Dialogue with an Orthodox Christian, on Theological and Philosophical Axioms

My friendly and worthy opponent's words are in blue. He has a habit of not capitalizing, so I have decided to leave his sections intact, rather than spend all that additional time editing!

i'm glad that orthodoxy is not burdened with that particular bit of Augustinian baggage. i see no justification for thinking X guilty of what Y did unless of course X put Y up to it, planned it, etc. our juries don't punish people in our courts for what their evil grandfathers have done--nor do we let them off because of the merits of their pious grandmothers. i know of no argument to get around the conclusion that that's totally immoral. the only way to share another's merits is to become per energeiam a sharer in the other's Life--being one with the other . . . or, if one believes in the Reformers' view of will, letting divine declaration overrule the facts.

anyhow, i've learned a new meaning for "immaculate," so that's progress in understanding. but i've learned nothing to make inherited guilt a tenable notion, though i am admittedly prejudiced in favor of the idea of responsiblity for one's own deeds.

Of course one is responsible for their own deeds. This is clearly taught in the Bible. On the other hand, I think it is also clearly biblical that the Fall was corporate. It was not merely Adam and Eve who thus sinned, but all of us, according to the following Pauline statement:

So your points about the guilt of one person being sent to another unjustly do not really fly if indeed we "all" fell, or "died" in Adam. Is there a uniquely Orthodox answer to this objection?

Secondly, it sounds to me like you may be imputing (no pun intended) the Calvinist understanding of original sin and the "sin nature" to Catholic thought, when in fact we do not hold to that. Perhaps a case of not differentiating between two different schools of "westerners?" :-) See my paper on that subject (Total Depravity & the Fall):

Besides, Catholics believe that baptism (even Protestant and Orthodox baptism) accomplishes the following things:

The only thing it does not remove is concupiscence and bodily mortality.

Thus understood, what is the difference between Orthodox and Catholic views on original sin - especially post-baptism? I think they are negligible, but I am not an expert in this area by any means.

In any event, our view is not the Calvinist (what I call the classical Protestant) one. Their notion of the Fall is much more severe than ours, involving Total Depravity. They believe in double predestination; we don't. And Calvinists don't believe in baptismal regeneration or infused justification like we do. We accept free will (and so did Augustine). So their Fall is worse, and their remedies less sufficient to overcome the results of the Fall. They are not the true legatees of Augustine; we are.

I think you are confusing theology and philosophy. One might say that philosophy is the handmaiden of theology (just as apologetics might be said to be). Using a different philosophy in order to elaborate upon theology does not necessarily change the theology in the slightest; rather, it introduces new ways to understand the same doctrine.

at this point (without having read further) i will have to venture a dissent. (1) the difference is not so much one of theology vs. philosophy as a view of the world (what one views as real and as less real [e.g. relations rather than beings] and as not real) that one has somehow acquired and theology.

But this is philosophy! :-) It is called "ontology." You must know that! There is no escaping it, much as some Orthodox want to believe the absurd and run down reason and philosophy.

let me briefly illustrate. if you assume that matter is evil, your view of the resurrection of the body, incarnation, sacraments, etc., will quite necessarily be different from whose world is not one in which matter is quite simply evil in se. (one's views of time and tradition will probably also be different.)

Agreed. This is the distinction between Gnosticism, or Dualism, and Christianity.

if you set out from thinking that will can make the unreal real and the real not real, you will view imputation and virtual reality differently from one who sets out with the view that reason and will presuppose and depend on being.

That is Protestantism (derived from nominalism, as you know), and as such, does not concern me at the moment.

this is hardly philosophy; it's just a view of the world, something everyone (even the most untutored) has.

I disagree. I think it is philosophy; it is just a lousy, untrue philosophy. :-) "The most dangerous philosophy is the unacknowledged one." Are you trying to reduce philosophy to linguistics or logical positivism, and deny metaphysics - relegating such speculation to theology alone?

if you assume a basic view in which moral qualities like sin can be inherited or in any be transferred from one individual to another the way ontological privations can be inherited,

I think I have shown that this view is strongly rooted in the Bible. The onus is now on you to prove otherwise.

you will willy-nilly and inevitably judge the issues of infantile guilt and immaculate conception quite differently from a person who assumes that guilt and merit cannot be inherited or transferred from one to another.

