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Creation and evolutionary theory, II


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#21 M. Partyka

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 08:01 PM

1) ...however we may regard the first-created world—whether we call it “incorrupt” (as do many Fathers) or “placed between corruption and incorruption” (in the phrase of St. Gregory of Sinai)—we can say for certain that the “very good” prelapsarian world as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and in the consensus patrum is not the same as the world we find in the fossil record, which is a record of suffering, violence, and bloodshed; of animals devouring each other; of disease (including cancer, tuberculosis and gout); of the deaths of all kinds of living things including man; and, finally, of the decay (corruption) of both plants and animals....Thus, through the Holy Scriptures and their interpretation by the Holy Fathers, the Orthodox Church confesses that death and corruption exist not because God made them in the beginning, but because man brought them into the world through his sin.

2) ...the Orthodox teaching on the incorruption of the first-created world has direct bearing on Orthodox soteriology and eschatology. The Scriptural/Patristic doctrine that death entered the world as a consequence of man’s sin forms a foundation for the doctrine that Christ took upon Himself that consequence—that is, by dying on the Cross—in order to “put away sin,” to “bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:26, 28), to redeem mankind from all the consequences of sin. The teaching of prelapsarian incorruption forms a basis for the doctrine that Christ came in order to give back to man what Adam had lost at the fall, physically as well as spiritually, and that, through Christ’s death and Resurrection, there will be a restoration, perfection, and spiritualization of the incorrupt first-created world. Finally, this teaching provides a foundation for understanding the words of the Apostle Paul in the way that the Holy Fathers understood them: “For since by man came death, by man came also the Resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.… The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:21–22, 26).

Given the articles by Fr. Seraphim Rose and Hieromonk Damascene that have been presented in this thread, is there anyone who disagrees with any part or portion of the above conclusions (taken entirely from the sermon by Hieromonk Damascene)? (Notice that I did not say, "anyone besides me". I am not giving my opinion as yet, for I do not want to bias anyone's answer, nor do I wish to offer an opinion before hearing what everyone else has to say.) In other words, to your knowledge -- I would particularly love the priests' input on this -- is this the Orthodox faith?

#22 Demetrios

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 08:37 PM

Given the articles by Fr. Seraphim Rose and Hieromonk Damascene that have been presented in this thread, is there anyone who disagrees with any part or portion of the above conclusions (taken entirely from the sermon by Hieromonk Damascene)? (Notice that I did not say, "anyone besides me". I am not giving my opinion as yet, for I do not want to bias anyone's answer, nor do I wish to offer an opinion before hearing what everyone else has to say.) In other words, to your knowledge -- I would particularly love the priests' input on this -- is this the Orthodox faith?

If we choose.“placed between corruption and incorruption” We can accept evolution.

#23 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 08:50 PM

Given the articles by Fr. Seraphim Rose and Hieromonk Damascene that have been presented in this thread, is there anyone who disagrees with any part or portion of the above conclusions (taken entirely from the sermon by Hieromonk Damascene)? (Notice that I did not say, "anyone besides me". I am not giving my opinion as yet, for I do not want to bias anyone's answer, nor do I wish to offer an opinion before hearing what everyone else has to say.) In other words, to your knowledge -- I would particularly love the priests' input on this -- is this the Orthodox faith?


I have only had time to look through half of the talk. So far it looks good.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#24 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 10:41 PM

I would particularly love the priests' input on this -- is this the Orthodox faith?


for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. (Gal. 4:15)

Very Reverend Fathers, I sense a lot of eyes intently looking up to you.

Edited by Yuri Zharikov, 12 April 2008 - 01:37 AM.


#25 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 10:46 PM

If we choose.“placed between corruption and incorruption” We can accept evolution.


“placed between corruption and incorruption” means to be in a position to choose blessedness and incorruption as the mode of being or cursedness and corruption as the mode of being. Corruption, which we chose, means degradation, decay, extinction, death, mutation, turning into dust - devoluion. Evolution means progressive positive development. The meaning of you statement is thus unclear.

#26 Demetrios

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 01:17 AM

“placed between corruption and incorruption” means to be in a position to choose blessedness and incorruption as the mode of being or cursedness and corruption as the mode of being. Corruption, which we chose, means degradation, decay, extinction, death, mutation, turning into dust - devoluion. Evolution means progressive positive development. The meaning of you statement is thus unclear.


What if hell is non-existence rather than a forced eternal existence in the traditional sense of the word. Adam would than be in each of us.

#27 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 01:36 AM

What if hell is non-existence rather than a forced eternal existence in the traditional sense of the word. Adam would than be in each of us.


this question has been discussed elsewhere in detail, you can do a search and see the answer to the "what if" question; to answer it here would lead us away from the topic of discussion, which is confusing to say the least, so I would rather stay focussed on the Fathers and creation, not on "what ifs".

#28 Demetrios

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 01:58 AM

this question has been discussed elsewhere in detail, you can do a search and see the answer to the "what if" question; to answer it here would lead us away from the topic of discussion, which is confusing to say the least, so I would rather stay focussed on the Fathers and creation, not on "what ifs".

There are modern church fathers that teach this.

#29 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 01:25 PM

Given the articles by Fr. Seraphim Rose and Hieromonk Damascene that have been presented in this thread, is there anyone who disagrees with any part or portion of the above conclusions (taken entirely from the sermon by Hieromonk Damascene)? (Notice that I did not say, "anyone besides me". I am not giving my opinion as yet, for I do not want to bias anyone's answer, nor do I wish to offer an opinion before hearing what everyone else has to say.) In other words, to your knowledge -- I would particularly love the priests' input on this -- is this the Orthodox faith?


I have now finished reading this. I thought it was well done and very Patristic.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#30 M. Partyka

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 03:15 AM

I have now finished reading this. I thought it was well done and very Patristic.

I naturally assumed that this was a "yes" answer to my question, but then I read this in another thread:

...we were encouraged to provide Patristic testimony on creation. This was done. As a result, a very pointed question was asked: does the testimony represent the Orthodox faith? The discussion just fell silent and no answer was given. (Fr. Raphael, I am very sorry, but to say that Patristic evidence is "very Patristic" did not help).

Yuri is right. The answer given was, "It's very Patristic," but the question I asked was, "Is this the faith of the Church?" Perhaps I should have phrased the question differently so as to encourage individual responses that don't sound like blanket pronouncements. For example, I could instead ask, "Is this what you believe?" and in the case of priests I could modify this slightly and ask, "Is this what you believe and teach?"

Another difficulty might be that the quotes I took from Hieromonk Damascene's paper are somewhat broad and contain some things that one might understandably wish to classify a matter of opinion rather than a matter of faith. Therefore, allow me to pare down the text to something more manageable:

1) ...through the Holy Scriptures and their interpretation by the Holy Fathers, the Orthodox Church confesses that death and corruption exist not because God made them in the beginning, but because man brought them into the world through his sin.

