Resolving Essence/Energy Disputes With Christology
April 11, 2010 Leave a comment
No one should be afraid to read someone even the West believes to be a Doctor of the Church. Some Latins, however, actually discourage people from reading St. John of Damascus. Ironically, Aquinas himself read the Damascene and cited him extensively.
Since I can’t seem to get anyone to read Book III, I’ll post the relevant chapter that explains it all. Why do I keep harping on Book III? In this Book of On the Orthodox Faith, St. John give his exposition of the teaching of Ephesus, Chalcedon and Constantinople II and III. These councils are key, as they focus on Christology. Christology is central, since that is our bridge to God, and not speculation and philosophizing about God’s essence in supposed “natural theology.”
It is in Christ that we meet the Father and the Spirit. It is the Incarnate Christ who shows us the Trinity. So if we want the clearest, most explicable understanding of the meaning of the essence/energy discinction and what hypostasis is, or what enhypostatized means, we should look to Christology, as it should be evident that what we formulate about the ontological Trinity must match up with our doctrine of Christ Incarnate. In other words, it makes no sense to come up with some hyper-philosophical, speculative view of God “ad intra” and God “ad extra,” as if we can come up with views that don’t have to match up with what we are saying about the divine hypostasis Who assumes human nature.
Everything about Christology proves the essence – energy distinction and is the doctrine of the 6th council in particular. Below, St. John exposits perfect Christology, as it culminated in the 6th Ecumenical Council.
On the Orthodox Faith, Book III.
Chapter 15. Concerning the energies in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We hold, further, that there are two energies in our Lord Jesus Christ. For He possesses on the one hand, as God and being of like essence with the Father, the divine energy, and, likewise, since He became man and of like essence to us, the energy proper to human nature.
But observe that energy and capacity for energy, and the product of energy, and the agent of energy, are all different. Energy is the efficient (δραστική) and essential activity of nature: the capacity for energy is the nature from which proceeds energy: the product of energy is that which is effected by energy: and the agent of energy is the person or subsistence which uses the energy. Further, sometimes energy is used in the sense of the product of energy, and the product of energy in that of energy, just as the terms creation and creature are sometimes transposed. For we say “all creation,” meaning creatures.
Note also that energy is an activity and is energised rather than energises; as Gregory the Theologian says in his thesis concerning the Holy Spirit : “If energy exists, it must manifestly be energised and will not energise: and as soon as it has been energised, it will cease.”
Life itself, it should be observed, is energy, yea, the primal energy of the living creature and so is the whole economy of the living creature, its functions of nutrition and growth, that is, the vegetative side of its nature, and the movement stirred by impulse, that is, the sentient side, and its activity of intellect and free-will. Energy, moreover, is the perfect realisation of power. If, then, we contemplate all these in Christ, surely we must also hold that He possesses human energy.
The first thought that arises in us is called energy: and it is simple energy not involving any relationship, the mind sending forth the thoughts peculiar to it in an independent and invisible way, for if it did not do so it could not justly be called mind. Again, the revelation and unfolding of thought by means of articulate speech is said to be energy. But this is no longer simple energy that involves no relationship, but it is considered in relation as being composed of thought and speech. Further, the very relation which he who does anything bears to that which is brought about is energy; and the very thing that is effected is called energy. The first belongs to the soul alone, the second to the soul making use of the body, the third to the body animated by mind, and the last is the effect. For the mind sees beforehand what is to be and then performs it thus by means of the body. And so the hegemony belongs to the soul, for it uses the body as an instrument, leading and restraining it. But the energy of the body is quite different, for the body is led and moved by the soul. And with regard to the effect, the touching and handling and, so to speak, the embrace of what is effected, belong to the body, while the figuration and formation belong to the soul. And so in connection with our Lord Jesus Christ, the power of miracles is the energy of His divinity, while the work of His hands and the willing and the saying, I will, be thou clean Matthew 8:3, are the energy of His humanity. And as to the effect, the breaking of the loaves John 6:11, and the fact that the leper heard the “I will,” belong to His humanity, while the multiplication of the loaves and the purification of the leper belong to His divinity. For through both, that is through the energy of the body and the energy of the soul, He displayed one and the same, cognate and equal divine energy. For just as we saw that His natures were united and permeate one another, and yet do not deny that they are different but even enumerate them, although we know they are inseparable, so also in connection with the wills and the energies we know their union, and we recognise their difference and enumerate them without introducing separation. For just as the flesh was deified without undergoing change in its own nature, in the same way also will and energy are deified without transgressing their own proper limits. For whether He is the one or the other, He is one and the same, and whether He wills and energises in one way or the other, that is as God or as man, He is one and the same.
