Christian Orthodoxy and Creationism
Fr. Deacon Andrey Kuraev Translated by Alexey Chumakov / Dr. Steven Bushnell / German SinitzynTweet
Introduction. Roots of Western Creationism. Orthodoxy and Science. Inconsistency of Protestant Creationist Views. Conclusion. An Afterword.
Numerous new books have recently been published in Russia that criticize the theory of evolution. For the most part these are the translated works of American Protestant "Creationists." In so far as Darwinism was well established in schools and institutes as a favorite theory of the Soviets, this rush is understandable.
However, we must determine whether the point of view of the Protestant fundamentalists is simply Christian or whether it has sectarian roots not necessarily true to Orthodox thought.
These Creationists are not just arguing against an atheistic understanding of the process of evolution but, more generally, against the very possibility of evolution itself. For them, the pre-human world is no older than six literal days. The Earth is incapable of evolutionary development, even in response to a call from the Creator.
This position is not new; it was present in the thought of ancient Greece as well as in India - this yearning to reduce our understanding of matter to a notion of non-being. Only the spirit lives and acts, while the material world is nothing more than shackles for this life of the spirit.
However, in Christian tradition, the fundamental dualism of the philosophy of antiquity (dualism between spirit and matter) was changed to a different one - dualism between the created and the Creator (Who alone is uncreated). This united created matter and created spirit in one category, and, while the created human soul is of prime importance, there is no basis for the denial of the importance of the body.
Not only the human soul, or angels, are capable of joyful obedience to the voice of God, but, as the Psalmist says, also the mountains, rivers, and waters. In pagan cosmologies inert matter dampens and counteracts the Spirit, and there can not be a constructive dialogue between them.
But in Genesis we see no war between God and chaos, the world being obedient to the Creator, responding to His word, and there is no reason to transpose into the Bible the pagan idea of "theomachistic" matter.
In the Book of Genesis God names every creature and by this naming calls every creature from the abyss of non-being. In the lovely expression of St. Philaret of Moscow, the creative "Word articulates all creatures into being." What we see here in Genesis is a dialogue.
The call produces a response to God's life-giving action. "The earth germinates, but it does not sprout that which it has but transforms that which it does not have, as much as God gives the strength to act," wrote St. Basil the Great.
The seeds of life are not found in the earth; rather, "God's word creates beings" and plants these in earth, which, in turn, germinates them. Earth is unable to be fertile by itself, yet there is no reason to downplay its role: "Let the earth bring forth by itself without having any need of help from without." While life proceeds from earth, the very life-giving ability of matter is a gift of the Creator.
On the one hand, biblical thinking is very much unlike the alchemy of Oparin's materialism that follows the recipe of the sorcerer in Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra: "serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the operation of your sun, so is your crocodile."
On the other hand, unprejudiced reading of Scripture makes one notice a certain degree of activity that created matter has. It is not written that "God created grass," but, "Let the earth bring forth grass." Later on, God is depicted not as simply creating life out of nothing but as calling on waters so that they may "bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life."
Of all the living creatures, God creates only man in a special way, not by way of commanding the earth or the waters. Earth's ability to respond is apparently finite: earth is unable to bring forth man. The crucial transition between animal and man occurs not by way of God's command but by His direct act.
Even this creation of the "physiological vessel" capable of accommodating human conscience and freedom is not the end of the creation of man: a second stage of the biblical anthropogenesis follows - the "breathing in" of the spirit of life.
The emergence of life in the Book of Genesis is both evolutionary (as earth is producing plants and simple organisms), and also a "leap towards life," occurring by the order of God.
God calls the Earth to a synergy, to a creativity that is indicative of the God-given internal creative abilities of the Earth. Different stages in the history of Creation open with God's call upon "earth." The world, being called to growth and development, acts in cooperation with God.
This theme of cooperation of God and His creation appears in the Bible long before the creation of man. The fact that the earth in response to the Word is producing life indicates that it is not merely a lifeless substance, out of which an external action is "molding life," overcoming inert matter. The Bible is unlike the Vedanta, and matter in it is not a synonym of death and non-being.
This is how St. Basil is describing this creative response in his Homily V: "See how, at this short word, at this brief command, the cold and sterile earth travailed and hastened to bring forth its fruit, as it casts away its sad and dismal covering to clothe itself in a more brilliant robe, proud of its proper adornment and displaying the infinite variety of plants."
Roots of Western Creationism
Why did a part of the Protestant world resurrect the pagan attitude that matter is "passive" and make this into a principle of its faith? There are, it seems to me, three reasons for that.
1. The first one comes from a peculiar tradition of Western Christianity. A clear biblical depiction of the gradual calling into being of the different levels of being was obscured by an imprecise Latin translation of the phrase from Sirach 18:1 "He that liveth for ever Hath created all things in general," where the Greek koine means "together," linked together, but the Latin translation was "simul" in the Vulgate, meaning, "God created everything simultaneously" rather than "everything was created by God." This quote from the Vulgate is closely linked to resistance against evolutionary views in the West. . . .
St. Augustine was thus already sure that God "created all simultaneously." This view became part of tradition in Western schools of theology and so was inherited by the Protestants. It is ironic that a phrase from an "uncanonical" book still affects the thinking of those who otherwise reject these books of Scripture.
2. A strong reason is needed for a statement taken from a deuterocanonical book to be accepted by those who treat these books merely as apocryphal. This second reason is found in the Protestant principle of "salvation by faith alone," rejection of synergy (a biblical word, 1 Cor. 3:9). The result is denial that man takes an active part in his salvation by God. Salvation is seen solely as a gift; man is only notified that his sins are paid for by the sacrifice of Christ.
If even man can not be a creator, can not act in synergy with God, how can this quality exist in the pre-human world? This is how a Seventh-Day Adventist textbook opens its criticism of the theory of evolution: "Even Paul the Apostle could not be righteous through his own efforts. He knew the perfect ideal of the law of God, but could not live accordingly."
Next, it turns out that "Calvary is overturning the theory of evolution in the most decisive manner." The same textbook states with disapproval that "more and more Christians accept the atheistic evolutionary theory, according to which God has used an evolutionary process in creating the world." It is unclear why people who accept that "God has used . . ." are called atheists.
3. Yet even this doctrinal reason fails to explain why these anti-evolutionary views, which are in scandalous disagreement with the views of modern science and knowledge, are not just kept as private convictions or in the obscurity of seminaries but are so persistently disseminated. The reason for the persistence of the fundamentalists, which makes this not merely a privately held belief, is social.
It is only in our current situation of fin de siecle (the end of the age) that it became possible to come into open conflict with scientific data. At the end of this century statements contrary to science have become fashionable. Astrologers, fortunetellers, magicians, and other occultists are free to say the most bizarre things.
It seems that people are tired of scientific sobriety and responsibility and are ready to accept anything - "Why not?" The purest form of voluntarism and irrationality takes the place of argumentation: "This is what I feel! This is so exciting!" This massive ecstasy by irrationality makes also Protestant literalness completely into sellable goods.
Orthodoxy and Science
Orthodoxy has neither a textual nor a doctrinal basis to reject evolutionism. Neither does it make sense for Orthodox Christians to indulge the current fashion of irrationality (since any irrationality, in the end, will favor occultism and will work against the Church). Before beginning, it should be said that it is more a novelty than a tradition among the Orthodox to disclaim evolution.
