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Remarks on the Religious-Philosophical System of V.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 development 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 terms."
  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 be 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 is commensurable 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 consciousness.

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