Grace and Christology in the Early Church

By Donald Fairbairn | Go to book overview

3 Grace as the Sharing of Divine Communion in Cyril's Early Writings

The concept of grace that lies at the heart of Cyril of Alexandria's christology stands in marked contrast to that of Theodore and Nestorius. Rather than viewing grace as God's giving power, assistance, and co-operation to help people progress towards the second katastasis, Cyril understands it primarily as God's giving himself to humanity, and a dominant (perhaps the dominant) theme of his thought is the idea that we become gods and sons of God by grace. Ps. 82: 6 (81: 6 in LXX) and 2 Pet. 1: 4 loom large in his writings, 1 and Cyril sees salvation as deification. However, to say that human beings become gods and partake of the divine nature raises the urgent question of what it means for God to give us himself. In this chapter and the next, I will examine this question and its implications for Cyril's christology.

I will begin by looking at the structure of Cyril's soteriology, that is, his understanding of salvation largely as a restoration to the condition in which humanity was originally created. I will then consider various aspects of divine life that Cyril believes God shares with us as he gives himself to us. After discussing these relatively clear aspects of Cyril's thought, I will spend most of this chapter examining what he means by divine sonship, which is the heart of his idea of grace and the primary gift that God gives us in salvation. In doing this, I will use those writings that predate the outbreak of the Nestorian controversy, and then in Ch. 4 I will turn to Cyril's writings from the controversy itself, in order to demonstrate the close connection between his idea of

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