11 October 2006
This is the conclusion to Fr. Seraphim's letter to the Orthodox Christian Evolutionist, Dr. Alexander Kalomiros
... All that I have said in this letter, derived strictly from the Holy Fathers, will come as a surprise to many Orthodox Christians. Those who have read some of the Holy Fathers will perhaps wonder why they "haven't heard it before." The answer is simple: if they have read many of the Holy Fathers, they have encountered the Orthodox doctrine of Adam and the creation; but they have been interpreting the patristic texts hitherto through the eyes of modern science and philosophy, and therefore they have been blinded to the true patristic teaching. It is also true that the doctrine of the body of Adam and the material nature of the first-created world is taught most clearly and explicitly in the later Fathers of exalted spiritual life such as St. Simeon the New Theologian and St. Gregory the Sinaite, and the writings of these Fathers are not widely read even today in Greek or Russian, and hardly any of them exist at all in other languages. (In fact, several of the passages I have quoted from St. Gregory the Sinaite have been mistranslated in the English Philokalia.)
I was very interested to read in your letter that you set forth the correct patristic teaching that "The creation of God, even the angelic nature, has always, in comparison with God, something material. Angels are incorporeal in comparison with us, biological men. But in comparison with God they are also material and bodily creatures." This teaching, which is set forth most clearly in the ascetic Fathers such as St. Macarius the Great and St. Gregory the Sinaite, helps us to understand the "spiritual body" with which we shall be clothed in the future age, which is in some way of the dust, earthly, but has no moisture or coarseness, as St. Gregory the Sinaite teaches; and it also helps us to understand that third state of our body, that which first- created Adam had before his transgression. Likewise, this doctrine is essential in our understanding of the activity of spiritual beings, Angels and demons, even in the present corruptible world.
The great Russian Orthodox Father of the 19th Century, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, devotes an entire volume of his collected works (volume 3) to this subject, and to comparing the authentic Orthodox patristic doctrine with the modern Roman Catholic doctrine, as set forth in 19th-century Latin sources. His conclusion is that the Orthodox doctrine on these matters -- on Angels and demons, heaven and hell, Paradise -- even though it is given to us by sacred tradition only in part, nonetheless is quite precise in that part which we can know; but the Roman Catholic teaching is extremely indefinite and imprecise. The reason for this indefiniteness is not far to seek: from the time papalism began to abandon the patristic teaching, it gradually gave itself over to the influence of worldly knowledge and philosophy, first that of such philosophers as Barlaam, and then of modern science. Even by the 19th Century Roman Catholicism no longer had a certain teaching of its own on these subjects, but had grown accustomed to accept whatever "science" and its philosophy say.
Alas, our present-day Orthodox Christians, and not least those who have been educated in "theological academies," have followed the Roman Catholics in this and have come to a similar state of ignorance of the patristic teaching. This is why even Orthodox priests are extremely vague about the Orthodox teaching of Adam and the first-created world and blindly accept whatever science says about these things. It may be that the Holy Trinity Seminary at Jordanville, New York, is the only remaining Orthodox school where the attempt is made to teach the Holy Fathers not "academically" but as living parts of a whole tradition; and it is significant that a Professor of this seminary, Dr. I.M. Andreyev, who is also a Doctor of Medicine and Psychology, has expressed in print the very idea I have tried to communicate above, and which seems beyond the understanding of those who approach the Holy Fathers from the wisdom of this world instead of vice versa. Dr. Andreyev writes:
Christianity has always viewed the present state of matter as being the result of a fall into sin.... The fall of man changed the whole of nature, including the nature of matter itself, which was cursed by God.
Professor Andreyev finds that Bergson and Poincare have glimpsed this idea in modern times -- but of course it is only our Orthodox Holy Fathers who have spoken clearly and authoritatively about it.
The vague teaching on Paradise and creation of Roman Catholicism-and of those Orthodox Christians who are under Western influence in this matter-has deep roots in the past of Western Europe. The Roman Catholic scholastic tradition, even at the height of its medieval glory, already taught a false doctrine of man, and one which doubtless paved the way for the later acceptance of evolutionism, first in the apostate West, and then in the minds of Orthodox Christians who are insufficiently aware of their patristic tradition and so have fallen under foreign influences. In fact the teaching of Thomas Aquinas, unlike the Orthodox patristic teaching, in its doctrine of man is quite compatible with the idea of evolution which you advocate.
Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, teaches that:
In the state of innocence, the human body was in itself corruptible, but it could be preserved from corruption by the soul.
It belongs to man to beget offspring, because of his naturally corruptible body.
In Paradise man would have been like an angel in his spirituality of mind, yet with an animal life in his body. Man's body was indissoluble, not by reason of any intrinsic vigor of immortality, but by reason of a supernatural force given by God to the soul, whereby it was enabled to preserve the body from all corruption so long as it itself remained subject to God.... This power of preserving the body from corruption was not natural to the soul, but the gift of grace. Now it is clear that such a subjection of the body to the soul and of the lower powers to reason (as Adam had in Paradise) was not from nature, or otherwise it would have remained after sin.
This last quote shows clearly that Thomas Aquinas does not know that man's nature was changed after the transgression. Again:
The immortality of the first state was based on a supernatural force in the soul, and not on any intrinsic disposition of the body.
