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Thread: On Science and Religion

  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by TER View Post
    In January of 1936, a young girl named Phyllis wrote to Albert Einstein on behalf of her Sunday school class, and asked, "Do scientists pray?" Her letter, and Einstein's reply, can be read below.

    (Source: Dear Professor Einstein; Image: Albert Einstein in 1947, via Life.)
    The Riverside Church

    January 19, 1936

    My dear Dr. Einstein,

    We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men, to try and have our own question answered.

    We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

    We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis's class.

    Respectfully yours,

    January 24, 1936

    Dear Phyllis,

    I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

    Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

    However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

    But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

    With cordial greetings,

    your A. Einstein
    You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to TER again.
    Quote Originally Posted by Torchbearer
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  3. #32
    'These things I command you, that you love one another.' - Jesus Christ

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  5. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Theocrat View Post
    One of the greatest philosophical truths I've ever learned is that science is founded on religion. In other words, people believe certain things about the universe before they examine the workings of the universe. That is another way of saying that all scientists have assumptions which are unproven by natural science before they use the methods of natural science to understand nature.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sola_Fide View Post
    Exactly. Theology is the ruling discipline. What you believe about theology comes before what you believe about fact, it governs what you believe about science.

    This is why I completely disagree with Aquinas when he attempted to synthesize reason and revelation, nature and God (which the OP alludes to). Augustine was right. There is no synthesizing revelation with reason. There is no autonomous entity called "reason" that is outside of God's sovereignty. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I stand with the Reformers and reject all atheistic science. Revelation comes before reason....or as Augustine said "I have faith in order to understand".

    Bump for the Biblical view of science which differs from the OP.

  6. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Sola_Fide View Post
    I stand with the Reformers and reject all atheistic science.
    You must've flunked high school geometry, which is based on Euclid. He also came up with propositions in number theory that are as true today as they were 2500 years ago.

  7. #35
    Great article:


    Orthodox Christianity and the Role of Science

    By John Tachos

    1. The Christian distinction between Science and Faith

    In his homily on creation titled Hexaemeron (“On The Six Days”), where he analyzes the Old Testament narration of Creation, Basil the Great promptly stresses that the narration purposely lacks many details, in order to exercise and sharpen the readers’ minds, so that with the few details provided, they might seek out the rest (PG 29, 33B). He furthermore stresses (and this is more important) that, even if mankind discovers the way in which God created all things wonderful, it would in no way diminish our admiration of God’s grandeur.

    Basil the Great here introduces two basic principles, as prerequisites for interpretation: (a) the freedom of scientific research, which is also an exercise of the mind and (b) the distinction between WHO made the world and HOW the world was made. In other words, it is one thing to theologically “know” that God created the world, and a totally different thing to “seek” the ways that all these wonders came to being. In the second instance, we acknowledge scientific “seeking” as the means to describe and analyze the data of all created things, and of course not the means to describe or analyze the uncreated divine energy.

    For entire millennia, the Church has been anticipating an increase in knowledge such as the kind we are experiencing today (and who knows how much more is to come). Centuries before Christ, in the Book of Daniel, there is a prophecy which tells us that during the End Times, i.e., after the Coming of Christ, “many shall move around and about, and knowledge shall be multiplied” (Daniel 12:4).

    Those who accuse Orthodoxy of promoting and preserving an “agnosticism” and an indifference towards the sciences or worldly knowledge, are making a very serious mistake. This mistake is provable, both in practice and in theory.

    First of all, Orthodoxy does not use the term “agnosticism” when referring to worldly/created things. This term is used when speaking of an inadequate knowledge only with regard to God, i.e. the Uncreated Creator. There is obviously a difference between the one distinction (inadequate knowledge regarding the world) and the other distinction (inadequate knowledge regarding God). The claim that an autonomous knowledge of the Uncreated God is not possible (except in knowledge through revelation) does not conflict with the claim that human logic can learn about this world and whatever it may contain.

    The distinction between created (or world-universe) on the one hand, and the uncreated God on the other, is a fundamental distinction for Orthodoxy (and Christianity). Himself being a part of this world - and equipped with logic - man can (and should) learn about the world. But for things that transcend the world, i.e. the Uncreated God, man cannot possibly learn anything. The reason man cannot find out anything about God, is because God is beyond perception and His essence is intangible and inexpressible. Human logic can only discover the logical, the expressible world, and not the inexpressible God. This is why the claim that Orthodoxy scorns worldly knowledge (because it denies the autonomous knowledge of the out-of-this-world God) is unfounded.

    Saint John the Damascene says in his Dialectics (PG 94, 529 Α): “Nothing is more valuable than knowledge; for knowledge is the light of a logical soul, while ignorance is the opposite.” Basil the Great furthermore writes that for Christianity, it is important that science be put to proper use: “Just because some people do not practice medicine properly, does not mean that we should avoid every benefit that springs from it. Nor of course should we condemn the crafts overall, simply because those who are intemperate in pleasures use cooking or bread-making or weaving merely to achieve pleasure... On the contrary, by using (the crafts) properly, we must strive to prove how they were misused by the others.”

    Basil the Great also wrote about the association between faith and science: “Nor should we completely avoid the healing art, nor is it proper to hinge our every hope on it. But, just as we use the art of farming, where we ask God to provide the fruits of our labors, and just as we entrust the rudder of a ship to its captain and pray to God to preserve us from the seas, so it is when we call the doctor and do not cease to have our hope in God” (PG 31, 1052A).

    “God”, Psellos tells us, “is of course the cause of the earthquake, and every other thing, but the immediate (or direct) cause of the earthquake is nature.” (V. N. Tatakis, Byzantine Philosophy, 1977, page 187).

