Resemblance to animals but affinity with God

Resemblance to animals but affinity with God

“He spoke, and it all came to be; He commanded, and it was created” (Ps. 33:9)

In the Nicene Creed we profess our faith in a triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator of everything that exists in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. God created everything from non-existence for His great glory, particularly us humans, created in His image and after His likeness, so that we get to know Him, to love Him, to be like Him in Christ by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and live eternally with Him. God will fulfill His plan: “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou dist create all things, and by Thy will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

So, who created the world, why did He create it, what was the purpose of creation – these are the foundational questions of our Faith. The object of science is to primarily address questions like “how” and “when.” The two ways are not opposite to each other. They are only if we view the Bible as a scientific book. Then we should accept the earth to be flat and its age about 6,000 years old against the scientific evidence. Such a view would make a believer out of touch with reality, and give a bad name to our Faith. Accepting evolution as the way God created the world is not against anything we believe in. Evolution is not irreconcilable with the Orthodox Christian Faith.

To all the naysayers, read the Mini Study, “Faith & Science” in The Heavenly Banquet. My ultimate position on this subject was given in my brief reply to a comment by John Howard (12-13-19):

“I accept what science accepts. If scientists will no longer support the theory of evolution I will be with them. My faith is in Jesus Christ and His holy Church, not in evolution.”

Read as well the following views, which should shed some light on the subject. “And the peace of God that transcends all understanding” be with you.

Two camps: “Compatibilists” and “Incompatibilists”1

Orthodox Wiki defines Evolution as follows:

“Evolution is the popular name for a set of scientific theories which aim to explain the apparent similarity of different species and the appearance of complex species later in the fossil record. In short, evolution means that all life on earth shares a common ancestry which can traced back to a single species. Orthodox Christians have divergent views on how to react to this development in science.”

The site contains a list of the Fathers of the Church who commented on creation, books and articles that treat the subject, and a long list of authors divided into Compatibilists and Incompatibilists.

“Compatibilists hold that science and theology are compatible and view them as complementary revelations of God. As God is the source of both his specific revelation of himself in the Christian faith and the source of the general revelation of himself in nature, the findings of science and theology cannot really contradict; the contradictions must be merely apparent and a resolution possible which is faithful to the truth of God's revelation.

Incompatibilists hold that science can be incompatible with faith. They usually argue either that science is philosophically based on a kind of naturalism or that God's specific revelation is infallible and therefore trumps the findings of human reason in the case of any conflict between them. This is often based on a suspicion of human reason to arrive at reliable conclusions in the first place.

The development of modern science dates to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so no ecumenical council has ever addressed how to integrate it with divine revelation in a coherent and consistent worldview.”

Views of theologians and scientists about evolution

Aris Patrinos, Ph.D.

Aris Patrinos, Ph.D.2

“I see no contrast between faith in evolution and faith in God. Personally, I believe in evolution and I cannot understand those who find this conviction of mine contrary with faith in God. In final analysis, who are we to decide that God, in His omnipotence, did not arrange for life to begin and evolve exactly as it evolved, that he did not ordain the universe to have the form it has?”

Archimandrite Fr. Ioannis Kostof3

“It can never be demonstrated that evolution has taken place ... Even the proof—which certainly has not, or is not to be, achieved—of the theory of evolution does not necessarily mean that there is no God. For the simple reason that God could very well bring into existence the whole biosphere through the evolutionary process.”

Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas)4

“The fact that man has no body but is a body indicates that without the natural environment man ceases to exist. Human truth is inextricably linked to the rest of material creation. This truth is founded on the fact that man was created by God at the end of Creation and after the creation of the material world and the whole animal kingdom preceded it ... This indicates human dependence on all previous creation and especially on the animal kingdom. The theory of evolution, and here I am perhaps sensitizing, presents no problem for theology in this respect. On the contrary, it is welcomed in that it proves that man is inextricably bound up with the rest of material creation and that the intelligence for which he boasts so much and in which he subjugates and exploits material creation is not merely an individual characteristic of man, but only a difference of degree not of species of the animals, as Darwin observed. The theory of evolution in its serious rather than in its ridiculous version, originating from the monkey, etc., refers not to who but to how the world was created. And only the confusion of these two questions, as is the case with a fundamentalist approach to the scripture, can pose a threat to Christian faith. A careful study of Basil's discourses in the ‘Six Days of Creation’ convinces someone about the evolutionary creation of species. Theology and biology have no reason to oppose each other on this subject.”

