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

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.