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St Gregory Palamas' teachings questioned by theologians

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#1 Lakis Papas

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 05:38 PM

In the monthly magazine "Τhe parish priest", published by the clergy association of the Church of Greece, a letter was sent by an Archimandrite stating the following:
 
1. St. Gregory Palamas never theologized in accuracy, but in ""economia" - economia is discretionary deviation from the letter of the law in order to adhere to the spirit of the law and charity. 
 
2. The admission of his teaching is not necessary from an Orthodox standpoint and the whole issue of uncreated grace has not has not completely answered
 
3. There are many  Russian but also Western theologians against the theology of Palama
 
4. The mystery of the divine economy is the descent of God in human space, and creation of human nature of Christ, that God in Christ to communicate with people and teach them
 
5. Because of the ontological difference between GOD (uncreated) and humans (created), it is impossible for man to participate in the uncreated energies of God, for (unlike the teaching of St. Palama) Man becomes God by participating in created results of uncreated energies
 
6. Man lacks instrument capable of participating in the uncreated energies of God
 
7. The position of the Bible, that "God resides in unapproachable light", whom no man has seen and no man can see, forces us to recognize that Tabor light is created.


#2 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 06:59 PM

It's impossible to know from just these seven points whether the good archimandrite rightly understands the concept of "divine energies." I didn't until I read this somewhat difficult but worthwhile book by David Bradshaw, a leading Orthodox professor of philosophy. The book is all about the concept energeia, which originated with Aristotle. Below the link is the review I wrote on Amazon at the author's request.

 

In Christ,

Pdn. Patrick

 

http://www.amazon.co...m/dp/0521035562

 

Prof. Bradshaw has written a brilliant but readable book for serious thinkers. The subject itself is difficult, but Bradshaw does a masterful job of making it as plain as possible. The reader who perseveres will be rewarded with a clear and compelling contrast between two very different Gods: a Western God who can be rationally comprehended but only seen from some distance, in the Beatific Vision, and an Eastern God who is beyond comprehension but whose divine nature is not seen but shared, through participation in the divine energeia. Bradshaw clearly favors the latter, but the reader is left to judge for himself which view better fits the biblical testimony, in which we are called to be "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17) and "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The book should be especially enlightening to Protestant and Evangelical readers, to whom the Orthodox teaching on "divine energy" sometimes seems bizarre. After they read this book, it will not seem so.

The book also provides a scholarly corrective to the ignorant notion that the coming of Christianity meant the end of reason and the "closing of the Western mind." The truth is exactly the opposite. As Bradshaw shows, the neoplatonist school of late pagan philosophy was edging its way toward Christianity and ultimately approximated the Christian understanding of God with its own trinities of "the One, Intellect, and Soul" and "Being, Life, and Intellect." What neoplatonism lacked was a sense of divine personhood and a compelling reason to believe its own speculation. Christianity satisfied such deficiencies with an incarnate Christ, a convincing historical narrative, a rich liturgical heritage, and a welcoming human community, in addition to a theology that in time far surpassed anything the philosophers were capable of. Far from being the end of philosophy, Christianity was its fulfillment.

The book should furthermore prompt readers to rethink the false dichotomy of philosophy and theology. As Bradshaw shows, the great Greek philosophical tradition of Plato and Aristotle was fundamentally theological. Take out the theology and the philosophy dies. The proof is in today's academy, where philosophy is taught as archaeology, a field of dead ideas of interest only to academics, leading students not to truth but to doubt and despair. No wonder that Christians themselves have taken to talking in terms of a Christian "worldview," when what they mean is what the ancients called philosophy. With this book and others like it, perhaps we can recover a better appreciation for the "Holy Wisdom" that enlightened the ancient world before darkness entirely overtakes our modern one.



#3 Kosta

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 10:53 PM

This archimandrite sounds like an ecumenist, who cares what western theologians think? The only thing that matters is what the Palamite councils of the 14th century taught and ratified..

#4 Lakis Papas

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 10:25 AM

@Kosta

 

St Palama and the councils make clear that "divine energies (the grace of the Spirit) is different from the Substance (divine nature), and yet not separated from it". 

 

One of the major concerns is the inability of man to participate in the divine realities. How is it possible to consider the divine nature absolutely incommunicable and at the same time to accept that man can participate to the divine uncreated energies? I think this contradiction remains with no answer by the councils and by st Palama. 

