Sergei Bulgakov


Sergei Bulgakov

Fr. Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov ( _ru. Сергей Николаевич Булгаков) (OldStyleDate|28 June|1871|16 June, Livny - July 12, 1944, Paris) was a Russian Orthodox theologian, philosopher and economist.

Biography

Sergei Bulgakov was born to the family of an Orthodox priest in the town of Livny, Oryol gubernia on June 16, 1871 O.S. He studied at Orel seminary, then at Yelets gimnasium. In 1894 he graduated from the Law School of Moscow University, where he had also undertaken a serious study of political economy.

During his study at the seminary Bulgakov became interested in Marxism and took part in the Legal Marxism movement. Studying Marxism, Bulgakov eventually became convinced of the impotence of this theory. Under the influence of works of Russian religious thinkers (Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Solovyov, etc.), in the course of his meetings and arguments with Leo Tolstoy he found his religious beliefs again. He wrote a book about his evolution (Sergey Bulgakov, "From Marxism to Idealism", 1903).

Such an evolution was common for the Russian intelligentsia of the time, and he soon became one of their recognised ideologists. A primary contributor to the books "Problems of Idealism" (1902), "Vekhi", "Problems of Religion", "About Vladimir Solovyev", "About Religion of leo Tolstoy", "Religion of Solovyov's Philosophical Society", he participated in the journals "New Way" (Новый Путь) and "Questions of Life" (Вопросы Жизни). He was a leader of the publisher "Way" (1911-1917), where he printed many important works of contemporary Orthodox Theology.

In 1906 he was elected as an independent "Christian Socialist" to the Second Duma. He published the important original monographs "Philosophy of Economy" («Философия хозяйства» 1912) and "Unfading Light" («Свет Невечерний» 1917), in which he first offered his own teaching based on the combination of "sophiology" of Vladimir Solovyov and Pavel Florensky, the later works of Schelling, and his own intuition-based ideas about the Orthodox faith.

When he returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, he was ordained into the priesthood (1918), and rose to prominence in church circles. He took part in the All-Russia Sobor of the Orthodox Church that elected patriarch Tikhon of Moscow. Bulgakov rejected the October revolution and responded with "On the Feast of the Gods" ("На пиру богов", 1918), a book similar to the "Three talks" of Vladimir Solovyov.

During the Russian Civil War he was in Crimea, where he worked in the field of philosophy. He wrote books "Philosophy of the Name" ( "Философия имени", 1920) and "Tragedy of Philosophy" ("Трагедия философии", 1920) in which he revised his views about the relation of Philosophy to Dogmatism. He concluded that the Christian views can be expressed only by dogmatic theology. Thereafter his works were devoted to dogmatic theology.

On December 30 1922, the Bolshevik government expelled some 160 prominent intellectuals on the so-called Philosophers' ship, Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Ivan Ilyin among them.

In May 1923 he became professor of Church Law and Theology at the school of law of the "Russian Research Institute" in Prague. In 1925 he helped found St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute ("l'Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge"), in Paris, France. He was the head of this institute and Professor of Dogmatic Theology until his death from throat cancer on July 12, 1944. His last work was devoted to the Apocalypse.

