Bulgakov’s Reply to the Charge of Heresy

This entry was posted in Sergius Bulgakov. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Bulgakov’s Reply to the Charge of Heresy

  1. danaames says:

    Fr Aidan, I am not able to see anything but the title and the footer; same for Thomas Aquinas & the Big Bang.

    Dana

    Like

    • danaames says:

      Okay, so once I logged in to WordPress I am able to see the entry. That never happened to me before on you site. Go figure…

      D.

      Like

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        That’s curious. Anyone else having that problem?

        I looked at my site with both Chrome and Safari (anonymous mode) and was able to view both documents just fine.

        The solution may be as simple as clearing the browser cache. I don’t know.

        Like

        • Rhonda says:

          I use Mozilla Firefox & cannot see the articles either…never had that problem before & this is a new computer ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Like

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Rhonda, are you using a PC or Mac? Same question for Dana. I can see the documents with Firefox but I am using the Mac version.

            Like

          • ddpbf says:

            Do you have AdBlocck or NoScript installed by chance? It could be some script related to Scribd is blocked.
            I use Firexox, and have no problems, tough I am using Linux, not Windows.

            Like

  2. ddpbf says:

    I can see documents. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Anyway, according to Alexis Klimoff, Metropolitan Eulogius was, quite sceptical of Bulgakov’s Orthodoxy. It went that far, that Bulgakov included him in list of sophiomachos. Sophiology created significant split in Russian community in Paris, back in 30’s, and persons who were leading critics of Bulgakov were Lossky and especial Florovsky, one of two members of Metropolitan comission who refused to ratify clearance of Bulgakov.

    Like

  3. brian says:

    Really, so what? Read Bulgakov yourself and make a decision.

    Like

    • ddpbf says:

      Well, on this matter its not my personal decision that matter, but how Church should judge fr. Sergius’ theological opus. After all, remember inner catholicity criteria. ROCOR and Moscow Patriarchate condemned his works, Metropolitan Eulogius (Head of Russian Metropolis in Western Europe under Ecumenical Patriarchate), called conference and theologigcal comission who cleared Bulgakov, altough they were concerned over full implications of sophiology. There is also, fact, Bulgakov was Filioque apologist.

      Like

  4. ddpbf says:

    And, if my opinion matters anything, I dont think we could proclaim fr Sergius, straight heretic. But, we must admitt there are prominent heterodox motives in his works. This was Lossky’s and Florovsky’s point. And, that two names are, without doubt, most significant theologians of Orthodox Chruch in first half of XX century.

    Like

  5. brian says:

    Well, I am a western Christian. I’m not coming at this from your perspective. I appreciate what you are saying. From where I am at, I am annoyed by Orthodox who downgrade a thinker like Paul Evdokimov, for instance, as the sort who is good for those who are just getting interested in Orthodoxy, but not the “real thing.” I think the Orthodox polemic against western forms of Christianity is often unfair and it sometimes exaggerates differences. Christos Yannaras is a profound thinker who has many significant insights, but like many Orthodox, I think he is just plain wrong about Aquinas and unbalanced in his judgement of Augustine. He’s sometimes right, though.

    I do see why Orthodox would have a problem with the Filoque, but I also think that Bulgakov tried to bridge the gap and I like him for trying. His way of looking at it makes sense to me. Figures like DB Hart, Philip Sherrard, Evdokimov, Florensky, Zizioulas, and Bulgakov have influenced my thinking. I also like Nicholae Berdyaev, who admittedly held some heterodox views. These thinkers speak to my existential condition. In living my unique life, I come upon questions and issues that won’t go away just because an ecclesial body has ruled upon them. I look for those who seem to speak to those questions, who illuminate my path and help me to think about the mysteries that both provoke and draw me.

    In my opinion, taken as a whole, Bulgakov’s vision of the Gospel is stunning. Like the Catholic, Hans Urs von Balthasar, it is deeply indebted to Johannine Christianity and a particular understanding of apocalyptic. His eschatological vision offers so many important resources to articulate the truth of Christ. I don’t think the Gospel is ever “safe,” and the kind of danger in Bulgakov, in my opinion, is the danger inherent in the Gospel.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ddpbf says:

    I dont think Bulgakov is downgraded because of percieved Western influence, well, at least not Western theological influence. What, his critics, Florovsky and Lossky, find wrong is instance on Sophiology, which, they say, cant be found among Fathers, Bulgakov was invoking. I dont know, how far are you introduced to concpet of sophiology, and its prehistory. But this is, purely, intra-Orthodox theological dispute. From what I could read, in secondary sources, Anglican clergy in Society of Saint Sergius and Saint Albanus, was quite uneasy with Bulgakov’s ideas. One of his critics, Florovsky, noticed Bulgakov talk to less about Christ. I dont know how this fact would resonate in Western ears…
    Also, did you mean Florovsky or Florensky? Altough works of Pavel Florensky, were translated in English, he never reached influence in Western circles, as Georiy (or better known Georges) Florovsky. Now, both were Orthodox priests, and Russians, but thing is, that Florovsky remained in USSR, and in end died as martyr for Christ.
    Also, since Filioque is noticed, by me, I will just add, Filioque in Bulgakov’s has no have same role as in Roman Catholic Theology. He tries to understand Filioque as formula of internal revelation of hypostases to Divine essence. (I am repeating Lossky here: http://jbburnett.com/resources/lossky/lossky_img4-process-filioq.pdf ).

