Scraps II

October 30, 2010

Just some bits from two of the most well-known representatives of the Nouvelle Théologie, namely, Fr. Louis Bouyer of the Oratory, and Henri cardinal de Lubac, S.J.

Fr. Bouyer, in his The Meaning of Sacred Scripture (p. 151) writes

“before examining this singular expression [see God only “from behind.”], let us notice how, in this page in which the divine transcendence finds one of its most exacting formulas, the antropomorphisms, far from disappearing, accumulate. Read the rest of this entry »

Saint Gregory Palamas: Time Traveller Extraordinaire

August 10, 2010

“Then they asked, ‘Is it altogether necessary to speak of wills and energies on the subject of Christ?’ He answered, ‘Altogether necessary if we want to worship in truth, for no being exists without natural activity. Indeed, the holy Fathers say plainly that it is impossible for any nature at all to be or to be known apart from its essential activity. And if there is no such thing as a nature to be or to be known without its essential characteristic activity, how is it possible for Christ to be or be known as truely God and man by nature without the divine and human activities? For according to the Fathers, the lion who loses his roaring ability is no lion at all, and a dog without the power to bark is not a dog.  And any other thing which has lost something naturally constiuative of it is not any more what it was.’”

The Trial of Maximus the Confessor, 23

Saint Cyril on Divine Simplicity

July 16, 2009

Bekkos over at De Unione Ecclesiarum has posted some citations from Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Since he has the Greek text there I won’t bother reproducing it here. Peter seems to think that Cyril’s position on simplicity, particularly with respect to the divine will and being are isomorphic with that of Aquinas rather than say Palamas. I don’t think that’s the case, but let’s take a look at the passages.

Hermias. And how, they say, is the divine simple if, in existence on the one hand and in will on the other, it is conceived of separately? For then it would be composite and as though it existed, in a way, out of parts that had come together into a closer unity.

Cyril. Therefore, since, in your view, the divine is simple and exists above all composition (and this view of yours is correct), his will is nothing other than he himself. And if someone says “will,” he indicates the nature of God the Father.

 Hermias. So it would appear.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Dialogues on the Trinity (Ad Hermiam), book V; SC 237 (de Durand, ed.), p. 290; PG 75, 945 C.

 With the first citation here I’d like to call your attention to a few things. First, the Palamite position doesn’t deny that God is simple, but rather denies a specific understanding of divine simplicity so that references employing terms such as those above will be inadequate until a demonstration is forthcoming showing what concept is picked out by said terms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anglicans In Exile

March 8, 2009

I wrote this a long time ago, before this blog existed when I was writing on Kimel’s Pontificationsblog. I get requests for it and it is easier to just post it than to send out emails over and over again. Since it was originally a blog post, I have cleaned it up a bit and made it more or less a stand alone piece.

Anglicans in Exile

As a former Anglican myself I can sympathize with the troubles of my former brethren. On the one hand they do not see any good reason to abandon the tradition as it was handed on to them. Their problem is that they seem to be forced to leave the communion, but not the tradition that they are in. It is this loyalty that keeps them in place. Certainly loyalty has its limits and there is eventually a point where someone has to jump ship. I agree with many people who have already articulated the idea that going to Rome the eternal city (because after all, there’s always Rome!) because of problems in Anglicanism seems less than justified. By the same token I would agree with them that going to Constantinople for the same reason also lacks justification on that basis alone. But still, there is the pressing reality of what is going on in ECUSA and even in England. These are something like William James’ “forced decisions.” One doesn’t have eternity (let alone the brains) to study through all of the issues completely and yet one is compelled to make some decision. You have to dosomething. If Anglicanism does recover, it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better, at least in the long run. As an Anglican I never found a move to either body justified on strictly the basis of the quackadoxy of Spong or other individuals. What one needs is a positive reason that will tip the scale in favor of one body or another. And a positive reason that also cuts against Anglicanism would be even better since it would motivate one to leave Anglicanism for some other reason other than the presence of quackadoxy. Such a reason would allay the fears that one is being disloyal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Political Hesychasm: the thought of Fr. Johns S. Romanides and Christos Yannaras

May 23, 2008

The Revival of Political Hesychasm in Greek Orthodox Thought: A Study of the Hesychast Basis of the Thought of John S. Romanides and Christos Yannaras

This looks very interesting. The man is a convert to the Orthodox faith and was heavily influenced by these men. I’m happy to see someone writing in a very positive manner about Father John Romanides. It’s about time.

