The Concept of Theological Education in Ukraine Print

1. After solemn celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of Baptism and Christening, on having received from the Lord the big gift of freedom and while preparing for the celebration of the worldwide jubilee of the 2000th anniversary of Saviour’s Nativity, Christians in Ukraine have an occasion to acknowledge and comprehend the religious and theological heritage that was and must remain an important basis for spiritual, ecclesiastic, national, cultural and political life of the society.

It is now that all Christians should take effort to read God’s act in general history and comprehend His salvative interventions into history of our Ukrainian nation. We are incited to this by great changes that are taking place all over the world and, in particular, in Eastern European coutries. These changes are pre-determined by post-communist reality, postmodern epoche and post-industrial economy. All this taken together incites us to creative reconsideration, comprehension and proper perception of new reality so that Christ’s Testament, given to His Church – to evangelize, to sanctify, to cleanse, to save and unite everyone in Him into one body – could be implemented with utmost success.

Introductory basics

2. Theology is the reality of discovering the living Fod-Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit by a human participating in the communication of three God’s Persons, as well as a capacity to disclose God’s mysteries, the content of Revelation to the “world”, i.e. to evalgelize, to maintain an apostolic mission. Theology is a process of active spiritual, intellectual and cultural experience of the history of salvation, of God’s living Word dynamics, with their completion in contemplating Him.

3. Theological education is called to favour every person in his/her attempts to learn to communicate with God, to remain in Him, as well as to open the greatness and significance of this communication to other people both with personal example and with the word accessible and understandable for contemporaries.

4. In a positive sense, theological education is to become wisdom – guidance towards the truth and the good. Its priority lies in introducing a person to the spiritual mystery, i.e. to divine-human life, the essence of which is perpetual growth in communication with the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

5. In the issues of evangelization and Gospel inculturation which are tightly interconnected, the imperative for theological education is its presence in the midst of contemporary cultural problems with simultaneous pivoting upon the historic heritage. A contemporary theologian should be knowledgeable in philosophy, acquainted with discoveries in the humanities, social studies and sciences.

6. By opening spiritual horizons of personal human growth in his/her communication with God-Trinity, theology is taking care of proper elucidation of social dimension of human life. Theology teaches about “new society” restored by Christ – Church, emphasizing its universality (Catholicism) which is being implemented via its existence on the level of local self-rules church. Under Ukrainian circumstances theological education should direct its efforts onto careful studying of Kyiv Christianity heritage and its actualization in contemporary situation of religious pluralism (ecumenic dimension), hoping to restore unity of Christians in Ukraine.

7. Theology considers the Church as a germ of God’s Kingdom in the world called for Transfiguration of this world. By discerning “the signs of time”, the Church, with its theology, is helping society to find the best solutions for life problems, to create necessary conditions for personal development, i.e. has a defined social dimension.

8. Theological education should avoid extremes: reinforced rationalization, spiritualization and conceptual “monasticism”.

9. Philosophic rationalization of theology leads to oblivion of the Living God reducing Him to a discourse or analytical object of ideological categories. God of Abraham, Isaak and Jacob who enters into relationship with His people and rules the history of salvation becomes God of philosophers, a remote Primary Engine, Primary Cause or just a category for moralizing speculations. Knowledge of God turns into knowledge about God, live communication – into theoretical constructions of mind and imagination. Religion – an integrated and all-embracing knowledge, fear of God (respect of God’s magnifiscence) – turns into a philosophic theism.

10. Rationalization of theology – the process that during the second Christian millenium underwent gradual development, results in the loss of a critical moment: the intuitive contemplative aspect of cognition, with its essence of Godworshipping. In the lack of personal communication with the Truth a human being is doomed to partial, aspective cognition. The knowledge received in the rational-discoursive way tends to disperse as it gets more and more loaded with new information. Achievements of science and technics, manifestations of rational thinking, when not connected simultaneously with spiritual asceticism, tend to disintegrate human personality and to standardize him/her. Therefore, theological education also cannot be just a sheer piling of knowledge but, rather, the wisdom that would direct this knowledge to the truth and the good.

