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Title: Existential Theology as a Challenge to a Patristic-Based Methodology in Orthodox Christianity
Subtitle: From Georges Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky to John Zizioulas
Author(s): BODEA, Raul-Ovidiu
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 43    Issue: 4   Date: 2020   
Pages: 335-351
DOI: 10.2143/LS.43.4.3289100

Abstract :
It is a well-established fact that contemporary Orthodox theology is done in a ‘patristic key’, particularly because of the Neo-Patristic movement which dates from the beginning of the 20th century. But the Neo-Patristic movement has been more a movement of orientation towards, and rediscovery of the Patristic tradition, and not a methodological framework of reading the texts of the Fathers, although the historical-critical method has established itself as the dominating methodology. Nonetheless different interpretations and ways of engaging the texts have emerged which led to disputes about what a proper and valid way of reading the Fathers should be. This paper argues that from the very beginning of the Neo-Patristic movement there was a more or less unarticulated openness to existential philosophy found in the works of Georges Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky that ultimately led to the theology of John Zizioulas. This existential theology is challenged as an invalid way of doing Orthodox theology, by the representatives of the other more inward-looking development of the Neo-Patristic movement. By exploring the controversy surrounding the existential theology of Zizioulas and his reading of the Fathers, we gain an insight into the presuppositions that operate in contemporary Orthodox theology. I argue that it is precisely the critique of Zizioulas’ existential theology as being ‘philosophical’ rather than ‘proper theological’ that provides a strong challenge to the monopolizing claims of the Orthodox theologians following the historical-critical method.

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