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April 2007

Eastern Orthodoxy Unveiled

 

JAMES LARSON

We tend to think of Eastern Orthodoxy as a branch of Christianity whose form of worship and religious symbolism may seem rather strange to us, and we are also ready to admit that the one really important Catholic doctrine which they have rejected is the Primacy of the Pope (we tend to mistakenly think of their rejection of the Filioque - the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son - as being a rather marginal issue), but most of us are not prepared to consider that Orthodoxy is something radically different, and even opposed, to Catholicism.

However, such is the case. The extraordinary fact is that virtually any serious Orthodox writer will be the first to make precisely this claim: namely, that Orthodoxy and Eastern Spirituality represent a faith and spirituality which in many ways are in profound opposition to the Latin Tradition. And this, despite the fact that his counterpart in the West is usually expending a good deal of effort in attempting to prove that the differences are minimal and inconsequential.

Dionysisus and the "Palamite" tradition

I want to begin our analysis of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality with a series of quotes which I hope will shock the reader into a state of acute watchfulness. It is, of course, always possible to distort a writer’s thought by taking quotations out of context. We will therefore be discussing their full meaning in relationship to Eastern theology and spirituality as we proceed in our discussion. For the present, however, I would like the reader to try to conceive of any context in which the following statements might be acceptable. They are all taken from authors writing in what certainly must be considered the dominant Orthodox tradition.

Two of the writers are of ancient tradition. Dionysisus the Areopagite was considered until relatively recent times to be of apostolic origins. In his writings he disingenuously portrays himself as a contemporary of the apostles, and to have witnessed the solar eclipse at the Crucifixion. It is now known for certain that he lived somewhere around the year 500 A.D. We should also note that the writings of Dionysisus are of immense importance to Orthodox tradition, and have also probably been the primary source of Neoplatonic contamination of Western theology.

Gregory of Palamas (1296-1359) is considered by the Eastern Church to be a Saint (proclaimed to be so by a Synod in Constantinople in 1368), and the greatest theologian in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. A series of Eastern Councils in the 14th century endorsed his theology as being the doctrinal basis for Orthodox Christianity.

The two other writers, Vladimir Lossky and John Meyendorff, are probably considered the most respected explicators and apologists for this tradition (the "Palamite" tradition) in the twentieth century. I would therefore ask the reader to carefully consider all the following quotes:

1. "The cult of the humanity of Christ, is foreign to Eastern tradition….The way of the imitation of Christ is never practiced in the spiritual life of the Eastern Church." (Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 243

2. "The Eastern tradition knows nothing of ‘pure nature’ to which grace is added as a supernatural gift. For it, there is no natural or ‘normal’ state, since grace is implied in the act of creation itself." (Lossky, 101)

3. "The notion of a state of grace of which the members of the Church can be deprived, as well as the distinction between venial and mortal sins, are foreign to Eastern tradition." (Lossky, 180)

4."The notion of merit is foreign to Eastern tradition." (Losski, 197)

5."The essence of God is everywhere, for, as it is said, ‘the Spirit fills all things’, according to essence. Deification is likewise everywhere, ineffably present in the essence and inseparable from it, as its natural power. But just as one cannot see fire, if there is no matter to receive it, nor any sense organ capable of perceiving its luminous energy, in the same way one cannot contemplate deification if there is no matter to receive the divine manifestation. But if with every veil removed it lays hold of appropriate matter, that is of any purified rational nature, freed from the veil of manifold evil, then it becomes itself visible as a spiritual light, or rather it transforms these creatures into spiritual light." (Gregory Palamas, The Triads, p. 89)

6. "This latter division [of mankind into two sexes] was made by God in prevision of sin, according to St. Maximus, who is here reproducing the thought of St. Gregory of Nyassa. ‘Being, which has had its origin in change – says the latter – retains an affinity with change. This is why He who, as Scripture says, sees all things before their coming to be, having regarded or rather having forseen in advance by the power of His anticipatory knowledge in which direction the movement of man’s free and independent choice would incline, having thus seen how it would come to pass, added to the image the division into male and female: a division which has no relation to the divine Archetype, but which, as we have said, is in agreement with irrational nature’." (Lossky, 108-109)

