The Path of Reason

in Search of the Truth


A. I. Osipov

Moscow. Danilovsky Blagovestnik. 1997

Translated by Victor Astapov/ A. Pederera/ N. Semyanko/ T. Pavlova





I. The Concept of Apologetics.

§1. The Branches of Apologetics. §2. The Brief Course on the History of Apologetics. §3. Russian Apologetics

The path to Truth.

I. Notion of Basic Theology.

II. Religion.

§1. Man, World, Religion. §2. What is Religion? §3. Meaning of the Word "Religion." §4. Basic Truths of Religion §5. Essence of Religion. §6. Views of Some Philosophers on Religion. §7. Origin of Religion. §8. The First religion. §9. Diversity of Religions §10. Pseudo-religious Thought Systems: Deism, Pantheism, and Theism §11. Views of Some Philosophers on Religion

III. The existence of God

§1. Proof §2. There Is No God, Because... §3. God Exists

IV. Religion and Human Activity.

§1. Science. §2. The Path of Reason In Search of the Truth. §3. The Basis of Social Service to the Church. §4. A Christian’s freedom, the Church’s freedom and religious freedom.

V. Revelation.

§1. Types of revelations. §2. General Revelation and Its Indications. §3. Individual revelation and its signs. §4. Exorcism. §5. Assessment of the Natural Knowledge of God [71].

VI. Heathenism.

§1. Naturalism. §2. Idolatry. §3. Mysticism. §4. Magic. §5. The Origins and Essence of Heathenism. §6. Assessment Of Heathenism.

VII. Religion of the Old Testament.

§1. Teaching. §2. The Religion of the Old Testament and Christianity.

VIII. Spiritual Life.

§1. Basics of Spiritual Life [1]. §2. About sanctity in Orthodoxy.

IX. Origin of the world.

§1. Two Views of the World. §2. The Christian Understanding of the World. §3. Christian Ecology. §4. The Hypothesis of the Antiworld. §5. The Boundaries of the Universe. §6. Creation or / and Evolution.

X. Chapter incomplete (N. Semyanko).

§1. The Notion of Eschatology and Its Different Aspects. §2. Antichrist. §3. 666 and The Individual Taxpayer Number (ITN).


“I think, that everyone with a mind will admit that learning is our greatest blessing, and not only this noblest and our learning which, scorning all embellishment and fertility of speech, is garnered for one salvation and for beauty of mental contemplation, but also external learning, which many Christians, through poor understanding, disdain, as evil artistry, dangerous and distancing from God…

On the contrary, one must admit as dumb and ignorant those, who keeping to this opinion, want to see everyone like themselves, in order to hide their own deficiency in the common deficiency and avoid the exposure of their ignorance” St. Gregory the Theologian. Word 43.



It is natural for a Christian "to know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (Luke 1:4). But as the Apostle Paul writes, he must "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15). For the Lord Himself commands: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Math 28:19-20).

The preaching of Christianity is a difficult and responsible act, because the salvation of many people depends on its success. It demands the knowledge of the truths of Christianity in relation to the teaching of faith and morals, the understanding of spiritual life and the specific acquaintance with the basic aspects of human life and activity, first of all, with the religious, philosophic, and scientific ones. It necessarily supposes that one knows the answer to the main and more disturbing questions of our contemporaries. All this requires special preparation, which is primarily the subject of apologetics (Basic Theology).

Apologetics is orientated towards people of different convictions and levels of belief: both those, who have just come into the Church and still have many doubts, and those, who are "near the Church walls," but are looking for the Truth, the meaning of life, and are interested in Christianity. Both the first and the second, who in the majority do not have any spiritual experience and have not yet "experienced" God within themselves, need the substantiation of the truths of faith, need proofs, inasmuch as they are one of the natural means towards acquiring and strengthening faith. The following work, examining many questions on apologetics, both those common to all religions as well as those of a specifically Christian character, is orientated towards this goal.

The present work consists of the following parts:


I. The Concept of Apologetics.

APOLOGETICS (Greek apologia— protection, justification, intercession; a speech, said or written in someone’s defense; apologeomai — to defend oneself, to justify oneself, to state or present in one’s personal defense) in the general sense is any kind of defense of Christianity from the accusations and criticism of its enemies; in the specific sense — a branch of theology, whose goal is to reveal and substantiate the truths of Christian faith, and which has to give an answer to anyone asking, or to refute the incorrect religious, philosophic or other world views which stand in opposition to Christianity. Apologetics as the defense of Christianity has existed since its very appearance and continues as such to this day. As a special branch of theology, or as a separate science, apologetics appeared with the development of scholastic theological education. Throughout history its range and content have changed greatly, and has appeared under various names: the apologetics of Christianity, natural theology, philosophical or basic dogmatics, speculative theology, general theology, introductory theology, basic theology. In the second half of the 19th century, such independent disciplines from the field of apologetics gradually appear as the History of Religion, Biblical archeology and textology, Biblical history, Exposal (Comparative) theology. In the 19-20th centuries, in theological schools both in the West and in Russia, apologetics was included in the courses of basic theology or was treated as the same discipline (for example, I. Nikolin. "The Course on Basic Theology or Apologetics." Sergiev Posad, 1904).

In 1996, the reformed study program of theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church treats apologetics and basic theology as two separate subjects. In addition, apologetics preserves its specificity, and is mainly orientated towards the defense of Christianity from the criticism of other world-views and systems of thought. The task of basic theology is the examination and analysis of the main Christian truths of faith and life from the point of view of the intellectual, moral, cultural and other generally accepted norms and criteria.

§1. The Branches of Apologetics.

It is possible to distinguish three main branches in apologetics: Theological, Historical-Philosophical and Natural-Scientific.

Theological Apologetics.

The object of Theological Apologetics is primarily the basic Christian truths of faith and life. However, unlike Dogmatic and Moral Theology, their analysis and examination is not taken from the authority of the Holy Scripture and the Church tradition, but mainly from the point of view of the intellectual, moral, cultural and other commonly accepted norms and criteria. This is caused by the necessity of revealing Christian truths to people who rarely go to the Church, or to unbelievers who are in the state of searching, so that they could have an optimal opportunity of accepting these truths as basic world-view principles. Such an approach serves as a defense of the basic values of Christian religion in the face of criticism, and simultaneously as an optimal condition for the constructive dialogue with other religious systems of thought.

The field of Theological Apologetics includes the examination of such questions as: dogmatic (the understanding of God, the Triunity of God, the Incarnation of God, Salvation, Resurrection, the sacraments and others) in comparison to the non-Christian analogies of other religions and religious trends; theodicy (the cooordination of Divine love and the existence of eternal tortures, the origin of evil, individual freedom and Divine Providence, etc.); spiritual-moral (the understanding of the Christian postulates of spiritual life in comparison with the non-Orthodox ones), and some others.

At the present time, the topics of theological apologetics are assigned to the sphere of basic theology.

Historical-philosophical apologetics.

This branch of apologetics encompasses a very wide range of problems of a historical and, mainly, philosophical character. The historical aspect includes questions about the origin of religion and its types, the appearance of Christianity, different forms of mysticism, and so on, and the understanding of the essence of these phenomena. Historical subject matter effectively appeared in apologetics only in the 18th century, when the activists of the so-called era of Enlightenment and the Great French revolution, in their struggle with Christianity, reached the point of negating the historical existence of Christ and the reality of the events, described in the New Testament and other Biblical books (the so-called "Mythological School"). This and other hypotheses about the origin of Christianity (the Neo-Tubingen School, political-economical, syncretistic) defined the content and the character of a multitude of apologetic works. At present, historical subject matter can still be found in the majority of teaching aids on apologetics and basic theology.

Questions of critical analysis of different atheistic hypotheses about the origin of religion ("the invention of religion," naturalistic, animistic, social, anthropotheistic, etc.) play a great role in the historical aspect of apologetics, as well as the evaluation of the views of some more well-known thinkers upon religion, its origin and its place in the life of man and society.

The philosophical aspect of this branch of apologetics has, first of all, as its object the corresponding disclosure and substantiation of those postulates of Christian faith, which are common with or related to philosophy, and in this capacity are problematic both for theology and philosophy, and also the theological comprehension and assessment of many questions of ontology, gnoseology, anthropology, eschatology.

The understanding of existence, or being (ontology), is key for both Christianity and philosophy, inasmuch as it determines the principal opinion toward all the other problems concerning faith and knowledge. In Christian apologetics, it includes the sphere of questions, which are connected to the religious-philosophical comprehension of the teaching about God and His Existence, the existence of the extra-sensual world, about creation and the relations between God and the world (and man). Constant attention, beginning with the times of scholasticism and to the present, is paid to the question of proving the existence of God.

A great number of apologetic works are devoted to the analysis of alternative views to the question of understanding God and of His attitude to the world, which are suggested by deism, dualism, monism, pantheism, polytheism, theism and other philosophical and religious-philosophical trends.

The problem of cognition and, first of all, of knowing God, the conditions, criteria, goal and means of this process (gnoseology) is central both to Christianity and philosophy. It is very extensive and multifaceted. In theology, this problem is examined unclearly, especially ever since the times of the 11th century schism. The West sees the solution to this problem primarily in the activity of ratio, while the East (Orthodoxy) — in the integrity of the cognizing spirit. A.S. Khomyakov precisely defined this divergence, pointing out the main error of Western mentality: "Rome broke all ties between cognition and the inner perfection of the spirit" [1].

I.V Kireevsky emphasized this also: "Striving for the truth of conjecture, Eastern thinkers first of all worry about the correctness of the inner state of the thinking spirit; the Western ones -- more about the external connection of ideas. The Eastern thinkers, in order to reach the fullness of truth, look for the inner unity of reason: that is, for that concentration of mental forces, where all separate spiritual activities merge into one living and supreme unity. The Western thinkers, on the contrary, believe, that it is possible for divided powers of reason, acting independently in their solitary individualism, to reach the truth" [2].

Thus, Orthodoxy sees true cognition and knowledge of the Truth only through resembling God. The main question of philosophical and Christian gnoseology -- about the truth and delusion (prelest’, or self-delusion) is solved in Orthodoxy not by turning to ratio in and of itself, but to the purity of the entire spiritual-moral state of the cognizing person.

The origin of man, the understanding of the individual, soul, spirit, immortality, freedom, sin and virtue, salvation and perfection, sanctity, attitude towards the body, the meaning of life and death, sufferings and creativity — these are the questions of anthropology, which only represent a small part of this branch of philosophical apologetics. This is that sphere which, together with the teaching about God, takes center stage in Christian theology and around which constant world-view discussions arise.

Eschatology is the problem, which always arouses increased interest and many questions. It has several aspects, though only two of them are usually discussed in philosophical apologetics. The first of them can be called the "antinomy of Gehenna." The main antinomic postulate of eschatology has to do with the fact that the eternal life of immortality and glory can coexist with eternal death and destruction, and both of them, to a different extent, are included in existence. [3] This problem has been a subject for consideration ever since the first centuries of Christianity to the present day. Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Sts. John Chrysostom and Isaac the Syrian, Archpriest A. Tuberovsky, Priest A. Zhurakovsky, Prince E. N. Trubetskoi and many other fathers of the Church, theologians and thinkers suggested interesting and profound ways of solving it.

The second aspect of the eschatological problem concerns the final fate of this world. This aspect includes a wide range of questions and closely borders on historiosophia, sociology, the analysis of scientific-technical progress, cultural development, etc. At the present time, in connection with the increasing ecological crisis, the intensification of globalization processes and the expanding opportunities of total control over man and his behavior, it is acquiring greater and greater relevance.

Natural-Scientific Apologetics.

The main task of this branch of apologetics is to inspire man to contemplation about the reason of the Origin of the world’s visible and ascertainable expediency of order. Basically, the driving idea of natural-scientific apologetics is what is traditionally called the teleological proof of the existence of God. The main questions here are the problems of the correlation of science and religion, science and atheism.

The sources and basis of natural-scientific apologetics are the familiar words of the Apostle Paul: "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). The Apostle writes with a certain reprehensibility here about those who, while analyzing the world, do not see God’s presence in it. The Fathers and teachers of the Church of different eras were also convinced that the contemplation of the natural world’s phenomena and the use of data from natural sciences for the sake of apologetics is both right and useful, inasmuch as it reveals the existence of God and many of His features to man in its own way. Venerable Ephraim the Syrian wrote, for example: "The Scripture teaches us what we see in nature. If we delve into it correctly, both nature and Scripture show the same things" [4]. The same thing is said by Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa in his "Hexameron," the Venerable John Damascene in the "Precise Discourse on Orthodox Faith" and many others. One of the Russian Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, writes a great work "Spiritual Treasure, Gathered From the World." The fact that the overwhelming majority of the most outstanding scientists-naturalists of all times and nations, including the present era, saw God while studying the world, is no less important. Their basic opinion is well expressed by M. Lomonosov: "The Creator gave mankind two books. The first is the visible world… The second book -- is the Holy Scripture… Both of them not only certify God’s existence, but also His indescribable blessings to us. It is a sin to sow tares and discords among them" [5].

. However, together with this main line of theological and scientific thought, beginning with the 15-17th centuries and especially in subsequent times, the idea of the world’s self-development, the self-origination of life and man himself, is growing more actively in certain social circles. This was the source, which produced pseudo-religious, atheistic and anti-religious moods and whole philosophic systems. The notion of the incompatibility and the struggle of science and religion arose from this, which is still important for natural-scientific apologetics to this day. Now, when natural sciences convincingly testify that all levels of micro-, macro-, and mega-worlds: material, biological, mental, moral and spiritual — are so reasonably organized and correlated, both together and individually, that in fact no doubt remains of the anthropic principle of world organization, natural-scientific apologetics attains its goal as never before, showing that science and religion are not only not enemies, but each of them reveals to man the existence of a highest Reason – God -- with the help of its own means.

Natural-scientific apologetics may have as many aspects as there are separate sciences in natural science. But some of them have greater priority. This depends on the amount of "attention" given to this or that science by the atheistic critics. These are usually anthropology, psychology, biology, cosmology. The main problem in the discussion between religion and atheism (but not between religion and science!) throughout these sciences is the cause, or the source (God or matter?) of the appearance of the Universe, the origin of life and man.

*  *  *

So, apologetics takes on the task of revealing and substantiating Christian faith in such a way that would allow each person, searching for the meaning of life, to see that Christianity is not blind faith, but a religion which truly answers the main questions of life of human existence. This explains the specifics of the given theological science, which consists, first of all, in the fact that it resorts not only to the Bible and the teachings of Holy Fathers, but to the non-Christian religious and philosophical thought, the achievements of natural sciences and humanitarian sciences, history, art — i.e. culture in general.

At the same time, the warning of the Lord remains in effect: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Matt. 7:6). This is the commandment, concerning the discerning attitude to preaching, so that it would not become an irritating challenge for those unprepared and spiritually incapable of understanding it. Apostle Paul admonishes his disciple Timothy, and through him, every Christian: "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth " (2 Tim. 2:23-25).

[1] Khomyakov A.S. The Complete works. Part 2. Publ.3. Mosc.1886. P.55

[2] Kireevsky I.V. About the character of Enlightenment in Europe.// Criticism and Aesthetics. Mosc.1979. P.274

[3] Bulgakov S, Archpriest. The Bride of the Lamb. Paris, 1946. P.508.

[4] Ephraim the Syrian, Holy Works. Part 3. Mosc.1852. P.48.

[5] Lomonosov M. Poems// Moscow "The Soviet Writer," 1948. P.7.

§2. The Brief Course on the History of Apologetics.

For greater convenience, the history of apologetics is usually divided into periods. Inasmuch as there is no strictly set division into periods, the following division is suggested in the given review:

Early Christianity and the Epoch of the Ecumenical councils

The necessity of defending one’s faith existed even before the appearance of Christianity. In Judaic circles, it was expressed, for instance, in the works of Philo of Alexandria, Joseph Flavius and the others. Christian writers were not only acquainted with the methods, arguments and ideas of Jewish apologetics, but used them [6]. The first Christian elements of apologetics can be seen in various extracts of the Gospel, the Acts and epistles of the Apostles, especially in those of the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Peter appeals to every Christian to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope" (1 Pet. 3:15).

In the first centuries of Christianity’s existence, a special genre of theological-polemical works appeared — apologia. The apologias of early Christianity address two groups: Judaism and heathenism, which oppose Christianity for various reasons. "But we preach Christ crucified," — writes the Apostle Paul, — unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23). Protection from both Jews and heathens had its own clearly expressed specificity. If the discussion with the Jews was mainly about the Messianic worth of Jesus Christ, about His Divinity, then with heathens — it was about the unity of God, the unique character of Theophany in Christ, the falsity of different types of accusations against Christians and the unjustness of persecutions against them. As V. Bolotov wrote, those apologias were one "of the forms of appeal to public opinion." They, "though slowly, but surely reached their goal: they made society acquainted with Christianity and destroyed the prejudices and biases against Christians" [7]. The main thing that attracts our attention in the apologias of the early period is their spiritual strength, witnessed in the sermon and martyrdom of many of Christian writers themselves and their disciples.

When the persecutions of Christians stopped in the 4th century, the character of apologetics changed— it slowly turned from battling with external enemies to the defense of the purity of faith and morality from distortion within the Church. Mainly, this struggle was purely theological and ended with the decisions of the Councils of the 4-8th centuries. However, this sphere of theological activity goes beyond the boundaries of apologetics themselves.

The Middle Ages and the Epoch of Renaissance.

The apologetics of this period is oriented, on the one hand, towards the polemics of Christianity which appeared in the 7th century with a new and very active religion — Islam (though the previous questions, concerning Neo-Platonism and especially Judaism, were not set aside), and on the other hand — towards the struggle with revived heathenism and anthropocentrism, which were the result of the Renaissance epoch. Still, there are only a few apologetical works remaining from that period. The first of the Byzantine works, entering into polemics with Islam, is "A Discussion Between a Saracen and a Christian," which was written by the Venerable John Damascene. He also writes "The Origin of Knowledge" — an enormous work, which summarizes and classifies the fruits of Christian theology of the preceding centuries, and also includes ideas of an apologetical and philosophical character. Among the other works, devoted to the struggle against Islam, one can note the works of Nikita of Byzantium and the Emperor John VI Kantakuzen. At the beginning of the 7th century, Nicholas of Methona writes a vast apologetical treatise "The Refutation of the Theological Teachings of Proclus Platonicus."

At the time, Spain was the center of apologetic activity in the West. There, in 1250, a special institute was opened for preparing apologists, who would battle with Islam and Judaism, and attention was mostly paid to the studies of Hebrew and Arabic. The work of Cardinal Nicholas Kuzansky "The Refutation of the Koran," in which he pointed out the close ties of Islam with Christianity, was unusual for that time.

The political might of the Catholic Church at that time, the absence of the external enemies and the broad interest of the flock and educated circles of society in ancient thought, contributed to the intensive development of philosophical and theological thought and the rise of so-called scholasticism. The latter set the systematizing of theology and its philosophical substantiation as the one of its most important tasks. Scholastics formulated many proofs of God’s existence; they suggested the concept of the so-called "double truth," which presumed the non-contradictory and independent co-existence of the truths of faith and reason, which in principle produced the opportunity of rational substantiation of all Christian truths; much was done towards the creation of theological systems and the development of methods of theological-philosophical analysis.

In the grandiose "Sums of Theology" (by Peter Lombardsky, †1160, and Thomas Aquinas, †1274) an attempt was made to encompass all questions, relating to the teaching about God, the world and man, and to substantiate the truths of the Revelation, from the position of "pure" reason. The most important role in those works played the parts which were called rational, basic, natural, (sometimes — main) theology. The famous pillars of scholasticism, Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas, did much for the development of those areas.

But, by its attitude to theology, scholasticism was also laying the foundation of that profound rationalism, which led Western thought to many of the most negative consequences. In scholasticism, "a practically total desecration of the content of faith" was occurring. "Proclaiming the primacy of Divinely revealed truth over the truth of positive knowledge and the indisputable authority of the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, scholasticism, in its real intellectual effort, in fact remains a purely rational activity on a logical-speculative plane" [8]. The commandment of the apostle "through faith we understand" (Hebr. 11:3), in spite of the outwardly declared "Credo, ut intelligam," was directly transformed into the statement: "We experience, in order to believe."

Inasmuch as man’s salvation depends not only on the orthodox character of his faith, but on the correctness of the state of his soul, a battle for the truth of life takes place in Church history, which is just as serious and acute as the struggle for the truth of faith. The defense of the principles of spiritual life is one of the most serious and subtle courses in apologetics. It appeared gradually. But it began to develop greatly as a result of the scholastic development of theology in the Western Church, and its break from the experience of the holy fathers.

V. N. Lossky notes: "It was necessary for some division to occur between experience and common faith, between personal life and the life of the Church, in order for spiritual life and dogma, mysticism and theology, to become two different spheres, so that souls, which do not find enough food in the theological "Sums," could greedily search for stories of individual mystical experience" [9].

The outstanding expert of spiritual literature of the East and West, St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), points to the definite coordinates of time of the rise of the false direction in the depths of the Western church. He writes: "Venerable Benedict [†544 г.], and St. Pope Gregory the Dialogist [†604] still agree with the ascetics of the East; but Bernard Klervossky (12th century) already differs from them harshly; and the later ones diverged even more." He thus assesses their mystical experience: "They lead themselves and their readers to such peaks, which are inaccessible to a beginner; they become haughty and make others haughty. The passionate…dreaminess is, for them, a substitute for everything spiritual, about which they do not have the least idea. They believe such dreaminess to be grace" [10].

The schism of the Ecumenical spiritual tradition led to the appearance of many ascetics-mystics, often distant from the Church, and of mystical tendencies. John Scott Eriugena (approx. †877), Abbot Joachim of Flora (†1202), Francis of Assisi (†1226), blessed Angela (†1309), Meister Ekhart (†1328), Katherine of Sienna (†1380) and others, greatly influenced the forthcoming (right up to the present time) development of both Church-Catholic and out-of-Church mysticism. The battle for the purity and steadfastness of spiritual life, the polemics with different mystical teachings, which led away from Christ, is one of the brightest pages of apologetics.

The epoch of the Renaissance, which began in the 14th century, fully revealed the concealed rationalism, mysticism and mundane character of Western theology. The translations of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, which revealed to the West the ancient culture in a new and more attractive light than Christian values, helped in this. As a result, more and more, Man and his reason occupy a more important place in the society than God and faith, with all the resulting consequences. In the Western world, open estrangement from Christianity and unbelief begins. The Renaissance anthropocentrism was the most serious challenge to Christianity. However, there it could not form any worthy opposition to the ever-increasing wave of the desecration of God, man and the world. Among the works of the more famous apologists and their works in this period one can mention: "The Glory of the Cross Against the Wise Men of the Century" by Geronimo Savonarola and "Natural Theology" by Raymond Sabundsky, in which he undertakes an attempt to logically trace the Biblical truths of faith from the examination of nature and its laws.

The New Era

The Reformation and the religious battle associated with it turned out to be the "sui generis" statement of the development of that serious spiritual crisis of the Western Church and society on the whole, which became especially obvious ever since the time of the 11th century Schism. The reformation not only undermined the foundations of the Catholic Church, but also provided a strong impulse for the development of many non-Church and anti-Christian ideas and philosophical teachings. The more significant among these were deism, pantheism, materialism, which greatly influence all subsequent history of thought. The notion of a Personal, Living God begins to be replaced more and more by either an eternal Substance (the pantheism of Spinoza), or by a "Divine Clock-Master" that is detached from the world (deism) or altogether by lifeless matter (Hobbs, Golbach, Moleshott). Apologetics developed with those teachings accordingly.

The English school of apologetics is known for its struggle with deism, though the activity of this school was very ambiguous. Its representatives, among whom many were Unitarians, actively defended the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and other common religious truths, but remained silent on specific Christian truths. In their scholastic interpretation, Christianity often turned out to be just one of those religions, in which there was nothing new, exceptional, in comparison with other monotheistic religions. In this respect, the work of the famous scientist D. Locke "Experience of Human Reason" is very indicative.

Professor Archpriest N. P. Rozhdestvensky characterized the activity of this school in this way: "A one-sided, scholastic tendency dominated English apologetics in the 17th and 18th centuries…. The best thing that was done by the English apologetics in the 17th and 18th centuries belongs to the historical-apologetic activity, i.e. the defense of the historical authenticity of the Biblical books, the reliability of the Gospel history, and of the Biblical testimonies of miracles, prophecies, etc." [11].

Apologetic activity also developed in other European countries at that period of time. Thus, one of the most impressive apologetic works of the 17th century appeared in the Netherlands by the lawyer, historian and government figure Hugo Grotius "About the Veritability of the Christian Religion," which was translated not only into all the European languages, but even into Chinese for the missionaries. In France, in the 17-18th centuries, there was an entire apologetic theological-philosophical school of Bossuet and Fenelon, which was under the influence of Descartes’ philosophy. The work of Fenelon "About Existence and Divine Qualities" was greatly renowned, directed mainly against the pantheism of Spinoza. B. Pascal was an outstanding representative of this school, and he left many marvelous thoughts about religion, published after his death under the title of "The Thoughts of Pascal about Faith and Some Other Subjects," which was translated into many languages, including Russian, and which did not lose its apologetic significance to this day.

Germany, in the 17-18th centuries, did not have, practically, any of its own apologetic thoughts. It basically used French translations. The main contribution was made by philosophers, and not theologians. These were, first of all, Leibniz and Wolfe. Leibniz in his "Monadology" develops the teaching about a pre-set harmony of the world, and also gives the philosophical basis of the proofs of the God’s existence, especially of the cosmological and teleological ones, and the immortality of the soul. His philosophy became the foothold in the struggle against materialism, atheism and partially deism. In "Theodicy," as an introduction, he suggests the experience of rational substantiation of faith and of its coordination with reason. Wolfe writes "Natural Theology," in which he tries to define the truths of faith and connect them with pure logic. But the formal-logical method, applied by Leibniz and Wolf, made their works dry and hard to master.

In the 18th century, the French "enlighteners" sharply posed the question of the correlation of religious faith and knowledge. Actively opposing Christianity, they unreservedly gave primacy to human reason. Their influence upon public opinion turned out to be so strong that religion, or more precisely — Christianity, began to be considered as the main obstacle in the path of mankind’s prosperity. A direct ideological, and afterwards a bloody battle, with Christianity begins.

On account of this, at the end of the 18th —the beginning of the 19th century in France, there appeared another popular apologetic school, founded by Chateaubriand, which defined its direction in its main work "The Spirit of Christianity." Unfortunately, this spirit was seen by Chateaubriand not within the spiritual content of Christian faith, but in the cultural-aesthetical forms of its manifestation. The name of famous scientist and researcher Bonne especially stands out, who, in the work "The Contemplation of Nature," provides rich material which testifies to the existence of a reasonable Creator of the world.

The appearance of the so-called mythological school at the end of the 18th century, the founders of which were the Leaders of the Great French revolution K.F. Volney and Ch. Dupuis, caused an energetic apologetic reaction, which lasted for many decades in France, and later in other countries. The mythological school not only denied the historical existence of Christ and other Biblical figures, but presented Christianity as nothing more than another variation of the myths and religions of ancient nations.

Arthur Drews, who became one of the more well-known "mythologists," wrote "The Myth about Christ" in 1909. The book aroused indignation in Protestant circles in Germany, though essentially Drews did not say anything new, "except the same mistakes" [12]. Drews became famous due to the German-Jewish so-called "Union of Monists," which made the ideas of Drews the subject of passionate propaganda and threw them to the crowd as "the last word" of historical science. Both the debates and the extensive literature, which appeared in connection with "The Myth about Christ", showed the absolute scientific incompetence of the author. [13].

In spite of the total historical insolvency of this school, its ideas soon invaded many countries: England, Italy, Germany, Holland, U.S.A, etc. It was sharply criticized there as well. In England, for instance, Bishop Whately writes the apologia-pamphlet "Historical Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte," in which, using the method of the mythological school, "proves" that Napoleon Bonaparte never existed. In France J.B. Perez writes an outstanding parody concerning "the proofs" of mythologists "Why Napoleon never existed, or the Great Error — the Source of the Endless Number of Mistakes, Which Must Be Noted in the History of the 19th Century" (Moscow, 1912). As a reaction to these new ideas, E. Presanse wrote his work, "Jesus Christ and His Time" (S.P. 1871).

By the middle and the second part of the 19th century, the negative critical thought of Germany took another direction. The so-called Neo-Tubingen negative historical-critical school appeared, which tried to contest the authenticity of the Biblical books of the Old and New Testaments and of many events described there. Its activity, on the wave of common infatuation with atheistic ideas, contributed to the ever-growing increase of negativism towards Christianity. Naturally, the apologists of that time gave the corresponding answer to such literature. From among their works, the following should be mentioned: those of H. Hettinger ("Apology of Christianity," in 2 parts, Russian translation published in 1872-73), E. Jerusalem ("Thoughts about the Main Truths of Religion," in 5 parts, Russian translation published in 1806, 1817, 1831, 1833, etc.), H. E. Luthardt ("Apologia of Christianity," Russian translation St.-P. 1892).

In the 19th century, in connection with the appearance of Darwin’s theory and its use in atheistic propaganda, a great number of apologetic works appear that are devoted to this subject. Their main attention was focused on the inability to substantiate atheistic evolutionism, and, simultaneously, on the possibility of even the evolutional development of the world under the condition of God’s existence.

Western theology in the 19th century becomes more and more dependent on the more popular philosophical systems of thought: those of Kant, Hegel, Shelling, etc. Rationalism, atheism, pantheism, various mystical ideas and movements continued to spread. This fact in its turn caused the intensive development of apologetic activity. (Extensive critical literature on the given questions can be found in the works of Russian apologists).

The prominent German philosopher E. Kant made his contribution to apologetics. In his "Criticism of Pure Reason," he comes to the conclusion, that the existence of God cannot be proved rationally, but neither can it be refuted. At the same time, in the "Criticism of Practical Reason" Kant states that the acceptance of the existence of God is a necessary postulate of the moral consciousness of man. The moral argument ("proof") of the existence of God was quickly included in the arsenal of apologetics. But many statements of Kant, for example, the denial of Divine Providence in the world, of Revelation, the de facto equating of morals and religion, and so forth, were unacceptable to Christian understanding. They, like his criticism of the traditional proofs of the existence of God, were met with strong opposition on the part of apologists.

Another prominent philosopher who influenced the development of apologetic thought in the 19th century was Hegel. In his "pan-logism" ("everything is thought"), Hegel tried to overcome the deistic understanding of God and eliminate the gap between faith and reason. However, in his system, the living, personal God dissolves and disappears in an impersonal, abstract, philosophically-cold Absolute, while faith is replaced with dialectics. For Hegel, the dialectic method, with the help of which he tried to find answers to all questions, turned out to be in its way a kind of logical magic [14]. The pantheism of Hegel’s philosophy turned out to be favorable soil for the growth of extremely rationalistic views.

The dialectics of Hegel were taken as a basis for atheistic Marxism. One of Hegel’s followers, L. Feuerbach, in his work "The Essence of Christianity," develops the idea of the anthropological understanding of God as the projection of man and his qualities into infinity, and undertakes the attempt to create some new religion with the cult of man. This idea was brought by F. Nietzsche to the extreme forms of man-Godliness, which "is the conclusion of the internal dialectics of humanism" [15]. The battle against atheism and materialism was taken up by the apologetic school, which had appeared in Germany under the influence of theology and philosophy of F. Schleiermacher, who first placed apologetics in the field of so-called philosophical theology. Schleiermacher actively defended Christianity. But his method and the pantheistic character of his philosophy, clearly revealed in his "Discourses on Religion," do not let us highly assess his apologetic activity. This school was not distinguished by any strictness in the questions of faith, or by any consistency in the expression of its ideas.

The theistic philosophical school, founded by Fichte the Younger, made a more significant contribution to the apologia of Christianity. In his works, Fichte defends the existence of a personal God in the face of openly aggressive atheism. Among the representatives of his school, the most significant was G. Ulrizzi. In his works "God and Nature," "The Teaching about Man," "The Soul and Body" and others, he shows himself to be very competent and an active combatant against materialism.

By the beginning of the 20th century, using the apt expression of de Lubac, mankind as never before "began to experience the tortures, caused by the necessity of living without God" [16].

The ХХ Century

The distinguishing feature of the apologetics of the 20th century and its development was determined by the following basic factors.

The first was the wide dissemination and, in many traditionally Christian countries, the dominance of an atheistic and materialistic world-view. Even in those countries, where religion is formally a priority world-view, Christianity, in fact, is being forced out of life and atheism turns out to be a real faith of the overwhelming majority. Therefore, the questions of reason and faith, the correlation of scientific knowledge and atheistic and religious world-views, the proofs of the existence of God and the soul, or, like I. Ilyin noted, why it is "not stupid and not harmful" to believe in God even for an educated man [17] are found most often in the foreground of apologetics.

The second factor was the sensational discoveries in physics, genetics, astronomy, psychology, mathematics, archeology and other sciences, which brought completely new evidence of the amazing wisdom of the physical world’s arrangement, thanks to which the defenders of Christianity received serious arguments for the substantiation of the existence of God, the existence of the soul and its immortality, the existence of the extra-sensual world, etc.

The third factor is the special attention paid in the 20th century to the problem of Man, human existence. The development of scientific-technical progress caused the appearance of many new questions, connected to the essential changes of both the inner world of man (his psychology, morals, culture, and the attitude to the surrounding world on the whole) as well as the natural world. In the modern society of consumption, the processes of estrangement of one man from another, from society, and even from himself, began to take on a terrible scale. Man found himself facing a great number of such crises, and first of all, moral-spiritual and ecological, which carry a real threat to life on earth. Therefore again, but on a principally different level than before, the problem arises of finding the answer to the question about the meaning of one’s existence and activity. Theological and philosophical-apologetic thought in this way received a powerful stimulus for its activity. The question about the meaning of life took on a particularly relevant meaning and came to the foreground. An abundance of many-faceted Christian literary works appeared on this subject.

The next and specifically religious factor is the unusually strong development of the theosophical (or so-called pan-religious) idea of soteriological equality and identity, in essence, of all religions, in the 20th century. This idea was manifested, in part, in the rise of the ecumenical movement, the goal of which was to bring all Christian confessions together. The battle over the elimination of the boundaries between confessions and principally different religious world-views on the one hand, and the theological opposition to religious fanaticism, the aggressive denial of other religious views on the other, became one of the most vital tasks of modern apologetics. These factors and a number of others caused the appearance of a great number of apologetic works.

Among the more well-known, to the Russian reader, works of the Western apologists of the 20th century, one should mention the works of the American, Orthodox ascetic Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) and the Anglican theologian Clive S. Lewis, whose books quickly gained great popularity in Russia.

[6] See: Ivanitsky V.F. Philo of Alexandria. Life and Review of the Works. Kiev, 1922, p.591-592.

[7] V.V. Bolotov. Lectures on the Ancient History of the Church. Vol.2. S.-P. 1910. P.165.

[8] Mozheiko M.A. Scholasticism.//The Newest Dictionary of Philosophy. Minsk, 1999, p. 695.

[9] Lossky V. The Essay on the Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Theological Works. №8. Moscow, 1972. P.16.

[10] Ignatius (Bryanchaninov), Bishop, Works in 5 parts. S.-P. 1905. Vol. IV. P.498.

[11] Rozhdestvensky N.P. Christian Apologetics. A Course on Basic Theology. S.-P. 1893. P.74-75.

[12] Bulgakov S.N. Modern Aryanism.// "Silent Thoughts." M.1918, p.160.

[13] See: Sakharov N., Professor. The Union of Monists and the Struggle against It in Germany. "The Theological Bulletin," 1911, December, p. 775-785. S.M. Zorin. "The Mythological Theory of Drews and Its Analysis"// The Pilgrim. 1911, July-August, p.67.

[14] S. Bulgakov. The Non-Evening Light. Sergiev Posad, 1917, p.83.

[15] N.A. Berdyaev. About Man’s Designation. Moscow, Republic, 1993, p.276.

[16] Henri de Lubac. The Drama of Atheistic Humanism. Moscow-Milan, 1997.

[17] Ilyin I.A. The Crisis of Atheism. — Works in 10 parts. Vol. 1, Moscow, 1993, p. 337.


§3. Russian Apologetics

Apologetic thought appears in Russia at the time of its conversion into Christianity. But, in fact, until the end of the 19th century, it did not have that specificity which is inherent to modern apologetics, and which encompassed all the questions concerning the defense of Orthodoxy and the struggle with other confessions, heresies, false teachings and superstitions, schisms, sects, "free thinking," atheism, etc. In the first centuries, the Russian Church had two main tasks: the positive disclosure of the essence of Christianity and the struggle with the heathenistic remnants in people’s souls. The resolutions to these problems took many forms: oral sermons and accusations, teachings and epistles, special literary works, etc.

One of the first of such works belongs to Metropolitan Leontius (Leon, 11th century). It was written against the Latin Church, and besides listing multiple proofs of the erroneousness of the Roman tradition of performing the Eucharist with unleavened bread, it briefly analyzes other deviations of the Roman Church. Apologetic elements were often included in works that were not themselves apologetic in character. Such, for instance, is the word of the Presbyter Hilarion, subsequently the Metropolitan of Kiev, "About the Law, Given by Moses, and About the Grace and Truth, Being Jesus Christ," in which he showed the superiority of the New Testament grace over the law of the Old Testament. An outstanding writer, the Venerable Theodosius, (†1074), abbot of the Kiev-Pecherskaya Lavra, in his "Epistles" to the great prince of Kiev, Izyaslav Yaroslavovich, shows the spiritual roots of the misfortunes that come upon man, exposes heathen folk superstitions, reveals the meaning of the Sabbath in the Old and New Testaments, calls for freedom from the ritual law and to act by the spirit of the Gospel. In the 2nd epistle, the venerable Theodosius lists the deviations of the Latin Church from the Orthodox faith and teaches how to treat members of other confessions.

The first ideological anti-Church opponent, which caused a corresponding apologetic reaction, was the so-called strigolnik heresy, which appeared in Pskov in 1371 and which soon reached Novgorod. Here, for the first time, the Russian Church is faced with open attacks on the Church hierarchy. In 1394, an epistle against the strigolnik heresy appeared, which, as Archbishop Philaret (Gumilevsky) thinks, was written by the disciple of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, the Venerable Athanasius, who was living in Constantinople since 1392. In that epistle it specifically says: "Tell us, heretics: where do you wish to get a priest? If you say: the Patriarch and the Metropolitans are not worthy, then according to you, there are no priests on earth…Where will you get a priest through your anathematical faith? Shall Christ come down to earth for you a second time? Thieves and robbers kill people with weapons, but you, strigolniks, kill people with spiritual death, leading them away from the Holy Gifts of the Blood and Body of Christ… He who rejects these most Holy Gifts is not a Christian…" [18]

The appearance of the Judaizing heresy in Novgorod at the end of the 15th century, which engulfed the church and state circles and infiltrated the people, was a serious test for the Russian Church. "Now, monks and laymen all gather, all ask questions about faith: at home, and in the roads, and in the markets," - writes the Venerable Joseph of Volotsk. The Judaizers denied the basic Christian truths and Church rules, giving preference to the Old Testament in everything, which they interpreted incorrectly. St. Gennady of Novgorod actively refuted their false teaching. The Venerable Joseph of Volotsk, on the request of St. Gennady, wrote "The Enlightener," in which he revealed the main truths of Christian faith and replied to the accusations of the Judaizers. "The Enlightener" was the first major apologetic work in Russia. And though the heresy was externally overcome, nevertheless, its ideas continued to live.

The heresy of Matthew Bashkin, which appeared in the 16th century, was similar to the Judaizing heresy in many ways, though Bashkin called the Latin followers his teachers, and not the Jews. In the transposition of his followers, Theodosius Kosoy and Ignatius, this heresy took the form of extreme rationalism. Their teaching was thoroughly analyzed by the Monk Zynovius of Otensk, the disciple of the Venerable Maxim the Greek. In his book, "Evidence of Truth to Those Asking about the New Teaching," Zynovius thoroughly explains many disputable points; his refutations are well thought out, the arguments are based on vast Biblical and historical materials. Zynovius wrote another apologetic work, "The Many-Worded Epistle of a Monk," which supplements "Evidence of Truth…" with its analysis of some other confessionary and church-practical questions, touched upon by the heretics.

In the 13th-15th centuries in Russia many apocryphal books appeared, coming mainly from Bulgaria (apocryphal stories about Adam, Enoch, Lamech, the Patriarchs, "The Songs of Solomon," "The Vision of Isaac," "The Story of Jacob," "The Sufferings of the Theotokos," "The Commandment of the 12 Patriarchs," etc.). These works, which contain many fantasies, superstitions, astrological ideas and various dogmatic and moral errors, were zealously criticized by Maxim the Greek. He wrote many works of a dogmatic-polemical character as well, which were directed against the members of other confessions and heretics. Five short articles of his are directed against the Jews. In "An Expository Word Concerning the Hellenistic Delusion," the Venerable Maxim shows the superiority of Christianity over heathenism. He especially underlined the important fact, that the faith of Christ was spread throughout the world not by the power of weapons, but through the meek word and example of Christians of high moral life. To the polemics with the Latin Church, were devoted "The Word Against the False Work of Nicholas Nemchin about the Union of the Orthodox with the Catholic," "The Word of Praise to Apostles Peter and Paul, and the Exposure of the Three Great Latin Heresies," and as well the epistle to the nobles Theodore Karpov and Nicholas Nemchin, and others. Venerable Maxim did not neglect Islam either, to which he devoted three works. His last work — "The Word on the Armenian Misbelief" is the refutation of the teaching of monophysites that Christ died on the Cross with His Divine nature.

Among the Western-Russian apologists of the 16th century the elder Artemius, the ex-abbot of the Trinity monastery, attracts attention, who actively fought against the Protestants and Aryans in Lithuania. His letters testify to his profound understanding of Christianity. In them, the author constantly cites the holy fathers and tells them to "test the scriptures," for they are filled with the spirit of tolerance and love.

Another famous Orthodox apologist of that time in Western Russia — Prince A. Kurbsky — "strived for the creative renewal of the legends of the holy fathers, to the revival and continuation of the Byzantine tradition" [19]. He zealously worked towards the enlightenment of the Orthodox, the strengthening in them of the reasonable understanding of faith. For him "the theology of the holy fathers and wisdom of Hellenes become one: "Our ancient teachers are wise and skillful in both, that is, in the external philosophical teachings and in the Holy Scriptures." [20].

The Brest Unia greatly sharpened the apologetic struggle, in the defense of which Orthodox fraternities played a particularly large role. Active theological-polemical and translating work was done by the fraternities in Vilna and Ostrog, then later in Lvov, and at the beginning of the 17th century — in Kiev. Among the most active apologists, one should mention Archim. Zachariah (Kopystensky) (†1626), who knew the works of the holy fathers extremely well and fought both against Protestantism, which was very successful in southwest Russia at that time, as well as the Latin Unia. His "Palinode," written in reply to the book of the Uniate Archbishop L. Krevza "The Defense of Unia," was an outstanding independent work, revealing the Orthodox understanding of Christian unity.

During the time of the Metropolitan Peter Mogila of Kiev (†1647), the spiritual and theological dependence of Orthodox literature on Catholic sources became notably stronger. The school founded by him— the College of Kiev — was organized like Latin colleges, which naturally left a deep imprint on the character of the upbringing, teaching and theological education of its students. This was reflected in apologetic works. In the Kiev College, apologetic theology was not taught as a separate subject, but was included in the course of lectures on philosophy, which was taught using Catholic textbooks.

The non-critical attitude to Western theological thought tangibly influenced "The Orthodox Confession" of Peter Mogila. Purely Catholic ideas can be found in this catechism. Archbishop Basil (Krivosheyin) calls it "a clearly Latin document in its form, and sometimes in its content and spirit." [21]. Archpriest G. Florovsky writes: "On the whole, "Orthodox Confession" is nothing but an "adjustment" or "adaptation" of Latin material and exposition (to Orthodox teaching, it) …is much more connected to Roman-Catholic literature than to the spiritual life of Orthodoxy." [22]

Archimandrite Joannikius (Galyatovsky), the rector of the Kiev College (†1688), wrote not only against Jesuits and Uniates ("White Church Discourse," "About the Origin of the Holy Spirit," "The Answer" to the book of the Jesuit Skarga "The Basis of Faith"), but also against the Muslims ("The Ruined Alkoran," "The Swan") and the Jews ("The True Messiah").

But the greater part of the South-Russian apologetic literature of the 16th-17th centuries was not noted for originality. The Orthodox often used Protestant sources to polemicize with Catholics and Uniates, and for polemics with Protestants —Catholic ones, which made Orthodox literature just as scholastic and ineffective.

The second part of the 17th century is highlighted by the reforms of Patriarch Nikon and the schism of the old believers, which caused tense discussion. A great amount of anti-schismatic literature appeared, very dissimilar in its content and worth. The more significant works appeared in the 18th-19th centuries.

In Moscow, in 1685, the Slavonic-Greek-Latin school opened (in 1814 it became the Moscow Spiritual Academy), which marked the beginning of systematic theological and social education in Russia.

In the 17th-18th centuries, the Church faced new phenomena. In connection with the reforms of Peter the Great, the ideas of materialism, atheism, deism, Masonry, mysticism, etc. actively infiltrated Russia. And the struggle with them, as a rule, was difficult. Thus, the entire printing of the polemical book of Eustaphius Stanevich: "The Discussion about the Soul’s Immortality over the Coffin of a Baby" (1818), written against the ideas of pietism and Masonry, was seized by order of the chief-prosecutor Prince Golytsin, who said the following about it: "The discussion about the soul’s immortality is connected with defending the Eastern church, when no one is attacking it… The author, incorrectly understanding, does not sense that he can make people worry that the Church is truly in danger" [23].

But though theology was severely bound by the politics of Peter and his followers, some apologetic works still appeared. Metropolitan Stephan Yavorsky (†1722) wrote one of the most interesting apologetic works of this era, "The Stone of Faith," directed against the Lutheran innovations in Peter’s Russia. He wrote "The Signs of the Coming of the Antichrist and the End of Days from the Holy Scriptures" against the apocalyptical mood of schismatics. His "Answer to the Sorbonne Academy about the Union of Churches," which anticipated later ecumenical discussions of the Orthodox with the representatives of other confessions, is of much interest.

Many sermons of the Archbishop Theophan Prokopovich (†1806), Bishop Anastassiy Bratanovsk (†1806), Metropolitan Plato (Levshin) (1812) are of an apologetic character. The manuscript, "Answers to 16 Questions of Voltaire," is thought to be written by Metropolitan Plato. In his work "Comments about Atheism," Archbishop Theophan states proofs of God’s existence, criticizes the deism of the Enlighteners and the pantheism of Spinoza.

The "Apostolic Reply to the Folly of the Age of Free Thinking" [24] of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724 -1782) is known for its resistance to the stormy surge of unbelief in the 18th century. Thanks to St. Tikhon, the meeting of a pillar of the Orthodox faith and Russian atheism happens for the first time. With his works "About True Christianity," "Spiritual Treasure, Gathered in the World," St. Tikhon tries to raise the reader’s thought from this life to the phenomena of the spiritual world. "This was the first experience of living theology, and experienced theology, -- in contrast to and as counterbalance to scholastic erudition without real experience…"[25]. The publishing of the Philokalia in Moscow in 1793, in the translation of the Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky (†1794), was of great importance in the struggle against the spreading of the ideas of Enlightenment in Russia.

Not only the hierarchs of the Church, but its separate members come out in defense of faith in the face of spreading atheistic propaganda, the more demagogical thesis of which was the declaration of the conflict between religion and science. One of those apologists was the great scientist M.V. Lomonosov. In a number of his works and poems, he insists on the absence of any contradictions between religion and science. "A mathematician does not think soundly, he wrote, if he wants to measure Divine will with a pair of compasses, the same with a teacher of theology, if he thinks, that the Psalms can teach him astronomy and chemistry" [26].

G. Skovoroda (†1794) was an outstanding apologist-pilgrim. His discourses, poetry and very life did much for the strengthening of the faith of his contemporaries. He paid special attention to the criticism of atheism and materialism. The teaching, developed by him, about two "natures" ("Visible nature is called creature, and the invisible —God" [27]), which witness about God to man, stemmed from the familiar words of the Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:19-20).

St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow (†1867) did much in the matter of overcoming the destructive infatuations of the Russian aristocracy and the educated circles of society. He saw as the task of education the fact that it should become an active beginning of Christian life for man: "Christianity is not foolishness or ignorance, but Divine Wisdom" [28]. His works bear an apologetic character: "An Exposition of the Differences between the Eastern and Western Churches in the Teaching of Faith" (1811), "Discussions Between the Testing and the Sure in Orthodoxy of the Eastern Greek-Russian church" (1815) and "Discussions to a Speaking Old Believer" (1830).

In the second half of the 19th century in Russia, the development of a distinctive religious-philosophical idea begins. This is, first of all, the slavianophilic movement, which was closely connected to theological traditions of the Moscow Spiritual Academy. [29]. A.S. Khomyakov (†1860) was one of the first Russian philosophers to appeal to philosophical thought to "return to the forgotten path of experienced knowledge of God" which is kept in the Church. In his work, "One Church," he tries to outline the living image of the Church, in contrast to the scholastic one. The Church for him is "the unity of Divine grace, which is living in a multitude of reasonable creatures, submitting to grace." Such a view of the question about the Church was completely novel for scholastic theology. Khomyakov posed the question of the authorship and Divine inspiration of the Holy Scripture in a new way as well: "The Scripture is not the Scripture of Paul or Luke, but the Scripture of the Church," that is why for apologetics the proven authenticity of the Scripture is not as important as the internal belonging to the Church, because this, and not the authorship of this or that person in itself, canonizes books. The letters of Khomyakov about the West have a great value in the defense of Orthodoxy in the face of Western confessions.

The fellow campaigner of Khomyakov, I.V. Kireevsky (†1856) in his program article "About the Necessity and Possibility of New Beginnings for Philosophy" expresses a dream about the appearance of a new philosophy, which does not yet exist either in the west, or in the East, but the foundation of which is in the inheritance of the holy fathers. Another article of his, "About the Character of Enlightenment of Europe and About Its Attitude to the Enlightenment of Russia," precisely reveals the difference in the approaches to the education and upbringing of man in the West and in Russia.

The slavianophilic movement had a definite influence on the formation of Russian apologetic thought, inasmuch as many apologetic questions were first discussed in philosophy courses in spiritual seminaries and academies. The departments of the introduction into theology and basic theology appear later. Their main task was the justification of the holy fathers’ faith. When, according to the Regulations of Spiritual Academies of 1869, the departments of physics and mathematics were abolished, Prof. D.F. Golubinsky founded in their stead the Department of the Apologetics of Natural Science in the Moscow Spiritual Academy. The main questions, over which the Russian apologists-theologians toiled at that time, were connected with the analysis and criticism of the ideas proceeding from the West. Those were, first of all, "Voltairianism," rationalism and new "revelations" of German philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Schleiermacher, etc.)

The first professor of the Moscow Spiritual Academy of the Department of Philosophy, whose lectures included questions of philosophic apologetics, was Archpriest F.A. Golubinsky (since 1818 till 1854). In the lectures on "Speculative Theology," he analyzed in detail the proofs of the existence of God and the views of deists, pantheists, materialists.

The successor of Archpriest F.A Golubinsky in the Department of Metaphysics and the History of Philosophy was Professor V.D. Kudryavtsev-Platonov (†1891). He devoted all his scholarly activity to the problems of apologetics. It is hard to find a problem which interested his contemporaries and was not thoroughly analyzed by him from the Christian point of view. His Master’s thesis, "About the Unity of Mankind," and doctoral thesis, "Religion, Its Essence and Origin," research and essays on philosophy, especially on gnoseology, on the substantiation of God’s existence, the immortality of the soul, on cosmology and rational psychology, on natural theology, which are gathered in the three volumes of his works [30], speak of the enormous range of his creative activity. His comparatively small, but successfully combining philosophical and apologetic questions and many times re-published work, "The Basics of Philosophy" (the 9th edition, Sergiev Posad, 1915), was very popular. Prof. A. Vvedensky writes that the basic problems, which interested Prof. Kudryavtsev, can be expressed in the following questions: 1. What can man know and in what should he believe? 2. What is the world, how did it originate and what is its goal? 3. How should man live and what can he hope for after death? [31] The apologetic works of Prof. Kudryavtsev are a great contribution to Russian apologetics. They organically combine a serious philosophical approach with deep religious piety, which endows them with special persuasiveness.

Subsequent development of Russian apologetics is found in the works of the professor of the Moscow Spiritual Academy of the Philosophy Department Al. Iv. Vvedensky (†1913). In his Master’s thesis, "Belief in God, Its Origin and Basis," Vvedensky performed the analysis of various philosophic views on the question of the origin of religion. The doctorate thesis "Religious Consciousness of Heathenism: the Experience of the Philosophical History of Natural Religions" (Mosc. 1902), although touching upon mainly Hindu religions, nevertheless still gives a basic assessment of heathenism on the whole. Other works of Vvedensky testify to the scale and multifaceted character of his apologetic creativity.

On of the most versatile and fruitful theologists-apologists of the end of the 19th- 20th century was the Professor of the MSA of the Department of "The Introduction into the Circle of Theological Sciences" S.S. Glagolev (†1937). His name is mainly connected with natural-scientific apologetics. His Master’s dissertation "About the Origin and the Primitive State of Mankind" (Moscow, 1894) was the first work in Russian apologetics of scientific criticism of the theory of Darwin, and was accompanied by a detailed explanation and analysis of various theories of evolutionists. In the doctorate dissertation, "The Extraordinary Revelation and Natural Knowledge of God outside the True Church" (Kharkov, 1900), he developed the idea about the possibility of heathens, in their way, entering the number of those saved in the Old Testament Church. In the work, "From Readings about Religion" (Holy Trinity-Sergius’s Lavra, 1905), he suggests the historical review of religions of both cultural and undeveloped nations, as well as the analysis of the view upon religion of various thinkers (Galileo, Descartes, Pascal, Cherberry, Hobbes, Leibniz, Voltaire, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Baader, F.A. Golubinsky, Hartman, Soloviev). The last part of this work is devoted to the analysis of general questions on the correlation of religion and natural science. Glagolev wrote other works: on the history of religion ("Essays on the History of Religion," M.1902; "Islam," M.1904) and on some other questions (e.g. "Matter and Spirit" (S.-P. 1906), "Man’s Past," Sergiev Posad, 1917), multiple articles of apologetic content in "The Orthodox Theological Encyclopedia" and different magazines. He prepared "The Textbook of Studies on Basic Theology" (M.1912) for the women’s theological courses in Moscow.

An immense contribution (which became the last in the pre-revolutionary period of the life of the Russian church) to the development of Russian, mostly philosophical, apologetic thought was made by the Priest Paul Florensky (†1937), who in 1914 became a professor of the MSA in the Philosophy Department. His theological-philosophical and apologetic legacy is great and multifaceted, but unfortunately, some of his ideas are non-Orthodox and even heretical.

The appearance of Apologetics as a separate subject in a Russian theological school is traditionally connected with the name of the professor of the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy (opened in 1809) Archpriest N. P. Rozhdestvensky (†1882), who was one of the first to compile an independent and full-fledged course on Christian apologetics. After his brilliant graduation from the St. Petersburg Academy in 1865, he was appointed to the vacant chair of basic theology of the Kazan Academy, where, in 1867, the result of his scientific research was the defense of his Master’s dissertation "About the Antiquity of Mankind" (1866. Part 2. P. 134-466). When, in 1869, the chairmanship of Basic Theology in the St. Petersburg Academy became vacant, N.P. Rozhdestvensky returned to it and continued his apologetic work. He was appointed chairman of basic theology in the St. Petersburg Academy in 1883. His main work, published only after his death, is "Christian Apologetics. A Course of Basic Theology" (Parts 1-2. S.Pb.18840). Rozhdestvensky considered apologetics to be "the foundation of the whole building of theological science, including all of its separate branches." (The same source, p. 12). The method Rozhdestvensky proposed of presenting its system remains supreme to this day. It consists of the division of all apologetic problems into two main parts: questions which have common religious importance, and specifically Christian questions.

The Archbishop Innocent (Borisov) of Kherson, (†1857) is known for his apologetic activity. When he taught at the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy, Archimandrite Innocent in his lectures "…boldly touched upon rationalistic ideas… The students were enthusiastic about those lectures, listened to them with pleasure and left the classroom absolutely fascinated by them" [32].

Another notable apologist of the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy was Professor Ivan Sokolov (†1860), subsequently the Bishop of Smolensk. His lectures on dogmatic theology were more like apologetic discussions, in which he tried to stimulate students to the idea of reasonable substantiation of Divinely revealed truths. He sharply criticized various types of mysticism, outward rituals and other spiritual diseases of his era.

The Philosophy Department of the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy was for many years led by Professor and Archpriest F. F. Sydonsky (†1873). His lectures were published under the title, "Genetic Introduction to Orthodox Theology."

In the Kiev Spiritual Academy (from 1702) from among the teachers, working in the field of philosophy and philosophical apologetics, besides the above-mentioned Archbishop Innocent, one can also mention Archimandrite Theophan (Avsenev, †1852), who was called "the humble philosopher," and also Professor F.F. Gusev (the ex-professor of the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy), who wrote "The Presentation and Critical Analysis of the Moral Teaching of Schopenhauer, the Founder of Modern Philosophic Pessimism." The graduate of the Kiev Academy, O.M. Novitsky († 1884), wrote the first Russian history of philosophy in 4 parts — "The Gradual Development of Philosophical Teachings in Connection with the Development of Heathen Beliefs" (1850-1861).

The professor of the Kiev University, Archpriest Paul Svetlov, was a talented and versatile apologist. He wrote many works on various theological questions, which, as a rule, were scrutinized by him in an apologetic light. Among the more significant works of his one can mention: "The Origin of the Current Opinion About Faith, as the Opposition to Reason" (St.-P. 1869); "Mysticism at the End of the 19th Century in Its Relation to Christian Religion and Philosophy" (2d Publ. St.-P. 1879), "Christian Faith in an Apologetic Exposition" (3d publ. Kiev 1910); "Religion and Science" (St. - P. 1912). He composed a very useful manual, "What to Read on Theology? The Systematic Index of Apologetic Literature" (Kiev 1907), which includes a vast list of works (1820 names), which were published before 1906, on practically all questions of apologetics.

Among the professors of the Kazan Spiritual Academy (opened in 1842), who studied apologetic questions, one should name, first of all, the professor of the department of "The Introduction into the Circle of Theological Sciences" A.F. Gusev, who expanded the library of Russian apologetics with such works as: "The Moral Ideal of Buddhism in its Relation to Christianity" (S.-P. 1874); "Morals as a Condition of Civilization"; "Christianity in its Relation to Philosophy and Science" (Orthodox Review, 1885 , № 10). He wrote a number of articles against the teaching of Leo Tolstoy.

Though Professor D.F. Gusev was a patrologist, he also had apologetic works: "The Teaching about God and Proofs of God’s Existence in Philo’s System," "The Apologia of the Hypostasis of Jesus Christ and His Earthly Life and Activity in the Work of Origen against Celsius."

Professor V.I. Nemeslov (†1937) is known as the author of the fundamental work in 2 volumes "Science of Man" (1896, 1903). Nemeslov turns Feuerbach’s main thought about the anthropological mystery of religion into a weapon for defending Christianity [33]. The work of Nikanor Brovkovitch (†1890), the Archbishop of Kherson, "The Positive Philosophy and Extra-sensual Existence’ (S.-P. in 3 parts) is interesting. During his activity in the Moscow, Petersburg and Kazan Academies, he was distinguished by his quick theological responsiveness to relevant contemporary problems. Bishop Nikanor analyses the newest rationalistic theories of religion’s origin, the essence of Christianity of famous German thinkers: Strauss, Bruno Bauer, Feuerbach, etc. His sermons are lively, bright, full of rich apologetic material.

In 1854, in the Kazan Spiritual Academy, Professor N.I. Ilminsky opened two missionary departments — the Tatar and Mongolian, the task of which was the preparation of missionaries and apologists for preaching among populations which professed Islam, Lamaism, and other Eastern religions.

A versatile, uncompromising, sometimes brusque apologetic was Archpriest T.I. Butkevich (†1925), the Professor of Theology in the Kharkov University and an active co-worker of the magazine "Faith and Reason." His master’s thesis "The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Experience of Historical-Critical Rendering of Evangelical History with the Refutation of Objections of the Negative Critics of the Present Time" (S.-P. 1887) was a serious scientific answer to negative Biblical criticism. Butkevich’s doctoral dissertation, "Religion, Its Essence and Origin" (Kharkov, v. 1-2. 1902-1904) is a fundamental work which is devoted to the analysis of different philosophic views upon the origin and the essence of religion. The following also belong in the list of his apologetic works: "A Historical Essay of Apologetic Development, or of Basic Theology" (Kharkov, 1899), "Evil, Its Essence and Origin" (Kharkov, 1897).

The positive disclosure and substantiation of Orthodox faith always had a special apologetic value. Two basic approaches exist: the theological-rational and the theological-ascetic. If the first was represented by all of the development of apologetics through the works of theologians-professionals, then the second mostly belonged to pastors-ascetics. There were always many of these in Russia. During the Synodal Period, one should mention, first of all, St. Tikhon of Voronezh (Works, v. 1-5. M. 1889), the Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky (The Life and writings… M. 1847), the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov and other venerable fathers. St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) (†1867) in his "Ascetic Experiences" (Works in 5 parts, 3d publ. S.-P. 1905) presented a particularly clear understanding of the Orthodox bases of spiritual life and the essence of the errors of Western mysticism and rationalism. In the word "My Cry" (Part 1) he gives a brief, sober Christian assessment of science and philosophy.

The longing for the rebirth of the patristic spiritual traditions inspires the activity of another bishop — Theophan (Govorov) (†1894). He translated "The Philokalia" into Russian, left an interpretation of the epistles of the Apostle Paul, wrote many works devoted to the inner exploit of a Christian ("Letters about Christian Life" (S.-P. 1862), "The Path to Salvation" (S.-P. 1868; "Letters to Different People on the Subjects of Faith and Life" (Moscow, 1882) and others. St. Theophan was very concerned about the passiveness of the spiritual authorities and the clergy concerning the preaching of Orthodoxy and defending it from destructive secularization, atheism, sectarianism, etc. He said straight out that such a state of Church life would inevitably lead to the disappearance of Christian faith in Russia: "In a generation, maybe two, our Orthodoxy will dry out…We should create a whole society of apologists, -- and write, and write…" [34]

It is hard to overrate the meaning of the apologetic activity of St. John of Kronstadt (†1908). By his way of life, sermons, countless miracles he defended Orthodoxy more powerfully than any professional apologist. His work "My Life in Christ" is a marvelous lesson in correct spiritual life.

Among the more significant courses of apologetics, or basic theology, for the educational institutions in pre-revolutionary Russia, the following works should be named. The first study guide for seminaries was written by Archimandrite (subsequently — the Bishop of Ekaterinoslav) Augustine (Gulyanitsky) (†1892). Though the structure of his "Guide to Basic Theology" (Vilna, 1876; 1884) fundamentally repeats the Western systems of apologetic theology, nevertheless it satisfactorily develops the main questions of Christian apologetics. The work of Prof. N.P. Rozhdestvensky "Christian Apologetics. A Course of Basic Theology" (S.-P. 1884, in 2 v.) can be considered normative. The other courses are: "The Lectures on the Introduction into the Circle of Theological Sciences," which was read to the students of the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy in 1888-1889 by Archimandrite Michael (Gribanovsky), (subsequently a bishop) and published in "The Orthodox Interlocutor" in 1899; "A Course on Basic Theology," written by the professor of the history of philosophy of the MSA Archpriest Dimitry Tikhomirov (S.-P 1897); "A Course of Apologetic Theology" by Prof. Archpriest Paul Svetlov (Kiev 1905); "Lectures on Basic Theology" by the professor of the St.-P. University, Archpriest Basil Rozhdestvensky (S.-P. 1883); "About the Basic Truths of Christian Faith. Apologetic Public Readings" by the professor of the Moscow University, Archpriest Nicholas Sergievsky (M. 1872); "Theology in Apologetic Readings" by the professor of the Moscow University, Archpriest Nicholas Bogolyubsky (M. 1913); "The Scientific-Theological Self-Justification of Christianity. The Introduction to Orthodox-Christian Apologetics" by Prof. Archpriest Eugene Aquilonov (S.P. 1894); "A Course on Basic Theology or Apologetics" by I.P. Nikolin (Sergiev Posad, 1904); "An Essay on Christian Apologetics" by Prof. Archpriest Michael Albov (S.P. 1902), and others.

