Return To The Sources

Characteristic of these 'Confessions' is 'a marked inferiority complex towards the formularies of the Counter-Reformation',6 a complex that has bedevilled Orthodox theology into the twentieth century. The history of modern Orthodox theology is the story of a prolonged and erratic progress towards rediscovering an authentic voice a process of learning to use Western thought and research as a tool, not a straitjacket, and acquiring the confidence to draw on Eastern resources to avoid Western...

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And in his incarnate life Christ 'came unto his own' (Jn i 11) in that he is truly the Creator of the world, invisibly containing all creation and inherent in all creation.3 The affirmation that the Creator is also the Saviour has clear eschato-logical implications. As later Fathers will repeatedly affirm, it is the fashion of this world that will pass away (i Cor 7 31) its substance and essence will not be annihilated but renewed, because God is faithful.4 No less seminal is Irenaeus's appeal...

Nonna Verna Harrison

Who am I What does it mean that I am human Everybody asks these searching questions, but what is the Orthodox Church's answer Orthodox reflection on what it is to be human begins with Genesis 1 26, 'Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.' Theological anthropology, that is the study of humanity in the presence of God, begins by asking what it is about each human person that manifests the divine image and likeness. First of all, the Fathers usually distinguish between...

Notes

Eusebius of Caesarea, Oration on the Tricennalia of Constantine II.2. 2. See further J. McGuckin, 'The legacy of the thirteenth Apostle', SVTQ 47 3-4 (2003), 251-88. 3. See A. Casiday, 'Church Fathers and the shaping of Orthodox theology', below. 4. N. Zernov, The Russians and Their Church (Crestwood, NY SVS Press, 3rd edn, 1978), pp. 36-41, 5i. 5. See K. T. Ware (new Metropolitan of Diokleia), 'Orthodox and Catholics in the seventeenth century schism or intercommunion ' in D. Baker (ed.),...

Creation And Incarnation

In the second century, the Church was challenged by the dualist cosmology of Gnostic sects who held that Christ and his Father were not responsible for the created world, and that salvation consisted in transcending material creation. It is in response to this teaching that Irenaeus sets out the basis for Christian cosmology. Irenaeus rejects outright the Gnostics' shadowy world of semi-created intermediaries. God himself is the maker of all things by his Word and Wisdom (Irenaeus identifies...

Who are the Orthodox Christians A historical introduction

CUNNINGHAM and ELIZABETH THEOKRITOFF The Orthodox Church consists historically of the local Churches of the Eastern Roman empire, including Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as the Churches that came into being as a result of their missions. During the first millennium of Christianity, this communion included the Church of Rome. It is important to remember that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as Rome's Protestant offshoots, all share a common...

Salvation In Christ

In some scholarship of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially that which built on medieval Western writing, it became common to reckon 'salvation history' in terms of a strictly linear chronological progression. There, one might trace a single line from the creation of perfect, immortal Adam and Eve to their surprising Fall, which in turn necessitated God's sending of his pre-existing Son into the world around the year ad i to restore us to the perfect immortality of the pre-fallen...

Division Between East And West

The estrangement between the Eastern and Western Churches culminated in the mutual excommunications of ad 1054, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when this process began. As early as the third and fourth centuries of Christian history, a cultural divide is perceptible between the Latin-speaking territories of Italy and points west, and the largely Greek-speaking Eastern Mediterranean. Later Roman emperors, beginning with Diocletian, in fact divided the empire into two halves for more...

Preface

Gone are the days when an occasional intrepid traveller would venture to Eastern Europe or the Levant and return with colourful tales of the beliefs and practices of the natives. Several Orthodox countries now belong to the European Union,there is an extensive body of Orthodox literature, both original and translated, available in Western languages,Orthodox theologians are to be found at many major Western universities. Yet the Orthodox theological tradition as a whole remains surprisingly...

