Christologically Dumbfounded

Mike Liccione has responded to my post here:

http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2008/08/backward-christian-soldiers.html

Couple of comments and rhetorical question on his choice of title:

Is Maximus the Confessor a “backwards Christian solider”? How about Palamas? Am I making these things up? Of course not. Where do you think I’m learning this “theological anthropology from?”

Notice that in Mike’s post there’s no talk of Christ or Christology. Why is this? This leaves hollow any kind of engagement or refutation from my perspective. Mike’s solution is to give the same standard RC answer whether it is the De Lubac variety or the Garigou Lagrange variety on the “gratuity” of grace. He gives the same answer to the question as a loyal son of Rome. Rome has already dictated how Mike is to see this question.

Mike talks about rights and what man has as his “due” with regard to Michael Baius. But was Michael Baius concerned about “rights” ? And more importantly was Maximus the Confessor concerned about it? Both try to give a patristic answer to a question in theological anthropology. If God created to will the Mystery of His Embodiment, I.e. Jesus Christ, then where is the legal manifestation of this concern? This is a polemical argument with no weight coming from De Lubac, that if one doesn’t see gratuity, i.e. separating nature and grace, then grace must be a “right.” All this highlights, is that they don’t wish to understand the question from there opponents perspective. If this is to be an internal critique and reductio, I suggest they work a little harder. Mike refuses to recognize and engage the ordo theologiae in this thought and the soundness of it: vis., that the gratuity of grace is in the decree of God wishing to be embodied, and in God willing that embodiment, human nature cannot be ‘other’ than what it is because the many logoi–which are the one Logos–are the foundation and FORMAL cause of my being. To point out a saying of St. Dionysios, “the being of beings is the *divinity* beyond being.” God did not create and then tack on the addition of human nature’s “elevation.” He willed this and fixed this already in willing the Incarnation. Nature and grace are indeed distinct, but there is an intimate connection between the two because the very order in which the questions are handled and dealt with: I stand within Christ and understand Creation. I do not stand “outside” of Christ to understand this question. Hence, Mike’s method of how to handle this question is still quite secular. It is not Christ centered. To think of a hypothetically ungraced human is not only Christologically backward, but it would no longer be a “human.” As I have written a few posts lately about the patristic ordo theologiae, ask yourself, did the Fathers refute the heretical Christologies starting from “inside” Christ or did they start from the “outside”?

Mike also makes a few more observations about my comments on the Immaculate Conception from the Eirenikon blog. My engagement against the IC does not stand on moral virtues alone but also on theological virtues. Does the IC imply an infusion of the theological virtues at Mary’s creation? I think that would be a resounding yes. The point is that virtue, as exercised morally or theologically, is acquired by the gnomic will. Since the gnomic will is a type of ‘mode of willing’ for created hypostasis, then there is no IC in the sense that they understand it. All[!] the virtues are indeed natural as regard to their power (nature), but are only recapitulated in their actualization (person). If the IC implies the former, then it is superfluous doctrine and means nothing, if the latter it is an example of predestinarianism or Origenism depending on which side of that dialectic extreme one chooses. The IC is just another example of the confusion between person and nature as this confusion manifests itself in the Roman communion.

108 Responses to Christologically Dumbfounded

  1. elliotbee says:

    Well, gentlemen, I do thank you for your words. I need time, reflection, and prayer while all this sinks in.

    Cheers,

  2. Monk Patrick,

    Beautifully put.

    Elliot,

    I believe the Thomist preoccupation with the “absolute gratuity” of grace is an artificial one. I believe this because I believe that those elements that it DID receive from Augustinism in its answer to Pelagianism are artificial. I do not believe that the answer to Pelagianism was the ‘doctrines of grace’ embodied in Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings (not that he didn’t get some things right of course). I believe the authentic Orthodox answer to Pelagius is in John Cassian’s Conferences even though it doesn’t have quite the technical precision as Maximus the Confessor. If St. John is a “semi-Pelagian” than so am I quite happily. Both he and Maximus deny that man needs a “special” prevenient grace to orient him toward God, that God hadn’t done already in willing Jesus Christ in His Incarnate body. For years it baffled me why the Eastern Fathers seemed somewhat “semi-Pelagian” to me and now I understand why. It’s the very starting points and the order in which those questions are asked. Working from the ‘Augustinian’ ordo theologiae “semi-Pelagianism” seems crass, works righteousness, etc., but from the Orthodox ordo theologiae “semi-Pelagianism” is Incarnational, biblical, and patristic. I find it amazing how these starting points completely revolutionize the way you look at these doctrines.

    Photios

  3. Monk Patrick says:

    Here is a brief attempt to address the issue trying to work along the thoughts of St Maximus.

    God is all Life and we cannot consider something existing of itself apart from Him otherwise God would be limited. So how then can there be a created existence other than God? This is only possible when the creation is in God. More precisly creation takes place within the Life of the Trinity as other yet within. Being within the Life of the Trintity is to be understood as within the Life of the hypostases of the Trinity and participation in the energies of the Trinity. Thus the life of creation is in a sense a subset of the Life of the Trinity. With the distinction of essence and energies there can be something created that is not God in essence yet does not live apart from God in energies even though it may have its own energies, which however are sustained by the uncreated energies of God. Creation cannot maintain itself apart from this.

    Also, creation must fit into the relationship structure of the Trinity and hence it is created through the Son as logoi of the Logos. Everything that any created thing is must be found in the Son, that is the Logos contains and unifies the logoi of creation, which find their meaning in the Logos. Creation relates to God through the Son because only the Son knows the Father. There is no external relation to God. As the Spirit rests in the Son it also rests on creation and so creation more completely expressed relates to the Father through the Son in the Spirit thus partaking of the Trinitarian Life. Creation cannot exist outside this relationship and so it cannot exist apart from the grace of the Spirit nor independant of the Son.

    Yet, material creation within time and space is separate from the Son by nature. This can only be reconciled through the Incarnation when the Son takes both natures in the one Person thus ensuring the unity of creation within itself and within the Trinity without confusion. Creation could not have a permanent existence otherwise. Temporal existence only has a place where it is to finish in eternal existence. There cannot be a permanent temporal existence beside God otherwise God would not be all in all and so limited. Hence, God could not have created humanity without the Incarnation; humanity cannot have a relationship with God outside the Son nor exist outside Him. Also, it cannot exist outside the Spirit, hence without grace. This grace does not belong to the nature of man/creation, although human nature is incapable of existence/subsistence without this grace, and this grace isn’t owed to man but is freely given by God along with creation. Also particiaption in this grace is by God’s will not man’s although man consents. So there can be no Pelagianism regarding grace understood in this manner. Man owns this grace as his own, similar to each hypostasis of the Trinity, if he is willing to submit to God’s will, and this grace does not create grace in man. This does not mean that man ceases to be man but gives a real sense of participating in the divine nature not becoming a God with some other created divine energies, which would imply a life apart from the Trinity.

    Sorry that this is not very tidy or comprehensive but I hope it provides some ideas for thought.

  4. Erick says:

    Hi guys,

    I don’t have much academic knowledge of these things and I rarely ever post on these discourses, but if I may summarize in rather simple language… I think this is the argument so far:

    Dr. Mike L and Elliot B are arguing that grace being an automatic, inherent feature of creation as opposed to an unnecessary gratuity is in a sense a denial/removal of God’s love.

    Photios on the other hand is arguing that the Incarnation itself… the decision by God to create with the ultimate goal of divining the creation… is gratuity enough, and hence all other rationalizations are just academic.

    Did I get this right?

  5. Elliot B says:

    Andrea:

    The reason Dr. Liccione initially raised a red flag about the immediately preceding post of Photios’s, is that he was worried that post negated the gratuity of grace by collapsing it into the very act of creation, whereas a Thomist is more inclined to say grace is “superadded” to the natural creation.

    In his flag-throwing Dr Liccione distinguished between the actual impossibility of an ungraced human nature, since the Incarnation is the actual will of God, and the logical impossibility of ungraced humanity in the total providence of God.

    If God had literally and logically no other choice but to make a Christologically graced humanity, then grace is no longer the ultimate gift, but becomes a merely natural, automatic… non-gratuitous feature of human existence.

    No one here denies that, in fact, we are fully grounded in being and in faith by the grace of Christ as the Logos in all things… but the dispute is over which is a better (for lack of a better word… safer?) way to articulate and protect the SUPERNATURAL GRATUITY of grace: as a natural ineluctability or as a superadded covenant bond?

    In a nutshell, as I said earlier here, “To conceive of grace as shorthand for ‘nature at its best’ IS to be Pelagian.”

    That’s putting everything dangerously crude, and I accept any corrections from those in this thread, but I think it crudely gets the point across well enough for now.

    I think the problem is that, as always, we are referring to “grace” in crucially different senses.

    Cheers,

  6. Elliot,

    I am unclear about yours and Dr. Liccione’s reference to the possibility of a different universe/intention for humanity other than the Incarnation being made universally realized, if I’m understanding your correctly. Why is that relevant in the real world and how we express our real faith? Orthodox alternate universe speculations regard what would have happened without the fall, which I imagine would have involved a more peaceful maturation into Christ-likeness, not whether humans could exist without deification predestined in their hearts.

    I have an incomplete understanding of the logoi, so I hope the discussion continues along that line of inquiry. I think the logoi are like DNA, the potential for all of the diversity in Christ – distinct but not separated from God in essence. I’m not sure if the logoi are only present in creation because I’m not sure if they include all the energies/attributes of God which exist independent of creation, though they are not absent from creation. They are the many that exist in the One, I believe.

    Sin is the only thing that exists apart from God, and it is only an illusion, though a very deceptive one. It keeps us from enjoying, moving, and maturing in His presence.

  7. Elliot B says:

    Photios;

    That’s a good question… and one I am not comfortable answering at this point. I think my grasp of the terminology tied in with your grasp of “logoi” is simply too weak and skewed to give an answer coherent in those terms. A lone stab I’ll make in the dark, though, is: the lack of deliberative will. It is by actual, this-world grace, not by absolute logical necessity, that humans are Christomorphic. That’s my sticking point.

    Perhaps it would be better for you to show me how the anthropic logoi are actually all they can conceivably be in the Orthodox ordo for which you are arguing. Help me see how it all hangs together in your mind, in a way, I mean that eliminates the kind of logical possibilities I can intuit.

    My difficulty making sense of that “logoi-cal holism” may be illustrated by me saying that I see nothing any less coherent in humans having a different “logoi-cal structure” than I do in imagining the universe had a different structure in the creative eyes of God.

    A little help, thanks.

    Cheers,

  8. Elliot,

    If you agree with me Christocentrically and you wish to embrace the patristic order of theology as starting first with Christ, then please explain to me the logoi of human nature that could be otherwise that is willed in the Incarnation.

    Photios

  9. Elliot B says:

    trvalentine:

    As I said, I will not return to the topic of Germanization at this juncture, but I just want to express gratitude for your clarity and (when not writing intentionally hyperbolically!) charity.

    Fr Maximus:

    Since becoming a Catholic I have looked at the “purpose” of matter, to be perfectly honest, as the means to celebrate the Sacraments, that is, as the means to dwell with God in a connatural way. As Ronald Know (I believe) said, it is not that God created bread and then Jesus used it to institute the Eucharist, but that, in willing to institute the Eucharist in Christ, God created bread. Bread was made for the Eucharist, not the Eucharist from bread. If this is not basically what the ordo being argued for here is getting at, I don’t know what is.

    Of course, to make myself clear once again, despite how fundamentally I agree with the actual Christocentricity of all created reality and human nature in particular, I simply don’t see how it follows that there is not even logically another way God could have created the world or human nature. I fully grant that “human nature” in this hypothetical universe would would not actually be human nature (since I just defined human nature in terms of its actual character in the actual world), but I think that the same function could be fulfilled by quasi-humans as beings lesser than angels but higher than the beasts, etc. I can’t relinquish the idea that, while I can really only be human by virtue of my relation to Christ, I could not even conceivably have been created without the grace of knowing Him. Hence, I could have had feasible humanoid nature without enjoying the gratuitous goodness of the mysteriae fidei.

    Now, if you say the entire concept of a less than radically and completely Christocentric human nature is, on Orthodox terms, incoherent, then I will do two things: 1) shrug, nod, grant your point in Orthodox terms, and move on, and 2) complain to myself that you’re stacking the deck in your favor by defining human nature precisely in terms that which we are trying to explain, namely, the grace of our life in Christ. Defining your conclusion into existence is a fallacy, but if Orthodox theology honestly recognizes no other means by which to arrive at a picture of human nature, there’s really nothing I can say.

    And, just to keep things in focus, I will repost the points I made above, so my whole position is more or less stated in one go:

    I want to make it clear (as I think I did before with certain quotes from Donald Keefe’s _Covenantal Theology_), that I am totally opposed to the myth of autonomous human nature and any autonomous cosmic nature in general.

    I agree that, in the actual dispensation of creation as we know it, human nature is never even possibly closed off from the grace of Christ as its constitutive source of agency.

    I believe that “human nature” just means “rational creaturliness open to and animated by Christ as its Logos”. (This is why I was affirming the Bonhoefferrian importance of analogia relationis and our ontological penultimacy before the “Who do you say I am?” and “Who are you?” of Christ (cf. P. Janz, _God, the Mind’s Desire_).)

    I believe the Eucharist is the only coherent order in which history, freedom and humanity can exist and flourish (cf. Marion, Keefe, et al.). I believe the world is, as St Maximus put it, a celestial liturgy rooted in the Eucharistic Lord of all. Human nature is an incipient act of worship or it is nothing.

    I believe that human nature exists by and in and through the Logos of God just as “any thing that was made was made through Him.”

    I deny that Aristotelian anthropology is an adequate anthropology apart from the mode of Christlikeness.

    I hope this shows that I really do agree with so much of what Photios, et al. are expressing here from the wisdom of St. Maximus.

    So what is the dispute? For me, it is a very narrow matter, concerning the logical coherence of God’s sovereignty.

    Despite how much I agree and fully exult in the Christocentricity of humanity, what I can’t agree with is the attendant thesis that our actual mode of existence is the only logically or metaphysically possible way God could have created the world in relation to Himself. This seems to put just as much a logical limit on God as the nature of divinity allegedly does in scholasticism. It is one thing to say Aristotelian anthropology is inadequate int he actual order of creation, but quite something else to say it is literally inconceivable in any dispensation God might will to create.

    Cheers,

  10. Fr. Maximus says:

    Elliot,

    I think you have captured a substantial portion of the Orthodox position in your last post. Here is a question to think about in relation to your last paragraph: why did God create matter?

  11. John Cassian,

    The person you want to ask that question of is Fr. Michael Azkoul. He’s an expert on Scholarius.

    Photios

  12. Eirenikon man,

    I believe the more accurate claim is that the path that became Roman Catholicism has little to do with the great Christological Councils. Think about why you would associate a dogma of the Church in ‘Cyrillian Chalcedonianism’ at the 5th Ecumenical Council as “Neo-Chalcedonians” ? What, was the Three Chapters and the defense of it real “Chalcedonianism? Has the RC theology followed this line of ‘Cyrillic Chalcedoniansim’? What basis does one “develop” a theology apart from these councils?

    Photios

  13. […] 28, 2008 by Eirenikon Editor With respect, this is, in fact, an anti-gospel argument. The gospel is intended for the world, for every people, for every culture. The gospel is not just […]

  14. John Cassian says:

    http://www.gorgiaspress.com/BOOKSHOP/pc-55592-58-livanos-christopher-greek-tradition-and-latin-influence-in-the-work-of-george-scholarios.aspx

    http://books.google.com/books?id=lPzcOwnCgVIC&dq=tatakis+scholarios&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0

    http://www.rescogitans.sdu.dk/files/RC___Katelis.pdf

    http://eirenikon.wordpress.com/2008/05/25/a-latins-lamentation-over-gennadios-scholarios/#more-76

    Please forgive my “argument by citation,” as I fully recognize it is bad form in these sorts of discussions. I am neither a philosopher nor a student of Byzantine historiography.

    My only “argument,” insofar as I have one at all, is that a cursory search of the relevant literature seems to suggest that the relationship between “Scholastic” thought and Byzantine theology is a complex one, and one which is perhaps not susceptible to (borrowing a tired phrase) a simple “hermeneutic of discontinuity”

  15. John he completely rejected Aquinas and others when he became Patriarch. The Council of Florence was his turning point in which Aquinas was no longer a teacher for him.

  16. John Cassian says:

    “As for ’scholastic’ stuff from writers who were Orthodox, AFAIK it comes from the period known as the Western Captivity. Fortunately, that has been almost completely eradicated as it really isn’t Orthodox.”

    Gennadios Scholarios was chosen by St Mark of Ephesus as his successor, and had many friendly words for Aquinas

    http://www.amazon.com/Byzantine-Gennadios-Scholarios-Translation-Commentary/dp/8820946831/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219924925&sr=8-1

  17. trvalentine says:

    Elliot B:

    The Western Church did have its dogma corrupted by its Germanization: the Filioque, papal ‘infallibility’, pope’s authority greater than bishops gathered in council, ‘just war’, just to name four.

    The Germanization of Western Christianity brought about a transformation of its worldview which in turn had profound impact on its structure and beliefs. Eastern Christianity did not undergo a similar transformation, never experienced a ‘Dark Ages’, never experienced feudalism, etc.

    It is because the Germanization of Western Christianity transformed its worldview that it virtually impossible to really communicate with each other on substantive issues — such as what is ‘nature’.

    The Eastern Church was never Hellenized. It was born in a Hellenic millieu and subsequently transformed Hellenism.

    Thomas

  18. trvalentine says:

    Fr Alvin Kimel wrote:

    It may or may not be the case that Western Christians are utterly incapable of comprehending the Eastern worldview;

    My phrase was intentionally hyperbolic.

    but I do not think that this thread has revealed any such thing.

    I disagree. I think there is a major problem with the concept of nature in general and human nature in particular.

    Identifying differences in worldviews is no easy matter, especially when one is comparing one’s own worldview to others.

    Agreed. But I don’t think difficulty obviates the need.

    In a comment above, Fr Maximos speaks of Catholicism as a “system” of thought; but how can it be a theological system when the doctors of her faith include both Athanasius and Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzen and Augustine, John Damascene and Thomas Aquinas, Ephrem and Therese of Lisieux, and so on. One cannot construct a systematic theology from such a diverse witness. In this respect one must say that Catholicism is not a theological system but a community of theological dialogue and debate, united together in creed and Holy Eucharist.

    I think it would be more accurate to say the branch of Christianity united under the pope of Old Rome is a collection of diverse philosophies (the idea of multiple theologies is an oxymoron in Orthodox thought) united together under the papal office. The fact that the Vatican tolerates widely divergent beliefs and even suggests the Orthodox Catholic Church could be brought into ‘the fold’ if only she would accept the authority of the pope demonstrates this reality.

    Even if one were to identify the Catholic Church as “Western,” which she quite intentionally and explicitly refuses to be,

    Historical fact is what it is. Western Christianity, composed of Papal Christianity and Protestant Christianity manifests quite a few characteristics unique amongst the five historical branches (if one includes all of Protestant Christianity into a single branch despite the multitude of beliefs) of Christianity. Since Protestant Christianity largely defined itself in opposition to Papal Christianity (especially in the beginning of the Protestant Revolution) and Papal Christianity largely defined itself in opposition to Protestant Christianity (especially at Trent), this is quite understandable.

    I suspect that something very similar might also be said about Orthodoxy. While it may be the case that the Slavophile Lossky-Florovsky-Schmemann version of Orthodoxy is now dominant in the Orthodox diaspora (but what about in Greece and Russia?), it can hardly be denied that other forms of Orthodox theological expression have existed, and even dominated, in Orthodox nations during the past seven hundred years. Orthodoxy has its own long “scholastic” tradition, for example; but little of it is available in English translation. And it should be noted that the important Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas departs from the Palamite model in significant ways (see Aristotle Papanikolaou, Being with God).

    I don’t see any significant differences between your triad of ‘Lossky-Florovsky-Schmemann’ and the most important contemporary Greek writers (Romanides, Metropolitan Hierotheos, and most especially, Christos Yannaras), or the most important contemporary Russian writers (Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and Sergei Bulgakov), or the most important contemporary writers from other locations (Dumitru Stăniloae, Elder Cleopa).

    One also needs to consider that as Russia recovers from the dark days of Marxism (a Western philosophy, BTW), rebuilding takes a higher priority than producing new texts — especially when older texts, which have not been made obselete by so-called developments, are available.

    The earlier texts by Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) I find quite good, though not of the calibre of Yannaaras. Some of his more recent stuff causes me (and a lot of others) concern.

    As for ‘scholastic’ stuff from writers who were Orthodox, AFAIK it comes from the period known as the Western Captivity. Fortunately, that has been almost completely eradicated as it really isn’t Orthodox.

    Are converts better able to understand the differences? I think it depends on the individual. It depends on how well he understood his original tradition and how well he has assimilated his new tradition.

    To a large degree, I agree. But from a broad perspective, those who have moved from one religion/worldview to another will have a better grasp of the differences than one who has always been in the same religion with the same worldview. There is actually a ‘Catch-22’ here. As a person begins to move from one worldview to a new worldview (a difficult process that can be intellectually and emotionally wrenching) that person is in an in-between state which has not yet grasped the new worldview but has problems with the old worldview. When a person has completely assimilate the new worldview, it is difficult (impossible for some) to comprehend the worldview they previously held.

    It’s not just a matter of reading a few books. Fr Stephen Freeman has been Orthodox now for ten years. This is a man who lives and breathes and prays Orthodoxy. He says that he is only just beginning (emphasize *beginning*) to understand Orthodoxy in the depths of his soul.

    I agree, though I think the length of time it takes a person to reach a point where he really understands Orthodoxy varies from person to person. I’d guess an absolute minimum would be about three years for some people. Of course, some people will never reach that point. And I think it rare for any person to fully comprehend Orthodoxy.

    Thomas

  19. trvalentine says:

    Photius Jones wrote:

    From my point-of-view the whole Hellenic philosophical
    milieu has to be recontextualized to be even workable much less true
    to understand theology or theological anthropology.

    I find the following passage, from ‘The Transformation of Hellenistic
    Thought on the Cosmos and Man in the Greek Fathers’ by Father Gregory
    Telepneff and Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos
    (www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/hellenistic_thought.aspx) cogent:

    The relationship between Hellenistic thought and the
    theology of the Greek Fathers is one which is frequently misunderstood
    by Western theologians, not only because they look rather
    superficially at classical Greek philosophy itself, but also because
    they often overlook the clear process of development, during the first
    few centuries of Christianity, that led to a remarkable unity of
    thought in the Greek Patristic understanding of the cosmos and man.
    Thus it is that various theologians and Church historians hold forth
    with pompous and sweeping, if naive and sometimes unctuous,
    pronouncements against the “Platonic” or “Aristotelian” foundations of
    this or that Eastern Patristic notion. Indeed, even many an ingenuous
    scholar has eulogized the Greek Fathers with tales of their woeful
    fall to the traps of Hellenistic paganism.

    One cannot deny, of course, the existence of certain
    affinities between the corpus of Patristic writings, both Eastern and
    Western, and Hellenism. Nor would we wish to disclaim certain general
    intuitions, as it were, held in common in these respective systems of
    thought. But the Greek Fathers, in “borrowing” language, images, and
    ideas from the Greek philosophers, maintained, in this process, views
    that are wholly at odds with the cosmology and anthropology of the
    Greek ancients. One might even say that their debt to Hellenistic
    thought is not so much that of a student to his mentor as that of a
    sculptor to his stone. The Greek Fathers built with the basic
    materials of Greek philosophy, but what they produced was different in
    form and in intent from that philosophy. The very vision of what it
    was they were to form from the stone of the Greek ancients, in fact,
    flowed from a view of man and the universe that the Greek classical
    philosophers would have considered “revolutionary.”

    The Greek Fathers believed and taught that God had acted
    through Israel and the Jewish people to prepare the human mind and
    heart for the coming of Christ. They also felt that the “fullness of
    time” rested in the Hellenes. Providence had appointed the Greeks,
    too, if not the Roman Empire itself, as a vehicle for the spread of
    the Faith. One would perhaps not wish to call this appointment a
    “covenant;” but certainly it was not, for the Greek Fathers,
    adventitious. There were, according to the Fathers, hints of Christian
    truth in Hellenism, and some of its ideas could be employed in the
    promulgation of the Christian Faith. Thus, the Fathers were
    eclectic—and not, as many suppose, syncretic—in their incorporation of
    Hellenism into the process of Christian theologizing. St. Justin the
    Martyr, for example, though he characterizes Plato as a “Christian
    before Christ,” emphasizes that many Platonic ideas about the soul and
    the world are incompatible with Christian teachings. St. Gregory the
    Theologian suggested that, though Hellenistic language was useful to
    the Christian theologian, it had to be “baptized” and “transformed” to
    convey adequately the Christian experience. The “old skins” could not
    completely hold the “new wine.” For the Greek Fathers, the final
    criterion in any decision to use the “tool” of Greek philosophy in
    teaching Christian truth was whether or not it conformed to Christian
    spiritual experience, the life and experience of the Faith.
    Hellenistic wisdom was never thought to be adequate in and of itself.
    St. Gregory of Nyssa summarizes what we have said, when he writes
    that:

    …pagan philosophy says that the soul is immortal. This
    is a pious offspring. But it also says that souls pass from body to
    body and are changed from an irrational to an irrational nature. This
    is a fleshly and alien foreskin. And there are many other such
    examples….It acknowledges [God] as creator, but says He needed
    matter for creation. It affirms that He is both good and powerful, but
    that in all things He submits to the necessity of fate.

    I particularly like, ‘… [the Fathers’] debt to Hellenistic thought
    is … as that of a sculptor to his stone.’ I do not recall if I read
    elsewhere or conceived as a result of the above the image of a
    building of stone being torn down, stone by stone, and a new building
    with a wholly different structure being built from the stones. Just as
    two different buildings built from the same stone would have some
    outward resemblance, ancient philosophy and Christian patristics have
    external similarities (terminology, images, ideas). But the similarity
    ends there.

    Thomas

  20. Elliot B says:

    Now to return to the topic at hand.

    I want to make it clear (as I think I did before with certain quotes from DOnald Keefe’s _Covenantal Theology_), that I am totally opposed to the myth of autonomous human nautre and any autonomous cosmic nature in general.

    I agree that, in the actual dispensation of creation as we know it, human nature is never even possibly closed off from the grace of Christ as its constitutive source of agency.

    I believe that “human nature” just means “rational creaturliness open to and animated by Christ as its Logos”. (This is why I was affirming the Bonhoefferrian importance of analogia relationis and our ontological penultimacy before the “Who do you say I am?” and “Who are you?” of Christ (cf. P. Janz, _God, the Mind’s Desire_).)

    I believe the Eucharist is the only coherent order in which history, freedom and humanity can exist and flourish (cf. Marion, Keefe, et al.). I believe the world is, as St Maximus put it, a celestial liturgy rooted in the Eucharistic Lord of all. Human nautre is an incipient act of worship or it is nothing.

    I believe that human nature exists by and in and through the Logos of God just as “any thing that was made was made through Him.”

    I deny that Aristotelian anthropology is an adequate anthropology apart from the mode of Christlikeness.

    I hope this shows that I really do agree with so much of what Photios, et al. are expressing here from the wisdom of St. Maximus.

    So what is the dispute? For me, it is a very narrow matter, concerning the logical coherence of God’s sovereignty.

    Despite how much I agree and fully exult in the Christocentricity of humanity, what I can’t agree with is the attendant thesis that our actual mode of existence is the only logically or metaphysically possible way God could have created the world in relation to Himself. This seems to put just as much a logical limit on God as the nature of divinity allegedly does in scholasticism. It is one thing to say Aristotelian anthroplogy is inadequate int he actual orderof creation, but quite something else to say it is literally inconeivable in any dispensation God might will to create.

    Is this qualification helpful? Where can we/I go from here?

  21. Elliot B says:

    trvalentine:

    I will confine myself to your latest replies about Germanization and then not return to the topic. This is not because I want to get the last word in (IS there a last word on the Internet!?), but because, one, the topic is far afield of the theme of this thread and, two, I have things to do more important than embodying the cartoon Perry posted here some days ago. 😉

    1) The reason I ignored your point about Eastern Christians (EXs) living among Western Christians (WXs), is because I found it histrionic and self-serving. It smacked too much of hyperventilated mystification and was so arch that I just let it be. Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

    But you seem to want a reply. So…

    Do you really think there is some magic bullet about being a minority in a majority culture? Do you really think the majority of EXs “just see” pertinent (for the issues being discussed here) differences just because they aren’t WXs? You seem to ascribe to EXs a kind of mystical intuition into the ways of WXs. But cultural insight doesn’t work that way.

    I’ve lived two short stints in Germany and five years now in Taiwan. I can assure you, which I think you already know, that the osmosis method of knowing a culture is bunk. I have known hordes of foreigners who have lived in both countries (just to draw from my own experience) without any grasp of the language, history, culture, etc. in which they are immersed. (Think of all the military personnel you’ve met who lived for years in a country, almost hermetically on the base, of course, and still remain just about as clueless of its ways as any man on the street.) People in a foreign culture don’t “just see” pertinent differences UNLESS they consciously explore the culture and do serious STUDY of it. (Indeed, there have been cases in my own experience when my studies have allowed me to inform natives about their own culture!) And that’s just the point: those of us that come to this blog ARE consciously trying to explore EXity and ARE trying to STUDY it sympathetically and deeply. Say what you will about the clueless and stuck up WXs you observe, but I think the WXs that try to contribute to this blog deserve a little more credit, or at least charity than a simple dictum “you just don’t get it.” Mystification, bad.

    Another reason I saw no merit in your complaint about EXs amidst WXs is because I saw it as a simple case of projection on your part: you are basically projecting your remarkable erudition onto the majority of EXs who either don’t have a clue about the things this blog discusses, or don’t care, or both. I ask you: Are EXs as a whole better represented by this blog or by My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Short of an authentic desire and effort to live their faith, most EXs really don’t see any differences. (Do most people at your church discuss the evils of papism or last night’s game? The episcopal order of the Eucharist or their upcoming lunch?) Your complaint has as little logical value for this discussion as the atheist’s complaint that, since they have been raised in a Xn context AND have rationally rejected it, therefore they “get it” better than the chumps still living it. Why you insist on this dull point being addressed, I don’t know, but here I have addressed it.

    2) If all you wanted to was to show the radical Germanization of Xnity, I grant that in spades! In fact, if I had more time, or had been writing a master’s thesis, I would have followed the tension between the Germanic ethos and the Church all the way to Nazism, which I see as its culmination and the greatest (last) attempt of the Germanic ethos to subvert the Church. This is why classical Germanic paganism flourished under Nazism while still trying to hide behind the trappings of Catholicism. And it is why Hitler attempted to mislead and neutralize the Vatican more than any other power without simply capturing it.

    Now, seeing me grant that, you might be inclined to say, “Exactly, I told you! I was right!” The problem is, the fact that there ALWAYS was a CONFLICT between the Church and the Germanic ethos, shows it was never a complete subversion of the Church. Russell’s conclusions refer to the militaristic and tribalistic influences of the Germanic worldview, not to their dogmatic impact. If Germanization had amounted to a complete victory over the Church’s authentic magisterium, there would be no Church to partake in the conflict. Roman Catholicism was never “Germanism” in the way English Catholicism became Anglicanism; and even it had become that, it would mean just what it meant for Anglicanism: schism, while the Church carried on in itself.

    What you are trying to do is scare a Catholic interlocutor with all this talk of “Germanization”. Your implication is that, because some major Germanization took place on a ritualistic and popular level, therefore, the Church’s orthodox faith was corrupted as a whole. But it is just this latter claim that is being debated here, so it can’t simply be asserted based on a big word like “Germanization”. What I mean is, you seem to be parsimoniously wowed by the fact that the Western Church was GERMANIZED, on the one hand, but remarkably comfortable with the fact that the Eastern Church was HELLENIZED, on the other. Is there something intrinsically (dare I say, racially) worse about the former than the latter? We take the latter “–ization” for granted, so why should we be intimidated by the former (perhaps because it is a more recent discovery/field of inquiry?).

    You deny, too hastily, I believe, the reality of any caeseropapism, but what about the ethnic balkanization among EXs and the open scandal of phyletism? Is Istanbul’s and Greece’s disregard for Albania’s autocephaly just a minor issue (e.g., in Serbana)? Is Macedonia’s “rebel” status, despite opposition from Serbia and the larger Orthodox community, just a minor cultural idiosyncrasy, without any bearing on the unity or efficacy of the Orthodox Church? Was it sheerly perfidious and delusional on the part of my dad, raised Greek Orthodox, to find the bitter ethnic feuds in his church so foul as to drive him away from Orthodoxy? Is the incipient protestantization and paganization of EXs in Russia any more or less scandalous–and insuperable–than the ancient Germanization of the western Church? (How providential and generous of Putin to clamp down on the Protestants, eh? Now if he will just demolish all those rave warehouses and abortion clinics….) Was Photios completely free of all political aid and desire? All of it and more sheer Western bigotry?

    Surely you will reply balkanization is an unfortunate “historical” problem that does not impinge on the Church’s “essential” orthodoxy, and that phyletism was “handled” in 1872. Even if (!) I grant those claims, they make my point for me: the Church can obviously remain the Church despite pronounced and authentic cultural transformations that occur, many times for worse, in her actual history. I hope you don’t expect me or anyone else here to take seriously the idea that syncretism and socioethnic compromises of the Church’s witness are exclusive to the West. My point is NOT to point and stare at “what’s wrong with EOxy”, but simply to show that we all have cultural problems, which do not necessarily compromise orthodoxy, and that being parsimonious and histrionic about Germanization, while being placidly generous towards balkanization and Hellenization, is grossly illegitimate on your part.

    Consider Haiti, where it is an open secret that a huge number of WXs are still basically voodoo. (“80% of Haiti is Catholic and 95% is voodoo.”) But the Church is aware of that problem AS THE CHURCH. By the very nature of the dialectic between evangelization and syncretism, the concrete “personalities” of the Church and voodooism stand out even more clearly. In the same way Haitian syncretism and Eastern Hellenization do not prove the orthodox collapse of the Church, neither does the Germanization of the Western Church prove a dogmatic failure on her part. I agree with Fr. Kimel, then, that your argument about the Aryans, Franks, etc. does rest on a subtle but distinct form of ethnocentrism that goes against the “neither Greek, nor Jew, nor barbarian [German!], neither male, nor female, neither slave, etc.” Gospel. The logic and language of your arguments against the viability of orthodoxy amidst Germanization, is insufficiently charitable and evidentially parsimonious vis-à-vis Hellenization and syncretism in general. Moreover, do you think the Western Church is still Germanized in a pertinent and compromising way? I don’t; and I think this just goes to show how the Church is bigger than any “–ization” that may grow on or in her.

    In any case, the irony is that, by putting as much emphasis as you do on the Germanization of the Church, you actually provide a fruitful context for looking at the papacy. Why did the papacy increasingly assert its authority in the West if not to resist Germanization at an “official” level? I am NOT saying the development of the papacy was therefore wholly pure and ideal and holy, far from it. My point is that recoognizing the history of Germanization can actually help palliate the apparently Machiavellian rise of the papacy by seeing it as a reflexive form of self-defense on the part of the living Church. I thought it was granted by nearly all sides that, whatever theological problems the papaczy seems to embody, it was at least good for Europe as an island of unity and civilzation in the “Dark Ages”.

