Am I a Pelagian, a recovering Calvinist, or just too much into Origen?

Both Maximus the Confessor and John Damascene deny the distinction of communicable and incommunicable attributes in the Divine Nature. As this is the case, when the Logos assumed our nature so that we might assume His, he was making possible a life within the Trinity for we creatures, but one for which we were created. For St. Maximus, we partake even in God’s immortality. One of the problems that Orthodoxy solved for me was the whole matter of creatio ex nihilo. While we came from non-existence into existence by the Word of God, we nonetheless are not whimsically contrived entities, but our nature is predicated on the divine words of the Logos. Consequently, by dint of our creation, we are ordered to the supernatural. This happy notion, however, does not vitiate the fact that we were brought from nonexistence into existence, and thus while we were made for immortality, we are not naturally eternal, but naturally mortal. This St. Athanasius emphasized at the beginning of On the Incarnation. We turned our vision from Him in whom alone is immortality and thus turned ourselves to nonexistence and death. Averse now to Light and Life, we are captive of corruption, darkness (ignorance) and death. Our nous, once the faculty by which we could see what we were to become, has been darkened.

Yet, since even in this state our nature remains what God made (after the Image and Likeness of God, viz., the Word), we are never far from God. St. Nicholas Cabasilas asserts that God is nearer to us than we are to our own selves. Alienation (a loaded term used to all sorts of demonic ends by Marx, Nietzsche and Freud) ultimately while it is from God, is immediately from what we were designed to be: God’s intent and end for us, His telos, which is still present in us. Calvinism, or Reformed Theology (or even good, old Lutheranism, either of the Swede Luther or the dear, old Philipicists) asserts that Christians, to be Christians, possess an alien righteousness, the righteousness of another. This imputation (and here we can set aside for argument’s sake whether Luther held to this – – and I am willing to see it as fuzzy for the early, but not for the latter Luther) of Christ’s righteousness falls onto a whole host of problems, but the main one, the one to be considered here, touches on the notion of creation. Calvin et al., weren’t formal Gnostics or Manicheaens, in that they asserted that the creation was good, and that it was not made of some eternal stuff (a high quality, philosophical word I love) that stood in opposition to God. But I cannot see how materially this charge can be avoided. This same type of argument can be extended also to the whole question of the union of the divine and human in Christ, and how Calvinists almost all are formally and materially Nestorians. Many posts on our blog (e.g., https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/reformed-doctrine-of-imputed-righteousness-refuted/#comments) and many of our friends who have their own blogs who post here (e.g., http://jaysanalysis.com/2010/04/12/quotes-from-calvinist-theologians-proving-ariannestorianism/) have addressed this particular matter. More can be said as well, especially in light of St. John Cassian’s assertions (almost undoubtedly against St. Augustine) that if Christ’s death and resurrection is not done in union with all men and brings life to all, then there are those who standing outside of Christ will be able to have their own resurrection, or else will not stand for judgement on the last day. To say it differently: Christ’s union with human nature bestows on human nature itself a quality it did not have at the creation, but for which it was nonetheless created.

Calvinism, or even Protestant Augustinianism, by asserting the notion of alien righteousness, has cut us off, even from the moment of creation, from the Creator. This is most blatant in someone like Barth (who all my PCA and OPC and even REC acquaintances would denounce loud and vigorously) who denies even the teaching that we mortals have a natural knowledge of God. And this now comes to my question that is the title of this post: tonight (the eve of the feast of the Dormition) I attended a class at a local Orthodox parish (well attended) where the priest made the statement that the light that comes from the saints is wholly the uncreated light of God. I told him afterwards that it gave me pause, for if we are working together with God, and if we become by grace what Christ is by nature (a son of the Father), then is not the energy of God, which now energizes us, also truly our energy now? Am I making a distinction without a difference? Please save me from heresy, if that is where I am going!!!!

72 Responses to Am I a Pelagian, a recovering Calvinist, or just too much into Origen?

  1. Nathan says:

    MG,

    “Pardon me for not checking the entire conversation above, but do you agree that humans still have the image of God post-fall?”

    Yes, though it is now disfigured, damaged, decaying, infected by sin, etc.

    “Also, regarding death, if by “true human nature” you mean human nature as God intends and plans it to be according to his Image, then I think we would agree. But if by “true human nature” you mean what humans are apart from divine grace, then I’d say they cannot exist apart from God’s grace (including the image of God and other things).”

    Then we agree.

    Nathan

  2. I don’t think anyone said they could, or that it would not be. The quote, from the Lutheran, as he attempted to summarize the Orthodox position was “in some way overcome their creatureliness” (emphasis added); and the reply as “yes, though I don’t know what you mean by ‘overcome their creatureliness.”

  3. Thomas says:

    No creature can ‘overcome their creatureliness’. The fundamental divide between the Uncreated and the created will always be.

  4. MG says:

    InfantTheology,

    You wrote:

    “And yet, if Adam and Eve had striven for God, they would not have become God by nature but grace (energies, not essence), and therefore would, in a sense, “overcome their creatureliness”. Do I read you rightly?”

    I think so. But I’m not 100% sure I understand what you mean by “overcome their creatureliness”.

    You wrote:

    “Thank you for the very clear explanation of this. It sounds interesting: how does the divine power get within human nature in the first place? (at least, since the Fall – did they not lose this?) I will keep my eyes open to find such a thing in the Scriptures, which I do not care to go beyond. I don’t see death as being a part of true human nature, but an aberration.”

    The divine power of incorruptibility is present within the image of God (this is what St. Athanasius seems to say when he speaks of the image of God as a grace that, if preserved, gives immortality). In terms of a Scriptural argument, perhaps we could say something like this. Scripture seems to support that humans cannot resemble God without God’s grace. This is because grace is God’s own life manifested and active in creation. It is not possible to resemble God without partaking of his life (in fact, resemblance to God consists in partaking of God).

    Pardon me for not checking the entire conversation above, but do you agree that humans still have the image of God post-fall?

    Also, regarding death, if by “true human nature” you mean human nature as God intends and plans it to be according to his Image, then I think we would agree. But if by “true human nature” you mean what humans are apart from divine grace, then I’d say they cannot exist apart from God’s grace (including the image of God and other things). And thus insofar as human nature is alienated from grace, it tends towards loss of life and therefore death.

  5. Cyril says:

    Perhaps this should be another whole thread:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/3944549.stm

  6. Jeremy says:

    Also little known about Luther is that he had a pretty Christus Victor-esque view of the atonement. (see Gustaf Aulen’s book Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement)

  7. I didn’t know that. Three cheers for Luther.

  8. infanttheology says:

    Hmmm, I’ll take number 2 if forced to choose.

