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Review Essay: “Scenes from Modern Orthodox Theology.” Review of Ivana Noble et al., Wrestling with the Mind of the Fathers (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015); and Andrew Louth, Modern Orthodox Thinkers (SPCK Press, 2015). St Vladimir’s

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Review Essay: “Scenes from Modern Orthodox Theology.” Review of Ivana Noble et al., Wrestling with the Mind of the Fathers (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015); and Andrew Louth, Modern Orthodox Thinkers (SPCK Press, 2015). St Vladimir’s Theological
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  St   Vladimirs   Geological    Quarterl)  520-505  (2016)  60.4   R eview   E ssay   S cenes   from   M odern   O rthodox   T heology Kkxew    Lok   \     Modern   Orthodox   linkers:   From   the   Philokalia   to   the  Present.   London:   SPCK   &   Downers   Grove,IL:   InterVarsity   Press,   2015.   ISBN:   978-0-281-07127-2   (UK)   978-0-8308-5121-8(US).   382pp.   $35.00. Ivana   Noble,   Katerina   Bauerova,   Tim   Noble   &   Parush   Paru-   skv,   Wrestling   tuitb   the    Mind    0   the   F6tthers.XoàtÎS    KS[*.SVS    Press,   2015.   ISBN   978-088141514-   8.   283pp.   $29.00. Several   different   approaches   are   possible   in   the   study   of    historical   theology.,   notably   the   chronological,   the   thematic,   and   the   biographical.   Each   has   its   strengths   and   weaknesses.   The   historical   approach   focuses   on   defined   periods   of    time,   seeking   to   trace   the   development   of    ideas   and   movements;   the   thematic   examines   the   evolution   of    specific   ideas   in   different   authors   over   time;   while   the   biographical   looks   at   the   life,   the   times,   and   the   thought   of    individual   authors.   These   broad   approaches   are,   of    course,   far   from   water-tight,   and   mixed   approaches   are   typically   found.   Classical   examples   of    a   chronological-biographical   approach   and   of    a   thematic   approach   to   patristics   are   .asten ’ s   Patrology   and   Kelly ’ s    Early   Christian    Doctrines   respectively.Fr   Andrew  Louth ’ s   book,   as   the   title   suggests,   looks   primarily   at   individual   Orthodox   theologians,   arranged   chronologically,   while   the   book    by   Ivana   Noble   et   al.   takes   a   more   historical   perspective   and   is   structured   around   five   major   types   or   approaches   in   modern   Orthodox   theology. ?£   *   ?f  ^e   book    by   Ivana   Noble   et   al.   throws   down   the   gauntlet   to   Orthodox   theologians,   ^e   book  ’ s   main   thesis   is   that   Orthodox   theology   has   become   impoverished   as   a  result   of    the  domination   of  505  ST   VLADIM IRS THEOLOGICAL   QUARTERLY 506 neopatristic   theology   (referred   to   as   "the   Neo-Patristic   synthesis ” )   during   a   large   part   of    the   twentieth   century   and   up   to   the   present.   This   has   resulted,   the   authors   argue,   in   the   muting   of    other   valid  "voices ”   from   earlier   periods   which   also   sought   to   appropriate,   in   different  ways,   the  heritage   of    the   patristic   tradition.   There   is   hence   a   need   for   other   theological   "voices ”   to   be   heard   in   contemporary   Orthodox   theology. ^e   indictment   against   the   Neo-Patristic   synthesis   is   presented   in   the   first   chapter,   with   weak    praise   for   some   of    its   acceptable   aspects,  followed   by   surveys   of    the   other   voices:   hesychasm   (chapter   2);   the   Slavophiles   (chapter   3)   sophiology   (chapter   4);   and   social   theology   (chapter   5).   ere   is   a   brief    m ention   of    a   sixth   mode   of    theology   in   the   Introduction,   neo-scholastic   theology   (often   called   academic   theology),   is   is   dispatched   in   short   order   (.10,   20),   but   the   resilience   of Orthodox   neo-scholasticism   cannot   be   ignored.   The  main   thrust   of    the   book    is   thus   the   need   for   the deconstruction   of    neopatristic   theology.,   seen   as   an   approach   "that   seeks   to   reject   diversity   and   difference, ”   a   "kind   of    ideological   monism ”   (13),   expressions   that   smack    of    conspiracy   theory.  Neopatristic   Theology Several   methodological   issues   arise   from   the   main   thesis   and   its deployment   in   each   chapter,   e   image   of    neopatristic   theology   that   is   presented   is   largely   centered   on   the   notion   of    "synthesis, ”   a   term   that   George   Florovsky   first   used   in   the   late   1940s   to   describe   the   theological m ethod   that   he   was   advocating.   