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A.V. Nesteruk

Light from the East: Theology, Science, and the Eastern Orthodox Tradition

Contents

Preface

1. Introduction Orthodoxy and Science: Special Experience 2. Patristic Theology and Natural Science: Elements of History Introduction The Problem in Its Historical Setting The Apologists and the Greek Religious Philosophy Science and Philosophy as Cooperating in Truth Faith as a Condition for Knowledge The Interpretation of Nature The Laws of Nature The Transfiguration of Nature From Uniformity in Nature to the Logos of God: St. Athanasius St. Maximus the Confessor on the logoi of Creation Detachment from Nature and the Love of Nature The Latin Church and the Natural Sciences St. Augustine of Hippo and the Natural Sciences Science as the Handmaiden of Theology in St. Augustine Seminal Reasons and Natural Law in St. Augustine The Differences between the Greek and Latin Treatment of Nature and Science 3. What Makes Theology Unique among Sciences: The Patristic Vision versus Modern Understanding Theology as Experience of God: Patristic Vision The Inevitability of Mysticism in Theology Theology as Unique Church’s Definitions as Boundaries of Faith Apophaticism of Orthodox Theology The Faculty That Makes Theologia Possible and Its Role in Discursive Theologizing What in Theology Can Be Related to Science? Christ-Event as the Foundation of Theology Science and Theology “Compared” Spiritual Intellect and Mediation between Theology and Science Orthodox Theology and Philosophy Orthodox Theology and Science: Epistemological Formula 4. Toward a Theological Methodology of Mediation with Science Philosophy and Apophaticism Scientific Monism and Apophaticism Antithetic Dialectics and Antinomial Monodualism Theological Apophaticism and Transcendental Philosophy Kant’s Objections to the Argument from Design Patristic Response to Kant: From Monistic Substantialism to Relational Ontology The logoi of Creation and the World The logoi of Creation and Antinomies Hypostatic Dimension in Theistic Inferences from Creation The Universe as “Hypostatic Inherence” in the Logos of God 5. Creation in Cosmology and Theology Creatio ex nihilo and Contingency of the World Creation and Incarnation: Intelligibility of the World and Scientific Advance Creation in Classical Cosmology: Cosmological Evolution and Initial Conditions Elimination of Real Time in Quantam Cosmology Some General Comments on Hawking’s Model Imaginary Time in Quantum Cosmology and Timeless Time in Christian Platonism Quantum Cosmology: Diaphora in Creation versus Creation out of Nothing 6. Irreversibility of Time and the logos of Creation Irreversibility of Time and Eternity Irreversibility of Time and Boundary Conditions in the Universe Penrose’s Model and Its Theological Interpretation Irreversibility of Time through Irreversibility of Processes Irreversibility and Two Views of Nature Prigogine’s Treatment of the Time Paradox From Irreversibility in Physics to Theological Contingency 7. Humanity as Hypostasis of the Universe Defining the Humankind-Event The Humankind-Event and the Anthropic Principle Hypostatic Dimension of the Humankind-Event From Anthropic Transcendentalism to Christian Platonism Anthropic Inference in Cosmology and Epistemology The Many-World Hypothesis and Its Theological Interpretation Intelligibility and Meaning of the Universe: The Participatory Anthropic Principle The Humankind-Event and the Incarnation The Universe as Hypostatic Event Humankind-Event and the Destiny of the Universe Indefinite Humankind-Event in Final Anthropic Cosmology Humankind-Event and the Transfiguration of the Universe Abbreviations Bibliography A. Classical and Patristic Writers (with the source for the English translation) B. Titles Related Directly to the Eastern Orthodox Perspective in Science C. General Bibliography  

 

To my mother and to the memory of my father

Preface

Nowadays, when postmodernity has penetrated to modern educational systems as well as to research in social sciences, arts, philosophy, and theology, a project that attempts to treat the problem of theology and science from a particular perspective – one based on the living tradition of the Orthodox Church enduring through centuries with no considerable innovations – can seem a risky enterprise. Not only is the concept of truth, which is the central point in Orthodox theology, an unpopular topic in scientific and cultural circles, but Orthodox Christian tradition and Greek Patristic ideas (from which this tradition originates) are now known only to the community of Orthodox believers and a few professionals in academic theology. This implies that Christian Orthodoxy could not enter the dialogue with science on the same scale as happened with Western Christian theology. This is why the theology of Eastern Christianity needs to be articulated for the Western reader in the modern context of the ongoing dialogue between science and religion.

In what sense, then, can the monolithic Orthodox theology, contraposed to the varieties of religious thought in the West, make valuable insights in the dialogue with science, which, if viewed historically, represents pluralism of ideas about nature and its methods and theories? Christian Orthodoxy never developed its own “natural theology” and never tried to incorporate scientific achievements in its own conceptual frame. Rather, it avoided pluralism and fragmentation by never being contrasted or related to the sciences, for theology itself represented by its essence not an academic discipline but the way of living with God and in God – that is, as the way to truth less through knowledge (which has always been considered a danger of the old Gnosticism) and more through an immediate experience of God as both personal spiritual life and participation in ecclesial community.