    This is not about defending the Western Church, since, as Fr. Kimel has articulated so well, the Church is not simply the Western Church, and the failings of the Western Church must, can, and do still take place in the total Catholic life of the Church. I am not trying to defend Western Xnity. I am trying to defend the supernatural invincibility of orthodoxy.

    I suggest we carry this conversation on by email, if at all.

    fidescogitactio AT gmail DOT com

    Cheers, mate!

  22. Mike L.,

    Bingo. Hugh Barbour is my man. He is very personable and bright — the sort of chap you won’t to agree with as much as possible. And I do very much appreciate that you and he, as Roman Catholics, have taken the Orthodox tradition seriously enough to come into “hostile territory” and engage “Palamism” in a non-trivial, non-dismissive way. That in itself is a model of legitimate ecumenism that needs to continue to occur.

    And, I have always been persuaded that Aquinas and Hippo have plenty of wheat in their preserved writings for the digestion of Catholic, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Protestants alike. But, even after having read Hugh’s works and talked to him personally, I suppose my current evaluation is quite like that of Fr. John Meyendorff of blessed memory (who I do not consider infallible), who once wrote a nice essay essentially comparing Augustine and Origen.

    In many ways, Origen, despite being condemned by an ecumenical council, is THE father of the East, as all the Cappadocians (including Macrina) were greatly in his debt. But, Origen’s thought, perhaps precisely because of his brilliance and his hellenic mind, had to be “baptized” by the Church, largely through the Cappadocians, and purged of a few substantive hellenic ideas that had almost, as it were, “snuck into” the very content of his translation of Christianity from the Syriac (Aramaic) idiom into the Hellenistic idiom.

    Likewise, Fr. John contends, and I find great merit in the case, that Hippo also allowed a few substantively NeoPlatnic and Manichee ideas to slip into the very content of his attempt to translate the Faith into the Latin tongue. By inference, I believe Fr. John would say that Aquinas did a bit of the same with a few Aristotle’s rigorous rationalism.

    IOTWs, as an Anglican that strongly believes in St, Vincent’s non-innovation principle, with Fr. John, I would contend that, while Hippo and Aquinas were great thinkers and mostly were consistent in their presentation of the Faith with that which went before them — that is they largely accored with the consensus patrum — they were nevertheless either erroneous, or too idiosyncratic (I am thinking of Chapter VII of the Confessions — “ipse se”) in their works to be accepted as foundational for systematic theology without some “baptizing.”

    And, as the Germanic/Latin tradition has never fully done the house keeping it needs to do with Augustine (the Council of Orange was a half-measure), I think a lot of reform is still in order, though not as much as Continental Protestants, who simply replaced dogmatic medieval scholasticism with modern scholasticism (here I am thinking particularly about rationalistic Calvinism.) Rather, like the express, central goal of Anglicanism, we in the West, need to go behind both the Counter-Reformation, the Reformation, and Medieval Scholasticism, and reexamine/reevaluate OUR FATHER, Augustine, in light of the whole “consensus patrum” up to his time, doing a bit of “asperges” along the way. Arguably, this is exactly what Anglicanism is designed to do, and I believe that is precisely the process Rome intended to start with Vatican II and is what B16 has been doing incrementally under JPII and in his own seat — though there are still miles to go before we sleep.

    If we take such a project seriously, the East will definitely be able to receive much more of the Latin Wheat than it has, and we in the West will shed ourselves of some of the Frankish Latin chaff that we often choke own when we think we are feeding ourselves.

    Pax

    Pax

  23. Fr. Maximus,
    As long as you take the communicatio idiomatum that the properties of the human and divine penetrate by dint of the hypostasis, then there shouldn’t be any problem or an implicit monophysitism in an anthropological context as well.

    That St. Maximus calls the logoi the substance of the virtues and that these virtues are natrual things as regard to power (as distinct from personal actualization) is simply to preclude that they are introduced from the “outside.”

    Photios

  24. Fr. Maximus says:

    Perhaps it would be safer to state that human nature is created, while the human person becomes uncreated through grace. Or again, human nature is created but its proper condition is to be deified. This seems to fit in more with Christ being the firstfruits of our nature, and avoids the monophysitism implicit in saying that human nature is simultaniously created and uncreated.

  25. AR says:

    Fr. Maximus, you may not convince these hardened opponents with your clear plain words about how to speak rightly of God. But you provide necessary instruction for unlearned lambs of your own flock, like me. The light shines unscattered and unbent through your statements, for which I’m grateful. As usual, the greater blesses the lesser.

    Thank you, too, Fr. Kimmel, for your reasonable, charitable, and pious words. As usual, the pastors find the most helpful things to say.

  26. trvalentine says:

    Mike L wrote:

    Accordingly, when I invoke the abstract idea of a pure human nature, the human telos I have in view is as much spiritual as physical.

    From an Orthodox viewpoint one cannot speak of human nature in isolation. It does not exist. Human nature only exists in an hypostasis.

    Thomas

  27. trvalentine says:

    Elliot B wrote:

    Besides, progressive “ampliatory” accommodation of the depositum fidei to new problems and questions in actual historical spacetime, is ingrained in the life of the Church.

    This is false. A so-so book (but I haven’t found better) on the matter is Owen Chadwick’s From Bossuet to Newman. The West, as it fell in love with the idea of Progress (the capital ‘p’ is intentional), transformed its understanding of doctrine to something that undergoes ‘development’. What I find particularly interesting on the idea of ‘development of doctrine’ is that the man most responsible for establishing that view within Papal Christianity (Newman) had a contemporary (born the same decade in the same country and similarly educated) who, like Newman, lived in a time where there was a near worship of ‘Progress’ in a country that more fully worshipped ‘Progress’ than probably anywhere else. Whilst Newman imposed his modern view of the inevitability of progress on what history of Christianity he knew, his contemporary imposed the same attitude on biology. His contemporary? Darwin.

    If the Scriptures were not “broken”, why did the Church presume to add conciliar dogmas to it? If the Arians were already wrong, why did the Church bother declaring they were wrong (i.e., why go out of your way to demonstrate your Faith is not broken)? If the Nicene cred was never really “broken”, why did the Church “add to it” in 381?

    The Church only clarified that which was already believed when circumstances necessitated. If Arius had been successfully silenced by his bishop, there would have been no need for clarifications. If only a small number of people had embraced Arianism, there would have been no need for clarifications. But the Arian heresy, well-established on extant philosophy (which seems to be standard with all heresies) appealed to a lot of people who did not know the Gospel. (It isn’t a coincidence that the first significant heresy arose after Christianity was no longer prohibited.) But those who knew the Gospel immediately understood the Arian teaching to be incompatible with the Gospel. Bishops covered their ears to avoid hearing the blasphemy according to the historians. And the only ‘debate’ was over the acceptability of the term ὁμοούσιον.

    The Symbol of 381 is not an addition to the Symbol of 325. It is a new symbol that incorporated elements of the older. The meaning of ousia, physis, and prosopon had undergone major changes in meaning thanks to the Cappadocian Fathers.

    As far as the necessity of adding the heretical Filioque to the Symbol of 381 one need only make one simple observation: Arianism was defeated in the East without the addition.

    (I don’t think I can keep up with the pace of this discussion.)

    Thomas

  28. Fr. Kimel is correct when he said that: “. . . it is hardly post-modernist to assert that before the infinite mystery of God our human theological formulations ultimately prove inadequate in one way or another,” but I would add to this by saying that some of those formulations are not merely inadequate, they are also incorrect, and this must be admitted at least as a possibility.

  29. trvalentine says:

    Drat, I forgot to include the numbered conclusions!

    Here are the most pertinent from 12 items on pp 212-213:

    2. The world-view of early Christianity was predominantly world-rejecting and soteriological, whereas the world-view of Germanic societies was predominantly world-accepting and sociobiological.
    5. The conintued reliance of the Church [sic] upon Frankish political and military force — from the Gallo-Roman episcopacy in the fifth century to St. Boniface and the papcy in the eighth century — contributed toward the adaptation of Christianity to Germanic political and military ideals.
    7. Advocates of Christianization were unable to accomplish more than a “superficial” or “nominal” Christianization of the Germanic peoples, at least prior to the reign of Charlemagne (768-814), for the following reasons:
    a. the decline of the catechumenate and a shortage of other qualified personnel;
    b. a sense of eschatological urgency which prioritized the quantity of thos baptized over the degree of their Christianization;
    c. the substantial inherent disparity between Christian and Germanic reliogiosity;

    Thomas

  30. trvalentine says:

    Elliot B wrote:

    With respect to Russell’s book on the Germanization of Christianity, for the sake of others here (probably everyone but you and me!), I must make it clear that I think you are vastly overstating the book’s case in your favor.

    And I think you are vastly understating the book’s case in your favour!

    In fact, in reading your comments about Russell’s Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity and Murphy’s The Saxon savior: the Germanic transformation of the Gospel in the ninth-century Heliand — the two complement each other and I would add a third: Josef A. Jungmann’s ‘The Defeat of Teutonic Arianism and the Revolution in Religious Culture in the Early Middle Ages’ found in Pastoral Liturgy — I am surprised at how poorly you seem to have comprehended the import of these works.

    Murphy’s comparison of the Beatitudes with its transmogrification in the Heliand annotated with the reasons for the changes is especially enlightening and well worth reading multiple times. In the interest of space, I’ll just focus on only two beatitudes.

    Murphy explains that, because Germanic culture regarded meekness as a weakness and believed peasants could not be blessed because of their lowly state, it was necessary to change

    Blessed are the meek, for they will possess the earth

    to something quite different:

    He said that those too were blessed who were gentle [wellborn] people: “they will be allowed to possess the great earth, the same kingdom.”

    A similiar mindset is revealed by Friedrich Nietzsche (a German!) who saw this beatitude as embodying the slave morality of Christianity, and by James Joyce, William Blake, and Theodore Dreiser, who condemned it for advocating a ‘life without striving’.

    Perhaps the most egregious distortion is the change made to peacemakers. As Murphy explains, this beatitude had to be changed because the Germanic peoples were a warrior race that exulted in fighting. It is therefore, modified to only condemn those who started fights within the tribe, not those who fight outside the tribe or those who support the king’s wars. Thus, the familiar

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God

    is transformed into

    He also said those people were blessed who live in peace among their people and who do not want to start any fights, or court cases, by their own deeds: they will be called the sons of the Lord for he will be gracious to them; they will long enjoy his kingdom.

    It should be obvious how these two modifications, giving priority to Germanic values over Christian values, lends support to the blasphemous theory of ‘just war’ and accepts clergy and monastics engaging in warfare.

    Russell’s book quotes a pregnant passage from J. M. Wallace-Hadrill’s ‘War and Peace in the Early Middle Ages’ in Early Medieval History. Note in particular the italicised passage (Russell used italics; I don’t know if they were in the original).

    Germanic pagan peoples had a clear sense that war was a religious undertaking, in which the gods were interested. At once one thinks of Woden as a God peculiarly, though not exclusively, connected with warfare. . . Pagan and pagan-transitional warfare, then, had its religious facet. Not suprisingly, Christian missionaries found this ineradicable, though not unadaptable to their own purposes. Christian vernacular makes considerable use of the terms of pagan warfare. . . Why, then, did the men who converted the Anglo-Saxons differ so sharply from Wulfila? The Anglo-Saxons were not less belicose than the Goths. The answer may lie in the prudent spirit of accomodation shown by Gregory the Great. More than that, the pope was an ardent supporter of warfare to spread Christianity and convert the heathen, and this last is, I think, the more important consideration. So far from rejecting the Germanic war-ethos the pope meant to harness it to his own ends, and the evidence is that he succeeded. The barbarians may fight to their heart’s content in causes blessed by the Church, and this is made clear not only in the matter of vocabulary. It is the position of the Church rather than of the Germans that had undergone modification. As Erdmann showed, the Church subsumed and did not reject the warlike moral qualities of its converts. Who shall say that St. Michael of later days was not Woden under fresh colours?

    Right after quoting this passage, Russell adds:

    The apotheosis of the Christian assimilation of the Germanic warrior code may be found in St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s “recruitment tract” for the military order of the Knights Templars, De laude novae militiae, in which the killing of non-Christians in battle is justified, if not encouraged.

    Murphy judges the Heliand to be

    saxonization and … northernization of the Gospel [which] … might more properly be described in English as “The Saxon Christ” or “The North Sea Gospel.”

    Murphy does not go quite as far as the German Lutheran August Friedrich Christian Vilmar who saw the Heliand as ‘Christianity in German robes’ where the image of Jesus Christ has been so transformed it is ‘a German Christ’, but he still acknowledges the revolutionary transformation of the Gospel by the Heliand.

    Germanized Christianity continuously clashed with the traditional Roman and Orthodox form of Christianity, the latter succumbing to the former in Western Europe at the beginning of the second millennium. These clashes are particularly noticeable in disagreements between popes and the Franks (with the Franks ignoring the pope whenever it suited them) and the local (Frankish and semi-iconoclast) councils held at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) and Frankfurt that condemned actions of Nicaea II. Once the Germanized Christians took control of the papacy one sees the beginning of an extraordinary revolution (the Gregorian Revolution) which transformed the papacy and made permanent the division of Western Christianity from the Church.

    Russell’s Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity

    *****numbered conclusions******

    Ultimately, Russel concludes that

    Given the rigorous, objectivist definition of Christianization adopted at the outset of this inquiry, with its requirement of a conscious acceptance of the soteriological essence of Christianity, it is concluded that the Germanic peoples had not been Christianized by the middle of the eighth century. If instead, a relativist or subjectivist definition of Christianity is adopted, in which the essence of Christianity is not considered immutable, or in which religious affiliation is determined primarily by self-identification, it may be argued that the Germanic peoples were Christianized by this time. But it would be necessary to specify that the form of Christianity with which they became affiliated was a Germanized one.

    In an interesting review of Russell’s book (http://theoccidentalquarterly.com/archives/vol1no1/sf-russell.html) is the following statement:

    Given the contradictions between the Christian ethics and world-view and those of the Indo-European culture of the Germanic peoples, the only tactic Christians could use was one of appearing to adopt Germanic values and claiming that Christian values were really compatible with them. The bulk of Mr. Russell’s scholarship shows how this process of accommodation took place in the course of about four centuries. The saints and Christ Himself were depicted as Germanic warrior heroes; both festivals and locations sacred in ancient Germanic cults were quietly taken over by the Christians as their own; and words and concepts with religious meanings and connotations were subtly redefined in terms of the new religion. Yet the final result was not that the Germans were converted to the Christianity they had originally encountered, but rather that that form of Christianity was “Germanized,” coming to adopt many of the same Indo-European folk values that the old pagan religion had celebrated.

    Given the above, perhaps you can see why I read the books you cited very differently than what you claimed. Again, I suspect a difference of worldview which produces very different understandings of the same thing (in this case, a text). Moreover, we understand what we read in light of what we have previously learnt, i.e. we don’t read in a vacuum.

    And, yes, ‘caeseropapism’ is a canard, invented by the West. In reality, no emperor could force his will upon the Church in face of opposition. The ideal of symphonia was frequently not met, but ‘caeseropapism’ was never the case. I thought even Western Christian scholars had generally come to acknowledge that fact.

    Thomas

  31. Fr. Maximos said: “St. Gregory Palamas affirms that not only does the divinized person become like God, he even becomes uncreated.”

    Yes, this is a fundamental aspect of St. Gregory’s teaching on theosis, for as he put it: “According to the divine Maximos, the Logos of well-being, by grace is present unto the worthy, bearing God, Who is by nature above all beginning and end, Who makes those who by nature have a beginning and an end become by grace without beginning and without end, because the Great Paul also, no longer living the life in time, but the divine and eternal life of the indwelling Logos, became by grace without beginning and without end; and Melchisedek had neither beginning of days, nor end of life, not because of his created nature, according to which he began and ceased to exist, but because of the divine and uncreated and eternal grace which is above all nature and time, being from the eternal God. Paul, therefore, was created only as long as he lived the life created from non-being by the command of God. But when he no longer lived this life, but that which is present by the indwelling of God, he became uncreated by grace, as did also Melchisedek and everyone who comes to possess the Logos of God, alone living and acting within himself.” [St. Gregory Palamas, “Third Letter to Akindynos”]

  32. trvalentine says:

    Elliot B’s attempt to turn around my statement is amusing. But he (intentionally, I suspect) overlooked an essential part of the statement:

    OTOH, the Eastern Christians, having lived in the West (and in many cases having been Western Christians) see very real differences built upon very different assumptions and beliefs.

    Can this be reversed as was the first part which was reversed? How many Western Christians here have lived in the East? How many Western Christians here have lived Eastern Christianity?

    Thomas

  33. Photios,

    I think I’ve been putting too much dialectical opposition between human and divine, created and uncreated. Old habits die hard.

    “To put this in Maximus’ terms, the uncreate part of man is the logoi or principle or power of humanity, its form, how it is to be and to move, etc. That is what it means to say with Gregory of Nazianzus that a portion of God has slipped down from above and Maximus clarifies what this means in the Ambigua. Origen glosses this as the soul of man: the logikoi. This wouldn’t be a problem EXCEPT that Origen thinks that soul = person, which it is obvious to see the difficulty with that from the stand-point of Christology: the dialectic of Apollinarianism or Nestorianism.”

    Getting from principle or power, form, how to be and move to soul is stretching my mind. I’ve heard something about “the soul of the world” before… that would be going to the opposite extreme from Origen wouldn’t it?

