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    Fr. Vasileios Thermos: Psychology in the service of the Church
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    Rev. Fr. Vasileios Thermos, M.D., Ph.D.

    Fr. Vasileios Thermos is a priest of the Church of Greece. He was born in 1957 in Lefkada, Greece. He studied Medicine and Orthodox Theology at the University of Athens and holds a doctorate from the same University. Together with his priestly ministry in Athens, he is a practicing psychiatrist, and is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Psychology at the University Ecclesiastical Academy in Athens. He has practiced psychiatry and psychotherapy for children and adolescents in Athens since 1990. Fr. Vasileios was a visiting scholar in 1996-1997 at Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University, and Andover Newton. The author of many books and articles, he offers spiritually provocative and clinically informed programs and retreats in Greece, the United States, Albania, and Cyprus. His insights into the fields of theology and psychology are combined with a strong undercurrent in psychoanalytic thought.

    Foreword
    Bishop Maxim (Vasiljević)

    Man, being in the image of God and “an animal in the process of deification” (according to St. Gregory Nazianzen)—whose brain and nervous system are largely shaped by evolution, who is both restricted and boundless through his genes, sealed by his early experiences, moderated by his hormones, and under a great diversity of other influences—is able to display a wide range of behaviors, some of which are abnormal. At the beginning of the third millennium, the Institute of Sts. Sebastian and Mardarije, held in San Diego, California, offered an inter-disciplinary medical-theological study of such a fundamental and fascinating topic.

    Central to the topic of this year s Institute were theological propositions regarding psychotherapy and psychiatry. Indeed, how can psychological knowledge assist spiritual life? The world of theology and the Church on the one hand, and the world of medicine and, more specifically, psychiatry, on the other, have lived in isolation from one another. Recent attempts at comprehending the genetic foundation of neurochemical processes, of which there are still no final results, have influenced modern man in his desire to discover a basic hormonal selection for taste, fashion, political choices, various concerns and preoccupations, and finally—religiosity.

    In the person of Fr. Vasileios Thermos, the Orthodox Church has recognized a clergyman who, in addition to his theological training and ecclesiastical ethos, not only is knowledgeable about psychology but also utilizes this knowledge in the Church’s pastoral ministry. The authentic awareness of the Church—that man maintains homeostasis with nature and receives a foretaste of the Truth and the grace of the Holy Spirit through the Eucharistic and ascetic life assisting him in his struggle for a wholeness against illness and sin—Fr. Vasileios places under the new scrutiny of a medical-theological approach.

    By keeping the focus on modern ways of thinking about these ideas. Professor Thermos facilitates an exchange of views and experiences between the fields of theology, psychology, and psychiatry. The ultimate purpose of this exchange is to save mankind within the Church as well as in the context of the medical sciences. If we add to this that theology and medicine have had an unfavorable relationship since the Enlightenment. we will be able to understand the kind of challenge we arc facing. What we need toriay is an effort to promote communication between two worlds that for centuries, unforninatcly. have lived and operated completely cut oil from one another. Thanks to our author, we arc led to a theological understanding of psychopathology and therapy.

    Denying every form of "ecclesial docetism." Fr. Vasileios invests new efforts to strive toward a greater harmony between the theological and scientific images of man. by emphasizing both their differences and parallels. For instance, the daily struggle between the passions and virtues, joy and sorrow, consciousness and dreams, the particles and molecules. should be carefully recorded in their similarities, with the aim of greater congruence between the two world views. The task of a theologian is to conduct research into human nature with all its tangible facets (human physiology), but also to measure the same human nature in view of Christ s person, as shown in the works of the Fathers and by prominent Christian authors.

