Eastern Orthodox – Roman Catholic theological differences

For ecclesiastical differences between the two churches, see Eastern Orthodox – Roman Catholic ecclesiastical differences.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem – a centre of Christian pilgrimage long shared and disputed among the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have been in a state of official schism from one another since the events of 1054—the East–West Schism. The causes of this breach were centuries in the making and stemmed to a considerable extent from cultural and political factors derived from the increasing isolation of the Latin scholarly culture of the West and the Greek scholarly culture of the Byzantine Empire. Historically, it has been argued that there are substantive theological differences between the Western and Eastern churches that have proven enduring points of contention.[1]

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has generally taken the approach that the schism is primarily ecclesiological in nature, that the doctrinal teachings of the Eastern Orthodox churches are generally sound (with the exception of their understanding of papal primacy, the filioque clause, and the purification after death) and that "the vision of the full communion to be sought is that of unity in legitimate diversity"[2] as before the division, since "the first councils are an eloquent witness to this enduring unity in diversity".[3] In this view, the primary difficulty is disagreement on the role of the Pope.[4]

Jeffrey D. Finch claims that "the future of East–West rapprochement appears to be overcoming the modern polemics of neo-scholasticism and neo-Palamism".[5]

Historical background of the East–West Schism

Changes in extent of the Empire ruled from Constantinople.
476 End of the Western Empire; 550 Conquests of Justinian I; 717 Accession of Leo the Isaurian; 867 Accession of Basil I; 1025 Death of Basil II; 1095 Eve of the First Crusade; 1170 Under Manuel I; 1270 Under Michael VIII Palaiologos; 1400 Before the fall of Constantinople

The administration of the Roman Empire was constituted by a predominantly Greek speaking Eastern half and a Latin speaking Western half. This linguistic division over time led to an administrative division of the two regions under the Emperor Diocletian in AD 285 and then to a separation into two empires: The Western Empire and the Eastern Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire or Byzantium) with the passing of Theodosius I in AD 395. Theodosius I had established Nicene Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. The Western Empire is generally said to have come to an end in AD 476, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus. By then, the whole of what had been the western part of the empire was ruled by Germanic invaders: Italy by Odoacer, Northern Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands by Vandals, the Iberian peninsula by Visigoths, Roman Gaul by other groups, of whom the Franks were destined to become the most important, and Roman Britain by Britons and Anglo-Saxons. The Roman Empire, now ruled from Constantinople, never more than partially and temporarily recovered this area. The subsequent mutual alienation of the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West (leading to a stagnation in scholarly intercourse between the two cultures) led to increasing ignorance of the theological and ecclesiological developments of each tradition.

Impact of linguistic differences

The Eastern Church has been historically centred on the Greek language in which many of the early theological works and commentaries of Christianity were written. The Western Church used Latin as its medium and as knowledge of Greek declined among western scholars the Western church became increasingly dependent on theological works written in its own language (most notably those of St Augustine of Hippo) and often imperfect translations from the Greek. Words used in one language and those used in another to translate them sometimes do not correspond exactly, and can have a broader or narrower significance. In the 7th century, Eastern theologian and saint Maximus the Confessor applied this to apparent differences between Western and Eastern, remarking that it affected efforts by Latin-speaking Westerners to express an idea in Greek, and for Greek-speaking Easterners to express an idea in Latin: "They cannot reproduce their idea in a language and in words that are foreign to them as they can in their mother-tongue, just as we too cannot do."[6] In the 13th century Western theologian and saint Thomas Aquinas similarly remarked:

"Many things which sound well enough in Greek do not perhaps sound well in Latin. Hence, Latins and Greeks professing the same faith do so using different words. For among the Greeks it is said, correctly, and in a Catholic way, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three hypostases. But with the Latins it does not sound right to say that there are three substantiae, even though on a purely verbal basis the term hypostasis in Greek means the same as the term substantia in Latin. The fact is, substantia in Latin is more frequently used to signify essence. And both we and the Greeks hold that in God there is but one essence. So where the Greeks speak of three hypostases, we Latins speak of three personae, as Augustine in the seventh book on the Trinity also teaches. And, doubtless, there are many similar instances.
"It is, therefore, the task of the good translator, when translating material dealing with the Catholic faith, to preserve the meaning, but to adapt the mode of expression so that it is in harmony with the idiom of the language into which he is translating. For obviously, when anything spoken in a literary fashion in Latin is explained in common parlance, the explanation will be inept if it is simply word for word. All the more so, when anything expressed in one language is translated merely word for word into another, it will be no surprise if perplexity concerning the meaning of the original sometimes occurs."[7]

Areas of doctrinal agreement

Both churches accept the decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church. These are:

There is therefore doctrinal agreement on:

Neither Church community subscribes to the Protestant teachings expressed in the five solae, especially regarding the teachings of salvation through faith alone (which these two communities understand as requiring no acts of love and charity) or of sola Scriptura (which they understand as excluding doctrinal teachings passed down through the Church from the apostles in the form of sacred tradition).

Extant disputes as seen by Roman Catholic theologians

The Roman Catholic Church considers that the differences between Eastern and Western theology are complementary rather than contradictory, as stated in the decree Unitatis redintegratio of the Second Vatican Council, which declared:

In the study of revelation East and West have followed different methods, and have developed differently their understanding and confession of God's truth. It is hardly surprising, then, if from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting. Where the authentic theological traditions of the Eastern Church are concerned, we must recognize the admirable way in which they have their roots in Holy Scripture, and how they are nurtured and given expression in the life of the liturgy. They derive their strength too from the living tradition of the apostles and from the works of the Fathers and spiritual writers of the Eastern Churches. Thus they promote the right ordering of Christian life and, indeed, pave the way to a full vision of Christian truth.[8]

The Roman Catholic Church's attitude was also expressed by Pope John Paul II in the image of the Church "breathing with her two lungs".[9][10] He meant that there should be a combination of the more rational, juridical, organization-minded "Latin" temperament with the intuitive, mystical and contemplative spirit found in the east.[11]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing documents of the Second Vatican Council and of Pope Paul VI, states:

"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honoured by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter" (Lumen gentium 15). Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church" (Unitatis redintegratio 3). With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fulness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist" (Paul VI, Discourse, 14 December 1975; cf. Unitatis redintegratio 13-18).[12]

On 10 July 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document,[13] approved by Pope Benedict XVI, that stated that the Eastern churches are separated from Rome (the member churches of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East) and for that very reason "lack something in their condition as particular churches", and that the division also means that "the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history."[14]

Pertinent to concerns of non-Catholicism is the idea that the autocephalous churches of Eastern Orthdoxy engage in phyletism, that they are often concerned with issues of ethnicity and nationalism to the detriment to ministry and religious practice.

Extant disputes as seen by Eastern Orthodox theologians

Theological issues – actus purus and theoria

Some Eastern Orthodox theologians point to a number of theological issues outstanding. These issues have a long history as can be seen in the works of Photius and 11th century works of Orthodox theologian and saint Nikitas Stithatos.