The means of apologetic activity of Russian theologians and thinkers were theological magazines, which began to be published in the second half of the 19th century: in the MSA — "In Addition to the Works of the Holy Fathers" (1843-1891) and "The Theological Messenger" (from 1892), in the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy — "Christian Reading" (from 1821), in the Kiev Spiritual Academy — "The Works of the Kiev Spiritual Academy" (from 1860), in the Kazan Spiritual Academy — "The Orthodox Interlocutor" (from 1855); "Faith and Reason" (from 1884); "The Orthodox Review" (1860-1891); "Faith and the Church" (Moscow, 1899-1910) and many others.

The 20th century featured great upheavals. Russian apologetics, as a scientific discipline of spiritual schools, stopped existing soon after the revolution of 1917, together with the whole system of theological education. However, even under the conditions of persecutions, pastors and educated lay-people continued to support the faith of one another and to stand in opposition to aggressive atheism. In Siberian exile in 1928, Archpriest Valentine Sventsitsky wrote his apologetic "Dialogues" (M. 1993) about the existence of God, immortality, the Church, progress and spiritual life. In the 1930s, in Tver, living in extremely difficult conditions, Professor N.N. Phioletov (†1943) wrote "Essays on Christian Apologetics" (M. 1992), in which he mainly paid attention to natural-scientific apologetics, the questions of the correlation of religion and science. To the works which were illegally written in Soviet Russia, belong "By the Church Walls" by S.I. Fudel (it was published for the first time in the privately published collection "Hope"), and also the work, in many volumes, "The Basics of the Art of Sanctity" by Bishop Barnabas (Belyaev, first published in N. Novgorod 1995-2000), many chapters of which are dedicated to apologetic topics. At the end of the 1950-s, Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov) (1880-1961) finished his work of many years, "About Faith, Disbelief and Doubts" (S.P. —M. 1992).

In the diaspora, Archpriest George Florovsky answers the still troubling to some people question: "Did Christ exist? (The Historical Testimonies about Christ")//Christianity, Atheism and the Present. Paris, 1929). Prof. Archpriest V.V. Zenkovsky wrote "Apologetics," which was published in 1959 in Paris. In it, he attempted to examine the more vital problems of the modern world (the basic divisions: "Christian Faith and Modern Knowledge," "Christianity in History," "Christianity as the Church"). For philosophical apologetics the other works of Zenkovsky were significant: "The Problems of Upbringing in the Light of Christian Anthropology" (Paris 1934), "Russian Thinkers and Europe" (Paris 1955) and especially "The History of Russian Philosophy," (Paris 1948-1950), where he examined, in part, the development of theological and religious-philosophical thought in spiritual academies. In 1953, "Orthodox-Christian Apologetics" (New-York 1953) by Prof. A. Andreev appears. In the 1970s-80s, in the city of Jordanville, several apologetic reviews appeared ("About Life, Faith and the Church"); "The Dogma about Faith" and "Whatsoever the Lord Pleased, That Did He in Heaven, and in Earth" by the Professor of the Holy-Trinity Seminary Archpriest Michael Pomazansky.

The works of religious thinkers always had great significance for apologetics. Russian religious-philosophical thought did much for many of those searching for truth, and for their conversion to God and Christ.

Individual works of V.S. Soloviev (e.g. "The Justification of Goodness" M.1996), I.A. Ilyin ("The Religious Meaning of Philosophy," Paris 1925), "The Axioms of Religious Experience" (Paris 1953), "About the Resistance to Evil by Force" (1925), "The Singing Heart. The Book of Quiet Contemplations" (1958), "Our Tasks" (1956) and of many other Russian thinkers are of interest as well.

A great number of articles, also devoted to apologetic questions, was published in the magazine "The Path" — the leading publication of religious-philosophical society of Russians abroad.

Gradual rebirth of apologetics as a theological science began in the ex-USSR together with the renewal of activity of theological seminaries and academies. In the MSA, in the first few years, the course of basic theology was taught by the Assoc. Prof. Archpriest N.S. Nikolsky, Prof. Archpriest S.V. Savinsky, Prof. M.A. Starokadomsky, Assoc. Prof. V.I. Talyzin and Prof. A.V. Ushakov. Prof. Starokadomsky defended his master’s and doctor’s dissertations in philosophical apologetics: "Faith and Reason as the Paths of Knowing God through the Works of Church Writers of the First Three Centuries of Christianity" (Master’s Thesis, Mashinopis, 1961) and "The Experiences of Speculative Substantiation of Theism in the Works of the Professors of the MSA" (Doctoral Diss., Mashinopis, 1969).

In the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy, the course of basic theology was taught by Professor K.A. Sborovsky, Assoc. Prof. A.F. Shishkin, Archbishop Michael (Mudyugin), who published his lectures under the title "Introduction to Basic Theology" (M. 1995).

Literature: Smirnov S. Archpriest. The History of the Moscow Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy. M. 1855. The same author. The History of the MSA Before its Reformation. (1814-1870). M. 1870; Rozhdestvensky N.P., Archpriest. Essays on the History of Apologetics and Its Modern Scientific Position in Western Theological Literature // 1873. Part 3, Sept. P. 89-134; The same author. Christian Apologetics: The Course of Basic Theology. S.P. 1884. Part 1. Butkevich T. Archpriest. A Brief Review of Russian Apologetic Literature // F&R. 1899, № 19. P. 415-440. Svetlov P.J. What to Read on Theology? The Systematic Index of Literature (248-1906). Kiev, 1907. Zenkovsky V. Archpriest The History of Russian Philosophy. P. 1948, 1950. V. 1-2. Sarychev V.D. The Acquaintance with the Main Works of Russian Apologetic Literature/the MSA. Zagorsk, 1952-1954. V. 1-2. The Manuscript; Florovsky G. Archpriest. The Paths of Russian Theology; Russian Religious-Philosophical Thought in the 20th century; Collection of articles/ Ed. N.P. Poltorazky. Pittsburg, 1975; Zernov N.M. Russian Religious Rebirth of the 20th century. P. 1992.

[18] Philaret Gumilevsky, Archbishop. The History of Russian Church, p. 227 --- 229.

[19] George Florovsky, Archpriest. The Paths of Russian Theology. Paris. 1981. P.33.

[20] The same, p.32.

[21] Basil (Krivosheyin), Archbishop. Symbolic Texts in the Orthodox Church.// BT №4. M. 1968. P.21.

[22] Florovsky. The Paths…p. 50.

[23] The same, p. 151.

[24] The same, p. 124.

[25] The same, p. 125.

[26] M.V. Lomonosov. Collection of Articles, edited by V.V. Sypovsky. St. P. 1911. P.17.

[27] Gregory Skovoroda. Works. Vol. 1. Kiev, 1961. P.16.

[28] Florovsky. The Paths…p. 172.

[29] See: F. Andreev. The Moscow Spiritual Academy and Slavyanophils. Sergiev Posad, 1915.

[30] Collection of Works. Vol.1-3. Sergiev Posad, 1893 -94.

[31] A. Vvedensky. The Philosophy of V.D. Kudryavtsev in an Understandable Presentation. M. 1895, p. 3-4.

[32] Smolych I.K. The History of Russian Church. 1700-1917. M. 1996, p. 442-443.

[33] Florovsky p. 445.

[34] Florovsky, p. 398.


The path to Truth.

This manual on Basic Theology is drawn up in compliance with the curriculum, approved by the Teaching committee of Moscow Patriarchate, and intended for the first (of two) year of studying this subject in theological seminary. Therefore this manual covers mainly issues of general religious character relating to the introductory part of the fundamental theology. However, where required, assessments are given from the Orthodox viewpoint.

This second edition contains 2 topics relating to Orthodox understanding of the difference between Christianity and heathenism: "About sanctity of saints as signs of fulfillment of God’s promises to man" and "Basics of spiritual life."

The curriculum of the manual after explaining the notion about the subject of Fundamental theology and its basic tasks includes the following chapters:

Notion about religion and its origin — the chapter that not only explains this issue but also provides analysis of other viewpoints.

About the existence of God — the chapter that provides main traditional arguments on this issue.

Religion and human activity — analyses the problem of correlations of natural science and religion. It also provides analysis of natural ways of reason (philosophy and science) in the knowledge of the truth and Christian understanding of this issue.

The following chapters: Revelation, About sanctity, Basics of spiritual life are oriented at Orthodox understanding of the essence of religion itself, conditions and the nature of the unity of man and God.

Then the manual considers topics: Heathenism, Old Testament Religion and Origin of the world, as they are seen in the light of Biblical and patristic theology.

I. Notion of Basic Theology.

One of the natural tasks of every educated Christian is to absorb the truths of his faith so that he can not only know them but also be capable of revealing and grounding them to anyone who might inquire. "And be always prepared, writes the Apostle, — to give an answer to everyone that asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you, but with meekness and fear" (1 Peter, 3:15). Hence, for a Christian to be aware of "the certainty of things in which he has been instructed" (Luke 1:4) is not only a natural need, but also a commitment to fulfill Christ’s commandment to love people and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Preparation to such a mission is a very difficult and crucial task. Among theological sciences it is the Basic Theology that assumes to help accomplish this task.

Its aim is to show and prove the main Christian ideas (both those of general religious character, e.g. the existence of God, and those specifically Christian, e.g. the principle of Salvation) in a manner that would allow anyone who seeks the sense of life to comprehend the Christian answer in a proper way and evaluate it as compared to various non-Orthodox alternatives.

This explains the specifics of the Basic Theology and its methodology. However it is based on the dogmatic and moral premises of the Christian faith, it employs both separate ideas of other religions, and data of various sciences, philosophical and cultural achievements. Basic Theology is addressed to those who are not yet firm in their faith, which are in doubt and yet seek the Truth and are interested in Christianity. Having mainly no proper religious experience, not having experienced God inside oneself, such people often need a rational grounding of the basics of the faith, of the verity of Christianity and its answers to the main questions of human existence.

Thus, Basic Theology is primarily for those who are by the church walls, yet "alive." And though at first such people often make an error trying to find the Truth and explore the Christian faith only through reason, logic and religious philosophy, nevertheless, those who later on become spiritually capable of actual, i.e. empiric, comprehending Christianity, acquire this knowledge through prayer, fulfillment of the Commandments and repentance.

One should also be aware of two dangers arising from the possible use of this theological science. The first one is avoid giving a stone to one who asks a loaf of bread and a serpent to the one who asks a fish (Matthew 7:9-10). And the second, whereof the Lord also warned: "Give not that which is holy to the dogs, or cast your pearls before the swine, lest they trample them with their feet, and turning round rend you" (Matthew 7:6). The word of sermon can be addressed only to one who truly seeks, for only those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are capable of accepting Truth (Matthew 5:6-10). Apostle Paul instructs his disciple Timothy and every Christian: "But foolish and senseless questionings avoid, knowing that they beget contentions. And a bondman of the Lord ought not to contend, but be gentle towards all; apt to teach; forbearing; in meekness setting right those who oppose, if God perhaps may sometime give them repentance to acknowledgement of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:23-25).

II. Religion.


§1. Man, World, Religion.

Oh, my prophetic soul!

Oh, my heart full of worries!

Oh, how you beat at the doorway

Of somewhat like double existence

Fedor Tyutchev

What is human life? If it were possible to film it and then watch it in the fast mode we would get a rather depressing impression.

What is a usual day of a person? — He or she wakes up, eats, works, talks, fusses, laughs, quarrels — this is today, tomorrow, day after day, year after year. What is life in general? One graduates from school, works, gets married, has children, gets old and sick …and dies. His children and grandchildren have the same "story." Different events are overlaid on this general scheme, but none of them may stop the stream of life in its unrestrained flow to … death. And this is true of everyone, always and everywhere. Generation after generation passes away like autumn leaves.

Billions of lives, filled with joys and sufferings, love and despair, nobleness and meanness, glory and obscurity have gone into eternity. Which one? What is it? What is the meaning of life of a human being and human kind?

My life! A vain and accidental gift, what have you been given me for?

Or why have you been sentenced to execution by a mysterious fate?

Who has called me from the worthlessness by his hostile power?

Who has filled my soul with passion, who has surged my mind with doubt?

There is no aim before me: my heart is empty, my mind is idle,

And the monotonous noise of life oppresses me with misery.

With these biter words at the difficult moment of his life Alexander Pushkin expressed this paradox of human existence and its tragic mysteriousness for us.

The Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret (Drozdov), who was called Wise while still living, answered Pushkin with the following famous poem:

Not in vain and not by chance God has given me my life

Not unjustly He has secretly sentenced it to grief

I myself have called the evil from the dark abyss by my self-willed power

I myself have filled my soul with passion and have excited my mind with doubt.

Let me recall You, the One Who I have forgotten!

Shine to me through the haze of thoughts —

And You will make my heart pure and my mind clear.

An unexpected reply of the Metropolitan, which revealed the very essence of the tormenting question, deeply touched Pushkin. He wrote to the Metropolitan a long poetic reply in which there was a genuine sense of gratitude and affection:

I cried streams of unexpected tears,

And the pure balm of your fragrant words

Was a delight to the wounds of my conscience.

It is true that for each person the main question has always been and still remains the question about the meaning of life. Not everyone can find a final answer to this question, not everyone can give an answer to the skeptic. But in every normal person there is an ineradicable need to find this meaning and its reasonable explanation.

What options does a human being have when facing this main question of life?

First of all these are religion and atheism. Agnosticism, which is somewhere in between these two, cannot really claim to be a worldview, because it basically denies the person’s ability to give any reliable answer to the main worldview questions such as the existence of God and immortality of soul, the nature of good and evil, the truth and the meaning of life, etc.

How do we evaluate religion and atheism? To answer this question, it is reasonable to examine religion and atheism as two theories of existence (or non-existence) of God, because this issue is the main one for both of them. In this case the criteria for evaluation of religion and atheism may be found in two basic scientific requirements, which can be applied to any theory. First, there should be facts confirming the theory. Second, its basic premises and conclusions must be empirically verifiable. It is obvious that only the theory which satisfying these requirements can be considered as scientific and deserving serious attention.

What do religion and atheism have to offer in this respect? Speaking of religion, firstly it offers innumerable facts that directly testify to the existence of God, soul, angels, demons, supernatural forces, etc. To be convinced of this, it is enough to take a look at the lives of at least a few of the Russian saints and their numerous miracles, for example saint Xenia of St. Petersburg (†1803), Seraphim of Sarov (†1833), Ambrose of Optina (†1891) (whose wisdom and astuteness attracted the whole of Russia, the most famous writers, thinkers and public figures: Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy, Vl. Solovyev); saint John of Kronshtadt (†1908), whose amazing miracles took place in front of great numbers of people.

Thus, first of all, religion offers facts. But, along with them, Orthodoxy provides each person with the means for verification of its statements, shows a specific and real way to personally experience the spiritual world. The most succinct expression of this is found in Christ’s words: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)

What does atheism have to offer? First of all, it does not have and cannot have in principle any facts, testifying to non-existence of God and the spiritual world. Besides, the infinity itself of the cognizable world shows that these facts cannot exist, at least owing to the fact that all the human knowledge is just a tiny island in the ocean of the unknown. That’s why even if God did not exist, this would have always remained an eternal mystery for mankind, in which one could only believe, but never know for sure.

Secondly (and this is the most difficult issue for atheism), it is not able to answer the most important question: "What specifically should a person do to make sure that God does not exist?" And without this answer, atheism appears to be nothing but a blind faith. Yet the answer is obvious: there is only one way that allows an individual to make sure that God does or does not exist, and that is to live a life of religion. There is simply no other way.

Thus, taken together in a paradoxical unity, both religion and atheism call every person, who is seeking the truth, to study and experimentally examine something called "religion."

So, what is religion?

§2. What is Religion?

Religion as a phenomenon inherent in human society throughout its history and still characteristic of the overwhelming majority of the population of the Earth still appears to be an obscure area for a great many people. One of the reasons for this seemingly strange fact is that, as a rule, religion is evaluated by its outside features; by the way it is practiced by its followers in a church or temple, in private and social life. From this follows a wide range of different interpretations of religion, which perceive its essence either in the elements that are secondary and minor or even in its distorsions, which none of the world religions has managed to avoid.

Therefore the question of what the essence of religion is and what characteristics of it are defining and which ones are unimportant requires special consideration.

Religion has two sides, the external one — as an outsider sees it — and the internal one, which is visible to the believer, who lives in conformity with spiritual and moral principles of the given religion.

From the external side, religion represents first of all a worldview, which includes a number of specific premises (truths), without which (or at least without one of which) it loses its own essence, degenerating into either magic, occultism, and other similar pseudo-religious phenomena, which are just the products of its decay, degradation and distorsion; or into a religious philosophical thought system, which has little to do with a person’s everyday life. Religious worldview always has a social character and expresses itself in a more or less developed organization (church) with a certain structure, moral, rules of life for its followers, ritual, etc.

From the internal side, religion is a direct experience of God.

The etiology of the word "religion" itself gives a preliminary understanding of religion.

§3. Meaning of the Word “Religion.”

There exist several points of view on the origin of the word "religion" (from Latin "religio" — conscientiousness, godliness, reverence, religion, holiness, worship service...). Thus, Cicero, a famous Roman orator, writer and political figure of the 1-st century B.C., thought that it was the derivative of the Latin verb "relegere" (to recollect, to re-discuss, to reconsider, to put off for a special use), which in a figurative sense means "to venerate" or "to treat something with special care, respect." From this, Cicero sees the essence of religion in the reverence before the supreme powers, Divinity. This thought of Cicero correctly indicates that the reverence is one of the most important elements of religion, without which religiosity turns into hypocrisy and vain performance of ritual, when faith in God turns into a cold, lifeless doctrine. At the same time one cannot agree that the reverence before something mysterious and even before God forms the essence of religion. No matter how great and necessary the reverence is in religion, it nevertheless represents just one of the feelings, present in person’s religious relationship towards God, and it does not express its essence.

A famous western Christian writer and orator Lactantius (†330) thought that the term "religion" came from the Latin verb "religare," which means "to bind," "to unite." That is why he defines religion as a union of godliness between man and God. He said: "We are born with the condition to show fair and due obedience to the Lord, Who gives us life, to know Him alone, to follow Him. Being bound with this union of godliness, we are united with God, from which the religion itself received its name... Thus the name "religion" came from the union of godliness, with which God united Himself with man..." [N. P. Rozhdestvensky "Christian Apologetics": In 2 volumes. St. Petersburg, 1884. vol. 1. p. 136].

Lactantius’ definition reveals the most important aspect of religion: the living unity of human spirit with God that takes place deep within human heart.

Blessed Augustine (†430) understands the essence of religion in the same way, though he thinks that the word "religion" came from the verb "reeligere," which means "to reunite," and the religion itself means "reunification, restoration of formerly lost union between man and God." He writes: "Searching for Him or again finding Him (from which religion seems to get its name), we are striving for Him with love, to attain peace once we have reached Him" ["On the City of God." Quoted by: N. P. Rozhdestvensky. Indicated Works. p. 137].

Thus the origin of the word "religion" points to two of its main meanings: union and reverence, which speak of religion as a mysterious spiritual union; living revering unity of a human being with God.

§4. Basic Truths of Religion

So what are the basic truths of religion?

The first one is the confession of spiritual, perfect, rational, personal Origin, that is of God, the Source (Cause) of everything, including human beings, Who is always actively present in the world. This idea of God exists in different forms, has different content and clarity of expression in different religions: monotheistic (faith in one God), polytheistic (faith in many gods), dualistic (faith in two divine powers: good and evil), animistic (believing in spiritual nature of all beings and in presence of a soul in all natural forces and phenomena).

According to the Christian doctrine, "God is love" (John 1, 4:8), He is our Father (Matthew 6: 8-9), "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). God is that initial Existence and Consciousness bringing forth all the various forms of material and spiritual existence and consciousness, both known and unknown to man. God really exists and is unchanging; He is a Person and the ideal of good, truth and beauty; He is the ultimate goal of people’s spiritual aspirations. In this aspect Christianity and other religions principally differ from other worldviews, the higher ideal of which does not exist in reality, but is just a fruit of people’s dreams, rational constructions and hopes.

The second basic religious truth is the belief that a human being essentially differs from all other kinds and forms of life; that he is not only a supreme biological being, but first of all is a spiritual being with not only a body, but also a soul, a carrier of mind, heart (the organ of feelings), will, personality itself, capable of communication and unity with God and with the spiritual world. According to the Christian doctrine a person is the image of God.

In religion the possibility and the necessity of spiritual unity of a human being with God presumes belief in Revelation of God and a necessity for a person to live righteously in compliance with religious dogmas and commandments. In Christianity such a life is called faith, which implies not just a conviction of the existence of God, but a special spiritual and moral character of the entire life of the believer.

This religious truth is inseparably linked to the more or less developed in various religions doctrine, that a human being exists after death. In the Christian Revelation one can find more: a teaching about the universal resurrection and eternal life of a human being (and not just the soul), which fills a person’s earthly life and activity with special responsibility and full meaning. "You live just once and eternity is ahead of you. So make a free and deliberate choice of conscience and truth as the norm of your life!" This Christian statement is in stark contrast with the atheistic one: "You live just once and the eternal death awaits you!"

It is the answer to the questions about the soul and eternity that best shows the true nature of religion and atheism. It also reveals the hidden face and spiritual orientation of each person: whether a person strives for the immortal beauty of the spiritual perfection and eternal life or prefers to believe in the final and absolute rule of death, in face of which, all ideals, all the struggle between good and evil; truth and lie; beauty and ugliness, and the life itself become meaningless.

By his choice of faith a person testifies about himself as to who he really is and what he wants to be. As one of the most outstanding Russian thinkers of the 19th century, I.V. Kireyevsky, correctly observed, "a person is his faith." And though there are two faiths, there is only one truth, and every rational person cannot forget about that.

Another important feature of religion is the belief in the existence of the supernatural world of angels and demons, getting in the spiritual contact with which (with one’s honest or immoral actions), the person determines, to a large degree, his or her life. [Taylor, a prominent 19th-century expert on religion, wrote: "the belief in the existence of the supernatural world is a religious minimum without which no religion is possible." (Quoted by N.P. Rozhdestvensky, "Christian Apologetics," vol.1, St. Petersburg, 1893, p.141)]. All religions acknowledge that the spiritual world really influences the person's activity and life. That is why it is highly dangerous to find oneself in combat on the same side as the spirits of evil. The consequences of this, both temporal and eternal, are frightful for the person.

An obvious element of any religion is its ritual, i.e. the combination of all its external forms of public worship and regulations.

There are many other elements characteristic to all religions: their dogmatic and moral teachings, ascetic principles, rules of life, etc; they are all naturally and logically linked to the basic ones given above.

§5. Essence of Religion.

It is more difficult to speak of internal side of religion, than of its external side, since it represents a field of such experiences and comprehensions, which cannot be expressed in terms of our words and concepts. It is obviously difficult to interpret even our usual and common feelings. Thus, we say: "I had much fun" or "I feel sad in my heart." But any other person will never know what exactly stands behind these words, because the inner world of a person is deeply personal and in essence is inexpressible. The same applies to religion. For a true, not nominal, believer it opens a special spiritual world, God and such indefinitely rich variety of spiritual experiences which are impossible to express in words to another person (even if he perfectly knows the external side of religion). In the most general form, one can give the following definition of religion: religion is coming to know God and experiencing a connection with Him. However, religious experience makes a person sure of the reality of another, Heavenly world not by proving to him its existence, but by showing it to him. Only that person enters a truly religious path, who in his journey of life has really met God, who has been overtaken by Him, who has experienced an outpouring of His overcoming power. Religious experience is essentially neither scientific, nor philosophical, nor aesthetic, nor ethical. And just like the mind cannot research beauty (but only can think of it), so the mind gives only a weak idea about the burning flame of religious experience... Lives of the saints, men of faith, prophets, and founders of religions and live monuments of religion: writings, ritual, customs... — these are things that, alongside with everyone's personal experience, help a person to come to realization of religion better than abstract philosophizing about it. [S. Bulgakov, "Eternal Light," Sergiev Posad, 1917, p.6-7].

It is possible to provide practically an infinity of testimonies on the nature of religious experiences and revelations, on the states of deep joy, love, on receiving gifts of insight, healing and the comprehension of what, according to great saint Venerable Isaac of Syria, is higher than man (spiritual world), is equal to man (souls of other people) and lower than man (world of nature), and on many other extraordinary gifts. Apostle Paul said about it with the words of the ancient prophet Isaiah: "Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and it has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

But all similar testimonies will remain "external," meaning nothing to those who never came into contact with the world of mysterious Divine beauty. Without a living connection to God, without having studied the ascetic experience of the Fathers, a person cannot understand religion will inevitably develop a highly distorted view of it. The most common human errors that result from this can be well seen in the typical examples of the views on religion of three German thinkers: Kant, Schleiermacher and Hegel.

§6. Views of Some Philosophers on Religion.

1. Kant’s View.

(For an analysis of this issue see for example: P. Florensky Cult and Philosophy // Theological works, Coll. 17. Moscow 1977. p.119-135).

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is a well-known German philosopher and scientist. Kant's philosophy is well presented in two of his main works: "Critique of Pure Reason" and "Critique of Practical Reason." In "Critique of Pure Reason" he came to the conclusion that, as a matter of principle, the human mind cannot know the essence of things. It is only possible to know "phenomena," i.e. what appears as a result of interaction of the real world (so called "things in themselves," beyond the reach of cognition) and our cognitive ability. Because "things in themselves" cannot be known, Kant concludes that it is in principle impossible to come to know God, soul, the world. Therefore he criticizes the so-called proofs of the existence of God and immortality of soul.

However, proceeding from the moral law, which exists in us and requires compliance, Kant in his "Critique of Practical Reason" asserts the necessity to postulate both the existence of God and immortality of soul. Because attainment of the highest moral ideal, striving for which is inherent in the human nature, becomes possible only through accepting the existence of God, Who is willing and able to ensure goodness and truth, and immortality of soul, which allows the soul to be perfected without limit.

Kant gives his view on the essence of religion in the above mentioned works as well as in "Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone." In Kant’s opinion, the content of religious consciousness is the understanding of God as a moral legislator, and religion lies in recognition by the person of all his or her moral duties as commandments of God. In "Critique of Practical Reason" he writes: "Moral law through the understanding of the highest good as the object and the ultimate goal of pure practical reason leads a person to religion, i.e. to the recognition of all his moral duties as commandments of God, — not as sanctions, i.e. as arbitrary determinations of somebody’s will, but as essential laws of any free will in itself." "Religion, in its subject matter, does not differ from morality, because the common subject of both of them is the moral duty; the difference between religion and morality is only formal" [N.P. Rozhdestvensky Christian Apologetics: In 2 vol. St. Petersburg 1884. Vol. 1. p. 149].

Thus, according to Kant, the essence of religion lies in the fulfillment of the moral duties as "the commandments of God." Kant himself, when explaining his understanding of religion, says that a reasonable person may have religion, but he shouldn’t have any relationship with God, because the man knows nothing for sure about actual existence of God. In place of God in religion Kant places a man with a moral law inherent in him. Thus, Kant creates some "universal" notion of religion that can exist without acknowledging the existence of God. It is for a reason that he "wrote repeatedly: "I am God," in his last large work "Opus postumum."" [Stanly L. Yaki. God and Cosmologists: Dolgoprudny, 1993. p. 23].

Many share Kant’s view on religion as the fulfillment of certain moral duties. Its main idea is that for a person it is enough to be good, because this is the essence of religion. It is not necessary to be religious. Therefore all specific requirements of religion to a person, such as belief, doctrines, commandments, worship services and prayers, norms of church life are superfluous. These are all superstition, philosophy, and one can neglect them. From here comes the idea of so-called universal morals, non-dogmatic Christianity, unity, in essence, of all religions etc.

A serious error of this understanding of religion consists in ignoring the fact, that a person’s morals and way of life are ultimately determined by his or her worldview, an understanding of the supreme ideal which may be God or "god." Both ideals define their respective morals.

If a person's god is glory, mammon, authority and stomach, then there is no doubt about the character of such person's morals. A good illustration of this is a speech by Rockefeller before the students of a Sunday school in the US, in which he, among other things, said: "Growth of business activity is simply survival of the strongest... The American rose can be brought up in all the magnificence of its beauty and fragrance that causes delight among those who admire it only by ruthlessly cutting off weak shoots around it. It is just the law of nature and of God in action!" [Quoted by: K.R. Hill. Christian Defense of Morals and Democracy.//Dispute. 1992. №1. p. 138]. Adoration of a golden idol makes a person ruthlessly cruel. This goes to show that morals depend on what kind of "god" we are talking about.

But even high morals do not in themselves bring a person closer to God, because it is not good deeds that cleanse the heart of a person, but the struggle against passions and the humility resulting from this struggle. Venerable Isaac of Syria wrote: "The person does not receive the award for his deeds till he becomes humble. The award is given not for the deeds, but for humility... The merit is given not to the virtue and not to the work for the sake of it, but to humility that is born from virtue and labor. But if humility is lost, both virtue and labors will be in vain." [Saint Isaac of Syria. Selfless Words. Moscow.1858. Word.34. P.217]. Prophet John speaks similarly of highly moral deeds: "The true labor may not be without humility, because labor itself is vain and is not worth anything." [Barsanuphius the Great and John. A Guide to Spiritual Life. SPb. 1905. Answer 274.] Therefore St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) even says: "Unhappy is one who is satisfied with own human righteousness: he does not need Christ." [Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Writings in 5 volumes. SPb. 1905. Volume IV, p. 24. ].

Virtues and labors are necessary and useful only when they are done out of love for a person and are the means to acquire humility.

Paul Florensky very well expresses the unspiritual and, in essence, atheistic nature of Kant's views on religion. Analyzing the concept of holiness, he writes: "Our modern thought is inclined to equate this reality [of the other world] to moral power, understanding holiness as the completeness of moral perfection. Thus Kant tries to get to religion via a back door, so to speak, for in this approach morality is thought of as the power of the same earthly world, a subjective power ... But fruitless are the powerless attempts at the concepts of holiness... Even the word usage testifies against such attempts: when we speak of holy vestments, holy vessels, holy water, holy oil, holy churches and so on and so forth, it is obvious, that we not at all mean ethical perfection, but ontological. And this means, that if in these cases the positive side of holiness also contains this ontological superiority over the world and an ontological existence outside this world, then on a broader scale the focus of this concept of holiness is not in ethics, but in ontology...

And if we call a person "holy" we do not point to his morals, for which there exist appropriate words, but to his original powers and deeds, qualitatively not comparable with the ones of the world, to his being above this world, to his being in the spheres inaccessible to usual understanding... morality of such a person, which itself is not a component of his holiness, partly serves as one of the favorable conditions for his being above the world, and partly is revealed as a consequence of such a state. But the connection of these two concepts must be established by gentle and very flexible threads... Therefore, when we call a moral action a "holy deed," we mean not its Kantian moral orientation, which is immanent to the world, but anti-Kantian transcendental to the world unification with the energies of the higher world. By calling God "Holy," and Holy by superiority, the source of any holiness and completeness of holiness... we sing not His moral nature, but His divine one...” [Priest Paul Florensky. Sanctification of the Reality//Doctrinal works. №17. Moscow, 1977. p. 150-151].

Substitution of morality for holiness and spirituality is a great mistake of Kant and all his followers. Execution of moral duties without God is like navigation of a ship without a rudder and sails.

2. Schleiermacher’s View

Schleiermacher’s view on religion and its value for man differs from Kant’s in form, but it is the same in essence.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1786-1834) was a theology professor in Berlin, a secretary of the philosophical department of the Academy of Sciences. His main writings are "Discourses on Religion to the Educated who Despise it," "Monologs," his fundamental theological work "Christian Faith," and numerous sermons. Schleiermacher’s general philosophical views are given in his "Dialectics" (by dialectics he implied the art of philosophical substantiation).

Schleiermacher’s idea of God and His relation to the world almost coincides with the pantheistic understanding of Spinoza. At the same time, acknowledging God to be absolutely transcendent to the human mind, Schleiermacher directly joins Kant. And in his understanding of religion Schleiermacher is as single-sided as Spinoza and Kant.

According to Schleiermacher, the basis of life is the absolute global unity, "wholeness," or God. All depends on God, but this dependence is expressed in the general internal relationships within nature, but not in the Revelation or grace, because God is impersonal.

Schleiermacher’s expressions "God," "world spirit," "world completeness" are used as synonyms. God’s activity is equivalent to causality in nature. "God never existed outside the world, we cognize Him just in ourselves and in things." Everything happens necessarily, the human being does not differ from other creatures either by free will or eternal existence. As all individual creatures, people are just a transient state in the life of the Universe, which having appeared, should perish. Common ideas of immortality along with a hope for a reward in the afterlife are wrong.

The philosopher writes that "the purpose and the nature of religious life is not immortality in the form, as it is believed... but the immortality that we already have in this temporary life, i.e. to merge with the infinite among the finite and to be eternal in every moment — this is the immortality of religion" [F. Schleiermacher. Discourses On Religion To the Educated People. Moscow 1911. P. 111]

The essence of religion is contemplation of the infinite and "the feeling of dependence" on it in the inseparable unity. He wrote: "Religion is a feeling and a taste to the eternal... This is life in the infinite nature of the one whole and in everything, the life that sees everything in God and God in everything... It is a direct perception of the existence of all the finite in the infinite and though the infinite of all the temporal in the eternal and through the eternal..." [Ibidem. P. 39].

Religion originates from striving for the eternal, for the absolute unity: it is a direct cognition of world harmony. Religion brings man to a relationship with the absolute and teaches him to feel and see himself as a part of the whole.

Schleiermacher thinks that one common eternal religion has always existed in the world. The variety of religions shows only the difference in power and direction of those religious feelings that inspired creative geniuses, who created religions, but has nothing to do with any religion being true or false. As one of the religious researchers wrote, "according to Schleiermacher, religion is a feeling of eternal in temporal or the feeling of unconditional dependence, and, consequently, each religion is a true religion, because it is the matter of feeling, but it has nothing in common with the true knowledge" [O. Pfleiderer. On Religion and Religions/ Translated from German. St. Peterburg 1909. p. 45].

According to Schleiermacher doctrines in religions do not have any religious meaning at all. Doctrines and canons are just a shell allowed by religion, but this shouldn’t be done. Hopefully in the future religion will not need the Church. Actually the more religious a person is, the further away he should stay from the Church. Moreover in order to contribute to religion an educated person should fight against the Church — the carrier of dogmatism, strict morality and canons, which enslave the feelings. A true religion, i.e. a free feeling of reverence and delight before the eternal Universe, its harmony and beauty is possible only with the abolishment of the Church.

Schleiermacher’s views fully coincide with those ideas, which began to be spread in Russia since the end of 18th century by the freemasons and liberal nobles and to bring their "fruits." Their essence was very well expressed by archpriest George Florovsky, who wrote about the views of Labzin (1825), the head of the Rosicrucian Lodge in St. Petersburg: "It is not the doctrines or even visible ordinances that are important, but this very life of the heart, because it is impossible to please God with "opinions." "We will not find any Savior’s discourses on dogmas..." and therefore all the separations between confessions are from the pride of mind. The true Church is broader than these external divisions and consists of all true followers in spirit, contains the entire human race. This truly ecumenical or "universal" Christianity blurs, in Labzin’s interpretation, into some trans-temporal and trans-historical religion. It is always the same in all societies... the one religion of the heart…" [Archpriest George Florovsky. Path of Russian Theology. The 3rd edition. Paris, 1983. p. 137].

This very well demonstrates what is represented by a religion, in which nothing remains but the "high" feelings of a person. This is a total adogmatism, destruction of any individual religion as a worldview, and a direct statement of what hieromonk Seraphim Rose called "the one religion of the future" [See his "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future"].

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the essence of religion consists in experiencing the Kingdom of God, which is inside of us (Luke. 17:21). But at the same time it says that the feeling of the Kingdom is not an involuntary experience of something exalted, but experience of God. Abba Dorotheus says: "Being passionate, we should not at all trust our hearts, because the curved ruler curves the straight line." [Venerable Dorotheus. Lectures Beneficial for the Soul. Moscow. 1874. Teaching 19. p. 212]. And St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) writes: "If good deeds initiated by the feelings of the heart could deliver salvation, the coming of Christ would be unnecessary" [Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Writings in 5 volumes. SPb. 1905. Volume. I, p. 513.] At the same time Orthodoxy specifies quite certain conditions for achieving communication with God (see chapter VII on Spiritual life). The feeling of experiencing God is completely different from the one described by Schleiermacher, because it is the consequence of a holy life in the Church, but not a result of contemplation of the harmony of the whole world in its infinity.

3. Hegel’s View

A prominent representative of yet another very widespread, especially among the educated people, understanding of religion was Hegel (1770-1831) — a great German philosopher-idealist, protestant and apologist. His main works are "Phenomenology of Spirit," "Science of Logic," "Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences," "Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion," "Philosophy of Law," etc.

The foundation of his philosophical system is the doctrine of the so-called Absolute idea (or Universal mind, Universal spirit, Absolute, God) as the initial category, which exists before the world, nature and society and dialectically evolves from abstract to concrete. Its evolution is carried out through the tree-like system of logical categories (which replaced in Hegel's philosophy everything that exists in reality) in the following way: each concept assumes and gives birth to an opposite one, and they both lead to the third, higher, concept, which reconciles and contains them in itself as its own components (for example, existence — nonexistence — temporary existence). The third concept, in its turn, becomes the beginning of a new triad and so on. Continuous change of three components: thesis, antithesis and synthesis (position, opposition and their unity), is the dialectic law (method) of the development of the Absolute idea. The dialectic method lies in the basis of the construction of the whole philosophical system of Hegel. It is divided into three parts:

  1. The doctrine of the Absolute idea in itself as it develops in the form of pure logical essences (logics);
  2. The doctrine of the Absolute idea in its alternative existence, i.e. the doctrine about the nature (philosophy of nature);
  3. The doctrine of the Absolute idea as various forms of concrete spirit (philosophy of spirit). Here the Absolute becomes reasonable in human consciousness and it is revealed in three forms: in art, religion and philosophy. In art it cognizes itself in the form of contemplation through a sensual image, in religion — in the form of imagination, and in philosophy — in the form of concepts.

According to Hegel religion in comparison with philosophy is a lower step of self-disclosure of Absolute spirit, because in religion the knowledge is at the level of imaginations only, which are imperfects modification of philosophical concepts. Therefore religion should be finally abolished by philosophy (certainly, the one of Hegel) — this perfect form of knowledge of the Absolute.

Hegel offered unusual interpretations of dogmatic Christian doctrines. Thus, he interpreted the doctrine of the Trinity as a symbolic expression of the dialectical development of the Absolute idea according to the principle of the triad. Naturally, in this interpretation the basic Christian truths lose their original meaning and turn into allegories of philosophical categories.

Hegel's view on religion is interesting not so much for its peculiarities of philosophical understanding, as for its basic idea of the essence of religion. Religion is viewed here as a certain system of thinking, and the main goal of the believer consists in its understanding, in discursively logical understanding of its truths. However, given such an approach, the soul of religion, the personal experience of God, is expelled and is replaced by doctrinal and religiously philosophical "computerized" arguments about Him. The result is that religion as a live, real connection with God ceases to exist for a person.

Such deeply false understanding of religion is one of the widespread illnesses among theologians, priests, and secular educated people. They "know" Christianity and there their religious life often ends. Reformation is an especially good illustration of such mentality. Protestantism may be fairly called a "professor’s religion," considering its rationalistic character. This fatal mistake was exposed by Apostle Paul: "…Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God" (1 Corinthians. 8:1-3).

Saint Seraphim of Sarov clearly spoke of the results of the rational cognition of Christianity and condemned reduction of religion to so-called education: "Nowadays, due to our almost total coldness to the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and due to our carelessness to the actions of His Heavenly Providence for us, we have reached the state where we almost fail to understand the words of the Scripture. Some say: this passage is not clear, therefore did the Apostles really so obviously could feel the Holy Spirit near them? Is there any mistake here? There was not and there is not any mistake... It all happened because, little by little, we distanced ourselves from the simplicity of Christian knowledge, under the pretext of education we came into such darkness of ignorance, that what seems to us unclear now was clearly understood by the ancient Christians to whom God's presence among people did not seem strange." ["About the Purpose of Christian Life." Conversation of Saint Seraphim of Sarov with N.A.Motovilov, Sergiev Posad.1914. p. 33, 10].

Ignatius Brianchaninov († 1867) writes about how deeply this illness may strike a person: "The word of Christ comes true: will Son of God find faith on earth in the last times? Sciences exist. There are academies, masters, doctors of theology (really it is but laughable!), these degrees are given to people... [And] if something happens to this theologian, it becomes clear that he does not even have faith, not only theology. I have met such people: a doctor of theology who doubts whether Christ came to earth or not, whether it is a fiction, whether it is a fantasy like a myth! What kind of light can we expect from this darkness?!" [Bishop Ignatius. Letters to Different People. Issue II. Sergiev Posad. 1917. pp. 78-79].

Reformation is an especially clear illustration of extreme rationalistic thinking. Unfortunately, neither Hegel, nor all the later "hegelians" understood it.

§7. Origin of Religion.

The question of the origin of religion is one of the keys to understanding religion. In response to the statement of the religious consciousness regarding the origin of religion in the mankind and the theanthropic character of religion, a negative critic would present a number of so called natural (i.e. purely human) explanations for the origin of the idea of God. Their essence can be summed up by L. Feuerbach’s statement: "God did not create man, but man created God." Therefore, before presenting the positive view on the origin of religion, let us go through the most common atheistic hypotheses: naturalistic, animistic, anthropotheistic hypothesis of Feuerbach (†1872) and social.

1. Naturalistic Hypothesis

The naturalistic (from Latin "natura" — nature) hypothesis, suggested by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (1 c. B.C.), claims that the idea of God and religion appeared as a result of man’s fear of severe natural phenomena (timor primus fecit deos — fear created first gods), as a result of man’s failure to understand the causes of these phenomena and the laws of nature.

However, this psychological explanation does not takes into account the fact that fear is more likely to lead to a desire to avoid these phenomena and to hide from them, rather than venerate and treat them as persons and pray to them. A man was afraid of many things, but yet he did not idolize all the objects of his fear: predators, natural forces, his human enemies etc. — but only some, and very often the most harmless, of them (a stone, a tree, etc.). Perhaps, it was not fear that caused religious attitude to these objects. The Soviet researcher of religion V. Timofeyev observes: "The existence of natural phenomena by themselves, even so catastrophic as floods or earthquakes, does not necessarily lead to religious fabrications" [Basic Issues of Scientific Atheism / Edited by professor I.D. Pantskhav. Moscow 1966. p. 36]. His colleague, A. Sukhov, who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, makes a similar statement: "And nevertheless, even in the era of primitive state, humans were never completely suppressed by natural forces. This suppression was never absolute" [Natural Science And Religion. 1970. No. 3. p. 10].

The lack of scientific knowledge on the part of the ancient man cannot account for the origin of the concept of God, either. A primitive man sensed his knowledge subjectively, perhaps even better than the modern man (who faces a huge number of problems, and their number is continually increasing with each new discovery), and he had his own explanation for everything that he encountered in his life. This is well demonstrated by the following real life story. A researcher, who studied the primitive Kubu tribe on the Island of Sumatra, once asked a native:

— Have you ever walked in forest at night?

— Yes, often.

— Have you heard moans and sighs there?

— Yes.

— And what did you think?

— A tree was crackling.

— Did you hear screams?

— Yes I did.

— What did you think?

— An animal was crying.

— And if you do not know which animal is crying?

— I know all animals’ voices...

— So, you are afraid of nothing in the forest at night?

— Nothing.

— And you have never met there anything unknown that could scare you?

— No, I know everything...

[Folz V. Rimba/ Translated from German. Moscow; Leningrad, 1931. p. 100. Quoted by Svyetlov E. Magism And Monotheism. Brussels, 1971. p. 37-38].

It is obvious that for a man with such a mindset the idea of God is absolutely unnecessary in explaining unusual natural phenomena.

This hypothesis does not stand for yet another reason. Science has been around for centuries, and man noticed long ago that he gradually acquires an ever-increasing capability to explain natural phenomena. However, this discovery, which is probably most important for man, and which freed him from "mystical fear" of nature, did not affect his being religious. The overwhelming majority of people, among them some of the greatest scientists, believed and continue to believe in God even as we enter the XXI century.

The naturalistic hypothesis does not at all answer the main question: how fear (or, on the contrary, delight, admiration) of the surrounding earthly, material, visible, audible and tangible world could cause in the primitive man’s mind the idea of the existence of God, a radically different Being: spiritual, invisible, inaudible, intangible.

But while the phenomena of this world are not themselves capable of giving birth to the idea of God and the other world, i.e. religion, in the mind of man, yet the presence of such an idea in the soul of man enables him to not only believe in God, but also to idolize any natural phenomenon, any creature, any of man’s fantasies. And then the existence of religion in all nations of the world and religious diversity become quite explicable.

2. Animistic Hypothesis

The animistic hypothesis (from Latin animus — spirit) was suggested and thoroughly developed in the 19-th century by the English ethnographer E. Taylor (†1917) in his main work "Primitive Culture." The Soviet researcher of religion S.Tokarev characterizes his view on religion in the following way: "Taylor understood religion mainly as a belief in spiritual beings or as animism, which he called "minimum of religion." He saw the source of animistic beliefs in the inability of primitive man to understand such biological phenomena, as sleep, dreams, illnesses, faintings, and death. In Taylor's opinion, "savage philosophers," while trying to explain these phenomena, came up with the idea of soul as a small double that exists in every person. Then, by analogy, they attributed the similar souls to animals, plants, and inanimate objects; thus gradually a belief than nature had a soul was formed, and this made possible the development of mythology, and later lead to the higher forms of religion, even polytheism, monotheism and complex doctrines." [S.A.Tokarev. E.B.Tailor // Brief scientific — atheistic dictionary. Second edition. Moscow, 1969. p. 691-692. Also see his "Animism" Ibidem. p. 27].

That this hypothesis is poorly substantiated is obvious from the following:

  1. First, it would be too much to assume that not one person or two, but the whole mankind was so feeble-minded that it could not distinguish dreams from reality and took hallucinations and night visions for real. Besides, such a backward mind would be very unlikely to be able to reach so abstract an idea as existence of God, and to firmly maintain it throughout history.
  2. Even if we were to accept, against all logic, that a man in that distant past actually combined, inconceivably, feeble-mindedness of a savage with philosopher’s wit and took his fantasies, dreams, etc. for real, it would still not necessitate a religious attitude to these things. There is a huge difference between admitting that something really exists and adopting a religious attitude to it and idolizing it. But unfortunately the animistic hypothesis does not notice this difference.
  3. It is difficult to imagine that a man, even having recently left the animal state as the supporters of the animistic hypothesis claim, could believe in the reality of existence of the things, which he had imagined or dreamt of. First of all, a dream is not something absolutely unexpected by man, something that suddenly appeared before his consciousness and struck him with its suddenness and exclusiveness. On the contrary, this phenomenon is quite usual. It is characteristic even of animals. And it is possible to say that a man is born and dies with it. Secondly, the overwhelming majority of dreams is a haphazard combination of thought fragments, emotional experiences, feelings, scenes from everyday life, etc. All of this can in no way be understood as a whole and therefore win one’s confidence. Thirdly, many dreams should have caused man’s direct distrust to them. For example, having had a filling meal in his dream, man might still be hungry after he wakes up. Or having overcome his enemy in his sleep, he might find everything in the same state after awakening. Could he still believe in dreams after all that? Could he have any religious attitude toward them?
  4. In the framework of the animistic hypothesis the fact of universality of religion among mankind seems to be quite mysterious and inexplicable. It is well known that it is difficult to convince somebody of something that exceeds the bounds of everyday experience. It is especially strange that some dreams and fantasies of a man could convince of the existence of God not one or two people, not just the man’s family, and not even individual tribes, but the whole mankind.

Flaws of the animistic hypothesis are so significant and so indisputable that even in serious atheistic circles it has ceased to enjoy confidence. S. Tokarev is very clear about it: "Now it has become out of date, its lack of methodological substantiation has become obvious" [See: Tailor. Short Scientific-Atheistic Dictionary. 2nd edition. Moscow. 1969 p. 692].

3. Feuerbach’s Hypothesis.

L. Feuerbach (1872), one of Hegel’s followers, suggested a somewhat different idea on the origin of religion. He derived his hypothesis from the old thesis about personification of forces of nature by man as a basis of ancient religious beliefs. In his opinion religion arose directly from personification of separate aspects and features of the abstract nature of man and its false interpretation. Feuerbach asks: "What is spirit if not a spiritual activity, that obtained independent existence due to human fantasy and language, a spiritual activity personified as a creature?" [L. Feuerbach Lectures on the Essence of Religion // Works: in 3 vol./ Translated from German. Moscow. 1923-1926. vol 3. p. 168. 11, Ibidem p. 192. 12, Ibidem p. 169.] Aссording to him, God and gods are personified projections of characteristics of man and nature, changed into independent beings by human thought.

Feuerbach divides religions into "spiritual" (Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam) and "natural" (all the primitive and ancient pagan beliefs). According to Feuerbach, in the "spiritual" religions "God, being distinct from nature, is nothing else but the proper essence of man," and in the "natural" religions "god, being distinct from man, is nothing else but the proper essence of nature" [Ibidem p. 192].

So how, according to Feuerbach, did these supernatural beings appear in the mind of man? It’s very simple. They owe their "existence" just to "man’s ignorance of biological processes behind thinking and fantasizing," because Divinity is a "personification of man’s ignorance and fantasy" [Ibidem p.169 ]. Brain activity, which is in fact, "corporal" activity of a certain organ was perceived by man as "incorporeal," because this "brain activity is the most hidden, remote, quiet, and elusive." So man "made [it] into an absolutely incorporeal inorganic abstract being, which he called God" [L. Feuerbach. Lectures on the Essence of Religion // Works: In 3 vol./ Translated from German. Moscow. 1923-1926. Volume 3. p. 169]. He writes: "The essence of the power of imagination, when not counterbalanced by senses and reason, consists exactly in what the imagination presents to the mind." [Ibidem p. 214]

Such was in general Feuerbach’s point of view regarding the origin of religion. It can be summarized in his following thesis: anthropology constitutes the mystery of theology. This thesis comes directly from his understanding of the essence of religion, which can be defined by one word — anthropotheism. Feuerbach tried to create a new anthropotheistic religion with the cult of man. S. Bulgakov defines Feuerbach’s religious views as follows: "Thus, homo homini Deus est (A man to a man is God) — this is a laconic formula expressing the essence of Feuerbach’s religious views. This is not a denial of religion and not even atheism — this is, in contrast to theism, anthropotheism, where anthropology appears in the role of theology." [S. Bulgakov The Religion of Anthropocentrism of L. Feuerbach // Two Cities: In 2 vol. Moscow. 1911. vol. 1. p. 14]. "Homo homini Deus est should be translated here as: humankind is a god to an individual person." [Ibidem p. 17].

What is the major error in Feuerbach’s and his followers’ view on the origin of religion? It is in the assertion that religion is a fantasy reflection in man’s consciousness of the consciousness itself and of all of the earthly reality. And that was claimed despite the fact that there are a great number of geniuses and great people who confessed their faith in God.

Speculative nature of Feuerbach’s hypothesis became obvious when his works "The Essence of Christianity" (1841) and "Lectures on the Essence of Religion" (1849) were published. Even supporters of the Hegel school, from which he came out, criticized his views on religion. And this is not surprising. The statement that God is an imaginary personification of the abstract concept of a person equals to the accusation of all humankind of insanity. A professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, V. Kudryavtsev (†1892), correctly remarked: "What, if not insanity, can we call such a state of the soul, when man considers a fruit of his imagination to be a really existing object and allows this idea to permeate all the aspects of his life?!" [V.D. Kudryavtsev. Initial Ground of Philosophy. 9-the edition. Sergiyev Posad, 1915. p. 125].

Indeed, only a mentally ill person may regard his fantasies as real living beings and treat them as such. Creation of abstractions and belief in their objective reality, and especially in their divinity, are quite different things to be as easily confused as was done by Feuerbach. This hypothesis can only explain the process of degradation of religion and development of various pagan religions, but by no means can it explain the origin of the idea of God.

4. Social Hypothesis

The social hypothesis is the last word in the negative criticism on this issue. Its main idea is quite clearly revealed from the following statements.

"As a form of public consciousness, religion originated as a product of society, a result of its historical development. It is different from other forms of public consciousness in that it offers a distorted view of life in the form of ideas about the supernatural. A religious view of life is in turn rooted in social phenomena: in a primitive society it is rooted in man’s feeling of helplessness in the face of natural forces, and in class-structured societies—in the feeling of weakness in the face of social oppression." [A. F. Anisimov The Stages of Development of Primitive Religion. Moscow, Leningrad. 1967. p. 34].

"Due to a low level of development of productive forces, people did not have reliable sources for securing necessities of life... Because of that, man felt totally dependent on the forces of nature and thought that they stood high above him and were of supernatural character.

The social roots of primitive man’s religion lie in the poor development of public production. However... for religion to originate, certain gnoseological pre-conditions had to be met. A religious explanation of the world first of all requires a man to understand his own personality as something separate from the surrounding nature and, secondly, requires an ability to formulate quite abstract notions regarding general properties of phenomena and objects" [Basic Issues of the Scientific Atheism / Edited by professor I.D. Pantskhav Moscow. 1966. p. 37].

Thus, the content of this new hypothesis can be summarized in the following main points:

  1. Religion "could originate only at a certain stage of development… of society and human being himself" [Ibidem p. 169], that is it is not a primordial phenomenon in the human society.
  2. The origin of religion is conditioned by:
    1. social factor — "due to the undeveloped public production" (in the primitive society by the feeling of person’s weakness in the struggle with the nature, in the class societies by the feeling of weakness in the face of social oppression);
    2. gnoseological factor—the capability to "formulate quite abstract notions" as a result of development of "human ability to think abstractly." [Ibidem] Abstract thinking gives rise to "fictional reflection of reality" in human mind, i.e. supernatural, religious reflection of reality.

A quick review of the main points of this hypothesis makes its eclectic nature obvious. However, since this hypothesis claims to be not only novel but also scientifically sound, it should be examined in more detail.

Thus, the first question is: what does science know about the time of the origin of religion? Is there any evidence of a time when mankind was without religion?

The question of when religion developed in human history is directly related to the more general problem, one of the time of appearance of man on this planet [See, for example, on this: S. S. Glagolyev The Past of Human Being. Sergiyev Posad, 1917]. As we know, science has no final answer to this question. In the Soviet ethnography it is assumed that humans appeared on Earth about one million years ago. However, this estimate refers to the time of the appearance of contemporary man. But in fact it seems more likely that this happened no earlier than about 150 thousand years ago. A well-known Soviet expert in religion, V. F. Zybkovets, states this carefully: "there are reasons to believe that ethnography can be traced back to the musterian epoch, which is separated from our time by about 100-150 thousand years." [V. F. Zybkovets Man Without Religion. Moscow. 1967. p. 78] According to scientific data, Homo sapiens appeared no more then 30-40 thousand years ago. Thus, for example, academician N.P. Dubinin wrote: ."..During 10-15 million years a giant leap from animal to human being was made. This process was accompanied by internal bursts of impulsive evolution, among which the most important was the leap that created the modern man and … was made 30-40 thousand years ago." [N. P. Dubinin. Social and Biological in the Modern Problem of Human Being // Issues of Philosophy. 1972. No. 10. p. 53].

Similarly, professor William Howells, the president of the American Anthropological Association, a world-renowned expert on the prehistoric man believes that ."..about 35 thousand years B. C. the Neanderthal men suddenly gave up their place to people of an absolutely modern physical type, who did not virtually differ from today’s Europeans, except for a stronger body build" [Kuryer. 1972. No. 819. p. 12. See also: Human Being // Comprehensive Soviet Encyclopedia 3rd edition. Vol. 29. Moscow. 1978. p. 50-54].

What can we now say about religion in the human race within the time "reachable" by ethnography? A Soviet expert on religion, S.A.Tokarev, thought that even "the Neanderthal man who lived about 100-140 thousand years ago and had a relatively developed consciousness and elements of human speech perhaps already had rudimentary religious beliefs." [The Origin of Religion // Abbreviated Dictionary of Scientific Atheism. 2nd edition. Moscow. 1969. p. 565.] Undoubtedly, people that lived 40-30 thousand years ago, i.e. Homo sapiens, posessed religios beliefs. Soviet scientist V. Titov wrote: "Archeological research indicates that biological development of modern man was complete about 30-40 thousand years ago. Modern man’s bones were first discovered in France near Cro-Magnon. Thus this man was called the Cro-Magnon man. Excavations of Cro-Magnon sites has yielded rich material pointing to Cro-Magnon man’s relatively developed religious ideas." [V.E. Titov Orthodoxy. Moscow. 1967. p. 301]

Many other Russian and most foreign scientists support this opinion (for example, famous ethnographer W. Schmidt, professor K. Blacker and others). V. F. Zybkovets, actually, sums up the problem in the following words: "Discussion among Soviet scientists concerning religious beliefs of the Neanderthal man is still going on. A. P. Okladnikov, P. I. Borisovsky and others believe that Neanderthal burial sites prove existence of religion among the Neanderthal people." [V. F. Zybkovets Man Without Religion. Moscow." 1967. p. 161]. Thus researchers disagree only about religious beliefs of the Neanderthal man, while the question of religion among Homo sapiens, that is humans proper, has been solved unambiguously: science does not know of any pre-religious state of Homo sapiens!

The question of whether the so called ancestors of man, such as pithecanthropes, misanthropes, atlanthropes, heidelberg man, giantopithecus, australopithecus, and others had religion or not is actually vain until the degree of their "humanity" is clarified. If these man-like creatures, which lacked reasoning capability and other characteristics of a human being, did not have religion, this is not surprising, neither is it any surprise that chimps and gorillas do not have religion. But let’s assume that these "pithecuses" and "anthropes" were man’s ancestors. Are there any grounds to say that they did not have religion? No, there aren’t. The previously cited words of V. F. Zybkovets regarding ethnography being traced back to only 100-150 thousand years confirm this convincingly enough.

Thus, the second premise of the social hypothesis — about the social factor in the origin of religion — is meaningless due to indisputable scientific evidence of the primordial existence of religion among humans. Therefore there is no ground left to claim that the appearance of religion is a result of man’s weakness in the face of social oppression in class society. Religion is much older than class societies and social oppression. V. F. Zybkovets states: "The history of class society is at most six thousand years old..." [Religion // Abbreviated Dictionary of Scientific Atheism. 2nd edition. Moscow, 1969. p. 597]. And religion is at least 30-40 thousand years old.

But maybe religion developed "as a reflection of man’s weakness in the face of nature, a weakness resulting from a low level of development of material production"? [Ibidem p. 110]

But where did the idea of weakness and fear of the primitive man in the face of nature come from? Did it not come out of a comfortable office and a soft armchair? It seems to be the case. Just as the city with all its factories, cars, tangled streets, crashes, accidents and victims does not provoke panic fear and weakness, not to mention religious worship, in a city dweller, so the wildest jungles are a home to a man of nature. It is quite possible that some "savage" rationalist, could come up with a hypothesis that religion in highly developed societies originated from the human fear and weakness in the face of civilization, and this hypothesis would be as well justified as those of today’s experts on religion.

But who of these thinkers is right? Apparently, none of them is right. Fear does not generate the idea of God (although it often makes us remember about Him). Moreover there is no reason to say that the primitive man experienced weakness before nature or special fear that he would have no food to fill up his stomach the next day. All these fears are natural for the "displaced" man of XIX-XX centuries, who lives in abnormal social conditions. In the primitive communal society with its low level of material production a man had greater opportunities for finding food, than do people of the "high-tech" societies of our time, who live with a fear of loosing their jobs.

The premise of "weakness" in this case truly confirms the social origin, though not of religion, but of the hypothesis itself.

The final argument of this hypothesis is a gnosiological one. It claims that the origin of religious concepts is determined by the development of man’s ability to formulate abstract notions. The logic here is right — only abstract thinking enables a man to move from impressions of material world to generating a world of ideas, including religions ideas.

However, this argument is just a return to the old idea of Feuerbach once again, which is unsound from both psychological and historical points of view. He and his followers relate the appearance of religion to such a long past time and to men so distant from us, that all the reality of these "notions" is lost. The period of dozens, hundreds and thousands of millennia, as it is estimated, since the origin of mankind does not allow us to reliably determine the psychology of man of that time. Therefore one can claim here almost anything. But are not these claims themselves fruits of imagination? It is necessary to chose between two alternatives: either consider the mentality of the first people as terra incognita and admit that the origin of religion cannot be solved by science at its current stage of development; or consider the mentality of the first people as similar to that of modern man and decidedly discard fabulous statements that the first people deified their abstractions, hopes, dreams and fears.

Moreover scientific research indicates that religious consciousness of man is much older than a developed abstract thinking. Undeveloped, from the European point of view, nations, though being religious, did not typically have abstract notions, and they often do not have them at present time. The Russian philosopher V.L.Timofeyev reports the following interesting fact: "The study of cultures and languages of nationalities at their early stages of development proves that the development of people’s consciousness was moving from concrete, visual notions to more abstract generalizations, which were a deeper reflection of the essence of the phenomena and objects surrounding people. Ethnographers point out that the language of such peoples lack many words, necessary to denote abstract notions and types of things. Thus, the African tribe of Eve has 33 words to characterize different types of a walk. But their language has no word to denote the process of walking itself regardless of its type. The people of Kanaka have, for example, special words to denote bites of various animals and insects, but there are no words to denote a bite, a tree, an animal etc. in general.

"It is obvious that the first religious images that appeared in the mind of primitive man should have had concrete visual nature and could not be a kind of faceless and abstract supernatural force that had no analogy among material objects surrounding primitive people" [Basic Issues of Scientific Atheism / Under the editorship of professor I.D. Pantskhav. Moscow. 1966. p. 36].

As one can see from the above quote, even some modern peoples and tribes still do not have highly abstract notions. But the level of development of these tribes is definitely higher than that of those that lived 35 thousand years ago and therefore could not have abstract concepts. Yet both ancient and modern peoples had/have religion, which includes such notions as "God," "spirit," "soul," "angel," etc.

There is a clear inconsistency in this view on the man of the original religion: on the one hand he is viewed as an absolutely undeveloped half-animal creature that hardly understands "his personality as something separate from the surrounding nature," and, on the other hand, he is seen as a philosopher with bold, original mind and abstract thinking. This inconsistency does not allow us to take seriously the final argument of this hypothesis — the gnosiological one.

Thus, the social hypothesis, too, failed to give an answer to the question about the origin of religion. Its disadvantages are obvious. It is eclectic; all its elements became out of date a long time ago. The only new element of the hypothesis — the social one — is not a real reflection of the state and level of the development of man of the original religion, but just a simple projection of the present into the dark night of past millennia.

* * *

Universality of religion in mankind is one of the most impressing facts of world history. Such a phenomenon could not be a result of an accident, someone's imaginations or fears. Its cause could only lie in something fundamental; it had to be rooted in the human nature itself, in the essence of being.

Negative hypotheses of the origin of the idea of God have played a great role in solving this problem. They once again powerfully and persuasively demonstrated that religion is not is a fruit of "earth." But where is then its source?

5. A Positive Perspective on the Origin of Religion.

There is, then, only one logically justifiable answer to the question of the origin of religion: there is God, Who affects man in a special way, and man is capable of perceiving these God’s actions under certain conditions.

Thus, answering the basic general question: "How can religion be possible?" we say: "Religion is a direct identification of God and a living connection with Him, which is possible due to religious endowment of a man, due to the existence of a religious organ, which perceives God and His influence. Surely, without this organ that splendid and colorful development of religion, with its special nature, that we can see in the history of mankind would not have been possible." [Quoted by S. Bulgakov, "Unvesper Light," Sergiev Posad, 1917, p.7].

So, what factors inside man make this experience and development of the faith in God possible, thus giving rise to religion?

First of all it is a sincere search for the truth and for the meaning of life. For one who searches thus shows that he is spiritually alive. On the contrary, one who is spiritually dead does not search and therefore does not find. That is why Jesus did not allow a disciple of His to first go and bury his father; He told him: "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Like 9:59-60), in order to prevent this disciple from spiritually dying among the dead. The command of Christ the Savior: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Mathew. 7:7-8), is the first and necessary condition for coming to God.

So, what is this way like? It starts with an understanding of the abnormality of one’s own life and a realization of the gospel morality, which substantially differs from the generally accepted or so-called universal moral values and has the following main characteristics:

  1. Sincere repentance of all the evil, unfair and dishonest deeds previously commited that wound the conscience: inner repentance, repentance before the offended ones, repentance before the priest if the soul allows do so.
  2. Determination to fulfill all those norms of morality that are contained in the New Testament and can be summarized in the commandment "Let us love one another" (1 John. 4:7). Sincere repentance is again required if any of the moral norms have been violated. Thus, obedience to commandmants and repentance, repentance and obedience — this is the beginning of the Christian morals that open God to the seeking person, because only "the pure in heart …shall see God." (Mathew. 5:8)
  3. Of course, it is also necessary to read and study the Holy Scripture, mainly the New Testament, as well as the writings of holy fathers and venerable ascetics and teachers of the Church, and to attend divine services. Sincere words addressed to the yet unknown God, "Lord, if You exist, reveal Yourself to me, for I am sinful and weak," will be definitely heard and answered.

