ROMANIDES, HOLY SCRIPTURE AND SCIENCE

Written by Vladimir Moss

ROMANIDES, HOLY SCRIPTURE AND SCIENCE

The central idea of “the supreme new-calendarist theologian”, as he has been called, Fr. John Romanides,[1] is that the whole of Orthodox theology and Orthodox life can be reduced to the formula “purification, illumination, deification” (or, as he prefers to say, divinization). As he puts it, “Apart from purification, illumination and deification nothing else exists. No theology, that is.[2]

Let us examine this idea in the context of Romanides’ understanding of theology, Holy Scripture and science…

Deification, or glorification, according to Romanides, is the same as the vision of God in His Uncreated Energies; that is, theosis (deification) = theoria (the vision of God). Alternatively, it may be defined as “the perfection of personhood in the vision of the uncreated glory and rule of Christ in and among his saints, the members of his body, the church. Faith, prayer, theology, and dogma are the therapeutical methods and signposts on the road of illumination to perfection which, when reached, abolishes faith, prayer, theology, and dogma, since the final goal of these is their abolition in glorification and selfless love.”[3]

The therapeutic process by which the soul is purified, illumined and deified through God’s Grace is the touchstone of all theological truth. Truth is known as such because it “works” therapeutically, bringing the soul and body of man to the condition of deification/glorification for which he was created. All heresies and “pseudomorphoses” of the truth in the contemporary Christian world, including the Orthodox Christian world, are to be explained in terms of ignorance of, or deviation from, this saving path. True doctrine is recognized by the fact that it helps men to travel the path of purification, illumination and deification. False doctrine is recognized by the opposite: the failure to achieve, or make progress towards, deification. The possessors of truth, therefore, are, first and foremost, the glorified saints, the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and Fathers, who have met the Lord of Glory face to face in the Light of His Uncreated Energies. This meeting gives them a knowledge of God that is certain and unerring, and is the source of all true knowledge of God.

Such knowledge is beyond all words and concepts; the deified/glorified cannot convey their knowledge of God to those who have not been purified and illumined. The best they can do is provide signposts to the truth in the form of created words and symbols. Among such symbols are the Holy Scriptures, the Symbol of the Faith, the writings of the Holy Fathers and the Definitions of the Ecumenical and Local Councils.

Theology in the true sense is the experience of deified men, which cannot be expressed in words. The words of the Scriptures and the Fathers can be relied on insofar as they are the words of deified men. And the words of professional or amateur “theologians” are reliable to the extent that they faithfully reflect the teachings of deified men. But words, being merely created symbols, must not be confused with the Uncreated Reality.

There is much that we can agree with here. The true theologian is truly, as the patristic saying goes, “the man who prays”. And insofar as the end of true prayer is the complete union with God that we call deification, the title of “theologian” can worthily be given only to those who have prayed well and achieved this end - the saints. The saints’ knowledge of God is not theoretical, but “theoric”, to use Romanides’ term; for it is based, not on “theory”, or hypothesis, but on theoria, or direct vision of God. Most “theologians”, by contrast, being still mired in sin and in need of purification, are called such only by condescension. For while they speak and write about the same Being as the true theologians, they do so “through a glass, darkly,” without the immediate, face-to-face apprehension of the truth possessed by the theologian-saints. This does not mean that their work is not necessary or useful, - if it is true, - but only that it is difficult, dangerous, and to a certain degree derivative…

Nevertheless, it is not completely derivative. For even the lowliest of believers, insofar as he is a believer, has a certain direct, definite and certain knowledge of God. For faith is possessed in differing degrees by all believers, and faith, as the Apostle Paul says, is “the substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for, the proof [elegkhos] of things not seen” (Hebrews 11.1). This “proof” provides certainty, and even if that which is proven is not seen it is nevertheless known in a real sense. For “ye have an anointing from the Holy One,” says the Apostle John, “and ye all have knowledge” (I John 2.20). Of course, the knowledge of God by faith alone cannot compare with the knowledge of Him that was given to the Apostles on Mount Tabor, when through a transmutation of their senses they actually saw God in His uncreated Glory – and lived to tell the story. And yet the lowlier knowledge is not to be scorned, and was actually blessed by Christ when He said to Thomas: “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20.29).