Philosophy and scholasticism versus Theoria

Eastern theologians assert that Christianity is the truth; that Christianity is in essence the one true way to know the true God who is the origin and originator of all things (seen and unseen, knowable and unknowable). Christianity is the apodictic truth, in contrast to the dialectic, dianoia or rationalised knowledge which is the arrived at truth by way of philosophical speculation.[15][15]

All other attempts by humanity, though containing some degree of truth will ultimately fail in their reconciliation between humanity and its source of existence and or being (called the studies of ontology, metaphysics). One's religion must provide for the whole person (the soul), their spiritual needs most importantly. In the approach to God the East considers philosophy but one form or tool that can do much to bring one closer to God but falls short at completeness in this task.[16]

Vladimir Lossky, a noted modern Eastern Orthodox theologian, argues the difference in East and West is due to the Roman Catholic Church's use of pagan metaphysical philosophy (and its outgrowth, scholasticism) rather than the mystical, actual experience of God called theoria, to validate the theological dogmas of Roman Catholic Christianity. For this reason, Lossky argues that the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics have become "different men".[17] Other Eastern Orthodox theologians such as John Romanides[16] and Metropolitan Hierotheos[18][19] say the same. Vladimir Lossky expressed this as "Revelation sets an abyss between the truth which it declares and the truths which can be discovered by philosophical speculation.[20]

This same sentiment was also expressed by the early Slavophile movements in the works of Ivan Kireevsky and Aleksey Khomyakov. The Slavophiles sought reconciliation with all various forms of Christianity as can be seen in the works of its most famous proponent Vladimir Solovyov. Theoria here is something more than simply a theological position. In Eastern Orthodoxy theoria was and is what established for the early church fathers the validation of Christianity and the ecclesiastical faith in God as a mystical (in the modern sense of the word) relationship between God and humanity that culminated into theosis.[21][22]

Patristic Scriptural exegesis

The exegetical work of the Church Fathers differs from the methods followed today: by what they called theoria, that inspired vision - which itself is an essential part of Holy Tradition - enabled the Fathers to perceive depths of meaning in the biblical writings that escape a purely scientific or empirical approach to interpretation.[23] The Antiochene Fathers, in particular, saw in every passage of Scripture a double meaning, both literal and spiritual.[24] Although others may view the spiritual sense discerned in theoria as a form of allegory,[25] the Antiochene use of theoria differed from the Alexandrian use of outright allegory, in that it respected the literal meaning of Old Testament texts, while discerning in it a typological or spiritual sense, revealing in the things narrated "the face of Christ in the Old Testament".[26] Although theoria thus built upon the literal and historical meaning of the events narrated, it never ignored that meaning.[27] This distinction held for the Antiochian school; for Clement and other Alexandrians, Breck says, the word theōria denoted the spiritual sense of a passage of Scripture as revealed by allegory, and they treated it as virtually synonymous with allēgoria.[28]

Western writers on Patristic exegetical methods

In the context of the exegesis of the Fathers, Frances Margaret Young states, "Best translated in this context as a type of "insight", theoria was the act of perceiving in the wording and "story" of Scripture a moral and spiritual meaning".[29] According to Roman Catholic theologian George Montague, while the Alexandrian school could be accused of mere allegorizing of the Biblical texts, the Antiochenes could be accused, probably unfairly, of opening the way to a rationalism that minimized mystery.[30] In their biblical exegesis, whether of Alexandrian or Antiochene tradition, the Fathers, "with little or no understanding of the progressive nature of revelation, where the literal sense would not suffice, ... resorted to allegory or to theoria (Chrysostom and the Antiochenes)."[31]

Apart from its significance in relation to a method of biblical exegesis, the term theoria is of course used by Western writers also in relation to contemplative prayer.[32][33][34][35][36][37][38]

Vladimir Lossky and Eastern Orthodox mystical theology

Western interpretations of what theoria means are not shared by the Eastern Orthodox as in the Greek church theoria in a theological context is translated as the "vision of God".[15][39][40] In Orthodox theology, the mystic, gnosiological,[41] apophatic theology is taught as superior to cataphatic theology. While Aquinas felt positive and negative theology should be seen as dialectical correctives to each other, like thesis and antithesis producing a synthesis, Vladimir Lossky argues, based on his reading of Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor, that positive theology is always inferior to negative theology, a step along the way to the superior knowledge attained by negation.[42] This is expressed in the idea that mysticism, gnosiology is the expression of dogmatic theology par excellence.[43] For the Eastern Orthodox in its purest form, theoria is considered as the 'beholding', 'seeing' or 'vision' of God.[44][45][46][47] As theoria or Vision of God in Eastern Orthodoxy is when a person of great piety is given the gift of seeing God, vision of God. This is also referred to as experiencing the uncreated light of God as was seen by the apostles at Mount Tabor. Thus this uncreated light[39] is often referred to as the light of Tabor of Christ's Transfiguration.[48][49]

Eastern Orthodox views on Roman Catholic theology

The Eastern Orthodox teach that none of the Church Fathers accepted or embraced Aristotle's metaphysics, so the scholasticism in the West based on Aristotle, is simply absent in the East.[39] Meaning that for one to be a theologian one does not seek to obtain a degree from a University (as in the old pagan society and the Academies of Greece) to become a scholar, rather one obtains the vision of God by way of ascetic practice. Roman Catholic theologians hold as a theological conclusion (sententia certa), but not as a matter of dogma (de fide), that "our natural knowledge of God in this world is not an immediate, intuitive cognition,[50] but a mediate, abstractive knowledge, because it is attained through the knowledge of creatures" and that "our knowledge of God here below is not proper (cognitio propria) but analogical (cognitio analoga or analogica)".[51]

The Eastern Orthodox call this type of theology kataphatic theology and hold this is inferior to the "Eastern Approach" which is called Apophatic theology. As the Roman Catholic teaching on God's energies and God's essence either taught by Thomas Aquinas and addressed under his teaching Actus Purus, or under Duns Scotus whom taught Aristotle's "being qua being" as the doctrine of the univocity of being. Both imply the denial of any real distinction between essence and existence. Roman Catholicism teaches, also, that, in the Age to Come, man will, with his intellect and with the assistance of grace, behold the Essence of God.[52][53] The Orthodox declare that it is impossible to behold God in Himself. Not even divine grace, will give us such power. The saved will see, however, God as the glorified flesh of Christ.[54]

Historically, the Roman Catholic theology never made the distinction between God's Essence (what He is) and His Uncreated Energies (by what means He acts). St. Gregory Palamas tried to explain this distinction through a comparison between God and the Sun. The sun has its rays, God has His Energies (among them, Grace and Light). By His Energies, God created, sustains and governs the universe. By His Energies, He will transform the creation and deify it, that is, He will fill the new creation with His Energies as water fills a sponge.[54] But there is Catholic teaching about the attributes of God (qualities such as perfection, simplicity, oneness, veracity, fidelity, goodness, benignity, immutability, eternity, ubiquity, infinity), and it is Catholic dogma that "the Divine Attributes are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence".[51]

Hesychasm controversy and the acquisition of Theoria

A great division of opinion between theologians of East and West[55][56] arose in connection with the Hesychasm controversy or Palamite controversy. With the exception of Barlaam the Calabrian, "no major participant of the great theological controversies, which ended in 1351, had anything but a casual knowledge of Western theology ... And Barlaam himself ... was hardly a prominent representative of Western theological thought; he was, rather, a manipulator of ideas and probably influenced by Nominalism".[57] The Hesychasm or Palamite controversy was not a conflict between Orthodoxy and the Papacy,[58] but has been seen to have resulted in a direct theological conflict between Eastern Orthodox theology and the rise of Papal authority[59] and Western or Latin theology based on Scholasticism.[60]

