(Archpriest  Georgii  Florovsky.  “The  Ways  of  Russian  Theology”,
1937, YMCA-PRESS.)

(1937 – #424)

  The book of Fr. Georgii Florovsky was incorrectly named, and it should be named “The Waylessness of Russian Theology”, or even, in view of the broad scope of the book, “The Waylessness of Russian Thought” or “The Waylessness of Russian Spiritual Culture”. The book has a number of qualities: novel themes, on which we have no books, it is written with talent, although in a somewhat affected style, it reads with great interest, in it is the agitation and emotion which the author so condemns, in it there are good traits, there is an independence of thought, tremendous knowledge is disclosed, broad erudition, and at the end of the book there is a valuable bibliography, taking up more than fifty pages. Fr. G. Florovsky employs exclusively a methodology of characteristics, he does not give an history of ideas and problems. Such a book could have been written only after the Russian cultural renaissance of the beginning XX Century, but there is no thanks given it. It was dictated not out of love, but out of enmity, and in it predominate negative feelings. This is a book of spiritual reaction, which enflamed souls after the war and revolution. Everything spiritually reactionary for Fr. G. Florovsky essentially gets his approval, but with reservations and the demand of great mental subtlety. Other than that, political reactionism plays no sort of role in the book. The idea of the connection of Orthodoxy with a sacred monarchy is as it were foreign to the author. Yet this is a reaction against man and humanness, so characteristic for our epoch, demanding an inward putting matters in order and tranquillity. But in the author himself the tranquillity is not felt, in him is sensed an irrational agitation for ortodoksness. The reaction against the human takes the form of a passionate reaction against romanticism. Under this category of romanticism he assumes so broad a scope, so universally applied, that romanticism is castigated even in the theological thought of the XVII Century, even in the [Old-Believer] schism. All Russian thought was romanticised, it was all under the influence of the West, and the West of course was romanticised. As though then in the West there was no classicism! Thomism, which plays a predominate role within Western Catholicism, is ultimately classicism, and the Thomists are hostile to romanticism. The acute struggle against romanticism was conducted in its final period namely in the West, and in forms, very much like the struggle involving Fr. G. Florovsky. It suffices but to name the book of P. Lesser, “Le Romantisme Francais”, alongside the book of Seier against romanticism, of Charles Morras, Karl Shmidt, E. d’Ors, and the Thomists. Amidst this, romanticism was understood as the liberating process of a new time, a developing of the emotional life of man, and romanticism led upwards to Fenelon and Russo. When the book of Fr. G. Florovsky is read, there remains the impression, that not only with Russian theology, but also with the whole of Russian spiritual culture there perished sensitivity, emotionality, sympathy, stimulation, the impressive, the visionary, the imaginative, ecstaticism, i.e. there perished ultimately, humanness. Fr, G. Florovsky says, that the gift of “universal sympathy” of the Russians (a term of Dostoevsky) — is a fatal and ambiguous gift. His book is in essence a condemnation of the Russian soul. The author — is a Byzantinist, he does not love the Russian, and a “Russian Christianity” is repulsive to him, although it is unintelligible, why a “Byzantine Christianity” should be any better afront the judgement of Christian universalism. G. Florovsky himself can perhaps be termed a romantic, for in him is great emotionality, agitation, feelings, impressiveness. Sometimes it seems, that in the struggle against romanticism he carries on a struggle against himself, as often of course this happens. For example, Ch. Morras, who despises romanticism, — is a typical romantic. The Byzantinism of Fr. G. Florovsky is likewise romanticism. This is the melancholy nostalgia and yearning for an extinct world. Romanticism assumes the form not only of an emotional idealisation of nature, but also of an emotional idealisation of the historical past, of an historical tradition. This was a strong motif with the German romantics, and it is strong also in Fr. G. Florovsky. The book was written against various temptations as lived through by the Russian soul, the temptations of moralism, of social utopianism, aestheticism, psychologism, and in opposition to these temptations there is set an historical positivism. For historicism to be set first of all in opposition to moralism, is possible only amidst a full forgetfulness of the Gospel. Fr. G. Florovsky himself is given over to a temptation, the temptation of historicism. He is riveted to “the historical”, for him Christianity comprises itself fully within history, he as it were does not sense the tragic conflict of Christianity and history. But actually the whole of Christian eschatology is bound up with this conflict. As a result namely of his enshacklement to the “historical”, Father G. Florovsky is in no way either theologian or metaphysician. The historical school in theology is the closest thing to him. In his book it is impossible to find an history of theological thought, he does not at all enter into theological problematics, and essentially he is interested in the historical and psychological atmosphere, the climate, in which Russian thought lived, which ultimately purports no doubt an interest.