    Cassianus Vassus (6th-7th century) in his work Geoponika admits that plants emerge from the earth by God’s will, however, he expresses his conviction that for this procedure, there must be a natural cause (V. Spandagos – P. Spandagos – D. Travlos, The Positive Scientists of the Byzantine Era, Aethra Publications, page 51). Manuel Filis (13th –14th century), zoologist, botanist and poet, admits that plants emerge from the soil with the will of the Creator, but insists on the view that this procedure also has a certain natural cause.

    2. The Sciences in Christian Rome

    By the looks of things, our Orthodox Roman predecessors were fully aware of both the boundaries of science as well as the boundaries of faith, without any problem whatsoever (at least by the wiser ones) of accepting both. But even in its practical aspect – from a historical viewpoint – Orthodox Byzantium was in the lead for at least 900 years in the areas of technology, navigation, strategics, architecture and civilization in general. Strange (according to the accusers), how the Orthodox paid so much attention to worldly knowledge for so many centuries! Normally, the “indifferent to knowledge” Byzantines should have been exterminated in no time, if their only preoccupation was “the salvation of their soul” and “the kingdom of heaven”. However, “antiquity lovers” purposely point out the decline of science in the Orthodox lands during the Turkish Occupation, indicating that this decline had to do with the Orthodox dogma. But they haven’t taken into account that science does not progress when subjects are in a state of slavery. Why don’t they study the Byzantine scientists?

    Could it be, that those who accuse Byzantium of supposedly not having any involvement in the sciences, are not aware that the Roman Nikephoros Gregoras (1295-1359) in the year 1325 A.D., two and a half centuries before the western European scientists and the Latin Church, and on the basis of his own calculations and studies, perceived the errors in the Julian calendar and proposed to Andronikos II to amend the calendar according to his observations? (V. Spandagos – P. Spandagos – D. Travlos, The Positive Scientists of the Byzantine Era, Aethra Publications, page 125)

    Are they aware that Johannes Zacharias Actuarius, a Roman doctor, first discovered the tapeworm parasite “trichocephalus anisos”? (Steven Runciman, The Last Byzantine Rebirth, Domos publications, page 103).

    Theophilos’ work On the Making of Man, Alexander of Tralles’ 12-volume work Pathology (Alexander was the first to administer iron as an internal medication), the Medical Encyclopedia of Theophilos Nonnos, the work On Human Anatomy by Monk Meletios, the Memorandum by Paul Aeginitis, the Medical Synopsis of Leon the Mathematician, the work Dynamic by Nicholas the Fragrance-Maker, which also includes 2656 pharmaceutical recipes and up to the 15th century comprised the official pharmacological writing of the medical school of the Paris University; the Medical Method, the Therapeutic Method and the study On Urine by Johannes Zacharias Actuarius; the 16 volume Medical Sixteen by Aetius, of which, the seventh volume pertains to ophthalmology (medication and surgery); the Synopsis of Medicine by Niketas and Leon, which pertains to surgical topics and tools; the Geoponika - 26 volumes – where, for the first time in history, the use of chemical fertilizers is mentioned ("chickpeas likewise soaked in nitre, are sown"). Are all the aforementioned works an indication of a people and a civilization that were indifferent to worldly things, and did nothing but pray mopingly?

    Are we to assume that the astronomer Nicholas Cabasilas (14th century) - who attributed the tides to the gravitational pull of the moon, which is directly emanated in alignment with its light - a non-noteworthy example?

    Perhaps the 6-volume work Accountancy by Barlaam, the Astronomical Bible of Theodore Melitiniotis, the work Harmonics by Joseph Bryenos, the Astronomical Itemization by Theodore Metochitis, the study On the Construction of Concave Mirrors and the work On Unusual Machines by Anthemios, indicate persons and a civilization that were only interested in prayers and “hallelujahs”?

    If they did give this impression, then the “antiquity-lovers” must admit it. They must admit that all of the above examples (and the hundreds more that are either lost or still unpublished) were written by the “Byzantines” just for fun; just something to pass their time between litanies.

    A civilization that is supposedly interested only in the “salvation of the soul” and not the body, cannot possibly have composed twelve-volume medical writings.

    It is only natural, for a civilization that perceives the body as being a part of a whole person and not the "prison of the soul", nor considers the “soul” to comprise the whole person, that it would show interest in both medicine, and mechanics and mathematics.

    Are they - who believe that our Roman predecessors were not civilized but barbarians – at all aware that in the University of Constantinople, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music were being taught, along with Hellenic and Latin literature?

    3. The Truth Behind the Supposed Persecutions of Scientists

    There is a prevailing impression that during the Byzantine Era, both Mathematics and Astronomy were under persecution and that mathematicians and those involved with astronomy were also being persecuted. This impression is false, and springs from a –perhaps deliberate - confusion of terminologies. Prohibitions of this kind pertained only to occult arithmetic and astrology, which were the objects of study and implementation by various sorcerers, occultists, astrologers, etc. We will give two examples of this assertion, below:

    a) From the Justinian Code (IX 18.2):

    “The learning and public practicing of geometrical art is beneficial. Mathematics (occult arithmetic) however, is a punishable art and thus forbidden.”

    b) From the epistles of the Patriarch Photios:

    “Do not only study the scriptures, but also the geometrical art.” (V. Spandagos – P. Spandagos – D. Travlos, The Positive Scientists of the Byzantine Era, Aethra Publications, page 14).

    Only the dogmatic, pro-western and neo-paganist antiquity lovers could truly believe that only the West – and not Byzantium - had shown interest in science during the Christian years.

    Some even say that a number of philosophers and scientists were persecuted by the Church during the 18th century, because they taught Western science, physics and mathematics. It is more than obvious though, after seeing how John the Damascene as well as Basil the Great and so many other Orthodox Fathers openly supported worldly knowledge, that the causes of persecution of the learned men (most of whom were Orthodox hierarchs anyway) must not be sought in Orthodoxy’s world theory, but elsewhere. This phenomenon occurred, because the persecutors were followers of Aristotelianism, and were strongly averse to the scientific methods that differed to those of Aristotelianism.

