|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||About God|
When conversing with a Holy Mountain monk some time ago, we discussed – among other things – the crisis in theology observed in our country, on account of the influence on it by Western scholastic theology as well as by Russian theology. Without denying this truth, the monk made a minor correction to my statement, saying that we should not be speaking of a “crisis in theology”, but rather of a “crisis in theologians”. Naturally, I had no intention of disagreeing with him, as this was essentially what I meant.
It is a fact, that whenever we speak of Orthodox Theology, we are implying the faith of the Church in its authentic expression, the way that the holy Apostles and Fathers had presented it, following a personal revelation that each of them had experienced. This theology is not undergoing any crisis whatsoever. But, when there are certain “theologians” who speculate on matters of the faith and admix the theology of the not misled theologians with the contemplations of philosophers and philosophizers, then a problem most certainly exists, and a crisis indeed becomes evident. Hence, the crisis belongs to the theologians.
I have noticed that in our land (and especially amongst certain academic teachers) there prevails an impression that theology has to do with bibliography, footnotes and references. This approach may of course respond to scientific-academic requirements, but it does not mean it is theology. This difference must be pointed out. Theology is one thing, and the scientific analysis of theology by theologians is another thing altogether.
One can observe this in other sciences. For example, an artist or a sculptor or a poet will create an original and authentic piece of work and will open new horizons, carve out a new course and a perspective that may even define a specific era. Later on, various researchers will come along, who will attempt to investigate that specific work of art and the artist, and will try to see what the background and the starting point of the work was; they will also try to analyze the facts and the styles that governed that era etc. Naturally, research work is also essential; however, it cannot be compared to the work per se, which is both original and authentic. For example, the hagiography of Theophanes the Cretan or Panselinos is one thing, whereas the scientific analyses that focus on them are an entirely different matter. Similarly, the poet Elytis –per se- is one thing, and the commentator who analyzes Elytis’ work is another thing altogether. Elytis was the one awarded the Nobel prize, not his analyst. There is a vast difference between the two.
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The Church has bestowed the title of “theologian” to three major personalities only : Saint John the Theologian, Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint Simeon the new Theologian. A fourth one was later added to them: Saint Gregory Palamas. In the works of these four personages, as also in the works of other holy Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximos the Confessor e.a.), there is an abundance of rich, living and essential theology, without any references and footnotes whatsoever.
When I was a student, I had participated for a while in a scientific team that was involved in preparing a critical edition pertaining to the writings of Saint Gregory Palamas. My job was to trace the texts by Saint Gregory the Theologian that were used by Saint Gregory Palamas, in order to insert them in the critical edition. There is no way that I can ever embrace the view that because Saint Gregory Palamas did not refer to any contemporary scientists of his time (or even to many Fathers of the Church) and that whenever he did, he would not designate the reference to their specific treatise, that this automatically renders him inferior to certain important academic teachers, who have learnt to work strictly with bibliography, with logical documenting and scholastic analysis.
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In our day, we are in need of a theology that will provide answers to the many existential problems that preoccupy modern man; for example pain, death, guilt, the meaning of life - as well as to the tremendous social problems that abound - through revelatory experience. We are in need of a theology of “tenderness”, of immediacy; one that will fall like a gentle rain on the souls of mankind and shed its healing balm and consolation, the way that the writings of Saint Siluan the Athonite do. We are in need of a theology that is “poetic”, without being romantic and sentimental; a theology that is “intuitive”, without being course and inquiring; a theology that is authentic and does not need any footnotes in order to be expressed and to express itself, as a contemporary thinker had once said.
And of course, any theology that depends solely and exclusively on notes, references and bibliography must be denounced, because it misleads people and serves only the interests of those who express it. An academic theology such as this must be denounced, when it overextends itself, beyond its sphere and the purpose that it serves; when it is projected as a model of theology by marginalizing the original and authentic theology of the theumens (those who have reached enlightenment).
When referring to instances of “philosophizing” theologians of his time (somewhat similar to the academic theologians of our own time), Basil the Great would say that “they technologize, and do not theologize”.
It is a shame, when authentic theology is related to scholastic methodology; in other words, when theology is linked to technology in that sense. People nowadays are not in need of a method for studying life, but of a real life.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 15-6-2007
Last update: 15-6-2007