So far is Thomas Aquinas from the true Orthodox vision of the first-created world that he understands it, as do modern "Christian evolutionists," solely from the viewpoint of this fallen world; and thus he is forced to believe, against the testimony of Orthodox Holy Fathers, that Adam naturally slept in Paradise and that he voided fecal matter, a sign of corruption:
Some say that in the state of innocence man would not have taken more than necessary food, so that there would have been nothing superfluous. This, however, is unreasonable to suppose, as implying that there would have been no fecal matter. Therefore there was need for voiding the surplus, yet so disposed by God as not to be unbefitting.
How low is the view of those who try to understand God's creation and Paradise when their starting point is their everyday observation of this present fallen world! As against St. Seraphim's splendid vision of man's invulnerability to the elements in Paradise, behold Thomas Aquinas purely mechanistic explanation of the rationalistic question: what happened when a hard body came into contact with the soft body of Adam?
In the state of innocence, man's body could be preserved from suffering injury from a hard body, partly by the use of his reason whereby he could avoid what was harmful; and partly also by divine providence, which so preserved him, that nothing of a harmful nature could come upon him unawares.
Finally, Thomas Aquinas himself does not teach, but other Medieval scholastics (William of Auxerre, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure) did teach, the very foundation of present-day "Christian evolutionary" views of man's creation:
Man was not created in grace, but grace was bestowed on him subsequently, before sin.
In a word: according to Orthodox doctrine, which comes from Divine vision, Adam's nature in Paradise was different from present human nature, both in body and soul, and this exalted nature was perfected by God's grace; but according to Latin doctrine, which is based on rationalistic deductions from the present fallen creation, man isnaturally corruptible and mortal, just as he is now, and his state in Paradise was a special, supernatural gift.
I have quoted all these passages from a heterodox authority, not in order to argue over details of Adams' life in paradise, but merely to show how far one corrupts the marvelous patristic vision of Adam and the first-created world when one approaches it with the wisdom of this fallen world. Neither science nor logic can tell us a thing about Paradise; and yet many Orthodox Christians are so cowed by modern science and its rationalistic philosophy that they are actually afraid to read seriously the first chapters of Genesis, knowing that modern "wise men" find so many things there that are "dubious" or "confused" or need to be "reinterpreted," or that one may obtain the reputation of being a "Fundamentalist" if one dares to read the text simply, "as it is written," as all the holy Fathers read it.
The instinct of the simple Orthodox Christian is sound when he recoils from the "sophisticated," fashionable view that man is descended from an ape or any other lower creature, or even (as you say) that Adam might have had the very body of an ape. St. Nectarios of Pentapolis rightly expressed his righteous anger against those who try to "prove that man is an ape, from which they boast that they are descended." That is the view of Orthodox holiness, which knows that creation is not as modern wise men describe it by their vain philosophy, but as God revealed it to Moses "not in riddles," and as the holy Fathers have seen it in vision. Man's nature is different from ape nature and has never been mixed with it. If God, for the sake of our humility, had wished to make such a mixture, the Holy Fathers, who saw the very "composition of visible things" in Divine vision, would have known it.
How long will Orthodox Christians remain in captivity to this vain Western philosophy? Much is said about the "Western captivity" of Orthodox theology in recent centuries; when will we realize that it is a far more drastic "Western captivity" in which every Orthodox Christian finds himself today, a helpless prisoner of the "spirit of the times," of the dominating current of worldly philosophy which is absorbed in the very air we breathe in an apostate, God-hating society? An Orthodox Christian who is not consciously fighting against the vain philosophy of this age simply accepts it into himself, and is at peace with it because his own understanding of Orthodoxy is distorted, does not conform to the patristic standard.
The sophisticated, worldly-wise laugh at those who call evolution a "heresy." True, evolution is not strictly speaking a heresy; neither is Hinduism, strictly speaking, a heresy: but like Hinduism (with which it is indeed related, and which probably had an influence on its development) evolutionism is an ideology that is profoundly foreign to the teaching of Orthodox Christianity, and it involves one in so many wrong doctrines and attitudes that it would be far better if it were simple a heresy and could thus be easily identified and combated.
Evolutionism is closely bound up with the whole apostate mentality of the rotten "Christianity" of the West; it is a vehicle of the whole "new spirituality" and "new Christianity" in which the devil is now striving to submerge the last true Christians. It offers an alternative explanation of creation to that of the holy Fathers; it allows an Orthodox Christian under its influence to read the Holy Scriptures and not understand them, automatically "adjusting" the text to fit his preconceived philosophy of nature.
Its acceptance cannot but involve the acceptance also of alternative explanations of other parts of Divine revelation, of an automatic "adjustment" of other Scriptural and patristic texts to fit in with modern "wisdom."
I believe that in your feeling for God's creation, as you describe it in your letter, you are Orthodox; but why do you feel that you must corrupt this feeling with modern wisdom, and justify this new ideology which is so foreign to Orthodoxy? You have written most movingly "against false union"; how we wish that you would now become just as great a zealot "against false wisdom," and tell the Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians who have accepted this new doctrine much too uncritically that our only wisdom comes from the Holy Fathers, and all that contradicts it is a lie, even if it calls itself "science."
I beg your forgiveness if anything that I have said seems harsh; I have tried only to speak the truth as I see it in the Holy Fathers. If I have made any mistakes in my citations from the Holy Fathers, I beg you to correct them, but not to let any small mistakes keep you from seeing what I have tried to say. There is much else that I could say on this subject, but I will wait for your reply before doing so. Above all, I have the heartfelt wish that both you and we might see the true patristic teaching on this subject, which is so important for our whole Orthodox world view. I ask your prayers for myself and our Brotherhood.
With love in Christ our Savior,
The entire letter can be read here: