Friday, October 26, 2007

Guidelines for Theological Inquiry from Gregory Nazianzus’ First Theological Oration


In my Patristic Theology class this week, we are reading Gregory Nazianzus' Five Theological Orations. In the first oration Gregory discusses who is qualified to do the work of theology and the context and limits of theological work. In class, my students developed this summary of Gregory's teaching. The bold are my students summaries of Gregory's teaching and the quotes are direct statement by Gregory:

I. Not Everyone Should Theologize About God

“Not to every one, my friends, does it belong to philosophize about God not to every one; the Subject is not so cheap and low…”

“Let Paul reprove you with those bitter reproaches, in which, after his list of gifts of grace, he says, Are all Apostles? Are all Prophets? Etc.

A. Who Is Qualified? Only Those Who Have Been Examined

“Not to all men, because it is permitted only to those who have been examined…”

B. Who Is Qualified? Only Those Who Have Been Appropriately Prepared Intellectually

“…and are passed masters in meditation…”

C. Who Is Qualified? Only Those Living a Holy Life of Body and Soul or Pursuing it

“…and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified.”

“…the next thing is to look to ourselves, and polish our theological self to beauty like a statue.”

D. Who Is Qualified? Only Those to Whom Theology (God) Really Matters and Will Address It Reverently

“They to whom the subject is of real concern, and not they who make it a matter of pleasant gossip, like any other thing, after the races, or the theatre, or a concert, or a dinner, or still lower employments. To such men as these, idle jests and pretty contradictions about these subjects are a part of their amusement.”

“…let us at least agree upon this, that we will utter Mysteries under our breath, and holy things in a holy manner…”

II. There are Appropriate and Inappropriate Audiences for Theological Inquiry

“…and I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits…”

A. The Appropriate Audience Is One That Can Grasp What Is Being Said and Will not Be Weakened by the Theological Discourse

“On matters within our reach, and to such an extent as the mental power and grasp of our audience may extend…and overweighted by the stiffness, if I may use the expression, of the arguments should suffer loss even in respect of the strength they originally possessed.”

B. The Appropriate Audience Is One That Does Not Seek to Find Something Wrong for the Purpose of Inciting Controversy and Division

“…by which I mean before any kind of audience, strangers or kindred, hostile or friendly, kindly or the reverse, who watch what we do with over great care, and would like the spark of what is wrong in us to become a flame, and secretly kindle and fan it and raise it to heaven with their breath and make it higher than the Babylonian flame which burnt up every thing around it.”

C. The Appropriate Audience Is One That Is Not Profane

“Why should a man who is a hostile listener to such words be allowed to hear about the Generation of God, or his creation, or how God was made out of things which had no existence, or of section and analysis and division? Why do we make our accusers judges? Why do we put swords into the hands of our enemies? How, do you think, or with what temper, will the arguments about such subjects be received by one who approves of adulteries, and corruption of children, and who worships the passions and cannot conceive of anything higher than the body…who till very lately set up gods for himself, and gods too who were noted for the vilest deeds?”

III. The Appropriate Time to Address Theological Discussion Is When There is Appropriate Time for Reflection. There Must Be a Season in Which To Do This.

“…and that suitable season is when we have calm within the whirl of outward things; so as not to lose our breath…”

IV. There are Appropriate and Inappropriate Points for Theological Investigation

A. Apprpriate Points Are Those within a Person’s Intellectual Reach.

“Next, on what subjects and to what extent may we philosophize? On matters within our reach…”

“Let us not think so nor yet, like hot tempered and hard mouthed horses, throwing off our rider Reason, and casting away Reverence, that keeps us within due limits, run far away from the turning point, but let us philosophize within our proper bounds…”

B. Points Appropriate for Theological Investigation Are Those Subjects Which Are Helpful in Getting Right and Not Dangerous to Be Slightly Wrong

“Philosophize about the world or worlds; about matter; about soul; about natures endowed with reason, good or bad; about resurrection, about judgment, about reward, or the Sufferings of Christ. For in these subjects to hit the mark is not useless, and to miss it is not dangerous.”


At 8:05 PM, Blogger Keith Drury said...

Hey thanks for this Chris..and welcome back!


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