I agree, which is why I have grounded my premises in Scripture, rather than bald philosophical axioms. You must now overturn our ostensibly biblical premise in order for this discussion to advance to the next stage.

if your view of reality allows you to suppose that a generic nature can sin--

That's Calvinism, not us.

or if you view created things as evil--

That ain't Catholicism, either, but Gnosticism, Docetism, Manichæanism, etc. (and some Protestants exhibit this tendency to some degree). But I realize you are arguing hypothetically . . .

you will view the concept of a sinful or depraved nature quite differently from a person who sets out from a contrary set of assumptions about reality. one could go on and on. i'm surprised that this commonplace would be able to be questioned;

I don't question it. I am quite fond of examining one's presuppositions, just as you are. We are in total agreement on the constructiveness and necessity of that undertaking.

i hope some reasons for your position will follow.

I gave 'em, from Holy Scripture.

in the mean time, one's assumptions about reality are only remotely "philosophical"--though they are what metaphysical theories are built on.

They are inherently philosophical, but at some point they are axiomatic (i.e., unproven). Christians start from the "axiom" of revelation (or at least they must incorporate Revelation into their philosophy at some point).

if what has been said is as tenable as i (and indeed many others) suppose, then addressing beliefs that follow from world views without attending to the latter is futile, isn't it?


It is said that St. Augustine brought Platonic thinking to bear on Christianity, just as later St. Thomas attempted to synthesize Aristotelianism and Christianity: reason and faith. The present pope has a background in phenomenology.

None of these approaches (i.e., in the hands of orthodox Catholic Christians) changed anything in the essence of the Christian beliefs (by the way, I regard nominalism as a corruption of Scholasticism, rather than a species of it).

well, corruption or not, it assumes a view of what is most real that is different from other viewpoints; and if this is so, it is impossible to argue WITHIN THAT FRAMEWORK (and it is irrelevant to argue outside of that framework when discussing matters of people in said framework) that things following from its axioms are wrong. i can't see that this could be controversial; it's all i was saying.

As I said, I disavow nominalism. I disagree with you as to whether that is relevant to development and the role of Scholasticism proper in development.

i'm not saying that transubstantiation is demonstrably false or that it is wrong to use the categories at hand to discuss such matters.


but transubstantiation is much more a delving into what is an unfathomable mystery than just leaving it as what is is--a mystery that finite minds can hardly "analyse."

Then why do you (and Orthodox) concentrate so much on the filioque? Is that not equally mysterious (if not much more so)? All Christians agree that there are three Persons who are God, and that these three Persons are equal in essence, power, and glory. All are eternal, and worthy of worship. One took on human flesh to come and die on our behalf, etc., etc. Why make the complicated and ultimately unfathomable relations of the three Divine Persons a matter of ecclesiological separation? The essence of the Trinity is in what I just said (that is how it can be said that we agree on the Trinity - which you have disputed), not the highly philosophical and "technical" ins and outs of being, energy, etc. Talk about placing philosophy above theology! The West seems quite content to let the East analyze the filioque in their own fashion. We see it as a complementary understanding. But the East does not respond in kind. Why? Yet when it comes to transubstantiation, the Orthodox accuse us of - in your words - "delving into what is an unfathomable mystery than just leaving it as what it is." Well, what is more of a mystery than the Holy Trinity??!!

that those categories are consistent with the Catholic grasp of Christian faith, i would not controvert. after all, our concept of energy goes back to aristotle too; it was not for nothing that the Incarnation took place at the junction of Hebrew and Hellenic thought. we assume that God knew how to plan it. but do you think that static categories suffice for ancient and modern concepts like "energy"?

If they are true categories, yes. :-) I am not very keen on modern philosophy. Where has that gotten us? I agree with the statement that all of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato.

i am open to your showing me how, though as of now, i don't see it. as for the other point, philosophy, i stand in a middle position, not seeing much virtue in depending on it but seeing no virtue in ignoring it--and, as i said, an unquestioned or axiomatic worldview hardly ranks as philosophy (whose essence is to reason).

All philosophies start with an axiom. "To reason" is more properly categorized as "logic." The arrival at a premise is the troublesome thing - epistemologically speaking. You start with an assumption; so do I. It is foolish for either of us to deny it. For my part, I start with Holy Scripture (as interpreted historically by the Fathers and the Church), and the reality of the law of non-contradiction and logic, and the assumption that matter is real and not illusory. And the possibility of the supernatural and miraculous, based on Revelation and the historical record.

since it is unquestioned and just assumed as axiomatic, it has got much more power over us than a conscious philosophy would have. or do you think otherwise?

Philosophical and theological conclusions flow from premises. I have never disagreed with this.

so to sum up, if one sets out with axioms about energy and logos that the writers of the new testament did--in the context of the ancient eastern mediterranean--one comes to one conclusion about the role of grace, light, life, incorporation, divinization, etc.

