>T is for Theology

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Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos defines Theology this way:

“Theology – Theologian: Theology is the knowledge of God. It is not a result of studying books or exercising the reason; it is on the one hand a fruit of the knowledge of God and of the personal experience of Him; on the other hand it is the way which leads to the healing of man and the knowledge of God. A theologian is one who has passed through the purification of heart to the illumination of the nous and to theosis. Thus, he has acquired the knowledge of God and speaks about Him in an authentic way. A theologian can be even called one who accepts the experience of the saints, not having himself a personal experience of God. ‘He whose prayer is pure is a theologian’”.

Very few saints of the Church are called “theologian.”

The late Protopresbyter John Romanides has this to say about theology:

“The true Orthodox theologian is the one who has direct knowledge of some of God’s energies through illumination or knows them more through vision. Or he knows them indirectly through prophets, apostles and saints or through scripture, the writings of the Fathers and the decisions and acts of their Ecumenical and Local Councils. The theologian is the one who through this direct or mediated spiritual knowledge and vision knows clearly how to distinguish between the actions of God and those of creatures and especially the works of the devil and the demons. Without the gift of discernment of spirits it is not possible to test spirits to see whether something is the action of the Holy Spirit or of the devil and the demons.

“Therefore the theologian and the spiritual father are the same thing. A person who thinks and talks in search of a conceptual understanding of the doctrines of the faith after the Franco-Latin pattern certainly is not a spiritual father, nor can he be called a theologian in the proper sense of the word. Theology is not abstract knowledge or practice, like logic, mathematics, astronomy and chemistry, but on the contrary, it has a polemical character like logistics and medicine. The former is concerned with matters of defence and attack through bodily drill and strategies for the deployment of weapons, fortifications and defensive and offensive schemes, while the latter is fighting against mental and physical illnesses for the sake of health and the means of restoring health.

“A theologian who is not acquainted with the methods of the enemy nor with perfection in Christ is not only unable to struggle against the enemy for his own perfection, but is also in no position to guide and heal others. It is like being called a general, or even being one, without ever having been trained or fought, or studied the art of war, having only given attention to the beautiful, glorious appearance of the army in its splendid, bright uniforms at receptions and displays. It is like a butcher posing as a surgeon or like holding the position of a physician without knowing the causes of illnesses or the methods of curing them, or the state of health to which the patient should be restored.”

I was going to shorten that quote, but I couldn’t figure out what to omit. For those truly interested in theology, this is but a taste. For those of us too immature to really understand true theology, perhaps we can be blessed by touching the hem of its garment. We are its beneficiaries, especially if we are blessed to have spiritual fathers or mothers who are able to help with the cure of our souls. I have both—a spiritual father and a spiritual mother—who understand my wounds and offer spiritual medicine. But it’s up to me to accept the poultices they offer me, and to apply them to my soul. And since I’m not a theologian, I’m not going to comment further.

Want more? Watch Metropolitan Kallistos Ware talk about “How to Study Theology” in this video. It’s worth a watch. I especially love what he says about wonder, freedom and community. Theology, like other aspects of our lives, can’t exist in a vacuum.

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