Science and Orthodox Theology 

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

(Romans 1:20, NIV) 




  • The Dialogue between Orthodox Theology and Science as Explication of the Human Condition
    Alexei Nesteruk (read abstract)
    Univesrity of Portsmouth, UK
    St. Petersburg State Marine Technical University, Russia

    The paper discusses the philosophical sense of the dialogue between science and theology. It starts with the recognition that the foundation of both science and theology originates in human beings, having an ambiguous position in the universe that cannot be explicated on metaphysical grounds but can be interpreted theologically. The dialogue between science and theology demonstrates that the difference in hermeneutics of representation of the world in the phenomenality of objects and the inaugural events of human life and religious experience pertains to the basic characteristic of the human condition and that the intended overcoming of this difference under the guise of the ‘dialogue’ represents, in fact, an exis- tentially untenable enterprise. The paradoxical position of humanity in the world (being an object in the world and subject for the world) is treated as being the cause in the split between science and theology. Since, according to modern philosophy, no reconciliation between two opposites in the hermeneutics of the subject is possible, the whole issue of the facticity of human subjectivity as the sense-bestow- ing centre of being acquires theological dimensions, requiring new developments in both theology and philosophy. The intended overcoming of the unknowability of man by himself, tacitly attempted through the ‘reconciliation’ of science and theology (guided by a purpose to ground man in some metaphysical substance), is not ontologically achievable, but demonstrates the working of formal purposefulness (in the sense of Kant). Then the dialogue between theology and science can be considered a teleological activity representing an open-ended hermeneutics of the human condition.


    In any possible discussion of the relationship between theology and science (if theology is understood as experience of God through life and the physical sciences as explorations of the world within the already given life) there a question arises: What is the model that could best describe the relation between the experiential aspects of life and the knowledge of the world that positions humanity as one thing among others? In other words, if the Divine is perceived as the realm of the transcendent out of which life originates, whereas the operational realm of the physical sciences is related to the created world, the mediation between theology and science shouldde facto become an outward scientific explication of the meaning of the human condition in communion with the giver of life. This is a different perspective on the

  • Actor-Network Theory and Byzantine Philosophy
    Georgi Kapriev (read abstract)
    Professor at the St Kliment Ochridski University, Sofia, Bulgaria

    The text offers a detailed reflection on the results of almost 20 years of work focusing on the paradigm of Actor-Network-Theory (ANT), including the application of concepts and methods inherent in Byzantine philosophy. The motivation for such reflection is based on the opportunity to expand and systematize latest research insights on the same topic by Ivan Chalakov and Stoyan Tanev. The starting point is the attempt to unfold the sociological explanations of phenomena such as endurance, resistance and innovation, which are difficult to explain through the paradigms of classical sociology. The suggestedanalysis adopts concepts such as essence-power-energy, hexis, perichōrēsis, hypostasis, prosōpon andbody, to refine some of the positions characteristic of the ANT paradigm and propose new ones that allow to problematize the principle of symmetry, the understating of initiative, essence and the figure of the actor. The developed point of view is demonstrated by analyzing some of the paradoxes inherent in the understanding of the human hypostasis and the questions emerging from the theoretical prescriptions of transhumanism.


    Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) was articulated in the 1970s by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, and their followers. It abandoned the ‘Cartesian’ subject-object scheme and challenged the existing sociological concepts of activity. Its emphasis is on the network interactivity between human and non-human beings. At the very beginning of the twenty-first century, Ivan Tchalakov and I initiated a research project focusing on exploring the ANT paradigm with a focus on social phenomena that were, in fact, unexplained by sociology at that time, such as endurance, persistence, resis- tance, and innovation. The key elements of our theoretical apparatus were based on the teachings and concepts of Byzantine philosophers. These concepts are: es- sence-power-energy, hexis, perichōrēsis, hypostasis, prosōpon, body. The results of our research problematized (by questioning the existing typology of social actions) the ANT concept of ‘translation’, which is used by ANT scholars as a replacement of the concept of ‘action’, and relativized the idea of ‘symmetry’, which is absolu- tized by the representatives of ANT. The application of the Byzantine conceptual apparatus opened new horizons, helped articulating new problems and challenges, opened new perspectives, as well as made it possible to refine and deepen the focus of the research project.

