Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 3–

The article continues from…Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 2

Conclusion:

From the understanding about astronomy and astrology we have read through in the previous two parts, clearly explains the deceit of the King of the world—Satan, the great deceiver.

The greatest deceit, the great victory of Satan is not that he is leading a willing world to destruction, it is that he is, sadly, often able to deceive and lead astray the Christian person who is struggling to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ (see in particular Rom 12:2). Satan deceives the Christian by convincing him to take his attention off Christ and to doubt the power and promises of God.

christ's-temptation-in-the-wildernessHow do we resist this deceit? What should be the response of the Christian person to the wiles of the Devil? The Holy Scriptures are clear. The two Epistles of St. Peter the Apostle that are contained in the New Testament are wondrous builders of faith. In the introductory notes that we find at the beginning of the Second Epistle of Peter in the Orthodox Study Bible, there is a marvelous summary of the theme of Peter’s Epistles:

“Though the world disbelieves, deceives and mocks, Christians must maintain apostolic doctrine and an Orthodox Christian way of life. We are to grow continually in holiness and virtue and pursue an entrance into ‘the everlasting kingdom’ which is to come”.

The answer for the Christian is to continually seek God and His Kingdom; to fight the deceits of the Devil, despite the pain and suffering he can cause, with a faith founded upon the All-powerful and All-loving God.

Be reliant upon God and His holiness; be close to His Church, receive often the Sacraments that he freely offers to us. Resist evil and cling only to God.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a).

Satan can only deceive he cannot pluck us out of the hand of God; he cannot send us unwillingly from the kingdom of God. If God no longer becomes the focus of our vision and life, it is not He who has moved, it is that we have taken our gaze from him!

There are three short Homilies by St John Chrysostom (the Golden-mouthed). They are entitled collectively as ‘Three Homilies Concerning the Power of Demons’. The first is referred to as being “Against Those Who Say That Demons Govern Human Affairs” and the second and third “On the Power of Man to Resist the Devil”.

St. John Chrysostom warns his listeners against this despairing because of the power of the devil.

“For he (i.e. Satan) is an enemy and a foe, and it is a great security to know clearly the tactics of your enemies … when he overcomes by deceitfulness, he does not get the better of all men … he does not overcome … by force, yet by deceitfulness” (Homily II-1).

Thankfully, Satan does not deceive all in the Church. The saints, many of whose icons are surrounding us, can be our examples of faith and Christian life because they can be our guides encouraging us to continue with our eyes fixed upon God – the one who brings salvation and life.

“The Devil is wicked; I grant this indeed, but he is wicked for himself not towards us if we are wary” (Homily III-1).

When we sin, we cannot blame Satan or another for our failing. Our sin is our own because we have committed it by the exercise of our own power and free will, or by our own lack of faith. Likewise, when one in the Church falls away from God, we cannot say that Satan’s power has taken him by force away from the presence of God. God forbid that we should allocate to Satan the power that he so desperately seeks. Our sin is our own and, likewise, our falling away is our own. We fall away because Satan has convinced us, through deceit that our place is not in the Kingdom of God.

St John Chrysostom is careful to show that Satan’s deceits are many, but his intention is one. He seeks only to make us leave the presence of our loving God and to prevent us from allowing God to guide us. Satan seeks this by either convincing us that God cannot do what he has promised, by tempting us with the pleasures of this world, or by deceiving us to think that he, Satan, has the power which he actually does not have. The power of Satan can only lead us from God if we allow him the opportunity to do so.

Some of the other great writers of the Church can be cited to give us strength against this deceit of the Devil. In these (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 12 15) we are exhorted to see that ‘in the sacrifice of Christ, the devil has been defeated’. Satan is vanquished already and, only by deceit, can he lead astray those who are in Christ; tempting them through promise of treasure, power or letting them fall into utter despair.

We are instructed elsewhere (St. Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyraeans III & IV) to be firm, guarding ourselves from those who seek to influence evil upon us. Not just to turn away but even to flee from them. We must understand that Satan has enticed men and women from the beginning. It is only then that he has him in his power. However Satan is ultimately bound by the power of God. His power over man is only through delusion (St. Irenaus’ Adversus Haereses). We are to keep our lives fully in God and not to fall into the temptation that the Devil puts in front of us.

In the Gospels, Christ uses the common things of life to teach the truths of God. These well-known things are weaved by him into a story that conveys God to the hearers. The spiritual writers of our Church followed the example of our Lord. In teaching their hearers many of these writers spoke of everyday things, things like grain, fields, birds, and every day events from life. Some even used widely known stories to describe the action of Satan, for example the Fables of Aesop.

In the fable called THE DOG AND HIS REFLECTION. It goes something like this:

“A dog was crossing a plank bridge over a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, when he happened to see his own reflection in the water. He thought it was another dog with a piece of meat, so he let go of his own and flew at the other dog to get his piece, too. But, of course, all that happened was that he got neither, for one was only a reflection and the other was carried away by the stream”.

The moral of the story is:

“Envy not your neighbors lot; and
be content with what you’ve got.”

We can apply this fable to the Church and to ourselves who see ourselves as part of it. The deceit here is the reflection that the dog saw. What he thought was real was in fact only imaginary. When applying this story to that of the human person we can ask, why do we ‘bring ourselves, by own accord, into subjection to the enemy of this life?’ What is it that encourages us to push away eternal life to fall into sin? It is Satan the great deceiver who tempts us with the imaginary security of a life of wealth, comfort, pleasure and power – a life without God.

Satan can be seen in this story of our greedy dog; he is in the stream trying to convince the dog that even though he has all he needs, there is still more. Alas, this desire is based not on what God has given us, but on what we image we can and should have. Satan cannot offer the dog a real piece of meat; he can only reflect the image of the meat that already exists. Satan’s promises of peace without God are false. He tries to convince us to take his offer by copying the things of God. However, these copies are not real; they will disappear as easily as ripples do to a reflection in a stream. Satan does not take the meat from the mouth of the dog; he does not have to. He only need convince the dog to grab at more and by doing so lose what he has already been given. He plays on the greed and pride of the dog. Greed and the constant desire to be better than those around us is a common way of the world, it is not the way of a life in Christ. The temptations of the Devil often involve what we think we should have. The grace that God has given us is enough for our needs; we should use what we have been given with thankfulness and not worry about what we do not have.

Another fable concerning a reflection in a stream (in The Stag and the Hounds):

“A stag one autumn day came to a pond and stood admiring his reflection in the water.
‘Ah’ said he, ‘what glorious antlers! But my slender legs make me ashamed. How ugly they are! I’d rather have none at all’.

The stag was soon distracted from his vain musings by the noise of huntsmen and their hounds. Away he flew, leaving his pursuers a vast distance behind him. But coming upon a thicket, he became entangled by his antlers. He struggled to free himself as the baying of the hounds sounded nearer and nearer.

‘At last’ he thought, ‘If I am meant to die at the fangs of these beasts, let me face them calmly’.

But when he ceased to tremble, he found his antlers had come free.

Immediately he bounced back, delighting in his legs, which carried him far away from danger. As he ran, he thought to himself,

‘Happy creature that I am! I now realize that, that on which I prided myself was nearly the cause of my undoing, and that which I disliked was what saved me’.

Satan again lies within the flowing stream in this fable. Previously, we saw how Satan often deceives us into desiring what does not really exist. Here the deceit differs. Here the stag is convinced that what he has is inadequate. Previously it was pride and greed that was the downfall of the dog. Now we are reminded that vanity and extreme self-resourcefulness can be fatal. The stag knew what he wanted. However, his assessment of what was necessary or adequate for him was not right.

