Response to Fr. Kimel

Fr. Kimel has written a lengthy piece giving something like an argument against my arguments and claims concerning divine simplicity. Some may have wondered why I haven’t responded. I wanted to see everything that was going to be said first. Since that has been said I am not convinced that much of anything either touches my arguments or shows that I am mistaken. In this way the comments pretty much fall into line with Fr. Kimel’s posts which do not engagement the arguments but merely dismiss them. I do not have the time to address everything that Fr. Kimel wrote, but I will do my best to address what I take to be the salient points. :0

1. Notice that no where does Fr. Kimel actually address the argument I have given concerning absolute simplicity and creation. Regardless of who holds to ADS that argument goes through and the conclusion is still problematic. The question is whether the argument is going to be a problem for Christianity in general or Latin Christianity specifically, but not whether it is a problem at all. As things stand, the argument remains untouched by Fr. Kimel. I take that argument to show but one of the many conclusions one is committed to if one holds to ADS. Those conclusions being false or absurd on a Christian view of the world, the argument then functions as a reductio to eliminate various theological options.

2. Fr. Kimel’s discussion of the question of God and being I think takes an initial wrong turn. It was not my argument that taking God as being that in and of itself generates the conclusion that creation is absolutely necessary for example. It was my claim that taking God as being is a kind of rationalism. Since the Orthodox Church doesn’t take God as being, it was in this sense that the Orthodox Church wasn’t rationalistic. On the same grounds this grounds the Orthodox Church’s mysticism, not in a rejection of reason but in a principled recognition of its limitation. One can hold to God as being without holding to God as absolutely simple. Fr. Kimel is connecting ideas in ways that I don’t believe I did.

3. I have never denied that great western thinkers affirmed both ADS and divine freedom. Nothing much follows from the fact that they affirmed both. My claim was that they are inconsistent. I am hardly alone in that claim as other medieval experts have come to the same conclusion on this and other points. I find it unlikely that the judgment of these other experts is so easily mistaken as Fr. Kimel suggests. In any case we must put authorities aside since they do not make arguments. If my argument is a good one, then the affirmation of both ADS and divine freedom by Augustine and Co. is not possible. If not, then not. Since Fr. Kimel hasn’t shown my argument to be mistaken, then what he thinks is unlikely is irrelevant. At best it is autobiographical and not informative.

4. It is true that Aquinas comments on Ps. Dionysius and quite a lot I might add. Not much follows from the fact that Thomas does so or that Thomas thinks that God is beyond any qualification of being. This is how Thomas along with Albert the Great and others read Ps-D. They translate “beyond being” as super-essential being. So Thomas thinks that Ps.-D means that God is beyond any kind of qualified being. In this way Thomas thinks that God is “beyond being.” But Thomas still affirms that God is being nonetheless which is what I claimed.

5. There are lots of ways to explain why Thomas and others in the Augustinian tradition weren’t fully consistent. One reason is that they are handed on a tradition which they think is fully authentic to which they are bound to be faithful. Along with this are texts which they take to be authentic which are spurious. And there are hints in that tradition that holding to ADS is problematic in the ways that I argue. Scotus for example sees some problems with the thinking of Thomas and others which is why he postulates his notion of a formal distinction in God to address just this problem. It just isn’t the case that Thomas, Scotus or Albert don’t see the inconsistency-they are just stuck.

6. Evil
My argument concerns sophisticated problems and concepts in metaphysics, and medieval metaphysics at that. But my rejection of ADS isn’t motivated by the problem of a necessary creation. My rejection of it is motivated by existential concerns that I think every Christian, even every human being can understand. One of the things I learned from Plato is that the Good has no part in evil. I think Paul has the same idea. What relation has God with the devil? None. One of the great things I learned from Jacques Maritain in thinking about the problem of evil is that we just do not want it to be the case that in our theodicies and such that God is not responsible evil. We want it to be the case that God is innocent with respect to evil.

If ADS is true, then God as the Good is the only good open for choice in the eschaton. This implies that freedom is to be understood as a choice between the Good and something else. The something else would be an obvious falling away from the Good, and hence evil. This means that free will is always characterized as a choice between Good and evil. This way of understanding free will has a lot of intuitive purchase. Most people think of free will this way. So we have a neat dilemma. Since freedom is tied to the possibility of evil, either it is going to be the case that people are always free and hence always able to do evil, or if people become united with the Good, they will be good but not free. Why? Because a union with the Good in heaven renders it impossible, not just unlikely that they could ever do evil. This is Origen’s problem. It is also Augustine’s problem. Both of the lemmas stem from ADS. But here is where the problem gets really nasty.

If on the Augustinian view, it is possible for people to be significantly free and unable to do evil without being able to choose otherwise, then why doesn’t God just create a world in which that is always the case? I mean, if it is possible for people to be “free” without alternative possibilities, why not just skip the whole “creation as a slaughterhouse” part and start everyone off and keep them perpetually Good? Why? What we basically get across the Augustinian tradition from Catholics like Aquinas, Anselm, Augustine to Protestants like Luther and Calvin is one of two answers. One is a BS answer and the other is a cop out.

The BS answer is that the collective of evil and good together somehow makes a world with evil and good better than a world in which there is only good. This answer is BS on an intuitive level because it seems pretty obvious that a world in which there is great evil and suffering even though there is also great good is not as good as world in which there is only great good. Second, and more seriously, the answer is BS because it ties evil to good necessarily. (de re, not de dicto mind you!) For the good to be maximally good there has to be evil, which is just false. If this were true we should be Manicheans and not Christians. This is just to note the same point that Fr. Kimel acknowledges, that for God to be God doesn’t require anything else, least of all evil.

The cop out answer is that it is a “mystery.” Mystery is great. I love mystery. If something is beyond our comprehension I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is using mystery as an excuse or in place of an explanation on an ad hoc basis. To appeal to mystery at just the point at which the proposed explanation fails is either to admit that the explanation really isn’t an explanation or that the person proposing it is committed to the position come hell or high water. Moreover, such arbitrary appeals to mystery could be made at any juncture along the explanatory chain so why make it here? If we can legitimately appeal to mystery to “fudge” our way, why offer any kind of explanation in the first place? The appeal to mystery in this way is ad hoc.

Moreover, the arbitrary appeal to mystery is special pleading. Why is it that when we press atheists and they appeal to “brute facts” which is just a nice way of appealing to mystery, we say that their position is inadequate? Why is it that when the Calvinist argues that our natures determine our actions and then when they are pressed to explain how a completely good person like Adam can fall, they appeal to mystery and we take this as proof that their position is false? Why is it when someone brings up an argument against Catholicism or the western theological tradition in general though, an appeal to mystery is a sign of faith? Why am I being “too logical” and the Calvinist isn’t being “faithful?” I mean after all Calvinists hold to both theses that God is sovereign and man is responsible and it is a “mystery” as to how they fit together. The appeal is arbitrary in both cases. I have no problem with mystery, except when it is used as an excuse to save ideas that have been demonstrated to be false. To appeal to mystery in this way is just to opt out of the explanation game and to admit that what you are giving really isn’t an explanation in the first place.

If God is absolutely simple, then we can’t appeal to free will to explain why there is evil in the world. In order to do that, or at least make headway to do that we need to it to be the case that there is a plurality of goods in the Good. Why? Because then it can be the case that people can be fixed in or united with God while still retaining the freedom to choose between alternatives. It is just these goods in God as real (but not separable) goods that preserves our freedom and breaks the Origenistic dialectic. Without making this move it seems to me impossible not to be some sort of Compatibilist with respect to freedom. And Compatibilists like Augustine, Anselm, Albert, Aquinas, et al can’t appeal to freedom to explain evil in the world because they have already denied that alternative possibilities are necessary for freedom. Without alternative possibilities, why didn’t God create a world in which no one ever has the alternative option to sin?

7. Goodie for the western tradition that they affirm that God is both free and ADS. That doesn’t show that such an affirmation is warranted or that the two views can both be true. Nor does it show that ADS is a genuine or necessary part of the deposit of faith. I never argued that they do not affirm both. To mention the obvious that they affirm both is irrelevant to addressing the proposed problem. The same can be said for Catholic counciliar statements where the participants don’t take themselves to be positing incompatible views. It is possible for them to not think that they are doing so and still do so. The question is, did they do so? And that question is going to be handled not by arguing that they were sincere but if they were in fact correct. Fr. Kimel hasn’t showed that the were in fact correct and just that they were sincere. This is why his comments on this point are irrelevant and essentially a dismissive response that does not engage the argument I gave. He is arguing against some other position regarding the sincerity of Catholic (and by implication Protestant) theologians and doctors.

8. As to God as being I think Fr. Kimel makes two mistakes in reading my claims, which is why all of his hard work citing Thomistic thinkers completely misses the point. First, when I spoke of God as a being, I was speaking loosely. This is why I made the ideas more clear in saying that God is not just a being, but being for the Augustinian tradition. I agree that Augustine, Aquinas and Co. reject the idea that God is a being where that idea implies that God is being in a specific or qualified way. I don’t know why Fr. Kimel latches on to my loose phrasing since I made that clear to him in text as well as in personal phone conversations. Perhaps it was just easier to create a straw-man. As someone who is trained in medieval metaphysics that fact is obvious. But it is integral to Augustine and specifically to Aquinas, Scotus, et al that God is being nonetheless. Second, I did not claim that ADS and taking God as being are conceptually linked. If they were, that would be great for purposes of my argument, but I don’t believe I made the case that they were. I did speak of God as being as being problematic for other reasons and as a basis for explaining the Eastern Church’s “mystical” theology.

Returning to the first point I was fortunate enough to hear a paper presented by medieval philosopher John Jones at a departmental colloquia on Ps. Dionysius and the essence/energies distinction just the other day. In the paper presented, Jones writes,

“Despite the radical difference between God and all finite beings, that difference in the Scholastic framework is still entitative in character as a difference between two orders of beings. That is, God is understood with reference to the same metaphysical categories that apply to beings. To be sure, some of these categories do not apply, e.g., materiality, potentiality, etc. But there is a metaphysical and epistemological continuity between God and beings that is rooted in the analogy of being (ens) that extends to essence. Indeed, in the absence of such an analogical continuity, there would be no possibility of a science about God and, thus, no possibility of providing a rational grounding of beings in God as the first cause. Accordingly, the human quest for happiness that is rooted in our nature as rational beings would be frustrated. As Aquinas says:

For there resides in every man a natural desire to know the cause of any effect which he sees; and thence arises wonder in men. But if the intellect of the rational creature could not reach so far as to the first cause of things, the natural desire would remain void. Hence, it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God.” (Manifesting Beyond-being Being (hyperousios ousia): The Divine Essence-Energies Distinction for Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite, John D. Jones Department of Philosophy Marquette University Presented at St. Louis University Philosophy Department Colloquium April 15, 2005. p. 5


“Accordingly, one must note a significant difference difference between these two frameworks [Scholastic and Byzantine]. Both frameworks stress God’s infinity: that God can in no manner be properly encompassed by the categories employed to understand finite beings. In the Scholastic framework, however, despite the manner in which all the intelligible names apply to God must be corrected, still, these names truly apply to God. In particular, whatever the divine essence might be, we truly say that there is a divine essence and existence even if we do not know what it is. So too, the simplicity of God requires that we correct the distinctions implied in our use of terms regarding finite beings.” Ibid, p. 9

I cite Jones not to argue that citing an authority proves my claim correct but just to point out that I am hardly alone in making such a claim. Everything Fr. Kimel cites from various Thomistic authors agrees with my claim. While God is not being in any qualified way, for Thomas God is ipsum esse per se subsistens-being itself subsisting in itself. It is hard for me to see how Thomas can even get away from the idea that God falls within Aristotle’s ten categories of being since God is “one” “act” etc. But I am willing to give Thomas that point. In any case, for Thomas, God still falls under being and being that is graspable by reason. God still falls under the transcendentals of being, truth, goodness, beauty, and unity, which for Thomas as for all of the scholastics are identical. For Thomas, God has to be graspable by reason and here is why. For Thomas, following Aristotle, to have knowledge and hence to have a science is to know the causes of things. But to know the causes of things is to grasp the essences of things. If there is a science of anything we have to know the cause of that thing. But God is the cause of everything and so we must be able to grasp the essence of God. While such a grasping isn’t done through discursive reasoning, it is still grasped by the intellect nonetheless and hence by reason. If the essence of God isn’t graspable by reason, then there can’t be a science of anything. If God isn’t subsumable under reason then there can’t be any knowledge of anything. And nothing Fr. Kimel cites or says shows that for Thomas and the Augustinian tradition that this isn’t the case.

As an aside, I just have to say that Gilson and the other texts have been my staple for some time. As someone working in medieval metaphysics I could hardly have missed Gilson and Co. Some of my own teachers sat under and were trained by Gilson not to mention other significant Thomistic and Scotistic philosophers of the twentieth century. Does Fr. Kimel think I just haven’t read the material?

9. Fr. Kimel doesn’t understand why Augustine departs from Marius’ placing God beyond being and situating God as being. Isn’t this just an admission that I was right in my statements of the Augustinian tradition as viewing God as being? The text from Gilson says it flat out. So where exactly am I wrong? Is it in thinking that God is being in a qualified way? Well I don’t think I ever made that claim.

As to explaining why Augustine departs from Marius, it should be pretty obvious. Augustine divides up the Neo-Platonic tradition. I noted this fact numerous times. He places God as the Good as Being, while Ps. Dionysius following Plato and Iamblichiean tradition places God as the Good beyond or literally “on the other side of being.” Augustine collapses the Plotinian tri-hypostatic structure and places unity in nous. That is, the One or unity is identified with Mind or Intelligence. This is why for Augustine God as the One is absolutely simple. This is also why for Augustine persons are relations. Because if God is unity itself, absolutely simple, then there can’t be a plurality of persons in the essence. Persons just are the essence relating to itself in different “modes.” No wonder Photius freaked out and called it Modalism.

Rocca’s comments simply substantiate my own. This is why in Thomas’ commentary on Ps.-D he even says that being is a better name for God above Good.

10. As to Thomas’ apophaticism Fr. Kimel has the explanatory order backwards. One can’t appeal to God who transcends reason to help out absolute simplicity since it is absolute simplicity that is the basis for God being transcendent. Moreover, at best for Thomas God is transcendent only in terms of our judgments not in terms of being being. Since reason grasps being and God is being, reason grasps God even if such graspings in judgments are imperfectly made. They are imperfectly made because all of our terms are derived from composite beings and God is not plural in any way with respect to his essence. Here you can see how absolute simplicity grounds Thomas’ via negativa and not the other way around. The terms still truly apply to God, it is just that the mode of their employment is inadequate. Reason still grasps God for Thomas. Even for Augustine, God as the Good and Being is still graspable by us in reason. Appealing to the via negativa simply won’t help defend the idea that God is being since the via negativa is predicated on the assumption that God is being and therefore graspable by reason. Nor will it help defend ADS since it is a consequence of ADS. The citations from Gilson, Mascall, et all simply don’t touch my claims but rather support them. Where do you think I learned it form after all?

Marion’s quotes don’t deny my claim either. He doesn’t deny an analogia entis or analogy of being between God and creatues or that God is being in an unqualifiedly. He says the divine esse *hardly* maintains an analogia with the common being of creatures. He doesn’t deny that there is an analogy or that God is the pure act of being or that God is ipsum esse per se subsistens. The being of metaphysics for Marion is just the qualified being of creatures. This is why divine things are the principles for composite objects, specifically referring to the transcendentals of One, Good, Being, Truth and Beauty. Here is the Neo-Platonic framework in Thomas where the One relates to beings as cause where causes do not fully preserve themselves in their effects. This is why only God is absolutely simple and creatures aren’t nor can be. If God were to fully preserve himself as cause in his effects, for Thomas as for any good Neo-Platonist, the effects would be identical to their cause and pantheism would follow. Because of ADS any effect is an accident and hence a creature. Creatures as effects are composite which is why they are capable of evil and God is not. Here we have the thesis that the possibility of evil is necessarily implied by composition. So the reason why sin is possible is because we are created by God and are not God. With such a view one wonders where the Manicheans went wrong. The problem is generated by seeing anything that is not the divine essence as a creature which is generated by a commitment to ADS. Dump ADS and we can find a different and even temporary basis for the possibility of evil and not just in the metaphysics of created being.

11. Fr. Kimel is simply wrong to try to explain ADS on the grounds of God as being. The explanation goes in the other direction. Otherwise we have no reason to think of God’s act of existence and his essence being identical. It is because God is absolutely simple that God is being and that God as being is identical with his essence and not the other way around. And Kimel is wrong in his gloss of Burrell, because as Burrell knows, for Aquinas God has no properties. Properties are metaphysically discrete inhering qualities and given ADS God has no properties, unless of course God is just a property. And then we fall victim to Alvin Plantinga’s critique of ADS in his Does God Have a Nature? In any case, nothing Burrell states touches my claim that for the Augustinian tradition God is being and is graspable in his essence by reason and therefore subsumable under it since that is just what it means to be graspable by reason. De Trinitate 1-7 makes it quite clear.

12. I agree what the intention and function of ADS is, but that is irrelevant. Good intentions do not show that bad consequences are not implied. We need a reason to think that they aren’t implied and Fr. Kimel doesn’t give us one. I have. As to the argument I have given with respect to ADS and a free creation, Fr. Kimel makes the same blunder that Dr. Blosser made. My argument is not a hypothetical syllogism. My argument employs the inference rule of hypothetical syllogism. (If A then B, if B then C, if A then C.) It also employs the inference rule of modus ponens for instance.

On a more substantive note, Fr. Kimel gives is a strange comment that looks like an argument. He states to the effect that if my argument were right then the church would roundly reject the conclusion. Well I think that is in some sense a non-sequitor. If he means THE Church then yes I do agree. But is Fr. Kimel here arguing that the western tradition is THE Church? Something like that at least seems to be his implicit assumption. Moreover, I can construct a simple argument to show that say Rome and Protestantism on the basis that he gives aren’t the Church. ADS does imply that creation is necessary and it wasn’t rejected by Rome or Protestantism therefore they aren’t THE Church. The fact that Orthodoxy did reject it then shows that the Orthodox Church is the Church. How about them apples?

Moreover, divine revelation controls our theological speculations, but materially so. We are talking about formal theological statements. To argue that all of our theological constructions are man made and therefore revisable smacks of a Protestant view of the Church and theology where formal theological statements are just the best that we can do. What is worse is that Fr. Kimel uncritically lumps Aquinas’ view of the via negativa with the Cappadocian apophaticism. As Fr. Kimel noted Marius follows the apophaticism as generally understood by the Orthodox while Aquinas’ basis is quite different. Why does he uncritically lump the two views together? And to shield ones theology behind ignorance of God is just to admit that my argument does pick out a legitimate problem otherwise there would be no appeal to ignorance. The question is not if the Cappadocians and the Augustinian tradition teach that God is incomprehensible, the question is, do they mean the same thing by that term? The answer is no. And the answer is no because they have two different conceptions of God rooted in how they construe divine simplicity. To lump them together is question begging at best.

13. Fr. Kimel states that “If the scholastic understanding of God should ultimately prove to be incompatible with the gospel, so much the worse for the scholastic understanding of God.” Well those poor old scholastics. Here’s the problem, ADS just isn’t the scholastic understanding. It is an Augustinian thesis, more specifically an Origenistic thesis. Dismissing the scholastic understanding won’t help since it is just attempting to explicate the Augustinian and Origengistic views. And I can’t imagine that Fr. Kimel will argue that Augustine’s understanding of God is disposable or a mere theological construction by a specific “theologian” and not a “doctor” of the church. Besides, how does one understand Latin theology without Augustine? That’d be a neat trick. And to say that the church will just keep on teaching the faith is question begging. If it is teaching false doctrine, it isn’t teaching the faith and it isn’t the church. If ADS does logically imply a serious error, then ADS is false. Truths of Reason are not incompatible with truths of Faith. If a body is teaching an error as the faith then it isn’t THE Church either. While the church may not be constrained by the fallible constructions of her “theologians”, what is consistently taught by her doctors, upheld in councils, imposed as conditions of union between her and other bodies seems to be her teaching. I mean, what ELSE should I have read to grasped the Catholic/Protestant position this doctrine? What’s more, if one body proposes two supposed dogmas that at least appear to generate principled and insurmountable problems and another only holds one dogma without the problematic implications, that seems like a good basis to choose the latter.

14. Taking Augustine far too seriously? Too logically? Well, that is about the best thing one could say of a philosopher! Thanks! In any case, should I take Augustine less seriously or less logically? It is odd that the orthodox are accused of not taking Augustine and the scholastics seriously enough. And now I am being accused of taking them too seriously? This is grasping at straws. Moreover, what Augustine teaches with respect to ADS isn’t “speculation” among Protestants and Catholics. It just IS their tradition. While Augustine was always open to correction, is Rome? So far out of the first two posts nothing touches my argument and we are given no positive reason to believe in ADS by Fr. Kimel. What we have so far is essentially a dismissive response and no engagement with the arguments.

15. Fr. Kimel is wrong that my argument depends on the scholastic understanding of ADS since it comes straight out of Augustine and is pretty much taught as Christian doctrine and the deposit of faith in the west. Rejecting the scholastics won’t make the problem go away.

The first thing to notice about Fr. Kimel’s discussion of the Fourth Lateran council is that he says we have to think of what error “the Church” intended to exclude. Uhm, was the Fourth Lateran Council a general or ecumenical council? Is it considered so by Anglicans or Orthodox? Why does Fr. Kimel say “the Church” unless Fr. Kimel already considers himself Roman Catholic? In which case, why isn’t this an instance of question begging? Moreover it is irrelevant really what error the Latin tradition was seeking to exclude. The question is, did they fall into error in the attempt to exclude the error? Moreover, such definitions and theological constructions were employed against the East in attempts at reunion and in theological works. At Florence it was just at the point where ADS is being denied by the Greeks that the discussion gets quashed by the Emperor and the Orthodox advocates who maintain it are excluded from dialog. Why? Because he knew that it was a point on which the Easterners would not concede and a point which undergirded the Latin theological understanding of the Filioque. If ADS is true, then economic and ontological processions are identical. This is why the East has no problem with an energetic procession while the West asserts an ontological procession because of ADS.

Any casual reading of the Lateran council in light of the theological context makes it pretty obvious what they meant by simplicity. They were picking out Augustine’s idea. To think otherwise is to start doing the kind of nonsense that Presbyterians do with the Creed. “Well it really doesn’t mean baptism *for* the remission of sins.” Or “Catholic really means universal.” If Fr. Kimel has data to show that there is formally admitted by Rome and Protestantism another legitimate way to speak of divine simplicity without ADS, then he has yet to bring it forward. Moreover, I don’t know how that is going to be possible. How exactly are we to think of what the alternative would be? God is both absolutely simple but not absolutely simple? Are we to affirm both of these? And how exactly is this not a flat our contradiction? To say that the deity can be spoken of in another but yet equally true and compatible way that does not commit one to ADS is just to posit this contradiction.

The citations from Newman are also irrelevant. Since my arguments are not predicated on excessive rationalizations or speculations but standard, representative theological statements found in recognized authorities be they councils or official teachers of Rome or Protestantism. (Was practically everyone from Augustine to Scotus comitting excessive rationalisations and speculations in their theological works?) And I am not trying to give a complete understanding of God. As an Orthodox since God is beyond being and not just superessential being I think there is a definite event horizon for reason. In fact, my argument can be understood as a basis for safeguarding the mystery of revelation. Such and such is what happens if you DO have metaphysical speculations about the divine essence or think that it is graspable by reason. So my argument can be seen as a reductio against the metaphysical speculations in the Augustinian tradition.

16. Fr. Kimel cites Dulles in making the legitimate but irrelevant point that “Not every assertion in a given magisterial document enjoys equal authority.” What Fr. Kimel has to show in the face of pretty well accepted evidence, that ADS doesn’t enjoy a dogmatic status rather than pointing out what is merely possible with respect to dogmatic statements in general. Sure I admit that it is possible. But given the fact that it is taught pretty ubiquitously in the west among councils and representative doctors (not just theologians) and is upheld as a basis for continued schism from the Church it seems the burden of proof rests on Fr. Kimel, and not me. So, where exactly is the proof from representative official and authoritative teachers and councils that ADS does not enjoy dogmatic status for Rome? Pointing to possibles and maybes isn’t the same as an official statment.

