Notes on Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology (volume 1), part 1

Great comments on the Vincentian Canon.

Decent section on the identity of God.  Gives the standard arguments against liberal Protestantism (See Feuerbach) and shows Barth’s own limitations.  Pannenberg has since been surpassed by his student Robert Jenson on the identity of God (i.e., the Guy that got us out of Egypt and raised Jesus from the dead).

Natural theology:  does a good job in carrying the discussion back to pre-Christ Roman theorists, all of which highlights the various strands of natural theology.  I have no problem with a natural theology of sorts, provided we understand that the term is by no means universally understood as meaning the same thing (of course, which sort of defeats the purpose of modern natural theologies).  Pannenberg points out that older divines, both Protestant and Catholic, saw natural theology as meaning “in accord with the nature of God” and the God-world relation (81).  Now it means in accord with the nature of the world.

Natural knowledge of God:  He is not entirely clear.  WP hovers around Romans 1:20 and suggests something like “infinity” as the natural knowledge of God.  He develops this thought more in Metaphysik und Gottesgedank.

Revelation:  WP tries to steer between the Barthian claim that God reveals himself as revelation and other claims. Eventually settles on the claim that revelation is the announcement and event of the future in the first coming of Jesus.  I have no problem with that–I think there is some truth to it; I just don’t see how that is more plausible than some of the views WP criticizes as “implausible.”

The God of Jesus and the Trinity:  The Spirit is the presence of mediation between the Kyrios and God the Father.  WP notes the very close similarity (yet not identity) of pneuma and Kyrios (drawing heavily on 1 Cor. 15:45 and 2 Cor. 3:17):

The Kyrios is the risen and exalted Jesus whose return the community awaits.  The Spirit is the form and power of his presence and of the relation of believers to him (I: 269)

Interestingly, WP notes that early Christian reflection on the Trinity (though they didn’t call it that) was not dissimilar from late Jewish reflection on God’s transcendence and immanence (277).

Pace the Cappadocians:

Basil distinguished between the fact that the deity is without oriign and the fact that the Father is unbegotten in distinction from the Son, who is begotten, but he did not go so far as Athanasius, who applied the relational conditioning of personal distinction, as mutual conditioning, to the Father as well, so that the Father can be thought of as unbegotten only in relation to the Son.  The idea of the Father as the source and origin of deity  so fused the the person of the Father and the substance of the Godhead that the divine substance is originally proper to the Father alone, being recieved from him by the Son and Spirit.  In distinction from Athanasius this means a relapse into subordinationism, since the idea of mutual defining of the distinctiveness of the persons does not lead to the thought of an equally mutual ontological constitution, of which it can be said that strictly they are constitutive only for the personhood of the Son and the Spirit if the Father is the source and origin of deity (280).

Distinction and Unity of the Persons:  The Son is posited as a self-distinction from the Father (310-311).  Fine, but I don’t see how this is different from Athanasius.  And then, one wonders how stable is Athanasius’s argument.

On another note, WP advances the argument that the self-distinction of the Son is not merely in his being begotten, but in his “handing over the kingdom to the Father.”  This doesn’t solve all of the problems but it is a superior move in that it roots the Trinitarian movement in eschatology.

WP raises a point I’ve always wondered:  can we honestly speak of mutual self-distinction  of the three persons if no distinction is made between subject and object in God (320 n. 184)?

“The monarchy of the Father is not the presupposition but the result of the common operations” (325).

Athanasius: Coherence of his Thought

Anatolios, Khaled. Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought. (Routledge Early Church Monographs), 2004.

Broader thesis: “My position is that Athanasius’s theological vision is Irenaean” (Anatolios 4; loc. 126). The distance and (convergence) between God and man: “The theme of the immediate presence of God to creation implies an anthropology that conceives human being in terms of receptivity to this presence of God (23; loc. 477). Further, “to say that creatures are “external” to God means in fact that they participate in God” (107; loc. 2230) This is interesting because his gloss of Irenaeus begins to sound a lot like the Sophiological project of Sergei Bulgakov.