    “Westerners say “yes”, man is naturally immortal, at least his soul is, the soul does not obtain eternality (more technically averternality) through the Resurrection, but like the angels, is, in its very creation, rooted in God’s eternality.”

    I believe Luther rejected this notion.

  9. Infant Theology,

    I think the matter being discussed here is at a second level above Scripture. Both interpretations fit the plain sense of Scripture, and neither is explicitly contained in Scripture.

    To see this, we need to consider again the two definitions of “nature” I gave above. It is clear from Scripture that death is not natural in the first sense. Death is not normal to man, as created, men would be immortal. To this both sides agree–though they would explain it slightly differently. The real discussion is over whether man’s nature, in the second sense, contains in itself power over death. Westerners say “yes”, man is naturally immortal, at least his soul is, the soul does not obtain eternality (more technically averternality) through the Resurrection, but like the angels, is, in its very creation, rooted in God’s eternality. The Orthodox here are maintaining that man’s nature is not, in creation, grounded in God’s eternality, but rather is only by virtue of the Incarnation. Man was, prior to the fall, “naturally immortal” (in sense 1), because in some sense the Incarnation was “natural”–that is it was intended, and to man’s state could only be spoken of in thought without the Incarnation. Both of these are answering questions not directly addressed in Scripture, and both need further support that the first order Scriptural data.

    I myself tend toward the Orthodox option because of the following two considerations: Isaiah says “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man, the grasses bloom. The grass fadeth and the bloom is fallen away. But the Word of the Lord endures forever.” Granted, “Word” here is translated “rhema” in the LXX, and not “Logos”, but it seems Isaiah is referring to the Torah, and so by prophesy, to the Incarnate Torah, Jesus Christ. Second, as mentioned above, resurrection from the dead came by Jesus Christ. Resurrection of the blessed, but also, resurrection of the damned. Even that immortality is a product of the Resurrection, and not of the natural inescapable immortality of man.

  10. infanttheology says:

    Father Patrick,

    “Nathan, physical death is natural in that apart from God we cannot stand on our own, but pass into non-existence. Yes, that is exactly right that I am speaking of humans apart from God, for grace is not separate from nature in that in our creation we were created for good works, as St. Paul says (you know this, being a good Lutheran). But if, as you put it, Adam and Eve make themselves unnatural, is then sin greater than grace? That seems the alternative. For the Orthodox sin does not destroy nature in the sense of changing our natures so that we cannot do what is natural for us (i.e., willing). Even as sinners we still possess those things natural to us: will, reason, memory, the virtues, even if we cannot properly effect them. But now, separated from life, and existing in death and tending in this death to move away from God, life and existence, we need the new life of Christ to raise up from this body of death (St. Paul’s point in Romans 7). Does this help?”

    Interesting. For the Lutheran, sin *also* does not destroy our good nature but infects it such that we not only “cannot do what is natural for us” but we don’t want to. “Willing” is still natural for us, but sin infects us such that we do not desire or will to desire or desire to will (etc.) what is good and right and true, namely trusting, loving and fearing God as He created us to (i.e. what was “natural”, or normal, the regular way things were created to and meant to transpire). So, even unbelievers still possess those things “natural to us” as you say: the will, reason, memory, the virtues, these have been corrupted in the fashion described above. For the one who has been given faith, it is different. We have a new will, that longs to cooperate with our God. We “get active” precisely by receiving *all* He has to give, for what do we have that we have not received? Faith has a more passive aspect (like the baby nursing at the mother’s breast) and a more active aspect (like the soldiers who eagerly follow William Wallace into battle in the movie Braveheart).

    MG,
    “If this were done, they would reach a state of having a free will that was incapable of choosing wrong; the gnomic will would be eliminated. They would go from a state of unstable participation in God (where they could misuse their natural will and alienate themselves from grace) to a state of stable participation in God.”
    Now, you say that created persons, having a “gnomic will” can misuse their natural powers. And yet, if Adam and Eve had striven for God, they would not have become God by nature but grace (energies, not essence), and therefore would, in a sense, “overcome their creatureliness”. Do I read you rightly?
    “That might sound like it does not require that the incarnation happen. But there is one issue: if human beings only have God’s incorruptibility in potentiality, how will they actualize it? In order to truly actualize incorruptibility within human nature, there must be a person who is incorruptible already, and thereby actualizes this divine power within human nature. Anyone who lacks actual incorruptibility will not have the power to use human nature perfectly, thereby uniting it to incorruptibility. Thus, a divine Person is needed in order to give human nature a stable participation in God’s incorruptibility. This person must live each stage of human development—birth, life, death—to unite all of human nature to God. And in order to complete this process and make human nature predestined to move towards a final state of incorruptibility of soul and body, He must inaugurate a fourth stage of human life: resurrection.”

    Thank you for the very clear explanation of this. It sounds interesting: how does the divine power get within human nature in the first place? (at least, since the Fall – did they not lose this?) I will keep my eyes open to find such a thing in the Scriptures, which I do not care to go beyond. I don’t see death as being a part of true human nature, but an aberration.

  11. Sorry about the punctuation.

    Jeremy,

    As far as I understand, that is about right. Although, even the claim of Pelagianism in terms of virtue goes too far when considering virtue from the perspective of deification, which must be prefect as God is perfect and can only be achieved with God’s grace.

    I think that from the orthodox perspective Pelagius was effectively saying that man could deify himself through his own created energies without the need of God’s grace.

  12. Thomas says:

    A big ‘thank you’ to Matthew! I was, of course, thinking of ‘nature’ in the sense of ουσία — what a thing is. It hadn’t even occurred to me that ‘nature’ could be used in a radically different sense (apparently a sense unique to Protestantism).

  13. Jeremy says:

    Fr. Patrick:
    “So, in terms of its creation men could be righteous and holy even without sin, such as the righteous Job, who because of their love of God also participated in the Spirit to some degree, who is still needed to even sustain/realise this virtue, yet in terms of deification their created energies are unable to save and they are still sinners, that is unable to meet the mark of eternal life, which means not merely living forever but living as God.”

    I’m trying to better understand the difference between Pelagianism and the teachings of the Church. From what you said here, I gather that where Pelagianism goes too far is in claiming that apart from grace we can attain not only to virtue (which would be true?) but even to eternal life.

    Is that about right? Please help me understand.

