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Customer Review

on 11 September 2007
I first read John Zizioulas a few years back when I was a 1st year theology undergraduate. His two respective essays in Persons, Divine and Human and Trinitarian Theology Today were part of my introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity and especially the Cappadocian Fathers. I've enjoyed reading Zizioulas ever since. This collection of essays, edited by Douglas Knight, is a welcome addition to Zizoulas' theology. They are an attempt to offer a critical but appreciative assessment of his theology so far.

For the uninitiated, John Zizioulas is an Orthodox theologian and Metropolitan of Pergamon. He is best known for the book Being As Communion (first published in 1985) which was part of the trinitarian revolution in theology that has taken place in the last thirty years (accompanying the likes of Moltmann, Jenson, Torrance, Jungel, Gunton amongst others).

After a helpful introduction from Douglas Knight, that provides an accessible summary of the main themes and concerns of Zizioulas' theology, as well as some of the criticisms, we are offered twelve chapters that interact with nearly every aspect of Zizioulas' work. The highlights are Alan Brown's detailed defence of Zizioulas against those who have criticised his reading of the Cappadocian Fathers, Colin Gunton's discussion of whether there Zizioulas provides a strong enough doctrine of salvation, Douglas Farrow's exploration of Zizoulas' dialectic between necessity and freedom and whether this distorts his christology and ecclesiology and Demetrios Bathrellos' examination of Zizioulas' doctoral thesis Eucharist, Bishop, Church and the tensions in his theology between the local and universal church. I found Brown's essay especially helpful as he argues that the criticism of John Zizioulas arises out of "Postliberal Anglican" theologians (like Rowan Williams and John Milbank) who 'have spent considerable time arguing for an interpretation of particular Greek Fathers which is not at odds with their own interpretation of Augustine' (p.39). How they read Augustine affects their reading of the Cappadocian Fathers and leaves them in opposition to Zizioulas (and others like Gunton).

I was disappointed with Wolfhart Pannenberg's contribution. In a book called The Theology of John Zizioulas, he does not really engage with Zizioulas and only mentions him as once drawing his attention to an important line in Athanasius. It would have been interesting for Pannenberg to discussed the convergences and divergences between their two respective theologies. The blurb claims to 'represent an unrivalled introduction', but I think some knowledge of Zizioulas is helpful beforehand, despite the majority of essays offering summaries. Like Gunton said about Barth: 'you should try and read the man himself', so I suggest is the case with Zizioulas. This is not to suggest the book is not good, but that it will make it easier and more worthwhile having read Being As Communion and his more recent Communion and Otherness.

Zizioulas is an extremely important theologian, so have suggested he is a modern day church father and therefore this book makes a valuable contribution to the assessment of the impact and future of Zizioulas' theology. Despite severals dissertations and books, (which the book helpfully catalogues at the end), this is the first real book that solely discusses the theology of John Zizioulas. I'm looking forward to many more.
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