Synergy In Christ

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46 Responses to Synergy In Christ

  1. Welcome, Michael! I very much enjoyed your article on the necessity of creation, or more properly, the lack thereof in the absolute sense (in fact, I cited it on an earlier thread). The sense that I took from your comments is that although St. Maximus expressed the notion of multiple good objects in perhaps the best way possible, there are reasons to suspect (though you have not yet analyzed the problem in detail) that St. Thomas and St. Augustine held to a similar concept implicitly. That is the sense I have of the matter as well, particularly reading David Hart’s explanation of how St. Augustine transformed the figure of creation as music into a theology of divine love. Far from being a divisive side issue, this analysis of free will seems to be the key to developing an ecumenical account of Eastern and Western theology. I find it encouraging that you consider the matter worthy of investigation.

  2. Daniel Jones says:


    One question: Are you saying that our emphasis on human freedom is a red-herring or something else?

    I believe for Maximus free-will was right at the center of his refutation of Pyrrhus and Monenergism. In other words, if you don’t have a real, metaphysical plurality of things to will, then you are going to end up with inevitability somewhere down the line given the supposition that God wills X. Thus, for Aquinas and Anselm following the Augustinian tradition, Augustine pretty much ties sin to mutability, and the only way to make human nature stable is to remove temporal succession and plurality from the objects of choice. Notice how Anselm says that the righteous will of Christ [in Gethsemane] came from his divinity. I think Anselm would see Christ willing self-existence as sinful and contrary to the divine will, I think the same can be said for Aquinas, which is why he cashes out the Gethsemane text just as a desire and not a true volition. Secondly, accidental relations or creatures can’t constitute intergration into virtue and result in true plurality of willing objects: 1) because the natural desire is for God and creatures or created accidents don’t deify. 2) Creatures or created realities would still be finite and evenutally you will exhaust them eventually resulting in Stasis. For Maximus, on the other hand, sin is tied to man’s potentiality for virtue (i.e. because of the gnomic will). I think Maximus would pretty much deny that prelapsarian Adam was created in what Aquinas would call habitus grace. Although, the logoi exists in Adam, he has not fixed his hypostatic employment with what is natural to him (the gnomic will again).

    I think this quote from Brian Shanley O.P., highlights the real differences between Maximus and Aquinas:

    “Stump argues that Aquinas is not a compatibilist because he believes the causal chain resulting in a voluntary act has to originate in principles intrinsic to the agent. She holds that “if something extrinsic to the agent were to act on the will with efficient causation, then the tie of the will to the intellect, from which acts of the will get their voluntary character, would be broken, and so the act of the will wouldn’t be voluntary” (585). This is a debatable claim, however, given what Aquinas holds about the relationship between God and the will. Stump considers the God-will problem to be restricted to theology’s consideration of grace, but it is clear from many passages in Aquinas that God is operative in the will quite apart from grace. This would imply that while Aquinas is surely not a compatibilist in the normal sense of the term, he does think that human freedom is compatible with divine causation. Aquinas does not fit neatly into either compatibilism or incompatibilism. As for the other contem-porary category, libertarianism, if it is understood to entail the principle of alternative possibilities or the freedom to do otherwise, then Aquinas does not really fit here either. As Stump shows, Aquinas does hold that liberum arbitrium entails the ability to do otherwise, but ultimately that freedom is rooted in a freedom that does not involve the will’s ability to do otherwise. We are not free with respect to alternative possibilities when its comes to the will’s natural inclination to the bonum commune or ultimate end. When confronted with God the ultimate Good, the will cannot nill; the blessed in heaven freely will God, but they cannot do otherwise. Stump argues that what really matters then for freedom is not the presence or absence of alternative possibilities, but rather that the agent’s volition causally originate internally from his own intellect and will. Stump therefore concludes that Aquinas does not fit neatly into any preexisting libertarian mold. Ultimately the will is free in Aquinas not because of its independence from intellect, but rather precisely because of its relationship to intellect.”–Analytical Thomism, The Thomist 63 (1999): 135.

    I think Aquinas holds to some form of compatibilism, because of the irresistibleness of the divine essence and that alternate possibilities has to be eliminated. The problem by my lights is thus 1) AP is understood between objects of differing moral worth. 2) If AP is construed this way, than in order to maintain impeccability the object of the will must be singular and simple. This is why many philosophers today say that we have AP in this life, but not in the next. But it seems to me, anyway that free-will (if supposing AP as a necessary condition for free-will) should get better and not worse. Augustine, it would seem, would have it that Adam had libertarian free-will in the garden, but lost it never to be recovered.

    Maximus on the other hand, thinks man can will otherwise in the Eschaton, it just so happens that 1) the objects of the will are infinite in number, and 2) all alternate courses of action are of equal moral worth and uncreated, and 3) you don’t have a permanent eschatological state, but a constant movement (and possibly) ever “increasing” deification.

    Regarding the divine ideas, I don’t believe that Maximus and Aquinas are similar or compatible. For Maximus there is a non-identity relation not only between the logoi and the essence but between each of them, for Aquinas and Augustine they just are identical with each other and the essence (However you wish to cash out that identity, idenity is still identity).

    Thanks for coming here and blogging. I hope we can have a fruitful discussion.


  3. Oops. In the phrase above “to the extent I can relate the two accounts given my residual ignorance of the Eastern background, they do seem mutually incompatible,” ‘incompatible’ should be ‘compatible’.

    I really should compose and edit offline first.


  4. Gentlemen:

    Having read Daniel’s paper straight through, I am deeply impressed with Maximus’ treatment of the issues. It would take a lot more study than I’ve done of him and of the patristic background, however, to ascertain whether his thought is fully compatible with Aquinas’ on matters touching the deposit of faith. Let’s just say I’m not convinced it isn’t.

    I say so because the interlocutors in this thread seem to take for granted that Aquinas’ account of ADS is incompatible with Maximus’. I don’t think that’s right because, to the extent I can relate the two accounts given my residual ignorance of the Eastern background, they do seem mutually incompatible. If the divine “logoi” are what Maximus says they are, I see no reason to deny their coextensiveness with what Aquinas calls “divine ideas,” at least insofar as they relate to human beings. Aquins characterizes them as “ways in which the divine essence can be imitated.” Though that in itself is a thinner notion than the one Daniel has explicated, much seems to go with it even for Aquinas. I have no time to explore that question here, but it’s at least worth investigating.

