Abstract: Christian formation in a pluralist environment looking at a picture book. Our pluralist environment seeks to safeguard social cohesion - among other things - through a limitation of knowledge about what is recognized as “objective reality” to the paradigm of science. In such an environment, the project of raising children in a faith that proclaims such reality as Divinely created is counter cultural. In the past, traditional techniques of educational disciplining and instructing had facilitated that project; such techniques have become inacceptable, even to some extent illegal. Parents and teachers must look for alternative educational guidance from the resources offered by Holy Tradition.

This essay addresses one such resource. It explores the support which the teaching about Christ as “the Word”, can offer for an Orthodox design of picture books for children. As a recent publication on the biblical “creation story” illustrates, a properly oriented “reading” of properly designed images can involve both educators and children in a spiritual journey that follows the salvation economical “way” of the “Divine Word”. Here top-down formation is supplemented by an invitation into a shared journey. Such an approach, so this essay submits, can immunize, children against the misguided claims of an ideologized science they will encounter as adolescents.

Keywords: Scientism, liberalism, Christo-centric perspective, Divine creation, education by immersion.

This essay addresses pluralism not as descriptive, but as an axiological concept: It examines the endorsement of moral, religious, ideological, and life-style diversity marking secularized Western societies. As a child of the Enlightenment such pluralism reflects a ‘scientist’ rationalism: in discounting transcendence, such rationalism takes diversity to be inescapable. Even more, the pluralism discussed here issues from a liberalism that affirms individual freedom in terms of political entitlements. These entitlements are no longer limited to protection (against human interference); they also envisage the enhancement of freedom (through removal of other impediments) to its successful use (1). Thus embedded in both science and political governance, pluralism informs the ethos of the European Union today. While the plurality it affirms has causes in the past, axiological pluralism envisages the future. It is this future-orientation, through which pluralism displaces the eschatological horizon framing traditional Christian education.

Our reflections on such education within such a hostile environment attends to (I) the reasons for that hostility, (II) resulting impediments, (III) a remaining option for young children, and (IV) with opportunities for supporting older children in their struggle against that environment.

I. Pluralism’s hostility against Orthodox Christian education

Pluralism opposes (a) the encouragement of Christian asceticism, (b) the endorsement of noetic knowledge, and (c) the exercise of discernment.

a) Cultural diversity and variety in personal self-expression are of course appreciated not only in the contemporary West. It is also welcomed in Orthodox Christianity: here diversity and variety are acknowledged as integral to a life of the Church that reflects the richness of God’s creative love (2). Contemporary pluralism, in contrast, affirms such diversity and variety only in view of the implied opportunities for individual self-realization (3). It affirms the Enlightenment’s quest for emancipation and autonomy. Such pluralism reflects a liberal culture.

Classical liberalism seeks to defend freedom on a “macro” level. It has opposed the clerical hierarchies in the West. Because these had lost touch with the one holy Catholic and Apostolic witness to God’s creative love, such hierarchies were experienced as monolithic and confining. Globalization, of course, has rendered that witness in the Orthodox Church more visible. Yet her teaching about the Divine human vocation to freedom is no longer understood in the liberal mainstream. Here freedom got associated instead with the exercise of human reason. The reliability of that capacity, after all, had long been affirmed by the scholastic theology proclaimed by those Western hierarchies. As a supplement to the Divine revelation for believers, moral reason was to offer normative guidance even to (able and well-disposed) rational unbelievers. Eventually however, the implied “right faith”-proviso undergirding Medieval Western rationalism got denounced as irrational bias. With the Enlightenment, a new, independent human reason attained authority. Mankind’s Divine calling for freedom was replaced by an inherent human vocation: As rational beings, so Immanuel Kant concluded, humans realize that vocation by submission to the demands of some supposedly (and paradoxically) “native” moral rationality. Two centuries of continued secularization later, faith in the ability of such native rationality to secure universal assent has waned. Today, postmodernity affirms both “freedom” and “human fulfillment” in terms of individual choice. The quest for human perfection has now comes as quest for authenticity.

