Friday, January 6, 2023

Two worthwhile articles from St. Vladimir’s Theo. Quarterly

St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (SVTQ)—in continuous publication for nearly seventy years—has a fresh new look and format and is now under new editorial leadership: Dr Ionuț-Alexandru Tudorie, Academic Dean and Professor of Church History at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, Editor-in-Chief; the Rev. Dr Bogdan Bucur, Associate Professor of Patristics, and Dr Vitaly Permiakov, Assistant Professor of Liturgical Theology, Editors; and the Rev. Ignatius Green, Editor & Production Manager of SVS Press. 

You can read two articles from a recent edition. Both links will send you to PDFs of the content.

This is a sort of panegyric for peace itself and for properly orienting yourself as Christians above all other things. It is summed up a bit in the middle of the article where it says, "We value and pray for a peaceful coexistence with the civil authorities, and do our best to preach the Gospel and promote the good life in our communities. But these secondary, political, social means can never be confused with our primary means, much less our goal. Otherwise, we risk the sins of blasphemy, idolatry, and scandal." Some say that there is no culture war going on and those that see one do so out of an ignorant fundamentalism. Others say that the Church is sitting on its hands watching as secular and nefarious forces seek to feed us lies and demand we call them truths. This article speaks to both sides with clarity.
This article far more strident in its commentary on the actions of the Moscow patriarchate than I would have imagined.  It is actually quite pointed in its condemnation of hierarchs as having a "crisis of leadership" and allowing themselves to be coopted by secular power. As an example, "... in the many cases in which Orthodox hierarchs have accepted to make common cause with totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the promotion of ethnic pride and the regulation of public morality, too often at the expense of the freedom and dignity inherent to all those created in God’s image." You can read this either as a stalwart defender of the Russian Church or as someone who finds fault in everything done in Moscow and have something to ponder.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I have mentioned before that I do not trust Met. Tikhon as a guide on "Christ and/vs./above Culture" questions/praxis due to his response to Fr. Robert Arida's pro-homosexualism essay published on the OCA's youth blog a few years back - his primary sin being his attempt to gaslight all the clerics/lay persons who responded by trying to convince us that Fr. Robert's essay was not in fact about homosexualism and it's place in Christian community.

    However, his later rebuke of Met. Archbishop Elpidophoros antimonial (and very modern) view of "inclusivity" had me wondering if he in fact had a more balanced/nuanced view. Perhaps his response to Fr. Robert was more due to the too common knee-jerk clericalism found among Orthodox hierarchs and clergy.

    I still think too many English speaking Orthodox rate "...the freedom and dignity inherent to all those created in God's image..." in a way that is not in fact classically Christian, but rather is (classically) modern (sometimes in a Kantian way, other times in a Lockean way or something similar).

    I also don't believe any English speaking Orthodox leadership (hierarchical or lay) has much business speaking about a "crises of leadership", particularly in relation to any 'Christ and cultural' questions, given how Orthodoxy-as-ecclesia has so done so poorly at this very thing within western civilization for the last 120 years or so.

    I say all this before reading the articles. Perhaps they will surprise me ;)

  2. I have almost a complete set of the quarterly and highly value it. Unfortunately I am missing the past four years because it has priced itself beyond what a common person, especially a retiree can afford, and this is very sad.

  3. This is an excellent article from Metropolitan Tikhon, definitely worth reading. He finds a balance for Orthodox Christians in approaching political discourse, neither as an end, nor as a means to an end, but rather as a not-of-this-world prophetic witness. What Metropolitan Tikhon doesn't explicitly mention, however, is that canonized examples of Christian political witness are typically expressed in the context of governments and/or government leaders who unduly pose themselves as being "Christian".

    For example, Metropolitan Tikhon gives us this example of Saint Telemachus, a monk visiting "Christianized" Rome:

    "who, in order to protest the continuation of gladiatorial games in the Christianized empire, threw himself into the midst of a contest and was promptly killed. But his death, an act of self-sacrificing love, quickly resulted in the outlawing of gladiator and beast fights."

    We can see that Saint Telemachus' political witness here not only served to restore moral integrity to the "Christianized" Roman Empire, but it also bore witness to the prophetic integrity of the Church.

    Yet when our government and government leaders do not even pretend to be Christian, then how does the Christian prophetic witness address the realm of political discourse? We can easily find the New Testament example in the context of the pagan Roman Empire. Neither Christ nor Saint Paul offer any political criticisms whatsoever against their contemporaries in pagan Rome. Rather, Jesus Christ speaks these words to His Church, as Metropolitan Tikhon points out:

    "the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over... , and they that are great exercise authority upon ..., But it shall not be so among you..."

    Christ flat-out tells his disciples they are called to be not-of-this-world in relation to political authority. He instead gives us this upside-down image of true leadership, that "whoever would be great among you must be your servant." Indeed, this is the very example of Jesus Christ, who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mathew 20:25-26)

    In light of this, it's probably worth questioning whether government protests, such as the "March for Life", actually serve anybody other than the egos of those whom fundamentally seek political authority. By contrast, there are certainly many good people and even organizations, such as Zoe for Life, that actually serve the poor mothers whom are having to make very difficult life choices, such as choosing not to have an abortion. Such later examples seem much more in line with Christ's words.

    Metropolitan Tikhon, nonetheless, does offer us here a much-needed prophetic witness that directly addresses the Orthodox Church in the midst of today's political discourse:

    "When anyone attempts to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine by pointing to Western decadence, they are only proving their own moral irrelevance. In the face of the brutality of this war, such justifications are hard to understand as anything but idolatrous and unacceptable for Orthodox Christians."