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Author Topic: Why does Orthodoxy reject Scholasticism?  (Read 4796 times) Average Rating: 0
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truthseeker32
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« on: April 25, 2013, 03:26:14 PM »

I am discussing this question on another forum as well, but I thought I would bring the question here to see if I can get any further insight.

As I have begun to consider Orthodoxy once again I have found difficulty understanding how exactly the Orthodox understanding of the relationship between faith and reason is different than the Roman Catholic view. I am specifically interested in exploring Orthodoxy's attitude towards Scholasticism and whether the method is really incompatible with Orthodox theology. I have received some answers to this question and read some articles addressing this point, but I have found that typically it is not Scholasticism itself that is being opposed, but specific arguments made by Scholastics, or worse yet a straw man of what Scholasticism is.

I think it is important to begin by defining what exactly Scholasticism is.

Dictionary.com states: [Scholasticism is] the system of theological and philosophical teaching predominant in the Middle Ages, based chiefly upon the authority of the church fathers and of Aristotle and his commentators.

A common phrase associated with Scholasticism has been "faith seeking understanding." I believe that, at its core, Scholasticism is merely this: the use of reason to seek whether or not certain aspects of faith may be strengthened through reason. Scholasticism does not claim that reason can tell us everything about God, or that God should be put in a box. Scholasticism must not be seen as necessarily leading a person do define all Divine mysteries. Scholasticism does not hold that reason is the only or most superior method to know God. The Roman Catholic website Newadvent states:

Quote
No method in philosophy has been more unjustly condemned than that of the Scholastics. No philosophy has been more grossly misrepresented. And this is true not only of the details, but also of the most essential elements of Scholasticism. Two charges, especially, are made against the Schoolmen: First, that they confounded philosophy with theology; and second, that they made reason subservient to authority. As a matter of fact, the very essence of Scholasticism is, first, its clear delimitation of the respective domains of philosophy and theology, and, second, its advocacy of the use of reason.

In light of the above I would like to read your thoughts on Orthodoxy's attitude towards Scholasticism. Why has it been rejected by so many? Should the Scholastic method itself be rejected, or merely some of the products of the Scholastic school?
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 03:27:22 PM by truthseeker32 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2013, 05:54:32 PM »

It looks like you may already have made up your mind anyway, and that you are perhaps baiting a trap for anyone who might disagree with you.  Since you may have  already decided you know the answer, I'm reluctant to get into a long and possibly contentious discussion, particularly since it is almost Orthodox Holy Week.  So I am just going to post this and not rejoin the discussion for some time.  (I apologise if I misread your intentions, but this is one thing that I am getting from an initial reading of your post.)

While Thomas Aquinas is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant scholastics and scholars of his age, and had many interesting things to say, for the Orthodox there is much in his and other scholastics' writings which is suspect from the beginning, simply because for us they are  not even asking the right questions about the Faith.  For the Orthodox, it as if the scholastics are speaking another language.  Despite your assertions that scholasticism does not try to take the mystery out of the Faith or to "put God in a Box", there is plenty of evidence available to the contrary.  

There are revered Catholic institutions of higher learning (where Aquinas is held in great esteem) that proudly assert in their promotional literature that they seek to "do" theology in a highly "scientific" manner.   What this seems to mean for them is that the only serious theologians are those who analyse the Gospel and the life of the Church in a manner befitting that of a technician approaching a problem in a chemical lab.   I have heard firsthand of how the theologians in these institutions ridicule or belittle the work of some Catholic theologians for not being "scientific."  Part of this "scientific" approach appears to include the need to categorise every way that God interacts with human beings.  I once saw a lecture by a renowned biblical scholar from such an institution concerning the resurrection.  It was one of the dullest hour and a half presentations on anything I had ever seen.  We are talking about the resurrection here, the very heart of the Christian message!  This scholar thoroughly analysed and categorised biblical accounts of the resurrection, and I learned that there are several different "categories" of "eschatologies", but I was certainly not inspired or the least bit interested by anything he had to say.  He managed to miss the whole point of the Christian message while thoroughly analysing it at the same time; quite a feat really, when you think about it.

Unfortunately, the heritage of scholasticism is like a 400 pound gorilla that many modern Western theologians cannot get off their backs.  When I see works with titles like "Does God Exist?" or "Proof for the Existence of God" etc. I think that I am seeing the children of high scholasticism on display.  (Well, okay, not just scholasticism.  Other Western modes of thought that came afterward are also involved, but scholasticism certainly got the ball rolling on this kind of thinking.)  And I think again that the right questions are not being asked.  For the Orthodox, striving to "prove" the existence of God through "reason" is an entirely alien and bizarre project to embark upon.  It is turning the whole Christian experience of Truth experienced through Divine revelation on its head.  The knowledge we have of the existence of God is noetic (intuitive) knowledge, and cannot be "proven".  It is God who is the creator of us, and not the other way around!  As much as possible our theology should only seek to define Him so that we avoid heresy, and not go any further.  A God who can be defined by human beings ceases to be God!  God is beyond any of our categorizing of "existence".  We must say that God exists in that any true "being" flows only from Him, but we really have no idea what this means!  Just because knowledge is noetic and not rational, it doesn't mean that it is irrational.  There are places where reason cannot go.  And that is where scholasticism makes its mistake.  

Speaking of the word "noetic", I have often seen instances where the Greek word nous (that organ that the Fathers believe we have to perceive intuitively the Mysteries of the Faith) is mistranslated by Western thinkers as "intellect."  This might explain a lot of things.  

The human intellect by itself is limited and fallen....reason, when used properly within its limits, should lead us to begin a noetic understanding of the Christian Mystery.   I do think it is an erroneous and dangerous thing to teach Catholics that the Grace of God (for example) is categorised in various ways (1. Habitual Grace 2. Actual Grace 3. Merits etc.)  I mean, really!  Here we have human beings defining how God behaves in a given situation with his creature.  There is nothing in Christian revelation or the Fathers about how God's Grace should be defined.  The way in which God relates to us is known to us by experience, but this does not stop God from interacting with anyone in any way that He pleases, that is totally unknown to any of the rest of us!

I think scholasticism is degenerate precisely because of its propensity to categorise and thereby limit the living God.  A far more apophatic approach is needed, the approach of the apostles and the fathers.  The very fact that scholasticism is referred to as a "system" makes it problematic for the Orthodox.  God does not relate to us in a "systematic" way (a "system" being an  entirely human invention!) but through revelation, Grace, etc. when and how He chooses!  There are no "systems" of this kind in Orthodoxy.

Consider the words of the Orthodox troparion of Pentecost:  "Blessed are You, o Christ our God, who has revealed the fishermen as most wise...."  For us, a theologian is indeed "one who prays."  It is through prayer that an ineffable relationship is cultivated with the living God.  This is beyond anywhere that "reason" can go.   Don't forget that Aquinas himself had a vision near the end of his life and declared that everything he had written was "straw", and refused to write any more; indeed, he affirmed that he was unable to do so!  

And by the way, I am not saying that Orthodoxy has nothing to learn from the West.  Modern biblical criticism, for example, when disciplined by the spirit, can be very beneficial, up to a point.  

This thread might also give you some help in looking for answers:

www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=9855.0

« Last Edit: April 26, 2013, 10:01:27 AM by Pravoslavbob » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2013, 06:11:18 PM »

The notion that Orthodoxy rejects "Scholasticism" as such seems to me to come more from 20th Century anti-Catholic polemics than from actual history. It would be a useful exercise, for example, for those who claim this to try to explain exactly what the Latin Scholastics were doing that would sharply distinguish their methodology from that of, say, John of Damascus...

