The Idea of Creation
in Christian Philosophy
By Georges Florovsky
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. Isaiah xlix; 16.
The idea of Creation is one of the main distinctive marks of the Christian mind. It was foreign and alien to the Greek mind. Perhaps, the true point of discrimination between the two systems was exactly this idea of Creation. It was much more than the answer to the problem of origins. In this answer the whole further development is already implied. Charles Renouvier, the great French philosopher of the last century, was undoubtedly right in suggesting a dichotomic classification of philosophical systems ("une division binaire"). Philosophical systems, he contended, could not be arrayed in a linear order, as if they were but steps in the formation of some ultimate and all-inclusive synthesis. There was, in his opinion, no linear progress in philosophy, even no dialectical one. There was a radical opposition and an irreconcilable conflict of the two visions of the world, an ultimate opposition of sic and non, an ultimate either or. One of the main antitheses was for Renouvier precisely this: evolution or creation. Renouvier was not a Christian philosopher himself, he was decidedly anti-Christian. But paradoxically, on main burning issues of metaphysics he was unexpectedly closer to the truth of Revelation than many of those who had claimed for themselves the honorific title of Christian thinkers. And his monumental Esquisse d'une classification systematique des doctrines philosophiques (1866, 2 vols.) is an excellent guide through the labyrinth of metaphysical controversies. Now, the two visions of the world Renouvier was speaking of, are in the last resort precisely the Greek and the Christian. The idea of Creation was, in fact, a striking Christian innovation in philosophy. No wonder it is still a stumbling-block for philosophers. For, as a rule, philosophers, up to the present day, are thinking in Greek categories. Time and again, various attempts were being made to tame or reduce this startling idea, to sterilize it, as it were, to take the sting out of it, or else to explain it away altogether. Yet, an adequate idea of Creation is the distinctive test of the integrity of Christian mind and faith. An inadequate conception of Creation, on the contrary, is inevitably subversive of the whole fabric of Christian beliefs.
To say: the world is created is, first of all, to emphasize its radical contingency and precisely a contingency in the order of existence. Or, in the other words, a created world is a world which might not have existed at all. Perhaps, this is the best definition of Creation. On one hand, it is to say that the Universe has in itself no sufficient reason for existence cur potius sit quam non sit. It is to say, that the world is, utterly and entirely, ab alio, and in no sense a se. It is a derived and depended existence, it is not self-explanatory. The very existence of the world points out to Another, to the existence of God. "Behold, there exist the sky and the earth. They cry out that they have been made... They cry out also that they did not make themselves: we are because we have been made; we were not before we were, to be able to be made by ourselves." Ecce sunt coelum et terra, clamant quod facta sunt Clamant etiam quod se ipsa non fecerint: ideo sumus quia facta sumus; non ergo eramus, antequam essemus, ut fieri possemus a nobis. Et vox clamantium est ipsa evidentia (St. Augustine, Conf. xi, 4). On the other hand, it is to say that God, as it were, could not have created any world at all. The world had been brought into existence out of nothing by the free act of God, and not by any "necessity" inherent in His own being. It was a libertas contradictionis. God was ultimately and absolutely free either to create or not to create at all, without any prejudice or detriment to His supreme perfection and plenitude. Let us quote Etienne Gilson: "God added nothing to Himself by the creation of the world, nor would anything be taken away from Him by its annihilation events which would be of capital importance for the created beings concerned, but null for Being Who would be in no wise concerned qua being." Thus, the contingency is double; on the part of the Created, and on the part of the Creator Himself. Neither should be overlooked or underestimated. The true reality of the Universe is secured, in a startling way, precisely by its being unnecessary to God's own being. Otherwise it would have been but a shadow. The existence of the world is the miracle of the Divine Freedom.
The idea of Creation implies therefore some ultimate duality in existence. God and the Creature. This and is an "and" of absolute freedom. God is for the world exactly "the Other," and the world is for God an outside. The Creation is precisely the Creation of this mysterious "outside." There is an absolute and ultimate distance between God and the created world, an utter and ultimate hiatus and it is a distance in nature, in the phrase of St. John Damascene: πανδα απεχει Θεου ου τοπω, αλλα φυση (de fide orth. i, 13). This duality of God and the world is not a logical antithesis of the Absolute and the relative, of the Infinite and the finite; in such an antithesis the terms are correlative and mutually complementary they are only possible together. No more is it duality of principles ; the Creature is not an autonomous principle, there is but one true "principle" God Himself. But there are two natures this terminology has been authorized and consecrated by its use in the christological definition of Chalcedon. We may say: there is a second nature, and it is (or exists) beside and outside God. The existence of this "second" nature constitutes the proper mystery of Creation. Again, this "outside" is, in the strictest sense, an ultimate and contingent "surplus" of existence. These two adjectives: "ultimate" and "contingent" may seem to be rather contradictory and incompatible. Surely, they are antinomical. Yet, this antinomy is exactly the basis of the created existence. The mystery of the Creation consists precisely in that what might not have existed at all by the supreme and inscrutable Will of God does actually and really exist. The idea of Creation itself is basically antinomical. And this is antinomy of freedom. Freedom is always essentially antinomical. The creative fiat of God is a free, but ultimate act of God. God has created the world simply for existence: εκτισε γαρ εις το είναι τα παντα (Wis. i, 14). There was no provision for recalling in this creative decree. "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent" (Ps. 110: 4). "The world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved" (Ps. 93; 1). The sting of the antinomy is exactly here: the world has a contingent beginning, but no end. Here is the whole novelty of the Christian conception. For the Greeks "beginnings" and "ends" were intrinsically interconnected: an "end" was implied in any " beginning," and "no end" could mean automatically "no beginning." Or again, in the Greek conception, only that what was "necessary" could claim a true and permanent "existence." This was inevitable in the monistic system of metaphysics. Now, the whole perspective has been changed in the light of the Revelation.