  14. It would be of more help with proper punctuation. Just saying. 🙂

  15. From my understanding of the Fathers, I think that some of the dispute depends on the reference point to which we are referring to nature. That is our nature in terms of creation and our nature in terms of deification. Also, we need to distinguish between essence and energies and the that the Scriptural use of nature does not always refer only to essence but it often also refers to the energies of that essence/nature.

    In terms of creation our nature is good and pure and in a state of relationship to God, however in terms of deification is in potential, limited and so incomplete in all these matters. This mainly refers to the energies because the soul in essence is simple and indivisible it is everlasting since it cannot decompose nor will itself out of existence yet our energies can cease to function and we become static so dead just as the energy in the Universe does not disappear but eventually dissipates to an extent that no life can take place. At the fall the state of relationship with God, who was enabling Adam to advance to deification, was damaged, although not completely severed, which is impossible even for those in the second death. In terms of deification, at the Fall without God’s complete assistance, the limits of the nature show themselves and these limits mean that the nature cannot support/generate eternal life as its energies are limited so it heads to death and corruption in terms of its activities, even though it is still capable, as it was created, of good and love and all the virtues and it liable to obedience to the law; we are still responsible for our lives and actions. So, in terms of its creation men could be righteous and holy even without sin, such as the righteous Job, who because of their love of God also participated in the Spirit to some degree, who is still needed to even sustain/realise this virtue, yet in terms of deification their created energies are unable to save and they are still sinners, that is unable to meet the mark of eternal life, which means not merely living forever but living as God. Also, in terms of deification, until Christ and particularly in the case of the gentiles who did not know God, all are sinners bound to the law of sin and death, transgressors and children of wrath, our righteousness is unable to save us, that is the Law is powerless to overcome the incapacity of our nature in terms of its own energies, we know the good we want to do but are powerless to achieve it to the extent that it really needs to be eternally; not that they are evil nor totally depraved nor the nature infected but just created and limited. Only in Christ can such incapacity be overcome because He first needed to take our created existence as His own, the Incarnation, birth, growth, ministry, death, descent into hell and then resurrect it and take it into the heavens, transcend time/space, to the Father, that is to unite to and share completely of His eternal existence and so allow us through holistic union with His humanity as a bridge to unite with the divinity. So, we can have the righteous pagan who can even give his life for others but this virtue, as only being the virtue of our limited energies, cannot deify him and he still misses the mark of eternal life and we can still freely respond to Christ to repent, and be expected to live righteously as catechumens etc. All this is also why even the least in the kingdom/sovereignty of heaven are greater than St John the Baptist in terms that they transcend any perfection of our natural virtues in participation of the divine virtues and why if our righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees then we shall by no means enter the kingdom/sovereignty of heaven that is unless we are deified and participate in the divine energies we cannot participate in eternal life no matter how good we are in terms of our use of our natural energies in themselves. In terms of creation we are our true selves leading a natural life but in terms of deification we are presently not truly ourselves as God intends us to be and leading unnatural lives, unless we are with Christ in the Church.

    I hope this helps a little.

  16. Jeremy says:

    I am referring to the disagreement over whether or not immortality is natural to humans. In one sense it is, because it is what we were made for and originally destined for, but in the theological sense, where ‘nature’ is synonymous with ‘essence,’ we are naturally immortal because immortality does not belong to our essence but is given to us by the grace of God.

    (sorry for splitting this into two posts)

  17. Jeremy says:

    Those two uses of the word nature are, I think, at the root of some of the disagreement we saw earlier in these comments.

  18. infanttheology says:

    Matthew,

    OK, I should be working but real quick. The Lutheran confessions teach it is 1. Man’s essence is good. The problem is that the essence is infected such that sin is the normal and inescapable condition, as you put it.

    + Nathan

  19. Thomas: I believe it’s Ephesians 2:3 “By nature objects of wrath”, and also Romans 7 which seems to say that at least some people want to do good, but are uncapable of it. However, I believe it is mostly a confusion of terminology, both in communicating to Orthodox, and internally. “Nature” is ambiguous. It can mean 1) what is the normal and inescapable condition or 2) the essence of something, what makes it what it is. On the first sense I don’t believe it’s problematic to say man has a sin nature, especially as this is very close to the Orthodox notion of the current tropos of man. However, on the second reading, it is disastrous. When Orthodox use “nature” they generally mean definition 2, but when Protestants do, they either mean definition 1, or if they mean 2, it is because they have concluded 1, and then have conflated the two definitions of nature.

  20. Sub-deacon David says:

    I’ve not read through all the responses, but wanted to share this. In a book I’ve recently read by Metropolitan Hierotheos, he quotes an Anthonite elder that human beings do, indeed, have their own “light”, which can be confused by the unguided with the Uncreated Light of God. He said it was natural to appreciate the beauty of that light, but unless one was guided, that appreciation could become a snare of the demons. It was just such, if I recall correctly, that ensnared Lucifer – being enamored with the beauty of his own created light more than the Uncreated Light of the Creator.

  21. infanttheology says:

    Thomas,

    I am trying to bold.

    Must be real quick here. The “old Adam”, or our “flesh”, is not really our true self, but it does remain with us until death. It seems pretty clear that Paul sins here because he is a sinner: i.e. sin is dwelling within him. It is not like this can be fully avoided by making better choices. It is a real infection that he deals with and that is actually responsible for his actions – even as the man he knows he really is – the “new man” – does not agree with these actions. Sin controls him to a degree, but ultimately does not have authority over him:

    7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

    13Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing . 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me

    21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

  22. Thomas says:

    infanttheology wrote:

    Yes, we talk about having a weakened nature as well, though we would call it a sinful nature (based on Romans 7).

    I’ve long wondered where Protestants get the idea of ‘sin nature’ or ‘sinful nature’. But I just re-read Romans 7 and don’t see it. I would really appreciate a more specific reference and, perhaps, an explication of the thinking behind it. Thanks.

  23. MG says:

    InfantTheology,

    you asked:

    “I am not sure why the Incarnation needed to happen at this point in time for man to live forever … after all, [physical] death is not “natural”, or normal (i.e. the reason God created us). Had Adam and Eve constantly looked to the Word, which was the “regular course of things” (natural the way I am using it, not in a nature/grace dichotomy sort of way), they would have not died.”

    Here’s an outline of an answer, based on what Saints like Athanasius, Cyril, Irenaeus and Maximus say. They speak of the necessity of the incarnation in terms of stability. God gave grace to Adam and Eve so that they participated in His goodness (in fact, the image of God is a grace, a “participation in the reasonable being of the Word”—St. Athanasius). However, as created persons, Adam and Eve were capable of misusing their natural powers and thereby being alienated from the Image of God that was the blueprint for their human nature. This is a part of the condition of created persons: they have a “gnomic will”, which is to say that they can misuse their natural powers. When Adam and Eve were created, they had not actualized their participation in God’s incorruptibility. If this were done, they would reach a state of having a free will that was incapable of choosing wrong; the gnomic will would be eliminated. They would go from a state of unstable participation in God (where they could misuse their natural will and alienate themselves from grace) to a state of stable participation in God.