11. Spiritualization of theology, i.e. the idea of self-sufficiency in divine communication of a human individual without care of expressing God’s Word via human word, ends up in a number of theological problems: rejection of the necessity of Church and its sacraments, neognostic idealization of spiritual life, a specific type of monophysitism with its dualistic neglection of all earthly, rational and material, as well as with the polarization of spheres of sacrum and profanum. Such privatization of spiritual life excludes the imperative of inculturating the Gospel, its relevant sermon.

12. Theological, conceptual “monasticism” is characterized with disballanced accentuation on the “inner praxis” and disregard of “outer action”. Individualization of spiritual life pragmatizes the notion of Church reducing it to a mechanical “bearer” of sacramental and blissful means (for instance, Holy Sacraments, shared liturgical life) of individual salvation, and in its extreme form even rejects their essentiality.


Historical review

13. The development of theology in Ukraine has been both reflecting general tendencies in the world Christianity and having peculiarities of its own. Adoption of Christianity introduced the Rus’ people to a world of civilization which had grown from the shared cultural and intellectual tradition – that of Christian worldview, heritage of ancient Greece and Roman-Byzantine law. Priesthood and monasticism were the main spiritual power in society, preserved and enriched its cultural wealth. The peculiarity of theological tradition in Ukrainian society consisted in almost absolute absence of rational approach characteristic of the medieval Catholic theology. Kyivan Rus’ experienced neither theologians of St. Thomas of Aquinas type or format, nor did it witness scholastic debates within university walls, nor did have at its disposal the riches of theological texts. This, however, expressed not the weakness of the local theological tradition but, rather, the specifics of its development determined by the life circumstances of the Ukrainian society in the past. A big achievement of Kyivan Rus’ was adoption and extension of church terminology which perfectly served theology and other disciplines.

Just like in the general (worldwide) Church history, in Ukrainian Christianity, in various epochs and contexts theology was acquiring various forms and categories of expression. It included not only texts but all manifestations of life of the Church, namely a wide all-embracing complex of signs, symbols, images, rites and social structures testifying of an authentic experience of God’s Word, of a human being meeting with God.

14. In the times of Kyivan epoch theology can be to a great extent identified with the Rus’ spiritual heritage. Rus consciousness in many of its manifestations is theological. The dynamic and systematic process of the development of the Church, Christian ethos and culture signify originality of theological world perception in Ukrainian Middle Ages. Quite a few aspects in the life of Kyivan state and its society were reflecting the process of actual reinterpretation of everyday experience in the light of God’s word.

15. Literacy, the emerging of historical memory and the first attempts of intellectual comprehension of one’s own place among the nations were determined by the adoption of Christian faith and culture by Volodymyr the Great. The monumental Kyivan Sophia and thousands of other local temples with their own architectural interpretation, the Primary Chronicle “Tale of Bygone Years” (in Church Slavonic: Повѣсть времяньныхъ лѣтъ), Hilarion’s “Sermon on Law and Grace”, Monomach’s “Instructions for children”, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra – these are the masterpieces of the first five hundred years of Ukrainian history and samples of fruits of theological thinking and spiritual cravings. In this epoch the Byzantine liturgical poetry in Slavonic translation became the basis for the worldview of common people. Liturgical year and its splendid rites, along with the unique church melodics were sanctifying a person in time and space, and provided the people with a new understanding of life drama. Despite a long “silence”, i.e. absence of new theological texts from late 13th till early 14th century (which was due to unfavourable circumstances) there are no grounds for stating that theological world perception in the late Middle Ages got completely frozen. Through architecture, iconography and liturgical ethos in which the inherited Byzantine samples were being creatively adopted and transformed, the spiritual treasures of God’s word were being opened to all and experienced by all, regardless of their social or economic state.

