Desiring the End(s) of Salvation

J. Todd Billings

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. –C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

In my theology classes, I often assign works from 4th- and 5th-century theologians debating about Christ and the trinity. These theologians stand in awe before the reality of the Triune God – they stutter with words of poetry and praise as they worship Christ the Lord. They meditate on the astonishing scriptural truth that we have been made adopted sons and daughters of the Almighty King, through the power of the Spirit.
Reformed theologians do not hesitate in speaking about the uniting communion that we experience now – and will experience in fullness – in Christ.
In reading these sources, students are often surprised – even scandalized – to read statements such as “God became human so that we might become God.” Isn’t that … blasphemy? Don’t Christians believe that it is sinful to ascend to the place of God? I love it when they ask these questions. I point back to the text, the way in which the patristic authors clarify and unpack the phrase: that “becoming God” doesn’t mean becoming absorbed into the Godhead, like a drip of water into the ocean. In Christian teaching, it is not an attempt to usurp the place of the Creator by creatures. Rather, in a hyperbolic turn of phrase, the patristic writers point to the incredible way in which the ends of salvation are shaped not so much by the first Adam as by the second: God became human in Jesus Christ – the Son of God – so that we might become sons and daughters of the Most High. Salvation does not just “fix” sin and the fall. It is higher, bigger, more breathtaking than that: through our union with Christ, the Son, we come to share in his royal identity and inheritance, as adopted children of the King through the Spirit. We are “deified” insofar as we are able to be fully conformed to the glorified Christ, in blessed communion with the Triune God.



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