I'd also suggest taking a look at Marcus Plested's new book Orthodox Readings of Aquinas, which is partially available on Google Books...
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2013, 07:11:31 PM »

My oversimplified understanding is that Scholasticism attempts to describe God and "theologize" by means of philosophy and reason, whereas the traditional Orthodox approach describes God by what is "seen" through the purified eyes of the heart, in prayer. Perhaps like trying to describe the ocean by standing on the beach looking out, versus jumping into the waters?
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2013, 08:10:14 PM »

The notion that Orthodoxy rejects "Scholasticism" as such seems to me to come more from 20th Century anti-Catholic polemics than from actual history. It would be a useful exercise, for example, for those who claim this to try to explain exactly what the Latin Scholastics were doing that would sharply distinguish their methodology from that of, say, John of Damascus...

I'd also suggest taking a look at Marcus Plested's new book Orthodox Readings of Aquinas, which is partially available on Google Books...
A couple of things separate St. John from the Scholastics.  For St. John (and the rest of the Fathers) philosophy provides a tool to organize thoughts and systematize data.  For the Scholastics philosophy can provide new data: hence the elaboration of natural law.  For St. John the Fathers then philosophy is always theology's handmaiden, for the Scholastics theology's younger sister, if not her twin.  St. John, and the Fathers, feel no need to use philosophy to stretch knowledge beyond revelation.  The Scholastics attempt to use it to not only know the unknown, but the unknowable.

St. John and the Fathers do not spiral down a discussion on "transsubstanciation."

The rejection of Scholasticism, in its modern form, of course comes from the 19th and 20th century, as during the Western Captivity Scholasticism was embraced-whether in its Vatican or Protestant form-by the Orthodox.  But it comes from a movement of ad fontes, based on the declaration of Constantinople V.
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2013, 08:13:03 PM »

Scholasticism does not claim that reason can tell us everything about God, or that God should be put in a box.
Its creation-and then dogmaticization-of transsubstantiation tells us otherwise.
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2013, 08:50:10 PM »

I'm willing to agree that a difference in attitude about natural law might be a genuine difference. But, I wouldn't at all characterize the important Scholastics-- especially Aquinas of putting philosophy ahead of theology. I mean, if one were being uncharitable about it, one could argue that much Greek Christological discussion gets carried away by Aristotle... The first chapter of the Plested book I mention above is a nice place to start out with that issue for Aquinas, as it's a discussion of his Greek sources-- I hadn't known, for example, that Aquinas had arranged for Theophylact of Ochrid to be partially translated and that he uses him pretty extensively in his Gospel commentaries.

As for transubstantiation, I don't think it's getting carried away with Aristotelianism, since it is positing a kind of change with no natural analog, albeit in the Aristotelian language that was common in the medieval East as well as the West. Really, it's simply saying two things: The bread and wine become body and blood and are no longer ontologically bread and wine. Our experience of them shows that they continue to have the properties of bread and wine.  This is why the concept was pretty readily acceptable to most pre-modern Orthodox when they encountered it. I'd be very  interested in finding the earliest Orthodox polemic against the transubstantiation.
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2013, 09:22:00 PM »

It looks like you may already have made up your mind anyway, and that you are perhaps baiting a trap for anyone who might disagree with you.  Since you may have  already decided you know the answer, I'm reluctant to get into a long and possibly contentious discussion, particularly since it is almost Orthodox Holy Week.  So I am just going to post this and not rejoin the discussion for some time.  (I apologise if I misread your intentions, but this is one thing that I am getting from an initial reading of your post.)
I am sorry if my introduction came off that way. I legitimately wish to understand why Scholasticism is rejected by a lot of Orthodox Christians.

Quote
While Thomas Aquinas is doubtlessly one of the most brilliant scholastics and scholars of his age, and had many interesting things to say, for the Orthodox there is much in his and other scholastics' writings which is suspect from the beginning, simply because for us they are  not even asking the right questions about the Faith.  For the Orthodox, it as if the scholastics are speaking another language.  Despite your assertions that scholasticism does not try to take the mystery out of the Faith or to "put God in a Box", there is plenty of evidence available to the contrary.
I wonder, though, whether this is the fault of Scholasticism or so-called Scholastic taking things too far. This is a big question at the heart of my inquiry. Is Scholasticism itself deficient, or did it just happen to be used in a bad way?  

The notion that Orthodoxy rejects "Scholasticism" as such seems to me to come more from 20th Century anti-Catholic polemics than from actual history. It would be a useful exercise, for example, for those who claim this to try to explain exactly what the Latin Scholastics were doing that would sharply distinguish their methodology from that of, say, John of Damascus...

I'd also suggest taking a look at Marcus Plested's new book Orthodox Readings of Aquinas, which is partially available on Google Books...
I've read quite a bit about Plested. I wonder if Orthodox Christians in Eurpoe are more sympathetic to Scholasticism than their American brothers and sisters. Here is an interesting interview with Plested:

http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2013/02/marcus-plested-on-orthodoxy-and-aquinas.html

And here are some exerpts:

Quote
AD: What led you to write this book in particular?


MP: It was a book I felt had to be written - not only because it was a vastly important subject area that hadn't been tackled before, but also as an attempt to dispel some of the negative and oppositional (i.e. anti-Western) accounts of Orthodoxy that have tended to prevail in recent years. Such accounts, to my mind, are not properly faithful to Orthodox tradition and tend to undermine Orthodox witness in the world today. The fact that so many Orthodox saints and scholars over the centuries have admired and made good critical use of Aquinas warns us that any blanket rejection of him and all he stands for is a relatively recent development within Orthodoxy.
AD: The extent of Thomas' appreciation for the East ('Greeks'), which you detail in your first chapter, was astonishing to me. He really seems much more generous and gracious than I would have expected. Were you also surprised by these findings?

MP: Yes, while I knew of his fascination with Dionysius and admiration for St John of Damascus, I was stunned by the extent of his engagement with patristic, conciliar, and Byzantine sources.

AD: Your next chapter notes a similar openness to the Latin West in Gregory Palamas--more so than in those who come after him or claim to be his followers or interpreters. Was that also surprising to you?

Less so - this is something I knew something of as a graduate student, but even here I found much more than I had anticipated.
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2013, 09:48:40 PM »

I'm willing to agree that a difference in attitude about natural law might be a genuine difference. But, I wouldn't at all characterize the important Scholastics-- especially Aquinas of putting philosophy ahead of theology. I mean, if one were being uncharitable about it, one could argue that much Greek Christological discussion gets carried away by Aristotle... The first chapter of the Plested book I mention above is a nice place to start out with that issue for Aquinas, as it's a discussion of his Greek sources-- I hadn't known, for example, that Aquinas had arranged for Theophylact of Ochrid to be partially translated and that he uses him pretty extensively in his Gospel commentaries.

As for transubstantiation, I don't think it's getting carried away with Aristotelianism, since it is positing a kind of change with no natural analog, albeit in the Aristotelian language that was common in the medieval East as well as the West. Really, it's simply saying two things: The bread and wine become body and blood and are no longer ontologically bread and wine. Our experience of them shows that they continue to have the properties of bread and wine.  This is why the concept was pretty readily acceptable to most pre-modern Orthodox when they encountered it. I'd be very  interested in finding the earliest Orthodox polemic against the transubstantiation.
Somewhere here we have thread on that last question.

As for transubstantiation, to ask how is already to go beyond the pale.  As an expression of the fact of the change, that never bothered the Orthodox, then or now.
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2013, 01:12:32 PM »

I'm willing to agree that a difference in attitude about natural law might be a genuine difference. But, I wouldn't at all characterize the important Scholastics-- especially Aquinas of putting philosophy ahead of theology. I mean, if one were being uncharitable about it, one could argue that much Greek Christological discussion gets carried away by Aristotle... The first chapter of the Plested book I mention above is a nice place to start out with that issue for Aquinas, as it's a discussion of his Greek sources-- I hadn't known, for example, that Aquinas had arranged for Theophylact of Ochrid to be partially translated and that he uses him pretty extensively in his Gospel commentaries.

As for transubstantiation, I don't think it's getting carried away with Aristotelianism, since it is positing a kind of change with no natural analog, albeit in the Aristotelian language that was common in the medieval East as well as the West. Really, it's simply saying two things: The bread and wine become body and blood and are no longer ontologically bread and wine. Our experience of them shows that they continue to have the properties of bread and wine.  This is why the concept was pretty readily acceptable to most pre-modern Orthodox when they encountered it. I'd be very  interested in finding the earliest Orthodox polemic against the transubstantiation.
Somewhere here we have thread on that last question.