    One red herring that should be buried at the outset is the issue of human freedom. Obviously, prelapsarian man had what the scholastics later called “liberty of indifference,” which entails the possibility of sin; equally obviously, Christ and the blessed-in-heaven do not. But according to Anselm (“De casu diaboli” and “De libero arbitrio”) and Aquinas, Christ and the blessed have only what the scholastics later called “liberty of spontaneity,” which in itself does not entail the possibility of sin. It entails only the ability to choose among accidentally incompatible but morally acceptable alternatives. Maximus gives a more detailed and uplifting account of that than any scholastic I know.

    Thus, the movement from liberty of indifference, which entails but is not entailed by liberty of spontaneity, to ONLY the latter is a process of spiritual maturation leading actually to greater freedom, not less. I see no reason to think that Anselm and Aquinas could not account for that, given their commitment to ADS.

  5. Paul Hamilton says:


    Thanks for the reply. I think we are approaching this issue from different perspectives. I think I can give a pretty reasonable way to “separate” the philosophical framework from the Canon without being guilty of deconstructing the text.

    When we talk about God from a Christian perspective, there are certain characteristics which we desire our account of God to have: God needs to be all powerful, omniscient, transcendent, three persons with one nature, etc. We desire these things apart from any philosophical framework: our theology demands it, and so we try to use philosophy to create an account that explains the data. This revelation came to me when I was listening to that Marquette professor talk about God. It became apparent from listening to him speak that God has certain characteristics made known by Revelation that we are trying to come to grips with. We were trying to fit our philosophy to match the facts.

    Saying that God is one nature is not enough in Christian theology. It is possible to conceive God as one nature divided among three persons, much like we can divide a pie into three pieces: one pie, three pieces. However, this is not sufficient to explain God’s oneness. We need to posit that God is truly only one God, and that His essence cannot be divided like a pie is divided.

    Thus, one of the traits deemed necessary for the Christian God to have is some sort of simplicity. It seems apparent to me (correct me if I’m wrong; I haven’t exactly done an in depth study of the Patristics in this regard) that God is one as I describe above, and not as three parts in one big pizza pie. When I read Daniel’s paper on Christ’s Synergy, I found his comments on Maximus’ concept of God’s simplicity enlightening: both the East and the West, the Orthodox and the Catholics, realize(d) that any Christian conception of God needs to have some sort of simplicity. No simplicity/indivisibility in God’s nature, no Christian God.

    Here is where I think we are approaching the Canons from different angles. You seem to be reading the Canons as if the philosophy comes prior to the theology. It seems like you used a similar approach when you were critiquing Fr. Kimel’s comments on God’s incomprehensibility. You argued that because Catholic philosophers/theologians justified God’s incomprehensibility based on their view of God’s simplicity, Fr. Kimel was wrong to speak of God’s incomprehensibility apart from God’s simplicity when using a Western framework.

    While I wasn’t thrilled with Fr. Kimel’s four part response, I do have to stick up for him here. You say the West should not speak of God’s incomprehensibility apart from his simplicity because His incomprehensibility is a conclusion of His simplicity. However, whereas you seem to see one as the conclusion of the other within a philosophical system, I see both divine incomprehensibility and divine simplicity as traits which must be taken into account to explain the Christian God. Therefore, it does not seem wrong to speak of God’s incomprehensibility apart from His simplicity: God has both characteristics whether or not our philosophical system can explain it or not.

    Now, perhaps I misread your critique of Fr. Kimel’s response. However, I wish to use the example because I think it sheds light on the approach that I am using. The Canons say that God is simple. As I hope I explained above, I think that some version of God’s simplicity must be upheld in order to prevent some sort of tritheism, such as the three parts of one pie example. Some sort of simplicity must be asserted in God in order to show that God is truly one, united and not divided. I think this theological fact must be taken into account in any philosophical system which wishes to capture the God which is believed by Christians.

    From my reading of Canon 2, it seems that Joachim was preaching just that: the Unity of the Trinity is only a collective one. Thus, according to Joachim, while God is still “one”, he is a divided God. Joachim’s vision of God would be condemned by both the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches because both seem to realize that some sort of simplicity must be maintained in order to show that there is only *one* God.

    As I read both Canons, it seems that the theological fact of God’s simplicity is being asserted, not any sort of philosophical system. 600 years of Tradition or not, Canons 1 and 2 do not seem to be promoting any philosophical system, but simply stating one of those traits which God must have: simplicity. Just as Christians can call God omnipotent without having a precise definition of the term, so can simplicity be asserted without promoting a philosophical system. From my reading of the Canons, I don’t see anything which equates God’s being with His essence, etc. Of course, I could be wrong: my lack of theological and philosophical knowledge may prevent me from seeing such a direct promotion of a given system. However, I think this explanation provides an alternative interpretation of the text that works. I do not think that this explanation is ad hoc, either. I think the heresy being condemned lends itself perfectly to my explanation. I think the context of the statement makes the explanation that was given clearer. However, it is Rome, not I, that will decide if my interpretation is plausible.

    I certainly do not have the requisite knowledge to begin a synthesis of any two philosophical systems, let alone Maximus and Augustine. It’s going to take more than a mere undergraduate student to find a plausible solution. However, I have a good idea what my personal reading is going to be about next year. 🙂

    BTW, please pray for my grandfather. He took a turn for the worst today, and the doctors don’t think he has long to live.

  6. Perry Robinson says:


    I don’t think I am reading between the lines but just within the theological context of which those statments are made. Shall I attempt to read them apart from that context?

    I don’t know how if canons 1 or 2 are condemning or are meant to serve to condemn pantheism or tri-theism how they could fail to discuss the being of God. How is the unity of the Trinity not discussing the being of God I wonder?

    And when you speak of “substance” which notion of substance do you have in mind? As to indivisibility, I don’t have a problem there. Even if I am mistaken here and ADS is not the dogmatic position of Rome, it is still the pervasive and dominant theological teaching, in which case major theological revisions need to be made if my arguments or something like them are correct.

    I grant that the context would permit a thinner intension of the term. The question is why should we think that the council had that in mind given the theological context? If it is just to get it out of a corner that the tradition has painted itself into, then that strikes me as rather ad hoc.

    I don’t have a problem with giving Rome the benefit of the doubt as I would want people to read my arguments and tradition charitably as well. Even giving Rome the benefit of the doubt, how given their Augustinian framework they are going to do so? I am not trying to convince you of my position so much as to motivate your thinking on the subject. 😉 See, you thought you were done with my class, didn’t you? 😉

  7. Paul Hamilton says:

    I had no time to save my last message, so I had to do this in two sections. So, continuing on…

    Even if the word traditionally meant one thing, the context in which the word is used seems to suggest a thinner definition, at least in what was being defined.

