Author Topic: Wisdom Christology  (Read 14925 times)

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Offline EkhristosAnesti

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Wisdom Christology
« on: August 08, 2004, 04:06:49 AM »
Ive recently had a keen interest in investigating the issue of the divinity of Christ and his inclusion in the unique identity of God, from the perspective of His being the Wisdom of God, and the implications this has.

Ive bought a few books written by some prominent NT Scholars: "Jesus the sage" by Ben Witherington, "God Crucified" by Richard Bauckham, "Johns wisdom" by Ben Witherington, and "NT and the people of God" by NT Wright.

These books discuss this issue from a detailed exegetical schorlarly perspective, and before i delve any further into it, id like to get a feel of the orthodox position of the hypostatization of the attributes of God and how this relates to Christ. Is it valid to say that Christ represents a mysterious revelation of the attributes of God in the humble flesh of a man to all mankind? Is Christs divinity a direct consequence of Him being this attribute of wisdom? Can we take His being Wisdom literally, and if not, then to what extent is he wisdom metaphorically? Is the statement "Jesus is God", simply an assertion of Christ being essential to God's identity, as one of three angles is essential to the identity of a triangle?

I probably sound very confused. I hope i can get some basic insights into this issue, before i delve into the scholars mind.

thanks
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Offline Grigorii

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2004, 04:38:58 AM »
Dearest to Christ EkhristosAnesti,

Tho I have read little of the authors you have mentioned (if anything) but, I would recommend that you read "Sophia; the Wisdom of God" by Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. He has studied the theme of Wisdom extensively, from a primarily theological-dogmatic point of view. He is not much concerned with reconstructing a historcial-critical Wisdom Christology, his theme is more expansive and includes trinitarian thought as well as a theology of creation.

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Offline Asteriktos

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2004, 07:48:08 AM »
And I would recommend that you not read that book by Bulgakov (unless you want to know what not to believe). :)

Offline Isaac

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2004, 02:06:47 PM »
I must concur with Paradosis.  Bulgakov and Soloviev were heretics and their teachings were specifically condemned at a Moscow synod.  They have, however, taken root among certain Russian intellectual circles in the diaspora.  Be ware.

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2004, 06:40:05 PM »
Be ware.

Don't be Ware.  Some people think he's also weird!  :P
This post gave me autism.

Since when has a Hierarch done anything for you? . . .

Apparently you can get the Juice or Power from a certain Icon.

Offline Elisha

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2004, 06:47:17 PM »
Don't be Ware.  Some people think he's also weird!  :P

 :cheeky:  Good one!

Offline Grigorii

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2004, 07:07:18 PM »
Dearest to Christ Isaac,

Fr. Bulgakov is by no means even close to a heretic, he's much closer to being a Church Father of our times. As Metropolitan Eulogios (his friend and Bishop) said at his funeral "he was both apostolic in his life as well as his teaching." Fr. Bulgakov never received any limitations on his teaching or ministry, he was, however, asked to clarify his "sophiology" and Metropolitan Eulogios pronounced  Fr. Bulgakov free from the supicion of heresy. Fr. Bulgakov has always kept his chair as prof. of Dogmatic Theology as St. Sergius in Paris, and he was never restricted in any way whatsoever. Though admittedly, his sophiology is controversial. Concerning a Moscow Synod,.. Fr. Bulgakov was under jurisdiction of Constantinopel not Moscow, and was pronounced free of all suspicion of heresy by his Bishop (Metropolitan Eulogios).

Vladimir Solovyov is another matter, tho not a heretic (he was never condemned as one) he did have gnostic leanings in his poetry (available in English as translated by Boris Jakim)  from which Fr. Bulgakov distanced himself. It is true that Solovyov converted to Roman Catholicism (influenced by RC Bishop Strossmayer), but Solovyov returned to the Orthodox Church and before his death was confessed by an Orthodox priest.

The best of Fr. Bulgakov lives on in the theology of Paul Evdokimov, Mother Maria Skobstova (both pupils of Fr. Bulgakov), Sister Joanna Reitlinger (Iconographer who revivitalized Iconography together with Fr. Gregory Krug and Leonid Ouspensky), Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, Fr. Michael Meerson and the great Liturgiologist Fr. Alexander Schmemann.

