As one studies the texts of
the Holy Bible and the Fathers, one realizes that the basis
of Orthodox theology is God's revelation - as given to the
Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers - throughout the
Characteristic of this is the
beginning of the Epistle to Hebrews: "Having spoken in
many aspects and many ways in the past to the fathers and the
prophets, at the end of these times God spoke to us in the
Son" (Hebrews 1:1)
πολυτρόπως πάλαι ο Θεός λαλήσας τοις πατράσιν εν
τοις προφήταις, επ'
εσχάτου των ημερών τούτων
ελάλησεν ημίν εν υιώ»
Thus, it is the Saints who
are the divinely-inspired theologians, who formulate their
experience in clauses, in order to safeguard it from heresy
and distortion. Therefore, the "Oroi" (terms)-dogmas are an
important element of our tradition and no-one can tamper
with them without losing the pathway to his salvation.
important phrase of the Hesychast Synod of the 14th century
- as expressed in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy - is that our
course is "according to the divinely-inspired theologies of
the saints, and the pious conscience of the Church".
Saints do not express their own theology; they only
formulate with their particular charismas the revelation
that they personally experienced in the Holy Spirit.
Not only can there not be an Orthodox theology outside of
this perspective; in fact, the very foundation of salvation
would be seriously imperiled.
When interpreting what the Apostle Paul had said about his
being swept up into Paradise where he "heard ineffable
words, which are not befitting a man to utter" (2
Cor.12:1-4), Saint Symeon the New Theologian said that those
words were the illuminations of God's uncreated glory, and
that they were referred to as "ineffable" because they could
not be expressed perfectly by those receiving the experience
of that revelation, as it is something beyond the measure of
human nature and power.
John Romanides, when speaking about this subject, says that
a revelation is given to Saints with ineffable words, and
the Saints express it, as far as they are able, with created
words, meanings and images, in order to teach other people
so that they might walk the path of their salvation.
becomes obvious that God's revelation is conveyed with the
terms of each era, by the bearers of that Revelation - the
true theologians - according to the definition provided by
Saint Gregory the Theologian, that: "it is not for
everyone [...] to philosophize about God [...]
it is not for everyone, because it is for those who have
been tested and who have lived in theory and before this,
those who have at least cleansed both soul and body or are
These theologians - the deified ("theumens") - are acquainted with God
through experience; they recognize and respect all the
precedent "God-seers" and they accept the terms that they
Consequently, those who can - if necessary - make certain
external changes are the true, empirical theologians, who
have the same tradition as the precedent Fathers. The rest
of us owe obedience to those "initiated through experience"
and be guided by them.
In the "Hagiorite Tome",
which is the work of Saint Gregory Palamas, there is mention
that the dogmas are familiar to "those who have become
initiated by experience", who have forsaken money, the fame
that people seek and the bad pleasures of the body, all for
the sake of the evangelical life. They have confirmed that
forsaking, with their submission to those who have
progressed to the measure of Christ, and, after having lived
in sacred hesychasm with prayer, have become united with God
in a mystical union with Him, and have thus become
"initiated in things beyond the mind".
These are the true theologians of the Church, who possess
the potentials to formulate theology. Apart from them, there
are also those who become joined to the aforementioned,
"through modesty and faith and caring towards them".
There is no other way to theologize in the Orthodox Church,
because outside that theology, there only exist rumination,
slogans and populism. Saint Gregory the Theologian,
when observing "the current tongue-wagging and the
same-day sages and the ordainable theologians" who are
satisfied only with the desire to be wise, says: "I desire
the highest philosophy and seek the extreme standard -
according to Jeremiah - and wish to be only on my own".
Indeed, we are nowadays overcome with sorrow, because our
era is filled with "self-ordained theologians" who teach
Clerics and laity and create confusion in the people.
These introductory words are deemed necessary, for
a better understanding of what follows.
