The Crisis of Protestantism 2



I see the historical tragedy of Protestantism in a wrong and uncomplete conception of the christological dogma, that means the mystery of the incarnation of God, in the tendency to monophysitism, that one Nature is swallowed by the other. The other side of monophysitism is nestorianism. Calvin is very near to it. The transcendental schism between Godhood and Manhood has on the field of Protestantism as a result two opposite currents: an extreme antihumanism, a devaluation of Man that he is disappearing from the face of God, or a humanism and immanentism, a devouring of the Divinity by the Manhood, in last consequence in the anthropologism of Feuerbach in so far as here the Divinity is only a projection of the human nature. Schleiermacher and Ritschl are on the humanistic side of the Protestant thinking. K.Barth, Brunner, Gogarten who are returning to the sources of Protestantism, to Luther and to Calvin, are on the antihumanistic side. They use to negate Man monistically. But that is contradicting the dogma of the incarnation of God, of the unification of two Natures which aren't denied or disappearing. In Barthianism there is a strong Old Testament, prechristian element, which has influence also on Calvin. To speak from a transcendent abyss between God and Man, between Creator and creature means to deny the incarnation of God, the Godmanhood of Christ. Therefore they say that there is a movement from God to Man, but no movement from Man to God, an answer of the human nature in an analogous activity wouldn't be possible. Here the religious phenomenon becomes onesided, and the dialectic theology ceases to be dialectically. There is no dialogue between God and Man but only a monologue of God. The extreme dualism touches the extreme monism. The absolute transcendentalism necessarily destroys Church as a godmanly organism and a godmanly process. The consequence is the rejection of the Mother of God who is in the light of the sophia, the Wisdom, radiant creature. She is the cosmic foundation of the Church. Another consequence is the negation of the liturgical-sacramental realm of Christianity, in which is happening the sanctification of the creaturely world. In Christianity becomes the transcendence immanent, and that is the most important point in Christianity. And this immanentism is totally another than that of Schleiermacher and the German idealists which has always a monophysitic nature. The theocentrism of Barth shows an extreme transcendentism as negation of theoandrism, of Godmanhood. Therefore for Barthianism doesn't exist any theosis, no deification of the creaturely world, of Man and of cosmos, which however is the scope of Christianity! The theosis is in Christianity no pantheistic monism nor transcendental dualism, but a third, a great mystery (7) and a great paradox. Barth says in his "Epistle to the Romans": "The Messiah is the end of Man". Gogarten teaches: "There is an absolute opposition between God and Man". Another reference of him says: "God hasn't any place in the world as long as Man hasn't destroyed himself". The representatives of this current exclaim: "We or the eternity". That means a finally reduction of Man, not only of sin, but also of Man. The fact however that God became Man has risen and glorified human nature. You may only speak in this kind, if God didn't become Man, and if the two Natures in Jesus Christ wouldn't unify themselves always in the life of the Church which is a life of Godmanhood, of the mystical Body of Christ Who contents whole humanity. This new current gives the impression as if it indentified Man with sin, as if for it the image of God in Man were finally deleted. Already with Luther and Calvin we find such an inept conception of the Fall as if it would destroy finally the image of God in the nature of Man. Catholic theologians are right when they protest against this idea. The negation of Godmanhood leads to a thinking of Christ only as mediator. This contradicts the Orthodox ecclesiastical meaning. Two worlds, heaven and earth, eternity and time, Divine and human are divided by a deep abyss. But Christ has overcome this abyss. In Christ the relation between God and Man becomes immediately. For K.Barth whole Christianity is only the Word of God; God speaks and Man must hear. But God isn't only speaking, He becomes Flesh and Man. How is the relation of this current to the word of St Athanasius: "God became Man that Man will become God"? For us these words are fundamental, in them we find the whole Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy thinks redemption not juridical or moralistic like Western Christianity, but physical that means metaphysical, ontological. It is possible to say cosmological as continuation of the creation of the world. Classical Protestantism and Barthianism think cosmogony as Old Testament, biblicistical, not New Testament. The calvinistic meaning of life as worship to the honour of God is also Old Testament, not New Testament. K.Barth is following this doctrine, too. God wants to rule and Man has to serve this dominion. God is the absolute superior monarch, first of all the monarch. But this monarchical aspect in the idea of God isn't a Christian aspect. Therefore Barth underlines the anger of God, punishment, and he diminuishes the mercy of God. He doesn't so much see God as Love Who revelates Himself in His Son. The merciful God is covered by the Old Testament God which has the power. God does whatever He wants, God is free, He is beyond of Good and Evil. This motive of Duns Scotus which changes God into a random tyrann is very strong in Barthianism, therefore