Gregory of Nyssa on Scripture & Tradition

I’m reading Gregory of Nyssa for my dissertation, and I found his view of Scripture and Tradition quite intriguing.  Admittedly, I’ve only read a couple of his short, dogmatic treatises so far, but I’ve been struck by how often he appeals to Scripture, rather than to Tradition.  But, he also appeals to Apostolic Tradition, and not to Scripture alone

From On the Holy Spirit: “We shall answer nothing new, nothing of our own invention, though they challenge us to it; we shall fall back upon the testimony in Holy Scripture about the Spirit, whence we learn that the Holy Spirit is Divine, and is to be called so … We say nothing different from that which Scripture says” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, pg. 316).

From On the Holy Trinity, And of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit: “Now they charge us with innovation, and frame their complaint against us in this way:–They allege that while we confess three Persons we say there is one goodness, and one power, and one Godhead.  And in this assertion they do not go beyond the truth; for we do say so.  But the ground of their complaint is that their custom does not admit this, and Scripture does not support it.  What then is our reply?  We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine.  For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs.  Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, pg. 326-27).

But, he also appeals to Tradition: “on the other hand, even if our reasoning be found unequal to the problem, we must keep for ever, firm and unmoved, the tradition which we received by succession from the fathers, and seek from the Lord the reason which is the advocate of our faith:  and if this be found by any of those endowed with grace, we must give thanks to Him who bestowed the grace; but if not, we shall none the less, on those points which have been determined, hold our faith unchangeably” (On “Not Three Gods” in NPNF, vol. 5, pg. 331).

He continues, later:  “We, on the other hand, following the suggestions of Scripture, have learnt that that nature is unnameable and unspeakable, and we say that every term either invented by the custom of men, or handed down to us by the Scriptures, is indeed explanatory of our conceptions of the Divine Nature, but does not include the signification of that nature itself” (ibid., pg. 332).

This last quote is interesting, because it shows what seems to be distinctive of Eastern theology:  theology explains God, but can never capture God’s true nature.  The East seems to preserve the mystery of Who God Is more than the West.  Of course, the West has its mystics and a tradition of apophatic theology, but the East seems to stress the inadequacy of theological language.

To summarize my reading of Gregory of Nyssa:  he stresses the supremacy of Scripture, but also appeals to faithful Tradition.  Could part of his situation be that the Deity of the Spirit had not been defined clearly by a Council, and thus he did not have clear conciliar authority to appeal to? 

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18 Comments

  1. Quodvultdeus,

    Thanks for these quotations. I especially like the first one.

    I think you might be right in proposing that St. Gregory had to construct an argument entirely from Scripture since he could not yet appeal to conciliar authority. It also seems to me that the deeper examination of Scripture is precisely what an ecumenical council is about. Unfortunately, though, many orthodox Christians “cop out” by appealing to conciliar authority–“This is so because the Council says…”–without doing the hard work of understanding why the council fathers said so. (I, for one, am guilty as charged.)

    As for apophaticism, I don’t think it is a distinctive feature of the East, but rather a part of the common ancient tradition, though I agree that is far better preserved in the mind of the East. Sometime around the 12th century, the West seems to have gradually lost this apophaticism to when the context for theology shifted from the worship of the monastery to the dialectics of the university. We see the tension, for example, in St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s (fiery) critiques of Peter Abelard. Nevertheless, there is still apophaticism in St. Thomas: “concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him” (Summa Contra Gentiles, I.30).

    Shalom!

    W.H.

  2. I wouldn’t characterize the attitude which asserts that God’s nature is ultimately unknowable as distinctly Eastern Christian. I would assert that this attitude is merely theistic and finds expression in numerous Western Christian writers, including the first to write in Latin, Minucius Felix in his work entitled, Octavius (18, 7). This, of course, is a constant theme in Jewish works, as well.

    Regarding Gregory of Nyssa in particular, don’t forget that he most frequently appeals to classical Greek Atticisms of Plato and Plotinus. He was a Rhetorist and Teacher in Cappadocia prior to being made a bishop of the sleepy town of Nyssa (quite against his wishes) by his brother Basil. He says in De vita Moysis 2, 37/38: For there is, indeed, something in pagan learning which is worthy of being united to us for the purpose of engendering virtue. It must not be rejected. For the philosophy of both ethics and nature may well become consort, friend, and life-companion of the higher life, if only that which is born of her bring with itself nothing of the foreign stain.