On various Platonisms: He notes on a Scriptural view “there arises no need to set up a kind of buffer zone of mediation to protect divine transcendence” (15; loc. 314). This is a great statement that will eventually run counter to later Ps. Dionysian tendencies to see a hierarchy of mediation. “Athanasius wants to reiterate that the original purpose of creation included the overcoming, from the divine side, of the ontological chasm that separates God and creatures” (42; loc. 880). See Michael Horton’s essays on overcoming estrangement; foreign to a covenant ontology. Anatolios is careful to say that Athanasius doesn’t hold to the neo-Platonic chain of being ontology, otherwise he couldn’t maintain the thesis of continuity between Irenaeus and Athanasius. But on the other hand, Ath. certainly comes close: “For immediately after establishing that the Son’s participation of the Father constitutes an identity of essence, he goes on to establish a kind of chain of participation in which our participation of the Son amounts to a participation of the Father” (111; loc. 2318)

Indeed, while Athanasius rightly rejects the “chain of being” ontology explicitly, he seems to default back to some form of it at times. Anatolios notes, “Thus while it is intrinsic to the definition of created nature to relapse into the nothingness whence it came….” (167; loc. 3463). This is fully in line with the Eastern view’s seeing the problem as ontological, not ethical. Our problem on this gloss is finitude and the perpetual slide into non-being.

The Logos and the Body

Anatolios will take his thesis and apply it to the inter-relation of the Logos and the body. Broadly speaking, and Anatolios does not ultimately challenges this, the Alexandrian tradition saw the Logos as instrumentalizing the human nature. This is beyond dispute. (See Bruce McCormack’s various essays for a lucid discussion). Anatolios, however, cautions interpreters against interpreting this thesis in too literal and crude a fashion, pace Grillmeier. Rather, Anatolios argues that we should see such instrumentalization in an “active-passive” paradigm. Perhaps he is correct but I don’t see how this is really any different materially than the other theses.

Later on in the monograph, though, Anatolios does admit that “the interaction of passibility and impassibility in Christ is conceived not so much in terms of feeling and non-feeling, but of activity and passivity” (157; loc. 3292). If that’s true, and I think it is, then it is hard to see the material difference between his view and other interpreters’ (Grillmeier, Hanson).

Extra-calvinisticum: “in relation to both the world and the body, the Word is both in all and outside all…the Word is outside the cosmos and his human body insofar as his relation to it, while quite intrinsic, is one of activity, not passivity” (80; loc. 1684ff).

Logos as Subject

Anatolios suggests that we see the relation of Word to “body” as one of a grammatical subject rather than an organic model. In a move that sounds almost word-for-word in line with the Westminster Confession of Faith, Anatolios notes that the “characteristics of both humanity and divinity, in Christ, are predicated of a single grammatical subject” (81; loc. 1708). He is not saying (although perhaps not ultimately denying, either) that the characteristics of one nature are predicated to the other nature.

I don’t think that Anatolios fully solves all the problems, and his quite lucid discussion merely highlights a tension in Christologies that operate off of classical metaphysics. On one hand he wants to show that the Word really did take on human suffering as “his own,” even as “His body’s own,” but does this really advance the discussion? There is still a “0” acting as a metaphysical placeholder between the two natures. I am not faulting either Anatolios of Athanasius for that. Impassibility must be maintained, but Anatolios’s reading isn’t as novel as he makes it to be. If he says suffering is “predicated” to the Word (147; loc 3074, and I agree), then one must ask if since there is a unity between the two natures, how does this “perturbation” not flow to the divine nature? To be fair, this wasn’t Athanasius’ main point so one can’t fault him too hard for not really answering it. However, it would be one of the main points in later Alexandrian and Cyrillene debates and it fully impacts the analogy of a fire and iron (in fact, it shows the analogy to be quite flawed).