The Changing Face Of The Orthodox World

The Ottoman conquest had concentrated the 'Byzantine commonwealth' of diverse peoples and nations into the 'Rum millet' led by the Greek patriarch. So it was not entirely surprising that, as the various peoples gained liberation, they should seek 'independence' also from the ecclesiastical authorities in Constantinople. If Constantinople itself had been liberated, history might have been different. But what actually happened in the wake of the Greek war of independence (1821) was the...

The Desire And Work Of God For Salvation

God desires salvation for all (cf. 1 Tim 2 4,- 1 Thess 5 9). It is impossible to isolate 'God's acts of salvation', as they are contiguous with the act of creation itself (e.g., Ps 73 74 13-18). The Fathers saw salvation embedded in the creation narratives, especially in their heavy use of typology seeing in Paradise a type for the Church, in Eve a type for Mary, and especially seeing in Adam a type for Christ (Rom 5 14). But some of them take the concept of 'type' or 'prefiguration' still...

Peter Bouteneff

Christian Orthodoxy has never restricted its doctrine of salvation to a single plane. Rather, the answers to the questions of how we are saved, and even what it means to be saved, rest simultaneously in multiple dimensions or paradigms. Salvation is understood as theosis ('deification'), as communion, as illumination of understanding, as freedom from captivity it is achieved through Christ's Incarnation, his divine-humanity, his teaching, his sacrifice on the Cross, the Church. Yet the...

Further reading

Binns, J., An Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches, Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 2002. Herrin, J., The Formation of Christendom, Oxford Basil Blackwell, 1987. McGuckin, J., The Orthodox Church, Oxford Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Meyendorff, J., The Orthodox Church Its Past and Its Role in the World Today, trans. J. Chapin, London Darton, Longman and Todd, 1962. Rome, Constantinople, Moscow Historical and Theological Studies, Crestwood, NY SVS Press, 1996. Papadakis, A., with...

Theology of the icon

CUNNINGHAM The Greek word eikon simply means 'image', but the word has come in Orthodox tradition to mean much more than simply a pictorial representation of a religious subject. Every icon, whether it depicts Christ, the Word and Son of God, Mary the Mother of God, a saint, or a biblical scene or feast, represents a confession of faith and a witness to the Incarnation. This is because the icon is a symbol, which manifests something greater than its physical...

The Divine Trinity

The mystery of the living God is that of the Tri-Unity. This, which unites the Three and the One in a single aspect and in a unique formulation but which also recalls the mystery of the Three and of the One, is beyond all conceptions of multiplicity and plurality. It is appropriate to cite here the celebrated passage by St Gregory of Nazianzus (known as 'the Theologian') in order to introduce Orthodox trinitarian theology No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the splendour...

Conclusion

In the Orthodox understanding, the mystery of human identity is an image of divine mystery. Gregory of Nyssa observes that the incomprehensibility of the human mind is an image of God's incomprehensibility.45 So although we have identified many features of the divine image in humankind in this chapter, this can only be a starting point. The image of God is multi-faceted and open-ended. There is always more to God, and thus more to God's self-manifestation within the human being, to be...

Elizabeth Theokritoff

According to the Christian understanding, the universe is God's creation. God does not simply give form to pre-existent matter, like Plato's demiurge he invents the material world, bringing it into being out of nothing. This doctrine speaks of both the fragility of creation, in that it has no necessary existence, and its firm foundation in that it exists by God's choice. It is less a theory of origins than a doctrine of relationship between the universe and God. In the striking image attributed...

Defining Christian Faith

Controversies concerning fundamental issues of faith and doctrine arose at a very early period. Orthodox Christianity developed its apologetic and dogmatic defence of the faith in response to an atmosphere of sophisticated intellectual debate, especially in the first eight centuries after Christ. In the late first and second centuries, diverse views concerning God's relationship with creation, cosmology and authority within the Church prompted a more formal definition of 'orthodoxy', led by...

Trinitarian Names And The Language Of Gender

The tradition of the Church confesses unanimously the trinitarian God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know, on the basis of Old Testament, Judaeo-Christian and Syrian traditions, that the Spirit is a bearer of feminine and even maternal characteristics, but it is impossible to define further the mystery of the third person who has not assumed a human existence and who is in his divine being beyond any gender determination. In the recent common declaration by the International Commission of...

