Author Topic: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy  (Read 55804 times)

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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #135 on: January 29, 2007, 05:42:32 AM »
I have been trying to understand whether the Russian Orthodox Church, after almost a century without a tsar, has been able to evolve an understanding that the Church can have a purpose and an existence independent of the institution of monarchy.  Apparently, almost three centuries of legal subjugation to a tsar still make it an uphill battle.

In an article entitled "Ideals of the Russian Diaspora" by Professor Alexander Kornilov of Nizhny Novgorod, he reported the views of Archimandrite Konstantin:

"Revealing the meaning of historical Russia . . . one cannot imagine a renewed Russia as arising from something novel, this was a pipe dream.  'One can only speak of the restoration of a historical Russia within its blessed Orthodox Russian-ness, adorned in the image of an Orthodox Kingdom.  Russia, in the process of disposing of its historical consciousness, tossed off its past Ė its blessed historical past, which bore the mark of the higher, Divinely Providential care for the world, for mankind as a whole:  Russia was led by a Tsar, clothed not only as the anointed of God, but he was His intended appointee, the image of the restraining one, that is, the Tsar who in his person witnesses the existence of Godís protection of mankind, fulfilling its sacred obligation.'  Consequently, Archimandrite Konstantin saw at the center of historical Russia the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy, not as a common institution of legitimate power, but as a Divine instrument, restraining mankind from the lordship of evil.  The path to the restoration of the Orthodox Monarchy lies within the phenomenon of Orthodox Russian-ness.  Fr. Konstantin understood by this term 'the striving towards the True God, hidden in oneís heart, genuine worship of the True God,' which would lead towards the rebirth in Russia of faith with unexpected force.  If Orthodox rebirth gripped the Russian people in the USSR of the time, thought Fr. Konstantin, then the Russian Orthodox Monarchy would come to life once more, which would be able to fulfill the function of the one who restrains.  It is apparent that Fr. Konstantin bound the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy with personal repentance, with personal salvation, with personal faith."

This notion that evil in the world cannot be held at bay except by the person of a tsar is really something beyond the ability of most westerners to comprehend.  Given what we know of Nicholas II's inability to hold much of anything at bay, it really seems a rather extreme vote of no confidence in the abilities of the rest of mankind.

Acknowledging the risk of analyzing religious views through the lens of psychology, this notion that only the tsar who rules me can protect me from evil really smacks somewhat of the Stockholm syndrome and other forms of abuse syndrome.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2007, 05:48:04 AM by Tsarfan »

Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #136 on: January 29, 2007, 09:34:00 AM »
The Tsar was the "restrainer of evil"? I suppose that Nicholas II was a living illustration of the Piotr Principle, then.

This was a fascinating read, for all sorts of reasons. I do think it points up a problem with the theological underpinnings of autocracy. They can only be understood through the eyes of faith, or more accurately, they can only be believed by faith. The same thing is probably true for belief in the ultimate efficacy of democracy --- it makes just as much sense to invest in one man's judgement as in one million's.
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #137 on: January 29, 2007, 01:53:15 PM »
The same thing is probably true for belief in the ultimate efficacy of democracy --- it makes just as much sense to invest in one man's judgement as in one million's.

Well, certainly there is no proportional relationship between the quality of a thought and the number of people who think it.  I think the claim of the superiority of the Aryan race (which doesn't even exist in anthopological terms) is a sufficient illustration of the point.

However, democracy does offer one very big advantage over other forms of government -- the institutionalization of the right of dissident and minority voices to be admitted into political discourse.

If I were a woman seeking the right to vote or to own property in my own right, a member of a minority religion seeking the right to live and worship freely, a racial minority seeking equal access to housing and employment, a homosexual seeking the equal protection of the laws, a disabled person seeking access to public facilities, I would much rather take my chances with a democracy than with any other form of government.

It's perhaps nice to be a healthy, prosperous, straight, white, male member of the dominant religion . . . but surprisingly few people are all these things for all of their lives.

Any form of government that turns the absence of any of these traits into a matter of supplication for mercy or for the state's forbearance leaves room for improvement.  Democracy, though not perfect in this regard, does seem to have imposed fewer penalties for lacking one or more of these traits than most other forms of government.

