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In this brief paper, I contend that Dumitru Staniloae did produce a neopatristic synthesis. His work represents a creative development of the Orthodox patristic, spiritual, and liturgical tradition that is in dialogue with modern thought, and thus relevant for contemporary Church and social issues.
That opinion is based on marginal aspects of his works and does not re- flect a balanced reading of his corpus. First, he was not current with the develop- ments in the theologies that he criticized because of his isolation behind the Iron Curtain.
His Western encounters were mostly with Catholic and Protestant theologies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and with the classical Latin tradition, which he studied early in life as a T F student in the West. These theologies, of course, are frequently criticized N U O by modern Catholic theologians as well. But what constitutes neo-Scholastic T R or manual theology? Briefly, Staniloae would have understood manual O O theology to be: N NC An intellectualist approach to faith and the world, as opposed to U an intellectual description of faith and its logical consequences for catechesis.
A form of theology as speculative science. A lack of concern with a personal encounter with God theology is divorced from spirituality and the life of the Church. A separation from the liturgical life of the Church theology is not inspired by Liturgy, theology is not incorporated into Liturgy. A diminishment of a theocentric anthropology. Given this view, Staniloae was prone to caricatures and unfair general- izations, especially early in his career.
He was certain that schism could not endure. He emerged hopeful that a solution may even be found to the prob- IS D lem of the papacy which would integrate the bishop of Rome into the D TE communion of the Church in a way acceptable to the Orthodox.
He praised the ecumenical movement and its purpose to reestablish N NC the unity of the Church. He regarded theology as a personal experience rather than an abstract philosophical system and emphasized the comple- mentarity between cataphatism and apophatism as opposed to a contem- porary like Lossky, who insisted upon the primacy of apophatism. But his theology is profoundly biblical—his T F systematic theology does not simply use the Bible for decorative purposes.
Staniloae studied the Church Fathers thoroughly, D TE reading the Greek authors in their original language and translating many T of their works, such as the Romanian Philokalia in twelve volumes. Due to communist isola- tion, however, Staniloae was not heavily influenced by his contemporaries. Staniloae preferred not to talk about these terri- ble five years in which he was mentally and physically abused through vio- lent interrogations, isolation, hunger, and beatings.
For Staniloae, the need to distance the Romanian Church from the manual styles of neo-Scholasticism was di- rectly related to his attempt to reunite dogma and spirituality. When I began to study Staniloae, my inclination was to emphasize the negative consequences of living and writing under commu- nist isolation.
Braga was the first to point me to the positive IO IB O consequences of writing under communist persecution. His theology D TE could thus grow naturally, without being framed by polemics originating T outside his tradition. I agree. But this does not mean that isolation is good R EC in and of itself. His T R limited though intense encounter with the West, however, is most helpful O O for contemporary ecumenism, especially concerning open sobornicity.
The document notes the unity of the Gospel as reflected in diverse, com- plementary, or even contradictory biblical testimonies. Staniloae, ap- plying this recommendation to ecclesiology, argues that most schisms derive from the unilateral attachment to a single scriptural passage with- out regard to the diversity of the Bible. Church unity became understood not as a balanced unity of apparently contradictory points, but as a uni- formity that suppressed the complexity of ecclesial life.
Staniloae notes: The restoration of unity is for Western Christianity a matter of aban- doning the plane of exclusivist alternatives. It must rediscover the spirit of Orthodoxy which does not oppose one alternative or the other, but embraces in its teaching and equilibrium the points af- T F N U O firmed by both forms of Western Christianity. Staniloae concludes: Sobornicity is more than embracing in common all the modes of revelation and expression of God into the world or in life.
This sobornicity that is open, transparent, and continuously surpassed, also implies a certain theological pluralism [emphases added]. Nor do they negate the understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one that possesses the fullness of truth. At the same time, Staniloae added, Orthodoxy can bring an important contribution to the ecumenical movement by looking for the living spiri- tual core in doctrinal formulations.
Rather than regarding its doctrinal formulae as rigid expressions opposed to equally rigid expressions used by T F the other churches, Orthodoxy should seek to uncover the living mean- N U O ings of the doctrines of the other churches.
He applied open sobornicity both knowingly and unknowingly. He relied on Western philosophers and theologians, and biblical and patristic scholarship. There is nothing wrong with an Orthodox borrowing from Calvin, though it would be gracious to admit it: Fr. Dumitru, however, was probably bor- rowing from Orthodox Dogmatics. Louth did not provide a more spe- cific description of these dangers. This separation is symptomatic of the Scholastic strict delimitation between theology, spirituality, and pastoral life, rooted in the separation between reason, feeling, and will, thus not looking at the human being as a whole.
