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The Orthodox YouTuber Jay Dyer has peaked my interest by asserting that the Catholic view of God's essence as absolutely simple is heretical. And that the Catholic view of God's essence in relation to his energies negates theosis in the here and now and reserves it for Heaven.

Funny enough, another YouTuber called VaticanCatholic, who is mostly Catholic in his theology except that he's a sedevacantist schismatic, affirmed that the Orthodox view of God leads to polytheism because of the Orthodox distinction between God's essence and energies being too minor.

My Question is really how the Catholic and Orthodox view of God, both in his transcendance and in his interactions with what is external to him, are different from one another; and potentially what kind of consequences those differences may have provoked in each respective church tradition, that is, practices and doctrines.

And lastly, I would like to know whether Mainline Protestants, those of the Reformation like Calvinists and Lutherans, would agree more with the Catholic view of God or the Orthodox view of God; ontologically speaking of course.

Keeping in mind that both Catholics and Orthodox, and even many Protestants hold to the peculiar doctrine of theosis :

“He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call ‘good infection.’ Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else”

[...]

“The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”

[...]

“turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity”

☩ CS Lewis, Mere Christianity [PROTESTANT, ANGLICAN]

Commentary on Ephesians (3:20) The human mind and will could never imagine, understand or ask that God become man, and that man become God and a sharer in the divine nature. But he has done this in us by his power, and it was accomplished in the Incarnation of his Son.

Commentary on John (15:9) The Son did not love the disciples in either of these ways. For he did not love them to the point of their being gods by nature, nor to the point that they would be united to God so as to form one person with him. But he did love them up to a similar point: he loved them to the extent that they would be gods by their participation in grace--"I say, 'You are gods'" (Ps 82:6).

Summa Theologiae (I-II, q. 112, a. 1) Nothing can act beyond its species, since the cause must always be more powerful than its effect. Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the divine nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the divine nature by a participated likeness as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.

☩ St. Thomas Aquinas the Angelic Doctor, Summa and diverse commentaries [CATHOLIC]

“When God revealed himself, he united himself with our mortal nature in order to deify humanity through this close relation with deity. Since this is so, through his flesh, constituted by bread and wine, he implants himself in all believers.”

☩ St. Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Oration [ORTHODOX/CATHOLIC]

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Not that it is relevant, but I am a former Roman Catholic, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy about 10 years ago. I also flirted with Evangelical Protestantism in between.


In my opinion, the fundamental distinction between how Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism understands God, man, and the relationship between the two, lies largely in how the nature of grace is understood.


In the Roman Catholic understanding, grace is something that is created by and dispensed by God. Protestantism, which is in essence an offshoot of Roman Catholicism, shares this understanding. One Roman Catholic source explains grace:

It is not a substance that exists by itself, or apart from the soul; therefore it is a physical accident inhering in the soul.... Sanctifying grace may be philosophically termed a ‘permanent, supernatural quality of the soul’ (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, vol. 6, p. 705).

By contrast, Orthodox theology comprehends grace as the Uncreated Energy of God. Eastern Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky (1903-1958) explained:

For Eastern tradition the created supernatural has no existence. That which Western theology calls by the name supernatural signifies for the East Uncreated — the Divine Energies ineffably distinct from the Essence of God. The difference consists in the fact that the Western conception of grace implies the idea of causality, grace being represented as an effect of the Divine Cause, exactly as in the act of creation; while for Eastern theology there is a natural procession, the Energies shining forth eternally from the Divine Essence. It is in the creation alone that God acts as cause, in producing a new subject called to participate in the Divine fullness; preserving it, saving it, granting Grace to it, and guiding it towards its final goal. In the Energies He is, He exists, He eternally manifests Himself (The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, pp. 88– 89).


Many of the theological disjunctures between Roman Catholicism/Protestantism on the one hand and Eastern Orthodoxy on the other can be traced to this fundamental divergence in how grace is understood.

In the western understanding, for example, original sin is understood in terms of a withdrawing of God's grace from man. Protestants and Catholics may disagree on what exactly man's nature was before and after this event and how such grace can be "regained", but their foundational beliefs are the same.

In the eastern understanding, however, the Fall resulted not in God's withdrawing His grace from man, but rather man damaging himself to such an extent that he could no longer fully experience it. Hieromonk Damascene Christensen, in his editorial note the the 3rd edition of Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanski's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, explains:

In Roman Catholic teaching original sin consists only in the privation of sanctifying grace (also called “original justice”), while the nature of man remained the same after the fall as it had been before the fall. In this view, the nature of man has not become corrupted; rather, the privation of grace in itself constitutes “a stain, a moral deformity” (Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 11, p. 314). According to Orthodox theology, on the other hand, man’s nature was corrupted at the fall, and this corruption caused man to lose the indwelling of Grace and deprived him of participation in God. As Vladimir Lossky notes, “The deprivation of Grace is not the cause, but rather the consequence of the decadence of our nature” (Mystical Theology, p. 132).