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, quoted by John Romanides, says that one cannot be a genuine or a true theologian or teach knowledge of God without having experienced God, as is defined as the vision of God (theoria).[16] Theoria is obtained according to Eastern Orthodox theology by way of contemplative prayer called hesychasm and is the vision of God as the uncreated light i.e. the light of Tabor.[60][60][60] Palamas himself explicitly stated that he had seen the uncreated light of Tabor and had the vision of God called theoria.[61] Theosis is deification obtained through the practice of Hesychasm and theoria is one of its last stages as theosis is catharsis, theoria, and then completion of deification or theosis.[60]

Metropolitan Hierotheos states Gregory Palamas represents the God seers of Eastern Orthodox Theology and that the Western Latin Scholastic traditions are not the same as that of the God seer based theologians of the East, that Palamas represented at the Hesychasm councils.[60]

At the heart of the issue is the teaching of the Essence-Energies distinctions by Gregory Palamas. The tradition and distinction behind this understanding is that creation is an activity of God (the task of energy or energeia). If we deny the real distinction between God's essence and God's creation (activities or energies), we cannot, according to Vladimir Lossky, fix any very clear borderline between the procession of the existences of God (or realities of God) and the creation of the world: both the one and the other will be equally acts of the divine nature.[62] According to Metropolitan Hierotheos that because the Roman Catholic Church uses philosophical speculation rather that an actual experience of God to derive their theology they are lead into the many errors that Orthodox call into question about their theology including the filioque.[60]

As in the East Activity is a task or property of something else and energy does not stand alone (there is no activity, energy by itself (per se). The "being" and "the action(s) of God" without the distinction, then would appear identical, leading to the teaching of Pantheism.[63][64] This removal of distinction meaning that the universe or material world and God are one and the same.[62] For God's action (creation) and God's being or essence is one and the same in actus purus and not the result of his creating activity. This leads to the denial of the transcendent and apophatic, incomprehensible definition of the essence of God. By stating that God's being and energies are the same thing, one is stating that God in Trinity is the same as man (i.e. created or a creature as part of creation, anthropomorphic in contrast to theanthropic),[65] meaning that humans as finite beings would be able to conceive the infinite, and that humanity could be God in essence (implying pantheism), as humanity is a creation of God, as an activity an act of God.[66][67][68]

Pantheism rather potentially pagan or not, also implicitly teaches that Man is the creator God (as philosophical idealism in that God is in and of the mind nous, dyad, demiurge). Within Neoplatonism there is not only no distinction between the creator God the dyad (from the Monad) and the world (the Triad or World Soul) but that the world is made up of the monad or singular substance, essence that all things reduce to (the uncaused cause) by the demiurge or dyad. This tenet of the pagan soteriological teaching of henosis (as taught by Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus) rather than the teaching of Christian salvation (theosis). Hesychasm was one of the ways in which the various ascetics of the East attained the vision of God. To vilify Hesychasm is the vilify the process of theosis in that Heyschasm first purifies the human heart, then initiates theoria (illumination) and finally changes the person into being like God, Christ-like, Holy or Good (called Sainthood).[69] This process has long been active in the East as it can also be seen in the works of ascetics like St John Climacus.

John Climacus and his works are venerated in both the East and the West. Early 20th-century Roman Catholic theologian Adrian Fortescue said that Hesychasm went against the scholastic Aristotelean metaphysics then predominant in the West.[61] Eastern Orthodox theologian John Romanides, on the other hand, states that both Thomas Aquinas' Aristoteleanism and Augustine's Neoplatonism mislead and dominated Western theology.[16]

Romanides also stated that Western Christianity remained Neoplatonic until Occam and Luther: "Franco-Latin Christianity remained Neo-Platonic until Occam and Luther lead sizable portions of Western Europe away from Neo-Platonic metaphysics and mysticism and their monastic supports.".[70] But Fortescue, far from associating Neoplatonism with the West, said that hesychasm arose from ideas of the philosophies of Neoplatonism and Plato himself, and that, since Western theology was impregnated by Aristoteleanism and scholasticism, it could not be reconciled with Hesychasm.[61] Fortescue also called Hesychasm "the only great mystic movement in the Orthodox Church"[61] This contrasts with V. Lossky's history of the movement before Gregory Palamas in Lossky's book the Vision of (Seeing) God.

After the death of Gregory Palamas the Byzantine Empire experienced a Civil War fought by pro Heyschast forces whom actually took the name the Hesychast party. On one side of the conflict was the anti- Hesychast pro-Latin forces of John V Palaiologos and on the opposing side the pro-Hesychast anti - Latin forces of John VI Kantakouzenos. In the end, the pro-Hesychast forces won the civil war.

With the publication in 1782 of the Philokalia came a revival in hesychasm, accepted in particular by the Slav Orthodox churches; this and the importance attached to it in the 20th century by the Paris school of Orthodox theology "have led to hesychasm's becoming definitive for modern Orthodox theology as never before".[71][72]

Roman Catholic views

In Constantinople, a succession of councils alternately approved and condemned doctrine concerning hesychasm. No such councils were held by the Western church to pronounce on this internal issue of the Eastern Orthodox Church,[58] and the word "hesychasm" does not appear in the Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum (Handbook of Creeds and Definitions), the collection of Roman Catholic teachings originally compiled by Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger.

Palamite doctrine won almost no following in the West,[61] and the distrustful attitude of Barlaam in its regard prevailed among Western theologians, surviving into the early 20th century, as shown in Adrian Fortescue's article on hesychasm in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia.[73] Fortescue translated the Greek words ἥσυχος and ἡσυχαστής as "quiet" and "quietist".[61] Edward Pace's article on quietism, written in the same period, indicates that, while in the strictest sense quietism is a 17th-century doctrine proposed by Miguel de Molinos, the term is also used more broadly to cover both Indian religions and what Edward Pace called "the vagaries of Hesychasm", thus expressing the same judgment as Fortescue on hesychasm.[74] Siméon Vailhé, again in the same period, described some aspects of the teaching of Palamas as "monstrous errors", "heresies" and "a resurrection of polytheism",[75] and called the hesychast method for arriving at perfect contemplation "no more than a crude form of auto-suggestion"[75] Vailhé and Fortescue's arguments echo those of Barlaam, Nikephoros Gregoras, and John Kyparissiotes against the Hesychasts and Palamas during the Hesychasm Controversy in the East.

Today, while some Western theologians see the theology of Palamas, closely associated with the hesychast tradition of mystical prayer but not identical with it, as introducing an inadmissible division within God, others have incorporated his theology into their own thinking,[76] maintaining that there is no conflict between his teaching and Roman Catholic thought.[77]

Eastern Orthodox views of Augustine on Hesychasm

The practice of ascetic prayer called Hesychasm in the Eastern Orthodox Church is centered on the enlightenment, deification (theosis) of man.[78] Theosis has also been referred to as "glorification",[79] "union with God", "becoming god by Grace", "self-realization", "the acquisition of the Holy Spirit", "experience of the uncreated light"[60][80] Eastern Orthodox theologians John Romanides and George Papademetriou say that some of Augustine's teachings were actually condemned as those of Barlaam the Calabrian at the Hesychast or Fifth Council of Constantinople 1351.[lower-alpha 1][81] It is the vision or revelation of God (theoria) that gives one knowledge of God.[60]

John Romanides reports that Augustinian theology is generally ignored in the Eastern Orthodox church.[82] Romanides states that the Roman Catholic Church, starting with Augustine, has removed the mystical experience (revelation) of God (theoria) from Christianity and replaced it with the conceptualization of revelation through the philosophical speculation of metaphysics.[79][83] Romanides does not consider the metaphysics of Augustine to be Orthodox but Pagan mysticism.[79] Romanides states that Augustine's Platonic mysticism was condemned by the Eastern Orthodox within the church condemnation of Barlaam of Calabria at the Hesychast councils in Constantinople.[79]

Religion versus apophatic therapy

According to Eastern Orthodox theologian John Romanides, ancient Christianity was the answer to the established religions of the Roman Empire. As an established religion, for example under the Pagan Mystery Religions of its day, the personal practice of a person's religion was to rationally contemplate metaphysical or relio-philosophical created symbols in order to show piety and conform to the respective society. Orthodox Christianity is how people therapeutically cured issues of "religion". As Christianity is not a system or way of thinking that is by way of establishment a "religion" that stands by itself.[84][85] Orthodox Christianity is rather a therapeutic treatment for pain and the suffering and search for value in existence as it gives meaning to life outside of what is considered rational or philosophical.

