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Author Topic: Still studying Essence/Engergies Distinction. Can you help me?  (Read 1589 times) Average Rating: 0
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Papist
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« on: October 15, 2008, 12:43:41 PM »

I am still in the process of studying the essence/energies distinction. I am hoping that I can discover that the concepts of the distinction and divine simplicity can be reconciled. Now, as I have read a many articles over the net about EED, I have heard it asserted over and over again that EED and divine simplicity are compatible. But no one seems to explain how. Is there anyone who can help me out? The best idea I have come up with on my own is that the difference between the essence and energies is not ontological. It is merely relational. God relating to himself vs God relating to the world. If it is only relational then, yes, God is still simple. But then the Essence and Energies are not really different things at all, so why the termonolgy that suggest that they are? Can anyone help me out?
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2008, 12:50:32 PM »

I am still in the process of studying the essence/energies distinction. I am hoping that I can discover that the concepts of the distinction and divine simplicity can be reconciled. Now, as I have read a many articles over the net about EED, I have heard it asserted over and over again that EED and divine simplicity are compatible. But no one seems to explain how. Is there anyone who can help me out? The best idea I have come up with on my own is that the difference between the essence and energies is not ontological. It is merely relational. God relating to himself vs God relating to the world. If it is only relational then, yes, God is still simple. But then the Essence and Energies are not really different things at all, so why the termonolgy that suggest that they are? Can anyone help me out?

From what little I read on the subject (mostly it's Lossky's "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" and Palama's "Theophilus"), God, indeed, is "simple" in that there are no "constituent parts" in Him; so, His essence and His energies are not "the two 'parts' of God," but, rather, the two "moduses" of God's eternal being. God is in Himself (that's the mystical inner life of the Most Holy Trinity, in which there is no access to anyone or anything except its Three Divine Persons), and God is "beyond Himself," in the "energies" that sort of "pour out" from His inner being and reach the world. Just like the disk of the Sun and the beams of sunlight are not exactly the same thing, and yet they are both the Sun.
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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2008, 12:53:34 PM »

I am still in the process of studying the essence/energies distinction. I am hoping that I can discover that the concepts of the distinction and divine simplicity can be reconciled. Now, as I have read a many articles over the net about EED, I have heard it asserted over and over again that EED and divine simplicity are compatible. But no one seems to explain how. Is there anyone who can help me out? The best idea I have come up with on my own is that the difference between the essence and energies is not ontological. It is merely relational. God relating to himself vs God relating to the world. If it is only relational then, yes, God is still simple. But then the Essence and Energies are not really different things at all, so why the termonolgy that suggest that they are? Can anyone help me out?

From what little I read on the subject (mostly it's Lossky's "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" and Palama's "Theophilus"), God, indeed, is "simple" in that there are no "constituent parts" in Him; so, His essence and His energies are not "the two 'parts' of God," but, rather, the two "moduses" of God's eternal being. God is in Himself (that's the mystical inner life of the Most Holy Trinity, in which there is no access to anyone or anything except its Three Divine Persons), and God is "beyond Himself," in the "energies" that sort of "pour out" from His inner being and reach the world. Just like the disk of the Sun and the beams of sunlight are not exactly the same thing, and yet they are both the Sun.
Thank you. I was thinking along these lines as well. My only issue is that if the essence and energies are really just "moduses" of God's eternal being, then are they really different things at all? Is being a different mode enough to make something distinct?
« Last Edit: October 15, 2008, 12:54:25 PM by Papist » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2008, 12:58:25 PM »

On a side note, there is a Catholic Theologian who thinks that the debate between Latins and Byzantines on this matter can be resolved simply by recognizing that we are using the term "essence" in a different manner. Google: Michael Liccione and if anyone is willing to tell me what they think, I would appreciate it.
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2008, 03:08:55 PM »

My only issue is that if the essence and energies are really just "moduses" of God's eternal being, then are they really different things at all? Is being a different mode enough to make something distinct?

I'm not an expert in this field, but I've heard it stated over and over that God's energies really are God -- that is, they are divine because they are His true presence, just in a way in which we can participate (as opposed to His essence, which would destroy us in our current state).
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2008, 03:30:00 PM »

My only issue is that if the essence and energies are really just "moduses" of God's eternal being, then are they really different things at all? Is being a different mode enough to make something distinct?

I'm not an expert in this field, but I've heard it stated over and over that God's energies really are God -- that is, they are divine because they are His true presence, just in a way in which we can participate (as opposed to His essence, which would destroy us in our current state).

Exactly. AFAIK, this whole debate about essence and energies got started because people had very different ideas about the exact meaning of St. Athanasius the Great's maxim, "He became man so that a man can become God," or the expression from 1 Peter 1 that we are "participants" (or "sharers") of the Divine Nature." There are two extremes in these interpretations, one saying that a man is only to be "like" God (for it is impossible for a man to be God), and the other - that a man indeed aims at some sort of "absorption into Divinity" (apparetly a Gnostic thought). To build a "middle ground," St. Gregory Palamas (partially on the basis of earlier works of St. Maximos the Confessor) proposed to distinguish between God in His essence (unreachable for us), and God in His energies (quite reachable, like the rays of sunlight ion a sunny beach).
« Last Edit: October 15, 2008, 03:30:46 PM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2008, 09:41:26 PM »

Honestly, Papist, I'd consult printed sources, if you haven't done so already.

Fr. John Meyendorff's " St Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality" is an essential introduction to Saint Gregory, and it gives probably the best overview of how Essence and Energies was formulated previously and what led to the controversy of the 1300s.   His (out of print) Study of St. Gregory Palamas is another book (much deeper, and covers more than Essence and Energies).  The original works in the English Philokalia and in the translation of the Triads also would be helpful. 

These books discuss the differences.  My belief is that Essence and Energies are in fact ontologically different.  I'd have to go back and check..............

Best,

Markos
« Last Edit: October 27, 2008, 09:43:13 PM by MarkosC » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2008, 09:47:27 AM »

On a side note, there is a Catholic Theologian who thinks that the debate between Latins and Byzantines on this matter can be resolved simply by recognizing that we are using the term "essence" in a different manner. Google: Michael Liccione and if anyone is willing to tell me what they think, I would appreciate it.

I just came across Liccione's article in his blog, and judging from 118 responses, his conclusion is pretty controversial. To a non-Scholastic, the thing is a bit opaque; I don't accept the Aristotelian framework of Thomist thought, so it's very hard for me to make the argumentative machinery work.

I've been trying to deal with this elsewhere, and I really think I would like someone to try to explain the energies-essence thing to me.

BUT THERE'S A CATCH.

Whoever volunteers cannot make contrasts against what Westerners think. There is too much diversity among western viewpoints, and it seems all too often that the topic turns into a coatrack for attacks upon western Christianity rather than a theological point that can stand on its own merits. The controversialism makes it impossible for me to understand the notion, because by the time I've finished pruning away all the misstatements about what I believe, there's all too often nothing left to make a coherent picture with. I really do want to understand, but I need a better explanation than what I've been getting.
 
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2008, 01:01:36 PM »

On a side note, there is a Catholic Theologian who thinks that the debate between Latins and Byzantines on this matter can be resolved simply by recognizing that we are using the term "essence" in a different manner. Google: Michael Liccione and if anyone is willing to tell me what they think, I would appreciate it.

I just came across Liccione's article in his blog, and judging from 118 responses, his conclusion is pretty controversial. To a non-Scholastic, the thing is a bit opaque; I don't accept the Aristotelian framework of Thomist thought, so it's very hard for me to make the argumentative machinery work.

I've been trying to deal with this elsewhere, and I really think I would like someone to try to explain the energies-essence thing to me.

BUT THERE'S A CATCH.

Whoever volunteers cannot make contrasts against what Westerners think. There is too much diversity among western viewpoints, and it seems all too often that the topic turns into a coatrack for attacks upon western Christianity rather than a theological point that can stand on its own merits. The controversialism makes it impossible for me to understand the notion, because by the time I've finished pruning away all the misstatements about what I believe, there's all too often nothing left to make a coherent picture with. I really do want to understand, but I need a better explanation than what I've been getting.
 
All excellent points. I am not sure if my view of the Essence/Energies distinction is the same as the Eastern Orthodox view. I believe, that in order for the Essence/Energies distinction to work thoologically, there cannot be an onotological distinction between the essence and the energies. There must only be a difference of mode or of relations. If I step into the Eastern Orthodox theological frame work, God's essence would have to be God relating to God. The Energies would have to be God relating to creation but there would be no substantial difference because both would be God. In mind, this is the only way that I can accept that God's simplicity can still be maintained (as Palamas and other EO theologians state) and the distinction can be real.
Its a difficult concept because in the west we understand essence in a differenet way. Essence is just what something is. God's essence is God. So there is no need for us to talk about a distinction. We avoid Pantheism because recognize that while we do participate in the Divine Nature, that nature is infinite and we could never have all of it. Thus, we would never be God himself. These theological frameworks are completely different. Again, I think each has its weekness and each has its strenghts. I think the EED helps best gaurd agains Pantheism. However, the idea of absolute divine best gaurds God's infinite nature.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:08:51 PM by Papist » Logged

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