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Rationality and Movement in the thought of Dumitru Stăniloae


The article deals with aspects of Dumitru Stăniloae`s cosmological thinking. Following the tradition of the Holy Fathers to the letter, the great Romanian theologian translated the ecclesial message in the language of the world, from the cultural frameworks of Late Antiquity and Byzantine Middle Ages to the contemporary scientific culture. With this success, father Stăniloae has yet again become a great exponent of the neo-patristic movement. The article deals with two relevant examples in his cosmological thinking: the themes of the dynamics of the creation, and the rationality of the cosmos.

The first section, “Nature and movement”, explores the dynamics of the creation in father Stăniloae`s view. The great theologian contemplated the universe both in its immensity and its impressive showdown, according to the scientific description of the time. Interesting enough, far from sensing fear of this vision`s consequences, father Stăniloae approached the theme of the universe in movement and transformation seeking in the tradition of the Fathers landmarks that would allow a profound theological meditation. Among his favorite sources there are works by St. Athanasius the Great and Maximus the Confessor, translated, prefaced and annotated by father Stăniloae for the Romanian reader. From these writings, our theologian borrowed the patristic perspective of the creation engaged in a dynamics simultaneously determined by divine and human factors. More precisely, he brought again in the theological context the patristic theme of the creation, as permanently crossed and supported by divine energies, a fact that led him to understanding the reality in terms of interaction and synergy. Indeed, father Stăniloae represented the universe and the life on earth as following a way that leads to eschatological fulfillment, a way in which the entire natural movement of the creation emerges as being reinforced and guided by the energetic or active presence of the divine Logos. And it is precisely this endless divine guidance of universal dynamics the one that allowed father Stăniloae to accept, up to a point, the possibility of evolution and transformation at a cosmic and biological level. What truly matters is that, following the two abovementioned Fathers, the great theologian set the basics for a strong dialogue between theologians and scholars, a dialogue that begins for both groups right from the same spot – of a moving universe.

The section entitled “Cosmic Rationality” analyzes a different aspect of the great theologian`s cosmological vision, an aspect that cannot be separated from the great theme of universal movement or evolution. Father Stăniloae emphasizes the fact that the divine presence which supports the entire creation is but one side of the relations between God and the cosmos. Thus, what truly allows the continuous intervention of the divine Logos in the universe is the fact that the world is the result of the Logos` thought, due to which the universe has the mark of its creator. Father Stăniloae described this mark in the sense of the rational configuration of the creation, a configuration which, on one hand, maintains the cosmos open to God and, on the other hand, allows the universe to develop in the direction of complexity and super-organization. The vector of this development indicates the human being, by whose conscience the rationality of the universe speaks. As such, developing in the parameters of its rational infrastructure, the movement of the entire cosmos or the evolution of the universe remains far from representing a process dominated by randomized factors. In order to mediate such a message in terms that are accessible to the contemporary man, father Stăniloae discretely inserted in his cosmologic discourse elements that evoke the new quantum physics. Among these elements, it is the concept of quantum virtuality present in the inner structure of matter, potentialities that make possible the anthropogenic determination of reality.

The article ends with a summary of the discoveries resulted from the work of the great theologian, discoveries that, on one hand, confirm father Stăniloae`s role in the neo-patristic tradition and, on the other hand, call on the deepening and generalization of this type of theological discourse in the ecclesial conscience.