Sunday, November 16, 2014

Academic theology is not enough for salvation

Academic theology is, in many respects, very different to pastoral theology, to the theology taught and believed within the Orthodox Church. The first is a discipline, which searches for facts, the latter basis its beliefs on faith. In a previous post I had argued how dogmatic theology is polemic[1], which is the case of academic theology too, especially when describing the relations between Orthodoxy and the other churches or religions. Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov gives his views on this issue, stating that:


‘Academic theology is not enough for salvation. Read especially the ascetic Fathers. From them you will learn true theology, the right attitude of the mind and heart where God is concerned. Pure prayer is not given to those who study a lot. In that sense, the path of academic theology is hardly effective, and can rarely lead to pure prayer. . .
God can touch the spirit of man and give him, directly and immediately, knowledge of Himself. There is a great difference between this knowledge and that which is acquired in theological schools. It can be very dangerous to do theology without having an existential experience of life in the spirit of Christ. One risks, in fact, turning the study of theology, especially in its apophatic forms, into a subject like philosophy or poetry. One risks adopting a false attitude, thinking oneself superior, and that is enough for perdition. In our life in Christ, it is another kind of inspiration that we must seek.
Theological science, which is taught in academic institutions and has become an intellectual specialisation open to all, does not give knowledge of God. Knowledge of God comes from life in God, which is born in the deepest place of the heart. One can be a great scholar, with academic qualifications, and yet remain completely ignorant about the path of salvation.’[2]



[2] Sakharov, Archimandrite Sophrony, Words of Life, (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2010), pp. 40-42. 

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