Of course, these are just the very first steps toward God and a personal experience of Him. However, without these it is extremely unlikely that the truly genuine faith and religion will be ignited inside man.

A mere confidence in the existence of God or just of "something supernatural" does not make one a Christian. It is necessary to know the basics of the Orthodox faith and the resulting principles of spiritual life, compliance with which brings a Christian into the mysterious world of the Church as opposed to world outside the Church.

Today it is not easy and simple for people to reach this world of the Church. Even having believed in God, one still has to choose a religion. And, having become convinced of the validity of Christianity, one still has to find the Church. To accomplish this one has to impartially study the faith and ascetic experience of the ancient Church (of the time of the Ecumenical Councils) in order to see the falsehood of Roman Catholicism causing great damage to spiritual life and its arrogant claims of absolute authority in the Church; the rational secular nature of Protestantism; mystical groundlessness and often open syncretism of today’s countless sects. One has to see all this in order to consciously and of free will accept the Orthodoxy.

§8. The First religion.

Determining the nature of the first religion is quite important, because this defines an understanding of the essence of religion and its meaning to a person. This question can be examined from several perspectives: scientific, ideological (on philosophical grounds), and Christian.

Science. Homo Sapiens that, according to modern science, appeared about 35 thousand years ago, had "rather complex religious ideas" (see the Social hypothesis) in the form of a solar cult (sun worship). But who or what did he really worship? Was it the sun or "the Sun of Righteousness," God? Science has nothing to say about this.

Archeological and ethnographical research traces the sources of the European civilization no further back than the ruins of Malta’s temple culture (4-2 thousand years B.C.) From Crete to Mycenea (3-2 thousand years B.C.) only a few household notes and some undeciphered texts have been preserved, while not a single written character is left from the Malta ruins, so we can only guess about the nature of religious beliefs of that time. Therefore, if we don’t take the Bible into account, the written history of European religion begins with Homer’s "Iliad," approximately dating back to VIII-VII centuries B.C.

The Hindu Vedas were written no earlier that 2 thousand years B.C., and they tell us about God and gods. Many researchers believe that older texts are actually closer to monotheism, whereas more recent ones have a tendency toward polytheism and pantheism.

The same picture is seen while studying religious sources from other civilizations, such as Assyrian-Babylonian, Roman, Chinese, American and others. Beneath a layer of polytheism researchers find obvious traces of older monotheism. [For example see A.I. Pokrovsky. Biblical Doctrine About Primitive Religion. The Holy Trinity-St.Sergius Lavra, 1901. Archimandrite Chrisanf (Retivtsev). Religions of the Ancient World In Their Relation to Christianity. Volume I-II. St. Petersburg. 1873; 1875. E. Svetlov. Magic And Monotheism. Brussels, 1971. (See: Notes and Brief Bibliography.)] The earliest date piece of religious literature, a collection of texts from the pyramid of king Unas (mid-XXIV century B.C.) clearly mentions a single Creator of "the visible and invisible world" Ra-Atume. (See: A.M. Zubov. Victory Over the Last Enemy // Theological Herald. 1993. No.1)

Materialist ideology, based on its belief in universality of evolution and unquestionable validity of the evolution theory, treats the development of religion using the same evolutionary approach, tracing it from the lowest forms (fetishism, animism, sabeism, etc.) to the highest one, monotheism.

However we can see at least two basic errors in this approach.

The first one is an unsubstantiated application of evolution approach to such a special aspect of life as religion.

The second mistake is the ignoring of the fact of existence till now of the lowest forms of religion and obvious degradation of religious ideas in the more advanced societies. The modern civilization is obviously decaying spiritually, and this is caused, first of all, by its religious degeneration. Christianity is pushed away by a variety of pseudo-religions, occultism, magic, astrology, i.e. by all that, which from the ideological point of view belongs at the initial stage of development of religious consciousness of man at the lowest stages of his existence. There is an obvious involution, not evolution of religion.

The Christian point of view is based on the testimony of the Bible, the very first lines of which clearly tell us that monotheism came first. The commandment to worship the One and Only God is the first among the ten most important commandments given through Moses and is emphatically reiterated in various forms and contexts throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

An objective basis for accepting the Biblical evidence is the fact that Bible is one of the most ancient written sources, and its trustworthyness is confirmed by a large body of scientific and archeological evidence. [See, for example, K. Keram. Gods, Tombs, Scientists. Moscow. 1960; L.Wully. Chaldean Ur. Moscov, 1961; E. Tseren. Biblican Hills. Мoscow 1966] Therefore there are sufficient grounds to say that monotheism is the oldest religion in the world, and other religious forms appeared later for several reasons. Let’s name some of them.


§9. Diversity of Religions

The Bible names moral corruption of people as the main reason why monotheism faded and a variety of other religious beliefs appeared. Apostle Paul in the epistle to Romans wrote: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 1:21-25).

These words uncover the psychological basis and sequence of spiritual degradation of a person, which happens when the worldly (1 Corinthians 3:3) pagan element develops inside man and the spiritual needs are unmet. In this case the Apostle writes only about one kind of paganism, the one most widely spread in the Roman Empire. But the reasons he stated: pride and disrespect for God (they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to him), unbelief, concentration of all effort on worldly objectives (they claimed to be wise), moral dissoluteness (through the lusts of their own hearts) (compare: Luke 4:1-13; John 2:15) have lead to the appearance of other numerous kinds of paganism.

Ancient non-biblical authors also pointed to the moral cause of distortion of man's religious views. Thus, Cicero wrote: "Many think incorrectly about gods, but this usually comes from moral corruption and depravity. However all are confident that there exists Divine power and nature" (Cicero. "On the Nature of Gods" Quoted by: V Kudryavtsev Initial Grounds of Philosophy. Sergiyev Posad, 1910. p. 176-177).

There are a number of secondary reasons for the development of new religious beliefs. Among these are separation and isolation of nations that contributed to a loss of purity of the original Revelation of God, which they spread only orally, as well as anthropomorphic way of thinking. But one of the more significant among these reasons is an allegorical nature of the ancients’ languages, since they expressed their understanding of God in terms of natural phenomena, human nature, nature of animals, birds etc., which gradually assumed a sacred character and were deified. For example, the sun as an image of God – a source of life and light – became an especially common subject of religious veneration. In this manner the images of supreme gods (Zeus, Jupiter) and different other gods and goddesses appeared.

"God is spirit" (John 4:24), and knowing Him depends on the degree of a person’s spiritual purity: "For into an evil soul wisdom shall not enter; nor shall it dwell in a body that is subject unto sin. For the Holy Spirit of wisdom will flee from deceit, and remove itself from thoughts that are without understanding, and will be ashamed of approaching unrighteousness." (Wis. 1:4-5). "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8). Therefore, depending on the level of righteousness (or depravity) of a nation, new ideas about God were born: about one God or many; kind or malicious, righteous or wicked, etc. Every nation, having a sense of God, created His image in accordance with the level of its spiritual, moral and intellectual development. The various "natural" (pagan) religions thus appeared.

Another category of religions, to which belong the Jewish religion of the Old Testament and Christianity, are the religions of Revelation. They are monotheistic, and the source of their teaching is a direct Revelation of God recorded in sacred books. The basic distinguishing characteristic of these religions is that their tenets are not results of human dreams, fantasies or philosophical conclusions that ascribe properties of man and nature to God, but come from a direct Revelation of God Himself. This Revelation came in two quite different stages.

The first stage, the Old Testament Revelation, was ethnically limited. It was given in the language and in forms appropriate to the psychology of the Jewish people, considering their spiritual, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic potential. Therefore in many ways it had a limited nature (see The Religion of the Old Testament).

The second stage, the New Testament Revelation, was not specific to any particular nation, but was universal in nature. All of its basic truths testify to its Divine purity and show it to be unpolluted with any human additions. These truths have no precedents in all of history of religious consciousness! Apostle Paul wrote: "we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23).

§9. What Religion Is Not

Despite all the diversity of religions, they have certain common characteristics that set them apart from all other worldviews. (See 4. Basic Truths of Religion). Teachings that reject at least some of the basic religious truths cannot be categorized as religious teachings. Some of these actually hide materialism and atheism behind a mask of religion. Others combine an emphasis on mysticism with a conscious and open fight agains God. Still others, mainly religious-philosophical systems of thought, lack the very idea of a necessary spiritual connection between man and God.

The following examples will suffice to illustrate the first two categories. The Judaic teaching of the Sadducees, though observing the cult of the Old Testament religion, rejects the most important truths: existence of a spiritual world, human soul, eternal life (they "say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit" (Acts 23:8). Therefore the teaching of the Sadducees, being a part of a religious system, is not a religion, but is obviously materialistic and, in fact, atheistic.

Another example is Satanism, which accepts the existence of God, but preaches hatred to Him and any good and truth. Thus Satanism is a denial of the very essence of religion and is nothing but a criminal ideology.

Quite unnatural with respect to religion and especially Christianity are such well-known phenomena as extrasensory perception, the teachings of Roerich, Scientology and others, which offer various mystical methods of "curing" a person from all sorts of ailments.

Equally distant from religion are some of the well-known religious philosophical thought systems that are centered on the idea of the existence of God, yet are not truly religious. Examples of such systems are deism, pantheism and theism. These have a long history and are widely spread.


§10. Pseudo-religious Thought Systems: Deism, Pantheism, and Theism

1. Deism (from Latin Deus — God.) This religious and philosophical school appeared in England in the 17th century, but became especially widely spread in Europe in the following century. Deism acknowledges the existence of God, but considers Him to be only the Creator of the world and its laws. Deism completely rejects a possibility of any Revelations, miracles, or any providential acts of God. God is outside the world. He is transcendental (from Latin transcendere — to exceed the bounds of something), i.e. absolutely uncognizable for a person, and no communication between man and God is possible.

In the deistic view, the created world is similar to a perfect clock mechanism left to itself by its creator. Man is absolutely autonomous, independent from God. For a full spiritual and physical life no prayers, worship, sacraments, God’s help or grace are needed, as they would violate man’s freedom. The whole religious experience of mankind is simply abolished by a willful denial of it. Therefore religion with all its dogmas, commandments and establishments appears to be a wrong and senseless teaching. Naturally, the Church is also seen as redundant and harmful.

Thus, appearing to accept the existence of God, deism completely denies man’s needs in God, thus opening a direct way to open fight against God. It is not surprising, then, that Voltaire, who was a deist, proclaimed such a blasphemous slogan with respect to the Catholic Church: "Crush the serpent!

Deism is not an accidental fruit of thought of some "strange" philosophers. Its psychological roots are as old as the first man, who started to dream of become "like God" without God, against God and who began a "new life" (=death) in a "new" world. This inherited "self-sufficiency," which got a fertile soil for its development in the worldly church life of that epoch in the West, gave birth to a multitude of painful phenomena in human mind and heart: deism, atheism, materialism, freemasonry, etc.

2. Pantheism (from the Greek word (pan) pan — all; and (o Qeoz) theos — God) — is a religious-philosophical teaching, which in essence identifies God with Cosmos (nature, man). In pantheism God is not viewed as a Person existing in Himself independent from the world. God is completely immanent (from Latin immanens — internally inherent to something) to the Cosmos. Jewish philosopher Spinoza (†1677) claimed that "God is nature" (Deus sive natura). According to pantheism a person is a particle of the divine and is aware of itself only for a moment of its earthly life in order to later be dissolved forever in the infinite ocean of Spirit. In essence pantheism denies not only freedom of the man’s will, but also the reality of either world or God.

A famous Russian philosopher L.M. Lopatin (†1920) fairly noted, that in pantheism "there is apparently only one way out for a thought: either to proclaim the world a phantom and destroy it in God, or to force God to disappear in the world to such an extent, that only His name remains." [L. Lopatin. Positive Problems Of Philosophy. Moscow, 1911. Part I. p. 277-278]. In practice pantheism usually takes this latter path. An original attempt to smooth this tendency is the so-called panentheism (from Greek pan en Qev - all in God), a religious-philosophical teaching of the German philosopher Krauze, which he presented in 1828. According to it everything that exists abides in God, but God remains a personality and is not dissolved in the world.

Pantheism has a long history and comes in a variety of forms. It is especially developed in Hindu systems of thought. It has existed in India for thousands of years. In the West different philosophers created various forms of pantheism (for example, Spinoza, Hegel, Schleiermacher).

In Russia it was primitively developed by Leo Tolstoy. He replaced God with an "understanding of life," which is love; religious life for him is a life, the good of which lies in suppressing in oneself an "animal personality," "in the good of others and in suffering for this good." The one who lives this way has God in himself and is the "son of God" just like Christ is. Death returns the "son of God" into the bosom of the Father - God, in which the son disappears like in a universe. Thus, according to Tolstoy, there is neither personal God, nor personal immortality. Consequently, there is no real meaning in life. For what meaning can there be in disappearing?

Like deism, pantheism does not provide a basis for a living personal relationship between man and God, thus making regilion practically impossible. Religion appears only where an impersonal beginning (such as Brahman) incarnates and becomes a personal deity (such as Krishna).

3. Theism (from Greek o Qeoz (theos) – God) as a system of thought acknowledges, unlike pantheism, the existence of a personal God and, unlike deism, asserts the possibility and necessity of His revelation and providence for the world and man. God is not only transcendental to the world, but also immanent to it. Acknowledgement of the free will of a man and the possibility for him to communicate with God are important features of theism. There exist various theistic systems and since their fundamental notions are also present in religions, religions themselves are usually treated as theistic world views.

However, being only a theory, theism is not a religion, as religion first of all is a special spiritual life of a person that includes prayer, ascetic labor and living experience of the person’s relationship with God.

* * *

Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy M. A. Starokadomsky (†1973) gave a brief and precise characteristic of these three concepts in his speech prior to defending his doctoral dissertation. He said: "Only theism, which asserts the existence of the Absolute all-perfect Personality, Who by the free creative act calls the world and man from non-existence and takes care of them, can satisfy the living religious feeling. Prayer as the main manifestation of religious life can be addressed only to the all-good Supreme Ruler of the world, capable of granting help in grace. Neither pantheism, nor deism can serve as a basis of religious life. In the "Absolute Substance" of Spinoza God and the world represent a single whole, in which everything is bound by the unbreakable law of necessity, and there is no place for impulses of free attractions. And both Spinoza’s and the stoics’ Amor Dei – love for God –represents just a voluntary submission to the inevitable fate. The same applies to the Hegel’s "Absolute," which is originally represented by an abstract, senseless notion, and reaches self-consciousness only at the end of the process of dialectic development. Since logical laws strictly determine the motion of the notions, a free communication of a person with the Absolute cannot take place.

Deism draws a similar picture, according to which the world represents an ideally build clock, and its precise motion does not need intervention of the Supreme Master" [M. A. Starokadomsky Experience Of Speculative Reasoning Of Theism In Works of the Professors of the Moscow Theological Academy. Moscow 1969. Typescript, the library of the Moscow Theological Academy].

§11. Views of Some Philosophers on Religion

1. Kant’s View (For an analysis of this issue see for example: P. Florensky Cult and Philosophy // Theological works (Coll. 17. Moscow 1977. p.119-135).

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is a well-known German philosopher and scientist. Kant's philosophy is well presented in two of his main works: "Critique of Pure Reason" and "Critique of Practical Reason." In "Critique of Pure Reason" he came to the conclusion that, as a matter of principle, the human mind cannot know the essence of things. It is only possible to know "phenomena," i.e. what appears as a result of interaction of the real world (so called "things in themselves," beyond the reach of cognition) and our cognitive ability. Because "things in themselves" cannot be known, Kant concludes that it is in principle impossible to come to know God, soul, the world. Therefore he criticizes the so-called proofs of the existence of God and immortality of soul.

However, proceeding from the moral law, which exists in us and requires compliance, Kant in his "Critique of Practical Reason" asserts the necessity to postulate both the existence of God and immortality of soul. Because attainment of the highest moral ideal, striving for which is inherent in the human nature, becomes possible only through accepting the existence of God, Who is willing and able to ensure goodness and truth, and immortality of soul, which allows the soul to be perfected without limit.

Kant gives his view on the essence of religion in the above mentioned works as well as in "Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone." In Kant’s opinion, the content of religious consciousness is the understanding of God as a moral legislator, and religion lies in recognition by the person of all his or her moral duties as commandments of God. In "Critique of Practical Reason" he writes: "Moral law through the understanding of the highest good as the object and the ultimate goal of pure practical reason leads a person to religion, i.e. to the recognition of all his moral duties as commandments of God, — not as sanctions, i.e. as arbitrary determinations of somebody’s will, but as essential laws of any free will in itself." "Religion, in its subject matter, does not differ from morality, because the common subject of both of them is the moral duty; the difference between religion and morality is only formal" [N.P. Rozhdestvensky Christian Apologetics: In 2 vol. St. Petersburg 1884. Vol. 1. p. 149].

Thus, according to Kant, the essence of religion lies in the fulfillment of the moral duties as "the commandments of God." Kant himself, when explaining his understanding of religion, says that a reasonable person may have religion, but he shouldn’t have any relationship with God, because the man knows nothing for sure about actual existence of God. In place of God in religion Kant places a man with a moral law inherent in him. Thus, Kant creates some "universal" notion of religion that can exist without acknowledging the existence of God. It is for a reason that he "wrote repeatedly: "I am God," in his last large work "Opus postumum."" [Stanly L. Yaki. God and Cosmologists: Dolgoprudny, 1993. p. 23].

Many share Kant’s view on religion as the fulfillment of certain moral duties. Its main idea is that for a person it is enough to be good, because this is the essence of religion. It is not necessary to be religious. Therefore all specific requirements of religion to a person, such as belief, doctrines, commandments, worship services and prayers, norms of church life are superfluous. These are all superstition, philosophy, and one can neglect them. From here comes the idea of so-called universal morals, non-dogmatic Christianity, unity, in essence, of all religions etc.

A serious error of this understanding of religion consists in ignoring the fact, that a person’s morals and way of life are ultimately determined by his or her worldview, an understanding of the supreme ideal which may be God or "god." Both ideals define their respective morals.

If a person's god is glory, mammon, authority and stomach, then there is no doubt about the character of such person's morals. A good illustration of this is a speech by Rockefeller before the students of a Sunday school in the US, in which he, among other things, said: "Growth of business activity is simply survival of the strongest... The American rose can be brought up in all the magnificence of its beauty and fragrance that causes delight among those who admire it only by ruthlessly cutting off weak shoots around it. It is just the law of nature and of God in action!" [Quoted by: K.R. Hill. Christian Defense of Morals and Democracy.//Dispute. 1992. №1. p. 138]. Adoration of a golden idol makes a person ruthlessly cruel. This goes to show that morals depend on what kind of "god" we are talking about.

But even high morals do not in themselves bring a person closer to God, because it is not good deeds that cleanse the heart of a person, but the struggle against passions and the humility resulting from this struggle. Venerable Isaac of Syria wrote: "The person does not receive the award for his deeds till he becomes humble. The award is given not for the deeds, but for humility... The merit is given not to the virtue and not to the work for the sake of it, but to humility that is born from virtue and labor. But if humility is lost, both virtue and labors will be in vain." [Saint Isaac of Syria. Selfless Words. Moscow.1858. Word.34. P.217]. Prophet John speaks similarly of highly moral deeds: "The true labor may not be without humility, because labor itself is vain and is not worth anything." [Barsanuphius the Great and John. A Guide to Spiritual Life. SPb. 1905. Answer 274.] Therefore St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) even says: "Unhappy is one who is satisfied with own human righteousness: he does not need Christ." [Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Writings in 5 volumes. SPb. 1905. Volume IV, p. 24. ].

Virtues and labors are necessary and useful only when they are done out of love for a person and are the means to acquire humility.

Paul Florensky very well expresses the unspiritual and, in essence, atheistic nature of Kant's views on religion. Analyzing the concept of holiness, he writes: "Our modern thought is inclined to equate this reality [of the other world] to moral power, understanding holiness as the completeness of moral perfection. Thus Kant tries to get to religion via a back door, so to speak, for in this approach morality is thought of as the power of the same earthly world, a subjective power ... But fruitless are the powerless attempts at the concepts of holiness... Even the word usage testifies against such attempts: when we speak of holy vestments, holy vessels, holy water, holy oil, holy churches and so on and so forth, it is obvious, that we not at all mean ethical perfection, but ontological. And this means, that if in these cases the positive side of holiness also contains this ontological superiority over the world and an ontological existence outside this world, then on a broader scale the focus of this concept of holiness is not in ethics, but in ontology...

And if we call a person "holy" we do not point to his morals, for which there exist appropriate words, but to his original powers and deeds, qualitatively not comparable with the ones of the world, to his being above this world, to his being in the spheres inaccessible to usual understanding... morality of such a person, which itself is not a component of his holiness, partly serves as one of the favorable conditions for his being above the world, and partly is revealed as a consequence of such a state. But the connection of these two concepts must be established by gentle and very flexible threads... Therefore, when we call a moral action a "holy deed," we mean not its Kantian moral orientation, which is immanent to the world, but anti-Kantian transcendental to the world unification with the energies of the higher world. By calling God "Holy," and Holy by superiority, the source of any holiness and completeness of holiness... we sing not His moral nature, but His divine one...” [Priest Paul Florensky. Sanctification of the Reality//Doctrinal works. №17. Moscow, 1977. p. 150-151].

Substitution of morality for holiness and spirituality is a great mistake of Kant and all his followers. Execution of moral duties without God is like navigation of a ship without a rudder and sails.

2. Schleiermacher’s View

Schleiermacher’s view on religion and its value for man differs from Kant’s in form, but it is the same in essence.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1786-1834) was a theology professor in Berlin, a secretary of the philosophical department of the Academy of Sciences. His main writings are "Discourses on Religion to the Educated who Despise it," "Monologs," his fundamental theological work "Christian Faith," and numerous sermons. Schleiermacher’s general philosophical views are given in his "Dialectics" (by dialectics he implied the art of philosophical substantiation).

Schleiermacher’s idea of God and His relation to the world almost coincides with the pantheistic understanding of Spinoza. At the same time, acknowledging God to be absolutely transcendent to the human mind, Schleiermacher directly joins Kant. And in his understanding of religion Schleiermacher is as single-sided as Spinoza and Kant.

According to Schleiermacher, the basis of life is the absolute global unity, "wholeness," or God. All depends on God, but this dependence is expressed in the general internal relationships within nature, but not in the Revelation or grace, because God is impersonal.

Schleiermacher’s expressions "God," "world spirit," "world completeness" are used as synonyms. God’s activity is equivalent to causality in nature. "God never existed outside the world, we cognize Him just in ourselves and in things." Everything happens necessarily, the human being does not differ from other creatures either by free will or eternal existence. As all individual creatures, people are just a transient state in the life of the Universe, which having appeared, should perish. Common ideas of immortality along with a hope for a reward in the afterlife are wrong.

The philosopher writes that "the purpose and the nature of religious life is not immortality in the form, as it is believed... but the immortality that we already have in this temporary life, i.e. to merge with the infinite among the finite and to be eternal in every moment — this is the immortality of religion" [F. Schleiermacher. Discourses On Religion To the Educated People. Moscow 1911. P. 111]

The essence of religion is contemplation of the infinite and "the feeling of dependence" on it in the inseparable unity. He wrote: "Religion is a feeling and a taste to the eternal... This is life in the infinite nature of the one whole and in everything, the life that sees everything in God and God in everything... It is a direct perception of the existence of all the finite in the infinite and though the infinite of all the temporal in the eternal and through the eternal..." [Ibidem. P. 39].

Religion originates from striving for the eternal, for the absolute unity: it is a direct cognition of world harmony. Religion brings man to a relationship with the absolute and teaches him to feel and see himself as a part of the whole.

Schleiermacher thinks that one common eternal religion has always existed in the world. The variety of religions shows only the difference in power and direction of those religious feelings that inspired creative geniuses, who created religions, but has nothing to do with any religion being true or false. As one of the religious researchers wrote, "according to Schleiermacher, religion is a feeling of eternal in temporal or the feeling of unconditional dependence, and, consequently, each religion is a true religion, because it is the matter of feeling, but it has nothing in common with the true knowledge" [O. Pfleiderer. On Religion and Religions/ Translated from German. St. Peterburg 1909. p. 45].

According to Schleiermacher doctrines in religions do not have any religious meaning at all. Doctrines and canons are just a shell allowed by religion, but this shouldn’t be done. Hopefully in the future religion will not need the Church. Actually the more religious a person is, the further away he should stay from the Church. Moreover in order to contribute to religion an educated person should fight against the Church – the carrier of dogmatism, strict morality and canons, which enslave the feelings. A true religion, i.e. a free feeling of reverence and delight before the eternal Universe, its harmony and beauty is possible only with the abolishment of the Church.

Schleiermacher’s views fully coincide with those ideas, which began to be spread in Russia since the end of 18th century by the freemasons and liberal nobles and to bring their "fruits." Their essence was very well expressed by archpriest George Florovsky, who wrote about the views of Labzin (1825), the head of the Rosicrucian Lodge in St. Petersburg: "It is not the doctrines or even visible ordinances that are important, but this very life of the heart, because it is impossible to please God with "opinions." "We will not find any Savior’s discourses on dogmas..." and therefore all the separations between confessions are from the pride of mind. The true Church is broader than these external divisions and consists of all true followers in spirit, contains the entire human race. This truly ecumenical or "universal" Christianity blurs, in Labzin’s interpretation, into some trans-temporal and trans-historical religion. It is always the same in all societies... the one religion of the heart…" [Archpriest George Florovsky. Path of Russian Theology. The 3rd edition. Paris, 1983. p. 137].

This very well demonstrates what is represented by a religion, in which nothing remains but the "high" feelings of a person. This is a total adogmatism, destruction of any individual religion as a worldview, and a direct statement of what hieromonk Seraphim Rose called "the one religion of the future" [See his "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future."].

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the essence of religion consists in experiencing the Kingdom of God, which is inside of us (Luke. 17:21). But at the same time it says that the feeling of the Kingdom is not an involuntary experience of something exalted, but experience of God. Abba Dorotheus says: "Being passionate, we should not at all trust our hearts, because the curved ruler curves the straight line." [Venerable Dorotheus. Lectures Beneficial for the Soul. Moscow. 1874. Teaching 19. p. 212]. And St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) writes: "If good deeds initiated by the feelings of the heart could deliver salvation, the coming of Christ would be unnecessary" [Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Writings in 5 volumes. SPb. 1905. Volume. I, p. 513.] At the same time Orthodoxy specifies quite certain conditions for achieving communication with God (see chapter VII on Spiritual life). The feeling of experiencing God is completely different from the one described by Schleiermacher, because it is the consequence of a holy life in the Church, but not a result of contemplation of the harmony of the whole world in its infinity.

3. Hegel’s View

A prominent representative of yet another very widespread, especially among the educated people, understanding of religion was Hegel (1770-1831) - a great German philosopher-idealist, protestant and apologist. His main works are "Phenomenology of Spirit," "Science of Logic," "Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences," "Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion," "Philosophy of Law," etc.

The foundation of his philosophical system is the doctrine of the so-called Absolute idea (or Universal mind, Universal spirit, Absolute, God) as the initial category, which exists before the world, nature and society and dialectically evolves from abstract to concrete. Its evolution is carried out through the tree-like system of logical categories (which replaced in Hegel's philosophy everything that exists in reality) in the following way: each concept assumes and gives birth to an opposite one, and they both lead to the third, higher, concept, which reconciles and contains them in itself as its own components (for example, existence - nonexistence – temporary existence). The third concept, in its turn, becomes the beginning of a new triad and so on. Continuous change of three components: thesis, antithesis and synthesis (position, opposition and their unity), is the dialectic law (method) of the development of the Absolute idea. The dialectic method lies in the basis of the construction of the whole philosophical system of Hegel. It is divided into three parts:

The doctrine of the Absolute idea in itself as it develops in the form of pure logical essences (logics);

The doctrine of the Absolute idea in its alternative existence, i.e. the doctrine about the nature (philosophy of nature);

The doctrine of the Absolute idea as various forms of concrete spirit (philosophy of spirit). Here the Absolute becomes reasonable in human consciousness and it is revealed in three forms: in art, religion and philosophy. In art it cognizes itself in the form of contemplation through a sensual image, in religion - in the form of imagination, and in philosophy - in the form of concepts.

According to Hegel religion in comparison with philosophy is a lower step of self-disclosure of Absolute spirit, because in religion the knowledge is at the level of imaginations only, which are imperfects modification of philosophical concepts. Therefore religion should be finally abolished by philosophy (certainly, the one of Hegel) - this perfect form of knowledge of the Absolute.

Hegel offered unusual interpretations of dogmatic Christian doctrines. Thus, he interpreted the doctrine of the Trinity as a symbolic expression of the dialectical development of the Absolute idea according to the principle of the triad. Naturally, in this interpretation the basic Christian truths lose their original meaning and turn into allegories of philosophical categories.

Hegel's view on religion is interesting not so much for its peculiarities of philosophical understanding, as for its basic idea of the essence of religion. Religion is viewed here as a certain system of thinking, and the main goal of the believer consists in its understanding, in discursively logical understanding of its truths. However, given such an approach, the soul of religion, the personal experience of God, is expelled and is replaced by doctrinal and religiously philosophical "computerized" arguments about Him. The result is that religion as a live, real connection with God ceases to exist for a person.

Such deeply false understanding of religion is one of the widespread illnesses among theologians, priests, and secular educated people. They "know" Christianity and there their religious life often ends. Reformation is an especially good illustration of such mentality. Protestantism may be fairly called a "professor’s religion," considering its rationalistic character. This fatal mistake was exposed by Apostle Paul: "…Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God" (1 Corinthians. 8:1-3).

Saint Seraphim of Sarov clearly spoke of the results of the rational cognition of Christianity and condemned reduction of religion to so-called education: "Nowadays, due to our almost total coldness to the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and due to our carelessness to the actions of His Heavenly Providence for us, we have reached the state where we almost fail to understand the words of the Scripture. Some say: this passage is not clear, therefore did the Apostles really so obviously could feel the Holy Spirit near them? Is there any mistake here? There was not and there is not any mistake... It all happened because, little by little, we distanced ourselves from the simplicity of Christian knowledge, under the pretext of education we came into such darkness of ignorance, that what seems to us unclear now was clearly understood by the ancient Christians to whom God's presence among people did not seem strange." ["About the Purpose of Christian Life." Conversation of Saint Seraphim of Sarov with N.A.Motovilov, Sergiev Posad.1914. p. 33, 10.]

Ignatius Brianchaninov († 1867) writes about how deeply this illness may strike a person: "The word of Christ comes true: will Son of God find faith on earth in the last times? Sciences exist. There are academies, masters, doctors of theology (really it is but laughable!), these degrees are given to people... [And] if something happens to this theologian, it becomes clear that he does not even have faith, not only theology. I have met such people: a doctor of theology who doubts whether Christ came to earth or not, whether it is a fiction, whether it is a fantasy like a myth! What kind of light can we expect from this darkness?!" [Bishop Ignatius. Letters to Different People. Issue II. Sergiev Posad. 1917. pp. 78-79.]

Reformation is an especially clear illustration of extreme rationalistic thinking. Unfortunately, neither Hegel, nor all the later "hegelians" understood it.


III. The existence of God

§1. Proof

§2. There Is No God, Because...

§3. God exists

There is no question more important to man than this one: what is the meaning of life? And this question is ultimately reduced to the question about God: does He exist or not? An answer to this question cardinally affects a person’s attitude towards life. Some people die in severe pain for the faith in Him, but do not renounce Him. Others severely torture and kill for the same faith and do not regret. Some claim that they got to know His existence, and they have proved it with their own life and death. Others regard this as nothing more than fanaticism that should be rooted out without mercy. So, who is right?

There are two ways of learning. One is direct seeing, usually preceeded by faith. This way is the main one both in life and in religion. The other one is rational, a way of logical deductions. It is indirect, auxiliary and is only meaningful prior to acquiring a confirmation by experience.

Relatively few people have a religious experience (vision) that leaves them without a doubt about God’s existence. Most of mankind believes in the existence of God. On the contrary, a minority of mankind believes that God does not exist. In both groups there are people seeking an "exact knowledge." They need arguments and proofs to justify the efforts necessary to acquire an experience of knowing God. But what is a proof, and what can be proved?


§1. Proof

1. Notion on Proof

First of all, the word proof can be used in either a broad or a narrow sense. A proof in the broad sense is any process of verifying an opinion with the help of logical reasoning or by reference to perception of objects and environmental factors that affect the senses.

A proof in the narrow sense is demonstrating that the statement being proved logically follows from propositions, the truthfulness of which has already been established or accepted. The initial propositions in a proof in the narrow sense are called premises or arguments, while the statement being proved is called the proof’s conclusion. It is in this narrow sense that the term proof is understood in formal logic.

Secondly, there are significant differences between proofs in different fields of human thought (scientific, social etc.). These differences are found in different nature of premises and conclusions.

Role of experience in proofs is especially manifest in sciences, in particular those sciences where facts known from experience are directly used as premises substantiated by means of human perceptions, as well as those sciences, in which facts learned from experience are used in a generalized, abstract and idealized form.

The first type of sciences includes natural sciences, such as experimental physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, as well as social sciences, such as archeology and history. Proofs based on experience, whether direct or indirect, are called empirical. They mainly involve inductive reasoning.

The second type of sciences includes mathematics, modern formal logic, some areas of computer science and theoretical physics. These sciences do not directly deal with objects perceivable by human senses, but with so called abstract concepts, such as the mathematical abstraction of a point that does not have physical dimensions, the abstraction of perfect geometric shapes etc. Therefore these sciences cannot make use of empirical inductive proofs; instead they use deduction.

  1. Proof and Verity

The goal of a proof is to establish the verity of its thesis. However, the verity of a judgment substantiated by means of a proof is usually not unconditional, i.e. a proved statement is typically just a relative truth. The relativity of the verity of proved statements is due to the following.

First, premises of proof only approximate reality, i.e. are, in turn, relative truths. This is especially evident in empirical sciences.

Second, the applicability of a logical approach to one class of objects does not imply that it is applicable to a broader class. For example, the logic applied to finite objects may turn out to be inapplicable to infinite ones. Thus, medieval scientists considered it to be a paradox that the set of all natural numbers has the same cardinality as its own part, the set of all even numbers. They were mistaken in applying properties of finite objects to objects infinite.

Third, there is a wide range of concepts that, not being well defined, can lead to contradictions when used in the framework of common human logic. For example, the notion of God’s omnipotence, wrongly understood as an unlimited ability to perform any actions, leads to paradoxes such as the well-known question of whether God can create a rock He can’t lift.

Therefore guaranteeing the verity of a proved statement requires clear definitions of the concepts involved, applicability of the logical approach used to the class of objects involved, and a demonstration of the consistency of the system used. The latter is particularly difficult, even for the formal arithmetic.

As proved by Goedel, the statement of consistency of a formal system is unprovable within the framework of the system itself, if the system is consistent. A great German mathematician Hilbert (1943) was distressed over this: "... Just think about it: in mathematics, in that model of reliability and verity, the formation of notions and the course of reasoning… lead to nonsense. Where on earth shall we seek reliability and verity, if even the mathematical thinking itself fails?" [Y. Popov, Y.Pukhanchev. Paradoxes //Nauka i zhizn (Science and life). 1971.No. 1. p. 102].

"Development of the (modern) cognition theory has shown that no form of reasoning can give absolutely reliable knowledge." [B. V. Akhlibinsky Miracle Of Our // Cybernetics and Problems of Development. Leningrand, 1903. p. 91.For more detail see lower in the chapter. V, §1, p. 5: Reliability of Scientific Knowledge].

3. On Relativity of Empiric Proofs

In the final analysis, empiric proofs appeal to experience, i.e. to something that is directly or indirectly (via a device, for example, or trust in authority) experienced by people. It is experience that is the most reliable criterion of truth, rather than theoretical considerations, no matter how trustworthy they may seem. "Znaniye Sila" magazine (Knowledge is Power) [Znaniye sila. 1967. No. 5. p. 28; 1968. No. 6. p. 49] published articles that jokingly "proved" that giraffe is a myth, because, the article claimed, an animal having such a long neck would not have any chance to survive during a long evolution and struggle for existence. Even more outstanding examples are Zenon’s paradoxes "proving" for example, the absence of motion in the world. These paradoxes-proofs remained unsolved for 2.5 thousand years without shaking anyone’s confidence in the existence of motion.

What was the reason of such a skeptical attitude to the conclusions of, as it may seem, unquestionable logical proofs? It was experience. These proofs contradicted experience, and therefore no one would believe in their verity, for "only practical verification of a statement serves as its final proof." [See: Proof // Encyclopedic dictionary: In 2 vol./ Under editorship of B. A. Vvedensky. 1963-64. Vol. 1. p. 343].

Of course, not all experience can serve as a sufficient argument. A single isolated experience is especially unconvincing. It is not always easy to prove that something is a fact, to prove the correctlness of conducting an experiment and to show that all factors affecting its results have been accounted for. Finally, what we see in our experiences and experiments can be often interpreted arbitrarily.

Yet despite all of their relativity, empirical proofs remain the most trustworthy and most widely used in all natural sciences.

4. Conclusions

Proof is a substantiation of verity (or falsity) of a statement. A proof establishing the falsity of a claim is called disproof.

Strictly speaking, proofs only exist in mathematics and logic. But these proofs deal with idealized notions, symbols that have nothing to do with real objects, although seem to be related to them.

Empirical proofs lack such a logical persuasiveness. When it comes to natural phenomena, insufficiently substantiated premises have to be used in proofs, thus reducing reliability of conclusions. Yet all natural sciences use this type of proof. It is even more difficult to prove something in the fields of history, philosophy and worldview. The latter covers the question about the existence of God. [For more detail see: Proof // Philosophic encyclopedia. Moscow, 1962. Vol. 2. p. 42-48].

However, the complexity of this issue has never been an obstacle for human mind in seeking the truth via comparative assessment of arguments of the two mutually exclusive worldviews, religious and atheistic. There can be only one truth. One possibility is that God exists and, consequently, there is eternity and meaning of life. The alternative is: there is no God, no eternity, and a meaninglessness of death awaits us. What are the arguments in favor of each of these worldviews? First let us consider the best known arguments for the faith in the non-existence of God.

§2. There Is No God, Because...

1. "Science Has Proved That There Is No God…"

This statement is based on nothing and is pure propaganda. Not only there is no scientific proof of God’s non-existence, but there can in principle be none for at least the following reasons.

First, by definition, science studies the physical world. Therefore the main religious truth, namely the existence of God, cannot in principle be disproved by science. [The great French scientist and Christian Paster, 1895, speaking about science and his scientific conclusions, wrote: "There is neither religion, nor philosophy nor atheism nor materialism, nor spiritualism here. This is a question of facts and nothing but facts." Quoted by: Vasilyev L. Hypnosis at a distance. Moscow, 1962. P. 18].

Second, it is scientists, the people of science, that best know what science really proves or disproves. That’s why the fact that there is a large number of great scientists who believed in God and in Christ, is the most convincing indication that science does not disprove the existence of God. It’s enough to list just a few names of world-famous believing scientists: N. Copernicus (died 1543), a church official, known for a breakthrough in astronomy; J. Kepler (died 1630), who substantiated heliocentric system; B. Pascal (died 1662) a physicist, mathematician, religious thinker, the founder of classical hydrostatics; I. Newton (died 1727), a physicist, mathematician, and astronomer; M. Lomonosov (died 1765), a scientist; L. Galvani (died 1798), a physiologist, one of the founders of the electric current theory; A. Amper (died 1856), a founder of electrodynamics; A. Volta (died 1872 ), also among the founders of the electricity theory; G. Mendel (died 1884), an Augustine monk, the founder of genetics; J. Duma (died 1884), the founder of organic chemistry; S. Kovalevskaya (1891), a mathematician; L. Paster (died 1895), the founder of modern microbiology and immunology; A. Popov (died 1906), the inventor of radio; D.I. Mendeleyev (died 1907), the creator of the periodic table; I. Pavlov (died 1936), the father of physiology; P. Florensky (died 1937), a priest, theologian, and scientist; V. Vernatsky (died 1945), the founder of geochemistry, biochemistry, radiology and the teaching on biosphere; E. Schrodinger (died 1955), a founder of quantum mechanics; B. Filatov (died1956), an ophthalmologist; L. Brol (died 1987), one of the founders of quantum mechanics; Ch. Townes (died 1988), one of the founders of quantum electronics; and many other.

Third, from the point of view of modern science, "at any stage of human civilization’s development our knowledge will be just a small island in an infinite ocean of the not-cognized, unknown, unexplored." [Nain God, Bible, Infinity //Nauka i religiya (Science and religion). 1959. No. 3. p. 23]. Scientific knowledge will never enable a person comprehend all that exists. Hence it will be never possible, in principle, to scientifically prove the non-existence of God, even if there were no God. Atheism, which states the opposite, turns out to be a concept directly contradicting one of the most basic scientific conclusions.

2. No One Has Seen Him

This statement is naïve, to say the least. We believe in the existence of many things no one has ever seen and, in fact, no one can ever see, such as sub-atomic world, infinite Universe, our own intelligence (the existence of which one would hardly doubt) and so forth. Yet God is Spirit, Who can be "seen" not with eyes, but with a spirit, which is a dispassionate mind and a pure heart (Mt. 5:2). History has preserved for us countless examples of such vision of God.

3. The Bible Is Full of Contradictions

Presence of contradictions in the Bible could be relevant for denying its inspiration by God, but not for addressing the question about the existence of God. Christians are not the only ones who believe in God. Besides, the overwhelming majority of these so called contradictions and inconsistencies are either imaginary or stem from a basic misunderstanding of the text and the causes of variant readings. However, isolated formally contradictory passages (e.g., was there only one demoniac of Gadarene, or two; did the rooster crow once or twice before Peter denied Christ thrice; and so on) are not only negligible in number, but also serve as importance evidence of authenticity of the gospels’ testimony. Besides, none of these variant readings affect what is the most important, namely, the foundations of the faith and life that make the Bible the Holy Scripture.

4. The World Is Full of Sufferings

A lot of innocent people unjustly suffer in this world. Isn’t that a sufficient argument for rejecting the faith in God’s existence? This is one of the most common objections. It comes from a lack of understanding of the Christian teaching on God’s love, human freedom, and the nature of sin.

Christian theology uses the term synergism (from Greek for cooperation) to characterize the relationship between God and man. Synergism means that neither a man can save himself, nor can God save him without the participation of the man’s will. Salvation is carried out by God, but only on the condition that man desires it and does his best to become God-like in terms of his spiritual and moral characteristics. These characteristics are laid out in the Gospels in the image of Christ and in His teachings. God cannot forcibly bring an evil soul into His Kingdom of love. The sould has to change first. Until it does it will be tormented by the evil in it. Human sufferings come from a lack of harmony between human spirit and God, Who is the Law of our being (just as the law of gravity leads to grave consequences for someone jumping out of a third story window). Here lies the main cause of all human woes.

The causes of human sufferings and the nature of God’s involvement in them were very clearly explained by St. Anthony the Great (4th century). "God is good, dispassionate and unchanging. Someone, accepting as blessed and true the belief that God is unchanging, may be wondering why He, being unchanging, rejoices about the good, turns away from the wicked, is angry with sinners and shows Himself merciful to them when they repent. We ought to say in response to this that God neither rejoices, nor gets angry, for both joy and anger are passions. It would not make sense to think that Deity can feel good or bad depending on what men do. God is good and does only good and causes no harm to anyone, always being the same. But we, when we are good, enter into communion with God, being similar to Him, and when we become evil, we separate ourselves from Him, being dissimilar from Him. When living a life of virtue, we become God’s, and when becoming evil we are thrown away from Him. This does not mean that He is angry with us, but that our sins keep God from shining in us and unite us with demons, which torment us. If we then acquire absolution from sins by means of prayer and good deeds, this does not mean that we won God’s favor and got Him to change, but that, having been cured of the evil in us by means of such actions and our conversion to God, we again became capable of enjoying God’s goodness. Thus, to say that God turns away from the wicked is the same as saying that the sun hides itself from those deprived of eyesight." [The Philokalia. 4-th edition. Moscow, 1905. Vol. 1. § 150. p. 90.].

Other Fathers of the Church explain the causes of human sufferings (God’s "punishments") similarly.

"Sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) Therefore sin in itself carries disease and punishment for man. Suffering is a consequence of sin. In the case of some passions, such as drunkenness and drug addition, the cause of suffering is obvious. In the case of other passions, especially those of the soul, it is more difficult to see, yet their effect on a human being is as severe. Think of all what is caused by envy, selfishness and greed. Don’t they lead to quarreling, animosity, murders, wars and the like? That is what Apostle James says: "God… tempteth no man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:13-14)

On the other hand, the purpose of man’s life on earth is, according to Christian teaching, to prepare for eternity. Just as children require preparation for their life as adults, so each person, in order to prepare for eternal life, needs labor, patience, compassion, love for other people, needs to struggle agains evil arising in his or her mind and heart. Also needed are tribulations that remind man that this life itself is short and meaningless. They educate and discipline man. Apostle Paul writes, "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12: 7-11). St. Isaac of Syria warns us that "Whoever abides in his virtue without tribulation has the doors of pride wide open for him." [Abba Isaac of Syria, Words of an Ascetic. Moscow, 1858, Word 34, pp. 218-219.] "It is not the spirit of God that lives in those who are in peace [without tribulations], but the spirit of the devil." [Ibid. Word 36, p. 228.]

Sufferings of children, righteous people, saints, and those who are innocent are of a somewhat different nature. Their sufferings are sacrificial, because they are mainly caused not by personal sins, but by the sins of "neighbors" (Luke 10:25-37). For like in a living body healthy organs suffer with the ill ones and perform as far as possible the sick organs’ functions, so in the living body of human society a similar process of healing co-suffering (though not yet understood by children on earth) takes place, in which spiritually healthy members co-suffer with the sick. The healing effect of these sufferings is of a spiritual nature. Children themselves do not realize that now. But it will be revealed to them in eternity what God has done for their loved ones through their sufferings, and what good came out of these sufferings for the children themselves. And throughout the endless ages they will keep thanking God for their sufferings.

Not all children are allowed to suffer, but only those who will become capable of receiving their sufferings as a gift from God, as a unique opportunity to suffer for their loved ones. Indeed, children, by their sufferings, help their relatives to become cleansed and to stop and think. Many people, thanks to their children’s sufferings, started thinking about the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, and came to faith in God.

It is well known that love is stronger than death. But true love is sacrificial, and only people, first of all children, who are more pure spiritually are capable of it. Their sufferings are like those "innocent" sufferings endured voluntarily by people who lay down their lives for others or give their blood or healthy organs to save a victim. These people, in their fervent love, sacrifice without even asking if the victim is to blame for his own suffering and if it is fair to suffer for him. True love does not ask questions like that. It has only one goal: to save a person. The ideal of such sacrificial love is found in Christ, Who "hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18)

The meaning of innocent sufferings can only be understood with the faith in that the death of the body does not mark the end of life, but only the end of a serious stage of preparation for eternal life and that not a single act of suffering for the sake of others will be left without a great eternal reward from God. St. Apostle Paul wrote thus about this: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

The holy Fathers of the Church provide us with an in-depth spiritual explanation of the meaning of tribulations, illnesses and sufferings that befall the righteous. The essence of this explanation was clearly expressed by St. Isaac of Syria: "The reason God allows His saints to be tempted by all types of grief is because… as a result of these temptations they acquire wisdom." [Ibid. Word 37, pp. 229-230] If you desire virtue, then give yourself to all kinds of tribulation, for tribulation begets humility." Indeed, just as gold is purified by fire, most of those who, by human standards, suffer innocently are cleansed of the remaining traces of sins and passions and advance closer to spiritual perfection. This perfection of spirit fills them with such love and joy, that they are sometimes willing to take any suffering. This can be clearly seen from the history of Christian martyrs and ascetics.

For example, St. Isaac of Syria tells us of "Agathon, who said, "I wish I could find a leper, give him my body, and take his for myself." That is perfect love." [Ibid. Word 55, p. 362] Now, when St. Isaac was asked, "What is a merciful heart?" responded: "It is when a person’s heart is on fire for all that is created, for humans, birds, animals, demons and all creatures, and it cannot tolerate to hear or see any creature being hurt or saddened. That is why at every hour it tearfully prays for speechless things, for enemies of the truth and those who cause it suffering. And this prayer is offered with great compassion, which is endlessly nurtured in the heart to the point that it becomes God-like in this respect… And here is a sign of those who have achieved perfection: even if they were burned on the stake ten times in a day for their love for people, they won’t be satisfied." [Ibid. Word 48, pp. 299,300]

Thus one can see that the question about so called innocent sufferings, which at first appear to indicate that there is no loving God, comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of these sufferings and an attempt to think of them from a legal point of view, according to which they are "illegal" and "unfair." Yet in reality we can only understand this when we acknowledge love as the highest law of life and when we believe in life everlasting. Then the deep meaning of all human suffering is revealed to us, along with the moral beauty of suffering for one another and, especially, of a righteous man suffering for the wicked.

On the contrary, if there is no God and no eternal life, then what is the meaning of all this innocent suffering? Is it a play of blind forces of nature, a coincidence, an unpunished and unchecked human cruelty? What meaning, one can ask, is there in the life of these innocent sufferers and their often cruel, inhumane torments? It appears there is only one answer an atheis could give: no meaning at all. [On this issue, see, for example: Bishop Theodor (Pozdeyevsky). On the issue on sufferings // Bogoslovskiy vestnik (Theological herald). 1909. No. 10. p. 286-311; A.I. Vvedyensky On so called innocent sufferings // Dushepoleznoe reading for the soul. 1891. Book 12. p. 505; Archpriest P. Svyetlov. Christian dogma in apologetic statements. Kiev, 1910. p. 697].

* * *

Such are the most common arguments against the existence of God. Of course, these are clearly insufficient. But every seeking person should satisfactorily answer for himself the question about God’s existence. Christianity provides specific means of verifying its claims. Atheism does not offer such means and, in fact, cannot offer them in principle. For, in order to learn about non-existence of God, one would need to learn about everything that exists. But that is impossible due to the cognizable world being infinite. Therefore atheism cannot answer its main question: "What can a person do to come to a conviction of non-existence of God?" It can only offer one thing: "Follow the path shown by religion, and then you will learn if God exists or not." There is no other way.

Remarkably, both religion and atheism together (!) offer the same response to the question that is most important for each human being, and the response is to encourage practical and personal verification of religious conditions for coming to know God.

§3. God Exists

Yet there are even purely theoretical arguments that help an unbiased person to see that acceptance of God’s existence is not a result of unfounded human fantasizing, but a logically justifiable postulate in solving the question about the meaning of human life and the life of the world. Let us examine some of these arguments.

1. Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument (from Greek kosmos — order, universe, world) along with the theological one was already expressed by the ancient Greek philosophers Plato (347 B. C.), Aristotle (322 B. C.) and other ancient thinkers. Afterwards it was further refined by many others. It is based on accepting causality as a universal law of existence. It is concluded based on this law that there must be the first cause of everything that exists. Such a cause, naturally, can be only a super-existence that itself has no cause and exists eternally (i.e. it is the "cause" of existence itself). This super-existence is God.

In considering this argument, one should take into account a variety of ways in which philosophers have historically interpreted the concept of causality and its objective relevance to all phenomena in the world. For example, Englishman D. Hume (died 1761) and German I. Kant (died 1804) denied objective existence of causality in the world: the former considered it to be a side effect of human habit, while the latter believed it to be an a priori quality of human reason. Modern physics also describes a number of phenomena where usual cause-and-effect relationships appear to be broken. N. Bohr (died 1962), Heisenberg (died 1976) and P. Dirac (died 1984), who represent the two schools of thought in quantum mechanics, claim that causality in the realm of atomic and sub-atomic phenomena is no longer unconditional [[V. Heisenberg Physical principles of quantum theory / Translation from German. Moscow; Leningrad, 1932. p. 61]; statistics, not causality, rules in the world of atoms. Yet most scientists and thinkers consider causality to be a universal law.

Should the world as a whole have a cause for its existence? This is, essentially, a philosophical, not scientific, question. Soviet Academician Y. Zeldovich remarked: "The question about the initial conditions is still beyond physics. And unless we postulate that the beginning came from some sort of divine force, then we ought to seek a scientific approach to the problem of choosing the initial conditions." " [Y. Zeldovich. In-house Life Of the Idea // Literaturnaya Gazeta. February 9, 1972 p. 11].

Yet there is no scientific answer to the question about the initial cause of the world’s existence, and such an answer can hardly ever be found. However, most thinkers in antiquity and today see God as this "initial" Creator or, as Aristotle put it, the First Moving Force. Even though from a purely theoretical perspective, of course, one cannot rule out other possible approaches to understanding the first cause, such as the universal soul of the stoics, or Harmann’s (died 1906) unconscious, or eternally existing matter.

2. Teleological Argument

The teleological argument (from Greek telos — finish, complete; logos — word, judgment, proof, reason), is based on rationality and perfection of the observed world. It is one of the most widely spread owing to its simplicity and persuasiveness. It has been known since ancient times. Religious thinkers and philosophers of almost all times and nations of the earth know it. It can be summarized as follows. The world in parts and as a whole (i.e. its known whole) is strikingly harmonious and well organized, which testifies to the super-intelligence and omnipotence of the force that created it. Only God could be such a force.

There is no factual basis for rejecting the idea about rational organization of the world. However, from the formal logic point of view this argument has a weakness as it is impossible to prove rational structure of the world as a whole and of all its parts. There are other ideas, too. For example, Kant, based on his philosophical system, spoke of patterns of reason, not the world. "Reason does not draw its laws (a priori) from nature, but prescribes them to it." [I. Kant. Works: In 6 vol./ Translation form German. Moscow, vol. 4. part. 1. p. 140]

However, patterns observed in the world have always amazed all naturalists and thinkers, including Kant himself, leading them to the idea about the existence of a Divine Creator.

Here are some statements by well known modern scientists on the subject. "Balance between gravitational and electromagnetic interactions inside stars," — P. Davies wrote – "is incredibly precise. Calculations show that changing any of the interactions by only 10-40-th of its value would entail catastrophic consequences for stars like the Sun." [P. Davies. Superforce. Moscow 1989. p. 265]. Dr. M. Rues, reasoning about possible initial cause of the world, wrote: "The notion about such a reason leads us back to accepting the existence of the Highest Power of some kind that could be called God. By the way, it seems to me, that this argumentation falls into a class of arguments, traditionally known as teleological." He continues: "Generally speaking, the assumption that beyond the present existence of the universe, beyond its organization there ought to be some Higher Reason nowadays seems increasingly plausible." [M. Ruse. Science and Religion: War as Before? //Questions of philosophy, 1991. No. 2. p. 30-40, 42].

A well-known Russian scientist L. S. Berg (1950) wrote: "The main postulate, with which a natural scientist comes to an understanding of nature is that Nature in general makes sense, that it can be understood, that between laws of thinking on the one hand and the order of Nature, on the other, there is a certain predetermined harmony. Without this silent assumption no natural science is possible" [L. S. Berg. The Evolution Theory. Petrograd, 1922. p. 67-68]. In other words, the basis of science is a scientist’s faith in the rationality of the world. A. Einstein expressed this idea quite elloquently: "My religion is a deeply felt assurance of the existence of the Highest Reason, Who opens Himself to us in the cognizable world" [K. Selig. Albert Einstein /Translation from German, Moscow 1966. p. 44].

It is worth mentioning the so called Anthropic Principle. When the values of universal constants (speed of light, charge and mass of an electron) were analyzed, it turned out that if these had just slightly different values, the Universe would have been completely different, and the life as we know it, and man in particular, would not be able to exist. A well-known American scientist Ralph Estling, commenting on this principle, wrote: "Absolutely in all, beginning with the constants determining gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear interactions, and right up to the basic principles of biology, we discover that the Space in general, and the Sun in particular, and especially the Earth are so precisely adjusted to us, that it begs the question, was it not God or someone else like Him that created all of this, keeping us in mind first? This is too much of a coincidence, it is hard to believe it happened by pure chance" [P. Davies Selected Works p. 261].

All this agrees well with the words of Apostle Paul: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Romans 1:20).

The value of the teleological argument consists in that it offers a person a choice: one can either accept that a Higher Reason is behind the wonderful laws, by which the world operates or, alternatively, believe that the source of this is "something as yet unknown." The first option reveals to a person a higher and sacred meaning of life; the second leaves one in a state of inner confusion and a feeling that life is a dead end. ["At one time some mathematicians estimated the probability of life emerging on Earth by chance. It turned out that according to the laws of numbers, we did not have the right to emerge, but even if we had emerged, we should not have survived" (Newspaper "Izvestiya." 21 VIII. 1970. No. 189). The probability of life developing from a chance combination of molecules is equal to 10-255. (Populated Space / Edited by V.D.Penelis. Moscow, 1972). The probability of a DNA molecule appearing by chance is 10-80,038 (V. I. Kurashov, Y. I. Soloviev. On the Problem of "Reducing" Chemistry to Physics //Questions of philosophy. 1984. No. 6. p. 96)]?

3. Ontological Argument

Ontological argument reasons from the idea of a perfect Being and was first stated by Archbishop Anselm of Canterberry (died 1109). Its logic is the following. If there is in our mind a notion of an all-perfect Being, then such a Being must necessary exist, because, if it did not have the property of existence, it would not be all-perfect. We consider God to be an all-perfect Being; consequently, He must also have the quality of existence.

R. Decartes (died 1650) supplemented this argument with the idea that it is impossible to imagine the origin in man’s mind of the idea of God, unless He actually exists [See Sec. 4: Psychological Argument]. Leibniz (died 1716) added to this argument that God ought to exist because the notion on Him is not inherently inconsistent. Many Russian theologians and philosophers made an effort to better understand this argument. For instance, Russian philosopher S. N. Trubetskoy (1862-1905), developing an idea proposed by V.S. Soloviyev and reasoning from the notion of God-Absolute as "One and Complete Being," accepted the ontological argument as the basis in addressing the question of the existence of God.

4. Psychological Argument

The main idea of this argument was expressed by Blessed Augustine (died 430) and further developed by Decartes. It can be summarized as follows. Because the idea of God as the all-perfect eternal Being is present in human mind, and such an idea could have originated neither from impressions of the ouside world, which is so much different from the notion of God [See chapter II, §6, p. 1: Naturalistic hypothesis], nor as a result of man’s thinking, or his psyche [See chapter II, §6, p. 2 and 3: Animistic hypothesis and Feuerbach’s Hypothesis], then the source of this idea must be God Himself.

Well-known Roman orator, statesman and thinker Cicero (died 43 B. C.) expressed a similar idea. He wrote: "If the truth of the existence of God had not been understood and accepted by our soul, then the opinion alone could have been neither permanent, nor tested by time, nor grown old in the course of time and the passing of generations; for we can see that other fantasies and vain ideas disappear with time. Who now believes that hippocentaurus or chimera exists? Time exposes false opinions, and confirms natural truths." [Cicero. On the Nature of Gods. Quated by: V. Kudryavtsev. Initial bases of philosophy, the7-th edition. Sergiev Posad, 1910. p. 176-177].

This argument gains even more weight in connection with the historical argument.

5. Historical Argument

Cicero refers to this argument, as the most reliable. "We think," — he says, — " that it necessary to point out the fact that there is no tribe so savage, the no person who has lost awareness with regard to moral duties to such an extent that their soul is no longer illuminated with thoughts about gods. Many think about gods incorrectly, but this usually results from moral corruption and vice. However, all are convinced that there is divine power and nature. And such an acceptance results not from prearranged plan or agreement amongst people. This rememberance of gods became firmly established not due to state decrees or laws, but the unanimity of all nations in any matter should be considered a law of nature" [Ibid. p. 176].

The same idea was expressed by well known Greek writer and philosopher Plutarch (died 120): "If you travel through all countries in the world, you can find towns without walls, without written language, without rulers, without palaces, without riches, without a currency, but none has yet seen a town without temples and gods, a town where prayers are not offered and where people do not swear by the name of a deity..." [V. Kudryavtsev Selected Works p. 177].

In fact, history of mankind does not know a single atheistic tribe. How can one explain this amazing fact? All atheistic hypotheses that offer various so called "natural" explanations of the origin of the idea of God in human mind turn out to be unfounded. [See chapter II, §6: Origin of Religion] Thus we are left with one conclusion, namely to admit that this idea, by which all the human race have lived throughout history is not an "earthy" fruit, but has God Himself as its source.

6. Moral Argument

This argument, depending upon the initial premises, has two variations. One of them reasons from the fact that there is a moral sense in humans (the so called "moral law" [By moral law we mean the quality, peculiar to humans, of differentiating between good and evil; this is the voice of conscience and an inner thirst for truth, mainly expressed in the principle: Don't do to others what you don't want done to you]. Another variation comes from the idea of moral and spiritual perfection of man as the highest goal, to which a moral being aspires.

The first variation is as follows. There is, beyond any doubt, a moral "law" inside of us telling us to do good and condemning evil through the voice of conscience. Everyone knows this from personal experience. There are various views with regard to the origin of this law, the main of them being biological, autonomous, social and religious.

The Biological point of view explains the origin of the moral law in man by man’s aspiration to pleasure, comfort and success in accumulating wealth. Adapting to life is the only criterium of differentiating between good and evil. Anything that helps a person to "live as comfortably as possible" is good and moral, while anything that interferes with that goal is considered to be bad. The very aspiration toward God is explained as just a dream of pleasure. Fullness of so-called happiness on earth is the only criterium of truth, beauty and righteousness.

This point of view is way too primitive. It ignores some obvious facts of life:

    1. man may be willing to give up wealth, glory, pleasure and life itself for truth;
    2. in any society there are actions that are useful and pleasant to a person carrying them out, yet are not considered moral; in fact, they are often seen as immoral;
    3. in even most "libertarian" societies where individuals appear to have achieved the maximum possible "moral" freedom, there is still a concept of a person’s moral dignity that "surprisingly" consists in an individual’s domination over primitive instincts, sensual selfishness and brute force attempts to gain profits.

Kant suggested the hypothesis of so-called autonomous morality. According to him, humans, being rational and absolutely free beings, set moral laws for themselves. And these laws are independent of any external conditions, interests or goals. Thus Kant postulates an independent personal conscience that formulates universally binding moral norms by an internal conviction. Kant called this principle, by which all humans ought to be governed, the categorical imperative. It can be stated in two mutually complementing ways. The first one is: "Act only in accordance with such a maxim, which you want to become a universal law." The other: "Act in such a way as to always treat human kind in your own person and in others as an end, and never treat it as a means only." [I. Kant Works: in 6 vol./ Translation from German Moscow, 1965. vol. 4. part 1. p. 260, 270; Quoted by: Categorical Imperative // Philosophic encyclopedic dictionary. Moscow, 1983].

Kant’s idea of autonomous ethics follows naturally from his deistic views. In this, however, lies its vulnerability. By accepting God as the Creator, we must also accept that all laws (physical, biological, psychological, rational, moral, spiritual) are "given" by God, and not created by man’s will. And as such they only exist because unity is preserved between man and God. Professor of Moscow Theological Academy V. D. Kudryavtsev was right when he wrote: "The true source of the moral law, as well as other laws of nature, is outside of us. It is in that higher nature, to which we owe our existence, — in God. That the origin of the moral law is independent of man is evidenced both by our philological experience, pointing to the existence of this law in us prior and independently from any definitions of our mind and will, and by the ideal character of this law, inexplicable given the present state of human nature" [V. Kudryavtsev. Initial Foundation of Philosophy. 7-th edition: Sergiyev Posad, 1910. p. 434-435]. Moral law always turns out to be broader and higher than those norms, by which man would like to govern his life, and this he is unable to change in spite of all his wishes: even the most hardened of criminals, who chose another law of life, often hear the voice of conscience.

The social point of view mainly comes from the idea that moral law is a product of society. It is dictated by the interests of dominating groups and classed and develops and changes in the course of development of human society. Society is the source of moral law and conscience in a person.

This point of view is nothing but a combination of the previous two, and its weaknesses are obvious.

First of all, moral law inherent in man is broader than the moral norms imposed by society. In human society there is no biological determinism of the kind that characterizes animals and insects that live a "social" life (such as elephants, monkeys, bees, ants). Free will that is inherent in human nature can never be fully "contained" by any social environment. It is always capable of moral acts that exceed the boundaries of what is considered normal and lawful in a given society.

