Re: Is there an official view on the Evolution Theory?
- Dear Mathew,
I thank you for reading my post and for sharing your views with us.
To be quite frank (and blunt), I consider genesis as a creation myth. The obvious discrepancies and the rather unscientific scenarios reaffirm my belief that it is primarily a creation myth. IMO it was contrived as an explanation to the questions that the people had about their origins.
You might be aware of the intelligent design movement. They aim to spread creationist doctrine and discredit the theory of evolution. They try to present creationism in a grab of science. I have participated in their meetings and read their literature. It didn't impress me as anything scientific at all. The overlook even the basic tenets of scientific approach. I find it to be dichotomous mix of bad religion and even worse science.
Now, you have made an observation, "The problem is the, 'theory of natural selection', 'survival of the fittest' etc. Any suggestion that the Universe, and creation and life itself, just accidently came into existence just by happen stance and by natural selection, with no divine intervention is problematic and cannot be accepted by the Syriac Orthodox Church".
The theory of evolution doesn't state life accidently came into existence. It also doesn't say that a divine intervention didn't happen. The theory is of evolution not about the creation of life. It neither rejects nor accepts the existence of a divine being.
Simply put all that the evolutionary theory state is that all species probably evolved from a single form of life. Over time, the basic life form evolved and branched out into other species.
Most criticism on evolution theory stems from partial knowledge and ignorance. Evolution doesn't teach man is descended from apes. But many critics of evolution presume so and attack it. Bible is not a book of science. It deals with man's relationship with god and aids in his spiritual development.
If one takes Bible to be infallible then there will be a problem; whether to believe in genesis or evolution. Our Church, unlike the Catholic Church and some evangelical churches, do not believe in the infallibility of Bible. There is no problem for our Church to go ahead and embrace evolution as a scientific fact. Even if the Church doesn't embrace it, it shouldn't be rejected without at least studying it.
Our Church has maintained a silence on topics like evolution, stem-cell research, gene therapy, etc. Sometimes it is good to be silent. But when silence cause confusion and misunderstanding it is better to speak out.
I hope at least someone in the higher echelons takes notice of this issue. It would indeed be nice to know that litigation isn't their only field of interest.
Zach George Arapura
P.S. Even if there is no official explanation by the SOC, could the moderators find out the official view of other Oriental Orthodox Churches.
- Dear members,
Is there an official view on the Evolution Theory? My humble view on this is same as that I wrote in reply on the topic "Fate of the soul after death prior to the last judgement?" There are many things in the universe that are beyond our comprehension.
Only in the recent past, one of our famous poets wrote:: Anantham, Ajnjanam, Avarnaneeyam, Eee Loka Golam chalikkunna margam, Athingalengand oridathirunnu chrikkunna marthyan kathayentharinju”
Infinite, unknown and beyond explanation are many of the mysteries and ways of of the Universe; How trifle little of it is known to the puny humans toddling about at some place, somewhere in it. The infinite nature of Universe, its beginning, its age, wonderful creations, and the marvels of its functioning, the uniqueness of our planet in a virtually infinite space etc., always remain as mysteries and beyond the comprehension of mankind.
The earliest known human civilization according to our scriptures is that of 7500 B.C i.e. just less than ten thousand years behind us. This is a very small period when compared to the infinite period of existence of whole Universe.
Nevertheless, the Human beings at every stage of their evolution had strong conviction about what they believed at that point time. At every point of civilization, they tried to interpret their experiences with explanations as known to mankind at that point of time. They also believed and experienced existence of some power of a higher and supreme nature and gave different shapes and meanings for the concept.
A few thousands years ago, it was thought that Earth was flat and the sky seen above was the upper limit and there are different Gods sitting above it and some place like hell is there somewhere down below. Later it turned out that that those beliefs were wrong, but when Galileo told that earth is round, just few centuries ago, no one cared to believe him then.
According to Jewish scriptures, The great flood happens in Noah's period in 23rd Century B.C, Abraham lived around 4000 B.C. Exodus led by Moses was in 14th Century B.C. Starting from Adam & Eve, many different civilizations existed before, in between and along with these period. When we look at the history of Jews, it was only few thousands of years ago, they started calling God as ‘Jehovah the God and our Lord’ (may His name be exalted), visualized and defined, the creation of everything in this planet and around it, according to their perceptions and convictions.
The few enlightened ones among them conveyed these experiences at different times in human history in a way to make it understandable to the laymen and primitive nomads amongst. A part of it we have in the Old Testament in the Holy Bible as a book mixing the profound wisdom and experiences of sages through many bygone centuries. These were passed down to later religions which converted these into their scriptures and liturgy.