What do you claim are the (philosophical) "axioms" of the New Testament? Exactly as what Orthodoxy now holds? :-)

the first point is: within any set of axioms, the corresponding conclusions will be true; they will be untrue in the other axiomatic assumptions.

I would prefer the word "consistent." Truth must be determined by an examination of the whole edifice, including the foundational premises - and by comparing the theory with Holy Scripture.

arguing across frameworks is futile.

I agree.

the second point is: i cannot bring myself to belief that any concept of Grace would make sense, let alone be true, but the biblical energetic concept.

Please define this for us, and give the biblical rationale for it. I'm sure you agree that definition of terms is also crucial to constructive discussion . . .

for one thing, those basic frameworks came centuries later from arabic (and jewish) sources in spain (and ultimately damaskos and baghdad). it seems to throw sand into the face of the matter to equate unconscious, unreasoned axioms about reality with conscious, reasoned philosophies. you are free to show me that i'm wrong.

You need to clearly lay out what your axioms are; then we can examine them in light of Scripture, patristics, and reason. But I still say that the essence of the Christian doctrines are theological, not philosophical. Philosophy helps us to further understand the revealed truths of Scripture and Tradition. We accept certain things as axiomatic on the basis of revelation and apostolic proclamation (kerygma). We don't have to understand every jot and tittle to yield to this authority. Hence, the utility of development as history flows on . . .

The very notion of development is an assumption that the same doctrines can be understood in greater depth by philosophy, reflection, battles with heretics, prayer, new social and ethical problems, the accumulated wisdom of the faithful, the Church, and experience, etc. Therefore, it is not at all inconsistent (or, surprising) for a later philosophy to be introduced in order to explain an apostolic doctrine. One is the servant of the other; they are not the same thing. I think you are comparing apples and oranges. There is no single philosophy which rules in Christianity.

quite true. but there was a general view of reality in Philo's and Jesus's time. they were a bit more conscious than merely axiomatic, since competing views (particularly gnosticism, partially derived from zoroaster, partially from plato) of reality were on the ground. i am not speaking of "philosophy."

Then what are you referring to? What is this presuppositional framework which you are convinced differentiates Orthodoxy from Catholicism?

my view of that is that if one can speak to one's contemporaries by using this or that idea from philosophy, fine; but there is a danger in that other philosophies set out from axiomatic views of, say time and matter, that are incompatible with a sacramental universe.

Agreed. One must always strive for internal consistency, and the Christian cannot contradict revealed apostolic dogma with philosophy, or bowing to the sacred cows of a given culture, etc.

one has got to be especially adroit in the matter. the long and short of it all is that philosophies are less relevant than the axioms they set out from--the axioms that ultimately determine their conclusions.

I agree.

i do not believe that any philosophy rejecting energy (lonergan it was, i believe, who said that aquinas did accept a concept of operatio in line with the biblical "energy") or any that exalts will over reality can be congruous with first-century thinking.

But again, it is the theology of the first century with which we have to deal, not its philosophy.

you are welcome to show me wrong--but not by arguing about the defects of philosophy.

I am calling for explanations and clear explications of this outlook you refer to so often. You talk about it a lot. Now please talk about it.

I think we must all accept reason and logic as essential components of faith (in the sense of beliefs and creeds). That reason can utilize various philosophies in order to elaborate on Christian belief, because the philosophies and the beliefs are two different things. That is why it is no contradiction to say that a doctrine remains apostolic, while it is being "filtered", so to speak, through a new means of philosophical or epistemological understanding (such as Scholasticism).

this is an important issue (one i consider vital), and i appreciate your reasoned approach to it sufficiently that i feel regret at having to disagree even just to the extent i have.

But that's the fun part! :-) Don't regret it! This is the spirit I love in you . . . you are always a gentleman.

i say this as one that does not disdain aquinas; i am a great admirer of his, and he achieved wonders with what he had to work with--things of permanent importance. if in addition, he set out from an energetic view of the divine presence in the economy, as lonergan or whoever claimed, then my admiration is increased.

And that would put the lie to Kallistos Ware's outrageous slander that:

well, isn't turning an energetic world into a static one (and delving into the inner architecture of the Holy Spirit in innovative ways and leaving energy a bit out of transubstantiation) something like that?

If true, I suppose so, but since in my opinion it ain't . . .

i didn't want to reply here, but i feel obligated to defend the worthy and beloved bishop. i would add that i know that aquinas failed to finish his main opus (ergon) because he fell into a mystical ecstasy of the love of God. i hope that balances the matter out.

