Palamism Objection

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Jose Apolinar

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Jan 12, 2018, 9:56:15 PM1/12/18
to Quaestiones Disputatae: The Ite ad Thomam Forum

I am reading St. Gregory Palamas’ “One Hundred and Fifty Chapters” and have found a difficulty I hope you all can help me with. Observe the following:


96. If, according to the nonsense of Akindynos and those who share his

opinions, the divine energy is not in any sense distinct from the divine

substance, then creating, which belongs to the energy, will in no way differ

from generation and procession, which belong to the substance. But if

creating is not distinct from generation and procession, then creatures will

in no way differ from the one begotten and the one sent forth. And if

according to them this is the case, both the Son of God and the Holy Spirit

will in no way differ from creatures, all creatures will be begotten and sent

forth by God the Father, creation will become divine, and God will share his

rank with creatures. For this reason the divine Cyril pointed out the

distinction between the substance and energy of God when he said that

"begetting belongs to the divine nature but creating to his divine energy,"

adding the wise statement, "Nature and energy are not identical."


97. If the divine substance is not in any sense distinct from the divine

energy, then generation and procession are not distinct from creating. God

the Father creates through the Son in the Holy Spirit, and so, according to

the opinion of Akindynos and his followers, he both begets and sends forth

through the Son in the Holy Spirit.


98. If the divine substance is not in any sense distinct from the divine

energy and has not been distinguished from his will, the Only-Begotten of the

Father's substance will have been created, so it seems according to them,

from his will.


99. If the substance of God is not in any sense distinct from the divine

energy and if there is witness among theologians that God possesses many

energies since as shown above he has creative providences and goodnesses,

then God has also many substances—an opinion which no one of the

Christian race has ever uttered or held!


100. If the energies of God are not in any sense distinct from the divine

substance, neither will they have any distinction with respect to one another.

Therefore, God's will is not at all distinct from his foreknowledge, with the

result that either God will not know all things beforehand for he does not

will everything that happens, or he wills also evil things because he has

foreknowledge of all things, and either he has not had foreknowledge of all

things, which is the same as saying he is not God, or he is not good, which

is the same as saying he is not God. Therefore, the divine foreknowledge is

distinct from the will, and thus each of these is distinct from the divine

substance.


101. If the divine energies have no distinction with respect to one

another, then also the creative power is not at all distinct from his foreknowing.

Since then God began to create at a particular time, his foreknowledge

thus, also had a beginning. But how can he be God if he did not have

foreknowledge of all things before the ages?


102. If the creative energy of God is in no sense distinct from the divine

foreknowledge, created things will be coincident with God's foreknowledge,

created without beginning as he himself creates without beginning, since his

foreknowledge is also without beginning and the objects of his foreknowledge are foreknown without beginning. But how can he be God if his creatures are

in no way posterior to him?


103. If the creative energy is in no way distinct from God's foreknowledge,

creating is not subject to his will since not even his foreknowledge is

so subject, and God creates not by willing but by nature alone. But how can

he be God if he creates without will?


In summary, as someone had put it, since God's nature is fundamentally and ontologically necessary in every regard then simplicity also means what he does is fundamentally and ontologically necessary e.g. creation. This is what Dr. Bradshaw raises as well in his book Aristotle: East and West although more in depth.


It is not clear to me if Palamas is speaking of a real distinction because he could have just said “…the divine energy is not really distinct from…” instead of “…the divine energy is not in any sense distinct from…” What type of distinction was Palamas speaking of? Also, what is the best response to the objections of Ch. 96 – 103 that Palamas argues and the objection that his followers have posited: that God can’t have free choice if His will is identical to His essence? 

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