Lutherans! and Calvinists! and Catholics! Oh My! pt. 2

Drew Johnson (I don’t know if this is the same Drew who posted regardingChemnitz or not) who is a convert from Orthodoxy to Catholicism responded to some comments I made over at Pontifications (comment 57). Since Fr. Kimel has shut down the comments I am taking the opportunity to respond to his comments here.

While it may be true that Newman’s theory of development of doctrine is consistent, Orthodox will simply deny the truth of the premises necessary to imply that it is cogent. The dogmas and practices that you will cite as supporting data, the Orthodox by and large will deny and argue that they do fit Vincent’s canon.

And no, the East did not follow Origen. This is to say that Origen was widely influential but the latter does not imply the former. Origen’s influence, sincere as he personally was, was t he root of most of the major Christological controversies and later Augustine’s’ predestinarianism. Arius is therefore a more consistent follower of Origen than Athanasius, and much the same can be said for Eunomius over against Gregory of Nyssa. 

I knew my question concerning the body of Christ would be mystifying for you given the Latin concept of the “mystical body of Christ” as something different from the genuine resurrected body of Christ. That is why I asked the question. I also clarified the difference between an attribution and a quality and I note that you seem confused by that distinction. I’d recommend plugging in the respective notions to the theology of theosis and see how they pop out.


If you think that my denial that theology is a science governed by dialectic is contrary to the thought of John of Damascus, then you need to give some support rather than drop a name as I have read the text in question. Perhaps I am mentally ill or stupid or perhaps what you claim regarding St. John isn’t as simple and straightforward as you think. I like to think it is the latter. Moreover, St. John’s arguments against the Iconoclasts depend on a non-scientific or dialectical understanding of matter, image, and other relevant concepts. If St. John thought theology were a science, he would have been an Iconoclast. The use of philosophical terms does not imply a use of the philosophical concepts associated with them. Plotinus uses lots of key terms from Aristotle, but Plotinus is no Aristotelian. Athanasius uses terms from the Sabellians, but he is no Sabellian. If theology were governed by the principles of reason, then God would be being. But God is not being and so theology is not governed by the principles of reason, for the simple reason that dialectic when applied as a governing principle to either Triadology or Christology will always yield a heterodox result. Athens is quite far from Jerusalem.

As to Protestants and development I beg to differ. Protestant reading of the patristic material on any major doctrine follows the same basic principles of the Catholic notion of development, that what was implicit becomes explicit later on with the use of new terms driven by dialectic. Moreover, key Protestant distinctives are justified no only on exegetical grounds but dialectical principles. Sola Fide is not explicit in the text but “implied” and later “drawn out” by the Reformers. Such is the way that standard and major Protestant writers argued. Protestants accept only the theses that any development is in principle explicitly revisable rather than a complete “abrogation” which is why they like to claim Augustine as well as Aquinas and Anselm.If as you say that Palamas was not a development, a finding of implicit conceptual content via dialectic which results in the giving of new meanings to old terms, then you don’t know what development was, then it is obvious that you know not what development is, let alone what Palamas taught. First Palamas doesn’t take himself to developing anything. That category is imposed on him as a way of explaining the difference between his view and that of the Latins. Second, I don’t know what specifically Palamas is supposed to have adduced by way of dialectical development. The essence/energies distinction perhaps? That is in Ireneaus all the way up through Maximus the Confessor. And he certainly didn’t say anything more about the divinization about the body than you can find in the NT, let alone the Fathers.

Because homoousias doesn’t have any conceptual content, the problem of the various factions arose out of an attempt by some of them to instill it with specific philosophical content. This in turn led to new heresies, which is why the Arian position keeps morphing as the controversy continued. It also arose out of an attempt on the part of the Nicenes to find a consistent terminology because there simply was no adequate philosophical content for theological terms. The wine of theology burst the skins of philosophy. Greek philosophy simply doesn’t have a distinction, or at least not an adequate one between person and nature, which was necessary to speak of the Christian God.


As to Augustine’s inability to free himself from specific pagan metaphysical beliefs, you are quite right that you must be reading a different Augustine, for in the texts you cite (the Confessions especially) the theses you mention are held on the basis of faith and not reason. The eternity of the world and the cosmic soul are continuously maintained by Augustine as truths of reason that he cannot dismiss. This is why Aquinas never dismisses them on the basis of reason. In order for Augustine’s synthesis to be successful he has to show how truths of reason and truths of revelation do not conflict, but he is self confessedly never able to do so with these and other pagan metaphysical theses. So you simply confuse the categories of reason and revelation in Augustine. There are plenty of Catholic Augustinian scholars who acknowledge this-Gilson, Burke, Brown, et al. Where do you think I learned it from?


Daniel (aka Photios) isn’t affirming that evil is a substance but rather affirming that humanity considered by itself apart from the addition of grace is good. To say that original sin is constituted by the mere lack of grace would imply that human nature is of itself and intrinsically evil, which is false. So my comments do in fact clarify the position it is just that you can’t seem to notice the looming Manicheanism or aren’t familiar with the medieval debates about the dialectic of nature and grace. This is standard fair.

