The Origins

of the World and Mankind

An Attempt to Reconcile

the Biblical Account with Scientific Discoveries


Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

Translated by Karyn and Michael Grigoriev. Edited by Natalia Semyanko

If you are knowledgeable in the issues discussed in this article, please share your comments with us. Also please let us know of any typos and mistakes in this preliminary version. Thank you! Bishop Alexander: . To read the full version with comments, download the document file.



1. Introduction.

2. Two Revelations.

3. Science’s "Chapter One" Problem.

4. Insects on an Interplanetary Ship.

5. Faith and Knowledge.

6. The Issue of Miracles.

7. The Beginning of the Earth and Life on it.

8. Difficulties in Biblical Comprehension.

9. The Origin of Man: "Making" and "Creating."

10. Possible Interpretations of Paleontological Data.

11. Man’s Scientifically Inexplicable Properties.

12. Parallel Laws.



Table of the Days of Creation.

1. Views of the Holy Fathers and Scientific Discoveries.

2. The Age of the Universe.

3. The Flood.

4. The Mystery of Life.





1. Introduction.

"We give thanks unto Thee, O King invisible, who by Thy measureless power hast fashioned all things, and in the multitude of Thy mercies hast brought all things from nonexistence into being" (Priest’s Liturgical prayer).

Because of recent scientific discoveries in the fields of paleontology, anthropology, and biology, an enormous amount of literature has appeared attempting to coordinate these discoveries with what the Bible says about the beginning of the observable universe and mankind.

The complexity of this issue is evident by the existence of a large quantity of the most diverse and contradictory opinions. Faithless people who base their views on the theory of evolution tend to see echoes of ancient myths and the product of primitive fantasy in the biblical account in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. "Evolutionists" believe that the origin of life and its development on earth — from simple microbes to modern man — can be explained completely by physical processes. The Creator’s work is ignored, if not directly denied. According to their concepts, all of man’s properties can be completely explained by physical causes, because man is merely the highest rung on the ladder of evolution.

Defendants of the Bible’s Divine inspiration, in turn, suspect the "evolutionists" of maliciously manipulating the facts in order to undermine faith in God. The so-called "creationists" adhere to an extreme position, insisting upon a literal interpretation of every word of the Biblical account of the world’s creation: all plant and animal species were made suddenly in their ultimate form; no evolutionary processes ever took place and no intermediate links ever existed in the animal world. Likewise, according to this perspective, the days of creation were regular days lasting 24 hours. The world has only existed some 7,500 thousand years (the sum of the life-spans of the pre-Flood and post-Flood patriarchs).

Some people think that creation or evolution are rigid, uncompromising alternatives. But is this really the case? The Biblical account of the creation of the world and man's, tells that the primary cause of all that exists rests in the other, non-material world, but purposely shuns the immense complicity of the physical events that followed the creation.

Clearly, the truth lies somewhere between the above-mentioned extreme concepts. However, attempts to reconcile scientific data with religious views often suffer from bias and a lack of real knowledge, and sometimes do more to confuse us than to resolve seeming contradictions.

In this work we will attempt to shed some light on fundamental issues concerning faith and reason, religion and science, creation and evolution, in order to help the reader understand the argument between extreme concepts about the beginning and development of life on earth. We will show that there is no true conflict between the Bible and pure science. In fact, the two sources of truth complement one another.

2. Two Revelations.

I believe the basic premise that science and religion cannot be in real conflict. The readth and depth of the science that is involved in the topics here are large, beyond the scope of one man's complete comprehension, and I am not a scientist. Some of what is said below of science in general and this science in particular is subject to criticism, but I think that what is well established and will stand the test of time as correct supports this basic remise.

So, everything that we are going to say about synchronizing the Holy Scripture with modern scientific discoveries is based on the axiom of truth and validity of two revelations — natural and supernatural: the Lord makes Himself known to man either directly, through spiritual enlightenment, or indirectly, through nature.

Since the Source of both revelations — internal or supernatural, and external or natural — is one, their contents must be in complete harmony, complementing each other. If "conflicts" between the judgments of scholars and theologians sometimes arise, it is always the result of faulty interpretation — whether of scientific data or of the true meaning of God’s word.

The Holy Scripture (or Bible) is the written result of the spiritual enlightenment that God conferred upon His chosen ones, the Prophets, to reveal religious and moral truths to man. It always has been and always will be the main source of everything that concerns faith and morality. Science is not qualified to discuss these things. Its task is to perceive the structure of the universe and its physical laws. Religious representations about the origin of the universe do not flow directly from any physical laws, but rather come through induction and spiritual enlightenment, the depth and quality of which depend on the spiritual sensitivity, maturity, and cultural level of one thinker or another, and will always be subjective. Therefore the accuracy of their conclusions must be tested by the word of God.

When attempting to harmonize religious truths and scientific data, one must take into account that these areas of knowledge use different sources and pursue their own specific goals. 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. Everything that goes beyond the limits of an experiment, that is impossible to check by the scientific method, dares not claim to be science, but belongs to the realm of assumption, philosophy, or metaphysics.

It is distressing when, in their struggle with religion, half-educated people, using the authority of science, make unfounded claims that "science has proven such and such," when in fact they are citing unproven assumptions that often go beyond the limits of science.

Similarly, it is sad when shallow theologians who build their "scientific" conceptions on the incorrect interpretation of some word or another in the Bible hostilely attack harmless scientific findings. Thus, for example, the Roman Catholic inquisition judged Galileo’s teachings about the earth’s rotation around the sun. It seemed to its hierarchs that if God created everything for man, then the earth must be located in the center of the universe, and all the heavenly bodies must rotate around it. It is, of course, a completely arbitrary opinion, not based on the Bible, for being in the center of Divine care has nothing to do with the geometric center of the universe.

Thus, the Holy Scripture’s objective is to reveal religious and moral truths necessary for man to save his soul. It is mainly about the non-natural and the invisible, about God the Creator and the Provider of the world, about the point of our existence, about right and wrong. It does not attempt to teach people astronomy, cosmology, zoology, or any other science. Only a handful of issues that border on both the physical and the spiritual — for example, about the beginning of the observable universe and life on Earth, or the origins of man’s spirituality, thanks to which he is fundamentally different from other living beings — interest science and religion simultaneously. And here, in attempting to reconcile the word of God with scientific discoveries, one needs a comprehensive education, a profound understanding of the bounds of competency of both sources of knowledge, as well as a reluctance to judge. Otherwise, the best-meant efforts to reconcile religion and science will be nothing more than failed and miserable "attempts with faulty methods."

As we will see later, some of the interdisciplinary questions that interest science and religion equally, when studied thoughtfully, give us the ability to more deeply understand a number of parallel patterns that operate in the physical and spiritual worlds.

Thus, religion and science are concerned with different questions, have their own specific goals and use different methods. Science strives to answer the question "how?" while religion asks "why?" Religion attempts to turn the believer’s gaze to the heavenly world, while science chains it to the mortal.

3. Science’s “Chapter One” Problem.

Joke: A prominent scholar died and his soul appeared before God. Charmed by the amount and depth of his own knowledge, the scholar announced impudently to the Creator, "We, the people of science, have reached the conclusion that we no longer need You! We have grasped all Your secrets and know everything that You know: we can transplant a heart or any other organ of the body, we know how to clone people, make new species of animals and plants… In other words, we can do everything that was once considered miraculous and was attributed to Your wisdom and omnipotence."

The Lord listened patiently to the presumptuous scholar’s tirade of self-praise and, when he stopped talking, offered to him:

"All right! Let’s conduct a little competition in creativity to see whether mankind still needs Me or not."

"Great," replied the scholar, "What do you want me to do?"

"Let’s go back to the very beginning and make the first man, Adam."

"Excellent!" replied the scholar and bent over to scoop up a handful of dust.

"Hey, not so fast!" said God and stopped him, "You use your own dust, and don’t touch Mine!"

This anecdote illustrates those hoity-toity know-it-alls who, charmed by the successes of science, naively presume that science is on the verge of being able to explain everything, rendering religion useless. However, such dull-witted people do not notice the obvious fact that scientific books and articles begin from "chapter two" — how phenomena develop! And "chapter one," which would shed light on the First Cause from which everything came, is absent!

Whence, for example, came the primary energy/proto-material from which everything later expanded into our immense cosmos; why are the laws of nature are so finely balanced as to make the appearance of life and of rational man possible; and how could chaos give birth to such marvelous harmony and beauty on all levels of existence? The answers to these fundamental and most important questions are absent in all scientific works — and for good reason: the answer lies beyond the limits of the cognizable. It is precisely here that the need for Divine revelation is exposed. Everything around us is beautiful and harmonious, but what does it exist for? Is there a reason for my existence? What awaits me after death?

In discussing these questions, we grapple with a paradox: when a believer talks about them, he will say what he has been taught from Divine revelation. He will express his conviction in the existence of a personal, wise, omnipotent and merciful Creator, Who has arranged everything for our eternal good. But when a person who holds a materialistic or occult world view, even if he is very educated, expresses his views on these questions, he will ascribe those properties (which the Christian faith ascribes to the Creator) to his impersonal First Cause — whether it be an unknowable Absolute or a cosmic energy. In the believer’s understanding, God is eternal, and in the non-believer’s conception, the impersonal First Cause is eternal; the believer recognizes God as omnipresent and unlimited, while the non-believer believes in the infinity of space; the believer acknowledges God as the Most-wise Maker of the universe and its laws, while the non-believer talks of the rationality of nature’s laws, which led to the appearance of rational man "all by themselves" through an uninterrupted chain of fortuitous accidents.

A few words about the "anthropic principle."

There is a strict inter-dependence between the forces of nature that led to today’s wealth of life — on their most elementary level — which has been named the "anthropic" principle in science. This principle claims that the Universe arose in order to shape rational life in it and that both the laws of physics and the original parameters were chosen in such a way as to guarantee its appearance.

Modern physics affirms the following: the world around us is very "sensitive" to the numerical values of the world’s universal constants, insofar as all of the basic characteristics of the real world (the sizes of nuclei, atoms, planets, stars, etc.) are ultimately determined by the magnitudes of all fundamental constants. The very existence of the observable universe is conditional on the fulfillment of a very strict relationship among them. An insignificant, percentage-wise, deviance from the surprisingly complex and unbelievably precise numerical proportionality of worldwide constants observed would have had fatal consequences for the existing Universe. Its environment would never have been able to produce intelligent life.

It is logical to acknowledge that if everything in our observable universe is rational, meaningful and wonderful, then the First Cause of the observable universe must also have these properties. This is an unsolvable mystery for the materialistic worldview. The main difference between religious and non-religious worldviews is that for the former, this First Cause is personal and has reason and will, while for the latter it is impersonal and blind. Whose worldview is correct is impossible to prove by experiment. Both views are based on non-verifiable axioms and the domain of faith. For the former this faith is religious, and for the latter it is materialistic.

The most mysterious element in all creation is man’s consciousness. Here lies the puzzle: man is a rational, morally free identity who craves knowledge, perfection, creation, is capable of sacrificing himself for the good of others, cannot find complete satisfaction in material goods, craves immortality… But, according to the materialists, and the First Cause, who, brought him into existence, is blind luck! A hopeless tragedy lies at the bottom of this materialistic conception: no matter how hard you work, everything ends like a "burdock," which the wind blows away; therefore "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor. 15:32).

4. Insects on an Interplanetary Ship.

The author of this paper worked for many years in a department of NASA that specialized in studying objects of the solar system, making space ships and communications for them. Every year, increasingly sophisticated robot ships are made which are given a large share of automation and self-administration. Planners are aiming to provide these space robots with the capability to be autonomous and self-instructive, so that they can independently make all necessary decisions and carry out experiments under unforeseen conditions.

Jumping ahead many decades, imagine that to prepare for human space travel, scientists have built the most sophisticated interplanetary ship yet, in which they have put insects in order to study the influence of interplanetary space on living organisms. The scientists have supplied the ship with the most cutting-edge computer, scientific instruments and all necessary equipment to soundly support the living conditions necessary on the robot ship for the insects’ long journey into space. There is a communication system between the ship and the observation station on Earth that periodically sends Earth information collected on the ship, and also receives instructions from Earth that correct the ship’s trajectory and the productive reconfiguration of its equipment and the experiments’ objectives.

And so, our space ship flies around interplanetary space for a couple of centuries, during which time many generations of insects have come and gone. The insects of the latest generation have become much more observant and intelligent than their ancestors: they have become interested in the construction of their "world," studying its construction and the processes controlled by the central computer, as well as the functions of its various instruments. Having had such "scientific" success, some of the insects begin to ponder just how their wonderful world came into being. Maybe someone built it and takes care of it so that they can live in warmth and satiety in it? But how can they be sure that this is the case? No matter how hard the insects try to trace the oral legends of the previous generations, they are not able to clarify anything. Apparently, their "world" has always existed. The more sensitive insects among them have developed the ability to receive electromagnetic waves sent to them from Earth and notice that these waves make some of the instruments on the ship act. "There is reason to believe," they announce, "that someone is watching us, taking care of us and controlling our ship." "Hogwash!" protest others. "The apparatuses act on laws which are known to us. There are no mysterious waves from beyond. You are imagining things."

Centuries pass… and the insects continue to argue amongst themselves: is there a greater power "somewhere out there" controlling their life, or are the laws of their wonderful ship original and eternal?

On our space ship — Earth — there are also a lot of "insects" that are unreceptive to the "signals from beyond." And that is why we argue.

5. Faith and Knowledge.

Science and religion are the two most important components of culture. Their influence on the fate of mankind in the past and in the present has been enormous. It is significant that the word "culture" comes from the word "cult." Medieval universities established by the Church at monasteries were the cradle of European science. Many scholars who consider the two spheres of learning to be parallel paths to the Truth feel the initial intimacy between religion and science to this day.

And that is how it is. The Creator made it part of our nature to be able to sense His presence, to be able to receive His gracious signals that direct us in life. The ability to believe -- that is the spiritual eyes that all people are provided with to communicate with their Creator. But these spiritual eyes need to be trained to develop their sensitivity.

If, for example, one is bedridden for a long time, one’s muscles begin to atrophy; in the same way, one’s mental faculties become dull from disuse.

In this age of enormous scientific progress, it is considered acceptable to belittle faith and honor science. Scientific knowledge is considered unquestionable, well-founded and objective, while faith is seen as something subjective, unsubstantiated and arbitrary. However, this contraposition of knowledge and faith is based on misunderstanding.

