Russian Theology

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The theology of the ancient empire Rus' of Kiev, that of the Ukraine, that of the Moscovite Empire and Soviet Russia, and that of the recent Russian émigrés, covering a period from the 10th to the 20th century. It may be discussed in periods: (1) from the primitive stage to 1550;(2) from the establishment of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the reign of Peter the Great; (3) from Peter the Great to 1836; (4) from 1836 to the Communist revolution of 1917; (5) from the postrevolutionary period to the late 20th century.

The Primitive Stage to 1550. Ecclesiastical and theological literature first entered the empire of Kiev from Bulgaria, where the disciples of the Slavic apostles cyril and methodius had taken refuge, and later directly from Byzantium. The earliest Christian missionaries translated the works of the Greek Fathers, particularly of john chrysostom and john damascene, into the Slavic language. Polemic against the Latins, fed particularly by the Byzantine bishops in Rus', began only at the end of the 11th century. There is an interesting, somewhat deferential answer made by the Greek metropolitan John II of Kiev (108089) to the antipope Clement III (108098). According to John, the Latins were not completely separated from the Church, but detached themselves by their teaching. The polemicists reproved the Latins with the reproaches made earlier by Photius and Cerularius. But there were also later ecclesiastical writers both at Novgorod and at Kiev who were not interested in polemics, such as the Metropolitan Clement of Smolensk toward the middle 12th century, the era also of the celebrated preacher cyril of turiv (113082). There followed a time of Mongol domination however (12371480) when ecclesiastical science reached its lowest level. Certain tracts were published against the Latins, this time reproving not the teaching of the filioque or the primacy of the pope but the presumed teaching that the Sacred Liturgy could be celebrated only in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and not in Slavic.

Strigolniki. The 14th and 15th centuries were marked by a move against internal heresy, such as that of the Strigolniki, who in their zeal against the simony of the clergy, rejected both the hierarchy and the Sacraments, the Liturgical Sacrifice, and the suffrages for the deceased. At the beginning of the 15th century at Novgorod the controversy over singing a double or a triple Alleluia during the Liturgy arose and was to assume considerable importance later on. Because of the use of a double Alleluia at Constantinople some zealots, such as the monk Euphrosinus, accused the Byzantines of apostasy from the true faith and a turning to the anti-Christ. Meanwhile, during the same period, several Byzantine theological works were translated, such as those of Gregory pala mas and Nilus cabasilas.

Moscow, the Third Rome. After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, the center of gravity of Orthodox theological study gradually shifted from the Greeks to the Slavs of Kiev and Moscow. Moscow, which became autocephalous in 1448, increased its suspicion against the Greeks, who had accepted union with the Latins at Florence in 1439. In monastic circles in Russia arose the theory of Moscow as the "third Rome" since it alone had remained orthodox after the fall into heresy of the first and the second. This theory was combated by the Greek monk Maximus (d. 1556), sent by the patriarch of Constantinople to Moscow to correct the Slavic liturgical books and to translate the Greek Fathers into Slavic. He arrived in Moscow in 1519 and wrote several tracts against the Latins, attacking indirectly the Roman primacy and directly the use of filioque in the Creed, the use of unleavened bread, and purgatory; but he was not successful in his battle against the independence of the Russian Church from that of Constantinople, to which the Church of Kiev in the second half of the 15th century had been directly subordinated.

Patriarchate of Moscow to Peter the Great. In 1589 Moscow became a patriarchate. A few years later (159596) the Union of brest was signed, in which some of the Ukrainians and White Russians joined the Roman Church. This occasioned a war of tracts between Catholics and Orthodox. Among the more prominent writers were the Polish Jesuit Piotr skarga (15361612) and Benedict Herbestus (153193) on one side; and on the other, the anonymous Christopher Philalethos, who was answered by the also anonymous Arcudios, then by John Wishensky and Meletius Smotritsky. Smotritsky died as a Catholic in 1633.

