Sunday, August 14, 2011

St. Luke the Surgeon on Science and Religion

St. Luke of Simferpol and Crimea served as a bishop, scientist, medical doctor, surgeon, professor of medicine, and author.  His Notes on Purulent Surgery, first published in 1934, may be considered his most significant literary contribution to the surgical arts.  You can read about the life of St. Luke, called "the Blessed Surgeon," on the Full of Grace and Truth blog.  Information is also available on Orthodoxwiki.  The book, The Blessed Surgeon (2nd edition), provides a relatively detailed account of his life.

In an article on "Science and Religion," St. Luke commented on the relationship between science and Orthodox spirituality, true religion. The words of the Blessed Surgeon are relevant today for Orthodox Christians who work in scientific, academic, and/or medical environments steeped in secularism, wherein there is much ignorance regarding the limitation of science and the distinction between scientific knowledge of the rational mind and the theological knowledge of the heart.

St. Luke wrote, 

"We are certain that apart from the material world there is an infinite and incomparably superior spiritual world. We believe in the existence of spiritual beings that have higher intellect than us humans. We believe wholeheartedly that above this spiritual and material world there is the Great and Almighty God.

What we doubt is the right of science to research with its methods the spiritual world. Because the spiritual world cannot be researched with the methods used to research the material world. Such methods are totally inappropriate to research the spiritual world.

How do we know that there is a spiritual world? Who told us that it exists? If we are asked by people who do not believe in the Divine revelation, we shall answer them thus: 'Our heart told us'. For there are two ways for one to know something, the first is that which is spoken by Haeckel, which is used by science to learn of the material world. There is however another way that is unknown to science, and does not wish to know it. It is the knowledge through the heart. Our heart is not only the central organ of the circulation system, it is an organ with which we know the other world and receive the highest knowledge. It is the organ that gives us the capability to communicate with God and the above world. Only in this we disagree with science.

Praising the great successes and achievements of science, we do not doubt at all its great importance and we do not confine the scientific knowledge. We only tell the scientists "You do not have the capability with your methods to research the spiritual world, we however can with our heart.

There are many unexplainable phenomena which concern the spiritual world that are real (as are some type of material phenomena). There are therefore phenomena that science will never be able to explain because it does not use the appropriate methods.

Let science explain how the prophecies appeared on the coming of the Messiah, which were all fulfilled. Could science tell us how the great prophet Isaiah, some 700 years before the birth of Christ, foretold the most important events in His life and for which he was named the evangelist of the Old Testament? To explain the far sighted grace possessed by the saints and to tell us with which physical methods the saints inherited this grace and how they could understand the heart and read the thoughts of a person they had just met for the first time? They would see a person for the first time and they will call him by his name. Without waiting for the visitor to ask, they would answer on what troubled him.

If they can, let them explain it to us. Let them explain with what method the saints foretold the great historical events which were accurately fulfilled as they were prophesied. Let them explain the visitation from the other world and the appearance of the dead to the living.

They shall never explain it to us because they are too far from the basis of religion- from faith. If you read the books of the scientists who try to reconstruct religion, you will see how superficially they look at things. They do not understand the essence of religion yet they criticize it. Their criticism does not touch the essence of faith, since they are unable to understand the types, the expressions of religious feeling. The essence of religion they do not understand. Why not? Because the Lord Jesus Christ says 'No one can come to me unless My Father who sent Me draws him to Me.' (John 6:44)

So it is necessary that we be drawn by the Heavenly Father, it is necessary that the grace of the Holy Spirit enlighten our heart and our mind. To dwell in our heart and mind through this enlightenment, the Holy Spirit and the ones who were found worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, those in whose heart lives Christ and His Father, know the essence of faith. The others, outside the faith cannot understand anything."

Source of quote here.  The image is from Orthodoxwiki.  This icon was authored by Father Daniel from the Holy Hesychastirio of Daniel the Katounakian, Mount Athos and is kept at the Holy Church of St. Paraskevi, Koropi, Attica of Greece.  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.