The Cosmology of Maximus the Confessor  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Maximus the Confessor (ca 580-662) is perhaps the leading Patristic-era theologian of the Eastern Church.  His works are prolific and cover a very wide range of topics.  He is the most anthologized author in the Philokalia, the multi-volume collection of spiritual writings collected by two Athonite monks and first published in 1782.  An invaluable reference work dealing with the Philokalia is the collection of essays called The Philokalia:  a classic text of Orthodox spirituality, Brock Bingaman and Bradley Nassif, eds, Oxford, 2012.  Bingaman's essay "Becoming a spiritual world of God:  the theological anthropology of Maximus the Confessor" (chapter 9) is an excellent overview of Maximus' theology, dealing with a number of topics.  In this post we will look at his approach to cosmology.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ text in particular, his Fourth Century on Love, provides a helpful summary of his cosmology...In the first section of this century, there are eight discernible elements of cosmology.  The first is creatio ex nihilo.  In line with orthodox Christian tradition, Maximus asserts that God created the world out of nothing...This view expresses the superiority of God over all creation, as well as the idea that God does not need any pre-existent material in order to create.  It safeguards the distance and distinction between God and creation.

A second cosmological element concerns creation because of God's will...The world was created according to God's sovereign will, not because of obligation or any other external factor.  Linked with the idea of creation by God's sovereign will is Maximus' theology of the logoi...For Maximus, the logoi are the divine ideas for all things that have received their being from God.  Not only are these principles of differentiated creation preexistent in God, as God's thoughts, but they are divine wills or intentions...

The third creation because of God's benevolence..Maximus explains that God's creative activity is rooted in divine goodness...Maximus asserts that the reunification of all things through communion with the Logos is an original divine intention, something interrupted by humanity's fall into sin.

A fourth element in Maximus' cosmology is creation by the Word...God creates through God's coessential Logos and Spirit.  The creation of all things is a trinitarian work...God's purpose [was] to create a world of differentiated creatures, independent creatures that find their unity in relationship to the Logos.  The logoi, those divine ideas or intentions in the mind of God, are dynamic realities that radiate from God, the Creator and Cause of all...through centempation in the Spirit, believers are enabled to see the Logos in the logoi of creation...Therefore, those who are in communion with Christ are enabled to see the logoi, the world of differentiated creatures, in light of their integral connection to the Logos...

...a fifth aspect of Maximus' cosmology can be seen:  creation on the basis of God's prudence...God's prudence or practical wisdom transcends the human intellect and is beyond human comprehension...

A sixth element...concerns creation as an act of God's condescension...Creation is good because God is its Cause...God enters into a deep relationship with creation by simply giving it existence...God the Logos actually indwells all of creation..

...The next element [is] the notion that every creature is a composite of substance and accident...God is pure being or substance, while creatures are given qualified being with the possibility for participation in something more than general being...Creaturely the gift of participation in God's own being, goodness, wisdom, and life...Human beings are able to transcend nature without violating it, and to realize their created purpose, which is union with God or deification...This union is made possible for humanity through the coming of Christ, through the hypostatic union of his human and divine natures.

The eighth and final point of Maximus' that creation is in need of divine Providence