There are clear and
distinct boundaries between Theology and Science.
Theology, as the Greek origin of the word suggests, is
concerned with God - what God is and how one can attain
communion with Him - whereas Science is concerned with
the created world and is interested mainly in the use of
In examining this simple
sentence we realize that both Theology and Science move
on different levels and, consequently, there can be no
conflict between them or between theologians and
scientists. A conflict developed and reached historic
proportions in the West, when Metaphysics was identified
with Theology. It is well known that the content of
Metaphysics is one thing and the content of revealed
Theology quite another. For example, according to
Metaphysics there is an ungenerated world of ideas from
which this world is derived either by a fall or an
emanation. Therefore, when the West identified
Metaphysics with Theology and indeed, when the advance
of natural Science resulted in the shaking off of the
foundations of Metaphysics, then the Theology which had
been identified with Metaphysics was also questioned.
Thus, an Athonite monk once jokingly referred to the
conflict between Faith and Science as the «puns and
riddles» of the West.
In the Orthodox Church,
as expressed by the Holy Fathers, we see that the
content of Theology is one thing and that of Science
another. Theology talks about God, about the Creator of
the world being God, about the fall and sickness of the
human personality and about its cure so that man can
attain communion with God. Science concerns itself with
what can be known scientifically, those things that can
be examined by the senses and it tries to make man's
life bearable within his fallen state.
we often notice that a great deal of confusion prevails
between these two bounds and spheres. The problem is
created when Science is made sacrosanct and mythological
and when Theology is secularized.
Science is made
sacrosanct when various scientists use scientific data
and some discoveries to demolish teaching about God or
even to be identified with God, something that
constitutes hubris in the ancient sense of the word.
Moreover, it is also made sacrosanct when they try to
find a system, which will solve all man's problems even
his existential ones. Typical of such a case is the
statement made recently by a geneticist who proposed the
cloning of human beings: "We are going to become one
with God. We are going to have almost as much knowledge
and almost as much power as God ... Cloning and the
reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in
becoming one with God - very simple philosophy."
[ 1 ]
Theology is secularized
when it rejects its essence, which is to lead man to
purification, illumination and deification (theosis),
when it loses its eschatological orientation, and when
it is historicized and made part of society. Moreover,
Theology is secularized when it is completely
overwhelmed by anxiety and insecurity in the face of
scientific argument or still yet when it uses the
methodology of Science to talk about God. In such cases
it creates problems in research. Indeed, if Theology
does not have clear orthodox criteria and sure
presuppositions then it has lost its mission.
[ 2 ]
All that follows will
show the confusion that is created, as well as the
different bounds and frameworks in which both Theology
and Science act respectively.
1. THE TWO KINDS OF
KNOWLEDGE AND THE TWO KINDS OF TRUTH ACCORDING TO ST.
The dialogue that took
place between St. Gregory Palamas and Barlaam, was also
an occasion, among other things, for the boundaries of
Orthodox Theology and of Science to be cleared up.
Barlaam, a representative
of Medieval Scholastic Theology, professed that the
truth, be it human or divine, is one and singular. He
accepted that the deifying words and the wisdom that is
contained in them look to the same purpose as those of
philosophy, which comes from worldly lessons, and aims
at finding the truth. Thus, he argued that the truth is
one, since this truth was given to the Apostles, whereas
we uncover it through study. Philosophy lessons (where
there is much talk about the creation of the world and
the redemption of man) also participate in the lifting
up of man to the level of "the immaterial archetypes of
the sacred symbols permanently."
[ 3 ]
St. Gregory Palamas,
using many quotes from Holy Scripture and the Fathers,
introduces the truth of two kinds of wisdom and of
knowledge. Throughout his work we see this essential
difference between divine and human knowledge underlined,
something which demonstrates that the truth is not
singular. Characteristically St. Gregory Palamas notes "Whence
it is shown that truth is of a double kind: one is the
result of God-inspired teaching, whereas the other is
neither necessary nor does it save, it seeks out secular
wisdom, but achieves much less."[
4 ] That means that one kind of truth,
which is the vision of God, is the work and result of
God-inspired teaching, whereas the other kind of wisdom,
which is worldly wisdom, is neither necessary nor does
it save, but neither is it fully accomplished. Saint
Gregory Palamas asks «What care does deifying wisdom
have for all the truth in the stars»
[ 5 ] i.e.
truth and knowledge about the stars does not interest
and does not benefit deifying wisdom, that is the living
experience of revelatory truth.
