"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The filioque II: continued

I opened discussion of the filioque last Saturday with a rough proposal for harmonizing Eastern and Western approaches. Prof. Scott Carson was thereby moved to dedicate to me his own discussion of the issue, which is essentially an explication and defense of St. Anselm. Both essays are essential background for this post. So, let the unmotivated beware.

That said, I was intrigued Jonathan Prejean's comments on Scott's post. To avoid taxing my vast readership further, I sum up his point as follows.

The East's main objection to Anselm's approach is that it applies a notion of dialectical opposition to the sphere of "theology"—i.e., talk of God in himself—that is appropriate only when discussing the realm of "being", i.e., the created world of limited beings. Hence the traditional Byzantine insistence, evident especially in the influential sixth-century writer Pseudo-Dionysius, that God is "beyond being." But in the Western tradition, God is beyond being only in the sense that he is not one being among others, as if he fell under the ordinary categories of being. Being in that latter sense is what the scholastics called ens commune. God clearly is not "a" being like that. But God is not beyond being because God is Being Itself, ipsum esse subsistens, from whom all beings are derived. Ens commune is being by participation; Being Itself is not. So the question is whether that fact permits an Anselm to reason as he does.

Obviously I believe the answer is yes, and in fact I accept Anselm's argument. But I truly wonder whether arguments of that kind are helpful ecumenically. It's a "deucedly clever argument" indeed, but it raises broader issues that cannot be usefully discussed in the context of a particular doctrinal issue such as the filioque. So, I suggest that work continue along the lines I suggested in my first filioque post, which Photios Jones has been kind enough to do in the combox and at his own blog.
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