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Theological Disambiguations

An Unconventional Handbook of Orthodox Theology

by Rev. Vladan Perisic

Foreword
by Fr John Behr

It is a great pleasure to see this work published, making available some of the most important writings of Fr Vladan Perisic over the last couple of decades available, together in one volume, to an English speaking audience. Fr Vladan’s work is well known in Serbia, and in broader academic and ecumenical circles. But it can now receive the much wider readership that it deserves, and, as a collected volume, its scope, coherence, and significance is sure to receive the recognition it deserves.

The eighteen essays collected here treat diverse topics, from academic theology (and its place in the Church) to questions of life and death, from historically oriented studies, on Sts Ignatius and Gregory Palamas, to contemporary issues, such as human rights and ecology. Each of them is characterized by meticulous scholarship and great insight, clarity of thought and expression.

While treating diverse topics, there is nevertheless an underlying unifying approach, one that is captured well by the arresting title of this book: Theological Disambiguations. The title, of course, calls to mind the great (and dense) work of St Maximus the Confessor, the Ambigua. It is characteristic that this saint, the most profound theologian among the Fathers, does not attempt to construct an overarching edifice of systematic theology, as has become the practice over the last centuries, but rather explores particular theological points, taking his lead from difficult statements of St Gregory the Theologian, and in doing so leads the reader to a more expansive theological vision, in which the original point of difficulty becomes recontextualized and greater insight into the breadth and depths of the wisdom of God is attained. Fr Vladan’s approach is similar, taking various issues that have become problematic due to the modern polarization between faith and reason, and seeking to resolve the problematic by working carefully through the issues involved and finding a standpoint prior to the opposition, so opening out a more comprehensive horizon.

Of particular interest is Fr Vladan’s assertion that the proper context of Christian theology is philosophy. Much of late twentieth-century theology has been devoted to exploring the fact that all theology is necessarily contextual, for it is always—from the apostles and evangelists themselves to contemporary thinkers— articulated by historically, geographically, and sociologically situated human beings. Against the tendency to then re-contextualize theology within different anthropological, sociological, cultural, and political contexts, Fr Vladan argues, rightly, that the proper context for theology is in fact philosophy. While every theologian certainly thinks, speaks, and writes in a particular socio-political situation, the problems address, as theology, belong to a different realm. To use Fr Vladan’s image: the evangelist John, the "Theologian", asserts "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), not "the Word became a Jewish rabbi and dwelt in first-century Judea"; as true as the second statement is, it is not theology, whereas the first statement is properly theological, reflected upon intensely in the theological debates of the following centuries, concluding that the enfleshed Word defines for us both what it is to be God (he is consubstantial with the Father) and what it is to be human (he is consubstantial with us), in one, and as such is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). After a couple of centuries of intense theological scholarship, which has resulted in the fragmentation of the discipline of theology into a variety of fields (Scriptural study, liturgical study, patristics, systematic reflection, etc.) that are often unable to understand each other, understanding the proper nature of theological discourse, as theology, is one of the most pressing contemporary issues. This "unconventional handbook" has much to offer, as we begin to learn again how to speak true theology.


People Directory

Milina Jovanović

Milina Jovanović came to the U.S. from Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1994. She holds a J.D. and a double master’s in interdisciplinary Social Sciences from the University of Belgrade and San José State University. She was a teaching assistant and a research associate at the Sociological and Criminological Institute in Belgrade between 1986 and 1994. As a graduate researcher in the U.S. she compared women’s education and employment in California and Yugoslavia and published the results of her research. Milina contributed to a nationally recognized study on immigrant contributions and integration practices in Santa Clara County (Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley), and co-edited KIN: Knowledge of Immigrant Nationalities. Her book All Roads Lead to Jackson: Serbian American Contributions in Amador County, CA since the Gold Rush was published in 2013 by Sebastian Press. Jovanović’s articles have appeared in Serbia, other parts of the former Yugoslavia, U.S., U.K., Belgium, and France.

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Publishing

Man and the God-Man

by Archimandrite Justin Popovich

"Father Justin Popovich, pan-orthodox witness to the God-revealed and Christ-given Eternal Truth, whose testimony can be even seen within this collection of his articles - that "the mystery of Truth is not in material things, not in ideas, not in symbols, but in Personhood, namely the Theanthropic Person of the Lord Christ, Who said: I am the Truth (John 14:6), Truth perfect, never diminished, always one and the same in its complete fullness - yesterday, today, and forever (Heb.13:8)."

The treasure to be found in this anthology of neopatristic syntheses consists of: "Perfect God and perfect man" - Nativity Epistle, where Fr Justin boldly exclaim that "man is only a true man when he is completely united with God, only and solely in God is man a man, true man, perfect man, a man in whom all the fullness of Godhead lives."; "The God-man" - The foundation of the Truth of Orthodoxy - Ava Justinian language of love in Christ-centered reflections of Truth; "The Supreme Value and Infallible Criterion"- contemporary philosophical reflections on visible and invisible realities; "Sentenced to Immortality" - a homily on the Resurrection or Our Lord Jesus Christ; "Humanistic and Theanthropic Culture"-criticism of European anti-Christian culture; "Humanistic and Theanthropic Education" - indicative pondering of consequences of education without God.. ; "The Theory of Knowledge of Saint Isaac the Syrian" - Faith, prayer, love, humility, grace and freedom, the purification of the intellect, mystery of knowledge; "A Deer in a Lost Paradise" - Ava's renowned poetic essay, a confession, and deepest longing for all-sweetest Jesus...