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As an Eastern Catholic I subscribe to Saint Gregory Palamas' views on the Energy / Essence Distinction of the Trinity Godhead. God's Essence is unknowable, but we can know His Energies, which are NOT created, which includes His Grace.

My question is -

How is this reconciled with Western views on Divine Simplicity and Created Grace? Are these two Western views dogmatic?

Can I be a Palamite Papist?
I've found this to be a helpful explanation:


Long story short, both East and West have always spoken of the Essence and Energies of God (Energy is translated into Western theological use as "activity" or "operations"). Prior to the Schism there was really no division on this issue; that came with theological developments in the Byzantine East with St. Gregory Palamas and his debate with a theologian called Barlaam (in the 14th century).

Their disagreement was basically this: if we can't comprehend the Essence of God, but we can experience His Energies, how are these two things related? Barlaam argued that the two are distinct, and therefore we can't have a direct experience of God. St. Gregory Palamas argued that they are distinct but they are both Divine, and so we have a direct experience of God through the Energy, but not through the unknowable Essence. Barlaam countered that this would make two Gods, and Palamas responded that Barlaam's solution runs against Scripture and Tradition, since the Apostolic teaching is that we become direct participants in the Divine Nature through Grace. Barlaam, denying that the Energy could be God, also denied direct participation in Divinity (at least that's how Palamas presents his argument; we only really know of Barlaam's beliefs through the writings of his opponent).

In the West this debate quite simply never came up, or rather the sharing of Divinity with humanity was approached from a different angle (with the Protestant Reformation). The fact that humans can't comprehend the infinite Divine Essence was resolved by simply pointing out that "knowing" is not the same as "comprehending", much the way that I can know about the Sun without comprehending nuclear physics. With that distinction in place, there really wasn't any need argue over the distinction between Essence and Energies, since the Divine Energy in this case is simply the direct operation of the Divine Essence (this manner of speaking of Essence and Energies also fits with the teachings of great Eastern Fathers like St. John of Damascus, but so does St. Gregory Palamas' answer). In Western theology, saying that we experience the Divine Energy, but not the Divine Essence, is simply translated as "we experience the action of the Divine Essence without comprehending It".

Kept within their own theological frameworks there's really no contradiction between the two traditions. The problem comes when they encountered eachother without much effort at proper translation (a common problem you'll find again and again between Apostolic traditions, going back to the Council of Ephesus at least). Remember, the Byzantine tradition (with St. Gregory Palamas) takes it as a given that we can't comprehend the Divine Essence, and builds from there without making a distinction between "knowing" and "comprehending" the way the West did. Furthermore, there is no "partial sharing" of Essence in this system the way there is in Western theology (in the West it would be called "participation in the Divine Essence"); it's all or nothing, since the Essence is what fundamentally defines a thing. The West gets around this by pointing out that "essential properties" can be shared without the essences themselves changing (basically, the West uses a less strict definition of Essence, broadened to include essential properties and not merely the "pure definition"). In the East, the "essential properties" get folded into energy instead, and essence is kept as the "simple definition". Neither approach is right or wrong, so long as they are both internally consistant, and they are.

So along comes the West saying "we share in the Divine Essence through Grace", and the East hears this as "we become Persons of the Trinity through Grace". From the other side, the East comes along saying "we can't share in the Divine Essence, but only the Divine Energy (activity/operation)". The West sounds, to the East, like it's proposing the disolution of the self into the Godhead, and the East sounds, to the West, like its denying any real participation in Divinity. The irony, of course, is that both sides are actually saying the exact opposite from what they're being heard to say.

Sometimes you will see this confusion compounded by the fact that the West uses the term "created Grace" to refer to our participation in divinity, the same terminology that Barlaam used to indicate that we DON'T share in Divinity through Grace (he used it to indicate a firm and sharp distinction between creature and Creator that could not be bridged in any way, not even by participation). In Western theology this term is used to indicate that our sharing in Divinity is something created (i.e. that our participation is created new, but what we participate in is not), not something eternal per se (in other words, we come into the Life of Grace, and are not born as extensions of Divinity in some kind of pantheism, like in Hinduism). The West drew this language from Scripture: "we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus". The West was emphatically NOT saying what Barlaam is claimed to have said, but it uses the same terminology and that gets in the way when not properly understood.
https://forums.catholic.com/t/essence-an...n/196009/6
(10-25-2017, 12:16 PM)SaintSebastian Wrote: [ -> ]I've found this to be a helpful explanation:


Long story short, both East and West have always spoken of the Essence and Energies of God (Energy is translated into Western theological use as "activity" or "operations"). Prior to the Schism there was really no division on this issue; that came with theological developments in the Byzantine East with St. Gregory Palamas and his debate with a theologian called Barlaam (in the 14th century).