Contingency implies a "beginning." The world has been begun. It has had a chronological beginning. Of course, the world is created not in time, but rather with time. "The beginning of time is not yet time and not even the least particle of it," says St. Basil just as the beginning of the road is not yet the road itself, and again "the beginning, in effect, is indivisible and instantaneous (αμερες τι και αδιαστατον, in Hexaemeron, hom. 1, 6). St. Augustine was also emphatic on this point; procul dubio non est mundus factus in tempore, sed cum tempore; quis non videat quod tempora not fuissent, nisi creatura fieret? (Civ. Dei, i i; 6). The created world alone exists in time, as in a real succession or duration. The creation of the world therefore is the creation of time also. Yet, the created world can exist also in another manner, once it bad been created. This mode of existence is still inconceivable for us now. But, after the General Resurrection, suggested St. John Damascene, there will no longer be any succession of moments, of days and of nights, even for the creatures, but for the righteous there will be one eternal day, and for the wicked and condemned one endless night (de fide orth. 2; 1). The sequence of moments, the temporal series itself, will have its last term. But, let us remember, the end of time will not be the end of the creaturely existence. This again is the Christian innovation. The temporal series had its first term. We can imagine this beginning of time only in a retrospective manner, by remounting the series of successions this was precisely the method of St. Basil (Hexaem. 1; 6 "ascending into the past"). And then, we come ultimately to the point at which we have simply to stop, or rather we postulate the halt. This is the absolutely first term of the temporal series, or the last of our mental retrogression. Before it, or beyond it, there are no terms at all, i.e. no terms or moments of the temporal series, because there was no time before the time begun. For time is precisely "the number of movement, estimated according to its before and after" (Aristotle, Phys. 4: 3). We cannot visualize this first beginning directly. Yet, we can visualize it by the contrary, by discovering and postulating the impossibility of infinite retrogression. It matters little, whether we can really measure the time elapsed since this beginning exactly in centuries or days. What does really matter is just this postulate of the halt. This postulate means also that the "number" of the times past is a finite number. Surely, time was not begun in time, for there was simply nothing to precede time in time. An "empty time " is but a fiction. It is highly inaccurate to say that God was before the time begun. The word "before" implies just the sequence of instants, it is an utterly temporal expression. But God does not precede the created world in time. "Nor dost Thou by time precede time; else shouldest Thou not precede all times. But Thou precedest all things past by the sublimity of an ever present eternity celsitudine semper presentis aeternitatis... Thy years are one day; and Thy day is not daily, but To-day... Thy To-day is eternity " (St. Augustine, Conf. 11; 16). We cannot understand the transition from the Divine Eternity to duration or the succession of times precisely because there is no homogeneous transition, but an ultimate hiatus and rupture. "Eternity" and "time" are two different modes of existence. They differ essentially in quality, not just in measure or length. And Omne tempus would not be the true Semper, to quote St. Augustine once more (Civ. Dei 12; 15. But time began. This beginning of time, with the created world, is an absolute beginning the beginning of all that begins, that is begun. Time and eternity cannot be added together: they have no common measure, they are, as it were, different dimensions of existence. "We are dealing with two orders of being not to be added together nor subtracted; they are, in all rigour, incommensurable, and that is also why they are compossible."
The Fathers of the fourth century, in their struggle against Arian heresy, were especially concerned with a clear definition of Creation. As St. Athanasius puts it, created things have nothing in common with God κατουσιαν, and are constituted outside of Him (εξωσεν), being created by His grace and will χαριτι και βουλησει), so that they could even cease to exist if He would wish so (c. arian. 1; 20). Creation, first of all, excludes all "consubstantiality" of the productive Cause and the things produced. It is to be strictly distinguished from another mode of self-production which would have for origin its own proper nature. The Word of God is eternally born εκ της μακαριας εκεινης και αει ουσης ουσιασ, but the world is created εκ βουλησεος (c. Arian. 2; 2; cf. 3; 60-6). We find again the same distinction in St. Cyril of Alexandria: ετερον γαρ τι εστιν παρα το κτισμα το γεννυμα, το μεν γαρ εκ της ουσιας του γεννωντυς προεισι φυσικος, το δε εξωθεν εστιν, ως αλλοτριον (Thes. ass. 15, M.G. 75, 276; cf. ass. A, 313; το με γαρ ποιειν ενεργειας εστιν φυσεως, δε το γενναν, φυσις δε και ενεργτια ου ταυοτν). Finally, St. John of Damascus sums up the established patristic tradition in the following concise statements. "For we hold that it is from Him, that is, from the Father's Nature, that the Son is generated For creation, even though it originated later, is nevertheless not derived from the essence of God (ουκ εκ της του Θεου ουσιας); but is brought into existence out of nothing by His Will and power (βουλησει και δυναμει). For generation means that the begetter produces out of his essence offspring similar in essence (το εκ της ουσιας του γεννωντος προαγεσθαι το γεννωμενον ομοιον κατουσιαν); But creation and making mean that the Creator and maker produces from that which is external, and not of his own essence, a creation of absolutely dissimilar nature (ουκ εκ της ουσιας του κτιζοντος και ποιουντος γενεσθαι το κτιζομενον και ποιουμενον ονομοιον παντελως) But generation in Him is without beginning and everlasting, being the work of nature and producing out of His own essence (αναρχος και αιδιος, φυσεως εργον ουσα και εκ της ουσιας αυτου προαγουσα) While creation in God (επι Θεου), being the work of will (θελησεως εργον ουσα), is not co-eternal with God." (de fide orth. 1; 8). By virtue of His natural fecundity (της φυσικης γονιμοτητος) the Father has begotten His eternal Son. "Natural fecundity" is precisely a capacity to beget of Himself, of His own substance or nature to beget consubstantials. There is, as it were, something of "natural" or essential necessity. The eternal Generation and Procession are realized within the Divine nature (or "essence"). But Creation is an act of will, an act and action entirely and essentially free. And by this creative act God brings into being things wholly dissimilar to Himself. As a work of the will, not of the substance of God, the creature is not at all consubstantial or even similar to the Creator. "In the creature there is nothing appertaining to the Trinity save that the Trinity formed it," says St. Augustine: non de Dei natura sed a Deo sit facta de nihilo, nibilque in ea esse quod ad Trinitatem pertineat, nisi quod Trinitas condidit (de Gen. ad litt. lib. imp., c. I, M.L. 34: 221).