And democracies have a far better track record as "restrainers of evil" than any mystically-divined authoritarian system of which I am aware.

Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #138 on: February 01, 2007, 11:39:45 AM »
I have been thinking about the views reported as Archimandrite Konstantin's. Is it Metternich or Talleyrand who described the Bourbons in the Restoration as returned to the throne "having forgotten nothing, or learned anything" during their exile from 1789-1814?

There is always a reflexive longing for stability and the "good old days", I suppose. One would have thought, for example, that the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1926 would have nailed the lid onto the coffin of Creationist Thought in the United States, but it didn't. And if a pluralistic society that tolerates open discussion of ideas cannot crowd out bad ones, how on earth can we expect a society that is only now emerging from decades of brutal repression, preceded by centuries of more-or-less brutal repression, to do it? Why wouldn't there be significant elements in the Russian Orthodox Church that advocate for the return of a strong Tsar, who works in concert with . . . the Russian Orthodox Church. Heady stuff after being ignored (at BEST, when they weren't being repressed)  by Lenin, Stalin and the rest of the Communist chaps.

I should think that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Spain and Poland longs for the day when they could prevent social legislation with which they disagreed from being passed by secular legislatures. Thanks to more effective leadership at the top (John Paul II and Benedict XVI were/are very skilled politicians --- ask Gorbachev and the leaders of Turkey), the RCC has maintained a vocal presence in these countries. I have asked before, those of you with more familiarity with the actual state of Russia today. Did the ROC survive as a major player in the lives of the Russian people? Or are they largely indifferent to religion, as is the case in most Western European nations? A theologian friend of mine told me two days ago that one must distinguish between the religious state of countries like France, Italy, the UK, Italy and that of the Eastern European countries; in many cases the Church --- the RCC and Protestant denominations --- was tied to the fight against oppression and Communism. So it has remained a more vibrant force. My impression from Elisabeth's posts is that the ROC was not viewed as an opposing force to the Soviet state by the Russian people themselves.

So why wouldn't the Archimandrite sigh for the good old days when people knew what the "proper" relationship of the Church and State was?

Simon
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 11:44:09 AM by Louis_Charles »
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #139 on: February 01, 2007, 12:05:11 PM »
A theologian friend of mine told me two days ago that one must distinguish between the religious state of countries like France, Italy, the UK, Italy and that of the Eastern European countries; in many cases the Church --- the RCC and Protestant denominations --- was tied to the fight against oppression and Communism. So it has remained a more vibrant force. My impression from Elisabeth's posts is that the ROC was not viewed as an opposing force to the Soviet state by the Russian people themselves.

This highlights what seems to me to be the key difference between Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy.  The Pope claimed the title of Vicar of Christ and insisted that his Church was the institution in western life vested with responsibility for fighting evil in the world, however "evil" might be defined from time to time.  By contrast, the Russian Orthodox Church -- at least after 1721 -- viewed the tsar as God's agent for managing earthly affairs and viewed the tsar as responsible for holding evil at bay in the world.

Given the view that these "holy" prerogatives were conferred upon the head of government, I do not find it surprising that the Russian Orthodox Church produced so little resistance to the new Bolshevik overlords.  It had long since abandoned any claim of being a counterweight to secular authority.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #140 on: February 01, 2007, 12:26:22 PM »
Given the view that these "holy" prerogatives were conferred upon the head of government, I do not find it surprising that the Russian Orthodox Church produced so little resistance to the new Bolshevik overlords.  It had long since abandoned any claim of being a counterweight to secular authority.

That's the point I've been trying to drive home for the last year or so. As much as some of us might b**** and moan about Catholicism and the Holy See, during the High Middle Ages and Renaissance that institution played an inestimably vital role in carving out a rival, non-secular counterweight to the secular power of the rising European nation state. And since it derived its own power from an otherworldly source, it was arguably in the abstract, if not always in the real world, the higher power.

