Table of Contents
In this unique volume, a new and distinctive perspective on hotly
debated issues in science and religion emerges from the ancient
Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition.
Alexei Nesteruk reveals how the Orthodox tradition, deeply rooted in
Greek Patristic thought, can contribute importantly in a way that the
usual Western sources do not. Orthodox thought, he holds, profoundly
and helpfully relates the experience of God to our knowledge of the
world. His masterful historical introduction to the Orthodox
traditions not only surveys key features of its theology but
highlights its ontology of participation and communion. From this
Nesteruk derives Orthodoxy's unique approach to theological and
scientific attribution. Theology identifies the underlying principles
(logoi) in scientific affirmations.
Nesteruk then applies this methodology to key issues in cosmology:
the presence of the divine in creation, the theological meaning of
models of creation, the problem of time, and the validity of the
anthropic principle, especially as it relates to the emergence of
humans and the Incarnation.
Nesteruk's unique synthesis is not a valorization of Eastern Orthodox
thought so much as an influx of startlingly fresh ideas about the
character of science itself and an affirmation of the ultimate
religious and theological value of the whole scientific enterprise.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
It is widely accepted in historical terms that it was Western Christianity which had the first and deep impact on natural sciences which led later to the problem of the relationship between science and religion as a cultural, academic and ecclesial issue. Arthur Peacocke, one of the leading scholars in the science and theology dialogue within the Anglican tradition, admits in his book Theology in an Age of Science that the experience of Eastern Christianity in engagement with science is different. The Orthodox theologian S. Harakas also argues, in one of the rare papers on the Orthodox perspective in science, that "Orthodox Christianity has a special approach to science." In spite of the recognition of the different nature of this experience the meaning of this "difference" is not yet fully articulated and investigated anywhere in the literature.
In this book we intent to formulate in stages some aspects of the Orthodox approach to the problem of science and religion. In some ways our attempt will be orientated towards a specific historical form of Orthodox religious experience as compared with Western Christianity. As we show in this monograph the "specialness" of the Orthodox Experience in relationship with science and its difference from the Western forms of the dialogue between science and religion are ultimately determined by some essential theological differences such as the understanding of what theology is, what is the nature of the human ability to know God and what is the human being?s place in the universe and role in mediation between the world and God and others.
The topic of evolving differences between the Western and Eastern Christian approaches to the natural sciences is, itself, a serious historical problem of why the impact of Greek Classical culture with Christianity in Western Europe, which had been articulated by St. Augustine of Hippo and eight centuries later by R. Bacon, has an absolutely different long term effect on scientific development and the progress of technology in comparison with Eastern parts of Europe, where people?s way of living and theologizing was for many centuries closer to the Greek patristic tradition, and different from the Latin tradition to which St. Augustine belonged. One of the mysteries is why by the twelfth century Greek Patristic thought and Byzantine theology with their deeply cosmic dimensions were nearly forgotten in Western Europe. This book does not pretend to be a complete historical research; it argues, nevertheless, that what was forgotten, i.e. the so-called Greek Patristic Synthesis, which forms a basis of all Orthodox theologizing, contains in itself the secret of that special attitude to science that Orthodox theology followed throughout the centuries.
One might argue that the specificity of the Orthodox attitude to science is shaped by historical and geographical factors, such as the detachment of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire and Eastern European countries (which adopted Orthodoxy from Byzantium), from the West. Because of the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the fifteenth century, followed by the eclipse of Orthodoxy and its relationship with Western Christianity, the era of Enlightenment and technological revolutions had their effects on the life of Orthodox peoples with a considerable historical delay; whereas the discussions on science and religion in the West, by that time, had become already facts of history and and subjects of textbook discussions. One can argue that this historical delay was a cause of the gap in the issue on science and religion in the Orthodox world, and that, as a result, the Orthodox experience of interaction with science is "belated" and "undeveloped."
The liberation of the Balkans from Ottoman domination in the nineteenth century gave an impetus to the Orthodox revival in Greece and Eastern Europe. It coincided with a spiritual revival in Russia, where the first serious discussions on science and religion started at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. An interesting feature of the Russian pre-revolutionary interest toward science and religion, however, was that it never seriously dealt with questions of the natural sciences as such. The discussions on science and religion were carried out in the context of the problem of faith and knowledge, which, as we understand it today, is a more general theological and philosophical problem than the dialogue between science and theology.