Anatolios expands on this meaning by saying that the human attributes are “transformed” by the Word (151; loc. 3162). That’s fully in line with later Eastern theology but it does seem to jeopardize the humanity of Christ.

Athanasius and Barth

It is popular among recent interpreters of Athanasius to compare him favorably as the “proto-Barth” (pace Williams). Anatolios puts a stop to this, but he is not critiquing Barth on the lines where Reformed thinkers would. Anatolios notes that Athanasius held to a form of the analogia entis (211; loc. 4409). Barth did not; indeed, he called it an invention of the Antichrist. Anatolios then proceeds to give a fairly accurate exposition of Barth’s theology in contrast with Athanasius. Problematically, we cannot follow Athanasius on this particular point. Whatever Barth’s faults may be, he emphasized preaching, proclamation, and salvation as an “extra-nos” announcement. On Barth’s (and the Protestant’s) gloss, good news is first of all a proclamation. It is in fact, news. For Athanasius (and the later Orthodox) it is something God begins to do in us. True, Anatolios does affirm that God alone bridges the gap between created and Creator, but he doesn’t do it by a proclamation, but by a process of transformation.

Analysis and Conclusion

As a monograph of Athanasius, this is superb. It is well-written and interacts with the best scholarship. I do not think Anatolios’s reading of Athanasius, for whatever merits it may have, is really all that different from Hanson’s and Grillmeier’s. True, he does correct some of the cruder readings, but the fundamental point remains the same: Athanasius saw the Logos as instrumentalizing the human nature. He had to if he wanted to maintain deification soteriology. Further, this places a strain on just how much “activity” Athanasius could logically place on the human side (and eventually this paradigm would “snap” at the 6th Ecumenical Council). For he had earlier written, “The power of free choice (he proairesis) thus conditions the active-passive paradigm model, insofar as it is meant to lead humanity into an active clinging to the prior beneficent activity of the Word” (61; loc. 1287). This may very well be so, but one wonders how it could have been with regard to Christ’s human nature.

What I did learn from the Anchorites


Patristics:  While the idea of the patrum consensus is demonstrably false, studying Patristics is extremely valuable.   The Orthodox guys loved to talk about acquiring the mind of the Fathers.  It sounds noble but it is hard to pin down. Comparing the chiliasm of Irenaeus with the vague idealism of SCOBA Orthodoxy with the manly and rugged Russian apocalypticism of the Jordanville school will show that there is no unified consensus, at least with regard to eschatology. Still, I liked the idea at the time.  At the time (Fall, 2009) was running a sale on Schaff’s church fathers series.  With each volume costing around $4, I bought up as many as I could.  I immediately devoured Cyril of Jerusalem and Gregory of Nazianzus.   Cyril isn’t particularly deep, but he is systematic.   Gregory is deep but often at the expense of clarity (and Bulgakov is the only one who understood him on the monarchia!).
I then moved on to Athanasius, Basil, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa.  Each has his important points, but no one was entirely adequate.  Basil framed the knowledge of God on agnosticism.  He also said non-Orthodox were not heretics (yeah, deal with that, you rad trads! (NPNF Series 2, 8:223-228.   Basil completely destroys the exclusivism of the convertskii.  And John McGuckin also agrees with me.  He calls your view inhumane. Which it is.   I remember reading a rather rabid convertskii gloat on how my Huguenot ancestors were in hell for busting relics, so-called (never mind King Josiah did the same thing).  Athanasius and Hilary taught the Filioque.  Gregory taught universalism (and David Bentley Hart’s exposition of Gregory on this point is spot-on).   Maximus the Confessor suggested that the Christian faith was a synthesis of paganism (cf Henri Cardinal de Lubac’s defense of Maximus on that point, Catholicism:  Christ and the Common Destiny of Man).  He also suggested that there was no distinction of sex and gender before the Fall. Semper ubique, anyone?
Still, if you want to learn the basics of person, nature, Triadology, and Christology, you have to go to the Fathers for counsel.  Good luck getting a definition of what a person or nature is, though!
Avoiding the Worst of Fundamentalism:   When I was at Reformed Seminary and Louisiana College I became slightly enamored of the Vision Forum catalogue.  When I began reading the EO guys I realized I had no use for these fundamentalists.  Perhaps I rejected them for the wrong reasons, but reject them I did.   I also saw that the hyper-Patriarchal prairie muffin model, whether right or wrong, was simply unworkable in a modern, technological society.  And it really can’t explain the prophetess Deborah.  Therefore, when the recent sex scandal came out, I wasn’t affiliated with the movement at all.
Skeptical of political ideologies:  Take note of many convertskii and see if they become attached to the idea of Mother Russia.  It’s an enchanting narrative. The culture is beautiful.  Further, when you compare Vladimir Putin with Barack Obama, you can’t help but become a partial Russophile. One is a patriot who stands for his people and his country’s values.  The other is an Indonesian Islamist who openly campaigned on the destruction of the middle class, America, the white race, and the marginalization of Christianity.   It’s almost an unfair comparison.
Apropos of the above point, many of the anti-NOW Russophiles pointed out many diabolical nexuses within the American system.  (By the way, every conspiracy theory I’ve held to over the past five years has come true).  One of the end results is a healthy skepticism towards political idolatry during a time of America’s worst politics.  Of course, in line with the Russian narrative, convertskii need to explain the connection between the hyper-canonization of hundreds of Russian saints in the 1500s with the oppression of Ukrainians by these same saints.


