St. Michael's Orthodox School
A Closer Look, Contents

Table of Contents


Introduction ..................................................................................................i

Chapter 1, Ten Reasons  Some Orthodox Christians
                      Believe in Evolution ..............................................................1

Chapter 2, The Time and Mind of Charles Darwin ....................................7

Chapter 3, On the Definitions of the term “Evolution”
                    and the Main Concepts of the Theory ...................................17

Chapter 4, A Closer Look at the Evidence Presented ..............................25

Chapter 5, Scriptural Problems for “Theistic Evolution” ...........................41

Chapter 6, Patristic Writings on Genesis ..................................................45

Appendix, Recommended Reading List ....................................................53
A Closer Look, Introduction

 Introduction
          

    The purpose of this short book is to provide a doorway into the subject of origins by summarizing several aspects of it.  The question is, “In the creation of the world, did God use an evolutionary process, or did He create quickly, as a simple reading of Genesis would indicate?”  This book is not meant to be a thorough analysis nor an exhaustive exploration of this question, but a summary which is complete enough to direct the reader toward further investigation.  Many lengthy books have been written on the subject, some of which are very technical, and most people will not have the time or the inclination to study the matter in such depth. However, because the idea of evolution is not an isolated scientific idea, but one which has become a foundation of the modern secular world-view, we are all required to have some understanding of the matter.

    Although this book is directed particularly toward Orthodox Christians, it will hopefully be useful to anyone trying to sort out all the pros and cons concerning the “creation or evolution” question.  Its purpose is to explore the idea of evolution from several perspectives: philosophical, scientific, scriptural and patristic.  At the end of the book, we provide a list of recommended books for those who wish to study the subject more deeply.           
       
    Many Orthodox Christians, especially those who are in a position of teaching children, are in a struggle to find answers to their questions amidst so much conflicting information. How can what I learned in school be untrue?  Can’t I just acknowledge that God created the world and let someone else figure out the details of how He did it?  Can we really know? What does the Church teach?

    We are told through many different sources that the world we see around us, in all its diversity, is the result of an evolutionary process.  We are also told that there is overwhelming evidence that this process occurred over many millions of years. Yet a simple reading of Genesis does not yield such a picture and several teachings of the New Testament seem to agree with this simple reading more than with an evolutionary interpretation.  How can we find our way through this conflict?

    The Orthodox Church does not require us to have “blind faith” and  “leave our brain at the door”, as some have accused.  In fact, the Church has always been filled with people of considerable intellect who have used this gift to articulate and defend her teachings and world-view.  What is required is that we “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Our minds are renewed through prayer, but there is some study required as well.  Our responsibility is to soberly study the subject as much as possible, avoiding the temptation of being “zealous without knowledge,” and pray that we may have the wisdom to discern truth from falsehood.

    In the first chapter of this book, we begin our study by considering the various reasons Orthodox Christians have given for their belief in an evolutionary process.  These reasons have been gleaned from correspondence with many individuals over several years. Each reason is addressed very briefly.  The second chapter looks into the life and times of Charles Darwin.  We need to know about the person of Darwin because, although scientists strive to be objective, their underlying philosophies and beliefs can influence how they interpret what they observe.

    Chapter three explores the two main definitions of the word “evolution” and describes, in simple but accurate terms, the main concepts of this idea. Chapter four starts an analysis of the evidence most commonly presented as proof of evolution. Since evolution is most often presented as a scientific fact, we have a responsibility to analyze the evidence presented with scientific rigor and logic. Granted, this analysis does require some understanding of scientific terms, and some logical thought, but it does not really require a PhD. Books which more thoroughly examine the evidence are listed in the appendix.

    For Christians, an examination of evolutionary ideas from a Biblical perspective should be very important since we hold the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God. Since the One God is Author of life, visible and invisible, true faith will not contradict true science, nor will true science contradict true faith.  Rightly understood physical phenomena and rightly understood Scripture will agree. If a widely accepted scientific idea contradicts many Biblical teachings, Christians find themselves in a difficult situation that requires a choice. Chapter five presents some scriptural passages which must be considered in making this decision.

    As part of this Scriptural understanding, Orthodox Christians have an additional perspective that must be taken into account.  Orthodox Christianity is often called “the Church of the Holy Fathers.”  We put great weight on the writings of those holy people who were much closer to Apostolic times than we are and who defended the Truth against many serious assaults, sometimes at the cost of their lives.  It is their understanding of Scripture that we must place above our own.  Chapter six offers many quotes from the writings of the Church Fathers.

    Finally, for those who wish to study this subject more thoroughly, we have included a list of books that will be helpful in a more complete study.
 


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