The Holy and Great Council, Crete, June 16 to 27, 2016

The primates and representatives of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches met in Geneva, January 21-28, for the fifth preconciliar meeting. The keynote address to the synaxis by the Ecumenical Patriarch is available here in English. The official announcement of the synaxis is available here in English.

The decided topics for the Holy and Great Council are the following: The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World, The Orthodox Diaspora, Autonomy and its Manner of Proclamation, The Sacrament of Marriage and its impediments, The Significance of Fasting and its Application Today, and the Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. The Moscow Patriarchate insisted that the topic of calendar should not be treated by the council.

The council will be held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete from June 16 to 27, 2016. The documents of the councils have begun to be released to public. The following are now available in Greek:


The Influence of V. V. Bolotov on Orthodox Theology

A very important text for the development of Eastern Orthodox theology in the nineteenth century is Professor V. V. Bolotov’s theses on Filioque. These theses were anonymously published in German translation in the context of the negotiation between the Old Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches after the First Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church. They were later published in Russian under his name.

Bolotov’s essay influenced, on the one hand, Eastern Orthodox dogmatic theology with its clear reflection on doctrinal authority in dogmatic theology through the distinction between dogma, theologoumenon, and private theological opinion.

On the other hand, Bolotov’s theses were also ecumenically influential since he argued that the schism between the Eastern Church and the Western Church was not caused by the Filioque but by the ecclesiological claims by the Roman papacy. Bolotov argued that the status of dogma could not be ascribed to the Filioque, but that it was a theologoumenon of some church fathers and, therefore, acceptable as a theologoumenon in Orthodox theology.

Georges Florovsky wrote as follows about Bolotov’s theses:

The most important contribution to the discussions [between Old Catholics and Eastern Orthodox] was an essay by Professor V. V. Bolotov, of the Academy of St Petersburg, Thesen über das “Filioque”. Bolotov suggested a strict distinction between (1) dogmas, (2) theologoumena, and (3) theological opinions. He defined a theologoumenon as a theological opinion held by those ancient teachers who had recognized authority in the undivided Church and are regarded Doctors of the Church. All theologoumena should be regarded as permissible, so long as no binding dogmatic authority is claimed for them. Consequently, the Filioque, for which the authority of St. Augustine can be quoted, is a permissible theological opinion, provided it is not regarded as expressing a doctrine which must be believed as a necessary article of the Faith. On the other hand, Bolotov contended that the Filioque was not the main reason for the split between the East and the West. He concluded that the Filioque, as a private theological opinion, should not be regarded as an impedimentum dirimens to the restoration of intercommunion between the Orthodox and the Old Catholic Churches. It should be added that the clause was omitted by the Old Catholics in Holland and Switzerland, and put in parentheses in the liturgical books in Germany and Austria, to be ultimately omitted also. That is to say that it was excluded from the formal profession of the Faith.

(“The Orthodox Churches and the Ecumenical Movement Prior to 1910” in A History of the Ecumenical Movement, vol. 1: 1517-1948, edited by R. Rouse and S. C. Neill, 3d ed. London, 1986, pp. 208-209.)

The Bulgarian theologian Stefan Zankow wrote as follows about Bolotov’s influence on Orthodox dogmatic theology:

The normal method of adding to the dogmas accepted by the Orthodox Church would be through decisions of the whole Church (oecumenical). The small number might easily have been increased by such practical and, so to speak, illegal means as elevating certain theses of tradition to the positions of dogmatic tenets of the Church. That this has not been the case is explained by the viewpoint, quite generally accepted in modern times, that strict lines must be drawn between “dogma,” “theologumenon,” and mere theological “opinion.” According to this view, “dogma” is the true doctrine fixed by an Oecumenical Council and accepted by the whole Church: only a thesis so determined has the obligatory character of a dogma. The faith of the Orthodox Church is thus objectively and formally expressed in revelation and in dogma, and the theological exposition of that faith must hold itself strictly to these. This faith is the only objectively true and generally obligatory element in the Church. Besides these, there must be considered the “theologumena” of the Church Fathers and the propositions of orthodox theological science.