    I don’t think either argument–the traditional usage v. the usage in the statement–completely cancels the other one out (welcome to the world of philosophy, I guess). Each time I settle on one argument or the other, I get an intuitive shock, like I am leaving out something important. In the end, I think we are left right where we started: it is up to Rome to clarify the Catholic position one way or the other, or to leave the question open. While I think Canon 2 seems to show exactly what Canon 1 was meaning to define, there is always the possibility that the Council intended to define more than an answer to Joachim should have entailed.

    And again, my reading of Canon 2 comes from the standpoint of someone ignorant of the complexities of Trinitarian theology. I guess that means I have a lot of reading to do. However, at the current moment, I don’t think “absolutely simple” had a controversial meaning. At the moment, it seems like the traditional understanding of three persons with one, consubstantial nature was being upheld. I think it seems plausible enough that Peter Kreeft was not mistaken when he cited Lateran IV’s definition of God as a profession of faith that expresses the standard Christian position on the Triune God.

    Of course, I realize that I am naturally inclined to give the Catholic Church the benefit of the doubt. However, after milling over this issue for a while, looking at it from a few different angles, I think my explanation is at least on the right track.

  8. Paul Hamilton says:


    Although the traditional usage of simple cannot be ignored in the Western Tradition, I also know from past experience that too many people try to read things into the statements of Popes and the Magisterium by means of implication. In my second comment, I brought up an instance where it seemed like Pope Leo XIII had condemned evolution. Pope Leo XIII was talking about marriage, but the language could be construed to mean a condemnation of evolution. Clearly, based on the last 50 years in the Catholic Tradition, the question of evolution is still an open one.

    While the meaning of “absolutely simple” must be taken into account, I am of the school of thought that Papal statements must be read parsimoniously. I don’t think we should read in between the lines of what was being addressed and what was actually said. Going back to the evolution example, the Catholic Church was very wary of evolution in the 1870’s and the 1890’s. In fact, Vatican I was thinking about condemning evolution, but the Council was cut short. Leo XIII probably thought the same way as the bishops of Vatican I did. All of these things contribute to the argument that Leo XIII did condemn evolution in his 1890 encyclical “Arcanum”.

    However, Leo XIII was clearly addressing issues about marriage, not about evolution. Even if some people want to read a condemnation of evolution into his words, no such condemnation was being made: the context makes that clear.

    Getting back to Lateran IV: we can always make arguments that some things –such as the identity of God’s essence with His being– have been solemnly defined if we only read between the lines of what was actually said. However, Canon 2 seems to show that nothing about God’s essence, being, etc was being discussed (however, since I am only a first year philosophy student, I could very well be wrong). What was being defined was the Unity of the Trinity. Joachim preached a sort of tritheism. The Catholic Church countered by saying that the Father and the Son are consubstantial. However, this substance is indivisible: they truly share one nature, whole and entire. I think this is the parsimonious reading of the Canon, and I think it explains all of the facts. “Absolutely simple’s” usage in Canon 2 seems to lend itself to such an interpretation, since the Canon directly links indivisibility in this context to “absolutely simple”. From my very limited perspective, it seems like nothing extra was being posited.

    As you can see, while I don’t think the traditional usage of “absolutely simple” can or should be ignored, I think that the Canons provide enough evidence to show what they were intending to condemn and what they were intending to declare…

    I’ll complete my conclusion later. My new cousin just came to visit. ^^

  9. Perry Robinson says:

    As to Paul, Jack and Daniel, I think Paul has hit the nail on the head. I think that it is pretty obvious given the theological context of Latin theology at the time and preceeding generations what the Lateran council meant. I think this is also supported by looking at how it was interpreted and received. To pretend that the term doesn’t mean what I am saying it means in the Augustinian tradition is to ignore 600 plus years of preceeding Augustinian theology and to make morons out of Aquinas, Albert, Anselm, et al. I think given the context the burden of proof rests on those who think otherwise. Why else would you find the doctrine defended so ubiquitously and dogmatically in official Catholic literature and by its theologians and apologists?

    Part of the problem is vocabulary. It seems to me that the same term is being employed in two different ways between the traditions. For the West “absolutely simple” picks out an identity relation. In the East it picks out the idea of complete or full presence.

    Jack’s pantheistic gloss is not Maximus’ idea since Maximus makes a clear *metaphysical* distinction between nature and grace. The only way on Jack’s reading to differentiate us from God is by sin. If that is the case then freedom has to be understood in terms of always choosing between good and evil. In which case God’s creating the world will either not be a choice or will be a choice between good and evil. In either case creation will be necessary for God and we are right back to Origenism. Jack’s thinking on ths point strikes me as still Origenistic. The energies are metaphysically different than created objects.

    I think what Daniel means by inherent virtue can be cashed out easily in Aristotle’s notion of virtue as a natural capacity. Every man by his natural participation in the logoi of humanity, the blueprint or “form” is naturally capable of becoming virtuous. This does not mean that everyone is already virtuous.

  10. Daniel Jones says:


    What constitutes the union between the Word and His humanity according to the Nestorians? It was the will. The virtues are not in us by an act of will, but naturally. This is where you see Maximus has a tight connection between Christology and anthropology. If grace is instroduced to us outside of our nature, that is Nestorian according to Maximus, because it would mean that an attribute needs to be communicated to our nature for us to participate in the divine life. Monophysitism and Nestorianism go hand-in-hand in my opinion. They just differ on the mode of the union in Christ. A good place to start looking at the differences between these various positions is in Meyendorff’s Christ in Eastern Christian Thought.


  11. Jason says:


    “Pay close attention to the short discourse between Pyrrhus and Maximus in the paper about virtue. Notice that if grace comes to man from the outside or the idea of a ‘sin nature’ is excluded by Maximus because it would presuppose a Nestorian view of the Incarnation.”

    I’ve been looking at this, and I’m not sure I quite understand the connection between Pyrrhus’ viewpoint and Nestorianism. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Phyrrhus’ conception of the Incarnation to begin with, so that might be my problem. Either way, I’m not seeing the connection between the view that virtue comes to us from the outside (rather than inhering in us from creation) and Nestorianism, and was hoping you could make it more explicit. You do seem to suggest that Maximus’ claim that virtue inheres in us refutes “the Nestorian character” of Pyrrhus’ position, but I can’t connect the dots. I have a few ideas of what you might mean, but they’re too ill-formed for me to even suggest them.

