Cosmological/Geological Age, Evolution, Physical laws and Biblical time lines

This post is not about presenting a particular view or solution to the issues of the age of the world, evidence of evolution and the timescale recorded in the Scriptures. Rather it is intended to help a discussion on the matter by suggesting various issues that need addressing in attempting to harmonise the physical evidence that we see with the biblical evidence in terms of theological principles. Comments are welcome if they do not accuse others of ignorance, naivety nor betraying the Faith.

Since this is about an Orthodox understanding there are some basic truths that one must hold and that are not open to much debate. The first is that God is the creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. That is the universe cannot be considered to have come into being of its own accord nor by some determination or principle apart from God. Even all the laws of physics and randomness must come from God, so apart from God we cannot explain the existence of the universe. Also, we must be careful not to think of there existing a void or even nothing as a default understanding of existence; one would need to prove that the existence of non-existence can be a legitimate default position. I tend to find that the idea that non-existence exists contradictory. Rather I would argue, particularly as Orthodox Christians, that we start with the default of eternal omnipresent existing existence, that is “I am”, and move from there.

Also, we also believe that God sustains the universe and existence. Thus, God is not merely the uncaused cause in the chain of cause and effects. We accept that the universe is created other than God, that is of another essence, and that it is not an emanation of God in a Platonic or pantheistic manner. Yet, also the universe is not able to exist apart from God; it cannot exist in its own right over and against God rather apart from God it spirals back to non-existence. This implies among other things that there is no absolute randomness apart from God’s will.

Since creation is created with time and space because it must have a beginning not being eternal of its own right, it is subject to change. We expect to see evidence of a beginning. We also expect to see change and movement in creation rather than absolute fixed forms of existence. We can expect some form of change in living things that could equate to evolution. We also expect some form of growth from lesser to more perfect with God’s sustaining power but from greater to lesser apart from God, that is decay and corruption. We expect to see a similar mix of order and disorder.

Because God is infinite and unfathomable then we should expect creation that in many ways reflects who God is in created form, that is somewhat infinite in extent, yet not quite, and mysterious in its ways. The universe should be not be empty but yet in discreet units since it is not absolutely infinite nor fills all things. We should also expect to see some reason in the universe as reflecting the Logos. The universe should be predictable yet not quite allowing some freedom of God in its operation; this can lead to a certain chaos from our perspective but not that of God.

Because God is one, we should expect to see an inner unity to the universe that it can be reduced to one united point. We would also expect to see that humanity is united with all the other animals and forms of live and even inanimate objects. Thus, it should appear that we come from a singular source, that all animal life can be linked in trees of similar features.

In terms of timescale, the primary focus of biblical revelation is man with whom God unites to the created universe. Thus, the timescale of the universe pre-man is rather irrelevant to us. God is capable of creating the universe in an instant and also He could develop it over billions of years. God may wish to have the universe form according to the principles that He has given for its existence and operation or He may wish to express His freedom. I think that it is most likely that the universe is created and sustained according to its principles with a history that is consistent with these, yet with the possibility that some change in these may have occurred. However, whether God creates the universe with its history for its consistency from the point it is useful for the existence of man or whether He allows it to develop from scratch according to these principles is another matter and I think difficult to prove. It would seem to me that the world must have had some age to it, consistent to its own principles, before man could live on it whether God created it this way in an instant or developed it this way over billions of years.

Because of the freedom of God, it is difficult to apply the predictability of the universe with absolute certainty. Thus, there is the possibility that in the past God acted on the universe in such a way that could not be predicted and also prevents tracing a cause and effect history with absolute certainty. Thus, we find in the days of Peleg that the earth was divided. Perhaps this could be a reformation of the continents by God done over a short time in human history but leaving a geological history consistent with the normal laws that at normal pace would take place over millions of years. I don’t think that we could tell other than having a history of humanity with a different timescale than that evident in the geological record.

One pressing theological issue regarding man, is death. In the biblical story this is introduced after the Fall of man. In an evolutionary model death is required throughout the process. We also have the theological principle that the universe was also affected by the Fall. Perhaps the curse of death was only applicable to Adam and Eve not the rest of creation, which was already under some cycle of life and death, yet such death is permitted because it may not have the eternal implications for creatures other than man. The Fall may still effect the rest of creation but not necessarily in terms of the cycle of death and life, which may be neutral in itself. Although, what other meaningful effect could there be? A spiral to non-existence rather than a stable cycle?

That all mankind comes from one father, Adam, is something that is important in the writings of St Paul and other Fathers so that all men are together under the Fall and death and all together are saved by one man, Christ. This seems consistent with biological evidence. The primary difference is the time scale which appears to be out by some distance. Do you try to try to read biblical evidence in terms of physical evidence or physical evidence in terms of biblical evidence or perhaps there is a way that maintains the integrity of both without inconsistency? Also, we must take into account the longer life spans recorded in the Scriptures and the deliberate choice that God had in restricting the length of our lives to 120 years, yet still enabling exceptions to this rule. How this may have affected us genetically could be interesting and how this may skew evidence, if at all, is something that may need to be debated.

We read that Adam was created from the dust of the earth. Does this mean that he was independently formed by God from the earth or that God evolved humanoids from dust until a suitable physical state was reached and then one such adult male was taken apart and designated man and spiritually completed to be truly the image of God and made distinct from his humanoid brothers in this spiritual way and even, perhaps, physical way. At this point Adam was perhaps removed from the cycle of life and death in the “garden of Eden” until he sinned. This is just speculation. The important thing is the mankind is united to the rest of creation yet unique in a special way that is to do with man’s relation to God and governance of creation and initially this man is not bound to death. From this first unique man then comes the rest of modern humanity. Other humanoids such as Neanderthals may well been another type of humans but not been humans in the special way that Adam was in the image of God. Perhaps, though, they are a variety of Adam’s descendants?

Also, Christianity is a faith that is grounded in history. The stories of the Old Testament are also grounded in history, while yet containing levels of typology and spiritual meaning. Thus while it is tempting to just read the Genesis stories as metaphor we must be careful not to lose the grounding in history of the Old Testament. Can we arbitrarily determine when legend turns into history? How do we determine this objectively? I raise this issue so that there is a need to somehow reconcile the biblical testimony with the physical evidence. If God truly inspired the Old Testament and spoke to Moses revealing the Law, including Genesis, and God is all knowing and the Creator, then we should we not believe that the stories are true at more than the level of a parable/metaphor. Also, not only with the Scriptures as Orthodox we need to be faithful to the interpretations of the Fathers such as St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom, who both spoke on these matters. Can we be truly Orthodox if we approach the Scriptures in a different manner than the Fathers? Yet with advances in scientific knowledge, there are things which we know now that do not easily, if at all, permit a traditional interpretation.

Well, these are some ideas to start the ball rolling. It is not merely a matter of Creationism vs Evolutionism. We are created, yes, created things change and develop, with God’s help. Can be reconcile biblical and physical evidence without denying either. I am sure that there are many better developed thoughts our there. Thoughts?


  1. Great way to introduce the topic. It’s a touchy subject, but I think you struck the right balance. I especially like what you said about the uniqueness of the one man Adam. That, I think, is a crucial point. The idea some people have that Adam is merely an allegory for the whole human race seems gravely problematic to me. If the One Man Christ must really die and rise again in a literal sense to bring about our salvation, that implies that the man who brought about our the fall of our race must have been real in a literal sense.


  2. i am glad you emphasize the necessity of fidelity to the Scriptural interpretations of the Fathers — so many today think we can should discard them altogether when it comes to understanding Genesis.


  3. as for the question of death — the Wisdom of Solomon tell us that God is not the author of death of any kind, and i think that it is also the Patristic tradition. St. Symeon says the entire creation was a Paradise wherein nothing died before man’s sin. the fate of creation is tied to that of man.


  4. Jesse,

    I think that death is probably the main point that would make incorporating some from of evolutionary theory with the patristic understanding of creation very difficult, if not impossible. If we wish to maintain this patristic position then one needs to come up with a coherent and rigorous explanation for the physical evidence and geological time. This is proving to be very difficult and various Creationist groups have not yet developed such an explanation that would satisfy a significant portion of the scientific community even if the majority may object based on their worldview rather than the explanation itself.

    Another issue is that present life is so tied up with death that trying to conceive of life without death is almost impossible. Thus, if there was absolutely no death before the Fall then God must have radically altered all living things and given them a new way of life. Also, the fossil record must only have started at this point and so we have to explain geological time to match with biblically recorded time. This gets problematic also; geological and biblical times really don’t match unless we can explain how certain events such as the Fall, the Flood and the rearrangement of the earth may account for this without resorting to “God just did it like this”.


  5. Fr Patrick,

    Well, there is a lot to this complex topic. I in no way have answers. However, there have been a few things which have shaped my thought.

    First, while it is clear that death is introduced in mankind due to the fall, at least two fathers (Athanasius and Augustine) either explicitly state or clearly imply that death existed in the animal kingdom in the garden. For Athanasius this is particularly powerful since our immortality is only the result of the Imago Dei: that is by our union with God we are drawn out of the mortal existence of life in this world. Thus, if we were to posit the immortality of the animal kingdom, then we must also admit that the animal kingdom is made in the image of God. This is extremely problematic.

    Second, I don’t think anyone can hold to “complete randomness” with any sincerity. Even the most ardent atheist must admit that without order any construction is meaningless. Planets could never form, heliocentric galaxies would not be the norm, and, most importantly, life could not form. In fact, evolution itself cannot properly be described as “random” since if it is true, the telos of evolution is existence.

    Third, because the end of evolution is existence, I take evolution to be, in a sense, a Christian articulation of Creation. You rightly address the importance of the “I AM.” I cannot in any way conceive of evolution as such apart from its progression towards existence. To put it bluntly, if evolution is true, its very end is God himself. In fact, one might go even so far as to say that the very nature of evolution, life through death, is itself a grand foreshadowing of Christ’s conquering of death by death. Now, I certainly don’t mean to imply that evolution is in any way revelation. But I do think that it can be understood in the sense of St Justin’s “Seed of the Word.”

    Forth, I find it quite interesting that Augustine, while not completely abandoning a historical reading of the Genesis creation, clearly asserts that the historical reading is not in any way the primary reading. He comes to this realization as the result of local Arians arguing for the “createdness” of the Son by the temporal speaking of God in creation. Their argument is that God spoke on each day and that therefore since the Word is in time that He is created. Augustine’s response is that interpreting any part of the creation text as historical results in reading another portion as ahistorical. His point is that there is no consistent, purely historical reading of the creation narrative.

    Anyway, those are some of my thoughts. I’m not arguing for anything in particular, only that these seem to be some high-points for me in the tradition. It does seem to me, however, that it is not so much evolution that is problematic for Christianity as it is a nominalist reading of evolution. But I have much more reading to do on this topic, of which I think Barzun will be next.


  6. Fr. Patrick, you state,
    “This is proving to be very difficult and various Creationist groups have not yet developed such an explanation that would satisfy a significant portion of the scientific community even if the majority may object based on their worldview rather than the explanation itself.”

    I have to humbly disagree here, since there are many geologists and scientists that do not go with the mainstream evolutionists and I’m also personally convinced by their explanation of the geologic record proving that the earth is not “billions” of years old but is actually a lot more young than we may expect. American culture is so steeped in the evolutionary teaching that it has infiltrated the minds of all christians alike. To be short, we have capitulated and disregarded the simple account in Genesis as well as what the fathers of the church held to. In my view the evolutionary theory has been proven to have faulty foundations to begin with by very valid arguments from biological professors and scientists. I think the culture of the church should be separate from secular teachings masking itself in the name of “science” just as the early church did not submit to roman culture. Just my thoughts.


  7. Great balanced post!

    It seems to me that the discussion of death in scripture is generally limited to humanity, animal death is simply not in view. The whole death thing w/in the animal kingdom is part of a huge cycle that balances out the number of animals, weeds out diseased animals and generally doesn’t allow the earths resources to be overly consumed by any one species (except us).

    I think too many people of the young earth crowd assume predators came about as a result of the fall. While this my indeed be true it would indicate a huge physical change in the two types of animals namely prey and predator. There’s more to being a predator than sharp teeth and claws and a hankering for meat. Eyesight, bone structure, metabolism, digestive processes, instincts etc. I actually heard a YEC (not intended to be insulting just short for Young Earth Creationists) apologist state that T-Rex had the teeth it did for eating trees! Prey on the other hand generally have wider peripheral vision, eyes more widely spaced, different body types to flee, digestive proceses etc etc.

    If humans were created as is w/ no process of development for Paradise how do we account for our complicated immune system? Why would we need such a thing in the Garden? How about our adrenaline for explosive defense or flight? Of what use would that be in Paradise?

    These are all questions that need to be answered by the YEC crowd to further their view of a very literal reading of Genesis. Go to some YEC websites and read their claims then go to sites from the evolutionist side and read their answers. In many case it is self evident that many of the YEC arguments are very bad, very old and out of date, often missing the point from an apparent lack of understanding of the issue being dealt w/ and even some deceptive quote mining of evolutionist writings.

    I’m not convinced evolution is completely true but I find, from my little bit of investigation, the YEC claims are very weak many times. Perhaps time will tell.


  8. Thanks everyone for the thoughts.

    The issue about death in terms of Adam and other animals is quite important and it seems that there is varying patristic evidence on this. Could citations be made available for the various patristic positions suggested? It would help developing ideas faithfully to the Fathers.

    If we take death in the animal kingdom as neutral and not an effect of the Fall then it would make dealing with the evidence much better and permit a much more consistent world post-Fall to pre-Fall, although appreciating that something changed particularly the relation of the rest of creation to man as firmly stated by St Simeon the New Theologian. Also, God’s sustaining of the universe may have been withdrawn and so increasing division, conflict and troubles generally into the universe. How much effect this had is hard to know.

    Also, taking evolution as a guided process by God in terms of developing creation according to the rules that He applied to it so that it would be self-coherent makes the idea of gradual development easier to accept that mere random chance, which would undermine the providence of God. Again, the Fall may have quite seriously modified how the system works so it is hard to make a definite guess at pre-Fall conditions and physical laws.

    I think it is also important to see God as underpinning the whole system. That is He doesn’t act as an outsider on the system but in a sense from within the system. He maintains it. Thus, a miracle is not so much an exterior break in the system but a manifestation of God’s continuing and necessary control of the system.

    That there seems to be a consistent history in the physical evidence that allows a coherent story for those denying God’s hand, it does make it harder to see that God has intervened but then we may not know what that would look like and again, His intervention may be such to leave a consistent “history” to maintain the system’s integrity.

    My default position is to be as faithful to the Scriptures and Fathers as possible. It there is a sound explanation about the evidence that fits with a more literal reading of Genesis then I would prefer to accept it. Please provide links to good explanations if they are available online. However, like David, most of the explanations that I have seen don’t seem very convincing.


  9. Athanasius, in the fourth century, knowing nothing of evolutionism, wrote that death was ‘natural’, inasmuch as what has been created from nothing tends by its own nature to return to that same nothingness. Likewise, what has been composed out of the elements tends logically to decompose back into the same constituent elements. I think this is a good place to start.

    I also dont’ think that ‘non-literal’ is the same as ‘legendary’… Fairy-tales are ‘legendary’, but what we see in Genesis 1 is simply a non-scientifical telling of actual history (shortened, simplified, reduced to bare essentials). We understand that the world has a beginning, that it was not uncreated (the Big Bang). We see how fish precede birds and land-animals. We’re told that mankind was created last, and that its existence on this earth is short, occupying only the eve of the sixth day of creation, before the innauguration of God’s eternal Sabbath. That man was first gatherer (the Garden of Eden), then became a hunter (the ‘coats of skin’ of Genesis 3:21), to finally begin practicing agriculture, with its two aspects: herding and planting (Cain and Abel). We also know from history that farmers and herders fought wars against each other, inasmuch the former did not understand why the latter let their flocks destroy their plantations, and the latter did not understand why they were making such a big fuss about it, since plants grow anyway on earth, regardless of whether you tend to them or not… these wars were fought in 5,000 BC, about the same time that the LXX dates the ‘mythical’ Cain and Abel (inasmuch as they are personifications and not just mere individuals). We’re also told about a signifficant rising and descending of the world’s water-level, corresponding to the Last Ice Age, in the story of Noah’s Flood, and also in that of Gilgamesh. Then we have a detailed story of Abraham’s life, inasmuch as writing has been invented by then, and the ‘paper’ can preserve much, much more than mere memory (that’s why the preceding patriarchs have so little space dedicated to them in Scripture, while what comes after Abraham is so detailed). Etc. Etc.


  10. I also think we need a bit of insight into time and space as viewed from God’s perspective: He measured the skies with His arm, and the earth with His palm, according to the Akathist of the Holy Trinity (Isaiah 48:13). Now, the earth’s surface is half-a-billion square kilometres. For Him, millennia are as days (2 Peter 3:8) and the skies are the size of a chair, while the earth is as big as a foot-stole (Isaiah 66:1, Gospels, Acts, Paul, James). Daniel speaks of ‘weeks of years’. Etc. Also in Daniel we find a reference to some 1,200 `mornings and evenings`, obviously meant figurative, and a clear infirmation of the argument that the days in Genesis 1 couldn’t have possibly meant non-literally days, because it (also) speaks of mornings and evenings. — The list can go on, but I think this is enough.


  11. I was going to mention St. Athanasius, but Lvka beat me to it. He has a pretty nuanced and attractive view in ‘On the Incarnation’. Death is not ‘natural’ in the sense that we were not *meant* to die, but it *is* natural in the sense that our bodies tend towards death on their own. How does he reconcile these? – Because our life is union with God; the Fall ruptured that union and so our bodies run their ‘natural course’, which they would not have had we kept our union with God.


  12. I was going to mention St. Athanasius, but Lvka beat me to it.

    Sorry there, Jerry… I strugled really hard against the temptation, you know, but -in the end- my dark side won me over, as it often happens, and I just HAD to post it first and take all the credit… 🙂


  13. it seems to me that some Fathers say that death is natural and others that it is unnatural. Likewise, some say that man was created mortal, some immortal, and some in-between. But they are all pointing to the same truth from different directions. No matter how they chose to state it they all agree that it is sin that brings death into the world, not any design of God.

    here are some Patristic quotes about the incorruption of the entire creation before the Fall:

    and this one is specifically about plants:


  14. I would encourage you to take a look at the newest edition of Genesis, Creation, and Early Man published by St. Herman of Alaska Press. It has compiled and analyzed lots of patristic sources on this, along with the rather large scientific movement in places like Russia that is combatting the monopoly of Darwinism.

    I think there are emotional and sociological elements at play in the Christian take on Creation. With so many things in the contemporary intellectual community, dissent a priori makes one a rube, not credible, imbecilic, take your pick. It’s the same reason that Marxism dominated the economics departments at all the great schools for fifty years or more. It is a rare academic who can stand being thought of as silly or stupid by the mainstream. Many of the Orthodox intellectuals, Met. Kallistos Ware, Met. Hilarion Alfeyev, Dn. Andrei Kuraev, et al., tend toward compatibilism because of these oppressive trends in intellectual fashion, and because they want to take away an obstacle that their intended listeners may have in hearing the Gospel. It’s a difficult balance because as a result of such fashionability the atheist creation myth has all the trappings of “scientific consensus” with muckety-mucks with eye glasses and white coats. People who don’t know better assume these people are practically infallible.

    However, you don’t get very far in a legitimate (as in, non-quote-mining/proof-texting) encounter with the ancient fathers’ (particularly Basil the Great’s and John Chrysostom’s) reading of Genesis without taking away very clearly that the primordial, pre-fall world operated on very different principles, and that the books of Moses are treated BOTH historically and mystagogically. A great example: St. Maximos the Confessor treating the tree of knowledge both as attachment to the world/love of sensual pleasure AND as a plain old fig tree.