Certainly, St. Gregory
Palamas does not reject worldly wisdom which looks to
the knowledge of beings but argues that this human
knowledge neither constitutes nor aids in any way the
attainment of divine knowledge which is the result of
purification of the heart and illumination of man's
nous. With clarity of thought and revelatory wisdom St.
Gregory Palamas would write: «However the introduction
of secular philosophy for the knowledge of beings is not
entirely false, under some circumstances it could be
true, but this is not the knowledge of beings and the
wisdom that God gave to prophets and apostles. This is
the Holy Spirit. That the Egyptians and the Chaldeans
and the Hellenes are partakers of the Holy Spirit we
have never heard up until today.»[
6 ] That is to say, the use of worldly
philosophy to attain to the knowledge of beings is not
totally amiss. Indeed, with certain preconditions it
would also be true, but this is not the wisdom and
knowledge given by God to the Apostles and Prophets
This difference between
St. Gregory Palamas and Barlaam, in reality is the
difference between the Scholastic Theology of the West
and the Orthodox Theology of the East. Amongst the many
distinguishing points we can say that Western Scholastic
Theology, which was expressed by Barlaam, used a single
method both for created things and for the uncreated God.
This means that they tried to comprehend God with the
same method that they used to investigate creation and
natural phenomena, i.e. through reason. Illumination by
Divine Grace simply assists human reason to comprehend
concepts and objects. Whereas, taking the opposite view,
Orthodox Theology, as expressed by all the Holy Fathers,
including St. Gregory Palamas uses a double methodology
for God and creation. That is to say it uses reason to
investigate creation, the nature of beings, to examine
natural phenomena, while with the nous, which is
purified and illuminated it attains knowledge of God.
Thus, the method of the Fathers used for the knowledge
of God was experience.
We can define this
difference and codify it as St. Gregory Palamas did with
the phrases «dialectic» and «demonstrative syllogisms.»
This Saint developed the view that the dialectic method
of Barlaam (and the Scholastics) refers to the search
for possibilities and in general to all that concerns
created reality. By contrast the demonstrative method of
the hesychast Fathers, which bears a relationship to
things and to experience, refers to man's journey
towards deification (theosis).[
All this shows that
education according to the world - and this includes
Science - acts at one level, whereas knowledge of God,
i.e. the aim and end of Theology, acts at another. A
Science which tries to comprehend God with its own
methodology (reason), and a Theology which leaves behind
the hesychastic method, using reason for all matters
including God, are equally bankrupt. This is especially
the case with Theology, when it acts within the bounds
of reasoning, i.e. dialectical elaboration.
2. THE THEOLOGIAN AND THE
SCIENTIST IN RELATION TO GOD AND THE WORLD.
So that we can give
fuller expression to this differentiation between
Theology and Science, i.e. that they act on different
levels and within different bounds, let us personalize
the matter, that is to say, let us look at the
difference between the theologian and the scientist. I
consider all that Fr. John Romanides has said on the
matter to be significant and to the point. He sets down
four theological statements.
First. There is an
inextricable difference between God and creatures, since
there is no similarity between uncreated and created
nature. He writes that the Holy Fathers, who spoke from
their experience, taught that «between God and created
things there is no likeness at all, even though created
things were made by God and depend upon God. This means
that the truth about God and the truth about the nature
of the universe are not identified with one another,
even though one of them is dependent on the other.» It
is for this precise reason that Theology cannot be
identified with Science.
Second. Both the
theologian and the scientist have different kind of
knowledge. «The beholder of God knows God, whereas the
philosopher or the scientist investigates created things.»
This means that the philosopher and the scientist, in
that they investigate the world through scientific
method and philosophical imagination, cannot have the
same knowledge about God that the beholders of God, the
Prophets, Apostles and Saints do. The theologian,
however, may have knowledge about scientific matter and
become a scientist through scientific knowledge but not
through the vision of God. Likewise, the scientist can
also attain knowledge of God, not through his Science,
but through the orthodox method of knowledge of God (theognosia)
which is purification, illumination and deification
Third. The purpose and
work of the theologian and those of the scientist are
different. «The beholder of God knows how he will
prepare people for the vision of God. The scientist
knows how to teach his scientific method to his students.»
