Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fr. John McGuckin-The Church of Today


At the end of January the Fr. Alexander Schmemann lecture was given this year (2014) by Fr. John McGuckin. Fr. John spoke about the Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church and the following excerpt was his conclusion to the talk. He concluded on what the church is today and tomorrow.

I believe, the future of Orthodox theology is neither Sophianism or Neo-Patristic synthesis; neither Neo-Palamism nor ressourciement, not Nouvelle theologieor even ancienne theologie for that matter; not progressivism or conservatism. The future of Orthodox theology is fidelity to the Gospel lived out in the interim as we approach the eschaton. We have always known this; and accordingly have always known that we were supposed to resist the isms and secessions, scholasticisms, denominations, and all other sorts of factions that mark off a sectarian mentality from the ecclesial spirit. Now there have been endless temptations of the Christian church in recent generations to dissect itself in ever-diminishing circles. The ecumenical movement that once shone so radiantly in the early post-war years when these Orthodox thinkers of Lossky’s time were in their prime, excited and energized, is now a squeaking ghost of itself because of that spirit of divisionism that is rife. Conservative Christians can hardly speak to progressives. But when we Orthodox are being specifically conscious about our mode of discourse today, I think we should remember that the church has always used philosophical method very eclectically to exegete the Gospel; applying a purely utilitarian principle. It can never wed itself to any method or school or system except that which Gregory the Theologian calls ‘a fisherman’s dialectic.’   

Orthodox have sometimes begun to imagine themselves as a denomination alongside other multiple churches in a pluralist world, and to speak of themselves in that way. But Orthodoxy’s role is not to be a subaltern in a post-colonial ambit: to appear quaint when we speak to some putative West, as some putative East. On the contrary, we have to hold an important line: the church is not a sect. It contains within its living body, conservatives and progressives, liberal reformists and die-hard traditionalists, not to mention saints and sinners. Within Orthodoxy those who want to ‘synthesize’ for the future, and those who want to keep everything intact as it was in the past, both have to learn the hard reality that it is only God’s eschaton that makes the correct judgement on what is right and what is wrong with the Church. The spotless Bride who contains all that is necessary for salvation in her trousseau, is ever the same (just seen in a different light) as that annoying baggage that is the Church on earth, which is comprised of an awful lot of flawed and compromised individuals trying to do their best to make their pilgrimage to the Kingdom. The Orthodox always attempt to be ever faithful to the evangelical tradition they have received and which they seek tp preserve in the canons and the writings of the dogmatic and spiritual fathers, but above all they are called to live it out, live out that is the resurrectional presence of Christ, through his Spirit, in the largely unseen holiness of the ecclesial community.

Fr. John McGuckin      

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