Friday, December 2, 2011

Christology and the Mysteries(Sacraments)

The Disputation With Pyrrhus of Our Father Among the Saints Maximus the Confessor

As with St. Irenaeus, there is an ecclesiological and sacramental dimension to the doctrine of Recapitulation. Baptism is an essential component of the mystery and for the spiritual life, since the believer must recapitulate that which Christ Himself fulfilled and repeated in His own Recapitulation. As was the case with Sts. Irenaeus and Athanasius, one cannot separate the divine and invisible nature from the works which He does in His human and visible nature, and therefore one cannot separate water and the Spirit into two separate baptisms or events, as this would be a kind of sacramental Nestorianism. [1]

[1] pages xii - xvi from the preface of the book The disputation with Pyrrhus of Our Father Among the Saints Maximus the Confessor

The Wills of Christ

We(EO) don't believe the human energy to be passive. One group of Monothelites of old believed that the Divine energy was active while the human passive. In this they were seen as marionattists(puppets). Our understanding of Free Will, and Predestination in regards to humanity starts with our understanding of Free Will and Predestination in Christology. From pages 166 - 168

Pyrrhus: But we do not say "one energy" in order to deny the human operation. It is said to be passible in contrast to the divine energy.

Maximus: Then by the same principle those who say "one nature" do not say this as a denial of the human nature, but because this [human] nature is distinguished from the divine, for this reason it is also said to be passible.

Pyrrhus: How so? Did not the fathers define human movement as passibility, in contrast to the divine energy?

Maximus: God forbid! For, to speak generally, no existent thing is known or defined through comparison with its opposite. Otherwise, [the two] things will be found to cause each other reciprocally. For if. because divine movement is an energy, human movement is passible then certainly it follows that because divine nature is good, human nature is therefore evil. And the exact opposite may likewise be said: that because human movement is termed passible, for this reason divine movement is termed energy, and that because human nature is evil, the divine nature is for this reason good. But enough of this! For such [thoughts] are altogether perverse.


In the words of Pierre Piret, to allow the dialectic of oppositions to define things
"circumscribes beings in a fundamental opposition, between the limits of good and evil; the implied corollary of such a contradiction between the divine ενεργεια and παθος is that the human nature is evil because the divine nature is good. And such opposition can be immediately reversed and counterposed: the divine nature is good because the human nature is evil, and this human nature thus determines, in its wickedness, the goodness of the divine nature. 22

And this is to return to the predicate of Plotinus and the problematic of Origen which we examined chapter two: as God is absolute simplicity, incorporeal, Good, Father and Creator, so there must always be a compposite, material, and evil creation standing over against Him precisely in order that He may be all those things. It is therefore the dialectic of oppositions which, in finding its way into the monothelete controversy, provides the essential link between the three moments of doctrine - Creation, Redemption and Eschatology - and therefore its refutation in the one will require its refutation in the others.

"The basic task remains what it always was: to disentangle the principle of plurality from that of oppositions, but in the case of Monotheletism, it assumes a double aspect. On the one hand, St. Maximus must show that there is no opposition of the two wills in Christ, reinterpreting what took place at Gethsemane. On the other hand, once he has established that there is a genuine human will of Christ which is not in opposition to the divine, he must go on to show how that will is not dialectically conditioned by showing what the "goods" are that it is confronted with at Gethsemane. The way in which the Confessor does this is difficult and complex, and requires us to trace his logic through step by step.

We are led almost immediately back to the fundamental distinction of person and nature. Pyrrhus asks a very illuminating question question of St. Maximus: "was not the flesh moved by the decision of the Word Who is united with it?" This might at first glance be taken as a subtle affirmation of the dyothelete position and therefore as a contradiction within Monotheletism. But upon closer inspection it is not. For Pyrrhus the essential goal was to preserve Christ's voluntary motion; therefore, the will was not natural because because what is natural is compelled. The will is therefore hypostatic and free. In turn, Christ's humanity has no will. But even more intriguing is St. Maximus' response to the question, for he seems to avoid any direct answer entirely. He remains content simply to make allusions to the earlier heresy of Nestorianism and then to launch into an excursus on nature and its natural properties:"

