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The Visible Religion

The Russian Orthodox Church and her Relations with State and Society in Post-Soviet Canon Law (1992–2015)


Alexander Ponomariov

«The Visible Religion» is an antithesis to Thomas Luckmann’s concept. The Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet canon law suggests a comprehensive cultural program of modernity. Researched through the paradigms of multiple modernities and post-secularity, the ROC appears to be quite modern: she reflects on herself and the secular environment, employs secular language, appeals to public reason, the human rights discourse, and achievements of modern science. The fact that the ROC rejects some liberal Western developments should not be understood in the way that the ROC rejects modernity in general. As a legitimate player in the public sphere, the ROC puts forward her own – Russian Orthodox – model of modernity, which combines transcendence and immanence, theological and social reasoning, an afterlife strategy and cooperation with secular actors, whereby eschatology and the human rights discourse become two sides of the same coin.

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6. Metareflection: Tradition, Modernity, Orthodoxy


6.1. Theology of Church Power

6.1.1. Symphony of Powers as a Metonymy

The IV Ecumenical Council held in Chalcedon (451 C.E.) came up with a famous and crucial for the Orthodox Church dogma on two natures in Christ. The human and divine natures in Christ were defined as independent, yet densely interconnected (DEC 1990: 86).524 In other words, they are believed to coexist in Christ in a certain symphony, neither altering their properties nor being subordinated to each other. This independent interconnectedness allows theology to metonymize them, and the notion ἀντιμεθίστασις τῶν ἰδιωμάτων (or communicatio idiomatum) became a standard device in Orthodoxy. It is theologically legitimate in connection with Christ to state, for instance, that “God suffered” on the cross or that “the man raised” Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11). In terms of political manifestations of symphony, the ideas of the mentioned dogma are applied to church-state relations. Besides, the accounts that the ROC violates the principle of secularity, which is set forth in the Russian Constitution, can be fended off by it. The ROC wants to be an independent public actor to influence politics, and particularly the decision-making process. This is quite in order, and various public forces influence the state without actually replacing it. As we saw above, the clergy may not become public servants, but nothing forbids them to “guide” the authorities that might seek spiritual advice. The ROC’s documents speak about the Church as a “power,” both in the liturgical and...

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