1. «Palamist» and «neopalamist» theology
14th century was extremely important for the Church, because
for the very first time, Orthodox theology confronted the
West's scholastic theology, in the persons of Saint Gregory
Palamas and Barlaam respectively.
In this dialogue, it became evident that Saint Gregory
Palamas was the bearer and the expresser of the entire
theology of the Church, from the first period of
Christianity and up until his time, given that he expressed
the teaching of the Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers, the
major Fathers of the 4th century, of Saint Maximus the
Confessor, Saint John of Damascus, Saint Symeon the New
Theologian, e.a.. During this entire period, the
theology of the Church is uniform, changing only in its
external formulation in certain points, for the sake of
various emergencies. That is why Saint Gregory was also
characterized as a traditional as well as a new theologian.
Thus, the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas cannot be
regarded as "Palamist" theology per se, but as the theology
of the Orthodox Church, as expressed by him. The same is
observed with the teachings of all the Saints.
Usually, heretics' views would take on the name of the
person involved - for example "Arianism", "Nestorianism", "Paulicanism",
etc.. It is therefore regarded as unseemly to name the
teaching of Saint Basil the Great as "Basilist", of Saint
Gregory as "Gregorianist", or of Saint John the Chrysostom
as "Chrysostomist" etc.. and as such, it is equally
inappropriate to name the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas
as "Palamist" theology.
However, at a certain point in time, the teaching of Saint
Gregory Palamas was in fact characterized by some as "Palamist".
It is my impression that in most cases the term had a
derisive nuance, intended to demote his teaching and make it
seem like a strange one and different to the theology of the
Church. There had even been theologians who in the
past had actually written disparagingly about the overall
hesychastic tradition expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas.
Eventually, the term «neopalamist» theology also appeared,
in an attempt to re-formulate and re-interpret the theology
of this major Father of the Church, for contemporary
requirements. And this has created intense concern, because
I believe that this is an endeavour to alter the teaching by
Saint Gregory Palamas.
example, a teaching of the Church on the relationship and
the difference between Essence and Energy as expressed by
Saint Gregory Palamas is analyzed, but, at the same time,
the hesychast tradition is rejected as pietistic, which is
in fact the path for a personal partaking of the uncreated
energy of God.
the question that is posed here is: How can a scientist discuss a
theory, when he rejects a practice that confirms it? That is
just as unscientific. That is why, during "conciliar
opining", those who do not accept the hesychast tradition as
expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas and the "concurring
monks" are excommunicated.
have been aware of this mentality for many years now, on
account of my preoccupation with the opus and the teaching
of Saint Gregory Palamas. That is why, when wishing to
analyze his teaching and record my conclusions after many
years, I did so on the basis of the lives of the sanctified
Hagiorite Fathers, who continue to live that same hesychast
tradition and experience that Saint Gregory Palamas had been
acquainted with and had experienced himself, on the Holy
Thus, the work that I composed has the title "Saint Gregory
Palamas as a Hagiorite". This aroused the displeasure
of certain circles who insisted on interpreting the teaching
of Saint Gregory Palamas in a contemplative, scholastic and
philosophical manner. One cannot however examine
hesychast teaching independently of the space where it was
experienced - and continues to be alive in, to this day.
Consequently, the terms «palamist» and «neopalamist»
theology belong outside the Orthodox Tradition and are a
danger to the foundations of Orthodox theology.
2. Neopatristic and metapatristic «theology»
previous example shows how contemporary theologians behave
and react towards the Tradition of our Church. I have
been in discussions with an Orthodox professor of biblical
theology, who teaches at a University abroad but has been
immensely influenced by Protestant ideas and who maintains
that, since Christ is the Sun of justice, the Fathers are
the clouds that hide the Sun, in which case, we must remove
the clouds in order to be illuminated directly, by Christ.
This point of view is anti-Orthodox.
