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Spontaneous creation


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#1 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 07:35 PM

I'm writing this post without having done any research but I hope members will get my drift nonetheless. I was thinking about Creation as we Orthodox undertsand it, and the fact that there are instances of spontaneous creation, not least those recorded in the Gospels: one thinks of the creation of loaves of bread and fish to feed the multitudes to whom Christ was preaching, and the several accounts of the fishermen-Apostles' miraculous catching of fish (which were presumably created to fill the nets rather than Christ summoning fish from all over the sea of Galilee to the nets). Members can probably recount examples from the lives of saints. Does the phenomenon of spontaneous creation support the Orthodox view of Creation? How are we to view it generally?

#2 Ryan

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 07:58 PM

I'm writing this post without having done any research but I hope members will get my drift nonetheless. I was thinking about Creation as we Orthodox undertsand it, and the fact that there are instances of spontaneous creation, not least those recorded in the Gospels: one thinks of the creation of loaves of bread and fish to feed the multitudes to whom Christ was preaching, and the several accounts of the fishermen-Apostles' miraculous catching of fish (which were presumably created to fill the nets rather than Christ summoning fish from all over the sea of Galilee to the nets). Members can probably recount examples from the lives of saints. Does the phenomenon of spontaneous creation support the Orthodox view of Creation? How are we to view it generally?


I may not fully understand your question, but I have been reading a little bit into the subject of creation, specifically Basil's first homily on the subject. Is there a difference between your use of the word "spontaneous creation" and creation ex nihilo? I know sometimes the term "spontaneous creation" is meant to mean an uncaused creation, a concept held by some pagan philosophers... in that case, the creation of new fish and loaves is not spontaneous, but a kind of creation ex nihilo (as is the creation of every new soul each time a human is conceived).

I think Saint Basil's view of creation is that everything in the Genesis account was actually created simultaneously, on the first day, with the next 5 days representing a succession of distinctions between the elements.

Thus then, if it is said, "In the beginning God created," it is to teach us that at the will of God the world arose in less than an instant, and it is to convey this meaning more clearly that other interpreters have said: "God made summarily" that is to say all at once and in a moment

But this doesn't preclude God from making new things later. By spontaneous creation, do you mean a creation that did not derive from these primal materials?

#3 Robert Hegwood

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 08:43 PM

It might help to understand what you consider the Orthodox understanding of creation to be. I for one am not aware of any dogmatic statements regarding how God went about creating beyond the central fact that He is the Creator. Among the Orthodox I've encountered everything from a very literalist, young earth view of Genesis to old earth creationists to intellegent design regardless of how long it took.

Of course if the multipication of the loaves and fishes is a miracle on parallel with the creation of the universe I do note there is no record of there being a "bang" big or small, literal or otherwise, so one has to wonder. What that in particular that means I cannot say. I would think though that this miracle is different from the first act of creation in one very significant way. The first time there was nothing material that existed. The loaves and fishes somehow yielded more loaves and fishes...not random agregations of undifferentiated matter. It seems to me though He started with one set of things and made more of the same rather than doing it out of nothing.

As for the fish in the nets I've never seen that described as a creative miracle...as the catch being miraculously "materialized" in the nets, rather I've always seen it described as a miraculous "catch". If God can call all kinds of animals to an ark, calling a lot of fish to a net doesn't strike me as big potatoes.

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 09:07 PM

I think Saint Basil's view of creation is that everything in the Genesis account was actually created simultaneously, on the first day, with the next 5 days representing a succession of distinctions between the elements.


I'd have to reread St Basil and some of my other sources, however, this is not quite accurate. From what I have read, there seems to be a consensus that there are two different meanings to the word "creation" (clear in Greek, Hebrew & Slavonic - but not in English) used in the Genesis account. One is "creation out of nothing" and the other is "forming that which already exists into a new form" The initial creation uses the "created out of nothing" term while the remainder of the creation up to the creation of the animals uses the "forming that which already exists into a new form" word. The creation of the animals is again a unique "creation from nothing" and the fathers tell us that this is on account of the creation of a soul (the animals have a mortal soul, while plants have only bodily life). The soul is that which is a unique and original creation of something that did not already exist. Again when man is created this is a unique "creation out of nothing" because, as the fathers tell us the soul of man is substantially different from that of the animals (it is immortal and spiritual in nature). Thus the creation of mankind and of the human soul is a unique and original creation.