    Like

  7. brian says:

    I understand that Bulgakov’s understanding of Filioque is different from Roman Catholicism. I personally appreciate the reason for Orthodox concerns on this issue. I like Bulgakov’s understanding.

    I meant to refer to Pavel Florensky. I have read his works, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth and Iconostasis.

    I don’t think the Anglican clergy listening to Bulgakov talk about sophiology were equipped to really understand what he was saying. It’s not exactly easy to figure out at first blush.

    I think the patristics are an essential source of Christian understanding, but I don’t think one should dismiss sophiology because it isn’t a developed patristic topic.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Brian, I have not read Florensky. I know that Bulgakov admired his writings. Can you describe their similarities and differences, particularly in eschatology.

      Like

      • Father Gregory says:

        Fr. Aidan, Florensky’s sophiology uses “personal language” referring to Sophia. Bulgakov did the same. At least initially. In Bulgakov’s later works (the great and smaller trilogies) he no longer does so. He had come to realize that Florensky’s sophiology was insufficiently clear (I seem to remember Bulgakov at some point in his great trilogy – not sure where – point out what he considers weaknesses in Florensky’s thought and provides his own take on it). Bulgakov seems (to me) to have undergone development from his “Philosophy of Economy” 190o -ish to the late 1930-ies. Bulgakov in the last analysis seems to understand his sophiology as a further development of Palamism (which becoming ever more popular at the time).

        Florovsky, though strongly opposed to Bulgakov’s sophiology, refused to sign the minority report declaring Bulgakov a heretic (he was asked to participate in the heresy trial). Florovsky remembered that his former father confessor (Bulgakov) had gotten him the job at Paris and the men have always enjoyed cordial personal relations (in spite of severe disagreement). There was a time I spent much time reading Florovsky, Lossky, Bulgakov etc. I am writing from memory here. I also seem to remember that St. Maria Skobstova was very upset with Lossky when he had written a (rather sloppy) summary of Bulgakov’s sophiology (presented to her to read) she wrote a note on her copy along the lines of letting Lossky know she didn’t approve such betrayal (she used strong negative terms). Lossky himself did not intend his draft to be used as a source of condemnation (I seem to remember he felt it wasn’t researched enough for definite conclusions) and that he regretted the role it ultimately played in condemning Bulgakov. hough Metropolitan Evlogy exonorated Bulgakov (the majority report from the trial had recommended this) and at Bulgakov’s funeral Evoly said that Bulgakov was “a teacher of the Church in the purest and most lofty sense (who was) enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom (Sophia), the Spirit of Understanding, the comforter whom he dedicated his scholarly work.”

        As difficult as it is to read (and understand) Bulgakov, I have found Florensky even more difficult. He dedicates one chapter specifically to Sophiology but I cannot say I understand what he is saying. Florensky is above my philosophical pay grade (so is Bulgakov for that matter). I really appreciate you taking on Bulgakov on your blog. I seem to remember you and I corresponded briefly and many years ago (privately) about Bulgakov’s sophiological understanding of what happens to the Eucharistic elements (this was way before you became the Pontificator and way before I was ordained … early 2000-nds late 90-ies ? ). I never did answer your question, neither privately nor on the forum we were posting on at the time. I did not do so because I didn’t care but simply because I was even more clueless than you were about that question. Its a bit late, but here is the truth of it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Gregory +

        Like

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I think I shall resist the temptation to buy the Florensky book I was looking at today. Bulgakov is sufficiently incomprehensible for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Like

          • Father Gregory says:

            I was referring to “Pillar and Ground of the Truth” his other works may very well be readable. I think I’ve made it through “Iconostasis” ok while at SVS. Speaking of SVS … In 2005 a special edition was dedicated to Bulgakov. It contains excellent articles the one you posted by Fr. Louth among them. If you (or anyone else) find this of interest it is St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly Volume 49, Nr. 1-2, 2005. It also contains and article by Bulgakov where he responds to one of the heresy charges: confusion of nature and person. The article – I wish i could say it is an easy read but it isn’t – tries to explain Bulgakov’s distinction between “hypostasis” and “hypostaticity” the main point (if I remember correctly) is to explain how Sophia is personal (hypostatic) but not person (hypostasis). It also includes the minority and majority reports on the heresy investigation Metr, Evlogy started against Bulgakov.

