Thinking Like Christ

Thinking Like Christ

Phronema the Lifeblood of Orthodoxy

By Bishop Thomas Joseph and Peter Schweitzer

The Greek word φρόνημα, transliterated in English as phronema is difficult to capture in a single word since it is more of a way of being in the world or a way of looking at the world.  Often, it is rendered in English as mindset or ethos.  For the purposes of this paper, we will employ the understanding of phronema as ethos.

In no Western religion is the concept of phronema present.  The concept truly has meaning only for the Orthodox Christian.  Perhaps this is because most Western religions understand themselves intellectually.  They adopt a so-called theology and employ philosophical categories to make it intelligible to their adherents and the world around them.  This is not the case for Orthodoxy.  Indeed, it would be hard to experience Orthodoxy apart from this ethos.  Since Orthodoxy is not about the intellectual pursuit of knowledge, it is thoroughly consistent that phronema can’t be grasped or recognized in a purely rationalistic pursuit.  One has to live Orthodoxy, experience it deeply, to perceive its ethos.

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