Priest Georgiy Kochetkov is the leader of a heretical movement within the Russian Orthodox Church. His activities have led to considerable disturbance among the Orthodox, and his community is in conflict with the rest of the Orthodox community in Russia. Even more alarming is that it he is not content to confine his activity to Russia, but is attempting to spread it in other countries among people new to the Church, who do not know better.
Biblical scholar and hieromonk of Sretensky Monastery Fr. Job (Gumerov) explains why Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov’s teachings are heretical in the extreme.
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The history of the Church reveals a sad truth to us: that the majority of all disturbances and divisions in the Church proceed from self-proclaimed “teachers”.
Someone who has come to the faith only recently, no matter what age, education level, or culture, is a student in elementary school of spiritual life. Before him is the task of entering into the centuries-old, grace-filled experience of the Church, and to gradually correct himself. Abba Isaiah the Recluse warns against teaching others what you are only learning yourself. “The desire to teach others and considering yourself capable of doing so causes a fall for the soul. Being led by self-opinion and wanting to raise your neighbor to a state of dispassion leads your soul to a disastrous state. Know, that by instructing your neighbor to do one thing or another, you are acting as a weapon with which you destroy your own house while trying at the same time to build the house of your neighbor” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, collected works, v.6, [Moscow, 2004], 122–123).
The tendency toward self-proclaimed teaching is born of pride and leads to a dangerous spiritual disease that progresses gradually. At first such a “teacher” tries to correct people who are close to him. Then he tries to change the life of his parish. Gradually he develops a critical view of the life of the Church. Then he gets the desire to “renew” it.
Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov was born in October 1950. “I, like many others, was born an unbelieving person, studied in an atheistic school, and came to the faith entirely on my own, sometime at the end of high school, in the sixties.” In 1968 he finished high school, and two years later he had already “systematically begun to do missionary work and catechize adults, since 1970” (from his biography, on his own website). That means, at age twenty, new to the Church, having no theological training whatsoever, he began to work as a missionary and catechist. In his first publication written in 1979, “Entering the Church and confession the Church in the church” (Vestnik RKhD, 128, under the pseudonym, Nicholai Gerasimov) he formulated the ideas that would later determine the governing life principles of Fr. Georgiy’s community. The article Fr. Georgiy wrote in 1988 for the anthology, On the road to freedom of conscience, prepared for publications by “Progress” Publishers, would further develop these ideas. The anthology was published but it did not include the article, which came out later in the periodical, Community and Conciliarity (1991, No. 1). In it Fr. Georgiy formulates one of his main ideas—the contradistinction of community/family life and Church hierarchy: “The contemporary structure of the Orthodox Church remains fundamentally the same as it was many centuries ago, of the church-parish and strictly hierarchical (that is, based upon the calling to preserve apostolic succession of the “three-ranked hierarchy”, with a tendency toward a “four-ranking” one under the influence of all kinds of Western and Eastern papism).” So what does Fr. Georgiy see as way out of this unacceptable state in which the Church has found itself for many centuries now? A transformation to community life. And these family-communities, in his opinion, should not necessarily be bound up with parishes, but should remain sufficiently free to preserve their independence. “The Church as a parish and diocesan hierarchical structure, in my view, should recognize new paths in its life, including those we are describing; and taking them into consideration, it should trust them if it does not wish to become a large denominational sect and turn into an ethnic museum and ghetto, potentially repelling its own people” (“Parish, community, brotherhood, church [On the life experience of missionary-community parishes].” Report given at the second “Preobrazhensky Council” in Moscow, August 19, 1991. Orthodox Community. 1991, No. 9).
Gradually priest Georgiy Kochetkov moved from his program of “correcting” the Church to the recognition of his own special personal leadership role in this work. In an interview given in 1999, in answer to the question, “What is your understanding of priestly service?” he said, “I understood priestly service first of all as a certain sacrifice of myself in order to gather the Church with Christ. I especially felt that the Church is not gathered together. Orthodox people then were like sheep without a pastor (by the way, it seems now that there are too many new pastors who are more like wolves in sheep’s clothing).” (Sretensky leaflet. Special edition, 1999, October).
