ARTICLES

Volume 23 - Issue 3

Salvation as Theosis: The Teaching of Eastern Orthodoxy

by Donald Fairbairn

Probably the central idea of Eastern Orthodox theology is the concept of theosis, and Orthodox writers use this Greek word to refer both to humanity’s initial vocation (the task which God gave to Adam and Eve at creation) and to salvation. The word theosis is translated ‘deification’ in English and is thus very problematic for most Western evangelicals. However, we should recognise immediately that deification does not imply that people actually become gods in any ontological sense at all; the Orthodox affirm that God is unique and transcendent, just as evangelicals do. Rather, by theosis the Orthodox mean the process of acquiring godly characteristics, gaining immortality and incorruptibility, and experiencing communion with God. As a result, deification corresponds somewhat to concepts which evangelicals describe using the terms sanctification, eternal life, and fellowship or relationship with God.

The Orthodox believe that gaining these blessings was the task which God set before humanity at creation, the task which through the fall humanity lost the capacity to achieve, and the task which the incarnation and work of Christ have made possible once again. As a result, for evangelicals who are interested in Eastern Christendom, the most relevant aspect of Orthodox theology is its understanding of the means by which fallen people undergo this process of deification (or, in Western terminology, the means of salvation), and this topic will be the subject of this article.

Salvation by Grace Through the Holy Spirit’s Action

The Orthodox regard deification as being, first and foremost, the result of the Holy Spirit’s activity in people. Vladimir Lossky writes, ‘The Son has become like us by the incarnation; we become like Him by deification, by partaking of the divinity in the Holy Spirit’.1 Similarly, Christophoros Stavropoulos affirms that theosis is offered by Christ, but realised only with the Spirit: ‘Only in the Holy Spirit will we reach the point of becoming gods, the likenesses of God’.2 Thus, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to gain the qualities which Eastern Christendom associates with deification.

This action of the Holy Spirit in granting deification to people is a function of God’s grace. Leonid Ouspensky writes:

Orthodox theology insists on the uncreated character of grace and defines it as natural processions, as the energy characteristic of the common nature of the three divine persons. By these energies, man surpasses the limits of the creature and becomes a ‘partaker of the divine nature’.3

To assert that the Holy Spirit deifies people by grace seems to be consistent with the way evangelicals understand God’s action in people’s lives. However, Ouspensky’s statement reveals a somewhat different conception of the nature of grace from that which Protestants espouse. Lossky offers a further explanation: ‘Grace is uncreated and by its nature divine. It is the energy or procession of the one nature: the divinity in so far as it is ineffably distinct from the essence and communicates itself to created beings, deifying them’.4Eastern Orthodoxy maintains that God is unknowable in his essence (that is, unknowable as he is in himself) and distinguishes between this essence and his energies (which correspond roughly to what we might call God’s actions or his operative presence in the world). Here Ouspensky’s and Lossky’s statements indicate that the energies (which we can know) constitute grace.

In the Eastern understanding, therefore, to assert that salvation is by grace means that people are deified as a result of God’s communicating to us his energies, his giving us those aspects of himself which he chooses to share with people. This belief that grace is the energies of God which can be communicated to people and which lead to their deification contrasts with the typical Protestant understanding. When we use the word ‘grace’, we normally have in mind an attitude of God toward people, on the basis of which he grants salvation as a gift to those who do not deserve it. As a result, our Western understanding of grace is concerned primarily with forgiveness, whereas the Eastern concept of grace has more to do with power or energy. I will address the significance of this difference later in this article.

