Roman Catholic Dogmatic Absolute Divine Simplicity is Heretical – Jay Dyer

Moses saw and communed with a Personal God, not a created light and not a generic essence.

“When God was conversing with Moses, He did not say, “I am the essence”, but “I am the One Who is.” Thus it is not the One Who is who derives from the essence, but essence which derives from Him, for it is He who contains all being in Himself.” -St. Gregory Palamas, Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts, III.ii.12

By: Jay Dyer

When confronted with questions regarding the Roman Catholic and Thomistic views of divine simplicity as opposed to “Palamism” (which is just Eastern Orthodox theology), Roman Catholics are often confused as to what their own doctrine is, and entails.  When I wrote the essay on the Filioque and subordinatinism, which has now had almost 1k shares (and has begun the conversion process for many former Roman Catholics to Orthodoxy), there was a deafening silence from most Roman Catholic opponents.  However, Erick Ybarra did reply and his response is typical of a more informed apologist than a pop level advocate like an Akin or Armstrong.

In my own journey, when first discovering this issue when challenged some 10 years ago, it involved taking the time to delve deeper into works like On the Trinity, Denzinger, Ottt, Catechism of Trent, etc., for assumptions about Thomism I previously took for granted.  In this article we will examine first the official Roman Catholic teaching on divine simplicity from their dogmatic sources, then show how it is a confirmation of the Augustinian and Thomistic ideas (that unfortunately had their origins in Platonism and Origenism), and then the Orthodox response.  It will become evident there is a clear, undebatable Roman Catholic view of a dogmatic absolute simplicity, as well as vindicating my argument in the Filioque as Arian Subordinationism article, as well as showing the Roman Catholic position leads to modalism (if consistent) and simultaneously a heretical Christology.

First, it should be pointed out that the only response so far to my article was an attempt to argue that St. Athanasius speaks of the Son as “the will of the Father.”  This is true, and St. Gregory Palamas also speaks of the Spirit as manifesting love.   However, in both cases in Orthodox theology, we believe those descriptions are true and real descriptions of the eternal manifestation of the Triad, and not propositions about the hypostatic origins of the Persons.  St Athanasius and later Orthodox theology explains this notion to mean a mode of hypostatic manifestation, much like saying “the Son the Wisdom of God,” it is not meant to be a strict identification between hypostasis and attribute or operation (wisdom).  To strictly identify the Son of God with the will of God would lead to massive errors and heresies, such as the absurd notion the Son generates Himself.

This would then lead to preposterous conclusion not even confused Roman Catholics would admit – since they identify the Will of God with the essence in strict identity – it means the Son also IS the essence of the Father: Jesus then generates Himself. The Son isn’t ontologically identical to God’s Will anymore that Spirit is ontologically identical to a single operation or attribute, “Love.” Jesus is not identical to a single attribute, “wisdom.”  In this confused attempt at a reply from certain apologists,  you have an illustration of the whole history of Roman Catholic Filioque incoherence – all because they cannot admit real ontological distinctions in God, due to Hellenic presuppositions about simplicity and the fame presupposition that “distinction necessitating division.” This is why Roman Catholic theology and apologetics is almost always about cherry-picked catenas of “papal” quotations, and not actually understanding the theology and how it’s a real, direct encounter with the Divine energies immanent in the world (which Thomism’s analogia entis denies).

Concerning the eternal manifestation as distinct from the hypostatic origin, Meyendorff writes:

“Gregory Palamas proposed a similar interpretation of this relationship in a number of his works; in his Confession of 1351, for instance, he asserts that the Holy Spirit “has the Father as foundation, source, and cause,” but “reposes in the Son” and “is sent – that is, manifested – through the Son.” (ibid. 194) In terms of the transcendent divine energy, although not in terms of substance or hypostatic being, “the Spirit pours itself out from the Father through the Son, and, if you like, from the Son over all those worthy of it,” a communication which may even be broadly called “procession” (ekporeusis) (Apodeictic Treatise 1.  Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas  231-2).

As for the Roman apologist’s favored misuse of St. Gregory Palamas referring to the Holy Spirit as love, let’s put this to rest once and for all, as the very context of that quote is a refutation of the Filioque itself.  I produce a page here for you to see this clearly (the book is here):

For Roman Catholics who consistently confusion the Hypostatic origins with eternal manifestation and economic mission, it means the Filioque can be supposedly be defended because all predicates of God are, in reality, strictly equated with the essence of God (absolute divine simplicity – ADS). In this position, which is the root of the entire Roman Catholic error, all predicates of God are quite literally smushed together, isomorphically identified and transposed at any time. Roman Catholics do not just smash the energies into essence, they also often smash mission into ousia, as well as hypostasis and will.  Before we cover that topic specifically, let’s consider the dogmatic statements from Rome on what constitutes the official position. Note that Orthodoxy undoubtedly affirms a true and unique simplicity to the divine ousia, yet for us, even “simplicity” and “unicity” are energetic and do not in any way actually make determinations on God’s essence. 