There are numerous examples of people from very different civilizations, cultures, and social classes having the same moral views, and of people from the same society having different morals. The remorse itself arises for the most part due to motives of a personal nature.

Russian writer F. M. Dostoyevsky showed this quite well in his novel "Crime and Punishment." A student named Raskolnikov murdered an old money-lender and her sister. He did so believing that "it is not a crime" to kill "a tuberculosis-stricken, wicked, silly old woman" and that "the old woman is harmful" and that on this "money of the old woman willed to a monastery" it is possible to do "a hundred, or a thousand good deeds and undertakings." And what was the outcome of this plan to commit this "non-crime"?

To Raskolnikov’s huge amazement and horror, in spite of all his most consistent and "reasonable" arguments, justifying and even approving the murder of this creature no more significant than "a louse or a cockroach… an old woman, who isn’t even worth a louse or a cockroach," he suddenly sensed a severe pain in his soul. And not in the least because he thought that he had committed a crime against society, law etc., and not because he was sorry for the old woman — there was nothing of the kind. He could not understand the source of this inner terrible punishment.

"Crime and Punishment" is an especially powerful and vivid illustration of that moral law that is inherent in man, the action of which law is experienced by all in all societies to varying degrees and due to various offences.

Secondly, self-examination or, as the Holy Fathers call it, "attention to oneself," reveals to man an entire world inside human heart, where indeed "devil and God fight one another" (F. Dostoyevsky), uncovers the world of truth and evil, reveals true laws of the life of soul. In the face of this self-examination all the human codes, moral norms, ethics, and rules of behavior appear to be nothing more than a weak and sometimes distorted reflection of the Truth hidden in each person’s heart. Social environment just helps man to realize the presence of the moral law inherent in humans and helps one to develop that law, which is then partly expressed in moral norms, codes etc. Life of society is just conducive to certain moral norms, but it is not a creator of the moral sense or conscience itself. Same can be said of the gift of speech, where society is just a necessary condition for the development of this faculty inherent in man, but society is not a creator of this faculty. A monkey living in human society does not develop a gift of speech.

Conscience as the most obvious manifestation of the moral law is something quite inexplicable by the given hypothesis. A hardened criminal, having lost not only public consciousness, but also, as it seems, human image may suddenly experience remorse. And this remorse arises not from social motives, but from a sudden subconsious vision of inconsistency between what he has done in life and that inner truth revealed inside of him. This feeling appears to be an ideal, the greatness of which immeasurably surpasses all established and socially accepted moral norm. One would have to overlook such facts in order to claim that moral feelings and conscience are just products of man’s social life, and that social moral norms encompass the moral law characteristic of human beings.

Now, what is the Christian view on the origin of the moral law in man? It directly comes out of the Biblical teaching about man as an image of God (Gen. 1:27), the royal greatness of which image (cf. "Kingdom of God is within you" (Lk 17:21)) is revealed to the degree of man’s "strength of living" (St. Isaac of Syria). In this context the moral law is a kind of a protector of man’s purity and holiness. The Christian teaching about the source of the moral law in man is beautifully expressed in the saying, "Conscience is a voice of God."

The second kind of the moral argument was offered by Kant and further developed by Professor V.D. Kudryavtsev.

Kant called his argument the postulate of practical reason. This correctly reflects the nature of the argument, which can be summarized as follows.

The ultimate goal, to which a rational and moral being ought to aspire, is the highest good or, according to V. Kudryavtsev, the absolute perfection. Its main characteristics are knowledge of the Truth, fullness of virtue (holiness) and achievement of happiness. These three elements encompass all aspirations of man as a rational and moral being capable of feeling. Yet it is obvious that achievement of the absolute perfection here on Earth is impossible for man. Hence a question arises: is this aspiration a universal deceit of our nature or does it have a really existing ideal?

If one assumes that this is a deceit, then "everything that man does is a miserable tragicomic pursuit of shadows, aspiration to something that does not even exist in reality" [V. Kudryavtsev. Previously cited work, pp. 194-195]. Indeed, if the fullness of knowledge, virtue and happiness is just an illusion of our consciousness, but not a really existing Ideal, then not only aspiration to them becomes meaningless, but human life itself makes no sense. Therefore, to avoid such an unnatural and illogical understanding of our nature, it is necessary to accept the existence of God as the highest good, in Whom man achieves the ultimate goal of all his aspirations.

On the other hand, the existence of inconsistency in earthy life between the extent of a person’s righteousness and his/her happiness also requires us to postulate the existence of God as almighty, omniscient and just Being, Who wants and is able to establish such consistency for all people in the future eternal life. "The nature," — wrote Kant, "cannot establish consistency between virtue and happiness. This compels us to accept the existence of a cause different from nature and not dependent upon it. This cause must have not only power, but also intelligence. It must be such a force, which is above nature in power, will, and intelligence. And only God can be such a Being. He wants and is able to establish a union between virtue and happiness" [Quoted by: I. M. Andreyev Orthodox-Christian Apologetics. New York, 1965. p. 40].

Indestructible need of humans for continual spiritual and moral improvement also makes us postulate immortality of human soul.

7. Argument Based on Religious Experience

We will start with a brief digression. "In 1790 a meteorite fell near a French town. The Mayor wrote down a statement of the case, which was sighed by 300 eye-witnesses and sent to the Paris Academy of Sciences. Do you think the scientists thanked for the contribution to science? Not at all. Paris Academy not only composed a voluminous treatise "On the Absurdity of Falling Stones from the Skiy," but even adopted a special resolution on this occasion. Many museums threw meteorites out of their collections in order not to "make a laughing-stock out of the museum." And one of the scientists, Deluke, stated: "Even if such a stone fell at my feet, and I had to admit seeing it, I still would not believe it." Another scientist, Goden, added that "It is better to deny such facts, than condescend to attempts at explaining them."

So, what’s going on here? Why did these respected scientists declare war on meteorites? Because ignorant people believe that stones from the sky are sent by the Lord God, and "if there is no God, then there can be no stones from the sky," the Paris scientists decided.

Yes, it is not easy to make someone believe in newly discovered facts that do not fit into an established worldview…

If one carefully looks at history of science, it becomes clear that it has been a history of war against reverence before "obvious" things, which are always advocated by common sense. But the so called common sense is nothing but people’s everyday experience accumulated and generalized over centuries. It might seem that it makes no sense to go against it, because it and only it is the only criterion of truth. It is hard for people to understand that their everyday experience is not at all absolute; that it covers only some superficial aspects of events and phenomena; that everyday common sense is limited, and there are numerous indisputable facts that do not agree with simingly unshakeable and obvious truths." [V. Klyachko. Science Perceives the World // Science and religion. 1967. No. 1. p. 72]

Religion, understood as a real living unity of man and God, is, according to the Fathers of Church "the science of sciences." It is such not only in terms of its exclusive importance for man, but also in view of its natural compliance with empiric sciences, which are all experience-based and verified with experience. "As a matter of fact, when science’s conclusions contradict facts, the preference is given to the facts, provided that the facts are repeated over and over again." [Ibidem]

The existence of God is a fact verified "over and over again" a great number of times. People of different historic eras, from ancient times to our time, of various races, nationalities, languages, cultures, education and social classes, often knowing nothing of one another, testify with startling unanimity about a real, inexpressible deepest personal experience of God, not just of "something supernatural and mystical."

In science facts make a theoretical guess into a commonly accepted truth. It is enough for several scientists to see, by using scientific equipment, a trace of an elementary particle or a new galaxy, and no one will doubt the particles or the galaxy’s existence. What are, then, the reasons for rejecting the experience of a large number of scientists, outstanding in their fields, testifying about a direct (!), not via equipment or a photographic print, vision of God? These scientists are ascetics, who worked miracles, forsaw the future, lived through persecutions and exiles for the word of faith and truth, were patient in torture and ridicule, shed their blood and gave up their very lives for their unshakeable confession of God and Christ. Even in their thoughts they were incapable of deceipt or looking for praise by people.

What are the grounds for the rejecting this? Maybe, apostles Paul and Peter, Justin the Philosopher and Paul the Simple, John Damascene and Macarius of Egypt, Alexander Nevsky and Clement of Rome, Sergius of Radonezh and Andrew Rublev, Seraphim of Sarov, Ignatius Brianchaninov, Ambrosius of Optina and Dostoyevsky, Pascal, Mendel and Mendeleyev (it is impossible to even name the names of only those, who are known worldwide) all believed in God just "because of tradition" or were fantasizers and unilluminated?

How should we view this great fact of human history? Perhaps, it is necessary to think about it or is it better "to deny such facts than condescend to explaining them?" "It is indeed very difficult to make someone believe new facts, which do not agree with the established worldview," especially if believing in these facts requires one to work on his or her spiritual and moral self-improvement.

Is it possible to reject God’s existence just because everyday experience does not prove it to us? But it is known that "everyday experience is not at all absolute, that it covers just some superficial aspects of events and phenomena, that everyday common sense is limited: there are numerous indisputable facts that do not agree with seemingly established truths." Everyday experience proves to us very little of what modern scientists say, but we believe their experiments, we believe the scientists without knowing them, even though we have no chance to verify their statements and conclusions. What are the grounds for not believing a great number of religious experiences witnessed by crystally pure people?

The experience of these men of the science of sciences speaks not of their unfounded faith, or an opinion, or a commonly accepted hypothesis or just a tradition, but of the fact of knowing God.

The main experience of religion is to meet God. This experience, at least at its highest points, possesses such a fiery convincing power that it leaves all other obvious things far behind. It can be forgotten or lost, but not rejected. The entire history of mankind, in terms of religious consciousness, turns into some unsolvable puzzle or nonsense, if one does not accept that mankind bases its religious beliefs on a living religious experience, i.e. all nations somehow saw and knew their deities, knew about them not only from a "catechism." In the books of the prophets of Israel we often read: "And God told me." Have you ever thought carefully about these words? Have you ever tried to understand them, even remotely applying these words to your religious experience? "And God told me!" What is it? Is it just a hallucination, self-delusion, deceipt, trick of a writer or…? And if it is the truth... if what is written in these books is true, then God spoke, and man heard God and listened to Him, not with a physical organ of hearing, of course, but heard with his heart, with all his essence, and the word of God was louder than all the thunders of the world, more convincing and trustworthy than all its understanding. If people of faith started telling about what they had seen and learned with ultimate certainty, then a mountain would grow, under which a hill of skeptical rationalism would have been buried and hidden from the eyes. [Bulgakov S., Svet Nevecherniy, Sergiyev Posad, 1947, p. 14]

Knowledge of God is an exact science and not an exotic mixture of mystical extasy and unhealthy neurotic excitement. Knowledge of God has its own consistency, conditions and criteria. How does one know God? The beginning lies in a sincere search for truth and the meaning of life, for moral purity and forcing oneself to do good for the sake of good. Without such a beginning an "experiment" at knowing God cannot succeed. The Gospels express this condition succinctly and clearly: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Mt. 5:8) [See Ch. 2, 6.5, "A Positive Perspective on the Origin of Religion."]


IV. Religion and Human Activity.

Man is the greatest mystery to... man. His thought is boundless, his creative work endless, his heart capable of accommodating the whole world, God Himself. There is no being like him on earth. This is unwillingly arresting, provoking a natural desire to understand his nature, the reason for his existence, the reasonable goal of his boundless creative activity, the sources of its various forces and capabilities, hidden within.

The direction of man’s activities is multifaceted. Some are determined by the curiosity of his mind, the yearning to know all that surrounds him (science), others — by the necessity of living in this natural world (social, technological and economic activity), still others — by the feeling of beauty, and the desire to reproduce it in his life and activity (art), and lastly – by the indestructible desire to know the sense and purpose of his life, the life of the world, to know the truth (religion, philosophy). Yet the foundation and source all man’s life activity, determining its direction, character and content, is the spiritual and moral state of a person, formed by his freedom, the expression of his will in the face of good and evil, before the mirror of his conscience. For spirit creates forms for itself.

Let us consider separate types of human activity.

§1. Science.

1. Science or Religion?

When Laplace (1827), the well-known French astronomer, mathematician and physicist, presented his five-volume work, "Celestial mechanics," on the origin and organization of the Universe to Napoleon, the emperor, having familiarized himself with it, noted with perplexity: "I do not find any mention of a Creator here." Laplace, educated in the spirit of so-called free-thinking (during all the political upheavals in France, he changed his views with amazing ease to comply with the ideology of the new regime), proudly answered: "Sir, I have no need of this hypothesis." This is how an alumnus of the so-called Age of Enlightenment expressed his attitude towards the idea of God, which, "having forgotten" about the faith of the Galileos and Copernicuses, Keplers and Pascals, openly declared war on Christianity under the banner of science. But do religion and science really negate one another?

This question arose in human history not long ago. Religion and science always co-existed and developed without any antagonism. A scientist and a believer, as a rule, were combined in the same person. Scientists-atheists were very rare exceptions, but even they did not claim that their scientific data proved the non-existence of God. And only in the XVIII century, especially when a number of French philosophers and public figures, so-called encyclopedists, advanced a motto about the opposition between science and religion, this idea gradually began to capture Europe, and then Russia, where, after 1917, it was raised to the level of a national ideology. Religion was declared to be an antiscientific worldview.

To see the real picture of the correlations between science and religion, it is necessary to look at the foundations on which science stands, what principles govern its development, and what it can truly say about God.

2. The Concept of Science

The philosophical encyclopedia gives the following definition of science: "Science is ... the system of developing knowledge, which are obtained by the corresponding methods of study and are expressed in precise concepts, the verity of which is checked and proved through public practice. Science is a system of concepts about the phenomena and laws of the external world or the spiritual activity of people, granting the ability to foresee and transform reality in the interests of society, the historically mature form of human activity, "spiritual production," having, as its content and result, purposefully gathered facts, drawn-up hypotheses and theories with their fundamental laws, research approaches and methods.

The concept of "science" is used to signify the process of producing scientific knowledge, as well as the entire system of knowledge verified through practice, that represents the objective truth, and also to signify individual fields of scientific knowledge, specific sciences. Modern science is an extremely branched whole of separate scientific fields" (Philosophical encyclopedia. Moscow, 1964. vol. 3. Article "Science").

Sciences, in a general classification, are usually divided into natural (study of nature, or exact science) and humanitarian. Physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and others belong to the first category. The philosophical and social sciences — to the second. This differentiation between sciences is very important for the correct understanding of the problem of "science and religion," because its main problem consists precisely of whether "exact science" (natural science) refutes religion, but not science in general, which, by definition, consists of the entire complex of human knowledge, including religious philosophy and religion itself.

Let us turn to the bases of science.

3. Postulates of Science

In science (natural science), as well as in religion, there are such absolute provisions "dogmas," which are not proved (and cannot be proved), but accepted as initial ones, because they are necessary for building the entire system of knowledge. In science, such provisions are called postulates or axioms. Natural science is based on at least two main provisions: first of all, the recognition of the reality of the world’s existence and, secondly, the regularity of its organization and the cognizability of man.

Let us consider the following postulates:

1. Surprisingly, the affirmation of the objective, i.e. independent of human consciousness, existence of the world is an unequivocally obvious, rather than scientifically proven, truth, more the subject of faith than knowledge. The well-known philosopher Bertrand Russell (†1970) wittily remarks regarding this: "I do not believe that I am sleeping and dreaming right now, but I cannot prove that it" [2]. Einstein (†1955) in turn says straight out: "The belief in the existence of outer world, independent of the assimilating subject, is the basis of all natural science" [3]. These statements of well-known scientists clearly illustrate science’s understanding of the reality of outer world: it is a subject of its faith, a dogma (in theological terms), but not knowledge.

2. The second postulate of science — the conviction of the rationality, regularity of the world’s organization and its cognizability — is the main driving force behind all scientific research. But for science, it also turns out to be the same question of faith (dogma), as for the first one. Scientists of authority speak of this unvaryingly. Thus, the Russian academician L.S. Berg (†1950) wrote: "The main postulate, with which a naturalist approaches nature, is that nature makes sense, that one can comprehend it and understand, that between the laws of thinking and cognition, on the one hand, and the system of nature on the other, there is a certain predetermined harmony. Without this silent assumption, no natural science is possible. Maybe, this postulate is wrong (just as, perhaps, Euclid’s postulate about parallel lines is wrong), but it is practically necessary" [4]. Einstein affirmed the same thing: "Without belief in the possibility of embracing reality with our theoretical constructions, without belief in the inner harmony of our world, no science would be possible. This belief is and will always remain the main motive behind any scientific creative activity" [5]. The father of cybernetics, N. Wiener (†1964), wrote: "Without the belief that nature is subordinate to laws, no science is possible. It is impossible to prove that nature is subordinate to laws, because we all know that from the next moment on, the world can become like the croquet game in the book, "Alice in Wonderland" [6]. —The well-known contemporary American physicist, Ch. Townes (†1992), writes, "A scholar should be convinced in advance, that there is an order in the Universe and that the human mind is able to understand this order. It would be senseless to even try to understand a disorderly and inconceivable world" [7].

But even if these postulates are true (and one can hardly doubt that), the question remains — without the solution of which, the very statement of the problem of "science and religion" loses all meaning, — concerning the reliability of scientific knowledge itself. But first, let us say a couple of words about its methods.

4. The Methods of Science

The main methods of natural science are: observation, experiment, measurement and guessing (hypotheses, theories). Using them as a guide, it is possible to clearly separate the field of natural science from all other fields of creative human activity: the humanitarian sciences, art, music, etc. Thus, scientific knowledge is just a small part of human knowledge as a whole.

5. On the Reliability of Scientific Knowledge

This question is so delicate, and the answer to it is so affects the essence of science, that it is better to let the more competent scientists of the 20th century take the floor.

The academician L.S. Berg: "In science, everything that contributes to its development is true, everything that hinders the development of science is wrong. In this regard, the true is analogous to the expedient ... Thus, truth in science is everything that is expedient, that is justified and confirmed by experience, that is capable of furthering scientific progress. In science, the question of truth is solved by practice.

Ptolemy’s theory in its time promoted the progress of knowledge and was considered true, but when it ceased to serve this purpose, Copernicus suggested a new theory of the Universe, under which the sun is stationary, but the Earth moves. But now we know that this view also does not reflect the truth, because not only the earth moves, but the sun does, also. Any theory is convention, fiction. At the present time, the accuracy of this concept of the truth will hardly be contested, inasmuch as it touches upon theory. But the laws of nature, themselves, in this regard are in the same state: each law is a convention, which survives as long as it is useful. Newton’s laws seemed unshakeable, but nowadays they are considered simply as a known approximation of the truth. Einstein’s theory of relativity overturned not only all of Newton’s mechanics, but all classical mechanics as well...

Usefulness is a criterion of fitness, and therefore, of verity. The human being does not have another way of distinguishing the truth... Truth is a useful fiction; error is a harmful one... Thus, we determined what truth is from the point of view of science" [8].

А. Einstein: "In our desire to understand reality, we are like the man who wants to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees a clock-face and the moving hands, he even hears the ticking, but he does not have the means to open it. If he is smart, he can draw a picture of the mechanism, which would answer to everything that he observes, but he can never be completely sure that his picture is the only one that could explain his observations. He will never be capable of comparing his picture with the real mechanism, and he cannot even imagine the possibility and meaning of such a comparison" [9].

The most prominent American physicist, R. Feynman (†1991): "That is why science is unreliable. As soon as you say something from a field of experience in which you were not directly involved, you immediately lose your confidence. But we must speak about those fields which we have never touched upon; otherwise, science will be useless... Therefore, if we want science to be at all useful, we must speculate. For science not to turn into simple protocols of performed experiments, we must put forward laws, extending to still unknown fields. There is nothing wrong in this, but science is unreliable because of this, and if you thought that science was reliable, — you were wrong" [10].

The hypothetical nature of scientific knowledge is clearly expressed in the microworld. One of the creators of quantum mechanics, V. Heisenberg (†1976), wrote on this matter: "The microworld should be observed by its actions using hi-tech experimental equipment. However, it will not be the subject of our direct sensual perception. A naturalist must reject the thought of a direct connection of the basic ideas, on which he builds his science, — with the world of sensual perception... Our complicated experiments represent nature not as it is, but changed and transformed under the influence of our activity in the experimental process... Consequently, we come up against the insurmountable limits of human knowledge" [11].

R. Oppenheimer (†1967): "I had a chance to consult with forty physicists-theorists... My colleagues, in spite of the differences of opinion, adhere to at least one conviction. Everyone admits that we don’t understand the nature of matter, the laws which govern it, the language with which it can be described" [12].

Russian philosophers speak out in full accord with these views. In the collective work, "The Logic of Scientific Research," compiled under the direction of P.V. Kopkin (†1971), the director of the Institute of Philosophy, we read: "The requirements of precision, straightforwardness and exhaustive clarity were always demanded of the ideal of scientific knowledge. However, the scientific knowledge of any era, striving to this ideal, nevertheless never attained it. It turned out that in any, even the strictest scientific construction, there were always such elements, the validity and strictness of which were in glaring contradiction with the requirements of the ideal. And what is especially remarkable is that the deepest and most fundamental principles of the given scientific construction often belonged to these kinds of elements. The presence of elements of this kind was usually interpreted simply as a result of the imperfection of the knowledge of the given period. In accordance with such opinions, energetic attempts to fully eliminate elements of this kind from science were repeatedly made, and are still being made, throughout the history of science. However, these attempts were not successful. At the present time, one can consider the irreducibility of knowledge to the ideal of the absolute strictness as proven. After a long and stubborn struggle, even "logicists" had to come to the conclusion that it is impossible to fully eliminate the "lax" provisions even from the strictest science — mathematics...

All this testifies not only to the fact that any system of human knowledge contains elements that cannot be proved by theoretical means at all, but also to the fact that no scientific system of knowledge can exist without elements of this kind." [13]

Similar statements of scientists and thinkers become more and more comprehensible in the light of common opinion on the nature of the development of scientific knowledge. It is all divided into two unequal parts: the first one is real knowledge (strictly verified facts, scientific apparatus), having an insignificant range, and the second one — the lack of knowledge, encompassing almost the whole scope of science (theories, hypotheses, models — "guesses," according to R. Feynman). The most curious thing is that the scope of the latter (lack of knowledge) increases dramatically with the growth of the first (knowledge), because the solution of each problem, as a rule, gives rise to a whole range of new problems.

The academician, V.I. Vernadsky, in assessing the process of the development of knowledge in science, wrote: "Only one generally essential, indisputable complex of knowledge and ideas in human society is created for all times and peoples. This overall essentiality and incontestability of conclusions encompasses only a part of scientific knowledge — mathematical thought and the empirical basis of knowledge — empirical notions, expressed in facts and generalizations. Neither scientific hypotheses, nor scientific models in cosmogony, nor scientific theories, giving rise to so many passionate disputes, attracting philosophical quests, have this general essentiality. They are necessary and inevitable, scientific thought cannot work without them. But they are transient, and to a significant extent, insurmountable for contemporaries, they are wrong and ambiguous: like the Proteus of artistic embossing, they are constantly changeable." [14] (The academician G. Naan once observed: "Few people know how much one should know to know how little we know...").

For the very reason that the main driving part of science is never definitive and true knowledge, Feynman spoke of its unreliability. The Polish scientist, S. Lem, called this part of science a myth: "And like each science, cybernetics creates its own mythology. The mythology of science sounds like an internal contradiction in definition. But still, any, even the most exact science, develops not only through new theories and facts, but also through conjectures and the hopes of scientists. Development justifies only a few of them. The rest turn out to be an illusion and are therefore like a myth." [15]

The modern Russian scientist, V.V. Nalimov, concludes frankly, that "the development of science is not so much the accumulation of knowledge, as the unceasing reassessment of the accumulated i.e. the creation of new hypotheses, the rejection of previous ones. But then scientific progress is nothing else than the consecutive process of destruction of the previously existing lack of knowledge. At every step, the old lack of knowledge is destroyed via the building of a new, more powerful lack of knowledge, to destroy which, in turn, becomes more and more difficult as time goes by...

And now a question unwillingly arises: was not the ruin of some cultures, say the Egyptian, and the degradation of once powerful courses of thought, for example the Ancient Indian, the result of their attaining a certain level of lack of knowledge that could not be destroyed? Who knows, how persistent will the power of the lack of knowledge be in European knowledge?" [16]

The conditionality of scientific knowledge becomes even more obvious when examining scientific criteria of truth.


6. On Criteria in Science

Since sciences are built not only on the basis of observations, experiments, measurements, but also on hypotheses and theories, a serious question about the criteria of their verity arises. Facts by themselves say very little to a researcher until he finds a general law for them, until he "ties" them together with one common theory. After all, any understanding of any group of world phenomena and, moreover, world understanding in general, is nothing but a theory, adhered to by a greater or lesser number of scientists. But is it possible to prove the verity of a theory? It turns out that there is no absolute criterion, with the help of which one could finally determine whether a given theory (picture) corresponds to the objective reality.

The criterion of practice is always considered the main and most reliable one. But even this criterion is often totally insufficient.

The well-known philosopher and physicist Ph. Frank (†1966) wittily remarks on this matter: "Science is similar to a detective story. All the facts confirm a certain hypothesis, but in the end, a completely different hypothesis turns out to be the right one." [17]

It is especially difficult to resolve this question when several theories at the same time explain this phenomenon equally well. "Of course, — a Russian author writes, — the empirical criterion does not work here, because one must choose one of several hypotheses, equivalent in terms of concurrence with empiricism, otherwise the choice would not be difficult. Therefore, the necessity for secondary criteria arises." [18]

There are many of these secondary, or additional criterion, and they are all even more conditional than the empirical criterion.

Let us name some of them as an illustration.

1. The criterion of economy and simplicity (I. Newton, E. Mach). A true theory is one that is simple for work, for understanding, and saves time.

2. The criterion of beauty (H. Poincare, P. Dirac). The beauty of the mathematical machinery, underlying physical theory — is a witness of its accuracy.

3. The criterion of common sense.

4. The criterion of "folly," i.e. non-conformity to common sense. The academician G. Naan writes about this: "...What is common sense? This is the embodiment of the experience and prejudices of its time. It is an unreliable adviser where we come up against an completely new situation. Any sufficiently serious scientific discovery, beginning with the discovery of the Earth’s spherical shape, contradicted the common sense of its time." [19]

5. The criterion of prognosticability — the ability of a theory to predict new facts and phenomena. But, as a rule, all theories have this capability.

And so on, and so forth.

All these criteria are far from being actually able to testify to the incontestable truth of one theory or another. That is why Einstein said: "Any theory is hypothetical; it is never concluded, it is subject to doubt and suggests new questions." [20]

* * *

The above statements of scientists and the criteria, used by science, speak eloquently enough on the issue of the reliability of scientific knowledge. It turns out to always be limited, conditional and therefore can never lay claim to absolute truth. Nevertheless, it is able to be such in specifically religious matters, referring to the fields of the other world, with which science does not deal.

7. Science and Worldview

The question of science and religion contains a principally methodological problem. Inasmuch as religion is a worldview, then it is natural that it can only be compared with another worldview. Is science one? What is the so-called scientific worldview, so often compared to religion?

Science is, by its very essence, a system of developing knowledge about the world, that is, constantly changing and therefore never capable of giving a full and complete view of the world as a whole. The academician, G. Naan, rightly says: "At any level of civilization’s development, our knowledge will be only a small finite island in the infinite ocean of the unknown, unfamiliar, unexplored." [21]

Another modern scientist V. Kazyutinsky draws the following picture of science: "The object of knowledge in natural sciences are always just those facets, aspects, fragments of the inexhaustible material world, singled out by the subject in the process of social/historical practice. It is true, that the object of scientific research in nature in general, and in each of the natural sciences separately, is expanding, and our knowledge about nature is becoming more adequate for it, nevertheless, natural science, at any moment, deals only with separate aspects of that area of objective reality, which is singled out by the empirical and theoretical methods available at the moment. Cosmology in this respect does not hold any special position among other natural sciences — "all matter" (the material world as a whole) is not now and will never be its object." [22]

But even if all matter, not to mention the spiritual world, is not now and will never be the object of research of natural science, then can a scientific worldview be possible?

To answer this question, it is necessary to consider, what is a worldview?

A worldview is the aggregate of views on the most basic questions of existence as a whole, and man (the essence of existence, the meaning of life, the understanding of good and evil, the existence of God, the soul, eternity). It does not depend on the level of education, the level of culture and man’s abilities. That is why both the scientist and the uneducated person can have the same worldview, and people with a like amount of education — directly opposite beliefs. Worldview always appears in the form of either religion or philosophy, but not science. "In general, the structure of religious teaching, —experts in religion claim, — does not differ very much from the structure of the philosophical system, because religion, like philosophy, strives to give a full picture of the world, a full system of individual orientation, a full worldview." [23]

The member-correspondent of the Academy of Science of the former USSR, P. Kopnin, wrote: "Philosophy by its subject and goals differs from science and is a special form of human consciousness, irreducible to any other. Philosophy as a form of consciousness creates a worldview, necessary for mankind for all its practical and theoretical activities. Religion is closest to philosophy in social function, which also appeared as a definite form of worldview. Therefore, science... alone cannot replace it... Worldview... is not covered by any one science, nor by their sum total." [24]

Therefore, when speaking strictly about a scientific worldview, then such a notion must be admitted to be conditional, used only in the narrowest, most specific meaning of this word — as a sum total of scientific views of the material world, its organization, its laws. Science cannot be a worldview, because:

а) purely worldview issues (see above) belong solely to the jurisdiction of philosophy and religion, and have no relation to the field of natural science;

б) science constantly changes, which contradicts the very notion of a worldview as something finished, completely determined, constant;

в) As V. Kazyutinsky quite justly remarks, "in natural science there are no "materialistic" and "idealistic" theories, but only probable and reliable, true and false " [25].

Man’s ideas (knowledge) about the phenomena of this world can be scientific or antiscientific, but not a man’s worldview, as such (religious, atheistic, etc.). Science and worldview are two different, reciprocally irreducible notions and therefore they cannot oppose one another.

But even if one believes in the infinity of scientific knowledge and in the capability of science to someday resolve all the questions of spirit and matter and achieve the status of a worldview, then in this case, a thinking person cannot wait for this hypothetical future. Life is given just once and therefore, for a person to know how to live and what guidelines to use, what ideals to serve, he needs the answer to the most important questions now: who am I? What is the meaning of my existence? Is there sense in the existence of mankind, the world? Is there eternal life? Quarks, black holes and DNA do not answer these questions, and cannot do so.

8. Science and Religion.

"Has not science proved that there is no God, no spiritual world, no soul, no eternal life no Heaven and hell?" — It turns out that not only has it not proved it, but, in principle, it cannot occupy itself with this. These are the reasons.

First of all, science and religion are simply incommensurable, like kilometer and kilogram. Each of them deals with its facet of the life of man and world. These fields can be contiguous, intersect, but not deny one another. And "it is trouble, when a shoemaker starts baking pies, and a baker starts stitching shoes."(Russian proverb)

Secondly, owing to the abovementioned reasons, science will be never able to say: "There is no God." On the contrary, a deep knowledge of the world naturally directs a scientist’s thought to acknowledging the highest Reason-God to be the source of our existence. And owing to this fact, science is increasingly becoming an ally of religion. The Christian belief of very many modern scientists testifies to this. It is not by chance that one of the greatest representatives of "scientific" atheism, Shakhnovich, indignant at the religiosity of outstanding Western scientists, wrote in the heat of polemics: "Many bourgeois scientists speak of "a union" of science and religion. M. Born, M. Plank, V. Heisenberg, K. Von Weiszecker, P. Jordan and other well-known physicists repeatedly declared that science allegedly does not contradict religion." [26] Shakhnovich writes about some modern scientists. But it is a generally known fact, that an overwhelming majority of scientists always supported this union.

The following outstanding words belong to M. Lomonosov: "The Creator gave the human race two books, — he wrote. — The first one is the visible world... The second book is the Holy Scripture. They both certify not only the existence of God, but also His indescribable good works to us. It is a sin to sow tares and discords among them." Science and religion "cannot come into conflict... unless someone out of some vanity and showing off of his wisdom would calumniate them." [27]

9. Religion and Science.

But, maybe the religious worldview opposes science, knowledge, progress?

Starting with the broad understanding of science, [28] it is rightful to speak about religion as one of the forms of "spiritual production" of man. Having as its postulates (the existence of God, the immortality of soul), a special method of cognition (the spiritual and moral perfection of personality), its criteria in differentiating the truth from error (the correspondence of individual spiritual experience to the unity of the experience of saints, as the most competent "engineers" of human souls), its aim (the knowledge of God and the achievement of eternal life in Him — en-Godening), — religion does not differ structurally from the natural sciences. Its especially essential similarity with empirical sciences can be observed in the necessity of the correct experience of the proper experience for gaining true knowledge in the learning process. It was not by chance that "academicians" of the Orthodox Church – great saints — called the correct (righteous) religious life the "science of sciences."

However, religion, as a science of experience ("religion-science"), at the same time represents a wonderful exception among all the empirical sciences: religion-science, in contrast to natural science, is a worldview in the full sense of this word. This is why.

If natural science cannot serve as a basis for building a worldview (religious or atheistic), then religion-science — through experience confirming the existence of God, the soul, the pretersensual world — becomes the scientific foundation for a religious worldview. In this sense, religion is indeed a scientific worldview in contrast to all the others: atheistic, agnostic, materialistic, which always remain simply a belief.

At the same time, the religious worldview, in particular the Orthodox one, cannot in principle have any contradictions with natural sciences and, moreover, oppose them, because it does not include either their laws or theories, or concrete "details" of the knowledge of the material world. It remains unchanged, independent of what science asserts today and what it will come to tomorrow. For the religious worldview it does not matter whether the Earth or the Sun is the center of our system, what revolves around what, on what "building blocks" the Universe is built.

And the fact that many clergymen were at the same time great scientists (for example, Copernicus (†1543), St. Metropolitan of Moscow Innocent (Veniaminov) (†1879), Abbot Mendel (†1884), Pater V. Schmidt (†1954), Archbishop Luke of Voino-Yasenetsk (†1961), Abbot Lemetre (+1966) and many others), eloquently testifies to the falsity of the very idea of a struggle between religion and science.

It is true, that indisputable, at first glance, facts of oppression and even the execution of individual scientists by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages are presented as proof. To that one should say:

Firstly, in the description of these facts there are many exaggerations. An insignificant number of scientists were condemned not so much for their scientific views, as for dogmatic and moral deviations from the Catholic faith, that is for heresies (for example, Giordano Bruno, who declared himself "a teacher of a more perfect theology, the son of heaven and earth "). [29]

Next, all this relates to a defective church — the Catholic one, in which one of the most vivid errors was expressed by the fact that it, in fact, dogmatized separate scientific theories of that time (of which it repents now).

Finally, in the Middle Ages, it was not so much a struggle between religion and science, as much as a struggle between old scientific ideas and representatives (with all the daily human passions) with new ones, using religion.

The modern Russian scientist, A. Gorbovsky, wonderfully reveals and illustrates the main reason for the persecution of science.

"Didn’t the idea that there can be "stones, falling from the sky" — meteorites — seem just as blasphemous in its time?

The French Academy of Science declared all similar ideas fiction, and Lavoisier himself, the great scientist [30], branded them as "antiscientific." This term is not an accident. In all times, public consciousness has had a reference point which was declared indisputable and true. Once, such a standard was religious worldview. Everything that was in the channel of this worldview was considered true; everything that was beyond it was declared false.

In the course of time, the place of religious worldview in public consciousness was replaced with the sum of ideas, which is defined by the term "scientific." Now something that corresponds to the given, dominant system of views is true, and everything that contradicts it is false.

That is why, wishing to refute the existence of meteorites, Lavoisier resorted to declaring the statements about them "antiscientific," i.e. contradictory to the canonized system of views.

But let us try to look at today’s surrounding world objectively. We see that it wholly consists of the things that at one time or another were refuted or regarded as false.

In our world, planes fly. Despite the fact that the well-known astronomer Professor S. Newcomb [31] mathematically proved the impossibility of creating flying apparatus heavier than air...

We use radio. Despite the authoritative opinion of the well-known scientist H. Hertz, [32] claiming that it was impossible ("a distant connection, — he wrote, — will require reflectors of the size of a continent").

Nowadays everyone is aware of the monstrous power of nuclear weapons. However, in the old days, leading US military experts claimed that the creation of the atomic bomb was fundamentally impossible.

Nowadays, nuclear power plants are entering the ranks. But certain prominent US scientists, including N. Bohr, [33] considered the practical use of atomic energy unlikely.

We study the chemical composition of celestial bodies. Despite the well-known French philosopher O. Comte, [34] who categorically claimed that man would never be able to do so.

Now, 99% of all the matter of the Universe is considered to be in a plasma state. However, for thirty years after its discovery, the scientific world refused to acknowledge the existence of plasma.

Pasteur’s discovery [35] was rejected by the Academy of Medicine.

The discovery of X-rays was met with mockery.

The discovery of hypnosis by Mesmer [36] was categorically refuted by the scientific stars of that time.

The French Academy of Science rejected the existence of fossilized man for a long time, and explained the finds of stone implements as "a game of nature."

This list can be as long as one wants. A list of anathemas and bans pronounced once upon a time in the name of science. At best, it was the result of the inertia of thinking, when, speaking with A. Schopenhauer’s words, [37] "each person considers the end of his range of vision the end of the world."

Nowadays, with a delay of centuries and decades, we are putting up monuments to those who were an object of these anathemas and banishments in the old days." [38]

Gorbovsky did not mention the most terrible persecutions in history of scientists in the USSR, performed, however, not by the Church, but by the Satanists, who usurped power.

The reasons for the persecution of science were not rooted in Christianity, and all the more so not in Orthodoxy, but in the evil of human passions, in that fanaticism to which they gave birth, which always combats all the true and living.

10. Faith and Knowledge in Religion and Science

The significance of faith in religion is so great, that religion itself is very often called faith. This is fair, but not more than in relation to any other field of cognition.

The path to knowledge for man always opens up from faith towards parents, a teacher, books, etc. And only subsequent personal experience strengthens (or, on the contrary, weakens) faith in the verity of earlier obtained information, turning faith into knowledge. Thus, faith and knowledge become a single whole. Man’s growth in science, art, economy, and politics occurs in this way...

Faith is just as necessary for man in religion. It is the expression of a person’s spiritual aspirations, his searchings, and often begins with trust in those, who already have the corresponding experience and knowledge in it. With the acquisition of his own religious experience, gradually, a person acquires a definite knowledge along with faith, which grows in conjunction with a proper spiritual and moral life, in proportion to the purification of the heart from passions. As a great saint said: "A soul sees God’s truth in the measure of the strength of his life." [39]

On this path, a Christian can achieve that knowledge of God (and the essence of the created world), when his faith merges with knowledge, and he becomes "joined unto the Lord in one Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17).

In this way, as faith prefaces knowledge, and experience confirms the faith in all natural sciences, so it is in religion: faith, coming from a deeply intuitive feeling of God, acquires its power only in a direct personal experience of knowledge of Him. And only faith in the non-existence of God, in all its variations of world outlook, remains not only not justified by experience, but is also in blatant contradiction with the great religious experience of all times and peoples.

11. Some Conclusions.

Religion and science are two principally different spheres of human vital activity. They have different premises, different aims, tasks, methods. These spheres can be contiguous, intersect, but, as one can see, they cannot refute each other. At the same time, Christianity professes a duality of the human essence, an inseparable unity in it of spiritual and physical natures. They both answer to the Divine intent for man, and only the harmonious correlation of their activities ensures a normal character of human life. Such a life implies both the "bread" of scientific and technical development for the body, and the spirit of religious life for the soul. However, the moral-rational, spiritual source must always remain the guide for man.

Christianity sees science as one of the means of knowing God (Rom. 1:19-20). [40] But first of all, though it considers science to be a natural instrument of this life, it should be used very circumspectly. Christianity disapproves when this double-edged and terrible, in its power, sword is used independently of the moral principles of the Gospel. Such "freedom" distorts the very purpose of science itself — to serve the welfare and only the welfare of man (as the well-known Hippocratic oath says: "Do not harm!").

But when science develops independently of the spiritual and moral principles of Christianity, having lost the idea of God-Love as the Highest Principle of being and the highest criterion of the truth, and at the same time opening up huge forces of influence on the world and man himself, it easily becomes a destructive weapon, and from an obedient tool of its Creator it turns into his master and… murderer. Modern achievements in the field of physics of elementary particles, microbiology, medicine, military and industrial technologies etc. convincingly testify to the real possibility of such a tragic end.

The Church, receiving the Revelation about the final Catastrophe from the beginning, if the human race does not repent of its materialism, reminds us over and over again: "The mind must observe a measure of knowledge, in order to survive" (St. Kallist Kataphigiot). This measure in this case are the Gospel principles of life, which serve as the foundation for that education of a man of science, with which he, while learning about the world, could never let himself use his knowledge and powers for evil.

[1] Philosophic encyclopedia. Moscow, 1964. Vol. 3. Art. "Science."

[2] Rassel B. Human Knowledge / Translated from German. Moscow. 1957. С. 204.

[3] Einstein A. Collection of scientific works / Translated from English. Moscow. 1967. Т. 4. С. 136.

[4] Berg L. Theory of Evolution. Petersburg 1922. P. 67-68.

[5] Einstein А. Specified works P. 154.

[6] Winer N.Cybernetics and society / Translated from English. Moscow. 1958. С. 195.

[7] Townes Ch. The Merging of Science and Religion / Literary newspaper. 1967. No.34.

[8] Berg L. Science, Its Content, Meaning and Classification. Petersburg 1922. P. 18-23

[9] Einstein A, Infeld L.Evolution of Physics / Translated from English. Moscow. 1966. p. 30.

[10] Feynman Р. Character of Physical Laws / Translated from English. Moscow. 1968. P. 77-78.

[11] Heisenberg В. Philosophical Problems of Atomic Physics / Translated from German. Moscow. 1953. P. 64-66.

[12] Oppenheimer R. On the Necessity of Experiments with Particles of Higher Energies // Technika - molodyozhi (Technology of the Youth). 1965. No. 4. P. 10.

[13] Logic of Scientific Research / Under the editorship of P. V. Kopnin. Moscow 1965. P. 230-231.

[14] Vernadsky B.I. The Problem of Time in Mordern Science // Izvestiya AN SSSR (Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences of USSR). The Department of Mathematical and Nnatural Sciences. 1932. No.4.

[15] Lem S. The Sum of Technology / Translated from Polish. Moscow. 1968. С. 127.

[16] Nalimov V.V. What is Truth? // Chemistry and Life. 1978. No.1. С. 49.

[17] Frank F. The Philosophy of Science / Translated from English. Moscow. 1960. С. 76.

[18] Mamchur E.A. The Problem of the Criterion of Fullness of Scientific Ttheories // Questions of Philosophy. 1966. No.9. P. 159.

[19] Naan G. To the Problem of Infinity // Questions of Philosophy, 1965. No.12. С. 65.

[20] Cherkashin R. Gnoseological Roots of Idealism. Moscow., 1961. P. 189.

[21] Discussion with the Academician G. Naan. On the Dialectics of Cognition // Science and Religion. 1968. No.12. С. 23.

[22] Kazyutinsky В.А. Astronomy and Dialectics. Astronomic Calendar. Annual. Issue 73. М., 1969. С. 148-149.

[23] Vasilyev L.С., Furman D.E. Christianity and Confucianism // History and Culture of China/ Under the editorship of L.S.Vasilyev. Moscow 1974. p. 422.

[24] Kopnin P. Philosophy in the Century of Science and Technology // (Literary newspaper. 1968. No.5. Ср. Philosophy // Philosophic encyclopedia. Moscow 1970. Vol.5. P. 332: "By its nature, philosophy exercises special world outlook and methodological functions, not assumed by either separate specialized sciences nor the aggregate of concrete scientific knowledge in general."

[25] Kazyutinsky V.V. Astronomy and dialectics // Astronomic calendar. Annual. Issue 73. М., 1969. С. 146.

[26] Shakhnovich M.I. Lenin and the Problems of Atheism. Moscow-Leningrad 1961. P. 185.

[27] Lomonosov M. Poems / Under the editorship of P.N.Berkov. Publishing House "Soviet Writer" 1948. p. 7.

[28] See paragraph 2: The Concept of Science.

[29] Svetlov E. Sources of Religion. Brussels, 1970. p. 258.

[30] Lavoisier Antoine Laurent (1743-1794), French chemist, a member of the Paris Academy of Science; was executed by the verdict of the revolutionary tribunal. In 1796 he was detemined to be innocent (Encyclopedia: In 2 vol. / Under the editorship of B. A. Vvyedensky. Moscow 1963. Vol 1).

[31] Newcomb S. (1835-1909), American astronomer.

[32] Hertz Henrich (1875-1894), German physicist, specialist in the field of electromagnetic and electrodynamic phenomena.

[33] Bohr Nils (1885-1962), outstanding Danish physicist, the creator of quantum theory of the atom.

[34] Comte Auguste (1798-1857), French philosopher, the founder of positivism.

[35] Pasteur Louis (1822-1895), eminent French biologist.

[36] Mesmer (1733-1815), French physicist.

[37] Schopenhauer Arthur (1788-1860), German philosopher-idealist.

[38] Gorbovsky А. Enigmas of the Most Ancient History. The 2-nd edition. Moscow 1971. P. 77-79.

[39] Venerable Isaac of Syria. Ascetic Words. Word 30. Moscow, 1858. P. 195.

[40] See Chapter IV, 3, p.2: Teleological argument.


§2. The Path of Reason In Search of the Truth.

It is impossible for man, at one time or another in his life, not to be concerned with the questions: "Why do I live, what is the meaning of all existence, where does it all go to, what is truth?" For many people they became life and death questions.

Here, for example, is how the Hegumen Nikon (Vorobyov, +1963), one of the pious ascetics of the XX century experienced them (See his "Letters to Spiritual Children"). His thirst for the answers to these questions was so great that he, as a student, spent all his money to buy books, often being left literally without a piece of bread. And he was only able to read at night. At first, he was absorbed by science. He followed all its latest achievements. He hoped that science would at any moment say the final word, and all the truth would be revealed. Alas, the more he discovered, the more he became disillusioned with its abilities to say something about the meaning of life. It turned out that science was not interested in this question at all.

He turned to philosophy. He learned French and German. For a while, he took a great interest in A. Bergson. Thanks to his tremendous industriousness and remarkable talents, his knowledge of philosophy achieved such a level that even the teachers sometimes turned to him for consultation. However, immersion into philosophy also did not bring the desired results. "The study of philosophy, — he said at the end of his life, — showed: each philosopher considers, that he has found the truth. But how many philosophers existed? And there is one truth. And the soul strived for something else. Philosophy is a surrogate; it is the same as chewing gum instead of bread. Will you be full if you eat gum? I understood that science says nothing about God, about the future life, and philosophy, also, will not give anything. And it became perfectly clear that one must turn to religion." [41]

In 1914, he, having successfully graduated from the scientific secondary school, makes a last attempt to find the meaning of life outside of God, outside of the Church — he enters the Petrograd Psycho-Neurological Institute. But there he is no less disappointed. "I saw: psychology studies does not study man at all, but the "skin — the speed of processes, apperception, memory... Such rubbish, that it turned me off the same way." He left the institute after the first year. He suffered a tremendous spiritual crisis. He began to think about suicide.

But once, in the summer of 1915, in Upper Volochok, when suddenly he felt a state of full despair, particularly keenly his childhood’s years of faith flashed through his mind like lightning: what if God really exists, then He has to reveal Himself? And he — an unbeliever! —cried from depths of his soul, almost in despair: "Lord, if You exist, reveal Yourself to me. I am not searching for You for some earthly reasons. I need only one thing: do You exist or not?" — ... and the Lord revealed Himself! He revealed himself in such a way that "I cried: "Lord, may anything happen to me, any sorrows, any sufferings, just do not reject me, do not deprive me of eternal life." I fully consciously spoke from the bottom of my heart: "I need nothing, no family life, I want nothing, only arrange it so that I do not fall away from You, that I be with You."

"It is impossible to express, — Father Nikon said, — that effect of grace that convinces a man of the existence of God with power and blatancy, not leaving the least doubt. The Lord reveals Himself like, say, the sun bursts out after a dark cloud: you no longer doubt if it is the sun or did someone light a lamp. And the Lord revealed Himself to me in such a way that I fell to the ground with the words: "Lord, glory be to You, I thank You. Let me serve You all my life. May all the sorrows, all the sufferings, that exist on the Earth, come upon me, but do not permit me to fall away from You, be deprived of You."

"And after that I heard the tolling of a big bell. At first, I did not pay attention to it. Then, when I saw that it was already past 2 AM, and it was still tolling, I recalled my mother’s words, who often repeated that old men used to visit them and relate, how spiritual people sometimes hear tolling from the skies." He was long puzzled about this tolling, being afraid that it was a hallucination. And he calmed down when he read in the autobiographical notes of the well-known Professor-Marxist (later an archpriest), S.N. Bulgakov, who described his conversion to God, the words: "Not in vain did I hear tolling from the skies this whole summer." "Then, I also recalled a story by Turgenyev, "Live Relics," in which Lukerya also said that she had heard a tolling "from above" not daring to say "from heaven." Hence, he concluded "that along with this spiritual experience, the Lord let me associate with heaven in a tangible form." The Lord shows some people special outer signs of certification and support along with inner revelation.

Thus, a radical turn in world outlook took place in a moment, it seems that a real miracle occurred. However, this miracle was the natural, logical completion of the path of reason in his sincere search for truth. The Lord revealed to him the meaning of life, let him partake of His goodness, let him know the truth. Below is what Father Nikon, himself, said about his first experiences after the conversion:

"Later on, the Lord leads a man down a difficult path, a very difficult path. I was shocked when after such a revelation of God I entered a church. I had been before: my parents made me go, and in the middle school we were taken to church. But, so what? I stood like a post, was not interested, was busy with my own thoughts and that was all.

But when, after the conversion, my heart opened a bit, in the church I first of all remembered the legend about the ambassadors of the Prince Vladimir, who, when they entered the Greek church, did not know where they were: in Heaven or on Earth. And the first sensation in the church after the experienced state was: you are not on Earth. The church is not earth; this is a piece of heaven. What a joy it was to hear: "Lord, have mercy!" This affected my heart just incredibly; the entire service, the constant remembering of the name of God in different forms, chantings, readings. This caused a sort of admiration, joy, it satisfied...

And when a person comes like this and falls before the Lord: "Lord, do everything with me Yourself, I know nothing (indeed, what do we know?), do with me whatever You want, but save me," — then the Lord Himself begins to lead the man."

Indeed, at that time, the young man knew nothing about the spiritual path, but pressed close to God tearfully, and the Lord Himself led him. "He led in such a way, that after that I lived in Volochok for two years, studying books and praying at home." That was a period of "burning" of the heart. He did not see or hear what was happening around him. At that time, he was renting one half of a private house in Sosnovitsy (south of Upper Volchok). He was 21. Behind a thin partition there were dancing, singing, laughing, youthful games, fun. They tried to invite him, he was appealing: clever, attractive, educated. But he had lost the taste for the world.

The two subsequent years of his life were a time of constant exploit, real asceticism. It was then that he familiarized himself with the works of the holy Fathers for the first time, as well as, in fact, with the Gospel. This is what he said about this period at the very end of his life:

"Only in writings of the Holy Fathers and in the Gospel did I indeed find value. When a person begins to fight with himself, tries to go the way of the Gospel, the holy fathers become indispensable and his close relatives. A Holy Father is already a dear teacher who speaks to your soul, and it accepts this with joy and takes comfort. Like different philosophies and different sectarian filth caused depression, despondency and retching, in an opposite manner did I turn to the Fathers, like to my own mother. They comforted, helped to understand, nourished. Then the Lord gave me the thought of entering the Moscow Spiritual Academy (in 1917). This meant much to me."

Very interesting and no less dramatic descriptions of the path of his conversion to God and the knowledge of the truth were written, for example, by B.I. Gladkov in the book, "Path to the Knowledge of God". The path of reason in search of the truth of the modern ascetic hieromonk Seraphim (+1982), described in the book by hieromonk Damascene (Christensen), "Not of this World. The Life and Teaching of F. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina" (Moscow. 1995) is also outstanding.

The main difficulty in human cognitive activity lies in the fact that human society in general lives by ideals and principles, quite different from the Gospel. They are wonderfully represented in Christ’s temptations in the desert. The Apostle John expressed them in the following words: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 John 2:16). And the temptations are not just named, but their interconnection, a definite hierarchy, is shown. In this hierarchy, the crowning, most dangerous passion is called pride. It, more than anything else, distorts the essence of the human spirit and thus hides the final aim and true sense of life and activity in all aspects. Hence, it becomes clear, to what a person’s attention should be paid — to the exposure and objective assessment of everything that feeds this passion, — otherwise knowledge will not only be useless, but also destructive for the person and mankind.

With a wide variety of manifestations of pride, in a human being of our civilization it expresses itself with especial force and straightforwardness in the cult of reason – the reason, of course, of the "old man" (Eph. 4.22), i.e. a reason, that is a slave of its passions (lusts). This reason is declared by the world to be the highest authority in deciding all human problems, and demands obedience to itself by all facets of spiritual life.

Where, according to this reason, is it possible to obtain truth, and along with it the benefits of existence and the meaning of life? — In science and philosophy. Science must provide for the first two "lusts," according to John the Theologian, philosophy — the last one, pointing out the false greatness of man. Earthly pride sees the possibility of realizing of the age-old hope of mankind – to become like gods (Gen. 3:5) particularly in scientific and technical progress and philosophy [42], and not in God and holiness of life. But the result of this idea is shown eloquently enough by the history of the first man. Therefore, for anyone who sincerely searches for the truth, to be able to impartially assess possibilities of both a "pure" reason, and Christian testimony about the Truth, the analysis of human cognitive activity is so important.

Thus, what is truth? [43] In the attempt to answer this question, four main candidates appear in the arena of history: philosophy, science, mysticism [44] and religion.

Their answers can be briefly expressed in the following way.

Philosophy (the one, for which this question exists): truth is a sought result of the activity of a "pure" reason, because the truth is rational and can be expressed in concrete notions and judgments.

Science: the truth is an adequate comprehension of the "objective reality" in an empirical and rational way, or (XX century) a "useful" model of this reality.

Mysticism (in all times): the truth is an inexpressible "nothing" experienced by an individual in the experience of an inner merging with it, in ecstasy. The perception of "nothing" is deeply intimate, therefore it is not connected, in essence, with any "orthodox" teaching, any religion, but, however, being present in each of them.

Christianity: truth is God Himself, inconceivable in His essence, but endlessly conceivable in His activities (energies), being revealed to man in many forms. The fullness of the self-revelation of Truth-God is given to man in the incarnated Logos – the Lord Jesus Christ, the knowledge of Whom is conditional on the strict laws of spiritual life.

In contrast to philosophy and science, whose methods are rational, mysticism is irrational. But religion, which encompasses the entire fullness of the cognitive capabilities of man, at different stages of his spiritual development, offers various methods of cognition of the Truth, both rational (scientific theology), and irrational (spiritual life).

1. Philosophy.

Why does the philosophical method cause serious doubt in the search of the truth? Firstly, because this method, in its essence, is purely rational, including a known logic (judgments) and a definite conceptional mechanism that makes philosophy a formal system. But if logic is purely instrumental and impassive, it is incomparably more complicated when dealing with concepts.

Without touching upon the problem of "universals," one can establish the following fact. Philosophy uses a language, which is a reflection of our activity. And even if one admits the existence of a priori notions, even they would appear to be without object for the human consciousness if not filled with definite, borrowed from "empirics," content, and therefore "non-working." That is, all philosophical constructions and systems are completely limited by the language of our four-dimensional space-time. Therefore, even if someone heard a language or viewed a reality, beyond the conceptional limits of this four-dimensional world, he would not be able to relate them in view of the absence of corresponding words-concepts. The Apostle Paul wrote thus: "And I knew such a man . . . that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Cor. 12:3-4).

This principal limitation of philosophy becomes more profound by the fact that all words-concepts (except mathematical abstractions) are very ambiguous. In view of this, their use does not allow the drawing of logically straightforward conclusions. V. Heisenberg, in connection with this, comes to a very unpleasant conclusion for philosophy. He writes: "The meanings of all concepts and words, formed by means of the interaction between the world and us ourselves, cannot be precisely defined... Therefore, it is impossible to come to the absolute truth only by way of rational thinking." [45]

It is interesting to compare this thought of a modern scientist and thinker with the statements of a Christian ascetic, who lived a millennium before Heisenberg, knowing neither modern natural science nor quantum mechanics, — the Ven. Simeon the New Theologian. Here are his words: "I ... mourned over the human race, because, in searching for extraordinary proofs, people quote human ideas, and things, and words, and think that they depict Divine nature, the nature that none of the angels or people could see or name." [46]

Both these statements, as we can see, in essence, speak of the same thing: the truth, no matter how we call it, cannot be expressed by words. Moreover, it is impossible to adequately describe realities in an n-dimensional or non-dimensional world using the concepts of a three-dimensional world. Maybe existence is precisely that? In addition, philosophy, asking the question about the verity of knowledge realized in its innermost depths, finds itself in a vicious circle. It cannot prove its verity (like any formal system, which Gödel showed in his second theorem about the incompleteness of formal systems), because in principle it is not capable of going beyond the boundaries of that rational-empirical given, which is drawn around its logical-conceptual mechanism. In fact, philosophy also came to this conclusion in its historical development, while studying the problem of existence.

Schematically, the path of reason in this historical-philosophical direction can be presented in the following way.

"What is absolute being?" —this question was the beginning of European philosophy in ancient Hellas. And since the changing world, this "incorrect" available reality, could not be considered as being, the first thinkers: Melitians, Heraclites, Pythagoras and others — as a first beginning ("one of many") professed only that, which can be seen only metaphysically (water, eternity, air, fire, number).

However, this dogmatic approach, especially in view of conflicting answers, could not satisfy human reason for long. In the search for being, the knowledge of which would give the opportunity to comprehend both the existence of the world, and personal existence, man began to search unconditional proofs of the truth. Thus, in philosophy, there was a fundamental digression from postulating with an ontological aim to its logical justification, and these two dimensions — existentialism and rationality — determined all of its subsequent destiny.

In the West, with the onset of modern times, conjecture embarked upon a path of total doubt. After all, to become an "exact science," philosophy found itself forced to first question the existence of this being itself, the question of the existence of existence, before answering the question about a true being. But here also, before answering this question, it had to make sure of the reliability of human cognitive abilities themselves, to make certain that the thinking is capable of adequately comprehending reality and, first of all, to comprehend itself, i.e. prove the verity of its thinking... through its thinking. The circle closed. The doubt, called to bring philosophy to a the highest level of reliable knowledge about existence, led it into a dead end, to the realization of its full inability to say something reliable about what is most important.

These negative results of western rational philosophy (and in this is its peculiar merit) resulted in searches through other ways of knowledge, not rational, by turning to available existence. These also produced no results. They are the so-called philosophies of culture and philosophies of existence. The former trend took the testimony of collective-historical consciousness, which it finds in settled forms of culture, as a basis. But, having expanded the philosophical subject, cultural philosophy completely abandons the essence of the question: what is at the basis of the world?

The second trend, the philosophy of existence, also comes from available existence, but no longer from the outer, but from its inner given. Returning to the existence of man, existentialism at the same time breaks with the "hostile Universe" and any non- and super-personal existence, and thus, fundamentally, closes the main question of philosophy.

Thus, in both cases, a return from pure reason to "life" occurs, but life that is deprived of ontology, taken at a phenomenal level of "existence": social — in cultural philosophy, individual — in existentialism. In addition, in both cases the question of truth as being completely disappears out of the field of vision of philosophy.

The older Slavophiles (A. Khomyakov, I. Kireyevsky) took an entirely different path. Astutely observing that the roots of the illness of western philosophy are under the dominance of its rational origin, they advocated building philosophy (ontology) on a theistic premise of "volitional Reason" [47]. Because if on the path of reason it is impossible to "prove the truth" reliably, it does not necessarily mean that it does not exist at all and that there is no other way of knowing it. There is another path of knowledge, which is inherent to man from the beginning, as a godlike creature. This path enters a field no less real than the outer world — the spiritual field, and gives the direct seeing of God through appeal to Revelation and the appropriate spiritual life, as they are given in the Orthodoxy.

Thus, the historical movement of philosophizing reason on the path of searching for truth leads a man to the starting point of religious world understanding — the postulating of the Absolute, God, and the necessity of accepting of the religious "method" of comprehending Him.

2. Science

Reason takes another path in the search for truth in studying the world through natural science. And though this path is historically much shorter than the one of philosophy, however, it is no less effective in its achievements. What are the results of scientific thought in knowledge of existence?

In XVIII-XIX centuries and, partly, "by inertia" in the XX century, science was dominated by purely mechanical concepts, which considered the world no more than a huge mechanism, acting according to strict immutable laws. Laplace’s well-known answer to Napoleon, when the latter asked about the position of God in the world, "Sir, I do not need this hypothesis," —expressed that absolute determinism in the understanding of the world, which is inherent to this concept. It is known that one of Leibniz’s lifelong ideas was the dream of creating so called "universal characteristics" — an algorithm, with the help of which one could "get the entire truth" completely mechanically. But since living nature, without even including mankind, does not lend itself to "calculation," then the notion of possibilities was later added to this concept and everything was explained by a certain (though not lending itself to any measurement) combination of causality and chance, or "Chance and Necessity" (the name of a book by the French biologist J. Monod).

This "scientific point of view of the world" includes the conviction that the only truth is "objective" truth i.e. the one that can be certified by special observations and measurements, accessible to any impartial researcher. All the rest, that goes beyond the limits of the so-called objective observation and experiment, for example, God, spirit, soul, eternity, etc. is subjective, because it does not have any relation to science and truth, and does not deserve attention.

Modern science with all its huge achievements, and more precisely, thanks to them, is more modest than science of the more recent past. Scientists now speak less frequently than in the past about absolute laws, and more often about theories and hypotheses, less about determinism and more about possibility, less about the "truth" and more about "models". And these models are understood to be not intellectual or visual copies of reality, but effective methods of reflection on the problems of reality for achieving the goals set by man. "As quantum theory developed, it became obvious that certain characteristics are coupled in such a way, that determining one characteristic means it becomes it becomes impossible to determine another one. V. Heisenberg expressed this discovery in his principle of uncertainty. It turns out, that we are confronted with uncertainty in the very center of the Universe, which cannot be overcome by any observation. This conclusion contradicts the assumption of the era of modernism, that the world in principle is open to full description. It is suggested, that there is an incomprehensible mystery in the kernel of reality itself" [48].

There are four other main features of modern science, interesting in the context of understanding the extent of the reliability of its conclusions. Firstly, modern scientists very rarely speak about the "scientific method" in the sense of the only universal method of science. They speak about methods, and invent new methods to solve new problems.

Secondly, to describe identical phenomena, scientists create various additional models. One of the more widely known examples refers to the nature of light, where depending on its purpose, light is considered to be either particles moving in space, or waves in the energy field (a wavicle). Both of these, as it might seem, mutually exclusive models result from quantum physics, but individually neither of them represents the scientific notion about light. And although these dialectics of quantum mechanics are incompatible with usual common sense, scientists admit that the use of these models provide the best possibilities for describing the nature of light.

Thirdly, there is overcomprehension of the notion of objectiveness in science. According to traditional thinking, science gave objectivity, completely independent of the observing scientist. But now it is admitted more and more often, that scientific examinations deal with answering questions, set by a human individual, and not by an "objective" reality. The answers being sought are answers to human questions. Moreover, especially after the works by V. Heisenberg appeared, there is an understanding that, at least when for example, conducting delicate experiments connected to the examination of the micro world, the observation itself influences the experimental results, and the knowledge obtained from this experiment is in many ways a relative knowledge.

Fourthly, the rapid process of expanding the limits of science makes it clearer that, practically, no knowledge can be considered final. (A clear example is the evolution of the knowledge of the atom.)

These, as well as other, distinctive features of modern science and the criteria, employed nowadays, enable scientists and researchers of scientific knowledge to make quite definite conclusions about the truth in science: "The truth ... is a useful fiction." [49]

This conclusion testifies that science, even the most theoretical one, is always pragmatic as to its final aims, it is principally locked into in the horizontal plane of interests of only this world, there is no place for the problem of truth, as it stands in religion and philosophy. This two-dimensional aspect of science, the absence of world outlook content in it — this third, vertical dimension — opens the possibility of using its achievements for goals that are directly opposite to the spiritual and ethical.

The ethical aspect is apparent enough (there are nuclear power plants as well as nuclear bombs). It is quite different with spiritual things. Here one can distinguish three main negative tendencies. One of them is the "zero variant," when all questions, connected to the spiritual and world outlook life of man, and the problem of truth itself, are declared non-scientific and pseudo-questions. The essence of this agnostic view is obvious; it is exactly expressed by Christ’s words: "let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22).

