Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Quiz: Which of the following statements is the orthodox one?

(1) In Scripture, God reveals His Trinitarian nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(2) In Scripture, God reveals Himself as the Father of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the One from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds.


A. Number 1.

B. Number 2.

C. Both statements are equally orthodox.

D. Neither is orthodox.


axegrinder said...


Gotta go with #2 there, Monty.

#1 could be interpreted as either modalism or tritheism by its inexact use of the word "nature."

#2 is definitely a more Eastern Orthodox way of expression, for what it's worth.

Is +Photius still lurking in the shadows?

Jason Kranzusch

Mark said...

You know, I suspect this is one of those sneaky trick questions that theologians just love to spring on hapless laymen. So even though it's against my better judgment, I will brave an answer.

Of the two statements, # 2 is the more orthodox ( largely because to speak of the Trinity is to speak of the Divine persons, not the Divine nature, which is one ).


Mark said...

In my earlier post, I said that statement # 2 was the orthodox one. And I still think it's the best option; but #2 is capable of an Arian twist.

'twould be better worded, I'd say, in a manner like this:

In Scripture, God reveals Himself as the Father of God the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the one from whom God the Holy Ghost proceeds."

Even that formulation smells kinda fishy though.


( A hapless Anglican layman )

Jason Loh said...


What are your brutally honest comments on this take ...

That Answers #1 and #2 reflect the OLD and NEW Testament revelation respectively, i.e. the Plurality of the Godhead is grounded Oneness of the Essence in the OLD but in the NEW, the Oneness of Yahweh is revealed in the Koinonia/Perichoresis of the Triune Relations.

Having said this, I must say that I find your Barthian view of the Atonement *more* controversial than the Quiqunque vult!

Acolyte4236 said...

Jason Loh,

I thought the unity of the deity was in the Father as Source. The divine essence unifies the Trinity because it is the essence of the Father and not the other way around.

Thomas said...

Dr. D - It depends upon how you are using the word "nature" in #1. Since you say "Trinitarian nature", 'nature' could be used loosely to mean "the way in which God is Trinitarian." In this case there is no problem, since the "Trinitarian nature" is the relations of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and not some other such as Mother, Daughter, Nanny, Sister, etc.

Scripture does not formulate an abstract theology of the Trinity, so obviously #2 is closer to the literal expression of the sacred text.

Steve Blakemore said...

The answer, I contend, is # 2, since the Trinitarian nature of God was recognized as a part of the progress of dogma articulated in Nicea and the Chalcedon. The revealed truth that these councils reflected upon, however, was the apostolic witness of Holy Writ and the Scripture informed worship of the Church. The Scripture speaks of God as Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and as the One who will send in Jesus' name (John 14:15 ff).

The first statement is the result of Holy Spirit guided theological reflection. The second is the epistemic foundation of that reflection.

lexorandi2 said...

I figured that the imprecision of the term "nature" in #1 would be enough of a clue for you all to suspect a trap. (Though Thomas' point here is well taken.)

However, no one picked up on the use of the third person personal pronoun "His" in #1. Read it again: "God reveals HIS Trinitarian nature?" Who is the antecedent of the pronoun here? The Hypostasis of the Father? (making the Father a trinity of persons!) That would be an absurdity.

Or do we suppose that it is appropriate to refer to the Trinity collectively in singular personalist terms as some sort of "supra-hypostasis" over and above the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Yet what I have found over the years is that this is a very common error among Western Christians, and one that I believe is illustrative of the deficiencies in Western Trinitarian thought.

P.S. You're right, Thomas, that Scripture does not formulate an abstract doctrine of the Trinity, which begs the question as to why Western theologians are so hell bent to do so.

lexorandi2 said...


My brutally honest answer to your suggestion is that the NT teaches that Jesus is the Divine Son of the One who revealed Himself as Yahweh to the people of Israel in the OT.


lexorandi2 said...

