Metropolitan Hierotheos continues his discussion of Orthodoxy as a therapeutic science in Orthodox Psychotherapy by arguing that if Christianity is chiefly something that heals, then the same should be said for theology. Orthodox theology is both the fruit of therapy and also points the way to therapy.

Theologians, in an Orthodox understanding, are those who have been healed. His Eminence quotes Saint Gregory the Theologian who claimed that theology is “for those who have been examined and are passed masters in the vision of God and who have previously been purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified.” (31) Moreover, Saint Neilos the Ascetic (Evagrius of Pontus)* linked theology with prayer, especially noetic prayer, stating “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.”

Similar sentiments are found in other Fathers who taught the need for cleansing in order to receive the vision of God. Particularly worth quoting is St Maximus the Confessor who distinguished between practical philosophy which is repentance and cleansing from passions, and theoria which is an advancement in inner spiritual knowledge. Theology is unfolded by God to those who have attained theoria. For Saint Maximus, “knowledge without praxis is the demons’ theology.”

Also worth quoting is Saint Gregory Palamas who sees theologians as those who see God. Discussing Saint Gregory, Metropolitan Hierotheos writes:

Anyone who without knowledge and experience of matters of faith offers teaching about them “according to his own reasonings, trying with words to show the God that transcends all words, has plainly lost all sense.” And in his folly, “he has become an enemy of God.” Moreover there are cases in which people without having works, that is to say, without having undergone purification, have met and listened to holy men, but then they “try to form their own conceptions” and both reject the holy man and puff themselves up with pride.” (34)

Theology is thus a fruit of healing rather than a rational discipline. Only those who have been healed, or are at least undergoing healing, can “be initiated into the ineffable mysteries and great truth, can receive revelations and afterwards convey them to the people.” (35)

Theology is intimately related to spiritual fatherhood and “the spiritual father is the theologian par excellence – that is to say, the one who experiences the things of God and so can lead his spiritual children unerringly.” (35) Ultimately the theologian – as a spiritual father – needs the gift of the discernment of spirits in order to be able to distinguish between the actions of God, those of creatures and those of the devil and the demons.

* Metropolitan Hierotheos ascribes this to Saint Neilos, as was traditionally done in the Philokalia and by later Fathers given Evagrius’ suspect reputation. However, the footnote follows the English translation of the Philokalia in ascribing it to Evagrius which is the current scholarly consensus.

Advertisements