  34. Mike,

    I agree with Aristotle that we can understand some truths about creation and man apart from Christ (e.g. theoretical physics, biology, etc.), what can be termed the sciences, but the question is, is if human reason can make any sort of truth claim–apart from Christ–that hits the target in a dogmatic sense in theology and theological anthropology. I disagree completely with Aristotle’s body-soul composite and as the unity of the two as constituting personal identity, and he would equally find superfluous the idea of another category of hypostasis being added to shape or form personal identity. Or how you could have a singular hypostasis that was once a simple hypostasis, now a composite hypostasis exemplifying contradictory properties, i.e. the Incarnation. For Aristotle, that would violate the principle of non-contradiction. That’s just to say that Aristotle and I disagree on the principle of individuation. From my point-of-view the whole Hellenic philosophical milieu has to be recontextualized to be even workable much less true to understand theology or theological anthropology.

    Photios

  35. photios says:

    Fr. Kimel,

    You are quite correct that Rahner and others are not as easily dismissed. In fact it was Karl Rahner, ironically, that stated that we needed to find a “non-Augustinian” theology and a “non-Augustinian” triadology. Well, I guess you could say that I did just that. I went where Rahner couldn’t. I think it’s a good thing to look at many theologians. I learned many of my ideas from a whole host of men. One of my favorites is Karl Barth. There are so many things that I agree with in the pages of Barth that I could literally fill this blog with quote after quote from him.

    As the many theologians of the RC Church are not considered infallibile, I still believe that the most sure way of an evaluation of RC belief is the Magisterial decrees. That should always be the point of departure for any analysis of what the RC Church teaches.

    Photios

  36. I recommend Mike’s essays on the filioque. I also recommend reading my very brief analysis located on this blog: “Mike Liccione’s filioque doctrine…Orthodox?.” I still hold to the old position(s), but I’ve more or less dropped critiquing Mike on it because I think he’s moved the interpretation in the right direction even if all questions of how to interpret the doctrine aren’t necessarily answered at this time.

    Photios

  37. Mike L says:

    Andrea and Elliot:

    Over the years I’ve become convinced that the filioque problem became a problem not because the doctrine itself is false, but because the way it was first dogmatized was arrogant on Rome’s part, and thus caused the East to reject it before its real meaning could become clear enough to both sides for mutual understanding.

    I have written many posts on the filioque. Photios Jones has read them and, in many instances, commented favorably. If you’re interested, just click the “filioque” label in the sidebar of my blog. I’m not going to comment on the issue here. We’ve got enough to worry about with what’s already been discussed.

    Best,
    Mike

  38. Mike L says:

    Fr. Maximus:

    Could you define (or at least describe) human nature, abstracted from grace, as you view it? Perhaps if we get some basics down we won’t speak past each other.

    I think you’re definitely on to the main problem here, or at least one of them. Since I haven’t expounded my philosophical anthropology in any detail, it’s all too easy for you to misunderstand it.

    All the same, I simply do not have time to give a complete exposition of my philosophical anthropology, which would forestall some misunderstandings but also invite further questions. And so I shall content myself with pointing out that, when I speak of “the natural” in man, I do not mean merely “the physical.” I believe, with the Catholic Church, that the human soul is a spiritual substance that no physical process or set of physical processes could suffice to produce. The human body is the material cause of the soul, the physical medium the soul requires; but the body is not the efficient cause of the soul, nor could it ever be.

    Accordingly, when I invoke the abstract idea of a pure human nature, the human telos I have in view is as much spiritual as physical. Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics gives a reasonable if incomplete account of what that might look like.

    Best,
    Mike

  39. Mike L says:

    Photios:

    Mike states,

    “For if I am human, then necessarily I am a creature; thus I cannot cease to be a creature without ceasing to be altogether. When I am divinized, however, I do not cease to be; that holds on any account. Therefore, I cannot be both created and uncreated.”

    Again, how is this reasoning also not work against the Incarnation? Anybody else see the problem with this statement or am I just seeing things?

    That is a fair question, especially given the imprecision in my very first sentence. Left as is, that first sentence does work against the Incarnation. So I must modify it to read: “If I am a human person, then necessarily I am a creature.” Christ is a man, but not a human person; as a divine person, he is not a creature, even though he assumed human nature, and thus a form of creatureliness, in the Hypostatic Union.

    Best,
    Mike

  40. Andrea,

    I wouldn’t say that human nature is uncreate without qualification, I would say that the uncreate and created aspect of human nature exist in a natural union by dint of the person. In the same manner that the Council of Ephesus prescribed the union in Christ. Where I differ with Christ is that I am a created hypostasis with a beginning and He is a uncreate hypostasis with a human nature that has a beginning. To put this in Maximus’ terms, the uncreate part of man is the logoi or principle or power of humanity, its form, how it is to be and to move, etc. That is what it means to say with Gregory of Nazianzus that a portion of God has slipped down from above and Maximus clarifies what this means in the Ambigua. Origen glosses this as the soul of man: the logikoi. This wouldn’t be a problem EXCEPT that Origen thinks that soul = person, which it is obvious to see the difficulty with that from the stand-point of Christology: the dialectic of Apollinarianism or Nestorianism.

    Elliot,

    My consubstantiality with Christ’s human nature and Christ human nature is perichoretic with the divine by dint of His person *guarantees* the uncreate in my nature. The condescension of the Son is what makes this happen. None of us have ever believed that human nature exists in abstraction with this potentiality on its own. We don’t think of human nature existing apart from Christ. You’re attempt to reverse the ordo of our thinking is a red herring and a straw man. You start from the “outside” of Christ, which is just Nestorian. Go back and read a couple of posts lately on the ordo theologiae that I wrote.

    But since you start from “outside” of Chirst from a philosophical perspective, explain to me how the uncreate has modalities of the create. I’d really like to see how that dialectic of opposition works.

    Photios

  41. Elliot,

    Au contraire! 😉

  42. “the Incarnation is the paradigm and power for human natures’s “uncreate-ness.””

    Ohh, I think a lightbulb just went on – The Incarnation (before the foundation of the world?) established human NATURE as uncreated. A PERSON is created and must choose to be reconciled with uncreated human nature through his gnomic will, or something like that.

  43. Elliot B says:

    [Well, wasn’t that fast, quicker than I expected! I still have time to mouth off before I go!]

    Photios:

    Non-non-issue, actually. The Word assumed humanity, not the other way around, unless you are an adoptionist. That is a unidirectional union that we cannot properly replicate. That’s what I’m getting at. The higher includes the lower, as the medievals liked to say.

    Andrea:

    I really wasn’t being snide with the “homely charm” of your comments. Such charm is the timbre of certain voices; my voice lacks it.

  44. Fr Alvin Kimel says:

    The more I read here, the more convinced I am that the Western Christians are utterly incapable of comprehending the Eastern Christian worldview and thus end up badly distorting Eastern Christianity by forcing it through the filter of their Western worldview. This mangled distortion results in a caricature of Eastern Christianity which can, relatively easily, be reconciled with Western Christianity. OTOH, the Eastern Christians, having lived in the West (and in many cases having been Western Christians) see very real differences built upon very different assumptions and beliefs.

    It may or may not be the case that Western Christians are utterly incapable of comprehending the Eastern worldview; but I do not think that this thread has revealed any such thing. Mike Liccione has been spent most of his time trying to correct misunderstandings of the classical Western presentation of divine grace.

    Identifying differences in worldviews is no easy matter, especially when one is comparing one’s own worldview to others. It is made even more difficult when comparing Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In a comment above, Fr Maximos speaks of Catholicism as a “system” of thought; but how can it be a theological system when the doctors of her faith include both Athanasius and Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzen and Augustine, John Damascene and Thomas Aquinas, Ephrem and Therese of Lisieux, and so on. One cannot construct a systematic theology from such a diverse witness. In this respect one must say that Catholicism is not a theological system but a community of theological dialogue and debate, united together in creed and Holy Eucharist.

    Even if one were to identify the Catholic Church as “Western,” which she quite intentionally and explicitly refuses to be, one cannot reduce her theology to that of any single theologian or school of theologians. As influential as Augustine has been, the majority of Catholic theologians have moved away from him, including Aquinas, in significant ways during the past thousand years. As influential as Aquinas has been during the past five hundred years, Catholic theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries have found it desirable to express the faith of the Church in decidedly non-scholastic ways, as well exemplified, e.g., in the writings of the present Pope and Hans Urs von Balthasar. And if you want to talk about the Latin Catholic understanding of grace, then one has no choice but to look at the influential writings of Karl Rahner, whose views, as far as I can tell, are not vulnerable to the usual Eastern critiques of extrinsicism and created grace. (A really good book on this, by the way, is Stephen Duffy’s The Dynamics of Grace.) The Catholic Church is not easily pigeon-holed.

    I suspect that something very similar might also be said about Orthodoxy. While it may be the case that the Slavophile Lossky-Florovsky-Schmemann version of Orthodoxy is now dominant in the Orthodox diaspora (but what about in Greece and Russia?), it can hardly be denied that other forms of Orthodox theological expression have existed, and even dominated, in Orthodox nations during the past seven hundred years. Orthodoxy has its own long “scholastic” tradition, for example; but little of it is available in English translation. And it should be noted that the important Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas departs from the Palamite model in significant ways (see Aristotle Papanikolaou, Being with God).

    So I do not know how one goes about comparing Catholic and Orthodox worldviews in any comprehensive way. It’s difficult enough analyzing and comparing specific theologians.

    Are converts better able to understand the differences? I think it depends on the individual. It depends on how well he understood his original tradition and how well he has assimilated his new tradition. It’s not just a matter of reading a few books. Fr Stephen Freeman has been Orthodox now for ten years. This is a man who lives and breathes and prays Orthodoxy. He says that he is only just beginning (emphasize *beginning*) to understand Orthodoxy in the depths of his soul. The one convert to Orthodoxy I know who is able to speak intelligently, fairly, and nonpolemically about the differences between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is Fr Patrick Reardon. He is not driven by that strange anti-Westernism that sometimes grips new converts to Orthodoxy, and he knows his theology, both Catholic and Orthodox, inside and out. I forget how many doctorates he has.

  45. Elliot B,

    Not meaning to boast a homely charm, as if that were a flattering description, I however genuinely admire and envy y’all’s facile use of your academic prowess with all my little ole heart. I understand your language better than I can speak it, so I appreciate your patience.

    I understand that educating a culture in the proper understanding of terms may require use of extreme opposites or relatable examples, but these extremes should not be carved in stone, as it were.

    I do not believe the Bible, or the early Church writings were broken, but did require further explanation when individuals or local groups were in error, thus the epistles and Conciliar rulings. I’m not sure of the political situation with the Arians. Are you saying that the Arian Christological Germans existed before The Catholic Church got there, or that their beliefs went astray after the Church was established there? If the former, then they would not be seen as heretical, but unreached or immature and so they would need further instruction and teaching to conform their views to orthodoxy. But if they went astray in that direction, then they would be seen as departing from the faith, and as a sub-group, they would face excommunication or repentance. But this all depends on the accuracy of the filioque which has been staunchly criticized by my betters on this blog.

    It is my understanding that the Church developed a fuller explanation of Christology, but that each “addition” did not contradict what was already stated. And we believe the ultimate, full expression of our faith was sealed after the Seventh Council. There was no conciliar agreement that the filioque was a fuller explanation, but that it went against the faith once delivered.

    I guess there are different views of the Monarchy of the Father, but I understand that we do hold to it in the sense that God is the absolute source of the eternally begotten Son and Proceeded Holy Spirit. That the Son and Spirit share His nature, but maintain the distinction of being begotten and proceeded, as is stated in Photios’ paper, Synergy in Christ. The filioque muddies, not clarifies, these important distinctions.

    I am speaking of a deeper univocality that transcends language and cultur and which gives voice to common human nature and proper Trinitarian theology. The filioque has brought discord to this voice.

    No apology necessary. I’m learning that being offended is really rooted in pride. We should be dispassionate in our reactions, or as Abbot Jonah says, we should not “react” at all. Not that we shouldn’t respond or clarify.

  46. Elliot,

    Non issue on your latest post, since the Incarnation is the paradigm and power for human natures’s “uncreate-ness.”

    Photios

  47. Elliot,

    Toledo “fixed” Arianism with Arianism. It just relocated the problem from the “divinity of the Son” to the “divinity of the Holy Spirit.” Their philosophical assumptions were identical among the two groups.

    Photios

  48. Elliot B says:

    I am replying hastily, I admit, to Photios’s worry about Mike’s creature/uncreate syllogism. But this is I will be unable to comment later so why not mouth off while I have the chance!

    But sewiously, folks…

    I am inclined to say the difference between the uncreate becoming create, and the create becoming uncreate, hinges on the issues of potentiality in either mode of being. The uncreate includes within it the modalities of the create, while the create cannot, by definition include the modalities (perfections) of the uncreate. Just because God (uncreate) can create the world (create), it does not follow, nor is it true, that the reverse holds. But the reverse seems to hold on the logical form Photios is pushing. The uncreate-create “function” is simply a matter of *personally* depotentiating one’s “share” of uncreate glory (as the Son did kenotically in the Incarnation), without actually losing one’s natural claim to that divinity. But the reverse is not even conceivable, apart from a consubstantial union with Christ by grace, which is exactly what is bestowed UPON the create in baptism/faith, since there is no way the create could, on its own, “potentiate” itself to an uncreate status. Indeed––but here you’ll just blame my Thomism––I am inclined to see the unidirectionality of uncreate-create relations as yet another indication that grace must be added to the creature as something “alien” to its nature. The problem is that is you already consider nature to include uncreate grace, then, as a matter of course, you will see no problem in the create becoming uncreate; moreover, you will see all kinds of problems in a denial of that change because the denial is based on a different theory of nature in the first place.

    Cheers,

  49. Photios,

    “Those that have a problem with saying that we become uncreate, or that a part of our nature is uncreate, must therefore have a problem in saying that the uncreate became created.”

    This statement reminds me of “God became man so that man can become god”. I understand that Christ became created while maintaining His uncreated nature, so I don’t have a problem with that. I see that in union with Christ the Saint is permeated, if that’s the right word, by His uncreated energies. If I may use a water analogy, our cells are permeated with water. Without it we would be dust. But we are not said to be water. Our cells have our individual DNA, they are us, but water give us life. So His life in us is uncreated, but we maintain our distinct personal, created individuality, which I think is close to what Dr. Liccione said.

    Back to St. Athanasius, writing the second “god” with a lower case g to me distinguishes us as created but given His life. I think though that some write that statement with an upper case G? And maybe I am minimalizing our life in Christ by not doing so, but we’re always afraid of being associated with Mormon polytheism.

    Seeking to work out my salvation with fear and trembling,

    Andrea

  50. Elliot B says:

    The idea of “it if ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” while boasting a homely charm, bears an implicit false dichotomy. Or, at least, it puts the emphasis of “broken” on the wrong element being discussed. The Faith is never “broken”, but a culture’s grasp or receptivity of it can be severely broken. Finding a culture, or even a single possible convert “borken” in this way calls for a form of accommodation that does not break the Faith. To say that any accommodation in any time or place compromises the Faith, is to beg the question.

    Besides, progressive “ampliatory” accommodation of the depositum fidei to new problems and questions in actual historical spacetime, is ingrained in the life of the Church. If the apostolic foundation of various churches was not “broken”, why did the Apostles pen the New Testament to “fix” those communities around the unbroken Faith? If the Scriptures were not “broken”, why did the Church presume to add conciliar dogmas to it? If the Arians were already wrong, why did the Church bother declaring they were wrong (i.e., why go out of your way to demonstrate your Faith is not broken)? If the Nicene cred was never really “broken”, why did the Church “add to it” in 381? The idea of a kind of binary brokenness in dogma is far too, ahem, wooden a metaphor for this sort of discussion.

    If you grant all these “accommodations” as concretely, peculiarly necessary “therapy” for concrete, peculiar problems in the life of the faithful, can you not grant how the stifling political influence of Arian Aryans might have called for an even stouter dose of clarity in the unbroken Faith? Keep in mind also, as an absolutely crucial point, that the filioque was added to the Constantinopolitan creed in order to, as it were, bring it up to the same level of dogmatic perspicuity as the Athanasian creed on Christ’s consubstantiality. If the Germanic Arians did not like the explicit anti-Arianism of the latter, they could wiggle safely around the loophole of the absolute monarchy of the Father (in the procession of the Holy Spirit) as a singular prerogative of the Godhead which Christ lacked. But not if the Creeds were “tightened” to exclude even this Arian loophole. If we are going to talk about “brokenness”, might this not be a case when the effectiveness of the creed in repelling Arianism was indeed in need of “fixing”?

    And by the way, I don’t think you can lay too much emphasis on “univocality”, when one of the best “selling points” of Eastern Orthodoxy is its rich, multicultural, multivocal, multi-liturgical unity. If the filioque is explicitly taught by the Roman Catholic Church as denying and foreclosing the primacy of the Father, then it can be seen as a genuine heretical perversion. But as long as it is emphasized as a massively pastoral device for accentuating the Son’s consubstantial divinity of Christ, and of preserving what is now a hallowed tradition in the West, then it can just as easily be seen as fitting into the symphonic catholicity of the Church’s many rites. Recall that not all rites of the Catholic Church profess the filioque.

    I apologize if what I have typed is unclear or seemingly uncharitable.

    Cheers,

  51. Folks,

    I stepped away from this blog entry for a few days so I could take care of a few things, namely nurse a root canal. If you’ve never had one of these, it’s the biggest pain in the you know what.

    People here that doubt my claim need to review Ambigua 7, 10, and 33. Maximus’ comological doctrine falls out after his discussion of Christ. Thunberg notes how strange this is to most scholars because they are first accustomed to the existence of God or a philosophical doctrine of God being discussed first. For Maximus, the logoi doctrine is the foundation for understanding Creation. This is because the logoi are the rational principles for not only God and humanity but also for Creation. The logoi are also the One Logos, which gives them their Christological grounding. Maximus’s view of understanding Creation is built on how we understand union and distinction in Christ. That “union” and “distinction” is the basis of how Creation is to be understood in its relation to God and to itself. If there is no Incarnation, or if Creation can be abstracted in thought apart from the Incarnation, then per Maximus there is no *reason* for Creation, i.e. there is no logoi or rational principle that grounds it. Creation serves the purposes of the Incarnation.

