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Online round table

IS THERE A NATURAL THEOLOGY IN ORTHODOXY?

Monday, June 10, 2024, 5 p.m. BST (UK time)

The next event of the “Time for Action” series will be the round table “Is there a Natural Theology in Orthodoxy?” on Monday, June 10, 2024, 5 p.m. (UK time). Speakers will be Rev. Dr. Christopher Knight (Senior Research Associate and Associate Lecturer of the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK) and Prof. Dr. David Bradshaw (Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky, USA), while the discussion will be moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Theokritoff (Senior Research Associate and Lecturer, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK). The event is organized in cooperation with the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK. The languages of the event will be English and Greek and the link for attending is https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83599392596.

While arguments of the “natural theology“ kind are clearly to be found in the patristic and later Byzantine traditions, current understandings of natural theology –and hence the way in which these earlier traditions are sometimes interpreted– frequently ignore the role that is played by faith and by the contemplative, noetic apprehension that relies on something other than discursive, rational understanding. This means that the common notion of a natural theology that provides rational “proof” or “probability” arguments for the reality of God needs to be modified to conform more closely to patristic and later Orthodox understandings, in which such arguments were integrated with an apprehension of that reality that has a “mystical” dimension (of the kind seen by Vladimir Lossky as central to the Orthodox understanding of the nature of theology). In the hesychast tradition, in particular, the role of intuitive, noetic apprehension is often stressed, and it is arguable that even in the Western praeambula fidei understanding of the role of natural theology, faith still has its part to play. In the light of this understanding, the role of natural theology is not that which is usually assumed by analytic philosophers of religion, and becomes comparable to the way in which, in the patristic tradition, the contemplation of nature (theoria physike) was viewed as a partly discursive but partly “mystical” pursuit. Indeed, even in terms of the analytic philosophy of religion, it is arguable that an intuitive dimension of natural theology must be recognised because the different “weights” that are assigned to arguments for and against the reality of God cannot be assessed on a “purely rational” basis, so that there is a necessary role for the of the intuitive kind of apprehension that may be seen theologically in this “mystical” way.

Rev. Dr. Christopher C. Knight, whose PhD is in astrophysics, is both a parish priest and a Senior Research Associate of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, UK. He is co-chair of the Science and Theology group of the International Orthodox Theological Association (in which he also serves as a member of the International Governing Committee). He has devoted much of his academic work to aspects of the science-theology dialogue, which has often attempted to address those components of natural theology that argue from the character of the natural world. His first detailed study of natural theology was a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Natural Theology (OUP, 2013) and since then he has expanded his arguments on this topic in a number of journal articles and in two books: Science and the Christian Faith (SVSP, 2020) and Eastern Orthodoxy and the Science-Theology Dialogue (CUP, 2022).

Dr. David Bradshaw is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom (Cambridge UP, 2004) and Divine Energies and Divine Action (IOTA Publications, 2023) as well as numerous articles on ancient, patristic, and medieval philosophy. He also edited the section on “The Greek Christian Tradition” in Medieval Philosophy: A Multicultural Reader (Bloomsbury, 2019) and co-edited with Richard Swinburne Natural Theology in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition (IOTA Publications, 2021). He is currently at work on “An Eastern Orthodox Approach to Divine Simplicity” for Divine Simplicity: Five Views from Philosophy and Theology (Bloomsbury).

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TIME FOR ACTION - 4th Season

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