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