Orthodox Spirituality and Technological Revolution

Martyr and Archdeacon Laurence of Rome

Martyr and Archdeacon Laurence of Rome

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


[From The Authentic Seal: Spiritual Instruction and Discourse by Archimandrite Aimilianos, former Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petra, Holy Mountain.]


A great deal is made nowadays of "the technological revolution," as seen from both sides, those in favor and those who are very much against it. In the realm of Orthodox Christian Theology, however, is there really any essential difference between the age-old problem of technology and today's reality? We could, of course, talk about the last century with the industrial revolution and all its consequences: social, political, moral, religious and so on. When people speak of a new era in the history of mankind, of the third, technological revolution, are they not perhaps exaggerating the extent of the undoubted change in the condition under which we live? Would it not be more realistic, instead of talking about a revolution, to recognize a process which began long before the industrial revolution and reached its culmination in the developments and consequences thereof?

"...Finally, it is not our function to note the revolutionary changes, but rather to point out to our contemporaries the true purpose of technology and to propose Orthodox theological and moral criteria...

"...Technology per se is not, of course, harmful, being the fruit of the reasoning and intellect of Man, who was formed in the image of God. But when, unrestrained and unbridled, it rushes headlong towards its destination, then it becomes Luciferous, though not bearing light but rather pitch darkness. The danger for us is the absence of accountability in the way in which technology is administered and exploited, a way which has as its aim the stifling domination of human life and the solution of problems by technical means, regardless of moral and metaphysical principles.

Finally, however, let us hear the voice of Our Orthodox Christian Tradition.

The Position of the Church Regarding This Particular Problem

The Church of Christ retains in unadulterated form the Orthodox Tradition, a real, unique force, on which it draws from its life and experience, as well as from a never-failing spring of asceticism and the voice of its treasury of Monastic tradition, which is always profound and VITAL.

Monastic tradition can give applicable criteria of behavior to the members of the Church as regards technology. The Church and Monasticism are not hostilely disposed towards technological progress. On the contrary, monks over the centuries have proved to be powerful agents of scientific and technical invention.

In the Medieval West, the monks restored civilization, which had been destroyed in the barbarian invasions. The Monasteries became focal points for the natural sciences, where mathematics, zoology, chemistry, medicine, and so on developed. The most important inventions of the monasteries formed the basis of industry. Likewise, through their reclamation of large tracts of land, the monks created the opportunity for agricultural development.

So that there would be no need for monks to miss services, our own Saint Athanasius the Athonite built, on the Holy Mountain, a mechanical kneading device, which was driven by bullocks. The instrument, says the Life of the Saint, was the best, both in terms of attractiveness and art of manufacture. (Life of Blessed Athanasios on Athos, I, 179, Noret, p. 86, 1, 46). The same was true throughout the lands where Orthodox Monasteries were established.

The Orthodox Monastery always lived as an eschatological reality and a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven and was therefore also a model for an organized society with a way of life faithful to the Gospel, embracing human dignity, freedom, and service to one's fellows.

Given this, the Holy Fathers subjected technology in the monastery to two criteria, as Saint Basil the Great characteristically remarks concerning work and the choice of technical application.


(a) Restraint

With this criterion in mind, those technical applications are chosen which preserve "the peace and tranquility" of monastery life, so that both undue care and torturing effort are avoided. Let us have as our aim "moderation and simplicity." For Saint Basil, the Great, technology is necessary in itself to life and provides many facilities (PG 31, 1017B), provided, undistracted and devoted to the Lord.

In general terms, our watchword should be: let the common aim be the meeting of a need (PG 31, 968B). And Saint Peter the Damascan adds: "for everything which does not serve a pressing need, becomes an obstacle to those who would be saved; everything, that is, which does not contribute to the salvation of the soul or to the life of the body" (Philokalia, vol. III, p. 69, 11. 32-34).

These principles are certainly not for monasteries alone. They could be guidelines for control over technology unless we want to be exterminated. (Source: Orthodox Heritage)


Next: Spiritual Vigilance

"When Holy Scripture says, "man is saved by faith alone" (Ephesians 2:8), it does not mean that he is saved merely by the faith of acceptance. There is, however, another kind of faith, the faith of the heart.

It is referred to in this way because this kind of faith is not found in the human reason or intellect, but in the region of the heart. This faith of the heart is a gift of God that you will not receive unless God decides to grant it. It is also called inner faith, which is the kind of faith that the father of the young lunatic in the Gospel asked Christ to give him when he said, "Lord, help my unbelief" (St. Mark 9:24).

[Protopresbyter John S. Romanides]


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George