Romanides has very little to say about the “unseeing vision” of God that is faith, and far more about the direct vision of God in theoria-theosis. As a correction of an under-emphasis on deification in western theologians, this is understandable. Nevertheless, the correction has gone too far in his system. It is important that we – and especially we who are converts from the western heresies – should be reminded of the ultimate goal of all faith and works in the complete union with God and the deification of human nature. But no less important is it to know what are the first steps in the ascent to God. These are, according to St. Maximus the Confessor, faith and the fear of God. Faith engenders the fear of hell, which engenders the struggle against the passions, which leads eventually to the supreme state, love. [4] Romanides’ system suffers from its over-emphasis on the higher stages of the ascent to God at the expense of the lower. The lower steps of faith, and justification by faith, are one of the central themes of the New Testament. But Romanides says very little about faith, and seriously distorts the dogma of justification by faith…

Romanides controversially insists that the traditional sources of the faith - the Holy Scriptures, the Symbol of the Faith, the writings of the Holy Fathers and the Definitions of the Ecumenical and Local Councils - must not be “idolized” as the word of God. “Holy Scripture is not the word of God, it is about the Word of God. Everywhere ‘about’, not revelation itself or the word of God.”[5] There are uncreated, ineffable words of Revelation, such as those that St. Paul heard in Paradise. But the words of Scripture are created, and therefore not Revelation, but about Revelation. “God’s revelation to mankind,” he writes, “is the experience of theosis. In fact, since revelation is the experience of theosis, an experience that transcends all expressions and concepts, the identification of Holy Scripture with revelation is, in terms of dogmatic theology, pure heresy.”[6]

And yet the Holy Fathers (and not only Augustine) appear to have embraced this “pure heresy”! For while they were perfectly aware of the distinction between the Uncreated and the created, and understood that the words of Holy Scripture are created in origin, nevertheless they insisted that they are the words of God. This applies not only to the words uttered by Jesus Christ Himself, the hypostatic Word of God: they apply to every word of Holy Scripture. For the Holy Spirit “spoke through the Prophets”, as the Symbol of Faith says: the Scriptures are the created words spoken through the lips of a created man by the Uncreated Spirit, and as such completely reliable and accurate. Thus St. Basil the Great writes: “Plainly it is a falling away from faith and an offence chargeable to pride, either to reject anything that is in Scripture, or to introduce anything that is not in Scripture”.[7] Again, St. Gregory the Theologian writes: “We who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to every letter and serif [of Scripture] will never admit, for it were impious to do so, that even the smallest matters were recorded in a careless and hasty manner by those who wrote them down.”[8] Again, St. Epiphanius of Cyprus writes: “Nothing of discrepancy will be found in Sacred Scripture, nor will there be found any statement in opposition to any other statement.”[9]

The more modern Fathers say the same things. Thus shortly before the Russian revolution, St. Barsanuphius of Optina wrote: “In the Apocalypse it is said: ‘Blessed is he that readeth the words of this book.’ If this is written, it means that it is really so, for the words of the Sacred Scripture are the words of the Holy Spirit.”[10]

Romanides continues: “Today Protestants and Roman Catholics are under the impression that God gave Holy Scripture to the Church. This idea has so greatly influenced modern Orthodox thought that the Orthodox even agree with Protestants and Roman Catholics on this point…

“But now the Orthodox Church has to face a certain paradox. When you read the Old Testament, the New Testament, and even writings from Tradition, you will run across opinions that science proved to be false at least 150 years ago, especially on account of the breakthroughs in research made in the exact sciences. Naturally, this creates a serious problem for someone who does not fully grasp what the Fathers mean when they speak about divine inspiration. This problem mainly applies to the study of the Bible.”[11]

So the Bible is not the Word of God, according to Romanides, because it is contradicted by certain supposed findings of science…

What are these sciences that we can trust, supposedly, more than the Holy Scriptures? First of all, palaeontology. “For we now know that there exist human bones which are proved to have existed for three and a half million years.”[12] And then anthropology. “The cosmology of Genesis when compared with the Babylonian cosmology presents striking similarities…”[13]