  12. Daniel Jones says:


    The logoi present in every man not only makes synergism possible, it guarantees it. And it’s not like it can be or not be in man; the logoi is there because God created. Pay close attention to the short discourse between Pyrrhus and Maximus in the paper about virtue. Notice that if grace comes to man from the outside or the idea of a “sin nature” is excluded by Maximus because it would presuppose a Nestorian view of the Incarnation.

    The logoi also guarantee that election is something that is a circumscribed option for everyone. It’s a path set before you that you can choose to accept or reject.

    Maximus’s determinism and predestinarianism is seen where God saves man from going back into non-being, and vindicates Himself from the claims of the devil who used death as a weapon to try and show his equality. Whether I want “ever-being” or not is irrespective of my willing in this life. Christ did it for me.


  13. Jason says:


    You said: “My paper discusses what simplicity means for Maximus and it does capture the notion of indivisibility.”

    Forgive me for commenting before finishing the entirety of your paper, then! I had only read a bit more than halfway through, and had simply skimmed the rest before I decided to comment here. Now I see that in your final footnote you say that Lateran IV “could be read in the same manner as it does with St. Maximus . . . [as saying that] God is not partitioned out in his operations.” I think that expresses some of what I was getting at when I pointed out that Lateran IV seems to define “absolute simplicity” in terms of “indivisibility,” and so appears to be in principle conformable to Maximus and other Eastern theologians. That’s a good thing.

    As for the rest of your paper, I’m very impressed by it. The thing that I’ll have to take the most time to chew upon is the Logos/logoi distinction and its relation to synergism. Understanding synergism has been a difficulty for me, but I find your paper potentially illuminating — particulary this passage which you quote from St. Maximus:

    “The works of God which did not happen to begin to be in time are participated beings, in which participated beings share according to grace, for example, goodness and all that the term goodness implies, that is, all life, immortality, simplicity, immutability, and infinity and such things which are essentially contemplated in regard to [or around] Him; they are also God’s works, and yet they did not begin in time.”

    Is it a correct understanding of this and the related points, then, that EVERY good work that I or any other person does is simultaneously BOTH my work and God’s work, which I participate in (by grace) while I am doing it? If I’m understanding this right, I think I might be closer to finally grasping the point of synergy here. And, of course, from this flows other important points about theosis and the whole of creation, which Jack appears to have noticed most clearly. IF I’m right that I’m beginning to understand this, I’ll be just as delighted as he appears to be. 🙂

  14. Jack says:


    I’m still trying to catch my breath. I am planning on attempting (again) to read Balthasar, Thunberg, and Farrell, this summer.

    Have to say that as a Catholic, I do like how the canonical argument is progressing.

    If I may be so bold, the next step might be to engage the moderns (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibneiz, Hegel, Nietzche, Heidegger) with your theological grid and try to answer some of the questions they are posing.

  15. Paul Hamilton says:


    Thanks for your imput. I do think that your analysis seems plausible. I’d have to think about it a bit. Although the theologians at my seminary don’t know much about ADS/DS, they do know a lot about different criteria that makes something infallible, etc. I might run this argument by some of them. I am lucky enough to have some big name theologians to help me out. Of course, I won’t see them again until late August. :/


    From what I understood of the paper, I thought it was pretty good. I’ll probably reread it a few times to learn some of the pertinent concepts.

  16. Daniel Jones says:

    My paper discusses what simplicity means for Maximus and it does capture the notion of indivisibility.


  17. Daniel Jones says:

    Back to the topic of the post:

    What do you guys think of the paper?

    What do think the theological grid of the paper can give you on a theodicy, providence, and free-choice?

    Is it a better view?


  18. Jason says:

    I said: “And if ‘absolutely simple nature’ here simply means something like ‘nature incapable of being split into parts [i.e., indivisible nature],’ then it seems that the Eastern theologians could readily accept this.”

    Actually, I’m curious: AM I right about this? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Eastern theologians support some notion of divine simplicity (although not Augustinian ADS), but then again I’m not too sure exactly what they mean by that, as I’m not too well-versed.

  19. Jason says:


    I agree that it’s largely irrelevant whether or not the councils had Palamas or the ontological distinction in mind. In other words, I think you’re right to say that any profession of ADS, as long as it means what Perry contends that it means, is an exclusion of Palamite theology, whether the councils explicitly address the issue or not. I simply offered the “simplex omnino” from Vatican I in order to demonstrate to those who DO happen to think that awareness of Gregory Palamas is relevant that there were councils that were likely well aware of his theology but that still said God was absolutely simple. Even if that’s not the case for Lateran IV, it is the case for Vatican I. This was more or less in response to Jack’s saying that “one ought to feel constrained to prove that the fathers of Lateran IV knew of the distinction.” My response is more or less: “Well, maybe they didn’t know of it at Lateran IV, but they knew of it at Vatican I and they said the same thing, so what they knew about at Lateran IV isn’t much of an issue.” (Of course, you might then move onto your “defensive dogma” argument about Vatican I, but I’d rather not get too caught up in that right now, as I think my next points are more relevant to the issue at hand.)

    However, I also agree with you that the crucial issue really seems to be the hermeneutics. Having been spurred on by your post regarding the apparent connection between Canons 1 and 2 of Lateran IV, I think we should definitely note the following language (in Canon 2):

    ” . . . it cannot be said that He [the Father] gave to Him [the Son] a part of His substance and retained a part for Himself, since the substance of the Father is indivisible, that is, absolutely simple . . . It is evident, therefore, that the Son in being begotten received without any diminution the substance of the Father.”

    There are two places in the text of Lateran IV where I can find the phrase “absolutely simple.” The first is in Canon 1, where it is stated that God is “three Persons indeed but one essense, substance, or nature absolutely simple.” The second is the above quotation from Canon 2. Canon 2 seems to explicitly state the meaning of the phrase “absolutely simple” for all of us. Here, it seems to be suggested that “absolutely simple” means “indivisible.” This point was apparently being made in response to Joachim in order to show that the three Persons are of one and the same essence, so that the “essence” is not some fourth entity in addition to the three Persons (which is what Joachim thought Peter Lombard was saying) but is rather a shared nature common to them all. And if “absolutely simple nature” here simply means something like “nature incapable of being split into parts [i.e., indivisible nature],” then it seems that the Eastern theologians could readily accept this.