We must, then, maintain that Christ has two energies in virtue of His double nature. For things that have diverse natures, have also different energies, and things that have diverse energies, have also different natures. And so conversely, things that have the same nature have also the same energy, and things that have one and the same energy have also one and the same essence , which is the view of the Fathers, who declare the divine meaning. One of these alternatives, then, must be true: either, if we hold that Christ has one energy, we must also hold that He has but one essence, or, if we are solicitous about truth, and confess that He has according to the doctrine of the Gospels and the Fathers two essences, we must also confess that He has two energies corresponding to and accompanying them. For as He is of like essence with God and the Father in divinity, He will be His equal also in energy. And as He likewise is of like essence with us in humanity He will be our equal also in energy. For the blessed Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, says , “Things that have one and the same energy, have also absolutely the same power.” For all energy is the effect of power. But it cannot be that uncreated and created nature have one and the same nature or power or energy. But if we should hold that Christ has but one energy, we should attribute to the divinity of the Word the passions of the intelligent spirit, viz. tear and grief and anguish.
If they should say , indeed, that the holy Fathers said in their disputation concerning the Holy Trinity, “Things that have one and the same essence have also one and the same energy, and things which have different essences have also different energies,” and that it is not right to transfer to the dispensation what has reference to matters of theology, we shall answer that if it has been said by the Fathers solely with reference to theology, and if the Son has not even after the incarnation the same energy as the Father, assuredly He cannot have the same essence. But to whom shall we attribute this, My Father works hitherto and I work John 5:17: and this, What things soever He sees the Father doing, these also does the Son likewise : and this, If you believe not Me, believe My works : and this, The work which I do bear witness concerning Me : and this, As the Father raised up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. For all these show not only that He is of like essence to the Father even after the incarnation, but that He has also the same energy.
And again: if the providence that embraces all creation is not only of the Father and the Holy Spirit, but also of the Son even after the incarnation, assuredly since that is energy, He must have even after the incarnation the same energy as the Father.
But if we have learned from the miracles that Christ has the same essence as the Father, and since the miracles happen to be the energy of God, assuredly He must have even after the incarnation the same energy as the Father.
But, if there is one energy belonging to both His divinity and His humanity, it will be compound, and will be either a different energy from that of the Father, or the Father, too, will have a compound energy. But if the Father has a compound energy, manifestly He must also have a compound nature.
But if they should say that together with energy is also introduced personality , we shall reply that if personality is introduced along with energy, then the true converse must hold good that energy is also introduced along with personality; and there will be also three energies of the Holy Trinity just as there are three persons or subsistences, or there will be one person and one subsistence just as there is only one energy. Indeed, the holy Fathers have maintained with one voice that things that have the same essence have also the same energy.
But further, if personality is introduced along with energy, those who divine that neither one nor two energies of Christ are to be spoken of, do not maintain that either one or two persons of Christ are to be spoken of.
Take the case of the flaming sword; just as in it the natures of the fire and the steel are preserved distinct , so also are their two energies and their effects. For the energy of the steel is its cutting power, and that of the fire is its burning power, and the cut is the effect of the energy of the steel, and the burn is the effect of the energy of the fire: and these are kept quite distinct in the burnt cut, and in the cut burn, although neither does the burning take place apart from the cut after the union of the two, nor the cut apart from the burning: and we do not maintain on account of the twofold natural energy that there are two flaming swords, nor do we confuse the essential difference of the energies on account of the unity of the flaming sword. In like manner also, in the case of Christ, His divinity possesses an energy that is divine and omnipotent while His humanity has an energy such as is our own. And the effect of His human energy was His taking the child by the hand and drawing her to Himself, while that of His divine energy was the restoring of her to life. For the one is quite distinct from the other, although they are inseparable from one another in theandric energy. But if, because Christ has one subsistence, He must also have one energy, then, because He has one subsistence, He must also have one essence.
And again: if we should hold that Christ has but one energy, this must be either divine or human, or neither. But if we hold that it is divine we must maintain that He is God alone, stripped of our humanity. And if we hold that it is human, we shall be guilty of the impiety of saying that He is mere man. And if we hold that it is neither divine nor human, we must also hold that He is neither God nor man, of like essence neither to the Father nor to us. For it is as a result of the union that the identity in hypostasis arises, but yet the difference between the natures is not done away with. But since the difference between the natures is preserved, manifestly also the energies of the natures will be preserved. For no nature exists that is lacking in energy.
If Christ our Master has one energy, it must be either created or uncreated; for between these there is no energy, just as there is no nature. If, then, it is created, it will point to created nature alone, but if it is uncreated, it will betoken uncreated essence alone. For that which is natural must completely correspond with its nature: for there cannot exist a nature that is defective. But the energy that harmonises with nature does not belong to that which is external: and this is manifest because, apart from the energy that harmonises with nature, no nature can either exist or be known. For through that in which each thing manifests its energy, the absence of change confirms its own proper nature.
If Christ has one energy, it must be one and the same energy that performs both divine and human actions. But there is no existing thing which abiding in its natural state can act in opposite ways: for fire does not freeze and boil, nor does water dry up and make wet. How then could He Who is by nature God, and Who became by nature man, have both performed miracles, and endured passions with one and the same energy?
If, then, Christ assumed the human mind, that is to say, the intelligent and reasonable soul, undoubtedly He has thought, and will think for ever. But thought is the energy of the mind: and so Christ, as man, is endowed with energy, and will be so for ever.