The world is created it means; it is brought into existence by freedom pure and absolute, ex mera libertate, or liberrimo consilio. Duns Scotus, doctor subtilis, formulated this thought with a very subtle clarity: God created things, not by a necessity either of essence or of prescience or of will, but by a pure liberality, which nothing outside Him constrains to cause what He creates. Procedit autem rerum creatio a Deo non aliqua necessitate vel essentiae, vel scientiae, vel voluntatis, sed ex mera libertate, quae non movetur et multo minus necessitatur ab aliquo extra se ad causandum (Duns Scotus, Quaest. disp. de rerum principio, qu. 4, art. I, n. 3). Yet, it is not enough to exclude all external constraint. Obviously, no such constraint was ever possible before the "outside" itself was created. Before creation nothing existed beside God. As it has been already pointed out, Creation is precisely the first positing of an "outside" in relation to God of course, not as any limit or restriction of the Divine being and nature, but in the sense that another nature is brought into existence beside God, that a new mode of existence, of a derived existence, is initiated. Doubtlessly, in the act of Creation God is only determined by Himself. Now, we have to make one step still further: He is not even determined or moved to creation by any internal necessity. Or, in other words, God qua God is not inevitably Creator. He might not have created at all, without any diminution of His supreme fullness or of His superabundant perfection. Or again, in the phrase of E. Gilson, "it is quite true that a Creator is an eminently Christian God, but a God whose very essence is to be a creator is not a Christian God at all." But precisely at this very point we have to face the greatest antinomy of all nodus totius tbeologiae intricatissimus, as Billuart hast styled it. It has been plainly stated already by Origen, but, unfortunately, his own solution of the problem was wrong and misleading. Origen begins with the analysis of the name Almighty, and proceeds as follows. "As no one can be a father without having a son, nor a master without possessing a servant, so even God cannot be called omnipotent unless there exists those over whom He may exercise His power; and therefore, that God may be shown to be almighty, it is necessary that all things should exist. For if anyone would have some ages or portions of time, or whatever else he likes to call them, to have passed away, while those things which were afterwards made did not yet exist, he would undoubtedly show that during those ages or periods God was not omnipotent, but became so afterwards, viz. from the time that He began to have persons over whom to exercise power; and in this way He will appear to have received a certain increase, and to have risen from a lower to a higher condition; since there can be no doubt that it is better for Him to be omnipotent than not to be so. And now how can it appear otherwise than absurd, that when God possessed none of those things which it was befitting for Him to possess, He should afterwards, by a kind of progress, come into the possession of them? But if there never was a time when He was not omnipotent, of necessity those things by which He receives that title must also exist; and He must always have had those over whom He exercised power, and which were governed by Him either as king or prince" (de princ. 1:2-10). God is unchangeable. Now, He is the Lord of creation. Is it conceivable, asks Origen, to admit that He began to be a Lord? Again, one is a Lord of somebody else. is it not inevitable that this somebody should exist from all eternity, if God is to be the Lord at all ? Is it not inevitable for God to have an eternal companion, if He has to have a companion at all? But there is a companion, the created Universe. Can we escape the conclusion, that the Universe existed always? Origen returns once more to the same question. He had to face the following objection: " if the world had its beginning in time, what was God doing before the world began? For it is at once impious and absurd to say that the nature of God is inactive immovable, or to suppose that goodness at one time did not do good, and omnipotence at one time did not exercise its power." Origen had nothing to offer except an evasive suggestion that there were "other worlds" before the present world had been started. "We can give a logical answer in accordance with the standard of religion, when we say that not then for the first time did God begin to work when He made this visible world; but as, after its destruction, there will be another world, so also we believe that others existed before the present came into being" (de princ. 3; 5, 3). Origen's difficulty was real. St. Augustine has faced the same problem. Cum cogito cujus rei Dominus semper fuit, si semper creatura non fuit, affirmare aliquid pertimesco (Augustine, Civ. Dei, 12: 15). Origen has complicated the problem by his inadequate conception of the eternal time, i.e. of an infinite sequence of instants or duration. But the core of the problem was not there. He has admitted much more than what could be imposed upon him by this erroneous conception of time. He went to insist on the intrinsic necessity for God to be revealed ad extra, on the intrinsic inevitability to have realized from all eternity at least implicitly everything that could be realized at all. If the world had to exist at all, it had to be created eternally. The main reason of Origen was precisely the Divine immutability. He had to come to the conclusion that some co-eternal non-ego was necessary for God, as a condition of the Divine fullness and perfection. At this point he was unable to overcome the limitations of the Greek mind and apprehend the novelty of Christian Revelation in its full and mysterious depth. He failed to understand the very point of the doctrine of Creation. Yet, even if we reject Origen's conception of an eternal and infinite time, it remains questionable, whether at least the idea of the world does not ultimately belong to the unconditional fullness of the Divine Being. Let us take for granted, that the real, or "the visible world," as Origen used to say, has had really a true beginning with time, and one can pretend that there was when it had not existed. Still, we have to face the deeper challenge: is not the idea of the world ever present in the Divine mind, does it not belong to the unchangeable fullness of the Divine self-knowledge and selfdetermination ? It is a subtle and delicate question indeed. But we can hardly avoid it. The true antinomy can be stated in this way. "To be creator" is not an "essential" or constitutive attribute of God, of the Divine being God creates in perfect and unlimited freedom. The omnipotence of God must be defined not only as the supreme power to create, but also as an absolute power not to create at all. God might have tolerated that nothing should exist outside Himself (we have already stressed this point). To create and not to create are for God, as it were, equal goods, and it is useless to seek a "sufficient reason" for' the Divine choice, because the creative act has not been imposed upon God in any sense, even by His own goodness or His own superabundant perfection. In His full and infinite beatitude God has need of nothing. Rather it is a miracle and mystery that God should have reasons to create. There is no imperative or necessary link between the Divine Nature (or Essence) and the creative decree. But, if God is not necessarily Creator, by His own nature or essence, did He begin to create? An absurd and impious supposition indeed, because, God is above all change, and in Him "there is no shadow of turning" (Jam. 1; 17). But again, if He did not begin to be creator, if His creative Will is eternal, as it obviously is, does He then create ab aeterno and is the creature coeternal with God? An affirmation still more absurd, since it is the distinctive characteristic of the creature, as such, to be begun, to come into existence out of nothingness. "Nulla fiebat creatura, antequam fieret ulla creatura," as St. Augustine says (Conf. 11: 12). The world was begun with Time itself. And God did not begin to create. There is here a sharp enough antinomy. It is much more than "a sacred puzzle," aenigma sacrum. And it cannot be solved or simply dismissed by a distinction between the eternal will and its temporal accomplishment. Obviously, there is no difficulty at all in conceiving an eternal disposition of effects to be produced in time, i.e. in temporal order and sequence. But the true knot of problem is not there. The real problem is precisely this: what is the relation between the eternal essence of God and His eternal Will. Or, in other words, the ultimate antinomy is implied in the conception of the eternal freedom. Or again, how can we reconcile the perfect Immutability of God with His creative Freedom? I mean, how can we escape ascribing the unchangeable God some inevitable plan of Creation? be it only a plan of a possible creation. Even in such an assumption some necessity would be already implied.
