Spiritual Christianity (Russian: духовное христианство) in the Russian Empire, and its successors and diaspora, is a type of Christian thought associated with various sects outside the established Russian Orthodox Church, "which rejected ritual and outward observances, believing in the direct revelation of God to the inner man". Its adherents are called Spiritual Christians (Russian: духовные христиане) or, less accurately, Molokans (Molokans are one Spiritual Christian sect).
Pavel Milyukov traced the origins of Spiritual Christianity to the Doukhobors, and believed it reflected developments among Russian peasants similar to those underlying the German Peasants' War in the German Reformation. Many Spiritual Christians were often egalitarian and pacifist, politically radical views which displeased the Imperial government, and many endured internal exile or emigrated to North America.
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Spiritual Christians believe that the validity of an individual's observance of God's Law through spiritual substitute was suppressed and outlawed when Israel was politicized until Jesus Christ promoted the New Covenant of Jeremiah by sacrificing his life to initiate the Messianic Era. The religion of the Spiritual Christians is therefore anti-abrogation and anti-hierarchy for encouraging spiritual interpretation and logical substitute observance of Biblical Law by rational individuals to be understood and respected by all. This has allowed Spiritual Christians to take a truly inclusive approach to Christianity and embrace all relevant aspects of the collective human experience which can be related to timeless Biblical themes.
Rejecting the official church, they considered their religious organization as a homogeneous community, without division into laymen and clergy with respect to all but practical understanding of the Biblical tradition. Ironically, some rigidly narrow interpretive modern Churches have developed with individuals who thrived under the flexibility and tolerance awarded them by Spiritual Christianity.
Spiritual Christian sects
Among the sects considered to practice Spiritual Christianity are the Doukhobors, Molokans, Subbotniks, Pryguny (Jumpers), Khlysts, Skoptsy, Ikonobortsy (Icon-fighters, "Iconoclasts" and Zhidovstvuyushchiye (Жидовствующие: Judaizers). Ilya Kazas (1832-1912) included Caraims alongside Molokans. These sects often have radically different notions of "spirituality". Their common denominator is that they sought God in "Spirit and Truth", (Gospel of John 4:24) rather than in the Church of official Orthodoxy or ancient rites of Old Believers. Their saying was "The church is not within logs, but within ribs". Intellectual Nikolai Leskov was drawn to Spiritual Christianity after visiting Protestant Europe in 1875.
Separate from Spiritual Christianity were other strands of Russian sektanstvo ("sectarianism" in the sense "splitting into sects" rather than "sectarian bigotry") including the Old Believers and "Evangelical Christianity".
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- Camfield, Graham P. (October 1990). "The Pavlovtsy of Khar'kov Province, 1886-1905: Harmless Sectarians or Dangerous Rebels?". The Slavonic and East European Review (Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies) 68 (4): 692–717.
- Berdyaev, Nikolai (1999) . translated by S. Janos. "Духовное христианство и сектантство в России" [Spiritual Christianity and Sectarianism in Russia]. Russkaya Mysl (Русская мысль, "Russian Thought") (in English) – via berdyaev.com.
- Camfield (1990) p.694 fn.4
- Norman R. Yetman (Summer 1968). "DOUKHOBORISM AND REVITALIZATION". Kansas Journal of Sociology (Allen Press) 4 (3): 153.
- Dunn, Ethel; Stephen P. Dunn (November 1978). "THE MOLOKANS IN AMERICA". Dialectical Anthropology (Springer) 3 (4): 352–353.
- Lottridge, Stephen S. (Autumn 1974). "Nikolaj Leskov's Moral Vision in the Prolog Tales". The Slavic and East European Journal (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages) 18 (3): 252–258.
- Berdyaev (1916)
- Doukhobor Genealogy Website
- Taxonomy of 3 Spiritual Christian groups: Molokane, Pryguny and Dukhizhizniki — books, fellowship, holidays, prophets and songs
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