Let’s look at the rules that Fr. Kimel cites from Dulles.
(1) In the interpretation of doctrinal statements, heed should be paid to variations in literary conventions.
(2) An antiquated world view, presupposed but not formally taught in an earlier doctrinal formulation, should not be imposed as binding doctrine.
(3) Technical terms should be interpreted in terms of the systematic framework presupposed by those who used them.
(4) In the interpretation of biblical and theological terms, cognizance should be taken of connotation as well as denotation.
(5) No doctrinal decision of the past directly solves a question that was not asked at the time.
(6) In Holy Scripture and in authoritative doctrinal statements, one should be alert for signs of social pathology and ideology.

Well ADS doesn’t fall under 1 or 2 since it is not grounded in a literary convention or a mythological view of the world. 3 certainly seems to support my claims as I am using the terms just how the Augustinian tradition uses them. 3 is not relevant since the only case denoted is God, which is obvious. And 5 is not relevant since the eternality of the world was a perennial problem then as it is now. Not to mention that the essence/energies distinction was just as much a barrier to reunion then as now. And I can’t see how 6 is relevant at all. So, where exactly is the argument or proof that I am mistaken here? This is just hand waving. There is no defense given, just the unspoken innuendo that I am somehow misinterpreting the tradition. No argument.

17. I don’t see how we get from the Lateran intention to condemn pantheism and materialism to the claim that Lateran 4 upholds ecumenical teaching on divine simplicity? And what exactly is ecumenical teaching on divine simplicity? It can’t be that in God there is not a metaphysical plurality of Goods because that just is the Eastern view which flat out denies ADS. If it is the thesis that God is not composed of matter then that is too general to capture the idea of ADS since I can affirm that without affirming ADS. And if I can do it, the council could have done it, but they didn’t. Let’s just be honest and face the fact that given the theological context and tradition, they were endorsing ADS.

Moreover, it is quite irrelevant what the council thought with respect to their intention. It was not the intention of the Reformers to go against Augustine at Dort, but they did. Having good intentions doesn’t get one out of theological blunders. And the truth that ADS sought to protect first, wasn’t that God could be divided into parts since that can be affirmed on a much weaker thesis. What it sought to protect was the idea that nothing in God can be distinguished from God in any way-there is no plurality in God with respect to the divine nature. THAT was their intention. This idea excludes the Eastern view taught by Maximus which is that there IS a genuine plurality in God with respect to nature.

I agree that some view of divine simplicity is taught, namely that there is only one God and God is not dependent on anything. For Thomas the latter idea is the ultimate motivation for ADS. Thomas thinks that plurality would imply a distinction between potency and act in God so that there would be something else that explained God’s moving from potency to act and hence God would not be the explanation or cause of all things. Whatever ended up moving God would be God and hence God would not be the first or primary cause of everything. But thinking that there is only one God and God is not dependent doesn’t imply ADS. Again, my objection isn’t tied to the scholastic formulation, but the thesis endorsed by Augustine which the scholastics are just trying to explicate. Its pretty clear that the Lateran and Vatican statements of what the Catholic Faith includes are picking out *that* idea, even if they are not picking out any specific scholastic formulation. I have used Thomas because I think Thomas makes the best case for it. If you want to try out Scotus’ view or some contemporary Catholic theological view, go for it. With a little tweaking, my argument will run just as well on those formulations. Rahner? Lonergan? Take your pick. Tossing the scholastics won’t imply tossing ADS, unless of course you wish to toss Augustine too. And from my reading Augustine hasn’t ceased to be the dominant theological grid for Catholics as well as Protestants.

Moreover since ADS was the root of schism since it is the conceptual root of the Filioque maintaining the latter implies the former. Without ADS the Filioque is simply a non-starter since there is no reason without it to think that the economy exhausts or is identical to the ontology. So since the Filioque is still taught as dogma and it is pretty obvious to me that the Augustinian conception is as well, where exactly is the “latitude” here? Oh, for the Eastern Rite Catholics, we’ll be nice and won’t make them say it. What is the point of not saying it if it is still what you are obligated to believe it *and* it is false? Pointing to individual Eastern Rite Catholics who endorse Palamas or Maximus’ theology is not a formal statement saying that those views are true or permissable. Or that the view as understood is the same. If someone says that they hold to Maximus/Palamas’ real distinction between essence and energies do they mean that this is an epistemic distinction, that is a judgment in our minds or a distinction in God? If the former, then it isn’t what Maximus or Palamas has in mind and hence it isn’t holding to their view. If the latter I don’t see how that amounts to anything more than anecdotal evidence. Specific Eastern Rite Catholics who represent some may who actually hold to the Maximian/Palamite view don’t amount to an official and representative theological statement by Rome. That’s what Fr. Kimel needs and that is not what he has given us. And there are Eastern Rite Catholics who think that Palamas was all wet too. Isn’t anecdotal evidence great?

Moreover, given that Rome and Protestants have maintained ADS to the point of schism, I think it is not a stretch to think they have excluded it. Moreover, why not take a look at all of the counciliar statements condemning the “errors of the Greeks.” What are those? Endorsements of Maximus and Palamas’ theology? Hardly. This strikes me as grasping at straws. But even if I were to give the point to Fr. Kimel, and it is a view permitted to Catholics, this leaves my argument untouched. If my argument even on these grounds is successful then it shows that the dominant tradition in Catholicism is in serious error. And that the Orthodox have done a better job of preserving the true faith without diminution or confusion with error. And if Rome has erred there, there is no reason to think that it isn’t possible that she has erred with respect to other things like the Papacy. Moreover, if my argument is correct, saying that the views of Maximus and Palamas are permissible for Catholics, doesn’t explain how we are then to reconcile two logically incompatible claims-God is and is not absolutely simple? Since the terms are being used in the same way how is that not a flat out contradiction? To be Orthodox just seems to be the better choice where one isn’t committed to logical contradictions.

Contemporary Catholic theologians and philosophers enjoy a great deal of freedom, period. Just go visit your local Catholic bookstore. Finding people who dissent from ADS, not to mention just about anything else is hardly an argument or evidence that shows Rome says that the two views are compatible.

18. Do I read Catholic dogma too woodenly? Well here we have an implicit admission that ADS is Catholic dogma. Second, I haven’t read it any more “woodenly” or “logically” than Augustine, Alcuin, Anselm, Albert, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Bernard, Scotus, Henry of Ghent or even…GASP! Okham! Nor have I read it more “woodenly” than recognized experts in the field. To claim that I am reading it “too woodenly” without any real demonstration as to exactly where I have done so is dismissive. Moreover, Fr. Kimel’s citation from Vatican 2 is nice, but he has to show that it applies to ADS. Where does V2 say that ADS is one point at which say the Orthodox have a better reading or that the Catholics do? Moreover, notice that the statement is a conditional. It read “if from time to time.” It doesn’t say that it has actually done so and it doesn’t say ADS is one of those cases. What we need from Fr. Kimel is some reason to think that first, this applies to ADS and second, an indication of which tradition is reading it better. Is this an implicit admission that the Orthodox have read divine simplicity better than the west? If so, why isn’t this a serious reason, given the theological connectivity that the doctrine of God has to other parts of theology (soteriology, ecclesiology, etc.) for being Orthodox as opposed to Catholic? Again, no real argument here. There is just hand-waving and no engagement with my argument. As Fr. Kimel has already admitted, he doesn’t have an answer. Game over.