I therefore believe it was from within this kind of
perspective that the terms "neopatristic" and
"metapatristic" theology were coined. At first, the term
"neopatristic" timidly appeared on the scene, supposedly
for the reason that Patristic texts shouldn't merely be
repeated, but rather that the "spirit" of those texts has to
be traced and be conveyed into present-day circumstances
- in other words, to examine how the Fathers would have
addressed contemporary issues.
Despite the well-meaning intentions of some, this is a
perilous move because in reality, the entirety of Patristic
theology is undermined when impassioned individuals attempt
to transfer the "spirit" of the Fathers into their own era.
An authentic transfer presupposes people who possess the
same empirical knowledge - or at least are in contact with
Then followed the term "metapatristic" theology, inasmuch
as it was considered that we no longer need the Fathers who
had lived in other times, encountered other problems,
confronted other ontological and cosmological questions, "a
totally different worldview" and, consequently, who are unable
to help us out in our own era.
I believe that the neopatristic and metapatristic
theologies are reminiscent of a viewpoint according to
which, Patristic theology was of value to its own era, and
that later, Western scholastic theology became superior to
Patristic theology, while the theology of contemporary
theologians surpasses both Patristic theology and scholastic
Views such as these constitute landmines in the foundations
of Orthodox theology, because they are characterized by the
heretical view of a progressive revelation of the Truth
through the ages, and that the Church deepens into
Revelation over Time, as opposed to the Orthodox teaching
which clearly stresses that "all truth" was once-revealed,
on the day of the Pentecost.
Thus, there is no deepening into the Truth over time, nor is
there any progressive revelation of the Truth; only that the
Church formulates that same, "once-revealed" Truth according
to the problems of the time.
The appearance of the so-called neopatristic and
metapatristic theology is attributed to certain theologians
who had worked in the Western sphere, with Paris as the
centre. They had embarked on dialogues with Western thought
and had tried to give answers to the problems that they had
We owe much to those theologians - for example Vladimir
Lossky - who had written theological works using the Fathers
of the Church - and in fact the ones known as Neptic
Among those theologians however, there are
some who had expressed neopatristic, metapatristic and
contextual theology. We shall make a brief mention of
some of those ideas:
There are mentions of an ecumenism which "should abandon
verbal arguments, in order to be founded upon an
experimental reality of salvation: by re-submerging those
systems and ideas (which in the long run are nothing more
than traces within the spherical experience of the Church),
into the best that Her experience possesses".
Fanaticism is linked to the "confessional identity", which
"constitutes, if not its seed, then at least the ground in
which it is cultivated", and that is why there is word of
reconstructing a house "with open doors, the new Jerusalem,
the Kingdom", in which everyone will have a place. And
whosoever does not wish to toil for the construction of such
a house should be removed, while the "key" to that house is
the best thing that one could possess, and that which unites
Also being traced are common, "contextual" points between
Christianity and Judaism, Islam and Hinduism-Buddhism. From
within this perspective, "a new cultural mutation" must be
attempted, and also (as stressed), "we Christians need to
work hard on the prospect of this convergence. This is far
more interesting, compared to arguing amongst ourselves."
"Metapatristic" and "contextual" ideas such as these are
transferred into Greece in "middleman" style and are
intended to either contradict the Fathers (who are regarded
"museums" of the past), or to misinterpret Patristic
passages, in order to incorporate them in the new mentality.
The assignment and the perspective of metapatristic and
contextual theology is evident, in just how dangerous it is
for the Orthodox Church, leading Her into a syncretism - not
only in the way of life but also in the expression of the
faith. This in reality gives rise to doubt about the
demarcation of the faith as done by the holy Fathers; in
other words, it dismantles the entire theology of the
Ecumenical Councils. This is a serious problem, which needs
to be tackled ecclesiastically.
3. The "oroi" (terms) of the Ecumenical Councils and the
We all need to accept the basic position that the Church is
a living reality; that She is the Body of Christ and the
community of theosis and, subsequently, that the Church
gives birth to Fathers - and not the Fathers who give birth
to the Church. This means that every era is a patristic era,
and that in every era there appear Fathers of the Church,
who are "living organisms".