The second tendency, the old as well as the new, is revealed in the attempt to spread the limits of the scientific knowledge of the world at the expense of including elements of mysticism and magic in science.

3. Science or Mysticism?

Mysticism and magic, even though they have common elements (irrationalism, faith in the presence of supernatural forces etc.), differ in the nature of their attitude toward the Highest beginning. Mysticism is impossible without its acknowledgment. Mystical knowledge is carried out only in the state of ecstasy, when "a mystic feels himself to be like an integral Unity." [50] Finally, the mystic is indifferent to all values of this world; he does not even search for them.

But in magic, everything is different. It is mostly distant from accepting the One God; it does not need ecstasy; and its aims are purely of this world. In the latter, according to Fraser, it is identical to science. "When magic, — he writes, — appears in its pure and permanent form, it assumes, that phenomena in nature must follow one another inevitably and invariably, and do not need the interference of a personal or spiritual agent. Thus, its basic foundations are identical to those of modern science." [51] The American, Moody, for example, sees the reason for modern enlightened society’s enthusiasm for magic, sorcery, witchcraft, occultism, etc. in the following: "The distance separating the rational, scientific world from the magic world is not great. Our Western world is filled with a magical world outlook. The Judeo-Christian concept of the world, created by God, is necessarily supplemented by the world, in which the devil reigns; God stands in opposition to the devil, the forces of white light and spirit stand in opposition to the legions of darkness and carnal lusts. It is possible that a similar bipolar division is an innate quality of man, but it is undoubtedly a part of Western tradition." [52]

The task of magic is to make spirits, the higher and lower forces, serve man in his earthly interests, irrespective of their moral content and spiritual values. And a certain category of scientists also thinks that ethical criteria are non-applicable to science and that it should make use of any means, including the "unusual," for achieving health, success and other similar goals.

Thus, certain sociologists and psychologists in the West tend to see positive aspects in magic and magical cults. For example, Moody thinks that, "Satanists, after a cure using magic therapy, become better citizens than they were before." [53] "Perhaps just because of this, — he concludes, — support should be provided for such marginal [54] cults, as the church of Trapezond... Everything that increases an individual’s ability to adapt himself to the world in which he lives, can and should become a criterion when assessing new and initially marginal institutes of our society." [55]

In 1921, Freud wrote about psychoanalysis’ attitude towards occultism: "An increased interest towards occultism should not necessarily mean danger for psychoanalysis. On the contrary, we should be ready to accept the fact that a mutual sympathy between the first and the second might be revealed... The union and co-operation between psychoanalysts and occultists can, in that way, appear to be acceptable and promising." [56]

Before giving an appraisal of this tendency in modern science, let’s speak briefly about the third, "spiritual," trend in it, close to the previous one. It is clearly expressed by one of the eminent contemporary U.S. physicists, Ch. Townes, in his article with a very characteristic title: "The Merging of Science and Religion". [57] The main idea of the article is that science and religion lead a person to the same goal, but in different ways. That is, it asserts the idea of the unity in essence of science and religion.

This idea was repeatedly expressed earlier by A. Einstein and some other prominent scientists, and can be traced back to Aristotle. But in this case, it testifies to a deep misunderstanding of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Its main error is that religion is regarded as one of the tools of this life; the purpose of religion - man’s preparation for eternal life in God – is totally ignored. This means that here we come upon a frank attempt to turn metaphysics into physics, equate Heaven and earth, and regard God Himself as nothing more than a universal principle of the Universe. This is, perhaps, one of the most widespread mistakes of positivistic reason in its view of the essence of existence and the meaning of human life.

It is obvious, that this is the main danger of the idea of the union between science and magic, which, with its unconditional determinism and its complete confinement to four-dimensional space-time, does not bring scientific reason to "new horizons," moreover, it cannot give it new healthy criteria, a new understanding of the reason for human activity, an understanding of the truth. On the contrary, it will also deeply belittle that understanding of life, which is "impassively" present in science.

Science’s conversion to mysticism is no less dangerous, inasmuch as this will not only not expand the limits of its knowledge, but will also inevitably result in the most harmful consequences for mankind. Mysticism, drawing man down the path of unlawful (John 10:1) penetration into the spiritual world and asserting so-called freedom (basically, arbitrariness) in spiritual life, in this way destroys the very foundations of human life. In this way it differs in principle from positive religion, form Orthodoxy with its strict laws of asceticism.

A mystic does not know God, and therefore he prefers to speak about the divine Nothing, about the Inexpressible, Inconceivable, about the One and so on. [58] An eminent researcher of religion, F. Heiler, in his monumental work "Prayer" rightly points out that, "consecutive mysticism frees the idea about God from all personal attributes, and the "bare" and pure infinity is left." [59] In the final analysis, a mystic considers himself god (compare Gen. 3:5).

It is obvious that the falsity and destructiveness of the consequences of the tendency in science mentioned above can be evaluated in a due manner only through the most serious study of the Orthodox principles of spiritual life and the criteria of knowledge.

* * *

The path of reason, not purified from passions by a proper (righteous) Christian life, is very indicative. Its unprecedented in history scientific-technical and other achievements in the XX century are accompanied by the appearance of destruction equally unprecedented in power. And, first of all, these negative forces reveal themselves in the spiritual and moral sphere, where the greatest threat is the process of the destruction of the criteria of goodness, beauty and truth. Nowadays everything becomes fuzzy, turned upside down, mixed. And neither philosophy, excluding the notion of truth itself from the field of its speculations, nor moreover science, the development of which takes place, practically, independently of any ethical and spiritual criteria, is capable of stopping this process. Only he who now letteth (2 Thessalonians 2:7) — Christ of the Gospel— is decidedly, and increasingly consciously, being excluded from society not only by science, philosophy, culture, but also by the atmosphere of modern life in general.

Russia’s best people warned about the fatal consequences for mankind of the development of this process in the West a long time ago. Here is one of outstanding by its prophetic pathos exclamations about this of the well-known Slavophile, I.S. Aksakov "Progress, that denies God and Christ, — he wrote, — in the end, become regress; civilization ends in wildness; freedom — in despotism and slavery. Having removed God’s image from himself, man will inevitably remove – is already removing – from himself the human image as well, and will desire the beast’s image." [60]

The words seem much exaggerated. But do not modern crises, unprecedented in scale and degree: moral, social, ecological, economic, etc., testify to the suicidal nature of progress that denies Christ?

Isn’t propaganda (legalized!) of every kind of immorality and open ridicule of the human body and soul, freedom of every kind of perversion, the rule of the golden calf, the dictate of organized crime families ... evidence of the growing barbarianism of a de-Christianized world?

Isn’t modern democracy, in fact, a despotism of a financial and industrial oligarchy, pursuing only their own goals, and a veiled slavery of people (demos)?

Finally, is not the total permissiveness of occultism, magic, witchcraft, right down to Satanism, - an open trampling of every relic ("religious freedom"), the propaganda of the cult of cruelty and violence— isn’t this putting off the image of God and of man by modern civilized society and the envy for the image of the beast (Rev. 13:1-18)?!

Undoubtedly, in the very idea of unlimited knowledge ("on that side of good and evil"), initially laid in the "draft" of our civilization, human reason permitted a fundamental error. [61] Now that the III millennium has begun, it became an obvious fact.


4. Christianity.

What is the understanding of truth in Christianity?

Even the confession of the Only Individual God fundamentally changes in comparison with the scientific and philosophic approaches, the comprehension of the problem of truth. God is not just the source of all existence and consciousness, but is Existence itself ("I am that I am" — Ex. 3:14) and Consciousness, i.e. Truth itself. This logically natural conclusion is indisputable for all monotheistic religions. However, in Christianity it fundamentally deepens and acquires a unique character in the history of human thought.

Christianity confesses truth as perfect God-manhood, realized in the non-convergent, unchangeable, indivisible and inseparable joining of the Divine Logos with human nature in the God-man Jesus Christ (by the definition of the fourth Chalcedonic Ecumenical Council of 451). Christ, in Whom "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9), is the highest, attainable to human comprehension, revelation of God to the world, is the Truth itself: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, because "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me’" (John 14:6-7; 9:11). Truth, it turns out, is not what, but Who.

In this way, Christianity claims that the Truth is not a changeable created world (including the human being), nor the identity of the reflection of so-called objective reality in human consciousness, nor the highest idea contemplated by the mind, nor a perfect rational model, nor a universal function. It is not even a mono-individual God-Spirit, owing to the Divine transcendence of which, as a matter of principle, is beyond the reach of human knowledge.

Knowledge of the truth is now possible (1John 2:13; 1 Cor. 13:12). Its (His) knowledge is knowledge of God, performed by the entire make-up of man, and not only reason. And it is realized not in the state of ecstatic dilution in the Godhead, or a special experience of one’s existence, but through a special spiritual and physical unity with Christ in the Church in the perfection of personal disclosure, when a person becomes its carrier, its member, its participant. (Anticipation of this fullness of the existence-in-the-Truth for a Christian is his participation in the Eucharist, in which the communicant becomes one in body, one in spirit with Christ).

Christianity claims that the Truth is He, Who is and always is. Understanding the truth occurs only by being God-like. Therefore, it cannot be known on the paths of scientific, philosophic, aesthetic, mystical (occult) contemplation.

What comes of seeing the Truth this way?

Understanding, that

    1. The Truth is a spiritual, rational, good, individual Being, and not a human state or thought, a logical conclusion, theoretical abstraction, material object... It is Existence, rather than a process or the result of "mental" human activity;
    2. Knowledge of the truth is realized not by any one ability of man (reason, feeling), but with integral human personality, "integral reason;"
    3. Knowledge of the truth is realized on the path of a proper (righteous) Christian life, which gradually transfigures man from an impassioned unhealthy state into a new holy and godlike one. "A soul sees God’s truth according to the strength of its life" [62];
    4. Only through spiritual unity with Christ does a man begin to uncover a proper vision of the essence of the created world as one with the human organism, and not as an extraneous object of inquiry, experiment and consumption. Such a knowledge turns a man from a greedy and blind exploiter of nature into its loving and seeing cultivator and keeper;
    5. Real (earthly) life is not a self-sufficient value, but a transient form of individual existence, a necessary requirement for self-knowledge, the realization of one’s own freedom in this changeable world before one’s conscience, the knowledge of one’s non-self-creation, the "nothingness" without God, and through this — the acknowledgement of Christ’s necessity;
    6. This knowledge of Christ-Truth is the perfect, eternal blessing.

Christian understanding of the truth can be also expressed with other, for a Christian the greatest, words: "Christ has Risen!" because they contain an eternal perspective of life, and at the same time its concrete and complete meaning. It — is in life, which only acquires meaning if it is eternal. This life is the achievement of perfect knowledge and perfect love, being a synonym for God Himself, because "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). This life — is an inexpressible bliss: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Нim" (1 Cor. 2:9).

But godlike love is not only the moral and emotional blessing of man. It is a perfect "tool" of both the cognition of the Truth itself, and the contemplation of its imperishable beauty, and the knowledge of the essence of all creations.

[41] Herein and later quoted by tape recording.

[42] Because artistic (aesthetic) activity claims not so much to be the knowledge of the truth, as the expression and satisfaction of spiritual needs and the states of the man, it has nothing to do with aesthetics here.

[43] The Priest Paul Florensky gives a rich etymology of the term "Truth" in his theodicy "Pillar and Ground of Truth" in the second letter "Doubt."

[44] The term "mysticism" now and later denotes the wrong, supposed spiritual path, in the terminology of Church Fathers – "self-delusion" — "prelest," in contrast to the experience of the true knowledge of God, theosis (becoming a god.

[45] Heisenberg В. Physicistа and philosophy. Moscow 1963. P. 67.

[46] Venerable Simeon the New Theologian. Divine Hymns. Sergiyev Posad, 1917. P. 272.

[47] Khomyakov A.S. Works. Moscow 1910. Vol. 1. P. 347.

[48] Questions of Philosophy. 1999. No.2. P.115.

[49] Berg L.С. Science, Its Content, Meaning and Classification. 1921. P. 18-20,23. For details see 1: Religion and science.

[50] Quoted by: H. Kung. Does God exist? 1982. P. 296.

[51] J. Fraser The Golden Branch. Part 1. Magic and Religion. Moscow 1931. P. 73.

[52] Quoted by: Grigulyevich I. Prophets of the New Truth. Moscow 1983. P. 191.

[53] Ibidem. P. 193.

[54] Utmost, extravagant, non-traditional

[55] Ibidem.

[56] Ibidem. P. 200.

[57] Literary Newspaper 1967. No.34.

[58] See about this, for example, Bulgakov S. Non-evening light. Sergiyev Posad, 1917.

[59] Quoted by: H. Kung. Selected works P. 297.

[60] Aksakov I.S. Christianity and Social Progress. Quoted by: Palitsky A. About the Spirit’s Demands. Petrograd. 1914. P.7

[61] Venerable Kallist Kataphigiot said: "The mind should preserve a measure of knowledge, so as not to perish."

[62] Isaac of Syria, St. Ascetic words. Moscow. 1858. Word 30. P. 195.


§3. The Basis of Social Service to the Church.

The present message is an attempt at the theological comprehension of one of the vital questions of the Church’s life — that basis, on which its social activity is built. This topic is touched upon, first of all, by the decision of the Jubilee Archbishop Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in the year 2000, which approved the document "The Basics of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church" As it is known, this document is the first in the history of Orthodoxy on this topic, and it sparked a great response in Church and public circles, both in Russia and abroad. The problems, mentioned in it, touch upon many relevant aspects of social life, and the authoritative statement of the Council about them has great pastoral-canonical meaning.

However, understanding the sources of the Orthodox view on social problems may not appear complete enough without clarification of other Christian points of view. The case in point is about the medieval Roman Catholic and the post-Reformation civilization that, basically, determined the entire recent history of European civilization.

These two directions can be characterized in the following way. The Middle Ages and the Modern Age are as opposite and, at the same time, as much alike as concavity and convexity of one and the same bas-relief, viewed from different sides. The Middle Ages asserted only the Divine beginning of life... Striving to suppress the human beginning and his freedom in the name of this Divine beginning, they fell into "holy satanism," into blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (because "where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom"). On the contrary, the Modern Age, in its one-sided reaction against the Middle Ages, tends to completely forget about the Divine beginning; entirely absorbed with the development of pure humanity, it is on the brink of godlessness, practically uncontrollably passing into heathen polytheism, naturalism and idolatry... The Middle Ages accepted an earthless sky, and only tolerated the earth as an inevitable evil; the Modern Age mainly knows the earth, and only remembers Heaven for private personal use, like on holidays in the Church." [63].

The Middle Ages is the era after the split of 1054, when Catholicism’s loss of the connection with the spiritual experience of the Universal Church resulted in the emergence of extreme forms of asceticism.

The transition from the medieval civilization to the new one took place on a religious basis and was, first of all, conditional on Copernicus’ upheaval of the Reformation in soteriology. If, in Catholicism, man had to satisfy God for his sins with corresponding good deeds, exploits, and prayers to acquire the proper merits in His eyes for his salvation, then the conditions for salvation through the Reformation were reduced to a minimum: neither deeds, nor prayers, nor moreover asceticism, but faith and nothing but faith saves man. He cannot do anything himself for his salvation, inasmuch as faith itself, the only thing which saves man, does not depend on him, but only on God. Man, according to Luther, is nothing more than a "pillar of salt," "a block." Therefore, man’s participation in the act of salvation and synergy are out of the question — only God decides his fate. In that way, simply nothing is required from man for salvation. Thus, at last, was found a way to free oneself from any work on oneself, from that, which is called asceticism in the language of all religions. It turns out that one can be saved without saving oneself. In the history of religion, there had never been a greater "triumph of reason".

Hence, the evaluation of all a Christian’s earthly activity in principle is changed, labor motivation itself is changed. Instead of the Catholic understanding of labor as punishment for original sin ("In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" — Genesis 3:19), and the means of redemption through it of man’s sins, in Protestantism, labor becomes a free activity, directed at the satisfaction of earthly needs. Because Christ had already redeemed every believer from all his sins, sin is no longer assigned as sin to a believer. Labor acquires just earthly value, excluding any eschatological meaning. In this way, the energy of the spirit that medieval man used in asceticism to achieve salvation, now became fully released. All its religious pathos was transferred from heaven to earth, from spiritual goals to practical secular ones. The task of the Church as a community of believers had been, essentially, reduced to social activity.

The consequences to which this soteriological revolution led are quite clear: the distinction between life according to Christ and heathen life was becoming less and less discernible. Protestantism, as opposed to the medieval Catholicism, starts from the fundamental abolishment of the setting against of the church and the secular, or worldly, and in addition, the worldly activities and civic professions… are considered as fulfillment of religious duties, the sphere of which is broadening, in this way, to every worldly activity. [64] Any usual labor and, consequently, worldly life itself and all its values acquire a sort of religious character for a believer. Thus, there is an obvious return to heathenism with its cult of all the worldly. On this ground appear theological, religious-philosophical and philosophical systems of thought, substantiating a new view of the meaning of human life and attitude of man towards earthly Reality. Materialism and atheism are the logical consequence of this process. Protestant churches, in essence, turn into another philanthropic department in the government.

The concepts of "earthless sky" and "spiritless earth," presented above, have found different fates. The first one, considering the body as something despicable, and the care of it and its needs as almost sinful, retreated into the past. But the second one, for which material needs are not just primary, but, in the end, the only ones in this world, has been rapidly developed and at the present time performs its, one could say, triumphal procession through the Christian world. Christ’s words: "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33); "these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23), — are more and more consigned to oblivion.

From the theological point of view, these positions, if one speaks in Christological terms, can be characterized as monophysite and Nestorian. The Orthodox view of this problem could be called Chalcedonic. As it is known, the oros of the IV Ecumenical Council of 451 in Chalcedon determined that in Christ, the Divine and human natures are united "non-convergent, unchangeable, indivisible and inseparable." In that way, it condemned the ideas of both the absorption (in Christ) of human nature by the Divine one (monophysitism), as well as their separation and autonomy (Nestorianism). In the context of the question under consideration, this means condemnation of both the one-sided spiritualism of the Middle Ages, and the factual materialism of the Reformation. From this side, the Chalcedonic dogma acquires not only a Christological meaning, but also an ecclesiological and soteriological one, and in these latter meanings it serves as the basis for Orthodox understanding of the character of the social activity of the Church.

But what does the Church represent as a subject of social activity?

First of all, attention is drawn to the paradoxicality of the inseparable and non-convergent presence in it, on the one hand, of the holiness and verity of the Divine, and on the other – the sinfulness and falseness of humanity. This requires clarification.

The Church is unity in the Holy Spirit of all intelligent creatures, following God’s will and in that way being part of Christ’s God-man Organism — "His Body" (Eph. 1:23). Therefore, man’s presence in the Church is conditional not only on the fact of his receiving Baptism, Anointing and the other mysteries, but also on the special Christian’s association with the Holy Spirit. All the Church Fathers insist on this. The given thought may seem strange: do not Christians partake of the Holy Spirit in the mysteries? And if yes, then what other association can there be? Understanding this question is of principle importance both for Christian life and for theology.

In Baptism, the believer receives a fertile seed of human nature renewed by Christ, i.e. only the real possibility for the beginning of spiritual growth. "Baptism, — writes Venerable Ephraim of Syria, — is just the very pre-rudiment of Resurrection from hell" [65]. The Venerable Simeon the New Theologian explains: "One who came to believe in the Son of God... repents... of his former sins and is cleansed of them in the mystery of baptism. Then the God Word enters the baptized as into the womb of the Ever-Virgin, and abides there as a seed" [66] Being, in that way, only the seed of a new man, God’s gift in Baptism does not automatically turn a believer into a perfect creature, filled with the Holy Spirit: immortal, imperishable, impassive. The gift of Baptism requires, from the man, the cultivation of the field of his heart, the feat of righteous life, only after which the Seed, becoming the tree of Life, will bear its fruit. The Holy Tradition of the Church speaks quite definitely about this.

With references to many Church Fathers, St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) writes about this: "The quality to give birth to mixed evil and good from oneself is not eliminated in our fallen nature by holy baptism" [67]. "Saint Isaac (Words 1 and 84), in accordance with other fathers, teaches that Christ is implanted in our hearts by the mystery of the holy baptism as a seed in soil. This gift is perfect in itself; but we either cultivate it or choke it, judging by the life we live. By this reason, the gift shines in all its elegance only in those who cultivated themselves with the Gospel commandments, and to the degree of this cultivation. See Venerable Mark the Ascetic, the Word on Baptism, Xanthopulov chapters 4, 5 and 6" [68].

St. Theophan (Govorov) presents the same thought: "Here one should bear in mind, that that this death towards one's sins through baptism is not done mechanically, but everything is done with the participation of the moral-free determination of man himself" [69].

That is, every baptized person unites to God’s Spirit and abides in the Body of Christ to the extent that his fulfillment of the commandments and repentance cleans his soul and becomes humble. And the Church itself abides in a Christian only as much he makes room in himself, by his life, for the Holy Spirit. Thus, the degree of a believer’s unity to the Church, the character of his membership in it, changes constantly, and the amplitude of oscillation can be very great. The absolution prayer, read in the mystery of Penance over a member of the Church: "Reconcile and unite him (or her) to Your Holy Church." The paradoxicality of this prayer is clear. A member of the Church with his sins expels God’s Spirit and falls away from the Church-Body of Christ, but through repentance again joins the Holy Spirit and the Church. The extent of this return to the bosom of the Church is always relative, it directly depends on the sincerity and depth of the spiritual life of the Christian.

However, the Church is also called a visible community (organization) of people, having the unity of faith, mysteries, government and led by a bishop (or bishops, if one speaks of the Universal and Regional Churches). Its members are all the baptized, not only the sincere believers but also the most depraved ones, and only canonically not excluded from it. That is, any visible Church always only partly corresponds to Its Prototype, because by no means are all the baptized true members of the Church-Body of Christ, that realize and express their faith, that are loyal witnesses and doers of the truth It keeps. Understanding this aspect is important when discussing ecclesiological and soteriological aspects of the problem being considered.

The ecclesiological significance of the Chalcedonic dogma in connection with the question of the social service of the Church results from the God-humanity of its nature — by the image of its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord with His earthly life showed that condition of unity of man and God is that Godlike life that He realized in a real, earthly situation among temptations, enticements, hatred, envy and so on, i.e. in that situation, in which His Church has been from the beginning. Therefore, in the persons of Its children, the Church is also called upon to be the image of holiness, and an example of active love to each person in our world. This bears witness that in the life of Church, as well as in the life of Son of Man, there cannot be that monophysitical spiritualism that is sometimes presumed to be in it, and that left an imprint of one-sidedness on the Middle Ages. The Venerable Pimen the Great expressed the Christian attitude to man’s earthly needs in short and precise words: "We are murderers not of the body, but of passions."

However, the visible Church, while waging war against sin, but not celebrated by victory over it, can in different ways correspond to its Ideal: from the fullness of the Holy Spirit abiding in it on the day of Its descent on Christ’s disciples on Pentecost, to the deepest deviations from the purity of apostolic faith and love. History eloquently testifies to this, too. One of the brightest examples is the once-first, in the diptych of Orthodox Churches, Roman one, which was not saved either by its apostolic descendancy, nor by its Orthodox title. It turns out that for the visible Church, the danger of losing oneness with its Prototype is fully real. The visible Church is only able to realize the ideal of its assigned God-humanity under the conditions of undamaged teachings of faith, the basics of spiritual life and the principles of canonic organization in it.

But the dual nature of the Church does not presume the Nestorian division of it into earthly and heavenly either, under which each of them leads a separate life. The "dual" understanding of the Church does not correspond to the integral and single image of Christ. There are no two Churches, there is only the one, and it is God-human. But in its human, visible part only that is connected to the Divine and becomes salutary god-humanity which corresponds to the holy humanity of Christ, His evangelic commandments. In this case, connected to the Divine means not only saints, in contrast to sinners, but also each soul, in which true aspiration to the truth, verity and holiness remains, and which through the feat of fulfillment of the commandments and repentance joins to the Holy Spirit and bears the fruit of humility and love. The measure of this fruit can be different: both an hundredfold, and sixtyfold, and thirtyfold (Matt. 13:8).

The soteriological consequence of the "Chalcedonic" dogma in the aspect of Church’s social activity fully results from the understanding of two fundamental truths of Christian life: the first and great, and the second, like unto it, commandment about love (Matt. 22:38, 39). The Christian understanding of love is far from always coinciding with the common one. By Christian criteria, not any externally good deed is evidence of love, is good. That is, philanthropy and other social activity by itself may be not expression of Christian love. In other words, not all, that by worldly standards is good, is good from the Christian point of view. What can keep an outwardly good deed from being truly good? Of course — pride, vainglory, gain, hypocrisy, craftiness, intrigue, flattery, etc.

"The Lord looketh on the heart" of man (1 Sam. 16:7), not at his deeds. The Savior condemns those, who "all their works do for to be seen of men" (Matt. 23:5) delivers wrathful words about them:

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous" (Matt. 23:29);

"Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Luke 11:42).

Patristic thought thoroughly explains the Evangelical teaching about love, showing its essential distinction from the worldly ideas about it, what Tertullianus, for example, called the "beautiful vice." The holy fathers call the main characteristic of Christian love humility, which is the basis for both pure sacrifice and true unselfishness, inherent to such love. By the spiritual law, revealed by the Fathers, there cannot be any true virtue where there is no humility. Venerable Barsanuphius the Great teaches that, "humility occupies first place among the virtues" [70], and St. Ignatius Brianchaninov says that, "all virtues are seen as following it" [71]. And this, first of all, refers to the peak of virtues - love. "If the highest of the virtues — love, — writes St. Tikhon of Voronezh, — according to the Apostle, suffers long, envies not, vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, never fails, then it is because humility supports and assists it" [72]. That is why the fellow-ascetic of the Venerable Barsanuphius the Great, the Venerable John the Prophet said: "True labor cannot be without humility, because labor by itself is vain, and is not regarded as anything." [73].

The teaching of Church fathers is quite unambiguous: a good deed is only one that is done with Christian love, i.e. with humility. Otherwise, it becomes useless, and even turns into evil, because, according to the Apostle, a fountain cannot send forth sweet and bitter water at the same place (James 3:11). Spiritual law, revealed to us by the Savior Himself, says the same thing in the following words:

"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation" (Matt.12:43-45).

According to the Fathers, here it is said that a soul, having been cleansed in Baptism, but living not in a Christian way, not filled with the spirit of love, contains spirits that are more evil than before the Baptism. That is why believers are quite often worse than heathens. The reason for this are vainglory, pride, hypocrisy and other passions, increasingly developing in a Christian from the consciousness of his own importance, disfiguring his soul and turning his so-called good into vileness before God.

Jesus "said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15).

St. Ignatius even explains this thus: "Unhappy is who is satisfied with his own human truth: he does not need Christ" [74]. "The doer of human truth is filled with self-importance, conceit, self-delusion... he pays with hatred and vengeance those who would dare to open their mouths to contradict his truth with the most well-grounded and well-meant manner; considers himself worthy, and more than worthy, of earthly and heavenly merits" [75]. The example of the attitude towards Christ of the outwardly righteous, but spiritually decayed high priests, Pharisees and scribes shows what believers are capable of, when filled with a high opinion of their worth, of their service to God and people. The Savior was not only rejected by them, but was also subjected to the cruelest execution. Apparently, there is no question of how "God-pleasing" their social activity was. The given illustration gives the key to the understanding and activity of any Christian and any Christian church.

Hierarchs, clergy and laity are involved in this activity. And its Christian value can be very different. Their deeds can be Church deeds only when they are done not only with the permission of the Hierarchy, but also with Christian love, the presence and level of which, though hidden from people, is evident to God, and directly conditional on the spiritual and moral state of the doers, by their motives and aim. If they act for the sake of God, for the sake of the fulfillment of Christ’s commandments about love for neighbors, and have as their goal the joining to the Holy Spirit, then the Church acts through them, and their deeds bear true fruits both for the well-doers themselves and the indigent. The Venerable Seraphim used to say: "The true goal of our Christian life is to gain God’s Holy Spirit…and any good done for Christ’s sake is a means of gaining God’s Spirit." And he continues: "Note that only virtue, done for Christ’s sake, bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit" [76].

As an example, let us mention the following remarkable event that took place during Ivan the Terrible’s campaign against Novgorod in 1570, after the destruction of which, he came to Pskov.

In Pskov, he was met by a fool-for-Christ, Nikolas Salos. Jumping on a stick, he told Ivan the Terrible: "Johnny, Johnny, eat (pointing to the prepared tables), you probably haven’t eaten your fill of human meat in Novgorod." Then he invited the tsar to his tiny room where there was a piece of uncooked meat on a clean white table-cloth on the table, and again offered: "Eat, eat, Johnny." To the tsar’s reply: "I am a Christian and do not eat meat during the fast," — the fool-for-Christ wrathfully told him: "You don’t eat meat, but you drink Christian blood and are not afraid of God’s justice! Don’t touch us, passer-by, get yourself away as soon as possible! If you dare touch someone in God-sheltered Pskov, you will die that minute, like your horse!" At that very moment, the tsars’s groom runs into the room, pale as ashes, and reports that the tsar’s favorite horse has died. That was the fruit of the social activity of a Christian, a saint. Pskov was saved from the bloody horrors of Novgorod, not one man was injured there.

But the social activity of the Church can be also performed by such clergy and laity, about whom the Lord said: "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:8, 9).

Needless to say, the activity of such servants, even if it officially came from the highest bodies of the Church, has nothing to do with the Church, except for form, and will bring no good. Moreover, such figures quite often become a direct temptation for those with whom they come in contact, and turn many away from Orthodoxy.

The idea that the social ministry of the Church (as well as its other activities) are always performed by the will of the Holy Spirit and does not depend on the spiritual state of its doers, is Protestant and highly erroneous. The Church is God-human. The deeds of its visible members are the deeds of the Church-Body of Christ, only when the baptized gives the Holy Spirit room in his heart by living a righteous life.

"Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin. For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will leave foolish thoughts behind, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness. ..." (Wisdom of Solomon 1:4-5).

The Spirit creates forms for Itself. And if, having accepted baptism, Christians remain heathens by their lives, then all their activity will be filled with heathen content, will, in the final analysis, be fruitless, even harmful, even if it was carried out in the name of the Church. Because God looks at a man’s heart. There are all sorts of examples of decayed philanthropy and piety. Searching for glory, wealth, rank, authorities’ favor, etc. — what has there not been behind many of the outwardly respectable social actions in the Church’s history.

At present, the character of the activity of many Christian churches, especially in the West, testifies to the sharp slump of their interest in the questions of spiritual life, and the catastrophic enthusiasm for so called "horizontal" or, simply, purely worldly activity.

A good demonstration of this is the World Conference of the World Council of Churches on "Salvation Today" in Bangkok in 1973. Such a topic could be only welcomed: of what should Christians speak, if not about the salvation of human souls. However, those few Orthodox participants who attended the Conference, including those from the Russian Church, were deeply disappointed. Different topics were touched upon — social, political, economic, ecological and other problems of this life, about salvation from every possible misfortune and disaster: poverty, hunger, diseases, exploitation, illiteracy, domination of trans-national corporations and so on. Only not a single word was said about the salvation, for the sake of which Lord Jesus Christ suffered on the Cross — about the salvation from sins, passions, eternal death. The words of A.R. Khomyakov: "There is a deep hypocrisy in the union of religion and social unrest... When the Church interferes in debates about rolls and oysters and begins demonstrating its ability to solve these kind of issues, meaning to so testify to the presence of the Holy Spirit in its bosom, it loses all right to people’s trust" [77].

There is no doubt that such secularization of modern Christianity is a serious step towards accepting the Antichrist. For this false savior will solve (at least, will appear to solve) all the main social and other world problems. And, in that way, for Christians, seeking materialistic salvation today he will become the expected Christ. Thus, insensibly, the denial of Christ the Savior will occur with the Bible in hand.

Our Church repeatedly criticized so-called horizontalism, i.e. hypertrophy of social activity ("religious intrigue," by Y. Trubetskoy) of modern Christian churches-members of the ecumenical movement. It stressed that the main goal of the social ministry of the Church is the aspiration for the spiritual and moral recovery of society, but not the growth alone of its material well-being. The Venerable Isaac of Syria wrote: "People think poverty heinous, but to God the high-seeking soul and soaring mind are much more heinous. People honor wealth, but God honors a humble soul" [78]. The following words of Christ always remain guidelines for the Holy Church:

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Matt. 6:25).

Material well-being, health, human rights, etc. by themselves, without Evangelical spiritual values, do not make man better. Moreover, as the modern Russian writer M. Antonov rightfully observes, "the man, who no longer lacks material comforts, but who did not cultivate the needs for spiritual development is frightful — this is illustrated clearly by V. Rasputin in the tale "Fire" and Viktor Astafyev in the novel, "Sad Detective Story" [79]. And M. Antonov continues: "Man — is not a slave of requirements and external situations, he — is a free creature, but corporeal, and therefore has a need for satisfying the requirements and the probing influence of the environment. Apparently, there is a certain law of measure, not yet formulated by science, according to which man, the minimum of whose needs are satisfied, must, to avoid self-destruction, ascend at a higher level of spiritual life. If this law is not observed, then the material, physical needs receive a hypertrophied development to the detriment of spiritual essence, which applies to both the individual and society, — the modern stage of the history of capitalistic counties dominated by "mass culture" clearly confirms that provision" [80].

An illustration of this thought can be the modern psychological situation in the materially wealthy West. This is how the Finnish Lutheran bishop K. Toiviyanen characterizes it: "According to certain studies, more than half the population in the West has lost the purpose of life. We are already assured that the object of the work of psychiatrists will be the feeling of despondency and depression, to a far greater extent than suffering itself. The grounds for suicide can often be a man’s existential desolation."

The Church’s social activity can be the Church’s ministry (but not worldly activity) and yield spiritual benefits to people only when it is based on the sincere desire of its servants to fulfill the main commandment of the Gospel, and thereby preach Christ’s name. For the Apostle Paul wrote: "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3).

For the Church, there are no reasons for social activity other than the sermon of Christian love and the conversion to the path of salvation of every person through teaching him the Word, and, especially, through the example of its children’s lives. Christian activity, performed for worldly reasons, leads not to the spiritual benefit and evangelization of the world, but to the secularization of the Church itself. Naturally, these motives are, as a rule, hidden from the view of outsiders, but they are open to God.

At the present time, when by God’s providence the Russian Church has received considerable opportunities to participate in many aspects of social activity of the country, it makes every effort to see that its servants are worthy executors of the commandment of Christ the Savior: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt.5:16).

[63] P. Bulgakov. Medieval ideal and the Latest Culture. // Collection "Two Towns." Moscow 1911. Vol.1. P.169-170.

[64] P. Bulgakov. National Economy and a Religious Individual. // Ibidem. P.190-191.

[65] Salvation and Faith through Orthodox teaching. Moscow 1995. P.60. — Reedition: Moscow 1913.

[66] Quoted by: Moscow Patriarchy Journal.1980.No.3. P.67.

[67] Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St. Works Vol.4.Saint Petersburg 1905. P.369.

[68] Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St. Word about Man. Б.Vol .No. 29.P.317, note16.

[69] Theophan (Govorov), St. Interpretation of the First Eight Chapters of the Epistle of the Holy Ap. Paul to the Romans. Moscow 1890. P. 332.

[70] Venerable Barsanuphius and John. Guide to Spiritual Life. Saint Petersburg 1905. P. 297.

[71] Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St. Works Vol. 2. Saint Petersburg 1905. P. 72, 126.

[72] St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. Works Vol. 2. Moscow 1899. P. 99.

[73] Abba Doroftheus. Beneficial Readings for the Soul. Moscow 1874. P.262.

[74] Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St. Works Vol. 4. Saint Petersburg 1905. P.

[75] Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St. Works Vol. 5. Saint Petersburg 1905. P.

[76] On the Goal of a Christian life. P. 5, 42.

[77] Khomyakov A.S. Complete works The 3-d edition. Moscow 1886.Vol.2. P. 85.

[78] Isaac of Syria, St. Ascetic words. Word No. 57. Moscow 1858. P. 420.

[79] М. Antonov. Perestroyka (Rebuilding) and Worldview. // "Moscow" 1987. No.9. P.157.

[80] Ibidem. P.165



§4. A Christian’s freedom, the Church’s freedom and religious freedom.

The understanding of freedom has several meanings. Let us consider three of them here. The first — its metaphysical dimension, when freedom is understood to be one of the most fundamental characteristics of human nature — free will, expressed in the inner self-determination of the individual, first of all, in the face of the choice between good and evil. Free will is that characteristic, the loss of which results in the individual’s full degradation. No one has power over this freedom of man: no other person, or society, or laws, or any authority, or demons, or angels or God Himself. Macarius of Egypt said: "You are created in the image and likeness of God, because as God is free and does, what He likes ... you are likewise free." [81] "Therefore our nature easily accepts both good and evil, both God’s grace and the converse power. But it cannot be forced." [82] The classical aphorism of the Church fathers is: "God cannot save us without us," perfectly expresses Christian understanding of the sense and meaning of this freedom.

The second dimension of freedom is the social one. It means an aggregate of certain personal rights in a state, in a society. More difficult questions arise in this field, because in society, many people with free will come into contact with each other. In general, it is a problem of the external freedoms of man, or the problem of permitted (by law, customs, religion, common moral) deeds in the surrounding world.

And the third dimension of freedom — is spiritual freedom. It, in contrast to external freedom, means a person’s power over his egoism, his passions, his sinful feelings and desires — over himself. This freedom is acquired only by living a proper spiritual life, which makes a believer capable of communication with God, Who is the only One with absolute spiritual freedom. Saints, who cleansed themselves from passions, acquired great freedom. [83] Each "ordinary" person has a relative spiritual freedom (compare John 8:34). And only those that became hardened in evil, blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matt.12:31-32) became incapable of good and lost it. Christianity, in this way, sees the ideal of spiritual freedom in God, and thereby in principle rejects the possibility of the existence of any absolute freedom ("on the other side of good and evil") in man. Man’s freedom is relative... It stands and falls, is overcome and excels on the paths of physical life towards its en-Godening. Freedom is not an autonomous power in itself, and it is a weakness in its contrast to the Divinity. St. Isaac of Syria says: "For there is no perfect freedom in an imperfect era" [86].

The Apostle Paul says: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17). He calls a man, who has achieved spiritual freedom, "new" (Eph. 4:24), emphasizing by this the renewed state of his mind, heart, will and body. On the contrary, one living a sinful life he calls "old" (Eph. 4:22), "slave" (Romans 6:6,17), as not having the power to follow what both faith, and reason, and conscience dictate, and what he well knows is good for him. This condition of spiritual slavery as the antithesis of the true freedom the Apostle Paul describes in the following picturesque words: "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do... I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Rom. 7:15-23).

Kant expressed the difference between spiritual freedom and free will very well: "I understand freedom in the cosmological (metaphysical — A.O.) sense to be the ability to spontaneously begin a condition. Freedom in the practical (moral, spiritual — A.O.) sense is the independence of will from the constraint of sensuality." [87]

These three dimensions of freedom allow us to speak with full certainty about which freedom should be the primary aim of a Christian’s life. Undoubtedly, this is spiritual freedom, which, as mentioned above, is acquired only in the process of living a righteous life. What kind of life this is, what its laws are, what are the criteria for judging the correctness or incorrectness of the chosen path, and finally, what stages does a person go through to achieve this freedom, — this is an important topic, requiring special consideration (See chapter VII).

One should speak in other dimensions about the freedom of the Church. To do so, one should first refer to the understanding of the Church.

Church is a unity in the Holy Spirit of all rational creatures, following God’s will, and in that way being part of Christ’s God-human Organism — "His Body" (Eph. 1:23). [88] The extent of each Christian’s belonging to It ("ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." 1Cor.12; 27) is, naturally, hidden from external view, because the sincerity of faith and a soul’s holiness are invisible and cannot be measured by human criteria.

The external, and always imperfect, representation of this Organism of Christ — the Church — is the visible Christian community with a bishop at its head (Local, Ecumenical Church), having a unity of faith, basics of spiritual life, management and discipline. The membership of this visible Church is no longer a secret: all the baptized, regardless of their holiness or the depravity of their lives, but canonically not excluded from it, belong to it. Therefore, no Local Church is ensured against degradation, including the total loss of the Holy Spirit and turning into a worldly organization by its tasks and purpose, into a "heathen unfruitful church," even while retaining all its Christian attributes.

However, while the visible Church keeps the dogmatic teaching undamaged, the correct teaching on spiritual life, the basic principles of canonic organization and the zeal of its members for living according to the Gospel, even in the presence of natural human weaknesses, the Holy Spirit of the Pentecost resides in it, like the soul in the body, and It is, in a way, the uterine waters, in which the process of birth, formation and salvation of a Christian takes place.

The Church, in this way, is God-human. And owing to its double nature, it has two different freedoms, incommensurable with each other.

The Church as an invisible unity in the Holy Spirit of all those who love Christ ("He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" — John 14:21) is always free, because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." It is above all external freedoms, rights and privileges. It is not afraid of any human limitations and oppressions, persecutions themselves serve to its greater glory. Such it was during the earthly life of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and remained unchanged after His Resurrection, Ascension and to this day, because "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8).

And the visible church-community, like any public and religious organization, requires the appropriate conditions for its existence, including government-regulated religious freedoms.

Religious freedom is the right to openly confess and practically fulfill one’s religious beliefs both individually, and collectively. In this respect, religious freedom does not differ from those important social, or external, freedoms and rights, which citizens of one or another country of different secular organizations have.

How can these freedoms be assessed?

If we consider them ideally, regardless of the real spiritual and moral condition of man and society, then their necessity for the normal life of society and its members is obvious. However, as soon as the question touches upon the practical implementation of these freedoms in life, they immediately become one of the most serious problems, especially nowadays. The main reasons are the following.

First. Any right is double-sided and can be used by specific people not only for the welfare of the citizens and society, but also to selfish ends, even in directly depraved ones (for example, not only for information, but also for defamation; not only for preaching peace, chastity, but also for the propaganda of violence, depravity, etc.). But laws that are supposed to regulate the mechanism of the actions of these freedoms are, as a rule, very imperfect, and modern real life eloquently testifies to this.

Second. All these rights, by themselves, do not direct man to the main thing — the acquisition of spiritual freedom. Moreover, catastrophic moral degradation of society and the obvious decline of spirituality even in Christian Churches in modern so-called free countries show that external freedoms without He who letteth (2 Thessal. 2:7) not only not raise man up in his dignity, but often serve as one of the effective means of his spiritual and moral corruption and humiliation.

This slippery two-sidedness of external freedoms already shows that they cannot be considered as the primary, absolute and self-sufficient value upon which Western propaganda strongly insists.

The same conclusion also comes from the Christian understanding of man and the meaning of his life. Christian anthropology is based on two positions, equally unacceptable by humanistic consciousness: the "assigned" Godlike greatness of man (Gen. 5:1) and the "present" profound damage of his nature, that the sufferings of Christ Himself were required to "bring back to life the likeness that was lost in the beginning." [89]

A real man is spiritually inferior, ill, subject to the influence of the most varied passions, distorting his soul and activity. And external freedoms have no co-relation to this state of man and are not oriented to his spiritual improvement and development, on the achievement of the highest goal of all public establishments — the raising of each individual to the dignity of a new person (Eph. 2:15).

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov; +1867) wrote: "As long as the human race is subject to the influence of sin and passions, authority and subordination are necessary. They will certainly exist throughout the whole life of the world: they can only be, are and will be in different forms." "Neither equality, nor absolute freedom, nor the welfare to the extent that enthusiastic false teachers wish and promise, can there be on Earth." "The relationship of authority and subordination will be destroyed with the destruction of the world; then all authority and power will end (I Cor. 15:24); then brotherhood, equality and freedom will be established; then the reason for unity, power and subordination will not be fear, but love." [90]

These ideas allow us to understand the principal Christian position in relation to social political, economic and other external freedoms. It is contained in the assertion that they can be considered only as means, conditions for achieving the meaning of human life, but not as a goal in itself. They cannot be considered as primary guarantees of a normal life of human society. Hence, the most important task of society should be the creation of such a moral and legal atmosphere, in which external freedoms would promote spiritual healing and man’s growth, and not the development of egoism and base passions in him. [91]

What is necessary for this?

In the Orthodox worldview, the answer to this question is found in the fundamental dogma of God-Love: "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1John 4:16). From this it necessarily follows, that love must be the essence of any human activity. [92] The Christian understanding of love is expressed in by the Apostle Paul: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. " (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Therefore, the fundamental Christian criterion in the assessment of freedoms is the fear of love, being afraid to cause any moral, mental, physical or any other kind of harm to a person (society, nation). It is a true guard of both the proper attitude to things, nature, and to all kinds of human activity. The Venerable Barsanuphius the Great said: "Good is the freedom, which is united with the fear of God" [93]. — This is the Christian maxim, in light of which one can properly understand all human freedoms, rights and duties, including religious freedoms.

Freedom, not "limited" by the love of the fear of God, taking its place above love, is deadly for men. It results in the most negative consequences, [94] first of all, in the spiritual and moral degradation of society, in ideological anarchism, materialism, anti-culture, etc. Where freedom without love is the corner stone, there cannot be true individual freedom, because "everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). And the slavery of spirit is the gravest for a man, causing him the most sufferings. A. Solzhenitsyn once observed: "We became infatuated with the ideas of freedom, but forgot that the wisest measurement of freedom — is far-seeing self-restraint." Even heathen sages understood that. [95]

Did not the Apostle Paul write for this reason: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."(1Cor. 10:23).

However, understanding the necessity of spiritual freedom and its primary importance for a man is, practically, lost by the human race. The Apostle Peter, condemning preachers of external freedom who "forgot" about internal freedom, wrote: "For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." (2 Peter 2:18-19). The same thought is in Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Galatians: " For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another ... This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh..." (5:13-17). Then he lists the "works of the flesh" and concludes quite unambiguously: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (6:7-8).

How true these thoughts are can be seen in the example of informational freedom, when it is not subordinated to the idea of love for man. Finding itself captive to the ideology of "the golden calf," it easily turns into an instrument of falsehood, the propaganda of depravity, violence, Satanism, etc., i.e. it becomes legalized freedom of evil. Can it, in this capacity, be related to the category of Goodness and be called Freedom, so that it has the right to existence in normal human society? Isn’t it obvious, that all rights are called freedoms precisely because their role is to free society and each person from the slavery of egoism, the tyranny of evil passions, to create and spiritually improve him, and not corrupt him spiritually and physically, not to kill himself and those like him?

What does the so-called freedom of tele-information do? Not inspired by the idea of love to man, it becomes, by the apt expression of one newspaper, the "television plague of violence." One American psychologist characterized television in his country in the following way: "When you turn on a TV set you automatically turn off the process of becoming a Man in yourself." This is true. Because, if according to one of the statistical data in the USA, an 18-year old person becomes a witness of 150,000 violent acts, at least 25 thousand of which are murders, then what spiritual and moral educational meaning of this freedom can one talk about? Tyranny of the darkest demonic instincts develops with such freedom in a young person, and it expresses itself the first chance it gets.

The substitution of spiritual freedom, the fear of love, with the freedom of lusts — is the deadly threat, like the sword of Damocles, that really hangs over the human race.

This explains the paradoxical fact that modern European civilization, having only one goal — man’s earthly welfare, every time more obviously leads nations into the final lap of death. Finally, all modern crises have as their source absolutized external freedom, i.e. the freedom of the flesh, passions, which, having lost the notion of sin, is implacably turning into a cruel exploiter of both man and nature. There, where freedom stands above love, God-like man ends and man-beast, who has no values except his own pleasures, power and fame, and no moral barriers in achieving his aims, begins. An occurrence in New York in 1978 is a marvelous illustration of this. At that time, electrical power was lost for three hours. And the fruits of the "freedom" that grew after the war were revealed in full measured: "Crowds of Americans, — A. Solzhenitsyn said, — started to smash up and rob everything … 40 years ago in New York the power supply was also cut off, but no incidents occurred: people helped each other, lit candles. Today they break shop-windows, rob stores, kill" [96].

Without a spiritual-moral criterion, there is no real possibility of positively solving the question of freedoms. In the modern civilized world, the predominant principle: "freedom for the sake of freedom" i.e. the factual primacy of freedom over love is, for man, a powerful drug which kills and is used to kill an increasing number of people. The entire aggregate of rights, received by a yet young person simply through birth, and not through a corresponding education, moral maturity and moral strength, is one of the effective means of developing in him elemental, instinctive forces, with all the subsequent negative consequences. Does not Ancient Greek wisdom say the same thing: "Everything that is given gratis can corrupt". [97]

That is why such freedom easily sells itself as elementary comfort. One of the contemporary writers rightly said about our era: "Freedom is dying everywhere in the world — political, economic, and personal... It is easier to live without freedom. More and more people willingly give up their freedom in exchange for a comfortable and easy life. It is not necessary to make any decisions. Less responsibility." [98]

And this denial of freedom is quite natural: passions, obtaining freedom and enslaving man from within, make him sensual, egoistic and, thereby, increasingly capable of selling the first-born dignity of his individuality for the pottage of lentils of fleeting comforts and whims. Examples of such deals can be seen in all so-called free countries. The Revelation of the Apostle John the Theologian quite definitely prophesies the general voluntary slavery to the universal tyrant for the promise of paradise on earth: "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life" (Rev. 13:8).

The most astute thinkers always understood this. There is, for example, a clear statement of I. S. Aksakov: "Progress, denying God and Christ, in the end, becomes regress; civilization ends with barbarism; freedom — with despotism and slavery. Having removed from himself God’s image, man will also inevitably remove — is already removing – the human image from himself and will desire the beast’s image." [99]

The propaganda of the freedom of flesh is always hypocritical. The best example is the USA, which cries louder than anyone about the violation of human rights in different countries, but openly violates these rights in their country themselves. Thus, in them "nowadays by the directives of schools almost all manifestations of the Christian faith are banned: it is prohibited to conduct voluntary Bible readings during recess, to pray before meals, to use prayer beads on a school bus, to conduct Christian meetings after classes, even to have a Bible on the desk. The court, as a rule, supports such bans … Images of the Christmas scene, which were put in parks and other public places ever since the country was established, have been banned through the efforts of American Civil Rights Union" [100].

Such an understanding of external freedoms allows us to look at religious freedom more specifically.

The religious freedom of a separate individual in the social aspect does not contain anything essentially different from other external freedoms. But the freedom of religious communities (churches) has already definitely expressed specifications that give birth to corresponding problems.

The first of them, arising in connection with the issue of the recognition of an organization as religious — is an establishment, on the basis of joint authoritative studies of theologians and lawyers, definite and precise criteria of the notion of religiousness itself.

The second, no less relevant problem – is the assessment of the moral side of the teachings of a religious organization, which also requires responsibly accepted moral criteria. The sad example with "Aum Shinrikiyo" is one of the brightest illustrations of the urgent necessity of this. The factual, and also in places the juristic legalization of Satanism — is another example of an open challenge to contemporary social reason, its understanding of religious freedom.

The third, psychologically, perhaps, the most difficult one, is distinguishing the ideas of equal rights and freedom. It is easier to show the difference of these terms with examples.

The first example. In a democratic state, all citizens are equally free, but not equally equal before the law. Its president has many more rights than any citizen of the state. And the law itself gives reasons for this inequality of rights — the will of the majority that gave him these greater, in comparison to others, rights. One of the natural principles of democracy and freedom turns out to be this obvious and "blatant" inequality.

This democratic principle must in the same measure apply to the solution of problems connected with the freedom of religious organizations and their equality in the field of education, formation, telecasting and broadcasting, etc. It is precisely the will of the majority of the population, which must decide to which religious community, subject to the equality of freedoms, to give greater rights in comparison to others. This democratic principle (the acknowledgment of special rights for different religions) is realistically carried out in Germany, France, Greece and other countries (but faces, practically, insurmountable difficulties in Russia!), because it is not a violation of the principles of religious freedom.

In connection with this, it is interesting to note that, for example, Saint John of Kronstadt severely condemned the granting of equality to all religions by the last Russian tsar in 1905. [101] St. Hilarion (Troitsky) assessed it the same way. [102]

The well-known monarchist and theologian, General A.A. Kireyev, commented on the liberation reforms of the Emperor as follows: "The Tsar does not see or understand the deep change that his laws on the equality of rights in faith have brought to our life. He mixed up the understanding of equality with freedom. No one objects to freedom, but equality in propaganda is quite another thing" [103).

The second example. Let us imagine that a certain very wealthy sect, having bought (legally!) the mass media in a free democratic country N., begins to lead a massive propaganda campaign of ideas, alien and hostile to the religious views of the majority of the country’s population. How could one assess this fact? As a normal phenomenon of religious freedom, the equality of rights and democracy or, on the contrary, as evidence of the brute force of money and the trampling of democracy? Evidently, giving a wealthy sect the same rights as the poor church of the people is nothing else than the trampling of democracy (= government of the people!), the trampling of the main constitutional right – the right of the majority in solving the main questions of their lives.

Rights, granted to any religious organization must be, first of all, legally correlated with the extent of its democratic recognition (i.e. recognition by the majority), in which social truth is expressed. [104] Only in this case will freedom and the equality of rights not be in conflict with each other, and religious freedoms will indeed be a manifestation of true love to man.

[81] Macarius of Egypt. Spiritual Discussions... The Holy Trinity-St.Sergius Lavra. 1904. Talk 15, p. 21,. p.121.

[82] Ibidem, p. 23.

[83] Blessed Augustine compares the levels of sanctity and freedom very aptly, when he says: "Great freedom is to be able not to sin, but the greatest freedom is not to able to sin" — Magna est libertas posse non peccare; sed maxima libertas — non posse peccare.

[84] V.S. Solovyev wrote: "Only believing in the invisible God and acting by faith from God, our will truly becomes will, i.e .a free beginning, — free from itself, i.e. from its own given factual state: here will acts not as a psychological phenomenon, but as a creative power, preceding any phenomenon and that is not hidden by any fact, i. e. free in essence" (V. Solovyev. Works. Vol.3. Saint Petersburg P. 293).

[85] Rev. Sergy Bulgakov. The Bride of the Lamb. Paris. 1945. P.521-522.

[86] Isaac of Syria, St. Ascetic Words. М. 1858. Word 28. P. 190.

[87] I. Kant. Works.Vol.3. Moscow. 1964. P. 478.

[88] Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria writes: "Don’t say that people gathered the Church. This is the work of God, the living and fearful God." St. Ecumenius (10th century) says the same thing: "It is established by God, dedicated to God and has God living in itself."

[89] Troparion of the Preparation of Christmas.

[90] Articles of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov on church and public issues. // L. Sokolov. Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. His life and moral-ascetic views. Appendices. Kiev. 1915. P. 20, 21.

[91] As it is known, French thinkers of the 18th century dealt with the issue of human rights especially actively, and most of all Rousseau, in the opinion of whom each person has natural inalienable rights, the protection of which is the most important function of the state. The French Declaration of Human Rights (1789), based on these premises, gave the following definition of freedom (rights): "Freedom consists in the right of doing everything that doesn't harm others, therefore using the natural rights of each person does not have limits other than those that guarantee that other members of the society have the same rights. These limits can only be defined by law."

However, the notion "harm for others," ignoring the Christian context of moral values already during the so-called great French revolution and afterwards (especially in the revolution of 1917) discovered its full helplessness in the capacity of the desired criterion of human rights. Millions of innocent victims were sacrificed on the altar of a freedom that "consists in the right of doing everything that doesn’t harm others."

[92] The idea of the supremacy of Godlike love in man as a requirement of his freedom and the development of normal human society was particularly developed and promoted by Russian thinkers-Slavophiles of the 19th century: A. Khomyakov, I. Kireyevsky, Konstantin and Ivan Aksakovs, Y. Samarin. Looking at the Church as a unified source and in this capacity as a prototype of the ideal human society, Khomyakov, for example, names the following two main constitutive qualities: "We confess the only and free Church" because "freedom and unity are two powers that are rightly given the mystery of human freedom in Christ." But the main principle, ensuring the preservation of these bases in the Church is, in his opinion, love. "This principle, — he wrote, — is the basis of mutual love in Jesus Christ" (A. Khomyakov. Theological and church and publicity articles ed. Soykina, pp. 109, 205, 44).

[93] Ven. Barsanuphius the Great and John. Guide to spiritual life in answers. Saint Petersburg 1905. Answer No.373. P.253-254.

[94] Indeed, the aspiration to so-called fullness of life, to pleasure is unthinkable without the fullness of social and political freedoms. The maximal fullness of rights and freedoms is a requirement of materialistic paradise. However, this axiom of materialism is utopian. Kant spoke very well about this: "In fact, we find that the more man’s enlightened reason indulges in the thought about the pleasures of life and happiness, the farther the man is from true satisfaction" (I. Kant. Works. Vol.4, part 1. Moscow 1965. P. 230).

[95] Epictetus, for example, wrote: "He who is free in body and not free in soul is a slave; and, in turn, who is constrained bodily, but is free spiritually, is free." Roman stoics. Moscow 1995. P. 252.

[96] Hieromonk Damascene. Not of this world. Moscow. 1995. P. 980.

[97] In a society, truly interested in the upbringing of Man, not all rights can simply and absolutely be givens, their boundaries must gradually widen and deepen according to the moral and spiritual growth of the man and society.

[98] P. Kalinovsky. Transition. Moscow. 1991. P.15

[99] I. Aksakov. Christianity and social progress. // A. Palitsky. On spiritual requests. (Anthology). Petrograd.1914. P.7.

[100] Hieromonk Damascene. Not of this world. Moscow 1995. P. 870-871.

[101] See, for example, A Pillar of the Orthodox Church. Petersburg .1915. P.402.

[102] In February 1917, when the Regional Council opened, he wrote: "The Imperial resolution of March 31, 1905 during the report of the Holy Synod on the convening of the Council: "I consider it impossible to perform such a great deed at this time... I leave it to myself, when a favorable time comes for that... to convene a Council of the Russian Church." Years passed by... the situation of the Orthodox Church was becoming unbearable. Church life was falling into growing disorder... Formerly persecuted religious communities obtained freedom. In ancient Orthodox Moscow councils of schismatics convened, conferences of Baptists were conducted without difficulties. Only for the Orthodox Church was the time not yet favorable... The attitude of the reigning dynasty to Orthodoxy is a historic example of ingratitude. The Petersburg period of Russian history ends in awful disgrace and grave national disaster." Quoted by: "Church and society." 1998. No.4. P.60. See also: No.3. P.57.

[103] Diary of A.A. Kireyev. Quoted by R. Firsov. The Orthodox Church and the State in the Last Decade of the Existence of Autocracy in Russia. Saint Petersburg 1996. P.315.

[104] Venerable Mark the Ascetic wrote: "Lord, having given many commandments about love, ordered us to search for God’s truth, knowing that it is the mother of love" (Venerable Mark the Ascetic. Moral-ascetic Words. Moscow 1858. P.251).




V. Revelation.

One of the most important and integral provisions of any religious teaching is the faith in the possibility and necessity of Divine Revelation. Each religion has its own distinctive teachings about it, conditional on the specific understanding of God and man. Christianity is completely based on Revelation, it owes its origin to Christ, it "lives, moves and exists" by Him. To see the main distinctive features of Christian teaching on Revelations, it is necessary to consider a number of issues.

§1. Types of revelations.

It is necessary to distinguish supernatural Revelation from the so-called natural knowledge of God, also often called Revelation.

Supernatural Revelation means an act of God that gives man knowledge necessary for salvation. In connection with this, Revelation is divided into general and individual.

General revelation is given via specially selected people — prophets and apostles — to proclaim truths of faith and life to a wide range of people (individual nation, all mankind). Such by importance, first of all, is the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition of the New Testament, and secondly, "the law and the prophets" (Matt.7:12), the Old Testament Bible.

Individual revelation is given to a man for his edification (and, sometimes, for the edification of those nearest him). Many of these revelations, specially granted to saints, are "not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Cor.12:4) to another person. For this reason, though the patristic writings and hagiographies tell about different experiences, visions and states of saints, they still convey only their external side. Individual revelations do not impart any fundamentally new truths, they only give a deeper perception of what is already found in general Revelation.

Natural revelation, or natural knowledge of God, usually refers to those ideas about God, mankind and existence in general, that man obtains in a natural way, on the basis of his cognizance of self and the surrounding world. Apostle Paul wrote concerning this: "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen" (Romans 1:20). This process of the natural searching for God, and knowledge of God, always had its place in history, it is inherent to man. And to this day, many people come to faith in God and in Christ, essentially, knowing nothing about religion, Christianity, not having even read the Gospel.

§2. General Revelation and Its Indications.

Christianity asserts, that general Revelation was given only through the prophets of the Old Testament and Christ’s Gospel. What special indications are present in Christian Revelation, allowing one to distinguish it from human conjectures, fantasies, intuitions, philosophical insights and so on?

The first thing that attracts the attention of anyone reading the Gospel is holiness, the moral and spiritual height of its teaching and the staggering example of that ideal to which man is being called — Jesus Christ, obviously singles out Christianity from among all the teachings of the world and its ideals. Not one religion knew it (including the one of the Old Testament), not one philosophy.

Its fundamental religious truths about:

have the same characteristics.

These central truths of Christianity are as different in their essence from the religious and philosophic analogues preceding them as, figuratively speaking, a child differs from a doll with which a woman played in childhood. It is not by chance that the Apostle Paul exclaims: "we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1Cor.1:23). The subsequent history of Christianity confirmed this thought in full measure. The fact that they have been and are trying to "improve" the Christian dogma and make it (to avoid the "stumbling block") a natural continuation of Judaism, deleting from it the faith in the Divine and messianic merits of Jesus Christ, or (to avoid "foolishness") make it one of the teachings of this world (heathenism), is clear evidence of the fact that the Revelation of the New Testament is not a fruit of human wisdom or fantasy. The unique, in its own way, dissimilarity of Christianity among all other religions, its philosophic "absurdity" (let us remember Tertullianus’: credo, quia absurdum est) once again points to the unearthly source of Christian teaching, to that "foolishness of God," that turned out to be "wiser than men" (1 Cor.1:25).

Prophecies are clear evidence of the supernatural nature of Christian Revelation. In this case, prophecies should be understood as predictions that were not based and could not be based on any scientific calculations, or on any knowledge of psychology, history, economics, politics, etc. This prevision of future events, unexplainable by any natural reasons and extending many years, decades, centuries and millenniums ahead was always one of serious arguments for the truth of the Christian religion. Let us give several examples of such predictions.

The Gospel according to Luke (written in 63 AD [1]) says that the Virgin Mary, in a state of particular spiritual zeal, says: "from henceforth all generations shall call Me blessed" (Luke 1:48). The Evangelist did not have any doubts about recording these words of the young Girl, though, in the natural order of things, doing so, and all the more so, being accepted by the subsequent generations of Christians, was equal to insanity. But what do we see? Ever since then and to this day, all Christian nations indeed glorify Her.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, we find prophecies of the Lord Jesus Christ about the future of His Gospel: "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Matt.24:14); about the destiny of the Jewish people and Jerusalem: "verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matt.23:35-38:24, 2; Luke 21:20-24:32) ("Matthew compiled his Gospel, most likely, about 62 AD" [2], but the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 70 AD); about the Church: "and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt.16:18); about the future of Christianity: "when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8); about the appearance of antichrists and false prophets (Matt.24:23-26; Luke 21:8); about the future persecutions of Christians (Luke 21:12-17); about the fact that "some … shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark 9:1; this refers to all the saints, beginning with the Virgin Mary and the Apostles, who "saw" both the glory and bliss of Christ’s Kingdom come with power within them before their deaths). Every contemporary person can see the fulfillment of these prophecies (and not just believe in them). We find the prophesy about the end of the world in the writings of the Apostle Peter (But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up — 2 Peter 3:10), which, in light of modern scientific and technical "possibilities," sounds sufficiently timely. Many of the prophesies of the Revelation of St. John the Theologian have a similar meaning (See, for example, chapter 16).

But, naturally, it is not always easy to differentiate between a true prophecy and a false one. An example, given by St. Hippolytus of Rome (III century) illustrates this well. He writes about one fully righteous bishop: "There was church hierarch in Ponta, a godly and humble man, but who did not study the Scriptures diligently, but trusted more in his visions. Having experienced success in one, two, three dreams, he ... once said in self-delusion that the Last Judgment would come year later... and he created such fear in these brothers, that they left their houses and fields, and many of them also destroyed their property... and later found themselves destitute." [3] Another no less demonstrative event took place with the brothers, who came to ask Venerable Anthony the Great about some prophecies given to them which did come true, but which, as it turned out, were also from demons. [4]

In connection with this, it is necessary to point out the distinctions between predictions of different kinds and true prophecies. False predictions, first of all, do not contain the main element — the stimulus to the moral change of a man and his spiritual renewal (repentance); secondly, they, with rare exceptions, simply do not come true (it is enough, for example, to check the percentage of accuracy of astrologers’ predictions); thirdly, the overwhelming majority of them have such a vague, indefinite character, that they can be understood any way one likes and be applied to a wide range of different events. In this respect, the admissions of Nostradamus (XVI century), one of the most famous prognosticators, are very revealing.

