So that you know my background, it is this: I used to be a six-day creationist following Fr Seraphim Rose’s writings. I then became an evolutionist, but still with a feeling that God did not create anything evil (and being vague with regards to humanity). I then realised (see the first post in the "Creation and evolutionary theory, II") that perhaps the sacraments could be used to point to a higher way of thinking. However, it was the Reader Yuri Zharikov who alone converted me to see again a form of the creation in six days (see here and here): however I am still perfectly happy - and more so now - with an old universe and evolution!
I know my ideas sound wacky: it has been suggested that I am an Origenist, though I do not know what this means in this context. Your thoughts, fellow Monachians, would be welcome: I need your help!!!
At the start of my original thread I recommended some cake and tea: another few helpings might be required to digest all of this post too!
"Somewhere over the rainbow": a refutation of Creationism
http://en.wikipedia....ration_of_Jesus; click to enlarge!
Look at this icon of the Transfiguration of our Lord, in particular look at the concentric circles of blue light around Christ. If you were looking for a way to describe this light to someone using only everyday words, how would you describe it?
Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezekiel 1:28)
And so it is that for Orthodox Christianity there are two rainbows: the one which appears to everyone after it rains, and the one in the "appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD" as ‘iconised’ in the icon above . And this is where the problem lies: to which rainbow - or maybe both - does God refer when He says, "I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth" (Gen 9:13)?
For Evangelical Creationists, it seems that the Vision of Christ in Glory is alien to the account of Genesis (1-11) as it is to their spirituality. It is approximately sufficient for someone to believe that the world is only about 6,000 years old. The step from the Genesis narrative to faith in Christ is something like this: as the world is only 6,000 years old there must be a Creator God … sin, wrath, judgement, eternal punishment and suffering in hell … therefore produce repentance (sometimes a.k.a. ‘emotional destruction’) and join our organisation. In other words, Genesis is merely the starting point for logical deductions - hence the Atheists' fervent acceptance of Evolution to destroy this starting point! (I realise that this is quite a poor description of Evangelicism. The Evangelicals I know are not like this, but this description can be seen at times in certain fundamentalist sections.)
However, for the Orthodox surely Genesis is not the start of logical deductions, but the end of faith: "For Christ is the end of the law" (including Genesis), "when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part" (in this case, scriptures) "will be done away", and "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Rom 10:4; 1Cor 13:10; Heb 11:1) - so in other words when Christ appears, as He has done to many saints, then faith passes away to be replaced by Vision.
St John of Damascus writes the following about the Eucharist, in which, if we were like the saints, we would see Christ and the Divine Light ("We have seen the true Light …"):
God said, This is My body, and This is My blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me. And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come: for it was in this sense that He said until He come: and the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes through the invocation the rain to this new tillage.
The Orthodox Faith, book 4, ch. 13
So to find out about the ‘tilling’ commanded to us ("the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [i.e. ‘till’] and keep it." Gen 2:15) we should be looking at the Eucharist; may I also suggest that this applies to finding out about the whole creation. For Wisdom says,
When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman.
For he hath given me (Wisdom) certain knowledge of … the beginning, ending, and midst of the times. (Wisdom 7:17-18)
And how do we unite with Wisdom to attain to this Genesis of knowledge? Again, it is the Eucharist:
Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has slaughtered her meat, She has mixed her wine, She has also furnished her table. … "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed." (Proverbs 9:1-5)
As such then, it is clear that the proofs of a young earth, or of the animal ‘kinds’ keeping themselves to themselves, or of a global flood do not lead to this Eucharistic knowledge of the creation. They lead to the dim image, not to the Vision "face to face" (1Cor 13:12). Indeed, I had mentioned in a previous post how I was prevented from truly appreciating the original creation because the Creationists kept pointing to evidence from this fallen world: "Years ago I was walking around thinking that the tropical plants and animals under the ice were a proof of the six-day creation. However, just recently it has begun to dawn on me that to be either a Creationist or an Evolutionist is to be mistaken"
Also, I must point out that Fr Seraphim Rose - who has greatly influenced Orthodox Creationism - based his theories on the Evangelical Creationist world-view, and as such went against the ancient tradition. For example, he uses the King James Version in opposition to the united testimony of the ancient translations in one important place, and also does not know about the ‘firmament’ that Ezekiel saw and described. (See this post for more.)
