By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, in Greek: "Εἰσήγηση στὴν Ἱεραρχία: «Ἡ θεολογική κρίση καί οἱ ἐπιπτώσεις της στήν καθημερινότητα τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ζωῆς»". November 2015.
The following lecture titled "The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life" was delivered before the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece on October 8, 2015.
Your Beatitude the President,
Your Eminences the Hierarchy,
I thank His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and the members of the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece for choosing together this topic for the Meetings of our Hierarchy, and also for allowing me to present it, the least of all.
Admittedly, it is a serious issue that has two sections. The first is the "theological crisis" and the other is "its impact on daily ecclesiastical life". The issue, upon initial examination, is theoretical, but it also has practical consequences, moreover it closely associates theoria with praxis, and they cannot be divided between them.
In recent years, there has been constant talk about an economic crisis, and this has absorbed all our thoughts and activities, ignoring the fact that the crisis is deeper - it is geopolitical, cultural and at its depth theological. Max Weber has shown that the capitalist mentality came from the Protestant ethic, and places where it prevailed there developed factories, banks and the banking system. But this will not be the topic I am presenting, but I will limit it to the crisis in theology in the Church and the consequences created by this crisis.
From the outset I would like to emphasize that I will, as much as I can, make this short and concise, as an introduction before the hierarchy cannot cover the whole issue, but I will say that I have finished a massive 600-page book on this issue, in which I present the related bibliography.
For now I will emphasize three key points. The first is "The Theology of the Orthodox Church", the second "The Alteration of Theology", and the third "The Impact of the Theological Crisis on Daily Ecclesiastical Life". I ask for your indulgence.
1. The Theology of the Orthodox Church
Theology, as everyone knows, is words about God. This means that, because everyone speaks about God, such as philosophers, deists, agnostics, atheists, when they are opposed to God and fight against God, this is why there are various theologies. It is not enough for someone to speak about theology, but the conceptual content should be determined.
Our first-created forefathers before the fall had personal and direct dialogue with God, but after the fall this dialogue was interrupted, and thus the descendants of our first-created forefathers created their own theology, at first deifying their thoughts, concepts and fantasies, then they deified material objects and ideas. This is how paganism and classical metaphysics developed.
With His appearances to the Patriarchs, Righteous and Prophets in the Old Testament, God presented the true knowledge of Himself, showing the difference between what was created and what was uncreated, He gave His Law to help them distinguish between the God of revelation and the god of philosophy, mysticism, magic and superstition. As the Apostle Paul writes in his Epistle to the Hebrews: "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1-2).
The Incarnation of Christ, His disclosure to His Apostles, the revelation of the Triune God at the Jordan River and Mount Tabor, the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the descent of the Holy Spirit to the gathering on Pentecost, are what offer authentic theology. Saint Gregory Palamas wrote that the Son of God, "God before the ages, became for us also a theologian." By extension, theologians are they who have come to know God in His glory, namely the Prophets, Apostles, Fathers and Saints. Saint Gregory the Theologian, in the beginning of his dialogue with the Eunomians, had to determine who are the theologians of the Church. He said that not everyone can theologize about God, because "the subject is not so cheap and low." Rather it is "permitted only to those who have been examined, and are passed masters in theoria, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified."
Thus, the preeminent theologian is Christ and then His friends, those to whom God has manifested Himself, namely the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, and then those who accept the experiences of the experienced. The preamble to the "Hagioretic Tome", drafted by Saint Gregory Palamas, shows clearly who the charismatic/empirical theologians are and those who are disciples of those empirical theologians.
I don't want to elaborate any further on this issue, just simply remind us who confess the Synodikon of Orthodoxy:
"As the Prophets saw, as the Apostles taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers express in dogma, as the inhabited world understands together with them, as grace illumines, as the truth makes clear, as error has been banished, as wisdom makes bold to declare, as Christ has assured, so we think, so we speak, so we preach, honoring Christ our true God, and his Saints, in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in icons, worshiping and revering the One as God and Lord, and honoring them because of their common Lord as those who are close to Him and serve Him, and making to them relative veneration. This is the faith of the Apostles; this is the faith of the Fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this faith is held fast by the inhabited world."
These things are known to all of us, I am just reminding you with reverence and brotherly love that this Orthodox theology was not only recorded in the Proceedings of Ecumenical Synods and the confessional texts of the Fathers, but it is included in the worship of our Church and her iconography. There is a deep relationship between the lex credendi (law of faith) and lex orandi (law of prayer).
