Church Fathers on Genesis and Evolution

DanielH

Pelican
All taken from Fr. Seraphim Rose's Genesis, Creation, and Early Man - The Orthodox Christian Vision. The purpose of this thread is to share the Church's teachings on Genesis, creation, and evolution. My comments beyond this are in orange.

On Genesis and Creation

Saint Basil the Great:

On those who try to explain away what the scripture says plainly
Those who do not admit the common meaning of the Scriptures say that water is not water, but some other nature, and they explain a plant and a fish according to their own opinion. They describe also the production of reptiles and wild animals, changing it according to their own notions, just like the dream interpreters, who interpret for their own ends the appearances seen in their dreams. When I hear "grass," I think of grass, and in the same manner I understand everything as it is said, a plant, a fish, a wild animal, and an .ox. Indeed, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" (Rom. 1: 16) . . . . Since Moses left unsaid, as useless for us, things in no way pertaining to us, shall we for this reason believe that the words of the Spirit are of less value than the foolish wisdom [of those who have written about the world]? Or shall I rather give glory to Him Who has not kept our mind occupied with vanities but has ordained that all things be written for the edification and guidance of our souls? This is a thing of which they seem to me to have been unaware, who have attempted by false arguments and allegorical interpretations to bestow on the Scripture a dignity of their own imagining. But theirs is the attitude of one who considers himself wiser than the revelations of the Spirit and introduces his own ideas in pretense of an explanation. Therefore, let it be understood as it has been written. (p. 434)

On the speed of creation
At this saying all the dense woods appeared; all the trees shot up . . . . Likewise, all the shrubs were immediately thick with leaf and bushy; and the so-called garland plants . . . all came into existence in a moment of time, although they were not previously upon the earth. (p. 438) (he goes on to write about the other days of creation in a likewise manner)

On the meaning of the first mention of "one day"

"There was evening and morning." This means the space of a day and a night . . . . "And there was evening and morning, one day." Why did he say "one" and not "first"?... He said "one" because he was defining the measure of day and night and combining the time of a night and a day, since the twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day, if, of course, night is understood with day. (p. 442)

Saint Ephraim:
On the duration of the first days
"Although both the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, still both the day and the night of the First Day continued for twelve hours each."
"When in the twinkling of an eye [Adam's] rib was taken out, and likewise in an instant flesh took its place, and the bared bone took on the full appearance and all the beauty of a woman-then God brought and presented her to Adam." (p. 436)

St. John Chrysostom:
On the speed and nature of creation
Today God goes over to the waters and shows us that from them, by His word and command, there proceeded animate creatures . . . . What mind, tell me, can understand this miracle? What tongue will be able worthily to glorify the Creator? He said only: "Let the earth bring forth"-and immediately He aroused it to bear fruit . . . . Just as of the earth He said only: "Let it bring forth," and there appeared a great variety of flowers, herbs, and seeds, and everything occurred by His word alone, so also here He said: "Let the waters bring forth . . . " and suddenly there appeared so many kinds of crawling things, such a variety of birds, that it is impossible even to enumerate them with words. (p. 439)

On the creation of Adam
If the enemies of truth will insist that it is impossible to produce something from what is nonexistent, we will ask them: Was the first man created from earth, or not? Without doubt they will agree with us and say, Yes, from earth. Then let them tell us, how was flesh formed from earth? From earth there can be dirt, bricks, clay, tile: but how was flesh produced? How were bones, nerves, sinews, fat, skin, nails, hair [produced] ? How, from the single material at hand, are there so many things of different qualities? To this they cannot even open their mouths [to reply] (p. 443-444)

St. John of Damascus:
"St. John of Damascus, in his work On Heresies, explicitly describes the allegorical interpretation of Paradise to be part of a heresy, that of the Origenists:
'They explain Paradise, the heavens, and everything else in an allegorical sense.'" (p. 446)

On Evolution
St. Paisios of Mt. Athos:

"The theory of evolution was being taught by a professor I knew at the university. Once, I said to him, 'In time and with proper care a green bean plant will become a better green bean plant, the eggplant a better eggplant. If you feed and take care of a monkey, he will become a better monkey, but he will not turn into a human being . . . . ' And then, there's this to think about. Christ was born of a human being, the Panagia! Are we supposed to believe that His ancestors were monkeys? What blasphemy! And those who support this theory don't realize that they are blaspheming. They throw a stone and do not check to see how many heads they have cracked. All you will hear from them is, 'Mine went further than the other fellow's.' That's what they are all about these days; they marvel at who will throw a stone the furthest. But they care nothing about those who are passing by and the many heads their stones will crack." (p. 815)

St. John of Kronstadt:
"Half-educated people and over-educated people do not believe in a personal, righteous, omnipotent, and unoriginate God, but believe in an impersonal origin and in some kind of evolution of the world and all beings . . . and therefore they live and act as though they will not have to give an answer to anyone for their words and deeds, making gods of themselves, their reason, and their passions . . . . In their blindness they reach the point of insanity, deny the very existence of God, and maintain that everything stems from blind evolution (the teaching that everything comes into being of itself, without the participation of a Creative power) . But he who has an intellect does not believe in such insane ravings." (p. 794-795)

St. Ambrose, Elder of Optina:
"Don't believe at face value all kinds of nonsense without investigation: that something can come into being [of itself] from dust, and that people used to be apes." (p. 787)

St. Theophan the Recluse:
"The Sadducees had a seemingly insoluble objection to the resurrection; but the Lord resolved it with a few words to them, and so clearly that everyone understood and acknowledged the Sadducees to have been beaten by the truth of His word. What the Sadducees were then, unbelievers of all sorts are now. They have heaped up a multitude of fanciful suppositions for themselves, elevated them to the status of irrefutable truths and plumed themselves on them, assuming that nothing can be said against them. In fact, they are so ungrounded that it is not even worthwhile speaking against them. All of their sophistry is a house of cards-blow on it and it flies apart. There is no need to refute it in its parts; it is enough to regard it as one regards dreams. When speaking against dreams, people do not prove the absurdity in their composition or in their individual parts, but only say, 'It's a dream,' and with that they resolve everything. It is the same with the theory of the formation of the world from a nebula and its supports,* with the theory of abiogenesis and Darwin's origin of genera and species, and with his last dream about the descent of man.*** It is all like delirium. When you read them you are walking in the midst of shadows. And scientists? Well, what can you do with them? Their motto is 'If you don't like it, don't listen, but don't prevent me from lying. '" (p. 789) St. Theophan in particular has a lot more to say on evolution which you can look up.

St. Nectarios, Wonderworker of Aegina:
"Those who deny the immortality of the soul undermine both the moral law and the foundations of societies, which they want to see collapsing into ruins, in order that they might prove that man is an ape, from which they boast that they are descended." (p. 798)

"The two volumes of the work Philosophie zoologique are in their entirety intended to uphold the degrading evolutionary theory regarding man. The first volume seeks to prove that the human organism evolved from that of an ape, as a result of chance circumstances. And the second volume seeks to prove that the distinctive excellences of the human mind are nothing but an extension of a power which the animals have, differing only in degree. Having weak and badly set foundations . . . Lamarck claims to prove that in earlier times nature produced through marvelous evolution one species from another, earlier one. He seeks to establish a gradual chain having successive (not contemporaneous) links and thus to produce finally the human species through a metamorphosis that is the reverse of the truth, and not less marvelous than the transformations one reads about in myth! (p. 798)

There are many more modern saints and elders mentioned in Fr. Seraphim's book who have denounced evolution, this is just a small excerpt of some more well known Saints.
 
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Elipe

Kingfisher
My biggest issue with the theory of evolution has to do with the direction of genetic change. You see, genetic science has not exactly been very kind to the theory of common descent by evolution: genetics say that mutations tend to be subtractive, not additive as required by the theory. The general overall effect of accumulating mutations is harmful to the organism, rather than beneficial (it's basically introducing noise into genetic code, which is an interpreted language). The amount of strength in selection you would need to overcome the negative effect of mutations is way beyond what nature itself offers in the wild. Eugenics, or artificial selection, however, accomplishes this very well.