Without saying too much about the seventy years following the revolution of 1917, it is clear that the problem of faith and knowledge was never discussed seriously, in any respect, in Soviet Russia. The atheistic formula and the idol of scientific progress, substituted for religion on pages of journals and books, excluded any constructive and meaningful mediation between science and any theology (not only Orthodox theology). A serious attitude to the problem of science and religion in Russia started to develop only a decade ago. One can judge this on the basis of conferences in St. Petersburg and Moscow, some publications and translations of the modern Western monographs, as well as by educational courses in Russian universities that are taught by a few enthusiasts.
Such a historical and geographical "explanation" of the specificity of the Orthodox experience with respect to science suffers from the lack of recognition that Orthodoxy, in spite of being "natural" in its historical motherland in Eastern Europe, is now, in fact, a worldwide phenomenon. One can observe the growth of diasporic Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, the United States, and beyond. Orthodoxy becomes a part of the spiritual experience of the peoples from historically non-Orthodox countries. In spite of this significant fact one has still to admit that there is no deep engagement between science and Orthodox faith in the pan-Orthodox world today: there are no discussions of science and theology within the Orthodox context even in the countries where these discussions are widely spread in the western theological tradition. In fact Orthodox theology is lacking in any attempt to qualify and evaluate modern science and technology even in theological terms, to say nothing of any particular development of such topics as "nature" and its scientific knowledge in theological discourse. This is recognised by members of the Orthodox clergy. Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios, for example, openly expresses his regret about the fact that the issue of nature and the place of humans in the cosmos is undeveloped in the Orthodox theology: "It is striking how little attention is given by Orthodox theologians to issues relating to the human role within the cosmos. Only a few articles have been devoted to topics such as creation, nature, and time."
In terms of publications on science and theology in the Orthodox context, their list amounts to three dozens book and papers (which is hardly to be compared with hundreds of titles on science and religion written within the Western trend of Christianity). Among these one should mention two books of Philip Sherrard, with a strongly negative evaluation of modern science as to what concerns its misuse in technological implications, two books on Orthodox bioethics, and some short research papers on science and religion in general.
In order to convince the reader that the "specialness" of the Orthodox experience in engagement with science constitutes itself a serious theological problem, which the author intends to investigate in this book, it is worth appealing to some contemporary Orthodox theologians who mention the existence of the issue of science and religion in brief and who indirectly indicate ways of approaching this problem without a detailed analysis. It is from these examples that it will be possible to outline the contours of the methodology of mediation between theology and science, which is the main subject of this book. ...
1. Orthodoxy and Science: Special Experience
2. Patristic Theology and Natural Sciences: Elements of History
The Problem in Its Historical Setting
The Apologists and Greek Religious Philosophy
Science and Philosophy as Co-operating 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 of Alexandria
St. Maximus the Confessor on the Presence of the Logoi of Creation in Scientific Rationality
Detachment from Nature and the Love of Nature
Latin Church and Natural Sciences
St. Augustine of Hippo and the Natural Sciences: Christian Faith and the Classical Tradition
Science as the "Handmaiden" of Theology in St. Augustine
"Seminal Reasons" and Natural Law in St. Augustine
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 Is Not a Science, It Is 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 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
5. From Cosmos to Logos
Hypostatic Dimension in Theistic Inferences from Creation
The Universe as "Hypostatic Inherence" in the Logos of God
Hypostasis and Nature
Hypostatic Inherence and Co-inherence
Science and Enypostatic Mode of the Universe
Apophaticism in Cosmology
From Empirical Cosmos to the Totality of the World: Basic Diaphora in Creation
Antinomial Monodualism and Cosmology
6. Creation in Cosmology and Theology
Creation 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 Quantum 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
7. Irreversibility of Time and the Logos of Creation
Introduction: 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
Philosophical Reflections on the Program of Prigogine: From Irreversibility in Physics to Theological Contingency
8. Humanity as Hypostasis of the Universe
The Definition of the Humankind-Event
The Humankind-Event and the Anthropic Principle
Intelligibility of the Universe and Intelligent Observers: Hypostatic Dimension of Humankind-Event
From Transcendentalism in Anthropic Reasoning to Christian Platonism
Anthropic Inference in Cosmology and Epistemology
The Many-Worlds Hypothesis and Its Theological Interpretation
Intelligibility and Meaning of the Universe: Participatory Anthropic Principle
The Humankind-Event and the Incarnation
Humankind-Event and Destiny of the Universe
Conclusion: Universe as a Hypostatic Event