Hi Jason (axegrinder),

I haven't been in touch with +Photius (i.e., Joseph Farrell) for some time now. I did wonder at first if the "Photius Jones" over at the Energies blog was him, but I don't think it is, and even if it was I'd want to respect his desire to remain anonymous. That being said, if any of you guys over at Energies want to pass along my email address to him I'd be delighted.


Thomas said...

Dr. D. - It seems unfair to impute abstract theological formulations exclusively to the West when in fact it was in the East that the following ideas were first imported and officially fused to theology: consubstantiality, ousia, hypostasis, nature, etc.

Nevertheless, the purpose of the abstract character of, at least, the best of scholastic theology is to make the mysteries of faith more intelligible – please do not read ‘comprehensible’ here.

I took the following quote from Gilles Emery’s ‘Trinity in Aquinas’, p. 250:

“The relation of opposition can only be based on the origin, the only “action” which justifies a real distinction of persons in God. Without this, we could certainly claim to make a distinction between the Son and the Holy Spirit, but we could no longer provide a theological explanation for the distinction. The intellectus fidei would be destroyed at its foundation.”

Given the role of 'fides quaerens intellectum' in the contemplative act of the believer, philosophical or rational reflection on the mysteries of faith is justified by the very nature and vocation of the human subject of salvation.

Acolyte4236 said...

2 is the number and the number is 2! Thou shalt skip 1 and proceed to 2. Thou shalt not go unto three and 4 is straight out!


The "Trinitarian nature" if there be such a thing, does not consist of relations, because the ability to make a distinction does not depend on opposition. And introducing such a dialectical structure into God will naturally lead to an infinite number of relations.

Steve B,

I know it is popular to see Nicea as "progress" but think with me for a moment. Why would articulating a consistent vocabulary imply doctrinal development in terms of conceptual discovery? It would only imply such a thing if we took such terms as ousia for example as actually denoting and grasping deity. To do that, I agree that one would have to then have philosophy be the handmaiden to theology. In fact it would then become impossible to do theology without philosophy. The dialectical structure of philosophy, specifically Greek philosophy would then necessitate doctrinal development because ever new relations could be "discovered" in older texts so that the process of giving new meanings to old terms would never end. At that point though, one wonders what has happaned to the Faith once delivered.


It is true that the East used Greek philosophical terminology. But the debate for example between Arius and Athanasius is over whether such terms are to be read as in a Hellenistic or a Christian way. For Arius, it is just because, following Plotinus and Origen such terms have philosophical content that Jesus must be a lesser deity and for Athanasius it is just because such terms have no philosophical content that Jesus is deity. Homoousious doesn't say what God is, but only that whatever it is to be God, Jesus is it too.

Consequently, your noting that the East employed such terms doesn't bake any bread. There isn't an equivalence here.

Acolyte4236 said...


Here is spoken unto you this day the succession of the Sith Lords. ;)

In the late 90's (97 or so) I read Farrell's Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor (1989). This gave me positive reasons, apart from any nonsense in ECUSA/TEC to become Orthodox. In 2000, I became Orthodox. By 2003-4 I began communiucating the Orthodox perspective on Absolute Divine Simplicity, Predestination, Free Will, Christology, the problem of evil etc. on various blogs, not the least of which was Kimel's Pontifications.

There I met Daniel, who was a committed and extremly well read Augustinian (and Roman Catholic). We clashed. The convo went on off blog for about three months. Eventually the convo got so heated that I dropped it. A few months later, Daniel contacted me to indicate that he had a change of mind and wanted more information.

I am a grad student in Philosoohy at Saint Louis Univ. Daniel is a grad student in Theology at Univ. Dallas. Eventually Daniel decided to convert from Catholicism to Orthodoxy and we two Jedi brothers fought it out against the Hellenizers, mainly on Pontifications for the last two years. Daniel eventually picked up the name "Photius."