In general, Romanides has a great respect – too great a respect - for science. He appears to believe in the “big bang”, and evolution, and psychoanalysis, and seems completely oblivious of the powerful objections brought against all these theories by more independent-minded scientists… He believes that the process of purification, illumination and deification can be reflected in the future findings of neurobiology… Several times he compares his “empirical dogmatics” or “experiential theology” with medicine and psychiatry…

Theology is close to science, he says, because both are based on experience – the first, the experience of the Uncreated God, and the second, the experience of created nature. Holy Scripture, however, is inspired by God only when it speaks about the experience of the Uncreated God and how to arrive at it through purification, illumination or deification. But when it speaks about historical events, created things or the creation of the universe, it is unreliable and therefore not God-inspired. Then it should be corrected by the findings of modern science. For Holy Scripture “uses the science of its time, which is why it should not be seen as the revelation of God.”[14]

Romanides explains this position as follows: “Nobody can mix created truths with uncreated truths. They are not the same thing. Created truths are one thing, uncreated truths – something else. And insofar as there is no likeness [between them], created truth cannot be the way by which we know uncreated truth…

“Holy Scripture is not the source of knowledge of created truth, but of uncreated truth, that is, of the Revelation of the uncreated glory of God, and cannot be a guidebook either of medicinal or any other science. It is a Book that was written within the bounds of the knowledge of the time in which it was written.

“The place where Holy Scripture is infallible and a guide for the life of men is in the sections concerning purification, illumination and deification, which deification is the basis of the knowledge of God possessed by the Prophets, the Apostles and the saints of the Church.”[15]

This “pick-and-choose” attitude to Holy Scripture is - paradoxically in view of Romanides’ virulent anti-westernism, - typically western. It demonstrates a lack of faith in the word of God that is typical of liberal Catholics and Protestants. And the reason is Romanides’ bowing down to the god of the West, scientism - or “half-science”, as Dostoyevsky called it.

As a consequence of his scientism Romanides believes (following Thomas Aquinas!) that the intellect should not be considered fallen; “for this,” as Sopko writes, interpreting his thought, “would be difficult to maintain in light of the many advances of modern science”[16]

And yet, as Solomon the wise says, “a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labour; but who has traced out what is in the heavens, and who has learned Thy counsel, unless Thou give him wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from on high?” (Wisdom 9. 15-17). In other words, the fallen mind of man needs correction and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit in the scientific endeavour of “guessing at what is on earth” and “tracing out what is in the heavens”, as much as in any other kind of knowledge.

Indeed, while we talk about “the advance of science”, this must be understood in a strictly relative sense; for while we know enormously more about microbes and sub-atomic particles and all kinds of natural phenomena than in the past, “the scientific world-view” of today represents a catastrophic regression from the world-view of Newton or Descartes, let alone that of the Holy Fathers. Thus modern scientists, with some exceptions, do not believe in God or the soul or angels, and embrace the purely mythical idea that the whole of creation, including man himself and his highest religious, artistic and scientific achievements, derives by chance from an infinitesimally small particle of matter that exploded some fourteen billion years ago. In fact, one of the few encouraging features of the modern world is that the evolution myth is being itself exploded by the findings of real science in many spheres.[17] For, as one scientist said, “Small science separates from God and great science returns one to God”.[18] But Romanides was until his death naively oblivious of these developments.

However, naivety or involuntary ignorance in relation to recent developments in science is one thing: the deliberate ignorance – or worse, rejection - by a patristic scholar of the patristic understanding of the creation of the world, of the Book of Genesis, and of the nature of Holy Scripture in general is quite another. Granted, the Book of Genesis is not written in the language of science. But neither is it written in the language of Babylonian mythology. It is simply the truth about creation - and in a perfectly objective, non-mythical, non-poetical and non-allegorical sense. For it is the direct revelation of God, the only “eye-witness” of creation, to the God-seer Moses, the only man counted worthy to “take down” that witness.

As Fr. Seraphim Rose writes: We all know of the anti-religious arguments about the Scripture, and in particular about Genesis: that it is a creation of backward people who new little of science or the world, that it is full of primitive mythology about "creator-gods" and supernatural beings, that it has all been taken from Babylonian mythology, etc. But no one can seriously compare Genesis with any of the creation myths of other peoples without being struck by the sobriety and simplicity of the Genesis account. Creation myths are indeed full of fabulous events and fairy-tale beings which are not even intended to be taken as the text is written. There is no competition between these texts and Genesis; they are not in the least comparable.