It is rather amazing to hear many in the Church say “I would really like to contribute more to the ministry and life of my Church, but I don’t have the necessary talents to do anything”. It’s not a matter of my antlers being just right or my legs being too thin and scrawny, but it is often a matter of “it would be too embarrassing for me to contribute anything in my Church youth group”. Perhaps it is “I would really like to say something at my youth group, but everyone would think I am stupid, or pushy”.

All of us have spiritual gifts from God; they were given to us by God at our Baptism. The Church cannot function properly, especially in times of need and challenge unless all of its members use the gifts God has given them. How can we expect the Church to stand fast against a world that rejects the Kingdom of God when the very members of that Church are not completely relying upon God?

Thankfully, it is not the combined self-reliance of all the members of our Church that makes us the ‘Body of Christ’ (I Cor 12:27). It is the power and grace of God that transforms the individual members of the Church into the functioning ‘Body of Christ’ in this world.

The stag allowed his own vanity and his self-judgment to cloud his opinion of himself. Satan often deceives the members of the Church into believing that even God’s promises will not be fulfilled in them because they in themselves do not ‘have what it takes’. It is not up to us, it is up to God!

“But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:14-17).

Satan cannot defeat the Church that is filled with the purpose and Spirit of God. He will, however attempt to deceive those who are part of it. The Church cannot be the vehicle of God’s salvation in this world if those who see themselves as belonging to that Church are not going to use what God has given them because of fear of ridicule, vanity, embarrassment or pride.

Perhaps our stag should read the verse above that mentions “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news”! In the end it is the scrawny feet that saved the stag from the fangs of the hounds. So too, it is the feet that carry the preaching and the teaching and those who are living out their faith in this world that will save us from the deception of the snapping Devil – however scrawny and ugly those feet might appear to be!

One of the greatest dangers for those within the Church is what is called ‘The New Age Movement’. What has the ‘New Age Movement’ got to do with the deception of Satan? It certainly has nothing to do with us who are members of the Church! Or does it?

Sadly, the ‘New Age Movement’ in its variety of forms, has influenced all aspects of life, and even many who see themselves as members of the Church of God are so easily influenced by this great deception of Satan.

Many see the “New Age Movement” as just a way of life; living in respect of all creatures, practicing non violence, being sensitive, respecting others right to believe in their particular religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The “New Age Movement” is in fact one of the greatest attempts at deception by Satan upon Christians today!

The “New Age Movement” is not simply some broad descriptive title for a range of unrelated philosophies or teachings. It is a highly organized and motivated movement that, in its least organized form, seeks to distract Christians from concentrating upon the things of God. At its most dangerous, it seeks to destroy Christian faith and replace the historical and theological Christ with a ‘new’ and ‘more relevant’ Messiah figure.

“According to New Age sources, the New Age Movement is a worldwide network. It consists of tens of thousands of cooperating organizations. Their primary goal or the secret behind their ‘unity-in-diversity’ is the formation of a ‘New World Order”. The Movement usually operates on the basis of a well-formulated body of underlying esoteric or occult teachings”.

A far more subtle and potentially more dangerous satanic deception lies behind the more basic unorganized expression of the “New Age Movement”. It is not the expression of ‘New Age’ in the world that should concern us, as much as its influence within the Church of God.

Sadly we can find particular ‘New Age’ practices and beliefs even with many members of the Orthodox Churches. Seemingly simple activities such as reading one’s stars, experimenting with the occult, using ‘healing crystals’, practicing eastern forms of meditation and certain ‘holistic medicine’ practices etc are expressions of what the “New Age Movement” is encouraging. These things are destructive to one’s Orthodox Christian faith precisely because they seek to take away from the uniqueness and central importance of Christ and the ‘Kingdom of heaven’. Anything that can do this will also slowly but surely chip away at the prime place of importance that Christ and the Gospel has in our lives as Orthodox Christians.

Referring to quotes from a onetime Confessor Priest-Monk from Mount Athos:

“The activity of the Antichrist and the beast, regardless of how much power they are allowed to have from God, will never acquire any authority over the souls of God’s servants. As it was with Job ‘… but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’ (I Cor 10:13b).

“Only the conscious denial of Christ deprives man of salvation. No hidden action or symbol of the evil one can harm or have an influence on the believer.

Truly, Satan is the great deceiver because he portrays himself as having power and influence that he does not really have. He is the greatest trickster because he casts an image that strikes fear and despair even into the hearts of those touched by the power of God.

Satan deceives because he seems to appear where he really cannot be and he tries to tempt all people, in venturing where they should not go.

stock-photo-ancient-orthodox-icon-73253788“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful; because your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 5:6-11).

Amen.

Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 2 —

The article continues from….Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 1

starsMany atheists arrogantly proclaim that they are more than happy to believe in God if only someone would prove that God exists. Yet it is often these very same people who are so willing to place their lives into the practice of open evilness, of destruction or hatred.

With the scientific worldview, Science has indeed become the god of our age, worshipped both by scientists and by non-scientists, everywhere.

Science of astronomy and astrology.

St. Basil talks about astronomy. He says this “far-famed astronomy, a laborious vanity.” Let us look into the science of astronomy and astrology as examples, to understand further to “Is science a laborious vanity?”

St. Basil says, “These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thingthe fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit.”

From the very beginning of time man has been fascinated by the stars and he has always tried to find some links between them and his own destiny (which according to modern science is known as astrology). His observation of the stars and their movements gave rise to the area of study, known today as astronomy. It is considered a pure science which is concerned with the measurements of distances, the evolution and destruction of stars, their movements, and so on. Modern astronomy seeks to find answers to the still unanswered questions regarding the origin of man and the final, possible end of his existence as a member of the human race.

The latest example in the field of astronomy is the discovery of “anthropic principle”. As per this discovery it is said that there really is an infinite, or a very big, ensemble of universes out there and we are in one. This ensemble would be the multiverse. In a multiverse, the laws of physics and the values of physical parameters like dark energy would be different in each universe, each the outcome of some random pull on the cosmic slot machine. The scientists say “We just happened to luck into a universe that is conducive to life.”  There is growing and grudging acceptance of the multiverse, especially because it is predicted by a theory that was developed to solve one of the most frustrating of fine-tuning problems of all—the flatness of our universe. The urge to understand our universe from first principles and not ascribe it to some divine force compels many scientists to seek scientific explanations for what seems to be an incredible stroke of luck.

In days of old, astronomy was synonymous with astrology. The etymological meaning of the word astrology is almost the same as that of astronomy; and there was no clear definition made between the two branches until the time of Galileo. All ancient advanced civilizations (China, Central America, Mesopotamia, India,) treasured some form of astronomy-astrology. The great astronomer, Kepler in the 17th century, the discoverer of the three great laws of planetary motions, believed in and proclaimed astrology as a true science. Kepler, to whom Newton is indebted for all his subsequent discoveries, was mathematician to Emperor Rudolph II of Hungary, and in his official capacity of Imperial astronomer is historically known to have predicted to General Wallenstein, from the position of the stars, the issue of the war. His friend, protector and instructor, the great astronomer Tycho de Brahe, believed in and expanded the astrological system. He was forced to admit the influence of the constellations on terrestrial life because of the constant verification of facts. Scientists today record the periodical events of meteors and comets, and prophesy, in consequence, earthquakes, meteoric showers, and the apparition of certain stars. They are not soothsayers but learned astronomers. Its influence and scope have been brought into connection with practically every known science which has survived from the past — botany, chemistry, geology, anatomy, medicine. Colors, metals, stones, plants, drugs, and animal life of all kinds were associated with the planets and placed under their tutelage. The Zodiac was (exoterically) considered as the prototype of the human body, the different parts of which all had their corresponding sections in the Zodiac itself.

