In every instance when the Church has been assailed by one or another heresy, we find that many people are fooled by the heresy without actually understanding what is happening. Heresy is always presented as the truth and in this way many are misled.

-- Metropolitan Ephraim, Holy Orthodox Church in North America, 2001

Showing posts with label St. Gregory Palamas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Gregory Palamas. Show all posts

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Created Names and Uncreated God

Reply to Mr. Tom Deretich, no.1

Mr. Deretich repeats his arguments that HOCNA is not preaching the heresy of Name Worshipping, which arguments circle about the accusations without giving a sound, dogmatic answer, while making a complete hash of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which only Name Worshippers would be so ignorant of Orthodoxy to believe. He also does not explain the physical proof of HOCNA's distorting their translations to reflect Name Worshipper's doctrine's. Anthony Bulatovich was also proven to have done the same to patristic and biblical texts.

The Name Worshippers / Glorifiers claim: “All the Fathers say that the Name of God is an Energy of God". But they never give the quotation or reference, because no Father has ever said that "the Name of God is an Energy of God".

Nowhere in any of the Old or New Testament Scriptures, nowhere in the Prophets and Apostles, nowhere in any of the Fathers and Great Theologians of the Church is there any expression or doctrine of the existence of an uncreated name. God has no name; indeed He is unnamable for He cannot be limited or comprehended and is ineffable. He alone is uncreated. A name is an intellectual process obviously created in the material mind of man by bioelectrical energy and expressed either in writing or sound in the air. It has no other existence: it is the creation of a creation.

Names have been understood, described, and explained as being of a created nature by all the saints and great Fathers, especially by St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the Three Hierarchs, Ss. Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus and Gregory Palamas. God does not need words to communicate with man.

The doctrine of uncreated names is found in Platonic, Gnostic, Cabalistic, Talmudic and Magic teachings, but has not only never been accepted or taught by the Church of God, it has been anathematized many times.

Another claim of theirs is that they alone really know and understand St. Gregory Palamas. In fact, they do not understand him, but also do not know his writings. If they quoted him, they would see that he overturns their doctrines, because he follows the Fathers of the Church.

St. Gregory Palamas concludes, along with St. Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Maximus the Confessor, whom he quotes, that God's Energies are uncreated. St. Gregory proves this in his many works, with quotations from the Scriptures and the Fathers. He calls them "God's inherent and essential energies, which are uncreated". [St. Gregory, 150 Chapters in the Philokalia #92] How can a created name be an Energy of God?

The divine omnipresence is also an Energy of God. He sustains the creation, He is everywhere in it, yet not bound or limited by it, or identified with it. Creation and the uncreated divinity can never be confused. Ibid, #104]

[ St. Gregory, quoting St. Dionysius: "'The creative procession and energy whereby God creates individual essences' [Divine Names, 5:1] loosely and inexactly named from all things since it contains all things in itself." No name is an energy. [Ibid, #105]

"Grace, here distinguished from the Divine Nature, is not created, for no one would suppose a created thing to be the Nature of God". Isn't a name created? Here St. Gregory Palamas is commenting on a quote from St. John Chrysostom. [Ibid, #108].

St. Gregory the Theologian says, "He is 'Christ' the anointed on account of the Divinity; for it is the Divinity that anoints His human nature". [Theological Oration, 4, 21]

St. Gregory Palamas says, "Creation is the single work of the Trinity, no hypostasis has His own particular effect. The Divine Energy is one and the same for all Three: One God: They do not possess an individual power or will or individual energy. There is one impersonal power". [St. Gregory, 150 Chapters in the Philokalia #112] If the energy is personal or has a name, we introduce a fourth person into the Trinity. Since this newly named person must exist from eternity, as they do, and since it has a name, it has its own existence. What of the many Divine Names, as the Holy Fathers call them? Do we then have many gods as do the idolators? If this name has its own existence, it is equal to the Trinity, contrary to what Mr. Deretich declares.

"Divinity is also an appellation of the Divine Energy, according to the theologians", says St. Gregory Palamas. Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky and the 1913 Russian Synod based their position on this quotation. Yet, Anthony Bulatovich's followers declared this statement to be heretical.

If the name Jesus is uncreated, as the Name Worshippers say, then this name existed before creation. It is then a creation which God did not will to create, nor did create. God did not say, "I will create My Name, and it will make the world".

If the existence of the Name is before all eternity in God’s foreknowledge, as the new Name Worshippers claim, then since He foreknew all things, all creation existed before eternity and before being created. The foreknowledge of God differs from His Will and His creative Energies. If He did not will this creation, then God is a creator in spite of Himself, unwillingly. In such a case creation is Divine since it is before all eternity, although unwilled, then there is no difference between created and uncreated, "for only God is uncreated". This is clearly pantheism.

St. Dionysius the Areopagite declares, "…in Scripture, all the names appropriate to God are praised regarding the whole, entire, full, and complete Divinity, rather than any part of it. They all refer indivisibly, absolutely, unreservedly, and totally to God in His entirety…Indeed, as I pointed out in my Theological Representations, anyone denying that such terminology refers to God in all that He is may be said to have blasphemed. He is profanely daring to sunder absolute unity". [Divine Names, 2:1] The words, "all the names appropriate to God are praised regarding the whole, entire, full, and complete Divinity" and "they all refer…to God", and "such terminology refers to God", proves that the Fathers do not consider the Divine Names to be the Divine Energies, but human labels and names and terms for the Ineffable.

