G.V. Florovsky and S.N. Bulgakov
On February 27, 2003 Holy Trinity Seminary welcomed Alexis Klimoff (Aleksei Evgen'evich Klimov), Professor of Russian Studies at Vassar College on the Louise Boyd Lichtenstein Dale Chair, who presented a public lecture on the complex relationship between the theologians Georges Florovsky and Sergius Bulgakov in light of the Sophiological controversy.
The event attracted students as well as members of the clergy, the monastery brotherhood, and the local community. After the opening prayer and the introduction of the speaker, Prof. Klimoff began by sharing some recollections of his many meetings with Reverend Florovsky in the 1960s and 70s. The central theme of the lecture was based on archival materials preserved in the Florovsky Papers housed in the Priceton University Library, including correspondence between Florovsky and Bulgakov in the mid-1920s. At the root of the the theological difference between the two men, Prof. Klimoff suggested, was sharp disagreement over the value of the legacy of Vladimir Solov'ev, whom Bulgakov admired, and Florovsky held to be detrimental to the development of Russian thought. After the condemnation of Bulgakov's Sophiological writings by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1935, and the almost simultaneous determination of the Russian Church Abroad that his teaching on Sophia constituted heresy, Bulgakov's bishop in Paris, Metropolitan Evlogy, convoked a formal commission to investigate these charges. While Florovsky was categorically opposed to Bulgakov's Sophiology, he was a very reluctant member of the commission, and Prof. Klimoff sketched out this body's lengthy deliberations on the strength of the materials preserved in the Princeton archive. One interesting and unexpected feature of this entire episode is that while the two theologians found themselves on radically opposing sides of the debate, they managed to preserve cordial personal relations for most of the time.
A lively discussion followed the presentation,.with informal conversation over tea after a substantial question and answer period.