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.

Christian doctrine is the teaching of the Church. It sets out what the Christian community says in its worship of God. The doctrine that is taught in faith is confessed and given a public account so the world can assess its truth for itself. The Church distinguishes its own account from all other rival accounts, in order to protect the truth of this communion and re-state it clearly for each new generation.

The Church teaches us that Christ is always with the Holy Spirit, and that he may be known only within that community that the Spirit sanctifies for the purpose. Christ cannot be isolated or separated from his people, so we have to receive him from them. This Christian people experience the reality of the new communion opened by Jesus Christ and affirm the truth of the teaching about that communion. Life within the communion is the source of knowledge of God, and also of knowledge of ourselves. Knowledge of God takes place only within relationship that God has initiated with us. This relationship is both with God and with all his creatures, which means that it is not simply spiritual or intellectual, but made present to us by the many persons of the communion of the Church. Such relationship is fundamental to all knowing, for we have no real knowledge of a person as a person until we are in relationship with them. We may only know them as we open ourselves to them and they open themselves to us: since we do not know what any relationship will lead to, this is to take a risk.

God does not intend that we know him because we have to. Knowledge that is free is knowledge received in faith and involves mutual recognition in friendship and love. To attempt to know something from outside such a relationship is to turn it into an inert object that we can dominate and silence. If we attempt to know persons without respect for their freedom, we make ourselves unfree too.

The doctrine of God sets out what is revealed to the Christian community in the incarnation of Christ, recorded in Scripture and celebrated in its worship. Worship is simply the acknowledgment that God is God and that we are not, the acknowledgment which is the basis of all further knowledge. God has brought the Church into being for this purpose, and sustains it as the community that is able to acknowledge him, together with all his creatures, and to do so in freedom.

When we talk about God, and even more when we pray, we refer ourselves to the Father of Jesus Christ. God is the particular person whom we may know by this name, ‘Father’. The Father calls the Son and Spirit into being and they affirm him as Father, so he is never Father without them. The Father begets the Son, and sends the Holy Spirit, and in love they return his acknowledgment and constitute him as the Father. The divine persons give to one another and receive from one another, so this trinity of persons is the way God is who he is.

The concept of the person allows us to explicate the doctrine of God, and in particular to point the absolute fundamental importance of both love and freedom. The doctrine, and the mystery, of God is that there is plurality in God, that it has no limits, and exists without threats to its existence forever. This plurality is promised to creation and secured by the created person of man.

When the stress is put on unity before plurality, such as when God has been understood on the basis of analogies with an individual mind, the doctrine of God lurches between two misrepresentations. It is possible to misrepresent the unity of God in such a way that God becomes an impersonal and incommunicative monad. It is also possible to misrepresent the persons as three independent consciousnesses (‘gods’) in order to promote ‘communion’ (which is itself an abstraction) over them: this is sometimes known as a ‘social’ doctrine of the trinity.

Such accounts of the doctrine ignore the way the persons freely order themselves to the Father. There is an order in God, in which the Father is first and last, because all the persons so order themselves to one another. The Father is the single source from whom the persons of God come, and consequently is the single source of all that is. Freely the Father loves and begets the Son and is loved and worshipped by him, and loves the Spirit who proceeds from him, and who glorifies him through the Son. The Father is never without the Son and Holy Spirit: their mutual deference confirms the order and eternal unity that is the free act of the persons of God.

It is easier to see how the persons of God order themselves to one another when we examine how God acts for us. The Son and the Spirit do the work of the Father, and bring their work to him for his approval. The Son regards us as his own body and presents us to the Father as though we, and all creation, were integral to himself. Christ raises us continually to God, and he will present us to God finally: because the Father receives us from him, our existence is affirmed. The work of Christ in creation, incarnation and redemption is the work of the Father Son and Holy Spirit together, for the work of each person is the work of God. Only God, who is free and does not seek our recognition for himself, can truly give us recognition and establish for us who we are. The Holy Spirit binds us to Christ, so that the Son’s acknowledgment of God becomes our act of acknowledgment too; his worship becomes our worship of God, and issues in our truthful appreciation and knowledge of all God’s creation. It is finally due to its reception and acknowledgment by the Father that anything has the identity and existence that it has.

