Creationism, Evolution, and Orthodoxy

Do you believe that the acount of genesis in the Old testament should be taken literally?

  • Yes

    Votes: 73 16.8%
  • No

    Votes: 163 37.6%
  • both metaphorically and literally

    Votes: 198 45.6%

  • Total voters
    434

Heorhij

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ComingHome said:
Coming from a fundamentalist Protestant background, I have a kneejerk reaction to any talk about evolution.  But I am interested in understanding.  How does one reconcile God as Creator (according to the Creed) with evolution?  How could there be other people who were not created as Genesis says Adam and Eve were?  If A & E are not literally the first humans, who or what are they and who or what do they signify?  Are there any resources which would be helpful to consult in relation to these things?

I am sorry for my abyssmal ignorance on this subject but until recently I thought I had all the answers and didn't seriously consider any other questions.
   
Dear ComingHome,

I do not have a slightest problem reconciling the Creator and evolution. I just don't think in antropomorphic (man-shaped) terms. When I read that God "made" the heavens and the earth, I am trying to avoid imagining an old man with a gray beard who is "making" something with the help of his two hands. Same thing, when I read that God "made" Adam from clay, I am trying to avoid imagining that same old gramps taking literal red-colored mud in his hands and sculpturing a doll.

Who are Adam and Eve? As I have already written to this forum, to me they are just humankind. Adam is every man, and every man (except Christ) is Adam. Gustave Flaubert, when he was annoyed to death by journalists who desperately wanted to know, just who was m-me Bovary (who was her"prototype"), said, "M-be Bovary, c'est moi!" ("M-me Bovary, that's myself!") I have the same attitude to Adam and Eve. "Adam et Eve, ils sont moi!" :)

Sorry if this is too wild. I come from a totally secular humanist background, and I never received any religious education/indoctrination whatsoever. I hope my thought has not offended you, please forgive me if it has.

George
 

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EkhristosAnesti said:
I would love to hear a response from anyone who seriously supports evolution on the one hand, and yet has a high regard for the Fathers on the other hand (which excludes GiC in that case  ;))

This is not a challenge, I am just genuinely interested in hearing how such persons would interpret the patristic testimony. FWIW, I personally do not have any position on the matter of creationism vs. evolution since it is a subject I have very superficially investigated.
Not only did the fathers regard the science of their days, but they didn't even have the technology we possess today to observe the things around us.  I think St. Basil and some other Church fathers believed that the world was flat, or had some strange idea about the earth in its relationship with the Sun.  Ever since the telescope, seeing the truth seems to be much more authoritative than listening to the "scientific ideas" of Church fathers.

I like the quote from St. Augustine how when new scientific discoveries are made, new interpretations of Genesis must be allowed.  St. Basil, although he believed in a flat earth, did not think the idea was important for theology.  I think we can reconcile the fathers in this manner, by understanding that they did not have available what we have today.  Thus, we have to be more sympathetic towards the Fathers and towards today's scientific discoveries.  The more we take the Fathers' and the Bible's words literally, the more we ridicule ourselves and the Faith.

From my favorite father, St. Athanasius, here is a good example:

For the Sun is carried round along with, and is contained in, the whole heaven, and can never go beyond his own orbit, while the moon and other stars testify to the assistance given them by the Sun...the earth is not supported upon itself, but is set upon the realm of the waters, while this again is kept in its place, being bound fast at the centre of the universe.
Here, we see a typical geocentric view, in which the Sun is orbiting around the earth, as well as the moons and the stars.  Now, if I had no telescope, and all I did was just look straight in the sky for day and night the whole year, it would definitely look like the sun, moon, and stars were orbiting the Earth, and seeing the seas around us, it would seem that this earth stands not in some vacuumed space, but on the firmament of waters.  Now that we have telescopes, NASA, and satellites, we can see that the sun is just one among the stars, that it is the Earth that orbits the sun, and that the waters are part of the globe of the earth, and that the stars do not revolve around us, and that indeed we are sitting on vacuumed space with the centripetal force of the sun pulling us around.  St. Athanasius was not lying; he just didn't have the technology available to understand what we understand today. 