First of all, according to the views of the theologians of the very traditionalist Russian Church Abroad, "the Days of creation should be understood not literally ("For a thousand years in Thine eyes, O Lord, are but as yesterday that is past, and as a watch in the night.") but as periods!"
Secondly, the idea of evolution, given its separation from its atheist interpretation, is discussed quite positively in works by Orthodox authors. Prof. Ivan M. Andreev, having rejected the idea that man evolved from monkey, says: "In everything else, Darwinism does not contradict the biblical teaching on the creation of living things because evolution does not address the question of who created the first animals."
Professor of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, Archbishop Michael (Mudyugin) writes: "The process of evolution of the organic world belongs to the category of phenomena in whose description in the Bible and in the pages of any biology textbook it is easy to see an amazing degree of similarity.
The biblical terminology itself fits into the same surprising coincidence - it is said: "Let the water bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life." "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and beast of the earth after his kind."
Here the verb "bring forth" points to the link between distinct phases in formation of the animal world, moreover, to the connection between nonliving and living matter."
Professor Alexey I. Osipov, of the Moscow Theological Academy supposes: "For theology, both the creationist and evolutionary hypotheses are permissible, in principle. That is with the condition that in both cases the Lawgiver and the Creator of the world is God.
All existing species He could create either by "days," at once and in final form, or gradually, in the course of "days" to "bring them forth" from water and earth, from lower forms to the highest by way of laws that He built into nature."
Professor of St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary in New York, Fr. Vasili Zenkovsky also emphasized the biblical "creative potential" of the earth: "It is clearly stated in the text of the Bible that the Lord gives an order to the earth to act with its own strength . . . This inherent creative activity of nature, "elan vital" (in the expression of Bergson) - the aspiration to life, helps to understand an indisputable fact of evolution of life on earth."
One of the leading authors of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1960's and 70's, Archpriest Nicholas Ivanov was in agreement with the idea of evolutionary development: "The act of the creation of the world and its shaping are manifestations of God's omnipotence, His will; yet, for Nature, the realization of His will is a long and gradual process, an act of maturation that takes place in time. Numerous transient forms can appear during the process of development, sometimes merely serving as steps in emergence of the more advanced forms, that are linked to eternity."
Professor N. N. Fioletov, who took part in the Local Council of 1917-1918, thought that "in itself the idea of evolution appears not to be alien to the Christian conscience, or in contradiction with it."
In 1917, hieromartyr archpriest Michael Cheltsov, touching on the question of the relationship between Christianity and science, wrote: "Deeper and more-thoughtful and spiritual explanation and understanding of many places of the Bible have contributed not a little towards the overcoming of animosity between science and religion.
It sufficed to read the biblical account of the creation of the world to realize that the Bible gives no support to understanding of the days of creation as 24-hour intervals, and the wall between biblical accounts and scientific data on the indefinitely long period of Earth's existence prior to the appearance of mankind collapsed."
Before that, it was V. S. Solovyev, who showed the way of direct Christian interpretation of the idea of evolution: "If I were facing the task of pointing out parallelisms between modern science and the Mosaic world view, I'd say that his [Moses's] vision of the origins of life is similar to the theory of directed evolution."
Vladimir Solovyev clearly expressed the philosophical basis of this theory, developed in biology by L. Berg and Teilhard de Chardin: "The fact that the highest forms and types of creation appear or are revealed after the lowest does not mean that they are the product or creation of the simplest forms.
The level of being is not the same as the order of appearance. Higher, more positive, and complete images of being metaphysically existed prior to the lower ones, even when they appear or are revealed after these.
This does not deny evolution: evolution can not be denied; it is a fact. But to claim that evolution is able to fully create higher forms from lower, and, in the end, from nothing - means putting logical nonsense under the cover of this fact. Evolution of the lower levels of being can not, by itself, produce the higher ones, yet it produces the material conditions or provides the proper environment for the coming or the revelation of the higher type.
Thus, each appearance of the higher level of being is, in a way, a new creation: the type of creation, of which the least of all can be called "creation from nothing." First of all, the old type is forming as the material basis for the new one, and, second, the proper positive content of the new type does not appear fresh from non-being but merely steps into the new sphere of existence, (in due time) into the world of things. Conditions are the result of the evolution of nature, while that which is revealed comes from God."
Later on, evolutionary theory was not considered "anti-biblical" or "atheistic" by the philosopher I. N. Ilyin, (The Six Days of Creation. Paris), by the Serb theologians Fr. Stephan Lyashevsky and Prof. Lazar Milin, by the famous Romanian priest and theologian Dumitru Staniloae, and by Bishop Vasily (Rodzianko).
[Translator's note: similarly non-literalist commentary on Genesis was made in the 19th century by St. Philaret (Drozdov), Metropolitan of Moscow.]
Inconsistency of Protestant Creationist Views
Acceptance of the arguments of Protestant Creationists by Protestant-influenced Orthodox preachers is a clear innovation, while a calm attitude towards evolutionism is an established tradition of orthodox academic theology. Perhaps the best known writer who criticized the very idea of evolution was the late hieromonk Fr. Seraphim (Rose).
His first argument: evolution implies a change of generations. A change of generations implies death. The heart of the matter is this: if death existed prior to the creation of man and his fall, we would have to say that death was present in the world prior to human sin. But death is a consequence of sin, and of human sin in particular. As there was no sin in the pre-human world, it is theologically impossible to suggest the presence of death there either.
But if, on the contrary, the pre-human world knew death, this would indicate that "contrary to biblical faith," the Universe suffered a fall not through man. So, was there death in the pre-human world? I would say that both of these alternative answers are incorrect.
Here we must contemplate the meanings of the words death and sin as applied to man and to animals and plants. The word death is full of uniquely human tragic meaning. Can we really apply this word, with its human implications, to the non-human world? Death is, for humans, a tragedy, something that clearly "should not happen."
It is not surprising that in Russian philosophy the human fear of death is perceived as empirical evidence of our "otherworldly" origin and destination: if man appeared as a result of natural evolution and of the struggle for survival, he would not find so repulsive that which is "natural." Death has entered the human world through sin - this is certain. Death is evil and was not created by God - this is also an axiom of biblical theology.
It seems to me there is only one possible conclusion that can be drawn from this: the "death" of animals is not similar to human death. If we say "Socrates died," the meaning and implications of this are quite dissimilar to such expressions as the "death of a dog" or the "death of a star" or the "death of a chair."
Animals terminate their being, "died," but in application to them, this word is used in a metaphoric sense, and termination of the physiological processes in, say, a monkey, is not the same thing as human death. Animals did cease to exist in the pre-human world. But this is not death - in theology and philosophy we can not discuss the phenomenon of death in the non-human world.
Yes, death is a consequence of sin. But what is sin? It is the violation of the will of the Creator. Can we be sure that the death of animals is a violation of the Creator's will? Did God create animals for immortality? Was it His will to make them the communicants of eternity? Did He offer them the Bread of Life and the Eucharist?