16. At the beginning of new history, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Ukrainian ecclesiastic and cultural life became an arena for boisterous and artistic encounter between East and West. As a result of this, Ukrainian theology achieved new successes, got synthesized and started to acquire academic dimensions. This can be illustrated by a highly developed textual study of the Holy Scripture which produced the Ostroh Bible, ecclesiological attempts to overcome a critical church situation. These attempts were crowned with a stimulating, although controversial union of Brest, with appearance of influential theological institutions, spiritual and literary creative work and cultural processes, especially typical of Kyiv-Mohyla epoch. From the second half of the 16th century till the beginning of the 18th century, the Ukrainian theological life – schools, biblical and liturgical publications, theology textbooks and polemical literature – was marching in the avant-garde of the Christian East, preserving and developing ecclesiastic, cultural and national selfhood of its nation.

17. In the nineteenth century theological education in the Ukrainian lands of the Russian empire undergoes evident structuring, determined by state factors. Alongside with this positive phenomenon one can witness an ever growing pressure from the side of Moscow patriarchate towards liquidation of the last traces of the Ukrainian national uniqueness in the life of Orthodox Church in the Ukrainian territory. State-level status leaves its imprint on theology. On the academic level, there is development of institutions with respective resources for genuine scholarly work. A strong theological school of studying and processing Eastern Christian heritage is being created at Kyiv Spiritual academy. Such monuments as “Works of the Kyiv Spiritual academy” remain relevant for theologian up till now, although, on the other hand, one can feel their engagement in the annexation of any manifestations of the Ukrainian national selfhood in church life by Russian Orthodoxy. Imperial standstill started to prevail also within the system of local spiritual seminaries. In reaction to church callousness at the beginning of this century, the movement for reforms in the Orthodox Church was motivated by theological analysis of real social problems. The 20th century revolutionary events which provided revival possibilities for the various aspects of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, including a short period of autocephaly, have ultimately led to decades of cruel repressions of Churches and their theological activity.

18. In Western Ukraine, under the influence of liberal Austrian state policy, theological education of the clergy undergoes considerable improvement during the nineteenth century and causes revival of the Ukrainian cultural life and national movement. In Greek-Catholic Church of Austrian period, on the whole, there was no creative theological thinking. It was only under the rule of Andrey Sheptytsky whose writings and pastoral activity revealed a unique theological subtlety and universality that the Greek-Catholic theology stepped onto the way of revival. Theological Academy in Lviv that was ruled by a prominent theologian Josyf Slipyj, on the eve of WW II, became a significant forum of theological education and scholarship.

19. A special, though not yet properly fathomed, stage of the Ukrainian theological development is the period of Christian testimony to power and spirit in the face of totalitarian persecution. While under repressions and in the underground conditions, the Churches could not carry on the development of contemporary academic theology but, instead, obtained new qualities allowing them not only to persevere through a 50-year bondage but also to continue theological and pastoral work under conditions of conspiracy and GULAG, to foster and ordain priests and bishops. Comprehension of God’s word was taking place not only via confession and martyrdom but also through the active position of Christians against atheistic prevalence. In Christian history this is considered to be the top of spiritual life, and one should have no doubt that in the twentieth century Christians in Ukraine achieved such theological pinnacles in their understanding of the Paschal sacrament of Cross and Resurrection. A more comprehensive assessment of this theological development reflected by the very life during the Kyiv epoch, as well as during the post-union period, during the decades of underground existence and during revival, is still awaiting its researchers.


