Orthodoxy without Empire: The Problem of Symphonia

Sts. Peter and Paul Church, via Orthodox Wiki
Sts. Peter and Paul Church, via Orthodox Wiki

I’ve noticed something disturbing on certain blogs and Facebook profiles lately. Some of my sisters and brothers in the Orthodox Church seem wedded to Christendom. They describe themselves variously as monarchists, supporters of the imperium, and advocates for “symphonia.” Symphonia means “harmony.” Typically it is taken to mean that Orthodox politics promotes a harmony between church and state. This ethos is best captured in the image of the two headed eagle, wielding a cross in one talon and a sword in the other (the symbols vary). For Orthodox Christians like Stanley Harakas, symphonia should guide our involvement in a democratic society, but I get the impression that some would prefer we get our empire back.

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Jonathan Edwards is a Sophiologist (Part 2)

Jonathan Edwards (via Wikimedia Commons)
Jonathan Edwards (via Wikimedia Commons)

In my last post I briefly explained that I have been buried by an invited chapter for a book that takes an ecumenical approach to the theology of Jonathan Edwards.

This is Part 2 of what is at least a three-part series. I have been playing with my argument a bit. The information is all there. I could argue my point well over a beer. The struggle I have been having is putting it all on paper in a way that the reader can easily follow (especially if the reader does not know Edwards/Bulgakov well). I sometimes find that when I am trying to suss out an argument, putting it in blog form helps. So here you go. Snippets from my draft, abridged and somewhat edited Remember, draft! You will find silly typos. Be nice.

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Jonathan Edwards is a Sophiologist (Part 1, apparently)

The blog has taken a back seat over the past few weeks to an essay that’s kicking my butt that I’m working on. I’m making good progress and thanking God for generous editor extensions, but I find that in the thick of a complex academic argument, it can help to step back and explain to others, in plain speech, what I’m trying to say. A blogged a bit about this project a few months back when I noted the paucity of Orthodox interest in Jonathan Edwards. At the time, I was not ready to say out loud what my thesis was. Now I am. Are you ready?

Jonathan Edwards was a sophiologist.

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Apologies for my Silence

My goal when I started blogging was to write two posts per week. I think it is safe to say that I have not met that goal lately. We have been a bit short staffed at work, and I have been putting in long hours both in the office and at home just to keep up. I have also had to resign myself to the fact that, when keeping up is your goal, perfection cannot be. So the past month has been the month where I have been learning to be content with what is possible.

I am painfully aware of the fact that I have not met my goal with turning my dissertation into my book. I have to remind myself that this is not because of laziness. Rather, the opposite! It owes to the fact that, as my psychiatrist put it, I “tend to greatly overestimate my own capacities.” I have a hard time saying “No” to good opportunities.

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Ignoring Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (via Wikimedia Commons)
Jonathan Edwards (via Wikimedia Commons)

I am taking a momentary pause from my writing retreat to think out loud about a question that has been bugging me. I am working on an invited chapter for a book Kyle Strobel is editing which seeks various takes on the theology of Jonathan Edwards. If memory serves, it is called The Ecumenical Edwards.

I would say what I am working on, but I have heard a few stories about scholars stealing each others’ ideas to be a bit shy about that sort of thing. It does not happen often, but it happens. Continue reading “Ignoring Jonathan Edwards”

“Paul Evdokimov on Marriage” by Fr. Michael Plekon

The following is a brief summary and response to the final plenary paper delivered at the Sophia Institute Conference, December 7, at Union Theological Seminary.

Tjaarke Maas via Wikimedia Commons
Tjaarke Maas via Wikimedia Commons

I became familiar with the work of Fr. Michael Plekon early in my graduate work. I contributed to the (now defunct) Graduate Theological Society by following the latest articles in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly. That is where I read Plekon’s on The ‘Sacrament of the Brother/Sister’: The Lives and thought of Mother Maria Skobtsova and Paul Evdokimov.” Fr. Plekon focuses on contemporary “hagiography” – what makes someone a saint in the modern world? His work introduced me to Mother Maria Skobtsova (now St. Maria of Paris) and deepened my understanding of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov. Fr. Plekon is deeply formed by the tradition, yet also understands that the tradition is living and active. Like the liturgy itself, it takes up the world and offers it as a gift to God. Continue reading ““Paul Evdokimov on Marriage” by Fr. Michael Plekon”

A Lesson in Gratitude

The American Academy of Religion (AAR) society meeting has been going on last weekend. Most things wrap up sometime today. I was really hoping I could make it this year. It was in Chicago. I have a friend I could stay with, but our finances are pretty tight. I was trying to find a way to make it work right up until last Friday, but I just could not swing it.

I am a bit starved for intense theological dialogue. I learn best when I surround myself with people who are smarter than me. I have not been able to attend the past several AAR meetings, partly because of expense, and partly because I was trying to focus on my dissertation. Cost has kept me off the conference circuit for too long.
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