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August 2, 2009

Dialogue Between a Scholastic Theologian and an Orthodox Theologian

An Orthodox Refutation of the Foundation 
of Western Theology as Expounded 
by Thomas Aquinas: 

Simplified Version in Dialogue Format

(Inspired by the Debate Between Fr. John Romanides and Dr. Panagiotes Trembelas)

By John Sanidopoulos

(O = Orthodox; S = Scholastic)

O. - Is God immutable?

S. – Yes

O. – Is God pure simplicity (actus purus)?

S. – Yes

O. - Is God’s pure simplicity meant to protect the immutability of God?

S. – Yes

O. - If God is pure simplicity without any complexity, then would you say there is no potentiality in God?

S. – Yes

O. – If there is no potentiality in God, then the divine essence, existence, and energy are identical?

S. – Yes

O. – If the divine essence, existence, and energy are identical, then is God only in a full state of activity (energy)?

S. – Yes

O. – Then would you agree that if God is in a fully activated state, He is so by necessity?

S. – Yes

O. – And there is no distinction between the action and power of God from his essence?

S. – No, God is pure energy.

O. – Do you distinguish the energies of God from the acts of God?

S. – No, they are both the same created works of God.

At the very core of its doctrine, Orthodox theology differs from Scholastic theology. The Greek Fathers clearly taught that God is not actus purus but possesses many energies and powers (potentialities) which are utterly united, neither separating nor confounding with one another within the incorruptible, inconceivable and utterly simple essence of the one triadic divinity. The immutability of God has no need of being protected by the actus purus. There is no need for the actus purus at all. Rather, it is protected by the incomprehensible and incommunicable essence of God.

Aquinas renders the divine energy into the divine essence as a necessity. The Orthodox Church would consider it blasphemous that God must act out of necessity, for God remains within His essence and within the three hypostaseis. God is not Being regulated by His energy but He Himself regulates His energy. God is not pure energy but the energizer.

The Church Fathers teach that God is the energizer, that energy is the uncreated activity of God, and the accomplished work (or creature) is the act of God. The West, however, fails to distinguish the energy of God from the acts (works) of God. The energy of God is best rendered as activity rather than act. The finished act indeed is created, but the activity itself is uncreated. This activity is also known as grace, and if it is uncreated then it is divine.

To infer created grace (energy) in God is a heresy which logically leads to complete atheism and/or Greek mythology. According to the Church Fathers, created energy always indicates a created nature; and uncreated energy always indicates uncreated essence.