Maximus: You divide Christ by talking like this! For [in that case] Moses and David, and as many as were susceptible to the influence of the divine energies, were moved by His command and laid aside human and fleshy properties. But we say, following all the holy fathers in this as in all things, that, since the God of all Himself became man without [undergoing any] change, then [it follows] that the same Person not only willed in a manner appropriate to His Godhead, but also willed as man in a manner appropriate to His humanity. For the things that exist came to be out of nothing, and not to non-being; and the natural characteristic of this power is an inclination to that which maintains them in being, and a drawing back from things destructive [to them]. Thus the super-essential Word, existing essentially in a human manner, also had in His humanity this self-preserving power that clings to existence. And He [in fact] showed both [aspects of this power], willing the inclination and the drawing back through His human energy. He displayed the inlination to cling to existence in His use of natural and innocent things, to such an extent that unbelievers thought He was not God; and He displayed the drawing back at the time of the passion when He voluntarily balked at death. Wherein, then, has the Church of God done anything absurd if She confesses that along with His human and created nature, there also existed in Him, without diminution, the principles inserted creatively in that nature by Him, without which that nature could not exist?"

But it is in fact the allusion to Nestorianism that provides the key to the decipherment of this passage. If it was true that Pyrrhus' remarks disclosed a "revival of the heresy of Apollinarius" because Christ's manhood appears in them as "organon, an instrument or tool without real power of free choice - a puppet show of passive attributes, worked from outside by the divinity of the Word,"25 then it was equally true that the humanity is somehow detached from the Word precisely since it was worked from outside.26 This Division in Christ was the result of the whole monothelete dilemma.

Christ's prayer in Gethsemane - "If it be possible let this cup pass from me" - was attributed by the Monotheletes to that opposing human will. His subsequent petition - "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" - was the denial and overriding of the human will by the divine will. Thus the one Person of Christ was willing two entirely contradictory and opposing things at the same time, and this, to Maximus, was to "divide Christ." It would therfore have to be concluded that St. Maximus is not in disagreement with the Monotheletes over the principle of excluding opposition in Christ. He is rather in disagreement over what such exclusion means. It is in his reinterpretation of the prayer at Gethsemane that one discovers how St. Maximus had applied the principles both of the distinction of logos and tropos and that of the plurality of the objects of choice." [1]

[1] pages 166-168 from the book Free Will in St. Maximus the Confessor by Joseph P. Farrell

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

More about the Western confusion

From pages 207-211

"The opposition of Christ's human will to the divine will was seen to occur for two reasons: one, because of the confusion of person and nature implied in the Augustinian understanding of original guilt; and two, because fallen humanity is the same humanity to be found in Christ, inclusive of its opposing will. Christ's predestination is therefore the same as ours because it is by grace: the divine will overcomes Christ's human will in an irresistible manner, much as the divine will overcomes the human will in the case of those predestined to salvation. But this led the Spanish Adoptionists to assume two sons, one of nature, the other of grace. And this in turn implied that they confused a personal characteristic, that of sonship, with that of nature and have thus come full circle back to the confusion which began the process. It is this whole vast and intricate matrix which related Spanish Adoptionism and its underlying predestinational Christology to the filioquist controversies of the ninth century. This would suggest that the Spanish Adoptionist predestinational Christology and the filioque share a common ancestry. That ancestry is Neoplatonism, and it is this consideration which incites, indeed, compels, comparison between St. Maximus and St. Augustine. The filioque is ultimately derived from the philosophical and neoplatonic definition of simplicity and its accompanying dialectic of oppositions. Each of the problems that attended Neoplatonism - the identity of being and will and its consequences of an eternal generation of the Son indistinguishable and indivisible from an eternal creation, the dialectical opposition of the simplicity and the dialectic in collapsing into an infinite series of beings as in the neoplatonic system of Iamblichus, or in erasing all distinctions between beings as in the Neoplatonic Pantheists, the structural subordination of all pluralities to the One-all these implications are to some extent present in the trinitarian theology of St. Augustine.

St. Augustine assumed that if there could be common ground between theology and philosophy there could be common definitions as well. He found this common definition in the neoplatonic definition of the simplicity of the One. Appropriating this definition as an understanding of the divine essence of the Christian Trinity, as a definition of the unity of the Christian God, he made of it the ultimate basis of his attempted synthesis. Consequently it is at the Augustinian doctrine of God that the point of contact between theology and philosophy occurs, and it is through this doctrine of God that the Augustinian conception of predestination must be approached. A proper understanding of Augustine Triadology will yield a proper understanding of the logic and structure behind its predestinational doctrine.

