Analytic Outline, Balthasar’s Cosmic Liturgy

This isn’t an outline of the whole book–only the first half.  That is where Balthasar’s discussion on Person and Nature is.  I first read this book in 2010 when I was new to Maximus the Confessor.  Those were heady days. Maximus_Confessor

  1. the Free mind
    1. Opening up tradition: Maximus undercut Origenism by interpreting Gregory of Nazianzus in Origenist language (35).
    2. Between Emperor and Pope: tore the Greek tradition away from the destructive claws of the Empire.  
  1. Between East and West
    1. Religion and revelation
        1. Asiatic view of One and Many; seeking the Absolute which exists in a state of formlessness
        2. Biblical religion: man and God stand in confrontation, not emanation and decline.
      1. Polarities and Synthesis
        1. Maximus held to the Western view of phusis and logos, which grounds the existence of things.  Western thought also added “personal categories.”
        2. He held to the Eastern religious passion.
      2. Three bodies of material to be synthesized
        1. Origen: subordination is metaphysical; problem for Christology.  Falling away from spirits in a collective unity of God; apakatastis.
        2. Evagrius: silence sensible images and conceptual thought; eliminate form from realm of the spirit.
        3. Alexandrian Christology:
    2. Scholasticism and Mysticism
  2. The synthesis
  3. Divine Unknowing
    1. Lack of knowledge:
    2. The light of God enfolds one beyond the distinction of subject and object (94).
  4. Ideas in God
    1. “The idea of a thing is its truth” (Maximus PG 91, 1085AB).
    2. God’s ideas are not identical with his essence (otherwise I, as an idea of God, would be infinite) nor are they identical with the existence of created entities (HuvB, 118).
    3. Epistemology
      1. Maximus reworks some of Ps. Dionysius’ concepts.  When we approach an idea, or rather, when an idea comes across our consciousness, we first have a general impression of reality (pragma) and gradually grow clearer unity reaches the full knowledge of the individual object.  
      2. “What flashes upon us ‘in an undivided way’ (ameristos) in the first encounter () is not some empty general concept of being–a contradiction in terms–but a revelation concerning the Monad (), the unity of that being that truly is one: a logos that instructs the thinking mind that God and the world are undivided and so makes possible all thought of things different from God (123, see PG 91, 1260D).  
  5. Ideas in the World: A Critique of Origenism
    1. Maximus filtered Origenist spirituality and removed its fangs.
    2. Origen: there once existed an original Henad of beings.  It is a metaphysics of “peira,” of painful necessity (129).

Syntheses of the Cosmos

  1. Being and Movement
    1. The Age.  Finite being is characterized by spatial intervals (diastema), and thereby motion.  
      “To have a beginning, middle, and end is characteristic of things extended in time. One would also be right in adding to this ‘things caught p in the age (aiown).’ For time, whose motion can be measured, is limited by number; the age, however, whose existence is expressed by the category of ‘when,’ also undergoes extension (diastasis), in that its being has a beginning.  But if time and the age are not without beginning, then surely neither ar ethe things that are involved in them” (Centuries on Knowledge, 1.5).
    2. In short, for Origen motion is connected with the fall, while for Maximus it was an ontological expression of created existence (HuvB 141).
    3. Extension:
    4. The definition of every nature is given with the concept of its essential activity (energeia, Ambigua PG 91, 1057B).
      1. The essence of a thing is only truly indicated through the potential for activity that is constitutive of its nature.
      2. A nature is nothing else than organized motion….It is a capacity or plan, a field or system of motion (HuvB 146).
    5. Nature and the Supernatural:
  2. Generality and Particularity
    1. Being in Motion.
    2. The motion of a being is its way of establishing itself as a particular, existent thing (155).
      1. The whole structure of existent things, which are not God, is polar (duas). It is a dynamic relationship between the unity of individuality and the unity of generality (157).
    3. Essence in motion. The essence of all created things is motion–in the manner of expansion (diastole) and contraction (systole).
    4. Balance of contrary motions.

Christ the Synthesis

  1. Synthesis, not confusion, is the first structural principle of all created being (207).
    1. There is no contradiction between divine and finite life.
    2. We do not look for a synthesis on the level of nature and describe it as a synthesis of natural powers (Nestorius) or a natural union (Eutyches).
  2. The terminology
    1. Aristotle: ousia is the highest and most comprehensie of being (216).
      1. The Cappadocians used this as “universal concept
      2. And because Maximus didn’t want to identify God with a universal concept, he places God outside being (Ambigua PG 91, 1036B).
    2. Maximus at times wants to distinguish ousia from this-ousia.
    3. Being (einai). The existential aspect of Being (HuvB 218).
      1. Christ united in his own person “two distinct intelligible structures of being” (logoi tou einai) of his parts.”
    4. Hypokeimenon.  Underlying subject.  Maximus seldom uses this. It denotes the concrete, existent bearer of qualities that determine whata thing is.
      1. It does not mean the same thing as hypostasis. It is more of a point of reference for logical predicates than an existential reality.
    5. Hyparxis. Existence. Used to mean the Being of the Persons of God (tropos tes huparxeos; Cappadocians used this, as did Karl Barth).
    6. Hypostasis. Leontius refined it to mean “being-for-oneself.”  It is what distinguishes a concrete being from others of the same genus (HuvB 223). It is the ontological subject of the ascription of an essence, not the consciousness of such a subject.  
      1. It isn’t merely the contraction (systole) of universal being; it also suggests the “having” of such a being. When the Cappadocian Fathers defined hypostasis as the manner in which each person has his origin, it was to show the reality his having the Godhead.
      2. A nature is the hypostasis’s property (224).
      3. Maximus even suggests that nature is what is according to the image, whereas hypostasis is according to the likeness.  No doubt the Hebrew doesn’t sustain such a reading, but it is interesting that a Greek father would suggest it.
    7. Synthesis
      1. Union (henosis).
      2. Synthetic person.  
    8. Christology of essence.  The act of being is distinct from the actual being of Christ’s human nature. The act of being comes from the divine person, which is why the human nature of Christ isn’t a human person.
  3. Healing as Preservation
    1. The exchange of properties

Terminology:

First Substance (Aristotle): the irreducibleness of a thing.  It has an inner field of meaning and power defined in terms of potency (49).  