2) Christ came in order to give back to man what Adam had lost at the fall, physically as well as spiritually, and...through Christ’s death and Resurrection, there will be a restoration, perfection, and spiritualization of the incorrupt first-created world.

(Note: It has been asked whether choosing to view the original creation as “placed between corruption and incorruption” opens the door to considering the validity of evolution, but I would suggest we table that option for the moment and answer the question such that "death and corruption" means death and corruption as we presently know them.)

#31 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 12:32 PM

M. Partyka wrote:


Yuri is right. The answer given was, "It's very Patristic," but the question I asked was, "Is this the faith of the Church?" Perhaps I should have phrased the question differently so as to encourage individual responses that don't sound like blanket pronouncements. For example, I could instead ask, "Is this what you believe?" and in the case of priests I could modify this slightly and ask, "Is this what you believe and teach?"


Yuri & I know each other so I took it that what he said was with tongue planted firmly in cheek. After all, how can something be Patristic and not express the Faith of the Church? This, at least to my way of thinking would be a contradiction in terms.

The other thing I wished to express through what I wrote is that the Patristic vision does not have the exclusive kind of meaning to it that we often give to statements such as, "teaching of the Church." I also was purposely trying to avoid that- especially in a discussion like this.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#32 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 02:20 PM

The question then arises, actually two. What is the definition of the "teaching of the Church" and what is the teaching of the Church on creation?
If consensus patrum does not exactly work is it reasonable to appeal to the texts of services and pronouncements of council? Encyclicals of Patriarchs, especially Saints of the Church? Perhaps if a later Saint, like Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, summarised what all the saints before him said on a particular issue, would it then be "the teaching of the Church"?
I an afraid that if we do not make a clear definition what it is we are talking about, 400 more posts may be made and all in vain.
With love in the Lord to everybody,
Yuri

#33 M. Partyka

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 07:31 PM

...how can something be Patristic and not express the Faith of the Church? This, at least to my way of thinking would be a contradiction in terms.

Perhaps I'm interpreting the term "Patristic" too loosely, then. "Patristic", to me, means "finding its origin in the writings of the Fathers," and there are several things located here and there in the writings of the Fathers that don't jibe with the "consensus patrum" (as I've heard it called at least once). For example, St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote in volume 2 of Against Heresies that Christ died around the age of fifty, not thirty-three. I'd call that "Patristic", but I wouldn't call it correct.

Now, if by "Patristic" it is meant, "whatever is contained in the 'consensus patrum'," then we certainly have a definition which is narrow enough to exclude the occasional anomalies like the example above, but unfortunately we also have a definition that makes it almost impossible to rule anything "in" or "out" of the faith save for what either clearly agrees with or clearly contradicts the Creeds of the Church. And if all we are strictly bound to believe are the Creeds of the Church, then an overwhelming majority of Orthodox tradition has suddenly become "up for grabs".

(I wonder if anyone has gone through the trouble of collecting the necessary information to say, "Here are all the pronouncements of the Church Councils down through history, to which all Orthodox are obligated to consent," and form a "primer" of sorts out of this information for distribution to the faithful.)

The other thing I wished to express through what I wrote is that the Patristic vision does not have the exclusive kind of meaning to it that we often give to statements such as, "teaching of the Church." I also was purposely trying to avoid that- especially in a discussion like this.

This is why I have turned the question into something more personal and less declaratory concerning the faith as a whole -- i.e., "Is this what you believe and/or teach?"

#34 Rostislav

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 03:12 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rostislav' is identical to members 'Rick James York' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

I would like to post a series of works which rely heavily on patristics, and which explain differences between the sciences and theology.

Orthodox Theology and Science© The Rev. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios Hierotheos

There are clear and distinct boundaries between Theology and Science. Theology, as the Greek origin of the word suggests, is concerned with God - what God is and how one can attain communion with Him - whereas Science is concerned with the created world and is interested mainly in the use of the world.
In examining this simple sentence we realize that both Theology and Science move on different levels and, consequently, there can be no conflict between them or between theologians and scientists. A conflict developed and reached historic proportions in the West, when Metaphysics was identified with Theology. It is well known that the content of Metaphysics is one thing and the content of revealed Theology quite another. For example, according to Metaphysics there is an ungenerated world of ideas from which this world is derived either by a fall or an emanation. Therefore, when the West identified Metaphysics with Theology and indeed, when the advance of natural Science resulted in the shaking off of the foundations of Metaphysics, then the Theology which had been identified with Metaphysics was also questioned. Thus, an Athonite monk once jokingly referred to the conflict between Faith and Science as the «puns and riddles» of the West.
In the Orthodox Church, as expressed by the Holy Fathers, we see that the content of Theology is one thing and that of Science another. Theology talks about God, about the Creator of the world being God, about the fall and sickness of the human personality and about its cure so that man can attain communion with God. Science concerns itself with what can be known scientifically, those things that can be examined by the senses and it tries to make man's life bearable within his fallen state.
Unfortunately, however, we often notice that a great deal of confusion prevails between these two bounds and spheres. The problem is created when Science is made sacrosanct and mythological and when Theology is secularized.
Science is made sacrosanct when various scientists use scientific data and some discoveries to demolish teaching about God or even to be identified with God, something that constitutes hubris in the ancient sense of the word. Moreover, it is also made sacrosanct when they try to find a system, which will solve all man's problems even his existential ones. Typical of such a case is the statement made recently by a geneticist who proposed the cloning of human beings: "We are going to become one with God. We are going to have almost as much knowledge and almost as much power as God ... Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming one with God - very simple philosophy." [ 1 ]
Theology is secularized when it rejects its essence, which is to lead man to purification, illumination and deification (theosis), when it loses its eschatological orientation, and when it is historicized and made part of society. Moreover, Theology is secularized when it is completely overwhelmed by anxiety and insecurity in the face of scientific argument or still yet when it uses the methodology of Science to talk about God. In such cases it creates problems in research. Indeed, if Theology does not have clear orthodox criteria and sure presuppositions then it has lost its mission. [ 2 ]
All that follows will show the confusion that is created, as well as the different bounds and frameworks in which both Theology and Science act respectively.

