Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Monday, December 27, 2010

Energy & God

In the ancient theology of the undivided church, we find a concept of God that has been lost in the contemporary west. I refer to the concept of God's energies. The early church understood God’s essence (ousia) to be a distinct concept from that of God’s energies (energia). According to patristic thought, the ousia or essence of God, is God as He is, while the energia, or energies of God, are His activities in the world that enable us to experience something of the Divine.

The essence (ousia) of God was therefore understood by the fathers to be both uncreated and incomprehensible, & finds no existence or subsistence in any other thing, while the energy (energia) of God is indeed comprehensible, and finds its origin in the essence of God. This energy is the primary means by which we human beings apprehend God, first through sensory perception, and then as one grows in their relationship to the God by intuitive perception. This means then that the energy of God is the primary thing to be grasped by human beings in order to participate in what the bible calls salvation.

Unfortunately, contemporary western theology has no clear teaching on this distinction between essence and energies. Nevertheless, the church fathers gave us a large body of teaching on this subject. In fact, all the Cappadocian Fathers referred to the energies of God as “divine attributes”. Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “to make belongs to energy, whereas to give birth belongs to nature. Nature and energy are not the same thing”. In short, we can conclude that Divine essence is what God is, & Divine energies are what God does. The point of the teaching is that humanity can only know and experience God by what he does.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works (ergon) than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. John 5:20

Moreover, we can and must participate in God’s energies with our own energies. This participation is what is called synergy or synergia.

For we are God's fellow workers (sunergos). You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me 1 Cor 3: 9-10

The Trinity therefore is no mere mystery doctrine to be left in the shadows, rather, as a doctrine it is the single basis for the whole of Christianity. Thus, the energies of God are the means given by God for our participation in the life of the Trinity, which is salvation itself.

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