Killing Your Father

Patricide has been one of the worst crimes one can commit in western consciousness for a very long time. The father was the source of familial authority for it was the father who went out, albeit with a few buddies, and scooped up some maiden to be his wife. Once the hymen was broken, she died to her old family and familial deities and rose to life to a new set of ancestors. The hymen was the marker of familial ties since one ought not to sleep with their own sister. To do so would put into confusion the ancestral lines in both this world and the next. In any case the maiden took on her husbands name since he became her new father.  The father was the source of familial authority or rather he was the author of the family. To kill your father was to rebel against all authority for all authority, particularly of the state was derived from fatherly authority. Patricide is essentially anarchical, against the source or rather the positing of many new sources.

One of the things in modern western religious discourse that peeves me is the constant dialectical framing of issues. One is either Protestant or Catholic. Granted that there are historical bodies that try to bridge the gap such as Anglicanism, but these are either disappearing before our very eyes or were never really what either polemical side wished them to be. In any case, the former makes the latter moot. This way of framing matters leaves out entire swaths of the Christian tradition and not just Orthodoxy, but also the Anabaptists for example.

It also does prospective inquirers a disservice. Very often persons investigating theological matters get stuck in the Protestant-Catholic dialectic never knowing that there are more parties at the table. Of course there are those who should know better. It astonishes me when I meet graduate students or no less professors who convert from one end to the other completely unaware of Orthodoxy. Not a few graduate students I know never even considered Orthodoxy. This is just one example of how matters skew reality.

Recently, Tim Enloe has written a piece over at Reformed Catholicism concerning the influence of late Platonism and its prioritizing of unity over plurality on the development of the papacy. I in part agree with some of what he says, but I think he doesn’t grasp how damaging his critique is to his own Protestant commitments.

Tim latches on to the medieval phrase, “all plurality is derived from unity and to the unity it returns.” He is quite right to see this as a Platonic motivating and structuring concept. (Of course its roots are also in the older Parmenidian tradition.) And Tim is right to notice that this subordinating relationship diminishes the reality of the many in ecclesiology. Of course his reading of Ireneaus needs some work since the key point in the Ireneaus text concerning Rome is the difference between the Latin and Greek reconstruction. But hey, no one is perfect.

What is somewhat baffling is that Tim completely seem to miss the same ruling Platonic assumptions in their theology proper, Christology, soteriology and ecclesiology. First, it should be obvious to him or anyone familiar with Confessional Protestant theology that they too embrace that principle when it comes to the Trinity. Now Tim complains that in Trinitarian theology there is equal ultimacy, but he misses the point that in Latin Trinitarianism this line bakes no bread for a number of reasons. First because it is an equal ultimacy of being and the persons are self subsisting relations of the one being. The category of equality can only apply to things that be. And this should signal a commitment to Augustine’s move of identifying the One with Nous and since the one “be’s” the most appropriate name for God is being. This is no less a part of Protestant Trinitarian thinking than Catholic thought on the matter. Consequently so is the Platonism that Enloe abhors. More to the point, Rome also adheres to “equal ultimacy” since for example in Aquinas the persons are subsisting relations in and of the essence.

Enloe also seems to miss that the Platonism undergirds the Catholic and Protestant commitment to the Filioque. It is quite strange that Protestants adhere to probably the most divisive Papal action in history and that without any serious scriptural warrant and not a peep of protest. I suppose the Trinity doesn’t really matter for Protestants except as necessary background information so Jesus can get punished. It should be quite clear that there is no scriptural justification for the doctrine and yet while Enloe complains about Papal excesses and the Pope’s contemporary apologetic sons, for someone who endorses the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, he seems unaware or unwilling to retract the Filioque and condemn his own confessional standards for requiring subscription to a manifestly unscriptural doctrine. That seems like special pleading. In any case, the filioque can only be defended on philosophical grounds for it is a philosophical doctrine meant to explicate Trinitarian distinctions utilizing opposing relations (the Father is not the Son and so forth.) grounded in a Platonic causal theory. The Father is all cause and no effect, the Son is some cause and some effect and the Spirit is no cause and all effect. Here the basis for Aristotle’s square of opposition should be clear. Protestants are therefore far more children of the Pope and his Platonism than I think they realize.

And it isn’t as if Protestants have utilized “equal ultimacy” either apart from Platonism or consistent with Trinitarianism. Take for example the Trinitarian theology of the Dutch Calvinist Cornelius Van Til. Van Til via influence from Hegelian Idealism (which is Plotinus speaking German, btw) emphasized divine unity in the doctrine of divine simplicity to such a degree that he makes explicit statements to the effect that in God there is only “one divine person.” Reformed thought supplies us with plenty of other gross mistakes due to the influence of Platonism. One has only to read Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics vol. 4 to see the standard Platonic dialectic that was at work with the Medievals motivating the same problems in Trinitarian thought for the Reformed. Is it any wonder? The major textbook that Protestant schools were employing on the Continent was Francisco Suarez’s mammoth Disputed Questions in Metaphysics.

It is not as if the negating of the Platonic principle will make one a non-Platonist. It will only relocate you on the Platonic chain of being and consequently the positions made possible along the Platonic dialectic. Negation being part of dialectic as well. Negating absolute unified being as the source of all plurality one won’t give you equal ultimacy but anarchy or polyarchy. Either there will be no personal source of divinity (or government) or there will be many sources and this is exactly what you see in Calvin’s inane and practically tri-theistic notion that the Son and the Spirit are God of themselves, that is autotheos or self generating from the essence. The Reformed confusion between person and nature on the question is astounding. This translates into either the idea that there is no personal source in God or there are many, which is right in line with Reformed political and ecclesiastical theology, not to mention the Socinianism and Arianism that it laid the seeds for in compromising the divine unity established in the person of the Father.

And even if none of that were true, I am not sure what Tim is complaining about since the very same principle undergirds and drives the Reformed view of God. The Reformed and Rome share the fundamentally same view of the Trinity with the persons as self subsisting relations of the essence to itself. The same principle is at work in Reformed theology in discussing the pluralization of simply possessed divine perfections in created beings. This is something that is obvious to anyone who has any familiarity with Medieval Scholasticism in just about any discussion of the real relation that creatures have to God as well as discussions on the divine names. So even if the Reformed in the majority take on the Son and the Spirit being autotheos weren’t problematic in the way I have outlined above, it is still fairly obvious that they maintain the same Platonic metaphysic that Tim is objecting too.

The same fundamental Platonic relationship drives Reformed Christology with Christ as the predestined man who in his human power of operation is subordinated to the divine will, injecting an opposing or dialectical relationship between God and the world. This was the fundamental point on which Arianism turned, which was why Athanasius’ doctrine of creation was so crucial in refuting Arianism. Since there is no dialectical relationship between God and the world, God requires no intermediaries since his relation is direct. In any case the Monothelitism and Monoenergism in Reformed thought should be obvious.

The same Platonic metaphysic guides and drives the Reformed thinking in Predestination as well. There isn’t much difference in essence between the late Platonic predestinarianism of a fall which was necessary and voluntary on the part of the soul into the material world for which it is culpable and the Reformed notion of a predestined yet voluntary fall with imputed corporate guilt. The same subordinating relationship can be seen in soteriology in so far is God is active, humans must be passive, if God is good, humans must be depraved. Here the dialectical relationship between God and creation is clear. Salvation is a return to the One along a predestined path. Is it any wonder that the Reformed cut down the sacraments both in number as well as in terms of the union between God and the world? Was deism so hard to see as a consequence?  This is why the Reformed have to understand union with Christ in moral and legal terms, because these denote an extrinsic relationship because the Reformed adhere to the same fundamental doctrine as Rome-union with God is had through means of a created similitude.  This is why Christ must merit righteousness and it can’t be the righteousness whereby God is intrinsically righteous. If it were, the collapse of the opposition between created and creator would imply for them absorption in the simple divine essence.  Rome and Protestants both think that grace is created, it is just that one is realist and the other a nominalist, but there is nothing more than a causal contiguity between God (cause) and creation (effect), which makes a farce out of 2 pet 1:4. It is not possible for humanity to perform divine activities. This is why for the Reformed the Spirit forms the bond of unity in the church (invisible & subordinating power) as well as playing such a crucial role in the inspiration of the Scriptures (invisible & subordinating power). Humanity is an instrument of the divine will.