    Evangelicals and reformed thinkers– many of them with impressive science degrees from leading schools– have done a lot to advance some very well-reasoned arguments regarding the holes in modern cosmology and evolutionary theory. One very famous one got a doctorate in hydrology, and demonstrates convincingly that many geological features and fossils are better explained by a catastrophic global flood than by gradual working of nature’s laws over aeons of time. There’s a brilliant secular Jewish mathematician– David Berlinksi– who has authored some fantastic books and articles on the empereror’s new clothes that constitute Darwinism.

    I really admire brotherhoods and thinkers like Fr. Damascene who have decided to suffer outside the gates of respectability, alongside evangelicals and reformed thinkers, in order to bring to light a cohesive patristic understanding to the first book of Scripture.

    To quote the Savior: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”


  15. Jesse,

    Thank you for the links. Yes, it seems that the Fathers did consistently teach no death until the Fall and that various things such as carnivores were not so until after the Fall. Genesis is also clear that all animals ate plants also. Taking that Genesis is inspired by the Holy Spirit and not merely a human story of the Creation then it must be true in both a theological manner and an historical manner, if creation happened in our real past which is clearly the case because we are here.

    This means that God must have changed creation quite markedly after the Fall, including adding thorns to roses and also creating plants for tilling, which may not originally existed pre-Fall according to the account in Genesis chapter 2. Given that He could have done so and there are very good reasons to believe that He did do so then drawing a time line back on the physical evidence becomes problematic because there is a break in the consistency. However, this still leaves a question of how many can trace a consistent from this evidence back before mankind existed. Perhaps one can show that the consistency is not as accurate as believed, rather it may need to be shown to be somewhat tenuous, and that counter evidence, is there any?, needs to be given due weight. Also, from what I have studied in geology, evidence of a universal Flood is sketchy, although perhaps if God rearranged the earth then the evidence would be somewhat different that what we may expect.

    That death is both natural and unnatural can be explained in terms of union with God. When man was united with God and with Him all creation then all was sustained in life by God. All creation was designed to participate in this life and it is the natural end of man and creation. So death is unnatural in this aspect. Once man fell and separated from God then he and all creation falls to decay and death because it cannot maintain life of its own powers, only God can provide and sustain life of Himself. Our natural energies of themselves are not capable of sustaining life eternally. So death is natural in this aspect. Men were created to be immortal with God but apart from God created man is mortal. That we have not immediately fallen to death and non-existence is due to the long-suffering love of God wishing all to repent and partake in life.


    I don’t know if we can read Genesis as you suggest. While there is some benefit and accuracy in doing so, the fit in terms of order is close but not the same, especially since the Sun, moon and stars were created after the plants!!?!!? If the Scriptures are inspired by the Spirit of Truth then would He have made or permitted such a fundamental mistake in order compared to the world’s accepted order? The days may not be literally 24 hours in length but they are divided into distinct units and set in a particular order. This is harder to explain or match.

    Also, there is no surviving tradition of interpreting the Scriptures as you say, if they were indeed written in the understanding that you give. This would also have been passed on with the texts but it was not. I think that it is only with our modern way of thinking that we can impose such an interpretation on the text, the fathers did not do so.

    Also, there are years of life for all those from Adam, which indicates both that each one is an historical person not a personification and also that the time of creation, or at least the Fall, is easily and accurately dateable to just over 7500 years as maintained in East Roman calendars. These lengths of life span make the Scriptures historical in intent and accurately so, in terms of time span unless one is to suggest that the dates are false or fabricated or unguided by the Spirit of Truth? Also, the lines of descent from real ancestors from a real first ancestor Adam is very important in both Testaments and there are theological implications about all this. I find more work needs to be done by those claiming to de-historicise these elements to explain on what basis and to justify the existence of these elements as being needed in the inspired text.

    It is not that I want to be literalistic in itself but to not take the Scriptures as being historical and with the intention of being accurately so, is something that I find hard to justify from the texts and so doing pushes aside much of the content. We can no more fudge Scriptural evidence as we can physical evidence and we know that the Scriptural evidence is inspired by the Spirit of Truth. Human theories no matter how well founded can not claim the same exact certainly of Truth as that which God can provide.


  16. Isaac you said:

    “…reading of Genesis without taking away very clearly that the primordial, pre-fall world operated on very different principles,..”

    Was this true of the whole world or just the Garden/Paradise? Notice that the Garden of Eden was just that..a garden. Planted by God and something different from the rest of the world. Adam was put there from the “outer” world. So I suggest that it’s clearly possible that the rules of the world were different than the special place God created specifically for man.


  17. Jesse,
    While I don’t have time to read all the quotes your link provides a large number of the quotations of the Fathers limit what they are saying to Paradise. Others extend what they say to the whole earth. Either way it seems to me not to be a consistent teaching as is claimed. Just trying to add some balance to the discussion.


  18. David, I don’t know. What I’m saying is that the fathers I have read don’t indicate that there were many differences, except that Eden was the place where mankind was dwelling, with his food, etc. I think it’s possible– remember that my point was what I had found from the fathers. St. Symeon the New Theologian is explicit that the whole Earth was in a state similar to Paradise.


  19. “For many declare that the sun is many times larger even than the earth, and the holy Fathers say that it is equal to the earth: yet often a small cloud, or even a small hill or a wall quite conceals it.”

    “It often happens, also, that comets arise. These are signs of the death of kings, and they are not any of the stars that were made in the beginning, but are formed at the same tithe by divine command and again dissolved.”

    “The sun and moon and stars are in the firmament, and so if water had not been put above it, the firmament would have been consumed by the heat.”

    — John Damascene, The Dogmatic

    “Where are they who say that the heaven whirls around? Where are they who declare that it is spherical? For both of these notions are overthrown here!”

    — John Chrysostom on Hebrews 8:1-2

    In my opinion, the Orthodox Church always taught and upheld the distinction between dogma and speculation (theologoumena)… something the Catholics didn’t do, and look where that got them…

    “Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the forth of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself whilst the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us. …”

    Basil the Great, The Hexaemeron, Ninth Homily.


  20. I think a brief survey of scientific errors and blunders throughout history should give a thinking Christian enough reason to at least entertain the possibility that it really is, in fact, the year 7520 from the Creation of the Universe.

    The main age of the universe problem seems to be one relating to starlight. If the stars are as far away as we think they are, it would require billions of years for their light to be visible on Earth. Physicist Barry Setterfield has done some interesting work on this problem for those believing in biblical Creation– three main possibilities are being explored: the speed of light was faster in the past (or rather has a rate of deceleration), the earth at one point was in a gravity well, which made billions of years pass in the other parts of the universe and only days for us (ala relativity), or God perhaps created starlight trails, since after all the Earth and man was the crown of His creation.

    Interestingly, the starlight problem ended up exposing a similar starlight problem for the Big Bang theory.


  21. +Patrick,

    my “reading” is nothing more than a simple comparison between the two supposedly-different systems.

    The seven days of creation have a simple structure, in which the first three days parallel the following three:

    light – air & water – earth;
    luminaries – birds & fish – land-animals [man];
    rest [God].

    Also notice the order of creation:

    light (aether) – air – water – earth. (The four elements are listed in increasing order of density).

    It means: creation took time, and is logically structured (as opposed to being chaotic). There is a logic and a structure imminent to it.

    Before the stars, but not before the light… The light is the house of the luminaries, just like the air is the dwelling-place of the birds, and the water houses the fish of the sea, and the earth is the habitat of all land-animals, including man. Obviously, the dwellings are made before their dwellers are created… right? (This was the logic of the biblical author, and their order is according to loss of immateriality: God is spirit, then comes the light, then the air, then the water, then the earth… and then their dwellers are created: angels, then stars, then birds, then fish, then land-animals, then man).

    Yes, we count the year 7,500 “from the Foundation of the World”… but, you see, there’s a reason why it is also called “from the Expulsion from Paradise” (the Fathers explain that there was no time in Paradise)… just like there’s a reason that there are two New Years: one in Nissan, and one in Tishri. The Fathers go on to interpret this difference of seven months as seven aeons (some say decades, others centuries, etc) that Adam spent in Paradise,m where time flows differently… and then there’s that story of that monk who wanted to know how long a day in Paradise/the Kingdom of Heaven is, and he saw that bird, and several centuries flew in a few moments, etc; And also the story of the old monk who was given the choice of either spending another ninety years in bed, ill, or spending three full hours in hell; the Angel came back after several centuries, and told him only three minutes have passed…


  22. Adam was not one, but humanity is one (literal meaning), and -apart from that- the passage refers to the monarchy of the Father, and to the unity of the Trinity (spiritual meaning).

    If death did not exist, why was the Tree of Life created in the first place?

    Man was the crown of creation, who, by choosing God, could’ve rescued creation from its ephemeral state, and make it eternal by uniting itself with God. He failed, hence the continuation of death and decay until the present; Their destruction, innitiated through Christ’s death and resurrection, to be finally fulfilled at the End of Days.


  23. I also think that such debates are worthy of the positive, rationalist, and scholastic theology of our Western brothers, and have nothing in common with the apophatic approach of the Eastern Church…


  24. Furthermore, whoever says that millennia make for a “young earth” should be “shot in the head”… the ancients certainly didn’t hold this idiotic belief, nor would they have gonflated the ages of the first patriarchs to whole centuries, sometimes almost an entire millennium, if they would’ve wanted to convey the idea of “young age”… they knew that the earth was old… they just had no idea how much… they tried their best to make it as old as possible, but even that was nowhere near enough… (Seriously, whoever says that 7,500 years is a “young age” should be “shot in the head”…) 🙂


  25. David,

    Read Genesis 1:29-30 about all animals eating plants. This very strongly indicates that across the earth there were no carnivores and so no death. This makes the idea of allowing animal death but not human death rather difficult to reconcile with the Scriptures and with the Fathers.

    I wanted to post this to raise these issues and test some ideas. Perhaps something can work but trying to reconcile the idea of some death with the Fathers does seem hard on the evidence. Some more theological principles may also be useful to discuss in terms of the evidence and ideas.


  26. the way I have thought about Paradise as compared to the rest of creation is in degrees of perfection. the whole earth was a paradise, but Eden was in some way superior; just as in the eschaton we will continue to grow from glory to glory – degrees of perfection.

    St. Theophilus of Antioch says this in his work to Autolycus 2.24:

    “God, then, caused to spring out of the earth every tree that is beautiful in appearance, or good for food. For at first there were only those things which were produced on the third day,-plants, and seeds, and herbs; but the things which were in Paradise were made of a superior loveliness and beauty, since in it the plants were said to have been planted by God. As to the rest of the plants, indeed, the world contained plants like them; but the two trees,-the tree of life and the tree of knowledge,-the rest of the earth possessed not, but only Paradise.”


  27. also, a foundational text in this discussion is WIsdom of Solomon 1:[12] Do not invite death by the error of your life,
    nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
    [13] because God did not make death,
    and he does not delight in the death of the living.
    [14] For he created all things that they might exist,
    and the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
    and there is no destructive poison in them;
    and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
    [15] For righteousness is immortal.

    but as for how this lines up with the majority scientific view, i can’t help you there. for myself im content to trust the Fathers and accept that there is a mistake (or many mistakes) in the science somewhere.


  28. Genesis 1 shows God’s plan or purpose for man and creation… there will be no death or decay in Paradise; no meat-comsumption; no intercourse; etc. Just because death, intercourse, and meat-consumption have always been de facto parts of creation doesn’t mean that God created them… that’s what Solomon says…

    God also creates people who have congenital malformations… but that doesn’t mean that He purposefully created or intended them to be as such…


  29. Jesse,

    Thanks for the contributions. I can see that you are one who keeps faithful to the Fathers and I respect that, this is really my primary position.

    Along with this, I believe that there is a need to be able to engage with the world on these matters and providing a sound explanation of physical evidence, even if it requires dependency on a worldview. Just as in every other area, the Orthodox Faith makes sense and fits the experience of life when understood in the context of the Faith. There are also, I believe, too many Orthodox that are too quick to discard trust in the Fathers for that of secular scientists and this can be to the extent of heresy and effective, if not intended, denial of God as creator and sustainer. Rather than blame them though in this, it is better to help them to overcome the intellectual difficulties by providing a sound model that it consistent with the Fathers and theology of the Church.

    It is good to test what limits there are to various ways of interpreting the information both biblical and physical. I am also interested in the attempts such as those expressed by Lvka to interpret the Scriptures in a broader manner and perhaps this may work. However, I am yet to be find the interpretation that he provides something that I can accept consistently with the rest of the Faith.

    I am also aware that recent holy Elders, such as the recently departed Elder Joseph of Vatopedi, received inspired visions of Creation that follow the Fathers in taking Genesis in a more literal fashion and certainly not that of an secular evolutionary model. However, I don’t have the exact testimony of such visions.


    I appreciate your contributions even if I critique them but I would appreciate that you are less dogmatic in presenting them. “Shot in the head” comments are not helpful to a discussion.

    I think that the Tree of Life exists because man requires God to live and man must maintain this union that is maintained in a temporal sense through regularly partaking of the food of Life, the Tree of Life or now the Bread of Life. This does not mean that there was death initially but that created nature cannot sustain life of itself.

    The Scriptures and the Fathers seem to me to be clear in that Adam was not called to choose God to rescue creation from an initial state of death but rather that man was freely given life but given the opportunity to reject it so that life is maintained in freedom and synergy through obedience. Because man is the link between creation and God, the rest of creation responds to the state of man.

    Also, in your comments you have not addressed the issue that I continue to raise concerning the inspiration of Genesis. You continue to treat it as a merely human work and seem to place in the minds of the writer(s) knowledge that they may not have had or at least seems to have disappeared until modern times.

    You seem to assume that men have only ever lived about the length of life we see now. Why couldn’t men have lived for almost a millennium and then God shortened our lifespans? Why do you take this as trying to push back the age of the world? I cannot see what motivation that the writers would have to deliberately do so. Your suggestion that it is because they knew that the world was old I find rather difficult to accept because it assumes greater knowledge of the world than that of the Fathers or man generally until the last couple of centuries. Anyway, why conflate ages? It would be be more honest and true be vague in terms of the time.

    I don’t think that the length of time in Paradise before the Fall is very relevant since the issue of death and dating comes at the Fall. If death in some form existed before the Fall then it could be seen adequately in billions of years until God made Paradise for man.


  30. i too have heard about Elder Joseph’s vision! although I don’t usually bring it up because, like you, I don’t have any documentation of it, so people don’t tend to put much stock in it, but i definitely do. but i totally agree with you that we should try our best to present a coherent teaching to those interested. there are 2 articles by Orthodox scientists in the new “Genesis, Creation, and Early Man” that discuss problems with the science of evolution, but i have not had a chance to read them yet. but i think its good to bring attention to reputable scientists who are questioning evolution and pointing out assumptions and/or errors that are part of it. we don’t reeeally know the initial ration of C12 to C14 in a rock and we don’t reeeally know that carbon has always decayed at the same rate. i don’t believe uniformitarianism can fit with the Orthodox Tradition which teaches that the world radically changed at the Fall (and in fact, the Fall is a barrier that science cannot break through because before it there was no corruption so there are no remains to be studied — Fr. John Romanides says this quite well in “Ancestral Sin”), and again at the Flood. anyhoo — just some thoughts.


  31. Lvka, I have found a certain type of Orthodox, usually former Anglicans, who use words like “mystical” and “apophatic” to mean “ambiguous” and “up for my own silly interpretations.” Orthodoxy, through the Saints and Councils, is quite boringly clear on stuff like the Creation, sin, Paradise, Hell, the demonic testing, etc. We just happen to have fringe groups who have been self-appointed mouth-pieces for the Faith, especially in the West, which is about the only place such groups have any kind of credibility. And by “West” you should understand, “the utter backwaters of Orthodoxy.”

    Jesse, I like your thoughtful response. What it really comes down to is that a reasonable person does not have to assume uniformitarianism, as does the naturalist. In fact, the thinking believer is bound by the Tradition to assume the opposite.

    Fr. Patrick, I am really impressed by the depth of your thought on these issues and your fidelity to the fathers. How do you know Perry? Are you somewhere near St. Louis?


  32. Isaac,

    I only know Perry via this blog.

    I presently live in the United Kingdom and I serve as a parish priest in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. See more of my bio on the About page of this blog. To update the information, I have completed a MTh in Orthodox Theology and I am now reading for a PhD in theology focusing on patristic ecclesiology.


  33. +Patrick,

    I’m not a Bible; don’t take my words too literally… 🙂

    Yes, the fact that some people, who will most-likely be dead and burried by the time they reach 75, speak of a 7,500 year-old earth as ‘young’ is rather ironic…

    I also don’t understand why you’d think that I don’t believe in the divine inspiration of Genesis… Is it because I take a prophetic text to be less literal? That makes no sense… Just as the words of John or Daniel about things in the (then-)distant future are not taken by the letter, it stands to reason that the words of Moses about a long-distant past could also have been spoken in a similar manner…

    I have to repeat here what I wrote earlier:

    When the Fathers speak of the seven months between Nissan and Tishri as seventy or seven hundred years, that’s OK & orthodox… but when Darwin speaks of them in a similar manner, it’s ‘bad’ and ‘heretical’ and ‘un-orthodox’… this is simply absurd… There’s a reason why the expression “from the Expulsion from Paradise” is used alongside the expression “from the Foundation of the World”…. or “Anno Mundi”, as Catholics call it.

    There’s nothing wrong with believing the earth to be 7,500 years old… what is wrong is to hold on to it dogmatically, as a statement of faith (“I believe in one 7,500 year-old earth…”)

    There’s nothing wrong with an ultra-literal interpretation of Genesis 1… what’s wrong is to hold on to it it dogmatically, as a statement of faith (“I believe in one ultra-literal biblical interpretation, and in the life of the age to come, Amen!”).

    There’s nothing wrong with disbelieving evolution: you won’t go to hell for it; but there is something wrong with holding on to it dogmatically, as statement of faith: “…and in one animal kin, instantly-created, not evolved, …” etc.

    Discerning between dogma and speculation is one of the main differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy…

    You respect the letter of the Bible, but go against its spirit: the rather obvious hint is that the earth is OLD, not ‘young’, so to argue for a ‘young earth’ makes as little sense as saying that Christ said only to forgive our brother 70 times 7, so when he wrongs us for the 491st time, we don’t have to forgive him any longer… Christ was a staunch supporter of ‘short/finite forgiveness’… someone who says to forgive your brother even for the billionth time is a godless darwinist heretic…

    Likewise, the Holy Spirit Himself, speaking through the Holy Prophet Isaiah in the Bible, says that the earth’s surface is only the size of a palm, and St Peter assures us that a year lasts only 90 seconds, so ‘modern scientists’ who believe that the earth is actually half-a-billion square-kilometres, and that a year is as long as 365-and-a-quarter days are obviously wrong… (Please understand that God’s days and weeks and moths aren’t like human days and weeks and months, that his ‘palm’ is not the size of a human palm; and so on).


  34. Part of this discussion revolves around the extent to which Scripture (especially the Old testament) must be interpreted literally. A number of the Fathers state that portions of Scripture (and I mean parts that are written as history) should not be taken literally. For example, St. Gregory of Nyssa in the On the Making of Man, Sts. Gregory the Theologian and Basil the Great in their Philokalia of Origen, as well as a number of passages from the Philokalia would tend towards this position.

    if this position is accepted, then a viewpoint more in line with what Luka is suggesting might be permissible.


  35. Fr. Maximus, it might be permissible, but is it true? Which fathers specifically have doubted the historicity of Genesis or the other books of Moses? From what little I understand, while allegory, morality, and other deeper Christological meanings are expounded by the fathers from the Scriptures, they assumed and treated the texts as reliable historical accounts as well. This makes sense since Christ is the culmination of God’s historical relationship with humanity and Israel in particular.