    That, of course, seems to speak in favor of all of you so far — and, for my part, it certainly makes the possibility of appropriating Palamas from the Catholic standpoint seem much less intuitively implausible.

  20. Paul Hamilton says:


    It’s quite alright. I am just glad I have some people to help me sort through this issue.

    Unfortunately, I do not have nearly enough Christology, metaphysics, etc to sort through this issue yet. Although I have always been interested in philosophy and theology, I still only have 6 hours of actual philosophy under my belt. It might be a while before I can even begin to construct an article on Canon 1 (or 2, for that matter). Vatican I, however, seems like a pretty easy case at the moment. It seems obvious that the Council was meaning to exclude pantheism more than it was meaning to affirm any form of simplicity. I think a strong argument can be made for a “defensive dogma” here. I am less certain that the same can apply to Lateran IV, for reasons I stated above, although I think a case can be made for it.

    I had a visiting priest at my parish this morning. Not only did he mess around with every part of the Liturgy, but he intentionally butchered the words of Consecration. I am fuming right now. -_-

  21. Jack says:


    Sorry if I was too flippant. Let me know if you ever get around to constructing an argument regarding Canon 1.

  22. Paul Hamilton says:


    Sorry for my mistake.

    It seems irrelevant whether or not Lateran IV or Vatican I had Palamas or the ontological distinction in mind. If the councils professed ADS, then it seems that Palamas is excluded ipso facto. I do not see how it is possible for the councils to affirm ADS and then give the green light to Palamas.

    The hermeneutics seems to me to be the most important issue here, as well as if some “least common denominator” was trying to be reached. For instance, I know that a lot of patriarchs from the East attended the council. Did some/any of these patriarchs fall in line with Maximus? If so, perhaps a “least common denominator” argument can be made. Otherwise, the text seems to speak for itself: “absolutely simple” would seem to mean what is usually meant at that time period.

    Ultimately, I *do* think this is a canonical issue. If Rome has made a ruling on ADS, then that ruling cannot change. According to Perry, “absolutely simple” had a definition which was common knowledge in 1215. If that is the case, then we can’t turn around and play the deconstructionist 800 years later.

    And if Rome has defined ADS, and ADS is wrong, then the issue over the Papacy will solve itself: the Catholic Church will have contradicted herself by saying that Christ had two natures and then implicitly saying he only had one (by means of ADS). If there is a contradiction, both statements cannot be correct, meaning that Rome was wrong. If Rome is wrong in one of her definitions, then she is not infallible. If she is not infallible, then it seems like the argument over the Papacy is decided decisively in favor of the Orthodox. So in summary, I think these definitions are the most important part of this whole issue.

  23. Jason says:


    Thanks for the input. I, too, looked online and failed to find any of the primary texts for Lateran IV. I did, however, find the text of the First Vatican Council, which declares that God is “simplex omnino” (altogether — or, yes, absolutely — simple). That may or may not be what you were thinking of. In any case, though, that raises problems of its own, and perhaps moreso than Lateran IV — or am I wrong? It seems to me significantly less plausible to maintain that no one was aware of the essence/energies distinction at Vatican I than it does to say the same about Lateran IV (as Jack seemed to suggest), just due to the timeline of events alone. Lateran IV came before Gregory Palamas, of course, but Vatican I certainly did not. One could still perhaps respond that the council does not necessarily anathematize anyone who does not subscribe to divine simplicity, but that seems to be somewhat irrelevant, especially because the immediately preceding lines before these statements about God say that this view of God (as “simplex omnino”) is precisely what “Sancta catholica apostolica Romana Ecclesia credit” (The Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church believes). Presumably that implies that if you do not believe that God is “simplex omnino,” you do not believe what the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church believes.

    In the end, I guess the question might still remain whether or not “altogether [or: absolutely] simple” means absolutely simple in the same sense we’re talking about here, but then I start to head off into territory that I don’t know enough about. I’m not sure if there are ways of understanding “altogether simple” that are compatible with Palamite theology or not, but I will at least admit that the possibility strikes me as intuitively implausible. I’d be interested in some input on that, if anyone has any.

    I hope I don’t push the issues too strongly here. These are genuine questions/curiosities. Thanks!

  24. jack says:


    It isn’t Daniel who has ‘certainty’ it is me, Jack. For the life of me I can’t see how one could argue otherwise absent an express anathema against the ontological distinction, which, as far as I know, simply does not exist. It seems to me that ultimately the only difficulty East and West is the papacy, and despite the latin theological tradition[s] failures, it seems to me that the argument for the papacy is not without merit on both historical and theological grounds. Doesn’t Kephas also mean “head” in Greek?

    And, as far as “pantheism” goes, as far as I can tell, I am right. For those interested in a description of St. Maximus’s pan-christic ontology, check out Eric Perl’s essay in ‘Eriugena: East and West.’ Perl and I agree and, frankly, I don’t see how Maximus can be read in any other way. He is quite clear about it. Creation is God, not by essence but by participation. But, humans and other beings with freewill can choose to not participate.


  25. Paul Hamilton says:


    Actually, I have had trouble with the Catholic Encyclopedia in other situations this year. My research on Original Sin was a nightmare (only in part because of the CE). And yes, I have read their articles on Hesychasm and Palamas.

    I wish I had your certainty on the canonical status in this issue. Have you written anything extensive on this issue that I can read? Also, could you send me a list of books that will allow me to get up to date on the filioque, Maximus and Palamas, and the issues between ADS and DS?

    Thanks for your support of my vocation. I will keep you in my prayers.

    Jason, I have attempted to find the Latin text online, but I have been unsuccessful (what good is Rome if it won’t publish the Latin texts?) o_O However, I do remember seeing the exact translation somewhere. Forgive me if the spelling is off (I am doing this from memory), but it is simplex omnis (sp?). The translation seems to be an easy one: absolutely simple.

  26. Jason says:

    Just a random question: does anyone know what the original text is for “one . . . nature absolutely simple” in Canon 1 of Lateran IV? I’d like to consider the etymology and see if that sheds any light on the issue, but I haven’t been able to find a primary text. It would especially be interesting to see how the original language might square with Peter Kreeft’s assertion (noted above, in another comment) that “simple here means one.”

    Then again, this could shed absolutely no light on the issue whatsoever. Nevertheless, I’m curious!

  27. Jack says:


    I’m sure you know this already, but just to remind you, I would be more than a little wary about using the Catholic Encyclopedia as a good source for the nuances of theology (just check out the absurd article on Palamas and Hesychasm).

