Fr Dumitru Staniloae: Are You in Dialogue with the Rational Cosmos?

Feast of St Laurence the Recluse

Staniloae_Square_3.jpegTHE CONTENT of natural revelation is the cosmos and man who is endowed with reason, with conscience, and with freedom. But man is not only an object that can be known within this revelation; he is also one who is a subject of the knowledge of revelation. Both man and the cosmos are equally the product of a creative act of God which is above nature, and both are maintained in existence by God through an act of conservation which has, likewise, a supernatural character. To the acts of conserving and leading the world towards its own proper end, there corresponds within the cosmos and within man both a power and a tendency of self-conservation and of right development. From this point of view, man and the cosmos can themselves be taken as a kind of natural revelation.

But man and the cosmos constitute a natural revelation also from the point of view of knowledge. The cosmos is organized in a way that corresponds to our capacity for knowing. The cosmos—and human nature as intimately connected with the cosmos—are stamped with rationality, while man (God’s creature) is further endowed with a reason capable of knowing consciously the rationality of the cosmos and of his own nature. Nevertheless, according to Christian doctrine, this rationality of the cosmos and this human reason of ours which enables us to know are, on the other hand, the product of the creative act of God. Thus, natural revelation is not something purely natural from this point of view either.

We consider that the rationality of the cosmos attests to the fact that the cosmos is the product of a rational being, since rationality, as an aspect of a reality which is destined to be known, has no explanation apart from a conscious Reason which knows it from the time it creates it or even before that time, and knows it continually so long as that same Reason preserves its being. On the other hand, the cosmos itself would be meaningless along with its rationality if there were no human reason that might come to know the cosmos because of its rational character. In our faith, the rationality of the cosmos has a meaning only if it is known in the thought of an intelligent creative being before its creation and in the whole time of its continuing in being, having been first brought into existence precisely that it might be known by a being for whom it was created, and that a dialogue between itself and the created rational being might thus be brought about through its mediation. This fact constitutes the content of natural revelation.

Christian supernatural revelation asserts the same thing when it teaches that, to God’s original creative and conserving position vis-à-vis the world, there corresponds, on a lower plane which is by nature dependent, our own position as a being made in the image of God and able to know and to transform nature. In this position of man, it can be seen that the world must have its origin in a Being which intended through the creation of the world—and through its preservation continues to intend—that man should come to a knowledge of the world through itself and to a knowledge of that Being.

—Fr Dumitru Staniloae, The Experience of God, Vol 1: Revelation and Knowledge of the Triune God

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