Blog Archive

Saint Moses the Black

Saint Moses the Black
Saint Moses the Black

Popular Posts


Saint John the Theologian

Saint John the Theologian
Saint John the Theologian


Total Pageviews

Powered By Blogger
Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Western confusion of the divine energy with the divine essence

From the Introduction:

The fact that God desires the salvation of all does not mean that all are saved. God saves only through love and freedom. This point is exactly what theologians under the influence of Augustine have never comprehended. Thinking that the divine essence, energy, and will are identical, they were not in a position to even suspect that free beings outside of God are capable of acting against the divine will. Therefore, it is not at all strange that Western theologians find a kind of crypto-Pelagianism everywhere in the Greek Fathers and attempt to justify themselves by inquiring if there is some unexplained reason why the Eastern Fathers were not interested in the great problems of original sin and divine grace that preoccupied the West. It is very natural for them to think this way since they have erroneous preconceptions about God's relations with the world. As a result, it is impossible for them to seriously accept that death exists in the world as a kind of parasite apart from the will of God, and that the divine will and the salvific divine energy are not one and the same thing. God does not will death. Nevertheless, He does not act to destroy it until He has prepared men to accept life.

In 431, the Holy Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Synod at Ephesus condemned Pelagianism and emphasized that death is unnatural and grace is of absolute necessity for salvation. The president of the Synod and chief polemicist against the heresies was St. Cyril of Alexandria, who wrote the following about the transmittal of the ancestral sin to the descendants of Adam: "But what can one say? Yes, Adam indeed fell and, having ignored the divine commandment, was condemned to corruptibility and death. But how did many become sinners because of him? What are his missteps to us? How could all of us who were not yet born be condemned together with him, even though God said, 'Neither the fathers shall be put to death because of their children nor the children because of their fathers, but the soul which sinneth shall be put to death? Surely, the soul that sins shall die. For we became sinners through Adam's disobedience in such a manner as this. He was created for incorruption and life, and the manner of existence he had in the garden of delight was proper to holiness. His whole mind was continuously seeing God while his body was tranquil and calm, and all base pleasures were still. For there was no tumult of alien disturbances in it. But since he fell under sin and slipped into corruptibility, pleasures and filthiness assaulted the nature of the flesh, and in our members was unveiled a savage law. Our nature thus became diseased by sin through the disobedience of one, that is, of Adam. Thus, all were made sinners, not as co-transgressors with Adam. which they never were, but being of his nature, they fell under the law of sin...In Adam, human nature fell ill and became subject to corruptibility through disobedience, and, therefore, the passions entered in."

The strong juridical character of Latin theology which led the West to the satisfaction theory of Anselm is absent from the Greek patristic tradition. In the East, the fall is understood to be a consequence of man's own withdrawal from divine life and the resulting weakness and disease of human nature. Thus, man himself is seen as the cause through his cooperation with the devil. In the West, all the evils in the world originate in the punitive divine will, and the devil himself is seen simply as God's instrument of punishment. The Greek Fathers look upon salvation from a biblical perspective and see it as redemption from death and corruptibility and as the healing of human nature which was assaulted by Satan. Therefore, they established the following principle as the touchstone of their christological teaching: "That which is not assumed is not healed, but that which is united to God is also saved." It is quite opposite in the West where salvation does not mean, first and foremost, salvation from death and corruptibility but from divine wrath. And the termination of the penalty of death and illnesses simply follows as a result of the satisfaction of divine justice. For the West, this is quite natural since, on the one hand, God is believed to punish all men with death while, on the other hand, it is man who provokes the punishment because he bears inherited guilt. Thus, according to the Western viewpoint, God did not become man in order "to abolish him who has the power of death," since it is God who is death's causative power, but to satisfy Himself to such a degree that He could look upon men with a somewhat more benevolent attitude and, at the Second Coming, lift the old death sentence from them.

