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3 “Offenbarung, Philosophie, und Theologie”: Karl Barth and Georges Florovsky in Dialogue Matthew Baker (1977-2015) Barth1 and Florovsky met on June 29, 1931, at the University of Bonn. Barth was then teaching a seminar on Friedrich Schleiermacher. Florovsky, then professor of patrology in Paris and 1. The original version of this paper may be found here: Matthew Baker. ‘Offenbarung, Philosophie, und Theologie’: Karl Barth and Georges Florovsky in dialogue, Scottish Journal of Theology, 68 (03), 2015: pp. 299-326. Copyright © 2015 Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd.; Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press. Additionally, an earlier version of this essay was offered as a paper at the conference “Karl Barth in Dialogue: Encounters with Major Figures,” cosponsored by the Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary and the Karl Barth Society of North America, June 16–19, 2013. Thanks are owed to George Hunsinger, Paul Molnar, and Iain Torrance. 59 still a layman, addressed Barth’s seminar with a paper titled “Offenbarung, Philosophie, und Theologie.” In 1937, the two were honored by the University of St Andrews with honorary doctorates. Beginning in 1947, they would collaborate for a decade in the ecumenical movement. Photographs exist of them together at Faith and Order meetings with cheerful expressions. Supposedly, Barth once called Florovsky the only other real theologian in the WCC. There is no indication, however, that they were close, and there is no surviving correspondence. Moreover, the impression left on both after their first meeting was that of manifest disagreement. In what follows, I aim to expose that disagreement, while also suggesting certain crucial convergences. Florovsky-Lieb Correspondence and the “Crisis of German Idealism” Florovsky’s invitation to Bonn came through a mutual friend, Fritz Lieb. The son of a Swiss pastor, Lieb trained in oriental languages before turning to theology. In 1920, he joined Barth as his assistant at Safenwil while Barth worked on the second edition of his Römerbrief. A Russophile, Lieb amassed an enormous library of religious and philosophical books. In 1924, he met the émigré philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev, with whom he would become close. From 1926 to 1932, Florovsky also met almost weekly with Berdyaev in Paris. It was through Berdyaev that Lieb and Florovsky became acquainted. The Florovsky-Lieb correspondence, in German and Russian, spans from 1928 to 1954, the greater part from 1929 to 1934.2 These letters provide fascinating insights into Florovsky’s mind in the period when he met Barth. It is clear that the motive of interest 2. Vladimir Janzen, ed., “Materialy G. V. Florovskogo v Bazel’skom arkhiv F. Liba (1928–1954),” in M. Kolerov and N. S. Plotnikov, eds., Issledovaniia po istorii russkoi mysli: Ezhegodnik 2004 / 2005 (Moscow: 2007), 475–596. CORRELATING SOBORNOST 60 in many of the books Florovsky asked from Lieb—on patristics, Origenism, Luther, even medieval mystics like Henry Suso—was his concern to trace the sources of Russian sophiology and to distinguish these from patristic teachings on Christology and the doctrine of creation.3 Here we find a crisscrossing of interests which led both to Florovsky’s engagement with Barth, and to his involvement in the controversy over the sophiology of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov in 1935. In his fourth letter to Lieb, dated June 11, 1929, Florovsky writes: Yesterday I was with Nikolai Alexandrovich [Berdyaev] and we discussed the article on Barth. Besides the characteristics of Barth himself, it would be interesting to us to determine also his historical position. The book by Kattenbusch, which I received from you, is very useful for this. In addition, I would like also to say something about Kierkegaard. . . . I want to speak about the crisis of German Idealism and the religious turn of contemporary philosophy in connection with the Barthian theology.4 The book by Kattenbusch, Die deutsche evangelische Theologie seit Schleiermacher: Ihre Leistungen und ihre Schäden (1926), detailing the achievements and defects of German Protestant theology from Schleiermacher to the 1920s, was one which Barth also commended.5 Ferdinand Kattenbusch (1851–1935) was a discriminating follower of Albrecht Ritschl. His most important historical studies concerned the development of ancient creeds. Florovsky would later appeal to Kattenbusch’s scholarship in favor of his own ideas of the “pseudomorphosis”6 of post-Byzantine theology and the 3. The reason for this multifaceted study was a book on Sophia, on which Florovsky had already begun working as early as August 1928. Unfortunately, the book was never finished or published; extensive materials, however, can be found in...

Additional Information

ISBN
9781506401935
Related ISBN
9781506410753
MARC Record
OCLC
946725265
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2016-05-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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