I wrote this a long time ago, before this blog existed when I was writing on Kimel’s Pontificationsblog. I get requests for it and it is easier to just post it than to send out emails over and over again. Since it was originally a blog post, I have cleaned it up a bit and made it more or less a stand alone piece.
Anglicans in Exile
As a former Anglican myself I can sympathize with the troubles of my former brethren. On the one hand they do not see any good reason to abandon the tradition as it was handed on to them. Their problem is that they seem to be forced to leave the communion, but not the tradition that they are in. It is this loyalty that keeps them in place. Certainly loyalty has its limits and there is eventually a point where someone has to jump ship. I agree with many people who have already articulated the idea that going to Rome the eternal city (because after all, there’s always Rome!) because of problems in Anglicanism seems less than justified. By the same token I would agree with them that going to Constantinople for the same reason also lacks justification on that basis alone. But still, there is the pressing reality of what is going on in ECUSA and even in England. These are something like William James’ “forced decisions.” One doesn’t have eternity (let alone the brains) to study through all of the issues completely and yet one is compelled to make some decision. You have to dosomething. If Anglicanism does recover, it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better, at least in the long run. As an Anglican I never found a move to either body justified on strictly the basis of the quackadoxy of Spong or other individuals. What one needs is a positive reason that will tip the scale in favor of one body or another. And a positive reason that also cuts against Anglicanism would be even better since it would motivate one to leave Anglicanism for some other reason other than the presence of quackadoxy. Such a reason would allay the fears that one is being disloyal.
Some here and elsewhere have pointed to Rome and Rome has much to commend itself. Newman thought that Rome alone would be able to weather the storms of modernism. And in many ways it has done so but not without building what looks like a lawyers dream rather than a saints home. Whether Rome will continue to stand tall though is something we will have to wait and see. Anglicans know all too well that the attitude of “It couldn’t happen here” is no guard against heresy and failure. Moreover, Anglicans worry that going to Rome will just put them back into the situation of fighting liberals. “You mean to tell me I left that for this? I have to fight over all of the same stuff all over again?” Appeals to the greatness of the Papacy seem to offer little comfort here.
To an Anglican though, if one is going to swallow the Papacy, let alone the Marian dogmas, and see them as part of the deposit of Faith there has to be overwhelming evidence (and I do not mean overwhelming spoof-texting). Putting people under obligation to believe things as absolutely essential to salvation that do not have overwhelming or universal support strikes Anglicans as immoral if not worse. The remnants of this can be seen in the testimony above where Roman forms of devotion and such are brushed aside as unmoving or inconsequential. As good as the Roman arguments may be or are, they usually don’t seem to justify the belief that these beliefs were universally held by all the major sees. The problem is in explaining why, say the East or even the Church of India lacks these beliefs. Claims of being schismatic seem to be ad hoc.
But if the Roman side is insufficiently supported by the facts, the non-aesthetical argument proffered for not being Orthodox is that it lacks cohesion or a principle of unity. Rome at least has that to keep it on track. How can the Orthodox stand against the waves of modernism and women’s ordination without a principle of unity? Appealing to the fact that they have always made their Gyro’s this way and they will never change, doesn’t seem to be sufficient to stave off the legions of feminists or hordes of post-structuralists. Again it just strikes Anglicans as the “It couldn’t happen here” attitude. This might be fine for ostriches but not for Anglicans. After all, if one is fleeing instability, one doesn’t want to land in the same mess and have to start all over again. One wants to find some peace. Furthermore, it seems to be faithful to the patristic data we have to have some kind of Roman primacy and there is nothing analogous to it among the Orthodox
Added to these problems are “liturgical difficulties.” While the Roman mass is much closer to Anglican liturgies and therefore more similar because of the common Gregorian form, contemporary practice seems to leave Anglicans either too hot or too cold. (And in part this is as it should be since liturgy forms you spiritually and personally. If it did not, what would be the point?) Most Anglicans that I know cringe at the performance of the Roman liturgy at their local Catholic Church. If Anglicans know how to do one thing well it is a liturgy. People just walk in and out of the sanctuary and do not even genuflect, let alone bow. They walk backwards and turn to the left rather than the right. One wonders if the acolytes, male or female (is there a third category nowadays?) even know what a lavabo is, let alone how to do one. The myriad of LEMs seems to make the priest a quaint museum piece. And music! Where do these people find this stuff? And we won’t even talk about the co-opting of the homilies by lay-popess nuns or the abuse of the lectionaries. This makes one far too hotat church. On the other hand, the sheer masses of individuals coming down the assembly line to receive the Eucharist to take the sacramentum standing strikes Anglicans as impersonal or in any case just not good devotional or spiritual form. And while it has always been difficult to find a good confessor, the sheer form of confession in a booth, not to mention the rite, can be alienating and impersonal. The size of most Catholic churches often leaves Anglicans feeling like the temperature has dropped a bit. Being raised an Anglican I was used to the local parish with no more than 150 people. Christ’s Mass eve and such really packed them in at a whopping 240! The priest literally knew everyone. Such was the genius of Anglicanism by having local and small parishes for people. (Besides, it kept the priest poor, if not modest and forced people to tithe or come close to it.) The language of the liturgy has been compromised in so far as it is now and for some time been seen as an educational tool. The beauty of language that Anglicans prize so much has been sacrificed in the name of “education.” (Anglicans should hear echoes of Lewis’ Abolition of Man, or the Space Trilogy at this point.)
On the Eastern side, while the Orthodox liturgical situation does not usually involve large impersonal churches or impersonal forms of confession, there are other reasons not to go “to the City.” (That’s literally what Istanbul means-the Muslim invaders weren’t literary critics ya know.) While the Orthodox have not changed anything or much of anything, their liturgies are often at least partially in other languages. An Anglican wants to find some place where he can be at home and certainly reading a translation just to be able to follow alongwith the Lord’s Prayer or Nicene Creed signals that you at someone else’s house. There are not just the foreign terms for items and rites, but rites and items that Anglicans are simply not familiar with. Many of these were part of their tradition and either fell out of use in the west or were suppressed after the successive waves of papal influence through calls for uniformity or invasion in 1066 A.D. (It is not hard for Anglicans to see how it was possible for the Papacy to license an invasion of England and a suppression and subjugation of the English Church once it was separated from the other patriarchates.) For whatever reason, the rites are alien and alienating. But addition is not the only problem here since subjection also afflicts sojourners to the East. Gone are familiar markers in the liturgy or simply moved to other locations. The offertory is not brought up to the altar but left till after the liturgy is completed as some kind of appendage. There is no general procession at the beginning of the liturgy and no bowing as the cross marches by. Absent is the familiar sense of entering into kingdom at the procession. And the hymns are certainly gone. There are plenty of Orthodox hymns but they are much fewer in number, generally simpler but no less robust theologically. And including Wesley and Co. into Orthodox worship is just not a question that could even come up. One has to decide which is worse: ECUSA’s revisions of the hymns, their absence among the Orthodox or their inclusion along with happy-clappy fundy music in Rome. Most visual access to the sanctuary is cut off since most icon-screens are far too large to peer over or dense to peer through. This can be alienating since most Anglicans were not raised with a rood-screen of any kind. One feels like they might as well relocate to Greece or Russia. While the Romans have seemed to abandon the beauty of language in their liturgies in favor of making them instructional tools, the beauty of the Orthodox seems mostly inaccessible and alienating to Anglicans.
