Fr Georges Florovsky: Are You a Theologian Bearing Witness?

Feast of St Artemius the Great Martyr of Antioch

Florovsky_Square_3.jpgTHEOLOGY IS called not only to judge, but also to heal. It is necessary to enter into this world of doubt, illusion and lies, in order to answer doubt as well as reproach. But we must enter into this world with the sign of the Cross in our heart and the name of Jesus in our spirit, because this is a world of mystical wanderings, where everything is fragmentized, decomposed and refracted as if through a set of mirrors. And here again the theologian must bear witness. This situation is not unlike that of the early centuries, when the seeds had been sown and sprouted in a soil not yet transfigured, but which this first sowing sanctified for the first time. By then, those who announced the Good News had to address themselves most of the time to hearts not enlightened, to the obscure and sinful conscience of the “nations” to which they had been sent, and which were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. Our contemporary world, atheistic and ridden with unbelief, is it not comparable in a sense with that pre-Christian world, renewed with all the same interweaving of false religious trends, skeptical and anti-God? In the face of such a world, theology must all the more become again a witness. The theological system cannot be a mere product of erudition, it cannot be born of philosophical reflection alone. It needs also the experience of prayer, spiritual concentration, pastoral solicitude. In theology, the good news, the kerygma, must be proclaimed. The theologian must speak to living hearts, he must be full of attention and love, conscious of his immediate responsibility for the soul of his brother, and particularly for the soul that is still in the dark. In knowledge in general there is and there must be an element, not merely dialectic, but dia-logical. He who knows bears witness for the benefit of those who together with him have the knowledge of the truth; he calls upon them to bow and be humble before it, and he should humble himself as well. Humility is particularly necessary to the theologian. He cannot possibly solve today the problems of souls and consciences arising daily in the pastoral-pedagogical domain, but should not brush them aside either. He must answer from within a complete system of thought, by a theological confession. He must experience in himself, as though an intimate suffering, the entire problematic of the soul which believes not and seeks not, the problematic of voluntary ignorance and of ignorance not desired. The time is come when the refusal of theological knowledge becomes a deadly sin, the stigma of self-conceit and lovelessness, of cowardice and maliciousness. Affected plainness seems a demoniac maneuver; distrusting the reason that seeks must be condemned as satanic mischief.

—Fr Georges Florovsky, The Ways of Russian Theology

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