Pure theology: Metaphysical theologyand pure theology
There are only a few Orthodox saints who have been given the honor of being called theologians. St. John the Theologian and St. Symeon the New Theologian, to give two examples, were declared theologians by the Church, because their theology was the result of their having encountered the living God.
Theologians, in the strict sense of the word, are those who have mastered the art of prayer. Pure theology does not come out of a humanistic, philosophical search for the things of God, but rather from an encounter with the living God. True theology is not the result of a rationalistic, abstract search for God, but is the result of God’s divine grace. This divine grace is God’s gift to those who seek him out with purity of heart and ascetic struggle. Theology is not speaking about God, but encountering God.
Vladimir Lossky, one of the great modern theologians of the Orthodox Church, taught that Christian mysticism and dogmatic theology are one and the same. Mysticism is Orthodox dogma par excellence, for the very reason that the Christian life of prayer and worship is the foundation for dogmatic theology, and the dogma of the Church helps us Christians in our struggle for sanctification and deification.
The Roman Catholic Church’s use of pagan metaphysical philosophy and its outgrowth, Scholasticism, rather than the mystical, actual experience of God called theoria has led to the two churches becoming “different men,” according to Lossky. Other Orthodox theologians such as John Romanides and Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) agree. Vladimir Lossky expressed this as: “Revelation sets an abyss between the truth which it declares and the truths which can be discovered by philosophical speculation.”
Vladimir Lossky further states that Orthodoxy has never made a sharp distinction between mysticism and theology, between personal experience of the divine mysteries and the dogma affirmed by the Church. The term “mystical theology” as used by the Orthodox Church denotes that which is accessible yet inaccessible, those things understood yet surpassing all knowledge.
Thus a theologian can not know God through logic and reason, nor through philosophical research, but only through divine revelation by the Holy Spirit, leading to a noetic knowledge resulting in theosis.