Posts Tagged charismatic

Essence and Energies of God – 3

Thaboric Light

Thaboric Light

Energies (ἐνέργεια; enérgeia)

In our discussion on God’s energies, I will rely heavily on the writings of the greatest expositor on the Essence and Energies of God, St. Gregory Pálamas (1296–1359).  Palamas was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later the Archbishop of Thessaloniki.  He is known as the preeminent theologian of Hesychasm (Greek: silence, stillness, or quietude), the ancient Christian tradition of contemplative prayer and theosis, or union with God, dating back to the 2nd century.

In the 1330s and 1340s Palamas defended the theology and doctrine of Hesychasm against Barlaam the Calabrian, a theologian trained in Western Scholastic tradition of reason and logic, who attacked the doctrines and practices of the Hesychasts, accusing them of heresy and blasphemy.

In response to Barlaam’s attacks, Palamas wrote nine treatises entitled “Triads For The Defense of Those Who Practice Sacred Quietude [Hesychasts]”. The treatises are called “triads” because they were organized as three sets of three treatises.  Ultimately, Palamas prevailed and his theology was endorsed in a series of six patriarchal councils held in Constantinople between 1341 and 1351.  Barlaam was anathematized, returned to Italy, and joined the Roman Catholic Church where is views received a more sympathetic reception.

Most of what follows comes from Fr. John Meyendorff’s 1983 publication of St. Gregory Palamas’ “Triads”.

Myendorff observed that, “The distinction in God between “essence” and “energy” – that focal point of Palamite theology – is nothing but a way of saying that the transcendent God remains transcendent, as He communicates Himself to humanity.”  Unpacking this idea a bit further, he explains, “…for Palamas, this transcendent essence of God would be a philosophical abstraction if it did not possess “power”, that is, “the faculties of knowing, of prescience, of creating”.  In other words, the God of Palamas is a living God…”

“The real communion, the fellowship and – one can almost say – the familiarity with the “One Who Is” [God] is, for Palamas the very content of the Christian experience, made possible because the “One Who Is” [God] became man.”

“After the coming of Christ … God enters into immediate communion with humanity.”  So, for Palamas the Incarnation of Christ, the Logos, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, is absolutely central. Indeed, true “deification” (theosis) became possible when, according to the expressions of St. Athanasius, “God became man in order that man might become God in him”.

To be continued…

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Essence and Energies of God – 7

Thaboric Light

Thaboric Light

An understanding of God’s energies allows humankind to experience God directly through a personal relationship with the Persons of the triadic Godhead; the divine persons in communion and relationship with humanity as persons.  That aligns with and supports every human being achieving their purpose in life; having been created in the image of God, to attain to His likeness, partaking of the divine nature, in this life.

Without an understanding the distinction between God’s Essence and Energies we cannot reconcile the reality of a totally transcendent, ineffable, and unknowable God with the reality of the intensely personal relationship with Christ inherent in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Christos Yannaras described the problem:

“The West rejected the distinction, desiring to protect the idea of simplicity in the divine essence, since rational thought cannot accept the antinomy [paradox] of a simultaneous existential identity and otherness, a distinction that does not mean division and fragmentation.  For the western mind…God is defined only in terms of His essence; whatever is not essence does not belong to God; it is a creature of God, the result of divine essence.”

Without this theology of the Essence and Energies of God, the praxis of the Renewal Movement, the indwelling presence and power of God in intimate personal relationship within us, is left with no complementary supporting theology or doctrine.  It is left without its complementary, supporting doxis.  We are left with a religion with a split personality, with no continuity between its belief and action; its doxis and praxis.

You will note that the Western Latin (Roman Catholic and Protestant) Church, embodied in the person of Barlaam of Calabria, does not recognize the Essence-Energies doctrine.  Hence, Western theology and doctrine have no means of explaining and dealing with the transcendence of God and with the simultaneous indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit which animates Renewal Movement Christians.  The West has no orthodoxis which complements and supports a spirit-filled orthopraxis.

This orthodoxis is only found in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.


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