Present time and its demands

20. At the end of the 20th century spiritual and intellectual dimensions of the Ukrainian society underwent considerable changes. As a result of this, identifying the peculiarities of life in nowadays civilization, with its secular and pluralistic nature, has become one of the key issues in theological education. Thus, “disciples, on having been properly acquainted with contemporary times”, can respectively be prepared for the “conversations with their contemporaries” (“Decree on schooling priests”, a.15). It is worth noting, though, that the secular character of the state and its social processes present for theology at the same time a challenge and a stimulus. On the one hand, secularization is creating certain difficulties before theological institutions forcing them to overcome certain social resistance towards their activity. On the other hand, it contributes to the concentration of theological education on the problems of human spiritual dimension and its significance in the life of society in general. It should be also mentioned that a pluralistic character of political, religious and public life in Ukraine induces theological institutions to build up contemporary education on the principles of religious freedom, friendly rivalry and tolerance.

21. The process of globalizing post-industrial economics and international life has a significant impact on sovereignty level of national states, it exacerbates dialectical juxtaposing of universality principles, on the one hand, and cultural selfhood principles, on the other. It does not allow theology to remain further in the position of its passive observer. All problems and opportunities determined by the above mentioned process require ethical evaluation and critical theological consideration.

22. The formation of open society in Ukraine and the state’s exposure to global processes of the present civilization induce the Ukrainian theology to seek a sound correlation between the spirit of Tradition and its historic forms. The spirit of Tradition is a critical identity parameter and, therefore, has to permeate all epochs. Through discerning “the signs of time” theology becomes understandable to contemporary society; it learns to speak an apprehensible language and in this way gains certain opportunities for having effect on it. Through comprehension of its Tradition the contemporary Ukrainian theology gains its confessional continuity and historic vitality. Here by Tradition we mean theological achievements of the Church Fathers, liturgical life, spiritual achievements and experience of the land from the period of Christianization in Ukraine-Rus’ through the heyday of Ukrainian theology in Kyiv-Mohyla epoch up till the spiritual sacrifice of the Church martyrs.

23. The peculiarities of religious processes in Ukraine determine the necessity of ecumenical dimension in theological education. This dimension is being formed in both ways – through studying contemporary models of ecumenism in one subject, and through finding an ecumenical perspective in teaching other theological subjects, namely ecclesiology and missiology. The main goal in doing this is to specify one’s own place and the intention of the Ukrainian Church in its striving for unity.

24. The contemporary theological education in Ukraine is called to develop an innate harmony of ritual and evangelic piety of its believers, typical of every Church. This harmony, once immanent of the Ukrainian Church, has been disturbed by a durable impact on society from the side of aggressive godlessness and by state violence over religious convictions.

25. Under the circumstances of scholarly, informational and technological revolutions, which are typical for contemporary civilization, theological education should be equipped with a powerful academic dimension. A critical scholarly reflection and an interdisciplinary dialogue will help theology, and thus the Church in general, to face the intellectual challenge of our times. At the same time, our contemporary academic and worldview systems should themselves become objects of critical theological consideration.

26. The revived theological education in Ukraine is called to contribute to the renovation of the plenitude of ecclesiastic life in its all elements: pastoral, theological, missional, charitable, etc. After an extended period of separation of the Church from the social life of the people by the totalitarian regime, however, special attention should be paid to the renovation of the social meaning of religion, formation and popularization of the Church social teaching, including a Christian understanding of the human rights theory.

27. The specifics of the today’s stage of political life in Ukraine is a general crisis of political doctrines of various ideological vectors. Under these changeable conditions, theological education is oriented not onto the temporary peculiarities of various ideological systems but onto the best traditions of the Ukrainian theology and the knowledge of such circumstances which can provide for free development of a person and respect to his/her dignity. Theology is called to give the Ukrainian society a basis for spiritual meaningfulness of the presently dominant ideological and worldview paradigms.

28. A significant task of the Ukrainian theology is the evaluation of Church positions regarding the modern trends in the global theology, namely regarding the role and place of the clergy and laity – men and women, in the Church. On the one hand, we must study and overcome the isolational and fundamentalist moods which, for several reasons, are still inherent in some parts of the Ukrainian godly people. On the other hand, the Ukrainian theology is called to consider those mistakes of the clericalism, laicization (exaggerated role of laity) and feminism which were made by the religious communities of other nations.

