Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Divine filiation

One of the contributions to Wikipedia.

Divine filiation is the condition of being a child of God, and thus a sharer in the life and role of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God and Redeemer of all men, according to Christian doctrine.

This is the fundamental state of each Christian due to baptism, and the purpose of Christ's redemption, according to Catholic doctrine.

Divine filiation implies divinization: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God,"(St. Athanasius), "sharers in the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)

Christians are supposed to "be always aware of the dignity of the divine adoption," so as to give meaning to what they do.[1] Thus, the Christian relates to God as a Father who is loving and provident, and becomes confident and daring as a Christian and apostle.

Divine filiation is the centerpiece of the Gospel: it is the reason why man was saved. And is also the purpose behind baptism[2] According to John Paul II, divine filiation is "the deepest mystery of the Christian vocation" and "the culminating point of the mystery of our Christian life...we share in salvation, which is not only the deliverance from evil, but is first of all the fullness of good: of the supreme good of the sonship of God."[3]

* 1 Basis
* 2 Meaning and significance
* 3 General consequences for Christian life
* 4 Piety of children
* 5 Responsibility for the Christian mission
* 6 Theologians on divine filiation
* 7 Footnotes
* 8 References


The very first point of the Catholic Catechism states that God's "plan of sheer goodness" is oriented towards man's divine filiation: "In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life." (CCC 1; italics added)

The Gospel of John also begins by pointing to what Jesus brought: "to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God."

Benedict XVI explained that "The Fathers of the Church say that when God created man 'in his image' he looked toward the Christ who was to come, and created man, according to the image of the 'new Adam,' the man who is the criterion of the human... Jesus is 'the Son' in the strict sense - he is of one substance with the Father. He wants to draw all of us into his humanity and so into this Sonship, into his total belonging to God."[4]

The Fathers of the Church describe Jesus's work of salvation as a restoration of humanity's original dignity-- man made in the image of Christ, as children of God.

According to John Paul II in Redemptor hominis, his first encyclical, at the deepest root of the redemption of the world is the fullness of justice in the heart of Jesus Christ "in order that it may become justice in the hearts of many human beings, predestined from eternity in the Firstborn Son to be children of God and called to grace, called to love."[1]

Divine filiation is the "the deepest mystery of the Christian vocation: in the divine plan, we are indeed called to become sons and daughters of God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit."[5]

Thus, the Catechism states: "By his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by His Resurrection, He opens for us the way to a new life. [Justification] brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ's brethren." (CCC 654)

Meaning and significance

Christians are said to be children of God because they have the same nature as God the Father. St. Peter referred to Christians as "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Pt 1:4)

Thus, the Fathers of the Church referred to the deification or divinization of the baptized. We are made gods, said St. Augustine.

St. Thomas Aquinas explained the terminology of the Fathers that Christians are "sons in the Son." He said that Christians enter the trinity through the Son, and they "have a certain participation in the filiation of the Second Person."

Thus, John Paul II said that divine filiation is "the culminating point of the mystery of our Christian life. In fact, the name 'Christian' indicates a new way of being, to be in the likeness of the Son of God. As sons in the Son, we share in salvation, which is not only the deliverance from evil, but is first of all the fullness of good: of the supreme good of the sonship of God."[3]

Divine filiation is at the core of Christianity. "Our divine filiation is the centerpiece of the Gospel as Jesus preached it. It is the very meaning of the salvation He won for us. For he did not merely save us from our sins; He saved us for sonship." [2]

Thus the incarnation and the redemption is for this:

The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."[St. Irenaeus] "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."[St. Athanasius] "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."[St. Thomas Aquinas] (CCC 460)

The Christian then is another "Christ": "We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: .. through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other "Christs." "...you who have become sharers in Christ are appropriately called "Christs." (CCC 2782)

The divinization of man through sonship is real and metaphysical. It is not metaphorical, i.e. a mere comparison with a real thing that is similar. In the Christian religion, God is really Father, and does not just act like human fathers. And God really made us share in his nature, and thus we are really children. Not in the same level as the Only Begotten Son, but truly sharing in his filiation and his divinity.[2]

And so St. John the Evangelist said with a tone of amazement, "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (1 John 3:1)

General consequences for Christian life

Since divine filiation is fundamental for the Christian life, a foundational point, then the various aspects of the Christian life follow from it, as shown by the frequent allusions of the Catechism to divine filiation:

* Abandonment to God the Father's providence, since Jesus said that "your heavenly Father knows what you need." (Mt 6:31; CCC 305) Thus the Benedict XVI said in Deus caritas est, "Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, [Christians] remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible."[6]
* Becoming child-like in piety, because it is a condition for entering the Kingdom. (Mt 18:3-4; CCC 526)
* Confidence to call God "Father" and asking him for gifts. "Our Father: at this name love is aroused in us . . . and the confidence of obtaining what we are about to ask.... What would he not give to his children who ask, since he has already granted them the gift of being his children?"
* Viewing the liturgy as "a meeting of God's children with thier Father, in Christ and the Holy Spirit." (CCC 736; 1153)
* Loving the Church, for God "gathers all his children into unity." (CCC 845), and the Church is "the house of all God's children, open and welcoming". (CCC 1186). And with this the Christian keeps the communion of the saints. (CCC1474)
* Giving importance to baptism, by which the Christian become a child of God. (CCC 1243). The Christian should realize the "greatness of God's gift... by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians become children of God, partakers of the divine nature." (CCC 1692)
* Playing the role of the prodigal son. Because the "new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin," (CCC 1420) the Christian has the sacrament of healing called the sacrament of Reconciliation which "bring about restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God." (CCC 1468) "The whole of the Christian life," says John Paul II in his first encyclical Redemptor hominis, "is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, especially for the "prodigal son", we discover anew each day."[1]
* Living in imitation of Christ: "Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be "imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love" by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the "mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus," and by following his example." (CCC 1694)
* Loving freedom (CCC 1828)
* Practising obedience. "Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered. How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience - we who in him have become children of adoption." (CCC 2825)

Piety of children

An important consequence of divine filiation is the prayer of Christians as children of God. Prayer is at the center of the life of Christ, the Son of God. Benedict XVI says that the person of Jesus is prayer. The "fundamental insight" of the Sermon of the Mount is, he says, "that man can be understood only in the light of God, and that his life is made righteous only when he lives it in relation to God." Thus, Jesus, after praying and after being asked by the disciples how to pray, teaches the Our Father, a prayer which aims to "configure [man] to the image of the Son," and trains him in the "inner attitude of Jesus."[4]

"Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more." (CCC 2712 )

Responsibility for the Christian mission

Since Christians are other "Christs", they are co-redeemers with him, and have the same role as Jesus Christ-- to save other men, and make them children of God. "As members, they share a common dignity from their rebirth in Christ, they have the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection... Because of the one dignity flowing from Baptism, each member of the lay faithful, together with ordained ministers and men and women religious, shares responsibility for the Church's mission."[7]

Because the laity, ordinary Christians are children of God, they have a specific role to play in the world: "By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. . . . It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and maybe to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer. The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. This initiative is a normal element of the life of the Church: Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church." (CCC 898-99)

Theologians on divine filiation

The Fathers of the Church have emphasized the meaning of salvation in terms of divinization and divine filiation.

Among contemporary authors, Scott Hahn, an American theologian and convert from Calvinism has written much about filiation in the context of the theology of the covenant. He sees the covenant as a real family bond. He has also written about filiation in the context of his journey as a member of Opus Dei, whose founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, is a leading writer on this topic. Escriva saw filiation as the "foundation of the Christian life," and had a mystical experience in early years of Opus Dei (1931) that led him to emphasize this aspect of Christian life. Fernando Ocariz, who wrote God as Father (1998) is another theologian who has several works on divine filiation.


1. ^ a b c John Paul II (1979). Encyclical Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of man). Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
2. ^ a b c Scott Hahn (2002). First Comes Love: Finding Your Family in the Church and the Trinity. Doubleday Religion.
3. ^ a b John Paul II (1997). Message for World Day of Peace. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
4. ^ a b Benedict XVI (2007). Jesus of Nazareth. Doubleday.
5. ^ John Paul II (15 August 1990). Message to Youth. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
6. ^ Benedict XVI (2006publisher=Libreria Editrice Vaticana). Deus caritas est.
7. ^ John Paul II (1988). Christifideles laici. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.


* John Paul II, Message to Youth, 15 August 1990
* John Paul II on the Millenium and God as Father by Thomas McGovern
* World Day of Peace 1997


Kevin Aldrich said...

Are you the original author of this post? It is identical to the one in Wikipedia and I'd like to cite the original author if possible. I would like to use the material on the consequences of divine filiation.

Raul said...

Hi Kevin,

Yes I am the original author, creator of the article. You can find the early history of the article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Divine_filiation&offset=&limit=500&action=history

I write as Marax. Some people have added somethings but I think the substance is the same as the original.


Kevin Aldrich said...

Thanks, Raul! It is excellent. I will be incorporating a summary of some of the consequences you identify in the Doctrinal Homily Outline for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time which will be posted here after the 9th (maybe the 10th for you since you are in the Philippines):


Raul said...

Many thanks, Kevin. Sorry,l I just saw your last post now. :)