The theologian may also know the way to investigate
natural phenomena, but within the knowledge of Science,
as the Fathers of the Church did, just as a scientist
can become a beholder of God, not through his Science,
but through the vision of God.
Fourth. The theologian is
God-inspired regarding God, not however regarding
natural phenomena. «The beholder of God is God-inspired
and speaks steadfastly about God and leads straight
towards God, but he is not infallible in matters
concerning the applied and other Sciences, regarding
which he can only know as much as his contemporary
scientists.» If someone is not a beholder of God but a «theologian»
in the academic sense of the word, then he «can maintain
scientific nonsense, but only of philosophers, in as
much as he departs from the strict theological method of
the beholders of God.» Likewise, the scientist is also a
specialist and is knowledgeable of natural phenomena.
When, however, he departs from his strict scientific
method and confuses his findings about the nature of the
world with his views about God, then he says «irresponsible
things.»[ 8 ]
I think the boundaries
are clear and all that has been set down has spelt out
the topic of the work and mission of both the scientist
and the theologian respectively. Both are authentic when
they work within their bounds, but when they depart from
them and enter each other's sphere without the necessary
presuppositions and rules that presuppose each framework
and each area, then they become ridiculous.
In general, the
theologian may become a scientist, but through Science,
and the scientist may become a theologian, but through
Theology. The theologian cannot play the scientist
through his Theology, nor can the scientist play the
theologian through his Science.
The great Fathers of the
Church were theologians through the experience of
revelation and they even became scientists through
conscientious study and learning of human Science. That
is why they are whole.
3. THE POSITION OF ST.
BASIL THE GREAT REGARDING THEOLOGY AND SCIENCE
After all that has been
said, I think that it would be good to refer at some
length to St. Basil the Great's stance towards the
Science of his time. This stance and how he faced the
aspects of scientific data of his time in a theological
manner can be clearly seen in his work «Homilies on the
Six Days of Creation» known as the Hexameron. Indeed, in
this book we can ascertain what that era's scientific
views about the world and all that exists in it were, as
well as how this knowledge can be utilized by a
theologian. St. Basil managed to collect all of the
contemporary knowledge of Science back then on the
subject of cosmology into a few speeches.
a) Firstly, we should
point out that St. Basil had studied all the branches of
Science of his time. From testimonies by St. Gregory the
Theologian and from reports by Socrates and Sozomenos we
know that he attained the best possible knowledge of
Science of the time.
After receiving his
general education first from his father, and then in
Caesarea of Cappadocia, he went on to study under the
significant pagan philosopher Libanios, most probably in
Constantinople. Yet it was Athens that would be the
principal city to initiate him into Science and
philosophy. We are informed that four schools of
philosophy operated in Athens during the fourth century,
as well as many centers of rhetoric and some of medicine.
There were many schools, and each school was directed by
one teacher, who gathered around him a certain number of
students, which did not exceed a couple of dozen or so,
some of them stayed by their teachers for a longer
period a associates or assistants.
In Athens, St. Basil
received lessons from the teachers Himerios and
Proairesios. In total he pursued all the Sciences of
that era, such as rhetoric, which was considered to be
the queen of Sciences, literature, history, philosophy
in its four branches (namely ethics, theoretics, logic
and dialectic), astronomy, geometry, arithmetic and
medicine. Indeed, he knew each and every one of the
Sciences so well that someone could spend his whole life
studying just one of them and still not know it as well
as he knew them all. All this knowledge of his clearly
shows up in the commentary he makes on the Hexameron. He
stayed in Athens for four or five years.
[ 9 ]
b) In the Hexameron St.
Basil continually refers to the views of the
philosophers and the scientists on different
cosmological subjects. Naturally, he never mentions
their names but they become known through the views
presented. For example in analyzing the phrase «In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth,» he
refers to the views of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes,
Pythagoras, Empedocles, Xenophanes, Heraclitus,
Leucippus, Democritus and Aristotle.