When he appropriated the definition of simplicity as a definition of the divine essence of the Trinity, he accepted it uncritically, and thus made his "philosophical first principle one with his religious first principle" to such an extent that as the French Roman Catholic Etienne Gilson observed, even his notion of divine being "remained greek," that is, ultimately pagan. Therefore, insofar as his doctrine of predestination is derived from this pagan definition of the divine essence, it is to that extent that it is pagan in its roots. It is at the point of this definition that the divine essence begins to be abstracted from the plurality of attributes and persons as a prolegomenon to theology. In other words, once he had assumed the simplicity as a definition of the divine essence in its full Neoplatonic sense, the essence becomes increasingly singled out ans strictly distinguished from all the divine "pluralities," the attributes and the persons. The dialectic of opposition between the One and the many is already in evidence in this step, and two things occur because of it. First, the unity of God is seen in impersonal and abstract terms. St. Augustine states it this way: "The divinity is the unity of the Trinity." But more important is the fact that, at this stage at least, the persons and the attributes are accorded the same logical status. And thus St. Augustine can say that

He is called in respect to Himself both God, and great, and good, and just, and anything else of the kind; and just as to Him to be is the same as to be God, or as to be great, or as to be good, so it is the same thing to Him to be as to be person.

Underlying these mutual identities is the simplicity, once again functioning as a great metaphysical "equals" (=) sign, and consequently the conclusion that the person are attributes or that the attributes are persons is inescapable.

But when he turns to consider the attributes themselves, they become identical with the divine essence and alternative names for it: "The Godhead," he writes, "is absolutely simple essence, and therefore to be is there the same as to be wise. And this leads to the further implication that since the attributes are identical to the essence, they are identical to each other: "In regards to the essence of truth, to be true is the same as to be and to be is the same as to be great....therefore to be great is the same as to be true." A=B and B=C, ergo A=C. Reason, logic, and simplicity are the very essence of the divine essence. It is this identity of attributes amongst themselves which led to three very different conclusions, conclusions which are nevertheless related, for they depend upon this identification of the attributes amongst themselves.

First, it is this identity of the attributes with themselves and with the divine essence that allowed Thomas Aquinas, who inherited this definitional understanding of the divine simplicity from St. Augustine, to assert the identity of the divine essence with the divine will. The simplicity is absolute; therefore God's will is not other than His essence," a proposition common with Plotinus, and a proposition at the root of the Origenist problematic. Unlike the Athanasian response to this problematic, which depended upon the distinction between essence and attributes being a formal one, this understanding of the simplicity is a definitional one, and it is this which is the ultimate root of the Western difficulties with Palamism: there cannot be ultimate and equal goods which are really distinct from the divine essence as well as being really distinct from each other.

Second, the Augustine doctrine of predestination must, to a great degree, be referred to this identity of attributes amongst themselves, in other words, to this identity of attributes amongst themselves, in other words, to predestinate is the same as to foreknow. If God foreknows the damned and the elect, He also predestines them. The evaluation of Jaroslav Pelikan is therefore not entirely correct. It is in regard to this identification of the attributes of predestination and foreknowledge that he wrote "what was needed to correct and clarify the Augustinian doctrine was a more precise definition of predestination that would distinquish it from grace." But since the deterministic aspects of Augustinism appear to be not so much biblical as neoplatonic and logical, as they are rooted in a particular dialectically-derived definition of the divine essence, it would appear that what is needed is precisely not another definition, but a non-definitional understanding of the divine simplicity, one which would not permit the term to function as an "equals" (=) sign which identifies the pluralities of attributes.

Finally, this identification of the attributes amongst themselves plays an important role in the derivation of the filioque. Because the categories of the persons and attributes, as multiplicites contrasted to the simple essence, all serve as logically interchangeable definitions of the simple divine "something", the question for St. Augustine then became one of securely maintaining the real distinction of persons in the face of a simplicity which had already nullified the real quality and distinctions of the attributes amongst themselves. Here the subordination of the persons and attributes to the essence in the ordo theologiae also provides St. Augustine with the means to attempt to distinction the persons from each other. Having assumed an absolute, definitional simplicity, the person can no longer be absolute hypostases, but are merely relations, since the names Father, Son, and Spirit are terms relative to each other. Here again there is a subtle but nevertheless real play of the dialectic of oppositions. One no longer begins with the three persons (since one has already began theology at the divine essence) and then moves to consider their relations, but begins more with their relative quality, with the relation between the persons, itself. In other words, there is an artificial opposition of any given person to the other two. It is at this point that the flexibility of St. Augustine's neoplatonic basis begins to surface in a more acute form." [1]

[1] pages 207-211 from the book Free Will in St. Maximus the Confessor by Joseph P. Farrell






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