Paradigms are neat, reality is not: Example Vespers SEPTEMBER 14: Universal Exaltation (Elevation) of the Precious and Life-giving Cross
Come, all you nations, let us fall down in worship before the blessed Tree, by which eternal justice has come to pass!
For he who deceived Adam by a Tree is caught by the lure of the Cross; and he who held under his tyranny the creature endowed by God with royal dignity is brought down in a headlong fall.
The serpent’s venom is washed away by the blood of God, and the curse of just condemnation is undone when the Just One is condemned by an unjust judgment.
For it was fitting that the Tree should be healed by a Tree, and that by the Passion of the passionless God what was wrought on the Tree should destroy the passions of man, who was condemned.
But glory to Your dread dispensation for our sakes, O Christ the King, through which You have saved us all since You are good and the Lover of mankind!
Theology as Explaining Experience
While the explanations change to fit the context, the content is unchanging. The Early Church used categories of Greek philosophy, as some theologians today use the categories of existentialism and modern thought. I am trying to use a number of Evangelical categories. However, theology does not evolve and grow. The experience of God by Moses on the mountain is the same experience as the disciples on the Mt of Transfiguration – each encounter is an encounter of the same God; there is no new knowledge of God, only new ways of explaining the experience.
I had a professor who said “the more intellectual you are, the more capacity you have for spirituality”. I totally disagree with this statement. Theology is not an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual discipline. The Orthodox answer was definitively given by Gregory of Palamas, in his response to Barlam. Gregory defended the (illiterate) monks of Mt Athos who claimed to have experienced the presence of God, against Barlam who considered the highest experience of God to not be a direct experience, but the intellectual contemplation of the concept of God.