vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
[personal profile] vaecrius
[saved as an oversized Tumblr post. Click here for that conversation in full.]

My response is primarily to kabane52, but I'll respond to this because this comment is a good start in establishing what I am not talking about and I would quote it anyway.

This is painful because from your response we clearly agree more than we disagree. Forgive me if I have jumped to any conclusions about your motives, in particular my turning the "grey world" slur against your own position.

It seems our major difference is whether this uniformly historical reading is necessary to the faith, in the same way the Creed and the Eucharist are. I have also struggled with this, most pointedly when I had finished Seraphim Rose's piece that I linked above last year and by the end of it was ready to find some way to disavow or ignore everything I had learned for the last 20+ years for the sake of the faith, even despite the lack of encouragement to do so from my priest or anyone in my parish. Ultimately I did not.


What I'm not talking about

My issue with Darwin is not with his “facts” or his observations, but with his assumption of a self-governing universe, that has no source or indeed any purpose. Or even more dangerous that there are no moral absolutes, that we are locked in an eternal struggle for domination over other groups. We have experimented with these ideas, with catastrophic consequences over the time since they were first popularised by Darwin and his successors.

I agree with this comment. The context of Darwin's theories was a very bad time for Christianity in the English-speaking world, and the 20th-century extrapolations from thereon, influenced by fascism and Marxism and all manner of other "we don't need God and human beings are just more matter to manipulate to bring in the new world we want" ideologies.

I have never seen someone who objected to evolutionary theory who was not ultimately driven by some ethical, theological or moral problem with much of the baggage and implications of that theory than any scientific merit of the theory itself. These problems are usually quite legitimate.

None of that, however, is what is counted as "evolution" by any sincere biologist working today, except where they have been ideologically conditioned for other reasons. If I defend "evolution" in any way, it is simply the following propositions and no more:
  1. Living things can be selectively bred to change into other forms.
  2. There are phenomena in the world that can cause consistent selections to happen independently of man.
  3. Such phenomena, repeated in the past many times, can and probably has resulted in the diversity of organisms we see (or have seen) today.
  4. Without making any statement whatsoever as to the specific human condition which is sui generis in a way that is incommensurable with all other life on these terms, all life may (and in fact modern biology seems to contest this) have come from a single ancestor, as all the diverse races of man have come from Adam.
  5. 3-4, combined with the geological record, the limits of the speed of light, and the theory of how distant stars appear to be (until we physically reach these other stars it is still just a theory), all point to the universe having been created much longer than 5777 years ago.
None of the foregoing has any logical connection to the following:
  • that identical principles apply to "zoe" as they do to "bios", or that the former does not exist.
  • that man is nothing more than a clever beast.
  • that only material things exist and persons are illusions.
  • that nothing has value except what we can extract from it according to our own will.
  • that God is impotent or had no direct hand in creation of any particular thing.
  • that spiritual death, in the sense of our disconnect from God and our fellow human beings and our decay into our gnomic ego and ultimate condemnation in the final judgment, etc., is a natural and good part of creation. (For a Christian sect that does believe this, see the Westboro Baptist Church.)
I reject all these unnumbered propositions.


My own background

I was an atheist from my teens through my twenties, because this was the God I had been taught:
  1. If you do not believe that the creation of the world happened exactly as described in Genesis, "day", meaning 24 hours, you are an apostate (and condemned to Hell).
  2. "And God rested" means that he stopped creating the world, and it has been running on its own since, with the occasional miraculous intrusion.
  3. Related to 2, God only acts through miracles.

while everything I had been taught, by people whose judgment and integrity of research I have trusted significantly more than those who taught me about God, pointed to the following:
  1. There is overwhelming evidence of an old earth, and sustained, gradual, repeatable change in species over many generations. The ID explanations fall apart as readily as the arguments that Jesus never existed.
  2. To hold that God just creates the world and then leaves it, is indistinguishable from holding that there is no God, as either ultimately implies God (or whatever we call "God") is not here.
  3. Every seemingly supernatural occurrence can be explained away by naturalistic causes.
Foolishness of the world? Perhaps. But so prevalent that impossible to reconcile without ignoring entirely, in a manner of shunning the outside world usually associated with highly spiritually destructive cults.

I was at all able to come to the Church because of the following inferences that had to learn the hard way:
  1. The world is full of otherwise sane, generally rational people who can see the second point 1 and have not apostasized.
  2. The true teaching of the Church is that God's creation of the universe, of each and every one of us, is a constant, unceasing act of sustaining our existence. That, and not a single monolithic done-and-over-with act from 5777 or 5777777777 years ago, is what it means to be a contingent being.
  3. Such explanations fail to explain "away" the actual significance of the occurrences themselves, if they are merely the medium through which God has initiated a communicative act.
No "what" short of God can give a "why" (as distinct from a "how").