The work of Boris Jakim makes available to the english reading world Fr. Bulgakov's theologizing and with this the hope that those who have controverted his theology may soon be put to shame, as were those who controverted the teaching of St. Symeon the New Theologian, and those who controverted the teaching of St. Gregorios Palamas.

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Offline Grigorii

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2004, 09:25:06 AM »
A last note on the Orthodoxy of Fr. Bulgakov:

"The heritage of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, one of the most outstanding Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century, has not yet been really studied in Russia either. Lossky’s and Metropolitan Sergius’ (Stargorodsky) criticisms of Bulgakov's “sophiology” were far from exhausting or closing the argument, but only the first phase of a discussion which has not yet gained momentum."

H.H. Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria and the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions.

"Orthodox Theology on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century" Full article

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Offline Etienne

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2004, 05:28:31 PM »
With all due respect to you Grigorii the list of those you cite as referees for Fr Sergius Bulgakov would seem to share his 'innovation' and 'deviation' from Orthodoxy. While the 'Paris' school may be taken with Bulgakov many other sound Orthodox hierarchs and theologians are not.

The comparison with St Gregory Palamas too appears unworthy..........
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Offline Grigorii

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2004, 08:51:25 AM »
Dearest to Christ Etienne,

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With all due respect to you Grigorii the list of those you cite as referees for Fr Sergius Bulgakov would seem to share his 'innovation' and 'deviation' from Orthodoxy.

None of the mentioned persons have in fact deviated from Orthodoxy, rather they are champions of Orthodoxy, by their lives and their teaching.

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While the 'Paris' school may be taken with Bulgakov many other sound Orthodox hierarchs and theologians are not.

Which is no problem,.. As H.H. Hilarion Alfeyev has axplained "private opinions" of the Fathers may differ, may even represent opposite sides of a spectrum. This was quite permissible in Orthodoxy than, and it is equally fine in this time. Those disagreeing, or even opposing Fr. Bulgakov (Metropolitan Sergius, Fr. George Florovsky, Vladimir Lossky etc.), do not endanger their Orthodoxy,.. Nor do those who are favorable towards Fr. Bulgakov (Frs. Michael Plekon, and Michael Meerson, Paul Evdokimov etc.) and continue his work.

Tho it must not be thought that the 'Paris School' is limited to Bulgakov,.. The 'neo-Patristic Synthesis'  spearheaded by Fr. Florovsky is also a trend within[/b] the ' Paris School' ; it would be better to distinguish within the Paris School, the Russian School and the Neo-Patristic School. The Neo-Patristic School has received the most attention until now, but the scales are slowly balanced by the the increasing availability of books sounding another Orthodox voice; the Russian School (among whom was Fr. Bulgakov).

Both base their theology firmly on patristic soil, but with different attitudes. The one merely wishes to bring in remembrance the teaching of the Fathers (Neo Patristic Synthesis), the other wants to continue the work of the Fathers (Russian School). For this reason the former sometimes argues that the latter deviate from Orthodoxy, whereas the latter sometimes argues that the former ' quench the Holy Spirit' by denying His presence and guidance in this time. In this impasse the one denies ' full Orthodoxy' to the other, and in my opinion, unnecessarily.

Something similar is also known in our own times,.. Fr. Seraphim Rose, also a prominent figure in the re-vitalizing of the Orthodox Church, has been accused of heresy and marked as a ' gnostic'  by a great and knowledgeable Orthodox apologist; Fr. Michael Azkoul. The debate is about what happens in the afterlife, Fr. Seraphim adheres to a very literal interpretation olf the "toll houses" and precisely this interpretation is branded ' gnosticism' and denial of grace by Fr. Azkoul. Both are well-known Orthodox priests and have done the Church a great service by their ministry; yet they are on the opposite side of the spectrum. The charges of heresy arise for two reasons I speculate:
1) not really understanding what the other is saying
2) a failure to recognize that "private opinions" that differ are allowed in Orthodoxy as long as they do not move beyond dogmatically defined borders.

