Principles of doctrinal continuity and change in Maximus the Confessor (580-662).




Borisova, Yelena V.

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Maximus the Confessor portrays the cosmos as Christologically "prewired" for a dynamic doctrinal transmission. Ontologically, reality is coherent as created by, centered on, and interpretable through the Logos. The perichoretic human-divine duality of Christ's natures—united without confusion and distinct without separation—serves as the hermeneutical model for other non-oppositional relations of contraries, such as the human and the divine. The principle of diabasis (transit) and the kenosis/theosis model place these contraries in a relation of dynamic continuity. Historically, the perichoretic paradigm is realized through the Church, the unique theandric entity characterized by the unconfused unity of the divine and the human qualities. The essential immutable unity of the Logos behind the Church’s teaching balances this teaching's formal mutability and secures the continuity of its multiple expressions. Accordingly, the immutable archetype is reflected in the mutable and, therefore, developmental aspects of his image. Doctrinal continuity is preserved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who equips humans to preserve, research, and transmit the contents of the Church's Tradition.

Maximus demonstrates reverence to Tradition not by slavishly repeating the received content, but by assuming the inner unity and binding authority of Tradition as a whole and of its vehicles (such as Scripture and the voice of the Fathers). Maximus treats the monadic Christological formulations of Cyril of Alexandria as part of a harmonious and authoritative whole, and his assumptions allow him to take Cyril's teaching past the originally received. On the level of theological language, Maximus modifies doctrinal content quantitatively by increase, and qualitatively by making language more capacious to express the infinite reality through the techniques of paradox, apophasis, and careful verbal nuance. Implicit correlations of Maximus’ Christology allow Vladimir Soloviev to construct an explicit apology for doctrinal development. While Maximus does not formulate a theory of doctrinal development, his Christologically-cohesive vision of ontology and history, his critical yet reverent interaction with the legacy of his predecessors, and his progressively-charged theological language offer a methodological "license" for development—a development which, for Maximus, does not break the dynamic continuity within the historical consciousness of the theandric organism of the Church.



Doctrinal development., Maximus, Confessor, Saint, approximately 580-662.