6) You also brought out theosis as an aspect of Pauline theology at that conference. What sparked your interest in theosis?
My interest in theosis, as mentioned above, was sparked when I came to the realization that cruciformity was really participatory theoformity. I knew the tradition well enough to recognize that I was beginning to move in an Easterly direction, but I was pleasantly surprised to find both that some parts of the Western tradition had stressed theosis and that it was now gaining momentum across traditions and disciplines. As I say in the introduction to my book, there is much more to be done in connection with Paul and theosis—especially by scholars like you!
7) What about theosis adds to protestant theology that we have been missing?
Protestant theology is profoundly Christocentric and frequently rather juridical in its understanding of our relationship to God. Theosis does not lose Christocentrism but links it explicitly to a profound participation in God and the Spirit of God—hardly a juridical relation. (I realize that some embrace participation but reject theosis. My guess is that this is ultimately a semantic rather than a substantive difference, though those who reject theosis disagree.) Theosis also holds together things that Protestants tend to split apart and label something like stages: justification, sanctification, glorification. In theosis, these are all of a piece. Paul’s distinctive contribution, I think, is to insure that theosis is always understood cruciformly. Theosis is conformity to Christ crucified even in its final phase of eschatological glorification.
8. Could you tell us a handful of books or articles that that have been important for shaping your understanding of theosis?
Believe it or not, the conclusion of Bonhoeffer’s (Cost of) Discipleship might be at the top. Bonhoeffer convinced me that my putting theosis and the cross together was not a mistake—or an original idea. Stephen Finlan’s articles have been helpful in opening up the NT connections. The collections of essays on theosis that have appeared in the last few years have also been helpful (e.g. Christensen and Wittung, which has a lot of good essays, including a provocative one on Paul by Finlan). Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen gives a broad perspective in One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification. An “older” (1990s) essay by Ann Jervis on Paul (“Becoming like God through Christ: Romans”) has not gotten sufficient attention, nor has the still older work of Morna Hooker—she wrote extensively about theosis in Paul without ever calling it that. And it would be inexcusable of me not to mention Richard Hays and his work on narrative and participation, who is himself favorably disposed toward theosis and reading Paul through the Eastern fathers, and you. Though your and my approaches differ, I think our work is complimentary, and it was very encouraging to me to learn of your dissertation topic when I was first working on theosis.