Orthodox Theological Method V

Essay series, part V:  What is distinctive about the way that Orthodox Theologians conceive of their task with reference to the work of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel.

Trinitarian Pneumatology

The distinctive Greek philosophical heritage is enshrined in Orthodox conceptions of Trinity which refuse to dissolve the person of the Holy Spirit into a definition shaped by logical foundationalism. We have already identified that the very task of theology is conceived by Orthodoxy as an exercise in spiritual discernment. As Behr-Sigel says, “we must listen to the Spirit of God and try and find the real meaning of the ecclesial Tradition”1 The work of the Spirit is integral to theology only in so far as theology is the work of Revelation of the Triune God. Vladimir Lossky explains, “theology will be faithful to tradition insofar as its technical terms – ousia, hypostasis, consubstantiality, relations of origins, causality, monarchy – serve to present more and more clearly the initial mystery of God the Trinity without obscuring it with trinitarian deductions derived from another starting point.”2

This pattern of community, personalism and mystery in theology flow outward from it’s Trinitarian core to dominate the Orthodox theological agenda. For example, Behr-Sigel’s vision for an inclusive church is “in the mind of our God, One in three persons: a community, or rather a communion of persons in his likeness, men and women ineffably different but equal in dignity, free and responsible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”3 In other words, distinction within the Trinity cannot be forced to their extremes – we must stay in the apophatic realm lest our arrogance results in heresy for claiming too much. Analogously, we must hold lightly to distinctions between gender, lest we lose the primary emphasis on all humanity created in the image and returning to the Triune God.

1 Behr-Sigel (1991a) p.18

2 Lossky (2003) p.175

3 Behr-Sigel (2008) p.7

(if you want the full referencing details follow the links through the ‘writing’ page)

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