7. "It was the divinely appointed function of the first man, according to St. Maximus, to unite in himself the whole of created being; and at the same time to reach his perfect union with God and thus grant the state of deification to the whole creation. It was first necessary that he should suppress in his own nature the division into two sexes, in his following of the impassible life according to the divine archetype. He would then be in a position to reunite paradise with the rest of the earth, for, constantly bearing paradise within himself, being in ceaseless communion with God, he would be able to transform the whole earth into paradise. After this, he must overcome spatial conditions not only in his spirit but also in the body, by reuniting the heavens and the earth, the totality of the sensible universe. Having surpassed the limits of the sensible, it would then be for him to penetrate into the intelligible universe by knowledge equal to that of the angelic spirits, in order to unite in himself the intelligible and the sensible worlds. Finally, there remaining nothing outside himself but God alone, man had only to give himself to Him in a complete abandonment of love, and thus return to Him the whole created universe gathered together in his own being. God Himself would then in His turn have given Himself to man, who would then, in virtue of this gift, that is to say by grace, possess all that God possesses by nature. The deification of man and of the whole created universe would thus be accomplished. Since this task which was given to man was not fulfilled by Adam, it is in the work of Christ, the second Adam, that we can see what it was meant to be." (Lossky, 109-110)

8. "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." (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p.133)

9. "But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical." (Gregory Palamas, TheTriads, p. 97)

10. "In God the order of nature precedes the order of volitive action, and is both superior to and independent of it [this means that God and His Will are not One]. Because God is what He is, He is not determined or in any way limited in what He does, not even by His own essence and being." (Meyendorff, pl 130)

11. "Now this union with the illuminations [which is the divinizing experience of the "saints"] – what is it, if not a vision? The rays are consequently visible to those worthy, although the divine essence is absolutely invisible, and these unoriginate and endless rays are a light without beginning or end. There exists, then an eternal light, other than the divine essence; it is not itself an essence – far from it! – but an energy of the Superessential." (Gregory Palamas p. 100)

12. "This is the perfecting of prayer, and is called spiritual prayer or contemplation….It is the ‘spiritual silence’ which is above prayer. It is that state which belongs to the kingdom of Heaven. ‘As the saints in the world to come no longer pray, their minds having been engulfed in the Divine Spirit, but dwell in ecstasy in that excellent glory; so the mind, when it has been made worthy of perceiving the blessedness of the age to come, will forget itself and all that is here, and will no longer be moved by the thought of anything.’" (Lossky, 208)

13. "This tradition remains common to the East and to the West as far as the Church witnesses with power to those truths which are connected with the Incarnation. But those dogmas which are, so to speak, more inward, more mysterious, those which relate to Pentecost, the doctrines about the Holy Spirit, about grace, about the Church, are no longer common to the Church of Rome and to the Eastern Churches. Two separate traditions are opposed one to another." (Lossky, 237)

14. "But these things are not to be disclosed to the uninitiated, by whom I mean those attached to the objects of human thought, and who believe there is no superessential [in Orthodox theology this term is used to convey the belief that God is "above" essence] Reality beyond, and who imagine that by their own understanding they know Him who has made Darkness His secret place. And if the principles of the divine Mysteries are beyond the understanding of these, what is to be said of others still more incapable thereof, who describe the transcendental First Cause of all by characteristics drawn from the lowest order of beings, while they deny that He is any way above the images which they fashion after various designs; whereas they should affirm that, while He possesses all the positive attributes of the universe (being the Universal Cause) yet, in a more strict sense, he does not possess them, since He transcends them all; wherefore there is no contradiction between the affirmations and the negations, inasmuch as He infinitely precedes all conceptions of deprivation, being beyond all positive and negative distinctions….He is super-essentially exalted above created things, and reveals Himself in His naked Truth to those alone who pass beyond all that is pure or impure, and ascend above the topmost altitudes of holy things, and who, leaving behind them all divine light and sound and heavenly utterances, plunge into the Darkness where truly dwells, as the Oracles declare, that ONE who is beyond all." (Dionysisus the Areopagite, Mystical Theology)

In the ensuing analysis of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality, the numbers in parenthesis will refer to the quotations given above.

