Divine Essence and Divine Energies: Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy

By C. Athanasopoulos and C. Schneider (editors)

Essays exploring, from a multiplicity of viewpoints, the philosophical and theological dimensions of the essence-energy distinction in Orthodox Christianity.

ISBN: 9780227173862


The result of a colloquium organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Cambridge, UK), Divine Essence and Divine Energies offers a rich repository of diverse opinion about the distinction between essence and energy in Orthodox Christianity – a doctrine which lies at the heart of the often fraught fault line between East and West, and which, in this book, inspires a lively dialogue between the contributors.

The contents of the book revolve around several key questions: In what way were the Aristotelian concepts of ousia and energeia used by the Church Fathers, and to what extent were their meanings modified in the light of the Christological and Trinitarian doctrines? What theological function does the essence-energy distinction fulfil in Eastern Orthodoxy with respect to theology, anthropology, and the doctrine of creation? What are the differences and similarities between the notions of divine presence and participation in seminal Christian writings, and what is the relationship between the essence-energy distinction and Western ideas of divine presence?

A valuable addition to the dialogue between Eastern and Western Christianity, this book will be of great interest to any reader seeking a rigorously academic insight into the wealth of scholarly opinion about the essence-energy distinction.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 298

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Constantinos Athanasopoulos was Director of Distance Learning at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Cambridge). He is a Research Affiliate in the Department of Philosophy at The Open University (UK). His books include: Europe East and West: Byzantine Civilization (2001, in Greek) and Ancillae Theologiae: Philosophy and Theology in the Medieval and Byzantine Times (2004, in Greek).

Christoph Schneider is Lecturer at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Cambridge). He is co-editor of Encounter Between Eastern Orthodoxy and Radical Orthodoxy: Transfiguring the World Through the Word (2009).



Introduction: Beyond Agnosticism and Pantheism / Christoph Schneider

1. The Concept of the Divine Energies / David Bradshaw
2. St Gregory Palamas as the Response of Orthodox Mystical Theology to (Neo-) Platonist and Aristotelian Metaphysics / Constantinos Athanasopoulos
3. Pancreation Lost: The Fall of Theology / Roy Clouser
4. The Woes of Originality: Discussing David Bradshaw’s Aristotelian Journey into Neo-Palamism / Antoine Lévy OP
5. Striving for Participation: Palamite Analogy as Dialogical Syn-energy and Thomist Analogy as Emanational Similitude / Nikolaos Loudovikos
6. The Significance of the Distinction between the Essence and Energies of God according to St. Basil the Great / Georgios Martzelos
7. Christianity and Platonism in East and West / John Milbank
8. The Sense and Reference of the Essence and Energies / N.N. Trakakis
9. The Distinction Between Essence and Energy according to Maximus the Confessor / Metropolitan Vasilios (Karayiannis) of Constantia-Ammochostos
10. In Defence of the Essence/Energy Distinction: A Reply to Critics / David Bradshaw

Notes on Contributors


Endorsements and Reviews

A valuable addition to the dialogue between Eastern and Western Christianity, this book will be of great interest to any reader seeking a rigorously academic insight into the wealth of scholarly opinion about the essence-energy distinction.
The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Vol 14, No 19

… represents a model of honest and open theological and intellectual dialogue between theologians of the Christian East and the West, a quality ecumenical effort.
G. Gispert-Sauch SJ, in Journal of Theological Reflection, Vol 77, No 6

This collection of articles, which will be of great interest to scholars of Eastern Orthodox theology and Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, shows that the conversation [concerning the theological vision of Gregory Palamas] is set to continue.
Thomas Cattoi, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 21, No 1

Certainly, this volume deserves the attention of all those interested in conciliar discourse. Yet it also serves as a vital text that might direct the reader towards deeper understanding of the ‘Uncreated Light’ and related doctrinal concepts. The content and contours of this volume elevate the discussion of the divine energy-essence distinctions while the breadth and depth of perspectives serve to challenge the reader with a rich intellectual exercise. The writers of the ten essays walk carefully and critically across the subject matter while demonstrating the latitude in which the Christian tradition has travelled historically, philosophically, and theologically as it has sought to understand a doctrine at the center of the East-West divide. Accordingly, I would highly recommend this as a chief text for student and scholar alike.
Ashley John Moyse, in American Theological Enquiry, Vol 7, No 1

This book is not for the faint-hearted but the keenly interested will find it a worthy adventure.
Christopher Villiers, in Theological Book Review, Vol 25, No 2

… the contributors, and the editors, deserve credit for bringing some lucidity to a contentious and generally neglected discussion.
Stephen R.L. Clarke, in Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 64, Issue 256

This symposium inspired by David Bradshaw’s brilliant and controversial book, Aristotle: East and West (2014), gathers together contributions from theologians of both East and West, who reflect on the book and its central contention about the crucial role of the uncreated energies in an Orthodox metaphysics, topped and tailed by contributions from Bradshaw himself, conclusions responding to the sumposium.
Andrew Louth, in Theology, Vol 117, Issue 6

… this work contains an ecumenical undertaking of very high quality on a subject that goes beyond the basics!
C.R., in Etudes Theologiques Et Religieuses, March 2015