The Divine Image And Human Culture

The divine image also includes the practical reason that has enabled humankind to develop creativity, the arts and sciences, economics and politics, and cultures. Because we are endowed with inventiveness, humans have created prodigious variety. Here, perhaps above all, it is clear that human free will governs the powers given with the divine image, so they can be used for good or evil. Human culture can glorify God and assist in his work, or it can threaten to undo God's handiwork by...

Freedom And Responsibility

Gregory of Nyssa emphasises the centrality of freedom. He notes that humans are free because they are images of God, who is free.13 They are able to choose between good and evil. This is why they were able to misuse their freedom and to fall. The divine image is like a mirror at the core of our being that we can choose to turn in different directions. When we turn it towards God, we too are filled with light, but when we turned away from God we became filled with darkness.14 To put it another...

Creation As Harmony And Unity

If the 'powers' of God pervade creation, then we would expect the created world itself to be constantly making him manifest and drawing us to him,-and this is a recurrent theme in the Cappadocian Fathers. A sustained example is Basil's Hexaemeron, a set of sermons on the six days of creation celebrating the variety and dynamism of a world where the Creator has 'left everywhere visible memorials of His wonders'.8 The Cappadocians use the Platonist language of their day,and the modern reader, to...

Convergence And Renewal

The Russian revolution was the decisive event for modern Orthodoxy, ushering in a new 'age of martyrs' for most of the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, the emigration following the revolution meant that the heirs to the intellectual ferment of the nineteenth century were largely scattered abroad. Many Russians fled to the Baltic states, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. But the centre of the emigration was Paris, where the St Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology (founded 1926) and the Russian YMCA Press...

The Filioque Question

This brings us to the controversy over the filioque, the Western addition to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed stating that the Holy Spirit 'proceeds from the Father and the Son'. As an Orthodox theologian, I consider the Augustinian and Thomist doctrines on the filioque to be incomplete, rather than erroneous or heretical. The intuitions of the patristic and Byzantine tradition, extending from the Cappadocian Fathers to Gregory of Cyprus and culminating in the creative work of St Gregory...

The Trinitarian Being Of The Church

From its origins, the Church is an epiphany of the divine will for salvation, life and eternal communion. If God is Trinity, then man, created in his image and likeness, is not only an individual, but also a trinitarian communion. 'It is not good for the man to be alone' - these words in Genesis 2 18 do not merely concern a human couple in paradise they express a reality inherent to human beings who are by nature and vocation beings of communion. We find here the roots of an ecclesiology that...

Royal Dignity

As bearers of God's image, all men and women are endowed with royal dignity. To be sure, St Basil is careful to keep a balance. He warns the proud to reflect on the earth from which they were made and the poor to reflect that dignitaries who intimidate them are also made from the earth. Yet he also encourages the poor not to envy the rich, since they too are endowed with all the gifts of the divine image.24 Early Christians such as St Gregory of Nazianzus and St John Chrysostom challenged Roman...

The Divinity Of The Holy Spirit

The defence of the divinity of the Son in the course of the fourth century necessarily led the Fathers to confess the divinity of the Holy Spirit and to recall his action in creation, in the life of the Church, and in the personal sanctification of the faithful. The Son and the Holy Spirit, in their joint activity in the world, were visualised by Irenaeus and other early Fathers in an economic sense as 'the two Hands of the Father'.8 It was at the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (ad...

The Shaping Of Trinitarian Doctrine And Language

Patristic writings, in continuity with the New Testament, reflect the Church's faith in Jesus Christ, dead and risen. It is from the core of a chris-tological approach that the trinitarian vision of the apostolic Fathers and their successors unfolds. Likewise, the Spirit is known by his advent at Pentecost and by his permanent indwelling of the Church. He is the Giver of new life, that is, the life in Christ, and of prophetic and charismatic gifts (cf. Acts and i Cor) in the context of an...