1. THE TWO KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE TWO KINDS OF TRUTH ACCORDING TO ST. GREGORY PALAMAS.</B>
The dialogue that took place between St. Gregory Palamas and Barlaam, was also an occasion, among other things, for the boundaries of Orthodox Theology and of Science to be cleared up.
Barlaam, a representative of Medieval Scholastic Theology, professed that the truth, be it human or divine, is one and singular. He accepted that the deifying words and the wisdom that is contained in them look to the same purpose as those of philosophy, which comes from worldly lessons, and aims at finding the truth. Thus, he argued that the truth is one, since this truth was given to the Apostles, whereas we uncover it through study. Philosophy lessons (where there is much talk about the creation of the world and the redemption of man) also participate in the lifting up of man to the level of "the immaterial archetypes of the sacred symbols permanently." [ 3 ]
St. Gregory Palamas, using many quotes from Holy Scripture and the Fathers, introduces the truth of two kinds of wisdom and of knowledge. Throughout his work we see this essential difference between divine and human knowledge underlined, something which demonstrates that the truth is not singular. Characteristically St. Gregory Palamas notes "Whence it is shown that truth is of a double kind: one is the result of God-inspired teaching, whereas the other is neither necessary nor does it save, it seeks out secular wisdom, but achieves much less."[ 4 ] That means that one kind of truth, which is the vision of God, is the work and result of God-inspired teaching, whereas the other kind of wisdom, which is worldly wisdom, is neither necessary nor does it save, but neither is it fully accomplished. Saint Gregory Palamas asks «What care does deifying wisdom have for all the truth in the stars» [ 5 ] i.e. truth and knowledge about the stars does not interest and does not benefit deifying wisdom, that is the living experience of revelatory truth.
Certainly, St. Gregory Palamas does not reject worldly wisdom which looks to the knowledge of beings but argues that this human knowledge neither constitutes nor aids in any way the attainment of divine knowledge which is the result of purification of the heart and illumination of man's nous. With clarity of thought and revelatory wisdom St. Gregory Palamas would write: «However the introduction of secular philosophy for the knowledge of beings is not entirely false, under some circumstances it could be true, but this is not the knowledge of beings and the wisdom that God gave to prophets and apostles. This is the Holy Spirit. That the Egyptians and the Chaldeans and the Hellenes are partakers of the Holy Spirit we have never heard up until today.»[ 6 ] That is to say, the use of worldly philosophy to attain to the knowledge of beings is not totally amiss. Indeed, with certain preconditions it would also be true, but this is not the wisdom and knowledge given by God to the Apostles and Prophets directly.
This difference between St. Gregory Palamas and Barlaam, in reality is the difference between the Scholastic Theology of the West and the Orthodox Theology of the East. Amongst the many distinguishing points we can say that Western Scholastic Theology, which was expressed by Barlaam, used a single method both for created things and for the uncreated God. This means that they tried to comprehend God with the same method that they used to investigate creation and natural phenomena, i.e. through reason. Illumination by Divine Grace simply assists human reason to comprehend concepts and objects. Whereas, taking the opposite view, Orthodox Theology, as expressed by all the Holy Fathers, including St. Gregory Palamas uses a double methodology for God and creation. That is to say it uses reason to investigate creation, the nature of beings, to examine natural phenomena, while with the nous, which is purified and illuminated it attains knowledge of God. Thus, the method of the Fathers used for the knowledge of God was experience.
We can define this difference and codify it as St. Gregory Palamas did with the phrases «dialectic» and «demonstrative syllogisms.» This Saint developed the view that the dialectic method of Barlaam (and the Scholastics) refers to the search for possibilities and in general to all that concerns created reality. By contrast the demonstrative method of the hesychast Fathers, which bears a relationship to things and to experience, refers to man's journey towards deification (theosis).[ 7 ]
All this shows that education according to the world - and this includes Science - acts at one level, whereas knowledge of God, i.e. the aim and end of Theology, acts at another. A Science which tries to comprehend God with its own methodology (reason), and a Theology which leaves behind the hesychastic method, using reason for all matters including God, are equally bankrupt. This is especially the case with Theology, when it acts within the bounds of reasoning, i.e. dialectical elaboration.

Part: 2 to follow.

Edited by Administrator, 10 June 2008 - 09:06 AM.
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#35 Rostislav

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 03:17 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rostislav' is identical to members 'Rick James York' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

Part 2 in the series on the difference between the sciences and theology is replicated below.

2. THE THEOLOGIAN AND THE SCIENTIST IN RELATION TO GOD AND THE WORLD.</B>
So that we can give fuller expression to this differentiation between Theology and Science, i.e. that they act on different levels and within different bounds, let us personalize the matter, that is to say, let us look at the difference between the theologian and the scientist. I consider all that Fr. John Romanides has said on the matter to be significant and to the point. He sets down four theological statements.
First. There is an inextricable difference between God and creatures, since there is no similarity between uncreated and created nature. He writes that the Holy Fathers, who spoke from their experience, taught that «between God and created things there is no likeness at all, even though created things were made by God and depend upon God. This means that the truth about God and the truth about the nature of the universe are not identified with one another, even though one of them is dependent on the other.» It is for this precise reason that Theology cannot be identified with Science.
Second. Both the theologian and the scientist have different kind of knowledge. «The beholder of God knows God, whereas the philosopher or the scientist investigates created things.» This means that the philosopher and the scientist, in that they investigate the world through scientific method and philosophical imagination, cannot have the same knowledge about God that the beholders of God, the Prophets, Apostles and Saints do. The theologian, however, may have knowledge about scientific matter and become a scientist through scientific knowledge but not through the vision of God. Likewise, the scientist can also attain knowledge of God, not through his Science, but through the orthodox method of knowledge of God (theognosia) which is purification, illumination and deification (theosis).
Third. The purpose and work of the theologian and those of the scientist are different. «The beholder of God knows how he will prepare people for the vision of God. The scientist knows how to teach his scientific method to his students.» The theologian may also know the way to investigate natural phenomena, but within the knowledge of Science, as the Fathers of the Church did, just as a scientist can become a beholder of God, not through his Science, but through the vision of God.
Fourth. The theologian is God-inspired regarding God, not however regarding natural phenomena. «The beholder of God is God-inspired and speaks steadfastly about God and leads straight towards God, but he is not infallible in matters concerning the applied and other Sciences, regarding which he can only know as much as his contemporary scientists.» If someone is not a beholder of God but a «theologian» in the academic sense of the word, then he «can maintain scientific nonsense, but only of philosophers, in as much as he departs from the strict theological method of the beholders of God.» Likewise, the scientist is also a specialist and is knowledgeable of natural phenomena. When, however, he departs from his strict scientific method and confuses his findings about the nature of the world with his views about God, then he says «irresponsible things.»[ 8 ]
I think the boundaries are clear and all that has been set down has spelt out the topic of the work and mission of both the scientist and the theologian respectively. Both are authentic when they work within their bounds, but when they depart from them and enter each other's sphere without the necessary presuppositions and rules that presuppose each framework and each area, then they become ridiculous.
In general, the theologian may become a scientist, but through Science, and the scientist may become a theologian, but through Theology. The theologian cannot play the scientist through his Theology, nor can the scientist play the theologian through his Science.
The great Fathers of the Church were theologians through the experience of revelation and they even became scientists through conscientious study and learning of human Science. That is why they are whole.


