Postmodernity and Church: The challenge of Orthodoxy

  1. Lemma
  2. Μετανεωτερικότητα καὶ Ἐκκλησία: Ἡ πρόκληση τῆς Ὀρθοδοξίας
  3. English
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Ecumenism and dialogue > Ecumenism - Complementarity - Orthodox Anthropology - Ecumenism and dialogue - Ecumenism and dialogue > Dialogue between churches - Ecumenism and dialogue > Dialogue between religions - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Premodern _modern_ postmodern
  6. 13-11-2017
  7. Vassiliadis, Petros [Author]. Postmodernity and Church: The challenge of Orthodoxy
  8. Μετανεωτερικότητα καὶ Ἐκκλησία: Ἡ πρόκληση τῆς Ὀρθοδοξίας - Athens: Akritas, 2002.
  9. postmodernity - postmodern religiosity - global mission of the Church - globalisation - Ecumenism - common mission of the Church - eschatology - Biblical Studies
    1. <p>Vassiliades, P. [Βασιλειάδης, Π.] (2002). <em>Μετανεωτερικότητα καὶ Ἐκκλησία: Ἡ πρόκληση τῆς Ὀρθοδοξίας</em>. Ορθόδοξη Μαρτυρία 80. Athens: Akritas</p>
    1. In the first part of his essay, Vassiliadis examines the place, and the possible role, held by the Church in postmodernity, the latter being defined as a historical transition in the modern history of humanity and a distinct historical period, an actual aspect of our contemporary reality, the implications of which extend to the totality of the sciences, of art, politics, and religion as well. The very existence of the Church becomes meaningful in relation to the actual world, in so far as the identity and the self-consciousness of the Church is the vision of a new world to come. In the highly secularized contemporary societies, the Church has been forced into the private sphere. At the same time, however, scientific knowledge and the power of reason, which in the 19th century had been prominent vehicles for this secularization, today have been relativized, after their authority has been subjected to the same methods of sociological and historical criticism that had been applied to religion in modernity. In such a historical and cultural context, the salvatory mission of the Church must be reinterpreted, both in terms of theological discussion and in terms of missionary practice. More specifically, the incorporation of an eschatological perspective of the universal mission into present-day missionary practice, the rediscovery of the Eucharistic theology of the ancient Church, and the abandonment of the imperialist 19th-century tactics of a Christomonistic mission, in favour of a Christian mission more firmly based on the Triadic doctrine and more focused on the reality of the testimony of the Church and on the inter-religious dialogue, are three important contributions made by Orthodox Christianity as for the meaning of a common Christian testimony in the post-modern era. Against the globalization of the repressive structures of an actually existing ecumene which is politically administered and economically organized, the new ‘common Christian mission’ sets the vision of another ecumene founded not on structures but on living relations and interactions, reopening the eschatological prospect of the coming kingdom of God.

      In the second and the third part of his essay, the author delves into the questions of the implications of the postmodern condition for the biblical studies and the eschatological identity of the Church, respectively. As for the study of Holy Scripture, as a field of theological knowledge and a distinct discipline belonging to the humanities, a ‘paradigm shift’ from the historical-critical approach to a paradigmatic theological approach seems to be necessary. The contemporary Eucharistic community should not read the Holy Scripture in order to reconstruct the exact historical events marking its own past, but in order to bring the eternal and the non-historical back into the temporal and the historical, that is, in order to reactivate the life-giving Spirit into the every-day reality, by bridging the gap between past and present, on the one hand, and present the eschata, on the other. With regard to the eschatological dimension itself, in the life of the Church, the author believes that the quintessence of Christian theology lies in the relation between history and eschatology. The object of theology is the realization of the eschatological vision of the Church in the social reality and more generally in the Creation, under the existing, each time, conditions. The ecclesiological teachings of the ancient Church were developed from the radical eschatological teachings of the historical Jesus for the coming kingdom of God. The eschatological self-consciousness of the Church, the very idea that the Church forms an image of the coming kingdom of God, was the starting point for the mission of the Church into the actual world. It is precisely this eschatological dimension that is vividly highlighted by the genuine Orthodox tradition, both in the bishop-centered structure of the Church, as described by the Orthodox theology, and in the Orthodox liturgy. For all that, in the present-day Orthodox Church, the dialectical tension between history and eschatology seems to have faded away. Through a creative synthesis between the western spirituality, where the historical role of the Church is emphasized, and the eastern spirituality, where eschatology never ceased to play a crucial role, the genuine eschatology of the Church, which cannot be detached from an interest in what takes place in human history and the actual historical development, may be rediscovered. Through such a reconnection of the eschatological identity of the Church with its historical dimension, a liturgical renaissance, the re-establishment of the ecclesiologically proper liturgical practice, may also take shape.

      The problem of the possible unity of the Church is the topic of the fourth, and final, part of Vassiliadis’ book. In this part, the author points out that the participation of the Orthodox Church in the ecumenical dialogue is dictated by certain fundamental elements of its own theology, such as the vision of a universal Eucharistic community to come and the emphasis on the possibility of a communion with the other (nature, other human beings, God), as a reflection of the perfect divine communion of the persons in the Holy Trinity. Today, the acknowledgement of the multiformity of the various expressions of the one and only Gospel and the acceptance of otherness as a necessary component of a real union, may facilitate, in the present conditions, the actual dialogue for a visible unity of the Church, seen as a ‘conciliar fellowship’ of local churches operating in a variety of contexts. Only an encounter between the western, historical approach, and the eastern, eschatological approach, can render possible a proper answer to the question of the identity of the Church, without which no prospect of universal agreement on the question of its unity is possible. The problem of the eschatological orientation of the Church is also discussed briefly in an appendix under the title ‘Institution and charismatic gift in the eastern and in the western tradition’.