What a lot of evolutionists also get wrong is that they propose natural selection is a best-fit selector, but in the vast examples of natural selection at work that we've observed, the pattern tends to be that natural selection acts as a culling effect. It's not selecting the best fit organisms, it's eliminating the less than average fit organisms. The idea that the best organisms would go on to breed like rabbits is just insane, because that completely flies in the face of known statistics. The bell curve exists for a reason, the bell curve says that it is the average, the middle part of the curve, that dominates, not the tail-ends. Basically, it's very unlikely that a super-organism will dominate the reproductive landscape so much that it literally breeds out the average version of that organism. The more likely effect, which is also strengthened by the dampening effect of sexual reproduction, is that the average will dominate, and the extremely fit organisms will regress back to the mean over several generations.

And then of course, if you want to have more fun with wrecking common descent by evolution with statistics, I highly recommend searching through Vox Day's blog for the keywords: mutation rate. Basically, he's challenged evolutionists to produce an estimate on the rate at which mutations occur in various species, such that we could trace back the number of mutations to some origin point. He claims to have calculated such a rate of mutation, and says that the rate does not support the timeline of humans developing from apes.
 

DanielH

Pelican
@Elipe well thought out and written response! I'm somewhat familiar with Vox Day's statistical analysis, I remember he mentioned the more they look into our last common ancestor with apes the further they push it back to the point where it's just nonsensical, iirc it was originally hundreds of thousands or a few million years, now it's supposedly tens of millions of years. Doesn't provide enough time for monkey to emerge from the proto-rat that survived what killed the dinosaurs.

Knowing that evil inverts truth was key for me to no longer believe in evolution. Genesis tells us that man went from grace filled, perfectly created, enlightened creatures, to people who became progressively more depraved and corrupted with lifespans shrinking from over 900 years to less than 120. Evolution teaches exactly the opposite, that we are progressively becoming more advanced and enlightened over the ages, going from primordial sludge, to fish, to rat, to ape, to man. This leads one to believe that one day we might "evolve" to be even smarter and enlightened men than Christ's human nature was, or whatever evolution-believing Christians think Adam was. It's backwards.
 

Elipe

Kingfisher
@Elipe well thought out and written response! I'm somewhat familiar with Vox Day's statistical analysis, I remember he mentioned the more they look into our last common ancestor with apes the further they push it back to the point where it's just nonsensical, iirc it was originally hundreds of thousands or a few million years, now it's supposedly tens of millions of years. Doesn't provide enough time for monkey to emerge from the proto-rat that survived what killed the dinosaurs.

Knowing that evil inverts truth was key for me to no longer believe in evolution. Genesis tells us that man went from grace filled, perfectly created, enlightened creatures, to people who became progressively more depraved and corrupted with lifespans shrinking from over 900 years to less than 120. Evolution teaches exactly the opposite, that we are progressively becoming more advanced and enlightened over the ages, going from primordial sludge, to fish, to rat, to ape, to man. This leads one to believe that one day we might "evolve" to be even smarter and enlightened men than Christ's human nature was, or whatever evolution-believing Christians think Adam was. It's backwards.
It's amazing that those people hold to that belief about mankind when the current trend is that IQ is sliding, not climbing. Or that it's the "less educated", "religious" people that are outbreeding the "smarter" "irreligious" people. It's like they simultaneously believe that we're headed for that shiny sexy secular Star Trek sci-fi future they love to daydream about, but also that the IQ/reproductive trend is going in the opposite direction.
 

gent

Chicken
How can young earth creationism be reconciled with the fact that humans are found all over the world? Did they travel there from Mesopotamia in the last 6,000 years? Why do we find remains older than that? What about dinosaurs? I understand that evolution does not explain everything but it seems hard for me to believe that Genesis could be completely literal.

I'm not trying to argue just trying to understand more.
 

kamoz

Kingfisher
Gold Member
God made Man in His image. So perhaps Man has similar tendencies to God?

If you look at product lines produced by many companies, you will notice that oftentimes these products effectively "evolve." They are simple at first and grow iteratively in complexity. Many are similar to each other. However, it does not mean that one product line literally transformed (evolved) into another. Engineers merely took lessons learned and made slight changes when creating a new, improved, and more complex product. However, if primitive man saw the product line of Boeing for example, they might indeed believe that the small airplanes literally turned into the bigger airplanes over time:

aircraft_Page_1.jpg
 

R.G.Camara

Kingfisher
Is that from City of God? I read the first few books of Confessions and don't remember reading that.
I actually don't know where that was from. I would have to check, so please take it with a grain of salt. But Augustine was heavily secular before his conversion, and was no naive fool, so he had trouble accepting a lot of the Old Testament after his conversion; thus, this rings true to me.
 

