The Importance of Apostolos Makrakis To Orthodoxy

The Turkish overlords left behind them a desolate Greece when the revolting Greeks forced them to withdraw permanently in 1829. Four-hundred years of Turkish subjugation had despoiled the one-time glorious land of the grandeur of its Byzantine civilization and on the morrow of independence Greece was found facing the challenge of cultural rehabilitation. She found herself at the feet of the Western world which she once tutored. Until she was able to develop her own culture, which was in a latent and dormant state, she remained at the mercy of the culture of Western Europe to which she was becoming increasingly exposed. Soon after independence was won, Western, liberal, democratic civilization with its legacy of the Papacy, the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment which had been totally foreign to Greek; history, was gradually making inroads into Greece through Western tutors. The nation that once conquered its enemies by its spirit appeared to be succumbing to the spirit of the Western powers which was alien to her heritage.

But out of the apparent passiveness of the Greek spirit there arose a vigorous voice of objection and protest against the introduction of a culture that was a veritable threat to her own indigenous heritage. The lingering shadow that covered Orthodox Greece was broken by the beacon light that shined forth radiantly in the person of Apostolos Makrakis, promising a brighter future for this ravaged nation and persecuted Church. Apostolos Makrakis, born in 1831, appeared in the midst of his countrymen with the zeal of an Old Testament prophet, warning them of the danger that threatened the spiritual and intellectual integrity of Greece with the infiltration of Western ideas and urging them to turn away from the “strange gods” of the nations of the West. His voice was one recalling the splendor of old that was Greece’s and the destiny to which the Greek race was still expected to carry out within the spiritual Ark of the Orthodox Catholic Church. His message was one of courage and of hope growing out of the overmastering conviction that the Greek nation was the New Israel, and, as such, had still _an important role to play in the scheme of Divine providence. He was convinced that God was calling His “chosen people” to resume their manifest destiny of serving as a leaven in the spiritual remaking of humanity. With the enthusiasm of a reformer he called his fellow countrymen and co-religionists to repentance and to a re-consecration of their lives to holiness, virtue, and righteousness .

The theme of his life’s struggle was war against Western thought and the revival and perfection of Hellenism within the framework of the Orthodox Catholic Church. He championed the cause of the unique culture of Greece with irresistible force and intensity. It was with scorn that he viewed Western philosophy and Western Christianity, seeing i in both nothing but a new menace to the Greek Nation and Greek Church. For Apostolos Makrakis, Greece’s fight was only half-finished when in 1829 Greece became a sovereign state. She had rid herself ,of her Turkish oppressors only to be faced with another, perhaps, more formidable enemy, Western culture with all its religious and intellectual heterogeneity and confusion.

Makrakis’ was not happy in Constantinople, where he began his work as an educator in the patriarchal schools, for he could not tol­erate the Turks who naturally were a constant obstacle to his religious and political activity. His soul burned with resentment against them and with grief that the Infidel should dominate the former center of the Orthodox Christian world. When he learned that Otto was removed from the Greek throne, he decided to move to Athens where he thought he would be unobstructed in his work of reform. The news that King George I had established the freedom of assembly and speech gave him fresh encouragement. In May of 1866 we find Makrakis in the Greek capital where he was to remain permanently thereafter, and where he embarked upon the most fruitful and more stormy phase of his heroic life.

Unrest of mind and soul had overtaken Makrakis. His intolerance of sin and the ignorance which he found prevalent in Athens stirred him into action. He could not bear to see his nation destitute of its former glory. He lamented the passivity and indifference of the Greeks to the glorification of their fatherland. He mourned the spiritual decline of the Church and deplored the religious illiteracy and superstition which prevailed. Simony was widespread and preaching had nearly disappeared from the Church. The picture of Greece after 400 years of Turkish domination was one that could only sadden a man of such moral and spiritual sensitivity as Makrakis, but it also kindled his noble spirit for work of rehabilitation. He felt probably more than any other man of his time that such a condition which Turkish suppression produced was not proper to a land and to a Church which boasted justly of a glorious past and cherished a priceless heritage. His Greek blood boiled with righteous indignation against the complacency of those in high places. His heart was animated by a sacrificial devotion and love for truth and justice. With burning zeal and uncompromising straightforwardness he launched his campaign of spiritual and political reform. On the 29th of May (the day of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453) in the year 1866 he began a series of twenty speeches which he delivered on Concord Square in Athens. Thousands of people which thronged to hear the inspired reformer cheered and applauded him enthusiastically. Greece, he declared, must revive spiritually and morally, if she is to regain her former splendor and prestige. For this to be done, the Greeks must exploit their Christian Hellenic heritage. The work of 1821 when the Greeks first revolted against the Turks was only the beginning, he proclaimed, and it can only come to its proper end when Christ will reign in Greece and only when the Greeks will recover the wisdom that the past bequeathed to them, untainted from Western adulterations.

