Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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What is the locus of theology? It touched about the role of scholar in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

I have two resources.

1. William Dalrymple's book, From the Holy Mountain:  A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East. Page 404 talks about how the Copts rejected the concept of learning, beginning with St. Antony ("in the person whose mind is sound, there is no need for letters"). When Robert Curzon visited the Monastery of Deir el-Suriani in the Wadi Natrun, Dalrymple writes, "he discovered manuscripts of lost works of Euclid and Plato serving as stoppers in jars of monastic olive oil." [Thanks, guys. We could have used the ones on Euclid's math and geometry!]

2. However, Meinardus wrote in Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Deserts about the roles in Coptic monasticism (pp. 195-196), which contradicts the above! He says that Coptic monasticism has had the "scholastic impulse," and lists several Old and New Testament scholars amongst the ranks of monks: James the Lame, Paphnute, Anba Shenudah (letters, homilies, rules,), etc., Meinardus states that the last especially had a large impact upon the life of the Church, and upon the lives of monasteries. He goes on to list John of Nikiu, Menas of Pschati, Abuna Abd al-Masih ibn Girgis al-Baramusi [who apparently wrote a systematic theology book that I hope is in English one day!], Abuna Abd al-Masih ibn Salib al-Mas'udi al-Baramusi, who was a librarian.

The contradiction is confusing to me; there can be dangers from both perspectives. The first reminds me of the emperor of China, who, upon finding that a farmer had created a machine that enabled him to fly, feared that Mongols would use them to drop rocks over the Great Wall of China; he had the airplane destroyed, and the farmer's head cut off.  Abuse does not take away the use. Because someone might become addicted to, or overdose on, oxycontin doesn't mean the FDA should ban the painkiller, but only control it. "Virus in media stat," Virtue stands in the middle, or, as they'd say in my little hometown, "Don't go throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

I admire your quest and determination for spiritual knowledge and growth. It is not always an easy path, but it is understandable how once you start, you easily desire more. St. Paphnutius, St. Shenouda the Archimandrite, and many others, including St. Augustine, are indeed considered to be scholars to us today. But at their time, people flocked to them because of their spirituality, first and foremost. Because of his astute theological knowledge, but more importantly, his spiritual influence, St. Shenouda was asked to accompany St. Cyril the Pillar of Faith to the 3rd Ecumenical Council. St. Shenouda was an exemplary saint who was well known to have discipled and precepted over thousands of monks and nuns. Despite his rigorous monastic order and sometimes stern expectations, still many desired the monastic life in his jurisdiction and under his guidance. We can ask ourselves, which then came first, the saints' spiritual influence or their scholarly knowledge? This is an easy question. Once their spiritual knowledge increased with humility, then God bestowed upon them His grace to deliver the scholarly theological knowledge to the people, with depth and clarity, and yet with simplicity. The Holy Spirit guides us through our spiritual fathers to help keep us balanced. That is why it is imperative to grow in knowledge under the careful eye of a spiritual guide. St. Shenouda was discipled by his spiritual guide, the Abbot of the Monastery, who was also his maternal uncle, St. Pigol. St. Paphnutius the Confessor was a disciple of St. Antony the Great, and St. Augustine was a disciple of the Bishop, St. Ambrose of Milan. All of the saints owe their excellence to the spiritual fathers to whom the Holy Spirit guided to steer the disciple in the right direction. Arius, Macedonias, and Nestorious were very intelligent clergy, influential, and charismatic. However, their arrogance was the cause of many heresies. They lacked the humility to submit to sound knowledge, true spiritual leadership, and obedient discipleship. They were given many opportunities to repent of their errors, so that they may regain their own salvation and rescue others from falling, but they refused and rather clung to their own knowledge and understanding. Where there were schisms, you will find at the root, a separation from discipleship. The rift between the scholar Origen and St. Demetrius, the 12th Patriarch of the See of Alexandria, partially occurred because Origen took actions without consulting St. Demetrius, who was also his spiritual guide. Today, like yesterday, many monastics are very well educated, but, that knowledge is in light of their spiritual status and permission to use it in some capacity. Some monks who were physicians still serve as physicians in their monasteries, as well as, dentists, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants, speakers of foreign languages, etc. With great humility, monatics ought to first ask their spiritual fathers about the material they are reading, whether it is secular or spiritual, and obtain permission. Spiritual people can be scholars, but the opposite is not necessarily true. Scholars are often not spiritually inclined, initially, at least. Numerous are the many lessons to be learned from the simple in heart. Be assured that there is no other arena, venue, or forum in which one can learn of spirituality and theology than at the side of a truly spiritual father.

"God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble" (St. Augustine).
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