Wutang

Hummingbird
Gold Member
From the original dinosaur thread, St. Augustine's thoughts on Genesis:


3. .Augustine claims that we ought to be willing to change our minds about the interpretation of Genesis 1-3,
particularly as new information comes to light.


Consistent with the claim that Genesis 1-3 is difficult and obscure, Augustine repeatedly urges restraint, flexibility, openness to new interpretations, and openness to new knowledge that may provide insight into the text. He says that "in matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision ... we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture" (p. 41).

4. Augustine is particularly emphatic that we ought not to make absurd statements about what the Bible says when such statements flatly contradict what people already know from other reliable sources. We ought not to rigidly and dogmatically commit Scripture to interpretations that can easily be shown to he f4ise on the basis of physical evidence.

It seems to me that the following lengthy quotation cannot be heard enough because it is so terribly relevant to the present discussion about Genesis and earth history. Augustine says:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.... Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by these who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. (pp. 42-43)
It seems to me that some of the young-earth, flood geology proponents of this century exemplify those whom Augustine had in mind. One can only guess at the damage done to evangelistic efforts among scientists by the persistent claims of Christians that the Bible teaches a young earth and a global deluge.

Augustine sees only trouble in committing Scripture to interpretations that supposedly provide information about the physical structure of the earth or the cosmos. Consider these two examples:

Let no one think that, because the Psalmist says, He established the earth above the uater, we must use this testimony of Holy Scripture against these people who engage in learned discussions about the weight of the elements. They are not bound by the authority of our Bible; and, ignorant of the sense of these words, they will more readily scorn our sacred books than disavow the knowledge they have acquired by unassailable arguments or proved by the evidence of experience. (pp. 47-48)​

And:​

But someone may ask: 'Is not Scripture opposed to those who hold that heaven is spherical, when it says, who stretches out heaven like a skin?' Let it be opposed indeed if their statement is false.... But if they are able to establish their doctrine with proofs that cannot be denied, we must show that this statement of Scripture about the skin is not opposed to the truth of their conclusions. (p. 59)​
Augustine shows respect for scientific activity, and does not want to put Scripture in a situation of conflict with it.​

The above was more specifically about how interpretation of Scripture should be done with regards to taking in knowledge that is outside of what is mentioned in Scripture. The bottom quotes are about the process of creation specifically.

2 Augustine says that the six-day creation structure has nothing to do with the passage of time during creation but is a logical framework

Augustine repeatedly stresses that the six days are not six successive ordinary days. They have nothing to do with time. For him, this is unequivocally the case for the first three days before the making of the sun, but he is equally inclined to say the same of the last three days. The days are repeatedly claimed to be arranged according to causes, order, and logic. For example: "These seven days of our time, although like the same days of creation in name and in numbering, follow one another in succession and mark off the division of time, but those first six days occurred in a form unfamiliar to us as intrinsic principles within things created" (p. 125). The days of creation "are beyond the experience and knowledge of us mortal earthbound men ... we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation but without in any way being really similar to them" (p. 135). Further, "we should not think of those days as solar days.... He made that which gave time its beginning, as He made all things together, disposing them in an order based not on intervals of time but on causal connections" (p. 154). And finally, "But in the beginning He created all things together and completed the whole in six days, when six times he brought the 'day' which he made before the things which He made, not in a succession of periods of time but in a plan made known according to causes" (pp. 175-176). Why does the narrative employ the device of the six days? "The reason is that those who cannot understand the meaning of the text, He created all things together, cannot arrive at the meaning of Scripture unless the narrative proceeds slowly step by step" (p. 142).

There's also a part of the website which I didn't quote where the meaning of "literal" is discussed a bit. I'm a bit confused about Augustine's stance on it so I didn't include it as part of this post.
 

Elipe

Kingfisher
How can young earth creationism be reconciled with the fact that humans are found all over the world? Did they travel there from Mesopotamia in the last 6,000 years? Why do we find remains older than that? What about dinosaurs? I understand that evolution does not explain everything but it seems hard for me to believe that Genesis could be completely literal.

