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Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday #377329 03/11/12 01:29 PM
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Otsheylnik Offline OP
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So I've heard a lot about Palamas this weekend.

I've subsequently read a lot, and so far as I can tell, he had at least as many detractors as supporters in the East in the fourteenth century and for some time thereafter. As with so many councils, it also seems to me that his conciliar win at Fifth Constantinople could be read to be as much about politics as anything else.

So my question, upon reflection, is to what extent is the current Eastern Palamite Rennaisance (after a period of embracing scholasticism) reactionary and about the fact that the west has historically not liked him? Had the west not been against him, would he have faded into history as just one of many theologians in the east with interesting opinions on some issues but who the west was friendly to (Dimitri Rostov, say) rather than becoming the dominant theological perspective in Orthodoxy? To what extent has an anti-western attitude played a role in exalting the Palamite perspective above those who disagreed with him in the east, who on some readings seem to be a majority? And what do we make of this?

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Otsheylnik] #377344 03/11/12 05:51 PM
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Given that Western theologians are finally paying attention to Palamas, I would think his work could provide a lot of common ground for discussions between Western and Eastern theologians. And, while the East seems finally to have repudiated the ersatz scholasticism of the pseudomorphosis, the West at the same time has relegated scholasticism and neo-scholasticism to just two among many different schools of theology.

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: StuartK] #377354 03/11/12 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by StuartK
Given that Western theologians are finally paying attention to Palamas, I would think his work could provide a lot of common ground for discussions between Western and Eastern theologians. And, while the East seems finally to have repudiated the ersatz scholasticism of the pseudomorphosis, the West at the same time has relegated scholasticism and neo-scholasticism to just two among many different schools of theology.


I may have misunderstood, but it seems that in approving of the rejection of eastern scholasticism you are saying that it's ok for the east to only have one major school of theology and to reject "western" scholasticism, but on the other hand it is not acceptable for the west to have only one major school of theology and reject Palamas.

Why must the west accept Palamas and have a multiplicity of schools of theology but the east reject scholasticism and only have one?

Last edited by Otsheylnik; 03/11/12 08:43 PM. Reason: spelling
Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Otsheylnik] #377359 03/11/12 10:28 PM
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I was wondering when this annual ritual regurgitation was going to begin! What? No one wants to know about venerating Eastern saints without Rome's say-so? How disappointing! I guess I'd better just get back to spending the rest of my life in peace and repentance!

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Economos Roman V. Russo] #377368 03/12/12 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Ot'ets Nastoiatel'
I was wondering when this annual ritual regurgitation was going to begin! What? No one wants to know about venerating Eastern saints without Rome's say-so? How disappointing! I guess I'd better just get back to spending the rest of my life in peace and repentance!


Dear Fr, I said nothing at all about venerating Palamas, and to my mind the questions I raised do not bear on it at all (for example, eastern veneration of St Augustine of Hippo continues irrespective of disagreement over some of his theology).

The point that I was making relates to inquiring into the extent to which a mindset that excludes anything critical of Palamas springs from an anti-western reactionary response to things wholly unconnected with his theology.

The responses to my question seems to confirm, sadly, that perhaps this is the case; why should the west be lauded for embracing theological pluralism and acknowledging the contribution of Palamas but theological pluralism in the east, especially anything favourable to scholasticism and critical of Palamas, be seen as a negative? I can see no logical reason for such a double standard other than anti-western sentiment, particularly because the east traditionally was more open to theological pluralism than the west.

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Otsheylnik] #377369 03/12/12 01:19 AM
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The East has many schools of theology, of which Palamism is but one. Scholasticism is one of many theological methods employed in the West, and for many years, Scholastic methods were employed in the East. However, the fundamental assumptions of Scholasticism are grounded in the Tradition of Western Christianity, and represent a radical break from the Patristic theological methods that form the foundation of contemporary Orthodox theology. Moreover, for several centuries, Scholasticism was the only form of theology recognized by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church itself began broadening its theological horizons in the decades preceding Vatican II, with the so-called "Patristic revival". Ironically enough, this influenced the Paris School of Orthodox theology, which, transplanted to St. Valdimir's Seminary, was responsible for the rediscovery of Byzantine theology under John Meyendorff and Alexander Schmemann.

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: StuartK] #377372 03/12/12 01:40 AM
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Originally Posted by StuartK
The East has many schools of theology, of which Palamism is but one. Scholasticism is one of many theological methods employed in the West, and for many years, Scholastic methods were employed in the East. However, the fundamental assumptions of Scholasticism are grounded in the Tradition of Western Christianity, and represent a radical break from the Patristic theological methods that form the foundation of contemporary Orthodox theology. Moreover, for several centuries, Scholasticism was the only form of theology recognized by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church itself began broadening its theological horizons in the decades preceding Vatican II, with the so-called "Patristic revival". Ironically enough, this influenced the Paris School of Orthodox theology, which, transplanted to St. Valdimir's Seminary, was responsible for the rediscovery of Byzantine theology under John Meyendorff and Alexander Schmemann.


