The ordo theologiae

by Andrea Elizabeth

The first section of God, History, and Dialectic by Dr. Joseph Farrell is titled,

A. The Eucharistic Liturgy, Apostolic Tradition, and the Context-
Specific Knowledge and Worship of God

It begins with Psalm 138 (Septuagint)/139, the one about not being able to escape God’s presence, even in hell. Dr. Farrell compares the initial premises of the 1st and 2nd Europes (the east and west) that come to bear in interpreting it. Here at the beginning Dr. Farrell lays out the different ordo theologiae between the two. I hesitate to explain, summarize, and even quote from the text because I can’t do it justice. In the Intro, Dr. Farrell talks about his method of combining a multitude of voices a la fugue, so the consequence of picking individual ones out is to lose the desired, rich, harmonious effect.

But since I’ve talked about the ordo theologiae before, after learning about it on Energetic Procession, I feel it beneficial to cite the source. I also hope to better understand the deeper roots of placing person before nature and vice versa. After explaining how the west interprets the Psalm as describing God’s ubiquitous nature, and the east interprets it as Christ personally going down into hell for our salvation, he contextualizes it at the end of this section:

The Second Europe argues from the divine ubiquity and generalized
philosophical conceptions about God’s Essence to their generalized
characteristics, or Attributes, and only at the end of its thought comes to
“historical” manifestation and application, the Persons. This is its classic
ordo theologiae or “order of doing theology: Essence, Attributes, Persons.
But the First Europe argues from their historical manifestation to their
generalized conception; God is, so to speak, ubiquitous because The
Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are understood to have done
certain things, “Operations” ([Greek word lost in pasting]), and on that basis, concludes
certain things about the essence underlying the operations which the
Persons do. This is its classical ordo theologiae: Persons, Operations,
Essence. Thus, the religious mentalities of the Two Europes not only start
in exactly the opposite places, but proceed in opposite directions, and at
the crucial second stage, refer to a fundamental category of metaphysical
thought by different terms, the one indicating something static, and the
other something dynamic. More will be said about the First Europe’s ordo
theologiae in the Second Chapter; suffice it for the present to point out its
personalism, as distinct from the Second Europe’s impersonalism. (GHD, p. 9)

This brings up the question as to if Christ hadn’t gone down, or even, before Christ descended into Hades, did God (the Trinity, or even the Father, who as source and Monarch of the Trinity, one sometimes means when one says “God”) know what went on there. The Holy Spirit is ubiquitous, as we say of him in the Trisagion prayers, “who art everywhere present and filleth all things”, but is this because Christ went there “before the foundation of the world” in a temporal, time conquering way.

This brings up the necessity of the Incarnation. It is one thing for God to observe from a distance, and another for him to actually go there, so to speak. The Incarnation un-gnostifies things.