CREATIONISM VERSUS EVOLUTION
by Fr. George Nicozisin
To the savage and primitive mind the earth seemed to be the whole flat floor of the universe. The sky was the dome above it across which the sun, the moon and the stars passed and passed again, returning by some mysterious, roundabout or subterranean route. The Babylonian and Chinese astronomers believed the earth was flat. It was the ancient Greeks (6th B.C.) who first grasped the idea the world was in a spherical form. The globe of earth, they thought, was the center of being and the sun-moon-stars-planets moved about it.
It was in the 16th century A.D. that man’s mind moved beyond this point. Copernicus said the sun was the center, not the earth. But Copernicus’ theory was not proved until the 17th century with Galileo’s telescope. The later 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of a series of important scientific concepts about the origins of our world and life upon it. Thus emerged what came to be known The Theory of Evolution, which eventually contrasted itself with The Theory of Creationism.
Where do the two theories find their source of knowledge and information and are they in conflict? Creationism finds its information and knowledge in the Bible, while Evolution finds its form the Record of the Rocks. Is there a conflict between Science and Religion? If we take the Fundamentalist approach (everything in the Bible is to be taken literally), then there is a conflict. If, however, every word in the Bible is not be taken literally, then there is no conflict basically … That is to say, until we come to the creation of Man as we know him and the Bible speaks of him!
Scientific Theory of the Origin of Earth
The classical theory is that vast ages ago, the sun was spinning, a flaming mass not yet concentrated into a compact center of heat and light. (Science does not attempt to explain how, when, where and why the sun appeared. Science only deals with what exists.) The sun, which somehow began as a mass of gases, itself, was larger than it is now and spun much faster.
As the sun whirled, a series of fragments were detached from it by the near approach of some body flying through space. These torn-off fragments became planets. Our EARTH is one of those fragments that became planets. The flaming mass that was the material of the earth broke into two masses as it spun. The larger one became the EARTH itself, and the smaller one, which is now dead, became the still MOON.
Astronomers and mathematicians who base their computations on the rate of the cooling of celestial bodies and in various processes of diffusion and atomic change give us 2000 million years as a body separate from the SUN.
Biologists believe that life began in warm, sunlit, shallow water, possibly in pools and lagoons along the coast of the first formed seas.
In the Beginning
The atmosphere was much denser. Great cloud masses obscured the sun, frequent storms darkened the heavens. The land of those days, upheaved by violent volcanic forces, was a barren land, without vegetation, without soil. The torrential storms swept and created rivers which carried loads of sediment out to the sea to become mud that hardened later into slate, shales and sands.
The dry parched land took layer upon layer of rock and soon became mountains. After long ages, the steam in the atmosphere began to condense and fall onto earth. As it poured over the hot rocks, the water gathered in depressions as pools, lakes and then seas. As the waters rolled over rocky mountain formations, they brought with them dust and particles to form sediment accumulations, called strata.
The Bible Theory of Creation
The opening lines of the Book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, says:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …”
The first article of the Creed we recite at every Liturgy and at every Baptism says:
“I believe in One God, Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth and everything visible and invisible.”
In Christian Theology, and certainly in Orthodox Christian Theology, the Biblical affirmation that “God created the heavens and the earth, and everything visible and invisible” became one of the earliest doctrines that God created all things “out of nothingness into being,” as the Divine Liturgy prayer says.
Orthodox Theology does not seek to oppose the scientific discoveries of Astronomy, Mathematics, Geology and Biology. Rather, as the Eastern Christians did in the early centuries, the Church seeks to correlate the discoveries of science with Biblical truths.
Even the concept of a “Six Day Creation” was discussed in the Christian East as early as the fourth century.
The Hebrew word for “day” is “Iom,” which means both “day” and “a lengthy period of time which is undetermined.”
St. Peter (II Peter 3:8) says, “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”
In the Bible version of Creation, the sun appeared the fourth day. How could days one, two and three be regarded as twenty-four hour days as we know them?
Finally, the Bible version of Creation concludes each day by saying, “And it was evening and it was daylight the first / second / third / fourth / fifth / sixth day …” This is not so with the seventh day which appears to be still in existence.
We are still living the seventh day, and shall continue to live it until the end of time when God deems it time to terminate the material world, as He created it.
A Comparative Analysis of Science and the Bible
I. Gases formed the Sun. The Sun was a spinning, flaming mass of matter not yet concentrated into a compact center of heat and light. Some body flying through space tore fragments of the Sun and sent them flying. They became planets.
II. One flaming planet went off by itself and separated into EARTH and MOON. The EARTH accumulated oxygen and hydrogen around it. Slowly the waters separated above the earth as a great cloud mass. The Earth had volcanic upheavals as the crust got cold. The clouds dropped their waters and filled the crevices, valleys and openings around the mountains, hills and slopes. These became brooks, streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans.
The Record of the Rocks
It is the Science of Geology, particularly the Science of Paleontology, which has contributed so much to modern scientific discovery. Geology deals with the structure of the earth’s crust and the development of its various layers. It includes the study of rock formations, types and fossil forms. Paleontology deals with prehistoric life through the study of fossils … The Record of the Rocks. There are five basic Records or Periods of the Rocks.
