On the very idea of an ontology of communion: Being, relation and freedom in zizioulas and Levinas

Heythrop Journal 52 (4):672-683 (2011)
Abstract
The present article examines the theology of John Zizioulas with a view to understanding its coherence and viability for ecclesiology. Instead of treating his trinitarian theology, or his historical claims, I focus upon the basic themes of his personalistic ontology, especially the relationship between the ‘hypostasis’ and its ‘nature.’ I argue that Zizioulas's central concept of freedom rests upon an equivocation: he affirms both that freedom and being are identical, and that they are mutually exclusive. In conversation with the philosophy of Levinas, I further argue that Zizioulas's proposal, as an ontology of communion, falls prey to the same reduction of being to thought that forms the central tenet of Western conceptions of subjectivity. In conclusion, I argue that both of these problems trade on a basic inability to account for grace as the fundamental reality of communion. Throughout my basic concern is to inquire into just what function the category of ‘being’ has in Zizioulas's theology, and to point out its surprising obscurity
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