    This holistic approach, as it has been dubbed, is gaining ground today. In its current experimental research, quantum physics has broken down almost every barrier and autonomy between subject and object, and so has opened new avenues in epistemology. But on the way to explanations—Turing their search for new frameworks of addretsing outstanding questions—theologians must walk with studied steps through the jungle of bewilderment. When are we responsible for our behavior and when arc we under die influence of biological forces beyond our control ? This intriguing question belongs to the scientific field of behavioral bioiogy, which studies the interactions of the brain, of the conscience/awareness. of the body, and of the environment, and finally of the particular influences of each of these on our behavior. This leads to another question. To what extent do theology and medicine come into contact, either coinciding with each other or not, and to what extent can they interrelate ? The traditional view is that medicine deals with us as biological entities, while the Church and theology are concerned with "spiritual issues": our relationship with God. life after death, etc. Thus. as a rule, physicians treat theology as something of no concern to them as scientists. Likewise, theologians and others in the Church confine themselves to "spiritual" concerns, speaking about the soul as something completely autonomous from and unconnected to the body. Both sides need correction. Man as a being who dramatically moves within the amplitde of a twofold way of existence, is, according to St. Gregory the 'Theologian."an animal in the process of deification", with all the implications this axiom infers.

    From Fr. Vasileios Thermos we learn that human beings are inconceivable without their corporeality and. through this, their relationship with the natural environment of which they constitute an organic part. In this perspective, physicians cannot heal people without taking into consideration the deeper ontological implications of their freedom. Likewise, their quest for transcendence. Likewise, theologians and clergymen (spiritual father and others) cannot complete their task without taking into consideration people's psychosomatic functions, and they must do so in a way that helps the people without creating new. serious psychosomatic problems—though, unfortunately, the creation of such problems by the spiritual fathers in our Church is not unheard of For this reason. Dr. Ihermos deals with such interesting topics as religion and mental health, addiction and the person, toward a cultural and a theological understanding of addiction, the spiritual father encountering a person with same-sex attraction, etc.

    Taking into account the many dimensions, dynamics, and manifestations of mans psychological life, in the Patristic era the Fathers were rather "modern" and progressive compared to the ancient philosophers. and they are quite ‘contemporary" when situated in our modem times. 'Ihe Fathers were proficient in differentiating the physical. psychological, and spiritual aspects of the human being, and were thus able to offer a holistic approach to understanding the complete man. Read, for example, the author s article "In Search of the Person: 'Ihe ’True and ‘False* Self according to Donald Winnkott and St. Gregory Palamas."

    Taking into account the many dimensions, dynamics, and manifestations of mans psychological life, in the Patristic era the Fathers were rather "modern" and progressive compared to the ancient philosophers. and they are quite ‘contemporary" when situated in our modem times. 'Ihe Fathers were proficient in differentiating the physical. psychological, and spiritual aspects of the human being, and were thus able to offer a holistic approach to understanding the complete man. Read, for example, the author s article "In Search of the Person: 'Ihe ’True and ‘False* Self according to Donald Winnkott and St. Gregory Palamas."

    As this is subtle and crucial let me say it again: Communication and, if possible, cooperation between pastors and psychiatrists is nine qtm non for both skies. To be effective, it is not enough to limit such interaction and collaboration to the application of certain therapeutic technique«. It is crucial to offer a comprehensive perspective of wholeness on the post-modern subject in the context of contemporary consumensm by detecting “the crisis of desire" (see Fr. Vasileios’ dealing with Lacап and Patristic theology.) Fr. Vasileios successfully answers these three crucial questions: What, in general, is illness, and what, specifically. is mental illness? What is therapy and what is a cure? When can we say that someone is healed or cured? What means or methods do we have at our disposal to effect treatment, as this is understood by theology? Dr. Thermos knows psychology as few others do (in this regard. perhaps, we can compare him with St. Maximus the Confessor), and could be called today the Church’s best theological 'psychologist"

    Orthodox theology needs to develop an ethos of freedom and love in order to create a bioethical culture where the consciousness of true freedom entails transcendence, and where complete healing cannot take place outside of Christ

    Nevertheless, the results of Vasileios Thermos' research, coming from both theoretical and experimental considerations, strongly support the conclusion that theology admits interconnections with psychology that are not only desirable but also necessary. Our author was able to work this out, and the answers he arrival at in this book are enormously gratifying.


    Detaljni podaci o knjizi
    Naslov: Fr. Vasileios Thermos: Psychology in the service of the Church
    Izdavač: Sebastijan Press
    Strana: 166 (cb)
    Povez: meki
    Pismo: latinica
    Format: 15 x 23 cm
    Godina izdanja: 2017
    ISBN: 978-19367-733-29
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