Category: God History and Dialectic

Christ’s equality with the Father

by Andrea Elizabeth

This is very helpful in understanding Hebrews:

The phrase “God hath highly exalted Him”
was understood on the one hand by the Arians to mean that Christ was a
creature. But for Athanasius, following now the patristic ordo theologiae
with exacting precision, it meant that Christ had both a divine nature and a
human one, and that the phrase was applicable to the latter.

Likewise, for the Arians, “the Father is greater than I” meant that
Christ was a creature in His person, but for the Orthodox, following the
new insights gained by St. Athanasius from the old ordo theologiae, it
meant that Christ, in His human nature, was indeed less than God the
Father, but in His divine Person and nature, was equal absolutely. (God, History and Dialectic p. 115)

The wrong view of subordination

by Andrea Elizabeth

On pages 90-98 of God, History and Dialectic, Dr. Farrell describes Absolute Divine Simplicity. I’ll not summarize it here, but will pull a quote of the implications relating to subordinationism, which can lead to a misunderstanding of the Trinity.

This being said, the “Many” which are first produced in Plotinus’
system are, first, the Nous, or “Mind”, and secondly, the World-Soul.
The first production of the One must be Mind, since
Mind’s most basic operation is that of dialectical opposition: It knows itself.
And, in similar fashion, the World Soul is a further declension from the
“two-thirds simplicity” of the Mind precisely in that It is the knowledge of
the Mind knowing Itself. In effect, Plotinus is simply “demythologizing”
Gnosticism, with its various intermediary entities between God and
creation by dressing up the “hierarchy of beings” in chique and sleek
philosophical language. There are certain unique structures of Plotinus’
version of this chain of being:

(1). The Mind, or Nous, is subordinate to the One because it is
caused by It, while the One is Uncaused;
(2). The World-Soul, being the knowledge produced by the Mind
knowing itself, is therefore produced by the Mind, and is
therefore subordinate to It.

I suspect the problem is one of decreasing hierarchy, and not just origination. The Mind is an inferior emanation from the One, And the World Soul is a lesser, more diverse emanation from the Mind. By the time one gets to created matter, the deterioration is so complete that it become evil. An antithesis.

I commune, therefore I am

by Andrea Elizabeth

At a friend’s suggestion I picked up Kierkegaard again. It fits in with God, History and Dialectic, so it’s not that far off my current topic.

from this site on The Sickness Unto Death

At the beginning of part one, Kierkegaard begins with a cryptic and dense passage, that may contain an element of humor. I will quote it and then offer my commentary.

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way a human being is still not a self…. In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification of the psychical the relation between the psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self (p. 13).

Here’s where God fits in,

The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be oneself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it (p.14).

From D. Anthony Storm’s commentary,

It should be quite clear that Kierkegaard believes that God accords the individual with the highest importance. Kierkegaard never mentions the self’s merging into God, nor any belief that borders on pantheism. God is ultimately so interested in our selves that he sent his Son to die for individual men and women. It is man (society) that seeks to herd men. It is God who calls each man individually. Despairing sin denies or sinfully asserts the self. God establishes the true self.

In thinking about certain people’s comments on Marxism, and what ‘salvation is my neighbor’ means, I wonder if Kierkegaard’s, and possibly my, protestantism is shining here. My main feeling is that we are called to give an account of ourselves, not our group. This individualism is why I can rest in the Church which is filled with flawed people, including myself of course. The cure has been preserved and is still present within her. I am responsible for how I relate to others, and it is part of my salvation, but my responses and reactions don’t have to depend on the other person. This is why we can love our enemies.