For example, Saint John of Damascus wrote in his famous book which he titled Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith - and I'm impressed that he used the word "exact", because Orthodox theology has exactness and not just "approximate" words and meanings - in which book he includes the entire theology of the first eight centuries, essentially the theology of the Seven Ecumenical Synods, but he also composed the famous hymns of the Octoechos, especially the Theotokaria of each tone, and the canons for the Despotic and Mother of God feasts, in which he included the entire theology of the Seven Ecumenical Synods. So there is a close relationship between dogma and worship, theology and prayer, history and theology.
This means that when we want to evaluate the theology of an issue, aside from the Proceedings of the Ecumenical Synods, one should also read the hymns, troparia and the prayers of the Mysteries of the Church. The Church, through her Fathers, put its entire theology as to what a Christian is in its Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation, as to what marriage is in its Mystery of Marriage, as to what is the Divine Eucharist in its Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. So there is a profound relationship between the Proceedings of the Ecumenical Synods with the Euchologion and hymnography.
Certainly, the Fathers of the Church, because they encountered a great movement in their time, Hellenism with its philosophy, and they had to face it creatively, they made use of terms from the philosophy of their time, such as Aristotelian and Neoplatonic philosophy, but this was done only with terminology without blemishing the revealed word. Hence, while the Protestant Adolf von Harnack spoke about an alteration of Christianity by its incorporation of Greek philosophy, the so-called "Hellenization of Christianity", Fr. George Florovsky argues to the contrary, upholding the "Christianization of Hellenism". So there is an identification between experience and theology, between the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, but the differences are only in phrases and meanings and not experiences. This is a very important point.
This was an introduction that I may proceed further.
2. The Alteration of Theology
The issue of the alteration of theology is great and one can explore it from different angles. I would prefer to start with how we see this alteration in the second millennium of ecclesiastical life, in the relationship between lex credendi and lex orandi. In the first millennium, after many struggles, there was basically a balanced relationship between dogmatic theology and the prayers of the Euchologion.
Andrew Sopko has argued that in ancient tradition there was a close relationship between doctrine and prayer, as shown in the Proceedings of the Ecumenical Synods, Holy Scripture, the Mysteries and worship. Over the years a dichotomy was created between these two factors. This is shown clearly in that the language of worship, with its terminology, its purpose and its aim has remained steady, but from time to time the dogmatic terminology of some theologians varies. This is shown in Orthodox doctrinal manuals that have been affected by other traditions, particularly scholastic, while worship was the same. An example of this are the western influences on the theological work of Eugenios Voulgaris (George Panagopoulos).
Thus, students learn another doctrine in Theological Schools, which is different from the theology of our worship. One can find this in the situation Saint Paisius Velichkovsky found himself in, who studied at the Ecclesiastical School of Kiev, which resulted in him leaving the School to follow the path of monasticism, and in turn encountering Hesychasm in Mount Athos, which is a tradition he conveyed to Moldavia, thus changing the anti-Orthodox climate which prevailed at that time in Russia and the surrounding areas.
To be more specific and to show the various theological movements that developed during the second millennium, to make apparent the difference between lex credendi and lex orandi, I would like to make a brief overview of scholastic, biblical and Russian theology.
In the first millennium many struggles took place in the recording of revealed tradition in the terminology of their time, without losing this tradition. Thus, Orthodox tradition was enshrined by the Fathers of the Church and other traditions that exist today became differentiated, namely the Non-Chalcedonians (Monophysites-Nestorians) and the Monothelites. The difference between these traditions is that the patristic tradition was based on the experiences of the Prophets and Fathers, which they "invested" with modern terminology, while the theology of the other groups was based on philosophy.
The biggest alteration, however, took place in the western world, from the end of the first millennium and continued into the second millennium. A big theological movement created in the West that changed the patristic tradition of the Ecumenical Synods is scholasticism. This theological movement can be divided into pre-scholasticism that began in the 9th century, with the scholasticism that developed between the 11th and 13th centuries in the West.
The term "scholastic theology" derives from the word school, where students studied, which is why what we call today a "university student" back then was called a "scholastic", and the method they used was scholastic which is based on logic. The theology of these Schools were based on the processing of logical concepts, so that, while the Fathers were based on experience and evidential reasoning, the scholastic theologians based God on their logic and dialectical reasoning.
The biggest scholastic theologians were Anselm of Canterbury, Abelard, Hugh of St. Victor, Richard of St. Victor, Bonaventure, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, who is the pinnacle of scholastic theology, and then follow the post-scholastic theologians with John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham.
The important thing with the scholastic theologians is that some of them were based on the philosophy of Aristotle, others on the philosophy of Plato and the Neoplatonists, and others mixed these two philosophical traditions. The scholastic theologians wrote doctrinal manuals based on this new method of theologizing, which differed from patristic theology. This is why they considered scholastic theology superior to patristic theology.
A backlash against scholastic theology came from the Reformers/Protestants, who could not accept such a large logic-dominated system, and influenced by the liberal early years of the 16th century with the Renaissance, they rejected scholastic theology and created so-called biblical theology.