    That might sound like it does not require that the incarnation happen. But there is one issue: if human beings only have God’s incorruptibility in potentiality, how will they actualize it? In order to truly actualize incorruptibility within human nature, there must be a person who is incorruptible already, and thereby actualizes this divine power within human nature. Anyone who lacks actual incorruptibility will not have the power to use human nature perfectly, thereby uniting it to incorruptibility. Thus, a divine Person is needed in order to give human nature a stable participation in God’s incorruptibility. This person must live each stage of human development—birth, life, death—to unite all of human nature to God. And in order to complete this process and make human nature predestined to move towards a final state of incorruptibility of soul and body, He must inaugurate a fourth stage of human life: resurrection.

    So even if the fall had never happened, an Incarnation of the Word was needed. Otherwise, human nature would not have been recapitulated by an incorruptible Person who would unite it to God. And without this, there would always be the possibility of a fall into corruption.

  24. Cyril says:

    Eric, fascinating. The dominion of my ignorance about iconography is vast, and seemingly vaster than ever I had known. Thanks.

    Lvka, in speaking of our participation in God’s uncreated energies, our participation in God’s love, eternity, grace, it is by dint of our divinized natural virtues, which are part of our human nature. The virtues in Christ tended only to the good, since in his human nature they subsisted divinely (unlike ours where they subsist merely humanly). Since virtues are natural, as St. Maximus says, then they are not energetic. At the moment I am not seeing clearly what you are saying. Perhaps in the morning things will be different.

    JN888, I believe that Cyril of Alexandria is apropos exactly here, in that the appropriation of idioms through the hypostasis of the Word (or in the hypostasis of the Word) we see the divinization of our human nature. These are real appropriations, and not merely a verbal trope as the Reformed assert. Through his human nature we have access to His divine nature, and His divine nature to our human nature, yet without the human ever declining from the human, though certainly fulfilling the intentions or predestinations of God for our humanity.

    Nathan, physical death is natural in that apart from God we cannot stand on our own, but pass into non-existence. Yes, that is exactly right that I am speaking of humans apart from God, for grace is not separate from nature in that in our creation we were created for good works, as St. Paul says (you know this, being a good Lutheran). But if, as you put it, Adam and Eve make themselves unnatural, is then sin greater than grace? That seems the alternative. For the Orthodox sin does not destroy nature in the sense of changing our natures so that we cannot do what is natural for us (i.e., willing). Even as sinners we still possess those things natural to us: will, reason, memory, the virtues, even if we cannot properly effect them. But now, separated from life, and existing in death and tending in this death to move away from God, life and existence, we need the new life of Christ to raise up from this body of death (St. Paul’s point in Romans 7). Does this help?

    AS, St. Maximus counted some 28 ways that gnomie is used in Holy Scripture and the Fathers. As he employed it with regard to what we possess and what Christ does not, the gnomic will is hypostatic, a peculiar mode or topos of willing, but it is accidental to us, for it deliberates among perceived goods, and was the seat of sin. The natural will, however, functioning as it should would not deliberate, for it would see the proper use of the virtues “naturally” and act. If you are saying that we still have a personal mode of willing other than the gnomic will, I heartily agree, for we still employ the natural will according to the logos of our existence, but do we want to call this the gnomic will? You are spot on (sorry to be a smoke blower) about synergy in Christ and synergy between us and God. Perhaps I need to think better how to say this.

    God’s peace to all. I am off to bed.

  25. Eric says:

    I think the iconographic tradition would say that there are several different “lights” shining through at the same time. According to the practice of the Prosopon School, taught by Vladislav Andrejev, there is the cosmological or material light (1st highlight), the anthropological light or light of the soul (2nd highlight), and the angelic or celestial light, the pure spiritual light (3rd highlight). Finally, the ozhivkii “enlivenings” show the uncreated light of grace. Each of these lights or energies are perfected and transformed in the saints. They each shine through, one inside the other, in the icon (this can only be properly done in the egg tempera method, which has a transparent quality). Interestingly enough, there is another light, before any of the highlights are applied, the rozkrysh or “opening” of light is first applied to the white gesso. This opening of light represents the original light of creation. It is light, but it is unordered, chaotic, represented by the coarsely ground pigments that create a marble-like texture. This light is visible even after all the highlights are applied. The highlights perfect and order the initial opening of the light of creation. But, as all of these lights remain distinctly visible on the icon, showing that each part of creation, the material and the immaterial, has its place within the economy of God. The material light is not destroyed, but remains, and provides an opening for the anthropological light of the soul. Without the material light, there could be no light of the human soul. The angelic or spiritual light is revealed within the anthropological light, and so on. Each opens and reveals the other. The brightest, is of course, the ozhivkii light of grace, the dimmest, the material light. The first three highlights are proper to the human person, the final, ozhivkii, is of God alone. But there is an interesting interaction at work, the action of the cross. The vertical action is the action of light shining down onto the board, shining through each layer and bouncing back to the eye of the observer. The horizontal action is the action of color, the aesthetic beauty, one’s deeds and individual personhood.

  26. Nathan,

    “Not of reception” is referring to something that you said on your blog, following your first link where reception was opposed to self-promotion.

  27. infanttheology says:

    Father Patrick,

    Will need to read that Filioque stuff multiple times. I do affirm our ability to participate in the eternal life of God – because this is what Jesus says (John 17:3), and I trust Him.

    “The Orthodox faithful continue up the ladder of divine ascent and become divinised through the process but this is in no way self-promotion and not of reception.”

    I don’t think Luther would have been totally opposed to any kind of concept of a “ladder of divine ascent”, although I think he would have said it was unhelpful, since we are to imitate Christ who descended.

    “Not of reception”.

    What do you mean here?

    Unfortunately, I may not be able to comment again for a while.

    + Nathan

  28. Nathan,

    I cannot see how that what you affirm can only be coherently so except in terms of also accepting the distinction of essence and energies.