First of all, science is based on unprovable axioms that are accepted on faith. In addition, the very definition of knowledge as something unquestionable and well-founded is not corroborated by the history of scientific development: it is the ideal of knowledge rather than its true state. One only need compare various studies of matter over the course of human history — in the ancient world, at the end of the last century, and now — to be convinced that scientific theories change radically or undergo substantial corrections with almost every generation. "Revolutions" may be observed in all branches of science — cosmology, physics, paleontology, biology, medicine … What was considered unquestionable truth yesterday is rejected today. One can be sure that in a few more centuries our descendents will speak with contempt of our contemporary, primitive evolutionary theories. Therefore, we should not get too carried away using the latest scientific discoveries as "proof" of the truth of the Holy Scripture, because every theory undergoes amendments and refinements with time, or is simply discarded.

One ought to draw the conclusion that what is most precious is not rational knowledge in itself, but rather the human ability to penetrate the deepest principles of existence. And here the engine of science is not quantity of information, but intuitive insight. Intuition is man’s most precious capacity, particularly the spiritual vision that can lead to religious faith.

In comparing faith to other human abilities, we can conclude that it expands the borders of the cognizable. It gives us access to what is inaccessible to the body’s senses and physical experiments. We know that faith enlightened by God has often anticipated scientific discoveries, for example, in confirming that the universe is not eternal, that it has an immaterial origin, that the observable universe gradually evolved from lower forms into higher ones, that all the laws of nature are subservient to one higher plan, that man has a rational soul, the existence of which cannot be explained by physical laws, and that after clinical death, man’s soul retains all of the intellectual abilities it had before its death. Faith tells us that God, in His love for us, constantly looks after our welfare, and we can communicate with Him in prayer and receive instruction and help.

By asserting that spiritual intuition is more valuable than physical knowledge, we do not mean that faith excludes logical thought or science. On the contrary, according to the Creator’s plan, all of our capabilities are called upon to promote each other. True faith should not be blind or thoughtless. Gullibility reveals a laziness of the soul, an immaturity of the mind. The intellect must help man to discern truth from error. The calm examination of religious truths makes faith clearer and sounder, tempers man’s behavior and keeps him from fanaticism. Faith is especially valuable in man’s holistic growth, because it gives the necessary direction to his inner strengths (the mind, senses and will), and also brings harmony into his inner world.

In summary, faith may be compared to an engine, and the mind to a steering wheel. Without the engine the car won’t budge, and without the steering wheel, it will crash.

Of course, God could prove His existence to us with indisputable obviousness. But that would be an act of force on the will of man. The goal of our earthly existence is for man to reach out to his Maker voluntarily.

That is why the Lord Jesus Christ did not want His followers to base their faith on miracles alone. When He appeared to the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, the Lord sometimes took on another, unfamiliar form. Only from His speech and behavior could they know that before them stood none other than their beloved Teacher. In doing so, the Lord taught them to perceive things with their inner sense, with the eyes of faith.

With all the similarity between spiritual and physical vision, there is a very essential difference. In the perception of physical phenomena, first comes experience, and then conviction. In one’s inner world there is no opportunity to test externally or prove scientifically. One must first humbly bow before the Creator, acknowledge His omnipotence, and the "proof" comes from within. Divine light spills into the soul with a calming feeling, an enlightenment of the mind, and a surge of inner strength from which love for God and one’s neighbor flares up. An overly narrow perspective, however, brings confusion into the soul and arouses a heightened sense of oneself and impatience towards others.

Thus, faith broadens the horizons of our normal knowledge and helps us to understand why we exist and what we must strive for.

6. The Issue of Miracles.

Introduction: Irrational Numbers

Sometimes problems arise in science that are unsolvable with the information available. It becomes necessary to approach the problem in a completely new way, for example, to change the coordinates or increase the quantity of measurements, and then the problem finds a solution. For example, the equation x2 - 1 = 0 is simple to solve: x=+1 or х=-1; but x2 + 1 = 0 is impossible to solve with real numbers. To solve the equation, one must go from the one-dimensional space of ordinary numbers to the two-dimensional space of complex numbers. Then the equation x2 + 1 = 0 gets the solution x=+i and х= -i where i is an imaginary quantity. But it is imaginary by convention: it plays a crucial role in all sciences. Electromagnetic and heat wave equations, correlations between time, space and the speed of light and many other physical phenomena are unsolvable without the application of imaginary quantities. They take the physicist from the realm of three-dimensional space into a four-dimensional space of relative phenomena.

Similarly, problems concerning the beginning of the observable universe, life and man on earth go beyond the limits of physical patterns. They are solvable only under the conditions of including the rational Will from above.

Indeed, besides completely natural and logically explainable events, the Holy Scripture and thousands of years of experience of believers attest to the presence of inexplicable, supernatural events, i.e. miracles.

The very beginning of the observable universe, with all its remarkable laws providing for the birth and development of life, is a great miracle! Any miracle, because of its supernatural origin, is in principle either inexplicable or so improbable as to border on the impossible. The Christian faith is based on an uninterrupted flow of inexplicable events that in their unity point to the existence of our single, all-wise and good God.

The view that the observable universe has always existed, as many scholars and philosophers used to assume, has been refuted by modern cosmology. The observable universe appeared during time, some 15 billion years ago, and our three-dimensional space and time began to develop with it. The Holy Scripture teaches us unambiguously that the universe appeared during time, and modern science agrees on this point. The possibility that the universe came into being by chance through, say, a quantum fluctuation of an eternally existing vacuum does not explain anything, because this chance occurrence assumes the presence of something already existing. For example, a flipped coin can show "heads" or "tails," but if there is no coin to start with, neither outcome will occur.

A miracle is God’s intervention in the natural course of events; it is an act of His omnipotence. Before it occurs, all the necessary elements develop, and then suddenly they lead to an unexpected outcome. The Old Testament history of Israel and the New Testament history of the Church are full of miraculous events — particularly the period of the life on earth of Jesus Christ, Who cured all kinds of diseases with a word, banished demons, multiplied bread, turned water into wine, walked on water, tamed the storm, resurrected the dead, foretold the future… His birth and resurrection are supreme miracles.

And here there is a paradox: with all of the countless miracles that man’s history is filled with, nowhere has any material evidence of Divine intervention been left behind. God hides Himself from searching eyes, not allowing Himself to be "tested" or His existence to be "proven." He awaits our faith.

Here are some examples:

1. As they fled their oppressors, Jewish tribes, led by the Prophet Moses, came to the shore of the Red Sea. The Egyptian army was pursuing them on chariots. There was nowhere else to run: they were about to be either destroyed or re-enslaved. But then night fell. The Egyptian army set up camp for the night not far away. The Jews anxiously awaited morning, while the Prophet Moses appealed to God for help. And then a wind picked up that by morning had parted the waters, which had evidently not been very deep in that place. The Prophet Moses led his people to the other side of the sea. The Egyptians were bewildered and fearful at first, but then decided to pursue the fleeing Jews nevertheless. But then something unexpected happened: they were in the middle of the sea when the waters gushed back and the whole army perished. Ancient Egyptian chariots discovered on the bottom of the Red Sea attest to this miracle []. Of course, wind is something natural — but how miraculous that God saved those who trusted Him, and destroyed their oppressors. It is a classic example of a miracle!

2. The Prophet Elijah, who lived more than 750 years before the birth of Christ, punished the Israelites for their sins of idolatry with a terrible drought. For a whole three and a half years not a single drop of rain fell on earth. The king and the people understood their sin and repented. The divine prophet prayed to God, and soon it was raining torrentially. But how can you prove to the non-believer that it was a miracle, and not the result of natural causes?

3. When the Lord Jesus Christ encountered the blind man in Jerusalem, He did not leave a clear "mark" or "signature" on the tissues of a damaged nerve or organ of vision when He healed the man, after which incoming visual impressions began to be transmitted to his brain. If there had been medical surgeons then that could have dissected the once-blind man’s organs of sight in an operation, they would not have found any obvious traces of Divine contact. They could have only stated the fact that until a certain moment, the visual organs of the man, who had been blind from birth, had been defective, and then suddenly began to work. "Yes… it is an extremely rare and inexplicable case… Man’s ability to heal himself is remarkable!"

4. When the Russian people got caught up in materialism and abandoned God in the years before the Revolution, He punished them with communism. No one anticipated the appearance of this monstrous regime. "Power was lying by the wayside, and we picked it up," said Lenin. After 70 years of "Babylonian imprisonment," the Russian people began to return to faith, and the Lord showed mercy on Russia and overthrew the godless authority. The totalitarian regime fell and crumbled like a house of cards literally from one day to the next — without war or a bloody revolt and without foreign help. Was this not the fulfillment of the predictions of many righteous Russian men in pre-revolutionary Russia? But how does one prove that it was a miracle, and not the result of natural social and economic changes occurring in the USSR?

That is the distinctive feature of almost every miracle: it looks like a completely natural, but very unlikely, event. But the main thing is that a true miracle is always directed at man’s spiritual benefit and salvation. In this way it differs fundamentally from ordinary accidents, tricks and false, demonic "miracles."

Miracles are left unprovable by the will of God, Who does not want incontrovertibility to compel man’s free will. The disbelief of Judaic scribes did not waver even when Lazarus, whose body had already begun to stink from decomposition, was raised from the dead. They did not attempt to convince themselves of Christ’s resurrection, though they could have easily verified the event.

Such examples make it clear that it is useless to try to prove to the faithless that the beginning of the world, animals and man on Earth was executed by the will of the Creator. God hides Himself from proud and short-sighted reason, carrying out His glorious business without pathos, without obvious proof, often using the laws of nature or existing circumstances that He made — accelerating one thing, delaying something else, giving another thing an unexpected push.

Similarly, the Son of God, Whose glory cannot be seen by the angels, came quietly into our world, without peals of thunder or worthy solemnity. He was born of the modest Virgin without violating her maidenhood, and at the end of His service on earth, rising from the dead, He left the tomb without violating its seals. All of His miracles, even the greatest of them, were enveloped in humble quietness and tender condescension to the suffering. Jesus Christ did not want to stifle His followers with His omnipotence, but instead tried to attract the lost to a righteous life with words of love. Only through the eyes of faith did people clearly comprehend the secret of His Divinity. For the majority, whose eyes were clouded by vanity of life, He appeared to be a poor preacher, a violator of Moses’ laws, a friend of publicans and sinners… (Matthew 11:19).

7. The Beginning of the Earth and Life on it.

"I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible" (from the Symbol of Faith).

The Holy Scripture devotes just the two first chapters of the book of Genesis to the theme of the beginning of the world and life on earth. Its account has a religious, not scientific, objective — a fact that must be taken into consideration when attempting to reconcile the Bible with modern scientific discoveries. The Biblical account is notable for its conciseness and imagery, employed so that people completely lacking any sort of education can understand basic religious truths concerning God, the world, and one’s purpose on Earth.

There is profound wisdom in this conciseness, for a detailed history about the complex processes involved in the world’s formation and life on Earth would be impossible to fit into even a voluminous library. And most importantly, a detailed description would drown out the main message that the author wanted to convey.

The Prophet Moses describes the creation of the world in majestic pictures capturing the key steps of creation. A similar figurative narrative form is intrinsic to the prophetic books, particularly the book of Revelation, where complex social and religious phenomena historically separated from each other by many centuries are combined in one vision. However, in spite of its conciseness and imagery, some details in Moses’ narrative anticipate recent scientific discoveries by almost four millennia:

Let us open the first chapter of the book of Genesis, where it is written:

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:1-2).

With this opening phrase, the prophet Moses includes all of God’s creation, the development of which he will describe later in more detail. Here Moses states two fundamental truths, namely:

With the word "created" (Hebrew bara, see Num. 16:30; Is. 45:7; Ps. 103:25-26; Heb. 3:4) Moses refutes both the ancient and all consequent materialistic hypotheses about the world’s independent existence and infiniteness, and indicates that during creation God did not use any already existing material or cosmic energy, but brought everything into being by an act of His almighty will. To use the descriptive language of the holy fathers, "He summoned the world from non-existence." This very phrase rejects later gnostic and pantheistic notions about the world as gradual emanations from the Absolute. In other words, the world’s nature has nothing in common with the essence of the Creator, Who is everlasting and immaterial.

According to modern cosmology, the world came into being suddenly — as if from a microscopic singularity — through the "Big Bang" some 15 billion years ago, and since then it has expanded in all directions like an inflating balloon. And this expansion does not happen in existing infinite space, but rather space itself is formed as the world expands. Time, too, began to "flow" simultaneously with space. By the words "in the beginning"(Hebrew bereshit) Moses means the first instant, that mysterious "border" that separated existence from non-existence. It is from that beginning on that the cosmic clock began to "tick."

The super-hot plasma of the "Big Bang" began to cool as it expanded, allowing elementary particles to combine into simple atoms — mainly of hydrogen, with a small portion of helium and lithium. Then, thanks to gravitation, cosmic clouds began to condense into galaxies and intergalactic offshoots in which, as they increasingly condensed, stars began to break out, and black holes, quasars, and other exotic cosmic formations began to be generated.

By "earth," Moses implies the entire physical world. Some 10 billion years after the "Big Bang" on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, our solar system was formed with our planet — Earth, which in the beginning was "without form, and void." We can infer that "the heaven" means everything that is beyond the limits of Earth and the physical cosmos in general — i.e. the intangible spiritual world that the angels inhabit.

"And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). The Holy Fathers understood by the word "Spirit" the life-creating Spirit of God, Whose "wafting" brought order to the primitive chaos and gave vitality to Earth’s elements. It is interesting to note that signs of "life" are felt at all levels of existence. Indeed, the most miniscule subatomic corpuscles move energetically, vibrate, jump, and in the right conditions combine into chemical elements and complex molecules. Even what seems to us to be absolute emptiness, a vacuum, is full of "life" — virtual particles that momentarily appear and immediately disappear, but under known conditions can turn into real atomic particles.

"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day" (Gen. 1:3).

By omitting the details of the cosmos’ development, the prophet Moses concentrates on the formation of the Earth and the appearance of life on it.

The words "let there be light" most likely indicate the moment when our sun "lit up." The galactic cloud of the primitive solar system, which consisted mainly of hydrogen and the dust of various elements (which came from previous astral processes and explosions) condensed so much under the effect of gravitation that a thermonuclear reaction broke out in the center of a compact gaseous ball with an abundant radiation of light. This interpretation does not exclude another, namely that the words "let there be light" pertain to the time of the "Big Bang." These two events may be united into one, because the result of both these processes was an emission of light. Light carries the energy that breeds all life processes, including physical processes.

Since time immemorial, the origin of life on earth has been a mystery. There were many theories, but no factual data. Only beginning in the 19th century, thanks to discoveries in the areas of geology, paleontology, biology, and related sciences, did the phases of life’s evolution begin to become clear. And what have we now discovered? It turns out that life forms appeared on Earth in the general order that the book of Genesis describes — more than three and a half thousand years earlier!

The Prophet Moses divided God’s formation of Earth and everything on it into seven periods, which he symbolically called "days." Over the course of six "days" God formed the Earth and the living creatures inhabiting it, and on the seventh "He rested from all His work which He had made." How long these Biblical "days" were, Moses does not specify. However, since the seventh day, during which the history of mankind unfolds, has already lasted many millennia, we can conclude that the other days were also long periods. The number seven itself is often used in the Bible in a symbolic, not numerical, sense, implying the fullness and completeness of something, for example: seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, seven seals, seven punishments, etc.

Besides that, one must take into account that the prophet Moses describes the event from the vantage point of an observer contemplating everything from the surface of the earth. The prophet omits phenomena that are not obvious to the naked eye and are not relevant to the essence of the theme, such as the development of galaxies and the appearance of microorganisms in water. He limits himself to describing that which was of interest to his contemporaries. The basic idea is that all the variety of nature was created not by chance, not by pagan gods, but by the one, all-wise Creator.

"And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:6-10).

With time, the gases, dust and meteorites that went around the primitive Sun began to collect into asteroids, comets, and proto-planets, among which our primitive Earth grew and gathered mass. The prophet Moses called all of this chaotic mass orbiting around the sun "the waters which were above the firmament" i.e. above the outer covering of Earth, and the vapors, dust and gases enshrouding the primitive Earth "the waters which were under the firmament." Naturally, the prophet conforms here to the mentality of his contemporaries, who took the visible sky to be a hard vault, a sort of cap to which the stars were "fastened" like lamps or lights. In modern language we can say that vapors, dust, and gases condensed around the recently-born Earth under the effect of gravitation, and interplanetary gases were expelled beyond the bounds of the solar system by a powerful solar wind. Part of these gases and dust condensed into the so-called "outer" planets — Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. The formation of the solar system’s planets and purification of interplanetary space were accomplished on the second day of creation.

Until relatively recent paleontological discoveries were made, scholars were unable to explain how all of the variety of life that we see on Earth appeared. In the 19th century, Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, which attempted to explain the origin of animal species. Just like all theories, Darwin’s does not capture all the complexity of life’s development and is full of holes and blank spots, which subsequent scholars have tried to fill in. The main thing is that, even with various modifications and amendments, the theory of evolution leaves out the main factor that, according to the Bible, led to the appearance of life and directed the evolution of all living things in the progression we are familiar with. This "Factor" is God!

The Bible tells not of an accidental successive evolution, where chance reigns, but about a purposeful creative evolution with the synergy of nature. It is namely the Maker who gave nature the ability for initiative or self-development and, directing nevertheless the most important steps in the origin of species. It is important to understand that the principle of creative, successive development acts on all levels of existence, thanks to which simple and primitive organisms, under favorable conditions, change into more complex structures. This cooperation of nature in the creation and evolution of all living things on Earth is the very key that solves the seeming conflict between religion and science.

The principle of creative initiative is logical from an engineering point of view also: the Maker has no need to make every chemical element or every type of molecule individually. He endowed nature with laws aiding the beginning and evolution of life. Indeed, during stellar thermonuclear combustions, simple hydrogen atoms form into heavier elements — helium, oxygen, carbon, calcium, etc. Still more complex atoms, "metals," arise during star bursts (supernova). Elements born out of cosmic processes, in turn, organize into complex organic molecules in known conditions. Their presence in the cosmos is confirmed by spectral analyses of light passing through cosmic space.

The idea of the world’s participation in creative acts is not alien to the Holy Fathers’ thoughts. Thus, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "From the first creative impulse, all things existed in their given state like a kind of fertile force instilled into the universe for the birth of all things; but not one of them had a separate or real existence yet." Blessed Augustine develops this thought thus: "… Just as in a seed everything that must with time develop into a tree is contained invisibly, thus should we imagine that the world, when God created all things at once, contained as resources and causes all things that the earth has produced, before they developed with time into what we know them as now."

St. John of Kronstadt explains the relationship of the Creator to nature thus: "The Lord has complete respect for the nature He created and her laws, as works of His infinite wisdom. Therefore He usually carries out His will through nature and her laws, punishing or blessing us through various physical objects and circumstances. Therefore, without extreme need, do not demand miracles from Him."

With a little creative stimulus, organic molecules organize themselves into cells, microorganisms, viruses, bacteria, algae, etc. The principle of creative evolution is found in the Bible on all steps of life’s development. Indeed, as we continue to read the book of Genesis:

"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day" (Gen. 1:11-13).

In the beginning, a thick covering of vapors and gases enveloped the Earth in a dense, opaque atmosphere. Once the surface had cooled sufficiently, the vapors began to settle, streams and rivers began to flow, and lakes and the first seas and oceans began to take shape. Water is a necessary condition for life. With water and sunlight present, at God’s command the waters filled with the first microorganisms and aquatic plant life, and with time dry land became filled with the first plants. All of this was part of the third "day" of creation.

"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day" (Gen. 1:14-19).

Together with the first plants, aquatic microorganisms cleansed the atmosphere of dense gases, secreting oxygen. Until then, if someone had looked at the earth’s surface, they would have seen nothing but a diffuse light. The outline of the Sun, Moon and stars would have been hidden behind the dense atmosphere enveloping the earth. Our neighboring planet Venus remains in a similar state to this day. If you stand on its surface, you will see neither sun nor sky — just a diffuse yellowish light. When the purification of the dense gases did make Earth’s atmosphere transparent, the sky "suddenly" became visible. That is why Moses assigned the "making" of the Sun, Moon and stars to the period after the birth of plant life, i.e. the fourth "day." Not knowing this fact, atheists have scoffed at the Biblical account of the sun’s creation after plant life, reproaching the Bible’s compiler for ignorance of the simple fact that plants live by photosynthesis. However, according to the Bible, light illuminated the earth even on the first day of creation ("Let there be light"). Only the outline of its source was concealed from the viewer looking from Earth’s surface.

The very process of the beginning of life, during which organic molecules formed into the living cells of microorganisms, bacteria, and later plants, is a subject of scientific research. In every stage of creation genetic alterations are so radical and novel that modern science is still not in a position to establish them precisely. Where to draw the line between miraculous acts and a natural evolution remains a mystery.

Nonetheless, the very principle of nature’s cooperation in creation is indicated in the book of Genesis. Therefore one ought not to be seduced when some sort of new scientific discovery explains yet another mystery in the evolution of life. Here, everything that science discovers is simply the revelation of yet another pattern in nature, evidence of the inconceivable wisdom of the Creator.

But let us continue to read the Bible:

"And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created [in Hebrew, bara] great sea creatures, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after his kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply on the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made [in Hebrew, asa] the beasts of the earth after their kind, and cattle according to their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:20-25).

The presence of free oxygen in the water and atmosphere made the birth of more complex life forms possible. We know that after bacteria and simple microorganisms, there appeared all sorts of sea creatures, then reptiles, insects, vertebrate fish and various pangolins, and only after them the birds, with their more perfected structure. The historian reveals precisely this picture of the gradual birth of the earth’s living creatures in the fifth and sixth days of creation.

Speaking of the appearance of animals with a living soul, that is, with mental properties, the historian uses for the second time in his account the Hebrew word bara — "created," since he was talking about a fundamentally new act of creation. It is written that the light, land, sun and stars were made, for they were created from an already existing material (earth). It is written specifically that the living soul — the psyche — was created.

Of course, the appearance of the psyche assumes the existence of a definite material basis on which it could appear — the existence of a nervous system and brain — even if only a primitive one.

However, the physiological processes that ensure the nervous system’s functioning exhaust far from all of the richness of psychical phenomena. The mind, as a higher aspect of human life, cannot be the product of a qualitatively poorer basis; it cannot be restricted to physiology. The nervous system, as such, is only an organ. It cannot be the cause of the practical and rational actions, often calculated very far in advance, of living creatures. Defending life, caring for progeny, hunting and preying methods and other actions cannot be restricted to physiological processes. The psyche constitutes something fundamentally new because, having no dimension, it is an extra-spatial reality. It is not equivalent to any other kind of energy. All kinds of energy known to physics can be converted into one another. But psychical energy does not convert into any of them. While energy conversion processes are regulated by strictly defined numerical equivalents, the psyche does not comply with this rule. It is a mystery for science.

The book of Genesis sketches newer and newer steps of creation with wide strokes. The Creator directs everything gradually, not instantly, towards His intended goals, having complete control over blind processes. Nature, for her part, obeys His commands, not as a passive and blind instrument, but as an active participant. Every "thing" in nature has its inherent degree of freedom. Man, standing on the top of the ladder of creation, has maximum freedom — not just of physical, but of spiritual and moral choice, too. Animals are free to move around and satisfy their animal needs, but they are deprived of moral freedom and therefore cannot consciously improve themselves. Plants breathe, absorb moisture, grow, and multiply, but are not free to do what the species above them do. Atoms and elementary particles, having the smallest degree of freedom, under favorable conditions become organized into complex molecular structures that take on completely new and unexpected properties. All these categories of "freedom," according to our belief, are the gift of the Creator: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17).

Marveling at the majestic scenes of the days of creation, the prophet Moses writes in conclusion: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day" (Gen. 1:31). Every believer experiences a similar sense of the magnificent when he comes into contact with nature in its virginal state. The Prophet David recorded these feelings in the following inspired Psalm:

"O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants hast Thou ordained strength… When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, even the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea… O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8).

8. Difficulties in Biblical Comprehension.

As we have already mentioned, the first chapters of the book of Genesis, like many prophetic visions, are written in figurative and symbolic language. However, in using symbols, the Prophet Moses was not using myths, which were very popular among the pagan peoples, who personified the powers of nature and created all kinds of gods, goddesses and monsters from them. Modern Biblical criticism loves to reproach the Bible for using ancient myths. But this reproach is unfair. Biblical symbols and the figurativeness of Biblical accounts, with their deep spiritual meaning, differ from pagan myths in an essential way. The book of Genesis was written for the express purpose of denouncing these myths.

If the Bible were our only source of knowledge about the world, then it would be natural to accept all of its stories literally — without straining our faith. For example, God said, "Let the earth bring forth…" — and suddenly all plants and animals appeared in their modern forms. However, this interpretation is too simple and does not conform to the wealth of living forms that have appeared and disappeared over the course of millions of years, as modern paleontology reveals.

Similarly, the uninformed reader is inclined to take the word "day" literally in the modern sense of a period of time 24 hours long. However, the fact that the present "seventh day," during which the history of mankind is unfolding, has lasted many millennia suggests that the preceding days of creations lasted much longer than regular days.

Likewise, the words "and the evening and the morning" should be understood in the figurative, not literal, sense. The root of the Hebrew word "evening," erev, comes from "chaos," "disorder," and the root of the word "morning," boker, comes from the word "order." Therefore the expression "the evening and the morning" should be understood in the sense of bringing order to the original chaos.

Another difficulty is met in the uninformed interpretation of the fourth day of creation, according to which the sun, moon and stars were created after plant life, which clearly contradicts science. The explanation given above solves this problem — if one agrees that the first three days lasted millions of years, and not 24 hours each.

The reader can find a preliminary correspondence between the Biblical days of creation with paleontological data in a table in this work’s appendix.

Death: when did it appear?

Some people draw the conclusion from the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve that, before the fall of the first man, neither death nor decay existed in nature: life all over Earth flowed smoothly without storms or cataclysms, animals of prey fed on grass, and neither insects, fish, nor animals died, but rather all of them enjoyed immortality together with man. This idealization of the primitive world has no basis.

The very concept of death is full of human tragedy. Do we really have the right to apply the word death in the same sense to the plant or animal world? The departure of animals is not a death similar to the departure from life of Godlike man, who was made to be immortal. The division of a living cell, the loss of bacteria or an insect, or the halting of physiological processes in an ape is not the same thing as the demise of a human. Animals were not promised immortality, and they do not die because they broke the commandment. On the contrary, their death is just as natural a process as their birth. From the appearance of the first living cell in the world up until the creation of Adam, birth and death flowed in an uninterrupted stream. If it had been otherwise, the world would have become overpopulated with animals with nothing to feed upon soon after its creation. Only death and decay could pave the way for the birth of new creatures.

Adam was made to be immortal, not by his nature, but rather, conditionally, insofar as he was given access to the Tree of Life as a reward for fulfilling the commandment. In warning Adam about the danger of death, the Maker did not have in mind physical so much as spiritual death — that he would be deprived of the life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit. However, theoretically, Adam could have prolonged his physical life if he had eaten from the fruit of the Tree of Life after the Fall, too. It is specifically because God denied Adam access to the Tree of Life that he was doomed to physical death. Saint Gregory the Theologian explains that God fixed things so that the moral "evil [which entered Adam] did not become immortal." The fact that Adam was created outside of Eden already tells us that he must have been acquainted with death in the animal kingdom.

It may be assume that before the Fall of Adam there were no predators within the limits of Eden and only herbivores and harmless animals lived there. But beyond the limits of Eden, life flowed in its primordial rhythm. We know from paleontology that long before the birth of man there were predators even more fierce than today’s. From the very beginning, life and death alternated on all levels of existence — from microorganisms to the very largest animals. Just look at the skeleton of the prehistoric tyrannosaurus, whose teeth, sharp as a knife, reached lengths of 15 centimeters (6 inches). He certainly didn’t feed on grass!

Paleontology has counted about ten cases of relatively short periods from 500 to 65 million years ago during which massive extinctions of an enormous quantity of animal and plant species occurred. Perhaps the most grandiose massive extinction took place about 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when 50 to 90 percent of the species inhabiting Earth, or about 200 of 400 known families, were wiped off the face of the Earth. Another massive extinction of apocalyptic proportions occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, which led to the death of all dinosaurs and ammonites.

But in that case, how are we to interpret the words of the Apostle Paul: "For the earnest expectation of the creature eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God... For the creature

was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;.. because the creature itself also wall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. Chapter 8:19-21)?