A Patristics Primer

I spent the past few days on Facebook debating soon-to-be-Socinians in the CBMW on why you shouldn’t tinker with the Trinity.  Some friends have asked me for a primer on basic Patristics texts.  This is more or less an impossible request but I can start to lay the groundwork.  If you devote at least a good six months to working through these issues, you will begin to see why tinkering with the Trinity must end badly.

Primary Sources

Hilary of Poitiers, “De Synodis.”  St Hilary explains how the early Fathers had to break the back of certain categories before they became acceptable.

Athanasius.  Contra Arianos.  This work is very difficult to read but it is his best work.

Gregory of Nazianzus.  On God and Christ: Five Theological Orations.  The best thing ever written on Trinitarianism.

Gregory of Nyssa.  “Great Catechism” and “On Not Three Gods.”  Advances the argument that the Trinity is one mind, will, power, and energy of operation.  This is why Gospel Coalition types won’t engage me when I ask them how many minds are in the Trinity.

Basil.  On The Holy Spirit.

Pseudo-Dionysius.  The Divine Names.

Basic Trinitarianism

Letham, Robert.  The Holy Trinity.  Letham has a number of blind-spots but he covers the material better than any.

Lacugna, Catherine.  God for Us.  She is a liberal Jesuit and that comes out in her writing, but she does a fine job on the Cappadocians.

Torrance, Thomas.  The Trinitarian Faith and One Being: Three persons.  The two best texts by a modern on the Trinity.  Torrance has few equals.  And no, his so-called “neo-orthodoxy” does not come out in this.

Intermediate Issues

McGuckin, John.  Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy.  Excellent survey of Cyril’s thought and he makes the argument that Chalcedon, far from being a Western council, specifically made Cyril the standard for Christology.

———–.  St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography.  Just fun.

Beeley, Christopher.  The Unity of Christ and In Your Light We See Light.

Advanced Issues

Barnes, Michel.  The Power of God.  Explores Gregory of Nyssa’s use of “dynamis” in Christology.

Farrell, Joseph.  God, History, and Dialectic.  Be careful but some good analysis.

Photios.  Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps the Filioque can be salvaged, but not by positing the Father-Son as a single cause.

Jenson, Robert.  Systematic Theology, vol. 1.

Philosophical Foundations.

Perl, Eric.  Theophany: Dionysius’s Philosophy.

Gould and Davis (eds).  Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of JP Moreland.   Some outstanding essays on what it means for universals to be exemplified.

Maximus the Confessor.  The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ.

Moreland, J. P. Universals.

Cooper, John. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting.

Morris, Thomas.  The Logic of God Incarnate.  This is tough and I am not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, but it is an important study nonetheless.

Plantinga, Alvin.  Does God have a Nature?  Yeah, yeah, classical theism and all.  Plantinga’s arguments can’t simply be brushed aside.

Call him not Pseudo-Dionysius

In terms of the developing Christian-Platonic tradition, this book is Plato at his near-finest. It marks a watershed in Christian reflection and will dominate Christian metaphysics for the next thousand years. In terms of authorship, it is certainly not Paul’s traveling companion, given that he quotes Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote after the turn of the century. Further, his discussion of monasticism reflects a reality that wouldn’t have been established until much later.

pseudo dionysius

Argument of book: whatever transcends being must transcend knowledge (593A).

The whole is reflected in the part: “Within its total unity it contains part and whole, and it transcends these too and is antecedent to them” (648C). Every part of the universe reflects God’s oneness. He is replicated and differentiated in the energies (is this the same as saying the Logos is replicated in the logoi?).

The Good shows forth the processions of God (680B). If we say the processions “go out” from God, we are speaking analogically, for the Trinity isn’t in a place, per se. The Good isn’t a being but excess of being. The Good returns (reditus) all things to itself (700A). All things desire it.

The source of every duality is a monad (721D). Every number preexists in the monad (821A). Every number is differentiated as it goes forth from the Monad. Every being derives from the Pre-existent. Being precedes the entities which participate in it. God is not a facet of being, but being is a facet of him (824A). The exemplars of everything pre-exist as a transcendent unity within God.

Mystical Theology

A negation is not simply the opposite of an affirmation, but that which is prior to affirmation (1000B).

Hierarchy = sacred order, activity or understanding (164D). Because the divine realities are invisible, they must be communicated and mediated through symbols.

Conclusion:

As is usually the case with Platonic and Neo-Platonic literature, it is often soaring in terms of beauty. Ps. Dionysius’s discussion of the priest-as-hierarch needs to be seen as hyperbole. Few people are at that level of Being.

Further, his discussion of monks, not only reflecting situation that wouldn’t have arisen some centuries later than 70 AD, places the monk at the highest level of being.  But when you read Paul’s comments on the equality of believers and table fellowship, it’s hard to square the two.