    I simply do not see how one could ever nail down exactly what was meant by Canon 1 of Lateran IV (or how one would discover that Rome had “infallibly taught [Augustinian] ADS.” What would that argument even look like? Regardless, if it is ever proven to Rome’s satisfaction that this ontological distinction of essence and energy is necessary, at that point we will know what Lateran IV and Vatican I taught on the topic of theology, know what I mean? In other words, Lateran IV will be read through the distinction, a reading of which it is obviously quite amenable.

    Ultimately, this is really not a canonical problem. The real problem is catechetical and practical in that, if the distinction be true, it (and theosis) is not being actively taught to Western Catholics. However, Catholic theology and praxis seem to be clearly moving to resource the Greek patristic tradition, so it is probably only a matter of time.

    Best wishes for your vocation.

  28. Paul Hamilton says:

    By the way, the 1962 Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Church declared God’s simplicity directly because of materialism and pantheism in the modern world. I think a better case can be made for this being a defensive declaration than Lateran IV can, although that is still very debateable.

  29. Paul Hamilton says:


    In a sense, it just doesn’t seem important whether or not Rome now allows Palamite theology in the East or not. Again, the larger question seems to be what the bishops meant at Lateran IV. If they intended ADS, then no amount of leniency in the modern Catholic Church can correct the problem. Of course, if it is simply impossible to determine whether they advocated ADS or not, the modern Church is the final interpreter.

    I don’t know if you meant to answer this question or not, but is it a sticking point between Catholics and Orthodox that the Father and Son are of one simple nature?

    What books should I read in order to get up to date on Maximus’ view, the Filioque controversy, etc? I am just as interested in finding the truth in this situation as you are, even if I am not as knowledgable about the problem as you are.

    I am a strong believer in Providence: I want to go where God is leading me. I, too, am content to be Catholic at this point because the Lateran IV and Vatican I issue has not been solved. Right now, I am Catholic because it has not been proven that the Church I am with is wrong (and because I am studying for Christ’s priesthood, something which I will not stop pursuing over this issue). Right now, I don’t think I need to make a decision because I am blessed enough to still have the Sacraments.

    However, I want to be where Christ’s Church is, whichever one it is.

    Jack, I’ll stick with e) for now, too. However, if the Catholic Church has infallibly taught ADS, then it has implicitly denounced Palamism. I don’t think the “defensive dogma” argument is conclusive for Lateran IV or Vatican I by itself. It seems like the council intended to infallibly define God’s simplicity, and from that conclusion it condemned Joachim. The real question is: what was meant by “absolutely simple” in Canon 1? Did “simple” always mean ADS in the Latin Tradition? Or did Rome only wish to condemn the least common denominator, mainly Joachimism?

  30. Jack says:

    I’m still struggling with the ontological distinction between created nature and grace, and thus with Christian “pantheism.” Created nature is not essentially divine, but is it not energetically divine qua proceeding from God’s will (ex deo)? It seems to me that the only aspects of created nature that are not energetically divine are those free acts of created nature that are taken against God’s will (i.e., sin). I seem to be seeing a great, albeit limited, truth to pantheism. Limited only by its failure to discover that God, by essence, absolutely transcends the nature he created. BUT, God is immanent by energy through the nature he created. Ergo, Christian “pantheism.”

    I also don’t see Pelagianism clearly. There really is “nothing” outside of Christ, sin being only apparently real, nor has there ever been anything outside of Christ. If we are cooperating with the logos of created nature, we are cooperating with Christ’s divine energy and are thus in Christ, no? Obviously “grace” ontologically preceeds human willing. There first needs be something there, the garden, for man to exercise his will on.

    Perhaps I am wrestling unsuccesfully with this.

  31. Daniel Jones says:


    I would say that the issue of simplicity between Orthodox and Catholics is a sticking point within the context of the filioque, because much of what the controversey is between Photius and the Carolingian theologians is tied to simplicity. So I’d see the filioque, at least as understood by the Carolingians in their day, to be a real dividing point.

    Secondly, I think Perry has some very good reasons to think that the correct hermeneutic in place of understanding Latern IV on that point is the Western Theologians. However, I don’t think Lateran IV would be trying to exclude the Eastern Tradition, folks that they hold as doctors and theologians of the Church, assuming they knew them and understood them at the time. Sometimes all that is necessary to exclude a view is the lowest common denominator: that being to exclude Manicheaism. For some reason, in a united Church, I just don’t see Rome asking the Orthodox to renounce Palamite theology when it specifically told the Byzantine Catholics to add him back on to their calendar. Of course adding someone to your calendar doesn’t necessarily translate into a green light for their theology, BUT within the context of the Eastern Catholics to recover their traditions, I think it is.

    I’m not sure I can answer these questions sufficiently for you, as I struggle with them myself. And sometimes struggle with the question of whether I should be Orthodox or Catholic (I must be honest). But that is my cross, and that’s why we have spiritual directors. Although, currently I’m feeling pretty content attending a little Byzantine Catholic parish in Irving Texas. Keep me in your prayers.


  32. Daniel Jones says:

    Metaphysical. Man’s nature is created, while grace is uncreated. With respect to God creating, they can’t be separated, but they truly are distinct. Otherwise you end up with Pelagianism or worse Pantheism. They couldn’t be any metaphysically stronger. I think I referenced Balthasar on that point in the paper, although I didn’t quote him. von Balthasar goes to much length to free Maximus from the charge of pantheism.


  33. Jack says:

    This is going to sound dumb, because I still haven’t fully appropriated Maximus (this will take a really long time for me). What is the distinction between created nature and grace? Is it simply epistemic? Ontologically both created nature and redemptive grace are coming from the same cause, right?

  34. Jack says:

    So we are all back in the garden right now! The unwashed simply do not know it, and the washed simply have not fully real-ized. The world is a fundamentally (infinitely might be the better word) better place than I thought it was.

    I’m sticking with (e), and, absent a clear anathema from Rome I do not see how one could prove otherwise. I am going to get more deeply connected with Eastern thought and practice where the Origenistic dialectic has received a more thorough overcoming. Once again, how would one go about getting an opinion from Rome?

    St. Maximus is the man (“pray for us”). So, does he get his hand back in the eschaton? 😉

  35. Paul Hamilton says:


    Thanks for the response. I have a few points I wish to have clarified:

    First, is the difference between Orthodox and Catholics based partly (or wholely) on the idea that God’s nature is simple in some way? I was under the impression that that was one of the sticking points. If so, then Lateran IV clearly confirms that we have a problem. If not, well then that’s just good.