The Divine creative thought is eternal. "God," says St. John Damascene, "contemplated everything before creation, thinking outside time (αχρονως εννοησας); and everything comes to pass in its time according to His timeless volitional thought, which is predetermination and image and pattern κατά την θελητικην ουτου αχρονον εννοιαν, ηυις εστι προορισμος, και εικων, και παραδειγμα (de fide orth. 1; 9). These "images" and "patterns" constitute the eternal and immutable counsel of God, in which all that is foreordained by God and is being unfailingly realized is eternally figured, εχαρακτηριξετο η βουλη αυτου η προαιωνιος και αει ωσαυτως εχουσα (St. John Damasc. de imagin. 1, 10). This "counsel" of God is eternal and has no beginning (αναρχος), because everything is immutable in God. It is "the image of God," the second type of the Divine images, oriented ad extra (de imag. 3:10 δευτερος τροπος εικονος, η εν τω Θεω των υπαυτου εσωμενων εννοια τουτεστιν η προαιωνιος αυτου βουλησις, η αει ωσαυτως εχουσα, ατρεπτον γαρ το Θειον, και η βουλησις αυτου αυτουαναργος). St. John quotes Pseudo Dionysius. "And we give the name of "Exemplars" to those laws which, pre-existent in God as an Unity, produce the essences of things; laws which are called in theology "Preordinations" or Divine and benevolent Volitions, laws whereby the Super-Essential pre-ordained and brought into being the whole Universe" (de div. nomin. 5; 8 παραδειγματα δε φαμεν είναι τους εν Θεω των οντων ουσιοποιους και ενιαιως προυφεστωτας λογους, ους η θεολογια προορισμους καλει, και θεια και αγαθα θεληματα των οντων αφοριστικα και ποειτικα, καθ ους ο Υπερουσιος τα οντα παντα και προωρισε και παρηγαγεν). These "ideas" and "pre-ordinations" are, in the phrase of St. Maximus the Confessor, perfect and eternal notions of the Eternal God, νοησεις αυτοτελεις αιδιοι του αιδιου Θεου (schol. in div. nom. 5; 5, M.G. 4: 317 C). We have now to ask and to answer two different questions, and it is highly important not to confuse them, for they belong ultimately to different levels or theological contexts. First, what is the relation between these "pre-eternal patterns" of the world and the temporal world actually in existence ? Secondly, what is its relation to the very essence and being of God. The first belongs to the sphere of the Divine economy, the last to theology proper. Let us begin with the former.
God has constituted the creature in His idea from all eternity. But it was not yet the creature itself. It was only an image, a sketch, a plan, a proposition of the creature. The creatures before they were created with time existed and did not yet exist, as St. Augustine admirably suggested: they existed in the prescience of God, but they did not exist in their proper nature. Haec igitur antequem fierent, utique non erant. Quomodo ergo Deo nota erant quae non erant ? Proinde, antequam fierent, et erant et non erant; erant in Dei scientia;.non erant in sua natura (St. Augustine, de Gen. ad. litt., 5; 18). The term "exist" is ambiguous and misleading just at this very point. Properly speaking, the creatures simply do not exist before they come to existence in their own and temporal nature. The idea of the world is not yet the world itself. And there is an absolute and qualitative hiatus, a true distance of nature there is no continuous or inevitable passage between the two. Transition from the "notion" or "pattern" (the Divine εννοημα) to the "act" and actualization (εργον) is not a process in the Divine idea, but exactly the emergence, creation and first positing of the new reality, that, in the strictest sense, simply did not exist at all or, as it were is preceded on its own level and in its own kind, by "nothingness" ("out of" which it first emerges), i.e. precisely by nothing at all. As we have already stated, it is an absolute beginning in the order of existence, or a beginning of the new order of existence itself. The Divine idea remains outside the world, that is created according to it. The idea itself does not enter into the temporal process, into the process des Werdens. God created according to His idea or ideas and not out of His idea. The Divine Idea is an eternal prototype in God's own mind, in accordance with which all that is produced is produced, shaped and formed. It is a transcendent plan of creation. This was precisely the conception of St. Augustine, Sant namque ideae principales formae quaedam, vel rationes rerum stabiles atque incommutabiles, quae ipsae formatae non sunt, ac per boc aeternae ac semper eodem modo se habentes, quia in Divina mente continentur. Et cum ipsae neque oriantur, neque intereant; secundum eas tamen formari dicitur omne quod oriri et interire potest, et omne quod oritur et interit (St. Augustine, de div. quaest. 83, qu. 46; 2, M.L. 40: 30). The idea of the world is in God, and the world itself is outside God. The fundamental error of the pantheists consists exactly in their identifying the idea and this existential "itself": then it would be the Divine idea as such which would be developed in time and be the subject of the temporal process; then again, the "substance" of things would be a "substantial" revelation of God's own being and existence; then God Himself would be involved into the process of the world. On the contrary, we have to insist on the basic fact that the idea is not the germ of things at all. The "germ" of things comes precisely out of nothing, i.e. is created. The idea of things is their transcendent "image" or exemplar, and their norm not an immanent one. Creation consists in God's calling, "out of nothing" (εξ ουκ οντων) into existence a new reality, which becomes the bearer or carrier of His idea, without being ever existentially identified with it which must and can actualize the idea, in the creaturely order of existence, by its own proper becoming what it was meant and foreordained to become. The created world is an "exterior" object of the Divine thought, and not this thought itself. It participates in the idea, in so far as it is conformed to it. But even in this participation there is no confusion of the orders of existence, Thus the own reality of the created world is fully secured.