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The comparison with St Gregory Palamas too appears unworthy..........

As I remember,.. St. Gregorios Palamas was also challenged precisely concerning his Orthodoxy when he elaborated on the Cappadocian distinction between Essence and Energy in God. St. Gregorios used language not (at that time) universally accepted. He both clarified and developed Orthodox truth as the heresy of Barlaam and Akyndinos forced him to.

Like St. Gregorios, Fr. Bulgakov was accused of heresy, but pronounced free of all suspicion of heresy (also like St. Gregorios Palamas), and Fr. Bulgakov's sophiology is rooted precisely in St. Gregorios'  theology of Essence and Energies. Also the saintly walk of life of both these great teachers are equally saintly and worthy of our veneration and imitation.

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Offline JohnCassian

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2004, 11:23:45 AM »
Both base their theology firmly on patristic soil, but with different attitudes. The one merely wishes to bring in remembrance the teaching of the Fathers (Neo Patristic Synthesis), the other wants to continue the work of the Fathers (Russian School).


I would argue that this is actually the problem with Fr. Bulgakov.  Rather than going back to the fountainhead of the Fathers, he tended to base a fair amount of his theologizing upon the contemporary state of Russian Tradition, and in some cases traditions.  

So, for example, his extended argumentation that St. John the Forerunner was an 'incarnate angel', based large upon his iconographic representation with wings.  Now, you don't have to understand iconography very well to know that this isn't why St. John is portrayed with wings.  And a few scriptural quotations can easily disprove the thesis that St. John was anything but a perfectly sanctified man.

This isn't to say that Fr. Bulgakov was a heretic on this point.  Just that he taught something that is incorrect, and deviates from the general Orthodox position.  Origen, for example, seems to have taught that St. John was the literal reincarnation of St. Elias.  I put the two in the same category, and incorrect teaching based on a misunderstanding, and easily corrected.

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Something similar is also known in our own times,.. Fr. Seraphim Rose, also a prominent figure in the re-vitalizing of the Orthodox Church, has been accused of heresy and marked as a ' gnostic'  by a great and knowledgeable Orthodox apologist; Fr. Michael Azkoul.


I would argue that this is another example of the same thing.  The problem with Fr. Seraphim's view is first of all that it is incorrect and does bear a striking resemblance to certain Gnostic texts.  But, its not the product of him being a Gnostic.  Its a product of him taking certain writings, and translations of the Fathers, from 19th Century Russia at face value, even though they can be demonstrated to be incorrect.  He failed to look at his sources critically, and so in most cases, he passed on the Tradition as it was received in Russian Orthodoxy.  In other cases, like this one, he passed on a tradition that is actually incorrect.  Fr. Michael tends to greatly overstate his rhetoric and make it unnecessarily personal, rather than just explaining why this is an error, and how the otherwise exemplary Fr. Seraphim came to hold it.

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Fr. Bulgakov's sophiology is rooted precisely in St. Gregorios'  theology of Essence and Energies.


Certainly.  And though I believe it to be in error, I believe that there is a way of understanding it, likely the way Fr. Bulgakov intended it, that isn't overtly heretical.  I have two problems with it, and I think these are the problems that most of the critics you've mentioned have with it, at least in broad strokes.  

1)  Fr. Bulgakov rejects the interpretation of certain portions of Scripture which are held uniformly by the Fathers with regard to wisdom Christology as incorrect and incomplete.  Many of us believe that they are correct, and complete, and Fr. Bulgakov is needlessly innovating.  

2)  Though Fr. Bulgakov protested much, and I'm sure honestly, that he was not intending to add a fourth member of the Holy Trinity, this is precisely how his work has been taken by a number of groups, including a fairly large segment of Episcopalians who now engage in goddess worship of Sophia.

Putting these two together, I think many see that Fr. Bulgakov is innovating.  As you say, if it were merely a privately held opinion, there would not be much of an issue.  But the fact that these particular teachings, when received by lesser intellects than Fr. Bulgakov, have led many astray into a heresy of which Fr. Bulgakov is innocent means that Orthodoxy must step up and correct this view, for the sake of the souls who may be led by it in a direction other than that intended by Fr. Bulgakov.

