This In the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Message of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
Very often one observes in education, particularly in humanities, a process of emptying the contents of a book into the brain of the student. The end result of such an educational process is that information is supplied to the person yet it is not integrated in his personality. The final outcome may lead to a dualism between the person and the knowledge acquired. The person remains unchanged and knowledge is merely a content of books.
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Our book, the source of our knowledge, is not made of paper, and information is not constituted of concepts crafted in an abstract way, by the human mind. Our "Book" is a Living Person, and the knowledge we receive are the principles of a living, rooted in the world of beings. This knowledge is not juxtaposed to our person but, is an integral part of it.
Our Book is Christ Himself and nothing else "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life."
It is incumbent for theological education to seek the edification of a person who "sees" and so speaks, then will human words utter forth theological matters. Theology is called to lead the student beyond books towards spiritual experience, that of his heart. The heart opens up the student's eyes to discern the truth of Christ at work in his being, behavior and intellectual judgments. Every theoretical and even theological information which is not effective in enriching the person, does not go beyond filling in the student as a container of knowledge.
In other words, all information does not constitute knowledge unless the teacher and the student reach a living and active faith.
At the Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology we see clearly, with the help of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit, that a theological knowledge may be devoid of God although he is its central and final subject. We also affirm that the purpose of theological study is not to provide a subject matter for debate, speculation or intellectual acrobatics. Theology aims at personal existential knowledge of God. A theologian is a person called to accompany his fellow human beings as he brings forth to them the gifts of God. His vocation involves offering a life example: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
At the St. John of Damascus Faculty of Theology, we aspire to educate Orthodox spiritual leaders, who are able to go beyond the duality of abstract intellectual knowledge and the personal faithfulness baring witness by words and deeds. A caring and loving spiritual leader is a living witness who brings forth in God's church the joy of the "good news", that make the Christian family a community of resurrection and triumph.