The fiery spirit of constructive criticism and moral reform that burned in his noble heart found vigorous expression both in outdoor speeches and in numerous writings. He spared neither the State nor the Church leaders of his time. From his pen came countless articles, treatises, and pamphlets which appeared in print during his own lifetime. Philosophers have usually led uneventful lives, but Makrakis was different in this respect. That which is important is the fact that, although his mind soared to impressive heights of philosophical and theological thought, he was constantly absorbed in the immediate, concrete situation of Greek life and in the details of the practical needs of the people. It is no doubt a mark of a real thinker when intellectual activity and literary accomplishment are possible in the midst of a life of action and unrest. For, the thought of a writer who has applied his principles in a life of heroic endeavor has more appeal than that of one who has not practiced his philosophy in his own life. Apostolos Makrakis was able to bequeath to his nation and Church monumental writings that constitute invaluable documents of Christian Greek thought.

It is only to be regretted, however, that, although almost a half century has elapsed since the last writing came from the pen of this thinker, his philosophical and theological thought remains totally unknown. His caustic criticism of the professional theologians, of some of the Bishops, and of the political leaders of the time had aroused their indignation and they had joined forces in condemning him as a perverter of true doctrine, thus attempting to discredit his name and his activity. Ever since, his name in Greece has been taboo and a long and mysterious silence has lingered over the name of Makrakis in the Greek Church. Unfortunately, the prejudice of his contemporaries, to a large extent, prevented any fair and dispassionate consideration of his philosophy and theology. The deeper reason was that his age was not prepared for the creative and dynamic kind of thinking which he produced. It was still a time for preserving, not for creating or developing. In short, Apostolos Makrakis had appeared too early in Greece and he paid the cost – condemnation by the Church Synod and imprisonment by the State.

It is significant, however, that, although the prejudice of the Greeks ignored the importance of Makrakis, outsiders very early recognized the value of this thinker. Suffice it to mention that the eminent German scholar Dollinger had asserted that “Makrakis who lives in free Greece is a philosopher and theologian exegete of the sacred Scriptures amongst the best and rarest men. I am surprised that the Greek government had not given him a position in the University.”[1] To take a more recent example, Dr. W. Miller of the University of Missouri writes that “though dead, this Apostolos Makrakis yet speaketh, for his thinking is that of a lofty spirit and a master mind.”[2] We can go on with several more comments of Americans who have discovered the merits of this thinker. It is a discredit to the academic integrity of the theologian scholars of Greece today that they observe the seal that has kept the books of Makrakis unread.

Although the Greek theologians of the time disregarded the thought of Makrakis, it must not be thought that he remained without students and followers. Indeed, he had established his own school in Athens (School of the Logos) with several noteworthy scholars and writers among whom the most distinguished was Soter D. Philaretos ( d. 1913) who it might be said even surpassed his master in philosophical depth. With creative genius Philaretos elaborated and developed the principles of Makrakis in several books which he wrote, most important of which probably are The Idea of Being (Athens, 1882) and Human Nature (Athens, 1881).

To study Philaretos is to deepen one’s understanding and appreciation of the thought of Makrakis. Others whom Makrakis left behind as successors were Elias Blachopoulos, Father Hierotheus Metropou­los, Father Eusebius Matheopoulos [3], Gerbasius Constantinides, Theoc­letus Johannides, Spyridon Crocidas, Basil Caminaris, Demetrius La­goulis, Menas Charitou[4], etc., most of whom, following in the footsteps of their master, toiled both at the pen and in the pulpit.

We find that the few books written on Apostolos Makrakis are of a purely biographical character dealing exclusively with the events of his life and the controversy with the Church Synod and the State. There is nothing to speak of, for example, in the notable work by Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopoulos)[5], and in that of Professor D. Balanos[6] concerning the overall pattern and structure of Makrakis’ thought. No one hitherto has ventured to evaluate his philosophical system in a critical and systematic exposition.

