The aim of the book is the outline of mystical theology in the Patristic period as far as Pseudo-Dionysius (Denys).
Dogmatic and mystical theology are bound up together. For example, Trinity and Incarnation are mystical doctrines formulated dogmatically and worked out in these early patristic centuries.
The dynamic is like this: mystical theology provides the context for direct apprehension (in mystical experience) of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit, which then in turn leads to a more cataphatic, “dogmatic” theology that attempts to “incarnate those apprehensions in objectively precise terms, which then, in their turn, inspire a mystical understanding of the God who has thus revealed himself…”
What was once historically bound together is now pretty much divorced – with notable exceptions like Barth and von Balthasar. But the Fathers work “embodies to a peculiar degree an integration of devotion and reason“.
Patristics students tend to be familiar with the polemical writings (the “contras” e.g. of Origin and Gregory of Nyssa) – but not with their more mystical works. And even there such writing as that of Augustine’s De Trinitate is read as speculative theology instead of the “the ascent of the soul to God” – “But in the Fathers, there is no divorce between dogmatic and mystical theology.”
This book hopes to redress that imbalance.
A fundamental problem of Patristic Theology: its relationship to its contemporary Hellenistic culture – ways of thinking rooted in Plato.
(to be continued)