As for transubstantiation, to ask how is already to go beyond the pale.  As an expression of the fact of the change, that never bothered the Orthodox, then or now.
Transubstantiatio doesn't explain the how. It merely says that its the body and blood of Christ, while maintining the appearance of bread and wine.
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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2013, 04:53:09 AM »

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Orthodox opposition to the scholastic movement that it elevated reason above revelation?
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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2013, 02:55:39 PM »

I wonder if Orthodox Christians in Eurpoe are more sympathetic to Scholasticism than their American brothers and sisters.

No, thank God we aren't... Some people in the MP are though. Guess there still is some Western captivity in Russia.

Those theologians who have the most genuine Orthodox spirituality, for example the ones from Thessaloniki, who often go to the Holy Mountain, which is located nearby, are the strongest opponents of scholasticism.
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2013, 02:05:11 AM »

Plested seems to be the Orthodox Christian that is currently most vocal about the need for Orthodox Christians to stop positing an unwarranted juxtaposition between Orthodoxy and Scholasticism. Here are the abstracts from two chapters in Orthodox Readings of Aquinas.

"This chapter deals with Gregory Palamas' reception of the Latin West.
Taking his evident use of Augustine as a starting point, it argues for
the existence of an Orthodox interpretation of procession of the Holy
Spirit from the Father and the Son in Gregory — and not only in respect
of temporal procession. This constructive approach to the filioque
question reveals an instinctive solidarity between Gregory and the Latin
theological tradition, as also evidenced by his understanding of the
divine wisdom. Palamas' deep roots in the Byzantine scholastic tradition
underpin his defence of the place of rightly-ordered reason on theology,
an approach that aligns him far more closely with Thomas than with the
anti-rational discourse of many of his opponents. Attention is also given
to Palamas' connections with and irenic approach to the Latins of his own
time — an approach analogous to that of Aquinas. The chapter questions
the prevalent assumption in modern theology (Eastern and Western
alike) that Palamas and Aquinas may be taken as opposing archetypes of
their respective traditions. In fact, the commonalities between these two
theologians are more evident that their differences and this helps explain
the capacity of so many committed Palamites to welcome and make use
of Aquinas in the last years of the Byzantine Empire."

"This book is an exploration of the remarkable odyssey of Thomas
Aquinas in the Orthodox Christian world. It centres on the surprisingly
enthusiastic welcome which Aquinas received across the theological
spectrum of the late Byzantine world. By contrast with the Byzantine
era, modern Orthodox readings of Aquinas have been resoundingly
negative, routinely presenting Aquinas as the archetype of a specifically
Western form of theology against which the Orthodox East must set its
face. This study rejects such hackneyed dichotomies, arguing instead
for a properly catholic or universal construal of Orthodoxy — one in
which Thomas might once again find a place. In its probing of the East–
West dichotomy, this book also questions the widespread juxtaposition
of Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas as archetypes of opposing
Greek and Latin theological traditions. Indeed, Palamas' own Byzantine
scholastic inheritance and sympathy with Latin theology prepared the
way for many Palamites to embrace Thomas. Close attention is also paid
to those Orthodox theologians who struggled against union with Rome
but remained devoted to Aquinas. The long period between the Fall of
Constantinople and the Russian Revolution, conventionally written off as
an era of sterility and malformation for Orthodox theology, is also viewed
with a fresh perspective. Study of the reception of Thomas in this period
reveals a theological sophistication and a generosity of vision that is
rarely accounted for. The book radically re-thinks the history of Orthodox
theology through the prism of the fascinating and largely untold story of
Orthodox engagement with Aquinas."


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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2013, 05:18:28 AM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

Besides, scholasticism is boooooring. Reading Aquinas' Summa Theologica or Bonaventure's Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard is a cruel torture. Perhaps the Americans should use that in Guantanamo Bay. I promise you, everyone will confess to anything within hours.
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2013, 12:47:27 PM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?
Whether something is foreign or native says nothing in and of itself about whether it should be adopted. For example, the entire Christian religion would likely seem very foreign, even repulsive to some cultures, but this doesn't mean Christianity is without value or truth. In just the same way, Scholasticism should be accepted or rejected solely based on its value.

Besides, scholasticism is boooooring.
So is a good portion of the Bible and writings of the ECFs. Ought we to throw out these as well? Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2013, 01:13:19 PM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

There are more illustrious exceptions. For instance, St. Photius was quite fond of Aristotle. 
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2013, 01:43:50 PM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

Besides, scholasticism is boooooring. Reading Aquinas' Summa Theologica or Bonaventure's Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard is a cruel torture. Perhaps the Americans should use that in Guantanamo Bay. I promise you, everyone will confess to anything within hours.
I don't think its boring at all. I'm currently writing a paper on Aquinas' interpretation of Aristotle's argument from motion, and I'm really enjoying it.
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2013, 01:43:50 PM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

There are more illustrious exceptions. For instance, St. Photius was quite fond of Aristotle. 
And quite a few Church Fathers speak in Aristotelian/Greek philosophical terms.
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2013, 02:40:38 PM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

There are more illustrious exceptions. For instance, St. Photius was quite fond of Aristotle. 

It doesn't really show in his work, though.

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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2013, 11:19:53 PM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

There are more illustrious exceptions. For instance, St. Photius was quite fond of Aristotle. 

A friend of mine was working on a paper on how East-West differences were based on different readings of Aristotle, or rather a Roman Catholic misreading thereof.
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« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2013, 01:05:33 AM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?
Why is St. John an exception?

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« Reply #21 on: April 29, 2013, 09:46:12 AM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?
Why is St. John an exception?

Because his Pège Gnoseos is basically a Summa Theologica avant la lettre. St. John of Damascus was probably a big inspiration for Aristotelissimus Thomas
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« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2013, 09:52:46 AM »

Scholasticism, and with it Peripateticism, is quite foreign to the Eastern Church (with the exception of St. John of Damascus) so why adopt it now?

There are more illustrious exceptions. For instance, St. Photius was quite fond of Aristotle. 

A friend of mine was working on a paper on how East-West differences were based on different readings of Aristotle, or rather a Roman Catholic misreading thereof.
Now that would be an interesting paper. Though, I would say, St. Thomas felt free to disagree with Aristotle, whenever Thomas felt that Aristotle was contradicting the Christian faith.
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« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2013, 09:52:53 AM »

St. John of Damascus was probably a big inspiration for Aristotelissimus Thomas

He was indeed - Aquinas quotes him very often.
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« Reply #24 on: April 29, 2013, 09:56:09 AM »

St. John of Damascus was probably a big inspiration for Aristotelissimus Thomas

He was indeed - Aquinas quotes him very often.

And accuses him of being tainted by Nestorianism.
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« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2013, 03:03:14 PM »

The notion that Orthodoxy rejects "Scholasticism" as such seems to me to come more from 20th Century anti-Catholic polemics
It was not until very late in the 19th century that scholastic philosophy became a part of Roman Catholic dogma (1871/Vatican I). Therefore it is *not at all* surprising that Orthodox focus on the rejection of scholasticism as ais found especially after it appears enshrined dogmatically in Vatican I. So also Aquinas's philosophy was controversial among Roman Catholics from the period of Aquinas until Vatican I, as Roman Catholic philosopher Frederick Copleston observed in his book on Aquinas. So "Orthodox objection" is not an isolated case; we can speak of Roman Catholics rejecting Aquinas before Vatican I in the 1870s as well (we will also further consider its rejection among many contemporary philosophers including an evident majority of self-described Roman Catholic philosophers and others below).

