It was the Cambridge philosopher of religion Donald MacKinnon who first introduced me to John Zizioulas’s work, passing to me (some time around 1978) a couple of French offprints. Donald was not someone who handed out praise readily, but he was obviously intrigued and impressed—I suspect because these essays on the eucharist and the bishop reflected an ecclesiology as far removed as you could imagine from the anxious policing of boundaries and the institutional self-inflation and self-deceit that Donald found in so much writing about the Church in the Western theology of the mid-century, both conservative and supposedly radical. If conservative theologies of the Church exalted the coercive power of hierarchs and treated the Church as a kind of political unit with ruled and rulers, liberal and radical theologies of the mid-century equally reduced the Church to an association of enthusiastic social reformers hurrying to keep up with a culture in flux. Neither exhibited much sense of what it might be for the Church to be what it claimed to be, the assembly of those transfigured by the Spirit into full (Christlike) humanity and thus into a condition of authentic communion; neither really understood that the Church’s sacramental character meant that the Church’s visible manifestation in the Eucharistic community was quite simply the embodied anticipation of creation coming into that eschatological mutuality and non-separation which it was made for. For a somewhat unconventional Anglo-Catholic like MacKinnon, this represented as strand in Anglican thinking that was already somewhat occluded by the 1970’s – the strong eschatological emphasis of the great Dom Gregory Dix in his classic Shape of the Liturgy, along with the eloquent critique of consumerized, homogenized “market man” that arose from this Eucharistic focus.
“Chronos (chronological or sequential time) is imbued with meaning by kairos (the opportune time), and kairos is nothing more than a stop, a way station, from which we can survey the past and look out onto the future. Without kairos, time (chronos) flows on without meaning, sunk in death, and nothing that happens within it survives. In all of creation, only the human being can change time into kairos. The prerogative and responsibility of the freedom given to him or to her by the Creator is to enter through time, even if only briefly (as happens in the Divine Liturgy), into the presence and foretaste of the Eschaton, that which will not be lost together with all the useless things we carry around with us in this life.”
With these words, the late Elder Metropolitan of Pergamon John D. Zizioulas began his response to the Academic Laudatio and the honors bestowed to him during his reception as Fellow and Honorary Member of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, on October 28-30, 2011. With these words, which remind us of the importance of “Kairos” and how it gives meaning to time, allow me to begin, in my turn, on behalf of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, the present essay of honor, respect and love to the late hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the greatest of Orthodox theologians of our time, according to many authoritative opinions.
This essay was first published in Greek at Polymeros kai Polytropos, the blog of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies.
In our time, racism has many faces. Sometimes it manifests itself in a more visible way and other times in an invisible way. Whether it is racism of gender, race, religion or social class, of ethnic origin or sexual orientation, it is certain that the enemy is always the other. It does not matter if the other amounts to whole nations, social groups, or individuals, the other in this case becomes the “red cloth” of a blind ideology, which does not define people as unique and irreplaceable persons in the image of the Triune God, but primarily based on certain natural characteristics.
This is, one might say, the very source of racism and the rejection of otherness. Hostility towards the other, or rather hatred for the different is what defines our identity. This counterpoint is the cornerstone on which all kinds of ideological or religious justifications for discrimination between people are based. Not only each of us, but also entire nations form their collective identity in an oppositional way, in the name of a national, political, cultural, economic, but also religious superiority over others.
Before resuming my “itinerary” of the argument of That All Shall Be Saved, one additional point seems worth stressing. Though in the last installment the issue was raised of whether God intends or permits evil, the book’s argument has nothing to do with the traditional problems of rational theodicy. The question is not “Why does God permit evil if he is both omniscient and omnipotent?” or “Why is the possibility of evil necessary for creation?” or even “Is this the best of all possible worlds?” All of those are perfectly interesting queries in their proper place (or so I hear); but that place is not this book.
It is a good mereological rule that to try to understand the whole in terms of its parts and to try to understand the parts in light of the whole are two very different operations of reason (induction and deduction, to be precise). It is one thing to attempt to judge the relative goodness or badness of a discrete evil in relation to some final purposes we cannot see, but another thing altogether to judge the goodness or badness of a supposedly total narrative that pretends to describe the whole rationality of all its discrete events. The former judgment can never be more than conjectural; the latter is a matter of logic. There may logically be such a thing as an evil that is redeemed in the greater good toward which it leads; there is no such thing as an unredeemed evil that does not reduce any good end toward which it might lead to a mere relative value. In the former case, it is logically possible that evil may be non-necessary in the ultimate sense, but a real possibility in a provisional sense—though even then only as a privation that will ultimately be effaced from the “total picture.”