Trinity College

Modern Orthodox Theology (15th to 21st c)

Course Code: 
Last Offered: 
Fall 2019
Next Offered: 
Fall 2022

After the great historic period of Orthodox theology in the 14th century, dominated by Saint Gregory Palamas, Orthodox thought and theology suffered long centuries of stagnation as a result of the Mongol occupation of Russia, Ottoman oppression in the Byzantine world, and Western influences on Orthodox theology and ecclesial life. In the 19th century Orthodox theology began to emerge from the “Western Captivity”, initially in Russia, and the 20th century witnessed a flowering of Orthodox theology, such as was not seen for many centuries. Theologians in countries of Orthodox tradition and among Orthodox communities in the West revived neglected aspects of Orthodox theology and examined a very wide range of theological themes, frequently opening original perspectives on traditional questions or addressing new issues. Underlying modern Orthodox theology is the general question of the engagement of Orthodox theology with the problems raised in “modern” and “post-modern” societies by such forces as secularism, relativism, atheism, political ideologies, humanism, social pluralism, ethical problems, science, ecumenism, interfaith contacts and globalisation. The insight of modern Orthodox theology on such questions leads to an enriched understanding of the Faith in the contemporary world and provides the basis for a deepening of spiritual life.

This course will allow students to familiarize themselves with the principal theologians, themes and writings of modern Orthodox theology. The course will highlight the two main theological approaches of the 20th century, “religious philosophy” and “neo-patristic” theology, mindful of both personal and theological convergences and divergences among the leading figures. The course will cover Orthodox theology after the 14th century; Western influences in Orthodoxy; the Russian theological academies; Orthodox dialogues with Protestantism and with Anglicanism; the “Symbolic Books” of the 17th century; the origins of the Patristic revival in the 18th century; the Russian religious renaissance of the 19th and early 20th centuries; the origins and characteristics of the major modern theological approaches; leading Orthodox theologians.