Their disagreement was basically this: if we can't comprehend the Essence of God, but we can experience His Energies, how are these two things related? Barlaam argued that the two are distinct, and therefore we can't have a direct experience of God. St. Gregory Palamas argued that they are distinct but they are both Divine, and so we have a direct experience of God through the Energy, but not through the unknowable Essence. Barlaam countered that this would make two Gods, and Palamas responded that Barlaam's solution runs against Scripture and Tradition, since the Apostolic teaching is that we become direct participants in the Divine Nature through Grace. Barlaam, denying that the Energy could be God, also denied direct participation in Divinity (at least that's how Palamas presents his argument; we only really know of Barlaam's beliefs through the writings of his opponent).

In the West this debate quite simply never came up, or rather the sharing of Divinity with humanity was approached from a different angle (with the Protestant Reformation). The fact that humans can't comprehend the infinite Divine Essence was resolved by simply pointing out that "knowing" is not the same as "comprehending", much the way that I can know about the Sun without comprehending nuclear physics. With that distinction in place, there really wasn't any need argue over the distinction between Essence and Energies, since the Divine Energy in this case is simply the direct operation of the Divine Essence (this manner of speaking of Essence and Energies also fits with the teachings of great Eastern Fathers like St. John of Damascus, but so does St. Gregory Palamas' answer). In Western theology, saying that we experience the Divine Energy, but not the Divine Essence, is simply translated as "we experience the action of the Divine Essence without comprehending It".

Kept within their own theological frameworks there's really no contradiction between the two traditions. The problem comes when they encountered eachother without much effort at proper translation (a common problem you'll find again and again between Apostolic traditions, going back to the Council of Ephesus at least). Remember, the Byzantine tradition (with St. Gregory Palamas) takes it as a given that we can't comprehend the Divine Essence, and builds from there without making a distinction between "knowing" and "comprehending" the way the West did. Furthermore, there is no "partial sharing" of Essence in this system the way there is in Western theology (in the West it would be called "participation in the Divine Essence"); it's all or nothing, since the Essence is what fundamentally defines a thing. The West gets around this by pointing out that "essential properties" can be shared without the essences themselves changing (basically, the West uses a less strict definition of Essence, broadened to include essential properties and not merely the "pure definition"). In the East, the "essential properties" get folded into energy instead, and essence is kept as the "simple definition". Neither approach is right or wrong, so long as they are both internally consistant, and they are.

So along comes the West saying "we share in the Divine Essence through Grace", and the East hears this as "we become Persons of the Trinity through Grace". From the other side, the East comes along saying "we can't share in the Divine Essence, but only the Divine Energy (activity/operation)". The West sounds, to the East, like it's proposing the disolution of the self into the Godhead, and the East sounds, to the West, like its denying any real participation in Divinity. The irony, of course, is that both sides are actually saying the exact opposite from what they're being heard to say.

Sometimes you will see this confusion compounded by the fact that the West uses the term "created Grace" to refer to our participation in divinity, the same terminology that Barlaam used to indicate that we DON'T share in Divinity through Grace (he used it to indicate a firm and sharp distinction between creature and Creator that could not be bridged in any way, not even by participation). In Western theology this term is used to indicate that our sharing in Divinity is something created (i.e. that our participation is created new, but what we participate in is not), not something eternal per se (in other words, we come into the Life of Grace, and are not born as extensions of Divinity in some kind of pantheism, like in Hinduism). The West drew this language from Scripture: "we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus". The West was emphatically NOT saying what Barlaam is claimed to have said, but it uses the same terminology and that gets in the way when not properly understood.
https://forums.catholic.com/t/essence-an...n/196009/6

Do you know of any books that touch upon this subject from the Catholic perspective? I've had an interest in this subject for some time, mainly because some Orthodox have claimed that Catholic theology's "failure" to distinguish between the essence and energies led to the rise of Atheism in the West. What are your thoughts on that claim?