you feel a lack of love in this current. Christianity is first of all a religion of fear and of punishment. This type is very ingenious depicted in "Brand" by Ibsen, its model was Kierkegaard. Brand doesn't know the God of Love. A voice out of Heaven must remember him this verity. Heroism without mercy and maximalism contradicts the spirit of Christianity. The maximalism of Kierkegaard is deceitful. There is no similarity with Christian sanctity. It is close to montanism. Church banned it. For us Orthodox Russians there is nothing stranger than the predestination doctrine of Calvin: God created some people for eternal beatitude and other for eternal reprobation. We must recognize in this doctrine the power of the reductio ad absurdum (reduction to impossibility), but it is clear that the problem of the relation between God's omniscience and human freedom in Christian consciousness isn't solved. For us is also the doctrine of blessed Augustine unacceptable. It is not accidentally that all Eastern teachers of the Church believed in general redemption, in apocatastasis, from Origen to St Maximus Confessor. The generality, the cosmical character of redemption is one of the fundamental motives also of the Russian thinking.

For Brunner has the trinitarian dogma no meaning, equally the dogma of the doctrine and that of the bible. It is characteristical for the whole Protestantism that the trinitarian dogma remains in it in the shadow. There is a God, a human soul and a mediator between God and this soul – Christ. But the faith in the Godmanhood of Jesus Christ, that He is the only begotten Son of God, cannot get any right sense outside of the faith in the Trinity of God. Our faith in the Godhood of Christ says that He is the second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity. Without this faith there is a duality instead of Trinity, but the Two is an uncomplete number, it shows no exit. There is almost not spoken about the Holy Spirit, the third Hypostasis in the Holy Trinity, and He is almost completely identified with Grace. Also the Catholic theology uses to think in this way. Eastern Christianity is first of all a religion of the Holy Trinity and lays special stress on the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit is the divine energy immanent in the world. Outside of the faith in the Holy Trinity there is only a monarchistic meaning of God. Calvin and K.Barth claim the absolute monarchy of God, His absolute rule and honour. That is pure monotheism. It sounds paradoxically, but it must be said that Christianity is no monotheistic religion. Orthodox Jews understand this best. Pure monotheism is jewish, islamic, not Christian religion. For the Christian consciousness is the Godhood not absolute monarchy but Holy Trinity, that means endless love and sacrifice. Each of the three Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity emanates in endless love and readiness to sacrifice. Only the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a doctrine of God as Love. The abstract-monotheistic, monarchical idea of God is a prechristian grade of cognition of God, an exoterian doctrine of God. The esoterian face of God is hidden to it. Yet more, without Christ, without the divine love which is ready to sacrifice, it is not possible to accept God. He would terrify us in a transcendental fright as mysterium tremendum. Pure monotheism leads always to transcendental dualism and doesn't know anything about unification of Heaven and earth, Creator and creature, about incarnation of God, the central mystery of Christianity. Pure monotheism has as consequence a creaturely world without God and its deep reduction. That is islamic religion. The trinitarian dogma is indissoluble unitied with the veneration of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. I read the book by Brunner with great interest, because I felt the tension and sharpness of thought, the religious pathos. But when I came to the sentence where Brunner confesses that he doesn't believe in the birth of Jesus Christ from a Virgin or at least is indifferent to it, I felt sad and the matter became even noisy, because it seemed to me as if from now on all would be deleted, all would be further on useless. In this point there is a radical difference to Protestantism. The whole miracle of Christianity and its whole sense is in the birth of Christ out of the Virgin Mary from the Holy Spirit. Without this there isn't Christianity. How ever we would come near to the Protestants, how ever we would work with them, the rejection of the veneration of the Mother of God creates an abyss between us. The transcendental dualism which makes a creation without God makes impossible the faith in the birth of Christ out of a Virgin and the veneration of His mother. The birth of Christ, that means the incarnation and becoming Man of God, is here understood full worldly. We have no cosmical process which revelates a transfigured virginal creatureship to make possible the conception of the Logos in the bottom of the earth. Therefore the cosmical basis for the Church must fall. Brunner sees the faith in the Virgin, the Mother of God, as a naturalistic theory of parthenogenesis. You feel here a disgust for nature, for the creaturely world. K.Barth who is more orthodox in his Dogmatic says that Christ was born from the Virgin, but this hasn't any spiritual consequences for him, it's not leading to a cult of the Mother of God which seems to be to Protestantism always a pagan naturalistic cult. But paganism is here the cosmos, and we are coming to the question how Western Christianity relates to the cosmos.


