Theology in Greece today is the outcome of a long and complex historical process in which many different, and even contradictory, trends and theological proclivities have converged and continue to converge, thereby defining its shape and agenda. The present article tries to provide, in four sections, both a descriptive and critical account of this complex and fascinating history.
Among these trends, a decisive role is attributed in the first section of the paper to the so-called ‘generation of the 1960s’ (including among others pre-eminent Greek theologians such as Metropolitan of Pergamon John D. Zizioulas, Christos Yannaras, Nikos Nissiotis, Fr John Romanides, Panagiotis Nellas), a Greek theological movement for renewal inspired mainly by the theology of the Russian diaspora and the call to ‘return to the Fathers’, which was instrumental in shaping contemporary Orthodox theology both in Greece and outside the Greek-speaking world.
In the second section are given the reactions to and criticism of the ‘theology of 1960s’. There were strong disputes and rejection on the one hand by conservative Greek academic and ecclesiastical circles, and on the other hand from the opposite progressive side (mainly the professors of the Theology School of Thessaloniki University during the 1990s), which accused this theological movement of conservatism and anti-Westernism.
The emergence of the agenda initiated by the new theological generation (of 2000) is discussed in the main and longer (third) section. This new theological agenda and its principal characteristics come from points of disagreement with the theologians of the generation of the 1960s, and from a renewed and more inclusive understanding of Orthodox theology which goes beyond the problématique, the language and the agenda of the 1960s. Among the topics raised and discussed by the new trends of Greek theology are: the rediscovery of eschatology and its dynamic interpretation, ecclesiological issues, such as the centrality of the episcopal office, and the critique of the dominant place of monasticism in the life of the church, the movement of liturgical renewal, the revalorisation of mission, the rediscovery of ethics and the dilemma of ethics versus ontology, the renewed interest in political theology, the overcoming of anti-Westernism and of the West–East divide as a central interpretative key, a more constructive relationship between Orthodoxy and modernity, the critical approach of the ‘return to the Fathers’ movement, the reconsideration of the devaluation of biblical studies, the emergence of an Orthodox feminist theology and the debate on women's ordination, the radical critique of religious nationalism, and the devolution into Byzantinism and ecclesiastical culturalism.
In the fourth section the article names the settings and institutions that are hosting the new theological trends in Greek Orthodoxy, mainly mentioning the leading Greek Orthodox theological quarterly Synaxi, the official scholarly journal of the Church of Greece, Theologia, the Biblical Foundation of Artos Zoes and its Bulletin of Biblical Studies and, finally, the Volos Academy for Theological Studies. An overall group vision and esprit de corps which could integrate the individual efforts and provide an identity, clearly missing from the above-mentioned picture, are demanded from the two theological schools of Athens and Thessaloniki.
The article concludes by briefly reviewing the conservative and fundamentalist reactions towards this new theological agenda, and by highlighting the urgent need for contemporary Greek theology to face the new, dynamic and particularly challenging global context, and to continue to reflect and to act towards Christian unity, as well as move to reconciliation between Christian East and West, Eastern and Western Europe.