The Reformation as Ockham’s Revenge

September 23, 2011

“Another doctrinal current made its appearance in the Middle Ages, Duns Scotus being its outstanding exponent. He taught that the acts of the penitent-contrition, confession, satisfaction-though integral, are not essential parts of the sacrament of penance.  The only essential is the absolution in respect of the sins, the three acts of penitence being only the signs of it. Futhermore, he understood the efficacy of the sacrament in the sense of a remission of the fault and of the penalty. The forgiveness of sins does not result immediately from absolution; absolution provokes a certain disposition, and it is this disposition which, through God’s promise, calls forth forgivness.

Concerning contrition, he shows that there exist two ways of justification (in the scholastic sense): one, contrition (superior attrition), can dispense with the sacrament; the other, attrition, suffices for the remission of sins in the sacrament.  In connection with the discipline of confession he is less strict concerning its obligatory nature, holding that it is obligatory, by divine precept, only in the case of those in danger of death and as a preparation for certain duties requiring purity.

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A Paschal Meditation

April 3, 2010

“An awesome and marvelous mystery today is coming to pass. The Incorporeal One is being held; the One, freeing Adam from the curse is bound; He Who tries the inner hearts and thoughts of man , is unjustly tried; He Who sealed the abyss is shut up in prison. He stands before Pilate, before Whom the Powers of Heaven stand with trembling. The Fashioner is smitten by the hand of the fashioned; the Judge of the living and the dead is condemned to the Cross; the Despoiler of Hades is shut up in a Tomb; O forebearing Lord, compassionately enduring all things and saving all from the curse, glory to Your.”

When You the Redeemer of all, were placed in a new tomb for us all, Hades, the respecter of none, crouhed when he saw You. The bars were broken, the gates were shattered, the graves were opened, and the dead arose. Then Adam, gratefully rejoicing, cried out to You: ‘Glory to Your Condescension, O Merciful God.’

When You, O Christ, of Your own will, submitted bodily to be closed in the tomb, being by nature of the Godhead, remaining indescribable and limitless, You closed down the chambers of death, and emptied the palaces of Hades. Then You rendered this Sabbath worthy of blessing and glory, and of Your own splendor.

When You, the Immortal Life, descended to Death, You struck Hades dead with the lightning of the Godhead; and when You raised up the dead from the abyss, all the powers of Heaven cried aloud; ‘O Life Giver Christ, our God, glory to You!’

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Huperousia in John of Damascus

March 4, 2010

“As regards what God is, it is impossible to say what he is in his essence, so it is better to discuss him by abstraction from all things. For he does not belong to the class of existing things, not because he does not exist, but because he transcends all existing things, even existence itself. For if all forms of knowing have to do with what exists, certainly that which transcends knowledge must certainly also transcend essence: and so conversely that which transcends essence will also transcend knowledge.”

An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1.4


Divine Passivity and Simplicity in Eunomius

December 15, 2009

“It is interesting, however, that though the Neo-Arians made a clear distinction between God’s ungenerated essence and God’s activity (ένεργεία) as Father, Eunomius treated Jn. 14:28 as if it said, ‘The ungenerated essence who sent me is greater than I.”

Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism vo. 2, 320.

“From his introductory remarks it is clear that Eunomius intended to base a number of Part III’s arguments upon a refinement of the Middle Platonic theory of language Neo-Arianism had inherited. Like Albinus, Eunomius assumed that there is a ‘natural conformity of names with things’ and that ‘a name is a tool meant for teaching and differentiating the essence of each thing.’ Because it follows that a difference of names indicates a differences of essence, God who is ‘ungenerated’ and the Son who is ‘generate’ must be different in essence.’

Ibid., 321.

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Divine Simplicity in Aetius’ Neo-Arianism

October 1, 2009

 “4.  If God remains endlessly in ungenerated essence and the generate is endlessly generate, then the perverse doctrine of the homoousion and the homoiousion will be destroyed. And incomparability in essence is established when each of the two natures remains unceasingly in its proper rank of nature.

5. If God is ungenerated with respect to essence, what was generated was not generated by partition of essence, but he has made it to exist as a hypostasis by his power. For no pious reasoning permits the same essence to be generated and ungenerated.

6.  If the ungenerated has been generated, what prevents the genrerated from having become generated? For every nature shuns what is improper to it for what is proper to it.

7. If God is not entirely ungenerated, nothing hinders him from having generated essentially. But if he is entirely ungenerated, he was not partioned essentially in generation, but he made the generate to exist as a hypostasis by his power.

