The War on Humans

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  1. I like much of Wesley’s work very much: what looks to be a valuable exploration of the de-humanization of humanity risks being tainted by associated with the Discovery Institute’s Intelligent Design agenda.

    Fortunately, our best Orthodox thinkers oppose both: Met. Kallistos Ware has been very clear that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and that he is opposed to “Intellgent Design”. More formally, I very strongly endorse and recommend David Bentley Hart’s powerful and frankly wonderful book the Experience of God, which roundly condemns “Intelligent Design” as an artifact of belief in a platonic/deistic demiurge. I am very proud that so many Orthodox are at the forefront of defending our Faith and the integrity of our intellectual life simultaneously. It’s especially notable that Russian Orthodox believers have been at the forefront of advancing the biological sciences.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Greg. Evolution relies on philosophical naturalism which is totally antithetical to everything the Church teaches and is the foundation of the anti-human pathology.

      The evidence amongst scientistic idealogs is over whelming but is coming apart at the seams elsewhere. On this topic, I’m afraid that His Grace has spent too long amongst academics and too easily buys the assertions of his friends in that cloistered environment.

      As long as the nihilistic philosophy rules the selection, evaluation and interpretation of ‘evidence’ God will have no place and man will only be an animal.

      You need to expand your reading on the subject and open your heart to the reality of what the Church teaches.

      When I hear Fr. Louth, a close friend and disciple of Met Kallistos say things like: “The Fathers of the Church need to be reinterpreted in the light of modern science.” I tend to doubt that they are authorities to be listened to on the topic of evolution.

      Fr. Louth has it backwards and there lies the problem.

      I fear they have sucumbed to the influence of the worldly mind here.

      What is wrong with understanding this world is created? What is wrong with the Patristic understanding of we human beings are created in the image and moving toward His likeness while being commanded to order creation and ourselves in accord with God’s will in the exercise of our priestly duty rather than being products of a mindless and random aggregation of photonic ooze?

      Evolution denies and mocks all that the Church teaches and seeks to overthrow the Godly order.

      Intelligent design, whatever its faults, is far closer to Patristic teaching than anything that flows from the purveyors of evolution.

      • I am opposed to philosophical naturalism/reductive materialism.

        I don’t think there is anything wrong with the “understanding this world is created” or “the Patristic understanding of we human beings are created in the image and moving toward His likeness while being commanded to order creation and ourselves in accord with God’s will in the exercise of our priestly duty rather than being products of a mindless and random aggregation of photonic ooze.” I subscribe to those beliefs.

        I do think you are confused about the nature of science as well as the views of many Orthodox thinkers

        • Michael Bauman says

          Greg, you cannot be opposed to philosophical naturalism and embrace evolution as it is commonly understood. You cannot embrace and believe in a purposeful creation with man at the focal point as both micocosom and image of God and embrace evolution as the scientistic idelogs mean evolution. You cannot embrace the fraudulent and hoplessly triumphalistic sophistry that “the evidence is overwhelming” and know and respect real science.

          Unless you have an understanding of the word “evolution” that is drastically different than what most mean by that word, you are holding two vastly and fundamentally opposed belief systems. You cannot continue to serve two masters.

          If you are as opposed to those who wish science to be conducted in a rigorous way while not ignoring or hating God as you appear, I fear you have already begun to make your choice.

          This is not a case of the false dichotomy between pietism and rationalism that frames so many modern puesdo debates. It is a choice to embrace the Orthodox manner of thinking that allows for both/and; to embrace an Orthodox way of thinking that sees God as active in His creation and maintaining an ordered theophany in which everything is created after its kind.

          That is the position that Met Hilarion of Russia takes even if he gives too much respect to the fraud and heretic, de Chardin.

          Nothing of any value begins with the premise: God is not. One cannot make holy something that is without God by merely adding God to the beginning of that chain and leaving the rest of the chain untouched as theistic evolution attempts.

          There are four basic approaches to God
          1 There is no God and nothing divine;
          2. The divine is an impersonal, eternal existence or energy;
          3. God is personal and creative but removed from His creation
          4. God is a loving creator who is both everywhere present and filling all things and Incarnated because of that love to restore all things and unite man to the Godhead.

          As an Orthodox Christian I’m partial to #4 and can find nothing in the scientistic ideology of evolution that is compatible with it.

          God forgive me, a sinner.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Michael Bauman is right. Met. Ware and his disciples may need to read up on science before offering their opinions on evolution.

      The materialist assumption is that physical and biological processes are the lowest level of observable data. Both quantum physics and more importantly, information theory, show the assumption is no longer operative. Matter, in other words, is not the ground of epistemology.

      I don’t think the Orthodox academics are aware of the debates within the scientific academy either, particularly that lack of fossil evidence proving Darwin’s thesis that all organisms evolved from a single source organism. The fossil evidence points to an evolution of sorts within species, but there is no evidence whatsoever that all species evolved from a single source.

      Dr. Hart (whom I admire and respect) and Met. Ware need to examine information theory more closely and then read St. Maximos the Confessor again.

      The Darwinian hypothesis is exclusively dependent on philosophical materialism to maintain its inner coherence. The Darwinian creation story is philosophy, not science and selectively borrows from the Genesis narrative (linear time for example). Freud and Marx, two of the three great prophets of philosophical materialism, have fallen. Darwin’s fall seems inevitable too given that the philosophy is no longer tenable.

      George Gilder provides a compelling critique of the materialist myth in his essay: Evolution and Me.

    • Helen Brinkman says

      I am an attorney who cross-examines experts in DNA. I have to know the information at least as well as they do to effectively do this. The information system in DNA is too complex to be the result of evolution and the atheists are finally admitting it. The advances in understanding DNA are so recent, many have never been exposed to it. However, those who are, like Anthony Flew, once the lead proponant of atheism, who debated Christians for years, renounced evolution when confronted with the emerging evidence of design. Even Richard Dawkins, the most well known evolutionist, in the movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” concedes that the life on earth must have been seeded from life from another planet because it is too complex to have evolved without design. See
      for the clip.

      The fruit fly experiments that have gone through forced mutations for 1000s of generations have never changed a fruit fly from being a fruit fly. In fact, scientists have planted the DNA sequence from a human eye to a fruit fly and did it evolve through this forced mutation? No, the human eye sequence did create an eye but it REPRODUCED AFTER ITS OWN KIND as the Bible told us long ago. It became a fly eye!!!! No evolution happened. In fact, DNA has error correcting code to prevent mutations as much as possible. Bottom line: Intelligent Design is now scientific fact that even Dawkins can’t refute. As the Bible says, God will laugh in derision. He will not be mocked. Evolution may be the grand delusion of Revelation: that they will believe THE LIE. The lie that God is not the Creator.

  2. cynthia curran says

    Well, the wildest theory is the Flavian rulers Vespasian and Titus had Josephus developed Christianity since in Josephus’s Annals of the Jews that mention Christ, James the just and John Baptists is proof that Christianity was developed by Flavians to get the poor masses to be development. Actually its the other way round for example the book of Acts does not mention Paul being killed in Rome which probably means that it was written before 65 A.D, the latest books of the New Testament probably in the 90’s like John Gospel and Revelation so how could Josephus with the influence of the Flavians create Christianity.

  3. Father Hans, your claims are astounding: fossil evidence for evolution is quite rich, molecular evidence is overwhelming; there is in fact no “Darwinian creation story” as a matter of scientific theory. More generally, evolutionary theory does not require a commitment to reductive materialism – you are conflating philosophical and scientific claims in a way that aligns with how our atheist friends would like, but this is entirely unnecessary. In fact, done naively it is a result of clear category errors.

    Moreover, the idea that Dr. Hart is unfamiliar with either the status of evolutionary theory or the claims (such as they are) of ID proponents is somewhat laughable. At least read his book and be familiar with his line of argument before suggesting what he ought to read or familiarize himself with.

