Was Soloviev Orthodox?

“In the 1880’s we see a different approach to this question. V. S. Soloviev, who supported the union of Orthodoxy with the Roman Church, desiring to justify the dogmatic development of the Roman Church defended the idea of the development of the Church’s dogmatic consciousness. He argues thus: “The Body of Christ changes and is perfected” like every organism; the original “basis” of faith is uncovered and clarified in the history of Christianity; “Orthodoxy stands not merely by antiquity, but by the eternally living Spirit of God.”Soloviev was inspired to defend the point of view of “development” not only by his sympathies for the Roman church, but also by his own religious-philosophical outlook — his ideas on Sophia, the wisdom of God, on God-manhood as a historical process, etc. Carried along by his own metaphysical system, Soloviev in the 1890’s began to put forth the teaching of the “eternal feminine,” which, he says, “is not merely an inactive image in God’s mind, but a living spiritual being which possesses all the fullness of power and action. The whole process of the world and history is the process of its realization and incarnation in a great multiplicity of forms and degrees… The heavenly object of our love is only one, and it is always and for everyone one and the same, the eternal Femininity of God.” (Soloviev’s ideas might be superficially compared to the “women’s liberation” of today, whose latest attempt in religious circles has been to “desex” the Bible and remove all references to the “masculine” nature of God. Today’s movement, however, does not really touch on philosophy or theology, remaining a movement primarily of social “liberation”; whereas Soloviev’s thought is more serious, being a kind of resurrection of ancient Gnostic philosophy. Both of them, however, are equally outlandish in the forms their ideas take, and both are agreed in seeing a necessity to change traditional Christian dogmas and expressions.)

Thus, a whole series of new concepts began to enter Russian religious thought. These concepts did not evoke any special resistance in Russian theological circles, since they were expressed more as philosophy than as theology.Soloviev by his literary works and speeches was able to inspire an interest in religious problems among a wide circle of Russian educated society. However, this interest was joined to a deviation from the authentic Orthodox way of thinking. This was expressed, for example, in the
Petersburg “religious-philosophical meetings” of 1901-1903. At these meetings, such questions as the following were raised: “Can one consider the dogmatic teaching of the Church already completed? Are we not to expect new revelations? In what way can a new religious creativity be expressed in Christianity, and how can it be harmonized with Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, with the decrees the Ecumenical Councils, and the teachings of the Holy Fathers?” Especially symptomatic were the disputes concerning “dogmatic development.”
In Russian religious and social thought, at the beginning of the present century there appeared an expectation of the awakening of a “new religious consciousness” on Orthodox soil. The idea began to be expressed that theology should not fear new revelations, that dogmatics should use a more broadly rational basis, that it cannot entirely ignore the personal prophetic inspiration of the present day, that there should be a broadening of the circle of fundamental dogmatic problems, so that dogmatics itself might present a complete philosophical-theological world-view. The eccentric ideas expressed by Soloviev received further development and changes, and the first place among them was given to the problem of sophiology.”

 Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology

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