Prayer in the Church Fathers - A request for help from Catholic/Orthodox brothers and sisters.

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Posts 440
Liam & Abi Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 16 2019 4:35 PM

Hi Hamilton, 

I'm always interested in exploring the perspectives of others whatever the starting point they come from, so thank you for taking the time to respond.

I'll admit that I find your conclusions on Isaiah, Zechariah, John, etc. unconvincing but, as MJ rightly pointed out, this is not the forum for discussing them further. Though I did appreciate the opportunity to think about them again in light of a new angle. 

I think what I'd like to know most of all are the sources you are using. You paraphrase Iraneus and reference Tertullian, can you provide references for me to look up their respective works? You mention quasi-theologians, which ones did you have in mind? Finally, you said:

"Some persons studying the subject, even have said that the use of the term "person" with respect to the definition of God is disrespectful because God is way beyond our human concept of person" 

Which persons and where did they say it? 

I'm not trying to be difficult, but as you said, I am genuinely interested... particularly in first-hand sources. :-)

Thanks in advance. Liam

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 17 2019 6:45 AM


Liam Maguire does not appear as a possible recipient for a PM.

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 17 2019 7:05 AM

Hi Liam:

Sorry if you found the post too theological.

Remember I am not a trained systematical like some here. I did research on all of that long time ago. I used Logos Bible Software and Google.

It was mostly to take part of the conversation in some threads on the now defunct Christian Discourse site.

You can probably do better research than me.

If I remember well, no one explained what Hypostasis was, so I had to look it up myself in Logos Software. Turned out the definition was something like "Substantive reality" and had to do with Neo Aristotelianism.

In some resource in Logos there was the explanation of Personae for Hypostasis (if I remember well). 

I also got the Ireneaus quote from some resource, and I have not been able to get it back. I should have placed it in favorites.

Not sure about the greeks that decided that Hypostasis was a correct term for talking about the perceived Beings related to God that humans had experienced, I called them quasi theologians, because I think they had not developed Systematic theology per se back then.

The part of persons studying about "person" being an incorrect label for God I read (if my memory serves me) in an article found via Google, but I am not sure.

I would have to take some time to see if I can get all the info for you. I tried to send you a message via FL but you do not appear as a recipient for such.

I just hope that you understand that if I am able to get all the info for you, there are ethical implications if you are going to use such info in a paper.

Not that you will not do the proper referencing, but that you really did not explore such angle of your own free will (i.e. you ignored such angle existed), I am trying to expand your conceptual framework, but the whole bit came about because of the discoursing going on in Christian Discourse threads. 

Christian Discourse was an excellent place to talk about specific topics, and get a glimpse of wide and diverse angles on any one topic.

I also met there persons that just wanted the research done for them (not ethical), I know you are not one of them, but please try to not come across as one.

As MJ mentioned this is better taken to a PM, is there any reason why you are not available for a message?

Posts 1599
Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 17 2019 9:44 AM

In just about every field of study a vocabulary develops over time to express the concepts of that field. Almost always this jargon comes from the wider world, but develops certain specific meanings in that field. And much of the study undertaken to become a professional in that field is to learn that specific jargon so that you know what it means - and does not mean - when speaking about it.

In the Third Century there were two great theologians who did much to advance the theological art - Tertullian and Origen. In different ways their work is foundational for the next few centuries of Patristic thought. And yet neither one of them was officially canonized...  Both of them were out on the edge in somewhat different ways in organizing vocabulary and concepts. And while it is easy to trace what became "Orthodoxy" to their work, it is also easy to see that both pushed a bit farther than was wise at times - and also did not have access to the fully developed vocabulary that came

Tertullian wrote in Latin - and philosophically was influenced by various forms of Stoicism. He was instrumental in providing some key Latin theological vocabulary. In particular, he is the one who seems to have used the term "trinitas" to talk of God, and "persona" as what there are three of in God. These are still the terms used to this day in Latin - and their English derivatives "trinity" and "person" in English. A key work of Tertulian where he talks about this is his Against Praxeas, which is better at saying the disaster of NOT making a distinction than in clearly saying what the distinction is, IMHO.