Added to this mess are the presence of what I call “adapted liturgies.” Both bodies have them and they can be appealing to Anglicans. The Romans have Anglican Use parishes and the Orthodox among the Antiochians have the liturgy of St. Tihkon, which is the BCP and the Missal with a few minor additions concerning the Theotokos. Both can be helpful to people making the shift, but most Roman bishops do not encourage Anglican Use liturgies, let alone entire parishes or dioceses. First, they want assimilation which is reasonable to some extent given that people are convertingto Rome. Second, many clerics in Rome are just as liberal as their ECUSA counterparts and certainly do not want battled hardened liberal sniffing Anglicans making trouble for them. In my anecdotal experience, Anglican Use parishes fair worse than Eastern Rite Catholics among countries where the Latin rite is dominant. Most Orthodox jurisdictions do not even recognize the Antiochian adapted liturgy as legitimate or do not licenses its use. And there can be an air of snobbery among many Eastern rite Orthodox towards such adapted liturgies as well, exacerbating the feeling of alienation. As an Anglican adapted liturgies by both bodies struck me as pandering or opportunism-taking advantage of someone else’s bad situation. This is hardly the attitude one should have towards a brother in crisis. The mere presence of such adapted liturgies doesn’t appear to license the move to those bodies. Just because it is easier for me to be there doesn’t mean that I should be disloyal here.
Then we have the “people problem.” Among the Orthodox a kind of ethnic superiority can be found. Anglican converts are somehow Orthodox, but not really. After all, isn’t one born Orthodox? What is the difference between being Greek and Orthodox? One wonders why they even bother having a Jewish Messiah with such attitudes. I can’t recall how many times people took my wife (who is Cuban) for being Greek only to find her answering in Spanish to their Greek queries. “And if she is not Greek, then you must be Russian, right? (I am Irish, English, German and Scottish along with half Italian so I suppose I could pass for Russian.) If you’re not Russian, then what are you doing here?” And the Catholics while lacking much of the “Fresh off the boat” ethnicity problem, retain an air of triumphalism. “Finally, you saw the truth!” As if the problem with Anglicans as Anglicans was that they suffered from intellectual myopia or spiritual darkness all these many years. Such an attitude rubs Anglicans the wrong way as they consider themselves always to have been Christians in the full sense of the term. And there is always a sense of the Roman drive towards unity and uniformity that is a little unnerving for Anglicans.
So what is an Anglican to do? Some think that choosing one entails rejecting the other and this much is true. But an easy rebuttal comes to mind. This is the case with any choice, including the choice between Presbyterianism and Anglicanism. I am not sure why exactly the rejection of one would be a problem unless of course it is predicated on the Anglican notion of a Branch-Theory ecclesiology. But this can’t be right since on that theory Anglicans have already chosen one over the other. Some other notion must be at work here. Perhaps it is the idea that to choose one body over the other is to admit to schism in some way. But by anyone’s lights who has a dog in this fight, there is schism already and one’s choice certainly doesn’t bring schism about. And certainly dawdling in the doorway may be acceptable for a while, but not forever. And what if one side is right and the other is wrong? Staving off making a decision comes under a different moral and spiritual hue. Something like obstinacy comes to mind. I won’t make that choice until the conditions are what I think they should be. And in which case, one wouldn’t need to make a choice between anything. Either way, Anglicans don’t have the luxury of time and it is not clear that staving off a decision is morally permissible or praiseworthy. Keeping ones options open means that one is still somewhere outside. You have to go to church with your family somewherein the meantime. The hard truth is this-Anglicans have to give up being Anglican, one way or another and this is after all what conversion means and requires. The ideals and doctrines that they enshrined are simply not in ECUSA any longer. And to hold out now for a recovery, while valiant appears to be nothing more than a refusal to accept reality. While ECUSA’s coffers may still be full because of the properties, both religious and secular that they own, their soul and pews are empty. (Imagine that, advocacy of abortion, mass contraception, radical feminism, and secularism in the guise of religious metaphors brings a community’s death. Spiritual and physical sterility go hand in hand.) And here is the harder truth beyond that door-unless you have some principled reason to join one body or another, you are probably never going to be at home. Anglicans need to be wary of the temptation to think that if they could just “get back” what they had, everything would be just peachy. This idealizes their church into something it never was and never is for anybody. You can have the highest truths preached and all the earnest devotion you like plunging the depths of God’s Spirit and people are still corrupted. Augustine may have not gotten everything right in his formulation of the relation of the City of God to the temporal church, but his insight here is right on target. You are not getting back into Eden by some secret door. One priest said to me once that the Church would really be great if we could just get rid of all of the people! One thinks of Sartre’s saying that “Hell is other people.” No body, not Rome, Constantinople, Geneva or Wittenburg is without problems and any healthy reading of Church history will cure one of this day dream.
At this point it is best to nail my colors to the mast for those who may not know that I am a convert to the Orthodox Church. Why did I choose Orthodoxy instead of Rome and on what possible basis? Putting pragmatic and aesthetical concerns aside my reasons were both positive and negative. Negative in so far as I was simply not convinced by the Papal theory and the facts proffered in its defense. It is not that I think that history is too “messy” to come to a conclusion on the matter but that I don’t think that the facts imply the Papal theory. This does not mean that I take lightly or try to explain away the rather high language in the patristic repository concerning the Roman See. Rather I do not think such facts imply that theory even as robust as many of those statements prima faciaseem to be. You just can’t get there from here. My other negative reasons are theological and philosophical and I think are rather tight. The problems for Rome are principled problems and the arguments against their theological position are about as close as one gets in theology or philosophy to a knock down argument. As they are philosophical and theological, they are not so dependent on the contingencies of how one reads the facts of history but rather what is claimed today. If they are correct, all of the patristic citations in the world won’t overturn them but rather the citations will be interpreted in light of them. If they are correct then the option isn’t between Rome and Constantinople, but between Orthodoxy and a rejection of Christian theism.
My method is to identify issues that would clearly pick out which option is the best or at least tip the scales in one direction. To focus on these kinds of issues makes deciding between Rome and Constantinople much easier since you do not have to figure out everything prior to reception. Filling in the gaps about how to do this rite or why they say this then can be done later. Moreover, identifying principled problems as opposed to problems that turn on how one interprets the historical facts makes the job of deciding in some ways much easier and in others much more difficult. Easier in so far as the problems are logical and do not depend on which theory of history one subscribes to or some controversial document. Harder in so far as one has to try to think clearly about the problems. And such issues are dogmatic, and not theological. It is no good to try to show that Catholicism is wrong because of some mistake in thinking about divine providence by Aquinas, when Scotus has a perfectly good explication of Catholic dogma that gets around the problem. My arguments center around dogma and not theology so that anyone professing to be Catholic must subscribe to them as a matter of faith. Moreover, these dogmatic points will be plainly manifest throughout the history of the given tradition and will not be controversial ideas.
It is necessary to dispel a common misconception regarding the Orthodox Church and her theology. I remember people telling me that I was too “western” or “logical” to grasp Orthodox theology. After all it is mystical (as if being so made it incompatible with being rational). Such an attitude has a grain of truth in it but it sacrifices it by essentially rejecting the Incarnation. The problem is not my geography or that I use my brain. Christ after all is the Logos, the Wisdom or Reason of God and Christ himself has a human mind and soul. Echoing Chesterton, God likes the mind, he made lots of them. Such appeals to mystery or the mystical are not sufficiently incarnational and should therefore be rejected. Moreover, illegitimate appeals to mystery often come when a theological model runs out of explanatory gas and that is what makes such appeals illegitimate and arbitrary. If a theological model is to be coherent, then there must be an explanation that is not ad hoc, but integral to the system itself as to why we cannot proceed further. If not, then the appeal to mystery is ad hoc and the entire system seems to be arbitrary and capricious and therefore rationally unjustified and unjustifiable.
