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Thursday, September 16, 2004
  Thoughts on Fr. Sergius Bulgakov Throughout the past year I have been fascinated with Russian Philosophy, Theology and Literature. This new realm has opened my eyes to the vast array of beautiful artistic and intellectual expression I never imagined existed. After reading some books over the past year I stumbled across the enigma of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. He has evoked extreme reactions from various people within contemporary Orthodoxy. Fr. George Florovsky has criticized him, and somewhat rightly so, as lacking any Christology within his dogmatic writings. What's worse is that he is considered one of the most important proponents of Sophiology, (what appears to me as) a loosely defined concept, something derivative of Parmenides 'being,' a synthesis of reactionary Russian philosophy and Hegelian idealism. In an introduction to one of his articles in a book edited by Alexander Schmemann it reads: "His theological teaching, however, raised violent objections, both inside and outside the Institute [St. Sergius, Paris]. Some of his doctrines were condemned as heretical by synods of bishops in Moscow and in Yugoslavia, and his theological system as such has scarcely had any followers among Orthodox Theologians." (Ultimate Questions: An Anthology of Modern Russian Religious Thought, p. 298.) Strangely enough, what exactly Sophiology is and what Fr. Bulgakov's 'heretical ideas' are, are somewhat obscure to say the least. I have attempted to sift through the voluminous corpus of literature on Sophiology to no avail. Although, I admit, partly due to time constraints and a general frustration with numerous ambiguous concepts, I haven’t put the time really needed into such an endeavor. Some interesting books and articles are: The Bride and the Lamb and Sophia, the Wisdom of God: An Outline of Sophiology, both by Fr. Bulgakov, Dc. Dr. John Chryssavgis' article on Sophiology in Diakonia 2001, and Frederick Copleston's book Russian Religious Philosophy. The founder of Sophiology is widely considered to be Vladimir Soloviev who happens to be a controversial figure himself (having communed with Catholics and claiming to have mystical visions of the anthropomorphized Sophia in the British Museum and elsewhere). Nevertheless surrounding all this strangeness Fr. Bulgakov does have his admirers, some who claim that he even radiated with uncreated light when he died. I must also confess that I found his "history of a conversion," extracts of which appear in History of Russian Philosophy by Nicholas Lossky, to be quite inspiring. Does anyone have any input on all of this Bulgakovian confusion? It's hard enough understanding what the Church has laid down as dogma, let alone those places where she has 'passed over in silence' to use a Wittgensteinian phrase. Comments? Thought? Further elucidation?
 
Comments:
Welcome to the world of Blog, Chris! So here's my five-cent comment: Theological "creativity" that perceptibly (and imperceptibly) plays with the Trinitarian theology is clearly anti-Christian--a false substitute-- (there's no need to certify, analyze under the microscope, etc whether or not it's worth our time), as pious and creative and intellectually-satisfying as it may seem. Intellectuals have traps set up just for them, specifically those of the mind, and the whole Bulgakov ideology is just one example. A good test: how do works like his help us to love the Holy Orthodox Church more? How do they stir repentance and the gifts of discernment and a Christ-like mind? Holy Fathers, not bulgakovs.
http://ecumenizm.tripod.com/ECUMENIZM/id17.html (they make some good points here and on the Orthodox Information Center if you do a search).
~Anna
 
Hey glad you started a blog. I will be interested to see how things turn out over here.
 
basil writes:

It's more complicated than Anna's dismissal, I think. See my comment on Seraphim's blog.
 
Complication is the problem: theology isn't supposed to be esoteric or nebulous. And Christ's Wisdom isn't about semantics or ecstatic revelations that border on the sinister.
 
Tuesday down here at St. Vlads we had a guest lecturer, Professor Antoine Arjavsky, from the Ukraine, who just published a large and important work on the "Paris school". He spoke on Bulgokov. According to him, sopiology was an attempt to respond to Kant, Hegel, and phenomenology. Bulgokov wanted to avoid de-personalizing God. The lecture eas fascinating,and I'd live to read the book, but it is, of couse, in French. If you have any further enlightenment I'd love to hear it.
 
Readers wanting to learn more about Fr. Sergius Bulgakov will be interested to know of the collected links to resources at Sergius Bulgakov Society website.
 
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Sophia is the Goddess Wisdom in Proverbs 8. She claims to be possessed by Jehovah the God of the Jews "Before the foundation of the Earth."
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Thoughts and reflections on Christian Orthodox spirituality, theology and philosophy; as well as discussion about seminary and academic life in Boston.

Name:
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

I'm a 25 year old seminarian studying in Boston at Holy Cross (Greek Orthodox Theological School), originally from Southern California. I studied Philosophy as an undergraduate at California State University at San Bernardino CSUSB.

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