”Nonetheless, there is a widespread popular view - without foundation either in Scripture or in Church tradition - that Moses wrote Genesis after consulting other early accounts of the creation, or that he simply recorded the oral traditions that came down to him; that he compiled and simplified the tales that had come down to his time. This, of course, would make Genesis a work of human wisdom and speculation, and it would be pointless to study such a work as a statement of truth about the beginning of the world.

“… St. Isaac… describes how, in men of the highest spiritual life, the soul can rise to a vision of the beginning of things. Describing how such a soul is enraptured at the thought of the future age of incorruption, St. Isaac writes:


“’And from this one is already exalted in his mind to that which preceded the composition (making) of the world, when there was no creature, nor heaven, nor earth, nor angels, nothing of that which was brought into being, and to how God, solely by His good will, suddenly brought everything from non-being into being, and everything stood before Him in perfection.’

“Thus, one can believe that Moses and later chroniclers made use of written records and oral tradition when it came to recording the acts and chronology of historical Patriarchs and kings; but an account of the beginning of the world's existence, when there were no witnesses to God's mighty acts, can come only from God's revelation; it is a supra-natural knowledge revealed in direct contact with God. And this is exactly what the Fathers and Church tradition tell us the book of Genesis is.


“St. Ambrose writes: ‘Moses “spoke to God the Most High, not in a vision nor in dreams, but mouth to mouth" (Numbers 12:6-8). Plainly and clearly, not by figures nor by riddles, there was bestowed on him the gift of the Divine presence. And so Moses opened his mouth and uttered what the Lord spoke within him, according to the promise He made to him when He directed him to go to King Pharaoh: "Go therefore and I will open thy mouth and instruct thee what thou shouldest speak" (Exodus 4:12). For, if he had already accepted from God what he should say concerning the liberation of the people, how much more should you accept what He should say concerning heaven? Therefore, "not in the persuasive words of wisdom," not in philosophical fallacies, "but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power" (I Corinthians 2:4), he has ventured to say as if he were a witness of the Divine work: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth."’


“In a similar vein, St. Basil writes at the very beginning of his Hexaemeron: ‘This man, who is made equal to the angels, being considered worthy of the sight of God face to face, reports to us those things which he heard from God.’

“St. John Chrysostom in his Homilies on Genesis comes back again and again to the statement that every word of the Scripture is Divinely inspired and has a profound meaning - that it is not Moses' words, but God's: ‘Let us see now what we are taught by the blessed Moses, who speaks not of himself but by the inspiration of the grace of the Spirit.’


“He then has a fascinating description of how Moses does this. We know that the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah. In the Book of the Apocalypse (Revelation), St. John the Theologian prophesied about the events of the end of the world and the future of the Church. How did they know what was going to happen? Obviously, God revealed it to them. St. John Chrysostom says that, just as St. John the Theologian was a prophet of things of the future, Moses was a prophet of things of the past. He says the following: ‘All the other prophets spoke either of what was to occur after a long time or of what was about to happen then; but he, the blessed (Moses), who lived many generations after (the creation of the world), was vouchsafed by the guidance of the right hand of the Most High to utter what had been done by the Lord before his own birth. It is for this reason that he begins to speak thus: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," as if calling out to us all with a loud voice: it is not by the instruction of men that I say this; He Who called them (heaven and earth) out of non-being into being - it is He Who has roused my tongue to relate of them. And therefore I entreat you, let us pay heed to these words as if we heard not Moses but the very Lord of the universe Who speaks through the tongue of Moses, and let us take leave for good of our own opinions.’


“Thus, we should approach the early chapters of Genesis as we would a book of prophecy, knowing that it is actual events being described, but knowing also that - because of their remoteness to us and because of their very nature as the very first events in the history of the world - we will be able to understand them only imperfectly, even as we have a very imperfect understanding of the events at the very end of the world as set forth in the Apocalypse and other New Testament Scriptures. St. John Chrysostom himself warns us not to think we understand too much about the creation: ‘With great gratitude let us accept what is related (by Moses), not stepping out of our own limitations, and not testing what is above us as the enemies of the truth did when, wishing to comprehend everything with their minds, they did not realize that human nature cannot comprehend the creation of God.’

