Yesterday was the feast of Saint Basil and I forgot to post this.
A while back we had a huge battle royale over the Palamite distinction between God’s essence and energies that went to over 140 comments.
For those just joining the battle, the Eastern Orthodox monk Gregory Palamas taught that the essence of God is distinct from the energies or operations of God and that the latter were multiple, even infinite. The Catholic Church looks askance at this distinction since it undermines the assertion that “God is one” and that He is without parts or division.
The Palamites often appeal to Saint Basil in support of their teaching. However, I recently discovered a great quote from Saint Basil teaching the absolute divine simplicity of God.
“We perceive the operation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be one and the same, in no respect showing differences or variation; from this identity of operation we necessarily infer the unity of nature.”
The point here is that Saint Basil argues from the one operation (energeia) to the oneness of the divine essence (ousia). Notice here that if we were to grant the Palamite error that the operation of God were pluriform, then Saint Basil’s beautiful argument would lead to a conclusion that the divine ousia is pluriform. This would yield a belief in polytheism. For this reason, Catholic theologians (such as Adrian Fortescue) have rejected the Palamite teaching and have even labeled as “polytheistic.”
Consequently, we must hold that the divine essence of God and His divine activity are absolutely simple and one.
Moreover, the Sixth Ecumenical Council dogmatically taught that in Christ there are only two energies/operations/wills, that is, the divine will (in the singular) and the human will (also in the singular). If the divine energy/will were pluriform, then Christ would have several wills. This just isn’t biblical, because Christ has only one divine will and only one human will as confirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council and revealed by Christ Himself: “Lord not my will be done, but thy will.”
You may also like:
- Adrian Fortescue on Gregory Palamas and Hesychasm
- Aquinas, Palamas, and the Pope Benedict XII regarding “Seeing God”