This is why theology of the Orthodox faith should be seen as cumulative experience of faith in God, evolving within the boundaries of faith that are expressed in dogmatic definitions. Since the Orthodox Church is considered the ongoing building of the body of Christ – and the affirmation of the presence of the Holy Spirit in it – theology, as a manifestation of this in verbal, written, musical and other forms, allows one to employ any expression of faith as long as its boundaries are not crossed. This means that the pluralism of Orthodox theology exists as many ways of expressing faith, all united in the silent mystery of the Divine, which is beyond any discursive shape and image. Orthodoxy has no pluralism in the Western sense, as a variety of theologies of particular individuals and specific historical periods. Orthodoxy has no variety of religious ideologies. All Orthodox theologians, whether Greek, Romanian, or Russian, use Patristic thought as an ultimate standard of theologizing. This does not mean that no development of theology is possible. Modern Greek theologians, for example, develop their subject by incorporating some modern philosophical ideas of Heidegger and Levinas, whereas Russian theologizing is more cautious. This demonstrates that pluralism of thought exists in modern Orthodox theology but does not lead to fragmentation of the whole experience of the church as the whole and its perception of the unity in the living tradition. The reference to Patristic synthesis, which is the ground and pillar of Orthodox theologizing, thus becomes an inevitable point of departure in any engagement of Orthodox theology with science.

The fundamental question in both theology and science is the question of truth. The achievement of the Greek Patristic synthesis was to link the problem of truth with the idea of liturgical experience in order to proclaim that truth, as ontological truth, is accessible only through and within communion with God in ecclesial community. This can have implications for the science-religion dialogue. Indeed, the traditional split in religion and science into truth in theology and truth in science is rooted in most cases in the disconnection of each one’s truth from the idea that both science and theology have the common ground of truth, the common source of their ontological otherness: God, whose being – as well as ours in God – is revealed through communion.

The split between theology and science can be overcome if both are reinstated to their proper relationship to the eucharist, understood in cosmic terms as the offering of creation back to God through art, science and technology. Scientific activity can be treated as a cosmic eucharistic work (a “cosmic liturgy”). Science thus can be seen as a mode of religious experience, a view obvious to those scientists who participate in ecclesial communities but as yet undemonstrated to those outside such communities. This idea is an inspiration behind this book.

I am very happy to point out that apart from my Orthodox background and scholarship, I have been deeply influenced by the ideas of Thomas Torrance. By referring to Patristic ideas, Torrance strongly advocated that the mediation between theology and science be established based on the unity of their ontological grounds, which should be anticipated if one believes in the incarnation in the Logos of God. The cosmic liturgy of human creativity thus coincides with the contemplation of the Logos of God made intelligible, by whom this world was made and in whom the universe is hypostatically inherent.

Many events and circumstances, as well as many colleagues, teachers and friends, contributed directly and indirectly to the writing of this book. I would like to acknowledge those who were crucial to its completion.

My son, Dmitri, was not only a witness of my work on this book for the past four years but also my spiritual companion and the invisible keeper of my hypostatic balance between heavenly thoughts and the practicalities of life. I am enormously grateful to him as well for computer support, particularly with the figures. I am cordially grateful to George Horton, a first reader of this book, for many suggestions and, in particular, for checking my English. I would like to thank my colleagues the Institute of Orthodox Studies in Cambridge for help with the theological side of this book, in particular Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo, Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, Mother Joanna (Moore), George Bebawi, Markus Plested, and Andrew Louth.

The work on this book was carried out during three years of my involvement in the Oxford Templeton Seminars, where many of the book’s ideas were tested. I’m grateful to all participants and lecturers at these seminars for their help and encouragement, in particular to John Roche, Alister McGrath, Donald Yerxa, Karl Giberson, Randy Maddox, Samuel Powell, Alan Padget, Dennis Temple, Ernan McMullin, Thomas Lindell, Wayne Norman, Stephen Pope, Peter Hill, George Brooke, and David Lindberg.

The book was prepared when I was lecturing at the University of Portsmouth, and I would like to thank my colleagues and friends Christopher Dewdney and David Matravers for giving me an arena to test some of the ideas through teaching courses. The participation of David Matravers in my life in general, as well as indirectly in this book’s writing, by helping me with the basic living and working conditions in Great Britain was crucial. I thank him from the very depths of my heart.

The concluding part of this project was generously supported by the John Templeton Foundation through sabbatical grant #1573 (Eastern Orthodox Perspective in Science and Theology). I am grateful to the Foundation for this support.

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