Anthroposis (A Reflection)

VulnerabilityIn this past year serving as a chaplain at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, I have learned to be more transparent, to be real and present to the veterans in order that I may make a spiritual connection.  This process of theological discovery that I have engaged in over the past several months is one of becoming more and more human through my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Though I cannot take credit for the term, this development is known as anthroposis, or the process of becoming truly and fully human (Humanization).

Anthroposis should not be seen in opposition to the notion of theosis (Divinization), which the Eastern Orthodox define as the cathartic process of attaining to the likeness of or union with God.[1]  We are created in God’s own image; “He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Gen. 1:27).  So, for the Eastern Orthodox theosis is the process of re-appropriating the divine image through Christ.

Nevertheless, Christ condescends to become human, the Divine transforms into the image and likeness of man in order to identify with and save mankind.  Thus, Christ is the archetypical human, and through His indwelling and transforming Spirit I become like Him, not in His deity, but in the true nature of godly humanity which He represents.  Becoming more human is to become more like Christ, who “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). 

The key to anthroposis is humility, or practicing “stark, raving honesty.”[2]   The more I allow myself to be authentic and vulnerable, not hiding my emotions, faults, or the shame that comes from my sinfulness, the more I can become fully human.   In my chaplaincy work it is not my theological knowledge or my ministerial experience that will connect me to the patient/veteran/soldier, but through my brokenness made perfect in God’s power (2 Cor. 12:9).  Therefore, all my faults, my scars, my foibles, and the darkness in my heart and mind are exposed for the world to see, in order that I may become like Christ and help others connect with God.

As a chaplain, even an evangelical and catholic one, my patient-centered ministry requires me to be unconditionally accepting of the patient/veteran/soldier where they are at, not what I want for them or who they could become.  I am reminded of the lyrics from a recent song by JJ Heller, “Who will love me for me, not for what I have done or what I’ll become.”[3] This song reminds me that I am the object of God’s unconditional love and so are all other people.   Being a proponent of anthroposis, that all of humanity is in the process of becoming, and that God breathed His Ruach, His Spirit, into each human being, informs my wide and inclusive model for ministry without compromising my core theological beliefs that  Jesus Christ is Lord.

© Paul Dordal, 2013

[1] See for more info on theosis

[2] Quoted from Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust, 2000

[3] From JJ Hellers song, What Love Really Means, 2008


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