I get all of that, but it seems to be an oversimplification to say that the western tradition is a radical break from patristic tradition. It is certainly not a radical break from Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, Jerome, etc. (and maybe not even Clement I, Polycarp, Ignatius, et al.). If you mean scholasticism is a radical break from eastern patristic tradition only, I'll accept that.

But then I'm left with the same issue: the east can't accept scholasticism because it's a break from eastern patristic tradition, but the west must accept Palamas, though Palamas is just as much a break from the western patristic tradition. Do you not see a double standard being voiced? How is that tenable?

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Otsheylnik] #377402 03/12/12 05:41 AM
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However, the fundamental assumptions of Scholasticism are grounded in the Tradition of Western Christianity, and represent a radical break from the Patristic theological methods that form the foundation of contemporary Orthodox theology.

That's not possible. If Scholasticism is "grounded in the Tradition of Western Christianity" than it's grounded in patristic theology and something that's grounded in patristic theology can hardly be a "radical break" from the thing it which it's grounded.

Moreover, for several centuries, Scholasticism was the only form of theology recognized by the Catholic Church.

I can't tell what this means. Scholasticism as a "form" of theology? People continued to read the Fathers.

Are we talking about scholasticism as a method? We certainly still had monastic theology that was very different than e.g. Aquinas. Compare the sermons of St. Bernard to the Summa. There's not a unitary method here and both are certainly theology and both were permitted.

Are we talking about scholasticism as a school? A point of view? There's a hardly a "scholastic" view. What is the view that includes Aquinas, Bonaventure, de Molina, Scotus, etc. etc.

Anyone who wants to claim that scholasticism and neo-scholasticism have been relegated to one view among many needs to grapple with the fact that Ressourcement theology is founded on (neo-)scholasticism. As Rusty Reno put it in First Things five years ago describing de Lubac:
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When de Lubac claimed that the fundamental structure of neoscholasticism was a covert form of modernism, he was making a direct attack on the modes of theology that dominated the Church in the first half of the twentieth century. Not surprisingly, he became a suspect character in the eyes of church authorities. In the 1950s he was silenced by his superiors in the Society of Jesus.

One would think that, as a result, de Lubac would have embraced the spirit of innovation that flourished after Vatican II. He did not. Near the end of his life he wrote a small and bitter book, A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace. In its pages he sought to address what he regarded as a fundamental misunderstanding of his basic insights, and its main thrust is a defense of the core theological judgments of the neoscholastic tradition he spent his life criticizing.

The message is clear: Readers cannot understand Henri de Lubac's theology of nature and grace unless they know and accept the basic outlines of classical Thomistic theology. Thus the paradox, once again. By the 1980s, Henri de Lubac, the great critic of dry and dusty neoscholasticism, saw that the younger generation needed to be catechized into the standard, baseline commitments of Catholic theology. Ressourcement does not work if students have neither context nor framework in which to place the richness and depth of the tradition. Like Lonergan, de Lubac is characteristic of the Heroic Generation: He helped destroy the theological culture that, however inadequate, provided the context for a proper understanding of his generation's lasting achievements.

Last edited by JBenedict; 03/12/12 05:43 AM.
Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Otsheylnik] #377418 03/12/12 01:50 PM
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It is born of the reflex for survival! The Christian East, both Orthodox and Catholic, is a tiny island awash in a sea of Latinism (Catholic and Protestant). You'll forgive us, surely, for not drowning -- even if you'd be gratified by the gesture of self-abnegation. And now, by your leave, I must get back to peace and repentance while I leave you to your scholastic conundrums.

Re: Reflections on Gregory Palamas Sunday [Re: Economos Roman V. Russo] #377442 03/12/12 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Ot'ets Nastoiatel'
It is born of the reflex for survival! The Christian East, both Orthodox and Catholic, is a tiny island awash in a sea of Latinism (Catholic and Protestant). You'll forgive us, surely, for not drowning -- even if you'd be gratified by the gesture of self-abnegation. And now, by your leave, I must get back to peace and repentance while I leave you to your scholastic conundrums.


I've never been impressed by affirmative action, theological or otherwise, as it encourages double standards. In this case I don't see that there is any need for it anyway, as the Russian Orthodox Church, for example, is a rather large and powerful entity (the world's second largest Church), and I think it can afford to play by the same rules of logic that it demands of others, rather than succumbing to knee jerk reactions born of survival.


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