Such ultimately arbitrary and spontaneous exercise of “freedom” is of course just what traditional Christians diagnose as enslavement to the passions. In focusing on the immanent and the finite, liberalism takes the affirmation of one’s passions to promote such authenticity in terms of personal identity and integrity. Once the freedom-destructive impact of those passions is no longer recognized, the life of the Church becomes incomprehensible. In particular, cultural resources are lost for making sense of ascetic therapies. It becomes inconceivable how and why a Christian education should help children restore their fallen nature to the very different, i.e., deifying freedom they are called to. In limiting human fulfillment to the conditions imposed by that fallen nature, the liberalism at the root of pluralism disparages those therapies as suppressive and alienating. It accuses Christian education of “black pedagogy”.

b) The post-modern plurality of worldviews (welcomed by in the interest of multiplied options for individual self-realization) comes with the risk of social dissent. No universally acknowledged criteria are available for resolving such dissent. Worldviews, along with religions and lifestyles, are therefore classified as merely subjective (even if often culturally conditioned). They are distinguished from the objective knowledge associated with the empirical sciences exclusively (4). Validity claims thus get limited to some confessed “perspective”. Unlike “facts” visions of human flourishing are relegated to the sphere of (collective or private) fiction. A properly science - (and Enlightenment) proof advocacy of such visions must acknowledge their inescapable plurality and (ultimate) contingency. Their proclaimed truth must be culturally or personally relativized.

Such inescapability itself, of course, is not a scientific fact. It has no empirical basis beyond the existing plurality of worldviews. The possibility of an eventual resolution of their disagreements (say, through a Final Judgment) can surely be dismissed as (secularly) unreasonable. But from a strictly rational standpoint, there is no basis on which (at least as a matter of principle) such a resolution can be excluded. The claimed contingency of all worldviews thus reflects a decision to recognize as truly knowable only what appears to the senses. The contingent character of that decision itself is highlighted by Christianity’s traditional endorsement of a further type of empirical knowledge: Such knowledge addresses not facts about interpersonally sharable data of sense experience. It addresses a Divine Self-revelation to His chosen saints, meant to be passed on (and proclaimed as uniquely valid) to the whole world. Such passingon, as recorded in holy Tradition, can enable recipients to develop their own receptivity to such Divine Self-revelation, and to become Tradition-bearers themselves. The difficulties involved in accessing such experience should not reduce its plausibility: scientists too, after all, need years of training before they can check any offered evidence (5).

Science itself, of course, as source of insight into the world of material things Adam was to rule, and as a resource of technology for alleviating the burdens imposed by that world as fallen, has always been appreciated by the Church. But the Enlightenment’s wholesale disparagement of Divine Self-revelation has overlaid the pursuit of science with yet another worldview: scientism (6). This worldview disparages Christian education and its focus on facilitating access to noetic knowledge as altogether misguided (7).

The previous section revealed the endorsement of autonomous individual self-realization as the circumstance that renders pluralism’s welcome of cultural and personal diversity an impediment to Christian education. Likewise, so this section reveals the contemporary obsession with “scientific objectivity” and the scientist faith in the ultimate undecidability of normative disagreements (marking the plurality welcomed by pluralism) as a similar impediment.

c) Classical liberalism conceives of its commitment to individual freedom in terms of protection against private and public interference. The social liberalism marking pluralism in continental Europe today affirms that commitment as a call to efforts at enhancement. It conceives of freedom in terms of resources for its successful exercise. Here, not only lacking resources, but even their unequal distribution is taken to limit the freedom of those suffering from competitive disadvantage. Such comparative handicap must be remedied through redistribution of material goods and abolishment of legal privileges. The material and social sacrifices imposed on those comparatively better positioned are justified in view of a purely this-worldly “native human dignity”: Such dignity is taken to entitle to “respect” in view of basic rights and opportunities accorded its bearers. It obligates society (as politically constituted, or as state) to satisfy those basic needs, the non-fulfillment of which would compromise members” ability to exercise their rights.

Prominent among such basic needs is the psychological craving for social recognition and inclusion. Its satisfaction is threatened not only by material and status inequality. It is compromised also by moral, aesthetic, and religious disapproval. This is why the requirement of subjectivist bracketing of moral and religious truth-claims, which scientism stipulates as rationally inescapable, is politically taken to be socially indispensable: Advocates of diverse worldviews (and followers of their corresponding lifestyles) must present their views as subjectively chosen and contingent on such choice. Only if they do so even in their assorted foris internis, can their temptation of judging, and excluding, advocates of alternative views be at least attenuated. Only if the celebrated plurality of worldviews and lifestyles is downplayed to a plurality of tastes, will “inappropriate” missionary zeal appear pointless. Particular group solidarities will then no longer attenuate the universal social solidarity required to support the liberal policies of equalizing redistribution. Competition in communal struggles for public recognition and representation will no longer nurture mutual resentment and hostility.

