John Zizioulas and Andrew Louth compared - DiVA 1455046/ ¢  John Zizioulas and Andrew...

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Transcript of John Zizioulas and Andrew Louth compared - DiVA 1455046/ ¢  John Zizioulas and Andrew...

  • Pontus Poysti

    Bachelor Thesis, 15 credits.

    Eastern Christian Studies

    Stockholm School of Theology, Spring term 2020

    Supervisor: Michael Hjälm

    Examiner: Cyril Hovorun

    Theory and praxis John Zizioulas and Andrew Louth compared

  • Abstract This thesis is a critical study of John Zizioulas’ use of the inner Trinitarian relations as a model and ontological foundation for ecclesial praxis. It compares Zizioulas to Andrew Louth, who, based on his understanding of the Incarnation as recapitulating creation, begins in the economy. The purpose is to explicate how the two approaches could affect the role of theology in the realization of praxis. Zizioulas is criticized in his attempt to create a holistic structure, as it implies that his reading of the fathers and his understanding of praxis must be congruous with his Trinitarian logic. Louth, on the other hand, differentiates between God and creation, which enables him to describe how we can transcend ourselves by relating to God, without the risk of confusing revelation or our experience of Him with His essence, which is beyond words. The ontological difference between God and creation means, in Louth’s implicit criticism of Zizioulas, that the task of the theologian is to enable communication about what the shared experience of God could mean in a particular time and place – to which there could be a diversity of ideas – not to dictate principles from an idea of totality, or a realm that transcends existence as we know it. It also implies that encountering God in and through creation, enables communication with the world and other fields of study. Keywords: John Zizioulas, Andrew Louth, Maximus the Confessor, social trinitarianism, ontology, apophatic and kataphatic theology, theory and practice.

  • Table of contents Part one: Introduction ................................................................................................................. 4

    1.1. Background ..................................................................................................................... 4

    1.2. Purpose and problem statement ...................................................................................... 5

    1.3. Method ............................................................................................................................ 5

    1.3.1. Comparative method ................................................................................................. 5

    1.3.2. Limitations ................................................................................................................. 5

    1.4. Literature ......................................................................................................................... 6

    1.4.1. John Zizioulas ........................................................................................................... 6

    1.4.2. Andrew Louth ............................................................................................................ 8

    1.5. Questions ........................................................................................................................ 9

    Part two: Theory ......................................................................................................................... 9

    2.1. John Zizioulas.................................................................................................................. 9

    2.1.1. The Patristic synthesis: Ontological personhood ......................................................10

    2.1.2. Creator and creation: The ontological difference ......................................................15

    2.1.3. Theology as the truth of existence ............................................................................23

    2.2. Andrew Louth .................................................................................................................29

    2.2.1. Patristic reflections on mediation between God and creation....................................30

    2.2.2. The ontological difference ........................................................................................35

    2.2.4. Theology: Man’s response to the experience of God ................................................39

    Part three: Analysis and discussion ...........................................................................................43

    3.1. Comparative analysis .....................................................................................................44

    3.1.1. The Patristic witness ................................................................................................44

    3.1.2. The relationship between God and creation: Adoption or relation? ...........................45

    3.1.3. The Church and the world ........................................................................................47

    3.2. Discussion and conclusion .............................................................................................51

    3.2.1. Zizioulas: The lack of differentiation and the totalitarian harmony .............................51

    3.2.2. Andrew Louth: Solutions and unexplored possibilities ..............................................53

    3.2.3 Final conclusion and suggestions for further research ...............................................55

    Sources.....................................................................................................................................57

  • 4

    Part one: Introduction

    1.1. Background

    Metropolitan John Zizioulas has attempted to make human personhood a matter of ontology, by

    using the inner Trinitarian relationships as normative for ecclesiology and anthropology. As an

    important figure representing Orthodox theology in ecumenical settings, he has argued that we

    must be willing to debate the “…cultural consequences of doctrine.”1 He uses the term ethos to

    describe how a Christian mode of being, modelled after the Trinity, transcends ethics or any

    notion of truth as external to human beings. One of his critics, Andrew Louth – an important

    representative of Orthodox theology in the English-speaking world – similarly suggests that

    dogmatics and spirituality are integrally united in the life of the Church. In contrast to Zizioulas,

    however, Louth's anthropology and ecclesiology begin at the crossroads between the created and

    the divine, where the Church recapitulates creation and transcends it through union with God.

    This thesis will investigate the problems of Zizioulas’ method in the realization of praxis in actual

    communities, and compare it to Louth’s implicit attempt to create an alternative. It was motivated

    by the realization that in my parish, we experience difficulties knowing how to effectuate our

    explicit ideal to celebrate the ‘Liturgy after the Liturgy’ as a community; to provide love and regard

    for those in need. I especially remember my wife and I having coffee with a newcomer to our

    Sunday Liturgy, let us call him Issa. He told us he was homeless, and asked how long we could

    keep the Church open, for him to stay warm from the winter cold. Unfortunately, we soon had to

    close up, and he went to a protestant Church a few blocks down, where he knew he would be

    provided shelter.

    Issa celebrated the Eucharist with our community, but the Liturgy after the Liturgy was celebrated

    elsewhere. This left me with unanswered questions: could our theology impact how we as a

    community respond to his request and presence here and now, and if so, how?

    This thesis is dedicated to Issa.

    1 See for example John Zizioulas, “Faith and Order Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” Ecumenical Patriarchate Permanent Delegation to the World Council of Churches, October 20, 2017, https://www.ecupatria.org/articles/748-2/.

    https://www.ecupatria.org/articles/748-2/ https://www.ecupatria.org/articles/748-2/ https://www.ecupatria.org/articles/748-2/

  • 5

    1.2. Purpose and problem statement

    This thesis will address problems arising from Zizioulas’ method of using the inner Trinitarian

    relations as a model for the realization of praxis in the economy. The purpose is to compare

    Zizioulas to Andrew Louth who – based on his understanding of the Incarnation as Christ

    recapitulating creation – begins in the economy, to see if and how the two could be useful in the

    realization of praxis in actual communities.

    1.3. Method

    1.3.1. Comparative method

    The method is comparative and will be based on a literature study of Zizioulas and Louth. The

    thesis will begin by presenting a background of Zizioulas: 1. his use of patristic writers to describe

    his understanding of personhood, and 2. his understanding of the difference between God and

    creation, and 3. how these points affect his understanding of ecclesiology and praxis. Criticism by

    a selection of theologians (Cf. 1.4. Literature) will be presented as part of each larger section about

    Zizioulas to highlight problems relevant to the research questions. The chapter about Zizioulas is

    followed by a presentation of Louth: 1. his reading of the fathers used by Zizioulas – with a

    particular focus on St.