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Are the Orthodox opposed to Thomas Aquinas?


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#61 Owen Jones

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:28 PM

Having just read Dionysius's chapter on evil in the Divine Names, a couple of comments. One has to be very careful not to say that this is "neo-Platonic." That reduces theology to intellectual history and treats ideas as if they have a separate existence of their own and then just passed down, and picked up and used. Is Dionysius influenced by the philosophical traditions? Of course. But he is also explicating Scripture, as he is quick to assert. He anticipates the objection that he is just "philosophizing," even doing so in a non-Biblical manner, even an unBiblical manner. But one has to appreciate that Orthodox theology is not like the midrash. It is more than just an historical or logical explication. It is a revelation. In this passage, Dionysius is, of course, discoursing on the fundamental and essential Orthodox Christian understanding of evil as a lack, a deprivation of the good, the "privatio bono," which is entirely Biblical. Starting with St. Paul, it was deemed necessary to reveal what the OT presented in historical terms to actually be figures and types of spiritual realities. This is a continuation of that tradition. It is a meditation on Genesis, not an explication of "neo-Platonic" concepts.

Given much confusion and fixation on the problem of evil in the world today, this passage should be on every high school student's required reading list.

#62 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 11:09 PM

I stumbled upon this this dissertation the other day: The Concept of "Being" in Aquinas and Palamas. The adventurous may find it of interest.

I confess that I find the scholastic method of St Thomas Aquinas "beyond my sympathies," as Tolkien might say. I spent several months several years ago trying to work my way through the Summa. Lacking the appropriate philosophical training I found it very hard going. But I also find St Maximus the Confessor hard going, too--indeed, virtually impossible and for the same reason.

But Aquinas is much more accessible in his biblical commentaries, many of which can be found on the internet. Aquinas is popularly thought of as a "scholastic," but he was steeped in Holy Scripture and his faith was formed by the Mass and Daily Offices.

Two things impress me about Aquinas.

First, Aquinas truly seeks to be a catholic, by which I mean, he attempts to listen to all Christian voices, Latin and Eastern, in his theological work. Unfortunately, he did not read Greek, so his knowledge of the Greek Fathers was limited to Latin translations, but he is constantly referring to the Greet Fathers--St John Chrysostom, St John Damascene, St Dionysius (Pseudo-Dionysius), and others. Perhaps this explains why he is one of the most apophatic theologians in the Latin tradition.

Second, Aquinas encourages us to take our earthliness seriously. One finds this note struck in Chesterton's biography of Aquinas, which should be required reading for anyone who expresses an opinion about the man. I came across the other day an interview with the Catholic theologian, Denys Turner, a specialist in medieval mysticism who has just written a book on Aquinas. Turner is quoted as saying:

For Thomas, theology recognizes that the material realm speaks God. Where God is most visibly present is in eating bread and drinking wine—don’t look in the clouds. Eating and drinking become, amazingly, the body and blood of Christ. The meaning of the whole universe is something as basic as bread and wine, eating and drinking, the washing of baptism. So I read him as a feet-on-the-ground theologian, not head-in-the-clouds. That puts him closer to Aristotle than Plato. I’m trying to retrieve my Aquinas from the Platonizers.


I find this sacramental way of thinking and experiencing the Christian faith quite appealing. Whether it is Orthodox, others will have to opine.

#63 Owen Jones

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 11:34 PM

Actually, it was Plato who was the practical, feet on the ground so to speak, philosopher, and Aristotle who was dealing with more theoretical abstractions. Both should be read together, and not so much in opposition but complementary. But when people say things to the effect that Plato was an idealist and Aristotle the realist, they simply don't know what they are talking about -- including Chesterton, who said some great things in his own right, and obviously ate a LOT of bread and drank a LOT of wine -- and so did Aquinas, who probably weighed in at around 400 lbs. I suppose the point by point refutation of Aquinas by an Orthodox theologian has yet to be attempted, but I'm not sure if that would really address the differences in my mind, which would be aesthetic. And, yes, St. Maximos is difficult, but it's a different kind of difficult. One should read Maximos, as all of our great theologians, with the desire to have one's eyes opened and hearts moved, and not focus so much on the words or concepts themselves.

#64 Lakis Papas

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:35 AM

There are four Greek orthodox writers of 14th century that wrote books against the theology of Aquinas: George Voilos (1 book), Mathew Philaretos(34 books) and Angelos Aidaros(40 books) and Kallistos Angelikoudis (40 books).

From all these books only one book is saved: one book that Kallistos Angelikoudis, a monk from Meleniko of Macedonia, wrote in 1380, in response to the work of Thomas Aquinas "Summa contra Gentiles". This document was published some years ago in Greek language, with a preface and an extensive introduction, in a private edition by Professor Stylianos Papadopoulos. The original manuscript is found at Iveron Monastery on Mount Athos, in code with No. 337.