Today, there are distinct boundaries between the modern science of astronomy and the pseudoscience known as astrology.  But in ancient times, these boundaries were not so clear.  Both fields of study used a common set of astronomical observations – but for different purposes.

Long before the invention of the telescope, ancient observations and predictions could only be of celestial objects visible to the naked eye.  This restricted astronomical and astrological studies to the stars, the Sun, the Moon and five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  (The Earth was not counted as a planet until much later).

The word zodiac comes from the Greek word “zoion” meaning animal.

There are two basic types of zodiacs. One is the zodiac defined by astronomy and the other is defined by astrology. Astrology assumes and attempts to interpret the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. Astronomy is the science that deals with the material universe beyond the earth.

The practical purposes of ancient astronomy were celestial navigation and the development of calendars of seasonal dates and events (such as the flooding of rivers) for the planting of crops.  In contrast, the purpose of astrology was to interpret celestial phenomena as signs of divine communications.

Vedic (Hindu) astrology is considered to be more scientific and uses the sidereal zodiac that loosely matches modern real world sky charts. It is considered that this astrology at least knows where the stars and planets are located and places some value on modern astronomy charts.

Although astrology was not as popular in ancient Greece as it was in Egypt and Mesopotamia, belief in astrology continued through the Roman period and the Middle Ages.  Through most of its history, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition. It was accepted in political and academic contexts, and was connected with other studies, such as astronomy, alchemy, meteorology, and medicine.  At the end of the 17th century, new scientific concepts in astronomy and physics (such as heliocentrism and Newtonian mechanics) called astrology into question. Astrology thus lost its academic and theoretical standing, and common belief in astrology has since largely declined.

From the above text (as taken from different non-Christian articles) it is clear that though there is an important distinction in astrology and astronomy today; the practices of astrology and astronomy have common roots.

An example of Modern astrology:

“For the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine,
but according to their own desires,
because they have itching ears,
they will heap up for themselves teachers;
and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

Astrology was originally a religion. The Greeks learned it from the Chaldeans and Persians. Each planet was a god that had a divine personality and controlled the life and destiny of man. In spite of the fact that today’s astrologers generally deny that their “art” has anything to do with religion, modern astrology is nothing more than a disguised ancient pagan religion.

The average person today likes to think of himself as a product of the scientific age. He often flatters himself with the thought that he is superior to his ancestors, not standing in awe of the natural world, having no fear of the unknown, and being free from superstition. He is reluctant to believe anything that cannot be proven logically or scientifically and rejects what he often refers to as “myth” in religion: man’s creation from nothing, his fall, the promise and the coming of the Savior, salvation and life in the world to come. Twentieth-century man has been described as man “come of age”, too sophisticated and knowledgeable to accept these things as literally true and he takes this description of himself very seriously. He doubts that the Supreme Being, whoever He may be, could have any interest in or plan for man and the rest of creation. For the advocates of twentieth-century, man is entirely on his own and has to work out his own destiny and the meaning of his existence.

In rather glaring contradiction to all this theorizing and self-satisfaction of modern man and his exaggerated ideas about himself, stands one unquestionable fact: …man is as superstitious (today) as at any time in recent centuries. There are more “psychics” and “mediums”, more “seers of the future,” more “fortune tellers,” now than at any time in recent centuries. Hundreds of publications, usually available not only in newspaper and magazine stores, but even in the super-markets, carry the “predictions” of self-styled “clairvoyants,” tales of the supernatural, accounts of communication with the dead and experiences with demonology.

One of the areas in which this fact is most evident is the widespread interest in astrology. Practically all newspapers and magazines dedicate a considerable amount of space to the advice of charlatans who pretend to be experts in reading the stars. It is a million-dollar business, and hundreds of self-proclaimed astrologers, many of whom would not know one star from another, have become wealthy on the gullibility of the public. There are books and pamphlets in the bookstores, drug stores, five and dime shops, airport gift shops, and many other places, large books especially dedicated to the “virgos” and “scorpios”, and pocket-size books that treat the subject in a general way. All of this worthless “literature” is filled with platitudes that are about as serious and useful as the little bits of advice found in a Chinese fortune cookie. In fact, most of what they tell their readers could be said by anyone and applied to anyone. Imagine taking these “gems of wisdom” as revelations from observations of the movements and conjunctions of the stars: on a given day, to an Aries: “You will have new incentives given to you. Use them to your advantage;” to a Taurus: “You can profit from this day by showing your serene and happy personality;” to a Gemini: “Work out a suitable program, and plan what phase you will develop first.” And yet, millions of people apparently not only consult their horoscope daily, but base their day’s activities on what the stars supposedly tell them to do. They eagerly test all the events of a day and deceive themselves into believing that things turned out just the way the horoscope said. Many claim it is only an innocent pastime, and others see nothing in it contradictory to religion.

Evidently some Orthodox Christians do not know that the Church, in the Bible, the canons and in the writings of the Fathers, condemns the practice of Astrology.

Isaiah, for example, says (47:13-14), “Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”

Jeremiah writes: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain…”

In Daniel (2:27-28), we read: “Daniel said, the Secret which the kind hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets.”

In his Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul, finding that even some who had become Christians were holding to their former practices: “But now, after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements (the Greek word means ‘rudiments of religion’, such as astrology) whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days and months and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” (4: 9-11)

It is interesting to read what some of the Fathers of the Church have had to say about the subject.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture IV, 18) says: “It is not according to the date of your birth that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly say, does the confluence of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness. Why do you hesitate to confess your own evil deeds and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars? Pay no attention to astrologers; for concerning these divine Scriptures say: “Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”Isaiah 47:13-14

St. Gregory the Theologian (Oration XXXIX, v) speaks of “…the Chaldean astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot even know what they are themselves, or what they shall be.”

St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on First Corinthians, iv, 11) shows how the faith of the Christians of his time had been weakened by the revival of this pagan practice: “And in fact a deep night oppresses the whole world. This is what we have to dispel and dissolve. It is not only among the heretics and among the Greeks (pagans), but also in the multitudes on our side (the Christians) with regard to doctrines and to life. For many entirely disbelieve the resurrection; many fortify themselves with their horoscopes; many adhere to superstitious observances, and to omens, and auguries and presages. And some likewise employ amulets and charms.”

Christians should not practice astrology nor consult horoscopes because it puts faith in created things rather than in the Creator; it thus undermines faith in God and His redeeming economy (plan) for mankind; it denies freewill and attributes all that happens to fate; it relieves man of the responsibility for his sins; it weakens and finally replaces, however subtly, the faith of the Church, which is the doctrine of Christ, with a pagan philosophy or religion.

The purpose of the coming of the Savior was to reveal the truth to man and to destroy this very kind of futile faith that people had put in the course supposedly determined for them by the stars.

      bio-orthodoxyWhat we must always remember is that, whatever its many and undoubted achievements are, science is a fallible enterprise conducted by sinful men. Therefore, scientists individually and collectively are not immune from deception, and should apply to themselves the words of the wise Solomon: I am Thy slave and the son of Thy handmaid, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgment and laws; for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from Thee he will be regarded as nothing… For a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labour; but who has traced out what is in the heavens, and who has learned Thy counsel, unless Thou give him wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from on high? (Wisdom of Solomon 9:5-6, 15-17). 