The Means of Deification

To the Orthodox, the primary means by which the Holy Spirit works to give grace and to deify people are the church’s sacraments and human effort. Stavropoulos writes that deification takes place through Christian life and that ‘the Christian life comes into being with the sacraments and with holy works, those virtuous works which are done with a pure and holy motive in the name of Christ’.5 He writes further that divine grace strengthens people to walk the road to theosis, and that this grace is transmitted and actualised in the sacraments, especially baptism, penance, and the Eucharist.6 Baptism is the means by which God begins the process of deification in a believer, since it brings him or her into the life of Christ, the life which the church possesses. Penance is the continual act by which a person returns to that life after he or she has left it through sin. The Eucharist is the supreme means of theosis, since it is the sacrament through which people become the body of Christ, actualising their union with the Head of the church. The Orthodox emphasise the connection between Jesus’ statement at the Last Supper that the eucharistic bread is his body and Paul’s statements that believers are the body of Christ. They argue that through the Eucharist, by partaking of the bread which is the body of Christ, individual Christians become the body of Christ, the church. Thus through the Eucharist we undergo union with Christ or deification.

One should not take this emphasis on the sacraments as an indication that the Orthodox believe the church controls the Holy Spirit or dispenses grace itself. John Meyendorff corrects this potential misconception by writing, ‘It is not the church which, through the medium of its institutions, bestows the Holy Spirit, but it is the Spirit which validates every aspect of church life, including the institutions.’7 This belief that the Holy Spirit validates church life grows directly out of the Orthodox understanding of the church. Eastern Christianity asserts that the church is, by definition, the activity of the Holy Spirit among people. Therefore, even though it is not the church itself which conveys grace, one can be confident that one does receive grace by means of the sacraments, precisely because it is through the church that the Holy Spirit works. Sergei Bulgakov affirms this belief when he writes that the mode of transmission of the Holy Spirit is sacraments administered by a priest of the apostolic succession.8

Furthermore, the Eastern stress on the sacraments as the means of deification is linked to the idea that the church is primarily a sacramental community. Humanity’s purpose is to become deified, and the church exists primarily for the purpose of celebrating the sacraments. Thus it is logical that the church, through the sacraments, is the means by which the Holy Spirit conveys deification to people. Accordingly, the Orthodox concepts of the church and of deification depend closely on each other, and the Eastern emphasis on the church as the means of salvation grows out of this interconnection of ideas.

In addition to the sacraments, the other means by which the Holy Spirit deifies people is human effort. In the passage quoted above, Stavropoulos indicates that the Christian life comes into being not only through the sacraments, but also through ‘holy works’. He continues by asserting that the true purpose of the Christian life is the reception of the Holy Spirit, which divinizes people. Prayer, fasting, and other works are not the purpose of life, but they are the ‘necessary means for the achievement of the purpose’.9 This is not to say that virtuous works enable people to earn deification; Stavropoulos stresses here that it is the Holy Spirit himself who deifies people by means of the works. Likewise, Bulgakov emphasises that good works do not merit deification: ‘Good works do not constitute merit—no one merits or can merit salvation by human works. They represent man’s personal participation in achieving salvation, beyond any reckoning or compensation’.10

Lossky gives the theological reason for the Orthodox emphasis on human effort in deification by asserting: ‘God becomes powerless before human freedom; he cannot violate it since it flows from his own omnipotence. Certainly man was created by the will of God alone; but he cannot be deified by it alone’.11This statement reflects the same emphasis on human freedom which also leads Orthodox theologians to deny that people were originally in complete fellowship with God. According to Eastern theology. God’s respect for human freedom led him to create Adam and Eve with only the possibility of union with him, rather than coercing them into a communion with him which they may not have desired. In the same way, Orthodoxy asserts, God lays down his power before human freedom by refusing to deify people without their active consent and participation. Georges Florovsky concurs with this emphasis on human participation in theosis: ‘God has freely willed a synergistic path of redemption in which man must spiritually participate’.12(Eastern theology places much more emphasis on human freedom and less on God’s sovereignty than the Reformed strands of Western theology do, although some branches of Western evangelicalism, such as Wesleyan theology, hold a view of human free will close to that of the Orthodox.)

