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In The Eastern Christian Tradition in Modern Russian Thought and Beyond, Teresa Obolevitch reflects on the ontology and anthropology of neo-patristic synthesis and its connection to Western philosophy, with a focus on the work of Georges Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky. The book also examines the concept of apophaticism in Russian philosophy: in neo-patristic synthesis and the thought of Semyon Frank and Lev Karsavin, as well as in epistemological and cosmological comparison with process theology. Additionally, Obolevitch’s work undertakes a comparative analysis of the reception of Russian sophiology in the West, especially in the work of Thomas Merton, and also considers similarities between neo-patristic synthesis and Zen Buddhism in the thought of Merton and Sergey Horujy.

Abstract

This chapter presents the theme of apophaticism in Russian philosophy of the twentieth century. For this reason, the author analyzes the philosophical premises of Eastern Christian apophaticism, based on the Church Fathers’ distinction between divine unknowable essence and divine knowable energies or activities, which reflect the transcendent and immanent aspects of God, respectively. One can distinguish two different forms of the reception of apophaticism in modern Russian thought. The first, developed by Georges Florovsky, referred to the Eastern patristic tradition. This line was also explored by Vladimir Lossky, however, he also analyzed the threads of apophaticism in the thought of Western thinker Meister Eckhart, who distinguished between divine being as essence and divine being as activity. The second way of apophaticism, represented by Semyon Frank, was inspired by the negative theology of Nicholas of Cusa. In turn, Lev Karsavin combined both ways of apophaticism, going back to the Eastern Christian and Western thought.

In: The Eastern Christian Tradition in Modern Russian Thought and Beyond

Abstract

The conclusion demonstrates the relevance and importance of Neopatristic synthesis for contemporary research in philosophy and theology. For instance, the “discourse of energies,” as distinguished by Sergey Horujy and conducted in terms of divine energies, has significant heuristic potential in respect to theological investigations. Nevertheless, a radical version of Neopatristic synthesis—treating this concept as the only legitimate approach in the spirit of fundamentalism—results in side effects and even certain dangers. The patristic renewal should be conducted with great sensitivity to contemporary problems and questions, and taken up by specialists in various fields. Historical studies of patristics sources are not enough for fruitful dialogue with contemporary philosophical issues. Another danger is concordism, or the adjustment of patristic thought with the achievements of modern science. The aim of this book is not to make Neopatristic studies a model for solving philosophical and theological problems, but to go beyond the rigid framework of this concept.

In: The Eastern Christian Tradition in Modern Russian Thought and Beyond

Abstract

This chapter attempts to answer the question of God’s presence and action in the world from two philosophical and theological perspectives: the thought of the Eastern Church Fathers (the fourth to sixth centuries) and process philosophy and theology (the twentieth century). The first paragraph is devoted to Orthodox cosmology, which explicitly emphasizes the divine presence in the created world. The second section compares some patristic ideas with the thought of A. N. Whitehead and his contemporary followers. Both the Eastern Church Fathers and process philosophers developed the concept of panentheism, which makes it possible to explain God’s immanent presence in the world, on the one hand, and His transcendent character, on the other. Next, the author analyzes the scientific and theological picture of the world within the Eastern Christian tradition. In addition, the author discusses one attempt to unify this picture: namely, Vladimir Solovyov’s sophiology, including its development in the work of his twentieth-century successors.

In: The Eastern Christian Tradition in Modern Russian Thought and Beyond

Abstract

This chapter is devoted to the exploration of the concept of Neopatrstic synthesis and its evolution in the thought of Georges Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky. The author presents an outline of the creative path of both thinkers. According to them, Neopatristic synthesis should be treated as an alternative to the so-called religious-philosophical renaissance, which draws too much on the Western tradition and neglects the original Byzantine heritage. On the base of a comparative analysis of Florovsky’s and Zenkovsky’s vision of Russian philosophy, the author demonstrates the shortcomings of Florovsky’s too radical treatment of Neopatristic synthesis as the only valid model of philosophizing. This chapter also discusses in detail Vladimir Lossky’s anthropology. Lossky developed an Eastern Christian concept of deification, which also has epistemological significance concerning the possibility of knowing God. In turn, in his ontology Lossky used the theory of attributive analogy borrowed from Meister Eckhart. Thus, this chapter reveals a double dimension of Neopatristic synthesis: both apophatic and cataphatic.

In: The Eastern Christian Tradition in Modern Russian Thought and Beyond

Abstract

This chapter considers two possible directions of dialogue between the Western and Eastern Christian traditions in the modern world. First, it presents a perspective on the development of sophiology in contemporary philosophical and theological studies developed in the West. Neopatristic synthesis and sophiology (developed in the school of the so-called religious-philosophical renaissance) are most productively considered not as two disconnected and antagonistic projects, but as complementary towards each other. Moreover, the founders of Neopatristic synthesis, including Georges Florovsky, themselves drew on the work of one of the most prominent representatives of sophiology, Sergius Bulgakov. This chapter also illuminates the creative dialogue between Russian religious thought and Japanese Zen Buddhism. We find an example of this comparative study in the work of the American twentieth-century monk Thomas Merton, who took a keen interest in Russian Eastern Christian philosophy, literature, and mysticism. Another illustration is found in the thought of Sergey Horujy, contemporary Russian thinker and founder of synergistic anthropology. Horujy not only studied patristic thought, but also was engaged in research on Eastern religions.

In: The Eastern Christian Tradition in Modern Russian Thought and Beyond
Author:
In this volume of Essays in Ecumenical Theology Ivana Noble engages in conversations with Orthodox theologians and spiritual writers on diverse themes. These include the discovery of the human heart, what illumination by divine light means, the relationship between prayer and attitudes and acts of social solidarity, the problematic nature of sacrificial thinking as the way to express redemption through Christ, the ecological dimension of theological anthropology, the need for freedom to coexist with love for others and why institutions need to turn not only to their own traditions but also to the Spirit that blows where it wills.