By Jay Rogers
Published May 1, 2008
Christianity’s Impact in Russia
EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTS HAVE IMPACTED THE SOCIETY of the former USSR in the 20th century on a spiritual and moral level, and more recently, on a social and political level. This impact is acknowledged more and more as Russian Christians, both Orthodox and Protestant, realize that they must influence the society or otherwise be persecuted their faith – as was the case during the era of Stalinist communism.
In recent years, Protestants (mainly Baptists, Charismatics and Pentecostals) have been able to develop abilities within the church community that are very helpful to their every daily work, thus helping them rise economically. In general, their permanent presence is accepted. Evangelicals, like the Russian Orthodox, may soon obtain a legitimate status as a religion in terms of belief and lifestyle in the general society.
Russia itself is a land rich in Christian heritage. Here we find a historic emphasis on Christianization of culture, especially the influence on art, education, government, music, philosophy and science. Although Protestants disagree with much of the theology of the Russian Orthodox Church, we can admire its positive influence and great contributions to Russian life and culture. There are ample testimonies to the work of the Holy Spirit through this form of Christianity and its survival through most bitter persecution. Despite the communist mandate to sweep aside the principles of Christianity, the strength of the Orthodox Church survived.
Soviet dissident, Aleksandr Ogorodnikov, predicted “the second Christianization of Russia” shortly before the downfall of the Soviet Union. Said Ogorodnikov, “Our first priority is fighting communism, and Christianity is the only force that can do this.“1
A book published in English edited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, From Under The Rubble, “Iz pod glub“2 contains writings of Russian Orthodox dissident writers whose works were never published in the Russian language. Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, a narrative which describes his imprisonment under Stalin, later compiled this collection of essays written by some of the Soviet Union’s most brilliant dissidents, the majority of whom also happen to be Christians who survived the persecution.
From Under the Rubble
From Under the Rubble contains some remarkable insights. We get a picture of 20th century Russian Christians under great persecution throwing off their notorious temperament of melancholy in order to grasp their glorious future as a destiny ordained of Almighty God. Since the 19th century, Orthodox philosophers were persecuted by the Czarist regime.
This led some to adopt a pessimistic outlook. P.Y. Chaadayev (1793-1856), a pro-Catholic political thinker circulated his Philosophical Letters, in which he prophesied that Russia would become “nothing but a yawning void, an object lesson to other nations.“3 The Russian monk, Konstantin Leonatyev (1831-1891), pictured Russia as an accursed and corrupt people created by God only for the purpose of bringing forth the Antichrist.4
Yet in the darkest hour of the 20th century Stalinist purges, a new light of hope appeared. Here we find Christians speaking optimistically, even with postmillennial hope, of Russia’s future. They recalled the 11th century Kievan monk, Nestor the chronicler, who compared the Russian people to the eleventh hour laborers:
“If instead of standing around in the market place we answer the call of the Vineyard Owner, we shall not be too late at the end of the day to receive the same wage as the rest.“5
One dissident, Vadim Borisov (b. 1945 ) noted that the rationalist humanism which took hold in Russia in the early 19th century inevitably led to a destructive nihilism.
“We discover with astonishment that so-called rationalist humanism actually lacks an adequate rational basis for its defense of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human personality – for which it has often risked both life and limb. The American Founding Fathers who many years ago first propounded the ‘eternal rights of man and the citizen’ postulated that every human being bears the form and likeness of God; he therefore has an absolute value, and consequently also the right to be respected by his fellows. Rationalism, positivism and materialism successively destroyed the memory of this absolute source of human rights. The unconditional equality of persons before God was replaced by the conditional equality of individuals before the law….