There is also the matter of rejecting elements of Aquinas' philosophy not simply qua philosophy, but as being incorporated as a dogma of the Christian faith. We see nothing resembling such a bold and innovative claim in the entire first millennium of Christianity. Infallible truths produced by natural reason has led to false pronouncements and a failed program which contributed to Western skepticism and the death of God (cultural); ideas have consequences and the failure of this idea has had momentous consequences in western philosophy and culture. So for us as for you it is not simply a matter of accepting or rejecting elements of scholasticism, but accepting or rejecting elements of scholasticism AS CONSTITUTING A DOGMA OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. Many papal/ teachings assert X, Y, Z is a matter of moral law perceptible to natural reason apart from faith. This is originates from Aristotle, is taken up by Aquinas, and baptized by the Magisterium, but it is not found at all in the teaching of the Undivided Church before the Great Schism and before the Hegelian theory of dogmatic development we find at the forefront of Roman Catholicism from Newman to Vatican II and beyond (cf. Novus Ordo liturgical revolutions etc.).

Turning from questions of dogma to matters of intellect and/or conscience one hardly knows where to begin.

One reason for rejecting scholastisism is it is most often regarded on its own chief grounds, reason, as failed and unconvincing; outside of traditionalist RC circles scholasticism and Classical Foundationalism are effectively dead in philosophy:

"Foundationalism has been the reigning theory of theories in the West since the high Middle Ages. It can be traced back as far as Aristotle... Aquinas offers one classic version of foundationalism. There is, he said, a body of propositions which can become self-evident to us in our present earthly state. Properly conducted scientific inquiry consists in arriving at other propositions by way of reliable inference from these (demonstration). A few of these (for example, that God exists) can be inferred from propositions knowable to the natural light of reason.

...within the community of those working in philosophy of knowledge and philosophy of science foundationalism has suffered a series of deadly blows in the last 25 years. To many of those acquainted with the history of this development it now looks all but dead. So it looks to me. Of course, it is always possible that by a feat of prodigious imagination foundationalism can be revitalized. I consider that highly improbable..." (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion, pp. 26-27).

Contrast the Vatican Insider's claim: "In a pluralistic society, the Catholic Church is convinced that it is duty bound 'to intervene in favor of the values that are valid for man as such, independently of the various cultures' - values the Church knows 'through its faith' but at which all men can arrive through reason alone, regardless of faith."     http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/benedetto-xvi-benedict-xvi-benedicto-xvi-9725/

With a majority of my contemporaries who have studied ethical philosophy at the graduate level I for one thank God for Orthodoxy, lest throwing the baby out with the bathwater I would be faced with the false dichotomy of embracing the Apostolic Faith AND an essentially dead, or at least highly dubious according to a decided majority of professional philosophers of our day as if they must be imbibed together.

Catholic theologian Charles Curran claims "the concept of natural law as a deductive methodology based on eternal and immutable essences and resulting in specific absolute norms is no longer acceptable to the majority of Catholic moral theologians writing today" (Curran, Charles, "Catholic Moral Theology Today" in New Perpectives in Moral Theology, ed., Charles Curran (Notre Dame: UNDP, 1982), p. 6). A standard circular objection to the fallout among Roman Catholic philosophers is that this is "dissent"; here however we should note that Curran is simply stating the fact of its general rejection, which is a matter of simple statistics.

Since the question was about an Orthodox reaction
"Medieval scholasticism argued for the existence of God in the chain of causation: God as First Cause or Prime Mover. This is quite problematic since God does not belong to the category of facts. He is not a fact among facts and cannot be considered in such a manner. We may follow a chain of causation and arrive at what we cannot know. For some, this constitutes proof. For others it begs the question." http://glory2godforallthings.com/2013/01/22/the-beauty-of-truth-and-the-existence-of-god/

Cf. also several specific objections cited in a recent article by Orthodox writer David Bentley Hart
http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/05/nature-loves-to-hide
and also http://ethikapolitika.org/2013/03/14/hart-has-reasons-that-reason-cannot-know/
These article form a part of a recent debate stimulated by Hart which will be instructive to readers on both sides of these questions.

Natural law theories as an example are purportedly a matter of logic; historiography demonstrates otherwise. Natural law theories and their content are culturally conditioned. "...every attempt to spell out the intellectual content of natural law can be shown to be historically and culturally conditioned. While all people seem to have a moral sense, when they begin articulating what this means, their own cultural and religious background proves to be determinative in their judgments. We need to take seriously this telling criticism of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn: 'Is there such a thing as a natural law in the sense that we all 'naturally' reject murder, lies, deceit, wanton cruelty, adulterary, theft, or contempt of parents? As a world traveler and student of ethnology I deny this in the face of certain Christian theological tradition " Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "Jews, Christians, and Gentiles," National Review 35, no. 20 (Oct. 14, 1983), p. 1282).

No less important are the numerous religious objections to scholastic philosophy as it has been embraced dogmatically by Roman Catholicism.

Scholasticism has been rejected by Protestants like Barth and Bonhoeffer (as by the Reformers before them) as being in stark contradiction to the Christian faith. In the Genesis narrative knowledge of the good -far from being part of creation/nature, appears as a part of the fall. The tree in the garden man was forbidden to partake of was not simply the tree of the knowledge of evil, but the tree of the knowledge of good as well. Knowledge of the good was in scripture part of the fall, not part of creation or nature or humankind It was on this view "the devil's first lie" that we can have knowledge of the good" apart from revelation or union/communion; Aquinas accordingly might seem to have simply taken up the argument of the devil who on this view must have rejoiced beyond measure when it was pronounced a dogma by a modern pope? In any event Genesis does not especially remind us of Aristotle or the Stoic philosophers concerning natural knowledge of the good.

Natural law proponents appeal to St. Paul concerning the law written on our hearts. Although scholarship and exegesis hardly decide this matter it is well to remind ourselves of the peculiar fact that those who see the Pauline texts teaching "natural law" as the Roman Catholics understand it are *almost entirely* Roman Catholics. Pascal famously argued that the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. These laws written upon the heart Paul spoke of may be congruent to reason (e.g. one might describe them), but it is not self-evident they are *arrived at by reason* in the sense of a "foundation" or as a process of discursive or syllogistic reasoning in the sense described by Thomas Aquinas et al (cf. the Natural Law trajectory in philosophy from the Stoics, Aristotle, Aquinas, Roman Catholicism, Neo-Thomists, etc.).

No doubt our Thomist friends have some counter-reactions and objections to some of this, which is fine; if these brief remarks serve to make readers aware that rather than there being some marginal Orthodox rejection of a Grand Idea that is secure in other quarters we should rather understand an increasingly marginal Roman Catholic dogma rejected not only by a few Orthodox Christians, but also most major philosophers who are not Roman Catholic as well as being totally absent from the entire first Christian millennium.

Supposedly, according to traditionalist Roman Catholic replies, we should not judge this issue according to how many philosophers affirming Natural Law ("objectively true moral conclusions ...derived from premises that in no way presuppose any purported divine revelation, any body of scriptural writings, or any particular religious tradition" -Hart, op cit) can be found who are not traditionalist Roman Catholics. Nevertheless the issue seems glaring:

When a thing "perceptible to reason apart from faith" is also rejected as obvious from natural reason by not just a majority of contemporary philosophers, not just Orthodox Christians "in the 20th century," not just most Protestant writers from the Reformation to the present, not just Jewish writers, not just a majority of contemporary Roman Catholic philosophers as affirmed by Curran, but a majority of practicing Roman Catholics themselves (recent poll data) what might otherwise be dismissed as marginal or moderate suspicion appears to be approaching critical mass.

Scholasticism is merely this: the use of reason to seek whether or not certain aspects of faith may be strengthened through reason.
Strengthening of faith through reason is one thing; the claim that reason may be considered as a foundation upon which "the whole science of natural and divine things is based" is quite another:

"The capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church. -Pope Pius X, Doctoris Angelici (29th June 1914).