The instinctive devotion of the members of the Orthodox Christian Educational Society in this country to the memory of Apostolos Mak­rakis has made it possible for his works to be available to the English­ speaking world, for nearly all of his writings have been translated into the English by this lay organization. It is another testimony, we might say, that the Orthodox Church is a layman’s Church in the sense that her Faith rises spontaneously out of the communis sensus fidelium and not from the cultivated minds of learned theologians or clergymen. The members of this society are among those who still remain loyal to the memory of Apostolos Makrakis and who still hope for the restoration of his name by the Church of Greece.

It was in English translation that I made my first acquaintance with the works of Makrakis. The conflicting views on Makrakis urged me on to conduct my own study of his works and come to a conclusion which would be free from the influence of either his staunch defenders or those who had nothing but derogatory remarks about him. I regarded this task as a moral obligation dictated by justice and truth. During my two-year stay in Athens, Greece, I was fortunate, after considerable effort, to find the original publications in Greek, the study of which has proved to be a genuine pleasure. To read Makrakis in the Greek is to enjoy a rare delight. There is a lofty dignity and correctness to his style, yet there is nothing artificial or forced about it. His style is flowing, natural, and coherent. From the standpoint alone of literary accomplishment, he is no doubt one of the most outstanding writers of modern Greece. It is revealing also that Makrakis never reread for correction or revision what he once wrote; moreover, he was able to carry on a conversation and write simultaneously.[7]

It is true that nearly all of his writings are polemical and that they abound with highly rebuking expressions, sometimes making them distasteful and unpleasant reading to those who incline more to -irenic studies. We must not forget, however, the age in which he lived and the circumstances under which he labored. His books must be read in the setting of his day. He was a polemicist, because his purpose was in all cases apologetic and the times demanded a critical and aggressive approach to the existing evils. His style should not be unfamiliar to anyone who has studied the polemical and anti-heretical writings of the Church Fathers. What appears as harsh language in Makrakis is not without parallel in their immortal works.

Apart from the burning faith and piety that kindled his soul, Apostolos Makrakis manifested depth of intellect and wisdom which few men in modern Greece possessed. His dialectical abilities and learning were prodigious and his versatility immense. He combined a fiery zeal for the Christian truth along with intellectual profundity in a manner which reminds us of the example of the early Fathers of the Church.

Unlike other men of his day, he wrote with striking originality drinking deeply at the sources of Scripture and the Fathers of whom he was a thorough master. He was no imitator or copyist, nor was his work a simple rehash or conglomeration of ideas taken from other thinkers. Neither was he by any means an eclectic. His literary accomplishments, indeed, present a fresh start and a truly remarkable consistency of ideas and thoughts, an organic and natural coherency, which make Makrakis a truly creative and original thinker.

He bears resemblance to the Fathers first in the sense that he was introduced to the philosophical consideration of Christian truth through the study of the Greek philosophers whom he knew probably better than any other Greek of his day. He could interpret Greek philosophy with such ability that even the professors of philosophy of the University of Athens were highly impressed. Moreover, his numerous writings touching upon philosophy, theology, exegetics, ethics; and politics breathe a patristic spirit and tone, and reveal a dignified and ancient style which make the study of his books a genuine delight. There is freshness in the handling of his themes that offers rare pleasure to the reader. Like the Fathers, he wrote only to serve the apologetic needs of the Church and not merely for academic enjoyment, as a professional theologian. In terms of modern scholarship, his works perhaps cannot be called scholarly or scientific, since he does not observe the modern, critical method of Western scholarship. However, for that matter, even the patristic writings cannot be called scientific in modern terms. Makrakis, like the Fathers, considers the concept of “science” in the more ancient and esoteric sense of the word. For him, “science” (επιστήμη) is the result of mystical intuition or faith.

Makrakis has been called the “new Socrates,” and perhaps, not without good reason, since, like Socrates of old, he aimed at delivering philosophy from the skepticism and relativism which the Western schools produced. He was very much like Socrates in starting with the maxim of “Know thyself” and in making man the point of departure in philosophy. Both in Socrates and Makrakis the beginning of wisdom is the recognition of our limitations.

