Modern Orthodox Theology: Do What the Fathers Did, Not Just What They Said

It’s been said that fundamentalism is the flip-side of liberalism–both are creations of modernity. Every Christian tradition has its own form of fundamentalism. Protestantism has its biblicism. Catholicism has its Denzinger manualism. And Orthodoxy has its patristic florilegia.

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”…one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I found the article by Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis  Director of Volos Academy for Theological Studies, “From the ‘Return to the Fathers’ to the Need for a Modern Orthodox Theology” in Volume 54, Number 1 2010, of the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY to be one of the most uplifting and exciting  articles I have read in years (I haven’t used the word exciting with an Orthodox writer for a long time!). 

 Orthodoxy’s efforts to define itself by adopting an absolutist and oppositional attitude Western Christianity has caused the Orthodox to become exclusivist and even sectarian, despite proclaiming in the creed a belief in a universal/catholic church.  “Oneness” in much of current Orthodox interpretation…

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4 Responses to Modern Orthodox Theology: Do What the Fathers Did, Not Just What They Said

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Download Pantelis Kalaitzidis’s essay: “From the ‘Return to the Fathers’.”


  2. Robert Fortuin says:

    Excellent article, much needed. We swing from one extreme to another, from uncritical acceptance of western categories to blind echoing of the Fathers. What is required, always and everywhere, is a self-aware engagement of the new with the old, an openness to the ‘otherness’, a willingness to think beyond easy boundaries and comfortable patterns, resisting rigidity and blind conformity whilst standing in the living tradition.


  3. The problem with all modernist understanding is that a “critical” understanding attempts to dethrone the meaning of the fathers and the scriptures in the life of the Church. Our faith is not built on mere “exegeting”. Our faith is a lived experience. The reason why we read the fathers, the mystics, the doctors, the scriptures, etc., is because they form the communion of the saints. They teach us. We listen. Too often in recent times, it’s been “we teach them what they believed”. I’m not saying books expounding the teachings of the saints are bad. Sometimes, they give an extra voice to the saint. The problem is when we replace the voice of the saints with our own voice that we actually set ourselves against the Church and risk severing ourselves from the body of Christ. It’s a more serious issue than people realize. We’ve forgotten we are called to be one as the Trinity is one.

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  4. john burnett says:

    ran across this great quote from bell hooks, the acclaimed feminist, educator, author, activist, and buddhist:

    “Preserving the dharma is not so much about the preservation of what has come before as it is about an individual commitment to renew the dharma all the time through the way we live.”


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