The Roman Catholic Dogma of Absolute Divine Simplicity 

The first relevant dogmatic affirmation relevant to our topic is from the council of Toledo, which was a local council, was later approved by Rome and thus raised to dogmatic status.  In Denzinger, it is 294-296.  It is one of Rome’s first dogmatic defensed of the Filioque and contrary to Ybarra and other Roman apologists, it does not make the necessary distinctions between Hypostatic origins, eternal manifestation and economic mission.  It also does attempt to ground the Filioque on Augustine’s erroneous psychological analogy for the Trinity (which Ybarra attempted to deny).  We will see this dogmatic statement perfectly lines up with my initial subordinationism article’s premise:


Profession of Faith concerning the Trinity *

296 Let the designation of this “holy will”-although through a comparative similitude of the Trinity, where it is called memory, intelligence, and will-refer to the person of the Holy Spirit [Augustine’s psychological analogy]; according to this, however, what applies to itself, is predicated substantially. For the will is the Father, the will is the Son, the will is the Holy Spirit; just as God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit and many other similar things, which according to substance those who live as protectors of the Catholic faith do not for any reason hesitate to say. And just as it is Catholic to say: God from God, light from light, life from life, so it is a proved assertion of true faith to say the will from the will; just as wisdom from wisdom, essence from essence, and as God the Father begot God the Son, so the Will, the Father, begot the Son, the Will. Thus, although according to essence the Father is will, the Son is will and the Holy Spirit is will, we must not however believe that there is unity according to a relative sense, since one is the Father who refers to the Son, another the Son, who refers to the Father, another the Holy Spirit who, because He proceeds from the Father and the Son, refers to the Father and the Son; not the same but one in one way, one in another, because to whom there is one being in the nature of deity, to these there is a special property in the distinction of persons.”

Notice this fully Augustinian dogmatic definition makes it explicitly clear the will of God is, in reality, substantially identified with the Hypostaseis and the Will.  Person, attribute, nature, will, mission, etc., are so miserably confused it’s no wonder a 1300 years later we are still trying to parse this out and show it’s incoherence.  Foundational to all Orthodox theology is the idea that there are important theological distinctions between essence, will, hypostasis, energy, etc., in God and in His relation to the world (mission).   There is no denying this dogmatic definition is one of the clearest indicators of absolute divine simplicity, with the only recourse for any semblance of a distinction in Persons relying on the infamous “relations of opposition” (also of Augustinian fame).

For us, as many Orthodox greats have noted, this is a purely relative attempt to provide for a distinction in Persons and simultaneously introduces dialectics in to God.  However, by definition a relation of opposition can only refer to a dyad (opposition) and not a triad.  As a result, the Filioque emerges as an attempt to (terribly) prove the divinity of the Son by arguing from a dialectical basis of relations of opposition: the problem is, all three Persons share the quality of being “not the other 2.”   Thus, names like “Father” are said to mean a relation of essence, where Father signifies that which generates Son and with Son spirates Spirit.  In other words, relations of essence, but this selfsame essence is also said to be identical to “generation” and “spiration.”

This absolute simplicity thus subsumes the attempted distinctions based on relations of opposition.  Consider also what is entirely absent in this definition: the dogmatic Eastern view of Hypostatic Origins.   In regard to this first terrible dogmatic definition, the Mystagogy of St. Photios is a complete refutation of these flawed premises.   If Person and will are strictly identified with the absolute simplicity of the essence, then it is hard to see why a relation of opposition wouldn’t also collapse into the essence (and it does, because the starting point of this position is the Hellenic notion of what “simplicity” is.  If this is in doubt, consider once again how and why Aquinas rejects the essence – energy distinction St. John of Damascus spends numerous chapters defending – as I wrote previously:

“St. John says:

“Each then of the affirmations about God should be thought of as signifying not what He is in essence, but either something that it is impossible to make plain, or some relation to some of those things which are contrasts or some of those things that follow the nature, or an energy. ” (I.9)

A bit earlier he had written:

“The Deity being incomprehensible is also assuredly nameless. Therefore since we know not His essence, let us not seek for a name for His essence. For names are explanations of actual things. But God, Who is good and brought us out of nothing into being that we might share in His goodness, and Who gave us the faculty of knowledge, not only did not impart to us His essence, but did not even grant us the knowledge of His essence. For it is impossible for nature to understand fully the supernatural. Moreover, if knowledge is of things that are , how can there be knowledge of the super-essential? Through His unspeakable goodness [an energy!], then, it pleased Him to be called by names that we could understand, that we might not be altogether cut off from the knowledge of Him but should have some notion of Him, however vague. Inasmuch, then, as He is incomprehensible, He is also unnameable. But inasmuch as He is the cause of all and contains in Himself the reasons and causes of all that is, He receives names drawn from all that is, even from opposites: for example, He is called light and darkness, water and fire: in order that we may know that these are not of His essence but that He is super-essential and unnameable: but inasmuch as He is the cause of all, He receives names from all His effects.”

Notice that we do do analogia entis, as I have continually argued, but not of His essence. This is a key quotation. St. John says that in deification, we do not participate in God’s essence, but in His “goodness.” The goodness of God is an energy or operation, not some attribute of an absolutely simple essence. It’s an operation of a Person. This also refutes Steven Wedgeworth’s argument that the ”energy” is somehow one of many attributes of God’s essence.