If not, then the temporal finiteness of animal (and plant, bacterial, and fungal) life is not a violation of the design of the Creator, and is neither a sin nor a distortion of the Creator's will. If Holy Communion is the only Bread of Life, and yet, obviously, we do not see animals receiving it in churches, this Bread, and this Eternity - are not meant for them.
The death of animals is not a violation of the Divine will also because the Bible does not promise eternity to this world in general either; only humans inherit eternity, and the words of the Saviour in Mat. 25:34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," are addressed to them, and not to animals or other living beings.
The rest will burn away, and if upon the new creation (not resurrection, but creation of the "new earth and new heavens") God will want to plant animals there too, they will appear as well, but they will not necessarily be the "immortalized" animals of our current world.
God did not create animals for immortality - and this is why there is no violation of the will of God, no sin - in their departure from existence. St. Augistine wrote, "Animals were created mortal." Prior to him, a similar view is characteristic of St. Methodios of Patara.
"There is usually similarity between the one that produces something and the product. God is immortality, life, and incorruption: a man is a creature of God, and, being produced by immortality, man is immortal as well. This is why God has directly produced man, while He gave orders to the air, earth, and waters to produce the other types of animals . . . and while animals received the ability to live from air, Adam received it from the immortal Being, for He breathed into him the breath of life."
Not being a violation of the Divine will, the death of animals does not imply some defect in the goodness of the original, created world. It is only after the only creature that truly is made in the image and likeness of the Creator, man, himself steps down to the level of the animal world and makes himself subject to the laws of the struggle for existence, life and death, that are present in the pre-human world - this is when we see the violation of the will of God.
It seems that we got used to equalizing ourselves to animals too much - to the extent that non-Christians make out of it reasons to justify their own passions and lawlessness, while Christians are inclined to extend the gifts of the Holy Spirit, granted to them, to the animal world . . .
Besides, can we describe the behavior of animals in terms of "sin" and "virtue"? If the word sin is inapplicable to descriptions of animal life, a related word, death, can not be strictly applied to them either, in the sense derived from human existence.
The Fathers clearly say that sin has entered the world through man and that only man can sin in the world (for the present we are not discussing the angelic beings). St. Methodios asks: "What other evil act, besides what is happening among men, can you find?
All the other creatures by necessity obey the Divine will, and none of them can do anything beyond what it was created for." This means that there is no evil in the animal world, and the death of animals, unless humans cause it, is not an evil, because animals have no freedom in that.
It can be pointed out that the "struggle for survival" can be given, in God's plan, a positive and pedagogic sense - at least St. Augustine says that witnessing the struggle for life among animals may serve a human as an example of how he himself should struggle for his spiritual salvation.
The second argument of Orthodox anti-evolutionists is built around some patristic texts that deny the existence of sufferings and death in the Garden of Eden. According to patristic tradition, there not only man but also animals were in a blessed state, and there, suffering and death, implied by the process of evolution, are theologically untenable.
This argument against evolution is also weak.
First, the Garden of Eden was certainly not the whole world. Paradise is not the synonym of the world prior to the Fall. Eden did not involve all of the world - rivers that water the Garden, in which man is placed, are flowing from Eden. Neither is that Garden and Eden one and the same thing. "And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed" (Gen. 2:8).
Linguistic analysis shows that the Hebrew word gan comes from the verb ganon, to protect. Similarly, in English garden - a protected and enclosed place - is related to the verb guard. Other languages also have this link between garden and protection - in French, jardin and the verb garder, to protect, and in German - Garten.
This is not only an enclosed Garden, but the man placed there is given the task of "keeping it" ("And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it," Gen. 2:15).
The garden near Eden is a protected place - to keep against what? To keep the world safe from man, or to keep the man safe from the world? Man gave protection to the garden, or the garden gave protection to man? Eden means "joy"; from it flowed the river for the watering of this "paradise" - the "garden" that was planted at Eden ("paradeison an Eden"), and while the "paradise" was meant for man to live in and to keep him (man), Eden was meant to give joy. Man did not enter Eden but was in a garden by Eden.
So Scripture is not saying that the rest of the world lived according to the laws of the Garden of Eden. And while the Bible is not describing directly the world beyond it, this "kept" zone is perceived in opposition to the wild, unkept one - to the point of the need for protection.
From whom was this protection and separation meant? As we know, it did not protect against spiritual danger, such as the Devil. There were perhaps some non-spiritual threats to the newly-created man, for the protection against which he is taken from the rest of the world and placed in a sort of "cradle," having strict spatial limits according to the four rivers.
It is quite possible that beyond these borders of Eden, the laws of struggle for existence already worked at that time. God is warning man that he shall die if he eats of the tree ("But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," Gen 2:17).
And if God spoke just so - it means that the experience of death was known to people (more exactly - the observation of the death of others). Man could have been familiar with the meaning of it from observing the death of animals. And this then means that death existed in the pre-human world, in the world of animals.
Yet man was, for the time being, protected from all of it, and only by his sin did he destroy the protection of the Garden of Eden and did the laws of the external world, of Darwinian biology, then gush into the world of man.
The connection of sin and death is dogmatically established by the words of the Apostle Paul ("Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom. 5:12). Sin came through man: through human sin, death fell upon humans. However, it does not at all follow from this that prior to Adam's sin animals were immortal.
Orthodox opponents of evolution do not take another thing into account: Eden is not only limited in space, but also in time. Not only is the Garden of Eden not the whole world, but it was planted after the creation of man.
Already after the Six Days, by a special act did God plant the garden at Eden and place there Adam, whom He had created.
An already-created man is placed into the specially-planted garden ("And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed," Gen. 2:8. "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it," Gen. 2:15), - man is "taken," selected (as Levities were "selected" from other tribes), and the garden of Eden is not a place of our origination, but our destination.
According to the Bible, upon his creation, man was taken from the world where he was created; he was moved from nature, into the garden.
Perhaps man needs to be protected from the world in which he was created; perhaps that world contains something destructive, something that is not sin and not moral evil (this is still a pre-Fall world), perhaps there is something in the laws and cycles of the greater world that is good for that world but dangerous for man.
Maybe there is something there without which the development of the world all the way to pre-human times was impossible - but that man must be exempt from, now that this type of growth has reached its limits.
The world can not produce new things without the decay of the old. Life can not grow without constant renovation and leaving something outside of its limits, the limits of life. The world knows no building up without destroying. But this is only in the cosmos - and not in the world of man. Man must be protected from this - and such protection can only come from the One above the world, the Creator of it.
Having rejected Him, we came down and became part of the world in which all the pagan philosophers saw inevitable unity of good and evil, birth and death. Yes, the human world has radically changed as a result of our sin. But must we believe that the non-human and pre-human world was different prior to that? Could it be that by his sin, Adam erased that border of grace that separated and super-naturally kept him from the rest of the world?
The world into which Adam was placed, the garden at Eden, may have been free from animal death - but this is not necessarily the case with the world from which he was taken. We need not confuse the point of destination with the point of origination. The Serbian theologian Fr. Stefan Lyashevskij wrote that death was absent only in Eden.
Upon the creation of man, "a new world has appeared in Paradise, where blood no longer flowed before the face of immortal Adam, and violent death among the animals has disappeared, for God has given everyone in Paradise grass and fruits, and all the animals were obedient to man."