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Also the saintly walk of life of both these great teachers are equally saintly and worthy of our veneration and imitation.


Whether or not Fr. Bulgakov will be Sainted remains to be seen, but this is absolutely the correct principle.  Just like St. Augustine, despite several dogmatic errors, lived the life of a Saint, and therefore is rightly titled one, we cannot overstep our bounds and attack a man over mistaken views.  This is the problem that Fr. Michael Azkoul has.  Rather than merely correcting Fr. Seraphim, he calls him a Gnostic.  It behoves us to correct our errant brethren, and even our errant Fathers in the Faith, with charity, and not with hubris regarding our own Orthodoxy.

To quote Nietzsche, "There is more to be learned from the errors of great men than the truths of the lesser."

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Offline Grigorii

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Re:Wisdom Christology
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2004, 05:36:38 PM »
Dearest to Christ JohnCassian,

Thank you for an informed and well-balanced reply. I appreciate very much th gentle and humble spirit in which you wrote it, for this reason it breathes much more Orthodoxy as do my own replies oftentimes.

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I would argue that this is actually the problem with Fr. Bulgakov.  Rather than going back to the fountainhead of the Fathers, he tended to base a fair amount of his theologizing upon the contemporary state of Russian Tradition, and in some cases traditions.

Whereas I would say that Fr. Bulgakov simply recognized the historical limitations of patristics, and that he also recognized that the patristic age did not stop but still endures. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Fathers still inspires the Church today! His concept of Tradition is that it is a live, and that it develops (though he would have rejected Newman's doctrinal development thesis I suspect). Fr. Bulgakov sees Tradition as upwardly open and that its life continues in our time and he humbly sought to be a part of it. Neopatristic scholars tend to see Tradition as static and closed off. Tho neither position is Orthodox per se or heretical per se, I personally think the Neopatristic position is flawed.

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So, for example, his extended argumentation that St. John the Forerunner was an 'incarnate angel', based large upon his iconographic representation with wings.  Now, you don't have to understand iconography very well to know that this isn't why St. John is portrayed with wings.  And a few scriptural quotations can easily disprove the thesis that St. John was anything but a perfectly sanctified man.

Which is precisely Fr. Bulgakov's point as he assures us in his beautiful contemplation on St. John the Forerunner :

"Because he was a human being, the Forerunner of course always remained a human being. A human being can never, and in no manner, stop being a human being: he can never be un-humanized. If John were not a human being he could not have become the Forerunner and the Baptist, or the friend of the Bridegroom, for this is possible only for a human being. Nevertheless, this human being became an angel, was raised to the angelic order. The angelic image was incorporated in him (and this was realized not in the sense of a mere resemblance but in some essential way)."
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov "The Friend of the Bridegroom" p. 156.

Clearly, to Fr. Bulgakov, St. John the Forerunner is and always has been a human being. Not an angel, and certainly not an angel incarnate. St. John's true and real humanity is absolutely essential to Fr. Bulgakov's view of the Forerunner, as he himself so strongly emphasizes. What than is this "incorporation of the angelic image" that he speaks of? Fr. Bulgakov continues:

"The human nature cannot be enriched further, for it contains everything. Man was created to have "dominion" over creation. Therefore, the addition of the angelic image to man signifies not a change of the human nature but an emancipation of the latter from the lusts and passions of the flesh, as it was said about the antedeluvian man: "He also is flesh" (Gen. 6, 3). It is in this sense that the Church hymn says of the Forerunner that he was ' an angel because he lived as one without flesh.'"
Fr. Bulgakov "The Friend of the Bridegroom", p.156.

Concerning the Icon of the Forerunner with wings,.. Fr. Bulgakov interprets the wings as signs of St. John's freedom from the passions, and in this his angelic features consist. St. John lived the ascetic life of a monk, which is also called the "angelic life" in monastic spiritual literature. There is nothing heretical, or even strange about this. Fr. Bulgakov is quite Orthodox in his interpretation here. His creativity (innovative, but quite Orthodox) finds expression in the interpretation of the necessity[/b] of the Forerunner as Forerunner, Baptist and Friend of the Bridegroom.

