For too long the church’ s internal life has been consumed by the fire of disagreements between different theological positions, regardless of the fact that from the beginning the church was imagined to be one Body with many members, this underlying the uniqueness of the church: a community of unity in diversity.
A long-term observation reveals the fact that one of the biggest problems of the church today (no matter the denomination or tradition) is not only the scandal of conflictual relationships between different forms of being Christian, but also the incapacity of diverse Christian religious forms (or traditions) to take the time and energy to understand each other in such a way as to start to discover the validity of some of the other tradition’s arguments that could enrich one’s own tradition.
By taking time to understand each other, it might be that different Christian traditions have a chance in the beginning of the third millennium, in this more and more pluralistic society, not only to consider the other as a viable partner for discussion and reflection, but also to develop an openness for the many elements that constitute the common terrain in which different Christian traditions share a great deal. This is not that kind of ecumenical openness that will lead to the dissolution of one person or community’s traditional or denominational identity, or to a strange union of all churches in only one church. Rather, it is that meeting of churches on the existing common ground, that is, the Christ event as revelation of the Father’s plan in the Holy Spirit, and thus being able to offer to society as a whole the partnership that is not only required and desired by God but is also needed by the world today.
Still, if this could not be possible on a global scale, in various towns and communities this could become reality locally. Also, it might be that there are a few preliminary conditions for this: first, the cultivation of a deep respect for the human being no matter his or her Christian religious tradition; second, the cultivation of a spirit of acceptance of the fact that God could work and inspire people beyond one’s limited capacity of comprehension and understanding; third, the cultivation of a positive way of being together with others in Christianity that will value the other’s potential rather than underscore their weaknesses.
To sum up, the thesis of this work is that the proper attitude and coordinates of such a development in interdenominational dialogue and relationships could be grounded in a real understanding of the theology of koinonia, that is, the reality of communion in the internal life of the church and of its relationship with the society around it.
Regarding the subject of koinonia, the reality is that many times different Christian traditions have a kind of unbalanced view of the area of church history and history of doctrine in which they focus their research. For example, the insistence of the modern Protestant-Evangelical traditions on the importance of the Holy Scriptures for the theology and the life of the church is well-known.
The insistence of the premodern Christian traditions, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, on the importance of patristic theology in the life of the church is also known. In our argument we start with the presupposition that these two important perspectives are not excluded by each other; rather, they are elements of a very prolific theological synthesis for the life of the church.
This synthesis is necessary because, on the one hand, many communities of Protestant evangelicals are champions of a biblicism that needs to be theologically informed, and on the other hand, the Eastern Orthodox as the champions of the study of patristic theology need to be reminded of the fact that the Fathers were deeply biblically minded and culturally focused.
Thus, it is clear that this work is limited to an analysis of the concept of koinonia as reflected in Scriptures and contemporary Orthodox thought, acknowledging the fact that there are interesting developments in Roman Catholic and Western Protestant theology as well.
Therefore, our study has a threefold focus: to discover, first, the way in which the Bible develops the theological concept of koinonia; second, the way in which the theology of koinonia is reflected in contemporary Orthodox thought; and third, to try to sketch a possible model for a theological synthesis that will avoid denominational partisanship, in the form of extreme fundamentalistic biblicism or theological fundamentalism.
A biblically grounded and theologically informed theology of koinonia is one of the possible ways for the different churches to come together with openness and humbleness, creating space for the other as well, in a context of a modernity which is characterized many times by “the disappearing other.”