Aquinas didn't die in a state in which he renounced either his work, or the Church (if you are implying that at all - others here definitely did state that outright). I have already documented this:

St. Thomas was setting out for the Ecumenical Council of Lyons when he struck his head and died soon after. On his deathbed, he said:

{in James A. Weiseipl, Friar Thomas D'Aquino; His Life, Thought, and Work, NY: 1974, p. 326; cited in Warren H. Carroll, The Glory of Christendom, Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 1993, p. 298}

This hardly sounds like a man who has rejected his own work, let alone the Catholic Church. We don't make a dichotomy between mysticism and reason (or devotion). All are crucial; all are Christian, and pious. St. Thomas combined all these aspects in both his teaching and in his person. This is the Catholic way: always a balance; everything in its proper place, and degree. St. Thomas Aquinas exemplified it to an extraordinary degree.

but the view of created Grace agrees with axioms quite different from the view of Grace as uncreated Grace/Energy/Light/Life--a view that i believe to be in accord with the worldviews of some or all of the holy apostles. if energy is a view that is not too much at odds with current science, that is a bonus.

Well, again, I want to learn more about this notion of "energy." Give me the biblical and patristic support for it, and we can move on to the next stage of this discussion.

i see worldview, axiomatic framework, point of view, and the like as unconscious, NON-REASONED.

I don't see how you can state this as a general proposition. All axioms are unreasonable? If I start out with the axiom that all reality is illusory, or that physical matter is an illusion, or that I don't exist, I am on the same ground as starting out with the contrary axioms?

. . . i see philosophy (ontology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, whatever) as conscious and REASONED . . . while they are related, they do not strike me as belonging to the same order of cognition.

This is uncontroversial.

no doubt some thinker thought up a given point of view--e.g. the gnostic idea of the evilness of matter. but those who grow up absorbing this point of view do not seem to me to be thinking it out--or even to be necessarily able to do that. i don't think we gain anything by confusing the differences.

I agree that people don't examine their premises very often (perhaps that is your main point here), but I think that is more from a subjective perspective, rather than an objective reasoned, philosophical one.

i would add that most of those i've know who hold a given view of reality would not have a clue about how to justify it cognitively, consciously, thinkingly. a few people like barth and brunner may have skated close to it in the fifties, but if they argued for or justified the axiom, i never heard of it--you'd have to inquire from a specialist on that. barth produced such a deluge of words that he may have touched on it somewhere, but i'd be surprised.

I think neo-orthodoxy had moved beyond such mundane and "antiquated" matters as the rational establishment of first principles, into a realm of pure existential fideism (which might be regarded as the quintessence of post-modernism).

is it necessary to prove that unthought-out, un(dis)provable assumptions or axioms are not the same as reasoned conclusions? you cannot prove or disprove an axiom in most instances; you accept it or reject it. axioms draw the bound(arie)s of whatever reality they postulate; within that box, you can reason, argue, conclude, etc., provided that you don't inconsistently step outside of it or (through a mixed upbringing or education) try to mix up your boxes.

Agreed. But don't Christians start with the axiom that Holy Scripture is a true presentation of reality? We can get most if not all our "philosophical" premises from Revelation, no? In my opinion, this solves the problem of the uncertain axiom, and houses of cards built upon false ones.

how can you prove to a disciple of the Reformation that bread or wine has any ontological connexion with Grace?

By Scripture. E.g., "He who does not eat my flesh and drink my blood has no life in himself."

wouldn't it be extremely profitable to ascertain what the axiomatic worldview (of what is thinkable or possible and what is not) of St. John (where Christ says he the Life and Light of the world) or St. Luke or St. Paul (much on that below) was/is--and compare that with the axiomatic frameworks (determining what is thinkable or possible and what is not) of Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham, John of Damaskos, Maximos, or whoever--to see what the similarities and distances (if any) are among them and the one in the St. John and St. Paul (to be dealt with later)?

This would be profitable, if I could understand exactly what you are saying. You write on such a high, abstract (and - I might add - brilliant) philosophical/theological level that I confess I can barely keep up. I often forget what any particular reply has to do with our ostensible overall topic of doctrinal development, because we pursue so many sub-trails within sub-trails (and with voluminous words). That's a bit confusing and frustrating.

you have mentioned "filtering" more than once, i believe. isn't a filter different from what it lets pass through?

