Are we preaching the saving truth or hiding it?
by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis | September 4, 2018
The terms “neopatristic,” “post-patristic” and “contextual” theology have, I believe, basically the same meaning. They were invented by non-Orthodox theologians involved in ecumenical dialogues among them and between them and non-Christians. They were foolishly adopted by their Orthodox colleagues of the same mind. While post-patristic theology suits the purposes of the synchretistically-minded non-Orthodox and non-Christians, its adaptation by theologians who call themselves Orthodox constitutes a betrayal of the Faith and Tradition of the Church.
According to such theologians, we should not merely repeat the scriptural and patristic texts, but rather we should try to convey the “spirit” of these texts into our present-day cultural environment.1 As a result, a number of academic theologians and high-ranking Orthodox clerics try to re-interpret the holy Scripture, the holy Canons and the writings of the Holy Fathers in order to be able to approach the non-Orthodox and non-Christians.2 Approach them to what purpose? Not to preach to them the saving truth, but rather to hide it from them, saying truth is relative, and whatever anyone believes is truth to them, because the real purpose is to peacefully co-exist, to promote peace and not discord, “unity in diversity.”
The claim that “the Church engaged in dialogue with Judaism and Hellenism”4 is preposterous. In whatever “dialogue” the Fathers of the Church engaged in with non-Christians, it was not “in order to live in peace with them,” but to lead them away from their deception and lead them to the truth and salvation. The contemporary inter-religious dialogue the ecumenists have been engaged in with other faiths has nothing to do with the contacts the Fathers have had with non-Orthodox and non-Christians.
The purpose of Orthodox Conferences is “the inter-religious understanding and cooperation, and through these to the elimination of fanaticism from every side, and thus to reconciliation of peoples and the prevalence of the ideas of freedom and peace in the world, to serve modern man, irrespective of race and religion.”5 I wonder: is the purpose of the Orthodox Church “to achieve the truly credible furtherance of God’s will that peace, social justice and respect for fundamental human rights will prevail,” as the “Athens Declaration” concludes?6 Or, are “the humanitarian principles of the religions, such as freedom, human dignity and the true love of the others… the new way of discussion and understanding”?7 Or, is the purpose of Trinitarian theology, as another contextual Orthodox theologian, Prof. Petros Vasiliadis, states, to give “us the opportunity to understand the other as a co-walker of the discovery of the truth”?8
Post-modernist, post-patristic, contextual Orthodox theologians must have lost their heads if they believe that Orthodoxy must embrace the unorthodox applications of their newly discovered essential tool, contextuality, for bringing the gospel of salvation to the world. How do they think the whole world was Christianized? The irony is that the people of other cultures and religions of the world accepted the new Faith, while the people of the same culture and religion (Jewish) rejected it. What explanation do they offer?
Christianity spread with remarkable speed to the entire world, and did well by spreading the gospel of salvation through witness (martyria) and through martyrdom (martyrio). The Apostles and those appointed in their place were able, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, to reach peoples of all backgrounds and make them disciples of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. The people received the gospel of salvation and lived their lives according to it, expressing it correctly under the guidance of their pastors who were faithful to it and remaining in communion with the Church established by Christ and His Apostles.
Living in the Spirit and guided by Him, the Church continues to bring the salvific message to those who are receptive to receive it, no matter where they are, even in our “post-modern and globalized modern world.” She is always relevant, because She is the living Body of the Lord, in Whom all the graces indwell. It is a pseudo-argument that She remains enclosed within forms and shapes of the past, which are incomprehensible to people of different cultures and religions. We have the luminaries of our faith to guide us securely to Christ, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6a) We are in no need of the post-patristic contextual theology of the synchretist ecumenism.
Orthodox theology is in no need to run after inventions of the heretical Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Orthodox theology is in no need to “reclaim” the western “discovery” of its lost “contextual character,” because she is always guided to the truth. The purpose of the Church is not to maintain a perennial “dialogue” with other religions, for the purpose of mutual acceptance and respect, but to preach the gospel of salvation to the ends of the world, that Christ rose from the dead, and lives in the bodily form He assumed when He was incarnated, in which He also resurrected, and with which He shall come again to take with Him those who remained faithful to Him and bring them to the Father and live forever His life.
[Emphasis throughout added by Editor.]
- See “Neopatristic, metapatristic and contextual ‘theology’” by the Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios.
- See “Who needs ‘neopatristic’ or ‘metapatristic’ theology?”.
- Νίκος, "Who needs 'neopatristic' or 'metapatristic' theology?". Slightly edited.
- Petros N. Toulis, PhD Cand., “Orthodox Understanding of Religions. The Role of Contextual Theology”. Proceeding from a misapplication of the adapted Western understanding of contextual theology, the author has the temerity to criticize “new Orthodox theologians who misinterpret those attempts for the dialogue,” when his own analysis is a distortion of the intent of the Fathers.
- Synodica, Periodical edition of the Secretariat for the preparation of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, 2, Geneva 1978, p.201. (cited by Toulis, o.c.)
- Cited by Martzelos G., “Orthodoxy and Inter-religious dialogues ”, p. 6.
- Yianoulatos Anastasios, Facing the world, SVS, Crestwood, 2003, p.147 (advanced, according to Toulis, by Archbishop of Albania Anastasios).
- Vasiliadis P., Orthodoxy in a Crosswalk, Paratiritis publications, Thessaloniki 1992 (in Greek).
Article graphics and editing by Anthony Hatzidakis