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by Miroslav Volf


The Eighth Day of Creation

From a Russian Orthodox philosopher, a provocative alternative to modernity.

The author of this excellent study of Nikolay Berdyaev's philosophy has recently been appointed as archbishop of Rijeka, Croatia. Prior to his elevation to this high ecclesiastical office, Ivan Devcic was professor of theology at the faculty of Catholic theology in the same city. Nikolay Berdyaev (1874-1948) was a major Russian thinker who, though raised in an atheist environment, early on found his way to Christianity and became arguably the most important Russian Christian philosopher of the 20th century. Given present-day frosty relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the world of Orthodoxy, the book's publication in Croatia, a country situated at the fault line between the worlds of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, is a significant event. The very existence of the book is a testimony to the fact that mutual condemnations and recriminations or outright war (as in the former Yugoslavia) is not the only way the two worlds relate. Serious intellectual engagement of major ecumenical importance is taking place across the boundaries.

Significant as this "political" dimension of the book is, in and of itself it would not justify a review of this monograph published in Croatian in an American journal. The reason it merits being introduced to an English-speaking audience is that it is a major and compelling contribution to the study of Berdyaev's thought. Berdyaev's reputation, which matches his own self-descriptions, is that of an intuitive and occasional thinker, uninterested in the overarching coherence of his thought. And yet, if one distinguishes between the "coherence of thought" and the "systematic character of its presentation," one can clearly see how Berdyaev's thought, which strikes one as disjointed, in fact does display a basic "goodness of fit." To argue for this thesis is the main purpose of Devcic's book.

At the heart of Berdyaev's work lies the idea of "personhood"—radical freedom of human beings along with their calling to participate in God's creativity ...

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