    As Quasten points out, “Gregory proves himself a loyal follower of Origen,” with regard to his whole attitude towards appealing to philosophy (Patrology VIII, pg 284). The middle Platonism and early Neo-Platonism of Gregory would be tempered and guided by the tradition of the Fathers. He writes, “If our reasoning be found unequal to the problem, we must keep for ever firm and unmoved the tradition which we received by succession from the Fathers.” (Quod non sint tres dii, MG 45, 117)

    It is remarkable how similar Aquinas and Gregory were in their use of philosophy (Plato and Plotinus in particular) to explain Christian ideas.

    With regard to your assertion that the Christian East stresses the inadequacy of theological language I would kindly assert the reverse, particularly in the first Christian millennium. The Greeks in particular were fastidious regarding their choice of words to describe theological concepts. This great concern that the Greeks had at the time was never shared or properly understood by the Latins. This is due, in part, to the precision that is present in Greek that is lacking in Latin. Latin concern is with efficiency of language rather than precision. Lack of precision in Latin will change with the development of Ecclesiastical Latin in the Middle Ages.

    An example of this fastidious concern is Basil’s insistence of the use of homoiousios rather than the Nicene homoousios to describe the divine hypostasis. Indeed, a distinction was being made between ousia and hypostasis which had not existed before. These Greek distinctions were all lost on Pope Damasus who, despite appeals from Athanasius and Basil to send Papal legates to help clear up the disorder in the East, refused to do so.

    The whole issue became so divisive that bishops were being usurped and replaced by angry mobs. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Emperor Theodosius commanded all in the East to the faith which “the Apostle Peter had taught in days of old to the Romans.” All who failed to adhere to this faith were branded heretics, denied the name Catholic, and had all their assemblies forbidden. As a result, the Churches of Constantinople were taken away from the Arians and their bishops deposed. The Emperor then quickly convoked the Council of Constantinople and invited 150 Eastern bishops. Acholius of Thessalonika served as Papal Vicar to Pope Damasus. No Western bishops were invited. The Council cautiously sought to fashion language describing God’s nature. It wasn’t until the 6th century that the West accepted this Council as on par with the other Ecumenical Councils. It wasn’t until the Council of Florence in 1274 that the canons of this council were accepted in the West.

  3. Um Gil, I gotta say that I really don’t find Aquinas and Nyssa “strikingly similar” in their use of philosophy. Yeah they both have some philosophical influences, but that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. Nyssa clearly rejects dialectic as a proper means to knowledge of God. Thomas does not (see the quote Wei Hsien Wan brought up from the Summa Contra Gentiles above). The Cappedocians think that God is beyond being. The Augustinian tradition fundamentally rejects this. For Aquinas and Augustine, their apophaticism has to do with our current situation. Both believe that knowledge or some sort of vision of God’s essence is possible in the eschaton. This is only possible though because God is not beyond being, but ipsum esse. Notice wei’s qoute again; specifically Thomas’s belief in there being an analogy of being between God and other things. The Cappedocians all reject that such an analogy is possible because God is fundamentally different than anything else because He can not be numbered among things on the chain of being.

    Furthermore, Absolute Divine simplicity is a cataphatic belief about God’s essence; a belief which none of the Eastern fathers held, and which is implicitly rejected in may of the councils where an essence/energies distinction is foundational for the theology and the main arguments for various dogmas. For instance, the Cappedocians (See Nyssa’s “On Not Three Gods”) argued for the unity of God based on the unity of energeia, or energy. Also, one of the views rejected by St. Maximos’ theology which is affirmed in the sixth council is monoenergism, or the idea that there was only one type of energy in Christ.

    If you want to see how different Aquinas and the Cappedocians really are, just contrast these two fundamental inferences: Aquinas looks at all of God’s various attributes and concludes that all these must certainly be one thing because God’s essence is simple and perfect; St. Gregory of Nyssa notes the various attributes and names of God and concludes that BECAUSE ALL THESE THINGS ARE DIFFERENT, that they must not be names of the simple and uncomposite essence of God, but rather of his energies.

    Oh, and I would like to know what the heck Quasten means by Gregory being a “loyal follower of Origen.” Insofar as he holds dialectic to be an improper way of coming to knowledge about God (see Contra Eunomius and On Not Three Gods) and he regularly condemns the vaninty of the philosophers, he really doesn’t seem very Originistic to me. What is the comparison routed in?