29. Striving for the purity of mind and word, intentions and results of human activity, theology contributes to the deepening of ecological knowledge and awareness of environment protection as a significant premise for the wise disposal of the gift of Creation.

30. During the communist and post-communist periods, the Ukrainian society underwent and continues to undergo a deep trauma. This trauma has resulted in a vast disillusionment of the people, disbelief in noble ideals, decay of civic responsibility and moral principles. Therefore, theological education has a task to return to the neglected and perplexed person the understanding of salvatory potency of the Incarnate Word and sacrificial idealism. The current period of corruption, callous souls and general humiliation of a person must be changed by a culture of solidarity and non-violence, humanism, dignity and human rights – all conceptualized by theology.

31. Setting the above mentioned tasks, theology is targeting at the people of good will (especially youth) who, despite all the current tendencies towards losing morality, have been accumulating their spiritual potential and will be able to get united around the spiritual treasure of the live Tradition and the preserved spirit of hope.

Main Principles

а) The Place and Purpose of Theological Education

32. Scholarship is from God, therefore knowledge of one’s Creator, communication with Him, the lore of God must be the beginning, the center and the end of any educational activity of a separate person and of the whole society. In the past theology laid foundations for creating the most well-known world universities, including Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Lviv University. Including theology into the national list of scholarly disciplines and considering it an inalienable part of general education in contemporary Ukraine will favor overcoming not only intellectual but also spiritual hunger of a citizen of the post-totalitarian epoch.

33. Revival and development of Ukrainian theology must become an instrument for harmonizing a person, reviving his/her spirituality, purifying his/her soul, forming a Ukrainian Christian and patriot. The significance of theological education for fostering future generations can be evaluated from the perspective of time by the worldview denominator of famous activists in Ukrainian history, such as Vedel, Verbytsky, Vernadsky, Dukhnovych, Krypyakevych, Puliuj. It was theology that filled up their intellects and formed the richness of their souls. The same it is called to do now to our contemporaries.

34. Theological education is all-embracing since it is the knowledge of the Almighty and openness of one’s mind and heart to Him. It means that this vast process must encompass all stages of personality formation – from a child to a grey-haired person, from a lowbrow to a highly intellectual person. It must take place not only in the educational institutions but also at space stations and in the deserts, in a wheel-chair and in a hospital ward, during traveling and in human dwelling places; it must become a sense of human living, its inalienable attribute, a component of one’s knowledge, consciousness and worldview. On its basis, every person, by applying his/her mind given to him/her by God, can discover Him, coming to know oneself, achieving truth about oneself, becoming a bearer of spirituality and humanism.

b) Levels of Theological Education and Its Subjects

35. Theology is developing on two main levels: special theological education and general Christian up-bringing of the population. Special theological education is provided in specialized educational institutions: universities, academies, seminaries, catechetical schools, etc. General Christian up-bringing of the population is carried out practically in all spheres of human life.

36. Theology as an academic discipline encompasses preparation of four categories of specialists: highly qualified theologians (BA, MA, PhD), priests, catechists and auxiliary personnel (choristers, psalmists, sextons, etc.).

Academic degrees in Theology:

- BA – bachelor – awarded to a person after finishing the first phase of studies; BA diploma certifies a successful completion (with positive grades) of all major courses of the faculty in an academy or university;

- MA – magister – licensed magister degree is awarded after finishing the second phase of studies, such diploma certifies a scholarly level of theologian’s preparation allowing him/her to teach this or another discipline in secondary schools and spiritual seminaries but not at the faculties of an academy or a university, as well as to obtain other relevant positions in the church;

- PhD – doctor – awarded after finishing the third phase of studies, such a diploma certifies that its holder is habilitated for organizing and conducting scholarly research and teaching within his/her specialization at the faculties of an academy or a university.