The attitude of Fr. G. Florovsky towards history is twofold, and it is impossible to conceal this duality. He contrasts history and the historical opposite all the temptations, which Russian theological thought was subjected to. But he nowhere attempts to reveal his own thought on history, just as moreover, he generally does not reveal his own positive thoughts. In regards to history he evidently stands on the point of view of religious conservatism. But religious conservatism makes a mistake in regards to time, it opposes to the currents of the present and the future, not the eternal, but rather the past, i.e. a similar flow of time. It is inconceivable, why the past — and only because it is the past — should be better than the present or future. This is indeed as much a blunder, as an assertion made backwards. The eternal can break through into the present and the future, just as it has broken through into the past. An obstinate mankind committed sin even in the past, it sins in the present and will sin in the future. In tradition there is an element of the eternal, but there is also very much of the temporal, the transitory, the humanly relative. Byzantinism, as a spiritual type having disclosed itself within time, is no wise better than many other spiritual types, and is often even worse, for it too belongs to historical time. I think, that the Russian spiritual type is higher than the Byzantine, since it is more human. The philosophical ideas of the Patristics can in no wise make greater pretense to an absolute and eternal significance, than the philosophic ideas of Kant or Hegel. The eternal is in the spiritual, and not in the historical. It is interesting, that Fr. G. Florovsky succumbs to historicism, but does not have the feel of history, of historical dynamics. He has neither the feel nor the understanding of historical achievements, as one who sees mostly in history only the temptations, and does not see the religious meaning of the historical tribulations of mankind, all the dialectics of philosophical developement, humanism, the liberation of man from slavery, socialism, the growth of technology and so forth, — all yielding only temptation and heresy. Beyond which, all the history of the Western world, i.e. the foremost of the historical, even the Medieval world, is a prodigal falling-away from truth [for him]. And the present day history is ruptured off from the Byzantine. And Russian history is likewise fallen away, given over to temptation and heretical tendencies. And a genuine Orthodoxy in Russia there never was. Fr. G. Florovsky does not at all understand, that even the process of secularisation possesses a positive religious significance, that even European humanism is a Christian manifestation. With such an attitude towards history it is very difficult to have a grasp on history, as Fr. G. Florovsky wants to, and to set it in opposition to the temptations of a “spiritual” Christianity. The soil, on which he stands, is very shaky, a shaky history. Fr. G. Florovsky fails to understand the basic theme of the Russian religious thought of the XIX Century — the religious, the Christian significance of a world-wide humanistic experience, an experience of freedom, an experience of the unfolding complexities of humanity. The Russian soul was revealed amidst this vast and remarkable experience and it expressed its own thought about this experience. Mere repetition of the thoughts of the Greeks and the Byzantine Patristics would signify a misunderstanding o their theme, the negation of this theme. Man can have new experience, new searchings, and new horizons can open up before him. The experience of Byzantium had its limitations, its horizons were constricted, and there was yet many a theme it had not put before the Christian consciousness. That world had its mission, and it had spiritual achievements. But within it there was an element of decay, it came to an end, it died, not in its eternity, but in its own time. And to feed off a rotting world can bring infection with the corpse’s poison. Fr. G. Florovsky does not penetrate into the meaning of historical dynamics, he all the time “judges, executes and grants pardon”, the same thing he accuses Golubinsky of. He himself leads by “the terror and malice” that he accuses others of. He has little “granted pardon” to anyone in the history of Russian theology, a large portion “he executed”. But he does this not in a rough form, “he executes” in the form of subtle characteristic, the venom of which is not flung into the eyes. He is very self-deluded, thinking, that he has an unique historical acuity. Historical acuteness is not “judgement and execution”, it is not a distribution of attestations of ortodoksia or heresy, historical acumen is a penetration into the meaning of what is wrought.