  • The Cosmos in the Bible and science
    Georgios J. Gounaris (read abstract)
    Professor Emeritus, Department of Theoretical Physics, Aristotle’s University of Thessaloniki

    In this article I present the Biblical description of the Creation of the Cosmos in parallel with the descrip- tion of contemporary science. The first part deals with the events that started the whole Universe. These are the events that took place during the first day of the Bible and the night that followed it. The first day begins with darkness, which is subsequently dissolved by a bright light that initially shines like in a hot summer noon. In the sequel, this light evolves and eventually disappears through an impressive evening, after about twenty million years. Then comes the first night that ends after about nine billion years, with the emergence of the primitive Earth. The second part of Creation describes how an earth observer would have viewed the formation of the Earth and its waters and the appearance of the living beings and man. The second to the sixth days appear to be merely long periods of time. They do not have a day-night structure like the first day.

    The scientific understanding of Creation perceptions I am presenting here is based on the assumption that the forces we see today in Nature were created at the very beginning and have remained unchanged ever since. If we do not make this assumption, we cannot say anything. The few measurements we can make agree with this assumption.

    For measuring time, we use the clock of General Relativity and what is known from astrophysical measurements. Before Creation began, time as we know it did not yet exist. Space did not yet exist either, and the Universe was just ‘nothing’.1 From this nothing therefore began the creation of space (the heavens of the Bible) and the emergence of the primitive matter in it.

    Before moving on, however, I will mention that until the early twentieth century, the common scientific belief was that the Universe had no beginning. Space was believed to be eternal, as well as matter. It was not until after 1920 that it was discov- ered that the Universe indeed had a beginning.

    Let us start with the Biblical description of the first day.2

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and invisible and darkness covered the face of the deep. And the


    This is equivalent to the μη ὄν in Greek.


    New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The number after the name of any Bible book gives the chapter.

  • Quantum Physics and Christian Faith
    John Breck (read abstract)
    Professor emeritus, Saint-Sergius Theological Institute, Paris

    “Traditional” or “Orthodox” Christianity is founded on the conviction that God exists in the paradoxical state of “infinitely distant” yet “closer to us than our own heart.” That state is characterized by “superimposed” and “entangled” conditions that involve antinomies: God as both One and Three; Christ as both God and man; the Church as a fallen earthly institution and as a source of divine grace and life, etc. This article demonstrates the analogous relationships that exist between such elements of Christian faith and the domain of quantum mechanics. The presence and activity of God are seen in a new perspective, shaped by recent scientific discoveries concerning the microcosm. The world of the “very small” holds the key to a perception of God that reveals both His continuing creative work and His ineffable mystery.


    This text is adapted from a chapter of the book Beyond These Horizons. Quantum Physics and Christian Faith, published jointly by St. Sebastian Serbian Press, Alhambra, CA, and Kaloros Press, Wadmalaw Island, SC., 2019. The book itself is structured as a novel, with lectures given by a young professor of physics to a group of alumni of his university.

    God beyond Reality

    A prayer in the Orthodox Christian tradition describes the Holy Spirit as ‘everywhere present, filling all things’. It is that Spirit, who creates and sustains the underlying Reality—the transcendent Force or Field—that gives birth to both the virtual and the actualized aspects of the world we live in. Genesis declares that at the creation the Spirit ‘moved across the face of the waters’, bringing order, harmony, and beauty out of primeval chaos. That is, the Spirit ‘realizes’ or ‘actualizes’ the cosmos (from which we get our word ‘cosmetic’, implying order and beauty). In a Biblical perspective—the perspective held by traditional Christianity, based on individual and communal experience—the Spirit of God is the Spiritus creator, who relates to his creation in personal terms, terms of communion and love. This does not contradict the Biblical affirmations regarding the creative activity of Christ, the Son (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2–3), but rather complements them. Together with the Second Person of the triune Godhead, the Spirit creates, shapes, and directs all of reality toward its final end, which is eternal participation in divine Life (Rom 8:5–11). This is a trinitarian perspective.