    Secondly, and most importantly, could “absolutely simple” only have meant one thing at Lateran IV? In other words, was ADS so built into Catholic theology at that time that the meaning of “absolutely simple” had no need of clarification? It seems that we have to take the intent of the bishops into account. If “absolute simplicity” could merely refer to the Unity of the Blessed Trinity, okay. However, Perry seems to be arguing that ADS was already so built into Catholic Tradition at the time that its meaning was assumed to be common knowledge.

    After these questions get cleared up, I would like to ask some questions about the canons themselves.

    Thanks for your quick responses. The theologians at my seminary did not wish to comment on the issue because they did not know enough about the different types of DS to make a comment.

    And Perry, thanks for the “A”. I guess this means I can start making fun of you without fear of punishment! =o

  36. Daniel Jones says:

    Jack you hit the nail right on the head regarding recapitulation.

  37. Daniel Jones says:


    By looking at the context of the text of Lateran IV, what do you take ‘absolutely simple’ to mean? In other words, what view of simplicity do you believe it picks out and which ones does it exclude? Do you think it is possible to demonstrate your view from the text? Does the phrase necessarily presuppose the Augustinian understanding? These are important questions.

    Look how similar it reads to John of Damascus here as well:

    The confession of faith states at Lateran IV:

    “We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immeasurable, almighty, unchangeable, incomprehensible and ineffable, Father, Son and holy Spirit, three persons but one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature. The Father is from none, the Son from the Father alone, and the holy Spirit from both equally, eternally…”

    John of Damascus’s Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith I.2:

    “We, therefore, both know and confess that God is without beginning, without end, eternal and everlasting, uncreated, unchangeable, invariable, simple, uncompounded, incorporeal, invisible, impalpable, uncircumscribed, infinite, incognisable, indefinable, incomprehensible, good, just, maker of all created things, almighty, all-ruling, all-surveying, overseer of all, sovereign, judge; and that God is One, that is to say, one essence…”

    The stance I take on this issue right now Paul, is that Rome hasn’t situated out this issue, because of her isolation from Eastern Theology. But if she cannot accomodate Maximus, and it should be quite evident from reading the paper that his refutation of Monenergism was absolutely dependent on there being unity and a genuine plurality IN God, then, we have a REAL problem on our hands that is Historical, theological, philosophical, and Christological. A couple of options would be evident by my lights:

    a) My analysis (and others) is quite wrong in reading of his view of the Logos and logoi (energies, wills, powers, principles, capacities, et al to name other names for them).

    b) Rome wouldn’t be the Church since she has departed from the teaching of the 6th Council of Constantinople regarding the teaching of the Monothelite heresy. In fact, it would appear that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ and the Apostles and worse, it would seem that Rome is the Monothelite Church in some regards.

    c) 6th Council only followed Maximus partly. It affirmed two operations and two natural wills, but left open the question or was silent on the plurality of the objects of choice for the respective wills.

    d) A third way can be demonstrated that while Christ has two natural and operative wills, singularity or plurality of objects for the mode of willing to choose is not necessary to have true freedom.

    (e) Rome just hasn’t decided the issue yet and allows both, while it seems the Orthodox already have in 1351 with a vindication of Gregory Palamas.

    I think (a) is flat out wrong, since the majority of contemporary scholars I have read including von Balthasar affirm the genuine plurality or something very close to it. I think a strong argument could be made regarding (b) from the Orthodox point of view historically. I’m thinking of the Carolingians here and what gets sucked up into Medieval theology in the West in the name of Augustinianism. (c) is possible, but what would it be out to prove? (d) I guess is possible, but it’s going to have to deal with the Origenist dialectic eventually. (e) seems reasonable.

    BTW, this is a paper that I wrote for my Christology class this semester and it received alot of attention at first and enthusiasm later from my professors, and after looking at the argument they did not feel the need to conform me to a certain view that the Western Church holds to. Not to say that that won’t happen. It very well could, but I’m quite happy to stand with Maximus on this one and confess Christ. What else could I do?


  38. Jack says:

    How would one go about getting an opinion from Rome?

  39. Jack says:

    The more I reflect on this ontological distinction (but not division) the more primary I see it (and deification) to be. The ramifications are absolutely mind-blowing!!!! So, am I correct to see that that tree I am looking at out my window is, in a very real metaphysical sense, Christ by grace? (Heaven really is “at hand.”) And am I not Christ by grace at this very minute to the extent that I have allowed it? Is there a truth to “pantheism” in the sense that creation is God, not by nature, of course, but by grace? Is this why everything is sacramental when used according to its logos? \
    Why didn’t I see this before? This is soooo important. So, when Christ is in the poor, he really is in the poor, not just metaphorically or “spiritually” but really, as in “real presence” really. Mother Theresa anyone?

    Whoa. I think Chesterton lived this way at least it sounds like it from his books. How do I get to the point where I can’t see creation in any other way?

  40. Paul Hamilton says:

    Jack and Daniel,

    I would like to take you up on your challenge on whether or not the Catholic Church has infallibly defined ADS. I am not certain that it has, but I think a very strong case can be made for it. Since I am not a professional theologian, I would be grateful if either of you will correct any errors that I make. For future reference, here is the text of Lateran IV:

    Here is my reading of the argument against ADS’ dogmatic status: In matters pertaining to the Incarnation, or Trinity/God in general, we should not look at the positive formations of the faith in order to discover what the dogma is. Rather, we should look at the anathemas. Indeed, Basil Studer—a theologian whom I have a moderate amount of respect for—says this very thing in his conclusion of his book “Trinity and Incarnation”. He seems to argue that it is the anathemas that set the positive boundaries of what is and is not acceptable teaching within the Catholic Church.

    Moreover, dogmas should not be interpreted to be answering questions that they weren’t intending to answer (of course, oftentimes a dogma answered some unasked questions by logical necessity). For instance, the Catholic theologian Brian Harrison attempts to make the claim that Leo XIII infallibly condemned evolution in his encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae, an encyclical on marriage (see for the argument). He claims that because Leo emphatically states that, among other things, Adam’s creation from the dirt of the earth is real history, ergo he condemns evolution. However, it is clear that Leo never intended to answer any questions on evolution, only questions on marriage. Therefore, his language, no matter how firmly it can be interpreted, does not solve the question on evolution. The Catholic Church affirms that this question is still open for debate. Fair enough.