  36. It’s also no fun when my comments get caught up in the spam-filter for days, probably due to length issues… still waiting for the one I wrote yesterday to pop up…


  37. My religious world-view doesn’t crash and burn because Adam might be an embodiment of (early) humans instead of him being a single literal person…


  38. That’s great, Lvka. But what does that have to do with whether or not the fathers believed Adam was a single literal person, or whether Adam’s singular literal personhood is a genuine teaching of the Orthodox Church?

    I mean, it’s great you’ve got a fall back position. I’m not ready to give up Father Adam, yet, though, if only by a matter of simple logic– we all come from our parents and are all related, ergo we have common ancestry. If we claim to believe in resurrections from the dead, foretellings of the future, spirits, miraculous healings, people parting seas and rivers, walking on water, etc… why not trust the Scriptures that speak of the first man and woman, their immortality, their fall, and their centuries-long lives along with their earliest children?


  39. Fr Maximus,

    I agree that being literalistic about everything in the Scripture leads to a disaster. That is why I am interested to hear the line of thought expressed by Lvka. There is a question as to the level of historical accuracy and the thought expressed by Lvka is trying to give historical weight to the text. My question is whether it is sufficient weight and taking it too abstractly (for want of a better word). There is much more said in Genesis such as plants being food for all animals, which must have been inspired because they would not have thought of that themselves from experience. This again is why I raised this debate to test these ideas with more heads than the poor thing on top of my neck.


  40. There’s nothing remotely miraculous about a single man and a single woman populating the entire planet… How you manage to put copulation and resurrections on the same footing is beyond me… I know it’s called “the mircle of life”, but…

    As I said before, there’s MORE to the Bible than history: there will be no death (and therefore no meat-consumtion) and also no intercourse in the Kingdom of Heaven… the blue-print of God’s plan did not include them… they will be done away with… whether or not we like it (hence why we’re fasting now, to get used to the idea)…


  41. As Fr. Patrick has recently said, St. John Chrysostom is not just one among many fathers. He is one of the “three great hierarchs” and “ecumenical teachers.” He writes,

    Perhaps one who loves to speak from his own wisdom here also will not allow that the rivers are actually rivers, nor that the waters are precisely waters, but will instill, in those who allow themselves to listen to them, the idea that they (under the names of rivers and waters) represented something else. But I entreat you, let us not pay heed to these people, let us stop up our hearing against them, and let us believe the Divine Scripture, and following what is written in it, let us strive to preserve in our souls sound dogmas. — St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 13.4

    Additionally he writes– and a great caution, I’d say, for the entire tone and approach of this blog: “There is nothing worse than that man should measure and judge of divine things by human reasonings.” — Homily 2 on II Timothy

    St. Basil chimes in on this one as well:

    Somehave attempted by false arguments and allegorical interpretations to bestow onthe Scripture a dignity of their own imagining. But theirs is the attitude of one who considers himself wiser than the revelations of the Spirit and introduces his own ideas in pretense of an explanation. Therefore, let it beunderstood as it has been written. — St. Basil, Hexaemeron 9.1 (his commentary on the Six Days of Creation)


  42. Lvka, you’re making my point for me. If I can believe the outright miraculous events of Scripture, why should I doubt the more mundane claims, as with human ancestry?


  43. i think its a necessity to believe that we all literally descend from the one man Adam and the one woman Eve, for one, because the Church celebrates them as Saints. We do not celebrate the prodigal son or the publican or any other figure of a parable as a Saint, but Adam and Eve and their righteous descendents are celebrated in the Church on the 2 Sundays before Nativity. Adam is referred to as a divine father of ancient days in the Matins service for the 2nd Sunday before Nativity. and Abel is celebrated as the first-ever martyr on March 20. St. Irenaeus says the notion that Adam was not saved was found among schismatic heretics in the early Church – how much more problematic is it to believe he wasn’t real?

    Also, 1/3 of the angels fell, and yet not all of angel nature and thus not all angels fell — because they are not descendents of one another — they do not receive their nature from one another. On the other hand, the sin of one man caused the fall of all human nature because we all receive our human nature from him — this is the ancestral curse. If we were not descendents of Adam we would not suffer from his fallen nature.


  44. Excellent points, Jesse.

    These questions are only raised because we live in an age of utter unbelief. How foolish is it to believe the Scriptures’ testimony that Christ is Risen, as we will sing for 50 days not long from now, and to deny its testimony about ancient Adam?

    Give me the unsophisticated, child-like faith of the saints, O Lord, because Thou hast said with Thy most pure lips: unless we become like them we will by no means enter into the Kingdom. Amen.


  45. “Where are they who say that the heaven whirls around? Where are they who declare that it is spherical? For both of these notions are overthrown here!”

    John Chrysostom on Hebrews 8:1-2

    The problem with your citations is as follows:

    – they are directed against Saints, NOT against me!

    (Yes, you read that one right: against Saints: if you still don’t believe me, read this, and then tell me why Maxim Martyr isn’t in hell right now…)

    I have not even begun interpreting Scripture allegorically yet… to say that Adam is a personification, not a person, is not “allegory”… it’s still a literal interpretation… I’m not saying that “rivers aren’t rivers”: Adam, whether one person, or many, is still a man… the spiritual interpetation would be Adam as Christ, for instance; etc. — and somehow I doubt you’d reject that…


  46. Another man to fall under Basil the Great’s injunction would be one of the great Syrian Saints, who said that the four rivers of Paradise are the four Holy Gospels… so, you see, for him “rivers aren’t rivers”… — but I digress…

    In short, let it be said that as much as Antiochian and Alexandrian Saints liked to be at each other’s throats, the Church received them BOTH, as complementing each other, NOT as opposing each other…

    IOW, your citations lack universality, which is one of the hallmarks of the Church, because equally-condemning words have been said by Alexandrian Saints AGAINST literal interpretation…


  47. We don’t need to decend from a single man in order to partake of mortality and headlessness… man was from early on mortal and weak and heedless… so were all our ancestors, personificated by Adam, and so are we even today… Solomon was driven into idolatry by his pagan wives, Adam was tempted into rebellion by his wife… women are attractive, and we have a weakness for them, so we follow them, and not God, about which thing Christ, the last Adam, said that “he who love mother or father or brother or wife or children more than Me is not worthy of Me”… so no, I don’t see your point…


  48. Well I think you’re missing something here, Lvka. I just read Maxim Martyr. He doesn’t deny the historical truth of the stories at all– he only points out that the language also points beyond itself to mystical truths.

    Chrysostom and Basil are condemning those who said these books had nothing at all to do with historical reality– the gnostics, etc.

    It’s not literal versus allegorical that is the dilemma. The point of the saints, unanimously when they have addressed this subject, is that you can’t have one without the other. The sermons of Chrysostom are full of allegorical and spiritual interpretations, but you don’t get to those without understanding that the Scriptures are a record of a God Who made the world and has acted within history to save us, and Who Himself has given us a record of that history.

    Is Adam one person or a collection of people? Both. Adam is a historical person, but we are all fallen Adam.


  49. In other words, I’m not saying that “Adam didn’t exist”… Adam (Man) obviously did exist, and Mankind does have a beginning… so yes, Adam DID exist…

    Additionally he writes: “There is nothing worse than that man should measure and judge of divine things by human reasonings.” — Homily 2 on II Timothy

    And who is the one doing that? Me, or you? I declare the seven days of Creation to be divine, not human… you are the one arguing for the contrary: that they are human days of 24 hours… 😐


  50. Ok Lvka, well thanks for the great discussion. I will consider it a failure on my own part that I have not persuaded you. May God do what I have not been able to do, if I am correct.


  51. Is Adam one person or a collection of people? Both. Adam is a historical person, but we are all fallen Adam.

    Adam represents early humans (our ancestors), as well as ourselves, who are begotten in their image…


  52. Lvka, as Isaac said, to see an allegorical meaning to the Scriptures is not the same as denying the literal meaning. The Fathers accepted many layers to Scripture. But in order for the Scripture to have a deeper spiritual meaning it must be grounded in historical truths.

    Here is St. Cyril of Alexandria from his Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah 1.4, PG 70.192AB:
    “Those who reject the historical meaning in the God-inspired Scriptures as something obsolete are avoiding the ability to apprehend rightly, according to the proper manner, the things written in them. For indeed spiritual contemplation is both good and profitable; and, in enlightening the eye of reason especially well, it reveals the wisest things. But whenever some historical events are presented to us by the Holy Scriptures, then in that instance, a useful search into the historical meaning is appropriate, in order that the God-inspired Scripture be revealed as salvific and beneficial to us in every way.”

    and Hieromonk Irenei Steenberg argues that, at least for St. Irenaeus, if Adam and Eve are to have symbolic value then they must be historical figures:

    Children in Paradise: Adam and Eve as “Infants” in Irenaeus of Lyons, Journal of Early Christian Studies – Volume 12, Number 1, Spring 2004, pp. 1-22:
    “But this symbolic or iconic value, far from encouraging Irenaeus to view Adam and Eve and their lives as substantially legend or myth, causes him to endeavor with all the greater urgency to establish the full ‘facts’ of their existence, for therein can be learned the true anthropological reality of present-day man. The symbolic value of the creation account is, for Irenaeus, bound up in its very historicity – a notion evidenced in Irenaeus’ tireless charges of Gnostic modifications or alteration of that very history … There is symbolism to be had in the histories, but the symbolism is lost if the history did not in actuality take place as history.”


  53. to see an allegorical meaning to the Scriptures is not the same as denying the literal meaning

    I don’t recall saying such… There are actual rejections of literal interpretation in the Fathers… general, as well as particular… (I always found such extremist views, whether from one side or the other, to be unbreasonable).

    Besides… it can hardly be said that I’m denying the historicity of Genesis’ first chapters…

    I don’t deny that the worlds and ages were made from nothing in the famous Big Bang, before which not even time itself existed; nor that man’s body is compounded of the lifeless elements of creation (2:6); nor that man was first a hunter-gatherer (the Garden of Eden + 3:21), who domesticated animals (2:19-20), and finaly began practicing agriculture, in its two forms (Cain and Abel); that the Last Ice Age was a reality (Noah’s Flood); that all the languages of the Afro-Asiatic realm come from a single language: proto-Semitic (the famous Tower of Babel); etc.

    I’m NOT saying that Genesis 1-3 is devoid of historic meaning… FAR from it! It’s rather dense and deep in historic meaning alone, APART from its other moral and mystical-theological layers…


  54. And so you believe this as well as that all these first people comprising Adam were immortal, and that even their immediate mortal descendents lived for centuries, and that one (or perhaps a group) called Enoch walked with God and was not, for God took him (them). It’s just such an awkward and forced fit that does nothing but cast doubt on the God-seer Moses’ revelation.

    The Bible reveals man as a little lower than the angels, and modern atheistic mythology would have us to be a little higher than the apes.


  55. “Save me, O Lord, for a righteous man there is no more, for truths have diminished from the sons of men. Vain things hath each man spoken to his neighbor…” Psalm 11.

    We are there, my friends!


  56. Why would I believe that Adam was immortal?…

    The patriarchs were men whose life-spans were enlarged to fill up a time-span considered reasonable.

    In the Afro-Asiatic realm, the main wife named her first-born after her father… that’s why the lines of Cain and Seth have several names in common: because they were actual persons.

    Enoch was thus the grandson of Enoch from the line of Cain… and it’s not a coincidence that he was the seventh from Adam (because there are seven classical planets), nor that his life-span was 365 years (according to the number of days in a year), nor that he was taken up to heaven


  57. I assumed you considered Adam to have been a partaker of the Tree of Life, and that he was not subject to death. Even Orthodox evolutionists seem to have adopted some basic narrative that says God evolved apes up into the creature that would become man, and at that point he was given the image of God and set apart for immortality in the Garden.

    Yes, numbers in the Bible are a great thing. I definitely don’t believe in mere “coincidences” in the Bible.

    I thought the patriarch’s lives were very long by today’s standards generally because they were supposed to have been originally created for immortality, and that there was a gradual decline in the ages of men, 120s by the time of Moses (1400s B.C.), and 70s-80s by the time that David wrote a Psalm explaining such.

    Thanks for explaining your views, Lvka.


  58. Lvka,
    I followed a link once to a site where a gal was laying things out similar to what you’re saying. Can you point us to where you have gotten this view…I’ve forgotten the name of the webpage I was referring to.


  59. Lvka,

    Who do you believe wrote Genesis and when? Was it inspired by the Holy Spirit?

    If man was created/evolved mortal then God is the author of death sin it was not man that caused himself to die nor any other power other than the Creator. How then can St Paul say that through the offence of one man death came to all? This would not be true. Death was already on all without the offence. How then can Christ save us by righteousness, if death is not a result of sin?

    How can Life that knows no death create death as good? How can any form of life exist that is not sustained or created by God? If so then God is limited in some way by a life that exists of its own right apart from Him. Also, man cannot be said to be in the image and likeness of God if man is bound to death from creation because God is Life. For God to create man in death would be for God to deny Himself. So, man must be created participating in the life of God and thus free from death so long as man remains with God. Only sin can lead to a break and death resulting from man not God.

    Can you please address these issues?

    What supporting evidence to you have for the expansion of life spans? Why only a few and why create the story limiting them? Is this not putting false words in the mouth of God, who is Truth? Why should they think it necessary to enlarge the ages anyway? What patristic support or modern theologian support do you have for your thinking? From where did the writers get the names for the list in the particular order that they came? Also, the main issue is the age of giving birth to the first child which is the most important for dating purposes and these are not enlarged much from now and certainly not enough to cover huge time gaps. Life span after this is rather irrelevant. It is the generation gap that is important not the absolute age.


  60. My second large comment, answering +Patrick’s concerns, did still not appear… Perry was a former Catholic, so maybe the spam filter is his own way of still holding on to the notion of Purgatory… 🙂

    My view is merely a simple comparison between what we see in Scripture, and what we know from history (basic stuff, nothing fancy). I’m just connecting the dots… for two things that are supposedly at odds with each other, they sure happen to look suspiciously similar to me…

    I found out that Afro-Asiatic women name their first baby after their father from Alice C. Linsley’s blog: she’s an anthropologist.

    The Jews: that’s who I believe wrote Genesis. Under divine guidance.

    God did not “create” death: death is a residue of the Nothingness FROM which all things were cereated BY God. Death is not a “substance” to be “created”… It’s a parasite.

    It is imputed to man because –although at first they were innocent, and death WAS not (innitially) man’s fault– it BECAME such when he knowingly and willingly chose to remain in it…

    What came first? The chicken, or the egg? Although death was the mother of sin (1 Corinthians 15:56), sin also became the father of death (Romans 6:23), forming what is called a “vicious cicle”, or “a spiral of self-destruction”. Christ came to break the circle. Although born a mortal, and subject to temptation, as the Holy Gospels and the Epistle to the Hebrews tell us, he never actually sinned… but, then again, neither did some of the Saints, like John the Baptist, or the Mother of God… but there’s a difference between winning all the battles until the present moment, and actually putting an end, once and for all, to the entire war: which is precisely what Christ did through His glorious death and resurrection…


  61. I have heard of this person, and have been to her blog. You speak of what we “know” from history– but what you mean is the consensus of modern secular scholarship, which btw has a distinctly anti-Scripture, pro-materialist agenda.

    Linsley also writes about these weird imaginative “visions” she supposedly has. When I told her that they didn’t seem in keeping with what the fathers say about how genuine spiritual visions are given, she said that since there was nothing contradictory to the faith in them, she believed in them! Yikes. Last time I visited her blog.

    The Tradition says that Archangel Gabriel revealed the contents of Genesis to the prophet Moses. Documentary hypothesis garbage has no actual manuscript evidence, and exists as a result of materialist thinking. It’s the same reasoning that can’t accept the Church’s testimony about the authorship of the Gospels, or any other important teaching. An entire field of “scholarship” exists to rob the Bible of spiritual authority– compromise with them only emboldens their claims. On balance they’re self-congratulatory morons– boomer leftist pseudo-intellectuals, most of them. At least they were in my undergrad theology department. There were more believers in the science departments.


  62. Human memory only goes so far… they remembered the names of the dinasty, starting with its first memorable tribe-leaders and city-builders… but they also knew that the earth wasn’t established when their by-then-not-really-all-that-distant noteworthy ancestors have put the basis of their civilization… So what do you do when you know that the formation of the American continent did not begin with Christopher Columbus, nor with its first presidents? They wrote down what they knew, and enlarged their ages to fill up a time-amount that seemed reasonable…

    It seems unreasonable and artificial to make the generation-gap too large, since there’s a certain ratio between total life-time. and the age at which one has its first children… To say, for instance, that Adam was 700 years old when he begat Seth, and lived only 230 years afterwards, seems out-of-line… normal people don’t have children at their old age, dying short afterwards… it just makes no sense… (Although, now that I’ve mentioned it, this does seem to be the direction in which the world today is heading 🙂 … sadly 😦 )


  63. The fact that African and Middle-Eastern wives name their first-born after their father was neither “invented”, nor “discovered”, nor “dreamed up” by Alice Linsley… 🙂


  64. The question of animal death was raised earlier in this discussion. If God is not the author of death, and through one man death came into the world, then, according to one line of argumentation, animals did not die before Adam’s fall. But then what about the dinosaurs, etc? The fossils must have come into being after the fall, which certainly creates scientific difficulties.

    I would like to propose a different way at looking at non-human death.

    So far as I understand it, death is for humans the separation of soul from body. But what about plants and animals? St. Gregory Palamas states that the souls of animals are nothing more than the sum of their component physical parts (incidentally, this leads me to believe that humans will succeed in creating life in the near future). If that is so, then animal death must be something rather different from human death, ontologically speaking.

    Now, animal death as we know it now involves corruption and decay, in a way which is smelly and messy and not very paradisical. That much at least must be postlapsarian. But if animal death is the dissolution of constituent parts, why couldn’t that dissolution take place in a beautiful way, since change in and of itself is not connected to sin? Perhaps we could view animal “death” before the fall as simply a change of “forms” in the Aristotelian sense. Something like, a leaf falls to the ground and instead of rotting is transformed in a beautiful way into soil?

    I realize this is speculation, but perhaps it is a line of thought which could resolve some of the seeming contradictions.

    A good Lent to all.


  65. Great points, Fr. Maximus. You will find many Orthodox compatibilists who do this, mainly because they believe the age of the earth and the fossil evidence point to this stuff. And you know what, if this is ever really conclusively known, demonstrated to “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof, I would say that yours is the position I would then take.

    However, I don’t think we’re there yet. There are many valid, even purely secular, reasons to doubt the current cosmogeny, geological dating, etc. of the scientific consensus. I would point you, wholeheartedly to the newest edition of Genesis, Creation and Early Man, which compiles a lot of the newest scientific data and arguments for a recent creation and global flood. Additionally it has compiled the teachings of all the various holy elders that have recently shown forth in the Church– Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos, Elder Iakovos of Evvia, Elder Cleopa of Sihastria, Elder Sophrony Sakharov of Essex. These people understand the Creation just as the ancient fathers did, and consider it impermissible to believe in human “pithecogeny.”

    I think this viewpoint will eventually come to prevail in the Orthodox Church in the West, just as the Church’s now worldwide, mainstream reaction against certain betrayals of ecumenism. It was the common people who rose up in defense of the truth, just as they will on this subject. One man plus the truth is a majority. That’s what counts.


  66. Fr Maximus,

    Your thoughts are where I was heading when I posted this blog. However, some of the points raised by Jesse and Isaac have made me start to rethink the situation. Look at Genesis 1:29-30 where plants are given for ALL beasts not just some. This implies no carnivores, which in turn supports no death. Even so this is still well wide of the standard story of animal history. Now the Jews (conceding to Lvka) would not have known to indicate that all animals were herbivores unless there was a theological reason, which would further reinforce a non-death understanding is correct. There is a theological issue about God creating death. That is when God brings something into existence it cannot be then in a state of returning to non-existence that is death, else God would effectively deny His own creation. Well, so it seems to me at this stage.


