Monday, September 18, 2017

The Creation of the World: The Crossroads Between Theology and Science (2 of 5)


...continued from part one.

As regards the origins of the universe, the scientific community traditionally believed in its eternal existence. Going as far back as Ancient Greek thought, the prevailing scientific concept was that the universe always existed and would continue to do so. Everything changed when Albert Einstein introduced his General Theory of Relativity (1915, 1917), and especially when the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann (1888-1925) solved its field equations, in 1922, with results which indicated an expanding universe[4].

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Creation of the World: The Crossroads Between Theology and Science (1 of 5)


By Petros Panayiotopoulos

The matter of the beginning of the world is one which traditionally has belonged to those great issues which have engaged our minds. How was the world created? What existed before that which we see? What was it that brought it all into existence? This is what inquiring minds wonder in any culture and at any time. These are questions which are baffling, so much so that we may prefer to avoid them altogether, not to trouble our minds with them, since they seem to have little relevance to reality, in which case neglecting them is not particularly difficult.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Genesis 3 and the Origin of the Term "Fall"

The Exile of Adam and Eve

By John Sanidopoulos

In the book The Story of Original Sin by John Toews (2013), we read:

'The interpretation of Genesis 3 as a "fall" reflects a much later Christian understanding which has been read back into the text; the term “the fall” was first used with certainty to describe the sin of Adam by the Greek church father Methodius of Olympus, late third or early fourth century (d. 311), as a reaction to Origen’s teaching of a pre-natal fall in the transcendent world. In other words, a "fall" theology about the interpretation of Genesis 3 begins to develope about six to eight centuries after the probable writing of the original Genesis 3 story in a totally different setting and for a totally different purpose (many more centuries later if Genesis 3 is dated to the tenth century BCE). Why is it profoundly significant that this much later Christian and Greek “fall” construal is not stated or even suggested in the text? Because that means the story of salvation history, which is a fairly normative interpretive framework for a Christian reading the whole Bible does not begin with “the fall.” Rather, it begins with broken relationships and exile, which is a very Jewish way of reading the text. And lest we forget, it was Jewish people who wrote this text originally for Jewish people, probably for Jewish people living in exile trying to understand the profound tragedy of the destruction of their country, the Temple, many of their fellow countrymen, and their exile in Babylon. The re-definition of the story of Genesis 3 as a "fall" represented a much later Hellenistic-Gentile re-interpretation of the text.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Early Testimony to the Darkness at the Crucifixion of Christ


In the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel of Mark we read, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mk 15.33). This detail is part of the pre-Markan passion story and, since Mark is the earliest of our Gospels, therefore a very early tradition that deserves to be taken seriously.

Monday, July 31, 2017

On Reading the Story of Adam and Eve


By Fr. John Breck

Someone asked the other day how we should read Genesis 2-3, the story of Adam and Eve. Behind his question lay troubled concern over the apparent conflict between science and Scripture. “If we take the biblical account seriously,” he concluded, “then we have to reject evolutionary theory altogether and align ourselves with those ‘creationists’ who believe the Genesis account is to be taken literally, as an actual biological description of the way human life came to be.”

There are two closely intertwined issues here: the meaning of the Genesis account, and God’s role in the process of creation. To address either one, it is necessary first of all to untangle and separate them. Here we will try to speak to the first question; then in a future column we will turn briefly to the debate over evolution and creationism.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ecology and Orthodox Doctrine



The wildfires that broke out in Greece and the wildfires that had occurred in August 2007 not only caused great suffering and damage to my country, but they also proved once again how mankind degrades the environment.

So, we have decided to see whether the thought and the teachings of the Great Ecclesiastical Fathers of Eastern Christianity, especially of Basil the Great (known as Basil of Caesarea), of Gregory the Theologian (known as Gregory of Nazianzus) and of John Chrysostom, could be of any help in approaching the environment in a totally different way, so that we would be able – in the long run – to solve the huge environmental problems we’re facing today.

