THE SOPHIAN HERESY AND ATTEMPTS TO FEMINIZE GOD
"Sophia" translated from the Greek means "Divine Wisdom". As used in the Bible this term designates a general attribute of Divinity, His all-wise authority, as well as His superior reason.
The terms personifying Wisdom, commonly used in the Old Testament, particularly in the passages which are akin to the New Testament, and the revelation of Christ, were unanimously perceived by the Fathers as the Hypostasis of the Son of God. For instance, such is the general Church understanding of words about the Wisdom contained in the Book of Proverbs (9,1-9).
The Acts of the First, the Third, the Sixth and the Seventh Ecumenical Councils testify to the fact that the entire Orthodox Church applied the term Divine Wisdom to the Second Divine Hypostasis. Thus, the First Ecumenical Council spoke of the inscrutable Wisdom, "Which created everything that was created", -- of the uncreated, unoriginate Wisdom, Wisdom without beginning i.e. of Christ, because Christ is God's Power and God's Wisdom (1 Cor. 1,24) .
In the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council we read: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, the self-existent Wisdom of God the Father, Who manifested Himself in the flesh, and by His great and divine dispensation (lit., economy) freed us from the snares of idolatry, clothing Himself in our nature, restored it through the cooperation of the Spirit, Who shares His mind..."
"From the most ancient times and onwards many Orthodox countries have been consecrating churches to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God". This fact also confirms that the words "Wisdom of God" refers to the Second Divine Hypostasis.
Archpriest Michael Pomazansky notes the fact that generally ancient Christian temples were not infrequently given the names of Christian concepts. Thus, in Chalcedon there was a church of St. Irene -- "not of the martyr Irene, but of Irene, the peace of Christ", as is explained in Chet'yi Mineyi (The Lives of Saints in the order of their commemoration days) for January 27. "In Constantinople St. Gregory the Theologian has uttered the famous words concerning the Holy Trinity in the temple of Anastasia -- not the martyr Anastasia, but Anastasia, the Resurrection of Christ. Such also is the temple of Paraskeva -- not the martyr Paraskeva, but Paraskeva-Friday, the day of our Savior's suffering and of His descent into hell (very frequently depicted in ancient icons)".
"Therefore", says Archpriest M. Pomazansky, "the sophiologists reference to the Church tradition in the East in the preservation of the idea of Sophia which expressed itself in the building of temples of St. Sophia and in the icon-painting suffers from being extremely strained" (Archpriest Michael Pomazansky "O zhizni, o vere, o Tserkvi" /On Life, Faith and Church/, a collection of articles, Second issue, Jordanville, 1976, p. 136).
The teaching of the Fathers of the Church about Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God and this name of the Second Divine Hypostasis was perceived "as a clear and indisputable truth by the entire universal Church".
However, the pseudo-wisdom of this world chose to see a special, spiritual personal being in the Old Testament term of "Sophia".
Vladimir Soloviev's (1853 - 1900) writings have in many ways contributed to dissemination of the Sophian mythology in Russia. This brilliant thinker exercised an enormous influence upon Russian religious philosophy and theological thinking. His impact is great even today.
The concept of Sophia occupies an exceptional place in Soloviev's writings where it underwent all kinds of metamorphoses. He would associate it with Christ, with the "soul of the world" (World Soul), with "ideal and eternal universal humanity", with the Mother of God, with the "guardian Angel of the world". (Soloviev's) Sophia acquired also a completely different spiritually questionable aspect -- that of Eternal Femininity (Die ewige Weiblichkeit) which arose on the basis of Romanticism, rabbinic cabbala and stormy gnostic fantasy.
This feminine aspect of Sophia had a special personal meaning for Soloviev. It was a kind of mystical experience of love which accompanied him all his life. "Sophia" inspired not only his poetry but his entire philosophic creativity. For Soloviev the philosopher she was not so much a speculative, as a mystically-real phenomenon (no matter how paradoxical it may sound). Soloviev (as also later Fr. S. Bulgakov) had a visual perception of Sophia and he described his mystical encounters with her image in his innermost lyrical poems which subsequently inspired the whole generation of Russian symbolists (A. Blok and A. Bely, in particular).