Thus St. John says:

“When, then, we have perceived these things and are conducted from these to the divine essence, we do not apprehend the essence itself but only the attributes of the essence: just as we have not apprehended the essence of the soul even when we have learned that it is incorporeal and without magnitude and form…”

According to Thomas, the attributes are real, substantial predicates of God’s essence, although not exhaustive. St. John says the attributes are not statements of what He is, but of his energies. Thomas explicitly rejects energies as distinct from essence as well as these arguments from St. John which should show you that Thomas thought they weren’t “saying the same thing.”

Thomas writes in his work “On Divine Simplicity,” Art. 4:

Are good, wise, just and the like are predicated of God as accidents?

It seems that they are.

1. Whatever is predicated of something not as signifying substance but what follows on nature signifies an accident. But Damascene says that good and just and holy as said of God follow nature and do not signify substance itself.

On the Contrary:

Boethius says that God, since He is a simple form, cannot be a subject. But every accident is in a subject. Therefore, in God, there cannot be any accident….
Moreover, Rabbi Maimonides says that the names of this kind do not signify intentions added to the divine substance of God. But every accident signifies an intention added to the substance of its subject. Therefore the foregoing do not signify an accident in God.” (McInery, Selections From Thomas Aquinas, pg. 306-307).

In other words, everything must fit into the Aristotelian scheme that differentiation in God must somehow mean “composition.” Instead of looking to what had been declared already in the Ecumenical Councils regarding God’s operations distinct from His essence, Thomas relies on Rabbi Maimonides and the absolute simplicity doctrine of Boethius. Note also that he explicitly rejects this argument in St. John:

“Each then of the affirmations about God should be thought of as signifying not what He is in essence, but either something that it is impossible to make plain, or some relation to some of those things which are contrasts or some of those things that follow the nature, or an energy. ” (I.9)

That is the distinction between essence and energy and Thomas explicitly says he thinks it’s impossible, because in his Aristotelian dialectical mind, distinction necessitates division or composition. This is why, as I showed elsewhere, for Thomas “many” is opposed to “one.” It all goes back to the philosophical assumption of what absolute simplicity is. God must conform to this scheme, and whatever doesn’t, must mean composition and division. But no Eastern Father thinks that different operations of God distinct from nature and Person implies any kind of composition. There is absolutely no need to think that it does. Everyone admits the Father is not the Son – does that imply composition? Of course not. Then neither does a distinction between what God is and what God does.”

Aquinas, faithful to the Roman view, explicitly rejects the essence-energy distinction in St. John of Damascus and appeals to Maimondes.  Next we come to the Council of Rheims in 1148 which gives further dogmatic definition in regard to divine simplicity under three different popes, in Denzinger 389:

“CELESTINE II 1143-1144 Lucius II 1144-1145

EUGENIUS III 1145-1153


Confession of Faith in the Trinity *

389 1. We believe and confess that God is the simple nature of divinity, and that it cannot be denied in any Catholic sense that God is divinity, and divinity is God. Moreover, if it is said that God is wise by wisdom, great by magnitude, eternal by eternity, one by oneness, God by divinity, and other such things, we believe that He is wise only by that wisdom which is God Himself; that He is great only by that magnitude which is God Himself; that He is eternal only by that eternity which is God Himself; that He is one only by the oneness which is God Himself; that He is God only by that divinity which He is Himself; that is, that He is wise, great, eternal, one God of Himself.”

Absolute Divine Simplicity is Based on Hellenic Assumptions of Dialectics 

Start by reading this.

Here we have an affirmation that the attributes of God are not something God has aside from His essence.  There is no real distinction between God’s actions and attributes and His absolutely simple essence.  Once again, no room for doubt is left to understand there is not a real distinction between God’s acts and His essence, despite many Roman Catholics and some Orthodox who would imagine Catholic dogma on this matter can be affirmed in accord with Eastern Orthodox dogma.  Indeed, this quote is almost a direct contradiction to the same statement from St. Basil in his famous Letter 234 affirming the essence-energy distinction.  It reads (as I previously explained):

“This is why St. Basil said the following in response to Eunomius (who identified essence, Person and attribute in God) which applies word-for-word to Roman Catholic dogma and Thomas:

“Letter 234

To the same, in answer to another question.
Do you worship what you know or what you do not know? If I answer, I worship what I know, they immediately reply, What is the essence of the object of worship? Then, if I confess that I am ignorant of the essence, they turn on me again and say, So you worship you know not what. I answer that the word to know has many meanings. We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence. The question is, therefore, only put for the sake of dispute. For he who denies that he knows the essence does not confess himself to be ignorant of God, because our idea of God is gathered from all the attributes which I have enumerated. But God, he says, is simple, and whatever attribute of Him you have reckoned as knowable is of His essence. [directly what this definition, Aquinas and Rome say] But the absurdities involved in this sophism are innumerable. When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence? And is there the same mutual force in His awfulness and His loving-kindness, His justice and His creative power, His providence and His foreknowledge, and His bestowal of rewards and punishments, His majesty and His providence? In mentioning any one of these do we declare His essence? If they say, yes, let them not ask if we know the essence of God, but let them enquire of us whether we know God to be awful, or just, or merciful. These we confess that we know. If they say that essence is something distinct, let them not put us in the wrong on the score of simplicity. For they confess themselves that there is a distinction between the essence and each one of the attributes enumerated. The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.