I'm not trying to argue just trying to understand more.
Answers in Genesis, which is staffed by people with PhDs in various fields of science, has argued that Noah's Flood would have created the conditions for a glacial era that would have allowed for the formation of ice bridges across which humans and animals crossed. Warm oceans and high CO2 levels have been corroborated by secular science as one of the factors leading to numerous theoretical ice ages, and a Google search will confirm that.

I haven't really studied this stuff in years, so there's a lot of cobwebs on what I remember, but that's about the gist of it. From what I understood, the YEC argument generally boils down to the old earth science stuff, but compressed into a shorter timespan due to the presence of calamitous and miraculous events happening that are notably absent from old earth theory (e.g. Noah's Flood being global, creation occurring rapidly in 6 days instead of evolutionarily, etc.). There's a lot more scientific implication to those events than secular philosophers like to admit there would be. For example, the idea that an event like Noah's Flood would have flooded the Earth with CO2 is something you rarely hear about from non-YECs, and is usually ignored in critiques of YEC.

In fact, I've noticed most critiques of YEC make straw-man arguments based on the current condition of the Earth and/or the universe at large, when one of the bigger points YEC proponents make is that current conditions are probably not anything like ancient conditions. And because YEC depends on the occurrence of world-shattering miraculous events, it's very intellectually dishonest to dismiss that there would have been massive changes to Earth's ecosystem, climate, and so on forth.

As a Christian I lean toward YEC, but I'm not dead set on it being 6000 years. That was calculated from genealogies in the Bible, which tended to have gaps, so it's also possible that the Earth is much older than 6000, but also much younger than millions of years. There's a lot we don't know, and with how much fraud has been revealed in the secular orthodoxy of today, I feel that we actually know that there is more we don't know than we used to think there was.

I'm not saying dinosaurs are fake, I'm saying that they may not be as old as we've been taught they were. Things do have to fit a narrative, after all.
 

DanielH

Pelican
Answers in Genesis, which is staffed by people with PhDs in various fields of science, has argued that Noah's Flood would have created the conditions for a glacial era that would have allowed for the formation of ice bridges across which humans and animals crossed. Warm oceans and high CO2 levels have been corroborated by secular science as one of the factors leading to numerous theoretical ice ages, and a Google search will confirm that.

I haven't really studied this stuff in years, so there's a lot of cobwebs on what I remember, but that's about the gist of it. From what I understood, the YEC argument generally boils down to the old earth science stuff, but compressed into a shorter timespan due to the presence of calamitous and miraculous events happening that are notably absent from old earth theory (e.g. Noah's Flood being global, creation occurring rapidly in 6 days instead of evolutionarily, etc.). There's a lot more scientific implication to those events than secular philosophers like to admit there would be. For example, the idea that an event like Noah's Flood would have flooded the Earth with CO2 is something you rarely hear about from non-YECs, and is usually ignored in critiques of YEC.

In fact, I've noticed most critiques of YEC make straw-man arguments based on the current condition of the Earth and/or the universe at large, when one of the bigger points YEC proponents make is that current conditions are probably not anything like ancient conditions. And because YEC depends on the occurrence of world-shattering miraculous events, it's very intellectually dishonest to dismiss that there would have been massive changes to Earth's ecosystem, climate, and so on forth.

As a Christian I lean toward YEC, but I'm not dead set on it being 6000 years. That was calculated from genealogies in the Bible, which tended to have gaps, so it's also possible that the Earth is much older than 6000, but also much younger than millions of years. There's a lot we don't know, and with how much fraud has been revealed in the secular orthodoxy of today, I feel that we actually know that there is more we don't know than we used to think there was.

I'm not saying dinosaurs are fake, I'm saying that they may not be as old as we've been taught they were. Things do have to fit a narrative, after all.
According to the Byzantine calendar it is the year 7529
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
Oh boy. This is a big topic that's probably going to result in a big post.