We would not speak of this obvious spiritual delusion and somewhat sinister metaphysical "romance" of Soloviev with "Sophia" had they not persisted in the teaching of two famous theological thinkers of the 20th c. -- priests Pavel Florensky and Sergei Bulgakov who today have many followers in Russia and in many other countries.
These direct disciples and followers of Vladimir Soloviev have absorbed not only the gnostic-pantheistic ambiguity of their teacher, but all his "turbidity of erotic delusion" (archpriest Georgii Florovsky) as well. In their intellectual reflection on the Eternal Feminine, on Sophia, Florensky and Bulgakov have left Soloviev far behind by creating even more blasphemous images of her. If, according to G. Florovsky, their teacher attempted to create an "ecclesiastic synthesis out of an unecclesiastic experience" (35), these two preachers of Sophianism were invested with clerical rank.
Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev speaks of the Sophian doctrine of Florensky and Bulgakov as a "truly heretical teaching with a gnostic and pagan world view", leading to "dogmatic chaos".
With regard to Fr. S. Bulgakov's theology, this Archbishop writes that "it is not only an abnormal development of theological thought, but also the most serious sin. According to the Fathers, the gravest sin is the sin against the Orthodox faith because it is not rooted in excusable weaknesses of human nature, but is a sin of our spiritual nature depriving us of the grace of the Holy Spirit". Being a heresy, the Sophian teaching, says Archbishop Seraphim, "may endanger the very existence of the Orthodox Church on earth, if it is not decisively refuted and condemned by the Highest Church Authorities.
Lately in Russia the Sophianist ideas of priest Pavel Florensky and of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov have been increasingly disseminated. For many the question of Sophia remains still not quite clear.
For this reason it is extremely important to know that Sophianism was twice condemned by conciliar decision, as evidenced by two documents:
1) A decree of Moscow Patriarchate dated 24 August, 1935, No.93.
In this document the following is said: "By our decision of 24 August, 1935, No.93 it was determined:
i) The teaching of Professor and Archpriest S.N. Bulgakov -- which, by its peculiar and arbitrary (Sophian) interpretation, often distorts the dogmas of the Orthodox faith, which in some of its points directly repeats false teachings already condemned by conciliar decisions of the Church, and the possible deductions resulting from which could even prove dangerous to spiritual life -- this teaching is to be recognized as alien to the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, and all its faithful servants and children are to be cautioned against an acceptance of this teaching.
ii) Those Orthodox Reverend Archpastors, clergy and laity who have indiscreetly embraced Bulgakov's teaching and who have promoted it in their preaching and works, either written or printed, are to be called upon to correct the errors committed and to be steadfastly faithful to "sound teaching".
2) A Decision of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad of the 17/30 October 1935 concerning the new teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia, the Wisdom of God.
The first three points of this Decision state:
"i) To recognize the teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia the Wisdom of God as heretical.
ii) To inform Metropolitan Yevlogy of this Decision of the Council and to request that he admonish Archpriest Bulgakov with the intention of prompting him to publicly renounce his heretical teaching concerning Sophia and to make a report about the consequences of such admonition to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
iii) In the event that Archpriest Bulgakov does not repent, the present Decision of the Council which condemns the heresy of Sophianism is to be made known to all Autocephalous Churches."
Among the works refuting the heresy of Sophianism one must first of all mention the works of St. John (Maximovitch)  and Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev's) book "A New Teaching concerning Sophia the Wisdom of God", Sofia, 1935. This is "the most significant critical work of Archbishop Seraphim on Sophiology in the 20-th century, -- with regard to both its volume (525 pages) and its content (Theological Works, 27, M., p. 61).
Apart from this book the ever-memorable Archbishop Seraphim devoted yet another work dedicated to this problem -- "The Defense by Archpriest S. Bulgakov of the Heresy of Sophianism in the Face of Its Condemnation by the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad", Sofia, 1937.
The above mentioned works, written in a patristic spirit completely demolish the Sophianist heresy of Bulgakov and Florensky.
The decision of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad which condemned the false teaching of Archpriest S. Bulgakov was founded on a most serious theological analysis made by Archbishops John (Maximovitch) and Seraphim (Sobolev). For this reason the claim made by Sophianists that those Bishops who have declared Bulgakov to be a heretic allegedly did not read his works, is a flimsy lie.