As these scriptures were written later according to their level of knowledge at that point of time, on assumptions of happenings of period of non-existence of human kind well before them, the scriptures in its literal form may not seem to be convincing, to at least for a few now.
What shall be done about this? Attempt to discredit what is in the scriptures shall neither be our objective nor our intention. While honoring the scriptures fully, it is not unfair to look beyond its literal meaning where there are doubts, to better understand, by mixing these perceptions with modern knowledge and better leave it that way to next generation.
SOCM # 3321
- "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Mark 12:17
I feel our church has taken a very wise decision of not getting involved in the evolution discussion. While church members can accept or reject scientific theories, church should only deal in matters of faith, not science. Nobody believes in science. Either you accept a scientific finding or you reject it. Science arrives at a conclusion based on evidence and church arrives at a conclusion based on faith. These two human endeavors are not compatible.
I also feel we should be aware of what the modern theory of evolution says and what it does not. Theory of evolution does NOT deal with the origin of life, it only tries to answer the question of the existence of the diversity of life on earth. Darwin's ground breaking theory dealt with 'origin of species' NOT 'origin of life'. Another point is that the fitness of an organism is not the physical strength of the organism. An organism is 'fit', if it is able to successfully pass on its genes to the next generation in a given environment. During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, if you were a healthy young guy, you were actually un-fit.
In order to figure out the intriguing answer to the diversity of life on earth Darwin employed the scientific method. And this is the only arsenal that a scientist uses to find answers. Science uses the same method to find a medicine to reduce cholesterol, to find the movements of planets, etc. etc.
Religion or church on the other hand does not rely on observation or evidence. As some one has pointed out earlier in this forum, we do not test the Qurbana appam in a laboratory to see if it is really the flesh of Christ. We believe it is the flesh of Christ, because our forefathers said so. No evidence needed. This is not to say religion is inferior or not needed for humans. Faith is essential to human existence. The only point is that faith is not based on evidence. We employ faith to take a decision when evidence is not available. Another important differentiation is that science keeps on improving its theories based on new evidences and new understandings of evidences. This is some thing which religion does not and should not do. 2000 years backs people believed that Christ is the Son of God. That belief remains the same and that's how it should be.
--- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Zach George Arapura wrote:
> It was my belief that our Church always maintained a prudent silence over topics like Evolution Theory. Hence, you can imagine my surprise when I came upon an article in a mainstream Church publication where a priest categorically stated that the Church does not accept the theory of evolution.
- Dear Zach George,
Greetings. As a physician and a full deacon I must find your conclusion that the Genesis account is a mere creation myth a bit odd. I say this with respect, as you haven't called any matter touching the Nicene Creed a myth. But I am wondering why - if the creation story is myth, then what of the resurrection, or the Virgin birth, or the Trinity? All these are perhaps even more mysterious.
See the problem is that we think as human beings we know a great deal. It is true that the ascertaining of knowledge has exponentially accelerated since the Renaissance. However, I humbly submit that all the knowledge we have would merely fit the head of a pin when compared to the depth and breadth of the Universe. Much less the Living God. Recent evidence that "dark matter" makes up most of the universe serves to make my point - don't think that what one observes now or what is today's "cutting edge" is even close to the full truth.
I want to challenge your assumptions. Many notable biologists and physicists fully endorse the creation account found in Genesis. They are not young Earth theologians. Along with them, I believe that the heavens declare the glory of God, and serve as a increasingly audible testament to our Creator's handiwork. No fuzzy stories here.
Please visit the comprehensive website www.reasons.org for solid Bible/hard science based answers to the points brought up in this thread. www.malankaraworld.com also has many good articles. When you leave English/Malayalam behind and study the text in Hebrew/Aramaic you find a stunning harmony between the events described in Genesis and our best scientific knowledge.
As I am sure you are aware, classical (Darwinian) evolutionary theory was discarded long ago. Genetics, punctuated equilibrium (very problematic version), etc are in vogue. Very few people deny that evolution occurs. It is evident. But did Man come from an ape's common ancestor? The Bible calls the creation of man a special event, where God takes His "hands" and forms us from the same stuff as everything else which He spoke into existence (over millions/billions of years). Could this somehow be consistent with "emerging from the trees." Perhaps. But note that after mankind there is not a single documented event of speciation (outside the microscopic world). Perhaps God really did rest after the 6th day!