Theological definitions may not be fully adequate (again given ADS for the Catholics since the via negativa falls out of ADS) but this doesn’t mean that they are false. My arguments show that not only do they fall short, but that in this instance they are false. I wasn’t arguing that they were fully adequate. If I had done so, Fr. Kimel’s citation of Cardinal Dulles would be pertinent. But I argued not that ADS wasn’t inadequate but false. Fr. Kimel has to defend not the inadequacy of the doctrinal formulations but the truth of ADS. What is more, Dulles says that some definitions may seem to be contradictory. Those are permissible. But he doesn’t say that they are permissible if they *are* contradictory. My argument shows they are. Fr. Kimel hasn’t show that there merely seem to be. He just expresses what amounts to a *hope* that they aren’t. My argument doesn’t touch on just one definition in opposition to one specific heresy. My argument touches on the tradition en toto since it is taught en toto throughout the tradition.

19. If Torrence, Pannenberg, and Jenson reject scholasticism, goodie for them. I don’t have a beef with scholasticism per se. Do any of these individuals reject the Augustinian view of ADS? I don’t known about Jensen but my reading of Pannenberg and Torrence leads me to think otherwise. And how exactly are these individuals representaitive of their respective Protestant bodies in the way Catholic doctors of the Church are representative of Catholicism? And what exactly is the argument here? And why isn’t this an instance of stacking the deck?

As to LaCunga, well I have read her works already. Her thesis is no less serious than my own. She argues not that ADS is not taught by the west, which she seems to accept. Rather, she admits that the Cappadocians, not to mention Palamas and Maximus teach a real plurality of Goods in God. She argues that this “destroys” the Christian doctrine of God! Great. So now Fr. Kimel are we to follow you or LaCunga? She says that my view is not acceptable but “destroys” the Trinity and you say that my view is permissible to a Catholic which implies that it doesn’t destroy the Trinity. Which thesis are you arguing for here? I don’t see how you can have it both ways. Since Augustine’s doctrine still forms the basis for Pannenberg and Torrence conception of God, not to mention LaCunga or just about any other Catholic theologian or doctor of the church, my argument is hardly quaint. What strikes me as quaint though is Fr. Kimel’s desperate attempt to give something that is supposed to pass as an argument to answer the clear argument I gave. It strikes me as a desperate attempt to save the Titanic. Just point out which premise is false or how the premises don’t imply the conclusion.

20. Fr. Kimel frames my view as the Palamite view. That much is true, but I don’t think that Palamas’ view is in substance any different from Maximus’ view. The problem is that Fr Kimel is taking Palamas out as the whipping boy. Either it’s the case, his argument boils down to that, Palamas didn’t teach a real plurality in God or if he did, it doesn’t make a difference. I argue that neither of these approaches engage the argument I have given. First because my argument doesn’t turn on what Palamas taught. If Palamas teaches ADS, then my argument applies equally to him. Universalizing ADS just turns a logical problem for one tradition into a logical problem for all of Christianity. As unhelpful as that may be, it is not an engagement of the argument I gave. And I am at a loss to know how universalizing the problem for all of Christianity actually helps his position? So what, this is better now that now we are ffaced with an argument that says that Christianity in essence implies pantheism? *That* is better? Second, what he teaches matters because Palamas is just being faithful to the tradition given through Maximus. Maximus is the watershed. A real plurality of Goods in God is essential to Maximus refutation of Monothelitism and I don’t think you are going to find anyone in the scholarly literature or that is taken seriously that denies that Maximus thinks that there is a real plurality of Goods in God. I am just as happy to hang my hat on Maximus as Palamas.

21. Fr. Kimel cites the council of Florence. He notes that the Latin delegates might have thought (and they did) that the Palamite view was wrong, but that it was not a church dividing issue. If that is so, why was the view excluded by discussion by the emperor? Why was the view that there is a genuine plurality of Goods in God listed among the errors of the Greeks? They just didn’t think it was silly and wrong, it just was the point on which union could not be established, which is why the Orthodox rejected the council. First because the exchange was not free and second because there was no consensus as to the true faith that was established by both sides. If that is not church dividing what is exactly? And citing the mere fact that Maloney wrote a book on the Eastern view lauding it, which I have read doesn’t prove that Rome permits the view officially. Where are the official statements from Rome? We aren’t given any by Fr. Kimel.

22. Fr. Kimel notes that there is a debate concerning Palamism in the academic world. What *isn’t* there a debate about in the academic world? He gives his readers the impression that he is giving his readers a survey of the debate in however limited fashion as he can do. But why then does he practically quote only those who are critics of the Maximian/Palamite view? A.N. Williams, LaCunga, Torrance, Wendebourg, Jensen. This is just stacking the deck.

Fr Kimel notes that I can cite plenty of authors on the other side as to give the impression that the issue is hopelessly lost among the academics and that the average believer should look for other grounds to choose. This is an effective rhetorical strategy but it isn’t an argument. First, because citing authorities doesn’t prove jack squat with respect to an argument. Second, the authorities are only as good as the arguments they give. If their arguments are poor, then toss’em. Third, because arguments concerning ecclesiology and the Papacy are subject to the same problems as he poses for my position. For every scholar and book on the Catholic side there are scholars and books (some of them Catholic even!) on the other side. Where is Fr. Kimel’s supposed “easier way?”

The first citation from Anna Williams is a non-sequitor. It doesn’t follow from the fact that Palamas wasn’t intending to add to the Church’s teaching but just uphold deification that he takes the distinction to be conceptual. Those two ideas aren’t conceptually connected. So is the fact that Palamas notes that the distinction in no way compromises God’s unity or simplicity since for Palamas God is fully present in the energies just as he is in the essence. That doesn’t imply that the distinction is conceptual and not real. Again, a non-sequitor. Saying that the energies and essence are not “parts” wouldn’t imply that the distinction was conceptual rather than real either. It would just imply that God is fully present in both.

Palamas says that the distinction is not practical or conceptual but real. He designates it as a pragmatike diakrisis (real distinction) as opposed to a pragmatike diairesis (real division). He flat out denies that it is a diakrisis kat epinoian (rational distinction in the mind).

“Further, that which participates in something according to essence (ousia) must possess a common essence with that in which it participates and be identical with it in some respect. Who then has even heard of there being one essence shared by God and us in any respect? Basil the Great says: “The energies of God come down to us but his essence remains inaccessible.” And the divine Maximus affirms, “The man divinized by grace will be everything that God is, apart from identity of essence.” Thus it is not possible to participate in the divine essence, not even for those divinized by grace, but it is possible to participate in the divine energy.” Theophanes PG 150 1205.

“God also has what is not essence. Yet it is not the case that because it is not an essence that it is an accident. For that which not only does not pass away but also admits or effects no increase or diminution whatever could not possibly be numbered among accidents. But it is not true that, because this is neither an accident or essence, it belongs among totally non-existent things: rather, it exists and exists truly. Since the hypostatic properties and the hypostases are neither an essence or an accident in God, are they each on this account ranked among non-existent things. Certainly not. Thus, in the same way, the divine energy of God is neither an essence nor an accident nor is it classed among non-existent things.” Capita 135.

“The nature beyond being, and beyond life and beyond God, and beyond good as beyond good, etc, is neither conceived nor contemplated in any way at all because it is apart from all things and more than unknowable and established beyond the super celestial minds by an incomprehensible power and is always utterly unable to be grasped and ineffable to all. For it has no name in the present age nor does it receive one in the age to come….Anyone who has knowledge of the truth beyond all truth, if he is to name it correctly cannot legitimately name it ousia or nature. But on the other hand, since it is cause of all…its name must be drawn from things but not in a proper sense. Thus, it must be called ousia and nature, but properly the ousia-bestowing procession and energy of God.” Capita 106

Plenty of other texts could be cited from Maximus to say the same thing. Williams’ claims don’t seem to be supported by the texts. Perhaps Williams or Fr. Kimel can explain Palamas idea of how something can not be an essence and not an accident. I wonder what the “rigorous” thinking of Aquinas or Scotus would make it Palamas’ distinction!

23. So even if Palams did teach a real distinction, Fr. Kimel argues that he was discontinuous with the preceding tradition. Well which is it going to be Fr. Kimel, that Catholics can believe Palamas as a legitimate expression of the Faith or not? I don’t see how you can support both claims at once. If the former is true, then the authors who argue that he is discontinuous are attacking Catholic teaching, right? Are you supporting those who attack Catholic teaching or not? Second, I think Williams is just wrong that the distinction is not implicit in Athanasius and explicit in the Cappadocians. First it is necessary for Athanasius argument against the Arians and for the Cappadocian argument against the Eunomians and Pneumatamochoi. As to Athanasius I refer the readers to Hanson’s, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God and to the Cappadocians, Michel Barnes, Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian theology. I should note that Barnes is a specialist in the Cappadocians and isn’t giving a “survey” of them and he is a Catholic to boot.

