What’s up with Evolution/Creation and Orthodoxy?

This is an attempt to continue a wonderful discussion started on Fr. Stephen Freeman’s popular blog, Glory to God for All Things. We were trying to tease apart the various issues involved with the study of the cosmos, biology, and science in general, while remaining faithful to the Creed,  Scripture, and Holy Fathers. I’m hoping everyone who was over there, and many more, will join us over here for more thoughtful discussion. Thanks!


4 thoughts on “What’s up with Evolution/Creation and Orthodoxy?

  1. nivchek Post author

    If you got here via Fr. Stephen’s blog and already commented there, please copy your comment here and we’ll continue. I’m really finding this discussion to be excellent and edifying. Thanks!

    1. Karen

      Hi Nicole! I missed getting my last comment in before comments were closed at Fr. Stephen’s site. Since, I am the one who questioned Alice Linsley’s interpretation of one of your comments in that thread provoking further comments (some addressed also to me), I thought I should at least explain myself a bit more. I’m one of those non-experts in both science and patristic exegesis who is basically agnostic as to the “how” of God’s creation of the world, and I like to keep an open mind to arguments from all angles. For reasons mentioned on Fr. Stephen’s blog, I find YEC scientifically and theologically less than compelling (especially now that I’m Orthodox). On the other hand, the philosophical Naturalism of Darwinian Evolution should be a problem for any Christian, Orthodox or not.

      In terms of my own background, I’ve always believed in Christ and in God’s creation of the world, and in elementary school in the ’60s I just took it for granted Evolution was the mechanism for how God created. Then in high school I was exposed to Young Earth Creationism, and then that seemed “obvious.” I went to a major Evangelical college where a form of theistic evolution was espoused in their Biology Dept., so it dawned on me the whole subject was more complex than I’d allowed, though I still would have classified myself as a YEC. After I graduated college, I served short-term on the mission field at a major university in Belgium and one of the students we served who became a dear friend was a very vibrant Christian doing post-doctoral research in biology. She, too, was convinced that the biological evidence supported Evolutionary theory, except at the point it taught humans evolved from apes. She did admit that the near fanatical zeal of supporters of Evolution and the emotional defensiveness elicited when weaknesses in the evidence for Evolution were pointed out gave her pause and made Evolution seem more like a religion than a genuinely objective scientific theory as it purports to be. All that is to say, today I reject the extremes on both ends of the philosophical spectrum of this Creation-Evolution debate.

      Some years ago when I was becoming more agnostic on this issue, I came across an article by a scholar who was (at the time the article was written) a member of the Creation Research Institute. He was discussing the lack of archeological evidence for Joshua’s conquest of Canaan during the time period it was supposed to have occurred (according to Bp. Usher’s Bible timeline), and was arguing for what would have been a very simple OT manuscript scribal error in a verse giving a number of years between some OT events that would have shifted the biblical timeline by 1,000 years if his theory was correct (making the age of the earth 7,000 years), and lined it up with archeological evidence as well. Reading the NT around that same time, I discovered a verse by the Apostle Paul mentioning the actual number of years between a couple of OT people/events. Using the number in that verse and counting generations listed in the OT historical narratives, I made a conservative estimate of the age of the earth as 7,000 years based on that information, which happened also to line up with the CRI scholar’s research I had just read. I tried to follow up on this with the author of the paper, but was told when I contacted CRI he was no longer with them and they didn’t have contact info. for him. They were dismissive of both his argument and my research and insisted on the basis of some scientific indicator recently discovered they had it on good scientific authority the earth was no more than 6,000 years old. Quite clearly, it was an “our minds are made up, don’t confuse us with the facts” mentality in their reply (which I thought was interesting in light of the fact it was essentially raw biblical data I was presenting!). Long story short, I did more reading over the years and found things to commend the concerns and viewpoint of Christians advocating a less literal reading of the “days” in the creation accounts in Genesis and presenting some reasonable alternative interpretations of the texts there. I read and appreciated Francis Collins’ The Language of God, and in discussions on Fr. Stephen’s site got interested to read Dr. Wells’ work mentioned by another commenter. I can definitely appreciate your challenge to readers in your parting comment at Fr. Stephen’s site as well as his to all of us. Thanks for your well-reasoned and articulate contributions to the discussion.