    I need you to go into much more depth rather than repeat what you have already said. I need you to explain the theological system within which you are working. Already you are saying things that are theologically untenable. You need to think more seriously about what is effectively a deviation from the Scriptures particularly in terms of this statement:

    “It is imputed to man because –although at first they were innocent, and death WAS not (innitially) man’s fault– it BECAME such when he knowingly and willingly chose to remain in it…”

    This is not consistent with St Paul nor with Genesis. Man did not begin in death and refuse to leave it. He was in life and rejected it. This is very important theologically with many subtle implications. I would be very careful with your thinking here.

    This statement is also highly problematic:

    “God did not “create” death: death is a residue of the Nothingness FROM which all things were cereated BY God. Death is not a “substance” to be “created”… It’s a parasite.”

    There is no residue from nothingness. There is no nothingness to have a residue. There is no nothingness FROM which to create something. Death is the consequence return to non-existence when one separated from God and life. It is not even a parasite, it is the result of removal of life. Death only happens when there is a free rejection of Life. It cannot be created. Creation ex nihilo is not creation from an existing nothingness but that creation was not made out of God’s essence. It was another existence that wasn’t there before. Nothingness cannot exist.


  67. Lvka,

    I losely monitor comments for posts that I do not write. I have a sufficient amount of discussions to participate in, in other venues than posts that may or may not interest me. Your comment got caught in the spam filter, plain and simple.

    I am about as weak a candidate for being a former Catholic as one could think of or close to it. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but I was raised in the Episcopal church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. So my being a former Catholic had nothing to do with your comment being caught in the spam filter. As always, ad hominem’s are unnecessary.


  68. Perry,

    Joke. YRU upset? 😐 C’mon…


    I’m merely rephrasing what St Athanasius wrote in his work…


  69. I wondered why Perry was holding his tongue on this. Maybe he’s the wisest of us all.

    I just inherently distrust overly intellectualized parsings and speculation when it comes to the Scriptures. Why can’t we accept with humility what the fathers have said regarding the creation? We believe them about everything else.

    Was Paradise a historical place or is it a spiritual state? Obviously the answer is BOTH. We become Paradise when we repent and Christ the Tree of Life enters us. Nevertheless, St. Euphrosynos walked in Paradise and brought back fruit from there which healed the diseases of the monks in his monastery. I believe it, because we are spiritual and physical beings.


  70. Fr Patrick,

    one of my former comments just got released from the evil clutches of WordPress’ dreadful spam-filter… and there’s also another one, but I don’t remember which one…


  71. Lvka, Not upset.


    I haven’t read the post so I can’t say. I’ve been off in other lands slaying Calvinists and preparing for war.

    Generally, I run away from conversations about evolution and such. My experience has taught me a few things about such conversations speaking. Scientists may be good practioners of their craft and not understand it well or at all. Most scientists in my experience lack even the most basic understanding of what science is. They also can’t seem to figure ot when they move from their field into making metaphysical claims. Frankly, I wish they would shut up.

    By the same token, clergy as well as academic theologians generally don’t make good practioners of science. So when they speak using rehashed arguments from Seventh Day Adventist (the originators of contemporary creatonism) polemics.I tune them out. Most of them read the Bible like a newspaper rather than a story or so this is the way they strike me. Frankly, I wish they would shut up.

    I wish both parties would because they make more trouble and cause more confusion unnecessarily, imperilling people’s salvation and giving Christianity a bad name, not to mention making scientists look stupid on a fair number of occasions.

    While I have yet to read it, from what I know of his other writings, I tend to be where Alvin Plantinga is in his new book. Something like that seems right. I don’t take the answer to be simple. What we know so far of the physical world is incredibly complex, far greater than I understand. This is why I don’t think people are satisfied with simple answers that the story provides. They want to know how to fit the two together. That is no mean project. But given how recent our investigations are *chemistry was still “magic” up till 1850 or so) and how vast the universe is and how still very limited our thinking is to a planetary perspective, I don’t expect that to emerge while I am alive. So I am content to proffer suggstive ways of thinking about reconciling the two. Saint Augustine gave good advice when he counseled that we should not make our apologetic about the two areas of time we know the least about, the begining and the end. i am more concerned with what is in the middle.

    None of this says anything about what Fr Patrick has written here. I haven’t read it. I have other things on my plate. Which is why I have other contributors here, to help post when I can’t or don’t feel up to it. Frankly, constructing quality writing is work and it takes hours and some cash, cash that I generally do not have.

    I think in the end the answer how to fit them together is more marvellous than we can presently imagine. Humans need to grow up before we are ready to grasp it.


  72. Thanks for your input, Perry. I used to hold to this position, too. I hope Lent is off to a good start for you and your family. Our little parish is hosting the collective vespers service on Sunday, March 11 at 4:30pm. It would be great to see you face to face again, brother.


  73. Perry said:
    “I’ve been off in other lands slaying Calvinists and preparing for war.”

    Ooo, do tell. Where might these discussions be?


  74. Last night, I read this quote from Elder Porphyrios and thought some here might find it of interest:

    I remember the fossilized trees, the trunks, which we saw in Mytilene. They’ve been there for fifteen million years. They made a great impression on me! And that is prayer — to see the fossils and to glorify the greatness of God.

    I read it in Science and the Eastern Orthodox Church, edited by Daniel Buxhoeveden and Gayle Woloschak, page 17. The citation for the quote is p. 220 of Wounded by Love: The Life and Writings of Elder Porphyrios.


  75. Lvka,

    Thanks for the link to the former comment. However I am not at issue with taking Genesis in a less literal manner nor am I trying to fly the flag for literalism or “24 hours”, what I am questioning is the specific reading that you have presented in terms of both the theological implications and the consistency with the text. In both these areas I find your view untenable, even given that being less that literal is the correct way to read the text. Could you please specifically answer my questions or provide citations to St Athanasius’ work from which you are rephrasing? Thank you.


  76. Fr. Patrick, I think there is a danger in taking the interpretation that the fathers held to in Genesis and then not accepting it in light of what is called “science” today. If we don’t accept their collective view regarding the age of the earth then why should we accept their collective view in other areas of faith. Rationalism or “science” will also try and say that it is impossible for the bread and wine to become the real presence of Christ.

    Evolution presupposes that the earth is billions of years old, and not only does the science contradict that notion but first and foremost the scriptures and the fathers do. There was a time when “science” said that the world was flat and the scripture was right all along describing the earth as a “sphere” in the book of Isaiah. Evolution is a myth my friend, and shouldn’t be as easily accepted as many have it.


  77. Perhaps a good thing would be to read the passages describing nature from the book of Job… where he speaks of “chambers” of snow and hail; or how God “knitts” a baby’s veins and nerves in the womb; etc.

    I was refering to Athanasius’ famous work “On the Incarnation“… The idea is ALL OVER his work, so you should NOT limit yourself to the following passages:

    “Upon men who, as animals, were essentially impermanent, He bestowed a grace which other creatures lacked—namely the impress of His own Image […] though in limited degree they might continue for ever in the blessed and only true life of the saints in paradise.”

    “He set them in His own paradise, and laid upon them a single prohibition. If they guarded the grace and retained the loveliness of their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain or care, and after it the assurance of immortality in heaven. But if they went astray and became vile, throwing away their birthright of beauty, then they would come under the natural law of death and live no longer in paradise, but, dying outside of it, continue in death and in corruption.”

    “For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good. By nature, of course, man is mortal, since he was made from nothing; but he bears also the Likeness of Him Who is, and if he preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt. So is it affirmed in Wisdom: “The keeping of His laws is the assurance of incorruption.” And being incorrupt, he would be henceforth as God, as Holy Scripture says, “I have said, Ye are gods and sons of the Highest all of you: but ye die as men and fall as one of the princes.” (Psalm 83).“

    “As I said before, though they were by nature subject to corruption, the grace of their union with the Word made them capable of escaping from the natural law, provided that they retained the beauty of innocence with which they were created. That is to say, the presence of the Word with them shielded them even from natural corruption, as also Wisdom says: “God created man for incorruption and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death entered into the world.” When this happened, men began to die, and corruption ran riot among them and held sway over them to an even more than natural degree, because it was the penalty of which God had forewarned them for transgressing the commandment”.


  78. Lvka,

    Thank you for the quotes from St Athanasius.

    St Athanasius is saying that man was initially created shielded from corruption/death and even though man is by nature subject to corruption. In other words, Adam was initially created shielded by the Word and this prevented Adam from dying, so he was in a state of immortality, although not the state of immortality in which we will be after the final resurrection. When Adam acted against God and separated from God then Adam becomes subject death, because apart from God created nature is incapable in itself of sustaining life, it is mortal by nature, and even a death worse than the natural mortal condition because of the penalty. So, this is not saying, what you have effectively said, that Adam (man) was created initially subject to death and that Adam needed to act rightly to become shielded by the Word and thus immortal.

    It seems that perhaps you are equating mortal nature and being subject to death. The mortal nature when “shielded” by Christ is not subject to death. This must be the initial condition of Creation else God is the author of death.


  79. Well, finally a comment went through. So I’ll try again…..

    I’m reading Science and the Eastern Orthodox Church, edited by Daniel Buxhoeveden and Gayle Woloschak, both Orthodox Christians and scientists. On page 17 is a quote from Elder Porphyrios which comes from page 220 of Wounded by Love: The Life and Writings of Elder Porphyrios:

    I remember the fossilized trees, the trunks, which we saw in Mytilene. They’ve been there for fifteen million years. They made a great impression on me! And that is prayer — to see the fossils and to glorify the greatness of God.

    I thought some of the participants in this thread might find the quote of interest.


  80. Think about this, Romans tells us that:
    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20 NIV)

    Which shows off God’s eternal existence more, a 6000 year old universe or one that’s some 14 billion years old? Wouldn’t this be more clearly demonstrated by our discovering the great age of our universe or one in which gives the impression of great age yet, instead, is very young?


  81. Perry thanks for your comment. I don’t believe that Plato and other philosophers had greater influence on the fathers than the scriptures did. The scriptures were at the heart of what they believed, not what philosophers taught. Also, it is common in orthodox thinking to take Aristotle and other philosophers who came before Christ to be the first christians, so to speak. There are even some orthodox churches with their icons being displayed.

    David, that argument is very subjective. You can ask many others who will be even more in awe by the fact that God can instantaneously create the world with a word and not take billions of years for it to develop over time.


  82. JT, I’d recommend reading them. It is rather uncontroversial that with respect to the age of the Earth and such many Fathers relied on the “science” of the philosophers or common beliefs of their time. i mean the fathers believe din teh humors. Do you believe in the humors or do you go along with modern science?

    The qustion is not whether the scriptures were at the heart of what they believed but with what did they interpret the scriptures? Your remarks then move the question, but they do not answer it.

    If Aristotle was a first Christian then I’d suggest we need to rescind the Synokion and its anathemas on his teachings as well as that of Plato. Secondly, when some fathers speak of Socrates in that way, namely Justin it is with respect to what he has to say about virtue and ethics, not cosmology.

    I’ve seen Orthodox churches with Christ portrayed as a Lamb, which is clearly uncanonical. that doesn’t legitimize such things.

    In short if we are not to learn about the world from the senses then we cannot learn about the faith from them either and out goes the resurrection, not to mention icons. Something to reflect on given what day it is today.


  83. “If they guarded the grace and retained the loveliness of their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain or care, and after it the assurance of immortality in heaven.”

    If they already had a “life … without sorrow, pain or care” and already possessed “immortality”, then this would make little sense…

    Also, why the insistance on “the life of paradise … without sorrow, pain or care”, if all life was such, whether inside or outside of it ?

    “But if they went astray and became vile, throwing away their birthright of beauty, then they would come under the natural law of death and live no longer in paradise, but, dying outside of it, continue in death and in corruption.”

    Why the insistance on “outside of it”, if there was no death either inside or outside of Paradise?

    And why “continue in death and in corruption”, if there were none before the Fall?

    It’s also clear from his words that death was neither God’s fault, nor His creation, but the direct result of being created ex nihilo… and I honestly can’t see how that reasoning might be affected by the existence of death before man’s willing and conscious rejection of God’s grace…


  84. If Aristotle was a first Christian then I’d suggest we need to rescind the Synokion and its anathemas on his teachings as well as that of Plato.

    Oops… I hope they didn’t anathemize the works of the Buddha as well… did they? 😐


  85. Lvka,

    Regarding the first quote: “life… without sorrow…” makes sense with the distinction between the immortality of initial creation and that of the life to come, to which St Athanasius is referring. The insistence of the life of paradise can be understood, without necessitating death before the Fall, in terms of hindsight since the Fall rather than the situation at the time.

    The second quote does allow for the possibility of death outside but it does not necessitate it. Paradise is also symbolic of the place where Adam was shielded by the Word, where he was with God. Thus, he was in God. When Adam sins he is cast out of paradise that is away from God and so enters death. Without paradise, the imagery of the Fall would not have been so clear nor the relationship between God and man and the universe be properly expressed; Adam could not be cast off from the world nor was God apart from the world to begin nor is the world entirely separated from God after the Fall. Paradise express both God’s imminence and transcendence in an iconic manner and also man’s relationship to God including also the relationship of the universe. Adam was not expected to only live in paradise to avoid the earth outside but to subdue the entire earth. Also, the state of man must be reflected in the entire universe because it is as man that Christ saves and restores the entire universe.

    “Continue in death and corruption”, I read as: “continue from after the Fall in this state” not as: “continuing a state already present”. That is once Adam falls he continues “living” after this in death and corruption. This meaning doesn’t require death or corruption before the Fall to make sense. The exact understanding of this may be restricted by the Greek word used.

    For the last part about creation ex nihilo, yes our mortal nature is something that is unavoidably inherent in creation because only God truly has life in Himself. By creating anything God immediately becomes the author of death since anything created is prone to death and corruption. This is however only if the created thing is considered in itself apart from God. If it is considered with God then it is not bound to death since God gives and sustains its life with His life. Thus, God is not the author of death if He creates something united with Himself because He prevents the creation heading to death. This must be the initial state of Creation. However, He had to give man freedom to choose to remain in life and should man refuse then God must allow separation and this immediately means that the created thing heads to death. God is not the author of this death but the devil, who also had the choice of life rejected it and so is falling into death, tempted man to disunite from God through disobedience. Man followed Satan, separated and so died, and so did the universe with him because man is the link between the universe and God.

    To accept death and corruption before the Fall could only be managed if we perhaps redefine what is meant by death and corruption, so that animal/plant/star death is not really death but recycling. However, the death/decay of a human body is classed as death in itself and so how can this be properly distinguished from the bodily death of an animal as being death?


  86. (I somehow knew you were gonna say all that…)

    Why “should”, or why would, God pre-impose this union of Him with His Creation? Why not just simply offer it at the right moment in time to an intelligent creature, made in His image, and thus capable of dragging all of creation along with him, out of a pre-existing state of impermanence, and into life everlasting? 😐

    If the Sun and the Moon were already impermanent, pointing to their non-divinity, as the Fathers interpret, why would the impermanence of living beings be any worse? After all, it is only in the Kingdom of Heaven that the Sun will no longer set; it is only there that sin and death will finally be abolished; it is there that we will no longer consume the flesh of other living beings, since death is abolished; etc.


  87. Doesn’t it seem a little silly that if there was no death in the animal kingdom we would have rabbits, iguanas, rats, cows etc living for thousands if not millions of years? Eternal ducks? There would have to be some serious birth control w/in the animal kingdom. Raise your hands all those who want to take care of this little chore.


  88. Lvka,

    God does not impose His union on those with free will; they have a choice to reject the union. For those things without a free choice, imposition is not an issue.

    There cannot be existence per se apart from God. Nothing can exist of its own right separate from God else there would be something that is beyond God and so He would be limited. Rather Creation is other than God but must exist united with and sustained by Him. He has to create it in union with Him else it couldn’t exist without limiting God and thus denying Him. The state of Fall is due to the freedom that God gave man and the angels so that they may truly be in His image. This fallen (separated) state should not be, it is technically impossible, yet it is maintained by God’s longsuffering so that men might be saved and exist eternally with him. He allows the separation, or rather does not let it to be completely separated, so that there remains time for many people to have the opportunity to share His life. However, the state cannot be permanent and God must restore all things to union with Him, He must be all in all. He must establish them in an eternal union transcending the first created provisional union.

    The initial creation, although not subject to death and corruption, was still in a temporary state, whether Sun and Moon or living things, until man had time to accept God and to fill the earth. Once, the numbers that God has planned have been fulfilled then Creation will be transformed into an eternal state. The Incarnation was always going to take place to enable the union of creation to God eternally.


  89. David,

    Will this not be the case after the final Resurrection or will there be no more ducks? The issue isn’t time of existence or life but reproducing without dying. Rather I think that God could have managed the population to enable perfect harmony. God’s providence reigned then with man over all Creation. Perhaps alternately, animals didn’t reproduce pre-Fall because this wasn’t necessary. Because of the likelihood of dramatic changes to the universe with the Fall, it is almost impossible to guess what life conditions were pre-Fall or by what laws the universe ran so such discussion is only speculation apart from revelation.

    The concern from physical evidence is that it has a seemingly coherent history in terms of present physical laws, as well as we know them, that doesn’t match the Scriptural testimony. The difficulty is to explain this apparent inconsistency without relying on present laws and means of life to be taken back pre-Fall because we don’t know how much has changed, yet recognising the same creation as pre-Fall.


  90. I’m not saying that creation wasn’t united (at all) with God… or that it could sustain itself (I thought the Patristic passages are crystal-clear on that issue: it can’t)… All I’m saying is: man could either seal that partial union, perfect it, and make it permanent; OR he could fall and drag down all creation with him into ever-gowing chaos… which is what he did…


  91. Lvka,

    The union or shielding of Christ was such that Adam by default was in a state that he was free from death as long as he didn’t take a positive step to disobey. Your position seems to be that Adam was heading to death unless he made a positive choice to God to escape it. You are vague on having one ancestor. So your position seems to deny that “…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death passed to all men…” This is where I have a major problem with it.


  92. I think I’d have an easier time with all of it if I could simply hold it in abstraction as you all seem to be doing. I can’t. My heart says, what did and do the holy men of the true religion hold to? How have they revealed the Bible’s meaning?

    This is perhaps too much of a simplification for some people, but whenever it comes to teachings regarding the holy Faith, I examine the lives of the people there. Do you know why Bishop Daniel of the Old Believers united with ROCOR instead of the OCA? It was not simply because ROCOR was the more Russian of the two. No, this holy man went up to St. Vladimir’s Seminary exploring the possibility of joining with the OCA… unfortunately, he observed that many of the faculty and big-wigs there at that particular time did not keep the fasts. It burdened his heart so much that it was not thinkable to so scandalize his flock.

    In a similar fashion, I just think the hyper-academic armchair theologians don’t have the same spiritual authority as simple men and women who spend their nights in vigil and who rigorously hold to the ascetical tradition of the Church, and who continually remind us that we should be working out our salvation– life and death unto eternity is all that matters. Those people seem to overwhelmingly favor the more simple view of the fathers.

    Did the fathers use the flawed science of their day? Sure. And I like Met. Kallistos’ terms of patristic wheat and chaff. We know they were humans. But such a sifting must be done cautiously. Just because fathers speak to something with scientific implications does not mean they are merely making a scientific statement. Correct me if I’m wrong Perry, but didn’t Plato think the had been aeons and aeons of time, or even an eternal existence of matter? The fathers interpreting any Scripture should have the heaviest of weight for us, especially when they do so in harmonious chorus with all the others.

    But again, this is why I think for most of the faithful some simple unlettered fishermen and their lowly, “foolish” disciples (you know, the ones whose bones very unscientifically gush myrrh and heal cancer) still happen to be the best expounders of theology, as opposed to the philosophers and wise men of this age.