Of course.

isn't an axiomatic framework more like a filter than the information that it allows to pass or not pass????


pre-final point on this: a huge percentage of verses in the Bible have been interpreted divergently--because of different frameworks. look at john 6:48-58, for example. are you saying (if so, it would surprise me) that you can prove your interpretation's truth from your axioms more conclusively than joe fundamentalist can prove his/her interpretation's truth on the basis of her/his framework???

Yes, because I don't believe their interpretation can harmonize (or adequately explain) all the relevant scriptures which can be brought to bear on the topic. My paper on the Eucharist has some of the most extensive cross-exegesis of any of my "biblical treatises" - whose purpose is to produce as much biblical proof for Catholicism as possible. What the fundamentalist and myself have in common (in most instances, anyway) is an acceptance of the law of contradiction and of the infallibility of Holy Scripture.

So if I can show that their view leads to contradictions in Scripture, I have succeeded in establishing my point of view (and they are forced to make a hard choice). If they care about doctrinal history at all, that factor is overwhelmingly in my favor, too. Thus, if I show that Scripture itself teaches the necessity of an authoritative Church, Tradition, and apostolic succession (and the bankruptcy and self-defeating nature of sola Scriptura), then I have also established the necessity of taking into account the Fathers and continuous Church history for any given doctrine. These things can be resolved! Don't you think so? It's almost as if you are adopting relativism, or are pessimistic that doctrinal controversies can be resolved . . .

(at most, you could show that his/her claims to be a literalist are empty.)

Much more than that, as I have just attempted to explain . . . I think I can demonstrate (from Scripture alone) that their view is false, and ours true.

is it irrelevant whether your framework is nearer to that of the new testament writers than the other one??

No; one of the foundational premises of biblical hermeneutics is to get inside of the mind, times, and context of the biblical writer. But I would quickly add that I don't think this rules out further philosophical (and theological) speculation from a different framework - as if Christian doctrine lends itself to one and only one philosophy. Is that what you are trying to say?

i can't see how you would wish to say that, but it seems to me that you are either saying that or just sidestepping the obvious and real difficulty.

I hope what I have just written is a satisfactory explication of my position here.

final point: there are many links between X, Y, and Z in a given framework that are opaque to someone looking at X, Y, and Z through the filter of another axiomatic framework; it may look like stupidity for that person not to see the links or interrelatedness of X, Y, and Z; but with attention to the framework filter, you discover a deeper cognitive reason.

Agreed. This is profoundly true when a Protestant looks at either Catholicism or Orthodoxy; inversely proportional to how familiar they are with our doctrines and apologetics.

the next question is whether it's fair to judge the truth or validity of a view in framework different from one's own. the relativist says no. i say that (1) we've got no choice but to do so--but integrity demands (2) that we examine our frameworks consciously (philosophically) beforehand for evident weaknesses.

I would say I have been doing that (within a Catholic framework) for almost nine years. First I was vigorously attacking Catholicism (particularly its notions of infallibility and development); then I became convinced that Catholicism was true (or - less ambitiously - that it was the apostolic Church). I came to this conclusion on moral, historical, and ecclesiological grounds. Then, right after converting, I set out to "test" my newly-adopted belief by means of biblical defense; started writing my book along those lines, got online in March '96, started my website in March '97, and have been debating, diialoguing and defending Catholicism ever since.

The results? I have only had my faith strengthened immeasurably, as I have seen that our view can stand up to all opponents, and that the opponents' views are flawed (though to radically different degrees). I don't mean to sound "triumphalistic" at all - this is my sincere experience and belief. So - in a nutshell - I have been doing precisely what you have suggested, all these years. Not that I can't always learn more (I wish I had the time to read all the books on theology in the world!), but at least I have been engaged in what you are calling for. Obviously, our conclusions are different. :-)

you flush duns scotus and ockham and biel (who collectively dominated the fifteenth century) down the drain?

When did I say that? But the latter two are more harmful (as far as I understand their influence). Ockham and Biel led directly to Luther, and some of his worst irrational and existentialist-like beliefs.

God is more important than a sacrament; hence, and not without reason, we have more revealed information on God than on the most holy Eucharist.

That's fine (and clearly true); however, it doesn't strike me as a reason to view our speculation on the Blessed Eucharist as somehow unseemly, improper, excessive, or impious. Simply having less information does not - in my opinion - rule out the attempt to try to further understand something. Personally, I'm interested in just about all areas of theology, because all theology ultimately teaches me more about my Lord and God.

not to be overlooked is that there is a lot of apophatic information about God, some handed down from non-Christian speculations about what God would not thinkably be like--in contrast with the eucharistic Mystery.