The  book    leaves   the   impression   that   Florovsky   used   the   word   "synthesis ”   in   a   formal,   philosophical   sense,   as   in   this   statement:   “ we   outline   the   strengths   of    the   patristic   renewal,   while   considering   its   weakness,   namely   the   idea   of    synthesis   as   such, which, we   argue,   is   reductionist ”   (20-21).   is   sets   up   “ Neo-Patristic   synthesis ”   as   a   straw   man   which   the   authors   proceed   to   demolish.   But   a   close   reading   of    Florovsky   makes   abundantly clear   that   he   was   not   using   the   word   “ synthesis ”   in   any   formal   philosophical   sense,   but   rather   in   an   informal   or   popular   fashion,   as   a   slogan,   a   highly   successful  one   at   that.   Rerieiu    Essay   Scenes    from    Modern   Orthodox   Tbcolo   sw To   the   focus   on   neopatristic   theology   as   "synthesis ”   is   added   a   reading   of    Florovsky ’ s   theological   project   as   an   intellectual   undertaking   fixed   on   reviving   something   static   from   the   past,   captured   in   the   description   of    Florovsky ’ s   appeal   as   “ to   continue   in   the   mind   of    the   Fathers ”   (15).   This   is   not what   Florovsky   said.   He   spoke   about   the   necessity   of    a   acquiring   the   m ind   of    the   Fathers ” —   learningto   do   theology   like   the   Fathers —  while   hewarnedconstantly   against   the   dangers   of    simply   repeating   what   the   Fathers   said,   a   “ theology   of    repetition ” :   “ ‘ To   follow ’   the   Fathers  does not   mean    just   ‘ to   quote ’   them, ”   Florovsky   writes,   “ ‘ To   follow ’   the   Fathers   means   to   acquire   their   ‘ mind, ’   their    phronema)   ( The    Byzantine   Fathers   of    the   Fifih   Century   [1933]).   Florovsky was   calling   for   the   application   of    the   “ patristic   methodology ”   of    theology   to   contemporary   problems   and   issues.   The   authors ’   call   to   revive   “ the   need   for   understanding   backwards   while   living   forward ”   (21)   is   exactly   what   Florovsky   advocated,   to   be   “ faithful   to   the   spirit   and vision   of    the   Fathers,   ad    mentem   Patrum   [according   to   the   m ind   of    the   Fathers] ”   (cited   by  Aïïàrew   !ne    \ Georges   Floronsky:    Russian    Intellectual,   Orthodox   Churchman,   154). At   the   conclusion   of    the   chapter   on   hesychasm,   we   read   that   “ to   reduce   the   Fathers   to   thinkers   is   to   ignore   the   fact   that   they   were   also   men  of    prayer ”   (118).   Georges   Florovsky   would   heartily   agree. In   1936   he   declared   at   the  First   Congress of    Orthodox   TTeologians   in Athens: Holy   Fathers   are   more   than   merely   theologians.   They   are   teachers,   “ teachers   of    the   Church ”   ...    from   them   we   hear    not    only   their     personal    profession,   but    also   tbe   testimony   of    the   Church)   they   speak    to   US   ftom   its   catholic   completeness,  from   the   completeness   of    a   life   full   of    grace. Florovsky   never   separated   theology   from  holiness   nor   from   liturgy:   “ True   theology   can   spring   only  out   of    a   deep   liturgical   experience ”   (“ ^e   Legacy  and   Task    of    Orthodox   Theology ”   (1949).   To   suggest   that   in   Florovsky   and   other   neopatristic   theologians   there   is   “ over- emphasis   on the   mind   of    the  Fathers ”   (118)isa   misreading   of    much   of    modern   Orthodox   theology.  ST   VLADIM IRS  THEOLOGICAL   QUARTERLY 508  Hesycbm Chapter2focusesmostlyonStNilSorskyandthe   Optinam onastery   (81-111),   without   mentioning   other   major   representatives   of    nineteenth-century   hesychasm   in   Russia,   such   as   St   Seraphim   of    Sarov,   St   Theophan   the   Recluse,   or   St   Ignatius   Brianchaninov.   The   last   pages   of    the   chapter   skim   lightly   over   post-Optina   hesychasm,   covering   Sergius   Bulgakov,   M other   M aria   of    Paris,   Archimandrite   Sophrony,   Fr   André   Scrima,   and   hesychasm   in   contemporary   Greece   (112-19).   Several   bold   claims   are   made,   such   as:   "   Bulgakov]   intuited   and   sought   to   practice   the   spirit   of    non-possession   that   had   come   down   from   Nil   through   Optina ” ;   he   drew   "on   the   hesychast   tradition   of    non-possession   and   he   passed   it   on   to   his   spiritual   children"   M other   Maria,   described   as   a   "practitioner   of    hesychasm, ”   is   said   to   have  shown   “ how   the   hesychastic   practices   could   continue   to   demonstrate   the   heart   of    the   Fathers,   especially   the   non-possessive   heart,   in   the   changed   circumstances   of    Russian   Orthodox   life   in   Paris ”   (112-13).   