Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The University Lectures of Fr John Romanides

My friends at Uncut Mountain Supply – who earlier this year began distribution of The Boundless Garden, Alexandros Papadiamandis' wonderful collection of short stories (see my posts here, here, and here) – were kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of Patristic Theology: The University Lectures of Protopresbyter John Romanides, which they are now also distributing. I read it earlier this month, although not in "review mode," that is, without a pencil in hand. Now that I again have access to the Internet I hope to revisit it, and to share my comments here. That should give you just enough time to purchase your own copies, so that we can discuss it together. In the meantime, compliments of Patrick Barnes at the Orthodox Christian Information Center, you can read online chapter one ("What is the Human Nous"), chapter 24 ("What is the Core of Orthodox Tradition"), and chapter 29 ("On Conservatives and Liberals").

Please do not be put off by the book's rather intimidating title. This really is the best place to start if you have any interest at all in the thought of Fr John Romanides or, more generally, in contemporary Greek Orthodox theology. The lectures are almost conversational in tone, unlike some of Fr John's more difficult works, which tend to be dense or even cryptic. (It is much more accessible, for instance, than his Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics, which exists in a dual Greek-English version prepared by Fr George Dragas.)

Fr George Metallinos, Dean of the Theological School at the University of Athens, writes in his introduction to the present work that "we can refer to a 'pre-Romanides' period and a 'post-Romanides' period in our universities." This is not an overstatement. Indeed, my only quarrel with Fr George's words is that it's in fact too early to speak of a "post-Romanides" period: his influence in Greece simply hasn't waned. The only comparable figure in terms of influence on contemporary Greek Orthodox theology is Metropolitan John (Zizoulas) of Pergamon, who takes a radically different approach from that of Fr Romanides, and is indeed criticized (although not by name) in these lectures. Fr John's influence is not limited to the Greek-speaking world. Those who have read Kyriacos C. Markides' The Mountain of Silence might recall that Fr Romanides is named as the primary theological influence of the book's "Fr Athanasius," the pseudonym given by the author to Metropolitan Athanasios of Lismassol (Church of Cyprus). Many more of you are likely familiar with the themes of Fr John's work through the writings of his prolific student Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos. Readers of this blog might also recall Fr Romanides' name from my series of posts on St Dionysius the Areopagite in twentieth-century Orthodox theology, especially part three.

My reading of Fr Romanides' lectures will not be uncritical – which, I hope, should make the exercise more interesting and, hopefully, more encouraging of discussion. So, order your copy now, and we'll get started very soon. (As the cynical among you may have guessed, I hope to get more free books from Uncut Mountain in the future!)


Kevin Thomas said...


So glad to see you coming back to health! I have missed so much your postings. I just received this book not long ago, as well, and it looks quite rich. Particularly helpful is the fact that the "lectures" are brief, making it good reading for a person with a "normal job" to use on breaks, over lunch, etc.

Kevin Thomas

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