The late Professor of New Testament at the University of Athens, Markos Siotis, analyzed entirely this movement of biblical theology, that began to develop in the middle of the 17th century in the effort of biblical theologians to establish Christian teachings on Holy Scripture, alienated from Dogmatics, as it was known by the scholastic theologians. Thus, they were supported on the interpretation of the Bible, as they said, estranged from the Fathers and the scholastics, and they developed biblical theology as a science.
I will mention what the late Professor Savvas Agourides, who is considered an important biblical theologian in Greece, said. He wrote that Protestant theologians argue that "there is no theological unity, and then through the variety of literary forms where they describe the history of the religion of the Old Testament (historical, prophetic, didactic, etc. texts), there is none as a whole, nor even in its various forms. And in the books of the New Testament - not only the forms, but also the partial writings - the same critical School can't figure out how there is a correspondence between the various teachings of the books with the corresponding elements that developed in later Ecclesiastical Tradition."
Generally, within the science of biblical criticism there is a dichotomy between the Prophets and Apostles, as well as between the writings of the Old and New Testaments, because each of them were affected by their own gifts, their own perceptions of the people of their time and their religious environment. That is, biblical science is based mainly on historical research of the texts, looking at the literary and homiletic forms used by each author, comparing them with extra-biblical standards of thought and faith, in order to establish a degree of interaction between them. This is why they say there is a theology of John the Evangelist, a theology of the Apostle Paul, etc.
Later, especially in the 18th-19th centuries in Russia, there developed another theology known as Russian theology. The important thing is that Russian theology combined patristic and scholastic theology, because theologians who belonged to this movement wanted to get rid of the Greek philosophy of the Fathers and the legalism of the western Romans, generally seeking to live Christianity as love and freedom, unhindred by canons, rules, rubrics and regulations.
A basic expositor and leader of this movement was Alexei Khomiakov. He formulated the theory that there was in the history of mankind two cultural movements, namely "Iranian" which manifested in Iran and the surrounding areas and stands for the principle of freedom, and "Kushite" which developed in Egypt, Babylon, southern India and China, and it is characterized by analysis, logic and built structures. The central point of this theory is that the Kushites influenced the Greeks and Romans who developed around this edifice a form of Christianity with doctrines, rules and temples, whilst the Russians express the Iranian by living with love and freedom in community. So he developed the theory, and this is important, that scholastic theology surpassed patristic theology, and Russian theology surpassed both previous theologies.
The greatest 20th-century Russian theologian, Fr. George Florovsky, reacted against this dangerous theory, and Russians fought against him throughout his life for proclaiming a "return to the Fathers." He also spoke about a "neo-patristic synthesis", in order to take into consideration the newer Fathers, such as Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas and the Philokalic Fathers. In other words, this great theologian fought against the theory that patristic theology ended in the 8th century and claimed that patristic theology continues today with new Fathers, and so we cannot claim scholastic theology overran patristic theology, and that Russian theology has overrun both theologies.
The fact is that these four movements continue to dominate, namely patristic theology, scholastic and neo-scholastic theology, biblical theology and Russian theology. This creates confusion and a natural theological crisis.
3. The Impact of the Theological Crisis on Daily Ecclesiastical Life
What was said previously needed to be said desperately to detect the impact of the theological crisis in the life of the Orthodox Church. I will now stress in particular how an altered terminology and theology alters the entire climate of ecclesiastical life.
When one examines the theological movements circulating in Theological Schools, they will find that the theological generation that preceded ours was brought up on the views of scholastic and protestant theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, Wellhausen and Harnack. Our generation was nurtured on the theories of Barth, Brunner, Bultmann and Tillich, as well as German Idealism. The next generation after ours grew up on the views of Russian theology and existential theology, such as the theology of Evdokimov, Lossky, Meyendorff and the philosophy of Berdyaev, Heidegger and the existential philosophers.
To avoid any misunderstandings, it must be emphasized that students in Theological Schools must be taught all these movements observed in western theological science, but this should not be done at the expense of patristic theology. Students must learn the relationship and difference between the authorities of western and patristic theology, but these views of scholastic and Russian theology should not dominate and exceed that of patristic theology.
It is known that the Theological School of Athens was founded on the basis of German standards, and since its establishment scholastic and protestant views have passed through. Aidan Nichols, who is a "Roman Catholic", in his book Light from the East, studied the theological thought of some Orthodox theologians to inform Christians in the West. He makes conclusions which in my opinion are excessive in some places and unfair to the Theological Schools and those who express their theological views, but in key points there are elements of truth. He argues, therefore, that in the Theological School of Athens there existed a neo-scholastic theology, and in the Theological School of Thessaloniki there existed certain views of German philosophy and Russian theology. No one should forget that these two Theological Schools produced great work in the field of patristic tradition, biblical theology, worship, canon law, pastoral theology, history, etc. The offerings of certain professors both living and dead are great, but sometimes they promoted certain non-Orthodox views.