However, these "living organisms" are
not at all different
to the precedent Fathers. Characteristically, when Saint
John of Damascus - who lived in the 8th century - spoke of
the Theotokos (=God-bearer , the
one who gives birth to God)
and repeated the words of Saint Gregory the
Theologian: "...if one does not confess the holy Virgin as
(God-bearer), he is without holiness", he
are not my own words, but they also are my words; for I have
inheritance, from the theologically endowed theologian
In other words, Saint John of Damascus does not regard these
words to be his, given that he had received them from Saint
Gregory the Theologian who lived four centuries before him,
but at the same time, he also regards them as his own words,
because they were an inheritance - a "most theological
inheritance"- which he received "from a theologian father"
and verified. Those who desire to be theologians
acknowledge the true theologians, accept their teaching,
render them their own fathers, and they inherit -through
spiritual birth- their words as well as their godly
is in this manner that spiritual life is passed on, from the
past, during every era. Just as biological life is
transferred from generation to generation from living - not
dead - parents, thus likewise is the in-Grace spiritual
life, the true theology, transferred by living - not dead -
spiritual organisms. When referring
to the illumination of the angelic hosts on high "according
to rank" by God - that is, "from the first legion to the
second and then onto the next one and so on" - Saint Symeon
the New Theologian says that the same applies to the Saints
also. "...thus, those who are attached to the precedent
saints who, from generation to generation had become saints
by observing God's commandments, similarly become
illuminated." One becomes attached to the
precedent Saints by observing God's commandments and becomes
illuminated like they did. In this manner an uninterrupted
chain is formed and every link is attached to the others
with the Faith, with works and with love.
With this patristic teaching, the
following words of the Apostle Paul are interpreted:
"...for even if you have ten thousand educators in
Christ, you do not have many fathers; in Christ Jesus,
through the Gospel, I have begotten you." (1
Cor.4:15) There is a difference between in-Christ educators
and in-Christ Fathers. Spiritual Fathers beget
spiritual children through the Gospel - that is, through
observance of Christ's commandments - whereas educators
Those living in the same tradition
enforce the evangelical commandments in their lives; they
struggle against their passions in order to attain the
partaking of God; they also achieve communion with the other
Saints who lived before them and who likewise belong to the
same tradition. A characteristic quote by the Fathers who
endorsed the Hagiorite Tome: "These things we have been
taught by the Scriptures; these things we have received from
our Fathers; these things we have learnt, with our small
In the Biblical-patristic tradition there
is a difference between Prophets-Theoptes (God-sighters)-theologians
and speculators, analogous to the difference that exists
between prophecy and speculation. The Prophet Elijah cries
out: "Behold, the Lord God Shabuoth takes away from Judea and
from Jerusalem the powerful (man) and the powerful (woman)
..... and the prophet and speculator and elder..."
On interpreting this passage, Saint John the Chrysostom
makes the distinction between speculator and prophet: "Here,
it seems to me that he (Isaiah) calls "speculator"
the one who - out of much prudence - as well as out of an
experience of things - ponders about the things to come",
whereas prophecy is the Prophets' inspiration by the Holy
Spirit: "For speculation is another thing, and prophecy
another; the latter utters things in the divine Spirit,
contributing nothing of his own, while the former, taking
causes from things already happened, and activating his own
prudence, foresees many things of the future, as much as
befits a prudent person to foresee". And he
concludes: "But there is much in between the one and the
other: as much as is the difference between human prudence
and divine grace." And in order to justify that
distinction, he indicates the difference between king
Solomon and the Prophet Elisha.
Christ had declared to His contemporaries: "Did you
not read what was told to you by God, Who said 'I am the God
of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'? God
is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
(Matth.22:31-32) For us Orthodox, God is not an abstract
notion, nor is He an ideology; He is the one Who reposes in
living organisms - the Saints - according to the words of
the liturgical prayer: "God, the Holy One, Who reposes in
saints..." and according to the hymn: "the God of our
Fathers" (not of ...meta-fathers); the God of living
organisms who exist in every era.