Name Worshippers / Glorifiers do not follow the doctrines of the Holy Fathers, and reject their doctrines and explications. Their “sainted” founder, Anthony Bulatovich declared that any one who did not accept his doctrines was a heretic, and outside the Orthodox Church. I am glad that I would be considered a heretic by them.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why the Russian Synod of 1913 Was Not Heretical

By Fr. Maximos Marretta of Holy Ascension Monastery
The contemporary revivers of the heresy of Nameworshipping have won great notoriety for themselves by rejecting the holy council of Constantinople held in 1913 and the holy Russian council of the same year. The main reason the heretics reject these councils is that the councils condemn the idea that the name of God is an energy of God, which is the central tenet of the heresy of Nameworshipping.
However, the Nameworshippers (who euphemistically call themselves “Nameglorifiers”) also consider the Russian council of 1913 to be heretical since it stated a distinction between the words “God” and “divinity.” Specifically, in their letter of August 29, 2012 to the Orthodox clergy of the Cathedral of St. Mark in Boston, MA, the Nameworshipping bishops denounce four phrases in the 1913 decision of the Russian Synod, alleging that they are novel and unorthodox because they distinguish between God and divinity. The Nameworshippers consider these terms to be absolutely synonymous and that any distinction between the two constitutes a heresy.
This insistence on the part of the Nameworshippers that the words “God” and “divinity” are completely identical is ridiculous in the extreme, as anyone who has access to a dictionary should easily understand. In fact, almost no two words are exact synonyms. Words have a variety of different meanings and may be close synonyms in one sense but not in another. Using them, we sift out all the possible meanings to find the one that seems to fit best the context we have in mind. In accordance with this general principle, we find that the Holy Fathers themselves employ words in various senses. Only in restricted circumstances (usually polemics or formal doctrinal definitions) do they confine a word to a single, technical meaning.

If we review how the Fathers use the word “God,” we find that it is most commonly employed to denote the divine essence or one or all of the divine hypostases, and less frequently the divine energies. As for the word “divinity,” this is most commonly used to denote the divine essence, less frequently a single hypostasis, and still less frequently the divine energies. Collectively, the energies of God are called in most cases simply “energies” or “divine energies.” Individually, they are called by their various distinctive titles: foreknowledge, creative power, and so forth. The usage we characterize here as “typical” prevails particularly with respect to the first two points, especially among the earlier Fathers of the Church, the Fathers with whom the Russian members of the 1913 council were most familiar.1

When we turn to the works of St. Gregory Palamas, a somewhat different terminological balance is evident, a result of theological developments of his day. Saint Gregory employs the term “divinity” for the divine energies with some frequency. Very rarely, he even uses the term “God” for the same. Because of the relative frequency of St. Gregory’s use of the word “divinity” for the divine energies, the Russian Council Fathers were well aware of it. Seeking to follow St. Gregory in all things, they themselves made use of this terminology, even while noting that he “employs the word ‘divinity’ in a somewhat broader sense than is common” – that is, than those Fathers with whom the Russians were familiar. The Russian Fathers do not, however, use the word “God” for the divine energies, and even assert that St. Gregory “nowhere call the energies God, but teaches to call them divinity.”

This statement is the basis for the Nameworshippers’ first charge against the holy Council, which they condemn for theological deviation in this matter. The charge is blatantly intended to discredit the council’s entire work. But in reality, there is no theological deviation here – we have already seen the Russians’ eagerness to use St. Gregory’s term “divinity” for the divine energies. There is only an historical error. And the explanation for it is a very simple, mundane one.

Prior to the Russian Revolution, not all of St. Gregory Palamas’ writings had been translated into Russian. Hence the Council Fathers were unaware that St. Gregory occasionally did use the word “God” for the divine energies. Nevertheless, there is no reason whatsoever to suppose that if the Russian Fathers had been familiar with this rare usage, they would have rejected it. By their willingness to employ the term “divinity” for the divine energies, the Council fathers clearly demonstrated both their fidelity to St. Gregory’s thought and their belief that the energies were in fact divine in the full sense of the word. “Divinity,” in the Fathers the Russians knew best, means this, precisely.

The Russians’ mistake is obviously one which any honest and good-willed person should be able to understand. That the Nameworshippers should attempt to exploit it is disingenuous: misleading, fraudulent, and shameless; a cover for their own perverse teaching.

In their first charge against the Russian Council, the Nameworshippers pretend that any distinction between the words “divinity” and “God” turns the Divinity into a creature. Yet from what has been said, it is obvious that this assertion is irrelevant with respect to the Russian Council of 1913, since the Council Fathers’ preference for the term “divinity” in respect to God’s energies is to be explained solely by historical circumstance (i.e., the unavailability of certain of St. Gregory’s writings) and fidelity to what the Russian Fathers did know of St. Gregory’s vocabulary, rather than by any theological deviation.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that St. Gregory Palamas not only uses the term “divinity” for the divine energies far more frequently than the term “God”: he at times explicitly and specifically contrasts “essence” and “energies” by equating the first with “God” and the second with “divinity.” For example, in Pro Hesychastis 3.2.10, he writes:
With common voice all the Holy Fathers teach that it is impossible to discover a name that manifests the divine nature; rather, the names manifest the energies. For even the term “divinity” manifests the energies, denoting ‘to view,’ ‘to be seen,’ ‘to flash,’ or ‘to self-deify.’ But the essence of God which is beyond all names transcends this energy, inasmuch as to act thus belongs to that which is activated and being beyond name belongs to that which is named in this manner. This does not hinder us from adoring one God and one divinity, in the same way that the fact that we call a ray of light ‘sun’ does not prevent us from thinking of one sun and one light.
Here the saint is comparing God’s essence to the sun and energy to its light. Even while implying that “God” may refer in some cases to energy, he uses “God” to refer to the essence and “divinity” to refer to the energies. Again, in 2.3.8 of the same work he writes, “The monks know that the essence of God transcends the fact of being inaccessible to the senses, since God is not only above all created things, but even beyond divinity…” Here, St. Gregory again refers to the essence as “God,” while referring to the energies as “divinity.” Since St. Gregory himself makes the distinction and applies the words to the realities in this way, the Nameworshippers should be more than willing to allow the Russian Fathers this distinction and terminology. They should desist from pretending that to make a distinction between “God” and “divinity” reduces the divine energies to a creature, and admit that their criticism is altogether baseless.

