Ss. Nikolaj, Justin, and Serbian Orthodoxy on Ecumenism

I thought this was an interesting view coming from a Serbian Orthodox bishop:

On one hand, one observes among these three authors [Nikolaj Velimirović, Justin Popović, bishop Athanasius Yetvić] the absence of a deep and documented reading of Western theology; but on the other hand, the impression prevails that such a reading would serve only to confirm an opinion already formed among these Orthodox authors. However, this opinion was formed under the influence of the Russian critique of Western culture, as well as of Western theology. Such a conclusion obliges us to define this point as an imperfection, and as the source of a certain “vulnerability” in their synthesis, paradigm, and proposition. In fact, if their critique of Western theology was established with the aid of the “pre-existing” attitude of Russian Orthodox theologians instead of following upon a personal and direct approach with Western theologians themselves, then such a critique should be considered with a certain reserve. In simple terms, if the approach had been different from the methodological point of view, then the polemical aspect of their theology would have been deeper and more solidly grounded. And perhaps the results would in part have been different.

The words are from Bp. Maksim Vasiljević in a 2011 article in Istina. I myself do not have a copy of the full article, I only found this passage from Julija Vidović’s article on how Ss. Nikolaj and Justin viewed ecumenism. It’s really a worthwhile article, at the very least because it dispels notions that they were deranged zealots:

In a testimony on Saint Justin, Irenaeus (Bulovic), one of his faithful disciples and one of the most active representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the ecumenical dialogue of our times, noted: “I feel that voices like that of Father Justin, often harsh and critical, have ensured that the course of events should not take a different direction. Father Justin, this is how I understand it now, after raising this issue with him often, never criticized the idea of dialogue, witness and love. He was himself an extremely open person. But he criticized the ideology of ecumenism, considered as a variant of the ‘new Christianity’, as an ecclesiological heresy. He felt it as a dangerous heresy and he even forged a new term, now widely used, that of the ‘pan- heresy’. But unfortunately in our times, men and groups who most often refer to this term are, as to their position, both theological and spiritual, well below of that of Justin Popovic.

There’s a lot more in that article, even in just the footnotes. For example, I didn’t know that St. Nikolaj knew (and on certain points agreed with) Fr. Georges Florovsky. I will also have to get my hands on the Istina article.

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