Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance

Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance by Paul L. Gavrilyuk

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Georges Florovsky is the mastermind of a return to the Church Fathers in twentieth-century Orthodox theology. His theological vision-the neopatristic synthesis-became the main paradigm of Orthodox theology and the golden standard of Eastern Orthodox identity in the West. Focusing on Florovskys European period (1920-1948), this study analyses how Florovskys evolving interpretation of Russian religious thought, particularly Vladimir Solovyov and Sergius Bulgakov,informed his approach to patristic sources. Paul Gavrilyuk offers a new reading of Florovskys neopatristic theology, by closely considering its ontological, epistemological and ecclesiological foundations. It is common to contrast Florovskys neopatristic theology with the modernist religious philosophies of Pavel Florensky, Sergius Bulgakov, and other representatives of the Russian Religious Renaissance. Gavrilyuk argues that the standard narrative of twentieth-century Orthodox theology, based on this polarization, must be reconsidered. The author demonstrates Florovskys critical appropriation of the main themes of the Russian Religious Renaissance, including theological antinomies, themeaning of history, and the nature of personhood. The distinctive features of Florovskys neopatristic theology--Christological focus, ecclesial experience, personalism, and Christian Hellenism--are best understood against the background of the main problematic of the Renaissance. Specifically, it isshown that Bulgakovs sophiology provided a polemical subtext for Florovskys theology of creation. It is argued that the use of the patristic norm in application to modern Russian theology represents Florovskys theological signature.Drawing on unpublished archival material and correspondence, this study sheds new light on such aspects of Florovskys career as his family background, his participation in the Eurasian movement, his dissertation on Alexander Herzen, his lectures on Vladimir Solovyov, and his involvement in Bulgakovs Brotherhood of St Sophia.
Publication Date:
19 / 12 / 2013

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