As I noted previously, negating the principle doesn’t make one a non-Platonist. Nominalism for example is quite Platonic. It is just lower down on the Platonic scale. Consequently, Protestant ecclesiology of the Confessional variety privileges the many over the one, even if glossed in a conciliarist manner. The same Platonic assumption that Tim rejects is at work in his view of ecclesiology.  The many can never be divine, which is why even on his thinner version of conciliarism no Protestant synod could ever yield a decision that was infallible and beyond possible future revision. This is fundamentally no different than the “Bible and me.” This may seem prima facia false but if you think about it taking many leaky buckets and putting them together doesn’t get you an object suitable for containing water. It only takes longer for the leak to become apparent. What Protestants need is a nice Dutch boy with a spare finger to plug the hole, but they seem to be in short supply. Consequently no Protestant synod can yield a judgment concerning the meaning of Scripture that cannot be trumped by the judgment of any one person. Why? Because the authority of the synod is the authority of men because the church is always many and so never infallible and never deified. So, the church is always reforming. No doctrinal judgment is beyond alteration, including the canon of scripture itself since Scripture is subject to the continuing dialectic of reason. If the challenge to Catholics is to justify the Pope as God on Earth in terms of legal equivalence, the challenge for Tim and Protestants is to explain how there could be God on Earth at all. The problem is generated by the kind of metaphysical cleavage and circumscription of creation and its extrinsic relationship to God glossed in terms of efficient causality and law. The implicit Pelagianism of such a view should be obvious. We are confined to the world of nature, to the world of the many. Again deism looms large here. If God’s relation to the world is extrinsic, why think there is a God at all if all of the intrinsic principles of the world run just fine without Him?

Tim also fails to see is the intrinsic connection between the Filioque and the Papacy. Since as Gregory VII argued, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and the Pope is the vicar of Christ on Earth, the Spirit proceeds from the Pope into the Church as the principle of unity.  And absolute divine simplicity with dialectic as a mode of individuation and theological method drives the filioque, and Protestants adhere to all three. This is why, just like Rome, Protestants have to appeal to Newman-esque theories of doctrinal development to justify their novelties over against Rome’s novelties, such as sola fide. (Hegel wasn’t Catholic btw.) It is now quite apparent that the philosophical apparatus that made sola fide possible was not in place during the life of the Apostles. It is clearly an artifact of late medieval scholasticism.

Tim’s basic strategy is that of leveling. Anyone sufficiently familiar with Kierkegaard is familiar with it. One derives a kind of intellectual pleasure from showing that those who claim to know, genuinely don’t and are so are brought down to a common level in order to stave off commitment. Tim often does this in his insistence that things aren’t as simple as Catholic apologists make them seem. Well, apart from being obvious, things aren’t as simple as Protestants make them seem either. History doesn’t fit into the little boxes that the Reformers built for it. This is why Protestants have to continue to frame things as an all or nothing deal between two options-Scylla or Charybdis. And this is why they unconsciously keep the Frankish mythology about “Byzantium” and the “Greeks” going. Those facts won’t fit their explanatory paradigm of the 16th century and the preceding ages.

This is why it is quite laughable when Tim starts talking about “what authority is” as if there is some common notion of it floating out and about. Is he even aware of the distortion that concept underwent in the hands of the Franks, divorced from its context in Roman society? I suppose not. To do so would bring into question the entire Latin historical narrative.  And of course, despite the Platonism, to be fair, contrary to what Tim alleges against Rome, Unitarianism is a Protestant invention. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to read Jonathan Edward’s philosophical monism to figure out that what’s coming in the colonies next. Blame Rome for lots of things, but Unitarianism isn’t one of them.

All of this is a perfect example of killing your father. Protestants are determined to do so and so they will always define themselves over against Rome. What is a slave without his master?

62 Responses to Killing Your Father

  1. Fr. John says:

    Fuel for the discussion, which no one here seems wanting to tackle.

    I iterate again. “We need an Orthodox version of either Rushdoony or the Kinists. And I don’t see one hanging about….”

    Why is that, when we have such ‘illustrious’ [sic] Orthodox as Stephanapolos!
    Are we Wordists, or are we Tribalists? Knowning ‘ethnic orthodoxy’ as well as I do, then why don’t we ACT like what our faith tells us we should be? Is it because the USA really IS, only for White, PROTESTANT Anglos?

  2. Fr. John says:

    Well, yes, he was Armenian after all. You couldn’t expect him to jettison sixteen generations of Armenian Orthodox Clergy in a heartbeat, now could you? But what is there in the Orthodox library that is like his writings for Americans to read? I think I have a copy of Foundations, but is the negation of the 7th Council the only caveat one can throw at him? (now, don’t think that I am advocating iconoclasm, but…) Where is the modern day Orthodox analysis of social problems, such as Justinian’s Institutes was for the layman of his day? This, I think, is what made Rush such a force to be reckoned with, and explicitly why the Prots couldn’t wrap their evan-jelly-goo minds around him…..We need an Orthodox version of him. And I don’t see one hanging about….

  3. Fr. John,

    Yes I have read Rushdoony on the One and the Many. I don’t think his Van Tillian take is really all that helpful. It is more of a promisory note, than a spelling out of how to solve the problem.

    Furthermore, Rushdoony is rather explicitly Nestorian as comes out in his work the Foundations of Social Order which is why he rejects the 7th council.

    I used to be a Reconstructionist so I am generally familiar with his work.

  4. Fr. John says:

    Since you fellows are arguing philosophically (is that a real [actual] argument, or only a phony [potential] argument?- this is why philosophy makes my head swim!) about the “One and the Many,” Have you fellows ever looked at Rushdoony’s “The One and Many”? Discussed it?

    He is (I believe) the only Reformed author to point out these things, that I am aware of- or was the first. And he is (of course) the “Father of the Christian Reconstruction Movement.” Which is a bad thing, why?

    Indeed, it was he who caused me to even CONTEMPLATE looking beyond Catholi-schism, toward Orthodoxy, via a return to reading the Fathers. (Was that God predestinating me to read non-Catholic authors, to eventually embrace Orthodoxy? Did I have free will, or was I subtly directed, and then given grace by the H.S. to read further? Arrrrrgggh)

    Anyway, all this ‘one and many’ made me remember Rush’s book…..

  5. […] some weeks ago was actually brilliant in highlighting some of these things, and sparked a debate at Energetic Procession (maybe somebody already mentioned that – I forget). Of course, they go further to a […]

  6. Elliot B says:

    Thanks, Photios, good stuff. I’d like to say more, but I’m really just trying to take in things bit by bit to form a whole picture. I am aware of the danger of transporting one system to another. I do things like that as exercises, not as demonstrations, for example, like when I was trying to do a Kantian transformation on Palamism (in “Drawing Near to God”). As for St. Maximus, I was simply trying to test out how his terms might correlate to my own understanding of theandric matters. Thanks for your qualifications. The amount of time I’ve put into this this thread is atypical for me, as I am acutely aware that I simply must keep churning through the basics offline first.

    Speaking of which, I would like very much to get my hands on Dr. Farrell’s Pyrrhus and Free Will books. My chances of doing so in America are hard enough, but here in Taiwan––forget about it. Is there any way you can help me with this via Orthodox connections?

  7. Michael Sullivan,

    You and I never get off the ground in going over anything because it usually gets personal right away. This dialogue is no different. I was being rhetorical about what a suppositum is. I just don’t see how self-subsisting substance or substantial individual cuts it for a Chalcedonian notion of persona/hypostasis. The talk is still on the other side, the nature side. The talk is not on persons and their absolute, irreducible, irrepeatable property. Only when we first grapple with the Incarnation and the Christological debates can we then have an understanding of person.


    Gregory Palamas doesn’t think the divine energy is something of passive potency or perhaps result in being an accident because he doesn’t acknowledge the dialectical categories of substance and accident to be adequate in capturing Christian doctrine, not only between ousia and energy, but between ousia and hypostasis. Energy and Hypostasis are their very own unique categories, though energy falls on the Nature side of the Person-Nature distinction. The energies are rooted in the divine ousia, because they can be said about each divine person: they are in common. They are not a unique personal property.

    I don’t think it is enough to say that Gregory and Thomas can have a common notion of divine simplicity because they both see God in noncomposition. First, Gregory doesn’t think divine simplicity is predicable of a divine essence, since it is unknowable and he doesn’t start from such an ordo theologiae anyway, since the divine essence is unknowable. Rather, divine simplicity is predicable of a divine person, since it is true of all of them, divine simplicity is an energy of an essence. Second, Gregory’s both/and dialectic that he gets from St. Maximos that God is indivisible and wholly present in each and every energy and that God is particularly present and signified in each one uniquely is a pointer to your mind that both are true and that God is beyond such categories, same goes for your quotes from St. Dionysios above about Unity and Trinity (who is the ultimate source of this Christian metaphysics). Third, Thomas’s view of simplicity comes after his “proofs” on the existence of God and before consideration of attributes and then persons. Analogical predication falls out of simplicity and not the reverse. Attributes are judgments in your head about this simple essence. Simplicity ends up saying more than just non-composition, but that of identity of the attributes uniquely and severally with this simple essence. For Gregory, this is not true. Energies like knowledge and will are not only NOT identical to the essence, they aren’t identical with each other either. None of the categories of Hypostasis, Energeia, or Ousia are identical for Gregory. And Fourth, and this probably most paramount and ties in with the second point here, simplicity because it is understood along a both/and dialectic, it has no metaphysical and philosophical import from any Hellenistic model, it is a Theological Symbol like the Nicene homoousios. It denotes the “unconfused and undivided,” but no definitional content whatosever.

