Thursday, January 24, 2008

Palamism and Existentialism

This study, despite certain imprecisions, presents the most valuable part of the work of Fr. J. Meyendorff. Fr. Meyendorff lays out the theological views of St. Gregory Palamas brilliantly and interestingly, although with insufficient attention to the ascetic-mystical aspect of his teaching. Unfortunately, however, the author, wishing to make the theology of Palamas more accessible to the contemporary reader, “modernizes” his teaching and, pulling him out of his epoch, attempts to express it in terms of the most recent Western European philosophy. Especially irritating in this regard is the stubborn employment by the author through the length of the book of the expressions “existential,” “existentialism,” etc. for characterizing the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. The same, although to a lesser extent, may be said in regard to the application to Barlaam of the terms “nominalist,” and “nominalism.” It would be much more valuable (and, undoubtedly, “more scholarly”) had Fr. John, instead of such modernism, studied more thoroughly the patristic roots of “palamism,” as well as those of his opponents, in the theological and mystical tradition of Byzantium.

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