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Keble
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« on: May 30, 2003, 07:41:13 AM »

We seem to have set off the Thread That Consumes All Other Threads, so I'm going to make a (probably futile) effort to sort some of the different lines out.

The argument need not be over your head; ask and it will be explained to you.  Basically the issue is: is grace a THING that God made, such as a tree, our human soul, etc.  Protestants often liken grace to a feeling (c.f. their frequent equation of grace with God's mercy), for instance.

Or is grace God himself in his energies (actions), in other words, when God acts does he act by making contact with others in a real way, or does he use a created substance, a power, whatever you want to call it, to affect the thing?  In option 1, the thing becomes one with God, in option 2, the thing is merely influenced.

I think, Anastasios, that the most common Anglican response would be to say that both of these answers are in a sense wrong, and in the same way: they reify grace into a substance. Whether it is divine or created, it is made into something to be dispensed, and the church is made simply a dealer in grace.

Grace is a mystery; therefore attempts to describe its nature are attempts to make the mystery go away.

It is interesting that the most famous Protestant hymn about grace does not describe grace at all, but merely talks about what it does. Also, yesterday being Ascension Day, I heard the most interesting sermon concerning the union of God and Man. The preacher spoke with reference to the following hymn verse:

Thou hast raised our human nature on the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heavenly places, there with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in thine ascension, we by faith behold our own.

Is this theosis? Perhaps so, but it is a theosis through grace, not through a process.
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2003, 08:14:50 AM »

Keble,

Thanks for bringing in another point of view.  I probably am just going to make the water more muddy, unfortunately, but, I'll try.

Grace is God himself. We use the term energy to express the distinction between God's inner life (essence) and his life outside himself in relation to the world (energy).

Grace is God acting on us; to say that Anglicans have it right because they leave it "open" and thus "a mystery" to me doesn't sound better--I like the fact that starting with St. Basil, continuing with St. Gregory of Cyprus, and ending with St. Gregory Palamas, it is clear that grace is God himself--his presence, his action, his will, his love.  Anything else, and it is extrinsic to him--whether it is a mystery or not.

The key is not whether it is defined but whether it is created or not.  We say it is uncreated because it is always God and always a part of God. Grace is a synonym for God's love and action, his presence in the world.

I like your Anglican hymn you posted is very nice, btw.
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2003, 11:22:46 AM »

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The key is not whether it is defined but whether it is created or not.  We say it is uncreated because it is always God and always a part of God. Grace is a synonym for God's love and action, his presence in the world.

Thanks for a good post Anastasios on the topic.  This is a HUGE issue for Orthodoxy (because without it Theosis isn't possible, and that is what in the end Orthodoxy is about).  The eucemenical meetings tend to overlook this topic from what I've noticed.

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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2003, 11:33:05 AM »

Not that I certainly have any expertise in this are, but I think that "Grace" is also God himself.

Everything exists only by the Grace of God.  It is his pure love. If God were to stop existing, so would everything else.

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Keble
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2003, 08:20:37 AM »

Keble,

Thanks for bringing in another point of view.  I probably am just going to make the water more muddy, unfortunately, but, I'll try.

Grace is God himself. We use the term energy to express the distinction between God's inner life (essence) and his life outside himself in relation to the world (energy).

Grace is God acting on us; to say that Anglicans have it right because they leave it "open" and thus "a mystery" to me doesn't sound better--I like the fact that starting with St. Basil, continuing with St. Gregory of Cyprus, and ending with St. Gregory Palamas, it is clear that grace is God himself--his presence, his action, his will, his love.  Anything else, and it is extrinsic to him--whether it is a mystery or not.

The key is not whether it is defined but whether it is created or not.  We say it is uncreated because it is always God and always a part of God. Grace is a synonym for God's love and action, his presence in the world.

I like your Anglican hymn you posted is very nice, btw.

This is going to get very philosophical for a moment, but just hang on.

The Episcopal Catechism does eventually get around to defining grace as "God's favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills." It is the first clause that is critical, especially the words "unearned" and "undeserved".

I have looked briefly through the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is very hard to characterize their position against any other, because about five sentences after defining the word they dive into an Aristotlean philosophical jibber-jabber, not to mention spending an inordinate space in attacking Martin Luther. They make a distinction between "actual" and "sanctifying" grace, the former being acts of transient influence and the latter being a permanent state.

I can't find the issue of creation per se in any of this. Depending on how pedantic one wishes to be, one could argue either way on whether the action of God (what you are calling "energies") are part of His nature or something He creates. What I'm finding is that the question doesn't seem to interest the West. The big issues seem to be Pelagianism on the one hand, and (mis-)characterizing the Protestants on the other.