I cannot underscore enough how right ialmisry has it:
For St. John (and the rest of the Fathers) philosophy provides a tool to organize thoughts and systematize data.  For the Scholastics philosophy can provide new data: hence the elaboration of natural law.  For St. John the Fathers then philosophy is always theology's handmaiden, for the Scholastics theology's younger sister, if not her twin.  St. John, and the Fathers, feel no need to use philosophy to stretch knowledge beyond revelation.  The Scholastics attempt to use it to not only know the unknown, but the unknowable.
Bravo!

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« Reply #26 on: April 29, 2013, 06:57:43 PM »

Thank you for the time and effort you put into this reply, xariskai. You brought up some good and interesting points. I will respond to a few areas where I think correction is necessary.

One reason for rejecting scholastisism is it is most often regarded on its own chief grounds, reason, as failed and unconvincing; outside of traditionalist RC circles scholasticism and Classical Foundationalism are effectively dead in philosophy:

"Foundationalism has been the reigning theory of theories in the West since the high Middle Ages. It can be traced back as far as Aristotle... Aquinas offers one classic version of foundationalism. There is, he said, a body of propositions which can become self-evident to us in our present earthly state. Properly conducted scientific inquiry consists in arriving at other propositions by way of reliable inference from these (demonstration). A few of these (for example, that God exists) can be inferred from propositions knowable to the natural light of reason.

...within the community of those working in philosophy of knowledge and philosophy of science foundationalism has suffered a series of deadly blows in the last 25 years. To many of those acquainted with the history of this development it now looks all but dead. So it looks to me. Of course, it is always possible that by a feat of prodigious imagination foundationalism can be revitalized. I consider that highly improbable..." (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion, pp. 26-27).

...With a majority of my contemporaries who have studied ethical philosophy at the graduate level I for one thank God for Orthodoxy, lest throwing the baby out with the bathwater I would be faced with the false dichotomy of embracing the Apostolic Faith AND an essentially dead, or at least highly dubious according to a decided majority of professional philosophers of our day as if they must be imbibed together.
This appeal doesn't prove whether Scholasticism is true or false, but rather that there are thinkers who have found reasons to criticize the school. Whether these criticisms are good should be the focus. If our litmus test for accepting or rejecting ideologies is popularity among the contemporary philosophical community, then we are required to reject God, free will, and many other religious tenets.

Scholasticism is merely this: the use of reason to seek whether or not certain aspects of faith may be strengthened through reason.
Strengthening of faith through reason is one thing; the claim that reason may be considered as a foundation upon which "the whole science of natural and divine things is based" is quite another...{/quote]This is why I think it is important for us to correctly define Scholasticism. Is it as synonymous with Thomism as Orthodox Christians claim? Can we distinguish between 19th century Roman Catholic Scholasticism and the ancient Scholasticism of the Church?


For St. John (and the rest of the Fathers) philosophy provides a tool to organize thoughts and systematize data.  For the Scholastics philosophy can provide new data: hence the elaboration of natural law.  For St. John the Fathers then philosophy is always theology's handmaiden, for the Scholastics theology's younger sister, if not her twin.  St. John, and the Fathers, feel no need to use philosophy to stretch knowledge beyond revelation.  The Scholastics attempt to use it to not only know the unknown, but the unknowable.Bravo!
I am still not convinced that this criticism should be leveled at Scholasticism as a whole. The tool should not be blamed for its misuse.
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« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2013, 08:01:11 PM »

Thank you for the time and effort you put into this reply, xariskai. You brought up some good and interesting points. I will respond to a few areas where I think correction is necessary.

One reason for rejecting scholastisism is it is most often regarded on its own chief grounds, reason, as failed and unconvincing; outside of traditionalist RC circles scholasticism and Classical Foundationalism are effectively dead in philosophy:

"Foundationalism has been the reigning theory of theories in the West since the high Middle Ages. It can be traced back as far as Aristotle... Aquinas offers one classic version of foundationalism. There is, he said, a body of propositions which can become self-evident to us in our present earthly state. Properly conducted scientific inquiry consists in arriving at other propositions by way of reliable inference from these (demonstration). A few of these (for example, that God exists) can be inferred from propositions knowable to the natural light of reason.

...within the community of those working in philosophy of knowledge and philosophy of science foundationalism has suffered a series of deadly blows in the last 25 years. To many of those acquainted with the history of this development it now looks all but dead. So it looks to me. Of course, it is always possible that by a feat of prodigious imagination foundationalism can be revitalized. I consider that highly improbable..." (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion, pp. 26-27).

...With a majority of my contemporaries who have studied ethical philosophy at the graduate level I for one thank God for Orthodoxy, lest throwing the baby out with the bathwater I would be faced with the false dichotomy of embracing the Apostolic Faith AND an essentially dead, or at least highly dubious according to a decided majority of professional philosophers of our day as if they must be imbibed together.
This appeal doesn't prove whether Scholasticism is true or false, but rather that there are thinkers who have found reasons to criticize the school. Whether these criticisms are good should be the focus. If our litmus test for accepting or rejecting ideologies is popularity among the contemporary philosophical community, then we are required to reject God, free will, and many other religious tenets.
Xariskai isn't pointing that out to use popularity among the contemporary philosophical community as a litmus test, but to question the wisdom to adopt the mother whose children has denied her.
Scholasticism is merely this: the use of reason to seek whether or not certain aspects of faith may be strengthened through reason.
Strengthening of faith through reason is one thing; the claim that reason may be considered as a foundation upon which "the whole science of natural and divine things is based" is quite another...{/quote]This is why I think it is important for us to correctly define Scholasticism. Is it as synonymous with Thomism as Orthodox Christians claim? Can we distinguish between 19th century Roman Catholic Scholasticism and the ancient Scholasticism of the Church?
That is the problem: there is no such thing as "ancient Scholasticism of the Church." It is a medieval aberration.

For St. John (and the rest of the Fathers) philosophy provides a tool to organize thoughts and systematize data.  For the Scholastics philosophy can provide new data: hence the elaboration of natural law.  For St. John the Fathers then philosophy is always theology's handmaiden, for the Scholastics theology's younger sister, if not her twin.  St. John, and the Fathers, feel no need to use philosophy to stretch knowledge beyond revelation.  The Scholastics attempt to use it to not only know the unknown, but the unknowable.Bravo!
I am still not convinced that this criticism should be leveled at Scholasticism as a whole. The tool should not be blamed for its misuse.
The misuse is intrinsic to this tool.
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« Reply #28 on: April 29, 2013, 08:36:05 PM »

This appeal doesn't prove whether Scholasticism is true or false, but rather that there are thinkers who have found reasons to criticize the school.
Nor indeed is that the aim. There is nothing within the faith of the first Christian millennium, however, to establish the scholastic modality as a part of Christian dogma.

Neither the dogmas or the truth of Christianity are a matter of syllogistic deductive proofs from an Orthodox point of view. "There can be no perception of the world in God without radical repentance, without a continual change of mind" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p. 119). It is not the superior intellect which truly knows God but the one who loves God truly knows. That is why even an infant can experience praise and the joy of faith; babes can know what the wisest of philosophers cannot know who do not love God. That is not possible with a syllogism, which is perceivable by the wise and intelligent but less obvious to babes or the infirm.

"All true Orthodox theology is mystical; just as mysticism divorced from theology becomes subjective and heretical, so theology, when it is not mystical, degenerates into an arid scholasticism, 'academic' in the bad sense of the word. Doctrine cannot be understood unless it is prayed: a theologian, said Evagrius, is one who knows how to pray, and he who prays in spirit and in truth is by the very act a theologian. And doctrine, if it is to be prayed must also be lived; theology without action, as St. Maximus put it, is the theology of demons. The Creed belongs only to those who live it. Faith and love, theology and life, are inseparable. In the Byzantine Liturgy, the Creed is introduced by the words, 'Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided.' This exactly expresses the Orthodox attitude to Tradition. If we do not love one another, we cannot love God; and if we do not love God, we cannot make a true confession of faith and cannot enter into the inner spirit of Tradition, for there is no other way of knowing God than to love Him" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 207).

