Fr Georges Florovsky: For What Purpose Has God Created You?

Feast of St Cyril, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Florovsky_Square.jpgWE NEED A theology of culture, even for our “practical” decisions. No real decision can be made in the dark. The dogma of Creation, with everything that it implies, was dangerously obscured in the consciousness of modern Christians, and the concept of Providence, i.e. of the perennial concern of the Creator with the destiny of His Creation, was actually reduced to something utterly sentimental and subjective. Accordingly, “history” was conceived as an enigmatic interim between the Mighty Deeds of God, for which it was difficult to assign any proper substance. This was connected again with an inadequate conception of Man. The emphasis has been shifted from the fulfillment of God’s design for man to the release of Man out of the consequences of his “original” failure. And, accordingly, the whole doctrine of the Last Things has been dangerously reduced and has come to be treated in the categories of forensical justice of sentimental love. The “Modern Man” fails to appreciate and to assess the conviction of early Christians, derived from the Scripture, that Man was created by God for a creative purpose and was to act in the world as its king, priest, and prophet. The fall or failure of man did not abolish this purpose or design, and man was redeemed in order to be re-instated in his original rank and to resume his role and function in Creation. And only by doing this can he become what he was designed to be, not only in the sense that he should display obedience, but also in order to accomplish the task which was appointed by God in his creative design precisely as the task of man. As much as “History” is but a poor anticipation of the “Age to come,” it is nevertheless its actual anticipation, and the cultural process in history is related to the ultimate consummation, if in a manner and in a sense which we cannot adequately decipher now. One must be careful not to exaggerate “the human achievement,” but one should also be careful not to minimize the creative vocation of man. The destiny of human culture is not irrelevant to the ultimate destiny of man.

All this may seem to be but a daring speculation, much beyond our warrant and competence. But the fact remains: Christians as Christians were building culture for centuries and many of them not only as in duty bound, but with the firm conviction that this was the will of God. A brief retrospect of the Christian endeavour in culture may help us to see the problem in a more concrete manner, in its full complexity, but also in all its inevitability. As a matter of fact, Christianity entered the world precisely at one of the most critical periods of history, at the time of a momentous crisis of culture. And the crisis was finally solved by the creation of Christian Culture, as unstable and ambiguous as this culture proved to be, in its turn, and in the course of its realization.  

—Fr Georges Florovsky, “Faith and Culture”

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