Metropolitan speaks to TSU

In a stark contrast to the usually casual attire found on students and faculty at SPU, the most reverend Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia spoke to School of Theology students yesterday dressed in long, black traditional Eastern Orthodox robes.

Bishop Kallistos, born Timothy Ware, has long been recognized as one of the leading Eastern Orthodox theologians alive today, and spoke to Theology Student Union (TSU) students on the definition of theology. Metropolitan Kallistos taught theology at Oxford for 35 years before being elevated as a Metropolitan Bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

"Theology is nowhere in the Old Testament or New Testament," he said. "It’s not a scriptural term."

He explained the history of theological study, dating back to the earliest Greek Orthodox founders, citing generously from texts and theologians, both Eastern and Western, identifying the early church theologian Origen as his favorite.

The metropolitan said that theology demonstrates a personal commitment to prayer, and boiled Greek theological views down to three categories.

"There are saints, who have personal experiences of God; people who trust the saints and try to reproduce what they are saying; and those who don’t trust the saints. Those are bad theologians," he said.

The point of theology is not purely academic rigor, but identification with the vision of God, rather than a theory of the world, he said.

Emphasizing the element of mystery, the metropolitan spoke about theology as something revealed to followers to be understood, but never exhaustively.

"Theology must be expressed in a riddling, enigmatic way," he said, "stretching human language beyond our limits in order to express the boundlessness of God in ways that seem paradoxical."

Theological study and education, he argued, should reflect qualities of wonder, freedom and community, displaying a willingness to be educated and surprised by God’s revelations. He said education should not be the stuffing of facts into brains but the opening of eyes to a sense of wonder.

"Theologians should be explorers," he said. "The truth will make you free."

After his speech, he gave a short question and answer time that allowed for theology students to ask about the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Senior Melissa Daniels said that Metropolitan Kallistos was wonderful in his speech, and that she connected with his idea of mystery.

"The simplicity of his message takes a lot of pressure off of those going into ministry," she said. "The mystery is OK."

Assistant professor of theology Dave Nienhuis said that the metropolitan’s emphasis on mystery resonated most fully. He said that, in the Western Christian tradition, mystery is associated with not thinking, while the Eastern tradition sees mystery as a revelation for partial understanding.

"Wonder draws you into the mystery, and freedom allows you to be free from yourself in service to God," Nienhuis said.

Rick Steele, professor of moral and historical theology, said that the metropolitan’s emphasis from the Orthodox Church is to the fidelity to the past. Steele said different issues that Protestant churches debate about, such as the role of women in ministry, are viewed much differently from an Orthodox worldview and a long upheld tradition of patriarchal hierarchy.

"Tradition is massively important," he said.

Sophomore Mike Zosel said that he was impressed with the knowledge Metropolitan Kallistos presented.

"He had a very mature conception of the mystery of God and the paradox of faith," he said.

Senior Shannon Blake said that Metropolitan Kallistos took deep concepts and made them approachable for students.

"Mystery came up a lot, and I like the concept of unraveling and yet not fully understanding God," she said.

Sophomore Ben Climer said that he appreciated SPU bringing in a perspective from outside Protestant theological thought.

"He’s brilliant, and it’s honoring that he even showed up," he said.

Rob Wall, Paul T. Walls professor of scripture and Wesleyan studies, said that the metropolitan’s discussion of prayer in the study of theology is hugely important. He said that Metropolitan Kallistos was very good at tying in Wesleyan principles with the Eastern Orthodox position, and that many Wesleyan theological views were similar to that of the Eastern Church.

"The West understands salvation in terms of a courtroom, in which Christ delivers us from the death sentence of sin, whereas the East understands grace as a medication for the sickness of sin," he said. "It’s a vision of healing over acquittal."

Wall said he appreciated the metropolitan’s idea of theology of community, because it’s the way theology is learned, but wished that he had expanded on what specific community practices were.

Wall also said he found it interesting that both Metropolitan Kallistos and noted German theologian Jurgen Moltmann, who spoke in October, were speakers who were not typical for SPU’s faith community. He said he hoped there would be more global initiative in terms of theologians brought to campus in the future, including African and Latino scholars and theologians.

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Title: Metropolitan speaks to TSU | Author: Andy Scott | Section: News | Published Date: 2008-03-05 | Internal ID: 6374