And one needs to keep in mind Louis Bouyer’s discussion of mysticism. There is the Buddhist or Hindu notion of the mystical which aims to bring about the annihilation of the person through absorption into the impersonal One. Personhood is essentially tied to suffering so that the only means of “salvation” from suffering entails the obliteration of the person. Here reason cannot operate within the One since reason requires relations between conceptual objects and within a completely singular and absolutely simple One, relations are not simply possible. Logic is something to be transcended not enshrined or embraced. And certainly this is not what the Eastern Church means by mystical theology since salvation is the salvation of persons. Rather the Church’s theology is mystical not because it is rationally deficient but because first and foremost God is not being and as such, Aristotle’s categories of being (Individual, time, quantity, quality, relation, etc) cannot be predicated of God essentially. For the same reason, God cannot be essentially described as pure act or activity since act and potency are ways of individuating being. The analogy of being is not applicable because God is no being at all. For the East, God as the Good is “on the other side of being” or beyond being. The divide between creator and creature could never be construed in epistemological way since none of the ways we know being can be truly applied to God’s essence since God in himself is not being in any way. Apophatic theology (Negative theology or the way of negation) then is grounded in a principled reason why God ad intra cannot be directly known. All possibly creaturely modes of knowing cannot be applied to God since those modes of knowing are grounded in being and God is not a being of any kind. The East’s apophatic theology is therefore grounded in a more robust form of realism. A note of caution here needs to be added. I am not arguing for hard and fast divisions between east and west as to theological method. It is often times a matter of more or less by participants on either side. In most cases historical representatives end up confessing the same statements, though what they end up amounting to are often different if people are consistent in their thinking. The fact that they are not shows that they should either drop the dogmatic statements or own their implications, unless of course a third way can be demonstrated.
Secondly, the Orthodox Church’s theology is mystical because its’ theology is grounded in experience and by the latter term I have a definite idea in mind. For the East God is not just his essence but more than his essence. God’s nature is logically wider than his essence. God’s activities, intentions, powers, plans, wisdoms, are just as much uncreated and deity as God’s essence is deity and uncreated. This is a metaphysical and not an epistemological distinction. That is, it is not a distinction about how we thinkabout God but how God is. What we know of God directly (Cataphatic theology or the positive way) is his energies or activities. (Omnipotence, Omniscience, Atemporality, Simplicity, etc.) Consequently omnipotence for example is not an attribute of God since it is not a judgment of our mind to a fundamentally singular and absolutely simple being. We do not attribute these things to God, rather they are things that are God-they are properties-real, concrete, distinct and deity. God’s eternal and economic activities therefore do not exhaust his essential nature-there is always literally something more to God. It is by these activities (Romans 1) that we know God. Creation’s purpose and the purpose of every created thing is nothing more than God’s intentions or energies. What God intends a dog to be just is his particular energy or activity regarding or as dogness. (The divine ideas then are not identical with God’s essence but metaphysically external to it.) This is what the Orthodox mean by God’s predestinations. God’s predestinations are uncreated and eternal intentions for created natures. They are its’ purpose and distinct goal for its’ own distinct nature. Predestination is therefore in regards to natures, not persons. The denial of absolute simplicity in God is also a denial of absolute simplicity in the essences of created persons. A person is more than just an instance of a nature. The essence of created persons is really constituted by God’s intention, predestination, logoi or activity in it. The idea is pretty much Aristotle’s notion of an intellechi, or internal plan. (So much for eschewing Aristotle.) This is why the essences of creatures are not simple instances of a kind either. There is then a direct link between God and creation while maintaining the metaphysical gulf between creator and creation. These energies are the divine vestiges of deity in creation so that when we truly and correctly experience creation we are in some very real sense experiencing God. Since the energies in part constitute the essences of created objects but are not identical to them, there is no worry here of pantheism. Quite the contrary, the distinction between essence and energies in God along with then non-identity of God’s energies with the essences of physical objects guarantees in principle that pantheism is logically precluded. This is what makes Eastern theology experiential and hence mystical. It does not eschew reason in any way but in principle acknowledges the limits of reason and directs it to its’ proper objects for knowing the divine. Natural theology then for the Orthodox is essentially experiential but not in the sense of empiricism where we reason from the objects that we experience to some similarity or analogy of being in God. The West’s theology is rationalistic precisely because it views God as the Good as being itself. This is the tradition that Augustine conveys to the West from Marius Victorinus’ reading of the Platonic tradition. Scholars on all sides freely admit and know that Augustine and his descendents follow this gloss of the Good as being, where being is a verb and not a noun. It is not a point in dispute. This is why there is in the western tradition the beatific vision where God’s essence becomes accessible to human reason however partial or limited that access ends up being for each individual in the eschaton. This is the grain of truth as to why western theology is rationalistic. It applies the categories of being to God, albeit in a refined way, thereby subsuming God in himselfas expressible by human reason. Thus westerners have found another reason to justify the patristic belief that God is in himself incomprehensible, namely that all our ideas of God are garnered from composite objects and God is absolutely simple.
Why I am Orthodox
If Anglicans are going to jump ship and choose on an informed basis between East and West, then some kind of investigation of what caused the division between East and West. Here I put aside all of those causes that rank as political, linguistic, cultural or aesthetic. I also put aside the historical facts of the dispute. It is not that these are unimportant but because they play no serious explanatory role in the philosophical theology that still separates the two bodies or in my arguments. My arguments rest on historical facts in so far as those claims are not under dispute. If one or more of them should prove to be so, then the arguments require some revision. But I don’t think that they do. Any cursory reading of the debates signals that a lot is tied up with the Filioque. I do not wish to enter into a debate on that subject per se but rather to illustrate what makes the Filioque theology possible or impossible.
The fundamental difference between East and West is of course over the Trinity but more precisely over the doctrine of God upon which the Trinitarian doctrine rests. A popular slogan that aims to capture the difference between the two models of the Trinity is that the West starts with the One and moves to the Many and the East starts with the Many and moves to the one. This is true as far as it goes but it leaves out critical features of each theory which is why this is just a slogan and not an informative explanation. The West begins, at least in the order of knowing with God as absolutely simple being. God is perfect because he is simple lacking parts, passions and potency. God lacks even metaphysical parts such as omniscience and omnipotence. These are not different things in God but we think of them as different. In God, omnipotence just is the very same thing as omniscience-these two things are identical with each other and with God himself. God simply is his own knowledge, power, etc. God has illimitable life all at one moment or simultaneously because he is simple. A succession of moments in the life of God would be a type of temporal composition or plurality which is ruled out since God is simple. And even though God is a being or more properly said being itself, he has no potency, since that would imply composition of act and potency. This would make God dependent on something else to bring about a change from potency to act, thereby making God dependent on something else. In which case, God would not be God, since God is not dependent on anything. God just ishis own essence and nothing more. And this is why God is impassible and changeless because he is absolutely singular or simple since change implies “movement” from one state to another. God doesn’t change because God is simple and not the other way around. God is therefore pure act or activity (which is why he isn’t static). Here we can see Aristotle’s ways, contra Parmenides, of inviduating being applied to God, because God is being. God is act, not potency. God exists at a moment. God is one as to essence and not many. The worry here is that if God had “parts” then he could “come apart” and dissolve. This is why dependency on any object is precluded. God can’t cease to be because he is simple-he can’t “come apart.” Unity is essentially tied to simplicity and permanence. In order to be unified and permanent something must be absolutely simple. All analogical predication concerning God is licensed on the basis of God being absolutely simple. It is because our terms are garnered from composite objects (even angels are composites of act and potency) that they are not correctly applicable to God. Analogical predication falls out of absolute simplicity and not the other way around. This constellation of ideas under girds the entire western system of theology from theology proper down to ecclesiology which is why for example Aquinas puts it so early in his treatment of God (ST Pt 1, art 3). The entire Hellenic philosophical tradition can be seen here as concerned with the metaphysics of permanence/change, one/many, eternal/temporal, & matter/form. This is why ironically the East accuses the West of being Hellenic or absorbing Pagan philosophy carte blanch to construct theology. God is properly subject for Westerners to the metaphysical categories of creatures (act, quantity, etc.). The absolute simplicity of God as I have described it above is clearly and uncontroversiallyfound in all of the major “Western” doctors and thinkers of the church from Augustine, through Alcuin, Anselm, Albert the Great, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, John Duns Scotus, etc. It is also a point of dogma since it is declared as an article of faith by various Lateran councils and confirmed by latter councils that are viewed as ecumenical. It is also found widely among both Reformed and Lutheran theologians and mentioned in their major confessions.