But this doesn't relate to my just-stated counter-reply.

Why can't we agree on the more basic definition of the Holy Trinity as I outlined a few replies above, and be mutually tolerant of all the "fine print" of both sides, so to speak?

all of that having been stated, let it be clear: if Jesus was the Creator-Logos, then reason is not repugnant to Him except when it goes too far into Mysteries unfathomable for the finite human mind (that's rationalism). i feel that a moderate position between rationalism and relativism is the best one can aim at.

Why approach relativism at all???!!! I give no quarter to relativism. If by that, however, you mean tolerance, charity, and vigorous self-examination of first principles (contra logical positivism and Enlightenment humanist rationalism), I have no problem with that. But see, this is another sub-trail. You are not really addressing the main thrust of my argument. I'm concerned about ecumenism and unity, not just abstract theology and philosophical axioms (though I certainly consider them important, too).


No one is saying that, and if anyone thinks this is Catholic belief, then I am here to assure them that it is a gross caricature of it. This is the typical Orthodox polemic against Scholasticism, and - too often - use of reason even generally speaking, within Catholicism. I'm not speaking to you directly at this point: just making a broad observation.

. . . so back to the filioque. our middle position is the SAME attitude toward it as toward transubstantiation: both are attempts to analyse the inner architecture of a mystery--the all-holy trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ; both are attempts to extend finite reason beyond it finite bounds.

Ah! Then indeed the filioque should not be cause for separation, since it is an "attempt to extend finite reason beyond its finite bounds." Such things should be areas of tolerance and diversity, not primarily dogma and separation. The Orthodox are in this discussion, too, on just as abstract a level - as you have pointed out more than once. I'm referring to the overall discussion - not the adoption of the filioque.

if you try to reply that our rejection of the filioque implies a different delving into the inner architecture of the divine Trinity,

Surely it does. This is getting very interesting now . . . (hopefully readers will find it so, also).

i would respond: reason cannot go beyond just saying that with Scripture that the Son is the Only-Begotten of the Father (John 1:14), and the Paraclete proceeds from the Father (John 15:26 [the orthodox aren't shy about quoting from scripture; this verse has <ekporevetai> in Greek (cf. ekporefsis--the word for "procession")]; in the SAME verse, we also read of the ekpempsis or missio of the Spirit from the Father by Jesus). that's the main "revelation" about the Trinity that we have to go on, as far as Scripture is concerned, although many oblique references can be legitimately quoted. it's enough for the orthodox.

There are many more verses which have been brought to the table, via my posted articles from the Catholic Encyclopedia, etc. But I contend that the two understandings are complementary, per the Pontifical Statement I posted. That being the case (along with the high abstraction involved), I don't see it as a grounds for disunity.

why add to it by trying to analyse or speculate very far beyond that in terms of human categories (after all, "generate" and "spirate" are certainly metaphorical, since God doesn't generate in anything like a human manner or breathe in the human sense)?

But - can't you see? - both sides are doing what you say we shouldn't do. It is just as "excessive" for the Orthodox to defend and state their views, as it is for Catholics to state ours. Each position is equally abstract and ethereal and technical. They differ qualitatively only in content. We argue that there is more than sufficient Scripture to establish our view of the Son's role in all of this.

if a theologian on your side wishes to investigate the inner architecture of the Trinity, or if you reject all of that in terms of the Bible (particularly the verse just quoted), it's your party at odds with one another. if you stick with John 15:26, i.e. the Bible, you'll leave out the filioque.

You guys are equally as speculative on this issue; I think it is foolish to deny it. It is a double standard, in my opinion; when we talk about our view of procession, we are too speculative, but when you talk about your view it is altogether proper and permissible, simply because you don't include the Son. I don't buy it. You argue almost like a fundamentalist ("if you stick with the Bible, you get our view . . . ").

it strikes me as reasonable for reason not to go further;

Then it seems to me that it would follow that the Orthodox should take an agnostic stance on the entire issue, rather than press their perspective to the point of schism and disunity.

but i don't say that it's morally wrong for it to, however unwise it may be deemed--our logos is there to be used. but it's passing strange that where you see a contrast in our view of the two matters you've brought up (the filioque and transubstantiation), i see a parallelism--an attempt to analyse the inner architecture of both Mysteries that it would have been best to have avoided (the schism might not then have happened) on the one; a restraint or moderation and respect for the limits of logos on the other--without bemeaning it or disdaining its service in understanding the divine Logos. perhaps you may wish to tell me why you see a difference where i see the same rejection of analysing a mystery.

