Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thomism and Palamism Compared

I can see right off the bat that the wonderworking Church Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas, prince of theologians, and the hesychast Gregory Palamas, agree in the following areas at least:

Areas of Agreement
(1) The Immaculate Conception: Mary never contracted original sin (this was the original opinion of Aquinas; he stated in Summa Theologica that Mary contracted original sin but reverted to his original opinion at the end of his life).
(2) The divine names are not synonymous. This is very much stressed by Gregory Palamas throughout his works, and St. Thomas says in his Summa Theologica: "All synonyms united with each other are redundant, as when we say, 'vesture clothing.' Therefore if all names applied to God are synonymous, we cannot properly say 'good God' or the like, and yet it is written, 'O most mighty, great and powerful, the Lord of hosts is Thy name' [Jer 32:18]."
(3) "Death is not natural to man." St. Thomas Aquinas says in Summa Theologica 2:I:85:6 that "death is not natural to man" and "the human body is naturally incorruptible." Gregory Palamas says in his 150 Chapters, "Death, then, was to follow our ancestors just as it is laid up even for those who outlive us, and our body was rendered mortal."

However, it is important to note that there are a few areas in which St. Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas disagree.
Areas of Disagreement
(1) St. Thomas Aquinas says in Summa Theologica that angels are in a place in: "Consequently an angel is said to be in a corporeal place by application of the angelic power in any manner whatever to any place." Gregory Palamas, on the other hand, says in Chapter 61 of his 150 Chapters, "The angel and the soul, as incorporeal beings, are not located in place..." However, maybe Palamas is speaking in a different sense than Aquinas, so that there is no real contradiction. Palamas says, "The soul therefore as it sustains the body together with which it was created is everywhere in the body, not as in a place, nor as if it were encompassed, but as sustaining, encompassing, and giving life to it because it possesses this too in the image of God."

More to come on Triadology (Filioque), angelology (whether angels are more to the image of God than man), theonimy (the divine names), essence-energies distinction and its relation to the beatific vision, etc.


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