From this discussion, it emerges that the process of deification is the result of both the Holy Spirit’s action, performed by means of the church’s sacraments, and of human effort to acquire virtue. For the Orthodox, there is no dichotomy between grace and works, and the question of whether salvation is by faith or works does not arise. The reason for this is that Eastern Christians see grace not as an expression of the undeserved nature of salvation, but as an energy of God, which can be communicated to people.

Theosis as a Process

It should be clear that in the Eastern understanding of salvation, the emphasis lies on the process of becoming united to God through deification. As a result, Orthodox theology places very little stress on that aspect of salvation which evangelicals most strongly emphasise: the change which takes place in a person’s standing before God when he or she begins to believe. In fact, if one were to use Western terminology, one could generalise that the Orthodox understanding of salvation consists almost exclusively of elements related to the process of sanctification (becoming Christ-like), whereas the evangelical understanding consists largely of elements related to justification (God’s action of declaring a person righteous and acceptable before himself, because of the righteousness of Christ).

Maximos Aghiorgoussis explains this difference of emphasis by asserting that when Paul distinguishes in Romans 8:28–30 between predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, these are all stages in one process, that of deification or sanctification. ‘In other words’, he continues, ‘justification is not a separate act of God but the negative aspect of salvation in Christ, which is freedom from sin, death, and the devil; whereas sanctification is the positive aspect of God’s saving act, that of spiritual growth in new life in Christ communicated by God’s Holy Spirit’.13 This explanation makes clear that the emphasis falls on the process of spiritual growth, and in fact, Aghiorgoussis’ definition of justification does not even include the idea of being declared righteous at the beginning of faith, an idea which is pivotal to virtually all evangelical thought. Florovsky explains this more completely when he critiques Luther’s view of justification (a view which the majority of evangelicals follow). He writes, ‘For Luther “to justify” meant to declare one righteous or just, not “to make” righteous or just—it is an appeal to an extrinsic justice which in reality is a spiritual fiction’.14

From these statements, one can see how sharply different are the Eastern and Western emphases in salvation. To Westerners, the issue of a person’s status before God is one of the most critical of all questions. To Easterners, this question hardly arises at all, in light of the overriding emphasis on the process of actually becoming righteous through theosis. As a result, the Eastern conception of Christian life is substantially different from that which is common in the West. To Western evangelicals, the most important element of salvation is acceptance before God (or being declared righteous). This is accomplished at the beginning of faith, and the process of sanctification grows out of this change in position before God. To the Orthodox, the process of sanctification or deification is the means to the ultimate goal of union with God.

Because theosis is a process rather than an instantaneous change, the Eastern understanding of salvation carries with it the corollary that people will not be completely deified by the time they die. Accordingly, Orthodox theology affirms the continuation of progress in deification after a person’s death. Nicolas Zernov asserts that a Christian’s rewards come not immediately after death but at the end of history and that as a result, further improvement is possible.15 In Orthodox thought, this idea does not lead to a fully developed concept of purgatory like that of traditional Roman Catholicism. Bulgakov cautions that the Orthodox do not recognise a place of purgation, but they do acknowledge the possibility of a state of purification after death.16 Naturally, this conviction that continued progress is possible after death leads to the belief that prayers for believers who have died can help them to complete the process of theosis. Such prayers are a major part of popular Orthodox piety and occupy a significant place in the liturgy.

Justification and Sanctification

In assessing the Orthodox understanding of salvation, I must begin by asserting that it is not as foreign to the evangelical concept as one might initially think. We too see salvation as being the work of the Holy Spirit, accomplished by grace. However much we may dislike Orthodoxy’s sacramental emphasis, we also assert that baptism and the Lord’s supper represent forgiveness of sins, new life, and partaking of Christ (although some of us would prefer to say that the ordinances or sacraments symbolise spiritual reality instead of actually conveying that reality). The Orthodox insistence that salvation involves human effort may not be a rejection of our belief in salvation by faith alone, but may rather be analogous to our assertion (based in part on Phil. 2:12 and Jas. 2:14–26) that genuine faith results in good works. The nature of theosis, as the Orthodox understand it, is compatible with evangelical thought, even though the word ‘deification’ itself might lead one to believe that it is not.

