Becoming God

Becoming God: The Doctrine of Theosis in Nicholas of Cusa

Nancy J. Hudson
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt28533h
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Becoming God
    Book Description:

    The doctrine of theosis means a salvation that is the deification of the saved. The saved actually become God. This unusual doctrine lies at the heart of Nicholas of Cusa's (1401-1464) mystical metaphysics. It is here examined for the first time as a theme in its own right, along with its implications for Cusanus's doctrine of God, his theological anthropology, and his epistemology.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1612-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    Although it is an integral part of his theology, Nicholas of Cusa’s doctrine of salvation has received little scrutiny. The absence of a thorough understanding of theosis has contributed to frequent misunderstandings of his work. He has been interpreted as both a Scholastic and a fideist, a medieval and an early modern, a monist and a pantheist. He has also been suspected of Platonizing the Christian faith and hailed as one of the first theologians who stressed God’s immanence in creation. An examination of theosis, or becoming God, will help in the effort to correctly place Nicholas of Cusa and...

  6. 1 THEOSIS IN THE GREEK FATHERS AND PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS
    (pp. 11-44)

    The notion of theosis refers to an original and essential relationship between the divine and created orders: the finite returns to the Infinite from which it is derived. It describes a soteriology in which the individual not only is saved from death and eternal punishment, but is deified. Instead of merely living in eternal relationship with God, the individual reclaims the union with God that was lost or weakened by his earthly, finite, and sinful life. Some theologians conceive theosis as the destiny not just of the human being, but of the entire created order. God, who poured himself out...

  7. 2 THEOPHANY AS SELF-COMMUNICATION
    (pp. 45-88)

    In the Christological theology of Cusanus’s later texts, especially De filiatione Dei and De dato patris luminum, theosis is identified with divine Sonship. This chapter, however, is concerned with the broader issue of divine manifestation, or theophany, in creation as a background for Nicholas’s ultimately Trinitarian notion of theosis. His Christology, central to theosis, will be dealt with primarily in my fourth chapter and only briefly in this background discussion of theophany.¹ Theophany, in Cusanus’s thought, is expressed through the use of various metaphysical locutions. Each of his texts tends to focus on a particular schema: De docta ignorantia on...

  8. 3 TRANSCENDENCE AS THE DISTANCE BETWEEN KNOWER AND KNOWN
    (pp. 89-133)

    In Cusanus’s thought, the paradoxical counterpart of the divine presence in the created order that results from theophany is divine transcendence. The mystical union afforded by the intimacy of God’s manifestation is balanced by God’s distance. Cusanus’s epistemology is thus infused with a sense of divine mystery and is evidence that he was not a monist. This chapter will treat the mystery of God, the Trinity, and creation.

    Beginning with Aristotle and Theophrastus and developed by Plotinus and later Neoplatonists, true knowledge of something, especially of immaterial things, was not mere sensation but union with it. The modern assumption that...

  9. 4 THEOSIS
    (pp. 134-178)

    Nicholas of Cusa uses the Greek term theosis in a few key places in his works. In one of these, the first chapter of De filiatione Dei, he draws the connection between rationality and deification.¹

    But you yourself know that theosis is ultimacy of perfection, which is called both knowledge of God and of the Word and intuitive vision. Indeed, I believe it is the view of the theologian John that the Logos or Eternal Reason, which “in the beginning” was God “with God,” gave rational light to the human being when the Logos transmitted to the human spirit according...

  10. 5 THE PROBLEM OF INTELLECTUAL SALVATION
    (pp. 179-196)

    An analysis of Nicholas of Cusa’s doctrine of theosis would not be complete without addressing a controversy that concerns the systematic importance of the intellect to his thought. The essence of the problem consists of the strong influence of Neoplatonist philosophy on Nicholas’s theology. Although it was Pseudo-Dionysius whom Martin Luther accused of being plus platonisans quam christianisans, Nicholas of Cusa faced the same problems of intellectual salvation and the consequent privileging of the mind over the body.¹ Nicholas of Cusa’s mystical orientation and Neoplatonic background are strongly influenced by the conversation that his predecessors had with the Greek philosophy...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 197-202)

    A look at the notion of “theosis” in Cusanus’s philosophical and theological treatises shows that even those texts that deal primarily epistemological issues (De docta ignorantia, for instance) give clues to his metaphysics. The movement from cataphatic to negative and supereminent theology is driven by a certain understanding of human beings and God. It is only because we can theorize about the infinity of God that we can make statements about learned ignorance and the limitations of human rationality.

    Nicholas of Cusa stands at the very beginning of Renaissance thought, and thus the modern world. He makes claims of both...

  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 203-214)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 215-218)