Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cosmic Man

A Summary of Cosmic Man, the Masterpiece of Paulos Mar Gregorios

Paulos Mar Gregorios claims that Cosmic Man is his most important work. It was his doctoral dissertation, and it served as a foundation for the thought-world he developed further.
He introduces the book saying that it seeks to analyze the problem of human existence between its two poles, God and the creation, primarily with the aid of the writings of Gregory of Nyssa, a fourth century Christian thinker. He presents the thought of Gregory of Nyssa as a valid alternative and corrective to the western theologizing, which oscillates between an other-worldly mysticism that ignores the reality of humanity’s existence in history, and a secular humanism that ignores the ground and source of our being. Gregory’s worldview has the humanity firmly placed between God and the world.  
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
Gregory of Nysasa is often blamed for uncritical adoption of Platonic thought and for unauthorized use of allegorical method in the interpretation of scriptures.
Gregory believed that the Holy Scriptures opens our eyes to see the design of God, and thus leads us to God’s mind and purpose. But the meaning of the scriptures is not always self-evident. Certain passages in the scriptures are like the peacock’s feathers-- you need to turn it to see its beauty. But such turning can be done only by someone grounded in the faith of the church. The true intention (skopos) of the scriptures becomes clear to someone who lives in faith. There is no one right method to interpret a passage in the Bible, such as literal, allegorical, and typological. For someone who lives in the faith of the church, the intention of the scriptures becomes clear, and he would know which method to choose.
In his dialog with his sister, Macrina, he affirms that the intention of the scriptures is the criterion of understanding for a Christian, whereas for a non-Christian, reasoning power alone is the criterion and tool. Gregory did not try to fit his Christian faith to suit the prevailing philosophies, but he used the prevailing philosophies to communicate the Christian understanding. He integrated science and philosophy on the foundation of the Christian tradition.
For example, Gregory was reluctant to accept the Greek idea that man is a universe in miniature, a microcosmos, because it seems to compete with the Christian understanding that man is the image of God.
He rejected all pagan affirmations which he found contrary to Christian tradition. However he used the pagan terminology in order to communicate with them. He rejected Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, and Plotinus in his views about the soul, resurrection, nature of man, and about God.  

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.
The foundation of Eunomius’ thought was the unity, simplicity, and uniqueness of the One, whereas the foundation of the Cappadocians’ thought was trinity-incarnation.
Eunomius claims that there are two ways to do theology: one to study the ousia (essence or the real nature) of God; two, to study the energia (energies or operations) of God. Eunomius chooses the first, but the Cappadocians choose the second.
The essential nature of God, according to Eunomius, is unbegottenness (agennèsia). He argues that the name agennètos is a revealed name of God, not a human creation. He divides all that exists to unbegotten and begotten (gennèma). He further claims that the Father alone is God, the unbegotten. The son is begotten, and the son creates the Holy Spirit and all creation.
Eunomius claimes that the ousia of God is knowable through the reveled name of God, agennètos. He further claims that the significance of a name is not in its sound but in its ennoia, the internal mental conception. He claims that the human innate ideas correspond to reality. He further claims that the names are also God’s creations. 
In terms of consistency and coherence, Eunomius’ system shows considerable strength. He is reasonable in his affirmation that since God cannot be caused by someone else, only the Father, the uncaused cause, is truly God. The Christian doctrine that the ousia of God is in three persons is much more difficult. Also the Christian doctrine of incarnation, that God, who is unchangeable, became man, who is changeable, is philosophically difficult.
Gregory denies that man has an ennoia (innate idea) of the ousia of God, and insists that man can only apprehend the energia of God. The cappadocians claim that God’s ousia is unknowable. Although human mind is God’s creation, the thoughts, feelings, and intuitions  of the human mind are Human creation, which may be right or wrong, good or evil.
Man’s knowing process is epinoia, the capacity to conceive things. All human knowledge, sciences, arts, and inventions have their root in epinoia. Epinoia is the most precious of faculties the creator has given us. Gregory claims that even the name agennètos (unbegotten) is a creation of our epinoia. It is our mental capacity to use this concept. However, it does not say what God is, it only says what God is not.
Using this capacity of epinoia, we have to follow (akolouthia) the creation in its taxis (orderliness) and find out that the ground of the creation lies beyond it.

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.
Logical coherence is possible because of ontological coherence, which is possible because of the Logos. Just as the cosmos exists as a body breathing together, the scriptures also has a unity within it according to Gregory. The Christian life is seen by Gregory as a break with the akolouthia of evil and move along the akolouthia of good toward perfection. Thus there is a beginning, an end, and an ordered sequence in between at three levels-- in the cosmos, in the scriptures, and in the life of perfection. In all three we have to follow the order of sequence. 

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.
The diastema between creator and creation, the basis of the transcendence of God, is a specific Judeo-Christian concept, and it is a basic category for Gregory. This concept cannot be seen in Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, or in Neo-Platonists. God for Plato belongs to the world of ideas, which can be known. For Aristotle, God is the fist cause of the world. For Stoics, God is the same as the world or the soul of the world. For neoplatonists, the world is an emanation of God. Philo, following the Hebrew scriptures, claims discontinuity for the creator and creation, and Gregory adopts the same view.
Thus Gregory presents before three aspects of diastema:
  1. Diastema is absent in the creator, which is why God is transcendent and incomprehensible to us.
  2. Creation has diastema, which is why all created beings have change-- they move from arche to telos.
  3. 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.
According to the neoplatonists, the world is an emanation of God, which therefore, participates in the ousia 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.
God is free in His transcendence, in His immanence, and in His creative power. Man, being God’s image, has to participate in these three aspects.

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.
Gregory argues that death that ensued immediately on eating was not the death of the body, but a sentence of death against body and soul. Death of the soul does not mean coming to an end. It is separation from the source of life. Sin also means the same.
The soul and body live together. The soul does not survive the body. Gregory differs from Origen, who believed in the eternity of the soul. He also differs from neoplatonists who believed in the changelessness of the soul.
We do not inherit sin from Adam, but we do inherit the death, the consequence of sin, from Adam.
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. 
However, we notice a lack of clarity when Gregory tells us about sin and death. Gregory argues that the death of Adam and Eve in the garden was not the death of the body, but a sentence of death against body and soul. This conclusion raises a couple of problems before us. God said they would die on the same day, but they continue to live for a few centuries. To make a sentence, God must have been a judge in that situation. But in that situation, God is the owner of the garden and Adam and Eve live and work there. The highest punishment an owner of a garden can give to the workers is to send them away, which is what God does.  Gregory further implies that the death they died on the same day was the death of their soul. Paulos Gregorios explains that the death of the soul does not mean coming to an end; it is separation from God, the source of life. He further states that sin also means the same.  Zoe and bios represent two kinds of life in Greek. It is possible that Hebrew also had similar distinction. For the two kinds of life, there must be two kinds of death too. It is reasonable to think that the death that Adam and Eve died in the Garden of Eden was the end of their heavenly life (zoe) which they enjoyed there. It was not the end of their bios, the life all living beings live. God had warned that their zoe would end if they disobeyed, but the snake said their bios would not end. In the Great Friday liturgy, we sing that the blessed one by His death killed death. The death Jesus died was that of bios, but the death He killed was that of zoe.  

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