Not long ago Daniel went and met Joseph Farrell. Out of his chest Dr. Farrell brought out treasures new and old. Much of what we have written is taken in part or in whole from his thought. My own original contributions so far is in wedding contemporary analytic philosophical models of libertarian free will (Robert Kane) to Farrell's work on Maximus, thereby presenting a philosophical and theological grid as an alternative to Latin (either Protestant or Catholic) systems as wellas giving reasons from philosophical/historical theology as to why Christians should reject Compatibilism or Soft Determinism and favor Libertarianism (not the political kind). I have used this model to correct and extend Plantinga type Free Will Defenses against objections from Mackie and the like.

Daniel and I keep in contact with Dr. Farrell, though Daniel more than moi. In many ways, seeing what Farrell saw is much easier to see now because there are a variety of works out on Maximus and the Cappadocians that have removed old misunderstandings, primarily caused by forced readings from Augustinians and Thomists. (Gotta shove that square peg through that round hole!)

Eventually, Kevin Johnson over at Reformed Catholicism, either out of charity or out of weariness of reading our rants, gave us some space and format for our own blog and Energies of the Trinity was generated.

Thus ends the oral tradition of the Sith Lords.

Thomas said...

Acolyte4236 - You are right to say that I don't bake bread. In fact, I can bake nothing at all. My wife bears that burden. As for the use of philosophical terms in theology, I think the truth of it is more subtle that you present it. The influence of highly platonized theology (ex. Origenism) in the early and late classical periods of the Eastern Church brought with it the realization of the great danger in subordinating revealed truths to philosophical categories. However, that does not mean that the Councils simply appropriated the outward form of such terms and not the inward form of them as well. Trinitarian unity is not the exact same thing as the Plotinean One, but neither is it completely different. The theological terms of the Greek Fathers were not mere homonyms of Greek philosophical terms. The same situation is true of the Latin appropriation of Aristotle. Aquinas both adopted and transformed the foundation of the Stagerite’s ontology by bringing it into conformity with the biblical revelation of the pure ‘actus essendi’ (subsistent being) of God (Ex 19).

As for the Trinitarian relations, the identification of the persons on the basis of opposite relations is not a Western invention. It is first biblical and second Cappadocian. Latin theologians in the High Middle Ages simply distilled the logic of it and expressed it with greater formal precision.

lexorandi2 said...

Monty Python...Holy Grail...Gotta love it!

Acolyte4236 said...


The danger was not just in subordinating theology to philosophy. The danger was that philosophical categories were incapable of accommodating theological truths. The primary example is that of Dyothelitism. If to distinguish requires opposition, then given that the Good is simple, Christ’s in his human operation of will, will be sinning when he wills not to go to the cross or, his human will, will be subordinated to the divine will that he shares with the Father and the Spirit, thereby implying monothelitism. In order to maintain that Christ wills freely in a libertarian sense in his human operation of will, the simplicity of the Good as well as the idea of distinction as opposition have to be discarded.

The councils corrected Hellenistic usage of terms by sucking out their philosophical content to deploy a consistent terminology to speak about theological truths. The content then was theological or revealed and not philosophical because the philosophy simply lacked the requisite conceptual content as can be seen in a complete lack of the notion of personhood.

I agree that the Trinitarian unity is not the exact same thing as the Plotinian One. At least for the East, it isn’t like it at all, for there is a real plurality of persons. For the West, it isn’t exactly like it, because Plotinus didn’t collapse the One and Nous whereas Augustine did. Nevertheless, the notion of esse or being is still fundamentally Platonic, even if spoken of using the terminology of Aristotle. The Thomistic move of stripping act from form and act being added to form depends necessarily on a Neoplatonic conception of essence so that thinking of Thomas’ metaphysic as Aristotelian is a mistake. It is Neoplatonic as was the usage of the Arab’s.

I don’t think that the biblical revelation is that of God as pure activity and it certainly wasn’t the Cappadocian view because it depends on God being being. For the Cappadocians, as well as for Maximus the Confessor, God is no being at all. Simply denying that God is ens commune doesn’t map onto the Cappadocian view. While it is true that the Cappadocians denied that God wasn’t being in any composite sense, they also denied that God was being in any sense whatsoever, which is why for them the Transcendentals weren’t convertible-the Good is beyond being. As in Ps. Dionysius, God is not just beyond composite being, he is beyond being altogether in any sense whatsoever. Moreover, as I have argued elsewhere, to think of God as an absolutely simple activity compromises the Biblical witness that God’s activity is free as well as being philosophically false. Knowledge and will are not identical nor could they be in God, for God knows things that he does not will. Things that are not co-extensive can’t be identical.