Metropolitan of Mesogaia & Lavreotike NIKOLAOS

Metropolitan of Mesogaia & Lavreotike NIKOLAOS5

BHMA: “‘The Biologists are Darwinists. Is Darwinism compatible with religion?'

MN: ‘Allow me to ask: where is it incompatible? In describing the creation of man in the book of Genesis?'

BHMA: ‘Let us say [yes]...

MN: ‘Genesis is not a book of Physics or Biology. The description of man's creation in the Biblical texts is very brief. Just two verses in the first chapter and maybe one in the second. This is it! And the substance is not hidden in the ‘dust from the ground,’ which also applies to animals. The important thing that does not exist in animals is that he ‘breathed life into man’ and ‘made him in the image and likeness of God’. Beyond that what is the problem? Is it because of the similarity existing between the human body and that of the primordial mammals? This is obvious! Man has a resemblance to animals but an affinity with God. He resembles animals in his perishable element and in his worldly image and is related to God in his prosopon, that is, in his eternal and incorruptible image. And the significant one is the second!'”

Translations of Greek quotations by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis.
  1. https://orthodoxwiki.org/Evolution
  2. Aristides (Ari) Patrinos, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and Director for Research Novim Group. “An expert in synthetic biology, and a former Director of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the U.S. Department of Energy, where he worked on the Human Genome Project.” (Greek text from Wikipedia, http://www.ecclesia.gr/greek/pronaos/pronaos_124.html.)
  3. Archimandrite and Physicist Fr. Ioannis Kostof does not accept the theory of evolution. (Excerpt from his book, Faith and Logic, p. 293).
  4. Speech by the Metropolitan given at an Orthodox scientific convention.* (http://www.oodegr.com/oode/genesis/zizioulas1.htm)
  5. His Eminence was a researcher at ΜΙΤ, Harvard and NASA. This is a segment from an interview he gave to the Greek magazine “ΒΗΜΑSCIENCE, 24-12-06.

5 thoughts on “Resemblance to animals but affinity with God”

  1. Father, bless!

    Of course Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas thinks the orthodox understanding of Creation is compatible with evolutionism. After all, he also thinks Orthodoxy is compatible with heresy, being one of the leading theorists and activists of ecumenism. Also, his book that touches on the subject of Creation, which I vaguely remember, can hardly be called Orthodox. He is not the type of Orthodox person who is Orthodox in everything but one or two little things, his whole thinking is distorted.

    • Dear Anna,

      Surely I’m not a fan of Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas, but I stand behind this argument of his. Even heretics can occasionally tell the truth.

      Yours is a classic argument ad hominem. You didn’t rebut his position, but attacked him for his other, erroneous beliefs. You shouldn’t address a subject with preconceived notions. There are serious problems with his Triadology and ecclesiology, but his Christology is on the mark – most of the time. You need to read him carefully, as the Fathers did with Origen.

      I invite you to read from his Christian Dogmatics Section E. “On Creation, Salvation, Christology and Ecclesiology,” 3. “Existential consequences of the dogma on Creation,” in Notes from his lectures (1984-85), “Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries,” Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, England. It’s online: http://oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/E3.htm#10. Then tell me where he is wrong.

  2. It was certainly not my intention to attack his eminence ad hominem.

    His conception on Creation is fleshed out in this book:

    E Ktise os eucharistia (Athens: Akritas, 1992). ISBN 978-9607006981. This would be rendered in English as Creation as Eucharist.

    Source:
    https://en.orthodoxwiki.org/John_(Zizioulas)_of_Pergamon

    Of course, I read a long time ago the Romanian translation, published in Bucharest in 1999. (The date is from the Romanian version of the same OrthodoxWiki article, since the book itself is somewhere in my parents’ home.)

  3. About the text you link:

    The first part of the text, as much as I can tell, seems alright. However, is this really a summary of everything the Church teaches abut Creation?

    The second part seems to be a collection of the author’s personal speculations following contact with some aspects of science and art. They don’t really belong there, in a lecture about the dogmas of the Orthodox Church. Or they could have been presented in a separate section. Anyway, when one is not qualified in a field of expertise, it is good practice to ask first some people who are. In this case, of the experts should also be Orthodox Christians who have a solid understanding of their faith, in theory (theology) and practice. But most of all, it is good practice to make a clear distinction between Church doctrine, sealed by the ecumenical councils or, at least, by the consensus of the Church Fathers, and one’s personal speculative thoughts, based on reading this or that book from this or that field in sciences and arts.

  4. This should have been: “In this case, of Orthodox dogmatics, the experts…”

    Also, in the previous paragraph, “teaches about Creation”.

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