Edited by Administrator, 10 June 2008 - 09:06 AM.
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#36 Rostislav

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 03:24 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rostislav' is identical to members 'Rick James York' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

Part 3 on the difference between the sciences and theology - St Basil the Great.

3. THE POSITION OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT REGARDING THEOLOGY AND SCIENCE
After all that has been said, I think that it would be good to refer at some length to St. Basil the Great's stance towards the Science of his time. This stance and how he faced the aspects of scientific data of his time in a theological manner can be clearly seen in his work «Homilies on the Six Days of Creation» known as the Hexameron. Indeed, in this book we can ascertain what that era's scientific views about the world and all that exists in it were, as well as how this knowledge can be utilized by a theologian. St. Basil managed to collect all of the contemporary knowledge of Science back then on the subject of cosmology into a few speeches.
a) Firstly, we should point out that St. Basil had studied all the branches of Science of his time. From testimonies by St. Gregory the Theologian and from reports by Socrates and Sozomenos we know that he attained the best possible knowledge of Science of the time.
After receiving his general education first from his father, and then in Caesarea of Cappadocia, he went on to study under the significant pagan philosopher Libanios, most probably in Constantinople. Yet it was Athens that would be the principal city to initiate him into Science and philosophy. We are informed that four schools of philosophy operated in Athens during the fourth century, as well as many centers of rhetoric and some of medicine. There were many schools, and each school was directed by one teacher, who gathered around him a certain number of students, which did not exceed a couple of dozen or so, some of them stayed by their teachers for a longer period a associates or assistants.
In Athens, St. Basil received lessons from the teachers Himerios and Proairesios. In total he pursued all the Sciences of that era, such as rhetoric, which was considered to be the queen of Sciences, literature, history, philosophy in its four branches (namely ethics, theoretics, logic and dialectic), astronomy, geometry, arithmetic and medicine. Indeed, he knew each and every one of the Sciences so well that someone could spend his whole life studying just one of them and still not know it as well as he knew them all. All this knowledge of his clearly shows up in the commentary he makes on the Hexameron. He stayed in Athens for four or five years. [ 9 ]
b) In the Hexameron St. Basil continually refers to the views of the philosophers and the scientists on different cosmological subjects. Naturally, he never mentions their names but they become known through the views presented. For example in analyzing the phrase «In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,» he refers to the views of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Leucippus, Democritus and Aristotle. [ 10 ]
Amongst other things he writes «The wise men of the Greeks have taken much trouble to explain nature, and not one of their reasons has remained firm and unshaken, each one being overturned by its successor. It is not our job to refute them; they are adequately able to overthrow one another by themselves.» [ 11 ] Others accepted that a thinking cause presides for the generation of all things (Anaxagoras of Clazomenae). Again others held that the foundations of the world are material elements (Anaximander, Anaximenes, Empedocles, Heraclitus). Yet again others believed that all of visible nature was made up of «atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts,» and that the relationship between them contribute towards birth and corruption, but also in the sustenance of the world (Leucippus, Democritus and so on). [ 12 ]
It is significant that St. Basil refers to the views of the philosophers about the creation and sustenance of the world, but that he assesses them creatively both as a theologian and as a scientist. Sometimes he accepts them, sometimes he comments on them in a theological manner and sometimes he gives his own different interpretation. Thus, the work of St. Basil does not consist of a simple juxtaposition of scientists' views, but is a creative contribution. This, of course, is a consequence of the fact that St. Basil the Great knew the different opinions of his time very well, since he had spent long years in study, but also since he had had revelatory experience.
I would like to mention two characteristic examples:
The first example is on the matter of allegory, the method by which some, like Philo the Jew, interpreted the Pentateuch. St. Basil writes: «I know the laws of allegory, though not so much from my own research, but rather from the works of others.» He means Philo and others who, as he goes on to explain, did not accept the usual meaning of the text, but said that water is not water, but some other nature, and that the plant and the fish is interpreted according to their own theory and concepts. They did the same thing regarding reptiles and wild beasts. However, St. Basil does not pursue them in such fantasies. He writes: «When I hear grass, I think of grass; and the plant, the fish, the wild beast and the domesticated animal. I accept all of them just as they are spoken.» Also, based on revealed truth he argues that, «although many have maintained much about the earth, whether it is a sphere or a cylinder, or if it resembles a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it is in the form of a cradle and is hollow in the middle,» [ 13 ] despite this, «it will not lead me to call our own creation account of the world more dishonorable, since the servant of God Moses never spoke about shapes.» [ 14 ]
The second example comes from the interpretation of the verse «Let the earth bring forth each living creature after its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind.» [ 15 ] Some people of St. Basil's era maintained that during the rainy season the earth produces grasshoppers, countless flying insects, as well as mice and frogs. St. Basil was prepared to accept this theory, that all these come from the earth, but he gives a theological interpretation, supporting the view, (which we will see below) that all this is the result of the energy of God, which exists in creation and not the natural attributes of creation. He writes, «This command has continued and earth does not cease to serve the Creator.» [ 16 ] Thus, it is this uncreated energy of God, which exists in creation that continually creates and produces animals and insects. Here we clearly see the creative and theological approach to the beliefs of that time.
But St. Basil does not only interpret the scientific views of his time according to theological presuppositions. He does something else which is equally important. He interprets the phrases of Holy Scripture, i.e. the experience of Revelation, via the views of Science. In analyzing the phrase «God made the firmament,» he makes broad observations, trying to give the correct interpretation. Having mentioned various verses from Scripture, at the end he says that by the expression «firmament,» with which God «divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament,» means a firm material, which is capable of retaining fluid and liquid water. He also makes further comments that we are unable to present here. [ 17 ]
c) We must, however, look at the theological approach to the Creation of the world. St. Basil is not a theoretical secular scientist, but a great theologian. Thus, he is not satisfied with a presentation of the views of Science, but often, as seen in his works, he speaks theologically. He sets down the necessary theological presuppositions. Christian cosmology, something that differentiates Christian cosmology from any other kind of cosmology.
