C. Delkeskamp-Hayes, Director of European Programs, International Studies in Philosophy
of Medicine, Inc., Editor of The Journal of Christian Bioethics, Freigericht (Germany)
“The philosopher,” as Aquinas called Aristotle, owes his continued cultural impact to Christians’ appreciation of their pagan predecessors. This article applies David Bradshaw’s analysis of the reception of Aristotle in the Christian East and West to bioethics. It explores how the assimilation of Aristotle’s divine “energia” into the Pauline vision of a Divine-human synergy in the East informs St. Basil’s teaching about the Christian approach to medicine. It describes how the Western rendering of that term conceptually separated the divine transcendence from the created order. Deification by grace thus was replaced by moral orientation through a formally Christianized “natural law.” Some recent bioethical examples of such invocation confirm Bradshaw’s judgment that Aristotelian philosophy further alienated the West from noetic experience, thus secularizing its moral life. In keeping philosophy theologically contextualized, Orthodoxy maintained an integrity that offers guidance even today. The Western separation of morality from the life of the Church, in contrast, eventually nourished calls for emancipation from revealed, and juridically enforced moral norms. The ensuing liberalization and pluralism have deprived the West of a societally shared vision of man’s “telos.” Today, the traditional context required to give content to moral reason is available only among believers, and for Christians only in Orthodoxy. For bioethics, the Fathers’ cautious reserve in “using Aristotle” proved more beneficial than the moral relativism that eventually resulted from Scholasticism’s unreserved embrace of philosophy, or its inability to reduce its “noise”.
Keywords: natural law, synergy, Christian philosophy, social consensus, Basil the Great