[ 10 ]
Amongst other things he
writes «The wise men of the Greeks have taken much
trouble to explain nature, and not one of their reasons
has remained firm and unshaken, each one being
overturned by its successor. It is not our job to refute
them; they are adequately able to overthrow one another
by themselves.» [
11 ] Others accepted that a thinking cause
presides for the generation of all things (Anaxagoras of
Clazomenae). Again others held that the foundations of
the world are material elements (Anaximander, Anaximenes,
Empedocles, Heraclitus). Yet again others believed that
all of visible nature was made up of «atoms, and
indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts,» and that the
relationship between them contribute towards birth and
corruption, but also in the sustenance of the world (Leucippus,
Democritus and so on).
[ 12 ]
It is significant that St.
Basil refers to the views of the philosophers about the
creation and sustenance of the world, but that he
assesses them creatively both as a theologian and as a
scientist. Sometimes he accepts them, sometimes he
comments on them in a theological manner and sometimes
he gives his own different interpretation. Thus, the
work of St. Basil does not consist of a simple
juxtaposition of scientists' views, but is a creative
contribution. This, of course, is a consequence of the
fact that St. Basil the Great knew the different
opinions of his time very well, since he had spent long
years in study, but also since he had had revelatory
I would like to mention
two characteristic examples:
The first example is on
the matter of allegory, the method by which some, like
Philo the Jew, interpreted the Pentateuch. St. Basil
writes: «I know the laws of allegory, though not so much
from my own research, but rather from the works of
others.» He means Philo and others who, as he goes on to
explain, did not accept the usual meaning of the text,
but said that water is not water, but some other nature,
and that the plant and the fish is interpreted according
to their own theory and concepts. They did the same
thing regarding reptiles and wild beasts. However, St.
Basil does not pursue them in such fantasies. He writes:
«When I hear grass, I think of grass; and the plant, the
fish, the wild beast and the domesticated animal. I
accept all of them just as they are spoken.» Also, based
on revealed truth he argues that, «although many have
maintained much about the earth, whether it is a sphere
or a cylinder, or if it resembles a disc and is equally
rounded in all parts, or if it is in the form of a
cradle and is hollow in the middle,»
[ 13 ]
despite this, «it will not lead me to call our own
creation account of the world more dishonorable, since
the servant of God Moses never spoke about shapes.»
[ 14 ]
The second example comes
from the interpretation of the verse «Let the earth
bring forth each living creature after its kind, cattle
and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their
kind.» [ 15 ]
Some people of St. Basil's era maintained that during
the rainy season the earth produces grasshoppers,
countless flying insects, as well as mice and frogs. St.
Basil was prepared to accept this theory, that all these
come from the earth, but he gives a theological
interpretation, supporting the view, (which we will see
below) that all this is the result of the energy of God,
which exists in creation and not the natural attributes
of creation. He writes, «This command has continued and
earth does not cease to serve the Creator.»
[ 16 ]
Thus, it is this uncreated energy of God, which exists
in creation that continually creates and produces
animals and insects. Here we clearly see the creative
and theological approach to the beliefs of that time.
But St. Basil does not
only interpret the scientific views of his time
according to theological presuppositions. He does
something else which is equally important. He interprets
the phrases of Holy Scripture, i.e. the experience of
Revelation, via the views of Science. In analyzing the
phrase «God made the firmament,» he makes broad
observations, trying to give the correct interpretation.
Having mentioned various verses from Scripture, at the
end he says that by the expression «firmament,» with
which God «divided the waters which were under the
firmament from the waters which were above the firmament,»
means a firm material, which is capable of retaining
fluid and liquid water. He also makes further comments
that we are unable to present here.
[ 17 ]
c) We must, however, look
at the theological approach to the Creation of the world.
St. Basil is not a theoretical secular scientist, but a
great theologian. Thus, he is not satisfied with a
presentation of the views of Science, but often, as seen
in his works, he speaks theologically. He sets down the
necessary theological presuppositions. Christian
cosmology, something that differentiates Christian
cosmology from any other kind of cosmology.
The first theological
principle is that there is a difference between the
Creator and creation, between the uncreated God and
created nature. When interpreting the phrase «In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth» he
makes some excellent observations.