      1. nivchek Post author

        Hi Karen! Thanks for popping in over here. To sum up where I am coming from, I really identify with the Intelligent Design movement because it is made up of serious scientists who have retained their intellectual honesty in spite of the forces attempting to make it impossible for them to do so. As a protestant growing up, I was greatly influenced by my dad and my uncle who were YEC, but I frankly found Ken Ham and compatriots to be seriously annoying and intellectually disappointing. Everything was, “We know ______ is not true because the Bible says ________…” That’s not research and it’s not convincing anyone and it makes Christians look stupid.

        I have been a fan of Kent Hovind for some time because I think he is at least an order of magnitude closer to correct and I know that he uses ad recommends the resources of the ID movement, but presents to an audience that is more similar to the non-intellectuals CRI and AIG are trying to “reach”. I have examined many of Kent’s claims and find them pretty sound, but that is because I have no trouble believing that enormous amounts of information can easily be suppressed and that popular vote doesn’t serve the cause of truth-finding very well. Some people have a hard time with any denial of the status quo, but I tend to select against it when given the option.

        A lot of unusual experiences and independent research in a great number of loosely related areas were the catalyst for my finding this landing place. But I’m pretty convinced that AIG and CRI represent, on some level, a kind of “controlled opposition” which works wonders for making both Christians and the whole idea of creation look foolish. I believe that those are the goals of “the powers that be”. I doubt many people are intentionally and knowingly fighting God, opposing something they actually know is true. I think it is axiomatic that everyone believes himself to be doing good, to be on the side of good. This is where things get very messy.

        I’m looking for the people who can present their viewpoints with no ulterior motives. One aspect of my position on all these things is that I don’t think I could change it if I were an atheist. (Assuming I was able to maintain the same intense need for intellectual honesty, that is.) I do not see “the evolutionary process” in action, and I don’t find it a satisfying model because of all its holes. Most of what has been predicted by the model does not exist in reality. I tried to get some engagement on that point on the other blog, but I found it impossible! Father Stephen did eventually say that scientists are working hard to answer those questions and fill those holes. But if the holes are huge and there’s no sign of adequate filler ever arriving, they get filled in other ways, or swept under the rug altogether. Which takes me back to ID. My favorite ID book is Dembski’s Design Revolution because of his really brilliant and honest approach to science and truth.

        I also like a couple of things that have been put out by Chuck Missler, but that has made me the target of more fallacious ammunition because he is obviously off-base in other areas. But his points about probability are so solid. No one will discuss them with me, either. They just play the ad hominem card and call it good.

        I think of the scene in Matthew 25, wherein we will be judged based on our treatment of others, and both the sheep and the goats ask “When did we…?” This is troubling because it suggests that there is something standing in the way of adequate self-awareness to know what we are doing. In my best guess, that obstacle is pride for the goats, and true humility for the sheep. Pride blinds us to the evil we do and humility to the good.

        Need intellectual honesty. Without it, we are doomed.

  2. Karen

    Yes, I would agree with your assessment and criticism’s of YEC. I haven’t studied these questions anywhere near in the kind of depth you seem to have done because after a while, I figured there were people out there far more competent than I to analyze what was going on and engage the debate in theology, philosophy and science, and I have other things to concern myself with. I already knew what I believed theologically would not change. I.D. certainly seems a more promising framework to work within. I used to work for Tyndale House Publishers, and I still sometimes listen to WMBI radio (Moody). Occasionally when another book would come out criticizing Darwinism from a philosophical perspective I would listen to discussions about it or interviews with the author, but I don’t have background nor work in science, so there was no compelling reason for me to actually get too involved there.

    Something that hits much closer to home is the state of medicine in this country and the vaccine issue (my kids are now teens). We went through a home birth practice where most of the doctors were Christians, and the leader of the practice (who is Jewish) is quite passionate about educating parents of the medical and political realities about vaccines (unlike the vast majority of conventional physicians), so I am more aware of how influential the for-profit medical and the pharmaceutical industries are on our public health policies (not in a good way), and how shaky the evidence is for the use of certain vaccines. We also use a chiropractor who is trained in many alternative medical modes (Chinese model), and he has a page on his site detailing the history of the AMA’s underhanded, false, and illegal smear campaign against chiropractic medicine in the 1940s in an attempt to monopolize medicine in the U.S. Chiropractors sued and won their case, but many folks (including my parents) still consider it “quackery” because of that campaign, even though research shows folks that use chiropractors are far more satisfied with the care they get from their chiropractor than from their conventional physicians. That would certainly be true in our family.

    Thanks for the engagement, Nicole. Blessed Lent to you!


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