To try to reconcile this corrupted world with that of the original creation, I spoke of a higher dimension or universe. In other words, the pre-Flood (?) world was a union of two universes: this current one and the ‘spiritual world’ (Paradise was still visible before the Flood, so I have read). As such, it cannot be described with our physical laws. If you can accept that before the Fall humanity would have reproduced in a higher way than sexual reproduction (St John of Damascus, "The Orthodox Faith", book 4, chapter 24), then please try to accept what I write, for neither apply to the world as we see it now.
Therefore, seeing that Creationism leads us away from the deifying vision which the prophets and apostles had - in other words, from deification in Christ - I consider it to be fundamentally flawed as a means of explaining the Genesis record. Creationism leads us to a knowledge of created symbols and ideas in opposition to the Vision of Glory which St Gregory Palamas defends as being uncreated. (Though of course, the angels and firmament etc. are created.) Therefore I would like to suggest that the rainbow of Genesis is indeed the same as the rainbow in the "appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord".
"The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow": a refutation of Evolution
True evolution agrees with scripture where it states for our own rebuke:
I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals." For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. (Ecclesiastes 3:18-20)
In other words, in the final analysis, as far as any physical evidence is concerned humanity and the animals are the same. Evolution, thus far, is in fact Biblical!
However, strict evolution, via logic, then uses this part of the truth to deny another part:
For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honour. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen- Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:5-8)
And knowledge of this part of the truth comes from scripture, and, at its highest form, from the Vision of the Lord of Glory, as discussed above. Therefore, to try to get authentic knowledge via evolution is like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
The Eucharist is described as being the Body and Blood of Christ.
Seeing no change at all in the bread and wine, some take Christ’s words symbolically - this corresponds to Evolution: "what you see is what you get", with God or an ‘Intelligent Designer’ invoked to account for humanity’s (spiritual) uniqueness.
Believing that the bread and wine are in reality Body and Blood, some take Christ’s words literally and then deduce something like ‘transubstantiation’ - this corresponds to Creationism: ‘Faith’ is required to see that which the evidence denies.
However, regarding a higher view of the Eucharist, I think we first have to remind ourselves of the words of St Basil the Great:
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;-no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church (Oration on the Holy Spirit, ch. 27)
It has been commonly assumed that the full teaching of the Eucharist has now been made available to all. Indeed both ancient and modern instructions given both before and after baptism do not really give us a sense that there is anything beyond the "change" of bread into Body and wine into Blood. However, I was taught by Fr Maximos Lavriotes, who was taught by Fr John Romanides, that in the Eucharist Christ would appear, if we were worthy. At first I thought this was foolish - no one in the churches stated such a thing. However, my fellow Orthodox, let us listen to the lives of the saints, in particular to Starets Feofil of Kiev:
I see a strange dew descending on the Holy Gifts and shining angels soaring above the altar-table, saying 'Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!' Then my whole being is enraptured unspeakably and I am unable to tear myself away from the sweet vision.
When St Peter talks about us being "living stones" (1Peter 2:5), it is interpreted ‘symbolically’. However, if we were to talk about "stones of fire" (Ezekiel 28:14) perhaps people would start listening more to St Gregory Palamas and authentic deification! (Linking the "stones of fire" with the "living stones" was inspired by the writings of Dr Margaret Barker; in particular she has written a fascinating account of, in effect, the Christians building Ezekiel’s temple .)
So to summarise the summary, I would suggest that the Eucharistic Vision of the Lord of Glory yields a better approach to the creation than either Creationism or Evolution. Our Faith is not based on a doctrine of Christ, but on Christ! Now it is probably true that my interpretation of Genesis is not exactly patristic, but at least it is still defending the glory of the Creator and His creation, while not forcing people to accept interpretations about this fallen world which seem to go against certain evidence. As such, to me it does not matter if we explain the physical (and fallen) world by creationism or evolution, so long as we are not attempting to deny the Vision of the Lord of Glory.
For more on the Vision of Glory and creation please see this post from the previous thread, and for how I can adhere to evolution (and at that without any Intelligent Designer nudging evolution) see this post.
As said, I do need your help. What are your thoughts? Am I totally un-patristic and half-way to being taken away by the ‘men in white suits’? Or is this really a way forward to end the deadlock?
Edited by RichardWorthington, 19 May 2008 - 03:05 PM.