Tuomo Mannermaa's Problematic Teaching Of Theosis

An Excerpt From:  
Curtis P. Giese, 2 Peter and Jude: Concordia Commentary - A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 64-65.

Since the latter part of the twentieth century, the work of Tuomo Mannermaa has played an important role in ecumenical discussions.  This Finnish Lutheran alleges to have found the teaching of theosis in Luther.  By making this claim, Mannermaa has hoped to forge closer ties between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy in ecumenical movements.  Mannermaa argues that Luther is indebted to Eastern church fathers for some of his vocabulary and thought regarding theosis.  According to Mannermaa, the baptized believer is saved by being credited with the righteousness of Christ through faith in the person and work of Christ, but salvation also involves an ontological change as one grasps the person of Christ himself. (See Marquardt, "Luther and Theosis")  Moreover, Mannermaa teaches that Christ took on sin for us, but only according to his human nature, and Christ then enables theosis, but only through his divine nature.  Thus, instead of focusing on the atoning work of Christ, Mannermaa is more concerned with the person of Christ.

Careful examination reveals that the position of Mannermaa skews the teaching of the Scriptures about the personal union of the divine and human natures in the one person of Christ.  Mannermaa also distorts the doctrine of Luther.  While the German reformer's expositions of Christology and soteriology occasionally included vocabulary that might be seen as amenable to the tenet of theosis or deification, Luther did not derive this vocabulary from the Eastern fathers, but rather from Western fathers such as Augustine and Bernard.  The definitions and frameworks that Luther uses do not support the Eastern doctrine of theosis.  Luther never argues for salvation as an ontological change in humanity.  Additionally, Luther's limited usage of this vocabulary occurs essentially in the early Luther, and thus it should not be cited to characterize Luther's mature theological reflections.  

The teaching of Mannermaa results in a defective Christology that separates the salvific acts of Christ in his divine nature from his human nature, and a subjective soteriology that robs the believer of the certainty of salvation through objective, forensic justification on account of the merit of Christ alone.  It also denigrates the dignity of human beings as creatures of God if the ultimate goal is to leave behind our humanity and become divine.  Therefore it is neither biblical nor Lutheran.

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