Don’t know how long this dissertation will be up on Baylor’s page, but get it while you can.

Essence and Energies in the Fathers

January 20, 2008

“Is it not ridiculous to say that the creative power is an essence, and similarly, that providence is an essence, and foreknowledge, simply taking every energy as essence?” Basil the Great, Contra Eunomius, I.8, PG 29, 528B

“The energies are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His energies, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence.  His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.” Basil the Great, Epistle 234

“And if we may reckon that the Cause of our existence did not come to the creation of man out of necessity but by benevolent choice, once more we say that we have seen God in this way too, arriving at an understanding of his goodness, not of his being…He who is by nature invisible becomes visible in his operations, being seen in certain cases by the properties he possesses.” Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the Beatitudes, VI.

“Essence and energy are not identical.” Cyril of Alexandria Thesaurus 18, PG 75:312c

“The man divinized by grace will be everything that God is, apart from identity of essence.” Maximus the Confessor Ad Thalassium 22, PG 90:320a

“But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical.” Gregory Palamas Triads, p. 97

“Nor does indeed everything predicated of him denote the substance, for relation is predicated of him, which is relative and refers to relationships with another but is not indicative of substance. Such also is the divine energy in God, for it is neither substance nor accident, even though it is called a quasi-accident by some theologians who are indicating solely that it is in God but is not the substance.” Gregory Palamas Capita 127

“God also possess that which is not substance. Yet it is not the case that because it is not a substance it is an accident. For that which not only does not pass away but also admits or effects no increase or diminution whatever cold not possibly be numbered among accidents. Gregory Palamas Capita 135,

“Nature and energy are not identical.” Gregory Palamas Capita 143

Norman Russell on Theosis

January 12, 2008

Drawing near to God

November 11, 2007

In light of recent discussions this quote from St Gregory Palamas may help provide some more patristic light on the issues.

Every created nature is far removed from and completely foreign to the divine nature. For if God is nature, other things are not nature; but if every other thing in nature, He is not nature, just as He is not a being if all other things are beings. And if He is a being, then other things are not beings. And if you accept this as true also for wisdom, goodness, and in general all things that pertain to God or are ascribed to Him, then your theology will be correct and in accordance with the saints. God both is and is said to be the nature of all beings, in so far as all partake of Him and subsist by means of this participation: not however by participation in His nature – far from it – but by participation in His energy. In this sense He is Being of all beings, the Form that is in all forms as the Author of form, the Wisdom of the wise and, simply, the All in all things. Moreover, He is not nature, because He transcends nature; He is not a being, because He transcends every being; and He is not nor does He possess a form because He transcends form. How, then, can we draw near to God? By drawing near to His nature? But not a single created being has or can have any communication with or proximity to the sublime nature. Thus if anyone has drawn close to God, he has evidently approached Him by means of His energy. In what way? By natural participation in that energy? But this is common to all created things. It is not, therefore, by virtue of natural qualities, but by virtue of what one achieves but virtue of free choice that one is close to or distant from God. But free choice pertains only to beings endowed with intelligence. So among all creatures only those endowed with intelligence can be far from or close to God, drawing close to Him through virtue or becoming distant through vice. Thus such beings alone are capable of wretchedness or blessedness. Let us strive to lay hold of blessedness.  

Thus when you hear the fathers saying that God’s essence is imparticipable, you should realise that they refer to the essence that does not depart from itself and is unmanifest. Again, when they say that it is participable, you should realise that they refer to the procession, manifestation and energy that are God’s natural attributes. When you accept both statements in this sense you will be in agreement with the fathers.

And St Maximos also says, ‘He who is deified through grace will be everything that God is, without possessing the identity of essence.’ Thus it is impossible to participate in God’s essence… It is, however, possible to participate in the divine energy.

St Gregory Palamas, “Topics of Natural and Theological Science” Philokalia Vol 4

St Gregory also calls omnipresence an energy of God. We must not confuse the attributes or properties of God with His essence. We can be united to God in His energies even if we cannot participate in His essence. We can participate in omnipresence, omnipotence and all God’s attributes by the grace of God through His energies without needing to attain to His unapproachable essence. Man is created in God’s image and likeness to participate in divinity and so God’s attributes are not opposed to man, even though man is limited. God has His attributes by nature but this does not mean that man can not participate in them and be deified by grace. The energies of God are uncreated, and divine and, unlike the essence, can be participated in part without negating participation in the divine.