Since God is absolutely simple, we need to pull plurality out of the metaphysical hat. The dictates of Christian revelation require us to believe that God is plural in some sense and this is nothing else than the Trinity. How is this possible? Employing Aristotle’s category of relation we can generate a plurality of persons. Strictly speaking these are not in God’s essence since God’s essence has no distinct inhering qualities. Relations then are “thinner” metaphysically than essences and so do not compromise God’s simplicity. The divine persons are relations of the essence to itself.The divine persons are therefore generated out of the divine essence. This is why the psychological models of the Trinity have been so pervasive in the West. This does not mean that such models have not been employed elsewhere. You can find psychological models among Eastern fathers though they are not generated out of starting with viewing the divine persons as relations in the Categories of being. Advocates of seeing persons as relations view take themselves to preclude Sabellianism or Modalism since these relations of the essence to itself are eternal or permanent. But they are still “modes” of relation of the essence to itself which is why the Orthodox view it as a kind of semi-sabellianism. This is why the economic Trinity flows from the ontological Trinity with a kind of conceptual necessity which is why the west views them as identical-que Rahner. The economic Trinity exhausts the ontological Trinity. The relations that are persons are the same in the economy as they are in being. This is what it means to move from the one to the many.
But what could it possibly mean to move from the many to the one? The objects in question cannot be thought of as the same between the two models. This is because the categories of being apply in Western theology to God but not in Eastern theology. This is why it is impossible to start with the notion of perfection or the Good itself in terms of Western notions of natural theology and then proceed to erect on that structure the doctrine of the Trinity. The basic idea is that we reason to God’s existence in part by our experience of the Trinity in creation, from their activities. The act of creation is a singular act performed by three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The singular act of creation implies a common singular power which in turn implies a common singular essence. From the three Persons we indirectlyinfer a common essence but there is no direct rational access to God as he is in himself. Moreover, the economic presentations of the divine Persons do not exhaust the ontological relations between the Persons. If say the Son sends the Spirit in the economy of salvation, this does not imply that this is how the two Persons relate in the divine essence. Moreover, the divine Persons here are not relations even though they may relate to each other. The divine essence is not absolutely simple since the Persons exist as distinct metaphysical entities within the essence. Hypostasis was the term originally used for the dregs of the wine that sank to the bottom after the grapes were crushed. The more watery part of the wine existed at the top. Hypostases then are the more definite or concretized entities within an essence. They subsist within the essence but are not reducible to it. One way to think about the relation is taken from the mind/body problem. Non-reductive materialism has mind as an emergent property or quality from the brain but it is not explanatorily reducible to it. The higher level of description cannot be exhausted by the lower level description-this is roughly a supervenience relation so that you cannot have mind without brain, but mind is something metaphysically more than brain. Supervenience relations are a kind of asymmetrical dependence relation. So the persons supervene on the essence but have a distinct reality from the essence. Essences then circumscribes possible courses of action for persons but do not determine them, and this is true for angelic, human or divine persons (Which is in part the basis for the free will of persons). Moreover, the essence is the essence of the Father who hypostatically and eternally generates the other two persons of the Trinity from his own essence. This is why the Son and the Spirit are of one essence with the Father since it is the Father’s essence that they share. The generative facts concerning the persons (the Father ingenerate, the Son begotten and the Spirit proceeding) are properties that distinguish and constitute them as persons and as such are not relations per se. This is why the Filioque, the generation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son as from one principle is not possible without eliminating the hypostatic properties that distinguish the Son and the Father. Furthermore, since the Filioque construes the persons as relations rather than inner subsisting entities, it is logically precluded from the Eastern model. The denial of absolute simplicity on the Eastern model makes the Filioque unnecessary to secure the full deity of the Son (which was its’ original intention) and presupposes a view of relations as causal relations from the essence relating to itself. The economic activities of the divine Persons permit us to know God indirectly as Trinity, but no positive knowledge of God’s essence is licensed. Even the doctrine of the Trinity then does not compromise God’s essential incomprehensibility which is why the Nicenes gladly said that they worshiped that which they did not know. So for the East permanence is tied to unity and plurality, not absolute simplicity. The real metaphysical distinction between person and nature, and between persons as subsisting discrete and distinct realities within the essence in no way implies that God could “come apart.” Absolute simplicity is simply a cognitive misfire. And since the Filioque falls out of absolute simplicity, by transitivity, the Filioque is a cognitive misfire as well.
It is these principled and logically distinct concepts that distinguish the East from the West and led to the division between them and still keeps them that way. And these differences have real consequences. Because of absolute simplicity on the Latin side, to become partakers of the divine nature as Peter writes, grace must either be a created effect/disposition brought about in you by the divine presence and so functions as a created intermediary or you are absorbed into God’s essence. Since the former is the only acceptable option, union with God amounts to the production of effects similar to God in the Christian. God’s love is like your love for example. There ends up being a contiguity of essences between the Christian and God. Grace is simply a created effect. Some attempts have been made to talk of the indwelling presence of God as uncreated grace in order to stave off the unpalatable consequences of viewing grace as “created.” This generally amounts to viewing the uncreated divine essence indwelling the Christian under a created mode of presence. These attempts fail and here is why. A real union as opposed to a contiguity has the participant becoming what they are put into union with. To be in a real union means to take on the properties of the object one is in union with. Uncreated grace is still the divine essence (and nothing more given absolute simplicity) regardless of the mode by which it is present in the Christian. That being the case, union with uncreated grace under a created mode of presence or being still implies a union with the divine essence, and that the Christian becomes God by essence. The metaphysics of uncreated grace do not change regardless of under what mode of being the divine essence is present. Moreover, if uncreated grace is present via a created mode, it can’t be the case that it makes you what it is without entailing that you become the divine essence. Making the creature be what the divine essence is, even if the divine essence is existing under a created mode of being, is just to make the creature the divine essence under a created mode of being. Metaphysically it still makes the creature the divine essence regardless of mode.
Grace is a created effect no matter if one is a Catholic or a Protestant. For Protestants who, also hold to absolute simplicity practically without question despite an aversion to natural theology and a lack of support in scripture, grace is a created effect as well. Instead of created internal disposition of justice brought about in the soul by the divine presence, grace is a created relation between the mind of God and the sinner. Grace is still a created effect in order to effect a union of sorts. While the union here isn’t a contiguity of effects, it is rather hollow since it is a transfer of moral credit and worth from one party to another. The union is a nominal union. Justification is not thought of as a vindication of God’s omnipotence and eternal intention for the perpetual existence of human nature (contra the devil) and hence its’ healing, but of the individuals’ moral standing. The union is hollow since the union does not bring about an essential change in the Christian. A real union makes you the thing that you are united with and this is why a real union with Christ deifies just as Christ’s soul & flesh was deified. The Protestant portrait brings out the underlying anthropological assumptions with respect to simplicity, that human persons are nothing more than individual instances of natures-personalized instances of natures. If justification is justification of the individual and not of human nature in general according to its internal telos, then the union effected by a disposition in God towards the Christian presupposes that the individual instance of human nature is a person. This helps to license the strong predestinarian views in Protestantism since if Christ’s redemptive work in justification is related to instances of human nature which just are persons, as opposed to human nature in general, then it follows that Christ’s justificatory work necessitates the predestination of certain individuals. For Protestants, persons end up being relations of a nature to itself which are in turn either appropriate or inappropriately related to God who sustains them.
