Scholar and prominent Russian Orthodox theologian in the West; b. Odessa (Ukraine), Aug. 28, 1893, of a priest's family; d. 1974. Georges Vasilievich Florovsky (Georgij Vasilievich Florovskij) received a solid philosophical and scientific training at that city's university, under such renowned professors as N. N. Lange, B. Babkin, and I. P. Pavlov. His first published works were on laboratory experiments and classical philology. In 1920, fleeing Bolshevik occupation of his country, he settled in Sofia (Bulgaria), where he was drawn into the "Eurasian" group of Prince N. S. Trubeckoy, opposed to the older Russian currents of the Westernizers and the Slavophiles, through its insistence on the merits of Asian and Tartar values in Russian culture and world mission. Florovsky's personal position, however, evolved towards the acceptance of Byzantine-Orthodox culture as the true vocation of Russia.
Between 1922 and 1926 he resided in Prague as a lecturer in the philosophy of law at the Russian University Center, established by Russian emigrés. When the Russian Theological Institute of St. Sergius opened in Paris, Florovsky was among the first to join the faculty as professor of patristics (1926). In 1932 he was ordained a priest for the Russian Exarchate of Western Europe, under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
In Paris, Florovsky developed his thesis on the irreplaceable value of the intellectual experience of the Fathers of the Church for Christian dogma and theology. His two books on the Eastern and Byzantine Fathers produced during this period offer a powerful vision of Christian thought, forever grounded in that golden age of theology. The latter's impact—or the lack of it—on Russian theology was the object of his next major work, The Ways of Russian Theology (1937), which stirred a memorable conflict within the Russian emigré intelligenzia. His basic thesis was offered for discussion at the First International Congress of Orthodox Theologians in Athens (1936). At this time he became more and more engaged in the Ecumenical Movement in its different stages, often fighting almost singlehanded in order to keep it open to Orthodox insights. His later contribution to the World Assembly in Evanston, Ill. (1954), eased the way for the Russian Orthodox Church and other Eastern Churches into the World Council of Churches (New Delhi 1961).
In 1948 Florovsky moved to New York City in order to teach at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, where as dean (1951–55) he insisted on high academic standards and was instrumental in starting the prestigious St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly (1950). During this same period, he lectured at Columbia University (1950–55), the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Mass. (1955), Harvard Divinity School (1956), and Princeton (1961). On the occasion of his 80th birthday, shortly before his death, the Pontifical Institute for Oriental Studies in Rome published a Fest-schrift (1973) in his honor.
Influence. Florovsky left a mark in several fields of Christian doctrine and life, well beyond the strictly Russian boundaries of his Orthodox allegiance. His impact is particularly felt in his emphasis on the Hellenic quality of Orthodoxy, his anti-Nestorian Orthodox Christology, and his desire for true collegiality.
The age of the Fathers of the Church is for Florovsky, not just a stage in the development of theology, but a real turning point of Christian thought towards Orthodoxy, obtained through the happy marriage of the original Christian message and Greek thought, and duly adapted (baptized) to the needs of the former. To neglect the heritage of the Fathers would mean to go back to a stage of theological uncertainty and a breeding ground of christological heresies.
His view of orthodox Christology is that obtained and fully understood only through the suffered experience of the Eastern Church, as witnessed by the early ecumenical councils, and particularly Chalcedon. In order to safeguard true doctrine against the Nestorian temptation of Western Christianity, Florovsky propounds "asymmetric Christology" as a guarantee of hypostatic union in Christ.
The Russian word sobornost, which translates as collegiality, is key to Florovsky's ecclesiology. Sobornost sets Christ at the core of the church, which is His extension as Christified humanity—the Augustinian Christus totus, caput et membra —made one in Christ, through the action of the Spirit and the ministry of the successors of the Apostles. Intensive catholicity, made present in the local church, would express adequately the fullness of ecclesiality, before recourse to any wider form of the church.
See Also: russian theology.
Bibliography: y. n. lelouvier, Perspectives russes sur l'Eglise. Un théologian contemporain: Georges Florovsky (Paris 1968). b. mondin, Georges Florovsky e la sintesi neopatristica, I. Grandi teologi del secolo ventesimo, II. Teologi protestanti e ortodissi (Torino, Borla 1969) 291–314. d. neiman and m. shatkin, eds., The Heritage of the Early Church. Essays in Honor of Rev. G. V. Florovsky. Orientalia Christiana periodica 195 (Rome 1973). a. blane, ed., Russia and Orthodoxy. Essays in Honour of Georges Florovsky, 2 v. (The Hague-Paris 1974–76). g. h. williams, "Georges Vasilievich Florovsky: His American Career (1948–1965)" The Greek-Orthodox Theological Review 9 (1965). A complete list of G. Florovsky's writings in d. nieman and m. shatkin, 437–451 (to 1969). An American edition of his works in: g. v. florovskij, Collected Work, 5 v. (Belmont, Mass. 1972–79).