Controversy

Bulgakov’s teaching on sophiology is highly controversial. The attempt to understand it properly is hindered by the highly political controversy surrounding it in the 1930’s. [For commentary, texts and a fuller account of the sophiological controversy see Antoine Arjakovsky, Essai sur le père Serge Boulgakov (1871-1944), philosophe et théologien chrétien (Paris: Les Éditions Parole et Silence, 2006), pp.99-125 and La génération des penseurs religieux de l’émigration Russe: La Revue ‘La Voie’ (Put’), 1925-1940 (Kiev/Paris: L’Esprit et la Lettre, 2002), pp.433ff., N. T. Eneeva, Spor o sofiologii v russkom zarubezh’e 1920-1930 godov (Moscow: Institut vseobshchei istorii RAN, 2001), Igumen Gennadii (Eikalovich), Delo prot. Sergiia Bulgakova: Istoricheskaia kanva spora o Sofii (San Francisco: Globus Pub., 1980), Bryn Geffert, ‘Sergii Bulgakov, The Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, Intercommunion and Sofiology’, Revolutionary Russia, 17:1 (June 2004), pp.105-41, ‘The Charges of Heresy Against Sergii Bulgakov: The Majority and Minority Reports of Evlogii’s Commission and the Final Report of the Bishops’ Conference’, "St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly", 49.1-2 (2005), pp.47-66 and especially Alexis Klimoff, ‘Georges Florovsky and the Sophiological Controversy’, "St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly", 49.1-2 (2005), pp.67-100.] It should be noted that by 1931 there existed three separate Russian Orthodox jurisdictions in Europe: Russian Church Abroad/Sremski Karlovtzy Synod under Met. Anthony (Khrapovitsky); the ‘Patriarchal’ church answering ultimately to Met. Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Moscow (of which the young Vladimir Lossky was a member); and the Russian Church in Western Europe (Bulgakov’s own jurisdiction as well as the church of Georges Florovsky) under Met. Evlogy (Georgievsky) that was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople -- though in 1934, Metropolitan Evlogy was privately reconciled to Metropolitan Anthony, and in 1935 he went to Karlovtzy for a special reunion conference, at which time the schism between him and ROCOR was healed [Timothy Ware, "The Orthodox Church" (London: Penguin Books, 1964)p. 184.] In 1936, Metropolitan Evlogy again cut his ties with ROCOR, quite possibly because of the controversy over [http://orthodoxwiki.org/Sophianism Sophianism] . [Protopresbyter George Grabbe, "Toward a History of the Ecclesiastical Divisions Within the Russian Diaspora", Living Orthodoxy, Vol. XIV, No. 4, July-August, 1992, pp. 37-39]

In [http://orthodoxwiki.org/Sophianism#Decree_of_the_Moscow_Patriarchate an ukaz of 24 August, 1935] of Met. Sergius, Bulgakov’s teaching on ‘Sophia’ was described as ‘alien’ to the Orthodox faith. [Bulgakov responded to the ukaz in his O Sofii Premudrosti Bozhiei: Ukaz Moskovskoi Patriarkhii i dokladnye zapiski prot. Sergiia Bulgakova Mitropolitu Evlogiiu (Paris: YMCA, 1935), pp.20-51. Vladimir Lossky then published a well-known critical analysis of Bulgakov’s response to the ukaz as "Spor o Sofii" (Paris, 1936).] This ukaz was largely based on the epistolary reports (letters with a catenae of ‘suspect’ quotations from Bulgakov’s works) of Alexis Stavrovskii. Stavrovskii was an ex-student of the St Serge Institute who due to a disciplinary problem was forced to leave the school and was later expelled from France for reasons that are not made clear in the sources. He was also the president of the Brotherhood of St Photius (Alexis Stavrovskii was president; Vladimir Lossky, the vice-president, and Evgraf Kovalevskii [later Jean-Nectaire (Kovalevsky) of Saint-Denis] were also amongst the 12-15 young laymen who made up its numbers) whose members had left the jurisdiction of Met. Evlogy for that of Met. Elevthery of Lithuania.

This exodus was in reaction to Met. Sergius having removed, on 10 June, 1930, Met. Evlogy as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe (since Met. Evlogy had continually refused to agree to the 30 June, 1927 Declaration of Loyalty to the Soviet government) and named Elevtherii as his replacement. In late 1935, Met. Evlogii appointed a commission to look into the charges of heresy levelled against Bulgakov.

The commission quickly broke into factions. In June 1936 the majority report (prepared by Vasilii Zenkovskii, Anton Kartashev and others) rejected the charge of heresy but had serious objections about Sophiology. The minority report of 6 July, 1936 was prepared by Fr Sergei Chetverikov and signed by Fr Georges Florovsky, who despite his personal respect for Fr. Sergius, remained an ardent critic of Sophianism for the remainder of his life. Meanwhile, the Church Abroad formally accused Bulgakov of heresy in 1935.