    Yet others will mention the persecution and the excommunication of John Italus. This dismissal from the post of professor at the University of Constantinople was the result of an intervention by the emperor. The same thing happened with the anathematizing of his views by the clergy: it was done by the Church unwillingly, and only in obedience to the wishes of Emperor Alexios I. The anti-Byzantine Cyril Mango clarified matters somewhat, when he wrote: “We have serious reasons to believe that the trial of Italus had political motives and that the accusations against him were, to a certain extent, manufactured. It appears that Italus had quite a few sympathizers amidst the higher clergy.” (Cyril Mango, Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome, Educational Foundation of the National Bank publishers, page 174).

    4. The Non-Scientific Face of Pagan Ideology

    As the Greek thinker P. Kondylis comments: “The universe, having been emptied of magical beings and made accessible to new mathematics, can now be known, absolutely and directly” (European Enlightenment, Themelion Publishers, page 116). This is a perfectly logical comment: a universe fraught with weird beings – as imagined by idolaters - cannot possibly become the object of scientific study. The Christian concept of a Creator - Who is not entangled in Nature - is far more rational than the Neo-Paganist idea that there are Spirits (the “gods”) inside the engine of the universe, which, if not nourished with sacrifices, will not send us rain, or protect us, etc.

    V. Tatakis comments in his book (Byzantine Philosophy, page 53) on the Pagan philosopher and scientist John Philoponos, who converted to Christianity: “The metaphysical bases of Christianity shaped a universe that reciprocated the demands of rationality."

    Indeed, when the universe was overrun with idolatrous, rough-cut mythical powers of magic and destiny during the times that Paganism prevailed, the contribution of Christian teaching was immense, inasmuch as it de-idolized (and not merely demystified) the universe, rendering it clean and liberated, for scientific and philosophical speculation.

    If, for example, today’s man believed that the moon is a divine entity, would he ever dare to “conquer” it?

    That is why the familiar atheist argument that the meaning of the word “God” is used to fill the gaps of our worldly knowledge, i.e., that when we can’t explain something, we attribute it to God, thus making knowledge and faith opponents, can only apply to the endocosmic, Pagan divinities and does not affect the Uncreated God in any way.

    If, for example, the Sun or any other heavenly body is considered a god, it will immediately obstruct the scientific recognition that it is “only a star” and furthermore, the prevalence of this scientific definition of the heavenly body will inevitably lead to a termination in the belief of the “Sun-god” (otherwise atheism).

    However, in the case of the Uncreated God, Who does not comprise a part of “Nature”, scientific research is not hindered because “God may be offended”, nor does the increment of scientific knowledge necessarily lead to atheism, simply because God is the primary cause (and not a segment of) the universe, Who, if ever interpreted scientifically, would cease to be considered “God”.

    It is obvious how the pagan perception of an imperfect, endocosmic god not only is unnecessary for the preservation of nature, but it actually hinders the development of science, since the latter would be intruding upon those areas of nature by interfering with the authority of the particular divinity.

    5. Opinions of Notable People

    One is eventually impressed by the realization of the English philosopher Bertrand Russell in his work Religion and Science (page 249), that every confrontation between science and faith is not attributed to any contradictions between the contents of faith and science per se, but to the opposition between their respective representatives and their self-evident expediencies.

    In an environment where persecutions are dictated by interests and passions, there can be no consistency. If, for instance, the (atheist) Russell writes, in a certain country the people of science had reasons for persecuting Christians, then Galileo’s colleagues would not have protested in any way.

    But even in the case of Galileo’s persecution by the Roman Catholic Church, which did not concern the Orthodox people or Orthodox Christianity, it is a known fact that in 1633, it was not provoked initially by the Papal Church, but by Galileo’s dogmatic, Aristotelian colleagues: “Galileo had made excellent use of Saint Augustine, and for a while, had far more support by the upper ecclesiastical circles of Rome, rather than by his Aristotelian colleagues in the University of Padua.” (Herbert Butterfield, The Origin of Modern Science, page 62).

    “I never found anything in my field of science that contradicted Religion," Albert Einstein had stated. “Wherever and however deep we may focus our attention, nowhere will we find any contradiction between religion and the natural sciences; on the contrary, in precisely the most crucial points, we discover a full accord," Max Planck attests in 1937, in a lecture with the theme “Religion and Physics” (also, Max Planck, Religion und Naturwissenschaft, 7th edition, Leipzig, page 30). “In the history of science, since the time of Galileo’s trial, they have repeatedly claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth stands on solid ground, I never did manage to ever reject the content of religious thought as though it were supposedly a part of an obsolete phase of mankind’s conscience; a part that we should abandon from now on. Thus, during my lifetime, I have repeatedly found myself needing to speculate on the relationship between those two areas of thought, because I never succeeded in doubting the reality towards which they point," the great physicist Werner Heisenberg asserted.

    6. Christian “Scientificness” and Pagan Superstition

    We should note that in Orthodox Romanity, the educated had never stopped believing in the spherical shape of the world. Basil the Great (4th century), George Pisides (6th – 7th century), Simeon Sethes (11th century), Theophylact of Ochrid from Euboia (11th – 12th century) and others, all believed that the world was spherical and not flat.

    It will suffice here (for the purpose of addressing Neo-Paganists) to compare the viewpoints of the “gods” and the Old Testament on the science of Medicine.


    Apollodorus Library, Vol.3, X, 3-4:

    He (Aesclepius) even became a surgeon, and, having practiced this art for a long time, not only hindered several people from dying, but he also raised them from the dead....

    But Zeus, out of fear that people might learn the art of medicine from Aesclepius and thus aid each other, struck him with a lightning bolt.

