Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Third Rome - Theology Affecting Politics?

Near the end of volume 2 of The Christian Tradition, Pelikan briefly discusses the development in Eastern Orthodoxy of the Russian patriarchate, and of the Russian doctrine of the Third Rome.
A Russian monk, Philotheus of Pskov, had asserted that 'two Romes have fallen, and the third is still standing, and a fourth there shall not be.' Whoever may have been its originator, the idea of Moscow as the third Rome was an apt expression for the theological interpretation of Russia's historic role. 'The third Rome became a thoroughgoing theocracy.' ...

It was not until the modern period that Russian theology - including the notion of the third Rome - came into its own. [p. 298]
If this sort of thinking had become embedded in the warp and woof of Russian identity and culture, it seems reasonable to infer that such a nationalism would have a significant influence upon the country even when she had been secularized by the Communists, and that this would be important to bear in mind when seeking to understand Russia in the world today. Ideas have consequences.

1 comment:

Nick said...

This is an interesting subject to look into, though I've only briefly thought about it. It is interesting because as the Russian Orthodox began to grow and eventually become very influential, with that they began to be more bold in laying claim to "head authority," pushing itself past Constantinople the same way Constantinople pushed itself past Roman Primacy.

While the EO often talk of their "equality" among bishops and such, the fact is the bigger Sees have always exerted pressure on the smaller ones, and it's no exception today. The Russian Orthodox are more than half the EO in the world, and the RO's "opinion" holds a lot of sway.