Was DeRegnon Debunked?

If you read enough of modern, intra-community Trinitarian (no pun intended) debates, you can anticipate a lot of moves.  One particular line of thinking, advanced by de Regnon a century ago, is that the West begins from the impersonal divine essence and then reasons to the three Persons, while the East begins with the Persons and then reasons to the essence.

A number of modern scholars have claimed to debunk that thesis, though.  They say that 1) even Eastern theologians began from the unity of the divine essence and 2) such a view is impossible to prove anyway.

My thoughts:  I wonder how many people have actually read de Regnon.  Even if his work has been translated from the French to English, I doubt it’s still in print.  I think people are quoting tertiary sources in saying de Regnon is debunked.

Is it true?  Do Westerners start from the divine essence and Easterners from the persons?  Well, kind of.  On one hand, and I speak as an Easterner, there is no problem starting from the unity of the divine essence, per se.  Papadakis does precisely that (Crisis in Byzantium).   Since we hold to equal ultimacy of essence and persons, it is not a problem to start from either.  That being said, the question is not where one begins one’s theological method, but to the primacy of it.  For example, St John of Damascus can talk about the unity of the divine essence (is there an Orthodox theologian who actually disagrees with that?), and note one power, one energy, one will (again, standard Christology), and from that one may not conclude that Damascene is a Thomist after all.

There is a difference in method in starting from the essence and then speaking about the persons, against reasoning from the essence to the persons, the former qualifying the latter.  That is what Lossky et al are saying.

Enough with all of that.  At the end of the day the West does prioritize the essence and it wasn’t de Regnon who came up with that.  St Augustine does precisely that in De Trinitate.  Has anyone read Western takes on St Augustine?  These essays are often very “essency.”  I really don’t know what to say at this point.  These guys in some way do give primacy to the essence.

And to sort of prove my point, look at the Carolignian Shield.

 

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