The doctrines of divine participation and possession are key principles when it comes to the Christian life. This comes about by sanctifying grace, and through sanctifying grace we become partakers in the divine nature. The doctrines of participation and election are found in many places within sacred scripture. One such verse is 1 Corinthians 6:19 which states, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own” (NRSV)? The Gospel of John, other Pauline epistles, and the first letter of John also describe the indwelling of God.
The early church fathers taught that to participate and began when one is baptized (Gleason 126). This is when sanctifying grace takes over the soul. The unbaptized soul is not capable being possessed by the Divine, but at baptism we become “Christ-bearers” (Gleason 126). St. Augustine also echoes this idea of the indwelling of God. He makes the point that all of creation points to the glory and divinity of God. However, God only dwells in certain things. Those who are not Christians and are not in a state of grace are indwelled with Christ.
There was very little historical development from the end of the patristic era until the scholastic period. This is where St. Thomas Aquinas made the comparison with man and other parts of creation. Only man was created with in the image of God, with intelligence, and only man can be called sons of God and adopted through the gift of grace (Hardon Ch. 5). From there the Protestant reformers made taught the imputation of the merits of Christ and objected to the historic church teaching about perfection in the soul (Hardon Ch. 5). The Council of Trent tried to correct the damage done by the reformers. Trent reiterated church teaching and stated that the baptized were reborn and become friends of God (Hardon Ch. 5).
Gleason, R.W. Grace. New York: Shead & Ward, 1962.
Hardon, John. History and Theology of Grace. Ann Arbor, MI: Sapientia Press, 2005.