    I think this same strategy is being implicitly used on Lateran IV. The comments on God’s absolute simplicity were undoubtedly pointed directly at Joachim of Fiore. In Canon 1, the disputed statement about ADS is made; in Canon 2, Joachim is condemned, and the same language of ADS is used in this condemnation. Since the reasons for an anathema are not themselves infallible, and because in matters such as these it is the anathema that is important and not the actually profession itself per se, then ADS has not been infallibly defined. The council should not be said to answer a question it was not trying to answer, mainly whether or not Palamas’ view is anathema. Again, this is only my understanding of the argument: feel free to correct me in any place that I am wrong.

    However, there seems to be a hole in this argument. First of all, the text of Canon 1 seems to be making an explicit, dogmatic statement. Indeed, it begins with “We firmly believe and openly confess”. Moreover, all of the doctrines listed in Canon 1 are dogmas of the faith: “there is only one true God, eternal and immense, omnipotent, unchangeable, incomprehensible, and ineffable”. Then the statement about ADS is made: “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three Persons indeed but one essence, substance, or nature absolutely simple”. It seems clear what the definition of “absolutely simple” is: they are referring to the typical western mode of thought on this issue. Since everything else in the paragraph is dogma of the faith, it seems to follow inductively that this statement on ADS is, too.

    The “negative dogma” defense also ignores the fact that the Catholic Church often does formulate positive dogmas, such as the Immaculate Conception. Quite separate from any error being corrected, these formulations are made. It is highly possible that Lateran IV defined ADS as a dogma quite apart from any reference to Joachim’s heresy.

    After this declaration is made, the Council says, “Therefore, we condemn…”. ADS is asserted before the condemnation is even made. It seems at the very least plausible that ADS was being defined, and therefore Joachim is wrong and not vice versa. The order of the document goes: ADS is seemingly confirmed, then Joachim is condemned by means of ADS.

    God’s being “absolutely simple” is said to be “firmly and openly confess[ed]” before the condemnation of Joachim is ever made.

    However, here I must claim ignorance. It seems that one of the sticking points between the Orthodox and Catholics is that the Three Persons of the Trinity share one, simple nature, essence, or substance. However, as Canon 2 affirms, both Orthodox and Catholics agree that Father and Son are consubstantial, “with the same substance”. Since I don’t know what the distinction is between the two, I must claim ignorance.

    I am having a load of trouble seeing how ADS is not being defined here. Even if Palamas’ view is not condemned, the confirmation of ADS seems to implicitly make that condemnation as a logical conclusion of ADS.

    By the way, the fact that Byzantine Catholics support Palamas’ view does not make the view acceptable. 70% of American Catholics think priests should be able to marry, but that does not mean Rome agrees. Nor does a lack of condemnation of Palamas’ view equal a happy affirmation of it, either.

    Even if ADS is not a dogma of the Catholic Church (I would love to see why this is not the case), it has remained a part of our constant view of God. Even if the CC’s statement in Lateran IV is not dogmatic, it seems to at least require assent of mind and will. Please prove me wrong. I would love to see one of the barriers to reconciliation be shattered.

    I would also like to see ADS as a mere theological opinion. After reading Stump’s lackluster defense of God’s ability to act freely in ADS, I would love to know that the Catholic Church is not bound to the concept. Even if “unsolved problem” does not equal “unsolvable problem”, I cannot fathom what the potential solution to the problem would be.

  41. Jack says:

    Once again, I just want to reiterate that RC does not bear the burden of proving here, specially in light of Eastern Catholicism. A convincing case has not (and probably cannot) be made. Which brings us back to the papacy.

  42. Jack says:


    I skimmed your paper last night and found it very interesting. Thanks for making it available.

    Once again, as with the first post, I would remind everyone that nobody has yet come anywhere near to “proving” that Roman Catholic Church has dogmatized against the ontological distinction between the divine essence and the divine will. If one wants to maintain that thesis, one ought to feel constrained to prove that the fathers of Lateran IV knew of the distinction and were expressly attempting to anathematize it. Show me the money.

    That being said, I am totally enthralled with St. Maximus’s theology. He seems absolutely fundamental to me. Thanks for the tip. Have you checked out Eriugena’s work? I’m not sure he is aware of the ontological distinction, so he is much more neo-platonist than Maximus, but from what I can make of it, it is quite stunning. There is a book by the name of ‘Eriugena: East and West” (I believe that is the title) with an article by Meyendorff and Perl that is definitely worth skimming.

  43. Daniel Jones says:


    Perry teaches undergrad at


  44. Jack says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I will try in a couple of weeks (while I am at a Ukrainian Catholic monastery!). BTW, does anybody know where Perry teaches philosophy at? I need help.

    And, might Eriugena or Cusa be of help?

  45. Jonathan Prejean says:

    Glad to see the essay turned out well! I’m looking forward to getting my stuff put away so that I can get back to it, but you’re doing so well at the moment, I wouldn’t have anything to add.

  46. Paul Hamilton says:


    I am not sure what to think of this, but when I was studying for a Catholic Morality exam this week, I was reading through Peter Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity. One the last page of his chapter on God in “Catholic Christianity”, he quotes that paragraph from Lateran IV which comments on God’s simplicity. After quoting this section, he puts in parathesis “Simple here means one”. He seems to think that “simplicity” was used to express the unity of the three persons of the Trinity and not DDS. While he doesn’t go into any explanation, I found it interesting that he didn’t relate it to the absolute simplicity of God, something he mentioned earlier in the chapter. However, I could be wrong about what Kreeft was intending to say; it could be that I am misreading his words. I thought I would tell you anyway; perhaps it will help guide your research.

    Still, I ask that you be careful. I have met too many Catholics who make a habit of denying every doctrine–dogmatically stated or not–and attempting to reinterpret them. Even if DDS winds up being a theologumea (I have not been completely convinced of this), DDS should still be respected as the overwhelmingly line of thought in the Catholic Church. Just because a solution to the problem has not been found yet, that does not mean that no solution can be given (even if I have absolutely no idea what that solution would be). Assent of mind and will should not be lightly brushed aside. However, you seem like a very intelligent and faithful believer. I am sure that you will proceed within the boundaries of our Tradition. Perhaps you might want to talk to a few professional theologians and ask their opinion after explaining the issue. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

    I have been researching this issue myself. Keep the discussion on this topic going; it provides me with resources to further my own education. =D

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