Christian Philosophy and Evangelical Churches in Russia

Christian Philosophy and Evangelical Churches in Russia

Aug 5, 2011

At first glance it may seem that “Christian philosophy” and “Evangelical
churches” come from completely separate logical camps and aren’t compatible,
especially in Russia, which is well-known for its conservatism and refusal to
accept the intellectual tradition of Western Christianity. Indeed, a topic in
which such words go together is automatically complicated, due to it being such
a strange combination of words. But to take it a step further, the phrase
“Christian philosophy” contains an apparent contradiction, the resolution of
which will make it easier to understand more concrete issues surrounding
Evangelical churches and Russian reality. And the final obvious difficulty in
the title is with the phrase “Evangelical churches in Russia.” The difficulty
of the phrase “Evangelical churches” in the title and in real life is even more
obvious as Russia moves closer to being (though it actually never has been
before) exclusively Orthodox and mono-confessional. Unlike mass perception (for
whom “to be Russian is to be Orthodox”), philosophy casts doubt on such assumptions.
To put it differently, it is in many ways thanks to this phenomenon that Evangelical
churches in Russia can, both in name and in reality, be connected to Christian
philosophy. I will now simply and briefly note a few aspects of Christian
philosophy which are relevant and useful for Evangelical churches in Russia.
The fullness of church life is evident in socio-cultural reality and is
expressed in all the richness of “human” forms. The classic juxtaposition of
churches and sects as different types of religious organizations, proposed by
Ernst Troehsch,
[1] remains
methodologically acceptable today. The Church confirms its place in community
life, and offers its social and worldview reference points. The church does not
respond to atheistic challenges with a quote from the Bible (as though it is a
magical spell or esoteric mystery), but with Christian philosophy: Bible-based
and logically sound.
The Church is reflexive, facing questions about her position and its
expression, appealing to the experience of philosophy and its methods and
language. Christian philosophy is a rethinking and expression of the Christian
faith in the language of academics and culture.
It is within Christian philosophy that one is allowed maximal creative
freedom, rational evaluation of doctrines of faith, and a critical view of one’s
own identity. Christian philosophy is a sort of school of reflection and
practical questioning, in which subjects are considered on the basis of both
internal experience and the outside world. Philosophy makes possible the
explication of the Church’s internal questions for the outside world; it
provides a common language. The lessons of Christian philosophy are the lessons
of translating the Gospel, “special revelation,” into the language of secular
thought, while not losing the meaning, but instead making it clearer.
Christian philosophy makes the spiritual wealth of Christianity accessible
to the inquisitive mind of the modern thinker. But it is also significant that
this thought is translated, read and analyzed by all the richness of human
culture for Christianity, through the prism of its dogmatists. If it is beyond
doubt that all truth is from God, then it is also undoubtedly true that all of
this multi-faceted and compartmentalized truth is worthy of attention and
Christian philosophy assumes not only a diversity of ideas, but also a group
of people, united by a presumption of faith, rationality, culture, and
creativity. This is the ideological foundation for the formation of a Christian
intelligentsia, the ethos of which is Christian humanism. The Church will
always accent theocentrism (Christocentrism), while the secular world focuses
on anthropocentrism, but the role of the Christian intelligentsia is to
consider the connection between God and man and the interpretation and
practical realization of the doctrine of the Incarnation.
A Christian intelligentsia can become a channel of influence on the
public awareness, a social sphere where theology and philosophy come together
and find expression in culturally-acceptable forms.
Culture emerges as an alternative to power. Structures of the last “hermeneutic
of suspicion” can be traced in Christianity’s history, missiology, and
theology.  Converting nations to
Christianity by force turned out to be impractical (not to mention unethical),
and public consciousness rebelled against faith imposed from above. In a
situation of true worldview pluralism, where no single religion or denomination
lays claim to a monopoly and privileged status, dialogue becomes the main form
of testimony, and Christian philosophy becomes the methodology and theory of
argumentation in such dialogue. Evangelical churches don’t have financial or
political resources, but they can exert intellectual and spiritual influence.
In the words of the first apostles, Christians don’t intent to contend with the
world in political power and money, because they have another power, which can
transform, heal, and renew: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I
give you” (Acts 3:6). Christians must remain politically and economically weak,
because it allows Christians to focus on what is most important to them: the
Word and teaching.
Ethical universalism, the global
characteristic of Christianity, can be the directional, evaluative and ethical
marker for globalization, and an important aspect of dialogue between (as
opposed to clash of) civilizations. According to a study by the French
Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), 48% of Europeans believe that Christian
values play a key role in the development of dialogue between various cultures
and religions
[2]. Europeans
have ceased to heed the Church’s claims to absolute authority, but they
maintain their loyalty to Christian worldview principles and the Christian
ethos of good neighborliness, without which pluralistic Europe would cease to
exist as a cultural-historical type. This experience is valuable for Russia, whose
diversity can be either enriching or conflict-causing.
The universalism of Christianity requires
both a theological (for the Church) and a philosophical (for the outside world)
foundation. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the success of the latter is a
condition for fulfilling the Great Commission, and an intersection between the
two means of seeking after God was predestined from the beginning: “We must recognize
the hand of fate—the intersection of Biblical faith and Greek philosophy was
indeed providential.”
In the first few centuries of
Church history Christian philosophy helped formulate the fundamental tenets of
Christian doctrine and defend them in open discussion. It is clear that today
there is an even greater demand for such a synthesis.
Christian philosophy achieves a
synthesis of faith and reason, a perceptive faith and believing reason. Here
the possibility of another reason becomes clear, not self-sufficient, not
proud, but serving and loving, capable of tearing its focus away from itself
and turning it to higher things.
If Evangelical churches, having traveled
the long path of internal revolution and the fight for the right to exist in
Russian society, consciously reject enculturation, socialization, and the consolidation
of Christian intelligentsia, they will run the risk of marginalization and condemnation.
The growth of Christian philosophy can activate the intellectual powers of
Evangelical churches; act as an important sign, potential, and beginning of the
creation of a socio-cultural identity; claim, formalize, and cement its place
in the overall cultural and religious picture of Russia.






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[1] Troehsch E. Die sociallehren der christlichen
Kirchen und Gnippen // Gesammelten Schriften. Tubingen
Bd. 1.
Aufl. S. 361-377.

[2] “Study: Christianity Still Plays an Important
Role in the Lives of Europeans” //

[3] Ratzinger,
J. (Benedict XVI) Faith, Truth, and
. –
М.: ББИ,
2007. —