2. But, it is replied, if you are ignorant of the essence, you are ignorant of Himself. Retort, If you say that you know His essence, you are ignorant of Himself. A man who has been bitten by a mad dog, and sees a dog in a dish, does not really see any more than is seen by people in good health; he is to be pitied because he thinks he sees what he does not see. Do not then admire him for his announcement, but pity him for his insanity. Recognise that the voice is the voice of mockers, when they say, if you are ignorant of the essence of God, you worship what you do not know. I do know that He exists; what His essence is, I look at as beyond intelligence. How then am I saved? Through faith. It is faith sufficient to know that God exists, without knowing what He is; and He is a rewarder of them that seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 So knowledge of the divine essence involves perception of His incomprehensibility, and the object of our worship is not that of which we comprehend the essence, but of which we comprehend that the essence exists.

Then try this.

3. And the following counter question may also be put to them. No man has seen God at any time, the Only-begotten which is in the bosom has declared him. John 1:18 What of the Father did the Only-begotten Son declare? His essence or His power? If His power, we know so much as He declared to us. If His essence, tell me where He said that His essence was the being unbegotten? When did Abraham worship? Was it not when he believed? And when did he believe? Was it not when he was called? Where in this place is there any testimony in Scripture to Abraham’s comprehending? When did the disciples worship Him? Was it not when they saw creation subject to Him? It was from the obedience of sea and winds to Him that they recognised His Godhead. Therefore the knowledge came from the operations, and the worship from the knowledge. Believest thou that I am able to do this? I believe, Lord; and he worshipped Him. So worship follows faith, and faith is confirmed by power. But if you say that the believer also knows, he knows from what he believes; and vice versa he believes from what he knows. We know God from His power. We, therefore, believe in Him who is known, and we worship Him who is believed in.”

What is obvious from St. Basil’s flawless logic is that it is impossible to truly affirm a knowledge of God without the reality of the essence-energy distinction.  The argumentation of Aquinas, Rome and its definitions literally lead to the same modalistic conclusions Eunomius declared, if one actually takes the time to read St Gregory of Nyssa’s massive treatise against him.  The point, however, is that Eunomius is more consistent than the dogmas of Rome – if a real distinction in God necessitates division or composition, then there no is ground whatsoever for three Persons in God.  Any claim for a real distinction – at all, be it relations of opposition or whatever – is negated by the previous commitment and presupposition of the Hellenic notion of absolute divine simplicity, based on the dialectics of Plato.

For Plato, absolute simplicity could not allow for any real distinctions, changes, or relations, as that would negate his prior assumption of all distinctions entailing dialectical tensions: Athens versus Jerusalem.  The first millennium of the Church was henceforth busy refuting Hellenism in this very point at every single council – as Celsus, Origen, Arius, Eunomius, Plotinus, Nestorius and all other heretics were quite literally operating on the Hellenic presuppositions (and not Hebraic revelation).  Naturally the Roman Catholic may try to say St. Basil is wrong and the later dogmas right.  In response they need to grasp (as we will see below) the essence – energy distinction is bound up with, not just Triadology, but correct Christology.

The 6th Council Dogmatizes Eastern Triadology & Christology Together as a Golden Chain 

The 6th Council, which relies heavily on St. Maximos’ Debate with Pyrrhus, dogmatically confirms the essence-energy distinction in relation to Christ and his two natures, as well as how it is even possible that Christ’s humanity was deified (and by extension how we are deified!) and how His two natures, wills and energies are really distinct and thus directly prove our doctrine of one will in the Triad, and the distinction between essence and energy in God’s actions.   Remember – Christ is a single divine Hypostasis, a single Person, incarnate in an impersonal human nature.  His actions are theandric, but still proper to His humanity or His divinity.  Eating food is proper to His human nature, but walking on water is an action proper to His divine nature.  Creating the world is obviously a different action from walking on water, yet both are divine acts.  Think of this absurdity: foreknowledge is identical to creating is identical to walking on water, is identical to Act is identical to love is identical to the conflagration… identical to divine essence.   Therefore the distinctions are real and God’s acts are not His essence. Roman Catholics who have not read the debate with Pyrrhus will not understand this point – it is a must.  The Dogmatic Definition and the Letter of Pope St. Agatho reads:

“The Sixth Council states in the Definition of Faith:

“And these two natural wills [in Christ] are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and

End of debate.

omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”

Pope St. Agatho then wrote to the 6th Council as follows regarding the two energies in Christ (based on the Trinitarian energies as argued in St. Maximos’ Debate with Pyrrhus which is grounded on the essence-energy distinction):

“And we recognize that each one (of the two natures) of the one and the same incarnated, that is, humanated (humanati) Word of God is in him unconfusedly, inseparably and unchangeably, intelligence alone discerning a unity, to avoid the error of confusion. For we equally detest the blasphemy of division and of commixture. For when we confess two natures and two natural wills, and two natural operations (energies in Greek) in our one Lord Jesus Christ, we do not assert that they are contrary or opposed one to the other (as those who err from the path of truth and accuse the apostolic tradition of doing. Far be this impiety from the hearts of the faithful!), nor as though separated (per se separated) in two persons or subsistences, but we say that as the same our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures so also he has two natural wills and operations (energies in Greek), to wit, the divine and the human: the divine will and operation he has in common with the coessential Father from all eternity: the human, he has received from us, taken with our nature in time. This is the apostolic and evangelic tradition, which the spiritual mother of your most felicitous empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, holds.”

