From 2.00 till 3:30 pm, followed by tea at Pusey House
The aim of the series is to provide an intensive introduction to some of the key periods, characters and ideas of Christian history.
Click "Read more" for introductions to each of this term's lectures.
27 January, 2nd Week
God Immanent Yet Transcendent: The Divine Energies According to St Gregory Palamas, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware.
Greek patristic authors employed two ways in particular to articulate the double truth of God as transcendent yet immanent, as beyond and above, yet ‘everywhere present and filling everything’. St Maximus the Confessor thought in terms of the Logos and logoi. Other authors made a distinction between God's transcendent essence (ousia) and his immanent energies or operations (energeiai). In his essence God is infinitely transcendent, utterly beyond all created being, beyond all understanding and all participation from the human side. But in his energies – which are nothing else than God himself in action – God is inexhaustibly immanent, maintaining all things in being, animating them, making each a sacrament of his dynamic presence. The thinker who provides the most systematic exposition of this essence-energies distinction is St Gregory Palamas, archbishop of Thessalonica (ca. 1296-1359), the greatest Byzantine theologian of the period spanning the middle of the 13th to the end of the 15th century. For St Gregory, the divine energies are nothing less than love in action. When he speaks of the created world as sustained and interpenetrated by these omnipresent energies, his meaning is exactly that of Julian of Norwich when she marvelled at the contrast between the ‘littleness’ and fragility of the world on the one hand and its stability and persistence on the other: “It lasteth, and ever shall, for God liveth it. And so hath all things being by the love of God”.
Kallistos Ware is Assistant Bishop in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, sometime Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.
11 February, 4th Week NB Thursday
Evagrius on Divine Ascent, Dr Julia Konstantinovsky.
Evagrius Ponticus (346-99) was ordained deacon by Gregory of Nazianzus and was a well-known preacher in Constantinople. In 382 he became a monk in the Egyptian desert. He occupies a central place in the development of Christian spirituality, and his writings exercised a great influence on John Cassian and Maximus the Confessor among others. For Evagrius, “if you are a theologian you pray truly, and if you pray truly, you are a theologian”. He put forward an understanding of knowledge or 'gnosis' as a partaking of the life of divinity. For him the metaphysical or supernatural was indissolubly locked with the physical, the divine and the contingent. For Evagrius, true knowledge puts one on the right road toward the perfection to which the Scriptures point. This talk will consider Evagrius’ understanding of reality, and what he teaches about how one mounts up the ladder of divine ascent to know and contemplate God through contemplation of the books of Nature and of Scripture.
Julia Konstantinovsky is a research fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Religion and lecturer in early Church history, Patristics and Byzantine history and theology. She is the author of Evagrius Ponticus: The Making of a Gnostic.
24 February, 6th Week,
Love as the Seed of Virtue and Vice: The Ardorous Journey of Dante’s Purgatorio, Mr Brian Williams.
The souls in Dante’s Purgatorio are our souls—in process and on the way, struggling to unlearn and relearn. Souls in the Inferno and the Paradiso are beyond change, but the souls in Purgatorio, like the still-living souls on earth, live in hope of heaven while they are formed in virtue by being reformed in love. At the centre of both the Purgatorio and the entire Commedia is a canto about love as the source of all our virtues and vices. Part of the power of Dante’s Purgatorio is that it invites us to step out of the immediacy of our own lives into the immediacy of this Augustinian and Thomistic-shaped world and into the lives of fellow sinners journeying up the seven-story mountain. As we read, we become fellow pilgrims with them, confronting our own misdirected, deficient, and excessive loves. However, also like them, we progress through repentance and the slow ardorous reordering of our loves, our habits, and our moral imagination, the latter of which is aided by images, models, and stories like the Commedia itself.
Brian Williams is a DPhil student in Christian Ethics, Oxford, researching the work of Hugh of St. Victor and Philip Melanchthon on the subjects of education and the intellectual appetite. He is the author of The Potter’s Rib, a book that explores the history, theology, and practice of mentoring for pastoral formation.
9 March, 8th Week,
The Resurrection and the Return to God in John Scotus Eriugena, Mr Evan King.
The writings of John Scotus Eriugena (c.800-c.877) represent the most significant encounter of Greek and Latin patristic cultures in the West after Boethius. Eriugena translated works by St Gregory of Nyssa, St Maximus the Confessor, and the entire Corpus of writings attributed to the Athenian convert of St Paul, St Dionysius the (pseudo-)Areopagite. His masterwork, the Periphyseon (On Natures), is a dialogue between a teacher and disciple in which cosmology and anthropology are deeply united: the main lineament of their discussion runs from an exegesis of the ‘Six Days of Creation and the Fall’, to a meditation on the ‘Last Things, the Return of all Creatures to God and the Resurrection’. Eriugena adheres throughout to Maximus the Confessor’s conception of human nature as the ‘workshop of creation’ wherein ‘all things are created’ and through which all things are redeemed. Christ as Logos and Wisdom grounds this integral interrelation of humanity and the whole of creation, which Eriugena develops in the striking notion that human perspective on God is also in a sense God’s own self-manifestation (‘theophany’) – the unity of the ascent to God and the divine descent to humanity.
Evan King is a PhD student in Divinity at Cambridge. He is writing an historical and philosophical analysis of the Exposition on the Elements of Theology of Proclus by Berthold of Moosburg, O.P. (mid-14th century).
Trinity Term lecture dates NB odd weeks of term, not even
27 April, 1st Week - Lancelot Andrewes, Professor Peter McCullough
11 May, 3rd Week - John Donne, Mr Paul Oliver
25 May, 5th Week - Charles Simeon, Revd Vaughan Roberts
8 June, 7th Week - John V Taylor, speaker TBC