In my recent post on a Common Faith, I offered a concatenation of quotes from the Fathers, East and West, on the doctrine of salvation as union with God (divinization or theosis). It included as well, both Luther and Calvin. I commented at the time that with some little research surely we could add Newman to that number. Considering that he was one of the 19th century’s greatest scholars on St. Athanasius, I knew I was right. Today I offer fruit of my small search:
It would seem, moreover, as I have said, that [Christ’] has done so by ascending to the Father; that his ascent bodily is his descent spiritually; that his taking our nature up to God, is the descent of God into us; that he has truly, though in an unknown sense, taken us to God, or brought down God to us, according as we view it. Thus, when St. Paul says that our life is hid with Christ in God, we may suppose him to intimate that our principle of existence is no longer a mortal, earthly principle, such as Adam’s after his fall, but that we are baptized and hidden anew in God’s glory, in that Shekinah of light and purity which we lost when Adam fell – that we are new-created, transformed, spiritualized, glorified in the Divine Nature – that through the participation of Christ, we receive, as through a channel, the true presence of God within and without us, imbuing us with sanctity and immortality. (Quoted in Keating, p. 22 – the original is from Newman’s Lectures on Justification, lecture 9.)
More evidence that there is indeed a common faith, to be found in the early Fathers of the Church. Such a common faith, shed of later speculations about how many forms of grace there are (there is but one) or other “epicycles” of scholastic theology, is a watershed of truth, both seamless with the gospels and the apostolic canon, and proclaiming a faith that is indeed, or should be, the common faith of Christendom. That this common faith of Christendom, also happens to be the living faith of the Orthodox Church is not a moment for triumphalism, but a moment for thanksgiving on the part of all. That we need not become theological miners, searching for hidden truth in caves long dormant, but that we may become theological partners in the sharing and appropriation of the common faith of the Fathers, which is none other than the Apostolic faith, is a moment of joy and an occasion for thanksgiving to the good God who has kept us all for such a time.