Is the Apostle not indicating here that death and decay in the world were the result of the Fall of Adam? It seems to us that here he is talking not about the past, but about the future. The Apostle’s basic idea is that nature is imperfect and perishable because man, the crown of creation, was expected to perfect himself spiritually. But since man fell morally, nature remained perishable and imperfect without reaching the ideal state it was destined for. When the faithful part of mankind is honored with immortality after the universal resurrection from the dead, then the rest of the physical world will be transformed into new heavens and a new earth (see II Pet. 3:13). On the "day" after the universal resurrection, all of nature will be renewed, and the lowest creature, together with man, will be free from the laws of decay and destruction. What will nature look like then, and will it still have the plants and animals we know? The Apostle does not answer these questions. There are hints in the Bible that there will be something similar in the new world to what we see here (Is. 11:6-9, Is. 65:17-25; Rev. ch. 21-22). However, it is useless to try to imagine now what that spiritual world will look like, because time itself, space, and all the laws of nature will have completely new substance.

We have already cursorily mentioned the misunderstanding concerning Earth’s position in the galaxy. Since Moses describes everything from the point of view of an observer on earth, the impression is created that Earth is the center of the universe. Roman Catholic theologians defended this view with much pathos: "It is not fitting for the Earth, to which the Lord had to descend, to spin around in space like a child’s top." Fortunately, with time good sense triumphed and now no one can seriously repeat the old error about the universe’s rotation around Earth. This case vividly illustrates the problem that a biased understanding of some expressions in the Bible can cause when one is unaware of or ignores basic scientific data.

Concerning Time-Reckoning (according to Bishop Nathaniel Lvov).

It is well known that in Byzantium and pre-Petrine Rus’ the reckoning of time was counted from the "creation of the world," not from the Nativity of Christ. This calculation of time is also accepted in the modern Church calendars, although now it is criticized more and more often, since science has shown that our planet came into existence billions of years ago.

What exactly do we mean by the date of the "creation of the world"? According to the words of the Prophet Moses, the Apostle Peter and the Holy Hierarch Basil the Great, the greatest Scriptural exegete of the Church, we must understand the "era of the days of the creation of the world" as referring to very lengthy periods of time. The "seventh day" in which we live shall be succeeded by the "eighth day" to which there will be no end. For more details concerning the dates of the geological epochs, see the appendix.

The Bible contains no chronological charts. It gives only the life-spans of the patriarchs — Adam’s descendants. It is logical to suppose that only the names of the most important ones were mentioned in the Bible. Using those figures as a basis for his calculations, a certain pious medieval monk, Dionysius the Lesser, ascertained the years since "the creation of the world," and that chronology, for reasons of convenience, was accepted in Byzantium; and thence it was adopted for the use in Church calendars.

However, if we examine the Biblical text more closely, we shall see that it does not provide us with a precise chronology. Indeed, what does the Bible say? "And Adam lived 230 years, and begot a son in his own likeness and called his name Seth. And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were 700 years, and he begot sons and daughters. And all the days that Adam lived were 930 years." Thus, for each of Adam’s descendants there is given the span of his life till the birth of the child mentioned after him.

But the problem is that the Biblical expression "so-and-so is the son of so-and-so" and "so-and-so begot so-and-so" does not necessarily mean that so-and-so was his immediate son. We read in the Old Testament about almost every Jewish king: "His deeds were like those of David his father," or "His deeds were not like those of David his father." In the same manner, in the New Testament Christ the Savior is named the Son of David — obviously, meaning a descendant of David. Further, in the Lord’s genealogy given by Apostle Matthew, where it says, "And Uzziah begot Jotham," four generations are omitted (cf. Matt. 1:9 and 4 Kings [2 Kings in the King James translation] chapters 11 and 15 and 1 Kings 3:10).

Therefore, when we read in the Bible that x is a son of y, we have to understand that he is only a descendant, and we cannot be sure how many generations separate them. Uzziah "begot" Jotham; however, there are four generations between them! Christ the Savior is a Son of David, but there are 30 some generations between them...

Thus, the reckoning of time is not a concern of the Bible and the numbers of years are not a God-revealed truth. The words of the Apostle Paul "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32) mean that God does not suppress the natural talents of the prophets and does not dismiss that knowledge which is neutral in the spiritual plane and does not have any effect on salvation.

So the objectives of the Bible differ from those of science. Therefore, their languages differ. Let us consider a description of a flower by a poet, artist, botanist, biologist and pharmacologist. All of them describe the same thing, but how their descriptions differ! Therefore, one shouldn’t use the descriptive expressions of the Bible as a weapon against scientific discoveries. We will be better off being faithful to the rule: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s" (Matt. 22:21).

9. The Origin of Man: “Making” and “Creating.”

At the end of the "sixth day" all the preliminary steps of creation were complete and the time came to crown nature with her "king," who would become the Creator’s representative for the lower creatures. And before the all-important act of man’s creation the Lord, as if conferring with His Council of the Holy Trinity, says, "Let us make (asa, see below) man in our image, after our likeness [note the use of the plural]: and let them [people] have dominion over the fish of the sea, [and over the beasts,] and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth… So God created (bara) man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:26-27).

Here again the Prophet Moses uses two words that in their English translation sound alike, but actually have different meanings: create (Heb. bara) and make (Heb. asa). The first word means to create from nothing, and the second means to form something from pre-existing materials.

The Bible discusses man’s creation twice: in the first chapter of the book of Genesis: "God created (bara) man in his own image" (1:27), and in the second chapter of the same book: "And the Lord God formed (asa) man of the dust of the ground" (2:7).

Creation [bara] is the birth of something new that did not exist before. It is the result of an instantaneous act. The Prophet Moses uses this word for the creation of the world — "In the beginning God created [bara] the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1) and for the creation of man — "So God created [bara] man" (Gen. 1:27). In the latter case creation concerns man’s spiritual essence. Similarly, the book of Exodus (31:17) discusses the gradual formation of the world from pre-existing elements and therefore uses the word corresponding to the English made: "In six days the Lord made [asa] the heavens and the earth…" The use of different words in the Hebrew original is significant. Unfortunately, in the Greek translation this difference between creating and making or forming is lost. Greek translators translated these different concepts into the single word epiisen [εποιησεν]. Therefore it is not surprising that the majority of the Church Fathers who interpreted the book of Genesis, using the Greek translation of the Seventy, were not able to catch the essential nuances of the Hebrew original.

It is no accident that, when speaking about man, the Prophet Moses uses both words: First, in Gen. 1:26 — the word translated made (Heb. asa), and later, in 1:27, the word translated created (Heb. bara). In doing so, the prophet differentiates the process of forming the body, which preceded the breathing of the soul into the body, which was a new creation. This creative act of the soul is indicated in the second chapter also, Gen. 2:7, where it is said that after forming the body the Lord "breathed into his (Adam’s) nostrils the breath life; and man became a living soul," that is, combined the body with the spiritual basis that did not exist in nature — his Godlike and immortal soul!

Careful reading of this account reveals one more detail. The first chapter talks about the creation of man and woman — two people potentially implying a variety of beings; and in the second chapter, where it talks about the breathing of the soul, only Adam is mentioned, from whom the Lord then formed Eve. Is it not complementary that there are two aspects here of how man was made? First, the making of his physical human-like form, and then the endowment of a soul to one of them, who became the historical Adam?

The concept of man’s gradual making was not alien to the Holy Fathers. Bishop Theophan the Recluse writes about Adam’s body: "What was this body? A clay gray-hen, or a living body? It was a living body — it was an animal in the form of a man, with a living soul, and then God breathed His spirit into it…" First a creature with man’s form was created, whom God later gave a rational soul. This thought of Bishop Theophan’s is not incidental; he returns to it several times in his anthropological constructions, affirming that man contains antecedent levels of life. For example, he writes: "God’s creations are disposed such that every higher class mixes the strengths of lower classes in itself, besides having its own strengths particular to and characterizing its own class." This is a completely normal and widely found dialectic. Bishop Theophan draws the conclusion that there is an animal’s soul within man. He cites St. Anthony the Great. "According to St. Anthony," writes Bishop Theophan, "our soul is of the same rank as an animal’s soul. What makes us different is the mind, which I call the spirit."

On the basis of similar statements, some draw the conclusion that human nature has three parts — a body, soul and spirit (the mind or intellect). But the Orthodox Church teaches that human nature has two parts. Obviously, the soul that the Creator breathed into the first man took in or assimilated all of the lower living functions of pre-man. The source of life in plants, insects, fish, and animals does not have an independent existence: it disappears at the moment of their death. But the human soul, on the contrary, directing all of the body’s vital processes, continues to exist after man’s death.

As he speaks of man further, the Prophet Moses once again resorts to imagery. The element of symbolism in his accounts is felt most where the need to expose a religious idea with extreme clarity is strongest. Such as, for example, in the story of woman’s creation from Adam’s rib. St. John Chrysostom teaches: "‘And it is said he took her from his rib.’ One should not take these words literally, but understand that these coarse words are accommodated to human weakness. For if the Scripture did not use these words, how would we know indescribable secrets? We shall not dwell on words alone, but will accept everything reverently, as it concerns God. The expression ‘took’ and others like it are used for the sake of our weakness."

We understand the moral conclusion of the account indicated by the Apostle Paul, namely that the wife takes second place in the family, after the husband : "The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man…; for the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man." But why does Moses describe the way that woman was made in this way? No doubt he meant to protect the Judaic consciousness from the fabrications of mythology, particularly the mythology of ancient Mesopotamia, the land of the Jews’ ancestors. These stories are morally tempting, saying that there is a certain blending in the world of gods, the world of people and the world of animals: goddesses and gods are combined with people and animals. Images of lions and bulls with human heads, so widespread in Chaldean and Mesopotamian sculpture and Egyptian drawings, allude to this. The Bible’s account of the way woman was created affirms the truth of the unity of the human race.

Modern Scientific Discoveries.

Since the 19th century, paleontologists have discovered an ever-growing quantity of fossilized remains of human-like creatures. The older the remains, the closer they are anatomically to primates, and the younger they are, the closer they are to modern man. Scholars have detected intermediate links between modern man and his physical ancestors in these remains. At first, scholars assumed that the physical development of modern man from a primitive human-like animal followed a line of direct succession. Modern discoveries suggest that there was something of a "bush" of human-like beings with several branches that did not leave modern descendants. The Neanderthals, who disappeared some 30 thousand years ago, belonged to one of these branches. Here and there they co-existed in parallel with the ancestors of modern man, but they died out without leaving descendants. All modern people come from one human branch, presumably Homo sapiens, which arose 80 to 50 thousand years ago. This view is confirmed by modern genetics, which by comparing the DNA of people of various races has established that all modern people have their roots in one distant ancestor. This is a very valuable discovery, as it confirms what the Bible teaches, namely that all people descended from one man, whom it calls Adam.

Genetics is progressing by leaps and bounds. By comparing the DNA of various animals, it determines with a high degree of probability their genetic kinship and how long ago one species or another branched off from an older species. It has been established that man’s DNA has a 99% match with the DNA of primates. Whether the Lord used the DNA of some ancient creature to create man, or created man independently of it, using only the same cell model, does not have any fundamental significance. Nonetheless, insofar as the Bible and science agree that previous steps of creation serve as a basis for the birth of new forms of life, there is nothing contradictory to faith in the hypothesis that God called upon nature to participate in the formation of future man’s physical form. Nature "proposed" several versions, from among which the Lord selected the best one, and made man from it when he infused the Godlike soul into him.

The remaining branches of humanlike beings that resembled us anatomically more than the others, including Neanderthals, gradually died out without leaving behind descendants.

It is noteworthy that the idea that Adam did not acquire his godlike soul immediately, but instead lived like other animals according to his composition, was not alien to some Church Fathers. Indeed, many centuries before modern paleontological discoveries, St. Gregory of Nyssa (4th century) wrote in his work On the Making of Man, pointing out the duality of man’s creation and making, "God created inner man and shaped outer man; the flesh is shaped, but the soul is created."

A similar idea is developed in Motovilov’s story in his conversation with St. Seraphim of Sarov, when St. Seraphim says: "The Lord created from the earth not just Adam’s flesh, but his soul as well, and his human spirit: but until the moment that God breathed the breath of life into him, Adam was like the other animals."

Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) expressed the opinion that man was created "not in one short action, but by gradual formation."

Bishop Nathanail (L’vov) discusses this in more detail: "By his physical nature man is a part of the external animal and material world. Everything inside of us exists in the world around us. We are even closer to the animal, animate world, to those whom, like us, God created with living souls. Therefore the Christian may very easily agree with the observation that man and chimpanzee are closer to each other in their physical natures than even chimpanzee and monkey. If speaking about man’s physical nature, the possibility of putting man in the modern zoological classification in a definite place in the primate order, in the mammal class, does not bother us at all."

10. Possible Interpretations of Paleontological Data.

Religious people treat the findings of fossilized remains of man’s "intermediate links" in different ways. Here are some opinions:

Which of the above-mentioned speculations is most feasible?

We categorically deny the banal materialistic point of view that man in the aggregate of his characteristics "came from monkeys," since the soul, which is the highest aspect of the human being, could not have grown out of any kind of evolutionary processes. The next chapter is devoted to this theme.

The first opinion, namely that there are no intermediate links, is increasingly difficult to defend because it forces one to deny the achievements of several branches of science — geology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, genetics, embryology… which confirm and supplement one another. Besides which, there is no united "plot" among scholars to undermine religion or the Bible’s authority. There are many sincerely religious people among them who acknowledge God our Creator. As they compete with each other to refine facts and develop various theories, scholars gradually eliminate fallacious interpretations and inaccuracies and are always prepared to expose any attempts to forge or manipulate the facts. That is the wonderful thing about science — it is self-correcting.

It is difficult to doubt that the fossilized remains really are ancient, because there are many independent methods of establishing the age of geological eras that generally check and qualify each other. It has been established that the branch of creatures that began to display the anatomical features of later man (for example, the ability to walk on two feet, a change in the form of the skull and teeth) began about five million years ago. Over time, the descendents of these creatures began to obtain more obvious features of modern man. With the large quantity of fossilized remains that have been found, the likelihood that they were all crippled or deformed is extremely low.

The speculation that all humanlike creatures became extinct without leaving descendents presents another predicament: if everything was made by our Creator, then why did He make anthropoids if they were all going to die out later anyway? Or was the Lord experimenting with different variations on man, trying to determine which one would be best?

The view that God set the creative powers of nature forth to form man does not, in our view, decrease His Wisdom or His Creative omnipotence. For the laws of nature had to work together with our Creator to accomplish an ultimate goal: the creation of man.

"Do you really accept the evolutionists’ side, which asserts that man is descended from the ape?" the reader may ask.

No! Man did not come from the ape; his body was made from the dust of the ground, and he got his soul from God, as the Bible teaches.

