God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 2

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

creation_icon

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).

One thought on “God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 2

  1. Pingback: God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 1 | Orthodox Christian Life (of being and remaining in orthodox way of life)

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