Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, Russian Orthodox Church

Theological Discussion

Archpriest Nicholas Dalinkiewicz,
Holy Protection Cathedral – Melbourne,
23 Dec 2013

Obstacles to Salvation in the 21st Century

In the world of academia, in particular within the science community, as well as the general populace, there is widespread misconception that science and theology are mutually exclusive disciplines, which, at best, can coexist separately, but more often than not, they are viewed as enemies, being poles apart.

Those with strong spiritual beliefs tend to dismiss science, considering it to be of secondary significance, while the ‘formal’ scientific establishment sees theology as irrelevant in the real world, totally devoid of facts.

In part, this is due to a naïve understanding, by both groups, of creation described in the book of Genesis. They see Genesis as the religious description of HOW the universe came into being. This, however, is fundamentally wrong, because the bible is not, and was never considered by the Church to be a technical manual which describes how nature works. Its purpose is spiritual; nothing more, nothing less, and any biblical reference to nature should be seen in that context.

The laws of nature were created by God concurrently with the creation of the universe. Nature is another way of God talking to us, meaning that he uses multiple languages, as Christ did; for example, when He spoke in parables. Likewise, iconography is a pictorial version of the gospels. The book of Genesis reveals WHAT happened – what God created chronologically. The laws of nature, on the other hand, describe HOW nature works, like an operating manual. By decoding those laws and writing them down, scientists produce a hard copy of that manual. So the laws of nature complement the book of Genesis. In a nutshell, the bible says “this is what God did,” and science says “this is how he did it.”

According to the Orthodox world view, there can be no conflict between science and theology because both refer to God’s creation. Why then do Orthodox and atheists alike believe that there is conflict between science and theology? This perceived conflict, together with other obstacles which we will consider, poses major stumbling blocks for Christians in the twenty first century. We will address this problem by looking at it through the eyes of an intelligent, practising, mature Orthodox teenager, embarking on a good arts degree at university. We will call him Peter.

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