Faith and Science in Orthodox Gnosiology and Methodology
by V. Rev. Prof. Dr. George Metallinos
Professor, School of Theology of the Unviersity of Athens
A. Problem or pseudo-problem?
The antithesis and consequent collision between faith and science is a problem for western (Franco-Latin) thought and is a pseudo-problem for the Orthodox patristic tradition. This is based upon the historical data of these two regions.
The (supposed) dilemma of faith versus science appears in Western Europe in the 17th century with the simultaneous development of the positive sciences. About this same time we have the appearance of the first Orthodox positions on this issue. It is an important fact that these developments in the West are happening without the presence of Orthodoxy. In these recent centuries there has been a spiritual estrangement and differentiation between the [rational] West and the Orthodox East. This fact is outlined by the de-orthodoxiation and de-ecclesiastication of the western European world and the philosophication and legalization of faith and its eventual forming as a religion in the same area. Thus religion is the refutation of Orthodoxy and, according to Fr. John Romanides, the sickess of the human being. Therefore, Orthodoxy remained historically as a non-participant in the making of the present western European civilization, which is also a different size than the civilization of the Orthodox East.
The turning points in western Europeans course of alteration include: scholasticism (13th century), nominalism (14th century), humanism/renaissance (15th century), Reformation (16th century) and the Enlightenment (17th century). It is a series of revolutions and, at that same time, breaches in the structure of western European civilization, that was created by the dialectic of these two movements.
Scholasticism is supported on the adoption of the Platonic realia. Our world is conceived of as an image of the transcendent universalia (realism, archetype). The instrument of knowledge is the mind-intellect. Knowledge (including knowing God) is accomplished through the penetration of logic in the essence of beings. It is the foundation of metaphysic theology, which presupposes the Analogia Entis, the consequitive ontological relation between God and the world, the analogy between the created and uncreated. Nominalism accepts that the universalia are simple names and not beings as in realism. It is a struggle between Platonism and Aristotelian thought in European thought. However, nominalism turned out to be the DNA, in a way, of European civilization, whose essential elements are dualism philosophically and individualism (eudomenism) socially. Prosperity will become the basic quest of the western man, theologically based on the scholastic theology of the middle ages. Nominalism (that is dualism) is the foundation of scientific development of the western world, that is the development of the positive sciences.
The Orthodox East had had another spiritual evolution, under the guidance of its spiritual leaders the saints – and of those who followed them, the true believers--who remained loyal to the prophetic-apostolic-patristic tradition; this tradition stands at the opposite end of scholasticism and all the historic spiritual developments in the European word. In the East, hesychasm or prayer of the heart is dominant (and is the backbone of patristic tradition) it is expressed with the ascetically experienced participation in the Truth as communion with the Uncreated. The faith in the possibility of the joining of God and the world (the Uncreated and the created) within history is preserved in the Orthodox East. This, however, means the rejection of every form of dualism. Science, to the degree it developed in Byzantium/Romania, developed within this framework.
The scientific revolution in Western Europe of the 17th Century, contributed to the separation of the fields of faith and knowledge. It resulted in the following axiomatic principle: New (positive) philosophy only accepts truths which are verified through rational thought. It is the absolute authority of Western thinking. The truths of this new philosophy are the existence of God, soul, virtue, immortality, and judgment. Their acceptance, of course, can only take place in a theistic enlightenment, since we also find atheism as a structural element of modern thought. The ecclesiastical doctrines that are rejected by rationality are the Triune nature of God, the Incarnation, glorification, salvation, etc. This natural and logical religion, from the Orthodox viewpoint, not only differs from atheism but is much worse. Atheism is less dangerous than its distortion!