I simply disagree that the identification of divine persons on the basis of relations of opposition is a Cappadocian invention. To distinguish for the Cappadocians doesn’t require opposition. If it did, every relation would either be an intermediary or another person and both of those would destroy the unity of the deity and their polemic against the Eunomians would collapse. In neither the biblical witness nor the Cappadocian understanding is ingeneracy or generacy or spiration opposed to each other. This is because persons for the Cappadocians aren’t relations in the first place, as they are for Augustine and the Scholastics. The latter views require a filioque because they gloss persons as relations and it is impossible to distinguish them without opposition on such a view.

Steve Blakemore said...


You miss understand me when I say it was a progress of dogma. Nay, I am unclear.

Progess of dogma is not a discovery in my view. It is a deeper embrace of what has been revealed. Nicea's language is metaphysical in a way that the Church's prayers and scriptures were not. That does not imply an imposition of Greek thought (as many claim) onto otherwise Hebrew ideas. NO! It was a necessary clarification of what had been revealed in Christ about the nature of God. Ala -- John 1:18 and John 14.

So, I appreciate the chance to clarify (assuming that my ramblings indeed do), for I did not want to suggest anything other that perfect continuity between Nicea et al and the "faith once delivered." It is a matter of progress only in the sense of a fuller articulation of what is revealed.

Photius said...

St. Gregory of Nyssa replied to Eunomius that the blasphemous method that he had adopted was dinguishing the persons based on their opposition. I wrote a paper on this topic of dialectic and the Eunomian controversey, as well as a commentary if Gregory of Nyssa is an anticipation of the filioque doctrine, last semester. You can find it on our blog.

Daniel "Photios" Jones

Thomas said...


It seems then that the most basic difference between Eastern and Western Trinitarian thought, as it is being representing here, is the notion of the analogy-of-being.

In Thomistic thought, the radical difference between God and creatures is preserved and expressed in the analogical predication of the uncreated ‘esse’ of the ‘res’ revealed in Christ Jesus, which has, on the one hand, the advantage of removing the created ‘esse’ from ‘ens commune’ in a sense approaching the Dionysian notion of ‘hyperousia' and, on the other hand, of preserving the intrinsic intelligibility of the divine ‘esse’, without committing the Eunomian heresy. In other words, in Aquinas’s thought divine mystery is mystery precisely because it is so intelligible as to be beyond the grasp of the created intellect, not because it is unintelligible.

The radical apophaticism expressed here, i.e. that the Good is beyond true and beyond being predicated in any sense, has, in my opinion, the disadvantage of denying the intrinsic intelligibility of the divine nature. God cannot even know himself, and consequently reveal himself.

Is there not a contradiction here between divine mystery – which, in this view, is mysterious precisely because it is absolutely unintelligible – and the notion of 'revelation' which by definition makes the revealed ‘res’ at least relatively intelligible?

Dr. D.,

This is also the answer to the objection that philosophical categories are falsely applied to the divine mystery. That would be true if they were used univocally. However, in Aquinas’s use of analogical predication the assumption is that the uncreated ‘esse’, i.e. the ‘res’ revealed, is not the subject of metaphysics, but rather created ‘esse’.

Acolyte4236 said...


I don’t see the difference between what I wrote about the idea of development and what you did. Furthermore, I don’t see a fundamental difference between what you wrote and Newman’s theory, which I reject. I don’t think the church comes to deeper and deeper understanding of revelation over time. That is, the Church doesn’t discover conceptual material that is already nascent in revelation.

Acolyte4236 said...