Hence the difference between a mere absence and a defect is simple. Vision is merely absent from a rock, but it is deficiency in humans. Grace may be lacking in humanity qua human but it doesn’t of itself imply a defect. The absence of grace when considering humanity absolutely does not imply deficiency, let we think that nature is evil. I think you need to take Augustine’s works contra the Manicheans and Julian the Pelagian more seriously.

38 Responses to Lutherans! and Calvinists! and Catholics! Oh My! pt. 2

  1. “Even granting the claim for the sake of the argument, how does that make the Orthodox Church heretical”

    My point was that it *doesn’t* make the Orthodox Church heretical, just as heresy or historical misinformation on the part of a minority of Catholic theologians does not make the Catholic Church heretical as a whole. The “content of the faith” also, (though not exclusively) defines Catholicity, and one cannot possibly prove the essential position of Catholicism to be found in a minority theological opinion with no Magisterial sanction.


    That the death of the Theotokos “poses specific and significant problems” for Catholic doctrine, does not distinguish it from any of the other numerous points of theological definition which have served as subject for conciliar deliberation and subsequent catechetical promulgation. As for the position of orthodox though historically misinformed Catholics who might have in consequence of the IC definition argued for a scenario of deathlessness with regard to the Assumption of the Theotokos, let it be borne in mind that polemic exigencies have influenced even great orthodox saints into making what are difficult statements and proclaiming ambiguous and verbally-unfortunate formulae, e.g., “one nature of the Incarnate Word,” “one theandric energy,” or “gnomic will” which at one time St. Maximus applied in a qualified sense to Our Lord. I think the state of the few Catholic theologians who held to the deathlessness of Our Lady bears a certain analogy to that of St. Cyril, or St. Maximus, or St. Dyonisius, and that charity ought to be accorded them, especially given their probable ignorance of the Patristic Tradition as proclaimed in the Eastern (but not the Western) Feast of the Dormition.

    I never said that someone’s “engaging in ecumenical dialogue” renders one a heretic. But there are, I think you would admit, those hierarchs in the Orthodox Church who eschew Traditional Orthodox ecclesiology. such as the Gracelessness of the Mysteries of non-Orthodox Churches. I am not pointing fingers triumphalistically; Ecumenism is currently a much bigger problem in the Catholic Church than in the Orthodox. But I think my original argument which counters your accusations against “The Vatican” &c., still stands on the strength of the legitimacy of my observation concerning the presence of Ecumenical errors amongst Orthodox prelates.

  2. acolyte says:


    It may not, but it shows that I am not blowing smoke either. Those people are not anti-Catholic or liberal or stupid. If you investigate the process of dogmatizing the IC, I think you will see that the death of the Theotokos posed specific and significant problems.

    Engaging in ecumenical dialog doesn’t of itselt mean someone advocates the heresy of ecumenism. The two are not the same. So this is a rather weak analogy.

  3. Raymond,

    Even granting the claim for the sake of the argument, how does that make the Orthodox Church heretical, since Orthodoxy is not defined by any particular geophraphical See. Content of the faith defines Orthodoxy not geography.


  4. “This last source clearly proves Perry’s point that the Vatican has departed from the teaching of the Fathers.”

    No it doesn’t! The opinion of a few scattered theologians and a letter of one particular secretary of the Holy Office do not constitute anything of significant Magisterial authority, or amount to anything so susceptible of monolithic denomination as “The Vatican”. I could just as well say that the Orthodox Church “has departed from the teaching of the Fathers” when it comes to the necessity of the Church for salvation, just because *some* her hierarchs adhere to the ecclesiological heresy of Ecumenism.

  5. acolyte says:

    Chris Jones,

    My concern is this, the entire question of the nature of humanity after the fall is based on heterodox assumptions, namely that it is the nature that explains our current state. Even if human nature were energized now that would not preclude sin (it didn’t with Adam). So by the same token the mere lack of energy now does not explain sin fully. To stave off the Pelagian worry we don’t need to obliterate nature, which is what the Reformation traditions tend to do. If there is the slightest tinsy weensy little bit of goodness then you must be a Pelagian.

    Now, I am not accusing you or blaming you, but I wanted to bring to light what I see is a problem with the question and the kind of answers people give. People are worried that the Orthodox are closet Pelagians so they want to see your official Anti-Pelagian Club card. The way that the question is framed tends to imply a confusion between person and nature, as if defects in soul and body (the soul is often treated as the person) excluded any genuinely good choice or guaranteed via determination all and only sinful choices. Both are false since nature doesn’t determine a person’s choice.

    I think it is more illuminating to turn the Pelagian question around and ask about Adam prior to the fall. What is the relation of Nature and Grace there, since THAT is what will determine if someone is Pelagian or not. Pelagianism is not per se the thesis that salvation can be merited by natural powers alone. That is a consequence of the Pelagian identification of Nature and Grace.