The Catholic Encyclopedia does not mention "theosis" in the Orthodox sense (they use the word in passing in an article on mysticism, but it's clear that the sense is different). Again, the impression is that, until recently, the Orthodox idea was not discussed, for good or ill. The issues of justification and superogation have tended to crowd everything else out.

From an Anglican perspective, the distinction between God's energies and his creation seems a bit on the philosophical side. Scripture is sure grace, yet it is of creation. A prayer for healing or for favorable weather must in the end be answered in creation. Anglicans of late have found the notion of theosis congenial, but it seems to me that now we are seeing grace as a sort of secret ingredient.

That comes back to the issue of grace as being like a substance. People talking about the sacraments are prone to a lot of talk that gets transactional. You do the sacramental act the right way, and you get a dose of Grace(tm). Pretty soon churches get into the business of being Sole Proprietors of Grace(tm) and one gets into a lot of niggling talk of exactly what it takes to do the magic act Right.
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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2003, 09:54:52 AM »

I agree that Grace (tm) is something that cannot be purchased by adherence to the "Law". We are totally incapable of earning God's Grace by our acts.

He provides it freely and lovingly. All we have to do is ask him. He will never deny Grace to those that believe in him.

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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2003, 03:24:51 AM »

Orthodos Grace is (ontological) uncreated Energies (God's LIfe)--unearned (but cf. John 1:16)  It is described in Greek in Philp. 2:13

Thomists:  Grace is not uncreated and not energetic (non-operativa); it is a habit of the human soul--unearned

Reformers (Divine volition)--God's benignity to ascribe/impute virtual righteousness to ontological sinners.  Luther moved it out of cognition into volitoin, redefining it as fiducia (trust, confidenc).

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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2003, 07:33:13 AM »

Quote
Orthodox Grace is (ontological) uncreated Energies (God's Life)--unearned (but cf. John 1:16)  It is described in Greek in Philp. 2:13

Thomists:  Grace is not uncreated and not energetic (non-operativa); it is a habit of the human soul--unearned

Both views are accepted by the Catholic Church.

Quote
Reformers (Divine volition)--God's benignity to ascribe/impute virtual righteousness to ontological sinners.  Luther moved it out of cognition into volitoin, redefining it as fiducia (trust, confidence).

I'd scratch mock inverted commas around 'Reformers' (there - like that!). The snow-on-a-dungheap analogy and not transformation, what EOs call theosis. Too bad.
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Keble
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2003, 09:48:17 AM »

Quote
Orthodox Grace is (ontological) uncreated Energies (God's Life)--unearned (but cf. John 1:16)  It is described in Greek in Philp. 2:13

Thomists:  Grace is not uncreated and not energetic (non-operativa); it is a habit of the human soul--unearned

Both views are accepted by the Catholic Church.

Quote
Reformers (Divine volition)--God's benignity to ascribe/impute virtual righteousness to ontological sinners.  Luther moved it out of cognition into volitoin, redefining it as fiducia (trust, confidence).

I'd scratch mock inverted commas around 'Reformers' (there - like that!). The snow-on-a-dungheap analogy and not transformation, what EOs call theosis. Too bad.

I dunno-- when you have to lump 'the reformers' together, you have to consider what they were attempting to reform: a late medieval Catholicism which not only tended to assert that it could dole out grace by the penny, but was seemingly intent on doing so for considerable financial gain!

I don't think Luther meant to confuse grace with faith (or for that matter, I have to doubt that he ever did so). On the other hand, I don't think that theosis is the same a grace per se. Faith the gateway to grace; grace's effect is theosis. That's the orthodox Protestant view. And I believe it is the way that scripture uses these words (excepting theosis-- is that word in scripture?).
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2003, 01:41:17 PM »

Keble<<Faith the gateway to grace; grace's effect is theosis>>

So what is grace exactly? And what is faith? I'm just curious.

I have reservations about Luther (Catholic bias) since he tends to view salvation as something that occurs even though we are totally deprived and sinful, without any mind our becoming godly, obedient, and (as best is possible) perfect.

Of course, no one merits salvation and "even when we were still sinners Christ died for us" (today's epistle). But you can't just go on living the same way and be saved ("New wine, new skins..."). There has to be cooperation with grace.

Keble, "theosis" is a very biblical term. When St. Paul describes the third heaven in II Corinthians 11, that is theosis.
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2003, 02:26:07 PM »

Interesting discussion. I don't quite understand your problem with the Orthodox view, Keble. Saying that grace is God himself does seem to me to avoid the problems of both Catholicism and Protestantism on this point. At the same time, I'd like to point out to all the Orthodox that Protestants always have taught that grace transforms. They just distinguish the forgiving/imputing aspect and the transforming aspect, arguing that God regards us as righteous and accepted even though our sanctification/transformation/theosis is not yet complete. Theosis is in fact taught by some of the Reformers (many theologians see it in Luther, and I see it in Martin Bucer, on whom I'm writing my dissertation). I think the justification/sanctification distinction is a false one and answers the wrong questions entirely. But it is not fair to say that Protestants skip or don't emphasize sanctification. The Wesleyan tradition of Protestantism in particular emphasizes it very heavily (that's what I come from).

