The End of the Bulgakov Conference and Beyond

by Andrea Elizabeth

Speaking of finishing things, I’ve finally gotten around to reading the last two installments of the Bulgakov Conference on The Land of Unlikeness. I am not qualified to offer a detailed scholarly analysis, but I would like to jot down some impressions. When I initially read Joshua Delpech-Ramey’s report (see my previous posts under the Sergius Bulgakov Category to the right), I was thinking he was going in the right direction, and without reviewing why I thought that, I’ll go on to say that I think he veered off course in his latest post. I would have agreed more with him a year or two ago. He seems to speak of transcending our personhood into Absolute Divine Simplicity while simultaneously recovering the magic dormant in the created universe. And while my previous impression of Janet Leslie Blumberg was of Augustinian defensiveness, I found her to tweak Joshua’s point a bit to a more personalized, humbly Derridian (whom I am inclined to interpret gently), respect for the amazing cosmos, while maintaining her own personhood in a desire for union with God, but perhaps along a too deterministic path.

So my ignorant, less informed view which is probably based on misinterpretation, is that they are right to open themselves to union with God which will lead to transcending fallen humanity, but their method seems to be alchemistic – seeking to combine physical properties in the right combination to do this. Maybe Janet redeems the goal by saying it should be done by embracing tradition rather than leaving it behind, and I am not sure if she is talking about Credal Christian tradition only, or Sacramental Tradition, which is how we find God in the elements. And maybe her determinism is about uncovering the logos in everything, which is predetermined in Christ, rather than the over-riding of free will.

And as I brought out at the end of my last post on the Conference, I am becoming more sensitive to the off-balanced method of putting the ideas “transcendence”, “Cosmic union”, “latent power” before Person. We are not to throw ourselves into the abyss of ideas expecting an explosion of power and awareness (gnosticism), though perhaps I am neglecting a proper understanding of apophaticism. Instead we are to focus on the Person of Christ, and how He reveals Himself and ourselves to us. I have enjoyed the positive attitude conveyed in works like the above, and think there is merit to it. We are to be joined to love and awareness, but I am beginning to think it will be more concrete than how it came across. I’m thinking a hierarchy of God in Trinitarian relation (which Bulgakov has some valuable things to say about), repentant man, the powers, and material creation will keep us from going off the deep end.

Which brings me to the latest post, Revolution, Paradox, and the Christian Tradition: A Chestertonian debate between John Milbank and Slavoj Zizek, which may make the corrections, or maybe just clarifications, I have begun to intuit. I also value the scholarship in the above posts as I am coming to appreciate reading a wide range of bright people, even if we don’t have the same order of idealogical priorities. I also find their dispassionate and calm relating of atheists’ points very refreshing.