Of course, I do not endorse the Bible as a detailed science textbook - that's not its purpose. But when the Bible touches on matters that intersect with science the Biblical account is credible and reliable. It's Author is infallible - it's translators, scribes, and keepers (the Church) unfortunately are very much fallible. Yet the Church holds that the text is inspired and therefore authoritative.
More importantly, I am sure you would agree that the Scriptures relate the love of Jesus Christ and His Apostles/disciples for mankind making the story of salvation history's central thesis. What comfort to know of God's love.
Sincerely in Christ,
Dn Zach Varghese
--- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Zach George Arapura wrote:
> Dear Mathew,
> I thank you for reading my post and for sharing your views with us.
> To be quite frank (and blunt), I consider genesis as a creation myth. The obvious discrepancies and the rather unscientific scenarios reaffirm my belief that it is primarily a creation myth. IMO it was contrived as an explanation to the questions that the people had about their origins.
- Reverend Deacon Zach Varghese,
I thank you for going through the posts on this topic and for spending you valuable time furthering this discussion.
After reading your post I found that while you seem agree with Evolution (?), you doubt whether apes and humans have a common ancestor. Also you found my opinion on Genesis to be an oddity and wondered why I haven't called the Nicene Creed a myth.
Through this post I will endeavour to explain my reasons for believing what I believe.
The Nicene Creed is set of dogmatic religious beliefs that are fundamental to an Orthodox Christian. As a dogma the members of the Church are expected to accept the Nicene Creed without argument. If I am an atheist or an agnostic I would have no qualms in doubting the scientific veracity of the Nicene Creed. As I am an Orthodox Christian, and an ordinary one at that, I don't intend to do so.
Now, one may ask, why do I doubt the genesis account of creation and isn't that unbecoming of an orthodox Christian. I would answer with a negative on both counts. I don't believe that a blind belief in genesis is a pre requisite for being a Christian, Orthodox or otherwise. If belief in the infallible nature of Bible was so important for being an Orthodox Christian, then I am sure that it would have found its way in the Nicene Creed.
Of course one is free to believe anything he/she wants to. One can believe that Earth is 10000 year old or that Earth is flat; in fact there is a prominent society called Flat Earth Society for such people. One is even free to believe that Earth is the centre of the universe. Anyone can believe in anything, but that doesn't mean that the belief must be acknowledged as a fact.
A myth is a story from ancient times, especially one that was told to explain natural events or to describe the early history of a people. You concluded that [quote] the Church holds that the text is inspired and therefore authoritative [unquote].
IMHO an understanding of the context of the scriptures is very important. The Hebrew scripture was written well before the fundamental ideas of Science and its processes were fully developed. They had a primitive understanding of the world they lived in and were inclined to explain the various natural phenomena in this light. These stories were not borne from facts but from the inspiration of faith and perceived truth.
So, facts or science has little or no relevance, in Bible. IMHO the fundamental aim of Genesis is to teach the people about their relationship with god and to convince them that it is indeed God who created the entire universe. Stories were introduced to illustrate this point. These stories were in no way exclusive to the Judean community. Other cultures throughout the world also had their own. In fact the Egyptian and Babylonian creation stories are very similar to the one mentioned in Genesis. Some opine that the Babylonian creation story predate the Judean one. Either way, one can't deny the cross cultural influence that led to the development/transference of these stories. If you say the Babylonian creation story is a myth then Judean version is certainly a myth. And I am not alone in thinking so, St. Jerome once remarked that in his opinion the author of genesis described genesis mythically after the manner of a popular poet�.
You said you wanted to challenge my assumptions. Fair enough. But I don't recall having ever stating my assumptions on record. It is still unclear to me that which of my assumptions� was being challenged. Nevertheless I submit my rejoinder as I don't think you would use rhetoric.
I will be very much pleased if you could provide me the names of those notable biologists and physicists, who as you said, fully endorse the creation account found in Genesis. I, due to my limited reading, have not found credible scientists who support that view in a professional capacity. They may have some private beliefs but I dont think that they have expressed it in a peer reviewed academic forum.
I thank you for mentioning reasons.org but I prefer to get my scientific facts first hand from a peer reviewed science journal or at the very least a news agency of some repute.
Being uneducated in Aramaic or Hebrew I am at a handicap to see the harmony� you mentioned. Perhaps you could indulge me by explaining what that harmony� is or at least point where to look. I would very much appreciate if you could give me a direct link to an article available online.
Now, I don't want to challenge� your assumptions. But I would like to respectfully note my difference.
