That was a misleading title to this post. But I found myself driving through town yesterday and caught sight of a bumpersticker (how can you not – that’s what they’re there for) – which said, “I am a Goddess.” Of course the first thought that comes to mind is, “Which one?” But I know that’s a silly question and I think I understand what the driver meant by her bumpersticker and I wish her well on her spiritual journey. It’s just not the same journey that I am on.
Orthodoxy is no stranger to terms such as “theosis” or “divinization.” Theologically we believe it is the proper end of man that he be united to God. As St. Irenaeus and many other Fathers of the Church have said, “God became man so that man could become god.”
But I cannot imagine having an Orthodox bumpersticker that read, “I am a god.” Or even, “I’m going to be a god.”
I could imagine having an Orthodox bumpersticker that read, “I am the worst of sinners,” except for the fact that the bumpersticker would draw undue attention to the fact and would only produce pride. But I digress.
There is no Orthodox spiritual teaching that would have us reach upward towards divinization. The path to God does not go in that direction. The path to God is clearly laid out for us in the second chapter of Philippians (5-11):
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The way up is always down. The way to fullness is always emptiness. The way to exaltation is always humiliation. You have to lose your life in order to save it.
But these sorts of things make for poor bumperstickers. We have one bumpersticker on one of our vehicles. It has the verse from Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” It has no elaboration. I bought it in a very pro-life mood. It’s on my wife’s car.