Zizioulas shows us how the Church learned how to avoid explanations that restricted the freedom of God. The Church insisted that God makes himself known to us: the true God, the Father, has made himself known in the Son. He initiated the whole plan of our creation and redemption, so we are the outcome of his act of love, and this is how he will recognise us. Because God affirms our knowledge of him, gained through Christ and the teaching of the Church, we do indeed know the otherwise unknowable God; the result is that our knowledge of creation is reliable and our science secure.

If God had not revealed himself, it would be our identity that was in crisis. We would have to create an identity of our own, but we would be unable to do so. When we are able to acknowledge that God reveals himself in Christ we have no need to assert or exalt ourselves over one another or in any other way attempt to fill God’s place. One inference is that, though we may have real knowledge of other people, we cannot know them or master them utterly, because they do not belong to us in the first place, but to God. The doctrine of God gives us the truth of man, but the truth of man cannot be extracted from the truth about God and turned into a theory about man alone. God is knowable only to extent he makes himself known, and this is true also of man, the creature of God. The secret of being human, is hidden with God, and only in communion with him, can we be human, together with other humans. The assessment of God is that we, along with rest of the world, are worth waiting for, and the existence of the Church is the demonstration that this remains God’s good judgment. This is the significance of the Christian doctrine of God for us.

God is not threatened by the existence of anything, since it is by his will that anything comes into existence. He is free to love and confirm all his creatures without limit, and he extends the freedom of his love to us. In Christ we are able to give each creature our recognition and love, and to say that all the works of God, even those that seem darkest to us, are good.

But when the contribution of the Church is left on one side, the Western philosophical tradition begins to drift in a different direction. We assume that other people are a threat to us, and that we have to assert ourselves against them. Fear takes the place of love in our account of the social and natural worlds. If we define our freedom without reference to love, we are left with the belief that we have to make ourselves free by separating ourselves from society on the one hand, and from our embodiment in nature on the other. The Church insists that love, along with all forms of fellowship and society, is essential to any account of human being. Freedom and communion are both fundamental. Without a concept of person, either communion is given undue weight over freedom, or freedom over communion.

When it is disciplined by all Christian doctrine, the concept of person determines that communion and freedom are equally important. The result is that we are not tempted to believe that being is prior to persons, or that the question what ? is more fundamental than the question who? and how? Persons are not an afterthought in the great order of being. No ‘being’ or ‘communion’ can love us: only a person is free to respond to love with love.

Zizioulas shows us that it is not enough just to say what the Christian doctrine of God is. We also have to demonstrate its underlying logic, so we can clearly differentiate it from all that it is not saying. One implication of the doctrine of God is that, in God, ‘one’ is not prior to ‘many’, and unity is not prior to plurality. This single insight has huge ramifications. Human freedom and the individual person are just as fundamental as existence itself. The universe is not a basically deterministic place which happens to experience a temporary pocket of freedom, conveniently for us. When unity is placed before plurality, individuals are set before society, setting up a tension between them: then society must control the individual to prevent him destroying society, and the individual has to assert himself against society to establish his freedom.

A second result of this assumption that unity is more primal than plurality, is that plurality might collapse back into unity, so the profusion of creatures and persons that make up this world will disappear: it will be as though creation had never been. But the logic of the Christian doctrine of God suggests that diversity is not temporary, and that the universal and collective will not efface the particularity of any single entity. Freedom is not a hiccup in nature. A world full of particular things and unique people will endure against all threats to its existence. ‘Person’ is the concept that holds together these three fundamental concepts of being, communion and freedom, and which establishes that plurality is not subordinate to unity.

In the teaching of the Church, all human persons exist within one person – Christ. This particular person gives room to a multitude without limit, and allows them to discover each other and flourish. Christ receives his identity entirely from the Father. Since he does not need the recognition of created persons for himself, he is able to be the ‘Other’ whose acknowledgement affirms the identity of every created person. Christ is able to give each created person the confirmation that establishes their identity. He is able to be the ‘person’ of humanity because the Father’s acknowledgement of him makes him ‘more than’ humanity: he is the person in whom all created persons may truly be persons.