A Sickness Unto Death is paired with Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, which I bought not long ago. In the Historical Introduction Reidar Thomte states,

Kierdegaard’s primary criticism of Aristotle centers on his view that the real self resides ultimately in the thinking part of man, and that consequently the contemplative life constitutes man’s highest happiness. […] He does then agree with Aristotle that, strictly speaking, there is no scientific knowledge of human existence, since its essential qualification is one of freedom and not of necessity. [back to the relation between the opposites of freedom and necessity above] However, from Kierkegaard’s point of view, “Aristotle has not understood this self deeply enough, for only in the esthetic sense does contemplative thought have and entelechy [1. In the philosophy of Aristotle, the condition of a thing whose essence is fully realized; actuality.], and the felicity of the gods does not reside in contemplation, but in eternal communication.” For Kierkegaard, therefore, Aristotle falls short in his understanding that the consummation of man’s ethical life lies in the contemplative posture. (p.x)

Before we ban contemplation, to me his statements above about resting in our actualized self before God, is a contemplative posture. Perhaps his criticism is of “self-thinking thought” which Aristotle accused God of, if I remember Dr. Bradshaw correctly. Kierkegaard does say some interesting things about action, which grounds us in one’s relations between temporal/eternal, and material/immaterial though.

What skeptics should really be caught in is the ethical. Since Descartes they have all thought that during the period in which they doubted they dared not to express anything definite with regard to knowledge, but on the other hand they dared to act, because in this respect they could be satisfied with probability. What an enormous contradiction! As if it were not far more dreadful to do something about which one is doubtful (thereby incurring responsibility) than to make a statement. Or was it because the ethical is in itself certain? But then there was something which doubt could not reach!16 (p. ix)

I wonder if the Greek nous, or mind’s eye, is used by the will to focus on what we are to relate to. The nous would not be the self, but our relating mechanism.

*quoted commentaries are indented once, Kierkegaards’ are indented twice. As always, parentheses are quoted asides, brackets are my asides, one in this case is a quote from a dictionary.*

How to handle philosophy

by Andrea Elizabeth

The beginning of the Origen Problematic

Just as the ancient Hebrews spoiled the Egyptians of their
treasure to decorate the tabernacle and sacred vessels, so, Origen states,
Christians should take over the treasure of the Greek mind and employ it
in the service of Christian theology.

Having stated this, however, Origen then goes on to draw a
cautionary lesson:

He is rare who takes the useful things of Egypt and comes out of it and
fashions the things for the worship of God, but there is many a brother of
the Edomite Ader. These latter are they who from some Greek liaison
beget heretical notions. 180

This sounds a familiar motif, one which we shall encounter again in
our examination of St. Augustine, who, like Origen, will refer to it, but who,
unlike Origen, will not even draw the cautionary lesson. But Origen himself
will beget heretical notions from a “Greek liaison” of which he is scarcely
aware. (God, History and Dialectic, p. 89)

How unaware we all are of our earthly thinking.

Who do you say that I am (2)

by Andrea Elizabeth

After an interesting tour in gnosticism, on page 65 of God, History and Dialectic by Dr. Joseph Farrell, we get back to the heresy of subordinationism of the Son to the Father. Athenagoras of Athens combats the Gnostic’s dualism, but leaves Christ open to being an energy of the Father instead of a person in that he says Christ dwelt in the Father’s mind, being called Logos, or Reason, before He became the firstborn of creation, which made Him a creature. Dr. Farrell then criticizes St. Justin Martyr’s philosophy of not doing  much different, though unbeknowingly. Here is his summary of St. Justin’s thought:

(1) God is absolutely unoriginate (aggenhtoV);149
(2) He is preeminently Father, therefore, because He is the Creator of
(3) Thus, by implication, the Word, as Son, is originate, as is Creation,
and therefore the Son is a creature, and not divine;
(4) God the Father is thus utterly transcendant,151
(5) The Logos is an Emanation(proodoV) of the Father to the Word,
bridging the gap between the Father’s utter transcendence and the
world: “Just as we see happening in the case of a free [fire?], which is not
lessened when it has been kindled but remains the same, and that
which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not
diminishing that from which it was kindled.”152

The last point again focuses the dilemma, for on the one hand, the
illustration of the fire clearly is to be understood as an illustration of the full
deity of the Logos; on the other hand, Utter Transcendence itself would
seem to be the distinguishing attribute of deity in Justin’s system, and
therefore, the Logos, as imanating from that Transcendence, would seem
to be less than divine. (p. 68)

First I note that #3, the most serious “implicat”ed charge, is unfootnoted, and not a necessary one, imo, by what he says in his commentary underneath and the additional quote. If the Father is like a fire and transcendent, then the Son’s fire-ness can also be transcendent and not less than divine. At least he says, “seems to”. I don’t think St. Justin would be a Saint if the Church Fathers thought he seemed to say that. Next Dr. Farrell asks some interesting questions.