Another deliberate lie is the assertion made by a cleric of Moscow Patriarchate, Hegumen Andronik (Trubachev), a relative of Florensky and a popularizer of his ideas, that "in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad the honoring of Florensky as a martyr began in 1981. His name and his image are to be found on the icon of the New Martyrs. Fr. Pavel is especially revered as a martyr by the Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska (California)..." (JMP, No.12, p.31) .
The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad through its First Hierarch Metropolitan Vitaly made the following statement concerning the supposed glorification of priest Pavel Florensky: "In the name of the Bishops' Council and Synod the editorial office of this Messenger makes a categorical announcement that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad did not even consider and could not bring itself to make such a glorification. An annoying error of purely iconographic character has taken place. On the icon of the New Martyrs of Russia the name of Pavel Florensky was inscribed but not his image.
If one makes an analysis of Fr. Pavel Florensky's book with a pretentious title "The Pillar and an Affirmation of Truth" and of his other works then an Orthodox reader is confronted with an image of this outstanding priest with a turbulent soul who threw himself into the sea of theology without a compass and who is sailing towards a goal which is not known to anyone including himself". (Metropolitan Vitaly, The Orthodox Messenger, a monthly publication of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, USA and Canada, No. 30/31, pp.5-6.)
The Moscow Patriarchate has been popularizing the false teaching of priest Pavel Florensky and Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov for a long time. Many hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate have been speaking and writing about them; among them are: the now Patriarch Alexy II (Address delivered at the 8th General Assembly of the KEC, JMP No. 1, 1980), The Metropolitan of Rostov and Novocherkassk Vladimir, a former rector of Moscow Theological Academy /MTA/ (Master's dissertation, see Theological Works, collection 21; the speech made at the MTA on the 22 February, 1982, JMP No.4, 1982); Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk and Grodno, Patriarch's Exarch of all Belorussia, former rector of the MTA; Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokalamsk, the chairman of the Publications Committee of the MP (Theological Works, collection 5; JMP, No.4, 1969; JMP, No.l, 1975, address delivered in Uppsala; JMP, No.4, 1982); Metropolitan of Smolensk Kirill, a former rector of Leningrad (now St.Petersburg) Theological Academy -LTA, JMP, No.7, 1982).
The list of those who belong to the Moscow Patriarchate and write apologetically about Florensky and Bulgakov can be extended by many names of clerics, professors and teachers of MTA and LTA. Let us name only some of them: Archimandrite Platon (Igumenov), professor of MTA (Candidate's dissertation, St. Sergius and the Holy Trinity Lavra, 1979, JMP No. 10, 1989); M.A. Starokadomsky (JMP, Nos. 4, 8, 1969); Archpriest Ioann Kozlov, A.I. Georgievsky (The Voice of Orthodoxy, No.2, 1971); Archimandrite Innokenty (Prosvirnin), Hegumen Andronik (Trubachev); Archimandrite Iannuary (Ivliev), Archpriest Vladimir (Fedorov), both of them are teachers at St.Petersburg Theological Academy, and many other clerics of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The above list is significant evidence of the role of the MP in the cause of dissemination of Sophianist ideas in Russia.
Moreover, the Journal of Moscow Patriarchate (JMP) was until recently essentially the only spiritual reading permitted by the Soviet authorities to the millions of Orthodox people in Russia; these people were, as a rule, not only theologically uneducated but were even deprived of basic catechization. And to make matters even worse, the pages of this journal have for several decades presented a picture of "abomination of desolation". JMP preaches, apart from ecumenism, all kinds of false teachings and simply heresies to the clerics of MP and to many innocent souls.
And, probably, the heresy of Sophianism is accorded the greatest honor. This heresy, under the guise of subtle "theological creativity" is being forced on the students of Theological Academies and of Seminaries, i.e. on the future priests and theologians; it is a subject of many Master's and Candidate's dissertations; at present, thanks to the example by MP, the lay journals and newspapers mention Florensky and Bulgakov frequently, they are discussed on radio and television for hours.
The heresy of Sophianism has so deeply penetrated the minds of the many clerics of MP and of their flock, has poisoned their consciousness to such an extent that not everyone is capable of freeing oneself from it!
