by George MacDonald


REMEMBER, Lord, thou hast not made me good.
Or if thou didst, it was so long ago
I have forgotten–and never understood,
I humbly think. At best it was a crude,
A rough-hewn goodness, that did need this woe,
This sin, these harms of all kinds fierce and rude,
To shape it out, making it live and grow.


But thou art making me, I thank thee, sire.
What thou hast done and doest thou know’st well,
And I will help thee:–gently in thy fire
I will lie burning; on thy potter’s-wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel;
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.


I have not knowledge, wisdom, insight, thought,
Nor understanding, fit to justify
Thee in thy work, O Perfect. Thou hast brought
Me up to this–and, lo! what thou hast wrought,
I cannot call it good. But I can cry–
“O enemy, the maker hath not done;
One day thou shalt behold, and from the sight wilt run.”


The faith I will, aside is easily bent;
But of thy love, my God, one glimpse alone
Can make me absolutely confident–
With faith, hope, joy, in love responsive blent.
My soul then, in the vision mighty grown,
Its father and its fate securely known,
Falls on thy bosom with exultant moan.


Thou workest perfectly. And if it seem
Some things are not so well, ’tis but because
They are too loving-deep, too lofty-wise,
For me, poor child, to understand their laws:
My highest wisdom half is but a dream;
My love runs helpless like a falling stream:
Thy good embraces ill, and lo! its illness dies!


From sleep I wake, and wake to think of thee.
But wherefore not with sudden glorious glee?
Why burst not gracious on me heaven and earth
In all the splendour of a new-day-birth?
Why hangs a cloud betwixt my lord and me?
The moment that my eyes the morning greet,
My soul should panting rush to clasp thy father-feet.


Is it because it is not thou I see,
But only my poor, blotted fancy of thee?
Oh! never till thyself reveal thy face,
Shall I be flooded with life’s vital grace.
Oh make my mirror-heart thy shining-place,
And then my soul, awaking with the morn,
Shall be a waking joy, eternally new-born.


Lord, in my silver is much metal base,
Else should my being by this time have shown
Thee thy own self therein. Therefore do I
Wake in the furnace. I know thou sittest by,
Refining–look, keep looking in to try
Thy silver; master, look and see thy face,
Else here I lie for ever, blank as any stone.


But when in the dim silver thou dost look,
I do behold thy face, though blurred and faint.
Oh joy! no flaw in me thy grace will brook,
But still refine: slow shall the silver pass
From bright to brighter, till, sans spot or taint,
Love, well content, shall see no speck of brass,
And I his perfect face shall hold as in a glass.


With every morn my life afresh must break
The crust of self, gathered about me fresh;
That thy wind-spirit may rush in and shake
The darkness out of me, and rend the mesh
The spider-devils spin out of the flesh–
Eager to net the soul before it wake,
That it may slumberous lie, and listen to the snake.


‘Tis that I am not good–that is enough;
I pry no farther–that is not the way.
Here, O my potter, is thy making stuff!
Set thy wheel going; let it whir and play.
The chips in me, the stones, the straws, the sand,
Cast them out with fine separating hand,
And make a vessel of thy yielding clay.


What if it take a thousand years to make me,
So me he leave not, angry, on the floor!–
Nay, thou art never angry!–that would break me!
Would I tried never thy dear patience sore,
But were as good as thou couldst well expect me,
Whilst thou dost make, I mar, and thou correct me!
Then were I now content, waiting for something more.


Only, my God, see thou that I content thee–
Oh, take thy own content upon me, God!
Ah, never, never, sure, wilt thou repent thee,
That thou hast called thy Adam from the clod!
Yet must I mourn that thou shouldst ever find me
One moment sluggish, needing more of the rod
Than thou didst think when thy desire designed me.


My God, it troubles me I am not better.
More help, I pray, still more. Thy perfect debtor
I shall be when thy perfect child I am grown.
My Father, help me–am I not thine own?
Lo, other lords have had dominion o’er me,
But now thy will alone I set before me:
Thy own heart’s life–Lord, thou wilt not abhor me!


In youth, when once again I had set out
To find thee, Lord, my life, my liberty,
A window now and then, clouds all about,
Would open into heaven: my heart forlorn
First all would tremble with a solemn glee,
Then, whelmed in peace, rest like a man outworn,
That sees the dawn slow part the closed lids of the morn.


Now I grow old, and the soft-gathered years
Have calmed, yea dulled the heart’s swift fluttering beat;
But a quiet hope that keeps its household seat
Is better than recurrent glories fleet.
To know thee, Lord, is worth a many tears;
And when this mildew, age, has dried away,
My heart will beat again as young and strong and gay.


Stronger and gayer tenfold!–but, O friends,
Not for itself, nor any hoarded bliss.
I see but vaguely whither my being tends,
All vaguely spy a glory shadow-blent,
Vaguely desire the “individual kiss;”
But when I think of God, a large content
Fills the dull air of my gray cloudy tent.


Father of me, thou art my bliss secure.
Make of me, maker, whatsoe’er thou wilt.
Let fancy’s wings hang moulting, hope grow poor,
And doubt steam up from where a joy was spilt–
I lose no time to reason it plain and clear,
But fly to thee, my life’s perfection dear:–
Not what I think, but what thou art, makes sure.


This utterance of spirit through still thought,
This forming of heart-stuff in moulds of brain,
Is helpful to the soul by which ’tis wrought,
The shape reacting on the heart again;
But when I am quite old, and words are slow,
Like dying things that keep their holes for woe,
And memory’s withering tendrils clasp with effort vain?


Thou, then as now, no less wilt be my life,
And I shall know it better than before,
Praying and trusting, hoping, claiming more.
From effort vain, sick foil, and bootless strife,
I shall, with childness fresh, look up to thee;
Thou, seeing thy child with age encumbered sore,
Wilt round him bend thine arm more carefully.


And when grim Death doth take me by the throat,
Thou wilt have pity on thy handiwork;
Thou wilt not let him on my suffering gloat,
But draw my soul out–gladder than man or boy,
When thy saved creatures from the narrow ark
Rushed out, and leaped and laughed and cried for joy,
And the great rainbow strode across the dark.


Against my fears, my doubts, my ignorance,
I trust in thee, O father of my Lord!
The world went on in this same broken dance,
When, worn and mocked, he trusted and adored:
I too will trust, and gather my poor best
To face the truth-faced false. So in his nest
I shall awake at length, a little scarred and scored.


Things cannot look all right so long as I
Am not all right who see–therefore not right
Can see. The lamp within sends out the light
Which shows the things; and if its rays go wry,
Or are not white, they must part show a lie.
The man, half-cured, did men not trees conclude,
Because he moving saw what else had seemed a wood.


Give me, take from me, as thou wilt. I learn–
Slowly and stubbornly I learn to yield
With a strange hopefulness. As from the field
Of hard-fought battle won, the victor chief
Turns thankfully, although his heart do yearn,
So from my old things to thy new I turn,
With sad, thee-trusting heart, and not in grief.


If with my father I did wander free,
Floating o’er hill and field where’er we would,
And, lighting on the sward before the door,
Strange faces through the window-panes should see,
And strange feet standing where the loved had stood,
The dear old place theirs all, as ours before–
Should I be sorrowful, father, having thee?


So, Lord, if thou tak’st from me all the rest,
Thyself with each resumption drawing nigher,
It shall but hurt me as the thorn of the briar,
When I reach to the pale flower in its breast.
To have thee, Lord, is to have all thy best,
Holding it by its very life divine–
To let my friend’s hand go, and take his heart in mine.


Take from me leisure, all familiar places;
Take all the lovely things of earth and air
Take from me books; take all my precious faces;
Take words melodious, and their songful linking;
Take scents, and sounds, and all thy outsides fair;
Draw nearer, taking, and, to my sober thinking,
Thou bring’st them nearer all, and ready to my prayer.


No place on earth henceforth I shall count strange,
For every place belongeth to my Christ.
I will go calm where’er thou bid’st me range;
Whoe’er my neighbour, thou art still my nighest.
Oh my heart’s life, my owner, will of my being!
Into my soul thou every moment diest,
In thee my life thus evermore decreeing.