The first theological principle is that there is a difference between the Creator and creation, between the uncreated God and created nature. When interpreting the phrase «In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth» he makes some excellent observations.
Creation has a precise origin; i.e. it was created at a precise time and, indeed, was the result of a creative principle, God. He speaks about a «principle of good order of visible things.» [ 18 ] Besides the world was «not created spontaneously» [ 19 ] Thus he talks of a precise origin «so that some will not think that it is without a beginning.» [ 20 ] The view that Creation has an exact origin leads us to the conclusion that visible things do have a cause. «Do not imagine, O man! that the visible is without a beginning.» [ 21 ] Moreover, this infers that creation has a precise end. «If there is a beginning in time, do not doubt of the end.»[ 22 ]
The view that the world has an origin leads us to seek out what the origin of the world is. The creative origin of the world is God Who is without beginning. «If then the world has a beginning, and if it has been created, ask who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator.» [ 23 ] Indeed, God the Creator of the World is «fortunate nature, abundant goodness, the beloved of all endowed with reason, the most desirable beauty, the origin of beings, the source of life, the noetic light, unapproachable wisdom...» [ 24 ] However, for man to know God he must purify his flesh from passions. [ 25 ]
Hence, we see here that St. Basil makes the clear distinction between uncreated and created, between that which is without beginning and that which has a beginning, between God and the world. This is very important, so that there will be no confusion between the Creator and the creation.
The second theological principle is that the world was created from nothing, i.e. not from material that did exist. That God created the world from nothing, means that he did not create it from preexisting ideas, nor from pre-existing material. This position shakes all pagan cosmological principles; that is to say, it shakes the foundations of classical Metaphysics.
St. Basil says that all skills and arts are subsequent to matter, and were introduced into life for our needs. God, however, before making the visible things «having formed in His mind (nous) and determining to bring non-beings into genesis, in the same way He conceived of the world as it ought to be.» With this aim he created matter, fire, water and air and united these dissimilar things in an indissoluble bond of fellowship in one communion and harmony. [ 26 ] He adheres to this point in his other talks. «Everything was brought from non-being into being at the command of God.» [ 27 ]
The third theological principle is that God manages the world with his uncreated energies. In other words, God did not just lay down a few natural laws and then abandon the world to its fate, but he manages it personally. This is important because it shows that the energies of God exist throughout creation, but, of course, creation can not partake of the essence of God.
The way in which God-beholding Moses presents the creation of the world, and the way in which St. Basil the Great interprets it, show the creative intervention of God through His energies. In interpreting the verse «And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,» [ 28 ] he says that God with His Word warmed and quickened the nature of the water, just like a bird hatches its eggs. Interpreting the Psalm «I bear up the pillars of it» (Ps. 75:3/74:4 Sept.) he says that this means the cohesive power of the earth, i.e. the power that holds the earth and, of course, that means that all is held «by the power of the Creator.» [ 29 ]
Not only was everything created by the uncreated energy of God but also everything is administered by the power of God. God's voice then, saying «Let the earth bring forth grass» shows that this command became a law of nature «that left to the earth the power to generate and be fruitful from then on.»[ 30 ] St. Basil gives such great importance to the teaching that the energy of God exists throughout creation, so that he believes that the commandment of God fills everything and even reaches to the smallest details, since even «a fish does not refute God's Law.»[ 31 ]
Interpreting the expression «Let the earth bring forth each living soul (Septuagint) after its kind» he objects to the Manichaeans who believed that the soul existed throughout the earth and taught that this living soul was the divine word which constituted the nature of things made. [ 32 ]
The fourth theological principle set forth by St. Basil is that studying the world, creation, is not self-serving. Since, however, the world was created by God and is sustained by his uncreated energy, it is necessary for man to lift up his mind from the visible to the invisible, from creation to the Creator. In one of his homilies he says that God gave us intelligence so that «from the smallest objects of creation we may learn the great wisdom of the artisan.» [ 33 ] Illumination from God is sought, so that from what we see we may apprehend the invisible, and from the greatness of the beauty of creation we may attain a suitable perception of the Creator. [ 34 ] Thus, through creation we can gain a sense of God's grandeur. If creation is idolized, i.e. if our mind goes no further than the admiration of created things, then that constitutes making creation into God, it means idolatry.
The fifth theological principle. When St. Basil the Great studies the various phenomena that occur in nature, even the behavior of various kinds of animals, birds and insects, he leads his thoughts to spiritual teachings which aim at benefiting man spiritually. For example, looking at the cases of the hedgehog and the ant, who take the trouble to do different tasks which will be of benefit during difficult times, he says that this teaches man to provide for the future. «So that we also should not attach ourselves to this present life, but give all our attention to the age that is to come.» Therefore, living within time, we prepare for the eternal reward. With this teaching it becomes apparent that the saints do not confine their life within history, but they also extend it to eschatology or, to be precise, we should say that they let eschatology regulate history.
In general, we should note that St. Basil interprets the creation of the world mainly on the basis of the revelatory teaching of Moses and of his own tradition of interpretation, which is a fruit of his own experience. However, he also uses examples from pagan philosophers, and indeed sometimes he accepts these examples as they were formulated, sometimes giving them a different (wider) interpretation and sometimes rejecting them. This does not happen arbitrarily but on the basis of the theological principles, which we outlined above and which refer to the ontology of nature, i.e., to the One who is nature's creator, and to how he has created and sustained the world. He uses his basic theological principles on these matters without fail. In addition, he accepts everything that is related to scientific matters, provided that it does not disturb these principles. As we saw above, he is prepared to accept certain opinions of that time, according to which the earth produces frogs and cicadas. However, he gives them a theological interpretation in saying that they are not produced by the earth acting spontaneously on its own, but by the energy of God which is in earth, since the creation. This tactic of St. Basil indicates the way which should be followed today in relation to contemporary scientific matters.