    In terms of faith alone as a pastoral need, this is also not helpful to the flock because it can lead to a neglect in the development of the virtues. The ladder of divine ascent that Luther rejected is also something in Orthodox spiritual practice, but perhaps differently understood than in the Roman Catholic practice of his time, which an Orthodox monk would argue had become debased. Sadly, Luther threw out the baby with any dirty bath water. The spiritual ladder of ascent is not a work achieved in pride but one that only happens in the context of humility and obedience with a recognition of sins. The Orthodox faithful continue up the ladder of divine ascent and become divinised through the process but this is in no way self-promotion and not of reception. The process up the ladder is much longer, over many years if not decades, and less mechanical than you expressed was the case portrayed in the time of Luther. Effectively Luther is denying the spiritual path to deification and in particular that it begins now; this path is necessary as the way to accept God as all in all and is to be followed by every believer but at various levels of intensity and pace.

    Another, issue that you would need to address in terms of participating in the eternal life of the Trinity is the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. This must be rejected as being legitimate and hence a rejection of Luther’s position on the matter. Why? Because there can be no new relationship added to the Trinity. Thus, all creation is created and related to by the Father through the Son in the Spirit and is brought to relationship to the Father through the Son in the Spirit. There can be no relationship to the Father of creation apart from the Son in the Spirit else the Father would have a relationship that is not already realised by the Son in the Spirit. We participate in the life of the Trinity by sharing the same relationship as the Son with the Father as sons of God. What it means to be the Son must all be what it means for us to participate in the life of the Trinity by grace not essence, which means that we must be begotten by the Father by grace. Also, if being the Son as Son means to have the Spirit proceed from Himself because He must take this from the Father to be Son then we too would need to have the Spirit proceed from us to be sons but this is impossible because we are of another essence and the Spirit would have to proceed from Christ’s humanity also but this has a beginning in time so cannot the source of the eternal Spirit. If the Spirit proceeds from the Son because He is of the same essence as the Father then the Spirit must proceed from Himself because He is also the same essence as the Father but no one ever taught such a thing. Rather if the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone to rest on the Son then we too can be truly sons because we too can receive the Spirit without the need of being of divine essence. This also makes sense of the descent of the Spirit in declaring the Son at His baptism and also the role of the Spirit as actualising the presence of the Son in the mysteries, such as Baptism/Chrismation and the Eucharist, and that without the Spirit we are not of Christ because to be the Son is to receive the Spirit. So, unless you are to reject the filioque you cannot affirm our ability to participate in the eternal life of God or even to exist at all for that matter.

  29. Lvka says:

    I’m not talking about the created human energies of our created human nature; I’m talking about our direct participation in the actual uncreated divine energies of God. Christ said “be holy even as your Heavenly Father is holy“, and Saint John said, repeatedly, that “God is love“. So love and holiness are the way God actually is, not a mere figure thereof.

  30. Jnorm, precisely what I was hinting at. To wit:

    Cyril, we cannot use the absence of a gnomic will in Christ to dismiss its function in ours – He used his created will to work in synergy with His uncreated Divine will.

  31. infanttheology says:

    Cyril,

    “Physical death is natural (my citation of St. Athanasius). The natural immortality of the soul is a Platonic and not a Christian doctrine. That Adam and Eve were to be attendant on God may have been the expected or intended thing, but why or how we could say it is “regular”, I don’t know.”

    It seems to me that as soon as you say physical death is natural, you define life and humanity apart from God. Adam and Eve in the beginning were attendent on God when created. For them not to be would be unnatural. It seems to me that they made themselves unnatural.

  32. infanttheology says:

    Lvka,

    Yes, we talk about having a weakened nature as well, though we would call it a sinful nature (based on Romans 7). The difference is that before conversion (which God does completely, instilling faith), this is all we have (for a helpful analogy see here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/thats-how-easy-it-is-to-receive-salvation/)

    Father Patrick,

    “Our relationship at creation was one in potential not in fulfilment. While you may agree with this, I haven’t seen it expressed in your comments.”

    I actually do agree. Before, it was full. In the end, it will be fuller. I think Iraeneus was right when he talked about how the early “very good” creation had room to grow.

    “Do you affirm the distinction between essence and energies? If not then you deny our ability to participate in the eternal life of God and imply that our life is absolutely other than that of God and so limit Him because such an existence must be over and against God and definable apart from Him which leads to atheism or making creation God.”

    I don’t know. Since I don’t deny our ability to participate in the eternal life of God and insist that our humanity can ever really be defined apart from Him (autonomously), does this mean I affirm the distinction you speak of?

    Re: faith, as you know, faith is never alone. The maintain that the main pt. about “faith alone” is pastoral, as a) we don’t want to be trusting the works that we do in righteousness and b) we want to be able to instill confidence in people that they have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) (see here as well for more about what this looks like: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ ). Of course no one will be saved who is not sanctified as well.

    +Nathan

  33. jnorm888 says:

    Cyril, can we make use of Saint Cyril’s “communicatio idiomatum” as a reference to go by in solving your problem?

  34. ioannis says:

    Lvka,

    If the natural virtues of man were the uncreated energies of God then man’s nature is uncreated.

  35. Cyril says:

    I get distracted for one minute and I am now far behind this thread.

    AS, I don’t think we are in disagreement, but I don’t think the virtues function by the gnomic will, for they did not do so in Christ, and would have not done so in the prelapsarian Adam. That’s just a technical point.

    Lvka, the virtues are not identical with God’s energies. St. Maximus (I shall dig up the reference later as I am in haste) contends that the Logoi are the basis and “forms” on which our own logoi are based. We agree entirely on synergy. Again, a technical point.

    Thomas, those are my words and am drawing them from memory of St. Athanasius. He maintains that because we were made from nothing that is what our nature would then tend to. Adam maintained life in looking to the Word. I may be falling prey to St. Athanasius’ language which may be metaphor.

    Nathan, you wrote >>I am not sure why the Incarnation needed to happen at this point in time for man to live forever (as you say, “Fr. John Behr… has argued that the conquest of death was part of the economy of Word also, and that it was not “merely” the Incarnation [the Incarnation and not the passion] that was God’s plan for uniting His rational creatures to Himself), after all, [physical] death is not “natural”, or normal (i.e. the reason God created us). Had Adam and Eve constantly looked to the Word, which was the “regular course of things” (natural the way I am using it, not in a nature/grace dichotomy sort of way), they would have not died.<<

    I am not sure where your comments are yours and the parenthesis always are your words echoing mine, but by way of what I think is an answer: We needed the Incarnatin because our human nature had not yet been divinized. Physical death is natural (my citation of St. Athanasius). The natural immortality of the soul is a Platonic and not a Christian doctrine. That Adam and Eve were to be attendant on God may have been the expected or intended thing, but why or how we could say it is "regular", I don't know.

