Friday, 8 May 2015

Theo Kobusch: A New Way to God 'Christian Philosophy': Practical Reason

In "Christian Philosophy", which is the term by which the Christian author themselves describe their way of thinking from the 4th century onwards, we can discern a certain tendency which reached its final and massive breakthrough with the Cappadocian Fathers. This tendency consisted in circumscribing the divine essence, which according to Neoplatonism and negative theology is unknowable for theoretical reason, by increasingly making use of ethical categories. We find a first indication of this already in the circle of Gregory of Nyssa (Ps-Gregor, De creatione hominis) where the answer to the question what Christianity is has ethical implications: Homoiosis Theo. The clearest example of this tendency is then provided by Gregory of Nyssa himself who quite often calls God the aretē pantelēs. This, however, is possible only if the sense of the word aretē is uniform, i.e. the meaning of moral expressions is the same when applied to God and to man - an idea that was already formulated by Origen and Gregory Thaumatourgos in the wake of the Stoics. According to this notion, which is present in Origen and the Cappadocian Fathers, man is able to come closer to God by a practical knowledge of himself as it is mentioned in the commentaries to the Song of Songs. In this way for the Cappadocian Fathers subsequent to Origen, the way to God seems to be blocked for theoretical reason. Practical reason, however, does open a new way here.

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