Alumni Scholar Offers Keynote at International Conference

Virginia Nieuwsma

Dr. Brad Nassif and conference participantsDr. Brad Nassif and conference participantsAntiochian scholar and author Dr. Bradley Nassif (SVOTS '85), professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University, recently participated in an international meeting between Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Evangelical church leaders held in Albania during the first week in September, 2013. Convened at the invitation of Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, the conference gathered 46 Eastern and Oriental Orthodox and Evangelical leaders from 20 different countries at St. Vlash Monastery in Albania, for the first international consultation of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative.

Addressing the topic "Tradition, Catholicity and the Mind of the Church," Dr. Nassif reminded his audience that when Orthodox Christians say one thing, Evangelical Christians often hear something completely different. In frank discussion and a spirit of respect and hospitality, participants wrestled with the challenging issues of proselytism, canonical territory, salvation, justification, and theosis, resolving to continue to journey together with a second international gathering already being planned for the early autumn of 2014.

"One aspect of my scholarly work has been devoted to building bridges between the Orthodox and Evangelical worlds in North America and around the world," notes Dr. Nassif. "I was in Albania to continue my work in this area." He adds that Fr. John Meyendorff, former Dr. NassifDr. NassifDean and Professor at St. Vladimir's, and his Fordham University doctoral advisor and seminary mentor, profoundly influenced the direction of his academic career.

"He showed me how an Orthodox theologian must bear witness to the Church while also embracing all that is good, right, and holy in the wider Christian world," explains Dr. Nassif. "I first met Fr. John when I was a student at St. Vladimir's. His greatness was everywhere evident, so I determined to follow him around like a little puppy, learning everything I could from every class he taught. If I didn't take the class for credit, I audited it."

Dr. Nassif continued to learn from Fr. John, right up to the year of his repose. "A few months before he died, Fr. John introduced me to the Moscow Patriarchate, in an effort to build bridges between the Russian Orthodox Church and western missionaries from the Protestant evangelical tradition," remembers Dr. Nassif. "Our last conversation was held over the crackling telephones of Moscow, as he guided me on how to proceed with the dialogue. I continue this work today, along with my main research on the classical theology and spirituality of the early and Byzantine Church."

In 1996, Dr. Nassif served as the general editor and contributor for a memorial volume for Fr. John, titled New Perspectives on Historical Theology: Essays in Memory of John Meyendorff (Eerdmans, 1996) Contributing scholars for the book included Jaroslav Pelikan, Geoffrey Wainwright, Veselin Kesich, and Robert Taft, S.J.; Dr. Nassif's essay in the book was pulled from a revised chapter from his doctoral dissertation under Fr. John Meyendorff, and was titled "Spiritual Exegesis in the School of Antioch."

The theme of ecumenical engagement with evangelicals has been the backdrop for several of Dr. Nassif's recent publishing projects. Bringing Jesus to the Desert, with Evanglical publisher Zondervan, and The Philokalia: A Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality, with Oxford University Press, introduce Western Christians to Eastern spirituality. 

Dr. Nassif is currently Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University in Chicago. He has been a teacher for the Antiochian House of Studies, and the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, California. He serves as a consultant for Time and Christianity Today magazines. In addition to his Ph.D. from Fordham University and M.Div. from St. Vladimir's, he hold two Masters degrees, one in New Testament Studies from Denver Seminary, and one in European History from Wichita State University. He is a member of Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois.