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Can Palamism and Thomism be reconciled?

Xavier

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Let's discuss this question here on OC. net. Can Thomism be reconciled with Palamism? I will argue yes from a Roman Catholic perspective. I welcome others to chime in.

Now, from the RC perspective, there are two a priori considerations. First, the Catholic Church venerates both St. Thomas and St. Palamas as Saints. Hence, it is almost dogmatically certain that they could not have radically contradicted each other. Second, the Council of Florence, which dealt in detail with every doctrinal difference, deliberately passed over the issue of Essence-Energies, suggesting that, according to the mind of the Council, this was not a substantial difference between East and West.

[I take the view of those Catholic scholars who believe that the final date of the schism is not so much 1054 as 1484. St. Palamas lived before this time and was Saintly].

Now, there are two aspects.

1) Is Divine Simplicity of the Divine Essence the Truth? Yes! In fact, both St. Thomas and St. Palamas say so! St. Thomas is too well known to need citing. Let's look at what St. Palamas said on Divine Simplicity: " In the final analysis, God is simple because He is all-powerful, impassible and without needs. The more powerful things are, observes Saint Gregory Palamas, the simpler they are; and the All-powerful is the simplest[7]. He has no need of increase or decrease or acquisition of anything He lacks. God, he says, ‘being alone, is most wonderfully simple, in no way requiring addition, diminution or acquisition. Being all-powerful, He is thus the most simple of all things’[8].

And: "The prime feature of God is His simplicity. If God is not simple, but composed of different parts, then these parts must have existed before Him. Such a God would not be the Cause and Creator of all things, would not be a real God, the fons et origo of all things. Given that He is the origin of all things, He cannot be complex but must be simple. Moreover He is not merely simple but the ‘simplicity of the simplified and the unity of the unified’[1]. Thus, without ever departing from His unconfused simplicity, He is completely present ‘unconfused and undivided in all things and in each of the creatures’[2]. Saint Gregory Palamas says that God is not some huge body Who cannot fit into a small space, but is incorporeal. For this reason, He can be ‘everywhere present and beyond everything and in One’. No matter how small a thing we call to mind, He can fit into it[3]." https://pemptousia.com/2016/11/the-simplicity-of-god-according-to-saint-gregory-palamas-part-i/

2) Are there Divine Energies or Divine Operations? Also, Yes! Sometimes, Orthodox question why the west doesn't have a corresponding doctrine of divine energies. One reason is probably translation, the Greek word for energeia is usually rendered "operations" in the West. Thus, traditional Catholic theology speaks of Divine Operations but almost never of Divine Energies, even though the meaning is the same. Here is a Catholic Dictionary explain the term: "

Catholic Dictionary

Term
DIVINE OPERATION
Definition
God's activity outside of himself. Also called divine activity ad extra in contrast with divine activity within the Trinity. The Fourth Lateran Council and the Council of Florence teach that all of God's activity outside the trinity is done simultaneously and equally by all three persons. Thus everything that God does in the world of creatures, whether naturally or supernaturally, is the operation [i.e. energy - Xavier] of all three divine persons."

That's just a brief introduction to this interesting subject. Thoughts and comments from posters here? God Bless.
 

brlon

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Why do you refer to St Gregory Palamas as 'St Palamas' but Thomas Aquinas as 'St Thomas' rather than 'St Aquinas'?
 

melkite

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Why do you refer to St Gregory Palamas as 'St Palamas' but Thomas Aquinas as 'St Thomas' rather than 'St Aquinas'?
I've wondered the same thing. I see many Latins referring to Aquinas as St. Thomas, but refer to St. John Chrysostom as "St. Chrysostom." Perhaps we should refer to Aquinas as "St. Aquinas" in solidarity with St. Thomas the Apostle.
 

Tzimis

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I know nothing of the Aquinas theology. Can someone point me to it so I can look it over.
 

biro

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All I can contribute is that at St. Leo College, before the name changed to University, I read some of St. Thomas Aquinas, and I kinda liked him.

Anyone care to throw some other recommendations my way?

Thanks.
 

Cavaradossi

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Can Thomism even be reconciled with Scotism? It must be nice to be so intellectually incurious as some trads are so as to think one has all the answers in matters of religion because he has read the Summa.
 
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Can Thomism even be reconciled with Scotism? It must be nice to be so intellectually incurious as some trads are so as to think one has all the answers in matters of religion because he has read the Summa.
I'm pretty sure the Thomists thought John Duns Scotus had heretical ideas. Didn't stop St. Mark of Ephesus and St. Gennadius Scholarios from using Scotus to defend Orthodoxy though. At that time the Dominican and Franciscan schools were somewhat on equal footing before the neo-Thomism a la Baltimore catechism et al became the de facto dogma of Rome.
 

