Sergius Bulgakov: The Active Passivity of the Afterlife

In preparation for my series on the eschatology of Fr Sergius Bulgakov, I thought I would reblog this article that I wrote a year ago on Bulgakov’s vision of the afterlife. Given that comments are now closed on the original article, feel free to post your thoughts, questions, and criticisms here.

Eclectic Orthodoxy


If the eschatological vision of St Isaac of Ninevah is to be fulfilled, then it must be possible for those who die outside of Christ Jesus to subsequently repent of their sins and turn to God in faith.

I invite you to bracket your skepticism and to entertain, for the moment, this possibility. What is life in the afterlife? The great Russian Orthodox theologian Fr Sergius Bulgakov thought deeply on this question. He was very much aware that he was treading upon holy ground, yet he also believed that the gospel of resurrection enjoined him to share with the Church his vision of the afterlife and its fresh possibilities.

In death the soul and spirit of the human person is separated from the body, but the soul remains united to the spirit, thus making possible continuing immortal existence. “The human spirit,” Bulgakov explains, “exists as the hypostatic potency of the…

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4 Responses to Sergius Bulgakov: The Active Passivity of the Afterlife

  1. Fr Sergius Bulgakov’s “Sophianism” was condemned as heresy in 1935 by both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The primary basis for the Council of Bishops of ROCOR’s determination were two book length works by Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev, +1950). Archbishop Seraphim
    guided Russian parishes in Bulgaria from the 1920s until his repose. He was buried in the St Nicholas Russian Church in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he is regarded as a saint by many; many miraculous healings have occurred at his tomb.
    Fr Sergius Bulgakov, as most of his colleagues in the milieu of the flawed “Paris Theology” took “inspiration” from the Russian Philosopher Vladimir Soloviev, a convert to Catholicism, whose pursuit was philosophy, not theology. They were also influenced heavily by Roman Catholic and Protestant purveyors of “liturgical renewal” as well as ecumenism, several practicing “intercommunion” with Anglicans. This was in the Paris St Sergius Institute, which included many philosophers (not theologians) among its instructors. These were members of the Russian intelligentsia, all adherents of the pre-revolutionary “Religio-Philosophical Society,” which began as as a sort of “fan club” for Soloviev’s “Sophianism.” Many had been exiled from the Soviet Union, on order of Lenin himself, at a time when Orthodox hierarchs, clergy, and people were being martyred in great numbers by the Soviet regime. These were paid a stipend by the Soviets while in exile, in an effort to prove their “humanitarianism” to the West.
    Eclectic, indeed!


  2. brian says:

    Ah, well, guess everyone should burn their Bulgakov books.

    Really, this sort of diatribe borders on character assassination. There were indeed political issues involved in the controversy with Bulgakov. He’s been ably defended, though one surmises nothing could be said to satisfy Mr. Woerl.

    Each person must follow their own spiritual path. There’s a kind of religious piety that I have discovered in every variety of Christian affiliation that tends to make fiery pronouncements, especially against those who are complex figures (Origen, Eckhart, Aquinas, Bulgakov, von Balthasar, etc.)

    Personally, I prefer those who are eclectic. I think that’s how the Holy Spirit works.


  3. It’s pet peeve, but i do wish people would spell (and pronounce) “Nineveh” correctly.
    It ends in “-eh” and rhymes with “say”— not “-ah”, rhyming with “hah”!
    Otherwise, great article.


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