8. If the ungenerated God is entirely generative, what was generated was not generated essentially, since his entire essence is able to generate but not to be generated.  If the essence of God, having been transformed, is said to be generate, his essence is not unchangeable, since the change effected the formation of the Son. If the essence of God be unchangeableand superior to generation, relationship with the Son will be confessed to be a mere mode of address.”

10. If the generate was complete within the ungenerated,it is generate as a result of the things from which the ungenerrated generated it. This is false, for it is not possible that a generated nature be within an ungenerated essence.  For the same thing is not able both to be an not to be. For a generate thing is not able to be ungenerated, and being ungenerated could not have been a generate thing, since to say that God consists of unlike parts presents to him the height of blasphemy of hybris.

The Syntagmation

“We have seen from our discussion of syllogisms #5 and #6 that Aetius based at least part of his argument against homoousion on the expectation that his opponents would agree to the axiom of God’s essential unity or simplicity. Certainly syllogisms #7 and #8 depend on this axiom.  If God is admitted to be essentially compound, argued #7, then part of God’s essence could remin ungenerated while the other part  would be able to become generated-or, as syllogism #8b put it ‘transformed’ into that which is generated. But since God is admitted not to be compound, if he is ungenerated, he must be entirely ungenerated (#7).  On the other hand, the Christian tradiiton was unanimous in believing that he in some way caused the Son to exist as a separate entity. With partition ruled out, the only alternative left, reiterated Aetius, is that God’s essence created the Son, that ‘he made the generate to exist as a hypostasis by his power.’ (#7). Moreover, given God’s simplicity, the entire essence of God must have been involved in the creation of the son and, in that sense, to have been ‘entirely generative” (#8). The implicaiton was that God’s essence could have been generated in no sense whatsoever. Homoousion of the entirely generative one with the generated one is impossible. We see how crucial the assumption of God’s unity or simplicity was to Aetius arguments; this will become apparent once again when we consider syllogism #10.”

Thomas A. Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism, vol. 1, 231-232, 236.


Round and Round the Mulberry Bush

August 22, 2009

If you read enough in a given area you learn to recognize patterns, or at least you should. You begin to see the same issues come up or the same solutions more or less, but just in different dress. Once you get the pattern of problems in Origen, it is amazing how pervasive and long lasting they are. People go ground and round for centuries. This is one reason why the theology of Maximus the Confessor is so important and so liberating. Maxmus freed me from these problems. By the grace of God, he can free you too.

Here in John Piper’s remarks, you can see the implicit Origenism. In order for God to be God he must be God over something or more properly a cause of something.

It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all.…

Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it.

There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired.…

So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect. (Concerning the Divine Decrees, 528, emphasis added. On page 350 of Desiring God) HT to Inhabitatio Dei

I suppose the appropriate set of questions for Piper would be the following. Is creation necessary in order for God to be Lord? Is the Son subodinate in essence in order for the Father to be Father and Lord over someone, lest God’s attribute of being Lord go unrealized? Is it any wonder that modern Arianism (Unitarianism) came out of theology like this? It doesn’t seem to dawn on Piper that he is now advocating a kind of daulism with the good dependent on the evil. What relation has God with the devil? Piper seems to think plenty.  He has fully imbibed it seems the Hellenistic view that morality is dialetically conditioned, good has an opposite. (And people charge that Orthodoxy is baptized Platonism! Where Mr. Piper is this stuff stated in Scripture? So much for Sola Scriptura! ) I suppose the devil must be eternal now in order for God to be God too?! (I must confess I’d pay real money to see an exchange between James White and Piper on White’s claim that God fulfills the conditions on libertarian free will and Piper’s claim that evil is necessary for God to be fully God-Ah, the monkey and the weasel!)

As an aside, Piper’s view is also in principle reemniscient of Open Theism or Process Theism-God is incomplete without the world. Please, someone call Bruce Ware, quick! Who would have thought that Calvinism and Open Theism had so much in common?

Heaven deliver us from such madness. St. Maximus, pray for us!


The Humanistic basis of the filioque and the seeds of Secularism

June 6, 2009

“Therefore if the Son proceeds from God the Father and the Holy Spirit also proceeds, what will keep the Arians silent, not blaspheming that the Holy Spirit is also the Son of the Father.” –Ratramnus of Corbie, Contra Graecorum Opposita Romanam Ecclesiam Inflamantium, PL 121, 247

“In general, according to these new sophists, who appropriate the possession of truth to themselves, each Person is Lord over each of the Personal Characteristics.  Thus, to them it seems as if the converse proposition, namely, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, is contrary to the dignity of each Person. In a word, however, it is ultimately we men who determine the processions of the essence, and therefore, it is we men who determine which Persons will not submit themselves to share in the characteristics of the other Persons.” – St. Photios the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 18


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