The Christological implications here are either Nestorian or Eutychian. And it is no surprise that those two traditions find resurgence among the Calvinists and the Lutherans. And it is just because the divine essence is absolutely simple that one sees other created natures as simple with respect to the persons and nature-Persons are relations of an essence to itself. Particular instances of natures just are persons in self relation. This is why Christ takes on an instance of human nature and not human nature in its entirety in Protestant theology since to take on all of human nature would imply taking on all human persons. And furthermore why a communication of the divine “attributes” (mental judgments) to the human nature of Christ is precluded (Calvinism) or admitted (Lutheranism) which results in a kind of Nestorianism for the former and Eutychianism in the latter. If a communication doesn’t take place (Calvinism), then there is no real hypostatic union between the natures just a contiguity under a mask. The scriptural account of the manifestation of the divine uncreated light in the humanity of Christ on Mt. Tabor testifies to the falsity of this view. If natures are simple and persons were just instances of natures in self relation then if a communication is admitted (Lutheranism), then an absorption of one nature into the other takes place and a kind of Eutychianism results.
Soteriologically the problems do not stop there. If grace is a created effect, one wonders how one is supposed to maintain the Augustinian distinction between nature and grace. If grace is created as well, all of grace slips back into the field of nature and we are faced with radical Pelagianism under girded by a metaphysical (as opposed to a moral) perspective. Moreover, if salvation amounts to union with God, and one is put into union with created grace, this either implies that salvation is impossible or that Christ is a creature and salvation is precariously perched on this contingent being. If Christ is truly deity then since grace is created and one is put into union with grace, then it follows that one is not put into union with Christ who is God and hence no salvation results. On the other hand, if grace is created and one is put into union by it with Christ it follows that Christ is a creature. This is a problem that faces both Protestants and Catholics. If Pelagianism wasn’t enough, now we are faced with Arianism. This is why what constitutes a sacrament between east and west is radically different because they fall out of two very different conceptions of theology proper.
Lastly the most serious consequence of divine simplicity as construed by the Latin tradition is that it destroys the Trinity. If God is simple then all acts of generation are creation or all acts of creation are acts of generation. This is so because in God these acts are identical and one doesn’t get any stronger relation than that of identity. Either the begetting of the Son and spirating of the Spirit are acts of creation (Arianism) along with creation or the acts of begetting the Son and the spirating of the Spirit are necessary events along with creation (Pantheism). Then creation is eternal and a necessary consequence of the divine nature, thereby implying emanationistic pantheism. It is to his credit that Arius saw, like Origen, the problem but was unable to solve it. He simply accepted absolute simplicity by identifying fatherhood with the essence of God. For Arius to say that the Son was God was to imply Modalism as well as pantheism.
The argument is fairly simple. If God is absolutely simple, the act of will to create is identical to his essence. Since his essence is had by him necessarily, it follows by transitivity that the act of will to create is necessary as well. This was a problem that afflicted Origen since he inherited a strong neo-platonic view of divine simplicity like Augustine. This is why Origen’s theology had a strong predestinarian element and a cycle of falls and redemptions. The cycle was the only conceptual way he could stave off absorption into the divine essence since sin was a clear individuating principle between God and creatures. Sin then becomes the distinguishing mark of creatures and their free will is thought of in terms of between options of differing moral worth-that is, free will just isthe choice between a good and evil option for Origen. But God is perfect and therefore nothing sinful could become God thereby staving off divine absorption. The Predestinarian elements were present because it was not conceptually possible to distinguish God’s knowledge from his will in any real way. To know that Jones does X at T1 just is to will that Jones does X at T1. All distinctions ended up being formal distinctions, that is, distinctions of our judgments and not in God. Likewise, Augustine’s views on predestination could not be disentangled from the Origenistic dialectic. This is one reason why the debates over free will and predestination plagued the West but never significantly affected the East much at all after the 7thcentury. It is at this point that Athanasius breaks the back of the Origenistic dialectic by the distinction between essence and energies that permits a real distinction between diffusive or generative acts by will and those eternally through the divine nature. The former are free (creation) and the latter (hypostatic generations by the Father) are eternal. Without such a real distinction between essence and energies, Athanasius’ defense of the deity of Christ crumbles along with the free creation and contingency of the world. This is in part why among the Latin scholastics the toying with the eternality of the world occurs. They are greatly indebted to neo-platonic works like the Book of Causes and the works of Augustine, both of which emphasize absolute simplicity with respect to God. This is why Aquinas doesn’t construct his theistic proofs as turning on whether the world is eternal or not.
Origen’s headaches don’t end there. Conceptually the necessity of creation is tied to two other problems-the free will of Christ’s human will and the free will of those redeemed in the eschaton. If God is absolutely simple then libertarian free will has to be construed always as a choice between objects of differing moral worth. In other words, free will is dialectically defined as a choice between good and evil and here is why. If God is absolutely simple then in the eschaton the redeemed have only one good option to choose to enjoy, namely God. Any other choice is by definition evil since the Good that is God is completely simple. This is why libertarian free will must be excluded in the eschaton for the Latins. To include it would be to return to Origen’s cycle of falls and redemptions since a fall would always be logically possible. But if free will is tied to what it is to be a person, then it is hard to see how the redeemed in the eschaton can be truly or fully human since they lack free will. Moreover, this is why the Latins have to construe persons as just instances of natures in self relation, because if they didn’t, then the nature of each individual would only circumscribe, but not determine their actions. To guarantee the impeccability of the redeemed, persons have to be thought of as instances of natures in self relations where the natures determine the actions of persons.
Christ has two wills or energies of operation and these are tied to each respective nature. Will, like intellect is a faculty of a nature. Wills are natural or of the essence and not hypostatic, which is why there is one intellect and will between all three members of the Trinity. This is one reason why persons are more than just an instance of a nature since Christ is one Person but he exists in two natures. And since he does, he has two wills. The cardinal text is Christ is Gesthemane. “Not my will but thy will be done.” Could Christ have botched it and disobeyed the Father? Obviously not. But how then being God and it being impossible for him to sin can he have free will? And how is it that he says “not my will?” Does he through his human will not will the salvation of humanity? The monothelites took this as a proof text to show that if Christ had a truly human will, then it would imply the possibility of sinning since a plurality of free wills for them would imply the possibility of opposition. This is because they thought of free will as a choice between options of opposite moral values. The only way to rule out the possibility of opposition was for them to rule out the human will of Christ. St. Maximus’ reply continues Athanasius’ program of breaking up the dialectic of Origen. Since the will is a faculty of nature and Christ has two natures then Christ has two wills. Moreover, since the faculty of the will is of the nature, and nothing natural is in opposition to God, then it is not possible on the mere basis of Christ having a human faculty of will for him to sin in opposition to God. Christ’s personal or hypostatic use of this faculty is distinguished from the faculty itself. The faculty of the will is directed always towards the good which is why even in sinful agents they take their wrongdoing to be a good for them. The thief thinks stealing is in his best interests. Even though such an option is not a real good, it is still an apparent good. The problem with the thief is not his nature but his personal use of that nature, his personal employment of the faculty of willing which is why sin is personal and not natural. Because the faculty and the personal employment are not fixed in virtue, the thief deliberates between the two options. He has hesitancy about the good and this anxiety about the good is not due per se to his being a creature. It is not because he is composite and contingent that he is able to sin since plurality per sedoesn’t imply a lack of permanence or unity. This anxiety is eliminated in the redeemed in the eschaton so it can’t be essential to being human. The anxiety about the good is due to the fact that for contingent creatures virtue has to be acquired through habit. This was the point of giving our parents such a simple and easy commandment in the Garden. The idea was to fuse their faculty of willing directed towards the good with their personal use of that faculty directed towards the good. Once that was accomplished through the attainment of virtue, then they would be like God as morally impeccable agents incapable of sinning. But prior to the attainment of virtue their personal employment of their faculty of willing has a distinct status and this is the gnomic will. It is the personal mode of willing that is not yet fixed with the natural faculty of the will. This is how it is possible for created agents who are morally innocent to choose between good and evil. This is how it was possible for the devil and our first parents to sin by the gnomic will. Since the gnomic will ceases when virtue is attained, it is accidental and not essential to being human. This is why Christ lacks this personal mode of willing since in the incarnation his natural faculty of willing is fixed in the Good with his personal use of that faculty. This is why Christ’s willings in both natures are always good and incapable of sinning and why there is no deliberation in Christ’s human volitions because there is no hesitancy about the Good. This is because his natural faculty of will is naturally directed always towards the Good. Since Christ’s personal use of that faculty is fused with his natural faculty, it follows that his personal employment of the faculty is always directed towards the Good and hence it is impossible for him to sin. Christ then has an integrity of nature and person with respect to his humanity that we lack and we have a distance between our personal use of our faculties and the Good that our faculties are naturally directed to (gnomic will) that Christ lacks.
