The Orthodox theology in the 21st century

  1. Lemma
  2. Ἡ ὀρθόδοξη θεολογία στὸν 21ο αἰώνα
  3. English
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Ethics - Orthodox Anthropology - Complementarity - Ecology and the environment - Scientific theories and disciplines > Biology - Orthodox theological tradition and practice - Scientific theories and disciplines > Psychology-Psychoanalysis
  6. 05-01-2018
  7. Ware, (Metropolitan) Kallistos [Author]. The Orthodox theology in the 21st century
  8. Ἡ ὀρθόδοξη θεολογία στὸν 21ο αἰώνα - Athens: Indiktos, 2005.
  9. academic theology - anthropology - apophatic anthropology - Christology - human personhood - Personalism - Afanassieff, Nikolai - ecclesiology - love
  10. Ορθόδοξη Ψηφιακή Θεολογική Βιβλιοθήκη Ι.Μ.Δ.
    1. <p>Ware, (Metropolitan) Kallistos [Κάλλιστος] (2005). <em>Ἡ ὀρθόδοξη θεολογία στὸν 21ο αἰώνα</em>. Athens: Indiktos</p>
    1. This is the text of a lecture given by the Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia at the Volos Academy for Theological Studies in April 28, 2004, as a part of a series of lectures, there presented by various scholars, under the general heading ‘Orthodoxy and Multiculturalism’. It revolves around two questions: a) What was the principal issue that Orthodox theology encountered during the 20th century? b) What will be the principal issue with which Orthodox theology will need to be concerned in the 21st century?

      As for the first question, Kallistos believes that ecclesiology was the issue on which, during the 20th century, the attention of Orthodox theology was mainly focused. The breakdown of the Czarist regime, the consequent dissociation of the Russian Church from the Russian state and the persecution of Christianism by the Bolsheviks, as well as the migration of Orthodox scholars in the West, were the historical factors that brought to the forefront the question ‘Why does the Church exist?’. Nikolai Afanassieff answered this question by highlighting the fundamental bond between the Church and the Eucharist: the ecclesiastical unity is not imposed from above, by virtue of power or authority, but is internally forged through the joint participation in the Body and the Blood of the Saviour. The Church, instead of being a part of the State, is the sacramental space in which the eucharistic sacrifice is offered. In Afanassieff’s conception of the Church, a new, sacramental twist was added to the idea propounded by some mid-19th century Russian Slavophiles that the Chuch should be defined as a community of mutual love. Henceforth, the mutual love that perserves the unity of the Church was not attributed to a subjective feeling, but to an objective activity, i.e., the joint participation of the Christians in the Holy Communion, which, furthermore, defies the limits of any nation-state or any particular cultural community whatsoever. Later, the Metropolitan of Pergamon, Ioannis Zizioulas deepened and moderated Afanassieff’s conception, by showing that the eucharistic dimension and the universality of the Church complement each other.

      In order to answer the second question that he initially posed, Kallistos points out that there are already many signs indicating that a turn will probably take place, in the 21st century, from ecclesiology towards anthropology. The question ‘What the Church is?’ will be followed up with the questions ‘What the human being is?’, and ‘What does it mean to be a person-in-relation, made in the image of the Trinitarian God?”. These questions, which involve the personhood of human beings, become particularly relevant today in view a) of the growing urbanization and globalization, of the cultural pluralism that results from this globalization and the danger of an homogenization that is also present in it, b) of the dehumanizing tendencies within contemporary technology, c) of the recent developments in genetic mechanics that raise serious moral issues, and finally d) of the devastating ecological tragedy that has to be seen as a symptom itself of an anthropological crisis.

      According to Kallistos, the deepening of our understanding of human personhood necessitates both a careful study of the significant, though scattered, insights provided in the writings of the Church and an openness to the Western modern theological discussions and the relevant present-day scientific disciplines, such as sociology and psychology. The concept of sacrament, the concept of image, and the concept of mediator, are the three keys that Orthodox theology should creatively use in this direction.

      The human person should be conceived as ontologically open, always pointing beyond the present state of affairs, to a future that is not yet realized. Under such an angle, human personhood appears to be a radically inexhaustible and excessive sign of hope, rather than a determinable and controllable point of departure, a fixed handle that we can grasp from the outset.  Apophatic theology requires an apophatic anthropology. Human personhood is meaningless, and loses also its proper orientation, without the relation to God. What we see in the mirror of our heart is but the divine image. To find an answer to the question ‘Who am I?” we look first of all at Christ, the incarnate Word. Anthropology is a chapter or a subdivision of Christology. The third necessary component of an elaborate Orthodox conception of human personhood is the idea that human being is a mediator between heaven and earth, a priest of creation, as developed by the Greek Church Fathers. Created in the image and likeness of God, the human being is not only a microcosm, or a macrocosm, itself, but also a small God, both an imago mundi, an ‘image of the world’ and an imago Dei, an ‘image of God’, both a logical and political animal and an eucharistic and ascetic animal.