Creation has a precise
origin; i.e. it was created at a precise time and,
indeed, was the result of a creative principle, God. He
speaks about a «principle of good order of visible
things.» [ 18 ]
Besides the world was «not created spontaneously»
[ 19 ]
Thus he talks of a precise origin «so that some will not
think that it is without a beginning.»
[ 20 ] The
view that Creation has an exact origin leads us to the
conclusion that visible things do have a cause. «Do not
imagine, O man! that the visible is without a beginning.»
[ 21 ]
Moreover, this infers that creation has a precise end. «If
there is a beginning in time, do not doubt of the end.»[
The view that the world
has an origin leads us to seek out what the origin of
the world is. The creative origin of the world is God
Who is without beginning. «If then the world has a
beginning, and if it has been created, ask who gave it
this beginning, and who was the Creator.»
[ 23 ]
Indeed, God the Creator of the World is «fortunate
nature, abundant goodness, the beloved of all endowed
with reason, the most desirable beauty, the origin of
beings, the source of life, the noetic light,
[ 24 ]
However, for man to know God he must purify his flesh
from passions. [ 25
Hence, we see here that
St. Basil makes the clear distinction between uncreated
and created, between that which is without beginning and
that which has a beginning, between God and the world.
This is very important, so that there will be no
confusion between the Creator and the creation.
The second theological
principle is that the world was created from nothing,
i.e. not from material that did exist. That God created
the world from nothing, means that he did not create it
from preexisting ideas, nor from pre-existing material.
This position shakes all pagan cosmological principles;
that is to say, it shakes the foundations of classical
St. Basil says that all
skills and arts are subsequent to matter, and were
introduced into life for our needs. God, however, before
making the visible things «having formed in His mind
(nous) and determining to bring non-beings into genesis,
in the same way He conceived of the world as it ought to
be.» With this aim he created matter, fire, water and
air and united these dissimilar things in an
indissoluble bond of fellowship in one communion and
harmony. [ 26 ]
He adheres to this point in his other talks. «Everything
was brought from non-being into being at the command of
God.» [ 27 ]
The third theological
principle is that God manages the world with his
uncreated energies. In other words, God did not just lay
down a few natural laws and then abandon the world to
its fate, but he manages it personally. This is
important because it shows that the energies of God
exist throughout creation, but, of course, creation can
not partake of the essence of God.
The way in which God-beholding
Moses presents the creation of the world, and the way in
which St. Basil the Great interprets it, show the
creative intervention of God through His energies. In
interpreting the verse «And the Spirit of God moved upon
the face of the waters,»
[ 28 ] he
says that God with His Word warmed and quickened the
nature of the water, just like a bird hatches its eggs.
Interpreting the Psalm «I bear up the pillars of it» (Ps.
75:3/74:4 Sept.) he says that this means the cohesive
power of the earth, i.e. the power that holds the earth
and, of course, that means that all is held «by the
power of the Creator.»
[ 29 ]
Not only was everything
created by the uncreated energy of God but also
everything is administered by the power of God. God's
voice then, saying «Let the earth bring forth grass»
shows that this command became a law of nature «that
left to the earth the power to generate and be fruitful
from then on.»[ 30
] St. Basil gives such great importance to the
teaching that the energy of God exists throughout
creation, so that he believes that the commandment of
God fills everything and even reaches to the smallest
details, since even «a fish does not refute God's Law.»[
expression «Let the earth bring forth each living soul (Septuagint)
after its kind» he objects to the Manichaeans who
believed that the soul existed throughout the earth and
taught that this living soul was the divine word which
constituted the nature of things made.
[ 32 ]
The fourth theological
principle set forth by St. Basil is that studying the
world, creation, is not self-serving. Since, however,
the world was created by God and is sustained by his
uncreated energy, it is necessary for man to lift up his
mind from the visible to the invisible, from creation to
the Creator. In one of his homilies he says that God
gave us intelligence so that «from the smallest objects
of creation we may learn the great wisdom of the artisan.»
[ 33 ]
Illumination from God is sought, so that from what we
see we may apprehend the invisible, and from the
greatness of the beauty of creation we may attain a
suitable perception of the Creator.
