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Science, poetry, victims, and conscience in the 1,700-year-old Christian Nicene Creed

Science, poetry, victims, and conscience in the 1,700-year-old Christian Nicene Creed

Peter Stillwell: “No one can see where I stand; Unless you write poetry, music and literature. Photo © Antonio Marujo/7Margins.

Father Peter Stillwell, a professor at the Faculty of Theology at the Portuguese Catholic University, says: “Science tells us a lot about reality, but to know what is happening inside consciousness we have to open ourselves to the dimensions of poetry, art and literature.” (FT-UCP), regarding the session it is organizing, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, which will be held in 2025, in Interview with 7MARGENS program on Antena 1.

The Council of Nicaea (present-day Iznik, a Turkish city 100 kilometers southeast of Istanbul), which took place between May and August 325, included approximately 300 Christian leaders of the time, most of them from Eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

“Consciousness has this dimension: I look and see the world around me, and I have a unique position, no one can see it from where I am; unless I write poetry, music, literature, and between the lines I feel what the other person sees,” says Peter Stillwell regarding some things. Course topics.

“At this level one should read Genesis, which is one of the exercises I will suggest,” Stilwell says of the training initiative. Among the topics to be explored will also be issues such as understanding quantum mechanics, which earned Danish philosopher Niels Bohr the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922, or the role of human emotions, based on the work of Portuguese neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. additional.

“Reality has changed” and today there is “a certain gap between religious experience and cultural experience,” says the Financial Times professor, who was its director for nine years. “What does it mean to say we believe in God?” he asks, adding that this is the “challenge” he wants to face in the course promoted by the Diocesan Institute for Christian Formation of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, which began on February 19 and continues until June 3, always on Monday, at 6:15 p.m., at Capela do Centro Comercial das Amoreiras, in Lisbon, and can also be followed online.

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Nicaea was the first “ecumenical council”, that is, the first great council of bishops in Christendom at that time – practically coinciding with the Roman Empire. In fact, it was Constantine who had accepted Christianity years earlier, and he wanted to solve the question posed by Arius, a priest from Alexandria in Egypt: Is Jesus Christ also God or not? Arius argued that no, because most Christians considered this heresy. It was the conciliar debate that led to the declaration of the Creed and the idea that Jesus was “consubstantial with the Father,” that is, having the same essence as God the Father.

Jesus and the paradigm shift

Peter Stillwell, Council of Nicaea, Ecumenical Movement,

Peter Stillwell, Council of Nicaea, Ecumenical Movement,Peter Stillwell, Council of Nicaea, Ecumenical Movement,Peter Stillwell: With Christianity, we begin to look at the world “from the perspective of the victim, the poorest, the most vulnerable” Photo © António Marujo/7MARGENS

With Jesus, there is a paradigm shift: the idea of ​​a vengeful and violent God that came from various Old Testament concepts is contradicted by Jesus, who “reveals the goodness of God,” an idea that even his disciples had, Peter Stilwell recalls.

Quoted from the book specializationBy Tom Holland (Editor of Vogues) The interviewee refers to this change brought about by Christianity: he now sees himself as “the more fragile side” and is not just looking for a scapegoat.

“You look at the world from the perspective of the victim, the paradigm changes: you start taking care of the poorest and most vulnerable people,” he says, embodying the war in the Gaza Strip: “On both sides, [estão] Abrahamic traditions that see God on their side. But “the Christian model leads us to cheer for those who die in the Gaza Strip and, of course, for those who were killed and brutally massacred on October 7,” says Peter Stilwell.

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With the same logic, the theology professor asks: “Are we able to carry out human development with the challenges that arise today due to the climate situation?” With concern for those who will be most affected by this transformation?

Stilwell, who was vice-chancellor from 2008 to 2012 and rector of the University of São José in Macau (2012-2020), recalls that there were “two books that we think of to contemplate God: the Book of Nature.” And the Holy Bible.” He says: “There are those who forget this book of nature, but this is the belief that God created this world, and as we say in the Nicene Creed: “God the Father is Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things that are visible.” Things and the invisible. ” In other words, “There is nothing outside God’s hands: whether history or nature, all of this must tell us about God; If we can't see it, we have to look again and dig deeper.

The head of the Lisbon Patriarchate’s Department for Promoting Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, Peter Stilwell, says that instead of Christians fighting “over doctrines or over historical issues in [se ferem] They must “look mutually at the world, which needs our care and attention, in order for this ecumenism to be in love and hope.”

A perspective on what faith in God means today: “It means always being willing to dismantle our certainties; “It is an affirmation that what is the last security, the last truth, is always beyond what I can carry in my pocket.” Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, he adds regarding interreligious dialogue: “No one can claim the right to know the truth about God. What we can do is get closer. This approach takes place through dialogue and dialogue in love.

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From the historical Jesus to the 2023 Nobel Prize

The course will also include as references the thought of the German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann, who refused to reduce the biblical text about Jesus to a historical context; Or the French theologian, philosopher, and paleontologist, the Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin, who tried to build an integrated vision between science and religion.

In highlighting texts recently published in 7MARGENS, Peter Stillwell suggests the essay “When Friends Die for Us,” by María Luisa Ribeiro Ferreira.

When friends die

He comments, saying: A text that talks about “the importance of our friends in our lives, and how they open horizons about ourselves and the world.” As a suggestion, he presents the book of John Foss, winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature, The self is the other (Editor of Iron Horse). “It relates to one of the goals of my course: trying to understand what is at the root of our consciousness,” he notes about this book. A work by a Norwegian writer who, in a country with a Lutheran majority, claims to be Catholic, and it talks, by presentation, about love, art, God, the passage of time, and death.

The full interview can be heard on https://www.rtp.pt/play/p12257/e749087/7-margens