  6. Henny Fiskå Hägg holds that the essence / energy distinction can even be found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria (See “Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Apophaticism”).

  7. trvalentine says:

    I’m still not sure if I understand how to use ‘p’ tags ‘blockquote’ tags, etc., but here goes…

    I think Raymond Maxwell Spiotta is being ingenuous in his comments. I always thought it was fairly common knowledge that the official statement regarding the so-called ‘Assumption’ deliberately avoided the ‘question’ of whether the Theotokos died. This seems to be confirmed with a little Googling. From what appears to be an official Latin publication out of Australia, (the URL is ) is a Q and A run by a ‘Fr John Flader’. This page responds to the following question:

    I have always wondered what the Church teaches about whether the Blessed Virgin Mary actually died before she was assumed into heaven. I know that Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption, but did he say anything about whether Mary died?

    with the following:

    Pope Pius XII, in defining Mary’s bodily assumption in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, on the 1st November 1950, wrote: “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”
    In the more succinct statement of the dogma, he proclaimed: “Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven.”
    As can be seen by these two phrases, “when the course of her earthly life was finished” and “after the completion of her earthly life”, Pope Pius purposely avoided entering into the question of whether Mary actually died or not. He left it an open question. The reason is that there was a difference of opinion among the Fathers of the Church on this point, although the more probable opinion is that Mary did die, since even her Son Jesus died.

    This appears to be consistently echoed from other papal Christian sources. For instance, the ad hominem-prone (and anti-Orthodox) ‘Catholic Answers’ writes:

    The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, “after the completion of her earthly life” (note the silence regarding her death), “was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.”

    (URL: ). And the traditionalist Latin group ‘Catholics United for the Faith’ write:

    And significantly, Pope Pius XII left open the question of whether Mary “died.” Note that the definition intentionally uses the ambiguous phraseology, “having completed the course of her earthly life.”

    (URL: ). Similarly, in a lengthy passage at is found this:

    The fact of Mary’s death and subsequent resurrection is uncertain. We cannot say, therefore, that they are included within the scope of the definition of Pope Pius XII. For a Pope defines only what is certain. And should it be established later beyond shadow of doubt that Mary actually died and subsequently rose again before her sacred body saw corruption, this new discovery would have no bearing whatever upon the scope of the definition in the Munificentissimus Deus. For that alone is within the scope of a definition which the Holy Father or an Ecumenical Council intends to define at the moment of definition. And, by the same reasoning, those who maintain that Mary did not die cannot say that Pope Pius XII defined that Mary was assumed into heavenly glory without having previously died and risen again. The fact alone of her Assumption, body and soul, into heaven is now of faith by virtue of this Constitution, and not her death, resurrection, or bodily immortality.

    A brief glance at the history of the doctrine of the death and resurrection of Mary and at the theological arguments adduced in support of them should serve to justify the opinion just stated.

    In the first three centuries there are absolutely no references in the authentic works of the Fathers or ecclesiastical writers to the death or bodily immortality of Mary. Nor is there any mention of a tomb of Mary in the first centuries of Christianity. The veneration of the tomb of the Blessed Virgin at Jerusalem began about the middle of the fifth century; and even here there is no agreement as to whether its locality was in the Garden of Olives or in the Valley of Josaphat. Nor is any mention made in the Acts of the Council of Ephesus (431) of the fact that the Council, convened to defend the Divine Maternity of the Mother of God, is being held in the very city selected by God for her final resting place. Only after the Council did the tradition begin which placed her tomb in that city.

    The earliest known (non-Apocryphal) mention concerning the end of Mary’s life appears in the writings of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia, the ancient Salamina, in the isle of Cyprus. Born in Palestine, we may assume that he was well aware of the traditions there. Yet we find these words in his Panarion or Medicine Chest (of remedies for all heresies), written in c. 377: “Whether she died or was buried we know not.” Speaking of the cautious language used by St. Epiphanius, Father Roschini says: “To understand his words fully we must remember that he was conscious, when writing, of two heresies which were then living and dangerous: that of the Antidicomarianites, and that of the Collyridians. The former denied the perpetual virginity of Mary, the latter, erring in the opposite direction, maintained that divine worship should be given to her. To assert that Our Lady died was to give a handle to the one heresy (for it was to suggest that the body of Mary was subject to the corruption of the tomb, and thus minimize her prerogatives); to assert that she did not die was to encourage the other.” And with the exception of a so-called contemporary of Epiphanius, Timothy of Jerusalem, who said: “Wherefore the Virgin is immortal up to now, because He who dwelt in her took her to the regions of the Ascension,” no early writer ever doubted the fact of her death. They did not, however, examine the question; they merely took the fact of her death for granted.

    Apparently influenced by the apocryphal Transitus writings of the fifth to the seventh centuries, later Fathers and Church writers likewise spoke of the death of Mary as a fact taken for granted. For all men, including Christ, died: therefore, Mary, too. Like their predecessors, they did not consider ex professo the theological arguments for or against.