“Let us then try to enter the world of the Holy Fathers and their understanding of the Divinely inspired text of Genesis. Let us love and respect their writings, which in our confused times are a beacon of clarity which shines most clearly on the inspired text itself. Let us not be quick to think we ‘know better’ than they, and if we think we have some understanding they did not see, let us be humble and hesitant about offering it, knowing the poverty and fallibility of our own minds. Let them open our minds to understand God's revelation.”[19]

It is important to realize also that Romanides’ distinction between “uncreated truths” and “created truths” is quite irrelevant in the context of Holy Scripture. Romanides himself describes Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai as his deification/glorification, his entering into the Divine Light of God’s uncreated Energies, where “uncreated truths” were revealed to him. And yet this uncreated Revelation was received by Moses in a specific historical time and place – “created truths”, which, if not verified by science, would place the “uncreated truth” itself in doubt, according to Romanides’ logic. For let us suppose scientists that “discovered” that Moses never went up Mount Sinai, and this encounter with God was not a historical event. Then does not the uncreated truth disappear with the created one? Such is the dilemma of one who puts his faith in science and not in the Word of God… Moreover, the content of the Uncreated Revelation Moses received was a series of “created truths” – truths concerning sun and stars, earth and water, plants, animals and men… The important thing for us to know is not whether a given passage of Scripture is a description of uncreated or created truth, but simply whether it is true, coming from the Spirit of truth. Of course, there are vast differences in the sublimity and importance of the different truths revealed by Holy Scripture. The fact that Moses entered the Divine Darkness of Mount Sinai is far more sublime and important that the fact that Tobit is twice mentioned as being followed by his dog on his travels. And yet from the point of view of factual reliability the big fact and the small fact are on the same level, as being both communicated to us by God, Who says: “Who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4.10). In any case, every Theophany recorded in the Holy Scripture, every meeting between God and man in glory, involves an “unconfused but undivided” meeting between Uncreated and created elements, between Eternity and Time, which only the sheerest rationalism will attempt to divide…

By denying that Holy Scripture is revelation in the true sense, and by asserting that large parts of Holy Scripture – the “created truths” concerning history, etc. – must be considered to be less reliable than other parts – the “uncreated truths” that “transcend all expressions and concepts”, Romanides provides himself with a tool whereby he can degrade or completely reinterpret certain scriptural expressions and concepts that he does not like – for example, “justification” (which he reinterprets as “vivification”) or “justice” (which he reinterprets as “love”). For he thereby introduces the idea that there is a “higher” theology, that of deification, which is without words, expressions and concepts, and a “lower”, Biblical theology with words, expressions and concepts. And he who has the higher theology can correct, or even do without, the lower theology.

He buttresses this idea with the teaching that there is no likeness, no analogy at all “between teachings in the Bible and the truth about God. Why not? Because there is absolutely no similarity between God and creation. This is the reason why Biblical concepts about God are concepts that can be set aside and are set aside during the experience of theosis. Before theosis, these concepts are clearly helpful, necessary, correct, and right, but only as guideposts towards God, not as truths from God or about God.

“The Bible is a guide to God, but the description of God in the Bible does not bear any similarity to God. Holy Scripture talks about God; it talks about the Truth, but it is not the Truth. It is a guide to the Truth and the Way Who is Christ. The words in the Bible are simply symbols that contain certain concepts. These concepts lead us to Christ, but they are no more than thoroughly human concepts.

“So you cannot hope to theologize correctly simply because you have read the Bible and base your theology on the Bible. If you do this, you cannot avoid becoming a heretic, because Holy Scripture can be correctly interpreted only when the experiences of illumination or theosis accompanies the study or reading of the Bible. Without illumination or theosis, Holy Scripture cannot be interpreted correctly.”[20]

Let us separate the wheat from the chaff here. It is certainly true that Holy Scripture cannot be correctly interpreted without the help of the Holy Spirit. That help comes to us both directly and through the whole of the Holy Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. However, it is not true that “you cannot avoid becoming a heretic” if you have not had the experience of illumination (by which Romanides means the conscious experience of the Holy Spirit praying in one’s heart) or theosis. If that were the case, then the vast majority of Orthodox Christians would in fact be heretics…