Nevertheless, Orthodoxy’s emphasis on deification or sanctification to the virtual exclusion of justification creates serious problems for Western evangelicals. From our perspective, Justification (as God’s declaration that a sinner is righteous) is not simply a Western idea whose origin lies in our legal way of viewing reality. We are convinced that this is a biblical idea, indeed, one of the most central of all biblical truths. Accordingly, it is appropriate to examine the relation between justification and sanctification in the NT, especially in the Book of Romans, where the two ideas receive their most extended treatment.

Justification is the theme of Romans 1–5. Paul emphasises that no one is able to be justified in God’s sight by means of his or her own works (1:18–3:20) and asserts that this justification comes as a free gift through the redemption which Christ has brought about (3:21–31). Paul demonstrates by means of Abraham’s example that justification comes solely by faith, not by works (ch. 4). Then in chapter five Paul declares. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand’ (vv. 1–2). Justification is not something which believers are in the process of obtaining: it is an accomplished fact for those who trust in Christ. Paul declares that peace with God (the ending of the hostility between people and God caused by sin) is the present possession of believers, not simply something to which they aspire.17

Paul explains the believer’s status before God more fully in verses 9–11:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

These assertions show that justification is not simply a legal transaction, not simply ‘an appeal to an extrinsic justice’, as Florovsky charges. Rather, it is also personal. We were enemies of God but have been reconciled to him. We who trust in Christ are now God’s friends, and our relationship with him is secure enough that Paul can exclaim with confidence that we shall be saved from wrath through Christ. Justification is being declared righteous, but it is also more than this. In addition, it is God’s acceptance of sinners into fellowship with him as though we were righteous.

Paul’s confident assertions about this acceptance come before he raises the question (in 6:1) of how a believer should live as a result of his or her justification. They come before, not after, his discussion of his struggles with sin and the solution to those struggles, life in the Spirit (chs. 7 and 8). They come before the extended ethical discussions in chapters 12 through 15. These latter sections of the letter constitute Paul’s discussion of sanctification, and human effort and works play an important role in these discussions. But Paul’s comparisons of the believer to a slave serving a new master and a wife married to a new husband (6:19–7:3) show that it is precisely because believers are already accepted by God that they seek to live as he wants them to. Such actions are not means to justification, but results which flow from it.

Although Romans offers the most extended NT treatment of the distinction between justification and sanctification, this idea is not limited to Paul. Peter’s exhortation to holy living (1 Pet. 1:13–25) follows his praise to God for the new birth into a living hope and the imperishable inheritance in heaven which believers already possess (1 Pet. 1:3–12, esp. 3–5). John marvels at the greatness of the love God has lavished on us, that we might be called children of God. Only after affirming that believers are now children of God does he declare that those who hope in God seek to be pure, as God is pure (1 Jn. 3:1–3). Jesus’ words to the repentant thief on the cross show that this thief was immediately accepted into God’s presence, even though he did not live to undergo any sanctification at all (Lk. 23:39–43).

In light of this distinction, it should be clear that the Orthodox understanding of salvation is emphasising only part (albeit a very important part) of the biblical picture, the process of sanctification. In fact, the phrase ‘partakers of the divine nature’, so crucial to the Orthodox understanding of deification, comes in a passage about sanctification. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3 that God’s power has given believers everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Christ. In verse 4, Peter links believers’ participation in the divine nature to the precious promises we have already received. Then in verses 5–9, he lists qualities which believers should seek to obtain. In this progression of thought, believers’ knowledge of Christ and possession of his promises show that we are justified, and on the basis of this fact, God gives us what we need for sanctification (life and godliness) so that we are able to participate in the divine nature and to gain the qualities Peter mentions.