Some Western Christian groups establish Christianity as a religion or institution the goals of which appear to try to harmonize the teachings of Christ with a world that rejects them. These Christian groups do not appear to be ascetic in nature and do not appear to offer a spiritual cure for spiritual problems, instead they appear more worldly in nature. Since theosis is an ascetic pursuit, Western Christianity terms and expresses salvation as a worldly (religious) goal in the pursuit of happiness, rather than seeking to achieve the goal of theosis (in a truly ascetic context, which is to transcend the self). This means that life in Eastern Orthodox theosis is an opportunity to prove oneself and perfect oneself and by free will to follow God and achieve salvation (theosis) through the cross.[86]

Noetic or intuitive faculty and the "unseen warfare" of the human heart

See also: nous and Spiritual warfare

In Eastern Christianity consciousness as the center, heart or spirit of the person is often referred to as the Nous.[87][88] Therefore, Orthodox Christianity is healing or therapeutic and works in each individual to overcome their passions (i.e. evil thoughts, pasts, addictions). Nous or personal consciousness can also be loosely translated as the whole experience of conscious reality both internal (dianoia and intuitive) and external (sensory perception). Nous as the eye of the whole person (called soul). It is the nous that is both logical and intuitive understanding. Since in the East much spiritual work is done, as the Christian life inside the Church (liturgical services) and outside the church. This work is dedicated to reconciling the heart and mind by putting the mind in the heart and then contemplating through our intuition.[89]

Conquer yourself – this is the highest of all victories.[90]

Consciousness or the human spirit (noetic) as energy of the soul, therefore the nous is called the "eye of the heart or soul".[91][92] In Eastern Orthodoxy when dealing with the satisfaction of the spirit one must live according to the spirit. As the laws of God are written on the human heart. It is stated that if the Orthodox Church appeared now in the world, and new, it would appear as a hospital for the spirit, heart, soul or nous of humanity.[93] Noesis (insight in English) means intuitive experiences of the spirit or heart, i.e. when one loves or grieves these are not things "learned" nor "rationalized" from external reality nor experienced as such. They are things essential and unlearned as intuitive or instinctual. These are energies or noesis as activities of the nous, consciousness. These internal experiences are intrinsic to the whole person in the East, the whole or complete person is called the soul.[92]

Inner experience
See also: Nepsis

The term "nous" in the East is used to mean the vision of life as consciousness. The soul (which is body and spirit together as one thing) vivifies or gives energy to the nous. Whereas philosophical discourse (dialectic) is very mechanical and attenuates reality into analytical concepts.[94] Thereby reducing man and nature to cold mechanical concepts, interpretations and symbols of reality not reality in and of itself.[94][95] Eastern Christianity seeks to restore humanity to its pre-separation from God or Paradise condition of full communion with the Creator and Trinity. Since in the East, it was humanity's nous that was damaged by Adam's sin and fall and it was this damaged consciousness that each human by birth now receives.

Faith as intuitive truth

Faith (pistis) is sometimes used interchangeable with Noesis in Eastern Christianity. Noesis or insight (meaning activities of the nous) are how we perceive and interact with existence.[96] The activities of the mind or consciousness as uncreated energies.

These things as energies and as uncreated are not rational, as rational comes from studying the immanence and inter-relationship of sensuous things. Faith being a characteristic of the intuitive, noesis or noetic experience of the nous or spirit. Faith here being defined as intuitive truth, meaning as a gift from God, faith is one of God's uncreated energies (Grace too is another of God's uncreated energies).[97] Since Gregory Palamas clarified that God's Energies are distinct from his Essence. God can be known by his energies (activities and then actualization) but not then limited to be any one of them.

Therefore, God can be love, but then not strictly love because God then also can give us faith. Noesis as insight is the internal faculty, as faith, in which one faces the unknowable or randomness of the future. The God in Trinity is uncreated or incomprehensible in nature, being, substance or essence.[98] Foresight implies in its innateness fore-knowledge (premonition), insight however operates without such knowledge, meaning one proceeds into the future by faith. Therefore, in Eastern Christianity, unlike in Western Christianity (see Actus et potentia), God's essence or incomprehensibility is distinguished from his uncreated energies. This again, is clarified in the Essence-Energies distinction of Gregory Palamas.[98] Faith here beyond simply a belief in something. Faith here as an activity or operation of God working in and through humanity. Faith being a critical aspect to the relationship between man and the God, this relationship or process is called Theosis. Faith as an operation in contemplating of an object for understanding.[98]

Humanity's analysis of an object's properties: enables us to form concepts.[98] But this analysis can in no case exhaust the content of the object of perception. There will always remain an "irrational residue" which escapes analysis and which can not be expressed in concepts: it is this unknowable depth of things, that which constitutes their true, indefinable essence that also reflects the origin of things in God.[98] As God in Trinity, as the anomalies of God's essence or being. In Eastern Christianity it is by faith or intuitive truth that this component of an objects existence is grasp.[98] Though God through his energies draws us to him, his essence remains inaccessible.[98] The operation of faith being the means of free will by which humanity faces the future or unknown, these noetic operations contained in the concept of insight or noesis. This faith being a radical departure from the concepts in henosis of fate and destiny within pre-Christian pagan culture.

Original sin versus ancestral sin

Another point of theological contention according to some Orthodox theologians is the Roman Catholic teachings on Original Sin.[99][100] Orthodox theologians trace this position to having its roots in the works of Saint Augustine. Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Assyrian Church of the East, and Eastern Catholicism, which together make up Eastern Christianity, acknowledge that the introduction of ancestral sin into the human race affected the subsequent environment for humanity, but never accepted Augustine of Hippo's notions of original sin and hereditary guilt.[99] The Roman Catholic Church did not accept all of Augustine's ideas, at least as these are commonly interpreted outside the Church, such as the idea that original sin deprives man of free will or that God predestines some people to hell, and also his teaching that infants who die without baptism are confined to hell.[101] It holds that original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants.[102]

Synergy and John Cassian

The Catholic Church teaches that for salvation "there is a kind of interplay, or synergy, between human freedom and divine grace".[103] Some non-Catholic writers, in line with a denial of this teaching in some Protestant traditions, have spoken of "the Church in the West" as rejecting the idea of cooperation of the human will in the process of salvation.[104] The Catholic Church instead upholds both the Council of Orange (529), which stated that, even the beginning of faith must be attributed to God's action, not man's alone,[105] and the Council of Trent, which stressed the importance and necessity of human cooperation.[106]