In the Western Christian Idea was the cosmos neutralized in a long process. It has its grades. It began already with St. Thomas of Aquino. He said the natural order is an independent sphere, differing and divided from the supranatural order. The neutralization of the cosmos was the result of an ordering in steps. Nature and grace were sharply opposed. St Thomas of Aquino became a source of European naturalism. But with him there is the cosmos yet a hierarchic order (ordo) with all its steps. Later on followed the process of destroying the cosmos in the antique and middle age sense of this word. On the place of the cosmos was now the nature as object of the scientific cognition and of technical development. Luther and Protestantism were a futher step in the neutralization of the cosmos and, consequently, his secularization. Protestantism saw the religious life as relation of the human soul to God. The human soul was differed from the cosmical whole. K.Barth says very often that Protestantism isn't individualism, but in spite of this the neutralization of the cosmos, the secularization of nature leads necessarily to individualism. We have individualism not only in Protestantism but also in Catholicism, because it doesn't say that the human soul is safed together with the world, that the redemption is an ecumenical-cosmical and not an isolated individual matter. For Western European Christianity the human soul doesn't remain as an organical member in the cosmical whole, in the all-ecclesiastical collective. Also the Catholic consciousness doesn't think the ecclesiastical hierarchy as all-ecclesiastical, cosmical collectivism, the creaturely world isn't understood as organical whole in which the divine Wisdom works. Protestantism isolated the human soul even more and set it without any relation to the cosmical unity before God. The consequence was a total secularization of the nature, the cosmos disappeared, in its place was now a dead mechanism. The connection between Heaven and earth was ended, nature wasn't yet powered by divine energies. The "supranatural" of St Thomas of Aquino disappeared for the ruling consciousness of Western Europe, the "natural" remained, but divided from the "supranatural". There are to be seen ways of Christian renewment without a living relation to nature, to cosmos, to creation as a whole. In Western Christian thinking remained the divine, sanctified cosmos only in the Christian theosophy (which has absolutely nothing in common with the popular "theosophy" of our days) of Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Pordage, Fr.Bader, partly with Schelling in the doctrine of Wisdom. That is an emminent merit of the Christian theosophy, first of all of the greatest Christian theosoph, Jacob Boehme. The Christian East was from the beginning more cosmical than the West, and that is connected with his Greek sources. Greece was the revelation of the splendid cosmos, and with it was connected its whole religious life. In changed form this went over to the patristic. With Origenes, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Maximus Confessor is the cosmical gnosis much stronger than in the Latin patristic, also more anthropological and psychological. Christian West comes from blessed Augustine. This deeper cosmical element expressed itself in liturgy and in the life of the saints. In the Byzantine monastic-ascetic type of piety was the cosmical element weakened, but in Russian Orthodoxy renewed and it became stronger because it had the original Russian paganism as cosmical basis, an individual Russian-national element, transfigured by Christianity. Our thirst for cosmical transfiguration is expressed in our Easter and in the joy about the Resurrection.


The end