God loves us for ourselves. He can receive us because it was he who initiated the project of creation and called us into being in the first place; our destination will turn out to be our origin too. He has the authority to acknowledge us, and that will satisfy us that we are rightly identified and our existence is finally secured. When we come to him, we will know that we exist because he invites us to, and that this is all the justification that is needed.

The Son of God, who is eternally this divine person, has assumed human nature. In Christ human life is raised to participate in the life of God, and become free and God-like, in ‘the likeness of God’; only when we are together with God may we be together with all other human beings and so be properly human. Christ does not desire to be known apart from his body, that is, apart from us. Because the Father receives him together with this body, made up of all whom the Spirit has united to Christ, the whole human race is one single person, in relationship with God.

The Economy
Zizioulas brings the doctrines of creation and incarnation together under the heading of the work – or ‘economy’ – of God for man. He gives us a compelling discussion of God’s coming to man brings striking new clarity to the doctrines of salvation and creation.

Since it is not the source of its own life, creation has no means of sustaining itself. It came from nothing and remains liable to dissolve back into it. All created things, left to themselves, tend to break apart and drift towards isolation, dissolution and eventual death. Aware of his vulnerability, man is fearful, and fear makes him a misery to himself and a terror to his fellow creatures. In his desperation he takes from others what he needs to prolong his life, and so man is both prey and predator. He needs to be liberated both from the confines of nature, and from the fear which drives him to devour his fellow men.

If the world is to live, death must be overcome. But only a relationship of love, which is one freely willed by both sides, can overcome the constraints on our life, including the ultimate limit that is death. Created beings are safe from death as long as they are in communion with the life that, being uncreated, has no limit. Man is made for relationship with God, who always intended to be his God, and intended that man should know and be glad of it. From the first, God meant to be incarnate for man: had man not fallen, man would have been incrementally transformed into Christ, that is, man-with-God.

Man was given the freedom of God to decide freely, and on behalf of all creation, for participation in the communion and life of God. Because all creation makes up his body, materiality gets to participate in man’s decision and so receive God’s uncreated life in freedom. So man is able to unite created materiality to the communion of God that overcomes all limits, and so secure creation’s continued life. Christ is the one who is able to establish and sustain relationship with all men, and brings each into relationship with all others, and unites within himself all creation to God. He is the truth of man and creation, sustained through all limits by the invincible communion of God.

Although Christ is the whole reality of human being, he does not force himself upon us. He appears amongst us as one person amongst others, and so as someone we can reject or accept as we like. We can withhold our acknowledgment of him or, in faith, we can recognise him for who he is. When we concede Christ his otherness, and acknowledge that he shares the freedom of God, this opens the possibility that we understand that all persons are different from us, not our creatures but creatures of God. As we concede the otherness and freedom of every human being we gain our own true freedom.

For created persons, freedom is exercised as a choice between givens which we have to refuse or accept. But God is not confronted by any givens, for all things come from his own will. He exercises his freedom in love entirely in affirming beings other than himself. The freedom of the Father is expressed in the love by which he affirms the Son, and the freedom of the Son is expressed in the love in which he affirms the Father. In Christ, our freedom also consists in acknowledging and affirming each person, and allowing them to become part of our very being. On any other definition, freedom could only mean isolation. But communion and freedom come from God and, together with him, we may share in both.

The Church
In the fourth section of these lectures Zizioulas turns to the Church. The Church is the communion and love of God truly present to us, and from it all human fellowship and society flow. By bringing us into his fellowship, God enables us to pass beyond the limits given by our creatureliness and enter fellowship with one another. Since this communion can never be exhausted, the Church cannot be comprehended, interrupted or threatened by any created thing. In spelling out this communion Zizioulas deals with discipleship, sanctification, the gathered community, the eucharist, eschatology, order and hierarchy, scripture and worship and relations between churches. Again, Zizioulas shows that plurality is as fundamental as unity: the complementarity of distinction and unity is developed through every part of his account, which he sets out together with his account of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Zizioulas shows how, through centuries of debate, the Church developed a theology of the gathered community that was balanced by an account of the growth of the individual Christian. Through discipleship, each of us purified of our aggression and turned outwards towards others. The Christian is transformed from one degree of Christ-likeness to another, from partial to whole and perfect, and so made a catholic person, in unconfined relationship.

