Quote of the Week: Vladimir Soloviev

Quote of the Week: Vladimir Soloviev September 16, 2009

The intrinsic possibility, the basic condition of unity with Divinity is found thus in man himself — the Kingdom of God is within you [Lk 17:21]. But this possibility must pass over into reality, man must manifest, disclose the Kingdom of God concealed in him, for this he must combine the explicit effort of his free will with the covert action of Divine grace in him — the Kingdom of God is taken by force, and applied efforts take possession of it. Without these personal efforts the possibility will remain just a possibility, a token of future blessing is lost, the embryo of true life will die away and perish. Thus, the Kingdom of God, perfected in the eternal divine idea (‘in heaven’), potentially inherent in our nature, is necessarily at the same time something perfectible for us and through us. In this respect it is our undertaking, a task for actualization. This understand and this task cannot be confined to the isolated, individual existence of separate persons. Man is a social creature, and the loftiest undertaking of his life, the ultimate goal of his efforts lies not in his personal destiny, but in the social fortunes of all humanity.

— Vladimir Solovie, “On Counterfeits,” in Freedom, Faith and Dogma. trans. Vladimir Wozniuk (Albany New York: SUNY, 2008), 150-1.

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  • The whole essay which this quote is from is fantastic and I recommend it to all. It is Soloviev at his best. He explores the problems of many counterfeit Christianities (as per the title), saying how they take a part of the Gospel and ignore the central portion: the kingdom of God.

  • Ronald King

    I love reading the thoughts of the writers you have referenced in your posts Henry. It also tells me something about the depth and understanding of your faith.
    My understanding of his quote is that the Kingdom of God can only be a reality within us and visible to the world when individuality dies. I would like to know his thoughts on free will. From my experience, free will can only begin to be manifested through the Grace of God in which the individual begins to awaken to an understanding that only love creates unity and a natural order of peaceful existence in a universe that initially is experienced as chaotic.
    Also, freedom to choose is always present and the choice is determined by the development or lack of development of free will which brings me back to Grace as a gift that enables us to develop free will. To choose without Grace would seem to limit choice within the context of the opposing forces inherent in chaos. When Grace is given to the individual who is living in chaos, it seems that free will is given birth to another dimension of perception and experience in which God is constantly creating a universe that evolves from chaos into an order that only exists in Love. Free will then has the choice to exist in chaos or Love each moment of our human existence. Grace and the evolving free will enables the human being to see that everyone and everything is connected either through Love or chaos and that each of us contributes to creation through our connection to God Is Love or through our connection to chaos. Those who have been given the Grace of God carry the burden of this conscious choice to choose the Kingdom of God which is a new creation or remain in the chaos of opposing forces.
    Just some immediate thoughts to what you have posted.
    Thanks Henry.

  • Ronald,

    First your discussion of free will is very much tied to a general understanding of free will by many sources (such as Hans Urs von Balthasar). And I think it is the right direction to take it: the more we choose away from grace, away from God, the less choice we end up having because the sin creates a prison enshrined in its false-self; this is why the self must be overcome, since it is the shell of sin.

    As for Solovyov, I think he goes in this direction, though he sees three things are needed together, connected to the three aspects of Christ — priest, king, and prophet. Freedom is of course a gift and can only be seen in relation to grace, and movement away from individualism (as you rightfully point out). Indeed, he says that there is a “pseudo-Christan individualism” which pervades society today, while the authentic Christian response is personal and social, leading to pan-unity in and with God (of course, meaning unity and not identity).

    I will end with another quote from this essay:

    “In reducing Christianity to an abstract dogma, in denying its realization in social and political life, they manifestly demonstrate that they do not confess in fact Christ who came in the flesh, and that is why they are subject to the apostolic anathema that one of them so imprudently recalled. In any event the Apostle of love could not reduce all Christianity to dead faith; he, of course, knew the truth that his co-disciple James expressed so well: ‘the demons also believe, and tremble’ [Jas 2:19]. Indeed, an alliance with liberals is not as dangerous as an alliance with demons.” (page 157).

  • Ronald King

    Henry, The idea of abstract dogma intrigues me. Let me frame how this might be expressed currently in our faith. An example, the Pope is passionately expressive in his theology through his writings which seem to lead him to his latest encyclicals about God Is Love. This appears limited to dogmatic expression and thus seems to create less unitive results than it does add to the chaos of individual expression.
    The action of God Is Love would seem to be expressed as the Pope physically leading believers to actual geographic locations and in reality actually caring for the poor and the abandoned himself. This is what Christ did before He spoke.
    This is what I believe creates the conflict and chaos that is now and has been exhibited in our faith. We are not given the living example of what it means to give up everything to follow Him. What is everything?–Writing theology, wearing vestments, social rituals, clean hands, nice shoes, retreat homes, canon law, historic expectations, our lives…

  • Ronald,

    Abstract dogma is interesting; of course, there is a level of value to them (and Solovyov, as a philosopher, would be the first to point that out), but it is when Christianity is reduced merely to beliefs (set out in propositions) without it really meaning anything in actual life, something becomes quite problematic.

    I also thought I needed to point out that he wrote in 19th century Russia, so that should put some of his words also in context.