What though things change and pass, nor come again!
Thou, the life-heart of all things, changest never.
The sun shines on; the fair clouds turn to rain,
And glad the earth with many a spring and river.
The hearts that answer change with chill and shiver,
That mourn the past, sad-sick, with hopeless pain,
They know not thee, our changeless heart and brain.


My halting words will some day turn to song–
Some far-off day, in holy other times!
The melody now prisoned in my rimes
Will one day break aloft, and from the throng
Of wrestling thoughts and words spring up the air;
As from the flower its colour’s sweet despair
Issues in odour, and the sky’s low levels climbs.


My surgent thought shoots lark-like up to thee.
Thou like the heaven art all about the lark.
Whatever I surmise or know in me,
Idea, or but symbol on the dark,
Is living, working, thought-creating power
In thee, the timeless father of the hour.
I am thy book, thy song–thy child would be.

Posted in Inklings & Company | 3 Comments

Judas Iscariot: Apostle to the Reprobate

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16)

Ray Anderson invites us to imagine the scene. Jesus goes up the mountain to pray. It is time to select the men who will serve as the eschatological representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel. Through the night he prays. He has many followers. Perhaps he names each of them before the Father, asking for guidance, illumination, confirmation. In the morning he calls his disciples together and announces his election of the Twelve. Each one is an answer to prayer, including Judas Iscariot!

Perhaps we might have counseled Jesus differently. “Are you sure about Judas,” we ask him. “It would probably be wise to do a background check. A more thorough vetting couldn’t hurt.” But Jesus did not ask us; he asked only his Father:

What is clear and unavoidable in this account of the choosing of the twelve is that Jesus prayed all night and then chose the twelve in full assurance that these twelve had been given by him by the Father in answer to prayer. However difficult and unreliable the twelve might have become, Jesus would always consider them given to him by the Father. Yet they were also chosen, as he often liked to remind them. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Jesus later acknowledged in his prayer to the Father that they had been given to him: “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. … I am praying for them” (John 16: 6, 9).

Judas, the one who became a traitor, was an answer to prayer. This man was given to Jesus by the Father in heaven. (The Gospel According to Judas, p. 46)

Upon his election Judas is irrevocably tied to Jesus in mission to Israel and the world. From that moment on, his life no longer belongs to himself but to the Father and the Son. He is no longer just the son of Simon. He is now an Apostle of the Messiah and one of the Twelve.

“But Judas became a traitor!” we retort. “He betrayed the Lord and forfeited his apostolic privileges; his office was filled by Matthias (Acts 2:15-26). What role can he possibly play in God’s plan of salvation, except perhaps as an example of eternal reprobation?” But Anderson proposes an alternative vision for Judas. Do not forget, he reminds us, that Judas—like Peter, James, John, and the others—was an answer to prayer and therefore “had been grasped by an intentionality that could not be shaken by his act of betrayal” (p. 49). Divine election precedes and grounds human freedom and destiny. Despite his perfidy, Judas has been assimilated into the mission of Jesus and is everlastingly intended by the divine mercy and providence. God may use evil to redeem evil. We must not think that God has now cast Judas into the garbage heap of Gehenna, as if admitting that he took a gamble on him that just didn’t pay off. “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Rome (11:29). Judas did not cease to be the elect of Christ because of his treason; but by the grace of God, suggests Anderson, he is given a different role in the work of salvation:

Judas is not only one representative of the twelve tribes of Israel chosen as the elect of God; Judas is a representative of every one who is the non-elect. Judas stands as the disqualified one, who forfeited his election and squandered his inheritance. Judas stands as the apostate Jew and the uncircumcised Gentile. The placing of Judas within the divine election by which the Son is beloved of the Father and the Father loved by the Son is an answer to prayer for all humanity. (p. 49)

If Judas became enemy and reprobate, he became so for the good of that world that stands under the judgment of the cross. The words of Paul regarding disobedient Israel surely applies to the Jew who betrayed his King:

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (Rom 11:28-32)

To meditate on the tragic figure of the Iscariot is to enter into the mystery of sin and divine providence. If we use the occasion to retreat into scholastic disputation on the conundrums of predestination and human freedom, we obscure the terrifying mystery that is Judas. How was it possible for a man chosen by the incarnate Son, a man who had left behind everyone and everything to follow the Lord, who was privy to his Master’s mind and heart, to betray Jesus to his enemies? Surely this is the “impossible possibility” of which Karl Barth wrote in his Church Dogmatics: “sin can only ever be the impossible possibility” (II/1:505). Called and embraced by absolute Love, his feet washed by Incarnate Grace, Judas inexplicably, self-destructively gives his God over to crucifixion and death. “What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:27). His perfidy cannot be minimized. Judas perverted his apostolic office and executed the violence of Satan upon the Son of God, and yet in so doing, he paradoxically accomplishes the atoning work of God:

We have seen what was involved in the case of Judas. He brought Jesus into the situation where nobody but God could help Him. He seems to have perverted his apostolic function into its opposite by this act. He seems to have served the devil. And not only seems—for if we look at this act as such, its intention, execution, and consequence in the sphere of the human history of Jesus and his own history, we must undoubtedly say that he actually did this. He revealed and willingly and wittingly executed the final consequences of the fact that the Word of God became flesh, willing to have and actually having a human history, the history of one man among others. By his action he completed the reaction of these other men to the man who was the Son of God. He condemned this very man, and in that way revealed the justice of the condemnation which lies on all other men. He decisively confirmed that the world of men into which God sent His Son is the kingdom of Satan: the kingdom of misused creaturely freedom; the kingdom of enmity to the will and resistance to the work of its Creator. …

The act of Judas cannot, therefore, be considered as an unfortunate episode, much less as the manifestation of a dark realm beyond the will and work of God, but in every respect (and at a particularly conspicuous place) as one element of the divine will and work. In what he himself wills and carries out, Judas does what God wills to be done. He and not Pilate is the executor Novi Testamenti. But with his vile betrayal of Jesus to His enemies he is also the executor of the surrender which God has resolved to make and is now making for the benefit of hostile man, and therefore for his benefit. … For this reason, although the earlier saying of Jesus to Judas: “That thou doest, do quickly,” is the bitter judgment upon him, it is also the clear command with which Jesus, as it were, takes from his hand that which he is planning, Himself deciding that what Judas intends to do with Him shall actually be done. It could not remain undone. In one sense Judas is the most important figure in the New Testament apart from Jesus. For he, and he alone of the apostles, was actively at work in this decisive situation, in the accomplishment of what was God’s will and what became the content of the Gospel. (Barth, CD, II/2:501-502)

By his free decision and intent, the Apostle chosen by Christ to serve the mission of the gospel becomes the chosen Reprobate. His halo is black. Yet he remains an answer to the prayer of Jesus.

We find it easy to despise and condemn Judas. But was his infidelity really so unusual? “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me,” Jesus told the Twelve at the Last Supper. In sorrow and perplexity, they looked at him and asked, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matt 26:20-22). When Jesus chose Judas, he knew that he was a potential traitor and saboteur … but so were the others … so are we all.

Kyrie eleison.


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The Repudiationists Ride Again

It felt like a gathering of old gunslingers. After 25 years the authors of the Baltimore Declaration came together this past weekend to reminisce and renew friendships. A glad time was had by all. The only thing we repudiated was the food served by this particular pub, whose name I have already deleted from my memory.


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Christian Platonism by Peter Kreeft

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The Baltimore Declaration Revisited

repudiationistsI have been invited, along with my fellow “Repudiationists,” to attend a conference sponsored by Trinity School for Ministry in Baltimore, Maryland this weekend. They are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Baltimore Declaration. I am shocked that anyone remembers it—but even more shocked, and honored, that anyone wants to commemorate it. I am looking forward to seeing again my old friends Fr Gregory Mathewes Green, Fr William McKeachie, Fr Ron Fisher, and Fr Fred Ramsay. The Rev. Fleming Rutledge will be the keynoter. Alas, my dear friend Fr Philip Roulette will not be with us, having fallen asleep in the Lord a year ago.

It was a Saturday evening, the 11th of May 1991. I had chosen to skip the final day of the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Late that afternoon the telephone rang. At the other end was Phil Roulette. “The Diocese of Maryland has denied our Lord,” he whispered. “We must do something.” I had no idea what Philip was talking about. Apparently a resolution asking the diocese to affirm Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life had been submitted to the convention and a majority of the delegates had rejected it.

The next three weeks were a whirlwind. Philip and I were part of a monthly clergy support group, with four other priests. We immediately got to work to compose a response to the failure of our diocese to reaffirm a central article of the Christian faith. I wrote the initial draft and then circulated it to the other members of the group. It was a collaborative effort. Within a couple of weeks we finalized the document. We entitled it “The Baltimore Declaration.” We sent it to all active bishops and priests of the Episcopal Church. Later that summer I attended the General Convention in Phoenix, Arizona and distributed copies of the Declaration to the deputies. Our tiny ecclesiastical world exploded.

My wife, Christine, presented us with black t-shirts, with the Repudianist shield on the front and an appropriate title on the back: Philip the Rude, Gary the Good, Ronald the Sensitive, William the Patrician, Frederick the Populist, and … Alvin the Execrator. 

Throughout the history of the Christian Church, there have been times when the integrity and substance of the Gospel have come under powerful cultural, philosophical, and religious attack. At such times, it has been necessary for Christian believers, and especially for pastors and preachers, to confess clearly, unequivocally, and publicly “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and to define this faith over against the heresies and theological errors infiltrating the Church. Thus the Church is led into a deeper comprehension of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the communal identity of the Church is strengthened in its mission to the world.

We, the undersigned, who are baptized members of the Episcopal Church of the United States, believe that such a time has now come upon the Church which we serve. We are now witnessing a thoroughgoing revision of the faith inconsistent with the evangelical, apostolic and catholic witness, a revision increasingly embraced by ecclesiastical leaders, both ordained and lay. In the name of inclusivity and pluralism, we are presented with a new theological paradigm which rejects, explicitly or implicitly, the doctrinal norms of the historic creeds and ecumenical councils, and which seeks to relativize, if not abolish, the formative and evangelical authority of the Holy Scriptures. This paradigm introduces into the Church a new story, a new language, a new grammar. The “revelations” of modernity, infinitely self-generating and never-ending, supplant and critique that historic revelation which God the Holy Trinity has communicated by word and deed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Israelite.

Fully aware of our own sinfulness, as well as the spiritual dangers inherent in issuing such a call, we humbly and prayerfully summon the Church to return to and remain steadfast in that Gospel entrusted to it by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. We also summon the clergy of the Church to stand up boldly and declare that Trinitarian faith which they have sworn at their ordinations to uphold and preach. We are well aware of the possible personal and professional costs of such a confession in the present situation; but we are convinced that the integrity and substance of the Gospel, that Gospel which is the only hope and salvation of the world, are at stake. The Lord is calling us to fidelity to him and to him alone.

We offer, therefore, the following Declaration of Faith. This is not a comprehensive confession. It addresses those critical theological issues which we believe to be at the heart of the present crisis.


“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20).

By the command and mandate of her risen Lord, the Church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to baptize disciples into the revealed name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This proper name faithfully identifies the Savior and Lord of the Holy Scriptures. While human linguistic formulae cannot exhaust the mystery of the ineffable Deity, the threefold appellation – given to us in the resurrection of Jesus – truly names and designates the three Persons of the Holy Trinity as disclosed in the biblical narrative, and summarizes the apostolic experience of God in Christ. To reject, disregard, or marginalize the Trinitarian naming is to cut ourselves off from that story which shapes and defines the identity of the Church; ultimately, it is to cut ourselves off from the God of Israel himself. The confession of the triune name is required in the celebration of Christian baptism, and it properly structures the liturgy and prayer of the Christian community: We rightly pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. As St. Basil the Great declared: “For we are bound to be baptized in the terms we have received and to profess belief in the terms in which we are baptized, and as we have professed belief in, so to give glory to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

We repudiate the false teaching that God has not definitively and uniquely named himself in Jesus Christ, that we are free to ignore or suppress the revealed name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and worship the Deity with names and images created by our fallen imaginations or supplied by secular culture, unreformed by the Gospel and the biblical revelation.


“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said. . .” (Gen. 1: I-3).

“Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end” (Ps. 102: 25-27).

The triune God is the holy creator who freely speaks the universe into contingent existence out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). He is the sovereign Lord, utterly transcending his creation, yet actively immanent within it, guiding and directing it to its eschatological fulfillment in the Kingdom. As creator, God is free to act within his universe, both providentially and miraculously, to accomplish his purposes and ends.

We repudiate the false teaching of monism, which indissolubly unites deity and cosmos into an interdependent whole, the world being construed as God’s body, born of the substance of deity, and thus divine. On the other hand, we repudiate the false teaching of deism, which distances the creator from active involvement in the preservation, redemption, and consummation of his creation.


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. … From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:1-4,14,16-18).

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27).

Jesus of Nazareth is God. He is the Word made flesh, the incarnation and embodiment of the divine Son, truly God and truly human, “of one being” (homoousios) with the Father and the Spirit. In this wondrous union of deity and humanity, the triune God is perfectly and definitively revealed. In Christ, and in him alone, we are freely given true apprehension of God in his immanent reality, freely given to share in the Son’s knowledge of the Father in the Holy Spirit. The crucified and risen Lord, in all of his historical particularity, is thus the source and foundation of our knowledge of the living God. We rejoice in the triune God’s gift of himself in Jesus Christ, and declare Jesus as the eternal Word who judges all preachings, teachings, theologies, actions, prayers and rituals. We acknowledge that God is free to communicate himself in many and diverse ways to the peoples of the world; but we confess that saving and authentic knowledge of the Deity in his inner Trinitarian life is possible only in and through the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, the God-man.

We repudiate the false teaching that Jesus Christ is only one revelation or manifestation of God, that there are other revelations and other experiences (political, ideological, cultural, or religious) to which we may look or must look to gain knowledge of the true God.


“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).

By his incarnation in Jesus the Israelite, the eternal Son of God has assumed to himself our human nature, cleansing and healing it by the power of the Spirit, redeeming it from sin and death by the cross of Calvary, raising it to everlasting life in his resurrection, and incorporating it into the triune life of the Godhead by his ascension to the right hand of the Father. Thus this Jesus, who is called the Christ, is the Savior of the world, the one mediator between God and humanity, in whom, by faith, repentance and baptism, we find forgiveness, rebirth in the Spirit, and eternal life in the Kingdom. While we do not presume to judge how the all-holy and all-merciful God will or will not bring to salvation those who do not hear and believe the preached Gospel, we do emphatically declare Jesus the rightful Lord and Savior of all humanity, and we embrace the Great Commission of our Lord to proclaim with evangelical fervor his Good News to the world. To deny this historic conviction in the absolute lordship of Christ Jesus and his exclusive mediation of salvation is to eviscerate the heart and vitality of the Church’s evangelistic mission.

We repudiate the false teaching that the salvation of humanity by the sovereign action and grace of God is unnecessary or that salvation may be ultimately found apart from the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We repudiate the false teaching that Jesus is merely one savior among many – the savior of Christians but not of humankind.


“The hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (John 4:21-23).

“So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; … As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (Romans 11:25-26, 28-32).

By the call of Abraham and the covenant of Moses enacted on Mount Sinai, the triune God has gathered to himself the people of Israel to be his holy nation and royal priesthood, consecrated to his service in the redemption of the world. To them he has entrusted his Torah, Wisdom, and prophetic Word. From this people God has brought forth his Messiah, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, Jesus the Jew, the son of David, who is the fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel and the Savior of humanity and of all creation. For these majestic reasons, the Jews are to be regarded by Christians as a reverend and blessed people. Following the teaching of the New Testament, we eagerly look forward to that time when Gentile and Jew will be fully reconciled and made one people in eternal communion with the crucified and risen Messiah in the New Jerusalem.

We repudiate the false teaching that the Jews may be persecuted by Christians and we especially repudiate the repugnant and fallacious charge of “Christ-killers,” which has been used by Christians down the centuries as an excuse for hatred, bigotry, and violence against the Jews. All anti-Semitism in thought, word, or deed is vicious and is to be decried and condemned by Christians. But we also repudiate the false teaching that eternal salvation is already given to the chosen people of Israel through the covenant of Abraham and Moses, independently of the crucified Christ, and the inference that the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah need not be proclaimed to them.