School of Peter Moghila. Zachary Kopystensky (d. c. 1627) wrote against both the Catholics and the Protestants, as did the celebrated Peter moghila, or Movila (15961646), Metropolitan of Kiev since 1633, a Rumanian by birth. His dealings with Pope Urban VIII in regard to reunion with the papacy were unsuccessful. While still an archimandrite of the Monastery of the Grottoes at Kiev in 1631, he founded a school that became an academy in 1633 and was the forerunner of the Ecclesiastical Academy inaugurated in 1701. Moghila's school was modeled on the Jesuit colleges, and became a center of Orthodox theology; it was frequented by Russians, Greeks, Rumanians, Serbs, and Bulgars. Philosophy and theology were taught there in Latin according to St. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastic method. Prescinding from the primacy of the pope, the doctrines were Latinized, and they reached a concordance in regard to the dogmas of purgatory, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and the words of Christ as the form of the Eucharist. However, they were rather in disagreement as to the filioque. Moghila's most important writing was his Large Catechism, or Confession of Faith, which was intended to neutralize the Protestant influence of the Confession of the Patriarch of Constantinople Cyril Lucaris. It was written in both Latin and the vernacular but was published only in popular Greek (1667). The translator, Meletius Syrigus, however, in order to obtain the approbation of the four Orthodox patriarchs of the Near East, incorporated some corrections that were not in accord with the intention of the author, particularly regarding the state of souls after death and the form of the Eucharist. Later numerous editions and translations in different languages followed.

School of Kiev. Kiev produced many learned theologians, polemicists, and orators, such as Lasar Baranovich (162093), Innocentius Gisel' (d. c. 1683), Antonius Radivilovsky (d. 1688), and Yoanniky Galiatovsky (d.1688). The influence of the Catholicizing school of Kiev extended as far as Moscow, where, however, toward the middle of the 17th century Greek influence began once more to make its presence felt. The clash between these two currents became violent with ample literary production on both sides, particularly regarding the moment of consecration of the Eucharist. The examination of these questions was intensified on the occasion of the reform of the Slavic liturgical books on the Greek model by the Patriarch Nikon in 1654, which caused the great schism, or raskol. Nikon had sanctioned the triple Alleluia against the raskolniki, who, in favor of the double Alleluia as well as the manner of making the sign of the cross, appealed to the Greek monk Maximus.

The more prominent Moscovite theologians of the period were from southern Russia. They were Epiphanius Slavinetsky (d. 1675), Simeon Petrovsky Sitnianovich, called Polotsky (162980), and his disciple Silvester Medvedev (164191), Innocent Monastyrsky, a friend of Silvester, and the saintly Bishop of Rostov, Demetrius Tuptalo (16511709). These theologians defended the Catholic doctrine concerning the moment of the Eucharistic consecration against the monk Euthemius and the Lichudy brothers. Since the Czar and the Metropolitan of Moscow Joachim III (167490) took the side of the Grecophile theologians against those favoring the Latins, under the influence of the Oriental patriarchs and particularly of Dositheus of Jerusalem, Greeks were thereafter engaged as professors. Among them were the brothers Joannes and Sophronius Lichudy, who arrived in Moscow in 1685 to teach in a projected Greek-Latin-Slavic school or academy. Another important theologian of this period was Adam Zernikavius, or Zoirnikabios, born a Lutheran in Prussia, who composed a polemic work on the procession of the Holy Spirit.

Peter the Great to 1836. With the ecclesiastical reform inaugurated by peter the great, Russian theology became dependent on the czar, who entered into relations with the Protestants, Anglicans, and Gallicans. The Council of Moscow (166667) had decided that Catholics should not be rebaptized when coming over to Orthodoxy; this same decision was taken in regard to Calvinists and Lutherans by Peter the Great after consultation with the Patriarch Jeremia III of Constantinople in 1718. Peter's more influential adviser in the Protestantizing of the Russian Church was Feofan prokopovich (16811736), Bishop of Pskov and later Archbishop of Novgorod. From 1711 to 1716 he was rector of the Academy of Kiev, where he taught Lutheran opinions concerning Sacred Scriptures and tradition, the ecclesiastical magisterium, and justification by faith alone.

Ecclesiastical Academy of Moscow. The Lichudy brothers and the majority of professors at Kiev opposed this teaching of Prokopovich; they were supported by Theophylactus Lopatinsky, since 1706 rector of the Academy of Moscow and from 1723 Archbishop of Tver; also by Stephan Yavorsky (16581722), Bishop of Riazan and patriarchal Exarch after the death of the Patriarch Adrian. He endowed the Greek-Latin-Slavic Academy of Moscow in 1701 on the model of that at Kiev. His principal work, Petra fidei (Kamen very, or Rock of Faith), could be published only in 1728, after the death of Peter the Great; though prohibited, it was reprinted in 1744.

