"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Russian Church in Modernity

That dreary class of human beings called American political pundits has already been aflutter for some time wondering about (and in some more appalling cases openly cheerleading for) war with Russia over Ukraine. So expect to hear a lot more about Russia in 2022, and with it the Russian Orthodox Church, whose stance on any further escalation in the war with Ukraine (started, n.b., in 2014 by a unilateral invasion and annexation of Crimea) will bear watching closely. 

The Russian Church's encounter with "modernity," from the end of the Romanovs through Stalin and later dictators, to the Putin era, is not always straightforward. Reputable scholars know to tread carefully. Regina Elsner is one such scholar, and has, at the end of December, given us a brand new book which I learned about when happily perusing the catalogue of Columbia University Press before Christmas. In it I spy The Russian Orthodox Church and Modernity: A Historical and Theological Investigation into Eastern Christianity between Unity and Plurality (Ibidem Press, Dec. 2021), 440pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) faced various iterations of modernization throughout its history. This conflicted encounter continues in the ROC’s current resistance against―what it perceives as―Western modernity including liberal and secular values. This study examines the historical development of the ROC’s arguments against―and sometimes preferences for―modernization and analyzes which positions ended up influencing the official doctrine. The book’s systematic analysis of dogmatic treatises shows the ROC’s considerable ability of constructive engagement with various aspects of the modern world. Balancing between theological traditions of unity and plurality, the ROC’s today context of operating within an authoritarian state appears to tip the scale in favor of unity.

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