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Seraphim Rose: “large numbers of Catholics and Protestants are hardly to be distinguished from unbelievers “

29 September 2016

Seraphim Rose.jpg


“The striking phrase, “God is dead,” is the poetical expression of modern unbelief.
Much is expressed in this phrase that is not to be found in the more prosaic expressions of modern atheism and agnosticism. A vivid contrast is established between a previous age when men believed in God and based their life and institutions upon Him, and a new age for whose inhabitants, supposedly, this once all-illuminating sun has been blotted out, and life and society must be given a new orientation.
The phrase, itself apparently coined by Nietzsche almost a century ago, was for long used to express the views of a comparatively few enemies of Christianity, chiefly “existentialists”; but recently it has caused controversy by being accepted in radical Protestant circles, and not it has become a concern of common journalism and the mass media. Clearly a responsive chord has been struck in Western society at large; the public interest in the “death of God” has made this phenomenon one of the signs of the times.
To understand what this sign means, one must know its historical context. By its very nature it is a negation–a reaction against the otherworldly Christian world view which emphasizes asceticism and the “unseen warfare” against the devil and the world in order to obtain eternal joy through communion with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. The founders of the new philosophy declared the Christian God “dead” and proclaimed man a god in His place. This view is merely the latest stage of the modern battle against Christianity which has resulted today in the virtually universal triumph of unbelief.
The contemporary controversy, however, centers about a new and unusual phenomenon, however, centers about a new and unusual phenomenon: it is now “Christians” who are the unbelievers. Yet in a sense this too is the logical culmination of an historical process that began in the West with the schism of the Church of Rome. Separated over nine centuries from the Church of Christ, Western Christendom has possessed only a steadily-evaporating residue of the genuine Christianity preserved by Holy Orthodoxy.
Today the process is nearly complete and large numbers of Catholics and Protestants are hardly to be distinguished from unbelievers; and if they still call themselves “Christians,” it can only be because for them Christianity itself has been turned into the opposite: worldly belief. One may observe in this what one Orthodox thinker has called, “The self liquidation of Christianity”: Christianity undermined from within by its own representatives who demand that it conform itself entirely to the world.
A strange parallel to this new “theology” has become common of late in the “liturgical” life of the West. Widespread publicity was given earlier this year [1966] to a “rock-and-roll” service in the Old South church in Boston, in which teenagers were allowed to dance in the aisles of the church to the accompaniment of raucous popular music. In Catholic churches “jazz masses” become more and more frequent. The ostensible intention of those responsible for these phenomena is the same as that of the radical “theologians”: to make religion more “real” to contemporary men. They thereby admit what is obvious to Orthodox observers: that religious life is largely dead in Western Christendom; but they unwittingly reveal even more: unable to distinguish between church and dancehall, between Christ and the world, they reveal God is dead in their own hearts and only worldly excitement is capable of evoking a response in themselves and their “post-Christian” flocks…”

Fr. Seraphim Rose


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Fred Farquahr permalink
    13 September 2022 6:51 pm

    It is dying in the West. That is certain. But neither Catholicism or Protestantism in all its flavors is judged by its nationality but rather by its universality, its catholicity.

    According to Pew Research, in the century between 1916 and 2016, Catholicism and Protestantism has flourished in Africa and Asia. In that time frame, Orthodoxy has dropped from 20% of Christians to 12% while Catholicism rose from 48% to 50% and Protestantism rose from 32% to 38%.

    This is not to imply that Orthodoxy hasn’t grown. It has. The population of the world has grown significantly in that time frame. It is also true that Russian Orthodoxy has flourished since the end of the Soviet Union. It does mean to say that while Orthodoxy has grown, it has grown at a much slower rate worldwide than the other two groups mentioned. Perhaps Orthodoxy’s reputation as a faith tied pretty tightly to ethnicity could be a reason.


  1. Today’s thought “Ability to see that God is not dead” (May 12) – Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven
  2. God isn’t dead though for many He is not relevant | Stepping Toes
  3. Today’s thought “Ability to circumcise your heart” (May 13) – Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven

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