However, despite his excesses, Aidan Nicholas shows that modern Greek theology became associated to some effect with the terminology and content of Western and Russian theological thought. I will give a few examples.
a) "The Correlation Between the Holy Trinity and People"
The relationship between the mystery of the Holy Trinity with human society is often done today by many. They fit in the life of the Persons of the Holy Trinity with the life of people in society. Thus, they consider the unity of the Persons of the Holy Trinity should be the model of unity and society for human persons, and the sociability of people must be measured by the unity of the divine Persons; many even associate the lifestyle of the Persons of the Holy Trinity with human marriage, as well as a way of unity between Churches.
Alexei Khomiakov spoke of such a correlation and this concept was developed by other Russian theologians. Khomiakov wrote: "The Apostolic Canons (Canon 34) say that the Church must glorify the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in very structure expressing the unity of the multiplicity of human hypostases in the one human nature recapitulated in Christ. The absolute Church of the divine Trinity is the pattern of the Church of humankind, the 'community of mutual love': unity in multiplicity."
This analogy between the Triune God and humanity, can be found initially in the scholastic theologians. I will note here that the scholastic theologian Richard of St. Victor wrote regarding "indebted" love and "non-indebted" love between the Persons of the Holy Trinity and the "analogy of being", or the analogia entis between God and man.
The Fathers of the Church do not accept an analogy between God and man, because there is no similarity between what is uncreated with what is created. Saint Gregory Palamas writes that the three divine hypostases are interconnected and they intercirculate between each other naturally, completely, unseen, unchanging, at the same time without commingling and confusion, so that their energy is one "of which nothing can be found in creation." In other words, the intercirculation that occurs with the Holy Trinity cannot be found in creation. The energy of persons is a special energy of each person, but in the Triune God each Person does not have their own energy, since the energy of each Person of the Holy Trinity is common. This means that each human person has their own will and freedom, but the Persons of the Holy Trinity have a common will, thus there can be no analogy between God and man.
Of course, Saint Gregory Palamas makes some correlations between God and man, such as man who is in the image of God having a mind, word and spirit, but he clearly says these are figurative "representations" which, of course, as we know, do not have an absolute analogy, since in the Trinitarian God the Mind (Father), Word and Spirit are hypostases, while for man they are energies of the soul.
One can even say the same thing about the words of Christ in His high-priestly prayer: "that they may be one as we are one" (Jn. 17:22), which is used as a passage to indicate hope for the unity of the Church. However, this point of the high-priestly prayer was fulfilled on Pentecost, when the Apostles saw the glory of God, and they reached theosis and became united with each other. In other words, this passage refers to the vision of God, and each time a person achieves this vision they acquire unity with the Apostles. According to St. John Chrysostom, "the word 'as' does not denote exact similarity in their case, (for it was not possible for them in so great a degree,) but only as far as was possible for men," and according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, "it is an image and type of their unbroken love and unity." To conclude, in patristic teaching there is no analogia entis like there is in scholastic theology.
b) "The Human Person"
Many studies have been made in our day about the "human person", and the features are even identified, which are self-knowledge, otherness and ecstasy/eros.
The idea that man is a person began with the Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky, who clearly wrote: "For my part, I must admit that until now I have not found what one might call an elaborated doctrine of the human person in patristic theology, alongside its very precise teaching on divine persons and hypostases." But he continues: "Thus I shall not put forward an historian’s examination of Christian doctrines, but simply some theological reflections on the questions which must be answered by the notion of the human person in the context of Christian dogma."
Vladimir Lossky is very clear and honest, that there is not an "elaborated doctrine of the human person," which co-exists with the teaching of the Fathers on the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, the Fathers analyzed the person/hypostasis in the Triune God, but they did not speak about man as a person, since the metaphysical authority of analogia entis does not exist, rather they use for man, as St. John of Damascus writes, the biblical terms of "image" (mind, conscience) and "likeness" (theosis). There are some minimal references to man as hypostasis which are used to mean existence, since this term is also used for animals, the ox in particular.
Next, the identification of the human person with characteristic features, self-knowledge, otherness and ecstasy/eros are clear transfers into Orthodox theology from the respective terminology of the German existentialist philosopher Heidegger.