[Quote] Did Man come from an ape's common ancestor? [Unquote]
I may be mistaken but it seems to me that you are implying that man and ape do not share a common ancestor. Scientifically speaking, all of us are evolved from a single life form. Even if it is not so, is there some undesirability in sharing a common ancestor. It seems that any association with primates is deemed undesirable by some, especially creationists. Why is it so, aren’t they a part of God’s creation.
[Quote] But note that after mankind there is not a single documented event of speciation (outside the microscopic world). [Unquote]
That is simply not the case there are recorded evidences of speciation happening even now.
Please refer the following links for more information
And, isn't microscopic speciation a qualified form. They also have life. The fact that they are not visible to the naked eye doesn’t make them any less significant
Your nuanced position on Bible as a science textbook interests me. You pointed out that [Quote] when the Bible touches on matters that intersect with science the Biblical account is credible and reliable [unquote].
I completely disagree with you on this point. The numerous scientific errors of the most fundamental kind influences in my decision to not use it as a superseding authority on scientific matters. I am not listing out the various errors for fear of lengthening this already lengthy post. But I am sure you don’t need my assistance for that.
St Augustine, though he is a literalist, in a similar context opined [Quote] 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 the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold 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 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. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? 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 those 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. [1 Timothy 1.7] [Unquote]
I hope I have made my reasons clear.
Zach George Arapura
Partial list of References
Stewart, M Y(Ed.) (2010).Science and religion in dialogue .Blackwell Publishing.
Dr.Kuriakose Corepiscopa, Dn.Dr.Nalunnakal,G M.(2001).Sathya Vishwasa Padanangal.Mor Adai Study Center.
Taylor, J H (1982).Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 41.Newman Press.
- Dear Mr. Zach George,
Greetings once again. I will offer a few postulates and then proceed to criticize your post in a neighborly way. I hope you do not think that I am questioning your faith - I am sure you are more than an "ordinary" Orthodox Christian, as no such species exists. I welcome all faith building criticism.
1. The totality of (Old Testament) Scripture is the Word of God. Why? - because Jesus believed it to be such. There is no blind faith here except in Jesus (Velivinu reesho...By Thy Light we see the Light Jesus, full of Light...). Anyone can accept Him or reject Him. Jesus (as an Orthodox Jew) believed in the Genesis "story" and the rest of the Scripture He had. We do not know more than He did about the meaning of the subject matter. Different portions of the Bible vary in exegetical purpose - for example one refrains from doctrinal pronouncements based upon Proverbs as the intent is to provide rules of thumb and general wisdom. The intent of Genesis is clear in that it seeks to firmly establish origin, provenance, and God's interaction with man before and after the patriarch of the Jewish race appears.
2. The Bible never has been a collection of literal documents. Israel & the Church are its primary interpreters. What is written in the original language is 100% "true" as it is inspired by God, for God is by definition true & truth. We must take into account humanity's finite understanding concerning both science and Scripture in the context of time. We do not exclude "credible evidence" from non scriptural sources at any level."The full truth" is not truth if it is plagued by inconsistency between various facets or credible sources. What the truth derived from Scripture means in today's custom is at times up for debate. Yet, God is not the author of confusion. At the end of the day there is right and wrong. Faith (not myth) is our place holder in time until science/biblical scholarship catches up.
3. Biblical stories should match with the the moving target of science at some point, otherwise one or the other should be discarded if we believe in a generally rational God and a rational universe. So, one may propose that Bible stories are factually inaccurate but "mythologically relevant" as a sop to upsetting human faith. But may we also realize that imperfect human knowledge, evidence gathering, hermeneutic use, or simple lack of intelligence may lead to a "modern mythology" dressed in scientific lingo? Case in point - original Darwinian evolution theory has a strong mythological component - a seeker rejects his father, goes on a voyage, finds a pristine island, becomes illuminated, preaches "good news" about the origin of species, changes his world and human history - this could be written by Homer. Darwin's original treatise has been discarded as science but accepted as a "forebear and figurehead." But in the imagination of the general public "Darwinism" should be taught in schools!
4. A wide variety of interpretations exist concerning creation influenced by Genesis, contemporaneous stories like the Gilgamesh epic, etc. The Orthodox Church has never dogmatically imposed a particular creation model upon us. Therefore young earth creation "mythology," primarily promoted out of "sola [translated] scriptura" circles, is only one of many interpretations. But to my knowledge the Syriac Orthodox Fathers never invented the term "myth" to describe the text. The sequence of events is never "mere poetry." For them, these certainly were stories that explained man's relation to God, but they were also taken as historically accurate in a real but not necessarily strictly literal package. For example - there were several interpretations about what the term "day" means. There was no doubt however that humanity was created by the hand of God or that creation occurred in defined stages. It is only in the modern era that we academically apply the term myth - but the application is based on woefully incomplete, ever changing knowledge! I am happy to report that as time marches on science gets closer to the truths expressed in the Scripture.