Church Fathers on the Filioque

At the so-called Orthodox Bridge, they are discussing the (de)merits of the Filioque clause.   Where do I stand on it?  I agree with the soteriological truth behind what the filioque is getting at.  I fully admit that Protestant defenses of it have been woefully lacking (and I suspect that not a few Reformed systematics don’t even understand it, as Wayne Grudem nearly concedes).  When I used to be a critic of the Filioque, the one point that troubled me is that it didn’t seem like Augustine and Rome invented it.  In fact, I saw a number of church fathers, even some Eastern ones, espouse the Filioque.

We need to be clear on what we aren’t saying.  For the sake of argument I will grant that phrases “through the Son” do not necessarily teach double-origination.  That said, though, I don’t think anyone at OB truly understood Bulgakov‘s critique. Sure, he was a Hegelian and probably a Gnostic, but that doesn’t change the logical problems he raised (there goes that pesky logic thing again).  So I will be using evidence that looks like double-origination.

Hilary of Poitiers

“Concerning the Holy Spirit . . . it is not necessary to speak of him who must be acknowledged, who is from the Father and the Son, his sources” (The Trinity 2:29 [A.D. 357]).

Didymus the Blind

“As we have understood discussions . . . about the incorporeal natures, so too it is now to be recognized that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son that which he was of his own nature. . . . So too the Son is said to receive from the Father the very things by which he subsists. For neither has the Son anything else except those things given him by the Father, nor has the Holy Spirit any other substance than that given him by the Son” (The Holy Spirit 37 [A.D. 362]).

Epiphanius of Salamis

“The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son” (The Man Well-Anchored 75 [A.D. 374]).

Ambrose of Milan

“The Holy Spirit, when he proceeds from the Father and the Son, does not separate himself from the Father and does not separate himself from the Son” (The Holy Spirit 1:2:120 [A.D. 381]).

Cyril of Alexandria

“Since the Holy Spirit when he is in us effects our being conformed to God, and he actually proceeds from the Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that he is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it” (Treasury of the Holy Trinity, thesis 34 [A.D. 424]).

Athanasius (and this is the most damaging piece of evidence.  Athanasius specifically identifies the Son as the Source of the Holy Spirit.  One cannot simply gloss it as “the Son’s temporal sending of the Spirit.” Besides begging the question, Athanasius gives no indication of speaking temporally and he precisely uses the language of origination).

