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The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas [Hardcover]

by A. N. Williams
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 17, 1999 0195124367 978-0195124361
This book attempts to resolve one of the oldest and bitterest controversies between the Eastern and Western Christian churches: namely, the dispute about the doctrine of deification. A. N. Williams examines two key thinkers, each of whom is championed as the authentic spokesman of his own tradition and reviled by the other. Taking Aquinas as representative of the West and Gregory Palamas for the East, she presents fresh readings of their work that both reinterpret each thinker and show an area of commonality between them much greater than has previously been acknowledged.

Editorial Reviews


"Williams makes a significant contribution [towards] enabling [. . .] a recognition of the extent to which the theme and sometimes the language of deification recur throughout the history of Christian theology. [This] could prove to be a major step in overcoming misunderstanding between East and West, [. . .] an invaluable service [. . .] well worth the effort of careful reading."--St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly

About the Author

A. N. Williams is at University of Cambridge.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195124367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195124361
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,393,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ground-breaking work June 29, 2006
This book should be required reading for all those interested in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Williams does an amazing job of explaining how Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas - the most "Western" and "Eastern" saints possible - had similar, and complimentary, views about the important doctrine of deification. Of course, it is no surprise that Palamas was a staunch defender and explicator of deification; however, Williams shows that Aquinas too believed and wrote about this doctrine, in a way that is consistent with Palamas.

My only complaint is that this book reads a bit like the dissertation I assume it was. At times the reading is very difficult, and Williams should have done more to make it more accessible to readers.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding scholarship! January 16, 2003
By matt
I have been greatly aided by this book in my understanding of the connection and "common ground" between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics via two sainted theologians of the east and west- Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas. I noticed what in my mind is a major problem. She seems to think the energies/essence distinction, so critical to the orthodox idea of deification, is a mere terminalological one. That can't be. I may be wrong, but I think it is a dogmatic distinction. Why she does this I cannot say. It is such a basic mistake. Maybe it is to make her thesis stronger, showing that east and west are more similar than they really are in fact. That notwithstanding, the book is really good.

I could go on about the book, but the sample pages speak for themsleves. Please see some of my other reviews for books of similar interest, esp my list of ecumenical books. If you are really interested in this sort of topic, then you should really consider buying "Energies of the Spirit: Trinitarian Models in Eastern Orthodox and Western Theology (American Academy of Religion Academy Series)" by Duncan Reid. It is also very detailed and insightful (it looks at trinitarian models in east and west). Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom is also along the lines of Williams, but I beleive with more nuance, showing that the centrality of apophaticism is key to understanding that the Orthodox do not think we can understand God in the terms of the Western tradition, but that we can and do participate in God's life through God's energies, while the West has God stand off some, enjoyed through the beautific vision, but not a true participation. Certianly these are topics of serious consequence.
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