Yes, Sheelah, much of what you say makes good sense. A few parts did leave me a little puzzled, but that only serves to whet my appetite for more of Fr Alison’s lessons. I am very excited about this class and (for whatever it’s worth) it has already far exceeded my expectations. There is, however, one particular point of confusion that was not addressed in your last post; I’m going to try highlight it below:
Even though theosis and incarnation are doctrinal terms (by that I mean only “terms we use to teach stuff”), we probably shouldn’t insist that they be disposable to comprehensive explication. After all, what makes a mystery mysterious is that stymies demystification.
If mystery is stuff we must pass over in silence, then this post could be a category mistake, viz. I’m analyzing theosis and incarnation as if there actually are similarities and differences between them that can be spoken about. I persist while hoping that, even if I persist in error, at least it will carry the benefit of specifying the precise point of my confusion to someone who can then clarify the matter to me. [Although, this is likely evidence of my vanity; it is shifty for me to first feign the humility of someone who knows he is in error and then turn around and insist that I—more than anyone else—know exactly where I went wrong!! … but here goes an anyway…]
If we receive and transmit the teaching that (i) God became human and (ii) humans can become divine, then we tacitly affirm some manner of equality. After all, when God became human, God didn’t cease to be divine; nor must humans, when we become divine, cease to be human.
Be that as it may, over and above whatever equality may be entailed in these doctrines, Christian tradition provides good reason to believe that this equality is not absolute. This reason being: we are afforded two terms—not one. “Theosis” and “incarnation” are not synonyms. There is something different between God becoming human and humans becoming divine. Whereas humans (in theosis) become a new creation—with the old passing away, God (incarnated) did not become a new creator—and no old god was superseded.
The distinction I make here is roundly rejected by some who study the Bible quite seriously. They contend that, in response to what people do, God is open to becoming new. I’m not familiar enough with the scholarship to know whether the label “Open Theism” was coined by adherents or critics of this position, but the name seems apt.
When I truly communicate with others, I open myself up to becoming someone new. If God were to communicate with us in entirely the same manner that I communicate with others, then—with each truly communicative act—God opens godself up to becoming somegod new. Here, the open theist chimes in, “But of course, God speaks.” I protest, “By no means, God doesn’t speak like humans do.” We both think the Bible corroborates our position.
I do not want to scapegoat Open Theism by sneering: “Unless those wronged-headed pseudo-theologians be jettisoned with prejudice right here at the start, I can’t in good faith be a part of this conversation!” Nor am I secretly rooting for a moderator to say, “Of course, we don’t let those bastards in here, Andrew, come on in now and know you are among compatriots who’ll fight to defend the honor of God’s sovereignty!” That manner of speech is sinful.
I only want clarity. Alison frames this course on Christian theology around the conception of God as one who communicates and around the conception of humans as ones who, by their mimetic nature, are inescapably communicated-to. Does Alison’s position imply the inverse? Does Alison’s theology present God as one who is communicated-to by humans? Do humans impart being to God, as we impart selves to one another (c.f. the discussion of babies becoming through deferment and imitation in Module 1.2, and then ask if we do to our God what we do to our babies and friends)? Or—and this is a big fat disjunctive “or”—is God, being unique, an actual instance of a self-starting “I”?
Perhaps this post is vanity. Maybe defining the precise nature of God is not the sort of theology we are after in this class. I maintain that God is one who communicates being and yet God is never one to whom being is communicated. Whether that is accurate or inaccurate could be beside the point; you may just hear me spouting a mere factoid comparable to the population of Mexico City (c.f. module 1.3). Am I barking up a tree with no squirrel when I ask whether Fr Alison believes that God’s own being is inducted to God through mimetic exchanges with human interlocutors?
It seems to me like a revelatory matter and not an inane fact, because I want to say that, when humans do manage to induct a god into becoming, the Bible condemns it as idolatry.