I wanted to say how much I've enjoyed the tenor and focus of this thread. It is managing to address issues in a very interesting manner.
In reading one of your recent posts, Richard, it struck me that some clarifications might be helpful - particularly in drawing connections between the themes of deification and creation.
Firstly, regarding the relationship of the human creature to the grace and life of God, you wrote:
Divine 'energy' (operation/function/functionality/manifestation) does not come to the body via the soul/spirit, as if the soul is a valve. The Divine Light unites with the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, equally and identically. The spirit does not mediate for the body, nor the body for the spirit or soul.
It is true that the communion of God and man takes place in the whole of the human creature, body and soul. However, the fathers are fairly strong in asserting that, in this communion, there is
a precedence of place given to the soul as the means by which
God's presence (usually understood, more concretely, as the Holy Spirit himself) is made manifest in the bodily creature. So while the end result (and I think this was what you were trying to convey) is that the whole man, body and soul, is deified in this communion, it is not, in fact, the common testimony of the fathers that the other part of your statement is true (the 'does not come to the body via the soul/spirit, as if the soul is a valve'). While the 'valve' language may be a touch modern, the notion that the soul is the means of communicating to the body the life of God is fairly standard patristic teaching.
A few examples to show this. There is a famous passage in St Irenaeus of Lyons:
As the body animated by the soul is certainly not itself the soul, but has fellowship with the soul as long as God desires, so also the soul herself is not life, but partakes in the life bestowed on her by God. Wherefore also the prophetic word declares of the first-formed, ‘He became a living soul’, teaching us that by participation in life the soul became alive. Thus the soul and the life which it possesses must be understood as separate existences. (On the refutation and overthrow of knowledge falsely so-called, 2.34.4)
Something similar is found in Tertullian of Carthage:
It is true that the ruling mind [synonymous in Tertullian here with the soul] easily communicates the gifts of the Spirit with its bodily habitation. (On patience, 13)
The idea is found in all manner of other early patristic writers. While the body and soul together form the human person, and the person is never truly human except in the reality of both, nonetheless each has different function. While not its only function / purpose, the soul nonetheless has as a 'distinguishing mark' this function as the means through which divine communion is wrought, bringing the Holy Spirit into the life of the whole man - through the soul to the body.
Most of the fathers identify this distinction in the biblical story of genesis, with the dust and breath of Genesis 2. God fashions the bodily element in man from the dust, and breathes into this dust the 'breath of life' (2.7) - which most early fathers identify as 'spiritual, but not the Spirit'; i.e. the soul, which is that which conveys into 'the dust' God's own life - the Person of the Spirit himself. And it is not the breath
that is the man or is divine in image: it is the whole
creation - dust and
breath - that images God's being and communion.
This relates to a point you made later in the same post:
our salvation is expressed at the end of the Liturgy: "We have seen the True Light … We worship the Undivided Trinity, This is our salvation/He has saved us". Our salvation is to become uncreated by grace.
In fact, the understanding of deification is precisely that it is not the becoming uncreated of the creature
, but the perfection of the creature's creatureliness in communion with the divine uncreatedness. Creature never becomes uncreated, by grace or by any other means. This is basically a 'gnostic' concept of deification: that it amounts, in the end, to a form of liberation from created nature and reality. But the Christian understanding of deification is, at its heart, the ultimate vindication and sanctification of creation as creation
, and particularly of the human as creature.
Communion and union are effected with the uncreated God; but the famous Cappadocian (and later Palamite) distinction between 'energy' and 'essence' was elaborated to maintain properly that the uncreated is always 'other'
to the creature, even if the 'other' is wholly identified with the person in union. God deifies the creature.
The deified person does not become uncreated through grace, but exhibits the perfect harmony and communion of creator and creature that was intended from the first movements of creation, when God establishes a (created) being to image his (uncreated) life.
This is not actually a tangent from a discussion on Genesis; it is the story of genesis, of coming-into-being, that firmly establishes the doctrine of deification as creation-orientated. When the so-called 'Gnostics' of the early centuries were widely promoting types of salvation that equated to a quasi-divinisation as 'spiritual liberation' from created, material reality, the early fathers responded by a dramatic hearkening to the various creation stories of Christianity - and that of Genesis in particular (bearing in mind that Genesis is only one creation story in the Christian corpus; others are found in Ezekiel, John, the Apocalypse, etc.). It is God's creating from dust
(matter, the substance of 'createdness'), that establishes firmly what divinisation is. Moreover, and yet more centrally, it is the testimony of the incarnate Christ through Genesis
, that clarifies this understanding. The incarnate Christ is of creaturely flesh
, of authentic human nature. And it is in this human, creaturely nature
that salvation is wrought - not by its abandonment or spiritualising transformation into the non-created. Christ rises bodily
from the tomb; the disciples touch his side and his hands.
That is likely more than enough for now. Again, I've very much enjoyed these postings.
INXC, Dcn Matthew