    Grace as a created habitus of the soul:

    Grace is not a created habit, nor is it something that is in the Soul. The soul is a property of the nature because it is in common. We don’t share a different soul, because we don’t share a different nature. Habit is then related to person, to the specific mode of willing and namely the gnomic will. If the habituation of the gnomic will were a principle of the nature, then per Maximus, nature would change *innumerable times.* It doesn’t, which is why habituation is of the person and not of the nature, which means it isn’t *of * the Soul. The distinction between Person and Nature is being lost or at best obscured on the gloss of created grace.

    Those that have a problem with saying that we become uncreate, or that a part of our nature is uncreate, must therefore have a problem in saying that the uncreate became created.

    Mike states,

    “For if I am human, then necessarily I am a creature; thus I cannot cease to be a creature without ceasing to be altogether. When I am divinized, however, I do not cease to be; that holds on any account. Therefore, I cannot be both created and uncreated.”

    Again, how is this reasoning also not work against the Incarnation? Anybody else see the problem with this statement or am I just seeing things?

    Photios

  52. Elliot B,

    Univocality is our goal. We want to speak the same faith as the Apostles. We are convinced that the Eastern Church has maintained that voice, and thus any voice that deviates from the faith once delivered sounds like a foreign object introduced into the body. I’m a nurse by profession so the organic, therapeutic terminology of the Eastern Church resonates with me.

    The Catholic magnanimous accomodation of change is incomprehensible to the Orthodox, at least it seems that way to me. We like staying the same – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Orthodox avoid being too rigidly legalistic, not by changing the rule of faith from the top, but by pastoral economeia, so that the goal, and pure univocal expression stays the same as the person’s understanding is incrementally clarified.

    I appreciate your explanation of how the Germans were evangelized as I was curious. You may be fine with that explanation, but I’m not convinced that altering the creed was the necessary cure for their Arianism. The beginning of the Creed was already written with the Arians in mind – one essence with the Father – so adding the filioque inaccuracy was again altering something that did not need fixing.

  53. Elliot B says:

    “The more I read here, the more convinced I am that certain Eastern Christians are utterly incapable of comprehending the Western Christian worldview and thus end up badly distorting Western Christianity by forcing it through the filter of their Eastern worldview. This mangled distortion results in a caricature of Western Christianity which can absolutely never be reconciled with Eastern Christianity.”

    Except for the words in italics, this sounds eerily familiar to trvalentine’s complaint.

    By expecting scholastic ideas of nature and grace to conform to Eastern senses of those terms (and on a vehemently Eastern Orthodox blog, no less!), of course we will be at loggerheads. The problem is that it seems the bar being set here is one that requires we Latinoids to submit to univocal ascriptions of Eastern terminology, otherwise our own sense of the words is being read as instantly and univocally heretical.

    I think a small dose of Wittgenstein would not hurt: just because we happen to be playing slightly different language games, doesn’t mean we aren’t after the same goal, namely, an emphatic proclamation that humans, by nature and by vocation, live only by the grace of God.

    So let me repeat my plea for clarity on what’s really being dispute here:

    Is it being claimed that, as logical necessity, impinging on God Himself, the creation of humankind entails a complete Christological transformation?

    Is it being claimed that human nature can not even logically be construed as existing outside of the grace of Christ?

    I suppose I would also ask Fr. Maximus to do much the same as he asks of Dr. Liccione:

    What, on the Eastern Orthodox view being argued for here, is human nature?

    Cheers,

  54. Elliot B says:

    trvalentine:

    With respect to Russell’s book on the Germanization of Christianity, for the sake of others here (probably everyone but you and me!), I must make it clear that I think you are vastly overstating the book’s case in your favor.

    First of all, the provenance of the book, along with closely related scholarship, indicates its findings are not intrinsically inimical to magisterial Roman Catholicism. By this I mean: a) Russell got his PhD at Fordham U., from which labors this book was produced; b) Russell is to this day a conservative Roman Catholic, having taught theology at the college-level and having run for Congress with a pronounced Catholic ethos (notably on immigration and opposition to the Iraq War); c) the work of G. Roland Murphy, himself a Jesuit father at Georgetown, on the Heliand and its role in the Saxonization of Christ in Europe, only reinforces the fact that Catholics are not in principle scared off by the facts that Russell and Murphy, inter alia, discuss. Indeed, Romano Guardini illustrates just how *positively* integral the Germanic spirit has been for the Church (in his The End of the Modern World). I was a German major and I wrote my honor’s thesis on exactly this topic; Russell’s and Murphy’s works were integral to my research.

    Second, it is simply a facile reading of Russell to say his work indicates a fundamental transformation of Christianity––and leave it at that. Russell’s point is that the hagiographic tradition (viz., of Boniface as a unilaterally conquering missionary, who simply transmogrified the entire Germanic milieu by chopping down Thor’s Oak), is overly simplistic. Rather, what Russell shows is the two-way, not simply one-way in either direction, process of inculturation in the early Middle Ages. The Heliand is an especially important element in this process. That book, by an anonymous Saxon monk, is a Saxonized retelling of the Gospels, which tries both to make Christ and His “knights/disciples” intelligible to the people, but also to subvert and transform their traditional religiosity along Christian lines. The Heliand, for example, replaces the Germanic wurd (fate) with a robust sense of Christian Providence; likewise it reinterprets the crow of divine favor as the Holy Spirit, which, crucially, does not land on any figure but Jesus, the Saxon Savior. Ultimately, I think the conversion of Europe, whilst never being a completely “pure” process, succeeded much better by way of such aesthetic and devotional inculturation than by the forced conversions imposed by the Carolingians. And I am willing to admit it had its negative consequences as well, namely, in the militarization of Christian discipleship and in the totemism that still persisted, as seen best in the development of the Holy Grail legend.

    All this goes to show that inculturation is a messy, often politically compromised process. But did any of us here not know that? Is it your claim that the East was exempt from the same kind of complexities and compromises (or is caeseropapism a complete “Western” canard)? The fact is, the Church’s creed remained orthodox despite the tumult of those early medieval centuries. I would go even further and say that a a charitable cognizance of the Germanic influence on the Church would actually create more “intellectual sympathy” (as it were) for the filioque. The Germanic tribes were by and large Arian, so one of the key ways the WESTERN Church could self-consciously divest itself of and distance itself from undue Germanic influence, was by explicitly emphasizing the consubstantial divinity of Christ, as opposed to the lower Arian view. Precisely because so many “Aryans were Arians”, the Church saw the need to buttress Christ’s divinity with the filioque, yet without compromising the primacy of the Father in its magisterial teaching.

  55. Fr. Maximus says:

    Mike,

    Could you define (or at least describe) human nature, abstracted from grace, as you view it? Perhaps if we get some basics down we won’t speak past each other.

  56. trvalentine says:

    In re-reading comments, the statement by Photius Jones:

    the “bad news” worsens for ideas like the donum superadditum, i.e. grace is superadded to your nature implying that ‘pure nature’ is a hypothetical possibility.

    brought to mind the Baltimore Catechism with its drawing showing Adam & Eve surrounded by presents, wrapping paper, bows, and all as an illustration of their ‘superadded’ state before sin. This drawing was paired with another showing Adam & Eve outside locked gates with the snake curled around the wrapping paper, but the presents not in sight — and, in case the missing presents was overlooked, the caption to the drawing stated that Adam and Eve ‘lost their gifts’.

    This portrayal has long made me think such teaching makes God out as (I don’t mean the term in an offensive manner, though some native Americans see it as such, but I don’t know a well-understood substitute) an ‘Indian giver’.

    ================

    The more I read here, the more convinced I am that the Western Christians are utterly incapable of comprehending the Eastern Christian worldview and thus end up badly distorting Eastern Christianity by forcing it through the filter of their Western worldview. This mangled distortion results in a caricature of Eastern Christianity which can, relatively easily, be reconciled with Western Christianity.

    OTOH, the Eastern Christians, having lived in the West (and in many cases having been Western Christians) see very real differences built upon very different assumptions and beliefs.

    Thomas

  57. trvalentine says:

    … do you really think it pushes the discussion along to dismiss someone’s arguments with a label? …

    I am convinced that when Catholics and Orthodox of good will sit down and try to understand each other they find that that which they share in common is so much more than what separates them.

    Such temerity! After attacking someone for using labels, the writer proceeds to a classic case of ‘poisoning the well’ by effectively claiming that anyone who finds there is more which separates Eastern Christians from Papal Christians than there is shared in common is not of ‘good’ will!

    Thomas

  58. trvalentine says:

    With respect, this is, in fact, an anti-gospel argument. The gospel is intended for the world, for every people, for every culture. The gospel is not just for Jews but also for Greeks, not just for Greeks but also for Latins, not just for Latins but also for Asians and South Americans and whomever.

    The writer has misunderstood me. In concept, I agree with the above statement, but what happened in Western Europe during the Middle Ages is that Christianity did not Christianise Germanic peoples; Christianity was Germanicised and fundamentally distorted from its original form. For details, I strongly recommend The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation by James C. Russell.

    Thomas

  59. I appreciate the scope and the effort to be unbiased in Father Kimel’s review of The Theology of Grace and the Oecumenical Movement. My favorite quote, which gave me a chuckle, is from the last sentence in this paragraph from the book,

    For Catholicism, the fundamental distinction is between nature and the supernatural, and the problem of grace results from the nature of man; for the Protestant, on the other hand, grace is essentially ‘what comes down towards the sinner.’ In short, one side contrasts natural and supernatural, the other, sin and grace. The Orthodox, with differences of detail we cannot describe here, would tend to adopt the second view-point. (p. 38)

  60. Fr Alvin Kimel says:

    Gina, do you really think it pushes the discussion along to dismiss someone’s arguments with a label? And are you really sure you know what a post-modernism means when applied to theology? I can assure you that none of the theologians who have been influential in my formation are accurately described as post-modernist, and I lack the courage of adventure to wander into the post-modernist world. But I am over 50, which means that each day I know less and less. Or as one of my good friends, Fr Stephen Freeman, likes to say about himself, “I am an ignorant man.”

    In any case, it is hardly post-modernist to assert that before the infinite mystery of God our human theological formulations ultimately prove inadequate in one way or another. Nor is it post-modernist to point out the limitations of our theological formulations given their embeddedness within history and culture. Nor is it post-modernist to suggest that there may be many different ways to articulate the truths of catholic faith. This is not to claim that truth always lies in the middle, but it is to propose a stance of humility for serious theological discussion.

    Polemics is easy. Constructive theological discussion is hard and demanding work, requiring intellectual rigor, the desire to understand the other, and a willingness to subject oneself to the truth. I for one lack all three qualities; but I do recognize them in others.

    How is this relevant to this thread? I am convinced that when Catholics and Orthodox of good will sit down and try to understand each other they find that that which they share in common is so much more than what separates them. This is particularly the case, I believe, on the question of divine grace. See my review of the wonderful little book The Theology of Grace and the Oecumenical Movement (1963).

  61. Gina says:

    Fr. Kimel,

    Your thoughts seem to me lifted straight out of postmodernism. I have also encountered Protestants who insist that we take seriously their doctrinal positions simply because they have them, and that the truth must be “somewhere in the middle” simply because the Protestant churches exist.

  62. Elliot B says:

    Fr Maximus said: not only is the term “nature” not used univocally between man and God, it is not used analogically either. Both the word and the concept are simply a place marker for what is totally unknowable and inconceivable. You will object that if the word in both cases refers to what is common among many, then the usage must be at least analogical. But for us, at least as I understand it, the word does not actually refer to the divine nature: whenever we refer to the divine nature, we are really refering to a concept. But that which is beyond is inconceivable and unspeakable. The word and the concept (even the apophatic concept) exist only for the purpose of our discourse, and have no relation to that which is utterly beyond everything. Even now I am not speaking of it.

    It sends a small shiver down my spine to read the words I have bolded in the above quote. They are basically Kantian, and therefore much more anthropocentric than, I am sure, they intend to be. Kant considered the pure ideas of Vernunft to be exactly “problematic spaces” of the understanding which help us order our empirical cognition. He did not, contrary to a Strawsonian line of interpretation, hold the noumena to be actually subsisting things in themselves, but only to be the suprasensible conceptual limits that trigger cognition and guide it in intelligible ways. As such, the soul, the world, the highest moral imperatives, and even God are reduced to abductive “als ob’s’ for the utility of synthetic cognition. This is fine for a purely natural worldview, which Kantianism inevitably becomes, but it can’t really account for the REVEALED transcendence of God.

    If you don’t like the idea of anologia entis, at least you can perhaps accept the Bonhoefferian analogia relationis, which holds that man’s “nature” is “nothing” apart from its indefatigable relatedness to God. But even so it is precisely something because God, in Christ, actually, though not necessarily, wills to be related to humanity. For the purposes of theological coherence, this amounts to the same thing, I would say, as the analogia entis, since no Thomist worth his salt would say there is an autonomous human nature––nor any creature––apart from the sovereign divine grace of participation in God’s Being. The issue, then, is not “which side” claims nature depends on grace as a matter of covenantal fact, but whether the existence of anything like nature by definition requires positive Christological grace as its exhaustive mode of existence. To collapse creation into incarnation, I say, renders grace meaningless, since it collapses the highest grace––Christlikeness––into a great, but still much lower, grace––existence. As Dr. Liccione said, “The scholastic idea of a ‘pure’ human nature is an abstraction formulated for purposes of explaining the gratutity of grace. Nobody is suggesting that there actually is such a thing, or that it is the totality of the human condition.”

    If human nature is inconceivable apart from the full gracing it seeks and enjoys in Christ, then I have no idea what the nature of those in Hell is. Do they also enjoy the full grace of the Incarnation? Are they truly human subjects? Even the devil has a nature, but not any grace as the term is best understood as a sheer gift added unto the already amazing grace of natural existence.

  63. Mike L says:

    Fr Maximus:

    Your latest comment to me is not particularly relevant. Here’s why.

    You write: The problem with philosophy and science is that they view humanity apart from Christ as the TOTALITY of the human condition.. Although that is true of some philosophers and scientists, it is not true of philosophy and science merely as such, nor did I say it is. Not all philosophers and scientists rule out the supernatural, thus treating “the natural” as the totality of the human condition; rather, precisely as philosophers and scientists, they do not treat of the supernatural. That makes their endeavors incomplete, but not necessarily false. As for those who rule out the supernatural, what they do may indeed be a “monstrosity,” but it is far from “unthinkable.” It’s just dangerously false.

    And so, since you have not correctly characterized my position, it is false, and unfairly so, for you to claim that my “…view reduces man to an intelligent monkey.” The scholastic idea of a “pure” human nature is an abstraction formulated for purposes of explaining the gratutity of grace. Nobody is suggesting that there actually is such a thing, or that it is the totality of the human condition.

    As for your second paragraph, it makes no sense to me whatsoever. If, as you seem to believe, the divine nature is ineffable in such a way that one cannot speak of it, then any explanation of its being ineffable does not speak of it, despite appearing to do so. It is therefore nonsense, and as such cannot be usefully offered as a critique of any other conception of the divine nature. And that’s aside from the fact that your position rules out making sense of 2 Peter 1:4.

    Best,
    Mike

  64. Mike L says:

    Cyril:

    Thank you for your comments. This is a constructive exchange.

    You write: …God could have created this world in any infinite combination of ways, but for it to exist as it is, is for it to exist with the necessity of the Incarnation, for it is the Incarnation which is the primary ‘fact’ from which all other facts derive.

    Properly understood, that is perfectly compatible with what I believe. The Incarnation is conditionally necessary because it is God’s eternal and unalterable decree that all things exist in and through the Incarnate Word. But the Incarnation was not absolutely necessary, for it was within God’s power to have done otherwise.

    …the Incarnate Son necessitates Adam as possessed of the virtues as natural things since they arise from the eternal logoi around God (peri Theou, as Maximos put it).

    Agreed.

    …does not this sort of infralapsarianism that Sts Duns Scotus and Bonaventure are here denouncing introduce into God a sequence within eternality, and leave outside of the predestinations of God a distinction within his nature?

    As for the first clause of that question: no, it does no such thing. It is true that, whatever God does, he does eternally and unalterably. But it does not follow that God cannot eternally and unalterably do A on account of B, even where B is a temporal event. Otherwise God could not eternally and unalterably decree that one event depend on another, which would be contrary to fact.

    As for the second clause, I really don’t understand the problem, or at least what you conceive to the problem. As I acknowledged earlier in this thread, there are many distinctions within the Godhead. They just aren’t “real” distinctions, in the Thomistic sense of ‘real’.

    …we know nothing of the divine nature. While we can say that this is that which the Divine Persons share, we can never what it is. Even to say we participate in it, still leaves it (even admitting a univocal usage of the term) beyond apprehension.

    Obviously, everything here depends on how one is using the phrase ‘divine nature’. If one uses the phrase to mean the same as ‘divine essence’ in Palamas’ sense, to mean whatever-God-is-necessarily-and-in-himself, irrespective of what he does, then it is almost trivially true that we can know nothing of the divine nature. For knowledge is a relation between knower and known; in God’s case, we can only know him if he manifests himself to us, which is something he does; therefore, we cannot know him irrespective of what he does; therefore, even granted we can know that there is a divine nature as defined above, we can know nothing of its positive content

    But I would suggest that, like the scholastic concept of a “pure” human nature, the divine nature as defined above is an abstraction from reality, not the reality itself. For God eternally and unalterably does things ad extra, and those things are, at the very least, expressions of what he is, his “essence” or “nature.” It has never been the case, and never will be the case, that God exists “in himself, irrespective of what he does,” if only because God has eternally and unalterably decreed that the Son would become a man. It is primarily the Incarnation, and derivately all that has gone with it, that in the actual world reveal to us who and what God is. And so I would say that, although we cannot have any direct, unmediated knowledge of the divine nature, we can have limited knowlege about it, through the Son and through that theosis to which he destines us.