Still, the term "interpenetration [perichoresis] of the persons" clearly refers to the Triune God, since according to the Fathers there is an interpenetration between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, but this cannot happen in the same way with humans, who have special energies and special bodies, so that no one can understand how an interpenetration between people can take place. Love between people cannot be interpreted by the principle of interpenetration, in the way it is done with the Trinitarian God.
c) "Person and Individual"
Furthermore, it is supported today that a difference exists between "person" and "individual". It is written and said that the person has self-consciousness and otherness, distinguished from freedom and love, while the individual is understood in biological and numerical concepts. Such a distinction is interesting and helps in discussions on social issues, which is why thirty years ago I also used it, and it helped me in discussions with intellectuals and young people, but I quickly realized that this distinction differs from the patristic tradition.
The distinction between person and individual is found first in the scholastic theologian Thomas Aquinas, but was developed in our times by the existentialist philosopher Jacques Maritain, Berdyaev and others. It is used and analyzed by Vladimir Lossky.
However, in patristic teaching there is no such distinction between person and individual. Let me remind you again that the Fathers always used the term "person" and "hypostasis" for God, not man. Thus, St. John of Damascus writes: "One should know that the Holy Fathers used the term 'hypostasis' and 'person' and 'individual' for the same thing." Elsewhere he writes: "Hypostasis, namely the individual," thus identifying the terms of person, hypostasis and individual.
St. John of Damascus wrote this because he knew that the word "individual" (ἄτομον) from the privative α and the word τομή is "μή τεμνόμενον" ("non-intersecting") and is used in Christological discords to emphasize that Christ's two natures, the divine and human, do not intersect, so that Christ is a single person/individual, in Whom are combined the two natures "inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably." Also, St. Symeon the New Theologian uses the word "individual" for the Triune God, that the Persons of the Holy Trinity do not intersect.
Vladimir Lossky uses the distinction between person and individual when he writes: "Thus in theological language, in the East as in the West, the term 'human person' coincides with that of 'human individual.' But we cannot stop at this declaration. Since it seems that Christian anthropology has not given a new sense to the term 'human hypostasis' or 'person,' let us try to disclose the presence of a different notion, which is no longer identical to that of 'individual' and yet remains unfixed by any term, as a basis implied but most often not expressed in all theological or ascetic teaching which deals with man." Thus, he makes a distinction between person and individual, influenced mainly by existentialist philosophy.
Therefore, it seems clear that the effort to define and delineate and distinguish the human person from the individual, although the Fathers made no such effort, is the work of modern theology.
d) "The Dignity and Sanctity of the Human Person"
The term "dignity and sanctity of the human person" is used frequently these days, perhaps out of ignorance of the facts.
In regards the human person, and how this term was introduced by scholastic and Russian theology, as well as existentialist philosophy, we previously stated. However, this theme is extended by linking the human person with dignity and sanctity.
First, it should be noted, that those who speak of the human person connect it to every human being, regardless of race or religion, every human being is a person in the image of God, since they have mind and conscience. Previously, when I wrote about the human person, according to Elder Sophrony Sakharov, who wrote that the human as person meant a human who reached "according to the likeness", to theosis, I received a strong reaction, because according to modern philosophical theologians each human being, with their freedom and ability of selection, is a person.
Within this perspective, what does dignity and sanctity of the human person mean? In a modern human society the choice of each man is respected, even if it is against the will of God and Orthodox patristic anthropology in general. Also, some Orthodox theologians use the phrase "dignity of the human person" in a traditional sense, but this creates terminological confusion, when others understand it differently to require respect for human rights, even though it is unlike the evangelical ascetic life.
I will mention just one example, to show how the phrase "the dignity and sanctity of the human person" is used. The view is argued that when someone discovers "homosexual attraction" within ones self, "this constitutes an illness of nature and not the person."
In this phrase it appears that the terminology of nature and person is transferred from God to man, which is something that cannot be found in the Fathers, as has been noted. Therefore, there is a split between nature and person, while the Person of the Godhead is essence with properties, and there is no priority of nature or person. Still, this distinction is made to give the responsibility of any irregularity to nature and not to person, which has dignity and sanctity. It appears that the problem with this is that a few years ago, during the Eurovision contest the song that won was by a man who became a woman and had a beard, and everyone wondered what to call this human being, a man or a woman, and the answer was that we should call him "persona".
It seems that modern philosophers and theologians use the phrase "dignity and sanctity of the human person" to indicate respect for human rights. Of course we must accept human rights. But Fr. John Romanides claimed that the Church in the future will encounter difficulties from so-called "human rights", because in the name of human rights various views and practices contrary to God's will are endorsed. The work of the Church is to cure the noetic energy of man and within this practice to create unity among people in society. However, the phrase "the dignity and sanctity of the human person" is problematic.
e) "Ontological and Existential"
These two words, "ontological" and "existential", are often used in spoken and written words by people who know Orthodox theology. Apparently they do it in the sense that "ontology" means what is real, what exists, and not something insubstantial and imaginary. Also, "existential" implies existential problems related to the beginning and end of existence, what is life, what is death, what happens after death, what is the meaning of existence; they are the answers to the "borderline" issues of human life. In this sense I also used these two words in the past, especially in discussions with scientists and young people, pupils and students, and they made a particular impression.