Protestant Influence. Under the Empresses Anna (173040) and Catherine II (176286) Protestant influence predominated; it was notable, for example, in the works of Gabriel Petrov (d. 1801); Macarius Petrovich (d. 1766); Theophylactus Gorsky (d. 1788); Samuel Mislavsky (d. 1796), editor of various works of Prokopovich; and Silvester Lebedinsky (d. 1808). Of the same tendency were the Metropolitan of Moscow Plato Levshin (d.1812), Methodius Smirnov (d. 1815), Ireneus Falkovsky (d. 1827), Filaret Amfitreatrov (d. 1857), and the celebrated Metropolitan of Moscow Filaret Drozdov (17821867). From the time of Prokopovich, and particularly through the influence of Filaret Drozdov, biblical studies were promoted. In 1812 the Russian Biblical Society was founded at St. Petersburg. During this period polemics were concerned mainly with the raskol.

Reform (18361917). A notable change in the direction of theology was produced in 1836 with the reform instituted by Nicholas Alessandrovich Protasov, lay procurator of the Holy Synod. Protasov was a student of the Jesuits. He ordered a return to the doctrine of the Confessions by Moghila and Dositheus, and of the Petra fidei by Yavorsky. At the same time patristic studies were pursued in the ecclesiastical academies in Russia, and many patristic monographs were produced. The Metropolitan Filaret Drozdov, as a preacher of Orthodox doctrine and as a theologian, even though inclined toward Protestantism, was constrained to cancel Protestant tendencies from his great Catechism. Instead of being written in Latin, the classical manuals of dogma of a new type were produced in Russian; and with the abolishment of Latin, the use of the speculative and scholastic method in theology began to decline. The main authors of these manuals, besides the priest Peter Ternovsky (editions of 1838, 1839, 1843), were bishopsAntonius Amfiteatrov (181579); Filaret Gumilevsky (180566); and of more recent date, Silvester Malevansky (18281908), who frequently cites the Fathers, and the Archpriest Nicholas Malinovsky (d.1917).

Apologetic Writings. Beginning in 1884 a course of apologetics against the raskol and against the Western confessions was introduced into the ecclesiastical schools and academies. At the beginning of the 20th century the apologetic manuals of the Archimandrite Augustine and of I. Nikolin were widely diffused. Other writers who discussed the Catholic faith were A. M. Ivantsov-Platonov (d. 1894); N. J. Beliaev (184394); V. Guettée (181692), who had been a Catholic priest; and particularly Alexander A. Lebedev (d. 1898), whose polemical writings attacked the Immaculate Conception, the cult of the Sacred Heart, and the papacy. Of greatest importance was the Slavophile theologian Alexius Stepanovich Khomiakov (180460), particularly in the ecclesiological sphere and in that of soteriology.

Khomiakov's Ecclesiology. Khomiakov describes the Church as one organism, free and charismatic, with unity, liberty, and charity of all the faithful. The philosophical foundation of his concept of the Church, which he and his friend Ivan Kireevsky elaborated, is based on the principle that a true understanding need not be abstract but concrete or integral, that is joined with all the other faculties of man; and for this reason the knowledge of the faith is not individual but depends on the union in love with all the other faithful. The infallibility of the Church is not possible in one isolated person, such as the pope, or in the hierarchy; hence to have value the decrees of ecumenical councils must be recognized by the whole ecclesiastical people.

With this doctrine that repudiated the charism of infallibility in the hierarchy, Khomiakov opposed traditional doctrine common to the Orthodox and Catholics. His opposition to Western Christianity was expressed in the formula that Catholicism is unity without liberty; Protestantism, liberty without unity; while in Orthodoxy is found a synthesis of unity with liberty in charity. He rejected the external authority of the Church and the concept of Catholicity in an extensive sense, basing his idea of Catholicity on an intensive idea of unity in multiplicity, or free unanimity expressed in the Slavic word sobornyj (from sobor, or collection, reunion, council), and thus he translated the word "catholic" in the creed. The ecclesiological conception of Khomiakov was thus described by his disciples as the sobornost'.

Khomiakov's ecclesiology, although at first opposed by the conservative theologians and censured by the Russian ruler, had penetrated into the official theology by the end of the 19th century. The priest Eugene P. Akvilonov (18611911) propagated his ecclesiology, while Pavel J. svetlov (18611942) championed his soteriology; and his thought has been diffused in modern times particularly among Slav and Russian theologians outside Russia. Another great layman and Russian theologian was Vladimir solov'ev (18531900), with whom Russian religious philosophy attained its highest point. As philosopher-theologian, or Russian "gnostic," Solov'ev became the proponent of modern Sophiologia (study of wisdom) and of a theandric direction in ecclesiology. In the first part of his book Russia and the Universal Church he wrote an apology for the Roman primacy and then attempted to make a speculative deduction of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. In his philosophy of religion, or fundamental theology, he did not accept the Catholic truth that man can know God with natural reason, but in accord with the majority of Russian apologetical theologians, he attempted to base a knowledge of God rather on mystical experience. Solov'ev can be considered a precursor of modern ecumenism.