To summarize the above: the several realities in God (essence, hypostasis, and energy) are described both in common speech and Patristic vocabulary by various terms, sometimes interchangeable, sometimes overlapping, sometimes employed in one manner, sometimes in another, depending upon need and context. The honest and devout person considers the sense of a word’s use, and allows the word to express the distinctions indicated by the user, rather than to posit artificial and false contradictions. Especially, he does not, on the basis of such sophistry, condemn the holy councils of the Church of Christ – councils accepted by the entire Orthodox Church for over a hundred years. To persist in this condemnation is expressive only of theological ignorance and arrogance and a mania to propagate heresy.

Next the Nameworshippers move on to another phrase in the Synodal Decision, in which the Russian Fathers of 1913 state that we cannot say that Christ revealed “His God” on Tabor but must say that He revealed “His divinity.” The truth of this statement ought to be obvious to any Orthodox Christian. Moreover, any schoolboy would be able to correct the Nameworshippers’ lack of knowledge of basic grammar, in that the genitive personal pronoun “his” is normatively understood as a genitive of possession. When modifying “divinity,” we correctly understand “his” to refer to Christ revealing an Attribute-Energy which He possesses. When modifying “God,” “his” denotes a relationship of inferior to superior, of Christ revealing His own God, some God superior to Him. This is subordinationism or adoptionism, both of which are heresies. Since the phrase “His God” entails heresy while “His divinity” does not, there is a very significant difference between the two. Hence the distinction the Russian Fathers make is valid and most Orthodox.

Finally, the Russian Fathers state that the word “God” indicates personhood, while “divinity” indicates attribute, quality, or nature. The Nameworshippers object to this Orthodox statement and claim that it introduces an inadmissible concept of personality in God, which allegedly would contradict the Orthodox understanding of one God in Three Persons. In fact, however, the Russian Fathers are correct and the Nameworshippers are wrong. This is due to the nature of the word “divinity,” which is an abstract noun formed from the word “God.” Rather than emphasize the personal nature of God, it emphasizes His qualities, which may be considered in the abstract.

We use masculine personal pronouns to refer to God, but we do not use them to refer to divinity or to any of the energies of God; i.e., we refer to God as “He,” but we call God’s will (considered in and of itself) not “He” but “it.” Again, it is important to remember that the term “God” can be used to refer to each of the Divine Hypostases individually as well as to the Trinity as a whole. The Russian Fathers were not at all constructing a new concept of a “personality of God,” but were simply pointing out that God is in fact personal in nature; i.e., that the three Persons of the Holy Trinity are the One God.

In conclusion, it is clear that the Russian Fathers of 1913 were not guilty of espousing Barlaamism or any other Latin heresy, but rather were zealous to expose and correct the pernicious heresy, Nameworshipping, which confronted them. While they did make an historical mistake in reference to the writings of St. Gregory Palamas, they did so out of ignorance and not out of a desire to contradict the saint, whose work they were zealous to uphold and establish. The Russian Fathers were true successors to St. Gregory and the hesychasts (whom they highly laud), and they point out that it is the Nameworshippers who are actually the Barlaamites, because they confuse the created with the uncreated, that is, a created name with the divine energies.

Ultimately, it is on the basis of one questionable explanatory passage that the modern Nameworshippers reject the whole decision of the Russian Church. So intent are they on demonizing the holy council that they completely deny the distinction made by St. Gregory Palamas himself between “God” and “divinity.” Thus, it becomes evident that the modern Nameworshippers have read St. Gregory less, and with far less understanding, than did the Russians one hundred years ago.

Moreover, it is clear that the Nameworshippers reject not simply a single mistaken passage, but rather the entire force and intent of the council. For if they rejected only the one mistake but accepted the decisions and declarations, they would be able to clear themselves of the charge of heresy by saying, “We accept the Russian Council of 1913 against the blasphemous Nameworshippers, but point out that St. Gregory Palamas did in fact call the divine energies God Himself.” Then there would be no problem.

But the Nameworshipping bishops obstinately refuse to make such a statement. Why? Because they themselves are indeed Nameworshippers and support Bulatovich and the deluded monks of Mount Athos, against whom the council was directed! Manifestly, their objections to the Russian Council of 1913 are based on their own adherence to heresy. The mistake made by the Russian Council of 1913 is nothing more than a convenient excuse to avoid accepting its condemnation of the very real heresy which they themselves espouse.

May we the Orthodox avoid espousing any heresy, especially the pantheistic nightmare of the Nameworshippers, but rather follow piously in the footsteps of St. Gregory Palamas and the Russian Fathers who condemned and banned from the Church every blasphemy against the sweet name of our Savior Christ!

1 See, for example, 1.12 in St. John of Damascus’s Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a work that was very popular in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chronology: Document 6

June 19/6, 2012
Righteous Hilarion the New

Dear ______ ,

I pray that this letter finds you in the grace and peace of our Saviour. Amen...

As for the question of the name-worshipping teaching, our Holy Synod has resolved to drop this issue, simply because we do not have enough information about it. Or rather, the  information we were hearing was all contradictory. But the Holy Synod did not forbid anyone from trying to learn more about this matter. Indeed, such a prohibition would be inconceivable, and, in fact, I am still receiving and hearing much information from both those who support and oppose Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky’s side of the dispute.

What I will write to you now is what I have learned so far personally about this issue, and you may draw your own conclusions. I want to emphasize that I do not believe I know all the facts, but I am trying to learn (please remember that I do not speak or read Russian, and so I must depend on translations).

First of all, we know that the Ecumenical Patriarchate based its decision concerning the name-worshippers on an "Opinion" written by the professors of the theological school of Halki. Then, the Russian Synod, in turn, based its decision on Constantinople’s, and added some elements of its own.

A little while ago, I wrote an article about the theological school of Halki. In a slightly abbreviated version, I am sending you a translation of that article.
Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston

The inspiration for this article came from an essay in Theodromia (Jan.- March, 2012), a Greek theological periodical. In this extensive essay, the author, Rev. Theodore Zisis, a priest of the new calendar Church of Greece, deplores the anti-patristic mind-set (i.e. the Latin Captivity) of the theological schools of Greece.