[http://orthodoxwiki.org/Sophianism#Decree_of_ROCOR The 1935 decision of the Church Abroad] was based on Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Boguchar’s Novoe uchenie o Sofii (Sofia, 1935), as well as on the arguments of St. John (Maximovitch). [Protopresbyter George Grabbe, "Toward a History of the Ecclesiastical Divisions Within the Russian Diaspora", Living Orthodoxy, Vol. XIV, No. 4, July-August, 1992, p. 38] St. John, in his book "The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God", discusses at length why the sophianism of Sergius Bulgakov is heresy, specifically one as destructive as Nestorianism. Speaking of those who attempt to deify the Theotokos, he wrote: :In the words [of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov] , when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the Virgin Mary, she acquired "a dyadic life, human and divine; that is, She was completely deified, because in Her hypostatic being was manifest the living, creative revelation of the Holy Spirit" (Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov, The Unburnt Bush, 1927, p. 154). "She is a perfect manifestation of the Third Hypostasis" (Ibid., p. 175), "a creature, but also no longer a creature" (P. 19 1)....But we can say with the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: "There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify Her beyond what is proper" (Panarion, "Against the Collyridians"). This Holy Father accuses those who give Her an almost divine worship: "Let Mary be in honor, but let worship be given to the Lord" (same source). "Although Mary is a chosen vessel, still she was a woman by nature, not to be distinguished at all from others. Although the history of Mary and Tradition relate that it was said to Her father Joachim in the desert, 'Thy wife hath conceived,' still this was done not without marital union and not without the seed of man" (same source). "One should not revere the saints above what is proper, but should revere their Master. Mary is not God, and did not receive a body from heaven, but from the joining of man and woman; and according to the promise, like Isaac, She was prepared to take part in the Divine Economy. But, on the other hand, let none dare foolishly to offend the Holy Virgin" (St. Epiphanius, "Against the Antidikomarionites"). The Orthodox Church, highly exalting the Mother of God in its hymns of praise, does not dare to ascribe to Her that which has not been communicated about Her by Sacred Scripture or Tradition. "Truth is foreign to all overstatements as well as to all understatements. It gives to everything a fitting measure and fitting place" (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov)." [St. John Maximovitch, [http://www.ortodoks.dk/On_Orthodox_Veneration_of_the_Mary.htm "The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God"] , (Platina, Ca: St. Herman Press, 1978), p. 40f]

Bulgakov responded to the heresy accusation in his Dokladnaia zapiska Mitropolitu Evlogiiu prof. prot. Sergiia Bulgakova (Paris, 1936). Archbishop Seraphim then rebutted Bulgakov in his Zashchita sofianskoi eresi (Sofia, 1937). No final report was prepared on the sophiology controversy by the commission set up by Bulgakov’s own jurisdiction. However, Met. Evlogy convoked a bishop’s conference on 26-9 November 1937 to bring closure to the matter. The bishops in their statement were working from reports by Archimandrite Cassian (Bezobrazov) and Chetverikov and they concluded that the accusations of heresy against Bulgakov were unfounded but that his theological opinions showed serious flaws and needed correction.

Notes

ee also

*Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov
*Pavel Florensky
*Theophilus of Antioch
*Sophiology
*Imiaslavie

External links

* [http://www.vehi.net/bulgakov/index.html Sergei Bulgakov] (in Russian)
* [http://www.vehi.net/vehi/index.html «Vekhi»] (in Russian)
* [http://www.vehi.net/bulgakov/svet/index.html «Unfading Light»] (in Russian)
* [http://www.geocities.com/sbulgakovsociety Sergius Bulgakov Society] - Extensive collection of links to Bulgakov resources
* [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sbulgakov Bulgakov Discussion Group] - An informal network for the study of the life and work of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
* [http://community.livejournal.com/sbulgakov Bulgakov LiveJournal] - A review of Russian religious philosophy and contemporary integral thought
* [http://orthodoxwiki.org/Sergius_Bulgakov Sergius Bulgakov in Orthodox Wiki]


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