by Gayle Woloschak
This essay is part of a series stemming from the ongoing research project “Contemporary Eastern Orthodox Identity and the Challenges of Pluralism and Sexual Diversity in a Secular Age,” which is a joint venture by scholars from Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center and the University of Exeter, funded by the British Council, Friends of the British Council, and the Henry Luce Foundation as part of the British Council’s “Bridging Voices” programme. In August 2019, 55 scholars gathered for an international conference at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. These essays are summaries of presentations given in preparation for the conference and during it. They together reflect the genuine diversity of opinion that was represented at the conference and testify to the need for further reflection and dialogue on these complex and controversial topics.
The Orthodox Church is generally not opposed to scientific knowledge and scientific endeavors. In fact, many early theologians and saints of the Church (including St. Basil and Ss. Cosmas and Damian) considered themselves to be scientists exploring nature and using nature’s pharmaceuticals to treat disease. When the Orthodox Church finds itself opposing science, it should take a clear look at both the present and tradition precedents and be certain that the stand it is taking is correct.
This is not to say that science dictates theology, rather that theology is open to consider all things in the world, including nature and how it is described. Scientists (like members of the Church) are obviously influenced by their culture, prejudices of their time, and false understandings. In the not-so-distant past, for example, scientists agreed that since women had smaller brains than men, they should not be allowed the same education, and that education must in some way adversely affect their reproductive abilities.
The Church should consider all perspectives when taking a position on any issue. Of course, theology is paramount, but the science of the day should also be reviewed as contributing to how we understand our world. Continue reading
by Gayle Woloschak and Tatjana Paunesku | ελληνικά | ру́сский
Recently in Serbia “a group of interested citizens” with signatures from more than 50 academicians and 100 additional people with postgraduate degrees (including 5 clergyman) released a petition to “revise the curriculum for study of evolution.” This petition was circulated to Serbian universities, as well as to several government bodies responsible for education including Ministry of education, science and technological development. In essence, this petition requested that theory of evolution be taught as “just a theory,” and (more or less) literal reading of Genesis be taught alongside it in science classrooms in Serbia. This problem is not new to Serbia; a similar effort was initiated in 2004 by the former Minister of education, but this was put on hold and thus efforts have been renewed to modify the school science curricula again.
What is remarkable in this discussion is the response from a group of orthodox theologians, teaching at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the Belgrade University. (For a version of this document in Serbian, please see here; for an English version, see here.) A group of 11 faculty members released an official statement explaining why this petition is inappropriate and even anti-Orthodox. Continue Reading…
by Gayle E. Woloschak, Tatjana Paunesku, and Katarina Trajkovic
Orthodox involvement in world affairs is increasingly becoming necessary; a faith that cares about “true worship” must be ready to defend not only spiritual Truth but the truths that underlie it as well. Orthodox Christians, and indeed most religious traditions, value truth and truthfulness. For Orthodox, there should be no division between the truths we discover in nature and the larger Truth that is revealed in a life of spiritual struggle. Maximus had identified three different laws that are all linked—the law of nature, the law of scripture, and the law of grace. He wrote (Questiones ad Thalasium 19) “In Christ…the natural law, the law of Scripture and the law of grace all come together as one.” Later in the same text, Maximus writes “For the Logos of God is the Creator of all nature, every law, every bond, all order.” They are all linked together, the scientific truths of nature with the larger Truth, and there is no room for deception and falseness in science nor for “alternate facts” in public relations between citizens and their government. Continue Reading…
by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, with Gayle Woloschak
We are on the eve of the Holy and Great Council, a topic that has weighed heavily in discussions on this blog in recent months. One major issue that has continually come up for discussion is the fact that the decisions of the Council are to be made by unanimous consent. In effect each Primate (First Hierarch) has the opportunity to veto a decision. The agreement (at the persistent urging and perpetual reminder of the Moscow Patriarchate, who will not be attending the Council) was that the Council should carry out its decisions by consensus, which in this case is interpreted as unanimity. This is unusual because the canons of the Church do not specify that decisions should be made by unanimity nor has this been the past practice of the Church at Councils. In fact, most local Councils of the Orthodox Church (including councils of the Moscow Patriarchate) are ruled by a simple majority or in some cases two-thirds majority vote. Continue Reading…