“But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith” (Romans 3:21-25).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

The Gospel is the proclamation of the unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God the Father, mediated through Christ crucified, in the power of the Spirit. The Father nurtures, protects, and cares for his children like a nursing mother: he strengthens, directs, and disciplines them like a steadfast father. His love embraces all humankind equally, female and male, and is communicated to us in the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments, received by the faith granted us in the gift of the Gospel. This love cannot be earned nor bought: We are freely justified by the grace given to us through Christ in his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, not by our religious, political, psychological, or moral works.

We repudiate the false teaching that God is male (except in the incarnate Christ) and that men are consequently superior to women, or that God has institutionalized in family, society, or the Church the authoritarian and sexist domination of women by men. We repudiate the false teaching that God the Father is the oppressor and subjugator of women, or that the divine Fatherhood is rightly construed as the psychological projection upon the Deity of the experience of human fatherhood. We therefore repudiate the false teaching that the Father of Jesus Christ is inaccessible or unavailable to contemporary women.


“Do you think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18).

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3: 16-17).

We confess the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation. The Holy Spirit, the ultimate author of God’s Word written, was active both in the inspiration of the sinful human writers, redactors, and editors and in the process of canonization. Interpreted within the tradition and community of the Christian Church, with the use of responsible biblical criticism – always under the guidance and lordship of the Spirit – the Scriptures, in their entirety, are the reliable, trustworthy, and canonical witness to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, and are our primary and decisive authority in matters of faith and morals. Through the Holy Scriptures the Church hears anew every day that Word who frees us from the tyranny of the fashionable, the divine Word who renews and inspires, teaches and corrects, judges and saves.

We repudiate the false teaching that the plain testimony of the Holy Scriptures may, in whole or part, be supplanted by the images, views, philosophies, and values of secular culture. We repudiate the false teaching that only those sayings of the pre-resurrection Jesus which can be demonstrated to be certain or probable by historical criticism are authoritative for the life and mission of the Church. We repudiate the false teaching that the Old Testament is not to be interpreted in light of its messianic fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ as witnessed in the New Testament, or that the Old and New Testaments stand hermeneutically, materially, and formally independent of each other.

Pray for the Church

The Rev. Ronald S. Fisher
The Rev. Alvin F. Kimel, Jr.
The Rev. R. Gary Mathewes-Green
The Rev. William N. McKeachie
The Rev. Frederick J. Ramsay
The Rev. Philip Burwell Roulette

The Feast of the Holy Trinity
26 May 1991

Posted in Theology | 10 Comments

Prayer Book of the Early Christians

As readers of Eclectic Orthodoxy know, my wife and I offer the Office of Matins each day from the Holy Transfiguration Prayer Book. We like its structure, rhythm, and balance. It only provides one psalm, so we substitute others from the Psalter, which we are reading in course. It all works quite nicely.

Recently, we have begun incorporating into our morning prayers one of the Twelve Prayers of Dawn from the Prayer Book of the Early Christians. And that brings me to the point of this post. I strongly recommend this little book not only to Orthodox Christians but to everyone who might feel drawn to pray the Eastern Offices. Edited by the fine patristics and Byzantine Christianity scholar Fr John McGuckin, this is a high quality hardcover at an affordable price (with ribbon!). The prayers are presented in contemporary but dignified language, which is a plus for some and a negative for others. I tend to prefer a traditional idiom (thee’s and thou’s and that sort of thing), but I know I’m in an ever-diminishing minority, particularly when it comes to the offering of prayers in one’s home. Regardless, all will find this book useful.

And remember—be flexible. If you find, say, Vespers too long, then trim it down until it becomes an office that works for you. In the oft-quoted maxim of Dom John Chapman: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” The monks in heaven are not grading you. The important thing is to pray.

Posted in Book Reviews, Spirituality | 14 Comments

The Essence/Energies Distinction in the Theology of St Gennadius Scholarios

by Fr Christiaan Kappes

In today’s installment, I hope to fully accede to Fr. Kimel’s request; namely, to figure out what the real Scholarios believes! Well, historically, there have been many “Scholarii” (viz., Scholarioses) to contend with (up to three!). In fact, before the late 1800s it was hotly debated as to whether or not the layman-Scholarios, who wrote the pro-union sermons in 1439, was the same monk-Gennadius-Scholarios, who blasted the filioque in 1445 or so. Well, happily Scholarios’s—or should I say the Scholarioses’?—split personality disorder had already been cured by a Frenchman of the 18th century, saving the scholarly world from resorting to Dr. Freud for aid in the next century. Still, the “old guard” of the day often enough couldn’t bear the thought of allowing the two Scholarii to fuse into one non-extreme personality (viz., either pro- or anti-Latin), so it took until the mid-1850s for the crushing weight of scholarly arguments to finally cause hold-out scholars to give up the ghost on the matter.

Interestingly, in Greece, there has been one last recent-abortive attempt to convince the world that Scholarios should again be diagnosed as a case of multiple personality. This first-edition book (1979), written by a Greek Orthodox theologian, was of extremely limited success and its major historical arguments were largely discounted.1 With apologetic verve, slinging many an epithet against the antichrist of popery, some helpful observations nonetheless managed to emerge out of the work, which was a originally a university thesis. Still, the world’s reigning experts on Scholarios (Blanchet, Demetracopoulos) dutifully put into print their adjudication of the scholarly inutility of this, for the most part, sectarian diatribe against the West. Sadly, this 300-page harangue of the latinophrôn Scholarios and his Roman Catholic sycophants, in defense of Orthodoxy as it is claimed, was met with sympathy by some Orthodox theologians such that they even wrote a few book reviews trying to excuse Zezes’ thesis based on some of its more elusive merits. While it is true that Latino-Western-minded literature has been historically distortive, uncharitable, and downright spin-doctorish about telling the story and glory of Byzantium, I am always disappointed to see that—for the sake of clannish allegiance—some scholar-theologians almost robotically fall into place and stand to be counted when an equally chimeric version of history and theology is leveled against the West. Well, in this atmosphere, i.e., a clubish exoneration of non-academic diatribes fit for the 18th century knowledge of Scholarios, it is difficult for us to read secondary literature and have any idea about who Scholarios was and what Scholarios believed!

The real Scholarios was a deeply complex man. Whereas he knew the ascetic, liturgical, and spiritual Tradition of the East to be balm of his soul and spirit, the Lotus flower that satisfied his embodied intellect was ever the systematically Scholastic musings on the faith as he found in Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, a principal source of his access to the Angelic Doctor, as a precocious young philosopher, had been through the translations of Byzantine-layman-turned-Thomist Demetrius Kydones (translations beginning in 1354), not to mention those of his brother, Orthodox hieromonk Prochoros (d. 1370). By 1432 we know that Scholarios had paid for a transcription of the Summa Theologiae and also about this time he was already producing his own translation of non-thomistic, but scholastic, works along with his own Greek translations of Aquinas. There is nothing like translating to get every jot and tittle of what an author is saying. Scholarios was quickly taken with the deep insights and meaningful distinctions that Aquinas proposed when thinking theologically. Still, Scholarios was not naïve, for he had early on accessed the more logically advanced “modist” school of Ralph Brito (d. 1320). Ralphie-boy was a poignant critic of Aquinas’ logic, rejecting the analogical concept of being, and even was at odds at other facets of Aquinas’ commitments on physics and metaphysics.