    We could go on and on through the list of serious intellectual thinkers within the Orthodox Church that reject outright anti evolutionary thinking generally and “Intelligent Design” more specifically, aside from Met. Kallistos and Hart: Fr. Louth, Christos Yannaras, Richard Swinburne, etc. None of them, I can assure you, is an advocate of reductive materialism: do you seriously believe any of believe something along those lines? If so, who are you talking about specifically and why do you believe it? Dr. Hart’s book – to use an example – is entirely aimed *against* reductive materialism.

    I hardly expect to influence anyone’s fixed opinion in a blog comment, but I think it is extraordinarily important that people exploring Orthodoxy or struggling with the emergence of protestant-style fundamentalist strains in the Church know that many of our very best thinkers, whether their background be theological, scientific or philosophical, support evolutionary theory and science more generally: you don’t need to deny reality or turn off your brain to be an Orthodox Christian, quite the opposite, in fact.

    I am encouraged to see that our most influential pastoral teachers are also supportive of evolution: Fr. Hopko recently endorsed Dr. Francis Collins’s book The Language of God. Another positive sign was the publication of the biologist Gayle Woloschak’s “The Compatibility of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Eastern Orthodoxy” in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 55.2 (2011), which argues that “evolution denial” is theologically unacceptable. Even on a popular level, denial of basic science is not what we are about.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      The problem with the fossil evidence we have is that while the specimens from the Cambrian Explosion are quite rich and detailed, none show evolution between species. We find evidence of evolution within species, but no evidence that one specie of organism evolved into another. It is just not there.

      As for serious thinkers doubting Darwin, take a look at this: A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism (home link here).

      I am not sure how one can dispute reductive materialism and support the Darwinian hypothesis at the same time. The Darwinian hypothesis requires a random universe and natural selection to hold together. Deny either of these and the theory falls apart. A random universe is philosophically untenable. Where did the laws that guide the operations of matter come from? To be true to the theory, one must argue they arose from matter itself. But how can the laws that govern matter arise from the matter it governs? Meanwhile, any theological explanation offered to resolve the conflict (God set the process in motion; evolution is design in masquerade) implicitly denies that the universe was indeed random.

      Another objection is theological. Natural selection posits death as the engine of progress (random mutations enabled the survival of the fittest; i.e.: natural selection). Christianity, however, sees death as the enemy to be destroyed.

      Your comment about fundamentalism presumes the parameters of the debate are those defined by the popular media. As the link I provided above reveals, the debate inside the academy is something else altogether. Your conclusion that criticism of evolution is tantamount to a “denial of basic science” seems captive to those popular categories. The scientists above would disagree.

      And not all “influential pastoral teachers” accept evolution. Philip Sherrard provides a devastating theological and philosophical critique of Darwinian evolution in: Human Image: World Image : The Death and Resurrection of Sacred Cosmology.

      • “The Darwinian hypothesis requires a random universe and natural selection to hold together. Deny either of these and the theory falls apart. A random universe is philosophically untenable.” Evolution is non-random and is governed by non-random laws. If you are not “sure how one can dispute reductive materialism and support the Darwinian hypothesis at the same time”, I suggest you read some of the Orthodox philosophers, theologians, or scientists cited. I cannot recommend Dr. Hart’s recent work highly enough. I think you will find much to resolve your concerns there, as your general comments on the circularity of reductive materialism (which has nothing to do with evolution per se) are correct.

        As to your assertion that the fossil evidence isn’t there, frankly, there is no point in arguing about this on blog comments – candidly I really don’t care if my brother in Christ has a different opinion about a topic on science. But what I am concerned about as a Christian is someone – either Orthodox or considering Orthodoxy – being convinced that Orthodoxy as a whole somehow opposes evolution and demands this of her followers. I can’t tell you the number of ex-Christians I know who left their evangelical faith precisely because they found their church had been teaching things about science they later learned were untrue as a kind of dogma. For those readers who may fall in that category, they need to know that what you are teaching is an opinion that in no way, shape, or form represents a clear consensus or dogma of the Church (clearly it is an opinion that is allowed in the Church as well, just to be clear).

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          Gregg, I really don’t see how “reductive materialism” and evolution can be separated. Darwin’s theory is wholly and exclusively dependent on materialism.

          Maybe your concern is that you believe a preponderance of physical evidence exists proving Darwin true. Well, there’s not much there. I don’t really want to get into that in much detail either, but my hunch is that the many scientists who doubt Darwin that I cited in the link came to the same conclusion as I did. Maybe we will have to discuss that down the road.

          In any case, there’s a lot of room for disagreement about many things in Orthodoxy. I am aware of no one who claims either support or criticism of Darwinian evolution ever rises to dogma.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          How is evolution non-random? How is it governed by non-random laws? What are those laws? Did those laws pre-exist the Big Bang? If so, then Darwin was wrong, the universe is not random. If the universe it indeed random and no pre-existing logic existed, then from where did the laws arise? From the matter that it governs?

          And how do we understand natural selection if evolution is not random? Were the mutations part of a larger design?

          All I see here is theistic evolution. God set the whole train into motion.

          • Evolution is no more uncertain than the theory of gravity (actually, in this sense less so: we understand basic mechanisms about how evolution works, but we don’t understand how gravity works much at all). Selection in evolution is inherently non-random in the same sense that a series of filters do non-random sorting. This should be covered in any college level text.

            There are very good reasons to believe the metaphysical claims of reductive naturalism are wrong in their own terms. We are seeing a turn here even among some atheist philosophers (Nagel comes to mind). There is no reason to adopt these metaphysics as a requirement for doing science – that is entirely unwarranted. Given all the Orthodox or Roman Catholic philosophers, theologians, and scientists that argue this explicitly with respect to evolution (in some cases quite convincingly), it certainly shouldn’t be a surprising claim. I find it hard to imagine that you believe that all those thinkers are covert materialists masquerading as Christians.

            One final comment: “God set the whole train in motion” strikes me as an unhelpful metaphor, more like a demiurge than what we find in classical Christian thought, where God is the transcendent source of being who sustains and upholds all things.

            • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

              One final comment: “God set the whole train in motion” strikes me as an unhelpful metaphor, more like a demiurge than what we find in classical Christian thought, where God is the transcendent source of being who sustains and upholds all things.

              Agreed, it is a demiurge of sorts. But that’s what theistic evolution requires, i.e.: God reduced to demiurge. I’m not sure why you assert that evolution doesn’t require materialist metaphysics. Where does theology fit into, say, natural selection apart from the demiurge motif? Is it is part of the grand design or cosmic energy? Do we need to redefine natural selection to something other than what Darwin defined it to be?

              I realize that some theologians attempt to reconcile theology with evolution. My question is whether the assumption that the Darwinian hypothesis is sound science should be taken at face value given the debate within the academy. That was my reason for posting the list of dissenters up stream (see: Dissent From Darwin). They would not agree that the theory of evolution is as certain as the theory of gravity.

              It appears to me that you are not familiar with some of the critiques (powerful and not easily dismissed) that challenge the validity of the Darwinian hypothesis. It may be that the theologians who attempt the reconciliation of theology with evolution or assert that the Patristic Fathers need to be reevaluated in light of modern science may not be either.

              In order to reconcile theology with evolution (not the same thing as reconciling theology with science), Darwinian evolution must be redefined in some manner because the Darwinian hypothesis, particularly regarding origins, is wholly dependent on materialist metaphysics. There simply is no getting around this. To assert otherwise either 1) misunderstands the hypothesis, or 2) redefines the hypothesis into something other than what Darwin (and today’s neo-Darwnists) believed and taught.

            • James Bradshaw says

              Greg: How are mutations transmitted from one organism to another? Reproduction, yes? My question is how evolution explains the transmission of partial biological systems when this very state of being “incomplete” renders the organism incapable of existing long enough to reproduce.

