Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Selections on Philosophy

The cognizance of God

Analogy of being and analogy of faith

By Protopresbyter John S. Romanides (+)

University Professor

Platonic (and not only) ideas that penetrated the West led to its attachment to non-Christian axioms.  One such idea was the “analogy of being”. And while the East never faced such attachments to philosophisms, in the West the subject was discussed extensively.

We have already mentioned that there is no similarity between God and creations. And, since there is no similarity, it means that there is no similarity between the created and the uncreated.


So, what is the metaphysical view* of theology? In order for metaphysics or ontology to exist, there must definitely be a certain analogy between the created and the uncreated.


In the philosophical and theological tradition of the West, there are two analogies, in other words, two different correlations. In Orthodox Theology, however, no such things exist. Why?  Simply because the Fathers stress that between the created and the uncreated, between creations and God, there is no similarity. This also means that there is no analogy between them, i.e., no correlation or comparison. Which means that we cannot, through creations, come to know the uncreated (=God), Himself or His energy.


In Western tradition, the analogy that the Westerners have accepted as existing, has two forms: It is the analogy of being (analogia entis) and the analogy of faith (analogia fidei).


The analogy of being was supported by those who followed Augustine. However, both analogies are found in Augustine, and he presents a confusion between the philosophical method of researching the Church’s dogmas and the scriptural research. In other words, apart from using the Holy Bible in his research, he also uses the methodology of logic and philosophical rumination.


Also of great significance for the historical evolution of Western theology is the contribution of William Ockham, who was the father of Nominalism and who generally opposed the analogy of being. Nominalists reject every kind of distinction between divine essence and divine characteristics, in other words, between divine essence and energy; they maintain that this distinction exists only in name (Nominalists, from the Latin word  “nomen” = name)


On account of William Ockham, a tradition was created that did not accept the analogy of being, between the created and the uncreated. He maintained that we cannot trace any knowledge of God through philosophy. He had launched a general attack against Plato’s archetypes; in other words, against the Universalia of Platonic tradition, with very powerful arguments and almost abolished the preceding Platonic supporters of Western tradition, thus instigating a severe crisis in Western Theology.


To Orthodox tradition, this is of extreme importance, since Plato’s and Neo-Platonists’ teachings on archetypes were officially condemned by the Orthodox Church. In the «Orthodox Synodical» that we cite on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, there is an official condemnation of this teaching of Plato and Neoplatonists and anathema is now officially pronounced by the Orthodox Church, on those who confess this Platonic teaching of archetypes. The reason for this is that the Platonic perception of God is clearly anthropomorphic.


This teaching of archetype kinds in the mind of God essentially abolishes Divine freedom and comprises the entire gnosiological basis of the so-called Scholastic theological and philosophical tradition; in other words, the theology of Papists, wherein it is believed that there is an analogy of being and an analogy of faith between the created essences and the uncreated archetypes of ideas or reasons that supposedly exist in God’s mind. Thus, according to this theory of theirs, one can trace that which pertains to the Divine essence,  by penetrating the essence and the overall meaning of beings, through human logic.


But this teaching, as we said, was condemned by the Eastern Orthodox Church during the 7th Ecumenical Council (Synod). In this way, the Patristic view that there is no similarity between the created and the uncreated, or, between creations and God, was established and consolidated.   


The aforementioned Platonic perception of God was embraced by Augustine and the entire Western tradition. William Ockham however did not abolish the analogy of faith, which, to him, is the Holy Bible. To him, the Holy Bible contains everything that pertains to God in reality. And, he maintains, that it is only through the Holy Bible that one can come to know God.


According to the analogy of faith, there is an analogy between God and creations; not according to philosophical thought however (which is the analogy of being), but through revelation by God, as recorded in the Holy Bible.


In other words, the analogy of faith says that God reveals to man those things that pertain to Him, inside the Holy Bible, and that man cannot learn anything correctly about God through philosophy. Of course here, Ockham launches an attack against Augustine’s philosophical method, but not against the theological method that is based on the Holy Bible, in other words, the analogy of faith.


This analogy of faith was also followed by Luther, the founder of Protestantism. Luther had of course taught that there are two faiths.  The one faith is the intellectual type, of logical acceptance. According to this faith, man accepts something with his logic and believes in that which he has accepted. But this is not the faith that vindicates man; when the Holy Bible says that man cannot be saved through faith alone, it doesn’t imply the faith of a logical acceptance, but an intimate, inner faith.


Luther observed that the Holy Bible mentions that there really is another faith that is a gift of God and that this faith is activated inside the heart. However, he reached this point but didn’t go beyond it. He didn’t complete this topic, by going in depth into the Patristic perception on the intimate kind of faith.


In the Orthodox faith, the analogy of faith does not exist either. Because between the teaching of the Holy Bible and the truth regarding God, there is no analogy of faith. Because between the teaching of the Holy Bible and the truth regarding God and creations, there is no similarity whatsoever. For this reason, the meanings of the Holy Bible regarding God are rescindable meanings. They are rescinded, by the experience of theosis. Previously, they were simply auxiliary, necessary, correct and proper, but only as indicators leading to God.


The Holy Bible is a guide towards God, but this description of God in the Holy Bible has no actual similarity to God. It speaks of God, it speaks of the truth, but it is not the Truth itself. It is a guide towards the Truth and the Path, which is Christ. Because the words contained in the Holy Bible are merely symbols which contain certain meanings. These meanings are all human and they lead to God, to Christ, and nothing else.


Thus, when one simply reads the Holy Bible, he cannot properly theologize on the basis of the Holy Bible alone. If he does do that, he cannot avoid becoming a heretic, because the proper interpretation of the Holy Bible is accompanied by the experience of enlightenment or theosis. Without enlightenment or theosis, the Holy Bible cannot be interpreted correctly. Just as by simply reading a book on surgery, one cannot become a surgeon unless he takes lessons in Medical School and practices surgery near an experienced professor, thus it is with any other positive science, where one must practice in order to go from practice and experience to the verifying and determination of the theory. In other words, a theory is determined whether it is true, through empirical practice, through empirical knowledge.


In the same way, one who doesn’t approach the Holy Bible through connoisseurs, i.e., through people who have attained the same experience as the Prophets or the Apostles, who are the Fathers of the Church, cannot become certain of the truth of the Holy Bible. The basis, the foundation of this experience, is elightenment and theosis, in other words, glorification


*  The ontological view of theology, because from the era of French Enlightenment, the terms ‘metaphysics’ and ‘ontology’ are correlated.  


John S. Romanides, Patristic Theology , Parakatatheke Publications, 2004, pages 129 –134, Prologue by Protopresbyter George D. Metallinos,  Supervision-Commentary: Holy Mountain Monk Damascenos.

Translation by: A. N.

Greek Text

Article published in English on: 10-10-2005.

Last update: 10-10-2005.