"Apophatism"

The name given by Eastern Orthodoxy to their theological approach to God, and also to the process by which man is "deified" is "apophatism."

The "apophatic way," as taught by Eastern Orthodoxy, is rooted in a conception of God which makes of Him an Absolute Who is beyond everything the human mind can attribute to His nature. He is, in fact, beyond essence, nature, and being (9,10,11,14).

Anyone who is familiar with the monism of the Absolute in philosophical Hinduism will be familiar with such a concept. It is rooted in the belief that the human mind can predicate nothing of God. If we wish to call God such things as Good, Truth, Love, Being, Essence, Existence, One, Eternal, Immutable, Just, Merciful, we may do so only with the proviso that these "names apply only to the "energies" of God, and not to His "Superessential" Godhead, which always must be seen as "beyond" any naming, essence, or even being.

The human mind can never, even with the assistance of God’s grace, know anything positive about God’s ultimate being and essence. (Interestingly enough, the Eastern theologian, while denying being and essence to the ultimate nature of God, are still forced into using these terms).

"Deification"

Our ultimate union with God is therefore not a matter of "seeing Him as He is", but rather the fruit of a negative process of growth and evolution by which we are liberated from all limitations (both of passions and mind) and become united in contemplative union with God’s "energies" or "rays" which are already present in creation (we will be exploring Eastern Orthodoxy’s distinction between God and His "energies" in a moment).

This union can take place in this life and is called, among other things, "contemplation" (5,7,8,11,12,14). It is also called "deification", and this deification culminates in that state of union whereby God gives himself to man "who would then, in virtue of this gift, that is to say by grace, possess all that God possesses by nature (7)." (This would indeed seem to be self-contradictory since, as we have seen, Eastern Theology believes God is beyond nature, essences, and even being).

However, in considering the real content of what Eastern theology considers "deification", we must take into account two things.

Eastern understanding of nature and grace

First, in the words of Vladimir Lossky, "The Eastern tradition knows nothing of ‘pure nature’ to which grace is added as a supernatural gift. For this tradition, there is no natural or ‘normal’ state, since grace is implied in the act of creation itself (2)."

Deification in this tradition must then consist of a union with the "energies" of God which are in man and in all creation from the beginning. This is simply a variant of Pantheism, and involves a profound violation of the Catholic ontological distinction between God and His creation. John Meyendorf writes:

This concept of salvation is itself based upon an understanding of the human being which views the natural [this is Meyendorf’s own emphasis] state of man as composed of three elements: body, soul, and Holy Spirit….The Spirit is not seen here as a ‘supernatural’ grace – added to an otherwise ‘natural,’ created humanity – but as a function of humanity itself in its dynamic relationship to God, to itself, and to the world. (Meyendorf, Catholicity and the Church, p.21)

In other words, according to the Eastern tradition, the Divine is ontologically part of creation from the beginning. This involves a profound violation of creation ex nihilio ( creation from nothing). If the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) is "a function of humanity itself" from the beginning, and if, as Gregory Palamas say, "the Spirit fills all things according to essence", then creation is not "out of nothing" because it contains God in its original essence.

Further, in viewing the human being in his "natural" state as a "dynamic," evolutionary process in which the Holy Spirit seeks to rend the veil of all human limitation (5), Eastern theology also denies the substantial "nature" of the human person. There is no "grace added to nature" – both because grace and the Holy spirit are present as the Spirit of man from the beginning (2,5), and also because there is no such thing as human substantial nature to begin with. The whole concept of "nature" is to be seen as abstract, limiting, and stultifying to the process of man’s "deification."