He said this while under suspension from priestly service. In the same year in another interview, concerning the community under his leadership in answer to the question about the current state of that community, Fr. Georgiy said, “The community is conducting itself amazingly firmly in that sense—literally in an apostolic spirit, a prophetic spirit, a spirit of the martyrs, and monastic saints, a spirit of the great confessors and other saints.”
For two decades now, the community (or more precisely, the family of communities) of Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov, while formally preserving ties with the Orthodox Church, is actually an independent denominational structure. It is difficult to understand and explain the continued existence of this unhealthy phenomenon in the life of the Church.
St. Ireneus of Lyons counsels: “There is no use seeking the truth from others, when it can be readily found in the Church. The apostles have fully placed in the Church as in a rich treasure trove all that belongs to the truth. Everyone who wishes to do so can drink the waters of life from it; it is the door to life” (Against Heresies, 3:4). A teaching from a God-revealed source is a special inheritance in the Church’s treasure trove. Whoever has systematically studied the dogmatic teaching of our Church cannot but marvel at the harmony and inner consistency of its parts. All of the necessary dogmas needed for our salvation are set forth with the utmost clarity and brevity in the Symbol of Faith [the Nicene Creed.—Trans.], which was elaborated at the first (325) and second (381) Ecumenical Councils. It is part of the Divine Liturgy. It is pronounced three times during the rite of catechization in the sacrament of Baptism. For those preparing to be baptized, Fr. Georgiy has composed his own “symbol of faith”: “I believe in the One Holy Living God—our Heavenly (Spiritual) Father and Creator of the entire material world, emotional and spiritual; and in His Pre-eternal Living Created All-wise and Only-Begotten Word (Logos), by the Spirit and Power of God (see Acts 10:38) manifest to the world and incarnate in the Son of Man—Born of a chaste Woman (see Gal. 4:4), the Virgin Mary (Mariam), and crucified out of envy and dislike, but Resurrected (raised) according to the Love of God and Unity with the Father—Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth, Who was a Prophet of God, strong in deed and word (see: Lk. 24:19), and the Son of God—the Anointed One (Mashiah, Messiah-Christ), foreseen by the ancient prophets, and Who became the Judge of all the living and the dead (see Acts 10:42) and our Only Lord-Liberator from slavery to this world, which lies in evil (see 1 Jn. 5:19), and to the weak and materially poor origins of this world (see Gal. 4:3, 9), and by our Savior, mercifully forgiving all sins to the faithful, repentant, and baptized in His name (see Acts 10:43; Mk. 16:16); and of the Life-creating and Prophesying Holy Spirit—the One Comforter (Paraclete), Whom the Lord sends in place of Himself from our Father to the world as a confirmation of the Fullness of our eternal Life in the Kingdom of the Heavenly God, as a Gift of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church; that is, to God’s world, and especially to all those who sincerely love Him and truly believe in Him, and through Him by God’s grace, to those who believe in a Personal God and the capability of every person to conform with God and become like unto God. (“In the beginning was the Word.” Catechism for those being illumined, [Moscow, 1999] 10–11).
We can only be perplexed. Why was it necessary to exchange the Symbol of Faith, which the Orthodox Church has been using for over 1500 years, for an unreadable text that does not even contain a clear teaching about the Holy Trinity, inasmuch as it makes no mention of the Divine Holy Spirit? It is entirely unclear whether its author considers the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be of one essence, Persons (Hypostases) of the one God, equal in honor and authority. If we look at other texts by Fr. Georgiy our perplexity grows. Thus, he writes, “The Dogma of the Holy Trinity announces a Mystery and is a sacrament of faith in the Divine Unity outside the framework of absolute uniformity, Oneness overcoming the ‘hated discord of this world’ by the power of its uncreated divine Light” (“The Mysterious entrance into Orthodox catechism.” Dissertation for a maitre en theologie degree from the St. Serge theological institute in Paris [Moscow, 1998], 107).
In the ninth section of the Symbol of Faith the dogma about the Church is formulated: “I believe … in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
The Church is one because it is the Body of Christ, and Christ the Savior is one.