Is Science a laborious vanity?

The article continues……https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/19/is-science-a-laborious-vanity-part-3/

Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 1 —

This Article has three parts. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 which is posted as three different blog posts. 

St. Basil’s hexameron–Homily 1–points 3, 4 and partly 5.

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3. Do not then imagine, O man! that the visible world is without a beginning; and because the celestial bodies move in a circular course, and it is difficult for our senses to define the point where the circle begins, do not believe that bodies impelled by a circular movement are, from their nature, without a beginning. Without doubt the circle (I mean the plane figure described by a single line) is beyond our perception, and it is impossible for us to find out where it begins or where it ends; but we ought not on this account to believe it to be without a beginning. Although we are not sensible of it, it really begins at some point where the draughtsman has begun to draw it at a certain radius from the centre. Thus seeing that figures which move in a circle always return upon themselves, without for a single instant interrupting the regularity of their course, do not vainly imagine to yourselves that the world has neither beginning nor end. “For the fashion of this world passeth away” and “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” The dogmas of the end, and of the renewing of the world, are announced beforehand in these short words put at the head of the inspired history. “In the beginning God made.” That which was begun in time is condemned to come to an end in time. If there has been a beginning do not doubt of the end. Of what use then are geometry—the calculations of arithmetic—the study of solids and far-famed astronomy, this laborious vanity, if those who pursue them imagine that this visible world is co-eternal with the Creator of all things, with God Himself; if they attribute to this limited world, which has a material body, the same glory as to the incomprehensible and invisible nature; if they cannot conceive that a whole, of which the parts are subject to corruption and change, must of necessity end by itself submitting to the fate of its parts? But they have become “vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Some have affirmed that heaven co-exists with God from all eternity; others that it is God Himself without beginning or end, and the cause of the particular arrangement of all things.

4. One day, doubtless, their terrible condemnation will be the greater for all this worldly wisdom, since, seeing so clearly into vain sciences, they have wilfully shut their eyes to the knowledge of the truth. These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thing: the fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit. They have not known how to raise themselves to the idea of the consummation of all things, the consequence of the doctrine of judgment, and to see that the world must change if souls pass from this life to a new life. In reality, as the nature of the present life presents an affinity to this world, so in the future life our souls will enjoy a lot conformable to their new condition. But they are so far from applying these truths that they do but laugh when we announce to them the end of all things and the regeneration of the age. Since the beginning naturally precedes that which is derived from it, the writer, of necessity, when speaking to us of things which had their origin in time, puts at the head of his narrative these words—“In the beginning God created.”

5. It appears, indeed, that even before this world an order of things existed of which our mind can form an idea, but of which we can say nothing, because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners and are still babes in knowledge. The birth of the world was preceded by a condition of things suitable for the exercise of supernatural powers, outstripping the limits of time, eternal and infinite. The Creator and Demiurge of the universe perfected His works in it, spiritual light for the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names. They fill the essence of this invisible world, as Paul teaches us. “For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” or virtues or hosts of angels or the dignities of archangels. To this world at last it was necessary to add a new world, both a school and training place where the souls of men should be taught and a home for beings destined to be born and to die. Thus was created, of a nature analogous to that of this world and the animals and plants which live thereon, the succession of time, for ever pressing on and passing away and never stopping in its course. Is not this the nature of time, where the past is no more, the future does not exist, and the present escapes before being recognised? And such also is the nature of the creature which lives in time,—condemned to grow or to perish without rest and without certain stability. It is therefore fit that the bodies of animals and plants, obliged to follow a sort of current, and carried away by the motion which leads them to birth or to death, should live in the midst of surroundings whose nature is in accord with beings subject to change. Thus the writer who wisely tells us of the birth of the Universe does not fail to put these words at the head of the narrative. “In the beginning God created;” that is to say, in the beginning of time.

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The below is an extract from the above homily:
“….Of what use then are geometry—the calculations of arithmetic—the study of solids and far-famed astronomy, this laborious vanity, if those who pursue them imagine that this visible world is co-eternal with the Creator of all things, with God Himself; if they attribute to this limited world, which has a material body, the same glory as to the incomprehensible and invisible nature; if they cannot conceive that a whole, of which the parts are subject to corruption and change, must of necessity end by itself submitting to the fate of its parts? But they have become “vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” ……..
One day, doubtless, their terrible condemnation will be the greater for all this worldly wisdom, since, seeing so clearly into vain sciences, they have willfully shut their eyes to the knowledge of the truth. These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thing: the fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit. ……”
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When did the word “scientist” enter our vocabulary? How did science take off as the driving force of modern culture and what of the natural philosophers of old?
The word science derives from the latin word scientia meaning “knowledge”. It is used from the middle ages onwards to cover anything concerned with knowledge often bordering on philosophy. Only in the nineteenth century did the word science come to have its more restricted and modern meaning of or pertaining to the natural or physical sciences such physics, chemistry, biology and so forth.
First was a phase from Plato and Aristotle up until the 17th century where the specificity of scientific knowledge was seen in its absolute certainty established by proof from evident axioms; next was a phase up to the mid-19th century in which the means to establish the certainty of scientific knowledge had been generalized to include inductive procedures as well. In the third phase, which lasted until the last decades of the 20th century, it was recognized that empirical knowledge was fallible, but it was still granted a special status due to its distinctive mode of production.
Now from the above observation, we see that most of the early phase philosophers upto 17th century believed the laws of nature as laws of God, external and inviolable, to which the world was subjected. This religious component was important because the influence of the Church though weakened, was still far-reaching. And men such as Newton and later Pascal and Mendel, to name but a few were devout Christians. The separation of matter and spirit allowed them to keep their faith both in science and God without the risk of compromise to either. From the seventeenth century onwards, with new inventions and discoveries in the field of science, scientists subscribe to a belief system of scientific naturalism, which holds the central dogma that “only nature, including humans and our creations, is real: that God does not exist; and that science alone can give us complete and reliable knowledge of reality.”
In the educational system everywhere, from a very young age itself, learning about science has become mandatory. Before we can reason out the reality about God and his creation, we are taught by science that it has no boundaries and that all human problems and all aspects of human endeavor, with due time, will be dealt with and solved by science alone. Thus, banishing Christianity completely from the minds of “educated” men, whether or not they still call themselves “Christian”. Our reasoning is blinded by this deception.
“Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.” It has been defined as “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society”.
The worldview with respect to scientism is the scientific worldview.
So true to St. Basil’s words , the great and Holy father of the fourth century, which is so relevant today even in the twentieth century, when he says “these men, I say, have discovered all except one thing: the fact that God is the Creator of the universe.”
He says further “seeing so clearly into vain sciences, they have willfully shut their eyes to the knowledge of the truth”

“Who” is the deciever?


editedSatan-the Great Deceiver. He is the greatest concealer, the mightiest perverter of truth, the ultimate misleader, and the most convincing fraud and liar. Satan’s goal is two pronged. He wishes to convince us that God is neither all-powerful nor all loving, and that he, Satan, seems to be something he really is not.

This article also makes a feeble attempt at highlighting the work of Satan at work around and within us by using science as an example. It is an attempt to uncover Satan like we might uncover a serpent hiding beneath a rock or expose a camouflaged insect hiding in the foliage of a tree.

What do we know of Satan this great deceiver from the scriptures?