    It is very important that you learn the structure of the ordo theologiae for Gregory, otherwise just pulling out quotes that use similar terminology won’t get you to the truth of what he is saying. You’re doing something similar to this over on Liccione’s blog on the Immaculate Conception. St. Maximos would never say that Mary didn’t have a gnomic will, because the gnomic will is a particular mode of willing unique to created persons. To say that Mary doesn’t have a gnomic will at birth is to say that she is an uncreate person for Maximos. Only Christ’s person is exempt from a gnomic will because He doesn’t have a beginning. Does Mary’s person have a beginning? The gnomic will can only be “thrown off” when a person has inquired about the good through examination and counsel: experience of it. To say Mary has no gnomic will at birth results in either she is a uncreate hypostasis like Christ or that she gained experience of the good in a prior life or prior to existence in the body: Origenism. This is in short why the IC is predestinarian. You have to be careful in transporting a metaphysic like Maximos to support the IC, because it is not compatible with the doctrine on the grounds that you wish to use. At best, you could try to make an argument that she was personally sinless through co-operation of the divine energy by a GNOMIC will. But that is quite different than the IC doctrine. That is only a theologoumena in Orthodoxy and not a dogma, some of us think like St. John Chrysostom believe that she sinned and had short-comings based on exegetical analysis of scripture, though not conclusive. Was Chrysostom ignorant of this apostolic doctrine? Why wasn’t this doctrine not passed down to his episcopate? The Mary – Eve analogy is also misapplied over there. Mary is the New Eve because she is a co-cause of the New Creation. Eve brought the introduction of Death in co-operating with the Serpent. Mary brought life in co-operating with the Holy Spirit in bring about the Incarnation. When one doesn’t stick to what the liturgical text means with such analogies and applications with how such texts have always been understood, then this is playing the gnostic game of giving these texts and analogies NEW meaning.


  8. Elliot B says:

    I will reproduce an entire (short) post here, to save people the trouble of clicking to another page. On May 24th, 2007, Siris posted the following:

    Does the ousia/energeia distinction violate the doctrine of divine simplicity. Gregory Palamas argues not:

    Just as the substance of God is absolutely unnameable since it is beyond names according to the theologians, so also is it imparticipable since it is beyond participation according to them. Therefore, those who now disobey the teaching of the Spirit through our holy Fathers and revile us who agree with them, say that either there are many gods or the one God is composite, if the divine energy is distinct from the divine substance even if it be observed entirely within the substance of God. They are unaware that it is not acting and energy but being acted upon and the passivity which constitute composition. But God acts without being acted upon and without undergoing change.

    [Gregory Palamas, The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, Robert E. Sinewicz, tr. PIMS (Toronto: 1988) ch. 145 (p. 251).]

    One thing that is striking about this is that from a Thomistic perspective this is exactly how one should argue in order to show that the distinction does not violate divine simplicity. On Thomas’s view, simplicity is noncomposition; and all compositio is in some way or another compositio actus et potentiae, a composition of actuality and passive potentiality (cf., e.g., SCG 1.18). If the distinction introduces no potentiality, it introduces no composition, and thus does not violate the doctrine of divine simplicity.

    If God’s energies are construed as non-essential to His nature, then they do introduce composition in God, and this because, unless God’s essence is pure act, then any other manner in which He hypostatically actualizes Himself energetically leaves a potential “residue” wherein His nature can alter. If however they are essential to the divine nature, then the essence is at least in one sense co-constitutive of God’s hypostasized existence (qua a personal actus purus).

  9. Photios,

    passive potency does not simply mean unactualized power. Active potency is the power to effect something, passive potency is the capacity to be effected from the outside. For Thomas God has the former but not the latter. For him God has an infinite active potency in the sense that there are an infinite number of effects within his power. Some of them are actualized and some of them are not: God does not do everything that he is able to do. Which things within his power are actualized is determined by His will. Creation is free and not necessary, whereas God can in no way be caused by creatures. This is the opposite of what you are claiming. You should know this.

    “it is not difficult to see that for Thomas if the attributes are identical to the divine essence, none of them or their actualization can be contingent on pain of the divine essence being contingent too.”

    Sorry, this just isn’t what Thomas says or thinks. It’s directly contrary to what Thomas argues for. You may think his arguments are bad–I myself don’t think they’re the best ones available–but this just isn’t his position nor is it logically contained within his position. If Kretzmann’s or anyone else’s concept of identity requires that it is it simply shows that they are using identity in a different sense than Thomas. It’s not at all uncommon for scholars in the analytic tradition to misinterpret medieval writers by applying contemporary categories to them without warrant.

    We’ve been over the meaning of “person” in St Bonaventure at some length before, in which he explicitly makes all the distinctions that you claimed the west doesn’t make, back on Pontifications in July 2006. You just didn’t accept the texts I offered at the time. We haven’t been over it in Thomas or Scotus, because if you don’t recognize it in Bonaventure, what’s the point? You don’t know what “suppositum” means? Then why are you making grandiose claims? Why are you talking about it at all with such an authoritative demeanor? You just don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to scholastic thought, acquaintance with some secondary sources notwithstanding. The end.

  10. Michael Sullivan,

    You had an opportunity to break in and either be a) be informative, or b) shed some light on where you think the issue can be resolved for your co-religionist. Why you chose to go the route you did is beyond me. This should not be how you approach someone in their house. So back down. You are always welcome to post here whenever you want, but not in this tone. Nothing I’ve said is threatening in the least. I don’t go beating down your door to denigrate you.

    Having said that,

    I’m well aware of the distinction between active and passive potency. And I think it is evident by what I said without being too technical in my short posts that I was referring to the latter. If God had passive potency (unactualized power) for Thomas, something prior to the divine essence would have to move it from potency to act. This is consistent with Thomas’ Aristotelian theory of motion.

    I’m no expert in medieval metaphysics, but I’m fairly observant in seeing problems that have been pointed out by folks like Norman Kretzmann. Ever done much study on the good as self-diffusive (bonum diffusivum sui), than it is not difficult to see that for Thomas if the attributes are identical to the divine essence, none of them or their actualization can be contingent on pain of the divine essence being contingent too. It’s that thing called ‘identity’ huh? Kretzmann recognized this, is he an idiot and incompetent too?

    Person. Where? Where are your corrections to my misunderstanding of Thomas’ conception of divine person as a relation. Where is your view of person from Scotus? Or from any one else? Suppositum? What’s that? Is it identical to the divine essence? If so, why would I recognize such as any kind of ‘person’ worthy of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy? Even if you were to present a coherent model, is it consistent and CONTINUOUS with the Tradition of the Church? Lots of things can be presented as coherent, but that doesn’t mean they are a part of TRADITION. That big T word. If it is not continuous, it is nothing more than gnostic subversion of giving old terms new meaning. I’m no expert on Thomas’ view of person, but I am fairly well versed in Augustine, and his view of person just as a ‘subsisting relation’ was quite radical and revolutionary and has been pointed out by plenty of Augustinian scholars on your side of the fence.


  11. Ooh, good one, Mr Robinson. You really got me.

    I’m just pointing out that arguments made long ago were never replied to and that you’re repeating the same errors as though I never made them. I have no wish to argue with you, much less Mr Jones, because you guys have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to real latin medieval scholarship. It’s not true that for Thomas all is necessary; it’s not true that for Thomas there is no potency in God; it’s not true that for the Latin west nature and person are identical or undistinguished. I demonstrated all this to you at length long ago and I have no wish to do so again. It’s just worth noting that you continue to say the same old stuff in spite of its manifest falsehood. If you have in fact read all that you claim you have, I conclude that either you have failed to understand it, or else your flawed interpretive grid precludes you from accepting it, or else you are being disingenuous.

    Besides the blatant mistakes about Thomas I’ve already pointed out, in this very thread you’re quoted as saying things like “Being is a verb, not a noun. It is a doing, an act. It is taken from the Latin, esse, which is roughly equivalent to energia. This is why God is beyond being. God is more than his actions.” Every bit of this is either wrong or a muddle. You don’t distinguish between esse and ens. You give no reason for equating esse with energeia, which is just wrong. In Latin energeia is rightly translated as either actualitas or operatio, depending on the sense esse is not roughly equivalent to operatio. This is just one of a host of possible examples. When it comes to scholasticism you’re just making things up or relying on secondary literature which makes things up–there’s a lot of bad scholarship out there. Faber’s comment earlier is right on: you read these text like a postmodernist, with little concern for accuracy, precision, or understanding a position from its adherents’ point of view before (purportedly) demolishing it. I’m done refuting this kind of thing from you: I simply note with some bemusement that you’re still doing it, and recommend to your readers that they make some attempt to understand Thomas, Bonaventure, and Scotus for themselves before making rash judgments, just as you would like us to understand Maximos and Palamos. They’re certainly not going to get an accurate picture of the former here.

  12. Michael Sullivan,

    Rather than insulting people, why not ptoduce some texts and arguments? I have read De Potentia. What specifically do you wish to argue about?

    You really ought to produce arguments rather than yap like a bitch.

  13. Just popping in from Mr Prejean’s site.

    It’s hard to believe that after years of this debate you guys still don’t understand Thomism, much less the available range of Catholic theology. Photios claiming that for Thomas there is no potency in God? You’re failing–still!–to distinguish between active and passive potency. Have you ever taken a look at Thomas’ De potentia Dei? I pointed this out to you ages and ages ago: Thomas argues that God has active potency but no passive potency.