It is the implied concern for safeguarding social peace in a pluralist environment, which exposes Christian education in a non- subjectivized, traditional sense of the term to political pressure. Somewhat like the diversity-spanning emperor worship imposed on the religiously diversified environment of the early Church, so today, the diversity spanning emulation of a purely secular human dignity imposes on all believers the burnt-offering of indiscriminate social recognition and inclusion. This requirement leaves no space the Truth Who is Christ, for Divinely ordained “rights and wrongs”, and for struggle against the temptations offered by a culture obsessed with mankind’s fallen passions. In encouraging future citizens to withhold their required (welcoming acceptance-) contribution to what their fellows are held to (need, and therefore to) be entitled to, such education is perceived as socially inacceptable.

II. Impediments resulting from such hostility

As already mentioned, Traditional Christianity also recognizes freedom as core to human fulfillment. Thus St. Theophan takes the Christian life to begin with a person’s free adoption of what his education had imposed8. Yet while liberalism configures freedom as “native,” and as the object of “rights”, Orthodoxy recognizes its character as a Divine “advance offer,” with continued access depending on its proper use. While liberalism envisages human flourishing in terms of arbitrary individual choice, the Church aligns such flourishing with man’s Divine design.

Both liberalism and the Church recognize the need for education. But liberalism focuses mainly on development of latent potential, and on emancipation-oriented support for increasing independence. The Church, bent on correcting the effects of humans’ fallen nature, emphasizes obedience to rightly oriented authority. In order to enable children freely to adopt the life of faith, they have been taught, Orthodox education places comparatively greater emphasis on parental intervention and correction.

According to two major Patristic teachers, i.e. St. John Chrysostom and St. Theophan, such intervention focuses on

  1. the educators themselves, their attitude to the child as entrusted to their care by God, and their role as models of Christian faithfulness (St. Theophan, op.cit. p. 44 ff),
  2. immersing the child in the fullness of the life of the Church, i.e. in an environment with very specific scents, images, music, rituals, encounters, biblical stories and Holy Communion, quite regardless of his ability to grasp the meaning of what he experiences (St. Theophan, p. 42ff, 53
  3. obedience and mastery of self-will (9),
  4. resilience in view of physical and psychological hardship (St. Theophan, pp. 48f, 51, St. John Chrysostom, op.cit., ## 68ff),
  5. virtue, as modelled on the righteous and holy people portrayed in Holy Tradition and encountered among living saints (St. John Chrysostom, ##’ 18, 39, 43ff),
  6. protection against any external influences which affirm those very passions the child must learn to subdue (St. John Chrysostom, op.cit. ## 22, 28, 37 ff, 56ff).

In a pluralist environment, as described above, surely, nothing can in principle hinder parents from conforming to the first two requirements. Especially the second, i.e. immersion in the fullness of Orthodox life, can teach children to love what their loved ones love, and to do so willingly, long before they realizef good reasons. Here a habit of implicit trust is established in following parental guidance and in harmonizing one’s very ways of feeling, perceiving, and acting with the beauty marking life in the Church. Here the core condition for receptivity to noetic experience is secured.

To be sure, both requirements (and in fact, all of them) take time; they require a setting of undisturbed leisure. Such a setting is hard to maintain in an environment which dis-emphasizes parental care. The social liberalism affirmed in the European Union recognizes extensive claim rights to a social support. The satisfaction of such rights is costly. It depends on parental integration into the tax-producing work-force. This is why such a culture proclaims the gospel of “work-life balance.” Its insurance- and pension-policies make it hard (and risky) for families to rely on a single income (or even on two half-incomes). The endorsement of female emancipation through a narrowly “career-” oriented self-realization signals the liberal disregard for maternal care. It signals the supposed need for reliance on the pedagogic professionalism available in public institutions already for infants.

Surely, families can resist that mainstream by accepting the costs. More challenging are the third and fourth principles of Christian education (i.e. training in obedience and resilience). Both are designed to liberate the child from the tyranny of self-will and fallen passions. Both will risk intervention by child protection agencies10 in the name of children’s “natural rights” and a very different vision of their “best interest”.