Williams imports the notion of an “attribute” to the patristic understanding and is therefore anachronistic. An attribute is something we attribute to God in a judgment of our mind. To say that the Fathers don’t think of divine power as anything more than a divine attribute is question begging, since that is the point at issue. Secondly, any reading of Maximus’ works from the Ambigua to the Disputation with Pyrrus, not to mention the secondary work from Balthasar(Catholic) to Thunberg (Lutheran) makes pretty clear that Maximus thinks of the energies as really distinct. Is Maximus making stuff up now too? William’s text is hardly a monograph on the question and is quite inadequate on top of all of this. She doesn’t deal with the questions in sufficient depth to warrant her conclusions. Barnes’ text just is devoted to the status of dunamis or power in the Cappadocians.

24. Fr. Kimel talked to Robert Wilken about Gregory. Is Wilken a patristics scholar? Is he a specialist in Maximus? Athanasius? The Cappadocians? Not that I can tell. Again, more hand waving and no argument. Wilken isn’t a “great number” of scholars either.

25. Torrance’s comments confuse Athanasius views. While Athanasius views God as always *with* his activities, this is not in contrast to Aristotle’s view of unmoved movers since for Athanasius God is not *essentially* activity. God is creator by energy or will, not “essentially.” It doesn’t follow from Athanasius view that God is always with his activities or energies that his energies are identical to his essence or “essentially and eternally one” as Torrance puts it. It’s just a non-sequitor. Coinherence doesn’t negate the real distinction between essence and energies either so Torrence doesn’t show that Athanasius’ view is something other than Maximus or Palamas’ view. It is because Athanasius thinks that the divine persons all perform the same act, they have the same energies that this implies an identity of essence because the same energies can only inhere and procede forth from the same essence. How exactly is this supposed to show that the essence/energies distinction isn’t to be found in Athanasius? Torrance’ ending gloss is just anachronistic Augustinianism read back into Athanasius since for the latter God is not essentially energy though he is never without them.

26. As to Finch’s dissertation, I have yet to read it. Unlike God, I can’t know everything. I would say that nothing from this quote though cuts against my claims or arguments, except perhaps to note that there is an ambiguity in the phrase “essential operations.” Does this mean operations necessary to God as in essence or operations of his essence or does it mean personal operations of the one being? The first and second would make creation necessary and the third would make them contingent.

27. On Torrence and the Cappadocians, note that Fr. Kimel ignores the fact that Torrance agrees that the Cappadocians do teach an essence energies distinction. It is just that he thinks it would be problematic. Is it though? Torrence produces a nice non-sequitor. It does not follow that since the energies are not the essence that one could not legitimately move from what God is in his economic revelations to what he is in ad intra. What follows from that though is that the discovery is indirect and partial, not illegitimate and false. Just because we can’t know everything of God doesn’t mean that what we do know in the economy is false. The problem is that Torrence’s argument that if God’s Word is not of his ousia then we cannot relate what God is economically to what God is ontologically is that it takes God’s Logos to be an energetic procession. The economical working of the Son is still a case where the Logos as an ontological generation is fully present in an energetic procession. So in that case we can know the Son just via but not reducable to the energetic or economic processions. Torrance’s problem is that he is reading the Cappadocians like an Arian. It is just a non-sequitor to think that if God does not exhaustively communicate himself that that implies that what he does communicate is not true or genuine. The energies do not rule out any access to the divine essence, it is just that the access is always indirect and never direct. Torrance is here just parroting the line from Rahner that the Cappadocian view implies a kind of Modalism, where God ad extra has to exhaust and be identical to God ad intra so that there isn’t anything hidden in God. If this isn’t rationalism, I don’t know what is. So much for “mystery.”

28. Wendebourg gives similar piss poor arguments. It is a non-sequitor. Just because God is ad intra incomprehensible it doesn’t follow that the energies are somehow a secondary deity or less God. This is just Athanasius’ and the Cappadocian’s point. The energies deity us and it is the energies of Christ that do so, therefore Christ must be God and the same reasoning with the Holy Spirit. Wendebourg’s line is the tired 19th century Catholic like that Palamas taught pantheism or a diminished deity, which is just flat out false. Her comments attack a straw man. I am still waiting for an actual argument. So far, just fallacies and more hand waving.

29. LaCunga fundamentally misunderstands Palamas since Palamas doesn’t establish a super-essential essence. The ousia doesn’t exist tri-hypostatically because strictly speaking the divine ousia doesn’t exist. What’s worse with LaCunga’s treatment here is that one can no more talk of the ousia existing tri-hypostatically than one can speak of the three hypostases existing completely united. The argument cuts both ways and hence proves nothing except that metaphysics stops at the energies, which LaCunga can’t seem to keep her self from doing. Secondly the Cappadocians are quite clear that God even exists beyond existence and it is even wrong to say that God is “one” since not even number applies to him. Similar statements can be easily found in John of Damascus and Maximus. Moreover, it is not clear what LaCunga means. Does she mean that the persons are the essence? How is that not Modalism? And the citation from Williams is not only a straw man against the Palamite/Maximian view but is irrelevant. Williams identification of the energia with the ousia implies Modalism. Gee, big surprise there. For Athanasius, energia isn’t seperable but it isn’t identical to ousia. Why? Otherwise creation would be necessary. Second, Gregory doesn’t believe in a super essential essence. That reading is based off of Albert the Great’s mistranslation of Ps. Dionysious’ On the Divine Names of hyperousia ousia. To be beyond ousia is not have a super duper ousia, it is not have no ousia at all! Third, Rowan Williams is wrong that we do not come into communion with the divine persons since they aren’t separable from their energies. Here Williams is reading a metaphysical distinction as a metaphysical division between hypostasis and energia, which is not Palamas nor Maximus’ idea. To be a “step removed” doesn’t mean that they are not involved in salvation.

30. As to Jensen’s reading of Gregory of Nyssa, Jensen doesn’t deny that the distinctions are there in Nyssa. What he says is that the distinctions are formalized in Palamas. Yeah, so? The same could be said for any Christian doctrine. While not iron clad, I think Barnes is more on target that the distinctions are tighter for Nyssa then Jensen thinks. Second, Palamas’ statements preserving divine immutability do not amount to arguing that God’s essence is static. Why? Because if God is hyperousia ousia, if God is beyond being then the categories of static and activity simply do not apply. This is why God is impassible. It is a category mistake to apply such notions to God ad intra. The accusation of Modalism can only stick on Jensen’s reading if we assume that the energies do not reveal God because they are not deity or the divine nature. But that assumption is false and so Jensen’s crass and frankly stupid accusation of Modalism is false.

31. Fr. Kimel glosses Saint Palamas’ views as “speculations” But the Orthodox Church in canonizing him a saint and honoring him on the feast of Orthodoxy exclaims that his views aren’t speculations. They just are the faith of the Orthodox Church because they are the faith of Maximus, Athanasius and the Cappadocians. The Church has already decided. Will Fr. Kimel accept it or will he accept another churches decision that they aren’t adequate? Fr. Kimel wants to give the reader that these views are latter developments and speculative and optional. But they are none of those things because Maximus’ teaches the same things and the theology of at least 3 ecumenical councils rest on Maximus views, specifically that of there being real goods in God. There is simply no other way to break up Origenism and reject monothelitism.

32. Rowan William’s comments are more of an expression of confusion as to what is being said as to an argument against the position. As such his comments offer no substantive criticism of my position, but rather express his own cognitive inadequacies and that shouldn’t be too hard a line to sell to episcopallians. Williams wants an “experiment.” I should think he has plenty on his hands as it is now. Well, too late Bp Williams, it isn’t an experiment in theology, some abstract cognitive exercise to make sure you keep your plush state job. It is the experience of God in salvation. Its not hard to find out what Palamas was trying to rule out. He was in part trying to rule out the conclusions generated from ADS. If Williams takes Palamas to be “scholastic” how about Maximus? Maximus clearly admits that thee is a plurality of Goods in God and his views can’t be dismissed as a piece of “dubious scholasticism.”

