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.
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.
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. ……”
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?
Satan-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.
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/