    That is why I tend to prefer the way Aquinas uses the term ‘divine nature’, to mean whatever-God-is-eternally-and-unalterably, such as Creator and Redeemer. When the term is used in that way, 2 Peter 1:4 actually makes sense to me.

    Best,
    Mike

  65. Fr. Maximus says:

    Mike and Elliot,

    Obviously, we can attain to some knowledge of human nature without reference to Christ. The problem with philosophy and science is that they view humanity apart from Christ as the TOTALITY of the human condition. This is the “unthinkable monstrosity” to which I referrred, not the act of analyzing a particular aspect of humanity. The result of modern science’s analysis of humanity from the viewpoint that man without grace is man’s total natural condition is that modern science views the passions as natural, and therefore to be cultivated. Do you not think that is monstrous? Your view reduces man to an intelligent monkey.

    The reason we are forced to use “overheated language” is because if we do not, you will remain complacent in the thought that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are two perfectly compatable theological systems, which they are not. I apologize if it does not seem gentlemanly: it is a pleasure to discourse with such eminently reasonable (but wrong!) men as yourselves.

    I would go even further than Cyril and say that not only is the term “nature” not used univocally between man and God, it is not used analogically either. Both the word and the concept are simply a place marker for what is totally unknowable and inconceivable. You will object that if the word in both cases refers to what is common among many, then the usage must be at least analogical. But for us, at least as I understand it, the word does not actually refer to the divine nature: whenever we refer to the divine nature, we are really refering to a concept. But that which is beyond is inconceivable and unspeakable. The word and the concept (even the apophatic concept) exist only for the purpose of our discourse, and have no relation to that which is utterly beyond everything. Even now I am not speaking of it.

  66. Cyril says:

    Sorry to jump in so late. School is upon me and I have yet to finish all my syllabi. Nonetheless, in defense of Photios’s position I should note that when we say Creation is necessary because of the Incarnation, we mean the creation of man after the Image and likeness of God, and not merely the creation of the brutes. For while the brutes have their inner nature constituted from the ideas springing from the logoi, they are not themselves created in the image and likeness of God (I hope, Photios, I am faithfully reproducing your argument). The basis of Adam being created after the image of God is none other than the incarnate Christ, and to this we have clear testimony from not only Sts Athanasius and Maximus, but also from St. Paul who said that Adam was created in the likeness of Him who was to come.

    It is true, to pick up on what Mike L. noted, that God could have created this world in any infinite combination of ways, but for it to exist as it is, is for it to exist with the necessity of the Incarnation, for it is the Incarnation which is the primary ‘fact’ from which all other facts derive. In this way we are saved from some Ockhamist or even voluntarist nightmare of Christ incarnate as a donkey. In this regard, Elliot’s question about the commensurable limits of redemption and creation is looking at the matter from outside the Incarnation. Christ being the Image of the Invisible God (we are only made after this image), is the first paradigm; thus creation is coextensive with the One Logos who is the many logoi. Redemption only applies to the economy of the Son after the Fall.

    Mike, you wrote: “The matter is important because it must be said that God’s choice to elevate rational creatures to partake of his nature is not necessitated by that nature any more than creation itself is.” I would say that necessity (whatever that entails) arises from the fact that God’s economy was to make man after his image and likeness, and since this image and likeness is revealed as Christ, the Logos and Son, the hypostatic union of man and God, then in whatever sense we humans were created after that image and likeness it cannot be but that we were created to that end. There is no necessity for God to create, and I don’t think anyone is arguing that. What I believe is being argued is that the Incarnate Son necessitates Adam as possessed of the virtues as natural things since they arise from the eternal logoi around God (peri Theou, as Maximos put it).

    Mike, you also wrote:”I tend to agree with the latter because I believe that Satan, who seduced our first parents into sinning, did so out of jealousy of humanity over the prospective Incarnation. But that is only one allowable theologoumenon, albeit a fairly common one among Catholic mystical theologians.”

    Isn’t it also a necessity, for does not this sort of infralapsarianism that Sts Duns Scotus and Bonaventure are here denouncing introduce into God a sequence within eternality, and leave outside of the predestinations of God a distinction within his nature? I admit that when I was a Calvinist, I was a supralapsarian.

    Finally, in defense of Fr. Maximus, for the Orthodox, we know nothing of the divine nature. While we can say that this is that which the Divine Persons share, we can never what it is. Even to say we participate in it, still leaves it (even admitting a univocal usage of the term) beyond apprehension. I think it is St Basil who asks that if the Glory of God is beyond comprehension, how much more is the divine nature?

    All, I trust I have rightly judged your intent and arguments. Please instruct me better.

    Cyril

  67. Fr Kimmel,

    You bring up something that’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve wondered how the different symbols or examples used in sharing the gospel in the west has affected people’s understanding. I can see how the feudal and juridical/punishment systems influenced how people view salvation and God’s attitude towards sinners. I haven’t formulated what the eastern examples were in sharing the gospel, but it seems that Greek philosophy was a common ground way to approach things. I’ve recently read in the Plato’s Republic a similar understanding of God’s universal goodness and goodwill towards all, as the Orthodox have. From Book 2,

    And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented as such?
    Certainly.
    And no good thing is hurtful?
    No, indeed.
    And that which is not hurtful hurts not?
    Certainly not.
    And that which hurts not does no evil?
    No.
    And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?
    Impossible.
    And the good is advantageous?
    Yes.
    And therefore the cause of well-being?
    Yes.
    It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things, but of the good only?

    So does regional common experience affect people’s potential for knowing God? I gather from your post that it’s apologetic apples and oranges, but I think it may affect quality of relationship. A more detailed study of Russian (or Romanian, Ukrainian, etc) culture may explain nuanced differences, however slight, from the Byzantine approach.

  68. Apolonio says:

    Photius,

    I’m having a little difficulty in your paradigm. It may be true that Christ should be the center of our theology. However, I don’t understand that although the Incarnation entails Creation, we have to say that Creation entails the Incarnation. I think that’s what your view will come down to.

    Surely you don’t mean logical entailment. When it comes to metaphysical entailment, I don’t even see how that’s intuitive. Does human nature entail the beatific vision or heaven? I don’t see how it does. Granted we have to think about these things from Christ’s point of view. However, I don’t see how this has to encompass every modal proposition.

  69. Elliot B says:

    Thank you, Fr. Kimel. It is no surprise you have expressed my thought better than I did myself. Despite the polemical vintage of this sort of debate, I really was trying to establish clarity before pronouncing on heresy. The way the issue is being pushed by certain Orthodox claims here inclines me to see those claims as just nutty, from a theological perspective, but I know no one in this thread is nutty, so I insist––as you say we all should––on hearing the question/critique correctly.

  70. Fr Alvin Kimel says:

    Perhaps because that is the framework into which our Lord Jesus Christ was born and under which Divine Revelation was completed and within which Christianity was born. Perhaps because the Germanic-Latin worldview is too different from the worldview in which the Holy Trinity chose to self-reveal for it to properly understand that revelation.

    With respect, this is, in fact, an anti-gospel argument. The gospel is intended for the world, for every people, for every culture. The gospel is not just for Jews but also for Greeks, not just for Greeks but also for Latins, not just for Latins but also for Asians and South Americans and whomever. Hence the need to translate the gospel when it moves from one culture to the next. This work of translation requires both the baptism of the thought forms, concepts, and symbols of the new culture but also the correction of these forms, concepts, and symbols, as well as the creation of new ones. There is death and resurrection. It is arrogance and sin for any single Church to believe that its culturally-contingent expression of the gospel is superior in all respects to all other expressions. Our theological constructions are ultimately always inadequate and thus in need of reform. The gospel is not “Byzantine” or “Latin” or “semitic”–it is catholic.

    If one believes that the Church to which one belongs is the true Church, it is, I suppose, natural and inevitable that one will believe that that Church’s theological formulations are superior in all respects. And so we spend our time and energy demonstrating to all others how and why this is so. But this is apologetics, not theology. It has its place but its place is subordinate to theology and the search for truth.

    Why is this relevant to the present discussion? It is arrogance for either the Latin Christian or the Byzantine Christian to think that the truths of grace, theosis, and sanctification that they seek to express in their respective theological formulations are the only way or even the ultimately best way to express these truths. What is of first importance is to understand why theologians developed, and indeed invented, the language and concepts that they did. What essential truths and insights were they seeking to express? Just as the scholastic notion of “created grace” was the fruit of centuries of Latin reflection, so the Palamite notion of divine energies/being was the fruit of centuries of Eastern reflection. Before the Latin believer can begin to critique the Eastern position, he first needs to comprehend and master his own tradition and then he needs to understand in its own terms–or at least seek to understand–the Eastern position. And ditto for the Eastern believer. Unless this is done, constructive engagement and mutual understanding are impossible. All we have is fruitless and demeaning polemic.

    Before throwing out the usual polemical criticisms, I suggest that each person ask his debate partner “Have I stated well your position?” “Do you think I have understood it?”

  71. Elliot B says:

    ERROR:

    If there is nothing we can know or assert about nature about WITHOUT a robust concept of grace, then, being indiscernible, they are identical.

  72. Elliot B says:

    trvalentine said: Perhaps because that is the framework into which our Lord Jesus Christ was born and under which Divine Revelation was completed and within which Christianity was born.

    You made my point for me, albeit unwittingly, I think.

    Mr. Nelson raised the question about the Hellenic context to challenge its normativity for theology. I challenged his challenge by making exactly the same point as you did in your reply to me. I agree with you that we have a sort of obligation, or at least face an ineluctability, to work partially from the Hellenic framework. I think the Cappadocians, for instance, are incoherent apart from their Hellenic background. I gather that Mr. Nelson and Photios Jones do not so value the Church’s Hellenic “genes”.

    But I think that by granting the fundamental normativity of the Hellenic milieu, for at least certain of the Church’s “grammar”, you are brought right back to the problem of this thread: Is physis a legitimate concept apart from grace? In Hellenism it was completely legitimate, indeed, even hallowed as the good life. Do you really think the Germanic-Latin worldview invented the concept of nature? Do you think it actually lacks a robust concept of divine grace as the constitutive, albeit not exhaustive, source of nature?

    To everyone else:

    Is it the claim (of Photios J., Fr. Maximus, et al.) that: human nature could not even conceivably exist in any capacity apart from the fullness of grace that God willed to bestow upon it in Christ? In other words, is “the Orthodox position” here that God could not even conceivably have created the human race without filling it with the fullness of grace in Christ? Is creation absolutely coextensive with redemption?

    There are many elements/clauses in the way I have phrased those three questions, which can be rejected or altered in order formulate the question as it is really being asked, and denied, by the Orthodox here. I state the question(s) as I do in order to delineate between my view (and, I think, Dr. Liccione’s) that nature is coherently considered and experienced apart from any concept of grace, and the ostensible view of some here that the entire concept of nature is only conceivable in conjunction with grace.

    The point is not, as Dr. Liccione as repeatedly stressed, whether nature actually does exist apart from grace, but whether it could even be conceived of as doing so. I think we all agree that “nature is grace(d)” just by virtue of its having been created out of sheer, unmerited love. This is why I think the dispute here runs much deeper, indeed, down to the very logic of theological coherence or incoherence.

    If a “cleft” between nature and grace is not even logically conceivable, then grace ceases to become gratuitous. It becomes, in fact, a logical and automatic function of nature, which seems to be a complete perversion of the concept of grace in both the East and West. To conceive of grace as shorthand for “nature at its best” IS to be Pelagian.

    Fr. Maximus said that “nature cannot exist without grace”––which just amounts to saying that grace cannot exist without nature, since nature is being construed as the terminal “fruit” and “field” of grace. If there is nothing we can know or assert about nature about a robust concept of grace, then, being indiscernible, they are identical.

    Let me clarify, once more, the goal of my comments here: I am trying to get a clear statement of the problem being discussed, not to answer it for those asking it. Only if it is stated in a certain way (as I have indicated above) can I be seen as “attacking” or rejecting that view. Innocent until proven heretical, in other words.

  73. Mike L says:

    Mr Nelson:

    Thank you for the compliment!

    I believe the Norbertine priest you’re referring to is Hugh Barbour. I like these talks of his:
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles8/Barbour-The-Schism-Grounds-For-Division-Grounds-For-Unity.php

    http://www.thomasaquinas.edu/news/newsletter/2000/summer/barbour.htm

    Best,
    Mike

  74. trvalentine says:

    Elliot B wrote:

    It has been asked early in this thread why the Church should situate its life and message in the Hellenic framework.

    Perhaps because that is the framework into which our Lord Jesus Christ was born and under which Divine Revelation was completed and within which Christianity was born.

    Perhaps because the Germanic-Latin worldview is too different from the worldview in which the Holy Trinity chose to self-reveal for it to properly understand that revelation.

    Thomas

  75. Mike L says:

    Mr Valentine:

    Through the worldview filter of the West, Palamas can be seen as compatible with Aquinas. But through the worldview of Eastern Christianity, Palamas is irreconcilable with Aquinas and Scholasticism as a whole.

    As a college student, I reached essentially the same conclusion after numerous visits to St. Vladimir’s Seminary and other Orthodox venues. That was one of the main reasons I decided to remain Catholic rather than become Orthodox. Catholicism seemed to me more—well, catholic.

    Three decades later, however, I would soften that judgment. I still think that Aquinas and Palamas are mutually incompatible if viewed from the standpoint of a certain strain of Orthodox thought. I just don’t believe anymore that such a standpoint is definitive for Orthodoxy. And it doesn’t seem that anybody in particular has the authority to say what is definitive for Orthodoxy.

    Best,
    Mike

  76. Mike L says:

    Fr. Maximus:

    Since you’ve now addressed two comments to me since my last reply to you, it’s time for me to reply again.

    1. You write: …God infinitely transcends the concept of nature. There is no analogy between the use of the word for humans and for God. Well, in that case, you have no idea what is meant by 2 Peter 1:4, or the well-known tenet of Tradition that the divine nature is what the three Persons have in common. But the Eastern tradition affords us overwhelming evidence that it does have some idea, however inadequate, of what is meant by such statements. That idea just does involve some relation between the two contexts of usage in question—for example, the divine nature is what each divine person has in common, just as human nature is what each human person has in common. Hence, despite the infinite distance between human and divine nature–bridged all the same by the Incarnation–there is enough of a relationship between the respective uses of the term in the two contexts to afford some idea of what is meant when speaking of the divine “nature.”

    2. To be human means to be created for divinization; or more precisely, those who are divinized are the most truly human. Thus Christ is the perfect model of humanity. Any attempt to analyze humanity outside the context of Christ will result in the redefinition of humanity as something below what he actually is, or really a monster. For not only are we divinized, but according to St. Maximus, the whole universe is meant for deification, in accordance with the logos of each thing. To view creation apart from deification is nothing less than an unthinkable monstrosity.

    So the natural and social sciences, as well as philosophical inquiry, are “unthinkable monstrosities” because they aren’t branches of theology? Your use of such overheated language exhibits the core of what I see as the problem here.

    As usual, a distinction is in order. After discussing and contextualizing various truths about man which are knowable by human reason, Vatican II said: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown” (Gaudium et spes §22). I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Without seeing man in light of the mystery of the Incarnate Word, as man’s first cause and last end, we’re missing the point of what we study when we study ourselves and our place in creation. But it does not follow, nor is it true, that we can’t give some true and useful account of human nature by means of inquiry other than theology. All that follows is that such an account does not take into account everything that, in the last analysis, ought to be taken into account.

    The same goes in particular for the relationship between philosophical and theological anthropology. The former can and does get at some truth about man. For instance, Aristotle saw man as a soul-body composite, in which the unity of body and soul is necessary for man’s full personal identity. He saw our telos as a life lived reliably in interdependent ways that exhibit what he thought of as distinctively human. Both of those insights were true to an extent–unlike what has been said by other philosophers who have tried to reduce human personal identity either to the body or to the soul, or who have rejected the very idea of a human nature and a human telos. Aristotle also argued that the cosmos must have a Prime Mover, which is also true. But the knowledge Aristotle attained was incomplete and mixed with error–like all philosophy and all the sciences, many of which he founded. And yet, the fact that philosophy and science are incomplete and mixed with error only tells us that they are limited human endeavors in need of the light of divine revelation—not that they are “unthinkable monstrosities.”

    The problem here is that, if ‘human’ just means ‘created for divinization’, then there is no way to attain any knowledge of human nature without theology–which is obviously contrary to fact. You are nonetheless correct when you say “more precisely, those who are divinized are the most truly human.” The Catholic Church agrees with that. But so long as it is possible to distinguish, by human reason, what belongs to human nature from what does not, then it is possible to raise the question whether it was within the divine power to have created humans without destining them for divinization.

    As I see it, to answer that question in the negative is not to praise God but to diminish him. My soul is most moved to praise God when I contemplate the fact that his grace in the primary sense of the term, i.e., his divinizing self-communication to us, is not something that either divine or human nature required him to extend. It is pure, free, and gratuitous gift—and thus Love itself.

    3. St. Gregory Palamas affirms that not only does the divinized person become like God, he even becomes uncreated.

    There is a way of interpreting that affirmation of St. Gregory’s that makes good sense to me, and one that makes bad sense to me. The good-sense interpretation is that the person who is divinized becomes, by incorporation into Christ, a new subjectum that partakes of the divine nature. Thus St. Paul: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” It is not that there is no longer any “I”; I am not simply annihilated to make room for Christ; rather, I have found my true self by dying and being reborn in Christ, thus becoming somebody new and divine-by-participation (rather than divine-by-nature).