Orthodoxy’s failure to distinguish adequately between justification and sanctification and its lack of emphasis on the former is related to its understanding of grace. We have noticed that Eastern Christendom regards grace as the energies of God which are communicated to people and which deify them. This idea accurately reflects part of Paul’s teaching on grace.18 The ‘grace gifts’ (the Greek word translated ‘gifts’ is from the same root as the word for grace) of which Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 are actually ‘grace powers’, abilities which come from the Holy Spirit who is resident in the believer. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul credits his apostolic achievements to ‘the grace of God that was with me’, perhaps indicating that God’s grace is a spiritual power which works through him. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God’s answer to Paul’s plea that the thorn in his flesh be removed is, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. These passages show that there is a sense in which grace is a power or energy which God gives a believer.

Nevertheless, this is not the only sense of the word ‘grace’ in Paul’s writings. Rather, ‘grace’ is used primarily to indicate the givenness of salvation. God gives salvation freely to sinners who can do nothing to deserve it, and ‘grace’ indicates the unmerited nature of God’s act. This use of the word ‘grace’ is perhaps clearest in Ephesians 2:1–10, in which Paul twice affirms. ‘It is by grace you have been saved’ (vv. 5, 8). The perfect tense of the verb in these verses indicates both that the readers’ salvation is already accomplished (justification) and that its effects (Christian living and sanctification) continue. The overall context emphasises believers’ unworthiness for salvation and inability to save ourselves: we were dead but God made us alive (vv. 1, 5): salvation is not from us (v. 8). Thus, to say that we have been saved by grace means that God has accepted us and made us alive even though we did not deserve this gift and could do nothing to obtain it on our own. This is also the sense in which Paul uses the word ‘grace’ in Romans 5:2, Ephesians 1:5–6, Titus 2:11, and other passages dealing with salvation.

The lack of emphasis in Orthodox theology on this aspect of grace contributes to the Eastern failure to stress the nature of salvation as a free gift. This in turn leads to a failure to distinguish between justification as God’s free acceptance of unworthy sinners when we begin to believe, and sanctification as the process of becoming righteous, a process which involves human effort. While the emphasis on the process of deification itself is appropriate, the lack of stress on the event which begins that process results in a significantly distorted view of Christian life.

Concluding Comments

This article has brought to light several areas of disagreement between evangelicals and the Orthodox. In fact, it is possible that some readers will wonder why I have let a number of Eastern ideas (such as the concept that God is powerless in the face of human freedom or that the sacraments convey grace) go largely without comment. However, I have attempted to show that the heart of our evangelical disagreement with Orthodoxy does not lie in these areas. In fact, these are issues on which there is disagreement within Western evangelicalism as well, not simply between Westerners and Easterners. Rather, I believe that the major difference between Eastern Orthodoxy and virtually all forms of evangelicalism lies in the relation between justification and sanctification and Orthodoxy’s lack of emphasis on the distinction between the two.

Of course, most Orthodox people, especially Eastern Europeans for whom Orthodoxy is a part of their culture but who may have only very marginal involvement in the church themselves, will not have a clear understanding of the Eastern doctrine of salvation. (For example, I had been living in the former Soviet Union for several years before I ever heard an Orthodox person use the word ‘deification’.) However, Orthodox doctrine is likely to impact people by giving them a sense that they need to perfect themselves in order to have complete communion with God. For many people who are only loosely affiliated with Orthodoxy, this idea may take the form of nothing stronger than a sense that taking the Eucharist and pursuing good works are desirable things to do. But for others (especially those who are not believers but who have a strong spiritual hunger), the emphasis on salvation as theosis can lead to a great deal of guilt and frustration over their seeming inability to perfect themselves enough to gain union and fellowship with God. (I have known several people for whom this was the case.)