 

In simple english the unanswered question is similar to the following analogous question: How is it possible for a blind man to see light signals from the opposite bank of a river? ("blind man" is a human being- "light signals from the opposite bank of a river" is the uncreated energies radiated from the incommunicable divine nature). Schematically, οn the one bank of the river is the created human nature and on the other side is the uncreated divine nature. (we assume that the blind man can hear but can not see, we also assume that the divine nature radiates uncreated light as one of uncreated energies)  

 

The answers to this question is one of the following:

 

1) A miracle (inexplicable intervention) makes the blind man capable of seeing the light signals - this is unacceptable because then by reduction to the original question this would imply than man eventually participates to divine nature by obtaining the nececcary instruments to take part in what was incommunicable by nature.

 

2) A miracle transforms the light into sounds so that the blind man can hear and participate by an indirect way in receiving the radiation of light from the opposite bank of the river. This is acceptable because by reduction to the original question this would imply than man eventually participates to divine energies by taking part in created results of uncreated energies. But then this is not what st Palamas and the councils defined.

 

So there is no clear resolution on how the participation in uncreated Grace preserves partitipation in divine nature impossible.

 

 

 



#5 Kosta

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Posted 22 March 2015 - 06:53 AM

Im not sure why we have to make this so difficult. The very term Theotokos means the Virgin Mary participated in the hypostatic union. She carried God Himself in her womb without being consumed. We aquire the Holy Spirit at chrismation and its up to us to stir up that gift within us. Is the aquisition of the Holy Spirit a created "thing"?

The Kingdom of God is within us, when a saint deified transforms his surroundings where even the animals become docile, he becomes the very medium of God's divine energy, there is no need to scientifically explain the mechanism. The very scholastic approach to scientifically explain presupposes a "created operation" that can be explained or measured, the uncreated energies simply "are".

#6 Lakis Papas

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Posted 22 March 2015 - 02:20 PM

Kosta, there is an essential issue that is in question here: whether Grace is created or not!

It is not the "mechanics" of Grace that is important but whether salvation is about humans becoming Gods by Grace, or is about humans becoming perfect creatures.

It is not a scholastic question. If humans take part in the Life of God, by seeing the uncreated Light, then God becomes a subject which can be seen by creatures. If vision of God by humans relates to uncreated aspects of divine realm then we humans become gods thus we destroy the Divine privilege of God having divine nature absolutely incommunicable.

#7 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 22 March 2015 - 04:04 PM

It is written in the Prophet Isaiah,

 

"And it came to pass in the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the house was full of His glory. And round about Him stood seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings; and with twain they covered their face, and with twain they covered their feet, and with twain they did fly. And they cried one to another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Sabaoth: the whole earth is full of His glory. And the lintel was lifted up at the voice wherewith they did cry; and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, O wretch that I am, for I am pricked to the heart; because I am a man, and have unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people which have unclean lips: and with mine eyes have I seen the King, the Lord of Sabaoth."

- Translation Rdr Micheal Asser (emphisis mine)



#8 Lakis Papas

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Posted 22 March 2015 - 04:37 PM

 Prophet Isaiah had a vision that is compatible with the following biblical verses:
 
John 1:18
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
 
1 Timothy 6:16
who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
 
Exodus 33:20
But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
 
Thus, God's nature is unapproachable.


#9 Kosta

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Posted 22 March 2015 - 08:09 PM

St. Gregory taught the uncreated divine energies were distinct from the essence. Thus we can never harness the divinie essence which is unique to the Trinity, but we can participate in the energies from the hypostasis of the Son and Holy Spirit. When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus, the dunameis (power) flowed out from Him (Lk 8.46). She did not plug herself into the divine essence, but she was able to participate in the divine energy of the hypostasis of the Son through her faith.

Edited by Kosta, 22 March 2015 - 08:11 PM.


#10 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 07:36 PM

 Prophet Isaiah had a vision that is compatible with the following biblical verses:
 
John 1:18
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
 
1 Timothy 6:16
who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
 
Exodus 33:20
But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
 
Thus, God's nature is unapproachable.

Indeed, but is this not exactly why St Gregory makes the distinction between Essence and Energy.



#11 Lakis Papas

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 03:40 PM

But the question is whether God's Energies are created or not.