Some say that the union of divine and human is impossible; Christ cannot be God Incarnate. However, the Fathers have proved this reasoning false centuries ago and they speak well on the matter so nothing of substance can be added to them. Man is created in time, man is limited by time and space, man is limited in all ways but this does not mean that God cannot make man transcend himself and live in the limitless life of God. What contradiction can there be between God and His image? What opposition can creation have with God when is created in Him? Only sin is opposed to God and this is the result of the free choice of the sinner. Only unbelief in the power of God can deny man to participate in the infinite life of God and for the Divine to be united to Man in one Person, the Son of God.

Things That I Make Up

October 29, 2007

So very often in discussing matters of theological importance the common complaint against the Orthodox distinction between essence and energy raises its head. The claim comes in a variety of forms but usually the gist is that this is a “later development” read back into earlier theological works.  If I think that they are present in these earlier works, I am essentially believing a fiction, for it just ain’t so, or so I am often told. This was a common refrain back on Pontifications.

Read the rest of this entry »

St Gregory Palamas on Eunomios and more

October 21, 2007

I am sure that this must have been posted before but as a refresher in the context of recent posts it may be helpful.

In refuting Eunomios, who claimed that the essence of God is revealed by created things, St Basil the Great writes that ‘created things manifest wisdom, art and power but not essence’. Thus the divine energy made manifest by created things is both uncreated and yet not God’s essence; and those who like Barlaam and Akindynos say that there is no difference between the divine essence and the divine energy are clearly Eunomians.

St Gregory Palamas Chapter 83: “Topics of Natural and Theological Science” in The Philokalia Vol 4. A few more quotes from the same source relating the distinction of essence and energies to will:

If the divine essence does not in any respect differ from the divine energy, then the act of generation and of procession will in no respect differ from the act of creating[,]… then neither does it differ from the divine will. Thus the Son who is begotten from the Father’s essence, is according to these people also created from the Father’s will[,]… and if the holy fathers testify that God has many energies – for… He has creative providences and goodnesses – then God also has many essences. This is a view that no member of the Christian race has ever uttered or entertained.


If the energies of God do not in any respect differ from the divine essence, then neither will they differ from one another. Therefore, God’s will is in no way different from His foreknowledge, and consequently either God does not foreknow all things – because He does not will all that occurs – or else He wills evil also, since He foreknows all. This means either that He does not foreknow all things which is the same as saying that He is not God, or that He is not good, which is also the same as saying He is not God. Thus God’s foreknowledge does differ from His will, and so both differ from the divine essence.


If the divine energies do not differ form one another, then God’s creative power is not distinct from His foreknowledge. But in that case, since God began to create at a particular moment, He also began to foreknow at a particular moment. Yet if God did not have foreknowledge of all things before the ages how could He be God? If God’s creative energy does not differ in any respect from divine foreknowledge, then created things are concurrent with God’s foreknowledge. Thus because God unoriginately has foreknowledge and what is foreknown is unoriginately foreknown, it follows that God creates unoriginiately, and therefore that created things will have been created unoriginately. But how shall He be God if His creatures are in no way subsequent to Him? If God’s creative energy in no respect differs from His foreknowledge, then the act of creating is not subject to His will, since His foreknowledge is not so subject. In that case God will create, not by an act of volition, but simply because it is His nature to create. But how will he be God if He creates without volition?

As St Gregory demonstrates, one gets into many difficulties holding absolute divine simplicity without distinguishing between essence and energies, or by trying to force the God of Revelation into pagan theistic models and categories, which I believe are insufficient to deal with the Trinity, the Incarnation and creation beginning by God’s volition at a particular moment from non-existence. It follows, in line with St Gregory, that only with the essence/energy distinction can one hope to be speaking of the Biblical God. Also, although not to be taken too far, we can see from our understanding of created energy that the uncreated divine energies tell against a static God but rather tell of a dynamic God. Of course God transcends human/created experience of dynamism and He is not subject to changing His mind nor to passions. These things in Scripture are not pointing to who God is but to our synergy in salvation. It tells of our freedom of will because God is unchanging in willing all men to be saved but yet few are chosen. Our choices bring different consequences, which can be described in human terms of God relenting or getting angry, but one should not ascribe these to God in a human way of changing His mind or becoming passionate.


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