I am returning to my reading of Being as Communion, which has unfortunately been rather disrupted of late. I hope that it won’t be too long before I get down to some discussion of his ideas, but it might take a while!
John D. Zizioulas. Being as Communion. Studies in Personhood and the Church. London, DLT, 1985 (2004).
Chapter 2. Truth and Communion (67-122)
I. Introduction: The Problem of Truth in the Patristic Era (67-72)
The introduction to this chapter begins by asserting that “Christology is the sole starting point for a Christian understanding of truth.” (67) However what this means is not always apparent and Zizioulas proceeds to examine the challenge that a Christological understanding of truth poses to both Jewish and Greek thought forms.
For Jews, truth is known in history and becomes identified with the oath of God, which offers security. It is God’s promises that are the ultimate truth and they coincide with the goal or fulfilment of history. “It is in short an eschatological truth which orientates the human spirit towards the future.” (68)
Greek thought, by contrast, seeks truth in a way that transcends history and which is located in the link between being and the perceiving mind. For the Greeks there was a unity between the intelligible world, the thinking mind and being. This unity gave rise to the harmony and beauty of the cosmos, and it is precisely in this unity that truth is to be find. Truth is thus primarily cosmological. This closed ontology of Greek thought found history rather problematical. It had to either explain it by means of some cause or else dismiss it, which ultimately amounted to the same thing.
The New Testament understanding of truth presents a challenge to both Jewish and Greek ideas:
By referring to Christ as the Alpha and Omega of history, the New Testament has transformed radically the linear historicism of Hebrew thought, since in a certain way the end of history in Christ becomes already present here and now. Likewise, in affirming that Christ, i.e. a historical being, is the truth, the New Testament hurls a challenge to Greek thought, since it is in the flow of history and through it, through its changes and ambiguities, that man is called to discover the meaning of existence. (70-71)
The challenge that the early Church had to grapple with, and which Zizioulas discusses in the following section, is how we are to hold “at one and the same time to the historical nature of truth and the presence of ultimate truth here and now.” (71) He suggests that the idea of “communion” was a decisive tool that enabled the Greek Fathers to respond to this challenge.