Andrew J. Sopko, For a Culture of Co-Suffering Love: The Theo-Anthropology of Lazar Puhalo
Outline of Chapters
Introduction: Orthodox Christianity and Culture
A theology of culture lies at the very heart of Orthodox Christianity. The
Church Fathers themselves are the Church’s pre-eminent theologians of culture
and contemporary theologians must continue this patristic tradition. Lazar
Puhalo has done this through his own engagement with various aspects of
I. Christian Existentialism
As an “anti-philosophy,” that emphasizes existence over essence, Puhalo demonstrates that many themes of existentialism can be discovered in Orthodox Theo-anthropology. The experience of both the individual Christian and the corporate ecclesial body overcomes alienation, bringing about the encounter between God and man.
II. Gender as Prophecy
Rather than opposing men and women by assigning them different roles as society often attempts to do, Puhalo gives both genders a prophetic function. The priesthood of men and women is meant to unite not just the sexes but the entire world into a harmonious relationship with God.
III. Beyond Morality and Ethics
From Puhalo’s perspective, all systems of morality and ethics need to be
transcended for, since the Middle Ages, they have largely lost any connection
with theology. Puhalo echoes Antony Khrapovitsky: “Perfect holiness consists
in perfect love rather than in correct behavior.” Such co-suffering love
identifies with not only other individuals but also the problems of society in
IV. Science and Theology as Empirical Quest
Puhalo sees Orthodox theology as sharing a closer relationship with the science exemplified in modern physics than either Catholic scholasticism or Protestant fundamentalism. The Church has nothing to fear from science and its empirical methodology bears a close relationship to the experiential aspects of Orthodox Theo-anthropology. Outside the realm of “pure science,” the creation of technology must always conform to the divine will for the universe.
V. The Aesthetics of Reality
The divergence in the sacred art of the Christian east and west meant that the more symbolic Semitic approach of the east was rejected in favor of a more realistic art in the west that began to conceive the passion of the moment as reality. For Puhalo, the “reverse perspective” of the icon erases the distinction between the “work of art” and the viewer. Thus, the viewer is invited to become a partaker of the Gospel, the true reality.
VI. Last Things
The autonomous, pluralistic societies of the West present a competing array of
beliefs, especially concerning eschatology. Many of the viewpoints espoused
today have more to do with New Age ideas than with Christianity. Within this
context, this chapter gives particular attention to Puhalo’s analysis of such
phenomena as the so-called “out-of-body-experience” and the “near-death
Epilogue: Church and/or World
The primary strength of Puhalo’s theology of culture emanates from the fact
that it is founded upon an existential and empirical theology rather than a
speculative one. While it may display some deficiencies, it still succeeds in
permeating the various aspects of culture with the sense of a mission of co-
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