    St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636) appears to be the first to cast some doubt upon the fact of Mary’s death. Obviously ignoring the Apocrypha, he said of the death of Mary: “. . . nowhere does one read of her death. Although, as some say, her sepulchre may be found in the valley of Josaphat.” Tusaredo, a Bishop in the Asturias province of Spain in the eighth century, wrote: “Of the glorious Mary, no history teaches that she suffered martyrdom or any other kind of death.” Although St. Andrew of Crete (d. 720) generally introduced much theological argumentation into his writings, he states, with very little argumentation, that Mary died because her Son died. The same is true of a similar teaching of St. John Damascene (d. 749). And about one hundred years later, Theodore Abou-Kurra (d. c. 820) likened the death of Mary to the sleep of Adam in the Garden when God formed Eve from one of his ribs. This, obviously, was not a true death.

    All the great Scholastics of the thirteenth century taught that Mary died. The principal reason for their so teaching was obviously the fact that they denied the Immaculate Conception in the sense in which it was defined by Pope Pius IX. Thus we read in the writings of St. Bonaventure: “If the Blessed Virgin was free from original sin, she was also exempt from the necessity of dying; therefore, either her death was an injustice or she died for the salvation of the human race. But the former supposition is blasphemous, implying that God is not just; and the latter, too, is a blasphemy against Christ for it implies that His Redemption is insufficient. Both are therefore erroneous and impossible. Therefore Our Blessed Lady was subject to original sin.”

    After the definition of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854 the question of whether or not Our Blessed Lady died gradually became a subject of wide theological discussion and is today one of the most widely disputed Mariological questions. The impetus to further study out of which arose the present state of dispute was given by the writings of Dominic Arnaldi of Genoa who died in the year 1895. Arnaldi defended the thesis that Our Blessed Lady’s complete freedom from sin demanded her freedom from the penalty of death.

    Today we have diametrically opposed views on the death of Mary supported by outstanding Mariologists. The most outspoken proponents of the thesis that Mary did not die are Roschini and Gallus. Father Freithoff, O.P., expressed the view that “the death of Mary is not certain, either historically or from revelation.” On the other hand, Father C. Balic, O.F.M., maintains that “the terminus a quo of the Assumption is the death of Our Lady, the terminus ad quem is the glorification of her body in heaven. The object of the Assumption in recto is the glorification of the living body, and ex obliquo her death and resurrection.” Father J. F. Bonnefoy, O.F.M., goes so far as to state that “the death of the Most Holy Virgin may be considered as historically proved and explicitly revealed: as such (explicitly revealed) it may be the subject of a dogmatic definition: there is no reason why it should not be.” And the Mariological Week held at Salamanca (Spain) in 1949, which was devoted exclusively to the question of the death of Mary, sent a petition to the Holy See requesting the definition “. . . of the bodily Assumption of the B. V. Mary into heaven, after death. . . .” It is little wonder, then, that Cardinal Pizzardo, the Secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office, in an address on the occasion of the First International Mariological Congress in Rome (1950) referred to the question of the end of the life of the Blessed Virgin as a very obscure problem, and one which demands further study and clarification by theologians.

    This last source clearly proves Perry’s point that the Vatican has departed from the teaching of the Fathers. It deftly ignores the earliest testimonies by dismissing them as ‘Apocryphal’ and then cherry-picks isolated statements which lack any and all argumentations whilst criticising St Andrew of Crete and St John of Damascus for a lack of argumentation behind their clear and unambiguous statements that the Theotokos died. Did it not occur to the writer(s) that St Andrew and St John had no need to offer argumentation because their statements were completely accepted and not the least controversial?

    Despite this weak attempt to undermine the universal Christian belief that the Theotokos died, this final source basically admits that there was no move towards denying the death of the Theotokos until after the ‘definition’ of the so-called ‘Immaculate Conception’ in the 19th century.


  8. acolyte says:


    I think the more interesting question is, why has Rome moved away from formally accepting as part of her tradition? Why was it such a problem for the Papacy when they were defining the dogma of the IC?

    Right now I am off to attend a lecture but I’ll dig up some material on Rome’s later evaluation of the tradition concerning her dormition.

  9. But there has not been “this or that view in church history” in any meaningful sense. I reiterate; there remains to be shown even the private opinion of one Catholic saint that Mary did not die. Why would Rome choose “to clarify or adjudicate the matter” when the vast preponderance of Catholics believe the Traditional account? And what evidence can you cite of “Rome for specific reasons back[ing] away from it?”

  10. acolyte says:


    This is how you seem to be looking at the issue. There is this or that view in church history and Rome has not moved to clarify or adjudicate the matter. From my view, it is that the teaching was there and Rome for specific reasons backed away from it.

    Perhaps it might be helpful to revist the theological discussion of the death of the theotokos at the time of formulating the dogma of the IC since that question played a significant role there.

