The cosmos of the world and the cosmos of the church: St Maximus the Confessor, modern cosmology, and the sense of the universe

Alexei Nesteruk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The term “cosmology” is often used in the scholarly studies of St. Maximus the Confessor, in particular, in combination with other theological adjectives such as “Christological cosmology” or “Christocentric cosmology”. But the meaning of this term, must be carefully elucidated. Cosmology in St. Maximus is not that which was meant by ancient Greek philosophers and astronomers and it is not what is meant by modern physical cosmology. It is not a theory of the structure and formation of the physical universe, but rather a narrative of the creation of the world and its constitution as related to knowledge of God by man. In St. Maximus cosmology is related to anthropology and ecclesiology through the analogy of the basic differences (diaphora) in man and the Church so that the Christian dimensions enter cosmological considerations and, vice versa, Christian teaching receives its cosmological sense. Thus studying and thinking of Maximus in the 21st century cosmological context is not studying facts and models of physical reality but studying and learning his ways of thought, learning of how to think of the world through the eyes of faith in God, how to see the reality of the world in its link to the creator and how to comprehend life in the universe through communion with God. It is through this endeavour that contemporary cosmology advances our own sense of the Divine image, so that the reality of the Divine manifests itself with an ever unceasing force. It is through the mind of St. Maximus the Confessor, that we can look at cosmological theories not only as related to the physical reality involved in the constant flux and decay, but as those teasing elements of instability and disorder, causing anxiety and despair in human hearts dressed in the “garments of skin” which advance them back to the archetypical state, that is to that which belongs to the age to come. It is through the reversal of the “path of Adam” through the spiritual insight into the sense of creation that the task of relating the universe to its creator can only be fulfilled. Thus contemporary cosmology becomes involved in rubrics of theological thought of St. Maximus explicating the continuing work of mediation between divisions (diairesis) in creation, which has been rearticulated by Christ, and which is yet to be accomplished by man. In view of this we analyse tree issues related to modern cosmology which explicate in a modern way some ideas of St. Maximus the Confessor: 1) knowability of the universe in view of his Christological anthropology (epistemological centrality of humanity in spite of its cosmological insignificance), 2) modern scientific attempts of explicating the creatio ex nihilo as the activity of mediation between the sensible and intelligible realms in creation (as contributing in the restoration of the divine image and growth of faith in God), 3) from the anthropic cosmological principle to the Christological cosmological principle (structure of the universe, Incarnation and knowledge of God).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKnowing the purpose of creation through the resurrection
Subtitle of host publicationproceedings of the symposium on St Maximus the Confessor Belgrade, October 18-21, 2012
EditorsMaxim Vasiljevic
Place of PublicationAlhambra
PublisherSebastian Press & the Faculty of Orthodox Theology, University of Belgrade
Number of pages37
ISBN (Print)9781936773091
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameContemporary christian thought seroes
PublisherSebastian Press


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