  • Patristic Views On The Nature And Status Of Scientific Knowledge
    Jean-Claude Larchet (read abstract)
    Patristic scholar and theologian, France

    The Fathers have a variable approach to science. Science is often respected in its own method and in the knowledge that comes from it. Medical science, for example, was recognized very early in its autonomy. A Father like St Gregory of Nyssa, in the fourth century, had no difficulty in recognizing Hippocratic-Galenic medicine despite its pagan origin. For his part, St Gregory Palamas, in the fourteenth century, does not hesitate to affirm: ‘In matters of physiology, there is no dogma’, a liberal position, but only in appearance, because there is in the background the idea that scientific knowledge is relative and should be relativized as a mode of knowledge. If some Fathers admit the possibility, up to a certain point, of the use of reason (St Maximus the Confessor) or of logical reasoning (St Gregory Palamas) in the theological field, it is however commonly accepted that science remains limited to a knowledge of appearances only. This does not contradict the conception that current science has. On one hand, it defines itself as the study of phenomena (τα φαινόμενα, that is to say what appears to the senses or to the instruments of observation and measurement) and of their laws. On the other hand, the neo-Kantian conception of modern science, considers that the scientist knows reality only as it appears to him or her and as he or she theorizes it by reason. Then, science is not able to claim that knowledge, always relative, coincides with reality as it is in itself, the essence of being remaining forever inaccessible to this type of approach. From this point of view, some Fathers stress that the true knowledge of the nature of things is that of their logoi (St Maximus the Confessor), which is only possible by the intellect (νοῦς) in its contemplative function (θεωρία), which presupposes a whole spiritual preparation (ἄσκησις). Compared to this form of superior knowledge, scientific-type knowledge is, in the eyes of some Fathers (Isaac the Syrian) only a degenerate form of knowledge, implemented by fallen man as an ersatz to true spiritual knowledge, which he has lost and cannot easily recover.

    Introduction: Some remarks on methodology

    The subject I have chosen to deal with brings up some methodological problems that need to be examined.

    The first problem has to do with the idea of ‘scientific knowledge’ and therefore of ‘science’ itself. In this presentation, we understand the word science, a priori, in its modern, ordinary sense, that is, the commonly accepted definition: ‘knowledge of phenomena and their laws’, a rational, rigorous, coherent knowledge that, from the methodological point of view, implies in principle three stages: 1) observation,

  • Exploring Analogy of Debates to Approach the Encounter between Orthodox Theology and Quantum Physics
    Stoyan Tanev (read abstract)
    Associate Professor, Technology Innovation Management Program, Carleton University, Ottawa; Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Theology, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, and Faculty of Theology,
    Sofia University ‘St Kliment Ohridski’, Sofia, Bulgaria

