Periodical Reviews -- By: Carisa A. Ash

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 173:691 (Jul 2016)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Carisa A. Ash

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Carisa A. Ash


“The Doctrine of Theosis: A Transformational Union with Christ,” Michael W. Austin, Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care 8 (2015): 172-86.

Austin is professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. He argues that “a revival of theotic language would be beneficial to the church at large, and especially the evangelical church given its turn towards Christ’s call to discipleship as a part of what it means to be Christian” (p. 172). He briefly responds to the objection that theosis is limited to the Eastern Orthodox tradition by referencing several historical figures by name, without any reference to their writings, as well as citing three contemporary evangelicals, but without interacting with their writings. Readers will likely want more historical and theological support than is given here. When in the next section, “Theosis: A Very Brief Introduction,” Austin merely quotes 2 Peter 1:3-11 and claims, “The doctrine of theosis received important biblical justification” in this text, readers will wish he had explained his interpretation and had provided exegetical support for the claim (p. 173). Surely, writing to admittedly skeptical evangelicals warrants more support than simply quoting a proof-text, especially since most evangelical exegetes have not interpreted Peter’s words as support for theosis. Austin seems to acknowledge these criticisms when he observes, “The foregoing quick historical summary yields more questions than answers” (p. 175), but he does not adequately address those questions; in fact, he merely acknowledges that they exist.

Austin asserts that “theosis can be thought of as a progressively transformational union with Christ” (p. 174). That the Scriptures affirm the believer’s union with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit producing progressive sanctification is an uncontroversial claim. That this is what the Eastern Orthodox tradition means by theosis is not clear to this reader. Austin fails to defend the historical understanding of theosis and thus fails to support his thesis and his interpretation.

In the conclusion, Austin again claims, “At its heart, theosis is best understood as a transformative union with Christ, made possible by God’s grace and power in the life of the cooperative believer. In other words, theosis is a progressively transformational and loving union between the believer and Christ” (p. 186). He continues, “Christians should embrace and

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