    Unfortunately, I have seen people interpret St. Gregory’s affirmation in a way that is self-contradictory: the divinized person is both created and uncreated. It is not exactly nonsense to say that, of course. For nonsense is meaningless, yet the statement in question is quite meaningful. It is quite meaningfully false: a formal contradiction not merely a paradox. For if I am human, then necessarily I am a creature; thus I cannot cease to be a creature without ceasing to be altogether. When I am divinized, however, I do not cease to be; that holds on any account. Therefore, I cannot be both created and uncreated.

    To be divinized, then, is to partake of the divine nature in a way that does not annihilate me in my creaturliness, but nonetheless incorporates me into the life of God himself: namely, his energies. I have no problem with that account of theosis.

    4. You ask me: How do you explain the divine nature in such a way as to avoid making God’s grace an addition to Himself?

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “addition” here. When I say that grace is gratuitous relative to nature, part of what I mean is that the divine nature does not necessitate grace in the primary sense of the term–i.e., God’s communicating his life to us, which is identical with himself. Given what God is, he didn’t have to create or elevate his creatures. But it nonetheless befits the divine nature to do so. That befitting communication and manifestation does not add to God’s perfection but makes ours possible.

    Best,
    Mike

  77. trvalentine says:

    Matthew David Nelson wrote:

    Sounds to me that, like a few highly educated RC Thomists I have meet — one being named Hugh, a Norbertine in California, who had written an excellent dissertation that I wish I could lay my hands on again — and you are maintaining that both traditions, in general, have missed the boat by incorrectly casting Thomas and Palamas diametrically against each other.

    Why is it that there are Latins vigorously trying to portray Aquinas and St Gregory Palamas as compatible yet no Orthodox Christians (AFAIK) trying to do the same?

    I suspect the answer may be much like the answer as to why some people see St Dionysius as a Neoplatonist whereas others see him as a Christian. In the words of Fr Andrew (Golitzin) of Marquette:

    the debate in the West both then and now is much less over Dionysius himself than it is over how straight one takes one’s Augustine — pure, as in Luther, Calvin, or the Jansenists, or somewhat dilute and modified, as in the great Schoolmen. Put another way, and I confess a little mischievously, perhaps the debate is really over how one takes one’s Neoplatonism: in the strictly Augustinian mode, or the latter as tinctured by the Areopagite.

    — … marquette.edu/maqom/Corrective.html

    More fundamentally, I think it is a case of differing worldviews. Through the worldview filter of the West, Palamas can be seen as compatible with Aquinas. But through the worldview of Eastern Christianity, Palamas is irreconcilable with Aquinas and Scholasticism as a whole.

    Thomas

  78. Fr. Maximus says:

    Elliot,

    No one has said that nature does not exist, or that grace and nature are identical. I am simply trying to say that nature cannot exist without grace, and that for nature to be what God intended it to be, it must come into union with God.

  79. Mike L.,

    Great explination, very exducational. Of course, you are correct that E/E distinction can only go so far, as both ARE God.

    Sounds to me that, like a few highly educated RC Thomists I have meet — one being named Hugh, a Norbertine in California, who had written an excellent dissertation that I wish I could lay my hands on again — and you are maintaining that both traditions, in general, have missed the boat by incorrectly casting Thomas and Palamas diametrically against each other.

    Of course, if this be so, as much clarification work would be required in the West as in the East, as this (mis)perception seems as deeply embedded in the West as in the East.

  80. Fr. Maximus says:

    Mike,

    How do you explain the divine nature in such a way as to avoid making God’s grace an addition to Himself?

  81. Mike L says:

    Mr Nelson:

    …my reading of both Ott and the Roman Catholic Catechism leads me to believe that its is still RC dogma that God is ipse esse or actus rea or simplicty simpliciter — leaving no room for a real E/E distinction nor, it would seem, real participation (body and soul) in Divine Life.

    It is ordinary Catholic teaching, though not formally defined dogma, that God is “being itself,” as distinct from “a” being of a particular genus (such as ‘angel’ or ‘mammal’) or species (such as homo sapiens). Only creatures count as “beings” in the latter sense, but God transcends all limited forms of being and thus cannot be said to be “a” being, one among others. Yet it is in no sense Catholic doctrine that there is no E/E distinction. In conjunction with a particular thesis of Thomistic metaphysics, the dogma of divine simplicity defined at Lateran II and Vatican I does indeed imply, logically, that there can be no “real” distinction at all in God, and therefore no “real” E/E or any other distinction. But the meaning of ‘real’ in this context is so widely misunderstood outside Thomistic circles, and thus among Catholics as well as Orthodox, that it calls for some explanation.

    Suppose a given entity includes a “real” distinction within itself between two features A and B—say, between its weight and its chemical composition. In Thomistic metaphysics, a “real” distinction within a given entity between features A and B of that entity is a distinction such that at least one cause, other than the activity of the entity itself, must account for the fact that both A and B are features of that entity. Most pertinently: for any created entity, there is always a “real” distinction between its “essence,” i.e. what it is, and its existence, i.e. the fact that it actually exists. In less technical language: no created entity can account for its own existence; something other than either it, or the sort of thing it is, must cause it to actually exist. In creatures, then, the distinction between essence and existence is a “real” distinction. But that cannot be true of God.

    There are of course many distinctions within God, chiefly that among the three Persons; one should also say, to use St. Maximus’ term, that there are distinctions among God’s logoi. In my view, there is also a distinction between God’s essence and God’s energies—so long as one uses the term ‘essence’ just as St. Gregory Palamas did. (His use of ‘energies’ is not what poses the problem I’m discussing here.) Now given the relevant definition of “real” on which the bulk of Catholic theology has relied, there can be no “real” distinction in God. However, and again in my view, this is perfectly compatible with affirming a robust E/E distinction within God. How?

    As I understand Gregory, and indeed the tradition of thought he was developing, the “divine essence” is what God is in himself and necessarily, irrespective of what he does. So defined, God’s essence must be unknowable to us; for we can know God only through how he freely manifests himself to us, which is something he does. We cannot, therefore, know what God is irrespective of what he does; hence, we cannot know his essence. But we can certainly know his energies, i.e. his activities ad extra, for it is through them that God manifests himself to, and works within, creation and therefore us. Hence, there is an important and robust distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies—even though, in the Thomistic sense of ‘real’, there is no ‘real’ distinction between essence and energies or indeed between anything else within the Godhead.

    Having cleared up one problem, however, I need to address another one that gives the impression of incompatibility between Catholic and Orthodox doctrine on the matter of E/E.

    The Thomistic tradition uses the term ‘divine essence’ differently from St. Gregory and the Cappadocian tradition he developed. For Aquinas, God’s ‘essence’ or ‘nature’ is whatever God is eternally and unalterably. But whatever God does, even whatever he does freely, he does eternally and unalterably. That holds even of what he does freely, i.e. without being necessitated to do. Thus, e.g., God is eternally and unalterably Creator, even though he didn’t have to create. For God cannot undergo any reduction from potentiality to actuality; he is, always and in every respect, actus purus. That’s because if he weren’t, he would undergo change in some-or-other respects, and therefore be neither absolutely perfect in himself nor beyond causation by another. From this it also follows that there can in general be no “real” distinction in God, and in particular no real distinction between his essence and his existence, or between his essence and his activity ad extra or energies. For if there were, then something other than God would be needed to explain God existence and activity, which would obviously be incompatible with—well, with being God.

    Once these essentially philosophical and terminological issues are clarified, then, there is no logical incompatibility between Catholic dogma and the E/E distinction—assuming the latter to have dogmatic status in Orthodoxy, a matter on which I would not presume to pronounce. Hence there is no logical bar to Catholics affirming theosis in a robust sense, which I believe I do.

    Best,
    Mike

  82. Mike,

    Thank you for restating your position in a way that is clearer to me.

    Your example of fruit seems like a third party born from our union with God, neither us or Him. I think “our way” 🙂 keeps the created humanness and God’s uncreated presence through His energies with the deified person as a perpetual synergistic unit who is then correctly called a God bearer in his environment affecting people, objects and events. If I may further think this out with the aid of St. Gregory, the created person exhibits the effect of uncreated life (in general or deified in the Church). I’m not exactly sure how a person becomes uncreated though, since he will always have a beginning, but I am not finished reading the Tome yet.

    btw, it’s found here,
    http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b16.en.saint_gregory_palamas_as_a_hagiorite.10.htm

  83. Mike L says:

    Andrea:

    ISTM that Mike is defining Energies as created grace.

    That is a misunderstanding. Insofar as they work on and within us, the Energies are uncreated grace. Consistently with that, one kind of created grace is the fruit, in our souls, of the synergy between the Energies at work within us and our cooperation with them. Other created graces are the media—the people, objects, and events—that the Energies utilize for their work within each of us.

    I thought I had made all that clear in my replies to Fr. Maximus and Photios, but I guess I needed to work harder.

    Best,
    Mike

  84. “To correct that, I want to say that I truly applaud the fact that you accept the E/E distinction.”

    Matthew David Nelson,

    ISTM that Mike is defining Energies as created grace. I just began reading St. Gregory Palamas’ “The Hagiorite Tome” to better understand our experience of uncreated energies.

  85. Elliot B says:

    Since the center of gravity has shifted (back) from Dr. Liccione’s blog to this blog, I will repost (and revise/expand) a brief comment I made at his blog:

    What I have never been able to grasp with this blog, is how pitting the positive purity of the Christocentric Gospel against the dialectical compromises (as the story goes) of natural theology, is not itself dialectical. The very act of rejecting dialectical theology in favor of a radical Christocentrism, is dialectical, in method if not in intent. Much of what is argued for here strikes me as a christologically “open” version of the absoluteness of God against the reason of man which Barth called the absolute hiddenness of God’s being (and thus just appears to be a liturgical inversion of Barth’s Scriptural positivism, if not fideism). And I think it is safe to say there is nothing more dialectically anti-dialectical than Barthianism. Whether it is the hiddenness of God and the absolute supremacy of His Word over human reason, or the ‘openness’ of Christ’s Lordship and the absolute supremacy of His person over human reason, in either case it is a dialectical act of cutting the Gordian knot of dialectic.

    It has been asked early in this thread why the Church should situate its life and message in the Hellenic framework. Cornelius van Til would concur. By analogy, to show why I think this question is uselessly idealistic, I would ask why any Christian should situate the Gospel in the antecedent framework of his natural human life (biography). Like it or not, we are born into a life and then called to be born again into eternal life; we have no sane choice but to first find the Gospel in the midst of our fallen life and then, gradually, sanctify and subvert that ‘given’ life to the larger ‘gifting’ of Christ’s life. Why include the Hellenic legacy in the Church’s consciousness? Simply because THAT is how God willed things by Incarnating in the fullness of time, which as a matter of fact was the Hellenic period, and that is the age in which the Church gained its fundamental theological bearings.

    I have to admit that I find the idea of a nonentity (the alleged ‘nature’ in this dispute) receiving grace, much less existing by and as grace, to be very wobbly. If there IS no nature to receive grace, or, worse, if there is nothing TO the EXISTENCE of nature than sheer gratuity as a theological virtue (as opposed to a basic presupposition of God’s goodness vis-á-vis ALL created entities), then it makes little sense to speak of it. If nature is not even truly THERE to be sanctified, then it is not there to be criticized. It does seem the gravest of logical, if not theological, errors to see grace as an absolute given, rather than as a covenantal gift. Collapsing nature into sheer grace renders grace ungratuitous and thus necessary (i.e., unfree) for the bare existence of anything. Or so it seems to me.

    I admit I am, currently at least, much more enchanted by the ‘getroffene Existenz’ (‘touched existence’) of which Bonhoeffer speaks in _Akt und Sein_ than the idea of there being no nature whatsoever upon and in which God works. Nature is what it is by grace, of course, and it only IS by grace; but this is leagues removed from the claim that nature just IS grace. Commentors in this thread repeatedly say God is at work “in” and “with” us––but what is this “us” of which they speak? Is it a natural substance or a sheer epiphenomenon of the divine energy? If the former, then nature can exist, at least modally, in and of itself; if the latter, then what possible need of sanctification would it need––in other words, does grace need grace?

    Bonhoeffer’s point is that we do actually exist, but only in a constantly transcendental dependence on both the world as a total ‘field’ of gifts and on the utter transcendence of God as a revealed Giver and Gift. Neither our own being, nor our own reason, can lay claim to God’s sustaining power or His nature and will, respectively.

  86. Before the Orthodox readers of this blog jump my case — let me clarify that I do NOT believe that the energy/essence distinction was INVENTED by Palamas. Rather, he clarified what was (1) implicit in the Old Testament theophanies and other cataphatic revelations about God; and (2) explicit in original Greek of Paul’s letters; and (3) unclearly used in a quasi-systematic way by the Cappadocian Fathers, etc.

  87. Fr. Maximus says:

    Mike,

    To be fair, when I defined nature as created I was not thinking of the “divine nature.” Nevertheless, I stand by what I said, since God infinitely transcends the concept of nature. There is no analogy between the use of the word for humans and for God.

    Let us grant for a moment your assertion that God could have created man without the possibility of being divinized. On the Orthodox view, such a creature, even if logically possible (itself a problematic view) would not be human. To be human means to be created for divinization; or more precisely, those who are divinized are the most truly human. Thus Christ is the perfect model of humanity. Any attempt to analyze humanity outside the context of Christ will result in the redefinition of humanity as something below what he actually is, or really a monster. For not only are we divinized, but according to St. Maximus, the whole universe is meant for deification, in accordance with the logos of each thing. To view creation apart from deification is nothing less than an unthinkable monstrosity.

    St. Gregory Palamas affirms that not only does the divinized person become like God, he even becomes uncreated.

    It seems almost like you are trying to cast us as Bonaventurans as opposed to Thomists. The Bonaventuran examines the world as it actually is, while the Thomist mentally separates the different components of reality. But we do not fit into any sort of scholastic mold: our categories are different categories, and our presuppositions are different presuppositions. It is not our differences which are semantic, but our apparent similarities.

    In Christ,
    Fr. Maximus

  88. Mike L.,

    You say, “I criticized Fr. Maximus for not taking that into account in the way he drew the nature/grace distinction. The matter is important because it must be said that God’s choice to elevate rational creatures to partake of his nature is not necessitated by that nature any more than creation itself is.”

    Although I don’t follow this, I did take it that you were criticizing Fr. Maximus for making an overly simplistic characterization about the Latin nature-grace distinction. I only wanted to argue that Fr. Maimus’s characterization is simple but spot on, and that Photios’s point about Nestorian tendencies in Latin thought is also dead on. So, yes, I was only picking on part of what you wrote.

    To correct that, I want to say that I truly applaud the fact that you accept the E/E distinction.

    But, out of curiosity, is not your position against the great weight of Roman Catholic history and theological opinion, if not the magesterium itself? Indeed, during the Middle Ages, Latinophrone Byzantine theologians were consistently rebuked in a series of local (but correct and authoritative) councils for choosing Thomism over Palamas’s E/E distinction. Moreover, my reading of both Ott and the Roman Catholic Catechism leads me to believe that its is still RC dogma that God is ipse esse or actus rea or simplicty simpliciter — leaving no room for a real E/E distinction nor, it would seem, real participation (body and soul) in Divine Life.

  89. Mike L says:

    Andrea:

    I believe that it is consistent Orthodox teaching that Christ intended to be Incarnated even before the fall.

    As a Catholic, I can and ought to say that your belief is true. For Christ is God the Son, and God’s decrees are eternal and unalterable. Hence the Son eternally intended to become a man.

    But it does not thereby follow that he eternally intended to become a man irrespective of whether man would fall. In the Catholic tradition, the question whether God’s eternal knowledge that the Fall would occur was one of his reasons for intending to become incarnate is an open question. Sts. Anselm and Thomas Aquinas answered in the affirmative; St. Bonaventura and Duns Scotus answered in the negative. I tend to agree with the latter because I believe that Satan, who seduced our first parents into sinning, did so out of jealousy of humanity over the prospective Incarnation. But that is only one allowable theologoumenon, albeit a fairly common one among Catholic mystical theologians.

    When the Roman Easter liturgy refers to the Fall as felix culpa, the “happy fault,” that is because the Fall is professed to be “necessary” for God to show the mercy to us that he did in, and by means of, the Passion of the Christ. That, I should say, is a conceptual truth; for if we had not sinned, there would have been no need of mercy. But God’s mercy is not something ontically distinct from his love; it is the form his love takes on those who need forgiveness. If humanity had never sinned, God would still have loved us with an infinite love. It would just not have been mercy, for the reason already stated.

    If I understand the Orthodox position, then on God’s side, He is not alienated from anyone, He stays consistently and lovingly everywhere present and filling all things, sustaining all life.

    That is the Catholic position too.

    To say that a newly conceived baby is alienated from God from my view implies that they chose against HIm, which I’m not sure they are able to do. I believe it is natural for a baby to want to live in peace, love and harmony with virtuous parents, though liability toward sin and an ignorant gnomic will have to be overcome throughout her life.

    Well, I’m quite sure that babies cannot “choose against” God. Yet the Church, East as well as West, has consistently professed the necessity of baptism for salvation and confers it on newborn infants. The purpose of baptism is to incorporate people into Christ through the Church, by “washing away” sin in the “laver of regeneration.” In people who have not yet become capable of moral responsibility for their actions, such as babies, the “sin” in question is not an act they’ve committed but a state they’ve inherited: original sin. That state is simply the deprivation of the graced fellowship with God which he had extended to our first parents, who then lost it by the Fall for themselves and their descendants. Original sin has far-reaching effects: chiefly death and “liability toward sin”, which reinforce each other. For “the wages of sin is death,” and it is fear of death in turn that motivates a lot of sin. But nobody has actually committed original sin, which is the general effect on us of our first parent’s first, actual sin. Therefore, the concept and dogma of original sin do not imply personal guilt in those who inherit original sin; cf CCC §405.