    This article adopts the Analogical Comparative Theological Approach (ACTA) to explore the encounter between Orthodox theology and quantum physics. The ACTA approach integrates the intuitions of the an- alogical isomorphism and comparative theology methods by focusing on issues that are of high relevance for both theology and physics. The specific issues addressed here are the ones emerging within the context of two important debates: a) between St Gregory Palamas and Barlaam the Calabrian in the fourteenth century, and b) between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr in the twentieth century. The first debate refers to some of the key aspects of Orthodox theology and spirituality. The second debate is related to the never-ending challenges of the interpretation of quantum mechanics and the nature of physical reality. The analysis suggests that the controversial issues in the two debates are deeply rooted in disagreements about the nature of knowledge, the interplay between epistemological and ontologi- cal issues, the challenges of applying logical arguments, the role of apophaticism, the challenges of knowing and the ways these challenges affect the interpretation and sharing of human experience. The discussion of the role of apophaticism is of particular interest since it shows a common need of going beyond representation, assertion and negation by focusing on the epistemological conditions of knowledge emerging through union and participation. This need is more sharply expressed in Orthodox theology where the apophatic does not emerge as a comment on representation, but as an opportunity for participation. The fundamental presupposition of the article is that one can learn a lot about theology and quantum physics by adopting the ACTA exploratory lens to examine the potential similitudes between the ways theologians and physicists debate about their ways of knowing and the challenges of articulating their personal experience with reality. One of the key benefits of the suggested approach is its ability to examine similitudes between two so different domains of human experience – one based on Divinely revealed knowledge, the other on the proactive and dialogical human engagement with the deepest layers of physical nature. The study does not pretend to be conclusive. It should be considered as part of an ongoing reflection on the value of exploring the encounter between theology and physics.

  • Psychoanalysis And Eschatology
    Nikolaos Loudovikos (read abstract)
    Professor, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki Visiting Professor, University of Balamand, Lebanon
    Visiting Professor, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge

    After the arrival of psychoanalysis, nothing has remained untouched by it, and this is even more the case if we add Freud’s meta-psychological ambitions, which sought to explain even more broadly the phenomena present in the individual soul, such as culture, religion, art, etc. Theology in particular felt directly threatened by Freud’s militant atheism. Despite this fact, however, I would still hazard saying that at the deeper level of ontological presuppositions and consequences, psychoanalysis has yet to receive proper theological treatment or be given sufficient interpretation.

    Theological Hermeneutics and Depth Psychology1

    A century after the publication of the first edition of The Interpretation of Dreams(1900), it would merely be to repeat a truism to claim today that not only the method of investigation of psychoanalysis but also its terminology have come to permeate the whole of Western humanistic thought, a unique phenomenon in the intellectual history of the modern period. Despite initial objections, the new Freudian ‘science’ has proved to have established itself not only in the realm of experts but in the common perception of modern man about himself. The popularisation of psycho- analysis has already produced a veritable mythology about the soul, and it is not at all rare to hear terms taken from the first and second Freudian local description of the psyche thrown around in public as common sense and self-evident.

    At the same time, much water has flown since then in the river once carved out by Freud. Many of his views have been reconsidered, and ‘depth psychology’ is now carried along countless new hermeneutical channels and ‘schools’, none of which can lay claim to very great success in their attempts to develop the ‘science of the unconscious’. Of course, there has been no lack of attempts to ‘return to Freud’ and his ‘holy’ texts, usually of varying levels of inspiration and accompanied by radical hermeneutical revisions, either at the level of theory or of clinical practice, which is only natural given that the latter constitutes the goal of the former.


    A paper given at the International Conference ‘Orthodox Theology and Psychotherapy’ in Aliartos, Greece on 1–5 October 2003. Published in Greek, as part of my book Psychoanalysis and Orthodox Theology: on Desire, Catholicity, and Eschatology, (Αθήνα: Αρμός, 2003). Translated in English by Vincent DeWeese.

  • Theology and the Discovery of the Unconscious: Preliminary Remarks
    Nikolaos Loudovikos (read abstract)
    Professor, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki Visiting Professor, University of Balamand, Lebanon
    Visiting Professor, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge

    The most recent relevant discussion seems to involve, perhaps unavoidably, a theological account of the Unconscious, which lies behind almost all concepts on the adoption of which concepts psychoanalysis depends. In the present paper I will limit myself to studying some important books that show the current status of relevant research, and then I will attempt to offer some more, though still preliminary, theological remarks.