(1) If the Divine Logos which inspires philosophy and theology is one
and the same Logos, does this justify Christians making use of
whatever individual fragments or particular truths philosophy may
possess, i.e is the fragment true in and of itself, or only in the
context of the fullness and completeness of the Logos, which is
what St. Justin seems to imply?
(2) On the other hand, if one rejects St. Justin’s conception of the
Logos, then is not one denying the unity and consistency of truth,
and therefore, does not one deny the whole basis of Christian
theology, that which we encountered from its beginning, i.e., that
there is a relationship between what God does in Creation and
what He does in Redemption, for it is on account of the former that
He is recognized for Who He is in the latter;
(3) But if Christ is “the Logos in everyman”, what exactly distinguishes
the Logos in Christ from the Logos in everyman? It would appear
that Justin is implying that the distinction is not “qualitative” but
merely quantitative”, that there is something called “Logos” which
Christ has more of than anybody else. (p. 69, 70)

Before #1, Dr. Farrell quoted St. Justin as saying that the ancient Greeks “borrowed from the Old Testament”, so to me that puts that worry to rest, what they got right, they got from revelation, not that revelation is incompatible with reason. Perhaps he is setting up a false dialectic between humanity and deity. Humanity is in God’s image, but God is above being, and therefore His reason is above, not “more” than, ours, and not opposed to it. Which reminds me that I need to get back into St. Dionysius. Regarding #2, in my mind this speaks to my delimma with St. Maximus’ explanation of Recapitulation being all-encompassing whether one is an orthodox Christian or not. He makes the distinction between ever-living well, and ever-living ill in Christ’s redemptive work in immortalizing man, but living well has to do with acting in natural human fashion, of which the virtues are a part, and not so much about being baptized. Even so, he also talks glowingly about baptism, so it is obviously not unnecessary or of no effect. I’m a maximalist, so I wouldn’t risk not living right nor not being in the right Church, Christ’s Body.

If not Monarchianism, then what?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Back to God, History and Dialectic, by Dr. Joseph P. Farrell. I believe that Dr. Farrell is equating monarchianism and subordination as heresies in the following statement on p. 28:

In other words, if Christ was truly Who He claimed to be, then the
Lord of Redemption ought also to be the Lord of Creation. But here the
early fathers encountered a problem, which we may express simply by
asking what was asked then: Does this not imply that the Father and the
Son are really the same Person? But then came the immediate response:
that could not be, because when Christ died on the Cross, that would have
meant that God ceased to be; moreover, Christ prayed to His Father both
before and on the Cross. It was maintained that He repeatedly made
Himself unequal to the Father, and therefore, He was distinct from His
Father. And so the dilemma which, in one form or another, haunts the first
three centuries of Christian theology: if Christ is equal to God, then He
must be not only the same What but the same Who; but if He is really
distinct as a Who from God, then He cannot be fully God, or the same
“what”.62 The first opinion became known as the heresy of modalism, or
“Sabellianism”, because it held that there was really only one Person in
God, a “Son-Father”(uipater), Who appeared in different “guises” at
different times. The second option became known by a variety of names,
but “subordinationism” will suffice, since it maintained the traditional
doctrine that Christ was really a distinct Person from the Father, but not
equally divine with Him. This doctrine is sometimes known as
“monarchianism”, since it maintained that the Father was the “Mon-arch”,
or sole(monh) source(arch) not only of the Son, but of all things which had
beginning, namely, all of Creation. Thus, two concepts now became fused:
Fatherhood and Creatorhood on the one hand, and Sonship and
Creatorhod on the one hand, and Sonship and Creaturehood on the other.

