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How do most Eastern Orthodox view the Origins debate?

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by Jackson Cooper, Dec 4, 2017.

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  1. Jackson Cooper

    Jackson Cooper "Nature does nothing in vain." -Aristotle.

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    I know the Eastern Orthodox church tries to not be divisive on non-crucial issues. If someone disagrees with me on the age of the Earth and evolution, I don't really care. It's not that big of a deal to my interpretation of the Scriptures.
    Generally there are three main positions on the origins debate.

    1. Young Earth Creationism: The Earth is under or around 10,000 years old.

    2. Old Earth Creationism: The Earth is over 4 billion years old, but humans do not share a common ancestor with animals, and some OEC also believe that not all animals are related.

    3. Evolutionary Creationism: Humans do have a common ancestor with animals and the Earth is old.

    I personally do believe in evolution and that the Bible, particularly Genesis and Job, are not giving a history of the natural world. I grew up Baptist, and initially believe in YEC for the vast majority of my life. Most Baptists seem to be either YEC or OEC for some reason, at least in America.

    I am curious as to where most Eastern Orthodox fall in the Origins issue. How many saints in the past century accepted evolution? How do Russian and Greek Orthodox differ here?

    I don't want any debate in this thread, just curious from people's experiences as to what most Eastern Orthodox believe. Any sources to polls would be appreciated.
     
  2. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    It is quite legitimate to believe in evolution as an Orthodox Christian or at the very least the broad outline of facts of an old earth, the apparent common descent, etc. It is also quite common to believe in some form of young earth creationism which entails that scientists are deluded about their consistent observations about the world prior to approximately 10,000 years ago, though they may not particularly care whether the universe and the earth are billions of years old. In my experience, a great many clergy and laity agree with the broad evolutionary narrative, but a bunch also believe in the Young Earth narrative. [Staff edit]. A scientific description of what happened 7500 years ago is not at all the point of the Genesis narrative - it's a theological polemic in favor of the one God of Israel who is the God of all creation and made humanity His priests and His image in the temple of creation and against the mythology of paganism and everything that entails.

    It's anachronistic to read back the so-called "origins debate" into texts before the 19th century. There hasn't been much time since the time of Darwin, so while some modern saints have spoken against evolution, that's hardly conclusive. It's hard to read St Basil on Genesis and come out with an understanding that we must believe in a literal 7 day creation, though he has some comments that may support that.

    You may find this recent article interesting and informative: Evolution and Science Curriculum Debates in Serbia Specifically, here is the English translation of the statement from the theologians: Dropbox - Statement in Response to the Petition.pdf

    Otherwise, there are some interesting articles on the Orthodox Wiki on this on both sides: Evolution - OrthodoxWiki
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2017
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  3. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I know Orthodox Christians who fall on both sides of the debate.

    However ... this topic usually does lead to debate that is not beneficial.

    My suggestion would be to look to what the Church Fathers say, as in anything, if you want to know what sorts of beliefs have been held.

    But maybe it's best to simply say that as things stand currently, you would not be thrown out of the Church for believing one way or another.

    I really would like this to not fall into the debate we tend to see on this subject though.
     
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  4. Jackson Cooper

    Jackson Cooper "Nature does nothing in vain." -Aristotle.

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    I suspect the USSR would have had an impact. They taught evolution and militant atheism, so many Eastern Orthodox may have seen evolution as an enemy since it was being taught by the enemy.
    Where do you fall on this issue. Just curious.
     
  5. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    Yes, we've probably seen about as much as needs to be said - just look at the wiki article.
     
  6. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Evangelical Catholic Supporter

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    Orthodox intellectuals have been engaged with Darwinian ideas for a long time, the USSR didn't have much to do with it. Theophan the Recluse was interested in naturalism and science. If anything, I think Orthodox theology is more amenable to this perspective than western Christianity.

    In practice, you will find a variety of perspectives in the Orthodox Church on the issue of evolution. There is no dogmatic consensus.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  7. Platina

    Platina New Member

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    You asked what saints have accepted evolution in the past century.

    Not a single one.

    I'm quite serious about that.

    Many saints and elders, however, have spoken against it quite forcefully.