Together with Khomiakov and Solov'ev, a group of theologians opposed the official theology; they included liberals who were anti-Catholic and sought the union of all Christians, distinguishing, among other things, the doctrines of the first seven ecumenical councils from the later theologumena, or theologizings, whose conclusions they considered free and discussible opinions. Among them were the theologians who after Vatican Council I sought union with the Old Catholics and the Anglicans in 1874 and 1875 and their successors: I. L. Yanyshev (18261900); the historian V. V. Bolotov (18541900), noted for his publications on ancient Church history and the controversy over the filioque; A. Lopuchin (d. 1904), editor of a theological encyclopedia, which was continued by N. N. glubokovskiĬ (18631937) but remains incomplete because of the 1917 revolution; A. A. Kireev (18331910); and the Archpriest P. Svetlov, who between 1890 and the first decades of the 20th century gained a reputation as a speculative theologian, apologete, and soteriologist. Khomiakov inspired a new direction in Russian soteriology, which Svetlov developed in a moderate fashion while Sergius Stragorodsky (Patriarch of Moscow, 194344) and the Metropolitan antoniĬ khrapovitskiĬ pursued it radically. The latter sought to eliminate all trace of juridicism from the doctrine of the Redemption and ended by denying an objective Redemption, that is, the satisfaction and merits of Christ; they insisted exclusively on the subjective and moral significance of the work of the Redeemer. Antoniĭ, however, influenced, among others, by Dostoevsky, emphasized the spiritual rebirth of sinners brought about by the love of the Savior in the soul and the reform of man. Theological publications, particularly in the form of dissertations and articles, were augmented during the second half of the 19th century in the periodicals of the Ecclesiastical Academies of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and Kazan'.

The Postrevolutionary Period. With the revolution of 1917 almost all theological activity came to an end in Russia. The representatives of theological learning were forced to emigrate and sought to found centers of study in various parts of the world. This new period was characterized by the absence of state censure outside the Iron Curtain and by immediate contact with both Catholic and Protestant theology. Some Russian theologians distinguished themselves by their activity in the ecumenical movement, particularly the professors at the Orthodox Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris, who established theological and liturgical conferences that were attended by Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant scholars from various countries.

St. Sergius Institute, Paris. In 1925, an institute was conducted by the Archpriest Sergeĭ BULGAKOV (18711944), the most original and fecund of the Russian theologians in exile. Bulgakov was famed as the representative of "wisdom theology," based on the idea of divine and human wisdom, and the theandrism inherited from Solov'ev. He was also distinguished as a Mariologist, the sole Russian theologian to have written a Marian monograph, and as an ecclesiologist in the footsteps of Khomiakov. With his doctrine on divine wisdom he provoked the "Sophianic" controversy and was condemned by two Russian hierarchies, that of Moscow and that of the former Karlovits of Yugoslavia.

Bulgakov's pupil and colleague at the Institute of St. Sergius, as well as his strenous defender, was L. Zander (d. 1964); and one of the better-known, influential professors was the Archpriest N. Afanasiev, who sought to reconstruct a genuine Orthodox ecclesiology based on the mystery of the Eucharist in the Eucharistic gathering of the local church presided over by the bishop. He believed that the local church contains in itself the fullness of ecclesial values and is therefore independent or autonomous of any superior juridical authority. He contrasted his Eucharistic ecclesiology with the universal ecclesiology in which individual churches are but part of the totalitarian organism. Afanasiev thus parted with the traditional ecclesiology of both Orthodox and Catholics. He admitted a hierarchy and even a primacy in the Church, but of love alone and not of law or power. Afanasiev wrote a monograph on the service of the laity in the church, insisting on their sacerdotal service in keeping with his Eucharistic ecclesiology.

One of the best-known of Russian theologians, the Archpriest George florovsky, first taught patrology at St. Sergius and later was professor of ancient church history at Harvard Divinity School and at the Grecoorthodox Seminary in Boston, as well as dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He sought to base his teaching on the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, particularly the Greeks, and saw in the doctrine on God of the great Byzantine and Palamite theologians of the 14th century who were followers of Gregory Palamas (d.1359) the continuation of the genuine patristic tradition, a tradition that he endeavored to restore.