I would extend the same thinking to the science of evolution.

God bless.
 
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Dear Mina,

You missed my entire point, which was that the claim that the Fathers were simply using the "science of their day" seems unfounded. There is no indication, for example, that St Basil was attempting to integrate the science of his day with the Scriptural testimony. St Basil based his views of creation strictly on the authority of the Scriptures. He believed what he believed concerning creation simply because he believed that the Scriptures taught it. If he erred, therefore, he erred not with respect to his application of the science of his day, but with regard to his Scriptural exegesis.

If there is some other passage from any of St Basil's works to qualify the one I brought forth, I would be most interested in reading it.
 

minasoliman

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Dear EA,

Sorry I modified my post after you posted.  Is my example of St. Athanasius sufficient?  I think the passage of St. Athanasius seems to indicate they were using the science of their day, observing what we see without the technology we have today.

God bless.
 
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Dear Mina,

Sorry, but I still do not feel that you have addressed my point.

The quote from St Athanasius does not tell us anything about the inspiration behind his views on the matter it concerns.

The quote I gave you from St Basil makes it very clear that the only and sufficient inspiration for his views on creation are the Scriptures--in fact he explicitly rejects the "wisdom of the world" as a basis for developing a viewpoint on creation; he considers the testimony of God to Moses to be sufficient for him.

If we can maybe just focus on St Basil for the moment, it may make things easier.
 

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Only a few fringe figures (such as Cosmas Indicopleustes) believed the earth was flat in antiquity, which did not include the Church Fathers. See here. Geocentrism, however, is another question.

Anyway, in re: ComingHome's question, here are a few articles from an Orthodox perspective showing how evolution can be integrated with a (mostly) literal understanding of Genesis here, here, and here. So I regard the issue as largely moot and don't really trouble myself much with it.
 

minasoliman

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Dear EA,

Another issue that we can understand from St. Basil is the characteristics of science and philosophy.  In the ancient past, science and philosophy was the same thing.  There was no distinction between the two.  Today, there is a huge distinction.  Science has to be as observable and factual as defining the color of red, not as contemplative as it was in the past.  If I would guess as to why St. Basil said that he would reject the "wisdom of the world," it is probably rejecting anything contemplative about what we observe, since the Bible is sufficient enough for proper contemplation.  Today, this is not the case.  We don't contemplate on the world around us and call that science.  At best a hypothesis, at worst a fantasy, but not science.  Science is not the "wisdom of the world," but the facts of observation.

That's how I might interpret St. Basil.

God bless.
 

minasoliman

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Symeon said:
Only a few fringe figures (such as Cosmas Indicopleustes) believed the earth was flat in antiquity, which did not include the Church Fathers. See here. Geocentrism, however, is another question.

Anyway, in re: ComingHome's question, here are a few articles from an Orthodox perspective showing how evolution can be integrated with a (mostly) literal understanding of Genesis here, here, and here. So I regard the issue as largely moot and don't really trouble myself much with it.
It was the late +Alexander that opened me open to the idea of putting together evolution and the Orthodox faith, and I thank him for that.

God bless.
 

Heorhij

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Symeon said:
Only a few fringe figures (such as Cosmas Indicopleustes) believed the earth was flat in antiquity, which did not include the Church Fathers. See here. Geocentrism, however, is another question.