5. Many churches have teachers who don't take many Biblical stories at face value, interpreting the text beyond recognition to Moses or the original author. One must realize that many of the details of these interpretations arose out of cutting edge scholarship from the 1700-1800s and have continued along the same trajectory without critical re-appraisal. We should not sit on our laurels while biblical interpretation is held hostage to the state of the art circa well over one hundred years ago.
I will respond more fully in a short time if desired - for now:
If you specifically state "inaccuracies" in the Scripture I will endeavor to answer them. Many are readily explained. Many may be matters of faith. But there is nothing falsifiable or without modern analogy. Certainly nothing in big picture matters. Of course, one should presuppose an omnipotent God.
Your assumption is that Genesis (Scripture) is not scientifically accurate in the matters it touches upon, but has value solely in describing the human condition and our position with God. While realizing that God uses fallible human beings to convey His message, I disagree with this assumption and am prepared to back it up from the latest research on a point by point basis if you wish. Concomitantly I confess I am in very much need of more education. If Genesis is inspired, and that inspiration is the gravitas upon which we develop an understanding of our relationship to God, and the rest of Scripture presupposes an accurate account, then we find ourselves in a very precarious spiritual position if we must pick and choose what is true and what is fancy.
I have quickly read the articles you cited. None of them claim speciation has occurred in the "biblical sense." The articles more accurately describe "different races" of the same animal (perhaps) coming into existence. Mass offspring producing creatures like fruit fly populations diverging slightly (yet still remaining fruit flies and producing offspring in the lab) or butterflies preferring one color to the next cannot explain the exponential difference between ape and man even though the DNA is (reportedly) 98% the same. The articles themselves claim that speciation is a very murky subject. I am not certain why you proposed these to support your argument because they are frankly very weak.
Humanity has created more durable species of bacteria/viruses, and various species of plants (i.e. maize) & animals (many varieties of cattle, dogs, etc.) - intelligent design at its finest since God rested! A novel genetic theory recently developed proposes that humans, neanderthals, and another "race" of man interbreed-ed to produce modern humans - this is alluded to in Genesis! Read carefully! However, we are still speaking of types of man, not making jumps from distant "common ancestors." I am not adverse to the notion of the "common" as you intimate. DNA comes from the dust of the Earth. So do I. All DNA based species have the same Designer, a notion I import into scientific understanding from the Genesis account.
Again, I hope you understand, I am not saying there is no evolution, nor am I generally against modern genetics based evolutionary theory. We see evolution in the human population constantly. For example, look at US basketball players - constantly getting taller, stronger, faster. If God chose to allow species to arise or change via natural selection within the "day" framework then praise be to Him, whether it be before humans or in the "day of rest" after the creation of Man. What is in contention is the notion that science and the Biblical record disagree, and that therefore Biblical conclusions must be relegated to fanciful alternate reality theories so one may still claim belief and remain sane. Recall that the best science is often wrong a mere generation later. Note that I am note for re-interpreting scripture solely based on the latest scientific flavor.
I am not clear as to why you dismissed the website reasons.org and then proceeded to offer BBC news articles or Scientific American, which is primarily a science news magazine and not peered reviewed research. You have dismissed a valuable resource without much thought. It's not a blog. They have written logically and extensively. Point by point they go through Genesis and explain the whole text plausibly. Last I checked, the organization submitted a testable creation model based on Genesis and modern science.They propose a very old universe in Genesis. They expound upon how the Genesis story gets every major creation event it mentions correct. How therefore can the story be a mere academic myth? Anyone can question or criticize them - names and faces are all out in the open. The directors and staff hold terminal degrees in hard science. This is but one resource. Check bn.com or amazon.com for a host of books, names, etc. There are a multitude of creationist scientists out there who, while not ready to fully endorse each word in Genesis, are believers in intelligent design. Their ranks are growing.
You mention Augustine - can you state what part of Genesis or Scripture he found "unlearned?" He was describing a reasonable approach to various individuals who operated with knowledge from that era. What if that knowledge has changed? What if current scientific knowledge now leads people to God, not away? Augustine is not making a fact based argument - he is making a tactical statement. At some level so am I.