For that reason, iif it hadn't been for the Catholic Church, there would probably have also been no Pilgrim Fathers and no United States, no abolitionist movement and no Civil Rights movement. I don't think I'm exaggerating here. What you got in the Russia of this critical Renaissance period was the reverse situation - a demoralized, eviscerated, emasculated Orthodox Church, which could never act as a serious counterweight to secular state power. Here religion, since the eighteenth or even the sixteenth century, was always beholden to the state, submissive to the state, and, it follows, obedient to the state. Consequently, in Russia there has never been any real likelihood of church and state being separated out as two different and possibly (or even ideally) opposed entities that might play off each other for the benefit of the citizenry.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 12:40:14 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #141 on: February 01, 2007, 12:46:03 PM »
I wouldn't give the credit only to the RCC in the West: the tradition of liberal Protestantism is important, and so is the development of what is sometimes deridingly called secular humanism. These also effect powerful influences upon the nation-state, and provide alternative modes of thinking to the obedience required of Russians to the throne. Medieval history is the struggle of the nation-state to liberate itself from the Church, rather than the other way 'round. But you are absolutely correct about the vital difference. Once the nation-state liberated itself, it was unable to make Catholicism an arm of the secular power, as happened with, say, the Anglican Church or state Lutheranism in Prussia. While the French King was able to assert Gallican privileges, a lot of the success with Catholic monarchs' abilities to interfere with the Church had to do with the weakness of various Popes, rather than a systemic collapse of the Church authority.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #142 on: February 04, 2007, 04:21:12 PM »
I wouldn't give the credit only to the RCC in the West: the tradition of liberal Protestantism is important, and so is the development of what is sometimes deridingly called secular humanism. These also effect powerful influences upon the nation-state, and provide alternative modes of thinking to the obedience required of Russians to the throne. Medieval history is the struggle of the nation-state to liberate itself from the Church, rather than the other way 'round. But you are absolutely correct about the vital difference. Once the nation-state liberated itself, it was unable to make Catholicism an arm of the secular power, as happened with, say, the Anglican Church or state Lutheranism in Prussia. While the French King was able to assert Gallican privileges, a lot of the success with Catholic monarchs' abilities to interfere with the Church had to do with the weakness of various Popes, rather than a systemic collapse of the Church authority.

Hi, Simon. I guess I would agree with you in some part, and disagree with you in another but rather larger part. Mainly because I don't think much of what we call the Western world today would even be in existence without medieval monasticism and religious philosophy. After all, it was the Christian philosophers of the High Middle Ages who supplied the Western world with the conceptual and methodological framework to develop modern science. All those angels dancing on the head of a pin...turned out to be very useful in the end!
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Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #143 on: February 05, 2007, 02:09:51 PM »
Well, yuh, I take your point --- and have some personal satisfaction in the monastic achievement, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, squire --- but there would have been no scholasticism had there been no Greek philosophy, so you can kind of run this thing back all over the map. And Aristotle never really went out of fashion in the Islamic world, and that world too is partly responsible for some of the western achievement.

Oh, heck, EVERYONE take a bow.

On a more serious note, in light of some of the postings on other threads: do you think that Russian tsarism can be justified by recourse to the Scriptures? I am not talking about any old divine right of kings, mind you, but the peculiarly Russian brand of absolutism. Because I have to say, I don't think that the expression of it was what Jesus had in mind, or even Paul, pace Tsarfan.
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Offline JonC

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Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #144 on: April 17, 2010, 12:33:33 PM »
There's no point in starting a new topic..Mr. Charles, I guess, from your last reply we could place your king, the Pope, under this same category. Heavens, with all the hidden, and now exposed, perversions permitted within the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, Priests, Bishops, and the present Pope, would leave one to believe there was more than atheism going on here. There is no sense in posturing your church to a holier than thou stance. Historically it has also been found wanting as well, namely the 1492 inquisitions against non believers particularly against the Jews. Proclaiming Hitler as a ' Son ' of the Roman Church even after what he did under Pius the Xll'ths watch.

Yes, Tsar Nicholas,it could be said, was not a strong leader and maybe not even well educated, as you put it. But like Peter, the fisherman, one chosen by God to lead didn't need education but the guidance and blessings of God, along with the other Apostles, to go forth and spread the Gospel message and they did. Nicholas's role in this world was to guide his Country and Church in as far as God wanted him to and no further. God did for him and to him what was necessary for Russia to play the part it needed to play in subsequent scenarios our Lord placed the world into. Nicholas knew his role and accepted it for himself and his family. God told him so. JonC.