The writing method of monk Angelikoudis is gleaning some 2000 passages from the book of Thomas, which are considered and refuted. Main targets of his criticism is the condemnation of the excessive use of Aristotelian positions. In his book Angelikoudis also defense hesychasm against Latin intellectualism that he reads in the work of Thomas.

The book of Angelikoudis can be found here : http://tinyurl.com/a74evmj ( IN GREEK ONLY )

#65 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 02:53 AM

Only on Monachos! Thanks Lakis!

#66 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 02:54 AM

Oh, and BTW, when were you planning on translating it into English?

#67 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 11:15 AM

Dr Plested describes Kallistos Angelikoudis as "a somewhat shadowy character" and says his book "is not an edifying work" since it is "overblown" and "venomous", an anti-rationalist "tirade" against Aquinas. Plested thinks St Mark of Ephesus was a more worthy opponent of Aquinas. Though anti-unionist, "Mark's approach to theology is distinctly scholastic" he having "been well trained in Aristotelian philosophy". Accordingly, says Plested, Mark "was not content to retreat into apophaticism . . . but perfectly prepared to beat the Latins at their own game". Plested sees St Mark's critique of Aquinas as "a competition between two rival scholasticisms".

#68 Lakis Papas

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:38 PM

Oh, and BTW, when were you planning on translating it into English?


Translation is really beyond my capacity! :)

But I have constructed the following list of pro-Thomas and anti-Thomas writers/theologians of Byzantium.

pro-Thomas

  • Bessarion (he became Cardinal of latin church)
  • Maximos Chrysoberges (latin friendly in general)
  • Andreas Chrysoberges (latin Archbishop of Rhodes)
  • Demetrios Kydones (anathematized by synod of 1368 which condemned the doctrine of Thomas)
  • Prochoros Kydones (younger brother of Demetrios -anathematized by synod of 1368 which condemned the doctrine of Thomas)
  • Manuel Kalekas (disciple of Demetrios Kydones)

anti-Thomas
  • Metropolitan of Ancyra, Makarios
  • Joseph Bryennios (sporadically writes against Aquinas)
  • Demetrios Chrysoloras (Prime Ministerin Thesaslonika)
  • Barlaam of Calabria (was converted to Latin Church but before that he wrote two books against Aquinas)
  • Neilos Cabasilas (archbishop of Thessalonica )
  • Mathaios Angelos Panaretos (a layman from Byzantine imperial court)
  • Makarios, (Metropolitan of Ancyra)
  • Joseph Bryennios (sporadically writes against Aquinas)
  • Demetrios Chrysoloras (Prime Minister in Thessalonika)
  • Mark of Ephesus (Eugenikos, saint, Archbishop of Ephesus - known for his defense of Eastern Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence)
  • Kallistos Angelikoudis (monk)
  • George Voilos
  • Mathew Philaretos
  • Angelos Aidaros

both pro-Thomas and anti-Thomas
  • Gennadios Scholarios (saint, he is in a mixed category)

Please feel free to add any Byzantine writers that I missed in the list.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 23 January 2013 - 12:52 PM.
typo


#69 Anna Stickles

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:53 PM

First, Aquinas truly seeks to be a catholic, by which I mean, he attempts to listen to all Christian voices, Latin and Eastern, in his theological work.


And he was truly Latin in that he wrote an apology against Greek Orthodox views of the filioque, papal supremacy, purgatory, etc. If he saw his beliefs as the same as or complementary to them he would not have written this. The Orthodox definition of "catholic" is not listening to all voices, (this may be the Latin definition of Catholic) but rather Catholic means "wholeness", universal in the sense of Christ's universal work of salvation.

This definition of catholic/ecumenical (for really they are the same word in two different languages) is precisely the type of thing that Met Heirotheos speaks against above. It is precisely the type of thing that St Mark of Ephesus spoke against after the council of Florence.

"Do you hear how they have departed not only in customs, but also in dogmas foreign to those of Orthodoxy (and what is foreign to Orthodox dogma is, of course, heretical teaching), and that, according to the canons, they must be catechized and united to Orthodoxy? And if it is necessary to catechize, then clearly it is necessary to anoint them with chrism. How have they suddently presented themselves to us as Orthodox, they who for so long and according to the judgment of such great Fathers and Teachers have been considered heretics? Who has so easily made them Orthodox?

‘But if,’ they say, ‘we had devised some middle ground (compromise) between dogmas, then thanks to this we would have united with them and accomplished our business superbly, without at all having been forced to say anything except what corresponds to custom and has been handed down by the Fathers.’ This is precisely the means by which many, from of old, have been deceived and persuaded to follow those who have led them off to the steep precipice of impiety; believing that there is some kind of middle ground between two teachings that can reconcile obvious contradictions, they have been exposed to peril.


I have to say that it has been a long while since I looked at Aquinas's writings, long before I became Orthodox. However, I spent some time browsing through some of his writings yesterday and I have to repent of what I said above. He is not a theologian, he is a philosopher dealing with theological subjects. The difference is that the philosopher tries to come to a coherent unity of thought through definitions and logical method. And this is exactly the struggle one can see Thomas Aqinas undertaking in his writings. The theologian comes to a coherent unity of thought through spiritual struggle and the grace of God. His mind is not the place where the struggle for coherence occurs but his whole person. The main place for this struggle is not in the mind, but the heart. Then once the theologian is whole, he writes from his own experience of God and man.

Always in the life of the Church it is Christology that has made someone acceptable or not. Here is a link to Thomas Aquinas's Christology. (a little way down the page is links to "Concerning the Union of the Word Incarnate") It is very slow and difficult going for me, but my initial impression is that here in his view of the union of natures is the root of both the errors in the Latin view of the filioque, as well as the root of the problems with the doctrine of created grace.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 23 January 2013 - 01:28 PM.


#70 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 01:57 PM

The uncompromising condemnation by St Mark of Ephesus of the Latins in his Encyclical Letter of 1440-1441 must also be taken to be a condemnation of their leading theologian Aquinas.

#71 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 03:09 PM

Please feel free to add any Byzantine writers that I missed in the list.


St Gregory Palamas.

#72 Lakis Papas

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 04:12 PM

I think the opponents of st. Palamas did not use arguments taken from Aquinas. For this reason, Palamas did not faced them with anti-Aquinas theology.

Synods between 1341 and 1351 had dealt with the dispute concerning the mystical doctrine of Hesychasm, in which st Palamas was involved. Then, a new anti-hesychast fight started after the death of Palamas (1359) and after the death of the protagonists (Barlaam, Akindynos) of the first anti-hesychast movement, from brothers Demetrius and Prochoros Kydones and others. These were different from the first anti-hesychast movement members only in that they completed their arguments with key elements that had been taken from the works of Thomas - saint Palamas had not answered to such arguments at all. In doing so, they created a new theological platform for a new anti-hesychast controversy and they presented new arguments that should be answered for first time.

It was in that new dispute that the theology of Thomas was involved for the first time, and eventually it was rejected in the Synod of 1368, where also Kydones brothers were condemned.

This is why I did not include st. Palamas in the list I had presented in an earlier post.

#73 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 05:07 PM

Perhaps then we could term it more loosely. In the Homilies of St Gregory Palamas translated & edited by C. Veniamin there is reference to Aquinas in relation to St Gregory's theology in footnote 149 p. 550.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#74 Mama Marina

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 10:03 PM

Chesterton, who said some great things in his own right, and obviously ate a LOT of bread and drank a LOT of wine -- and so did Aquinas, who probably weighed in at around 400 lbs.


Wait! Aquinas was about 400 lbs?! I had no idea.

I always figured he must have been thin because I remember reading part of one of his works re: gluttony and he had quoted St. Maximas the Confessor something along the lines of: "Unless you have mastered sin of gluttony then you haven't even begun to stand up yet in the spiritual battle."

Just another reminder of how disconnected Catholic theologians are - how they are simply full of "book" based knowledge, not "experience" based knowledge.

#75 Lakis Papas

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 10:33 PM

I agree father.

#76 Anthony Cornett

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 05:02 AM

Perhaps it has been referenced elsewhere, but I am curious if Owen and Lakis are familiar with the works of Schemamonk Constantine (Cavarnos) on the subject of Philosophy and Orthodoxy, particularly Plato and Aristotle? A comment made by Owen regarding being educated in Plato in coming to Orthodoxy, and not necessarily having a great connection to the OT is something that really resonated with me when reading the works of Cavarnos, which acted as a classroom introduction for me in the philosophical works. After reading his books, I was convinced that this approach should be much more prevalent for missionizing and catechizing those who come from a gentile upbringing, as the case of St Dionysios and others. Cavarnos educates and examines through a deeply Orthodox lens, and is happy to point out limitations of Orthodox adoption to such Philosophies.

A handful of the titles I own are as follows:
-Orthodoxy and Philosophy
-The Hellenic-Christian Philosophical Tradition
-Philosophical Dictionary (English-Greek and Greek-English)
-Plato's View of Man
-The Classicsl Theory of Relations: A Study in the Metaphysics of Plato, Aristotle, and Thomism

I admittedly have yet to read the last title, which is likely most beneficial to this thread. All of these can be found from the publisher: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies

#77 Ken McRae

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 05:39 PM

Hello friends,While I am no expert, I have done some reading on Thomas Aquinas and some Thomisms. I realize that as a whole, if I recall correctly, the Orthodox church doesn't smile on Scholasticism (and I certainly see why!). But at the same time, I found this entry on St Thomas Aquinas at orthowiki:-

"... The recent work of Anna Williams and others has pointed to the importance of deification in Aquinas and his similarity with St Gregory Palamas."


A FREE PDF DOWNLOAD:

The Ground of Union - Deification in Aquinas and Palamas - A.N. Williams

N.B. - This PDF file contains the entire text.




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