So, already in the 1430s Scholarios sometimes preferred the opinion of so-called modistae, what are often considered “anti-thomistic” positions, to those of his hero Aquinas? Well, Scholarios had read—in Greek initially—much more than just these two Latin authors. Among his many investigations, he encountered Hervaeus Natalis (d. 1323). Hervaeus’ name translates into English as: “Harvey Christmas.” Ole Harvey, too, was a self-described super-apostle of Aquinas (he proved it by getting him canonized!). Still, Harvey took the Aristotelian side of the Aristotle-Cicero archetypical debate. On one hand, Aristotle stated: “It is better to agree with truth than with friends (= Plato)” (Arist., Nich. Ethic. 1096a15).2 On the other hand, Cicero admired the side of friendship asserting: “It is better to err with Plato than to agree with these [not-so-cool philosophers] in truth!” (Cic., Tusc. 9).3

With Harvey, this was just such a case. In fact, the first generation of Thomists—self-described lovers of Thomas—tended to politely disagree with their lumen or sage, but they never lost sight of first going to their “Common Doctor”—before looking at anyone else—and what he had to say. This explains very well Scholarios’ own approach to all theology, but especially the essence-energies question. Scholarios understood exactly what the most famous Latin Thomist (who got Thomas canonized) was … a cherry picker. Scholarios followed suit. We see Scholarios picking and choosing opinions of Augustine, sometimes of a Greek Father, of Ralphie-boy, of Harvey, and even of John Duns Scotus (d. 1308).

Now, this last fella, Johnny-come-lately, was fairly lauded by Scholarios particularly in reference to his doctrine of the essence and energies of God. In fact, Scholarios went so far as to say the following:

Some in Italy, especially those of the habit of Francis, whose school, so to speak, I have often frequented, associate themselves more with later teachers, whom they allege in their opinion to surpass [Thomas Aquinas].  Nor are we ashamed of Francis [Mayron] or his teacher [John Duns Scotus], as long as we give first place to the one who is first [Thomas Aquinas], all the while admiring the subtlety of their intelligence, and even siding with them on many points of inquiry. […] But according to the designation of most of us, the more recent [schoolmen] are more orthodox than Thomas; being that they are closer to us and to the truth; i.e., those surrounding the Master John Scotus. (Oper. Omnia, VI.179-180)

Now, Scholarios never abandoned Thomism for Scotism in his method of research, or his starting point for talking about theological questions, or his desire that Thomas have the best of all possible opinions. Nonetheless, because Scholarios held Orthodoxy as a truth above academic philosophy and theology, and because he admired subtle truth more than even Thomas, he selectively rejected Aquinas’ metaphysics on the questions of the essence-energies and filioque questions. Still, Scholarios was too good of a philosopher and theologian to be satisfied with just repeating formulas of the past in Greek that gave no justification for Orthodox tenets and did little to show the Latins that Orthodoxy represents the “logical latria” (Rom 12:1) that has a claim on truth.

Now, Martin Jugie in the 1930s was, as was obligatory in those days, every bit the dyed-in-the wool neo-Thomist. Neo-Scholastics had spent a lot of intellectual capital interpreting world history in a triumphalistic manner (a numinous historical progression impelling us toward apotheosis of Thomas Aquinas). In this story-telling venture, Scotus needed to be the red headed stepchild of philosophy. So, though Jugie meritoriously made some efforts to read Scotus, he dismissed him as someone near-heresy-incarnate, especially in his doctrine of God, divvying out the essence & energies into more-than-human-conceptual-distinctions. As I have catalogued in detail in a recent article, Thomists had long considered Bl. Duns to be a pantheist and downright wrongheaded on any number of doctrines,4 but I mention now that this was equally the case with the Immaculate Conception. This led to a public call by the second-highest ranking Dominican in Christendom (Juan Torquemada) for a conciliar condemnation of the doctrine at the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence before the very eyes of the Greek Orthodox representatives. Of course, such inglorious events are numerous and do not exactly help Neo-Thomist narratives upholding the supposedly ever-burgeoning theological trajectory or “inevitable” rise to glory that Thomism’s putative perpetual-orthodoxy has claimed for itself in recent times.

Returning to modernity, shortly after Jugie’s publication made headway, a young member of his order (Sebastian Guichardan, an Assumptionist) produced a study on Scholarios’ Palamism.5 Interestingly, whenever specialists cite this French study, it is pretty obvious that they’ve never read a single page of it. Firstly, most never provide a page number (hmmm…), while yet they consistently misrepresent Scholarios and have no idea about Scotus. The basic theory in the 1930s by both authors is that Scotus bridged the insurmountable gap between Palamas’ “heretical” real distinction of essence & energies by opting for Duns Scotus’ theology of the formal distinction (so far so good). What is interesting is that any Scotist of the time, or any nowadays for that matter, would find the terminology used by Scholarios (employing typically a literalist or ad verbum translation) strangely un-Scotus-sounding. Yes, the conceptual apparatus might be reduced to scotistic distinctions, but it’s not 100 percent correspondence in method or vocabulary. Why?

Well, enter our friend Harvey … Mr. Christmas fell on the Aristotle-side of the Plato debate  … better to leave friends behind in philosophy for the sake of truth than to uphold their doctrines just because of their awesomeness as cool dudes. In fact, Harvey left behind Aquinas or obliquely disagreed with him on any number of philosophical tenets. However, because of Harvey’s stealth, it was never obvious in the Middle Ages or Renaissance, save to the subtlest of metaphysicians and logicians who thought they smelled a rat in his logic and metaphysics of concepts. Though Harvey, as Master General, tried to impose “Thomism” on the order even before Aquinas’ 1324 canonization, what Harvey meant by Thomism was making Thomas an ever-respected first point of departure (but not necessarily a canon for agreement) on theological investigation. It is exactly this style of being a Thomist (= eclecticism rooted in Thomas as the point of departure) that embodies Gennadius Scholarios to the last detail. Even when Scholarios is clearly and essentially disagreeing with Aquinas, he pretends not to contradict him (e.g., when he supposes with Harvey that accidents are the principle of individuation … not prime matter as it arises out of a matter-form combo as in dimensive-matter). Even in instances where Scholarios is subtly and silently kicking Aquinas’ ideas to the curb (and there are several instances), Scholarios is nonetheless claiming to be a faithful mimic of Thomas. How? Well, we could think that it might be a character flaw, for Scholarios was (not unlike Nazianzen) a bit vain in his rhetoric and self-descriptions, and he was an exaggerator on his own accomplishments (sometimes more translating from Latin than actually commentating as he claimed). He did not lie when claiming to be a Thomist; but a Thomist meant being faithful to the memory and spirit of Thomas in every investigation, being a lover of “divine Aristotle” and desirous of doing “scientific” investigation into every nook and cranny of theology with methods that drew from the organon of Aristotle and that put this into practical effect by applying Aristotelian ethics to everyday Christian living. This was a bulk of what Thomas meant to Gennadius.

So it should come as no surprise that Scholarios imitated the strategy of Harvey, whom I have just recently discovered to be one of Scholarios’ sources for doing Palamite theology.6 Working with J. A. Demetracopoulos, I have just completed a few days ago the transcription of the first pages of Harvey Christmas’ Greek-translation commentary on the Sentences, as translated by Prochoros Kydones, likely dated between 1355/6-1366. Unsurprisingly, Scholarios not only adopted Harvey’s early eclectic-thomistic mentality, but also drew on Harvey’s cyptic use of Duns Scotus. Though Harvey spent considerable time defending his beloved Aquinas from Scotus’ attacks in the early 1300s, it is nonetheless true that he applied Aristotle’s idea: “better to be the friend of truth.” Harvey incorporated the formal distinction, while dressing it up in more thomistico-sounding language and context in order to talk about the essence & energies of God. Similarly, even obliquely citing “Master Christmas,” Scholarios himself got excited about Scotus, whom he read (and likely translated for Mark Eugenicus) in its original Latin. Now, just like Scholarios’ propensity to proclaim openly to Byzantines his love for Thomas (and to be punished for it among some of his contemporaries and in the 1940s until now), so too Scholarios managed to annoy Neo-Thomists by his praise of Scotus. At the time, in the 1930-1960s, it was generally unknown that Herveaus was indeed a crypto-Scotist on the essence-energies question. For these reasons, it was puzzling as to how Scholarios simply announced himself openly adopting Franciscanism when doing ad intra theology. Really, Scholarios knew—unlike the early 20th century—that some Thomists had been closet Scotists on a number of questions for years! So, in both camps, Scholarios’ real crime was not being ashamed of doing that dirty thing in the open that both Palamites and Thomists had been doing in secret … ecumenical theology!

Now that we have arrived precisely at his method of doing theology—the “Christmas method” of talking about essence & energies. What scary things lie ahead with respect to Scholarios? Well, the first scary thing for an Orthodox—who might psychologically need to believe that Palamas is completely “unadulterated” with Latin-thinking (even if we keep finding him using more & more of Augustine!)—is to consider that Palamas’ insights in later life, leading to influence Scholarios, might have actually come from Prochoros Kydones!!!