The theological ramifications of anathematizing evolution

Everything about the Christian resistance to evolutionary theory is a direct reaction to the evils perpetuated in the various eugenicist, etc. ideologies that surrounded and exploited it. But they are primarily reactions against - which is not itself a problem, every Ecumenical Council being a reaction against a heresy. But what does this current reaction say about who God is?

Let's say we had a hypothetical "Council of Dayton" anathematizing evolution. The following would have to be made into doctrine:
  1. God is Life, and death, without distinction between biological and spiritual death, is entirely a product of human sin.
  2. The products of human sin are strictly prospective and, being a merely human phenomenon, cannot have truly eternal consequences.
  3. Human nature is sui generis and cannot be begotten within the world.
  4. All of Genesis must be accepted as precise historical accounts of what happened, without figurative embellishment.
  5. Revelation 13:8, however, only reflects a thought of God, a sign of our pre-destination to salvation and His foreknowledge of our fall, but cannot be taken as something that actually happened.
1 conflates matters in a way that contradicts the flow of everything said by the Fathers and found in the New Testament respecting the flesh and the spirit as being distinct things - properly united but without confusion.

2 itself seems unproblematic [EDIT not on Tumblr: until you realize this also necessitates universal salvation, which is contrary to the existing teaching of the Church which is that we cannot know for sure], but see 5.

3 begs the question (in both senses): why not?

4 is the thing debated. It cannot stand on its own without the other points, lest it be a bald assertion ungrounded on anything but an idolatrous use of precedent.

5 denies the eternal nature of Pascha. This has terrible consequences when combined with 2: if all death is only within time, so is Christ's death on the Cross; if so, then all who have perished before have truly perished without recourse. How can a God who can operate entirely outside of time and supposedly cannot even tolerate the death of a single tapeworm before the fall, now be content with the eternal loss of untold millions of persons He made in His image?

[EDIT not on Tumblr: 5 would mean the Anastasis icon, and the hymns about Adam dancing and Eve rejoicing, are a lie, and the Holy Spirit has allowed the Church to fall into error this whole time.]

Better to denounce the evils as evils on their own, which can be done (and has been done) with existing doctrine without problem.


Points to reflect upon

If the foregoing is too long to read, or if it seems rambling and out of context, I invite the reader to consider:
  • Were the Pharisees infected with a fungus that clouded their judgment?
  • Where is the proof of the existence of the seven sickly cows that ate the seven fat ones? If they never existed, is Pharaoh's dream thereby not inspired by God?
  • Are Judas Iscariot and Joseph's brothers blameless because they were only doing the will of God in their evil acts?
  • When the Mosaic law forbids the flesh of bats in the explicit context of clean and unclean birds, are we required to reject any taxonomy that does not include Chiroptera in Aves?
  • Are we required to hold that every one of Christ's parables actually happened?
  • How can you slay someone before the foundation of the world, when clearly death does not exist until some time after?
  • If Adam had no concept of death, why would God warn him that he would die? If he had a concept of death, where did it come from? If Adam had no concept of death and God's warning was a deliberate setup to help him learn what death was, then what is so important about death that God would do such a thing?
  • If Adam and Eve died the day they ate the fruit, and they did not conceive until after they did this (and consider the time it takes to sew enough fig leaves together to wear as a garment and to process the shock and horror of what had happened after the banishment before anyone could possibly be in the mood for sex - surely more than one day all told), and the death of the Fall must be one and the same as biological death, how did Eve's body manage to gestate Cain, Abel and Seth?
  • If Christ has defeated death with his Pascha, how come people still die?
  • [EDIT not found on Tumblr: What are the waters above the heavens?]

Some of these points are petty and others are central to the faith, with others in between. I have made minimal effort to sort them. The point is that there is enough room in Scripture, if a strict historical exegesis is made a condition of the faith, to allow the simplest Marie Henein treatment to be much stronger grounds for apostasy than the modern evolutionary synthesis on its own.

(That Youtube link calls for further comment, if for no better reason than lest I play right into another commenter's insinuation that I myself am an apostate. I think, without having any great knowledge in that field, that the archaeological data is more or less as the author characterized it - and yet I remain a Christian. This is because I believe that God revealed Himself to Israel through those pre-existing myths and took on the particular god Jehovah to lead them to Him. Consider the parallel between this and God appearing again among a whole host of this time not gods, but Jewish rabbis and self-proclaimed Messiahs, distinguishing Himself from them by words and deeds of authority of which the others prove ultimately incapable. Scripture is filled with these appropriations from pagan gods, most notably Psalm 104(103):3 (among many other similar references) and Acts 17:28. To try to explain away all of them is to do more violence to the text than denying the historical accuracy of certain specific texts or to admit that some were written in a (subjectively, at the time) self-serving manner. It is a kind of textual violence that we never see the apostles doing in the NT, and even if you rope in a convert here and there I do not believe it is constructive in preparing anyone for their long-term salvation.)
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if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.

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