  11. “So you believe that she did in fact die and that this was part of the worship of the church?”

    Yes, I believe She died. This truth obviously manifests itself in at least the Eastern Liturgy and Divine Office. The Roman Mass (Traditional, of course – I am not very familiar with the Novus Ordo – and as codified by St. Pius V) does not mention her Dormition, the emphasis there being centralized on the fact of Her bodily Assumption into Heaven. I do not have access to a traditional Roman Breviary, and so I am unaware what the Western Office has to say about it.

    “The iconography of it says it all. Mary is wrapped in a burial cloth and held by Christ. I don’t know how one can affirm the Dormition, the falling asleep of Mary and leave the question idle as to whether she died.”

    I mostly agree; I think there is absolutely no case to be made for the Theotokos not experiencing death. The Iconography is explicit; the Eastern Liturgy is explicit; the homiletic (Eastern & Western) concerning the Dormition is explicit.

    This said, I am not going to declare anyone heretical for not holding to the correct understanding of the Dormition, simply because the Church has not solemnly defined ex cathedra that the Theotokos suffered bodily death.

    “Why do you think Rome left the question idle?”

    As far as making it a question of dogmatic necessity, I don’t know. I could ask the same question concerning the doctrine of Mary’s mediation of all grace. Many thought the doctrine would be defined ex cathedra in 2000. Why it was not, I do not know, but neither is it my place to speculate on such things.

  12. acolyte says:


    So you believe that she did in fact die and that this was part of the worship of the church? Because that is the Orthodox view.

    The two views don’t seem identical at all. One says she did die and the other that she may or may not have. One affirms it and the other is idle.

    The iconography of it says it all. Mary is wrapped in a burial cloth and held by Christ. I don’t know how one can affirm the Dormition, the falling asleep of Mary and leave the question idle as to whether she died.

    Why do you think Rome left the question idle?

  13. “Did the ascendency of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception cause the “traditional” teaching on Mary’s Dormition to fall by the wayside?”


    I have not read *anything* by any Catholic saint, (even of those saints writing after the time the IC became clearly explicated and the ascendant doctrine or even subsequent to its dogmaticization), that would imply that the Theotokos did not die.

    “Is your understanding of Mary’s Dormition identical to that of the Eastern Catholics & Orthodox?”

    As regards the historical fact of it, yes.

  14. Joseph says:

    Chris Jones,


  15. William B says:


    You state:

    (1) The Catholic Church does not teach that the Theotokos did not die. Some may hold this as an uninformed private opinion, but nowhere has the Church taught the deathlessness of the Theotokos, nor has the idea of her deathlessness ever held the ascendancy in the Catholic imagination.

    (2) Consider for instance the private revelations of St. Brigit, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich and Ven. Mary of Agreda, all three of whom purportedly had visions of the Dormition of the Theotokos. These holy souls’ visions have been greatly influential in forming the Western Catholic imagination, and are representative of the way in which the Mother of God has always been considered to have “completed the course of her earthly life.”

    Did the ascendency of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception cause the “traditional” teaching on Mary’s Dormition to fall by the wayside? Is your understanding of Mary’s Dormition identical to that of the Eastern Catholics & Orthodox?

  16. Don Bradley says:

    “Also, if you believe little to no progress has been made, then what do the Latins have to do-other than just converting to Orthodoxy-to bridge the gap?”

    The length of such a list to bridge that gap would fill more volumes than the combined private libraries of all the readers of this blog (there is absolutely no chance the Orthodox would ever come to an agreement on the extent of such a list, or even if such a list should even be compiled). The schism has a life of its own and can’t be bridged; for if some Bishops ever seriously tried and actually reached any agreement (even a full surrender by the Latins), those Bishops would meet the same fate as those returning from Florence in 1439; or worse, the birth of multiple schisms to take the place of the original schism. Humbert’s words of 1054 are almost prophetic; “Let God look and judge.”

  17. Chris Jones says:


    It is true that my comments (quoted above) take no account of how the human person (created hypostasis) is affected by the Fall. That does not mean that I do not recognize that Christian anthropology must take account of both person and nature. It only means that I was not attempting a precis of anthropology in a combox. Rather, I was answering a specific question that had been posed on that thread: *In what ways did Adam’s fall from grace affect human nature?. Note that the question asked specifically about nature, not person.

    Also, I was using analogy to answer the question, and like all analogies it is useful only if it is not pushed too far, and made to address issues it was never meant to illustrate. My “engineering” analogy is not particularly apt for elucidating human personhood. Had I wanted to discuss personhood, I should have chosen other forms of expression.

    As an answer to the specific question about human nature (not person), I still think it was a pretty good comment.

  18. Did you actually read my comment?

    Read it again, because you obviously interpreted it as saying the diametric opposite of what it actually said.

  19. Raymond,

    She rejects as apostolic teaching that she died. How’s that? It leaves it an opinion and historically it did so because the teaching clashed with the dogma of the IC and the Augustinian notion of original sin.