Priest Geogiy Kochetkov has advanced the idea of the existence of two churches: the “True” Church, and the “canonical” Church. He writes, “Almost from apostolic times, the boundary between the Church with a capital “C” and the church with a small “c” has noticeably widened, so that if there is no true faith outside the true Church, while outside the “correct” Church it does occur, then this is direct testimony to this widened boundary and the eminent danger that canonical Church may lose the fullness of even potential churchliness.” (“Faith outside the Church and the problem of entering Church life”, Afanasiev Readings, International theology conference dedicated to “The legacy of Professor-Archpriest Nicholai Afanasiev and the problems of modern Church life [toward the centennial of his birthday]” [Moscow, 1994]).
There exists a very precise definition of the Church as a society of people established by God, united by the Orthodox faith, the Divine commandments, the Sacraments, and the Church hierarchy. This is the “canonical” Church. Fr. Georgiy does not give any definition of the Church he calls “true,” or “mystical”. No criteria are designated. He only asserts that it encompasses not only people who have not been baptized, but also people who do not even believe in Jesus Christ: “With the course of historical time the non-connection between the boundaries of the true Church and the canonical Church has progressed, extending ever further, even to the point of phenomena and noumena of open atheism, unbelief within the framework of the canonical Church (we recall, for example, the recent general secretaries [of the Communist Party.—Trans.], who were given Orthodox funerals only because they were baptized), and the true personal holiness recognized even by many Christians of people outside of it, but within the mystical Church (from St. Francis of Assisi to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Albert Schweitzer, and maybe even Mahatma Ghandi).”
The Lutheren pastor named here, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), who showed great courage in the struggle against Nazism, was one of the founders of the confession, “Christianity without religion”, formulated in 1943–44 in his letters to Eberhard Bethge. In these letters he wrote about the end of historical Christianity: “The time has long passed when people could be told everything in words (be it theological thoughts or pious speeches); the time of interest in man’s inner world and conscience, and thus, to religion in general, has also passed. We are coming closer to an absolutely religionless period: people simply can no longer remain religious. Even those who honestly call themselves “religious” are in fact not religious at all; apparently they understand “religiosity” as something rather different” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Resistance and Submission).
Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov is even ready to number among the members of the “true” Church Mahatma Ghandi (1869–1948), who said (in “Ethical Religion”):
I am an extreme reformer, but I do not renounce even a single main belief of Hinduism.
I believe in the cult of the sacred cow in a much broader sense than the one that the people understand;
I do not renounce the cult of idols;
I do not believe in the exclusive divinity of the Vedas. I suppose that the Bible, the Koran, and the Zend-Avesta are just as god-inspired as the Vedas;
“All religions are just different paths that lead to one and the same goal (HindSwaraj).
Christianity in Fr. Georgiy’s understanding is so vague that he has even counted Moslems among the Christians: “When I read the Koran, I said to myself—not to someone else but to myself: Moslems are Christians… If they call Jesus the Messiah—and everyone knows that sura—and if the Messiah is Christ, then why aren’t they Christians? At the time I did not yet know the famous quote from St. Philaret of Moscow: ‘I will not dare to call false any Church that believes the Jesus is the Christ.’ For me, Moslems are Christians; they are the Protestants of the seventh century” (Materials for the international scientific-theological conference, Moscow, September 29–October 1, 2004 [Moscow: St. Philaret Institute, 2005] 114–115).
Several perplexities arise immediately:
1. Islam denies the Christian teaching on the Holy Trinity, it denies the redemptive death of the Savior on the cross; it does not accept the Resurrection of Christ. It is not clear why Fr. Georgiy has decided to consider Christian those who reject these cornerstones of truth. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins (1 Cor. 15:17).
2. Fr. Georgiy apparently does not know that there is no teaching about the Messiah in the Koran. Jesus, son of Mary, is no more than a prophet (nabi) in Islam and a messenger of Allah (rasul). Why then in the Koran is the word “al-Masih” used (75th ayat, sura 5)? According to the Islamic theologian Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Al-Firuzabadi (died 1083), the word “al-Masih” applied to Jesus in the Koran is taken from the Christians and does not bear any of the sacral meaning given it by Christians. This opinion is confirmed by a look at the Koran. I will cite the 75th ayat (sura 5) in five different translations:
Sahih International:The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.
