10 Questions for the Palamite

10 questions for the Palamite on essence/energies, simplicity, Thomism, dogma and other related topics.






Below is a transcription of the ten questions for the Palamite:


  1. Both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox agree God is simple. Neither claim he is a composite being. The Roman Catholic Church has dogmatized the position that God is not composed of physical or metaphysical parts. And the Palamist is not going to disagree and say that the Essence and Energies distinction creates composition in God. Therefore, does this not mean that whatever differences there are between Catholics and Orthodox on the matter of simplicity are issues of a non-dogmatic nature? What in fact, are the differences on the dogmatic level between these two? If the answer from the Palamist is that Catholics identify God’s essence with his attributes then does that not mean the Palamist claims there is composition in God? If the answer is no, God’s essence is one thing, yet God’s attributes/energies are another, then is there not now a radical distinction within God. (Do not attempt to retort by saying Catholics make a distinction between essence and persons because persons are not energies and even if Catholics are wrong, this does not automatically prove the Palamist view.)
  2. Ott states “the existence of virtual differences between the essence and the attributes of God and between the attributes themselves does not controvert the absolute simplicity of God, because the individual attributes do not designate parts of the divine essence, but the whole divine essence, although from different points of view.” Why is it problematic to assert that virtual distinctions among the attributes designates the essence of God, but from different points of view for man? This seems to sufficiently safeguard against isomorphically identifying all the of the attributes while also safeguarding simplicity.
  3. If Palamas indicates that the essence is infinitely above the energies, yet indicates the essence is fully in each energy claiming that God entirely subsists in each energy, then does that not entail a contradiction? If the response is “this is a mystery”, why can’t the Catholic say that virtual distinctions between the attributes of God are compatible with the claim that God’s essence is identified with his attributes, but this is simply a “mystery”.
  4. Roman Catholicism claims God’s essence is the same as his existence. Why is this problematic for the Palamist unless one asserts that there is composition within God? If one says “we do not speak in these categories of God, he is above this kind of speech and categories”, then why do the Fathers use philosophical language to describe God’s essence?
  5. Is Palamism dogma for Eastern Orthodox? If so, how was this dogma established? Was it through the reception of the Palamite councils? What about the reception of the Confession of Dositheus that recognizes the larger canon and also states the divine scriptures should not be read in the vulgar tongue by all Christians? It claims specifically “they [the Scriptures] should not be read by all, but only by those who with fitting research have inquired into the deep things of the Spirit, and who know in what manner the Divine Scriptures ought to be searched, and taught, and finally read.” Have these also been received by the Orthodox Church as dogmatic since they were received by the church as a whole? If not, what is the distinction between the reception of these different councils?
  6. What are we to make of J. P. Houdret who indicates the Cappadocians distinguished between the essence and energies but only insofar as this is a distinction on the side of man. He claims, the Cappadocians did not make this distinction within God himself. Is there something in the Cappadocians that invalidates this claim?
  7. The same author indicates Palamas is the one who made a hard distinction between God’s essence and energies within God Himself. If this is true, how does this not create composition within God?
  8. The Dominican scholar Peter Totleben claims in The Palamite Controversy that Thomism and Palamism are not compatible but that this is a disagreement on a non-dogmatic level. How has he erred?
  9. How is the Eastern claim that the Holy Spirit is eternally manifested from the Son different from Catholics who say the Spirit proceeds from the Son? What is the difference between procession and eternal manifestation?
  10. It is said by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, “according to St. Maximus, echoing Rome, the Filioque does not concern the ekporeusis of the Spirit issued from the Father as source of the Trinity, but manifests his proienai (procession) in the consubstantial communion of the Father and the Son, while excluding any possible subordinationist interpretation of the Father’s Monarchy.” What is wrong with this approach that indicates East and West are not fundamentally different on the filioque?

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