Theologically, one of the worst theological academies in the history of the Orthodox Church probably was the theological school of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Island of Halki (in Turkish: Heybeli Ada) in the Bosporus. Fortunately, the Turks closed the school some years ago.

Its professors were trained in the Protestant and Roman Catholic schools of the West, and they absorbed many of those Western prejudices.

First of all, around the turn of the twentieth century, one of Halki’s "bright lights" was the Dean of the school, Metropolitan Germanos Strenopoulos of Seleucia, later of Thyateira, who was one of the authors of the infamous Encyclical of January, 1920, addressed "To the Churches of Christ Wheresover They Might Be," which is the Encyclical that became the big impetus for World Orthodoxy’s involvement in the Ecumenical Movement.
Then there was Deacon Basil Stephanides, another "luminary", who was a contemporary of the above-mentioned Metropolitan. He had studied and taught in Germany, where he probably should have continued to study and teach. Instead, he came to teach at Halki, and there, the young Orthodox students were taught by Professor Stephanides that St. Symeon the New Theologian was a mystic who used "erotic" language in his religious poetry, and that the Saint’s writings, like those of many other such "mystics" in the Orthodox Church, (such as St. Dionysius the Areopagite), were Monophysitic (a heresy condemned by the Fourth Ecumenical Council!), what with all that talk about the "deification" of man.

Then there was my own professor of Old Testament, D. Zaharopoulos, also a graduate of Halki, who taught a Protestant theory that miracles or prophecies are not true, and who scoffed at and ridiculed the Church Fathers.

Then there was my professor of Patrology, the priest G. Tsoumas, also a graduate of Halki, who taught us that the Hesychast Fathers (among whom was St. Gregory Palamas) were people who sat in their closets and stared at their navels (exactly the same slander that the heretics Barlaam and Acindynus uttered against those saintly fathers in the 14th century).

In other words, where the Saints saw and experienced God’s deifying and uncreated grace, these professors from Halki jeered and saw only heresy and pantheism.
Thank you, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther.

I almost forgot the plastic spoons. This same Patrology professor also believed and taught that the Church should use disposable (where?) plastic spoons when giving people Holy Communion, "because of the germs."

I’ll tell you also about Archbishop Iakovos of the new calendar Greek Archdiocese here in America (another graduate of Halki) who taught that we Christians should get rid of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
I could go on, but enough is enough.

In the middle of the 19th century, when the school of Halki first opened its doors, Cosmas Flamiatos, a popular and saintly lay preacher in the Peloponessus, prophesied that, "I foresee that out of this school [i.e., Halki] will proceed batches and batches [fourniĆ³n, fourniĆ³n] of bishops, like muffins out of a bakery, that will one day gather together in an assembly to dissolve Orthodox Christianity."

Well, my beloved Orthodox Christians, do we not see Flamiatos’ prophecy coming true right before our eyes?

You should be aware that the first two professors mentioned in that article were co-authors (together with some two or three other professors, also educated in Germany) of the "Opinion" on the name-worshippers.

Let us turn now to the Russian Holy Synod and their decision.

One of the key points the Russian Synod resolution rests on is the theology of St. Gregory Palamas. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Saint is quoted in the 1913 Epistle of the Russian Synod, by Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky, and by Professor S. Troitsky, in order to refute the teaching of the name-worshippers.

The only problem here is that St. Gregory is misquoted by all three!

Here, for example, in parallel columns  is what the Russian Holy Synod claims that St. Gregory says and what St. Gregory Palamas actually teaches: [Ed: columns not reproduced here for technical reasons; contrasting statements are presented one after another]

Teaching of the Russian Synod on the Grace of God

The Hierarch [St. Gregory Palamas] nowhere calls [God’s] energies ‘God,’ but teaches that one should call it ‘Divinity’ (not theos, but theotes)
Epistle of the Russian Synod, 1913

Teaching of St. Gregory Palamas on the Grace of God

Every [divine] power or energy is God Himself.

Letter to John Gabra

Teaching of the Russian Synod on the Grace of God

Saint Gregory [Palamas]...requires that one call the energy of God not God, but rather divine, and to refer to it not as God, but as "divine" or "Divinity" (theotis, and not theos).

The energy and will of the Divinity have divineness (although without being God).

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky,
On the New False Teaching, the Deifying Name, and the "Apology" of Antony Bulatovich

Teaching of St. Gregory Palamas on the Grace of God

Since God Himself is the Grace, which we receive during the divine Baptism, and the Power in which, according to the Saviour’s promise, the divine Apostles were clothed, and, after them, all who lived according to the Gospel of grace, then how can you, Acyndinus, claim that it [grace] is created...?

Since that which the Saints have received, the same by which they are deified, is nothing other than God Himself, how is it, then, that according to you this grace is created?

Against Acyndinus, III, 8.

Teaching of the Russian Synod on the Grace of God

The Palamites taught that the Energies of God are Divinity, but not God.

Professor S. Troitsky,
Turmoil on Athos: Holy Orthodoxy and the Name-worshipping Heresy

Teaching of St. Gregory Palamas on the Grace of God

When we speak of one Godhead, we speak of everything that is God, namely, both essence and energy.

Topics of Natural and Theological Science, 126.

Since God is wholly present in each Divine Energy, He is named through each one of them.

Triads in Defence of the Hesychasts, III, 2, 7.

Had someone given misinformation to the Russian Holy Synod about St. Gregory’s writings? Was this an honest mistake, a serious oversight, or a blatant falsehood on somebody’s part? I honestly don’t know. But it was a very serious error. In fact, the Synod’s statement was claiming that St. Gregory Palamas is saying one thing, when in fact he says just the opposite on the main point of the entire controversy.

This is the first important factor that must be taken into account.

The second is an important Encyclical written by the holy Patriarch Tikhon in February 1921.