Part 4 to follow.

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#37 Rostislav

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Part 4 and final in the series on the differences between the sciences and theology.

4. A CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLE FROM THE FIELD OF GENETICS.
The way in which Orthodox Theology should operate, how it should judge Science and how it should interpose its own voice, can be seen from the examination of the case of cloning. I would like to continue with a brief account, to show how a scientist and a theologian operate in this case.

It is well known that when we talk about cloning, in reality we refer to the transplantation of genetic material (DNA) from a cell to an ovary that has already had its own genetic material removed. This new material is then implanted into a third organism. It is a new discovery of scientific research that began with irrational animal and is intended to continue with rational animals endowed with souls, that is, to be introduced to human beings. It is a discovery that has terrorized many theologians, but it has also made scientists arrogant, filled with hubris, in the original Greek sense of the word.

The reaction to this new method of producing live organisms, especially of human beings, is varied. A theologian may moralize and an "atheist" may theologize. I am of the opinion that we theologians are given this opportunity to avoid moralizing and to face such cases theologically as the Holy Fathers of the Church did.

For example, I can mention that I read texts by «theologians» who in facing the challenge of contemporary Science on the matter of genetics and especially cloning, restrict the discussion solely to the subject of normative rules that must be put to scientists when they approach such a serious matter. There is no doubt, of course, that theologians must also do that; they must make scientists aware of their responsibilities. But that can be also done by scientists who today do not necessarily come from the «domain» of the Church, yet talk of «ethical-normative» rules, which must be placed within research, so that we do not end up with the birth of monstrosities and indeed with fascist and racist mentalities.

Moreover, while there are theologians and clerics who moralize, there are also intellectuals and thinkers who theologize. One such example is the famous Italian philosopher Umberto Eco, and it appears in an article of his in the Italian periodical L' Espresso with the title: «A crazy scientist has decided to clone me.» I will cite certain opinions of this great contemporary philosopher, since they are expressive, and show how one can theologize and philosophize on this matter.

Eco writes: «A human being is not just its genes, but something much greater. Upbringing, education, social and cultural environment all play a tremendous role.» Referring to the hypothesis that some crazy scientist has decided to create his likeness he writes: «It would have my hair, my eyes, the same tendencies toward sickness, but Umberto the second will have grown up on a farm in the Mid-West. I, on the other hand, grew up in a middle-class family, in a provincial Italian city in the thirties and forties. I had a Catholic upbringing in fascist Italy, and saw television for the first time when I was twenty years old. What will Umberto the second be like me at my age? Certainly something different from me.» Having emphasized that cloning signifies a turn in Science and ethics, he points out that the human race must oppose «the diligent attempts of scientific fantasy, which is ruled by a naive materialistic determinism, according to which man's fate is determined exclusively by his genetic inheritance ... As if upbringing, the environment, the misfortunes of probability, the caresses and the slaps from parents bore no relation at all.» [ 35 ]

In such opinions one sees an attempt to escape from the moral and deontological canons of behavior, which certain theologians have shut themselves into, in their attempt to say something about Science's new achievement.

In continuing, I would like to present seven theological positions on the subject of the prospect of human cloning.

1. Man, according to Orthodox teaching, is a psychosomatic being and, of course, he is formed according to the image and likeness of God. He is clearly distinct from animals, because he has a soul according to essence and according to energy. This means that the human being can in no way whatsoever be considered as a «laboratory rat» nor as a breathing factory of living organs ready for transplantation for the sake, indeed, of commercial gain. In such cases the pinnacle of creation, the recapitulation of the intelligent (noetic) and sensitive world, is turned into a living accessory, a manifestation of the theory that the human being is a «tool with a soul!»

2. Man is a creature, and, thus, is defined as created, whereas God is uncreated. There is a tremendous difference between created and uncreated. It means that God creates out of non-being out of non-existent material, while man can create something out of existing material that has already been created by God. Thus, even if there are scientists who would proceed to clone humans, with frightening results, they cannot be identified with God, for the precise reason that they will be working with already existent genetic material, and they would not create something out of non-being.

3. According to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, God's life-creating energy can be found within the whole of creation, and, we could even add, in cells and in DNA too. A wealth of information regarding this truth can be found in both St. Basil the Great's Homilies on the Hexameron, as well as in the works of St. Gregory of Nyssa. Therefore, whatever happens within creation, even when man interferes in an arrogant manner, it happens with the approval or the concession of the will of God.

4. In the Orthodox Church we talk about man as a person. This means that he has uniqueness, freedom and love. The term person refers to man being according to God's likeness and image, and of course, is extended to the whole being. With cloning it is possible to form externally similar people, who will have the same kinds of reaction on certain points, something we can see in sibling twins. Yet we are unable to abolish the person - the hypostatic other-ness of a particular human being - with his own special mode of love and freedom. Each human being has a distinctive hypostatic mark, a variety of degrees of love, even up to self-sacrifice, as well as the ability to express itself in freedom positively or negatively.

5. Genetic Science, and of course, human cloning cannot free man from the mortality with which he is born. Science may cure certain hereditary diseases and can extend life, but it cannot help man overcome death. Man's basic problem, however, is not the extension of biological life, nor is it the delaying of death, but it is overcoming death. That is the work of Orthodox Theology.

6. These contemporary challenges give us the opportunity to determine exactly what life is and exactly what death is. It is a fact that man is greatly troubled by this existential question. However many similarities may exist, bodily, psychologically and so on, however many transplants take place, man will still feel the unconquerable need to answer these questions. Scientists cannot give exact answers. And even if they try to do so, even then their answers will be incomplete. Man asks, «Why was I born? Why did they give birth to me without asking?» This problem will become even greater when he gets informed that he was created by cloning and without the loving care of a mother and father. In addition man is concerned with the question of what is the point of his existence, why does he exist. The greatest question is found within the framework of death. Many young people ask, «Why should death exist? Why do my loved ones die? Where do they go after death? Why should we come into life and then after a short while disappear, if there is no life after death? And if life does exist after death, then why should I die and where do I go to?» Orthodox Theology answers these questions whereas Science cannot give any answers.

7. Even if a human being were to be cloned, it will still he created, and would be endowed with a precise origin, corruptibility and freedom, which will not necessarily function positively as happens with uncreated nature, but will also function negatively, and it will have a biological end. It could of course, as something created, also have an end to its very existence, but that does not happen because God wants it to be immortal by grace. Within the Church however, we talk about another form of «cloning» which Science cannot give to man. With the incarnation of Christ, that which was created was united with that which was uncreated. Thus, each human being has been given the possibility of acquiring experience of the union by Grace of the created nature with the uncreated energy of God in Christ Jesus. The Saints acquired this experience, thus becoming uncreated and immortal by Grace. The Uncreated and Immortal was «transplanted» into them, and they gained experience of immortal life even from this biological life. The problem, then, is not bodily or genetic transplantation, but the «transplantation» of God within our hypostasis/person. It is such experience that gives meaning to man's life. Therefore, contemporary Science, and indeed genetics, gives us the opportunity to concern ourselves with the eternal questions which have concerned the human spirit, from ancient Greek philosophy until today; questions which were answered by the incarnation of Christ. We must look at anthropological problems through Theology, Divine Economy, Soteriology and Eschatology. It is an opportunity for us to guide man's search for the deeper and higher things of life.

The subject of the Orthodox Theology's encounter with Science is large enough and cannot be answered within the time limits of a lecture. Here we simply presented some problems. The fact remains that we must definitely set the boundaries between Science and Orthodox Theology. The scientists should not approach theological and existential questions using scientific methodology, because they will bring tremendous disappointment to man who is searching for something different. Neither should theologians approach scientific reality, leaving behind the higher things of spiritual life. It is impossible for the theological and existential message to be secularized and brought into society. Science answers the question of what the world we see is. Theology answers the question of who the Creator of the world is. Science researches the subject of the behavior and function of created things.

