chapter  2
14 Pages

THE SOURCES OF MAXIMUS’ THEOLOGY

It is important to heed Balthasar’s warning, not because Maximus is completely original, but precisely because his originality is that of a mind that draws disparate things together in a profound and compelling way. But he certainly has sources, and many of his ideas can be traced back across the centuries, and not only across the Christian centuries, for Maximus knew a good deal of classical philosophy-in its later form that we dub ‘Neoplatonism’—so that many of his ideas can be traced back to the great philosopher of the fifth and fourth centuries BC, Plato, and even earlier. But he lived in a civilization that valued tradition, that tended to think that history was a process of degeneration and decay, rather than of progress, so that consequently antiquity was a measure of truth. The ideal condition would be to remain the same; any change was likely to be corruption. But Paul Lemerle’s oft-quoted warning that ‘to represent Byzantium as immutable over a period of eleven centuries is to fall into a trap set by Byzantium itself’2 applies to Byzantine theology, as much as to Byzantine political institutions. In both cases we need to accustom ourselves to recognize originality in the attempt to preserve an impression of permanence.