Anyway, in re: ComingHome's question, here are a few articles from an Orthodox perspective showing how evolution can be integrated with a (mostly) literal understanding of Genesis here, here, and here. So I regard the issue as largely moot and don't really trouble myself much with it.
Thank you for these links, Symeon, but I have to say that to me, the whole "argument" actually ends when the so-called "evolutionists" are even mentioned. They are, apparently, people who subscribe to a certain philosophy. But the theory of biological evolution is, principally, NOT a philosophy. So, the whole discussion becomes nonsensical, oxymoronic, a "hot ice" or a "frozen fire," etc. I can't imagine how one can deduce God from one's observations obtained by using a telescope. In the exact same way, I cannot imagine how one can REJECT God based on one's observations obtained by using a telescope. To me, the whole business of arguing whether there is God or there is no God based on one's observations that genes exist and mutate, and that mutations that confer a more adaptable phenotype get selected, and that this selection may or may not lead to speciation, - is the same as the business of arguing that there is a God or that there is no God based on what I see in my telescope...
 

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Heorhij said:
Thank you for these links, Symeon, but I have to say that to me, the whole "argument" actually ends when the so-called "evolutionists" are even mentioned. They are, apparently, people who subscribe to a certain philosophy. But the theory of biological evolution is, principally, NOT a philosophy.
Excellent point! It'd be interesting if these people also labelled scientists as "periodic tablists" or "gravitationalists." The whole idea that science is essentially philosophy is indeed absurd.
 

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I think both the Scripture and Darwin's Theory are realated..

I just think that all these facts that scientist brought up, like the world being formed in a span of Millions of years.. Who knows, maybe what the book of Genesis refers to as The Seven Days when God created the world, would actually be translated as many millions of years going by, but for the Almighty it felt like only Seven Days...

Since in the scripture it is written that Man was created in 6th day, maybe that "day" was a day for God's time, but for a human to actually BE on that 6th day meant travelling Millions of years that would translate as Darwin's Theory of Evolution...

Thus I believe, that Evolution explain Creationism and that they are inseparable...

God bless...
 

PeterTheAleut

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Here's an interesting hypothesis someone shared on an MSN thread I frequented several moons ago.  According to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, as one approaches the speed of light, one's own time slows down relative to the time outside of his unit of transportation.  This basically means that if I were to travel at 3/4 the speed of light to a star system 100 light years away, upon my return to earth, I would find that an earth calendar reads 2207, and everyone I knew before my departure has long been dead, yet I would have experienced time as if I had only been in space for a year or two.

Now, let us look at how this affects the universe's experience of its own expansion since the Big Bang.  The Big Bang theory postulates that for the first few billion years (as we humans reckon time) the universe had been expanding at nearly the speed of light.  In universal time, this might actually come out to be only the First Day.  Eventually over the next few billion years (again in human time) as the universe's expansion slows, galaxies form, and within them stars take their form, some together with planets--in universal time, according to Einsteinian theory, this all equates to just the Second Day.  During the next few billion years the earliest forms of life, primarily vegetation, make their first appearance on this rocky planet we call earth, but the universe experiences this as just the Third Day because of the continued speed of her expansion.  I could go on like this through all of the Seven Days of creation, but I figure three is enough for you to get the gist of what I'm saying.  I recognize that this is merely speculation based on my understanding of Einstein's theories of relativity, but don't you see the wisdom in not limiting our doctrines of creation to our limited understanding of time?
 
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Dear Mina,

We are speaking of an event that occured thousands/millions/billions/whatever years ago; I am a little perplexed as to how what happened back then can appear as observable fact to us in the present. Anastasios brought up the issue of microevolution, and I was under impression that such is the type of evolution that we factually observe today; if macroevolution is occuring in the present, and as such factually observable, I would love to know.

It seems to me that St Basil's point is that we are dealing with an incident according to which it is necessary and sufficient for us to simply consult the very account of the Creator himself--the One personally involved in that very act of Creation, rather than in human wisdom (and it doesn't seem to me like the issue of what "types" of human wisdom were prevalent in his day are relevant).
 