But this is only half the story. If God were absolutely simple then no matter if Christ’s human energy of operation (will) were fixed in the Good, it would still be the case that there was only one good option to choose from and libertarian free will would be ruled out because libertarian free will requires alternative possibilities. There has to be a plurality of options open or accessible to an agent in order for them to have free will. This is why for the Latin’s Christ is said to only have desired something different than the salvation of the world but not truly willed something different in Gethsemane. By Latin lights, per Aquinas and Co., the human will of Christ is in effect determined by the divine will in Christ, thereby eliminating the possibility of sinning. Libertarian free will is not even had by the perfect person of Christin his human will. It is just at this point that the various forms of predestinarianism are seen as a Christological error and not a soteriological error. If God can legitimately determine the human will of Christ, then he can legitimately determine the human will of any agent. The divine will trumps the human will ending up in a type of monothelitism. Predestinarianism, either Calvinistic, Lutheran, Thomistic, Scotistic or even Molinistic is just a logical extension of that anthropological monothelitism to all of humanity which is why all of them at some point or another deny libertarian free will-in none of them are alternative possibilities preserved. For the Latins, this is so remember because in the eschaton, there is only one absolutely simple object to choose and all other choices are necessarily evil. Likewise, in Gethsemane there is only one good choice for Christ to select. Absolute simplicity therefore implies a kind of monothelitism-Christological and anthropological.
For the Orthodox, following Maximus, there must be a plurality of Goods in the Good so that Christ and the redeemed always have a plurality of options to select from-genuine alternative possibilities. If in the eschaton, the redeemed have an infinite number of divine “good things” (energies) to choose from, then free will does not have to be thought of as dialectically defined as a choice between objects of differing moral worth. All that is required to secure libertarian free will here is a plurality of objects from which to select that are open or accessible to the agent in question. Christ’s “Not my will but Your will” expresses that Christ initially wills two good things. The choice is between the natural good that his natural faculty is directed towards, self preservation and the salvation of the humanity. But both are willed by God and both are good so that Christ chooses between two goods. Christ then freelywills the salvation of humanity. It is this self denying turn in freedom that gives the crucifixion its ascetical flavor. Christ turns away from self preservation and obeys God even to the point of death, and that a death on a cross! Like Mary and unlike Adam and Eve, he freely and personally wills what God wills reorienting human nature. Since both the salvation of the world and the preservation of his life are both natural goods in God as the energies, the choice is not between good and evil but between two goods and two good courses of action. It is exactly at this point that the true nature of synergy becomes apparent without the possibility of moral opposition between Christ’s two wills. A true co-operation between humanity and God is possible without God determining humanity. A true synergy between nature and grace is here possible and likewise a true synergy between the church and the state is possible as well. What may appear as “Caesaro-papism” is nothing more than the theology of the Incarnation applied.
The incarnation then is the primary salvific event and not the crucifixion. It is in the incarnation that human nature in its entirety is rescued from annihilation which is why both the wicked and the just are resurrected and have eternal existence. How we spend that eternal existence is up to our personal use of our wills, but that we have it is not under our control. In the incarnation, Christ takes upon himself not an instance of human nature, but human nature whole and entire-mine, yours and everyone else’s. Moreover, since humanity is the microcosm of all creation, all of creation is summed up in humanity, the rescue of human nature from annihilation implies eternal existence for all creation, including the devil. The goal of the devil was to demonstrate his equality of power with God by frustrating God’s energies or intentions for creation. God intends or predestines creation to be everlasting but the introduction of sin with its turning away from life would bring about the annihilation of creation. The wages of sin is annihilation and dissolution. But where sin and death abounds now grace abounds all the more. God’s claim to be omnipotent and hence God is vindicated from the claims of the devil. Human nature is vindicated from annihilation and the power of death, corruption and dissolution. “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” (Romans 5:18) All of humanity is vindicated or justified at the level of nature in the incarnation which is then carried through to the crucifixion and resurrection. By his death and resurrection Christ defeats death since death cannot contain him. It is not just that it does not have any rights over him, it is that death as annihilation is overpowered and conquered. Death itself is taken captive by God. The weapon of the devil is rendered useless since it does not bring about annihilation of creation. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) This is what it means to say with Paul that Christ is raised for our justification. (Romans 4) Justification is not primarily an individual affair. It is not per seabout some nominalistic notion of “covenant” drawn from the Scotists. It is about vindicating God and rescuing his creation, both on a natural and personal level. The justification of human nature is then extended to human persons when they freely align their wills to God’s, as Christ freely wills to suffer for the redemption of creation. Even if they do not, God is still justified. The atonement then is not concerned with settling a score. It is only if you think that God is absolutely simple, that persons are relations and therefore just are instances of natures in self relation, that you are forced to come up with satisfaction and penal models of the atonement. This is why these models did not appear for the first thousand years in either the East or the West since they were simply not needed. But if the doctrine of God is compromised and this carries over into the incarnation where Christ is seen as taking on an instance of human nature, rather than it whole and entire, then it is impossible to see the incarnation as much more than a means to redemption that occurs at the cross. If the incarnation is intrinsicallyuseless in soteriology, then the only other thing scripturally to hang your hat on is the crucifixion as some sort of appeasing of an angry ogre deity that zaps some with eternal life and not others.
Moreover, this is also why you need to safeguard traditional Marian teachings by viewing her immaculate state and other truths about her as a discontinuous leap forward. If Christ only takes on an instance of human nature from Mary, then we need a reason to save doctrines such as her “immaculate” state, perpetual virginity, etc. Catholics supply these new reasons, which then strike Protestants as vacuous since they play no natural explanatory role in the history of salvation. This is why Catholic attempts to justify traditional positions regarding Mary (her immaculate state and perpetual virginity) often appear as strained attempts to justify doctrines that are free floating. Here again, because of absolute simplicity, created grace, etc, Protestants and Catholics are just two sides of the same coin. On the other hand, if Christ takes on all of human nature and he gets it from Mary, then all of human nature is summed up in Mary. By Orthodox lights, Mary is the end of a process of moral cultivation begun by God through the use of the law as a school master and this is why all of human nature is summed up in her which is why God favors her. Here is synergy present in salvation history where God is culling out for himself the birth-giver of God in co-operation with the free wills of his creatures (the patriarchs as well as Mary).