According to fr. Georges Florovsky, the Church is apostolic
because it is Patristic. He writes: "The Church is indeed
'apostolic', but is also 'patristic'. Essentially, She is
the 'Church of the holy Fathers'. It is impossible to
separate the two characterizations. It is because the Church
is 'patristic', that She is truly also 'apostolic'..."
also points out that in our time, after so many studies, "we
are ready to admit the eternal prestige of the 'Fathers', as
well as the fact that the Church is not 'a museum of dead
deposits, nor is She a research company". The deposits
are living ones - "depositum juvenescens" according to Saint
Irenaeus. Faith is not an heirloom of the past, but rather
'the sword of the Spirit'...". He furthermore
confesses that the interpretation of the Holy Bible is done
by the theology that is expressed by the Saints of every
era. "The Scriptures are in need of interpretation.
They are revealed, in theology. And it is only possible through the
bearer of the living experience of the Church."
Thus, in order for us to be Orthodox and possess the
certainty of our salvation, there is no need for any
neopatristic, metapatristic and contextual theology.
We need two things: Firstly, to remain steadfast - as
it is our duty - to the terminology of the Fathers of the
Ecumenical Councils because that terminology constitutes a
significant part of the Orthodox Tradition - the true and
authentic consensus patrum - but also to remain firm in the
revealed truth that was given to the Fathers.
Secondly, to seek "living organisms" who live within the
"spirit of the Gospel and the Ecumenical Councils - in other
words, those who observe the Orthodox prerequisites of the
dogmas, in order to guide us correctly in the observance of
Unfortunately, those who speak of neopatristic,
metapatristic and contextual theology have a problem with
both of these prerequisites - that is, with the terms of the
Ecumenical Councils and with the "living organisms" of
This is the reason they are vexed by the theology that fr.
John Romanides expressed: it was because this important
teacher had linked the genuine Orthodox theology of the
Ecumenical Councils with contemporary hesychastic tradition;
in other words, he linked theology with experience - the
professorial chair with the hesychast retreat.
theology is not expressed empirically it becomes speculation
and it tires people, and if experience is not supported on
the theology of the Ecumenical Councils it is merely a
personal piety, which can possess "contextual" elements
found in the other eastern traditions. Fr. John
Romanides appears as a nuisance to the speculators, the
philosophizing theologians, who are possessed by the
"speculative analogy" - in the words of Saint Gregory
Furthermore, this is the reason that - in my opinion -
certain contemporary, significant Hagiorite personages (such
as the Elders Porphyrios, Paisios, Joseph the Hesychast,
Sophrony Zacharov, e.a.) are doubted by some; the life and
the teaching of such "living organisms" of ecclesiastic
living are a nuisance to contemporary syncretistic theology.
one of my speeches presented in the past for the purpose of
documenting the theoretical teaching of the Church, I made
use of texts by fr. Porphyry - a sanctified Hieromonk of our
own time. I felt remarkably surprised when Orthodox
theologians and Clergymen who were present had disagreed
with my reference to words by fr. Porphyry, because
according to their views, the Orthodox faith was being "ideologized".
surprise was immense, because even in science, reference to
people who produce an artistic or philosophical work is a
token of its veridicality, but according to certain
contemporary theologians, a reference to people who live the
true Orthodox theology is regarded as ideologizing! I have
transcribed this entire discussion; if it is ever published,
the "deliberations of many hearts" will be revealed.
In conclusion, I believe that modern theology - which
disengages itself from the Fathers and is expressed with
sonorous terms, supposedly out of love for contemporary man
- is dangerous for the Church and Her theology. It is truly
a speculative method of theology - a populism that is
practiced by "self-ordained theologians" on account of their
incorrect interpretation of the term "regal priesthood".