Author Topic: Mystery is not a cop out  (Read 2234 times)

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Offline trifecta

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Mystery is not a cop out
« on: Mon May 11, 2009 - 17:58:23 »
Orthodoxy does believe in mystery.  This is because "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom" (1 Cor 1:25 NIV).

Therefore, all language that is applied to Him must be inexact at best, heretical at worst.  Mystical theology may have started with Clement of Alexandria (d. 215), so it is not new.

In the West, especially with Thomas Acquinas, thinkers tried to define everything.  Modern examples include the cessation of the sign of the cross by Protestants and the doctrine of transsubstantation by the Roman Catholics.   No definitions are better than inaccurate ones.

Now, does this mean Orthodox have little theology?  No.  IMHO, Orthodox theology is best and it's been around a long time.  Just because we (like Paul) believe in mystery, doesn't mean we don't think.   There are modern theologians (like Alexander Schmemann, Vladimar Lossky, Thomas Hopko) and ancient ones (Gregory Palamas).   The idea, based on Cyril's thought, is not to limit God by defining Him, but eliminating incorrect descriptions of God.  (This is called apophatic theology).  The Ecumenical Councils did just this.  They prohibited weird descriptions of the Trinity, such as Jesus being a created being (Arianism).

Take it from me, Orthodox think a lot about God, but reason only goes so far.  Mystery must take over at some point, because of what Paul said: the wisdom of man is nothing compared with God.

Hope this helps.


Online Wycliffes_Shillelagh

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Re: Mystery is not a cop out
« Reply #1 on: Mon May 11, 2009 - 20:10:21 »
Orthodoxy does believe in mystery.  This is because "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom" (1 Cor 1:25 NIV).

Therefore, all language that is applied to Him must be inexact at best, heretical at worst.  Mystical theology may have started with Clement of Alexandria (d. 215), so it is not new.

In the West, especially with Thomas Acquinas, thinkers tried to define everything.  Modern examples include the cessation of the sign of the cross by Protestants and the doctrine of transsubstantation by the Roman Catholics.   No definitions are better than inaccurate ones.

Now, does this mean Orthodox have little theology?  No.  IMHO, Orthodox theology is best and it's been around a long time.  Just because we (like Paul) believe in mystery, doesn't mean we don't think.   There are modern theologians (like Alexander Schmemann, Vladimar Lossky, Thomas Hopko) and ancient ones (Gregory Palamas).   The idea, based on Cyril's thought, is not to limit God by defining Him, but eliminating incorrect descriptions of God.  (This is called apophatic theology).  The Ecumenical Councils did just this.  They prohibited weird descriptions of the Trinity, such as Jesus being a created being (Arianism).

Take it from me, Orthodox think a lot about God, but reason only goes so far.  Mystery must take over at some point, because of what Paul said: the wisdom of man is nothing compared with God.

Hope this helps.
If it has no intelligible meaning or significance, why talk about it?  Wouldn't that qualify as battologeo?

The more I read the church fathers, the more I see them speaking of God as Logos, which is quite the opposite of mystery.  God in these writings is Light, the All-Revealer.  God is referred to as Mind. 

I hear of faith as a response to revelation; faith is not spoken of as a man clinging desperately to what he has.  I hear of the Word being spread as seed, planted, not saved for a rainy day.  I hear it grows like a mustard tree, and benefits all, the birds and the beasts.

God is referred to as Agathos - profitable.  Increasingly, I see pragmatism and utilitarianism in the writings of Paul.

But I do not see the creeds as apophatic.  None of them use negative language (God is NOT...).

My perception is that the Orthodox church has solved the problem of new heresies being introduced, but has unfortunately solved the problem of hearing from God in the process.

All I saw were people going through the motions.

Offline trifecta

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Re: Mystery is not a cop out
« Reply #2 on: Thu May 14, 2009 - 18:13:24 »

If it has no intelligible meaning or significance, why talk about it?  Wouldn't that qualify as battologeo?

We see through the glass dimly, but it is better than not seeing at all.

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But I do not see the creeds as apophatic.  None of them use negative language (God is NOT...).

That's one of the great things about them.   The original Nicean Creed contained a specific condemnation of Arianism, but, even with that omission, the whole thing just cries against Arianism.    It affirms our faith without sounding negative.   To be blunt, creeds exist to exclude those not of the faith.   They don't have to use 'not' to be apophatic.

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My perception is that the Orthodox church has solved the problem of new heresies being introduced, but has unfortunately solved the problem of hearing from God in the process.

I can understand why you say this, but experiencing God is an important part of the Orthodox faith too.   Gregory Palamas became a saint in our church mostly because he rejected the idea that God cannot be experienced.   During his times, the rationalist movement got so out of hand that people argued that it is better to read about God than to experience Him.

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All I saw were people going through the motions.

Firstly, I am very pleased that you went to observe.   One of my friends who became Orthodox almost hated it when she first went.  (I'm not supposed to say that, they can take away my union card).   It can be a bit much for the modern Western mind. 

But appearances can be deceiving.  We really try to meditate on the Word in the O church and that does involve repeating things.   The Orthodox liturgy is full of theological statements because they are important to remember.

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Re: Mystery is not a cop out
« Reply #3 on: Sun May 17, 2009 - 18:32:33 »
I should, perhaps, mention, that they were going through the motions in some foreign language.  Not being gifted for interpretation of tongues, I was not edified, and left early.  Very early.

 

     
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