Eastern understanding of God

Secondly, the "nature" of God which man is alleged to possess in this supposed state of deification cannot be what Eastern Orthodoxy considers the absolutely transcendent and ineffable God Himself, who is beyond all nature, essence, and being. This "nature" can only be the "energies" of God which are in no way identifiable with the "God Who is."

We may see, therefore, that in kindred cause with reductive analytical science, that Eastern theology is at war with the whole concept of substantial being itself, whether it be Supreme Being or created being.

To realize how profoundly contrary all this is to Catholic theology and spirituality, it is very beneficial to consult St. Thomas. St. Thomas is explicit in his affirmation concerning the "knowability" of God:

It is written: We shall see Him as He is (1 John, ii. 2)

I answer that, 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 (I, Q.12, A.1).

Profound difference

There is, of course, a certain way in which negative assertions are also integral to Catholic theology. St. Thomas goes on to say that because the Saints see the essence of God is not at all the same as meaning that they totally comprehend Him. God is infinite, man finite. We may very well see God face to face, be able to see His Divine Essence, receive the Gift of knowing Him as He is, and yet be infinitely far away from comprehending the fullness of God.

Yet this does not in any way justify the notion that God is unknowable in His essence. Rather than being infinitely unknowable, God is in fact infinitely knowable. And herein lies the profound difference between Catholic and Eastern theology and spirituality.

Catholic understanding of God

This profound difference is reflected in the way in which we understand the Names that are attributed to God.

When Catholic theology understands the concept of man being created in the image of God it also understands that this concept means that man’s nature is created in the image of God’s Nature. As such, the supreme values of our life are directly reflective of Who God is. When, therefore, we say that God is supreme Being, or that He is infinite Intelligence and Love, that He is Good, Eternal, Immutable, etc. we give names to God that are His Essence, Substance, or Nature. These Names while being severely affected by our finite limitations, are nevertheless positive affirmations of Who God is. In speaking of these names, St. Thomas writes:

Therefore the aforesaid names signify the divine substance, but in an imperfect manner, even as creatures represent it imperfectly. So when we say, God is good, the meaning is not, God is the cause of goodness, or, God is not evil; but the meaning is, Whatever good we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God, and in a more excellent and higher way (I, Q.13, A.2)."

Nor does the fact that we attribute all these various names or attributes to God violate His Divine Simplicity or the Absolute Unity of His Being. St. Thomas further writes:

The perfect unity [and Simplicity] of God requires that what are manifold and divided in others should exist in Him simply and unitively. Thus it comes about that He is one in reality, and yet multiple in idea, because our intellect apprehends Him in a manifold manner, as things represent Him (I, Q.13, A. 4)."

While there is, therefore, a total discontinuity between man and God according to being (according to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo), there is at the same time a profound continuity in the fact that man is truly created in the image of God, and that man’s perfections, and the perfections of all created things, are created "likenesses" to the very Essence of Who God is.

Catholic understanding of nature and grace

The process of "deification" in the Catholic tradition does not therefore require a negation of all that is human nature. Rather it requires the perfecting of human nature through a gratuitous Gift of God superadded to human nature.

It necessitates, in the first place, the free cooperation of man with God’s grace. Secondly, however, it requires the Gift of a special grace of God, the "Light of Glory", which lifts man’s intellect and will above its created nature in order for him to be able to see the very Essence of God. St Thomas again writes:

"It is written: In thy light we shall see light (Ps. 35:10).