The most basic difference is that of Hellenism, the adherence of which forms the foundation of the Latin doctrine of the analogia entis. If God is being, then you are going to need some kind of analogy between God and being and consequently you are going to need to either soften other sciences to make them more like theology or harden theology to make it more like the other sciences. Either way, theology becomes a science because its object is something graspable by human reason. You worship what you know. The East doesn’t have an analogy of being because God ad intra is not being in any sense. Put it this way. God is not something, but he’s not nothing either.

I know Thomas wishes to maintain a strong difference between God and creatures by the analogia entis, which falls out of his notion of simplicity. I reject his view of simplicity and I don’t need an analogia entis to maintain a strong difference between God and creatures. Invoking parsimony, it is simpler not to have God as being, just as it is simpler not to have God exist at a simultaneous present. God is no being and God exist as no simultaneous moment.

The fundamental difference between God and creatures for Thomas is plurality and simplicity, but they are both being. Here the dialectical structure of Thomas’ thought is obvious-unity is opposed to plurality. This is why Thomas thinks that the fall was possible, because creatures are plural. On my view, the possibility of the Fall has nothing to do with creatures being plural and its possibility is a temporary one. Thomas, like all Augustinians has to trump human freedom in order to make the possibility of sin temporary. I don’t have to. Libertarian freedom is perfectly compatible (PUN!) with the ability to do otherwise as best exemplified by Christ’s choosing otherwise in the Passion. In short, I don’t think that plurality is opposed or subordinated to unity.

Even if the Eunomians took their terms in a univocal sense that of itself doesn’t constitute their heresy per se. This is why making analogical predication IMV doesn’t really help. They both think of God as graspable by reason. They both think of God as a simple essence opposed to the many. And they both think of God as being. For the Cappadocians and Athanasius, God is not being and so in truth we worship that which we do not know. The intelligibility of God is secured by the energies or his acts. Those are esse or being. And they are no less deity than God ad intra because God is simple, that is, God is fully present in each and every one of his energies-they all co-inhere. It is an identity without reduction and the dependence relation is asymmetrical. The activities depend on the persons and essence and not the other way around.

Furthermore, by esse Thomas means activity and I don’t think that the divine essence and the divine persons are esse, but ousia. For the East, there is real potency in the sense of 2nd potentiality in God which comes to act in energia/esse when the persons choose to act. God is never exhausted by his acts, which is why no amount of Biblical exegesis about economical missions will license the Filioque. For the East, God is not ad intra unintelligible because he is so rational, but because he is beyond reason altogether because reason grasps being and God is no being. This doesn’t commit me to some form of logical possibilism either since the divine energies or logoi can be eternal and unchanging as well, though not all are. We aren’t Muslims or Cartesians after all.

If God is ad intra unintelligible, that would only imply that God cannot even know himself and reveal himself if we were to think of the knowledge that God has in a univocal or analogical way, that is, if God were unintelligible being. But as I said before, God is not being in any sense whatsoever and so the argument cannot be made. You can only make the argument stick if God is unintelligible being, but he isn’t even that on the Eastern view. Does God know himself? Surely. What does that mean since God is ad intra beyond Nous? Damned if I know. We worship that which we do not know as the Nicenes responded to the Arian mockery. Where language fails, we must be silent. It is not that what language denotes in the energies is false, even in its mode of use, as in Thomas. It is that what language denotes about God while true, even in its mode of signification, does not exhaust what or who God is. There is always something more to persons than their natures, which is why natures do not determine the actions of agents.

There could only be a contradiction between mystery and revelation if the divine energies were not truly deity, but they are. The divine Persons reveal themselves truly in their acts, but that revelation isn’t exhaustive.

Thomas said...


The fundamental difference between God and creatures, according to Thomas, is more likely the real distinction between essence and existence. As for the scientific character of theology, it does not depend upon God being something graspable by the human reason. Thomas makes it patently clear that God is incomprehensible. Analogical predication does not “grasp” God in any sense. It simply prevents speech about God from being equivocal and thus meaningless. Neither does it make the object of worship known. Nor does it render the mode of predication false. Nonetheless, as you said, there remains an infinite reality still unspoken and unspeakable.