God created spiritual beings called angels. These beings, although having no physical aspect to their being, are nevertheless real and effectual in their work in both the spiritual realm of Heaven and this physical environment of our universe. These angels have different responsibilities and actions. In many places of the Scriptures we read of Cherubim, Seraphim, angels, archangels, Principalities, Powers, Thrones, and Dominions etc. Some of the archangels are named – Uriel, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Just as the angels are real and significant in the Holy Scripture and in the story of God’s salvation, so too are the fallen angels, the demons and Lucifer/Satan himself.
In Jude verse 6 and 7 we read of his entry into our world:
“And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him (that is the Lord) in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire”. Thus from this scriptural passage we infer that God has chained Satan and his demons. They are restricted by the power of God. God will judge The Prince of evil on the last day – The Day of Judgment.
Satan was once an Archangel – The bearer of the light before the throne of God (that can be a translation for the name Lucifer). This archangel was not content with his position in the order of the spiritual world. He desired the worship that was due only to God himself. Satan and all the angels that followed him were cast down from heaven. We read this in revelation 12:7. Satan was cast out, who “deceives the whole world”.
These are important truths that need to be impressed upon us.

Satan uses this deception upon those who claim allegiance to God. Below are the examples from the Scriptures.

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1. The righteous of God can be deceived, but deception involves the will of he who is being deceived. If the righteous man stands firm in faith, then Satan has no hold over him like the lesson we learn from the Old Testament Book of Job.
• Job was an upright man who turned away from evil.
• Without doubt God is the master here.
• Though Job is a righteous man, he can still be tempted by the deceits of Satan.
• Satan, through the evil world can inflict pain and suffering upon Job, but Job is ultimately in the hands of God.
These verses illustrate clearly what God has revealed to us in his Church.
2. Satan has no control except the power of deceit. He seeks to lead us away from God; he tempts us to lose our focus like the experience of Peter in Mathew 14:30.

• Walking on the water even in the front of our Lord, Satan seeks to have us sink into our own raging sea of doubt and fear.
• We sink, not because Satan defeats God who is with us, nor because of the pain and suffering of this evil world.
• We sink because we are led to believe that God is not with us at all or that God is not what he says he is.

This is deception, deception of the greatest of tricksters.

Therefore As In:
1 Peter 5:8,
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. Satan is ‘like a roaring lion’ he only pretending to be something he is not. Satan is truly prowling around us with his demons. He seeks to influence and deceive us even here within this Holy Church.
In James 4:7
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you”.
In Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow, and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
There is a famous illustration. It is a comparison of two scenes. In one, we find a demon playing a musical instrument to accompany countless people entering into a wide gate by an equally wide and easy road. These people walk past all sorts of buildings housing all sorts of pleasures. Sadly, even though the gate is wide and the way easy, the eventual destination is hell itself.
In the other scene there is a high wall broken only by a very narrow and low gate and into this gate squeeze only a few people carrying their cross on their journey. The road that leads from this gate is very difficult, with rocks and obstacles along the way. The path leads up to a steep mountain. The eventual destination here is heaven and a crown of glory being presented by Christ.
How does Satan deceive us?
Satan plays out his deception according to the faith and life of those that he is tempting.
Life is a journey. Here we must decide which road to take as we learn from the Scriptures. Each road is entered through a gate. One gate is wide and easy; the other is difficult and requires great effort. Each gate leads to a road, one easy and comfortable, the other hard and steep. One leads to heaven to the very person of God and reward – salvation, the other to hell and the very teeth of the person of the devil.
This illustration can teach us much.
The many people who enter into the wide gate do so because the way is easy. There is music and there is song, laughter, entertainment, comfort and no lacking of physical things. The demon playing the musical instrument does so openly. He does not seek to disguise his presence or his identity.
These people belong to the world and therefore to Satan, because they have allowed themselves to be deceived. Yet this deception is no great miracle or magic. Satan does not have to play a great ruse. He merely has to offer the temptation of comfort and pleasure without God and the world will come and take it from his very hands.
Today we will find many Satanic Churches (so called) and organisations that sought to spread the influence of Satan. These organisations practice their evil work so openly. Satan does not have to hide from the world; it is already given over to him. The world has rejected God and embraced Satan as the great redeemer.
To some who are far from God or who do not know him at all, there are no wondrous tricks, miracles or great signs and wonders; there is no need for such things.

Have you ever thought about that image of Satan that we see in advertising and in the movies, the one where he is depicted as a troublesome comical figure in a goatee beard, a red suit with horns and a pointing long tail? In his hand he holds a trident with which he pokes people in an almost amusing way. This image is ridiculous, and even we, the Christians, might see it as a harmless parody. However, the truth is that it is a depiction of Satan. He is not shown in a disguise as someone he is not. He might seem humorous and even comical, but he is still openly Satan! Satan does not have to hide from the world; he is already master of it. His deceit is an easy one.

The most cunning deception of Satan lies not through the wide and easy gate, but through the narrow gate. In Matthew 16:24, the man who is carrying his cross in fulfillment of the command of our Lord, would use his physical eyes; he would see that it is impossible for him to enter this gate even without the cross he is carrying. Common sense, worldly sense would convince him that his intended lifestyle is not achievable.
Satan is at work in our minds and hearts as we contemplate this spiritual scene. He is saying to us that not only is the Christian commitment difficult it is unattainable! Satan’s attack upon us as Christians is to try and deceive us into giving up the Christian struggle. As in Matthew 19:26, as Christians we are encouraged to believe that the improbable walk up the steep path of our Christian journey is not by our own power, but by the presence and power of God. Satan deceives by telling us that we must rely upon ourselves, and therefore Christianity is futile.
All of us claim allegiance to the resurrected and ascended Son of God. The closer one is to God and the Kingdom of heaven, the stronger and more deceitful Satan must become. In many of the spiritual writings of the Church we find accounts of Holy men and women who have been confronted with the most horrifying visions of evil.
Is Science a laborious vanity?
The article continues……https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/19/is-science-a-laborious-vanity-part-2/

God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 2

“The Creator and the creation—-Sayings of the Holy Fathers”

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The article 1-part 2 continues from God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 1

To start off, let us look into the foreword written by Fr. Seraphim rose in his book Genesis, Creation and Early Man, Part I, An Orthodox Patristic Commentary of Genesis.

Fr. George Calciu, in his public addresses to young people living under communism in Romania, said: “You have been told that you descend from the apes, that you are a beast which must be trained.” That can be a very powerful thing:

“Science proves we’re just animals, and therefore, let’s go out and blow up a church.”

The book of Genesis is a part of the Scriptures, and God gave us the Scriptures for our salvation. We’re supposed to know the meaning of the Scriptures through all the commentaries of the Holy Fathers. The Fathers talked about the book of Genesis in church; all their commentaries were actually sermons given in church, because the book of Genesis is read in church on all weekdays during Great Lent. The great Fathers who did this were St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, and St. Ambrose of Milan. Their sermons were taken down in shorthand by people who were in church listening to them, so that others could read them. Thus, the reading of these texts was considered a part of the everyday life of people who went to church. We have somewhat lost this idea nowadays. Therefore, the account of Genesis or the Apocalypse has become a very mysterious realm somehow. We are so scared of these subjects – but the Fathers were talking about them.

Modern science and philosophy have filled our minds with so many theories and supposed facts about the beginnings of the universe and man that we inevitably come to this book of Genesis with preconceived notions. Some want it to agree with their particular scientific theories; others look for it to disagree. Both of these look to it as having something scientific to say; but others look on it as sheer poetry, a product of religious imagination having nothing to do with science.