  36. Lvka says:

    Sorry for the typo; what I meant to write was: to have it our way, and politely decline God’s offer.

  37. Lvka says:

    Thomas,

    there’s no contradiction between one thing and the other. God’s grace supplanted our mortality at the beginning, while we were dialoguing with God; we were literally in a state of grace. But afterwards, as we made the decision to have it politely decline God’s offer in favor of that of the serpent, we fell from grace, and … here we are. (The rest is, as they say, history).

  38. Lvka says:

    Thomas,

    there’s no contradiction between one thing and the other. God’s grace supplanted our mortality at the beginning, while we were dialoguing with God; we were literally in a state of grace. But afterwards, as we made the decision to have it our way, and politely decline God’s offer in favor of that of the serpent, we fell from grace, and … here we are! (The rest is, as they say, history).

  39. Cyril,

    “So, back to my question: the light of the Saints, is it in anyway theirs, or is it only the Glory of God shining through them, like the light of Tabor shining, let us not say through Christ’s human nature (which is our nature as well), but even through his clothes?”

    In what way do you feel my comments above have not addressed your original question? To reiterate my position, it is theirs by virtue (pun intended) of their use of the gnomic will as excercised in their particular, concrete hypostatic existence, and it is God’s by virtue of His indwelling. I see this as an irreducible antinomy that has to be held in tension.

    “A question that may well need answering is, do the virtues in us have a relationship to the eternal, uncreated light of God?” – Virtues understood as fruit of the Holy Spirit would absolutely be related to the eternal and uncreated light of God. No?

    I believe your question can be asked in another way, namely, are we truly free? In what way(s) are we truly free, and what does this mean as it pertains to our relationship with the Divine? In what sense does freedom mean “independence” or freedom from God? In what ways are we truly our own?

    It would seem to me that the answers lie in the irreducible and hypostatic existence of humanity made in the image of God. It would also seem to me that Trinitarian and perhaps more particularly Christological theologies would provide us much needed clarification in this respect. It is after all in the Incarnate Christ that both the Uncreated and the created worked in synergy, and the Church has much to say about this.

  40. Lvka says:

    do the virtues in us have a relationship to the eternal, uncreated light of God?

    Does water have a relationship to H2O?

    Virtues are the same as the divine energies which are the same as God’s grace and power. The terms are synonyms. They are natural inasmuch as God has no qualms in sharing them with His creation. But creatures aren’t saved or redeemed except insofar they make these things theirs by willing, active, and personal participation in them. It’s not a passive, monergistic, or unilateral process.

    Nathan,

    What was made from nothing has an innate tendency of returning to the nothingness from which it was created. What was made from earth and the elements has a natural tendency of decomposing back into the same constituent elements. What keeps everything together is God, in Whom we live and move and have our being.

    We have a twofold inclination within ourselves, inasmuch as we’re both bearers of God’s image and likeness, as well as inheritors of a weakened nature constantly inclined to sin. The struggle that Saint Paul speaks of in Romans 7:15-25.

  41. Nathan,

    What I see is a difference is that you seem to stop at our return to the original state as being the full extent of what Christ did and that this state can be maintained eternally. However, the relationship of the coming age transcends the relationship of creation and the relationship of creation while participating in the energies of God, was not to the full extent of the age to come. Our relationship at creation was one in potential not in fulfilment. While you may agree with this, I haven’t seen it expressed in your comments.

    Do you affirm the distinction between essence and energies? If not then you deny our ability to participate in the eternal life of God and imply that our life is absolutely other than that of God and so limit Him because such an existence must be over and against God and definable apart from Him which leads to atheism or making creation God.

    With faith alone one is reducing participating freely in God to only mental participation. Without works there cannot be true free synergy of man and God in all His life with all our life and no true ownership of His virtues etc as our virtues. Such faith alone would be static and dead. Faith and works does not mean salvation by works because our energies are incapable by themselves of leading us to participation in the eternal life of God, this can only be given as a gift from Him by grace.

    Christ did not come to remove the guilt of our sins by paying the penalty of justice but by accepting then overcoming the state of death he destroys the bond of death and enables us to participate in His life and this is what frees us from death and corruption and justifies our life and existence. We receive the state of death from our ancestors not guilt and we are still judged for the guilt of our sins unless we justify ourselves at the time of our passing by repentance, faith, works in obedience to Christ’s commandments thereby freely allowing our union with God and for His life to be ours. Should we refuse to obey, to believe, to repent, to freely accept God as all in all then we are liable for the full judgement of all the we have done because we have separated ourselves from God and so declare that we can live eternally on our own right and so assume our acts are those of life and right for life; we take the full consequences when they are shown not to be. Those who in humility accept the life of God in pure heart and confess their sins and state of sinfulness are not judged because they have already condemned themselves and accepted God’s life as theirs, against which there is no judgement.

  42. ioannis says:

    Cyril,

    If God’s energy becomes truly the energy of the Saints and if God’s nature has no incommunicable attributes that would mean that the Saints become gods in essence and that they become creators as well which is absurd. That’s explained very well in a Maximus’s text towards presbyter Marinos titled “That the Saints and God will not have one (the same) will after the resurrection”. Even after the resurrection God has His own natural will which is naturally salvific and the Saints have their own natural will which is naturally subject to salvation.

  43. infanttheology says:

    Father Patrick,

    Sounds good to me. So I wonder how incompatible what I am saying is with EO theo anyway… if people see major problems, please let me know (obviously we disagree about original or ancestral sin, for instance, but does talking in a certain way make those differences less obvious I wonder?)

    + Nathan

  44. Thomas says:

    … while we were made for immortality, we are not naturally eternal, but naturally mortal.

    Cyril, are those your words, or is it a quotation?

    I thought the standard Patristic teaching (especially St Irenaeus?) was that Adam was created neither immortal nor mortal, but with the potential of becoming immortal; that, because of separating from God, Adam became mortal and that mortality is transmitted to his descendants.

  45. Cyril,

    As a part answer to your question regarding light, we are light even in our bodies. Look at us in the infrared spectrum and we are really glowing bright. The divine light as divine energy will also be ours as co-heirs with the Son just as all the other energies.

  46. And in the John 17:3 sense, we have this right away but only as in a mirror and not yet face to face; in part but not in the whole. Knowing God is not merely rational knowledge about Him but living Him. That is participating in His energies, through exercise of the virtues in obedience to the commandments. Only in the age to come can we truly know Him by truly participating in Him in fullness beyond the limits of our time/space constraints.