You said that God does know himself. But you also said that you have no idea what that means. Is that not the same thing as saying that you have no idea what you are saying? And if you do, did you not just adopt analogical predication?

If God’s energies are uncreated, and if those energies are ‘esse’ – as you said – have you not reintroduced the idea of uncreated ‘esse’? And did you not introduce analogical predication in reference to this uncreated ‘esse’? And if God is his energies, which would seem to be the case since they are uncreated and everything but God is a creature, do you not worship these uncreated ‘esse’, and consequently worship what you know?

Please do not answer by saying that you worship persons and not natures or acts. Obviously, however, the nature and the acts of God are not abstracted from the persons in the act of worship, at least not in scripture. It is the whole mystery of the Most Holy Trinity that is the term of divine worship. Although, that does raise the problem of how something which does not exist can be the object of anything since objectivity is a category of being. Perhaps the answer is that only that which has ‘esse’ – that which is truly “objectifiable” – can be the object of worship, in this case the divine energies. Sorry for the rambling.

Photius said...


Gregory of Nyssa pointed out to Eunomius that there is only an analogy of operation between God and creatures, not analogia entis.


lexorandi2 said...

Photius and Thomas,

I am reminded in reading this discussion (which I'm greatly enjoying btw) that Barth called the Roman Catholic understanding of the analogia entis "the very doctrine of the AntiChrist."


Photius said...

Dr. Dunlop,

Let me give a soundbite to a Q and A I had with Dr. Farrell:

Photios: Could it then be said that the symbol of the “trinity” on the Carolingian shield is the Great Metaphysical Symbol of Death?

+Photios: The Caroingian shield, to paraphrase the Book of Common Prayer, and to use a quote from an unfinished novel of mine, "THe filioque is the outward, efficacious, and visible symbol of an inward and metaphysical depravity."

Remember, St. Maximus the Confessor taught that the Fall, was a fall INTO dialectic (death), separation and opposition. Death is precisely the hypostatic employment of the will toward something that could never have subsistence (existence), something that your nature is never directed towards. Person and Nature then become opposed and you fall apart. The purpose of the Incarnation, was to bring back that harmony between person and nature.

So, says the man.

BTW-I have a personally autographed copy of his monster tome: God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and Their Cultural Consequences.

dmartin said...

Dr. D, this discussion reminds me of the skit, "Who's on first?" by Abbott and Castillo.

dmartin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Acolyte4236 said...


The real distinction for Thomas between essence and existence or activity turns on unity and plurality. Creatures are distinguished from God in that they are plural, that is composites of essence and existence. God is unified and creatures are diverse. The distinction between essence and existence for Thomas is just his way of opposing creatures to God in order to distinguish them. One of the reasons why Thomas needs to do this, is because God is being and so are creatures, albeit said in different ways. If there were no commonality between the being of creatures and God then the analogia entis and analogical predication would not be possible. Analogical predication does grasp God for what it says about God is true, does it not? It doesn’t predicate falsehoods about God does it? The error comes in the mode of signification, namely that such terms are derived from composite objects and therefore do not full denote God for God is not composite. Their use is skewed even though what they say about God is no less true. And Thomas’s project depends on the divine essence being graspable by human reason for all of the sciences depend on the chief object of knowledge. If this weren’t so, Thomas would be able to do theology without any kind of philosophical grid. This is a fundamental difference between say Thomistic theology and say Russian theology. This is why Thomas has the beatific vision and the Orthodox don’t. Just like 7up, never had it, never will. ;)

God does know himself. To point out that language fails to grasp God ad intra is a point I have maintained. How does pointing that out pose a problem exactly? Moreover, doesn’t Thomas’ position wish to say the same thing, namely that the divine knowledge that we speak of fails to denote God ad intra? In order for there to be analogical predication, God would have to be being or activity ad intra and exhaustively-the One and the Nous would have to be identical, as Augustine made them. But I deny all of those things. So with the Fathers, I say God’s knowledge of himself is beyond knowledge. God’s knowledge is hyper-noetic. If this is a problem for me, then it is a problem for the Fathers. If you wish to convict them of foolishness or incoherence then I am happy to be called a fool with them.