Father G. Florovsky in his book discovers the full atrophying of the feeling for social just-truth to be a religious problem. He does not understand the theme of moral indignation against the wronging and oppression of man. He reckons it possible to deprecate Vl. Solov’ev for seeking social just-truth and for wanting the realisation of a Christian just-truth in social life. This perhaps might be explained by that in his Byzantine Orthodoxy it was not authentically involved with man. When they look upon man exclusively as a sinful being to be saved, then it does not touch upon the abasement of man and the outrage against his dignity. Fr. G. Florovsky does not at all turn his attention to this, that the Russian soul amongst the cultural stratum was rent by the terrible wrong of serfdom, the debasement of man by the autocracy, and that this imprinted itself upon the whole of Russian thought. For him this was exclusively a matter of sentimentalism, of false susceptibilities. And therefore the Russian thought of the XIX Century is foreign and unintelligible for him, with its searchings for the just-truth of man, its humanness. Fr. G. Florovsky, while essentially writing an history of Russian spiritual culture and the Russian consciousness, characteristically altogether ignores Belinsky, one of the centre-most figures of the history of the Russian consciousness of the XIX Century and of the Russian searches for just-truth. The deep part of the question is not at all in this, that humanism, the liberation of man, socialism and so forth serve as substitutes for religion, but in this, of what sort of positive religious meaning is there in these manifestations. During the Christian period of history all the remarkable manifestations in human destiny have an inward Christian character. How strange perhaps, but Fr. G. Florovsky possesses a formal affinity with Fr. P. Florensky, — for them both there is a peculiar moral and social indifference, though Fr. P. Florensky has a great spiritual sensitivity. Fr. G. Florovsky evidently considers moral feelings and heightened consciousness as utopianism. He struggles not only against romanticism, but also against utopianism. He sees with the Russian people an abusing of the categories of the ideal. In the Russian nihilists he denounces first of all an anti-historical idealism. He does not permit of any revolt against history, though even this be a revolt against great wrong and falsehood. Everything can be justified as history. The only thing inconceivable, is why the history of Russian thought is not justified, why that which shows itself worthy of Russian history is condemned. Both the Russian nihilism is history, and the Russian Revolution is history, it belongs to the historical. But herein the attitude of Fr. G. Florovsky is defined by this: for him Christianity is so embedded in history, that the tragic conflict of Christianity and history is rendered inadmissible. Amidst which this conflict itself is a very important event within history. Fr. G. Florovsky all the time makes a sorting-out with history, and amidst this quite much is rendered outside his understanding of the historical. And a large portion of the history of the Russian theological, philosophical, social thought falls victim to this sorting-out process. It is inconceivable, why Byzantium preeminently is rendered history and the historical. Almost the whole West also loses historical significance.

But here is quite chief an issue, in the connection of Fr. G. Florovsky to the whole construct of the history of Russian theology. He holds to a completely mistaken and antiquated opposition of Russia and the West. This opposition he borrows from the Russian thought of the XIX Century, but with this original twist, that he regards in a negative light not only the West, but also Russia, since that it has given in to the influence of the West. To the west he sets in opposition the Byzantine East. He reacts both critically and negatively towards Russian Christianity and Russian theologising on the basis, that he sees in it a Western influence. This is a fundamental concept within the book. Russian Orthodoxy was at first thoughtless. When thought awakened, it was then stifled by the Western influence. Fr. G. Florovsky considers Russianism a Western thing. Everything that is Western stands beneathe the negative standard and is a deviance from the true path. All the woes of Russian theology and Russian thought — are consequences of the rift with Byzantium. But Byzantium went into decline and it died, and with this ended the true unfolding of thought, and thereafter there began deviations. Russia evidently has nothing of its own, it can