    What a friend of science - not to mention a philanthropist – Zeus was! Fancy being afraid that people would learn medicine and aid each other for their well-being! Polytheism and Science.

    Now, here is what the God of the Old Testament says:

    Wisdom of Sirach, 38

    1. Honor the doctor as befits him, for God made him thus.

    2. Healing comes from the Lord on High, and from the king shall the doctor receive gifts for it.

    4. The Lord ordained that medicinal herbs should sprout from the soil.

    6. God Himself gave man science, so that He might be glorified in His wondrous works.

    7. Through doctors and medicines God heals and takes away the pain.

    12. Seek the doctor’s aid, because he too was created by God. Do not draw awy from him, because you need him.

    13. Oftentimes, therapy is in the hands of doctors.

    14. For they too in turn pray to the Lord, so that He might make their endeavors effective.

    When the pestilence fell upon the Athenians, they tried to cure it with sorcery. But, “even their supplications in the temples and the oracles and every other desperate measure that they resorted to, proved futile, until, in the end, defeated by that evil, they gave up” (Thucydides, 2, 47). In fact, those who survived the plague secretly hoped that in the future they would never die of any other illness (Thucydides, 2, 51)! Their anti-technological psychosis with the “gods” and the ancient Greek religion is apparent in many instances, in practice and not only in mythological texts:

    1) The Oracle of Delphi had forbidden the Knidians to open a canal. The Knidians were being besieged by an enemy and wanted to change the Isthmus into a canal, thus turning their city into an island. The Delphi oracle had said to the Knidians: “Quit the building, leave the digging, because if Zeus had wanted an island, he would have made it himself” (Herodotus, 1, 174). The Knidians did not go ahead with the excavation of the canal, they lost that war, and were subjugated by the Persians. So, it was whatever Zeus wanted, and not science.

    2) In Aeschylus’ play Persians (verse 749 etc), the ghost of Darius (or, in other words, the mutual opinion of the religious Greeks of the 5th century B.C.) alleges that the bridging of the Hellespont was against the will of the gods.

    3) Anaxagoras was exiled by the Athenians of the Golden Age, when he declared that the Sun was not a god, but a ball of fire in the sky. Here is the proof that, when “god” implied a segment of Nature and not the Uncreated, beyond-this-world, One and Only God, any research on that “god”-part of Nature, constituted irreverence and atheism.

    4) The tyrant of Corinth, Periander, had considered opening the Isthmus of Corinth. But the gods had averted this, with the oracle of Delphi: “Do not raise or dig up the Isthmus. For Zeus has already placed the island (the Peloponnese) as he wanted it.” So, we have a second example that proves how Polytheism was opposed to scientific progress and the use of science for peaceful works (as well as for defence-military purposes of course).

    This would mean that – to the Paganis - the Suez Canal or the Corinth Canal are both unacceptable human projects.

    5) Besides, the renowned astronomer Aristarchos of Samos – the first scientist to maintain that the earth is not the center of the universe but that it rotates around the sun - was sued by the stoic Kleanthis for showing disrespect towards the gods, with the charge: “As being the one who moved the focal point of the world (Earth)” (Plutarch, On the Face Appearing on the Circle of the Moon, 6 (923a)). The pantheist stoic Kleanthis wrote a special treatise To Aristarchos (Diogenis Laertios, VII, 174). Diogenis the Cynic “insisted that we should abandon music, geometry and suchlike sciences, because they are useless and redundant (Diogenis Laertios, VI, 73).

    In other words, Polytheism not only has nothing to do with any of the scientific achievements that ancient Hellenism had displayed – as the Neo-Pagans assert - it actually persecuted it. As a result, sciences such as astronomy, if not aligned with astrology, were considered by the masses of Polytheists as punishable crimes. “The condemnation of meteorology was extremely commonplace. They believed that not only was it foolish and audacious (Gorgias El.13, Hipp. Ancient Medicine 1, Pol. 488e), but also a danger to religion (Eur. Ap.913, Plato’s Apology 19b, Plut. Nikias 23), and in the mind of the lay people it was linked especially to the sophists (Eupolis ap.146, Aristophanes Nepheles 360, Plato’s Politic 299b) (E.R. Dodds, The Hellenes and the Absurd, Kardamitsa publications, page 275).

    The view that ancient Hellenic science never existed is of course totally unfounded. It existed, and it had experiments and applied results. But this occurred only during the Hellenistic and Hellenic-Roman eras (the eras of decadence, according to the antiquity-stricken; i.e., when the classical, ancient Greek religion had lapsed and frayed away, that was when significant scientific progress began to be observed (Heron of Alexandria, others) with experiments and scientific thought and practice. When the boogie man Zeus ceased to mean anything, man also ceased to be afraid of intervening in nature, and ancient technology developed further.

    Christianity, however, assisted scientific research by rejecting views like those asserting that heavenly bodies are divine entities, and did not stand opposed to Hellenic Science.

    In actual fact it was Christianity, which, having cast out polytheistic superstition and the denial of science, and placing faith and science in their proper places, opened the way to the worldly knowledge that we enjoy today, thanks to science.

    That is why contemporary, advanced science developed in societies of Christian upbringing, and not in any pagan societies.
    'These things I command you, that you love one another.' - Jesus Christ

  8. #36
    To add to the discussion:

    In the video, Dr. Tyson basically lays out his case for religion basically being "an ever receding line of scientific ignorance." Wherein scientists in the past, all very religious fellows such as Newton, Copernicus, Ptolemy, etc., put forth the same argument. That is, when science comes to a place where they cannot explain something, they say "that is God's realm and cannot be explained by man." He walks through geocentric theory, gravity, etc.