              To put it more simply: a circulatory system requires a heart along with a network of veins and blood vessels to move blood throughout the body. Subtract one of these components and you have nothing that can sustain existence. What does a “partially developed” or “intermediate” circulatory system look like? Further, how does a being that has such a partially developed system live long enough to reproduce?

              • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

                Along these lines: Probability theory suggests that the chances of a single cell emerging from inert matter is greater than a tornado blowing through a factory and assembling a Boeing 747.

                (Yes, the implied assertion that a single cell has greater complexity than a Boeing 747 is correct. Yes, the “tornado assembling” construction is also correct because Darwinism does not allow independent personal agency.)

                • Fr. Hans is right.

                  The central weakness or “fatal flaw” of Darwinism is its inability to explain the existence of both rational thought and the origins of the inherent complexity of life evident in the huge variety of organisms and their immensely intricate DNA code. The very existence of such a “code” implies that a rational force was needed to encode it. Creationists like to call this God, while Darwinists call it chaos.

                  While Darwin’s theory seems to explain how small-scale evolutionary changes or limited natural selection processes could operate within certain species, it fails miserably to describe, as Robert Koons observes, how such functional forms and processes “came to be there in the first place” and, as Edward Sisson notes, it “tells us nothing about when and how the genes we see today first came into existence.” The cavernous gap that exists in the scientific evidence purporting to prove how one-celled organisms “evolved” into man remains an immense and significant problem for Darwinists. As James Barham so eloquently notes:

                  Epic poems and Boeing 747s do not come into existence by themselves, no matter how much time is available – and neither do cells, or even proteins.


              • Come on. Any text book will cover the development of complex systems in evolution. To be perfectly honest, as much as I think Dawkins is incompetent as a philosopher, his book the Blind Watchmaker has a nice/accessible discussion of the development of the eye.

                Fr. Hans, I am reasonably familiar with the “critiques” (though I have frankly stopped having an active interest in them some time ago), as I am sure most everyone concerned with the matter is, including the Orthodox and Catholic writers on the topic. The fact is that evolution is undeniably true – evolution denial has the same status in the scientific academy as holocaust denial does in history departments. That aside, the core issue that is puzzling you on the relationship between metaphysical claims of naturalism and science is also nothing esoteric: I only mention Dr. Hart’s book as it is both new and much more broadly important.

                Wesley, I am confident your work on human exceptionalism will continue to be important and thoroughly within the mainstream of the our Faith. I took the liberty of sending you Dr. Hart’s new book as I think it is an excellent complement to the themes you have been developing as well as a superior response to the “new atheism”. Your ever-faithful godson.

                • Greg,

                  re: “The fact is that evolution is undeniably true – evolution denial has the same status in the scientific academy as holocaust denial does in history departments.

                  Not true and not correct. Unfortunately, “macro-evolution” (Darwinism) is not a proven theory, but a wildly speculative theory that looks at observable “micro-evolution” (= adaptation to the environment, variations within species, a proven and correct theory) and illogically extrapolates that extremely complicated order and super-structures happen by chance via random actions. This theory has never been observed to happen, the fossil evidence does not support it, and no scientific experiment has shown or proven that it’s true. Huge difference!

                  All the fruit flies experiments have shown is that within the prescribed and existing DNA code of the fruit flies, some can adapt to their environment and change characteristics to improve their likelihood of survival and reproduction. But, and this is a one enormous BUT, the fruit flies remain fruit flies. So do the bacteria, amoebas, flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches (tens of millions of years old, wonder what stopped them from “evolving”), crocodiles, alligators, etc. and many others of living “fossils” (talk about a complete contradiction of the Darwinian assumption) who have remained unchanged or very little changed in the span of hundreds of millions of years (the Horseshoe Crab being one of the most glaring examples) we have discovered and continue to discover.

                • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

                  The fact is that evolution is undeniably true – evolution denial has the same status in the scientific academy as holocaust denial does in history departments.

                  Greg, you keep making that assertion, but you keep ignoring this:

                  A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism

                  That’s why I question if you are really aware of the debate within the scientific academy itself. The “holocaust denial” comment, while offensive, makes me think you are only familiar with the polemical side of the discussion.

                  Take a look at the names and the schools where they teach. All have a Ph.D. in their respective fields. They are not people that can be dismissed with a pejorative jab.

                  • I have zero interest in or knowledge of the polemical literature around creationism. If you think there is some raging debate in the scientific community about whether biological evolution happens, someone – perhaps a creationist organization? – is misinforming you badly.

                    In any case, the main point I want to get across to whomever stumbles on this blog: there is nothing in Orthodoxy that requires suspension of belief in basic science and many, perhaps most, Orthodox do not subscribe to creationist views. I can’t underscore that this strongly enough.

                    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

                      I don’t subscribe to creationist views either, at least I don’t hold to a six day creation or see Genesis as a scientific or historical text. Genesis is narrative. But then I am not a materialist either. I believe language, data, logic, information whatever terms you want to use (Logos/logoi? — St. Maximos the Confessor) is the ground of reality, not matter, and physical and chemical processes are not the most we can know of the universe. Philosophical materialism denies the possibility of any reality apart from matter, and the Darwinist hypothesis is simply materialist reductionism.

                      Who knows? One day we may discover that information, data, logic — whatever we call it is the interface between matter and energy and transforms energy into its material form and gives it the complexity it possesses.

                      Your comment that “there is nothing in Orthodoxy that requires suspension of belief in basic science” contains the presumption that any questioning of the Darwinian ideas of origins or philosophical materialism is out of bounds. There is of course no real conflict between science and religion but there is conflict between religion and the materialist presuppositions and all that entails (natural selection, random universe, and so forth). This kind of inquiry should not be feared, and open inquiry should certainly be part of the ethos of Orthodoxy.

                      I’ll take a look at Hart’s book but believing that I do that materialism is completely untenable and that language, narrative, logos, information etc. underlie material reality, the only way I can see any attempt to reconcile the two is by poetic allusion. I just don’t see how else it could be done and keep at least a tenuous semblance of rationality and coherence. I like Hart a lot so maybe I will be surprised.

                      A great discussion starts at 34:30 to the end.

                  • By the way, while I am specifically trying to avoid a debate, I will address the point you asked me about: the signature list does not say “evolution doesn’t happen”: it makes a very specific and limited claim about two aspects of evolutionary theory being sufficient for accounting for the full complexity of life: selection and mutation. I think most people, including myself, could sign that it good conscience.

                    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

                      It does more than that, Gregg. It challenges Dawinian orthodoxy and its place in the academy. This is dangerous stuff, kind of like challenging Marxism (another great materialist myth) before the collapse of the Soviet Union laid it bare.

  4. cynthia curran says

    We really don’t know, people can developed theories from the past. by finding tools, weapons and DNA samples. Usually we don’t know what the world was like as far as humans before 3000 BC when written language was developed. The book of Genesis is describing what is called the late stone age in the earlier chapters of Genesis. Iron might have been developed earlier than we thought, its more widespread usage is in the 1,000’s BC. Research finds people more advance further back in time.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      The book of Genesis is a narrative. When it comes to origins all the creation narratives can be lumped into three categories: 1) polytheistic, 2) monotheistic, and 3) materialist. Of the three, the materialist narrative is most recent (the Darwinian hypothesis is the creation story of the philosophical materialist).

      All three have profound ramifications in how we view the universe. For example, take time.

      In the polytheist narrative, time emerges from the stuff and substance of the god/s. Time is thus and eternal. It proceeds from the god/s and returns to them. No real concept of progress is possible in this scenario.

      In the monotheistic narrative (Genesis), time is created. It has a beginning and an end and is thus linear. This makes progress a conceptual possibility.