One quick & dirty example - the big bang theory is the standard model which explains creation. Before this understanding, the prevailing view was that the universe existed from eternity and would do so for eternity. The latter view is consistent with Hinduism but contradicts Christian teaching - Genesis clearly states the the universe has a beginning. Many religions propose an "infinite" universe, or an universe where man is created first. So who is correct? - based on today's standard model - Genesis is correct. Genesis however does not describe quarks, bosons, nuclear fusion, etc. So it is not a science textbook per se. It is however, a tour guide of sorts.
Much more to follow if desired. I want to stress that there is no dogmatic position on any science-related topic of which I am aware. If a "scripture as academic myth" understanding leads you to the physical Jesus Christ, who credible witnesses observed was a virgin born miracle worker who raised the dead, rose Himself, and then defied fundamental physics as He was caught up into "heaven," then may God bless you. I fear that if we accept lock, stock, and barrel the idea of "the cultural story" pervading our faith then perhaps Jesus will be seen as mythological as well? This is not the experience of the Church, who believes in a God we handle, taste, and feel - and who moves in the here & now.
When our understanding lines up with God's message our witness becomes much more effective and we may draw more followers for Jesus Christ.
Christianity is very much an experiential, rational, reality based endeavor built upon a flesh and blood Word of God through whom we may claim mystery logically while our finite body struggles with our spirit's transcendent quality. If Christ is not risen from the dead then we are among men the most miserable. If faith need not be consistent with observed reality, then this discussion is moot and likely so is our whole enterprise.
Sincerely in Christ,
Dn Zach Varghese
- While agreeing to your views on the subject, like I have mentioned in my earlier reply, there are many things in this Universe and beyond, that cannot be comprehended fully with our limited knowledge.
It is only natural that most of us in our adolescence while we start looking things logically, found it difficult to meaningfully consume conflicting ideas about various Philosophies and Faith orders.
The following is excerpts of my article “Faith and Religion' as I see how we should meld the logic with facts related Faith and worship.(See attached file)
There is an article'The Essence
of Christianity' published by me in SOCM in 3 parts. Please have a look and take what you like and discard the rest.
We have many literal explanations about God's incarnation as Son of God and Son of Man� through a virgin mother, and His ultimate sacrifice for revival of mankind, the resurrection after physical death and His ascension back to heaven. But there exist many who are skeptic about the happenings in Christ's life and his Resurrection and cast doubts on its literal explanations that we have.
As Christians, we all believe in the Resurrection of Christ, if we do not, then the existence of our religion itself becomes questionable. Here again, like weshall visualize and experience God by God's effects, not God's being, we need to experience the happening of Christ not alone by his Being but also the Effects caused by his life and death and the happenings afterwards, such as those had never occurred in this world before or after. Jesus Christ is the best thing ever happened in the history and changed the course of humanity. With his resurrection, it is factually established that Christ is the son of GOD, and a living God who lives with us and our God is not of the dead, but of the living.
None should have any difficulty in believing in life and deeds and teachings of Christ, His resurrection and ascension to eternity; as these are facts made known to the world by many who have lived with him. More than the words of his own disciples that could be construed as lies, distortion or biased, the experience of Jesus Christ in the words of St. Paul a prominent Jew, a scholar and a Roman citizen who had earlier been in fact an enemy and persecutor of Jesus Christ's
followers, corroborating the history, are unquestionable.
More importantly, because of the above facts, the happenings of Jesus Christ is a truth that cannot be challenged, His teachings about essence of God, relation between man and God, and matters pertained to reason and purpose of earthly life of mankind, the death and what happens after death and what one should do to attain salvation etc., are facts that are the basis of humanity as a whole, make us arrive at the conclusion that though many things in out faith order according to our knowledge in this material world my not appear to be logical to us, we should believe the way Christ taught the world, passed on to our fore fathers and so we bound to live according to it and faithfully pass it on to the next generation.
P. Abraham Paul
SOCM # 3321
- Reverend Deacon Zach Varghese,
I sincerely thank you for reading my response and for spending your time to respond with a detailed rejoinder. I also appreciate your willingness to further clarify your reasons.
However, I must insist I am an ordinary� Syrian Orthodox Christian as opposed to the special/distinguished variety. I am neither theologically trained nor decorated. I am simply a student in the classical sense :-)
You have stated 5 postulates in your post that you accept as truth. Now, I will not attempt testing those. But I hope you don't mind me commenting on them.
