Towards a Theology of Dignity and Freedom: Existentialism and the Prospects for Reform of Protestant Witness to Post-Soviet Society


  • Joshua Searle Spurgeon’s College, United Kingdom



post-Soviet context, public theology, protestantism, Nikolai Berdyaev, existentialism


This article examines how existentialist approaches to theology can be applied towards the elucidation of the meaning of dignity and freedom in post-Soviet society. The first part identifies key relevant characteristics of existentialism. The next section explores the relevance of existentialism for the context of post-Soviet Eastern European society through a critical examination of the concepts of dignity and freedom from an existentialist perspective, drawing primarily on the insights of Nikolai Berdyaev. Finally, the article addresses the contribution that Protestant theology could make towards the critique and renewal of post-Soviet society through a creative application of key concepts and ideas associated with existentialism.


  1. Berdyaev, N. Self-Knowledge: An Essay in Autobiography, trans. by K. Lampert. London: G. Bles, 1950.
  2. ———. O Naznachenii Cheloveka [Destiny of Man]. Moskva: AST Khranitelʹ, 2006.
  3. ———. Istoki i Smysl Russkogo Kommunizma [Origins and Meaning of Russian Communism]. Moskva: Nauka, 1990.
  4. ———. Ėkzistent͡sialʹnai͡a Dialektika Bozhestvennogo i Chelovecheskogo [Existential Dialectics of Divine and Human]. Moskva: Astrelʹ, 2010.
  5. ———. Smysl Tvorchestva: Opyt Opravdanii͡a Cheloveka [Sens of the Creativity: An Essay on Justification of Man]. Moskva: AST: Astrelʹ, 2011.
  6. ———. Generalʹnai͡a Linii͡a Sovetskoĭ Filosofii i Voinstvui͡ushchiĭ Ateizm [Mainline Soviet Philosophy and the Militant Atheism]. Paris: YMCA, 1932.
  7. ———. “Mirosozert͡sanie Dostoevskogo”. In Berdi͡aev. Smysl Tvorchestva [“Worldview of Dostoevsky”. In Berdyaev. Sens of Creativity]. Moskva: AST Astrelʹ, 2011.
  8. Bloch, E. Das Prinzip Hoffnung: Gesamtausgabe. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1959.
  9. Bockmuehl, K. The Unreal God of Modern Theology: Bultmann, Barth, and the Theology of Atheism: A Call to Recovering the Truth of God’s Reality. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard Publishers location, 1988.
  10. Bultmann, R. Theology of the New Testament, trans. by K. Grobel. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007.
  11. Cherenkov, N. M. “Protestantism and Protest: Socio-Theological Re-Identification of Ukraine and Ukrainian Protestantism in the Context of Maidan”. In Rob van der Laarse, Mykhailo N. Cherenkov, Vitaliy V. Proshak and Tetiana Mykhalchuk (eds.), Religion, State, Society and Identity in Transition: Ukraine. Oisterwijk: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2015.
  12. Cherenkov, M. N. Kulʹtura Vlii͡atelʹnogo Menʹshinstva [Culture of the Influential Minority]. Simferopolʹ: Assot͡siat͡sii͡a Dukhovnoe Vozrozhdenie, 2010.
  13. Cherenkov, M i Bachinin, V. Protestantskai͡a ėtika i dukh …ostmodernizma [Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of …ostmodernism]. Kyiv: Izdatelʹstvo Knigonosha, 2015.
  14. Congdon, D. W. The Mission of Demythologizing Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015.
  15. Čursanov S. ‘Freiheit (orthodox)’. In B. Stubenrauch and A. Lorgus (eds.), Handwörterbuch Theologische Anthropologie: Römisch-katholisch/Russisch-orthodox. Freiburg: Herder, 2013.
  16. Dadabaev, T. Identity and Memory in Post-Soviet Central Asia Uzbekistan’s Soviet Past. London: Taylor and Francis, 2015.
  17. Denysenko, A. Teolohii͡a Vyzvolenni͡a: Ideï, Krytyka, Perspektyvy [Theology of Liberation: Ideas, Critique, Perspectives]. Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2019.
  18. Dialektischer und historischer Materialismus: Lehrbuch für das marxistisch-leninistische Grundlagenstudium. Berlin: Dietz, 1976.
  19. Dymyd, M. Bohoslov’͡ia Svobody: Ukraïns′ka Versi͡ia [Theology of Freedom: A Ukrainian Version]. L′viv: Vydavny͡tstvo Ukraïns′koho Katoly͡ts′koho Universytetu, 2020.