I hope I just did. I think your argument at this point rests on the (I think, obvious) fallacy that Catholics are being overly and unduly speculative and "unbiblical" with regard to the filioque (or - I should say - procession, period), whereas Orthodox are not. I see two divergent views on the Holy Trinity both sides commonly accept - both sides argue their point from both reason and Scripture and go into territory which in my opinion is ultimately inconclusive and non-compelling and paradoxical (I see a strong parallel with the debates on predestination).

i will add that this is a fascinating discussion that has brought out ideas in me previously absent or latent.

Yes; same here; very much so.

if we disagree, be assured that i don't impute any ill will or stupidity to your point of view or the axioms that filter it. i'm not being a relativist or rationalist when i say that i'm sure you, Dave, are trying as sincerely as i am to get to the truth of these matters. if before you reacted to my objections to your ideas, this time i'm the one that has had to be on the defence throughout--and that has been a more pleasant experience, at least if i can assume you will make allowance for my frailties and mishaps--as i do for others.

Thanks; my sentiments also (from my end). This is great discussion . . .

though i will leave to you to examine 1 Cor. 12 (on the Body of Christ) with its three uses of energy (see vv. 6, 10-11) and six uses of charisma; note in passing also 2 Cor. 1:6, Gal. 5:6 (where faith energizes through love")--and 3:5 where miracles are concerned--and Philm. 6. Gal. 2 speaks of Peter's and Paul's energization (in vs. 8--two uses; verse nine refers to this as a recognition of charis "Grace"). Before turning to the prime sources in Eph., Philp., and Col., i should note 1 Thes. 2:13 (referring to the Logos or logos as energizing in believers--contrasted with the energizing of inquity in 2 Thes. 2 ?); Heb 4:12, where the "living" divine Logos is eneryes; ":energetic"; and even the un-Hellenic Jas. in 5:16, where the prayer of a righteous person energizes.

let's now up the ante and look at Eph. 2:2 (i'm looking at the greek) has the devil energizing in the children of truth;, whereas 1:19-20 has God['s Grace] working in us to believe, just as the Spirit's power energized the resurrection of Jesus. (Eph. 1:6 speaks of Grace making us acceptable--a single verb.) Eph. 3:2 speaks of Grace, while verse 7 in the same chapter speaks of grace bestowed according to the energy of the power (dynamis) [of God], and verse 20 speaks of God's doing according to the power energizing in us--evidently Grace. [honestly: is this the thought world of the Latins or of the Reformers? it's the thought world of the orthodox! are they really as compatible as you've been contending? we're sticking to the Bible here, as you admonish us.] Eph. 4:16, reflecting 1 Cor. 12 perhaps, says that the body of Christ is held together according to energy--evidently Christ's Life.

It gets even better in what follows now. (When i quote Philp., note that verse 4:3 speaks of the Clement who wrote the famous letter that speaks of bishops, priests, and deacons.) While Philp. 2:12 commends "working out" (katherg-) one's Salvation with fear and trembling, verse 13 adds: "For 'tis God Who energizes in you both to will and to energize for the sake of His good pleasure." Where verse 3:21 speaks of transforming our humble bodies into conformity with the Body of His Glory (Shekhinah?) with the Energy that enables [ here the dynam- word!] Him to subdue everything . . . In Col. l:29, energy and power [dynamis] are linked thus: "I labor, agonizing/striviing by His Energy that is energizing in me by power [dynamis]. vCol. 2:12 speaks of being buried with Christ in Baptism, "by which also you all work together (synergize in Greek) through faith of God's Energy that has raised Him from the dead. If that's Grace, it's uncreated--because it's the uncreated Life of the Logos. It's not the "created Grace" of the Latins.

Thank you for this research. With all due respect, though (and it is considerable); I don't see how this conflicts at all with our own theology. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (one of the leading and most respected Catholic catechists - whom I have had the pleasure to know and learn from), defines "Sanctifying Grace" as follows:

Does this sound "created" or "static" to you?

The result of the foregoing (without even investigating the synerg- words)? Lots of evidence in Paul's developing thought for a dynamic, or rather energetic, view of God's uncreated Grace--and Life in us--but no evidence, i warrant, for Grace's being a static created form of a created soul.