This risk is especially high in countries like Gennany, which - bent on emancipation from parental suppression and safeguarding equality of opportunities - prohibit home-schooling. Here children are forced to spend the bulk of their waking hours away from home. They practically live with peers raised in, electronic media profiting from, and educators seeking to inculcate the “wide and easy path”.

Any witness to the moral and spiritual discernment taught at home (viz. requirement 5) exposes children to the charge of discrimination and divisiveness. Here, even stay-at-home mothers are unable to protect their children from cultural influences that repudiate the very goals of their education.

A central issue here concerns human sexuality, i.e. mankind’s bi-sexual design. This conflict revolves around the alternative between the world as Divinely created for the purpose of human theosis on the one side, and the world as the outcome of purely physical and biological events, and subject to a law of evolution with space for contingent human choice on the other side. It thus makes sense to take a closer look at ways in which Christian educators (at home and in Church) can use the “creation story” of Genesis in preparing children in a pluralist society for the struggle they will later have to wage, - both against the temptations offered by that society’s liberal commitments and against its implied scientist prejudices.

III. A remaining option: Genesis in pictures

Atheist rule was bad. But it offered a clear picture of the challenge Christians confronted. That challenge - ultimately - left no alternative beyond betrayal and suffering. Just like under Roman or Muslim persecution, so under Communism most Christians failed. But the prayers of the martyrs helped them repent and return.

Pluralism presents itself as tolerant. Yet the challenge of having to choose between a worldly or an otherworldly outlook remains. The sanctions for faithfulness are mild: loss of career opportunities, jobs, penalty payments, limited prison periods. But it has become difficult to discern just where a courageous Christian confession is called for. Children in the European Union today grow up with “science” accepted as authority over all “relevant” (in an everyday sense of the term) truth (11) The idea of a creator God claiming authority over all spheres of human life is no longer accepted (12).

In the West, Christians attempting to re-assert that Divine authority have pursued two equally unhelpful routes. They have either affirmed a literal understanding of Genesis, while also trying to integrate evolutionary cosmogony and biology. Such attempts, forever lagging behind scientific progress and change, have remained as unpersuasive for their non-Christian target audience as they are cumbersome to Christians (13). Or else, Christians have adopted allegorical, or symbolic interpretations. In spiritualizing the Christian message (14), this approach no longer orients man’s incarnate conduct. The order of nature, as revealed in Genesis, is no longer taken to clarify how God wants mankind to look at biological kinds, at the position of man vis ä vis the world, at his vocation to Divine likeness, at the second place accorded to women, and at the human mission to “fill the earth”. Safeguards are therefore lost against the liberal normalizing of sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman, against gender-equality, trans-genderism, contraception, abortion, destructive embryo research, heterologous insemination, egg donation, surrogate motherhood, divorce, genetic transmutation of biological kinds, aspirations towards developing super-humanity all the way down to physician assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia. It is this second route which the residual Christianities of Western Europe has adopted.

Once “nature” has been altogether separated from its Divine design and abandoned to a science that follows the evolutionary model, safeguards are also lost against mistaking that model itself as normative (15). The young are thus tempted to envisage their own behavior in terms of evolutionary behaviorism, and to adopt its insights as “natural,” in the sense of ‘objective’ and ‘inescapable’ (l6). Still, the challenge for Christian educators seeking to immunize children against the ruling moral anomy does not lie in evolutionary science as such - and whatever useful results it may offer in view of in-kind developments under conditions of fallen nature (17). The real challenge also does not lie in the philosophical ambitions pursued by the popularizers of such science. Instead, the serious challenge lies in the conceptual (and then also practical) separation of the pursuit of science, and of humans’ outlook on the “reality” addressed by that pursuit, from the normative framework provided by the Genesis account of origin and goal. In other words, the problem with liberalism, pluralism, and scientism lies in the separation of believers’ Sunday frame of mind from their weekday frame of mind. Christian educators must therefore not only insist that an account of origins (by God’s command) falls beyond the competence of a science whose empirical bases concerns post-origin settings (18). Christian educators must also proclaim the weekday-relevance of the Genesis account of the origin for such settings. They must not only avoid presenting that account in terms of a “pre-scientific” statement of “facts”, and thus as vulnerable to refutation by developed science. Instead, educators must insist on the authority of Genesis to guide our dealing with “facts,” including our pursuit of science. Looking for guidance from Holy Tradition, it is helpful to turn to two major teachers: St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (19) and St. BASIL of Caesarea (op.cit). Their accounts offer - roughly - three methods for affirming that authority for their own time and society.