God’s powers are uncreated. Some of God’s powers in act or energy have no beginning and no end. Some have a beginning but no end and some a beginning and an end. I am using esse here in terms of energia or activity. I never denied that God was uncreated esse or activity. What I have denied is that that is exhaustive. God is not pure activity and God’s essence is not esse. To look at it the other way around, the divine nature is wider than the essence. If the energies are deity and uncreated, and reason grasps them, why would we need analogical predication as opposed to univocal predication, at least in some cases? To even posit analogical predication in say theosis creates all kinds of soteriological and more importantly, Christological problems, like oh…Arianism.

In theosis, my love isn’t like God’s love. It IS God’s love. If it were a created similitude then the union would not be entitative or if it were, it would imply that Christ was a creature. Our righteousness is not like God’s righteousness, it IS God’s righteousness whereby he is righteous. We become the divine nature as Scripture says, not a created likeness. We are conformed to the icon of the Son and the Son qua image is not created and so we become uncreated.

I can only answer that we worship the divine persons whom we know by their acts. Jn 5:17 The persons are fully present, though not reductively so, in their acts, which is why the divine liturgy mentions these acts so often. The divine acts are not separable from the persons doing them, even though the distinction between them is not epistemological or practical but real. So it would not be possible to say that we worship the acts but not the persons.

The object of worship is the divine persons in their activities. The activities “be” even though the persons are not exhaustively identical to them. Likewise, human persons are not reducible to their natures, which is why psychology is not a precise science. It’s called free will.

lexorandi2 said...

Oh yeah, Doug? Well then tell me: Who's on second??

lexorandi2 said...


This last response of yours was simply brilliant. Thanks for posting.


Mark said...


This is absolutely riveting. I haven't the foggiest idea what it all means, but that don't matter, does it Lou?

Hey Abbbbottt!!!

Which one is Perry?

Thomas said...

Photius and his acolyte,

This has been a very informative discussion. I have little knowledge of these issues from the Eastern point-of-view. Thank you for a stimulating dialogue. Or should I say webalouge?

Since the acknowledged root of this problem is the notion of ‘analogia entis’, please let me address it more directly.

Contrary to your statements, it seems, to the best of my ability to understand these issues, that you have collapsed subsistent ‘esse’ into ‘ens commune’ and view the former from the perspective of the latter. Yet, for Thomas – who sees it the other way around – the two are linked via participation (Ex. 3:14; Acts 17:28). It is not that God is lowered into ‘esse’, like an ice cream cone dipped in chocolate, but rather that creation is called “out” of nothing into a finite participation in subsistent ‘esse’, thus the value of the real distinction between essence and existence. The analogy, therefore, is based upon a “partaking of the divine nature”, albeit, in a manner distinct from theosis since the incarnation of the Word is not a principle of natural theology.

- The Incurable Thomist

Acolyte4236 said...


I don’t think that the root problem is the analogia entis. The root problem is Hellenism that seeks to render everything in principle graspable by reason. This is why God must be absolutely simple being.

I perfectly grant Aquinas the distinction between ens commune and esse, the problem is that it still renders God as being and more importantly as actus purus. Moreover, while Thomas views them as linked by participation, the notion of participation he is working with, a causal one, is too thin a notion to do justice to the biblical doctrine of theosis, let alone Christology. The appropriate corollary for Ex 3:14 is not Acts 17, but John 8:58., which identifies Jesus as the God of the OT who led the people out of Egypt, even though they now fail to recognize him as well as the time of their visitation. Consequently, from an Orthodox perspective, the Scholastics were completely wrong, and wrong because their Hellenism led them astray, in reading Ex 3 as talking about the divine essence, when it is in fact denoting the divine person of the Son.