Makrakis dealt with the classical, philosophical problems in an original manner and developed in an imposing philosophical system which was both Hellenic and Christ-centered. He is more than a con­tinuator of the Alexandrian and Cappadocian schools of thought which gave the theology of the Church its final orientation. He picks up where the early Christian Greek thinkers left off and in a creative fashion develops the Christian philosophy which they had established. He rejects the notion that Christianity allies itself with an outside philosophy in order to acquire philosophical standing and aims at rendering Christianity – apart from religion, as such – a self-sufficient and self-reliant philosophy. He defined the true object of philosophy as the “love and science of the God-equal Logos leading to theosis,” and distinguished it from the sciences related to philosophy, or as he refers to them, to “the philosophical sciences,” such as psychology, logic, theology, and ethics. These are set in their true perspective and comprehended only in the light of the Logos, the object of true philosophy and the only principle of knowledge.

For Makrakis, Christ is the solution to the problems not only of the religious thinker, but also of the inquiring philosopher. Contemplation of Christ and union with Him in mystical experience is the key that unlocks the mysteries of philosophy. Experience in contemplative intuition is the underlying assumption of Makrakis’ interpretation of philosophy, yet he never expressly speaks of mysticism in so many words. Just as in the case of the Church Fathers, mystical experience was regarded as the only possible method in philosophy, and the necessity of explicit mention of it in modern, technical terms would never have occurred to them.

Is Christianity a true philosophy and has Christianity really contributed to philosophy? It is an old question if there can truly be such a thing as Christian Philosophy at all. It is believed by some that the very words Christian Philosophy constitute a contradiction in terms, since faith and reason are supposedly mutually exclusive. The neo­-Thomists and neo-Augustinians of our day have hardly given an adequate solution to this problem. The former contend that Thomism is a true philosophy, not because it is Christian, but because it is a philosophy, thus avoiding the real issue. They want a Christian Philosophy minus the recognition of its dependence on its supernatural character. The latter, on the other hand, want a Christian Philosophy minus its being a philosophy at all. They contend that the errors of Plato and Aristotle are the errors of reason, and, therefore, the only safe method is to limit oneself to the comprehension of Revelation and avoid the challenge of reason.

In approaching the question of the possibility of a Christian Philosophy, one is apt to begin with St. Thomas Aquinas. The tragedy of the matter is the belief that Thomism was the first attempt at the elaboration of a Christian Philosophy. But the fact of the matter is that St. Thomas was in no sense the first Christian Philosopher, as ordinarily accepted. What St. Thomas endeavored to accomplish was already finished by the Greek Fathers of the Church. Indeed, we may say that Thomism marks a retrogression and a kind of decadence in Christian Philosophy, for it was searching for the solution to a problem which was long since solved. The very rise of Scholasticism is mistaken proof that the West had lost its continuity with the Christianity of the East and had initiated a new tradition which had no precedence in the early Church.

Like the Fathers, Makrakis was not merely allying the Christian Faith with the teachings of Plato and Aristotle. The advent of Christianity was regarded as the fulfillment of all philosophic inquiry. Christianity was the only, true philosophy; it was the philosophy par excellence that corrected and succeeded all previous philosophies. All ultimate philosophical questions find their answers in Christ, for He is the “object of philosophy” and Professor, as well as High Priest.

The task of the Church Fathers was not merely one of reconciling or harmonizing in a more or less coherent whole, or of relating and affiliating Christianity with Greek philosophy. Rather, they created a new philosophy rooted in contemplative experience and an organic unity of truth affirmed in that experience. They were able to construct a body of truth by integrating all bits of truth disclosed by God in the nature of things. Biblical truth experienced in a life of the spirit was unified with the truth existing in the very structure of existence.

Makrakis re-asserts the same idea in stating that the Bible and the Cosmos are two books written by the same author. We must study both in order to grasp the “mind of the author.” Here we have, as a result, a re-affirmation of the principle of Christian Philosophy that the Fathers of the early Church had established. He re-declares in unambiguous language that there is no gulf between the natural and the revealed, between nature and grace, between reason and faith. These are various facets of a common source, namely, the Eternal Logos. Makrakis could say with Clement of Alexandria that “the way of truth is one. But into it, as into a perennial river, streams flow from all sides.[8]” Reason asserts its rights, not over against revelation, but as itself the medium of revelation. Reason and reflection are the avenues through which the divine revelation is disclosed. Like the Fathers, Makrakis approaches reason with a sense of reverence, regarding it as the stamp of divine goodness and the faculty whereby man is enabled to share in the Perfect Ratio or Logos.

