Full Text for The Russian Eastern Church and Protestantism (Text)

Concoll()ia Theological Monthly JANUARY • 1952 I f ARCarv The Russian Eastern Church and Protestantism By HERBERT HALJASBOLD EDITORIAL PREFACE The author presents several highlights from a collection of essays under the title Die Ostkirche und die Russische Ch1'istenheit, edited by Dr, Ernst Benz, Marburg, and published in 1949 by Furche-Verlag, now Katzmann-Verlag, of Tuebingen. In addition to Dr. Benz the fol­lowing scholars made contributions to the volume: Dr. Hildegard Schaeder, Frankfurt a. M., Dr. LudoH Mueller, Marburg, Dr. Rudolf Schneider, KieL Source material which gives a clear picture concern­ing the relations between the Russian Church and Protestantism dur­ing the last four centuries is, strange to say, quite limited. With the lowering of the Iron Curtain the Western World's interest in all things Russian has been keenly aroused. Protestantism in general and the Lutheran Church in particular are anxious to know the fate of un­counted Christians in the Baltic provinces during recent decades. The reported ruthless persecution of the Christian Church by the Soviet rulers on the one hand, and on the other the story of the underground movement to perpetuate the Christian faith in spite of bitter opposi­tion, has kindled the hope in many Western Christians to penetrate the Iron Curtain with the everlasting GospeL From this viewpoint the present article should prove stimulating. The Editorial Committee wishes to thank Dr. Ewald Katzmann, manager of Katzmann-Verlag, for permission to bring large sections from this publication in English translation. In the spelling of all Russian names we followed the author's copy. -F. E. M. THE contacts between the Lutheran and the Eastern Church reach back to Luther. Benz points out that the Symbolical Books in several instances support their demand for a refor­mation of doctrine and cultus by an appeal to the authorities of the Greek Church during the first five centuries. He shows that during the dispute at Leipzig, Luther appealed to the Greek Church to corroborate his thesis that the supremacy of the Papacy was not recognized in the Old Church, but was developed after the age of Constantine and in opposition to the Eastern Church. Luther like­wise refers to the Eastern Church in support of the doctrine of 33 34 THE RUSSIAN EASTERN CHURCH AND PROTESTANTISM Holy Communion and his claim for the marriage of priests. Among frequent visitors at Melanchthon's house were not only Greek poets and scholars of the Orthodox faith, such as Antonius, Eparch of Corcyra, but also theologians of the Eastern Church, as, for instance, Demetrius, a Serbian, who lent Melanchthon a helping hand in translating into Greek the Confessio Augustana and who delivered this translation to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Reformers' interest in the Eastern Church is evidenced by the fact that David Chytraeus, a pupil of Luther, wrote a book on the Eastern Church; that Hans von Ungnad and Trubar translated the books of the Reformation into Croatian and Slovenian; that Martin Crusius and his theological discussions met with a certain amount of agreement at Constantinople.1 At the time when the course of history in Western Europe was dominated by the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and when the Reformation in the East had spread as far :1S Finland, Estonia, and Latvia -to the very gates of Russia -Russia was ruled by Wassilij III (1503-1533) and by the "Holy and God­crowned Czar and Autocrat of all Russia," Iwan IV, called the Terrible (1533-1584). In August, 1569, the King of Poland, Zygmut II, sent a mission to Moscow, including Jan Rokyta, a preacher of the Bohemian Brethren. Benz reports in detail the memorable debate between the Czar and Jan Rokyta, the coarse­ness of the Czar (he addressed the brethren: vas parci, ye swine! ), the ten questions put by the Czar, the oral and written answers of Rokyta, and the final, refuting reply of the Czar (pp. 116-118). Dr. Mueller in his essay describes a conversation between the Czar and Pastor Bockhorn, in the course of which the Czar expressed his appreciation of Luther's Bible knowledge, but also his distaste at the violence accompanying