The question is asked: "Was John Cassian a Semi-Pelagian?"[107] Scholars such as Catholic Lauren Pristas and Orthodox Christian Augustine Casiday[108] maintain that Cassian was not a semi-Pelagian, and did not teach the semi-Pelagian doctrine that man can sometimes take the first steps to salvation without divine grace. Casiday states: "Although Cassian could not be considered an Augustinian, this does not make him semi-Pelagian ... for Cassian, contrary to Pelagius' teaching, sin is inevitable, although sparks of goodwill may exist (which are not directly caused by God). Humans are totally inadequate and only direct divine intervention can ensure our spiritual progress."[109] And Pristas writes: "For Cassian, salvation is, from beginning to end, the effect of God's grace. It is fully divine."[110]

The Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky commented that Cassian "was not able to make himself correctly understood" and that "his position … was interpreted, on the rational plane, as a semi-pelagianism, and was condemned in the West", while in the East he is considered "a witness to tradition".[111] As the Eastern Orthodox position is "according to the holy Fathers, salvation is a matter of synergy, of cooperation—that of man with God, if man wills (actively chooses) the good, the right path, the virtuous life—then God will grant grace".[112]

While Semipelagianism holds that the human will can at times take the first step toward salvation independently, with divine grace supervening only later, the Eastern Orthodox position is, according to Vladimir Lossky, that the synergy between divine grace and human freedom is necessarily simultaneous: "Eastern tradition has always asserted simultaneity in the synergy of divine grace and human freedom".[113] He states: "The Eastern tradition never separates these two elements: grace and human freedom are manifested simultaneously and cannot be conceived apart from each other."[114] Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky also says that the Eastern Orthodox Church "always understood that God initiates, accompanies, and completes everything in the process of salvation", in opposition to the semi-Pelagian idea that unaided human will can initiate something in the process of salvation.[115] Likewise, according to Karl Rahner, Catholic teaching is that there is mutual cooperation but not a "synergism" of mutually independent forces.[116]

Roman Catholic historian Luc Brésard also said that Cassian "did not have sufficient theological expertise to deal with such a difficult subject ... but his basic thought was true to the faith."[117] Cassian is included, under 23 July, in the official list of saints venerated by the Church. In that day's list, his name is one of the seven (out of a total of eleven) that are accompanied by an asterisk,[118] which one writer has described as denial of liturgical and devotional recognition as a saint,[119], but which the Martyrology itself explains as indicating local rather than universal veneration.[120] Like his contemporaries Augustine of Hippo and John Chrysostom, who are also reckoned as saints of the Roman Catholic Church, he was of course never canonized, since formal canonization did not come into use until centuries after their deaths: "the first historically attested canonization is that of Ulrich of Augsburg by Pope John XV in 993."[121]

Augustine in the East

See also: concupiscence
"Augustine of Hippo is the fount of every distortion and alteration in the Church's truth in the West" Christos Yannaras[122]
"Lord deliver us from the Augustinian dialectic". Gennadius Scholarius[81][123]

John Romanides writing on Augustine has stated that, though a saint, Augustine did not have theoria and many of his theological conclusions appear to be arrived at not from experiencing God and writing about his experience(s) of God. Augustine's conclusions appear to have him arrive at them, by means of philosophical or logical speculation and conjecture.[16] Hence Romanides reveres Augustine as a saint, but says he does not qualify as a theologian in the Eastern Orthodox church.[124]

John Cassian

John Cassian is recognized as a saint not only by the Eastern Orthodox but also by the Roman Catholic Church,[125] in spite of the frequent attribution to him of the theory known as Semipelagianism.

Free will versus metaphysical libertarianism

Various Roman Catholic theologians identify Cassian as a teacher of the Semi-Pelagian heresy which was condemned by the Council of Orange.[126][127][128][129][130][131][132] While the Orthodox do not apply the term Semi-Pelagian to their theology, they criticize the Catholics for rejecting Cassian whom they accept as fully orthodox,[111] and for holding that human consent to God's justifying action is itself an effect of grace,[133] a position shared by Eastern Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky, who says that the Eastern Orthodox Church "always understood that God initiates, accompanies, and completes everything in the process of salvation", rejecting instead the Calvinist idea of irresistible grace.[134]

Immaculate Conception

This difference between the two churches[135] in their understanding of the original sin was, according to Father Theodore Pulcini, one of the doctrinal reasons[135] underlying the Catholic Church's declaration of its dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the 19th century, a dogma that is rejected by the Orthodox Church. However, contemporary Roman Catholic teaching is best explicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which includes this sentence: ""original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted" (§405).

Alleged Modalism in Western Trinitarianism

The Orthodox teach that God is not of a substance that is comprehensible since God the Father is unoriginate, eternal, infinite, and wholly transcendent. It is less proper to speak of things as natural or supernatural than it is to speak of them as created and uncreated. God the Father is the invisible origin, the head of the Trinity and the source of the Divine essence, conceptually unapproachable except through the revealed Word.[136] Therefore, contrary to the Latin West's notion of beatific vision, consciousness of the Father as such or the essence of God is not attainable for created beings in this life or the next (see apophatism or the via negativa). Rather through co-operation with God's grace and uncreated energies (called theosis or deification) humanity can become good (Godlike, according to the pattern of the Son), and thereby be reconciled to the Knowledge of Good and Evil acquired in the Garden of Eden (see the Fall of Man). Guided by the Holy Spirit of God indwelling him, through mystical unity with Christ and the sanctifying process of deification, he is restored to right relationship with his Creator, the supersubstantial Source of all being.

Pagan philosophical modalism, idealism, and metaphysics

Gregory Palamas in his defense of Hesychasm accused Barlaam of treating God conceptually this way putting pagan philosophers over the saints and prophets who through revelation and not logical thought came to know God. The knowledge of God by the Eastern Orthodox church is not arrived at by a form of rational theology but rather by illumination (theoria) as a stage of development in the process of theosis. Which again goes against the Roman Catholic theologians validation of theology using the Pagan philosopher Aristotle's Metaphysical and scholastic arguments such as actus and potentia[61] to rationalize God.[16] The West does this through what the East calls an incompleteness as a form of theology called kataphatic theology. The East does not use kataphatic statements about God to validate God since to use positive statements about God goes against God's very being (ontology) which is apophatic and therefore incomprehensible and not rational.

Metaphysics and the scholastic method

According to Romanides, in the West the metaphysical methods of validating the existence or ontology of things was carried from being strictly a secular tradition (as it was established and taught in the East like at the University of Constantinople by Photios I of Constantinople) to being the very means of validation of data and truth in the West.[70]

Via moderna

With the move in the West from the validation of Christian spiritual truths via theoria or experience obtained through ascetic labor (like Hesychasm) to the philosophical rationalism or logical arguments of speculative Pagan philosophy. The Eastern cultural understanding of Christianity (in the West) was diminished according to Eastern theologians. With the Western use of philosophical speculation as a means to establish theology the purpose of theology changed as it became academically institutionalized. Whereas in the East Christianity remained ascetic, with its focus on theosis. Western Christianity appears to have started embracing philosophical goals at the determinant of Christian ones, like the total happiness (Summum bonum) of Aristotle for example.[137] One major change due to theology being now directed by philosophical aims was the renewed debate between Nominalism, philosophical realism (see the Problem of universals). Along with these philosophical issues includes the problem of evil and by proxy the philosophical apology of God to the problem of evil (called theodicy).