However, from my studies of both patristic and western scholastic theology, existentialist theology and Russian theology, I understand that these are problematic to the Orthodox patristic tradition, and in fact those who use them negate Orthodox theology or differ from it.
The word "ontology" as a technical term is encountered for the first time in the 17th century by Leibniz, who used it for "substance", as a word for "being" found in classical metaphysics in the Metaphysics of Aristotle, and in the scholastic theology of Thomas Aquinas. Later the term "ontotheology" is ascribed to the German philosopher Kant, in his attempt to prove the existence of God in a logical manner, the so-called ontological proof for God's existence.
The term "existential" was inherited from the existentialism that developed in the 20th century by Gabriel Marcel and the later existential theoretical philosophers, such as Sartre and Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard was disappointed by the philosophical system of Hegel that prevailed in his time, according to which man is considered an "impersonal idea". Thus he developed the theory that man is an "existing person". Later, Sartre reacted against metaphysics and German idealism that says essence-idea precedes existence (ontology-ideology), and argued that existence precedes essence. That is, according to him it is not the God of ideology that will define the existence of man, but man will define himself, and will deny God. In other words, according to the existentialism of Sartre, man is first existence and then, with the procedure of being, becomes essence after death. Within this perspective the term "free will" developed.
The German philosopher Heidegger, designated as an existentialist philosopher, though he defined himself as a philosopher of the meaning of being, made in his works the distinction between ontical and ontological, as well as that of existential and existentiell.
The Russian Orthodox philosopher Berdyaev, who is described as a Christian existentialist philosopher and a philosopher of freedom, developed many such views, relying basically on the mystical and agnostic views of the Lutheran Jakob Böhme, who had a particular appeal to Hegel and Schelling.
Hence, the use of the words "ontology" and "existential" for theological issues, without becoming a necessary explanation, is problematic.
f) "Militant and Triumphant Church"
Often in our sermons we speak about the militant and triumphant Church. By militant Church we mean the Church that exists in the world, in which we all dwell and struggle against our passions, the devil and death, and by triumphant Church we mean the saints who with death passed into another dimension of time, to eternal life, and they await the resurrection of their bodies. However, these terms are not so "innocent" as they may seem at first sight.
First, we belong to an army of Christ, struggling against the passions, and there is such a terminology in Holy Scripture and patristic texts, and the saints have overcome the fear of "utter ruin" and the fear of death.
However, the triumph of Christ against death, sin and the devil was done on the Cross according to the words of the Apostle Paul: "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Col. 2:15). It is not a matter only for those who have reposed, but also for those still alive. In the Church, with the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and the Divine Eucharist, we participate in the triumph of Christ, as it is wonderfully analyzed by St. Nicholas Cabasilas in his book titled The Life In Christ.
Also, we cannot divide the Church into two parts, namely the militant Church on earth and the heavenly triumphant Church, because the Church is one and indivisible. In the Church, especially in the Divine Eucharist, we experience the fact that the Church is a "gathering of heaven and earth", the living and the dead, angels and men. St. John Chrysostom writes: "The angelic hosts above are glorifying; on earth the people in the churches are chanting in a chorus offering the same doxology. The seraphim above cry the Thrice Holy Hymn; on earth, crowds of people ascribe the same hymn. Common is the banquet of the heavens and of earth, one eucharist, one rejoicing, one gladness of chorus."
Moreover, in the Church there are saints who have reached great spiritual states in that they are able to see God, the Panagia and the Saints, which means that there cannot be an absolute separation between militant and triumphant Churches.
The issue, however, is that the distinction between the militant and triumphant Church is inseparably linked with the non-Orthodox distinction between the visible and invisible Church that developed in the 19th century by the Anglican "Oxford Movement", which said that the Church is one and invisible, while "the individual historical Churches are its lawfully visible expressions, each in its own historically governing specified space, provided they preserve the faith of the undivided Church and the apostolic succession of bishops." Such a distinction relates to the ecclesiology of scholasticism, according to which there is a distinction between the Church and the "Mystical Body of Christ". Thus, they are given the ability to "recognize" other ecclesiastical communities that are "independent" churches, even without being subject to the jurisdiction of the Pope.
Finally, the distinction between the Churches is related to the distinction between history and eschatology, which is non-Orthodox, because even the saints who have departed this world reside in the historical Church through their relics, and the eschaton is not the life of the Church after death and the Second Coming of Christ, but it is experienced in the present. Christ, Who is the "first and the last" (Rev. 1:17) became incarnate, entered history, and this is why the eschaton is always in the present.
