Dimitrios Tselengidis, Professor of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The presumption and theological aberration of “post-Patristic” theologians

In order to avoid any possible confusion of terminology, perhaps we might begin with a necessary definition of the newly-minted term “post-Patristic”. This new academic term is susceptible to a variety of interpretations, but the ones most prevalent in the academic community are, in our opinion, the following two: a) when the first part of the compound word- “post”- is given chronological significance, which, in this case, would mean the end of the Patristic era; and b) when the first part of the word is given a critical meaning, in which case the compound “post-Patristic” has the sense of relativism, partial or total  questioning, re-evaluation, a new reading, or even the transcendence of the thought of the Fathers of the Church.

The most destructive work in the consciousness of the Christian theological community was accomplished, in our opinion, by the Protestants. This is because they cast doubt, directly, on the prestige of the Ecumenical Synods of the Church, and, indeed, on the whole of its Apostolic and Patristic Tradition. At the same time, they have officially, substantially and formally, nullified the sanctity of all known saints, casting doubt, in this way, on the experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church Militant on earth.
            By the same token, the most destructive work in the dogmatic conscience of the membership of the Orthodox Church has been, and continues to be performed by Ecumenism. Ecumenism today is the agent of inter-Christian and inter-religious syncretism and, consequently, is the official agent of the most dangerous multi-heresy of all times, since, through its syncretism, it contributes in a decisive manner to the weakening of the Orthodox criterion and Orthodox self-awareness. In particular, through its representatives at the local and international level, it continually and gradually makes increasingly greater “discounts” from the ecclesiological/dogmatic awareness of the spiritually-unsuspecting Orthodox faithful. Above all, it achieves this through the relativization, or abolition in practice, of the status of the teachings of the Holy Fathers and, moreover, of their collective decisions made in the context of the Ecumenical Synods. See, for example, the blatant and repeated breach of Canon 2 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Synod, a breach which has been going on for years now. This canon explicitly forbids praying together with those outside communion and with the heterodox, with the clear threat that clerics should be defrocked and the laity excommunicated for the transgression.
The movement of putative “post-Patristic” theologians which has appeared in recent years, is organically embedded in the broader, secularized, theological climate mentioned above, and particularly in the spirit of Ecumenism itself as we have described it. Certainly, this movement also has Protestant influences, which are particularly clear in the scientific nature of the attitude of the “post-Patristic” theologians to the theological teaching of the Holy Fathers, which had, until today, been accorded enduring status.
In our brief theological statement, we shall focus primarily on the outlook rather than the persons of the “post-Patristic” theologians, as well as the criteria of their implied theology.
Alas, our beloved brethren in Christ, the “post-Patristic” theologians- with their bold, or rather, perhaps unwittingly, brazen statements- appear to be entirely ignorant, in practice, of what sanctity itself is and, by extension, what the life of the saints in the Holy Spirit really is, though, in the experience of the Church, this is the prime requirement for theologizing in an Orthodox and error-free manner. Even more specifically, it appears from their texts that they do not know that Orthodox and error-free theology can be produced primarily only by those who have been purified of the detritus of their passions and, in particular, those who have been enlightened and glorified by the uncreated radiance of deifying Grace. The insolent efforts to transcend the teaching of the holy Fathers on the part of the “post-Patristic” theologians shake the confidence that the faithful need to have in the enduring validity of the theology of the holy Fathers while, at the same time, undesirably and deviously introducing the Protestant type of theological speculation. But in this way, we are, in practice, “moving the boundaries set by our Fathers”. And this is a blatant violation of the utterances of the holy Fathers[1] and of the Bible[2].
On the basis of the above (and nothing else) we might claim scientifically that the putative “post-Patristic” theologians clearly have not mastered the basic requirements of the theology of the holy Fathers. Because how can they really claim that they do, in fact, have these when it happens that they are brazenly proposing the transcendence of the Fathers of the Church or when they attempt to import into theological thought a Western type of theological and cognitive speculation which has as its prerequisite nothing more than scientific/academic justification and theological reflection? This very conceit is, in any case, what leads to the negation of the charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit, Who guarantees the validity of Orthodox theology.
The scientific/academic criteria introduced by the “post-Patristic” theologians as evidence of their objectivity do not necessarily coincide with the ecclesiastical criteria of theologizing in an Orthodox and error-free manner, especially when these criteria are used unconditionally. The Orthodox Church has, clearly and principally, criteria of the Holy Spirit. The outstanding and chief criterion of the error-free nature of ecclesiastical theology is the sanctity of the God-bearing Fathers who formulated it.
The gross ignorance, and the conceit based thereon, of the “post-Patristic” theologians, who are attempting, entirely benightedly, to replace the Patristic theology of the Orthodox Church, which no doubt bothers them, with their own updated, scientific/ academic theology is a matter of deepest sadness. By this attitude they clearly reveal that they do not know, in fact, that the Fathers are actively God-bearing saints of the Church. But they are unaware, in particular, of the fact that the sanctity of the saints and that of God Himself is one and the same, according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa[3]. In other words, the sanctity of the saints has an ontological character and is an uncreated attribute of God, in which the faithful can share directly and personally and under clear ecclesiastical conditions, becoming “in all discernment” partakers of the sanctity of God Himself. It is therefore obvious that the sanctity of the saints is itself uncreated.