    It's worth a watch, imo

    Get's really interesting around the 18 minute mark
    Last edited by jllundqu; 04-06-2016 at 03:32 PM.
    There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
    -Major General Smedley Butler, USMC,
    Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Winner
    Author of, War is a Racket!

    It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours.
    - Diogenes of Sinope

  9. #37
    God and Science
    Part 1 of 3

    By Archpriest Gregory Hallam

    It has become a truism for many in the West that faith and science belong to two conflicting world views. An atheist will say that science is rational, based on empirical observation and self-correcting as new theories eventually modify or replace old out-dated ones. Faith, on the other hand, is held to be irrational, defined by static religious texts and immovable religious authorities, which can be neither challenged nor revised.There is another view that regards this conflict as a needless clash of two Titans of similar breed: fundamentalism in religion and triumphalism in science.

    Rather than a genuine standoff between two antagonists we have instead a phony war based on a cartoon version of both disciplines and, therefore, a misunderstanding of the true purpose of each. These two approaches to Reality—science and religion—are actually complementary, this other view holds, and not at all mutually exclusive. Orthodox Christianity shares a common platform with these more positive voices, but with its own distinctive approach. A perspective from history will help.

    There is a historical background to this clash between faith and science in the west, a legacy in which Orthodox Christianity has no part. In Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages the scholastic movement sought to develop the idea that reason alone could establish certain basic fundamentals of Christianity. This approach has sometimes been referred to as natural theology or natural law. However, natural theology had its own built-in self-limitation in that reason alone could not impart the fullness of faith, because faith came with grace and revelation. This distinction between reason and faith became hardened into a division, sometimes even a mutual antagonism. The Galileo affair showed just how difficult it was for the Catholic Church to accommodate the findings of natural philosophy, or as we now call it, science. Not until 1992 did Pope John Paul II finally and fully exonerate Galileo. This is deeply ironic, even tragic, bearing in mind the intellectual space that Catholicism had itself created in natural law precisely for the application of reason and the importance of empirical observation.

    Protestantism showed itself to be more amenable to the rise of science in its own host cultures, but only because, under the influence of Calvinism, it had further hardened the division between faith and reason to the point of completely isolating a grace-only theology from the natural world and human faculties. This widening gap hit a crisis point in the 18th century during the full flowering of the Enlightenment when many Protestant theologians abandoned any semblance of orthodox (lower case) Christianity and embraced deism.

    The deist god was only in the most minimal sense a Creator in the sense that at creation he had “lit the blue touch paper,” and retired to a ‘safe distance’ allowing creation to develop in accordance with the laws with which he had imbued it. Deism retained the kernel of monotheism’s insistence that creation was not itself God, but rather a rationally accessible and predictable expression of his creative mind and will. However, it made providence, divine intervention, miracles and intercessory prayer extremely problematic notions, for these were now considered to be “supernatural” – by definition contrary to the natural order and, therefore, extremely improbable. At about this time pietism grew stronger in some Protestant traditions by way of reaction and this movement tended to scorn reason and emphasize religious experience as an exclusion zone of grace, inaccessible by definition to scientific enquiry. Eventually even this bastion of pseudo-orthodoxy fell with the rise of neuroscience which showed itself quite competent in analyzing altered states of consciousness in the religious mind, not exactly explaining them away but at least demystifying them. Soon the intellectual establishment embraced Positivism—the Great Idea that the sciences themselves were a sufficient and exclusively reliable description of the totality of human experience. This scientism, as many have called it since, has been popularized in our own time by such notable atheist propagandist popularisers as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. Their relentless and theologically illiterate evangelism has been the source of much functional atheism amongst lazy thinkers and uninformed media pundits ever since. Sadly, too many people have taken their word as the true gospel for a life freed from the shackles of religion and superstition. God has finally been dethroned; or has He?

    The trouble with this alienation between faith and science is that it is so deeply embedded in Western culture that it seems blind to its own myopic view of reality and the spiritual and intellectual origins of its unquestioned assumptions. In propaganda terms, atheist popularisers have a vested interest in attacking a caricature of religion as normatively fundamentalist. In the general population the level of religious literacy is so low that many simply buy the half-baked notions that seem to be continually recycled in the latest paperbacks of authors who have made a very decent living out of the whole sorry enterprise. Since many people unquestioningly assume that all Christians are the same and believe the same things, it has become almost impossible for Orthodox Christians to contribute to the debate without being written off as self-serving or idiosyncratic. I do not think, however, that we shall be able to improve on this situation until we can put some clear blue water between the caricature and the reality.

    Creation Explains God

    Firstly we need to establish some basics of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, later adopted by Islam. This monotheist infrastructure is often not well understood. Significant differences exist within the religious traditions, but there is enough common ground to establish a shared platform concerning the relationship between God and the world. So, let us start with creation and the monotheist position. Is it possible to believe in God the Creator without being a creationist?

    ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ (Genesis 1:1) So begins Jewish and Christian Holy Scripture. The Jews were exceptional amongst all peoples of antiquity in their insistence that God and the natural order were neither to be confused nor fused. The creation owed its being and purpose to God. God himself was singular and unique. There was only one God and God was one.

    The surrounding cultures had very different ideas in their creation stories. Many supposed a pantheon of deities only some of which had any role in creation. Others commonly believed that the creation was itself part of God, an emanation of His being. However, the Jews under the divine revelation of their covenant knew that God could not be divided without impugning His sovereignty and power; He could not be confused with creation for then He would be subject to change, violating His self-sufficiency and perfection. Such sovereign sufficiency required the belief that God created the Cosmos out of His own love, freely, so as to nurture something “not-Himself” into a dynamic and evolving relationship of communion with Himself. This applied in the first place to the physical process of creation itself, which was not instantaneous but rather an unfolding fecundity of God from the Earth itself (Genesis 1: “let the earth bring forth …”).