I grew up in a YEC Christian household and heard all the usual arguments for it, from sources like Answers in Genesis. But the problem is that a lot of their "science" is bunk. If YEC had real merit, then you'd expect it to be bringing about conversions and persuade non-Christian scientists. But YEC is pretty much considered a laughingstock by everybody outside of fundamentalist independent baptist churches and organizations. In my experience among fairly well educated and thoughtful Christians my age or younger, it carries about the same credibility as Dispensationalist Left Behind theology - in other words, not much. It's a huge negative that Orthodox are (as far as I can tell) having to rely on Protestant sources from a movement filled with hucksters like Christian amusement park proprietors Kent Hovind and Ken Ham.

I certainly am a skeptic of evolution. It seems to have many problems with it, among them the notion of life spontaneously arising in a bubbling crater of goo in Primordial Earth. If this had any merit it would seem simple to re-create this spontaneous generation of life in a laboratory, but last time I checked we're nowhere close to achieving anything like that. Although some common criticisms of evolution are stupid and betray misunderstanding ("If we're all descended from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?"), there are many good ones, and the scientific establishment is clearly corrupt and resistant to anything that would challenge its hegemony.

But the science behind the Young Earth model seems especially sketchy and, unlike critiques of evolution, doesn't seem to convince anyone who's not already a Christian, let alone people with backgrounds in science. It's much more common that people who grew up in a YEC environment become Old Earth when they learn about geology and that sort of thing. Science in general is not an area of great interest for me, so I'm drawn much more toward the theological/scriptural side of things.

YEC's short timescale has always bothered me because the notion that God created the earth/universe/etc. with "an appearance of age" implies that God is dishonest and deceiving us with his very creation, a notion that I find abhorrent. On top of that, Ancient Near East genealogies are not the same as contemporary genealogies and often omit or compress names or other info, so I wouldn't rely on the Genesis genealogies to establish any kind of timeframe.

A huge problem for the over-literal interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis is this: if God did create the world over a longer, more complicated process which has been (at least to some extent) revealed by scientific disciplines, how would precisely articulating this in Scripture benefit anybody except post-Enlightenment, rationalistic westerners who want to know how everything mechanically works? This is an egregious example of our tendency to read our own cultural biases back into the Bible.

The vast majority of people who ever lived would be baffled by a "scientific" account that tried to explain the exact nature of how creation occurred, so it would make sense for God to articulate this in a metaphorical or mytho-historical way to convey the essential truth and gist of early human history. Keep in mind that Genesis wasn't written to us, it was written for the Hebrew people who had just been liberated from hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt and were thoroughly mired in an Egyptian/Ancient Near East cosmology and conception of Creation. Recent scholars like John Walton and William Lane Craig have done a pretty good job of breaking down how much of Genesis corrects and sets the record straight on ANE ideas of creation. For instance, in ANE mythology the universe is a state of pre-existing chaos and raw material, which tends to be shaped by cataclysmic events or squabbling gods. In contrast, the God of Israel is all-powerful, orderly, creates everything out of nothing, and in total control. His establishment of the sun and moon/day and night, land and sea, creation of animals, and so on is a direct challenge to the Egyptian notions of these things being represented by various gods.

This isn't to say at all that I'd "explain away" Adam and Eve as being merely symbolic. I absolutely believe they are real people, there was a real Fall, and ejection from the Garden of Eden. But some of the details around it may be a sort of divine metaphor designed to articulate the point of the story in a way that makes it more easily absorbed by the ancient Hebrew people.

I think it's a reasonable approach to recognize that the first eleven chapters of Genesis (basically, until Abraham shows up on the scene) have a very different feel to them than the straightforward historical narrative that follows, and be a little bit more flexible about the genre and interpretation. I don't think that allowing some flexibility with the genre of early Genesis has any impact on the straightforward historical narrative found elsewhere in the Old Testament, especially since there are other books, like Daniel with its blend of historical narrative and prophecy, that also contain multiple genres.

If the Orthodox Church dogmatically taught YEC the way it teaches Essence/Energies, hesychasm, rejection of the Filioque, etc., I'd shrug and accept it, but it doesn't seem nearly that cut and dry from what I've heard of Patristic writers commenting on early Genesis, despite what some in ROCOR might say. I guess my point is, I don't think that interpretation of early Genesis is a great spot to dig in to a single permissible interpretation given the ambiguities and issues surrounding it, and considering that this doesn't seem like an area with strong Patristic consensus.