  47. A little more to what I wrote, that participation in eternity is the purpose of creation and the paradise of Adam and Eve is that only in participation of eternity being united as one with God is God truly all in all otherwise one would think that life could in some way exist or be lived apart from God but then this would limit God because something else would have something of its own not in Him. Thus, creation is permitted by the long suffering of God for the benefit of many to participate in His eternity but it cannot be permitted to continue forever in its own state. Creation must be truly united to God that He becomes all in all and transcend the divisions of time and space and this is achieved through the Incarnation where He makes creation His own existence by the Son being truly God and truly man. This gives us in union as one with Him eternal existence, and so true existence, thus, the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world regardless of the choice of Adam because He must take as His own that existence that is really dead in itself, even if it lives due to God’s grace, to give it eternal existence.

  48. infanttheology says:

    Lyka,

    “We are immortal by participation in God’s grace, and not because of something intrinsic to our nature. Only God is self-existing. This is what St. Athanasius meant.”

    I agree that we are immortal only because of the grace, mercy, and love of God. Without being in a relationship with Him, of course we would cease to exist – become nothing. But when we talk about our “nature” were we not involved with God in a love relationship from the beginning of creation – and hence, would we not “have” His qualities/energies as He so generously shares them and we receive them?

    Unless we turned away. Which we did.

  49. infanttheology says:

    Father Patrick,

    I like what you say.

    “As a creature man can not self-sustain himself in life, only God can do this being both the source of life and all life.”

    Hence my links to those two blog posts of mine about Dr. Kleinig.

    “This participation in eternity was that for which we were created but our creation requiring a beginning and our limitedness and our freedom meant that participation in eternity could not be our initial state but something given at the end of time to those willing to accept it.”

    It seems to me that participation in eternity in the fullest sense is as you say. Still, in the John 17:3 sense, it seems that man has this right away.

  50. infanttheology says:

    “For the Orthodox man is not naturally immortal for the simple reason that while we are made with a telos of immortality which is the likeness of Christ, we do not possess it at creation for the Incarnation had yet to happen.”

    I am not sure why the Incarnation needed to happen at this point in time for man to live forever (as you say, “Fr. John Behr… has argued that the conquest of death was part of the economy of Word also, and that it was not “merely” the Incarnation [the Incarnation and not the passion] that was God’s plan for uniting His rational creatures to Himself), after all, [physical] death is not “natural”, or normal (i.e. the reason God created us). Had Adam and Eve constantly looked to the Word, which was the “regular course of things” (natural the way I am using it, not in a nature/grace dichotomy sort of way), they would have not died.

    “The other reason for this (the other one that St. Athanasius gives) is that since we are made from nothing, nothing (non-existence, mortality) is our natural state.”

    Well, I agree with much of what Athanasius said. Still, in what sense were we nothing though? If we were nothing, how can there even be a “we” that “is” “nothing”? It seems to me that first we must have a we – man – and since God created man for relationship with Himself, and created man in relationship with Himself in Christ, this is our natural, or normal, state of affairs, the “regular course of things – the way things transpire”.

    This all comes down to that Romans 5:12 debate perhaps?

  51. Cyril says:

    Lvka, I had to read your penultimate post twice. I am not sure where we differ. Virtues are natural, and while strengthened and dare I say perfected through customary habit, they are not themselves habits. We certainly need the aid and life of the Spirit, but since we don’t separate nature and grace, what the Spirit enables us to do is actually what we were created for (i.e., life in the Spirit, life in the Trinity). Now, I am perfectly happy to admit that all life and light comes from the Father of Lights, and that separated from God we have no life. But in our union with God, and as you note, “He isn’t us,” it is not God effecting our virtues, but rather affecting our virtues, for they are ours. So, back to my question: the light of the Saints, is it in anyway theirs, or is it only the Glory of God shining through them, like the light of Tabor shining, let us not say through Christ’s human nature (which is our nature as well), but even through his clothes?

    A question that may well need answering is, do the virtues in us have a relationship to the eternal, uncreated light of God?

    Off to mundane things like republicanism in sixteenth-century Prot Reformers.

  52. Nathan,

    Man was created in time and space, he could not have been other as both a creature of the free will of God, so not eternal, and material so defined by space and as not infinite so subject to change. As a creature man can not self-sustain himself in life, only God can do this being both the source of life and all life. Man has his own energies and essence as truly other than God but these are a gift from God and logoi of the Logos to be found in their principles in the Word because nothing absolutely new was made in created else God would not be all, rather what was in God was created in man in another essence but still in the image and likeness of God. Thus, Adam, and creation, was created innocent and being with God he was not subject to death but separating himself from God meant that he, and all creation with him as its head, fell into death and corruption but did not change the image or logoi of creation nor remove man’s own energies nor essence. This state of death though is not permanent and Christ has shown that it will be not only restored to its original state because the new Head of man has risen from the dead but that it will also transcend the original state to participate in His eternity, seen in His ascension. We share this by grace and union with God, through the Church, and we participate in His energies, which we inherit and own as truly sons of God like the Son who has one and same energy from the Father as His own and in His humanity another that is in perfect unconfused union with the divine but we do not share the essence of the Son because such is impossible for creatures. This participation in eternity was that for which we were created but our creation requiring a beginning and our limitedness and our freedom meant that participation in eternity could not be our initial state but something given at the end of time to those willing to accept it.

  53. Lvka says:

    We are immortal by participation in God’s grace, and not because of something intrinsic to our nature. Only God is self-existing. This is what St. Athanasius meant.

  54. Cyril says:

    Nathan, we have no problems at all with inquiring Lutherans.

    Yes, immortality exists “in relationship with God”, but I don’t know that we are using that term “relationship” in the same way. For the Orthodox man is not naturally immortal for the simple reason that while we are made with a telos of immortality which is the likeness of Christ, we do not possess it at creation for the Incarnation had yet to happen. The other reason for this (the other one that St. Athanasius gives) is that since we are made from nothing, nothing (non-existence, mortality) is our natural state. Only by constantly looking to Word could Adam hope to attain his end by similitude, but he lost this by turning away and seeking to define reality on his own terms. Thus the faculty by which he saw the light, his nous, was darkened and consequently the choice of death brought sin (the sting of death is sin). This is why our relating to God means something has to happen to human nature (theosis or divinization) which occurs with the Incarnation. The Lamb was indeed slain before the foundation of the world, and Fr. John Behr (see his The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death), working out of St. Irenaeus, has argued that the conquest of death was part of the economy of Word also, and that it was not “merely” the Incarnation (the Incarnation and not the passion) that was God’s plan for uniting His rational creatures to Himself.