This should be abundantly clear to those who are honest and of good will.  This dogmatic council accepted by both East and West, in its explication of Orthodox Christology, leaves no room for a simultaneous subsuming of the divine will, hypostasis and operation of Christ, for example, into the divine essence.  As I have reiterated many, many times: the argumentation in this definition is undeniably based on the argumentation in this book.  To deny the reality of the essence-energy distinction is not only to undercut the entire premise of St. Maximos’ argument, but to undermine the coherency of all correct Christology – and then by extension correct Triadology!  Yet this is exactly what every Roman Catholic does as they confusedly admit some of these points, and turn around and attempt to isomorphically identify all in God with essence – that it precisely what Actus Purus does!

The Absurdities of Actus Purus & Filioque 

However, an easy refutation of this is to point out that Actus Purus necessarily effects their Christology (if they are consistent), in which case all acts of God are also exactly identical to the eternal, infinite divine essence.  On this line of reasoning, Christ’s creating the world is also synonymous with the divine essence, and is exactly synonymous with walking on water (an action proper to His divinity) and is exactly identical to the conflagration.  Quite stupidly, all of God’s actions are therefore eternal and essential– and thus emanations of His essence – leading directly to Neoplatonism.  I cannot think of a more obvious refutation of this ridiculous position. Let’s move to the next Roman dogmatic definition of Lateran Council IV:


Ecumenical XII (against the Albigensians, Joachim, Waldensians etc.

Chap. 1. The Catholic Faith

432 We, however, with the approval of the sacred Council, believe and confess with Peter Lombard that there exists a most excellent reality, incomprehensible indeed and ineffable, which truly is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the same time three Persons, and anyone of the same individually; and so in God there is Trinity only, not a quaternity; because any one of the three Persons is that reality, namely, substance, essence or divine nature, which alone is the beginning of all things, beyond which nothing else can be found, and that reality is not generating, nor generated, nor proceeding, but it is the Father who generates, the Son who is generated, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds, so that distinctions are in Persons and unity in nature. Therefore, although “one is the Father, another the Son, and another the Holy Spirit, yet they are not different” * but what is the Father is the Son and the Holy Spirit entirely the same, so that according to the true and Catholic Faith they are believed to be consubstantial. For the Father from eternity by generating the Son gave His substance to Him according to which He Himself testifies: “That which the Father has given to me is greater than all things” [John 10:29]. But it cannot be said that He (the Father) has given a part of His substance to Him (the Son), and retained a part for Himself, since the substance of the Father is indivisible, namely, simple. But neither can it be said that the Father has transferred His substance to the Son in generating, as if He had given that to the Son which he did not retain for Himself; otherwise the substance would have ceased to exist. It is clear, therefore, that the Son in being born without any diminution received the substance of the Father, and thus the Father and the Son have the same substance, and *so this same reality* is the Father and the Son and also the Holy Spirit proceeding from both. But when Truth prays to the Father for His faithful saying: “I will that they may be one in us, as we also are one” [ John 17:22]: this word “one” indeed is accepted for the faithful in such a way that a union of charity in grace is understood, for the divine Persons in such a way that a unity of identity in nature is considered, as elsewhere Truth says: “Be . . . perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matt. 5:48 ], as if He said more clearly, “Be perfect” in the perfection of grace “as your heavenly Father is perfect” in the perfection of grace, that is, each in his own manner, because between the Creator and the creature so great a likeness cannot be noted without the necessity of noting a greater dissimilarity between them. If anyone, therefore, shall presume to defend or approve the opinion or doctrine of the above mentioned Joachim, let him be refuted as a heretic by all.

What is interesting here is the council’s attempt to state the origin of the Spirit derives from a “reality” that is Father and Son, which is the common “substance” of the two, or essence of God, and that as a result, the Hypostatic origin of the Spirit is here defined.   It is interesting that the real substance is continually presented as the divine nature, and yet when attempting to argue for distinct Persons and their origin, the Hypostatic origin of the Spirit is clearly stated to be the common essence of the Father and Son.  The problem is, the Spirit shares this common essence, and thus, as St. Photios argued correctly in the Mystagogy long ago, it would mean the Spirit spirates Himself, as well.  Also, if producing a Person is what constitutes divinity, the Holy Spirit is necessarily subordinated.

The Father and the Son share a special property which the Spirit does not, and thus there is a dialectical imbalance introduced into the Godhead.  This also shows that more recent Vatican attempts at conceding ground to the Orthodox in the famous Declaration don’t address the real issue – Rome can never give up a dual Hypostatic origin, despite its willingness to concede even an eternal manifestation!  Why? Because Rome has dogmatically defined many times the dual origin of the Spirit is hypostatic, and not eternal manifestation.  What this priceless quote from Rome shows is that we are correct – the Filioque is absolutely a direct result of absolute divine simplicity.  