    “God’s self-disclosure of His attributes is necessary and cannot be contingent.”

    More silliness, even as far as Thomism is concerned, and you know well I’m no Thomist. I think other Catholic thinkers are stronger on this subject, but you ought to know by now that this is untrue even for Thomas. At MOST Thomas’ arguments for the contingency of God’s decisions is inadequate, but what you have described is certainly not his position or something that follows from his position.

    You also completely fail to grasp the Thomistic notion of personhood, much less the broader tradition of thinking about personhood in the medieval Latin west. I’ve given you texts many times from authoritative thinkers that contradict your statements here.

    Wittgenstein said that whereof we cannot speak we must remain silent. Wrong in his application, but right as a general rule. Explain all you want about why Palamism is great, but you really ought to be silent about scholasticism or the Latin west: nearly every time I read anything you have to say about it you are dead wrong, making your criticisms completely irrelevant. I’ve realized that this is not because of a passing error here and there, but because of a fundamental lack of competence in this area. Sorry.

  14. Elliot B says:

    Hi Photios,

    If God as you construe Him has no ‘active’ essence, why is He triune at all? Is God, in other words, essentially triune? Is God essentially hypostatic? Is God essentially comprised of essence and energies? Does the Son partake of the Father’s essence in being begotten AND of His energies? Is God (necessarily) bound to actualize (personally via energies) only the capacities and goods provided by His essence? (I.e., is God free to actualize evil, since presumably a requirement to actualize only good would subject God to some higher, non-hypostatic order?) If there is no pre-existing essence (in this case, the infinite goods available to the Persons), from what does the Person draw to actualize/hypostasize Himself energetically?

    I ask these questions to indicate why I think Palamism is “guilty” of as much unclarity as Thomism––and as not guilty. I don’t actually think Palamism is “guilty” of percerting triune theology; I do however think it is not adequate to the task, basically because no philosophical method, no philoyophical lexicon, is up to that task in the way I feel you want Palamism to be. My point in speaking of Palamism’s so-called “guilt” is to express how I think it’s just as off-base to say Thomism bears “guilt”.

    As for act and person:

    I cited Wojtyla as one small indication, in a much larger work on the topic you explicitly asked me about, of the fact that person (acting) as the ground of nature, rather than nature grounding person, is not at all foreign to Catholic theology.

    As for how I reconcile the pure act of God’s nature with His personal existence in the Divine Persons:

    The Father’s hypostatic self-actualization AS Father is to beget the Son. Without this relation, He is not God. The same free and eternal self-ratification as tri-relationally hypostatic is just what the essence of God is for Thomism. Just because the discursive emphasis is laid on the divinity AS tri-hypostatic love, does not mean the essence is ever prior to or removed from the Persons. Yannaras (in his Elements of Faith, pp. 35–36) lays great emphasis on God’s hypostasizing His own Nature/Essence as Trinity by the free act of begetting the Son. In so doing, eternally of course, His essence is to EXIST as a PURE ACT OF LOVE. There is no separating the Person from the Nature He actualizes AS His own Nature. I’ll grant you your main point: there is no essence over against the Persons––since the essence to exist in and of itself just IS the tri-hypostatic actus purus os God’s nature.

    C. Yannaras reiterates how God is free from any predetermination, to exist in some way or even to exist at all, but this is ironically the whole point of God as actus purus: there is no grounds or law or reason or impulse or call or authority or relation besides God’s own total self-actualization in and as the Divine Persons. If God is essentially Love, then the Father at least MUST beget the Son, for a non-triune God simply is no God. There is no God but God and His nature is Triune or nothing at all. He is pure act of love, and He loves all things in His Son, via His Spirit, as one totally integrated, but not anteriorly predetermined, act of omniscient, omnipotent will. (I cite Yannaras as a mainstream rep of the EO position.)

    As for your claim that Thomism entails a NECESSARY self-disclosure of His nature (as in, the Father to the Son? God to creation?), I’ll need some documentation to ground that. God is BOUND to do what He does, from all time, yes––because He freely and without potentiality wills to do just that as actus purus! Hypostasizing one’s nature is the universal mode of existence (is God not subject to personhood? to hypostasization? to NO such category?); God is simply the only Being who does so perfectly, eternally, and pure-actively (ie., sans-potentially).

    Now, let me make a meta-comment:

    I enjoy learning from this blog, but I admit I find it hard to take it seriously at times. The reason is this: the entire premise is to use Palamism as a bludgeon against any other form of theology, but unfortunately one of the juiciest targets, Thomism, is affirmed as a sure guide for rational faith by the SAME Catholic Church that, in different rites, affirms Palamism as a sure guide for faith. In the Eastern rites, the filioque is omitted and Palamas is venerated as a Saint. Hence, this blog amounts to a philosophical wrestling mat for honing dialectical skills in a debate that not only belongs in, but in fact already actively takes place in, the Catholic Church. The merit of the blog, as far as pushing Palamism goes, is to clarify the terms of the debate and help ecumenical resolution (even if such “compromise” is like eating crow for the hosts).

    In a way, the conclusions developed (dirty word?) here are purely academic, since I, as a Catholic, have not really the slightest qualms about Palamism turning out to be largely “right”. What I do find unpalatable is the attitude that this is a back-breaker. If I can receive Our Lord in an Eastern Catholic Church, and then afterwards get into a heated intellectual debate with my non-Latin brethren about these issues, well, that’s just the thing: it’s just intellectual debate. Part of being a Catholic is having docile trust in the Magisterium; and as far as I can see, the Magisterium has not forbidden me from even countenancing Palamism; what does that to some degree are my own philosophical proclivities. Historically, the Barlaam–Palamas debate was formally a Hesychast–Scholastic debate. It was a debate of philosophical methods. In the ensuing centuries, that fact has been lost in the EO-RC melee. Seeing as the Church does not condemn Hesychasm (the life and work of Fr. Maloney, SJ, is proof enough She doesn’t––his death in the EO rather than having dwelt among a Roman-rite in his last years, only adds a martyr-like gleam to his life as a laborer for reunion), I feel free to thrash these things out as a discernment of philosophical methodology, NOT as a rejection or defense of dogma. The Roman Catholic Church has simply never chosen to define God existing in essence-and-energies, so I have no canonical grounds for saying He does. The Roman Catholic Church, meanwhile, has poured vast energy (!) into Thomism, so I have very good canonical reasons to do the same with my little Roman-rite self.

    Finally, to steer back towards the core of this post, divine oneness, I would like to hear your take on Pseudo-Dionysius’s Divine Names 13.2–3, which I quote below. Not a curve ball for you guys (as if), just something to help me grasp the limits of absolute unity vs. plurality.

    “And the title “One” implies that

    It is all things under the form of Unity

    through the Transcendence of Its single Oneness, and is the Cause of all things without departing from that Unity.

    For there is nothing in the world without a share in the One; and, just as all number participates in unity … even so everything and each part of everything participates in the One, and

    on the existence of the One all other existences are based, and the One Cause of all things is not one of the many things in the world, but is before all Unity and Multiplicity and gives to all Unity and Multiplicity their definite bounds.

    For no multiplicity can exist except by some participation in the One:….

    There is naught in the world without some participation in the One, the Which in Its all-embracing Unity contains beforehand all things, and all things conjointly, combining even opposites under the form of oneness.

    And without the One there can be no Multiplicity;

    yet contrariwise the One can exist without the Multiplicity just as the Unit exists before all multiplied Number.

    And if all things be conceived as being ultimately unified with each other, then all things taken as a whole are One.

    3. …the One is thus the elementary basis of all things.

    And if you take away the One there will remain neither whole nor part nor anything else in the world; for all things are contained beforehand and embraced by the One as an Unity in Itself.

    Thus Scripture speaks of the whole Supreme Godhead as the Cause of all things by employing the title of “One”; and there is One God Who is the Father and One Lord Jesus Christ and One unchanging Spirit,

    through the transcendent indivisibility of the entire Divine Unity,

    wherein all things are knit together in one and possess a supernal Unity and super-essentially pre-exist.

    Hence all things are rightly referred and attributed unto It, …

    And you will not find anything in the world but derives from the One (which, in a super-essential sense, is the name of the whole Godhead)….

    And we also must, in the power of the Divine Unity, turn from the Many to the One and declare the Unity of the whole single Godhead, which is the One Cause of all things; before all distinctions of One and Many, Part and Whole, Definiteness and Indefiniteness,Finitude and Infinitude;….

    …the Super-Essential Unity gives definite shape to existent unity and to every number, and is Itself the Beginning, the Cause, the Numerical Principle and the Law of Unity, number and every creature.

    And hence, when we speak of the All-Transcendent Godhead as an Unity and a Trinity, It is not a Unity or a Trinity such as can be known by us or any other creature, though to express the truth of Its utter Self-Union and Its Divine Fecundity we apply the titles of “Trinity” and “Unity” to That Which is beyond all titles, expressing under the form of Being That Which is beyond Being.”