The fathers (and St Basil among them, iirc) hold to this "mixture" of original and formational creation. This would then indicate that the idea of "spontaneous creation" as described above would not be inconsistent with the Genesis creation account as the two forms of creation occur side by side.

Fr David Moser

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 11:46 PM

I was assuming that the loaves and fish were created out of nothing: they were not miraculously 'brought' from somewhere. The fact that other loaves and other fish already existed doesn't seem to me to change this. There must be many examples where things, both organic and otherwise and normally man-made have been created in this way. It's an appropriate time of year to wonder if the three bags of gold St Nicholas delivered to the penurious man who had three daughters were similarly provided.

#6 Olga

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:11 AM

I was assuming that the loaves and fish were created out of nothing: they were not miraculously 'brought' from somewhere. The fact that other loaves and other fish already existed doesn't seem to me to change this. There must be many examples where things, both organic and otherwise and normally man-made have been created in this way. It's an appropriate time of year to wonder if the three bags of gold St Nicholas delivered to the penurious man who had three daughters were similarly provided.


It seems to me that the miracle can be "explained" thus: The loaves and fishes were broken up into smaller pieces, but instead of the finite number of portions one would expect, the bread and fish kept regenerating as they were divided. There is a classic and beloved Australian children's book called The Magic Pudding. This pudding had the property of never quite running out. People could feast on the pudding to their heart's content, but the pudding would continually regenerate itself.

If I'm not mistaken, there are similar incidents in scripture and elsewhere in Orthodox tradition of oil bottles which never quite ran out, etc.

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:56 AM

It seems to me that the miracle can be "explained" thus: The loaves and fishes were broken up into smaller pieces, but instead of the finite number of portions one would expect, the bread and fish kept regenerating as they were divided.


Not to put too fine a point on it, but this would, indeed, be an example of "something from nothing" unless God acts like Star Trek, manufacturing atoms out of basic materials in a form of sci-fi alchemy. Where does the "regeneration" come from? Out of "nothing"? I think that is the question.

There is a classic and beloved Australian children's book called The Magic Pudding. This pudding had the property of never quite running out. People could feast on the pudding to their heart's content, but the pudding would continually regenerate itself.


For us who are perhaps too-rationally minded, that "extra" pudding has to come from somewhere! "Regeneration" is not explanation enough. What, exactly, does it mean to "regenerate"?

If I'm not mistaken, there are similar incidents in scripture and elsewhere in Orthodox tradition of oil bottles which never quite ran out, etc.


Well we are in the time of the Jewish festival of Hanukah, where the lamp oil lasted longer than might have been expected. What exactly was "manna" and exactly where did it come from? Heavenly ovens and angelic bakers? Or was it an secretion from beetles as Fr. Paul Tarazi suggests? Does every miracle have to have a rational explanation? How does a bush burn but not become ashes? How does a virgin give birth?

But I digress, I guess. God "speaks" and things happen!

Herman

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 03:11 PM

Related to this question I think is what the priest says as he divides the Eucharist onto the discos at the Liturgy:

Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God; broken, yet not divided; ever eaten, though never consumed, but sanctifying them that partake thereof.

.

Most Patristic commentaries on the multiplication of the fish and loaves relate this to the Eucharist so I think the words above do apply here.

Rather than speaking of creation, this miracle would refer to the Divine nature of Christ, Who even though human and thus limited, still can never be exhausted by those who partake of Him since He is God.

The catch of fishes on the other hand is usually seen in reference to the Church.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#9 Father David Moser

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 03:50 PM

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this would, indeed, be an example of "something from nothing" unless God acts like Star Trek, manufacturing atoms out of basic materials in a form of sci-fi alchemy. Where does the "regeneration" come from? Out of "nothing"? I think that is the question.
...