That being said, I haven't had a chance to read Fr. Seraphim Rose's book on this subject as mentioned in the OP, I'm sure it would offer an interesting perspective and I'm open to having my mind changed by some line of argument more sophisticated than what Protestant YEC comes up with.
 

Elipe

Kingfisher
YEC's short timescale has always bothered me because the notion that God created the earth/universe/etc. with "an appearance of age" implies that God is dishonest and deceiving us with his very creation, a notion that I find abhorrent.
I don't have time for a full argument, but I thought I'd point out real quick that Adam and Eve were implied to have been created "with an appearance of age" - that is, fully adult. They certainly were articulate and able to speak and name things, so they were clearly not created as babies.

Is it dishonest and deceptive for God to create Adam and Eve as full adults (that is, "with an appearance of age")? Why would it then, be dishonest and deceptive for God to create the universe "with an appearance of age"? I'm confused by why you find that notion abhorrent, especially seeing as an universe created with a simulated age would be key to solving the horizon problem (so that we get a nice night sky full of stars!).
 

Blade Runner

Pelican
I don't have time for a full argument, but I thought I'd point out real quick that Adam and Eve were implied to have been created "with an appearance of age" - that is, fully adult. They certainly were articulate and able to speak and name things, so they were clearly not created as babies.

Is it dishonest and deceptive for God to create Adam and Eve as full adults (that is, "with an appearance of age")? Why would it then, be dishonest and deceptive for God to create the universe "with an appearance of age"? I'm confused by why you find that notion abhorrent, especially seeing as an universe created with a simulated age would be key to solving the horizon problem (so that we get a nice night sky full of stars!).
For the same reason that pre-enlightenment people weren't revealed things that they couldn't understand. You can't reason with babies or children, so of course God speaking to them has to be as "with an appearance of age." By the way, I don't have structured thoughts on this. I am a scientist but I don't know and I don't buy many things that are added on to "evolution" as a quasi-theology. But I can't explain everything. There are a few things I'm convinced of though. First, the flood happened and wiped out all sorts of creatures. I think the living world may have existed for a long time before that flood, I mean a really long time (incomprehensible to us) but I'm unsure if carbon dating or our measurements of the expanding universe or other radioactive decay are that accurate. Nevertheless, I think it's at a minimum of 100s of thousands of years old or more. These speculations, regardless of how far I go (such as believing in demon/human hybrids, Giants, etc) do nothing to change our theological and metaphysical life. So at least we have that.

Oh yeah, and Chrysostom thought Genesis was largely a spiritual story, or at least that it was metaphorically dominated. We look at Holy Communion that way - in the sense that we don't suggest that it is forensically real in terms of "testing". It doesn't make it less real, though, at all.
 

DanielH

Pelican
For the same reason that pre-enlightenment people weren't revealed things that they couldn't understand. You can't reason with babies or children, so of course God speaking to them has to be as "with an appearance of age." By the way, I don't have structured thoughts on this. I am a scientist but I don't know and I don't buy many things that are added on to "evolution" as a quasi-theology. But I can't explain everything. There are a few things I'm convinced of though. First, the flood happened and wiped out all sorts of creatures. I think the living world may have existed for a long time before that flood, I mean a really long time (incomprehensible to us) but I'm unsure if carbon dating or our measurements of the expanding universe or other radioactive decay are that accurate. Nevertheless, I think it's at a minimum of 100s of thousands of years old or more. These speculations, regardless of how far I go (such as believing in demon/human hybrids, Giants, etc) do nothing to change our theological and metaphysical life. So at least we have that.

Oh yeah, and Chrysostom thought Genesis was largely a spiritual story, or at least that it was metaphorically dominated. We look at Holy Communion that way - in the sense that we don't suggest that it is forensically real in terms of "testing". It doesn't make it less real, though, at all.
Do you have any quotes from him that back that up? One of my hopes for this thread was for it to be a place where quotes directly from Church fathers could be shared. I'm open to changing my mind on this if there's a clear consensus of a metaphorical meaning but I haven't seen much in terms of actual quotes.

If Saint John Chrysostom actually believed in a metaphorical meaning of Genesis I would be surprised that Fr. Seraphim Rose put misleading quotes of his in his book.
 