And now we come to the crucial point. We have to turn to our second question. The idea of Creation, of a Divine "outside," a Divine "non-ego," obviously does not belong to the intrinsic plenitude of the Divine being it is not produced in virtue of the "natural fecundity" of God, for in this case it would be a sort of "fourth hypostasis," a supposition impious and sacrilegious. It has been produced from all eternity, but in a supreme freedom, by an act of will. We can dare to say that this idea might not have been produced as well. Certainly it is for us a casus irrealis, a wholly formal possibility. But it helps us to understand the full meaning of the idea of Creation. We may say also that the Trinitarian being is an intrinsic revelation of the Divine essence, that it is eminently necessary and perhaps, there is nothing necessary, in the strict and ultimate sense, except the Holy Trinity, consubstantial and indivisible. God is Trinity. And He has His idea of the Creation from all eternity. Still, there is an ultimate difference between the "is" and the "has." Otherwise we would deny His creative freedom, which is not only a libertas specificationis, but, above all and ultimately, a libertas contradictionis. God has invented His idea of the world from all eternity. That is to say at once that He had supreme reasons for positing it and that He was not constrained in this eternal act, even by His own Goodness and Love. We cannot say that God created the world with the same "necessity" with which He loves Himself. The Love of God, His blessed goodness, cannot be augmented by the contemplation of all the finite existences which can be brought out of nothingness to participate in the Divine grace. No more can the superabundant beatitude of God be limited by the absence of these existences, or even by the absence of the idea of their essence. God is supremely αυταρκης. He has no need of any non-ego, even imagined, even in idea. God does not think in antitheses. He has not to oppose Himself to another, to raise Himself above another, God is supremely free in regard to possible creatures. There is no cause weighing down His will. God is eminently free in regard even to the very possibility of creatures. There is then a clear distinction between the necessity of the Divine nature and the absolute freedom of His beneficent will. Or else, there is a distinction between His being and His will. God is not, strictly speaking, causa sui He is Who is. But He is causa mundi precisely in the order of existence. This distinction is not, of course, a division there is no division, no interval in the Divine Life. Moreover, the Divine Will reveals the Divine Nature. Let us quote, at this point, St. Gregory of Nazianzus. "God invented (or imagined) the angelic and heavenly powers, and this imagination became deed," και το εννοημα εργον ην (orat. 45, in S. Pascha, 5). Imagined it is the very word. From all eternity, "before" creation, says St. Gregory on another occasion, the thought of God "contemplated the splendour ardently desired of His goodness, the equal and equally perfect splendour of His tri-hypostatic Divinity, as it is known to God Himself and to him to whom He deigns to manifest it. The Intelligence which gave origin to the world scanned also in its sublime conceptions the forms of this world" (carm. 4, de mundo, vv. 60-9). These forms do not belong to the perfect splendour of the tri-hypostatic Divinity.. The creative initiative is surely eternal, but it comes, as it were, second. We have to admit some mysterious gradation in the eternal life of God. With a daring, but tolerable inexactitude we may say perhaps, that creative intention is eternal and yet not co-eternal with God. That is not to say that it is accidental, but to emphasize that it is free. Of course, there is a limit to our logical understanding: here every word becomes dumb and inexact all words have here a value rather apophatic, prohibitive or exclusive, than positive and cataphatic. Yet, cataphatic theology itself ever needs an apophatic correction. The world, even in the Divine idea of it, is an absolute surplus, a superadded reality, or rather a superadded gift, free and generous, of the almighty freedom and superabundant Love of God. That means exactly that the world is created. This may seem enigmatic, paradoxical, antinomical. Now, creation is indeed paradoxical, miraculous, mysterious, and enigmatic. The natural reason of man seeks always reasons, necessary and sufficient, imposing themselves inevitably. There is no such reason for the Creation. Surely, the creature cannot exist without the Creator, but the Creator is free not to create this means exactly that He is a Creator. It does not mean only a possibility of not executing the eternal plan in time, but also of not having or setting up any plan at all. This plan is obviously eternal, like all the designs of the Divine Will. Yet, and just in order to escape the dangerous confusion, we have to distinguish, as it were, two modes of eternity: the essential eternity in which only the Trinity lives, and the contingent eternity of the free acts of Divine grace.
All that we affirm positively about God does not reveal His very nature, but only "what has reference to it," τα παρι την φυσιν (St. John Damasc. de fide orth. 1:3). St. John here sums up the typical motives of the Greek theology (St. Augustine diverges radically from it just at this point). It is according to St. Athanasius that God presents Himself in all things by His power and goodness, but remains outside everything in His own proper nature, εξω δε των παντων --- κατά την ιδιαν φυσιν (de decr. 2). It is according to St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nyssa that in the world only the Divine energies, the active forces of the Divine goodness, are manifested and operate; and it is only these energies which are comprehensible and accessible to us in our relations with God (St. Basil, adv. Eun. 1:32 δυναμεως γαρ, και σοφιας, και τεχνυς, ουχι δε της ουσιας αυτης ενδεικτικα εστιν ποιηματα, cf. bom. inillu Vol. etc., M.G. xxxi, 216 A; εκ των ενεργειων γωωριζεται μονον, St. Gregory of Nyssa, in Cant. cant. II, M.G. xlix, 1013 B την θειαν φυσιν ακαταληπτον ουσαν παντελως και ανεικαστον, δια μονης ενεργειας γινωψκεσθαι). Yet, these energies are God Himself. The depths of the essence of God, dwelling in light unapproachable, are closed for us for ever. But what is comprehensible of Him, God has revealed by His operations in the world. By them we can contemplate His eternal Divinity and power (Rom. 1; 19-20) But the Nature of God is ineffable and inaccessible it is only accessible to God Himself, as St. Basil says (adv. Eun. 1:14). We only know the Divine actions "something which follows on His nature," according to St. John of Damascus (τι των παρεπουμενων τη φυσει, de fide orth. I; 9) τα περι αυτον, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus says (orat. 38:7). We can only touch His grace, but Himself is