Essence AND Energies
The concept of God's essence in Eastern Orthodox theology is
called (ousia - The generally agreed-upon meaning of ousia
in Eastern Christianity is "all that subsists by itself and
which has not its being in another") and is distinct from
his energies (energeia in Greek, actus in Latin) or
activities as actualized in the world.
The ousia of God is God as God is. It
is the energies of God that enable us to experience
something of the Divine, at first through sensory perception
and then later intuitively or noetically. The essence,
being, nature and substance (ousia) of God as taught in
Eastern Christianity is uncreated and incomprehensible.
God's ousia is defined as "that which finds no existence or
subsistence in another or any other thing". God's ousia is
beyond all states of (nous) consciousness and
unconsciousness, being and non-being, beyond something and
nothing, beyond existence and non-existence. God's ousia has
no necessity or subsistence that needs or is dependent on
anything other than itself. As uncreated God's ousia is
incomprehensible to any created being. God in essence is
therefore superior to all forms of ontology (metaphysics).
The source of God's ousia or incomprehensibleness is the
Distinction between created and uncreated
For the Eastern Orthodox, the distinction as the tradition
and perspective behind this understanding, is that creation
is the task of energy. If we deny the real distinction
between essence and energy, we can not fix any very clear
borderline between the procession of the divine persons (as
existences and or realities of God) and the creation of the
world: both the one and the other will be equally acts of
the divine nature (strictly uncreated from uncreated). The
being and the action(s) of God then would appear identical,
leading to the teaching of Pantheism. Eastern Orthodox
theologians assert that Western Christianity treats God's
Actus et potentia) as part of the scholastic method in
theology. Which allows God's incomprehensibility to become
comprehensible, by not making a distinction between God's
nature and manifestation of things about God's nature.
As Aristotle and Pagan philosophy taught that God was the
underlying substance, nature, being, essence (ousia) of all
things (as the Monad in substance theory). Making the very
thing that makes God, God (uncreated, incomprehensible) the
same as God's created world and created beings. God's ousia
then becomes detectable and experienced as a substance,
essence, being or nature. Rather than God's hyper-being
(ousia) as, infinite and never comprehensible to a finite
mind or consciousness. Therefore Pagan philosophy via
Metaphysical dialects sought to reconcile all of existence
(ontology), with Mankind's reason or rational faculty
culminating into deification called henosis. Where in Pagan
henosis all of creation is absorbed into the Monad and then
recycled back into created existence. Since in Pantheism
there is nothing outside of creation or the cosmos,
including God, since God is the cosmos in Pantheism. Or
rather meaning no ontology outside of the cosmos (creation).
Where as Orthodox Christianity strictly seeks soteriology as
reconciliation (via synergeia) of man (creation, creatures)
with God (the uncreated) called theosis. Mankind is not
absorbed into the God's ousia or hypostases or energies in
theosis. Ousia here is a general thing or generality, in
this case ousia is the essence, nature, being, substance of
the word God and concept of God.
If no distinction is made between God's essence and his
works, acts (i.e. the cosmos) that there is no distinction
between God and the material or created world, cosmos. We
end up with Pantheism. This is the basis of Buddhism,
Jainism and Hinduism where the only reality is the essence
which is same within me, you and the First Cause. The caused
has to be the same ousia as the cause.
"all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in
analogous to the English concepts of
in contemporary philosophy.
often translated to Latin as
and to English as
Original Word: οὐσία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (oo-see'-ah)
Short Definition: property, wealth
Definition: property, wealth, substance.
Energia is God giving of Himself in such a way to do His
work. For us, as fallen beings, it is God revealing Himself
in such as way that His presence does not destroy us.
Wholly unknowable in His essence, God wholly reveals Himself
in His energies, which yet in no way divide His nature into
two parts–knowable and unknowable–but signify two different
modes of the divine existence, in the essence and outside of
energeia: working, activity
Original Word: ἐνέργεια, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (en-erg'-i-ah)
Short Definition: working, activity
Definition: working, action, productive work, activity; in
the NT, confined to superhuman activity.
Cognate: 1753 enérgeia (the
root of the English term "energy") –
More NT Words,
46). See 1754 (energeō).
typically refers to
God's energy which
transitions the believer from point to point in His plan
occurs 8 times – always of
except at 2 Thes 2:9.]
Mount Sinai, in Exodus 33, God warned Moses that “you cannot
see my face [divine being/essence], for man shall not see me
and live.” Nonetheless, He continued: “while my glory
passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will
cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will
take away my hand, and you shall see my back [energia],
but my face [being/essence] shall not be seen” (Exodus
Galatians 2:8: For He [Jesus] who worked (energized) through
Peter for His apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked
(energized) also through me for mine to the Gentiles.
Ephesians 1:1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will
(energy) of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are
faithful in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:7: Of this gospel I [Paul] was made a minister
according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by
the working (energizing) of His power.
Colossians 1:29: For this I [Paul] toil, struggling with all
His energy (energy) that He powerfully works (energizes)
Our Confessions describe this divine/human presence at work
within the pastor:
[Pastors] represent the person of Christ and do not
represent their own persons, as Christ testifies,
“The one who hears you hears Me (Luke 10:16). (Ap VII/VIII,
Corinthians 12:6: There are varieties of activities
(energies), but it is the same God who empowers (energizes)
them all in everyone.
Ephesians 4:16: from whom [Jesus] the whole body, joined and
held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when
each part is working [energizing] properly, makes the body
grow so that it builds itself up in love
Philippians 2:13: For it is God who is at work in
(energizing) you, both to will and to work (energize) for
His good pleasure.
God's energies are "unbegotten" or "uncreated," just like
the existences of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), both God's
existences and energies can be experienced or comprehended.
God's ousia is uncreatedness, beyond existence, beyond no
existence – God's hyper-being is not comprehensible to
As St John Damascene states,
"all that we say positively of God manifests not his nature
but the things about his nature."
If we reject the concept of energies and identify the energy
as part of the essence of God then we have the problem of
relation between man and God. Adam was created with the
breath of God. Was the spirit that was blown in Adam in
creating part of the essence of God? This spirit returns to
the God who created it at the time of death. Again it would
be wise to remember that Adam did not imbibe the totality of
the Holy Spirit. Only the life giving energies alone were
transmitter to him. He did not become one of the Four
adding to Trinity forming a fourth person.
Ecc. 12:7 says, “Our bodies will return to the dust of the
earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave
it to us.”
"The body without the spirit ["breath"] is dead." James
"The spirit of God ["the breath which God gave him,"] is in
my nostrils." Job 27:3.
If so Adam was also the part of the essence of God and is
Son along with the Son of God within the Trinity. Again was
the Word that created the universe also part of the essence
of God? If so the whole creation was part of God in
essence. We can see the absurdity of the argument. If we
accept this interpretation we will arrive at the theology of
Mormons. It is to avoid this error of making man part of the
essence we consider the breath of God as energy that goes
out from God which is not considered as the essence of God.
The energies - the word - the breath are not part of the
essence but emanations from the essence of God. I have used
the concept of dimension within the Divine realm instead.
God’s essence is Who He is in Himself.
The word essence comes from the Latin
means “to be.” In Greek, the word is
So we can also say that it means “being.” God’s essence is
God in His very nature. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are
all of this one essence. Jesus, the Son of God is “of one
essence” with the Father. This is what the Nicean Creed
declares. But then Adam, the Son of God is not considered
one in essence with the father who breathed him into
existence. What made the difference is the breathing which
is absent in the creation of Jesus. Jesus is considered as
the Word itself.
"The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on
the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering
over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be
light;' and there was light." At the very beginning of
Genesis, you have Gods Word, Jesus; you have God the Father;
and you have the Holy Spirit: the Trinity all represented in
creation. But there is no transference of essence of God
into the creation. What is the process of creation? What is
the material out of which creation came into existence. The
process evidently is the “Word” spoken.
The Scripture witnesses to this with passages such as John
1:18, which says, “No one has seen God at any time.” God’s
essence is beyond us. We cannot look at it. We can see the
incarnate Lord Jesus, because he was in the flesh - material
that was created initially which obviously is not the
essence of Jesus - we cannot see the divine essence.
John 4:12, which says, “No one has seen God at any time, but
if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has
been perfected in us” .
Matt. 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see
God” - a confusion
To avoid the confusion we propose a non-essential part of
The word energy—in Greek, energeia—literally means “working
in.” That is, God’s energies are His working in this created
world, His activity, His operation. God’s energies are His
presence among us and in us. The Energies are what we can
see God - through his activity - God in action. His
energies are sometimes identified with His glory, His grace,
the uncreated light. The Energies are God’s actions of doing
things like healing, miracles, forgiveness of sins etc. We
know God only through his activity within the creation. They
are the witness and the evidence.
Both God’s Essence and Energies are uncreated. They existed
before creation. God is His Essence, and God is His
Energies. And both Essence and Energies are common to the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When it comes to the three
divine Persons, there is one Essence and one Energy of God.
God is thus both transcendent—that is, He is beyond us—and
immanent—that is, He is within the creation especially in
We participate with the energies of God, within the energies
of God and are being transformed into the likeness of His
Son in exact replication of the resurrected Jesus who
appeared to his disciples and still live in the Heavens and
sits at the right hand of God, His Father —this is called
theosis or deification—which is possible through our
adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High because of
our incorporation into Christ. The difference still remain.
Jesus is Son who shares the essence of the Father. The
sons of God are joined with God - identified with God in his
energies still a creation as it was originally intended.
So when we say that God is both Essence and Energies, we are
in fact describing in summary why it is that the Christian
life works at all. The God Who is beyond us and totally
unlike us in His essence is nevertheless close to us and
available to us in His energies.
This was the main contribution of St. Gregory Palamas
No one has ever seen God; the only Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father,
He has made Him known.
“Theosis may be defined
the act of the Trinity whereby God,
through His grace,
moves upon humanity to draw and redeem him from his lost
changing the divine image inherent within man I
nto the divine likeness inherent within God
without changing man’s nature.
Man becomes god in the sense
being transformed from the state of corruptibility to
from perishable to imperishable,
from the state of loss to the state of redemption.”
the process of a worshiper becoming free of
being united with God,
beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily
Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation.
Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to
share in the Life or Nature of the all-Holy Trinity.
Therefore, ..worshiper is saved from the state of
which is not to be confused with
for participation in the Life (zōé,
of the Trinity — which is everlasting.”
is not to be confused with the heretical (apothéōsis) -
in God’s Essence",
which is imparticipable.
“total participation in Jesus Christ.”
“All that God is, except for an identity in being,
being deified by grace.”
Maximos the Confessor,