But the formation of his body should not necessarily be understood as an instantaneous act. If God wanted to use His laws to perfect man’s body, then it was His holy will to do so. It might be that a more ancient ancestor existed from which both modern primates and anthropoids descended. Both are from "the earth," but our Maker showed special care in the formation of man’s body, which is why the Psalmist is right when he says, "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me" (Ps. 119:73).

We can understand the feeling of disappointment that a believer might feel upon learning that he is "a relative of the ape." It would naturally be more pleasant if the Lord had created us independently of the lower creatures. But who dares tell the Creator what He should do? "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? (Is. 45:9).

We ought to see the Creator’s great wisdom in His gradual creation of man’s body with nature’s participation: He put us on Earth not as foreigners, creatures alien to it, like extraterrestrials, but marvelously adapted us to the sharply-changing conditions of the surrounding environment. Our instincts, immunity, senses and physical qualities harmonize ideally with a world filled with dangers and surprises. Like the children of wealthy parents, we inherited everything that nature had perfected for millions of years. What’s more, since we have something in common with the lower creatures, we are able to better understand and pity our "subjects," contributing to their good. Here there is also cause for humility: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," the Lord reminded Adam when the latter wanted to compare himself to God in presumptuous impertinence (Gen. 3:19).

Note: In light of the interpretation offered here that Adam was made in the distant past, when humanlike beings like the Neanderthals still existed, Cain’s fear for his life is understandable. As we know from the book of Genesis, when Cain killed his younger brother Abel, the Lord ordered him to leave the company of his parents and roam the earth. In fear of being killed, Cain tells God, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me" (Gen. 4:13-14). Here it is clear that, after he became a murderer, he feared suffering the same fate as his brother. But one wonders who could have killed Cain if there were no other people who lived close by besides his immediate siblings. It is natural to assume that Cain knew from his father’s stories about the existence of other "people" — strong and skilled hunters like the Neanderthals.

The speculation mentioned here that man’s body was formed gradually by the Creator together with the powers of nature, we do not call a proven fact, but rather propose as a valid possibility that, in our opinion, harmonizes the story of the Bible with modern scientific discoveries better than any other. It goes without saying that the reader is allowed to interpret Biblical and scientific data in his own way — on the condition that his opinion does not contradict the dogmas of our faith, specifically:

If one adheres to these truths, then the details about how the world and life on it evolved, or whether man’s body was formed instantly or gradually, are of secondary importance and do not undermine faith in any way.

Professor V. V. Bolotov wrote about the permissibility of private opinion on issues not defined by the Church’s dogma: "No one has the power to forbid me to hold to a teologumen expressed by at least one of the Church’s fathers as my private theological view, as long as it is not proven that a competent church trial has already pronounced the view sinful. But on the other hand, no one has the power to demand of me that I, as my private theological view, follow a teologumen expressed by several fathers of the Church, if that teologumen does not soon captivate me with its sublime theological beauty, and does not conquer me with its argumentation’s majestic strength, which must be accessible to my comprehension."

Reconciling scientific data with religious conviction is far from an abstract exercise — particularly for parents who are believers. In these times, youths sooner or later become acquainted with various evolutionary theories and they begin to question how to reconcile these theories with what they have been taught in classes about the Law of God.

Here it is counterproductive for parents to simply dismiss the discoveries of modern science and assert without confirmation that they were all made up. Both non-religious evolutionists and creationist extremists want to thrust their conceptions on the growing generation, passing them off as facts – the former, by saying that everything originated in and of itself, and the Bible is a collection of myths; and the latter by insisting on a literal interpretation of every word of the Bible and teaching that everything was created instantly in its final form. Youths will feel like they are caught in a cross-fire that forces them to choose between the Bible and science.

Meanwhile, both extremes — evolutionism and creationism — rely not so much upon objective data (of science or the Bible) as upon their own specific suppositions. The evolutionist worldview suffers from a lack of spirituality, shortsightedness and haughty pretensions that in the end, science can explain everything exhaustively. It sometimes repels people with its anti-religious fanaticism. Creationism is notable for its narrow literalism. Not having any positive data in science, it limits itself mainly to a criticism of Darwinism. In spite of astronomy, geology, paleontology, atomic physics and other sciences, creationism insists that the earth is young and disputes obvious facts. However, as everyone knows, facts are "stubborn things."

As for detriment to faith, it is hard to say which of these extreme worldviews is more harmful: the first in that it eliminates our Creator, or the second, in that it creates an artificial conflict between Divine revelation and science.

Fortunately, there is in fact no fundamental conflict between religion and objective scientific data, and there is no need to choose between science and religion, because the two spheres of knowledge complement one another and discuss different sides of the same coin. God is the First Cause and author of all that exists — regardless of how He achieved His goals.

The beginning and the development of life on earth contain many mysteries that, we are convinced, science will never be able to solve exhaustively. And that is because only the final results of complex processes are revealed to us; no traces have been left in nature of precisely which "buttons were pushed" by our Maker or when He did so. In essence, our powers of cognition are not much better than those of "insects on an interplanetary ship."

God has honored me with being the witness of true miracles. Many times in my life I felt the Hand of God, which has led me, delivered me from hardship and given me more than I could dream of. As I look back, I see that all of my life has been woven of insignificant accidents that later turned out to have great consequences for me. But how do I "prove" to others that the merciful Lord has helped me during my life, and it was not coincidence?

We must say in conclusion that in principle no scientific hypothesis, including the theory of evolution in its different variations, threatens faith in God our Creator. Indeed, any theory, in order to be scientific, must remain within the bounds of cognizable and accessible experience. Everything that goes beyond the strict limits of physics falls into the realm of assumptions, metaphysics, and philosophy… But religion is mainly about the other, invisible world — about what is not subject to physical analysis, but is perceived through Divine revelation. The sphere of faith is accessible only to the soul that is able to communicate directly with God.

Therefore, one need not fear pure science. One must simply learn to discern facts from hypotheses. History knows many cases when representatives of both religion and science made mistakes. And the source of these problems has always been not facts, but their interpretation. Whenever a conflict arises between faith and knowledge, it is safest to take a wait-and-see position, believing that, in time, everything will fall into place and the truth will triumph.

11. Man’s Scientifically Inexplicable Properties.

Though he has many physical properties in common with the animals, at the same time man has a series of exclusive properties that are not derivable from, and at times run counter to, evolutionary processes. Indeed, there is:

The Mind (Reason).

Science still does not know of any law according to which atoms and molecules could have organized themselves into a living cell and given birth to the mind. The famous Canadian professor and biologist M. Ruse, an agnostic, wrote about the idea of the so-called natural birth of the human intellect through evolution: "However, and this may be stated firmly, biological theory and experimental practice attest decidedly against it. There is nothing in modern theoretical biology that would allow us to suppose the rise of the intellect an inevitable necessity."

The mind, capable of abstract thinking and creativity, raises man infinitely above the animal world. If the human intellect is the result of the brain’s natural development, then it is surprising that among the countless life forms besides man, there exist precious few signs of intellectual capability beyond instinct. There is no evidence of a gradual evolution of mental faculties that led to the birth of the intellect. The enormous intellectual chasm between man and the brightest animals destroys the myth of evolution. The instinct of lower animals often displays surprising resourcefulness, but this resourcefulness is limited by the tight bounds of the concrete case at hand. Through the accumulation of knowledge, man realizes intellectual progress that results in a deeper understanding of phenomena, while animals remain at the same intellectual level as their predecessors.

The psychical activities of animals mainly reflect their bodies’ demands: food, reproduction and self-preservation. No one denies that this can be attributed to the human psyche, too. But there is something in man’s essence that is in deep discordance with the life of the body and even runs counter to the most vital physical demands.

Although society does influence the consciousness, it is the consciousness specifically that transforms the herd into an organized society, makes social life intelligent, and makes collaboration constructive.

There are qualities inherent in man that could not have originated through the process of natural selection and which were definitely not critical to the biological life of the species. The sense of abstract justice and the search for a higher meaning could not have been obtained through selection, for these feelings do not provide any physical advantage. Similarly, the moral senses, like the sense of the beautiful and the mystical, are not at all the products of civilization but, on the contrary, are inherent in "barbarians" at the lowest cultural levels.

What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that man alone is capable of realizing the existence of the Most High Creator and wishing to communicate with Him. Whenever he deviates from moral norms embedded in the conscience, man feels his responsibility before the Creator. Though he may see much in his everyday life that is unjust, man is convinced that in the end truth will prevail.

The most critical aspect of the transformation from animal into man lies beyond the bounds of anthropology and biology. Science may try to reconstruct the successive steps of the brain’s development — but it cannot do more than that. The brain itself was only a necessary instrument capable of picking up the subtlest vibrations of the immaterial plan of existence, to become the tool of the spirit. All of evolution, as well as the development of the nervous system, is, in the words of V. Soloviev, "the necessary path to perfection. No one is going to prove that mollusks or sponges can come to know the truth or freely submit their will to the absolute Good. That means it must be that increasingly complex and refined organic forms were developed in the world until the form in which the consciousness and desire for self-improvement could manifest themselves was created… A drop of live protoplasm, a creation that also demanded quite a bit of creative power, may contain the ability to produce the human organism, but to realize this ability to produce it, a whole, rather complex and prolonged biological process was needed."

"The dust of the ground" (as the Bible calls the psychophysical nature of man) was made the carrier of the "living soul" (Gen. 2:7).

Sacrificial Love

On the lower levels of existence — in the world of viruses, microbes, and insects, where the battle for survival dominates — everything is pretty logical and clear. But the ability to love one’s neighbor to the point of self-sacrifice is something mysterious, clearly at odds with blind instinct.

It is paradoxical that, while mentally tracing the steps of existence, from insects to the more developed animals, we can observe examples of sacrifice and tender, altruistic feelings with increasing distinctness. Sometimes this is reflected in mutual help between animals of the same kind. For example, wolves and lions live in families and hunt in packs. The males and females divide care for the young and at times display the most tender feelings for each other. If on the lower levels of existence some animals allow cruelty among themselves -- when, for example, a female crocodile eats her own children when she is starving, or a fish eats its own eggs -- in the higher tiers of the animal kingdom, a mother’s love for her young sometimes reaches complete self-sacrifice.

Of course, here one may object that such altruistic behavior is necessary for the continuation of the species and so is also explainable by the theory of evolution. However, on the very highest step of existence, among humans, selflessness and self-sacrifice may reach such loftiness and nobleness that they cannot be explained by biological or evolutionary principles at all.

In fact, man is capable of sacrificing himself not just for the sake of his children, but for the sake of strangers, too — as, for example, by giving away his own money to help the hungry, to take care of orphans, or to selflessly care for the sick. From such altruistic activities not only does man receive no profit, but he even puts his own well-being and even his very life at risk.

What’s more: man is even capable of loving his enemies — those who in principle are a threat to him. This is in complete defiance of the instinct for self-preservation .

A deeper examination of the mysteries of existence reveals that the ascension of the steps of life, from simple infusorians to more sophisticated animals and, finally, man, follows not only a line of physical perfection and greater intelligence, but a line of more and more "spiritualization" and nobleness, too. The most remarkable thing is that improvement in such non-physical qualities is not limited to our physical world, but crosses over into the spiritual world of angels and, finally, is completed by the Essence and Creator of all things, Whom we call God!

Indeed, the more highly developed a creature is, the greater is its ability to love. As such, it is obvious that while the principle of self-preservation may derive from blind physical laws, the remarkable ability to love is mainly a non-physical characteristic that we obtain as we come closer and closer to Him Whose essence is all-perfect and inconceivable Love (I John 4:8).

Lack of time and space do not permit us to speak in more detail here about the many other mysterious qualities of the soul — about man’s sense of morals and conscience, about his ability to analyze himself, about the power of speech, thanks to which man can articulate profound philosophical and religious ideas in words, about intuition, about the creative gift of geniuses in science and art, about man’s need to communicate with God, about his confidence that there is another world beyond… All of these things are evidence of the profound and impassible chasm between man and the rest of the animal world.

12. Parallel Laws.

As we observe the world and our own lives, we can follow a familiar parallelism between physical and spiritual phenomena. Understanding some general patterns can help us to better understand some phenomena in the physical world by taking analogies from the spiritual world and to understand spiritual phenomena by using analogies from the physical world.

We will dwell here briefly on some laws, or principles, that are common to both worlds.

1. The Principle of Growth and Perfection.

Everything in nature — microbes, plants, animals — grows, becomes stronger and strives to manifest itself as much as possible. From the moment of its inception until now, the whole world has been developing, perfecting itself from simple proto-matter to elementary particles, atoms, molecules, organic structures, living cells, microbes, plants, insects, fish, animals and, finally — man. Here much is the result of the laws of nature, but much is inexplicable. On the simplest level, everything has seemingly been determined by chance, the result of a battle of blind powers; and at the same time one detects a remarkable balance, appropriateness and direction of a single plan.

The source of the world’s rationality and practicability becomes clear if one takes a good look at the process of man’s spiritual development. Man can achieve much through his own efforts, and at the same time, if he scrutinizes his life with his spiritual eyes, he will become convinced that not everything came to him through himself, but through God’s mercy toward him, too. The religious person feels the guiding Hand of God in his life. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Mt 10:29-30).

It is especially instructive to reflect on the process of growth of mankind’s religious faith — beginning in the patriarchal period, then in the history of Old Testament Israel, and finally — in the Church of the New Testament. What an enrichment of the truths of faith has occurred over the course of many millennia, how moral perceptions have improved, what an enrichment of religious experience has occurred! Much in this process should be attributed to the deeds of the heroes of the spirit, but still more undoubtedly belongs to the Hand of God. It is precisely in spiritual growth that the union of the natural and the supernatural is clearest.

Therefore the inquisitiveness of scholars, who try to understand and explain everything logically, is laudable, but even they must take into account the borders of the cognizant and bow before the Providence of our Maker: Where the Lord wants it to, the order of nature is overcome.

2. The Meaning of Crises.

The history of the world’s development and life on Earth is peppered with catastrophes and "crises," both big and small. Star bursts, galactic collisions, the Earth’s being struck by objects from space, catastrophic volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, devastating storms, sharp changes in the climate and the atmosphere’s composition, ice ages, when ice reached almost to the equator, the shifting and flooding of continents, massive epidemics, and so on all cause the "sword of Damocles" to hover above the existence of life on Earth. From the time of the emergence of the first microbes on Earth 3.5 billion years ago up until almost this age, catastrophes and sharp climatic changes have taken place as the result of which whole classes, families and species of living creatures perished. For example, 65 million years ago the dinosaurs and an enormous percentage of the existing flora and fauna were wiped out when a meteorite that hit the southern part of modern Mexico. But the remarkable thing is this: after every great extinction, there invariably followed a powerful evolutionary explosion. New organisms appeared that quickly filled the just-vacated ecological niches, in so doing taking the baton of life from the species that disappeared. Colossal dinosaurs were replaced by the more refined and sophisticated mammals.