Other forms of theological knowledge certification are also possible; they are awarded on successful completion of special courses.

37. Theology as general up-bringing envisages Christian enlightment of the people pertaining the issues of catechism of Christian faith, Christian ethics, history of the Church, social aspects of religion, etc.

c) Institutions and Centers for Theological Education

38. Theological academies and theological faculties of secular universities have been entrusted with the following duties:

- formation of highly professional theological cadres and an ongoing improvement of their knowledge and expertise;

- formation of composite and single authors for preparation of theological textbooks, scholarly works, popular editions;

- organization and administration of terminological commissions, formation of translation groups and organization of theological literature translation process;

39. The Spiritual Seminary is entrusted with the duty to form a new priesthood with a decent level of spirituality, self-devotedness, education and culture, since it is called to overcome the communist stereotype of “cult servants” and to renovate the undermined trust from the side of people towards holy orders.

40. The catechetic schools are entrusted with the duty to foster specialists in catechization capable of conducting a dialogue with the laymen, especially with the most neglected members of our society, and of forming in them a Christian worldview and Christian spirituality.

41. General Christian upbringing of the population is carried out in all spheres of our life since there is no such environment within a society where one could avoid searching the Creator. This search is an ongoing “entry into the temple” via inclusion of a person into communication with the Life-giver. The centers for such communication must be based primarily in educational institutions, such as kinder-gardens, orphanages, schools, gymnasiums, lyceums, colleges. Specialized education should be also linked to the general theological thinking since without understanding theology basics a person cannot achieve any high educatedness, understand his/her harmony with the universe. The list of centers for communication with God must also include family, as well as various communities and gatherings, such as army, prisons, hospitals, etc.  Quite often the revelation of God and Communion with the Holy Trinity in such places become crucial in people’s lives.

42. Laity unions and associations gain more and more significance for further Christian enlightment. On the one hand, they themselves should become centers of Christian education and actively borrow the experience of global laity organizations. On the other hand, laity unions are called to join the evangelization mission of the Church through the new apostolate of the laity.

d) Forms of theological education

43. The main forms of theological education:
- monologues (lectures, sermons);
- dialogues (seminars, conversations, individual work with a book);
- meditations (prayer, contemplation of icons, spiritual contact with the works of literature and art, admiration of nature, wise leisure).

e) Means of theological education

44. Contemporary achievements of science and technology provide a person with unlimited opportunities for the increase of education efficiency in general, and theological education efficiency in particular. These opportunities are being implemented by means of:

-         traditional instruments such as books, oral talk, visual manuals;

-         video and audio technical tools;

-         computer technologies;

-         contemporary information networks, including Internet.

f) Educational disciplines

45. Special theological education programs are supposed to provide studying the following disciplines:

- classical disciplines, such as Old Testament, New Testament, systematic theology, practical theology, history of the Church;
- «supplementary» subjects, such as history of religion, social ethics, ecumenism, missiology, philosophy;
- old and contemporary languages.

g) Methods of knowledge control

46. In the process of forming theological personnel and improvement of their qualifications, knowledge control becomes of special importance. This control in the sphere of special theological education can be carried out in the following ways:
- examining (entrance exams, semester exams, graduation exams, as well as exams for awarding a scholarly degree);
- crediting;
- interview;
- written works, in particular course papers and diploma papers, scholarly articles, MA and PhD theses, etc.;
- presentations during conferences and seminars;
- probation and practice;
- competitions for a parish or other church positions.

h) Coordination Problems

47. For consolidation of Ukrainian Churches in the sphere of theological education and for the sake of coordinating scholarly and organizational activity of theological institutions in Ukraine, it is significant to create an Association of Theologians of Ukraine which would have as one of its tasks to defend the interests of the system of theological education in state bodies, in particular in the Ministry of Education of Ukraine.

(from the magazine «Bohosloviya», 64 (2000), p. 6-19)