Although Makrakis is primarily a philosopher, yet he is equally important as a theologian, but one to be regarded in the older sense of the word. That is to say, he is a theologian because he philosophized on the sublime verities of the Godhead much in the same way that the early Fathers had done. He gave free development to the dogmas of the Trinity and of Christology, adhering nevertheless closely to the dogmatical pronouncements of the Ecumenical Councils, in a manner that is only proper to the theologian of the Orthodox Church. It is pleasant to note the absence of the scholastic and static method of treating the dogmatical truths of the Church. There is a free and fresh breeze that blows throughout the writings of our thinker. He develops the moral and dogmatical truths with creativity of spirit.

It is curious and regrettable that Professor D. Balanos should regard Apostolos Makrakis as “retrogressive,” especially since the professor always asserts himself as the defender of the cause of free inquiry in Orthodox theology.[9] For, if any man was free in his theological thinking in modern Greece, this man was Makrakis. He was most forward and bold in his thinking. There is nothing retrogressive about Makrakis except, of course, in respect to his return to the freedom of the patristic type of thinking. Indeed, it must be said that Makrakis was too much of a free thinker for his time. His contemporaries could not understand him, for the age in which he lived was one of theological inertness. Greece had just been freed from the Turkish overlords who had reduced her to a desolate land. It was impossible then for the Church to bear and tolerate the free theology of Makrakis and it was only natural for the leading Bishops to look upon him as a heretic. In a sense, Makrakis was ahead of his time.

His contemporaries were unable to understand that to speculate, for instance, on the question of the soul was to keep within the rights of Christian Philosophy. The question of the soul had been an open question since the Fathers, since the Church at large had not given any final, authoritative decision thereon. Makrakis philosophized on the soul, bearing in mind what St. Gregory the Theologian had stated regarding freedom in theology: “Philosophize on the world or worlds, on matter, on the soul … for to succeed is not without use and to fail is not dangerous.”[10] Makrakis believed that philosophy belongs to the Church, and as such, is no intruder in the realm of Christian thought. “Even the members of the Church can philosophize on the questions of knowledge; faith submits to the intellect only as regards the saving truths which it cannot comprehend and all other knowledge it allows free. The spirit of true philosophy is to be found only in the Church of Christ. Therefore, having philosophized within the Church, we have led to light the true science of philosophy that was heretofore unknown.”[11]

Makrakis keeps within the patristic tradition in teaching that man was not totally alienated from his Creator at the fall. There was communion between man and God even following the fall, just enough to preserve man’s awareness of his origin and dignity, but also of his imperfection. Salvation is to increase in the knowledge of God, once being reconciled through the Sacrifice of Christ. Theosis or deification is the end of man. Man and God are not distantly removed from one another; instead, man “lives and moves and has his being in Him.” It is this fact that makes man all the more responsible and accountable for his sinfulness and disobedience. The sovereignty of God and the autonomy of man are perfectly balanced in the thought of Makrakis. The one is asserted without denying the other.

It is to be noted also that Makrakis affirms the unity of philosophy and theology in Christianity. The development of theology presupposes the development of philosophy; though both are interwoven into a unity, yet they are not confused. The implicit conclusion is that the philosopher must necessarily be a theologian and the theologian a philosopher. So long as philosophy and theology are kept in two separate compartments, neither the one nor the other can reach full development again, as in the golden age of the Fathers.

A notable contribution, I believe, that Makrakis has made to theology can specifically be seen in his interpretation of the operation of the Holy Spirit within man. The Church had well exhausted the theological development of the Logos, but much had remained to be done regarding the third person of the Trinity and its action in the cosmos.

Makrakis makes the Spirit relevant in the growth and progress of the human soul. The Spirit plays an important part in the cognitive capacity of man. His contribution to an Orthodox understanding of the function of the mind is well deserving of attention. He was aware of the perils involved in Orthodoxy’s acceptance of Western Idealism and Empiricism. Makrakis was probably the first in the Orthodox Church to meet the challenge of Kantianism and to work out an epis­temology and psychology suited for Orthodox theology on the basis of the mystical and contemplative tradition of the Fathers.