Obviously, such people do not need primarily to hear that the sacraments do not convey deification or that human effort is insufficient in obtaining salvation. What they need to hear first is the message of justification. Union with God is not the entirety of the Bible’s depiction of salvation; a major part (which is likely to be unfamiliar to most Eastern Europeans or even to Westerners from Orthodox backgrounds) is God’s willingness to grant people justification as a gift. When we explain this idea, we need to be careful not to express it simply in terms of a change of legal status or position before God, a declaration that one is ‘not guilty’, rather than ‘guilty’. Such terminology is certainly accurate, but it does not express all that the Bible means by justification, and it is difficult for an Easterner, with a non-legal mindset, to grasp. Instead, we would do well to emphasise the personal aspect of justification as God’s acceptance of sinners into fellowship with himself, even though we are not perfect. Such acceptance does not need to wait until the completion of a long process of deification. Instead, through his Son Jesus Christ, God has already accomplished all that he requires in order to accept people. It remains simply to receive this gift of God’s acceptance by faith in Christ in order to begin experiencing now the joy of fellowship with him. This fellowship, which begins at the inception of faith, is the basis for pursuing a life of Christ-likeness, not the result of completing the process of becoming like Christ.

Recommended Reading

I list the following books in the order in which I would suggest that a person with little prior knowledge of Orthodoxy read them.

Ugolnik, Anthony. The Illuminating Icon. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1989.

Anthony Ugolnik (born in 1944) is a second-generation Russian-American who has been a life-long Russian Orthodox, but who fought in Vietnam and now teaches English literature at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. As a result, he understands both East and West very well and is in an excellent position to explain them to each other. His major argument in this fascinating book is that the Eastern and Western (specifically, Russian and American) ways of viewing reality are both culturally conditioned and are appropriate in their own contexts. Westerners understand reality in terms of wrestling meaning from a text, whereas Easterners see the world in terms of the interrelation of visual and sensory images. While I do not agree with Ugolnik’s assumption that culture is necessarily neutral and that Eastern and Western understandings of reality are equally valid, this book is extremely helpful in understanding the differing mindsets which Westerners and Easterners bring to Christian faith.

Ware, Kallistos. The Orthodox Church. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1963.

This book, which has been revised several times (most recently in 1993) since the publication of the first edition, is probably the first book to which Westerners turn as they begin to read Eastern Orthodox theology. Ware (born in 1934) is an Englishman who converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism in 1958 and has since become a monk and a bishop, as well as a lecturer on Eastern theology and liturgy at Oxford. He offers a fairly detailed history of Eastern Christendom and many of the disputes which separated East and West. Because of his Western heritage, he is able to explain these disputes in ways which are comprehensible to Westerners, even if they are new to Orthodoxy.

Ouspensky, Leonid, and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. Revised Edition. Tr. G.E.H. Palmer and E. Kadloubovsky. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1982.

Ouspensky (1902–1987) and Lossky (1903–1958) were both members of the Parisian community which was the mainstay of twentieth-century Russian Orthodox thought after the Bolshevik Revolution forced its greatest thinkers out of Russia. Within that community, Ouspensky distinguished himself as an iconographer (an artist who actually paints the icons) and scholar of iconographic theology, and Lossky was widely regarded as the twentieth century’s greatest Russian Orthodox theologian. In this book, the two offer a very readable defence of icons, as well as a theologically developed explanation of their significance in the life of the Orthodox Church. The book includes an icon-by-icon description of the layout of a typical Orthodox church building, a description that enables the reader to understand the overall impression which a knowledgeable Orthodox believer would gain through worship. It also includes detailed analyses of different types of icons in order to show the way iconographic tradition captures the qualities of those deified saints whom the images represent. For a Western reader who has difficulty seeing icons as anything but idols, this book is a needed corrective, providing an excellent statement of the theologically mature Eastern approach to icons.

Meyendorff, John. Catholicity and the Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983.

