The Russian Orthodox Church and Modernity

A Historical and Theological Investigation into Eastern Christianity between Unity and Plurality

The Russian Orthodox Church and Modernity
Regina Elsner
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The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) faced various iterations of modernization throughout its history. This conflicted encounter continues in the ROC' s current resistance against--what it perceives as--Western modernity including liberal and secular values. This study examines the historical development of the ROC' s arguments against--and sometimes preferences for--modernization and analyzes which positions ended up influencing the official doctrine. The book' s systematic analysis of dogmatic treatises shows the ROC' s considerable ability of constructive engagement with various aspects of the modern world. Balancing between theological traditions of unity and plurality, the ROC' s today context of operating within an authoritarian state appears to tip the scale in favor of unity.
Regina Elsner is the first to present a study that elaborates on the theological foundations for the anti-modern positioning of the Russian Orthodox Church and uses it as a yardstick for assessing this attitude. The book provides an excellent overview of the intellectual historical currents that have played a role in Russian Orthodoxy and still play today, as well as of the basic characteristics of Orthodox theology. The book is highly recommended to those interested in a better understanding of the Russian Orthodox Church. --Dr. Dagmar Heller, Institute for Ecumenical Studies and Research, Bensheim, Germany With her choice of the ' unity' vs. ' diversity' discourse, Elsner has clearly identified a relevant meta-theme of the Russian theological tradition and spells out its significance throughout history and in current debates with competence and in an inspiring way. Elsner' s book forms a valuable contribution to a better understanding of the conflicts emerging from modernity and of some probably inappropriate solutions as well as the motives behind them. The book deserves wide reception. --Dr. Alfons Bruning, Professor of Eastern Christianity, Universities of Nijmegen and Amsterdam
Dr. Regina Elsner studied Catholic Theology in Berlin and Munster. Since 2017, she has been a Research Fellow in the Social Ethics of Orthodox Christianity at the Center for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) in Berlin. Previously, Elsner worked as Research Associate at the Ecumenical Institute of Munster (2010-2014) and Project Coordinator for Caritas Russia (2005-2010). Elsner co-heads the German Association for East European Studies' Religion Section and is a member of the PRO ORIENTE Steering Committee for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue. Her papers have been published by, among other outlets, the Jahrbuch fur Christliche Sozialwissenschaften, Public Orthodoxy, Berkley Forum, Russland-Analysen, and Ukraine-Analysen.