Florovsky Paper Abstract - Substitution, Satisfaction & Ransom in the Fathers: A Clarification of Florovsky's Neopatristic Synthesis

Feast of the Martyr Theodosia

FR GEORGES Florovsky’s magnum opus, The Ways of Russian Theology, is extremely critical of the West for its Westernizing ‘pseudomorphosis’ of Russian Orthodox theology. It also includes the seeds of a proposal for which Florovsky would become most famous: ‘neopatristic synthesis’. Both concepts—neopatristic synthesis and pseudomorphosis—have been massively misunderstood. From the very beginning, Florovsky’s neopatristic synthesis insisted on dialogue with Western theology based on the common tradition of the early Christian Fathers, both Latin and Greek. He even suggested that Orthodox theologians should engage the questions raised by Latin medieval scholastics. Almost completely unnoticed by scholarship, this paper will briefly highlight how Florovsky heeds his own advice. But it will also offer a critique of Florovsky. For despite those ways in which Florovsky did indeed engage the Latin schoolmen, he nevertheless maintained an ambivalent attitude to the ‘substitutionary’ nature of salvation. With a few rare exceptions, this attitude has reigned for the last century among Orthodox Christians (clergy, laity, and scholars). Substitutionary atonement is not infrequently attacked as a way to differentiate Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, i.e., Western substitution vs. Eastern theosis. The late Fr. Matthew Baker once exhorted Orthodox theologians to make a more honest study of substitution, debt-satisfaction, and ransom within patristic literature. In an effort to clarify Florovsky’s neopatristic synthesis—and to remain more faithful to its contours than Florovsky himself did—this paper will heed Baker’s call by offering a preliminary study of the usage of such language in the Greek and Latin Fathers.


Erin Doom is the founder and director of Eighth Day Institute. He is currently editing his PhD thesis on Fr. Georges Florovsky and lives in Wichita, KS with his wife Christiane and their four children, Caleb Michael, Hannah Elizabeth, Elijah Blaise, and Esther Ruth.


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