  15. Photios,

    (1) Does the “empirical, observational” (non-dialectical) method of the Fathers presuppose an immediate non-deductive knowledge of the reality of other persons (*whos* beyond *what*) and mind-independent objects? Of course, I have no problem with this since I believe that their denial is self-destructive (falsifies all human experience,) but I want to know if the patristic methodology takes that type of knowledge (and its sources) as basic or fundamental. This appears to be a very logical move because if I take persons as persons to be things amongst things or as arbitrary conceptual constructs that can be placed in still more general categories, then I (as a person) have defined myself out of existence, but this is unavoidable if my knowledge of other persons is non-immediate and I deduce/derive the who from the what. With my immediate knowledge, I consider the different operations of myself and other subjects and reason from there.

    (2) I have found that it is impossible not to take anything for granted because that task itself presupposes a person with the capacity bring an unrealized power from potency to act. I believe that the Eunomiun error stems in part from the desire to ground knowledge, truth and reality upon an intelligible some-THING or *what* so that the person can stand on top of it and “be safe.”

  16. photios says:


    If God is pure being or pure act: what room is there for a person? For Orthodoxy, there is much more to God then just His Activity. There is Who He is and What He Does and What He is.

    I don’t see how the Blondel or Wojtyla quotes help.
    Does “to be is to will or to love” tell me anything about ‘Who’ it is?


  17. Elliot,

    I don’t see at all how Thomism and Palamism have problems that are commensurate at all. In Palamism, it is the Persons that actualize powers from capacity to activity. In Thomism, this cannot be, first I’m not convinced whatsoever that they have a Chalcedonian grounded view of person that is not confused with what really could be ANOTHER NATURAL PROPERTY or attribute. And second, the divine essence is absolutely simple and actualized, whatever the distinction of the attributes amount to, they are fully actualized, for Thomism admits of no potentiality in God. God’s self-disclosure of His attributes is necessary and cannot be contingent.

    You might want to change somethings about the way you are thinking about Palamism. God doesn’t energetically actualize powers. He personally actualizes powers. In Thomism, it is the essence that is ‘active.’ Orthodoxy: essence doesn’t actaulize anything. For Thomas, to consider a potent God would mean that their would have to be something prior to the divine essence to move it from potency to act, which for him can be nothing, so God must be pure activity. In Orthodoxy, this is never even considered as a problem since the divine essence is never doing anything. It’s not a subject.


  18. Neo,

    The principle of non-contradiction is a valid principle IF used properly and distinguished itself from the principle of distinction. For Platonism these two principles are sometimes confused and the same thing (i.e. “distinction is opposition”). Here’s a handy way to think about it: Gregory of Nyssa would use the principle of non-contradiction (rightly) to consider the type of operations of a subject (PERSON!) to say that the operations are different and distinct, and considered collectively among other Persons he would conclude either the Persons are of the same nature, a distinctive personal property, or perhaps this Person has another kind of nature if the operation is collective about another group. Eunomius on the other hand would use the principle of non-contradiction to consider the attributes of Beings (Mr. God-in General) and in their real distinctiveness conclude that they are different natures. He would say it is impossible for a ‘Being’ (and by stating it this way I’m saying that Eunomius knows no difference between ‘Being’ and Person) to be both uncreate and generate. He would argue himself right out of the Incarnation as well since this method would not allow for opposed and distinct properties to exist in a single subject. Do you see the subtleties here? Do you see the paradigm of heresy? What kind of Incarnation would he allow for? Monophysitism or Nestorianism? Either-or…right?

    You should be able to see the dots to start connecting…


  19. ebdesales says:

    I like your summary of what you’re grasping at this point, NeoC; I too am determined to gain more light in all this. Now let’s just see, mayhaps, if what you’ve said is of merit in Perry’s eyes!

  20. Perry,

    So within creation dialectic (principle of non-contradiction) works because to be one thing is always not to be another and exist in relation to other things. Since God is not an intelligible thing or what subject to metaphysical deduction, it cannot be applied to Him. It can be applied to His activities within creation and His powers that correspond to the virtues of those created in His Image. I can distinguish divine activities from each other, but I cannot define the Who beyond them. The supposition of certain dialectical relations within Creator-creature relations places God alongside and amongst other beings, however high on the scale He may be. I’m determined to get this eventually…

  21. Elliot B says:


    My point is that if God energetically actualizes the potencies of His essence, then the difference between this and the Thomist account of God as actus purus is not at all clear to me. But I am an ignorant sinner. I am not saying Palamism is guilty of anything; I am saying that in the same way it is not guilty of subverting God to some deeper principle, neither is Thomism guilty of that. God’s nature as pure being (QUA actus purus) is not determined by anything outside the utterly free, pure actualization of Himself as the tri-hypostatic Lord. His essence no more determines the nature of His actus purus than the Palamite theory (that He energetically actualizes His essential potencies), since it just is His essence to freely self-actualize Himself as He is. Conversely, His essential nature as actus purus no LESS determines His nature than Palamism’s unmanifest essence determines how God energetically self-actualizes.

    As for the distinction between Person and Act, I am not equipped to give an adequate explanation. A good place to look, though, would be Wojtyla’s _Person and Act_ and Blondel’s _Action_. But to give my quote for the press, right now, about what is the difference between person and act, I’d say: not much. To quote Wojtyla (chapter 2.4.),

    “Nature does not denote a real and actual subject of existing and acting; it is not to be identified with the ontological foundation of a being. It can only apply to an abstract subject. For instance, in speaking of human nature we refer to something which has the status of real existence as the ontological structure of man only in an actual human being, but which has no real existence apart from him.”

    There is not “divine nature” apart from the triune actus purus of the divine persons, which just is the divine nature.

    I can only quote online sources for Blondel, since I have not the book with me.

    “At the ground of my being, there is a willing and a loving of being, or there is nothing . . . Involuntary and constrained being would no longer be: so much it is true that the last word of everything is beneficence; and to be is to will and to love.” (p. xxiii)

  22. Neo,

    I am not sure you are correct. Take for example the concept of beings of reason. Specific kinds of relations qualify as beings of reason but not real beings. Are they metaphysical or merely epistemological? It seems both so that the kind of clevage you wish to impose doesn’t seem to work here. Moreover, applying dialectic as a method I think does require positing various types of relations which turn on opposition. I think a careful reading of Plato and Aristotle’s causal theory shows this to be true.

  23. Photios,

    A dialectical relation is a metaphysical concept; dialectic is an epistemological method. “A is not non-A” would be an example of applying dialectic, but it would not necessarily indicate a dialectical relation (A is non-B; B is non-A) in a thing’s be-ing consists in being in relation to its opposite? To apply dialectic is one thing; to apply a dialectical relation is another.

    Apophaticism excludes the possibility of applying dialectic (a method) to God and perhaps also positing dialectical relations (opposed metaphysical principles/polarities) within creation as God intended or virtues acquired by those in His image. If everything God created is good and if good is defined dialectically (by its relation to evil), then everything good in creation depends on conflict and death in order to be what it is.

    If to be virtuous is to choose the good over the evil, then without (the possibility of) evil there could be no good; God cannot be just without administering justice to the unjust; merciful without creating objects to receive mercy; God cannot be good without overcoming evil; they both need each other to be. Is this right?

  24. Elliot,

    If God is actus purus, then what is the difference between Person and Act?

    And I don’t see AT ALL what we are guilty of. In fact, I’m having a very hard time following exactly what you are trying to say or show. I think you might want to get a little simpler and state in a shorter and more succinct post what you think the problem is.

    Stating “And not…” statements doesn’t necessarily amount to a dialectical relationship. First, what is being considered might not be opposites, and second, they may not be dependent on each other in order for them “to be.” For example, stating that I am a Christian and not an Arian is not something I know about myself through a process of dialectic. It can be obtained empirically. Christianity is not dependent on Arianism to exist to be Christian, hence, the two are not opposites. Whereas in NeoPlatonism the One is very much dependent on the Nous and World Soul in order for it TO BE the One, and vice versa. The One stands over and against the Many for the very reason that it is the One.


  25. Elliot B says:

    Yes, NeoC, thanks for these quotes.

    What I latch onto in Perry’s comments towards the end is this:

    “…reason only grasps things that be, that have being, BE-ING, it’s a verb, not a noun. … As for the need for persons, if all there was were the essence and energies, creation would either never haven taken place or would be eternal and this is why the Greeks always thought of the world being eternal. Persons on the other hand are free and so if there are persons who subsist in an essence and who USE and can bring to actualization the powers of that essence, than creation becomes free, not to mention salvation being gratuitous.”

    The language of act, power, essence, and being in God all ring bells in my head of the Thomistic notion of God as actus purus. The Persons are free in the very act of infinitely willing their own good, namely, their mutual glorification and adoration as God. God is not bound by some anterior necessity, since the very act of His self actualization is what gives any and all ground to things like reason, desire, and grounds for action. The USING and bringing to actualization of His essence is God’s nature, a nature inalterably His own, AS IT IS, because it is pure act, void of potency.

