Thursday, October 13, 2011

Florensky on community

From Letter Eleven in The Pillar and Ground of the Truth (scripture references in original):
Equal love for all and each in their unity, concentrated in a single focus of love for several, even for one in his separation from the general unity; disclosure before all, openness with everyone, together with esotericism, the mystery of the few; the greatest democratism together with the strictest aristocratism; "absolutely all are the elect" together with the elect of the elect; "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15; Cf. Col. 1:23) together with "neither cast ye your pearls before swine" (Matt. 7:6); in brief, agape-philia--such are the antinomic dualities of the Good News. The power of the Gospel is accessible to all, does not need an interpreter. But this power is also thoroughly esoteric; not one word in the Gospel can be understood correctly without the "tradition of the elders," without the interpretation of spiritual guides, successively handing down the meaning of the Gospel from generation to generation. The Book clear as crystal is at the same time the Book with seven seals. All are equal in a Christian community and, at the same time, the whole structure of the community is hierarchical.
"Antinomic dualities" are at the heart of all of Florensky's theology, so it's important constantly to stress where this is coming from. Truth itself is not found apart from love, and love is found in self-denial leading to self-revelation, which is fully reflected in the Triune existence of God and more specifically in the incarnation and cross of Christ. Everything leading to the Truth, then, has an antinomical structure, consisting of two opposites which cannot be reconciled by the rational mind, but in fact reinforce one another to the spiritual mind. That is the starting point.

Here Florensky shows, as he always does, how essential this antinomical structure is to Christian life. Community itself consists thrives on a contradiction between the essential equality of all members and their essential inequality. Choose one or the other, and you'll get it wrong. Only by embracing both aspects of community, and allowing them to reinforce one another, can you fully understand--and, more importantly, experience--community.

Likewise, community has an antinomic structure in that it is both collectivist and individualist. Jesus came to call a people to himself; yet he also had disciples set apart, whom he called friends--one, in particular, called "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Jesus loves all of us, but this phrase refers to only one person in all of human history. The experience of community cannot be merely collective and abstract, but also must be concrete and personal. That is the tension. It cannot be resolved by reason, but only by love. Indeed, love finds genuine expression by embracing this tension.

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