The method of dealing with theological problems and their presuppositions is altogether different between the East and the West. The West's deluded cosmological conceptions permit the study of the divine essence by identifying it with the divine energy. Both analogia entis and analogia fidei are methods and presuppositions of the West's theology. All things in the world are simply the images in time of archetypes that exist eternally in the essence of the One. Therefore, in the Western view, the works of Satan that are found in the Holy Scriptures, in a certain sense, belong to God Who punishes man with death, corruptibility, and all of man's sufferings. Nevertheless, it is apparent that, in this manner, divine and satanic energies become dangerously confused. Precisely because the West perceives the world as an image of the divine essence, it is capable not only of distorting the biblical teaching about death and Satan but even of applying the analogia entis and the analogia fidei to the dogma of the Holy Trinity, thus introducing the teaching of the Filioque.

In determining the dogma of the fall, however, it is not simply a matter of searching in the Holy Scripture and in the Fathers for the appropriate passages that prove a preferred theory of the ancestral sin. First, the relations between God and creation must be determined according to the scriptural and patristic testimony. Is the world really an analogous copy of the ideas that exist eternally in the divine essence, as the Neo-platonists believed? In other words, can we accept the theory of Augustine and the Scholastics which says that God is creative, just, and prescient in His essence because He comprises the alleged archetypes of creation and the order among them, which constitute ingenerate, eternal, divine law? Can we accept that the creation ex nihilo, the creation from nothing preexistent, is simply a copy in time of the ingenerate archetype in the divine essence? And that sin and the fall are a temporal violation of the order in the archetypal ideas in the divine essence? Can we accept the acholastic identification of the divine essence with the uncreated divine energy yet reject the apparent pantheism, as the West does? Can we accept the West's sophism that God does not have direct and real relations with the world because this would mean that the divine essence has an essential dependence in relation to the world? And that God, therefore, has only indirect relations with the world because because He loves and knows the in its archetypes? Can we accept the idea that love of God for this world descends as a created thing, in other words, in the form of created grace, because a true divine love for the world would mean that God is dependent upon the world?

If, however, it is both by essence and energy, since these are said to be identical, that God knows the archetypes and truly loves only these directly, how does He have knowledge of evil or, at least, of the need to send His Son into the world for the salvation of fallen mankind? If God's essence, energy, being, will, knowledge, and omnipotence are all identical, what place does the creation ex nihilo have in this scheme? What place has the Holy Trinity? Was it the divine essence that received flesh from the Virgin? If God is truly actus purus yet He is also able to have knowledge of evil or of mankind's need of salvation, then the ideas of evil, need, the fall, and nonbeing must also be among the archetypes in the divine essence. It follows that the idea of evil must be of the same essence as the idea of goodness because, if it is separate or independent of it, the scholastic theory of divine omniscience falls apart--unless we accept that that evil does not exist and that the need for true salvation from evil is nothing more than an empty myth.

The confusing of the divine energy with the divine essence only leads to the introduction of some of predestination into Christian theology. This in fact happened with Augustine with the Anselmian redemptive theory, with Calvinism, and finally with liberal Protestant which generally inclines toward the acceptance of the nonexistence of evil and the final restoration or salvation of all.

A detailed examination of the scholastic and Protestant confusion of essence and energy of God is beyond the bounds of our subject. Nevertheless, we are required to examine certain aspects of it that relate to the problem of the ancestral sin. This will be done in connection with the necessary examination of some of the general characteristics of Greek philosophy that have a direct bearing on our subject and on the period in question. In this way, the overall similarity between the Western view of God's relation with the world and the view of Greek philosophy will become apparent. Likewise, the magnificence of the Greek Fathers will come to light all the more, especially their ability to transfer their forefathers' subtle and analytical thought from paganism to Chhristianity in order to fortify the evangelical faith instead of overtuning it as the West did.
Once we have determined what the relation is between God and the world according to the theologians of the period underexamination and have taken into account certain understandings of the Fathers about God, then we will be in a position to examine objectively the biblical patristic teaching regarding Satan, the destiny of man, justice, and the fall." [1]

[1] pages 33-38 from the book The Ancestral Sin by Fr. John Romanides, translation by George S. Gabriel


Blogs: Eastern Orthodox

Related Posts with Thumbnails