No   evidence   is   presented   to   support   these   claims, other   than   general   references   to   “ non-possession. ”   of    cour   se,   most   of    the   Russian   émigrés   in   Paris,   including   the   intellecttial   elite,   were   materially   poor,   but   this   in   itself    is   insufficient   to   demonstrate   that   they   were   “ hesychasts. ”   Poverty   is,   of    course,   one   of    the   three   traditional   monastic   vows   and   is   not   limited   to   hesychasm.   There   is   in   fact   evidence   contrary   to   the   authors ’   claims.   M other   Maria,   for   one,   rebelled   against   the   traditional   monasticism   so   conducive   to   hesychasm,   especially   after   her   visits   to   Russian   monasteries   in   the   Balkans   in   1932   and   she   was   clear   that   the   “ new   monasticism ”   she   advocated   was   aimed   primarily   at  social action   in   the   world,   not   hesychastic   practice. ^e   brief    excursus   to   Greece   is   to   make   the   point   that   “ the   modern   hesychastic   revival   in   Greece   has   tended   to   use   the   Palamite   theology   as   a   form   of    oppositional   distinction   to   W estern   theologies ”   (115)   and   “ hesychasm   in   Greece   ...   has   become   principally   a   theological   statement   against   the   W est ”   (118).   Again,   no   evidence   is   produced   to   support   this   rather   sweeping   claim,   even   though   there   may   be some   basis   for   it.   Remew    Essay   Sceaesfrom    Modern   Orthodox   Theology Spiritual   direction   or   "eldership ”   is   said   to   be   practiced   more   on   M ount   Athos   than   in   the   rest   of    Greece,   "with   some   exceptions ”   (116) — a   footnote   directs   US   only   to   a   reference   by   M et.   Kallistos   Ware   to   Amphilochios   of    Patmos,   overlooking   numerous   other   well-known   modern   Greek,   non-Athonite   spiritual   elders   such   as   St   Nectarius   of    Aegina,   St   (Papa)   Nicholas   Planas,   St   Sabas   of    Kalymnos,   St   Anthimos   of    Chios,   St   Porphyrios   of    Kavsokalvie, Elder   Philotheos   Zervakos,   M other   Gavrilia   Papayannis,   Elder   Iakovos   of    Epiros,   and   Elder Epiphanios   of    Athens.   e   chapter   title,   "Hesychasm   in   Retreat ”   is   not   explained,   but   it   implies   that   neopatristic   theology   has   constituted   an   obstacle   to   hesychasm.   Is   this   so?   If    this   is   the   underlying   thesis,   it   is   unsubstantiated,   except   for   a   general   statement   about   the   over-   emphasis   on   the   mind   of    the   Fathers, ”   while   ignoring   that   "they   were also   men   of    prayer ”   (118).   A   major   theme   of    neopatristic   theology   was   the   revival   ofpatristic   thinkingon   the   divine   essence   and   energies, thus the   vindication   of    the  theological   underpinnings   of    hesychasm,   as   established   in   the   fourteenth   century   and   subsequently   virtually   lost   in   Orthodox   theology..   The   notion   of    theosis   was   revived   in   the   late   eighteenth   century   with   the   publication   of    the   Philokalia >   while   the   revival   of    Palamism   is   an   im portant   achievement   of    neopatristic   theology.   It   can   thus   be   argued,   contrary   to   the   thesis   advanced   in   the   book,   that   neopatristic   theology   has   contributed to   the   modern   floweringofhesychasm   by   revivingPalamism.   Is   hesychasmin   retreat?   The   revival   of    monasticism   on   M ount   Athos   over   the   last   50   years,   and   the   resurgence   of    monasticism   in   Romania,   Russia,   and   other   countries after   the   fall   of    communism   suggest   quite   the   contrary.   The   book    presents   no   evidence   to   show   a   decline   of    hesychasm. Within   Orthodoxy   today,   those   most   opposed   to   Orthodox   engagement   with   m odernity   are   precisely   and   unfortunately   the   principal   centers   where   hesychasm   is   practiced   most   intensely,   the   monasteries   of    M ount   Athos   and   other   major   monastic   centers   in   countries   of    Orthodox   tradition.   The   authors   seem   to   overlook    the   rise   of    fimdamentalism   in   Orthodoxy   and   the   threats   that   fundamentalism   poses   to   any   reasonable   Orthodox   engagement
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