It is impossible to have knowledge of God apart from loving God. 1 Jn 4:8: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

Whether these criticisms are good should be the focus. If our litmus test for accepting or rejecting ideologies is popularity among the contemporary philosophical comm unity, then we are required to reject God, free will, and many other religious tenets.
We would not agree to a verificationalist criterion of proof for what should or should not count as a dogma or truth.

I think it is important for us to correctly define Scholasticism. Is it as synonymous with Thomism as Orthodox Christians claim? Can we distinguish between 19th century Roman Catholic Scholasticism and the ancient Scholasticism of the Church?
Meaning in philosophical discourse is in my understanding more a matter of use than True Definition, whatever that might mean; aside from questions of Definitional Truth the following account is at least fairly typical   http://bartholomew.stanford.edu/scholasticism.html  


For St. John (and the rest of the Fathers) philosophy provides a tool to organize thoughts and systematize data.  For the Scholastics philosophy can provide new data: hence the elaboration of natural law.  For St. John the Fathers then philosophy is always theology's handmaiden, for the Scholastics theology's younger sister, if not her twin.  St. John, and the Fathers, feel no need to use philosophy to stretch knowledge beyond revelation.  The Scholastics attempt to use it to not only know the unknown, but the unknowable.Bravo!
I am still not convinced that this criticism should be leveled at Scholasticism as a whole. The tool should not be blamed for its misuse.
Roman Catholicism in the West since the late 19th century (Vatican I) has come to view Natural Law as a source of not only new data, but dogma. The first Christian millennium does not have such a dogma. Roman Catholics chide Protestants for affirming doctrines which did not exist before the Reformation while affirming recent innovations which did not exist in their own tradition as official dogmas before the 1870's -well after the Reformation, like papal infallibility and foundationalism as per Thomas Aquinas. It is enough for us to reject such developments as constituting dogmas of our Christian faith to say that they are late innovations which were never a part of the Undivided Church or Orthodoxy.

Thank you for the time and effort you put into this reply, xariskai.
Ditto for your contributions.
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« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2013, 09:03:06 PM »

The misuse is intrinsic to this tool.
This may indeed be true, which is why it is important to distinguish what is essential from what is accidental in Scholasticism so it can be determined whether Scholasticism itself is bad.

I also think it is important not to completely demonize the relationship between philosophy and faith. I am not accusing anyone of doing that here, but I have met a lot of Orthodox Christians who believe the only way we should evangelize and defend the faith is through the "come and see" method. While Thomism may be seen as the extreme of taking reason and philosophy too far in one direction I believe such approaches are going too far in the other direction, especially in light of a Christian tradition that has scores of examples of Christians making reason-based defenses of the faith.
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« Reply #30 on: April 29, 2013, 09:39:20 PM »

The misuse is intrinsic to this tool.
This may indeed be true, which is why it is important to distinguish what is essential from what is accidental in Scholasticism so it can be determined whether Scholasticism itself is bad.
I just was reminded of the old "Catholic Encyclopedia" entry on Scholasticism:
Quote
Scholasticism is a term used to designate both a method and a system. It is applied to theology as well as to philosophy. Scholastic theology is distinguished from Patristic theology on the one hand
that itself should sound the alarm.
Quote
and from positive theology on the other. The schoolmen themselves distinguished between theologia speculativa sive scholastica and theologia positiva.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13548a.htm
It also as an interesting paragraph, showing (perhaps unwittingly) the error of Scholasticism:
Quote
John Scotus Eriugena, in the ninth century, by his doctrine that all truth is a theophany, or showing forth of God, tried to elevate philosophy to the rank of theology, and identify the two in a species of theosophy. Abelard, in the twelfth century, tried to bring theology down to the level of philosophy, and identify both in a Rationalistic system. The greatest of the Scholastics in the thirteenth century, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, solved the problem for all time, so far as Christian speculation is concerned, by showing that the two are distinct sciences, and yet that they agree. They are distinct, he teaches, because, while philosophy relies on reason alone, theology uses the truths derived from revelation, and also because there are some truths, the mysteries of Faith, which lie completely outside the domain of philosophy and belong to theology. They agree, and must agree, because God is the author of all truth, and it is impossible to think that He would teach in the natural order anything that contradicts what He teaches in the supernatural order. The recognition of these principles is one of the crowning achievements of Scholasticism. It is one of the characteristics that mark it off from the Patristic era, in which the same principles were, so to speak, in solution, and not crystallized in definite expression. It is the trait which differentiates Scholasticism from Averroism. It is the inspiration of all Scholastic effort. As long as it lasted Scholasticism lasted, and as soon as the opposite conviction became established, the conviction, namely, that what is true in theology may be false in philosophy, Scholasticism ceased to exist. It is, therefore, a matter of constant surprise to those who know Scholasticism to find it misrepresented on this vital point.
In its essence Scholasticism sees philosophy as a source, not a tool.  Hence its error.
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« Reply #31 on: April 30, 2013, 09:40:48 AM »

Fr. Andrew Loth, on Orthodoxy and Aquinas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqa74WEj03s
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« Reply #32 on: April 30, 2013, 02:34:37 PM »

Fr. Andrew Loth, on Orthodoxy and Aquinas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqa74WEj03s
Thanks for the video. I might have missed something, but Fr. Andrew seems to suggest that Orthodox Christians are too anti-Thomist and anti-Western, and the issue is a lot more complicated than most people admit.
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« Reply #33 on: April 30, 2013, 02:50:37 PM »



Neither the dogmas or the truth of Christianity are a matter of syllogistic deductive proofs from an Orthodox point of view. "There can be no perception of the world in God without radical repentance, without a continual change of mind" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p. 119). It is not the superior intellect which truly knows God but the one who loves God truly knows. That is why even an infant can experience praise and the joy of faith; babes can know what the wisest of philosophers cannot know who do not love God. That is not possible with a syllogism, which is perceivable by the wise and intelligent but less obvious to babes or the infirm.


Aquinas actually agrees with you this point. The virtue of wisdom that comes form knowing, loving, and serving God, is superior to the wisdom that comes from philosophical reasoning. Aquinas and the Catholic Church both teach that faith is superior to reason.
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« Reply #34 on: April 30, 2013, 04:55:34 PM »



Neither the dogmas or the truth of Christianity are a matter of syllogistic deductive proofs from an Orthodox point of view. "There can be no perception of the world in God without radical repentance, without a continual change of mind" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p. 119). It is not the superior intellect which truly knows God but the one who loves God truly knows. That is why even an infant can experience praise and the joy of faith; babes can know what the wisest of philosophers cannot know who do not love God. That is not possible with a syllogism, which is perceivable by the wise and intelligent but less obvious to babes or the infirm.


Aquinas actually agrees with you this point. The virtue of wisdom that comes form knowing, loving, and serving God, is superior to the wisdom that comes from philosophical reasoning. Aquinas and the Catholic Church both teach that faith is superior to reason.
That is not false, but it is (for me) not strong enough. I would not say that loving God is merely a "superior" way. Loving God is the *only* way of knowing God.  1 Jn 4:8: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

"...in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him." -1 Corinthians 1:21

That is not to say I would disagree with Aquinas across the board. But real differences remain. With regard to analogia fides and analogia entis (to borrow Karl Barth's famous reaction), I would say NEIN.

According to Aquinas "since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable….Hence, it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God." (ST I, Q.12, A.1).

In Orthodox understanding, by contrast "the true purpose of creation is, therefore, not contemplation of divine essence (which is inaccessible), but communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world." (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p. 133).
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« Reply #35 on: May 01, 2013, 03:24:16 PM »



Neither the dogmas or the truth of Christianity are a matter of syllogistic deductive proofs from an Orthodox point of view. "There can be no perception of the world in God without radical repentance, without a continual change of mind" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p. 119). It is not the superior intellect which truly knows God but the one who loves God truly knows. That is why even an infant can experience praise and the joy of faith; babes can know what the wisest of philosophers cannot know who do not love God. That is not possible with a syllogism, which is perceivable by the wise and intelligent but less obvious to babes or the infirm.