  1. Their commentaries come as homilies. These are integrated in worship and intended for the “edification of the Church” (St. BASIL, op.cit. p. 93). Such a setting restores mankind’s focus on God the creator, which Adam had lost through disobedience. The mark of human fallenness is preoccupation with the world of sense-experience. Therefore, both teachers use the creation account to render that material world (once again) transparent to the word, the work, and the will of its Divine creator: “Raise thy soul above the earth” (St. BASIL, Horn. IV-2, p. 102). Their explanations develop into ravishing glorifications, powerfully drafting their audience into an offering of praise and thanksgiving (St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, 1986, op.cit., Horn. 4-12, p. 58ff).
  2. They offer a teaching in humility: God the unfathomable One has revealed to Moses what He had decreed as necessary and profitable. As recipients of such Divine condescension, we must align our desire to access the Divine work to what is thus revealed. We must avoid getting distracted by any self-willed curiosity into issues God had withheld (St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, op.cit. Horn 2, p. 32 ff, Horn. 9-14, p. 125) (20). Our quest for insight into the mysteries of origin cannot but - as it were - crucify reliance on our human capacities. The world as Divinely created is not accessible to a human grasp that is trained in terms of knowledge of that world as fallen (21).
  3. Their account of creation spells out the spiritual (22) and moral (23) consequences which follow from the revealed creative will (cf. St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, op.cit. Horn 3-15, p. 48 ff).

How can Christian educators today profit from such models? Quite obviously, we cannot read those homilies to our children, - even most grownups today are no longer able to follow such extended explanations. Also, the moral teaching offered must seem overly constrictive for children raised in a liberal environment. It must also appear far removed from the challenges they encounter every day. Neither the possibility of conforming to, nor the relevance of such teaching can easily rendered plausible. It makes sense only from within a firmly established Church life.

These difficulties suggest a different approach, as exemplified by a recent publication about “God’s world” (24).

The book is bi-lingual, because addressed to Russians in Germany. (25) It is meant for small children, from three years onwards, but designed to “grow” with them, and to invite even older children into asking questions, and deriving deeper insights. At the surface, firstly, the pictures have an - as it were - iconic character that responds to St. Theophan’s insistence on an atmosphere of holiness.

The book thus links the beauty of creation with the beauty of the faces of saints whose icons children venerate at home and in Church. In this way, the book takes up the focus on glorification emphasized by the Fathers. Next, the images confront the five-year old with the challenge of having to accept what seems illogical: a beginning that disregards angels, an earth that starts out “invisible”, a light without any sun,

a firmament with water on top, trees with instant fruits, and appearing even before life in the water. They are thus invited to check their own reasonings in the face of God’s miraculous ways. In this way, the book takes up the focus on crucifying human understanding.

Finally, the authority of the Divine creative will to rule over man’s dealing with the kingdom he was set above, which the Fathers affirmed in terms of moral conclusions, is here signaled by a New Testament “lens”.

It connects the creative beginnings to the Divine economy of salvation. Here God offers redemption to the children of Adam, after Adam had destroyed the beauty of God’s world work through his turn from grace. Such a perspective, after all, is not only sometimes invoked by the Fathers themselves. It is also ratified by the Genesis readings during Vigil for two major feasts of the Church (Christs birth and baptism) and in the first week of Lent.

This is why the very darkness of the water covering the earth gets visually connected with the cleansing of the waters from the soil of sin. St. John had washed that sin from the people he had called to repentance, and the cleaning occurred when Christ Himself submitted to baptism. And this is why the life-giving spirit hovering over the water at creation gets connected with the spirit that confirmed the truth of the Divine witness to His son.

Or this is why the created light, as visible to the human eye, is presented in terms of its transparency to the un-created light present in the God-man, as accessible to the three Apostles on Mount Tabor, when the veils imposed by their fallen nature had been removed.