I answer that, Everything which is raised up to what exceeds its nature, must be prepared by some disposition above its nature; as for example, if air is to receive the form of fire, it must be prepared by some disposition for such a form. But when any created intellect sees the essence of God, the essence of God itself becomes the intelligible form of the intellect. Hence it is necessary that some supernatural disposition should be added to the intellect in order that it may be raised up to such a great and sublime height. Now since the natural power of the created intellect does not avail to enable it to see the essence of God, as was shown in the preceding article, it is necessary that the power of understanding should be added by divine grace. Now this increase of the intellectual powers is called the illumination of the intellect, as we also call the intelligible object itself by the name of light of illumination. And this is the light spoken of in the Apocalypse (21:23). The Glory of the Lord hath enlightened it – viz., the society of the blessed who see God. By this light, the blessed are made deiform – that is, like to God, according to the saying: When He shall appear we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is (1 John 2:2).

"Energies" of God are not His "essence"

Eastern spirituality and theology reverses all this. On the one hand, in accord with its apophatic theology, it denies that the Names of God are applicable to His essence. In fact, it denies essence to God.

On the other hand, it destroys the absolute distinction between the Being of God and the being of created things by placing the eternal energies of God within creation itself (5). This amounts to a denial of creation ex nihilo through a not-so-subtle affirmation of Pantheism. In order to now be able to fully see the truth of this statement, we shall quote again a portion of quote # 5:

"The essence of God is everywhere, for, as it is said, ‘the Spirit fills all things’, according to essence. Deification is likewise everywhere, ineffably present in the essence and inseparable from it, as its natural power."

The reader will notice that Eastern theologians are very willing to use a term such as "essence" when speaking of the "energies" of God. Usually, they are only willing to apply such concepts as "essence", "nature", and "being" to created things or to the "energies" of God, simply because they believe in the apophatic conception that God is beyond all such concepts or assertions, including any assertions concerning God’s own "energies." There is, however, one instance in which they are willing to violate this rule – this occurs when they wish to distinguish between the "energies" of God and His "essence." Thus, Gregory Palamas writes:

But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical. (Gregory Palamas, TheTriads, p. 97

Simply because God is viewed as being completely transcendent in the sense that no Name or operation can be predicated of Who He is, then Eastern Orthodoxy found it necessary to make an ontological distinction in God between Who He is and What He does.

"Who God is" is therefore viewed as totally distinct from "What God does." The first is God Himself. The second are the "energies" of God, which are not to be identified with His essence (again we must emphasize that the Eastern Orthodox use of the word "essence" here contradicts its own assertion that God is not an essence).

Radical divide

These energies are, as I have said, not identical with God, and yet are to be seen as eternal, and inhering in God. Thus, in order to deify creation, Eastern Orthodoxy is forced to violate not only the Catholic doctrine creation ex nihilio, but also the truth concerning the unity and simplicity of God.

It is also important to understand that these energies are not just limited to the actual work of God (such as creation), but also to all the Names of God. In other words, God’s Will is not identical with His essence. Nor are His supreme Intelligence, Goodness, Immutability, Eternity, Beauty, or Unity identical with God.

There is no question but that the "apophatic way" of Eastern Orthodoxy destroys the simplicity of God. In order to preserve and protect their sterile conception of an absolutely transcendent and unknowable God, the Eastern theologians have been forced to posit a radical divide between God’s essence and His operations.

Variant of Pantheism

For St. Thomas, this is, of course, completely unnecessary. God is defined as pure Act. All the Names and Acts we rightly posit of God may be multiple in our conception of them, but are in reality One in His Substance. It is this fundamental fact of the Nature of God which Orthodoxy has entirely missed.

But there is more. Having denied a knowable Nature in God, and the real possibility of man achieving union with God through the Beatific Vision of God’s Essence, Eastern Orthodoxy is left, in a sense, with God’s crumbs under the table.

It is left, in other words, with the possibility of union with God’s "energies" or "rays." And since these rays or energies are defined by Eastern theology to be in the world, then the process of deification becomes identified with a "communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world (Meyendorff, p.133)." This "divine action in the world" is seen to be the action of the Holy Spirit. Some Orthodox writers, including Soloviev, have in fact called the Holy Spirit the "Soul of the World." This is simply a variant of Pantheism.

