What is Christian theology? Do we understand this term correctly? How can we know God? These are the questions that Prof. Osipov keeps coming back again and again in many of his talks.
In Osipov’s definition, Christian theology is much more than studying God and his revelation. You don’t have to be Christian to do that. Osipov believes that one can never know and understand God until he starts to live in accordance with his law. This seemingly simple and believable statement, however, has two very important implications.
1) Osipov believes that western Christianity and Protestantism, in particular, went in a wrong direction by treating theology as a science, which can be studied by anyone who wishes. The main reason for so much disunity in the western church is because anyone can weight in their interpretation and because the church, in general, often accepts Biblical interpretations from people whose heart is far from God.
2) Osipov just cannot understand the Reformer’s insistence on sola scriptura. In his mind Bible while being the true word of God is not self-explanatory and does not present complete knowledge about God. Many concepts present in the Bible are at best vague or barely mentioned. Why do we keep arguing about the purpose of Lord’s supper or necessity of baptism or about how to organize the church government? Because Bible does not speak clearly about these and hence is subject to interpretation.
What is Osipov’s solution? We need additional interpretation sources. However, these must come from people who walked closely with God rather than those who treat theology as science. Hence the reliance on the early church fathers and later saints of the church (by saints here Orthodox church means people who by their holy life have proved their understanding to be trustworthy).
His advice to seminary students? Do not try to understand God without trying to live a holy life, doing otherwise puts you in a great danger. There is nothing worse than knowledge puffed up by pride. And don’t start with the Bible, but with saints and early church fathers. Read the Bible through the spectacle of their teaching.
Well, as usual, I will give my response in the next post. Meanwhile, your comments are welcome!