Or why the assembled waters are made to suggest the world of Hades, from which Jona was rescued after three days, prefiguring Christ.

Still, in order for such an integration of the creation-images into the life of the Church to convey the needed link to life outside the narrow settings of worship and to affirm God’s creative will as authority over children’s weekday life, a further step is needed. The final section describes how this book also invites parents and teachers to join their children in uncovering a further crucial dimension of the Genesis-account.

The most important clue for such further discovery-painting is however presented by a picture added even before the beginning of the beginning.

Following St. BASIL (27), Christians, unlike the Jews for whom Genesis was first written, know that it was “through Christ” that God created the world (Col. 1:16), and that “in the real beginning” (as one might say) “the Word” was “with God” (Jn.1:1-3).

Thus we explain to the children that when God created and when he spoke “let there be”, He did this through and with the very Christ whose body we all take up every Sunday into our own body.

Creation is thus no longer a distant event in an age before all ages but is eternally contained in the Christ Who is in us, but also “ in all things”.

That is to say: the seeds which God through Christ, His coeternal Word, gave to the plants, as recorded in Moses’ account, become the seeds of Christ’s own words of redemption, which He “depicted” in the parable of the sower – as indicated on this image.

And just as that parable warns us to keep the earth of our heart well-tilled, and protected against the worries of this earthly life, and watered with faithfulness, so it becomes obvious from this picture that the word-seeds making up the text of the creation story are entrusted to us listeners as seeds of Divine words, and even of Christ Himself, whom we must allow to grow in our heart, and from His presence in our heart to govern our whole being, thinking, feeling, desiring, detesting, and acting.

That is to say: God’s authority over man’s entire existence, which the creation account proclaims and which our pluralist culture seeks to limit to a narrowly confined “religious segment” of that existence, here surfaces as planted in the very core of that existence. And if the Christian “moral norms” no longer seem to make sense under conditions of a segmented-away “religious sphere”, they surface as indispensable, once the presence of Christ within a human heart has been established.

In this way, sitting down with a child to look and read (and scribble into) a picture book can avoid the limitation of Christian education to the model of top-down instruction, from the competent knower to the weak and un-learned. Instead, in the spirit of St. BASIL calling his audience to cooperate in his project (op.cit., p. 81), such looking, reading, and scribbling can involve both, child, and educator, in a common journey towards a mutual sharing of insights and experiences. In some sense, after all, we grownups, despite our vocation to leadership as educators, are enjoined to become “as children”. Addressing our children in the spirit of awe affirmed by St. THEOPHAN, we grownups will find ourselves profiting from the gifts of Divine grace we sometimes encounter in children, pupils and grandchildren.

Christian education in a pluralist environment encounters many impediments in view of its traditional endorsement of ascesis, obedience, discernment, and moral norms. Still, so our example of a simple picture book has illustrated, the creation story should not be read as a very old record about facts, but as an appeal by Christ Himself to respond to our Divine vocation. Once we educators succeed in rendering the hearts of our children hospitable to the love of that same Christ, challenges like ascesis, obedience, discernment and the moral law will no longer be experienced as imposed from without (and thus vulnerable to resentment among the “emancipated” young). Instead, the Word of God Himself will be experienced as “implanted” in those hearts, and bearing the fruit of a yearning for just such challenges, because these are recognized as helpful for a life that seeks ever greater union with Christ. It is on the basis of such recognition, that older children can become witnesses, ready to stand up against their pluralist environment.


1. St. BASIL OF CAESAREA, “The Hexaemeron”, transl. B. Jackson, in Ph. Schaff and H. Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol. 8, Peabody, Mass, Hendrickson, 1995;

2. COSTACHE, Doru, “The Orthodox doctrine of creation in the age of science”, in Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies 2.1, 2019, 43-64;

3. GOULD, S. J., “Nonoverlapping magisterial”, in Natural History 106, 1997, p. 269-83;

4. HAYES, C., NAUMEZ, D., Gottes Welt, Wachtendonk, Edition Hagia Sophia, 2020;

5. St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, Homilies on Genesis 1-17. R. transl. C. Hill, Washington, The Catholic University of America Press, 1986;

6. IDEM, “An Address on Vainglory and the right way for parents to bring up their children,” on-line:;

7. LYN, H., FRANKS, B., SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH, E.S., “Precursors of morality in the use of the symbols «good» and «bad» in two bonobos and a chimpanzee”, in Language & Communication 28, 2008, 213-224;