HOW HAVE WE COME TO SUCH AN IMPASSE AS FAR AS THE ENVIRONMENT IS CONCERNED

It would be helpful for the reader to look into the reasons first why we have reached such a crisis today and why the environment is in danger. And certainly, Christianity has played its role to that crisis. Even in the first years of its existence there were philosophical movements and heresies, which under the influence of Plato and his student Plotinus degrade matter in contrast to the spirit. The heresy of Gnosticism especially regards nature and the world as the creation of a degrading evil God. A branch of Gnosticism, Manichaeism, influenced the thought of the greatest Father of the West, of St. Augustine. And due to this influence the whole theology and philosophy to be formed in the West has been affected, making it easy thus for all those thoughts and practices which degraded the material creation and allowed for the ravaging and the degredation of it to develop.

The theologian, philosopher and mathematician Descartes, who is considered to be the precursor of orthology, accepts the material world as a perfect machine in the service of man. After Newton’s discoveries Western man is exhilarated by technological achievements and starts to realize the surrounding environment as ‘res’, meaning as a ‘thing’, which is to become a ‘guinea pig’ in his needs for consumerism and bliss!

The relationship between God and humans is stopped. Due to the Cartesian theory of Dualism, God is ousted from human life and is now considered to be a supreme perfect Being, a Great Mechanic who created the world and after that He left the world working on its own, just like a clockmaker who after he has made a clock he leaves it ticking on its own.

At the same time in the advanced countries of West Europe and of the U.S.A. people induced by Calvin’s Protestant ethics set up one of the most hideous economic systems of exploiting man and the world - Capitalism. It may sound absurd, but the foundations of the Capitalistic system were actually religious. It is based on Augustine’s doctrine of predestination, of which Luther and Calvin became fans. The doctrine of predestination refers to an aristocratic elite of faithful who have been selected by God in advance and will be saved. The visible sign they have in order to be selected for salvation by God is their wealth. Wealth and Profit never again reached such divine dimensions in the history of mankind – although it is still worshipped in our Capitalistic system, regardless of the means used to achieve it: slavery, rape of nature, or inhuman working conditions, in the so-called Third World.

THE THREE HIERARCHS’ PREACHING ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP OF MAN WITH NATURE

Contrary to what is happening in the West, in the East, when the Three Hierarchs were called to comment on the book of the Holy Scriptures, Genesis, they made a distinction between Man and Nature, which is in fact the solution to the big ecological problem. They accept the creation of both the world and man as a result of the free loving power of God the Trinity. Therefore when man looks around him, he should actually see the loving power of God everywhere, even in the tiniest things, even if they are inanimate. He then can’t abuse nature because then he refuses God’s love. In order to make this explicit let us quote a letter that Elder Joseph the Hesychast sent to one of his spiritual children:

“Listen to the wild rocks, the secret theologians, to deliver profound spiritual meaning. The voiceless theologians speak theology, the beautiful rocks and everything in nature. Everything speaks with its voice or with its non-voice. If you touch tiny grass with your hand, it speaks right away with its natural odor. 'Hey! You don’t see me, but you have hurt me!' And everything has a voice, when moving with the wind they become a harmonic musical prayer to God. And, what is to say about reptiles and birds? When the Saint sent his disciple to tell the frogs to hush, they answered: 'Be patient, until we finish Matins.'”

The harmonious relationship between man and the environment is also apparent in the instance when God assigns Adam the job of worker and protector of Paradise. And the culmination of this relationship is delivered to us when all living creatures, from birds to reptiles and beasts, are brought before him to give them a name.

