Patristic Prooftexting

“Theology” is not an end in itself. It is always but a way. Theology, and even the “dogmas,” present no more than an “intellectual contour” of the revealed truth, and a “noetic” testimony to it. Only in the act of faith is this “contour” filled with content. Christological formulas are fully meaningful only for those who have encountered the Living Christ, and have received and acknowledged Him as God and Saviour, and are dwelling by faith in Him, in His body, the Church. In this sense, theology is never a self-explanatory discipline. It is constantly appealing to the vision of faith. “What we have seen and have heard we announce to you.” Apart from this “announcement” theological formulas are empty and of no consequence. For the same reason these formulas can never be taken “abstractly,” that is, out of total context of belief. It is misleading to single out particular statements from the Fathers and to detach them from the total perspective in which they have actually been uttered, just as it is misleading to manipulate with detached quotations from the Scripture. It is a dangerous habit “to quote” the Fathers, that is, their isolated sayings and phrases, outside of that concrete setting in which only they have their full and proper meaning and are truly alive. “To follow” the Fathers does not mean just “to quote” them. “To follow” the Fathers means to acquire their “mind,” their phronema.

Fr Georges Florovsky. Bible, Church, Tradition, 109

5 Replies to “Patristic Prooftexting”

  1. You’re really going to enjoy those, Nick!

    Once upon a time, I foolishly hesitated to pick up an entire set of his Collected Works. A day later, when I decided to get them: poof! Gone.

    I have thought to establish an annual commemoration day on which I ritually kick myself for that….

  2. Kevin:
    Ha, ha ha…( “I have thought to establish an annual commemoration day on which I ritually kick myself for that….” )
    Thank you for making me laugh today. I needed that.
    About your post..I think Fr Georges is right on.

  3. Excellent, Kevin! And this is why it is so hard to debate these matters. It’s like two people who speak different languages, trying to convince the other of his viewpoint. It just doesn’t work! How can I communicate to you with mere words what I have experienced in my heart and life? It’s like trying to prove the existence of God to an atheist. Thanks for the quote.

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