Salvation as Deification (V 2, Ch 20)

Chapter 20, “Salvation as Deification,” is the final chapter in the fourth section of the second volume of Metropolitan Hilarion’s series, Orthodox Christianity.  In this part, Met. Hilarion has written eight chapters on the Orthodox understanding of Christ, His actions, and what it means for us.

He opens this chapter by explaining that while “salvation” has become the preferred word for the goal of mankind, it has lost an important part of the Orthodox meaning of deification.  More than only being saved from something, we are saved for something: to recapture our complete union with Christ, which was lost in the Fall.  This is what it means to be made in the image of God.

By the time of the first Nicene Council (AD 325), the Orthodox understanding of deification was well established.  “We too become sons, not as he in nature and truth, but according to the grace of him that calleth,” was a phrase used by Athanasius.

In the ensuing centuries, the understanding of deification was expanded by Gregory to directly link Christ’s incarnation with mankind’s deification. Symeon added that deification is a process that is unending.

With this understanding of deification, Met. Hilarion closes the door on the section on Christ, which allows him to begin next a six-chapter series on The Church.