      The materialist narrative is actually a borrowing of Genesis without divine agency. Time is linear but functions as a metaphysical absolute. Time was, is, and ever shall be.

      • Systematic naturalistic accounts date to the ancient world, at least to the time of Lucretius

        The Genesis narrative is at least in part henotheistic.

        Time does not function as a metaphysical absolute in the materialist narrative.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          Time does not function as a metaphysical absolute in the materialist narrative? Are you sure about that? Natural selection has to function within some type of constant. If time is not the absolute within the materialist system, what is?

  5. cynthia curran says

    I mean the Josephus Creation view of Christianity is off since some of the bible existed before Josephus annals of the Jews. The theory is the Flavains wanted the poor masses to obey the law and not rebel since Christ told them to pay your taxes.

  6. cynthia curran says

    I mean some of the new testament before Josephus Annals of the Jews.

  7. cynthia curran says

    I hardly expect to influence anyone’s fixed opinion in a blog comment, but I think it is extraordinarily important that people exploring Orthodoxy or struggling with the emergence of protestant-style fundamentalist strains in the Church know that many of our very best thinkers, whether their background be theological, scientific or philosophical, support evolutionary theory and science more generally: you don’t need to deny reality or turn off your brain to be an Orthodox Christian, quite the opposite, in

    Well, there were 6,000 old theories of the Earth that go back to Comas in the 6th century. Why Orthodox blame evangelicals for this alone i don’t know. Cosmas was a Nestorian.

    A major feature of his Topographia is Cosmas’ worldview that the world is flat, and that the heavens form the shape of a box with a curved lid. He was scornfull of Ptolemy and others who held that the world was spherical. Cosmas aimed to prove that pre-Christian geographers had been wrong in asserting that the earth was spherical and that it was in fact modelled on the tabernacle, the house of worship described to Moses by God during the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. However, his idea that the earth is flat has been a small minority view in educated Western opinion since the 3rd century BC.[7] Cosmas’s view has never been influential even in religious circles; a near-contemporary Christian, John Philoponus, disagreed with him as did most Christian philosophers of the era.[2]
    David C. Lindberg asserts: “Cosmas was not particularly influential in Byzantium, but he is important for us because he has been commonly used to buttress the claim that all (or most) medieval people believed they lived on a flat earth. This claim…is totally false. Cosmas is, in fact, the only medieval European known to have defended a flat earth cosmology, whereas it is safe to assume that all educated Western Europeans (and almost one hundred percent of educated Byzantines), as well as sailors and travelers, believed in the earth’s sphericity.”[8]
    Cosmology aside, Cosmas proves to be an interesting and reliable guide, providing a window into a world that has since disappeared. He happened to be in Adulis on the Red Sea Coast of modern Eritrea at the time (c. 525 AD) when the King of Axum was preparing a military expedition to attack the Jewish king Dhu Nuwas in Yemen, who had recently been persecuting Christians. On request of the Axumite king and in preparation for this campaign, he recorded now-vanished inscriptions such as the Monumentum Adulitanum (which he mistakenly attributed to Ptolemy III Euergetes).

  8. cynthia curran says

    Yamauchi began language studies at the University of Hawaii but then transferred his candidacy to studying Biblical languages at Shelton College, Ringwood, New Jersey, and received his B.A. degree there. He then enrolled in Mediterranean studies for his Master of Arts degree at Brandeis University, and then pursued studies in Mandaean Gnostic texts as part of his Ph.D. dissertation at Brandeis University.
    At Brandeis he studied under the late Cyrus H. Gordon, and expanded his linguistic studies in ancient near eastern languages, which included Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Arabic, Syriac, and Coptic. In all he has immersed himself in 22 different languages.[citation needed] Yamauchi taught for a time at Shelton College, before becoming an Assistant Professor of history at Rutgers University. He then received his professorial appointment at Miami University.
    Yamauchi’s areas of expertise include: Ancient History, Old Testament, New Testament, Early Church History, Gnosticism, and Biblical Archaeology. He has been awarded eight fellowships, contributed chapters to several books, articles in reference works, and has published 80 essays in 37 scholarly journals. He has been a member and officer of the Institute for Biblical Research, an organization of scholars devoted to the research of the Bible. [1]
    Yamauchi has also contributed essays to various reference works in biblical studies and Christian history, and written commentaries on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series that was edited by Frank Gaebelein. Yamauchi contributed the notes on Ezra and Nehemiah in the NIV Study Bible.[citation needed]
    Other areas where Yamauchi has written include the social and cultural history of first century Christianity, the relevance of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for New Testament studies, the primary source value of Josephus’ writings, and the role of the Magi in both ancient Persia and in the nativity narrative of the Gospel of Matthew. Yamauchi is written several books and essays on ancient gnosticism. He has been highly critical of scholars, such as Rudolf Bultmann, who have used third and fourth century AD Gnostic texts as primary evidence for the existence of pre-Christian gnosticism.[citation needed]
    In the 1970s he was a prominent critic of the late Morton Smith’s interpretation of an apocryphal text known as the Secret Gospel of Mark. Yamauchi revisited the corpus of Smith’s writings on the topics of the lost gospels and Jesus as a magician-healer in his lengthy essay on magic and miracles (1986). Yamauchi faulted Smith’s work on several points. One problem Yamauchi found was Smith’s anachronistic use of third, fourth and fifth century AD Greek magical papyri sources in his reinterpretation of Christ as a magus-magician. He argued that Smith’s “penchant for parallels with the life of Apollonius by Philostratus” was “historically anachronistic”. [2]
    Religious beliefs[edit]

    As a youth, Yamauchi was sent to an Episcopalian school. But, by 1952, he had begun to shift towards evangelicalism. In his senior high school year Yamauchi studied at a rural school and worked at a missionary farm known as the Christian Youth Center. He is a founding member of the Oxford Bible Fellowship church in Oxford, Ohio. He was a supporter of the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship throughout his career, and particularly at the campus of Miami University. He has contributed popular articles to periodicals like Christianity Today magazine on the resurrection of Christ and in response to controversial claims made about the Dead Sea Scrolls.[citation needed]
    Yamauchi was featured in the widely read Christian apologetic work The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He has given presentations on the Easter story to such universities as Cornell, Yale, and Princeton. He has also appeared in various television documentaries concerning the life of Christ.

    A proof that not all evangelicals are illiterate in ancient languages or history. So, some things they say on history or language of biblical times is accurate. One doesn’t have to except their theology to benefit from their research.

  9. Wesley J. Smith says

    Evolution can mean different things to different people. While I am not involved with the issue, I have noticed that ID is often misunderstood by people because its opponents get to define it in the media and in debates instead of its proponents.

    The documentary that Fr. Hans so kindly discusses here will be released in conjunction with my ebook on the anti-humanism that has (in my view) infected the environmental movement. This not only deflects us from proper and responsible environmental practices, but opens the door to subversive movements such as “nature rights,” that seek to knock human beings off the pedestal of unique dignity. That is certainly not consistent with Orthodox theology!

    I am of the firm belief that one can and should support human exceptionalism regardless of whether one accepts neo evolution, ID, or creationism. It is not only self evident, but essential to our liberty and thriving.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. Smith says:

      Evolution can mean different things to different people

      And that is the rub. It is an imprecise term at best. That leads to less than precise conversations and even more imprecise ‘science’

      Science after all is the ability to observe, collect data, make testable hypotheses, test those hypotheses with well designed and repeatable experiments that produce a similar results.

      The ‘science’ of evolution from Darwin until now has had only the first two steps. The rest has been philosophical and ideological. That philosophy from the beginning has been specifically anti-Christian.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Wesley, as release time gets closer and more promotional material is written, pass it along. We’ll start a discussion on the content of the film and your ebook and keep the evolution debate in a separate thread.