 

If they are uncreated and they are humanly experienced, in their uncreated fashion, then man should have the potential to "touch" the untouchable.  



#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 03:59 PM

So what did Peter, James, and John behold on Mount Tabor? Why do we have the second Sunday in Great Lent dedicated to St Gregory Palamas? What of the testimony of so many saints and elders who have experienced the Uncreated Light? What then is theosis? Beware of blind guides, deceivers, and imposters.



#13 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 10:11 PM

But the question is whether God's Energies are created or not.

 

If they are uncreated and they are humanly experienced, in their uncreated fashion, then man should have the potential to "touch" the untouchable.  

The point is that there cannot be a question if we maintain that Isaiah saw God and said "with mine eyes have I seen the King, the Lord of Sabaoth." and we therefore - knowing also that "No one has seen God at any time."- make a distinction between knowing the essence of God and God manifesting Himself, which we say is the energies of God,  we cannot then say that these are created or we void the first point, for Isaiah did not then behold the Lord of glory he did not partake in God's energies, but rather beheld a created vision participated in created energies which be definition cannot be God for God is uncreated. 

 

"then man should have the potential to touch the untouchable" Is this not what happened in Christ, did not Christ assume the fullness of our humanity and hypostatically unite it to the fullness of his divinity, maintaining the fullness of both, He "being God before all ages, appeared on earth and lived with mankind. Becoming incarnate from a holy Virgin, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, conforming to the body of our lowliness, that He might change us in the likeness of the image of His glory." -(Anaphora of St Basil) Did not as St Athansius says God become man that man might become God, indeed Saint Peter (writing before such theological development in our distinctions and terminology) goes as far as saying that He makes us partakers of the Divine Nature.

 

In the risen Christ.

Daniel,



#14 Lakis Papas

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Posted 29 April 2015 - 06:40 PM

Sometimes the terminology confuses the issue. Certainly the holy fathers did not speak about participation in God's essence. This is clear. When they use the word "nature" they use the term with some different meaning.

 

1) Glory of God is uncreated but the vision of Glory can be a created vision. In the paragraph I will explain how this could be posssible.

 

2) Christ appeared on earth in the same manner that humans do - in a created fashion. The hypostasis of a man (created for mortal humans and uncreated for God-man Christ) is not the appearance itself. In Christ's incarnation we have an example of how created appearence and uncreated viewless were united. "What" was seen was a man, "who" was Christ. "What" and "who" are different. By the appearence of the human nature of Christ we meet with Him. The vision of Christ's  human nature is created but the "Who" is being viewed is uncreated.

 

When apostles touched Christ, they touched real flesh, they were not touching uncreated nature, yet they touched Him, Who is not created.

 

His energies as a man were performed in a created mode: they had a starting point and an ending point. By these energies, for example as Ηe spoke in real human voice, the audience took part in the revelation of the inaccessible glory of God. He also performed miracles, which were created energies (as they performed in specific timeframe) but they are in essense blessings of his Grace - which is unlimited in time and space without beginning or end.

 

It is exactly the Incarnation that provides an example of union of created and uncreated and an example of how created energies manifest and provide the path to meet with the Uncreated.

 

Even Resurection, en event beyond time, took place in a specific time and place - because the human nature of Christ was connected with a time-space framework (like all human natures). And then, at his Ascension, Ηis human body transcendentally is enthroned in reality at the right side of the Father at a point in time.



#15 Owen Jones

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 01:23 PM

It seems an odd position to take, Lakis, for one who quotes Bohr on the paradoxic nature of reality.  One of the most essential characteristics of Orthodox Christians is that we embrace the paradoxic instead of trying to resolve it or overcome it.



#16 Owen Jones

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 02:09 PM

So what's the problem with this:?