"I testify, — he writes, — that... the greater part of prophecies was accompanied by the movement of the heavenly firmament, and I saw as if in a shining mirror in a misty vision great, sad, astonishing and unfortunate events and adventures, which were converging on the most important cultures...." [5]

"I think that I can predict many events, if I will be able to conform innate instinct with the art of long calculations. But to do so it is necessary to have great spiritual balance, a state of mind predisposed to prophecies, and a soul freed from all concerns and worries. The greater part of my prophecies I predicted with the help of a bronze tripod "ex tripode oeneo," though many ascribe the possession of magic things to me...." [6]

"All the calculations are made by me in accordance with the movement of heavenly bodies and the interaction with feelings, enveloping me in hours of inspiration, and my moods and emotions were inherited by me from my ancient ancestors" (Nostradamus was a Jew). [7]

"And I unite much in the Divine with the movement and course of heavenly bodies. One gets the impression that it is as if you are looking through a lens and seeing great and sad events and tragic incidents as if in a fog...." [8]

This "confession" of Nostradamus does not leave doubts about the source of his astrological and computational "prophecies." This is magic and cabbalism.

The following fact shows to what degree his specific predictions came true. In his book "Centuries" he specified the exact date of the end of the world. It will occur in the year when Good Friday will be on St. George’s Feast Day, Easter on St. Mark’s Feast Day and the Feast Day of the Body of Christ on the Day of St. John the Baptist. This combination has already occurred repeatedly [9].

However, how can one explain the fact, that some predictions such as these nevertheless come true? One of reasons for this is, that each person, as the image of God, has a natural attribute of prevision, presentiment. And in some people, this attribute manifests itself to a particularly powerful degree. However, in a man, not purged of sinful lusts (carnality, vainglory, pride etc.) this attribute works as if you "are looking through a lens and seeing as if in a fog...." 

In addition, the overwhelming majority of these prognosticators, owing to their sinfulness, come (some unconsciously, other consciously) under the influence of the dark spirits of falsehood with all the consequences stemming from it. Therefore, all these kinds of predictions (of magicians, astrologists, sorcerers, fortunetellers, etc.), as a rule, are not only erroneous, but also disastrous. Many people, who believed them, came to bad ends. For this reason, the mutual voice of all the Church fathers forbid referring to them, believing them, spreading their "prophesies." "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt.15:14) of deceit, emotional and spiritual disorder, error, despair, to the point of suicide.

Miracles were of a great importance for the contemporaries of Christ and the apostles, and are still important to this day for persuasion in the Divine nature of the Christian Gospel.

A miracle should be understood as such an extraordinary influence of God on man or nature that, as a rule, it exceeds the bounds of known natural rules, and puts a man obviously and undoubtedly before the real presence of God. There are external miracles (the resurrection of the dead, the cessation of a storm, the healing of one incurable) and internal (moral rebirth, the sudden rise of firm faith in God, etc.). A true miracle is always accompanied by certain spiritual and moral changes of a man (repentance, thinking about God or, on the contrary, bitterness, theomachy) (compare Luke 19,8 and John 12,10). This is how it differs from the tricks, hallucinations, hypnosis, clairvoyance and "miracles" created by human fantasy (Buddha, for example, as proof of the verity of his teaching, reached the back of his head with the tip of his tongue; or, according to an apocryphal story, little Jesus Christ made birds of clay and then gave them life, etc.) that affect only man’s imagination, psyche and nerves, but do not change his moral and spiritual state, the nature of his life.

Venerable John Cassian of Rome names three reasons for miracles. "The first reason for healings — he writes, — is grace, performing miracles and given to chosen and righteous men ... The second reason is for the edification of the Church, or the faith of those who bring the ill to be healed or those who wish to be healed. In this case, the power of healings sometimes comes even from the unworthy and from sinners, about whom the Saviour speaks in the Gospel... (Matt.7:22-23) ... Healings of the third kind happen through delusion and the tricks of demons. A man, dedicated to evident vices, can sometimes perform astonishing deeds and therefore be treated as a saint and a servant of God... This occurs because demons, crying out the names of people, having no properties of holiness and no spiritual fruits, pretend that their holiness is scalding them, and they have to run away from those they are obsessed with." [10]

In connection with this, it is necessary to mention that one of the most important indications of a true miracle is the truly holy life of the person through whom it is performed. If there is no such life, particularly if there are facts testifying to the contrary, then, by the advice of the Church fathers, it cannot be accepted (see, for example, "About Miracles and Signs" by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, Vol. IV). There can be exceptions, when a true miracle is performed by a sinful man or even an animal (for example, the biblical event with the ass of Balaam) in the presence of faith and the retained ability to repent in those with, or before, whom a miracle takes place. Therefore, miracles are also performed in a non-Orthodox environment, and to this day, because God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). St. Ignatius presents, for example, the fact, that the water from the washed feet of a robber, whom nuns took for a holy hermit, healed a blind woman. [11]

At present, thousands of cases of the appearance of drops (clear, bloody, etc.) are reported on icons and iconic images of faces not even glorified by the Church (though an icon is an image only of one that the Church has declared a saint), on statues of Catholic saints. Thus in the USA, in one Catholic family, a 16-year-old girl has been lying immobile for 11 years. And so, the statues of the saints (catholic) in her room began to secrete myrrh. [12] In Italy, there are quite a few recorded cases of so-called myrrh-secreting sculptures of Catholic saints. (It is worth remembering that such ascetics of our Church as St. Ignatius and Theophan, the Venerable Ambrose of Optina and the Righteous John of Kronstadt spoke decidedly about the "delusion" of Catholic saints). And there are many similar events in history (Compare Exodus, Chapters 7-8). However, what does all this say? That even obvious supernatural facts by themselves do not yet confirm the holiness of those (person, confession, religion), through whom and where they take place, and that similar phenomena can take place either by the power of faith— "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29), or through the act of another spirit (See, for example, Acts 16:16-18), so that "if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24; 24), or, which is quite possible, by other, yet unknown reasons.

But false miracles, as a rule, take place with those, who either seek miracles, or consider themselves worthy to both see and receive them, who have fallen into self-conceit.

Here, for example, is a remarkable case, taking place in the life of one of the spiritual children of an ascetic of the 20-th century, Bishop Vasily (Basil Preobrazhensky, +1945).

"In the room of one of the bishop’s spiritual children – Eudoxia – the votive in front of her icon began to burn at midnight. Evidently, the Lord is calling me to prayer, — she thought, nevertheless doubtful whether to accept this phenomenon as blessed or false. And she had already felt the flattering spirit in her heart — you see what a praying person you are, the Lord Himself lights your votive.

The following night Eudoxia invited her acquaintance, Yekaterina Dmitriyevna. However, even in her presence, the votive lamp lit up by itself. Then she invited a third witness to spend the night in her house. The same thing occurred in her presence, too. At midnight, the votive lamp began to burn itself. This finally convinced Eudoxia to accept this phenomenon as blessed…

Having heard her out, the bishop said severely:

- No, this phenomenon is not blessed, but from the enemy, and because you accepted it as blessed, I shall impose a penance on you — do not partake of the Holy Mystery for a year. But the votive will no longer light by itself. Truly, from that day on, the votive did not light up" [13].

Therefore, it becomes clear why all the saints always treated all kinds of miracles, visions, dreams, revelations, myrrh-secreting, etc. with such great caution and prudent distrust. They insistently warn believers about hastily accepting all of this as God’s miracle, lest by reason of their credulity, accepting falsehood for truth, they would fall into a demonic trap.

St. Ignatius insistently warns against the fatality of credulity in miracles and seeking them: "In the course of time, with the gradual weakening of Christianity and the damage to morality, standard-bearing men were diminished. Finally, they dried up completely. In the meantime people, having lost veneration and respect for all that is sacred, having lost humility — which considers itself not only unworthy to perform miracles, but even to see them — crave them more than ever. People, in raptures of self-importance, self-sufficiency, ignorance, strive headlong, indiscriminately, towards everything miraculous, do not refuse to take part themselves in performing miracles, decide on this without a moment’s hesitation. This trend is more dangerous than ever before. We are gradually approaching that time, in which widespread shameful, numerous and striking false miracles will occur, and will carry away to perdition those unfortunate disciples of carnal philosophizing, who will be lured and fooled by these miracles." [14]

True miracles rarely take place. For the Church to recognize a miracle, careful research (Comp. Luke 1:3) of the uncommon phenomenon is needed by a competent church commission, and official approval of its findings by the Holy Synod (at the least, by the ruling bishop). This is necessary to protect the people against faith in mystics, mediums, mentally underdeveloped persons, impostors, and, of course, diabolical delusions. Until such confirmation, the question about a given phenomenon for a member of the Church must remain open, for "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (1Cor. 14:33).

In the history of the Church there were many true miracles, and throughout its existence they were one of those forces, owing to which Christianity, surrounded by deadly enemies: Jews and heathens, kings and commoners, slaves and free people, — conquered the greater part of the Universe. To this day, one of the most exciting miracles is revealed to a person who is becoming familiar with the Holy Scriptures, with the history of Christianity,— the miracle of the preservation and dissemination of the Christian faith among dire persecutions, the miracle of the existence of the Church.

These are the main signs of true common Revelation and some arguments, confirming its "unnatural" origin. Of course, its acknowledgement is conditional not only on the weightiness of the external arguments and proofs, but also on the sincerity of a person’s searching and his determination to follow the holiness, which is revealed in the Gospel.

Naturally, acceptance of the Old Testament proceeds from the acknowledgment of the Divine origin of the New Testament Revelation (Matt. 5:17-18). But "there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon..." (1 Cor.15:41).

[1] New Testament. Brussels, 1964. P. 420.

[2] Ibidem. P. 408.

[3] St. Hyppolite of Rome. Works Issue 1. Kazan. 1898. P. 129-130.

[4] Ancient Paterick Moscow 1874. Chapter 10 About Prudence, point. 2.

[5] Maxim Genin Nostradamus. Centuries. Selected fragments. Kharkov, 1991. P. 67-68.

[6] Ibidem. P. 152.

[7] Ibidem. P. 154.

[8] Ibidem. P. 155.

[9] See Brockhaus and Ephron. Vol. 41. Art. "Nostradamus."

[10] Venerable John Cassian Roman Scripture. Moscow.1892. P.440.

[11] St. Ignatius Brianchaninov. Letters About Ascetic Life (555 letters). No.90. М.1995.

[12] "Blagovest — INFO." No.3 (172). 1999.

[13] Vasily (Basil) (Preobrazhensky), Bishop of Kineshemsk. Discussions on the Gospel According to Mark. Moscow 1996. P. 12-13.

[14] St. Ignatius. Works. Vol.4. Saint Petersburg 1905. P.323-324.



§3. Individual revelation and its signs.

The issue of the verity of those religious experiences, phenomena and revelations that a believer can have is no less important. This issue touches upon the understanding of the essence of spiritual life and the conditions of cognition of "that" world, which is always accompanied by a huge risk: he who does not enter by the door, is subjected to the lot of thief and robber (John 10:1)! Curiosity, reverie, nonchalance in this area, attempts to enter into the spiritual world by any means, is equal to suicide. For example, it is well known that those actively practicing spiritualism, as a rule, either commit suicide, or become mentally ill. All other kinds of occultism also lead a person to this.

Unlawful infiltration of the spiritual world is extremely dangerous. The more so because it always gives birth to false revelations that allure inexperienced people, unfamiliar with the basics of spiritual life, and destroy them, spiritually and physically. As clear examples of such "revelations," one can point to prophecies, coming from the so called "Center of the Blessed Virgin" or "white brothers," the fantastic arbitrariness in interpreting Christianity of which eloquently enough testifies to the nature and merits of these "revelations." [15]

What, according to the Orthodox teaching, is necessary for "differentiating spirits"? A thorough and precise answer to this question is given by St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) in his article, "A Word about the Sensual and Spiritual Visions of Spirits." [16] Let us review its most essential thoughts.

The lawful way of entering the spiritual world and obtaining true knowledge (revelation) about it is a proper spiritual life, which presumes knowledge of the basics of the Orthodox faith and the principles of spiritual life. The main condition and sign of the correct spiritual state of a man is his realization of his abnormality, the peril of his current spiritual state and his powerlessness to become a new man in the image of Christ without God’s help. This gives birth to contrition of heart, true repentance and the most important thing in spiritual life — humility. St. Ignatius writes: "… The first spiritual vision is the vision of one’s own sins, hidden till now by oblivion and ignorance." [17] "A vision of our defects – is a safe vision! A vision of our fall and redemption – this is the most necessary vision" [18]. "All the saints considered themselves unworthy of God: by this, they showed their worthiness, consisting of humility." [19]

The Gospel calls all this spiritual poverty (Matt.5:3). Spiritual poverty is that necessary state of soul, only in the presence of which a person can obtain true revelation, true instructions for the way into God’s Kingdom. The Lord gives this revelation to a man only for the sake of his salvation, but not for satisfying the curiosity of a vain mind and empty heart, desiring to know "what is there".

But "the world of spirits was revealed only to perfect Christians, — St. Ignatius writes, — consisting mainly of monks, who were permitted to see it with spiritual eyes: but there were only a few such Christians even in the most flourishing periods of monasticism, according to the testimony of the Ven. Macarius the Great. A property of all visions, sent by God, — notes St. John the Ladder — is that that they bring humility and deep emotion to the soul; they fill it with awe of God, the consciousness of their sinfulness and insignificance. On the contrary, visions, which we invade voluntarily, against God’s will, lead us to vainglory, conceit, brings joy which is nothing other than the satisfaction of our vanity and self-importance." [20]

The nature of the revelation itself also says much in determining its verity. If, before the fall, the man was able to see spirits directly and communicate with them, then in his present state their appearance is possible only at God’s special discretion and in times of absolute need [21], with the goal of reforming and saving a man. Therefore all the Church fathers and ascetics, experienced in spiritual life, decidedly warn a Christian about the possibility of falling into so called self-delusion, i.e. in spiritual self-deception, in the state of which man accepts his neuro-psychic, and often demonic stimulations and false visions generated by them, as God’s revelations.

Thus, Venerable Symeon the New Theologian (XI century) says, that "those who see light with their physical eyes, smell incense with their sense of smell, hear voices with their ears, etc. deceive themselves." [22] The Venerable Gregory of Sinai (XIV c.) reminds us: "Never accept anything you see that is sensual or spiritual, outside or inside, even if it were the image of Christ, or an angel, or one of the saints... He who accepts this ... is easily deceived... God will not be indignant with anyone who heeds to himself, if he does not accept something that is from Him for fear of being deceived, ... but compliments him even more, as one who is wise." [23] St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (XIX c.) warns: "Christian ascetic teachers order us not to pay special attention to any phenomenon that presents itself to spiritual and physical feelings; they order us to observe prudent aloofness and salutary caution during all phenomena." [24] "The Holy Fathers command ascetics to pray when such phenomena take place without or within, to be indifferent to them and not to listen to them, to consider themselves unworthy of seeing something holy. They say, on the one hand, not to condemn the phenomena, so as not to condemn the holy, but on the other hand — not to place any faith in the phenomenon, by hastily considering it to be true, so as not to fall into the net of the evil spirit." [25]

At present, when false mysticism and all sorts of "miracles" take place all over the world (in the USA, for example, almost 70% of the population claims that they had experience with extrasensory perception, and 42% communicated with the dead), it is especially important to remember these appeals of the holy fathers. Why would a person to fall into such a state? The fathers reply: "All kind of demonic delusions… result from the fact that repentance is not laid in the foundation of prayer, that repentance did not become the source, soul, goal of prayer." [26]

The Venerable Isaac of Syria points out another important reason. This is the search for, the anticipation of blessed feelings, visions and others. Pointing to the words of Savior: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation" (Luke 17:20), that is, conspicuously — this great teacher of monasticism says: "What we look for with observation, which I understand as being God’s high gifts, does not have the approval of God’s Church; and those who accepted them acquired pride and downfall. And this is not a sign that a person loves God, but is a spiritual illness." [27]

Holy Bishop Ignatius, continuing the thought of the Venerable Isaac, wrote: "All the beguiled considered themselves worthy of God; and in this way revealed the pride and demonic delusion that enveloped their souls. Some of them accepted demons that appeared as angels and followed them; to others, demons appeared as themselves, and portrayed themselves as defeated by their prayers, which led the people into self-importance; others stimulated their imagination, heated their blood, produced nervous movements in themselves, mistook this for blessed pleasure and fell into self-delusion, into total darkness, and, in spirit, joined the ranks of the outcast spirits." [28]

Very clear examples of the kind of "revelations" that those being in self-delusion can come to, can be found in the lives of Roman-Catholic mystics. [29]

The state of self-delusion is characterized by fanaticism, exaltation. [30] According to the resolute assurances of Sts. Ignatius Brianchaninov and Theophan Govorov, as well as the Optina elders, the well known book by Thomas a Kempis (XV c.) The Imitation of Christ, and a great many other Catholic and Protestant-sectarian religious literature were written in the state of delusion. [31] The reasons of this assessment will become understandable.

Thus, Francis of Assisi (+1226), one of the most famous Catholic saints, prays for a long time (and the subject of the prayer is very revealing here) "for two mercies": "The first — is that I… could… experience all of the sufferings that You, Most Sweet Jesus, experienced in Your agonizing passions. And the second mercy... — is that ... I could feel… that unlimited love, with which You Burned, O Son of God." (Francis was not concerned about his sinfulness and unworthiness, but makes undisguised claims about equality with Christ!) During this prayer Francis "felt himself completely turned into Jesus," Whom he saw at the same time in the image of a six-winged Seraphim. After the vision, painful bleeding wounds (stigmas) — traces of "Jesus’ sufferings," appeared on Francis’ hands and feet [32].

The nature of these stigmas is well known in psychiatry: uninterrupted concentration of attention on Christ’s sufferings on the Cross overstimulates man’s nerves and psyche, and after extended exercises may result in this phenomenon. There is nothing blessed here, because in this compassion of Christ there is no true love, about the essence of which the Lord said straightforwardly: "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (John 14:21). Therefore, the substitution of the struggle with one’s "old man" with the dreamy experience of "compassion" is one of greatest mistakes in spiritual life, one that used to lead and leads many ascetics to self-importance, arrogance – to apparent self-delusion, often connected to direct mental disorders (Compare Francis’ sermons to birds, wolves, turtle-doves, snakes, flowers, his awe before fire, stones, worms).

The very goal of life that Francis set for himself ("I worked and want to work… because it brings honor" [33], I want to suffer for others and atone for the sins of others [34]), testifies that he did not see his fall, his sins, i.e. to his complete spiritual blindness. His words at the end of his life are not accidental: "I am aware of no sin, for which I had not atoned with confession and repentance." [35] And his dying words: "I fulfilled that, which I had to fulfill." [36]

For comparison, let us give the same dying moment of the life of the Ven. Sisoes the Great (V c). "Surrounded by the brothers at the moment of his death, at the moment, when he appeared to be communicating with invisible beings, to the question of the brothers: "Father, tell us, with whom are you speaking?" Sisoes replied: "Angels came to take me, but I am praying to them, so that they would leave me for a short period of time for repentance." But when the brothers, knowing his perfection in virtues, objected: "There is no need for you to repent, Father," — Sisoes replied in this way: "Truly, I do not know if I even began my repentance." [37] This deep understanding of his imperfection is the main distinguishing feature of all true saints, and the most important sign of the verity of revelations received by them.

Here are extracts from "The Revelations of the Blessed Angela" — also a Catholic saint (+1309). [38]

The Holy Spirit tells her: "My daughter, My sweet, I love you very much" (p. 95): "I was with the Apostles, and they saw Me with physical eyes, but did not feel Me the way you do" (p. 96). And Angela herself discovers: "I see the Holy Trinity in gloom, and in the Trinity Itself, Which I see in gloom, it seems to me that I stand and abide in Its center" (p. 117). Her relationship to Jesus Christ she expresses, for example, in these words: "I cried and wanted to die of His sweetness and of the sorrow at His departure" (p. 101) — and at this she began to beat herself in rage so, that the nuns often had to carry her out the Catholic church (p. 83). Or: "I could bring all of myself inside Jesus Christ" (p. 176).

A. F. Losev, one of the most prominent Russian religious thinkers of the 20th century, gives a harsh, but correct, appraisal of Angela’s "revelations." He writes, in particular: "Temptation and seduction of the flesh leads to the fact, that the Holy Spirit and appears to blessed Angela and whispers to her these amorous words: "My daughter, My sweet, My daughter, My Temple, My daughter, My delight, love Me, because I love you very much, much more than you love Me." The saint is in a sweet languor, cannot sit still because of amorous languors. While the beloved keeps appearing and appearing, more and more heating her body, her heart, her blood. Christ’s Cross She imagines the bride-bed as Christ’s cross...

What can be more contradictory to the Byzantine-Muscovite harsh and chaste asceticism, than these constant blasphemous statements: "My soul was accepted into uncreated light and exalted," — these passionate gazes at Christ’s Cross, Christ’s wounds and separate parts of His Body, this forcible evoking of bloody spots on her own body and so on and so forth? On top of it all, Christ hugs Angela with the arm which is nailed to the Cross, and she, completely drained by languoring, sufferings and happiness, says: "Sometimes, it seems to my soul that it enters into Christ’s side from this tight embrace. And the joy and irradiation it receives there is impossible to describe. For they are so great, that I could not stand on my feet, but I lay and my tongue became paralyzed... and I lay, and my tongue and parts of my body were paralyzed." [39]

The experience of another great Catholic saint, "Teacher of the Church" Teresa of Avila (XVI c.) (elevated by Pope Paul VI (†1978) to Teacher of the Church) is no less revealing. She became so carried away by "revelations," that did not see the demonic deceit even in such a disgraceful vision as the following.

After many appearances "christ" says to Teresa: "From now on you will be My wife... I am henceforth not only your Creator, your God, but also your Husband." [40] "Lord, either to suffer with You, or to die for You!" — Teresa prays and falls utterly exhausted under this petting, her eyes roll up, she breathes more and more frequently and her whole body shudders. If a wicked, but experienced in love, woman, — Merezhkovsky writes, — saw her at that moment, she would understand what it meant, and would only be surprised that there was no man with Teresa; and if this woman was also experienced in sorcery, she would think that Teresa was with the evil spirit whom sorcerers and witches call "incubus" [41] "The Beloved calls my soul with such a strident whistle, —Teresa recalls, — that one cannot help but hear it. This call acts on the soul in such a way that it becomes exhausted from desire." [42] Before her death she exclaims again: "Oh, my God, my Husband, finally I will see You!" It is not by chance that the well-known American psychologist William James, assessing her mystical experience, wrote that, "her ideas on religion boiled down to, if one may say so, to the never-ending amorous flirting between a worshipper and his divinity." [43]

Another illustration of the Catholic Church’s complete loss of the Church Fathers’ criteria in understanding spiritual life are the revelations of 23-year-old Therese of Lisieux (Little Therese, or Therese Child of Jesus) — the last of the highest Catholic saints in time. In 1997, in connection with the hundredth anniversary of her death, she was declared a Teacher (!) of the Universal Church, by the "infallible" decision of Pope John Paul II. Her autobiography, The Story of One Soul, eloquently testifies to what she teaches the Church. Below are several quotations from that book.

"During the discussions preceding my tonsure, I described the activity that I was planning to perform in Carmel: "I came to save souls and first of all — to pray for priests" [44]. (She did not come to the monastery to save herself, but others!)

Speaking, as it may seem, of her unworthiness, she also writes: "I maintain the constant daring hope that I will become a great saint... I thought that I was born for fame and looked for ways to achieve it. And here the Lord God ... revealed to me, that my glory will not be revealed to mortal view, and the essence of that is that I will become a great saint!" [45] (Not one saint ever had the "daring hope" that he would become "a great saint." Macarius the Great, who was called an "earthly god" by his contemporary ascetics for the rare height of life, prayed: "O God, cleanse me, a sinner, for I have never done anything good in Thy sight".) Later, Therese was to write even more frankly, "In the heart of my Mother-Church, I will be Love…then I will be for everyone… and this way my dream will come true!" [46]

And here is the love by which the Teacher Teresa lives and teaches her church. "It was the kiss of love. I felt myself beloved and said: "I love You and entrust myself to You forever." There were no requests, no struggles, no sacrifices; Jesus and poor little Teresa, having looked at each other, understood everything long ago... That day brought not the exchange of looks, but a confluence, when there were no longer two, and Teresa disappeared, like a drop of water lost in the ocean depths." [47] This love needs no commentary.

The experience of Ignatius of Loyola (XVI century), one of the pillars of Catholic mysticism, the founder of the Jesuit order and a great Catholic saint, is based on the methodological development of imagination. His book "Spiritual Exercises," in the presence of which, according to his words, "even the Gospel becomes superfluous," [48] is considered very authoritative in Catholicism. Imagining Christ crucified, the attempt to penetrate the world of His feelings and sufferings, mental conversations with the Crucified etc. all this fundamentally contradicts the basics of spiritual exploit, as it is given in the lives of the saints of the Universal Church. Loyola’s method leads to complete spiritual and, quite often, mental disorder of the ascetic, and hence to any possible "revelations." Below are some short extracts from "Spiritual Exercises."

Contemplation of "the first day of the incarnation of God the Word" consists of several preludes. The first one is to "picture, as if it were happening before your eyes, the entire historical course of the mysteries of incarnation, in particular: how Three Divine Hypostases of the Holy Trinity look upon this earth... how the Holy Trinity, touched by the suffering, decides to send the Word... how... the archangel Gabriel appears as a messenger to the blessed Virgin Mary."

The second prelude consists "of vividly imagining the place... where the Holy Virgin lives."

The third prelude is "a prayer about knowing... the mystery of the incarnation of the Word...." [49]

Another example of contemplation is — conversation with Christ. "This conversation — Loyola teaches — takes place when a person imagines Jesus Christ before him, crucified on the Cross..." "Having directed my gaze on the crucified Jesus, I will tell Him everything that my mind and heart suggest... The real conversation can be compared to a conversation between two friends...." [50]

The authoritative collection of ascetic writings of the ancient Church, the "Philokalia" decidedly forbids these kind of "spiritual exercises," that are related to imagination, visualization and conversations with the crucified Christ. Below are several statements from there.

The Venerable Nil of Sinai (V c.) warns: "Do not desire to see angels or powers, or Christ, physically, lest you should go mad, having taken a wolf for a shepherd, and bowing to enemies-demons." [51]

Venerable Symeon the New Theologian (XI c.), reasoning about those who "imagine heaven’s blessings, the ranks of angels and the dwelling places of saints" while praying, says openly, that "this is a sign of self-delusion." "Those who are on this path, who see light with their bodily eyes, smell sweet things with their olfactory senses, and hear voices with their ears etc. deceive themselves." [52]

The Venerable Gregory of Sinai (XIV c.) reminds us: "Never accept anything you see that is sensual or spiritual, outside or inside, even if it were the image of Christ, or an angel, or one of the saints... He who accepts this ... is easily deceived... God will not be indignant with anyone who heeds to himself, if he does not accept something that is from Him for fear of being deceived, ... but compliments him even more, as one who is wise." [53]

The examples above show that the violation of spiritual laws inevitably results in deep distortions of the consciousness and feelings (heart) of a man. He becomes part of the world of the fallen spirits, the spirits of falsehood and error. This leads to false visions, false revelations and self-delusion. And since nobody is protected from spiritual blindness and hidden pride, the invariable and firm rule of the Church is not to accept any revelations, but to be in penance and humility.

[15] See, for example: MOSCOW PATRIARCHY JOURNAL. 1992. No.6. "About false teachings...."

[16] Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Works. Saint Petersburg 1905. Vol.3.

[17] Ibidem. P. 56.

[18] Ibidem. Vol. 2. P. 59.

[19] Ibidem. P. 126.

[20] Ibidem. Vol. 3. P. 18.

[21] Ibidem. Vol. 3. P. 18.

[22] Venerable Symeon the New Theologian. About Three Types of Prayer // Philokalia, Vol. 5. Moscow 1900. P. 463-464.

[23] Venerable Gregory of Sinai. Admonitions to Those Keeping Silence // Ibidem. P.224.

[24] Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Works Vol.2. P.17.

[25] St. Ignatius. Collection of Letters. Moscow. — Saint Petersburg 1995. Letter No.290.

[26] Works. Vol. 1. P. 255.

[27] Venerable Isaac of Syria. Ascetic Words. Moscow, 1858. Word 55. P.372.

[28] Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Works. Vol. 2. P. 126.

[29] See the description of Catholic mystics, for example, in the book, Pillar and Affirmation of the Truth by Priest P. Florensky. Note 400.

[30] Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Works Vol. 1. P. 559.

[31] Ibidem. Vol. 4. P. 499.

[32] Lodyzhensky, M. V. Invisible Light. Petersburg 1915. Ibidem. P. 109.

[33] Saint Francis of Assisi. Works. М. Publication of the Franciscans. 1995. P.145.

[34] Ibidem. P.20.

[35] Lodyzhensky. P. 129.

[36] Lodyzhensky. Ibidem. P. 112.

[37] Lodyzhensky. Ibidem. P. 133.

[38] The Revelations of Blessed Angela. Moscow, 1918.

[39] Losev A.F. Essays about Ancient Symbolism and Mythology. Moscow 1930. Vol. 1. P. 867-868.

[40] Merezhkovsky D. R. Spanish Mystics. Brussels, 1988. P. 88.

[41] Ibidem. P. 73.

[42] Ibidem. P. 69.

[43] James, W. The Many Varieties of Religious Experience. /Translated from English. Moscow. 1910. P. 337.

[44] The Story of One Soul. //Symbol. 1996. No.36. Paris. P.151.

[45] Ibidem. P. 90.

[46] Ibidem. P. 183.

[47] Ibidem. P. 95.

[48] Bykov A. A., Ignatius Loyola. His Life and Public Activity. Saint Petersburg, 1890. P. 28.

[49] Lodyzhensky М. P. Invisible Light. Petersburg, 1915. P. 139-140.

[50] Ibidem. P. 140.

[51] Venerable Nil of Sinai. 153 Chapters about Prayer. Chapter 115 // Philokalia: in 5 volumes. Vol. 2. 2-nd edition. Moscow, 1884. P. 237.

[52] Venerable Symeon the New Theologian. About Three Types of Prayer // Philokalia. Vol. 5. Moscow

[53] Venerable Gregory of Sinai, Admonitions to Those Keeping Silence//Ibidem. P. 224


§4. Exorcism.

Self-delusion, i.e. an exaggerated opinion of oneself, not seeing one’s own spiritual squalor, a "humble" feeling of being able to receive revelations, reveals itself in the most varied forms. Most often these are daring attempts at making prophesies, the absolute spiritual governing of people (false eldership), of performing miracles and signs and so on. One of these deeds, spreading in the last two-three decades, is the so-called practice of adjuration (exorcism).

Individual priests practice it, usually without a bishop’s blessing, without which, as it is known, a priest in principle does not have the right to perform any religious rite. The referrals of modern exorcists to a confessor’s blessing are frank self-justification, inasmuch as the lack of a bishop’s benediction turns any religious rite, and especially exorcism (as an exceptional deed, not part of the usual range of a priest’s duties), into an anti-canonic and sinful deed, disastrous for both the exorcist and the ill. The Laodicean Council (364) resolved: "Those not blessed by bishops should adjure neither in churches, nor in homes..." (Rule 26). A very important sign of the spiritual state of exorcizing priests is the fact that it is not their confessors that bless them to perform this, but they themselves ask for their benediction for it.

Exorcism did take place among the first Christians in an era of extraordinary gifts. However, even then, only those Christians adjured demons who received this gift from the Holy Spirit. They acted by God’s will, and not at their own discretion. In the letter of the Holy Bishop Clement of Rome (I c.) "About chastity," ascetics-exorcists are ordered to "...visit those obsessed with evil spirits and pray over them. Let them adjure with fasting and prayer, not with flowery, selected and refined words, but like men who received the gift of healing from God." This gift of the Holy Spirit was rare, while in those times many wanted to banish demons, in connection with which even the "Apostolic Rules" (III century) banned the appointment of exorcists, justifying this by saying that, "the glorious exploit of adjuration is a deed of the voluntary, kind inclination and God’s grace through Christ, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because one who receives the gift of healing is revealed through revelations from God, and the grace, which is in him, is obvious to all." Exorcists are no longer mentioned in the East in the fifth century. [54]

The Orthodox Church always followed Christ’s words: "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt.17:21), i.e. by a strict ascetic life. A proper life leads a Christian to humility, the achievement of impassivity. And only to a few of these did the Lord give the gift of defeating evil spirits. All other adjurers, regardless of their religious rank, are, according to the teaching of the Fathers, deceived and deceiving, covering up the absence of God’s gift by a benediction by a coaxed-out request.

In the Lavsaik we read: abba Pitirion "had many discussions with us, and reasoned with particular force about the discernment of spirits, saying, that some demons monitor our passions and often turn them to evil. Thus, children, he told us, he who wants to cast out demons, must first of all enslave his own: because the passion one defeats, that demon will he cast out. Little by little you must enslave your passions, in order to cast out the demons of these passions." [55] Venerable Barsanuphius the Great said: "Not everyone can contradict the devil, but only the strong in God, whom demons obey; if one among the weak will contradict him, the demons will revile him, because he contradicts them while being in their power. And forbidding them is also a deed of great men, having power over them. Did many of the saints forbid the devil, like the Archangel Michael, who did this, because he had the power? We, the weak, can only turn to Jesus’ name." [56]

It turns out that, by not having achieved impassivity, nor having obtained the gift of the Holy Spirit for casting out demons, one cannot perform this frightening deed, externally imitating the great saints! Only an impassive person can enter into open battle with the spirits of darkness without harming the ill or himself. However, even in ancient times, there were few such individuals [57], and there is no need to even speak about the present. In addition, saints, as a rule, healed and cast out demons "simply" through prayer, mostly internal, invisible to others, rarely — by external prayer (See the prayers of St. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom) during the administering, for example, of the mysteries of Penance, Anointing, Eucharist, but without any special adjuring order of service [58], inasmuch as that had a place before the mystery of Baptism. [59]

The great ascetic, Saint Isaac of Syria (VII century), warned self-authorized exorcists: "You come to teach those who are already six thousand years old. And this (your impudent contradiction) serves them as a weapon, with which they can defeat you in spite of all your wisdom and all your prudence." [60] In another word he says: "He, who … prays to God and wishes that miracles and powers be in his hands, is being tempted in his mind by the abuser-demon and turns out to be boastful and weak in his conscience" [61]

The following is important as well. According to the thoughts of the Fathers, demonic possession is permitted by God in people, for whom this path is the best one for obtaining humility and salvation. Therefore, the saints did not pray for the health of everyone, but only for those whom the Lord Himself pointed to and for whom the healing would be beneficial. Because freeing the body from the power of the evil spirit, without the corresponding freeing of the soul, can have the most negative consequences for a person. " Those released from demons, — according to Saint Theophylactus of Bulgaria, — are even worse afterwards, if they don’t reform." [62] Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov) wrote in one of his letters: "Remember sick D. in your prayers, who is delivered by God’s will unto Satan, so that her spirit can be saved... From a spiritual perspective, such a punishment from God does not at all serve as a poor testimony about a person: many great saints were delivered to Satan... Demonic possession is less important than accepting some hostile thought, that can destroy a soul forever." [63] St. John Chrysostom said: "Meanwhile, being burdened by a demon is not cruel at all, because the demon can in no way cast one into Gehenna, but if we are vigilant, this temptation will bring us bright and glorious wreaths, when we will endure such assaults with gratitude." [64]

The conversation between a novice and the elder, Archpriest Alexius Zaraisky, about a possessed girl, is very edifying in this respect. "I asked F. Alexius, why he does not cast the demon out of her, and he answered me: how can he know if that is God’s will? She receives Holy Communion, and if it is necessary, Christ, Whom she receives, has the power to cast him out Himself; but if it serves her a purifying cross, then why cast him out?" [65]

It is necessary to pay attention to the following. The Lord forbad demons to speak through possessed people, and the holy fathers categorically forbad listening to them. But now, when many people gather for "exorcism," demons receive great chances to "preach" and infect them with the spirit of craftiness, pride, lust, etc. Their "sermon" is widely spread with the help of TV, newspapers, magazines, in which the lies of these spirits are widely cited. Moreover, demons quite often portray fear before the exorcising "elders," publicly calling them saints, strong, God’s servants, and in doing so lead both the "elders" themselves, and the simple-hearted believers, into deceit (self-delusion). Venerable John Cassian of Rome has a serious warning about this: "Sometimes demons perform miracles in order to make a person haughty, who believes that he has a wonderful gift, so as to prepare him for an even more miraculous fall. They pretend that they burn and run from those bodies, where they had abided, allegedly owing to the holiness of those, whose uncleanness they know." [66]

The above-mentioned statements of saints eloquently testify about their attitude towards the modern serious issue of healing the possessed. One can draw an evident conclusion from these thoughts of the holy fathers: modern exorcism (adjuration) — is a phenomenon that is very dangerous spiritually. It does not come from the charismatic period of Christianity, when the Holy Spirit worked visibly in believers, but from the source, about which the Venerable Cassian spoke well: "But he who wants to rule over evil spirits, or miraculously heal the sick, or show wonderful signs before people, though he calls Christ’s name, is alien to Christ because is filled with pride, and does not follow the Teacher of humility... That is why our fathers never called those monks who wanted to be regarded as adjurers as good and free from the infection of vainglory." [67]

The desire to obtain health and other creature comforts by any means, no matter how harmful it can be for the soul, is a great temptation for man. Exorcism illustrates that very graphically. Modern people simply do not know the risk to which they expose their relatives and themselves when attending an "adjuration". And a priest, not having received "by prayer and fasting" the gift of casting out demons from God, and trying himself, by means of reading prayers and performing other actions, to defeat evil spirits, eloquently testifies about himself. St. Ignatius wrote with bitterness about such "miracle-workers": " Spiritually ruinous play-acting and the most sorrowful comedy – are elders, who assume the role of ancient holy Elders, while not having their spiritual gifts." [68]

Adjuration of spirits in our days, when "godly man ceaseth" can have the most disastrous spiritual, mental and physical consequences, both in personal and social aspects, both for the sick themselves and, naturally, for the adjurers. The Venerable Ambrose of Optina said: "If you don’t want sorrows, don’t take up helping those possessed with demons." The Venerable Symeon of Euchait advises to avoid those possessed by evil spirits." [69]. A priest, daring to cast out (adjure) evil spirits by "Jesus, Whom Paul preaches" (Acts 19:13), runs the risk of subjecting himself to similar abuse from them, about which the book of Acts relates providentially, and exposes the possessed to even greater illnesses and tortures. [70].


[54] More detail on this: Uspensky N.D. Byzantine Liturgy // Theological Works. Collection 21. P. 31.

[55] Lavsaik. Moscow 1992. P. 126-127.

[56] Ibidem. P. 223. Question 301.

[57] See, St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works Vol.1. Saint Petersburg 1905. P. 274.

[58] One can give many examples of this. See one of them in the life description of the Venerable Hieromonk Ilarion of Optina (Edition of Vvedenskaya Optina Pustyn, 1993. P.190).

[59] "No adjuring prayers are necessary: they are read over each of you during Holy Baptism. One must submit oneself to God’s will and admit oneself worthy of any human and demonic induction..." (St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), Collection of Letters, Moscow 1995. P.217-218).

[60] Venerable Isaac of Syria. Ascetic Words. Moscow 1993. P. 137. Word 30.

[61] Ibidem. Word 36. P. 225.

[62] St. Theophylactus of Bulgaria, Interpretations to Matt.12:43-45.

[63] St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Collection of Letters, Moscow 1995. P. 217-218.

[64] Saint Petersburg1897. Vol.3.Book 1. P.341.

[65] Novice Symeon. The Voyage of a Fragile Boat Over the Worldly Sea. Moscow 2000. P. 72.

[66] Quoted from: Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose). Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. P. 213.

[67] Venerable John Cassian of Rome Writings. Moscow 1892. P. 445.

[68] Ibidem. P. 72.

[69] Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God. Kolomna 1995. P. 299.

[70] A special office for adjuring evil spirits, contained in the Book of Needs of Metropolitan Peter Moghila of Kiev (XVII), has a Catholic origin. In the Russian Church, it did not receive any practical acceptance and priests never adjured. Moreover, saints who had the gift of the Holy Spirit did not perform it. They healed with prayer, and only those that the Lord directed them to. Only at the end of 20th century, because of the great decline in spiritual life, individual priests performed the so-called adjuration, developing a special office.



§5. Assessment of the Natural Knowledge of God [71].

Although heathen nations were left to "walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16), however, God "left not Himself without witness" (Acts 14:17). Even heathens "seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him" (Acts 17:27). Some researchers believe that heathenism, excluding separate and limited eras and social groups, is remarkable for "intense religiosity that stirs and even amazes upon contact with it." [72] The heathens always had "the work of the law written in their hearts," "their conscience also bearing witness" (Romans 2:15), declaring their moral duties towards God and neighbors. God also opened Himself to heathens to the extent of their understanding.

St. Justin the Philosopher says, that the Logos worked not only "through Socrates among the Hellenes," but also "among barbarian nations" [73] . "All have seeds of the Truth." [74] "Christ is the Word, to which the whole human race is connected. Those who lived according to the Word are Christians, even though they were considered to be pagans, — such are Socrates, Heraclites, etc. among the Hellenes." [75] "In any nation, — says St. Justin the Philosopher, — there are people who believe in Christ and await Him." [76] Clement of Alexandria wrote: the Lord gave Greeks philosophy, as a step towards "philosophy in Christ," it served them as a kind of Old Testament. [77]

Searching for God is a natural need of a man with a living soul. And many, seeking God on the paths of philosophy and in various religions, came to Orthodoxy. Clear examples of unselfish seeking of God in the 20-th century are the ascetics: the Russian hegumen Nikon Vorobyev (+1963) and the American hieromonk Seraphim Rose (+1982), who came to Orthodoxy though the jungles of atheism, science and philosophy.

However, quite often the person’s searching ends with nothing other than "philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col.2:8). This happens with those who seek not the meaning of life and life concordant with this meaning, but for the diversion of the mind: "philosophy for the sake of philosophy," "theology for the sake of theology." This is a widespread illness of the spiritually weak components of clergy, theologians and intellectuals. Such are not interested in the experience and works of true philosophers, the greatest lovers of Wisdom — holy fathers, but in issues, having nothing to do with real spiritual life, salvation. It seems, and it is not difficult to understand, that "for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" (1Cor.13; 12). However, the heathen consciousness goes through the strait gate and broad way (Matt.7:13) of religious-philosophic and theological games, losing its life in them, falling for them themselves and enticing others.

The consequences to which they lead a person can be shown using Buddhism and Hinduism as examples.

Buddha (†483 BC) impresses on his followers: "Do not look for support in anything but yourselves: shine yourselves for yourselves, leaning on nothing but yourselves" [78]. And the following he says about himself: "I am all-knowing, I have no teacher; nobody is equal to me; in the world of men and of gods no being is like me. I am holy in this world, I am the teacher, I alone am the Absolute Myself — Buddha. I have gained peace (by the extinction of all passion) and have obtained Nirvana..." [79]. The ancient temptation "be as gods" (Genesis 3:5) speaks for all to hear, in total candor.

The same thing can be seen in yoga and in the most authoritative modern Hindu system — Vedanta. In one of the Hindu hymns, "Song of Sanyasin" there is the following passionate exclamation on behalf of man: "There is no more birth, neither "I", nor "you", neither mortal, nor God! I will become all; all will become "I" and not marred happiness!" [80]

The most authoritative preacher of Vedanta, Swami (teacher) Vivekananda (†1902) recommends the following spiritual instructions to his followers: "Reminders of our weaknesses, — Vedanta says, — will not help; we need cures. The purpose of the cure from weakness is not to make a person constantly think that he is weak, but to make him think about his strength. Tell him about power that is already in him." Instead of telling people that they are sinners, Vedanta teaches the opposite: "You are clean and perfect, and everything that you call sin is not yours… Never say, "I can’t." This cannot be, because you are eternal... You can do everything, you are almighty" [81]. Or this admonition: "The best person is the one who dares to say about himself: "I know everything about myself"... Listen day and night, that you are a Soul. Repeat it to yourself day and night, until this thought enters your blood, and will sound with each beat of your heart... Let your body be filled with this one thought: "I am unborn, immortal, blessed, omniscient, eternally beautiful Soul..." Assimilate this thought and be filled with the awareness of your might, greatness and glory. God grant that an opposite superstition should never enter your head." "Do you really consider yourself weak? It is not good to consider oneself a sinner, weak. Tell this to the world, tell this to yourself..." [82]. And it is not enough to know it, to realize it, one must feel it through deeply: "Feel like Christ, — and you will become Christ; feel like Buddha, — and you will be Buddha" [83].

"What else does religion have, that one should learn? — Vivekananda exclaims and answers: "The unity of the Universe and faith in one’s own self is the only thing one must know" [84]. "Vedanta says, that there is no God except man. This can amaze you at first, but little by little, you will understand. The Living God is in you, while you build churches and temples and believe in all kinds of fictitious nonsense. The only God to worship is the human soul or human body" [85].

The above-mentioned statements show clearly enough the essence of Hindu mysticism of Vedanta. This is a cult of frank, satanic pride ("Be filled with the awareness of your might, greatness and glory"!), angrily denying existence of One God ("there is no God except man... while you believe in nonsense"!) and, naturally, leading to obvious madness ("Feel like Christ, — and you will be Christ"! Is this not the same path that Francis of Assisi took, who also "felt himself completely turned into Jesus"?).

In the assessment of the natural knowledge of God, the Holy Scriptures and Church Tradition are the only reliable criteria, enabling one to distinguish the true from the false. The intuitive feeling of God, present in the soul of each man, mind, imagination, desires, without the firm ground of Revelation from God under them, easily give birth to all sorts of ideas about God and, respectively, religions. Therefore, natural knowledge of God even in its highest achievements always suffers from great vagueness, anthropomorphism and deep distortions in the understanding of God, the spiritual world, man [86].

The works of the Orthodox Church fathers can provide invaluable assistance in assessing the various ideas that are born on the path of the natural searching for God, the essence of teaching and experience of which are especially accessible, deeply and precisely set forth for modern man by the Holy Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov in his works and letters.

[71] See in detail Ch. VI. Heathenism.

[72] Bulgakov. Non-evening light. Moscow 1917, P. 327. Compare: Arsenyev N. R. In Search of the Absolute God (From the history of religious thought of the ancient world). Moscow 1910, P. 3.

[73] Apologia 1, 5. // Monuments of Ancient Christian Writings, Vol. 4, Moscow 1863, P. 25.

[74] Apologia 1, 44, P. 83).

[75] Apologia 1, 46 // Monuments of Ancient Christian Writings, vol. 4, Moscow 1983, P. 85.

[76] Apologia 1, 56, P. 96.

[77] Stromata. IV, 8.

[78] Kozhevnikov V.A. Buddhism Compared to Christianity: In 2 volumes. Pg., 1916. Vol. 1. P. 175.

[79] Kochetov A.N. Buddhism. Moscow 1968. P. 84.

[80] Vivekananda Swami. Jnana Yoga. Saint Petersburg, 1914. P. 8.

[81] Ibidem. P. 275.

[82] Ibidem. P. 277, 279.

[83] Ibidem. P. 283.

[84] Ibidem. P. 278.

[85] Ibidem. P. 299.

[86] See, for example, Glagolyev R. R. Supernatural Revelation and Natural Knowledge of God Outside the Church. Kharkov, 1900.


VI. Heathenism.

The Russian term for "heathenism" is "yazychestvo," from the Church Slavonic word "yazyk," meaning "a people." In the era of the Old Testament, Jews called all other nations heathen, giving this word a negative evaluation of the nations themselves and their religious beliefs, customs, moral, culture etc. The term "heathenism" came to the Christian vocabulary from the Jews. However, in Christianity, it no longer means anything connected with a nation or race. It denotes religious teachings and ideologies, having a number of definite indications (see below). Heathenism has two main categories: religious and non-religious. The first represents what is usually called the natural knowledge of God (see above), and includes all religions and religious beliefs that do not accept the Bible as a source of supernatural Revelation. The second is all other non-Christian worldly views.

Heathenism... is falsely religious and falsely spiritual. It is a distortion, perversion, corruption of the true faith, inherent to the human race from the beginning, and, at the same time, an excruciating attempt to get out of spiritual distress, so-called, "spiritual floundering." Heathenism is self-delusion [1].

Heathenism in its most fundamental characteristics is exact antithesis of Christianity (Matt. 18:17): "...let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:17). The Lord forbids becoming like heathens in verbosity when praying (Matt. 6:8), and in their relationships with people: "And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?" (Mat. 5:47). "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek)" (Matt. 6:31-32).

The Apostle Peter calls upon Christians not to act by "the will of the Gentiles," not to indulge in "abominable" (Slav. – "bogomerzkiy – loathsome to God") idolatries (1Peter 4:3). The Holy Apostle Paul clearly depicts the profundity of man’s fall in heathenism (Romans 1:21-25). According to his words, heathens do not know God (Thes. 4:5), come "unto these dumb idols" (1 Cor. 12:2).

Though ancient Christian writers say that God has mercy on heathens and reveals Himself in their conscience and reason, however, they constantly stress the essential difference between heathenism and Christ’s teaching. Thus, the Christian apologist Aristedes, in his Apology, subjects the religious beliefs of "barbarians and Hellenes" to criticism. "They both, - he says, - are deeply mistaken. The former — in worshiping the elements, and the latter — by worshiping anthropomorphous gods." [2] Another Christian apologist, Tatiyan, who, by his confession, " familiarized himself with mysteries, investigated various kinds of God-worshiping" [3] says that he rejects "heathen errors, as childish fantasies," [4] that heathen myths are "downright nonsense" and that "it is indecent even to compare Christian knowledge about God with the opinions of heathens, who immersed themselves in matter and uncleanness." [5] Tertullianus addresses heathens in a harsh manner: "Your gods and demons are one and the same, and idols are demons’ bodies" [6].

Heathenism is very heterogeneous in form. There are many types: magic, shamanism, all polytheistic religions, satanism, atheism, materialism etc. However, there are features characteristic to most of them: naturalism, idolatry, magic, mysticism.

[1] Florensky P. A. Pillar and Affirmation of Truth. Moscow 1914. P. 674.

[2] Popov I.V., professor. Summary of Lectures on Patrology , Sergiyev Posad., 1916, 38 edition, P. 34-35.

[3] Tatian. Discourse Against Hellenes, 29. Moscow 1863, P. 169.

[4] Ibidem, 30, P. 170.

[5] Ibidem, 2, P. 161-162.

[6] Tertullianus. Works. Vol.1.Apology, 23. Saint Petersburg 1847. P. 56.


§1. Naturalism.

Naturalism (from the Latin natura - nature, essence), in this case, should be understood as a principle of life, in which the goal of life is considered to be the maximum satisfaction of all the so-called natural needs of man — what the Apostle John the Theologian determines as "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1John 2:16). Such a life tenet is usually associated with the broad moral "freedom" of the individual. It comes from understanding man as a spiritually full-fledged being ("man – how proudly it sounds"), and therefore needing only corresponding material and social conditions of life and the opportunity for self-actualization. Therefore, the Christian teaching about the defectiveness of human nature (so called original sin) and the necessity to be healed from passions ("lusts") to achieve a full-valued life is alien to heathenism. A heathen, on the contrary, is pleased with himself, his mind, he seeks only the external freedom of "bread and circuses."

The other side of naturalism is the idolizing of nature, its forces and phenomena, and ultimately, idolizing man himself. The Holy Apostle Paul clearly notes this nature of heathenism, saying, that heathens "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25). The heathen world could not overcome naturalism, even among its best representatives. Philosophical systems of pagan antiquity did not contain enough power to permanently break away from naturalism, a heathen’s soul could not "break free from the fatal inflamed circle of being, in order to achieve pure existence." [7]

However, the ideal of naturalistic heathenism, which is maximum satisfaction and minimum labor, is more than illusory. Not to mention its fleetingness and the certain end for each person and its dependence upon a large number of different kinds of conditions taking place during a lifetime; satisfaction, becoming the purpose of life, by the very nature of man cannot afford him certain blessings. Passions are insatiable and, when satisfied, they grow, demanding new pleasures, including perverted ones. Corrupting a soul, they make it selfish, proud, hard-hearted, capable of neither love nor joy, nor, all the more so, spiritual experiences. The ideal of the ascarid (roundworm) turns a man into a corpse before the death of body. The Lord said to His disciples about such people: "let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22). The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans (Chapter 1) clearly showed to what abominations a man-heathen can stoop.

One of the consistent critics of Christianity, J. Robertson, admits that heathen cults were filled with "the spirit of sexuality." [8] It is no accident that Antisthenes, a friend of Socrates, exclaimed: "If only I could catch Aphrodite! I would pierce her with a javelin for seducing so many of our respectable and excellent women" [9]

Seductive and frankly lascivious forms of cults were quite often an integral part of heathenism. Plutarch, for example, considered "foul" words and similar ritualistic rites as means of bribing, satisfying demons. The neo-platonic author of the treatise "On heathen mysteries" went even further – to the idealization of the phallic cult. [10] Temples served as a place for romantic intrigues, and, as Minucius Felix says, fornication in heathen temples developed more freely than in open brothels. [11] Lucian mentions a shameful praise of pederasty that was delivered in the form of a speech in temples during public worship. It was also considered that the one who drinks the most wine on Dionysus’ holidays pleases that divinity the most. [12] Terentius describes how some adulterer refers to Jupiter’s sin in his defense: "If a god acts this way, - he says, - then why I, a man, should not do same?" [13]

Not accepting, for the most part, the immortality of the soul, and rejecting universal resurrection, heathenism, even religious, once and for all deprives a man of the real meaning of life. Because the meaning can only be in life, in personal assessment and in experiencing one’s deeds, but not in the insensibility of death. Only the fear of the voice of conscience, and moral responsibility for ones’ actions, can explain that blind, obstinate faith in one’s final death (i.e. impunity) of which a heathen convinces himself. This is the source of his desperate desire "to live it up," "get everything out of life." But one cannot prolong the moment of life, and in heathenism the senseless tragedy of death de-crowns its nearsightedness every time, revealing the emptiness of those phantom idols, by whom a heathen lives.

[7] Arsyenyev N. R. In Search of the Absolute God, P. 15, 33, 39, 40.

[8] J. Robertson. Original Christianity, 1930, P. 64.

[9] Nesmelov V.I., Professor. Science of Man, Kazan, 1966, т. 2, P.

[10] See N. Arsenyev. In Search of the Absolute God, P. 37.

[11] M. Felix. Octavius, 25, Russian translation, Moscow 1866, P. 89.

[12] Nikodim Milash bishop. The Rules of Orthodox Church with Interpretations, vol. 1, Saint Petersburg, 1911, P. 152-153.

[13] Farrar F., The First Days of Christianity, Saint Petersburg, 1892, P. 88.

§2. Idolatry.

Idolatry (from the Greek eidwlon - vision, phantom, semblance, day dream, ideal, idol) in the proper sense of the word means worshiping idols, idols’ images. In polytheistic religions, this was expressed in a cult of different god-idols (for example, in the Greek religion: the cult of Dionysus – the god of wine and mirth, Aphrodite – the goddess of beauty and erotic love, etc.). People made sacrifices (sometimes even human) to these idols.

In a figurative sense, idolatry is the worship of such "lusts," ideas, idols and aims of life, which make man spiritually blind, abase him, make him a toy of his own passions. Idols-passions are innumerable. The idea of world domination, the cult of money, moral permissiveness and the arbitrariness of personal freedom and similar idols serve as the objects of sacrifices that are often gigantic in scale [14]. The Apostle calls, for example, the love of luxury, "greed" (Col. 3:5), gluttony ("whose God is their belly" - Phil. 3:19) — idolatry. Indeed, when a miser thinks of nothing except gain and money, and an ambitious man thinks of nothing except fame and honors, and devotes all his powers to achieving that aim, then they are, in the full sense of the word, idolaters. Abba Dorotheos points out three main idols, which give birth to all the others: "All sin originates either from sensuousness, or love of money, or from love of glory" [15].

Any passion can become an idol for a man: corporal, or emotional or spiritual. In this sense, Tertullianus was correct when he wrote: "The greatest crime of the human race, encompassing in itself all other crimes, the crime that constitutes the reason for the condemnation of man, is idolatry" [16].

People of the most varied outlooks and religions may turn out to be idolaters, i.e. actual pagans: the agnostic, the atheist and the Orthodox Christian inclusively. For, in the final analysis, loyalty to God is determined "not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). And the Lord warns us: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).

[14] "There is data that there were 360,000 priests in Russia before the revolution, but by the end of 1919 only 40000," - V. Soloukhin writes about one such sacrifice ("Why I did not sign that letter"). See also, for example: R. Dmitriyev. On the Trail of the Red Terror (about historian R.P. Melgunov and his book) // Our Contemporary. 1991. No.1; Melgunov R. Red Terror // Our Contemporary. 1991. No.1-3.

[15] Abba Dorotheos. Beneficial Teachings for the Soul. М. 1874. Instruction 9. P. 126.

[16] Tertullianus. Works . Vol.1.Apologia, 23. Saint Petersburg 1847. About Idolatry ,1. P. 144.


§3. Mysticism.

Mysticism (from Greek mustikoz - mysterious, secret) is a rather broad notion. The well-known modern Catholic theologian Hans Kung, for example, writes: "Mysticism," "mystical" — these words, going back to their literal meaning, come from the Greek verb muein - to shut (lips). "Mysteries" are "secrets," "secret teachings," "secret cults," about which outsiders should not be told. A religion, then, is mystical, which "shuts the lips," i.e. keeps silence about its concealed mysteries in the presence of ignoramuses and moreover, turns away from the external world, closes its eyes and ears, in order to gain salvation inside itself." Mysticism, as F. Heiler defines it, is "a form of communication with God, in which the world and I are radically rejected and human individuality dissolves, disappears and sinks in the single and infinite element of divinity" [17]. However, in mysticism, the perception of God itself acquires a distorted character. As the major Western researcher of religion, F. Heiler (†1967), writes in his monumental work "Prayer," "consistent mysticism frees the idea about God from all personal attributes, and leaves "bare" and pure infinity" [18].

This understanding of mysticism shows how distant it is from religion, with its personal understanding of God. The mixture of the notions "mysticism" and "holiness" in the spiritual realm is more dangerous than in any other, because it touches upon the very fundamentals of human existence.

Therefore the habitual use of the terms "mystical," "mysticism," "mystical experience" etc., when applied to any experience involving contact with a "transcendent," is fraught with serious consequences. Applying them in theology with such a broad meaning, when they can backed by good or evil, aspiration to the truth and primitive curiosity, holiness and satanism, Christ and Belial (See 2 Cor. 6:15), is capable of effectively instilling in the consciousness the destructive idea of the identicalness, in essence, of all ascetic paths.

Here is a clear illustration of this: "Following the path laid by contemplation, Indian Brahmen came to the same thing to which all mystics come, no matter when or where they lived. Yanjnyavalkya and Buddha, Plotinos and Areopagitos, Meister Echhart and Gregory Palamas, cabalists and Nikolay Kuzansky, Jakob Böhme, Ruysbroek and a great number of other clairvoyants of the East and West... They all as one testify that there… is neither good nor evil, neither light nor dark, neither movement nor serenity... In the holy darkness, concealing the cornerstone, they felt the reality of the Existing, Absolute. Fearful, intolerable mystery!… It is difficult to even call this abyss "God"... Beyond the boundaries of all the created and limited, Reality revealed itself to the mystical eye, which Lao Tzu called Tao, Buddha - Nirvana, cabalists - Ain-Soph, Christians – Divine Essence (ousia), "Divinity" [19].

This is an entirely theosophic idea that totally depreciates the unique significance of the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel in the matter of the world’s salvation. Its strong point, as we can see, is the broad notion of mysticism. With its help, it became so simple to put together and equate (!) the experience of Christian saints and the experience of cabalists (for whom Jesus Christ is a false Messiah), Buddhists (completely denying a Personal God) etc., equate Tao, Nirvana, Ain-Soph with Divine Essence, Divinity (compare: John 8:42; 15:23). In this way, the very notion of Truth in religion is destroyed, and man is bereaved of even the thought of the possibility of a fatal flaw in such a crucial area of life as the spiritual. As a result, he easily becomes a blind toy of his reverie, self-conceit, and often of openly demonic forces.

Mysticism is present in all religions. In the heathen — as a natural phenomenon, but in Christianity — as an illness, abnormality, distortion of its faith and basics of life. Sources of mysticism are the same everywhere– these are pride, man’s passionate craving to penetrate the secrets of spiritual existence and gain control over it, seeking the greatest pleasures, ecstasy.

There are many varieties of mysticism. They all can be divided into two main categories: natural mysticism and acquired, though the division is quite conditional, because it is not always simple to draw a distinction between them.

By natural mysticism one should understand those inborn capabilities of man – to foresight, healing, clairvoyance, telepathy etc. that are called extrasensory. According to Christian anthropology, these capabilities are natural to man, but as a result of sin came to be in the state of "anabiosis" and are therefore rarely manifested.

Hence, their possessor is in great danger of developing pride, self-conceit and other accompanying passions. The danger lies in the fact, that such a "natural mystic," being a typical sinful man, will affect not the body, as in usual therapy, but the soul of the ill man directly. And intruding on it with his unclean "hands," he infects it, disrupts the delicate, innermost order of soul, and, by doing that, often causes irremediable harm to the mentality, and the nerves, and the entire organism as a whole. Therefore, the Church forbids turning to these kind of healers for help.

Even more dangerous are the influence (for example, via television) of those whom one can place in the category of acquired mysticism. All kinds of sorcerers, astrologists, "professional" mediums, etc. consciously developing these capabilities in themselves, mostly, for the sake of fame and gain, cripple people to a far larger degree than the first. (TV "experiences" of modern mediums are great illustration of this).

Acquired mysticism is divided into two main branches: the occult and the delusionary.

Occult [20] mysticism is connected with man’s aspiration to penetrate into "that," mysterious world of man, nature and spirits that is not regulated by the laws of this world, in order to learn its secrets and use the powers hidden in it for his own purposes. Magic, satanism, spiritualism, theosophy, anthroposophy etc. belong to occultism. In all of them, man, knowingly or unknowingly, goes into communication only with outcast spirits, causing himself, as a rule, irremediable harm.

Delusionary (from the word self-delusion) mysticism gives a man, as a rule, visions, revelation, pleasures. A person in the state of self-delusion thinks that he knows that world, but in reality, he is a toy of his fantasies and demonic hallucinations. [21]

Mysticism, in this way, leads man away from God, from the true purpose of life, and points the development of spirit in such a direction that refined pride grows, making man incapable of accepting Christ as the true God and the only Savior. False asceticism and developed extrasensory capabilities (for example, in yoga), as well as deep neuro-psychic experiences, pleasures, leading to ecstasy, also assist in the development of pride. All this gradually leads a man to the conviction that he is "like the gods." This path quite often leads to mystical atheism (for example, Buddhism, Sankhya), to insanity, hysteria, suicide.

[17] H. Kung. Does God Exist? 1982. P. 295.

[18] Ibidem. P. 297.

[19] Svetlov E. At the Gates of Silence. Brussels, 1971. P. 80-81.

[20] Occultism (from Latin occultus - secret, concealed) – a teaching, admitting the presence of special hidden (occult) forces in man, nature and the cosmos, and urging man to gain control over them to achieve his own aims. There are many varieties of occultism.

[21] See chapter VI: Revelation: 3. Individual Revelation and its Signs. Chapter IX. Spiritual life: 1,7 Self-delusion.


§4. Magic.

Magic (from Greek mageia - witchcraft, sorcery, magic) - is the belief that laws of this world are subordinate to occult forces, over which a person can gain control with the help of special actions (conjurations, rituals etc.). Occultism is the realm of the magic of advantage, i.e. necessity, and not freedom. Magic is dominion over the world via the knowledge of necessity and law of the secret powers of the world. I have not seen freedom of spirit among people fascinated with occultism. They did not have control over occult forces — the occult force had control over them. Anthroposophy [22] corrupted the integrity of human personality, disemboweled the soul no less than psychoanalysis... Rarely has someone given me the impression of a person more wanting grace than Steiner did. [23] Not a single ray from above. He wanted to get everything from below, to passionately force his way into the spiritual world. [24]

Magic, as well as mysticism, is not connected with the mandatory acknowledgment of a personal, and all the more, the One God. The magic understanding of the world considers the world as something undoubtedly static and determined, and leaves no room for freedom for God, spirits or forces of nature. Everything is subjected to age-old occult laws. Therefore, those who find the "key" to them become the true lord of gods, people and the world. An Indian saying even says this: "The entire world is subjected to gods. Gods are subjected to conjurations. Conjurations — to the Brahmin. Our gods are Brahmin."

