On space travel: comments on a letter from the Soviet Union

  1. Lemma
  2. О путешествии в космосе: По поводу одного письма из Советского Союза
  3. Russian
  4. Asliturk, Miriam
  5. Various approaches to the problem of correlation between science and theology - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Biblical interpretation
  6. 14-02-2017
  7. Архиепископ Нафанаил [Author]. О путешествии в космосе: По поводу одного письма из Советского Союза
  8. Христианская газета Севера России "Вера"
  9. Outer Space - Space exploration - astronomy - Early Church Fathers - Religion - Russian Orthodox Church
  10. Click Here
    1. <p>Архиепископ Нафанаил (2011). О путешествии в космосе: По поводу одного письма из Советского Союза. <em>Христианская газета Севера России "Вера". </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.rusvera.mrezha.ru/632/10.htm">http://www.rusvera.mrezha.ru/632/10.htm</a> </p>
    1. This article is from an online Orthodox Chuch website entitled Khristianskaya gazeta severa Rossii Vera (Christian Gazette of Northern Russia – Faith). It is a reprint of Archbishop Nafanail’s opinion on space travel.

      Archbishop of Vienna Nafanail (1906-1986) came from a prominent noble family in Lvov. His father was the procurator of the Holy Synod during Russia’s Provisional Government (March-October 1917). Nafanail and his mother’s family immigrated first to Manchuria, and then to Europe, just before the Second World War. Nafanail was already a priest by then.

      Nafanail argues that when we talk about space exploration it is incorrect to say that Church Fathers did not comment on the subject at all. The ancient Greek author Lucian (125-180 AD) and many other first millennium authors spoke of travel to the moon. For example, Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD) had clear scientific views on the universe and said that the sun and moon only appeared small but were, in fact, very large celestial objects situated far away from the Earth.

      Orthodox Christian doctrine postulates that any human action may or may not contradict God’s will, according to the ethics of the action. The Tower of Babel is often compared to today’s technical progress. The sinfulness of the Tower was not in its height but in the meaning that its constructors had applied to it – namely an affront against God. Thus, when Columbus discovered America to bring Christianity there this was pleasing to God, yet when Europeans raided Africa for the slave trade this was against God. In this sense when Americans landed on the moon and read the Bible from their spaceship they followed God’s will. So was Gagarin in his flight to space when he served his duty to the country. However, when he said he hadn’t seen God in space this was blasphemy.

      The author believes that God gave the universe for us all to explore. There is no division between earth and space. The author interprets biblical heaven not as sky or space but as a spiritual realm of angels and other divine beings. The Earth is not only the physical space we live in, but also the entire visible universe, one which can potentially be explored. Therefore space travel means following God’s will so that people might become masters of all of God’s creation including other planets.

      The author explains that when the first Russian Cossacks conquered Siberia, they had a feeling of gratitude toward God for these new lands. Other discoverers had this feeling as well. In America this feeling was especially strong among the French colonists of Canada. For the author the fact that Americans were the first humans on the moon is the manifestation of the mercy of God. Americans kept a religious gratitude in their endeavor. Yet if Soviets had been the first on moon they would have used this fact in their anti-religious propaganda.

      The author thinks that the Church does not have to have a stance on extraterrestrial life because we do not have any information on the subject at the moment. As the Church Fathers did not enter into the question of space travel because it was impossible in their time, the Church today should be realistic and serious without imagining fantasies about life on other planets. It will be able to say something on the subject when people have clear evidence of extraterrestrial life.