The Language Of Christology

Many, if not most, of the dimensions of salvation in Christ enumerated above are believed by Christians across confessional lines. But Orthodoxy's insistence on adherence to the precise and often technical definitions of the person of Christ is perhaps unique in its strength and persistence through the ages to the present. There are important reasons for that insistence, some of which follow from how Orthodox Christians understand the nature of theology and Church tradition. The chief reason...

Matthew Steenberg

Much as Orthodox theology is understood as the mystical encounter with the incarnate Christ, Son of the eternal Father, through the Spirit of Truth, so Orthodox ecclesiology is understood in incarnational and trinitarian terms. The Church is the body of Christ, offered 'for the life of the world',1 in which the world finds life through communion with its incarnate Lord. It is first and foremost in the meeting of divine and human, of uncreated and created, in the Incarnation of the Son that the...

The Trinity In Worship And Sacraments

Immersed as they are in the ecclesial and sacramental experience of the trinitarian mystery, the Fathers and teachers of the Church have also tried through the ages to formulate this mystery in rational and conceptual language. They have defended it against trinitarian heresies by means of conciliar formulations, and they have expounded it in theological and dogmatic treatises - not without fear and reticence about approaching unfathomable depths with a human language which is always...

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev

All religions contain an eschatological dimension since they are directed not only towards the reality of the material world, but also to the spiritual world not only to the present age, but also towards the future. In Christianity, however, eschatology plays such an essential role that, without the eschatological dimension, Christianity loses its meaning. Eschatology permeates the entire life of the Church its services, sacraments and rites, its theological and moral doctrine, its asceticism...

Sophiology And Its Legacy

The created order became a focus of theological interest in modern times as a result of the 'sophiological' speculations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This movement is associated especially with the names of Vladimir Soloviev, Pavel Florensky and Sergei Bulgakov. It can be seen as a reaction against post-Enlightenment rationalism, against a dualism that opposes faith and reason, spiritual and empirical, and indeed it drew inspiration from Western reactions to those...

Notes on contributors

Dr Nicolas Abou Mrad is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Saint John of Damascus Faculty of Theology, University of Balamand Lebanon , and Lecturer at various non-Orthodox theological schools in Lebanon. He is author of various articles and reviews in biblical theology and literature. The Rt Revd Dr Hilarion Alfeyev holds doctorates from Oxford and Paris. He is currently the Moscow Patriarchate's Bishop of Austria and Representative to the European Institutions. He has published widely...

An Ecclesial Cosmology

The images that we use for the cosmos are important. We have seen over recent centuries the effects of a mechanistic model, followed by efforts to redress the balance by introducing more organic metaphors. The images that have predominated in Orthodox thought are essentially ecclesial. The Orthodox understanding has been variously described as sacramental cosmology, eucharistic cosmology or cosmic liturgy, but the common factor is summed up in Maximus's words, 'the world is a church'.40 It is...

The Mutual Interdependence Of Bible And Liturgy

The official evidence for the authority and primacy of scripture is its canonisation as a sacred corpus in the Church's tradition over the first four centuries of church life. What is the essential content and purpose of the Bible viewed theologically If the Bible is God's word, what does God wish to communicate through scripture Three aspects define the substance of the Bible. First is the narration of the great deeds or 'wonders' of God megaleia theou, Acts 2 11 , ranging from the act of...

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash

The Orthodox understanding of scripture is based on two important principles of interpretation. In the first place, as the First Epistle to Timothy puts it, 'All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching' 2 Tim 3 16 . Secondly, holy scripture, both Old and New Testaments, forms one divine revelation. The Fathers of the Church and the writers of its hymns and prayers believed that the whole Bible spoke directly of Christ. This is what our Lord implies in Luke 24 44, 'Everything...

The Interpretation Of Scripture

The study of scripture is best accomplished with love for the Bible and accompanied by spiritual interests in harmony with its nature and message. But 'the word of God is not fettered' 2 Tim 2 9 . Countless women and men throughout the centuries have read the scriptures for comfort and direction without concern for formal matters of interpretation. Indeed most people, even preachers, usually read and interpret the Bible by means of free association within the community they live in and the body...