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Antropologia teologică a lui Ioannis Zizioulas: Câteva consideraţii critice şi răspunsuri la ele

Ioannis Zizioulas’ theological anthropology: criticism and response

Autor(i): Ciprian Iulian TOROCZKAI

The present study provides the first thorough presentation, in the Romanian theological realm, of the anthropological stance adopted by Ioannis Zizioulas (born 1943), currently the metropolitan of Pergamon, and maybe the most influential contemporary Orthodox theologian (both in the Orthodox theological milieu and the ecumenical one). It is a critical presentation, that discusses the criticism against him, formulated by Edward Russell, Lucian Turcescu and John Breck, as well as the response it elicited – not from metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas himself, but from two of his supporters: Alan Brown and Aristotle Papanikolaou.
Speaking about metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas’ notion of person, Edward Russell considers that it differs from the modern interpretation of the self. He goes on with a number of critical remarks: in the opinion of E. Russell, I. Zizioulas does not take seriously enough the importance of sin, the suffering and the corporeal structure of the human being. He downplays the physical dimension of our existence as creatures, and is thus unable to grasp the implications of the doctrine of sin and the „theology of the Cross”. His view is balanced by Luther’s notion of the person as simul iustus et peccator, both righteous and sinful. (Only this vision can compensate the eschatological „overemphasis” of the Greek theologian.) Pointing out that, according to Zizioulas, one becomes a person only in ecclesia, E. Russell asks: Can we become persons only if we participate in the right type of relationships, with the right persons? What is the role of social-historical factors in shaping the person? Can those who are extra ecclesia deemed to be persons? All these questions are raised because of Zizioulas’ too marked distinction between the „biological hypostasis” versus the „ecclesial hypostasis”, as remarked other exegetes of his works, too (cf. Ioan I. Ică jr.).
L. Turcescu considers that Ioannis Zizioulas, despite acknowledging his dependence of the Cappadocians’ thinking, failed to understand them completely, and his view evinces certain „flaws”: firstly, Zizioulas thinks that the person should not be understood as an aggregate of natural, psychological or moral attributes, that are somehow „possessed” or „contained” by the individuum, because the person is a unitary whole; then, the individual is something „partial”, the subject of „addition and combination”, while the person is free from such limitations of the „self” as individualization, understanding, combining, defining, describing or use; finally, Zizioulas disagrees with the stance adopted by the Western culture and philosophy, resulting from a synthesis of the anthropologies put forth by Boethius and Augustine; namely, this stance equates the person with the individual/personality – „a unit endowed with intellectual, psychological and moral qualities underlying conscience”. He disagrees because a person „wants something more: to exist as a concrete, unique and irrepeatable entity”. The assertions of the Greek theologian cannot stand close examination. For example, when Zizioulas criticizes the individual, he has in mind the contemporary philosophical, social and political individualism, that is, a mindset unknown to 4th-century Cappadocian Fathers. They did not concern themselves with the distinction between person and individual, but they attempted to solve other problems, such as the relationship between nature and person. Conclusion: despite an apparent patristic coherence, the anthropological view of I. Zizioulas is nothing but a „wrong interpretation of Cappadocians’ theology”!
John Breck took this dualist view on the person to the ultimate consequences. The reputable Orthodox bioethician noted that, far from being a purely theoretical discussion, the criticism formulated by L. Turcescu against metropolitan Zizioulas is deeply relevant for the person, since the inception of human development: the person as an embryo. If persons are defined relationally, or exclusively by their ecclesial membership, this could justify a woman’s rejection of an unborn child, by denying his personality. Thus, until the unborn child begins to „exist” as a person, abortion would not be immoral, as it would not be deemed as killing a person. However, the embryo must be acknowledged not only the status of a human being, but also that of a person, even at the early stages of its existence, because it is a unique hypostasis existing in relationship with others, and in communion with God. This means that aborting a foetus, or destroying an embryo’s life in order to obtain stem cells, is just as wrong as killing a baby or an adult.
This criticism was answered by Alan Brown and A. Papanikolaou. The former addressed mainly methodological issues, questioning the alleged compliance with the patristic tradition of the Orthodox who had criticized Zizioulas: L. Turcescu, A. Louth or J. Behr. According to him, they were influenced by the Western thought (namely the post-liberal Anglican theology) even more than Zizioulas, whom they accused of relating more to the contemporary existentialist philosophy than the Cappadocian patristic thought. On the other hand, resorting to patristic authority should not turn into methodological absolutism, positing a single correct interpretation, and invalidating while all the other ones - including that of Ioannis Zizioulas.
Aristotle Papanikolaou’s answer to the criticism against the personalist concep-tion of metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas addresses the content, rather the form of this criticism. In his book, Papanikolaou makes an elaborate comparative analysis between the notion of person according to Vladimir Lossky and Ioannis Zizioulas, respectively, revealing their similarities and differences. The greatest merit of metropolitan Zizioulas’ anthropology, especially in today’s secular, reductionist context, lies in the inherent optimism of overcoming the tragedy of human limitation and death, by the theological definition of man as a person (hypostasis), thus as a reality characterized by dynamic movement (ekstasis) and free communion, without effacement of the self.
Regarding L. Turcescu’s criticism against the conceptions of Zizioulas, he demonstrates that the particular combination of a number of attributes, resulting from the „division of nature” upon creation, may render a person unique, but not irreplaceable. Death makes all creatures „replaceable” entities, by destroying the elements that make them up, while their reconstruction presupposes acquiring another quality – which is not possible by oneself, but only in relation with the „Other”, with a superior existence: God’s eternal love, to whom each human person is unique and irreplaceable.
Our study ends with a possible explanation for the conclusions reached by I. Zizioulas and a discussion of the different views of two Cappadocian Fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzus, concerning the relationship between the divine nature and Persons.

Dialog teologic
Pagini: 225-247