    If Thomists are guilty of subsuming the Persons to the divinity, it seems just as coherent to say Palamites are guilty of subsuming the personal agency of the Persons to the essence in which they subsist. If it is an essence utterly void of content, it seems a poor candidate for being that which constitutes persons, that which establishes and provides the very potencies those Persons could freely (kata energeian) actualize. If however it is an essence that does establish the potencies and limits and ends of the energies, it is a most subsuming thing. The whole complaint is that Thomists restrict God’s nature to His essence, but if it comes to saying God’s nature is the free (energetic) actualization of His essence, then we’ve come full circle: the pure act of His will just is the actualization of His essence as pure act. God is, necessarily, what He is because He freely will His own necessity as He actually exists, devoid of potency (ie., necessarily). If God’s nature is to actualize His essence by energies, then that is just to say His nature is fully constituted by the pure actualization of His essence, which is Thomism in effect.

    If dialectic is meant to be a rational means to proving the Trinity or the hypostatic union, then obviously, as a Thomist, I reject it. But this does not speak to the point I am pressing about at least some dialectics being ineluctable in the present world.

    I am working through these matters, so thanks for the patience.

  26. the hobbit says:

    Neochalcedonian, thank you, thank you, thank you. I still don’t understand it all but that made several light bulbs come on.

  27. All,

    I’m went through the EP Archives and dug up some quotes that made the whole dialectical method business easier for me to understand:


    “Here’s how I understand the term dialectic or rather dialectic of opposition: Enneads I:3:4:2-9, “[Dialectic] is the science which can speak about everything in a reasoned and orderly way, and say what it is and how it differs from other things and what it has in common with them; in what class each thing is and where it stands in that class, and if it really is what it is, and how many really existing things there are, and again how many non-existing things, different from real beings. It discusses good and not good, and the things that are classed under good and its opposite, and what is eternal and not eternal, with certain knowledge about everything and not mere opinion.”

    “For patristic theologians, general categories or natures are distinguished by considering the types of operations that are being done by a particular agent, very “empirical,” observational, and apodictic, and not through a process of dialectic. The Fathers argue against such a process and call it blasphemous. The Fathers saw Christianity as a complete break with Hellenistic ideas and principles, even St. Augustine did where his champions did not (even if he thought at one time Platonism and Christianity were reconcilable). This is one of the many things that is celebrated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Don’t like that view? Don’t know what to tell you then, but that is what we believe.”

    Hypostases aren’t properties, they are Persons. Properties that can be said about more than one Hypostasis of the same nature are said about all of them, and are hence something natural. A Person is never reducible to any of His nature or His natural properties. Carrying over the Hellenistic meaning of hypostasis into a Christian context is exactly what leads to problems. Hypostasis in Christian metaphysics is its own unique category on its own and is what is absolutely unique about a “who.”

    “…we first predicate properties about PERSONS, not natures. Remember the ordo theologiae…Persons—> Operations —> Essence. We first consider Who and what it is He is doing, so the first part of the Ordo Theologiae goes hand-in-hand: We predicate properties about the Person who we are considering. When we predicate the properties about the Persons, we ask a few questions. Is this a property that can be said of more than one Person? If so, is it something that constitutes these persons or is it an accidental property (e.g. death)? If it constitutes the persons, than we conclude the property is rooted in the NATURE (e.g. the human soul, human will, human intellect, divine intellect, divine will, etc.) If not and truly unique to that Person alone, than it is a unique, irreducible personal property (e.g. the Father is unoriginate)”

    “What happens if general concepts are started with? Persons are subsumed and defined by even more generalities. You’ve essentially done nothing. General concepts are answered with more general concepts. What did John of Damascus say that led the heretics astray? What’s so unique about a subsistent relation?”


    “The reason why there is no rational proof of the Trinity is because reason only grasps things that be, that have being, BE-ING, it’s a verb, not a noun. BE-ING = Esse = Energia. But Trinity, in and of themselves is beyond being, beyond activity. He is not less than activity or being, but he cannot be grasped by reason. This is why the Cappadocians deny that we can give any meaningful content to the terms that distinguish the persons, like begotten or spiration. This is why there cannot be relations of opposition and why there can’t be a filioque. If persons are relations, why aren’t the relations between the persons, persons as well? If so, then we are right back to Gnosticism with the infinite number of intermediaries between God and the World.”

    The love analogy is just that, an analogy and it gives no content to the Trinity. That is, you ask why are there only three? You are looking for a reason and therefore seeking to subsume God under reason. Reason only grasps being-activity, and God is superior to being and ad intra, he is heyond being. Consequently there can be no reason available to us as to why God is only three persons. We would have to know what terms like “Begotten” meant. But we don’t and can’t.

    If reason could say why there were three, the activity of reason would not stop, since for every reason given an opposite reason could be given, say for four and five and so one. And then there would be no end to it. This is why the Love analogy falls short, for persons are not relations. If they were, modalism would be true and Trinitarianism false.

    As for the need for persons, if all there was were the essence and energies, creation would either never haven taken place or would be eternal and this is why the Greeks always thought of the world being eternal. Persons on the other hand are free and so if there are persons who subsist in an essence and who USE and can bring to actualization the powers of that essence, than creation becomes free, not to mention salvation being gratuitous.

    Being is a verb, not a noun. It is a doing, an act. It is taken from the Latin, esse, which is roughly equivalent to energia. This is why God is beyond being. God is more than his actions.”

  28. Elliot B says:

    Thank you, Perry. I realize the negation tactic is not probative; I bring it up as what seems to me a material example of dialectical theology being present in EO discourse. Obviously, you think it is not, which is why I keep probing the point: how is a rejection of a thesis not dialectical?

    While the Father is not a Platonic in a strict sense, He is a monadic “fixture” in the dialectical articulation of the plurality of the Trinity. The guilt of the West, in this venue, is to subvert the Persons to the One of the common natura divina; this is construed as a fundamental dialectical error. By the same course of dispute, the error of absolute hypostatic monarchism is to subvert the plurality of the Trinity to the Father’s hypostatic primacy. As I understand the term, the Monad is the singular principle nity, whether that counts ab origine or ad terminum (ie., whether the Many emanate from the One or the One is that which integrates the Many into a One as the telos). The divine persons are said to find their ontic point of generation and procession from the hypostatic Urgrund of the Father; the plural in other words are but a dialectical refraction of the One.

    Much the same goes for hyperousia. It is a dialectical rejection of strict ontic closure for all persons (ie., God) but also a dialectical amplification of an antecedently proposed concept. The revelation of the God beyond being is a dialectical intrusion on the dialectical closure of classical thought, so that the dialectic is raised out of itself to a higher dialectic beyond mere created reason.

    As far as the Eucharist goes, it is the source of unity in Sherrardian-Zizoulian eucharistic ecclesiology, so that even if the many exist actually (collegiality), they only properly exist as elements integrated into the mia sarx of Christ. The central thrust of such critiques of papalism are to demonstrate no “higher” source of unity is needed than the Eucharist as the one incarnate origin and goal of all episcopacies.

    Only if the Many are construed as sheer illusions, non-real shadows cast by the light of the One, can I see Western monadism as cutting against plurality. As it stands, because the West does grant substantial reality to plural elements within the One Church, it seems more conjecture than demonstration, insinuation than argumentation, to say papal monadism by sheer force of logic entails a denial of the Many in the Catholic Church. As I see it, the EO rejections of Western monadism––which I reiterate is being used too facilely, since I understand Platonic monadism to be an outright denial of the existence of the many prior to their complete “amalgamation” in to the One––are themselves but dialectics not different in principle but only in degree. I’ll grant you that the Father and the Eucharist are not PLATONIC monads, basically because such terms are not Platonic to begin with, but I have a much harder time recant my point that they are CHRISTIAN monads. The Platonic monad, as I see it, is the totality of all plural beings, which is a far cry from the Christian monadism I am talking about here. The history of patristic theology is, as I see it, but a course of adapting, transforming, and re-deploying pagan terms in a Trinitarian form. If persona, ousia, monogenos, kyrios, etc. can be Chrstianized, I struggle to see why monad cannot also.

    As always, I welcome your much better perspective on these matters.

  29. Elliot,

    The Father isn’t a Platonic monad and neither is the Eucharist.

  30. Elliot,

    Addendum. One could just as easily frame Rome as Protestant for setting itself up by local traditions over against the judgement of the Church. Rome after all says that God has NO energies, Grace is NOT completely uncreated, the Father is NOT the sole hypostatic source of the Spirit, free will is NOT libertarian in nature, the faith is NOT once for all delivered…Anyone can play the superficial negation game.

  31. Elliot,

    The Orthodox denial of Roman innovations is no more dialectical than Athanasius’ denial of Arian innovations or Cyril’s denial of Nestorian innovations. We’d have to base our denial on an endorsement of theology as a science governed by dialectic, but we don’t. Consequently your argument is grounded on a superficialities. A simple denial doesn’t amount to an endorsement of dialectic in theological method.

