Research Project

Topic of the research project:

“The Orthodox Church in the field of tension of the Christian social ethics, Christian social teaching and Christian social work.”

Scientific problem:

What is regarded as socially just, is taught and acted upon in society depends greatly on the cultural background. The question of what is good for mankind and what satisfies him, varies according to your image of mankind and the world. Accordingly, it is not enough to know that behind every concept of social teaching and social action stands a moral orientation. One has to know what moral orientation to apply. In the age of globalisation the culturally differing moral programs do not only make it difficult for the staff of German IT-companies to install a moral value-based management. Always, when there is an interaction of cultures and the question of social justice is thrown open, always, when collaborative social projects are planned, it is helpful to know and to understand the moral “program”, the criteria, according to which something is regarded as just or unjust.

Utilitarianism for example aims at making as many people as possible as happy as possible and would come up with different answers to religion. In religion the just and the unjust is considered to be based on God’s will. Justice is fulfilling God’s will. However, depending on the religion, the perception of what God’s will is varies. In Islam for example, God reveals his will in the Quran. Goodness and justice can be achieved through following in Mohammed’s footsteps, who lead an exemplary life according to God’s will. Mohammed and his community believed that he was the messenger of God, God’s human tool. To recite the divine book of revelation was his charge. In Christianity God reveals himself in the Old Testament and the New Testament, not his will. Goodness and justice is achieved through following “Jahwe”. In the centre of this stands the God-given freedom, as criterion of social action. Alternatively, it is achieved by following Jesus. The focus of his teachings lies on love.

The fact, that even within Christianity there is no single interpretation of the meaning of “Christian Social”, no total agreement on the question of social teaching and social practice, was revealed productively in Germany in the mid-90s in a large-scale consultation process of the Protestant and Catholic Church. Points of agreement and disagreement were worked out, possibilities and limitations of common identity discussed – with the result of a common “word for solidarity and justice”. Since then, the Catholic-Protestant collaboration is focusing on the “Christian Social”, the relationship being continually explored and verified through literature. However, there has not yet been a similar comparison between the Catholic Church and the Greek-Orthodox Church. The relationship with the Greek-Orthodox Church or Churches is being explored more reluctantly.

The interest in the third great Christian church however, is growing, because of communities joining the European Union that are greatly influenced by the Orthodox Church. The question is being asked, if and how the perception of social ethics, social teaching and social work of the Orthodox Church can influence society, economy and politics in Orthodox society.  This is what I wish to research.

My research will be focussed on the question, what perception of Christian social ethics gives the Orthodox Church direction and foundation and how the social teaching is translated into social practice and especially social work.

Aims:

The exploration of the perception of social ethics, the foundation and orientation of social teaching and its translation into social action or respectively into social labour in Orthodox Christianity shall aid the better understanding of theory and practice of Christian Social responsibility in the Orthodox communities, especially in the ones included in the European Union. The influence of a specifically Greek-Orthodox social teaching on the understanding of a society of social justice along with the concrete influence on social work, on social projects and social professions both stand in the focus my interest.

Points of agreement, disagreement and possibilities of complementing each other shall be worked out in comparison to the Catholic perception of theory and practice of Christian social responsibilities. Firstly, by looking at Christian social teaching. Secondly, by looking at the development of the structures of Christian social work.

Approach:

By reviewing relevant literature the theological makeup of the Greek-Orthodox social ethics and the orientation of Orthodox social teaching shall be analysed.

Additionally, journeys to Orthodox EU-countries shall offer opportunities for discussion and observation on the realisation of social theory and teaching into practice. The problem shall be approached in the same manner as in “Komparative Theologie” (Klaus von Stosch): from the Catholic point of view the beliefs of the Greek-Orthodox should be respected and valued. It should be possible to experience the diversity of Christianity as a virtue without comparing it to ones own confession.