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Mission as Ascetic Experience: Hesychasm and the Anthropology of Sergei Horujy for Mission Theology

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Abstract This article traces the development of hesychasm, a common prayer practice in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, from the fourth century A.D. to the present and proposes an understanding of missional theology that is grounded in hesychast theological anthropology. The theological foundation of hesychasm rests upon the view that humanity is open to the transformative union with God through prayer. This foundation reformulates the conception of mission theology as an in-depth ascetic experience of God’s presence that encompasses the various manifestations of human missional experience. The paper interacts with the development of hesychast doctrine from the fourth century in the African desert, to its formulation by Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth century, and finally culminating in the contemporary philosophical writings of Sergei Horujy. Horujy is a physicist at Moscow State University and an Orthodox theologian. His synergistic school of anthropology conceives of humanity as consisting of a triple border: ontological, ontic, and virtual. He is deeply indebted to Gregory Palamas’ distinction between essence and energies, that is, between God’s core being and his manifestations as experienced in hesychast prayer practice. Horujy applies this distinction, particularly the “energies,” as a way to conceive theological anthropology. His own project in part critiques the modern and postmodern crisis of the human subject and in part redefines the complex humanity around a spiritual core. Incorporating Horujy’s synergistic anthropology into a theology of mission means viewing humanity’s potential for union with God as both a process and outcome for mission practice. Mission can no longer be viewed as an appendage of the Christian life, but is actually a means of experiencing union with God.

Affiliations: 1: Asbury Theological Seminary Wilmore, KY USA


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