This is why strictly speaking, there is no room in Orthodox theology for natural theology for all things are united to and gathered up into the Son. (Eph 1:10-11) The many plans, intentions, and predestinations (logoi) for creatures that we have access to here, are united to the one Logos, the divine Person of the Son. This is why all wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. This cuts against any distinction between nature and grace that would seek to make the latter extrinsic to the former and why the rejection of extrinsicism was a recent development in Catholic theology via Lubac under the influence of Orthodox theologians like Zizoulis. Rather ironic that it took Orthodox theology to correct the “pure faith” of Rome.

We reject a participation in the divine essence for the divine essence is not being. And a causal participation is too thin a basis for a real deification. We do not become like deity, we become deity. The union is not merely causal, in line with the Hellenic dyadic structure of causation, but entitative. Moreover, the Logos had better be a principle of natural theology because it is the Logos who is the image of man, the ground for human reason, and the application of that reason to grasp the logoi of every created thing, which are bound up with Him, otherwise we are back to extrinsicism. And that will lead us to all kinds of Christological problems, not the least of which will be Nestorianism and personalistic Predestinarianism.

Thomas said...


[Please pardon the spelling errors. I did not have access to spell-check.]

I did not say that the Logos is not a principle of natural theology. I said that the incarnate Logos is not a principle of natural theology.

The 'analogia entis' IS the fundamental difference here because it asserts that God is 'ad intra' intelligible. Which means that while God is essentially knowable (to which you object) creatures are forever impeeded from cognizing him on account his sublimity (which you seem to conceed but then deny). If the goal of your theologizing is to preserve the incomprehensability of God, that goal is achieved in Aquinas. My goal is also to perserve the meaningfulness of theo-logia, which seems to be undermined by your view.

For example: you said, or someone said, that while God is not something, neither is he nothing. Well, 'not nothing' is the same as saying 'something'. You have essentaily said that God is and is not something. That is a contradication. If God talk must be irrational then the contemplative end of theology has been undermind.

Anological predication does not "grasp" God. To grasp means to intuite the quiddity of the thing. Anological predication merely "points" to the surpassing reality. It serves only to render theo-logia meaningful. It does not dispoil in any way the mystery.

John C. said...

Is this a trick question?

john c. said...

T. Lex saith: 'However, no one picked up on the use of the third person personal pronoun "His" in #1. Read it again: "God reveals HIS Trinitarian nature?" Who is the antecedent of the pronoun here?'

Are you saying that it is improper for the pronoun "his" to refer to God? See Acts 20:32; Ro. 1:9; 2:4 -I must be missing something here.

lexorandi2 said...

Yes, you are missing something. There is no supra-hypostasis above the hypostases of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to which it is proper to use personal address.

"God" in each of your examples refers to the hypostasis of the Father. This is quite clear in Romans 1:9 where there is also reference to "His Son." Who's Son is Jesus? The Trinity's Son? No, He is God the Father's Son.

john c. said...

Ok, Ro. 1:1-2 says that God promised the gospel by His prophets in the Scriptures. Is God in this instance the Trinity, or the Father alone? Peter explicitly upholds the distinction that you are making in 1 Pe. 1:2, but then we learn in Acts 20:28 that the elders of Ephesus were to "feed the church OF GOD, which he hath purchased with HIS OWN BLOOD."

I must still be missing something.

lexorandi2 said...

The Acts 20:28 passage ("his own blood") is certainly a reference to the Son, which presents no problem since each hypostasis is "autotheos" (fully God in Himself). The Divine Person of the Son became incarnate, not the other two Persons, and yet what Christ is with respect to his Divine Nature he shares with the Father and the Spirit.

As a rule, references to God in the OT are speaking of the Father, for Jesus consistently claimed to be the Son of the One whom the Jews claimed to be their God. Although there is a long history of interpreting OT theophanic manifestations as christophanies. Also, the OT makes clear the distinction between God and his Spirit, even though the personhood of the Spirit is not made explicit until the NT.

Asher Black said...

In reference to the mention above: The 4-volume electronic edition of God, History, & Dialectic is now available at www.filioque.com.