Archpriest Georges Florovsky


The following bio is adapted from the Wikipedia entry on Fr Georges Florovsky. Those interested in a more thorough account of his life and his extensive bibliography are invited to consult Andrew Blane, Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual and Orthodox Churchman (SVS Press, 1997).

Georges Vasilievich Florovsky was born in Odessa as the fourth child of an Orthodox priest. Inspired by the erudite environment in which he grew up, he learned English, German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew while still a schoolboy. At eighteen, he started to study philosophy and history. After his first graduation, he taught for three years at high schools in Odessa and then made his full graduation including the licensia docendi at all universities in the Russian empire. In 1919, he began to teach at the University of Odessa, but his family was forced to leave Russia in 1920. The young Florovsky realized at that time that there would be no return for him, the history and philosophy he taught was incommensurate with Marxist ideology and would be rejected. Florovsky thus became part of the great emigration of the Russian intelligentsia, which also included Nikolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov, Nicholas Lossky, his son, Vladimir Lossky, Alexander Schmemann, and John Meyendorff, the latter two of whom later followed Florovsky as Dean of Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

In the 1920s, he had a close personal and vocational friendship with Nikolai Berdyaev. The two became somewhat more distanced in later years, largely through Berdyaev not understanding Florovsky entering Holy Orders, and also through Florovsky's critical attitude towards Berdyaev's philosophy of religion in his own "Ways of Russian Theology".

In 1925, Florovsky was appointed professor for patristics at the St. Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris. In this subject, he found his real vocation. Patristics became for him the benchmark for Orthodox theology and exegesis, as well as a source for many of his contributions and critiques of the ecumenical movement. Despite not having earned an academic degree in theology (apart from several honorary degrees he was awarded later), Florovsky would spend the rest of his life teaching at theological institutions.

In 1932, Florovsky was ordained priest of the Orthodox Church. During the 1930s, he undertook extensive research in European libraries and wrote his most important works in the area of patristics as well as his magnum opus, Ways of Russian Theology. In this massive work, he questioned the Western influences of scholasticism, pietism, and idealism on Russian theology and called for its re-evaluation in the light of patristic writings. The work was received with either enthusiam or condemnation - there was no neutral attitude to it among Russian émigrés. Among the critics were Sergei Nikolajevitch Bulgakov, the head of the St Sergius Institute and prominent exponent of the Russian theological tradition of the 19th century, as well as Nikolai Berdyaev, exponent of the religious renaissance of the 20th century.

In 1949, Florovsky moved to New York City to take a position as Dean of Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. Florovsky's oversight of the development of the theological curriculum led to the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York granting the Seminary an Absolute Charter in 1953. He retired as Dean in 1955.