In the following pages he then shifts to the implication of this heresy as leading to false Papal claims in Rome. I’m a bit unclear about his train of thought through page 40, where I am now.  I would like for him to have shown how these where false before his immediate shift to Apostolic Succession because I thought the Monarchial view was Orthodox. Not in the sense that Christ is not as much God as the Father, but that the Father is the Source of His deity.

The criticized implications are (if I understand it) that St. Clement of Rome taught that God sent the Son and the Son sent the Apostles so that the Apostles “become part of the work of redemption”. (p. 31) Perhaps he is saying that this leads to the false Vicar of Christ claim which confuses Christ’s work with the particular Apostle’s. One can see how this can be taken with passages like John 20:21, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” While there may be a fine line of distinction between the proper way to understand it and the improper, I think the problem is one of replacement. The Son replaces the Father and then the Apostle replaces the Son. I can see how this would lead to the filioque. So while I’m making a criticism, I’m hesitant to describe the Triadic relationship more accurately for fear of being presumptuous. Maybe that’s why Dr. Farrell didn’t either, at least yet. Such is Apophatic theology.

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.

Who do we say He is?

by Andrea Elizabeth

To explain my idea of Theology First, since teased by the Intro to GHD by Dr. Joseph Farrell, I propose that being made in the image of God makes the primacy of theology inevitable whether one is an atheist, pagan, or Christian (not going so far as to distinguish between the east and west at this point). I believe all try to live by What Would Jesus Do, and that unbelievers merely substitute another deity, an admired person, or his own ideal self, based on his ideas of a good person, in Christ’s place. An atheist is his own god who invents the universe as he sees fit.

Therefore a person’s understanding of God guides his pursuits in other disciplines. If he believes God is strict, he’s conservative. If he believes God is lovingly lenient, he’s liberal. If he believes sometimes and both, I guess he’s moderate.

There are a few more things I’d like to quote from the Introduction to God, History, and Dialectic (which can be read in its entirety here). (btw, I found the quoted text in my posts align better if zoomed in)

Theology — not philosophy, literature, geography, economics, politics, law, art,
music, or science — was and is the mainspring of our culture and history. It is that which
set it in motion, and maintained its cohesion and harmonious movement. When the
theological unity of Europe was fractured in that original break of 1014, the movement
became disjointed, with the Two Europes tied together like racers in a three-legged race,
tied together in the leg of a common history, but now with two “minds” and two different
sets of historical time operating. This Geistesgeschichte is therefore an unabashedly
theological work based upon traditional Eastern Orthodox dogmatics. But this should not
be taken to mean that it is merely about theology. It is rather about the consequences of
theology, both heretical and Orthodox, in all areas of culture: law, politics, constitutional
development, philosophy, and science. (p. 6. the unlocked version has different page numbers. This is probably around p. 12 in the sample.)

About the autonomy of culture within the Church, where God is truly first,

Orthodox Christian Tradition is its core essence, and because of that cultural autonomy, it is able to
transplant itself into a variety of vernaculars. It is able therefore to create in Russia a
nation whose origins and national culture do not depend on the simultaneous transmission
of Graeco-pagan culture in any sense, even in the sense of the transmission of that pagan
heritage that became typical of the Second Europe after Augustine and down to our own
day. (p. 8 )

I tend to view Church and then family culture as all important. I’m not sure how secular culture fits in exactly, (Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and such) but like I say, one’s view of God affects how one behaves in and responds to society.

And regarding if the hellenic god is the same as the Christian God,

Augustine the Hellenizer erected a system founded upon a continuity of theology with
Greek philosophy, a continuity of incalculable enormity: the identification of The One(to
en) of Greek philosophy with the One God and Father of Christian doctrine. That
marriage of Theology and Philosophy occurred not at some secondary level of doctrine,
but at the core, at the height, of all Christian belief, the doctrine of God Himself. So long
as this cohabitation went undetected and unchallenged, so long did its hidden
implications take root, grow, and eventually overwhelm and choke the Christian
component. Our current moral and spiritual crisis is the result of that marriage, and will
not be resolved until the churches which persist in it, beginning with Rome, repent and
recant the error. For Augustine saw discontinuity with that Graeco-pagan world, but the
theologians, philosophers, and humanists who came after him and who were the heirs of
his system, came increasingly to see continuity. (p. 9 out of 10)

I have had a softer, more from Mars Hill, view of this in that I’ve thought that pre-Christian ideas about God were less detailed and less accurate, but that they were the best ignorant people could do, short of the revelation of Christ. He may even have given them a clue, being their Father too. However, we are created for his revelation and communion, so one should not minimize the distinction between those who have properly entered into Christ through the Church, His Body, and those who have not. Nor about who people rightly or wrongly say Christ is.

