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Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church
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Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church

(Contemporary Greek Theologians #4)

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  421 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A systematic contemporary presentation of Orthodox ecclesiology. Significant chapters on Eucharist and catholicity, apostolic continuity and succession, ministry and communion, and the local church.
Paperback, 269 pages
Published 1997 by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (first published January 1st 1985)
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Joshua  Butler
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this is one of my all-time favorites so figured i should put it up here. zizioulas is a prominent eastern orthodox theologian who proposes a trinitarian understanding of identity in which to truly "be" means to "be-in-relation" to others. he challenges the roots of individualistic framings of personhood which start with the individual as an enclosed self and thereafter move second-hand to social relations; and proposes in its place an understanding of personhood as inherently and primarily relat ...more
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: orthodoxy, church
I read this book because my much smarter and better looking friend Jeremy did a thesis on John Zizioulas. Zizioulas is one of the leading Eastern Orthodox theologians today. But this was a difficult book. Zizioulas is much easier to read if you have a good working knowledge of the Christian tradition in the Patristic period (particularly in the East), knowledge of doctrinal development and a workign knowledge of philosophy. I possess these in a small measure so I was able to work my way through ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this work. There were some parts that I would disagree with, especially being a Baptist and Zizioulas being an Orthodox Christian. Despite those areas of disagreement, the work is a good work that encourages the church to be one and yet many. The ending of the book I found the most helpful as he lays out how the church universal and local should interact.
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-thinking
read it in too small of chunks and sporadically to hold it all as a single thought, but such lovely insight on personhood within Christ and His Bride, particularly by arguing modern paradigms of the individual vs. historical and eschatological paradigms of person
Dwight Davis
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Zizioulas covers a wide range of topics in this work, everything from Christology to theological anthropology and personhood, ontology, and liturgical and sacramental ministry. He offers an understanding of the person in Christ as a social person, arguing against any notion of individualism. This work is dense and brilliant. One of the best works of theology I've read. ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: orthodoxy
"The identification of God's ultimate being with a person rather than an ousia not only makes possible a biblical doctrine of God (= the Father in the Bible), but also resolves problems such as those inherent in the homoousion concerning, for example, the relation of the Son to the Father." (88-89)

"The idea of ekstasis signifies that God is love, and as such He creates an immanent relationship of love outside Himself. The emphasis placed on the words "outside Himself" is particularly important,
Jeromie Rand
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in two long stretches - I started it last year, set it aside for a while, and recently finished it. It's challenging in parts, but worth the effort. The philosophical foundation of the book - that personhood is rooted in relationship, not some independent ontological status, forms the basis of an interesting understanding of the church. It allows the Eucharist to become the defining element of the church, for that is the moment where the people of God are united in the local body and ...more
Christian Proano
Zizioulas does a great job showing the Christian Orthodox ecclesiology by pointing at the pneumatological basis of the Incarnation and ecclesiology. And how this makes the Church an eschatological communion and not just a historical one. The Eucharist in this perspective is central. It is great that he has the studies of Early Church history to point at.
Bryan Davenport
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Tough read to finish, but helpful to dive into the Orthodox perspectives of Sacraments, Community and Trinitarianism.
Jacob Aitken
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I usually encourage people to read beyond their reading level. Persevering through a challenging book full of foreign concepts is a most rewarding and enlightening experience. It's those types of books that make us a better reader. That being said, this isn't for the faint of heart. Unless you have passing familiarity with Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology, Patristic theology, trinitarian theology, and early church history I suggest you forgo this book for the time being and do some groundwork first ...more
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of the questions Zizoulas tackles sounds odd to a layman, but to philosophers it's no small inquiry: what is a person? We can dispense with biological answers: a person is a being born to people, is homo sapiens, etc., because the question is not: what is a human? or even: what is an individual? The question regards uniqueness: what makes you a unique person, as opposed to, say, the 9,487,756,321st human to be birthed since the dawn of man?

Zizoulas ties his answer to communion--we are unique
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: orthodox, christian
I read this book many years ago in French, when I was Orthodox in heart. A few years after my conversion to Orthodoxy, it’s good to read this again, in its English updated version – I believe some passages were not in the French version I read.

This is not an easy read, and it would be helpful for you to know a few Greek words, but the effort is worth it. It is a very refreshing book, still so valid today, though it was written about 30 years. This is the type of book I wish every bishop, priest,
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Introduction and opening two chapters gave me an intellectual orgasm as they discussed a eucharistic ontology of the person, including a review of key theological developments in the Patristic era. I've long struggled with elements of this orthodox Trinitarianism, and Zizioulas gives the most profound presentation of it I've read.