    In my book entitled Psychoanalysis and Orthodox Theology: On Desire, Catholicity, and Eschatology,1 I ventured to search for the uncovering of a possible spiritual dimension of psychoanalysis that somehow ‘correlates’ with fundamental theological notions. For this purpose, I confined myself to what are in my view three of the most important and common concepts, considered bridges between theology and psychoanalysis: First, that of Desire as it is described in its subjective functioning according to Lacan, or, in theological terms, of natural will (as formulated by St Maximus the Confessor), which has to be rooted in nature as an expression of its internal life , instead of being just a vehicle of the intellect. In this way it can express human desire as the pure yearning for unity, both internal and external, which can hold all things together, an ontological unity that can be properly expressed by the theological notion of consubstantiality.2

    Second, the concept of Catholicity, which I called ‘Inter-Intra-co-Being’, developed as a theological commentary on the psychoanalytic experience of inter-subjectivity, where the pan-unity of all things (co-being) takes place within the


    Αθήνα: Αρμός, 2003.


    Regarding the concept of consubstantiality, see in my book Analogical identities: The Creation of the Christian Self. Beyond Spirituality and Mysticism in the Patristic Era, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2019), 183: ‘The achievement of the of nature is, of course, the work of Christ, who draws together the ontological gaps which segment the relationship of created things between themselves and God, effecting this thereafter in the Church through the mysteries, as “Eucharistic Ontology” of the entry from now of beings into the last things of the Kingdom. As regards the will, from the point of view of the believer, the manner in which this consubstantiality emerges, which Christ Himself activates eucharistically in the Holy Spirit, is a bond of the personal will towards others, as a relationship “bringing all, through the one logos of creation to the one cause of nature” (Maximus the Confessor, To Thalassius, PG 90, 724C-725A), i.e. to consubstantiality’ .

  • Ways of Comprehending
    Athanasios S. Fokas (read abstract)
    Director of the Legendary Program in Mathematics, University of Cambridge, UK, Adjunct Professor, School of Engineering, University of South California, USA

    This paper is the Prologue of the forthcoming book Ways of Comprehending, by A.S. Fokas (World Scientific, 2022): This book is dedicated to my three children and to all young people in the hope that it will offer them the happiness and personal fulfilment that follows from acquiring an understanding of the origin of their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

    The search for understanding gives rise to deep admiration for the immense wisdom and beauty of Nature, and in particular for its greatest achievement: the human brain. Writing this book, I felt deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of being able to enjoy a plethora of complex and multifaceted creations of Nature and humanity. I hope, and expect, that those who read this volume will experience similar feelings.

    ‘Unification’ and ‘analogical thinking’ are central themes of this book. In this connection, it is worth noting that the completion of the formalism that unifies the four fundamental forces of nature, the gravitational, electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions, still stands as the holy grail of physics. By analogy, it is natural to attempt to integrate the biological and cultural ‘forces’ dictating life. In this volume, an effort is made to explore this unification.

    By analysing fundamental neuronal mechanisms, it will become clear that the human brain is predisposed to seek knowledge and beauty, without the artificial distinction between sciences and humanities. It is argued that such a grand quest requires an interdisciplinary, integrative approach. Furthermore, it is suggested that this search is facilitated by employing the notions of cognition, computability,creativity, and culture. The necessity for such a unified approach follows from the insight that everything is related to everything else. Perhaps no one expressed this fact better than Leonardo da Vinci, the embodiment of interdisciplinarity:

    ‘Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects with everything else’.

    A crucial part of an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge and culture is the appreciation that life generously provides many sources of pleasure and satisfaction, beyond the utilization, efficiency, power, and beauty of technological creations. Indeed, in life there also exists that which, according to Ludwig Wittgenstein, ‘cannot

  • Evolution, Genetics, and Nature: Implications for Orthodox
    Gayle E. Woloschak (read abstract)
    Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

    In the science-religion community much effort is placed on doing ‘evolution apologetics — i.e., defending evolution against creationism or intelligent design or some other form of fundamentalist perspective on human origins. This article will not engage in the usual apologetics as that has been done elsewhere (1–3) in depth.1 Instead, this work will attempt to discuss evolution from the perspective of the implications it has for how we think about humanity now and in the future.