Some have said that there is nothing like the ancient Roman primacy. One problem here is in foisting Roman presuppositions onto an Orthodox structure. It is no great wonder that it doesn’t seem to fit. The Roman view is tangled up with three basic ideas-stability/permanence, unity and simplicity. If something is composite or complex, then it is unstable and lacks permanence as well as a fundamental unity. If something lacks unity it is because it is composite and lacks permanence. It is inconceivable for someone coming from this view to think that the Orthodox can hold things together. This is in part why the Orthodox get characterized as being lots of different churches but lacking any fundamental unity or stability. There is no absolutely simple principle of unity found in a visible personal head. But there is a difference between not having a principle of unity that is absolutely simple and having no sufficient principle of unity at all. To leap from one to the other is fallacious. Another problem is that it assumes first that the Orthodox do not take themselves to have preserved the Roman primacy and second that the ancient conception of Roman primacy is something other than the Orthodox conception. These seem to be examples of question begging to me. The fact is that the Orthodox dotake themselves to have preserved the ministry of Peter in the episcopate since first, Rome wasn’t the only Petrine See. The local church just is the church whole and entire. This is why Ignatius says that one should not do anything without the bishop, rather than without Rome. It is the identity of spiritual state between Peter and Christ which licenses seeing Christ and Peter both as the Rock. This is why the Fathers speak of Christ as the Rock as well as Peter, John and others. This is why every bishop is a successor of Peter and why every bishop occupies the throne of Peter, which is the throne of Christ. And this is why Paul could write “I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.” (2 Cor 12:11) On what other basis could Paul confront Peter to his face even if it is for moral and not doctrinal failure? It is this inner identical reality that forms the basis for relations between the Church at other locations-union with Christ. The fullness of the church is embodied at every locality in the episcopate, which is why the Roman theory in principle attenuates the role of the local bishop despite claims to the contrary. The fullness of the church at every temporal location is a direct result of seeing the fullness of God in every divine energy or activity. This does not imply that there cannot be any final or normative decisions by the episcopate but only that such decisions are had in a plurality and a synergy but not an absolute ecclesiastical simplicity. This is because the councils are a function of the church and not vice versa. Reaching a consensus does not mean reaching absolute uniformity. Nicea is a token example. Certainly some bishops did not comply and were deposed and as such ceased to be bishops. And a consensus wasn’t reached in Florence because not all of the Greeks signed up with the Latins. 2nd Constantinople says “For although the grace of the Holy Spirit abounded in each one of the Apostles, so that no one of them needed the counsel of another in the execution of his work, yet they were not willing to define on the question then raised touching the circumcision of the Gentiles, until being gathered together they had confirmed their own several sayings by the testimony of the divine Scriptures. And thus they arrived unanimously at this sentence…” (http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-14/Npnf2-14-113.htm#P5543_1159989) This fits much easier with the Orthodox view of the ministry of Peter as episcopal rather than as a metaphysical discontinuity between Peter’s successors and the bishops.
So on the contrary I contend that it is the Catholic side which has nothing like the ancient Roman primacywhich is why they have to come up with explanations that amount to a theological discontinuity between Peter and the episcopate, just as was the case with Mary. Because of the deficient view of theology proper and Christology and some notion of primacy, by their lights, the only way to secure the notion of primacy was to give Peter and the Popes a gift that is discontinuous with that of being a bishop. On the Roman theory the Petrine chrism does not come through episcopal ordination nor stems from the bishops working in synergy with the bishops as the voice of the Church. The chrism in principlegives the Pope authority apart from and over all other bishops, whether individually or in a general council. This conception places the Pope apart from the episcopate by a discontinuous theological leap, which is why it appears to be ad hoc.
Moreover, the problem with Roman polemics on the Papacy is that they do not show that the patristic data implies only their theory. They assumethat such language among the Fathers just isn’t compatible with any ecclesiology other than their own. How can such statements be reconciled with any form of conciliarism? This attitude manifests sheer ignorance as to Orthodox ecclesiology as well as a hasty generalization as to what must constitute all forms conciliarism. This is by and large because most forms of conciliarism that Catholics are familiar with came out of the medieval debates in the West, rather than Orthodox sources. They simply do not grasp what the Orthodox view is. This is why they fallaciously argue that such high statements as to the Roman primacy imply only their view. It is obvious that the views of conciliarism that they are familiar with are not compatible with the patristic data. But it does not follow from that fact that noform of conciliarism is. What they need to show is that the patristic data is incompatible with the Orthodox perspective and to do that, they need to clearly articulate just what the Orthodox view is. To date I have yet to see this feat accomplished on this [Fr.Kimel’s Pontifications] or any other blog.
Some here have argued that without Rome, Orthodoxy is missing something. But this is question begging since if Orthodox are right, the ministry of Peter is still had by them. The supposed deficiency needs to be shown not asserted. If Orthodoxy suffered from the split from Rome, one wonders what Rome suffered in the split from the East? It is not as if you can loose a lung and not suffer some serious deficiency. (And really, four other Patriarchs are analogous to a lung? Shouldn’t it be more like a leg, eye, arm, and lung?) Roman claims to the contrary to loosing anything essential in the schism smack of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s, The Holy Grail. “But a scratch! A mere flesh wound!” If something essential is lost in the schism, what essential aspect of the life of Christ did Rome loose? The argument implies that contrary to Catholic claims Rome does not have the fullness of the Faith. The argument amounts to nothing more than a tu quo que fallacy. This argument cuts both ways and Catholics should be wary of tossing it around.
Others following the idea that Orthodoxy lacks a completely simple unified visible head, and therefore a principle of unity, have questioned how Orthodoxy will manage to maintain any doctrinal permanence. In my mind this is like worrying about how modern day Jews will maintain a sense of ethnic identity. They just have. After all, look at how the Orthodox Church has weathered Islam and Communism. How well would Rome have done I wonder? (In a generation or so, given Islam in Europe we may soon see.) What doctrines might have “developed?” If the rough equivalent of centuries Nazi death marches, Jim Crow laws, torture, mass murder, mass secularization and mass individual confinements do not change the theological make up of the Orthodox Church, gosh, what would?