    The Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception says: “…the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin…” Accordingly, what distinguishes Mary from other human persons is that she never existed in a state of “deprivation” of graced fellowship with God. Therefore, she never existed in a state of alienation from God. But should go without saying that God is always seeking the rest of us out, so as to fill us with himself, and thus with grace.

    I wonder how you explain virtuous non-Christians like some Buddhists?

    So as to bring this long comment to some sort of end, I would answer that by referring you to Lumen Gentium, sections 15 and 16.

    Best,
    Mike

  90. trvalentine says:

    Andrea Elizabeth wrote:

    I believe that it is consistent Orthodox teaching that Christ intended to be Incarnated even before the fall. This is significantly different than what I was taught as a Protestant though. Even C.S. Lewis in Perelandra says that Christ came as a result of our sin.

    Yes, even the Latin liturgy refers to ‘O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam’, thus denying that the Incarnation was intended from the beginning of creation. This, ISTM, is tantamount to claiming that a creature’s action compelled the Almighty to change His plans, a claim which is blasphemous.

    Matthew David Nelson wrote:

    I have always (perhaps wrongly) understood the Eastern teaching to be that God, in his essence, is actually super-essentially transcentant; and therefore, in Latinate expression, also super-natural-ly transcendant. So, contrary to Mike L’s assertion, God, does not have a nature in the sense that the term is used for creatures.

    This is correct. Since the clear teaching of the Fathers is that the Holy Trinity is utterly unlike mankind (or any other creature), that if we creatures have ‘being’ God is beyond-being and if the Holy Trinity has being we creatures lack ‘being’, it is fallacious to equivocate the term ‘nature’ as applied to creatures with ‘nature’ as applied to the Holy Trinity.

    Thomas

  91. Mike L says:

    Mr Nelson:

    I rather doubt you closely read what I wrote in my long reply to Fr. Maximus.

    For one thing, I explicitly affirmed the E/E distinction and agreed that grace in the primary sense of the term is the divine energies working within us. And I did not make the “assertion” that “God has a nature in the sense of the term used for creatures.” I asserted that God’s nature is what the Divine Persons have in common, which the East affirms too, and I criticized Fr. Maximus for not taking that into account in the way he drew the nature/grace distinction. The matter is important because it must be said that God’s choice to elevate rational creatures to partake of his nature is not necessitated by that nature any more than creation itself is.

    I have the impression that you are able to find in my position only what you wish to find. I am a bit disappointed that what you wish to find are statements I did not make and differences that do not exist.

    Best,
    Mike

  92. Mike L says:

    Oops, I now see I should have said ‘the second of your three most recent comments to me” rather than “the most recent.” Maybe I’m just getting too old to keep up!

  93. Mike L says:

    Photios:

    I do not for a moment doubt that the divine is at work in me. What I doubt is the wisdom of denying that it changes me, such that it is not merely God who lives in me, but I who come to live as God. The fruits of his work in me are created, inasmuch as they are features of me; it is his energies, his working in me and eliciting my response, that are uncreated. Such is synergy. To undergo theosis is to become a different creature: one who is divinized. Divinization thus has created effects, which I call “graces.”

    Your most recent comment to me (which I cannot copy & paste for purposes of quoting here) is tantamount to claiming that one cannot, from what is the case, infer anything about what might have been the case. But ordo theologiae aside, I can find nothing in your favored, Maximian Christological paradigm to warrant such a claim. Perhaps you can enlighten me. That probably wouldn’t convince me that I was wrong to make my original point, but it might convince me that the paradigm in question needs some development.

    Best,
    Mike

  94. One more point: to say that the uncreate cannot really be yours because you are a creature — if we are to follow this reasoning out and to anticipate a foreshadowing of a future post — then Christ’s human nature can’t be His since He is uncreate. This divides Christ and Jesus of Nazareth is no longer thought to be identical to the divine Logos and he would in fact be someone or something else. The union results in contraction or *intention.*

    This brings back an old question of how we are going to appropriate, apply, and contextualize the principle of non-contradiction.

    Photios

  95. I have always (perhaps wrongly) understood the Eastern teaching to be that God, in his essence, is actually super-essentially transcentant; and therefore, in Latinate expression, also super-natural-ly transcendant. So, contrary to Mike L’s assertion, God, does not have a nature in the sense that the term is used for creatures.

    Therefore, Fr. Maximus has fairly simplified and clarified the Latin position. Indeed, surely it is beyond argument that the Latin’s lack of an essence/energy distinction does in fact make deification in more than an analogical sense (say a real or ontological sense as in the East, virtually impossible. As such, the scholastic position will always smack of Nestorianism. Thus, theosis (and therefore individual salvation, though not legal fiction in the Protestant sense, is still but a legal fiction.

  96. Mike,
    I know it because of the order of theology that I take. If Christ is my presupposition and method of doing theology, then I understand Creation from that paradigm. To ask if there can be a Creation without the Incarnation is shear nonsense from this stand-point.

    Photios

  97. Mike as a primer, if you are going to offer a critigue of our view, I fully recommend you think more deeply about the doctrine of Recapitulation. The uncreate has the ability to be “recontextualized” in your life in much the same way that musical motiffs have the ability to be repeated. It is not a new quality in your soul that is newly introduced as if it wasn’t already there. The divine in you is opaque to you partly because of the gnomic will and even worse because of the Fall. As Maximus says, asceiticism and the toils was designed simply to ward off deception so that the soul would shine forth with its natural virtue, which as Maximus says that the divine logoi are the substance of these virtues.

    Photios

  98. Mike L says:

    Photios:

    The only way things could have been “different” is if God didn’t will the mystery of His embodiment, which means also you wouldn’t have a Creation either.

    You have no way at all of knowing that. You cannot cite any metaphysical truth about God from which it would follow that God was incapable of producing creatures without the Son’s becoming one of them.

    The virtues wrought within your soul are uncreated.

    In that case they cannot be mine, for I am a creature. But by synergy, they are mine: they are the fruit, in me, of God’s work within me, with which I cooperate. That is why it must be said that such graces are created—even though grace in the primary sense is indeed The Uncreated working within us.

    Best,
    Mike

  99. ” But such errors are easy to avoid. All one has to do is acknowledge one modal point: God could have so created that there would have been human nature without the Incarnation and the whole economy of grace centered on it—even though, in God’s great goodness, that’s not how things actually are.

    If you’re not willing to acknowledge that, then I’m afraid my criticism stands as is.”

    Mike,

    I believe that it is consistent Orthodox teaching that Christ intended to be Incarnated even before the fall. This is significantly different than what I was taught as a Protestant though. Even C.S. Lewis in Perelandra says that Christ came as a result of our sin.

    “All the IC requires Catholics to say that’s relevant here is that Mary never existed in a state of alienation from God and thus was always kecharitomene.”

    If I understand the Orthodox position, then on God’s side, He is not alienated from anyone, He stays consistently and lovingly everywhere present and filling all things, sustaining all life. To say that a newly conceived baby is alienated from God from my view implies that they chose against HIm, which I’m not sure they are able to do. I believe it is natural for a baby to want to live in peace, love and harmony with virtuous parents, though liability toward sin and an ignorant gnomic will have to be overcome throughout her life. I wonder how you explain virtuous non-Christians like some Buddhists? Is their virtue less genuine because it is perhaps Pelagian in your view? Maybe instead they are finding peace with their natural, graced humanity (per the oft quoted section of St. Maximus’ Disputation with Pyrrhus). I think Photios brought out that this is different than knowing God though, and that must be by revelation, and that is why Buddhists don’t know, nor commune with His Trinitarian nature, if nature is the right word.

  100. Mike,

    From our perspective…

    The only way things could have been “different” is if God didn’t will the mystery of His embodiment, which means also you wouldn’t have a Creation either.

    The virtues wrought within your soul are uncreated.

    Photios

  101. Mike L says:

    Fr Maximus:

    The way you draw the distinction between nature and grace seems radically defective to me. Your use of ‘nature’ is too broad because it implies that God, being uncreated, has no nature. But God does have a nature: that which the Persons of the Trinity have in common. So “nature” is not simply coextensive with what is created. And your use of ‘grace’ has two difficulties.

    For one, it implies that God’s general activity in creation, not merely his elevation of rational creatures to partake of his nature, is ‘grace’. That makes it logically impossible that there could ever have been, even in principle, creation without elevation; and my point was precisely that such a result is incompatible with the gratuity of grace—understood in its primary sense, as God’s divinizing self-communication to us—relative to nature. Secondly, your usage restricts the term ‘grace’ to its primary sense, making it the only sense. On such usage, one cannot say that somebody’s freely and efficaciously praying for me, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, is a “grace,” a gift given to me by God through the person praying. One cannot say that the “theological” virtues of faith, hope, and love are graces, free gifts of God that, with my free cooperation, help to constitute my incorporation into Christ. If grace is only the uncreated divine energies, then none of the mediating, created gifts given for the sake of, or wrought within, my soul count as graces, as free, unmerited gifts. That does not strike me as a sensible result.

    The problem here, at bottom, is a false dichotomy. Thus you say: So when God grants us His grace, he is not implanting a particular quality in us, but is rather working within us, as we work with Him.. As a Roman Catholic I heartily agree that, when “God grants us his grace,” he is “working within us.” But I would also say that he regularly uses particular people, objects, or events as media for doing so, and that such a process produces this or that “quality” or spiritual gift in my soul. To deny that such media and such qualities are graces is to deny that they are divine gifts. That’s why I think we need to use the term ‘grace’ in secondary senses that depend on and derive from its primary sense, even though I agree with you about the content of that primary sense.

    However things may “seem” to you, I didn’t cite the typology of “natural, preternatural, and supernatural” because explaining what all that actually means would have distracted from the one, main point I was making as a criticism of Photios’ view. The same point holds as a response to this statement of yours: …from the Orthodox point of view, nature can never exist apart from grace: grace sustains and saturates nature, so that God is always working in creation on different levels. Once again, I entirely agree with that statement—if it be taken to mean that, in the actual world, nature never exists without grace. But my point to Photios was, and my point to you now is, that things didn’t have to be that way. Although God has chosen, in fact and unalterably, to elevate rational creatures to partake of his nature, and though we must always keep in mind that grace thus suffuses nature, it was within God’s power to have chosen otherwise. Had he wished to do so, God could have created rational beings without willing to elevate them to partake of his very nature. They wouldn’t have been the humans and angels that have actually lived in the actual world, but they would have been humans and angels all the same.

    Finally, I fully accept the essence/energies distinction. I have posted about it, more than once and at length, on my blog. I just don’t think it’s incompatible with what I am committed to believing as a Roman Catholic.

    Best,
    Mike

  102. Fr. Maximus,

    I’m also afraid that the “bad news” doesn’t end there. If you carefully follow the general themes of my last 4 posts or so, I’m slowly building my way toward answering some questions that always bothered me when I was once”Augustinian.” I wish to go back and evaluate those questions from an authentically Eastern Christological stand-point. While I personally consider Mike more “Orthodox” than most RC’s, the “bad news” worsens for ideas like the donum superadditum, i.e. grace is superadded to your nature implying that ‘pure nature’ is a hypothetical possibility. I believe that this doctrine implies Nestorianism in theological anthropology. I believe that the West in adopting ‘Augustinism’ in that grace is something that comes from the ‘outside’ of your nature has not adequately appropriated Cyrillian Chalcedonianism, as this became the dogmatic interpretation of Chalcedon by Constantinople II: the 5th Ecumenical Council. As you know there were many interpretations of Chalcedon and those who professed loyalty to it, but the decrees of Const. II excluded the Nestorianizing tendencies of those who wish to defend Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Three Chapters, which was largely coming from the West.

    Photios

  103. Fr. Maximus says:

    Mike,

    The distinction between nature and grace is very easy: nature is created while grace is uncreated. That means that grace is not an effect or habit, but is God’s uncreated energies. So when God grants us His grace, he is not implanting a particular quality in us, but is rather working within us, as we work with Him; hence the concept of synergy, which is impossible on the Latin view in any real sense. If you do not distingush between essence and energy in God your concept of grace will always be extrinsic to the human person, a mere add-on to whatever humans “really” are (unless you choose the other side of the Latin coin, and opt for pantheism).

    The basic paradigm you seem to be working from is the division into nature, preternatural gifts, and supernatural gifts, all of which are created. But from the Orthodox point of view, nature can never exist apart from grace: grace sustains and saturates nature, so that God is always working in creation on different levels. The division into natural, preternatural, and supernatural is artificial, because man in his natural state always partakes of God’s grace to the maximum extent possible for him; and even when in his unnatural state he partakes of God’s grace to the extent that he chooses.

  104. Are we to understand the unfolding story of redemption from within it or from within the pre-Christian Hellenic story line? Indeed, from whence we start the process of understanding will affect our results even if we are looking at the same empirical data (the historical, divine revelation of Christ Jesus). IOTWs, I think Photios has a very good point.

    Indeed, IMHO, the stock scholastic conclusions seem to depend as much upon the fact that their process begins from within the (rediscovered) classical rational-philosophical milieu as much as anything else. Likewise, modern and contemporary “liberal Christian” theology seems to me to reach even more dubious conclusions because it starts from within the modern rational-philosophical milieu of the completed Enlightenment (which pales in comparison to its supposed foundation on true classical rationalism.)

    Ideally, we self-professed Christians should start our understanding process from within the Christian story line of redemption, even if we sometimes express ourselves in Hellenic philosophic vocabulary for apologetic purposes. I believe this is (1) what Greek-Speaking Fathers (which includes many of the so-called Latin Fathers) successfully did; and (2) what the Anglican Reformation was attempting to recover in its formal rejection of both Catholic and Continental scholasticisms (which is what the 39 Articles are all about; they are not a confession, but a syllabus of errors.) Moreover, I believe along young Mr. Lossy that the English “Caroline Divines” were ultimately largely successful in this endeavor.

  105. Mike,

    First of all Pelagianism is a much “wider” thesis then you are describing. Furthermore, the patristic hangup with Pelagianism is not the “Western historiographical” hangup with Pelagianism. That is, they are not co-extensive between Augustine’s hangups and the Eastern bishops (who largely exonerated him; Augustine’s take that Caelestius was fooling them not withstanding). Pelagius’ “grace is natural” is not viewed within the context of Christology and Recapitulation. That difference is the key between he and I. There are aspects that both he and Augustine get right, but neither are correct from the top down or bottom up. They are both secular in their outlook and starting point. And both manifest the confusion of person and nature. I’ll be happy to demonstrate this in the future.

    Yes I do say those things that you quote. But what is my reference point for saying them? And then what is my order of dealing with those questions? Your quotes of me have a specific context that you have failed to contextualize. That is, my starting point is not yours.

    Next, Gregory Palamas does believe in a kind of ‘total depravity’ irrespective of Calvin and Luther and completely independent from them. It is manifest in his reaction against Akindynos and natural theology that not only can man not love God without grace (Augustine view) but he cannot know God without grace either.

    On the IC, the principle of Original Sin is the absene of sanctifying grace correct? If Mary is free from original sin, then she has “sanctifying grace” ? So, how does Trent define sanctifying grace? On the contrary, I’ve never heard that she didn’t have it.

    Also, Your comments on your blog about original guilt are irrelevant. That the doctrine of original guilt has a consistent pedigree in Western thinking is without a doubt, but my argument does NOT turn on that idea.

    Photios

  106. Mike L says:

    PS, I almost forgot to address your continued misunderstanding of the IC.

    You write: Does the IC imply an infusion of the theological virtues at Mary’s creation? I think that would be a resounding yes.

    I don’t know where you got that idea. I’ve believed the IC for 45 years and I’ve never believed that. In my anthropology, nobody can be a subject of any sort of virtue unless and until they are capable of actually exercising choice. For one cannot actually possess a given virtue if one is incapable of acting in a way that manifests the virtue. All the IC requires Catholics to say that’s relevant here is that Mary never existed in a state of alienation from God and thus was always kecharitomene. How that affected her development of virtue, once she was able to exercise free choice, is an interesting but speculative and not particularly relevant question.

    Once again, you insist on interpreting Catholic dogmas in a way that the Church herself does not require and that don’t even follow from them. I can’t stop you from doing that, but I’m not willing to have your interpretations hung on my neck either.

    Best,
    Mike

  107. Mike L says:

    Photios:

    To judge from the post I’m now commenting on, the theological substance of what you’re concerned to affirm, from within an Eastern-patristic Christology, is not something I would wish to deny. I agree that, in the actual world, nature and grace were meant to be intimately connected in Christ and thus that God did not create without the intention to elevate creation in and through Christ. My only concern was to rule out the idea that it was absolutely impossible, even for God, to create humans without elevating them, and to explain why that idea needs to be ruled out regardless of what Christological framework one might otherwise prefer. Hence it is indeed possible to have nature without grace. But of course that’s not how things are, or were meant to be; to that extent I agree with you.

    I strenuously reject, however, such assertions as “grace is natural to man” and “I cannot be a human person without grace.” You made those assertions in your previous post. The former destroys the gratuity of grace and can readily lead to Pelagianism; the latter is an idea familiar to me from Luther and Calvin, and can readily lead to the doctrine of total depravity. I doubt that Maximus the Confessor adduced such ideas; and if your interpretation of him has him doing so, then I doubt your interpretation. But such errors are easy to avoid. All one has to do is acknowledge one modal point: God could have so created that there would have been human nature without the Incarnation and the whole economy of grace centered on it—even though, in God’s great goodness, that’s not how things actually are.

    If you’re not willing to acknowledge that, then I’m afraid my criticism stands as is.

    Best,
    Mike

  108. One note: my posts are in no way an exoneration of Michael Baius en toto, but to simply highlight that he was attempting to recover a patristic idea in his anti-scholasticism.

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