This debate rather than being strictly a philosophical one now became a Christian religious one. Where in the tenets of Nominalism abstract concepts (immaterial things) are considered not real but rather constructs of the mind. These abstract concepts include things like God, souls and spirits. This leads to a rejection of the hypostases of God as psychic or social constructs. Pagan philosophical objectives and their directed goals ultimately are incompatible with Christianity. The underlying principle here being that Greek pagan philosophy sought to reconcile being, existence with the rational faculty of humans giving humanity purpose by achieving this rationalization of life or being (ontology or more commonly called Metaphysics). Whereas Western Christianity seeks the salvation of humanity and creation through reconciliation with God, Orthodoxy seeks after this goal via world rejection called asceticism. To be in the world but not of the world is not a Stoic rejection of existence, but rather an act of faith that shows submission to God.

Eastern Orthodox theodicy and the problem of evil

The Eastern Orthodox church rejects the Western European philosophical problems that derive from Western Christianity's theological teachings about the Christian Trinity. The Eastern Orthodox theologian Olivier Clement,[138] wrote:

There is no need for Christians to create a special theory for justifying God (theodicy). To all the questions regarding the allowance of evil by God (the problem of evil) there is one answer - Christ; the Crucified Christ, Who burns up in Himself all the world's sufferings for ever; Christ, Who regenerates our nature and has opened the entry to the Kingdom of everlasting and full life to each one who desires it.


"The static conception of God as actus purus having no potentiality and completely self-sufficient is a philosophical, Aristotlelian, and not a Biblical conception." Nikolai Berdyaev[139]

Orthodox theologians hold that there is a marked difference in the teaching and understanding of the Trinitarian doctrine both East and West. As pagan metaphysics holds that what is common between variation in a specific category is as a commonness the highest form or truth of that categorization. This is understood as the discernment between "physical and metaphysical", which is rejected by the Eastern Orthodox whom instead rather distinguish between "the created and the uncreated". As the goal of the metaphysical does not end in any form of sentience but rather ends in what any given subject or object can be reduced into as a common substance. The key to the understanding of primary substance as something gained through methods or inquiry is called "philosophy". Philosophy seeks to reduce to reason or rationalisation all things to an uncaused or uncreated essence. It was Aristotle's goal to once at this level begin to understand what is discerned as uncaused or uncreatedness through the study of the noetic also understood as noesis or intuitively.

In the West the essence or substance of God is held to be higher as is in metaphysics where the ontology or primary substance (ousia) is the basis of highest categorization. Rather than as in the Eastern Orthodox whom hold that the Father person (hypostasis) of the Trinity is primary. In the Eastern Orthodox one God in Father is taught in order to clarify that the infinite or eternal is of person or personal like nature rather than a non sentient substance (uncreatedness in perseity). This commonness of substance like what is used by Aristotle in the Classical Scientific method and then adopted by the Western scholastics movement and superimposed onto the Christian God. The East teaches that what is God is uncreated or uncaused.

These teachings are different in that the uncreatedness of each Hypostasis of God derives its uncreatedness from the Father hypostasis, and to instead attribute what is correctly understood as the characteristics of the Father hypostasis (all originates from the Father), to the essence of God in uncreatedness is to undue what is understood as uncreated as defined by the Ecumenical Councils of the early church. As in the Eastern Orthodox the Father is God who is known through his uncreated person Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit that process from him as uncreated and infinite. As also the Father is known through his activities in the created world. These activities like their source are uncreated and need not be reconciled to concepts that lend to rationalizing them. As those activities as actualization (love, freedom, beauty) are uncreated and only what is created lends itself to reason or logic or rationalization. In the Eastern Orthodox what is God in essence (ousia) is not manifest in the created but rather is superior, beyond, above it.

The essence of the word God is to mean incomprehensible as created things or creatures (things whose consciousness has a beginning) can not grasp what it means to have being without a beginning. As the end result of theosis is that though man is a creature and was made conscious at a specific moment in time from ex-nihilo that humanity will if reconciled to God be like God in nature so as to have no death or end. Infinite but with a beginning, like God in nature but not like God in essence.


Aleksei Khomiakov wrote: "Those who see in the Eucharist only a commemoration, and those who insist on the word transubstantiation, or replace it with consubstantiation - that is, those who vaporize the sacrament and those who make of it an entirely material miracle - dishonor the Last Supper by approaching it with questions of atomistic chemistry."[140]

He added: "The (Eastern Orthodox) Church does not reject, it is true, the word transubstantiation, but it places it in the rank of several other indeterminate expressions that do nothing more than indicate a general change, without any scholastic definitions. The (Eastern Orthodox) liturgy does not know this term."[141]


Eastern Orthodox charge that the Eastern and Western churches have different approaches and understanding of the Trinity. St Augustine's theology and, by extension, that of Thomas Aquinas (as in the western Mediterranean on the Trinity) are not generally accepted in the Orthodox Church.[16]

Divine essence and procession of the Holy Spirit

Eastern theologians state for the Holy Spirit to proceed from the Father and the Son in the Creed, there would have to be two sources in the deity (double procession). Whereas in the one God there can only be one source of divinity, which is the Father hypostasis of the Trinity. One God in Father which is in contrast to treating God modalistically which reconciles the double procession by using God's essence as the true singular origin of the Holy Spirit.[142]

In the summation of Vladimir Lossky, the acceptance of the Latin West translating the word hypostasis (which is Lossky translates as existence or reality) by the Latin word persona (meaning "person", but originally meaning "mask") by the Latin fathers, was called into question (by St Basil as one) and then later made into open conflict. When the Latin church, added to the translation difference, the addition to the Nicene-Constantinople Creed, of the filioque, which both appears to the Greek fathers as the teaching of Sabellian heresy of modalism.[143] Which is a teaching of philosophical speculation rather than a teaching from experience (theoria).[16]

While Vladimir Lossky defines the ousia of God as "all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in another. It is thus that which is not for another, that which does not have its existence in another, that which has no need of another for its consistency, but is in itself and in which the accident has its existence."[144]

Western acceptance of the Filioque

The doctrine expressed by the Filioque is accepted by the Catholic Church,[145] by Anglicanism[146] and by Protestant churches in general.[147] Christians of these groups generally include it when reciting the Nicene Creed. Nonetheless, these groups recognize that Filioque is not part of the original text established at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and they do not demand that others too should use it when saying the Creed. Indeed, even in the liturgy for Latin Rite Catholics.[148] the Roman Catholic Church does not add the phrase corresponding to Filioque (καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ) to the Greek text of the Creed, where it would be associated with the verb ἐκπορεύεσθαι, but adds it in Latin, where it is associated with the verb procedere, a word of broader meaning than ἐκπορεύεσθαι, and in languages, such as English,[149] in which the verb with which it is associated also has a broader meaning than ἐκπορεύεσθαι. Pope John Paul II has recited the Nicene Creed several times with patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Greek according to the original text.[150]

The Roman Catholic Church's practice has been to include the Filioque clause when reciting the Creed in Latin,[151] but to omit it when reciting the Creed in Greek,[152] Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have recited the Nicene Creed jointly with Patriarchs Demetrius I and Bartholomew I in Greek without the Filioque clause.[153][154] However no move has been made to use the original creed in Greek by the Latin church as the basis of translation of creed into other languages in which the verb "proceeds" has a broader meaning than the verb used in Greek.

