Monday, March 28, 2011

Collecting Manna: David Bentley Hart on the Cappadocians

I've noticed I've taken to quoting far too many white male theologians in these posts, with a definite paucity in the departments of women and persons of non-European origin. Remediation will come soon, I promise. In the meantime, I just came across this wonderful quote from Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart in a piece he wrote on Robert Jenson. I think it helps unfold what I was after in my sermon yesterday, and Hart summarizes the Cappadocians with all his characteristic pomposity and flair.

The Cappadocians, by the way, were neither white nor European, but hailed from the regions around modern Istanbul and Turkey in the late fourth-century, and are considered the most imaginative and most powerful champions of Nicene Trinitarian orthodoxy. Their ranks included St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, and also their sister, St. Makrina. There you go - a woman and some non-Europeans! Even so, the debt is far from paid...

It must be appreciated, I hasten to add, that "salvation" was not understood by the Cappadocian fathers in the rather feeble and formal way many Christians have habitually thought of it at various periods in the Church's history: as some sort of forensic exoneration accompanied by a ticket of entry into an Elysian aftermath of sun-soaked meadows and old friends and consummate natural beatitude. Rather, salvation meant nothing less than being joined to the Living God by the mediation of the God-Man Himself, brought into living contact with the transfiguring glory of the divine nature, made indeed partakers of the divine nature itself (2 Peter 1.4) and co-heirs of the Kingdom of God. In short, being saved was - is to be "divinized" in Christ by the Spirit . In the great formula of St. Irenaeus (and others), "God became man that man might become god." (from "The Lively God of Robert Jenson" in First Things, October 2005, 30)

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