Concerns about the Great and Holy Council

The First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea

Soon the Orthodox Church will convoke a Great and Holy Council, the first such council in over a millennium. Though by no means ecumenical in any official sense (at least not yet), it is a historic meeting, for which I have felt a deep and abiding ambivalence.

I am a convert to the Orthodox Church. Unlike many converts, I did not see the deep and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church as providing me with resources to be more fundamentalistic than I was before (such as I hear creationists citing Basil as proof of a young earth). I was never a fundamentalist. What attracted me to Orthodoxy was the ambiguity of it all, which is another way of saying Mystery. Jaroslav Pelikan, another convert, described Orthodoxy as the church of the seven councils that we deem ecumenical. We have a lot of other canons, synods, traditions, and opinions, but they are not finally and firmly authoritative in the same way that those minimum of dogmas are.

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Sergei Bulgakov on Pens and Supernovas

A youngish not-priest Bulgakov
A youngish not-priest Bulgakov

The other night, my wife happened to dig up an old notebook. I flipped through its pages and happened upon this quotation from Sergei Bulgakov:

My moving my pen on a piece of paper, thus redistributing the atoms of ink, paper, the steel of the pen, and so on, is in principle just such a cosmic event as astronomical or geological catastrophes, though perhaps of lesser force (and even this is not certain, for we cannot measure these two events against each other).

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God’s Free Necessity: One Way Jonathan Edwards is Like Sergei Bulgakov

I recently submitted an invited chapter for a book called, The Ecumenical Edwards. The following (slightly edited) excerpt observes how Jonathan Edwards’s thoughts about the will comport with Bulgakov’s view that freedom and necessity are united in God, particularly when it comes to the “decision” to create.   Continue reading “God’s Free Necessity: One Way Jonathan Edwards is Like Sergei Bulgakov”

The Kingdoms of God and Constantine

So now I am going to sum up Part II of Orthodoxy without Empire. Last time I talked about the church-culture limen and two inadequate ways of relating to it. In Part II, I argue that a more coherent account of this limen can actually be found in the rubble of the Byzantine Empire. I know that sounds counterintuitive when you consider that one of the options I criticize is a kind of neo-imperialism, but hear me out, because I think what I am working toward is actually an anti-imperialistic. It’s this socio-political ideal called symphonia.

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Sophiology in Context

The following is an excerpt of an invited chapter on intersections between Edwards and Orthodoxy. It is still a bit of a rough draft. Be nice.


By Fr. Damian (St. Sophia mission), via Wikimedia Commons
By Fr. Damian (St. Sophia mission), via Wikimedia Commons

Sophiology is the child of Russia’s “Silver Age,” which one might think of as the 1960s of the late 1800s. It was a period of immense religious, philosophical, and artistic experimentation. Intellectual radicalism and political radicalism often go hand-in-hand, and Russia at the time was no exception. Conservative “slavophiles” were engaged in a kind of culture war with the more liberal “westernizers.” The former upheld the old traditions and Christian faith of Holy Russia. The latter wanted to remake their homeland in the image of secular Western Europe.[1] Because the church was effectively an arm of the state, radical intellectuals tended to see it as a backwards and corrupt institution (and rightly so). Vladimir Solovyov broke the mold, navigating between the Scylla of autocracy and the Charybdis of secularism by deploying the metaphor of Holy Wisdom – Sophia – to incorporate culture, and thus openness to its insights, into the stream of church tradition. This made Solovyov something of a radical slavophile; he critically incorporated western philosophy (especially German idealism) and western values (such as individual rights) into a political philosophy that was deeply informed by Russian Orthodox spirituality.[2]

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