  • 1
    This answer would be improved if it provided Catholic sources for some of the statements about Catholic doctrine that are currently sourced only from Orthodox sources. In particular, for the statement in the final (Orthodox) quote that according to Roman Catholic teaching "the nature of man remained the same after the fall as it had been before the fall." I question whether this accurately represents Catholic teaching. – Lee Woofenden Jun 10 '18 at 13:34
  • I agree with Lee, before I can't really evaluate the answer yet, there must be more or less a balance between Catholic and Orthodox sources. Illustrations in imagery would be welcome as well, as this issue can sometimes go over the head of many people. – Destynation Y Jun 10 '18 at 14:24
  • I don't think this actually answers the question, as the doctrine of grace is only tangentially related to the doctrine of the nature of God. – Birdie Jun 27 '18 at 21:55
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What is the Ontological Difference between the Catholic and the Orthodox View of God?

There are two well-known differences between Orthodox belief and Catholic belief, this are the doctrine on original sin and view on the Trinity with regards to procession of the Holy Spirit.

With Theosis I think there's no much different in understanding and teaching.The finer details is just the way the Church Father approaches it but the end view of both Churches, Eastern and Catholic is the person body & soul becomes divinized or achieve Theosis and become like gods. Both mentioned the importance of communion or living a Trinitarian Life.

The best example of Theosis after Jesus is Mary although St.Paul's life is much closer to us as he started from a sinful body while Jesus & Mary were both sinless.

Mary, because She is the perfect disciple of Christ, and Mary offers a short-cut to Theosis in a Godly way thru "humility & obedience" unlike the serpent who offered Eve a short cut thru "pride & disobedience".

The shortest way to Theosis is thru "Total Consecration"(St.Montfort), meaning our life is fully set aside and fully offered only for the fulfillment of God's Will. As, Father of MIC said the shortest way to heaven is "from doing our own will to doing God's Will". The "union of wills" is the simple and perfect divination.

Meaning like Mary, we must first pronounced our FIAT, allow or embraced the working of the Holy Spirit to enflesh the WORD in our lives.

To achieve Theosis we must have a Trinitarian Life and it's simply means we must follow the WILL of the Father, the WISDOM of the Holy Spirit dwelling and empowering us, and the WORD made flesh in us.Our full being in full communion with the Most Holy Trinity. (Blessed Ivan Merz)

From sinful body wash away by the blood of Christ thru Baptism and empowered by Eucharistic Life to create a "new body" thru transformation into a transfigured body a foretaste of a "resurrected body" (CCC999 & CCC1000).

So, I think the focus would be more on the ontological view of God it's relationship and hierarchy.

"Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.[1] Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Since ontological understanding is considered the major misunderstanding in Church History between Orthodox and Catholic Church. This matter has been discussed here in CSE and answered well by AthanasiusofAlex below is an excerpt of his answer;

How the Greek and Latin Fathers understood “procession”

It is important to keep in mind that the Greek and Latin Fathers understand the concept of procession differently. This difference is at the root of the misunderstanding that resulted between the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches since the Great Schism.

The Greek Fathers, starting with St. Basil the Great, all agree that the Holy Spirit has its ultimate origin (Greek: ekporeúetai) in the Father. The etymology of that term is important: it is a compound of ek, which means “out of;” and poreúomai, which means “to go” or “to come.” The compound means, therefore, “to come from” or “to come out of,” in such as way as to stress the original source.

The Latin Fathers, on the other hand, developed a Trinitiarian theology that focused on the communication of the Divine Essence from the Father to the Son, and through Him to the Spirit. That communication they called processio (using Tertullian’s terminology). Again, the formation of the term is important: in Latin, the preposition pro means “before” or “in front of;” and the verb cedomeans “to go.” Procedo (from which processio is derived), therefore, means “to go forward.” Unlike ekporeúomai, the Latin term does not so clearly stress the original source.

Hence, we can say, when the Eastern Fathers consider of the Holy Spirit, they ask “Where does He come from originally or ultimately (ekporeúetai)?” The answer is “the Father.”

The Western Fathers, however, ask “Whom is the Holy Spirit in front of (i.e, from Whom does he proceed)?” The answer is “both Father and Son.”

How do Eastern Christians explain Jesus "sending" the Holy Spirit in John 15:26?

The official Church reference to this explanation is link here;

THE GREEK AND LATIN TRADITIONS REGARDING THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Pontificial Council for Promoting Christian Unity

https://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PCCUFILQ.HTM

Now this misunderstanding or different on the approach stems from the Gospel of John15:26

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me."

This can be understood as Jesus in his humanity will petition the Father to send the Holy Spirit on our behalf, just like when Jesus was sent by the Father to become the incarnate Word.

The sending of Jesus can be paralled to His messages to the Apostles;

Again Jesus said to them,“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.” (John20:21)

Even the other passages as explain in the link had understanding that it would seems that the Holy Spirit is subordinate and doesn't have a Sovereign Authority,

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

"I still have much to tell you, but you cannot yet bear to hear it.(Just like Peter said to believers I can only give you milk, so Jesus cannot yet give solid food to the Apostles)

However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you. (John16:12-14)

From this passage, the Holy Spirit is described somehow in a lesser sovereignty than Jesus as He cannot speak on his own.