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This isn't to say that Fr. Bulgakov was a heretic on this point.  Just that he taught something that is incorrect, and deviates from the general Orthodox position.

Rather what is apparent here is that Fr. Bulgakov is not understood correctly, but incorrectly. He did not teach what he is said to have taught. This is a very common problem with Fr. Bulgakov,.. He is not easy to read, his writings are philosophically and theologically very dense and technical. This is quite allright for those who are well-grounded in philosophy and theology, but those who are less adapt are bound to misunderstand. St. Peter's warning in regard to the letters of St. Paul comes to mind here:

"14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation--as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction[/b], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3)."

Not that Fr. Bulgakov's writings equal Scripture, but the principle that I emphasized in this passage is true of Fr. Bulgakov and his critics as well as it was true for St. Paul and his critics.

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Origen, for example, seems to have taught that St. John was the literal reincarnation of St. Elias.  I put the two in the same category, and incorrect teaching based on a misunderstanding, and easily corrected.

Again a misunderstanding which is easily corrected by looking up the passage where Origen actually discussess St. Elijah and the doctrine of reincarnation. Origen unmistakeably rejects reincarnation as un-Orthodox and alien to the Christian Faith and presents an interpretation which denies reincarnation and even takes away the hint of reincarnation many desire to be there. Origen confronted such views, denied them, and gave a an Orthodox interpretation of St. Elijah and St. John the Forerunner.

It was St. Jerome who, knowing better, did not find it beyond himself to accuse Origen of reincarnation. But the only place where Origen is actually connected to reincarnation is in Jerome's accusations not in reality however.

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1)  Fr. Bulgakov rejects the interpretation of certain portions of Scripture which are held uniformly by the Fathers with regard to wisdom Christology as incorrect and incomplete.  Many of us believe that they are correct, and complete, and Fr. Bulgakov is needlessly innovating.

Not exactly,.. Fr. Bulgakov fully accepts wisdom Christology, but he rejects a one-sided wisdom Christology which would limit Wisdom to Christ alone. Following St. Augustine, Fr. Bulgakov emphasizes that Wisdom is the Father's and the Spirit's as well. Fr. Bulgakov sees the onesided identification of Wisdom with Logos "incomplete" and his sophiology is an attempt to complete it. Fr. Bulgakov is neither unnecessarly innovating nor does he reject traditional wisdom Christology; rather he develops it further. Now of course there can be agreement and disagreement about the interpretation he gives, but to say he rejects a uniformly held interpretation of the Fathers is not correct.

"Logos as the Second Hypostasis is not identical with Sophia, the non-hypostatic Divinity in God; Sophia here is the self-revelation of the entire Holy Trinity. This onesidedly logological conception of Sophia contaisn the proton pseudos, the primordial defect, of all patristic sophiology, which was forced to fit the entire sophiological problematic into logology and even christology."
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, "The Bride of the Lamb", p. 16.

"But logological sophiology does not exhaust the entire content of the patristic of Sophia. Next to this main current, a second stream arises,  which can be called applied sophiology. That is, among a number of Fathers (St. Gregory the Divine, St. John of Damascus, St. Maximus the Confessor, Pseudo-Dionysios, and St. Augustine), we encounter the doctrine of the prototypes, paradigms, or ideas of creaturely being in God."
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, "The Bride of the Lamb", p. 16.

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2)  Though Fr. Bulgakov protested much, and I'm sure honestly, that he was not intending to add a fourth member of the Holy Trinity, this is precisely how his work has been taken by a number of groups, including a fairly large segment of Episcopalians who now engage in goddess worship of Sophia.

Fr. Bulgakov has strongly emphasized that Sophia is not a person, she is personal but not a person. Sophia is (in a sense) the Divine Ousia (in so far as it can be known in revelation that is in Energies) and the Ousia of God is personal because it belongs to the personal God, without Itself being a person. Fr. Bulgakov has stated this over and over again spread over all his sophiological dogmatics.