  93. Fr. Patrick,
    If what you say is true then how is it that this present fallen world that has completely different laws which are a direct result of the Fall still bear witness to God? Remember what it says in Romans:

    “For since the creation of the world…”

    This gives strong indication that things have not changed so much.

    As far as eternal ducks and wolves being friends w/ sheep, there is nothing in scripture that I can think of off the top of my head that says that this condition is a return to what things were like pre-Fall just that that’s the way things will be after the Resurrection.


  94. Yes. Guilty. I don’t read those passages quite as rigidly as you.

    When Adam and Eve took from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (and if you want to criticize me for not taking that sentence as literally as you do, go right ahead), they did not “become” naked… they were already so… they just didn’t realize it till then… because of grace. “To the pure all things are pure”, says Saint Paul; and Christ tells us that “if your eye is pure, then your whole being is enlightened”. When we were little, the world was as it is today; in my case, it was even worse (communism, martyrdom, etc). Yet we all remember our childhood as being the happiest and most blessed time of our life… God’s grace shielded us from “seeing” such realities. It’s hard not to make the connection to the child-like state of early humans, the “childhood” of our species, if you like, when man first gained self-consciousness, yet did not yet fully realize what was going on around him…


  95. Perry, I would recommend Fr. Seraphim Rose and the writings he presented regarding the age of the earth. I’m glad that the Church does not teach that evolution is true, but I am saddened by the fact that so many, claiming to be in line with the fathers, are blindly accepting that the earth is “billions” of years old. Thankfully I’m not the only one who feels this way so I’ll gladly be considered a “fundamentalist”, even by my orthodox brothers if that is the consequence of believing the scripture and standing with the fathers.


  96. Lvka,

    From my experience it is legitimate not to necessarily read the Scriptures very literally. However, the reading that you have must fit the text smoothly and coherently such that others can also see the logic of the reading and why the text was written in that way. In other words there is a good explanation why the author was best to write what he did. The imagery in Revelation will make sense when the prophecies are fulfilled and it will be clear why he used such and such imagery. At present I cannot see any connection with your position and the writing of St Paul.

    Man was in the image and likeness of God before realising that he was naked which was due to a sinful act. Thus man was created mature yet innocent. His realisation of good and evil is not a result of his maturing to adulthood, even taking this as a species. The implication of your understanding is that mankind’s developing to a stage of becoming the image and likeness of God means being self-conscious and knowing one’s nakedness. This implies that it is impossible to be fully in the image and likeness of God without losing innocence and also denies that children are properly human, in the image and likeness of God, until maturity.

    Regarding inspiration, there is a sliding scale for understanding this also, from God using the writer as a typewriter to the writer having just a feeling to write something. The traditional witness about Genesis is that Moses was closer to a typewriter in writing this and so these are God’s words not a story told by an undefined group of Jews who felt inspired to write a history to explain their origins. We believe and confess in the Creed that the Holy Spirit spoke through the Prophets. This includes the writing of Genesis. Do you believe this level of inspiration?


    I recognise that there must be much continuity pre-Fall to post-Fall. However, the Fathers also speak of some discontinuity and this, even if it is not so great, still makes it impossible to work backwards pre-Fall; we just don’t know what has changed and how much.

    I agree that it is the way after the Resurrection. The point about the ducks is that the being immortal is not an issue in itself but immortality tied with procreation. So, no death pre-Fall is not a problem in itself for such a system to work. The problem arises with procreation that is not limited.


  97. it is impossible to be fully in the image and likeness of God without losing innocence

    Of course…

    [it] denies that children are properly human, in the image and likeness of God, until maturity.

    You got it backwards… It is we that gradually lose the image and likeness of God as we “mature”… Christ said that those who want to enter the Kingdom of God should have the innocence of children…

    the Holy Spirit spoke through the Prophets

    Yes, and as can be seen when that happens, it’s not uncommon for Him or them to speak in a mystical manner, not according to letter…


  98. Do you know that bite line, “”There’s more to Acrobat than Reader” ? Well, it’s the same with the Bible: there’s more to it than mere historico-biological data. The Bible cannot be reduced to a history book or biology manual. The Bible is more than just a simple science-book… It’s NOT one-sided… there are many layers to it…

    Adam was not one; the Bible could’ve easily brushed it all off in a single sentence: “and then God made the men after their kind”. But God wanted to tell us so much more… He wanted to show us how the human family is the Image of the Holy Trinity; He wanted to teach us about the monarchy of the Father; He wanted to prepare us for the Person of the ONE Christ; etc.


  99. Lvka,

    Canon 120 of Carthage:
    It has pleased the Council to decree that whoever calls Adam, the first man created, a mortal man so made that whether he sin or not he is bound to die in the body, that is, to depart from the body, not owing to his deserving this fate by reason of the sin, but because of a necessity inherent in his nature, let him be anathema.

    Canon 121:
    …for no other meaning ought to be attached to what the Apostle has said, viz., “Sin entered the world through one human being”, and thus it passed over into all human beings; wherefore all of them have sinned, than that which the catholic Church diffused and spread abroad every-where has ever understood those words to mean….

    These Canons also conform to St John Chrysostom’s interpretation of Romans 5 (Homily 10), where he insists on the importance of sin coming through one man so that one man can save all. If we deny that Adam was one man then we undermine both the argument of St John Chrysostom and of St Paul.

    Please show how your view is consistent with the Canons and so the teaching of the Church.


  100. so made that whether he sin or not he is bound to die in the body

    If he would’ve embraced God’s offer of immortality, he wouldn’t have died…

    Since there were no darwinists around 400 AD, something tells me that those canons have something else in mind… something to do with Pelagianism?

    Here’s the first paragraph of the second Canon you mention:

    Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

    Since you seem to like that particular synod so much, here are other canons:

    Canon 4.
    Faustinus, the bishop of the Potentine Church, in the province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church, said: It seems good that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, or whoever perform the sacraments, should be keepers of modesty and should abstain from their wives.

    By all the bishops it was said: It is right that all who serve the altar should keep pudicity from all women.

    Canon 25. (Greek xxviii.)
    Concerning bishops and the lower orders who wait upon the most holy mysteries: It has seemed good that these abstain from their wives

    Aurelius, the bishop, said: We add, most dear brethren, moreover, since we have heard of the incontinency of certain clerics, even of readers, towards their wives, it seemed good that what had been enacted in various councils should be confirmed, to wit, that subdeacons who wait upon the holy mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters, as well as bishops according to former statutes, should contain from their wives, so that they should be as though they had them not and unless they so act, let them be removed from office. But the rest of the clergy are not to be compelled to this, unless they be of mature age. And by the whole council it was said: What your holiness has said is just, holy, and pleasing to God, and we confirm it.

    Canon 70. (Greek lxxiii.)
    What clerics should abstain from their wives

    Moreover since incontinence has been charged against some clergymen with regard to their own wives it has seemed good that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should according to the statutes already made abstain even from their own wives; and unless they do so that they should be removed from the clerical office. But the rest of the clergy shall not be forced to this but the custom of each church in this matter shall be followed.


  101. yes, that canon was originally in response to Pelagianism, but nevertheless the Church proclaimed this as a dogmatic teaching since Carthage was ratified by both Trullo and the 7th Ecumenical Councils.

    Those other canons you cite have to do with discipline which can change, whereas the canon in question deals with doctrine.


  102. Lvka,

    Trying to undermine the authority of the canons quoted indicates that you cannot show yourself consistent with them. It is just dodging the issue. You are not undermining this Council but also both that in Trullo and the Seventh Ecumenical Council, both of which received these canons and qualified the canons that you mention without dismissing the rest of the council/canons.

    To what offer of immortality are you referring? How was man to embrace it?

    Pelagianism is basically where you are headed in your thoughts. You are working in a very similar framework of thought. That is mortality as a necessity inherent in nature, as you affirm in saying “God did not ‘create’ death: death is a residue of the Nothingness from which all things were created by God. Death is not a ‘substance’ to be ‘created’… It’s a parasite. It is imputed to man because –although at first they were innocent, and death WAS not (initially) man’s fault– it became such when he knowingly and willingly chose to remain in it…” and man having to make the effort to achieve immortality and being capable of making that effort, as you affirm in saying “If he would’ve embraced God’s offer of immortality, he wouldn’t have died…”. Also, your failure to accept that through one man death came to all and so all sinned is also consistent with Pelagian thinking and condemned as such by the Council. The idea is condemned even if you are not fully Pelagian in other areas; this one idea alone is sufficient for condemnation. That is why on these points the canons are specific to your ideas also. In trying to reconcile darwinist thought you appear to be walking into heresy. By the way whether death was initially man’s fault is irrelevant in this context, it is whether he was bound to die by nature regardless of sin and this you affirm by saying “remain” in death.

    If you want to remain “darwinian” and orthodox then a better solution is to say that God evolved the body of man consistent with the laws of the universe and biology and then once a suitable body was ready he took this one man and filled him with a living soul and placed him in paradise free from death should he not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Maybe he even modified all creation to participate in this state of non-death and incorruptibility. This one man was the father of all modern humans as being in the image of God. I still have issues with this but it is more orthodox.


  103. …mortality as a necessity inherent in nature…

    …was the logical conclusion of Athanasius the Great, not of Craciun Lucian, who read his works 1,600 years after he penned them…

    as you affirm in saying “God did not ‘create’ death: death is a residue of the Nothingness from which all things were created by God. Death is not a ‘substance’ to be ‘created’… It’s a parasite”

    But I didn’t say this… Saint Athanasius did…

    (And the part about sin and death having no substance is repeated by many Fathers way too many times…)

    Pelagianism is basically where you are headed in your thoughts. You are working in a very similar framework of thought. […] man having to make the effort to achieve immortality and being capable of making that effort, as you affirm

    Synergy ? The Sixth Synod ? Maxim Martyr ? Anything ?

    Trying to undermine the authority of the canons quoted indicates that you cannot show yourself consistent with them.

    How can someone undermine something by merely quoting it… unless that certain something is in itself imperfect ?

    What I wanted to show you (which would not even have been necessary if you would’ve already read the canons) was that –although belonging to the undivided Church, as Saint Augustine, another African Saint, also does– this local synod shows traces of distinctly Western ideas… like original sin being inherited in a way as to necessitate forgiveness… in other words, as inherited guilt, a non-Eastern-Orthodox view… which is what the part I’ve cited shows…


  104. man having to make the effort to achieve immortality and being capable of making that effort, as you affirm

    This approach likenes that of Saint Augustine and Roman Catholic Scholasticism… “prevenient grace”, “sufficient grace”, and all that… It’s NOT exactly the Eastern Patristic approach… ok? Are we clear on that?


  105. Lvka — youre taking part of what St. Athanasius said and seemingly making a doctrine out of it. He spoke of man as “naturally” mortal – man in and of himself does not have life within him — but he also tells us that this mortality is staved off by the sustaining energies of God. This is the natural state of man — to be sustained by God’s energies. Man’s nature is to be a receptacle for grace. To understand man’s natural state apart from grace is not what St. Athanasius is doing, and ultimately not Orthodox. Lossky comments on this:

    Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 101, 126
    The Eastern tradition knows nothing of “pure nature” to which grace is added as a supernatural gift. For it, there is no natural or “normal” state, since grace is implied in the act of creation itself … “Pure nature,” for Eastern theology, would thus be a philosophical fiction corresponding neither to the original state of creation, nor to its present condition which is “against nature,” nor to the state of deification which belongs to the age to come … Nature and grace do not exist side by side, rather there is a mutual interpenetration of one another, the one exists in the other.”


  106. We’re not “devoid of grace” now, are we?

    “Mortal” is not the same as “completely grace-less”…

    Mortal beings and perishable things DO exist… don’t they? Only not eternally…


  107. So, a grace IS given to us… isn’t it ? A “talent” HAS been entrusted to us… has it not ? So: WHAT do we do with it ? Do we multiply it, by turning it into something greater, as the faithful servants from Christ’s Parable ? Or do we just burry it, mumbling some grumpy phrases, and suffer the consequences of our own actions, like the condemned servant ?


  108. As Maxim Martyr would’ve said, virtues are natural and inborn to us… it’s just that we don’t exercise them… Existence, in a temporal form, has already been given to us… but did we exercise it rightly, so as to unite ourselves with God, as opposed to becoming further and further alienated from Him ?


  109. Lvka,

    You did not answer my question:
    To what offer of immortality are you referring as in where is it written in Scriptures or the Fathers? How was man to embrace it?
    Please do so because this will provide me an important insight to what you are trying to say.

    …mortality as a necessity inherent in nature… I may not have worded this in the best manner, although I would have hoped that you understood my meaning based on earlier comments. I meant that you believe that death existed before the Fall and that Adam, even if he did not disobey God, would have still died if he had not been proactive towards God.

    You also seem to be equating our spiritual life conditions post-Fall with that of Adam pre-Fall. This may not be the case so how synergy of our life now works is not necessarily the same as how synergy worked pre-Fall.

    What is your evolutionary story? Did one man evolve to self-consciousness and so become able to accept God’s offer? Did a number of men evolve simultaneously? Did several branches evolve apart over thousands of years and some more are yet to evolve? Did anyone accept God’s offer? If so where are they now? Could the children of one who refused have an opportunity to accept the offer and live immortally? Does the offer need to be continuously accepted? Can one move back and forward from a state of immortality to mortality? Is accepting the offer permanent, as in once saved always saved? Then why the general resurrection and the life to come? Would the children of one accepting be born mortal or immortal? What is the link between the sin and death coming to all men if all men are already in the state of death? What meaning is there for death and or sin entering the world?

    Please be careful not to stereotype my thought which you have done on some occasions and thus misunderstood it. This is making the discussion rather difficult.

    Please provide the quote to where St Athanasius said the exact same words that I quoted you as saying. I was under the impression that they were a rephrasing by yourself and thus not exactly the words of St Athanasius. I said earlier that you are misunderstanding him and your rephrasing is not correct. So, instead of reclaiming that he said them please cite the exact passage in which he says exactly the words that I took you as saying.


  110. You did not answer my question

    Do you honestly have any idea how disconcerting, debilitating, and utterly frustrating it is to see you asking me this after forming the opinion that I’ve done so not just “once’ or ‘twice”, but repeatedly ? 😐

    Please do so

    That sounds like such a nice idea… but how exactly am I going to do that (if I have “failed” to do it until now) ? What more do you want of me ? 😦

    Perhaps, at this point, it would be better to restate my position in the simplest and clearest way possible (maybe it got clouded in the mean time? maybe it was never really understood?):

    The thing with pre-Fall death… perfectly explainable by Athanasius’ words… since man was made from nothing, and -as such- has an innate tendency to return to that same nothignness… that’s what the man said… ok ? Yes, God’s grace is also there, but it’s NOT ALL that’s there… there’s also this tendency… ok ? God atracts man through grace… death and decay attract man through his own ex-nihilo-created nature… the “Big Bang”, and all that…

    You may argue that the Fathers didn’t know about pre-Fall death… but you may not argue that -if it would have existed (death before the Fall, that is)- it somehow “undermines Orthodox theology”… because it doesn’t… ok ? Because in fourth century a man wrote a book… A great man… A humble man… A small book… A brilliantly-simple idea… that gives robustness to the faith… enabling it to withstand attacks and tackle issues that people living in his day had no idea even existed… ok? That’s all I’m saying…


  111. Lvka,

    Sorry that our communication is breaking down. Yes, you had to some extent answered my questions but not with the answers for which I was looking. However, I looked at your quotes from St Athanasius and he provides much of that for which I was looking. I understand what you just stated and you stated that many times. Yes, you are largely consistent with St Athanasius but he is also explicit in this that: “He set them in His own paradise, and laid upon them a single prohibition.” And also: “That is to say, the presence of the Word with them shielded them even from natural corruption, as also Wisdom says: ‘God created man for incorruption and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death entered into the world.’ When this happened, men began to die…”

    Thus for St Athanasius, Adam was shielded from natural corruption by the word and there was no attraction of death and decay in paradise. Only breaking the one commandment, due to the devil’s envy, led Adam to death and corruption. Your position does not seem to take this into account and it is at this point that you are not in keeping with St Athanasius. Your position seems to say that men were not shielded from corruption by the Word, or only partially so, and that man was established in corruption, that is growing old and dying even without sinning. You do not provide an explanation of the “one prohibition” although I take it that you may understand this as a general prohibition against sin as a whole and the devil’s temptation as a general temptation. You don’t really fit paradise in well either. I cannot see what place it may have in your scheme.

    Also, I asked a range of other questions for you to provide more depth to your scheme.


  112. The best harmonization of science and of Scripture comes in my view from the astrophysicist Barry Setterfield who noticed that both the speed of light and also the atomic constants are slowing down. When one posits an initial speed of light that is infinite, and a correspondingly fast speed for the atomic constants, then we find that the atomic clocks, based on the atomic constants record billions of years, yet the solar clock based on the passage of the earth around the sun, records thousands. It also means that a very large universe would not take correspondingly long times for us to see based on current speed of light; fast light could and would travel great distances in small amounts of solar time.

    This view requires a different cosmology with electromagnetic forces and plasma being in the driver’s seat and not gravity, but there is a strong and growing minority viewpoint behind the electric universe. Setterfield’s work can be found here….


  113. The problem I have w/ the slowing down of light is that it begs the question…why? Why would God do such a thing? Why would He create in a way which would give the universe the strong appearance of great age to only come back w/ “surprise, it’s not really old at all! Ha gotcha!” The very fact that Setterfield is coming up w/ this theory is that it’s obvious that the universe is very old, he doesn’t like it and is coming up w/ this hair brained theory to try and refute. Different cosmology? Plasma not gravity? C’mon folks. Once again here’s the a link where it is shown just how bad his science is. This is yet another example how YEC science is bad. Why do they have to resort to such pseudo-science if they are in the clear right? Why isn’t the world self evidently very young? Why the great deception?


  114. “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us,[a] the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:1-7

    The scoffers who refuse to believe in the Second Coming of Christ, according to the prophecy of the Apostle, will have several characteristics.

    1) They will walk according to their own lusts. Arguably, the evolution/atheism crowd does so, since they believe all of their appetites, no matter how base, to simply have been the product of their species’ survival.

    2) They will refuse to believe in the divine creation from God. Interestingly, St. Peter says that their main assumption was that things have continued from the beginning as they presently are– a great summary of the uniformitarian paradigm of the naturalists and their scientific pretensions. St. Peter is criticizing the view that mortality and death and all the things we see in operation now were at the beginning.

    3) Such people will be judged and punished forever.

    Scientists who don’t accept naturalism are simply operating on different assumptions, David. It’s no more of a stretch than many of the hurdles evolutionists have to do in order to convince the populace that we’re descended from apes– have you heard of all the hoaxes and embarassments in the continuing missing link drama?

    Btw, thanks to scientists like Barry Setterfield, the Big Bang now knows that it has its own starlight problem.


  115. Oops! I forgot to post the link to the article dealing w/ Setterfield’s theory:

    So you believe this statement as literally true:

    “that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,”

    That the universe and the earth were standing in water?? What, one gosh-awful big lake? This passage is all about the doubting of the Second Coming…not evolution or an old universe.

    Hoaxes? This is very ancient history. Hoaxes done by one guy. By the way, these hoaxes were uncovered not by Christians but by scientist. Missteps, wrong assumptions? Of course. That’s the way science works. Someone observes data, offers a hypothesis they and others test it and if it holds then they can make predictions based on it and if that is true it moves down the line to a theory. If at any point it is dis-proven then it is chucked and they try some other hypothesis.

    As for missing links it’s a red herring. If evolution is true and say alligators became ducks you’re not going to find some creature that has the tail end of a alligator but the front and head of a duck. What you will find is a myriad of slightly changed creatures that only slowly became ducks. Every animal at any stage in history is a link to some future creature. There is not big honking missing link animal as if there were only one changed stage between two animals.