Palamite Renaissance. The quintessence of the Palamite doctrine consists in three affirmations: that man cannot know the essence of the transcendent God; that he can know the divine energies, or actions, operations, and attributes of God; and that therefore there must be in God a real distinction, although not a separation, between the unintelligible essence and the knowable energies. Among these energies it acknowledges divine grace and the light of Mt. Tabor seen by the three elect disciples on the mount of the Transfiguration. On the basis of Palamite doctrine the controversy over the divinity of the holy name of Jesus has become famous and involved the monks of the great Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mt. Athos in 191213 and continued in Russia itself. These monks practiced, according to their ancient tradition, the invocation of the Savior with the noted prayer directed to Jesus (see jesus prayer) and so exaggerated it that they called the invoked name of Jesus "God Himself."

Another propagator of Palamism was a monk of the Monastery of St. Panteleimon, Vasily Krivoshein, later the archbishop of the Patriarchate of Moscow for Western Europe. In 1936 he published a monograph on the ascetical and theological doctrine of St. Gregory Palamas, translated into German in 1939. He was also a student of the great Byzantine mystic symeon the new theologian (fl. c. 1000) and editor of his works. J. Meyendorff was another renovator of the Palamite tradition and published, among other works, a large monograph in defense of the Hesychasts, or Palamites. Meyendorff, in an attempt to attenuate the doctrine of Gregory on the real distinction between the essence or nature of God and his attributes or energies, which is untenable because of the absolute simplicity of God, affirmed that the doctrine of Palamas is neither a philosophy nor a system and cannot be judged according to scholastic categories.

In this context another professor of St. Sergius deserves mention as being finely discriminatory in his judgment of Palamism, the Archimandrite Cyprian Kern (d.1960), who wrote a vast exposition of the rich, patristic anthropology of Gregory Palamas. Another theologian of the same institute was the priest V. V. Zenkovsky (d.1963), notable also as the author of a large History of Russian Philosophy.

Vladimir Lossky. Vladimir Lossky (d. 1958) wrote the famous Essai sur la théologie mystique de l'Église d'Orient (Paris 1944), translated (London 1957) into English. Son of a noted philosopher, Lossky was a professor in the Theological Institute of Saint-Denis at Paris, which was dependent on the Patriarchate of Moscow. In 1936 he wrote a treatise on the Sophian controversy controverting the position of Bulgakov. In his attitude toward mystical theology, which was completely patristic, not only did he propose, as a foundation of Orthodoxy, the theory that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone but also asserted that between the filioque and the "from the Father alone," as in its roots, lay the profound difference between Oriental and Western spirituality.

Summary. Russian theology depended in the beginning on Constantinople, a dependence reinforced during the first half of the 16th century by the works of Maximus the Greek and in Moscow from the second half of the 17th century by the Patriarch Nikon and somewhat later by the Lichudy brothers. In the 17th century, however, the school of Kiev took prominence and showed the influence of Latin theology; and in the age of Peter the Great, there was a notable dependence on Protestant theology in official Russian doctrine. In the 20th century, most Russian theology was Khomiakovian, with the exception of a few teachers such as Vasily Vinogradov, former professor at the Ecclesiastical Academy of Moscow, who moved to Germany. The Metropolitan Antonius and the Archpriest Florovsky were inclined to repudiate as noncreative the official Russian theology of recent centuries.

New Directions. Florensky, Florovsky, Lossky, and others aspired to an original Orthodox theology based on the Greek Fathers and the Byzantine theologians and sought to emancipate themselves from the older dependence on the Catholic and Protestant West. Thus Florovsky announced in the theological Congress of Athens (1936) as his reforming program the attempt to surpass, by new creative activity, the results of the theological research of the West. He was in search of a synthesis of patristic-Byzantine tradition and the ecclesiology of Khomiakov, while other recent Russian theologians followed a more subjective or even Modernistic direction, such as that of Bulgakov.

The philosophy of N. Berdîâev reflects the ecclesiology of Khomiakov and the theandrism as well as the doctrine of "all-in-unity" taught of Solov'ev. Both Berdîâev and Bulgakov communicated the great vision of the mystery of the Church, although the Catholic influence of Solov'ev has not been accepted by the Russian theologians.

What was positive in the return to Palamism was the stress on the great mystery of the divinity. Also notable among the Russian theologians were the opinions on the dogmas defined by the Catholic Church after the separation. Finally, there were new attempts among Russian theologians to construct a living, intuitive, integral, and universal theology that would be at once Trinitarian and Christocentric by entering deeply in a theological anthropology. They aimed to communicate a universal Christian vision of the universe in God, and particularly in the Church of Christ, as in the sobornost, that is, the unanimous community under the action of the Holy Spirit.

See Also: schneeman, george; schmemann, alexander; meyendorff, john.

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