At this time I think this proposition is a remote possibility, but nonetheless an increasingly tantalizing prospect. You see, Prochorus entered the monastery at about 17 yrs. old on Mt. Athos around 1340. The testimony we have of Prochoros was of someone who was an indefatigable bibliophile, studying constantly. Before he was mature enough to grow a beard, he had gotten permission—as an advanced monastic—to go off and live in the desert on his own. What is supremely important for us is our knowledge of dates. Prochoros got in trouble for his own original thomistico-anti-palamitico writings and had to abjure his theology on Athos in 1367. Sometime before that he had had his room ransacked and his writings and literary materials seized, likely no earlier than 1366. He had already been causing dissension since 1365, flowing from his new-fangled theological thinking. It would appear, then, that his translations from Latin date before this period, since they served as sources for his ideas on God against Palamas before he began to pen his ideas in Greek. Mostly he drew from Augustine and Aquinas. Despite Prochoros’ relatively infrequent contact with his brother Demetrius, he still seems to have acquired information on his Demetrius’ literary activity so that Prochoros picked different parts of the Summa Theologiae to translate than did his brother. This puts Prochoros’ thomistic translation activity as far back as 1357—the year of Palamas’ death! The unanswerable question, at this time, is whether or not Prochoros’ Latin-learning came from Dominicans in Thessalonica or from someone on Mt. Athos. This is rather important because the general trend among Italians (who colonized Byzantium) in Dominican studia/schools was still to prioritize Aquinas’ Sentences commentary (over the Summas) when studying. Demetrius was not trained in a Dominican studium, but rather by a non-university trained Dominican as a private tutor of Latin. They used the Summa contra Gentiles, since it was such an easy straightforward Latin text that did not need Lombard’s Sentences side-by-side to understand what was being said.

The story is different for Thessalonica. As others (e.g., Palaiologus) in the Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus project have discovered,7 and I have complemented and further solidified,8 Lombard’s Sentences were circulating in a Greek translation in Thessalonica, as attested by Barlaam, Nicholas Cabasilas, Matthaios Blastares & Symeon of Thessalonica. This is propitious, for it helps explain why Prochoros had gotten hold of a copy of Harvey Christmas’ commentary on the Sentences. The Dominican studia held copies to help profs with their lectures to interpret Lombard in class according to the mind of Thomas and his most famous champion. However, if Prochoros had been instructed to study Aquinas on the studium/Dominican-school model, he would have first encountered Aquinas’ or Hervaeus’ commentary on the Sentences. Only afterward would he have studied the two Summae. This could conceivably push Prochoros’ translation work of Harvey back to the mid-1350s! Might this mean that Palamas’, or his followers’ strange arguments, that coincide with Harvey on the separation between the essence & energies are possibly under the influence of a Greek crypto-scotistic Thomist?

Truly, it is highly unlikely, but as I am comparing Palamas’ singular vocabulary and phraseology (not found in Greek philosophy or in the Fathers) to Hervaeus’ Greek translation by Prochoros, there have been some strange parallels where only Palamas and Hervaeus use terms together unknown to the Fathers and Greek Philosophers!

Now I don’t want to be too exuberant. Right now the most likely solution is that Prochoros had read Palamas’ dialogues with the Philosopher Gregoras, and that some of Prochoros’ unique vocabulary that he chose for translating Hervaeus into Greek reflects the terms of debate that Prochoros had in his mind from Palamas’ earlier works read on Mt. Athos. Also, by this time, Palamas was a pastor in Thessalonica (not so far away) and was less likely to have access to Prochoros’ translation as he would have had if there had been a translation in the 1330s-early 1340s. Lastly, Scholarios tells us that Palamas did not explicitly call the energies “attributes” or “perfections,” in the Scholastic way of speaking. This observation will likely prove accurate. So, Scholarios had to graft this Christimas language onto Palamism. It will likely be found, then, that Palamas was writing a little too early to have been influenced by Harvey, but not so for Palamas’ followers. More exciting, and more likely, is the fact that several arguments of early Palamites, such as: “If the persons are quite distinct in the essence and do not thereby threaten it, all the less do distinct energies threaten divine unity,” follow exactly Harvey’s Scotistic way of speaking about the essence and energies of God. Once we see that some of these analogies are uniquely “Christmas-y,” parsimony should force us to arrive definitively at the odd idea that Palamas’ early disciples were inspired to defeat the philosopher Gregoras and subsequent Thomists by recourse to Christmas-theology! Still, quite a bit of research is underway, not at its terminus. What I can say is that Scholarios was such an attentive reader of his predecessors, especially Palamas, that he correctly assessed their potential to be perfectly integrated with his version of (ad hoc) Scotistico-Thomism.

For example, Scholarios had admitted already in 1445 that Thomists were essentially Barlaamites and Akindynists in how they thought of the divine attributes. In modern terms, like Richard Cross’ assessment of Thomism, Scholarios admitted that Thomists were selective “nominalists” when talking about attributes in God, but they became moderate realists when speaking about creatures. Dominicans would not like this, but my translation of Scholarios sufficiently relays the fact that he made this judgment in sync with modern analytical philosophers.9

So, Scholarios’ solution was to “reform” Thomism by introducing it to “the formal distinction.” He knew that historically the “formal distinction” was something that was not really available to Thomas and early Thomists, and that its development was a phenomenon that came from logical precisions directly after Thomas’ transitus from this world. Scholarios bridged the gap, as per my translation, by noting that contemporary Thomists of his day wrongly call the Scotistic distinction “real,” and that Thomas himself would have accepted it and placed it under the “distinctions according to reason.” There is a certain genius in this, in that both the distinction between esse-essentia in Thomas led to a certain conceptual but really inseparable union between two really distinct items: a thing’s what-ness (horse-ness) and its act of existence (being continuously a real horse vs. a notionally abstract one). In only a certain analogous way, this Thomistic doctrine was admitting the existence of metaphysical quasi-parts in an otherwise “simple” item (e.g., in an angel). In some Franciscans the distinction between esse-essentia was even admitted, but often as yet another instance of “the formal distinction.” What this effectively meant, however, in admitting the validity of Scotism’s notion of being—for any knowledgeable Scholastic or analytic philosopher—is abandoning the thomistic commitment to an “analogical concept of being” as wrong when talking about God. Strangely, however, Scholarios continued to reproduce Aquinas’ works and never corrected him on his doctrine of analogy (as he sometimes did on other items) well into the 1460s. What does it all mean???

Well Ockham, arguably the best logician of the Middle Ages, was not unlike this. His theological commitments made him sell his soul to the devil (otherwise known as Scotus) and admit the formal distinction in God, so as to maintain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but on everything else in life he was an unabashed nominalist (Akyndinst!). These kind of inconsistencies are not blotches on Scholarios’ acumen. They demarcate his willingness to ignore the threat that Scotism posed to Aquinas’ logic and godly metaphysics in order to satisfy the need to be a faithful proponent of Orthodox doctrine. It may sound naughty, but patristic philosophical commitments were no less hodge-podge so that, in this, Scholarios was almost following “patristic tradition.”

For his part, Scotus’ principal appeal to justify the claim of a “formal distinction”—like Palamites—is not philosophical. Scotus argues that the divine emanations of the Son and the Holy Spirit are just the sorts of examples that justify his claim for the divine energies. They are not mental “fictions,” they are not mere “beings of reason” (ens rationis tantum; τὰ τοῦ λόγου μόνον ὄντα). They are said to be irreducible distinctions of different sorts of causal activity of the Father.10 One does not understand these sorts of divine properties as nominalistic properties.11 The name for each hypostasis is naming real differences that are neither mentally nor altogether identical with the divine essence.12 Scotus, therefore, proposes an a fortiori argument that will become famous too among the Palamites:13 “If the persons are really distinct from each other in the divine essence, all the more do the distinct divine energies not threaten the simplicity of the divine essence.”