And so, contrary to Darwin’s assumption, all the variety of life that we observe in nature arose not so much thanks to slow processes of adaptation as through sharp leaps that were evoked by ecological crises.

Is there not a clear parallel here with spiritual crises? Rabbi Saul, a zealot of Judaic law, persecuted Christians as a harmful sect. But the Lord unexpectedly appeared to him on the road to Damascus and stripped him of his sight. Saul understood his error, was baptized and became the famous Apostle Paul. The self-assured Simon Peter realized his error after his shameful renunciation of Christ, humbled himself before God, and with His help became a great Apostle. Mary of Egypt understood the full horror of her sinful life only after the Lord did not let her enter a church. After she repented, she left the world, and in the desert, in great deeds, she acquired holiness equal to that of the angels.

Many books could be filled with similar examples. There was none more perfect than Jesus Christ, but even He, according to the Apostle Paul "Who in the days of his flesh, [at Gethsemane before His crucifixion] when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death… Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became that author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb 5:7-9).

As we delve into similar cases, we can draw the conclusion that on both the physical and spiritual planes, periods of gradual growth and expansion of activity alternate with sharp crisis leaps. If during "calm" periods an improvement and strengthening of acquired characteristics occurs, then in moments of crises new, more valuable qualities are forged. Thus, as a whole, the process of growth, both physical and spiritual, follows a pattern of staggered, step-like leaps and not a straight upward ramp. Moreover, the following pattern can be observed on all levels of existence: the Lord does not destroy the old; he uses what already exists as "material" for the formation of something new — which is transfiguration, not creation.

Science still does not know what processes lie behind the spasmodic birth of new species, or what processes make completely new organs or a complex set of organs such as, for example, the organs of sight. However, it would seem clear that as God foresaw the possibility of catastrophes and sharp ecological changes, so He also provided nature with the capability to quickly adapt to new conditions and display new functions. Similarly, during a moment of life crisis, too, man gathers his inner strength and completely re-arranges himself internally, so as not to be crushed by grief. And again, not everything here yields to natural explanation alone: some things may be attributed to natural factors, but much else clearly involves Divine Providence.

The only thing that is clear is that both periods of peaceful existence and moments of crisis mutually promote growth and improvement — in both the physical and spiritual plans.

3. The Principle of Struggle.

In the animal world the principle of struggle and competition leads to the selection of the healthiest and strongest. If natural selection did not occur, nature would be full of weak, rickety creatures, which would lead to its degradation. Living in constant danger, animals behave deliberately and precisely, which is good for their health. Something like this may be observed in spiritual life, too.

If we dwell a moment on the human organism, we know that it is constantly exposed to the invasion of all kinds of viruses and germs, some of which are dangerous to life. By fighting against them, the organism develops immunity, which makes the body more resistant.

Parallel to this struggle on the animal and biological levels, there is a struggle in spiritual life, too. From an early age man is exposed to a variety of trials and temptations. He is sometimes tempted and commits sins because of his inexperience or thoughtlessness. But, humbled by his conscience, he learns from his mistakes, acquires experience, patience, and steadfastness. If there were no struggle with temptations, people would relax and wallow in the gratification of their animal instincts. "Woe unto the world because of offences," said the Savior, meaning that many would perish from them. But then he added, "for it must needs be that offences come" (Mat. 18:7), obviously for people’s spiritual improvement.

That is why even in paradise God allowed the devil to tempt man (Gen. 3:1-8). Man yielded to temptation and fell. But this fall did not end in tragedy. Restored by the blessed power of the Savior, and made wiser by bitter experience, man climbs the stairs of virtue with newfound strength.

Even the angels in Heaven did not escape temptation when the proud Lucifer did not heed the Creator’s call. Some of the angels, tempted by the Devil, fell and became demons, but others improved themselves in goodness.

To some people, the struggle for existence, as a result of which some die and others survive, seems contradictory to the concept of paradisiacal life before the Fall. However, we can see that in principle all struggle, whether physical or spiritual, is necessary for health and improvement.

4. The Principle of Mutual Assistance (Symbiosis) or "Conciliarity."

The book The Spiritual Meadow preserves recollections about an elder-priest who was so holy and led such a pure life that, when he completed the liturgy, angels would appear and stand to the right and left of him. Unfortunately, having learned an incorrect order of worship from heretics and being himself unaware of the Church’s dogmas, the elder in his simplicity would proclaim the wrong words during the service.

One day, according to God’s plan, there came to him a fellow clergyman, a deacon versed in Orthodox teachings. When they officiated the liturgy together and the deacon heard that the elder was pronouncing the exclamations incorrectly, he told him, "Father, what you said just now is not in accordance with the Orthodox faith, but is taken from heretics." But the elder, seeing the angels standing near, did not pay any attention to the deacon’s words. But the deacon would not stop asserting, "You are wrong, elder! The Church does not accept this."

Hearing the deacon’s reproaches, the elder finally decided to ask the angels, "Is what the deacon tells me true?" "Listen to him: he is right," the angels answered. "Then why didn’t you correct me sooner?" the elder asked. "God arranged things such that people would be corrected by other people," the angels explained. After that the elder began to do the exclamations correctly, thanking God and his confrere for instruction.

This case illustrates a principle common to the spiritual and physical worlds, according to which mutual aid follows a known hierarchical order. Indeed, in nature as a whole as well as in the constitution of every living organism, a hierarchical interaction is observed — a sort of unity in the many. The higher life forms do not simply co-exist with the lower ones, they have a definite mutual relationship with them that promotes the common good. The principle of symbiosis is observed on all levels of the animal and plant worlds. We know that when bacteria in our bodies feed themselves, they promote digestion and the assimilation of food. Cyclical processes occur in the atmosphere: evaporation and precipitation, microorganisms in the sea together with plants on land secrete oxygen, which for its part is essential for animals. These animals, for their part, exhale the carbon dioxide that plants and microorganisms require.

Apostle Paul gives the example of the cooperation of the members of the human body to explain how important it is that everything in the Church, according to its strengths and talents, tries to serve the common good. All state structures are built on the principle of hierarchy, and there is a hierarchy in the angels’ world. Our Savior built the Church on the principle of conciliarity, i.e. hierarchy: not dictatorship, not democracy, but the harmonious cooperation of its different members.

Suffice it here simply to note that the principle of interaction, symbiosis, or conciliarity balances and ennobles the principle of struggle for existence.

The moral conclusion is that one ought not to neglect or disparage anything. Often what seems unimportant and insignificant in fact turns out to be weighty and essential, as the Apostle Paul explains in his epistles to the Romans and Corinthians.

5. The Concept of Beauty.

When one studies nature deeply, the esthetic principle of symmetry, which pervades creation on all levels of existence, stands out distinctly. Today it is completely obvious to scholars who work on the cutting edge of physics that the world was built according to the laws of beauty, which is expressed in mathematics by the principles of harmony and symmetry. The fact that all physical interaction is essentially a means of supporting the collection of strict symmetry intrinsic to nature serves as a basis for this assertion. The pursuit of such symmetry lies at the basis of the scientific strategy called upon to bring us a deeper understanding of the essence of things. It is assumed that in the first moments of the Universe’s existence after the Big Bang, when the plasma had energy equivalent to 1015 giga-electronvolts, all physical interactions constituted the manifestation of a single fundamental interaction, a single constant. The symmetry here that served as a basis for uniting these interactions was perfectly precise.

The principle of beauty is perceptible in the mathematical formulations of the laws of nature, too. Having practically absolute precision, they bear a strict succinctness and elegance. Open any reference book about physics and you will see for yourself that the fundamental laws are written simply and there are no long, complicated, clumsy formulas anywhere. Such formulas are found only in rough theoretical calculations.

Thus, in formulating the law of gravity, Sir Isaac Newton concerned himself mainly with the functional and algebraic simplicity of this law. Johannes Kepler, guided by the striving for laconism, achieved greater precision in his description of the movement of the planets and greater simplicity in computations, introducing elliptical orbits and so forth.

It has often happened in the history of science that, experimentally, essentially different theories used to describe new phenomena are confirmed in equal measure. In such cases the simplest and most elegant concepts are preferred. Thus, the principle of simplicity constitutes a specific demand on the construction of scientific theory. Many famous scholars have believed a hypothesis’ simplicity to be one of the most decisive criteria of its validity. The beauty and harmony of the world itself are expressed in it.

This simplicity of nature can be conceived of as its tendency to limit diversity. As scientific data show, rhythms and repetitions, and symmetries and invariants are often found behind variety and complexity. They find expression in the "powers of nature," using only a limited set of elements to create all the diversity of the material world. The very ability to realize the laws of science, particularly the laws of preservation, has its basis in them. The very mission of science is to find the invisible simplicity of the world behind its visible complexity. In the words of the famous naturalist J. L. Buffon, "When He made the world, the Supreme Being wanted to use just one idea, varying it in every possible way so that man could admire the perfection of its execution and the simplicity of its design."

It is therefore completely illogical to attribute natural processes to a chain of lucky accidents. It is much easier to conceive that a chaotic conglomeration of amorphous material would materialize spontaneously in a world without our Maker than the harmonious sight of well-composed order, perfected in its completeness and unity on the basis of a high esthetic principle.

6. DNA and Object-Oriented Programming

When the computer first appeared, the construction of each of its programs required that its code be written in painstaking detail. Later, with the standardization of computer languages, pre-written computer subroutines appeared for many popular computing operations that could be used in the main programs, making the work of programmers much easier and decreasing the number of mistakes ("bugs"). Gradually computer algorithms improved, so the more effective algorithms became popular and the less successful ones sank into oblivion.

Although computer programs were limited by mathematical computations, everything led to the improvement of existing algorithms.

But with the appearance of computer graphics applications for front-end computers, everything became radically more complicated. It became necessary not just to make computers easier to use, but also to provide operating systems with a broad spectrum of new functions, such as manipulating graphics and sound, formatting and checking text, recognizing words, operating in a network and transmitting data through it.

Although existing algorithms did not need improvement, it was necessary to ensure that the computer modules could "understand" each other correctly and would not confuse information: for example, so that a line would be understood as a line and not, say, a sound; so that the color of the background would not be confused with an internet address, and text words with game graphics and so on. In the excruciating pursuit of maximum clarity in information exchange, the concept of object-oriented programming was born. In this concept, subroutine processes were integrally connected to their corresponding type and range of transmitted information: each computer module receives and issues only a precisely defined type of information, and rejects everything else. Thanks to this concept, it became possible to create such complex programs as Windows, MS Office, etc. Every module in these programs is secure from defective or intentionally harmful information because the information is checked before it can use the modular algorithm. An entire army of programmers works on making such intelligent and secure programs.

And here’s the interesting thing: the structure of DNA, in which the development and functions of every cell is "programmed," is constructed by the elaborate principles of object-oriented programming. Indeed, many coded units in DNA contain "algorithms" optimized for specific goals: to transmit and check information, to metabolize energy, to use photosynthesis, to correct defects, to create new cells, and to form various organs — all in strict succession. These algorithms have been transmitted by an inherited path from the DNA of ancient bacteria and primitive animals right up to the DNA of humans. Each new step on the staircase of creation uses only those coded modules — from among all those in the enormous set it has -- that are needed by the given organism, and everything that is not needed or is defective is ignored. For example, the very same ancient gene that first created mollusk eyes today creates insect, octopus, mouse, and human eyes… DNA "realizes" the difference between the eyes of different types of animals by using additional DNA "coded modules" that appeared later in the stages of creation.

Thus, in a sense, DNA is a very elaborate computer code that implements the concept of object-oriented programming. And not just any code, but one that reproduces itself and fixes its defects. It is simultaneously a program, a computer, and an operator. If writing modern computer programs like Windows required many years of work and thousands of programmers, then did the much more elaborate DNA code really appear "by itself," by chance? Evolutionism clearly does not cover the issue of life’s appearance and development in all its complexity.


In this work we have shown that there are no fundamental contradictions between the teachings of the Holy Scripture and scientific discoveries concerning the beginning of the world and mankind. The Prophet Moses resorted at times to symbolic and figurative language for the sake of revealing religious truths with maximum clarity — a fact that needs to be taken into account when attempting to harmonize the teachings of the Bible with scientific discoveries.

As it delves into the world’s structure and development, science uncovers newer and newer laws that, together, attest to the great wisdom of the Creator. However, one risks losing sight of the big picture in the vast sea of information it has gathered and of, as it were, no longer seeing the forest for the trees. The Apostle Paul commented with sorrow about the "wise men" of this world: "That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead;… Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom. 1:19-22).

In order to avoid similar shortsightedness, we must learn to perceive phenomena with our spiritual eyes, faith, which helps us to see the single, grand plan of our all-wise Architect in the vast sea of information.

Knowledge, enlightened by faith, helps us to comprehend that:

And so, biological progressive development should be viewed in its broad context. The birth of life and all essential aspects of successive development are unpredictable and not derivable from past states. These forms cannot be proven in any way except by the "obvious" fact of their existence. The evolution of life represents the interaction of a host of mechanisms that transform evolutionary forms. These mechanisms constantly acquire new contents that are not derivable from former states. They cannot be explained within the limits of this world.

The source of the cosmic phenomenon of mankind was not contained within the limits of life forms that preceded the birth of man or within the processes that occurred before it. Man was a new meaning that arose in the Universe.

God, Who is behind all the mechanisms in the Universe, is just as free to use chance to His ends as He is to use any complex social processes. Divine Providence is often carried out for us in life through "purposive accidents" that do not contradict the theory of probability.

As a whole, the world, with all its wealth of life on Earth, and with the presence of man, who was bestowed with the image and likeness of God, is a miracle that cannot be explained by any physical processes.

Being made in God’s image, we can learn much from our Creator by discovering His laws and perceiving the paths of His Providence. Doing so helps us to better do that which we were not so good at earlier.

Therefore, may we always worship our Creator, thank Him for His love for us, and strive to justify His care for our salvation by leading virtuous lives. Amen.




Table of the Days of Creation.

See the note at the end about dating methods.

Years before present



Day of Creation

% of time


"Big Bang" and formation of the Universe.


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1-2).



The Solar System is formed from interstellar gases and dust in the Milky Way galaxy. An atomic reaction in the Sun is accompanied by emission of light.


First Day

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light (Gen. 1:3).




