Mellon Disciplinary Workshops
funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Christian Faith and Metaphysical Reason between East and West
7-8 March 2008, New Europe College

The early patristic authors – from Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa to Augustine of Hippo, Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus – distinguished themselves through their constant attempt to construe Christian doctrine by contemplating theologically and conversing philosophically about truth, goodness, beauty, seen as first attributes of God. Thus, early Christianity, as with other streams of Jewish and Islamic thinking, did not divorce revelation from the intellectual pursuit of truth. The early scholastic thinkers endeavoured, in their turn, to reconcile the patristic legacy with the metaphysical systems of Aristotle and of the Neo-Platonist thinkers, in ways that were later challenged both by theologians of Eastern Orthodox and Protestant persuasion, and by modern philosophers of sceptical orientation.

Ever since nominalism has conqueredthe early modern mind, faith and reason have been seen as separated realms of discourse. Truth by reason has been alienated from the revelation of truth in faith. Consequently, Western philosophy became disconnected from the epistemological concerns of early Christian theology. With Spinoza, the dialogue between biblical revelation and modern philosophy reached a deadlock. This has led to the birth of fideism, on the one hand, and the revival of rationalism, on the other. The weakening of scriptural reason achieved the relegation of theology to the margins of metaphysical rationality, and the reduction of religion to private ethics. With Immanuel Kant, theology ceased to be part of those sciences that produce critical and, thus, respectable knowledge.

Late modernity, however, has challenged the universal claim of secular rationality. The shocking experiences of World War I and WW II, the Holocaust and the Gulag in Europe and across Russia have brought into question the adversarial model of rationality cultivated by the Academia during the Enlightenment. Paradoxically, the decline of faith in reason has triggered an unusual amount of interest in rethinking the sacred. In different ways, contemporary thinkers such as Leo Strauss, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jacques Derrida or Jean-Luc Marion have raised questions about the possibility of faith and ethics in the absence of metaphysics? In what the Christian world is concerned, the rediscovery of the patristic sources during the 20th together with the creative leadership of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the Roman-Catholic world have been instrumental for the revival of the dialogue between faith and reason in the third millennium.

This international Colloquium aims at exploring some historical and conceptual aspects of the monotheistic religions, in general, and the Christian faith in particular, confronted with the (post-) metaphysical rationality of the West. Among the many broad questions that will be addressed by the participants, one should mention the relationship between the Christian doctrine of the uncreated Logos and the progress in discursive knowledge. What was Athens to Jerusalem, and vice versa? Which was the role of dialectics and argumentation in the practice of faith for Jews, Christians or Muslims? In what way did the Christian Latin traditions differ from the Eastern Orthodox take on fides et ratio? How does theology today relate to the democratic and pluralistic epistemology of modern University?

The Conference will host short presentations (15 min, plus 5 min for Q&A) for junior scholars and more substantial contributions made by senior scholars (40 min, plus 10 min for Q&A). The interdisciplinary, non-confessional approach is encouraged.

Colloquium Conveners
Mihail Neamţu (
Tereza-Brînduşa Palade (

Keynote Speakers
Professor Russell Reno (Creighton University): ‘The Virtue of Docility’
Professor David Bradshaw (Kentucky University): ‘Reason and the Heart in East and West.’

Friday, 07.03.2007

10.00h-10.15h     Opening Remarks

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Andrei PLEŞU, Rector of New Europe College

10.15h-11.15h     Keynote Address

Professor David BRADSHAW (Kentucky University): Reason and the Heart in East and West.


11.15h-11.30h Coffee break

11.30h-13.00h     The Patristic and Medieval Tradition

Dr. Mihail NEAMŢU (NEC alumnus): Defending the Infinity of God: Scriptural Reasoning and Philosophical Reflection in St Gregory of Nyssa.

Bogdan TĂTARU-CAZABAN (PhD candidate, University of Bucharest): Biblical Faith and Philosophical Reason in the Medieval Angelology [in French]

Dr. Tereza-Brânduşa PALADE (National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest): Intellectual Light and Proximity to God in St. Thomas Aquinas.


13.00-15.00h Lunch break

15.00h-16.30h                     Political and Metaphysical Interactions between Reason and Faith in Early Modernity

Professor Daniel BARBU (University of Bucharest), TBA.

Dr. Cătălin AVRAMESCU (University of Bucharest): The Guilty Conscience between Natural Law and Religion.

Professor Vlad ALEXANDRESCU (University of Bucharest): Définition de la pensée et vie universelle chez Cantemir.


16.30h-17.00h Coffee break

17.00h-18.30h                     Philosophy and Theology in the Post-Enlightenment Period

Dr. Leo STAN (Romanian Association for the History of Religions, Bucharest): The Redemptive Tragedy of Reason: Søren Kierkegaard and the Heterogeneity of Faith.

Dr. Christoph SCHNEIDER (Cambridge/Zürich): Eastern Orthodox Reflections on Reason and Revelation in Karl Barth.

Dr. Raj SAMPATH (Lecturer, University of California Santa Cruz): Time and Death in the Thought of Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Martin Heidegger: A Comparison of the Future Directions of Philosophical Theology and Anti-Theological Metaphysics.’



Saturday, 08.03.2007

10.00h-11.00h     Keynote Address

Professor Russell RENO (Creighton University): The Virtue of Docility.


11.00-11.30h Coffee break

11.30h-13.15h F  aith and Reason in the University and The Public Forum

Dr. Alin TAT (Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj): Philosophie, théologie et philosophie chrétienne chez Etienne Gilson

Dr. Douglas KNIGHT (Ealing College, London): The Church in the Public Square: Oliver O’Donovan on Reason and Secularity.

Bruce CLARK (The Economist, London): Faith, Reason, and the Media in the Western Culture.


Final Remarks About Faith and Reason in Eastern Europe and the Western World

13.30h- Hospitality



Romanian Society for Phenomenology

About the Keynote Speakers

Professor Russell Reno is a professor of Christian Ethics at Creighton University. He is an editor of Pro Ecclesia journal and regular contributor to First Things. He authored several books, among which one counts: Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible (with John J. O'Keefe), The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002; Redemptive Change: Atonement and the Christian Cure of the Soul, New York, Brazos Press, 2003; In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity, New York, Brazos Press, 2002, which provides a cultural and theological analysis of contemporary Christianity.

Professor David Bradshaw is a specialist in ancient and medieval philosophy, especially metaphysics, natural theology, and philosophy of mind. He also has interests in philosophy of religion and the interaction between philosophy and theology. His recent book, Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom, is a study of the role of metaphysics in the division between the eastern and western branches of Christianity. It begins with Aristotle and the pagan Neoplatonists, and continues through representative thinkers such as Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas (in the West) and Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas (in the East). It has been awarded the Forkosch Prize by the Journal of the History of Ideas as the best work of intellectual history by a new author published in 2004.