[ 34 ]
Thus, through creation we can gain a sense of God's
grandeur. If creation is idolized, i.e. if our mind goes
no further than the admiration of created things, then
that constitutes making creation into God, it means
The fifth theological
principle. When St. Basil the Great studies the various
phenomena that occur in nature, even the behavior of
various kinds of animals, birds and insects, he leads
his thoughts to spiritual teachings which aim at
benefiting man spiritually. For example, looking at the
cases of the hedgehog and the ant, who take the trouble
to do different tasks which will be of benefit during
difficult times, he says that this teaches man to
provide for the future. «So that we also should not
attach ourselves to this present life, but give all our
attention to the age that is to come.» Therefore, living
within time, we prepare for the eternal reward. With
this teaching it becomes apparent that the saints do not
confine their life within history, but they also extend
it to eschatology or, to be precise, we should say that
they let eschatology regulate history.
In general, we should
note that St. Basil interprets the creation of the world
mainly on the basis of the revelatory teaching of Moses
and of his own tradition of interpretation, which is a
fruit of his own experience. However, he also uses
examples from pagan philosophers, and indeed sometimes
he accepts these examples as they were formulated,
sometimes giving them a different (wider) interpretation
and sometimes rejecting them. This does not happen
arbitrarily but on the basis of the theological
principles, which we outlined above and which refer to
the ontology of nature, i.e., to the One who is nature's
creator, and to how he has created and sustained the
world. He uses his basic theological principles on these
matters without fail. In addition, he accepts everything
that is related to scientific matters, provided that it
does not disturb these principles. As we saw above, he
is prepared to accept certain opinions of that time,
according to which the earth produces frogs and cicadas.
However, he gives them a theological interpretation in
saying that they are not produced by the earth acting
spontaneously on its own, but by the energy of God which
is in earth, since the creation. This tactic of St.
Basil indicates the way which should be followed today
in relation to contemporary scientific matters.
4. A CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLE
FROM THE FIELD OF GENETICS.
The way in which Orthodox
Theology should operate, how it should judge Science and
how it should interpose its own voice, can be seen from
the examination of the case of cloning. I would like to
continue with a brief account, to show how a scientist
and a theologian operate in this case.
It is well known that
when we talk about cloning, in reality we refer to the
transplantation of genetic material (DNA) from a cell to
an ovary that has already had its own genetic material
removed. This new material is then implanted into a
third organism. It is a new discovery of scientific
research that began with irrational animal and is
intended to continue with rational animals endowed with
souls, that is, to be introduced to human beings. It is
a discovery that has terrorized many theologians, but it
has also made scientists arrogant, filled with hubris,
in the original Greek sense of the word.
The reaction to this new
method of producing live organisms, especially of human
beings, is varied. A theologian may moralize and an "atheist"
may theologize. I am of the opinion that we theologians
are given this opportunity to avoid moralizing and to
face such cases theologically as the Holy Fathers of the
For example, I can
mention that I read texts by «theologians» who in facing
the challenge of contemporary Science on the matter of
genetics and especially cloning, restrict the discussion
solely to the subject of normative rules that must be
put to scientists when they approach such a serious
matter. There is no doubt, of course, that theologians
must also do that; they must make scientists aware of
their responsibilities. But that can be also done by
scientists who today do not necessarily come from the «domain»
of the Church, yet talk of «ethical-normative» rules,
which must be placed within research, so that we do not
end up with the birth of monstrosities and indeed with
fascist and racist mentalities.
Moreover, while there are
theologians and clerics who moralize, there are also
intellectuals and thinkers who theologize. One such
example is the famous Italian philosopher Umberto Eco,
and it appears in an article of his in the Italian
periodical L' Espresso with the title: «A crazy
scientist has decided to clone me.» I will cite certain
opinions of this great contemporary philosopher, since
they are expressive, and show how one can theologize and
philosophize on this matter.
Eco writes: «A human
being is not just its genes, but something much greater.
Upbringing, education, social and cultural environment
all play a tremendous role.» Referring to the hypothesis
that some crazy scientist has decided to create his
likeness he writes: «It would have my hair, my eyes, the
same tendencies toward sickness, but Umberto the second
will have grown up on a farm in the Mid-West. I, on the
other hand, grew up in a middle-class family, in a
provincial Italian city in the thirties and forties. I
had a Catholic upbringing in fascist Italy, and saw
television for the first time when I was twenty years
old. What will Umberto the second be like me at my age?