  20. Dostoevskiĭ, f. Bratʹ͡ia Karamazovy [The Karamazov Brothers]. Moskva: Bertelʹsmann Media Moskau, 2014.
  21. Florovsky, G. The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky: Volume 3, Creation and Redemption. Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1976.
  22. Freeland, C. Sale of the Century: Russia’s Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism. New York: Random House, 2000.
  23. Fukyuama, F. The End of History and the Last Man. London: Penguin, 1992.
  24. Gasset, J. The Revolt of the Masses. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1961.
  25. Grenz, S. and Olson, R. 20th Century Theology: God and World in a Transitional Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
  26. Heidegger, M. Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Neomarius Verlag, 1949.
  27. Kierkegaard, S. Kierkegaard’s Writings, XVIII: Without Authority, ed. by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  28. ———. “Truth/Authority”. In Frederick Sontag (ed.), A Kierkegaard Handbook. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003.
  29. Macquarrie, J. An Existentialist Theology: A Comparison of Heidegger and Bultmann. London: SCM, 1956.
  30. ———. Twentieth Century Religious Thought. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
  31. Marx, K. Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Berlin: Dietz, 1974.
  32. Nietzsche, F. Götzen-Dämmerung, in Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (eds.), Nietzsche: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Volume 6. München: DVT, 2008.
  33. ———. On the Genealogy of Morality, ed. By K. Ansell-Pearson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  34. ———. Der Wille zur Macht: Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte. Leipzig: Kröner, 1930.
  35. Parushev P. and Pilli T. “Protestantism in Eastern Europe to the Present Day”. In Alister McGrath and D. C. Marks (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism, 155–60. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
  36. Pomerantsev, P. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia. London: Faber and Faber, 2015.
  37. Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un Humanisme. Paris: Nagel, 1946.
  38. Searle, J. T. ‘Public Theology After Maidan: New Points of Departure for Public Theology in the Post-Soviet Space’. The International Journal of Public Theology 14 (2020): 255–75.
  39. ———. “The Reformation in Russia and Ukraine and its Relevance for Today”. European Journal of Theology 26.1 (Spring, 2017): 55–64.
  40. ———. ‘No Revolution without Reformation: A Hegelian Reading of Maidan as a Civil and Religious Reformation’, in van der Laarse et al (eds.), Ukraine: Religion, State, Society and Identity in Transition, 299–318. Wolf: Oisterwijk, 2015.
  41. Searle J. T. and Cherenkov, M. N. Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education and the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014.
  42. Snyder, T. Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America. London: Bodley Head, 2018.
  43. ———. Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. London: Vintage, 2011.
  44. Tillich, P. Systematic Theology: Volume 1. London: Nisbet, 1963.
  45. Volkov, V. “The concept of kulturnost’: Notes on the Stalinist civilizing process”. In Sheila Fitzpatrick (ed.), Stalinism: New Directions, 210-230. London: Routledge, 2000.
  46. White, M. D. “Dignity”. In The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  47. Williams, C. Religion and the Meaning of Life: An Existential Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  48. Woodson, H. Existential Theology: An Introduction. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2020.
  49. Zinoviev, A. Homo Sovieticus, trans. by Charles Janson. New York: Atlantic, 1986.




How to Cite

Searle, Joshua. 2021. “Towards a Theology of Dignity and Freedom: Existentialism and the Prospects for Reform of Protestant Witness to Post-Soviet Society”. Theological Reflections: Eastern European Journal of Theology 19 (2):31-49.