The atmosphere of grace into which the first man was lead embraced Eden. But we do not know what the world was like beyond the borders of Paradise, as the Bible speaks nothing in detail about the world prior to, or outside of, Eden. Making guesses about this world based on what we think of Eden is hardly correct.
The third argument of the opponents to evolution is based on Gen. 1:30, "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat: and it was so." It means, in their eyes, that prior to the human fall, the world had no carnivores, and this means that scientific theories are in direct conflict with the Bible.
The main question here is, where were these words pronounced, and when? The Book of Genesis speaks about the creation of man twice, in the first and the second chapters, and one of the traditionally complicated tasks of biblical exegesis is the coordination of these two stories.
Did the Creator speak to Adam prior to creating Eden - or after, and in Paradise? If we take these words as said at Eden, there is no conflict with science, as science can study only the world outside of Eden.
The concept of evolution and the associated disappearance of animals is thus not in conflict with either the letter or the sense of Revelation. The Scriptures do not describe the details of the development of life, and we have no reason to be in conflict with science over this.
The same thing can be said about Church Tradition, and a number of the ideas in the natural philosophy of antiquity and of the Middle Ages that we see in Medieval commentaries on the Six Days have no bearing on our confession of faith.
That St. Basil made use of the encyclopedic knowledge of his day and age does not mean that the natural sciences of the forth century must be sanctified by the name of the great saint and be forever enshrined as part of Orthodox theology - rather, that the faith-driven attempts at a "churching" dialogue with the world of secular thought and knowledge is blessed by the example of the great Cappadocian Father.
Likewise, St. John of Damascus also included some views of the science of his time in his "Precise Exposition . . . " - but this only means that Orthodox thought is interested in knowledge of the God-created world as well. From the fact that Fathers did let into their works the data of contemporary science, does not at all follow that we must be enemies to our contemporary science.
As to the details of biogenesis, in the nineteenth century Count A. K. Tolstoy already wrote - (from the "epistle to M. Loginov on Darwinism")
("The way, how the Creator worked, and what He considered to be better, can not be known to the chairman of the censorship committee.")
Three features are inherent in the biblical account of Creation:
- Life appears (as the rest of the world) gradually.
- The world is capable of responding to God's call.
- Without the guiding Reason, evolution by itself would lead nowhere.
[Translator's note: Given that God is omnipresent, and the Holy Spirit is "everywhere and fillest all . . . the Giver of Life," the world simply can not exist "by itself," as our world and everything in it exists by God.]
Matter is not eternal, it is created, and thus it needs an external push. And precisely because it is created by this push, matter keeps the creative stimulus. And therefore the world is capable of movement and development. However, the balancing judgment is true and different: although the world is capable of development, it receives the creative impulses from without.
The transition from one kingdom to another in the Bible is depicted as inexplicable by the internal development of the world. This discontinuity is produced by the will of the Creator.
The very essence of the process of the unfolding of Creation remains the same regardless of the speed with which it happens. The view of some, that if we extend the process of Creation in time, "God will become unnecessary" is as na�ve as that of others who think that creation in anything more than six regular days diminishes the glory of the Creator.
We must only remember that nothing stoo in the way or limited the creative action, and everything happened according to the will of the Creator. We do not know whether this will consisted in creating the world in one moment, or in six days, or six thousand years, or billions. For "who can number . . . the days of eternity?" (Sirach 1:2).
In Orthodox theology, those questions that are essential and in which no dissent is allowable are put in this particular way: what does it mean, "for the sake of us men and for our salvation?" Besides such dogmas, there are also certain private theological views, theologoumena, that:
- have no direct soteriological application,
- are not explicitly condemned by a Church council,
- are not leading, in their logical development, towards some conflict with established dogmas of the Church teachings on faith, and
- may differ from the opinion of some Fathers yet still have foundation in at least some other testament of the Church Tradition.
Such private theological opinions can conflict with each other. Besides quoting the famous expression of St. Paul in 1 Cor. 11:19 ("For there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you"), the history of the Church knows a number of such opinions.
Theologically, the idea that evolution is unacceptable to an Orthodox way of thinking can be proven only if it can be shown that the idea that a change of generations existed in the pre-human world outside Eden can damage the conscious participation of a Christian in the salvific Mysteries of the Church.
In accepting a given interpretation of the Scriptures, it is useful to ask the question, why am I leaning towards accepting this interpretation? Also, in rejecting some interpretation, a precise motivation is needed: what do I find unacceptable in it? And in condemnation of some interpretation, the question should be even more precise: what is harmful to the cause of salvation, in the opinion that I am condemning?
Views and opinions of radical creationists can not be accepted because they use scientific data in an arbitrary and non-objective way, by which they produce fair objections from those who are professionally involved in science. There is a real danger here that a biologist, having read some arrogant creationist book, will apply the word "rubbish" to Christianity in general.
I was recently invited to give several lectures at the department of biology at Moscow State University. Normally, I easily establish contact with students during lectures at MSU, but here the coolness of the auditorium surprised me. After the first lecture, I asked my hosts about the reasons for such a strange reception. "Oh, excuse us, Fr. Andrey . . . we didn't warn you," they said, "that a week before, some American Baptists were here, and they tried to persuade our audience that there was no evolution and that the world was created in six days.
But our students (not to mention professors) noticed how they manipulated and misused scientific data, lining up some evidence and suppressing other. Maybe the students decided that this approach to the data of their science is common to all you Christians - and saw you as a colleague of those American dilettantes." At the next lecture, I talked about the other way of understanding the first chapters of Genesis, and contact with the audience was regained, and they were very receptive to discussion of the Gospels and Orthodoxy.
So I have a missionary interest in not accepting the views of extreme anti-evolutionists and in trying to find a possible evolutionary understanding of the Six Days. I have no personal problem in believing that God created the world at once or in six days, nor do I have a problem in saying something that is, a priori, unacceptable to an audience (and I have to do this very often), but it is not good pastoral practice to lay on people burdens that are too heavy. Yes, there are, in Christianity, instances of a necessary "sacrifice of reason," but I think that such a "sacrifice" is better offered to the dogma of the Trinity, rather than to a "dogma" of the precise number of hours of creation.
Finally, it's useful to look closely at our own, internal motives leading us to accept this or that view. A popular hobby of far too many people in our parishes, monasteries, and even seminaries - is to prove to each other their "arch-Orthodoxy." Towards this goal, denunciation of "heretic evolutionists" is a very suitable means. But if a man is interested not in acquiring the reputation of a super-Orthodox among like-minded friends but in trying to lead people who are still far from the Church towards Her doorstep - it may be better to reject the joy of feeling one's own strictness or of finding and condemning another "heretic."
Man Enters The World
By Deacon Andrey Kuraev
Translated by German Sinitzyn
(Chapter from the collection of essays "BY YOUR WILL CREATED. Orthodox Christian Authors On Creation." Klin, 1999. This article is based on a report made in 1994 at the seminar "Science, Philosophy, Religion").
When Christians turn their attention to the problem of Evolution, they appear to have quite a natural "allergy" to the concept itself which is due mostly to the vulgar form in which it was taught in their high school or college years. Whether the theory is described as Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism its content is filled with an obvious anti-biblical vigor.