Meyendorff (1926–1992) was also a part of the Parisian community and was educated at the theological institute of St. Sergius, a major centre of Russian Orthodox thought and scholarship since its founding in 1925. After he emigrated to America, he became professor of church history and patristics at St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Seminary in New York, where he later served as dean. Meyendorff gives a good introduction to the Orthodox understanding of the church, including a significant discussion of the church as the action of the Holy Spirit. He also explains the historical basis for the organisation and structure of the Orthodox Church.

Schmemann, Alexander. Sacraments and Orthodoxy. New York: Herder & Herder, 1965.

Schmemann (1921–1983), like Meyendorff, was educated at St. Sergius’ in Paris and later taught liturgical theology at St. Vladimir’s in New York. He explains very clearly the sacramental nature of the church by means of a thorough discussion of the Eucharist and briefer discussions of the other sacraments. His major theme is the joy to which the church is called, a joy that is most fully realised in the Eucharist. This book has been republished under the title For the Life of the World.

Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Greenwood, SC: The Attic Press, Inc., 1973.

This book is somewhat difficult reading, but it is one of the most significant studies in this century on the apophaticism of Eastern theology and the mystical understanding of deification. After a person has some exposure to Orthodoxy, it will be very helpful in enabling him or her to appreciate the mysterious atmosphere which dominates Eastern Christendom.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1985.

The liturgy is, of course, the expression of Orthodox tradition which has the greatest influence on faithful Orthodox laypeople. This edition includes the Greek text and a modern English translation on parallel pages. In addition to the text of the liturgy itself, the book contains the order of worship for several special services, as well as the Scripture readings for particular days.


1 V. Lossky. In the Image and Likeness of God, ed. J.H. Erickson (Crestwood. NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), p. 109.

2 C. Stavropoulos, Partakers of the Divine Nature, tr. S. Harakas (Minneapolis; Light and Life Publishing Co., 1976), p. 29.

3 L. Ouspensky, Theology of the Icon (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 215.

4 V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Greenwood, South Carolina: Attic Press, 1973), p. 172.

5 C. Stavropoulos, p. 32.

6 Ibid., pp. 37–38.

7 J. Meyendorff, Catholicity and the Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983), p. 28.

8 S.N. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church (London: Centenary Press, 1935), pp. 55–56.

9 C. Stavropoulos, p. 33 (emphasis his).

10 S.N. Bulgakov, p. 127.

11 V. Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, tr. 1. & I. Kasarcodi-Watson (Crestwood. NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 73 (emphasis his).

12 G.V. Florovsky, Collected Works, Vol. X: The Byzantine Ascetic and Spiritual Fathers (Vadez, Germany: Buechervertriesbanstalt, 1987), p. 31.

13 M. Aghiorgoussis, ‘Orthodox Soteriology’, in J. Meyendorff & R. Tobias, eds., Salvation in Christ: A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), pp. 48–49.

14 G.V. Florovsky, The Byzantine Ascetic and Spiritual Fathers, p. 30.

15 N. Zernov, Eastern Christendom: A Study of the Origin and Development of the Eastern Orthodox Church(London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1961), p. 235.

16 S.N. Bulgakov, pp. 208–209.

17 There is a significant textual problem in Rom. 5:1. Many manuscripts read ‘let us have peace with God’ instead of ‘we have peace with God’. (In Greek, the difference between these two is only one letter, and mistakes in copying the manuscripts could easily have been made.) However, the translators of the KJV, RSV, NASB, and NIV all adopt the reading ‘we have peace with God’, as do the editors of the latest edition of the Greek NT. Moreover, the Russian Synodal translation of the Bible also reads ‘we have peace with God’. In light of this last fact, it is unlikely that Orthodox scholars would opt for the alternate reading in an attempt to find support for their understanding of justification.

18 Of the 152 uses of the word ‘grace’ in the NT. 101 are found in Paul’s writings. Moreover, many of the non-Pauline uses simply reflect the secular use of the word to mean ‘favour’. Thus, the bulk of the theologically significant uses of the word come in Paul’s letters.

Donald Fairbairn

Donald Fairbairn
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA