Romanticism History Historicism Essays On An Orthodoxy Today

Posted on by Kami

I’m reading a very interesting book right now called Orthodox Constructions of the West. Edited by George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou, the book is a collection of essays by various scholars involved in the crucial work of bringing Orthodox Christianity into engagement with contemporary forms of thought. The essays in this volume show that the way to achieve greater critical engagement in the future between orthodoxy and contemporary thought is to take a backward journey into the history of Orthodoxy and to explore evidences from the past that challenge the revisionist historical narratives forged in the fires of the fashionable neo-palamite postmodernism that has been dominating so much American Orthodoxy since the second World War.

I was intrigued by this book since it gives a scholarly basis for some concerns I raised last year in my post on Eastern Orthodoxy and the Lure of Epistemological Romanticism where I argued that Orthodoxy can often be de-historicized through epistemologically naive convert narratives that misunderstand the true nature of the east-west binary. Another reason I find this book such a blessing is that it is helping me come to a broader appreciation of my Orthodox faith following the rather simplistic and reductionistic understanding I had as an early convert. I would recommend this book to all intellectuals coming into Eastern Orthodoxy, but I would particularly insist that it be required reading to all former-Calvinists exploring Orthodoxy.

In his introductory essay, ‘Orthodox Naming of the Other: A Postcolonial Approach’, George Demacopoulos shares some concerns that echoed D.B. Hart’s observations about the evolution of an exaggerated East-West binary. I’m not sure what I think about the legitimacy of using post-colonial critical theory to understand contemporary Orthodox theology, but I do believe Demacopoulos’ comments about idolatry-avoidance are profoundly relevant:

“…the category of the West has played an important role in the Orthodox imagination. It has functioned as an absolute marker of difference from what is considered to be the essence of Orthodoxy, and, this, ironically, has become a constitutive aspect of the modern Orthodox self…. Thus, for Romanides, Yannaras, and many others, the East/West divide was no longer to be narrated just in terms of specific dogmatic positions (concerning such theological controversies as filioque or papal authority), but, rather, in terms of a clash of civilizations–each with distinctive philosophical and cultural systems. For these narrators, the purest form of Christianity had its origin in the Christianized Hellenism of antiquity. Thus, we see a shift from the Byzantine theologians who had criticized their Western counterparts for specific dogmatic positions and to modern Orthodox theologians who began to differentiate themselves from the West in a new way – namely through historicist and philosophical metanarratives. This turn to historical and philosophical explanations is, itself, proof positive that the modern Eastern intellectual tradition has been largely shaped by the Western Enlightenment: Not only in historicism, which is an Enlightenment creation, but the appeal to a past ‘golden age’ smacks of nineteenth-century German Romanticism and Idealism.

Rather than simply note the hypocrisy in the modern Orthodox attempts to self-identify vis-à-vis the West, however, we can employ postcolonial theory to understand how such ironic situations arise within a colonial context. In particular, Bhabha’s concept of ‘mimicry’ is illustrative. For Bhabha, mimicry is intrinstic to all discourse between colonizer and colonized and is always, at least partially, disruptive of colonial rule. What is so tantalizing about the possibility of bringing Bhabha’s thesis of mimicry into conversation with the work of Lossky, Florovsky, Yannaras, Romanides, and others is the ironic ways in which these authors seemingly operate within the philosophical system and employ academic tools of the Western intellectual tradition for the very purpose of narrating an Eastern Christianity that was inherently free of Western pollution….

While some Orthodox scholars might be reluctant to embrace postcolonial critique simply because some of its most committed advocates would resist the truth claims of Christianity, we believe that its theoretical insights should be viewed as an opportunity for, rather than a treat to, Christian theological reflection. In general, this is because postcolonial critique, like critical theory more broadly, enables Christian theologians and historians to be more methodologically self-conscious (and honest) in their endeavor to interpret the theological thinking and records of the past. More specifically, and with respect to the questions and concerns raised in the present volume, we believe that postcolonial critique offers a unique set of intellectual resources for understanding the truly complex and inevitably ambiguous conditions that gave rise to Orthodox constructions of the West. In the end, our method, intention, and aim is to avoid an idolatrous faith based on negative projections of what is other than Orthodox. Such projections are typically about what we wish God to be rather than who God is. We consider the use of postcolonial theory as a resource for self-critique of Orthodox attitudes towards the West in the spirit of an ascetic-like noetic discipline wherein the goal is to clear a path toward communion with the living God, not the god of our projections.


Metcalf (2005, p. 184) propounded the idea that...

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Metcalf, P 2005, Anthropology: the basics, Routledge, Abingdon.


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Metcalf (2005, p. 184) argues that "the Nuer of southern Sudan lacked any institutions of governance; no chiefs or councils of elders, no armies or law enforcement"

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Metcalf, P 2005, Anthropology: the basics, Routledge, Abingdon.

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Much has been written about acute care. Finkelman (2006, p. 184), for example, points out that:

There are many changes in acute care services occurring almost daily, and due to the increasing use of outpatient surgery, surgical services have experienced major changes. Hospitals are increasing the size of their outpatient or ambulatory surgery departments and adjusting to the need of moving patients into and out of the surgical service in 1 day or even a few hours.

Recently, this trend has been seen in some Australian hospitals and research here…

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Finkelman, AW 2006, Leadership and management in nursing, Pearson Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

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