Origen wrote in Greek and like most of the Greek fathers was influenced by various forms of Platonist metaphysics, rejecting Stoic metaphysics as being too material. Much of his doctrine of God is in his De Princ., but with your interest in prayer, I would still recommend reading his writing on Prayer that I mentioned earlier.

In the end the Orthodox vocabulary was worked out in the 4th Century by various figures - with the "Cappadocians" being some of the most influential. These were a group of Bishops from Cappadocia, namely Basil (the Great), his brother Gregory (of Nyssa), and their friend Gregory (of Nazianzus). Eventually they made a distinction between two terms which had been thought of as synonyms before - namely ὑπόστασις and οὐσία (a form of "to be"). One of the more clearer places he describes this distinction to me is in Letter 38 of Basil, but this ends up being a theme often returned to in all of their works.

I will certainly admit that some of this technical jargon can turn into jargon that instead of clarifying things can confuse people today. And yet, this very terminology was worked out over practical concerns like how can we pray and how can we talk about God who is so beyond our thoughts - concerns that are still with us. So if you want to hear what these figures are saying - and what they are not - it seems worth it to me at least to give them a bit of time to listen...


Ken McGuire

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

Posts 440
Liam & Abi Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 17 2019 4:21 PM

Hi Ken, 

Thank you for taking the time to listen and providing a useful historical background. Sitting, taking the time, and listening is exactly what this thread has been about for me. Thank you for signposting me to some places to do just that, 

Blessings, Liam

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 17 2019 6:55 PM

Thank you Ken for an excellent orientation.

If we would want to learn more about Hypostasis and what it entails, are there any resources that you would recommend?

I was shocked to see that many graduates of all kinds of divinity, systematics, original languages, etc. Seemed to have no clue what that term is about and the theological implications of it.

It was shameful in my view to have me, a simple lay sheep have to dig into logos to learn what it meant and what the implications of it are.

I expected all the experts to have a full grasp of the term, its angles, and applications, but most either did not care to share, or simply did not know. 

(I wonder how someone can graduate from Seminary,  divinity, Biblical or systematics, and have no clue of what key terms are about).

Thanks ahead of time for any guidance.

Kind regards.

Posts 1599
Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 18 2019 6:53 AM

Hamilton Ramos:
I was shocked to see that many graduates of all kinds of divinity, systematics, original languages, etc. Seemed to have no clue what that term is about and the theological implications of it.

It has often been joked that as you advance in study, you learn more an more about less and less. There is a vast number of related fields in studies of the Christian Religion. And as important as this question was to the 4th and 5th centuries, especially in the Greek speaking world, neither we nor any part of the Bible is from the 4th and 5th century Greek speaking world. And so the topic would be covered in survey classes, leaving the details to experts. A long time ago I heard the joke that the Trinity was taught with the following formula:

In the One God there are Two processions, resulting in Three Persons and Four Relations

but NO understanding....

More than a few people have found that there is indeed great wisdom to be found in these distinctions and debates. I am one of them. But I also recognize that this is not the way we speak today and that busy Pastors often have many other things to deal with instead of researching these debates and knowing all the technical vocabulary off the top of their heads.

As far as recommended resources? I am a lay person, and really my interest is more in Irenaeus and Luther and not this period. That said, I offer the following:

I first learned to struggle with it in studying Catherine Mowry LaCugna's God For Us. This is not in Logos, to the best of my knowledge, but there are lots of works from the Trinitarian Renaissance since the writings of Karl Barth and Karl Rahner. In my Logos Library I have Barth (which I have not spent enough time in), Pannenberg (who assumes you know the basics already), and Braaten/Jenson (where Robert Jenson has a helpful summary of various fathers) off the top of my head...