  4. The essential similarity made between Aquinas and Gregory of Nyssa was in their method of using Platonic or Neo-Platonic arguments to bolster their arguments, a practice which Gregory uses frequently. Plato and Plotinus are significant influences on Gregory’s writing. Aquinas uses this same method in his Summa to present arguments in support of Christian faith. One of the most significant works that demonstrate this method is De instituto Christiano which is the culmination of all of Gregory’s work. Gregory’s purpose, according to Quasten, is to harmonize the concept of grace with the Hellenic ethical tradition and the classical ideal of virtue. Another example of Gregory’s dependence on Greek philosophy is to be found in his work, Intuition of God. Gregory repeats the Platonic formula that the eye is able to behold rays of light because light is part of its nature. “Like is known by like” was first introduced by Pythagoras. Gregory writes: The eye enjoys the rays of light by virtue of the light which it has itself by nature that it may apprehend the kindred… The same necessity requires, as regards the participation in God, that in the nature that is to enjoy God there be something kindred to Him Who is to be partaken (MG 46, 113 D, 176 A). In this also, Aquinas imitates and copies Gregory’s synthesis of Stoa and eklesia.

    The similarity between Origen and Gregory of Nyssa should be immediately evident to anyone who has read them. Gregory not only makes frequent reference to Origen, but imitates Origen in presenting an organic, systematic presentation of the Christian faith. Gregory’s most important work of all (and the one with the widest circulation) was his Oratio catechetica magna in which he copies Origen’s style (and represents the first attempt to do so after Origen) and his universalist teaching regarding the Last Things. (My chief complaint about editions of the Fathers that are presented without references or notations is that these connections are obscured.) In fact, in order to safe-guard Gregory’s orthodoxy, efforts to “prove” that his writings had been falsified by Origenist heretics were made. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople was the first to make this claim in the second part of his Antapodotikos in the early 8th century. Photius also makes this claim in Bibl. Cod. 233.

  5. Thanks, Guys:

    You’re obviously far ahead of me in this area!!! I appreciate you taking time to leave such educated responses.

  6. Gregory of Nyssa is indeed a great man. There is one or two things I’d like to share.

    First, his use of philosophical jargon does not make his theology philosophical in nature. On the contrary, his theology, like Orthodox theology in general, is experiential in nature. Theology comes from seeing, which is why the proper theologian is the theoptes (the one that has seen God, the one that is beholding God).

    Secondly, the similarities with Origen are superficial. Origen was a deeply learned man, yet he was also a deeply mistaken man. He thought the world was created perfect, then fell, and then Jesus Christ came to bring us to a restoration to the original perfectness. The Church eventually condemned Origen, and chose another way, namely that we were not created perfect, but immature, that our fall is not a fall from perfectnessm and that perfectness lies in the eschata… Saint Gregory is of the same view, he is not a follower of Origen’s views.

    Last, but not least, the relation between Scriptures and Tradition… The problem with talking about a relation between the two is that it implies a difference exists in the first place… Tradition, in Greek, means what has been given. And what has been given refers to the Way Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles*, this is what has been given. And to that no man can add or delete from.

    Saint Gregory would have said that of course every issue has it’s solution in the Scriptures. However, for the Saint, the Scriptures are full of wisdom, while for the wicked, the meaning of the Scriptures is obscured. For the one advanced on the Way more of the Scripture becomes clear, while for someone beginning the Way “the sayings of the fathers are sweeter than the Scriptures”.

    Saint Gregory appeals to the Scriptures because the fathers that wrote them were considered as authoritative by both sides. The two opposing sides disagreed on who was an authority, who was a father, in their times, but they agreed on who were the fathers of the past. That’s the way I think history worked. In Chalcedon for example, you could see references to Nicea, and in Constantinople you could see references to Chalcedon. As we moved ahead in history the previous fathers were incorporated and seen as authorities, and so when an issue arose one could appeal to those before him, because the Apostolic Way is transmitted from generation to generation. Unlike Protestantism, we don’t get to rediscover the Apostolic Way on our own…

    *Or the Revelation of the Lord of Glory to His people in general

  7. Gregory of Nyssa believed with Origen in universal restoration at the end of time, called Apokatastasis. As Quasten points out, Gregory sees in this the conclusion of the entire history of salvation, when every creature shall intone a chant of thanksgiving to the Savior and even the “inventor of evil” shall be healed. He writes in his Oratio catechetica magna, 26:

    When, after long periods of time, the evil of our nature, which now is mixed up with it and has grown with its growth, has been expelled, and when there has been a restoration of those who are now lying in Sin to their primal state, a harmony of thanksgiving will arise from all creation, as well from those who in the process of the purgation have suffered chastisement, as from those who needed not any purgation at all. These and the like benefits the great mystery of the Divine incarnation bestows. For in those points in which He was mingled with humanity, passing as He did through all the accidents proper to human nature, such as birth, rearing, growing up, and advancing even to the taste of death, He accomplished all the results before mentioned, freeing both man from evil, and healing even the introducer of evil himself.