  10. “Your comment that “there is nothing in Orthodoxy that requires suspension of belief in basic science” contains the presumption that any questioning of the Darwinian ideas of origins or philosophical materialism is out of scientific bounds”

    That is in not true.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Then what did you mean by it? From my reading there is an implicit assertion that challenging Darwinism is tantamount to challenging basic science. Did I read it incorrectly?

      • Darwinism is a really overloaded term that I have tried to avoid using.

        Just to be clear what I mean is that there is a basic consensus on evolution as the basis of the biological sciences that is acceptable within the Orthodox Church. You can be Orthodox (or Catholic or Anglican) and no one is going to insist that you have to be dogmatically opposed to the underlying facts of evolution or the consensus model of biological sciences. So for example the devout Russian Orthodox biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky can argue quite forcefully for the biological fact of evolution (“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”) without risking censure, ex-communication or frankly raised eyebrows within the Church.

        This model does not require a commitment to, nor do any of the Orthodox writers I am aware of believe that this precludes a challenge to, “philosophical materialism.”

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Gregg, by way of explanation, discussion on this blog is usually intense. I just read through all of the comments and wondered if perhaps that came as a jolt. Some here drive Maseratis and like going from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

      I only enforce two rules. The first is that debate has to be civil. I allow all sorts of contrary views and not much gets moderated unless is devolves into personal attack or invective. That happens rarely, BTW.

      The second is that moral posturing cannot substitute for a clear defense of ideas. Commentators don’t have to agree with each other, but finger-wagging and scoldings for insensitivity, non-compliance to politically correct shibboleths and other maladies of the age are called out whenever they occur.

      So please don’t take any of this personally. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about many things is my motto — and we do, often with a lot of energy. That’s one of the reasons why this blog is so widely read.

      So, despite some disagreement, welcome aboard and we appreciate your contribution.

      • No offense taken and I hope no offense given. I am short on time, apologies if I have been scattershot or curt: I really only wanted to make a brief point. I don’t have enough digits to count the number of encounters I have had with folks raised in evangelical protestantism who were told that the underpinnings of biology were “untrue” and eventually abandoned Christianity altogether. We don’t have any reason or need to present that kind of dilemma to our own.

  11. Whenever these discussions arise (and they arise frequently on various blogs), I cannot help but wonder how those who hold to an evolutionary theory of any kind explain the development of sexual differentiation. Much is said about how species evolved over very long periods of time, but no one (that I know of) has ever explained how it was possible for them to reproduce in such a fashion that male and female came into being.

    I can rationally accept (to a degree) that lower forms of life could have evolved into higher forms over time. But since it is biologically impossible for a sexually differentiated species to reproduce without the opposite sex (the Theotokos being the only exception), one wonders at the astonishing evolutionary leap that, of necessity, had to have occurred within the span of one generation (hardly a satisfactory evolutionary time-frame) amongst every sexually differentiated species on the planet in order for them to avoid extinction. Within a single generation every self-reproducing species that is now sexually differentiated evolved into both male and female, engaged in intercourse, and avoided extinction. Astonishing!

    There are, perhaps, many questions to which satisfactory answers will never be provided this side of the Kingdom. As Moses told the children of Israel, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

    Nevertheless, one does not have to be a Bible-Thumping Fundamentalist to wonder at the dilemma that a simple thing like sexual differentiation creates for the evolutionist. It would seem that honest science might be inclined to wonder at this as well.

    • But since it is biologically impossible for a sexually differentiated species to reproduce without the opposite sex

      This is not the case. There’s a fair number of species that alternate between asexual and sexual reproduction, depending on their environment. It’s called heterogamy. Parthenogenesis– that is, a female producing a viable offspring without a male– has been observed in a surprising number of animals, including sharks and some reptiles and birds, albeit more rarely.

      All the claims above about accepting evolution requiring “philosophical materialism” remain at the level of an unsupported assertion. It’s frankly just unimaginative, since, as pointed out by others above, there’s quite a lot of theologically and philosophically sophisticated people out there who are more than capable of accepting evolution into a non-“philosophical materialist” worldview, and in shying away from anything that appears too “materialist” one runs the risk of falling into a lazy sort of idealism, which is equally dangerous, if not more so. Orthodoxy has a very long and venerable tradition of keeping up with science and harmonizing its insights into the Church’s understanding of the world. We would do well to follow the example of Nemesius of Emesa, for instance….

      • Samn! Exactly. I don’t expect to argue and convince anyone about anything in a blog, but I sure would like to promote some shared understanding that there are independent categories that are being conflated here.

        One observation I have with Orthodoxy is that much of its energy in the US is convert driven. To a large extent, that is a good thing. But that has created a convert culture that has very much not shaken off its largely evangelical roots and generally speaking does not have much intellectual depth or engagement. This should not be surprising – in fact, it should be expected – but it does present unique challenges for the American Church. I can’t speak to the rest of the world, though I also suspect that the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition, having co-opted Byzantine scholasticism, may be more amenable to thinking through science, natural theology and metaphysics as first order problems.

        • Greg,

          I’ve been working on editing the works of an 11th century Arabic-language Orthodox philosopher (and saint, depending on which sources you take as authoritative), who’s most quotable quote is “One who has studied the sciences has philosophized, and one who has philosophized has come to know God to a certain extent.”

          Anglophone Orthodoxy will only arrive at sanity one it isn’t out to prove itself against something.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        The problem with the statement that “accepting evolution requiring ‘philosophical materialism’ remain at the level of an unsupported assertion” is that it’s just another unsupported assertion, and a very vague one at that.

        There are as many competent scientists who challenge evolution than there are theologians and philosophers who accept it. This neither proves nor disproves evolution of course, but it does reveal that the appeal to the scientific validity of evolution based on the intellectual ‘sophistication’ of its supporters doesn’t say much (see: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism). Lazy idealism works both ways if discussion never rises above appeals to authority.

        The construction that the critique of evolution is nothing more than being “against something” doesn’t say much either. Everyone generation has its cultural debates and to be ‘for’ something inevitably means one will be ‘against’ something else if ‘for and against’ is the only calculus we use. But these constructions are seldom helpful, especially concerning questions that have deeper cultural ramifications down the road.

        Where would, say, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, or Flannery O’Conner fit? They were against much, but they were for more. Ever read David Bentley Hart’s critique of the New Atheists in “Atheist Delusions”?

  12. Samn!

    Thank you for correcting me. You’ll forgive me if I find it unconvincing as a solution to the overall question, though.

    I find the whole topic of evolution v. I.D. to be tiresome and largely unproductive. As you stated, the arguments tend to devolve into philosophical opinions, none of which find their foundation in Christ. Moreover, the so-called ‘scientific’ arguments in support of either side are rife with speculation and often downright ridiculous. This is particularly true of some of the more Fundamentalist I.D. rhetoric, but it applies to many evolutionists as well. Many of the I.D. folks seem to think that faith will come to the unconverted by the path of reason, believing that proof of a Creator will resolve the problem of unbelief. This is a fool’s errand. On the other hand, many of the Christian evolutionists seem to be terribly afraid that faith will somehow be supplanted by science unless the two can be reconciled – as if that were necessary.

    In the end, I suspect we will all discover that what has been revealed to us about creation is altogether true – albeit in manner that our unenlightened minds, imprisoned by our observations of the world as it now appears, could never have imagined.

  13. Thomas Barker says

    This blog is a bit over my head, but I’ll add a few lines nonetheless. The above trailer refers to toppling man from the pedestal, making man just another animal in the forest. I can see how that serves the agenda of those who would deny that we are made in the image of God. But I am left with some questions regarding the nature of the rest of creation. By way of example…A few years ago I had to have my elderly dog put to sleep. I asked the veterinarian (He’s a born-again type Christian) if he thinks that a dog has any kind of soul that lives on after death. He thought about it and said he just did not know. Is there an Eastern Orthodox teaching on this? Does the life of a dog or cat begin and end in this world? How does one argue against animal rights without a proper knowledge of what animals are? To say that “all of nature shared in the Fall of Man” may be a starting point, but does not help me much. Any comment would be appreciated.

