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

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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: 525 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: St Vladimir's Seminary Press (March 10 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004RR1D26
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9c0e7e7c) out of 5 stars 15 reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c0f5b70) out of 5 stars Thinking Outside of Time: Well Worth the Effort Oct. 27 2004
By benjamin - Published on
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.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c0f5bc4) out of 5 stars But monarchy is what we hold in honor May 28 2009
By Jacob - Published on
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).

One criticism/observation:

Earlier editions translate the passage in the 3rd Theological Oration as "But *monarchy* (monarchia) is what we hold in honor." Here it is translated as "But monotheism is what we hold in honor." I have my suspicions on why this is the case, but it really doesn't detract from the overall point.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By ZF - Published on
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5206a74) out of 5 stars Defending the Holy Trinity Nov. 6 2015
By Johannes Platonicus - Published on
Format: Paperback
Here we have a classic treatise, written by the venerable church-Doctor St Gregory Nazianzus (ca 329-390) defending the dogma of the Holy Trinity against the Eunomian heretics. The Eunomians rejected the notion that God could be "generated" in any sense of the word whatsoever and that since the Son is spoken of as "beggotten" in scripture the necessary conclusion is that He was created and therefore is not God in the absolute sense. At this point, Eunomianism sinks into Arianism, which hung its main premise on the idea that there was a time when the Son did not exist, thus making the Son a creature of subordinate rank to the Father. The consequence of this is a descending thearchy extended from Father to Son and Son to Holy Spirit with the end result being a tritheistic theology totally at odds with the monotheistic confession. So enters St Gregory as the defender of Nicene orthodoxy in the Five Theological Orations. The focal point of the Orations is defending the monarchic status of the Holy Trinity by maintaining consubstantiality of three persons in one Divine essence without dividing the Godhead and lapsing into the tritheistic error of the heretics. It must be mentioned that this collection is a series of orations and is thus not a systematic work on the Holy Trinity such as one finds in St Hilary Poitiers or St Augustine and is accountably deficient as a full treatment on the divine dogma. St Gregory does not labor to explain exhaustively the dynamic of the Holy Spirit relative to the Father and the Son, leaving it unclear as to the manner in which the Holy Spirit is "caused" or the way in which He "proceeds." One assumes that the traditional doctrine in Eastern Orthodoxy that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and not the Father and the Son is implied here by Gregory since not expicitly defined. Overall, these orations are the offspring of the genius of one of the Great Doctors in the Christian tradition, whose ideas here have inspired many theologians throughout history and are thus absolutely necessary for our understanding of the holy dogma of the Trinity and its development in the early church.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c0f7018) out of 5 stars Good book. Dec 14 2012
By busyinbville - Published on
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.