Aquinas actually agrees with you this point. The virtue of wisdom that comes form knowing, loving, and serving God, is superior to the wisdom that comes from philosophical reasoning. Aquinas and the Catholic Church both teach that faith is superior to reason.
That is not false, but it is (for me) not strong enough. I would not say that loving God is merely a "superior" way. Loving God is the *only* way of knowing God.  1 Jn 4:8: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

"...in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him." -1 Corinthians 1:21

That is not to say I would disagree with Aquinas across the board. But real differences remain. With regard to analogia fides and analogia entis (to borrow Karl Barth's famous reaction), I would say NEIN.

According to Aquinas "since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable….Hence, it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God." (ST I, Q.12, A.1).

In Orthodox understanding, by contrast "the true purpose of creation is, therefore, not contemplation of divine essence (which is inaccessible), but communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world." (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p. 133).
[/quote
You do understand that Aquinas argues that God is superemely knowable in himself, but not knowable to us, right? Aquinas argues that God is too blinding a light for us to see because human beings have the lowest level of intellect. Heck, Aquinas argues that God is too blinding a light for the angles. Any "Seeing" of God's essence only comes by the gift of divinization, and is only possible in the next life. And, what is more, it is a seeing that can be desrcibed as apprehension and not comprehension. In heaven we will "see" God the way a dog "sees" the moon. The dog sees the light, but has utterly no comprehension as to what that light is. We will have some God given exposure to the Light, but will not have any comprehension of the light.
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« Reply #36 on: May 02, 2013, 09:17:44 AM »

Fr. Andrew Loth, on Orthodoxy and Aquinas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqa74WEj03s
Thanks for the video. I might have missed something, but Fr. Andrew seems to suggest that Orthodox Christians are too anti-Thomist and anti-Western, and the issue is a lot more complicated than most people admit.
He seems to indicate that for too many rejection of the West and Thomism is too knee jerk, even if rejection is warranted, which is true.
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« Reply #37 on: May 02, 2013, 09:25:25 AM »

I recently watched this video on Aquinas and Orthodoxy (they also have Fr. Andrew Loth's lecture).

http://vimeo.com/61102430

And that's one of the temptations to go back to UK. Theology class in a pub. Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: May 02, 2013, 12:28:54 PM »

Quote
You do understand that Aquinas argues that God is superemely knowable in himself, but not knowable to us, right? Aquinas argues that God is too blinding a light for us to see because human beings have the lowest level of intellect. Heck, Aquinas argues that God is too blinding a light for the angles. Any "Seeing" of God's essence only comes by the gift of divinization, and is only possible in the next life. And, what is more, it is a seeing that can be desrcibed as apprehension and not comprehension. In heaven we will "see" God the way a dog "sees" the moon. The dog sees the light, but has utterly no comprehension as to what that light is. We will have some God given exposure to the Light, but will not have any comprehension of the light.
Yes, and this is, of course, yet another area of dispute between our traditions. We deny the essence of God is apprehended in any manner "either in this life or in the Age to come."[1] For us "the true purpose of creation is, therefore, not contemplation of divine essence (which is inaccessible), but communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world." (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p. 133).

Whereas Roman Catholics beginning in the Middle Ages speak of Beatific Vision as a vision and enjoyment of the divine essence for Eastern and earlier patristic Christianity the uncreated divine essence is utterly transcendent beyond any form of vision or participation by creatures. The Cappadocian Fathers and St. John Chrysostom in disputation with the Arians, for example, are often cited by Orthodox writers e,g, in their insistence that even the angels veil their faces to the divine essence (& etc.; for a fuller discussion cf. Lossky's The Vision of God or Bradshaw's, Aristotle: East and West).

Contrast your Roman Catholic tradition affirms souls of the just "see the divine essence by an intuitive vision and face to face, so that the divine essence is known immediately, showing itself plainly, clearly and openly, and not mediately through any creature" -Denzinger 1000/2

This in addition to the above remarks about whether one can have genuine knowledge of God apart from loving Him or apart from Christ revealing Him and reservations against the medieval understanding of Natural Law and Natural Theology ala Aquinas which enshrined officially as dogma in your church only in the late 19th century and controversial in your own tradition before that time (cf. Coppleston).
__________
[1] From Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (NY: SVS, 2002):

ESSENCE AND ENERGIES
To indicate the two “poles” of God’s relationship to us —unknown yet well known, hidden yet revealed— the Orthodox tradition draws a distinction between the essence, nature or inner being of God, on the one hand, and his energies, operations or acts of power, on the other.

“He is outside all things according to his essence,” writes St Athanasius, “but he is in all things through his acts of power.”12 “We know the essence through the energy”, St Basil affirms. “No one has ever seen the essence of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy.”13 By the essence of God is meant his otherness, by the energies his nearness. Because God is a mystery beyond our understanding, we shall never know his essence or inner being, either in this life or in the Age to come. If we knew the divine essence, it would follow that we knew God in the same way as he knows himself; and this we cannot ever do, since he is Creator and we are created. But, while God’s inner essence is for ever beyond our comprehension, his energies, grace, life and power fill the whole universe, and are directly accessible to us.

The essence, then, signifies the radical transcendence of God; the energies, his immanence and omnipresence. When Orthodox speak of the divine energies, they do not mean by this an emana­tion from God, an “intermediary” between God and man, or a “thing” or “gift” that God bestows. On the contrary, the energies are God himself in his activity and self-manifestation. When a man knows or participates in the divine energies, he truly knows or participates in God himself, so far as this is possible for a created being. But God is God, and we are human; and so, while he possesses us, we cannot in the same way possess him.

Just as it would be wrong to think of the energies as a “thing” bestowed on us by God, so it would be equally misleading to regard the energies as a “part” of God. The Godhead is simple and indivisible, and has no parts. The essence signifies the whole God as he is in himself; the energies signify the whole God as he is in action. God in his entirety is completely present in each of his divine energies. Thus the essence-energies distinction is a way of stating simultaneously that the whole God is inaccessible, and that the whole God in his outgoing love has rendered himself accessible to man.

By virtue of this distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies, we are able to affirm the possibility of a direct or mystical union between man and God—what the Greek Fathers term the theosis of man, his “deification”—but at the same time we exclude any pantheistic identification between the two: for man participates in the energies of God, not in the essence. There is union, but not fusion or confusion. Although “oned” with the di­vine, man still remains man; he is not swallowed up or annihilated, but between him and God there continues always to exist an “I— Thou” relationship of person to person.

Such, then, is our God: unknowable in his essence, yet known in his energies; beyond and above all that we can think or ex­press, yet closer to us than our own heart. Through the apophatic way we smash in pieces all the idols or mental images that we form of him, for we know that all are unworthy of his surpassing greatness. Yet at the same time, through our prayer and through our active service in the world, we discover at every moment his divine energies, his immediate presence in each person and each thing. Daily, hourly we touch him. We are, as Francis Thompson said, “in no strange land.” All around us is the “many-splen-doured thing”; Jacob’s ladder is “pitched betwixt heaven and Charing Cross”:

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee.
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« Reply #39 on: May 10, 2013, 10:14:38 AM »

   Can one be Orthodox and deny that the idea of "essence" is absolutely valid?  In which case, the differences between Scholasticism and Orthodoxy become moot on that point.  I certainly think that the righteous will see God in the next life.  I think that's what Roman Catholics mean by "beatific vision" at least in the general sense.  Perhaps Orthodox are splitting hairs too much on this and being too "Scholastic"?