there; He descends to us by His energies, but we can never approach His nature, says St. Basil (ep. 234, ad Amphil., M.G. xxxii, c. 869 A-B: αι μεγαρ ενεργεια αυτου προς ημας καταβαινουσιν, η δε ουσια αυτου μενει απροσιτος). It was the common opinion of the Greek Fathers of the fourth century (St. John Chrysostom included; cf. his de incompr. Dei natura 3; 3, M.G. xlviii, 722). grace is in no way separated from God, it is Himself. But, perhaps, we have to say it is the face of God turned outwards ad extra, towards the creature, or just the Right Hand of God which creates and preserves. These are not vain and anthropomorphic metaphors. There is no better way to emphasize the distinctive difference between that which is strictly essential (and in this sense "necessary") and what which is eminently free in God. This difference is of course not a division. Divine Nature and Divine grace are utterly indivisible, in the unity of the Divine being. Yet, we have to distinguish them. This distinction is implied already in the traditional distinction of Theology (in the proper sense) and Economy, θεολιγια and οικονομια, which distinction we can trace back to the early date. The Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church from the early times distinguished with care that what is to be said of God Himself and that which is said (and should be said) of His voluntary condescendence (beginning precisely with the Creation itself). One basic difficulty was inherent in this distinction. We know God only through His revelation, i.e. precisely in so far as He is, as it were, turned towards us or the created world in general. We know Him only in His relation to us. Even more, He is knowable only in His "economy." Our theological vocabulary is inevitably "relative," i.e. presupposes our own existence. Therefore, "theology" in the strict sense is inevitably apophatic and analogical. All theological terms are anthropomorphic, and we can transcend this anthropomorphic limitation only by a combined use of negation and sublimation, by a double way negationis and eminentiae. In the Ante-nicene period this distinction was never carried up to the full clarity. Doctrine of Holy Trinity was not yet completely liberated from cosmological motives, and the Word of God was described usually in the context of the Divine Revelation, exactly as the God of Revelation. There was an inherent danger of Subordinationism implied in this approach itself. There was some ultimate ambiguity in the whole doctrine of the Logos, as it had been developed by the Apologists and the Alexandrians. This ambiguity was finally overcome only in theology of the fourth century. We can properly understand the Cappadocian distinction between the Divine ουσια and ενεργεια only in this historical perspective and context. The whole Patristic doctrine on this subject was summed up later on by St. Gregory Palamas. The doctrine of the Divine "energies" was elaborated and formulated at the Councils of Constantinople in the fourteenth century (1341, 1347, 1351, 1352). There is no need, for our immediate purpose, to go into details of this doctrine. It is enough to recall the main features. The Divine ουσια is absolutely incommunicable to the creatures, absolutely inaccessible for them, αμεθεκτη. Yet, God is still accessible to His creation in His "energies." The creatures never partake in the very "essence" of God, but only in the Divine "energy" yet, this participation in grace means precisely their intimate and true communion with God. The energy of God is the very source and supreme principle of the "deification" (θεωσις) of the creation (St. Gregory Palamas, Capita, 75, M.G. CL, 1173; 78, 1176; 92 3, 1188; also Tbeoph. c. 912). This distinction has been already suggested by St. Maximus the Confessor (apud Euthym. Zygaben., Panoplia dogmatica, tit. 3, M.G. cxxx, 132; μεθεκτος μεν ο Θεος κατά τας μεταδοσεις αυτου, αμεθεκτος δε κατά το μιδεν μετεχειν της ουσιας αυτου). The Divine Energy differs from the intrinsic essence of God, but is in no sense divided or separated from it (Theoph. c. 940), it is exactly a "natural and indivisible energy" of God (Council of 1352, in Triodion, ed. Venice 182, p. 170 φυσικη και αχωριστος ενεργεια και δυναμις του Θεου). Nor is the Energy merely "an accident" (ουτε συμβεβηκος Cap. 127, c. 1209), for it is absolutely unchangeable and eternal (αμεταρλγτον), without beginning and end, co-eternal and pre-eternal (Cap. 140, c. 1220: η δε του Θου ενεργεια ακτιστος εστι και συναιδιος Θεω; cf. The Tbeoph. c. 953 ακτιστος και αιδιος ως δυναμις θεοπρεπη περι τον Θεον ουσα και προ της του κοσμου συστασεως; Council Of 13 5 1, M.G. cli, c. 736). It is an eternal. revelation of the creative will of God, or the eternal power of God (Tbeoph, C. 956 η προνοια φυσικη και ουσικοδης ενεργεια; Cap. 135, c. 1216). It is again an eternal προοδος of God, His eternal "coming-forward" (Tbeoph. c. 937). Both the idea and the term itself are traditional and can be traced back to Pseudo-Dionysius and his early commentators (cf. especially Scholia in De div. nom. 1: 5 and 5; 1, M.G. iv, 205-8 and 309; προοδον δε την θειαν ενεργειαν λεγει, ητις πασαν ουσιαν παρηγαγε; cf. also St. John Damascene, de fide orth. 1:14 εν γαρ εξαλμα και μια κινησις, η θεια ελλαμψισκαι ενεργεια). "Essence" and "energy" differ, but without any prejudice to the Divine "simplicity." We have not to overlook that God is the Living God, the Holy Trinity, and not simply an Absolute He Who Is, and not merely the Being. The ultimate purpose of the Palamite distinction between the "essence" and "energy" in God was exactly to safeguard the Divine freedom and aseity. Denial of this difference seems to imply that the whole "economy" of God is but His "natural" act, i.e. to say "necessary," or constitutive of His own being, as it were, imposed upon Him. The difference between "Generation" and "creation" would be then obscured, the one and the other being equally acts of the essence or nature. Again, the difference between the ουσια and the θελυσις of God would be obscured also. There would be no clear distinction between the Divine Prescience and the actual Creation: would not the actual creation itself become eternal or sempiternal? Briefly, the Freedom of God will be dangerously compromised (Capita, 96 ss., c. 1181 ff.; cap. 135, c. 1216; cf. also Mark of Ephesus, Capita syllog. 13 ss., ed. W. Casz, Die Mystik des Nicolas Cabasilas, Greiszwald, 1849, Appendix II, s. 217 ff.; St. Gregory Palamas refers himself to the authority of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaur. ass. 18, M.G. lxxv, 313; το μεν ποιειν ενεργειας εστιν, φυσεως δε το γενναν, φυσις δε και ενεργεια ου ταυτον). The only means to escape or to avoid these dangerous implications and consequences was precisely to draw a clear distinction between the "nature" or "essence" and the "energy." This was also the next step of the radical adaptation of the Greek philosophy to the new requirements of Christian mind.
