Between support for the state and its betrayal: the contradictions of the Eastern Orthodox Christian concept of symphonia

Tamara Prosic

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Church-state relationships in countries with Eastern Orthodox Christian heritage are often characterized as caesaropapist, implying that churches are subservient to the state and that political rulers hold the reins of power over both secular and spiritual/ecclesiastical matters. The Orthodox insistence on tradition is also often understood to involve Byzantine autocracy, so Orthodoxy as a whole is habitually portrayed as a docile, politically apathetic Christian tradition inherently inclined towards autocracy and authoritarianism and incompatible with modern democracies. The article attempts to present a different view by discussing the nuances of the concept of symphonia which underpinned Byzantine state-church relationships, the tensions arising from this concept in the political sphere and the reasons why symphonia seemed to have worked in contradictory ways in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century, both supporting and undermining state powers. (c) W. S. Maney Son Ltd 2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175 - 187
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Theology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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