How are Fr. Hardon's Catholic definitions of grace any different, I ask?

if you follow your strict guidelines (see above) for referring proper development to Scripture, please say how you get from St. Paul to the scholastics" created form of the soul? there's a gulf that i do not see how you can cross; but it may be worth sitting down and trying to think over the matters as if you were in the biblical/orthodox energetic framework. if you should succeed, i dare say you would not find both sides saying the same thing about Grace, Salvation, etc., etc. but those things that each side is saying arise out of axiomatic frameworks about the nature of reality that are vastly different. i'm not happy about that, but truth demands facing it, doesn't it????

Sure; I did - showing (I think) that there is no essential disagreement here. So now you have to either concede the point or show how our definitions (as just given) differ from yours.

the questions are (1) CAN one step out of one axiomatic box into the other;

They *should* be able to, but I think it rarely actually happens.

and (2) which side needs to do the stepping in order to think like St. Paul?

Neither, in this instance.

in what follows, i refer to the thomist and scotist-ockhamist frameworks, as being as undynamic and unenergetic as you can get--with the exception, if lonergan is right, of the glorious aquinas himself.

As I have said, nominalism is a corruption of Aquinas' synthesis (as even some later Thomist schemas were). So you are fighting straw men to the extent that you equate Catholicism with nominalism.

for one thing, those basic mediaeval frameworks--thomism and nominalism--came centuries later than the biblical/orthodox way of looking at the world--and from arabic (and jewish) sources in cordova (ultimately damaskos and baghdad).

I don't see how this is relevant, since in my opinion philosophy and theology are distinct. Philosophy is the handmaiden of theology; thus various strains of it can be incorporated in doctrinal development (as I have already argued). Time spans are irrelevant, as long as the subject matter itself is an apostolic doctrine. Thomism derives from Aristotelianism, which preceded Christianity, of course, so if mere chronology is in focus, the argument breaks down, does it not? Modern science also basically originated in the 16th century, but that can certainly be synthesized with biblical understandings (I have in mind particularly the cosmological and teleological theistic arguments). The Bible says God created ex nihilo. The Big Bang reinforces this with the scientific data of astronomy and physics. Truth is truth. I don't care at what period in history it is uncovered.

you are free to show me that i'm wrong, but i think it will be hard to convince a neutral observe that they are congruous with st. paul or the evangelists' framework.

Let them judge what I have produced above then.

there is a biblical/energetic framework. i have sketched it out according to your request. it is not very congruent with latin scholasticism (i refer especially to Grace and Salvation)--except perhaps aquinas himself--and is vastly incongruous with the Reformers. but be fair, isn't it totally congruous with Orthodoxy?

It is congruous with all three parties. I've shown how our view is no different than yours. As to Protestantism, they apply false and incoherent nominalist modes of thinking to their schema of forensic or extrinsic justification; yet all Protestants also believe in actual sanctification of the Christian, which is an active, infused renewal of holiness and righteousness. There's your energy . . .

do you call st. paul's understanding of energy "philosophy" or just an assumed view of what is/acts.

I would call it theology. To the extent that we attempt to interpret it with extra-biblical categories, or fit it into a world-view, I would call that philosophy (at least partially so).

"i'm calling for explanations and clear explications" of how the latin (or reformed) static framework is congruous with the dynamic/energetic framework of st. paul. it will require setting aside the scotomata of that framework even to begin, i assume.

You apparently want to equate Catholicism with Scotism, nominalism, Ockham et al. Even Thomism is not the entirety of Catholicism. You need to deal with our stated conciliar and papal dogmas, not the variants of mediæval speculation. And you are not providing me with specific statements from Catholics which I can defend or reject. You are simply talking in very broad generalities (and partly mistaken ones, I think). Earlier you seemed to equate our view of the Fall with that of Calvinism. I think you are missing some crucial distinctions here. To a significant extent, I believe you are warring against straw men, when you continually bring up these sub-schools of thought.

it will be of supreme interest to me (and possibly even other readers) to see whatchu do with the ball, David, now that it's back in your court.

And now it's in yours, and I, too, am very interested in the reponse to this. In my opinion, I have shown that the views of our two communions with regard to energy, original sin, and the filioque, are either essentially identical, or at least able to be held together in harmony (even if not perfectly consistent). It is my fervent hope that we can (in our lowly estate as laymen) establish some heretofore suspicious common ground, and therefore further ecumenism and unity (and mutual respect). Will the Orthodox continue to insist that there are major differences where it appears to me that they are basically nonexistent? To me the results of our dialogue (from my perspective) are very exciting and hopeful. I just have to persuade my Orthodox brethren that our differences are in fact not as great as you have been led to believe.

Main Index / Eastern Christianity: Orthodox & Catholic, & Ecumenism

Compiled by Dave Armstrong, from public list discussions: 28 February 1999.