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Creationism and Evolution are both linked together. Creationism is a loving act that gave us life. Trying to understand this or explain it will only limit god in doing so. For those that put a biological understanding to it will only confuse the situation further. A biological explaination to creation has a zero chance at ever happening on it's own. If this were true than life would still be coming about out of nothing. And since the same material substances still exist today. Why doesn't it still happen?
Evolution on the other hand is the false life that we fell into after the fall. Evolution is the curse witch is linked to death because life as it should have bin wasn't biological. It was immortal. The false life has become biological and the by product is death.
 

greekischristian

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EkhristosAnesti said:
Dear Mina,

We are speaking of an event that occured thousands/millions/billions/whatever years ago; I am a little perplexed as to how what happened back then can appear as observable fact to us in the present.
You're still in school, arn't you? Perhaps you should take some upper division biology courses. But ultimately, the theory is sound because it can and has and continues to be used to make numerous predictions that are later verified by experiment. Most significant of these examples is comparing closely related species (e.g. different types of yeast or mammals) and being able to mathematically determine, based on the assumption of common ancestry, the most important elements of the genome and the distinguishing features between the species, and in some cases even the function of individual genes. If the assumption of common ancestry can allow us to make accurate predictions that have, time and time again, been verified by experimental evidence, we can only reasonably conclude that the theory is accurate. I'm sure George (Heorhij) could provide us with even better examples if he wished.

Anastasios brought up the issue of microevolution, and I was under impression that such is the type of evolution that we factually observe today; if macroevolution is occuring in the present, and as such factually observable, I would love to know.
This is a false dichotomy, ALL evolution is 'micro-evolution'...fish don't just grow legs and fur overnight and start walking on the ground. But with enough changes, for various reasons determined by natural selection, over a long enough period of time, and this can occur. We've only been observing these things for about 150 years, we'd have to observe for something on the order of tens of millions of years if you want to see so-called 'macro-evolution'.
 

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I am looking forward to seeing my great1000 grandchildren.  It's possible that they might even resemble Kevin Costner in Waterworld.  I will love them no matter what.





 

Heorhij

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greekischristian said:
This is a false dichotomy, ALL evolution is 'micro-evolution'...fish don't just grow legs and fur overnight and start walking on the ground. But with enough changes, for various reasons determined by natural selection, over a long enough period of time, and this can occur. We've only been observing these things for about 150 years, we'd have to observe for something on the order of tens of millions of years if you want to see so-called 'macro-evolution'.
Yes, I agree. Sometimes biologists use the term "microevolution" to specify that they are talking about evolution of populations, leaving out evolution of bigger taxonomic groups (species, genera, etc.). But we have to bear in mind that the mechanisms leading to the evolution of a population are esentially the same as the mechanisms that make higher taxonomic groups evolve; these mechanisms are genetic mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, migrations ("gene flow"), etc. Moreover, how can we put a firm boundary distinguishing two independently evolving populations that are still belonging to the same species, from two independent species? Speciation is a process, it's not a momentary event; the above "boundary" is not, actually, observable, we do not see speciation as such, but only the *results* of the process of speciation (or, sadly, of its opposite - extinction).
 
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GiC,

Yes, I am still a university student, but that is besides the point since science is not, nor will it ever be, a field of study of mine (I am a Laws/Arts--that's a double degree--student and I am majoring in Theology and Studies of Religion in the latter) nor do I pretend to be any sort of expert in science. I wasn't raising any sort of challenge, I was making a genuine inquiry, so there's no need to get smart.

Nevertheless, my main point still stands viz. that it appears that Saints like Basil the Great and John Chrysostom drew the various views on creation that they did strictly upon consideration of the intent of the Scriptures. If they erred, they erred in their capacity as Scriptural exegetes, not as scientists. As I suggested when I first raised this concern, I am more than happy to be corrected.
 

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a question I get from creationists a lot is "If evolution is true why is there still fish in the water or apes?" implying wouldnt they all have evolved. What would be a good answer to this?
 

minasoliman

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prodromas said:
a question I get from creationists a lot is "If evolution is true why is there still fish in the water or apes?" implying wouldnt they all have evolved. What would be a good answer to this?
It's like saying the existence of Australians or Americans relies on the extinction of the British.  "If Americans and Australians came from the British, why are there still British people?"

God bless.
 
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