The verb ‘know’, which has caused so many sufferings to nature since western spirituality interpreted it as possession and degradation of the object under investigation until it yields its secrets to us, in the Patristic Orthodox thought it is interpreted as a relationship and it is regarded as the most significant indeed since it is the same as sexual, loving making and intercourse. “And Adam knew Eve his wife”, Genesis narrates, "and she conceived, and bore Cain.” In Eastern Orthodoxy we don’t need the nomination of a special day as the International Day for the Preservation of the Environment, in order to remind us that we ought to respect the Environment, because in every Sunday Liturgy and in every celebration when the faithful take part in the Liturgy of John the Chrysostom or of Basil the Great, he/she is encouraged to experience a relationship with God, with the other humans and with the environment. This thanksgiving action the faithful does signifies the recognition of the material world as a gift and as a blessing of God’s grace and love and not as a neutral object to be possessed and exploited, to be used and abused. That’s why the divine services of the two Hierarchs mentioned above are full of sacramentals and special blessings to God for the integrity and salvation of the material creation as a whole. “Visit us, Lord, with your kindness”, Basil the Great says, “Give us favourable and beneficial winds. Deliver to us peaceful raindrops for the fruition of the ground. Bless the current year with your kindness.” Let me refer to one more blessing from the Divine Liturgy of Mark the Apostle: “Pray for good winds and for fruit to be yielded from the ground. Pray for the harmonious rise of the river waters. Pray for blessed rainfalls and for the ground seeds. Send blessed rainfalls to where they are needed. Raise the river waters in moderation by your grace. Increase the ground seeds for seed and harvest-time.”

SOLVING THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM IS NOT AN EASY TASK

Of course we are not deluded to believe that the great environmental problems are easy to solve. Great profits are at stake every day, which make the solution even harder. Civilization and the economy nowadays are based not on consumerism but on excessive consumerism of the products. Thus, our planet is plundered and depleted in order to cover this need for excessive consumerism. We are all responsible for this plight whether we believe in God or not. Unfortunately we all take measures that solve the problem only partly. We sometimes trust our governments which, however, serve the interests of those who have sponsored their election campaigns, so they enforce laws for deforestation and building construction businesses. So we see houses and cottages in the place of the trees and forests we used to see, and all these houses belong to the elite of the society, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs and so on and so forth. And other times we trust people who declare to be ecologists just in order to be elected and as a result people and organizations that have pure ecological motives are slandered. Here in Greece we cannot forget that painful incident a few years ago when an ecologist female Member of Parliament obstinately refused to withdraw her position to someone else since this decision had been taken in advance among the ecological parties. Or stop to think how the Green party – one of the greatest ecological movements in Europe – started in Germany and how it ended up.

Yet, it is true that such sickly phenomena appear in the field of the Church as well. The Abbot of the Monastery of Penteli in Greece sued the head of a non-governmental ecclesiastical organization a few years ago because they wanted to take hold of the land of the church in order to turn a green paradise into a summer resort with hotels of cement. As you all know we live in the era of the ubiquitous cement!

If we wish to save our beautiful planet we ought to follow the path that the Three Hierarchs showed. And this is none other than the path of love, of seeing the world as the creation of the free loving power of God the Trinity. If man believes in this he will force himself first and the authorities after to act in such a way that this gem called earth will be saved.

THE LETTER AN INDIAN CHIEF SENT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.A.

We would wish to end this article with an extract from the letter that the Indian Chief, named Suhami, sent in 1855 to the President of the U.S.A., Franklin Pearse, who had asked Suhami to sell his land:

“How can you buy and sell the sky and the warmth of the land? This idea is strange to us. The freshness of the air and the shimmering of the water are not our property. How could you possibly buy them from us? Every piece of this land is sacred for my people. Every tiny pine-needle that sparkles in the sun-rays, every sandy beach, the mist in the deep forest, every clearing in the forest, every buzzing bee, is sacred in the memory and in the experience of our people. We understand that white people do not comprehend our behavior. The white people see all places on earth identical, because they act as strangers who come during the night and violently grab anything they need from the ground. They don’t see the ground as their brother but as their enemy, so after they have conquered it they move on, leaving it behind. This greediness and voracity will certainly devour earth and only desert will be left. It hurts our eyes to see your cities. But then again, it might be due to the fact that we are a savage people, unable to understand!"

