Neopatristic Synthesis in The Daily Word

Feast of St Artemius the Great Martyr of Antioch

Church_Fathers_Square_2.pngTHIS PAST Saturday I presented our second Fall Table Talk in a series titled “For the Life of a Secular Age.” The series is an attempt at a condensed version of my dissertation in four monthly lectures. 

The first lecture, back in September, summarized the secularization thesis as the diminishing significance of religion that is an inevitable result of modernization. And it shamefully summarized Charles Taylor’s monumental book, A Secular Age, in three key points:

  1. Taylor argues against the typical “subtraction story” of secularization, suggesting that the historical trajectory of secularization has not been a loss, but rather the creation of a previously unthinkable option: exclusive humanism.
  2. The rise of exclusive humanism as a legitimate option has led to a supernova effect, by which Taylor means the options of belief in our age have multiplied. And so he redefines our secular age as one in which there are many options, of which Christianity is the most difficult.
  3. Taylor contrasts the medieval world with our secular age by highlighting five key changes: 1) Disenchantment as the porous self becoming a buffered self; 2) Rejection of higher / liturgical time; 3) Loss of Fasting and Feasting (my adaptation of his focus on carnival); 4) Transition from an era of community to an age of individualism; and 5) Shift from a hierarchical cosmos to a vast impersonal universe.

The second lecture, for October, turned to Fr. Georges Florovsky, a twentieth-century Russian Orthodox priest. In this lecture I began constructing a Christian response to our secular age by focusing on an idea advocated by Florovsky: “Neopatristic synthesis.” This is essentially a call I have been advocating at Eighth Day Institute from its inception: “Return to the Fathers!”

As a follow-up to this second Table Talk, this week’s Daily Word (Oct 19-24) will try to encapsulate Florovsky’s project in six readings.

If this week’s readings intrigue you, join us for our next Table Talk on November 21. I’ll be developing Florovsky’s “Neopatristic synthesis” by summarizing “Liturgical Theology”, a project initiated by Florovsky’s colleague Fr. Alexander Schmemann. And then I’ll present “Canonical Theism”, a more recent project put forth by the Methodist theologian William Abraham, to accomplish two objectives: 1) to defend liturgical theology’s emphasis on the primacy of liturgy; and 2) to initiate a synthesis and enlargement of both Florovsky’s and Schmemann’s projects.

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