Philosophy and theology in Nikos Nissiotis: From personalism to pneumatology

  1. Lemma
  2. Philosophie und Theologie bei Nikos Nissiotis: Vom Personalismus zur Pneumatologie
  3. Koutalis, Vangelis
  4. Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies - Key thinkers - Culture and national identities
  5. 2010
  6. Begzos, Marios [Author]. Philosophie und Theologie bei Nikos Nissiotis: Vom Personalismus zur Pneumatologie
  7. Θεολογία
  8. Personalism
    1. <p>Begzos, M. (2010). Philosophie und Theologie bei Nikos Nissiotis: Vom Personalismus zur Pneumatologie. <em>Θεολογία, 81</em>, 619-631.</p>
    1. Marios Begzos, in this article describes key aspects of Nikos Nissiotis’ theology. Nissiotis developed a personalist interpretation of the Greek Patristic tradition, from an ecumenical perspective and fixedly paying attention to the implications of modern secularism. Having familiarized himself with both the Patristic tradition and the modern existential philosophy, he introduced into Greek theology a problematic informed by the philosophy of Kierkegaard and Jaspers, though not without critical reservations, especially concerning the latent individualism, the polarization between individual and society and the psychologism that could be diagnosed in the existentialist project.

      Nissiotis’ theology was not an existentialist theology, since his personalism owed much to the Patristic tradition, in which the concept of person, signifying the unity in relation, has precedence over the concept of individual or that of substance. Through conceptulizations bearing the traces of modern existentialism, but drawing his inspiration first and foremost from the Patristic writings, Nissiotis highlighted that Christian God is one, but not solitary, that there is not an abstract, essentialist God, but only one Triadic personal God.

      Next to personalism, pneumatology is the other central pillar of Nissiotis’ theology. Being, in his view, the touchstone of the doctrine of the Triad, which can be regarded as the borderline dividing the Eastern Church from the Occidental Church, pneumatology opens up a space of theological discussion and criticism in which natural theology, that is, the attempt to establish the unity of the world by transforming the natural into spiritual itself, is rendered meaningless, and the limitations, as well, both of Roman Catholic ‘patromonism’ and the Protestant ‘christomonism’ could be better grasped and transcended. The Holy Spirit, according to Nissiotis, is a principle of unity, a principle which connects. It does not operate as an organizer, but as a renovator. The unity in the Triad, instead of being static or functional, is hypostatical, and such a conception of unity leaves no room for any kind of monism, either that which isolates the person of the Father or that which isolates the person of the Son. The pneumatological christology of Nissiotis culminates in an Orthodox ecclesiology. The Church is not conceived as a collection of individuals or as a sacred institution, but in its historical reality or rather in its significance for history itself. More particularly, for Nissiotis, the Church is the reality, the axis, and the center of history: a passage from the condition of the anonymous human masses to that of a community of persons. It is from such an angle that he was a proponent of the active participation of Orthodoxy in the ecumenical dialogue.