Wyatt

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St. Thomas Aquinas isn't like the end-all-be-all of Catholic belief as some Catholics may believe. We aren't all Matt Fradd. :ROFLMAO:
 

Katechon

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St. Thomas Aquinas isn't like the end-all-be-all of Catholic belief as some Catholics may believe. We aren't all Matt Fradd. :ROFLMAO:
Pope Pius XI. begs to differ.
 

RichardW

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First, the Catholic Church venerates both St. Thomas and St. Palamas as Saints. Hence, it is almost dogmatically certain that they could not have radically contradicted each other.
From what I can tell, St Gregory Palamas specifically wrote against the scholastic approach of Thomas Aquinas (learnt via certain Greeks), deeming it heresy.

Second, the Council of Florence, which dealt in detail with every doctrinal difference, deliberately passed over the issue of Essence-Energies, suggesting that, according to the mind of the Council, this was not a substantial difference between East and West.
This council was a fudge to get military help for the Greeks from the West. The Roman/Byzantine emperor could easily have chosen to suppress such a discussion in the interests of forcing an agreement through.

1) Is Divine Simplicity of the Divine Essence the Truth? Yes! In fact, both St. Thomas and St. Palamas say so!
I have no idea about such things. Like eastern Christians talking about apophatic theology, “we say what God is not in order to learn about what his is”. Rubbish. The truth of God is beyond academic reasoning. Academic reasoning is only used to demonstrate the truth to others but which is already known to the soul by divine vision; divine knowledge is not gained by academic study.

2) Are there Divine Energies or Divine Operations? Also, Yes! Sometimes, Orthodox question why the west doesn't have a corresponding doctrine of divine energies. One reason is probably translation, the Greek word for energeia is usually rendered "operations" in the West.
This is quite irrelevant: the key is whether the operations of God in the world are uncreated. This statement does go a bit beyond me, but put more easily the saints shine with the divine light, which is the same light which shone in Christ during the transfiguration. Scholastic western (and presumably eastern too) theologians say that the light started to shine from the surface of Christ’s body. Orthodox say that the light is uncreated and was shining through Christ from his conception, but the disciples were only able to see it when God desired. In other words, we can unite directly with the divine light, and live in God and he in us.

Can Thomism be reconciled with Palamism?
Thomism, apparently not, Thomas Aquinas himself – YES!
At the end of his life he had a vision, which made him describe everything he had written before as being like straw. He then stopped writing his summa theologica. In other words, scholastic theology is straw compared to the vision he received. Instead of abandoning scholastic theology, the western leaders finished his summa theologica by earlier passages. This is the difference: Gregory Palamas bases his descriptions on this same infinitely higher vision.

Why try to turn straw into gold by adhering to Thomas Aquinas’ writings – leave them behind to embrace his last vision, before which all his writings (and earlier “visions”) are straw. Gregory Palamas teaches what his last vision really was, and scholasticism rejects it.

Just my point of view.
:)
Richard
 

xariskai

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Below from the Confession of St. Gregory Palamas as ratified by the Council of Blachernae (English trans. from Aristeides Papadakis, PhD Fordham) are his remarks on excommunication of Barlaam and Akindynus as connected with their views of created grace.
(see https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/10431/4357 ) Given the authority of this excommunication in the Orthodox Church its meaning will remain fundamental to any proposed reconciliation at least from the Orthodox side.

"THE ORTHODOX CONFESSION OF FAITH SET FORTH BY THE MOST REVEREND METROPOLITAN OF THESSALONICA, LORD GREGORY PALAMAS

"...Moreover, we receive with joy the holy councils that have assembled through God's grace at different times and places for the firm estab lishment of piety and evangelical life; among which are those held in his great city in the celebrated Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, against Barlaam the Calabrian, and the man following him, Akindynus, who held the same views and with cunning hastened to vindicate him.[28] These two teach that the grace common to the Father, Son and Spirit-the light of the age to come, in which the righteous will shine as the sun, just as Christ intimated when he shone on the mountain, -and simply every power and operation of the Three Persons of the Godhead,[29] and everything that differs from the divine nature in any way whatever, is created; and they too impiously separate the one Godhead into created and uncreated. And they label as atheists and polytheists (just as Jews, Sabellians and Arians believe of us), those who piously believe that the most sacred light is uncreated and every power and operation is divine -since nothing which issues naturally from God is created.[30] But we properly cast out both the latter and the former as atheists and polytheists and totally excommunicate them from the company of the faithful, as the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ did through the Synodal Tome and the Hagioretic Tome.[31] We believe in one omnipotent Godhead in three hypostases, whose unity and simplicity are in no way lost on account of either the powers or the hypostases..."

[28]Palamas is here referring to the Council of 1341 and that of 1351 held in Constantinople. These Councils, although not ecumenical, possess doctrinal authority; their decisions are as valid as those of the Seven Ecumenical Councils (mentioned in the preceding paragraph by Palamas), since they were ultimately accepted by the entire eastern Church. Cf. T. Ware, The Orthodox Church (Baltimore 1968) 210f, and Sir Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity (Cambridge 1968) 23.

See further https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/10431/4357
 
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