A Summary of Cosmic Man, the Masterpiece of Paulos Mar Gregorios
Gregory of Nyssa was a great father and theologian accepted by both the east and the west. However, we should not commit the mistake of slavishly adopting his thought. We need to follow his example and do in our context what he did in his context. As Paulos Gregorios reminds us, our own cosmology has to be much more sophisticated than Gregory’s because we know much more about the structure of the universe, of matter and energy, of cells and life, and of sub-atomic particles.Intent of the Scripture and the use of outside philosophy
Agennesia-- Against Eunomius
Eunomius, a contemporary of Gregory, was a Christian bishop in Capadocia. As a follower of Arius, Eunomius led a form of liberal Christianity, which sought to indigenize Christianity by domesticating it within the current acceptable framework of thought known as Alexandrian philosophy. Eunomius sought to adapt Christianity to secular Philosophy, whereas the Cappadocians sought to adapt secular philosophy to the Christian tradition.
Akolouthia-- Following the Logos
Akolouthia may be translated as consistency, consequence, following up, or custom. Stoics had used this term to mean living according to the nature in accordance to the Logos that indwells the cosmos. Logical consistency was important for Gregory. He emphasized the importance of understanding things in the proper sequential order, and to state what is understood in the right sequential order. For Philo, akolouthia has to do with the design of the created order in the mind of the creator, which is an ontological reality. The linking of ontology, epistemology, and ethics, which was characteristic of stoic thought, was a central notion in Christian patristic thought. Thus Akolouthia is both following intellectually and as disciple. Knowing and willing and being go together.
God and His Creation 1 : Diastema -- DiscontinuityIn the general sense, Diastema refers to the distance between two points-- in space or in time. This concept became a key notion in the Arian controversy when they argued that there is a time distance between Father and Son. Gregory made it clear that there is no diastema in the creator, that diastema is a characteristic of the creation, and that there is a one-way ontological and epistemological diastema between the creator and the creation from the side of the creation.
- Diastema is absent in the creator, which is why God is transcendent and incomprehensible to us.
- Creation has diastema, which is why all created beings have change-- they move from arche to telos.
- Between creation and creator, diastema is one-way. From God’s view, there is no diastema, for the creation exists within the creator. But from the view of the creation, there is an unbridgeable diastema between Creator and creation.
God and His Creation 2 : Metousia -Continuity
Gregory makes a distinction between the ousia and energeia of God. Ousia is the is-ness of God, and energeia is what God does. Diastema occurs only between the ousia of God and the creation. But between the energeia of God and creation there exists participation. The creation is dependent on the wisdom, will and power of God, together they are called the energeia of God.
God and Man: Continuity and Discontinuity
Man being a part of the world, whatever is true for the world must be true for the humanity as well. All creation depends on God’s grace for its existence. It is the capacity to respond to God’s grace that distinguishes man from other beings. Although God’s grace is available to all men, some men choose not to accept the grace.
Man Against God : Man in History
The source of evil is the freedom of man. Eve chose something good, but not good for her at that situation. Eunomius thought that the human body is the source of sin.
For Augustine, concupiscence (passion) is the root of sin. If so it is a part of human nature. Gregory follows the Asiatic/semitic way of thinking that human freedom is the root of evil.
Gregory seems to imply that diastema (existence in space-time) is the result of sin. But he asserts that diastema is the nature of creation. This is a contradiction in Gregory’s thought.
The Fullness of Man: Man Beyond History
Gregory uses the term pleroma to mean the full number. Our interest is in his use of the term to mean the the whole of the humanity in all places and times. As a hypothesis, Gregory speaks of two creations: first the entire human race (pleroma), and then the individuals separating them into male and female. It is this pleroma that Christ leavened. As the humanity is integrally related to the rest of the creation, the redemption of humanity is also the redemption of the creation. History is the nursery of mankind. History will give way to a new aeon, where the whole of humanity will be co-present. Man in history is like a seed in the ground, an embryo in the womb. The whole of mankind as a single unit will be redeemed from sin, mortality and individuality. Reunited with Christ, the entire humanity will bear the image of God. Christ is the first born of the new humanity, in whom the human nature has been recreated. Our original coat will be restored to the humanity.
Gregory’s Thought, An Evaluation
As Paulos Mar Gregorios claims, Gregory has created a mighty thought structure. “It soars into the transcendent without losing sight of the material and the historical.” In spite of his greatness, Paulos Mar Gregorios notices a contradiction in Gregory’s thought when Gregory speaks about diastema. Gregory seems to imply that diastema is the result of sin. But he also asserts that diastema is the nature of creation. It is possible that this must not have been a real contradiction in Gregory’s thought, only it appears to be a contradiction. Gregory makes it clear that the creation is within the limits of space and time; God alone is beyond these limits. This causes a diastema between the creation and the creator. So what happens when we sin, when we consciously deviate from God’s path? Gregory says it causes diastema between God and us. It seems that Gregory is speaking about two kinds of diastemas here. If the first is physical, the second one is mental. The first cannot be bridged, but the second can be bridged.