1. You postulate, as Yeshua, an orthodox Jew, had believed in the scriptures as whole, we must also believe them in its entirety. You mentioned that if we do not accept Genesis in its entirety, find ourselves in a very precarious spiritual position if we must pick and choose what is true and what is fancy”. But as a matter of fact we do just that. We don’t give the same amount of importance to different parts of the scripture. The Christians do not abide by the brit milah (literally, Covenant of Circumcision). They justify it by saying that it is Old Testament law and hence not applicable to Christians. But the same Christian considers the Ten Commandments given to Jews of Old Testament are binding. The Mosaic Law permits divorce, but the advice given by Yeshua is quite different. Bible is culturally conditioned. IMHO the cultural influences can't be negated while interpreting Bible. There is a prominent view in academic circles that Genesis 1 was dependent on the Babylonian accounts not vice versa. A myth is a story from ancient times, especially one that was told to explain natural events or to describe the early history of a people. IMHO the fundamental aim of Genesis is to teach the people about their relationship with god and to convince them that it is indeed God who created the entire universe.
2. I am not entirely averse to the notion that Bible isn't a collection of literal documents. But, I am sure you will also agree that, that cannot be said of whole scripture. Certain core principles of orthodoxy have been developed by literally interpreting the text. By original language�, I suppose you mean Hebrew. And I presume in your opinion the Hebrew text is correspondingly more accurate than the other versions. From your previous posts I infer that you believe that the original Hebrew words can be manipulated in such a way that the all the relevant scientific theorems are seemingly in agreement with genesis and all the perceived unscientific� details are non-existent. Being uneducated in Hebrew I really can't comment on the veracity of your assumption. But If Bible is a “tour guide of sorts (of Science)�, then I do have some minor observations to make.
Why these similarities are mostly noticed only after the respective scientific discovery is made? Why isn't that the scientific discoveries are not made in the wake of Bible or any religious text for that matter? Is religion now seeking a scientific� tag?
3. As you are aware, Science is not static. And no one would claim infallibility for science, nor would anyone give it monopoly over the understanding of reality and knowledge .So, if the scientific theorems change, does that mean the explanations given by creationists like Hugh Ross would also have to change accordingly? And if Bible really did contain scientific hypotheses like big bang theory, evolution, etc. then why aren't they more apparent that one has to use rhetoric devices to expound them? And if the problem is with the translation, then why did Jews, the original recipients of scriptures, think that they lived in a geocentric system?
Coming to the topic of rationality, how can we impose our notion of rationality upon the creator? Our notion of rationality is conditioned by various epistemological factors borne from our perceptions of reality.
Are you completely sure when the general public use the word Darwinism�, they don't mean it in the general sense, as in the theory of evolution and not the actual meaning?
4. So what exactly are Patristic teachings on Genesis? I've read that while some people went for allegorical interpretation others stuck on to literal view. Did they ever try to harmonize the science of that day into Genesis? Even Augustine's argument is tactical as you say, would it lose its significance? I haven't found any Syrian Orthodox theologians commenting on creationism; perhaps you can help me in this regard. All I could find was what late PMG thirumeni once said Let me state quite clearly that my difficulties with the two prevailing theories of the origin of the universe do not persuade me to espouse the other third position, namely Creationism, which I do not regard either as scientific or as based on justified biblical interpretation. Creationism cannot stand as a scientific theory to explain the origin of the species or the evolution of the planet.”
5. I don't think that you are wrong in stressing a need for critical re-appraisal�. Our Church should produce learned theologians who could do that. I am also curious to know whether any works of our church fathers were critically appraised by anyone. On the one hand we have to master the techniques of critical rationality more adequately, in order to reassess all our old perceptions and received traditions. On the other hand, we have to develop sufficient critical distance and objectivity, in order to discern the respective strengths and weaknesses, possibilities and limitations, of critical rationality itself�.
I am extremely pleased to know that you are willing to spend your time answering my question. As a start, can you tell me how evolution and big bang fit into Genesis? While I would prefer that you answer from an oriental orthodox perspective, I am open to ideas promulgated by evangelical creationists like Hugh Ross.
The reason I used BBC and Scientific American is that I believe them to hold more objectivity regarding scientific subjects than a website run by an evangelical creationist. I alluded this in my previous post (I prefer to get my scientific facts first hand from a peer reviewed science journal or at the very least a news agency of some repute.�). The other links I mentioned are from jstor.org and pnas.org; both of which are used by biologists.
