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:
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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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