    The claim that her death, her falling asleep, her DORMITION, has never held ascendency in Catholic thought is either a joke or convicts Rome of leaving the teaching of the Fathers.

    I’ll take the teaching of the Fathers over the quasi heterodox and late private visions of people like Emmerich.

    Nice rhetoric, but no cigar.

  20. The Catholic Church does not teach that the Theotokos did not die. Some may hold this as an uninformed private opinion, but nowhere has the Church taught the deathlessness of the Theotokos, nor has the idea of her deathlessness ever held the ascendancy in the Catholic imagination. Consider for instance the private revelations of St. Brigit, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich and Ven. Mary of Agreda, all three of whom purportedly had visions of the Dormition of the Theotokos. These holy souls’ visions have been greatly influential in forming the Western Catholic imagination, and are representative of the way in which the Mother of God has always been considered to have “completed the course of her earthly life.”

  21. Raymond,

    That she died.

  22. “Rome doesn’t accept say the teaching of the Fathers concerning Mary’s death or sin.”

    What is it of the Fathers’ teachings which the Catholic Church rejects with regard to the Dormition of the Theotokos?

  23. Matt,

    Some progress has been made and some hasn’t it. For example Liccione has finally started to understand Orthodox Triadology, but yet disagrees with it. The progress has mostly been understanding but not any kind of convergence.

    The ultimate objections is that they don’t have a Christian view of Person by our lights, and they don’t view these questions on theology threw the lense of Christ and His recapitulatory economy. Christology is where the rubber meets the road on whether or not speculations are true or not, which is why Orthodox DOGMATIC theology (barring all theologoumenons) is not speculative contra Kimel. Until done so, my criticisms stand as applied. That is and will continue to be the conops of as long as I and Perry own it.


  24. Perry Robinson says:


    No. They still deny the essence/energies distinction. On original sin they still maintain a kind of inherited guilt apart from any motion of the will.

    As for Protestants, it is also true that on Newman’s theory not everything gets redefined. Rome doesn’t accept say the teaching of the Fathers concerning Mary’s death or sin. There is some measure of abrogation, though for their major distinctives or doctrines they hold to a development of doctrine.

  25. Matt says:

    Haven’t Mike L, Fr. Kimel, and Sullivan already agreed with you all on a large portion of these items? Especially original sin and essence/energies? Fr. Al seems to be fine with denying inherited guilt. ML has accepted at least some form of E/E. Aren’t these statements a pretty big step forward towards your position? I don’t mean to suggest the differences have been entirely resolved, but it seems like the gap has been substantially narrowed. Also, if you believe little to no progress has been made, then what do the Latins have to do — other than just converting to Orthodoxy — to bridge the gap?

    Also, Perry’s statements about Protestants seem off to me. Many Protestants do not accept the Nicene Creed, or the Eucharist, or Confession, etc. How can these positions be fit into Newman’s concept of development of doctrine? That strikes me more like the “abrogation” Drew mentioned.

  26. And Book V: Notice the distinction between what God Is and What surrounds Him:


  27. Jim says:

    Thanks guys. Much appreciated.

  28. Joseph says:

    Here is what Palamism looked like in the second century. It is from Book 4, Chapter 20 from Against Heresies. The whole chapter is a gem, but these 3 sections are most striking. The E/E distinction and deification through vision of God are right here in Irenaeus:

    4. There is therefore one God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and
    arranged all things; but this is the Creator (Demiurge) who has granted this
    world to the human race, and who, as regards His greatness, is indeed
    unknown to all who have been made by Him (for no man has searched out His
    height, either among the ancients who have gone to their rest, or any of
    those who are now alive); but as regards His love, He is always known
    through Him by whose means He ordained all things. Now this is His Word, our
    Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He
    might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. Wherefore the
    prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, announced His
    advent according to the flesh, by which the blending and communion of God
    and man took place according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Word of
    God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold
    converse with them upon earth, should confer with them, and should be
    present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being
    perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is,
    from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and
    righteousness all our days, in order that man, having embraced the
    Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father.