PG 26:1000A]: “David sings in the psalm [35:10], saying: ‘For with You is the font of Life;’because jointly with the Father the Son is indeed the source of the Holy Spirit.”

Addendum on Cyril

I had used a quote by Cyril at OB.   The initial response from OB was anger.  One priest then pointed out that the Schaff translation has Cyril speaking of mission.  That could be so, but it’s hard to gloss all of these quotes as missional.

East: Patriarch St. Cyril I of Alexandria (Doctor of the Incarnation) 6/27
34. St. Gregory Palamas (Second Sunday of Great Lent) says that the energies of the Holy Spirit, not the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit, proceed from the Father through the Son; this is how he explains the teaching of St. Cyril of Alexandria.{1} But in many places, the great St. Cyril of Alexandria, who distinguished between the divine essence and the divine energy,{2} affirms the distinctively Catholic (Western–BH) teaching on the procession of the Holy Spirit, rather than just an energetic procession, meaning that the Palamite interpretation is inadequate. He accurately restricts εκπορευσθαι to the relation of origin of the Holy Spirit to the Father, the sole αἰτία, i.e., ἀρχὴ-ἄναρχος.

35. In 427 the holy Doctor of the Incarnation says in Commentary on the Prophet Joel 35 [PG 71:377D],

For, in that the Son is God, and from God according to nature (for He has had His birth from God the Father), the Spirit is both proper to Him and in Him and from Him, just as, to be sure, the same thing is understood to hold true in the case of God the Father Himself.

In 429 St. Cyril says in Thesaurus 34 [PG 75:576B], “Thus, Paul knows no difference of nature between the Son and the Holy Spirit, but because the Spirit exists from Him and in Him by nature, He calls Him by the name of Lordship.”

36. In the same part of the same work [PG 75:600D], St. Cyril says, “Therefore, when Christ lays down the law, He lays it down that His Spirit naturally exists in Him and from Him.”

37. Lest anyone think that, from the Son’s sending of the Spirit in the economy, we cannot infer the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, the holy patriarch says in On the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten [PG 75:1241A], “Freeing from sin the one who adheres to Him, He anoints him, again, with His own Spirit, infusing Him Himself (is this the language of origination or sending? Indeed), since He is the Word from God the Father, and from His own nature He causes Him to fountain upon us.” Since the Son sends the Holy Spirit [Jn 15:26], He must have some authority over the Holy Spirit. But it cannot be authority of dominion (e.g., King St. Vladimir I the Great rules Russia), superiority (e.g., John is holier than Jack), or seniority (e.g., a general is ranked higher than a colonel). Therefore the authority must be one of origin, so that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. This is how St. Thomas Aquinas argues in Summa Contra Gentiles.

38. He also expresses the complementarity and equivalence of the Latin and Greek formulae when he says [On Worship and Adoration in Spirit and Truth 1 in PG 68:148A],

The Spirit is assuredly in no way changeable; or even if some think Him to be so infirm as to change, the disgrace will be traced back to the divine nature itself, if in fact the Spirit is from God the Father and, for that matter, from the Son, being poured forth substantially from both, that is to say, from the Father through the Son.

Did Athanasius teach human passivity?

One of the repeated and more annoying complaints against Reformed theology is that we teach the human nature (primarily, the will) is completely passive in salvation.   That has been demonstrated to be false on a number of occasions.  To repeat the charge is simply willful ignorance.  It does raise some problematic concerns for the Anchorites on the subject both of human nature and the patrum consensus.  Athanasius, like Apollinarius and Cyril, held to a divinization soteriology.  As both Sergii Bulgakov and Bruce McCormack make clear, divinization soteriologies demand seeing the human nature of Christ as an instrument (in short:  Christ uses the human nature to divinize it).   Athanasius scholar Khaled Anatolios makes this repeatedly clear (Coherence, p.71ff).