The general acceptance of this principle in the Orthodox Church is the result of the efforts of the great Russian Church historian, Bolotov. In his “theses” he set forth the following: First, “dogma” is the truth as determined by an Oecumenical Council. Second, “theologumenon” is the theological opinion of one or many of the holy fathers of the undivided Church. The content of the theologumena is probable truth: anyone may adhere to a given theologumenon until a competent church court has decided it to be faulty, just as on the other side no one can demand that a theologian should accept a theologumenon as his private opinion. Of course, the number of the fathers who accept a given viewpoint of this nature has no significance as to its validity; still, the greater the number who defend such a statement, the greater probability of its truth. Third, and last, comes private theological opinion. In comparison with a theologumenon, private opinion has no authority. Each one is free in his personal opinion, but limited by the requirement that private opinion shall not conflict with dogma. The dogmas are “necessaria,” the theologumena, “dubia”: “In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas.”

(The Eastern Orthodox Church, London, 1929, pp. 39-40.)

The German version of Bolotov’s theses are available online here. The Russian version published in several parts is available here.

Ottoman Greek Historiography

An addition to my previous post with links to digitized documentary sources for Ottoman Greek church history:

Dorotheos of Monemvasia, Βιβλίον ιστορικόν περιέχον εν συνόψει διαφόρους και εξόχους ιστορίας : Αρχόμενον από Κτίσεως Κόσμου, μέχρι της αλώσεως Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, και των ακολούθων Σουλτάνων, 1814.

Athanasios Komninos-Ypsilantis, Τα μετά την άλωσιν (1453-1789), 1870.

Dositheos of Jerusalem,  Δωεδεκάβιβλος, 1715.

Manuel Gedeon, Πατριαρχικοί Πίνακες, 1885-1890.

K. N. Sathas, ed., Bibliotheca Graeca Medii Aevi, vol. III, 1872.

Meletios of Athens, Εκκλησιαστική Ιστορία, 4 vols., 1784-1795.

K. N. Sathas, ed.,  Βιογραφικόν σχεδίασμα περί του Πατριάρχου Ιερεμίου Β’ : (1572-1594), 1870.

Ph. Vapheides, Εκκλησιαστική Ιστορία από του Κυρίου ημών Ιησού Χριστού μέχρι των καθ’ ημάς χρόνων, 3 vols, 1884-1928.

The Source of a Maxim on Faith and Reason

A common maxim used to explain the relationship between faith and reason in dogmatic theology within the theistic tradition is “Non enim fides est contra rationem, sed supra rationem” (“For faith is not contrary to reason, but above reason”).

Many, however, fail to give a reference to the original source of this maxim which is the eleventh chapter of the Summa Sententiarum (P.L. 176, col. 59C) attributed to Hugh of Saint Victor.

Ottoman Greek History from the 15th to 17th Century

Several important documentary sources to Ottoman Greek history of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are digitized at Google Books:

Martin Crusius, Turcograeciae, 1584.

Stephan Gerlach, Tagebuch, 1674.

Chrysanthos of Jerusalem, Syntagmation, 1715.

Chrysanthos of Jerusalem, History of the Holy Land, 1728.

Immanuel Bekker, ed., Historia Politica et Patriarchica Constantinopoleos: Epirotica, 1849.

New Textbook on Post-Byzantine Church History

Βλάσιος Φειδάς. Εκκλησιαστική Ιστορία Γ΄. Από την Άλωση μέχρι σήμερον (1453-2014), Athens: 2014, 1006 pages.

Vlasios Phidas, professor emeritus of church history at the University of Athens, has recently published an additional third volume to his church history (in Greek). This volume covers the period 1453 to 2014 and has the following content:


Part One: The Church during the post-Byzantine period

I. The Eastern Church

1. The Relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Turkish State

2. The Administrative Organization of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

3. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Quadriga of Patriarchates

4. Divine Worship and Spiritual Life

II. The Western Church

5. The Protestant Reformation

6. The Clash between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation

7. The Western Church after the Reformation

Part Two: The Church during Modern Times

I. The Eastern Church

8. Autocephaly and the Modern Patriarchates

9. Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches

10. Confessions of Faith and Theological Literature

II. The Western Church

11. Administrative Organization, Worship, and Theological Literature of the Western Church

12. The Relationship between the Eastern and Western Church

Appendix: Ecclesiastical Literature


List of Popes and Patriarchs

Index of Names and Subjects

Selected List of Eastern Orthodox Dogmatic Theology

The following is a list of selected comprehensive treatises on Eastern Orthodox Christian doctrine available in English. The list includes literature representing the three major currents in modern Eastern Orthodox systematic theology: traditional school theology, philosophical theology, and so-called neo-patristic theology.