I am including the text of the Encyclical of this holy hieromartyr of the Church because it represents, on the one hand, a reconciliation with the name-worshippers that took place (under certain stipulations), and, on the other, it points to a future final resolution regarding Father A. Bulatovich and the false teachings ascribed to him. Although the Encyclical mentions his false teachings, it does not tell us anything specific. Did Father Anthony Bulatovich actually believe and teach the false teachings that were ascribed to him, or was it a judgment based on another misunderstanding? [1] Presently, I don’t know. Meanwhile, here is St. Tikhon’s Encyclical:

Nativity Greeting of Patriarch Tikhon to the Diocesan Hierarchs

During these lofty days, when the Church celebrates the Nativity of the God-man, Who brought upon earth the peace and goodwill of our Heavenly Father, I deem it proper to remind you, in brief, concerning the Athonite name-glorifiers and to offer you some guidance on how to treat these monastics. From their case it can be seen that in its Resolution 3479, of April 22-25, 1914, the Holy Synod condescended to the spiritual mood and the disposition of mind of those Athonite monks who were not well versed in theology as expressed in books, nor very knowledgeable concerning formal proceedings, allowed the previously required signed repudiation by the name-worshippers of their false teaching to be replaced with a written testimony (by a sworn promise), while kissing the Holy Cross and the Gospel, of their Orthodox Faith, their exact following of the Orthodox Church, and of their obedience to the God-established hierarchy, believing according to the teaching of the Holy Church, adding nothing and subtracting nothing on their own, in particular as pertains to the veneration of the Name of God, not to believe that His Name is God’s essence, not to separate it [the Name] from God, or consider it another deity, and not to deify letters, sounds and random/accidental thoughts about God, and such who believe in this manner and who manifest their submission to the ecclesiastical authorities, the Holy Synod decided to receive into the Church, while those of priestly rank it permitted to perform services. However, while manifesting its condescension, the Synod did not alter its previous judgment regarding the very error contained in the writings of An-thony Bulatovich and his followers, which it decided to refer to the consideration of the Holy Pan-Russian Local Council, from which depends the resolution of this case in its essence.
February 19, 1921
Protocol #3244

Now, it seems to me that if anybody (including Father Anthony Bulatovich) is guilty of:

1. Believing that God’s Name is God’s essence,

2. Separating God’s Name from God,

3. Considering God’s Name to be another deity,

4. Deifying letters, sounds and random/accidental thoughts about God,

as the holy Patriarch’s Encyclical above says regarding the alleged heresies of the name-worshippers, then he is certainly guilty of heresy. If he does not actually advocate such teachings, then it only seems fair to say that he is not guilty of heresy.

Why is this "Encyclical of Reconciliation" and its four stipulations not mentioned by those who cite earlier resolutions, especially since it also requires a future final resolution about Father Anthony Bulatovich?

If the Encyclical’s four stipulations are met, that resolves the problem, does it not? And further, it seems to me, we must not forget the Russian Synod’s own mistakes when it misquoted St. Gregory Palamas.

But now, I trust you understand why our Holy Synod wished not to address this matter. We simply did not know enough about all this. Furthermore, in addition to our usual pastoral duties, it takes a great deal of time to find all these patristic texts, translate them and to check all those sources.

I thank you for your patience. May God bless you and your family.

In Christ,
✠Ephraim, metropolitan

[1]  Father Anthony Bulatovich himself asked that he be judged on the basis of his written “Confession of Faith”.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Name-Worshippers in Their Own Words Vs. The Holy Fathers


A study by Nicholas Snogren

 “Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator.”
St. Basil the Great: Letter CCLVII, To the monks harassed by the Arians

 "If, then, one who speaks of the Son does not by that word refer to a creature, he is on our side and not on the enemy's; but if any one applies the name of Son to the creation, he is to be ranked among idolaters.” 
St. Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, S:8

Because of the confusion over the subject of God’s name, and the disinformation being spread about it (that Name-glorifiers don’t really believe the Name of God is God), it seemed prudent to supply the Faithful with an exact definition.

This article contains definitions of the Name-glorifiers from articles written by a prominent Name-glorifier, Tatiana Senina; as well as quotes from Anthony Bulatovich himself. Bulatovich was the principle Name-glorifier ‘theologian’. These definitions are then contrasted to direct quotes from the Holy Fathers of the Church.


To begin, here are quotes taken from Tatiana Senina’s article on Name-glorifiying. All quotes are from her and the author of their doctrine, Anthony Bulatovich, and can be found here (accessed September 11 new-style, 2012)

“The formula ‘The Name of God is God Himself’ may indeed seem strange to one unfamiliar with patristic doctrine or with the practice of noetic prayer. In my opinion, this formula evoked and continues to evoke misunderstanding because people are accustomed to understand as ‘names’ only conventional signs and symbols that could of course not be identified with the object named.”
 Tatiana Senina: Name-Glorifying or Name-Worshipping?

The essential definition of a Name-glorifier is the belief that the Name of God is God. Let’s see how she breaks down the statement for those of us who are “unfamiliar with patristic doctrine or noetic prayer.” She continues:

“…We are obligated to explain how the Holy Fathers understood the Names of God and what they taught about prayer, and then compare their teaching with the teaching of the name-glorifiers and then decide whether the former is a heresy… Indeed, if we were considering a teaching that equated created letters or sounds with God, which it would be enough for anyone to write or pronounce in order to achieve the desired miracle, then such a teaching could be called ‘name-worshipping’ and compared with magic and shamanism...”  

At a cursory glance there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this second quote. She affirms that the created letters and sounds of the name of God cannot work miracles when pronounced by just anyone (think about a Hispanic whose name is Jesus). However, she does not say that the created letters and sounds which specifically refer to God aren’t God.

Continuing with Senina’s definition:

“He (Bulatovich) founded his teaching on the Divinity of the Names of God above all on the basis that the Divine Name is, according to the Holy Fathers; His energy or operation, and that God’s energy is God Himself. This is the point around which the polemics essentially turned.”

So, a Name-glorifier is someone who thinks that the name of God is His energy, which energy is God Himself. If A is B and B is C, A is C. Why does Senina only say that God’s name is his Energy? To get around the fact that the Russian Church and the Patriarch of Constantinople decreed that to say God’s name is His ‘essence’ is a heresy.*  The Church Fathers understood that there is no division in God.