    All this is example of YECs grasping at straws. Using bad psuedo-science, half truths and deception is not going to convince anybody of YEC truth claims. Here is a link w/ a huge amount of information that refutes YEC claims w/ footnotes for you to check out what they are saying yourself.



  116. David, I’ll borrow from the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure– plead facts, not conclusions. Labels do not make a thing so, and don’t convince anyone except for those who only want to be on the side that is most popular. A few points for you to consider:

    1) The “in water and out of water” does sound mysterious but I think perhaps it’s referring to being covered and uncovered in various places, or to liquid water and gaseous water, or possibly to the “waters” of space, the firmament, whatever.

    2) My point is that St. Peter forsaw in the Spirit the creation-myth of the apostates at the end of time. They would deny the Second Coming and would deny that God made, and destroyed by flood, the earth which He created by His Word. They would do so by claiming that everything continues just as at the beginning. Sounds quite apt to me.

    3) Yes, yes, ancient history– don’t mind that curtain, and aren’t the Emperor’s new clothes spectacular? Btw, there have been many involved in these hoaxes, and even more involved in good faith utter mistakes.

    Links say lots of things. “Pseudo-science” is such a fancy, overly used, conclusion. There are mountains of literature on both sides, David, footnotes and all. I recommend, for an impartial source, and just for your own enrichment, Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The direction of this discussion has sent us in the direction of what the holy fathers have said about science, about Scripture, and about Genesis in particular, and whether the all of assumptions and paradigmata of modern science can be accepted within a patristic mindset.


  117. David,

    I am glad that some scientists are trying to work on the situation and any solution no matter how strange may be worthwhile. So we should not discredit them offhand. However, I agree that often the solutions are not feasible in peer-review and that we must be careful not to place too much trust and hope on these solutions.

    Apart from the issues that I have been debating with Lvka, I don’t see why the earth would necessarily appear ‘young’. Leaving aside changes due to the Fall, the earth must have been created fairly old to be inhabitable by life. If God wanted to keep the earth consistent with the rest of the universe and the laws that He established to order it then the world is most likely to appear old without this being a deception; it just needs to be such to be inhabitable.

    If the idea about rearranging the earth is possible then such a change could be done very quickly by God and yet leave a history consistent with the laws of the universe. So, it could have taken place in 100 years but left a history of 100’s of millions of years. This would not be a deception but to maintain the system’s integrity even though God sped up the process hugely.


  118. There’s a difference between time and history

    To believe that a tree with ten thousand rings is no more than 7,500 years old is one thing… to believe that a tree with ten thousand rings that has traces of ash from forest-fire in its thousandth ring, thus pointing to the existence of wild-fires one-and-a-half millennia before the world –including time itself– began, is quite another


  119. I can see where Perry is coming from…these discussions tend to go no where. This will be my last posting on this and just in case I hope I haven’t left anyone feeling insulted or such…wasn’t my intention.

    Here’s the thing, we have a world here that, if what you say is true, was created in a way that when tested through numerous ways and w/ numerous methods reveals something that is not true. When YECs say to the scientist that everything they find according to the age of the earth and how life developed is wrong, despite their findings, cuz God did it differently shuts down all communication. Why investigate anything? It’s a closed issue. Science and all their findings are just plain wrong. This in spite of the fact that all the toys and tools in our lives came about using this same flawed science, the same flawed methods by the same flawed scientist using their flawed theories. It is these theories that put men on the moon, created computers (although, it can be argued that this is a mixed blessing), built the Hadron Collider that works based on their theories etc etc. seems more than a little bit of a stretch. Besides this, the Creation story can be read different ways that are just as valid. The fundamental truths that are dogma are shared by virtually all Christians of whatever stripe yet we bicker over how long were the days etc.

    As an example, notice that there were things that came about directly by God commanding them to (Let there be light..) and there were other things that He used an intermediary to bring about what He desired (Let the land produce vegetation.., the land produced vegetation, let the land produce living creatures..). Doesn’t this sound a little like a process? As if God created the land w/ the means of bringing forth His plants and animals at His command and direction? Take man. Why didn’t God just poof him into existence? Like the other creatures he was taken from the earth. God used an intermediary, a means. We all came from the earth as God intended. Then there’s the issue w/ how Gen. 1 is quite different than Gen. 2 concerning creation. There is a pattern to the creation order. First you have basic light/dark, water/sky, land/plants then in the same order you have how God uses these basic elements for more advanced things-Sun, Moon, Stars then fish and birds then animals and humans. As Fr. Hopko and others suggest God is using a a template common to the peoples of that time that everyone was familiar w/ to get across basic truths of God, His relationship w/ creation, people etc. Just like the Church has done in telling stories to people in lands the Gospel had spread to to get them to understand Christian truths…like the story of St. George.

    All this can lead us to realize that the absolute literal understanding of Gen. is not a necessity and that God loses no glory in seeing it differently. Besides, the literal folks don’t see it as literal as they let on. Look at Isaac’s take on the universe and the earth sitting on some body of water. Why not take that literally? Saints saw it literally. Why were they wrong on this count? Why choose this one thing to be not literal, a mystery? Could it be because we all know better, and science says otherwise? Where is mention of dinosaurs? Surely the people of that time who were running around w/ them would not have forgotten them nor would their children. They’re kinda noticeable. What of the “floodgates of heaven”? Were they real? Literal? Lvka has shown quotes from the Fathers that we know are wrong.

    Anyway, I’ve got to get back to work. Later


  120. //Science and all their findings are just plain wrong. This in spite of the fact that all the toys and tools in our lives came about using this same flawed science, the same flawed methods by the same flawed scientist using their flawed theories.//

    all of our tools and toys were developed in our own day and age using our understanding of our own day and age that comes from direct observation – they could be tested and refined until they worked properly. perhaps the flaw is using that direct observation to make indirect inferences about the distant past, based on the assumption that any influential factors necessarily stay the same no matter how far back you go.

    //Look at Isaac’s take on the universe and the earth sitting on some body of water. Why not take that literally? Saints saw it literally.//

    did they? and if they did, what effect does it have on doctrine?

    //Besides this, the Creation story can be read different ways that are just as valid. The fundamental truths that are dogma are shared by virtually all Christians of whatever stripe yet we bicker over how long were the days etc//

    you’re right — the Creation story CAN be read different ways — but one of those ways is literally. the Creationist can accept multiple levels of meaning, but the evolutionist cannot. but this is not about the length of days — its about anthropology and cosmology which are necessarily tied to soteriology and eschatology.


  121. David,

    I have found this discussion useful particularly in raising some theological issues. The problem is that contributors tend to push their own position as being the only option such that its a closed case rather than openly discussing the potential issues and raising questions in a way allowing for a variety of answers. Also, I asked for contributors not to judge others but this has been ignored, which has not been helpful for the discussion. All this is what is frustrating. I wish that Lvka had developed his ideas more than just justifying an evolutionary model from St Athanasius and from reading Genesis less literally so that we could work through all the theological implications of his scheme. Theologically those who accept the classical story as understood by the Fathers have a much stronger case but many turn a blind eye to physical evidence that raises very compelling reasons not to accept the Scriptural history and revealed length of time. Unfortunately, the science side is impossible to really discuss here or for one person to investigate; it is just too huge. Although raising scientific research for each position and its contrary position is helpful for specific points. The theological implications and Scriptural evidence are easier to discuss and to at least get a handle on what may be problems if we try to adapt the traditional story as understood by the Fathers.

    While Genesis may be saying things in a framework that matches the audience of the time, God also knew that we would be reading it today and wrote it for us also. There are subtle things in the text that are not just there to meet views of the time and it is these things that generate issues such as why does Genesis give strong indication that all beasts were herbivores as also man? This was no more the experience of that time than of our own. It seems superfluous to the text unless the author wanted to make the point that there was no death before the Fall even among the beasts. This point must be based on a theological truth because I don’t think that the author was trying justify being vegetarian. It is no good just saying that we don’t take Genesis literally, we need to explain each part of the text as to its inclusion and meaning and give it coherent “mystical” meaning, if not literal. We need to justify that it doesn’t have a real historical meaning but only a mystical meaning or that it is imagery such as Revelation. Even here prophetic imagery is used to describe both history and future in a manner that the imagery is known to identify historical persons or events. Such imagery is used in Daniel used for various historical empires.

    Science is a means of discovering the truth about our physical universe and the evidence needs to be taken seriously. I wish the Scriptures in some ways did not record the ages of each generation and left out the bit about all eating plants so that we could more easily modify time scales and fit the text to physical evidence but sadly not and this makes things hard. I have no problem at one level with the big bang and slow development of the earth and animal life to man and then he being taken apart from the rest. However, this story is hard to reconcile with Scripture and the Fathers. That man is taken from the earth and not made ex nihilo is to demonstrate the connection of man and the earth, that man is from the earth and united to the earth. This connection is why the cosmos Falls with man and can be restored by Christ being man. Without demonstrating this connection the cosmos would have not connection to the Trinity and life/existence and could not have been created. Genesis one and two are different but should be read together and differences explained as distinctions. This reveals more truth than could be revealed in one account. The patterns that you raise I don’t think really fit the text, although it is worth considering such an approach.

    Comparing the mistakes in the Fathers with Sacred Scripture is not valid. Scripture carries a level of truth and reliability that is not expected of the Fathers. There are stories in the OT of beasts whose descriptions are best matched by dinosaurs, so there is some evidence for them. We use floodgates of heaven today to describe torrential rain that floods. It is an apt figurative description.


  122. I find the ‘called out from the apes’ theory dehumanizing. The new Planet of the Apes movie proposes something similar. I’m with the Fathers that Adam was created uniquely. How else can we explain Eve? If she can be made from a rib, why not Adam from the dust? How did the dust get there? It is explained scientifically as broken down plant and mineral matter. So what did God plant the first trees in? It seems more credible that God started with simple plants and let them decay to support more complex ones. I don’t think they changed automatically or morphed, but that he methodically introduced them. I also think it happened quicker than the evolutionists say and that dynamic forces such as volcanoes, earthquakes and the flood can change things very rapidly. How did populations increase quickly enough to supply enough dirt and eventual oil for us today? Maybe things did live longer back then and kept multiplying like rabbits as they were told.


  123. Before the word ‘dinosaur’ existed and modern evolutionary timescales were used to interpret the geological data, universal experience in antiquity verified the existence of dragons on land and sea.

    As you mention, Fr. Patrick, the Scriptures themselves mention such great beasts– “behemoth” and “leviathan” in Job, but also the dragon kept in a Babylonian temple and worshiped as a ‘living god’ in the period of the Babylonian captivity as recorded in the stories of Bel and the Dragon (a part of the Septuagint Old Testament). Dragons abound univsersally in ancient art throughout Asia, the middle east, Europe, and North and South America. They were even recorded by Roman historians, as with “Dio the Roman (A.D. 155 – 236) who wrote the history of Roman empire and republic, reports the following: one day, when Regulus, a Roman consul, was fighting against Carthage, a dragon suddenly crept up and settled behind the wall of the Roman army. The Romans killed it by order of Regulus, excoriated it and sent the hide to the Roman senate. When the dragon’s hide, as Dio says, was measured up by order of the senate, it happened to be, amazing, one hundred and twenty feet long, and the thickness was fitting to the length.” (I quote here St. John of Damascus’ own recounting of Cassius Dio’s history).

    So anyway, David, it is easy to plead conclusions like science disproving the age of the earth, etc. What I think open-minded people want to examine are the assumptions that go into interpreting the data. Maybe there is conclusive proof that is unexplainable using a more literalist/miraculous approach to the Genesis narrative, but I have yet to really find one. I believe, following the fathers, in a miraculous and mysterious emergence of the existence of the universe and its inhabitants from non-being into being, called forth by the Word of God. I believe in rapid speciation of kinds to adapt to their surroundings, primarily after a global and cataclysmic flood several millenia ago. I am skeptical about dating methods which have proven themselves inconsistent time and time again. And furthermore like most non-academics, I have a suspicion towards any group that seems to have systematically excluded, silenced, and persecuted dissent, and which seems on the whole to lack any kind of respect toward those with whom they disagree.


  124. modern evolutionary timescales were used to interpret the geological data

    You got it backwards… The geological concept of deep time precedes Darwin’s theory of evolution by about a century


  125. You’re confusing things, Lvka. Many of the ancient philosophers believed in eons and eons or even eternally existent universes. However, Darwinism depends upon such scales and made them dogma. “Deep time” is the darwinist opiate that does their thinking for them when, for instance, the fossil evidence doesn’t substantiate their claims or the transitions turn out to be more complex by orders of magnitude. Just say “deep time” a few times to yourself like a mantra and your eyes can glaze over and you can still feel confident in the theory.


  126. I’m not talking about “philosophers”, I’m talking about geologists…

    However, Darwinism depends upon such scales and made them dogma

    No. Geology made them ‘dogma’ a hundred years before Darwin.


  127. A leading evolutionist said that Evolution has been proven to be false years ago. The only alternative to that theory is God. He said we will not accept God. Why can not we who claim to be followers of Christ just believe God and what he said. If we cannot take Him at his Word on this, how can we take His Word on anything in the Book. If God is true, and He is, why must we always question what He says. If Genesis 1 – 11 is not true and literal, maybe then David wasn’t or Abraham. Perhaps the raising of Lazarus was just an allegory John made up. Let God be true and every man a liar. ” In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good”


  128. Dr Jenkins,

    Can you cite this leading evolutionist’s comment?

    I agree with the comment on accepting the Scriptures. It seems that too many “believers” are prepared to discard or interpret them too vaguely, New Testament and Old, to conform with scientific theory. They often follow secular scholarship’s explanation of how the Scriptures were written and forget that it is God who inspired the writing and also directed the content to be true in a holistic manner not merely in a spiritual manner. There is poetic imagery in the Scriptures that must be seen as such and observational/descriptive “truths”, such as the sun rising which is true in the perspective one one standing on earth, must not be taken to far to deduce a theory, such as the sun circling a flat earth. Otherwise the plain meaning should be taken as well as spiritual meanings. Are people really prepared to trust, even seemingly well proven theories, that were largely generated by those under the dominion of the father of lies, and not those texts and writings of the Holy Fathers written with the Holy Spirit of truth? Not to say that all scientific research is a lie but that if one conflicts with the other which do we trust by default as true. I firmly believe in reconciling all truths because in such a process we learn greatly but until we do this satisfactorily we must trust the standard understandings of the Fathers.

    Death and corruption before the Fall is something, of which I am increasingly becoming aware, that is theologically/metaphysically not an option. I had thought it could be in terms of animals, if not man, but even here I find it contrary to both Scriptures and to who God is. This makes things much harder to reconcile between physical evidence and Scriptural testimony but I don’t see that there is any choice without either denying God or creation.


  129. The fact that this is even open for debate now really is a testimony to our modern day’s utter ignorance of the writings and mindset of the holy fathers of the Church.

    Let me ask, Fr. Patrick, now that you believe what you believe about headcoverings in the temple, are you going to preach this truth and apostolic commandment to your flock? If not, why not?


  130. Isaac,

    The post was more to raise the theological issues involved with Creation and also to test some ideas of reconciling Scripture with physical evidence while remaining consistent to the Fathers. Since this issue is new in terms of a challenge to the faith, the Fathers have not directly addressed the problems that we now face and, so, we need to develop a response to those raising the challenge. Perhaps being less literal and historical is an option but this needs to be well tested and argued through to see all the implications of such a position. There are many people for whom this is a barrier to coming to Christ and we need to deal with it and also there are many opinions in the Church, which are causing some confusion and the rupture of harmony in mind. These things need addressing in a manner that meets the needs of those struggling with the matter and just saying: “this is the belief so take it as it is” may not help but rather hinder some people. Also, allowing some room to move as an economy is also helpful as long as some limits are placed in the matter as I tried to provide above.

    Regarding head coverings, this is off topic for this post but since the other post is closed for comments I will answer. I cannot really go into this issue in full depth of why for a number of reasons but at this stage it is not an issue that I can thunder from the pulpit. For those who are ready to receive the teaching then I provide it and for those who have begun to wear a covering, I will reprimand them gently should they for some reason not wear it. Trying to reestablish a discipline in a parish that has been forgotten in the custom of that parish and particularly also in the custom of the diocese and region/nation, is very difficult unless the bishops provide support and coordinate the matter. A monastery can do this more freely, such as in Arizona, but in a parish it is much harder. If a time comes where I can preach it to ears ready to hear then I will, God willing.


    Fr Stephen makes a valid point to distinguish the plain meaning of the text from historical meaning. However, that we should be aware of this may not change anything. Usually, parables have unnamed persons involved. Once specific names are provided then the story is usually about real persons. So, Adam is not an abstraction but someone, with whom we can talk and honour among the saints. So is Moses etc. However, there may be an exception or so to this. Since Genesis is full of names and ages, it seems to me that it is intended to be read as referring to real persons. Perhaps it may not be a complete record but those mentioned really lived on earth and are not mythical persons for story purposes. Also, Orthodox theology as I have learnt it requires the historicity of persons and descent from Adam. It is theologically imperative that Jesus was descended from David, Abraham and also Adam, else He could not save the entire human race before His incarnation. He needs to be genuinely related and descended from them. The genealogies in Scripture are important. So, Fr Stephen’s point is valid but whether it can be applied liberally to Genesis is another matter.


  131. Your blessing, Father.

    For what little it is worth, to me a sinner you have, even in this discussion alone revealed yourself to be a true pastor who lives the holy Tradition in fidelity to the holy Fathers and who understands the work that has to be done in awakening ones flock to spiritual life. It is so encouraging for me to hear of pastors like you who take up the royal path.

    I plan to read the letters of Elder Ephraim soon and, God-willing, visit one of his monasteries here in America, preferably Arizona. I love him because he simply presents the one thing needful– to be united to Christ through repentance, to have before oneself always the realities of Paradise, Hell, Death, and Judgment. His sober fidelity to Orthodoxy has caused him to be a stone of stumbling for innovators who in healthier times would already have been silenced, and they bring false witnesses against him as did the Scribes and Pharisees with our Lord.


  132. Christ saves us because He is one of us…

    And there’s a difference between recounting real-life events, to which one was an actual eye-witness [the Gospels], as opposed to prophetically speaking about a long-distant past and/or long-distant future [Genesis, Prophets, Apocalypse]…


  133. As an addendum to my last comment, I love the fact that according to DNA research (of a kind not even possible until the last decade or two), every person on the planet can be traced to the same male and female, whom the scientists, of course, call “Adam” and “Eve!”


  134. Fr. Patrick,

    You seem to be leaning more in the direction of a literalist understanding of genesis. Yet earlier you admitted that not all of scripture can be taken as literally true in the historical sense. Why permit it in one case and not the other?


  135. Just rereading St Basil on Creation. It seems that there were “Darwinists” in his time since St Basil specifically tears into atheists who say the world came into being by material principles without God and that the universe is governed by chance. Also, St Basil affirms that Moses wrote Genesis as a history and that it was dictated by the Holy Spirit.

    Also, remembering genealogies for many cultures is a norm and 20 odd generations from Adam to Abraham is not too much to keep in mind even with another 10-20 until Moses.