Left to ourselves, we seek to draw others into our sphere, in the hope that they will give us the confirmation we need, while they seek to draw us into their sphere in order to master us and source their power from us. We divide ourselves from one another and lead one another off into rival kingdoms; the world is divided and held down, each part holding out against the whole and the truth. None of us is able to let other people be truly different from himself; our inadequate love means a failure of otherness.

With infinite power, Christ sustains his body so that it resists all contrary voices, and remains unified. With infinite patience he calls all humanity into reconciliation in this body so that no part is any longer at war with any other. Without the Church, the world attempts to close down of the otherness of others; in particular it attempts to suborn the Church and to reduce the difference between Church and world. But because it is the act of God, the Church will never be assimilated, the distinction between Church and world will remain, and the Church will continue to baffle the unreconciled world.

The Church is a single assembly made up of all Christ’s people. It includes those who, for us, are in the past or in the future. Each local gathering of Christ’s people is that complete assembly, diffidently making present to us what will only be finally complete at the fulfilment of all ages. But it will be our future only because we desire that it be so and are ready to receive and love all whom Christ has in store for us.

The Church is the embodiment of the renewal and redemption of creation. The unity and order of this assembly can be seen in the way that its members order themselves to one another in love. The fellowship of God creates in the eucharist that mutual deference that brings down the walls between creatures and initiates reconciliation and good order within human history. The kingdoms we build are partial and partisan, premised on the exclusion of some, and thus they are not the kingdom of God. But as all kingdoms and all times are reconciled in the body of Christ, we will cease to assert ourselves against all others, and the world will no long be a place of warring camps: the communion of God which is ‘in heaven’ will become the truth ‘on earth’.

The Son and the Spirit
The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ and is always with him. The Spirit glorifies him both by distinguishing him from all others, and by uniting all others to him as members of his body. Christ cannot be isolated or separated from the whole people of God, whom he regards as his own glory. We cannot know Jesus Christ (the one) without simultaneously acknowledging his community (the many). He cannot be known as Christ outside that body which the Holy Spirit sanctifies, or apart from its saints and teachers whom the Holy Spirit has pressed into our service. We can know Christ only through the life of the Church, its worship, sacraments, tradition, gifts and offices.

The Spirit situates us ‘in Christ’. The Spirit makes Christ unassailable and allows his invincibility to be used on our behalf with an infinite patience and gentleness. Christ is the fundamental particle and the particular person, in whom we may become particulars, persons whom can never be broken into any smaller constituents. Christ and the Spirit together are responsible not only for our unity, but also for all the distinctions that makes us different from one another. He differentiates us from one another, establishing us as unique and irreplaceable particulars. Each human being will become catholic, anointed with the whole plurality of Christ.

Christ makes his people one indivisible whole, and the Church is this whole, making itself present to us in time. God sends us instalments of this future whole and setting its outline publicly before the world. The Church points towards this whole and declares that the world is not yet this whole; the Church looks forward to the mutual ordering of all things in love which will be completed by Christ’s coming, when Christ will affirm every one of us as different from every other.

If our identifies were given to us complete at birth, this would leave us with nothing to do and freedom would be denied us. But our life is part of a process, enabled by the Holy Spirit which, because we must all participate in it, unfolds through time. With the unlimited resources he receives from the Father, Christ supplies us with the means to see how each other person is different from ourselves and to acknowledge one another in our distinctiveness: the distinctiveness of other people is not just a given, but we ourselves are able to affirm it gladly. In this way the identity of other people is not established without our participation and consent. Each call from God is a new invitation and summons that frees us to act, and to act for one another.

Christ calls us and listens for us. Regardless of how long it takes, he waits for each particular person to hear and answer in freedom. However deep we have been buried, he hears us, and can uncover and restore us. He is able to wrest us out of one another’s grasp, tell us apart from all other persons and confirm who we are. As creatures, we are divisible by time and so located by it, so time part-conceals the truth of our identity. We see the body of Christ strung out across time like stragglers in a race, its unity is hidden. But time cannot ultimately divide this body: though events chafe away at it, they will never prevail, but only serve to purify this body until it is finally be revealed as holy. Because it is the communion of God, the Church will stand forever: now the mutual love of its members demonstrates its undefeated good order at every eucharist.

