The conflict that never was – How science and Christianity can live together in harmony

In preparing for this talk I had some interesting conversations with a couple of friends regarding the possible conflict between science and, for a lack of a better world, religion or spirituality in general. Comments varied from saying that religion has no right to interfere with scientific truth and religion is only a way to cope with yet unexplained things (I even had the famous third law of Arthur C. Clarke. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” thrown at me) all the way to saying that the more technology develops the less spiritual the world becomes, because it fuels a kind of a God complex that will be the doom of us. This is pretty much the picture all around, the advancements of science are forcing people to critically look not only at their core beliefs but also at the role that man plays in the universe. The pertinent question of the day ceased to be ‘does the Sun revolves around the Earth or not’ and evolved more into ‘does the world revolves around Man or not’. The exercise of answering this question inflicts a lot of pain in the society that tries ineffectively to balance between the discoveries of science and maintaining the legacy of its spiritual roots.

Good science – bad religion
One of the most popular arguments we hear today is that religion in general (this term is used to paint everything with a broad brush) is the enemy of science. The world religion is however too broad and somewhat improper for our discussion today therefore I will try to stick with what I know more of: Christianity. Moreover the way we understand Christianity is not as a religion among others, but as the way things actually are, as God created them. Christianity is the ultimate reality not just a version of it as our post-modern world tries to depict it. Christians are tainted by the secular propaganda as ignorant fools that see an excellent coping mechanism in their faith and they would do anything to keep it alive. This is usually “proven” by bringing the famous examples of Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Galileo Galilei going all the way to Darwin. The argument is that, blinded by the dogmas, the Church could not see the revolution that these theories brought and rejected them out of ignorance putting therefore a great brake on scientific discovery. The assumed ignorance of the Church on scientific matters however is not entirely true. We can go back to the very early days of Christianity and we will see Holy Fathers like Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom and many others who all studied in the secular Greek schools of pagan Athens. They were far from being ignorant in the natural sciences and

The scholastics were the ones who rediscovered Aristotelian logic and used it to prove the truth of their faith. who tried Galileo for instance. Of course. but it also does not mean that they were entirely wrong. like the theory of the tides for instance. Sam Harris and the other so called “Four horsemen of New Atheism” vehemently using scientific arguments and misrepresented Church doctrines (according to some) to prove the entire religious phenomenon as a futile attempt to enslave mankind. Are therefore the pure and innocent pursuits of scientific truth and/or spiritual fulfillment the real culprits here.”1 During more recent times we also see the Church in the West as a promoter of rational thought. “Now. as popular knowledge tends to concede. where we see the Church suffering during the Illumination period leading to the French revolution and it’s more distant cousin the Bolshevik revolution. Part of the problem was that he was not scientifically convinced by Galileo’s arguments about heliocentricity. then. or is there something else laying beneath that makes this whole craze harder than it should be? Take the evolution vs. We shouldn’t forget however that there was also the opposite side of the coin. There is a certain faction of the scientific community that would use every argument in their books to prove Creation wrong. creationism debate. It was a theory that could not be proven by them with enough scientific arguments.tertullian.htm   . but Galileo’s Italian temperament did not help his case either.org/fathers/basil_litterature01. for the bees do not visit all the flowers without discrimination. We have to agree with that. This is not to say that abuses did not exist. Mixing up science and religion So there is bad behavior on both sides. they let the rest go. Their theology was actually called “the science of faith”.used this knowledge to reject from it what was deceitful and retain what was useful to spiritual development according to their faith. nor indeed do they seek to carry away entire those upon which they light. the pope should have stopped at agreeing to disagree and let future discoveries to settle that matter.. Moreover                                                                                                                         1  http://www. Bruno or Galileo was right. Truth is that some of Galileo arguments used to prove his idea. Today we see contemporary vocal atheists like Richard Dawkins. altogether after the manner of bees must we use these writings. Truth is that what Copernicus was bringing on the table was very much against of all the grain the knowledge of the day and also widely based on philosophical speculations.. it is not to say what the Inquisition did to Copernicus. There probably was no other more difficult period for the Church than under the self declared scientific-materialists of the Communist kind. but rather. or their methods were flawless. having taken so much as is adapted to their needs. was not an ignorant full. were later proved wrong. Pope Urban. he held a doctorate in law and was a great protector of arts.

