Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The [u.] S. Constitution’s Metaphysical Flaws: Part 1st

The admirers of the [u.] S. constitutional system are bemoaning the weakness of Congress before the other branches of the federal government.  For ensample:

As the late George Carey and I were writing our recently published Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law, we were convinced that we would be criticized for not providing “solutions” to America’s constitutional crisis. Still, we refused to engage in the drawing up of utopian blueprints. Given the nature of our diagnosis, we were convinced that ready-made solutions would not avail in these times. That diagnosis, in brief, is that our political class has become too corrupt to understand, let alone value and defend, the constitutional structures essential to free government within our political tradition. Not unexpectedly, reviewers have, in fact, criticized the book for lacking mechanistic solutions to moral problems. Recent events show, however, that even the most obvious of such solutions have no chance of success until and unless a far more difficult reform is achieved within the minds and characters of those who sit in what was designed to be our sole federal lawmaking body—the Congress. Until Members of Congress rediscover the most basic virtue necessary to fulfill their role in our constitutional government—until they insist on exercising the power and taking the responsibility for passing all federal laws—no amount of tinkering can hope to restore our republic.

 . . .

So why have the functions of the three branches of the federal government become so disordered (and this is applicable to the idea of the division of powers at all levels of government in the States)?  Because of those very ‘constitutional structures’ Mr Frohnen and others consider ‘essential to free government within [the u. S.] political tradition’, or, better said, because of the principles that lay behind them. 

At the foundation is the false idea of absolute divine simplicity (that God is only essence and not essence and energies) as taught by Plotinus and accepted by St Augustine (whose speculative teachings broke with the consensus of the experiential theology of the other Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church); from St Augustine’s writings it spread throughout all the West through the Roman Catholics and Protestants, who took him as their main theological teacher.

John Locke’s idea (repeated by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and by many others) that all government derives from the will of the people is a secular expression of absolute divine simplicity within the realm of politics:  Just as the three Persons of the Holy Trinity arise from the Divine Essence, so too the three branches of the federal government arise from the will of the people.

And just as the absolutely simple Divine Essence of Plotinus and Augustine cancels out any distinction between the Persons and their acts,

In fact, the teaching of St. Gregory affects the whole system of theology, the whole body of Christian doctrine. It starts with the clear distinction between "nature" and "will" of God. This distinction was also characteristic of the Eastern tradition, at least since St. Athanasius. It may be asked at this point: Is this distinction compatible with the "simplicity" of God? Should we not rather regard all these distinctions as merely logical conjectures, necessary for us, but ultimately without any ontological significance? As a matter of fact, St. Gregory Palamas was attacked by his opponents precisely from that point of view. God's Being is simple, and in Him even all attributes coincide. Already St. Augustine diverged at this point from the Eastern tradition. Under Augustinian presuppositions the teaching of St. Gregory is unacceptable and absurd. St. Gregory himself anticipated the width of implications of his basic distinction. If one does not accept it, he argued, then it would be impossible to discern clearly between the "generation" of the Son and "creation" of the world, both being the acts of essence, and this would lead to utter confusion in the Trinitarian doctrine. St. Gregory was quite formal at that point.

If according to the delirious opponents and those who agree with them, the Divine energy in no way differs from the Divine essence, then the act of creating, which belongs to the will, will in no way differ from generation (gennan) and procession (ekporeuein), which belong to the essence. If to create is no different from generation and procession, then the creatures will in no way differ from the Begotten (gennematos) and the Projected (problematos). If such is the case according to them, then both the Son of God and the Holy Spirit will be no different from creatures, and the creatures will all be both the begotten (gennemata) and the projected (problemata) of God the Father, and creation will be deified and God will be arrayed with the creatures. For this reason the venerable Cyril, showing the difference between God's essence and energy, says that to generate belongs to the Divine nature, whereas to create belongs to His Divine energy. This he shows clearly saying, "nature and energy are not the same." If the Divine essence in no way differs from the Divine energy, then to beget (gennan) and to project (ekporeuein) will in no way differ from creating (poiein). God the Father creates by the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Thus He also begets and projects by the Son and in the Holy Spirit, according to the opinion of the opponents and those who agree with them. (Capita 96 and 97.)

Source:  Fr George Florovsky, http://orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/florov_palamas.aspx, opened 20 Feb. 2017

It is at this precise point that the uncanny logical accuracy of Photios posed acute difficulty for the later Western theology.  The force of the previous argument was too much to ignore and some response had to be made.  The one who made it was Thomas Aquinas, writing four hundred years after Photios.  “Of course,” he says, “[the procession] does not proceed further within itself, but the cycle is concluded when . . . it returns to the very substance from which the proceeding began.”100  But this argument would only serve to make the procession a feature of the divine essence, and not of the person of the Holy Spirit.  Saint Photios is ready with a response to this aspect before Thomas ever wrote: If the dual procession were a characteristic of the divine essence and not a personal property, then all productions from the Father were features of the essence, and thus the personal procession or the Spirit from the Son, and even from the Father, was artificial and superfluous.  “If He [the Spirit] is known more fully in another procession which is proper to the essence,” asks Photios, “then what precise thing does that fashioning by another person provide?”101 In other words, if one accepts the concept of personal processions which are somehow also essential, then there can be no Trinity, and the filioque will indeed be, as Father Richardson pointed out, a matter of words!

If the procession of the Holy Spirit could be a feature of the essence, then so could the Son’s begottenness: thus why could not the Son be opposed to the Spirit and the Father, and the latter two may thus beget the Son?  At this point it is important to recall that Saint Augustine also saw this ramification, and refused to accept it.102  Indeed, asks Photios, why should one not simply tear up the Scriptures, so as to allow “the fable that the Spirit produces the Son, thereby according the same dignity to each person by allowing each person to produce the other person?”103  The deity is defined as causality, and if each person is fully God, then each must cause the others, “for reason demands equality for each person so that each person exchanges the grace of causality inndistin-guishably.”104  With the word, “indistinguishably” the mask comes off the Neoplatonic simplicity, in which being, existence, will, and activity are all “wholly indistinguishable.”  When Saint Augustine saw this implication of his trinitarian method, he simply denied it and said that the persons were “not interchangeably fathers to one another.”105  The same point is made by Photios:

For if, according to the reasonings of the ungodly, the specific properties of the persons are opposed and transferred to one another, then the Father—O depth of impiety!—comes under the property of being begotten and the Son will beget the Father.106

At this point, it is abundantly clear that the Neoplatonic structure is not only “bursting under the strain of its Christian contents,” but that it has altogether collapsed.  The simplicity is an inadequate definition of the Christian God, for ultimately everything said about Him becomes logically equivalent to everything else said about Him: by beginning with the definition of divine essence as simple, the hypostatic feature of the Father has been distributed to every person and consequently all basis of real personal distinctions has been lost in the essence.107

In a very striking sentence, Saint Photios sums up the effects of the new dogma:

On the one hand, you firmly establish the idea that there is no source—anarchy—in Him, but at the very same time you reintroduce a source and a cause, and then go on simultaneously to transfer the distinctions of each person.108

Source:  Dr Joseph Farrell, http://www.anthonyflood.com/farrellphotios.htm, opened 20 Feb. 2017

so too does the absolutely simple essence of the will of the people make the distinctions between the three branches of the federal government illusory.  Thus, legislature = executive = judiciary, and the lamenting over the failure of the constitutional structure is thoroughly pointless.  It was doomed to failure from the start because of its metaphysical foundation.

We will try to have a bit more to say about this soon.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð!

Anathema to the Union!

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