Christopher Chelpka

Round 2: Gregory of Nazianzus Study Tonight

Tucson, see you tonight at the Christian Theology Reading Group? We’re continuing our study of the Five Theological Orations by Gregory of Nazianzus. Hopefully the cops won’t need to get involved this time.

We’ll dive deep but try to follow Gregory’s good advice as well: “we do not want our thoughts to be dissipated through the length of discussion, like water, without a channel to hold it in, running to waste over flat ground.” (29.1) See more great quotes below.

nb: Registration for the Paideia Conference is now open.

Possible Questions to Discuss

  • According to Oration 29, what is the primary error people make when thinking about the nature of the Trinity? How does Gregory help correct this?
  • How does Gregory talk about the relationship between faith and reason?
  • In the third oration (sections 19-20 especially), Gregory presses on the need for seemingly paradoxical language about Christ. Why is this necessary? How does this shape how we think of Christ, how we read Scripture, and how we understand God?
  • Gregory looks to the various titles of the Son in the fourth oration (sections 18-19). Which ones are most emphasized in your own experience, church, or tradition? To what effect? Which ones are less emphasized? To what effect? How might reclaiming the wider range of titles fill out your or your church’s understanding of the Son?
  • How should we understand Gregory’s statement in 29.19 that in the Son: “Man and God blended. They became a single whole, the stronger side predominating, in order that I might be made God to the same extent that he was made man”? See also, 30.3, 30.6, 30.14, 30.21.

A Sampling of Remarkable Quotes

  • “Atheism with its lack of a governing principle involves disorder. Polytheism, with a plurality of such principles, involves faction and hence the absence of governing principle, and this involves disorder again.” (29.2)
  • ”We ought never to introduce the notion of involuntary generation (in the sense of some sort of unrestrained natural secretion), which is completely out of keeping with the ideas about the Godhead.” (29.2)
  • “How, then has he been begotten? This begetting would be a triviality if it could be understood by you, you have no knowledge of your own genesis and are ashamed to explain it in full the limited understanding you have. Do you really think you know it all?” (29.8)
  • ”If you make imcomprehensibility a ground for denying the fact, it is high time you ruled out as nonexistent a good number of things you do not understand…” (29.8)
  • “These things are a marvelously constructed drama dealing with us.” (30.6)
  • “Our noblest theologian is not one who has discovered the whole—our earthly shackles do not permit us the whole—but one whose mental image is by comparison fuller, who has gathered in his mind a richer picture, outline, or whatever we call it, of the truth.” (30.17)