Then it is quite natural that Christians want to oppose it and warn their children that in biology classes at school they will be told an absolute nonsense... However, the Soviet traditions will die not when we discard it but when we learn how to overcome the rejection of the Soviet traditions.
There is sin and reaction to it, and the reaction is often passionate. Some sins are withstood effectively when we discover ourselves as being "outside" of the temptation and reaction to it � when, for exaple, we begin to live and think not in the manner of protest against the Soviet system but rather according to our own inner thoughts and values. Our disgust to everything related to the concept of Evolution is to some extent a logical result of our general disharmony of the way we lived and were brought up.
First a few words of what non-religious arguments give the Christians the flexibility and resistance in front of Darwinistic curriculae propaganda.
Darwinist and Neo-Darwinist theories of Evolution do not answer the main question: what is the source of innovation? Natural selection will only work when the diversity already exists in which the phenomena can occur. Only when some assortment already in place the natural selection may decide which "model" will go into "mass production" and which model shall be discarded and not produce the offspring. Darwinism does not answer the question where the assortment came from and when this model differentiation took place.
As far as Neo-Darwinism is concerned, i.e. Darwinism crossed with Mutation Theory, you will not have an answer there either. Mutation Theory points to which door an innovation enters and it is only a direction arrow showing to the door. It is clear when someone entered the room through the door and not through the window. It does not however explain why this person appeared at this point in time in this particular place.
Mutation Theory in its original form suggests that mutations occur accidentally, i.e. the factor of accident exists (like radiation background, acid environment and so on), and as a result a break in DNA reduplication process takes place, like a typo made by a typist. The answer to the question why it has happened is usually na�ve: "It just happened." Similarly, a child playing with the ink bottle on the table drops it on the floor and explains to his mom: "It just happened!"
Natural Selection may explain (rather describe, not explain) variety in context of population but it fails t explain the jump from one species to a different one. That is why Timofejev-Resovsky rightly noted that in his "The Origins of Species" Darwin talks about anything but the origins of species.
This may be compared with the thinking of a man who always thought that cars grow on trees or in the fields. If he happens to be at a manufacturing plant and discovers that the cars are made by someone and does not see anyone but people from the Quality Control he will naturally conclude that the ladies who inspect the cars and decide which one of them shall go to the depot and which will go back to the facility are the ones who actually make cars.
In fact these ladies work at the Quality Control which is exactly the Natural Selection discovered by Darwin. Neither he nor those after him answered the question of who does the manufacturing. Chesterton quipped: "No one yet proved that car engines just happened by themselves from the scrap metal and of all the machines struggling for survival only those made it which had accidentally developed carburetors."
To release the excessive pressures when discussing the issues of relationships between The Scientific View of the World and Biblical View of the World one must understand that The Scientific View of the World and the Bible often give different answers but it is important to note that these are different answers to different questions.
We can judge the expediency and intelligence of human activities only when we know for what purpose this person did this act which at first glance seems so strange. The same goes for the correct evaluation of the Biblical texts. It is important to know which context it strives to bring to our understanding, which questions should it answer and warn us of the wrong answers. Cardinal Baronius, the father of the Western Church history, had these wise words to say: "The intention of the Holy Scriptures is in teaching us how to get to Heaven not how the Heavens turn about" (words later repeated by Galileo).
For the Six days the main question is in what relations exist between The Lord and Man. Why does the Lord have some demands of Man (laws)? Why do people have a right for hope, hope for forgiveness, help and care from the Lord? The question of what Man is has been asked in the Bible twice. One can say that the whole text of the Holy Scriptures is the answer to the question. The Lord embodiment is the answer. This question is put twice in the Bible in identical words.
"What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention?" On the one hand it is cried out by Job (Job 7:17) with bitterness and bewilderment begging to leave him alone to deliver him from torment of His attention: "For how long You will try man's faithfulness to You when You destroyed my whole world with Your love..." On the other hand same words are said by David (Psalms 8:5) with gratitude for The Lord's love to his anointed in spite of all the hatred in the world. Between these two attitudes expressed in same words lies the abyss which embraces the whole anthropology.
To understand the difference we have to look into the way the Bible describes the genesis, entrance of man into the world, and man's purpose of being in the world.
When one hears the usual reproaches of "biblical mythology" it is worth to mention that the Bible stands against the mythology. It takes a stand not by words of the text but by what it is silent about as well. It is remarkable that it does not mention theogony whatsoever. Indian, Greek and Sumer myths are filled with theogonies, i.e. tales of endless evolutions, marriages and births of The gods. Man's world and the material world are side products of complex intrigues of the gods in their fights against each other. In working out their problems, man is introduced in the process.
There is no theogony in the Bible. "In the beginning The Lord created..." Conjectures of what was before this, our "beginning," make no sense. In Judean tradition attention is paid to the way the letter "b" is written in the word "bereshith" with which the Bible starts looks as a bracket opened to the beginning of the text and closed to the opposite direction.
The shape of the letter sets limits to the three sides of the text: the top is a limit for our understanding of what is beyond, the bottom part is a limit of what cannot reach our level of understanding from below and from what was before. Here some make a conclusion that only the text following this letter is open for research and not something that is before or beyond.
Again, the Primordial and Initial Lord himself directly starts to create the world. The Lord of the Bible is not squeamish. This quality of The Lord was emphasized by the prophets of the Old Testament who compared Israel to a foundling. The Lord said to Israel: "On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you wrapped in cloths.
No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood and I said to you, "Live!" (Ezekiel 16:4-6). The Lord has no fastidiousness towards His creation and Our Lord descends down to any slum to look and find even one lost sheep. The Lord is not squeamish about going directly to creating the material world with His own hands.
Also, the world of the Bible is anthropocentric and in some sense geocentric. In many other cosmogonies man is often an undesirable result of the decay of some primordial monster or subservient being. For the gods busy with their internal problems it becomes a necessity to create a legion of people, homo sapiens, some strange centaurs which combine a spiritual basis with material essence.
The Biblical story in this sense differs from the non-biblical cosmogonies. Man is loved by The Lord and with this deliberate and free love The Lord creates a man. The geocentricity of the Bible story comes out as a natural inference to what was said above. The Earth is placed at the center of the narration and many events are described as by an earthly observer. It is on Earth � not somewhere in heaven on the third or seventh heaven but here on Earth � that the mystery of our salvation will take place. In this sense the Gospel is as geocentric as Genesis, the threshold to the Gospel or its shadow.
Also let us look at the following detail. The creation process goes by way of separation, sequential separations. Let's try to imagine in a primitive or childish way the manner of action of the biblical Demiurge. In some children's editions of the Bible they depict The Lord as a powerful gray haired bearded old man and from the sleeves of his frock fly out the heavenly bodies and stars and he says: Let there be light! If we imagine that he has some tool in his hand it will be most likely either a trowel or a scalpel because he always splits something. In the beginning The Lord searated light from darkness.
Then He separates water above the heavens from water under the heavens, then He separates seas from lands, then He gathers light into heavenly bodies and separated Eden from the rest of the Earth. On the first day an amorphous plastic unseen earth is created and out of this initial plastic mass the whole variety of the cosmos is formed.
