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August 16, 2011

Neptic and Social Theology

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

We divide theology into neptic and social, and we regard some Fathers as belonging to the first and others as belonging to the second category. But in the teaching of the holy Fathers this division is not seen. To be sure, outwaradly, from the way in which each one has worked, a division can be seen between the neptics and socials, because some Fathers had a particular flock and did their work there, and others were in the desert, praying constantly. Even from this aspect, however, there cannot be a perfect division, because even the Fathers who worked pastorally lived neptically, and the hermits worked in a missionary way, in the sense that they were magnets for many men who approached them to learn ""words" of salvation. Thus the hermits indirectly did pastoral work.

Beyond this, the teaching of the saints is not divided into social and neptic. When the Fathers speak of social topics, they look at them within the true theology of the Church, which is ascetic. And when they speak of neptic topics, they do it in order for people to be able to be purified and then to attain real communion with God and men. Besides, we know very well that in the Church the theologians do shepherding and the pastors do their work theologically.

We are accustomed to seeing the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Chrysostom as social Fathers. But this does not correspond with reality, because the Three Hierarchs in their writings also explain the whole neptic teaching of the Church.

The fact that there is a close link between nepsis and communion, between neptic and social Fathers, and that the holy Fathers shepherd their flocks theologically is seen from the homilies written by St. Gregory Palamas to his flock in Thessaloniki. Anyone who reads these homilies will discover that shepherding is theology and theology is truly a fruit of the knowledge of God, but also a path for man to reach deification.