Augustine, Aquinas, Barlaam & Palamas: The Root of Western Theological Error

Jay Dyer gives us a rundown of the differences between Aquinas and St. Gregory Palamas…and a lot more…

Jay's Analysis

fullsizeoutput_367 St. Gregory Palamas

By: Jay Dyer

When Western theology attempts to understand and interact with Eastern Orthodox theology’s distinctions, it is generally dismissed as “Palamism” – some form of obscure, medieval Byzantine mysticism. Upon deeper reflection and the realization  the Eastern Fathers all teach a distinction between essence and energy in God, in our watered-down ecumenical morass, it has become an exercise in seeing if oil and water can be mixed. As a Roman Catholic year back I tried to do this mixing job, as well. Is there some way to reconcile the two? As a good friend once said, if the two communions have argued against one another on this issue for hundreds of years, is it really plausible that a few online bloggers can reconcile the breach?  No, it isn’t, nor is it plausible the Eastern Church desperately needs the pope, when, by the mere fact that the…

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9 Responses to Augustine, Aquinas, Barlaam & Palamas: The Root of Western Theological Error

  1. jay008 says:

    Thank you for posting!

  2. Daniel Smith says:

    Gregory Palamas has a problem though.

    1. According to St. Damascene, energy is the activity of nature, being a natural property.

    2. Because energy is work, the energy of God is always God acting outside himself.

    3. But all outside of God is a creature.

    4. Therefore the energy of God, the activity of his nature, can only be contemplated in created things, even though the energy itself is uncreated. This is what St. Symeon the New Theologian means when he says “What is this I see at work within me?”

    By contemplating the created effect, he beholds the activity of uncreated grace. The created effect being precisely the change brought about in the soul by the presence of grace, the beautification and refashioning of the soul to its ancient beauty.

    And thus the west is vindicated. Because the Latin Sanctifying grace is precisely the effected change brought about by the presence of the Trinity and Divine Charity, beautifying the soul and giving it a new quality it once did not possess.

    • romeosyne says:

      Before God created anything at all, the Holy Trinity performed a beginningless, perfect act. God was never bereft of energies. The problem is not with St. Gregory, but with filioquist Latins who worship the creature rather than the creator. What you deny is glorification. Orthodox saints do not reflect upon fluxes in their bodies and souls merely, but thanks for reminding me that this is how heretical non-Orthodox claim to be in communion with God without glorification. One thing I wonder: Do you think you are a Roman Catholic that believes in uncreated grace? In that case, you are beyond the pale indeed!

      • Daniel Smith says:

        Clearly you are unfamiliar with Catholicism.

        Can you please give me a Roman Catholic definition of created grace?

        You will find that in Catholicism every gift of God is referred to as a grace. When the soul of a man encounters the Holy Trinity and the uncreated grace of Divine Charity is infused into the soul, that contact, that encounter creates in the soul a new quality, the quality of divinity, which is a real transformation.

        What do you think the Holy Prophet and king David meant when he said: “CREATE in me a clean heart O God.”

        The creation of a clean heart is not only the removal of sin, not only the cleansing of the heart, but the elevation of the heart to a new type of life by partaking in a new quality of life, Divine life. The participation itself is created (because there is once when it was not) but that which creates it and indwells man is uncreated- the Holy Trinity and the Divine energy of Charity.

        So please offer and critique the Roman definition of created grace.

      • romeosyne says:

        The issue at hand is quite clear-cut: You RC’s believe that participation in God is “created, because it was not.” We Orthodox hold that participation in God is union with the uncreated, because “there never was a time He was not.” The energies of the Holy Trinity divide undividedly to create and bring about multiple effects. But the energy remains, as St. Dionysius says, “one single divine perfect act.” It does not make sense to the Orthodox to say that “participation in God is created,” for God is uncreated. Thus, participation is becoming united with the uncreated, without any change to God’s essence or energies, since God can deify created beings without Himself changing. God’s energies change us, deify us. We do not “humanify” or alter the energies, nor are they alterable. They are divisible by action of the Holy Trinity. But this undivided division is ineffable.