    “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”

    • Mr. Barker,

      I do not believe the Orthodox Tradition speaks directly to your question about specific animals. There are many Saints who say that animals do have ‘souls’, but these same Saints are also clear about them not having ‘souls’ in the same sense as humans who are uniquely created in the image of God.

      There are, however, some things that can be said with reasonable certainty.

      All creation is good. Nothing is superfluous, and nothing is wasted. All the creation that…

      “itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God…”

      …is redeemed in Christ. What, precisely, this means in terms of specific animals has not been clearly revealed to us.

      Interestingly, though, in Orthodox Christian Tradition the Ark of Noah is always understood as a type of the Church. Personally, I find two passages (Genesis 8 & 9) that are often overlooked in the story to be thought-provoking as it relates to your question. It was not humans alone whom God remembered in the flood…

      “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.”

      Nor was it with humans alone that God made the covenant…

      “Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: ‘And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.’”

      I doubt that anyone would be wiling to say with certainty precisely what this means in terms of specific animals, but it seems clear from the Tradition that animals (as well as plants and the soil of the earth itself) share in the glory of the Kingdom of God.

  14. Michael Bauman says

    Greg you still have not said what you mean by evolution. Absent that I am left to surmise that you mean, generally, a progressive movement from non-life to simple life. From there forward to ever more complex forms one causatively leading to another without any conscious direction or purpose: self-organizing matter if you will.

    I would submit that such is both the common understanding of evolution and what is ideologically propagated in schools with an intense and specific anti-Christian bias.

    Not only does the idea seem wildly illogical it is never supported by actual evidence when it is taught just the supposition that it is true.

    What is held out as evidence is nothing more than philosophical speculation followed by the condescending attitude that only the unenlightened would dare question the premise.

    So when you merely assert that you don’t buy into materialism while at the same time doing nothing other than saying evolution is indisputible– I don’t believe you. As Fezig said in Princess Bride: “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”. Are you Corsican by any chance?

    Oh, if it cannot be understood without great “expertise” and much leaned knowledge especially when propagators of the gnostic faith seek to destroy Christianity and always have–what use is it?

  15. Michael,

    In fairness to Greg, there are those who believe God was/is in complete control of the evolutionary process. Such a belief (which I do not share, BTW) is a far cry from the ideological bent you describe. I do have to agree about the general condescending attitude of those who subscribe to this view, as well as a faith in ‘science’ that extends far beyond the realm of science. However, based upon what I read here I don’t think Greg shares this condescending attitude. I will say that those who share his view often make false assumptions about people with…shall we say…a more simple faith that are simply not true, and neither should we be party to false assumptions from our perspective.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Father, he may not but he still did little more than say his idea is “indisputable” which sounds condescending to me.

      Maybe if he would condescend to explain what he means by evolution, I wouldn’t feel that way.

      I would also like to know what he has to say about the wholly ideological manner in which the indisputable reality of evolution that is not materialistic gets taught in colleges.

      No, his whole initial approach was to marginalize any one who might disagree with him as either a fundamentalist convert or of lesser qualifications intellectually and to, essentially, question their faith.

      I have no reason to trust or believe him when he asserts he is not a materialist unless he can outline a non-materialist evolution that would be accepted by the current scientific orthodoxy.

      I have personally heard both Met Kallistos and Fr. Louth comment on this topic and there is simply no depth of thought there–just acceptance of the academic prejudice on the topic.

      I think he is much the same and finds ways, like we all do, to rationalize his own way of thought with revealed truth and I’d quite surprised that any one thinks differently.

      He does not look for evidence outside of the presumptions within which he operates.

      • Perhaps. Greg will have to speak for himself.

        For the record, I would merely state that it has often been truly said that the Bible is not a science text, but that it is given to us for our salvation. All Orthodox Christians, those who understand the Biblical account of creation as a sort of primitive historical narrative, those who view it more in terms of a description of a long evolutionary process, and those who view it in terms of an allegory (which it most certainly is, although not necessarily to the exclusion of historical narrative) agree on this point.

        The question, therefore, that needs to be explored is where these differing views lead in terms of our salvation. I have studied this question extensively – not as a scientist, but as an Orthodox Christian – and find that neither the assumptions of Biblical literalists nor those of evolutionists (of any kind) are consistent with the Faith of the Church (and they must be if they are to lead to salvation).

        I remain fully open to learning something I had not previously considered. Since God created all that is, there can be no contradiction between science and Christianity as long as science remains within its proper realm. I freely admit that my premise will always remain the Faith of the Church, and all information new to me will be filtered through and judged by that premise. Does this make me a Fundamentalist? In the eyes of some it does, although I am not. But if I must bear being dismissed by the label, I will have to suffer the misunderstanding and remain faithful to the Tradition.

        • I had no idea this thread was still going on. By evolution I mean two things, the observable fact of biological development from common ancestry and the model by which we understand that to have occurred – selection, drift, etc. Like all scientific models the latter is imperfect and subject to revision, but it’s a solid working approximation of what we know today about biological mechanism and history. Could it be overturned in some fundamental way by some future discovery? Of course: that’s all we get out of science – a narrow scope for building models of physical systems.

          Michael, I am not sure what to make of the claim that basically everyone in the scientific world and much of the leading lights of the Orthodox world are ignoramuses spouting prejudice, but your comments are uninformed, arrogant, ungenerous and incorrect. I can only imagine how you would have greeted Copernicus.

          Brian, I certainly respect your thoughtful disagreement, which is a model for Christian discussion. Thank you. Obviously there are many Orthodox who believe differently.

      • By the way, when I heard long ago from Met Kallistos’s own lips that “the ordination of women to the priesthood remains an open question,” I ceased to trust his judgement. Such statements reveal an intellectualism that is not properly disciplined by the the Spirit of the Tradition.

        Lest I be misunderstood (yet again), it is acknowledged that there are those in Orthodoxy who fear change of any kind. Such people can be said to be merely ‘conservative,’ and they tend to view those who believe it is time to change certain aspects of the expression of our Faith as ‘liberal.’ It would be a serious, albeit virtually inevitable, mistake for those who favor women in the priesthood to confuse objections to their views with mere conservatism. Therefore, let not the accusation be leveled that objections to such innovation are motivated by fear of change. Faithfulness to the truth cannot be equated with mere conservatism.

  16. Michael Bauman says

    Brian, your observation on Met. Kallistos is yet another reason not to rely on his guidance in things of this nature.

    I am not a “literalist” either. I am not now nor have I ever been a Protestant. Strange that Greg is not as leary of those converts who agree with him.

    Since he has already said the ideas he holds are “indisputable” it is unlikely he will enter into real dialog with those who dispute them as, technically, we cannot exist.

    Fr. Hans often refers to the account of Genesis as a narrative. I understand what he means but it is much more than that. It is the collective memory of a people and the traditional manner in which revealed truth and learned wisdom were guarded and transmitted. Initially and, IMO, most authentically as oral tradition elder to disciples. It is the matrix and the context within which every succeeding generation both learns of and interprets the existential circumstances of their own time.

    For Father Louth to make a statement like: “The Fathers of the Church need to be reinterpreted in light of modern science” is to place him wholly outside the tradition of the Church because he is changing the context of the Apostolic deposit of faith.

    Unfortunately, when he made that statement it was so totally unexpected I was unable to respond.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Fr. Hans often refers to the account of Genesis as a narrative. I understand what he means but it is much more than that. It is the collective memory of a people and the traditional manner in which revealed truth and learned wisdom were guarded and transmitted. Initially and, IMO, most authentically as oral tradition elder to disciples. It is the matrix and the context within which every succeeding generation both learns of and interprets the existential circumstances of their own time.