This is where the radical difference of religious concepts of near eastern or Mediterranean cultures from let's say Indian. For Indian philosophic and religious systems the variety of the world is an obvious evil and the salvation lies in one's return to the undivided initial oneness. Cosmogonic myth of the Brahmans talks about Demiurge, having finished his world-creating act, began to feel the approach of death. Prajapati created cosmos from his own substance and he was all empty: "He felt the fear of death," (Chatapadha Brahman X, 4, 2,2) and the gods brought sacrifices to him so as to recreate him and revive him.
Those who follow the ritual of sacrifice today also re-enact the re-creation of Pradjapati. "Anyone who with this understanding commits a good deed or even content with the realization of it (without following any ritual), recreates the deity which was separated into parts (making it) whole and full" (same X, 4,3,24). Deliberate intent of the person making a sacrifice in order to recreate the state of existence which preceded Creation and differentiation of the world is a very important feature of the Hindu spirit eager for that initial Unity.
As a result everything in the world should become a sacrifice and through this return to its origin. God has to literally devour the whole world..." In the beginning there was nothing here. All this was covered with death and famine because famine is death. He who calls himself death willed: "Let me embody" and created mind... He moved saying praises and of those praises the water was created... He exhausted himself... With his mind he, famine or death, created combination with speech.
That which was a seed turned into a year... He opened his mouth to devour the born... He thought: "If I kill it I'll have little food left." So with his speech and with his body he created everything that exists here:... sacrifices, people, cattle. Everything he created he decided to devour... He willed: "Let this body will serve me as a sacrifice and let me have my body with its help." Then it become a horse; when it grew up it become useful for the sacrifice...
When the year passed he sacrificed it to himself and other animals he gave to the gods" (Briharadaranjaka Upanishad. Madhu. 1,2).
That is how in Brahmanism they explain the reason for the ritual. Sacrifices which are made by the gods or people restore the powers of the supreme initial deity and return to him the energy which it spent or alienated from itself thus restoring the initial Unity. The ultimate goal of the world creation is to sacrifice everything and to dissolve it in the initial indivisibility.
For the biblical thinking (as well as for Egyptian, Phoenician, Sumerian) the sacrifice has a totally different meaning. The meaning of sacrifice is in protecting the cosmos and its variety when the forces of chaos threaten to destroy it.
The revelation given to Moses expressly showed that which was suspected in pre-Mosaic religious tales of the humankind and religions which we call pagan. The varied harmony of our world was blessed by the Creator; it was not a product of some insane act or cosmic war and not the product of sin. The Lord created the world as manifold and good and the fact that it is manifold is good too. This is what we come to think of as the segregation idea which can be traced through the Bible all the way to the New Testament.
The Lords pedagogy is in cutting off the initial excessive mass in order for the rest of it to grow further in obedience to The Lord. Separation goes on during the whole story. Cain and Abel - first separation. From the very first step only a third of humankind - Seth's descendants � become the part of sacred history. Some time passed and again all mankind is destroyed except for one family. That is not enough and three sons of Noah immediately separate and the next part of Sacred history is about Shem's descendants. Then it is Abraham - the children of Abraham separate from each other, Ishmael is out and the Scriptures tell us about Isaac's descendants and the separation continues.
The people of Israel are delivered from Egypt. The Lord's intention is to destroy Israel, because forty years of wandering in the desert means they are doomed. People that lived in the pagan world and knew Egyptian slavery must die and only a new generation should come to the Promised Land. Even Moses is not allowed to enter Palestine and only Joshua can lead his people there.
The next separation of Israel is into "Israel in Spirit" and "Israel in Flesh." Israel in flesh is the majority of the people. However there is a little remainder of Israel which will becomethe subject of the next line of the Holy history. From that remainder will appear the Apostles and that will be the final separation. Into this new people, quoting the words of Apostle Peter: "Those who were no people are now The Lord's people" (1 Peter 2:10), are gathered people from all the peoples of the world.
Thus, the Sacred history shows us a seemingly strange phenomena. It is obvious that for the Bible the leading theme is of excessive creation and excessive material which is aptly put into words of the Savior in the Gospel: "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10). We live in a world where there is too much of everything: too much water, too many stars in the Universe, too much empty space, the world is so vast and seemingly disproportionate compared to the size of man. It is not hard to notice the intuition of a somewhat excessive gift in the Biblical scheme.
Christ feeds the people in a miraculous way with seven loaves, and there are still seven baskets of leftovers. Christ performs a miracle in Cana in Galilee, and several huge vessels of wine are left over. The world would be something different without this excessive energy, The Lord's world-creating is not stingy, so for the man not everything in it is exact and understandable.
At the end of the Book of Job there is a remarkable scene. The Lord takes Job like a child for a tour in His zoo. Job is terribly frightened by these chthonic creatures of chaos, leviathans and behemoths but to The Lord these are just pet animals. The Lord asks Job: "Can you put a cord through his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?" The Lord then subdued and tied up His creatures. In the beginning the world of huge potential is created; then the process of cutting off the excess material begins. Something is burnt and something is left for later use in the wonderful studio of the Supreme Artist. Thus, gradually, the manifold and multi-faced cosmos is formed which we can see and familiar with.
The most important idea of the Biblical story of creation is creation's gradual coming into being. The world is not created in an instant rather within some time frame in the famous Seven Days. Something unique happens at each day. The world develops gradually, however the Bible does not give us the basis to talk about spontaneous development of the Universe. The transition from one day to another is mediated with the Lord's call: "Let there be!" and the Earth responds to this creative impulse.
It is exactly in response to the call of the Word that on the Sixth Day the earth gives birth to life. "And God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit...' The land produced vegetation...And God said: 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so" (Gen 1:11-24).
This creative response of the land is described by the Saint Basil the Great: "Imagine that by a small appeal a cold and barren land suddenly approaches the birth time and as if dropping off itself a sad and forlorn cloths dresses itself in a light frock and happy with the new dress produces to the world thousands of plants."
That is what C.S. Lewis saw: "Somewhere at distance someone started to sing. No words. And no melody. It was just the sound unimaginably beautiful. And two miracles happened at once. First a multitude of voices started to join the voice they were not thick but resonate, silver and high. Second, the darkness was dotted with infinitely many stars...The lion was pacing back and forth in this new world and sang a new song. It was softer and more solemn than the song with which he created the stars and the sun, and it was flowing like green streams flow. It was grass growing. In a few minutes it covered the distant foothills and this newly created world become more cheerful.
Now the wind was rustling in the grass. Soon the hills had spots of heather and in the meadow some green dots, some bright and others darker. When those dots, - no they were now sticks appeared at Digori's feet and he saw short spikes which grew real fast. Sticks themselves also were pulling up and in a minute or two Digori recognized them - they were trees..." What we see here is the same idea of a creative song.
Here we see a dialogue, appeal and response. "The land by itself had to produce vegetation without the need of outside assistance." God says and the world creatively responds by performing the will of the Creator.
This means that the world and the matter initially were created capable of following the call of the Creator and with the ability of self organization and growth. From the first instance appeared something that the physicists call the anthropic cosmological principle. In the philosophical poetry we can say that the material universe at its first moment of existence was filled with a huge potential; it was created capable of changing into a different one and able to contain something that does not yet exist but should be. Initially, the matter is created capable to transform into something else.