As for created/uncreated grace, it has in fact been discussed in Western Catholicism a great deal. Up to the 13th century, I believe, the standard position was that grace was uncreated. This is found in Peter Lombard's Sentences. Then the scholastics decided that this didn't work philosophically because there had to be some created medium through which God worked in the soul. So without denying the existence of uncreated grace, they posited a created quality (technically _not_ a substance, though that's the word people often use today) which God infuses into the soul and which makes us righteous. I think this was a serious mistake and set us up for all the confusion of the Reformation. As far as I know, however, this view was never definitively adopted by the Catholic Church, and today there's a lot more interest in the patristic/Orthodox view.

IN Christ,

Edwin
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2003, 02:48:53 PM »

   The learned reply by Edwin is very good.

The Orthodox view is ontological--uncreated Grace.
So is the Latin, but, as you say, a quality, not "something."
For the Reformers, it is neither quality nor substance.

As for "transformation," I'd like to know how it was characterized as divinization by the Reformers, other than covenantal unity with GOd.  Neither Western outlook (of the two just mentioned) distinguished the impariticipable Essence of God from the uncreated Energies--so the only unity possible was (i) with the Essence; and (ii) it had to be virtual.  Thomas said it is intentional (conceptual); Calvin took the will-based side as usual and made it covenantal.  Cf. his virtual presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, which Berkhof takes to be quite literally Augustine's visible "word."  Word of course is misused for LOGOS, the Creator, and easily slips around to bring in the Bible and preaching--both people-directed activities that are not considered "worship" but teaching in the East.

So back to transformation--is it virtual or ontological?  If the latter, in what sense?  It is purely spiritual or does it depend on the resurrection of the flesh?  Etc., etc.?  I don't understand what you (and another) are maintaining on this point.  And doesn't all Western theology depend on newborns being guilty of Adam's sin--the biggest hole in their outlook--but one without which other things would have to be dropped?
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« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2003, 01:34:25 AM »

Re-reading my reply to Edwin (half a day later, I think of an additional comment, other than the obvious one tha)t no ontological participation with the impariticipable Essence is allowed by Orthodox, Latin, or other thinkers (certainly not Karl Barth).  So it has got to be virtual--if at all.  Of course, the Orthodox reject any kind of unity with the uncreated Essence and believe only in an ontological union with the uncreated Energies of the divine Being beyond being.

It's interesting what you point out about Peter Lombardus, which I had forgotten.  Between those three Lombards--Anselm the Augustinian; Peter the Scholastic (who only had slight aquaintance with the Greek Fathers in Eriugena's translations--better than Sarozzin's used by Thomas; they are all cited on a single page); and Gratian (whose influence meant that "nearly all popes from 1100-1300 were lawers" [Papadakis])--the West could hardly have had any other "form" for its thinking than a juridicalist form.  

Then, when the Latin tanslations of shari'aizd and torahized Arabic  translations of and commentaries on pagan Greek philosophy (made in Norman [formerly Islamic] Sicily and Toledo) produced what we are told were sensations in Western thinking . . . doubly fortified the juridicalist outlook of Western Christian thinking.  Then the via moderna (begun and perpetuated at Oxford--Normans again, as was Aquinas himself in the Kingdom of Naples) got going, what could poor Luther do--juridicalist via moderna philosophy and Augustine (Luther was an Augustinian hermit)?  He had to opt for a will-based reality.  His novelty was to combine it with another modernism (he boasted of being a "modernus")--viz. the Gnostic-leaning devotio moderna, which is prominent in his views on the "Mass" in his famous Praeludium de captivitate babylonica ecclesiae.

I think the foregoing account of the development of the juridical form of Western theolog is more convincing than the theory of the late Protopresvyter John Romanides (the greatest Orthodox theologian of our time, and an American at that) of Charlemagnian politics.   I admitre Fr. John as much as anyone (he is my hero), and I am not questioning the influence of the brief Charlemagne revival in six locales that did revive literacy. (He himself couldn't read or write.)  But the cognitive paradigm of the West was created four centuries later in the manner I have laid out.  It was not the Franks who did the thinking.  (The Barbarian Frnaks raped Jerusalem and Constantinople).  The thinkers were the Lombard (Germanic, like the Franks), as well as Bernard the Burgundian and the off-beat Abailard (a Breton Kelt).

Afanasiy

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