only have something Byzantine or Western. Towards the West Fr. G. Florovsky reacts far more negatively than either the Slavophils, or Dostoevsky or K. Leont’ev, but he does not contrast it against anything unique in Russia and the Russian people. For him even the Slavophils were too Western, and he denounces them for their Europeanism and romanticism, and not without foundation. But even the saints he does not spare. With St. Dimitrii of Rostov he sees a Catholic influence, and with St. Tikhon of Zadonsk he sees the influence of Arndt (“On the True Christianity”) and the Western Christian humanism, which moreover, was completely accurate. The characteristics of Peter the Great were for him very evil and cruel. He as it were totally does not understand the necessity and significance of the reforms of Peter, of the emergence of Russia from a closed-in condition onto the world-wide expanse, its joining in with world culture. But what indeed is this fatal “West”, infecting Russia with romanticism, humanism and all sorts of ills?  Herein also is hidden a chief mistake. This “West” does not exist, it is a fabrication of the Slavophils and the Easternisers of the XIX Century, which Fr. G. Florovsky borrows whole. There is no oneness of “Western” culture, and it is possible to speak only about the oneness of world culture, about the universal elements in culture. Indeed, Western Europe does not present a single “cultural-historical type”, to use an expression of N. Danilevsky. The unity of a “Germano-Romance cultural-historical type” is a fiction, it is a deluded perception of people immersed in the Russian East, a product begotten of the Russian provincial mentality. Even now in the West they say that it is necessary to create the unity of Europe, of which there is not. Betwixt the French culture and the German culture there exists an abyss far more immense, than that which exists between the German and Russian culture. For the typical French thinker, Germany is the remote East, the irrational East, completely unintelligible and impenetrable. For Germans, France is the rationalistic West, to which they set in contrast the Germanic irrationalism, and the mystical sense of life. It was the very thing that the Slavophils said about the West, in which was included Germany also. The borders of East and West are very arbitrary. Even Fr. Schlegel and the German romantics said the completely same thing about the West (France and England), that the Slavophils later said about the West in general, i.e. they denounced it for its rationalistic dissection, the absence of organic wholeness and so forth. R. Wagner constructed an organic teaching about culture, very close to Slavophilism. and he set it in contrast to the French and Anglo-Saxon West. The Anglo-Saxon “cultural-historical type” is in turn altogether unique, and distinct from the French and the German. There does not exist any sort of Western “Romano-Germanic” type, there exist only the universal elements of culture, connected with antiquity, in the national and particularised types of culture of the Western world. The Russian “cultural-historical type” should be compared not with a “Western”, nor with a “Romano-Germanic”, but with the national cultural types of the Germanic, the French, the English and so forth. The Slavonic as a “cultural-historical type” already certainly does not exist. Russians in their culture have more in common with the Germans and the French, than with the Czechs, the Polish or the Serbs. It is necessary to inquire, not about whether Russian culture and Russian thought be original in comparison with the Western, but whether it be original in comparison with the German, the French, the English, whether it be original in amongst the actual Western cultures. Cultures always have individualised and national forms, but there is inherent to them an immanent universalism, not simply borrowed from elsewhere. This fact, that Russia is East and that it is West, is as it were propitious for Russian universalism. The Western influences in Russian culture and Russian thought were part of a disclosing of Russian universalism, an addition on to universal thought. In Russian religious thought, for example, the connection with Platonism had been sundered, but the Platonism was in turn re-discovered through Western influences, though in it was nothing especially Western. All the constructs of Fr. G. Florovsky prove artificial and they do not correspond to the realities, symbolically termed Western. It is necessary at the same time to acknowledge as out-moded both Slavophilism, and Westernism. Westernism likewise is a provincially-Russian manifestation, already out of date.