For us who are perhaps too-rationally minded, that "extra" pudding has to come from somewhere! "Regeneration" is not explanation enough. What, exactly, does it mean to "regenerate"?


I find that this assumption is a bit too limiting. You mention "Star Trek" and perhaps there is a bit of "stretching" of the mind that comes from reading way too much SciFi, however, regeneration is not the only way in which these things could be replenished. Perhaps God simply creates a wormhole or some other cross dimensional access to a larger supply of oil/bread/pudding so that the jar/basket/bowl that we see before us is not a self contained vessel, but simply a porthole or access to that larger reservoir. So rather than being a 'creation' thing the replenishing is simply a multi-dimensional phenomenon.

As an offtopic aside, Flatland by Edwin Abbot is a delightfully mind stretching discussion of this extra dimensional interaction (whoever said math wasn't fun!).

Fr David Moser

#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 04:15 PM

Is there anything unsound in my simple notion that if God wants to make some fish, some loaves of bread or anything else appear, they just come into being from nothing, and there they are? A few fish and loaves aren't much compared with heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible.

#11 Peter S.

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 01:43 PM

I remember a cartoon I think it was when I was younger, where the loaves and fishes where multiplied when Jesus broke them. When you break and share, it is love. It could have been that way it happened.

Peter

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 02:43 PM

Is there anything unsound in my simple notion that if God wants to make some fish, some loaves of bread or anything else appear, they just come into being from nothing, and there they are? A few fish and loaves aren't much compared with heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible.


Considering Patristic commentary on this miracle I don't think this is what occurred at the multiplication. That is- it was a true multiplication or increasing of the few fish & loaves that were already there. For the Fathers this had a very important point concerning God's dispensation through Christ. Through the weakness & poverty of the created the infinite God reaches out and 'feeds' man. Here is a very important theological principle that obviously relates to the Incarnation and sacramental reality of the Church. It would not work I think unless the created aspect of it was a given (ie that it is a multiplication of what exists rather than a creation of these things from nothing).

In any case the question itself is still a very good one: what of God creating things when He wishes? The Fathers stress God's Divine power. But this is always placed within the understood context of His providential purpose.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 25 December 2008 - 01:26 PM

I wanted to point out something very important and which makes a huge difference to the discussion. In the Greek text, God does not "make" He "authors" in that He did not sit down and create the world but rather much like a poet, He spoke and His Word Authored the Seen and Unseen ...

There is something in this distinct difference that can be one day considered in a Scientific way ... "making" implies using something physical ... To "author" conjures up an image of sound and in science this is Sound Waves ... but in Greek text, we also have imagery of light ... Sound and Light waves ... I think there is a scientific theory that all matter originates from Sound and Light waves; a point to consider in this discussion.

#14 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 09:21 PM

I wanted to point out something very important and which makes a huge difference to the discussion. In the Greek text, God does not "make" He "authors" in that He did not sit down and create the world but rather much like a poet, He spoke and His Word Authored the Seen and Unseen ...

Let us look at terms carefully, particularly since this was a point of much debate in the fourth-century discussions of the Church.

Regarding the first-created world, the text of Genesis specifically uses the word 'create' (God 'created': epoiesen), which can also be translated 'made'. How the Church Fathers understood this term, and this notion of creation, was much expounded in the Arian disputes of the fourth century, where the precise terminology of creation was precisely under address.

The English word 'author' has only exceedingly few groundings in the Greek of the scriptures. It is found most often (twice) in Hebrews as archegon (lit. 'source': 'He is the source/author and finisher of our faith...') and aitios ('cause': 'He is become the author/cause of eternal salvation...'), and in 1 Corinthians as the verbal akatastasias (in the phrase, 'he is not the one who establishes/authors evil...'). That is, the scriptural writers tend to use the concept of 'authorship' to refer to actions within the economy, rather than as an ensign of actual creation.

As to creation itself, the standard word is 'to create/make' (poieo), sometimes (as in Genesis 2) intermingled with 'to fashion' (e.g.: 'He fashioned [eplasen] man...').

INXC, Dcn Matthew




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