    In my experience, it's moreso, though not exclusively, an American Orthodox phenomenon to believe in evolution.
     
  8. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I fall on the side of peace. :) (And truth though)

    But I will say this much. There is nothing in Scripture (IMO) that mandates a young earth. However, IMO, in order to have a proper theology relating to the fall and redemption, there needs to be a literal fall, a historic Adam and Eve, and that death came to man as a result of the fall. Otherwise, restoration and Christ's victory over death don't make sense.

    There are ways of fitting that together - more than I initially thought - for those who need to do so.

    But I think whatever we believe, it is important that scientific opinions don't become primary over Scripture and Tradition in our understanding of matters of theology. That is more important than exactly how it happened, whatever one might believe.
     
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  9. Jackson Cooper

    Jackson Cooper "Nature does nothing in vain." -Aristotle.

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    Is it true that no saint accepted evolution?
     
  10. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I can't answer that. Offhand I don't know of any who did, but that means nothing, because I've only read the opinions of some on the matter.

    The only way it can be answered is if there is proof of the positive, not the negative.
     
  11. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    For most it would be anachronistic. There haven't been very many people canonized period since the time of Darwin, and while it's true everybody who's been canonized and spoke about evolution was against it, that doesn't say much, if anything. A lot of early 20th century rhetoric conflated Darwinism with the surrounding logical positivism of the time as well as, say, the Bolsheviks. Such a conflation carried over through mid-century at the least. And, frankly, the saints say a lot of things. Meanwhile, a lot of the actual thought going on which didn't directly address evolution - such as Florensky and Bulgakov - were clearly oriented toward a program of integrating a broader understanding of the theology of science which could accommodate such an understanding. So, sure, no saint accepts evolution. You can use that as a hammer if you want.
     
  12. Platina

    Platina New Member

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    This blog has a collection of quotes from the modern saints and elders and theologians on the matter: Saints, Holy Elders, and Theologians who have lived since Darwin

    You can see that many of them speak about it specifically from a spiritual standpoint - how it affects theology - so their comments aren't merely conditioned by their circumstances. Tradition doesn't change according to circumstances, of course.
     
  13. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    And there are theologians who disagree.
     
  14. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    Lists of prooftexts aren't a productive mode of engagement.
     
  15. Platina

    Platina New Member

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    1. If someone asks about what the saints have said, the logical response would be to show what they have said, providing the sources for further reading.

    2. Prooftexting, according to Wiki is: "the practice of using isolated, out-of-context quotations from a document to establish a proposition in eisegesis."

    You yourself said: "So, sure, no saint accepts evolution."

    So, then, you've already acknowledged that these quotes are properly showing the teachings of these saints.
     
  16. FenderTL5

    FenderTL5 Well-Known Member

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    I believe that In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth..

    There is an inherent evolutionary record in creation. Whether that was because of a real-time elapse or that the earth was created with a back-story, I don't know.
    It is fascinating either way.
     
  17. All4Christ

    All4Christ +The Handmaid of God Laura+ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    In the interest of keeping this as a friendly discussion - and not a debate:

    * Believing in evolution won’t bar you from partaking of the Eucharist
    * I do not know of any saints that promote evolution, though I do know of many that denied it or wrote against evolution.
    * Some modern Orthodox theologians do promote a form of theistic evolution
    * Some others promote OEC (which I find easier than evolution to synthesize with our theology from my limited understanding)
    * Some modern Orthodox theologians are against evolution.
    * Orthodox theologians that support YEC do not use science to prove it - but teach that it is supernatural.
    * All Orthodox believers should believe all of creation - whether over time or in 7 literal days - was ultimately done through God’s Hand.
    * The more traditional Orthodox POV is to support a literal creation, fall, etc.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  18. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    here we go again.

    yes, no saint since Darwin has accepted evolution, which is why I reject it. however, I would never refuse anyone at the Chalice either who does.
     
  19. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    Yes, I would agree that the short of this is that both are legitimate theological opinions which are accepted in Orthodoxy and anybody who tries to deny that the other side is Orthodox is wrong and doing a grave disservice to the Church.
     
  20. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    Yes, perhaps the thread can be closed as "answered".
     
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