The artificial aspect of the constructs of Fr. G. Florovsky is connected especially to his appraisal of Russian religious philosophy. He sees in it the stifling influence of German philosophy and Western romanticism. But he totally disdains to take into account that the German philosophy of the XIX Century was simply the world philosophy, the supreme philosophic thought of its time, and similar to how in the Patristic epoch the supreme philosophic thought was Greek philosophy, the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, Neo-Platonism. The teachers of the Church made use of the categories of thought from Greek philosophy, the only philosophy of their time, and without its assist they could not move on in their theologising, even in the working out of dogmatic formulae. The remarkable Hindu philosophy was at the time unknown, and they were cut off from it. There exists an analogy between the influence of Plato, Aristotle and Neo-Platonism on Patristic and Scholastic thought,  and the influence of Kant, Hegel, Schelling on Russian religious thought. The teachers of the Church in their thinking were no less dependent upon philosophy, than were the Russian religious thinkers of the XIX and XX Centuries. The philosophy of the “pagans” Plato and Aristotle was not moreso Christian, than was the philosophy of Hegel and Schelling, — pervaded as they were by Christian elements. Theology completely independent of philosophy never was and never will be. Theology is not religious revelation, theology is the reaction of human thought upon revelation, and this revelation is dependent upon the categories of philosophic thought. In his Hellenism Fr. G. Florovsky wants, evidently, to make absolute the categories of Greek thought, to acknowledge them as eternal. In this he has a resemblance to Thomism, which acknowledges the universality of Greek intellectualism. But Fr. G. Florovsky situates himself in an extremely worse position. It is not at all evident, whether he be a Platonist or Aristotelian, it is in general not evident, what philosophy he would acknowledge as corresponding to Orthodoxy and thence its truth eternal. He does not posit any sort of philosophy in contrast to the passion of Russian thought for German philosophy. He simply in contrast posits Orthodoxy, Orthodox theology, naively venerating it as independent from philosophy. But everything just chances to transpire for him as a theologian, involving concepts of person, essence, creation, freedom, time and so forth. But what sort of philosophy does all this rest upon?  Fr. G. Florovsky denounces “modernism”, in which all Russian thought be considered guilty, and in ridiculous opposition to contemporary philosophy, all equally whatever, whether Kant or Hegel, Lotze or Bergson, is set the eternal truth of the Patristics, Christian dogmatics, and ultimately revelation. But no one should make such a simplistic contrast. They indeed contrast philosophies with a philosophy, with the philosophy of Kant, or of Hegel, or Schelling or Bergson or others, and they might contrast a philosophy against the Patristics or the Scholastics, against the philosophy of Plato or of Aristotle. The Patristics were steeped in philosophic elements, taken from Greek philosophy. And herein also is the question, whether the Greek intellectualism of the Patristics be eternal and immutable. This Greek intellectualism issues from man, and not from God. Fr. G. Florovsky does the same as the Scholastics did, but with him it is altogether without foundation and not worked out. The Orthodox East did not have its own St. Thomas Aquinas. Fr. G. Florovsky esteems not even Hellenism, but rather Byzantinism, which philosophically was already on the decline. His “objectivism” is altogether groundless, and he simply tacks it on as dogmatic, as a token of Orthodoxy. He is very loose with his statement of themes and does not disclose his own positive views, theological or philosophical, therein avoiding critique. Otherwise the weakness of his positions would be uncovered. It is quite inconceivable, how such could be the true Orthodox theology, the true Orthodox philosophy. The teachers of the Church wrangled much amongst themselves, and Father G. Florovsky himself finds in them heretical tendencies, if perchance they are not in agreement with him. The West for the Russia of the XVIII and XIX Centuries was simply a conjoining to world culture and thought. During the XVIII Century this was a superficial process, but during the XIX Century it was rather more at depth. Obviously, during the XIX Century in Russia Hegel had an immense influence. But it should not be forgotten, that there were more original thinkers like Khomyakov and Vl. Solov’ev, who passed through the Hegelian school of thought, but were not themselves