It is also worth noting that while this declaration attempts to give some place to the Father as the Monarchia of the Godhead (as Rome would later attempt to do), the Monarchia of the Father is compromised by making the origin of the Spirit not strictly the Hypostasis of the Father, but the common essence of Father-Son.  Further proof of this reading and of the Roman denial of uncreated grace comes in the next section, where no mention of theosis and deification by the divine energies comes into play, but rather Rome’s (eventual) acceptance of created grace, set over agains the divine ousia:

Plato and Aristotle’s absolutely simple impersonal super essence monad.

“Be perfect” in the perfection of grace “as your heavenly Father is perfect” in the perfection of grace, that is, each in his own manner, because between the Creator and the creature so great a likeness cannot be noted without the necessity of noting a greater dissimilarity between them. If anyone, therefore, shall presume to defend or approve the opinion or doctrine of the above mentioned Joachim, let him be refuted as a heretic by all.”

What could be more obvious?  Not only does the hypostatic origin of Persons refute this foolish essentialism, it also shows a direct correlation between Christology and soteriology.  When you lose Orthodox Christology through absolute Hellenic simplicity, you lose the possibility of a real deification in this life.  Since you can’t receive the essence of God in this life, and you can’t participate in an uncreated energy (Rome dogmatically rejects this), what else is left but a “created effect”?  To understand this is heresy one need look no further than St. Gregory’s retort to the Barlaamites:

“When God was conversing with Moses, He did not say, “I am the essence”, but “I am the One Who is.” Thus it is not the One Who is who derives from the essence, but essence which derives from Him, for it is He who contains all being in Himself.” -St. Gregory Palamas, Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts, III.ii.12

St. Basil – the One is To En (Personal)
Plotinus – the One is To On (Impersonal essence)

That is the issue.

1 Cor. 12:6 reads: “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” In the Greek it is: ”καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν ὁ δὲ αὐτός ἐστιν θεός ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.” The divine energeia, or operations are manifold and can be seen, experienced and participated in.

And the 6th council’s definition of a real theosis:

“… “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”

The Absurdities of Absolute Divine Simplicity in Soteriology – Created Grace Confusion 

Next we come to the Council of Trent, which defines the following in regard to absolute divine simplicity in Denzinger 993:

“993 …all and each who have hitherto asserted, claimed or believed that Almighty God was not three in persons and of an entirely uncomposedand undivided unity of substance and one single simple essence of divinity; or that our Lord is not true God of the same substance in every way with the Father and the Holy Spirit, or that He was not conceived of the Holy Spirit according to the flesh in the womb of the most blessed and ever Virgin Mary..”

I cite this from Trent to also correlate it with the previous point about created grace, as Trent also states in Denz. 799-800.  What is important here is the reasoning behind created grace and its source in Augustine according to Denzinger in the footnotes:

Chap. 7. In What the Justification of the Sinner Consists, and

What are its Causes

Holy Fathers of the 6th Council.

799 Justification itself follows this disposition or preparation, which is not merely remission of sins [can. II], but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts, whereby an unjust man becomes a just man, and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be “an heir according to hope of life everlasting” [Tit. 3:7]. The causes of this justification are: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Christ and life eternal; the efficient cause is truly a merciful God who gratuitously “washes and sanctifies” [1 Cor. 6:11], “signing and anointing with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance” [Eph. 1:13f.]; but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, “who when we were enemies” [cf. Rom. 5:10], “for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us” [Eph. 2:4], merited justification for us [can. 10] by His most holy passion on the wood of the Cross, and made satisfaction for us to God the Father; the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the “sacrament of faith,”* without which no one is ever justified. Finally the unique formal cause is the “justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but by which He makes us just” * [can. 10 and 11], that, namely, by which, when we are endowed with it by him, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed, but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the “Holy Spirit distributes to everyone as he wills” [1. Cor. 12:11], and according to each one’s own disposition and cooperation.

800 For although no one can be just but he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this does take place in this justification of the ungodly when by the merit of that same most holy passion “the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Spirit in the hearts” [Rom. 5:5] of those who are justified, and inheres in them [can. II]. Hence man through Jesus Christ, into whom he is ingrafted, receives in the said justification together with the remission of sins all these [gifts] infused at the same time: faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites one perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of his body…”

In canon 11 Trent stresses the grace is infused into the soul, and as we see in 799 it is not the justice which God has.  Rome has debated many times in various theologians, from Scotists to Thomists exactly what this “grace” is – a created, infused substance, or a created effect, or the actual Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit, on and on the heresies continue.  The fact that Rome has long debated this shows Rome is not Orthodox – for every Orthodox Person knows what they receive – the very life, grace, justice, etc., of God Himself, which is not His divine essence.  That Rome specifically condemns the notion we participate in God’s own Justice (because of absolute divine simplicity!) shows there is no possible reconciliation with Rome because these are dogmatic, not up for debate definitions from Papal dogma!  To set this all straight, let’s be clear on what Trent is “setting aside.”   The Catholic Encyclopedia accurately dismisses the possibility of receiving uncreated grace and the Person of the Holy Spirit in justification, making it abundantly clear sanctifying grace itself is created:

“According to the Council of Trent sanctifying grace is not merely a formal cause, but “the only formal cause” (unica causa formalis) of our justification. By this important decision the Council excluded the error of Butzer and some Catholic theologians (Gropper, Scripando, and Albert Pighius) who maintained that an additional “external favour of God” (favor Dei externus) belonged to the essence of justification. The same decree also effectually set aside the opinion of Peter Lombard, that the formal cause of justification (i.e. sanctifying grace) is nothing less than the Person of the Holy Ghost, Who is the hypostatic holiness and charity, or the uncreated grace (gratia increata). Since justification consists in an interior sanctity and renovation of spirit, its formal cause evidently must be a created grace (gratia creata), a permanent quality, a supernatural modification or accident (accidens) of the soul. Quite distinct from this is the question whether the personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost, although not required for justification (inasmuch as sanctifying grace alone suffices), be necessary as a prerequisite for Divine adoption.”