Instruments by their very definition are passive.  There is no such thing as an active instrument (contra McGuckin who sees Cyrillian Christology as an “omnipotent instrument”).   If the human nature is an instrument, and will is a faculty of nature, then how can the will be active?  Because Reformed theology does not demand an instrumentalization thesis, we are not obligated to view the human nature as a passive recipient.  At least in the mode of conversion we posit that the human will is active.

This raises a deeper problem for the patrum consensus:  Here and elsewhere Athanasius is saying things that sound a lot like what Anchorites charge Reformed theology with teaching.   Of course, one father doesn’t equal the patrum consensus. I grant that. But if any father should be representative on Christology, then surely it is Athanasius!

Christology and the Instrumentalization Thesis

Chalcedon followed St Cyril in saying that the acting subject was the divine Logos, the Logos asarkos.  This was a clear rejection of Nestorius’ two-sons Christology and an admitted throwback to Apollinaris. This had the effect of viewing the human nature of Christ instrumentally (for a discussion of organon and its uses in Christology, see Anatolios, 71)..  The human nature on this model cannot act of its own. It has no acting principle.  Just how the Logos acts upon the human nature instrumentally is less clear, but the main point is already established.  Further, as Anchoretic apologists are wont to point out:  all of these fathers interpreted the union in divinization models.   I think they are correct with that reading, though they are largely unaware of the problems it entails.

Does this prove the death knell to Reformed Protestantism?  It is true that the Chalcedonian tradition operated off of divinization models.   Further, a strict divinization soteriology is at odds with forensic justification.  How can Protestantism be salvaged?  Protestants would be wise to avoid attaching themselves blindly to creeds.  We love to spout “sola scriptura” but few of us really know how that helps us.  I will try to show.  Before someone accuses me of rejecting the creed, I accept what Chalcedon coherently delivers: Christ had a two-ness element and he did represent humanity fully.  I reject the divinization presuppositions behind this model and will show how these presuppositions are in tension one with another.

1. Is the acting subject really the Logos asarkos or is it the God-man?  Formally, Cyrillians say the former, but then when we talk about the communication of attributes, we notice a subtle shift to the latter, and the reason is obvious:  any communication of human attributes to the Logos Asarkos destroys impassibility; therefore, the communicatio is simply the transfer of some divine attributes to the human side of the God-human Jesus.  But problems remain:  what right do they  have to shift terms midway in the debate?

2.  Apropos of (1), did God die on the cross? Anchorites love to make fun of RC Sproul Jr on this one, and true, I don’t think he really understands the Patristic issues in the debate, but any answer to this question will be a bad answer–at least while we are still on this plane of presuppositions.  On their gloss, Did God-the-Logos-Asarkos experience death on the cross? If so, how do you maintain your doctrine of impassibility?  Or did God-the-divine-human die on the cross, with only the human nature experiencing death? If the latter, can we really say that God died?  If not, how are you different from Sproul?  Further, how is this different from the charges that Reformed soteriology is Nestorian?  On both glosses, something is affirmed as true which is not true of the taxonomy.

3.  How does the Logos act instrumentally upon the human nature of Christ?   Anatolios attacks Grillmeyer’s contention that the Logos acts mechanistically, and perhaps Grillmeyer’s phrasing is a bit crude, but it’s hard to see any other alternative.  If the human nature of Christ does not have a self-determining principle, which it mustn’t if we are to avoid Nestorianism, and the only acting principle is the Logos asarkos, making the human body the instrument (organon, pace Athanasius et al), then how are we to avoid Grillmeyer’s conclusion:  the Logos acts mechanistically upon the human nature/body?

