Fr Georges Florovsky: Have You Accepted the Challenge of Western Culture?

Feast of St Phocas the Martyr, Bishop of Sinope

Florovsky_Square.jpgCHRISTIANITY accepted the challenge of the Hellenistic and Roman culture, and ultimately a Christian Civilization emerged. It is true that this rise of Christian Culture has been strongly censured in modern times as an “acute Hellenization” of Christianity, in which the purity and simplicity of the Evangelical or Biblical faith is alleged to have been lost. Many in our own days are quite “iconoclastic” with regard to culture en bloc, or at least to certain fields of culture, such as “Philosophy” (equated with “sophistics”) or Art, repudiated as a subtle idolatry, in the name of Christian faith. But, on the other hand, we have to face the age-long accumulation of genuine human values in the cultural process, undertaken and carried in the spirit of Christian obedience and dedication to the truth of God. What is important in this case is that the Ancient Culture proved to be plastic enough to admit of an inner “transfiguration.” Or, in other words, Christians proved that it was possible to re-orient the cultural process, without lapsing into a pre-cultural state, to re-shape the cultural fabric in a new spirit. The same process which has been variously described as a “Hellenization of Christianity” can be construed rather as a “Christianization of Hellenism.” Hellenism was, as it were, dissected by the Sword of the Spirit, was polarized and divided, and a “Christian Hellenism” was created. Of course, “Hellenism” was ambiguous and, as it were, double-faced. And certain of the Hellenistic revivals in the history of the European thought and life have been rather pagan revivals, calling for caution and strictures. It is enough to mention the ambiguities of the Renaissance, and in later times just Goethe or Nietzsche. But it would be unfair to ignore the existence of another Hellenism, already initiated in the Age of the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, and creatively continued through the Middle Ages and the Modern times. What is really decisive in this connection is that “Hellenism” has been really changed. One can be too quick in discovering “Hellenic accretions” in the fabric of Christian life, and at the same time quite negligent and oblivious to the facts of this “transfiguration.”

—Fr Georges Florovsky, Faith and Culture

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