The Holy Spirit in His title as the "Spirit of Truth" will testify, meaning He will INDWELT in all believers to testify to the Truth, as Jesus promised the Apostles that they will all testifies.

But the striking passages that Jesus gave is, when He said that there is one that will testify about Him that is greater than John the Baptist.

Now, among the Apostles none is greater than John the Baptist?, but there's one who knows Jesus from "Womb to Tomb", who is "living the Trinitarian Faith" by being the perfect disciple of Christ and following the Will of the Father and was Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

The Theotokos is greater than John the Baptist and can fully & perfectly Indwelt by the Holy Spirit "to testify" to the Fullness of who Jesus is.And this happened as scriptures attested in the UPPER ROOM.

In view of the above difficulty in fully understanding action of the Holy Spirit, there emerges a Doctor of the Church a great giant Marian devotee in the person of St.Alphonsus Liguori, who offered a critical insight but not fully supported by the Theologians.His controversial word and direct understanding of John14:16 unlock the mystery of the identity of the "another advocate".

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you "another advocate" to help you and be with you forever—(John14:16)

"In His eagerness to show you mercy, God has given His son as your Advocate. And to make your confidence even stronger, He has given you "another advocate", who obtains through her prayers whatever She asks.Go to Mary, and you will see salvation." (St.Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

Another great Marian devotee a giant Saint in the person of St.Louis De Montfort(candidate too as Doctor of the Church) teaches a very strong union between the Holy Spirit and Mary when it comes to dispensation of God graces won by Jesus Christ, is only given and channel thru Mary as the Mother of the Church and rightly called by Church Father as "Mediatrix of all graces".

But the in 20th Century there emerged a great Marian devotee a great Theologian, whose teaching if given consideration by the Church to include in His understanding of Mariology will pave the way in the perfect and full knowledge of interpreting why the Holy Spirit is somehow subordinate in action and was personified as the one who will testifies and will give glory of who Jesus is, something that up to this age had not fully understood.

I'm talking about St.Maximillian Kolbe theory on "quasi-incarnation". This doctrine will fully enlightened and harmonized the "ontological view of both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church" as it will affirmed the Sovereignty of the Three Persons as a Triune God co-substantial and both originated from the Father.

The confusions on the passages on John14:16, John15:26 and John16:12-14 will all be understood as the Holy Spirit fully and perfectly acting in the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This can be seen in the Light of Christ Annointing as Messiah, the "Anointing of Jesus is the Holy Spirit himself" as Catechism teaches the faithful an official doctrine of the Church.

The Anointing of Mary as the Mother of the Church also comes from the Holy Spirit by virtue of the mystical union as describe by St.Maximillian Kolbe in his writings.

St. Maximilian says that the Blessed Virgin Mary “inserted into the love of the Most Holy Trinity becomes, from the very first moment of her existence, always, forever, the Complement of the Most Holy Trinity.” We may paraphrase the thoughts of St. Maximilian Kolbe on the spousal relationship between the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the words of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner

In virtue of this spousal union formally denoted by the title, Complement, Mary is able to enter, as no other, into the order of the hypostatic union, her soul being wholly divinized, because by the grace of the Immaculate Conception, it has been ‘transubstantiated’ into the Holy Spirit.

P. Fehlner, F.I., St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity – Pneumatologist (New Bedford, 2004)

The article "Vertex of Love" is a great insight to understand the concept of quasi-incarnation. link;

https://www.hprweb.com/2012/10/the-vertex-of-love/

Also please see my full answer on the "quasi-incarnation".

Is "quasi-incarnation" been attributed to mystical union of the Holy Spirit and Mary?

In closing, the ontological view of God if the Church by the Divine Providence allows the doctrine of St.Maximmilian Kolbe to be considered a dogma will harmonized the teaching of both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church plus it would be a enlightening doctrine for Protestant and Christian denominations to understand the God given role to Mary.

Mary was the Theotokos in the Redemptive mission of Christ. By giving an "immaculate body" to Jesus to DWELT AMONG US.

Mary is the Mother of the Church in the Salvific mission of the Holy Spirit. By providing Her Sorrowful & Immaculate Heart to the Holy Spirit pierced by Seven Swords to house the Sevenfold Gifts of the Holy Spirit, this time to INDWELT AMONG US.

God the Father anointed the humanity of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit thereby effecting the Full Trinitarian Life to Jesus humanity doing the Will of the Father.

God the Father anointed Mary "full of grace" in Her first FIAT to become the Theotokos and anointed again in Her Second FIAT with the Sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit to fulfill Her mission as the Mother of Church.

St.Maximillian Kolbe is a future Doctor of the Church in his doctrine of "quasi-incarnation".

Mary is truly the Co-Redemptrix,Advocate and Mediatrix of all Graces.

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