Serious works which subject this spiritually dangerous false teaching to rigorous criticism have been written about Sophianism. It must be emphasized that Sophianists usually either distort or persistently hush up criticisms of priest Pavel Florensky and Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov.
Explanation of the essence of the Sophianist heresy lies beyond the scope of this essay. We refer the reader to the capital work of Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) "A New Teaching on Sophia, the Wisdom of God" (Sofia, 1935) which exposes the heresy of Sophianism and on the basis of which this false teaching was condemned by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
In this essay we are interested in this heresy because its creators priests Pavel Florensky and Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov, have introduced a fourth, feminine hypostasis into the Divine Trinity by means of a cunningly conceived teaching on Sophia (rooted in Plato's pagan philosophy, in cabbalistic teaching, as well as in gnosticism condemned by the Church, particularly in Valentinian gnosticism and a series of other later gnostics-theosophers). A few more steps and we are close to a "theology of women" and an ecumenical feminist dream of "feminizing" God. We already hear voices speaking of the "goddess-mother" beside "God the Father" within Christianity. Thus, at the 6th Assembly of the WCC in Vancouver (1983) where the "priesthood" of women was legalized, many participants "urged women to replace the idea of God the Father by that of goddess-mother. And in 1993 women-ecumenists pronounced Sophia as their goddess and worshipped her.
New "translations" of the Holy Scriptures containing feminized grammatical forms have already been published. In recent decades the Holy Bible has often been subjected to distortion by "new translations" into English and other languages.
But not one of these "translations" has introduced as many blasphemies as the one published by the WCC in 1983 and entitled "Inclusive Language Lectionary".
To please feminists the WCC decided to "rid" the Word of God of "sexism" by removing from the Holy Bible all the passages where "preference" is given to men and the male sex.
In the new "translation", blasphemous changes have entered even into such inviolable phrases as "God the Father", which now reads "God Father/Mother"; the "Son of Man" is replaced by the "Human Child"; the "Kingdom of God" is replaced by the words "the Sphere of God"; "Lord" being of masculine gender is taken out of the Holy Scriptures and replaced by the word "Sovereign One" which is of neuter gender. Instead of "the Lord God" the new "translation" offers "God the Sovereign".
In the Book of Genesis where we are told about the creation of man, the word "man" is replaced by the word "humanity". To the mention of patriarchs are added women's names: "Abraham our father/and Sarah and Agar our mothers."
In the New Testament, where the Evangelists speak of our Savior's miracles, ecumenical translators say that Christ healed a "person". The highpriestly prayer of the Savior at the Last Supper according to St. John, sounds particularly blasphemous in this translation.
For the compilation of their own Bible, the WCC established a Committee headed by Lutheran, Victor Roland Gold. It consisted of three men and six women, one of whom was a Catholic nun. In the process of work, one of the Committee members left because he thought that "this task went beyond the limits permitted by his conscience".
Of greatest difficulty for the Committee were the words "God the Father". Feminists demanded the use of "God/dess", but this turned out to be unacceptable; a suggested replacement by the word "parents" also seemed too impersonal for these innovators; therefore they came up with a disgraceful term "God our Father/Mother".
The critics of this outrageous work, published under the title "Excerpts from the Bible", are absolutely right when commenting that it undermines the very foundations of Christianity by completely destroying the dogma of the Holy Trinity.
This deliberate falsification of the Holy Scriptures caused stormy protests even from journals and newspapers which are far removed from religion, such as New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Human Events, etc.
Despite all the protests and mass criticism, the WCC announced that it fully supported the new text of the "translation" of some parts of the Holy Bible.
Therefore, it was hardly surprising that the representatives of the "theology of women" at the last Seventh Assembly in Canberra permitted themselves to speak of the Mother of God in familiar terms, or to pose a question similar to that of Dr. Margo Kessman from Germany, "is Eve, who strove to knowledge, so sinful after all?".
It is noteworthy that the "theologians" of the above-mentioned Theological Institute in Paris reason in the same manner. Thus, one of its teachers, Nikolai Osorgin, when reflecting on the Mother of God, maintains: "If we arrive at the concept of unity of all women in the image of the Mother of God, in the order of the eternal present which embraces everything that was and was not, then all women (!) have a chance (!) of becoming the Mother of God".