Similarly to the world creation dialogue we can see the dialogue of the Christian soul and God. Any Christian is familiar with the blessed soul-touching of the Lord. The Lord allows us to understand something, to experience something and then He leaves as if saying "Now, man, it is your turn to start working; you know now what is good and what is evil and you have to do your own footwork."
In a similar manner the Lord's will operates in the pre-human world. The Lord sends an impulse at the breakthrough of some new form of the Universe existence. Creative inertia set by God in a previous day helps the part of existence touched by Him to keep developing the following day. God said: Let the waters gather.
Then this gathering of waters begin. No matter how we understand it, even in a literal sense, the process will last much longer than the moment of the first God's impulse to start this process. In this case it does not matter what period of time - 24 hours or several million years. In any case the flowing manner of formation of our world creation happens by the word of the Creator.
How long and which way the earth was giving birth to life the Bible does not say. It insists on one thing: everything from the hands of Supreme Creator and by His word. As far as to what ways this God's will was entering our world and transforming it and prepared it to the appearance of man these questions were left outside the frame of Revelation. And this is what the science is looking into without confrontation with the Bible but rather commenting on it.
The idea of such dialogue developing within a span of time was quite forgotten in the western tradition of the Biblical studies basically due to three reasons.
First the Western Christian scholars as compared to their Eastern Orthodox colleagues, even in the first millennium after Christ when The Church was still united, relied on juridical and moral principles. In the East the Byzantine Orthodox church leaders and scholars operated within ontological principles.
The venerable Maxim the Confessor for example talks about ecumenical and universal salvation. Christ brought salvation to all living things.
For Western religious thinkers salvation lies in understanding relationship between Man and God. Man commits sin, God is angry with him and Christ is a mediator who will bail man out. Nothing is changing in the Universe; the world and the man stay the same, only there is a little less anger in heaven and the lightning is less frequent.
The East understands salvation in Christ in a totally different way. All the living creatures changed and they all trembled. The Word turned into Flesh. The whole world changed and permeated with God. This is the cosmic mission of Christianity: transformation of the whole world which will enter the God's Kingdom. There is nothing in the world which is not to serve God's purpose. The Creator did not create anything that should exist in hell, i.e. outside of God's presence.
It is the purpose of God's love to direct the way to Him and this path goes through the mystery of man's salvation. Man's freedom is a necessary element of condition to which extent man and the world around him shall enter the Heavenly Kingdom. This cosmic calling of Eastern Christianity looked blurred to the West with its legalism and moralism.
Second, the idea of a momentous act of creation took hold in the Western philosophical tradition starting with St. Augustine and this made evolutionist concepts look anti-Christian and anti-Biblical. Jesus son of Sirach in the Book of Wisdom says: "The Eternally-living created everything in unity" (Sir. 18:1, Church Slavonic translation). The Greek koine means "together," "united together," whereas Latin simul - means "simultaneously." Those who studied the Bible in Latin translation understood that God created everything simultaneously...
And the third circumstance that made evolutionist ideas unacceptable for the West in principle and to the Protestants in particular is the fact that the Protestant soteriology and the Protestant anti-evolutionist charge are closely connected. The Protestants are convinced that salvation is achieved by Christ-like deeds. The man in Protestant perspective of salvation is nothing more than a recipient who in the words of Patriarch Sergius should "sign a receipt" of the "transfer" to his bank account the Christ's achievements.
Protestant theology does not expect the man to show serious spiritual creative activities whereas in the Orthodox tradition the man is supposed to be active in the ontological creativity. The man's goal is to open himself to God to the extent of being in one with God, to become God's son by grace. The man should become by grace same as God is by His nature. In Orthodoxy there is a term synergy which means cooperation of God's grace and human freedom. Protestants do not accept synergism. On one hand it is natural and logical because Catholic theology turned synergism to its extreme. The man in their understanding can buy his salvation and be placed in God's Kingdom with righteous deeds. Luther's revolt against Catholicism made sense but led to another extreme. Now the salvation is considered a justification which Christ made for man.
Protestant theology has its internal logic in its revolt against evolutionary ideas. How can synergy happen, i.e. cooperation of living world and matter with God, when even people themselves are saved by just God's will alone. People when reading the pamphlets criticizing evolution should see which of the arguments are correct and deep in conclusions and which are expressions of confessional engagements of some of the Protestant conclusions.
For the Orthodox Christian it is not necessary to so negatively evaluate the possibilities of cooperation of God and the world. The fight against Darwinist theory of evolution is not the fight against the processes of development and complication phenomena in our world as such.
Creation of Man
No matter how self-dependent the world and the processes involved before the appearance of man the creation of man in the likeness of God on Earth, God is acting here directly and in person.
According to the Bible the man is created in two stages and even in three. The first stage is God's idea of man. "And God said: let us make man in our image, in our likeness." Then God starts personally creating a man. He creates the body from the earth and then into the body He breathes the soul. The Bible does not say about spans of time; that is why we can guess whether there was any interval between the creation of the body and breathing the soul into it. If there was an interval then such was a creature that had a human body and did not have a human mind.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa speaks about the difference in the genesis of body and the genesis of soul in man: God created internal man and formed the external man. To form means to use already created matter. When making the human body God used some pre-existing material whereas when creating the internal man i.e. human soul, God created it. It was an entirely new act that never happened before.
What was that material God used to make a human body? What is that earth we are talking about? We will not find the answer in the Bible because in the Bible the earth is everything coming from the ground. The same can be said about the human body, that it is earth; it came from the ground and will return to the ground. We cannot answer unambiguously what was the level of internal structure of the earth, the matter which was touched by God in order to transform it into the human body. As soon as it is possible to call human body earth then we can assume the word "earth" in the biblical story of the creation of man meant a living matter and not some chunk of clay. It was the earth transformed by the God's creative act.
If we turn directly to the biblical terms we will find there the word adamah. This word can be understood differently. Generally the word adamah from which the name Adam came means clay. But what is clay especially for a farmer? Any definition talks about reddish-colored earth, reddish clay. Hebrew language has several words to describe different types of earth. Virgin land that produces wild plants is called sadeh. Top soil is called eretz. Adamah means cultivated, fallow land. The plow in its path turned the soil inside out. That is why the man is called red (adam) because his insides are red. People from the Eastern region do not have red skin, but the blood and the insides of every man on earth are of same color.
This moment is very important because it shows a significant difference between the biblical concept of the world and the view of the world in the Gilgamesh epic. People poisoned with atheistic upbringing are convinced that Moses in fact was imitating the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible is just a Hebraic retelling of ancient pagan tales. Indeed there are similarities in the subjects of Moses stories and Gilgamesh stories but they are distant similarities. At a closer look the difference is quite obvious. According to the epic people were made from clay just like in the Bible only with "a small" exception.
Sumerian mythology explains in detail why the people were made of clay. This clay was at the bottom of the global ocean but not in the sense understood by the modern oceanologists but in a mythological sense. Clay under the ocean is a chthonic matter not touched by anybody, even by the Demiurge. The Demiurge goes down to the depth of the pre-matter, as eternal as God, to get a handful of that primordial clay to make a man from. Man is made of clay which is a synonym of uncultivated, wild earth which is a-cosmic and a-cultural.