Aversion to the Incarnation

In our analysis of Eastern Orthodoxy we have now come full circle. We should now be able to understand why Vladimir Lossky could say that "The cult of the humanity of Christ is foreign to Eastern tradition", and that "The way of the imitation of Christ is never practiced in the spiritual life of the Eastern Church."

We should also be able to understand why both Lossky and Meyendorff can conclude that the question concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit is the absolutely central point of contention between Roman and Eastern Christianity. If, as believed by Eastern Orthodoxy, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, and not also from Christ, then our Faith is not truly Incarnational because the road back to God does not lie through the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ:

Having therefore, brethren a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ; A new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. (Heb 10:19-20)

I believe that there is a causal relationship between the division established in Orthodox theology between God’s essence and His "energies" and, on the other hand, the denial of the "Filioque."

In Catholic mystical theology, the way to the "Heart" of God, and the Vision of His Essence, lies through Christ. Since Eastern theology denies that man can ever see or know the Essence of God, then his aspirations must stop at union with the divine "energies." These "energies" would then most appropriately be the operations of a Spirit Who is the Soul of the World, but not sent by Christ. Any incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ would then never be accompanied by a true union with, and vision of, the Divine Person of Christ, anymore than it would ever be fulfilled in the direct vision of the Blessed Trinity.

Aversion to Transubstantiation and Original Sin

The reader should not be surprised that since it views God as being beyond any category of substance, essence, being or nature, Eastern theology also has no time for the doctrine of Transubstantiation. John Meyendorff writes:

"The Byzantines did not see the substance of the bread somehow changed in the Eucharistic mystery into another substance – the Body of Christ – but viewed this bread as the ‘type’ of humanity: our humanity changed into the transfigured humanity of Christ (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, P. 205)."

This aversion to the idea of substance or nature as applied to either God or man also affects Eastern Orthodoxy’s view of Original Sin. The Catholic view is aptly expressed in the New Catechism of the Catholic Church (the italics in the following passage are part of the actual text):

By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice (#404)."

The Eastern position, on the other hand, is succinctly stated by Meyendorff:

"But sin is always a personal act, never an act of nature. Patriarch Photius [author of the Photian schism in the latter part of the ninth century] even goes so far as to say, referring to Western doctrines, that the belief in a ‘sin of nature’ is a heresy (p. 103)."

"There is indeed a consensus in Greek patristic and Byzantine traditions in identifying the inheritance of the Fall as an inheritance essentially of mortality rather than of sinfulness, sinfulness being merely a consequence of mortality (Meyendorff, p. 145)." [In a subsequent passage the author specifies that "mortality" is the "means through which the fundamentally unjust ‘tyranny’ of the devil is exercised over mankind after Adam’s sin" – p. 146].

It is not at all surprising, therefore, that the Orthodox view of baptism does not accord with the Catholic:

"Thus, the Church baptizes children, not to ‘remit’ their yet non-existent sins, but in order to give them a new and immortal life, which their mortal parents are unable to communicate to them. The opposition between the two Adams [the First Adam and Christ] is seen in terms not of guilt and forgiveness but of death and life (Meyendorff, p. 146).

Aversion to St. Thomas

All of the errors which I have discussed concerning Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality (and there is much more that could be said) are the fruit of violating those truths which are contained in the Catholic doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

There is no true understanding of this doctrine without at the same time understanding the real existence of Being, Essence, and Nature in both God and man.

Creation ex nihilo is necessarily founded upon an absolutely real ontological distinction between the being of God and the being of His creation The metaphysics of St. Thomas, which has been embraced by the Catholic Church as "her own" (Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem) is absolutely necessary to this distinction and this doctrine. In placing itself in direct opposition to this metaphysics, Eastern theology not only compromises the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, but also all other doctrines of the Church which are either directly or indirectly dependent on such ontological concepts of being and substance, including as we have seen: Original Sin, Baptism, and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Union by conversion alone

It would, of course, be very easy to also expand this list to include the necessity of the Papacy as the foundation of a hierarchical Church. As the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev said: "For the East the infallibility of the pope and the outward unity of the ecclesiastical organization were superfluous…."