Pickthall: The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!
Yusuf Ali: Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!
Shakir: The Messiah, son of Marium is but a messenger; messengers before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a truthful woman; they both used to eat food. See how We make the communications clear to them, then behold, how they are turned away.
Dr. Ghali: In no way is the Masih son Maryam (The Messiah son of Mary) (anything) except a Messenger. The Messengers before him already passed away, and his mother was constantly sincere; they both used to eat food. Look how evident We make the signs to them; (then) thereafter look (again) however they are diverged (into falsehood).
How does Fr. Georgiy’s understanding of the “canonical” Church relate to New Testament and patristic ecclesiology?
The assertion that the Pentecostal fire is absent from our Church contains the most serious accusation that could possibly be leveled against the Orthodox Church—the denial of its grace. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles (the tongues of fire being the visible image), the Church was born. From that day, the Church lives and the sacraments are performed in it through the grace of the Holy Spirit. “As long as God preserves the existence of His Church, the Holy Spirit abides in it” (St. Philaret of Moscow). Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky) also talks about this: “The Spirit of God lives in the Church. This is not a dry and empty dogmatic position upheld only out of respect for antiquity. No, this is the very truth, experientially recognizable to everyone who has plumbed the consciousness and life of the Church… Too often people now talk about the lack of life in the Church, about “reviving” the Church. We find this talk hard to understand and we are quite inclined to consider it absolutely nonsensical. Life in the Church can never dry up, for the Holy Spirit abides in it unto the end of the ages (cf. Jn. 14:16). And there is life in the Church. Only people who do not participate in Church do not notice this life. The life of the Spirit of God is incomprehensible to an earthly person; it even seems to him foolishness, for it is accessible only to the spiritual person” (“There is no Christianity without the Church”, Collected Works in Three Volumes [Moscow, 2004] 2:232–3).
Fr. Georgiy’s denial of our Church’s grace indicates his complete inner separation from it. Outwardly he and his community have not left the Church’s territory, because this position helps him to attract followers to the community. The reason is obvious. History shows that society quickly loses interest in schismatic movements.
Not recognizing the grace of the “canonical” Church, Fr. Georgiy regularly makes sharp, even crude remarks about the Church. I will cite several of these remarks, so that the extent of Fr. Georgiy’s spiritual alienation from the Church can be seen:
—“The Church itself is not churched! The Church, like never before, is not churching people!” (Kifa, 2004, No. 4, July–August).
—“From a certain unity built perhaps not out of the sturdiest material, society has turned into a pile of sand. But we see the same thing in the Church. It has also turned into something like a pile of sand” (Ibid.).
—“And from this comes the pervasive crisis in Church life: in the parishes and in missions, in education and in work with children, in asceticism, ethics, prayer, and often in the sacraments. No matter what we look at, we meet everywhere very serious perversions and problems” (Ibid.).
—“The church with a small “c”, where there often really is place for violence, averaging out, limitation of freedom, and a restriction of creativity and multiplicity of forms and formulas of life, where there is the pressure of dead and false members, where there is suffering from false brethren… from the false tradition established in the church mainly with their participation” (“Faith outside the Church and the problem of entering into Church life”).
—“Orthodoxy has become an unusually legalistic religious system… people feel that in modern Orthodoxy there is not enough freedom, ‘grace and truth’.”
—To the Church, “the ideology of spiritual decline has become closer—‘protective Orthodoxy’ and the isolationism, nationalism, transfer to state control, seminarian scholasticism, and magical clericalism that proceeds from it … this was expressed in the strict requirements for the canonization of the former Emperor Nicholas II and the departure from inter-confessional Christian dialogue and communication” (“Yes, I can confirm and sign to all this”. NG-Religion, No. 12 (58), June 28, 2000).
In a report “On the problems of modern eschatology” (2005), Fr. Georgiy wrote of the new, “post-Constantine” period of the Church: “There was also an attempt to bring some conclusion to the entire Constantine period of Church history, including in the area of theology, which Fr. Sergei Bulgakov and N. A. Berdeyev did brilliantly, and in the West, Vatican II Council and all those who prepared it: Catholic theologians, Church activists, and Pope John XXIII” (Kifa, 2005, No. 6 , 10).