The fate of man is tragic: he is created by the hands of kind (though drunk) gods. However he is made from chthonic, thoroughly evil material (one of the myths tells us that this clay for making of man is mixed with the blood of the god Kingu, a demonic creature which is at war with the gods). The Biblical story has a totally different sense. Clay is cultivated earth, already cultured, blessed by the previous touching of the Creator.
God touches previously blessed matter once again and man receives a special blessing. Let us look into what is going on with the world when it is touched by God on the Sixth Day. The Lord is the deliverer of life. At any spot where God touches the world the explosion of life occurs. If He touches the earth it does not just burn and goes in smoke but responds to the word of God. When the Creator's word touches the waters, it produces abundant life.
Reptiles and creeping creatures mentioned in the "fifth day" of creation in Hebrew are called sheretz ga shertzu, literally, multi-bearing, multi-swarming. God touches the earth with His word or His spirit; He creates life and it wells up and gushes like a fountain. God created life, plants, and later highly organized living creatures. He touches a previously touched matter and we have an anthropomorphous creature. We cannot call that creature a man yet because the human body without a soul is not a man yet but in a literal sense anthropomorphous humanoid creature.
Bishop Theophan the Recluse says: "This body - what was it? Some clay figurine of the grey-hen or a live body? It was a live body, an animal that looked like a man with the animal soul and then The Lord breathed in it His breath..." First a human-like animal creature was created and afterwards it was endowed with mind. This idea of Bishop Theophan is not accidental; he would return to it again and again in his anthropological constructions and contends that man has in himself all other levels of life.
For example he writes: "God's creatures are so built that the higher classes contain in them forces of the lower classes and in addition has its own forces attached to its class specifically." This is a quite normal and widely-spread dialectic. Bishop Theophan concludes that man has an animal life and animal soul. He refers to the venerable Anthony the Great. "... According to St. Anthony - writes Bishop Theophan - our soul is not of the same class as animal's. What we differ in is mind which I call spirit."
Starting with Descartes, European thought separates the man and the animal completely. Aristotle, early Church fathers, and even the Bible itself hold that all the God's creatures have some relation: the animals have a soul but the soul without mind or speech and wordless. It is possible that this was the type of wordless "clay" into which God later breathed His spirit.
"And The Lord our God created man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7) The meaning of this text is not so obvious as it first seems. If we look closer at the literal meaning we read that God breathes the breath of life not into the face but into the nostrils of man...
In Babylon people greeted each other by touching the nose with their hands. This greeting gesture we see at the first meeting of God and man created by Him. According to Gesiodus, "children born by Gaya-Earth and Skies-Uranus looked horrible and their father hated them from the first sight" (Theogony, 155) The God of Moses welcomes Adam by touching his nostrils. This is God's kiss for Adam. The first kiss with which the father welcomes his firstborn (note: Hebraic text for the word Spirit has a meaning of feminine gender: breath of life, spirit - ruah; this is first touch of the firstborn child by his mother).
Besides, God literally applies artificial respiration to Adam and He calls him to life. He is not squeamish to touch the animal's face with His Face and with His Mouth (before this act the man is nothing but an animal).
According to the Hebraic text of the Scriptures The Lord "breathed into man breaths of lives" (nishmat haiiim). In the Russian text in spite of the obvious spelling of the plural particle - im - in Hebraic - the word life is written in the singular form - "breath of life"). Man has several lives not in the sense of reincarnation but in a sense of multiple trials (like a computer game player).
Man has many levels of life in him: physical, animal, psychic, God-like, spiritual. Bishop Theophan says that there are five levels, sides or "grades" of life in man: bodily, emotional-bodily, emotional, spiritual-emotional and spiritual. He explains it as follows: "Five tiers, but the image (persona) is one, and this one face lives one and another and a third life..."
A Christian follower while carrying in himself these five levels, five tiers of life, should learn how to be in charge of them and handle them in harmonious way so that the lower tiers' sounds would not overcome the higher. This is the task of the ascetics: to learn how to collect your soul in such a manner that it would sound as a well-coordinated, unified symphony and the highest notes are not muted by the lower.
And the last point, when we talk about cosmic evolution we have to pay attention to the following. From the biblical perspective the process of world creation undoubtedly happens within some time span, and this process involves interaction of God and the world. However, there is no exact answer to the question of how it happens in part because from the theological point of view one cannot automatically transport our knowledge of contemporary laws of nature to the other side of the fall of man. This is not the dogma of the Orthodox theologians or a mandatory norm of Orthodox thinking; this motif is present in the thinking of the Holy fathers.
The Apostle Paul says (to the Romans) that all living creatures are suffering and wailing in wait for the revelation of the sons of god because the creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it (Romans 8:19-22). But who was it who subjected all the creation all the creatures the whole universe to the vanity and decay, the laws of death, and what is vanity? If we use the modern terms this will be decomposition or entropy, aimlessness, annihilation and mortality.
Where does this mortality and transience come from in the world created by God? Saint Simeon the New Theologian asked this question of himself and not only of himself but also of God and received the following answer: The creatures did not want to obey and serve Adam after he broke the commandment. The sun did not want to shed light on him, the spring did not want to shed water, animals seeing that he uncovered himself at the first sight of glory despised him and were ready to jump at him and the earth did not want to support him.
But God held these creatures with His powers and commanded that all creatures turn mortal and serve the mortal man for whom they were created." In the words of Gregory the Divine, "All creation serving the mortal i.e. those who are born and die by the powers of the Creator is an unwitting subject to decay."
It was not Satan or man who subjected the universe to the law of death. It was done by God in order for the man to survive. Man was created to be above the world to be the ruler of the world but he fell and the world stayed the same. It means that the fallen man became lower than the uncorrupted world. In order for that uncorrupted and yet inanimate, mechanical universe not squash the man and for the man not to suffocate under this weight God placed the world lower than the fallen man to save the man from the death in the world. Thus all the creation did not happen to be in such sad state by its will but because the sons of men were not up to the task.
This means that the laws of modern world which we discover are the laws of the fallen world. And in this world the evolution by itself in its natural condition does not happen and when it does it happens in such invisible pace that we cannot believe such a pile up of chances. It is obvious that the universe to day is ill but it was not always like that, otherwise the universe would not happen into being.
The theory of evolution in a strange way may prove the rightfulness of the Orthodoxy. Indeed the world before the man was able to evolve and after the fall of man lost this ability and new species do not appear anymore. We pushed ourselves into a strange world. One of its first laws says that nothing new ever appears - this is the principle of conservation of energy. The second law says that everything will be annihilated - the second law of thermodynamics.
The laws here are like guards of our world confirming there is no development happening and there is nothing new. At the same time we see the innovation. We never were and now we are. By itself in the framework of our fallen world we could not happen. The Russian poet Derzhavin said in his ode "God": ... I could not have happened by myself.
And who is that benefactor, our helper and patron who brought us into existence and not as a congregation of atoms but as free personal beings fearing death? Fear of death is a very important factor because if man was created by the world to which decay, entropy and death are natural, man would not fear death. Therefore man lives in not exactly his world. Man is a subject of the Other Kingdom who happened to be a captive in this world. The worst that can happen to him is when he decides that he was brought into existence by laws written in a military manual.
Missionary Leaflet # E87
Copyright 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
- Updated September 2017:
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