Written by Vladimir Moss



     The Apostle Thomas would not believe in the Resurrection of Christ until he had seen and touched Him. A very modern, scientific attitude… And not a bad one, even if not the best. After all, while Christ urged him to cease doubting and believe, He did not reject his request for evidence, but gave him His hands and side to touch. He did not scorn the scientific attitude, but expanded it, as it were, leading it on to the recognition of the greatest of all truths, the rock on which the Church, “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3.15), is itself grounded (Matthew 16.18), the truth that Christ is “my Lord and my God” (John 20.28).

     Does this mean that faith is grounded in science and is therefore in some sense dependent on it? No, it doesn’t. As we shall see, the reverse is the case: science is grounded in faith. But faith and science have this in common: they are both evidentially based, and they both seek to proclaim the credible, not indulge the credulous. Thomas refused to be credulous – that is to say, gullible – in matters of the faith, and eventually attained to the supremely credible by means of a very simple, quasi-scientific test involving the senses of sight, hearing and touch. Hence he could have said, with John: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…” (I John 1.1).

     Indeed, the Lord provided us with “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1.3) of the Resurrection; for, as the Apostle Paul says, “if Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain” (I Corinthians 15.17). Thus Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich writes: “A new tomb, sealed, a heavy stone across the entrance, a guard kept over it – what does all this mean? These were all careful measures, in the wisdom of God’s providence, so that, by them, the mouths of all unbelievers who attempt to prove that Christ either did not die, or did not rise, or that His body was stolen, should be stopped. Were Joseph not to have begged the dead body from Pilate; were the captain of the guard not to have given official confirmation of Christ’s death; were the body not to have been buried and sealed in the presence of Christ’s friends and enemies, it could have been said that Christ had, in fact, not died, but was only in a coma and then regained consciousness (as, more recently, Schleiermacher and other Protestants have asserted). Had the tomb not been closed by a heavy stone, had it not been sealed, had it not been guarded by watchmen, it could have been said that it was true that Christ had died and been buried, but that He had been stolen from the tomb by His disciples. Had it not been a completely new tomb, it could have been said that it was not Christ who had risen but some other dead man, who had been buried earlier. And so all the careful measures that the Jews took to smother the truth served, by God’s providence, to endorse it.”[1]

     The third-century Church writer Tertullian once famously wrote: “I believe because it is absurd”. How absurd! Evidently Tertullian (who became a heretic) was no follower of the Apostle Thomas! If he had said: “I believe in spite of the fact that you (stupid unbelievers) consider my faith absurd”, we would have no quarrel with him. But to believe because of the supposed absurdity of faith is a kind of nihilism, and the undermining of all true faith and rational discourse.

     For faith is rational – not rationalist, which is a narrowing and undermining of true rationality – but fully in accord with reason. After all, the Gospel for the Resurrection begins with the words: “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1.1), where “Word”, Logos in Greek, could equally be translated “Reason”. The Church does not scorn reason, but welcomes it with open arms, for we know that the God Whom we worship is Supreme Reason and Meaning and the Creator of all that is rational and logical and meaningful. Indeed, our very capacity to reason and find logic and meaning in things is based on our being created in the image of God’s Reason. The universe makes sense because it was created by a God Who is Reason and Who implanted the capacity to reason in our minds and hearts… “Minds and hearts” because the rationality in question is not simply thinking or cogitation, but a vision of the heart. But again we must qualify ourselves. We are not talking about “heart” in the sense of emotional capacity. The vision of the heart that is faith is a vision that is supra-intellectual and supra-emotional. It proceeds from the spiritual centre of our being, the point where we enter into communion with God, where our reason encounters Reason Itself, and radiates out to embrace both our thoughts and our emotions, ordering and transfiguring and exalting them.

     But why, then, are faith and science so often opposed, as if the one were incompatible with the other? For, as Melanie Phillips writes, “In the post-Christian West, it is an article of secular faith that religion and reason repel each other like magnetic poles. Religion, it is said, is not rational and reason cannot embrace anything that lies outside materialist explanation.”[2]

     The crucial word here is “materialist”. Faith, according to St. Paul, is “the evidence of things not seen, the proof of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11.1), where “things hoped for” are by definition things also not seen (yet). So faith very consciously goes beyond what we see with our material senses. But this by no means that it goes beyond reason, in some kind of “blind leap”; for it is precisely reason, the reason of faith, that tells us that there exists something beyond matter that we can see, not with our material, but with our “noetic” senses. Faith has “evidence” of this; it even has “proof” – “many infallible proofs” – words that are certainly parts of the language of reason.

     But faith goes beyond reason, because, even when faced with the Truth itself, demonstrated to be such by many infallible proofs, man can still refuse to believe and turn away from the truth, saying with Pilate: “What is truth?” (John 18.38). It is in his capacity to believe or not to believe in spite of the evidence that lies man’s freewill, a freewill that can incline towards reason or irrationality. Faith is in accordance with reason, but it is still a gift of God (Ephesians 2.9), and is given only to those who love the truth more than the lie, who prefer reason to irrationality.

