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On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius (Popular Patristics Series Book 23)
 
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On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius (Popular Patristics Series Book 23) [Kindle Edition]

St Gregory of Nazianzus , John Behr , Lionel Wickham , Frederick Williams

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Gregory of Nazianzus, "The Theologian," was recognized among the Cappadocian Fathers as a peculiarly vivid and quotable exponent of the doctrine of God in Trinity. A brilliant orator and accomplished poet, he placed before the Church his interpretation of the sublime mystery of the God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These five sermons, probably delivered as a series at the small chapel of the Resurrection in Constantinople, where Gregory was the bishop in charge of loyal "Nicenes," contain Gregory's penetrating teaching. The English translation aims to capture for the present-day reader something of the atmosphere of intellectual excitement and spiritual exhilaration experienced by his first listeners. In addition, this work contains a new translation of Gregory's letters to Cledonius, which contain more focused reflections on the person of Jesus Christ, laying the groundwork for later Christology.

Frederick Williams, professor of Greek at the Queen's University in Belfast, translated the first oration. Lionel Wickham, formerly Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge, translated the other four orations and the two letters to Cledonius.

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 361 KB
  • Print Length: 175 pages
  • Publisher: St Vladimir's Seminary Press (March 10 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004RR1D26
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Outside of Time: Well Worth the Effort Oct. 27 2004
By benjamin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was a difficult read. As these orations were, most likely, sermons, I was expecting them to be far easier to understand than they were; I was expecting some sort of catechetical-like introduction to the Trinity. What I got was, in fact, far more difficult but no less profound; this is also a highly profitable read.

Nazianzus lived during a period of great theological controversy and turmoil. Although Christianity was now the official religion of the empire, it was by no means clear what the official doctrine/s of Christ and God were. There were many schools of thought on point, many of which tended in similar directions. Yet, the finer points of Incarnation and Trinity were much debated, particularly the relationship of God the Father to God the Son and, interestingly, this was not merely a matter for cloistered scholars: it was something that everyone had an opinion about and if Christianity was going to be the glue that held people together, it was going to have to figure out just what the Trinity (and by extension, the Incarnation) meant.

The Theological Orations are Gregory's attempt at working out what exactly the Trinity means. So, these works are at points highly polemical against "heretics" (whomever they were); there is no room for even an iota of untrue (or half true) doctrine. Several of the Orations are set up as Q & A sessions in which Gregory refutes certain theological positions that he sees as relegating Christ to a position below the Father and, therefore, destroying the Trinity.

Gregory makes a number of key points, the first of which is that theology is not for everyone (!): rather, it is only for those who are really open to God and willing to not merely discuss God, but also to let God defy the language that they use to discuss Him with. So, for Gregory, "negative" and "affirmative" theology are "braided" together into a seamless unity. In speaking of God, one speaks of a God that overflows our speech. Yet, what one says is, if orthdox, also objectively true.

Secondly, if one wants to speak of God - and God is One in Three persons, the Trinity - then one must speak and think *outside* of time. This is no small or easy task! Yet, if one wants to speak of the Father as being the fount of the Trinity, and also at the same time affirm the eternal existence of the Son and the Spirit, one cannot speak of "generation" in any way that is similar to how we must think of what it means "to generate", which is done in and through time. The eternal, then, is not the supra-temporal, but rather the atemporal.

It is all quite mind-defying, really. Regardless of whether or not one finds all of Gregory's arguments or all of his scriptural exegesis to be convincing (I didn't, and I doubt that anyone else will find *all* of it convincing), he says much that does not simply make one think but that also takes one outside of and beyond the limits of the mind and its linguistic articulations. It is a holding together of seemingly irreconcilable ideas: the eternal and the language of relationship, which is rooted in the temporal. Yet, such is theology. It is not confusing if one lets it open one's self up to that which is beyond all of our words. If one tries to keep something such as the Trinity - God! - *trapped* within our logic, then one is likely to be not only frustrated but also confused. This is, of course, what Gregory warns against in the first Oration: if you aren't ready to let God be God, then don't talk about God!

If you want to sit down and really wrestle with a text on the Trinity, this is a great place to go. Not only is it a classic and foundational text on the trinitarian life of God, but it *should* also open one up to a God whose life is relationship - the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - but whose relationship equally defies our rationality. I really think that there is something of a window to God here, and it is a window that is well worth looking through. Is it the whole picture? Of course not. But, it directs you to what you ought to be looking at - and that *is* what theology can *does*. Highly recommended.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still remains one of the best treatments of Christology May 28 2009
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Claims of Knowledge
St Gregory's opponents, the Eunomians, reduced God to a set of deductive proofs. Unlike the earlier Gnostics and Arians, their problem was not that God was unknowable, but that he can easily be reduced to what the mind can affirm or negate.

On the Son
Gregory defines monotheism as "single rule produced by equality of nature, harmony of will, identity of action, and the convergence towards their source of what springs from unity--none of which is possible in the case of created nature" (29:2). This allows "numerical distinction without division in substance. In this way a One eternally changes to a Two and stops at a Three."

St Gregory makes an important point in saying that the Son and Holy Spirit are from God but not after him. They have a cause, and thus are not unoriginate, but it is not a temporal cause. He is very quick to affirm the co-eternality of the Son and Holy Spirit with the Father.

Gregory's Vocabulary
Like St Athanasius, St Gregory operates around a series of terms, which determine the debate. They are "Ingenerate, The Begotten, and `what proceeds from the Father'" (28:2). Gregory is careful to affirm that Ingeneracy is not God's substance (29:12). This is a necessary point because the Son is not ingenerate (since he is begotten), but the Son is of the same substance as the Father.

The term "Father" designates neither the activity nor the substance, but the relationship which holds good between the Father and the Son (29:16). This rebuts the dilemma posed: if we say that Father designates the "substance," then we admit the Son is of a different substance than the Father. If we say "activity," then we admit the Son is a creation of the Father. If we say "relationship," however, we can affirm Trinitarianism.

Gregory concludes by saying that "each member of the Trinity is in entire unity as much with himself as with the entire partnership, by identity with being and power (31:16).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars St.Greg Jan. 23 2013
By ZF - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was my first venture of reading the church fathers. This book was a great choice. Theologically deep, philosophically relevent for today, and I like the fact they didn't pull any punches when it came to being 'politically correct'--I laughed out loud a few times. The poetry in the first oration is very nice.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Dec 14 2012
By busyinbville - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a great translation of St. Gregory with very little editorial notes to get in the way. A very pure rendering.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, hard to read July 1 2013
By Jason Frazier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unless you are a theologian, there's really no reason to read this book. It is extremely dense with theological statements and logical arguments. It was not written in English, but the translator did a good job piecing together what the author meant to say. It's not a bad book, but I wouldn't put it on my top million books to read before you die.

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the incomprehensibility of deity to the human mind and its totally unimaginable grandeur. &quote;
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It is more important that we should remember God than that we should breathe: indeed, if one may say so, we should do nothing else besides. &quote;
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Faith rather than reason shall lead us, if that is, you have learned the feebleness of reason to deal with matters quite close at hand and have acquired enough knowledge of reason to recognize things which surpass reason. If so, it follows that you will not be a wholly earthbound thinker, ignorant of your very ignorance. &quote;
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