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Creation, Part VI: Conclusion

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Written by Basil on 02/28/2005 6:18 PM. Filed under:

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Note: This series of articles has been compiled into a single article entitled “On the Dogma of Creation.” These articles remain in place for the sake of the conversations that occurred in the comments.

Part I in this series
Part II in this series
Part III in this series
Part IV in this series
Part V in this series

Many students, raised in Orthodox Christian homes, attend universities and colleges that are outright hostile to their faith. They are told, on one side, that all they have been taught is irrelevant and outmoded. On the other, they are told that everything they are learning in the university is lies and treachery, completely antithetical to the Orthodox faith. Faced with this dilemma, many choose to reject their faith, or at least compartmentalize it.

Throughout this series, I have shown that science and Christian faith are complementary modes of looking at the created order. Though they appear sometimes to conflict, the conflict is only apparent. I have demonstrated that the scriptural creation stories were never intended to be interpreted literally. Their genre is that of myth — premodern stories that express deep, mysterious truths in a way that transcends the modern preoccupation with factuality and historicity.

I described my own journey away from fundamentalism in the matter of science and faith. I found that scientists are quite uniform in accepting the scientific account of our origins, even when they believe that God created all things and created man in his image. I found that the scientific account of our origins derives not from a metaphysical atheism but from a methodological naturalism, as does all science. It is all of a piece; the method of science, when applied consistently, leads directly to the findings of gradualism and interrelation. When applied inconsistently, the entire system becomes incoherent.

I found that objectors either fundamentally misunderstand science as a field of inquiry, or they base their critique on an overly literal interpretation of scripture. In fact, there are a few objections that seem to fall between the two; further inspection usually finds that their fundamental mistakes can be reduced to one or the other.

Finally, I examined the views of one Church father, St. Maximus, whose understanding of creation was decidedly non-literal, and I showed how his understanding of passibility helped us to understand how death and corruption could predate man chronologically, yet be the result of our sin.

All I have attempted to do here is show that it is possible to be modern, reasonable people and still be traditional, Orthodox Christians. The dilemma posed at the top of this article, between being Orthodox and being educated, reasonable people, is false.

You don’t have to agree with science, but it is not a buffet where the layman can take what he wants and leave the rest. Moreover, I would certainly never propose that the science of any generation is necessary to their salvation — whether it be the first century, the fourth, the sixteenth, the nineteenth or the twentieth. You may choose to reject modern science and believe instead in the four elements — earth, wind, fire, and water. (Personally, I think you would be silly to do that, but you are free to do so without fearing for your salvation.)

It is when you dogmatically proclaim your disapproval to be determinative and binding for all Orthodox Christians that you and I will come to rhetorical blows. Your false dichotomy, believed by too many of the loudest voices in the Church, is costing children their souls.

I won’t have it.

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2 Responses to “Creation, Part VI: Conclusion”

  1. Erich Says:

    “They are told, on one side, that all they have been taught is irrelevant and outmoded. On the other, they are told that everything they are learning in the university is lies and treachery, completely antithetical to the Orthodox faith.”

    I think you may be overstating this dichotomy. I have seldom heard anyone say that everything in the university is lies and treachery, but rather that much of it comes from a perspective that is antithetical to the Church. I would tend to agree with this position, because it addresses the presuppositions of the people teaching science rather than the inherent worth of science. Often, in the university, people are taught from the perspective of worldviews that are inherently antithetical to Christianity. Science itself is not the problem, but the reduction of everything to science is the problem, and it cuts both ways — fundamentalists and atheists.

  2. Basil Says:

    Erich, this is exactly why an institution that teaches students to think on the level of worldview and presupposition is needed. Perhaps my rhetorical rapier cuts a little too close to home; for that, I apologize. As I said, the dichotomy is false. I hope I did not create a straw man of the false dichotomy.