DanielH

Pelican
Reading "Wounded by Love" - a biography of and a collection of writings by Saint Porphyrios (Bairaktaris) I came across a passage in the creation section which implies a belief in an old earth. "I remember the fossilized trees, the trunks, which we saw in Mytilene. They've been there for fifteen million years. They made a great impression on me! And that is prayer - to see the fossils and to glorify the greatness of God." (p. 220)
 

ilostabet

Pelican
Fr. Seraphim's book is as clear as it can get, and it gives Patristic quotes in context (and shows how the defenders of the evolution theory take them out of context). There are things which Christians should be intransigent about, and I think the heresy of evolution is one of them.

How you understand the origin is a very important building block of faith. It's no wonder that faithlessness is so great in our age when even Christians believe something antithetical to the Creation story in Genesis. If they don't know where they came from, then they don't know and can't know where Christ came from, and where we are going. Everything falls if we were not created as described. Why would God use certain words and not others? Because we were less intelligent? This is classic Enlightenment BS. Pre-Renaissance people actually understood the world much better than we do, which is evident when you look at how they lived. If we were wiser, we wouldn't have the society we do.

Besides, once you start reading about the problems of all those measuring systems (carbon dating, tree rings, etc) you realize that even their creators think they aren't very good, too volatile and susceptible to error (and fraud). Despite all the pressure that exists to make it stick, and to chase out of academia and laugh out of public view anyone coming to different conclusions, you still find numerous examples of those measurements failing and being proved to fail (like paintings thought to be from pre-history, but then found to have been made in an art class a year before and stuff like that). Richard Milton's book (which Fr. Seraphim quotes and recommends in his own book) is full of these and more embarrassing examples.

For some reason the heuristic which is implied in the forum for most things (that if it is promoted by the mainstream it is wrong and bad) doesn't apply here. For me, it applies. And the more important the question, the more the heuristic applies. And as I said, understanding our origin as beings created by God, directly, not through naturalistic means, is one of the most important things we have. If it wasn't so important that people believed this evolution nonsense for the maintenance of this evil system, they wouldn't be so aggressive in chasing criticism out of public debate.
 
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Elipe

Kingfisher
Fr. Seraphim's book is as clear as it can get, and it gives Patristic quotes in context (and shows how the defenders of the evolution theory take them out of context). There are things which Christians should be intransigent about, and I think the heresy of evolution is one of them.

How you understand the origin is a very important building block of faith. It's no wonder that faithlessness is so great in our age when even Christians believe something antithetical to the Creation story in Genesis. If they don't know where they came from, then they don't know and can't know where Christ came from, and where we are going. Everything falls if we were not created as described. Why would God use certain words and not others? Because we were less intelligent? This is classic Enlightenment BS. Pre-Renaissance people actually understood the world much better than we do, which is evident when you look at how they lived. If we were wiser, we wouldn't have the society we do.

Besides, once you start reading about the problems of all those measuring systems (carbon dating, tree rings, etc) you realize that even their creators think they aren't very good, too volatile and susceptible to error (and fraud). Despite all the pressure that exists to make it stick, and to chase out of academia and laugh out of public view anyone coming to different conclusions, you still find numerous examples of those measurements failing and being proved to fail (like paintings thought to be from pre-history, but then found to have been made in an art class a year before and stuff like that). Richard Milton's book (which Fr. Seraphim quotes and recommends in his own book) is full of these and more embarrassing examples.

For some reason the heuristic which is implied in the forum for most things (that if it is promoted by the mainstream it is wrong and bad) doesn't apply here. For me, it applies. And the more important the question, the more the heuristic applies. And as I said, understanding our origin as beings created by God, directly, not through naturalistic means, is one of the most important things we have. If it wasn't so important that people believed this evolution nonsense for the maintenance of this evil system, they wouldn't be so aggressive in chasing criticism out of public debate.
It really ties Christ back to Creation when the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ is the Last Adam, and that as sin and death entered the world by one man, so by another Man - the last Adam as He was called - sin and death are taken away, and in their place is forgiveness and mercy.

It's a narrative technique called bookending, where the ending is symmetrical with the beginning, usually to emphasize how things have changed. And it's obvious that the Lord, the greatest Author of all, knows how to organize the story of our fall and His redemption of us aesthetically.
 
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