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Palamite teaching and speaking about the Holy Spirit

palamite divine essence

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#1 John Starr

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Posted 26 July 2015 - 05:46 PM

I have a question which I originally sent to Fr. Tom Hopko concerning the Divine essence and energies when speaking about the Holy Trinity. 

Specifically he gave a wonderful podcast on the “Necessity of the Trinity” and I am trying to reconcile his articulate exposition on the Holy Trinity with the Palamite teaching on the Divine energies and Divine essence. I realize you can not speak on his behalf or review the podcast, but I think you may help me to gain clarity in this matter where I am genuinely confused. He stated in his podcast, and this isn’t verbatim, that God by his very nature, not by his will, by how he is, just by what Divinity is, that there must be a Father and a Son. 

My question would be, is not describing how the Godhead works speaking about the essence of God? Or is it that we being creatures are just completely incapable of making a statement about God’s nature and simply completely beyond us no matter what we can say in our human limitations? That in fact anything that has been revealed to us about God through Christ, the Fathers, the councils,, the life of saints, holy people. etc. would be an outcome of his Divine energies exclusively. I just get confused when the term “ by nature” God is such and a declaration about His nature is made.

I would greatly appreciate some clarification and maybe a helpful resource that addresses this matter.  



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 July 2015 - 06:19 PM

May we know your name and your denomination?



#3 John Starr

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Posted 27 July 2015 - 07:18 PM

May we know your name and your denomination?

My name is John and I was brought up in the roman catholic church



#4 Lakis Papas

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 06:05 PM

This is actually a philosophical issue that aquired theological clothing. Philosophy asks "what", "who", "how".

Theology never asks, it presents and gives witness.

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 07:43 PM

My name is John and I was brought up in the roman catholic church

 

Thank you; your question is interesting and I should like to consider it when I have more time - in the next few days.



#6 Deacon John Martin

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 05:44 PM

For reference, the original podcast can be found here: The Necessity of the Trinity

 

In order to answer your question, we need to first define what is meant by “energy.” According to St. John of Damascus, energy “is the natural force and activity of each essence: or again, natural energy is the activity innate in every essence: and so, clearly, things that have the same essence have also the same energy, and things that have different natures have also different energies.” He also defines energy as “the force in each essence by which its nature is made manifest.” In this latter definition, energy has a relational point of view, how a nature is manifested to us. For example, how we can tell the difference between a man and a monkey is that they manifest significantly different energies.

 

We believe in the dogma of the Holy Trinity precisely because it was revealed to us through the divine energies. In the podcast, Fr. Hopko mentions that as a young seminarian he said to his dogmatics professor that he couldn't find the dogma of the Trinity in the Bible. To which the professor replied, “Get a notebook and, just in the New Testament Scriptures, go through the 27 books, which are not very long, and every time that there’s a reference to God, or Father, or Father of Jesus, put that in one column. Then, whenever there’s a mention of Jesus, Christ as God’s Son and as the Word of God and as the Lord, and everything else that’s said about him, put that in a second column. Then, in your notebook, have a third column where you write Holy Spirit or Spirit of God, or Spirit of Christ, or Spirit of the Lord, or breath of the Almighty, or whatever. And wherever you find that, write that down in the column, and then mediate on how they relate to each other and you will come up with what we call, and what came to be called by the fourth century the doctrine of the Holy Trinity…” Thus, because the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have the same energy, they have the same essence.

 

When we say what God is “by nature,” i.e. that He is good, just, etc. we are also making a statement about His energies, because that is how He manifests Himself to us. But of His essence we cannot say anything positive, but must make negative statements, such as that He is infinite, i.e. without limits.



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 07:12 PM

I was going to try to answer but post #6 says much. The classic teaching (which I was given) is that since God is love, He must exist in the Trinity so that love circulates amongst the Three Persons (sometimes called perichoresis); if God were one Person, He could not be love because that love would be self-regarding.



#8 Lakis Papas

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 08:23 PM

Classical meaning of energy: "Energy" derives from the works of Greek philosopher Aristotle particularly his circa 350 BC Metaphysics in which he used the term Greek term ἐνέργεια (taken over into Latin as energia) with the meaning of the “realized state of potentialities”, presumably having to do with that which has the ability to bring about something else. Aristotle also employs it to distinguish activity from potentiality, and to imply the ceaseless transformation of the potential into the actual. In sum, Aristotle used the term enérgeia to clarify, in one sense, the definition of “being” as potency (dýnamis) and act (enérgeia).

