Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Adam, Eve, and Seth: Pneumatological Reflections on an Unusual Image in Gregory of Nazianzus's "Fifth Theological Oration"

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Adam, Eve, and Seth: Pneumatological Reflections on an Unusual Image in Gregory of Nazianzus's "Fifth Theological Oration"

Article excerpt

I have been asked to contribute to this volume primarily, I suspect, in order to serve as the voice of the Christian East. While it is perhaps a little odd for a California boy, and coming thus from the uttermost West, to present himself as an "Oriental," I nonetheless welcome this opportunity to speak on behalf of an entire Christian universe of theological discourse which, up until recent centuries at least, took shape independently of the Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) traditions, and, in particular, with no input whatsoever from the great Father of Western theology, Augustine of Hippo. It is, of course, St. Augustine's elaboration and defense of the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son which, long after the saint's death (his writings were not translated into Greek until the end of the thirteenth century), provoked heated controversy between medieval Greek and Latin theologians. No single issue between Christian East and West, including the debate over the nature of papal primacy, has led to such an outpouring of polemic as the Western filioque. Indeed, it continues to the present day. I have no particular wish to dive into this sea of ink, and have so far in my life happily avoided even wading on its shores. Few things so depress the spirit (and occlude the Spirit!) as this seemingly endless controversial literature which, beginning with the Carolingian divines of the late eighth century, now boasts a history of over 1200 yearswith no end to it in sight. What I do want to do, however, is offer a very modest suggestion as to why, aside from the more abstruse realms of divine causation, such as the quarrel over one or two sources of origin in the Trinity, or over the more rarified heights of Augustine's analogy of the intellect (mens) for the mutual relations of the Three, Eastern Christians reacted so viscerally, almost instinctively, against the Spirit as proceeding from the Father and Son. To be sure, there were and are lots of other factors in play: the ancient linkage between the filioque and the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Carolingian and Byzantine empires, or of papal primacy once the popes had committed themselves to the credal addition, or simply the very human reality of an underdog East asserting itself against the ever more massive material, intellectual, and institutional might of the West. None of these interests me, at least for the purposes of this essay. What does, though, is the very long, indeed unbroken tradition of Eastern Christian spirituality, and especially the great role played in it by the thought and practice of early Christian Syria, whose Jewish roots are well known and are lately coming under increasing scholarly investigation. One instance of this influence, only now beginning to be perceived, is that of the Cappadocian Fathers-Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa-whose own influence on Eastern pneumatology and triadology is universally admitted and standard fare in the manuals.

This is a vast subject, so for the purposes of one necessarily brief essay allow me to focus on a single passage from the writings of the middle Cappadocian, Gregory Nazianzus, called "the Theologian" in the East out of gratitude for his enormously influential and successful Five Theological Orations, given in defense of Trinitarian doctrine in Constantinople just prior to the Ecumenical Council of 381. The passage in question comes about a third of the way through Gregory's fifth oration, "On the Spirit." He is struggling to explain the difference between the procession (ekporeusis) of the Spirit and the generation (gennesis) of the Son, in order to avoid the twin absurdities of the Son and Spirit as brothers, on the one hand, or the Father as "grandfather" on the other. This is, of course, the point where Augustine's analogies in De trinitate came into play: the Spirit as "love" and "gift" linking "Lover" (Father) and "Beloved" (the Son), or the analogy of the intellect, with will (Spirit) as flowing from memory (Father) and intelligence (Son). …

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