    Although man was a special case in that only he, both male and female of course, was made in the image and likeness of God, there is no reason to suppose that humans, animated by the breath of God, were exempt from these natural processes of life development. This then is our first conclusion: the supposed conflict between faith in a Creator and evolutionary processes is both unnecessary and harmful to the pursuit of truth. For this not to be case, humans would have to be a special instance in the development of life such that our biological genesis could not be connected to precursor species. However, the Scriptures of the monotheist religions make no comment on such matters; they do not even consider them. How could it be otherwise? The prevailing knowledge of the development of life lay in a pre-scientific age. Revealed truth concerning the dignity of humankind is built neither on the inclusion or exclusion of the theory of evolution; and so it goes for every other discovery of science. There can, therefore, never be a conflict between religion and science if each remains true to its principles and methods. As an example, we can push the logic of this position back to the dawn of creation itself, the Big Bang, and whatever may lie beyond or before that. The “how” of creation (i.e. science) has absolutely no bearing on the “why” of creation (i.e. religion) and vice versa. In so far as religion addresses the different and exclusive question of why there is something rather than nothing and why we are here, the language and processes employed are not those of the scientific method but of relationship tested in human experience—the relationship that is between God and the Cosmos. Any attempt to construe the reality of God from principles of design in the Cosmos, intelligent or otherwise, although superficially plausible, falls into the error of thinking that religion exists to explain this order in Creation. This is the fatal God-of-the-gaps defense of God-the-Explainer, forever retreating behind the advancing frontline of science, always a feeble competitor, never a strong associate. From a true monotheistic perspective, God does not explain Creation, Creation explains God. Knowledge of God comes not through science but by a direct personal encounter. This was first tested in the covenant relationship between God and his people, the Hebrews.
    'These things I command you, that you love one another.' - Jesus Christ

  10. #38
    Part 2 of 3

    Something from Nothing

    The Jews did not know God because they philosophised about Him, but rather because they had entered into a relationship with the One who had made a friend with Abraham and the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. His ways had been made known in salvation and judgement; and this required from them faithfulness and love, repentance and hope. The expression of this relationship was a personal and existential knowledge of the Creator, utterly transcendent to anything created—literally the Uncreated One. This transcendent Being they came to know as above and beyond infinity, space, time, created reality itself, was so sacred that even his Name could not be spoken. Later in Israel’s history, and particularly after the emergence of the Wisdom writings in the post-Exilic environment of Hellenism, the people of God began to reflect more thoroughly on the presuppositions and implications of their faith in an utterly transcendent Creator. There is then a marked progression and refinement in understanding for example between Genesis, which only considers creation from the starting point of pre-formed matter (1:2), and 2 Maccabees 7:28, which follows the received faith to its logical conclusion, namely that the Cosmos was made out of nothing (ex nihilo) or rather, more properly, out of that which had no being.

    The implications of the ex nihilo doctrine are radical when contrasted with the confusion of nature and God which is often characteristic of pagan and polytheist faiths. For example, the world does not exist eternally but, as St Augustine emphasised, both space and time were created with matter and energy, making the terms “before creation” and “after creation” meaningless. So, there is creation “before” time (a singular Big Bang or multiple primordial creations) and creation in time as the one Cosmos or the Multiverse evolves. Before-time creation is possible in so far as God in His essence utterly transcends anything He creates. In-time creation is possible because God embeds Himself in the Cosmos from the outset by His energies. (I shall explain further this classic Orthodox distinction between the essence and energies of God in the next theological section: “God is both Creator and Trinity” but for now let us return to consider ex nihilo from the non-theistic perspective).

    The atheistic scientific approach denies a priori the existence of anything other than the Cosmos, (or in the “Many Worlds” hypothesis, the Multiverse), in this case, God. Under this view, creation makes itself, there being no extrinsic or for that matter intrinsic divine agent to bring it into being. However, such spontaneous creation is never actually explained in such theories without some sort of precursor. Two favoured current theories either involve a quantum irregularity in the substrate vacuum which super-inflated like a bubble in a boiling pan of milk or the collision of two higher dimensional sheets or branes which triggered the Big Bang in the energy of their collision. None of this solves the puzzle as to why there should be a bubbling quantum foam or a system of colliding branes in the first place. The precursor may be necessary and true, but whatever “it” is, it is not nothing or non-being. The search for a First Cause or an Origin only ceases if a beginning is considered unnecessary, and then one is stuck with the brute fact of an eternal, infinitely regressive universe.

    Whether or not the Universe is eternal still ignores the favourite old elephant in the corner. This is his question: – “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Science is not equipped to answer “why” questions such as this, whereas such unfathomable existential issues are “food and drink” to the philosopher and the theologian. The hubris of an all-inclusive positivism for atheist scientists enables them to claim scientifically that no such theological answers can exist in principle. That is to step beyond the boundary of empirical science itself into belief, in this case the belief we call “unbelief.” It must be recognised that there are questions and answers in life that do not submit to the scientific method because they deal with references that are by definition not measurable. Measuring my heartbeat alone will not reveal whether or not I am in love.

    The great 19th Century theologian, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, described the conundrum of existence from a religious point of view. He describes either the terror or beauty of our existence very succinctly. The choice is stark and uncompromising: the void or God? “All creatures are balanced upon the creative Word of God, as if upon a bridge of diamond; above them is the abyss of divine infinitude, below them, that of their own nothingness.”

    So far we have examined the truth claims and methods of science and religion from the shared perspective of the great Abrahamic monotheisms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We shall now look to the specific insights of Orthodox Christianity—a very different territory of enquiry with surprising discoveries in store.