Classical meaning of essense: "Essense" is the standard English translation of Aristotle's curious phrase “the what it was to be” for a thing. Aristotle also sometimes uses the shorter phrase “the what it is,” for approximately the same idea. He also provides the following definition: “the essence of a thing is what it is said to be in respect of itself”. It is important to remember that for Aristotle, one defines things, not words. The definition of tiger does not tell us the meaning of the word ‘tiger’; it tells us what it is to be a tiger, what a tiger is said to be in respect of itself. Thus, the definition of tiger states the essence—the “what it is to be” of a tiger, what is predicated of the tiger per se.

Church Fathers had to answer to philosophers using the aristotelian dictionary. But in doing so they changed the meaning of the words according to emperical difference bettwen saints and philosophers.

As saints experienced the view of God, they tried to explain their experience to philosophers, who did not had this experience. So they explained: the vision of God lacks completeness, while is a real and actual vision of God, it lacks the most essential view of "what God is" (this is a philoshophical lack of completeness!). Putting in philoshophical phrasing: saints do not experience the aristotelian "essense" of God. But saints had to also add: the vision of God is a real complete experience of seeing God, that they called partitipation in God's "energies". The use of term "energy" here as a new theological term is not identical to the philosophical term "energy". Philosophers had to drop their aristotelian definition in order to understant the saints.

Actually, we as christians, have to drop philoshopical meaning of words "essense" and "energy" when we read how saints explain their experience of seeing God. Saints have to use two words to explain the paradox of seeing God while God remained unseen. They borrowed two philosophical words which they transformed into new theological meaning based on their experience.


Edited by Lakis Papas, 01 August 2015 - 08:26 PM.


#9 Anna Stickles

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 06:28 PM

My question would be, is not describing how the Godhead works speaking about the essence of God?

 

In Orthodoxy the essence/energy discussion has a context in how St Gregory's opponent Barlaam was saying that we could not know God at all - period. This is in contradiction to Thomas Aquinas teaching that God could be known in essence through supernaturally changing the capacity of our nature. The though these two had different conclusions, the starting place taken by both Balaam and Aquinas misses something that is basic to Orthodox theology. Both were attempting to answer this question through a rational exploration rather then through experience gained by prayer and a real experience of God.

 

The Orthodox starting point is that our knowledge of God is limited due to how we can only know that which we are capable of knowing.  This is the main point in St Gregory's essense/energy distinction. The main point is not really to try to explain the parts (as if essence is one thing and energy another) in God.

 

 Fr Hopko follows Orthodox tradition in teaching in saying that what we know of God is what He deigns to reveal to us - through creation, through the life we live in the Church, and through the healing and bringing to life by Christ and the Holy Spirit of the image of God in ourselves, but even in this latter we will still never know God as He is in Himself and as He knows Himself, our nature is not capable of this, rather we know Him as He has interpenetrated and come into communion with man and the rest of creation.

 

Below is the first chapter of St John Damascus Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. While essence and energies are not directly mentioned he is addressing the same subject in a different way. 

No one hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him(1). The Deity, therefore, is ineffable and incomprehensible. For no one knoweth the Father, save the Son, nor the Son, save the Father(2). And the Holy Spirit, too, so knows the things of God as the spirit of the man knows the things that are in him(3). Moreover, after the first and blessed nature no one, not of men only, but even of supramundane powers, and the Cherubim, I say, and Seraphim themselves, has ever known God, save he to whom He revealed Himself.

God, however, did not leave us in absolute ignorance. For the knowledge of God's existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature. This creation, too, and its maintenance, and its government, proclaim the majesty of the Divine nature(4). Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets(5) in former times and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour(6), seeking for nothing beyond these. For God, being good, is the cause of all good, subject neither to envy nor to any passion(7). For envy is far removed from the Divine nature, which is both passionless and only good. As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable(8) to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition(9). It is necessary, therefore, that one who wishes to speak or to hear of God should understand clearly that alike in the doctrine of Deity and in that of the Incarnation(1), neither are all things unutterable nor all utterable; neither all unknowable nor all knowable(2).

 

The Orthodox position on this as defended by St Gregory Palamas is that our ability to know God is something implanted in nature itself, not some supernatural ability added to nature by some kind of created light, which is what Aquinas taught. Likewise, against Balaam he affirms that we can know God truly and that the revelation of God to man did not just consist in created effects. St Gregory affirmed that God has revealed Himself through the Incarnation and a genuine communion and interpenetration of the divine and human.
 

