Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Digital Books


Empirical Dogmatics

(according to the lectures of Fr. John Romanides)


By: Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Fr. Hierotheos Vlachos

Source of Interview: http://www.parembasis.gr/2011/11_01_19.htm

   Volume A                             Volume B


An interview with the author of the book, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios, Fr. Hierotheos Vlachos, by reporter  Ms.Thalia Hounda.  The interview was published in the local newspaper "DIMOTIKO MELLON".


1. Question:  What prompted you to compile the teaching of Fr. John Romanides, which in essence is the official position of our Church?

Reply:  The written texts and the oral traditions of Fr. John Romanides have as their core the dogmas of the Church, but, they are delivered from within their basic prerequisite: experience.  To the many, dogmas are regarded as arbitrary axioms that have nothing to do with life; the fact is, the dogmas of the Orthodox Church are more reminiscent of medications that scientists have discovered after many years of research and are offering for the healing of various morbid situations.

This is what prompted me to embark on the "Empirical Dogmatics", based on the oral teachings of Fr. John Romanides, which deal with the major existential and ontological problems that torment mankind and which definitely have social repercussions.  They are questions such as:

"What is God?  How can we attain a personal communication with Him?  What is Man?  What is the purpose of his existence?  Why does death exist?  What is there after death? etc...

Fr. John Romanides' teaching fully complies with this requirement.  A reader told me that this book can even make an atheist appreciate the theology of the Orthodox Church, because it expresses the depths of the dogma and moves beyond moralistic conventionalities.


2. Question: How difficult was this project, with regard to selecting the most opportune points from out of the entire - and admittedly vast - opus of his?

Reply: The project that I had to compile was indeed a vast and difficult one.  I had around 1500 pages of transcripts from taperecorded homilies of the spoken word of Fr. John and I had to isolate the theological topics from among hundreds of other topics - historical, scientific, etc. - because Fr. John Romanides closely linked theology to History, but he also interpreted it from within modern scientific discoveries and therefore I had to locate all the purely theological segments.

But even after this selection, I still had to connect the texts between them into one unity, with a sequence in thought and with relevance.  It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle; like taking some exquisite pieces out of an ancient amphora that was discovered in an archaeological dig and presenting a completed piece of work.

I undertook this entire, laborious project with love and inspiration, and I worked somewhat like an artist composing a painting.  Thus, even though the project was laborious, it was nevertheless also pleasant, inasmuch as it brought surprise and enthusiasm, even to me.  The word "inspiration" says it all. After all, a Christian - as our Fathers said - must work as an artist, as a poet...

3. Question: Please describe some of your own experiences, from within which the personality of that so significant theologian can be highlighted.

Reply: Father John Romanides was a multi-talented personality.  He grew up in Manhattan of New York; he studied at the biggest university centers of America (Yale, Harvard...); at Orthodox Schools of Theology in America and Europe (Greek and Russian); he was a professor of Dogmatics in America, in Thessaloniki and Lebanon, and was very familiar with the western and the eastern man.  He could equally drive a plane and a boat, and also be familiar with the achievements of modern science.

All the same, even though I had been reading his works from the past, I got to know him personally after his retirement from the University of Thessaloniki, when he was living in Athens.  He had a good knowledge of many subjects: theological, scientific, diplomatic, historical... and was continuously into research.  His mentality (and the art of a researcher) he had learnt in America.  And yet, he was simple, humble, calm, but also concerned about the levels of our society and theology in our land.  He was an easterner who lived in the western world; a visionary who lived in a society of many interests; an ascetic who lived outside the Monastery, inside the modern community.  I don't wish to idealize him, but he really was a noble and sensitive person.

Twenty days before his passing, when I went to visit him at his home, I discovered that he would wake up in the night and pray - just like a monk - the way his mother did, whom he loved dearly; a woman of the East, who lived the Cappadocian lifestyle inside Manhattan, New York, and who finally became a nun at the Monastery at Souroti near Thessaloniki and under the guidance of the Elder Paisios, who greatly respected her.

4. Question: Are there any "latent" or special points to look out for while studying the books, that the reader has to discover for himself?

Reply: Every reader will be impressed, by various points of his teaching.  There certainly are one or two "latent" points for the many, which do however express the depth of his teaching.  I have already submitted this question to many readers of the books, to determine if they had located them, and that is why I won't tell you which points they are.

What is important though, is that Fr. John Romanides during the turbulent course of his life had clashed with many theologians, on account of the various changes that he encountered.  There were also many who did not comprehend his teaching. But, because he had attained a personal certainty, he was absolute in many topics and would express himself sententiously.

Nevertheless, his basic opus - if one examines it in depth - was unifying, since it pinpointed the relationship between atheists and Christians, Jews and Greeks, orthodox and heterodox, Latin-speaking, Hellenic-speaking and Arab-speaking Romans.  He believed in Romanity - not as an ideology, but as a way of life that constitutes a unifying force between seemingly contrary situations.  He was a noble, an easterner, deeply democratic and at the same time a revolutionary.  These terms may sound contradictory, but they were an expression of the overall manner of his theological thought and of his research work.


Translation:  K.N.

Article published in English on: 17-8-2011.

Last update: 17-8-2011.