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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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On the religious-philosophical system of Vladimir S. Soloviev.
The impulse for the new currents of Russian philosophical thought was given, as was said,
by Vladimir S. Soloviev, who set as his aim “to justify the faith of the Fathers” before the reason
of his contemporaries. Unfortunately, he made a whole series of direct deviations from the Orthodox
Christian way of thinking, many of which were accepted and even developed by his successors.
Here are a series of points in Soloviev's philosophy which are most evidently distinct from,
and even directly depart from the teaching of faith confessed by the Church:
1. Christianity is presented by him as the highest stage in the gradual development of religions.
According to Soloviev, all religions are true, but one-sided; Christianity synthesizes
the positive aspects of the preceding religions. He writes: “Just as outward nature is only
gradually revealed to the mind of man and to mankind, and as a result of this we must
also speak of the development experimental or natural science, so also the Divine Principle
is gradually revealed to the consciousness of man, and we must speak of the devel-opment of religious experience and religious thinking ... Religious development is a positive
and objective process, a real mutual relationship between God and man — the process
of God-manhood. It is clear that ... not a single one of its stages, or a single moment
the religious process, can in itself be a lie or an error. 'False religion' is a contradiction in
2. The teaching of the salvation of the world, in the form in which it is given by the Apostles,
is put aside. According to Soloviev, Christ came to earth not in order to “save the
human race.” Rather, He came so as to raise it to a higher degree in the gradual manifestation
of the Divine Principle in the world — the process of the ascent and deification of
mankind and the world. Christ is the highest link in a series of theophanies, and He
crowns all the previous theophanies.
3. The attention of theology according to Soloviev is directed to the ontological side of existence,
that is, to the life of God in Himself; and because of the lack of evidence for this in
Sacred Scripture, his thought hastens to arbitrary constructions which are rationalistic or
based upon imagination.
4. In the Divine life there is introduced an essence which stands at the boundary between the
Divine and the created world; this is called Sophia.
5. In the Divine life there is introduced a distinction of masculine and feminine principles.
In Soloviev this is a little weak. Father Paul Florensky, following Soloviev, presents
Sophia thus: “This is a great Royal and Feminine Being which, being neither God nor the
eternal Son of God, nor an angel, nor a holy man, receives veneration both from the Culminator
of the Old Testament and from the Founder of the New” (The Pillar and Foundation
of the Truth).
6. In the Divine life there is introduced an elemental principle of striving, which compels
God the Logos Himself to participate in a definite process and subordinate Him to this
process, which is to lead the world out of a condition of pure materiality and inertia into a
higher, more perfect form of existence.
7. God, as the Absolute, as God the Father, is presented as far away and inaccessible to the
world and to man. He goes away from the world, in contradiction of the word of God,
into an unapproachable sphere of existence which, as absolute existence, has no contact
with relative existence, with the world of phenomena. Therefore, according to Soloviev,
there is necessary an Intermediary between the Absolute and the world. This Intermediary
is called the “Logos,” who was incarnate in Christ.
8. According to Soloviev, the first Adam united in himself the Divine and human nature, in
a way similar to their mutual relationship in the God-manhood of the incarnate Word;
however, he violated this mutual relationship. If this is so, then the deification of man is
not only a grace-given sanctification of man, but is a restoration in him of this very
God-manhood, a restoration of the two natures. But this is not in accordance with the
whole teaching of the Church — a teaching that understands deification only as a receiving
of grace. St. John Damascene writes: “There was not and there will never he another
man composed of both Divinity and humanity,” apart from Jesus Christ.
9. Soloviev writes: “God is the Almighty Creator and Pantocrator, but not the ruler of the
earth and the creation which proceeds from it.” “The Divinity ... is incommensurable with
earthly creatures and can have a practical and moral relationship (authority, dominion,
governance) only through the mediation of man, who as a being both divine and earthly iscommensurable both with Divinity and with material nature. Thus, man is the indispensable
subject of the true dominion of God” (The History and Future of Theocracy). This affirmation
is unacceptable from the point of view of the glory and power of God and, as
has been said, it contradicts the word of God. Indeed, it does not even correspond to simple
observation. Man subjects nature to himself not in the name of God, as an intermediary
between God and the world, but for his own purposes and egotistic needs.
The few points here noted of divergence between the views of Soloviev and the teaching of the
Church indicate the unacceptability of the religious system of Soloviev as a whole for the Orthodox