St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Wednesday, December 22, 2004 ::

Why I Respect Paul Evdokimov

Chrysostomos asked me "What is it that appeals to you about the writings of Paul Evdokimov?"

I esteem Paul Evdokimov for several reasons:

1) He is a great example of someone who not only understood and communicated the Church's teaching and vision through his writings in a way that took seriously both the Church and the world, but who ceaselessly struggled to live the fullness of the Faith in the time and place God had placed him.

He worked tirelessly for the poor, he labored in humble jobs to support his family and numerous charities, and during the Nazi occupation of France he and his family hid people who were targeted for arrest. He later directed a hostel for those displaced by the war and offered safe harbor for those fleeing from Germany. Truly, he was a "doer of the word and not merely a hearer."

2) Several of his books were instrumental for me after I became Orthodox. "The Sacrament of Love" revolutionized my idea of marriage and reaffirmed its value in the painful wake of losing a fiance. His writings about "interiorized monasticism" provide, IMO, an excellent vision of how the monastic ethos can and should be lived out by laymen. His classic "Ages of the Spiritual Life" is an amazing and sweeping tour of the Church's spiritual depths.

3) He had what all aspiring intellectuals and Orthodox theologians should have: an intimate love for Christ, a holistic understanding of the Church's teachings, a penetrating experience and grasp of "worldly knowledge" (philosophy, literature, psychology, history, etc) and how the Church's way of life brings meaning to it all, and a desire to help other people.

My admiration of Evdokimov does not blind me to some of his faults:

1) He was uncritically enamored with Jungian psychology and tended, like many 20th century Russian theologians, toward Sophiology.

2) There are times when the amount of knowledge he tries to incorporate into a text bogs down his argument (see several chapters in "Women and the Salvation of the World" for examples of this)

3) As a member of the Parisian school he sometimes leaned a bit too far in the "ecumenist" direction on occasion (as an official representative of the MP at Vatican II he seemed a little slow to grasp the depth of the chasm between the EO and the RCC).

All of these negatives, however, do not detract from the legacy he left--a penetrating insight into the Church's teachings and a concrete example of how those insights can be lived out in life.

:: Karl :: 7:15:00 AM [Link] ::

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