The rise of secular theology The Slavophiles

The result of this conception of the Fall was a rethinking of the anthropological pessimism of the Prokopovich school. In this new approach, justification is understood not simply as the legal non-imputation of sin, but also as a real purification, leading to reconciliation with and adoption by God. All this is a gift of grace, but a result also of a person's free choice. This more positive evaluation of the human condition is characteristic of the general thrust of late nineteenth-century dogmatics. In addition, the logic of this new emphasis insists that justification cannot exclude completely human activity, given that it is now linked so closely to sanctification. That is why, according to the Letter of Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, justification is achieved by faith through works.

However, despite such a reconceptualizing of the question of justification and the image of God, Archimandrites Anthony and Makarius still held to the same classic "legal" understanding of expiation, where expiation is understood as a matter of satisfying God's justice. Furthermore, despite all these changes in emphasis, the latter half of the nineteenth century still retained the traditional separation of dogmatics into God in relation to God's Self and God in relation to creation, just as was set out by Prokopovich. In terms of theological systems, the mid-nineteenth century remained entirely Scholastic in its approach and style.

However, what did appear as genuinely new were methodological introductions to courses in dogmatics, so that even so-called basic theology received an apologetic preface. Theology in the academy was now finding some interesting food for thought in the monastic ascetic tradition, as well as in so-called secular theology, that is, a non-ecclesial philosophical theology written by those outside the ranks of the clergy. This latter type of theology first appeared in a developed form in the 1840s-1850s through the Slavophile movement as represented by Alexei S. Khomyakov (1804-1860), Ivan V. Kireevsky, and Yuri F. Samarin, among others, whose ideas then gave rise to a whole stream of "secular" theology in the second half of the nineteenth century. Drawing on German Idealism, European Romanticism, and the patristic tradition, the Slavophiles presented a thesis in which the Orthodox Church had attained the highest level of development, given that it avoided the extremes of both Catholic and Protestant thought. "Christian knowledge," wrote Khomyakov, "is not a matter of mind, but of living and graceful faith." Accordingly, he criticized sharply any instantiations of rationalism in theology, arguing that although doctrinal truths are unchangeable and have been imparted to the Church of Christ from its very beginnings, yet the reception of these truths is an ongoing process and changes with the character of the age. In other words, revelation is not static, but "the insights of the church in the present time and the insights of the church in centuries gone by together make an uninterrupted Revelation." In Khomyakov's opinion, Catholicism had erred by allowing an external authority to suppress freedom in a manner antithetical to true collegiality, while Protestantism had erred by separating that collegiality out into a mere collection of rational individuals. By contrast, the Orthodox Church had maintained both collegiality and freedom, which reside in the church's potential to unify the faithful multitudes in a dialectical cooperation of community and individual - a unity which moreover is "organic," given that it is conceptualized as a mystical anthropomorphic body. Thus Khomyakov replaces the traditional stress on the unifying power of the church hierarchy with a new emphasis on the free union of those who in truth and love profess faith in Christ. The church, then, represents an ideal of communality.

As did more traditional theologians in the academy, Khomyakov places the church at the center of his theology, presenting it as infallible and possessing of sanctity. This is the position of his most important theological work, Experiencing the Recitation of the Catechism in the Teaching of the Church (written in the 1840s and first published in 1864). However, he differs from his colleagues in that he understands the characteristics of the church in a mystical manner, not necessarily identifying these characteristics with the "visible" Orthodox Church of his time, but rather with an eschatological perfection which will ultimately be revealed. The Russian Orthodox Church as it exists now is but a part of this ultimate perfect whole. Ignoring the prevalent anti-European polemics of the time, Khomyakov wrote that the secret cords which connect the visible church with the rest of humanity are not revealed to us. In view of this, we neither have the right nor should we desire to regard all those outside the visible church strictly as condemned, given that such a supposition would contradict divine charity.

Khomyakov's ecclesiology might well have been influenced by the ideas of Metropolitan Philaret, who considered the Universal Church to be the Body of Christ in some similarly mystical sense. However, Khomyakov was searching for a more organic unity and an absolute fundamental principle behind the distortion of Being. Both Khomyakov and Kireevsky betray a certain romanticized pathos in their insistence on a return to origins, an attitude which is particularly noticeable in their Slavic-centered historiosophy and idealization of ancient Orthodoxy. Romantic elements are also evident in the Slavophiles' criticism of absolute rationality and in their religious epistemology, which together form the foundation of their synthesis of patristic thought and contemporary philosophy.

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