Phenomenal essay by Fr. Edmund Newey on the history of 17th century Anglican doctrines of theosis and the “‘Sacramental grammar’ of participative reason.”

The via media, in this interpretation, is neither an innovation nor a specifically Anglican achievement. It is, rather, a way of theology which seeks constantly to insist on mediation as central to the life of faith. By a simultaneous insistence both on middle terms, such as theosis and participative reason, and on the constitutive reality of the ontological difference between Creator and created, Christian doctrine can avoid modeling either a conflation of God and humanity which reduces the particularity of each, or an unbridgeable gulf between the two, overcome only by the power of the divine will. These false models are precisely those that Cudworth points to in his critique of Descartes, for whom ‘either all things must be done by fortuitous mechanism, or else God himself be brought immediately upon the stage for the solving of all phenomena.’ The former, pantheistic, course can be likened to a belief in grace inherent in humanity… the later resembles the voluntarist conception of God found in extreme Protestant theologies of imputed grace. The one road leads to pantheistic vitalism of Spinoza, the other to the collusive pairing of mechanism and voluntarism found in Mersenne and Boyle. In their resistance to either of these forms of unmediated grace – the former being an immanent, the latter a transcendent immediacy – the theologies of participation found in these seventeenth century Anglicans seek a middle road in which divine and human freedom are not in competition.

“The Form of Reason: Participation in the Work of Richard Hooker, Benjamin Wichcote, Ralph Cudworth, and Jeremy Taylor,” Modern Theology 18:1 (2002), 19-20.

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