Of Mass Baptisms, National Churches, and the Great Commission
The “conversion” of Kievan Rus’ was a king-commanded, soldier-implemented “Christianization” of a people. So was it valid? Kemmerer says it was, and offers a rationale that focuses on problems with the stereotypical Western concept of salvation and how to carry out the Great Commission.
To come appropriately to this millennium of the Christianization of Rus’ is to come respectfully, to come in awareness that one is contemplating the wellspring of a thousand years of rich spirituality and Christian culture among one of the great families of mankind. All protestations of various nationalists notwithstanding, the Christianization of the Kievan Rus’ c. 988 is, in point of fact, a milestone belonging to all the Eastern Slavs: the Ukrainians, the Byelorussians, and the Great Russians. It is not just a single event, but the fountainhead of a vast historic flow of faith.
It is a living legacy, first for the Orthodox believers who are its original children, but also for the enrichment of all Christians and other men and women of humanity and culture. Those who have a mind to appreciate such things must acknowledge that here are a subject and an occasion worthy of the effort to appreciate them. Yet for all of that, many a Western Christian will find certain difficulties in relating to this millennium of the Christianization of a nation.
Reasons for Misunderstanding
The first and most obvious reason for our difficulties is simply our relative ignorance of the lands, cultures, and histories of the Eastern European peoples. In this regard, Russian history has been rendered more or less alien to us by its cultural isolation from the West. In its early years it drew richly from the magnificent civilization and religion of Byzantium, which ...