His Eminence Ioannis of Pergamon elicits strong reactions. Here is one from an Italian Orthodox journal. The quality of the English is rather poor but the points they wish to make deserve consideration.
Read on the Web athttp://digilander.libero.it/ortodossia/Zizioulas.htmIs the Theologian Ioannis Zizioulas
This work is not based on empty inferences.
In Italy there are many articles of Zizioulas translated and publicized and also some book.
In Greece there are differents works of Zizioulas publicized. Recently Zizioulas has participated to a conference in Italy and he has spoken in manner absolutely catholic!
All this more the comments of some orthodox teologian from Romania, France and Greece have pushed us to take this clear position. We must do this because there are orthodox countries where the Zizioulas' theology is beginning to create big problems to the same Orthodoxy creating lacerations and sufferings.
We hope that a day our readership, reading some work of Zizioulas and compares it with the thought of orthodox authors they will see that our writing is real!
In full sincerity, we have to distance ourselves completely from and express our disavowal of the “orthodox" theologian Ioannis Zizioulas. After having studied his recent “theology”, we are now utterly convinced his thinking thoroughly distorts and misrepresents Orthodoxy. Here are some points, which clearly vindicate our contentions:
1. For Zizioulas the true “problem of ecumenicity”" seems to be an issue of structures or functions like, for example, that of the papacy. The fact that there is no papacy in Eastern Christendom pushes Zizioulas to search for substitutes because he presumes the papacy as an unreservedly acceptable and necessary principle underlying the foundations of all Christian Churches. In truth, the absence of the function of the papacy poses no problem to Orthodoxy. For a millennium, the Pope had been the first amongst the orthodox Patriarchs and nobody had felt such a thing was strange or alien to Orthodoxy. The true problem of ecumenicity is quite another: Orthodoxy cannot recognize in any Western form of Church life the Orthodox Way of life. Orthodoxy finds, instead, the single mentality of western Church life that pervades all kinds of Christian activities in Western Christendom to be far away from that Orthodox Way. In such a context, the papacy itself is a mere consequence of the absence of the Orthodox Way of life. Zizioulas appears unable to discern this clear-cut difference.
2. The Orthodox Way of life does not imply uniformity. We see a legitimate diversity prevailing in customary issues amongst all Orthodox Churches. The Orthodox Way of life appears to have a common base: the common faith, the common life under the uncreated Grace of God and not according to the wisdom of this world, the taste and experience of the uncreated gifts of God which offer true guidelines to human life in all its aspects. All these escape to a great extend western Christianity even to the point to feeling free to substitute typically human sentiments or securities for the uncreated gifts of God! This explains why orthodox people cannot help defining western Christianity as "Arian".
3. As Zizioulas overlooks this serious problem, his perspective of ecumenicity becomes irreparably defective. His failure is comparable to someone’s attempting to join in wedlock a man and a woman with characters so far apart that they cannot stand each other; nevertheless, he imperturbably discusses the organization of their household and their accommodation details, such as where to place their bedroom, etc. Such a discussion is truly illusory and abstract and aims at deceiving its listeners. Such a discussion makes the listeners believe that, in fact, no substantial difference between Western Christianity and Orthodoxy did ever exist! What would Catholics and Protestants think of Zizioulas once they discovered that his account consisted of academic theories without any real and concrete foundations in history?
4. By doing so, Zizioulas demonstrates a much greater love for himself that for the catholic world because he is obviously trying to gain support and approval of his own importance by choosing to speak the language the Catholics find to be music to their ears. If he did love the catholic world or the Reformed Christians, he would have duly the courage to unmask in front of them the false securities, which surround them. Once upon a time, the prophets did this same thing to the Israelites when the latter would not follow the ways of God, but those stemming from mere human wisdom.
Moreover, one can detect in Zizioulas’ s thought some considerable theological anomalies that either verge on or, to some point, identify with heresy. In fact, he is greatly indebted to it, at least in the following instances:
1. Regarding a supposed correlative between the intimate life of the Trinity and the Church. Zizioulas asserts: "since the Trinity is communion, the Church must be communion too". This and similar parallelisms imply a primordial principle of analogy between created and uncreated reality (analogia entis), which is strictly forbidden in patristic theology. According to the Holy Fathers ’s teaching, there is no analogy whatsoever between the created world and the uncreated Trinity! In fact, we can say nothing about the life of the Trinity, save that the Father generates, the Son is generated and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. We cannot "put our nose in the Trinity", as saint Gregory the Theologian said!
2. Zizioulas associates the concept of "communion" with that of "relation". Hence, for Zizioulas, a person in relation is a person in communion. This principle is born from personalistic philosophy and is contrary to the definition of the person the Fathers repeatedly cite in their writings. For them the Persons of the Trinity represent three "distinctions" within the Trinity, not three "relations" of the Trinity with Its own Self! Zizioulas does not consider this and he applies his philosophical principle of the person equally to both: the Trinity and all created human beings! Thus, his absolute philosophical principle renders incomprehensible and anomalous every human person, who is not in constant communion with other persons such as hermits, precisely because they are not "in relation" with the world! Consequently, Zizioulas promulgates a philosophical and sociological concept of the Church whereby each traditional element is reshaped according to this mentality or, if it cannot be reshaped, then it is abolished! Because of his Procrustean theological method, authorities such as saint Gregory Palamas or saint Maximos the Confessor create serious problems to his "theological system" and, therefore, he never quotes the former and the latter is quoted rarely!
3. On the other hand, Zizioulas owes his theological formation to authors like Henry De Lubac. There are very many similarities between the two, there is even an Oxford thesis examining their striking similarities, a sign that Zizioulas has assumed many theological elements from the catholic theologian De Lubac, and assimilated them to his thinking thus becoming himself a thoroughly catholic theologian. The same concept of "Church - Eucharist" is also found in the Russian theologian Afanasieff, but it is typically western. As the East emphasizes the life in the Spirit and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit (see saint Seraphim of Sarov) so the West emphasizes the Eucharist. Between the two emphases lies the huge difference in theological mentalities, which separate the two traditions. In the case of Orthodoxy, one discerns the freedom of man and the prominence of the Presence of God; in Western Christianity prominent is the human initiative in "achieving", "possessing" and "consuming" the Eucharist. As the Romanian theologian Dumitru Popescu has noticed: “By emphasizing the Eucharist in the typical manner pertaining to catholic theologians, Zizioulas has removed the vertical dimension of the Church and rendered the Eucharist from a means into an end in itself”. No wonder then, in the light of such startling similarities, that a profound sympathy has developed between Zizioulas and the catholic world, wherein, out of mutual responsiveness, Zizioulas’ s writings are constantly published and celebrated as expressive of the true spirit of Catholicism, as perceived by an "orthodox", recently rehabilitated into the catholic faith!
These remarks are meant to inform our readership. We are not against dialogue, nor against sincere and open comparisons. We believe, however, that comparisons must only show respectively the real positions of what orthodox and catholic Christians truly believe or experience. Only by doing so theologians are truly representative of their traditions; otherwise, they end up to representing only their own individuality of thought and they speak only for the sake of pleasing their friends’ ears.
But in the present case, our “theologian” has betrayed his listeners twice: a) by denying them understanding of what his tradition truly stands for and b) by snatching from them unjustifiable esteem and honours for improper “services” he has falsely rendered to them…
In addition, out of respect for the Catholic and the Reformed world we must state that Zizioulas’ s theological style and argumentation can be proven deceitful, as he often stands too far from the truth. This man’ s individual thinking in no way represents the orthodox traditional theology but only personal and, at times, peculiar theological aspects having nothing to do with the common experience shared and faithfully practised by the great majority of orthodox believers down the Christian centuries.
The editorial staff of the Magazine "Italia Ortodossa"