Friday, January 16, 2009

Levy on a crucial principle of complementarity

"the West and the East. . . . manifestly designate the same state-of-thing under wordings that merely sound mutually exclusive. 'The vision of God according to essence,' as Augustine conceives it, does not designate a vision of God that would comprehend uno intuitu the wholeness of the divine Being. Yet this type of vision is precisely what the Eastern Fathers reject when they say that no created mind will ever be able to contemplate the essence of God. Correlatively, the 'vision of God according to the energeiai,' as conceived by the Greek Fathers, does not designate the vision of an entity numerically different from the divine essence (God is uncomposed). Yet this type of vision is precisely what Augustine rejects when he states that operations and essence are one in God. Once again, it is worthwhile emphasizing, in opposition to Bradshaw, that this difference in the wordings is not due to Augustine's ignorance of the philosophical patterns that inspired the Greek Fathers, but to his original way of reassuming these patterns. The fact that the interpretations of Augustine and of the Eastern Fathers, despite their difference of approach, coincide from a doctrinal point of view, is probably the best tribute possible to the idea that dogmatic unity within Christianity does not imply theoretical uniformity."

Antoine Levy, O.P., "An introduction to divine relativity: beyond David Bradshaw's Aristotle east and west," Thomist 72, no. 2 (April 2008): 219-220. The Orthodox distinction between the ousia and the energeiai is what one must stress when one theologizes from that (or God's) side of "the divine relativity". But their unity (and therefore the visio Dei, i.e. essentiae) is what one must stress when one theologizes from this (or man's) side. "there is no third point of view" from which these two complementary, yet "mutually exclusive" perspectives can both be embraced simultaneously: "one must choose [either] one system of reference or the other", either the East or the West. Yet doctrinally, they are identical (229). Constitutive of this complementarity is what Levy calls "the Porphryian Principle" (196 ff.): the asymetricality of the cosmological relation grounded in the utter (but therefore immanence-enabling) transcendence of God ("a relationship from B to A, but no relationship from A to B" (200); "created beings are in-a-state-of-relationship, en skehesei, whereas God is foreign-to-any-relationship, askhetos" (209); etc.). And an insistence upon this asymetricality is as fundamental to the East as it is to the West. Or so Levy.

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