The Holy Fathers

In the Holy Fathers we find the “mind of the Church” – the living understanding of God’s revelation. They are our link between the ancient texts which contain God’s revelation and today’s reality. Without such a link it is every man for himself – and the result is a myriad of interpretations and sects.

Let us look now at what Fathers talked about The Creator and the creation.

st.chrysosthom

Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407): “To say that existing things came to be from underlying matter, and not to confess that the Creator of all produced them from nonexistence, would be a mark of extreme derangement. Accordingly, this blessed prophet [Moses], when he was on the point of beginning the book [of Genesis], stopped the mouths of such ingrates, by beginning like this: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth [Gen. 1:1].’ When you hear ‘He created,’ concern yourself no further, but with head bowed believe what is said.”[1]

 

st. maximus confessorSaint Maximos the Confessor (ca. 580-662): “God is the Creator from all eternity, and He creates when He wills, in His infinite goodness, through His coessential Logos and Spirit. Do not raise the objection: ‘Why did He create at a particular moment since He is good from all eternity?’ For I reply that the unsearchable wisdom of the infinite essence does not come within the compass of human knowledge. When the Creator willed, He gave being to and manifested that knowledge of created things which already existed in Him from all eternity. For in the case of almighty God it is ridiculous to doubt that He can give being to anything when He so wills.

“Try to learn why God created; for that is true knowledge. But do not try to learn how He created or why He did so comparatively recently; for that does not come within the compass of your intellect. Of divine realities some may be apprehended by men and others may not. Unbridled speculation, as one of the saints has said, can drive one headlong over the precipice.”

“Some say that the created order has existed with God from eternity; but that is impossible. For how can things that are limited in every way coexist from eternity with Him Who is altogether infinite? Or how are they really creations if they are coeternal with the Creator? God is only participated in. Creation both participates and communicates: it participates in being and in well-being, but communicated only well-being. But corporeal nature communicates this in one way and incorporeal nature in another.” [2]

 Saint Anastasios of Sinai(ca. died after 700) : “Indeed, if all creation arose for man [Gen. 1:26-30], and Paul raises Adam and Eve to Christ and the Church when he says, ‘This mystery is great; but I speak in regard to Christ and in regard to the Church [Eph. 5:32],’ then he is saying, undeniably, that all creation, having arisen for man and his mate, refers to Christ and His Church [cf. Rev. 19:6-8].” [3]

Regarding some of the earlier observers of the cosmos, such as the ancient Greeks, St.-Sophronios-of-JerusalemSaint Sophronios (ca.560- 638)  writes: “When God created the cosmos, He looked upon the waters that were the ancient Greeks. And on the first day of the ages, He showed to them the light of divine knowledge. ‘Having known God, they glorified Him not as God [Rom. 1:21].’ Paul is witness of this. He says that God at first gave wisdom and knowledge about the organization of the sky, stars, sun, moon, plants, animals, bodies, and forms, in order to build a foundation for knowing Him.”[4]

“Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know Him Who is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the Technician; but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world. With whose beauty if they being delighted took them to be gods; let them know how much better the Lord of them is: for the first Author of beauty hath created them. But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them understand by them, how much mightier He is Who made them. For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seen. But yet for this they are the less to be blamed: for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find Him. For being conversant in His works they search Him diligently, and believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen. Howbeit neither are they to be pardoned. For if they were able to know so much, that they could aim at the world; how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof?”

“Because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it to them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things which are made, both His eternal power and divinity, so that they are without excuse, because, having known God, they glorified Him not as God, nor were thankful, but were brought to nought in their reasonings, and their heart, void of understanding, was darkened; asserting to be wise, they became foolish [Rom. 1:19-22].”

st. john of damascusSaint John of Damascus (ca. 675-ca. 749) writes: “That there is a God, then, is no matter of doubt to those who receive the Holy Scriptures, the Old Testament, and the New….All things that exist, are either created or uncreated. If, then, things are created, it follows that they are also wholly mutable. For things, whose existence originated in change, must also be subject to change, whether it be that they perish or that they become other than what they are by an act of will. But if things are uncreated they must in all consistency be also wholly immutable. Things then that are mutable are also wholly created. But things that are created must be the work of some maker, and the maker cannot have been created. For if He had been created, He also must surely have been created by someone, and so on, till we arrive at something uncreated. The Creator, then, being uncreated, is also wholly immutable.”[5]

When addressing the perverse interpretations of Scripture by the heretics, st. iraneousSaint Irenaeos  (ca. 130-202) affirms that God created all things out of nothing, and not from preexistent matter. “These heretics…do not believe that God, according to His pleasure, in the exercise of His own will and power, formed all things (so that those things which now are should have an existence) out of what did not previously exist; and they have collected a multitude of vain discourses. They thus truly reveal their infidelity; they do not believe in that which really exists, and they have fallen away into the belief of that which has, in fact, no existence.[6]

“For, to attribute the substance of created things to the power and will of Him Who is God of all is worthy both of credit and acceptance. It is also agreeable [to reason]…regarding such a belief that ‘the things impossible with men are possible with God [Lk. 18:27].’ While men, indeed, cannot make anything out of nothing, but only out of matter already existing, yet God is in this point preeminently superior to men that He Himself called into being the substance of His creation, when previously it had no existence.[7]

“The Creator of the world is truly the Word of God: and this is our Lord, Who in the last times was made man, existing in this world, and Who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to His own in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon the tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself [Eph. 1:10].”[8]

  Saint Bede (ca. 673-735): “As to the fact that God is asserted to have said either that light or that anything else be made, we must not believe that He did it in our fashion by the corporeal sound of the voice. Rather, it should be understood more profoundly that God said that creation be made, because He made everything by His Word (Logos), that is, by His only-begotten Son. The Evangelist John speaks more clearly about this when he says, ‘In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. This One was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him [Jn. 1:1-3].’ Therefore, what John says, namely that all things were made by the Word [Logos] of God, is the same as what Moses says, that ‘God said, “Let there be light”’; and that ‘He said, “Let there be a firmament made”’; and that He said let the rest of creation be made, and so forth [Gen. 1:3, 6, 14, ff.]. It is the same as what the psalm, with the addition of the Person of the Holy Spirit, says, ‘By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth [Ps. 32:6].’ But if it is asked, in what place light was made by the command of God, since the abyss still covered the whole breadth of the earth, it is very clear that that first light shone forth then in the upper parts of the same earth, which the daily light of the sun even now customarily illuminates.”[9]

Saint Gregory of Nyssa (ca. A.D. 335 – after 384):“Some will ask, ‘When and how did it come into being?’ Now as for the question, how any single thing came into existence, we must banish it altogether from our discussion. Even in the case of things which are quite within the grasp of our understanding and of which we have sensible perception, it would be impossible for the speculative reason to grasp the ‘how’ of the production of the phenomenon; so much so, that even inspired and saintly men have deemed such questions insoluble. For instance, the apostle says, ‘By faith we perceive with the mind the ages to have been put in order by a word of God, so that the things which are seen have not come into being out of things which appear [Heb. 11:3].’ He would not, I take it; have spoken like that, if he had thought that the question could be settled by any efforts of the reasoning powers. While the apostle affirms that it is an object of his faith that it was by the will of God that the world itself and all which is therein was framed (whatever this ‘world’ be that involves the idea of the whole visible and invisible creation), he has on the other hand left out of the investigation the ‘how’ of this framing. Nor do I think that this point can ever be reached by any inquirers. The question presents, on the face of it, many insuperable difficulties….Let us, following the example of the apostle, leave the question of the ‘how’ in each created thing, without meddling with it at all, but merely observing incidentally that the movement of God’s will becomes, at any moment that He pleases, a fact, and the intention becomes at once realized in nature; for Omnipotence does not leave the plans of its farseeing skill in the state of unsubstantial wishes: and the actualizing of a wish is substance.”[10]

The homily will continue in the next article……

[1] Saint John Chrysostom, “Homily 2,” ¶ 2, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, trans. by R. C. Hill, The Fathers of the Church [FC], Vol. 74 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 32.

