What is Theosis? Everything About Orthodox Deification

By Charalampos •  Updated: 05/29/22 •  14 min read

In Christianity, Theosis or deification is the process of being made like God. It’s a central teaching of the Orthodox Church and something that all Christians can aspire to.

In this post, we will explore the meaning of Theosis, its history and development, and how it is practiced in the Orthodox Church.

We will also look at some of the key figures in the history of the doctrine, including St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Maximus the Confessor.

What is Theosis and What Does it Mean to be One With God?

What is Theosis

Theosis is a Greek word that means “divinization” or “deification.” It’s often used interchangeably with the Latin term “sanctification.”

Theosis is the process of becoming like God. This doesn’t mean that we become God, but that we become more like Him (closer) in His attributes of love, mercy, and righteousness.

Theosis is possible because, as Orthodox Christians believe, we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). When we sin, that image is distorted, but it can be restored through repentance and the Grace of God.

The goal of the Christian life is to be united with God in love. In the words of St. Athanasius, “God Became Man that Man Might Become God”.

Theosis is a lifelong process that begins when we are baptized and receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit. It’s a journey that takes us from mortal life to eternal life with God in Heaven.

The History of The Doctrine of Theosis.

If you study the bible closely you will realize that after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the concept of deification or Theosis came to be.

In the Old Testament, Theosis wasn’t achievable and was only possible in the new covenant. Under the old covenant, people were not able to be deified.

Theosis is achieved through Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. When Jesus became man, He united humanity with God in a way that had never been possible before.

Through His death on the cross, He conquered death and opened the way to eternal life for all who believe in Him.

And His resurrection showed us that we too can be raised from the dead and share in His glory.

The doctrine of Theosis was developed over time by the Eastern Orthodox Church Fathers and Orthodox Theologians. It teaches us that before the Fall of Adam and Eve, humanity was created in the image and likeness of God.

But when they sinned, they lost that likeness and were “cut off” from God. However, through Christ, this image can be restored.

Most of the Western Civilization has been negative when it comes to the concept of deification, but in Eastern Orthodoxy, Theosis is seen as the ultimate goal of human existence.

Some notable mentions in the bible about Deification are:

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

(John 1: 11-13)

“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”

(Revelation 2: 26-27)

“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. … To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

(Revelation 3: 11, 21)

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(Galatians 2: 20)

Important: There are more mentions in the bible about deification, but these are some of the more notable ones.

Theosis is a difficult concept to wrap your head around, but it’s worth studying and understanding. If you want to learn more about Eastern Orthodox Theology, I recommend reading the works of Gregory Palamas.

How Theosis is Practiced in The Orthodox Church.

Theosis in The Orthodox Church

Theosis is not something that can be achieved overnight. It is a lifelong journey that requires dedication and hard work. However, it is possible to achieve Theosis through the practice of certain Orthodox Christian disciplines.

There are many known Saints and monks that have reached Theosis through their deep prayer life, rigorous fasting, and other austerities. While it is not always easy, it is possible to reach Theosis through these practices.

The light of God dwelling within the soul is what allows Theosis to take place. This light comes from Christ himself and is entrusted to the individual through a life of faithfulness.

The main goal of Theosis is to be united with God completely and to experience His love fully.

This is only possible through Grace, which is a gift from God. Theosis is not something that can be earned, but it is something that can be received through humility and obedience.

In Palamite theology, there is a distinction between the essence (ousia) and the energies (energeia) of God. It is through the energies of God that we can have communion with Him.

For Theosis to take place, we must first receive the Grace of God. This can happen through baptism, chrismation, and other sacraments.

After we have received the Grace of God, we must then cooperate with it through our efforts. We do this by living a life of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other good works.

The truth is, only God knows every one of us completely. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, and He knows what we need to do to grow closer to Him.

No one can achieve Theosis without the help of God. We must be humble and ask for His assistance every step of the way.

How to Achieve Theosis.

Although Orthodoxy does not lay out a step-by-step program for deification, the process of deification is nonetheless something that every Orthodox Christian is called to pursue.

There are, however, some basic things that all Orthodox Christians can do to grow in their relationship with God and become more like Him.

In no particular order, these include:

1. Prayer.

Prayer is one of the most important things that Orthodox Christians can do to grow in their relationship with God. It is through prayer that we commune with God and come to know Him more intimately.

Praying is a hard discipline, and it is often difficult to find the time to do it regularly. However, making an effort to pray daily, even if only for a few minutes, will help to bring you closer to God.

2. Reading the Bible.

Reading the Bible is not easy, but it is essential for getting to know God. It is through the Bible that we learn about His character and His will for our lives.

We need to understand, though, that the Bible is not a self-help book. It is not a book of instructions that tells us what we need to do to be saved. Rather, it is a book that reveals God to us and His plan for our salvation.

Read Also: Torah vs Bible: What Are The Differences?

3. Hesychasm.

Hesychasm is a form of prayer that is meant to help us still our minds and focus on God. It is a difficult discipline, but it can be very helpful in bringing us closer to God.

Saint Gregory Palamas, was the most important figure in the development of hesychasm. He taught that through hesychasm, we can come to experience the presence of God.

One of the most well-known forms of prayer is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” This prayer can be used in hesychasm or simply repeated throughout the day as a way of constantly keeping God in our thoughts.

4. Seven Divine Mysteries.

The Seven Divine Mysteries, also known as the Sacraments, are an essential part of Orthodoxy. They are outward signs of God’s grace that He uses to sanctify us and make us more like Him.

Through the Divine Mysteries, we receive forgiveness for our sins and are strengthened in our relationship with God.