The famous Thomist Lagrange agrees:”2. The supernatural gift of grace itself freely bestowed and ordained to eternal life; this is created grace, of which we are now treating, whether it is interior or exterior, such as the preaching of the gospel.” (Commentary on the Summa)

Ludwig Ott declares (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 254):  “Santifying grace is a created supernatural gift really distinct from God.” (Sent. fide proxima) .  For those interested in the Ott rabbit hole, the next few pages (256-7) are an amazing amalgam of Roman Catholic mental gymnastics and confusion attempting to explain how we also, in some way, ‘participate in the divine nature.”  The preposterous speculations and confusion and contradictions in Ott are exemplary of the madness that results from dogmatically denying the essence-energy distinction (as Ott does on pages 24-27 and then attempting to grant a “real deification.”  This argument alone should topple all Roman Catholicism, since, as St. Gregory Palamas also retorted to Barlaam, if all you receive in salvation is a created effect, you are not saved.

The Absurdities of Absolute Divine Simplicity in Making all Distinctions Notinal & the Resultant Perennialism 

For Roman Catholic dogmatic theology, the development is unmistakable – the simplicity accorded to God dogmatically is not in dispute.  Summing up all these dogmatic examples, the Catholic Encyclopedia explains about the ontological status of distinctions predicated of God:

“Divine knowledge itself is really identical with Divine essence, as are all the attributes and acts of God; but according to our finite modes of thought we feel the need of conceiving them distinctly and of representing the Divine essence as the medium or mirror in which the Divine intellect sees all truth. “


“For, as applied to God, the distinction between nature and attributes, and between the attributes themselves, is merely logical and not real.The finite mind is not capable of comprehending the Infinite so as adequately to describe its essence by any single concept or term; but while using a multitude of terms, all of which are analogically true, we do not mean to imply that there is any kind of composition in God. Thus, as applied to creatures, goodness and justice, for example, are distinct from each other and from the nature or substance of the beings in whom they are found, and if finite limitations compel us to speak of such perfections in God as if they were similarly distinct, we know, nevertheless, and are ready, when needful, to explain, that this is not really so, but that all Divine attributes are really identical with one another and with the Divine essence.”

Since Rome has identified, as we have seen, Person, Will, Nature and attribute many times over (also shown by Actus Purus), it is no longer possible to say the Persons are really distinct.  If the Persons are also equated with Will and Attribute, as we saw Ybarra and many other Roman apologists attempt to explain the phrase from St. Athanasius that the Son is the “will of the Father,” then equating Persons with attributes means the Persons are also notional distinctions, and not real.  Thus, modalism is the result, and as my initial article about Arian Subordinationism as the logical result of absolute divine simplicity not only holds, it also provides a perfect illustration of the manifold absurdities of Roman Catholic doctrinal development.  Let’s be clear – these are not academic squabbles – the doctrine of absolute divine simplicity leads directly to Rome’s present-day perennialst style syncretism and Freemasonic-based ecumenism.  The god of absolute divine simplicity is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

All religions are symbols of the ineffable, right?

When St. Agatho describes the two natural wills and operations in Christ for the 6th Council, operations is energies there. The definitions of that council are based  on St Maximos’ debate:  two natural wills and two natural energies is based on the already dogmatized eastern  idea of hypostasis, will, energy and nature all being distinct – if they weren’t, the monothelites would be correct. To collapse all of these in ADS is not just about Triadology – it would also be to undermine all the Christology of all these councils. Jesus creating the world is obviously a different action from His  walking on water, yet both are actions proper to His divinity in the communcatio idiomatum.  

Syncretism – apostate popes participate in pagan rites because all religions are imprecise affirmations of the ineffable monad. John Paul II receiving a pagan Zapotec blessing.

The only coherent conclusion to all this is the distinctions are real, and God’s acts are not His essence. The same thing applies to the Incarnation – the Person of Christ is distinguished from his actions or energies that are proper to His humanity and his divinity, and thats why St Gregory Palamas says this all results in atheism.  In ADS, God can be “first cause,” Satan, gnostic archons, Allah, etc. because ADS leads directly  to Vatican II’s masonic perennialism as seen in Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate – because all we know of God are interchangeable created forms a la analogia entis.  In the ADS-masonic-perennial view, all the religions and their confessions and rites are merely symbolic forms seeking the ineffable.   Ratzinger even speaks this way in Introduction to Christianity – when there is no uncreated grace and nous, God is cut off from being immanent in the world in His energies and atheism is the result.   However, since Roman Catholics generally are only concerned to debate what popes have said, then let’s settle this with Pope John VIII, who indisputably forbade the inclusion of the Filioque.