Orthodoxy or heresy is not determined by the presence or absence of a specific spiritual experience: it is determined by the sincere public acceptance or rejection of the official doctrinal pronouncements of the Orthodox Church. For, as the Apostle Paul says: “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10.10). Of course, every dogma has an infinite depth; and that depth is plumbed only to the degree that one has made progress in the spiritual life; and those saints who have acquired prayer of the heart and seen the Divine Light undoubtedly plumb the depths of the dogmas to a far greater degree than us sinful mortals. Nevertheless, the criterion of Orthodoxy remains for all the “holding fast the pattern of sound words” (II Timothy 1.13). For this “pattern of sound words”, as the Holy Church chants, “is woven from the theology on high”.[21]

Secondly, it is not true to say that since there is no similarity between God and creation, and that the words of the Bible are “simply symbols” containing “no more than thoroughly human concepts”. First, a symbol, as the original meaning of the word in Greek (sym-bole) suggests, is a thing that brings together a material form and an immaterial content into an indivisible and unrepeatable unity. The sign that this unity has been achieved is beauty. In secular thought and art, the content is a “thoroughly human” thought or emotion. In sacred thought and art, it is a “divinely human” thought or emotion – that is, one overshadowed by the Grace of God. And in rare examples of sacred art, such as the “Icon-not-made-by hand-of-man”, or the Turin Shroud, the content is God Himself (not in His Essence, of course, but in His uncreated Energies). Romanides appears to regard the words of Holy Scripture as “simply symbols” that cannot reveal the Uncreated God: at best, they are signposts, or instructions on how to attain to the true Revelation. But this, as he appears not to understand, was the position of the iconoclast heretics in the eighth and ninth centuries…

The iconoclasts did not object to the instructional use of icons – but only so long as they were not venerated, for that implied that they were not simply created objects, but holy, Grace-filled objects. However, if they were venerated, then they were idols, and should be destroyed. Thus for the iconoclasts the icons were essentially opaque, and were not the medium of communication with any higher reality; whereas for the Orthodox, the venerators of the holy icons, they were transparent – “windows into heaven”, in the expression of St. Stephen the Younger. Moreover, for the Orthodox the words of Holy Scripture are verbal icons, which is why the Book of the Gospel is venerated as an icon. For in the words of Holy Scripture we hear the voice of Him Who declared Himself to be the Word of the Father. And so our veneration of the created type does not mire us in idolatry, as Romanides suggests, but allows us to ascend in true worship to the Uncreated Archetype.

Thirdly, although there is no similarity between the essence of God and creation, there is a certain likeness between the energies of God and His rational creatures, men and angels. That is why man is said to be made in the image and likeness of God. And that is why it makes sense to talk of God’s “love”, “anger”, etc., which presupposes a certain likeness between the Divine and the human. These words were created to describe purely human emotions; but the Holy Scriptures use them also to indicate – approximately, but nevertheless truly – a certain likeness between human experience and God’s actions towards us. And when these words are found in Holy Scripture in reference to God we know that they are the best approximation to the truth and therefore cannot be replaced. Yes, they are human artefacts which are more or less inadequate in describing the mysteries of God. But this applies to all the anthropomorphic expressions of Holy Scripture. God neither loves nor hates as human beings do; both the love and the wrath of God are not to be understood in a human way. For, as St. John of Damascus says: “God, being good, is the cause of all good, subject neither to envy nor to any passion”.[22] And, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, by virtue of our limitations and imperfection as human beings we introduce “something human even into such lofty moral definitions of the Divine essence as righteousness and love”.[23] “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55.8). And yet, provided we guard ourselves by this apophatic warning, our thoughts can ascend closer to the thoughts of God by accepting with gratitude and faith those words and images that God Himself has given us for our understanding, remembering that they are now not merely human words, but the Word of God, and that “the words of the Lord are pure words, silver that is fired, tried in the earth, brought to sevenfold purity” (Psalm 11.6). Moreover, we ourselves, by studying the Word of God in this way, become purer, loftier, more spiritual, more understanding.

Such understanding cannot be accomplished by replacing the vivid words of Holy Scripture with the dry categories of secular philosophy – or even of Romanidean theology. The Word of God is above all human attempts to explain it. And any attempt to “improve on” or “explain away”, still less “set aside”, the Word of God in Holy Scripture can only lead to distortions and heresies.