In contrast to religion, which perceives the essence of a person’s life in the proper dispensation of his spirit in relation to God, the main thing in magic is knowledge of what and how something must be done to achieve a goal. These goals are purely worldly (to bedevil, bewitch, break up love, etc.) and their attainment is not at all connected with the spiritual-moral state of a person. The main thing in magic is to do everything correctly.

Magic consciousness is deeply inherent to the "old man". For many people, Orthodox Christianity is putting up candles, "veneration," making a donation, submitting commemorative lists, ordering liturgies, molebens (prayer services), panikhidas (services for the deceased), visiting holy places, confessing sins and receiving the Sacraments. But the main element, without which salvation is not possible – the fulfillment of the commandments and repentance, is forgotten. However, without spiritual change (in Greek, repentance – meta 0noia – is a change in the way of thinking) all these outward deeds are, to say the least, useless, but are more often harmful, because they create the appearance of a righteous life and lead a person to self-conceit and dislike of all "sinners".

The sacraments themselves in Orthodoxy are salutary only on the condition of a person’s sincere desire to change spiritually and morally. Simply the outward acceptance of them can be destructive for man. The Apostle Paul writes about the Eucharist: "he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself" (1 Cor. 11:29). And this takes place even with accurate fulfillment of the entire outward (ritual) side of the sacrament of the Eucharist and the rules of preparation to it.

Magical perception of sacraments, religious rites, cult in general is one of the most important reasons of degeneration of the Christian religion in people, its perversions, its slipping down to heathenism.

The greatest evil in the heathen consciousness is "thwarting the mysteries of existence" and making man occupy the place of God. Magic is this insane attempt at "revolution" against God. According to the Holy Scriptures, the last step of this revolution will be the appearance of a ruler of the entire world – the Antichrist, "man of sin," "wicked" (2 Thes. 2:3-8) in the highest and most exclusive meaning of this word, "so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thes. 2:4) and performing false miracles with the help of magic.

[22] Anthroposophy (from Greek o anqrwpoz - man and h sofia - wisdom) is a mystical teaching, putting in God’s place a man, who has grasped the "secret wisdom," the "true" sense of existence and who by doing so has become the son of God.

[23] Steiner R. (†1925) - German philosopher, mystic, the founder of anthroposophy.

[24] Berdiayev N. Self- perception. Paris, 1949. P. 205-206.


§5. The Origins and Essence of Heathenism.

What gave birth and continues to give birth to heathenism in man and society?

The main reason for its rise is the false self-determination of man. The book of Genesis relates how the first people were tempted to take the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to become "as gods." Instead of gradual spiritual growth, measuring himself by the image of the most holy God, man chose the "easy path," one not requiring toil, "pleasant to the eyes and desired" (Genesis 3:6), promising to give "knowledge of good and evil" immediately - the path of the godless becoming "a god."

This outward path of "thwarting" the mysteries of being to get control over its natural and supernatural forces gives birth to magic. Idolatry arises as the natural result of the perversion of the idea about a higher aim and true sense of life. The origins of naturalism are here also, because the loss of a spiritual ideal results in the cult of the material, the cult of the flesh. Pride, man’s attempt to occupy the place of God, aspiration to a super-conscience and greatest pleasures give birth to the most subtle form of heathenism – the mystical one [25].

In which direction is the general development of heathenism heading? Is it becoming even more "heathen," or is there some positive process occurring of a return to the "invisible God" (Acts 17:23)?

Indisputably, in heathenism there have always been people who "should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him" (Acts 17:27). And in this sense, it is true that in heathenism "a positive religious process took place" [26]. For, as St. Justin the Philosopher wrote, "everyone has seeds of Truth" [27] and "Christ is the Word, to which the whole human race is connected. Those who lived according to the Word are Christians, even though they were considered to be pagans, — such are Socrates, Heraclites, etc. among the Hellenes."  [28].

However, it is no less apparent that this universal connection to the Word and the honest seeking of the truth by individual heathens does not determine the general course of development of heathenism in the human race. Heathenism is, in the final analysis, not seeking God, but going away from Him, and progress in heathenism was and remains more the progress of sin and digressions, rather than the unselfish search of the truth and ever-growing knowledge of God. The idea of "God’s Kingdom on Earth," i.e. the attainment of universal spiritual and moral perfection, as well as material welfare, in earthly history, which was vigorously defended by V. S. Solovyev almost until his death and thinkers conceptually like him (S.N. Trubetskoy, Archpriest P. Svetlov, N. Fedorov, etc.), is absent in the works of the Church fathers and fundamentally contradicts the Revelation of the New Testament (See, Mt. 24:5-31; Revelation, etc.). The Divine Revelation proclaims that "in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud..." (2 Tim. 3:1-2), so that, "when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth" (Luke 18:8). Such can be the consequences only of the deep, all-encompassing degradation of humanity, the final dominion of heathenism. The Lord reveals to the Church, that the fulfillment of the creative plan of God for mankind is prepared not in history, but in meta-history, when there will be "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1).

[25] See chapter II, 8: Variety of religions.

[26] Bulgakov P. Non-Evening Light. Sergiyev Posad, 1917. P. 323.

[27] Apologia. 1,7 // Monuments of Ancient Christian Writing: In 7 vol. Vol. 4. Moscow 1860-67. P. 25.

[28] Apologia. 1,46. Ibidem. P. 85.


§6. Assessment Of Heathenism.

The notion of "heathenism" in Christianity expresses that "old" inherited beginning in man, which, having appeared as the result of his fall from God, later, in the process of history, emerges and develops in various types and forms. According to the Christian teaching, man in his present state is not a natural and normal creature, but is deeply damaged both in soul and body. In him, good is mixed up with evil, "new" with "old," and constant, conscious spiritual and moral work of the individual is required for him to become a full-fledged "new" (Eph. 4:24) man.

Heathenism, in this way, is, first of all, that direction of life, which is characterized by the false attitude of a person towards God, himself, the world. Therefore, it includes various religions and world outlooks, as well as all those people, including Christians, who live "after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8). For in each man, by nature, lives a Christian and a heathen. And only by honestly choosing Christ as the norm, the ideal of one’s life, makes man a Christian. Otherwise, even if confessing Orthodoxy, and being formally in Church, fulfilling all its outward rites and instructions, he can turn out to be a real God-opposing heathen: "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven" (Matt.7:21).


VII. Religion of the Old Testament.

§1. Teaching.

The monotheistic religion which the ancestors of all nations had, but which acquired its fixed determination through the Revelation received by Moses and other Jewish prophets, is known as the religion of the Old Testament. Therefore, it is usually understood to be the religion of the Jews until the coming of Christ the Savior and the beginning of the New Testament (then Judaism or Neo-Judaism begins).

First of all, as the Bible relates, one should assign to the main features of this religion its absolute monotheism. The claims of certain researchers about the polytheistic character of the religion of the Old Testament do not hold up under careful consideration of their arguments. The following are the main ones:

1. In the Jewish text of the Bible, the very first lines mention "Elohim" i.e. gods (as the suffix "im" indicates the plural), and not about God, as it is translated into other languages.

2. The Bible mentions the names of various gods, whom the Jews worshiped: Adonai, Yahweh, Sabaoth and others.

3. Numerous Biblical anthropomorphisms with respect to God speak about the primitive idea of God, characteristic of polytheists, in the religion of the Old Testament.

Regarding these arguments, one can note the following:

1. The suffix "im" in the Jewish language indicates not only the plural, but is also used to express the fullness of existence, quality, the superlative form. For example, in the Bible, heaven sounds like shamaim, water (as an element) — maim etc. The same relates to the name "Elohim," which expressed special reverence of God, emphasized His exclusiveness and uniqueness. This word usage was something like a challenge to the surrounding polytheism. "In the Jewish language, Elohim did not mean "gods," but was used in place of the superlative, which the Jewish language does not know. The use of "Elohim" instead of "El" was supposed to emphasize that this was not just a Semitic divinity, but the highest God. It is noteworthy, that neither "Elohim," nor "Eloah" is found in Semitic literature except for the Bible" [1].

Some Fathers were inclined to think that the use of this name in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament already indicated the Trinity of Hypostases in God. Thus, St. Basil the Great wrote: "And God said, Let Us make man. Tell me: do you really think this is still one Being? It is not written: Let there be man, but — Let Us make man … Do you hear, theomachist, the speech is directed to the One taking part in creation, to the One by Whom also He made the worlds (Hebr. 1:2)!" "Thus, He says unto His Own Image, living Image, preaching, "I and My Father are One" (John 10:30)… He says unto Him, Let Us make man in Our Image" [2].

2. Yahweh, Adonai and the other names of God encountered in the Bible do not denote different divinities, but different names of one God, pointing out different characteristics of God. Thus, "Adonai (Hebr.) — strong, powerful sovereign — Lord." "Sabaoth (Hebr., genitive case, plural.) —armies, powers; was usually used with the word Lord, God" Yahweh or "Jehovah (Hebr.) I AM THAT I AM (Existing) — the great and holy name of God, denoting the distinctiveness, eternity and invariability of the Essence of God (Exodus 3:14)" [3].

3. Anthropomorphisms by themselves cannot be a sufficient argument in confirming the polytheistic character of the religion of the Old Testament, because they are inherent not only to all religions, but also to the human language in general, inasmuch as it is human.

However, if objections to the monotheism of the religion of the Old Testament are just a simple misunderstanding, then the opposite is indisputable. The commandment about worshiping one God is the first in the Ten Commandments given to Moses and is repeated emphatically throughout the course of the whole Bible. One cannot help noticing this.

The religion of the Old Testament has many features common to most religions. For example, the teaching about a personal Divinity, about Revelation, about good and evil, about a reward, about angels and demons, about the necessity of (bloody) sacrifices, prayers and much more.

At the same time, the religion of the "Pentateuch" speaks vaguely about the immortality of the human soul (for example, Eccl. 12:7), which descends into the nether world, sheol, the land of oblivion, the place of unconscious existence, deep eternal sleep (for example: "there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again... man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? — man lieth down, and riseth not; till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep"- Job. 14:7,10,12).

The "Law" (Pentateuch) does not speak either of a reward after death, or of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life, or about the Kingdom of God. The God of the "Law" is the absolute giver of just rewards only here, in the earthly life. Therefore, the religion of the "Law" does not raise man above the ideal of purely earthy welfare (shalom).

However, there are expressions even in the books of some prophets from which one can conclude that the dead do not just sleep eternally, but also experience definite states. Thus, the Prophet Ezekiel says, that "those that are slain by the sword" will be laid down in the midst of the uncircumcised deep in the nether parts of the earth (32:18-32). And the Prophet Isaiah says the following about the posthumous lot of the ungodly: "their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" (66:24).

The religion of the Old Testament, in the persons of the prophets, looks for the resurrection of the dead. The righteous Job expresses this hope when saying, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (19:25-27). Isaiah speaks quite definitely about the universal resurrection (26:8; 16:19). Ezekiel foresees its realization (Chapter 37). After the resurrection, righteous men will have eternal blissful life, but sinners — disgrace: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Dan. 12:2-3).

However, a number of important features set the religion of the Old Testament apart from other religions. The teaching about the creation of the world out of "nothing" [4], about the creation of man in the image of God, about the fall of man and so on. Here let us dwell upon the teaching about the Messiah and the special selection of the Jewish people.

1. Waiting for the Messiah (Greek CristoV — anointed; Hebrew "mashiah" means "the anointed one") is the central point of the Revelation of the Old Testament, the soul of the whole religion of the Old Testament. In separate books of the Old Testament, the Messiah is endowed with different features: king, high priest, prophet. In some texts, He combines all these tasks in Himself (Jeremiah 33:14-18, and others). But most importantly, He is the Savior of the whole human race, Jews and non-Jews, from sin, evil and sufferings, Who will bring truth and verity to Earth and construct an eternal Kingdom of God of universal holiness, love and peace (Is. 2; Mic. 4; Is. 53 and others).

However, "they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16), do the same to God’s Revelation about Christ. Judaic priests, theologians and teachers instilled in their people only the earthly, fully heathen, political interpretation of the Messiah: He will be a Jewish King, to Whom all the peoples of the Earth will be subordinate, and for the Jewish people the kingdom of complete earthly welfare will commence. Hence, it becomes clear why the Messiah Lord Jesus Christ was rejected for his teaching about His Kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36), and the religion through Divine revelation of the Old Testament ceased to exist. Judaism appeared, which kept much of the external, formal side of the Old Testament religion, but lost its essence.

2. What did God’s choosing of the Jewish people mean, and what purpose did it have? The understanding of this was also greatly distorted by the Jewish nation. Because the most important thing – that the selection was conditional on loyalty to God through faith and morality — was, practically, fully ignored. The emphasis was wholly placed on ethnicity. Hence the belief in the eternal inalienable right to be the chosen nation, the claim that the Jewish nation is exclusive, of their superiority over all other nations. Naturally, such an idea cannot help but make an impression on the human egoistic consciousness, and that is why it developed deep roots in Judaism.

However, in reality, as history testifies, Jews were substantially lesser in pan-cultural, philosophic, and scientific developments than many other surrounding nations (Egypt, Babylon, Greece, India), and the choice of the Jewish people was strictly conditional on the most important religious factor: "If in hearing you should hearken to My voice and do all as much as I give charge to you, and you should guard My covenant, you will be to Me people a prized and from all the nations [Mine for is earth] and you will be to Me a royal priesthood and [nation a holy]" — Exodus 23:22 (Septuagint Interlinear translation). This conditionality is testified to by the obvious fact that the Israeli prophets constantly call this people to repentance, accusing it of

"stiffneckedness" (Deut. 9:6: "Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people");

corruptness and hasty apostasy (Deut. 9:12-14: "And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image. Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: Let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven");

stubbornness and disobedience (Is. 65:2: "I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people"; compare: Hebr.3:7-11).

The Jewish nation was chosen in the Old Testament era for reasons, not given directly in the Revelation. Neither were the reasons given for choosing the Apostle Peter, who rejected Christ, or Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. The Providence of God constantly chooses certain nations and individuals by taking into account their qualities for fulfilling certain historical missions. However, the context of the Bible shows that the main reason for choosing the Jewish people was its superior abilities to save and preach the Revelation about the salvation of the world through the Lord-Christ among all the nations of the Earth. However, due to the fact that abilities can be realized very differently, its being chosen was also had a temporal and prototypical character, like the entire Law of the Old Testament, which had "a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things" (Hebr. 10:1).

The Law came to an end with the coming of the Promised One (Rom. 10:4), and so "they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God" (Rom. 9:8), as the Lord also says in Hosea, "I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people; there shall they be called the children of the living God." (Rom. 9:25-26; Hos. 2:23;1:10); because from now on only those who are Christ’s are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29). With the arrival of Christ, "there are no two Israels and two God-chosen peoples. There is only one chosen people — the Church, being the true Israel, including in itself both Jews and non-Jews" [5].

The final division of Israel into two parts occurred at the Cross (Luke 2:34): the little flock of the chosen, the "remnant" (Rom. 11:2-5), which became the beginning of the Church, and the other part, the hardened, to whom the words of the prophet Isaiah relate: "I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear... And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto My chosen; for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name" (Is. 65:12-15). This other name is Christians (Acts 11:26).

The Gospel speaks quite definitely and repeatedly about the Jews who did not accept Christ, losing their status of being the chosen people. For example, in the parable of the evil winegrowers: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43). Also without a parable: "And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:11-12).

Judaism arose as an antipode of the Jewish religion of the Old Testament, on account of the denial of Christ and the loss of being the chosen ones. Judaism awaits and prepares the arrival of its own christ (according to Christian Revelation, the antichrist), with a different teaching, of course. In contrast to the Old Testament, Judaism is now more an ideology than a religion.

Hence, the words of the Apostle Paul that "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26), become clear. Here "all" does not mean everyone in general. But only those Jews who, in the end of history — when "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" the Church (Rom. 11:25), i.e. when no true Christians will be left among other nations – will accept the Lord Jesus Christ, becoming convinced that He really is the true Messiah. These Jews, being a historical remnant of the corporal Israel, will make up (as in the beginning of Christianity) all of the "new Israel," which will be saved, becoming part of God’s chosen. As Apostle Paul writes: "though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (Rom. 9:27). In that way, the promise, given to Abraham (Gen.12:3), will be fulfilled in the Church, because "God is true" (Rom.3:4).

[1] Svetlov E. Magic and Monotheism. Brussels, 1971. P. 616. Example 261.

[2] Basil the Great. Discourses on the Hexaemeron. Discourse 9. Creations Vol.1. Saint Petersburg 1911. P.92, 93.

[3] Dyachenko G. N. The Full Church Slavonic Dictionary. Moscow 1899. P. 6, 567, 234.

[4] See below Chapter IX: "Origin of the world."

[5] Kazilo R. Review of the Journal "Christian World Conference" // Moscow Patriarchy Journal. 1975. No.3. P. 41.


§2. The Religion of the Old Testament and Christianity.

The Jewish religion of the Old Testament was a unique phenomenon in the pre-Christian heathen world. Faith in One God, the Creator and Provider, in eternal life and resurrection, in righteous remuneration in the afterlife, the relative strictness of the rules of life and numerous moral instructions, the moral purity of cult, the prohibition of human sacrifices, etc., was, undoubtedly, a great gift of God to the Jewish people, and good leaven for surrounding tribes and peoples. Faith in the coming Anointed-Savior instilled hope in the face of seemingly unconquerable deadlocks of life, made Jews prepare to meet Him, helped them exert themselves religiously and morally, and live accordingly. The Revelation of the Old Testament also gives a fuller picture of the creation of the word, the origin of man, the history of the fall. In all that, the religion of the Old Testament had, undoubtedly, a great positive significance for the ancient world.

The Revelation of the Old Testament retains a certain value in the Christian era. The most important are the prophetic indications relating to Christ the Savior. These indications, many of which are amazingly accurate in their chronological, geographical and genealogical predictions, being fulfilled in Jesus Christ, give a unique opportunity for each unprejudiced seeker of the truth to see in Him the Messiah and Lord, promised by God.

However, in many other things, the Revelation of the Old Testament is in essence, and sometimes in principle, filled out (Matt. 5:17) [6] by Christ’s Gospel. These, first of all, are the truths about the Triune God, God’s incarnation, the Messiah and His Sacrifice on the Cross and Resurrection, about Heaven, which is not without, but within man, and which is not the ideal of earthly welfare (shalom), but the Holy Spirit which is given unto us (Rom. 5:5).

In comparison with the Old Testament, Christ — is not the Jewish king of the whole earth, nor a political reformer, nor an organizer of material welfare, turning stones into breads (Matt. 4:3-4) of transitory sensual pleasures, but the eternal Bread, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) for all humanity in the eternal existence of God’s Kingdom.

The complete antithesis to the Old Testament is the Evangelic teaching about righteousness. If "the Law" establishes two truths, two different morals: one for the internal interrelations among Jews, the other — for their attitude towards all other nations (see below for more details), then the Evangelic righteousness establishes one, and requires love for all people without distinction.

The New Testament gives a principally different understanding of being God’s chosen. God-chosen is not one who is born from Jewish flesh and blood, "he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter" (Rom. 2:28-29). "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6). The coming of Christ ends the external election, the nationality, the whole religion of the Old Testament, with all its sacrifices, precepts and laws ceases to exist, "for Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 10:4; See: Matt. 5:18). With His coming, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people... in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God" (1 Pet. 2:9-10) — is the Church, this is the Christians in it, among whom "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for one in Christ Jesus.. And if …Christ’s, then …Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:28-29).

The Gospel of the New Testament allows one to see how imperfect the principle of spiritual life itself was in the religion of the Old Testament, all of which was established on the "slavishly-subservient" psychology of man, on the understanding of God’s commandments as given to man from the outside as juridical law. The Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch, was, in fact, a religion with a clearly distinct materialistic orientation. The Lord’s promises and threats to Israel, for the fulfillment or violation of the Law given by God, are an indicator of the spiritual level of the religion of the Old Testament. These promises are quite eloquent: "If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments. That the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on thee. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store... The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten... And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods... And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath" (Deut. 28:1-14). The threats are of the same nature: "if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God,.. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store..." and so on (Deut. 28:15-68; or Lev.26) and so forth.

What is striking in all these promises, awards and threats is their deeply earthly character, the absence of any spiritual aims, any teaching about God’s Kingdom. There is no thought about eternal life, spiritual goods, salvation. The highest promise that is given for loyalty to God in the Pentateuch is: "honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee" (Exod. 20:12). This faint allusion in the religion of the Old Testament to the idea of eternal, unearthly salvation, a higher spiritual ideal, reveals its spiritual level more clearly. What inspired the religion of the Old Testament most of all? It is the teaching about the future Messiah and the faith in His eternal Kingdom. However, the comprehension of this greatest Revelation in the Old Testament, as well as of other truths, was conditional on the spiritual and moral state of the person who accepts them. And the overwhelming majority of Jews dreamed about an earthly kingdom of Israel and about earthly "salvation". Even the Apostles "asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). This deep materialism is the most paradoxical and, at the same time, the most vivid characteristic of the Judaic religion of the Old Testament. There is no need to say how different in principle is the understanding of the sense of life in Christianity, turning a person’s sight towards the city to come (Hebr. 13:14), calling him to seek first of all the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33-34).

The character of the religion of the Old Testament noticeably changes in the Psalms and in the books of the prophets. There is anguish about sin, repentance, prayer about a clean heart (Ps. 50), humility is exalted (Ps. 33:19; 146:6; Is. 57:15).

The essential differences between the teachings of the religion of the Old Testament and Christianity about morality are also considerable. If, with respect to his tribesmen, relatives and newcomers, it requires justice (for example, "do not kill," "do not commit adultery," "do not steal" etc. — Deut. 5:17-19), then with respect to other peoples it opens the path to complete license. For example, such injunctions of the law as: "...when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which He sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full" (Deut. 6:10-11); or: "Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger... that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien" (Deut. 14:21), — and other similar ones, testify to the level of Old Testament morality. The commands that were given to the Jewish people at the time of the conquest of the Promised Land in the name of God are one of its brightest illustrations.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself paid special attention to the Old Testament morality. He decidedly changed the very principle of the relationships between people, putting love for all as a cornerstone — regardless of their nationality, faith and sex. "For, —the Lord says, — That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven… Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment... Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil... Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:.. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:20-48).

In view of the obvious imperfection of the Law of the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote: "for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16), that is why "whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).

The old law suppresses man with a large number of external, ritualistic injunctions, by which a Jew must be guided. This, finally, resulted in ritual law becoming a fetish, "Sabbath". Christ condemned this, telling zealous keepers of the law: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

An assessment of the essence of the Old Testament religion is given in the epistle to the Hebrews: "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation." (Hebr. 9:8-10). "The law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (Hebr. 10:1). "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah... In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Hebr. 8:7, 8, 13).

What are the reasons for the imperfection of the God-revealed religion of the Old Testament?

First of all, the Old Testament was only preparatory to Christ’s coming, it had a prototypical and temporal character (Hebr.7:18-19,22; 8:5-8,13: 9:8-10), it was just a shadow of good things to come (Hebr.10:1).

Secondly, it was ethnically limited. All the Old Testament moral and ritual precepts were meant not for the whole human race, but for one tribe, chosen for a specific task, and therefore they were given, based on its spiritual level, moral peculiarities, intellectual capabilities, etc. The Lord, when responding to the question of the Pharisees, "is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" explained why the Jews were given such an imperfect law. Jesus responded: "For the hardness of your heart he [Moses] wrote you this precept" (Mark 10:2,5). In those times, consequently, it was still impossible to give perfect Revelation, "the very image of the things" (Hebr. 10:1) to all nations of the Earth, and therefore just "a shadow of good things to come" was given, and only to one nation, taking into account its spiritual and moral strengths.

Thirdly, the religion of the Old Testament could not be perfect as a matter of principle, because the perfection of the Revelation was given only with coming of God in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16) for the salvation of man through His Sacrifice and Resurrection.

Therefore, the great expert on the Scriptures, St. John Chrysostom, says, that "things of the Old Testament ... are as far from those of the New Testament, as the Earth is from Heaven" [7].

[6] Here the verb plhrwsai (infinitive, aoristi, activi from plhrow — fill, fill up, carry out, finish) is found in the Greek text.

[7] St. John Chrysostom. Complete Works: In 12 vol. Saint Petersburg, 1900. Vol. 6. P. 91.


VIII. Spiritual Life.

The issue of spiritual life is fundamental for each person, inasmuch as it, in the final analysis, determines the character, direction and the very rationality of all his activities. The spiritual state is in a way a uterine solution, giving birth to the "crystals" of all the person’s ideas, feelings, desires, emotional experiences, by which he lives, to his whole attitude towards people, nature, business, things, etc. For the spirit creates forms for itself. Proper spiritual life is healthy in all aspects, is the source of that well-being to which each person and each society naturally aspires. On the contrary, the violation of spiritual laws inevitably leads to the destruction of the whole structure of life on all its levels – personal, family and public.

Understanding spirituality is, as a rule, indissolubly connected to another vast notion —holiness. They have their own character in different religions and cultures. Their Orthodox meaning creates the greatest and fully natural interest.

§1. Basics of Spiritual Life [1].

(According to the works of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov)

The essence of any religion lies in spiritual life, which is its most concealed side. Entrance to this life requires not only a person’s zeal, but also the knowledge of the laws of spiritual life. Excessive zeal is, as everybody knows, a poor assistant. Foggy, vague ideas about this main facet of religious life lead a Christian, especially an active one, as a rule, to sad consequences, at best — to fruitless labor, but more often to self-conceit and spiritual, moral and mental disorders. The most widespread error in religious life is the substitution of its spiritual life (the fulfillment of the Gospel’s commandments, penitence, struggle against passions, love towards neighbors) by an external one — fulfillment of Church directives. As a rule, the external without the internal makes man a "holy Satan," a proud Pharisee, a hypocrite, rejected by God. This is why the knowledge of the fundamental principles of spiritual life in Orthodoxy is essential.

An experienced spiritual mentor who sees a person’s soul can render invaluable aid in this. But such mentors, according to the Fathers, were a great rarity even in ancient times. St. Symeon the New Theologian in the 10th century said: "With prayers and tears, entreat God to send you a passionless and holy leader. Investigate the Holy Scriptures yourself as well, and especially the writings of the holy fathers, so that, comparing them with what your teacher and superior teaches you, you could see, as in a mirror, how much they agree with each other, and then adopt and keep in mind that which is concordant with the Gospel, and the non-concordant, after good reflection, put away, lest you become enticed by it. Be aware, that these days there are many tempters and false teachers" (The Philokalia, Vol.5. Ch. 33).

It is even more difficult to find them nowadays. St. Gregory of Sinai in the 14th century "brought himself to say that in his time there were no blessed men, because they had become so rare... Especially nowadays, a worker of prayer must take the utmost care. We do not have God-inspired spiritual mentors!" [2] (I, 274).

The holy fathers foresaw the hunger for God’s Word (with a surplus of Bibles!) in the last times and indicated a means of salvation to those true seekers in their spiritual life. This means is "life under the direction of the patristic writings with the advice of modern successful brethren."

The quote belongs to one of the most authoritative Russian spiritual mentors and writers of the 19th century, the Holy Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867), whose works are a kind of Orthodox ascetic encyclopedia and represent one of those "patristic writings," but which have special value for the modern Christian. This value is due to the fact that they

Are written on the basis of hagiographic works and tested in the kiln of personal ascetic experience;

Provide a clear presentation of all the important issues of spiritual life, including the dangers, encountered on its path;

Expound upon the hagiographic experience of getting to know God as it applies to a person’s psychology and strengths of the era (19 century) nearest to ours in time and level of worldliness.

Below are just some of the most important provisions of his teaching on this issue.

1. Right thought

"Usually people consider a thought to be something of little importance, that is why they are not very particular when accepting a thought. However, accepted right thoughts give birth to all good, and accepted false thoughts give birth to all evil. A thought is like a ship’s rudder: a ship’s direction and, for the most part, the fate of the whole huge machine, depends on a small rudder, on this trifling board being dragged behind the ship" — wrote the Holy Bishop Ignatius, emphasizing the exceptional meaning that our thoughts, views and theoretical knowledge have for spiritual thought on the whole (IV,509). Not only the correct dogmatic faith and evangelic morality, but also the knowledge and rigorous observance of spiritual laws determine the success of the process of the real rebirth of the passionate, "flesh" (Rom. 8:5), "old man" (Eph. 4:22) into "the new man" (Eph. 4:24).

However, even a theoretical understanding of the issue is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. The great variety of so called spiritual ways of life, which are now offered to a person from all sides, are one illustration of the complexity of the given problem.

Therefore, an exceptionally important problem arises: finding the more substantial indications and qualities of true spirituality, which would allow distinguishing it from all sorts of false spirituality, mysticism and self-deception. Despite the fact that the two-thousand year experience of the Church has, it would seem, said enough through its saints, its perception by a modern person, raised under materialistic conditions and spiritless civilization, runs into considerable difficulties. Below are some of them.

Saints always instructed people about spiritual life on the level which was appropriate for them. The fathers did not write "for no particular reason," "for science". Much of their advice, directed toward ascetics of elevated contemplative life and even toward so called novices, turn out to be absolutely unacceptable for the modern Christian, who is a spiritual baby. Also, the variety, ambiguity and sometimes even the contradictory nature of the advice, conditional on the different spiritual levels of those who asked, can disorient an inexperienced person. It is very difficult to avoid these traps when studying the works of the holy fathers, without knowing at least some of the more important principles of spiritual life. At the same time, proper spiritual life is unthinkable without patristic guidance. In the face of this seemingly unresolvable deadlock, the significance of the spiritual legacy is revealed of those fathers, primarily the most recent ones, who "translated" the preceding patristic experience of spiritual life into a language that is accessible to modern man, who is unfamiliar with this life, and who does not have, as a rule, a proper mentor.

The works of St. Ignatius, the most experienced spiritual mentor, give a modern Christian, seeking salvation, an impeccably true "key" to understanding the ascetic legacy of the Fathers, understanding their thoughts.

2. What faith in Christ means

What exactly do we find in these works?

First of all, a deep spiritual explanation of the most important issue in Christianity — of faith in Christ. This is what St. Ignatius writes about this: "The beginning of the conversion to Christ consists in getting to know one’s sinfulness, one’s downfall; as a result of this view of himself, a person admits the need of a Redeemer and comes to Christ by means of humility, faith and repentance" (IV,227). "One who does not recognize his sinfulness, his downfall, his ruin, cannot accept Christ, cannot come to believe in Christ, cannot be a Christian. Why would someone who is intelligent, and virtuous, and satisfied with himself, who considers himself worthy of all the earthly and heavenly rewards, need Christ?" (IV,378).

The abovementioned words unintentionally bring our attention to the idea, that the recognition of one’s sinfulness and the resulting repentance are the first condition for accepting Christ. The saint seems to emphasize: "the beginning of the conversion to Christ" is not faith in the fact that Christ came, suffered and rose from the dead, because "the devils also believe and tremble" (Jam. 2:19), but the knowledge of "one’s sinfulness, one’s downfall" gives birth to true faith in Him for "one who does not recognize his sinfulness... cannot come to believe in Christ."

This thought of the saint indicates the first and fundamental provision of spiritual life, so often escaping believers’ attention, and shows the true depth of its Orthodox interpretation. It turns out that a Christian is not one who believes by tradition, or became convinced in the existence of God through some evidence, and, of course, not at all one, who goes to an Orthodox church and considers himself above all these sinners, atheists and non-Christians. No, a Christian is one, who sees his spiritual and moral uncleanness, his sinfulness, who suffers about it, who sees himself perishing and is therefore capable of accepting the Savior, of true faith in Christ. That is why, for example, St. Justin the Martyr wrote: "He is the Word, to Whom all mankind belongs. Those who lived according to the Word are Christians, even though they were considered atheists: such are Socrates and Heraclitus and the like among the Hellenes... Therefore, those who lived before, who lived contrary to the Word, were dishonest and hostile to Christ … but those, who lived and still live according to It, are Christians" [3]. This is the reason why many heathen peoples accepted Christianity so easily.

On the contrary, one who sees himself as righteous, intelligent, sees his good deeds, cannot be and is not a Christian, no matter who he is in the administrative and hierarchical structure of the Church. As an argument, St Ignatius presents an eloquent fact from the history of the Savior’s life on Earth. Simple Jews who knew their sins, accepted him with tears of repentance, but the "intelligent," "virtuous," respectable Jewish elite: the archpriests, Pharisees (zealous fulfillers of church customs, Law etc.) scribes (theologians) — rejected Him with hatred and condemned Him to terrible torture.

"They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" (Мt. 9:12), — says the Lord. Only those who see the illness of their soul, its inability to heal under its own powers, enter the path of healing and salvation, and therefore turn out to be capable of turning to the true Physician Who suffered for them – Christ. A normal spiritual life is impossible to achieve outside of this state, which the fathers call knowing yourself. "The whole structure of salvation is based on the knowledge and recognition of weakness," – writes St. Ignatius (I, 532). He repeatedly quotes the wonderful words of the Ven. Peter of Damascus: "The beginning of the enlightenment of the soul and a sign of its health consists of the mind beginning to see its sins, comparable in number to the ocean sand" (II,410).

This is why the Saint repeats over and over, exclaiming: "Humility and the penitence stemming from it – are the only conditions, under which Christ can be accepted! Humility and penitence – are the only price, with which knowledge of Christ can be bought! Humility and penitence – are the only moral state, from which one can approach Christ, can assimilate Him! Humility and penitence – are the only sacrifice, which God exacts and accepts from fallen mankind (Ps. 50:18-19). Those infected with a proud, errant opinion of themselves, considering penitence superfluous for themselves, excluding themselves from among the sinners, rejects the Lord. They cannot be Christians" (IV,182-183).

3. Know yourself

How does a person acquire this saving self-knowledge, this recognition of his decay, that reveals the infinite significance of Christ’s Sacrifice? This is the answer of St. Ignatius: "I do not see my sin because I am still working for sin. One who enjoys sin and permits himself to partake of it, even if only in thought and sympathy of heart – cannot see his sin. Only one who definitively, voluntarily rejects all friendship with sin can see his sin, who has begun to stand guard before the gates of his house with the unsheathed sword – the word of God, who repulses and cuts off sin with this sword, no matter what form it takes when approaching him. He who performs the great deed – establishes hostility with sin, forcibly tears his mind, heart and body away from it, to him God grants a great gift: the vision of his sin" (II,122).

He also give another practical suggestion: "He who has refused to judge others, his thought, naturally, begins to see his sins and his weakness, which he could not see while he was busy judging others" (V,351). St. Ignatius expresses his main thought about the condition of self-knowledge using the following remarkable words of St. Symeon the New Theologian: "Painstaking fulfillment of Christ’s commandments teaches a person his weaknesses" (IV,9), that is, it reveals to him the true and sad picture of what is in his soul and what is truly happening within it.

Knowing how to acquire the vision of one’s sins or self-knowledge, one’s old man, is central in spiritual life. St. Ignatius marvelously showed its logic: only one seeing himself perishing needs the Savior; the "healthy" (Matt. 9:12) don’t need Christ. Therefore, for one who wants to believe in Christ in an Orthodox manner, this vision is the main task of the exploit and, at the same time, the main criterion of its verity.

4. Good deeds

On the contrary, exploits and any virtues, not leading to this result, turn out to be a false exploit, and life becomes meaningless. The Apostle Paul says, addressing Timothy: "if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5). The Ven. Isaac of Syria speaks of it even more specifically: "The reward is given not for a virtue and not for the toil on its behalf, but for the humility that is born from them. If it is lost, then the former are in vain" [4].

The last statement opens another important page in understanding spiritual life and its laws: virtues or exploits by themselves do not bring a man the goodness of God’s Kingdom which is "within us" (Luke 17:21), but the humbleness resulting from them. If humility is not acquired, then all the exploits and virtues are fruitless and senseless. Only the labor of fulfilling Christ’s commandments teaches a person humility. Thus, one of the most complex theological problems on the correlation of faith and so-called good deeds in the question of salvation is elucidated.

St Ignatius devotes much attention to this issue. He examines it from two aspects: first, on the plane of understanding the necessity of Christ’s Sacrifice and, secondly, with respect to Christian perfection. His conclusions, expressing the very essence of the experience of the holy fathers, are uncommon for scholastic theology.

He writes: "If good deeds through heartfelt feelings could bring salvation, then Christ’s coming would be superfluous" (I, 513). "He who is satisfied with his own human truth is pitiable: he does not need Christ" (IV, 24). "Such is the quality of all corporeal exploits and good visible deeds. If we, doing them, think that we are making a sacrifice to God rather than paying our boundless debt, then the good deeds and exploits become in us the parents of pride, destructive for the soul" (IV, 20).

St. Ignatius even writes the following: "The fulfiller of human truth is full of self-importance, conceit, self-delusion... he repays those who would dare open their mouth for the most well-founded and well-meant contradiction of his truth with hatred and revenge; he considers himself worthy of all earthly and heavenly rewards" (V, 47). From this, the Saint’s call becomes clear: "Do not look for Christian perfection in human virtues: it is not here; it is mysteriously kept in Christ’s Cross" (IV, 477-478).

This thought directly contradicts the widespread opinion that so-called good deeds are always good and assist in salvation, regardless of the motives with which a man does them. But in reality, the truth and the virtues of the old and new man do not supplement each other, but exclude each other. And the reason for that is obvious enough. Good deeds are not the goal, but the means of fulfilling the greatest commandment about love. However, they can be done for selfish consideration, hypocritically, and from conceit and pride. (When a person sees those who are in need, but gilds the cupolas of churches, or builds a church where there is no need for one, then it is clear that he is not serving God, but his pride). Deeds, done not for the reason of fulfilling a commandment, blind a person with their significance, extol him, make him great in his own eyes, grow his I and, by doing that, "bereave" him of Christ. However, fulfilling the commandment of love towards one’s neighbor, on the contrary, reveals to a person his passions: servility, self-conceit, hypocrisy and so on; reveals to him, that he cannot do any good deed without committing a sin. This humbles a man and brings him to Christ. The Ven. Barsanuphius the Great said: "True labor cannot be performed without humility, because labor in itself is vain and is regarded as nothing." [5]

In other words, virtues and exploits can be extremely harmful, if they are not based on knowing the sin hidden in the soul and do not lead to an even deeper vision of it. That is why St. Ignatius teaches: "At first it is necessary to discover one’s sin, then to wash it off with repentance and acquire purity of heart, without which it is impossible to fulfill any virtue properly, completely" (IV, 490). As an example, the saint presents the ascetics’ assessment of their exploits and virtues. He writes: "An ascetic, as soon as begins to fulfill them, sees that he does them insufficiently, impurely... Increased activity according to the Gospel reveals to him more and more clearly the inadequacy of his good deeds, the multitude of his deviations and impulses, the unfortunate state of his fallen essence... He considers his fulfillment of the commandments as a distortion and defilement of them" (I, 308-309). That is why saints, — he continues, — "washed their virtues, as though sins, with floods of tears" (II, 403).

5. Premature impassivity is dangerous

Let us turn to another important law of spiritual life. It consists of an "affinity between virtues, as well as vices," that is to say, that both acquiring virtues and the action of passions are subject to a strict succession and inter-conditionality. St. Ignatius warns that ignoring this law can lead an ascetic to grave consequences. "By the reason of this affinity, — he writes, — voluntary submission to one good thought entails the natural submission to another good thought; the acquisition of one virtue brings another related virtue into the soul, inseparable from the first one. On the other hand, voluntary submission to one sinful thought entails involuntary submission to another one; the acquisition of one sinful passion brings another related passion into the soul; voluntarily committing one sin entails the involuntary fall into another sin, born by the first one. According to the fathers, malice hates to remain single in the heart" (V, 351).

This is a serious warning! How often do Christians, not knowing this law, carelessly treat so-called "small" sins, voluntarily, that is, without the coercion of passion, sinning through them. And then, bewildered, in suffering and despair, already as slaves, they unwillingly commit grave sins, resulting in deep sorrows and tragedies in life.

St. Ignatius quotes the following words of the most experienced mentor in spiritual life, St. Isaac of Syria, which testify to how essential the strict observation of the law of succession is: "The Most Wise Lord desired that we eat our spiritual bread in the sweat of our face. He established this not in anger, but lest we have indigestion and die. Each virtue is the mother of the one following it. If you leave the mother, giving birth to a virtue, and go looking for daughters before acquiring the mother, then these virtues become vipers for your soul. If you don’t cast them away, you will die soon" (II, 57-58). In connection with this, St. Ignatius strictly warns: "Premature impassivity is dangerous! Prematurely receiving enjoyment of Divine grace is dangerous! Supernatural gifts can destroy an ascetic who has not learned his weakness" (I, 532).

Amazing words! For a spiritually inexperienced person, the very thought that a virtue can be premature and, moreover, fatal for a soul, "a viper," can seem strange, almost blasphemous. However, this is in fact the reality of spiritual life, this is one of its strict laws, revealed by the great experience of saints. In the fifth volume of his works, named "An Offering to Modern Monasticism," in Chapter 10 — "About Caution When Reading Hagiographic Books About Monastic Life," he writes: "The fallen angel tries to deceive and drag monks to destruction by not only offering them sin in its various forms, but also offering them elevated virtues that are alien to them" (V, 54).

6. Proper prayer

These thoughts are directly related to understanding the most important Christian task — prayer. St. Ignatius, speaking in accordance with all saints, that "prayer is the mother of virtues and the door to all spiritual gifts" (2; 228), adamantly points out the conditions that must be observed for it to be so. It turns out that non-observance of them makes prayer fruitless, or even becomes the means of an ascetic’s deep downfall. Some of these conditions are well known. One who does not forgive others will not be forgiven. "Who prays with his lips, but does not care about his soul and does not keep his heart, such a person prays to air, and not to God, and toils in vain, because God harks to the mind and diligence, rather than loquaciousness," — says the Russian ascetic ecclesiast-monk Dorotheas, greatly revered by St. Ignatius. (2; 266).

St. Ignatius pays much attention to the conditions for practicing the Jesus prayer. In light of its great significance for each Christian, let us present a short extract from St. Ignatius’ marvelous article, "On the Jesus Prayer. A conversation between an elder and his disciple."

"Practicing the Jesus prayer has its own beginning, its gradations, its endless end. It is necessary to begin the exercise from the beginning, and not from the middle or the end...

Those who begin in the middle are those novices who, upon reading the teachings… given by the fathers/silence-keepers… rashly take this teaching as their guide for their activity. Those who begin in the middle are those who, without any preliminary preparation, try to enter the heart’s church with their mind and send their prayer from there. Those who begin at the end are those who seek to immediately discover in themselves the blessed pleasure of prayer and its other blessed effects.

It is necessary to begin from the beginning, that is, to pray attentively and with reverence, with the purpose of repentance, taking care only that these three qualities always be present in the prayer... Special care, the most painstaking care should be taken about developing moral well-being in accordance with the Gospel... The incorporeal church of God-pleasing prayer can be only built on morality that is brought to order through the commandments of the Gospel. The labor of one building on sand: on easy and vacillating morals — is in vain." (I, 225-226).

This quote shows how devoutly cautious and attentive the attitude towards the Jesus prayer should be. It should not be performed any which way, but properly. Otherwise, practicing it will not only cease to be a prayer, but can also destroy a Christian. In one of this letters, St. Ignatius describes what the proper mood of the soul must be when praying: "Today I read the declaration of St. Sisoes the Great, which I always particularly liked. A monk said to him: "I am in constant memory of God" St. Sisoes responded to him: "That is not great; it will be great when you consider yourself to be worse than any creature." St. Sisoes continues: constant memory of God is a very elevated activity!! However, this height is very dangerous, when the ladder to it is not founded on the solid rock of humility" (IV, 497).

(In this connection, it is necessary to mention that "the presence of continuity and self-activity in performing the Jesus prayer is by no means a sign of its blessedness, because it does not guarantee... those fruits, which always indicated its blessedness." "… the spiritual struggle, the result and aim of which is acquisition of humility… is substituted by another (intermediate) aim: the acquisition of the unceasing and self-propelling Jesus prayer, which ... is not the final aim, but only one of the means of its attainment." [6])

7. Self-delusion  [7]

These last words of the saint point to yet another very important aspect of spiritual life, to the threat of a deadly danger for the inexperienced ascetic who has neither a true mentor, nor the proper theoretical spiritual knowledge — to the possibility of falling into prelest (self-delusion). This term in Russian, often used by the fathers, is remarkable in that it precisely reveals the very essence of this spiritual illness: adulation of oneself, self-deception, dreaminess, an exaggerated opinion of one’s merit and perfection, pride.

St. Ignatius, naming the main source of this grave illness — pride, quotes the following words of St. Gregory of Sinai (XIV century): "They say that self-delusion appears in two forms, or, rather, "comes on"... — in the form of daydreams and effects, although it has its beginning and reason in pride alone... The first type of self-delusion is from daydreams. The second type… has its beginning… in sensuality, born from natural lusts. In this state, the deceived presumes to preach, give false predictions... The demon of indecency, having darkened their minds with sensual fire, drives them crazy, dreamily presenting to them several saints, letting them hear their words and see their faces" [8].

What is the main medicine for this illness? "Just as pride is always the reason for self-delusion, so humility... serves as a true warning and protection against self-delusion... May our prayer be filled with the feeling of repentance, and be joined with weeping, and self-delusion will never act upon us" (I, 228).

St. Ignatius also writes about another of the more common reasons for falling into self-delusion in this way: "Relegating the spiritual state of those monks, who reject the practice of the Jesus prayer and all mind work in general, who are satisfied with external prayers alone, that is, perfect attendance at church services and perfect fulfillment of the monastic cell prayer rule, consisting only of psalms, and oral and public prayers, to self-delusion — is not unfounded... They cannot avoid an "opinion"... Oral and public praying is fruitful only when it is linked to attentiveness, which happens very rarely, because we learn to be attentive primarily through practicing the Jesus prayer" (I, 257-258). (Of course, this remark relates not only to monks, but also to all Christians).

That is why St. Ignatius, speaking about self-delusion, reminds us: "He who thinks that he is passionless will never be clean from passions; he who considers himself to be filled with blessedness will never receive grace; he who thinks himself a saint, will never attain sainthood. To say it simply: he who attributes to himself spiritual deeds, virtues, merits, blessed gifts, he who flatters himself and entertains himself with an opinion, with this opinion blocks the entrance into himself to spiritual deeds, Christian virtues and Divine grace, and opens wide the entrance to sinful infection and demons. Those infected with self-importance are no longer capable of growing spiritually" (I, 243).

"All saints considered themselves unworthy of God: by this they showed their worth, consisting of humility. All the self-deceived considered themselves worthy of God: in this way, they showed the pride and devilish self-deception enveloping their souls. Some of them accepted demons that appeared before them as angels, and followed them... Some of them excited their imagination, heated their blood, produced nervous movements in themselves, and took it as blessed satisfaction and fell into self-delusion, complete aberration, and became ranked in spirit with the rejected spirits" (II,126).

8. Mentor

Unfortunately, any believer can find himself in this disastrous state, if he lives by his own understanding, without a true spiritual mentor, without the guidance of patristic writings.

However, if understanding the Fathers is not always an easy task, acquiring a true mentor in these times is much harder. A mistake in choosing him can be fatal for a believer.

The most important thing the Fathers speak of is:

(1) the necessity of great caution when choosing an instructor, and the great danger of accepting an unspiritual "elder" as a confessor;

(2) the proper attitude towards him;

(3) the true understanding of obedience to the found instructor;

(4) the obligatory severance from a "blind" confessor, according to the words of the Savior: "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (Matt.15;14);

(5) the diminution of spiritual mentors who can see people’s souls in the last times. (St. Ignatius says frankly that, at present, there are no spirit-bearing mentors);

(6) the necessity for believers themselves to study the Holy Scripture and hagiographic works and be guided by them with the counsel of older, having greater spiritual experience, "successful monks" but, still, checking their counsels against patristic writings.

Let us consider the thoughts of the holy fathers on these issues.

(1) On choosing a confessor.

St. John Cassian the Roman (V cent.): "It is wholesome to reveal one’s thoughts to fathers, but not just any one, but to spiritual elders, capable of reasoning, not to elders by age or grey hairs. Many, having been carried away by the appearance of old age and who revealed their thoughts, received harm instead of a cure" (I,491).

St. John the Ladder (VI cent.): "When we... wish... to entrust our salvation to someone else, then even before entering upon this path, if we have any astuteness and discretion at all, we must consider, examine and, as it were, test this helmsman, so that we do not take a simple oarsman for the helmsman, or a sick person for a physician, a passionate person for a passionless one, the sea for the wharf, and by doing so find ready destruction" (The Ladder. Word 4, chapter 6).

The Ven. Symeon the New Theologian (Х cent.): "With prayers and tears, beg God to send you a passionless and holy guide. Also, study the Divine Scripture yourself, especially the practical patristic works, in order to compare it with what your teacher is teaching you, so that you can see it as if in a mirror, then contrast it, and internalize and keep in mind everything that agrees with the Divine Scripture, and bring to light and discard the false and alien, so that you are not deceived. For you must know, that there are many seducers and false teachers these days" (The Philokalia. Vol.5. Chapter 33).

"St. Macarius the Great (IV-V cent.) said that ... there are souls, that have received Divine grace... and at the same time, due to the lack of active experience, they remain as if in childhood, in a very unsatisfactory state... which is required from true asceticism" (I,284). "In monasteries it is said about such elders: "holy, but unskilled," and one must be careful when seeking their advice... so as not to entrust oneself hastily and thoughtlessly to the counsels of such elders" (I,285). St. Isaac of Syria even says that such an elder "is unworthy of being called a saint" (I,286).

St. Theophan (Govorov): "When determining them [confessors] it is necessary to use great circumspection and strict reasoning, so as not to cause harm instead of good, destruction instead of construction." [9]

(2) On the interrelations between a confessor and his flock.

"Each spiritual mentor must bring souls to Him [Christ], not to himself... Let a mentor stand aside, like the great and humble Forerunner did, consider himself as nothing, rejoice in his diminution before his followers, which serves as a sign of their spiritual progress... Be on guard against predilection for your mentors. Many were not careful and were caught together with their mentors in the meshes of the devil... Predilection turns a beloved person into an idol: God turns away in anger from sacrifices brought to this idol... Then life is lost in vain, good deeds perish. And you, mentor, stay away from sinful undertakings! Don’t replace God with yourself for a soul that has come to you. Follow the example of the holy Forerunner" (IV,519).

(3) On obedience to a confessor.

"Those elders who assume the role [of an elder]... (let us use this unpleasant word) … in essence, is nothing else than soul-destroying play-acting and the saddest comedy. Elders who assume the role of ancient holy Elders, without having their spiritual gifts, must know that their very intention, their very thoughts and notions about this great monastic task – obedience, are false, that the very manner of thinking, their reason, their knowledge is simply self-delusion and demonic deception…" (5, 72)

"They will object: the faith of a novice can replace the shortcomings of an elder. Not true: faith in the truth saves, faith in a lie and demonic deception destroys, according to the Apostle" (2 Thes.2:10-12) (5,73).

"A humble attitude of an advisor towards his addressee is quite different than that of an elder towards his absolute postulant... Advice does not contain the condition of having to be fulfilled: it can be followed or not followed" (V,80).

"But if a mentor begins to look for obedience to himself, and not God, then he is not worthy of being a mentor to others! — He is not a servant of God! — He is a servant of the devil, his weapon, his net! The Apostle teaches, "be not ye the servants of men" (1 Cor. 7:23). [10]

(4) On the necessity of severing yourself from a "blind" confessor.

"St. Pymen the Great (V cent.) demanded immediately severing yourself from an elder, living with whom turns out to be harmful for a soul" (V,74).

(5) On the absence of spirit-bearing mentors.

St. Gregory of Sinai "brought himself to say that in his time [XIV] there were no blessed men, because they had become so rare... Especially nowadays, a worker of prayer must take the utmost care. We do not have God-inspired spiritual mentors!" (I,274).

"Fathers, separated from Christ’s times by milleniums, repeating the advice of their predecessors, already complain about the rarity of God-inspired mentors, the appearance of a multitude of false teachers, and suggest taking the Holy Scripture and patristic works for guidance. The most recent Fathers said that God-inspired teachers were the property of ancient times and decidedly recommend for guidance the Holy Scriptures and advice of contemporary… brothers, accepted with great care and caution and checked against these Scriptures" (I,563).

(6) On living by advice.

"St. Nilus of Sora (XV cent.) never gave instructions or advice on their own, but offered, to those who asked, either a teaching of the Scripture, or of the holy fathers. However when... he couldn’t remember a holy opinion about something, he postponed the answer or fulfillment until he found the instruction in the Scripture. This method is obvious from works of hieromartyr Peter of Damascus, St. Gregory of Sinai, the saints of Xanthpulov and other fathers, especially the most recent. The hieromonks of Optina Pustyn (hermitage) Leonid and Macarius also used it... They never gave advice on their own... This gave power to their advice" (I, 489).

"According to the teaching of fathers, the only life proper for our time is life under the guidance of patristic works with the advice of successful contemporary brothers; this advice again should be verified by the works of fathers" (I, 563).

"Never be obedient to evil, even if you had to suffer for your non-servility and steadfastness. Consult with virtuous and rational fathers and brothers; but adopt their advice with great care and caution. Don’t take advice based upon its initial action upon you!…

Vainglory and self-conceit love to teach and instruct. They don’t care about the merit of their advice! They don’t think that they can cause irreparable damage with absurd advice that is accepted by novices with thoughtless credulity, with the flaring-up of body and blood! They need success, no matter of what the quality or the source! They need to make an impression on the novice and subordinate him morally to themselves! They need human praise! They need to be called saints, wise, visionary elders, teachers! They need to feed their greedy vainglory, their pride!" (On living by advice. — V,77).

St. Theophan (Govorov): "This is the best, most reliable way of guidance or upbringing in Christian life now! Life in devotion to God’s will, according to the Divine and patristic Writs, with the advice and consultation of the like-minded." [11]

Such is the voice of the Holy Tradition of the Church, speaking on one of the sorest issues of modern spiritual life.

9. Roman Catholicism

It would be a grave error to think that self-delusion is a purely Orthodox phenomenon. In his article "On self-delusion," St. Ignatius writes: "Self-delusion is a state of all people without exception, caused by the downfall of our forefathers. We are all in self-delusion. Knowing that is the greatest protection against self-delusion. The greatest self-delusion is considering oneself free from self-delusion. We are all deceived, all deluded, we all are in a false state, we all need liberation by the truth. The truth is our Lord Jesus Christ" (I, 230).

St. Ignatius’ judgments about western Catholic ascetics are particularly important for our time. In full agreement with other saints of the Orthodox Church he testified: "The greater part of the ascetics of the Western Church, which proclaims them as great saints – after falling away from the Eastern Church and the digression of the Holy Spirit from it — prayed and achieved visions, of course, false, in the way that I mentioned... Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of Jesuit Order, was in such a state. His imagination was so keyed up and refined that (as he stated himself) he only needed to want and make a little effort, and he saw visions of heaven or hell, whichever he desired... It is known that visions are granted to true God’s saints only by God’s grace and action, and not by the will of man and by his own effort, — they are granted unexpectedly, extremely rarely... The intense exploits of those in self-delusion are usually on the same level as deep depravity. Depravity serves as an assessment of the flame with which the deluded are kindled" (I, 244).

The saint also points to other reasons, hidden from external view, for the false states of western ascetics. Thus, he writes: "Blood and nerves are set in motion by many passions: anger, and love of money, and sensuality, and vanity. The latter two especially excite the blood in ascetics who toil unlawfully, turning them into frenzied fanatics. Vanity strives prematurely towards spiritual states, of which a man is not yet capable because of his uncleanness; instead of attaining the truth — he invents dreams. And sensuality, adding its action to that of vanity, creates seductive false comforts, pleasures, and delights in the heart. This state is the state of self-delusion. All those who toil unlawfully are in this state. It develops in them to greater or lesser degrees, depending on how much they intensify their exploits. Western writers wrote many books while in this state" (IV, 499).

It is interesting to note that St. Ignatius (who studied Catholic ascetic literature not in translation, but in the Latin originals) also indicates the specific time coordinates of the deviation of Catholic ascetics from the common experience of the saints of the single Universal Church. He writes: "St. Benedict [†544], the Holy Pope Gregory the Dialogist, [†604] still agree with the ascetic mentors of the East; but Bernard of Clairvaux (XII cent.) sharply differs from them; those who came later deviated even more. They are immediately attracted toward heights unattainable to novices and drag their readers with them, they get carried away and take others along. Heated... daydreaming replaces everything spiritual within them, about which they have no inkling. They consider this daydreaming to be grace" (IV, 498) [12].

10. There is one truth

Self-delusion, as we see, appears in those who live not under the direction of the holy fathers, but by their own thoughts, desires, and understanding and look not to God for salvation from sin, but for blissful pleasures, revelations and gifts. And a woeful ascetic usually "receives" them in abundance in his own excited imagination and with the action of dark powers. Therefore, self-delusion is not one of the possible and, all the more, equivalent variants of spirituality, not one’s own special way to God (which is what Catholic apologetics call its mysticism), but a grave illness, without the understanding and proper evaluation of which an ascetic decomposes from within.

And this terrible illness threatens not only individuals with destruction, but also, as we see, Christianity itself. The deviation of any Christian community or Local Church from the principles of spiritual life, revealed and consecrated by the great experience of the Church, inevitably results in the loss of the understanding of true holiness and in the glorification of its unconcealed deviations. The deviation of each individual believer from "the royal path" of spiritual life, paved by ascetic saints’ feet, leads to the same destructive results.

Bursts toward "heights" are especially frequent among new believers and young ascetics, who have not come to know their "old man", who have not been freed from passions but already seek the state of a new, perfect man. Not in vain do the fathers say: "If you see a youth ascending to the heaven by his own will, grab him by the foot and cast him down from there, because that is good for him." [13] The reason for similar errors is obvious: ignorance of the laws of spiritual life, lack of self-knowledge. St. Ignatius quotes the following remarkable words of St. Isaac of Syria about this: "If some of the fathers wrote about what is purity of soul, about what is its health, impassivity, vision, they did not write about this in order for us to look for them prematurely and with expectation. The Scripture says: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation " (Luke 17:20). Those, in whom live expectations, have acquired pride and downfall. God’s Church rejects the expectant seeking of God’s elevated gifts. This is not a sign of love for God; this is an ailment of the soul." St. Ignatius concludes this thought with the following words: "When the holy fathers of the Eastern Church, especially the hermits, achieved great heights in spiritual exercises, then all these exercises merged inside them into repentance alone. Repentance enveloped their whole life, all their activities: it was a consequence of the vision of their sins" (II, 125-126).

The only reliable, steadfast basis of proper spiritual life lies in this vision of one’s sin, which gives birth to true humility and "repentance not to be repented of" (2 Cor.7:10).

[1] These days, the most useful for understanding the spiritual life are:

Abba Dorotheus, St. Spiritual Instructions. Moscow, 1874.

Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St. Patralogia. Saint Petersburg 1903; Works. Т. I-V. Saint Petersburg 1905; Collected letters. Moscow- Saint Petersburg 1995.

John, Sche-hegumen. Letters of a Valaam Elder. Latest edition: Kolomna. 2001.

Mother Superior Arseniya. Reedition: Moscow, 1994.

Nikon, Hegumen. Letters to Spiritual Children. 2nd edition. The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. 1991.

Lazar, Archim. The Mystery of Confession. Moscow, 1995.

[2] Herein and after in brackets: the first number is the volume, the second number is the page from Works of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) in the edition: Saint Petersburg, 1905.

[3] Justin the Philosopher, St. Apologia 1,46

[4] Isaac of Syria, St. Ascetic Words. Moscow. 1858. Word 34. P.217.

[5] Barsanuphius the Great and John. Guidelines for a Spiritual Life. Saint Petersburg 1905. Answer 274.

[6] Monk Mercurius. In the Caucasus Mountains. "Palomnik." 1996. С.7-8.

[7] See also chapter V, 3: Individual Revelation.

[8] St. Gregory of Sinai. Chapters about Commandments and Dogmas. Ch. 131 // The Philokalia. Moscow, 1900. V. 5. P.214.

[9] St. Theophan (Govorov). What is Necessary for One Who Has Repented and Entered the Good Path of Salvation. Moscow Spiritual Academy. "Novaya kniga." 1995. P.87.

[10] St. Ignatius. Collected letters. №159. Moscow-Saint Petersburg 1995г.

[11] St. Theophan (Govorov). What is Necessary for One Who Has Repented and Entered the Good Path of Salvation.Moscow Spiritual Academy. "Novaya kniga." 1995. P.72-73.

[12] See examples in chapter V, 3: Individual revelation.

[13] Ancient Pateric. Moscow, 1874. Chapter 10, par. 159.


§2. About sanctity in Orthodoxy.

1. God and man

The fact of the primordial nature and universality of religion in the history of mankind testifies not only to the theoretical satisfaction of the idea of God as the absolute Source of any life and any good, but also to the absolute accord of religion with human nature, about its overall justification in historic, social, and individual experience.

The essence of religion is usually, and justly, seen as the special unity of man and God, human spirit and God’s Spirit. In addition, each religion has its own path and means towards attaining this end. However, the postulate common to all religious awareness, about the necessity of spiritual unity of man and God for attaining eternal life, always remains stable. This idea runs through in all the religions of the world, appearing in various myths, legends, dogmas and underlines, in different aspects and from different sides, the unconditional importance and primordial nature of the spiritual beginning in human life, in man’s finding its meaning.

God, having only partially revealed Himself in the Old Testament, appeared in the maximum fullness comprehensible to man in the incarnation of God the Word, and the possibility of unity with Him became especially clear and perceptible thanks to the Church that He created. The Church is unity in the Holy Spirit of all rational creatures who follow God’s will and thus belong to Christ’s God-man Organism — "His Body" (Eph. 1:23). Therefore, the Church is the community of saints. However, membership in it is conditional not on the simple factor of the partaking of the Baptism, Eucharist and other mysteries by a believer, but also on the special union with the Holy Spirit. Thus, someone who seems to be, by all external indications, an indisputable member of the Church, may not be a member, if he doesn’t satisfy the given criteria. This thought may seem strange: hasn’t a Christian received the Holy Spirit through the mysteries? And if so, then what other union can there be? This question is of principal importance for understanding holiness in Orthodoxy.

2. Stages of life

If old (Eph. 4:22) nature was inherited by Adam’s descendants in natural order, then the birth of the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:47) and the union with the Holy Spirit is the result of a conscious-volitional process of personal activity, having two principally different stages.

First, when a believer is spiritually born through the mystery of Baptism, he receives a seed (Matt. 13:3-23) of the New Adam and thus becomes a member of His Body — the Church. St. Symeon the New Theologian says: "...a believer in God’s Son... repents... of his previous sins and is cleansed of them in the mystery of Baptism. Then God the Word enters into the one baptized, as into the womb of the Ever-Virgin, and abides in him as a seed" [14]. However, a man is not "automatically" converted from an "old man" (Eph.4:22) into a "new" one (Eph. 4:24) through Baptism. Though purged of all sins and thus becoming like primeval Adam, the one believing in Baptism, still retains, according to St. Maxim the Confessor, passion, corruptibility, and mortality [15], inherited from the forefathers who sinned, and susceptibility to sin.

Therefore, that sanctity, to which a man is called, is still not achieved by the mystery of Baptism. This mystery provides its beginning, not its fulfillment, a man is only given a seed, not the tree itself, yielding the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The second stage is that proper (righteous) spiritual life, owing to which a believer grows into a perfect man, to the extent of the measure of stature of the fullness of Christ

(Eph. 4:13) and becomes capable of receiving special consecration by the Holy Spirit. For the seed of Baptism in the "wicked and slothful" (Matt. 25:26) Christians does not germinate and is therefore fruitless (John 12:24), but when it falls into good soil, it springs up and bears corresponding fruit. This fruit (and not the seed) signifies the sought-after union to the Holy Spirit— sanctity. The parable about a "leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened " (Matt. 13:33), graphically illustrates the nature of this mysterious change of man and his junction to the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the real meaning of the mysteries in this process. Like leaven which, when added to dough, starts to work gradually and under very definite conditions, the "leaven" of Baptism "leavens" the carnal man into the spiritual (1Cor. 3:1-3), into a "new lump" (dough) (1Cor. 5:7) not instantly, not magically, but in due course, under the conditions of the appropriate moral and spiritual changes laid out in the Gospel. Thus, it is up to the Christian, who received the "talent" of justification free (Rom 3:24), to destroy it in the soil of his heart (Matt. 25:18) or to multiply it.

