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

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

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

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

Synopsis

"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." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

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 the 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.

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