However, Scotus is not satisfied with only a theological explanation. He also wishes to show in the creaturely realm of real beings why this is the only meaningful way God can be spoken of. He reduces his argments to the following:

1.) Because the mind knows that something that has goodness is not the same as something that has wisdom, and wisdom is not goodness, they cannot be the same thing (in re).

2.) If this is not true in God (like Thomists say), then mentally formed concepts of infinite wisdom (in God’s mind) and infinitely formed concepts of infinite goodness would look the exact same in God’s mind.

3.) But this is impossible. Wisdom (as a concept) doesn’t destroy its own meaning or concept just because it is multiplied by infinity. It is just understood to be possessed in greater or lesser degree. The common idea of goodness is simply different than wisdom.

4.) Now if the general concept of wisdom is irreconciliable (mentally) with the concept of goodness in general, then every time the general concept is applied in all particular cases, a particular wisdom is not particular goodness, and vice versa.

5.) Now this is because either the mental definitions or terminological/conceptual parts of the definition (genus, species, difference) must match up mentally in order to be the same. They are really of the same essence only to the extent that they are possessed of something that does differ formally-mentally.

6.) This means that between “goodness” and “wisdom” their is some degree of non-formal (non-mentally-abstracted) identity (i.e., parts or all of their definitions do not match mentally).

7.) These are all terms taken from the quiddities (τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι) of things. All the same, it is a true proposition to say: “Wisdom is not formally/mentally goodness.”

Several important points are developed by Scotus here on his quest to justify the divine energies as distinct items from the divine essence. The most important (and perhaps famous) is the formal distinction (distinctio formalis ex parte rei; πραγματικὴ διάκρισις ἐκ τῆς τοῦ πράγματος φύσεως).14 Above the expression is more classically “Scotistic”. Duns’ followers more often liked to talk in terms of formal distinctions, while Scotus himself seems to have thought of it more often along the lines of a “formal non-identity”. This terminology is more descriptive than technical. It denotes that what is mentally contained by goodness is not mentally contained by wisdom, but it is still possible that both are quasi-parts (συμβεβηκός πως, εἰδηκότης, ὀντότης) of the same one thing (like the divine essence).

Secondly, Scotus’ account of the energies in God and man makes it possible to have both an accurate notion of man’s energetic participation in any one of God’s energies.15 This does not imply that one actually possesses them in oneself in an infinite mode, but in a mode that is proper to a creature. This mode will always be limited by one’s non-infinity. Nonetheless there is not a great divide between God and man such that humans only participate in a “deficient” perfection of the divinity.16 The perfection may not be infinite, but it is everything that is meant by what is this/that energy in the divine being. However, such perfection is only imitable (participated) by a creature according to its approach to the divine being (in both grade/intensity in creation and divine access given through mystical revelation).

Lastly, and important for concluding this section, is the argument of Duns Scotus on divine simplicity. Aristotle’s standard account of accidents (as repeated and adopted by Aquinas) is not relevant for Scotus’ analysis of divine attributes. Duns’ way of looking at things seems to assume that accidents (attributes) don’t have to inhere in matter. Matter is an entity, not just Aquinas’ (objective) potentiality. It may have a relationship with forms, but accidents are really active attributes within a being (i.e. energies). They seem to flow out of the identity of the being’s individuating perfection (haecceity), and as such aren’t the types of things that just inhere. They actually have a causal role in nature, and as such are another rich instance of interplay among themselves. God’s energies, in parallel fashion, are simply necessary to give a full account of the actuality of divine essence.17

In short, if infinity can be combined with any attribute that is due to God (e.g. wisdom, goodness, unity, omniscience) without being a paralogism, this energy is correctly said of God. The formula might look like the following: attribute (x, y, or z) × ∞ = divine attribute.18 Because God’s being (as above) is also really an infinite being, and there can be only one infinite being by the fact that it cannot be surpassed, then anything else that exists in an infinite mode must necessarily belong to this infinite being. God Himself, therefore, is perfectly the same with any attribute (essentially) that he possesses, but both his essence (infinite being) and his energy (e.g. infinite wisdom) are different formally (mentally) in definition. This points to the fact that though they both exist in a modally infinite way, they are two infinites. One is essentially infinite, the other is something that is compatible with what is essentially infinite items by identity, namely attribute “x”, “y”, “z”.19 Because all the attributes due to God are necessary to Him on account of all of them either explaining or justifying the activity of an infinite being, they are co-essential. If an infinite being lacked any of these powers, he would presumably not be infinite or perfect. Initially, when arguing the existence of God, Scotus spent a fair amount of time trying to show what kinds of activities can be expected from any being that truly possesses such an eminent degree of existence.

To support my claims in the contemporary period of this debate, I refer you to two, among several, theologians and authors who already recognize, intuit, or suspect that Scotism is the panacea for bringing East and West together. NB, although many respected authors have noticed: “Scotism is the bridge between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the essence-energies,” psychological indisposition of modern theologians and philosophers—I adjudge—causes them to knee-jerkedly pass on to a more pleasant topic. To say that Scotus is doing the same theology as Palamas is “a priori” an impossibility because of anti-Scotistic prejudice and sheer laziness. The famous and highly respected Thomist De Halleux is perhaps the weightiest authority that has already admitted this thesis.20 One respected theologian attempted to propose a “new perspective” in order to resolve the East-West debate. However, from the perspective of the present work, some underlying presumptions of the author have doomed his and similar Roman Catholic attempts that seek to find common ground between Thomism and Palamism. David Coffey exemplifies this fact by making a series of propositions in St Vladimir’s Theological Review. He asserts:

According to a now famous editorial of Istina, for the majority of Orthodox theologians in Europe and North America the heart of the doctrine of St. Gregory Palamas is ‘the real distinction in God of the essence and the (uncreated) energies,’ and this has become for them the touchstone of Othodoxy over against Catholicism, replacing the filioque as the most serious obstacle in the way of union between the two churches. […] Palamas nowhere goes so far as to characterize his distinction as ‘real,’ in so labelling it Istina categorizes his doctrine in a way that makes it all too easy to dismiss as philosophically and theological absurd.21

After this series of claims, Coffey continues to argue his case and, at first, seems to show some familiarity with Duns’ formal distinction. After all, he names the distinction and even mentions that Duns’ distinction might very well explain what Palamas meant to say. However, he warns, Palamas himself would not have been very happy with such a technical description of his mystical insight. This, of course, is the prejudice that always comes to the fore, since nobody is sympathetic to Scotus. So Coffey is apparently unaware that for Scotus the formal distinction is a very real distinction (especially vis-à-vis Thomism’s categories). Though Coffey also criticizes Guichardan (the common anti-palamite enemy of Orthodox from 1933 on), he equally misunderstands Scotus’ distinction. For all Thomists of note, Scotus is really and truly guilty of making a thomistically “real distinction” in God. At the very best, a Thomist can understand this distinction as if analogous to esse-essentia or the difference between the existing activity and the genus-species in an object. This means that God’s unity is always threatened, no matter what when Neo-Thomists look at Scotus. Coffey, for his part, doesn’t seem to get it that Palamas was both affirming that Aristotelian dialectical and metaphysical arguments did not contradict his thesis, while also affirming that a really non-separable (even by divine power) distinction between God’s attributes and essence are the case. This is precisely and to the detail the professed position of Scotus in his exegesis of John Damascene. The distinct item (energy) is both inseparable from the essence and is a distinct item within the essence independently of any considering mind. This is because the distinction structurally (naturâ; ἐκ φύσεως) “predates” any sort of thought about it. Thought, as it were, depends on the thing as a whole, not vice versa.

Notably, Scotus criticized one kind of thomistic distinction as being a mere distraction technique. It is a myth, according to the mind of a Scotist, that the distinctio rationis rationatae (διάκρισις ἐπινοίας ἐκ τοῦ θεωρουμένου) is in any sense a “real distinction”. This is because the point of reference (cause of thinking ‘a’) for the discerning mind is not in the object considered in itself (certainly not with God’s essence), but the human mind is responsible for the distinction only after it considers the real differences of accidental and/or essential attributes of other created beings (ens commune) that exist in the world.