  55. infanttheology says:

    “while we were made for immortality, we are not naturally eternal, but naturally mortal. This St. Athanasius emphasized at the beginning of On the Incarnation. We turned our vision from Him in whom alone is immortality and thus turned ourselves to nonexistence and death. Averse now to Light and Life, we are captive of corruption, darkness (ignorance) and death. Our nous, once the faculty by which we could see what we were to become, has been darkened….

    Christ’s union with human nature bestows on human nature itself a quality it did not have at the creation, but for which it was nonetheless created.”

    Forgive a curious Lutheran for poking in his head hear. If we were made for immortality – and we came into existence in a relationship with God in Christ, how would we not be naturally eternal? What does natural mean? To me it suggests that which we were made for, and transpires in the regular course of things.

    It is when we turned away from this “regular course of things” – i.e. fellowship with God (trust, love, and fear), that we entered into the realm of what we were not created for, what was not meant to regularly transpire, what was not natural. When Adam and Eve sinned, something fundamental in humanity changed in time and space.

    Further, if the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world – and He spoke all things into existence – how then did the incarnation *in chronological/created time* give us that which we did not originally possess – not so much a “quality”, but a relationship? Why do we obsess whether or not we have the “quality” of immortality when it is clear that immortality is only something that exists in relationship with God (for example, see the posts here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/spiritual-life-as-a-process-of-reception-part-i-of-i/ and here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/spiritual-life-as-a-process-of-reception-part-i-of-iI/ )

    Just honestly wondering why we are thinking so differently.

    Thanks,
    Nathan

  56. David I don’t think that directly addresses Cyril’s question, as that verse leaves unanswered whose will or virtues are at work. I maintain it is both God’s and ours working together, neither confused nor divided. At heart it is a paradox, or more precisely, an antinomy.

  57. David Lindblom says:

    I hope I’m not too far off the mark here but as far as the virtues go wouldn’t the vs.

    “Work out your own salvation for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His own good pleasure”

    Could one not plug in “virtue” instead of “salvation” and get at the gist of the balance here? God put he virtues in us and just as salvation is not separate from God Himself neither is virtue. Yet we must work this out but never w/o God working in us. Is this off the mark or does it make sense to anybody else?

  58. Jeremy says:

    Frederica Matthewes-Greene offers analogy in her book The Jesus Prayer that may be helpful. Speaking of the holiness of the saints she says:

    “The one light of Christ is like a flame shining out through millions of lanterns. But each lantern is made of different colored glass.”

  59. Cyril, I would say that it is both. It is truly God’s and truly ours (hence a true synergy). It is truly our own “light” as you call it, as it is our energy from our will. We will have yielded to God’s light, we have made His our own and so it is that we can say that it is “no longer I but Christ.”

  60. Lvka says:

    Thomas,

    In Treatment (2008-2011 TV series).

  61. Lvka says:

    Energy (work or activity) consists in the putting into use of our God-given attributes (or energies). They don’t just activate themselves. The talents God gave us don’t multiply themselves. The word has two meanings: potentiality and act. (As it is well known, Catholics identify the two with each other [actus purus], and with essence or nature [absolute divine simplicity]). Our human energy (or activity) harvests the God-given gifts (divine energies) bestowed upon us. God enacts His own energies or potentiality, and He also wants us to share in them, so He gives them to us, but won’t enact them for us. (Because He isn’t us!). We have to respond (in freedom and in meekness, with love and obedience), to His offer and outstretched hand.

  62. Canadian says:

    Lvka,
    “Virtues are natural since we have them from birth, but not because they are part of our essence. They aren’t. They’re divine energies (attributes) that God graciously shares with His creation”

    Not sure what you mean exactly here. I could be wrong, but our virtues would not be divine energies but human energies, right? Synergy is the interpenetration, sharing, reciprocation of the divine energies with our human energies, but they are distinct. Our virtues are not part of our essence, but the activity of our essence, but they are not the activity of God’s essence as that would be monenergism. Wouldn’t this match with our Christology?

  63. Thomas says:

    I agree with Lvka and am struggling to understand what Cyril’s specific problem/question is. (Perhaps I’m just failing to understand the situation.)

    I like the analogy of God’s grace (the Divine energies) being like a waterfall pouring out — but we still have to open our hands to hold it (synergy). But even in our hands, the water is still from the Holy Trinity.

    (Off topic: Lvka, what is the source of the clip you used under ‘On Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice’ titled ‘Deal’? And, I also like your self-description: ‘My journey from being a failed perfectionist to becoming a perfect failure.’)

  64. Lvka says:

    Virtues are natural since we have them from birth, but not because they are part of our essence. They aren’t. They’re divine energies (attributes) that God graciously shares with His creation, but these energies or attributes have to be exercised or utilized by us, so that they might grow and bear fruit in our life and ultimately save us. The seeds that God planted have to be nurtured so that they might blossom. The talents the Master gave have to be multiplied by His faithful servants, not buried. This is the synergy that the Fathers talk about. Since they flow from God and are not properly a part of us, a constant link or connection with their divine Source has to be maintained, primarily by prayer, repentance, and divine mysteries, otherwise they become strangled and cut off and eventually wither and die out. This is the proper meaning of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”.

  65. Cyril says:

    Why is what I am saying either Docetism or monothelitism? If virtues are natural things that means they are part of us as created, as constituted. They are not added or learned habits. I guess to put it another way, what does synergy mean?

  66. robert says:

    I agree with Lvka. We are not Docetists, nor monothelites.

  67. Lvka says:

    Our energy (work) is the conscious, wilful, and personal enactment of those talents, virtues, and graces placed in us by God at our creation and baptism. They don’t just bear fruit by themselves, nor do they multiply themselves, automatically or mechanically. (I’m not sure I understand your question).

  68. Cyril says:

    Also, Lvka, I like very much your “My journey from being a failed perfectionist to becoming a perfect failure.”

  69. Cyril says:

    Lvka, I am not quibbling about all virtues, all graces, all talents, coming from God. My question is, does our own energy, the logos of our existence, when by grace corrected, have its own ‘light’? If we say, with St. Maximus, that virtues are natural things, what implications does this have for the sanctity and holiness of the Saints?

  70. Lvka says:

    Are the talents given to the three servants in the parable theirs or the Master’s?

  71. Cyril says:

    As I think back to it, my question was less direct than how I have here formulated it (what I should have asked, but was in a hurry to get my daughter home), and approached the matter from the fact that we are created for immortality though naturally mortal. Even though this is the case, are the saints wanting of their own light (I did not put it in terms of energies)? His response was that he had always taken it that the light was God’s alone.

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