Certainly something different from me.» Having
emphasized that cloning signifies a turn in Science and
ethics, he points out that the human race must oppose «the
diligent attempts of scientific fantasy, which is ruled
by a naive materialistic determinism, according to which
man's fate is determined exclusively by his genetic
inheritance ... As if upbringing, the environment, the
misfortunes of probability, the caresses and the slaps
from parents bore no relation at all.»
[ 35 ]
In such opinions one sees
an attempt to escape from the moral and deontological
canons of behavior, which certain theologians have shut
themselves into, in their attempt to say something about
Science's new achievement.
In continuing, I would
like to present seven theological positions on the
subject of the prospect of human cloning.
1. Man, according to
Orthodox teaching, is a psychosomatic being and, of
course, he is formed according to the image and likeness
of God. He is clearly distinct from animals, because he
has a soul according to essence and according to energy.
This means that the human being can in no way whatsoever
be considered as a «laboratory rat» nor as a breathing
factory of living organs ready for transplantation for
the sake, indeed, of commercial gain. In such cases the
pinnacle of creation, the recapitulation of the
intelligent (noetic) and sensitive world, is turned into
a living accessory, a manifestation of the theory that
the human being is a «tool with a soul!»
2. Man is a creature, and,
thus, is defined as created, whereas God is uncreated.
There is a tremendous difference between created and
uncreated. It means that God creates out of non-being
out of non-existent material, while man can create
something out of existing material that has already been
created by God. Thus, even if there are scientists who
would proceed to clone humans, with frightening results,
they cannot be identified with God, for the precise
reason that they will be working with already existent
genetic material, and they would not create something
out of non-being.
3. According to the
teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, God's life-creating
energy can be found within the whole of creation, and,
we could even add, in cells and in DNA too. A wealth of
information regarding this truth can be found in both St.
Basil the Great's Homilies on the Hexameron, as well as
in the works of St. Gregory of Nyssa. Therefore,
whatever happens within creation, even when man
interferes in an arrogant manner, it happens with the
approval or the concession of the will of God.
4. In the Orthodox Church
we talk about man as a person. This means that he has
uniqueness, freedom and love. The term person refers to
man being according to God's likeness and image, and of
course, is extended to the whole being. With cloning it
is possible to form externally similar people, who will
have the same kinds of reaction on certain points,
something we can see in sibling twins. Yet we are unable
to abolish the person - the hypostatic other-ness of a
particular human being - with his own special mode of
love and freedom. Each human being has a distinctive
hypostatic mark, a variety of degrees of love, even up
to self-sacrifice, as well as the ability to express
itself in freedom positively or negatively.
5. Genetic Science, and
of course, human cloning cannot free man from the
mortality with which he is born. Science may cure
certain hereditary diseases and can extend life, but it
cannot help man overcome death. Man's basic problem,
however, is not the extension of biological life, nor is
it the delaying of death, but it is overcoming death.
That is the work of Orthodox Theology.
6. These contemporary
challenges give us the opportunity to determine exactly
what life is and exactly what death is. It is a fact
that man is greatly troubled by this existential
question. However many similarities may exist, bodily,
psychologically and so on, however many transplants take
place, man will still feel the unconquerable need to
answer these questions. Scientists cannot give exact
answers. And even if they try to do so, even then their
answers will be incomplete. Man asks, «Why was I born?
Why did they give birth to me without asking?» This
problem will become even greater when he gets informed
that he was created by cloning and without the loving
care of a mother and father. In addition man is
concerned with the question of what is the point of his
existence, why does he exist. The greatest question is
found within the framework of death. Many young people
ask, «Why should death exist? Why do my loved ones die?
Where do they go after death? Why should we come into
life and then after a short while disappear, if there is
no life after death? And if life does exist after death,
then why should I die and where do I go to?» Orthodox
Theology answers these questions whereas Science cannot
give any answers.