4.  If (3) then we have precisely the thesis that they attack Calvinists of.

5.  If (4), how is the 6th Ecumenical Council (Dyotheletism) not Nestorian?  Remember, in order to avoid Nestorianism, the Cyrillenes insisted that the human nature of Christ had no self-activating principle.  By the time of the 6th Council, however, we are moving closer to that position.  If the human nature has a will that always acts in synergy with the divine will, how is this not a self-activating principle?

6.  Further reflections on (5): modern understandings of the human person, though they may not always be biblical,  are the way we use the term person today.  Such a use, however, appears to posit a principle of emotional maturation and self-activation in that what it means to be human.  Further, the Jesus in the New Testament appears as a guy who underwent emotional maturation (grow in the knowledge of God, etc) and acted in the power of the Holy Spirit (of course, all the while remaining of one nature with the Father).


Is there a way out?  I think so, and I think we can still maintain the same truths that Chalcedon wants to.   In a future post I hope to reconstruct the doctrine of the Logos asarkos as the Logos incarnandus.  In any case, if any Calvinist is being attacked by Anchorites on these points, then hopefully this post will provide a handy cheat sheet.

Prima facie problems with Orthodox claims


Note several things:  I am challenging Orthodox claims, not the lives of saints and monks, nor the theology passed down in the Councils.  Further, I still remain sympathetic to much in Orthodoxy.  However, when I was communicating these Orthodox claims to other Protestatnts, I was met with the following responses.  Dealing with these responses successfully will better help Orthodox Apologists in the Western world.  I am doing you a favor.  Please allow me to be very clear:  I really like you guys.  Some Orthodox thinkers like Fr Seraphim Rose and Fr Raphael Johnson have been so influential I really can’t put it into words.  I am doing this so that your own presentation of the faith will be so much sharper.  This is not a combative debate.

And when I use the term “convertskii,” I am doing it in good fun.  An orthodox convert friend of mine coined that term.

1.  By the nature of the case, oral tradition is resistant to verification.  One needs a written document to verify that the tradition exists.

2.  Even if we deny the principle of sola Scriptura, yet when explicit appeal is made to Scripture to ground a given dogma, then such an appeal must be exegetically sustainable.

3.  In what sense is the church “objective,” but the Bible is not?  Chrysostom thought it was objective.

4.  Given that no Magisterial promulgation is necessarily perspicuous, any answer anyone gives to the question of “what is the criterion by which perspicuity can be identified?” must have been discovered by some other means. And since knowledge and application of this criterion will be a precondition for even understanding what Magisterial proclamations in fact mean, it turns out that the sort of private judgment about which RCs lament follows from Protestantism really follows from RC. (I realize this more touches on Roman Catholic claims).

5.  to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church begs the question of how we identify the true church. In which church is the Holy Spirit to be found? What are one’s  criteria? Why those criteria?  I suspect that the very positing of the criteria begs even further questions.  Of course, this is true of any tradition.

6.  Appeal is often made to Vincent of Lerins canon. Yet in that same work, building that very argument, Vincent says that the church has always taught the Federal Headship of Adam’s sin (Commonitories, chapter 24).  The reply is, “The Fathers aren’t right on everything.”  Fair enough, by what criteria, then, is Vincent right on the canon and wrong on imputation of Adam’s sin?

6a.  In other words, we are hearing an appeal to the Fathers to help prove tradition.  But to justify the Fathers elsewhere, we appeal to other aspects of tradition.  How is this not circular reasoning?

6b.  Energetic Procession once made the criticism that sola scriptura was faulty because it relied on an appeal to what Scripture said elsewhere to interpret what it says here.   Admittedly, this is circular reasoning.  How is doing it with the Fathers and tradition any better?

7.  By what criteria do we affirm that your miracle stories are true and mine are not?  (And for the record, I affirm the stories to be true).

8.  You laugh at the grammatical-literal method of interpretation of the Bible, yet you employ this same interpretation when you read the fathers.  Why?  Can I employ Chrysostom’s method?