     True faith and true science are fully compatible because they both describe truth, whose one source is God. Incompatibilities and contradictions arise when we are dealing either with false faith or false science.Thus Fr. Seraphim Rose writes: “Even though revealed knowledge is higher than natural knowledge, still we know that there can be no conflict between true revelation and true natural knowledge. But there can be conflict between revelation and human philosophy, which is often in error. There is thus no conflict between the knowledge of creation contained in Genesis, as interpreted for us by the Holy Fathers, and the true knowledge of creatures which modern science has acquired by observation; but there most certainly is an irreconcilable conflict between the knowledge contained in Genesis and the vain philosophical speculation of modern scientists, unenlightened by faith, about the state of the world in the Six Days of Creation.[3]

     Let us take the conflict between the Pope and Galileo. This was a conflict between false faith and true science. The Pope took it as Divinely revealed – that is, as a tenet of the faith - that the earth was flat. But there was and is no such Divine revelation – in fact, the prophet speaks about “the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40.22). Since then, atheist or agnostic scientists have taken it as an article of their faith that whenever faith and science seem to be in conflict, faith is wrong. But this is, of course, a false inference. When true science confronts false faith, it does the truth a service by exposing a superstition. But there are scientific superstitions, too…

     “But science is constantly progressing,” you will say. “Therefore we have to accept its latest discoveries. Otherwise we will be like the Pope who rejected Galileo. After all, the Pope had a false faith, and Galileo was right in believing that the world is round.” But what if we have the true faith, and the scientists in question are not as acute as Galileo? As Orthodox we are by no means obliged to reject Galileo – although we are obliged to reject Darwin and Dawkins.

     For our faith is not some airy-fairy metaphysical system which is compatible with just about any concrete historical event or scientific hypothesis. On the contrary: like a tree, it is concretely rooted in the earth of historical events, even if its branches reach far above the earth and the sky into the heavens. And it matters not whether you cut down the tree higher up the trunk, in the realm of pure theology, or at the roots, in the realm of historical fact and scientific hypothesis. Thus we are equally renouncing the faith if we accept the theological heresy of the Filioque, or false scientific hypotheses, such as evolutionism, or the idea of the physicists that we can in theory go backwards in time and kill our own fathers, or the idea that we believe in God out of unconscious desires for a father figure, or that Christ did not die but awoke out of a coma and pushed the stone away from the tomb. The result is the same: the faith is in ruins.

     When confronted with such false scientific hypotheses, we have to make a choice: do we believe our faith or “science so-called”, as St. Paul calls it (I Timothy 6.20)? If we believe that the source of our faith is God Himself, Who cannot lie but has proved Himself to be the Truth through His resurrection from the dead, and that we belong to the Church of God, which is “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3.15), then we must reject these scientific hypotheses, even if we cannot immediately see the flaw in their argumentation. This may take some courage (until the evidence refuting the false scientific hypotheses emerges), but it is actually a very rational decision, and not just a product of what unbelievers like to call “blind” faith.

     For our faith, being based on true reason, satisfies both the mind and the heart. It knits everything together in a coherent system which is self-reinforcing at every point. No other system satisfies in this way; all other religio-philosophical systems invented by man, including those that put science at the head of the corner, are in the end self-contradictory. Therefore even if some “facts” emerge which appear to contradict our faith, it is much more logical to hold on to our faith while subjecting the new “facts” to sceptical criticism. In relation to such “facts”, we must be like doubting Thomas and really check them out using all the resources of faith and reason. And if we cannot immediately refute them, we must still believe, for “blessed are those who have not seen [the scientific or logical proofs] and yet have believed” (John 20.29). For if we were to reject our faith, all the problems, intellectual, philosophical and moral, which are no problems for us now, as believers, again become problems for us. And very serious problems, problems that make the whole history of the universe, as Macbeth put it, “a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…” “At all events,” said St. Basil the Great, “let us prefer the simplicity of faith to the demonstrations of ‘reason’.”[4]

     In any case, is not science the product of fallen men with fallen minds, who are as subject to demonic delusion as anyone? We have every reason to be skeptical of the reasonings of such men. They may stumble on the truth sometimes, but they also – very frequently – take a lie for the truth, as the long history of rejected and discredited scientific hypotheses proves. Why should we take the reasoning of the atheist Dawkins above the words of Him Who is “the Beginning of every beginning(I Chronicles 29.12)?

     Of course, the discovery of electricity, and bacteria, and super-novas, constitutes knowledge of a sort and progress of a kind. But the denial of God the Creator, and of the existence of the immortal human soul, and of the freewill of man, constitute extreme REGRESSION, which places most modern scientists at a much lower level when it comes to real, important knowledge than their predecessors in the sixteenth century. It seems as if the progress of science in small things is accompanied by its regression in big things, in its mega-theories, in its TOEs…

     So let us not be ashamed of the Gospel, as St. Basil the Great says. We can respect the achievements of science. But we must firmly reject the pseudo-science that attempts to undermine our faith. For faith is certainty inspired by the infallible Truth Himself, whereas science is fallible hypothesis at best, and at worst – demonic delusion.


May 8/21, 2013.

Holy Apostle John the Theologian.





[1] Velimirovich, “Homily on Second Sunday after Easter”, Homilies, vol. 1, Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1996, p. 231.

[2] Phillips, “How the West Took Leave of its Senses”, Standpoint, May, 2010, p. 42.

[3] Rose, “The Orthodox Patristic Understanding of Genesis”, ch. 5, The Orthodox Word, № 171, 1993.

[4] St. Basil, Homily 1 on the Hexaemeron.

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