Theology sees the energy of God that --------(missing word page 146) the world. Science tries to heal the sicknesses that make man suffer. Theology helps man transcend his creatureliness and mortality. Science answers the question of how beings and created things were made and created. Theology answers the question of what is the aim and end of creation. Anyway, in the Orthodox Church we look for «new heavens and a new earth» (II Peter 3:13). Let Science occupy itself with the aged earth and the aged heaven. We, as theologians and clerics, look for that «blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ» (Titus 2:13).

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NOTES
Return [ 1 ] BBC News - Wednesday January 7th, 1998 -reported in Greek in the «Eleutherotypia» Newspaper January 8th, 1998.
Return [ 2 ] See the Greek Magazine Diabasi (=Passage), Nov.-Dec. 1997, pp. 5-7.
Return [ 3 ] Translated from the original Greek text published in Gregory Palamas: Works Vol. 2, in the series Ellenes Pateres tes Ekklesias, Thessaloniki 1987, p. 268.
Return [ 4 ] ibid. p. 270.
Return [ 5 ] ibid. p. 272.
Return [ 6 ] ibid.
Return [ 7 ] See Nikos Matsoukas: «The double methodology of Gregory Palamas,» in Greek, in the volume Papers of the Theological Conference in honor and memory of our Father among the Saints Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, published by the Sacred Metropolis of Thessaloniki 1986, pp. 75 onwards. [ in Greek]
Return [ 8 ] John Romanides: Romiosyni, Published by Poumaras, Thessaloniki 1975, pp. [ in Greek ]
Return [ 9 ] See Panagiotis Christou, O Megas Basileios, Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, Thessaloniki 1978, pp. 22-23.
Return [ 10 ] Translated from the original Greek text of Basil the Great, Homilies on the Hexameron, published in the series Ellenes Pateres tes Ekklesias, Vol. 4, p. 28, footnote 1.
Return [ 11 ] Ibid.
Return [ 12 ] Ibid.
Return [ 13 ] Ibid. pp. 338-340.
Return [ 14 ] Ibid. p. 240.
Return [ 15 ] Ibid.
Return [ 16 ] Ibid. p. 344.
Return [ 17 ] Ibid. pp. 112 ff.
Return [ 18 ] Ibid. p. 24.
Return [ 19 ] Ibid.
Return [ 20 ] Ibid. p. 30.
Return [ 21 ] Ibid. p. 32.
Return [ 22 ] Ibid. p. 34.
Return [ 23 ] Ibid. p. 30.
Return [ 24 ] Ibid. p. 32.
Return [ 25 ] S o o n
Return [ 26 ] S o o n
Return [ 27 ] S o o n
Return [ 28 ] S o o n
Return [ 29 ] S o o n
Return [ 30 ] S o o n
Return [ 31 ] S o o n
Return [ 32 ] S o o n
Return [ 33 ] S o o n
Return [ 34 ] S o o n
Return [ 35 ] S o o n


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#38 Rick James York

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 05:38 AM

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St Gregory of Sinai speaks on created things and Holy Scripture:

If your speech is full of wisdom and you meditate on understanding in your heart (cf. Ps. 49:3), you will disclose in created things the presence of the divine Logos, the substantive Wisdom of God the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24); for in created things you will perceive the outward expression of the archetypes that characterize them, and thus through your active living intelligence you will speak wisdom that derives from the divine Wisdom. And because your heart will he illuminated by the power of the transfiguring understanding on which you meditate in your spirit, you will be able through this understanding to instruct and illuminate those who listen with faith.

Today’s great enemy of truth, drawing men to perdition, is delusion. As a result of this delusion, tenebrous ignorance rules the souls of all those sunk in lethargy and alienates them from God. Such people are as if unaware that there exists a God who gives us rebirth and illumination, or they assume that we can believe in Him and know Him only in a theoretical way and not through our actions, or else they imagine that He has revealed Himself only to the people of former times and not to us also; and they pretend that the scriptural texts about God are applicable only to the original authors, or to others, hut not to themselves. Thus they blaspheme the teaching about God, since they repudiate true knowledge inspired by devotion to God, and read the Scriptures only in a literal, not to say Judaic, manner; denying the possibility that man even in this life can be resurrected through the resurrection of his soul, they choose to remain in the grave of ignorance. Delusion consists of three passions: lack of faith, guile and sloth. These generate and support each other: lack of faith sharpens the wits of guile, and guile goes hand in hand with sloth, which expresses itself outwardly in laziness. Or conversely, sloth may beget guile — did not the Lord say, ‘You cunning and lazy servant’ (Mat. 25:26)? — and guile mothers lack of faith. For if you are full of guile you lack faith, and if you lack faith you stand in no awe of God. From such lack of Faith comes sloth, which begets contempt; and when you are full of Contempt you scorn all goodness and practise every kind of wickedness.

Complete dogmatic orthodoxy consists in a true doctrine about God and an unerring spiritual knowledge of created things. If you are orthodox in this way you should glorify God thus: Glory to Thee, Christ our God, glory to Thee, because for our sake Thou, the divine Logos who transcends all things, becamest man. Great is the mystery of Thine incarnation, Saviour: glory to Thee.


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#39 John M.

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 10:21 AM

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The following is an excellent paper on the topic below. It was written in Russian and translated into English.

Why an Orthodox Christian cannot be an evolutionist


S.V. Bufeev
Translation from Russian by Dr. Eugene Selensky, evgeny@dcs.gla.ac.uk. Citations from the Bible are translated using the King James Version; all the rest citations (except the Lenten troparion of the sixths hour, for which the original has been found in English) are translated from Russian. Therefore the translations may considerably differ from the known sources in English.



Flee from delirious ideas of philosophers who are not ashamed to say that their soul and a dog's soul are alike and that they were fish.
St Basil the Great



What is the Orthodox attitude towards natural science? This question does not have at the moment a rigorous and unambiguous answer. The point is not so much in a detailed explanation of its various aspects as in the possibility of a coherent Orthodox view of the key issues of natural science. Is it really possible to reconcile Orthodox dogmas and scientific knowledge? E.g., Can one combine the Biblical story of creation and the Christian understanding of its purpose with the contemporary cosmogonic theory of the "big bang" and the eventual evolutionary development of the universe, or with the concept of the origin of life based on destruction (mutations) and death (natural selection)?

Is Orthodox education at all compatible with such a materialistic perspective? Some Christian apologetic publications are aimed at finding a positive answer. However attractive such an answer is, it is still deceptive, since it conveys the idea that it is possible to come to the Divine Truth without believing in Christ, with the help of the scientific reasoning of the human mind alone. But whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23).

Without God neither science nor any other concept of human thought leads to the Truth, that no flesh should glory in the presence of God. (1 Cor 1:29). The Saviour Himself has said: "I receive not testimony from man" (Jn 5:34); "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (Jn 18:37); "He that is not with me is against me" (Mat. 12:30).