    So, the similarity between Orthodoxy and Protestantism is superficial on that score. Protestants believe in the filioque, that absolute authority is in the One-they just endorse a Leibnizian ecclesiology, doctrinal development, limiting the sacraments to a specific number, the primary use of icons is educational-they just have taught people how to read so they don’t need images any longer, not to mention the Platonic undergirding premise is the same as Rome, that causes do not fully preserve themselves in their effects so that there cannot be any formal union between the reality and the image and efficient causality is too weak to do the job, created grace, guilt and corruption or righteousness can be conveyed to an agent apart from any action of their will, compatibilistic views on freedom, personalistic predestinarianism and the source of all evils in the world (wink) ADS. Those are substantive commonalities.

  32. Elliot B says:

    My basic point being, at some point, we all have to be monadic about something, unity does trump plurality in at least some cases (whether the singular monarchy of the Father, or the unity of all truth, or one Eucharistic Body as source of unity, etc.), which is why I have asked pointedly about just how deep the anti-dialectic position here cuts.

  33. tgenloe says:

    Elliot, well of course I see how with the existence of Google caches and the like it’s dumb to think anything can be “removed” from the Internet. I don’t use Google a lot myself, so I tend to forget it’s there, quietly and dutifully recording every word anyone says anywhere online and preserving it for future generations, world without end.

    Yes, it’s true I didn’t remove the post because I didn’t like it, but because I didn’t want to participate any further than I already had in the morass that was developing in the comments. I did close the comments, thinking that would be enough, but then I went a step further, forgetting about Google.

    Believe it or not, I don’t like the “charged sense” that occurs a lot at RefCath, and I always regret becoming an agent of “charging” myself, whenever that occurs. I admit that converts of the vulgar sort really piss me off. When a man starts his contributions to the thread saying he’s never heard of the guy I’m citing and doesn’t know much of anything about the issues but he’s still going to critique me anyway, sure, I rapidly get frustrated. It takes almost no time at all of dealing with such people to bring me to lose my cool and say all manner of things I later regret, not least of which because such outbursts then detract attention from the reasonable, scholarly discourse I wanted to create in the first place. Of course, I realize I’ve done that to others in the past, probably most notably Perry, whose arguments it took me a couple of years to realize I simply wasn’t competent to address, so I needed to just shut up and quit acting like I could critique him.

    At any rate, the stuff about Platonism in the “Pope as God on Earth” post was just part of the introductory comments, not the main point. I don’t consider myself yet informed enough to discourse at length on Platonism’s influence on papal doctrine. I haven’t read Pseudo-Dionysius for myself, though I’ve been meaning to for years. Just one more thing that has fallen through the cracks of time, too much material to be read on too many subjects, and too many external responsibilities and distractions to make filling in the gaps in my knowledge an easy thing to do.

    No, the point of the post was the immoderate “God on earth” view of the papacy throughout the later Middle Ages, creating the immediate backdrop of tyranny against which the Reformers reacted. And the point of putting that stuff up in the first place was to challenge the vulgar Catholic converts who act like Luther just came out of nowhere and didn’t like authority and wanted to set up his own thing on his own say-so, and oh, what was the poor besieged Catholic Magisterium, the source of all Light and Truth in Christianity, supposed to do?

    It’s that kind of vulgar nonsense that destroys meaningful discourse between Catholics and Protestants, and that’s what I was addressing by putting up the scholarship on the papacy’s bloated self-concept in the several centuries immediately prior to the Reformation.

  34. Elliot B says:


    By “satin” of original sin I think, I just happen to think, I meant “stain”.

  35. Elliot B says:

    QUOTE: “Protestants … will always define themselves over against Rome.”

    I read this and am reminded of von Balthasar’s reference, in Der Antirömische Affekt (in English as “The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church”), to the historical oddity that Orthodox and Protestants have more in common than they realize just because of their shared opposition of the papacy. The enemy of my enemy….

    In popular discourse, what are the three biggies in EO-RC debates? Papal primacy, Immaculate Conception, Filioque. And how do the debates fall out? EO say, “The pope does NOT enjoy jurisdictional supremacy, Mary was NOT conceived without satin of original sin, and the Holy Spirit does NOT proceed from/through the Son.” Even in the stratospheric milieu of this blog, what are dominant themes? “God is NOT absolutely simple and man canNOT know the divine essence.”

    Such Orthodox protestations. How very dialectical.

  36. Elliot B says:

    Mr. Enloe: I don’t believe you are actually upset, rather ironically nonplussed, but I will say I had no idea you wanted the post to disappear without a trace. The reasons you stated for removing it were to dispose of a growing morass of debate, not because you did not like the post. Indeed I recall some of your comments being to the effect that such posts were valuable as an aid to Protestants, so I think it’s just as well you leave it up. Removing it seems…well, let’s just say I think it would be better for you to have closed comments or refused yourself any more replies in that thread, which I think you said you had sworn to do. Such behavior just adds voltage to the charged sense one can sometimes get from RefCath, a sense Perry has complained of in this thread.

    I’m not telling you how to “do” your blog, simply saying that if you believe in your work and believe it can benefit both Protestants and Catholics for clarifying the history of their own conflict, then I think it is a loss to erase the post. I have drafted a fairly extensive reply to the post in question, but, seeing as “it never happened” (in that online “truthiness” sense), I would at most like to send it to you personally, or at least remove your name and RefCath blog from it while still addressing the issues you raised.

    God bless,

  37. tgenloe says:

    Oh, duh, the principle of dialectical opposition = setting the One or the Many against each other. Now I get what you meant, Daniel.

    Ah, the Google cache. So that nothing you ever want to remove from the public eye will ever be able to be removed again. Wonderful stuff, technology.

  38. tgenloe says:


    And by the way, I’m completely uninterested in “killing my father” by constantly portraying myself as being nothing without opposition to Rome. I have tried hard for years now to make plain that I fully accept Rome as part of my spiritual heritage, and as recent as 3 months ago I was doing a series of posts on the cultural background of the papal doctrines for no other reason than attempting to show Protestants that we need to understand the papacy better and not just abominate it based on a parroting of 16th century polemical positions.

    Speaking further to your post, I also do not advocate the view that there is only either Protestantism or Rome. If I don’t talk about Orthodoxy it’s because I know I don’t know enough to intelligently do so. My studies have focused on certain aspects of the Western tradition about authority and resistance, so how can you blame me for speaking as a Protestant about the problems with Rome? The Western church is divided on the point, and I am simultaneously a son of the Western church and a son of one particular part of the Western Church. My writings on the papacy aren’t intended to grapple with Eastern perspectives on problems with the whole West. They are only intended to grapple with the one small part of the Western problem that I have extensively studied.

    Injecting your evaluation of the purposes and scope of my arguments with a little more of that charity you mentioned would do you some good, too.

  39. tgenloe says:

    I don’t think I do understand that principle, Daniel. But please note that I didn’t say 75% of your materials don’t make sense. I’m sure they do. They just elude me because I’m not as well grounded in the requisite subject matter as you are.

    Btw, how do I find your papers on Christological issues on this site?

  40. Tim,

    You understand the principle paradigm of heresy: dialectical opposition. I’m not sure why 75% of what we say here wouldn’t make sense since just about everything we say here revolves around showing how that approach is wrong.


  41. tgenloe says:

    Wow, I don’t know where that came from Perry. When have I “gone off” on you lately? I don’t recall.

    I don’t care that you make me look ignorant of Christological matters. I’ve long admitted that, and just did again to Daniel, so what you’re on about on that point I don’t know. In fact, I stopped trying to critique you well over a year ago because I realized I didn’t have the resources or the understanding of the issues to do it. I apologize for trying to have some humility, at least, in the midst of my otherwise extremist and intolerant loud mouth crap spewing.

    As for the pounding and banning at Reformed Catholicism, excuse me, but I myself recently took you off the ban list that KEVIN put you on because I figured we needed a differing perspective, even one that’s often very rude and impatient under pretense of scholarly objectivity and pure rationality. I gave you a voice there again. You’re welcome. Glad to help you out.

    Think what you want about Cross, I don’t care. To me he was just one more vulgar convert, and even more offensive because instead of just putting forth the usual convert Black / White absolutism he had to start making cyclic rounds of Protestant blogs trying to mess with people’s faith and get them doubting their connection to Christ. He demonstrated no ability whatsoever to even understand Peter Escalante’s criticisms of him, but just kept circling around a handful of disputable claims like a broken record. That ‘s what made me angry about him.

    I don’t understand your comments about my removal of my post on the pope. For your information, I did not read your post until just last night, over 24 hours after I removed my post. I didn’t remove the post because of reading your piece and realizing I had “got caught with my pants down.” Please. I actually haven’t read your blog for several months. Pulling it up last night was a fluke, and I was actually quite surprised to find you tearing into me as if I’d deliberately set out to attack you and as if I somehow KNEW my theses applied to Protestantism as well but just obtusely refused to admit the obvious. You do this to me quite frequently, and I don’t understand why. I’ve told you repeatedly that I don’t have the grounding in the subjects you do to deal responsibly with your arguments, but repeatedly you act as if I somehow know better and am just being a railing idiot who knows better but still won’t control himself. Oh yes, but you feel yourself in need of lecturing ME about “charity.”

    I also didn’t remoeve the post because of the criticisms I was taking from ignorant vulgar Catholics who had no ground to stand on. I removed it because for over a month I’ve been trying to withdraw from most of my Internet activities, and I saw yet another inescapable morass developing over my post. I wanted no part of it.