Traditional school theology is characterized by its approach to revelation as information derived from the sources of theology and reason. It tends to view doctrine as an ahistorical system of authoritative information interpreted through the hermeneutics of naïve or pre-critical rationalism. The alternative is to view revelation primarily as a relationship based on the self-disclosure of the Triune God as attested by the sources of theology. In this alternative view, doctrine is not primarily approached as information but as a reflection on this relationship.

Philosophical theology and so-called neo-patristic theology are both reactions against traditional school theology. These types of theologies are not homogenous phenomena. Nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century philosophical theology tended to be dominated by romanticism, Hegelianism (especially Russian philosophical theology), and neo-Kantianism (especially Greek philosophical theology). Later twentieth-century philosophical theology tended to be dominated by existentialism and personalism.

Neo-patristic theology tends to be dominated by primitivism, occidentalism, or postmodernism. The primitivistic approach views the doctrine of a “golden era” as the only normative paradigm. This golden era is usually conceived as the doctrine of the period of the first four ecumenical councils, of the seven ecumenical councils, of the first millennium (of the “undivided” church), or of the Byzantine empire. The occidentalistic approach views Eastern Orthodox theology as a distinctively anti-Western project. The postmodern approach views the theological work of the church fathers as a paradigm for entering into dialogue with contemporary intellectual and cultural movements when interpreting Eastern Orthodox doctrine for today’s world.

These are, of course, ideal types that overlap in the actual theological works that in reality represent more than one of these trends and approaches.

The list is somewhat chronological in the order the works originally appeared (although English translations and revised editions are, of course, of later dates):

R. Pinkerton, ed. The Present State of the Greek Church in Russia, or a Summary of Christian Divitnity; by Platon, Late Metropolitan of Moscow.

R. W. Blackmore, ed. The Doctrine of the Russian Church. 1845.

F. Gavin. Some Aspects of Contemporary Greek Orthodox Thought. 1923.

S. Zankow. The Eastern Orthodox Church. 1929.

S. Bulgakov. The Orthodox Church. 2nd ed. 1988.

V. Lossky. Orthodox Theology: An Introduction. 1978.

J. Karmiris. A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church. 1973.

M. Pomazansky. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition. 1983.

D. Staniloae. The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. 6 vols. 1998-2013.

P. Evdokimov. Orthodoxy. 2011.

J. Meyendorff. Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes. 2nd ed. 1979.

J. Romanides. An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics. 2004.

K. Ware. The Orthodox Way. 2nd ed. 1995.

H. Alfeyev. The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church. 2002.

D. Zizioulas. Lectures in Christian Dogmatics. 2008.

A. Louth. Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology. 2013.

Some Literature on Ethics and Moral Theology

V. J. Bourke. History of Ethics. 2 vols, 1968.

A. R. Jonsen and S. Toulmin. The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning. 1988.

Ph. Wogaman. Christian Ethics: A Historical Introduction. 2nd ed. 2010.

A. MacIntyre. A Short History of Ethics. 2nd ed. 1998.

S. Pinckaers. The Sources of Christian Ethics. 1995.

Ch. Yannaras. The Freedom of Morality. 1984.

A. MacIntyre. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. 3d ed. 2007.

J. Finnis. Natural Law and Natural Rights. 2nd ed. 2011.

J. F. Childress and J. Macquarrie, eds. The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics. 2nd ed. 1986.

Readings for Intellectual Formation

A. G. Sertillanges. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. 1987.

M. J. Adler. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. 1972.

M. Joseph. The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric. 2002.

W. Strunk Jr. The Elements of Style: The Original Edition. Reprint 2006.

U. Eco. How to Write a Thesis. 2015.


Bibliography on Oikonomia

Oikonomia is a central principle in Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical law that denotes the legitimate non-application or modification of norms. Oikonomia is one of the topics of the Congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches in Thessaloniki this September. The following is a basic bibliography on oikonomia:

F. Schuppe. Die pastorale Herausforderung: Orthodoxe Leben zwischen Akribeia and Oikonomia. 2006.

H. S. Alivizatos. Die Oikonomia: Die Oikonomia nach dem kanonischen Recht der Orthodoxen Kirche. 1998.

J. Kotsonis. Problèmes de l’économie ecclésiastique. 1971.

M. A. Stiegler. Dispensation, Dispensationswesen und Dispensationsrecht im Kirchenrecht. 1901.

G. Richter. Oikonomia: Der Gebrauch des Wortes Oikonomia im Neuen Testament, bei den Kirchenvätern und in der theologischen Literatur bis ins 20. Jahrhundert. 2005.