33. As to matters of judgment, does the fact that there are Protestant and Catholic authors who argue against the Orthodox Church’s teaching mean that this can’t be a church dividing issue? I don’t see how that follows, anymore than the presence of Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic theologians who argue against the Papacy implies that that can’t be a church dividing issue either. That question is no less controversial and no less sophisticated than the one I presented. I suppose what I did to garner so much wrath was first to give a distinctive argument for Orthodoxy that wasn’t easily refutable by Catholics and Protestants and second to run around all of the usual common arguments given by Catholics.

How can such issues be decisive for the average episcopallian? Well, they can and they can’t. Let’s just face the facts that this stuff is complicated. It has always been complicated. It is not as if most people grasped the difference between homoousia and homoiousia. People have to do the best they can with their abilities and situation. It is not as if people have enough time to go read gobs of scholarly works on the Papacy but no time to read theology proper. How can academic works on the Papacy be of help to the average Episcopallian? For every authority cited another can be invoked. The same problem Fr. Kimel foists on me is really his own problem. My solution is just to suck it up an realize that each person is responsible for their own soul (at least) and they do what they are able to do. You are responsible relative to the light that you have.

But how can this help Episcopallians? Here is how. Do you believe that every human being is unique? Do you believe that humans are genuinely free? Do you think that the possibility of evil is *temporary* and due to the misuse of free will? If so, these concerns about ADS should move you to Orthodoxy. Why? As I noted before in post #6. If you are Catholic or Protestant, you really don’t believe in free will, not libertarian freedom in any case. It doesn’t really matter if you are a Molinist, a Scotist or a Thomist. All of the theological glosses of the Catholic dogma are all compatibilist in the end. Thomism excludes alternative possibilities for Christ as well as for those in the eternal state. They can never do other than participate in the beatific vision. Why? Because since God is absolutely simple, there is no other good object to choose, hence any choose would be evil and a fall from heaven. So free will has to be eliminated in heaven. How about Molinism? In the end, how does God know what you will do in other circumstances and hence place you in the circumstances in which you do what God wants? Well by reference to your essence. Your essence across logically possible worlds determines your actions. I mean is it all that surprising that given ADS and the need to understand persons as relations to a simple essence, is it any wonder that for Molinists human persons are just essences in self relation too? It is just the same argument with respect to ADS. If human persons just simple essences and the essence determines their actions, then their actions are necessary. No free will there either. And Scotism? For Scotus, we just will what we do and we could have willed otherwise if God had willed that we do so. As much as I admire Scotus, his views just seem to delay the inevitable conclusion.

If there can be people who are genuinely free without alternative options open to them, whence Evil? We can’t appeal to free will since people can be free and not have alternative possibilities open to them. This is Augustine’s as well as Aquinas, as well as Lonergan as well as Rahner’s understanding of the eternal state. So if God can do that there, why not from the get go? We can’t appeal to free will since that has been tossed out in order to save us from the conclusion that the redeemed in the eschaton can never fall. So do you believe that God takes away the freedom you have here, the freedom he gave Adam and Eve? Do you have less freedom in perfection or more? If freedom is God’s gift, shouldn’t its perfection imply an abundance rather than a restriction or elimination? Do you really believe that God is free?

Only Orthodoxy upholds the true freedom and uniqueness of every human person because it upholds the true freedom of God, because it doesn’t identify Goodness and permenance with simplicity. This is why Fr. Kimel’s citation of Chesterton is most apt. The Church is a house with a hundred gates; and no two men enter at exactly the same angle (Chesterton). Orthodoxy preserves the uniqueness of every human being since God never takes away or diminishes their freedom not even in heaven. Neither Catholicism nor Protestantism can allow for genuine freedom since they always have to lop it off from their Procrustean beds. For them freedom is always a threat-freedom always implies some potential evil lurking somewhere just waiting to pop out. For them, freedom and creation specifically is something fundamentally unstable and hence always opposed to God. For the Orthodox, freedom is God’s good gift to humanity. It is God’s gift to be used to become so divine that we are fixed in the Good in whom there are an infinite Goods to perpetually enjoy. Activity is not something to be limited or diminished for Orthodoxy. This is why Lewis was right to note, further up and further in. We never run out of God we is why we are never restless when we move in freedom His rest.

As to Newman’s point regarding an easier way all I can say in response is “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you…Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matt 7:7, 13-14

24 Responses to Response to Fr. Kimel

  1. Tom says:

    Perry: For the Orthodox, freedom is God’s good gift to humanity. It is God’s gift to be used to become so divine that we are fixed in the Good in whom there are an infinite Goods to perpetually enjoy.

    Tom: Now this looks to me very much like what I have always believed regarding our freedom, namely, that believers ultimately becomes “fixed” in an orientation of love and goodness. Yes, there are infinite goods which we remain free (in the libertarian sense) to choose from, but we are no longer free in the same sense to choose evil. If not this, then what do you have in mind by “fixed”? If in the eschaton believers are as free to choose evil as they are now, then in what sense have they “used their freedom to become SO divine that they’re FIXED in good”? What sort of fixedness is it if we continue forever free to fall and sin? As you know from personal conversation, Perry, I don’t think believers are libertarianly free to choose evil in the eschaton. Looks like you agree! But I wouldn’t call this God “taking our freedom away” either. I’d call it just what you do–our freedom reaching God’s intended goal, to be ‘so’ into God that we become irrevocably ‘fixed’ (‘solidified’ is the word I used) in good.


  2. Antonio says:

    I know this may not be the right place, but BLESSED PASCHA for all Orthodoxs!!!

  3. Daniel Jones says:

    Br. Hamilton,

    Thanks for paying us a visit. God bless you in your journey to the priesthood.


  4. Paul Hamilton says:


    Forgive me if I am placing this in the wrong spot. I am not up to date on blog etiquette. 🙂 I am a Latin-rite seminarian, and Perry was my ethics teacher this semester. Perry invited me to place a small entry on his blog if I so desired.

    Since I don’t have the wherewithall to sort through this discussion, I will decline to comment. I just hope that sorting through this issue will make the gap between East and West a bit smaller. At any rate, thanks for the good year, Mr. Robinson.

  5. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:


    If Augustine’s view isn’t doctrine, then what is the alternative? And why every major theologian in the west adhere to it?

    What ELSE should I have been reading as a Western Christian? Please list for me the other major Catholic theologians who give the alternative view or cite me the official Catholic statments that indicate another view and indicate that another view is permissable? Where are these supposed sources? Not to be rude but it just looks like grasping at straws to me.


  6. Daniel Jones says:

    BTW, where did you “surf” that conclusion?


  7. Daniel Jones says:


    Well that could be pretty broad, and would depend on what you are looking for. Do you want to know books on the trinity, foreknowledge, predestination, et al?

    I thought the Farrell book traced a philosophical and theological grid on God to do theology.


  8. Jack says:


    No, I just surfed it. Can you suggest a good introductory book on the “Philosophy of God” so that I can get a better handle on this?

    Kyrie Elesion,

  9. Daniel Jones says:


    No I haven’t read any reviews on Bradshaw’s book. I have it on my summer reading list.

    Have you read Byzantine Christ by Demetrios Bathrellos? I remember you saying something about that book and it’s reference to Farrell’s book Free Choice. I was wondering what the claim or correction was.


  10. Jack says:


    One of the questions opened by Perry is whether “for all Roman Catholics” God is his will as a matter of dogma, or whether that understanding of divine simplicity is simply a theologumena of the main latin theological tradition. Perry says dogma; I say opinion.

    I think it is beyond doubt that, if the Perry and Co. are right about divine simplicity, when the Orthodox and Catholics reunite, Catholics will discover that Augustine’s understanding of divine simplicity was a theological opinion and not doctrine. There appears to be ample room for such a maneuver and no good reason not to make it.

    Has anybody read any good reviews of David Bradshaw’s book, “Aristotle East and West”?