But while I first ran into it with systamaticians like the above, more recently I have spent much more time with various historians. Great - but not in Logos would be volume one of Pelikan's The Christian Tradition. He also has a volume on the Cappadocians which I have not yet read (Christianity and Classical Culture).

Nowadays it seems that it is assumed by people who publish in this field that you know RPC Hanson's The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. I spent a while reading it in chunks a few years ago, and there is a lot of good stuff to digest there.

I am currently slowly working through John Behr's treatment, which is available in Logos. And from what I have read, it is quite good. That said, I haven't spent as much time with it as I should, and the time I have spent in it is the first volume...

But when you want an overview of the topic, this is the place where specialized encyclopedias shine. I got an Orthodox Base package for Logos 8 to get the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity, and so far I have been quite impressed, but have barely scratched the surface of it.

Years ago I got Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church back when it was a prepub, and it has been my first go-to for just about any historical question... In addition Trevor Hart's Dictionary can be useful, if he covers the topic you are interested in, or you know enough to find where he discusses what you are looking for.

If you have the Greek, Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon is on Internet Archive....

And of course, primary sources. To start I would pick a volume from Popular Patristics or The Classics of Western Spirituality. These are available in Logos, but the full sets get quite pricey. But selections from these collections have appeared in may base packages. And earlier in the thread I have referenced a few primary sources...

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 18 2019 4:14 PM

Ken McGuire:

In the One God there are Two processions, resulting in Three Persons and Four Relations

but NO understanding....

LOL, awesome, really like this. 

Thank you Ken for taking the time to point us in a good direction. I do have many of the resources mentioned.

I found the following:

Seems like it touches on hypostasis, but have not read it yet.

Kind regards.

Posts 3054
SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 6:06 AM

Hamilton Ramos:
Seems like it touches on hypostasis, but have not read it yet.

For understanding "hypostasis", I recommend Aquinas on Doctrine: A Critical Introduction, chapter 3, by Gilles Emery, OP, or The Trinity: An Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God, chapter 4, by the same. Or, if you want the primary source, the Treatise on the Trinity in the Summa Theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 8:04 AM

Thank you very much SineNomine.

Can you share with us why is so hard to find information on Neo Aristotelianism?

Roughly my understanding of the difference between Plato and Aristotle is that Plato suggests that we can know deity (in our case God) by abstractions, concepts, ideas, etc.

While Aristotle suggests that to know God we need to experience Him.

Is such oversimplification correct?

I do think that we need to know very well the propositional truths of the Bible to keep an eye and make sure we do not deviate from true faith (the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself), but I know that the Bible is a record of the amazing experience with God and His Hypostasis and stands as a witness for us to strive to have such encounter with such amazing God.

According to John Frame, "Experience is the highest form of perception", and in my view only when we encounter and are influenced by any of the Hypostasis of God is when we can really have the change in our core to be able to connect better to God, and to be more Christlike.

Thanks ahead of time for your valuable input on any of the above.

Kind regards.

Posts 440
Liam & Abi Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 9:48 AM

Hamilton Ramos:

According to John Frame, "Experience is the highest form of perception".

I'm not entirely sure John Frame actually ever said that, Hamilton. I'm no expert but I've read quite a bit of his stuff and that doesn't sound like something he would say. A search of your exact quote doesn't produce any hits in the 17 logos resources I have by John Frame and searching 'perception NEAR experience' doesn't produce anything near that quote. Finally, a google search showed that the quote doesn't exist outside of your own comments on Faithlife affiliated sites. This is significant to consider how many articles by John Frame are available on his website.

I may be wrong, and if you can point me to where John Frame wrote those words I'm happy to be corrected. However, if you can't I'd kindly ask you not to write Iraneus said or Tertullian said or John Frame said unless you actually know they said it and can show people where they said it. That is I believe, a legitimate application of 9th Commandment (Dt 5:20).

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 4:35 PM

Hi LIam:

You have touched on a problem that is important. 

Many times doing research on something, one runs across important information that as is not pertinent to the actual concept being searched, one may mentally note it, but not formally get all the source info. 

