John Zizioulas Lectures in Christian Dogmatics – Editor’s Introduction

In these lectures the celebrated Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas introduces the Christian faith. Zizioulas shows that the living Christian community is the demonstration of God’s love for the world, and its faith articulates that love. This community is the communion and the freedom of God, given to the world. The Church sets out its account of this communion and freedom in its doctrine.

In his thoroughly integrated account, Zizioulas shows that the Christian doctrine of God is intimately linked to the Church. Human being is raised to participate in the life of God and sustained by the friendship that is shared by the triune persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Within this communion man is made free, so he can willingly receive and give the love of God, and the Church is the form in which he participates in this communion.

Zizioulas not only tells us what the Church teaches, but also why, and what difference it makes to us. He lays out profound and complex ideas with the utmost simplicity to show us how Christian doctrine integrates issues of communion, freedom and personhood. These lectures also explore the relationship of the individual Christian to other Christians and to the Church, and so introduce us to a discipleship and spirituality of love. Few other thinkers have succeeded in establishing that communion and freedom are as fundamental as this. The lectures come in four parts, that discuss doctrine, God, the economy of God for man and the Church. A more profound or lucid exposition of Christian teaching would be hard to find.

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On the way to Easter – Lent 3

Exodus 17.1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5.1-11
John 4.5-42

In our preparation for Easter we have been looking at the different aspects of the resurrection that are presented to us in the Scripture readings for the five Sundays of Lent. We are thinking through here what we are doing when we gather in Church and spelling out some of what is going on, on Easter Sunday morning. We want to show when we say ‘Christ is risen’ we are referring to a question, and to a promise, about our own identity.

We said that the Christian confession of God helps us to hear the question of God, ‘Where is your brother?’ The Christian faith is a real listening, to the world and to God, and it prevents us from making ourselves secure without one another.

So far we have said that the Church is the fellowship created by the love of God for us and God’s act of witness to the world. Next we have to say that the Church is the whole company of heaven, making itself felt here and now for us. This company are our servants, and together they make up the service of Christ to us. This company is also in disguise, so it is not obvious that this is what is happening.

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On the way to Easter – Lent 2

Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Genesis 12.1-4
Psalm 121
Romans 4.1-5, 13-17
John 3.1-17

We are practicing our gospel. This is what we are doing in Lent. We are explaining what we mean when we say at Easter that Christ is risen. Last week we saw that man is confronted by the question of his identity. He is summoned to be free and to make the world free. Will he answer this summons? This the question for man, and indeed for God. Man is confronted by the question of whether this is his purpose, and he is tempted to turn away from this freedom to control it, reduce it, delegate it, even refuse it altogether.

I said that we talk about Easter by talking about the Church and by talking from the Church. We cannot discuss Easter in terms of general truth, that can be separated from the distinctive community of the Church and so turned into a cliché about ‘new life’, just a religious expression of what we already know from other sources. We have to learn the distinctive calling of the Church, which is to be Christ-bearers to the world. How hard this is and how inextricably it is tied to the Christian gospel and the Christian gospel to the Church is what I want to show you today.

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On the way to Easter – Lent 1

First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5.12-19
Matthew 4.11

I On the way to Easter

We are on our way to Easter. On Easter morning we will say that ‘Christ is risen’. Easter is the moment when the undying and indestructible life that God makes itself apparent. God has set out to bring us into relationship first with himself and then with all other human beings – he will raise us. When we say ‘Christ is risen’ we are pointing to the coming resurrection of all creation in him and so we are pointing to our own resurrection, which is the resurrection that is of real interest to us.

The resurrection is what the Church has to tell the world about. We can prepare for this resurrection, by learning something about Easter, and Lent is this preparation and learning. But Lent is not for everyone. It is not for those who are not Christians, nor even for those who are young Christians. Lent is not for you until you have been through a few years of Christian discipleship. The fasting and privations of Lent are for the Church only, and even then only for the experienced. The discipline of Lent cross is the means and the inner working of the resurrection. But the cross is the advanced class, for the Church only. Easter is not about suffering and death and so we are to become ever more doleful as Easter approaches, for the passion and suffering of the Lord is not the message to the world, the resurrection. The passion is how Christ’s resurrection makes itself known to us, for now.

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