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Brief Review of the Book “The Arduous Path of Post-Soviet Protestant Theological Education” by Mark Elliott

Brief Review of the Book “The Arduous Path of Post-Soviet Protestant Theological Education” by Mark Elliott

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia(Jaunt and Joy/Unsplash)
ByWilliam Yoder, Ph.D. December 07, 2020
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Nearly all Western students of ex-Soviet theological education are unduly one-dimensional in their observations. They write essentially that ex-Communists and current Orthodox detest Protestants and are, now that they have the opportunity, ratcheting up the pressure on non-Orthodox institutes of learning. Yet Westerners fail to recognize the other half of the equation: The West’s military and political advance into Eastern Europe has contributed massively to current Byzantine mistrust of the West. It’s largely responsible for Russia’s historic “love-hate relationship” with the West (pg. 145) flipping between love and hate. One victim of that “flip” is non-state, Protestant theological education.

So how could one attempt to reduce that tension without addressing the eastward march? But US-churches surely will not be distancing themselves from the foreign policy of their government. The end result will likely be similar to the one prevalent in post-1949 China: state-funded theological education largely independent of the West.

The title of Elliott’s book is aptly chosen: The path of theological education is indeed arduous – but not strictly because of state pressure. He speaks of “self-inflicted wounds” on pg. 130. Very many Protestants in the pew in the ex-USSR do not care or are very wary about theological education. Frequently, its graduates have ended up serving in major cities or in the West. For the relatively tiny Protestants churches in the ex-Soviet Union, on-campus theological education is unthinkable without major foreign input. Yet the Protestants of Eastern Europe will not be able to extradite themselves from the suspicion of sectarianism and backwardness without erudite and learned local voices.

Mark Elliott is an expert on the matter of theological education in Eastern Europe. He’s passionate about that, as his efforts over the past five decades demonstrate. I can’t imagine being informed on the topic without studying his work. He cares about churches and their fate.

Published by “First Fruits Press” at “Asbury Theological Seminary”, Kentucky/USA, in November 2020.

CCD reprinted with permission.  

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