St Theophanus the Recluse wrote: "The positive teaching of the Church reveals whether a concept is from the Truth. This is a litmus test for all teachings. Whatever agrees with it, you should accept it, whatever does not- - reject. One can do it without further deliberations" [1]. "Science goes forward quickly, let it do so. But if they infer something inconsistent with Divine Revelation, they are definitely off the right path and into deception. Do not follow them" [2].

"Believers have the right to measure the material concepts with spiritual ones, when materialists get into the realm of the spiritual without the slightest of scruples... We have wisdom by our side, while they have foolishness. Material things can be neither the cause nor the effect. They are just the means and field of activity by which spiritual powers act through the spiritual cause of all things, the Creator." [1].

To come to a true understanding of God's creation one should not project, conforming to this materialistic age (Rom 12:2), the Revealed Truth onto scientific achievements, since in the light of Divine Revelation, the Truth itself is given to us in its entirety and simplicity to the extent that God wills. On the contrary, one should view science from the divine, spiritual viewpoint according to St Basil the Great, "exploring the world and studying the universe not based on worldly wisdom, but in the way God teaches His servant, speaking to him openly and not in hidden meanings. (Num 12:8)" [3].


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#40 John M.

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 10:39 AM

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WHY AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE AN EVOLUTIONIST

The cornerstone of the Orthodox attitude to science is the concept of Creation - the origin of the universe, life and man. From the Christian perspective, the laws governing the world today and before the fall are different in principle, as everything created by God in the beginning was perfect and immortal. St Ignatius writes: "Today the earth is quite different in our eyes. We do not know it in its saintly virginal state; we know it in its corrupt and condemned state, we know it already bound to be burnt; it was designed for eternity" [4].

The reconciliation of today's cosmogonic hypotheses with Moses' story of the Six Days of creation, is a great temptation for contemporary scientists newly converted into Orthodoxy. The origin of the ‘logical rambling’ of all these hypotheses is in their attempt to describe the appearance and development of the world with the aid of the laws of a pre-existing universe. Creation is in principle a religious concept, but not a scientific one. On the contrary, the religiousness of this scientific concept is in its atheistic nature (in the faith of no-God).

In 1885 N. Y. Danilevsky wrote that "the theory of evolution is not so much a biological doctrine as it is a philosophical one; a dome on the building of mechanical materialism, by which it is only possible to explain its fantastic success without being related to real scientific achievements" [5]. Here is the reason why the theory of evolution, despite its scientific infertility, has remained hitherto an almost unrivalled concept: it satisfies the necessity of having a materialistic explanation of all things, "scientifically" proving natural origin of all forms of life, man included. By doing so, the theory of evolution is getting too far beyond the limits of science - into the realm of faith – and for the sake of science it demands the denial of God, bearing all the responsibility for such mindlessness: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." (Ps 13:1, Ps 53:1, Rev 16:9).

One can in many ways disprove scientifically the inconsistency of the theory of evolution - either Darwinian or its contemporary synthetic counterpart or any modification of those including ones having theistic forms. However, any scientific argument is conditional. The theory of evolution is not a scientific theory in the strict sense. It is a world perspective, a perception, a religious (namely, pagan) concept of the origin of the world that penetrates all of today's science, placing as its foundation, the concept that the world has in itself a mechanism for its own development. Self-perfection having been active for billions of years.

The Christian understanding of the world states however that from the moment Adam fell, the world has been bound to be driven by involution - degeneration, whereas all the creative force comes from the Lord, not from within the world. If one wants to speak of evolution, let them speak of the voluntary spiritual development on a personal basis in terms of acquiring the fullness of the image of God rather than the biological evolution of the Homo sapiens species. In this sense, the evolution of man is subdued not by the natural laws but by the supernatural law of salvation.

An evolutionary perspective of the world's history that interprets it as a process of perpetual striving for perfection of all forms of life driving the "arrow" of development from simplest organisms towards man is incompatible with the Orthodox understanding expressed by the Holy Fathers of the Church. The starting point of the Christian view is that man was placed on top, with God-given dignity but succumbing to the temptation of the independent evolutionary development, he fell trying to acquire an even higher position and caused all creation to fall from grace along with him. The attitude towards evolutionism is not an abstract philosophical or a special scientific question. It is a spiritual issue, an issue concerning faith and eternal salvation - it deals with the origin, existence and consequently the end of the world. This issue forms the mindset of an individual, his attitude towards life, and his moral values.

The principal point of disagreement of evolutionism and Christianity is the question of the origin of living organisms. Apostle Paul admonished us not to deliver teachings different from his, nor did he let us listen to the endless fables at variance with God's lessons of faith (1Tim. 1:3, 4). All the scientific, religious and philosophical existential teachings stemming from outside The Old Testament and Christian Revelation describe endless births and multilateral transformations of things based on the thesis that nothing can appear from nothing else.

The world is understood either in terms of only transformations of material substance coming up with more complex forms from simpler ones or of emanation (proceeding from) the Deity or, finally, of identification of the world with the Deity. The difference is only in the fact that in the first case physical evolution is meant; in the second, the appearance of new forms is defined by the spiritual state of the object undergoing a series of reincarnations. However, in both cases, at the foundation lies the evolutionist (heathen) idea of the appearance of new entities from the old ones.

Evolutionists, like all other pagans, are trying to state that cosmos originates from primitive chaos. About gods "performing" such a transformation of chaos into cosmos St Gregory Palamas said: "A god that does not create from nothingness, a god that did not exist before matter… is not a god. I'll tell you something adding to the words of the Prophet: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens (Jer 10:11) as well as those theologians who invented them" [6]. L. A. Òykhomirov notes: "The concept of creation could only come from the Revelation of the One Who stands beyond the laws of matter and Who Himself created it.

For the human mind, which never observed such a thing and which only knows birth, evolution and transformation of existing things, the idea of coming into being from nothing is absurd. It could not have occurred to anyone and is at variance with our knowledge and comprehension." [7]. In its essence, Christian Revelation is counter-evolutionary. This does not rule out the possibility of natural development of species, within certain limits (within biological types). This only means that new entities (in their own kind) have an entirely different mechanism for coming into being - by the act of creation from nothing – this is inconceivable to our mind because of its supernatural and divine origin. This mechanism sets characteristics, definitive and unchangeable properties transferred genetically from ancestors to descendents. The teaching about the Divine act of creation of everything from nothing is an integral part of the whole Christian doctrine. St Athanasius teaches that "each created thing in its kind, in its entity, remains as it was created" [3].


Edited by Administrator, 10 June 2008 - 08:50 AM.
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