    Fr Maximus,

    I am not quite sure at the point of your question. I have moved in this topic to a more literal position than I expressed at the opening because of the theological issue that is raised by death before the Fall. No-one has presented a sound position to accept it. Lvka has tried but I find that his position leads us to Pelagianism and it also means that God is the author of death and corruption. Lvka hasn’t developed his position further here and I am struggling to see how it can work theologically. The literal position is theologically sound at so many levels and trying to change it is fraught with difficulties and potential heretical ideas. Our theology, and good metaphysics, requires Adam to be created in a state of being preserved in life unless he rejects this through disobeying the single commandment. He is free but must remain in one will with God. Only in this state is creation possible as being created something other than God, which in itself naturally heads to non-existence coming from non-existence. Also, the names and dates in Genesis are too precise to just be a vague recollection of ancestors and unnecessary unless God wanted us to see the story as history of real persons with real life times. Also, the mention of flora being the food for all fauna tends to point strongly to animals not being subject to death, hence no carnivores. Again, why else is this in the text? It is all very fine saying not to read it all literally nor historically but the text’s plain meaning makes it very hard not to take it historically. Yes, there have been some attempts at trying to read a less literal view on Genesis, and the NT writers who seem to take it literally and historically, but they are vague and limited in their explanations of the text. There is as much work that needs to be done by those trying to reinterpret, against patristic tradition, the Scriptures as for those that need to reinterpret the physical evidence. Theologically, I am really struggling to see a way around reading Genesis in a more literal/historical manner without ultimately undermining the Gospel, not to speak of good theology and metaphysics. I know that God exists so I prefer to distrust our attempts to understand the physical evidence. Again, I am open to various readings but they need to be well considered and theologically watertight just as a scientist would demand of our explanations of physical evidence.


  136. Lvka hasn’t developed his position further here and I am struggling to see how it can work theologically

    What a Pelagian thing to say, Father Patrick!… 😉 Thinking that someone could just “struggle” himself into understanding my words by his “own human powers”, without the grace and aid of my insightful explanations… 😀 [Sorry… couldn’t resist…]

    the names and dates in Genesis are too precise to just be a vague recollection of ancestors and unnecessary unless God wanted us to see the story as history of real persons with real life times

    I already said that the persons in the genealogies, (apart from Adam & Eve and Cain & Abel), are historic persons. And knowing one’s ancestry was hardly irrelevant to the ancients: you shouldn’t reduce the Bible to a dogmatic manual either…

    the mention of flora being the food for all fauna tends to point strongly to animals not being subject to death, hence no carnivores. Again, why else is this in the text?

    As I said, God dwells outside of time, and when Creation will be perfected, in the Kingdom of Heaven (which for us is in the future), there will be neither death, nor intercourse, nor meat-consumption. These things will be done away with, inasmuch as they were not part of His blue-print or telos for Creation.


  137. I also don’t understand how you could call the Orthodox teaching of free will and co-operation (synergy) “Pelagianism”… This is what bothers me the most… Or why Adam’s relationship with God in the way in which I’ve described it is supposed more “Pelagian” than ours… it makes no sense…


  138. Lvka,

    Thanks for the comments.

    Genesis is about the creation of this first world not that in the coming age. Also, similar such things as will be in the coming age were also needed in the first Creation also. That is is written into the story on the sixth day, in time, seems to point to the situation of the first earth. But your idea is possible and may be an explanation.

    Why not Cain and Abel, and Adam and Eve? I honour Adam as one of the ancestors of Christ, a real person. Are you suggesting that we are wrong to recognise him as our first father and one of Christ’s ancestors in a real personal way? There is no evidence in the text to exclude them from being real persons. Not being real persons seems to be only to fit an imposed scheme that you will have to prove was also known to Moses and to the early audience as well as to the Fathers. Else you are merely interpreting the text to suit your own opinions.

    I am not calling synergy Pelagianism. It is your idea that Adam (or vague first men) were not shielded from corruption and death, contrary to a Canon, and the need for man to be proactive to leave a state of initial death, which are things found in Pelagian teaching. In this context you don’t have the correct application of synergy and the relationship between man and God is more Pelagian than orthodox. Following St Athanasius, we must begin in a initial condition of preservation from death and corruption for synergy to work correctly. The reason is that in Adam there is no initial barrier to him receiving the grace of God so God who gives not death but life gives this fully to Adam and since God is not corruptible then neither is man given to corruption. Adam is still in time and he has the option to reject this grace, which then binds Adam to death. If Adam is in an initial state of death and corruption then something is limiting God’s grace to preserve Adam, and since it is not Adam then it must be God or a power greater than God. Neither of these is an option. If God’s grace is indeed limited to not preserving man from death and corruption of itself and if then man is capable of such preservation then this preservation must be obtainable to man by his own energies which is Pelagian. Our synergy now starts from a state of being in death and corruption from birth and even though we are baptised and given the grace of God our bodies are still subject to ageing and death; although not completely as incorrupt relics demonstrate. God has chosen for us not to return to physical immortality now but to wait until the final resurrection, which is a blessing that we can depart and be with Him rather than remain for centuries/millenia in a fallen world struggling with temptations. This is a post-Fall situation but Adam, pre-Fall, was not bound to death, nor was he in a struggle of the temptations of the fallen world, and he was capable of being transformed alive to participate in eternal age, just as some living at the end will be.


  139. If Adam is in an initial state of death and corruption then something is limiting God’s grace to preserve Adam

    Which is different from our current condition how exactly ?

    and since it is not Adam

    Oh, but it is Adam… his mortality, the outcome of being created from nothing.

    it must be God or a power greater than God

    Yes, it’s called human stupidity… 🙂

    God doesn’t just shove His grace down our throats, force-feeding us, as it were… Not because we are “stronger” than Him, but because God is Love… and Love just doesn’t act this way… Sorry… There’s no such thing as “irresistible“ grace…

    he was capable of being transformed alive to participate in eternal age, just as some living at the end will be

    And when did I deny that ?


  140. Lvka,

    Our current condition is a result of the sin of Adam. The initial condition of Adam was the result of creation by God.The former is something that attributes sin, death and corruption to the free decision of man, the latter is something that attributes sin, death and corruption to God. The former is permissible the latter is not.

    The initial condition of Adam is not a case of forcing grace upon us nor of irresistible grace both these things are missing the point. The position that I am putting forward is the patristic position including that of St Athanasius.

    I didn’t say that you denied that comment, I included it for fullness of the point.

    Just because something that is created returns to non-existence left to its own energies does not mean that God cannot establish it in immortality and eternity, the hope of our salvation. This weakness of creation does not limit God, it only limits the creature of itself. The angels are also in the same condition as man in terms of being created and of themselves liable to return to non-existence. Are you suggesting that the angels are mortal and bound to death and corruption? If angels as creatures can be created in a state of immortality and incorruption, and so freely because they too live in synergy with God, then so can man.


  141. Regarding the theological problem of positing physical death in the world before the Fall vs. Evolutionary evidence, I have also read recently that we are now learning in (quantum?) physics that the laws of time and space do not work as we had thought (i.e., with causation always being prior to an effect, but that the reverse appears to be possible as well–though that boggles our normal human perception). That principle does seem consistent with the Incarnation (which happens in the middle of history from our perspective) being understood as the “cause of all things” in patristic thought. I will qualify my comment by saying I cannot quote sources on any of this–it’s just a comment on other comments I’ve read. Perhaps someone more knowledgable in these areas may have primary source references–either for the patristic understanding of the Incarnation or for the most recent modern physics findings.


  142. Quantum Theory need not be taken for Gospel in science. While it is much part of mainstream cosmology, it is not needed to explain all things, if one accepts some versions of Plasma cosmology also called the Electric Universe.


  143. the latter is something that attributes sin, death and corruption to God

    As I repeatedly explained before, it does no such thing. It attributes it to the nothingness from which we were brought into existence, and to our disobedience towards God.

    If angels as creatures can be created in a state of immortality and incorruption

    They weren’t. Those that followed God obtained immortality and incorruption. Those that didn’t, and rebelled under Lucifer, just like the souls of sinners, did not cease existing, but are kept by grace, unable to enjoy the eternal existence that God is offering freely to all creatures.

    Our compunded being decomposes into body and soul, and then the body further decomposes into its four constituent elements… but neither the soul, nor the atoms of our body “disappear” into non-existence…


  144. ////the latter is something that attributes sin, death and corruption to God//

    //As I repeatedly explained before, it does no such thing. It attributes it to the nothingness from which we were brought into existence, and to our disobedience towards God.////

    if you would say that sin, death and corruption are attributed to our disobedience, and leave it at that, then you would be doing fine, but you are saying these things existed before man’s sin, which means they are part of what God intended for man.

    being created out of nothingness does not NECESSITATE that we suffer from sin, death, and corruption — in the eschaton we will all be free of such maladies even though our beginning will still be from nothingness. The Theotokos is already living in this reality. So being created from nothingness does not necessitate that we suffer and die, so what your position is necessarily saying is that God CHOSE to create them in a state that includes sin, corruption, and death, even though He didn’t have to.


  145. St. Athanasius quite explicitly says that death did not exist until Adam sinned. And St. Athanasius is but one Father — it would help to look at other Fathers to see how they express things to get a fuller picture of what Orthodoxy teaches.


  146. Hi all, great discussion. Although not an Orthodox Christian (he is Reformed), you guys might want to check out Alvin Plantinga’s (an eminent philosopher of religion) new book “Where the Conflict Really Lies”. It is very pertinent to these issues.


  147. being created out of nothingness does not NECESSITATE


    But you seem to want to “force” God to have given us innately the grace of immortality… He doesn’t “owe” us anything, you know… Stop bullying Him, and leave Him alone, in peace. If we would’ve wanted immortality so much, who’s stopping us? Ourselves, of course. Not God (1 Timothy 2:4).

    After all, what’s the good of eternal existence, if there’s no point to it ? (No intercourse, no meat-consumption, no vengeance… starved and craving for all eternity, the fate of all the damned…)


  148. if you agree that being created out of nothingness does not necessitate that we be susceptible to death, and we’re speaking about the time before man sinned, then the only conclusion is that God must have created them with the intention of them dying, if your assertion that death pre-dates sin is true.

    im not trying to force God into anything — I am attempting to stay true to the Patristic consensus which teaches that death is the result of sin, and not a result of the state in which God made us (He made us in a state where grace prevented death).

    Forgive me, but it seems you are attempting to force death upon God’s good creation, but not out of any theological motive, but rather a materialistic scientific motive.


  149. then the only conclusion is that God must have created them with the intention of them dying


    Tell it to Athanasius the Great.


  150. You seem not to know the meaning of words (like “necessity”, for instance).

    You also can’t seem to remember your own words: one time you write “doesn’t necessitate death”, and another “doesn’t necessitate we be susceptible to mortality” — the two things aren’t the same.

    It doesn’t “necessitate” death because God COULD have made us from the beginning immortal. But it DOES follow logically that we be “susceptible” to mortality. (Maybe you confused “susceptible to” with “subject to” ?)


  151. again, you are misusing St. Athanasius. He does not believe that death pre-existed Adam’s sin. This has been pointed out to you many times by myself and others, and Fr. Patrick has done a good and patient job of asking you for further clarification and elucidation but you seem to just want to continually fall back on your misinterpretation of St. Athanasius, which puts you at odds with St. Athanasius himself and certainly all the other Fathers.

    you are splitting hairs between my two statements about mortality and death. God did not create man in such a state that he would necessarily die aka God did not create man necessarily mortal. God is not the author of death — that belongs solely to man and his disobedience.


  152. He does not believe that death pre-existed Adam’s sin

    …which I was willing to concede in a previous comment…

    What cannot be conceded, however, is your reasoning that somehow the revert would create havoc and mayhem in theology… it simply does not… Sorry.


  153. //…which I was willing to concede in a previous comment…//

    then what is your point of contention with Fr. Patrick’s position …?


  154. That God would be the “author of death” if He wouldn’t endow man with immortality directly upon creation (as if He “has to”, or something…)


  155. no one is saying He “has to.” But if He created man in such a state that he would necessarily die then God is indeed the author of death. This is what the Wisdom of Solomon and the canon from Carthage are combating. You’ve already agreed that being created out of nothing does not necessitate that man be mortal, and so the only conclusion is that if he IS created in such a way that he will certainly die then that is by the choice of God, making God the author of death. This takes the blame away from man and his sin, and places it upon the creative decision of God.


  156. I am not mocking you. I do not see how you have adequately explained how you are not continually contradicting yourself. But this is clearly going nowhere, let’s leave it for a while.


  157. if He created man in such a state that he would necessarily die

    Since man could’ve prevented nature from taking its course, by uniting himself to God’s grace while he had the time to, there would have been no such “necessity”.

    (Do you know what “necessity” means ?)

    You’ve already agreed that being created out of nothing does not necessitate that man be mortal

    Just because he is mortal doesn’t mean he has to die; he had the chance to escape from this condition by God’s grace, which he rejected.

    (Do you know what “mortal” means ?)

    if he IS created in such a way that he will certainly die

    Who said this ?

    IF he would’ve followed God’s instructons, he wouldn’t have died… would he ?

    (Do you know what “certainly” means ?)

    This takes the blame away from man and his sin

    See above.

    This takes the blame away from man and his sin, and places it upon the creative decision of God.

    God creates: period.

    He doesn’t “create mortal” or “create immortal”: He simply creates.

    Being created from nothing, His creatures tend to return to nothing: but a “tendency” is not a “necessity”.

    Being created by God, creation tends towards existence: but a “tendency” is not an “imperative”.

    That man chose to live his life in a way that took him further and further away from God, Who is Existence itself, and remained stranded on the shores of death, is obviously man’s problem, not God’s…


  158. Lvka,

    We seem to be going in circles.

    We agree that created things are by nature mortal in that they revert to non-existence of themselves because they cannot sustain existence of themselves by themselves. This is a necessary condition in terms of the created thing being understood in itself without external assistance. Thus, in a manner if God creates anything then He is the author of mortality. Just because God creates something does not mean that it will tend towards existence, it cannot do so of its own self.

    Because God is life and incorrupt then His creation must reflect Himself. It cannot be something opposed to Himself as a result of His creative act. Thus, He creates immortal life because He is. He creates things to be permanent because He is. This is about who He is and that He cannot deny Himself in creation. Also, if God wants something to exist then it will necessarily exist because God wills it. It will not just tend towards existence.

    Creation must both be mortal and immortal. Is this not contradictory? No, it is not because of the relationship that God has with creation. Creation of itself is mortal and impossible for God to create if left to itself because in so creating God would deny Himself because life cannot bring forth death. However, if creation is not left to itself then God can create and sustain creation in life and incorruption by His continuing presence in creation and by taking it into Himself, into eternity. Because God is almighty there isn’t anything that can prevent God sustaining things in immortality and incorruption. Even the natural mortality of creatures cannot prevent this. He so sustains created things that they should not revert to non-existence and although creation is with time, because it is not eternal of itself, God will take it into eternity that He may be all in all and so creation itself continues in eternal life beyond time.

    In this there are two types of immortality. One is preservation in time of a created thing from corruption and the second is the immortality of eternity shared with God where the created thing becomes God. All things must eventually end up in the latter state to exist.

    Thus, God can create something that of itself would revert to non-existence because God can and will create and sustain the thing in immortality and incorruption and eventually take it to Himself in eternity. Because God is all-powerful then nothing will prevent Him from doing this. If God wills it then it will necessarily happen.

    However, we experience death and corruption. How can this be because there is nothing requiring this in the act of creation itself and it is not of God? This death and corruption comes because God desired for some creatures to experience His existence more completely. Which means providing them with free will and the freedom to exercise it. So, God creates angels and men in a state of immortality in time sustained by Himself because this is according to Himself, yet He gives them the opportunity to reject Himself. If this happens then they die because they seek to exist of themselves and because God is pure and within Him there cannot exist contrary things. Because the initial immortality is in time, it is not imposed on man because man is free to reject it. It is however given as a gift because man cannot acquire it of himself. It is given initially because God is life and eternal life, and gives life that is permanent excepting the exercise of freedom that God also gives. If man sustains himself in this immortality in time then God will eventually take man into Himself into eternal immortality. God must create in life and then allow man to reject it. He cannot create in death and ask man to accept life.

    This system is matched by the story of Genesis and the teachings of the Fathers. Adam is created as a single real person and placed in paradise that is in immortality and incorruption in time, shielded by God. Then Adam is permitted to reject God by being given a commandment and being permitted to be tempted. It he had not fallen and persevered with God then he would have eternal immortality.

    Your system starts with some human(s) whose parents are not completely human and who inherit death and corruption from their parents, some may even die as infants. At some stage in their life they receive a mystical call from God to ask them to accept immortality with some instructions of what they need to do and if they do this then they will achieve immortality in time, otherwise they will remain in death. A problem is that there is no evidence of any such call nor of these instructions nor anyone who accepted God because there is no-one who is alive now that has immortality in time. Also, they won’t receive the grace of immortality unless they do something of their own power without this grace, that is of themselves and not in synergy with God. If it is in synergy then they would have the grace initially and then only lose it. Which means that they start in a state of immortality. You seem at times to suggest this which means than your humans were born immortal but could lose it and die. They didn’t inherit death from their parents. This would mean no infant deaths. This seems to contradict your initial system. So, either man needs to work from a state of inheriting bodily death and acting of his own energies to achieve life which is possible, Pelagian type teaching, or each man is born immortal and can lose it by disobedience, which runs counter to evolutionary theory. Finally, whichever way, at what stage did we get to our present situation because the system that you suggest does not seem to be continuing now. Why is not the system still applicable to each generation? Did we inherit some other type of condition from the initial humans after they rejected God which they didn’t have themselves?

    Overall, I cannot see how you can construct a theologically sound story without reverting to Genesis in its plain/literal meaning with Adam and Eve as two real persons who were the progenitors of all mankind.


  159. God must create in life and then allow man to reject it. He cannot create in death and ask man to accept life

    Not according to the Fathers. 😐

    The Fathers say with one voice that man was created neither mortal, nor immortal, but in a suspended state, being free to choose either way. (Lots of quotes about this can be found in the Early Fathers alone, not to mention later ones).

    You are the only one using the words “must”, “cannot”, “has to”, something the Fathers never did (nor do I). Your fault lies not so much in saying that man was created immortal, but in saying that he HAD TO be created as such.

    Because God is life and incorrupt then His creation must reflect Himself. It cannot be something opposed to Himself as a result of His creative act. Thus, He creates immortal life because He is. He creates things to be permanent because He is. This is about who He is and that He cannot deny Himself in creation.

    Because God is Love, the way He relates to His creation refelects Himself. He creates free life-forms because He Himself is a free Life-Form. He offers and He calls, but He never forces. This is Who He is, and He does not deny Himself in creation. — Once this is fully understand, preconceived notions about theodicy will soon disappear.

    there is no-one who is alive now that has immortality in time

    …apart from Enoch and Elijah, but apparently your pricelless jewel of a theory needn’t be bothered by such trivial facts…


  160. What troubles me the most is seeing you write stuff like this :

    they won’t receive the grace of immortality unless they do something of their own power without this grace, that is of themselves and not in synergy with God

    If it is in synergy then they would have the grace initially and then only lose it. Which means that they start in a state of immortality.

    There are several problems with that:

    (0) it is theologically illiterate.
    (1) it is heretical.
    (2) it is illogical.
    (3) it shows you pay no attention to your partners in dialogue.
    (4) and keep misrepresenting their opinions.

    Apparently, for you synergy (co-operation) means “God gives you something, and that’s that”.

    The servants in the Parable were not meant to just “keep” money, or merely “preserve” it, or simply “not lose it” : they were meant to multiply their talents. The only one who didn’t multiply, but only kept, was condemned. What talents did man have? Among others: conscience, reason, revelation, an inclination to be and do good, temporal existence, etc. What did he do with them? How did he “multiply” them? How did he respond to and interact with these many blessings and graces which God has bestowed upon him in order to lead him and his entire race to salvation, sinlessness, and immortality ?


  161. P.S.: YOUR system does NOT “need” a literal Adam & Eve. It would work just fine with them being personifications, as opposed to singular persons… in case you haven’t noticed that… 😐


  162. Lvka,

    St Athanasius uses such speech of necessity as well.

    “For God is good, or rather is essentially the source of goodness: nor could one that is good be niggardly of anything: whence, grudging existence to none… ”

    Here St Athanasius says that God, as good, cannot be niggardly of anything.

    Or again:

    “For the Word, perceiving that no otherwise could the corruption of men be undone save by death as a necessary condition, while it was impossible for the Word to suffer death…; to this end He takes to Himself a body capable of death,”

    St Athanasius seeks of the necessity of the Incarnation.

