The Father’s Eternal Freedom: The Personalist Trinitarian Ontology of John Zizioulas

By Dario Chiapetti and Norman Russell (editor)

A justification of Zizioulas’ controversial ontology on epistemological, patristic and theological lines.

ISBN: 9780227177730


John Zizioulas is renowned for his controversial reflection on the ontological freedom as the cause and cipher of God’s being, which also has important implications for anthropology, ecclesiology and ecumenical dialogue. This view is bound up with a personalist conception of the Trinity, recognised in the teaching of the Greek Church Fathers, in which the person represents the primary ontological category. In particular, Zizioulas shows how, by virtue of the Father, personhood coincides with absolute freedom.

In The Father’s Eternal Freedom, Dario Chiapetti explores this ontology. Taking into account Zizioulas’ epistemological principles, his patristic reading and his theological development, the author systematically presents Zizioulas’ thesis, verifying its conformity to dogma and its internal coherence. Chiapetti analyses how Zizioulas’ proposal brings back to the centre of systematic theology the teaching of the Greek Fathers, especially the Cappadocians, and the apophatic horizon of dogmatic reflection. Such reflection pushes the discourse on God to its maximum degree, identifying and bringing out, rather than resolving or attenuating, the aporetic terms that structure it.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 300

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Dr Dario Chiapetti is a presbyter in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence. His research interests include Trinitarian Theology, especially in its ontological foundations and in the Eastern perspective, as well as anthropology and Franciscan theology. A former architect, he is also interested in the relationship between liturgy and architecture.


Note on Citations

Introduction: General Aspects of the Figure and Thought of Zizioulas

Part 1: Zizioulas’ Reading of the Fathers: The Notion of Person and the Doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father
1. The Emergence of the Attribution of Primary Ontological Content to the Notion of Person in Trinitarian Reflection
2. The Father, the Ontological Principle of the Triune and One Being of God

Part 2: Zizioulas’ Theological Development: The Father, Free Cause of Being as Personhood-Freedom
3. The Father: ‘The Ultimate Reality of God’s Personal Existence’
4. The Freedom that ‘Springs from the Very Way the Hypostases are Constituted’: From the Freedom of the Father, the Freedom of God

Concluding Remarks: Zizioulas’ Bold Exercise in Theological Reflection



Endorsements and Reviews

Dr Chiapetti has produced a comprehensive, profound and fair discussion of Patristic theology, as presented in my work, particularly with regard to its ontological significance. A most successful attempt to bring to the surface the immense significance of Patristic theology for human existence.
John D. Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon

Despite being the most influential living Greek theologian, John Zizioulas’ publications are largely occasional. Chiapetti knows the thickets of Zizioulas’ œuvre like no one else. His defence of his theology – against all comers – tests its theological roots and explores its philosophical implications for notions of personhood and freedom. Impressive!
Andrew Louth, Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham University

In addition to providing a lucid and insightful systematic presentation of Zizioulas’ theological vision, Chiapetti breaks new ground by offering a constructive defense of ‘the father’s eternal freedom’. A must read for those interested in Zizioulas and in contemporary trinitarian theology.
Aristotle Papanikolaou, Professor of Theology, Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture, and co-founding director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center, Fordham University

Chiapetti studies here for the first time in depth Zizioulas’ Trinitarian theology, the keystone of his synthesis. Led by a rigorous historical and theological method, this study sheds new light on Zizioulas’ thought. Chiapetti’s work is important for the ecumenical movement, but also for contemporary reflection on man and on the authentic basis of his freedom.
Carmelo Giuseppe Conticello, Professor of Byzantine Theology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

In opposition to such a “monarchical” conception of the Trinity as Zizioulas posits, the critical question always arises as to whether it is ultimately a form of subordinationism. . . . Dario Chiapetti consistently comes to the mediating conclusion that Zizioulas’ suggestions are coherent in themselves and, as an interpretation, are also compatible with the patristic textual findings, without being able to impose themselves as the only possible interpretation. In particular, he emphasises as positive and influential for further study the aim of not wanting to overcome the exaggerated individualism of the present by repristination of pre-modern categories of substance and nature, but rather to devise with the Church Fathers a relational ontology of the person with a mystical-ecclesial, even erotic trajectory. Anyone interested in this philosophical enterprise is very well served with Chiapetti’s book. Theologische Literaturzeitung 148 (2023), Tobias Graßmann, p. 498-500.