December 23, 2015

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (3 of 6)

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.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.