wave of post-modern or “poMo” Christianity, also known as Emergent, emerging church, post-Protestantism, post-foundationalism, and many other names which are meant to be as open as possble… This is may be (sic) something big. Very big… I’ve also read Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, and… I feel that Brian is essentially doing for Protestants what Matthew Fox tried to do for Catholics about 20 years ago.

One difference, however, is that McLaren is writing to a much broader [audience], and…is much more careful with words. (Fox was actually booted from the Dominican order for not being careful enough with his words.) In McLaren’s case, it’s even more critical, because in conservative Protestant circles, words tend to be interpreted as narrowly as possible.

One of the basic ideas of the emerging church is that just as humanity moved from the ancient world to the medieval world in the 6th century, and the Middle Ages yielded to the modern world in 16th century, in the 20th-21st centuries, we are moving into the post-modern age. What that means is uncertain, except that modern institutions (including the modern conception of church), built in the modern age to serve the modern world, are no longer working that well and will soon be irrelevant to post-modern society.

I’m thrilled about the potential of the emergent movement (though Emergent says don’t call it a movement)… Some self-described poMo churches seem to be simply changing matters of style, creating “groovy” new ways to worship and evangelize, like the Jesus movement did in the 60s and 70s, while keeping a truncated theology that still sees getting people “saved” as the end of the road. Others have a sense that this really calls everything into question—and are open to the possibility that we have grossly misunderstood what Jesus’ Good News is all about—something that I as a mystic, strongly believe to be the case.

I haven’t really heard the emergent conversation address theosis or awakening yet. Because of this, I wonder if poMo Christianity might run the risk of looking for the answer, without finding it. (http://www.frimmin.com/mt/archives/000085.html, emphasis added).

I can’t help but wonder: Why is it that a “mystic” like Zuck can see all of this while our more noted Evangelical theologians and leaders apparently haven’t? Or maybe they just didn’t want to see it for the sake of a sentimental unity; in any event, we can see it now. You need to understand that theosis is the logical conclusion of this type of panentheism. The New Light panenetheism taught by Emergent theologian Leonard Sweet, clearly documented above, undoubtedly teaches that the creation itself is a part of God.

So if the cosmos is part of God, then it must also be divine. Because mankind is a part of the cosmos, then he himself must also be divine, which then opens the real possibility for the denial of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement. The logic is inescapable, one may try and deny the concept of an absolute conclusion here, but that is also futile because to absolutely deny the concept of a conclusion is in itself to make an absolute statement. That would then be a self-defeating argument, and with eternal ramifications at stake, one we should very carefully and prayerfully consider.

Could It Be?

However, the first point we need to focus on right now is this: Do we not see the Lord prompting men like Dr. John MacArthur to correctly point out that Evangelical Christianity is fighting for its very life. I am not arguing here for Evangeicalism per se, I pose that this is also true for the entire of the historic orthodox Christian faith itself in pagan postmodern America. With this important distinction made I ask: Can we now afford to just let these leaders of the Emergent Church, who are at the very least influenced by men like Leonard Sweet and Brian McLaren, teach these kinds of things under the cover of Evangelicalism? Because this is exactly the kind of credibility that will be given to them at Zondervan’s National Pastor’s Convention 2006 next month.

The interested reader is invited to keep an eye out here on these developing issues involving the Emergent Church as I continue to follow the Lord’s leading, but for now can we afford to almost rule out the spiritual side of our faith while we waste our time arguing about some nebulous concept of essential doctrines as opposed to non-essential ones. Could it be that while we’re caught up in discussions about whether things like cessationism are true or not true, perhaps we are in danger of forgetting that at least this much is true: Christianity is a supernatural faith and whether God is using certain gifts or not really isn’t the main point at this critical time in His-story.

And Bob Hyatt you are wrong, I do care, and that’s exactly why I am trying to call attention here to the main point: Could it actually be possible God the Holy Spirit may be trying to alert our Lord’s Church to a cult steeped in pagan mysticism which has been growing right under our very noses where emerging church pastors like Hyatt aren’t being told the whole truth by these Emergent leaders he appears to trust? Man can become God; I know I’ve heard that somewhere before. Hmm, the Mormon Church; yes, but somewhere even before that, ah yes, here it is: Genesis 3:5 — Ye shall be as gods. Where are the voices being raised against this oldest lie in the Book?

To paraphrase Dr. Walter Martin: Maybe the whole world is going to Hell right in front of us; and the true Body of Christ is busy arguing about nothing. Could it be?