After all, if God does not have an identifiable Nature, why should His Church? We should be able to see from this how pathetic are any attempts to achieve unity with the Eastern Orthodox in any way that falls short of their full conversion to the Catholic Church.

Fellow-travellers against Catholic truth

Finally, we should also realize that whenever Thomistic philosophy is undermined in our own tradition, inevitably some form of Neoplatonism or Eastern theology and spirituality is there to take its place.

Therefore, since the primary intellectual force involved in the war against Thomistic metaphysics has been reductive analytical science, it should come as no surprise that over the centuries reductive atomic science and Eastern theology (including both Neoplatonic and Orthodox) have been fellow-travellers in their war against Catholic truth.

Eastern Orthodoxy and the New Theology

I would hope that all through the preceding analysis of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality, the reader would have experienced a great deal of resonance with my previous articles on the "New Theology." [CO, March, April, May 2006]

When Lossky, for instance, denies the Catholic notion of grace added to nature, our minds should go back to de Lubac.

When Gregory Palamas tells us that God’s essence and energy are not identical, this heresy should resonate with the heretical propositions of Rosmini. [CO, Feb. 2004]

The totally foreign attempts by Eastern authors to explain Original Sin and the Real Presence by eliminating all Thomistic concepts of cosmology and ontology should bring us face to face with the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger. [CO, Oct., Nov. 2003]

And the vehemence with which Eastern Theology combats and persecutes any form of Thomistic Metaphysics should bring before our minds the image of a whole host of 20th century philosophers and theologians, at the centre of which stands the whole Communio movement.

High doctrinal stakes

The reader is probably aware of the great emphasis which John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have placed upon establishing unity with the Orthodox Church. We tend to equate such ecumenism with what has been traditionally considered to be the sin of indifferentism. But I believe that we are here dealing with something much more than indifferentism. Rather, we are faced with a passion for unity founded upon a hunger for a certain kind of theology and spirituality (Palamite spirituality) which both the New Theology and Eastern theology make possible and acceptable.

Meanwhile, what is at stake in this contest is virtually every doctrine of the Catholic Faith: of Who God is, and also who man is; of what constitutes nature and grace, sin and redemption; and, most fundamentally, of the distinction between God and man that is enshrined in the Catholic doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

Theology of Antichrist

In conclusion, I would like to quote a passage from George Williams’ book entitled The Mind of John Paul II, in which he gives his synopsis of the theological approach promoted by the proponents of a "New Theology" (often called "Neo-Thomism") in their promotion of the ecumenical agenda. I will leave the reader to make his own comparisons between what is quoted below, and the subject which we have discussed above:

Always carefully enunciated, a fundamental concern of the New Theology was to accommodate a general Catholic acceptance of human evolution to received theology at the crucial point of Adam created in the image of God and of Christ as the Second Adam and Redeemer of men. By speaking of "the unity of mankind" alongside the received oneness of the race in the First Adam, and in beholding the eternal son of God incarnate as the second Adam and as having from eternity with God the Father sought the redemption of all humanity and indeed of all creation with "the new man" even before the incarnation and the rise of the Church as his salvific prolongation in time through the Holy Spirit, they had come to understand Christ as continuously active in the minds and hearts of all peoples and persons under Providence. Going back behind the sharp distinction drawn by Thomas between nature and grace and between reason and faith, the proponents of the New Theology in different ways found sanction in St. Augustine and the Greek Fathers and in Scripture itself for their disposition to see the whole of life sacramentally (hence their interest in lay participation in the Liturgical Movement) and to see nature suffused with sustaining grace and the Church itself as the Sacrament and Sign of the fundamental unity of every man in body, mind, and soul, of all mankind in a common global history. They were opposed to secularism but they were also opposed to a displacement of the supernatural spatially above and beyond the natural ( p. 99).

It is out of such a Pantheistic theology that the Antichrist will surely rise.

 

 

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