The latter signifies the special junction of the baptized to the Holy Spirit. And this is one of the most important principles of Orthodox understanding of spiritual life, Christian perfection, sanctity. St. Symeon the New Theologian expressed it in a simple and concise manner: "All his efforts and his whole exploit (of a Christian — A.O.) must be directed at acquiring the Holy Spirit, because this is the essence of spiritual law and well-being" [16]. St. Seraphim of Sarov spoke about the same thing in one of his conversations: "The purpose of a Christian life is to acquire the Spirit of God, and this is the purpose of the life of every Christian, who lives spiritually" [17].

Thus, it turns out that a believer, who received the fullness of gifts of Holy Spirit in the mysteries, also needs the particular "acquisition" of Him, which is sanctity.


3. The Scripture and Church

At first glance, a kind of definite discrepancy exists between the notion of sanctity in the Holy Scripture, especially of the New Testament, and the tradition of Church. For example, the Apostle Paul calls all Christians saints, although there were some among them who, due to their moral level, were far from sainthood (compare: 1 Cor. 6:1-2). In contrast, from the very beginning of the existence of the Church and in all subsequent times, the Church calls saints mainly those Christians, who distinguished themselves by special spiritual purity and zealousness of Christian life, exploit of prayer and love, martyrdom for Christ, etc.

However, these two approaches do not mean there is a division in understanding sanctity, they are simply an assessment of the same phenomenon at different levels. The New Testament use of the term applies to whom believers are called to be, who gave "the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21) and received the gift of grace of Baptism, even though at present they are still corporeal, i.e. sinful and imperfect. But the Church tradition logically completes the understanding of the New Testament, crowning those Christians, who fulfilled this mission through their righteous life, with a halo of glory. That is, both these traditions speak of the same thing – about the special unity of a Christian with the Holy Spirit, and make the possibility of this unity conditional on the believer’s level of zeal in spiritual life. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven………… depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. " (Matt. 7:21-27). "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matt. 11:12).

The Apostle calls all Christians saints because they are called to another, new life in Christ, and by this name stresses upon the chance provided to all believers to become new creatures (Gal. 6:15). The Church, from the very beginning of its existence, calls saints those who became different with regards to the world, who acquired the Holy Spirit and revealed His power in our world.

4. Sanctity

When we speak about holy Font, about holy Chrism, about the Holy Gifts, about holy Repentance, about holy Marriage, about holy Oil… and so on, and so on, and, at last, about Priesthood, (the Russian word, "Sviashchenstvo," contains the root "sviat" – holy) we first of all realize the very unworldliness of all these sacraments. They are in the world, but not of the world… And this, in fact, is the first negative aspect of the notion of holiness. Therefore, when, after the Sacraments, we call many other things holy, then we mean precisely the remoteness, the detachment from the world, from the daily, worldly, common — of those things that we call holy... Therefore, when God in the Old Testament is named Holy, this means that He is above the world, He is transcendental to the world...

And in the New Testament, when the Apostle Paul repeatedly calls his fellow Christians saints in his epistles, from his lips, first of all, it means that Christians are set apart from all of mankind…

Undoubtedly, on the heels of its negative side, in the notion of holiness there is also a positive side, opening up the reality of another world in a saint...

The notion of holiness has an upper pole and a lower pole, and in our consciousness it always moves between the two poles, going up and coming down … And this ladder, leading from the bottom up, is considered to be the path of denying the world … However, it also can be considered as leading in the opposite direction. In this case, it will be considered as the way of affirming of world reality through consecration of the latter [18].

Thus, according to the Apostle Paul, holiness is, first of all, alienation in relation to the world of sin, denial of it. Secondly, it is specific positive content, because the nature of holiness is Divine, it is ontologically established in God. At the same time, holiness, he underlines, is not moral perfection, though it is inseparably connected with it, but is "co-eternity with unworldly energies." Finally, holiness is not only the denial, the absence of any evil, and not only a phenomenon of another, Divine world, but is also a firm assertion of "world reality through consecration of the latter."

This third side of holiness says that it is a power, transfiguring not only a man, but also the world overall, so that "God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28). In the final analysis, all creation must change ("And I saw a new heaven and a new earth" — Rev. 21:1) and reveal God. However, only man can play an active role on the part of creation in this process, and that is why he is given full responsibility for creatures (Rom. 8:19-21). And here the importance of saints is revealed with particular force, who became the rudiments (Rom. 11:16) of future universal and complete consecration under the conditions of earthly existence.

Saints are, first of all, different [19] people, differing from those living "after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8). Different, because they struggle and with God’s help overcome "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16), everything that enslaves the people of this world. In this weaning of saints away from the world of threefold lust, from the atmosphere of sin, can be seen one of the fundamental characteristics of sanctity and unity of the initial apostolic and Church-traditional understanding of it.


5. Laws of life

Saints showed with their lives the height of godlikeness to which a man is called and capable of, and what this godlikeness is. It is that spiritual beauty ("very good" (Gen. 1:31)), which is the reflection of the inexpressible God [20]. This beauty, given and assigned to man in creation, is revealed only through a proper life, called asceticism. Saints called asceticism the "art of arts," "skill of skills." Contemplative knowledge, given by asceticism, is filokalia, which means love of good.

Asceticism, as the science of proper human life, has, like any other branch of science, its own initial principles, its own criteria and goal. The latter can be expressed with different words: holiness, deification, salvation, godlikeness, God’s Kingdom, spiritual beauty, etc. But the important thing is that the achievement of this aim assumes a quite definite path of spiritual development of a Christian, certain consistency, evenness, assumes the presence of special laws, hidden from views of others (Luke 8:10). The Gospel’s "Beatitudes" (Matt. 5:3-12) point to this consistency and evenness. The holy fathers, on the grounds of their prolonged experience of asceticism, offer in their works a kind of a ladder [22] of spiritual life, at the same time admonishing about the fatal consequences for deviating from it [23]. The research of its laws is the fundamental task of religion, and, in the final analysis, all other knowledge of a theological character are reduced to the understanding of spiritual life, without which they become totally senseless. This subject is very extensive; therefore let us consider only two of its main points.

Humility is the first of them. In the unanimous teachings of the Fathers, the entire building of Christian perfection is based on humility; neither a proper spiritual life, nor the acquisition of any gifts of the Holy Spirit, are possible without it. What is Christian humility? According to the Gospel, it is, first of all, poverty in spirit (Matt. 5:3), the state of the soul derived from the vision of one’s own sinfulness, and the inability of freeing oneself from the pressure of passions through one’s own strength without God’s help. St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) writes: "By the unalterable law of asceticism, the plentiful consciousness and perception of one’s own sinfulness, given by God’s grace, precedes all other gifts of grace" [24]. St. Peter of Damascus calls this vision "the beginning of a soul’s enlightenment." He writes that, if the exploit is undertaken correctly, the "mind begins to see its sins as the sands of the sea, and this is the beginning of a soul’s enlightenment and a sign of its health. And simply: the soul is broken and the heart is made contrite and truly considers itself lower than anyone and begins to realize God’s good actions … and its own deficiencies." [25] This state is always connected with especially deep and true repentance, the value of which cannot be overestimated in spiritual life. St. Ignatius exclaims: "The vision of one’s own sin and the repentance born by it are deeds having no end on Earth" [26]. The statements of saints and teachers of the Church about the fundamental importance of the vision of one’s own sinfulness, about the endlessness of repentance on Earth and new quality born by them – humility — are countless.

What is most important in them?

Humility is the only virtue enabling man to be in a so-called non-falling state. Particularly telling is the history of the first man, who possessed all of God’s gifts (Gen. 1:31), but who did not have practical knowledge of his own non-self-existence, his own nonentity without God, that is, he did not have skilled humility and therefore became self-important so easily. However, skilled humility in man comes from compelling oneself to fulfill the Gospel’s commandments and repentance. As St. Symeon the New Theologian says: "Thorough fulfillment of Christ’s commandments teaches a man his weakness." [27] The knowledge of one’s powerlessness to become spiritually and morally healthy and holy without God’s help creates a firm psychological basis for the steadfast acceptance of God as the source of life and all good. Skilled humility excludes the possibility of a new proud wish to become "like God" (Gen. 3:5) and a new downfall.

Essentially, the true rebirth of a Christian only begins when he, in his struggle with sin, sees the full depth of the damage of his nature, the principal inability to recover from passions and attain the desired holiness without God. This self-knowledge reveals to man the One Who wants and can save him from the state of destruction; reveals Christ to him. This explains why the saints considered humility so utterly essential.

St. Macarius of Egypt says: "Humility is a great height. Humility is both honor and dignity" [28]. St. John Chrysostom calls humility the main virtue [29], and St. Barsanuphius the Great teaches that, "humility takes first place among virtues" [30]. St. Symeon the New Theologian affirms: "Although He has many kinds of influences, many signs of His power, humility is first and foremost, and the most essential, because it is the beginning and the foundation" [31]. Humility, attained by proper Christian living, is in fact a new property, unknown to the first Adam and it — is the only firm basis for the non-falling state of man, his true sanctity [32].

6. Love and misconception

However, if the ladder of spiritual life is built upon humility, then it is crowned with the virtue, which is the greatest of these (1 Cor.13:13) and which God Himself calls (1 John 4:6) — Love. All other properties of the new man are simply its qualities, its manifestations. God calls man to it, it is promised in Christ to a believer. Saints were glorified by it most of all, they overcame the world by it; to a superior degree, with it they showed greatness, beauty and the goodness of God’s promises to man. However, the question of how it is attained and by which signs it can be distinguished from unsuitable likenessess is not so simple.

There are two externally similar but principally different, in essence, states of love, spoken of by the ascetic traditions of West and East. The first is sensual love (Jude 1:19, 1 Cor. 2:14). It arises when the aim of the exploit is the development in oneself of the feeling of love. It is achieved mainly by continually concentrating one’s attention on the sufferings of Christ and the Theotokos, picturing to oneself various episodes from Their lives, mentally participating in them, dreaming and imagining Their love for oneself and one’s love for Them, etc. This practice can be distinctly observed in the biographies of virtually all the better-known and authoritative Catholic saints: Angela, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and others.

Owing to this, they often experience nervous exaltations, sometimes reaching the point of hysteria, prolonged hallucinations, loving feelings accompanied quite often by openly sexual sensations, bleeding wounds (stigmata). The Catholic Church assesses these states as blissful phenomena, as evidence of their achievement of true love.

However, in Orthodox asceticism, they are considered "as a delusive, forced play of feelings, an indistinct creation of dreaminess and conceit" [33], like spiritual self-delusion, that is, the greatest self-deception. The main reason for such a negative assessment of Catholic mysticism is that most of its attention is devoted to the stimulation of emotional feelings, nerves and psyche, to the development of the imagination, to the asceticism of the body, rather than to spiritual exploit, which, as is known, consists, first of all, of the struggle with one’s own old man, with his feelings, desires, thoughts, in the compulsion to fulfill the Gospel’s commandments and to repentance., According to the Fathers, it is impossible to acquire any spiritual gifts or true love without this. "Neither do men put new wine into old bottles... but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved" (Matt. 9:17). New wine — the Holy Spirit, giving a believer taste "that God is good" (Psalms 33:9) — is poured into the one who acquires humility and cleanses himself from passions by fulfillment of the commandments and by repentance.

St. Isaac of Syria, addressing one of his younger fellow-ascetics, writes: "There is no way God’s love can arise in a soul… if it did not overcome passions. But you said that your soul did not overcome passions and fell in love with love for God; there is no order in this. He who says that he did not overcome passions and fell in love with love for God; I do not know what he is talking about. You will say: I did not say I "love," but "I fell in love with love." And there is no place for this, if a soul did not achieve purity. If you want to say this only for the purpose of saying it, then you are not the only one, anyone can say that he wants to love God... And everyone pronounces this as their own word, however, when pronouncing such words only the tongue moves, but the soul does not feel what is said" [34].

St. Ignatius, who studied Catholic ascetic literature in the original, wrote: "The greater part of the ascetics of the Western Church, which proclaims them as great saints – after falling away from the Eastern Church and the digression of the Holy Spirit from it — prayed and achieved visions, of course, false, in the way that I mentioned... Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, was in such state. His imagination was so keyed up and refined that (as he stated himself) he only needed to want and make a little effort, and he saw visions of heaven or hell, whichever he desired... It is known that visions are granted to true God’s saints only by God’s grace and action, and not by the will of man and by his own effort, — they are granted unexpectedly, extremely rarely..." [35]. "Premature aspirations towards the development in oneself of the feeling of love to God is already self-delusion... It is necessary to achieve perfection in all the virtues in order to enter into the perfection of perfections, into their fusion, into love" [36].

The nature of true Christian love, as we see, is completely different, in comparison with all the other kinds. According to the Holy Scripture, it is the gift of the Holy Spirit, rather than the result of one’s own neuro-psychic tension. The Apostle Paul wrote: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us " (Rom. 5:5). That means that love is spiritual, it is "the bond of perfectness" (Col. 3:14), and, according to St. Isaac of Syria, is "a dwelling-place of the spiritual and settles in the purity of the soul" [37]. However, the giving of this love is possible only under the condition of the acquisition all the other virtues, and first of all humility, being the foundation of the whole ladder of virtues. St. Isaac of Syria especially warns us about this. He says: "One of the saints wrote: the prayer of one who does not consider himself a sinner, is not accepted by Lord. If you say, that some of the fathers wrote about what is purity of soul, about what is its health, impassivity, vision, they did not write about this in order for us to look for them prematurely and with expectation. The Scripture says: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation " (Luke 17:20). Those, in whom live expectations, have acquired pride and downfall. But we shall put the region of our heart to rights by deeds of repentance and a God-pleasing life. God’s gifts will come by themselves if there is a pure and inviolate place in the heart. Those things that we look for with expectation, i.e. God’s high gifts, are not approved of by God’s Church; those who accepted them, acquired pride and fall for themselves. This is not a sign of love for God; this is an ailment of the soul." [38]

St. Tikhon of Voronezh writes: "If the greatest virtue, love, according to the Apostle, suffereth long, envieth not, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, never faileth, this is because it is supported by and assisted by humility" [39]. Therefore, the love of an "old" Christian, who does not having the proper self-knowledge and skillful humility, is fickle, inconstant, mixed with vainglory, egoism, sensuality etc., is full of "sincerity" and dreaminess [40].

Thus, the saints’ love is not a common earthly feeling, is not the result of purposeful efforts to arouse the love of God inside oneself, but is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and, as such, is experienced and expressed completely differently than even the loftiest earthly feelings. The fruits of God’s Spirit, given to all true Christians according to the level of their zeal, spiritual purity and humility, eloquently testify to this.

7. Fruits of the Spirit

The Holy Scripture and patristic works constantly speak about those completely unique, in terms of their power and character, states of joy, bliss or, in plain human terms, happiness, that cannot be compared to any common experiences, which are gradually revealed in a Christian who leads a proper spiritual life.

Most often these states are described with the words: love and joy, because in the human language there are no higher notions than these. One could endlessly quote the words of the Scripture and the Fathers, liturgical texts, confirming this and testifying to perhaps the most important fact for man — that man by his God-created nature, by the depth of the feelings available to him, is a creature similar to Him, Who is perfect Love, Who is perfect Joy and All-Good. The Lord says to the Apostles: these things "have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. " (John 15:11); "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:24). And the disciples really "were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost." (Acts 13:52).

John the Theologian addresses his spiritual children: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God... Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:1-2).

The Apostle Paul calls "love, joy, peace" (Gal. 5:22) the first gifts of the Spirit. He exclaims: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … …I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:35,38-39). He even says that if a Christian does not acquire this greatest gift, then he is sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, he is nothing, he lives senselessly (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Therefore, he prays: "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … that He would grant you … to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:14,16,19).

The experience of all the saints, the countless numbers of Christians, is a remarkable confirmation of the verity of the Scripture, reflected in their ascetic, liturgical, hymnographic and other works. At the same time, it is important to note that tears over sins, contrition of heart, repentance that are constantly present in their works and producing, at first glance, the impression of a sort of despondency and sadness, a depressed state, have in reality a completely different nature and a different spirit. For a Christian who is sincerely repentant and compels himself to live life according to the Gospel, these are always dissolved in a special peace of soul, spiritual joy, and therefore appear more valuable than all earthly values.

One of the unique peculiarities of a proper Christian life is that the more it reveals to a person the decadence of his nature, his sinfulness and spiritual feebleness, the more it reveals to him the nearness of God, who heals, purifies, gives a soul peace, joy and various spiritual comforts. This nearness of God, by spiritual law, is conditional on the extent of humility a Christian acquires, which makes the Christian’s soul capable of accepting the Holy Spirit, filling it with the greatest blessing — love.

The most experienced teacher of ancient monasticism, St. Isaac of Syria, gave one of the clearest characteristics of the state, which the true ascetic of Christ achieves. When asked: "What is a merciful heart?" he replied: this is "the flaring up of a person’s heart about all creation, about men, about birds, about animals, about demons and about every creature… And therefore, he constantly prays about dumb creatures, and about the enemies of truth, and about those who do him harm, so that they would be preserved and be forgiven… This is the sign of those who have achieved perfection: if they are committed to flames ten times a day for love of people, they will not be satisfied with that, like Moses… and like … Paul… and the other Apostles accepted death in all its forms for love of people’s lives …And saints seek this sign — to become like God in the perfection of love towards others" [41].

The conversation between St. Seraphim of Sarov and N.A. Motovilov can serve as an illustration of what a man, who has acquired the Holy Spirit, experiences, during which, upon the prayer of the Saint, Motovilov could sense and experience the beginnings of the good gifts of the Holy Spirit and tell the world about them. St. Seraphim said, "When God’s Spirit comes to a man and overshadows him with the fullness of Its inspiration, then a human soul is filled with inexpressible joy because God’s Spirit gives joy to everything It touches...

"The Lord said: "The Kingdom of God is within you," and by God’s Kingdom He meant the grace of the Holy Spirit. And it is now found within us, and the grace of the Holy Spirit irradiates us from without and warms us, filling the air with many different scents... delighting our feelings with heavenly pleasure and filling our hearts with an ineffable joy..." [42].

One of our recent ascetics, Hegumen Nikon (Vorobyov, (1963) wrote that spiritual man, being the dwelling of Holy Spirit ("ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" — 1 Cor. 3:16), is completely different from the emotional, or corporal; he is a new man, and the emotional one is old. What is new in him? — Everything: mind, heart, will, even body, all his state.

The mind of a new (spiritual) man is capable of understanding remote events, the past and much of the future, of understanding the essence of things, and not only events, of seeing the souls of people, angels and demons, of understanding much of the spiritual world. The Apostle Paul says, "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16).

The heart of a new man is capable of experiencing such states, which are succinctly described thus: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). The Apostle Paul even writes: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). And St. Seraphim says (in accordance with the ancient saints) that if man knew about the states of bliss, which can be experienced here on Earth, and all the more so in the future life, then he would agree to live thousands of years in a hole, filled with reptiles gnawing at his body, in order to acquire this good.

In the same way, the will of a new man is entirely directed towards love and gratitude towards God, towards the desire to perform His will in everything, rather than his own.

The body of a spiritual man also changes, becomes partly similar to Adam’s body before the fall, capable of "spiritual sensations" and deeds (walking on water, the ability to be without food for a long time, instantaneous translations over great distances, etc.)

In a word, a spiritual man is totally renewed, is made different (the marvelous Russian word "inok" (monk) comes from the word "inoi" – other) in mind, in heart, in will and in body [43].

The Fathers call this other state of man "en-Godening." This term most accurately expresses the essence of holiness. It is the closest union with God, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, about which St. Seraphim spoke. It is the Kingdom of God, come with power (Mark 9:1) in those believers, about whom the Savior said: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; in My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17-18). These signs are one of evident indications that holiness is oneness with the Lord’s Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), Who is "the God that doest wonders" (Psalms 76:15).

[14] St. Symeon The New Theologian. On the Purpose of Christian life // Journal of Moscow Patriarchy. 1980, No. 3. P. 67.

[15] St. Maxim the Confessor. Works. Book 2. Questions and Answers for Thalassia. Question 42. "Martis." 1993. P.111.

[16] St. Symeon the New Theologian. Words. Moscow, 1892. The Second Word. P. 30.

[17] About the Purpose of Christian Life. Sergiyev Posad, 1914. P. 41.

[18] See Priest Pavel Florensky. Consecration of Reality // Theological Works. No 17. Moscow, 1977. P. 148-152.

[19] St. Macarius of Egypt says: "Christians have their own world, their own lifestyle and their own mind, and word, and activities. People of this world also have their own lifestyle, and mind, and word, and activities. Christians – are one thing, lovers of the world — another. There is a great distance between them" (St. Macarius of Egypt. Spiritual Discourses, Messages and Words. The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, 1904. Discourse 5. P. 40).

[20] St. Symeon The New Theologian writes: "(His) name is unknown to us except the name "I AM THAT I AM" the ineffable God, as He said (Exodus 3:14)" (St. Symeon The New Theologian, Divine Hymns. Sergiyev Posad, 1917. P. 272).

[21] Priest Pavel Florensky. The Pillar and Establishment of Truth. Moscow, 1914. P. 98-99.

[22] St. Basil the Great says: "Exercise of virtue is likened to the ladder which the blessed Jacob saw once upon a time, one end of which was close to the Earth and touched it, while the other stretched higher than the skies" (St. Basil the Great. Works. Edition 3. Part 1. Moscow, 1891. P. 155). St. John’s "Ladder" clearly develops this idea of inter-correlation, both of virtues and passions in the spiritual life of a Christian.

[23] St. Isaac of Syria says: "Each virtue is the mother of another virtue. Therefore, if you leave the mother, giving birth to the virtues and go looking for daughters before finding their mother, then these virtues become snakes for the soul. If you don’t cast them away, you will soon die" (St. Isaac of Syria. Ascetic words. Moscow, 1858. Word 72. P .528).

[24] Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Vol. 2. P. 334.

[25] Ven. Peter Damascene. Works. Book 1. Kiev. 1902. P. 33.

[26] Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Vol. 2. P. 127.

[27] Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Vol. 4. P. 9.

[28] St. Macarius of Egypt. Spiritual Discourses. The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, 1904. P. 360.

[29] St. John Chrysostom. Works. Vol. 1. Saint Petersburg, 1985. P. 187.

[30] Ven. Barsanuphius and John. Guidance in Spiritual Life. Saint Petersburg, 1905. P. 297.

[31] St. Symeon the New Theologian. Words. Word 3-е. P. 36.

[32] St. John Chrysostom expresses this thought in the following words: "It (humility) is the greatest barrier, an unbreakable wall, an insurmountable fortress; it supports the entire building, preventing it from falling either from blasts of wind, or surges, or powerful storms, but places it above all attacks, and makes it as thought it is built of adamant and unbreakable, and brings down upon us generous gifts from man-loving God" (St. John Chrysostom. Works. Т. 4. Saint Petersburg, 1898. P. 385).

[33] Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Vol. 2. P. 57.

[34] St. Isaac of Syria. Ascetic Words. Moscow, 1858. Word 55. P. 372-373.

[35] Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Vol. I, 244.

[36] Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Vol. 2. P. 53, 55.

[37] St. Isaac of Syria. Word 55. P. 389.

[38] St. Isaac of Syria. Word 55. P. 371-372.

[39] St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. Works Vol. 2. Moscow, 1899. P. 99.

[40] About this see, for example: St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works. Saint Petersburg 1905. Vol. 1. P. 253-257; Vol. 2. P. 124-125; St. Theophan (Govorov). Letters about Christian Life. Moscow, 1980. Letters No.11, 21.

[41] St. Isaac of Syria. Word 48. P. 299 — 302.

[42] On the Purpose of Christian Life. P. 17-21.

[43] Father-Superior Nikon. Letters to Spiritual Children. The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, 1991. P. 119.


IX. Origin of the world.

One of the dogmas of the Christian religion is the teaching about the creation of the world by God: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth... And God said, Let there be... and there was... And the evening and the morning were the first [1]... second... third... fourth... fifth... sixth day... Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them" (Gen. 1; 2:1. Also: 2 Mac. 7:28; Is. 45:18; Ier.10:12; Psalms 145:6; John 1:3; Rom. 4:17; Col. 1:16-17; Hebr. 11:3, and others).

The very first line of the Christian Creed speaks about creation: "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."

To summarize the Revelation’s teaching about creation:

1. The world is not self-created, but is the result of a special creative act of God.

2. The world is not formed by God from eternally existing matter, but is created, that is, the matter itself and the entire world (the Universe) are called from non-existence to existence only by the almighty creative word of God.

3. The creation of the world was not instantaneous, but gradual, "six days long."

4. The invisible, pretersensual, spiritual world was created along with the visible world, i.e. the one accessible for perception by our feelings.

Evidently, each of these provisions includes a vast series of theological and philosophic problems. Here we will touch upon only some of them; first of all, the problem of the essence of the created world.

[1] The Jewish word "iom" (translated into English, Church Slavonic and Russian as "a day") means not only day, but also a period, era, an indeterminate period of time, moment.

§1. Two Views of the World.

There are two main non-Christian religious and philosophic opinions on this matter: dualistic and pantheistic.

The dualistic is simpler, which considers matter as an eternal, original substance from which God simply formed the world, like an architect-builder. Matter and the world from this point of view are substantive by themselves, and in this sense are independent of God. Even if the world is destroyed, its basis — matter — is indestructible.

For Christianity, this conception is unacceptable. First of all, there are no biblical bases for it. Secondly, it depreciates God as the single highest beginning and source of existence. Moreover, this conception is inseparably connected to the ideas of metaphysical and ethical dualism, permanently taking it out of the scope of Revelation.

Another widespread system of thought is the pantheistic. There are many variants, but their essence is one: matter and the world are either of one essence with the Divinity (i.e. having the same nature that God has), or do not exist at all (the world is a mirage; everything is God).

This viewpoint is also incompatible with Christianity. Pantheism not only deprives the notion about God of the highest positive predicate which our human awareness can allot Him – Individuality — but also considers the creation of the world itself as an act, necessary in God, conditional on the ontological qualities of His nature. Therefore, the pantheistic thought strives to avoid the notion of "creation," as assuming the presence of unconditional freedom in God. Contrary to Spinoza’s acosmism and the pantheism of most thinkers, it is impossible to conclude anything about the existence of the world from God’s nature; because the act of world creation, —whether we understand it to be instantaneous and historically within reach, or gradual and spread throughout all historic time, or revealed in an endless historic process, or, finally, everlasting, — no matter how many different interpretations of it there are — has to be considered a free act, i.e. coming from God without necessity. One of important theses of Christian teaching, which is principally different from those of pantheism, — is about the absolute spiritual freedom of God as an Individual and perfect Being.

Pantheistic cosmogony is diametrically opposed to Christianity in other very important points as well. Equating the essence of God and the world, pantheism takes the next step —essentially, it abolishes the world (or God).

Pantheism also carries awareness to absurdity in resolving other important issues related to world outlook: about truth and error, good and evil, freedom and tyranny, beauty and ugliness, suffering and pleasure, etc. Pantheism suggests a "unique" solution indeed: inasmuch as all these polar categories stem from necessity, in the final analysis, from one source — the "God-world," Absolute, therefore, there is no fundamental difference in essence between them.

For life, the destructiveness of religious and anthropologic conclusions stemming from successive pantheism is evident. This is a an assertion of the equivalence of all religions, abolishment of the notion of truth, as such; the recognition of the equality of all spiritual paths of life, irrespective of their religious or ascetic orientation; the loss of an objective and the sense of any positive ethics (because good and evil are equally inherent to the Absolute). As a result, man is left to live by either passive contemplation or purely pragmatic activity, concerning only his own "skin" (which, by the way, understands, better than reason, what is good and what is bad).

§2. The Christian Understanding of the World.

Christianity, rejecting both the dualistic and pantheistic conceptions, affirms creation of the world "from nothing": "not from existing" (ouk ex ontwn), "not out of existing things" (2 Macc. 7:28), "made of things which do appear" (Hebr. 11:3), "by the word of God" (Hebr. 11:3). The Evangelist John says about the Logos: "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3). These and other places from the Scripture, as well as all its context, completely unequivocally understood by the Church fathers [3], speak about creation as about an act in which God in the Three Hypostases gave real existence to matter itself, and the whole world, from non-existence, "not out of existing," or "from nothing."

This "from nothing" is one of theological problems of the mystery of creation. And the point here is not only in the fact that, according to so-called common sense, "nothing can come from nothing," but also in the mystery of the very nature of the world, which (nature), to think logically, in the Biblical context of creation appears to be without essence, empty, which is equivalent to being spectral, non-existing. However, Christianity decidedly objects to this meonistic (from Greek mh wn — not having essence) conclusion, both with its dogma about incarnation of God and its teaching about universal resurrection. There is obvious antinomy, requiring comprehension.

The theological interpretation of creation comes from the ancient teaching of the Church, especially painstakingly developed by St. Gregory Palamas (†1359), about the necessity of distinguishing, in God, His essence, or nature, transcendent to the created world, and His energies, or actions, accessible to man’s consciousness. In this context, the main idea of the theological model of the nature of the world is seen clearly enough in the following statement of St. Gregory Palamas: "God is and is called the nature of all that exists, because everything belongs to Him and exists because of this belonging, but the belonging is not to His nature, but to His energies."

Prof. Archpriest.V. Zenkovsky (†1962), as if commenting on this statement, writes: "Divine energies penetrate the world, — and through these energies the world is maintained and governed by God. This teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, guarding the apophatic aspect in the notion of Divinity and at the same time explaining the "omnipresence" of God in the world in Divine energies, is important not only for theology, but also for the purity of teaching about God, it is important for metaphysics, for understanding the world. Not only does its measurable and perceptible surface (shell) exist in the world – rays of Divine energies pass through everything in the world and perform their revitalizing and transfiguring action." "Rays of Divine energies pass through all the materials of the world; these radiations, not belonging to physical existence, not "created," cannot be equated with the closed (for us) "essence" in God — without the firm acknowledgment of this distinction between the "essence" in God and His Divine energies, we cannot understand either the world as a living whole, or God, without falling into pure transcendentalism" [4].

The well-known Russian religious thinker Eugene Trubetskoy expresses essentially the same thought. He thinks, that the "eternal Sophia-Wisdom [5] contains within itself the eternal ideas/prototypes of everything that was created, everything that becomes the world, which is unfurled through time. Consequently, in His pre-eternal creative act, God, before the beginning of time, sees non-existence filled with an innumerable variety of positive abilities. Non-existence, irrespective of Him from the beginning, is converted into relative non-existence, i.e. into positive potential, or the possibility of definite existence... and is that, which occurs in time" [6].

St. Maxim the Confessor (†662) wrote about that, perhaps, more definitely: "From time eternal, — he says, — the Creator, when He wished, imparted substantiality (ousiwsin) to the knowledge of things that existed in Him and brought it into the world" [7].

All these statements, given above, contain, in essence, the same thought. Creative Divine energies (the ideas of a "pre-eternal Sophia," the Divine word) "imparted substantiality" (essentiality, essence) to everything that is nothing by itself: matter, cosmos, spirits, including the crown of creation — man. The physical world was the realization of the Divine knowledge of things; Divine energies became the foundation of existence of "things," their "substance". Consequently, the cosmos without the Divine energy which substantiates it is nothing, non-existence. The existence of the world is based only on the power, the energy of God’s word: "And God said, Let there be... and there was!" "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things (Rom. 11:36). Thus, the world is not based on some eternal matter, but on the non-physical, spiritual idea of God about the world, His energy, and in this sense "God is and is called the nature of all that exists."

For example, St. Cyril of Alexandria (†444) also said that, in the process, the world is not an emanation of God (pantheism), but His creation. "To create, — he wrote, is the attribute of activity (energeiaV), but giving birth — is of essence. But essence and activity are not the same thing, consequently, giving birth and creating are not the same thing" [8]. In the Palamite language it would sound like this: "Creating is characteristic of energy, but bearing is one of nature. But nature (essence) and energy are not the same thing, consequently, bearing and creating are not the same thing."

Thus, in the given theological interpretation, the created world is not something absolutely external and moreover alien to God, so contrary to Him that God cannot even touch it, which is the outcome of the dualistic viewpoint or, for example, the teaching of Phylon of Alexandria. The world is neither an emanation, nor a result of Divine nature (essence), the way pantheism characteristically understands it. For in this case, neither God nor the world remain as different realities. The world is not a mirage, or a phantom, or a "soap bubble," as meonism understands it. According to Christian teaching, the world is, on the one hand, inseparable and inseparably connected with its Creator, because it is the "realization" of His eternal non-created energies, on the other hand it, as it is uninvolved with the nature (essence) of God, it does not merge with Him, possessing its own nature and preserving its own identity.

This "Chalcedonic" principle of the unmerged, unchangeable, indivisible, inseparable union of God and His creation takes place throughout the entire history of the world and is realized in it on three different levels. The first is the creation of the world, where the union with God by the "Chalcedonic" principle is at the level of the belonging of the world to the energies of God, but not to His essence. The second is the incarnation of God, where, by the same principle, the junction of the natures themselves occurs: Divine nature and the created human one takes place in Jesus Christ. The third is universal resurrection, a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1), the restoration of everything, when the union of God and all of mankind and all creation reaches the highest possible limit, when God will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).

It is necessary to make some conclusions, stemming from such an understanding of the creation of the world.

First. This is an affirmation about the primordial establishment of en-God-ening of everything that was created and, first of all — man. At the same time, the en-God-ening is not something external with respect to the created world, but inherent to it by creation through the "seed," the extent of development of which is conditional on man’s freedom. The Apostle Paul writes about it: "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God … and the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19-21).

The second is the naturalness of godlikeness of man. Inasmuch as the "Creator imparted essentiality" to a man as a whole, consequently, not only the soul, but also the body, are in the image of its Creator. Hence, universal resurrection can be understood as a natural and necessary act, expressing the invariability of the actions (energies) of God with respect to man and all Creation.

The third is the abnormality of the mechanistic understanding of the world. The world, in the Christian view, is neither a dead moving system, nor a soulless mechanism, nor an object for experiments, but a living, expediently arranged, marvelous and integrated organism, correspondingly requiring from man a reasonable and reverential attitude toward itself.

[3] See, for example, the collection of thoughts by Philaret, archbishop of Chernigov, of the ancient fathers and teachers of Church on this topic. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. Saint Petersburg 1882. P. 125-128; Also, Bishop Silvester. Experience of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: In 5 volumes. Kiev, 1885. Vol. 3. P. 17-44.

[4] Zenkovsky V.V. The Basics of Christian Philosophy: In 2 vol. Paris, 1964. Vol. 2. P. 51, 53.

[5] Sophia, according to E. Trubetskoy is "God’s wisdom and power inseparable from Christ" (Trubetskoy E.N. Meaning of Life. Moscow. 1918. P. 104).

[6] Ibidem. P. 105.

[7] Quoted from: Bishop Silvester. Experience of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. Second edition. Kiev, 1884-1885. Vol. 3. P. 40.

[8] Ibidem. P. 42. Example 4.


§3. Christian Ecology.

These days, this last conclusion is acquiring a special significance in connection with the drastically increasing danger of the destruction of the environment by human activities. It is not necessary to speak here either about specific problems related to the ecological situation in the world as a whole and in its separate regions, or about those scientific and technical measures, which are being suggested and developed to solve them. The Church has its own special position of activity on this issue — a spiritual and moral one.

Nowadays, it is becoming more and more obvious that mankind, even in the presence of justice and peace, will perish if it does not preserve, or more precisely, if it does not maximally restore the integrity of nature. However, it is no less obvious that the reason for the devastation of the natural environment, as well as the main factor of its possible resurrection, is the spiritual and moral state of man. The ecological problem is therefore, first of all, a spiritual problem and not a material one, and its core is the existing state, not of the surrounding environment, but of man himself.

In addition to this, man’s correct understanding of the goal of his life is most important, because it determines the direction and character of all his activities. This goal is clearly expressed by Christ: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). If there is no doubt that the main driving force of the devastation of nature was human egocentrism, striving for comfort and pleasures, the suppression of spiritual needs by material interests, then, without doubt, the restoration of the integrity of creation is possible only by the restoration of the spiritual integrity of man himself. "Into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin." (Wisdom of Solomon 1:4-5).

But how should this restoration of man be accomplished? The Scripture says: "The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4:17). Consequently, the restoration of life must begin with the Church. It contains the science of man, which is so needed by the world. This science about the proper (righteous) life is called asceticism. It points out the objective laws of spiritual life and the means and conditions, thoroughly verified by saints through tremendous experience, for man’s healing, the indications of both the correct path as well as of possible errors. It is equally applicable to all conditions of life and labor, although the level of success in it (perfection) is, naturally, conditional on them. This science fully reliably leads man to the sought after goal of life — to "the bond of perfectness" — love (Col. 3:14) which alone is capable of bringing mankind out of this crisis. Unfortunately, this science, which the saints called the "science of sciences" [9] because of its primary importance to man, is the least familiar to modern man. It can serve as a firm basis for the beginning of the real process of restoring life in churches, and consequently, in the world (Matt. 5:13).

[9] For example, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, speaking, first of all, about the vanguard of this science — monasticism, — writes: "The science of sciences, monasticism, provides — in the language of the scientists of this world — the most detailed, fundamental, deep and high knowledge in experimental psychology and theology, i.e. the active and living knowledge of man and God, to the extent that this knowledge is accessible to man." (Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Works: In 5 volumes. Third edition. Saint Petersburg, 1905. Vol. 1. P. 480).


§4. The Hypothesis of the Antiworld.

Some modern theories of natural science, which came to the conclusion that the material world has no essence, are quite interesting. For example, the Estonian academician G. Naan expressed an interesting idea in this context in his theory of an antiworld, or "Symmetrical Universe."

The modern of development of physics resulted in the discovery of so-called antiparticles for practically all known particles. Particles and antiparticles are twins in a way, differing from each other only by opposite charges. But if these particles are the "bricks" of our world, then antiparticles are just "guests" in it, appearing in this world for a moment. When particles and antiparticles meet, an explosion takes place, resulting in their mutual annihilation, giving off a huge amount of energy. On the basis of numerous observations of antiparticles and studies of their behavior in our world, some scientists arrived at the idea of the existence of an entire antiworld, which is similar to our world and coexists with it, but differs from it in sign.

One of leading developers of this theory was Naan. The main focus of the thesis is the proposition that both halves of the Universe - the world and the antiworld — appear, in the final analysis, from an absolute vacuum.

He wrote: "The claim about the possibility of origination from nothing (emptiness, vacuum), according to the strict observation of the principle of conservation, must seem extremely paradoxical. Because the point of the principles of conservation is that nothing originates from nothing, nothing cannot beget something. The hypothesis we develop here by no means contests this thesis. Really, nothing cannot beget (only one) something, but it begets something more – something and anti-something at the same time! The basis of this proposed hypothesis is, in the final analysis, the basic fact that the equality (-1)+(+1)=0 can also read be conversely, from right to left: 0=(-1)+(+1). The latter equality expresses not only cosmology, but also cosmogony. The initial "constructional material of the Universe" is emptiness, a vacuum. On average, generally, the Symmetrical Universe consists only of emptiness. Therefore it can originate from emptiness while strictly observing all the laws of conservation." "All space-time intervals and coordinates are identically equal to zero. The Symmetrical Universe is such that on average it does not contain anything, even space and time" [10].

The theory set forth of the antiworld is especially unusual with its idea of the source "material" of the Universe — a physical vacuum, "nothing." This idea is, on the one hand, very similar to the Biblical teaching about the meonism (unformed non-existence or pure potentiality) of the material world by itself, on the other hand, it raises the question about that driving force which, "splitting" the ideal vacuum and creating a cosmos, amazing in structure and life, steadily preserves its unstable existence.

Science does not have an answer to this question.

[10] Naan G E. Symmetrical Universe (report at Astronomical Council of the Academy of Science of the USSR of 29 January 1964 ) // Tartu Astronomical Observatory. Publications. Tartu, 1966. Vol. 56. P. 431-433.

§5. The Boundaries of the Universe.

In connection with the issue of the origin of the world, there is a question about the space-time characteristic of the Universe, i.e. whether it is endless or not, having a beginning or not. The religious expert S. T. Meliukhin positively asserts that, "the consistently developed idea of the infinity of the world in space and time, of the non-created and non-destructible nature of matter and motion, of the eternity of their existence, definitively contradicts all religious and idealistic systems, no matter what modernistic tinge they may adopt. This idea makes up the basis of the consistently scientific, dialectical and materialistic worldview" [Meliukhin S. T. Infinity of the Material World. Moscow, 1973. P. 37]. However, not everyone in the world of science share this opinion.

Thus, the scientist B. Kaziuginskiy writes: "Matter was considered to be non-created, non-effaceable, and endless in space and time. The discovery of the "red shift" in the spectra of remote galaxies and its interpretation on the basis of an "expanding Universe," in which — if the Universe, as an object of cosmology, is still equated with "all existing matter" — the conclusion "about the beginning of the world" and about its finiteness cannot be excluded..." [Kaziutinskiy V.V. Astronomy and dialectics. Astronomical calendar. Year book. Issue 74. Moscow, 1970. P. 143], "The Universe... almost certainly had some kind of a "beginning" in time" [Ibidem. P. 163].

Other scientists assert the same thing: "The Universe continuously expands. There are no doubts about this today. There is only conclusion that can be reached from the fact that the expansion is occurring: earlier, the density was greater. Moreover, in Friedman’s theory the assertion, that at some moment in the past the density of matter in the Universe was endless, is unavoidable. The entire endless Universe was a dot!

No matter how difficult it is to grow accustomed to this idea about the past of the world, but the majority of scientists think that the expansion of the Universe began with such a superdense state. Moreover, it is even possible to name the date when our Universe began to develop out of this "dot." In addition, the expansion began not so long ago — 10 billion years ago" [according to the academician Y. Zeldovich and Candidate of Science N. Novikov //Komsomolskaya Pravda (Komsomol Truth). 6 June 1964].

The foremost Soviet astronomer, academician V. A. Ambarzumyan, also states that modern calculations lead "... to the value of time of the Metagalaxy’s expansion to the modern state, equal to approximately 17 billion years. This is an assessment of the age of a larger system. It seems very natural that the age of galaxies and separate stars is less than this number... Thus, the average age of galaxies is estimated to be 10 billion years old. It does not mean that separate galaxies or even groups of galaxies cannot be much younger. But, there are probably no galaxies whose age significantly exceeds 20 billion years old" [Universe //Large Soviet Encyclopedia. Moscow, 1971. Vol. 5].

The question of the space characteristic of the Universe is more complex ["There is no final agreement concerning the notion of "Universe" among astronomers, physicists and philosophers so far. Many take this word literally, as "everything that exists." In the isotropic [Isotropy is the equality of the physical characteristics of the body (for example, thermal conductivity, electro-conductivity, speed of light) in different paths inside the body. Anisotropy — is the inequality of characteristics. Dictionary of foreign words /By edition by F. Petrov, The 6th edition Moscow, 1964] universe with a density of matter greater than critical, the space is finite, however, if the density is less than critical, then space is indefinite. That is, "unpleasant as it may seem to some "defenders to the end of common sense," the question of the finiteness оr infinity of the Universe is directly dependent on the real allocation of matter in the world [ibidem].

At first glance, paradoxical results were obtained by the Soviet cosmologist Zelmanov, who managed to determine yet another amazing thing. "It turned out, that the quality of finiteness and infinity of space — even this, as it may seem, general fundamental quality — is also relative! It depends upon the reference system. Space, having a finite volume in a fixed system of reference, can at the same time be eternal, relative to a moving system of coordinates.

The same is also true in regards to "the fourth coordinate" — time. A period of time, finite in one reference system, can be infinite in the other... It appears that our Universe has an age, and at the same time it is in a certain sense eternal!… Isn’t this another reason for reviewing our "intuitive" beliefs about eternity and infinity! [ibidem].

However, the question about the finiteness or infinity of the Universe in time [See, for example: Reichenbach H. The Direction of Time] and space does not have any religious significance. Therefore, the Church does not offer any solution. On the basis of the Holy Scripture it is possible only to speak about absolute dependency of the world upon God for its origin and existence, and, in this sense, about its beginning in time and space (Gen. 1:1).

§6. Creation or / and Evolution.

The Christian faith in the creation of the world by God does not, nonetheless, waive the question about the nature of the origin of the world — the creational (everything that exists is the result of a creative act of God) or evolutional (the world developed from primordial matter by laws given by God).

The Holy Scripture speaks of the "six day" creation that is about the beginning and formation of the world in six successive steps in its rise from the lower forms to the higher, ending with man. Does this testify to the evolutional development of the world? The six-day character of creation, by itself, is not sufficient evidence of the evolutional character of the development of the world, although many western theologians insist on this [11]. Because the given six "days" can be considered both as periods of times, and as God’s acts performed beyond time of the successive creation of new kinds of existence.

Of course, the acknowledgment of God the Creator does not exclude the evolutional development of the world, provided that God is its driving force. And some saints admitted such a thought. Thus, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "From the first creative impulse, all things existed in their assigned forms as if by some kind of fertilizing power instilled in the Universe for the birth of all things; but not one had a separate and real existence yet."

Blessed Augustine develops the same thought in the following way: "I think that God, in the beginning, created all creatures at the same time, some actually, the others in their prototypes... Like a seed invisibly contains everything, that must in time develop into a tree, likewise we need to imagine that the world, at the moment when God simultaneously created all things, contained in itself all the things that the Earth produced, both as possibilities and as reasons, before they developed in the course of time into things, as we know them" [12].

A similar idea can be found in the story of Motovilov about his conversation with St. Seraphim of Sarov, when the Ven. Seraphim says: "The Lord created out of the Earth not only Adam’s flesh, but also the soul and human spirit: but before this moment when God blew the breath of life into him, Adam was like the other animals" [13].

St. Theophan (Govorov) expressed a similar thought: "There was an animal with a human image, with the soul of an animal. Then God blew His Spirit into him — and the animal became man" [14].

However, the idea of evolution acquires a quite different character if it excludes the creative action of God, and considers the existence of the world and all the variety of the forms of life as the result of the self-development of eternal matter. In this case, the given idea is nothing more than a dream, although a fascinating one, but very far from something that can be called a scientific theory. It is possible to point out several serious scientific facts, which do not fit, for example, the conception of biological evolution.

1. Science has no law by which inorganic matter (atoms and molecules) could organize itself into a living cell and, in addition, give rise to intellect. The well-known Canadian professor-biologist M. Ruse, an agnostic in his beliefs, in speaking about the idea of the so-called natural origination of human reason through evolution, wrote: "However, and this can be firmly stated, biological theory and experimental practice decidedly testify against it. In modern theoretical biology there is nothing that would allow the admission of the unavoidable inevitability of the origin of reason" [15].

2. The probability of life originating from an accidental cohesion of molecules is infinitesimally small and equals, by some calculations, 10-255, from which, according to the American scientists Kastler, "proceeds the factual impossibility of the origin of life;" "the suggestion, that a living structure could originate in one act as a result of an accidental cohesion of molecules, should be rejected" [16]. Another American biologist Ben Hobrink offers such a comparison: "... the possibility that a cell will originate spontaneously is, at least, equal to the possibility that a monkey can print the whole text of the Bible 400 times without a typo!" [17]

3. Atheistic evolutionism has particular difficulty with solving the issue of the speciation [18] of higher animals and the insuperable obstacles in resolving the task of tasks — the origin of man. Until now. anthropology has managed to determine only an approximate time of the origination of man (40-50 thousand years ago). But how man appeared and whether there is a biological ancestor remains an unsolvable riddle for it, although there is no lack of hypotheses [19].

The main thesis of the theory of evolution about the transition of one type into another does not have factual bases, at least, in regards to all the highly organized forms of life [20]. Even in the middle of 20th century, Prof. V. Zenkovskiy, for example, wrote: "The wreck of the idea of continuity in biology — in the problem of the development of one kind of animal from others — is no less important. At first — after Darwin’s works — the idea of continuity had great success, but a more comprehensive study of the facts revealed that it is impossible to build a genealogical tree in the development of "types" of animals. one from another: whole groups of types appear not to be related to others" [21].

4. As of now, the notion of life itself is beyond the limits of scientific knowledge. Life, it turns out, is not a special union of certain material elements, but something principally different. Moreover, the nature of a person’s consciousness and identity remains a mystery.

But for Orthodox theology, the fact that God is the Creator and Lawgiver of all of the world’s creation is fundamentally invariable. In addition, the way He brought it into being: during "days" creating, in complete form, whole layers of existence at once, or producing them gradually during "days" from lower forms to higher from water and dust (Gen. 1:20-24) by the force of law that He imbedded into nature, — has no soteriological importance.

Because, if "where God wants, the laws of essence are superseded" then all the more He makes the "laws of essence" whatever He wants them to be. Therefore, it is unclear how the possible discovery of the laws of origin and development of life through natural science could, as atheism states, undermine the Christian worldview.

In the question of the origin of the world, Christianity is deeply justified in its logic by its worldview, excluding blind faith in the miracle of the self-development of the Universe, self-origination of life, self-appearance of reason and other similar "miracles." Christianity speaks of the rational Reason for the existence of this wonderful world.

"In the beginning God created heaven and earth."

[11] See, for example: Teilhard de Chardin P. The Phenomenon of Man / Translated from French. Moscow, 1987.

[12] Quoted by: Lelott, F. The Solution of the Problem of Life. Brussels, 1959. P. 91.

[13] Conversation of the Ven. Seraphim of Sarov with N. A. Motovilov about the purpose of Christian life. Sergiyev Posad, 1914. P. 11.

[14] Theophan the Recluse. Collected letters. Issue.I. Moscow 1898. P. 98.

[15] Ruse М. Science and religion: Still war? // Question of Philosophy. 1991. №2. P. 44.

[16] Populated space / Under the edition of V.D. Penelis. Moscow, 1972. P. 77.

[17] Ben Hobrink. Evolution. An Egg Without A Chicken. Moscow, 1993. P. 66.

[18] There are different opinions regarding the development of life, origin of its types: Lamarckism, Darwinism, mutation theory, heterogenesis. A considerable number of scientists support the hypothesis of evolution (some acknowledging God as its source, others excluding Him), but many modern scientists reject it, accepting the theory of an initial variety of types. (See, for example: Henry. Creation of the world /Translated from English San Diego, 1981; Heins. Creation or Evolution / Translated from English Second edition Chicago, 1983).

[19] See, for example: Courier. 1972. №8/9. Also "Man" // Large Soviet Encyclopedia Vol. 29. P. 50-54.

[20] See, for example: Morris J. Creation of the world: Scientific approach. San Diego, California, 1981; Trostnikov V. Is the scientific model of the world in highly organized forms of life scientific? // Novyi mir. 1989. №12.

[21] Zenkovsky V.V. Basics of Christian Philosophy: In 2 vol. Paris, 1964. Vol. 2. P. 35.




X. Chapter incomplete (N. Semyanko).

§1. The Notion of Eschatology and Its Different Aspects.

Eschatological (from Greek escatoV — final, last) problems always stirred Russian thought. In isolated periods, it was experienced as an acute sense of the end of history. In others, the main attention was focused on the solution of one of the most difficult theological problems — the problem of eternal suffering. The present is again characterized by an increased interest in the proper understanding of the signs of the end of mankind’s history, and the attempt to comprehend the current events both in the world and in Russia in this apocalyptical key. The question of the coming of the Antichrist, and the number of the beast’s name related to it (Rev.13:18) is no small matter. However, the central point of the eschatological problem in Russian Orthodox Theology always remains the question of acquiring that eschaton, that is inside us (Luke 17:21), and which is the final goal of life.

The multifaceted nature of the eschatological subject allows us to only briefly clarify some of its aspects.

1. The most relevant issue in Russian theology throughout its entire history, including the present, is the ascetic aspect. It consists of the theoretical and experimental study of the spiritual path leading to God’s Kingdom. Its positive understanding [1], however, is often subjected, as is often the case, to various distortions.

One of the main distortions, inherent, as it seems, to human nature itself, is the temptation of "plucking" the fruit of entering God’s Kingdom, rather than cultivating it through labor and exploit. This tendency shows itself in various forms. For example, when there is a belief that salvation can be achieved by fulfilling Church rites, rules, the bylaws of the church service, performing different church activities, external charity and so on. But the norm of Christian life: "these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23) — the other, i.e. the Gospel commandments, are forgotten. As a result, a believer loses the precious eschaton — God’s Kingdom.

Another distortion is the same kind of substitution of religious life, but this time with the study of theology for the sake of theology, rather than striving to know the paths and means of man’s salvation. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov clearly describes the possible consequences: "Christ’s word is coming true: shall the Son of God find faith on the earth in the last times! There are sciences, academies, there are candidates, masters, doctors of theology (truly – simply laughable); these degrees are given to people. Someone can greatly assist in obtaining such a degree. But should a misfortune happen to such a "theologian" — and it turns out that he not only does not know theology, but he does not has even faith. Once I have met such a "doctor" of theology, who was doubting whether Christ had been on earth! What light can we expect from this darkness! [2].

Yet another "idea" that is widespread in Protestant circles is the presence and determining action of the eschaton (in this case the Holy Spirit) not only in the Church, but also in entire life of the world in all its manifestations. -- An idea, that has completely "forgotten" about the freedom of man and his ability to act not only according to God’s will, but also against it. And the resulting conclusions testify to this. Voices more and more stridently proclaim the soteriological equivalence of all religions and the factual rejection of Christ as God and Savior, about the necessity of the Church’s acknowledgment of direct deviations from Christian morality, about the approval of many phenomena of anticulture, etc.

[1] See the chapter Spiritual life.

[2] Letters to different people. Issue II. Sergiyev Posad. 1914. P. 78-79.


§2. Antichrist.

The topic of the end of history is primordial in Christianity. But, unfortunately, the joyful waiting for the second coming of Christ in the process of history is increasingly being replaced by the waiting for the coming of the antichrist. In Russia, the issue of the end of the world sometimes became a problem of state importance. For example, in the 15th century, the Paschalia (the calculations for celebrating Pascha) ended at 1492, which, according to the belief of that time, was considered to be the 7000 year from the creation of the world and thus it had exhausted its existence. The expectation of the end was similarly strained in 1666 because of the presence of three sixes in the date. Naturally, there were also no special difficulties in finding candidates for the position of "antichrist."

Nowadays, this topic has, for some people that are not firm in faith, acquired an abnormal character. Therefore, it is useful to briefly review the signs of the end.

Among the more significant signs, which are sufficiently confirmed in the Holy Scripture and Tradition, the following can be presented:

"Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven … in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring" (Luke 21:10-11:25). Some of these phenomena have always been on our planet, however, here it speaks about their catastrophic increase.

"Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luke 21:26). Scientific and technological advances are quickly bringing mankind to this end.

"Iniquity shall abound" (Matt. 24:12). It becomes clearer and clearer that mankind is heading for complete moral corruption, and there will be an era of complete "freedom" before the end of the world. St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) wrote: "The Antichrist will be logical, fair, the natural consequence of the general moral and spiritual direction of people" (Vol. 4; p. 271).

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matt. 24:14). At present, many peoples (for example, in China, India and other countries) in their overwhelming majority have not yet heard the Gospel.

"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place" (Matt. 24:15). This implies the general departure of Christians (and, first of all, of monastics and clergy) from life according to Christ’s commandments and Church rules; the substitution by churches of the goal of their existence — the salvation of human souls from sins and passions -- with external church activities: political, social, cultural, economic and others; turning public worship into performances, etc. In other words, there will be a general secularization of Church life.

"For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matt. 24:24-25). Many false christs and false prophets have appeared in the history of Christianity, however, the last ones will be distinguished by being able to perform "great signs and miracles." Through them, they will allure many shallow, credulous Christians into magic, occultism, into schisms and sects, into heathenism.

"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (1 Thess. 5:3). Mankind has been seeking peace and safety throughout all its history. Here, the Apostle speaks about the time, when this goal will be achieved (with the formation of a single state on the earth with a single government and one king of the Universe). Then suddenly the destruction of mankind shall come. The Lord says: "For as a snare shall it [the last day] come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth." (Luke 21:35). In another epistle, the Apostle Paul also writes about the suddenness of the last catastrophe: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound." (1 Cor. 15:51-52).

It is also obvious, that the idea of the sameness of all religions in essence (there is only one religion, and all the existing ones are only its various modifications) will become firmly established in minds of all people. This "single religion of the future," described by the modern Orthodox ascetic in America, hieromonk Seraphim Rose (†1982), will, possibly, preserve, in form, its former multi-confessionalism. However, in essence it will already be an ideology, inasmuch as in people’s minds there will be a catastrophic substitution of the seeking God’s Kingdom and its truth with the thirst for an earthly kingdom and all its pleasures, the substitution of spiritual goals with earthly, heathen ones, so that all the efforts of this "religion" (i.e. of all religions, including Christian ones) will be directed at achieving only earthly blessings.

The Holy Scripture and Tradition speaks most of all about the most important sign of the end of history and the beginning of Christ’s Kingdom — about the antichrist.

His description is given: "man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God ... Wicked … whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thess. 2:3-10). "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months" (Rev.13:5).

St. Zosima of Solovetsk points out one of the obvious and simplest signs of the coming of Antichrist: "When you hear that Christ has appeared on Earth, then know, that this is the Antichrist." [3] He is not speaking of the advent of the many false-christs (these are his forerunners), but about one "christ," about whom the entire mass media will cry out ecstatically throughout the earth. In addition, according to St. Ephraim the Syrian, "Jews … will praise him most of all and rejoice in his reign" [4].

One of serious reasons for the acceptance of the Antichrist by many Christians, according to St. Ignatius, will be that "people… having lost humility, which acknowledges itself to be unworthy of not only performing signs, but also seeing them, thirst for miracles more than for anything else. People, enraptured by self-importance, self-sufficiency, ignorance, strive towards everything miraculous indiscriminately and impetuously... Such a course is more dangerous than ever. We are approaching the time in which the vast spectacle of many and striking false miracles will be revealed, dragging to destruction those poor wards of flesh philosophy, who will be seduced and deceived by these miracles." [5]

During his reign, the unification of all states of the world into one will occur, where he will govern as king of the Universe ("and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." — Rev. 13:7). Without a doubt, he will be solemnly anointed to reign by the heads of all churches and religions. For heathenistic Christians, this "anointing," along with the "miracles," will become one of the most convincing arguments that this king of the world is Christ who is come. "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life" (Rev. 13:8).

[3] Quated by: Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Works. Vol. 4. Saint Petersburg 1905. P. 271.

[4] Word 29 about the Lord’s advent. Word 106 about the antichrist.

[5] St. Ignatius. Works. Vol. 4. Saint Petersburg, 1905. P. 323-324.


§3. 666 and The Individual Taxpayer Number (ITN).

Russian people have a special tendency to attach a character of incontestable Divinity to all these external facts. And this will become one of the reasons for the terrible misfortune that St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) predicts with firm belief: "Our calamities must be more moral and spiritual. Salt that lost its savour [Matt. 5:13] presages them and clearly reveals that [the Russian] people may and must become a weapon of the genius of geniuses, who will, finally, realize the idea of a world monarchy" [6]. St. Ignatius calls the state of Orthodoxy in the Russian Church "salt that lost its savour," the Antichrist -- "genius of geniuses", and the Russian nation – the weapon of his reign.

St. Ignatius also points out the main reason for the falling away of Christians: "He who has not accepted God’s Kingdom inside oneself will not recognize the Antichrist, he will certainly, in a way that is inexplicable to himself, become his follower" [7]. "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2:11).

Non-acceptance of God’s Kingdom inside oneself means spiritual the degeneration of Christians. The complete immersion of their minds (the seal on the forehead), all their activities (the seal on the right arm as a symbol of human activity) about caring only about this life, only about what to eat, what to drink and what to wear, and complete abandonment of the thought about the kingdom of God and its righteousness (Matt. 6:31-33). This absolute materialism will become the "name" of the Antichrist as its greatest ideologist. Not by accident is it denoted by the number 666 in the Revelation of John the Theologian. This number is, in essence, the Biblical sign of mammon — the kingdom of earthy abundance, glory, power. This comes from historic fact, dating back to the time of Solomon, in whose reign the Jewish state achieved the peak of its prosperity. But "the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold" (1 King 10:14; 2 Chron. 9:13), that is 32 tons 707,26 kilograms! [8]

Non-acceptance of God’s Kingdom inside oneself means the acceptance of the one who will give bread and circuses. The majority of shallow believers seek this kind of king and savior. The Gospel event with five thousand people, sated with five loafs, illustrates this very well: "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone" (John 6:14-15).

Modern scientific and technical progress has given new and serious impulses to this topic. They are associated with increasingly developing technical possibilities of complete control over every person and the manipulation of their behavior. Thus, according to a number of IT experts, at present, there already exist real possibilities of the mass manipulation of people. They claim that the possibility of implementing a system of total computer control over our planet is near at hand, and will be realized practically in the period of 2010-2020.

In this connection, the question of the "three sixes" becomes clear [9]. Its psychological distinction is in the concrete clarity of this symbol and the resulting impressive significance for the inexperienced consciousness. The increased sharpened attention to this apocalyptical number is also stimulated by the fact that, although from the viewpoint of technology and the mathematical basis of computer technology it is not at all necessary in computing systems, nevertheless, its presence in them, as many believe, has became ubiquitous.

It is obvious that those who implement this sign, believe in its magic power and try to impart their faith in this idol to all people, and first of all, to Christians. But the Apostle Paul reacted quite definitely to any heathen faith: " idol is nothing in the world" (1Cor. 8:4). That is, all heathen mystical signs (numbers, words, images, conjurations, magic acts, sorcery etc.) by themselves, without faith in their significance, do not have any strength or power over a Christian with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and marked by His holy sacraments.

However, the question: inasmuch as this number of the name of antichrist is specified in the Holy Scripture, then can indifference to its use become the reason of the imperceptible acceptance of the beast itself? The idea of the so-called "imperceptability" of the acceptance of the Antichrist decidedly contradicts one of the most important provisions of the Orthodox faith — about the unconditional dependence of salvation or destruction of a person on his conscious, morally free choice between Christ and the Antichrist. God Himself, according to all the holy fathers, cannot save us without us. ("He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark.16:16). Moreover, man cannot perish without deliberate faith in the antichrist. Only the acceptance of this number as a sign of faith in him makes it destructive for a Christian. As long as there is no such faith, the "seal of Antichrist" for man has no religious significance. [10]

It is also possible that the Antichrist can make this number his "seal" (as opposed to the Christ’s Cross), a sign of the acknowledgment of him as the true "savior" of all mankind. Then its acceptance in this capacity will truly mean apostasy from the Lord Jesus Christ. But outside this meaning, the fear of the sixes is a sign of a Christian’s superstition and, without a doubt, a source of malicious joy for preachers of this faith, who are like the familiar animal, likewise leaving their traces everywhere.

The modern development of apocalyptical moods and expectations is also related to the obvious degradation of the moral state of powerful institutions and the quickly developing tendency for increasing the concentration of political, informational, scientific-technical, economic and military power in a very narrow circle of world "supermen," free from moral and other higher human feelings and motives. This clearly denotes the idea of the creation of one world state, governed by this very group of "gods" with unlimited "computer" power capabilities, that will result in the establishment of common physical and spiritual slavery both for each man individually, as well as all the nations of the world. This fully corresponds to the apocalyptical predictions about a totalitarian regime with one world "leader" who will declare himself to be "christ the savior" of all mankind.

The logical consequences of such a new world order under the conditions of spiritual, moral, ecological, energy, demographic and other crises striking the modern world are obvious, and again coincide with the meaning of those final events in the life of mankind, related in the Revelation of John the Theologian— about the dreadful and final destruction of the entire planet.

[6] Collection of letters of St. Ignatius. Moscow- Saint Petersburg 1995. Letter № 44.

[7] Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Works Saint Petersburg 1905. Vol. 4, с.267.

[8] "According to ancient information and surviving coins, the standard weight of a Jewish gold shekel equals 16,37 grams …a talent equaled … 3000 shekels" (Biblical encyclopedic dictionary. Newstrem. Toronto. 1985. "Money." P.103). That is, one gold talent equaled 49 kg. 110 gr.

[9] Literally, the number 666 in Hebrew corresponded to the word combination "ha-melek — le-ishra’el," that is "King of Israel."

[10] The Regional epistle of the Holy Synod of the Church of Hellas No. 2641 of 9 February 1998 specifies: "The Seal," whether it is the name of the antichrist or the number of his name, when the time comes for its entering, will result in the renunciation of Christ and the union with the antichrist, only if it is accepted by one's own free will" (Electronic cards and the seal of the antichrist. Moscow 1999. P.13).