            Anyway – for what its worth: I did enjoy reading Florensky’s “Pillar” because of its beauty. I may not have understood him very well, but somehow the Beauty which Prince Myshkin is accused to believe will save the world shines through in Florensky. It has an almost poetic quality to it that is entirely lacking in Bulgakov. This may not help you resist the temptation at all, and should you crumble under its pressure it is not all loss ๐Ÿ˜‰

            G+

            Like

      • brian says:

        Hi Father,

        Bulgakov is a more systematic theologian. In the big trilogy, you get Christology, Pneumatology, and Ecclesiology/Eschatology.

        The Pillar and Ground of the Truth is Florensky’s great work. Don’t know if you are familiar with the much later Meditations on the Tarot by Valentin Tomberg, but it is that kind of work. It takes disparate subjects and has chapters in the form of letters. It is highly stylized. I don’t quite agree with Father Gregory,btw. I think there are passages of beauty in Bulgakov, particularly in a more personal work like Unfading Light. That said, Florensky sees style as indicative of theological truth and there is great beauty in his writing.

        Nicolae Berdyaev was a great friend of Bulgakov, but he never liked Florensky. When he describes him, one can feel the antipathy. Florensky came across as a mystical aesthete guru type to Berdyaev. Still, I personally like them all. There’s a story about Florensky as a young man sitting up in a hot attic reciting English poetry. He did not really know the meaning of the words. The sounds enchanted him. There’s also a story about a friend who brought some expensive grapes to Florensky’s parents. Florensky was only allowed to eat a few. Then Florensky’s father drew a picture of a monkey and told young Pavel that the monkey would be very angry if any more grapes were eaten. Florensky felt that the image of the monkey was almost more real than a real monkey. It was like a Platonic form. He’s that kind of fellow.

        Anyway, one has to gather elements that would make an eschatology from the disparate letters in Florensky. He’s difficult, but rewarding. It doesn’t bother me that his sophiology is somewhat more unclear and probably disturbing to those who are looking for precision. You’ll miss much that is valuable if you are going to be put off by places where the creative theologians are a bit dodgey. It’s easy enough, in my opinion, to work out a sounder and more clearly orthodox (small o for me :)) manner of expression and understanding. What’s not so easy is to come up with the many brilliant insights that are sprinkled throughout the work of Florensky. The last chapter on Jealousy is abolutely brilliant in my opinion. Florensky is superb at tracing out etymological meanings and providing a kind of archaeological/genealogical reading that suddenly illuminates a whole host of concepts.

        I think there are places in Florensky that anticipate Bulgakov’s understanding of Sophia-Cosmos-Church. Honestly, I find it among the most exciting Christian thought available, but it is undoubtedly difficult. It’s also fun, so I recommend it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • ddpbf says:

      As far as I understood, Florovski criticized Florensky and Bulgakov, for being to relient on Solovyev. In turn, Florovsky, tought Solovyev was basing his concept of Sophia on works of Boeme and Nicholas of Cuza, not on Church theology. He wrote it numerous times in his letters to Bulgakov. Despite controvers and everything else, Bulgakov and Florovsky remained on friendly terms.

      Sorry, for I presumed you meant on Florovsky. I am just under impression verry few people on West heard of fr. Pavel Florensky.

      Now, about Western perception of Bulgakov, its true he was quite cloudy to his fellows in Sts Sergius and Albans Society, but I think he was/is no less cloudy to his Orthodox co-religionists. Also, I dont want to paint him as Heretic. Just, I want to say, even people who defende him, father Andrew Louth, for example, are not willing to give him full support, and admitt his Theology is not perfectly on line with Church Theology. I understand, Brian, its not as great concern for you, but I believe you also understand why it is so importnant to us, Eastern Orthodox.

      Like

      • brian says:

        I do understand Orthodox concerns. I do not want to dismiss them or take lightly the important need for discernment. Myself, as you see, I place a high value on Bulgakov and want to have others gain the valid insights into the Gospel that I think he offers. He and the Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, have probably been most influential on my own thinking.

        I posted an article written by David Bentley Hart on Solovyev and Sophia in the comments section for The Parousia of the Theotokos. You should give it a look.

        Like

  8. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Dana and Rhonda, the WordPress folks are suggesting that you disable your plug-ins (and perhaps anti-virus programs) and see if you are able to view the Scribd docs. If you can, then add them back, one by one, to find out which is the culprit.

    The easiest way to do this is to open Firefox in safe mode: Troubleshooting Firefox.

    Like

Comments are closed.