“No difference either of nature or of operation is contemplated in the Godhead”
St. Gregory of Nyssa: Letter to Ablabius, On Not Three Gods
“There is not one subsistent Person, but a similar substance in both Persons. There is not one name of God applied to dissimilar natures, but a wholly similar essence belonging to one name and nature.”  
St. Hilary of Poitiers: Treatise De Synodis: Sirmium by the Easterns to oppose Photinus. 64.
“The heretics when beset by authoritative passages in Scripture are wont only to grant that the Son is like the Father in might while they deprive Him of similarity of nature. This is foolish and impious, for they do not understand that similar might can only be the result of a similar nature.”  
St. Hilary of Poitiers: Treatise De Synodis: On the Councils, or, The Faith of the Easterns 19.
 “If any one grant the Son only a likeness of activity, but rob Him of the likeness of essence which is the corner-stone of our faith, in spite of the fact that the Son Himself reveals His essential likeness with the Father in the words, ‘For as the Father hath life in Himself, so also hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself (John v. 26)… such a man robs himself of the knowledge of eternal life… let him be anathema.”  
 St. Hilary of Poitiers: Treatise De Synodis: On the Councils, or, The Faith of the Easterns. VI.

If you say God’s name is His energy, then (according the the Holy Fathers), you have to say it’s His nature, or essence, or substance, as well! People may gainsay the 1913 Anathema against the Name-worshipers all they want- they’re already condemned!

Which Holy Fathers does Bulatovich quote to support his ideas? Senina tells us:

“According to the quotations in his writings, Antony Bulatovich did not have at his disposal the majority of sources that were used by Gregory Palamas, nor the works of Palamas himself…not once did Antony quote Palamas in his writings.’…if, while writing his treatises, Gregory Palamas referred to the dogmatic works of the fathers, Antony Bulatovich in his works focused on the scriptures and on the liturgical texts.”   

The great Saint of our Church, Gregory Palamas, in his humility, founded his writings on the explanations of the Church Fathers. Bulatovich, a Russian author, admits that he based his work on the Scriptures, without even having the Church Fathers available! Personal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures is Protestantism. The Orthodox rely strictly on what the Fathers of the Church, who were enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and taught by the Apostles themselves, have handed down to us.

Name-glorifiers have a habit of trying to hide the actual meaning of their belief by fancy language which makes them sound innocent at first.

“…These sounds and letters [of the Name] are different in every language, and they will not carry over into eternity, and are not united in any way with the Lord Jesus Christ, because when we, speaking about the Name, have in mind created human words with which we express ideas about God and about Christ…”

Before we finish that sentence, take note of the meaning so far. Sounds and letters will not carry over into eternity. They are not united in any way with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we speak about the Name, we have, in mind, created words, with which we express our perceptions and conceptions of God. Now let’s see the rest of the sentence:

“When we, speaking about the Name, have in mind created human words with which we express ideas about God and about Christ, then it is appropriate to speak of the presence of God in His Name…”
Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia bor’ba s imiabortsami na Sviatoi Gore [My Battle with the Onomatoclasts on the Holy Mountain], p. 117.

The second half of the sentence says the exact opposite of the first! The sounds and letters of the name are in no way united with Jesus Christ, but it is appropriate to speak about His presence in them when we have them in mind. They are un-united, but He is in them.

Name-glorifiers have this trick of saying that the letters and sounds which make up a written or spoken name are not related to the mental image of a name. The Fathers often refer to our mental images or ideas as ‘conceptions’, which are a capability of our ‘reasoning’:
 ‘The reasoning part of the soul is divided into conception and articulation. Conception is an activity of the soul originating in the reason without resulting in utterance… And it is this faculty chiefly which constitutes us all reasoning beings… But articulation by voice or in the different dialects requires energy: that is to say, the word is articulated by the tongue and mouth, and this is why it is named articulation. It is, indeed, the messenger of thought, and it is because of it that we are called speaking beings.”
St. Hilary of Poitiers: De Trinitate. Book II, Chapter XXI.—Concerning Conception and Articulation.
When Bulatovich speaks of the Name of God “in mind”, he is referring to our conception. According to the Apostolic teaching of the Church, here defined by St Hilary, conception is reasoning without utterance and articulation is the utterance of that same reasoning. Therefore, if we were to articulate our conception of this “Name”, we’d be articulating God! That is, according to Name-glorifiers.

In the beginning of this article, we pointed out a subtlety in Senina’s apology for the “Nameglorifiers”, namely, that words and letters which equate with God do not work miracles on their own. She does not say that the words and letters which make up THE name of God are not God, since that’s what they really believe. Rather, she mixes her language to lure people into a false sense of trust, so that they swallow poison mixed with honey.

Here is the rest of the previous quote from Bulatovich:
“But when we have in mind the Name itself, that is Truth itself, that is God Himself, as the Lord said of Himself: ‘I am… the Truth’ (Jn 14:6).”  
Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia bor’ba s imiabortsami na Sviatoi Gore [My Battle with the Onomatoclasts on the Holy Mountain], p. 117.
“The main thesis of the adherents of Onomatodoxy [Name-glorifying] is that every energy of God is God and is called God, and therefore the words of God recorded in the Holy Scripture, are also not the dead words of God but the living words. Hence the names of God are also the Spirit and Life in their innermost mystery, and they possess divine dignity and can be rightly called God Himself, as the Energy of the Divinity, inseparable from the substance of God.”

Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich): Idem, Moya mysl’ vo Khriste:
O Deyatel’nosti (Energii) Bozhestva (My Thought in Christ:
On Activity (Energy) of the Godhead) (Petrograd: Ispovednik, 1914), p. 5

The definition of a Name-glorifier then is that the Name of God is God, whether spoken, or written on a chalkboard. God is His name. God is a creature.

Let’s see what Bulatovich would have realized if he had actually founded his ideas on the teaching of the Holy Fathers.


