Marcus Plested on St Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast Controversy

“To conclude, there is no sense in [St Gregory’s] theology which may justifiably be characterized as a defeat of reason (against Podskalsky) or as the triumph of an anti-scholastic mystical theology (against Lossky or others), or indeed in any way as anti-Latin. So, having poured cold water on the suggestion that Palamas’s theology represents some sort of antithesis to the scholasticism of the Latin West, I will now turn briefly and lastly to the attitude of Palamas and his circle to the Latin/Greek schism.

“Here again we shall see that it is not Palamas but rather his opponents that exhibit most open hostility to the Latin West. Few slurs in Byzantium were deadlier than the charge of being Latinofrone or Latin-minded. To be in theological sympathy with the Latins could be seen as tantamount to treason, a betrayal both political and cultural of the embattled Empire. But while charges of Latin-mindedness and Latin sympathies were often thrown around with some abandonment in the course of the Hesychast controversy, the dispute was never a question of East versus West but rather an internal dispute conducted largely within the traditional parameters of Byzantine theology.”

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4 Responses to Marcus Plested on St Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast Controversy

  1. Drew Garrison says:

    So fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

    On Sat, Mar 27, 2021 at 1:54 PM Eclectic Orthodoxy wrote:

    > Fr Aidan Kimel posted: “”To conclude, there is no sense in [St Gregory’s] > theology which may justifiably be characterized as a defeat of reason > (against Podskalsky) or as the triumph of an anti-scholastic mystical > theology (against Lossky or others), or indeed in any way as anti” >

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  2. Just listened to this talk a few days ago! Magnificent.

    Also, if we can make such a big mistake and think that the Hesychast controversy was about the fight between western rationalism and eastern mysticism, surely we could misconstrue what the fifth council was actually about as well.

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  3. DBH says:

    A fairly good talk but, for the record, Bulgakov is grossly misrepresented here. His opposition to the official Thomism of his time (the Baroque manualist synthesis) had nothing to do with an attack on Western “rationalism” in the name of Eastern pneumatic theology. Bulgakov was about as unapologetically rationalist a thinker as Russian theology ever produced. His critique of transubstantiation, for instance, was a very acute attack on the use of a philosophical grammar that had been evacuated of its logical content through a purely semantic application of its terms to a topic it did not fit. Given that there is no other Orthodox theologian of the twentieth century who was more appreciative of and creatively engaged with, say, Augustine than Bulgakov, it’s a bit odd to see him grouped with Lossky and Khomiakov.

    On the other hand, Florovsky—for all his commendable criticism of Losskian nonsense—was often guilty of animadversions on “Western Theology” every bit as inaccurate as those of the Slavophils.

    Still, as a corrective to neo-palamite gibberish, this is a fine exposition.

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  4. Robert Fortuin says:

    I was surprised to see Bulgakov lumped in there as well. But Plested is to be thanked for his efforts in exposing the errors of facile East/West oppositional theologies. Even if one is not in agreement with every point Plested makes he, if anything, presents a strong counter point to neo-Palamite accounts which have unfortunately found fertile grounds in too many locations.

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