Making Sense of the World: Theology and Science in St Gregory of Nyssa’s ‘An Apology for the Hexaemeron’

  1. Lemma
  2. Making Sense of the World: Theology and Science in St Gregory of Nyssa’s ‘An Apology for the Hexaemeron’
  3. English
  4. Tampakis, Kostas
  5. Cosmology- Anthropic principle - Patristic studies - Modes of interaction
  6. 2013
  7. Costache, Doru [Author]. Making Sense of the World: Theology and Science in St Gregory of Nyssa’s ‘An Apology for the Hexaemeron’
  8. Phronema
  9. An Apology for the Hexaemeron - Light - St Gregory of Nyssa - Matter
  10. Click Here
    1. This article is part of the series of expositions by the author of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s worldview, as presented in his 2012 and 2013 articles ‘Approaching An Apology for the Hexaemeron’. It explicitly states that it is a product of research undertaken for the St. Andrew ‘s Patristic Symposium of 2011. The paper discusses the apologetic character of the Apology for the Hexaemeron, pointing out the naturalistic propensities and wide scientific knowledge of St. Gregory. The Apology is seen as a testament to St. Gregory’s ability in employing available sciences in order to complement the theological narrative of creation. It is also discussed as an apologetic, rather than exegetical treatise, thus challenging the conventional view in which St. Gregory is celebrated only as a doctrinal polemicist, a spiritual interpreter of the Scriptures and a teacher of the mystical life. The author argues for the apologetical tone of the Apology exactly by noting the many naturalistic propensities of the work, focusing more specifically on the questions posed in the first chapters and in the epilogue and in St. Gregory‘s use of a scientific approach to reality. This approach is contrasted with the ‘God of the Gaps’ alternative, especially as it was developed in early modernity by theologians trying to disentangle theology from its anachronistic attachment to ancient knowledge. In St. Gregory of Nyssa, the author finds a significant contribution on how to use the sciences to fill the gaps of a theological narrative of the Christian worldview. In the second part, the paper examines the few practical examples where St. Gregory applied his method to issues such as the relationship between God and the cosmos, the structure of matter and the creation of both one event and many events. The second part begins by discussing some theological difficulties of the Nyssenian worldview, which are underlined as proposing a series of conundrums and open questions. An example presented in St. Gregory‘s assertions of the creation of light and darkness, especially considering how he denied any difference between creation and arrangement. Another example is his phrase "εκ θεού" from On the Making of Man, which needs to be considered under the viewpoint of the whole Nyssenian worldview to be fully realized. The paper then moves to St. Gregory ‘s theory of matter, which is usually taken to be peripheral and ignored within the Nyssenian corpus of works. After discussing recent scholarship on the subject, the author proposes that, in St. Gregory, divine thoughts and the ideal qualities of material objects form an inextricable whole. For him, the ordered state of the cosmos is not a result of its very material fabric. In itself, matter is full of inconsistencies and contradictions, chaotic by nature. What makes a cosmos out of chaos is the divinely arranged convergence of matter’s opposing qualities. Finally, the paper discusses St. Gregory’s take on the Genesis account as another dilemma. It shows that he considers it both an event and a series of events, without considering such a view a contradiction. By a careful reading of previous and following chapters, the author suggests that creation as one event represents the theological perspective of God’s relationship with the world, while creation as a series of events corresponds with the scientific, analytical worldview. This complex narrative makes St. Gregory’s contribution superior to many current ones. The paper ends by proposing that the Apology is seen as a historically significant contribution to the dialogue between science and theology.