Jesus Christ comes to us accompanied by the company of his entire people: we cannot have him without receiving them. Amongst this vast company around us in the assembly, Christ has an unbreakable person-to-person relationship with each so that, through him, each of us is related with every other member of humanity. The Christian people arrange themselves around the apostles and all their successors, who as witnesses of the resurrection, are themselves gathered around Christ. The way the Church stations itself around these witnesses makes the Church an image that will not change until Christ, who is its original, returns. The kingdom of God is the good-ordering of all things, and the Church is its public image.

God does not let the world come to rest until it comes together into the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God interrupts the world’s claim to be self-sufficient or complete, and the eucharist is the form that this interruption takes: it is the whole, making itself felt among the parts, preventing them from determining themselves as the whole, and inviting them to their much larger future.

God intends that we be free and his invitation to freedom is what the future is. If the future were fixed or necessary, it would not be future, but simply more of the present. No future can be foisted on us. We can only be said to be beings with a future if we become, and remain, free: we must be willing contributors to it, for our identity will not be decided without our collaboration. The future is the invitation Christ issues to us to share life with him and with all his people.

If God were a universally manifest and inescapable fact it would make freedom impossible. So God withholds his glory, so that that it is mystery, revealed and known only in faith. In this faith we look for the resurrection that will make his body, and his glory, complete.

But it is not enough that Christ gives us our identity, for we must also take it up in freedom and love. Our identity becomes truly ours as we regard ourselves as his, and all his people as our own. We must love them as he does: this love will be free, because it will be our own response to, and participation in, the love that we have received. Christ does not regard himself as complete without us, so he waits for us; the saints and whole communion wait for us with him. Now we must also wait for each other. Our lives are therefore part of a process and a history, enabled by the Holy Spirit which, because we must all participate in it, unfolds through time. Time is our waiting for other people to join us.

In the prayers of the eucharist we ask God to give us all whom we are waiting for, along with all the grace to receive them, and so make this body complete. We mourn for those who are not yet present, for their absence means that we are not yet present as we want to be. The whole Christ, and our own very being, is waiting for them.

The resurrection will turn us around and bring us face to face with all men, even with our adversaries. The resurrection that raises us to God will also raise to them, and them to us, so that we will receive Christ together with all whom he brings with him. Christ brings each individual Christian into this whole assembly and incorporates him in this body. He now sends us all these people ahead of him to us, so we may receive him by learning to receive them. Christ comes to us, anointed with his whole people.

In the form of baptism, our resurrection has started. It consists in meeting these saints who already make up the glorified body of Jesus Christ, and the baptised persons of his body. Christ considers his people to be his body, his presence and glory. By gathering us together and making us present and available to one another, the eucharist is the union of God with man taking place before us. We are being brought together with all others, into a vast company of people, and we are able distinguished amongst them so that our own particularity is recognised by this entire assembly and so established at last.

In each place that it meets, the Church is the evidence that Christ is drawing all men to himself and bringing each into connection with all. This future and final assembly makes itself present to the present world in this hidden form of the Church. In the eucharist each church intercedes for its own locality, speaking on its behalf to God. Each Christian prays for those members of his own family and society, past and present, who are not otherwise present in the eucharist. Through our prayers they become present in this assembly, so we are the presence of persons other than ourselves.

As the Church participates in the manyness of Christ, it passes his plurality on to the world. The whole Church receives the diversity of the people of Christ from each of the many local churches. The whole Church passes on the holiness of Christ to each local church, so that Christ’s indivisible unity is present in each part of the world, to reconcile and draw it into his body. The Church supplies the world simultaneously with both unity and plurality, identity and difference. Without the Church, present in every part of the world and making every part of the world present in its prayers, both the unity and diversity of the world, and so its very existence, would be in doubt.

