FARMS Launches Occasional Papers Series
The Foundation launches a new series, the Occasional Papers, with the publication of "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," by Keith Edward Norman. The purpose of the series is to publish important articles and books on ancient studies that may lack marketability but are none-theless important scholarly works that present Latter-day Saint perspectives on antiquity.
Although there is no set schedule for publishing works in this series, FARMS plans to produce two or three volumes every year. According to series editor William J. Hamblin, these publications will include monographs, bibliographies, reprints, translations, theses or dissertations, and collections of articles that may not be currently available to most FARMS subscribers.
Norman's study of Athanasian soteriology, which is the first work in the series, was written as a dissertation for Duke University in 1980 and was previously available only through University Microfilms International or private photocopies. In this study, Norman examines St. Athanasius's views of deification, or the doctrine that "God became man in order that man might become God." Many scholars have dismissed this doctrine as a euphemism for humanity's immortality and fleshly incorruptibility in the resurrection. Norman argues, however, that Athanasius's idea of deification was that individuals could become like God in every way.
Norman begins by reviewing the history of the idea of deification. He shows that it did not originate with Athanasius, but came from earlier revealed texts and the writings of the church fathers. He then reconstructs the beliefs of Atha-nasius from diverse treatises. Athanasius taught that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God but turned away from that exalted birthright. Norman asserts that this set the stage for the Incarnation, in which human nature can be united with the very Logos of God.
The unification with Logos does not deify the individual, however. Athanasius exhorted Christians to imitate Christ through moral effort. According to Norman, only through a combination of the Incarnation and moral effort can humanity achieve its original destiny of deification. The ultimate goal is to become like God, with all of the attributes and qualities of Deity.
Norman also examines the inherent tension in this soteriology. Athanasius taught that Christians could be adopted as children of God through grace, but they could never achieve the same status as Christ because of the absolute metaphysical differences. Yet Athanasius's doctrine of deification held out the possibility of becoming like God as a goal for every faithful Christian. Athanasius never fully resolved these conflicting doctrines.
The study concludes with an examination of the history of the doctrine of deification after Athanasius. Norman argues that modern ignorance of this important patristic tenet, due in part to scholarly neglect, reflects an impoverishment of Christian life and hope.