Therefore, it is dangerous to split the Church into militant and triumphant, as if they were two different Churches. The Church is one with two aspects, the visible, which consists of authentic shepherds who hold the Orthodox teaching and the Mysteries, and the invisible, which consists of the reposed saints, but, of course, there is a unity between these members of the Church, since the Body of Christ is one. Fr. George Florovsky writes: "The triumphant Church is above all the worshiping Church, and its existence is a living participation in the work of the Comforter and in the redemptive love of Christ."
f) "The Prophetic, Royal and High Priestly Office of Christ"
In the Old Testament there are three different types of bearers of grace through whom God led His people, namely the Prophets, Kings and High Priests. Christ with His incarnation has the fullness of Grace as the Son of God in bodily form, as the Apostle Paul says: "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him" (Col. 1:19), and "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). Therefore He is a Prophet through His preaching, a King through His guidance, and a High Priest with His sacrifice and offering. This means that Christ has these three qualities/features, and they are united between them.
St. John Chrysostom, interpreting the Psalm "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise" [47:2 (48:1)], writes: "For great is God, great is the Lord, great is the King, great is the Prophet, great is the Priest, great is the Light, great He is in all." Christ gave His entire life to the Church, and He taught the people (prophet), performed the work of worship (high priest), and He directs its members to their destination (king). Christians are shareholders in this threefold dignity, according to the words of St. John Chrysostom: "You also are made king, priest and prophet in the laver; a king, having dashed to earth all the deeds of wickedness, and slain your sins; a priest, in that you offer yourself to God, and having sacrificed your body, and being slain also, 'for if we died with Him,' he says, 'we shall also live with Him' (2 Tim. 2:11); a prophet, knowing what shall be, and being inspired of God, and sealed."
Obviously, this is for the personal life of every believer, with Baptism-Chrismation, for the struggle for ones purification, for the keeping of the commandments of Christ, for the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. However, in a special sense these charisms/gifts are given to Clerics, especially Bishops, in order to officiate the Divine Mysteries, to teach the people, and to direct them towards salvation.
But what especially troubles me is the phrase "three-fold office of Christ" and that the Bishop is the shareholder of the "three-fold office of Christ". What is an office? How can it be understood? What is this office of Christ? Why aren't the terms "Grace" or "Charism" or any other word used other than office?
Researching the subject I noticed that this expression, namely the word "office", has a Protestant origin, and it comes from a friend of Luther, named Johannes Oecolampadius, a follower of the Reformation. And because this phrase is repeated continuously in Encyclicals by the Holy Synod, which is sent to the flock of every Metropolis upon the election and consecration of a new Prelate and is read at the ceremony of the enthronement, it is good that we replace it with a better term that reflects the same reality.
On this occasion I would like to point out that the phrase that the Bishop be "in the form and place of Christ" ("τύπον καί τόπον Χριστοῦ"), which is specified as coming from St. Ignatius the God-bearer, I noticed that in fact that this phrase does not exist in St. Ignatius, since in his writings the Bishop is characterized as being in the form of the Father and the deacon in the form of Christ, and I cannot find which Father uses this phrase. Of course, there is a correlation of the Bishop to Christ, but there is no phrase "in the form and place of Christ." I am still researching this issue.
The fact is that the Bishop is neither the representative of God to people, nor the representative of the people to God, but he is the "mystery of the sensible presence of Christ" by the Grace of the Pontificate, that would be good to be accompanied with its own Pentecost.
g) "The Pontificate and Pentecost"
In the ordinations of Prelates, both the one who ordains and the ordained, the phrase "personal Pentecost" is used, thereby identifying their ordination as a Bishop with their participation in Pentecost.
Of course, Bishops are the successors of the Holy Apostles, they are the "lit lamps of Pentecost" who carry the light of Pentecost, which is the Grace of God, to the Diocese/Metropolis for which they are ordained, according to St. Gregory Palamas.
However, this does not mean that the experience of Pentecost can be fully identified with the Grace of the Pontificate. It would be good for them to be identical but in practice there is a difference.
Pentecost is the day on which the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples and united them with Christ, thereby becoming members of the Body of Christ. Before Pentecost the Disciples saw and heard Christ, even at the Transfiguration the Disciples were "transformed and only in this way did they see the transformation" (St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 34, "On the Transfiguration"), because the Body of Christ was external to the Disciples. But on the Day of Pentecost the Disciples became members of the Body of Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost was "unique" in history, and those who follow the same path, namely, as St. Maximus the Confessor says, they who journey from "practical philosophy" or purification, to "natural theoria" or illumination to "secret theology" or theosis, will reach the summit of Pentecost and participate in the experience of Pentecost as a personal Pentecost. Thus, the remission of sins through the energy of the Holy Spirit is one thing, and another is communion with the Holy Spirit through theoria (Pentecost). The Grace of the Pontificate given to someone through the Holy Spirit is one thing, and the gift of the theosis of a person through the theoria of God, which is Pentecost, is another thing.
