Orthodox Survival Course
St. Irene Orthodox Church
Rochester Hills, Michigan
- The Purpose of Our Course
Our title, “Orthodox Survival Course” does not refer to physical survival, at least not directly, though sometimes physical survival is the outcome of spiritual and intellectual survival, as sometimes it is not, as in the case of the martyrs. The “survival” we are referring to is precisely survival as Orthodox Christians. Our purpose is to acquire an Orthodox philosophy of history, in order to understand our current situation in light of the Church’s teaching, and thereby be better equipped to discern falsehood and avoid deceptive interpretations of what is going on around us, and to remain in the Church until death, to survive spiritually and to help those we are responsible for to do the same.
Our acquiring and interiorizing the Church’s view of history is critical, because only those who understand the past can understand the present and deal with it effectively. Their destruction or re-writing of history enables evil people to deceive and control us. Also, by understanding our current situation better, we can acquire interior peace and form firm resolutions for our own future course of behavior.
Another reason we must think with the mind of the Church to understand our place in history is that alone of all “world religions,” the Christian revelation declares that the true God acts in history and makes Himself known through history. Only the Church teaches that God became a particular man at a particular time in a particular place. Christians live from prior events in history of the Creation and the Incarnation, and towards the Second Coming, the End of the World, and the Dread Judgment. Our faith is uniquely tied to history, and it was, in fact, the Christian Faith that gave birth to historical consciousness and the academic study of history.
- A Follow-Up to Ideas Have Consequences
A few years ago, we read Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, which masterfully traces the degeneration of Western thought and culture since the rise of Nominalism in the 14th century. Weaver, however, does not go back far enough. The real “beginning of the end” was not in the rejection of Scholastic theology and the High Medieval Western European church and culture, which began in the 14th century, but rather the the Western Church’s departure from Orthodoxy in the 9th to the 11th centuries, a process finalized in the course of the “Palamite” controversies in the 14th century and “sealed” officially, so to speak, by the 15th century Council of Florence and its aftermath.
I have often thought that “someone” should write a companion book to Ideas Have Consequences from the Orthodox perspective, or at least an Orthodox introduction to the book. This set of notes and our little course are a step towards fulfilling this idea.
III. Fr. Seraphim Rose’s “Orthodox Survival Course”
To a great extent, a series of thirteen lectures Fr. Seraphim Rose delivered in the 1970’s at St. Herman Monastery in Platina, California, inspired me to conduct this course, and I have, gratefully and giving him due credit, given it the name he gave his lectures, “Orthodox Survival Course.” I am going to draw copiously from Fr. Seraphim’s unpublished notes and refer to the sources he quotes. A major difference between Fr. Seraphim’s lectures and our classes will be this: He assumes that the listener understands more or less what Orthodoxy and Orthodox culture are, and his sole concern is to describe the loss of Orthodoxy and its consequences in the West of the second millennium. So he begins at the time of the schism between the papist West and the Orthodox East in the Middle Ages, and then traces the degeneration of Western Christianity and the decline of Christian society in the West from that point. In our course, however, we will begin with the early Church and spend some time on what Orthodoxy and Orthodox culture are, before we go on to describe what they are not.
III. Not a History Survey but Rather a “Meta-history”
Our goal is to focus on the meaning and the overall character of each period we
examine. Thus our course is not a survey in which we are going to cover a lot of bits of data, but rather a meta-history in which we are elucidating the meaning of what was said and done, and tying this all together into one coherent tapestry of understanding, an integrated Orthodox interpretation of our civilization’s history and our present situation. We have the rest of our lives to read various books and other sources to find facts and figures. Our precious course time will be spent in deepening our understanding from an Orthodox point of view and learning a coherent framework which will give us the ability to understand what we are reading about and applying that to our lives.
IV. Motivation to Act
Ultimately what we learn here should inspire us to take action, to live in a certain way based on the understanding we acquire. It is the eleventh hour, it is “later than we think,” as Fr. Seraphim used to say. We have to examine our priorities and spend the time of our lives fruitfully, for our salvation and that of those whom we love. This course is directed to this end.
Fr. Seraphim’s “Orthodox Survival Course” notes can be found at https://www.scribd.com/doc/144178465/Survival-Course
Ideas Have Consequences – https://portalconservador.com/livros/Richard-Weaver-Ideas-Have-Consequences.pdf
Listen to the audio recording of this class at