    God is both Creator and Trinity

    As we have observed, it is the transcendent majesty and glory of God, his singular unexcelled and excellent being that concerns all truly monotheistic faiths. Any conceptualisation, image or formulation concerning God in his essence or being is idolatrous and to be rejected. There can be absolutely no ontological overlap between God the Creator and Uncreated One and creation. However, to say that God is utterly distinct from creation at the level of his essence is to contribute nothing to an understanding of how he can be known by humankind through his covenanted grace, his theophanies or self-manifestations and supremely by his Incarnation in the Word made flesh (John 1:14). The Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church teach that God manifests himself in creation without being absorbed by it or fused with it, which of course would be pantheism. By way of contrast, the Orthodox teaching that incorporates the reality of the Divine Presence is called panentheism and this received its classic formulation in the distinction made between the essence and energies of God in the works of St Gregory Palamas. The energies of God are sometimes referred to as his immanence in creation. God is not to be thought of, therefore, as only acting “from beyond.” He also (by His energies) acts from within.

    When the Jews reflected upon this immanence in the context of their own covenant experience, their sacred writings made a distinction between the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Later the Wisdom of God was added. The Word of God could be described as his powerful creative and prophetic utterance. Noteworthy in this regard is this verse from the prophecy of Isaiah:- So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void but it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11) If the Word of God is that in God which brings something to fruition in a declaratory manner, the Spirit of God is that in God which imparts his life to that which his Word has brought into being. The Wisdom of God is that which may be known from both his Word and Spirit; it is in effect a term of revelation and dependent upon the other two for its operation.

    When the Word became flesh in the Incarnation of Christ and later when the Holy Spirit was given to the Church at Pentecost, the Apostles learned through their own experience that this Word and the Spirit have their own distinct hypostatic or personal identities, but always in relation with each other and not as separate individualities. That which had been hinted at in the Old Covenant was fully revealed in the New Covenant; and Church Tradition was later to make sense of this in monotheistic terms by the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. St Irenaeus referred to the Word and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father (Against the Heresies, 5.6), but it was not until the Cappadocian Fathers clarified the terminology in the 4th century that the Church’s experience of the Trinity was thoroughly articulated. The only change that the doctrine of the Trinity made to traditional monotheism concerned the hypostatic distinction of both the Word and the Spirit, both between themselves and with the Father. However this distinction was not applied to the essence or being of God which remained as it always had been – a simple, undifferentiated, identical consubstantiality. In this Orthodox sense the hypostases always remained co-equal and undivided.
    'These things I command you, that you love one another.' - Jesus Christ

  11. #39
    Part 3 of 3

    Against Supernaturalism

    The value of the Trinity thus described is wholly compatible with a scientific account of the world in which the lineaments and workings of natural processes in space and in time are accounted for without recourse to God as a direct causal agent. If, for example, we believed that hurricanes happened because God sneezed, then what would be the point and practical advantage of meteorology?

    We must say rather that the lineaments and processes of the natural order are in and of themselves signatures of the divine. These signatures cannot be shaped by a calligraphy of intelligent design without invoking the capricious intervention of a episodically active god in an otherwise chaotic and frequently fragile and dangerous evolutionary process. Such extrinsic and invasive actions of a god from beyond the Cosmos—the classic form of supernaturalism—neuter both science and theology. The divine signatures are rather to be found in the beauty, elegance and fittingness of the natural operations themselves which are both emergent in their complexity and convergent in their function. Consciousness, for example, is a fluid and dynamic artifact of emergent complexity; physiological commonality a functional convergence of evolution. Neither is a deterministic process, but each nonetheless has its own teleology (that to which it tends), notwithstanding the chaotic and random factors involved. God, then, only acts “from beyond” when, ex nihilo, He creates space and time itself.

    This characterisation, however, presupposes a scheme of primary and secondary causes with God in the backseat and Nature in the front. How then is this different from deism where the God who is aboriginally involved in creation is subsequently absent, or Neo-Thomism where divine intervention is a more subtly conceived additional layer of supernatural causation? The only way such a model of divine action can be different, at least in Christianity, is by building it on a radically different foundation than that which has been commonplace in the west since the Middle Ages. This foundation is neo-Patristic in that it learns from the Fathers in their engagement with Hellenistic philosophy whilst at the same time striking out with a similar method and some of their insights into the arena of this century and its concerns.

    There are three theological references that we need to consider in order to make progress in constructing an old but new model of divine activity that compromises neither science nor Orthodox Christianity. These three theological references are basic and biblical—the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the Wisdom of God.

    The Word of God, (that is, the Logos in Greek) and the Holy Spirit are two hypostases of the Trinity, the Father’s active agents in Creation.

    The Wisdom of God has often struggled to find a place in this scheme for she (in reference, feminine) certainly is not an additional hypostasis, nor the essence or energy of God but something else. Rehabilitated from ancient Christian Tradition by the sophiological school of Russian Orthodox Christian thought in the 19th and 20th centuries, Divine Sophia, Holy Wisdom is, I submit, a shared divine attribute which we can apply to ALL three hypostases or persons of the Holy Trinity in the summation of their activity in the Cosmos as one God.

    I shall refer, therefore, to Wisdom in relation to each and all of the hypostases in the following account. The Father is in relation to the Son or Word and the Spirit as the timeless Source of the Trinity. He is never without them, nor they without Him. In the course of this proposal, therefore, I shall proceed in my argument from the Logos in Wisdom (from the Father alone but in the Spirit) to the Spirit in Wisdom (from the Father alone but in the Son). The Father of course timelessly imparts Wisdom both to the Son and the Spirit in their coordinated actions as One God in Creation. (I am indebted in much of what follows to Dr. Christopher Knight whose reasoning and conclusions I largely follow. The sophiological speculations are my own).