  Knowledge of God is revelatory and is dependent on God revealing Himself. As St John says, " He revealed that which it was to our profit
to know; but what we were unable(8) to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition".
IN other words God is known in humility of mind, not through the attempt to rationally comprehend everything.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 02 August 2015 - 06:32 PM.


#10 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 03:27 PM

My question would be, is not describing how the Godhead works speaking about the essence of God?

 

In Orthodoxy the essence/energy discussion has a context in how St Gregory's opponent Barlaam was saying that we could not know God at all - period. This is in contradiction to Thomas Aquinas teaching that God could be known in essence through supernaturally changing the capacity of our nature. The though these two had different conclusions, the starting place taken by both Balaam and Aquinas misses something that is basic to Orthodox theology. Both were attempting to answer this question through a rational exploration rather then through experience gained by prayer and a real experience of God.

 

The Orthodox starting point is that our knowledge of God is limited due to how we can only know that which we are capable of knowing.  This is the main point in St Gregory's essense/energy distinction. The main point is not really to try to explain the parts (as if essence is one thing and energy another) in God.

 

 Fr Hopko follows Orthodox tradition in teaching in saying that what we know of God is what He deigns to reveal to us - through creation, through the life we live in the Church, and through the healing and bringing to life by Christ and the Holy Spirit of the image of God in ourselves, but even in this latter we will still never know God as He is in Himself and as He knows Himself, our nature is not capable of this, rather we know Him as He has interpenetrated and come into communion with man and the rest of creation.

 

Below is the first chapter of St John Damascus Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. While essence and energies are not directly mentioned he is addressing the same subject in a different way. 

 

The Orthodox position on this as defended by St Gregory Palamas is that our ability to know God is something implanted in nature itself, not some supernatural ability added to nature by some kind of created light, which is what Aquinas taught. Likewise, against Balaam he affirms that we can know God truly and that the revelation of God to man did not just consist in created effects. St Gregory affirmed that God has revealed Himself through the Incarnation and a genuine communion and interpenetration of the divine and human.
 

  Knowledge of God is revelatory and is dependent on God revealing Himself. As St John says, " He revealed that which it was to our profit
to know; but what we were unable(8) to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition".
IN other words God is known in humility of mind, not through the attempt to rationally comprehend everything.

 

 

IN other words God is known in humility of mind, not through the attempt to rationally comprehend everything.

 

Anna,

 

As I was perusing this Thread, I was struck by  your last sentence above, especially the term:  " humility of mind".

How is one to approach or understand THIS " humility of mind"?  I find at times that I am so distant from this " humility of mind"  I wonder what does it really entail, especially when I am reading Scripture, or the Fathers, or some other Orthodox writer.  What is this " humility of mind" within myself as I personally read and ponder these writings, and at times feel deeply connected to the WORD .  I'm not specifically looking for a direct answer, but only  hope to understand a little more deeply this " humility of mind".

 

Thank you, Anna, or to any one else who would post a response.


Edited by Marie+Duquette, 01 September 2015 - 03:29 PM.


#11 Anna Stickles

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 05:38 PM

Humility of mind, as far as I understand from the writing of the Orthodox ascetics, is not to trust our own thoughts, feelings and perception of things. As St Paul says, "indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. "   Unseen Warfare  ch 2 deals with this same topic, and then some later chapters talk about the work necessary to take time and really know things as they are, and not just as our feelings, impressions, etc. make them out to be.  I think this all takes place in the context of relying on and conforming ourselves to Christ as He has made Himself present in His Body.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 01 September 2015 - 05:49 PM.


#12 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 08:31 PM

"Humility of Mind"  and how to approach and understand more deeply this " Humility of Mind"  

 

Thank you Anna for responding to my query concerning the above!  This has been veery helpful!  It took me a while to find my volume entitled:

INNER WARFARE.  It was in a little hidden place.  A treasure indeed in this day by day journeying of Life.  It was good to take this volume up again, and

to discover this valuable KEY of " humility of mind".  It all depends upon God and my trusting in His Ways, by co-operating with His Grace and Presence

through the many daily encounters with Him.  Glory to God for all Things, especially for a new beginning at this time of year, New Liturgical Year!






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