Why no Reformation in the East?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Speaking of the Mongols and Ivan, further into the Introduction to GHD, Dr. Farrell states:

We may inject the First Europe into this series of questions to ask a new series
more profoundly disquieting: Why did the First Europe not go through the
Reformation? Is it to be explained adequately on the basis of merely secular causes, as
the result of the “cultural isolation” of Russia? Or because its “dogmatic mysteriological
piety” locked its culture in the reliquary of “unchangeable ritual”? Or because of the
Mongol invasion and conquest of Russia? Or because of the “timely but inevitable” Fall
of Constantinople scarcely a century before the Reformation began? Or is the lack of the
dialectical movement of Reform and Counter-Reformation to be explained on the basis
of something much more fundamental and spiritually rooted? It is the task of these
essays to show that the Byzantine and Russian detachment from these upheavals in the
Second Europe is unrelated to any merely secular explanation of them, for the root
causes of that detachment predate the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth, or Ivan the
Terrible’s Drang nach Osten and “collection of the Russian lands” in the sixteenth
centuries. These essays explain this detachment as a result of the continued rejection by
the First Europe of Hellenization, and its insistence that Augustinism was but a recasting
of formal heresies previously condemned by both East and West when both segments
were still a part of one Church, and therefore, both a part of One Europe. Thus we arrive
at a corollary to our thesis. Only the First Europe has an adequate theological basis on
which to analyze the movements of the intellectual histories of the Two Europes from
one consistent perspective; the Second Europe, to the extent that it becomes
increasingly “Augustinized” is to that extent incapable of performing the task. For those
who prefer Ockhamist lucidity: I argue that Western Christian civilization is bound with
dialectical inevitability to misinterpret both itself, the Eastern European Christian
civilization, and the antiquities common to both; only that First European civilization and
its theological paradigm are adequate to undertake a genuinely comprehensive and
universal history of Christendom. (GHD intro, p. 12)

Here he discounts isolationism or lack of freedom as preventing a Reformation in the east, but a recognition of the heresies that lead up to it.

Dr. Farrell goes pretty far in his description of the second (western) Europe’s theology as being not only incorrect, but as leading them to have a different God. Liberal Western Christians are probably offended by this, and Conservative Christians probably think the same thing about the east. I believe that the descriptions of God are different, and that the Eastern one is correct. My feeling is that wrong descriptions of God hamper one’s unity with Him, as does the lack of communion in the correct Church. However, there are many other things, such as sin and inattentiveness, that hamper this whether a person is eastern or not. Knowing God isn’t just knowing about Him, but being in union with Him in all things, including right behavior, right worship, and right theology.

I agree with him that the beginning place for world events, and understanding them, is theology, and not psychology, politics, which includes sociology, philosophy, or any other secular discipline.

The task of these essays
is therefore to expose the specifically Augustinian dialectical formulation of Trinitarian
doctrine as the root of these two very different historical movements, and to demonstrate
the Augustinian departure from traditional doctrine, and to trace the departure in its
cultural effects in the development of law, science, and philosophy. Thus the thesis of
this work is quite simple: the Two Europes worship different Gods. This may seem a
surprising, perhaps even an irreverent, assertion, until one recalls why the doctrine of
God is so significant. It is the doctrine of the Trinity which is at the core of the Church’s
belief and the ultimate basis of Her cultural influences. The differences in the theological
formulation of that doctrine therefore reflect, illuminate, and cause the difference of the
Two Europes. Once the profundity of Augustine’s dialectical formulation of the Trinity is
grasped, we shall come much closer to the fundamental influences driving much, if not
most, of the intellectual development of the Second Europe. (GHD intro, p.10)