Source

Monday, June 5, 2017

St. Basil the Great on the Purpose of Environmental Calamities


By St. Basil the Great

"And I also withheld the rain from you when there were still three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would be rained upon, and the field on which it did not rain withered; so two or three towns wandered to one town to drink water, and were not satisfied, because you did not return to Me, says the Lord." - Amos 4:7-8

We should learn, then, that it is because we have turned away from the Lord and discarded His ways that God has inflicted these wounds upon us. He does not seek to destroy us, but rather endeavors to turn us back to the right way, just as good parents who care for their children are stern and rebuke them when they do wrong, not because they wish them harm, but rather desiring to lead them from childish negligence and the sins of youth to mature attentiveness.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Science Is Neither 'Settled' Nor 'Skeptical'


M. Anthony Mills
October 28, 2015
Real Clear Science

Science is increasingly integral to public life. One can hardly avoid taking positions on a range of scientific matters, from climate change, genetically modified foods, genetic testing, and pharmaceuticals, to disease control, patient care, stem cells, and data analytics. Yet most citizens and lawmakers lack the skills or background needed to grasp the underlying technical issues. Scientists are thus guardians of knowledge—however mundane—beyond the reach of average citizens.

This puts the layman in a rather awkward position, for scientists are fickle guardians.

On the one hand, they are fiercely loyal to their knowledge claims. They simply assume that the experimental method is the best way to understand the natural world—and sometimes the only way to understand anything. And they advance their conclusions with a degree of confidence that most other intellectuals can only envy. Thus the layman is reluctant to dismiss or criticize scientific findings, for to do so would require either possessing a similar facility with the scientific method (unlikely) or rejecting that method (unwise).

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gallup Poll Shows Belief in Creationist View of Humans at New Low in U.S.


A new Gallup poll released Monday shows some exciting developments in the faith and science conversation. In a question used since 1982, Gallup asks U.S. adults to choose between the following views of human origins:

1. Human beings developed over millions of years, but God guided this process.

2. Human beings developed over millions of years, but God had no part in this process.

3. God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

Friday, April 28, 2017

America as a Theological Problem During the (Neo)Hellenic Enlightenment

Sebastian Münster's map of the New World, first published in 1540 ~~ Sebastian was a German cartographer, cosmographer and a Christian Hebraist scholar.

"Ἡ Ἀμερικὴ ὡς θεολογικὸ πρόβλημα τὴν περίοδο τοῦ (νεο)ελληνικοῦ Διαφωτισμοῦ"

"America as a Theological Problem During the (Neo)Hellenic Enlightenment"

Ἑῷα καὶ Ἑσπέρια (Athens) 2 (1994/96) 9-70.

By Vasilios N. Makrides

Summary

The discovery of America contributed not only to the radical expansion of human knowledge and to a reorientation of man's place on earth, but caused some theological problems too. These difficulties appeared mainly because of the existence of indigenous populations in the New World. What was the origin of these people? Were they descended from Adam and Eve? Were they affected by the original sin? Had Christ saved them? Why are they not mentioned in the Bible? What was their relation to the inhabitants of the already known world? Among the various answers to these questions in Western Europe, the Preadamite theory by Isaac La Peyrère (1596-1676) should be mentioned here. La Peyrère suggested a polygenetic theory and argued for the existence of human beings on earth before the creation of Adam and Eve. Despite harsh criticism and countermeasures by the religious establishment of that time, La Peyrère s theory tried to reconcile the biblical information with the new discoveries, exerted strong influences in the long run and paved the way for the wider dissemination of polygenism (e.g., by Voltaire).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Life and Faith of Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895)



Who contributed more to the saving of human lives than any other scientist? Who has been called the greatest biologist of all time? Who revolutionized medicine and public health with his discoveries? A Christian – Louis Pasteur. Let no one claim that faith in God is detrimental to science; you need look no farther than to this great man who said, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.”

Pasteur was a humble, godly Catholic who served God and his fellow man through science. If you enjoy milk that doesn’t spoil in a day, if you enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods, if you can take a quick shot and then live without fear of deadly diseases, if you enjoy a longer life than your ancestors did, you should thank the good doctor from France, because you owe much of your physical health and safety to him. But your ultimate thanks should go to the Great Physician, who taught the Israelites many principles of good health and sanitation in the Bible. Pasteur merely rediscovered and elaborated on two basic ideas from the Old Testament: (1) uncleanness causes disease, (2) life was created, and propagates after its kind.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection? Three Hypotheses.


By Ian Hutchinson
MIT Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering

I’m a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, and this weekend, I’m celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. So are dozens of my colleagues. How can this be?

