What is the relationship between “participation in the Divine Nature” (II Peter 1:4) and the self-humbling of Christ (Philippians 2:7)? Part of the splendor of Christ, as described by Paul in his letter to the Philippians, is that Christ, “being found in appearance as a man, humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” Humility and obedience: self-emptying. Christ divested himself of the privilege of his Divinity, taking human form, entering so fully into the human experience to the point of becoming “obedient” to death.
Theosis, or deification, or divinization are all concepts that crop up again and again in the Christian mystery. We are not just called to be God’s servant or slave, but indeed to become “partakers” in God’s very nature. We abide in Christ as Christ abides in us. It is very tempting to see this “theosis” as getting in on how cool it must be to be Christ. To experience love like Christ loves; to be immersed in the wisdom of Christ; to know the joy that only Christ knows. It all sounds sweet and good.
But I think, perhaps, the real, ultimate, most important key to this mystical notion of theosis likes in this scriptural concept of kenosis. We are invited to participate in Christ’s self-emptying. We know Christ through adopting his freely chosen humility (down-to-earthiness).
What does this mean? We become partakers of the Divine Nature by surrendering all claim to our own “divinity.” The wisdom of Christ comes to us through the humility of our own unknowing. The joy of Christ is ours when we surrender our own claim to joy (which means — eek — being available to suffering). To experience the love of God, we must simply, lavishly, prodigally give it away.