    5. These things did the prophets set forth in a prophetical manner; but they
    did not, as some allege, [proclaim] that He who was seen by the prophets was
    a different [God], the Father of all being invisible. Yet this is what those
    [heretics] declare, who are altogether ignorant of the nature of prophecy.
    For prophecy is a prediction of things future, that is, a setting forth
    beforehand of those things which shall be afterwards. The prophets, then,
    indicated beforehand that God should be seen by men; as the Lord also says,
    “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But in
    respect to His greatness, and His wonderful glory, “no man shall see God and
    live,” for the Father is incomprehensible; but in regard to His love,
    and kindness, and as to His infinite power, even this He grants to those who
    love Him, that is, to see God, which thing the prophets did also predict.
    “For those things that are impossible with men, are possible with God.”
    For man does not see God by his own powers; but when He pleases He is
    seen by men, by whom He wills, and when He wills, and as He wills. For God
    is powerful in all things, having been seen at that time indeed,
    prophetically through the Spirit, and seen, too, adoptively through the Son;
    and He shall also be seen paternally in the kingdom of heaven, the Spirit
    truly preparing man in the Son of God, and the Son leading him to the
    Father, while the Father, too, confers [upon him] incorruption for eternal
    life, which comes to every one from the fact of his seeing God. For as those
    who see the light are within the light, and partake of its brilliancy; even
    so, those who see God are in God, and receive of His splendour. But [His]
    splendour vivifies them; those, therefore, who see God, do receive life. And
    for this reason, He, [although] beyond comprehension, and boundless and
    invisible, rendered Himself visible, and comprehensible, and within the
    capacity of those who believe, that He might vivify those who receive and
    behold Him through faith. For as His greatness is past finding out,
    so also His goodness is beyond expression; by which having been seen, He
    bestows life upon those who see Him. It is not possible to live apart from
    life, and the means of life is found in fellowship with God; but fellowship
    with God is to know God, and to enjoy His goodness.

    6. Men therefore shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by
    that sight, and attaining even unto God; which, as I have already said, was
    declared figuratively by the prophets, that God should be seen by men who
    bear His Spirit [in them], and do always wait patiently for His coming. As
    also Moses says in Deuteronomy, “We shall see in that day that God will talk
    to man, and he shall live.” For certain of these men used to see the
    prophetic Spirit and His active influences poured forth for all kinds of
    gifts; others, again, [beheld] the advent of the Lord, and that dispensation
    which obtained from the beginning, by which He accomplished the will of the
    Father with regard to things both celestial and terrestrial; and others
    [beheld] paternal glories adapted to the times, and to those who saw and who
    heard them then, and to all who were subsequently to hear them. Thus,
    therefore, was God revealed; for God the Father is shown forth through all
    these [operations], the Spirit indeed working, and the Son ministering,
    while the Father was approving, and man’s salvation being accomplished. As
    He also declares through Hosea the prophet: “I,” He says, “have multiplied
    visions, and have used similitudes by the ministry (in manibus) of the
    prophets.” But the apostle expounded this very passage, when he said,
    “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are
    differences of ministrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities
    of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the
    manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
    But as He who worketh all things in all is God, [as to the points] of what
    nature and how great He is, [God] is invisible and indescribable to all
    things which have been made by Him, but He is by no means unknown: for all
    things learn through His Word that there is one God the Father, who contains
    all things, and who grants existence to all, as is written in the Gospel:
    “No man hath seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, who is in
    the bosom of the Father; He has declared [Him].”

  29. acolyte says:


    The question to consider then is why Origen thought of a Fall into time as somehow necessary? Origen does refute various forms of predestinarianism while subscribing to another flavor.

    As to Ireneaus, he speaks of God being known in his powers or activities but completley unknowable in the Trinity. That is the conceptual space that the E/E distinction occupies. William has some citations handy I believe or you can go looking through our archives. 🙂

  30. Jim says:

    Origen’s influence, sincere as he personally was, was t he root of most of the major Christological controversies and later Augustine’s’ predestinarianism.

    This seems a bit difficult to take at face value since it implies Origen wasn’t using his own system when he refuted the predestinarianism of the throngs of confused laymen in his writings on the topic?

    The essence/energies distinction perhaps? That is in Ireneaus all the way up through Maximus the Confessor.

    While I’m sure you’re correct, I do not recall this distinction made explicitly in his writings nor can I find it in a cursory search or using google so if anyone has any references to pertinent representative paragraphs on hand I’d appreciate it.


  31. David, you hit the nail on the head.


  32. Gnomie is a unique mode of willing proper to *created* hypostasis, fallen or unfallen. It involves an uncertainty in the perception of the end of any given act. Adam deliberates in the garden, because he doesn’t really know what will happen to him. He’s told what will happen, but he doesn’t KNOW. Christ deliberates in the garden, but it isn’t because He doesn’t KNOW and understand the specific ends, but rather doing what is natural.

    One of the biggest differences between created and uncreated hypostasis and the relation to nature, is that created hypostasis has to recapitulate virtues in order to acquire them and know them unfailingly, Uncreated hypostasis doesn’t require this.