Senina assures us that the theology on the uncreated thought of the Name of God is from the Holy Fathers, and admits that if it were not, it would be a heresy. So, what do the Fathers say? All quotes (except St. Isaac) are taken from the Early Church Fathers series, second edition, (accessed on 9/10/12, new style). St. Isaac’s quotes are taken from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery’s publication of his Ascetical Homilies.

 “Because the Deity is goodness itself, true mercy and an abyss of loving bounty - or, rather, He is that which embraces and contains this abyss, since He transcends every name that is named and everything we can conceive - we can receive mercy only by union with Him.”  
St. Gregory Palamas: On Prayer and Purity of Heart no. 1
“For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness.”  
St. Clement: First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter LXI.--Christian baptism.
 "There exists no name which embraces the whole nature of God, and is sufficient to declare it; more names than one, and these of very various kinds, each in accordance with its own proper connotation, give a collective idea which may be dim indeed and poor when compared with the whole, but is enough for us." - 
St. Basil the Great: Prolegomena, Dogmatic Works; i, Against Eunomius
"Things are not made for names, but names for things. Eunomius unhappily was led by distinction of name into distinction of being."
“The last word of Nicene orthodoxy has to be uttered; and it is, that God is really incomprehensible, and that here we can never know His name.”  
Preface to St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Select Writings and Letters,  trans. William Moore, M.A.
 “For God cannot be called by any proper name, for names are given to mark out and distinguish their subject-matters, because these are many and diverse; but neither did any one exist before God who could give Him a name, nor did He Himself think it right to name Himself, seeing that He is one and unique, as He Himself also by His own prophets testifies, when He says, "I am the first and I am hereafter and beside me there is no other God." (Isa. xliv. 6.)”  
St. Justin the Philosopher: Hortatory Address to the Greeks: Chapter XXI.--The namelessness of God.
“The One above conception is inconceivable to all conceptions; and the Good above word is unutterable by word… and Word unutterable, speechlessness, and inconception, and namelessness -- being after the manner of no existing being, and Cause of being to all, but Itself not being…”  
St. Dionysius the Areopagite: On the Divine Names, caput I, section I.
 “. . the most proper of all the names given to God is ‘He that Is’…”  
St. John of Damascus: An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith; Chapter IX.—Concerning what is affirmed about God.
“From many similar instances in Holy Scripture it may be proved that the name of God has no pre-eminence over other words which are applied to the divine…”  
St. Basil the Great: Letter to Eustatius the physician, section 5.
 “…but thou, beloved, when thou hast heard of ‘The Word,’ do not endure those who say, that He is a work; nor those even who think, that He is simply a word. For many are the words of God which angels execute, but of those words none is God; they all are prophecies or commands…”  
St. John Chrysostom: Homily IV, John i. 1.-“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”
 “Let us not then confound the creation with the Creator, lest we too hear it said of us, that ‘they served the creature rather than the Creator’ ( Rom. i. 25 ) Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”  
“The good Cause of all is… without utterance; as having neither utterance nor conception, because It is superessentially exalted above all, and manifested without veil and in truth, to those alone who… leave behind all divine lights and sounds, and heavenly words, and enter into the gloom, where really is, as the Oracles say, He Who is beyond all.”  
St. Dionysius the Areopagite: Mystic Theology, Caput I, section III.
“Every name of God is due to a conception.”  
St. Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, S:8
 “If any man says that the Son of God is the internal or uttered Word of God: let him be anathema.”  
St. Hilary of Poitiers: Treatise De Synodis: The Creed according to the Council of the East. VIII.
How does the consensus of the Fathers sound compared to Name-glorifiers?

Who is to be trusted more, a few 20th century Russian monks, or the consensus of the Fathers of our Church who were taught by the Apostles themselves and enlightened by the All-Holy Spirit?
 “When… all reflections and thoughts cease within you… you have been worthy of the operation of grace.”  
St. Isaac the Syrian- Appendix B, 4:59
“When the intellect wishes mystically to go before the One, it must refrain from all thoughts…”  
Ibid. 4:63
“It [God] is neither soul, nor mind… or reason, or conception; neither is expressed, nor conceived; neither has power, nor is power, nor light… nor truth… neither Deity, nor Goodness; nor is It Spirit according to our understanding… neither is there expression of It, nor name, nor knowledge; neither is It darkness, nor light; nor error, nor truth; neither is there any definition at all of It, nor any abstraction.”    
St. Dionysius. Mystic Theology, CAPUT V.
That the pre-eminent Cause of every object of intelligible perception
is none of the objects of intelligible perception.
“God is not matter----soul, mind, spirit, any being, nor even being itself, but above and beyond all these.” - 
Preface to ‘Mystic Theology'
“They left the head and worship the hat.”  
Elder Kallinikos the Hesychast

So we see what the consensus of the Fathers is concerning the name of God. To say the Name of God is God clearly goes against the teaching of the Church. The quote at the beginning of this article was against the Arians, who tried to say that Jesus Christ was only a man. How much worse to worship a WORD as God!

 “When Paul is investigating the special methods of the work of redemption he seems to grow dizzy before the mysterious maze which he is contemplating, and utters the well-known words, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!’ These things are beyond the reach even of those who have attained the measure of Paul’s knowledge. What then is the conceit of those who announce that they know the essence of God!… All who have even a limited loyalty to truth ought to dismiss all corporeal similitudes. They must be very careful not to sully their conceptions of God by material notions. They must follow the theologies delivered to us by the Holy Ghost. They must shun questions which are little better than conundrums, and admit of a dangerous double meaning… before the incarnation He neither had the name above every name nor was owned by all to be Lord… ‘And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.’ (Matt. Xxviii. 18) We must understand this of the incarnation, and not of the Godhead.  
St. Basil the Great: Prolegomena, Dogmatic Works; i, Against Eunomius


*  His energy is His action, or operation, in the world, and His nature, or essence, is what He is. According to the Fathers, it is impossible for us to know his essence- our minds and language cannot contain it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Smokescreens for Heresy

In this essay, Fr. Maximos of Holy Ascension Monastery in Bearsville, NY, discusses how today's name-worshippers are using the same tactics as heretics of past generations.