We have to keep in mind the basic distinction between "theology" and "economy." God is eminently free in His creative operations. Therefore all cosmological motifs should be most carefully avoided in the theological doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The slightest shadow of cosmology would introduce contingency of will into the mutual relations of the Divine Hypostases, and then the perfect "consubstantiality" of the Holy Trinity will be compromised. Clear expressions had to be found for formulating the mystery of the Trinity as a sempiternal and constitutive law of the Divine Essence, abstraction made of all "economic" motifs or aspects, whether cosmological or soteriological. As we have already mentioned, the teachers of the Early Church sought and found classic expression which mark this difference and exclude all "economy" from the Trinitarian dogma. In order to understand aright and to confess in adequate terms the true Divinity of the Only Begotten Son, we must eliminate not only the Plotinian and Philonic motifs from the doctrine of the Divine Logos, but even all "christological" elements as well. In the course of theological reflexion, it is exactly the Person, of the Incarnate Word which is the starting-point. But for formulating triadological faith, abstraction must be made of Christology too. The relations of the Three Divine Hypostases must be defined without any relation to the creature, preconceived, realized, fallen into sin, saved, or sanctified. The demiurgic role of the Divine Word is certain, it is certified by St. John (1: 3-4), it is confessed in the Creed: by Whom all things were made surely, not only because He is God, but also because He is the Word and the Son, the hypostatic Wisdom of God. Yet, this demiurgical moment itself must be eliminated in explaining the eternal Generation of the Son. If the world had not been created, the Son would none the less have existed, because He is the Son by nature, κατά φυσιν. It was one of the principal thoughts of St. Athanasius. "The Divine Word did not receive existence because of us; on the contrary, we received it because of Him. Not for our infirmity did He, the Mighty, receive existence from the Father alone, so that by Him as instrument the Father might create us. God forbid. It is not so. For even had it seemed good to God not to make the creatures, yet none the less the Word was with God, and the Father was in Him." Although "for the creatures it was impossible to receive existence without the Word" or "impossible to receive existence otherwise than by Him" His own hypostatic existence does not at all depend on the creative will of the Father concerning the creation of the world. And it is impious to think, as the arians do, that "the Son Himself has received existence because of us" and that the Father "desiring us created Him because of us" (St. Athanasius, c. arian. 30 and 31). The creation is only realizable by the Word, but the Word is not begotten in order that the creatures might be created. The hypostatic distinction and properties of the Word must be envisaged in their relation to the intimate life of the Divine Being, abstraction having been made of the destinies of the (created or to-be-created) world. Nicene theology insists that the Trinity would be even if there were no creature at all but since the world is created, we observe everywhere the manifestations of the Holy Trinity, vestigia Trinitatis, and certain Divine operations should be appropriated to the particular Persons of the Trinity. Again, in the same manner, all soteriological motifs must be eliminated. Of course, the Divine plan of the Redemption and of the Incarnation is an eternal decree (κατά προθεσιν των αιωνων, Ephes 3;11), an "economy" of the mystery hidden since the beginning of the ages (v. 9), a decree of the Divine Prescience (Acts 2: 23). The Son of God was eternally predestined to the Incarnation, or even to Calvary, and in virtue of this eternal predestination He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revel. 13; 8) and the eternal High-Priest (St. Polycarp, Philipp. 12; και αυτος ο αιωνιος αρχιερευς), "the Priest for ever" after the order Of Melchisedec. Yet this "economic" predestination does not belong to the intimate life of the Holy Trinity, in so far as its intrinsic being is concerned this predestination, προθεσις, is a free act of the mercy and the grace of God, not an aspect of His essential Being. The way of Incarnation is not, as it were, pressed upon Divine Will that is to say, the Incarnation is not necessary for God to be true God, the Blessed Trinity. It is a work of the "economic" condescendence, not of the nature, as St. John Damascene puts it (c. Jacobitas, 52, M.G. xciv, 1464: ου φυσεως εργον η σαρκωσις, αλλα τροπος οικονομικης συνκαταβασεως). And more than that. The Word is only Priest in virtue of the Incarnation before becoming Incarnate, He was not priest. To sum up, all Revelation, all "Economy," is a manifestation of the supreme and absolute freedom of God. It is not absolutely "necessary." God does not need exterior revelation. It is what we can dare to name the Divine Contingency. But it is contingency modo Divino. And since, in His mysterious freedom, God has chosen and decreed creation, all is accomplished according to His designs and His prescience, and the whole creation manifests the Glory of its Creator. The contingent but eternal decree is an unalterable decree, because the Divine does not change or alter. Yet this unalterability must not be identified with natural necessity. On the contrary, the unalterability of the Will of God is based exactly on His supreme freedom because, in His sovereign freedom, He has so decided unalterably from all eternity. This eternal unalterability does not annul the freedom. We may recall at this point the scholastic distinction between the absolute and ordained power potentia absolula and potentia ordinata.
