30 December 2010

The Orthodox Church and the modern world

Recently I came across a paper by Pantelis Kalaitzidis, the Director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies. I don't have the time or inclination to address the entire paper. I would like to address, briefly, the interrelationship between Church and world that Kalaitzidis discusses. One brief quote may suffice:

the Church and its theology cannot move forward in the world while ignoring or devaluing the world that surrounds them, just because this world is not ‘Christian,’ or because it is not as they would like it. Similarly, the Church and its theology cannot motivate the people of today, the people of modernity and late modernity, so long as the modern world continues to be scorned and disparaged by the Church, and ignored as revelatory material and flesh to be assumed."

In the Holy Scriptures and the rest of the Church's tradition, "world" has two sense. In one of those senses, "world" is the object of God's creation, redemption and sanctification--e.g. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." But in the other sense, it is the fallen system whose head is the devil and whose internal ally is our sinful flesh (another word with two main senses). Thus, St. John says, "Do not love the world, or the things in the world. Whoever loves the world is at enmity with God."

The real contrast that Orthodox theologians have to address is not the contrast between the ancient and modern worlds. The real contrast is that between the world in the two biblical senses.

In which of those two senses does the world "function as revelatory material and flesh to be assumed?"