The Latin version of the creed is the basis for the official translations used in the Roman Rite. The term "and the Son" is included in the English translations of the Nicene Creed from Latin (as in the English speaking Roman Catholic communities for example). Whereas if the Creed was translated from its original Greek, rather than Latin, the Creed would not contain the passage "from the Son" which in Latin is "filioque". Using Latin as the language of origin to translate to the Creed, was pointed out as a practice that was not acceptable to the Eastern Orthodox at the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.[155]

The action of these patriarchs in reciting the Creed together with the Pope has been strongly criticized by some elements of Eastern Orthodoxy, such as the Metropolitan of Kalavryta, Greece.[156][157][158]


Icon of monks falling into the mouth of a dragon representing hell
Icon of hell

Eastern Orthodox views

The theological concept of hell, or eternal damnation is expressed differently within Eastern and Western Christianity.[16]

The Orthodox Church teaches that both Heaven and Hell are being in God's presence,[16][159] which is being with God and seeing God, and that there is no such place as where God is not, nor is Hell taught in the East as separation from God.[159] One expression of the Eastern teaching is that hell and heaven are being in God's presence, as this presence is punishment and paradise depending on the person's spiritual state in that presences.[16][89] For one who hates God, to be in the presence of God eternally would be the gravest suffering.[16][89][89] Aristotle Papanikolaou [160] and Elizabeth H. Prodromou [161] wrote in their book Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars that for the Orthodox: Those theological symbols, heaven and hell, are not crudely understood as spatial destinations but rather refer to the experience of God's presence according to two different modes.[162]

Other Eastern Orthodox theologians describe hell as separation from God. Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) speaks of "the hell of separation from God".[163] "The circumstances that rise before us, the problems we encounter, the relationships we form, the choices we make, all ultimately concern our eternal union with or separation from God."[164] "Hell is nothing else but separation of man from God, his autonomy excluding him from the place where God is present."[165] "Hell is a spiritual state of separation from God and inability to experience the love of God, while being conscious of the ultimate deprivation of it as punishment."[166] "Hell is none other than the state of separation from God, a condition into which humanity was plunged for having preferred the creature to the Creator. It is the human creature, therefore, and not God, who engenders hell. Created free for the sake of love, man possesses the incredible power to reject this love, to say 'no' to God. By refusing communion with God, he becomes a predator, condemning himself to a spiritual death (hell) more dreadful than the physical death that derives from it."[167]

Roman Catholic views

The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, defines hell as a state involving definitive self-exclusion from communion with God:

We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."[168]

Roman Catholic theologians have historically held that hell is a place,[169] A metaphorical interpretation has historically been rejected by the Church.[170] and have generally located it in the earth,[170][171] but not all have accepted this location.[170][172]

Some theologians have preferred to describe hell as a "place or state". Ludwig Ott's work "The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" said "Hell is a place or state of eternal punishment inhabited by those rejected by God",[173] Robert J. Fox wrote "Hell is a place or state of eternal punishment inhabited by those rejected by God because such souls have rejected God's saving grace."[174] Evangelicals Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie believe official Roman Catholic position on hell is that "Hell is a place or state of eternal punishment".[175]

The Catechism of Saint Pius X (1908), while not denying that hell can be referred to as a place, preferred to use the word "state":

Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned, and in which they are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity, and are in dreadful torments.[176]

Pope John Paul II stated that in speaking of hell as a place the Bible uses "a symbolic language", which "must be correctly interpreted".[177] In the same talk, he treated the question of whether hell can be spoken of a place as secondary.[178]

Saint Augustine of Hippo said that the suffering of hell is compounded because God continues to love the sinner who is not able to return the love.[179] Whatever the nature of the sufferings, "they are not imposed by a vindictive judge".[179][180]

In connection with the punishment that is called "eternal fire", the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost (cf. Mt 5:22,29; 10:28; 13:42,50; Mk 9:43-48). Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire" (Mt 13:41-42), and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" (Mt 25:41)[181]

In this regard it adds:

The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.[182]


The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire",[183] which is explicitly rejected by the Eastern Orthodox.

Orthodox apologist and author Clark Carlton states, "The Orthodox Church opposes the Roman doctrines of universal papal jurisdiction, papal infallibility, purgatory, and the Immaculate Conception precisely because they are untraditional."[184]

Prayer for the dead in Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem (1672) declared that the souls of some "depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike."[185]

According to Father Theodore Pulcini, the Orthodox reject that the teaching of the prayer for the dead is the same as that taken up by the Roman Catholic Church as praying for the dead in a state of Purgatory, which, he says, is making payment from past sins in a state between Heaven and Hell.[186]