Makrakis laments the fact that Greek professors were teaching Western philosophy in Athens as the last word in philosophical thought. Says Makrakis, “Is it to the interest of the Greek nation for us to accept the follies of the pseudo-philosophy of the West and to impart it to the Greek youth as sublime wisdom and science and to have their noble philosophical nature poisoned by falsehood and error? The unfortunate students, condemned by the fateful need to listen to this folly, do not understand them, because they are concealed under pompous phraseology and they think that they have no ability of comprehending the sublime lessons of metaphysics …. Unfortunately, I have been misunderstood as an insulter of everything sacred and holy, but before the duty which I have in the eyes of God and my neighbor, I shall never cease performing the salutary task of saving those who are receptive of salvation and liberating our Nation from the spiritual bondage of the West.” [12]

Because of the significance of the Spirit in the epistemology and psychology of Makrakis, he was intent in vindicating his doctrine on the tricomposite nature of man, namely, that the soul and spirit are two distinct entities in man, in the same way that soul and body are. Although the Fathers hint at the trisynthesis view and some even speak in more or less explicit language concerning it, they were not as clear-cut in its formulation, as Makrakis was. Yet, we must consider the probability that the Fathers were not concerned with the question of the soul, and what was not a specific issue in their day did not receive special attention and was not unambiguously stated. Says Mak­rakis, “They were attentive only to the Scriptural statements that were related to the heresies of their time and had no interest in the study of other questions; further knowledge was not valuable for their age.”[13]

We cannot enter into a full discussion of the question here. Suffice it to say, however, that nothing can be further from the truth than to think that the tripartite conception of man is a non-Orthodox teaching. Indeed there is much to say in favor of the view that the simple, twofold division of man is of Roman scholastic origin.

Makrakis is not so much interested in the letter of the Fathers, as in their spirit. He attempts to regain the creative spirit which moved them and to labor from where they left off, continuing their stream of thought. This, no doubt, makes Makrakis important, since in Orthodox theology today the primary need is that of recapturing the character of patristic thinking, spiritual depth and freedom, genuine catholicity, rationality, and a lofty ethical tone, and of avoiding the static, pinched, scholastic and academic theology of textbooks. And it is this that Mak­rakis revived the large-hearted fullness of power and rich splendor that is proper to Greek theology. He was able to accomplish this, because he was inspired by the patristic temper and mentality, remaining wholly uninfluenced by modern Western types of thought. He proved himself a genuine interpreter of the Christian Greek tradition which he both comprehended intellectually and lived empirically, perhaps, as no other man of his time did.

It could be maintained that Makrakis probably presents a notable challenge today to the two main trends of traditional theological thinking, namely, that of neo-orthodoxy and existentialism in Protestantism and that of Thomism in Roman Catholicism. Perhaps, Makrakis can be regarded as the anticipatory reply to the neo-orthodoxy of Barth, Brunner, and Niebuhr, to the existentialism of Kierkegaard, and to the neo-Thomism of Roman theology. It may be the answer to those who are searching for a philosophy and theology that is free of internal tension, antinomies, and paradox. Scholasticism and the Augustinianism of Luthero-Calvinism have been regarded as the only alternatives in Christian theology. With Makrakis, however, we are dealing with a theology that is distinct and, apparently new, yet in actuality old, indeed the oldest type of Christian thinking, which too often has been ignored or forgotten today. In Makrakis, Hellenic Christianity is re-asserted, not merely in its old form, but developed and systematized. In his writings we have the ripened fruits of rational, Biblical Christian Greek thought, which even in the Orthodox Church itself has remained dormant for some time. It is a rational theology and philosophy that he propounds, yet one essentially to be grasped and appreciated within context of contemplative experience. He teaches an existential philosophy in the sense that it is affirmed by spiritual experience. It is the common experience found in the living continuity of the spiritual life of the Church. Following the example of the classical Greek thinkers, especially Plato and the neo-Platonists, and the Fathers, Makrakis simply takes it for granted that contemplative intui­tion is the only possibility in true philosophy. This type of philosophy and theology may be what the Western world has been groping to find since the beginning of the Middle Ages when thought in the West lost its historical orientation, severing its continuity with the East under invasions of the barbarians.

A peaceful end in 1905 came to the turbulent labors of the man who would never rest so long as injustice and ignorance prevailed in his native land. Thousands of devotees filled the Cathedral of Athens where his funeral service was held, to pay their final tribute to the great reformer and doctor of the Greek nation. It is most revealing that Makrakis, despite his condemnation by the Holy Synod, was al­lowed to be buried as a faithful and obedient child of the Orthodox Church with all the honors and tribute due a heroic defender of the Church.

