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.
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. 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.
Let me start off by saying that it is not entirely accurate for me to say that Augustine mysteriously disappears from Bulgakov’s theology. He is more like a ghost, occasionally manifesting himself in the open, but most of the time he lurks in the dark corners of Bulgakov’s books, leaving his slimy ectoplasm between esoteric lines of prose. But “Mysterious Disappearance” sounds more intriguing than “the Invisible Augustine,” and I cannot resist the opportunity to plagiarize the wit of Tony Baker (who crafted possibly the best title for any paper I have ever heard presented anywhere).
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.
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.
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?
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.