Fr. Georgiy rejects outright the extremely important dogma of the Church concerning the God-inspired nature of the Holy Scriptures. In an interview given in the summer of 2012, he said, “After all, some concepts and things that earlier, perhaps, did people excellent service, inevitably get old, and become senseless. But then the spirit is also lost! Open the Bible, the Old and the New Testaments, and look how much has died so far. This can be seen by the naked eye. Something has remained very alive, but other things have not. The times have passed when it was considered that the Bible was written by people with their eyes closed, and the Holy Spirit guided their hand. These are grandmas’ tales. And since all this was written by people, it means that they have brought into it something of their own, something human” (Harvard Business Review Russia, 2012, No. 8 , August).
Fr, Georgiy considers as mythologized (legendary, fairy tale) many of the Gospel stories about miracles: “The stories told, including wonders and appearances, are essentially legendary God-Appearances, which means that they include stories of the Nativity, Baptism, Temptation, Transfiguration, the walking on water, the Entrance into Jerusalem, the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. They all speak not only of Jesus’s humanity, but of the divine power and glory of Christ; and therefore they are all mythologized” (“Go and teach…” 275).
Not content with rejecting the truthfulness of many of the Gospel stories, Fr. Georgiy makes the following evaluation of the holy Four Gospels, “All four of our Gospels have assimilated in themselves the Jewish religious-mystical traditions and the Hellenic moral and emotional culture with elements of Greek philosophy and dialectic of Greek myth” (Ibid., 279).
The teaching on the God-inspired nature of the Holy Bible was expressed already in Old Testament books. In them is clearly expressed the thought of the action of the Spirit of God in the prophets. The sacred writer cites the words of King David: The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue (2 Kings 23:2). The prophets begin their books with the testimony about how God placed His words in them: And the word of the Lord came to him, saying (Jer. 1:4); The word of the Lord which came to Osee (1:1); The word of the Lord which came to Joel (Joel 1:1).
The very understanding of “God-inspiration” (Gr. Teopneustos) is found in the apostolic epistles, All scripture is given by inspiration of God (Tim. 3:16). That all Scripture comes from God is witnessed by the Apostle Peter: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. 1:21).
This dogma is developed in the works of the holy fathers, who relied on the grace-filled experience of spiritual life. St. John Cassian speaks of the necessity to purify the heart before trying to fathom its meaning: “Those who wish to understand the Holy Scriptures should occupy themselves not only with reading the explanations of them as much as cleansing their hearts from fleshly vices. If these vices will be destroyed, then, after the covering of the passions is removed, the eyes of the soul will contemplate the mystery of the Holy Scripture. For it was not revealed by the Holy Spirit only for us not to know it; it is dark because the eyes of our souls are closed by the covering of vices. And if their natural health is restored, then it will be sufficient only to read the Holy Scriptures in order to understand their true meaning, and there will be no need for interpreters, just as the eyes need no aid to see as long as they are clean and there is no darkness. That is why there arise such differences and mistakes among the interpreters themselves—in their approach to explaining Holy Scripture they do not take care to purify their spirit. Because of the impurity of their hearts they not only do not see the light of truth, but also dream up much that is against the faith” (Epistle to Castor, Bishop of Apt, 5:34).
The exceptionally high veneration of the Mother of God is not just an aspect or manifestation of Orthodox piety. It is founded upon the dogmatic teaching of the Church about the Savior of the world. Without an exact and correct understanding of the Most Pure Virgin within the economy of our salvation there cannot be any Orthodox teaching of faith.
The Mother of God is Ever Virgin (Gr. Aeiparthenos). The dogma of the virgin birth without seed of our Lord Jesus Christ is founded upon the Holy Gospels. The Most Holy Virgin says to the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (Lk. 1:34). The Archangel Gabriel says, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Lk. 1:35).