See also



  1. Some of these are centuries old, as catalogued in The Byzantine Lists: Errors of the Latins, by Tia M. Kolbaba (University of Illinois Press, 2000).
  2. Encyclical Ut unum sint, 54
  3. Orientale lumen, 18
  4. Jean-Louis Leuba, "Papacy, Protestantism and ecumenism - The World Council and the Christian World Communions";original text in French
  5. Michael J. Christensen, Jeffery A. Wittung (editors), Partakers of the Divine Nature (Associated University Presses 2007 ISBN 0-8386-4111-3), p. 244
  6. Letter to Marinus
  7. Prologue to Contra Errores Graecorum
  8. Unitatis Redintegratio 17
  9. Ut unum sint, 54
  10. Constitution Sacri Canones
  11. Obituary of Pope John Paul II
  12. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 838
  13. Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church
  14. "Catholic Church only true church, Vatican says" (CBC News 10 July 2007)
  15. 1 2 3 Gregory Palamas: Knowledge, Prayer and Vision Written by M.C. Steenberg
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine/Empirical theology versus speculative theology, Father John S. Romanides
  17. Lossky (1997), p. 21
  18. Lossky (1997), p. 49
  19. Reading scripture with the Church Fathers By Christopher A. Hall pg 161 Published by InterVarsity Press, 2001 ISBN 978-0-8308-1500-5
  20. The Ancient Period By Alan J Hauser, Duane Frederick Watson ISBN 0-8028-4273-9, 2003 pg 346
  21. John Breck, Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church, St Vladimir's Seminary Press 2001, p. 11.
  22. Breck, Scripture in Tradition, p. 37).
  23. John J. O'Keefe, Russell R. Reno, Sanctified Vision (JHU Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-8018-8088-9), p. 15).
  24. John Breck, The Power of the Word in the Worshiping Church (St Vladimir's Seminary Press 1986 ISBN 0-89281-153-6), pp. 75-76
  25. Christopher Alan Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (InterVarsity Press 1998 ISBN 0-8308-1500-7), p. 162
  26. Breck, p. 73
  27. Frances Margaret Young, Biblical exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge University Press 1997 ISBN 0-521-58153-2), p. 175
  28. George T. Montague, Understanding the Bible (Paulist Press 2007 ISBN 978-0-8091-4344-3), p. 39
  29. Montague 2007, p. 48
  30. Rufus Goodwin, Give Us This Day: The Story of Prayer, p. 65
  31. Tony Jones, Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality and Contemplative Practices in Youth Ministry, p. 91
  32. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, p. 19
  33. Timothy J. Johnson, Franciscans at Prayer, p. 191
  34. Peter-Damian Belisle, The Privilege of Love: Camaldolese Benedictine Spirituality, p. 58
  35. Luke Dysinger in The Oblate Life, pp. 116-117
  36. Anna Ngaire Williams, The Divine Sense: The Intellect in Patristic Theology, p. 12
  37. 1 2 3 The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Traditions by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos
  38. Knowledge and Vision of God in Cappadocian Fathers by Anita Strezova
  39. Footnote on page 77 Living tradition: orthodox witness in the contemporary world by John Meyendorff
  40. Lossky (1997), p. 26
  41. Lossky (1997), p. 9
  42. What Is prayer? by Theophan the Recluse cited in The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology,p.73, compiled by Igumen Chariton of Valamo, trans, E. Kadloubovsky and E.M. Palmer, ed. Timothy Ware, 1966, Faber & Faber, London.
  43. THE ILLNESS AND CURE OF THE SOUL by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos " Publisher: Birth of Theotokos Monastery,Greece (January 1, 2005) ISBN 978-960-7070-18-0
  44. Orthodox Psychotherapy Section The Knowledge of God according to St. Gregory Palamas by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos published by Birth of Theotokos Monastery,Greece (January 1, 2005) ISBN 978-960-7070-27-2
  45. ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
  46. The Uncreated Light: An Iconographiocal Study of the Transfiguration In the Eastern Church by Solrunn Nes Wm. pg 97 - 103 B. Eerdmans Publishing Company ISBN 978-0-8028-1764-8
  47. Partakers of God by Panayiotis Christou Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline Mass 1984.
  48. In Greek philosophers....intuitive thought
  49. 1 2 The Unity of God: His Existence and Nature
  50. Knowledge and the Transcendent: An Inquiry Into the Mind's Relationship to God By Paul A Macdonald Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press (March 17, 2009) ISBN 978-0813215778
  51. Summa Theologica First Part Question 12 by Thomas Aquinas "Hence it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God."
  52. 1 2 Michael Azkoul, What Are the Differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?
  53. The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas Book by A. N. Williams ISBN 978-0-19-512436-1
  54. AN OVERVIEW OF THE HESYCHASTIC CONTROVERSY by Archbishop Chrysostomos, English version: Archbishop Chrysostomos, Orthodox and Roman Catholic Relations from the Fourth Crusade to the Hesychastic Controversy (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2001), pp. 199‒232
  55. "Byzantine Theology," Historical trends and doctrinal themes By John Meyendorff
  56. 1 2 M.C. Steenberg, Gregory Palamas: An Historical Overview
  57. Archbishop Chrysostomos, Orthodox and Roman Catholic Relations from the Fourth Crusade to the Hesychastic Controversy (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2001), pp. 225-227).
  58. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY by Metropolitan Hierotheos
  59. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Adrian Fortescue, "Hesychasm" in Catholic Encyclopedia 1910).
  60. 1 2 Lossky (1997), pp. 73–75
  61. Lossky (1997), p. 73
  62. SAINT GREGORY PALAMAS AS A HAGIORITE 1. For Orthodoxy by Metropolitan Hierotheos
  64. The Essence/Energy distinction "is the only possibility of explaining God's existence from the standpoint of transcendence, without falling into pantheism.", Orthodox and Wesleyan spirituality ISBN 978-0-88141-235-2
  65. A History of Christian Doctrine ISBN 978-0-567-04393-1
  66. Lossky (1997), p. 209
  67. 1 2 The cure of the neurobiological sickness of religion, the Hellenic civilization of the Roman Emire, Charlemagne's life of 794, and his lie today, John S. Romanides
  68. Andrew Louth in the Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (Oxford University Press 2000 ISBN 0-19-860024-0), p. 88
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  72. 1 2 Church Edward Pace, "Quietism" in The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. Retrieved 10 September 2010
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  78. 1 2 Saint Augustine in the Greek Orthodox Tradition by Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou
  79. FRANKS, ROMANS, FEUDALISM, AND DOCTRINE — [ Part 3 ] by John Romanides
  80. Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, p.67
  81. The Cure Of The Neurobiological Sickness Of Religion The Hellenic Civilization Of The Roman Empire, Charlemagne's Lie Of 794, And His Lie Today by John S. Romanides
  82. The Cure Of The Neurobiological Sickness Of Religion The Hellenic Civilization Of The Roman Empire, Charlemagne's Lie Of 794, And His Lie Today by John S. Romanides
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  88. Faith And Science In Orthodox Gnosiology and Methodology by Professor George Metallinos
  89. 1 2 Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky Appendices New currents in Russian philosophico-theological thought Philosophy and Theology.
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  91. Nikitas Stithatos-On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts Palmer, G.E.H; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). The Philokalia, Vol. 4 ISBN 0-571-19382-X
  92. Glossary of terms from the Philokalia pg 430 Palmer, G.E.H; Sherrard; Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). The Philokalia, Vol. 4 ISBN 0-571-19382-X
  93. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Lossky (1997), pp. 21, 71
  94. 1 2 Antony Hughes. "Ancestral Versus Original Sin: An Overview with Implications for Psychotherapy". Cambridge, MA: St. Mary Orthodox Church. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
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  98. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Reader's Guide to Themes (Burns & Oates 1999 ISBN 0-86012-366-9), p. 766
  99. What Christians Believe: A Biblical and Historical Summary by De Alan F. Johnson, Robert E. Webber ISBN 978-0-310-36721-5
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  110. Karl Rahner, Encyclopedia of Theology (Continuum 1975 ISBN 978-0-86012006-3), p. 594
  111. in A History of Monastic Spirituality, 8. Cassian 365-435
  112. Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 9788820972103), p. 385
  113. Cassian the Monk By Columba Stewart pg 21
  114. Martyrologium Romanum 2001, p. 26
  115. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article canonization
  116. The Freedom of Morality, p. 151n. Christos Yannaras
  117. "Rysai hemas, kyrie, tes Augoustiniou dialektikes" Saint Gennadius Scholarius.
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  127. 1 2 Orthodoxy and Catholicism - What are the differences - Father Theodore Pulcini ISBN 978-1-888212-23-5
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  129. The Highest Good
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  137. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 246-248
  138. Article 5 of the Thirty-Nine Articles
  139. Lutheranism (Book of Concord, The Nicene Creed and the Filioque: A Lutheran Approach), Presbyterianism (Union Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Reformed Presbyterian Church); Methodism (United Methodist Hymnal)
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  146. Video recording of joint recitation on YouTube
  147. The Metropolitan's own blog
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  153. Life Transfigured: A Journal of Orthodox Nuns, Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 1991, pp.8-9, produced by The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, Pa.
  154. In the World, of the Church: A Paul Evdokimov Reader (St Vladimir's Seminary Press 2001 ISBN 0-88141-215-5), p. 32
  155. Father Theodore Stylianopoulos
  156. Michel Quenot, The Resurrection and the Icon (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press 1997 ISBN 0-88141-149-3), p. 85).
  157. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1033
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  159. 1 2 3 Joseph Hontheim, "Hell" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Retrieved 3 September 2010
  160. Summa Theologica, Supplement, question 97, article 7
  161. Addis & Arnold (eds), "A Catholic Dictionary Containing Some Account of the Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils, and Religious Orders of the Catholic Church: Part One", p. 404 (1903).
  162. Ott, "The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma", p. 479 (1955).
  163. Fox, "The Catholic Faith", p. 262 (1983).
  164. Geisler & MacKenzie, "Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: agreements and differences", p. 143 (1995).
  165. LESSON THIRTY-SEVENTH: On the Last Judgment and the Resurrection, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, (Question 1379)
  166. Pope John Paul II, Audience Talk, 28 July 1999
  167. "Hell: the Self-Exclusion from God"
  168. 1 2 Berard L. Marthaler, The Creed (Twenty-Third Publications 2007 ISBN 978-0-89622-537-4), p. 211
  169. Zachary J. Hayes, in Four Views on Hell Zondervan 1996 ISBN 0-310-21268-5, p. 176
  170. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1034
  171. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1035
  172. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1031
  173. Clark Carlton, THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, 1997, p 135
  174. Confession of Dositheus, Decree 18
  175. Orthodoxy and Catholicism - What are the differences - Father Theodore Pulcini


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