“In breaking the link between the human personality and the absolute source of its rights, and yet affirming them as something to be taken for granted, rationalist humanism has from the outset been inherently inconsistent, as its more logical successors very quickly understood. Darwin, Marx, Nietsche and Freud (and many others) resolved the inconsistency each in his own way, leaving not one stone upon another in the edifice of blind faith in man’s dignity. These men represented the theoretical, logical culmination of mankind’s humanist rebellion against God. They declared “our innate moral consciousness” to be self-deception, noxious illusion, fiction – as demanded by a rationally ordered consciousness. This century’s totalitarianism, trampling the human personality and all its rights, rhinocerouslike, underfoot, is only the application of this theory to life, or humanism put into practice.“6
Yet Borisov concluded that the nation of Russia would prove indestructible and autonomous even through the ravages of militant communism. He reasoned that Revelation 21:24-26, “And the nations which are saved shall walk in the light of it [the City of God] and they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it,” guaranteed that Russia, being a Christian nation, would continue to exist as a personality after the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
“We have already said that personality in its original sense is a specifically Christian concept. It was unknown to the ancient world, whose consciousness was totally individualistic. The Greeks, for instance, despised all barbarians, and the citizens of Rome despised all non-Romans…. Christianity does not ask mankind to deny the variety of personalities composing it, nor to become an amorphous mass. It urges mankind to transform itself entirely, ‘unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). Every people, every individual person must achieve his fulfillment in the Church. When this comes to pass, when all nations have achieved this goal, this will be the perfect fulfillment of the corporate personality of mankind – Christ’s Church, in which the nation’s spiritual experience, their ‘glory and honor,’ will be laid at Christ’s feet.“7
Thus Christianity does not teach individualism or nationalism as a source of personality, but it elevates the innate individuality of the person and the national awareness of a culture as divine facets to reflect the glory of God’s kingdom. Borisov goes on to describe the great responsibility of reconstruction which rests with Christians in Russia:
“The humiliated and deafened Russian people needs as never before to become aware of itself as a personality, freely choosing its historical path. Christians today are called upon to assist it to recall it spiritual roots in history, but before doing so they need to recall it to themselves.“8
Another dissident, writing anonymously, echoes this hope:
“Mysteriously and unsuspected by the busy multitudes, Christian consciousness, once almost defunct, is stealing back. It is as if a door had opened while nobody was looking. Why is this rebirth taking place in our country, where Christianity is attacked particularly systematically and with great brutality, while the rest of the world suffers a decline of faith and religious feeling?… [B]acksliding and denials notwithstanding, we live in a Christian culture in a Christian age, and it is Christianity that is the fermenting agent, the ‘yeast of the world,’ causing history to rise like dough in a trough, not only in the past but in the future as well. We are profoundly convinced that Christianity alone possesses enough motive force gradually to inspire and transform our world.“9
The religious and philosophic thought of Soviet era dissidents was, of course, very influenced by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – a consistent proponent of Eastern Orthodoxy and an enemy of 19th century socialism. It is no wonder that Solzhenitsyn has consciously imitated Dostoyevsky in style and literary content. There are constant parallels, such as both writers’ early adherence to socialism followed by imprisonment, and a mystical, supernatural conversion experience while imprisoned in the gulag. Dostoyevsky constantly mentioned that he absolutely detested the idea of salvation as a judicial or forensic act – but stressed instead the mystical conversion experience.
Russian Orthodox philosophers of the past two centuries did not accept many of the Western Protestant concepts of salvation, sola gratia and sola fide. More than that, they did not accept any shade of covenantal (federal) theology – especially the applicability Old Covenant Law in Christianity. They make a very strong contrast between the Old and New Covenants in their writings.
The Russian Orthodox writers of the past several centuries stand in stark contrast to Augustine, Luther and Calvin who advocated predestination of the individual believer; justification by grace through faith alone as the means for obtaining salvation; and biblical law as the basis for governing society. Thus we have in Russia an anomalous form of Christianity separated from Western Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism in its teachings of a mystical experiential soteriology.
Yet many Orthodox theologians and dissidents have been optimistic in their eschatology and believed in the Christian’s duty to transform the society – in contrast to the modern pessimism of many western Evangelical Protestants. Like Reformed Protestants, Russian Orthodox thinkers rejected Old Covenant Law as the basis for justifying the individual. But unlike Protestants, they rejected the notion of a judicial salvation (by grace and faith alone) and stressed instead the spiritual or mystical experience of the believer.
Hopefully, the many new young Christian intellectuals in Russia and post-USSR countries will continue to develop their own system of Christian theology, not becoming wholly dependent on the mind set of the East nor the West, but recognizing that Russian thought has its own role in advancing of the kingdom of God.
As Alexander Solzhenitsyn has said: “Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities. The very least of them wears its own special colors and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.“10
1. Jay Rogers, The Forerunner, “The Downfall of Communism,” March 1990, p.14.
2. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, From Under The Rubble, (Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1975).
3. Ibid, A.B., “The Direction of Change,” p.150.
4. Ibid, Vadim Borisov, “Personality and National Awareness,” p.194.
5. Ibid, A.B., p.150. 6. Ibid, Vadim Borisov, p.200, 201.
7. Ibid, p.208, 212. 8. Ibid, p.228. 9. Ibid, A.B. p.146, 147.
10. Ibid, Max Hayward, “Introduction,” p.vii.
Forerunner - Home » Articles from The Chalcedon Report
Your comments are welcome!
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion
This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.
Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.
“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan
Running time: 85 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!
Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification
In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.
By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).
$7.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)