The dogma of the virginal incarnation of the Son of God was introduced into the Symbol of the Faith by the holy fathers of the Ecumenical Council: “And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.” Instead of this absolutely clear and precisely formulated teaching, Fr. Georgiy offers the following thoughts: “What I have said does not of course mean that in Christianity the virginal Conception was ever denied. Christianity simply tried not to talk about it very much, leaving it a mystery that is very important to us. The Conception of Christ has always been considered, undoubtedly, absolutely chaste. But chastity can be understood in different ways. It could be understood as something external, in the physical or bodily sense, but it could also be understood more deeply and spiritually; that is, in a slightly different way. As some of the deeper Christian ascetics have pointed out, one can lose chastity while living in marriage, or one can live in marriage, have children, and be completely chaste. Furthermore, even before the fall, in paradise, man was given a commandment by God: ‘Go forth and multiply.’ Thus, the sin is not the fleshly relations in and of themselves—although sin is also often expressed in these relations—but in something else.”
Again we are perplexed: What need was there for him to make such statements when it is written very clearly in the Gospels that Mary the Mother of God was a virgin both spiritually and bodily? The author himself answers that question: “There is no doubt about the chaste conception and birth of Christ, but how that happened in the physical sense remains a mystery; no one on earth knew, knows, or will know this” (Go and teach… p. 249). From this statement it can be seen that the author does not subscribe to the Orthodox dogma about the incarnation of Jesus Christ from a virgin. Following upon the heels of this doubt he has sown in the Orthodox teaching, Fr. Georgiy writes: “Thus inasmuch as Matthew 1:18–25 joins the original Christian tradition concerning the birth of Jesus from Joseph with the belief in a physical virginity of this birth that is so close in spirit to the Hellenistic era inasmuch as he later cites the scripture of the Prophet Isaiah: Behold, a virgin shall receive in her womb and give birth to a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel. We must note here, however, that that is not exactly what Isaiah said.
“Parthenos means “virgin” in Greek (according to the Septuagint), while in the Hebrew text the word almah is used, which means, “young, unmarried woman, young girl, virgin,” that is, a broader concept. It is no accident that modern New Testament text specialists confirm that behind the canonical story told by St. Matthew there is possibly a more ancient story, the contents of which, of course, are quite conjectural to us. Nevertheless, there are also some very ancient Syrian versions of the text of St. Matthew, which allow us to suppose that there is a story with the role of Joseph’s paternity crossed out.”
From the above citation, the author’s position is very clear. He is talking about Joseph’s supposed paternity. It is a blasphemous thought. It would seem that no comment here is needed, but just the same I will allow myself to direct several reproaches at it.
1. For a believing Orthodox Christian the Holy Gospels are an indisputable authority. In telling the story of virgin birth of Jesus, the Evangelist Matthew is speaking of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.
2. Fr. Georgiy is skirting around the truth with the aid of reasoning that cites a certain “original Christian tradition concerning the birth of Jesus from Joseph”. This cannot be, because Sacred Tradition, which gets its beginning from the apostles, does not disagree with Holy Scripture.
3. What does Fr. Georgiy mean when he writes about “the belief in a physical virginity of this birth that is so close in spirit to the Hellenistic era”? He is referring to the pagan myths of conception without a husband that were widespread in the late ancient era from Greece to India. Drawing such a parallel is blasphemy. It was introduced in the second century by the Greek philosopher Celsus [who wrote one of the earliest anti-Christian tracts.—Trans.].
4. As opposed to the Gospel of Matthew, which speaks of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy (“khine kha-almah khara veioledet Ben”), Fr. Georgiy does not consider that the Prophet Isaiah is talking about the virginity of the Mother of Emmanuel. Concerning Is. 17:14, the author uses rationalistic expressions of the nineteenth century Bible scholars who built their arguments upon the fact that the Hebrew word almah has two meanings: “virgin”, and “young woman”. They asserted that the Evangelist is adapting the great prophet’s saying to the Christian understanding of the Messiah’s birth. However, two and a half centuries before this New Testament event, Jewish translators (appointed by the High Priest Eleazar) fixed the word Parthenos in the text [of the Septuagint Bible.—Trans.]. Secondly, the Prophet Isaiah says that the Lord will work a sign. Birth from a married woman is a natural thing. There is no portent in this for contemporaries or future generations. But a virginal conception and birth of a son is something above nature and is a very special sign.