The great Fathers of the Church expressed the Apostolic Tradition in an error-free manner, in their era, having first, however, experienced it in their hesychastic/ ascetic and, primarily, sacramental life. Saints Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, Maximos the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas, to mention but a few, brought the Apostolic and Patristic Tradition up to date, expressing in highly-educated theological language precisely what other, less learned, holy Fathers had experienced uncreatedly and “in all discernment”, as had the barely literate but charismatically-gifted, and as the ordinary God-bearing faithful of our own time do.
It is the charismatic experience of God which creates the original theology of the Church, no matter whether the manner in which it is verbalized is simplistic, fluent or literary. This theology is a created expression and interpretation of the living and uncreated revelation of God through a specific historical set of circumstances in the life of its Godly enunciators. “People spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”[4], as we are assured by the chief among the custodians of divine majesty.
But to return to the criteria for theologizing. The scientific/academic criteria are created. This is why, apart from the most guaranteed criterion of uncreated sanctity, the only assurance for error-free, Orthodox, scientific theology can be sought- even by those  academic theologians who are wanting in terms of sanctity- in the humble mind-set contained and expressed in the ecclesiastical method which has been applied for centuries and which is characterized by the Patristic statement: “following the holy Fathers”. In any case, this outlook, which was also what ensured their sanctity, was something enjoyed by all the God-bearing holy Fathers who took part in the Ecumenical Synods, which defined, in an error-free manner, the theology of the Church. Theological reflection, to which the “post-Patristic” theologians like to refer, and their concomitant theological speculation do not suit Orthodox ecclesiastical theology but rather that of the heterodox and heretics, which Saint Basil the Great aptly calls  “technology” rather than theology[5]. It is also worth noting in this case the apposite observation of Saint John the Sinaite (of the Ladder) that “he who does not know God [meaning empirically and experientially], predicates by reflection”[6]. And Saint Gregory Palamas charged the Latin-thinking supporters of Barlaam with base and human theological reflection when he noted that we, on the contrary, “do not follow reflections but have been enriched in the confession of the faith by God-chosen sages”[7].
But when the sanctity or even the Orthodox theological methodology of  “following the holy Fathers” is ignored and set aside, adoption of “free” theological reflection and of theological speculation is inevitable. But this, in essence, leads to a “neo-Barlaamist” theology, which is anthropocentric and has as its criterion self-validating reason. Just  as Barlaam and his followers doubted the uncreated nature of the divine light and divine grace, so the “post- Patristic” theologians today effectively ignore the uncreated and, therefore, enduring character of the sanctity and the teaching of the God-bearing Fathers, whom they attempt to replace, as regards teaching, by producing their own original theology. This is not a battle against the Fathers, of an external nature, but in essence a battle against God, because what makes the Fathers of the Church really Fathers is their uncreated sanctity, which, indirectly but to all intents and purposes, these theologians set aside and cancel out with what they propose with their “post-Patristic” theology.
“Post-Patristic” theology, according to the criteria of the Church which we mentioned above, is the result of conceited intellect. This is why it cannot be legitimized by the Church. Ecclesiastical theology is humble, it is always “following the Fathers”. This is not to say that that there is no original dynamism in Church theology, no spirit of renewal and modernity. On the contrary, it has all the above features, because it is the expression of the living presence of the Holy Spirit in the person who theologizes in this way. The Fathers of the Church expressed what they experienced from the activation of their own personal Pentecost, but always, practically, “following” and in agreement with the earlier, God-bearing Fathers.
Orthodox scientific/academic theology is not required to replace the charismatic theology of the Holy Fathers, but nor is it justified in presenting anything other than the authentic theology of the Church. Its task is to approach, investigate and present scientifically the content of the original, charismatic theology of the Church, and also to discern and disseminate the criteria for true theology. In this way, the conjunction of the charismatic theology of the Fathers with an academic approach is achieved and strengthened, the latter being duty bound to follow the former in a humble manner. But all this is promoted only when the academic theologians are not personally bereft of the requirements of the Fathers and unacquainted with the ecclesiological experiential stipulations.
When scientific and academic theology does not meet the above specifications, when it lacks experiential ecclesiological expression, it is cogitative theology and spiritually poor. It approaches the reality of the world and of life merely in a created manner and, at best, expresses things inadequately, while in certain cases, unfortunately, wrongly and even heretically.
In our view, if the “post-Patristic” theologians met the requirements of the Fathers, they would attempt, humbly and quietly, to interpret properly the truth for their own time, without dismissive or at least dubious references to the holy Fathers. And, of course, if, in the end, they were justified, then they would be the voice of the living Holy Tradition of the Church. But this would inevitably mean that what they said would not be at odds with what the holy Fathers said over the years and, in particular, it would not clash with their decisions at the Ecumenical Councils. And all this kerfuffle over “post-Patristic” theology would be redundant. But these putative “post-Patristic” theologians  know very well that the  teaching of the holy Fathers sets clear boundaries, which either do not suit them personally or which impede their strategic goals, which serve their beloved Ecumenism. That is the truth. All the rest is merely careful packaging!
Finally, in conclusion, we might claim without hesitation that “post-Patristic” theology is a clear and overt deviation both from the method and the outlook of the holy Fathers. That is, a deviation from traditional theology, both as regards the way, the requirements and the criteria of theologizing in an Orthodox manner, as well as the content of the ecclesiastical theology of the holy Fathers.

[1] See Saint John Chrystostom, PG, 59, 63: “let us not move eternal boundaries set by our Fathers”.
[2] See Prov. 22, 28. “Do not move the boundary set by your Fathers”.
[3] On Perfection. PG 46, 280D. The only difference lies in the fact that the sanctity of God is spontaneous and natural (it is the essential energy of the divine nature), whereas that of the saints is bestowed by grace from God.
[4] II Peter, 1, 21.
[5] Epistle 90, PG 31-32, 473.
[6] See Discourse XXX, 13.
[7] On the Procession of the Holy Spirit, Discourse II, 18.

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