      • Daniel Smith says:

        Again, we would do well to actually analyze a Roman definition. Can you provide this?

        And who says that the uncreated grace of God is not mediated by created things? On the contrary, St. Dionysius the Areopagite is clear that the Angelic Hierarchy ministers to men the uncreated grace of God.

        So what you seem to be willfully overlooking is that what God himself, through the agency of his Uncreated Divine Charity creates in man is a heart that is purified and elevated so it CAN partake in his life, which is infused into the soul as a divine quality, so that the soul itself is refashioned not only to its ancient beauty, but beyond it into the life of God.

        Again, critique a Catholic explanation, not the straw men so often posited by authors like Fr. George Metallinos.

      • romeosyne says:

        You ask me if I can provide an analysis of the Roman Catholic definition of “created graces.” I already have. Read my books. If they do not satisfy you, then write an article-length exposition explaining what I am supposedly missing. Oh, I guess I can echo you here: “Can you provide this?” If you have published books and articles, email them to me and I will read them. If you haven’t written anything, do you not sense how much you are presuming to think I would drop everything and produce some random person a screed-to-order?

        As for creation mediating the uncreated: All creation exists to be energetically glorified and to reflect this glory by sharing in liturgies, prayers, and other therapies designed to lead others to glorification.

        As for your idea that God creates in man a heart that can partake in divine life, I could not agree more! However, there are no divine created graces, but it does no good to flog this ailing nag a few more miserable feet down the track, as the fella says…

  3. Daniel Smith says:

    “Created grace is any grace that results from God communicating Himself beyond nature’s demands, such as the beatific vision and all supernatural creatures positively leading to it. It may be actual or habitual, external or internal, medicinal or elevating, or anything else, so long as it is a creature positively undue to the person it enhances. Since the reality signified by the term grace is found properly both in God and in created things given to creatures beyond their due, the term grace applies truly to some created gifts of the supernatural order. It is therefore some gratuitous gift of God, distinct from God Himself, positively leading to the beatific vision of God.

    God Himself, given to a creature beyond any of its demands, is uncreated grace. Examples are primarily: the Blessed Trinity indwelling in the just as distinct from created gifts, the Son of God given in the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit sent men by the Father and the Son, the love of God for men that is God Himself beyond the demands of nature, and predestination, or God’s decree to glorify those who shall be saved. This concept of grace is commonly admitted by theologians; for every supernatural gift is rightly called grace, and preeminent among these is God Himself.”

    New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2003

    So among uncreated graces are God himself dwelling in man, and among created supernatural graces are created gifts. Among created gifts of grace are those things that are the Effects of his presence already in you SUCH AS a purified heart which is supernaturalized by the addition of divine life as an added quality of the soul.

    To speak analogously- God, dwelling in man, CREATES in th heart of man a fit dwelling place, a temple, and this “temple” of a purified and divinized heart is a newly created thing. There is once when this heart, this pure and holy dwelling place, was not. It is therefore a supernatural creature designed to
    Be a receptacle of the Holy Spirit and his uncreated grace, Divine Charity.

    The temple God builds in the heart of man in which he will dwell is called a grace in the sense that it is an unmerited gift, not that it is uncreated energy. It is effected by the very fact of his presence.

    If you deny this it is only because you never knew it and refuse to listen to Latins on their own terms.

    • romeosyne says:

      I already know all of this. RC’s think that God causes a created effect in man, which is man’s ability and preparedness to have an indwelling of God within him. For RC’s, man has a beatific vision of God, of the uncreated, of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. However, this is a heresy, since “no one has ever seen God” in his essence, and no one knows the essence of God except Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, man does come to know God unknowingly, directly, noetically, through divinization via uncreated energies of the Holy Trinity.

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