[Editor’s Be aware: Aristotle Papanikolaou is professor of theology, the Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Orthodox Theology and Tradition, and the Co-Director of the Orthodox Christian Research Heart at Fordham College. He’s additionally Senior Fellow on the Emory College Heart for the Examine of Legislation and Faith. In 2012, he obtained the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Instructing within the Humanities. Amongst his quite a few publications, he’s the creator of Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion, and The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical Orthodoxy. He’s additionally co-editor of Political Theologies in Orthodox Christianity, Fundamentalism or Tradition: Christianity after Secularism, Christianity, Democracy and the Shadow of Constantine (Winner of 2017 Alpha Sigma Nu Award in Theology), Orthodox Constructions of the West, Orthodox Readings of Augustine, and Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars. He spoke to Charles Camosy about his new mission, an Orthdox Social Ethos doc.]
Camosy: Creating an Orthodox Social Ethos document is an enormous and vital mission. How did it come about?
Papanikolaou: Given his place as international chief of Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, felt the necessity to present pastoral steerage particularly to Orthodox Christians, and to open dialogue with each spiritual and political actors towards confronting the numerous challenges we face on a world scale. This doc, although not an official doc of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, represents in a extra systematic and coherent kind a imaginative and prescient he has been articulating since he grew to become Ecumenical Patriarch in 1991.
He appointed the theologians listed within the doc, who labored collaboratively for a few years. There was enter from bishops in central positions all through the world, who submitted the pastoral issues of their regional dioceses. The doc additionally handed by the arms of extra well-known theologians, akin to Kallistos Ware and John Zizioulas, quite a lot of exterior consultants and specialists, in addition to members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Not surprisingly, the doc went by many phases earlier than it reached its closing kind.
Why an Orthodox Social Ethos and never an Orthodox Social Instructing or Doctrine?
The emphasis within the doc is on a core axiom of Orthodox theology, one that may be traced persistently within the Orthodox custom from the New Testomony’s exhortation to turn into “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), by the Greek, Syriac, and pre-Reformation-Latin fathers, up till the renewal of Orthodox theology within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. That axiom is theosis (deification). The main focus is on transformation of the cosmos — of human and non-human life — in its relation to God the Father, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. That transformation is the conclusion of a manner of being on the planet. The aim, then, was much less a name to obedience, which maybe the phrase “instructing” may convey, and extra to mission a imaginative and prescient that would present a manner initially for an open dialog, however in the end for a metamorphosis in the direction of patterns of relationality that might render human and non-human life irreducibly distinctive, to be extra of what God meant for creation.
Nonetheless, even an ethos can provoke disagreement or opposition. Catholics know this all too effectively, particularly in post-Vatican II context. I observe that this doc has been endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarch. What sort of authority does it have within the Orthodox world? Or is that even the proper query to ask?
As is well-known, there isn’t any hierarch within the Orthodox Church who’s equal in each authority and jurisdiction to the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. With that stated, the Ecumenical Patriarch does possess a primacy in relation to the opposite Orthodox hierarchs who’re heads of autocephalous church buildings, even when the scope and nature of that primacy is consistently being debated. The truth, nevertheless, is that the Ecumenical Patriarch symbolizes international Orthodoxy in a manner not doable for different Orthodox hierarchs, whether or not they be leaders of autocephalous church buildings or not.
Nationalism has tethered itself so deeply to the autocephalous church buildings that when somebody sees the Patriarch of Moscow, they see Orthodoxy in Russia; they don’t broaden their creativeness to international Orthodoxy. And that’s the reason the “The Basis of the Social Concept” produced by the Russian Orthodox Church and launched in 2000 was largely ignored by the remainder of the Orthodox church buildings. It is just within the particular person of the Ecumenical Patriarch that international Orthodoxy is iconized and that is evident particularly in his management because the “Inexperienced Patriarch,” or if he meets the Pope, for example; in these specific roles, he doesn’t merely symbolize the Orthodox Christians inside a geographical border.
Given this actuality, insofar as he initiated the method for this doc and that it has his endorsement, even when it isn’t an official doc of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it conveys a message about Orthodoxy that shall be extensively mentioned not merely inside the Orthodox world, however past. It’s going to turn into the reference level for “what the Orthodox assume” in a manner not doable for paperwork produced by native autocephalous church buildings. In that sense, it would have an authority missing in different native paperwork of its sort.
Are you able to do some broad-based comparisons between Orthodox Social Ethos and Catholic Social Instructing? What are some vital similarities and variations?
I’m not an skilled in Catholic Social Instructing, however my sense of it’s that it’s normally related to papal encyclicals issued for the reason that nineteenth century, probably the most well-known of which was Rerum Novarum, that particularly handle social points akin to poverty, labor, economics, politics, household, human rights, and so forth. For the Lifetime of the World is comparable in scope in that it offers with these points.
There are, nevertheless, a number of variations. First, my sense of CST is that it’s cumulative — in different phrases, it constitutes a physique of ethical teachings associated to social points that has amassed over the previous 200 years primarily by the papal encyclicals. For the Lifetime of the World is extra modest, because it lacks the element contained in social encyclicals of the popes, nevertheless it additionally goals to supply the framework inside which these particulars may finally be stuffed out. For the Lifetime of the World makes an attempt to determine the inspiration on which social points needs to be addressed, which, once more, is the Orthodox understanding that people and all of creation had been destined for theosis, that creation itself is sacramental.
The doc, to some extent, carries ahead the custom of lots of the fathers and moms of the Church who spoke towards social injustice, a practice revived in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russia, however has since been muted inside the Orthodox Church. It’s considerably of a thriller that probably the most well-known up to date Orthodox theologians, akin to Vladimir Lossky, John Zizioulas, Georges Florovsky, to call a couple of, virtually by no means converse to social points. This doc extends their wealthy theological pondering, which may very well be thought-about an extension of the patristic theological custom, into the social area.
Despite the forceful tone of sure elements of For the Lifetime of the World, its intent actually is to supply theotic signposts — methods to consider social points per the theotic core of Orthodox theology.
Are you able to see this doc getting used as a bridge for dialogue between Orthodox and Catholic Christians?
Completely, insofar as these kind of paperwork inside the Orthodox Church do probably not exist. Previous to this doc, there may be nothing with which to dialogue, besides native paperwork. And, once more, provided that this doc emerged from the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, it would purchase a world significance, making this the doc that which is able to function a foundation for dialogue in a manner not doable with paperwork produced by native Orthodox church buildings.
My very own prediction is that this doc would be the one utilized in undergraduate and graduate programs for these trying to incorporate the Orthodox perspective; will probably be studied by theological ethicists — Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike; it would turn into the reference level for intra-Christian and inter-religious dialogue; will probably be the doc that can hopefully form political actors within the “spiritual” perspective in such a manner that they merely don’t caricature the Orthodox place as pre-modern and unwilling to discern the signal of the occasions.
— to cruxnow.com