Indeed, the most wise and great and holy John Chrysostom says in his interpretation of the Acts, in the second discourse , “One would not err if he should call even His passion action: for in that He suffered all things, He accomplished that great and marvellous work, the overthrow of death, and all His other works.”
If all energy is defined as essential movement of some nature, as those who are versed in these matters say, where does one perceive any nature that has no movement, and is completely devoid of energy, or where does one find energy that is not movement of natural power? But, as the blessed Cyril says , no one in his senses could admit that there was but one natural energy of God and His creation. It is not His human nature that raises up Lazarus from the dead, nor is it His divine power that sheds tears: for the shedding of tears is peculiar to human nature while the life is peculiar to the enhypostatic life. But yet they are common the one to the other, because of the identity in subsistence. For Christ is one, and one also is His person or subsistence, but yet He has two natures, one belonging to His humanity, and another belonging to His divinity. And the glory, indeed, which proceeded naturally from His divinity became common to both through the identity in subsistence, and again on account of His flesh that which was lowly became common to both. For He Who is the one or the other, that is God or man, is one and the same, and both what is divine and what is human belong to Himself. For while His divinity performed the miracles, they were not done apart from the flesh, and while His flesh performed its lowly offices, they were not done apart from the divinity. For His divinity was joined to the suffering flesh, yet remaining without passion, and endured the saving passions, and the holy mind was joined to the energising divinity of the Word, perceiving and knowing what was being accomplished.
And thus His divinity communicates its own glories to the body while it remains itself without part in the sufferings of the flesh. For His flesh did not suffer through His divinity in the same way that His divinity energised through the flesh. For the flesh acted as the instrument of His divinity. Although, therefore, from the first conception there was no division at all between the two forms , but the actions of either form through all the time became those of one person, nevertheless we do not in any way confuse those things that took place without separation, but recognise from the quality of its works what sort of form anything has.
Christ, then, energises according to both His natures and either nature energises in Him in communion with the other, the Word performing through the authority and power of its divinity all the actions proper to the Word, i.e. all acts of supremacy and sovereignty, and the body performing all the actions proper to the body, in obedience to the will of the Word that is united to it, and of whom it has become a distinct part. For He was not moved of Himself to the natural passions , nor again did He in that way recoil from the things of pain, and pray for release from them, or suffer what befell from without, but He was moved in conformity with His nature, the Word willing and allowing Him œconomically to suffer that, and to do the things proper to Him, that the truth might be confirmed by the works of nature.
Moreover, just as He received in His birth of a virgin superessential essence, so also He revealed His human energy in a superhuman way, walking with earthly feet on unstable water, not by turning the water into earth, but by causing it in the superabundant power of His divinity not to flow away nor yield beneath the weight of material feet. For not in a merely human way did He do human things: for He was not only man, but also God, and so even His sufferings brought life and salvation: nor yet did He energise as God, strictly after the manner of God, for He was not only God, but also man, and so it was by touch and word and such like that He worked miracles.
But if any one should say, “We do not say that Christ has but one nature, in order to do away with His human energy, but we do so because human energy, in opposition to divine energy, is called passion (πάτθος),” we shall answer that, according to this reasoning, those also who hold that He has but one nature do not maintain this with a view to doing away with His human nature, but because human nature in opposition to divine nature is spoken of as passible (παθητική) . But God forbid that we should call the human activity passion, when we are distinguishing it from divine energy. For, to speak generally, of nothing is the existence recognised or defined by comparison or collation. If it were so, indeed, existing things would turn out to be mutually the one the cause of the other. For if the human activity is passion because the divine activity is energy, assuredly also the human nature must be wicked because the divine nature is good, and, by conversion and opposition, if the divine activity is called energy because the human activity is called passion, then also the divine nature must be good because the human nature is bad. And so all created things must be bad, and he must have spoken falsely who said, And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good Genesis 1:31 .
We, therefore, maintain that the holy Fathers gave various names to the human activity according to the underlying notion. For they called it power, and energy, and difference, and activity, and property, and quality, and passion, not in distinction from the divine activity, but power, because it is a conservative and invariable force; and energy, because it is a distinguishing mark, and reveals the absolute similarity between all things of the same class; and difference, because it distinguishes; and activity, because it makes manifest; and property, because it is constituent and belongs to that alone, and not to any other; and quality, because it gives form; and passion, because it is moved. For all things that are of God and after God suffer in respect of being moved, forasmuch as they have not in themselves motion or power. Therefore, as has been said, it is not in order to distinguish the one from the other that it has been named, but it is in accordance with the plan implanted in it in a creative manner by the Cause that framed the universe. Wherefore, also, when they spoke of it along with the divine nature they called it energy. For he who said, “For either form energises close communion with the other ,” did something quite different from him who said, And when He had fasted forty days, He was afterwards an hungered Matthew 4:2: (for He allowed His nature to energise when it so willed, in the way proper to itself ,) or from those who hold there is a different energy in Him or that He has a twofold energy, or now one energy and now another. For these statements with the change in terms signify the two energies. Indeed, often the number is indicated both by change of terms and by speaking of them as divine and human. For the difference is difference in differing things, but how do things that do not exist differ?