"However, she is not a "hypostasis" but a "hypostatizedness," which belongs to the personal life of the hypostasis, and because of this she is a living essence."
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, "The Bride of the Lamb", p. 39.

"God's nature is, in this sense, the creative self-positing of Divinity, God's personal - trihypostatic - act. This act is the Divine Sophia, the self-positing and self-revelation of the Holy Trinity."
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, "The Bride of the Lamb", p. 42.

Fr. Bulgakov is quite clearly NOT[/b] saying she is a "fourth divine person" in the Trinity. This is also a common misconcenption of Fr. Bulgakov's theologizing, which will soon be corrected as more of his works are translated from Russian into English increasing their availability.

Tho I will admit that Fr. Bulgakov did use terms and expressions that strongly suggested he taught a "fourth person", but he soon corrected this sort of language that he had adopted from Fr. Pavel Florensky (an Orthodox martyr).

The fact that Episcopalians and perhaps others are constructing heretical and even pagan sophiologies does no more damage to Orthodox sophiology as tri-theism and pagan triad-worship damage the Orthodox doctrien of the Trinity.

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Putting these two together, I think many see that Fr. Bulgakov is innovating.  

Innovation is necessarily a part of Tradition guided by the Holy Spirit,.. The Nicene homoousion was also an "innovation" and quite a controversial one (even the Orthodox had trouble with the "homoousion" due to its materialist, Valentinian, and Sabellian connections). Yet the innovative move to safeguard the apostolic truth of the consubstantial Trinity by introducing the term "homoousion" (consubstantial) into Orthodox theology and worship, was certainly a very inspired and Traditional one. Innovation is Traditional, it is the creativity of Tradition. Deviation is also an innovation, but one that is disconnected from Tradition and is contrary to it instead of imbedded in it and a development of it. Fr. Bulgakov's sophiology is a Traditional innovation, the importance and magnitude of which is now under judgment of the Holy Spirit in the Church. There are a few possibilities as I see it;

1) the Church accepts Fr. Bulgakov's theology as it also accepted St. Athanasius'  homoousioanism (among other things).

2) the Church ecumenically pronounces an anathema on Fr. Bulgakov's theology.

3) the Church continues to classify Fr. Bulgakov's theology as Orthodox "private opinion" not necessary to salvation, and non-dogmatic in this sense.

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As you say, if it were merely a privately held opinion, there would not be much of an issue.  But the fact that these particular teachings, when received by lesser intellects than Fr. Bulgakov, have led many astray into a heresy of which Fr. Bulgakov is innocent means that Orthodoxy must step up and correct this view, for the sake of the souls who may be led by it in a direction other than that intended by Fr. Bulgakov.

What is needed is not so much a correction of Fr. Bulgakjov but a correction of the views his critics mistakenly have ascribed to him. Just as the criticism of Jehova's Wittnessess of Trinitarianism as Tritheism does not require us to abandon and correct Orthodox Trinitarianism, but rather requires the correction of the critics of Orthodox Trinitarisnism (the JW's), and a continued, teaching of the Orthodox dogma of the Most Holy Trinity. Likewise, there is no need to correct Fr. Bulgakov, but there is need to correct those who (knowingly or unknowingly) misrepresent him.

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Whether or not Fr. Bulgakov will be Sainted remains to be seen, but this is absolutely the correct principle.  Just like St. Augustine, despite several dogmatic errors, lived the life of a Saint, and therefore is rightly titled one, we cannot overstep our bounds and attack a man over mistaken views.  This is the problem that Fr. Michael Azkoul has.  Rather than merely correcting Fr. Seraphim, he calls him a Gnostic.  It behoves us to correct our errant brethren, and even our errant Fathers in the Faith, with charity, and not with hubris regarding our own Orthodoxy.

To quote Nietzsche, "There is more to be learned from the errors of great men than the truths of the lesser."

Absolutely so!

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Grigorii

If you have not yet received the charism of prayer or of psalmody, then ask perseveringly, and you will receive!