A common tactic for heretics to use in order to distract attention from their own heresy is to point out certain abuses among the Orthodox which are related to the controversy at hand. These abuses may be both matters of practice and matters of theological language. By pointing out the deficiencies of the Orthodox, they can claim the moral high ground and make the Orthodox appear as heretical or at least misguided. They use these abuses as an excuse for not accepting the Orthodox teaching on a given subject. By adopting this tactic, they confuse the faithful, making their own heretical doctrines appear more correct than they really are, and thus draw many into perdition.

This tactic in modern parlance is often called introducing a “red herring,” which means bringing up a subject which, while obliquely related to the matter at hand, does not address the main issue. Because a heretical teaching is always false, and hence possesses weaker logic and reasoning than the truth which the Orthodox Church proclaims, it is always in the interests of the heretics to introduce as many red herrings as possible, in order to draw attention away from the weak points in their own argumentation.

The ploy of the red herring - or as one may call it, a smokescreen which disguises evil - is ultimately a form of psychological argumentation and hence is invalid as a form of logic. By playing on the emotions of people, they can keep the debate on an entirely superficial level and avoid confronting their own faulty reasoning.

Recently, a heresy called “name-worshipping” has reared its head. This heresy is so called because its adherents believe that the name of God is God Himself; that is, that His name is a divine energy and hence uncreated. This ridiculous idea was condemned by the Synod of Constantinople in 1913 and again by the Russian Synod the same year. These Synods declared heretical the idea that the name of God is an energy of God or God Himself. This is the central point of the heresy, from which all of their other deviant beliefs follow. The Russian Synod, however, added a few comments of its own on the subject of the divine energies and the divinity, which used a slightly different terminology than the manner of expression used by St. Gregory Palamas (the expositor par excellence on the subject of the divine energies.) The Synod’s terminology was not so much heretical as not as clear and precise as St. Gregory’s exposition; and this was evidently the result of the Russian bishops’ lack of familiarity with the polemical writings of the saint, which had mostly not been translated into Russian at the time. The modern name-worshippers have seized upon this imprecision of terminology and have made it their banner; or rather, their smokescreen, declaring that they cannot accept the Russian council because it opposes the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. In so doing, they have missed the main point, which is that even if the Russian Synod expressed itself poorly, name-worshipping is still a heresy. The Russian condemnation of name-worshipping is still valid in and of itself, even if the terminology it used in its further explanation of the subject is questionable. Moreover, the heresy was also condemned by the Synod of Constantinople, which used no dubious terminology. Yet the name-worshippers also refuse to recognize this council. Hence, it is clear that their motivation in attacking the language of the Russian Synod is not pious concern over expression, but rather because they simply do not accept the Orthodox teaching on the name of God.

It should be obvious at this point that the name-worshippers’ rejection of Orthodox teaching based on the comments made by the Russian Synod is nothing but a smokescreen which they use to mask their own heresy. In so doing, they are following the well-trodden path of many heretics. Let us examine a few heresies and the smokescreens they threw up in order to hide and excuse their false teachings.

1. The first great heresy to trouble the Church was Arianism. The Arians denied that Christ was God and that the Son is equal to Father. The Orthodox Church condemned Arianism at the First Ecumenical Council. The key word in explaining the Orthodox teaching was “consubstantial” – the Son is consubstantial or of one essence with the Father. The Arians, however, refused to accept this word. They knew that to accept it would entail a rejection of their heresy. But in order to distract people from the real issue, they pointed out that the word “consubstantial” was not found in Scripture and had originally been used in a heretical sense by Paul of Samosata, an earlier heretic who had confused the persons of the Father and the Son. The Arians accused the Orthodox of having the same heretical tendencies because they used the same terminology as an earlier heretic had, even though the Orthodox did not attach a heretical meaning to it.

2. The Arians also refused to join with the Orthodox Church because they pointed out that the Orthodox were in communion with Marcellus of Antioch, a bishop who was fanatically opposed to Arianism to the point of confusing the three persons of the Trinity. Most of the Orthodox did not realize that Marcellus’ own faith was suspect. The Arians threw a smokescreen over their own errors by pointing to the errors of Marcellus. But in fact, they were just avoiding the main point, which was that Arianism itself is heretical, and no number of dubious clergy in the ranks of the Orthodox can change that fact.

3. The Monophysites were a later heresy which fused Christ’s humanity and divinity to the point of obscuring His humanity. The Monophysites refused to accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council because the council accepted as orthodox the Tome of Leo, which they considered to be a Nestorian document. In fact, the Tome was perfectly Orthodox, but was worded vaguely enough that a Nestorian would not have a problem in accepting it. Nestorius himself declared that it was exactly what he had been trying to say all along. Thus, the Monophysites were able to characterize the Orthodox as Nestorians, and confuse many people. They used the Tome as a pretext for schism, and refused to deal with the real issue, which was that Monophysitism itself is a heresy.

4. Another heresy after Monophysitism was Iconoclasm. The Iconoclasts declared that icons were idols and that it was permissible neither to paint them nor especially to venerate them. The Iconoclasts were very quick to point out certain abuses connected with icons; for example, some people considered them living images to the point of using them as godparents at baptism! They used abuses such at this to blow smoke around the issue and to present the Orthodox view as something which inevitably lead to incorrect practices. But no number of abuses connected with icons could change the fact that it is a pious thing to depict and venerate them.

In our days, the name-worshippers are proving themselves worthy followers of their predecessors in heresy. By attempting to shift the focus of the debate onto the expressions of the Russian Synod, they are avoiding the real question: what is their own confession of faith? If they truly are Orthodox Christians, they can demonstrate it quickly and easily by just accepting the condemnations which the Church has published against name-worshipping. Let them proclaim loudly that the name of God is not an uncreated energy of God, but a created symbol given to us by Holy Scripture and the Fathers which expresses the inexpressible insofar as human language is capable. Let them denounce the errors of Bulatovich and the deluded monks of Mount Athos who followed him into heresy. Then we will believe that they are in truth Orthodox Christians and not members of a heretical sect.