Tuesday, 20 June 2006

New poll: patristic theologians

Which patristic theologian do you prefer? Cast your vote in the new poll! I apologise for the many omissions here—it was almost impossible to choose for this one, so in the end I simply chose my own five favourite patristic theologians.

Personally, I still can’t decide who to vote for—how does one make a choice between such gigantic figures, such incomparable personalities, such profound creators of thought?

20 Comments:

Patrik said...

For once a poll where I can claim to knwo all the candidates at least a bit.

Ireneaus is my choice: His treatment of salvation and his anthropology is still inspiring and has a lot to give to the modern crypto-gnostic mind.

Origen, wow, the most brilliant of them all, undoubtedly. The heretic thing is overplayed, he was just writing about things no one has thought much about yet. So much of his writings are lost, and what we have i mostly in realybad translations. Ireneus wins because his theology grabs you in the personality more than Origen's.

Augustine, Well, no doubt the most influential of them all, at least in the west, and rightly so. Like no other ancient writer, Augustine trancends time. He could be wiriting today, or in the 16th century, the 13th... He would be at home everywhere. But, because of his greatness, his errors are disastrous as well: the view of sexuality, the reatus of the original sin, predestination...

Gregory of Nazianzus: the great poet of the bunch. Not as great a theologian as his pal Gregory of Nyssa, but his hymns are among the best Christianity has produced. Why isn't more theology written on verse?

Athanasius. A bit of a controversal characther... Sure great theologian and defender of the Nicene faith. Also a real politician, who used some rather questionable methods. He did something to then ascetic movement: tamed it, and saved the church from a real crisis by tying it to the church. Still, something was lost. A man of great personal courage, and maybe the right person at the right time.

Some that could have been mentioned: A few more greeks, perhaps? Justin (for being so early), The other Cappadokians (G of Nyssa arguably beeing the greatest theologian of the three) John Chrysostom, John Damascene. And at least one Syrian should be menitoned: Ephrem - another poet who even wrote polemical treatises on verse!

CraigS said...

I'm surprised Irenaeus did so well - I found him very tedious to read...

Derek Brown said...

The absence of Chrysostom forced my vote to go to Athanasius. Maybe a early church heretic poll some time soon?

Exiled Preacher said...

I love Athanasius' Trinitarian theology and his stroppy contra mundi attitude. But it had to be Augustine for his Confessions and robust theology of grace.

byron said...

Athanasius - for contribution to Nicean orthodoxy, but only really today's whim - any of these five could easily have got my vote. Hey Patrik, do you consider yourself a crypto-gnostic?

Patrik said...

Byron, I hope not. But the general intellectual climate is a bit crypto-gnostic, isn't it? Sharp division between the material and the spiritual, very complicated view of the body, the tendency to believe in hidden knowledge...

Craigs, I agree, Irenaeus is not easy read, especially the first two books of AH.

Deep Furrows said...

I went with Irenaeus also. I read him mainly in the Balthasar redaction: a slim volume that cherry picks his most powerful passages. I agree with Patrik that Irenaeus has a lot to offer to the contemporary sensibility.

The Confessions are beautiful and very familiar to us; in this work he seems our contemporary, a writer who has never been forgotten by the world. I would always like to have read some more Augustine: The City of God, the Commentary on the Psalms, his sermons.

In the 20th Century, Origen really benefitted from the work of rehabilitation by Henri de Lubac, Balthasar, and Danielou, among others. I've only dipped my toes into Balthasar's anthology Origen: Spirit and Fire, but it strikes me that much of Origen's brilliance is in his attention to the themes of the Bible as a whole. Patrik, do you consider the translations of Robert Daly SJ to be really bad also?

~Fred

kim fabricius said...

Bang on, Patrik - indeed you can drop the "crypto"!

Fr. Greg Blevins said...

Okay, so where's Gregory of Nyssa? He gets my vote. Of your choices, however, Ireneus is my man.

One of Freedom said...

I would have voted for Pelagius if he were listed. I think he gets a bum rap. But that makes it odd that I actually voted for his arch-rival Augustine. My favourite Patristic teacher tends to change everytime I take a course from someone with a new favourite!

Steve Blakemore said...

I would contend for room in the poll for Marcarius the Egyptian, assuming of course that the homilies attributed to him are his. But, I give my vote to Athanasius because his work was so pivotal at a time of great crisis in the Church. And for his grit and determination. His political maneuverings. . . well his opponents utilized some powerful political influence, as well. Viva St A.

P.S. St. Augustine ought to be commended highly, given what he actually accomplished. Warts and all.

Patrik said...

deep furrows,

I was referring to the latin translations of Rufinus of peri archoon and other works, in cases where the greek text has not survived.

Pontificator said...

May I suggest a second patristic poll that would include Gregory Nyssen, John Damascene, and Maximus the Confessor. And let Augustine run against them, plus one other. Hmmm, who could the fifth be? How about St Ephrem?

francis said...

Where's Cyril of Alexandria? Come on, anyone who put such a hurting on a heretic like Nestorius has to make a top 5 list. :)

Blessed Theotokos, pray for us!

Phil S. said...

I'm with the Irenaeus folk, especially these days with Da Vinci code schlock around. My wife, after reading the Da Vinci code, followed it with a chaser of Irenaeus. Just what the doctor ordered!

Peace,
Phil

Matt said...

Augustine--Confessions. Need I say more?

Pontificator said...

I quite agree about Cyril of Alexandria. How could I forget him?

It's a scholarly tragedy that more of have writings (including most especially his commentary on John) have not been translated into modern English.

Mike said...

Ponty,
The updated Cyrils are happening. I hear that there are two different versions of his John in production. I think I saw a piece on the subject on Tertullian.org (a wonderful site). The, uh, difficult personalities like Cyril and Jerome don't get the attention they deserve. It's a pity. I have to admit I tend to gravitate toward Ambrose and Augustine, who were warmer personalities. And it's a shame Phyllis McGinley never got around to paying poetic tribute to Cyril. Her Jerome is splendid.

William Weedon said...

Where's Chrysologus? He's become my new favorite for his outstanding sermons.

Steve Hayes said...

Origen a "patristic father"?

In the West perhaps, like Augustine, but...

Among the others I couldn't choose, but picked St Athanasius the Great because, as an African, he's one of ours.

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