7. Even if a human being
were to be cloned, it will still he created, and would
be endowed with a precise origin, corruptibility and
freedom, which will not necessarily function positively
as happens with uncreated nature, but will also function
negatively, and it will have a biological end. It could
of course, as something created, also have an end to its
very existence, but that does not happen because God
wants it to be immortal by grace. Within the Church
however, we talk about another form of «cloning» which
Science cannot give to man. With the incarnation of
Christ, that which was created was united with that
which was uncreated. Thus, each human being has been
given the possibility of acquiring experience of the
union by Grace of the created nature with the uncreated
energy of God in Christ Jesus. The Saints acquired this
experience, thus becoming uncreated and immortal by
Grace. The Uncreated and Immortal was «transplanted»
into them, and they gained experience of immortal life
even from this biological life. The problem, then, is
not bodily or genetic transplantation, but the «transplantation»
of God within our hypostasis/person. It is such
experience that gives meaning to man's life. Therefore,
contemporary Science, and indeed genetics, gives us the
opportunity to concern ourselves with the eternal
questions which have concerned the human spirit, from
ancient Greek philosophy until today; questions which
were answered by the incarnation of Christ. We must look
at anthropological problems through Theology, Divine
Economy, Soteriology and Eschatology. It is an
opportunity for us to guide man's search for the deeper
and higher things of life.
The subject of the
Orthodox Theology's encounter with Science is large
enough and cannot be answered within the time limits of
a lecture. Here we simply presented some problems. The
fact remains that we must definitely set the boundaries
between Science and Orthodox Theology. The scientists
should not approach theological and existential
questions using scientific methodology, because they
will bring tremendous disappointment to man who is
searching for something different. Neither should
theologians approach scientific reality, leaving behind
the higher things of spiritual life. It is impossible
for the theological and existential message to be
secularized and brought into society. Science answers
the question of what the world we see is. Theology
answers the question of who the Creator of the world is.
Science researches the subject of the behavior and
function of created things.
Theology sees the energy
of God that --------(missing word page 146) the world.
Science tries to heal the sicknesses that make man
suffer. Theology helps man transcend his creatureliness
and mortality. Science answers the question of how
beings and created things were made and created.
Theology answers the question of what is the aim and end
of creation. Anyway, in the Orthodox Church we look for
«new heavens and a new earth» (II Peter 3:13). Let
Science occupy itself with the aged earth and the aged
heaven. We, as theologians and clerics, look for that «blessed
hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and
Savior Jesus Christ» (Titus 2:13).
1 ] BBC News - Wednesday January
7th, 1998 -reported in Greek in the «Eleutherotypia»
Newspaper January 8th, 1998.
2 ] See the Greek Magazine
Diabasi (=Passage), Nov.-Dec. 1997, pp. 5-7.
3 ] Translated from the original
Greek text published in Gregory Palamas: Works Vol.
2, in the series Ellenes Pateres tes Ekklesias,
Thessaloniki 1987, p. 268.
4 ] ibid. p. 270.
5 ] ibid. p. 272.
6 ] ibid.
7 ] See Nikos Matsoukas: «The
double methodology of Gregory Palamas,» in Greek, in
the volume Papers of the Theological Conference in
honor and memory of our Father among the Saints
Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki,
published by the Sacred Metropolis of Thessaloniki
1986, pp. 75 onwards. [ in Greek]
8 ] John Romanides: Romiosyni,
Published by Poumaras, Thessaloniki 1975, pp. [ in
9 ] See Panagiotis Christou, O
Megas Basileios, Patriarchal Institute for Patristic
Studies, Thessaloniki 1978, pp. 22-23.
10 ] Translated from the
original Greek text of Basil the Great, Homilies on
the Hexameron, published in the series Ellenes
Pateres tes Ekklesias, Vol. 4, p. 28, footnote 1.
11 ] Ibid.
12 ] Ibid.
13 ] Ibid. pp. 338-340.
14 ] Ibid. p. 240.
15 ] Ibid.
16 ] Ibid. p. 344.
17 ] Ibid. pp. 112 ff.
18 ] Ibid. p. 24.
19 ] Ibid.
20 ] Ibid. p. 30.
21 ] Ibid. p. 32.
22 ] Ibid. p. 34.
23 ] Ibid. p. 30.
24 ] Ibid. p. 32.
25 ] S o o n
26 ] S o o n
27 ] S o o n
28 ] S o o n
29 ] S o o n
30 ] S o o n
31 ] S o o n
32 ] S o o n
33 ] S o o n
34 ] S o o n
35 ] S o o n