  33. David Richards says:

    Christopher, like Perry and Photios my understanding of St. Maximos has been influenced by Dr. Farrell. If I understand Farrell correctly (assuming he understands St. Maximos correctly, which I believe he does) the natural will is the will as a faculty of nature while the gnomic will is the will as a personal mode of employment. In his Disputation with Pyrrhus St. Maximos says that there must forty or fifty different ways in which the Greek text of Scripture employs gnomie, but from what I gather it boils down to the concept of deliberation. Gnomie means much more than a will which has free choice; it is a personal manifestation of willing unique to creatures which involves doubt and uncertainty and it is tied to the notion of examination and deliberation, where we investigate and weigh between various choices. In this system habit, which is related to the idea of gnomie, also becomes an important theme. If man lives a life according to nature, his gnomic will by habitually choosing good will be eventually fused to his natural will, which means that he will become ‘unmoved by those things in the middle,’ i.e. by the steps between apprehension and judgement. He will no longer deliberate about which choices are good but will simply know and choose good. It should be stressed that the gnomic will is unique to created hypostases and that Christ does not have a gnomic will precisely because this would imply that He is a creature, having doubt and uncertainty about the good. Christ, being a divine and uncreated hypostasis, is never uncertain about which course of action to take. Does this make sense? I hope I am explaining this well, but if I am off I invited Perry or Photios to correct my misconceptions.

  34. Christopher says:

    What exactly is the difference between natural and ‘gnomic’ will in St Maximus? I am not sure what the term gnomic really means? is it a phantom of our real, natural will? is it rebelling against our natural will as if it had an autonomous life of its own? or, is it a real part of our anthropology as human persons?

    Finally, what is the difference between how person and nature relate to each other in humanity vs. in the Trinity (the biggee being the fact that the Trinity is Uncreated and we are not, of course)?

  35. Joseph,

    Yes it is quite interesting to note that we have a fundamental difference of what death IS from the Roman Catholic doctrine of “original sin” as privation of sanctifying grace.

    If you look over the view of Maximus and say Baius and the later Jansenists, they are quite close in a few key areas: 1) the Vision of God is the natural end of man, and 2) Grace is a constituent of our nature. When Baius says, that God could not have created man other than he is now, I would agree, because I would no longer be a man, but rather something else. Again, in my view, Christology stands center stage. Creation serves the purposes of the Incarnation. The difference between Jansen and Maximus is that the latter has a doctrine person and the other does not. In one, the fall as radical corruption of nature, and grace as a new restored nature. In the other, the fall and death as a dialectical opposition between person and nature, with the Incarnation bringing back the ability to harmonize the two, so that I now have the ability to will in accordance with my nature. In Jansenism, determinism results, because the nature is determined by whatever “state” it is in.

    We didn’t lose grace from an ontological stand-point but rather the ability to use it, personally. That is the loss of grace.


  36. Perry Robinson says:


    Something like that is going on, which is why the discussion isn’t yet ecumenical.

    Looking over Chris Jones’ comments, I am wondering a few things. Where is the person in this account? I see a discussion of natures doing or not doing or unable to do, etc. but no person.

    Do persons’ have purposes? If they do, how does that comport with their free will? Does Satan ever have human nature qua nature in bondage? Why is he the Lord of the Flies or Corruption then? I agree that we malfunction after the fall but I would like to see a discussion about the loss of dunamis or power that accounts for it. I take St. Paul to be clear that we can after the fall will the good and even aim at the target but we still fall short of the mark, we can’t manage to hit the target because all our arrows fall shy.

    I am worried about philosophical accounts that pass as Christian.

  37. Joseph says:


    What do you think of the following, stated by Chris Jones in a similar discussion on Pontifications:

    ***In what ways did Adam’s fall from grace affect human nature?

    “If I may use an engineering analogy, the same material will act differently depending on the environment it is in, and the use to which it is put. A wicker basket used to hold fruit on your dining room table fulfills its purpose; the same basket used as a roasting pan in your oven will fail miserably.

    In the same way, human nature in communion with God (before the Fall) fulfills its purpose; human nature sundered from God and in bondage to Satan (after the Fall) fails miserably. This is because our nature is designed to work and reach its purpose through intimate union with God, not autonomously. For human beings to “work as designed” on their own, apart from God, is as impossible as it is for a tire to “work as designed” when it is no longer attached to a wheel.
    There is thus no need to posit a “change” in our human nature to explain the inevitability of sin and our need for salvation. The change in our situation is entirely adequate to explain it. We have placed ourselves in bondage to Satan (a bondage which is enforced, far beyond our ability to escape it, through death and the fear of death). This bondage prevents us from returning to that communion with God which alone would enable our human nature to be what it was designed by God to be.” ***

  38. Joseph says:


    thanks for taking the time to do this. It seems to me that the main reason why debates over there end up in chaos, as the last one supposedly did, is because you and others have to spend so much time re-hashing old arguments from way back to people who are not familiar with you. The same goes for folks like Mike L. who have to entertain arguments from less prominent Orthodox bloggers when the both of you should be able to simply refer back to old arguments that have already been dealt with in the past. One thread in particular on Pontifications from last year entitled “Would Adam Have Died?” I found to be quite informative, and it is sad to see that what was dealt with there and elsewhere could not suffice to make the recent debate more fruitful for both parties. Fr. Kimel knows what he is getting into in a post like that, it it is also sad to see his commentary regarding his disappointment on the posture of his Orthodox inoculators. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that what you and others are up to when you are supposedly getting off track is nothing other than trying to shift the discussion so that the whole thing is not being done under Catholic presuppositions.

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