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Georges Florovsky, Issues of Ecclesiastic History

Georges Florovsky, Issues of Ecclesiastic History, Pournaras, Thessaloniki, 1979.

            Some special studies, published in various scientific journals and conferences, infused with the wealth of the patristic thought, as well as with the mobility and historic dynamics of modern years, always under a central prevalence of historicity, constitute the content of the volume, titled: Issues of Ecclesiastic History.

In this volume Fr. Georges deals with a variety of issues. With his usual authority and depth of work, he deals with the tendencies and particularities of theology in our days, as well as with cutting-edge issues of the patristic thought and problematic.

The presentation of the so-called “Greek dogma” by W. Gass as a gradual deviation and falsification of the ancient Christian faith constitutes the starting point for the development of Fr. Georges’ thought on the meaning of tradition. It also constitutes an ideal opportunity to realize the causes and challenges, that is the pretexts, for the formulation of dogma, during the period of the united Church, as well as for the understanding of the dogmatic formulation as guarding of the saving truth and Its self-consciousness. The expression «επόμενοι τοις αγίοις πατράσιν» (the Fathers are next to the saints) is not just a declaration of compliance to Tradition, but also a creative re-employment of the latter, and its use today, in the face of all types of challenges.

This is the kind of logic also used by the Fathers to deal with the Old Testament. Justine reaches the point of saying, as the author notes, that this book belongs to the Judeans no more, but to the Christians. The connection of faith and theology to worship and Christian life seems to be a safety valve that saves, time and again, the originality, but also the authenticity of patristic thought.

In this volume, too, as of course in others, Fr. Georges Florovsky does not miss the opportunity to deal with the dogma of creation (here on the occasion of Athanasios), which constitutes a Christian novelty in the field of philosophy. The creation of the world ex nihilo, solely by the holy creative command, does not constitute just the specific distinction of Christian faith and thought compared to previous philosophical and religious concepts, but constructs a whole pattern–framework of the biblical revelation and ecclesiastic experience. The distinction between “creation” and “genesis”, as well as the notions of salvation and restoration of creation, emerge organically from such questions.

The dynamics, however, of the sotiriological fact was impossible to exhaust itself, according to the patristic thought, in shapes and expressions of the philosophical thought. The resurrection of the dead and the salvation of the world are eschatological experiences, which define the effort of Fr. Florovsky to describe the central pillars of patristic eschatology. An eschatological hope, founded on the faith in Christ the Saviour and leads, with a sense of internal necessity, to the hope of the future century.

With the same systematic rigor and the same theological depth, he deals with the modern expressions of the life and history of the Church. The Russian missions, for example, or any western influences in the Russian theology mostly during the 18th century, the roads of Russian theology from the middle of the 16th century of the detachment from the Byzantine birthplace, to Gogol, Dostoevsky and the Slavophiles, the history of the theological thought in Russia reflects a recent problematic and the course towards the modern era and its problems.

For Florovsky, as a historian, the “world theological constant” of a creative, yet not arbitrary and subjective course, is the patristic theology. And the “return to the Fathers” constitutes the continuous command every time any theological truth is at risk from the temptation of deterioration and corruption.


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