To illustrate the nature of dialectics in the west, I’ll go ahead and include this paragraph,

We may highlight the seriousness of that development by asking some rather
obvious, though deeply serious, questions. Why did the western half of Christendom split
along so cleanly dialectical lines during the Protestant Reformation and Catholic
Counter-Reformation? Why, for example, is it not only convenient but possible to
describe that split by a series of polar oppositions: Faith versus works, Scripture versus
Tradition, “private conversion stay-at-home-and-watch-television religion” versus “public,
sacramental, institutional” religion; predestination versus free will, Kernel versus Husk,
Kerygma versus Dogma, Luther versus Zwingli, Calvin versus Arminius, Whitefield and
Edwards versus the Wesleys, Henry VIII versus the Pope? It has its secular counterparts
as well: Empiricism versus Rationalism, Materialism versus Idealism, Science versus
Religion, Creation versus Evolution, hard versus soft disciplines, and so on. One could
cite an endless litany of similar oppositions. Indeed, theologians, philosophers, and
historians of the Second Europe have long written about this or that pair of these eitheror
polarities, but astonishingly, have either done so in isolation of an examination of the
paradigm of dialectical opposition itself, or they have accepted that paradigm as an
inevitability of Christian theology or of Judeo-Christian civilization itself. The
phenomenon of this acceptance is therefore deeply rooted, and must be accounted for.
These essays argue that the paradigm is itself a direct consequence of Augustine’s
formulation of trinitarian doctrine. But the movement from the specifically Augustinian
formulation of the Trinity to these cultural consequences is certainly not an easy one to
recount, and thus, many theologians — those most adequately equipped to undertake
the task — fail to do so, for they view the original dispute between the East and West
over that formulation as a dispute about words. The troublesome questions multiply:
Why did a Church and a culture, which believed absolutely in the complete union in
Christ of the utterly spiritual and the completely material, without separation and without
confusion, lose sight of the implications of that belief in the movements of the dialectical
deconstruction of its thought and institutions? Why did the same Church, which, heir to
the doctrine of the Trinity, ought to have believed in the “both-andness” of Absolute Unity
and Utter diversity find itself embroiled in life-and-death constitutional struggles between
the Empire and the Papacy, or more fundamentally, between endless contests between
One Pope and Many Bishops? (p.11)

Russia and GHD

by Andrea Elizabeth

I received notification over the weekend of the revival of the GHD (God, History, and Dialectic, by Dr. Joseph Farrell) group discussion when a contributor posted that a new book is out, which is

released by Foundation Encyclopedia Dialectica [F.E.D.], entitled —

A Dialectical “Theory of Everything” — Meta-Genealogies of the Universe and of Its Sub-Universes:A Graphical Manifesto.

It seems from his description that it is a materialist, scientific, mathematical explanation. I suppose if one can get good enough algorithms, one can predict and explain and manipulate anything. This leaves out spiritual intervention or causes of course. But are these interventions exceptions? I don’t intend to go there at present. Instead it has revived my interest in Dr. Farrell’s book. I am in the process of getting our pdf copy deactivated from the computer my kids use during school and reactivated to this one. Right now I am able to get the free sample chapter, that is also available from the “Read First” tab on the GHD site.

In the introduction, Dr. Farrell makes some intriguing claims about the different theological developments in the east and west:

Christian theology has left an indelible imprint, a presupposition, which
permeates the “popular historiographical consciousness” of the Second(Western)
Europe, with its persistent division of History into the tripartite scheme delineated by
various sigla: “Ancient History, Mediaeval history, Modern History” or “Classical Ages,
Dark or Middle Ages, Modern Age” being the two most popular. The origin of this
discernible form is, not surprisingly, the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — or
rather, the dialectically formulated and deconstructed “Trinity” of the post-Augustinian
Christian West. This Augustinian-Trinitarian civilization, which in these pages is
designated “The Second Europe”, was erected on the foundation of the Orthodox and
Eastern Europe, which is similarly designated “the First Europe.” The basic thesis of
these essays is thus that there are Two Europes, Eastern and Western, First and
Second respectively, and that both are the effects and consequences of very different
and ultimately contradictory theological presuppositions and methods. These essays
argue that these different and mutually exclusive presuppositions and methods have
permeated every facet of legal, social, and cultural conventions. But to say this is to say
nothing new, nor terribly original, and certainly nothing terribly upsetting to the
“multiculturalist” or “Judeo-Christian Conservative.” The thesis of the Two Europes is
explored in these essays from the presupposition that the Western, Second Europe is
derivative and aberrant.