  11. Antonio says:

    Thanks a lot, Perry.
    Even if it will be a mystery for me during my whole life, you helped me a lot to understand (a little bit more) the Orthodoxs’ position.
    And I agree completely with you: it’s not possible to reconcile both understandings.
    For all Roman Catholics, God is His Knowledge and His Will, and both are identical with His Essence.
    I know you will tell me that they are “simply wrong”, but when an Eastern community enters in full communion with Rome (as it has happened more than once): Do they “change” their understanding of God? Or is there a different understanding of God between Orthodoxs? I mean, we are not talking about a minor issue.
    Thanks a lot.
    (and thanks specially for being so clear in your answer to my previous question).

  12. Perry Robinson says:


    Good question. The problem is an equivocation. The two groups are not using the terms in the same way. For the west absolute simplicity picks out an identity relation. For the east the term picks out a complete presence by God in each thing without taking away the metaphysical difference between them. So God is fully present in each of his energies but this doesn’t amount to an identity of the essence with the energies or of the energies with eachother. Knowledge isn’t the same thing as will in God. Both terms converge in ruling out composition or physical composition in God. The better term I think rather than composition is complexity. I hope this helps.


  13. Antonio says:

    Maybe somebody here can help me.
    I don’t understand most of the things involved in this (not “simple”) issue, but:
    Is this “metaphysical plurality of Goods” irreconcilable with God’s simplicity?
    And if this is the case (and think it is), do all Orthodox share this understanding of God’s energies?
    I have found this Florovsky’s phrase:
    – “Essence” and “energy” differ, but without any prejudice to the Divine “simplicity”.
    ( at creation_florovsky_e.htm )
    Florovsky also speaks about “contingency modo Divino” and “God’s mysterious freedom”. I’m not concluding anything (because I just can’t, remember that I don’t know a lot about metaphysic), I’m just asking what this “simplicity” means in Florovsky’s words.

    I also found this:
    – “This distinction between the uncreated essence and the uncreated energies does not in any way impair the divine simplicity; there is no ‘compositness’ in God”.
    ( at…ern/ church.html )
    These words are Kallistos Ware’s. (I admit I don’t know very well who is him, but in many “blogs” his words are authoritative).

    I also found:
    – “Indeed the teaching about uncreated essence and uncreated energy in God is not ditheism, since the energy is always connected with god’s essence, and of course this distinction DOES NOT DO AWAY WITH THE DIVINE SIMPLICITY, just as the three Persons of God do not do away with God’s oneness”. (with further explanations at b16.e…agiorite.10.htm )
    In this particular case, I have no idea who are the members of this “”.

    But my question is: what Orthodox want to mean when they say that God is simple?
    I also found that some of the Greek Fathers wrote that God was simple and “not compound” (but I didn’t find this vocabulary in St. Maximus, I have to agree).
    Which is the difference between God’s simplicity (in an Eastern Orthodox understanding) and God’s simplicity (in a Roman Catholic understanding).

    If someone decides to lose his time answering me, well I think is fair for him to know that most propably I won’t understand a single word of the answer). Anyway, thanks a lot.

  14. Jonathan Prejean says:

    Been out of town; sorry for the late response. I am a Latin-rite Catholic, and my philosophical leanings are probably best expressed by Maurice Blondel and Xavier Zubiri.

  15. Jack says:

    I’m not sure my Nicaean analogy was apt, but my head hurts too much to make a better one. However, I don’t want the question to devolve to procedure, as important as the procedural issue is.

  16. Daniel Jones says:

    Dr. Tighe,

    I’m Catholic.

    I currently attend church here:


  17. Jack says:

    Dr. Tighe,

    I am a latin rite Catholic who is beginning to believe that the Alexandrian theological tradition (Origen to Maximus) has more deeply plumbed the Christian mysteries. However, I am also convinced that the papal dogmas, rightly understood, are an essential part of the tradition and that therefore EO ecclesiology is fundamentally flawed.

  18. Daniel:

    Can you say more about the Coakley book? What are the reasons for your recommend?


  19. William Tighe says:

    Perhaps this is off-topic, but of what churches are the various participants to this discussion (of which I am an interested onlooker; I am myself a Ukrainian Catholic), esp. Daniel Jones, Jonathan Prejean and Jack? At first I took Daniel J to be an Orthodox catechumen, and the latter two as Latin Catholics, but perhaps I was jumping to unwarranted conclusions in all of these cases.

  20. Daniel Jones says:

    Jack, The Barnes book is one we recommend often, along with the book with a collection of essays with various authors edited by Sarah Coackley.


  21. Jack says:


    My thanks is truly sincere, even if I disagree with you about ecclesiology. If I don’t have to read Lateran 4’s ADS language as anything more than a negative statement that Manicheanism is not a Christian option, I won’t. I guess I’m not that interested in plumbing the subjective theological depths of the Fathers of that council because I suppose that the vast majority of them, like most bishops, were not sophisticated theologians. They did know that Manicheanism was heretical and said so, not because they held to one particular idea of ADS, any more than if the theology availible to the fathers of Nicea seemed to preclude the divnity of the holy spirit.

    I am currently taking an intro course on Patristics in part because of you, Daniel, and Jonathan. It is absolutely fantastic! I’m currently trying to parse Cyril and Nestorius and am discovering that the christology I got from a popular local catechist was a subtle Nestorianism in which Christ was a divine person but also had a human center of consciousness. Wrong! It appears that you are right about Christ not being “a man” but rather the Word assuming “human nature.” If one wants to start clearing one’s mind of Christian heresy, it really pays to dig into the Fathers.

    I’m planning on writing a paper on the trinity according to the Cappadocians next so I can get a handle on their “personalistic” triadology. Any secondary reading suggestions? There’s suprisingly little out there in English.

    BTW, do you have any suggestions regarding a general overview of patristic theological methodology: e.g., faith and reason, the limits of cataphatism, how patristic apophaticism functions, etc.?

  22. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:


    I forgot! With Maloney, Maloney isn’t arguing that Catholics can believe Palamas. He is just laying out the Palamite view. So to the extent that he says it is a metaphysical distinction to that extent he supports my claims. And even if he were arguing that Catholics are permitted to be Palamites, well unless he is adducing some official statement or something then I can’t see how that amounts to anything more than his opinion rather than the official teaching of Rome.

  23. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

    Hey Jack,

    Well first I wanted to thank you for a polite conversation. Its appreciated.

    Second, it seems to me that constant teaching of Catholic doctors and the ordinary magisterium makes it so. I mean, what else should I have read to find out Catholic teaching on this or any other issue for that matter? Sure I agree that Manicheanism was the target but I don’t see how that implies that they didn’t endorse ADS. Remember, Augustine uses his Neo-Platonic view of ADS against the Manicheans. How does that imply that he doesn’t endorse ADS?

    The argument seems to be something like that Lateran 4 or other statements didn’t intend to endorse ADS just to reject such and such a view. But what they did was to reject such and such view by endorsing ADS. Why did this happen? because ADS was just thought to be part of the authentic Christian tradition.

    My point was not so much to persuade Catholics to become Orthodox, something I rarely if ever attempt to do. Rather the idea was to locate where the differences were and to show that there are reasons and arguments to become Orthodox. And these reasons and arguments are not easily dismissed so that someone could be warranted in becoming Orthodox as opposed to Catholic or Protestant.

    If people agree with me on those two points, that was all I set out to show. Arguing with Fr. Kimel was just a demonstration of how the Orthodox position could be maintained and defended. It is not as if I thought I was going to convince anyone.

    In any case, this stuff acts like mental Drain-O with respect to the doctrine of God and Christology. It helps you get clear about what the ideas are in Patristic theology and that is something worthwile in and of itself.

    Thanks Jack. 🙂

  24. Jack says:

    I wish I could engage your arguments, but I can’t. However, and perhaps I’m confused here, I still do not see how you have proven that a Catholic is precluded from agreeing with you as to the distinction between essence and energy even if the vast majority of latin theologians are set against it. As I understand the historical situation of Lateran IV, the issue was Manicheism, which would be the claim that you and I are bits of the divine, not the essence/energy distinction. Show me the anathema.

    Otherwise, thanks for forcing me to attempt to engage this issue.

    BTW, I don’t remember the book, but George Maloney S.J. does insist on an ontological “distinction” between divine essence and energy.

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