[2] Saint Maximos, “Fourth Century,” The Philokalia, Vol. 2, translated from the Greek and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (London, UK: Faber and Faber, 1981), pp, 100, 101, ¶¶ 3-6, 11.

[3] Saint Anastasios, Hexaemeron, “Preface,” § II.4, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 278, p. 11.

[4] Ibid., Hexaemeron, “Book 6,” § I.3, p. 173

[5] Saint John of Damascus, “Proof that there is a God,” An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. I, Ch. III; FC, 37:170.

[6] Saint Irenaeos, Against Heresies, Bk. II, Ch. X, ¶ 2, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I.

[7] Ibid., Against Heresies, Bk. II, Ch. X, § 4, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I.

[8] Ibid., Against Heresies, Bk. V, Ch. XVIII, ¶ 3, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I.

[9] Saint Bede, On Genesis, Book One [1:3], 48:73.

[10] Saint Gregory of Nyssa, “Argument,” On the Soul and the Resurrection, NPNF, 2nd Ser., Vol. V (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 1

This article has two parts. Part 1 and Part 2 which is shown as two blogs.

creation

The article deals with St. Basil’s homily on Creation (also called as Hexeameron) and the human world of science. In the following paragraphs, the reader gets to understand a comparison about Creation between St. Basil’s homily and science. The major findings of what science has made till today with regards to this subject is also shown to get a clearer understanding about the theology on creation written by St. Basil and how those writings are still relevant today.

The homily is shown in red color and italics; its comparison to science is shown in blue color. The part of the homily which is shown in black, has no comparison to science but is included in the article to keep the original message of the homily as it is. Some notes and sayings of church fathers are given in text boxes.

  Let us go back in time, during the early Byzantine period, the time when St. Basil lived….

On the opposite side of Emperor Julian and of the scholars who practiced astrology during the early Byzantine period, a number of Church Fathers (‘Doctors of the Church’) and bishops flourished and left a legacy in Philosophy and Science without belonging to a school, or representing one. Some of these Church scholars were educated in the neo-Platonic school of Athens and they essentially formulated the Christian dogma, representing Christianity, since the Christian philosophy of that age was shaped on the basis of neo-Platonic and Aristotelian influences.

The main representatives of this current of thought in the early Byzantine period are above all others the three Church Fathers from Cappadocia: Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom.

As per the definition in science, Cosmology is the study of the Universe and its components, how it formed, how it has evolved and what its future is. Cosmology is as old as humankind. Once primitive social groups developed language, it was a short step to making their first attempts to understand the world around them.  Modern cosmology grew from ideas recorded in history. Ancient man asked questions such as “What’s going on around me?” which then developed into “How does the Universe work?” the key question that cosmology asks. Many of the earliest recorded scientific observations were about cosmology, and pursue of understanding has continued for over 5000 years. One of the most famous and widely accepted models for the universe’s development is the big bang theory.

About St. Basil:

 St. Basil was born in Neocaesareia, on the Black Sea shore, in the year Constantinople was founded (330). His family was a pious Christian one; his father was Basil, a teacher of Rhetorics and his mother Emmeleia. His grandmother, Macrina, was a daughter of a martyr and she was taught the primal Christian theology by Gregory the Illuminator (c. 257–c. 331), the patron saint of Armenia. After he received an elementary education in Neocaesareia, Basil continued his studies in Caesareia of Cappadocia, in Antioch, in Constantinople (under the gentile orator Livanius) and in the famous neo-Platonic school of Athens, where philosophers Imerius and Proaeresius were teaching. In these student years Basil became a friend of Gregory of Nazianzus, while he also met with Julian, the subsequent Emperor Julian the ‘Renegade’ (Paravates). When he returned in his homeland, Basil followed a monastic life for quite a while. In Caesareia Basil was ordained a deacon, a priest and later on he became a bishop (370-379). After his death he was elevated to the ranks of the saints of the Church; his younger brothers Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebasteia, and sister Macrina, were also sanctified.

During the several years of his studies Basil received a wide classical education. He studied Grammar, Rhetorics, Medicine, Philosophy, Geometry, Mathematics and Astronomy.

About 350 letters are attributed to Saint Basil the Great. Of special interest for those that study Theology, Philosophy and the History and philosophy of the sciences are the Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation and the letters, which show his broad and deep knowledge not only in Astronomy but also in Meteorology. This is mentioned by professor Κ.D. Georgoulis: “From a philosophical point of view, of special interest are the ‘Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation’. In these Basil has incorporated his views in Physics, Cosmology and Anthropology. He exhibits a love towards nature and he appears to be a keen observer of natural phenomena and events… Nature is esteemed as a creation that was created by God through His wisdom… St. Basil the Great in these Homilies lays the foundations for the new stance of Christianity towards the physical reality.

Let us look into St. Basil’s Homily.    

The Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation is a work rich in astronomical information and in the corresponding philosophical approaches of Cosmology. The Nine Homilies were translated for the first time in Latin by the Byzantine scholar and philosopher Ioannis Argyropoulos (1410-1490), who earned the seat of Greek studies at the University of Florence in 1456 and stayed there at least up to 1471.

Homily 1:

In the Beginning God made the Heaven and the Earth.

  1. It is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things.  I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God. 

The big bang theory describes the development of the universe from the time just after it came into existence up to today. Because of the limitations of the laws of science, scientific community couldn’t make any guesses about the instant the universe came into being. This can be known from the statement that ‘A lot happened in that first second of the big bang’, which leads to fact that the existence of the universe was spontaneous. This is what St.Basil mentioned during his time, in the 4th century mentioning in his homily “the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined”, showing it is very relevant today also. 

What ear is worthy to hear such a tale?  How earnestly the soul should prepare itself to receive such high lessons!  How pure it should be from carnal affections, how unclouded by worldly disquietudes, how active and ardent in its researches, how eager to find in its surroundings an idea of God which may be worthy of Him! But before weighing the justice of these remarks, before examining all the sense contained in these few words, let us see who addresses them to us.  Because, if the weakness of our intelligence does not allow us to penetrate the depth of the thoughts of the writer, yet we shall be involuntarily drawn to give faith to his words by the force of his authority.  Now it is Moses who has composed this history; Moses, who, when still at the breast, is described as exceeding fair; Moses, whom the daughter of Pharaoh adopted; who received from her a royal education, and who had for his teachers the wise men of Egypt; Moses, who disdained the pomp of royalty, and, to share the humble condition of his compatriots, preferred to be persecuted with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting delights of sin; Moses, who received from nature such a love of justice that, even before the leadership of the people of God was committed to him, he was impelled, by a natural horror of evil, to pursue malefactors even to the point of punishing them by death; Moses, who, banished by those whose benefactor he had been, hastened to escape from the tumults of Egypt and took refuge in Ethiopia, living there far from former pursuits, and passing forty years in the contemplation of nature; Moses, finally, who, at the age of eighty, saw God, as far as it is possible for man to see Him; or rather as it had not previously been granted to man to see Him, according to the testimony of God Himself, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house, with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently and not in dark speeches.” It is this man, whom God judged worthy to behold Him, face to face, like the angels, who imparts to us what he has learnt from God.  Let us listen then to these words of truth written without the help of the “enticing words of man’s wisdom” by the dictation of the Holy Spirit; words destined to produce not the applause of those who hear them, but the salvation of those who are instructed by them.

