Thou, Who Art Everywhere and Fillest All Things: Essence and Energy in Orthodox Theology and Physics

  1. Lemma
  2. Ти, който си навсякъде и всичко изпълваш: същност и енергия в Православното богословие и във физиката
  3. Bulgarian
  4. Nachev, Ivaylo
  5. Orthodox theological tradition and practice - Scientific theories and disciplines > Classical physics - Scientific theories and disciplines > Modern physics :QM
  6. Танев, Стоян [Author]. Thou, Who Art Everywhere and Fillest All Things: Essence and Energy in Orthodox Theology and Physics
  7. Thou, Who Art Everywhere and Fillest All Things: Essence and Energy in Orthodox Theology and Physics - София: Университетско Издателство Св. Климент Охридски, 2013.
  8. Divine energies - Florovsky - St. Gregory Palamas
    1. The book presents detailed analysis of the theological problem for the relations of Divine essence and energies, combined with examination of the use of the notion energy in physics. The theological parts are based on a wide spectrum of theological works and first-hand sources, including patristic texts and correspondence. In this work, Tanev, who has university PhD degrees in both physics and theology also made a number of interesting observations on the relation between theology and sciences. He sees possibilities for mutual enrichment (mostly terminological) but also warned about the mechanic transfer of ideas which might be often misleading. In addition, Tanev stated in his foreword that he has been motivated in his work by the possibility to think in theological and patristic terms for contemporary problems, including purely scientific ones.  

       In the beginning of the book is included a separate piece of David Bradshaw who made a general overview of discussions around the concept of Divine energies in contemporary theological thought and examined its meaning in Biblical and patristic sources. In his introduction Tanev elaborated further on the Orthodox teaching about the difference between Divine essence and energies, specifying that among the goals of the book is to examine the discussions in that field (he speaks of “polarization” in the interpretations) among some of the key the Orthodox theologians of the 20th century. The author also examined developments that lead to the rediscovery of Saint Gregory Palamas. Tanev pointed out that the methodology he uses in the parallel analysis of the energy concept in Orthodox theology and physics is based on the principle of “analogical isomorphism”, a principle that can be used for analysis of concepts from different spheres, aimed at comparison between the specific for each sphere correlations. This approach allows one to avoid “simplistic analogies” that often lead to incorrect conclusions, according to the author. It can also help purifying the Orthodox energy-related terminology from pseudo-scientific and Gnostic influences. Tanev underlined the fundamental difference between the personal character of the knowledge of God, and the impersonal character of manifestations of characteristics of the physical objects. He also noted his intention to contribute to an Orthodox approach to the trending in the West dialogue between science and religion, which in cases has been characterized by the rather artificial and simplistic use of modern scientific theories in the explanation of specific Biblical and Church events. A careful analysis of the concepts in their own semantic field can benefit both theology and physics, with theology having huge potential for conceptual clarification of notions and theories in physics, according to Tanev.  

       Chapter One dealt with the rediscovery of the problem of the Divine energies by the Orthodox theologians (mostly Russian emigrants) in the first half of the 20th century. In detail were examined views and works of Orthodox thinkers Sergei Bulgakov and Georges Florovsky and were highlighted disagreements which are seen in their correspondence.  The chapter analyzed as well a number of other subjects, including the reception of Saint G. Palamas in Russia, Bulgakov’ sophiology, and the response to it that led to the so called sophiology controversy. Based on significant evidence, Tanev concluded that Palamas’ ideas about the Divine energies had already become part of the Orthodox theology in the middle of the 1920s, well before reaction of the French catholic circles in the early 1930s. The prepared detailed chronology of the rediscovery of the energy doctrine emphasized Florovsky’s contribution to the authentic understanding of Palama’s thought. The second chapter examined the theology of the Divine energies since the second half of the 20th century, making a comparative analysis of ideas of John Zizioulas, Dumitru Stăniloae and John Romanides. Tanev showed that works of John Zizioulas have been in many cases criticized because of neglecting the energy teaching which at the same time played a significant role in the works of the other two authors - Stăniloae and Romanides. So, the theology of the divine energies constitutes an integral part of the Orthodox theology and efforts to underestimate this line of thought, which has negative effects. In addition, the author made extra parallels with ideas of G. Florovsky in order to draw attention to his decisive role in the Orthodox theology of the 20th century. 

       Building upon the interpretation of the Divine energies and essence in the Orthodox theology of the 20th century, Chapter Three made parallel examination of the concept for energy in Orthodoxy and physics, focusing on the usage in the respective fields rather on the conceptual similarities and differences (more attention is devoted to energy in physics – traditional and quantum, a subject which has not been discussed in the previous chapters). The aim is to be proposed an interdisciplinary approach which can be useful in the two fields. The methodological approach is complemented by careful examination of two very different debates: firstly the one between two of the most prominent physicists of the 20th century- Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, and secondly the theological controversy between Barlaam of Calabria and Saint Gregory Palamas in 14th century Byzantium.  Based on the two debates is carried out a comparative analysis of the common for the two situation themes, including relations between invisible realities and their visible appearances; confrontation between realism and antirealism in theology and quantum physics; correlation between parts and whole in the Divine and quantum realities and etc. On basis of the analysis are made a number of conclusions which are summarized in fourteen points. So, Tanev stated that the energy concept is used in the two situations to formulate a hypostasis manifestation of described realities which are caused in the framework of empirical experience. In addition, both meanings occur in the context of relations between ontology and epistemology, providing an epistemological bridge between visible and invisible, knowable and unknowable. Concluding, Tanev affirmed his position that the careful choice of the methodological approach is of paramount importance for studies which seek to encourage dialogue between science and religion.