Introduction to Berdyaev

Introduction to Berdyaev

Introduction to Berdyaev

Introduction to Berdyaev

Excerpt

In his introduction to Freedom and the Spirit Berdyaev wrote: 'My book is not a theological work, nor is it written according to any theological method.'

Nevertheless, the doctrines and practice of the Russian Orthodox Church are in the background not only of Freedom and the Spirit but of all that he wrote. Berdyaev was a son of Orthodoxy though an extremely critical one. As an émigré he made a point of belonging to congregations which were linked to the Moscow Patriarchate. This was typical of Berdyaev's 'concreteness'. He belonged not to a vague something called 'Orthodoxy', still less to those 'splinter' churches which consider themselves in the wilderness of emigration as the only true bearers of Russian Orthodoxy. Berdyaev knew but one Russian Orthodox Church and that Church had its head in Moscow. However free Berdyaev was in his handling of certain religious-philosophical questions, his self-confessed purpose was 'not to introduce heresy of any kind nor to promote fresh schisms'. 'I am moving,' he wrote, 'in the sphere of Christian problematics which demands creative efforts of thought and where the most divergent opinions are naturally allowable.' He remained in full communion with the Church, and the Church is therefore part of the concrete experience from which his thought arises, however pungent were his criticisms of ecclesiastical bigotry and pedantry.

The Russian Church is the largest member of the second largest family of Christian churches in the world, viz. the Eastern Orthodox. These churches, which acknowledge the primacy of the Œcumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, are united both in faith and in church order. They are normally in full communion with one another. Yet each is indepen-

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