Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Romanides, image of God and apophatic theology


  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 Stephen Griffith

Stephen Griffith

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 15 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:01 PM

I have recently been reading the very illuminating Patristic Theology by Fr. John Romanides, however I have experienced some difficulty in understanding certain statements of his.

Romanides follows very strongly the Patristic method of apophatic theology and claims that according to Orthodoxy, God is totally unlike anything in the created order (in both essence and energies) it being a creation and He being the creator, thus it is inappropriate to take any use of language taken from things belonging to the created order to describe God hence if we must use language truthfully we must use it negatively to say what God is not, any positive use of language is only to be taken metaphorically to guide us toward theosis when we will experience God as He is and therefore have no need for language. As Romanides writes, ‘No similarity whatsoever exists between the uncreated and the created, or between God and creation. This also means that no analogy, correlation, or comparison can be made between them. This implies that we cannot use created things as a means for knowing the uncreated God or His energy.’

However if we maintain that God is totally unlike anything in the created order how are we to understand the human being as being made in the image of God, for as far as I understand, the Church Father’s understand the ‘image of God’ to mean that God created man as a creature with some likeness between itself and God, for example like God man possesses rationality, free will, dominion over creation etc.? How then are we to understand how while the Church Fathers maintain God’s total otherness from the created order they also maintain that man (a creature) is also somehow like God being made in His image? I thought the answer was that while God is totally transcended in essence He is imminent in His energies, yet Romanides asserts that God is totally transcendent in both essence and energies (though I am yet to hear any words from the Fathers to this effect). Is Romanides wrong (as I found Vladimir Moss claims – see link)? Similarly if Moss is right and there does indeed exist a likeness between God and man then where does this leave apophatic theology?

Please help me to understand.

In Christ
Stephen

Edited by Administrator, 19 August 2010 - 09:55 PM.
Added blank lines between paras; activated link


#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 20 August 2010 - 03:05 PM

I think that part of the problem here is with the categories that this is being seen through (eg transcendent/imminent). God is uncreated, simple, ultimately unknowable. This is Who He is and in every aspect of Who He is. So that it is not right to think of the essence/energy distinction as referring to essence: the unknowable God & energy: another 'part' of Him which is knowable. This is clearly wrong.

God then is both essence (ie His nature) communicating Himself through His life giving energies; and not as something different one from the other but as Who He is.

I am not sure though about this statement from Fr Romanides or why he put it this way:

This implies that we cannot use created things as a means for knowing the uncreated God or His energy.’

.

Maybe in Greek Fr Romanides means that God is still ultimately unknowable, that even as He communicates Himself to us through created things, and through Himself (His energies), He still is in a fundamental sense, not knowable to us as created towards the Uncreated. This is after all the context of the quote, even though in English at least it is too extreme.

In any case, God is knowable in a crucial sense. We are created in His image, which means not that we are identical to Him in essence, but that we are shaped in some approximation to Him (image is the best word) which allows us to to approach Him and liken ourselves to Him.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 21 August 2010 - 01:42 PM

There is a context here. Romanides is arguing against the analogy of being (analogia entis) as a proper theological method. He traces this influence from the Frankish takeover of the Latin Church and the consequent influence of Aristotle's writings on theological method in the West. As a consequence of the influence of Charlemagne and Alcuin, Latin theological method had to be consistent with Aristotle. This is particularly true with Aquinas (Dionysius the Areopagite was of equal influence for Aquinas). However, one of the interesting things about Aristotle was that the heavenly realm, and the realm of heavenly bodies represented perfection, and the world imperfection, and there was little or nothing in common between the two. So perhaps it is a stretch to argue that the analogy of being implies a similarity or commonality or some type of continuity on a scale between humanity and divinity. But it is a major distinction between Latin theology and Orthodox theology that Latin theology is a "being" theology, whereas the focus of Orthodoxy is to meditate on the things God has made to be able to "see" God in the things He has made. Latin theology is thinking about God. Orthodox theology is seeing God. We don't cry out: why have understood the truth faith, we cry out, "we have SEEN the true faith!"

Perhaps the confusion arises for Mr. Griffith is our doctrine of deification (theosis). If we are totally unlike God, then how can we be deified? And I think this trips a lot of people up. It is quite clear that the Fathers, and particularly the niptic and ascetic Fathers who address this in the Philokalia, we are to be deified to the extent that is possible while still in a material body. And what is deification then? It really is a transformation of our physical and spiritual sense organs such that we are capable of seeing things as they really are, as God made them and as God sees them. So, through polluted and distorted bodies we only see the evil, the distorted version of creation. Through purified bodies we can see the good in things. We can see God Himself in things (but not His essential nature). So how is this purified vision accomplished? Through obedience to the commandments. I hope my views on this are Orthodox and proper but if not I am certainly open to correction.

Another problem I think is the essential paradoxic structure of reality that it seems to me that Orthodoxy embraces, but which Romanides would assert Western theology attempts to overcome.

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 21 August 2010 - 03:15 PM

Owen wrote:

There is a context here. Romanides is arguing against the analogy of being (analogia entis) as a proper theological method.



This could very well be. Seeing the great influence of St Gregory Palamas during our time and which must have touched Fr Romanides as well it is hard to see what else he could be referring to.

He traces this influence from the Frankish takeover of the Latin Church and the consequent influence of Aristotle's writings on theological method in the West. As a consequence of the influence of Charlemagne and Alcuin, Latin theological method had to be consistent with Aristotle. This is particularly true with Aquinas (Dionysius the Areopagite was of equal influence for Aquinas). However, one of the interesting things about Aristotle was that the heavenly realm, and the realm of heavenly bodies represented perfection, and the world imperfection, and there was little or nothing in common between the two. So perhaps it is a stretch to argue that the analogy of being implies a similarity or commonality or some type of continuity on a scale between humanity and divinity.


Also in St Augustine this is not black & white. He is certainly one who knows his philosophers and with much more direct knowledge since in his time this philosophy in its pagan form was still ongoing. With Plato and Aristotle he is actually quite open minded granting that especially Plato is the closest to Christianity. However he does criticize Plato (or at least the Platonists) for not allowing direct contact between Divinity and the created even while implying it in terms of the popular worship they allow.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#5 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 21 August 2010 - 06:06 PM

also, terms like apophatic theology and cataphatic theology are really Western ways of looking at things. Although these are Greek terms, I don't think you will see the Church Fathers asserting things in this fashion. At the very least, these are complementary, not opposed.

#6 Bryan J. Maloney

Bryan J. Maloney

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 364 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 29 March 2011 - 04:43 PM

When I was being catechized, I was told that one of the Fathers wrote something like "When we say 'God is good.', we must also say 'God is not good.', because any good we can know is merely the goodness of men.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users