The word almah is used in the Hebrew Bible with the meaning, “virgin”, as it is in other books: Genesis 24:43 talks about Rachael before marriage; in Exodus 2:8 almah refers to the maiden Mariam—the sister of Moses.
Besides Is. 7:14, there is yet another prophecy about the virginal conception of the Savior—that of the Prophet Ezekiel: And the Lord said to me, This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no one shall pass through it; for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it, and it shall be shut (Ez. 44:1–2).
The Son of God, born before the ages from the Father and in latter times incarnate of a Virgin, who gave birth to Him in only the known way, without seed and beyond understanding, preserving her virginity uncorrupt… Whoever denies that Mary gave birth to God will not behold the glory of His Divinity (St, Ephraim the Syrian).
In an interview about this report of his, he talked about the non-belief in the immortality of the soul: “I talked a lot about fundamentalism as practical atheism and about how a conscious Christian basically must not believe in the theory of the immortality of the soul. For Catholics, this is a very “shocking” thing” (Kifa, 2005, No. 6 , 4). With this assertion Fr. Georgiy denies the twelfth section of the Creed of the Orthodox Church.
The teaching of the immortality of the soul is one of the most fundamental teachings of Holy Scripture. Anyone who denies it ceases to be a Christian. In the Holy Gospels, the Lord says, He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal (Jn. 12:25). The Apostle Paul also wrote, For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal (2 Cor. 5:1).
The teaching of the immortality of the soul is an extremely important part of patristic tradition:
—“That is why we have an immortal soul—so that we might fully prepare ourselves for the next life” (St. John Chrysostom, “On the Samaritan woman and the words, Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar (Jn. 4:5).
—“The whole world is not worth one soul, because the world shall pass away, but the soul will abide forever” (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, “A special word to the pastor, on the qualities of an instructor of rational sheep”, 13:18).
—“We accept that the soul is divine and immortal; however it is not of one essence with the Supremely Divine and Royal nature and is not part of this Divine, Creative, and ever-existing nature” (St. Isidore of Pelusium, Letters, book 3, to Presbyter Digiptius).
One can often find in Fr. Georgiy’s publications the assertion that he and his community are persecuted because they are striving to overcome in their spiritual life the “formalism”, “fundamentalism”, “indifference”, and “legalism” present in the Church. Supposedly this is why they try to champion freedom and the right to individualism and creativity.
This is not true. The fullness and elevated intensity of spiritual life in the Church does not lead to clashes with the rule of divine services, the canons, traditions, or other Church communities. It is sufficient to recall the experience of parish communities led by Archpriest Valentine Amphiteatrov, Saints Alexei and Sergei Mechev, St. Sebastian of Karaganda, and others. Evgeny Poselyanin, who often visited the Kremlin church of Sts. Constantine and Helen, relates, “Fr. Valentine proved that a zealous priest can attract worshippers to abandoned, parishless churches. Even on weekdays his church was filled with the faithful. The people came there not only to pray, but also to open their souls to him, to pour out their pent-up woes, and to ask his advice” (E. Poselyanin, “Recollections of a zealous pastor”, Tserkovny Vedomosti, 1908, No 44, November 1, pp. 2171–2173). Over the course of eighteen years this self-denying pastor served the Divine Liturgy daily, and afterwards “he would serve molebens and Pannikhidas with extraordinary fervency, both of which were at the request of those in attendance, and several at a time,” and then he would talk with the sorrow-laden people. A first meeting with him would bring noticeable relief to the suffering soul and person weighed down by grief. Once batiushka had received someone into his spiritual flock he would lead him to salvation, no matter how long and difficult that path would be. In his pastoral service Fr. Valentine relied upon the tradition of Orthodox eldership. Trying always primarily to cultivate in his parishioners inner piety, he inspired them to pay special attention to the hidden life of the soul. Many Muscovites even had the custom of giving confession at least once a year in Fr. Valentine’s community. There were astounding spiritual fruits. This all took place without any division of communities into the “full” and the “not full”, without changing the service language from Church Slavonic to Russian, without any opposition to “fundamentalism”, and without any criticism of the Church.
