March 5, 2010

The Polemical Nature of Theology

By Rev. Dr. John Romanides

The true Orthodox theologian is the one who has direct knowledge of some of God's energies through illumination or knows them more through vision. Or he knows them indirectly through prophets, apostles and saints or through Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and the decisions and acts of their Ecumenical and Local Councils. The theologian is the one who through this direct or mediated spiritual knowledge and vision knows clearly how to distinguish between the actions of God and those of creatures and especially the works of the devil and the demons. Without the gift of discernment of spirits it is not possible to test spirits to see whether something is the action of the Holy Spirit or of the devil and the demons.

Therefore the theologian and the spiritual father are the same thing. A person who thinks and talks in search of a conceptual understanding of the doctrines of the faith after the Franco-Latin pattern certainly is not a spiritual father, nor can he be called a theologian in the proper sense of the word. Theology is not abstract knowledge or practice, like logic, mathematics, astronomy and chemistry, but on the contrary, it has a polemical character like logistics and medicine. The former is concerned with matters of defence and attack through bodily drill and strategies for the deployment of weapons, fortifications and defensive and offensive schemes, while the latter is fighting against mental and physical illnesses for the sake of health and the means of restoring health.

A theologian who is not acquainted with the methods of the enemy nor with perfection in Christ is not only unable to struggle against the enemy for his own perfection, but is also in no position to guide and heal others. It is like being called a general, or even being one, without ever having been trained or fought, or studied the art of war, having only given attention to the beautiful, glorious appearance of the army in its splendid, bright uniforms at receptions and displays. It is like a butcher posing as a surgeon or like holding the position of a physician without knowing the causes of illnesses or the methods of curing them, or the state of health to which the patient should be restored.