From all eternity God has "imagined" or "invented" the idea of the creature. And with time itself the creature was brought out of nothingness to existence, or rather the new existence has been posited. The chain of times begun. In the historic process the creature, or rather the creatures, had to be realized according to the Divine Plan and to the Divine prototypes. But these "prototypes" are not exactly inescapable "laws of nature." They are designs and calls. They are to be realized in freedom, in obedience and submission, but ultimately by free efforts of the created beings. There is a problem to solve, and not merely a germ to make evolve. Let us risk the unusual term: a transcendent entelechy. That is why the historic process is, as it were, an imitative creation. Of course, there are inferior creatures which simply evolve, which have only to develop themselves, i.e. to realize the potentialities hidden in their own nature; that is precisely Nature, the Cosmic existence. But man is more than a "natural being" only, and it is in him that the general idea of creation is fully revealed or disclosed man is a "little world," a microcosm. And man cannot realize himself by an evolution of his innate potentialities only. His goal is exactly to surpass himself and to rise towards God, and even more than that to partake in the Divine Life. It is only by this participation that man becomes fully himself. In this rising he realizes himself, as it were, creates himself. However, for the full realization the free effort of man must be corroborated by the condescendence of grace. Again, by the free effort of man not only are the innate germs developed, but also new realities are produced. The free effort and the grace are not separable in this ontological ascent or growth of the "reasonable beings" yet there is no confusion, nor composition as it were, no "transubstantiation" of the creature. The "deification," θεωσις, is precisely, so to say, an impregnation with grace, εκ χαριτος (the terms are of St. Maximus; cf. St. Anastasius Sinait., Hodegos, M.G. lxxxix, c. 77: η επι το κρειττον υψωσις η μεταστασις, ου μεν της οικειας φυσεος αλαωθεν). At this level of his ascent man becomes truly conformed with these uncreated prototypes, with the idea that God has of him from eternity conformed, but never identical. By the hypostatic Incarnation of the Word the way of the ascent is reopened for the redeemed humanity. For men are given (again) "the power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12), the possibility of becoming members of Christ, i.e. members of His Mystical Body. In the course of the history of the Church, human nature is formed, constituted, and realized it is being realized for total conformity to its eternal predestination, to become the vessel of grace Divine. And here we have to face once more an antinomy, or rather the eschatological aspect of the same basic antinomy of creation. The unalterable decree and design of God is not simply forced upon the created existence, the design itself is at once a mighty and effective fiat, and a call and appeal to the created freedom. Historical process is ultimately dyotheletic, and Will of God is mediated through the will of men. The true existence and proper subsistence of the creation are certified in the first place precisely by its freedom. Of course, freedom is more than the free will of indifference or merely the possibility of choice yet the choice too belongs somehow to the very essence of the created freedom, i.e. of the freedom of created beings. There are indeed two ways open before the creature: towards God and away from God the way of Union (or Participation) and the way of separation (or estrangement). In obedience and disobedience, in acquisition and spoliation, the same freedom is manifested and realized. Surely, the two cases are not exactly parallel. Only in the Union with God is the creaturely freedom truly actualized, and a thoroughgoing self-renunciation is the only way of access; yet the renunciation itself must be free, if it is to be freedom and productive. On the other hand, the abuse of freedom which drives man away from God, culminates ultimately in bondage of sin and passions, and kills freedom altogether. But again, the abuse itself is a free venture, and a sinner is responsible for his failure. After all, the Fall is a failure of freedom to make the right choice or to respond duly to the creative appeal. Man has capacity and power not only for the choice, but for the perseverance in the choice once made. The duality of the ways is not a formal or logical possibility only, it is a real possibility first of all. Doubtless, the ascent towards God is only realizable under the condition of reciprocal Divine condescendence, of the aid of Grace. But even this Divine aid leaves man in his freedom, and God produces nothing in man without the consent (and even co-operation) of the human will. "The ancient law of human freedom," as St. Irenaeus says, excludes all constraint or violence of grace. Again, the way of separation is ultimately a way of perdition and death. Strangely enough, man has this paradoxical capacity for ontological suicide and power for committing it. Freedom in man is ever ambiguous and ambivalent. Now, in this freedom is manifested the ultimate reality of created "nature." Doubtless again, the creature is produced and fore-ordained for a union with God, for a participation in the Divine Life and Glory. Yet, this participation is not a necessity of the created nature. It is a supernatural perfection. It is rather a norm, apart from which the creatures cannot realize themselves, since the creature's realization consists precisely in surpassing itself; however, the spurning of this norm does not automatically imply the annihilation of the fallen creature. There is a call to perfection, an appeal to freedom. There is freedom in the world precisely because the world is created and therefore contingent. There was no room for freedom in the closed and static world of the Greek philosophy. There is no freedom in the world of emanation. Man is free because he is not divine by nature, and his goal of perfection is above his nature, and he has to overgrow and overcome himself. Man can only realize himself by surmounting his own "natural" limits, or rather, he can only become truly himself by mounting beyond his own nature, i.e. in the communion with God. But if the creature, or a creature, does not realize this end, if it deviates, if it resists, if it contradicts or neglects the Divine call and by this obstinacy and resistance in a certain sense ceases to live still it never ceases to exist. For, as St. Augustine says, for the creature " being is not the same thing as living" non hoe est ei esse quod vivere (St. Augustine, de Gen. ad litt. 1: 5). Creatures have the freedom for ontological suicide, i.e. for an ultimate frustration of their existence, but cannot have a power to annihilate themselves, to free themselves from existence. Cannot, precisely because they do not exist by themselves, their existence being given to them, as it were, from "outside," i.e. by the Other. By the creative fiat of God the world is unalterably determined for existence. The created world will not be annihilated, although it will be finally reshaped by its Maker. If the creatures fail to rise towards God if they turn away from Him they stay in their narrow limits, but never descend below that mysterious line which divides existence from non-existence. Eternal death itself is not an annihilation, or a ceasing of existence, but rather a depraved mode of existing, in the outer darkness of the ultimate estrangement from God. There is, as it were, no exit out or from existence, since the divine decree of Creation is given once for all. It is perfectly true, in a certain sense, evil is only the privation or lack of being, it has no proper essence or nature, it is utterly "essenceless," ανουσιος, in the phrase of St. John Damascene (c. Manich. 14, M.G. xciv, 1 5 97). Yet, it is real as an active force, it is real in its results destructive but definitive. Evil has a negative or privative character, but still it is real in its terrifying void. It has the enigmatic power of imitating creation, and this perverse imitation is productive in its destructions, Evil devastates and distorts things, but, in the case of persistence in evil, an these devastations and perversions will persist, i.e. these distorted existences will enter into "eternity," though the eternity of hell. Evil is a void of nothingness, but, paradoxically, a real void. It engulfs beings. It is more than simply the lack of being, it is, as it were, a positive nothingness the phrase is paradoxical, just as the phenomenon of evil is paradoxical itself. Evil has a quasi-productive power, it produces new realities in the world false realities, of course, but none the less real and existent. It adds new aspect to what is produced by God as it were, it can "create" what is not created by God, nor willed by God namely itself. Sin and death, they are quasi-additions to being, a novelty in the created world. Sin as set up for the world new laws, it has produced death, and has subjected to it the whole creation. This false production will undergo the last judgement of the Creator, but the power of Divine Love, as we are positively instructed by the Scripture, will not surpass either the resistance of the " sons of perdition " or the ravages produced by sin. Perseverance in evil will not be overcome by an indiscriminate forgiveness. Estrangement of those who had chosen it will continue in the world to come. Eschatology is full of mysteries and antinomies, and for us too often mysteries look like riddles. But all eschatological antinomies are already hidden and implied in the primordial mystery and antinomy of Creation.
Missionary Leaflet # E095f
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