Others have argued that Orthodoxy is a regional phenomena and not truly Catholic. Catholicity is holding to the Faith according to the whole church as opposed to factions or sects. If it has to do with geography then by the same token the Catholic Church wasn’t Catholic prior to entering South America. The Orthodox Church has parishes around the globe in any case. And the “catholicity” or multi-ethnic nature of contemporary Catholicism has more to do with historical contingencies and geography than it does with any inherent spiritual universality. The Roman claim is like claiming that Anglicanism has true Catholicity because the Church of England ended up going wherever the English military did. My in-laws are all Cuban Episcopallians who were Episcopallian in Cuba prior to Castro because of the English occupation of Cuba after Spanish rule and it hardly made the Episcopal Church “Catholic” because of such people (no insult meant to my in-laws mind you!),
Others have voiced concerns over women’s ordination. The main argument, as far as I can see it by reading the professional literature, for women’s ordination goes something like the following. In the incarnation Christ takes upon himself only that which he redeems. If the priest is the icon of Christ and because of that, only priests can be male, then this implies that Christ did not take upon himself the nature of women in the incarnation. This implies that women are precluded from salvation. By a reductio then the limitation of the priesthood to males is absurd because it rests on a heresy. The problem with this argument is simple. In its myriad of forms it presupposes one of two claims. The first is that sexuality is accidental to human nature and the second is that the male sexuality of Christ is not personally united to him. The first option reasons that the limitation of the priesthood to men is predicated on something that is accidental to being human, and this dovetails into the second, namely that Christ doesn’t take unite to his person that which is accidental to human nature. The limitation of the priesthood to men, by feminist lights, then is grounded in something like a temporary defect, specifically human sexuality. It is just plain wrong then to preclude women from the priesthood on such a basis because it implies that they are not fully human. Feminists are thinking that if one thinks that Christ is united personally to male sexuality then this implies that male sexuality is essential to being human. This is a mistake. It is clear that the view that sexuality is accidental to human nature is a kind of Origenism and the view that Christ does not personally unite to himself male sexuality is a kind of Nestorianism. Every Church council from Nicea forward then theologically and logically precludes the ordination of women. Moreover, the feminist argument would also imply that since human sexuality is not united to Christ and hence not essential to being human than neither men nor women are licensed to be the icon of Christ and hence priests. The only things that are legitimately able to be priests on this picture are instances of bald or asexual human natures, of which I know of none. The solution is to see that Christ takes upon himself what is essential to being human. This means that he takes what is common to both sexes and particular to one (or another way of seeing it is that what it is to be female is tied up with being male). Christ’s male sexuality is truly united with his person, which is why sexuality is not accidental to being human and how Christ can take upon himself all of human nature without licensing either the conclusion that women are excluded from salvation or that women are permissible objects of ordination. It seems to me in my reading of Hopko, Ware, etc., this is what they miss. On this basis I think it is safe to say that there is no real worry about the Orthodox Church ordaining women. I know there are some theologians who advocate it. At my own parish was a female Orthodox theologian who advocated it and her argument was predicated on the belief that human sexuality is accidental to human nature. The fact that not all Orthodox agree on such a matter means little since the Church is not a democracy. (Besides, Rome has far more entrenched feminists than we do.) Consensus does not mean absolute uniform agreement as Nicea among other doctrinal disputes makes clear. The lack of a “magisterium” doesn’t imply a lack of teachers and a method for definitively settling matters. The worry would only be justified if it could be shown that Orthodox lacks any means for reaching normative decisions. So far, this is just an empty assertion. Overall, this is why Orthodox is not Anglicanism waiting to happen.
By my understanding it is the acceptance or rejection of absolute simplicity that acts as a regulative idea for much of the theologizing that occurs and I have tried to highlight where I think the regulation takes place. Which is why you can’t have Catholicism andOrthodoxy, because you can’t logically force Maximus and Palamas into the round hole of absolute simplicity nor more than you can fit Augustine and Aquinas into a rejection of it. Let me be clear here. I am not using the term absolute simplicity to pick all and every usage of the claim by the Fathers that God is simple, unitary and a singular essence. Those statements by themselves are meant to safeguard the idea that there is only one God. Their instances are legion across the geography and I am quite happy to adhere to them. Absolute simplicity is, as I have noted something far more and it is something Rome as well as Protestantism are dogmaticallytied to. My aim here is not to “bash” Augustine, Aquinas and Co. As someone who works in medieval metaphysics I am very much disposed to defend Augustine and his descendants as far as possible but this defense ends at their commitment to absolute simplicity and any errors it entails. I am well aware of such “bashers.” The usual suspects are Lossky, Romanides, Zizoulas and Co. I know that are seen to be overly harsh, misconstrue Augustinianism and just get Augustine wrong in many places. To be fair though, many of their mistakes regarding Augustine and his descendents were views promoted at the time by the vast majority of Augustinian scholars. It is hardly fair to paint them as morons for simply reacting to what was being presented to them by people who were in a credible position to know. That is why you rely on experts after all. I am more than willing to cast their works aside since my core complaint regarding absolute simplicity does not turn on them and is never substantially argued for in their works. Hang Romanidies and tar and feather Lossky all you like but they by and large do not gripe about absolute simplicity. My core complaint about absolute simplicity survives their scholarly death. This is because I came to see the problem on my own when I was an Anglican, years before I read any of their works. And among philosophers I am hardly the first to see the problem, nor alone in my view that the doctrine has to be scrapped. In fact most professionals in philosophy of religion are on my side of the argument, not that that implies much of anything, other than the fact that I have some measure of credibility.
Some no doubt will complain that the problem I pick out is too philosophical and as such restricted to the domain of professional philosophers. If these problems are far too philosophical and abstract on what other basis than theology proper does one make a decision? The Papacy? Is that any lesscomplicated an issue to ferret out? In fact, it seems harder since it deals with historical contingencies and not conceptual relations. The Filioque? How is that any less complicated a matter? The fact is that people make judgments as to these issues all the time which in turn strongly influence where they end up. People just have to do the best they can given their abilities and circumstances. Casting away the issues smacks more of psychological denial than honest engagement with the spiritual life. Theology is the spiritual life. There is no head and heart division. And given the practical effects of the problem it is hardly a mere abstract problem. To view philosophical problems as abstract, unrelated to “real life” and impractical is to have a somewhat sophomoric view of philosophy. What is more, to view the doctrine of God as abstract and unrelated seems like a mistake too. Here again, I am not alone in eschewing that way of looking at the problem since most theologians today are struggling to show that the Trinity for example, makes a real difference in the life of the Christian. If you do not think that the doctrine of God matters in your life, why be a theist at all? Has it not been written that a noble theme has stirred my heart? Plato’s Divided Line comes to mind here. We become like that which we contemplate and deep contemplation of divine things is worthwhile. Truth always has utility even if it is hard for us to see. In such cases, the defect lies with us.
This is not to imply that everyone has to be a veritable Aquinas in order to be a faithful Christian. The argument is not over what people have to understand to be recipients of grace (of course, thinking that understanding is a necessary condition for grace is itself a Gnostic error to begin with). People can hold to a view and still be “blessedly inconsistent” with it and its implications. (Machen) But implications they still are, whether they are owned or not and that is just the point. By the very same token if the Palamite view were to conceptually entail or imply a kind of di-theism or pantheism as was often claimed by Catholics or a kind of Modalism where the true nature of God as love is eternally hidden (Rahner) then the Orthodox should own those implications or reject the view as it stands.
In any case, Anglicans have to make a choice on some basis and the doctrine of God seems like the best basis on which to make it. If not, some other complicated matter will have to serve as a discriminating principle. That a choice needs to be made I think is now clear given recent actions in Massachusetts and England. Having a principled basis will help Anglicans move from being exiles to wanderers. While they sort through the issues, they have no home and no place to go. The principled problems can move them from wanderers to travelers with a destination. This is in some sense necessary so that they can be members of the body they enter and not merely exiles.
In summarymost serious problem is that a commitment to absolute simplicity implies that God is a being subsumable under human reason in the categories of being and that creation is necessary rather than free. As a consequence, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo goes out the window as well as the eternal generation of the Son and the Spirit. Human freedom, and in fact the freedom of every agent is obliterated. Even God is not free since he must create. Our intuitive picture of persons as freeis logically incompatible with a view of God as absolutely simple. Catholics and Protestants see the divine persons of the Trinity as relations of the absolutely simple essence to itself and therefore embrace a kind of Sabellianism where persons are “modes of relation” rather than inner subsisting realities that are circumscribed but are not reducible to the essence in which they subsist. Out of this deficient view of God grow errors like the Filioque since it is only if persons are relations that in order to secure the deity of the Son we need to posit a single relation from the Father and Son to the Spirit. Absolute simplicity requires the reduction of God as he is in himself to God as he is economically thereby buttressing the Filioque.
Anglicans and others who travel to other bodies must cease to be refugees. They must cease to be exiles and this means conversion. This means leaving behind whatever Anglicanism was with all of its concerns. If they don’t, all of the pain and suffering will matastacize into a demonic despair of enclosing reserve. This will not be good for them or the people around them.