      This is compelling discussion. Here is how I would frame it (this is a work in progress): the text contains the narrative; it reveals the vivifying Word that spoke creation into existence and sustains it yet today and incorporates the history of the people to whom it was given and yet constitutes that community* at the same time. (*Ekklesia – Church: those called out; those who respond to that Word when they hear it.)

      As a Christian this means that I believe the Gospel is at the center of the Holy Tradition, and why I have trouble with the Orthodox apologetic that argues that Holy Scripture is one part of Tradition among others. I believe instead that the Scriptures are the foundation of all authority within the Church because they contain that primordial Word — the Word of God spoken through the mouth of the prophet and apostle. Tradition is authoritative in that it is contextualizes (acculturates) that eternal Word in space and time, but that word (the Gospel) will never be contained, indeed cannot be contained, by any temporal structure because its source is eternal.

      So to say that Genesis is narrative posits that the ground of epistemology is language — a spoken word. That word is vivifying, life creating. It does not negate scientific knowledge, but frames it, contextualizes it in ways that gives it proper its purpose and meaning. Indeed, that word is its source as well.

      Let me give an example. From April 2 to August 15 I lived through a miracle. A young man in my parish (23 years old) was in a very serious accident and suffered traumatic brain injury (two skull fractures). The doctors told us later that 95% of the people with his level of injury die, and the other 5% are institutionalized the rest of their lives with very severe impairments.

      Long story short, this man was completely healed. All that remains is a slight deficit in reading but this is healing up as we speak. August 15 was the Dormition and the day the part of his skull that was removed was replaced. Even the doctors say his healing is miraculous.

      Elder Paissios giving counsel

      This miracle occurred through the direct intervention of Elder Paissios who is known to bring healing to these types of injuries, especially for young men in Greece who have suffered brain injuries due to car and motorcycle accidents.

      I saw many things and here is one: Miracles do not contravene nature. Rather, nature itself somehow recovers its natural healing prowess, it is brought back to what it must have been like in Eden or what it will become in the Kingdom of God (take your pick, both are the same). Miracles are, in a sense, nature “speeded up” — natural processes that employ greater restorative power that what is normally seen and experienced.

      As I witnessed this I pondered it and saw the congruence between the unseen and the seen, the uncreated and the created, the spiritual and material, the non-quantifiable and quantifiable and saw that there was no conflict between them. The knowledge and practical skill of the doctors and the nurses was as important as the prayers, anointing, the unseen but tangible power that the presence of Elder Paissios afforded, and so forth. In fact, when I would go into the young man’s room to pray, some nurses would join us because I would pray for them and the doctors too.

      The interpentration of the uncreated with the created elevates the creation. It reveals the divine dimension of the work of the nurses and doctors as well and I would tell them that, not using this language of course but something more practical like “You are doing the work of God” — which they were. The elevation occurs because all materiality originated through this spoken word — what I call the primordial word — and still holds it together and gives it coherence and its marvelous complexity (Genesis and the Apostle Paul teaches us that).

      Thus my word to the doctors and nurses, the prayers of the family and others, and most importantly St. Paissios’ intercession (his word to God), converged with the work of the doctors and nurses in that mysterious way that these things do, to affect the healing of my parishioner in all of its multi-dimensionality. The seen and unseen came together — and the glue, the interface, that which made the whole experience coherent and united its purposes and and effected its eventual outcome — was knowledge that was drawn and actualized from both the uncreated and created dimensions of human life and experience.

      So when I hear the assertion that the ground of epistemology is matter — biological and chemical processes — and beyond that nothing can be known I ask myself then how do we explain the healing of the young man?

      For Father Louth to make a statement like: “The Fathers of the Church need to be reinterpreted in light of modern science” is to place him wholly outside the tradition of the Church because he is changing the context of the Apostolic deposit of faith.

      Maybe he understands theology to be an assemblage of propositions where each has to have a particular quantity and heft. Digging deeper, one has to examine the narrative in which those propositions find their placement and thus meaning. My hunch is that he subsumes Genesis (perhaps all of scripture) to another narrative thus not recognizing that language, the primordial word, Logos/logoi, etc. is the ground of epistemology, not matter. He seems to believe that the Darwinian creation narrative has supplanted the Genesis narrative. This is the only context where his statement makes any sense.

      Nonetheless, I believe the scriptures are the primordial narrative — the text in which the words about the Word are contained, revealed, and amplified into their proper context and meaning. They reveal why there is no conflict between the non-material and material and why the dichotomy between faith and science is a false one.

      • “Grace irradiates nature with a supra-natural light, and by the transcendence of its glory raises nature above its natural limits”
        -St Maximos the Confessor

        This is why natural science, while highly valuable and to be fully respected within its proper realm, has so little to offer in terms of this subject.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Father you hit on two of the reasons I reject every prevailing theory of evolution no matter how “indisputable”: they are linear and mechanistic denying the Word of God as creator and/or the interpenetration of the creation by God, and they deny man as both microcosm and image of God and the possibility for each of us personally to be interpenetrated by Jesus Christ. The eschatological reality of Christ is replaced by a modern form of chiliasm.

        The Creative Word of God is still reverberating throughout creation and present in each Christian who receives the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit and others as well. If there is anything we might call “evolution” if is not centered on the Incarnation and the living Word of God it is not only disputable it is false.

        If it does not uphold and support the sacramental authority of man to exercise dominion as we dress and keep the earth and enhance its fruitfulness it is a lie.

        There is no reason that sound science cannot be predicated on belief in God, the Incarnation and Second coming. Our God is not a gnostic God.

      • “Maybe he understands theology to be an assemblage of propositions where each has to have a particular quantity and heft. Digging deeper, one has to examine the narrative in which those propositions find their placement and thus meaning. My hunch is that he subsumes Genesis (perhaps all of scripture) to another narrative thus not recognizing that language, the primordial word, Logos/logoi, etc. is the ground of epistemology, not matter. He seems to believe that the Darwinian creation narrative has supplanted the Genesis narrative. This is the only context where his statement makes any sense.”

        I can’t even imagine a sense it which any of this might be a true portrayal of Fr. Louth’s thinking. Have you actually read anything substantive by Fr. Louth that suggests in the slightest that this might actually be true? If you are serious, why don’t you ask Fr. Louth if this corresponds to his views?

  17. Greg,

    I hope you don’t mind if I engage a bit further on this subject.

    In spite of what I may seem to have written, I do not deny the possibility – or even perhaps the fact – of evolution. The focus of my objection to evolution is its claim to be the model for the original creation as it was, in the words of Christ, “at the beginning,” as in…

    And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female…?

    It is here “at the beginning” that God created all things good. The Scriptures, the Fathers, and indeed the whole of the Orthodox Christian Tradition insist on the essential goodness of all creation regardless of how they read the creation story, be it narrative or allegorical. Yet when our Lord was called “Good teacher” by an inquirer, His reply was, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.” Thus, when creation is said to be good it is apparent that this goodness is grounded in the fact that it was created in union with God who freely gives His life to all things in accordance with the capacity of each creature to receive it.

    A creation in union with its Creator (that is, a creation full of grace) is what St. Maximos clearly had in mind when he wrote of grace irradiating nature with a supranatural light, raising it above its natural limits. This description is not a denial of nature (and thus not a denial of science). It is a description of nature that is in union with the eternal life of its Creator, not subject to natural limits, and thus not a subject of scientific inquiry by means of the tools of the natural sciences, including the human mind.

    Nature (be it human, animal, botanical…) when subjected to itself is subject to decay, corruption, or whatever similar word we might use to describe death. This is the nature that is the subject of natural scientific inquiry. It has its own laws that apply in their own way to the world as we know it now, the world governed by “the law of sin and death,” to use the words of the Apostle.

