The reception of the Enlightenment in Greece

  1. Lemma
  2. Die Rezeption der Aufklärung in Griechenland
  3. German
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Integration - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Premodern _modern_ postmodern - Culture and national identities - Ecumenism and dialogue > Westernism and anti-westernism
  6. 2001
  7. Begzos, Marios [Author]. The reception of the Enlightenment in Greece
  8. Theologische Zeitschrift
  9. Enlightenment - Eurocentrism - Hellenocentrism - nationalism - Neopatristic movement - Florovsky - academic theology - Greek Orthodox Church
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    1. <p>Begzos, M. (2001). Die Rezeption der Aufklärung in Griechenland. <em>Theologische Zeitschrift</em>,<em> 57</em>, 326-334.</p>
    1. The author poses the question of the actual development and influence of the Enlightenment in Greece taking the history of Modern Greek theology as his departure point. Theology became an academic discipline in Greece after 1837, when a theological faculty was established in the University of Athens. A century later, in 1942, a second faculty of theology was established in the University of Thessaloniki. The creation of academic theological institutions represented a novelty for the Eastern Church. Up till then theological education had been provided exclusively by ecclesiastical seminars and monastic schools. A significant feature of this new situation, initially owing to the fact that the Greek state in establishing its own educational system used the German state education as a model, was the dissociation and independence of the academic theology from the Church and more particularly from the Church authorities.

      According to Begzos, the history of Modern Greek theology can be divided into three periods: the beginnings (1837-1936), the middle period (1936-1976), and the later phase, from 1976 onwards. The early generations of Modern Greek theologians exhibited an idealist, critical, neo-Kantian philosophical orientation, exalting ancient Greek philosophy at the expense of the Byzantine spirituality, neglecting the peculiarities of the domestic intellectual traditions and divorcing, religion, which was primarily regarded as a reservoir of moral norms, from the secular Modern Greek culture. Starting from the late 1930s, the proponents of this ‘Eurocentric’ theology were succeeded by a generation of theologians with a different, or rather opposite, mindset, who adopted personalist and existentialist beliefs. Influenced by some contemporary Western philosophical trends, such as Phenomenology, Existentialism and Personalism, as well as by the Russian philosophy of religion and the Greek-Byzantine Patristic thought, the Greek theologians of the middle period countered the program of ‘Europeanization’, launched and defended by their predecessors, with an agenda of ‘Hellenization’, invoking not only the heritage of Greek antiquity, but especially that of Byzantine Hellenism, which survived up to the modern times.

      The later phase of Modern Greek theology is characterized by the critical assimilation of the personalist-existentialist tradition. There are two main tendencies in the current development of theological studies in Greece. The one is fundamentalist and neo-conservative (the ‘Neo-Orthodox’ theology), whereas the other is the highly promising outcome of a radical and critical interpretation of the past theological debates. The ‘Neo-Orthodox’ tendency is symptomatic of two mutually reinforcing ideologies in present-day Greek society: individualism and nationalism. In its various branches, the personalist tenets are invested with strong anti-Western sentiments, grounded on the absence of genuinely historical thinking and buttressed by the ideologeme of the so-called ‘Romiosini’ (i.e. the Christianized Hellenism). These anti-Western prejudices fuel religious fundamentalism and often culminate in chauvinistic and racist views. By contrast, the radical tendency, hitherto much less influential in the everyday life of the Church, is Neo-Patristic, informed by G. Florovsky’s ‘Neo-Patristic Synthesis’, and maintains a critical, dialectical and dialogical stance towards the Enlightenment, evincing at the same time awareness of the vital current social-political questions, as well as a keen interest in natural-philosophical and ecological issues. Begzos believes that the present and future challenges demand that the pendulum movement, which up to now distinctly marks off the historical evolution of Modern Greek theology, between ‘Eurocentrism’ and ‘Hellenocentrism’, or between the individualist and nationalist ‘Neo-Orthodox’ theology and the radical ‘Neo-Patristic’ theology, should come to a halt, through a synthesis of the Modern Greek particularity with the European universality. The reception of the Enlightenment in Greece is the yardstick against which the development of Greek theology is to be evaluated.