 

In Part I we put before the
readers of this study the texts of Books II and III of Augustine's De
Trinitate. Here they may see for themselves the teaching of Barlaam the
Calabrian concerning what the Fathers came to call the heresy of "τ�
γινόμενα καί τ� απογινόμενα". In other words according to
Augustine the prophets of the Old Testament and the prophets and the
apostles of the New Testament did not see anything uncreated except by
means of creatures which God brings into existence to be seen and heard
and which He then passes back out of existence once their mission is
accomplished
. Within this category Augustine even includes such
revelations as the Angel of the Lord Who appeared to Moses in the
burning bush and Who is considered uncreated by both the Jews and the
Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils.



w.gifIn
Part II we present texts of Fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical
Councils which identify Christ the Logos of the New Testament with the
Angel of Great Council and Lord/Yaweh of Glory of the Old Testament Who
appeared to His friends the prophets of the Old Testaments. In this way
the reader may see for himself whether Augustine belongs to the same
tradition as the Fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils. It
is up to the reader to compare the texts of Part I and Part II to see
whether Augustine teaches the same about the Lord Yaweh of Glory as the
Fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils. Thus they will see
for themselves that the heresies of Barlaam the Calabrian condemned at
the Ninth Ecumenical Council are those of Augustine himself



w.gifIn
Part III we will deal with the New Creed of 381 AD which was cloned
into existence by the World Council of Churches by taking the words of
the Historical Creed out of its own Patristic context and making a
mixture baked by Protestants, Vaticanians and so-called Orthodox into
their own Creed.



w.gifIn contrast to the Augustinian assertions of Part I, which are too silly to be called heresies,
both the Arians and the Eunomians condemned by the First and Second
Ecumenical Councils accepted that the Logos and the Holy Spirit were the
first creations of God by which He creates and sanctifies created
beings, but nevertheless remain in existence permanently.
In contrast Augustine's Logos and Holy Spirit are simple manners of
existence of the divine essence as related to itself, somewhat like the
uncreated energies of God in the teaching of our Orthodox Fathers.



w.gifWhat
is truly amazing is that the East Romans being lead by St. Gregory
Palamas at the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1451 never realized that that
the silly teachings of Barlaam, which they were condemning, were the
teachings of Augustine himself. For this reason they claimed that the
devil himself inspired this Calabrian to teach his new heresies. While
pointing this out, this writer has never raised the question about the
sainthood of Augustine. He himself believed himself to be fully Orthodox
and repeatedly asked to be corrected.[ 1 ][ 2 ][ 3 ][ 4 ][ 5 ][ 6 ][ 7 ][ 8 ][ 9 ][ 10 ]
Although the prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament had reached
glorification, yet they did die, but were resurrected with Christ and
became members of His Body, the Church, on Pentecost.



#17 Owen Jones

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:22 PM

Lakis,

 

Don't see how God becomes a "subject" when He communicates with us through His uncreated energies.  He is not communicating His Essence, which is precisely the reason behind the Orthodox Essence/Energies distinction.  It's a distinction, not a dichotomy.

 

Also, when the disciples touched Christ, both before and after His glorification, what are they touching.  Can't divide the human and Divine nature.  They are never touching just the human nature. 

 

While Christ performed healing miracles, His uncreated Energy was communicated to the woman with a hemorage -- through His garment!  Without His will even being a part of it apparently. 



#18 Lakis Papas

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 08:27 AM

Lakis,
 
Don't see how God becomes a "subject" when He communicates with us through His uncreated energies.  He is not communicating His Essence, which is precisely the reason behind the Orthodox Essence/Energies distinction.  It's a distinction, not a dichotomy.
 
Also, when the disciples touched Christ, both before and after His glorification, what are they touching.  Can't divide the human and Divine nature.  They are never touching just the human nature. 
 
While Christ performed healing miracles, His uncreated Energy was communicated to the woman with a hemorage -- through His garment!  Without His will even being a part of it apparently. 


I have a question: angels receive God's Grace, are they also going to "become Gods" like humans ?

#19 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 12:37 PM

I'm afraid I don't understand the question, or how it relates to the question of uncreated energies of God. 



#20 Lakis Papas

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 08:31 PM

Dear Owen Jones, 

 

Gregory Palamas states in his Confession of Faith submitted to the 1351 Council:

 

[God] is not revealed in his essence (*ousia*), for no one has ever seen or described God's nature (*physis*); but he is revealed in the grace (*charis*), power (*dynamis*) and energy (*energeia*) which is common to Father, Son and Spirit. Distinctive to each of the three is the person (*hypostasis*) of each, and whatever belongs to the person. Shared in common by all three are not only the transcendent essence -- which is altogether nameless, unmanifested and imparticipable, since it is beyond all names, manifestation and participation -- but also the divine grace, power, energy, radiance, kingdom and incorruption whereby God enters through grace into communion and union with the holy angels and the saints.





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