    The original Greek may be found here: http://patrologia.ct.aegean.gr/PG_Migne/Gregory%20of%20Nyssa_PG%2044-46/Oratio%20catechetica%20magna.pdf

    For English go here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.xi.ii.xxviii.html

    Gregory’s belief in final restoration of all things may be found not only in his Oratio catechetica magna but also Dialogus de anima et resurrectione and other works. There are, of course, many eschatological views that Gregory doesn’t share with Origen. He, of course, was not an infallible teacher and in this one aspect of his teaching, was clearly wrong. His value as an early systematic teacher can’t be underestimated.

    For more in depth reading on this topic I highly recommend, J. Danielou, Apokastasis according to Gregory of Nyssa; and also by Danielou; The Resurrection of the Body according to Gregory of Nyssa in your local seminary library.

    I also highly recommend, Patrology by Johannes Quasten all volumes and the recent single volume, The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction by Hubertus Drobner.

  8. I don’t think there is anything strange in that view of Saint Gregory on the restoration… There is a big difference with Origen though. Origen thought everybody gets to experience Heaven eventually, while Gregory was clear that some will experience Heaven while others will experience Hell…

  9. I thought Origen also believed many would experience hell, but at the apokatastasis, even those in hell would eventually be reconciled with heaven (along with all of creation). To my knowledge, belief in apokatastasis hasn’t been explicitly condemned since the council which anathematized Origen’s ideas included his idea of the pre-existant soul along with the idea of eventual universal salvation. I’ve never found apokatastasis offically condemned of its own accord and I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has.

  10. Gil,
    The books you mention above look a little heavy on the side of western historians. Where is your list of Eastern Orthodox historians?

  11. I have been able to find only one Eastern writer on this subject who is without any Western connection. Perhaps others will be able to make some good suggestions. I’m sure any will be received well.

    There are a handful of Eastern writers on the subject but all of them were educated at Western institutions or are Catholic or both. Quite frankly, the bulk of the heavy lifting in this arena is being done by Catholics. Work being done at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology, and the University of Navarre (F. Mateo-Seco being my favorite) has been outstanding and there are many Eastern Orthodox scholars that have trained in these (and other) institutions. A good example is the present Ecumenical Patriarch, who earned his doctorate in Eastern Canon Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and was a lecturer at Pontifical Gregorian University (founded by Ignatius of Loyola) in Rome.

    Rev. Michael Azhoul, PhD, has written, St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Tradition of the Fathers: Mellen, 1995 and linked here: http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=2136&pc=9

    This book is a “rehabilitation” of Gregory’s work similar to rehabs issued by Germanus and Photius. As such, his work is polemical in nature and without any scholarly foundation (as Quasten flatly states).

    Rev. Michael Azhoul began as a priest with the AOC but soon left for the ROCOR. He is now associated with the Holy Orthodox Church of North America in St. Louis. He is an Old Calendarist and a Sacred Monarchist and was roundly condemned in Orthodox circles (by Seraphim Rose and many others) for his book, The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church VI which is extremely polemical (the flames from this book regularly singe nearby books in my library).

  12. Speaking of Catholic authors: I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve been told that Michel Barne’s book “The Power of God: Dunamis in St. Gregory of Nyssa,” is a really good one.

    Gil, I think that we can admit some influence of Origen on St. Gregory. However, I think we can admit some influence of Origen on just about everyone. Origen is just that type of influential thinker. The important thing to remember is that the underlying principles of Nyssa’s system are fundamentally different than Origen’s. Nyssa doesn’t think that one can come to theological knoweldge through the dialectic; Origen does. Origen believes in things like: the pre-existence of souls, a never ending cycle of the human fall, universal salvation, followed by another fall, and probably a sort of Arian view of Christ. The main reason Nyssa is able to avoid these conclusions is that he does not think through theology dialectically.