Formation of planets including Earth, clearing up of the interplanetary space of the Solar System from gases and dust.



Achaean era

Second Day

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so (Gen. 1:6-7).





Water vapor condenses, oceans and lakes form.

Third Day

And God said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear…





And God said: Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth…(Gen 1:91-13).



The most primitive forms of life may have emerged with anaerobic metabolism. Earth heavily bombarded by asteroids. Many microorganisms die, replaced by new ones with more complex functions.

Use of photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria — blue-green algae, one-celled, multi-celled (filamentous) and colonial organisms, primarily blue-green in color. As well as chlorophyld phycomycetes. Reproduction mainly asexual.






Prokaryotes (without a nucleus): oxygen levels rising steadily.

Proterozoic era



Eukaryotes appear (cells with nuclei), green algae and multi-celled organisms increase.






Protists appear (simplest), plants and fungi, chromosomes.

The atmosphere becomes transparent, aerobic metabolism emerges, Ediacaran organisms.

Venedian, Precambrian

Fourth Day

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night (Gen 1:14-19).




The genetic DNA code is enriched. Great numbers of new species appear, the first shellfish & corals; development of invertebrates, appearance of mollusks and sponges, development of tissues and external coverings, blood circulatory system develops in primitive organisms.

Paleozoic era,

"Cambrian explosion"


Fifth Day


And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the water brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind (Gen 1:20-23).





1. Late Cambrian extinction. Fast continental drift.

First chordate fish




2. Late Ordovician extinction, 70% of

ocean species erased.



First land plants (vascular strands): Fungi, ferns, horsetails




First insects, Coelacanths (crossopterygii)




First tetrapods, development of internal skeletons, Ichthyostega (half-fish half-reptile)



3. Late Devonian extinction



Large coal deposits. Appearance of plannipenia (Neuropteris)

First reptiles, amphibians




The first dentate creeping reptiles, lizards (precursors of mammals), four limbed Petrolocosaurus



Internal fertilization



Oxygen levels close to present, Mesosaurus (ocean-swimming lizard).




4. Permian Extinction, 90% of all species disappear, lowest sea levels, glaciers, formation of the supercontinent Pangaea.

Mesozoic era.





Mammalian development: amphibians, sharks. First dinosaurs, Herrerasaurus, Plateosaurus, Ichthyosaurus (fish-lizard).


Sixth Day

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind…(Gen 1:24-25).




First small mammals appear, smaller than a cat, which play an insignificant part in the world dominated by dinosaurs.










5. Late Triassic extinction of 50% of species



Supercontinent Pangaea dominant, Stegosaurus, Cephalopods, Sauropods, Brachiosaurus, Pterosaurs. Placental mammals begin to diverge from marsupials.




6. Late Jurassic extinction.



First birds and salamandra




7. Cenomanian-yronian extinction.

First flowering plants (250,000 species).




8. K-T boundary; dinosaur extinction with 70% of all species. Small mammals quickly fill niches vacated by dinosaurs, hair growth

Cenozoic era




Oceanic methane assists climate warming. Large animals, dolphins appear.






Himalayas form, climate cools. First dog-size horses.



First whales appear.



9. Late Eocene extinction,

First monkeys



First humanoid apes.




Primates, Mastodons. Surface area of the Sahara increases in north Africa.




Two-legged hominids branch off from humanoid apes.



Growth of fingernails.





Australopithecus. Panama isthmus closes, causing changes in ocean current and severe fluctuations in climate. Mammoths grow to tremendous size.

Homo habilis




Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, bisons











of Adam




10. Pleistocene extinction of large mammals. Branching of Neanderthals and ancestors of Homo sapiens



Homo sapiens: work tools.

Organized hunting after large animals. Glaciers periodically cover Europe and reach Africa.






Man makes decorations, cave paintings, buries the dead, designs symbolic portrayals Modern man spreads into different continents.

First humans cross the Bering Strait, reach as far south as Chile.

And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness…And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen. 1:16-28, 2:7).






End of last Ice Age. Arable farming begins, domestication of animals.

Beginning of cultural and technical progress

Seventh Day



1. Views of the Holy Fathers and Scientific Discoveries.

Adherents of a literal interpretation of every word in the Bible about the creation of the world often cite the Church’s Holy Fathers to defend their position. In doing so, they do not justify the correctness of their own views so much as they unwittingly "see the nakedness of the father" (Gen. 9:22). Indeed, although many Holy Fathers were highly educated people, neither theology nor the natural sciences of their time had yet reached full maturity. Therefore one ought not to take every thought expressed by one Holy Father or another to be the Church’s teaching — especially in questions of science, which was then at a rudimentary stage. The Church is only error-free in its catholic conscientiousness, its concillarity.

St. Barsanuphius the Great expressed the Church’s treatment of the problem of inaccurate or erroneous opinions of individual Church Fathers most clearly. In response to a monk’s question about the teachings of St. Gregory of Nyssa about the complete rehabilitation of all sinners (including demons) damned to fiery Gehhenna, St. Barsanuphius wrote:

Do not think that people, even the saints, can completely comprehend all the profundities of God; for the Apostle says: ‘For we know in part, and we prophesy in part’ (1 Cor. 13:9)… Saints who have become teachers, whether by themselves or compelled by others, have been rather successful, surpassed their own teachers and, with approval from above, set forth new teaching, but at the same time maintained that which they received from their former teachers, that is, incorrect instruction. When they were subsequently successful and became spiritual teachers, they did not pray to God that He would make revelations to them concerning their first teachers: whether what they were taught was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but, considering them wise and intelligent, they did not question their words; and thus their teachers’ opinions were mixed with their own instruction, and these Saints sometimes said that which they had learned from their own teachers, and sometimes that which they had perceived with their own minds.

If you say, "Why did God in His grace not prevent them from being in error for the good of others who would later read their writings?" then you can say about any sinner, "Why didn’t God in His grace prevent him from sinning, when He knew that he would tempt many with his sins, and many would come to harm through him?" In such case all of human life would no longer be free, but subject to force. Why, are there not maxims in Scripture that are a stumbling block to those ignorant of the spiritual meaning? So, must we say, Why did God not reveal the spiritual meaning of the Scripture to everyone so that people would not come to harm, but gave the Saints, who lived in different times, the task of explaining everything necessary? That is exactly what the teachers and interpreters were ordained for, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 12:28-30)… As the Lord showed us the path of life through the Prophets and Apostles, though every one of them spoke from himself, and God did not prophesy through any of them exclusively, but allowed what one had left out by Divine will to be said by another, thus did God do with the Saints who came after them: what some of them say unclearly is expounded by those who follow them, so that God is always glorified by His Saints.

Other Holy Fathers treat this question similarly. Venerable John Cassian the Roman, in his discussion of Blessed Augustine’s books, notes, "Even quite learned men have something that may be called into question and examined."

Holy Patriarch Photius also gives an Orthodox assessment of the erroneous opinions found among the Holy Fathers: "How often did difficult predicaments compel some Fathers to express themselves imprecisely, some to speak in adaptation to circumstances under enemy attack, and some to speak in human ignorance, to which they, too, succumbed? If some spoke imprecisely, or for reasons unknown to us even deviated from the upright path, but there was no investigation and no one called upon them to prove the truth, then we leave them among the ranks of fathers, exactly as if they had not spoken such, partly because of their life’s eminence and virtuous reputation, and partly because of the purity of their faith otherwise; but we shall not follow their words where they have sinned."

Blessed Augustine himself, in the conclusion of his book "On the Trinity," wrote, "Lord, God the Single, God the Trinity, may what I said in this book from You be received as Your own; but if I did say anything from myself, may You and Your people forgive me."

St. Mark of Ephesus wrote: "There is a big difference between what is said in the canonical writings and the traditions of the Church, and what is written by the individual teacher unofficially or even taught by him; the first, given by God, we must believe… but the second we should not believe unconditionally or accept without question. For it is possible for someone to be a teacher, but not speak completely correctly. For what need would there be for Fathers in the Ecumenical Councils if none of them were able to deviate from the truth at all? To some measure Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, and Gregory the Wonderworker slipped in this; though one of them bore a martyr’s crown and the other’s name itself dominates for praise."

St. Basil the Great speaks thus of Holy Martyr Dionysius of Alexandria (commemorated on Oct. 5, old calendar): "I am not delighted by all that is written by this man; and there are some things that I do not approve of in the least. For, perhaps, it was he… who first spread the seeds … of anomeic impiety. I think that the reason for this is not misdirection of the soul, but the burning desire to oppose Savelius."

The Orthodox Church teaches completely unambiguously that when the Holy Fathers have discordant opinions, we must check our views with those of not just one or several respected Fathers, but with the council teaching of the Church. If we ought not to blindly accept all the opinions of the Holy Fathers individually concerning dogmatic questions -- that is, questions unconditionally important for our salvation -- then we certainly do not have the right to raise to the rank of truth information now outdated but widely accepted in ancient times about geography, medicine and the natural sciences, only on the basis that it was stated by a Holy Father. For the Holy Fathers used the scientific data of their time not for the sake of confirming or rejecting them, but to lead people with their help to contemplate God, His qualities and His deeds in the world, to thereby to edify the people. "I have one goal — to convert everything to the edification of the Church," wrote St. Basil the Great (Discourse on the Six Days, tome 1, p. 132). "Investigation of the essence of every being, whether falling under our speculation or subject to our feelings… [will serve the edification of the Church not a little"] (pp. 13-14).

It is completely natural that the Holy Fathers might have made mistakes when using the natural science of their time. For example, the same St. Basil the Great says in his Discourse on the Six Days: "Some have even noted that felled and burnt pines have turned into oaks" (p. 88); "Who can doubt that the air is not fiery, and not incandescent?" (p. 53); "What would prevent the Red Sea from flooding all of Egypt, which is a dent in comparison?… Egypt is lower than the Black Sea…" (pp. 65-66); "Fire… jointly occupied all of the overhead space" (pp. 67-68); "Every element, as a result of general quality, unites with the element adjacent to it, and as a result of contact, unites with the opposite element, too. For example, the earth, being dry and cold, unites with water by relationship of their coldness, and through water joins with air, because water, posed in the middle between the earth and air… touches… with coldness to the earth, and with humidity to the air" (71). St. John of Damascus, describing scientific data in his Exact Exposition of Orthodox Faith, usually anticipates them with the words, "they say that …" However, he also asserts that "the comets are a sign announcing the death of the king" (p. 62 [134]); "there are twelve winds" (p. 66 [138]). He also accepts Aristotle’s teachings about the four elements. Naturally, no one these days shares these views.

St. Gregory of Nyssa’s explanation of the physiology of the dream is also erroneous. No one now would say seriously that "when food boils on the inside from natural heat, vapors… gather in volumes of the head like smoke seeping through cracks of a wall. That is why, evaporating from there through the channels of the senses, they spread through the body, while unavoidably the sense stops, pressed back by the passage of these vapors" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, St. Petersburg, 1995, p. 40).

And, certainly, one must not demand that a Christian reading the Holy Fathers declare the Phoenix real, about which the prominent Church Father of the I-II centuries, Holy Martyr Clement of Rome, says: "Near Arabia there is a bird called the Phoenix. It is born alone only and lives for 500 years. As it approaches its death, it… makes itself a nest into which, when its time comes, it enters and dies. From the decaying body a worm is born that, feeding on the moisture of the dead animal, becomes fledged" (1st Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter XXV. Works of the Apostolic Fathers, Riga, 1994, p. 128). Tertullian speaks of the same bird.

One could cite other erroneous views that have sometimes been held by the Holy Fathers. But what has been mentioned here will suffice, because our objective is not to undermine their authority, but merely to establish the necessity of taking a sensible approach when citing their private opinions. Taking this into account, for the sake of fairness it must be said that sometimes one Church Father or another was ahead of the scientific knowledge of his time by many centuries in his views. In this respect Bishop Nathaniel’s (L’vov) article about St. Basil the Great, in which he compiles many striking thoughts about the great saint, is very valuable. See Bishop Nathanail’s "Discussions of Faith" at the address: apolog_nathanail.htm .

Of great significance in the Holy Fathers’ experience is that they never opposed contemporary scientific data with their views. And here they left us a valuable lesson: it is reasonable to use the revelations of science — insofar as they may help us to gain a deeper understand of some facets of the universe. But one should do so with caution, taking into account the limits of the human intellect and the instability of scientific theories.

The idea of nature’s participation in the steps of creation is justifiably inadmissible to Orthodox thought only if the hypothesis of an evolutionary development of living things, from the simple to the more sophisticated, detracts from the Creator. The unsubstantiated statement that "the Bible teaches — but you say…" holds no weight. Orthodox tradition in particular knows how complex, unobvious and different can be interpretations of some parts of the Holy Scripture.

2. The Age of the Universe.

According to the opinion of literal interpreters of the days of Creation, the age of the universe, calculated as 7,500 years, is a teaching of the Church, and "a Christian may neither prolong this period of time nor shorten it, lest he change the dogmas of the faith." Therefore, the statement that the universe has existed and developed for billions of years, according to their opinion, is nothing less than "the complete negation of the spirit and letter of the Bible." They consider "anti-Biblical" and even "heretical" any idea that would present a day of the creation as being something else than a period of time lasting 24 hours.

To prove their point, creationists cite a few passages from the writings of the Holy Fathers where the days of the creation are understood precisely as our ordinary twenty-four hours. However, in doing that the authors do not address the question which should be dealt with first: do we have to consider it a dogma of the Church, deviation from which would be falling into heresy, or may we, nevertheless, "make some corrections," in view of scientific discoveries and the cosmological notions of antiquity? For comparison’s sake, let us give an example. As stated by the vast majority of the ancient Fathers, the basis of the material world consists of four elements: earth, water, air and fire. Does that mean Dmitrii Mendeleev, who discovered the periodic law, should be denounced as a heretic? After all, the consensus patrum concerning the four elements is expressed far more clearly than that concerning the duration of the days of creation.

If we were to be consistent in our faithfulness to the literal interpretation of the word "day," we would have to understand the entire cosmological picture of the first chapter of Genesis literally as well. We would then have to deny that our earth is a sphere, because we would have to accept that the world consists of two layers of water separated by a solid "firmament" (Heb. raqiya, cf. Gen. 1:6-7), as is said in the account of the first days of creation.

Thus, it is far hardly the case that every concept pertaining to the scientific field which we might come across in the patristic writings must immediately be proclaimed a dogma of the Church. Even in such an authoritative dogmatic work as Venerable John of Damascus’ Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, one may find many facts concerning astronomy, geography and so on which, to put it mildly, are rather dated by now.