Presumably, for the Thomist, the human mind is incapable of directly seeing the divine energies, if God were to directly reveal Himself to a human mind. For Thomas, whatever is accessible in such a vision (e.g. the divine essence itself), is accessible by virtue of an accident or additive (lumen gloria; τὸ τῆς δόξης φῶς) that God makes to adhere to the weak human intellect. This is necessitated by the fact that the intellect can only comprehend by abstraction from physical things and needs a phantasm and essences produced by the agent intellect. This makes perfect sense within the Thomist system, since all perfections (e.g. wisdom) are only defectively understood by the soul, in comparison to the perfection as existing and understood in and by God. The primary referent and perfect concept (of wisdom) is only identical with the essence of God. No human can know this divine energy. Therefore this energy cannot be seen when one is given the “naked” vision of the Holy Trinity. On the contrary, for Scotus, the mind is naturally able to see all such things since it is made to know “being” not exclusively “essences”. The essence of God is ineffable and incomprehensible. Yet, if the mind is given the “presence” of any intelligible object (e.g. an energy as a concept that is indifferent to infinite or finite existence), the soul—due to its dignity and deiform nature—is argued to be able to see the energies immediately without any abstraction necessary.

So what ought we to think about Scholarios’ doctrine? Is it Scotism? Yes, he is a Scotist on the essence & energies of God. Does he think that Palamas is a Scotist? Well, he thinks that Palamas’ insight through grace was easily defended by the bulwark of Scotism that gave the skeletal structure of Palamism the brick & mortar it needed to fend off attacks from the Thomists, whom he identifies as being of the type of Armandus of Bellovisu. Is Palamas really a Scotist? Well, it depends on what we mean. If we mean, Do Palamas and Scotus hold some uncannily similar descriptions and rules on how the divinity acts and functions?‘ … then the answer is yes, Palamas and Scotus are the same. If we ask, Are Scotus and Palamas guilty of the same theological “crimes”? … then the answer is again, yes, in every way. If the question is, Does Palamas depend on Scotus? … the almost certain answer is, not at all. Finally, Does Palamas coincide on Scotus’ approach and conclusions 100 percent? The answer is … no, not really; but they share more than a half-dozen major areas of method and approach. So when we talk about Scholarios being unique among Palamites, what are we saying?

We are really saying that he was brighter than pretty much all the Latins and Greeks of his century, and that he was able to use a nuanced form of Thomism—through Scotus—that was already modeled for him in Hervaeus Natalis to strike the balance between being a faithful son of Thomas and to be a faithful child of Holy Mother Church. “Will his solution satisfy the modern and contemporary Orthodox?” Likely, not most, nor certainly everyone. Most theologians choose to ignore his giant carbon footprint on history and Orthodox theology. Scholarios is so subtle, talented, and knowledgeable of both Latin and Greek theology and philosophy that average theologians—even the savant—cannot equal his acumen. Because they lack the capacity to understand the merits and weaknesses of Scholarios in his own right, they disguise their condemnatory hubris by appealing to supposedly overarching spiritual or ethnocentric values in order to try, judge, and condemn him. If it be objected that this is a fine thing for me to say, considering that I am arguing for my own specialty, I would prefer to appeal to the entire Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus team (who enjoy possessing several recognized experts on Scholarios), and appeal especially to faculties of Medieval Studies, who have made their life’s bread the search for nuance, individualism, and idiosyncracy in the great (and not-so-great) theologians of the Middle Ages. I am just happy to be lucky enough to use their collected studies and wisdom as my guide on how to approach Scholarios with reverence and awe.


[1] http://www.worldcat.org/title/gennadios-b-scholarios-vios-syngrammata-didaskalia/oclc/9828716&referer=brief_results
[2] “τὸ δὲ καθόλου βέλτιον ἴσως ἐπισκέψασθαι καὶ διαπορῆσαι πῶς λέγεται, καίπερ προσάντους τῆς τοιαύτης ζητήσεως γινομένης διὰ τὸ φίλους ἄνδρας εἰσαγαγεῖν τὰ εἴδη. δόξειε δ᾽ ἂν ἴσως βέλτιον εἶναι καὶ δεῖν ἐπὶ σωτηρίᾳ γε τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ τὰ οἰκεῖα ἀναιρεῖν, ἄλλως τε καὶ φιλοσόφους ὄντας: ἀμφοῖν γὰρ ὄντοιν φίλοιν ὅσιον προτιμᾶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν.”
[3] “errare mehercule malo cum Platone…quam cum istis vera sentire.”
[4] “Palamas Among the Scholastics
[5] http://www.worldcat.org/title/probleme-de-la-simplicite-divine-en-orient-et-en-occident-aux-xive-et-xve-siecles-gregoire-palamas-duns-scot-georges-scholarios-etude-de-theologie-comparee/oclc/3533927&referer=brief_results
[6] “Latin Sources of the Palamite Theology of George-Gennadios Scholarios
[7] https://pure.royalholloway.ac.uk/portal/en/projects/thomas-de-aquino-byzantinus(a9015f3e-d1e3-4a4d-8f44-02e417a7512b).html
[8] “A New Narrative for the Reception of Seven Sacraments into Orthodoxy
[9] “Defense of Palamas’ Essence & Energies against Aquinas’ ‘De ente et essentia‘”
[10] ex parte rei or τό τι τοῦ πράγματος
[11] Here the nominalism lies in the fact that each “name-property” (e.g. goodness, wisdom) is just a meaningless term (flatus aeris), since there is no corresponding object for each mentally understood distinct thing, this means that no meaningful correspondence exists between terms and objects.
[12] Guichardan is aware of this Scotistic analogy and cites from it explicitly in chapter three of his work. Gregory Palamas’ early defense is an appeal by Byzantines (e.g., David Dishypatos) to this principle. I have not looked yet to see if Palamas himself knew of this argument! See Guichardan, Le Problème de la simplicité divine en orient et en occident aux xive et xve siècles: Grégoire Palamas, Duns Scot, Georges Scholarios, 82–83. It is also significant that Scotus’ argument is based on the divine psychology of Blessed Augustine. In the De Trinitate, memory, intellect and will are the Scotistic basis of a theological argument for the distinction of persons (PL 42 1004-1057). Both Palamas and Scholarius approvingly seem to cite Blessed Augustine in their own use of ψυχοθεολογία. Cf. John Demetracopoulos, Αὐγουστῖνος καὶ Γρηγόριος Παλαμᾶς. Τὰ προβλήματα τῶν ἀρεστοτελικῶν κατηγοριῶν τῆς τριαδικῆς ψυχοθεολογίας, Athens: Parousia, 1997 & Scholarios, Premier traité du la procession du Saint-Esprit, in Oeuvres Completes de Georges Scholarios 2, 48.
[13] Scotus, Ioannis Duns Scoti Doctoris Subtilis et Mariani opera omnia 4, 246 (infra).
[14] Although Gennadius Scholarius uses several descriptions, this seems to be the most ad litteram. However, he also employs: εἰδηκὴ διάκρισις and εἴδει τε καὶ τῇ τοῦ πράγματος φύσει διακριθήσονται. See M. Jugie, Theologia dogmatica christianorum orientalium ab ecclesia catholica dissidentium 2, Parisiis, Letouzey et Ané 1933, 127.
[15] This is an aside observation meant only to anticipate both Palamas’ and Scholarius’ application of univocal predication in divinisation.
[16] See Scotus, Ordinatio,, n. 213 (Vatican, IV, 271). This is a different emphasis than Aquinas. In chapter three he emphasized man’s defectiveness in both having an accident and any attempt to understand God by some reference to that accident (e.g. wisdom).
[17] Richard Cross, The Metaphysics of the Incarnation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 20–22.
[18] This presumes that it is “compossible” to think of something being infinite, since it need not be limited in its mode of existence. “Red” or “big” would imply limitations by being modifications of matter.
[19] Scotus, Ordinatio,, n. 213 (Vatican, IV, 271).
[20] André de Halleux forty years later: “Palamisme et scolastique: exclusivisme dogmatique ou pluriformité théologique?” Revue théologique de Louvain 4 (1973): 409–442.
[21] David Coffey, “The Palamite Doctrine of God, SVTQ 32 (1988): 329

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Fr Christiaan Kappes, SLD, PhL, is the Academic Dean of Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius, as well as Professor of Liturgical Theology and Professor of Dogmatic Theology

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