"The Creation of the World and the Creation of Human Being
Challenges and Problems of 2000"
M E S S A G E
"The earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell in it". (Psalm 23, 1 LXX).
The Great and Holy Church of Christ, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, from August 28 to September 2, 2000, convened an International Scientific Conference in the Queen of cities, with the topic: "The Creation of the World and the Creation of Human Being - Challenges and Problems of 2000". This Conference was organized within the framework of festive events prepared to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ the Savior.
During the sessions of the Conference, the over one - hundred fifty participants, who assembled here from throughout the world and who represent both worldwide, Orthodox thought and contemporary scientific knowledge, discussed extensively the major issues that concern the global academic community. In particular, they discussed issues relating to humanity and its environment on the basis of the sources of Orthodox teaching, as well as contemporary scientific achievements. This occasion brought together representatives of the Ecumenical Throne, sister Orthodox Churches, holy monasteries, Orthodox theological schools and academies, Oriental, Roman Catholic, and Reformed Churches and Denominations, international ecclesiastical organizations, foundations, and cultural associations.
A focal point the Conference’s was the sense that we have before us God’s marvelous plan for the world and for humanity. This plan, being a fruit of the creative, cohesive, and outreaching love of the Holy Trinity, is the framework in which man, created "in the image of God", will be lead to God’s "likeness".
The range of topics presented at the Conference aimed at indicating what global problems we face as Christians and what position the Church and her theology should take on them. On this point, it was affirmed that, on an international level, there is a growing interest in the natural world due, on the one hand, to the fast progress of the natural sciences, and on the other hand, to the concerns regarding the destruction of the natural environment.
Moreover, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothingness) currently needs greater attention from an Orthodox perspective, because this viem better interprets the threat of annihilation, which lurks within the ecological crisis. The existence of the world does not constitute an end in itself, because it finds its meaning and fullness in its relationship with God, a relationship that is actualized by means of the human person. The world, being created, is unceasingly substantiated, strengthened, and made alive by God so that it might come to existence, continue in "being" and partake in the "eternal state of well - being". Its relationship with God is necessary in order that it might achieve the "positive alteration", given the possibility of the "adverse alteration".
In the Orthodox tradition the clash between science and theology has been avoided as much as possible, due to the two - fold epistemological methodology of the Orthodox Fathers. This methodology is rooted in the ontological distinction between created and uncreated. Thus, the Church rejoices in the scientific achievements of humanity. She stands with particular awe, attentiveness, and prudence facing the research and the applications of contemporary genetic engineering, biomedicine, and biotechnology. She also desires the establishment of an essemtial dialogue with science, sharing with it the responsibility for "tired and burdened" humanity.
Nevertheless, the Church reminds all that whatever abolishes respect for creation, as a miracle of both the love and freedom of God, alters the scriptural and patristic criteria of ethical truths, disturbs human relationships, limits free will, and degrades the uniqueness of the person.
Scientific achievements, which relieve human suffering, help improve physical health, extend the length of life, and in general, enhance human life, are truly gifts from God. They are not, however, ends in and of themselves, even more so, they are not excuses for abuses which reduce the perspective for the necessity of human salvation. The mission of the Church is not to undermine scientific achievements but to save man and to protect ethical values.
The life of the future age, which we are expecting, is the life of the kingdom of God. This life begins "in time" and finds its fulfillment in eternity. Time within history becomes the meeting place with eternity. The salvific "now" (present) of the kingdom of God is offered in the Church, and the "forever" (eternity) of the Church exists in the kingdom of God. The present life is not simply a preparation for the life which we expect, but also a participation in it by way of faith, partakihg in the sacraments of the Church, and keeping the commandments of God. The more human beings keep the dual commandment of love, the more they wipes - out their self - centeredness and finds their true personhood in the encounter and communion with both God and neighbor.
The fulfillment of the human being as a person is actualized by living the unity of humankind in Christ, according to the model of the unity of the persons of the Holy Trinity. A genuine example of living - out eternity is the life of the saints. This example is a witness that active throughout the ages to this very day. We learn from the saints that seeking eternity already in this present life, leads humanity to not fear of death and to its reconciliation with all of creation. Moreover, according to Orthodox theology, not only humanity, but also the entire creation, as a "new creation", will participate in the kingdom of God in Trinity.
Based upon the above - mentioned theological presuppositions, Orthodox theology, is able to dialogue, without prejudice, with applied sciences, and, in cooperation with them, to respond to issues that specified, mainly during the last quarter of the past century, the social disputes, as for example, those referring to the very institution of marriage ana family relationships including the process of human reproduction.
Indubitably the "mystery" of life, from the cell stage up to the formation of a complex organism, revolves around the motion of "being". Consequently, gestation is a stage of development of a living organism, autonomous from its very beginning, that is, a human being which one way or another will be completed at a later stage. Thus, there is no doubt that according to the Orthodox faith abortion is an action that should be avoided for many reasons. Taking preventive and supportive measures, beyond improving of the qua of family life, simultaneously gives the prospect of solving the problem of reduced child bearing.
Furthermore, the Church’s liturgical tradition clearly projects the multifaceted and multivalent aspect of the mystery of marriage. Therefore, it is certain that the contribution of the Church in facing the above - mentioned problems will strengthen the role and the importance of the family in making healthy social units.
With these theological presuppositions, answers to other bioethical problems of great concern, such as those of eugenics, organ transplants, cloning, and euthanasia, can also be given. For this reason, Orthodox theology cannot view bioethics independently from its dogmatic teaching. Bioethics cannot exist apart from bio - theology.
Biogenetics must not simply move along the path of Aesclepios and Hippocrates but must take into account the basic principles of the Gospel. Anthropological and philanthropic dimensions should not be lost during the relevant research and application processes.
Given that public opinion has not yet sufficiently mobilized to formulate a common legislative basis to cope with the above - mentioned problems, it is imperative for the ranking Church of Constantinople to undertake initiatives, on a pan - Orthodox and inter - Christian level, so that she might formulate clear legislation in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel.
Gratefully thanking the God in Trinity for His abundant gifts and standing with contriete heart before the mystery of creation, we glorify Him and wait expectantly for "new heavens and a new earth inhabited by righteousness" (2 Peter 3,13).