    So, there are times that the Father speak of must and cannot etc. The Scriptures themselves declare that God “cannot deny Himself”. I am only applying the Scriptures to this situation.

    St Athanasius quotes wisdom “God made man for incorruption, and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death came into the world.”

    See here that God made man as image of His own eternity, that is what I said above about creating man in permanence, conditioned by free-will, because He is.

    Yes, generally it is unwise to use such words as “must” for God but in this case I am within the patristic tradition doing so. It is also necessary due to your attempt justify your innovation as a viable story within Orthodox theology.

    I have already explained God’s love and respect for man’s freedom. I have said nothing more that St Athanasius says about the initial condition of man. The solution to the issue of forcing grace that I provided is that of St Athanasius and also seen in St John of Damascus and other Fathers. This is confirmed that we talk about the Fall, which presupposes an initial state of immortality by grace from which to fall.

    Enoch and Elijah are two exceptions indeed but they are not not continuing to live openly on earth either. Also, prophetic tradition has it that they will return at the time of the Anti-Christ and suffer martyrdom. It seems that the Mother of God though failed to remain with God and that she rejected Him having died. Anyway, Enoch and Elijah are not a problem with “my theory”, they are the only potential evidence to support yours. Two from billions is not sufficient evidence.

    You misrepresent what I have said about synergy and the issue of talents is irrelevant in this particular context. This is not about whether the grace needs to be developed and owned by man, it is about the grace being given initially and then worked in synergy rather than being received after work apart from grace. Also, immortality is something that one has or one does not have, it is not so much in itself something developed as talents, which apply to other gifts.

    Now let us assume that death could take place before any fall, please explain your story. How do you justify it when man “was created neither mortal, nor immortal.” Was the first man capable of reason and freewill born in a condition that his body was already in a state of death such as children today and the assumption of darwinists? As such how was man not created in either mortal nor immortal? You justified your story as saying St Athanasius said men are naturally mortal, so how does that reconcile with neither mortal nor immortal? At what point did man suddenly get suspended from and then released back to mortality?

    How is humanity one? If it is not because it has a common ancestor, Adam, then by what means? A same mutation pattern along several branches? Please explain.


  163. God isn’t “niggardly” when it comes to salvation either, but that doesn’t mean He created us saved… 😐 ( By that kind of reasoning, we’d all be universalists… 😐 )

    Your third-to-last paraghraph proves that you understand nothing of synergy and salvation. ( We’re not immortal now, but that obviously doesn’t stop us from becoming so, by following Christ’s words while being aided by His grace — the only difference is that now we have to pass through death, whereas in primordial times this would not have been the case, because our species was not so corrupted; but since we didn’t follow God then, here we are now )

    Your next-to-last paragraph proves you don’t spend too much time reading the Fathers. ( I can’t read for you: there’s no such thing as “vicarious reading”… Besides, people are like Thomas the Unfaithful: it would be really good to see things for yourself… )

    Your last paragraph is simply absurd. ( Seriously, “how is humanity one” ? Is that even a question ? Are we even having this surreal conversation ? ) 😐

    ( Of course, I understand that saying these things is not enough: one also has to explain… but I’m not in the mood right now… maybe later, in a few hours ? — Though, I’m at a loss here: many things you don’t seem to “get” are quite self-evident… how can anyone explain the obvious ? ) 😐 This is a feature that I’m afraid no-one can master…

    In the meantime, here’s a helpful link… 😐


  164. Lvka, you really oughtta be more respectful when you speak to a fellow Christian, and especially a priest. Several people on this thread have had questions about the coherence of your line of reasoning, so maybe you should consider that there’s an issue with what youre expressing or how youre expressing it, rather than accusing everyone else of being Patristically illiterate.


  165. Lvka, that passage from St. Theophilus is quite explicit that God did not create man mortal, which is precisely what we have been saying all along. You initially said that man was created mortal because he was created out of nothing. You have changed that throughout your comments, but that only leads to more questions about what it is you are attempting to put forth.


  166. I’m not being “cocky” or disrespectful, and I hate the thought of being such… 😐

    (Yes, I know how my questions “sound”, but… they NEED to be asked, and honest answers are needed…) 😐

    I phrased my objections in the most non-offensatory way possible… ( There are worse words out there than “theologically-illiterate” and “unread in patristics“… )

    And yes, I am horrified how a man of the cloth lack the most basic tenets of the faith ( like the teachings of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod !), 😐 but what can I do ? 😐 What do you want me to do ? 😐

    I’m not beaing mean… but I just don’t know how else to say or ask what I said and asked… 😐


  167. St. Theophilus is quite explicit that God did not create man mortal, which is precisely what we have been saying all along

    No. You haven’t.

    And do you know why ?

    Because your approach is one-sided.

    For you, man was created either fully-mortal, OR fully-immortal…

    But for Theophil of Antioch (as well as for St Athanasius), he was both.

    For me also, he was both.

    You ignore the words of Athanasius concerning the logical implications of being made from nothing…

    …and you further ignore the words of St Theophil by taking only half of what he said.

    You have changed that throughout your comments

    I assure you, I have not changed my thoughts on the matter for the last few years… not just during our small conversation here…


  168. Orthodoxy is the fulness of truth… errors and heresies are usually not full-lies, but rather half-truths…

    We see with TWO eyes, hear with two ears, and walk on two legs… birds need two wings to fly, and a boat cannot be controlled with just one paddle… that’s all I’m saying… ok? 😐


  169. Lvka, I (and I think most of the others here) have had just about enough of the rancor, which really has no place between Christians. You’re free to go to other blogs if you think this distinguished priest who has been to the Holy Mountain, etc., is so theologically illiterate. I think Fr. Patrick has clearly given you dilemmas you can’t talk your way around, and forgive me for saying so, but I think he has taken you far more seriously than you seem to deserve.

    I think it really bespeaks of Fr. Patrick’s humility that he has not yet altogether filtered your comments.


  170. im well aware that several Fathers taught that man was initially neither fully mortal nor immortal. however, this is not the only way the Fathers spoke of man’s initial state.

    in my post on 2/28 at 5:50 PM i wrote: “it seems to me that some Fathers say that death is natural and others that it is unnatural. Likewise, some say that man was created mortal, some immortal, and some in-between. But they are all pointing to the same truth from different directions. No matter how they chose to state it they all agree that it is sin that brings death into the world, not any design of God.”

    thus, as we have been saying, man was not created in such a state that he was headed for death regardless of whether or not he sinned.

    But can you position handle all those Fathers who said that Adam was created IMMORTAL?

    St. Nikodemos wrote (commenting on that canon from Carthage): “And thirdly, if death came from nature, how is it that St. Paul says that “through sin death entered the world” (Rom. 5:12); and Solomon says that “it was by the devil’s envy that death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:24)? So, according to this Canon, God created man not mortal by natural necessity, but by nature immortal.”

    Abba Dorotheos writes in Discourses and Sayings (Cistercian Publications), pg. 77″
    “In the beginning when God created man he set him in paradise (as the divine holy scriptures says), adorned with every virtue, and gave him a command not to eat of the tree in the middle of paradise. He was provided for in paradise, in prayer and contemplation in the midst of honor and glory; healthy in emotions and sense perceptions, and perfect in his nature as he was created. For, to the likeness of God did God make man, that is, immortal, having then the power to act freely, and adorned with all the virtues.”

    St. John Chrysostom writes in Homily on Genesis 15.5, FC 74, pp. 202-3 [15.14]:
    “How did it come to mind to say this? How did he know the future, and the fact that the human race would multiply? How did it become known to him that there would be intercourse between man and wife? After all, this occurred after the fall; but before that they lived in Paradise like angels, were not aroused by the flesh, were not inflamed by other passions either, were not weighed down by bodily needs, being created entirely incorrupt and immortal, did not even need the covering of clothing.”

    St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ, qtd. in Orthodox Word no. 2, p. 54:
    “Before his fall Adam was entirely concentrated interiorly by the Divine grace present in him and turned in his creative activity toward God in perfect love for Him and in fulfillment of His Divine will. He was entirely in a state of communion with and contemplation of God. In him all manifestation of the tripartite composition of the human being (i.e., spirit, soul, and body) were harmoniously united and hierarchically subordinated to the higher principle in man – his spirit. The spirit ruled over all, turning all toward a single higher aim. The first-created man was entirely penetrated with the grace of the Holy Spirit and entirely illuminated. The elements of the world could not harm man, and he was immortal.”

    Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love, pg. 210
    “Egotism evicted man from Paradise; it is a great evil. Adam and Eve were simple and humble; that’s why they lived in Paradise. They didn’t have egotism. They did, however have the ‘primal nature,’ as we call it in theological language. When we say ‘primal nature’ we mean the gifts of grace that God bestowed on man in the beginning when He created him, namely, life, immortality, consciousness, freedom of will, love, humility, etc. Through flattery, however, the devil managed to delude them. ”

    St. Symeon the New Theologian, Ethical Discourses 1.1
    “Notice that it is nowhere written, “God created paradise,” or that he said “let it be and it was,” but instead that He “planted” it, and “made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” [Gen. 2:8-9], bearing every kind and variety of fruit, fruit which is never spoiled or lacking but always fresh and ripe, full of sweetness, and providing our ancestors with indescribable pleasure and enjoyment. For their immortal bodies had to be supplied with incorruptible food.”


  171. Isaac,

    I do not give you the right to be offended. 🙂 — End of story. When someone errs, we have to be able to say he is wrong. Period. As I said, my remarks were not spoken in meanness.

    they all agree that it is sin that brings death into the world

    Apparently you haven’t paid enough attention to Athanasius the Great when you wrote that… among others…

    I just think that there are many more passages that you should take into consideration, and also pay particular attention to the small shades and details they provide… God is in the details… 😉


  172. I’ve also noticed (perhaps I should’ve addressed the issue sooner? But there were so many things to talk about, and still are…) — as I said: I noticed you brought up Solomon’s famous passage as if it was supposed to be some sort of “revelation” (some have even misquoted it, perhaps unintentionally) — I assure you, that passage is quite well-known, and needs no introduction…

    When man finally succumbed to temptation, death entered the world in a manner that destroyed man’s chance of immortality… until then, he was subject to both life and death, and the pendulum could’ve swung either way… but when he sinned, death won over life, and that was final… until Christ came.

    I really don’t see what you thought was there to see…


  173. The passage says, in case you haven’t noticed:

    For God made man towards immortality (for the purpose of him being immortal), creating him after the image of His Being…

    (that’s what I see in both the Latin-Vulgate & Romanian-Orthodox versions)

    but you’ve quoted it as:

    For God made man immortal, according to the image of His eternity

    Please excuse me, but these are two different things:

    — the expression “image of His eternity” isn’t even textually there… unless you’ve been using the KJV Apocrypha…

    — and there’s a difference (relevant to our topic) between “towards immortality” (or “to be immortal”, as the KJV puts it) and “immortal”

    — your version seems to be a combination between the KJV and the DR… the first says “image of His eternity” (which the others lack), and the other has “made him incorruptible” (while the others say something like “to be immortal”, denoting purpose or intention, but not a “given”).

    In this lies your error.


  174. some Fathers say that death is natural and others that it is unnatural. Likewise, some say that man was created mortal, some immortal, and some in-between

    No offense, but if something is not universal, lacking consensus, it can’t be dogmatically-binding, can it ? 😐 So why do you insist on this topic as if it were so ?

    If you want to say that you believe X is true, as opposed to Y or Z, I have no problem with that… but when you make the same errors as Roman Catholics did, by turning non-universal speculations (such as the Filioque) into dogma, OR turning even more wide-spread speculations (such as the form of the earth) into dogma, THEN I DO have a problem… this stuff is pretty serious, and can have tragic consequences…


  175. it is the universal consensus of the Scriptures, Church Fathers, and canons that God is not the author of death, that man would have never died if he had never sinned. That is what we have been saying all along. that is what was made dogmatically binding by the ratification of the council of Carthage at Trullo and the 7th Ecumenical Council.

    on the other hand, you have said:

    “IF DEATH DID NOT EXIST, why was the Tree of Life created in the first place?

    Man was the crown of creation, who, by choosing God, could’ve rescued creation from its ephemeral state, and make it eternal by uniting itself with God. He failed, hence the CONTINUATION of death and decay until the present; Their destruction, innitiated through Christ’s death and resurrection, to be finally fulfilled at the End of Days.” (emphasis added)


  176. and this faith of the Church about the origin of death is incompatible with evolution — which is what this was about oh so many posts ago.


  177. this faith of the Church about the origin of death is incompatible with evolution

    I beg to disagree. I think it is quite compatible. But, again, evolution, even if true, is not Church dogma either. Just so we’re clear.


  178. Lvka,

    I checked the Greek of the passage of which you dispute the translation: ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπ᾽ ἀφθαρσίᾳ καὶ εἰκόνα τῆς ἰδίας ἀιδιότητος ἐποίησεν αὐτόν·. Literally, “For [the] God created [the] man upon incorruption and He made him an icon of His own eternity.” (ἀφθαρσίᾳ can be translated immortality rather than incorruption; both are legitimate.) Even given the variation of translations, the passage still makes the minor point for which I was using it which was evidence towards the thought that God made man according to who He is.

    My next-to-last paragraph was asking you to explain how your story of evolution matches the Fathers. It has nothing to do with my reading of the Fathers.

    My last paragraph is asking you to explain your own statement made earlier in the discussion: “Adam was not one, but humanity is one (literal meaning), and -apart from that- the passage refers to the monarchy of the Father, and to the unity of the Trinity (spiritual meaning).” Are you saying that your own comment is absurd: “Your last paragraph is simply absurd. ( Seriously, “how is humanity one” ? Is that even a question ? Are we even having this surreal conversation ? )”?

    Thanks for the link. It does not add anything to the discussion other than to emphasise that to reconcile the various thoughts of the Fathers requires a distinction between what I categorise as immorality in time (conditional immortality) and eternal immortality. The quote is focusing on the latter immortality. Other Fathers are speaking of the former and most of the discussion is about the former. You don’t seem to have made, accepted nor at least recognised this distinction. This is a problem for your understanding my position and it also makes your criticisms fly wide of the mark. This has also affected your reading of my understanding of grace and synergy in terms of immortality, freedom and love.

    “When man finally succumbed to temptation, death entered the world in a manner that destroyed man’s chance of immortality… until then, he was subject to both life and death, and the pendulum could’ve swung either way… but when he sinned, death won over life, and that was final… until Christ came.”

    Thank you for saying this. This is that for which I have been asking.

    Ok then. Which man? Adam? A group of men? If so did each one eventually succumb apart from Enoch and Elijah? Was the trial simultaneous or spread for each over time and space? When death won over was it then passed on to each succeeding generation? Or did Elijah many generations later have the same trial and suspension? Did this form of trial then stop with Christ? Were the man/men who underwent this trial borne of mortal parents? Were they suspended from any incorruption and death during the trial such as the natural process of dying that we all undergo from birth and particularly from adulthood? If death entered the world in such a way as to destroy man’s chance of immortality then what type of death was there in the evolution process before a reasoning and free-willed man evolved? Why did this not destroy the chance of immortality? Why did the evolved man suddenly come free of this for a time? Please tell the story that addresses all these issues.


  179. Then let’s start simple.

    immortality is something that one has or one does not have, it is not so much in itself something developed as talents, which apply to other gifts.


    St Athanasius said men are naturally mortal, so how does that reconcile with neither mortal nor immortal?

    Already explained. The Fathers (Orthodoxy) see(s) both sides of reality, something heresies don’t, being usually one-sided. Unlike other faiths, Orthodoxy is a balanced. The middle way. All other sects are extremes. God created the world through discrimination (discernment) in seven days, and the Church established the faith by the same in seven synods as upon seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1).

    At first, God discriminated between being and non-being, then between light and darkness, day and night, then between the atmosphere and hydrosphere, then between earth or dry land and the sea, then between sun and moon, then between birds and fish, then between animals and man, then between rest and activity, then between good and evil (the tree of knowledge), then between life and death (the tree of life), then between man and woman, etc.

    The Church condemned pairs of opposing, yet equally-dangerous heresies: both Judaizers and Gnostics, Arians and Sabellians, Monophysites and Nestorians, idolatry and iconoclasm, Pellagianism and Augustinianism, Catholicism and Protestantism, superstition and skepticism, etc.

    How is humanity one?

    All man share in the same human nature: something that’s also true of God, but there we also have monarchy: which lacks in man but is present in the Big Bang and -this may surprise you- Evolution.


  180. Lvka,

    I find your last comment is unhelpful for developing the discussion. Please try again. Stating something is wrong without an explanation is unhelpful for a discussion because I have no means of reply but to say: “no, I am right”, and then we merely have an argument. The middle part is interesting but moves the discussion nowhere. The third part doesn’t address how all men have the same nature. Is it through a single ancestor, which you seem to imply by the link that it is the common ancestor of all animals? So human nature is the same as worm nature then? It still doesn’t answer my other questions. Please address them as well.

    Why do we lack monarchy in man? We have one father of all men in the flesh, Adam. If it is present in the evolution in terms of the link provided then Adam provides it in man. It only lacks for you because you deny Adam as the single father of all men. Do you not? Are you meaning something else by monarchy that the Big Bang has but Adam does not?

    I agree that physical evidence shows the unity of all living creatures and all the universe for that matter. Thus Christ is able to save it and unite it all in taking only humanity. We should expect to find this evidence in creation, even the six day literal understanding of it, so it doesn’t prove the process of evolution nor the Big Bang, although I agree that both evolution and the Big Bang support this principle of unity.


  181. I find your last comment is unhelpful

    That’s good !

    Every excruciatingly-long road is slowly covered by a large number of insignificantly-small steps — each one of them pain-stakingly meaningless and unhelpful when taken in izolation from the rest… 🙂

    Please try again.

    Well, if you insist… 🙂

    If man would’ve taken advantage of his original innocence, using his temporary existence to lead a life of purity & holiness, drawing ever closer to God, by listening to the voice of reason and conscience, implanted in him by His Creator, he would’ve attained immortality… But, by foolishly listening to the voice of temptation instead, and immaturely partaking of knowledge, he thus lost his innitial innocence, and his unprepared soul became an easy target for every evil and wicked inclination, that instead led him and his entire kind only further and further away from grace, bringing him under the power and dominion of sin and death.


  182. The middle part is interesting but moves the discussion nowhere.

    If by “nowhere” you mean me drawing your attention to the fact that extremes are usually erroneous, then I’m glad to have brought you there… 🙂 Maybe thus you’d be more inclined to give a second thought to such views as man being made either fully-mortal (dying regardless of his [dis]obedience, per Pelagius) or fully-immortal…

    The third part doesn’t address how all men have the same nature.

    Grass is green: that’s a statement of fact, rooted in simple observation. — Now you want me to explain to you WHY the grass is green (or else what ? You’re going to deny the obvious ?). That’s the beauty of being Orthodox: our faith is apophatic, so we leave the explanations up to Catholics and Protestants (who apparently can explain everything, even HOW does the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Christ…)


  183. Lvka,

    Thank you for the time and energy that you have given to this discussion.

    I was hoping for something from you that would extend my thinking beyond the original post and give me good reason to accept evolutionary theory with orthodox theology, which is why I was asking you all those questions. Unfortunately, your recent answers were not even incremental in helping towards this but simply repetitive or irrelevant and failed to answer the questions with any depth. Thus, since it appears that you cannot provide me with sufficient reasons to accept evolutionary theory as consistent with orthodox theology, there is no point in continuing to discuss this with you.

    May God grant you a good struggle through Lent and the blessings of the joy of Pascha.


  184. It’s OK, Father, don’t worry about it… As I’ve said, it’s not ‘dogma’, so there’s no need or rush to… And it would also be extremely unrealistic of me to expect of myself to be able to convince someone in a few days of something that took me over two decades to accept, believe, and understand…


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