    The Logos Christology

    St John the Theologian in the prologue to his Gospel taught that it was the Logos (the Word of God) that was active in both the creation of the Cosmos and in the Incarnation. St. John deftly achieved two goals in his use of this Logos Christology. Firstly, he showed the universality of the Incarnation by using a term which was familiar to Jews and pre-Christian Greeks, the Logos. The Jewish diaspora in Alexandria (Philo) had already united the Hebraic concept of the Word of God (dabar) with the Hellenistic Logos, the divine seed inherent in all things. Secondly, by using a single term, the Logos, St John ensured that Christ would be received, as is His due, as the Lord of all creation. Christians such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen continued to develop this synthesis and used it as a bridgehead for the communication of the gospel in Greek culture. Pre-Christian Greek philosophy, at this stage heavily influenced by Plato, contributed something of great value to Christianity—the means to express the inclusion of both nature and revelation as the sphere of God’s action. The Church reimagined Platonism from a dualistic philosophy in which created forms were merely shadows of more substantial heavenly ideals into the Judaeo-Christian confession of the goodness of creation itself.

    Important progress in the development of these ideas took place in the cosmological teaching of the seventh century Byzantine theologian, honoured in both the East and the West, St Maximus the Confessor (580-662). St Maximus explored further this idea of the logoi in all things created as manifestations of the creative Word, the Logos imparting both the inner essence and the ultimate fulfilment to one and all. In this account the Incarnation was characterised not as an abrupt intrusion or invasion of the Logos into the created order from which it was originally absent but rather the personal and particular development and refinement of an existing and universal creative presence of the Word, now united to human flesh and nature in the person of Christ. Although the Incarnation happened so that death might be destroyed and humanity with creation restored to the path of dynamic transformation, the East generally held that the Word would have been made flesh in the context of this process even if humanity had not fallen. It is after all the nature of Divine Love to make itself known through self-giving.

    St Maximus, together with all the Greek fathers and their successors, had a panentheistic conception of God’s immanence which harmonised ideas in both pagan and Hebraic religion without sacrificing God’s transcendence. Later generations of theologians, notably St Gregory Palamas articulated this in the distinction they made between the nature or essence of God, forever transcending anything created, and his energies, also God and Uncreated, but manifest in every spacetime coordinate and in every physical and immaterial creation. After the Great Schism in 1054 when the West began to lose touch with Greek Christian culture, this vital insight was gradually lost. Later Western theologians assumed as axiomatic the principle that God had to “move” as it were from heaven to earth when he needed to act, his presence otherwise being rather nebulous and erratic. This was the source of supernaturalism, the notion that grace had to be added to nature. This view prevailed for centuries until the Enlightenment finally dispensed with supernature leaving the west in the grip of deism or the worship of the goddess Reason. Secularisation rapidly followed as the sea of faith made its melancholic withdrawal from the public consciousness. The Christian East however continued with what we might call its theistic naturalism in which the Lord pervaded the whole of the Cosmos without the need to suspend natural laws at whim in order to achieve his purpose. Creation has complete freedom to be itself and yet at the same time there is a natural and grace-full growth in the logoi or Logos towards an end or telos in God. In the Christian West science only flourished once the Catholic Church’s inflexible intellectual control had been broken. There never seems to have been such a problem in the Christian East and for good reason. The phoney war between science and religion never broke out beyond Rome’s dominion, nor could it, the theology being radically different.

    The Life Giving Spirit

    The unique theological perspective of the Christian East, which the Orthodox believe to be the simple witness of Scripture and Tradition, is expressed in its understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit as well as the Logos. The Holy Spirit is the Life Giver, the power of creation, of revelation, of guidance, of cleansing, of renewal, of holiness, of justice and of peace. The action of the Holy Spirit in human life and the Cosmos itself is simply to bring the fullness of life to all that is latent within the logoi of created things. This, however, is not a vitalism that constitutes or replaces the energies of creation but rather that which restores and enhances these according to their divine purpose. Consider the healing of the sick. This is achieved through the skill of doctors, nurses, surgeons and drug researchers in addition to the care for the whole person manifested through pastoral support and prayer. The Holy Spirit works in and through the logoi of each means of healing, once more revealing the Wisdom of God in action, bringing everything to its proper fulfillment in Christ.

    The Holy Spirit also continues to work in Creation so that in the Wisdom of God the Cosmos is transfigured and, in the case of humans who are in the divine image and likeness, deified. Again St Maximus the Confessor reveals this cosmic regeneration as possible by reaffirming a pre-Christian notion of Greek philosophy, namely that humankind is a microcosm of the Cosmos. If humanity is restored and set free by the Holy Spirit so shall the Cosmos (Romans 8:18-23). This glorious vision is not of course what we see in the world today. We have inherited the legacy of a quite different view of the earth in which divine transformation is very far from the mind of those who are its unwitting stewards. The impact of this legacy is plain for all to see. The recovery of Earth’s ecosystems will only occur when humans exercise once again an ascesis of self-restraint and live out anew their connectedness to the Cosmos. This will require a spirituality that does not see the natural world as a mere stage for unbridled human activity but rather a gift to be respected and cherished. How can this be achieved without honouring the divine logoi that inhere within all things?

    I have contended that there is no conflict between Science and Religion, when each discipline is properly understood. More specifically, it should be recognized that Orthodox Christianity has developed important insights into that fine structure of the Cosmos which allows for divine action without compromising or controlling creation’s freedom to move toward its goal in God. It should now be clear that both creationism and scientific atheism are dead doctrines based on a weak understanding of both science and religion. In contrast, Orthodox Christianity offers the freedom to humanity to explore the inner workings of the Cosmos, its glory and its beauty.

    Manchester Metropolitan University Multicultural Studies Lecture on February 24, 2011, by Archpriest Gregory Hallam, on the subject of Science, Creation, and the Seeking of Truth in Orthodox Christian Theology, recorded by Ancient Faith Radio of Conciliar Media Ministries.
    'These things I command you, that you love one another.' - Jesus Christ

  12. #40
    More on this general subject...

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