    Life Is at Which Evolves

    There are many definitions of life—that which is capable of reproduction, that which can metabolize, etc. One definition that seems fitting in this article is ‘that which evolves’. Evolution was first defined in biology as a process by which natural selection chooses those species that are most fit to survive in their current environment. Biological evolution also implies that survival will permit procreation where the next generation will largely resemble the parental organism(s) that survived. The conveyers of evolution are genes, fragments of DNA that code for proteins that function in cells. Changes in genetic material are called mutations. On the level of organism, mutations can be beneficial, harmful, or neutral. Mutations can be beneficial in one environment and harmful in another. At the same time, mutants that are neutral (i.e., convey no advantage or disadvantage in a given environment) remain in the population in silence...and yet at some future time, these neutral mutations could become advantageous or problematic.

    On Planet Earth, life became life when I became capable of evolving.2 It is not known if this is the same on all planets (if there is life on other planets), but on this planet evolution is a pre-requisite for life. Evolution is a natural process, but it is also the reason for other ‘natural’ processes. Humans reproduce by sexual reproduction because evolution selected for it, and many species reproduce by asexual reproduc-


    G. E. Woloschak, ‘The Compatibility of the Principles of Evolution with Eastern Orthodoxy’, in. St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 55 (2011): 209–31; Gayle E. Woloschak, ‘God of Life: Contemplating Evo- lution, Ecology, Extinction’, in The Ecumenical Review 65.1 (2013): 145–59.


    Much of the description about evolution comes from textbook and Wikipedia information about evolution. One of the best evolution textbooks is D. Futuyama and M. Kirkpatrick, Evolution (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2018). Wikipedia also has a variety of different websites with accurate information on evolution, mutations, etc.

  • Logic of Mystery: Reading Wittgenstein in parallel to Orthodox theology and quantum theory
    Tim Labron (read abstract)
    Concordia University of Edmonton

    Theology and philosophy are predominately found within an analytical context, that is, a context within which a ‘rigorous’ system of thought is built from one element to another element. In parallel fashion, the same can be said regarding classical physics and its mechanical casual movement from one point to another point. Yet there are voices stepping out of these systems and moving towards a more ‘living’ thought. The move toward the ‘living’ can be found in post-classical physics with the inclusion of the observer, but long before this shift in physics there is the long standing Orthodox theology, and in between there are well known yet often misunderstood philosophers, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein. These ‘living’ voices want to draw us away from inert abstract systems back to ourselves and thereby back to humanity.


    Why is there a seemingly insatiable desire for templates behind our lives to secure knowledge, the ultimate physical building blocks of reality, causality, and perhaps even determinism? This yearning consumes much of Western philosophy, theology, and science; and frequently Aristotelian logic drives this mode of thought. There is no question regarding the general value of such logic, but to what extent can it be questioned? Archbishop Lazar Puhalo certainly does bring questions when he states: ‘The Platonism and quasi-Gnosticism of Augustine of Hippo distorted theology in the West into a system of philosophical speculation, and forever separated it from the existential, living theology of Orthodox Christianity’.1 Likewise, as noted by Léon Rosenfield in conversation with the Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa: ‘I asked Yukawa whether the Japanese physicists had the same difficulty as their Western colleagues in assimilating the idea of complementarity ... He answered “No, Bohr’s argumentation has always appeared quite evident to us;... you see, we in Japan have not been corrupted by Aristotle”’.2

    Certainly, in our daily lives it can be very useful to check a barometer and a thermometer. We see the air pressure and temperature falling, dark clouds forming in the sky, and decide that there is a good reason to bring one’s jacket and umbrella


    Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, The Evidence of Things Not Seen: Orthodoxy and Modern Physics (BC, Canada: Synaxis Press#, 2013), 16.


    Léon Rosenfeld, ‘Niels Bohr’s Contribution to Epistemology’, Physics Today 16 (1963): 47.