The question naturally arises: What can we say as to the final judgment of the Orthodox Church of Greece on the man who came in repeated conflict with the Church authorities? To speak of Makrakis as a hero and martyr would not necessarily be condemning the Church of Greece, although it would be tantamount to questioning the integrity of the five Bishops who, among the totality of the Greek Bishops took it upon themselves to speak authoritatively in the name of the Church. It would be superfluous to say that the decision of a five-member synod is by no means final and of universal authority.

Indeed here we have before us a further illustration of the uncanonical nature of a “permanent synod” (διαρκής σύνοδος) which was established in the Greek Church after independence. Here is further proof of the weakness of this administrative arrangement which Greek theologians, lay and clergy alike, have for long regarded as a departure from the historical polity as embodied in Orthodox Canon Law.

Who can really doubt that the decision reached by the Synod is not irrevocable? Few in Greece today seriously believe that Apostolos Makrakis was condemned for reasons apart from personal resentment and personal hostility. The tragedy of the matter, however, is the fact that both theologian scholars and prelates manifest a timidity in reopening the issue surrounding his name. Although they are convinced intellectually that the synodical pronouncement is not binding in an absolute sense, yet they lack the courage of committing themselves openly on the question. Perhaps discretion dictates silence in view of the important positions they occupy. No “respectable” Christian, of course, would desire to be called a “Makrakist,” a familiar label in Greece; anyone revealing the slightest interest in Makrakis or sympathy with him becomes branded with it.

Consequently, Makrakis is a man no one knows anything about in Greece, except the fact that he was suspected of heresy and was condemned by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece. It goes without saying that those who bear the responsibility for the injustice which continues against the memory of one of Greece’s greatest benefactors are the theologian scholars and spiritual leaders. The former especially are guilty of indifference and unrighteousness since they are invariably consulted by the administrating synod on matters of a theological nature and it remains up to them to re-interpret the thought of Makrakis and finally do him justice. It is unbecoming to their scholarship and their sense of the value of freedom of inquiry that they should shirk the task of examining the writings of such a prolific and stimulating writer as Makrakis and of recognizing his contribution to Orthodox philosophical and theological thought.

Their attitude constitutes a disservice to modern Orthodox theology. Even if we were to suppose for a moment that he did involve himself in doctrinal inaccuracies, nevertheless this would not make him thoroughly worthless, as he has been regarded by some. Several writers in the history of the Church are still read and studied with profit, despite the fact that their orthodoxy might have been questioned at one time or another. In view of the scarcity of thinking and writing in modern Greek theology, how can the Greek theologians be so presumptuous as to ignore and reject the books of a Greek who unselfishly consumed his entire life in the cause of the Christian Greek way of life and thought?


[1] Menas Charitou, The History of Apostolos Makrakis, Athens, 1924, vol. I, p. 14.

[2] A. Makrakis, Interpretation of the Entire New Testament, Chicago, Ill., 1950, p. 2042.

[3] The founder of the “Zoe” movement in Greece which has continued the work of Makrakis and which is responsible for most of the spiritual rejuvenation of Greece.

[4]The last living disciple of Makrakis who lives in Athens and heads the Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist. One of its most important activities is the re-publication of the writings of Makrakis and the effort to have the Synodical condemnation of Makrakis revoked.

[5] Apostolos Makrakis, Athens, 1939

[6] Apostolos Makrakis, Athens, 1920.

[7] Some of his most important books in translation are: A New Philosophy and the Philosophical Sciences, vol. I: Introduction to Philosophy, Psychology, Logic, Theology; vol. II: Ethics (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1940), The Foundation of Philosophy (England, 1957), The Paramount Doctrines of Orthodoxy (England, 1954), The Bible and the World (New York, 1950), Memoir on the Nature of the Church of Christ (New York, 1947). · ” ·

[8] Stromateis, I, 5.

[9] Rise and Decline in the Church, p. 12.

[10] Theological Orations, I.

[11] Apologia, p. 113.

[12] A. Makrakis, Λογική, p. 375.

[13] Apologia, p. 68.

Written by : The Rev. Eusebius A. Stephanou, Boston MA, 1958 AD

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