These are:

5. Fasting.

Food is the easiest way for the devil to tempt us. It is also one of the most common things that we take for granted.

Fasting helps us to remember that our bodies are not our own, but are temples of the Holy Spirit. It is a way of disciplining our flesh and taming our appetites.

Fasting is not easy, but it is essential for our spiritual growth. There are different types of fasting, and some are more difficult than others. The important thing is to start small and gradually increase the amount that you fast as you are able.

6. Good Works.

Good works are an important part of the Orthodox Christian life. They are not, however, a way to earn salvation. Rather, they are a tool that God uses to sanctify us and make us more like Him.

Doing good works is a way of putting our faith into action. It is a way of showing our love for God and our neighbors.

7. Confession of Faith.

Confessing your faith to others is a way of testifying to the truth of the Gospel. It is also a way of encouraging others in their faith.

When we confess our faith, we are declaring that we believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings. We are also proclaiming our hope in His promises.

Note: These are some of the most essential things that Orthodox Christians can do to grow in their relationship with God. However, many other things can be done as well. The important thing to remember is Theosis is not a one-time event, but a lifelong process.

The Benefits of Striving for Deification.

Striving for Deification

There are many benefits that come from striving for Theosis.

1. True Happiness.

First and foremost, it is the only way to achieve true happiness. This world can never offer true happiness because it is temporary. Only God can offer us everlasting joy.

This is a common issue materialists face. They search for happiness in things that will eventually disappear. This leads to a never-ending cycle of desire and dissatisfaction.

The only way to break free from this cycle is to turn to God and seek His eternal Kingdom.

2. Love.

Another benefit of Theosis is that it allows us to experience the love of God more fully. As we grow closer to Him, our hearts become more open and we are able to receive His love more deeply.

This is a lifelong journey, but each step brings us closer to the ultimate goal of being united with God in Love.

3. Freedom.

Theosis also brings freedom from the bondage of sin. As we grow closer to God, we become more aware of our sinful nature and we are able to turn away from it more easily.

Saint Parthenios once said when he was younger as an ascetic in Mount Athos he experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit through another monk named Gero-Dimas.

His experience of the Holy Spirit was so great that he was running in the woods with a feeling of freedom and joy, and he was crying out of love.

4. Knowledge of God.

As we grow closer to God, we also gain a deeper understanding of who He is. We come to know Him more intimately and we are able to see things from His perspective.

5. Living an Eternal Life.

Theosis is also the key to living an eternal life. When we are united with God, we share in His eternal life.

This is especially true after the Second Coming of Christ when He will judge the living and the dead.

Saints And Theosis.

The Divine Nature is not something that we can attain on our own. It is a gift from God that He bestows on us through His Grace.

One of the ways that God grants us this grace is through the intercession of the saints. The saints are those who have attained a high degree of holiness and are now in heaven.

They can intercede on our behalf and help us to grow in our relationship with God.

One of the best ways to learn about the saints is to read their Lives. These stories inspire us and teach us about what it means to be a saint.

For example, a very good book that I recommend is the book of Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia. This book is a collection of stories about his life. It is an excellent example of how the saints can help us to grow in our relationship with God.

Porphyrios was a very holy man who had a deep love for Jesus. He was also a great teacher and had a gift for seeing things before they happened.

Many people became partakers of the Divine Nature through his help and willingness to share his knowledge with others.

As he said, this was a gift from The Holy Spirit.

Read Also: What is A Saint in Christianity?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Theosis - FAQs

Is Theosis Biblical?

Yes, theosis is biblical. Theosis is a doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church that states that by participating in the divine nature of God, humans can be divinized.

This doctrine is based on Eastern Christian interpretations of scripture and theology, and it emphasizes the importance of the human and Divine Nature of God.

Is Theosis Heresy?

No, theosis is not heresy. In fact, it is an essential doctrine of the Orthodox Church. Theosis, also known as deification or divinization, is the process by which a person becomes more and more like God.

This transformation occurs through our participation in the life of the Trinity: by living following God’s will, we are sanctified and transformed into God’s image and likeness.

Theosis is not a new doctrine; it has been taught by the Church Fathers from the very beginning. Although some branches of Christianity reject the idea of theosis (such as most Protestants), it is an essential part of Orthodox teaching.

What Does The Bible Say About Theosis?

Many bible verses talk about theosis and we stated some of them above. All of these verses emphasize the importance of human participation in the divine nature of God.

Is Theosis the Same as Sanctification?

The Catholic Church speaks of sanctification as a process that can be complete only after one’s self has been purified from all sin. This is different than Theosis in the Eastern Orthodox Church which speaks of purification from all sin as one of the steps of Theosis but not the final goal.

Theosis is a lifelong process of becoming more and more like God. It is through this process that we are purified from sin and become holy. Sanctification is only a part of this process.

Can A Human Become God?

Human beings can never become exactly like God because we are not God. However, through the process of Theosis, humans can become god. The difference between G and g is important to remember.

We will never be the infinite, and perfect God, but we can become more like Him to the extent that He allows it. This is what it means to be partakers of the Divine Nature.

Final Thoughts

Theosis is a process that Orthodox Christians believe leads to union with God. This process begins with faith and repentance and is nurtured through the sacraments, prayer, fasting, and good works.

Through these means, we are gradually transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. While it is not easy to achieve deification, the rewards are great.

By striving for deification, we become more holy and more like God. We also receive many spiritual benefits, such as protection from temptation and closer communion with God.

I hope this article helped to explain what theosis is and why it is important. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in a personal email

Thanks for reading!

Charalampos

Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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