On the contrary, Staniloae argues, biblical and patristic writings point to the interdependence between these human capacities; hence, the three of- fices are sometimes designated as one ministry, that of sanctification.
In the West it was bound up with the notion of Dominical institution and the mystique of the number seven. It is made easier in the West by the clear separation of baptism and confirmation. It also leads him to misunderstand some of the ingenuity de- voted to this topic by Catholic theologians such as Karl Rahner. Here, it seems to me, the structure has become a strait-jacket, though what is pressed into the strait-jacket is often arresting and profoundly moving it also means that some of his sacramental teaching appears T F elsewhere in his teaching on creation as a gift bearing the mark of the N U O cross, for instance.
Was this an instance of open sobornicity?! While he believes that the idea of the formalization of seven sacraments is of West- ern origin, he also states that the setting apart of the seven sacraments from other sacramental acts is actually found in early Eastern Fathers well before the twelfth century. But a more careful reading of Dionysius shows that the anointing of Myron does not refer exclusively to T F the completion of baptism, but also to the consecration of new church N U O buildings—implying that it is a sacrament that can stand on its own.
Louth, of course, is not an unsympathetic critic of Staniloae. In , the Romanian Or- thodox Church was begrudgingly granted permission by the Communist Party to publish a handbook of dogmatics for theological institutes. Know- ing that the book would have to gain the approval of censors, Staniloae was forced to write his Dogmatics in the Scholastic form of Russian manuals.
Through his creativity, Staniloae presented an intrinsically Orthodox theology that was enriched, not corrupted, by Western categories.
Can the West Influence the East? Can Orthodox theologians introduce new categories that are not found in the Fathers? Can they adopt categories that originate in other Christian theologies and adapt them to Orthodox purposes? For his part, Staniloae rejects the claim that manual theologies supply comprehensive formulae repeated mechan- IS D ically because they inhibit the progress of theological thought. As previously stated, even concepts that are not of N NC Orthodox origin can be incorporated into Orthodox ecclesial tradition, as long as they are consonant with Scripture and tradition, concerned with a U personal encounter with God, and balance cataphatism with apophatism.
Rather than being perceived as the foe, the West becomes the friend that helps the East develop its own legacy. East and West acknowledge the re- vealing work of God in each other, a revelation that extends beyond the patristic era. One could propose two brief examples where Eastern theology, in its encounter with the West, might progress.
First, we should reopen the dis- cussion about the number of sacraments. As early as , he argued that Anglican priests should be re- ceived in the Orthodox Church without reordination. Perhaps we should be more specific, and note that it is really R PR only one sacrament for which the Orthodox Church does not share some level of sacramental communion with other Christian denominations— IS D the Eucharist.
I believe T R that Orthodox theology excels in these regards. Instead, I refer to negative O O theology, where terms do not fully express the divine mystery. This is the N NC aspect of apophatism that Lossky has consecrated, precisely in his most vehement criticism of the West for its lack of apophatism. And yet, it seems U that contemporary Western, not Eastern, theologians are most determined to find new ways to express the Trinitarian theology and alternatives to the person-nature terminology.
And yet, the Cappadocians were adamant that God is above our linguistic categories, and Orthodox theologians need to produce a neopatristic synthesis that would bring to light the divine mystery, revealing more and more the super- abundant, luminous darkness of the Trinity. In recent times, the West seems to lead the path in the direction traced by the Cappadocians or the Areopagite.
In short, it is Orthodox theology. It must be Patristic, faithful to the spirit and vision of the Fathers, ad mentem Patrum. Yet, it must also be Neo-Patristic, since it is to be FO R addressed to the new age, with its own problems and queries. Ronald G. See also Stefan L. Toma, Traditie si actualitate la pr. Dumitru Staniloae Tradition and actuality in Fr. Dumitru Staniloae Sibiu: Agnos, , — But their study was conducted piecemeal, and they missed the whole; indeed, such blindness is positively worthy of marvel.
Whereas U the whole stands right before their eyes immovably as ever, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. London: Penguin Books, , — Constantin Schifirnet Bucharest: Elion, , Roberson refers here to Ioanichie Balan, ed. Gheorghe F. Anghelescu and Ioan I.
Ica Jr. Ioan I. Ica jr. Dumitru Staniloae, Teologia Dogmatica Ortodoxa, 2nd ed.
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Teologia Dogmatică Ortodoxă vol. 2
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Teologia dogmatică ortodoxă. Tom 2 (Opere complete, #11)
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