For more on this topic of Filioque confusion, the last chapter in this book contains a humorous account of the confused babble of modern Roman Catholicism in regard to this question.


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13 Comments on Roman Catholic Dogmatic Absolute Divine Simplicity is Heretical – Jay Dyer

  1. Thus the Orthodox church has always considered the Palamite councils on par with ecumenical synods. The very fact we read the hagioritic tome every year affirms this. The church has 3 theologians; the Evangelist, St. Gregory, and St. Symeon. The 1st is inspired to write about the gospel, the 2nd is inspired to interpret the Trinity, the third explains how we experience the Trinity mystically. The capstone of the theology, however, is St. Palamas. It directly refutes scholasticism and ADS. Fr. Peter H. next project is to edit a complete translation of the Triads. Palamas refutes Romanism even more directly. Fr. Meyendorff’s translation omits significant anti-roman passages. Great essay.

  2. Here is what did it for me (this is part of Bradshaws argument):
    1. Could those in Scripture see the divine glory?
    2. Was the divine glory God or a created replica of God?
    3. If someone worshiped the divine glory, would it have been idolatry?

  3. In Exodus 24 it says Moses and company saw God. Now, did they see God or did they see a created replica of God?

    Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.

  4. A wonderful confessional article released in the first week of the Great Lent in anticipation of Sunday of Orthodoxy and the reading of the Synodikon. Unfortunately, how many Orthodox Christians have read or heard it in church in its entirety?
    ” Fr. Peter H. next project is to edit a complete translation of the Triads.” Who is Fr. Peter H. and where will this translation be available?

  5. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but is this a typo?
    “The point, however, is that Eunomius is more consistent than the dogmas of Rome – if a real distinction in God necessitates division or composition, then there is ground at all for three Persons in God.”
    Should it read:
    “The point, however, is that Eunomius is more consistent than the dogmas of Rome – if a real distinction in God necessitates division or composition, then there is NO ground at all for three Persons in God.” ??

  6. “Vatican II’s masonic perennialism as seen in Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate”

    And don’t forget Lumen Gentium, which flat out says that Roman Catholics and Muslims worship the same god. The only way you can get a conclusion like this is through the relativism that follows from the simple monad conception.

  7. A) “What God is and what God does” – But what God does (his operations, works) is not God Himself? I.e. there is an actor (God), the actor’s act (energy), and acts/energies/operations/works/effects (done by God but not being God Himself). The actions are not God but the Act (Energy) is.

    B) Now, is the act/energy distinct from the essence? Even if so, isn’t it more correct to say essence-energy distinction, not essence-energies? And so when it comes to energies (pl), they are God’s created effects and not God Himself? A simple essence and a simple act in a God who is not Hellenic ADS, but still one God and in this sense simple since the essence and act are just as distinct and one as the persons of the Trinity are distinct and yet one?

    Cf e.g. St John of Damascus De Fide Orth. I.8: “Neither can we speak of a difference in will, or judgement, or operation, or virtue, or any whatsoever things which in us give rise to a definite real distinction.” I.10: “True reason teaches us that the Divinity is simple and has one simple operation…” I.14: “…the divine irradiation and operation is one, simple, and undivided… Indivisibly it is multiplied in divisible things…”. III.15: “However, one must know that operation is one thing, what is operative another, which is operated another, and still another the operator.”

    St Dionysius the Areopagite, Div.Nom 12, 969C: “…this cause [which transcends everything] is a supreme kingship and a totally simple divinity.”

    St Maximos, Chapters on knowledge, first century, 83: “…in God who is eminently one and unique, there is only identity, simplicity, and sameness.”
    Second century, 1: “There is one God…simple and supersubstantial…identically monad and triad…”.
    St Maximos, Ambiguum 2: “The Trinity is truly a Monad…and the Monad is truly a Trinity…since there is one Godhead that in essence is a Monad.” Ambiguum 22: “…when the intellect naturally apprehends all the logoi in beings and contemplates within them the infinite energies of God, it recognizes the differences of the divine energies it perceives to be multiple and – to speak truly – infinite.” and “…[God] is truly all things in all, never going out of His own indivisible simplicity… So let there be an end to pointless and harmful curiosity…vacuous constructions of the mind…”

    I.e. Yes, the essence is simple, but God entirely is simple too? This also being why the Trinity does not collapse into a Hellenic ADS Monad – just as the essence-energy distinction doesn’t. It all being an incomprehensible mystery.

    And if we can see/perceive God’s energies, they must be material? Since we cannot see/perceive anything immaterial? So these effects must be created, despite stemming from an uncreated Act/Energy. It is still God Himself speaking to/interacting with man.

    C) With the VI Council the argument is that since in Christ as Man will, energy, nature, hypostasis are separate, they must also be separate in Christ as God (and similarly for the whole Trinity since the Persons are of one nature and have one divine will and one divine energy)? Because otherwise Christ the Man could not have been deified? Could you clarify this? Why couldn’t will and energy merge in deification? Because deified man does not become simple? But this doesn’t have to mean that it is the same in God…

    • When responding to a position it’s a good idea to try to find out what the position is actually saying instead of trying to play gotcha. I will respond to this in a bit.

      • Not at all the case, Jay. Just trying to better understand and looking forward to any clarification. Am not trying to claim I am right.

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