Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When Did They Become Orthodox? (2)

His re-discovery of his Christian faith did not change the fact that Dostoevsky was mad, it just made his books more readable and fulfilling. Notes From the Underground was terrible, but Crime & Punishment should be one everyone's reading bucket list. I am currently ploughing through The Brothers Karamazov during lunch breaks at work and happened upon this lengthy discourse by Aloysha on the role of the Orthodox church with regard to the state. Dostoevsky, writing in 1880, insists towards the end of this edited excerpt that his vision is different from Rome's because Rome wants to become the state and Orthodoxy wants the state to become the church. In light of Pius XI's documents on the topic, that delineation becomes, at best, arbitrary and superficial.

What do we make of this passage? Is it a relic of "Holy Russia" and Slavic Erastianism? A remnant of Caesaro-papism? A common vision of the cooperation of the state with the Church in matters moral and religious held East and West, despite the separation? Evidence that state power vitiated Christianity irreparably a millennium and a half before this was written? Is it a holy goal we should still aspire to reach by grace? Speak!

The eristic exchange takes place in the context of one character challenging another's article reviewing a book on ecclesiastical jurisprudence.

"I start from the position that this confusion of elements, that is, of the essential principles of Church and State, will, of course, go on forever, in spite of the fact that it is impossible for them to mingle, and that the confusion of these elements cannot lead to any consistent or even normal results, for there is falsity at the very foundation of it. Compromise between the Church and State in such questions as, for instance, jurisdiction, is, to my thinking, impossible in any real sense. My clerical opponent maintains that the Church holds a precise and defined position in the State. I maintain, on the contrary, that the Church ought to include the whole State, and not simply to occupy a corner in it, and, if this is, for some reason, impossible at present, then it ought, in reality, to be set up as the direct and chief aim of the future development of Christian society!"

"Perfectly true," Father Paissy, the silent and learned monk, assented with fervour and decision.

"The purest Ultramontanism!" cried Miusov impatiently, crossing and recrossing his legs.

"Oh, well, we have no mountains," cried Father Iosif, and turning to the elder he continued: "Observe the answer he makes to the following 'fundamental and essential' propositions of his opponent, who is, you must note, an ecclesiastic. First, that 'no social organisation can or ought to arrogate to itself power to dispose of the civic and political rights of its members.' Secondly, that 'criminal and civil jurisdiction ought not to belong to the Church, and is inconsistent with its nature, both as a divine institution and as an organisation of men for religious objects,' and, finally, in the third place, 'the Church is a kingdom not of this world.'

“A most unworthy play upon words for an ecclesiastic!" Father Paissy could not refrain from breaking in again. "I have read the book which you have answered," he added, addressing Ivan, "and was astounded at the words 'The Church is a kingdom not of this world. 'If it is not of this world, then it cannot exist on earth at all. In the Gospel, the words 'not of this world' are not used in that sense. To play with such words is indefensible. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to set up the Church upon earth. The Kingdom of Heaven, of course, is not of this world, but in Heaven; but it is only entered through the Church which has been founded and established upon earth. And so a rivolous play upon words in such a connection is unpardonable and improper. The Church is, in truth, a kingdom and ordained to rule, and in the end must undoubtedly become the kingdom ruling over all the earth. For that we have the divine promise."
"The whole point of my article lies in the fact that during the first three centuries Christianity only existed on earth in the Church and was nothing but the Church. When the pagan Roman Empire desired to become Christian, it inevitably happened that, by becoming Christian, it included the Church but remained a pagan State in very many of its departments. In reality this was bound to happen. But Rome as a State retained too much of the pagan civilisation and culture, as, for example, in the very objects and fundamental principles of the State. The Christian Church entering into the State could, of course, surrender no part of its fundamental principles- the rock on which it stands- and could pursue no other aims than those which have been ordained and revealed by God Himself, and among them that of drawing the whole world, and therefore the ancient pagan State itself, into the Church. In that way (that is, with a view to the future) it is not the Church that should seek a definite position in the State, like 'every social organisation,' or as 'an organisation of men for religious purposes' (as my opponent calls the Church), but, on the contrary, every earthly State should be, in the end, completely transformed into the Church and should become nothing else but a Church, rejecting every purpose incongruous with the aims of the Church. All this will not degrade it in any way or take from its honour and glory as a great State, nor from the glory of its rulers, but only turns it from a false, still pagan, and mistaken path to the true and rightful path, which alone leads to the eternal goal. This is why the author of the book On the Foundations of Church Jurisdiction would have judged correctly if, in seeking and laying down those foundations, he bad looked upon them as a temporary compromise inevitable in our sinful and imperfect days. But as soon as the author ventures to declare that the foundations which he predicates now, part of which Father Iosif just enumerated, are the permanent, essential, and eternal foundations, he is going directly against the Church and its sacred and eternal vocation. That is the gist of my article."

"Why, it's beyond anything!" cried Miusov, suddenly breaking out; "the State is eliminated and the Church is raised to the position of the State. It's not simply Ultramontanism, it's arch-Ultramontanism! It's beyond the dreams of Pope Gregory the Seventh!"
"You are completely misunderstanding it," said Father Paissy sternly. "Understand, the Church is not to be transformed into the State. That is Rome and its dream. That is the third temptation of the devil. On the contrary, the State is transformed into the Church, will ascend and become a Church over the whole world- which is the complete opposite of Ultramontanism and Rome, and your interpretation, and is only the glorious destiny ordained for the Orthodox Church. This star will arise in the east!"


  1. If you want proof that there was no schism in 1054 or even for a few hundred years later, the Order of the Dragon is a great example.

    As for the excerpt, Dostoevsky lived during a brief renewal of faith within Russia that included them having a Patriarch for the first time since Peter "the Great" abolished it (and what a patriarch Tikhon turned out to be!). This seems to be an optimistic opinion that a reinvigorated Christian Russia would reverse the rising secularism of the hedonistic and materialist West and bring forth a new era for Christ.

    The irony is jarring and heartbreaking.

  2. Tikhon became Patriarch in 1917, when Dostoevski was already dead for more than 30 years.

    1. I am aware of that. A better choice of words would have been "culminated in them having a Patriarch for the first time since Peter..."