Hegelians and were even sharp critics of Hegel, denouncing his abstraction, his rationalism and monism. We had two crises of Hegelianism in varied forms, with Khomyakov and with Belinsky. Fr. G. Florovsky does not at all investigate the divergence of Russian thought from German idealism. For this creative working-through of German idealism, which we attempted to do by a turning about to the concrete and real, — there can be set in opposition either a total Orthodox irrationalism, i.e. obscurantism, or a return to Byzantism, i.e. the negation of all the thought of the centuries of modern history. This is analogous in the West with the return to St. Thomas Aquinas and with the refusal of the significance of Descartes, Kant, Hegel and all the dialectical unfolding of philosophy, of all the enduring coursings of knowledge in the world. Fr. G. Florovsky in essence negates everything, the whole of Russian theology and Russian thought, and everywhere he unmasks the Western influence. But with this he is forced into a negative attitude on whether the Russians had actually begun to think, although he himself is not an obscurantist nor hostile to thought. He is quick to exaggerate the significance of theology and the intellectual element in religious life, but he very little speaks about the spiritual life, about the saints, or about that which might be termed Russian spirituality. Some several analyses of his mustneeds be acknowledged as successful. Suchlike are an analysis of the [Old-Believer] Schism, although he incomprehensibly ignores Archpriest Avvakum, a most remarkable writer of the pre-Petrine epoch, and Masonry, to which he correctly ascribes a great positive significance, and the eras of Alexander I, of the official theology, of Pobedonostsev, of Florensky (both characterisations close to those done by me), and even of several features of the Russian Renaissance of the beginning XX Century. Several analyses are ambiguous, as for example that of Archimandrite Photii, for whom Fr. G. Florovsky has much sympathy, but is not able fully to approve of and he reproaches not only just the fanaticism, but just as much the psychological affinity with the “mystic” unmasked by him. Metropolitan Philaret he spared more than he did others, but he also reproaches him as regards Western influences in the epoch of Alexander I. He likewise spared Khomyakov, but he does not speak about the new in Khomyakov’s teaching, about freedom and about Sobornost’-communality. Towards Dostoevsky Fr. G. Florovsky was indulgent, but he does not see in him the spiritually revolutionary. He overly praises Bishop Theophan the Hermit, who had little originality as a writer, and who neither sensed any sort of problems nor expressed any disturbing moral or social views. Yet he is very incorrect in his estimation of Bukharev, Nesmelov, Tareev, — uniquely original thinkers for us, begotten of spiritual means. He is very unjust to N. Fedorov. Fr. G. Florovsky is not at all given to have a feel for those new problems, which vexed these remarkable folk, and he does not speak about what is unique in their themes. Reading the book of Fr. G. Florovsky, one would not know what to make of the Pan-Christism of Bukharev, about the acquisition of Christ and the incarnation of Christ in all the fullness of life (moreover, certainly a negative characteristic of the book of Bukharev concerns the Apocalypse). But the author of our book chiefly is at pains that Bukharev was an oath-breaker, he left monasticism and married, as though this were his chief thing in life. The reader of our book likewise does not learn about the original religious anthropology of Nesmelov, about his unique anthropologic proof of the being of God, nor do we learn about the fundamental problem of Tareev concerning the uncontainability of the Gospel’s absoluteness in the relativity of history. The attribution of moralism is too easily given. N. Fedorov for Fr. G. Florovsky is not at all Christian, though no one in the history of Christianity had such a grieving over death as did he, such a thirst for a common Christian task. But the characterising of L. Tolstoy also is not only unjust, it is simply distressing. Such an attitude towards a supreme Russian writer, who had tremendous significance for the religious awakening of an indifferent Russian society, is also that selfsame nihilism, which Fr. G. Florovsky loves to detect in others. Even Ignatii Bryanchaninov emerges as not at all Orthodox. St. Seraphim of Sarov is dispatched under the heading of the historical school. Only historicism pleases Fr. G. Florovsky. Too many a place is allotted to third-rate and insignificant theologians. There is in the book no basic theme, no common thread, unless there be accounted a common thread in the struggle against romanticism.

