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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Differences between East & West

One of the differences between East & West is how both understand the concept of "grace".

The West believes in what is called "created grace"

The East believes in what is termed "uncreated grace"

This might seem small and "insignificant", but this small difference goes a long way in why the East and West differ on some topics.

In the Eastern Christian World, Uncreated grace is universal. But before I talk about that aspect of it, I would like to talk about the meaning of "grace" in general.

What does "grace" mean? When I was a Protestant, the words "highly favored" was used alot. But what does that mean? For me, the term "highly favored" started to make sense, when I understood grace as "God action".

Infact, to be "gracious" implies action, it implies movement. And this is where Eastern Orthodoxy comes in. for to us, grace means "energia. "The energy" of God.

The word "energy" implies movement. It implies action. And since we believe all of Creation exist within His Energy, our understanding of grace is universal.

We are able to Know God through His grace, for this is How He made His presence known to us in creation. In the western World this would be called "The immanence of God".

Unlike the West, The Eastern Church makes a distinction between God's Energia and His Essence.

This might sound confusing at first, but if one understands it in relation to the terms "Immanence and Transcendence" then one will be able to grasp why the distinction was made.

We can never know God's Essence because God is Transcendent, but we can know His Energies because God is also Immanent.

The understanding of Universal grace has an affect on one's worldview. It's hard to look at creation as if it's devoid of the Presence and Power of God. This is why the terms "Nature and natural" are used often in the west.

There is nothing normal in God being absent from His creation. It is abnormal.

To know the Universal Grace of God is to Know His Universal Presence.



Laudate Dominum said...

I understand that mainstream Orthodox theology rejects the category of created grace, but what this post fails to mention is that the concept of Uncreated Grace is fundamental to Roman Catholic theology. The difference is not as stark as this post would suggest; it is not that Orthodox assert Uncreated Grace and Latins assert created grace- it is rather that Romans have the additional category of created grace that Orthodox theology lacks for various reasons. My impression too is that the fundamental difference lies in the lack of a central ousia / energeia distinction in the mainstream Roman Catholic theological tradition. This distinction has been asserted all the more in modern Orthodox theology through the greater interest in Palamite theology (via Florovsky, Lossky, Meyendorff, et cetera).

Jnorm said...


I never knew that.

So why does Rome have an extra category? And how does she explain, her form of Uncreated grace? Is it universal or particuliar?


Laudate Dominum said...

As far as I know the distinction is not dogmatic, but the “created grace” discussion has been going on since the middle ages. Uncreated Grace is God Himself; or the Love of God if you prefer. It is our sharing in the Divine Life which happens for example in the indwelling of God in the soul and our union with God in heaven.
Created grace (at least as I understand it) isn’t so much a separate kind of grace but this terminology rather refers to the created effects resulting from the activities of Uncreated Grace. The Divine Indwelling is Uncreated Grace, but the transformation in our soul that takes place through our life in God, our becoming a “new man,” or a “new creature” can be described as created grace (or graces). Created grace is in a sense the created products or effects of God’s uncreated power and presence in our souls. To be honest I don’t really like the terminology and I think that at times created grace is presented as a kind of “thing” separate from Uncreated Grace. We can speak of discrete graces, such as being given the grace to overcome road rage, and this might be described as a created grace since it effects a transformation in our created being. Put another way, when we receive God’s Uncreated Gift of Himself (Uncreated Grace) our created nature undergoes actualizations (created grace). Perhaps one could say that the principle of our sanctification and deification is Uncreated Grace (God Himself really) but that the temporal actualization of that Grace involves efficacious effects (virtues, powers, et cetera) that can be thought of in terms of the creative and recreative power of grace in synergy with the receptiveness of nature. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time explaining the matter with any precision… One more attempt at a clear formulation: the divine operation that justifies and sanctifies is uncreated but the manifestation of that operation in the creature (and in time) involve creative and recreative activities. It is to this that the term created grace refers. I should also note that it is possible to elucidate the Roman Catholic perspective on grace without employing this distinction. The Council of Trent provides a splendid theology of grace and as for as I recall the category of created grace is not employed.

Jnorm said...

Wow, you said alot. It looks like I'm going to have to look at the classical western view again. Just to understand it accurately.


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