8. MCGREGOR, S., “Let the explanation fit the theorist – enactive explanatory pluralism and the representation debate”, in C. Knibbe et al, eds. Proceedings of the ECAL, Lyon, France, Cambridge,

MA, MIT Press, 2017, p. 283-7;

9. KRAUSCH, Ch. “Szientismus”, in H.J. Sandkühler ed., Europäische Enzyklopädie zu Philosophie und Wissenschaften, vol. 4, Hamburg, Meiner, 1990;

10. MILL, J.S., On Liberty, London, Dent, 1962;

11. MITTELSTRAB, J., “Szientismus”, in J. Mittelstraß ed., Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, vol. 7, Stuttgart, Metzler 2018;

12. RAACK, M. “Wie sind religiös geprägte Erziehungs und Sozialisationspraktiken im Hinblick auf Kindeswohlgefährdungen einzuschätzen?”, in H. Kindler, ed., Handbuch Kindeswohlgefährdung nach § 1666 BGB und Allgemeiner Sozialer Dienst (ASD), München, Deutsches Jugendinstitut, 2006, 22-1 - 22-4;

13. ROSE, S., Genesis, Creation and early Man, Platina, St. Herman Brotherhood, 2000;

14. St. THEOPHAN the Recluse, The path to salvation, Platina, Ca, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1998.



1 These two variants correspond to “classic” and “social” liberalism respectively.

2 Orthodoxy endorses not only the particularity of the Divine Incarnation, but, to a much greater extent than Roman Catholicism, also the diversified incarnation of the life of the Church in cultures and nations. Apart from seeking to sanctify local customs, law, and folk art, its worship has always embraced the vernacular.

3 For an early representative see John Stuart MILL, On Liberty, London, Dent, 1962.

4 Such “knowledges to be sure, may come mediated through theories and models, and linked with sense experience through mathematical and technological instruments. Still it provides resources for universal mutual agreement, regardless of ideological or cultural backgrounds, which are unavailable in view of the assorted authorities claimed by world views, religions or ideologies.

5 To deny the possibility of such alternative objectivity (for knowledge not only

about facts but about calls to action) incurs a heavy burden of proof: It reduces mankind’s universal history of religious faiths to a disorder in the human psyche. It disregards millennia of manifest human yearning for the infinite and transcendent. Even the evolutionary supposition of mankind having to “outgrow” a mythological childhood in order to achieve scientific rationality is hard to square with the evolutionary assumption of a shared ancestry with, after all, quite this-worldly-minded animals.

6 The term is commonly used for “a reductionist program that affirms the universal

explanatory competence of the science” [transl. CDH] (cf. Jürgen MITTELSTRAB, “Szientismus”, in J. Mittelstraß ed., Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, vol. 7, Stuttgart, Metzler, 2018).

7 Scientism also stipulates an opposition between “facts” and “values” (Mittelstraß,

loc.cit.), which isolates the science - and technology - supported mastery of nature from its Christian framework of gratitude and obedience. Given the collateral damages inflicted by such de-contextualized mastery, scientism paradoxically invites a neo-pagan idolization of “nature” that detracts from the personal focus framing the ecological responsibility training a Christian education affirms.

8 St. THEOPHAN the Recluse, The path to salvation, Platina, Ca, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1998, p. 39, 66.

9 Surely, many details of St. Theophan’s vision of an early obedience-training (op.cit., p. 48 ff, 58), while feasible for a pre-modem rural setting, are no longer appropriate today. Professional achievement no longer turns around conforming to superiors* demands. It requires spontaneity and creative self-motivation in furthering agreed-on (and constantly re-adjusted) goals. Likewise, personal achievement today requires the ability to make wise choices in balancing well- considered self-interest (and that of one’s family) against the demands of instable labor markets. Still, a major focus of Christian education lies on nurturing children's ability for self-control, and on a loving engagement that invites voluntary cooperation. See also St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, “An Address on Vainglory and the right way for parents to bring up their children”, on-line: pdf, ## 19f, 24 ff.