the Reformation. The Czar treated Pastor Thomas, who had preached in the evangelical way at Polotzk, most unkindly, even consenting to have him thrown under the ice of the Dwina River. (Pp.24-26Y 1 According to Ph. Schaff the overtures by the Tuebingen theologians, Jacob Andreae and Martin Crucius, to Jeremiah II of Constantinople between 1573 and 1575 were entirely in vain. Creeds of Christendom, I, 50f. (F. E. M.) 2 In a recent letter Dr. Benz informed the Reverend Robert Plagens of Manila that as early as 1628 a Russian translation of Luther's Small Catechism was published in Sweden, and that a reprint appeared in 1701 at Narva (Swed­ish-Estonia) . THE RUSSIAN EASTERN CHURCH AND PROTESTANTISM 35 Benz points to another point of contact between the East and the West. He states: A direct relationship between the Reformation and the Russian Church was established ... by means of Protestant Mysticism and Spiritualism .... Not only were Valentin Weigel's writings translated into Russian surprisingly early, but also the Mysticism of Jacob Boehme reached Russia shortly after his death .... Q. Kuhlmann of Breslau (who hoped to establish a Jesus-Mon­archy in Moscow) was frustrated in Moscow; not primarily on account of the opposition of the Russians, but of his own German co-religionists. (Benz, pp.120-122.) About 1700 German artisans, technicians, military men, and physicians were brought to Russia, and a Lutheran congregation in charge of Pastor Meinecke was established in the "German suburb" (Nemetzkaya Sloboda) to minister in addition to the Germans also to Swedes, Danes, and Dutchmen. Benz describes the subsequent theological impact of the West on the Russian Church as follows: The battles fought out on European soil between theologians of the Pope and of the Reformation, now continued on Russian soil in an analogous and passionate manner within the Orthodox Church and between the two leading theologians during the time of Peter the Great, the (Greek Orthodox) Stefan Yaworski and Feofan Prokopowitsh, greatly influenced by Protestant theology. Some mistakingly maintain that Peter abolished the Patriarchate of Moscow (established 1589) and established the Holy Synod in order to conform to the pattern of the Protestant church organ­ization. This would indicate a considerable sphere of influence by Western Protestantism on the Russian Church. . . . If there is some formal similarity between Peter's new church organization and the constitution of the Evangelical Landeskirchen, this does not necessarily indicate a sign of agreement between the Russian Church and the West, but rather an extension of Czarist autocracy in church matters. (Benz, pp.122-123.) Under Peter the Great's regime the curtain which for centuries had shrouded Russia was withdrawn. Benz describes this as follows: Having personally met Peter the Great, the philosopher G. W. Leibniz drastically changed his views on Russia. . . . His research in the field of the Slavic history and languages prompted Leibniz to develop a new approach to history. Russia is no longer the 36 THE RUSSIAN EASTERN CHURCH AND PROTESTANTISM unknown and threatening neighbor beyond the border of Europe, but the Middle Empire between Western and Eastern Europe, which in Leibniz' view was China. Only recently the Jesuits had brought the first information concerning the highly developed culture of China. Leibniz thought that the Churches of the Refor­mation and the Roman Church could be reconciled through the medium of the Eastern Church, and for a time he even planned an Ecumenic Wodd Council on a diplomatic plane. With Leibniz a group of other men entered Russian affairs who shared his attitude concerning Russia. Most of them belonged to the Pietistic camp. The most remarkable among them was W. H. LudoH, Secretary of Prince George of Denmark and Prince Con­sort of Queen Anne of England (1702-1714). In Amsterdam he became acquainted with the envoy of Peter the Great, also some Russian priests. Among the Russian Christians he found a great and fervent readiness to accept the piety and theology of German Protestant Mysticism. He turned to ... August Hermann Francke and induced him to teach Russian and Church Slavic at his Oriental Seminar! at Halle. He wrote a Russian gramm