For, as Romanides’ teacher, Fr. Georges Florovsky writes: “Revelation is the voice of God speaking to man. And man hears this voice, listens to it, accepts the Word of God and understands it. It is precisely for this purpose that God speaks; that man should hear him. By Revelation in the proper sense, we understand precisely this word of God as it is heard. Holy Scripture is the written record of the Revelation which has been heard. And however one may interpret the inspired character of Scripture, it must be acknowledged that Scripture preserves for us and presents to us the voice of God in the language of man… God speaks to man in the language of man. This constitutes the authentic anthropomorphism of Revelation. This anthropomorphism however is not merely an accommodation. Human language in no way reduces the absolute character of Revelation nor limits the power of God's Word. The Word of God can be expressed precisely and adequately in the language of man. For man is created in the image of God. It is precisely for this reason that man is capable of perceiving God, of receiving God's Word and of preserving it. The Word of God is not diminished while it resounds in human language. On the contrary, the human word is transformed and, as it were, transfigured because of the fact that it pleased God to speak in human language. Man is able to hear God, to grasp, receive and preserve the word of God…

“When divine truth is expressed in human language, the words themselves are transformed. And the fact that the truths of the faith are veiled in logical images and concepts testifies to the transformation of word and thought – words become sanctified through this usage. The words of dogmatic definitions are not ‘simple words’, they are not ‘accidental’ words which one can be replaced by other words. They are eternal truths incapable of being replaced.”[24]

May 20 / June 2, 2011.

The Ascension of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.



[1] Archbishop Kallinikos of Athens, “Eikonomia kai oikoumenismos” (Iconoclasm and Ecumenism), http://www.ecclesiagoc.gr/el/diafora/140-eikonomahia-kai-oikoumenismos.

[2] Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos), Empeiriki Dogmatiki tis Orthodoxou Katholikis Ekklesias kata tis Proforikes Paradoseis tou p. Ioannou Romanidi (The Empirical Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church according to the Oral Traditions of Fr. John Romanides), Levadeia: Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos, 2011, volume 2, p. 295.

[3] Romanides, “A Therapeutic Theme”, in James L. Kelley, Realism of Glory: Lectures on Christology in the Works of Protopresbyter John Romanides, Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2009, p. vi.

[4] St. Maximus, First Century on Love, 2-3.

[5] Romanides, in Vlachos, Empeiriki Dogmatiki, volume 1, p. 292.

[6] Romanides, Patristic Theology, The Dalles, Oregon: Uncut Mountain Press, 2008, p. 109.

[7] St. Basil, On the Faith, P.G. 31, col. 677.

[8] St. Gregory, In Defence of his Flight to Pontus, 2, 105.

[9] St. Epiphanius, Panacea against all Heresies, 70, 7.

[10] St. Barsanuphius, in Sergius Fomin, Russia before the Second Coming (First Edition), Sergiev Posad, 1993, p. 79 (in Russian).

[11] Romanides, Patristic Theology, p. 111.

[12] Romanides, in Vlachos, Empeiriki Dogmatiki, volume 1, p. 294.

[13] Romanides, in Vlachos, Empeiriki Dogmatiki, volume 1, p. 294.

[14] Romanides, in Vlachos, Empeiriki Dogmatiki, volume 1, p. 295.

[15] Romanides, in Vlachos, Empeiriki Dogmatiki, volume 1, p. 301.

[16] Sopko, op. cit., p. 139.

[17] See, for example, Vance Ferrell, Science vs. Evolution, Altamont, TN: Evolution Facts, 2006.

[18] Quoted by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, in Fr. Milorad Loncar (ed.), Missionary Letters of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, Grayslake, IL: New Gracanica Monastery, 2009, volum 2, p. 149.

[19] Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, http://startingontheroyalpath.blogspot.com/2009/09/genesis-creation-and-early-man.html.

[20] Romanides, Patristic Theology, p. 129.

[21] Pentecostarion, Troparion for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers.

[22] St. John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, book I, chapter 1.

[23] St. Gregory the Theologian, Sermon 28.

[24] Florovsky, “Revelation, Philosophy and Theology”, in Creation and Redemption, Belmont, Mass.: Nordland Publishing Company, 1976, p. 21, 22, 33.

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