10 The mindset endorsed by such agencies is well exemplified by Martin RAACK, “Wie sind religiös geprägte Erziehungs und Sozialisationspraktiken im Hinblick auf Kindeswohlgefährdungen einzuschätzen?’\ in H. Kindler ed., Handbuch Kindeswohl-gefährdung nach § 1666 BGB und Allgemeiner Sozialer Dienst (ASD), München, Deutsches Jugendinstitut, 2006, 22-1 - 22-4.

11 To be sure, our understanding of that authority has become ever more sophisticated. Theorists of scientific theorizing, whether representationally or non-representationally oriented, have long overcome the early belief that “facts” can be altogether separated from values. Cognitive pluralism has blurred the lines separating natural from social sciences, and enactivist conceptions of cognition highlight the contingency of contexts in which researchers decide about “relevant” goals and methods (see e.g. Simon MCGREGOR, “Let the explanation fit the theorist - enactive explanatory pluralism and the representation debate”, in C. Knibbe et alii, eds. Proceedings of the ECAL, Lyon, France, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2017, 283-7). But this sophistication does not remedy the scientist prejudice affirmed.

12 To be sure, from thoughtful philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead to thoughtful scientists, one can find respect for a separate religious approach to reality, based on its own kinds of experiences and directed to its own goals. The problem is, that, except for isolated insights into the problem of boundary settlements, the “meaning” and “spirituality” issues of religious knowledge are kept separate from science, and thus are declared irrelevant for life in the world as shaped by science (cf. Steven Jay GOULD, “Nonoverlapping magisterial”, in Natural History 106, 1997, p. 269-83).

13 For a summary of that cumbersomeness see Seraphim ROSE, Genesis, Creation and early Man, Platina, St. Herman Brotherhood, 2000, p. 84ff, 340 ff.

14 Cf. ROSE, op.cit., p. 340 ff.

15 Thus scientism is also defined in terms of “the attempt to orient all areas of human action towards the principles of scientific rationality” (transl. CDH) (Christiane KRAUSCH, “Szientismus”, in H. J. Sandkühler ed., Europäische Enzyklopädie zu Philosophie und Wissenschaften, vol. 4, Hamburg, Meiner, 1990).

16 The claim is here not that such orientation always opposes what traditionally has been considered “moral”. Never research of the procreative advantage of limited forms of altruism (see, e.g., Heidi Lyn et alii, “Precursors of morality in the use of the symbols «good» and «bad» in two bonobos and a chimpanzee”, in Language & Communication 28, 2008, p. 213-224) bear witness to attempts to scientifically reconstruct traditional moral norms among humans. The claim here is however that such morality is not sufficient to prepare humans for the deification they are made for.

17 Likewise, after all, the Patristic literature on the Creation is full of illustrations taken from contemporary “science”, as well summarized by ROSE, p. 88 ff, 286.

18 Cf. St. BASIL OF CAESAREA, “The Hexaemeron”, transl. B. Jackson, in Ph. Schaff and H. Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol. 8, Peabody, Mass, Hendrickson, 1995, 51-107, p. 72.

19 St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, Homilies on Genesis 1-17. R. transl. C. Hill, Washington, The Catholic University of America Press, 1986.

20 A blatant disregard for this enjoinder can be found, e.g., in Doru COSTACHE, “The Orthodox doctrine of creation in the age of science”, in Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies 2.1, 2019, 43-64.

21 Cf. for Adam: Rose, op.cit., p. 83.

22 Cf. St. BASIL’S enjoinder to let the phases of the moon remind us of the ups and downs of our instable nature (Horn. VI-10, p. 88) or to regard the dangerousness of water as a reminder that one should set one's hope on God (Horn. VII-6, p. 94).

23 Cf. St. BASIL recommending our emulating the diligence of fishes in pursuing their food (Horn. VII-4, p. 93).

24 Cornelia HAYES, Daria NAUMEZ, Gottes Welt, Wachtendonk, Edition Hagia Sophia, 2020.

25 A Romanian version is already available in MS. We are still looking for a publisher.

26 I tried to hand-paint into the picture, - but did not manage the technicalities. But you get the idea!

27 Op.cit., Hom III-2, p. 65 f..

Quelle: “Christian Formation in a Pluralist Environment: Looking at a Picture Book,” in O. Botoi & R. Brudiu, Educaţia Creştină Ȋntro Cultură Pluralistă, Alba Iulia Editura Reintregirea, 2020, Vol II, pp. 125-149.