    Furthermore, although I am certainly no Nyssa scholar, I have always wondered if Nyssa must be read that way. I wonder if people reading him haven’t confused person with nature when he says “universal restoration.” The Eastern view of salvation is fundamentally different. We believe that all are saved in one sense; that their natures are restored and filled with the Divine Energies. This is something that is an unavoidable consequence of the Incarnation and trampling down of death by Christ. The difference between the righteous and the damned is a matter of alligning personal wills with Christ. Basically, if one loves God, it is heaven for him to be filled with the presesnce and life of the Divine. If he hates God, it is complete torture.

    True, I do not know what to make of the Satan references. I’m not sure there are much grounds to read him in the light I am suggesting, but I do plan to investigate to see if such a reading is possible.

  13. The Origenist Anathemas associated with the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II (553) do indeed condemn the doctrine of Apokatastasis by name (14). Nevertheless, Nicea II (787) honored Gregory of Nyssa with the title, “Father of Fathers.”

    Interestingly, J. Meyendorff comments on the effects of these Origenist anathemas of Constantinople II:

    The importance of the condemnation of Origenism at the 5th Ecumenical Council was overwhelming for the later development of thought and spirituality in the Byzantine world. The anathematisms directed against Origen and Evagrius attacked spiritual authorities who had left their mark on whole gernations and who continued to have numerous followers, especially among the monks. It therefore is not surprising that for many later Byzantine writers the decisions concerning Origen took first place in the work of the council of 553; their essential character underlined once more, perhaps permenantly as far as Byzantium was concerned, the inner incompatibility between Hellenism and the Gospel. (Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1975)

    It is interesting that while Origen was rightly condemned for his deformation of Christianity by making it conform to Hellenism, Gregory of Nyssa (and others), whose dependence on philosophical arguments was so profound, was left unscathed. Fr. Meyendorff demonstrates that the rejection of Hellenism after the council was so complete that even today the mere association of Hellenism with venerated Church Fathers like Gregory of Nyssa causes great discomfort and protest (as recently demonstrated, here).

  14. Bishop Ierotheos of Nafpaktos gives an interesting account on the differences between the apokatastasis of Origen and the apokatastasis of Saint Gregory here:

    http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b24.en.life_after_death.08.htm

  15. Andrew,

    That’s a very interesting treatment and I was glad to see Bishop Ierotheos include St Maximos the Confessor’s own writings on the apokatastasis as I was wondering about his approach vs St Gregory or Origen’s. Thank you!

  16. “I wonder if people reading him haven’t confused person with nature when he says “universal restoration.” The Eastern view of salvation is fundamentally different. We believe that all are saved in one sense; that their natures are restored and filled with the Divine Energies.”

    Mark, I was wondering the same thing.

    Gil,
    I was not referring to historians in the west as much as I was referring to western Christian historians as opposed to Eastern Orthodox historians. It seems that ones theological paradigm influences how one reads the Fathers such as Nyssa and the authors you listed were all western Christians. I think Orthodox philosopher Dr. David Bradshaw has shown how our philosophical and theological presuppositions have influenced the interpretation of the Fathers concerning philosophical matters in his book “Aristotle East and West”. Now I don’t think all this can be hammered out here but it has been attempted on many different occasions over at the blog http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/ .

    Andrew,
    Thank you for this link.

  17. Most Christian traditions endorse some version of the via negativa and the via affirmativa, so noting that fact doesn’t move the traditions closer. For the majority of western Christian traditions, God is still graspable via reason otherwise the Beatific Vision, which incidentally has just as much to do with Manicheanism as Platonism (See http://www.amazon.com/Augustine-Manichaeism-Good-Kam-Lun-Edwin/dp/1581120176/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1204246692&sr=1-1) would make no sense. Consequently, Aquinas’ notion of apophaticism is still fundamentally dialectical.
    The belief that the divine ousia is ultimately unknowable and ungraspable by reason is distinctly Orthodox and this is why the Orthodox deny the doctrine of the Beatific Vision. See John Chrysostom’s work on the Incomprehensibility of God for example. To say that the view is merely Christian is to gloss over distinctive uses of the terminology. To wax Wittgenstinian, meaning is use. Otherwise we’d up with the absurd notion that every has the same doctrine as the pagan Greeks and Romans concerning theosis, which is absurd since they employed the same terminology concerning the deification of rulers and ancestors.