1) Azoic Rocks
Azoic literally means “lifeless.”
There is no trace of life in this period.
The Time is unknown.
2) Proterozoic Rocks
Proterozoic literally means “Beginning of Life.”
This is the period of time when chemical bodies, minerals and organic substances began to take form. Rocks became lead, iron, coal, crystals, etc.
The Time is unknown.
3) Palaezoic Rocks
Palaezoic literally means “Ancient Life.”
This is when water life plants began, seaweeds, shellfish, crabs, worms and crawling things.
The Time is a several hundred million years ago.
4) Mesozoic Rocks
Mesozoic literally means “Middle Life.”
This is when shrubs and bushes, trees and other plantlife came out of the water. The animal life in the waters progressed in growth, size and kinds. They too, emerged from the water on to the land; i.e., giant reptiles that became dinosaurs and flying reptiles.
The Time is about 150 Million Years ago.
5) Cenozoic Rocks
Cenozoic literally means “Recent Life.”
This is when animal life is supposed to have come on the earthly scene.
This is also The Age of Mammals.
Mammals are family animals. Their newborn form eggs and are kept in the body until hatched. Even after birth, the young are protected for some period of time until they are able to fend for themselves.
This is also the Period of the Origin of Man.
The prevailing opinion of Modern Science is that man, like other mammals, is descended from ancestors of a lowlier kind. That is to say, man descends from the large apes, the chimpanzee, the orangutans and the gorilla.
The theory contends that man once had a common ancestor with these mammals which in turn descended from a thermomorph (monster/form), a monster reptile, which in turn evolved from a series of amphibians leading back to primitive fish, and ultimately, amoeba from the depths of the sea.
1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2. The earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
3. And God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light.
4. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from darkness.
5. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
6. And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
7. And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.
8. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9. And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
10. God called the dry land Earth and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.
11. And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so.
12. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
13. And there was evening and there was a third day.
14. And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.
15. And let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.
16. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.
17. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.
18. to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
19. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Biblical Account of Evolution
Verses 1 through 10 and 14 through 19.
20. a. And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.”
20. b. “And let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.
21. So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
22. And God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
23. And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.
25. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26. Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
29. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
30. “And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breadth of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31. And God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
1. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had done in creation.
Some Concluding Thoughts
Over 120 years have passed since the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. While some scientists still agree with Darwin’s theory of the changeability of species, much discovery has been done since then to create doubt and suspicion among them. The conflict between creationism and evolution has been primarily a struggle between Roman Catholics and Protestants, on the one hand, with scientists, on the other. You will find very little writing in Orthodox Christian circles.
Primarily this is because the Eastern Fathers, generally speaking, did not take a fundamentalist viewpoint of creation. For example, Vladimir Lossky, a great Orthodox theologian of the past century, says in his famous book, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, “The Church always freely makes use of philosophy and the sciences for apologetic (explanatory) purposes, but she never has any cause to defend these relative and changing truths as she defends the unchangeable truth of her doctrines.”
Eastern Orthodox theology finds not real argument with evolution up to the creation of man. And even in that, there is a possibility of accepting some of what has been discovered and continues to be discovered by science. For example, Moses, the author of the Book of Genesis, is writing to illiterate people who are asking some sobering questions while they are wandering all over the Sinai desert for some forty years. He uses a picture language and frames of reference with which they can identify. Nonetheless, the language does not take away from the meaning.
With the exception of verses 11, 12 and 13 of chapter one, the Genesis version follows basically along the theory of evolution.
Creation of Man
There are two references to the creation of man in Genesis. The first one is the simple statement made in verse 26 of chapter one:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our own image, after Our likeness…” and is restated in verse 27: “So God created Man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
The second reference is in chapter two, verse 7:
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
In Orthodox theology, the two words ”image” and “likeness” are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, “image” denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. “Likeness” is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue and grace. We call this growth process “theosis.” For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.
Thus, for example, Ireneus, a Church Father of the Second century, in speaking about creation of Adam and Eve says, “They were a child not yet having their understanding perfected.”
Father John Romanides, a contemporary Orthodox theologian says “Adam and Eve were two children born who were protected by nature and the animal world through the Holy Spirit.”
Did we evolve from the water? The infant does live a period of development in his mother’s womb which is a liquid world. It is only outside the mother’s womb that the lungs breathe as they were designed to breathe and function.
Did we evolve from animals? Ancient men did not look like us. In fact, they might shudder to see the form and the appearance we, their descendents, have taken!
Even Modern Science agrees that at some point man took on something that made him different from the animal world … he became a rational being (think, discern, evaluate, decide and act).
Should Modern Science be able to prove without the shadow of a doubt that man evolved from amoeba, reptiles, animal life into what he is today, Orthodox theology would be able to make the transitional acceptance far more readily than Western theology for all the reasons stated above.
Plantlife dies! Animal life dies! Man dies, too! But he goes on living! We cannot ask “Where we came from?” without asking “Where are we going?"