A typical example is the Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen, who was "full of faith and the Holy Spirit," which is why he was chosen to be ordained a Deacon (Acts 6:6). Here it speaks of the communion of the Holy Spirit, which is the communion of Pentecost, which exuded from his body, and that is why the Sanhedrin "saw his face like the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). Shortly after it says: "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" This was different from the Grace of the Diaconate.
A layman, monk or cleric can attain the experience of Pentecost, the vision of God, by partaking of His deifying energy, and a cleric can have the Grace of the Pontificate without participating in the experience of theosis/Pentecost. We can partake of the Grace of God in various ways, and depending on the condition of people it produces different results. This is why we speak of a creative, privileged and conservative energy of God, or a purifying, illuminating and deifying energy of God, or a diaconal, priestly and hierarchical energy of God.
Τhe dismissal hymn used for the feast of St. Polycarp says the following in this regard: "As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, you found discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, you did also contest for the faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr...."
In this hymn, which expresses the theology of the Church, it says that the Holy Bishop was "a successor to the throne of the Apostles" as well "as a sharer of the ways" of the Apostles. The "ways" of the Apostles is praxis and theoria, which means that theoria is based on praxis. This is how he becomes "inspired" and is able to "rightly divide the word of truth", even unto martyrdom of blood.
Therefore, it is an innacurate phrase for someone to be ordained to say "today I will experience the mystery of my own personal Pentecost."
In one of his texts Fr. George Florovsky analyzes the "Mystery of Pentecost" in its relationship with Apostolic Succession and the Apostolic Tradition. He writes that "on the Day of Pentecost the Spirit descends not only on the Apostles, but also on those who were present with them; not only on the Twelve but on the entire multitude. This means that the Spirit descended on the whole of the Primitive Church then present in Jerusalem. But though the Spirit is one, the gifts and ministrations in the Church are very varied, so that while in the mystery of Pentecost the Spirit descends on all, it is on the Twelve alone that He bestows the power and the rank of priesthood promised to them by Our Lord in the days of His flesh."
He continues: "Pentecost, therefore, is the fullness and the source of all mysteries and sacramental actions, the one and inexhaustible spring of all of the mysterious and spiritual life of the Church. To abide or to live in the Church implies a participation in Pentecost." Hence, "Pentecost becomes eternal in the Apostolic Succession" and the "peculiar function of bishops is to be the organ of Apostolic Succession," which means that "through its bishop (the Church) is linked up with the past and with antiquity," and "through its bishop (the Church) forms a part of the living organism of the Body of the Church Universal. However, "Apostolic Succession is not so much the canonical as the mystical foundation of Church unity," is is a participation with Apostolic Tradition, which is "an uninterrupted current of spiritual life proceeding from the Upper Room." For someone to be faithful to tradition it means that they partake in Pentecost, and tradition means "the fullness of Pentecost."
This is what "Pentecost is the participation in theosis" means, which is the essence of Orthodox tradition, to which any member of the Church can attain. It is not a privilege of the Bishops, but Bishops are "organs of Apostolic Succession", who is a successor to the throne of the Apostles and sharer in the ways of the Apostles, it is an experience of the mystery of Pentecost, and as instruments of Apostolic Succession they lead Christians in their participation of Pentecost.
The Apostle Paul clearly writes: "Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13).
The phrase "personal Pentecost" may come from the Russian theologians who spoke of "every Mystery is Pentecost" confusing and identifying Pentecost, which was "unique" in history, with the sanctification of material objects and the sanctification of people to accomplish a task.
From the above we can see that we are indeed in a theological crisis. The other crises - economic, ethical, social, political - come and go, and are of the eternal present, which concern the human body and temporary material things, while the theological crisis concerns the spirit, the soul, and it has eternal dimensions, which is why, especially Hierarchs, must be careful of such. Our treatment for healing depends on our theology. When a physician uses a wrong medical treatment, a failed theory, he will fail to cure.
I will repeat what I said in the beginning with my introduction, that the theological crisis and its effect on daily ecclesiastical life is not only about certain changes in terminology, even though the terms and concepts defined by the Fathers and adopted by Local and Ecumenical Synods is part of Tradition, and it deconstructs this Orthodox Tradition, because we depart from it. It is in fact a theological disease.
I apologize for the fatigue I may have brought, and I ask for your indulgence. As I mentioned at the beginning with my introduction, these issues will be developed adequately in my study which is to be published shortly.
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