    Again, I don’t know where your blast above comes from. I haven’t criticized you for quite some time for precisely the reason that I know I’m not capable of it. And I was quite sincere in coming to you privately to ask for bibliographic help. I wanted to better understand certain issues, and I didn’t know where to look. I’m so sorry for bothering you, thinking you might be able to save me some time reading poorer books by instead pointing me to better ones. I won’t make the mistake of bothering you again on that matter.

    But hey, don’t fret. I’ve taken my whole website down, withdrawn from Reformed Catholicism, and determined to spend my time more profitably just studying, writing, and trying to fill in the gaps in my understanding of many things. You won’t be hearing anything from me in the way of online essays or opinions for quite some time.

  42. Tim,

    I had a number of points in mind. First, you complain about people making things too simple. That is a legitimate complaint. But you do the same thing and tend to be quite dogmatic and rhetorical about it. Kevin seems to be getting worse in that respect, particularly on the question of orders and episcopacy as displayed in the post next to yours. It was rather silly. It’s rather obvious for all his bantering, and it is just that, on that matter that he has a rather superficial understanding of the position he is attacking, not to mention very little grasp of well known replies to the objections he is raising. The same can be said for your sophmoric posts attacking apostolic succession.

    Second, the way you guys treated Brian Cross I thought was inexecusable. I know Brian personally and while we we aren’t the best of friends, I know he is a smart guy and he has more formal education that both you and kevin put together. I have sat with Brian in seminar and he has cornered me on a few occasions. The condescension and intolerance over at RefCath has reached such a degree that I can’t even post there any longer.

    Third, the theological point was this. The problems you have with the papacy are grouned in problems I pointed out to you years ago. You go off on me and then come to me in private for help understaning this or that or for bibliography. Well if are the scholar you make yourself out to be, then I suggest that you do your own research. Frankly I am tired of it.

    Fourth, it really doesn’t matter if you aren’t Reformed since the problems I pointed out by and large with affect any other western theological grid you wish to subscibe to. So yes, the criticism in the main will still apply to you.

    The fact is that you got caught with your pants down. Its obvious why you removed the post. For all your howling about Rome, your position is at bottom no better. You and the other supercilious writers at Ref Cath constantly frame matters in terms of Rome or Prots. You are so far beyond being irenic it isn’t even funny. If anyone thinks differently, they get pounded or banned. I have watched this for a long time and I have let alot of loud mouth crap you have spewed go by.

    If you don’r enjoy people nailing you and making you look ignorant then perhaps you should extend a bit of charity and not be so rhetorically charged in your writing. I am not “well beyond” you and the fact that you frame the matter in this way tells me that you think this is about oneupmanship, but it isn’t. I keep trying to help you but every time you take diretion and criticism personally. You were blindsided because your anger got the better of you and the way you have framed the issues in terms of an all or nothing between Rome or Protestantism forces you to ignore other perspectives. Until you can learn to be a tad more tolerant and shut down the rhetoric, I am going to hold your feet to the fire.

  43. tgenloe says:

    Photios, well, I never have understood about 75% of what you guys say, mostly because I don’t have an excellent grasp of patristic Christology or of ancient and Medieval philosophy. I am just now finishing up a class on Christology at UD, but though I’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge on the subject that I didn’t have 4 months ago, I am still very behind in terms of the sort of knowledge I’d need to understand yours and Perry’s arguments from Christology. To say nothing of these sweeping claims about the gross apostasy of the whole Western Church. Even if by some means or another you all could be shown to be wrong, it wouldn’t be me doing the showing. I can’t even understand 75% of it to begin with.

  44. Tim,

    That wasn’t his point. It was to show that you had a lot of good ideas and that your anti-Platonism can only be consistent within an Orthodox world-view where unity and multiplicity are embraced: antinomical.


  45. tgenloe says:

    Well I think you’ve done a great job of showing that if I’m well beyond the vulgar Catholic apologist crowd, against whom my post was directed, you’re in turn well beyond me. To you, I’m just one more vulgar Protestant, so turn about is fair play. “There’s always a bigger fish,” right?

    But I guess since I’m not sure how “Reformed” I am anymore, much of your critique, which relies on the assumption of me having pretty well spelled out Reformed views and being rather firmly committed to them, may not apply to me.

  46. Jonathan says:

    I really wish I could find that piece Mr. Enloe wrote at Reformed Catholicism. It seems to be gone. I first read it from a reply Mr. Vasquez’s wrote on his blog to it. After my reading of it, I printed out your reply to it along with Sarabitus’ to read later because I was in a hurry. I should have printed his post as well. Did he just delete it?

  47. David Richards says:

    I didn’t say the article wasn’t right; my point was that I would not take Wikipedia as any sort of authority.

  48. Nope, this entry is absolutely right. “Facies” like “dies” is a fifth declension noun, and thus the phrase is “prima facie” since “facies” is not a first declension noun (the good old “puella, puellae” declension, which it appears to be here.) It is in the ablative and it is feminine, so it drops the “s” and becomes “facie”, and “primus, a, um” is declined also in the singular ablative feminine, “prima”. It is common in Latin to mix a noun from one declension with an adjective of another, so they don’t necessarily look the same but they go together.

  49. David Richards says:

    Wikipedia is filled with factual inaccuracies.

  50. “The phrase prima facie is sometimes misspelled “prima facia” in the mistaken belief that *facia is the actual Latin word; however, the word is in fact faciēs (fifth declension), of which faciē is the ablative.”

    -from Wikipedia

    Correct your Latin already! It’s driving me nuts!

  51. T says:

    Mr. Robert Mahoney,

    I just went to your blog and found out that you were once a Calvinist AND a theonomist?!?! You don’t know how happy this makes me. I’ve been dying to meet a convert from a STRICT Calvinist background, and I may have just pseudo met that person!

    And yes, my pastor absolutely did not understand today. He thinks that if you don’t cognize the “gospel” like Tim Keller does, you’re a moralist, a legalist, or better yet, a Pharisee. (I just had a very abrupt and matter-of-fact “conversation” with my pastor today about my interest in Orthodoxy–it didn’t go well!)

    You’re right as well when you state that, “To them no one understood the gospel prior to them unless they believe that the counsel of Nicea we all Calvinists.” He told me I’m “not applying the gospel right.” Yeah okay, more of that cognitive rationalizing I have to do just to comprehend the fact that Christ actually took on human flesh to redeem it. It’s just so easy to grasp the Gospel by listening to the words of the Liturgy that it’s hard to go back to any other presentation!

    Anyways, I could go on, but I’ll desist for now. Perhaps I’ll add some steam to your blog. 🙂

  52. Faber says:

    Wow. That’s quite magisterial. So, is it my imagination, or does your notion of negating something of platonism doesn’t make one a non-platonist sound like Derrida and Deconstruction tactics? you sound just like my Derrida Professor.

  53. As slowly as you can :0)

    I jest, but in all seriousness don’t expect them to understand. To them no one understood the gospel prior to them unless they believe that the counsel of Nicea we all Calvinists. They must, or why would they use a creed produced by a Church, who by the very Westminster confession would deny they were even saved.

    Just be honest.

  54. T says:

    I have a question completely off topic: How do you explain to a Calvinistic pastor that you see and experience a more complete presentation of the Gospel in the Orthodox Church than in a Presbyterian Church?

  55. nathanwells says:

    “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19)
    If we have no names, we fail to be factions. The truth unites – error tears apart.

  56. Elliot B says:

    Since it’s about to be scrolled off the main page here into the oblivion of archives, and since I would still like some interaction on my query, I invite everyone interested to have a look at my comments in the thread about drawing near to God. Not that my comments are all that valuable, rather that I hope someone besides Perry (did someone say he’s got better things to do heheh?) could speak to my difficulties with Palamism.

    The comment I added on this thread will indicate how I see this post and the earlier one linked via Palamism and its contenders.

    Thanks, cheers,

  57. “perhaps there is some answer there as to why they are committed to the Filioque.”

    When ones mantra is Sola Scriptura, you can only eat so much crow.

  58. Rob G. says:

    Every educated Protestant that I’ve ever discussed the Filioque with — Anglican, Reformed, or Lutheran — has referred me to Pusey’s “On the Clause ‘And the Son.'” They seem to believe that Pusey settled the case for Protestants. Having never read it, I can’t speak to its arguments but perhaps there is some answer there as to why they are committed to the Filioque.

  59. Death Bredon says:

    “Platonism undergirds the Catholic and Protestant commitment to the Filioque. It is quite strange that Protestants adhere to probably the most divisive Papal action in history and that without any serious scriptural warrant and not a peep of protest.”

    Bingo. I think someone said that Catholics and Protestants are two sides of th same coin.

  60. Elliot B says:

    Is this Perry writing? I had to shake my head clear a few times when I saw the thing about the hymen heheh.

    Is it the Palamite position that NOTHING can participate in anything else’s essence, but only via an object’s energies? Here I construe participation to include formal intellectual understanding of a thing’s essence. Do, for example, humans partake of human nature on an energies.level, without co-participating in an essentia humanitatis?


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