9.  It’s easy to make fun of the so-called 20,000 Protestant denominations, yet is the Orthodox church truly “one?”   Do the “True Orthodox” count as part of the Orthodox world?  Are they in communion with SCOBA, for example?  What about the catacombers?  Yes, ROCOR did reunite with MP, but the fact that ROCOR existed for so long seems to be an argument against the “seamless unity.”

9a.  These True Orthodox guys deny communion with you, saying you “lack grace in the sacraments.”  Here the Protestant inquirer faces an insurmountable difficulty:  both sides claim to be Orthodox.  One side was even formed out of resistance to Masonic and government apostasy (which seems to line up with what St Cyril of Jerusalem said on the end times–the True Orthodox shall fight Satan in his very person; therefore the prima facie claim to the real Orthodox guy goes to the True Orthodox).  Yet both sides make mutually exclusive claims.  Who gets to adjudicate?  Appealing to one side over another begs all sorts of questions.

10.  Which Orthodox churches have condemned Freemasonry and which are in bed with it?  This is important because 33rd degree Freemasons swear an oath to Lucifer.

10a.  If Athanasios is correct and that communing with someone is sharing in that person’s life and doctrine, what are the implications of sharing in the life and doctrine of one who has sworn an intimate oath with Lucifer?

11.   Can I appeal to Gregory the Great of Old Rome on the extent of certain canonical books?  Jnorm responded to me saying that Gregory was responding to Western needs, or something like that.  Fair enough.  My question remains:  I am a Westerner who resonates with Gregory’s liturgy.  Can I quote Gregory on this?  Is his understanding of the scope and limit normative for me, a Western Christian?

12.  I understand that many balk at the Calvinist’s understanding of God’s sovereignty.  I don’t like it either. Ultimately, though, all sides have to deal with the claim:  Is the future certain for God or not?  If it is, how is this not God’s causal determining of the future?  If not, open theism.

13.  Cyril of Alexandria solved many problems.  Did he create more?

14.  Are earlier fathers like the Cappadocians and St Maximus using the term energia/logoi in the same sense as Palamas?  Bradshaw affirms it of Nyssa but denies it of Maximus.  Radde-Galwitz denies it of both.  If they aren’t, does this not represent some form of development?

14a.  As Drake points out, how is God simplicity itself and beyond simplicity?

15.  Did Athanasius affirm the extra-Calvinisticum?

16.  Why does Monachos block my threads inquiring about ecumenism and Freemasonry (okay, you don’t have to answer that question).

17.  Much is made of the person-nature distinction, and the claim that Western models confuse person and nature with regard to Federalism.  Yet the Corporate Person is unavoidably biblical (see also Achan’s sin in Judges; Isaiah 53).

18.  The East rightly critiques Rome’s claims to unity based upon Rome’s faulty doctrine of God, Absolute Divine Simplicity.  This view reduces all reality to “The One.”  Applied to ecclesiology, Rome reduces unity to a visible, singular unity.  Yet often when Orthodox talk about the unity of the Church, they use this exact same argument.

19.  The Orthodox make the claim that God is hyperousia, beyond being.  All of God is beyond being, essence, energies and persons.  I know this is from Plato (Republic, 549 b, I think).  Is it really wise to base your divine ontology off of Plato?  ROCOR condemned Fr Sergii Bulgakov for doing precisely that.  I know that some sharp Orthodox philosophers will deny that their view is Platonic since they deny that God has an opposite.  Maybe so, but Andrew Radde-Galwitz, to whom these very same guys appeal, says that for Gregory of Nyssa every good has an opposite (pp. 206ff.), and these goods are correlative with the divine essence.

20.  I know this next one isn’t true of all, but it is something I have been seeing a lot of:  there seems to be an incipient Manicheanism concerning the use of reason.  When I make logical arguments over at Orthodox Bridge, I am told that there is more to Orthodoxy than just books.  Fair enough.  But why the aversion to propositional reasoning?  Maybe this is also why many Orthodox don’t like Perry’s blog.