Question 29: What is Scholastic Theology? Is St. John Damascene the first Scholastic? Distinction btw the “Noetic” and the “Rational” powers of the soul.


What is Scholastic Theology? Is St. John Damascene the first Scholastic? Distinction btw the “Noetic” and the “Rational” powers of the soul.

Concerning the part of the latest podcast, the Transfiguration of History, from Episode 10 of the Mystical Theology series, can you clarify further the term scholastic theology? I have heard that Orthodoxy does scholastic theology, but it is not the same as Roman Catholic scholasticism. I have often seen Roman Catholics present St. John Damascene’s An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith as an example of scholastic theology, and Medieval Latin scholastics, such as Aquinas and Bonaventure, took inspiration from it. St. John Damascene is also referred to as the “first scholastic.”

I’ve heard that the categories of scholastic theology include credal confessions, doctrine, philosophy, logic, worldviews, politics, and ethics or morality. In addition, the categories of mystical theology or asceticism include prayer, liturgy, almsgiving, forgiveness, and repentance. There is complete unity between scholastic theology and mystical theology within Orthodoxy. Scholastic theology and mystical theology are not independent and completely separate. One’s scholastic theology should be determined by what is laid out in mystical theology. Do you agree with that?

If you agree that we can use the term scholastic theology to describe some aspects of Orthodoxy, what is the fundamental difference between the scholastic theology of St. John Damascene and the scholastic theology of the Medieval Latin Scholastics after the Great Schism? I understand that there is a different ethos and you said that the medieval Latins did not have a right understanding of the nous, etc., but I want to make sure if we should make a distinction between scholastic theology and scholasticism or the methodology of scholastic theology among the post-schism Latins.


Scholastic theology is the systematic approach to theological questions developed in the West mainly from 9th to the 13th centuries, the most famous exponent of which is Thomas Aquinas (). It is characterized by the pre-eminence of reason and the absence of apophatic or mystical theology (as described in my video / podcast series).

The identification of St. John Damascene as the “First Scholastic” is simply wrong, because it overlooks the place of mystical theology in his writings. The Damascene’s theology, though presented in an orderly fashion, is based on the life of prayer, indeed of “hesychastic” prayer (to view / listen, click St. Gregory Palamas: An Introduction). 

Inter alia, the distinction that Fr. John Romanides makes between the spiritual and reasoning powers of the soul, the “noetic” and the “rational” faculties of the soul (see again the video / podcast to which you refer, here) is very helpful regarding the whole question.

Further details, and much more besides, may be found in my video / podcast series. Study them well (I suggest listening to each one at least three times), and you will find the answers to many of your questions.