Fr. John Romanides on the Creation of the World and Man (6 of 6)
By John Sanidopoulos
In the previous posts there was provided a brief synopsis of the Orthodox teaching on the creation of the world and man, according to the spoken teachings of Fr. John Romanides. Fr. Romanides linked dogma with empirical knowledge, and he taught what can be known about these things from the experience of divine vision as it was granted directly to the Prophets, Apostles, Fathers and Saints. Though we currently have an indirect knowledge of these things, acquired through study, Fr. Romanides always taught that we too can have this direct knowledge if we truly live the therapeutic life of the Church. This is why he called the Orthodox Church a “spiritual hospital”, and Orthodox Theology a “medical science”. Knowing this is a basic prerequisite when studying the theology of Fr. John Romanides.
In summary, what we learned in the previous five posts is the following:
God, Who alone is uncreated and always existed, created the world out of non-being of His own free will. There is no similarity between the uncreated and that which is created, yet the uncreated energy of God is within creation. The purpose for creation was the incarnation of the Word of God, to bring about the glorification of mankind.
Holy Scripture is not a revelation of God, but a formulation of words and concepts of a particular era recording the divine experiences of the Prophets and Apostles. It teaches that God created the world and He directs His creation (there are no laws of nature without His direction), but this theology is expressed according to the finite knowledge and wording of the era in which it was recorded. The eternal theology of the saints should not be confused with the limited scientific language and knowledge of their time. Hence, in Genesis we are presented with an accurate empirical theology of creation in the language of Babylonian cosmology, and other such cosmologies of the Middle East. We should not look to Genesis for an accurate account of scientific knowledge, to enlighten us about the composition of the universe, but rather what Moses learned about the relationship of God and creation from his direct experience. This direct empirical theological knowledge can be expressed just as much through the Middle Eastern cosmology of 2000 B.C. as it can through the modern science of 2000 A.D. Holy Scripture was written to teach people how to go from an indirect knowledge of God to a direct knowledge of God through purification, illumination and glorification.
Man was created in the image and likeness of God, which essentially means he is given the ability to gradually ascend from his created and mortal nature towards perfection, to a personal knowledge of the uncreated God. Perfection was not automatically or magically given to man, but his cooperative effort was necessary to attain it through faith and love. Without this cooperative effort, man cannot attain to his full potential of being a god by grace, and thus is deprived of the life-giving energy of the Spirit of God. The fall of man is the failure to cooperate with God, and this leads to the darkening of the nous in the heart of man, which is a spiritual illness of the soul and body. Through a cooperative effort with God and ascetic struggle, man can once again have his nous illumined by grace, which is the cure of man.
The Fathers were not interested when Adam and Eve were created and in what state they were in, but they interpreted the Old Testament based on their own direct experience. They knew that God created all things good and that the first-formed human beings were in a state of theoria, or vision of God, and their nous was illumined. Somehow the nous became darkened and Christ taught the way of man’s renewal and restoration through cooperative effort and the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who testifies to the saints of Christ, Who in turn reveals to us the Father. In this way the inner principles of creation, or logoi, can also be known.
Parts Four and Five
Having examined the empirical theology of the Church on the creation of the world and man, it becomes evident that theology and science are two different disciplines that have nothing to do with each other, and neither of them depend on each other to arrive at the truth. For a theologian to undertake apologetics against scientific evidence on the basis of theology is a great folly and stupidity, and crosses the boundaries of both disciplines. The same holds true for a scientist trying to make theological pronouncements on the basis of science. This is why in Orthodoxy there can be no Creationist and no Theistic Evolutionist. The theology of the Church depends on neither ideologies, but rather on the empirical teachings of the Prophets, Apostles and Saints, who sought only the spiritual therapy of humanity to attain the purpose for their creation – ascent towards perfection.
Conclusion (by John Sanidopoulos)
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos in the forward of the book Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, makes the following important note to consider:
“It should be noted in the chapter on the creation of the world and elsewhere, the scientific information used by Fr. John is drawn from the knowledge available at that time [early 1980’s]. On these points today this has been revised. We quote here exactly what he said, however, to demonstrate his investigative spirit and to make it clear that he followed the progress of research in the positive sciences.”
Fr. John was interested in science and loved science because he loved creation, but he was not a scientist of the created world. He was a theologian primarily interested in the spiritual science of empirical dogmatics. I doubt he would call himself a Creationist or Theistic Evolutionist or ID’r, since these terms for him crossed the boundaries of both sciences and disciplines. The deep abyss between that which is created and that which is uncreated can only be linked through man’s cooperative effort with God through the therapeutic method of the Orthodox Church.