A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Trinity Tuesday: A Theologian Is One Whose Prayer is True


It is in this sense of the Spirit as source of life [the Nicene Creed], everywhere present, filling all things, that contributes to one of the distinctives of Orthodox theology: it is intimately bound up with daily life. There is no such thing as theology that is purely intellectual. If it does not change you, if it does not flood you with light, it is not worth your time.


In the Christian East, a "theologian" is not someone who has thought hard about theological categories and labored at their construction. A theologian is someone who has drawn near God and experienced his transforming presence in a palpable way. This is what Peter means by becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4 KJV). A theologian is someone who has "seen the Uncreated Light," a reference to the light that shone from Jesus on Mt. Tabor (Mark 9:2-3), and which illuminated the burning bush without consuming it (Exod. 3:2). Being a theologian is akin to being a mystic--though I hate to use that word, because in the West mysticism seems like an odd calling for odd people, while in the East it is the whole purpose of Christian life and the calling of every person: union with God, theōsis. In the fourth century Evagrius of Pontus said, "A theologian is one whose prayer is true."

Today some of you have the job description "theologian" and may be thinking that you did not even have plans to see the Uncreated Light. How refreshing it would be to understand your calling as being a source of light for others, a living example of what God can do with a fully yielded person, someone whose deep meditation on the things of God has led to personal transformation and even holiness. That's the old meaning of the term "theologian." Contrast this with a framed print I saw in the vesting room of the National Cathedral in Washington. It showed a shining candle surrounded by darkness, and the text read: "I was wandering all alone in a dark forest, with only the light of a single candle to guide me, and along came a theologian and blew it out."
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Frederica Mathewes-Green, "The Old Testament Trinity," in Timothy George (ed.), God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice, pp. 87-88).

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