If my memory serves me, such thing happened to me when I was searching for something and saw such search hit from Mr. Frame.

I do not think I paraphrased it, as when I do not remember well or do not have it referenced I usually mention that is off my mind and may not be verbatim.

I cannot find the quote, and is a bad habit of mine not to put it in favorites or add to clippings.

I do not think I have the intellect to come up with a phrase like that, I must have seen it somewhere. 

Now to tell you the truth, there have been cases in which I saw information in a resource, only to have it gone after an update to the resource and without prior warning.

The closest I got  was:

"Experience is a broader category than perception. It is possible to have an experience of something (for example, a prophet’s experience of the divine Word) without perceiving it through the sense organs; at least that possibility is arguable."

 Frame, J. M. (1987). The doctrine of the knowledge of God (p. 332). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

But I do not think that was what I read long time ago in a search hit because the sense used is different.

The whole section in the book makes it pretty clear that reason and perception have strong and weak points, but neither should be taken as the basis for finding ultimate truth apart from God's revealed truth in the Bible.

My example when talking about this type of event is:

A man of God was near a river, so were other human bystanders.

The man of God saw a heavenly messenger, heard a message that was intelligible,while the bystanders saw nothing, and just heard a loud noise.

The bystanders ran away in fear.

So the question is: who had the right perception of the event? 

The answer is: the man of God of course, and why was he able to perceive the true reality of the event? because of the Holy Spirit of course.

It is the Holy Spirit the one that allows proper interpretation of the experienced event of things from God.

I will continue looking in the History tool, layouts, etc. to see if I find the quote, I am not sure how far back does history tool go.


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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 4:45 PM

from WikiDiff

As nouns the difference between perception and experience

 is that perception is organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information while experience is event(s) of which one is cognizant. 

As a verb experience is

 to observe certain events; undergo a certain feeling or process; or perform certain actions that may alter one or contribute to one's knowledge, opinions, or skills.

My point: definitions are critical for common understanding. 

Hamilton Ramos:
a prophet’s experience of the divine Word) without perceiving it through the sense organs

This is a nice definition of a mystical experience. Glad to see you embrace the experience if not the word.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 5:41 PM

Yes MJ:

But to me experiencing God is not mystical, esoteric, gnostical, or any of those weird artificial categorizations not native to the baptism of the Holy Spirit  events in the Bible.

Before the foundation of the World, God prepared good deeds for each one of us believers to walk in, for many is to have a koinonia restored with God by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the second mission of Jesus after dying for us.

I do think that Prof. John Frame does a superb job of explaining the relation between perception, reason, experience, imagination, etc. I am very happy that he is crystal clear that neither of those apart from the revealed truth of God in the Scriptures amount to much.

Most protestants would agree with that. True sheep know for sure it is like that (regardless of tradition).

Like I mentioned to you in another thread, Jesus never ever said "you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit due to, or as a result of, or by means of: a mystical, esoteric, gnostical, meditative, or other such labelled way".

Jesus came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit period. It is God's will, and the elected ones will receive such baptism period. 

Mystical, esoteric, gnostical, and other labels are eisegized by humans into the Scripture, as you do not see such terms associated with Jesus second mission of baptizing us with the Holy Spirit.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 19 2019 6:00 PM

My disagreement with you with regards to linguistics is so deep we have no common ground. To put it humorous, I feel that it is equivalent to the duck test where someone says "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a rhinoceros. It certainly is NOT a duck." But across some denominational divides, this happens unless both sides are willing to provide very specific definitions so that a common temporary vocabulary can be used.  Several years ago, it brought a smile to my face when someone agreed with my tag line, in a post that showed they totally misunderstood it, not recognizing it's Orthodox context.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 9:36 AM

Yes MJ:

We may have disagreements in many things. Yet I consider you a sheep of God. You are in the denomination you are because God has a plan for you there.

Even though people at times do not catch my drift, I am not into a rightiness contest, nor trying to push some weird theories. I value strong respectful dialogue because we may learn important angles not seen before.

