Divine filiation is the Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God by nature, and when Christians are redeemed by Jesus they become sons (and daughters) of God by adoption. Because of its Biblical roots, this doctrine is held by most Christians,〔Westminster Confession, http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html?body=/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_XII.html〕〔Book of Concord, http://bookofconcord.org/sd-righteousness.php paragraphs 4, 9, 10, and 25〕 but the phrase "divine filiation" is used primarily by Catholics. This doctrine is also referred to as divine sonship.
Divine filiation builds on other Christians doctrines. In the doctrine of the Trinity, God the Son is the Eternal Word spoken by God the Father. The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that around 2000 years ago, God the Son assumed a human nature, "became flesh and dwelt among us" () as Jesus of Nazareth.
Divine filiation is the centerpiece of the Gospel, the Good News: it is the reason why man was saved. And is also the purpose behind baptism.〔 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."
Divine filiation implies divinization: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God",〔Athanasius of Alexandria - (Explanation of "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." )〕 "sharers in the divine nature" (), other "Christs".〔St. Cyril of Jerusalem; CCC 2782〕
The Gospel of John 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." ()
Saint Paul unraveled this mystery further in his letter to the Romans: "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." ()
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)
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."
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.
Divine filiation, said John Paul II, constitutes the essence of the Good News. This is the purpose of Christ's redemption and through baptism, each Christian's fundamental state is being a child of God, according to Catholic doctrine.
According to John Paul II, Christians are supposed to "be always aware of the dignity of the divine adoption," so as to give meaning to what they do.〔 Thus, the Christian relates to God as a Father who is loving and provident, and becomes confident and daring as a Christian and apostle. Each Christian, whether a priest or a layperson, is called to a life of holiness, consistent with his membership to the family of God. The ordinary Christians are fully responsible for continuing the redeeming mission of Christ in the ordinary circumstances of their life.
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."〔
Divine filiation, said John Paul II, constitutes the essence of the Good News.〔 "What is the Good News for humanity?" is a question of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The reply to this question begins with Jesus Christ and ends with Galatians 4:45: God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Divine filiation is "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."
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. () brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ's brethren." (''CCC'' 654)
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