Fr. Georgiy’s worldview was determined by N. A. Berdyaev. He assumed his main religious-philosophical ideas from him: “It is a great joy to be acquainted with N. Berdyaev, who, as it seems to me, I not only love, but also understand. His apologetic gift is unique in the Church, just as is his revelation about God, man, and the Church. He is the first person after the Apostle Paul to speak in the Christian language, and in a way that people can feel that they need Berdyaev and his Christianity (http://www.zavetspisok.ru/kochetkov.htm).
Berdyaev is Fr. Georgiy’s foremost authority. In his thesis for the report, “The genius of Berdyaev and the Church” (Berdyaev Readings, Kiev, May 28, 1991) he says:
—“Berdyaev understood the role of the Church, but even more so he wished to fulfill his great prophetical mission—to uphold the “fallen tabernacle of David”, to manifest it in life, and to intensify the Church. He never departed from Orthodoxy, but often had no high opinion of the institution of the Orthodox confession”;
—“He felt the need for all Christians to break through their confessional limitations and falsehood of life. He was interested in both the teaching and the life of the Church, although he understood that the life supersedes the Church teaching and that the teaching is becoming its enviable example”;
—“He built a new construction of a non-objectified and non-idealized knowledge of God, the world, life, and man, not ashamed to use in the process the “scaffolding” of mythologems (Ungrund, Adam Cadmon, communism, etc.). At the same time it is clear that according to the measure of this construction’s completion, this “scaffolding” become less and less needed to him and to us (like the “sophiology” of the congenial Fr. Sergei Bulgakov);
—“N. A. Berdyaev gave new meaning and confirmed as somehow aristocratic the “ascetic virtues” in Christianity. He raised obedience to God, and humility to its root—to the World, which is that same God (we recall what was said of Christ: ‘He is our world’)”;
—“We can all call him one of the spiritual fathers of modern mankind.”
I have cited only part of this hyperbolic praise of N. A. Berdyaev so that the reader would understand the world-view of Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov.
It is easy to get an idea of N. A. Berdyaev’s true spirituality based upon his works.
N. Berdyaev’s teaching on God, formed under the influence of the German theosophist, Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), is, from the point of view of Biblical-Christian teaching, absolutely false and heretical. N. A. Berdyaev does not accept the primary existence and omnipotence of God: “From the Divine Nothing, from the Gottheit, from Ungrund is born the Holy Trinity, and God the Creator. The creation of the world by God the Creator is a secondary act. From this point of view we can recognize that freedom was not created by God the Creator; it is rooted in the Nothing, the Ungrund, primordial and beginingless” (On the Destiny of Man. Experience of paradoxical ethics. Chap. 2).
Historical Christianity is too ascetical for him.
—“Great is the meaning of dionysism in religious life; we can welcome the modern renaissance of Dionysius as path to peace between Christianity and paganism” (New religious conscience and society. Mystery and Religion, XXXVIII);
—“St. John Chrysostom was a true communist of his time, and a representative of the Constantinople proletariat” (“Does freedom of thought and conscience exist in Orthodoxy?” Path, 1939, No. 59, February–April);
—“The new type of Christians, the new feeling of life, creative Christians of all confessions are calling to one another, and there is more closeness among them than there is within confessions. They must unite” (Ibid.);
—A monk can sit in reclusion for twenty years, he can give himself entirely over to ascetical exercises, pray most of the day, and nevertheless be in a state of terrible mental obscurantism and obscurantism of the moral values of social life; he can have a very weak degree of humanization. Such an obscurantist was, for example, Bishop Theophan the Recluse. The same goes for many other elders” (Spirit and reality. The Fundamentals of God-human spirituality).
Fr. Georgiy considers that, “The significance of Berdyaev for the Church is promising to an enormous degree” (“One must not look at what it is that people honor him for”, Kifa, 2004, No. 3, March).
The activities of Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov are leading to conflicts and disturbances because his religious-philosophical world-view is alien to Orthodoxy, which is founded upon the theology and spiritual experience of the holy fathers. His practice, which is spreading further and further with each passing year, poses a serious danger for the Orthodox Church.