When you mentioned Speciation, I thought you used it in the dictionary meaning of the word. Nevertheless I apologize for my misunderstanding. Biblically there is no speciation, at least not overtly. The links I provided categorically states that speciation do occur now and is an accepted hypothesis. So how are they weak� and murky�? They do refute your assumption, at least in the scientific sense, that after mankind there is not a single documented event of speciation (outside the microscopic world).� You are perhaps alluding to the creationist argument of microevolution when you say different races of the same animal”. Biologists don't see much difference between macroevolution and microevolution; the only difference is time and scale. We see many races; Asian, African, European, etc. but scientifically they are of same subspecies i.e., H. sapiens sapiens. We don't see another kind� because of the long-time that a species take to evolve. The earliest primate appeared 65 million years ago. In fact modern human is a subspecies of a species H. sapien. H. neanderthalensis and H.erectus are other H species. Just because they died out doesn't negate the fact that they existed.
Your also stated cannot explain the exponential difference between ape and man�. This is simply not true. Even between very different races of population we have very small differences in the genome; a change of a letter in the genome code. So 2% is a big difference in genetics. Also include the millions of years that H.sapien sapien took to evolve from the common ancestor.
You also said “Last I checked, the organization submitted a testable creation model based on Genesis and modern science. They propose a very old universe in Genesis. They expound upon how the Genesis story gets every major creation event it mentions correct. How therefore can the story be a mere academic myth?� Your statement made me curious. I believe that one must be quite objective when it comes to science and must not be prejudiced. So despite may initial scepticism I decided to check it out.
Hugh Ross lists some reasons to believe his testable creation model
In the last part he mentions how testable� the model is. He says This ability to predict is the hallmark of any reliable theory. By contrast, Darwinian evolution, chaos theory, and six-consecutive-24-hour-creation-day creationism fail to predict and instead contradict the growing body of data� and gives a list of 20 such predictions�. Now I ask you, is any of those predictions before-the-fact?
I didn't see any. Of course if he is able to predict the answers to scientific problems of today correctly, I would readily accept his “Testable Creation Model”.
You say, Many religions propose an "infinite" universe, or a universe where man is created first. So who is correct? � Based on today's standard model - Genesis is correct. Genesis however does not describe quarks, bosons, nuclear fusion, etc. So it is not a science textbook per se. It is however, a tour guide of sorts. As other religions scriptures do not believe it, they must be incorrect.�
So, one of your criteria for a creation account for being correct� is the belief that Universe has a beginning. That logic, IMHO, is a fallacy. So according to the logic you used, all the religious scriptures which say ‘Universe has a beginning must be true. But I don't think you believe that.
Cyclic models have been proposed to supplement BBT. The Hindu views on universe and the cyclic model has some superficial similarities. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Hindu view is correct.
Furthermore, What the Big Bang theory says is that at some point all the energy in the universe (as well as time and space itself) was concentrated in a singularity, from which it expanded. It does not try to claim where that singularity came from.
I will end my post by quoting Saint Augustine from The Literal Meaning of Genesis. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures.�
Zach George Arapura
- Dear Zach George and Shamosho Zach,
Blessed are those who use this forum for spiritual discussions. I tend to look at it once or twice per year, and so I confess I haven't read through all of this discussion you're having on "evolution." With that said, I will briefly comment on some things I've observed and hope it contributes to the discussion in a positive manner.
The only evolution anyone should take with utmost serious is our personal evolution and transformation from miserable sinners, to those who share communion with God.
As for the Scriptures, they are stories intended to profit the soul in our personal growth toward being Christlike. To be Christlike is to be as God--"be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Ameen. Some stories are factual, some are not. All are truth. The word for day in the Semitic languages (including Hebrew, as is attested several times in the Hebrew Bible) means "period of time" and a "day cycle" or "daylight" is often implicit within that. With that said, it is not a matter of this matching with any current scientific theories. If it does or doesn't, who cares?
What we should care about is how the politicized media misrepresents Christianity and the Straw Man arguments it sets up against it. If people discussing scientific theories shakes someone's faith, then it is likely their faith is based on some incorrect assumptions. We read the Bible to understand the human condition and as a help toward communion with God.
As for science, keep in mind that while much of the world was bathing in ignorance, the Syriac fathers were the men of science from the early period of Christianity (and arguably, as a culture prior to the coming of Christ) up into the Medieval period. Science is our way of observing the physical world around us; it is fine to observe, to wonder, to theorize based on observations. Science measures the this transitory world which will pass; it is inadequate to measure the intransitory world, "d-lo 'ovar."
The fathers interpret Genesis in different ways. The way to understand them is to know they are harvesting for us the fruits of the Spirit from the text which will bring us toward oneness with God. This is the case for all the books of the Bible.
So continue on with the discussion and thank you for letting me butt-in and interject these important points.
N.B. See you all next year.