Is God an idea, abstraction, concept or a real Being? If He is a real Being, did He create humans as concepts, abstractions, ideas or also as beings (of a lesser order)?

Think of this: The created order seems to point to a future family that starts here (just like the original intent of God). 

If we are to become adopted into the family of God, is that for the purpose of us philosophizing about God or to have an actual experience with Him?

You are deep into liturgy, worship is important, what is the real purpose for that? is not to have God's presence among us?

What is the point of creating rational, relational, and creative beings if you are not to have experience with them?

Experience with God is where is at. When Adam and Eve were created, they interacted with God, they had daily experiences with Him.

That was allowed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. After the fall, the Holy Spirit left them. KoinonIa was destroyed.

Jesus came to restore that. He did by: 1 dying for us to pay the penalty of the trespasses, and 2 baptize us with the Holy Spirit, so koinonia can be restored with God.

The original plan for humans was always to have an experience with God, when the fall came, the World went through a change. We left perfect reality, and started living in an imperfect one.

So perception was limited, because we were isolated from true reality (God's). Only the Holy Spirit allows you to have a glimpse of that true reality.

So the experience with God at present for us usually transcends our normal sense perceptions (God's reality is above fallen one).

Remember the natural fallen humans by the river?, they could not see the messenger of God, nor hear the message. they were operating in a fallen level.

For those that are redeemed and have the Holy Spirit in their lives, the situation changes, if God so desires, they can be more attuned with the reality from His perspective.

There is nothing mystical about that, it is just persons getting back to the original state of having koinonia with God through the Holy Spirit.

I do not call scholastics "fallen reason dependents" even though that is what they are if they do not have the Holy Spirit.

We have a God given right to choose as we consider correct. I try to stick with what the Bible seems to show as evidence:

Mystical was not in Jesus vocabulary, He is the one sent from above to teach us, therefore, I do not consider such concept come from above.

Is there a difference between perception and sense perception? probably. I do think that Prof. Frame goes into good detail about all that.

When we experience God's presence in a worship situation, are senses above and beyond the normal acting? If the Holy Spirit is involved, probably.

I do think that Prof. Frame suggests a construct that is appropriate to describe a whole variety of religious experiences. I just do not think that the ones involving the Holy Spirit of God should be called mystical.

Prophets in the OT, and people of God back then were called holy, because they were under the influence of the Holy Spirit. they were not called mystics.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Chosen ones seemed to be classified as holy nation, not mystical nation, not nation of mystics, etc.

I hope you catch my drift.

Kind regards.

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 10:10 AM

So far I have not been able to find where I saw (or think I saw) a phrase where Prof. John Frame mentioned that "Experience is the highest form of perception".

I tried to edit the post to let readers now that I have not found where I saw (or thought I saw) it. I did not write  down the details, as it was a chance search hit when looking for other concept.

If I find it I will give all the details.

I did not mention the phrase with malicious intent, just to point that in experiences with the Presence of God, there may be supra normal human sense involved due to the effect of the Holy Spirit.

Prof. John Frame articulates a very nice explanation about Experience, perception, reason, imagination, etc. I consider such a very valid construct to examine the variety of religious experiences.

I will probably have to make use of Zotero or other system to track better information.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Posts 3054
SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 10:48 AM

Hamilton Ramos:

Thank you very much SineNomine.

Can you share with us why is so hard to find information on Neo Aristotelianism?

It doesn't seem hard.

But Neo-Aristotelianism has nothing to do with my earlier post.

Posts 583
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 2:39 PM

Hi SineNomine:

It seemed to me you were well versed in Aristotle, just wondering if there are major divergences from that core in Neo Aristotelianism.

Sorry if I digress from the topic, but is not easy to be able to interact with learned persons on certain topics outside the Forums.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 2:57 PM

Hamilton Ramos:
Neo Aristotelianism

of which Neo-Aristotelian are you speaking? rhetorical criticism? scholastic rediscovery via Islamic philosophers?



Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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