confusion and a general lack of proper dialogue on both sides leads to a fake conflict. who in fact was a peasant. ‘I have a question. worse than pestilence. People. famine. with a group of such devoted communist scientists. The police obligated the people and the priest. or war. very intelligent. which pictures very well the futility of trying to disprove religion with scientific arguments: “I remember reading something in a Russian newspaper or book. Such unfair trials make religion appears as obscuring the scientific truth while science seems to become the enemy of religion. was to think that our understanding of the physical world's structure was. but I want to say something. to come to a big hall to hear the scientific arguments that Jesus Christ could not have risen. Pope John Paul the 2nd affirmed it when Galileo’s verdict was finally overruled: “The error of the theologians of the time. Half-science is a despot such as has never been known before. a conflict that should not even exist. the communists sent people of science.  1992   . ‘Come here. when they maintained the centrality of the Earth. a well known Romanian dissident. in some way. that of science. Atheist scientists are guilty of the same thing. came into a certain village on Pascha. CHRIST IS RISEN!’ And he heard the answer [thundering back]: ‘IN TRUTH HE IS RISEN!”’ The disagreement is not between the scientists and believers but between scientists with a secular agenda and believers of an imprecise and sometimes even distorted Christianity. from village to village to speak to the peasants and show them with scientific arguments that Jesus could not have risen from the dead. The basis of all this apparent conflict is a misunderstanding of the role of Christianity vs. There are as well plenty creationists that cross over into murky science when they exhaust their biblical arguments for a young earth creation. on the day of Pascha. I think what you said is true.  44  (1264)  -­‐  November  4. a despot before                                                                                                                         2  Pope  John  Paul  II. Trotsky.some also venture to enter into shallow theological territory to find arguments for their side of the story. a despot that has its own priests and slaves. False assumptions.’ They said.  L'Osservatore  Romano  N. said. people with higher education. Father Calciu Dumitreasa. ‘You are very intelligent people: the intelligentsia of Russia. how at the beginning of the revolution in Russia. Then the priest. Dostoyevsky that lived on the brink of the great socialist revolution in Russia observed that and expressed it through one of his characters in the book “The Devils”: "Half science" is that most terrible scourge of mankind.’ and he came up to the front and said. Here is a story I found in one of the sermons of. imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture”2. and at the end they asked if there were any questions. They said a lot of things. and quite unknown till our present century.

Christianity brings both sides of humanity together: the physical body and the spiritual soul. such as has been inconceivable till now.com/christianity-­‐orthodox-­‐issues-­‐science-­‐religion-­‐reference/christianity-­‐orthodox-­‐issues-­‐ science-­‐religion   5  From  St. or an official in some ministry. to converse daily with God in prayer. a painter. to take part in the Divine service.enotes.htm#3. One can be physically healed by a drug or a scalpel and in the same time spiritually healed by the Mystery of Holy Unction. if we have doctors we cannot have prayer and so on. our holiness.  My  Life  in  Christ:  Part  II. and to bear in your heart. the Greek Fathers have already asserted that scientific knowledge is incomplete in itself and must be supported by wider views of reality. we are made complete by the Great Healer of soul and body. a manufacturer.    http://www. before whom science trembles and surrenders in a shameful way 3 The false either/or argument Another great fallacy of the interminable arguments between “science” and “religion” is the “either/or” logic. which are accessible through faith. the pursuit of the understanding of the physical laws of Creation while the spiritual quest gives us the reason behind our existence and the goal that lies ahead. We are to understand this reality it in both ways. the name of Jesus. St.                                                                                                                         3 4  The  Devils  (Harrnondsworth:  Penguin  Books. But actually we don't have to choose between electricity and the light of Resurrection. and after your work.  286   . If someone wants to be a scientist let him be an ascetic scientist. a teacher and ascetic teacher.whom everybody prostrates himself with love and superstitious dread.  1971). This again is nothing new. Science gives us the mechanical version. a sculptor." 5 Each individual can chose which way cherishes more but there can be no honest science without recognizing the limits of human knowledge and no honest faith denying the right to a rational exploration of the beauty of God's creation. to observe the rules and regulations of the Church. a student in any educational establishment.4 It makes no sense to deny either science or religion their proper role but we should be embracing them as fitting to take us closer to discovering God: through quantum physics and as well through ascetic struggle. our strength. a mechanic . if we have evolution we cannot have creation. John of Kronstadt said it right "If you are a scholar.  257. we don’t have to choose. If we have scientific explanation we can’t have miracles.remember that the first science for each one of you is to be a true Christian. We can't separate the existing reality of creation for its Creator.  Holy  Trinity  Monastery  pg. or a technologist. we can have both.org/OA/137/137g. for He is our light.  John  of  Kronstadt. an officer in any of the branches of the military service. and our help.  In  http://www.roca. to believe sincerely in the Holy Trinity. during your work. through science and faith reaching a deeper understanding of our reality. before your work.

as St. Man has turned toward himself. he gains everything in Christ. Basil the Great observed. reproduction and entertainment. no matter how much loves this life. The secular man wants man to live well and unconstrained. lives it in the perspective of eternity trying to fulfill his purpose in God and by paradoxically renouncing everything for Christ’s sake. the battleground is at the level of man. This life is all that a scientist can measure with empirical methods. beyond the grave he can only measure the rate of decay of the organic matter buried in the ground. is consumed by his own needs and existence. far away. For the secular person man is a social animal that needs food. The faithful person looks at man as a special kind of animal. His preoccupation is therefore to make his life long and pleasurable. man is an animal called to deification (theosis) whose life barely begins at his death. .The battleground At the end of the day the conflict is neither in the microcosmos where subatomic particles are moving in undetermined pathways nor in some distant galaxies far. The Christian.