    But again, “at the beginning” it was not so. Nor will it be so at the end when God is, again, “all in all.” And while I do not believe it is necessary to understand the Genesis narrative of the beginning or the visions of the end in a literal sense, I do believe they are very real descriptions, glimpses if you will, of a past and a future that are the only way our natural minds can even begin to comprehend the glory of union with the Blessed Trinity – a union prior to the corruption of death that came through sin and also a union wherein death is finally abolished and life reigns – not only among men, but also in the entire creation that “was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.”

    The critical question for me, therefore, is the question of the origin of death. The Genesis account agrees with the Apostle (“Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men…”). It agrees with the Fathers. It agrees with the Liturgy of St. Basil and the whole liturgical tradition. Indeed, it agrees with the entirety of the Tradition. It even agrees with our own experience (which is to say that we know experientially that were born into the corruption of death, a corruption we did not choose and one in which even innocent infants die). Moreover, it is a condition of ours that is so repugnant to our good God that He Himself came in the flesh to abolish it for us and for all the creation He loves.

    In stark contrast to the Tradition, however, the foundational premise of even ‘Christian’ evolutionary theory is the assumption that God created death and that death was active in the world prior to the sin of man. Building upon this premise, evolution posits a necessity for the development of biological mechanisms for survival within a hostile environment where the corruption of death is assumed. Being confessedly uninformed scientifically, I neither question nor debate whether evolution has occurred since the fall of man. There is plenty of evidence that it has – at least to some degree. But Holy Scripture and our God-bearing Fathers testify that apart from the sin of man which brought about his own death and the corruption of all the creation subjected to his dominion, survival is simply not an issue.

    Finally, there is another aspect of truth/reality that relates directly to the Apostle’s words that, “as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin.” This aspect is the Orthodox Christian understanding of sin. While sin is never private or ‘individual’ (in the sense that it affects only the sinner), it is always personal (in the sense that it is the free choice of a human person). Orthodoxy insists on the priority of person over nature because human nature has no existence apart from specific human persons. ‘Humanity’ only exists as human persons (Greg, Brian, Sally). Thus, human nature per se does not sin; it merely participates in the sin of the person to whom is belongs. Only persons can sin. Only persons can love God or refuse to love. It is, therefore, not possible for a non-specific, impersonal, generalized ‘humanity’ to fall away from loving God and bring about the fall of all mankind. Only a person is capable of refusing to love the Persons of God. Only a person whose human nature once freely shared the eternal life of God by his communion in the divine Persons can bring about the subjection of his nature to the corruption of death by freely choosing to sever himself from that communion, thereby sinning against the One who is his life. And only a person in a position to father the entire race of man “in his own [corrupted] likeness, after his [corrupted] image (Genesis 5:3) can be the cause of death and sin being transmitted to all human nature.

    It is for these and many other related reasons that will not fit into a blog comment that I cannot accept evolution as a theory of origin. I hope I have made it clear that none of these reasons have anything to do with a disregard for – or disrespect of – science.

    As stated in an earlier comment, I repeat that there may be some things, indeed perhaps many things, that I have failed to consider. I am open to any correction that accords with the Tradition, and I sincerely look forward to your or anyone else’s comments that may expand the horizon of my understanding.

  18. Michael Bauman says

    Brian, your statement is quite good. I think much the same way. Thank you for stating it so eloquently. Especially the emphasis on death and its cause and function.

    I think one part of your statement needs further clarification though:

    I neither question nor debate whether evolution has occurred since the fall of man. There is plenty of evidence that it has – at least to some degree

    The crucial thing here is what one means by the word evolution: 1. more complex and new species ‘evolving’ from less complex organisms; or 2 .simple epigenetic adaptation to the environment. It is a huge step from the fact of one to even the possibility of the other. A leap of faith and illogic that Darwin made initially and every one of his disciples since has been forced into making. They try to disguise that illogical leap as much as they can. They purport to ‘prove’ number 1 with evidence of number 2.

    That is false reasoning. They also go from very small ambiguous specifics to the general ‘truth’ they hold a priori in a nanosecond because, for them, it is ‘indisputable’. That is not science.

    You rightly set up the appropriate context from within which such questions need to be considered. However, the evolutionists with which I am familiar categorically deny and reject that context. They may profess and seem to hold to it as some sort of private belief but work and think outside that context when in their “scientific” context–functional atheists. The trouble with that is that we cannot serve two masters for long.

    Evolutionary thought has always sought to describe origins apart from God, indeed intent on specifically denying the existence and agency of God.

    They are intent on creating, promoting and substituting an entirely different understanding of the nature of creation (excuse me, can’t use that word–cosmos/life) and humanity. Since it has that as its premise, nothing it purports to prove is true. It is not science as it cannot observe, hypothesize, experiment and replicate.

    It is philosophy purportedly based on observation, but every single “fact” and “proof” is found, evaluated, accepted or rejected, and interpreted from within a false construct. The simple acceptance of the revealed truth that God created ex nihilo destroys their entire edifice. Most cannot even entertain the idea of an transcendent intelligence guiding the material (as far from God as such an idea is).

    There are those in the scientific community who see the fallacy and want to do something about it–even atheists. Greg does not appear to be one of them. For him the fallacy is ‘indisputable’ Of course it is within the philosophical construct which created it.

    • Michael,

      It is the latter, 2.) simple epigenetic adaptation to the environment, to which I was referring as “evidence that it has.”

      The Fathers have a great deal to say about this, at least in terms of humans, when they address the meaning of – and the necessity for – the “garments of skin.”

      I do not believe that the words “after its kind” and “after their kind” are without meaning. These words, found in both the creation narrative and the story of Noah, indicate a differentiation of species “at the beginning.” I have neither the capacity nor the inclination to prove my belief. It is admittedly based upon simple, although not simplistic, faith. Evidence to the contrary (and there is some) is very weak and highly speculative, requiring faith of another sort in order to be convincing.

      You wrote: “The trouble with that is that we cannot serve two masters for long.”
      This is why in my mind it is far less a debate about ‘evidence’ than it is about where these ideas lead in terms of our salvation.

      One further note: As much as my previous comment may seem to relate only to creation and the origin of sin, it takes on its true significance (in my mind anyway) when one begins not with creation, but with the revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.

  19. cynthia curran says

    Well, there are some similarities between the Hebrew, Mesopotamian and Egypt views of Creation, so I take ancient people more seriously than modern people about what happen in their world. Granted, I did the Mesopotamian texts less seriously since they have a god killed to make the world or the Egyptian version where the god does a sexual act for creation, The Hebrew version is less crude and gross. I even believe in lots of myths that have some basis in reality, the Trojan war I think really happen but i doubt Zeus and the other Gods were involved and Helen and Paris and Odysseus and Achilles are probably fiction but who knows.

  20. cynthia curran says

    “The relationship between Amenhotep IV and the priests of Amun-Re gradually deteriorated. In Year 5 of his reign, Amenhotep IV took decisive steps to establish the Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic god of Egypt: the pharaoh “disbanded the priesthoods of all the other gods…and diverted the income from these [other] cults to support the Aten”. To emphasize his complete allegiance to the Aten, the king officially changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten or ‘Living Spirit of Aten.'[57] Akhenaten’s fifth year also marked the beginning of construction on his new capital, Akhetaten or ‘Horizon of Aten’, at the site known today as Amarna. Very soon afterwards, he centralized Egyptian religious practices in Akhetaten, though construction of the city seems to have continued for several more years. In honor of Aten, Akhenaten also oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes in ancient Egypt. In these new temples, Aten was worshipped in the open sunlight, rather than in dark temple enclosures, as had been the previous custom. Akhenaten is also believed to have composed the Great Hymn to the Aten.”-Wikipedia
    So, what does father Hans think of Akhenaten before Moses and his sun disc God being an early monotheism?

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