Lest multiculturalists or conservatives still misunderstand, this may be plainly
stated: these essays argue that The First Europe is “first” in the sense of cultural primacy
and that it is therefore the canonical measure of Christian civilization. That the Second
Europe came eventually to regard itself as the canonical measure of Christendom, with
all the tragic implications that this pretense engendered, is, in large measure, the task of
these pages to elucidate. When the main thesis of this work is posed in this manner,
certain obvious questions and dilemmas present themselves, with the First Europe and
Russia in the foreground, exposing the insufficiency of any merely secular, political,
economic or sociological approach to a historiographical analysis of the crisis. Why is
this so? It is so because Byzantium and Russia function as mysteries even to the
modern exposition of Mediaeval History in textbooks, textbooks which continue to treat
of both entities as separate phenomena from each other, and more importantly, from
“Europe”, meaning “Western Europe.” Why the separate treatment? Because having
assumed its own cultural canonicity, the historiography of the Second Europe cannot
contend with the sharp and cumbersome edges that Byzantium and Russia offer for
analysis; they cannot be squeezed and moulded into the paradigms appropriate to
Western European Scholasticism or feudalism. One well-known textbook on Mediaeval
History summed up this attitude by treating of Byzantium in a chapter entitled “Europe’s
Neighbors”. But the real problem is that Byzantium and Russia expose the inadequacy
of the Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern” tripartite paradigm of the Second Europe’s
historiography, for in the Western sense, Russia has no ancient history, and an arguable
case could be made that it is only just beginning to have a “modern” one. It has no
“ancient” history in even a sense that would be recognizable to a subject of the
Byzantine Empire, for prior to its conversion to Orthodox and East Roman Catholic
Christianity rather than to the West Roman and Latin, it possessed no high literary
culture at all. Russia possessed nothing analogous to the classical pagan inheritance
possessed both by Byzantium and the Latin West. Hence, Russia’s very existence and
history as a nation is more intimately bound up with Christianity than any other.
Orthodoxy was both father, mother, and mid-wife to Russian nationhood. If Russia
therefore be an enigma or a mystery or a riddle to the Second Europe, it is not because
Russia is Russia but because it is Orthodox. We now draw nearer to the task of these
essays, for they do constitute an attempt to do Orthodox theological historiography, or
perhaps even an Orthodox version of the great “philosophies of history” of the Hegelian
Geistesgeschichteschule, or at the very least, an attempt to outline the necessary form
that such an analysis must take.

[emphasis mine]

If Russia is at its core orthodox, I want to study Russian culture more. Being raised with its vilification during the Cold War, I have some obstacles to overcome. I am very attracted to the Russian Orthodox Church which has (many say) the reputation of being the artistic appex of Orthodoxy in iconography, hymnography, and praxis, with its roots firmly established by its Greek missionaries, who are said to possess the theological appex of Orthodox expression. But to say Russia as a nation is orthodox, seems to ignore somewhat the division between Church and State. I don’t think the same divisions that we are used to existed in Byzantium (the first Europe) however. Ivan the Terrible, though pious in many respects and the builder of St. Basil’s Cathedral, is still terrible in many other ways. Peter the Great, though the son of a very pious man, as I’ve recently been told, secularized Russia a great deal, as did Katherine. To me at this point, Russia seems to be a combination of passionate intensity, very deep spirituality, and great intelligence, all perhaps influenced by Orthodoxy (and perhaps the Mongols, whom I’d also like to know more about, or even Germanic invaders), but not yet perfected by it.