In the book of Fr. G. Florovsky there is no treatment at all of the problematics of Russian religious philosophy, there is no treatment of what is unique to it in comparison to German and Western thought, the themes which in Russian religious thought posited the problem of the cosmos and the problem of man otherwise than posited in Western thought. Fr. G. Florovsky overlooks entirely the fundamental idea of God-manhood, he sees in it only an hodgepodge of western humanism. Everything boils down to this, that he has no feel for the religious theme of humanism. He does not see the deficiency of the Patristic anthropology. He does not at all understand Vl. Solov’ev’s  “Meaning of Love”, he cannot at all appreciate the significance of the problem of sex in V. Rozanov. Fr. G. Florovsky ends his history 17 years ago, i.e. he brings it up to the Revolution. It would have been better to end the XIX Century and not enter into the XX Century, which still has not solidified into history and involves struggle. Fr. G. Florovsky characterises both Fr. S. Bulgakov and me from 17 years beforehand, yet our chief books, defining our world-outlook, have been written in the 17 years following. This is just not right. Fr. G. Florovsky makes mention about my book, “The Meaning of Creativity” [English published title, “The Meaning of the Creative Act”]. In this he does not at all speak accurately about the religious problem posited by me concerning creativity and the anthropomorphic aspect connected with it. He characterises me as a German. Such a manner of qualification does not impress me. Truth cannot be a German truth, or Russian, or French, or Byzantine, it is rather the significant truth. The only significant thing is this, whether it be truth or it be mistaken thought, which Father G. Florovsky would term German. The philosophy of Kant and Hegel mustneeds be refuted not because it is German, but because one regard it as mistaken and false. But herein it requires fairness and attention to nuances and distinctions of thought. I indisputably place a very high value on German philosophy and have passed through its school of thought. But with me there are substantial differences from German philosophy. I am a very sharply outspoken personalist as regards my world-outlook. Whereas German idealism, particularly Fichte, Hegel and to a notable degree even Schelling, — were anti-personalist in their tendencies. This is a monistic philosophy. I many a time have criticised German idealist philosophy for its anti-personalism, for the absence within it of the correctly posited problem of man, for its monism, which is foreign to me. Remarkably even closer for me is the French philosophic current deriving from Maine de Biran, which is more anthropologic and more protective of person and freedom, although I was never under the direct influence of French philosophy. Fr. G. Florovsky never speaks about these distinctions and therefore he gives an inaccurate presentation. This was chiefly on the basis, that I am very fond of Jacob Boehme and I much esteem German mysticism. Of the German philosophers for me, ultimately, the closest was Kant, and rather less so Hegel, but even with Kant I have tremendous differences.

Fr. G. Florovsky does not defend the traditional-conservative, old-Orthodox outlook on civil and social life. But it remains unintelligible, what it is he would oppose to the social utopianism, which he denounces in Russian thought, what it is he thinks is the relation of Church and state, and how he would define the borders of the churchly and that external to the churchly, and also what sort of social order he would consider as corresponding to Orthodoxy. Christians at present in the West make tremendous efforts to define, what sort of social order they consider as corresponding to the demands of Christian conscience. Fr. G. Florovsky keeps it a secret to himself, and this leaves a false impression from the book. This secret is connected with the myth about a reknown author with a “true” Orthodoxy, a “true” theology, a “true” Patristics. The preaching of asceticism and the exploit of Father G. Florovsky produces a rhetorical impression, and it is completely fruitless. He speaks about theological problematics, about theological creativity, but it is totally unclear, what sort of theological creativity he decides upon or what sort of new theological problematics he advocates. He defends and guards the traditional Orthodoxy, but in essence he acknowledges no sort of authorities. With him there transpires the same thing, as happens with many other representatives of Ortodoksia. He desires, that God and the Church should speak, but not man. But God and the Church always wind up saying, what he says. This is a vicious circle. Despite all its deficiencies, the book of Fr. G. Florovsky can be very recommended for reading, it can be read with great interest and with great benefit. The book indeed demolishes for the contemporary un-educated generations the false faith in authority, the naive faith in the infallibility of metropolitans and bishops and in the immutable truthfulness and absoluteness of the Orthodoxy of the old, pre-revolutionary Russia. The Orthodoxy of Fr. G. Florovsky himself one hesitates to suspect. The book lays bare the contradiction and weakness of the exclusive safe-guarding of Orthodoxy, and by a negative path it returns to the themes and problems of Russian religious thought of the XIX and XX Centuries. This thought has its own limitations and is partially out-moded, whereas the contemporary thought is more refined, but attention to its problematics is needful for a vital, not dead, Christianity.

Nikolai Berdyaev


©  2001  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1937 – 424 – en)

ORTODOKSIYA  I  CHELOVECHNOST’. (Prot. Georgii Florovskii. Puti russkogo bogosloviya).  Journal Put’, apr.-july, 1937, No. 53, p. 53-65.

1Translator note: the word “Ortodoksiya” in Russian for “Orthodoxy” conveys a pejorative sense of narrow-minded legalism and ritualism, in contrast to the neutral and normal Russian word “Pravoslavie” for “Orthodoxy”. Hence, to retain this nuance in our translation, “Pravoslavie” is rendered “Orthodoxy”, but “Ortodoksia” aptly retains its awkward stiffness rendered also into English.