Here are two of the presentations I have especially marked for hearing at the patristics conference

Presenter – Christos Strubakos, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Gregory of Nazianzus’ Trinitarian Theology: A Study in Platonic Metaphysics and Christian Asceticism Gregory of Nazianzus is most famous for his eloquent Theological Orations in which he considers the nature of the Holy Trinity. In more recent years, scholarship has also been directed towards his Festal Orations. This research reveals that Gregory, as a master of words, seamlessly unites Classic rhetoric and philosophy with Christian asceticism. In my paper I shall argue that in addition to alluding to other works of Classical literature and utilizing rhetorical techniques, Gregory assumes literary and philosophical themes and reworks them in a Christian context. I shall focus on Oration 39, On the Lights and will demonstrate that Gregory takes on and adapts both diction and themes from Plato‘s Symposium and Christianizes them in the context of his homily on the feast of Epiphany. In particular, Gregory focuses on three of the Symposium‘s metaphysical arguments regarding Eros, the life of philosophy, and human immortality as achieved through interpersonal relationships. I will argue that Gregory encourages his audience to compare his homily to Plato‘s ―Symposium‖ by embedding Platonic expression, philosophy, and mythology throughout the oration. Then I will show how Gregory reworks the three themes of Eros, philosophy and immortality through human interaction, and coalesces them in a Christian‘s participation in the life of the Church, and more precisely, in the life of the Trinity. Thus, this study will shed new light on Gregory‘s intimate knowledge of Classical literature, and his ability to holistically incorporate Pagan literature and metaphysics into both his Trinitarian model and his practical exhortations for the Christian life.

Presenter – Lee Sytsma, Marquette University
Reading between the lines of Origen’s anti-deterministic exegesis: evidence for an early catholic tradition of predestination The view that a predestinarian reading of Paul is not found in the early church until the time of Augustine and his near-contemporaries has become a virtual truism in scholarship today.  For example, in one of the leading works on the history of justification Alistair McGrath feels safe in writing that ―the pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will.‖  There are two main reasons for this absence.  First, the Church was not forced to handle doctrines of grace and free will with any sort of precision until the Pelagian controversy.  Second, in the first several centuries AD church leaders were heavily engaged in polemical debates against a broad array of deterministic philosophies and therefore their primary focus was understandably placed on the freedom of the will.  This paper will revisit the theological commonplace that in the pre-Augustinian era a deterministic reading of Paul is absent.  Specifically, I will argue that such a tradition did exist, and that this tradition was inside the church catholic – it was distinct from the heretical Gnostic groups who received so much negative attention by church leaders.   Exegetical and polemical writings by Origen will provide a window into this tradition.

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