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Offline amartolos

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Re: Wisdom Christology
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2005, 03:30:16 AM »
I have just joined this group, and this is the first thread of comments I've stumbled across.  The discussion on Bulgakov's Sophiology is quite interesting.  I myself am undecided on the issue concerning the validity of his doctrine concerning whether the Wisdom of God can be associated with the Trinitarian essence, and whether it can be said to describe the economic role of both the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

But I would like to comment on the idea of innovation, as stated in the postings above.  While it is true that the Fathers used non-Christian terms such as hypostasis to properly convey the Christian mindset in the parlance of their time, this cannot be construed as innovation per se.  I think the legacy that Fr. Georges Florovsky leaves us points to a better understanding of the Patristic phronema in this matter. 

Revelation was sealed in Christ, in the Incarnation--closed for all time.  From the time of Pentecost until now, the Apostolic Deposit has remained intact.  The genius of the Fathers was in their ability to clarify Holy Tradition, to crystalize the mind of the Church, to express it in terms understandable to their contemporaries (the language of philosophy), and to enrich the inner life of the Church as was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  But this was only possible because the Fathers spoke as members of the Body, with knowledge gained existentially: real, living knowledge only gained by a maximalist life in Christ.

But the most important thing to remember is that the Fathers usually avoided delving into mysteries beyond the ken of the creature (in all our finiteness).  Mostly, they spoke out of necessity in order to defend the Faith and to draw dogmatic perimeters around it to protect Christians from being lead astray from "sound doctrine."  When they did venture into theolgoumena, they were usually quick to point out that their opinions were just that (unlike many modern thinkers who state their beliefs with a dogmatic air).

The legacy of the Neo-Patristic school is not one of dead traditionalism, but rather a return to Patristic thinking.  We are so far separated from the phronema of the Fathers,  and Orthdoxy has been so distorted by Latin influences (as Fr. Alexander Schmemann so often pointed out), that we must discard this baggage first.   And more importantly, we must be actualizing our salvation, striving for our theosis with every ounce of our being.  Filled with the Light of Tabor, then we can rightly theologize.

This being said, I feel that our efforts should be directed towards that which is needful in our day: addressing certain errors  within (theology) and challenges from without (apologetics).  I would rather praise other theologians such as Staniloae (for addressing errors in Triadology, etc.), Schmemann (for emphasizing the Eucharistic foundation of the Church), and Zizioulas (for emphasizing the need to return to more traditional episcopal structures).  Bulgakov, while writing many outstanding treatises in support of his ideaology, was not (in my opinion) addressing any pressing need in the life of the Church.  The only positive outcome of his work was it's influence on Evdokimov, who brought his teacher's teachings full circle back to Orthodoxy and applied them positively to male/female relationships in order to uplift the traditional Orthodox view of marriage.

One more thing I'd like to mention, regarding the points raised about Bulgakov's sanctity.  I've not been able to find much information on his personal life (other than his supposed association with Prince Trubetskoy's secret society for Sophists, which smacks of Gnostic exclusivism).  However, the life of one of his opponents, St. John Maximovitch, has been widely documented.  Although his canonization is not accepted by all, the depth of St. John's sanctity is obvious.  A bishop who knew him well once told me that he was the greatest mystic he had ever met (from a heirarch who had the privilege to meet many notable modern saints).  St. John saw definite problems with Sophiology, and it's effect on the Church.  He also thought it reeked of the poison of the same Russian Inteligentsia that St. John of Kronstadt prophesied would bring the Russian nation to it's demise.

Honestly, I feel that the Orthodox Way is the middle road between liberalism and rigorism, between innovation and legalism.  I quite like Bulgakov's term  "living tradition."  But rightly applied, this means that we acquire the mind of the Fathers, and then apply that mindset to the problems of our day in order to build up the Body of Christ.  Our mission has to be selfless, caring not for scholarly glory.  And we must always be cautious as we proceed, knowing that salvation--both our own and eveyone else's--is "the one thing needful."  If we cause our brother to stumble, we are guilty of a grave sin.

It could be that Bulgakov simply went "too far" in many of his concepts, which is why he remains a source of controversy.  This should be lesson to all of us who practice theology to walk circumspectly.

In Christ,

o amartolos
« Last Edit: January 17, 2005, 05:26:17 PM by amartolos »