The age of the universe is about 15 billion years, and that is an scientific fact. Astronomers have, for example, observed the accumulation of galaxies and other objects (quasars) that are hundreds of millions and even billions of light years removed from us. This means that these objects’ light, which we may observe now, was emanated by them millions and billions of years ago, respectively. When, for instance, in the early twenty-first century we observe the explosion of a supernova 20,000 light years removed from the sun, that means the explosion took place twenty thousand years ago, about 18,000 B.C., and its light has only now reached us. There is no reason science would admit all these data to be nothing but an illusion. In addition, every star has its own age, which is also measured in millions and billions of years, which is determined from its developmental stage.

In order to somehow explain the difference in the ages of stars, some creationists offer a hypothesis according to which, at the moment of the creation, the stars had ‘instantly lined up’ depending on the categories of the so-called Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, displaying the complete set of all the possible stellar conditions. That is, some of them looked like they had been evolving for some hundred million years prior to that, and others — a few billion years. Therefore, according to this hypothesis, "the universe only appears to have existed for a long time, and the same is true for our planet."

But if we applied this explanation to the explosion of a supernova, located more than 7,500 light years away from us, it would turn out that the explosion never happened. In that case, from the creationists’ perspective, God simply created both the already exploded supernova and the light waves some distance away from it, to make it appear that there had been an explosion. In this case, we would have to declare God a falsifier, Who intentionally creates the universe in such a way that the scientists, who objectively study it, would arrive at a wrong conclusion, saying the universe has existed for billions of years. Obviously, it is difficult to evaluate the hypothesis of a young universe from the theological point of view: why would God need to create a universe that looked much older than it really was?

We list below for the reader’s information some modern dating methods:


3. The Flood.

All humanity known to the author of Genesis was flooded, but not all of the earth: neither Africa, southeast Asia, Australia, the Americas, nor Greenland was covered by the waves of the Flood. The Flood meant the death of humanity in those places where sin reigned. To understand this, we must recall why the Lord caused the Flood: "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth… And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth." Consequently, we are completely justified in seeing the Flood as the inundation of the world known to the author.

All the same, we should not be confused by the fact that the Bible speaks of the Flood as spreading "on the face of the whole earth." The Bible, and all religious literature that concerns only the human soul, not geography, usually calls just the area that people inhabit (sometimes the area of a certain human culture — generally its own) the "earth" or "universe." Thus Byzantium, which was raised on the Bible, called the basin of the Mediterranean Sea the "Universe," which is why they called their emperors "masters of the universe," and gave the patriarch of Constantinople the title "ecumenical" or universal.

The time of the Flood is difficult to establish. We discussed above the impossibility of constructing a chronology based on the life spans of the patriarchs as they are given in the book of Genesis. By following archeological data, however, we can suppose that it occurred sometime between 8,000 and 6,000 B.C.

Animals that lived in the area in which the Flood was to take place were taken into the ark. There is no mention in the Bible of any giraffes, rhinoceroses, etc., which never lived in that area (even hundreds of arks would not have provided enough space for all the animals of the world, and a whole army would have been needed to feed and care for the animals). "And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens (pairs), the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female [ducks, geese, chickens, possibly, which is possible here? Possibly ...chickens or swans, storks and others with which Mesopotamia was rich, as well as doves and crows]; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth." "And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth… the same day were all the fountains of the great deep [i.e. the sea and the ocean] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." Of course, the expression about the windows of heaven is figurative.

The activity of Noah and his family after the flood contradicts the hypothesis of a global catastrophe. It is written in Genesis that Noah and his family began to cultivate the earth immediately after they left the ark, which in the case of global flooding would have been impossible, since the landscape, under the impact of strong erosion and other tectonic processes, would have changed drastically. We also recall that the dove plucked an olive leaf while the water was still abating. No olive tree, much less its leaves, could have survived a worldwide catastrophe.

One may surmise that a large-scale flood must have left some substantial evidence behind in the form of sediment, which today’s geologists would have found. Many large alluvial deposits — evidence of a monstrous flood — have been discovered in the Mesopotamian plain (T.C. Mitchell, "Geology and the Flood," in The New Biblical Dictionary, 2nd edition, editor J. D. Douglas and others, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1982, pp. 382-383). At least one of them coincides time-wise with the Flood.

The Flood, though it was destructive, continued for only one year and ten days. A flood of such short duration usually passes by without leaving traces substantial enough to be identifiable after thousands of years. As an example, let us examine the flood in California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1970. Over the course of several months, water stood in the valley at a depth of three to four feet. A year later there was not a single sign of the catastrophe left. Similarly, a flood lasting just a year in Mesopotamia, even with a water level of 200-300 feet, would have left insufficient evidence behind to enable us after several thousands of years to determine precisely when the Flood had occurred.

The main thing is that the flood described in Genesis 6-9 truly fulfilled the purification that God intended — without flooding the whole planet. It the sense that it catastrophically affected the people and animals in a widespread region, it might be called universal with respect to those people and animals, but it wasn’t truly global in scope.

Proof of Flooding.

1. Throughout the world, there are more than seventy different traditions among various peoples confirming the description of the Flood in the sixth chapter of the book of Genesis. The Babylonians’ concurs best with the Biblical account. Similarities in descriptions of the flood compel us to conceive of it as an event of "worldwide" scale, forever imprinted in the memory of nations and preserved in legend for many ages.

According to Genesis 7:11-12, the floodwaters came from "the springs of the great deep" and "the floodgates of the heavens." The respective Hebrew phrases are ma'yenoth tehom rabah and 'aruboth hashamayim. These terms refer respectively to subterranean reservoirs, today called aquifers, and to heavy rain clouds.

Like most desert plains, Mesopotamia has characteristics that would favor formation of an enormous aquifer. Certain well-timed geologic events could bring all that water to the surface. And while rain is now rare in Mesopotamia, an "act of God" (i.e., a miracle) could certainly bring it to the region and sustain the 40-day torrent which Genesis records.

The historicity of the Biblical flood account is confirmed by the tradition existing in many places as to the occurrence of a similar catastrophe. F. von Schwarz (Sintfluth und Völkerwanderungen, pp. 8-18) enumerates sixty-three such flood stories which are, in his opinion, independent of the Biblical account. R. Andree (Die Flutsagen ethnographisch betrachtet) discusses eighty-eight different flood stories, and considers sixty-two of them to be independent of the Chaldee and Hebrew traditions. Moreover, these stories extend through all the races of the earth excepting the African; these are excepted, not because it is certain that they do not possess any flood traditions, but because their traditions have not as yet been sufficiently investigated. Lenormant pronounces the flood story the most universal tradition in the history of primitive man, and Franz Delitzsch was of the opinion that we might as well consider the history of Alexander the Great a myth as to call the flood tradition a fable. It would, indeed, be a greater miracle than that of the deluge itself if the various conditions surrounding the several nations of the earth had produced among them a tradition substantially identical. Like the Hebrews, Babylonians, Greeks, Norse, and other peoples of the Old World, many Indian tribes of North and South America also have traditions of a deluge. . . . "When the earliest missionaries came . . ." the Reverend Myron Eells reported in 1878, "they found that those Indians had their traditions of a flood, and that one man and his wife were saved on a raft" (Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest).

One Bible scholar correctly observed that "the destruction of well-nigh the whole human race in an early age of the world's history by a great deluge appears to have so impressed the minds of the few survivors and seems to have been handed down to their children, in consequence, with such terror-struck impressiveness, that their remote descendants of the present day have not even yet forgotten it. It appears in almost every mythology, and lives in the most distant countries and among the most barbarous tribes."

2. The geological research suggests there was indeed a vast, sudden and deadly flood around 5,600 B.C., fairly close to the possible time of Noah. Until now, the best attempt at modern scientific corroboration of the Flood was the work of British archeologist Charles Leonard Woolley, who caused a sensation with his 1929 book Ur of the Chaldees, said to be the most widely read archeology book ever published.

Digging in present-day Iraq at the site of ancient Ur, the birthplace of the first patriarch Abraham, the Bible-believing Woolley found an ancient blanket of waterborne silt without human remains. It was evidence of a deadly flood that appeared to substantiate the account in Genesis.

3. More recently, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a man-made structure more than 300 feet below the surface of the Black Sea, providing dramatic new evidence of an apocalyptic flood 7,500 years ago. Their expedition also spotted planks, beams, tree branches and chunks of wood untouched by worms or mollusks, a strong indication that the oxygen-free waters of the Black Sea's 7,000-foot-deep abyss may shelter intact shipwrecks dating back to the dawn of seafaring. Later the team discovered the outlines of an ancient coast 550 feet below the current waterline, the first visual evidence that a flood had occurred in the region eons ago.

Interest in the Black Sea quickened in 2002 with the publication of Noah's Flood by Columbia University geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman, which suggests that the modern-day sea was formed 7,500 years ago when melting glaciers raised the sea level until the waters of the Mediterranean breached the natural dam at the Bosporus.

Later there was a cataclysmic deluge. Seawater from the Mediterranean poured into the Black Sea basin at 200 times the volume of Niagara Falls. The heavier saltwater plunged to the bottom of the existing fresh-water lake and began to fill the basin like a bathtub. Then the rising lake-sea inundated and submerged thousands of square miles of land, destroying communities, killing people and wiping out uncounted species of plants and animals as the ecosystem flipped from fresh water to salt water.

Where the Ark Stopped.

Many are unreasonably sure that Noah’s ark stopped on Mt. Ararat. At Ararat’s height of 5,165 meters above sea level, it seems very unlikely! This notion is the result of an unreflective reading of the Bible’s text. Genesis 8:4 informs us that the ark rested on the "mountains (plural) of Ararat," not on modern Mt. Ararat. This specification makes a very substantial difference. The Ararat mountain chain is in fact a complex of mountain chains stretching to the northeast from Mt. Ararat itself to the foothills bordering the Mesopotamian depression. It covers more than 250,000 square kilometers. Noah’s ark could have stopped anywhere within the boundaries of this huge area.

Thus Holy Scripture, the legends of many nations, and geological findings in the area of Mesopotamia and the Black Sea concur in supporting the idea that the "worldwide" Flood really did occur.

4. The Mystery of Life.

The origin of life and all essential moments of evolution are unpredictable and not derivable from previous states of the Universe. These are forms whose ability to appear cannot be derived from the properties of the substance that formed them. This ability does not precede existence, but appears together with it. From this standpoint, the evolution of life represents the action of many mechanisms that transform evolutionary forms or aid their transformation. These mechanisms can be studied in evolutionary theories. But these processes are continually penetrated by new meanings that are not derivable from previous ones and cannot be explained by acting evolutionary mechanisms.

In biological life, the laws of nature cease to be a completeness or entirety. Indeterminacy, randomness, and spontaneity characterize the living organism. They do not remove the natural from it, but form a single complex with it — and this is the fundamental specification of the living. The place of biological life in the scheme of natural science is defined by its bordering on both the micro and macro worlds. Obviously, everything alive living exists simultaneously in both worlds.

A mechanism (e.g. clock, computer) consists of standard elements, has a standard reproducible structure, and at any given moment has a precise condition that in principle is definable. A mechanism may be investigated in detail, taken apart, or put together, and some parts may be replaced. The spectrum of the mechanism’s functions and its parts is fixed. Any mechanism can be produced repeatedly or duplicated.

An organism, on the other hand, is a wholeness joined with many mechanisms in the organism that extend it to the macro world, reinforce it, and give it its macro scale. The state of an organism, taking into account the molecular level from which it emerges, cannot be precisely specified. Moreover, taking into account its individuality, strictly speaking, no wave function can be ascribed to it – even theoretically, by reason of the unpredictability of the inner processes of the organism.

Any organ, and any of the organism’s systems, fulfills not just one function, as it seems at first glance — blood just carrying oxygen, the skeletal system just serving as the frame of the body, DNA exclusively encoding proteins, etc. Nothing of the kind! The number of functions of any of these is always an undefined multitude, and the more we learn, the more complex its spectrum turns out to be. And so it is on all levels of life.

5. The "Rare Earth."

In the scientific community, the notion that life existed anywhere in the universe besides Earth was once laughable. Over the past thirty years or so, the laughter has died away. As the vast scale of the universe has become clearer, the notion that life could have arisen only on Earth seems increasingly unlikely. The law of averages alone would suggest that there must be many places in the cosmos that harbor life.

"Not so fast," say Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. These two professors at the University of Washington argue that the recent trend in scientific thought has gone too far. They suggest that even if the universe is teeming with life, complex organisms are not likely to appear on many — if any — planets besides our own. They make their case in the book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe.

The authors draw on a wide variety of scientific disciplines, from geology to paleontology to astrophysics, as they lay out the evidence that Earth may be a singular habitat for animal life. Indeed, they call this compendium of sciences "astrobiology," the study of life throughout the universe. They also admit that all of their conjectures about how life might have evolved on other planets are based entirely on one example — how life evolved on Earth. But they argue that that example is rich enough in detail to provide clues about how the process might work (or might have worked) on other planets.

A long list of factors. Ward and Brownlee acknowledge that life arose fairly quickly on Earth, and they allow that simple life forms, of the single-cell variety, might be common on many other planets. But they insist that the evolution that led to everything from butterflies to redwoods to humans is the result of a peculiar, and perhaps unique, sequence of events on Earth.

There is a long list of interrelated factors leading them to this conclusion. They include the presence of the planet Jupiter in an orbit sufficiently far from Earth to deflect much of the cosmic debris floating around the solar system. If Jupiter weren't there, or if it were in a different orbit, a lot of debris would be crashing into Earth and extinguishing complex plant and animal life. Further, among the inner planets of the Solar System, only Earth has plate tectonics, a process that serves as a sort of regulator of our global temperature and provides enough dry land for complex organisms to inhabit.

They also cite the happy accident of Earth's position in the galaxy — not too close to the intense radiation of the central core, not so far away that it is left without the chemical building blocks of life. And there is the position of the galaxy itself — not in a globular cluster, not in a metal-poor quadrant, but in just the right spot to foster the rise of complex life.

'Not the center of the Universe.' "The continued marginalization of Earth and its place in the Universe now should be reassessed," the authors write. "We are not the center of the Universe, and we never will be. But we are not so ordinary as Western science has made us out to be for two millennia. Our global inferiority complex may be unwarranted."

To those of us who believe in God, these new findings say that we are, after all, very special to Him.


To be supplied later.


Missionary Leaflet # E138

Copyright © 2003 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission

466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011

Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)


(creation_man_a_mileant_edoc, 03-18-2004)


Edited by




Irina Zerebko