Hypothesis one: We’re not talking about a literal resurrection. Perhaps it is just an inspiring myth that served to justify the propagation of Jesus’ exalted ethical teachings. A literal resurrection contradicts the known laws of nature. Maybe scientists can celebrate the idea of Jesus’s spirit living on, while his body remained in the grave.

But the first disciples attested to a physical resurrection. How could an untruth logically support high moral character? How could it have sustained the apostles through the extremes of persecution they experienced founding Christianity? And is celebrating a myth consistent with scientific integrity?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Docudrama: "Newton: The Force of God" (2016)


The dying Sir Isaac Newton recounts the major events of his life to his faithful friend John Conduitt: the political context, the natural philosophy, the religion, the enemies, the losses and victories that laid the foundations of the myth of one of the most eminent natural philosophers of all time.

"Newton: The Force of God" produced by Eugenides Foundation and directed by Panos Anestis, is the first Greek docudrama regarding Sir Isaac Newton's life and works.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why Science Does Not Disprove God


Amir D. Aczel
Apr 27, 2014
TIME Magazine

A number of recent books and articles would have you believe that—somehow—science has now disproved the existence of God. We know so much about how the universe works, their authors claim, that God is simply unnecessary: we can explain all the workings of the universe without the need for a Creator.

And indeed, science has brought us an immense amount of understanding. The sum total of human knowledge doubles roughly every couple of years or less. In physics and cosmology, we can now claim to know what happened to our universe as early as a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, something that may seem astounding. In chemistry, we understand the most complicated reactions among atoms and molecules, and in biology we know how the living cell works and have mapped out our entire genome. But does this vast knowledge base disprove the existence of some kind of pre-existent outside force that may have launched our universe on its way?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

On the Literal and Figurative Understanding of Genesis 2 (St. Augustine of Hippo)


By St. Augustine of Hippo

The listing of the seven days and the presentation of their works is given a kind of conclusion, in which everything that has been said already is called "the book of the creating of heaven and earth" (Gen. 2:4), even though it is only a small part of the book as a whole. But still it was entirely appropriate to give it this name, because these seven days furnish us with a miniature symbolic picture of the entire span of world history from start to finish. Then it goes on to tell the story of the man in more detail; and this whole account is to be analyzed in figurative, not literal terms, to put the minds of those who seek the truth through their paces, and lure them away from the business of the world and the flesh to the business of the spirit....

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Holy Trinity in Creation and Incarnation


By Christos Voulgaris

Among the other "new teachings" which brought "some strange things to the ears" of the people of the Greco-Roman world, (1) Christianity brought also the teachings about the creation of the world. This was one of the biggest innovations in the world of Philosophy, since the idea that the world was created out of nothing was completely foreign to Greek thought and Greco-Roman religion. To the Greeks the world was eternal and unchangable in its essential structure and form; it simply existed and no one cared to ask how, whence and why. All, intellectuals and non-intellectuals, accepted it as a fact and made no effort to study or transcend it, even with their imagination, in order to see what lies behind it. Of course, they observed the motion, the changes and the constant flow of the elements. But that was it; they simply accepted its permanence and eternity.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Augustine of Hippo on the Devil in Paradise


By St. Augustine of Hippo

(On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manichees, Bk. 2, Ch. 20)

Coming now to the serpent, it represents the devil, who certainly wasn't simple. That he was said, you see, to be wiser than all beasts is a figurative way of stating his slyness. It does not, however, say that the serpent was in paradise, but that the serpent was among the beasts which God had made. Paradise, after all, as I said above, stands for the blessed life of bliss in which there was no longer a serpent, because it was already the devil; and he had fallen from his blessed state, because "he did not stand in the truth" (Jn. 8:44). Nor is there anything strange about the way he could talk to the woman, though she was in Paradise and he was not; she was not in Paradise, you see, in a local sense, but rather as regards her blissful feeling of blessedness. Or even if there is such a place called Paradise, where Adam and the woman were actually living in the body, are we to understand the devil also making his approach there in the body? Not at all, but he made it as a spirit, as the Apostle says: "According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the children of unbelief" (Eph. 2:2).