   Eastern Orthodox may disagree with this but certain bits of their Church have embraced Scholasticism for certain purposes.  The issue of validity is used for instance in reception into their church in the Russian tradition, accepting Trinitarian baptisms in certain Christian communions as valid when received with Chrismation, and also accepting the validity of Roman Catholic holy orders.   For practical purposes, Scholasticism can be very useful to formulate rules to deal with circumstances.
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« Reply #40 on: May 10, 2013, 04:52:04 PM »

Quote
You do understand that Aquinas argues that God is superemely knowable in himself, but not knowable to us, right? Aquinas argues that God is too blinding a light for us to see because human beings have the lowest level of intellect. Heck, Aquinas argues that God is too blinding a light for the angles. Any "Seeing" of God's essence only comes by the gift of divinization, and is only possible in the next life. And, what is more, it is a seeing that can be desrcibed as apprehension and not comprehension. In heaven we will "see" God the way a dog "sees" the moon. The dog sees the light, but has utterly no comprehension as to what that light is. We will have some God given exposure to the Light, but will not have any comprehension of the light.
Yes, and this is, of course, yet another area of dispute between our traditions. We deny the essence of God is apprehended in any manner "either in this life or in the Age to come."[1] For us "the true purpose of creation is, therefore, not contemplation of divine essence (which is inaccessible), but communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world." (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p. 133).

Whereas Roman Catholics beginning in the Middle Ages speak of Beatific Vision as a vision and enjoyment of the divine essence for Eastern and earlier patristic Christianity the uncreated divine essence is utterly transcendent beyond any form of vision or participation by creatures. The Cappadocian Fathers and St. John Chrysostom in disputation with the Arians, for example, are often cited by Orthodox writers e,g, in their insistence that even the angels veil their faces to the divine essence (& etc.; for a fuller discussion cf. Lossky's The Vision of God or Bradshaw's, Aristotle: East and West).

Contrast your Roman Catholic tradition affirms souls of the just "see the divine essence by an intuitive vision and face to face, so that the divine essence is known immediately, showing itself plainly, clearly and openly, and not mediately through any creature" -Denzinger 1000/2

This in addition to the above remarks about whether one can have genuine knowledge of God apart from loving Him or apart from Christ revealing Him and reservations against the medieval understanding of Natural Law and Natural Theology ala Aquinas which enshrined officially as dogma in your church only in the late 19th century and controversial in your own tradition before that time (cf. Coppleston).
__________
[1] From Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (NY: SVS, 2002):

ESSENCE AND ENERGIES
To indicate the two “poles” of God’s relationship to us —unknown yet well known, hidden yet revealed— the Orthodox tradition draws a distinction between the essence, nature or inner being of God, on the one hand, and his energies, operations or acts of power, on the other.

“He is outside all things according to his essence,” writes St Athanasius, “but he is in all things through his acts of power.”12 “We know the essence through the energy”, St Basil affirms. “No one has ever seen the essence of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy.”13 By the essence of God is meant his otherness, by the energies his nearness. Because God is a mystery beyond our understanding, we shall never know his essence or inner being, either in this life or in the Age to come. If we knew the divine essence, it would follow that we knew God in the same way as he knows himself; and this we cannot ever do, since he is Creator and we are created. But, while God’s inner essence is for ever beyond our comprehension, his energies, grace, life and power fill the whole universe, and are directly accessible to us.

The essence, then, signifies the radical transcendence of God; the energies, his immanence and omnipresence. When Orthodox speak of the divine energies, they do not mean by this an emana­tion from God, an “intermediary” between God and man, or a “thing” or “gift” that God bestows. On the contrary, the energies are God himself in his activity and self-manifestation. When a man knows or participates in the divine energies, he truly knows or participates in God himself, so far as this is possible for a created being. But God is God, and we are human; and so, while he possesses us, we cannot in the same way possess him.

Just as it would be wrong to think of the energies as a “thing” bestowed on us by God, so it would be equally misleading to regard the energies as a “part” of God. The Godhead is simple and indivisible, and has no parts. The essence signifies the whole God as he is in himself; the energies signify the whole God as he is in action. God in his entirety is completely present in each of his divine energies. Thus the essence-energies distinction is a way of stating simultaneously that the whole God is inaccessible, and that the whole God in his outgoing love has rendered himself accessible to man.

By virtue of this distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies, we are able to affirm the possibility of a direct or mystical union between man and God—what the Greek Fathers term the theosis of man, his “deification”—but at the same time we exclude any pantheistic identification between the two: for man participates in the energies of God, not in the essence. There is union, but not fusion or confusion. Although “oned” with the di­vine, man still remains man; he is not swallowed up or annihilated, but between him and God there continues always to exist an “I— Thou” relationship of person to person.

Such, then, is our God: unknowable in his essence, yet known in his energies; beyond and above all that we can think or ex­press, yet closer to us than our own heart. Through the apophatic way we smash in pieces all the idols or mental images that we form of him, for we know that all are unworthy of his surpassing greatness. Yet at the same time, through our prayer and through our active service in the world, we discover at every moment his divine energies, his immediate presence in each person and each thing. Daily, hourly we touch him. We are, as Francis Thompson said, “in no strange land.” All around us is the “many-splen-doured thing”; Jacob’s ladder is “pitched betwixt heaven and Charing Cross”:

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee.
Well, we agree with you in that we do not think that anyone can comprehend the essence of God. And we even argue that God is not contained by his essence. In fact, in some places, Aquinas speaks as if God is so superabundant that he does not have an essence in the sense that we understand the term. I really don't think we are actually in very different places on this matter. I just think that EOs and RCs use the term "essence" in differing ways. Either way, God is transcendent.
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« Reply #41 on: May 11, 2013, 02:20:31 PM »

  Can one be Orthodox and deny that the idea of "essence" is absolutely valid?  In which case, the differences between Scholasticism and Orthodoxy become moot on that point.  
The issue is not about essence as an idea.

The Liturgies of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Fathers, pseudo-Dionysius, St. Maximus, St. John of Damascus, the Palamite councils, and most Orthodox Fathers who has written more than a couple of pages on the Trinity, as well as pretty much any basic text on Orthodox theology underscores the unknowability of God in His Essence as this is (and always has been) basic to our Trinitarian theology.

we do not think that anyone can comprehend the essence of God.
Aquinas, however, makes a distinction between what may "comprehended" (i.e., as Aquinas uses the term, fully grasped) as opposed to what may be "known" or "seen" per se. God in His Essence according to Aquinas (1) CAN be seen, and (2) IS supremely knowable, but (3) may NOT be comprehended (fully grasped). The first two points -not the third- are, of course, what is really at issue between EO and RC.

"Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable… Hence, it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God." (ST I, Q.12, A.1).

I just think that EOs and RCs use the term "essence" in differing ways.
Direct citations by Aquinas of St. John Chrysostom, pseudo-Dionysius, & etc.. where the God's Essence is being discussed remain at issue here, but I personally find this line an interesting subject. Aquinas argues that these writers are only denying "comprehension" of God's Essence which according to him can be seen/supremely known; Orthodox Christians disagree. Would you allow the possibility that Aquinas has misunderstood what the Fathers intended regarding God's Essence in the citations he presents, or no?

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« Reply #42 on: May 11, 2013, 08:22:07 PM »

    I've heard a few evangelicals say that the theology of the East undermines the Gospel message because it would render language about God unintelligible.  That is my concern with saying God is unknowable.  I would even suggest that Jesus says otherwise, "He who has seen me has seen the Father".
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« Reply #43 on: May 11, 2013, 09:23:30 PM »

   I've heard a few evangelicals say that the theology of the East undermines the Gospel message because it would render language about God unintelligible.  That is my concern with saying God is unknowable.  I would even suggest that Jesus says otherwise, "He who has seen me has seen the Father".
(Re?)read the story of the Transfiguration.
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« Reply #44 on: May 12, 2013, 09:12:05 PM »

Quote
Peter often condemned philosophy. He claimed that the first grammarian was the Devil, who taught Adam to decline deus in the plural. He argued that monks should not have to study philosophy, because Jesus did not choose philosophers as disciples, and so philosophy is not necessary for salvation. But the idea (later attributed to Thomas Aquinas) that philosophy should serve theology as a servant serves her mistress originated with him. However, this apparent animosity may reflect his view that logic is only concerned with the validity of argument, rather than the nature of reality. Similar views are found in Al-Ghazali and Wittgenstein.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Damian
An objection to Scholasticism comes from that fact that an argument can be constructed according to logic and still lack any truth to it.
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