Below are the writings of church fathers on the writings of Moses.

     Saint Irenaeos (ca. 130-ca. 200), Bishop of Lyons: “The writings of Moses are the words of Christ. Christ Himself declares to the Jews, as John has recorded in the Gospel: ‘For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for concerning Me that one wrote. But if ye believe not the writings of that one, how shall ye believe My words [Jn. 5:46, 47]?’ He thus indicates in the clearest manner that the writings of Moses are His words. If, then, [this be the case with regard] to Moses, so also, beyond a doubt, the words of the other prophets are His [words]….And again, the Lord Himself exhibits Abraham as having said to the rich man, with reference to all those who were still alive: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead [Lk. 16:31].’”

Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407): “The Lord said to the Jews, ‘Cease thinking that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuseth you—Moses, in whom ye have hoped [Jn. 5:45]. For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for concerning Me that one wrote. But if ye believe not the writings of that one, how shall ye believe My words [Jn. 5:46, 47]?’ What the Lord is saying is of this kind: ‘It is Moses who has been insulted more than I by your conduct toward Me, for ye have disbelieved him rather than Me.’ See how in every way He has cast them out from all excuse….‘And whence,’ says someone, ‘is it clear that Moses will accuse us, and that Thou art not a boaster? What hast Thou to do with Moses?…And how doth it appear that we shall believe on another who cometh in his own name? All these assertions Thou makest without evidence.’…Yet (Christ would reply) ‘since it is acknowledged that I came from God, both by the works, by the voice of John, and by the testimony of the Father, it is evident that Moses will accuse the Jews.’

“‘But whence doth it appear that they will believe another?’ From their hating Christ, since they who turn aside from Him Who cometh according to the will of God will, it is quite plain, receive the enemy of God….However, since the Scriptures terrified them less than Moses, He brings round His discourse to the very person of Moses, setting over against them their Lawgiver as their accuser, thus rendering the terror more impressive. Observe: they said that they persecuted Jesus through love for God, He showeth that they did so through hating God; they said that they held fast to Moses, He shows that they acted thus because they believed not Moses….If they believed Moses they ought to have done homage to One of Whom Moses prophesied….Therefore, we must cast out all wickedness from our souls, and never more contrive any deceit; for, saith one, ‘To the crooked God sendeth forth crooked paths [Prov. 21:8].’”3

        Again, Patriarch Abraham said to the rich man: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead [Lk. 16:31].”Saint Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) comments: “Abraham’s reply is fulfilled. The Lord rose from the dead, but because the Jews were unwilling to believe Moses, they refused to believe the One Who did rise from the dead.”

Note: We know that Basil studied Astronomy in Athens. Basil ended up as a very prolific author of the Church, a Father who struggled for Orthodoxy and against the heretical views of his period.

We observe that first of all, St.Basil opposes to many views of the ancient Greek philosophy that do not agree with the Christian cosmological model; in addition he strongly opposes to certain Christian heretical views that also express or imply a world model different from that of the Old Testament. For his tireless teaching and writing despite his fragile health, Basil was called by the Church ‘Great’ ecumenical Teacher.

From the science point of view perhaps one of the greatest influences on modern thought are the ideas that arose from Greek philosophy between 600 BC and start of the Roman Empire. The works of scholars from this era will influence philosophers and scientists into the 21st century and many of our modern cosmological frameworks have their root in ancient Greek ideas. While many of our first cosmologies were based on myths and legends, it is the Greek philosophical tradition that introduces an intellectual approach based on evidence, reason and debate. While many of their ideas barely qualify as scientific theories, their reliance on mathematics as a tool to understand the Universe remains to this day.

The homily continues as follows:

  1.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” I stop struck with admiration at this thought.  What shall I first say?  Where shall I begin my story?  Shall I show forth the vanity of the Gentiles?  Shall I exalt the truth of our faith? The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor.  It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another.  Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of God, could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the Universe; a primary error that involved them in sad consequences. 
In support to the above homily by St. Basil Saint Paul says: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things which are made, both His eternal power and divinity, so that they are without excuse, because, having known God, they glorified Him not as God, nor were thankful, but were brought to nought in their reasonings, and their heart, void of understanding, was darkened; asserting to be wise, they became foolish [Rom. 1:20-22].”

Cosmology has exploded in the last 20 years with radically new information about the structure, origin and evolution of the Universe obtained through recent technological advances in telescopes and space observatories and basically has become a search for the understanding of not only what makes up the Universe (the objects within it) but also its overall architecture. In science, the source of truth is observation and experimentation. They spawn scientific hypotheses and theories, suggest models and patterns on the basis of some observations or other, and predict the course of events, which in turn must be tested by experiment. If repeated observations do not concur with the theory’s predictions, the theory will be thrown out and replaced by a new one. Science must be based solely on unquestionable, proven facts. We observe here that St. Basil’s statement as “and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor” is true towards scientific experiments.

Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world.  Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world.  Atoms reuniting or separating produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion:  a true spider’s web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

On July 4, 2012, scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced their discovery of a particle that behaves the way the Higgs boson should behave. The results, while published with a high degree of certainty, are still somewhat preliminary. Some researchers are calling the particle “Higgslike” until the findings — and the data — stand up to more scrutiny.

Particle physics usually has a hard time competing with politics and celebrity gossip for headlines, but the Higgs boson has garnered some serious attention. That’s exactly what happened on July 4, 2012, though, when scientists at CERN announced that they’d found a particle that behaved the way they expect the Higgs boson to behave. Maybe the famed boson’s grand and controversial nickname, the “God Particle,” has kept media outlets buzzing. Then again, the intriguing possibility that the Higgs boson is responsible for all the mass in the universe rather captures the imagination, too. Or perhaps we’re simply excited to learn more about our world. To this St. Basil say’s “It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance. To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God; “In the beginning God created.” 

Peter Higgs is an atheist and holds strong political views.

What a glorious order!  He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning.  Then he adds “Created” to show that which was made was a very small part of the power of the Creator. In the same way that the potter, after having made with equal pains a great number of vessels, has not exhausted either his art or his talent; thus the Maker of the Universe, whose creative power, far from being bounded by one world, could extend to the infinite, needed only the impulse of His will to bring the immensities of the visible world into being.  If then the world has a beginning, and if it has been created, enquire who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator:  or rather, in the fear that human reasoning may make you wander from the truth, Moses has anticipated enquiry by engraving in our hearts, as a seal and a safeguard, the awful name of God:  “In the beginning God created”—It is He, beneficent Nature, Goodness without measure, a worthy object of love for all beings endowed with reason, the beauty the most to be desired, the origin of all that exists, the source of life, intellectual light, impenetrable wisdom, it is He who “in the beginning created heaven and earth.”

The big bang theory describes the development of the universe from the time just after it came into existence up to today. It’s one of several scientific models that attempts to explain why the universe is the way it is. The theory makes several predictions, many of which have been proven through observational data. As a result, it’s the most popular and accepted theory regarding our universe’s development.  True to St. Basil’s words, here we see that science does not accept that the world was “Created” and no enquiry is made as to “who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator”

The article continues with some selected sayings of the church fathers on “The Creator and the creation……..”

https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/17/gods-creation-vs-sciencecosmology-part-2/

 

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