What does it mean to be “partakers of the divine nature”?
“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (emphasis added) – 2 Peter 1:4, NASB.
As defined by the Orthodox Church, deification (theosis) postulates that a Christian can become subjected to
God’s full and perfect penetration . . . in which [state of being] the operations and energies of human nature cease, having been replaced by the Divine Operations and Energies.
Though it has been part of “the spirituality” of the Orthodox Church for centuries, belief in divinization or theosis is emerging amongst today’s evangelicals.
Over two decades ago, Al Dager noted a trend among some Charismatics:
But we are now hearing from prominent teachers in the Christian media that man was created with a divine nature which was lost due to the introduction of sin. By being born again by the Spirit of God we lose our sin nature and regain our divine nature.
Greg Boyd, who advocates both open theism and contemplative spirituality, forthrightly states:
We no longer have a “sinful nature”.
To this point (though personally I do not believe he believes in deification), John MacArthur has written that early believers “were little Christs,” because they were first called Christiani at Antioch (i.e., “belonging to the party of,” Acts 11:26). Though Jesus warned of “false Christs,” neither He nor His apostles called believers “little Christs” (Matthew 24:24; cf. 1 John 2:18).
Again, MacArthur’s inference that God “was right inside” the pagan philosophers at Mars Hill is troubling. God is right inside believers only! The Apostle Paul wrote: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9; cf. John 3:3, 7).
Yet if scriptural precedent exists for the Christian to attain unto divinity,
The only biblical text which seems to bear directly on deification is II Peter 1:4, where the destiny of Christian believers is described as becoming “partakers of the divine nature”.
Dager too noted that the man-becomes-god teaching “is based upon a theosophical interpretation of II Peter 1:4 . . .”
So the question becomes, does Peter’s reference to partaking of the divine nature support the teaching that in this life a Christian can become deified? On the face of it, Peter might appear to be teaching that possibility. But upon a deeper investigation of the text, he does not.
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