From chapter three on the focus is on issues that were of less interest to me as someone rooted in the Free Church tradition--apostolic succession, catholicity, ord
Joseph Sverker
Some chapters in this books is absolutely excellent and probably ground breaking. His thoughts on personhood in contrast to individualism and Christology in combination with pneumatology in order to understand the one and the many is fantastic. He writes in a complicated and compressed way so that it can be hard to follow and one should probably have a basic knowledge of Greek in order to really get the book. It is as such not a book for the interested amateur theologian. I also think, as a West ...more
Alex Stroshine
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
This was the most challenging book I've read in a while and the low rating is more a result of my lack of understanding. The first two chapters deal with personhood and there is a lot of philosophical content about what constitutes "being" and "personhood." The latter half of the book deal with issues of Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology, focusing a lot on historical development and the eucharist, that isn't all that relevant to me as a member of the C&MA. It also feels as if Zizioulas is writing mo ...more
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
This was a pretty tough slog, even for someone with some knowledge of Orthodox theology. The first half of the book has some great thoughts on identity that should be useful for anyone with a eucharistic theology. The last half or so of the book wasn't really geared toward Christians outside of the Eastern tradition, which I don't fault it for. What I do take issue with is that it felt unnecessarily difficult. The author seems to assume you understand things exactly the way he does and feels com ...more
G Walker
A sheer delight. Not a book to plow through by any means... I took my time... partially due to the fact that the book is somewhat "dense"... and also, when I first read it - I was in the midst of my conversion to EO (so there was a lot of new stuff by way of categories and methodology)... but overall the effort (reading, re-reading, reflecting then re-reading again) was worth the reward! Have read the book several time since and each time I am edified, challenged and convicted anew of the centra ...more
May 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing

I will definitely need to re-read this shortly.

A most influential book, given time. This "seminal" work may prove to be the path toward a truly united Christian Church, the like of which we have not seen since the Church was born on Pentecost until the Great Schism.

I would have wanted some more practical application of his ideas of 'community' than he offers here, instead of the purely theoretical, but the implications of his thoughts may well ripple into the future in ways that we cannot fore
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
A dense book by one of the figures associated with the renewal of interest in Trinitarian theology in the late 20th century. The first chapters on anthropology are especially good, and the later sections provide much food for thought for those interested in questions of church polity (not my top interest). Provides something of a model for how Patristic sources can be used in contemporary constructive theology.
Chris Waddle
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is such a cool book to read. Love the deep understanding of the the origins of Christian Theology in the Patristic age.

Such a help for me in understanding Baptismal theology and the shape that Christian Existence takes with an existentialist bent. Love this book.
Dan Sheffler
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very helpful for his trinitarian anthropology. (I only read the first two chapters.)
Taylor Brown
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Perhaps the most inspiring of the introductory-intermediate level books on Orthodox theology.
Karim Nabil
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Too much beauty❤
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Jul 16, 2015
Patricia Tillman
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Sep 13, 2012
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His Eminence, the Most Reverend John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon (b. 1931) is a modern theologian and titular Metropolitan of Pergamon, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The future metropolitan was born January 10, 1931. He began his studies at the University of Thessaloniki but took his first theology degree from the University of Athens in 1955. He studied patristics under Father ...more

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Ciannon Smart has been holed up in her England home since the pandemic began a year ago, but by no means has she been idle. She’s been on...
24 likes · 6 comments
“Now if BECOMING history is the particularity of the Son in the economy, what is the contribution of the Spirit? Well, precisely the opposite: it is to liberate the Son and the economy from the bondage of history. If the Son dies on the cross, thus succumbing to the bondage of historical existence, it is the Spirit that raises him from the dead. The Spirit is the BEYOND history, and when he acts in history he does so in order to bring into history the last days, the ESCHATON. Hence the first fundamental particularity of Pneumatology is its eschatological character. The Spirit makes of Christ an eschatological being, the 'last Adam.” 4 likes
“The person is otherness in communion and communion in otherness. The person is an identity that emerges through relationship; it is an 'I' that can exist only as long as it relates to a 'thou' which affirms it's existence and it's otherness. If we isolate the 'I' from the 'thou' we lose not only it's otherness but also it's very being; it simply cannot be without the other.
Personhood is freedom. In its anthropological significance, personhood is inconceivable without freedom; it is the freedom of being other. I hesitate to say 'different' instead of 'other', because 'different' can be understood in the sense of qualities (clever, beautiful, etc.), which is not what the person is about. Person implies not simply the freedom to have qualities, but mainly the freedom simply to be yourself.
And yet because, as we have already observed, one person is no person, this freedom is not freedom *from* the other but freedom *for* the other. Freedom thus becomes identical with *love*. We can love only if we are persons, that is, if we allow the other to be truly other, and yet to be in communion with us. If we love the other not only in spite of his of her being different from us but *because* he or she is different from us, or rather *other* than ourselves, we live in freedom as love and in love as freedom .
[In this way] personhood is creativity. Freedom is not *from* but *for* someone or something other than ourselves. This makes the person *ec-static*, that is, going outside and beyond the boundaries of the 'self'. But this *ecstasis* is not to be understood as a movement towards the unknown and the infinite [an arbitrary, abstract *othering* for the sake of itself]; it is a movement of *affirmation of the other*.
This drive of personhood towards the affirmation of the other is so strong that it is not limited to the 'other' that already exists, but wants to affirm an 'other' which is [the product of] the totally free grace of the person. The person [out of totally free grace] wants to create its own 'other'. This is what happens in art; and it is only the person that can be an artist in the true sense, that is, a creator that brings about a totally other identity as an act of freedom and communion.
The subject of otherness, then, is raised in its absolute ontological significance. Otherness is not secondary to unity; it is primary and constitutive of the very idea of being. Respect for otherness is a matter not [only] of ethics but of ontology: if otherness disappears, beings simply cease to be. There is simply no room for ontological totalitarianism. All communion must involve otherness as a primary and constitutive ingredient. It is this that makes freedom part of the notion of being. Freedom is not simply 'freedom of will'; it is the freedom to be other in an absolute ontological sense.”
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