    Nyssa does appeal to the Platonic tradition, but he also denigrates them a fair amount of the time. He is quite careful, especially in his anti-Eunomian works in picking out the fundamental problem with Platonism, that it posits an opposition between deity and creation, which was the underlying ground of Arian theology. (This is why the Arians had non-Christian Platonic philosophers come and testify on their behalf at Nicea.) As a teacher he isn’t free flowing with pagan antiquity and in fact directly suppresses a good portion of that material. Like homoousia, pagan philosophy must be purged.

    Quasten’s stuff is somewhat dated and it isn’t a analytical mongraph but more a collecting work. Care should be used in putting too much weight on what he has to say. My reading of the primary and secondary literature leads me to a different conclusion, that Gregory is not where Origen was with respect to Jerusalem and Athens. This doesn’t mean he is completely on the other side either. If he was totally with Origen, it would undermine his entire case against late Arianism.

    It is actually quite remarkable how different Aquinas and Gregory were as the latter posits no relations of opposition for example between the persons of the Trinity. Aquinas’ understanding of Gregory and many of the Easterners at key points is sometimes predicated upon various misreadings and poor translations done by Albertus Magnus, especially in relation to hyperousios in the Ps. Dionysian corpus.

    Being fastidious about the use of language doesn’t imply the adequacy of language or reason (dialectic) for grasping God. One can easily adhere to the one and not the other. And it seems odd to call them “Greeks” as many peoples within the empire were not “Greeks” which is why they considered themselves, contra the Franks, Romans.

    Basil doesn’t think that homoousios descrives the divine hypostasis, unless you are using hypostasis to denote ousia. But even then he doesn’t do so, because the entire point of homoousia is that it is not functioning as a descriptive term. It is not a referring term. The distinction between ousia and hypostasis was made because Greek philosophy doesn’t have a concept of person, which is why its terms and dialectic have to be purged and burst open by Christian theology.

    I don’t see how Gil gets the idea that the bishops at Constantinople I thought they were constructing language to “describe God’s nature.” I’d argue such a notion just isn’t there. Secondly, the council is ratified via Chalcedon, 2nd Constantinople and 3rd Constantinople, and then again via Trullo and Nicea II and last I checked Rome accepted all of those long before Florence.

    I don’t think that Aquinas and Nyssa employ the same methodology or have the same outlook in reference to Platonism. Much of Nyssa’s work against Eunomius turns on a rejection of Platonism and dialectic whereas the Scholastic method is intrinsically dialectical. You can’t get more dialectical than “Yes” and “No.” This is why not a small number of Thomistically inclinded readers of the debates between Nyssa and Eunomius tend to think that Eunomius was a better thinker and got the better part of the argument by “anticipating later scholastic refinements.” Uhm, yeah, you show yourself their children, as it were. Anyhow, I think a careful reading of Nyssa’s work on the use of pagan philosophy in Christian education, in conjunction with some contemporary work shows the picture far more rich and qualified than Quaesten makes it seem. Gregory is far more selective than Quaesten implies or give the reader reason to suspect.
    As to Platonism and vision, Barnes shows that Gregory actually inverts the Platonic understanding, favoring sensation over the intelligible.

    Gregory follows Origen in some things, but not others. It is true that Gregory erred in teaching a kind of Origenistic apokatastasis. It is also true that a corollary plagued the Scholastics in terms of the eternality of the world from the time of Gundasalinas forward, even well into the Modern period with Leibniz and Hegel, indicating that the marriage between Platonism and Christianity in Latin Scholasticism was a sham marriage. In any case citing the heresy of an apostatastasis, which was corrected by St. Maximus, is hardly a reason to recommend taking philosophy as the handmaiden to theology. If your theological ideas and methodology gets condemned by successive ecumenical councils, that’s a sign that what you are doing is a big no-no. I’d recommend Cosmic Man: The Theology of St. Gregory of Nyssa/Ca 330 to 395 A.D. by Paulos Mar Gregorios as well as Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium II : an English version with supporting studies : proceedings of the 10th International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa (Olomouc, September 15-18, 2004) / edited by Lenka Karfíková, Scot Douglass and Johannes Zachhuber ; with the assistance of Vít Hušek and Ladislav Chvátal. In any case, the East got over Origenism, but unfortunately, the West has not, as is witnessed in the continued fracas over predestination and free will, not to mention God’s relation to the world.

  18. Ever posting again?


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