Christ’s people embody creation. Each of the bodies which make us visible and present to one another, constituted of all the vegetable and animal bodies we consume, is itself a gathering of the material elements of creation. Each of us embodies a particular part of the earth, so creation exists within the body, or as the body, of each member of Christ’s assembly. Though we live in creation, creation also lives in and through us. In Christ we are the ‘person’ of creation, the indivisible unity that preserves creation immune from time and death. In the eucharist, material creation is able to sing the praises of God and so participate through us in the freedom of God.

Since Christ clothes himself with his people, in him all persons and all material creation are forever present with God. In his liturgy to God and service to man, Christ unites all creation with God. This work of bringing these many into one, is what is going on in the great eucharistic prayer of offering, the anaphora. For the benefit of world, the saints who are assembled behind Christ participate publicly, in his office of raising and embodying the world to God. As Christ and his body speak for it and presents it to God, creation’s divisions disappear, there is reconciliation between the social and the natural worlds, and we may live with, rather than against, the order of creation. The eucharist is the reconciliation of mind and body, intellect and materiality, so the Church is the union of humanity and nature, freedom come to creation.

Communion involves persons who are different from one another. The preservation of the distinctiveness and otherness of each of these persons requires order and authority. The distinctions incorporated and affirmed within the body of Christ are protected by offices within the Church. Christ sanctifies specific office-holders in the body in order to serve us and do us good: they ensure that we do not form into any smaller and less tolerant groups that obliterate otherness; their discipline enables us to accept the ordering of the whole catholic body within which all differences are established. Just as the whole Church is under the discipline given by Christ, each congregation is under the discipline of the whole Church, worldwide and of all generations. Thus there is no gap between the local and universal churches, or between the Church and its institutional forms: all must demonstrate one simple truth, that we are ordered to one another and made finally distinct from one another in Christ.

Just no disciple is under his own authority, no church can ordain its own leaders, but must receive them from the whole Church. Communion consists in receiving apostles, together with their teaching and their discipline, from other parts of the Church, and in sending them to other parts of the church. By giving and taking in this way, each church exists in relationships with other churches and is part of the whole catholic body. Each of these apostles represents the oversight of the whole Church for this particular church; each overseer brings to each church the deposit of faith found good by the long historical experience of the Church as a whole. Each community must receive this bishop and his discipline willingly, as a gift from the whole body. Through mutual subordination in love we receive the shaping of the whole Christ as it comes to us from the whole Church.

The practice of sending apostles to other churches and receiving apostles from, other churches, is the way in which each church participates in the one catholic Church. Any community that does not receive this gift from the rest of the Church will be held together by a spirit of nation, class or age-group, or by a merely intellectual, aesthetic or sentimental spirit. It will fortify itself against other parts, and so represent only the division of the body and the falsification of the gospel.
We cannot turn away from other churches without shutting ourselves off from Christ and from our own future in his body. Thus every event of ecumenism, like every eucharist, is an event of judgment and repentance, and of forgiveness and reconciliation, in which we are joined to those we have shunned. Every church must humbly offer its faith to every other, submit itself to the questioning of every other church, and attempt to learn from them all. The one Church exists as each church gives and receives the instruction and oversight of every other.

The Church is constituted by the whole Christian people, gathered around their bishops, and their agreement demonstrates that the one and the many are one Church. The Church is the catholic body: all other communities are partial, and so not yet the whole truth. The cross of Christ, which strips us of all false universals, is our way into this truly universal communion. We may now know Christ only together with every single one of those whom he brings with him. When Christ is all in all, all are all in all.

John Zizioulas, Metropolitan bishop of Pergamon, has led many of the exchanges between Eastern and Western churches. He believes all ecumenical efforts are mutually enriching, and he expresses his gratitude to the Western churches for them. Some Eastern churches are wary of Western ‘influence’ and critical of those involved in such ecumenism. But Zizioulas tells us, every act of ecumenism must be based in the truth and thus hear the judgment of God with repentance and in the hope of reconciliation. The whole Church eagerly looks forward to its redemption and the fulfilment of all things in Christ, so it must be the prayer of the churches ‘that they may be One’. These lectures represent an unrivalled opportunity to learn the faith of the whole undivided Church, which is the embodiment of the love of God for us.

John Zizioulas Lectures in Christian Dogmatics, edited by Douglas H. Knight (London: T & T Clark 2008)