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Earth

Cosmos Solar System Earth Microcosm
  Divine Image Cosmic Christ  

A Home for Life

earth

Key Facts and Ideas  lb 

(This section should be read closely together with the next: "Microcosm.")

Although life has almost certainly emerged elsewhere in the Universe and doubtless we shall establish homes on other worlds in the future, earth will forever remain our home. This is where a long and complex process of evolution has generated a species that can be aware and relate thoughtfully to its environment, its fellows and God. This is remarkable bearing in mind the lowly origins of life in extremophile single celled organisms over 3 billion years ago.

Some say that the emergence of humans could not have taken place as a result of chance genetic mutation and the adaptation benefits conferred by natural selection, at all, or alone. The "not at all" constituency, commonly called "creationists" reject evolution and some even go as far as to claim that the earth is only a few thousand years old. They cannot see how evolution can accommodate God as Creator. Invariably they have a literalist approach to the interpretation of Scripture and the book of Genesis in particular. The "alone" constituency are less extreme in their views and are commonly known as those who propose a theory of "Intelligent Design." They suggest that for all that evolution teaches about the process of life's journey here, it cannot ALONE account for the complexity and beauty we see all around us. Life as we see it (and this argument can also be used of the Cosmos itself) suggests both design and a Designer (God).

Evolution

Within the Intelligent Design constituency there is a spectrum of views from God positively directing evolution to God giving evolution both a potential and a freedom to generate a willed and desired outcome.  The last view (which this author holds) might seem to be paradoxical in that Creation has complete freedom and yet God still guides the process.  How can that be?

Suppose for a moment that Creation ONLY finds its freedom and fulfilment in God and that without God it is subject rather to bondage and decay, the famous heat death of the Cosmos gloomily predicted by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  This biblical text then finds its true meaning by accommodating evolution, not rejecting it. 

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.  [Romans 8:18-22 NKJV]

(For a wider discussion on the interpretation of the Bible see the Unit on the "Tradition and Scripture.")

Having said all this, there are hints and questions generated by life's emergent complexity but no knock down proofs for a Creator God from design as such. Orthodox Christianity rather presents the Christ Pantocrator, the One who embraces all things and always will do so. To find Him you need to look behind and beyond natural phenomena and experience that embrace.

Key Principle  cg

This section has shown how it is possible (and indeed essential) to be an Orthodox Christian without being antagonistic toward science and scientific theories.  It shows how the insights of modern science can only deepen our appreciation of God the Creator, not threaten that belief at all.  Here is what St. Augustine writing in the 4th Century no less has to say on the matter.

"Even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn."   [Saint Augustine, On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1, Chapter 19]

Key Question  ask

Can I reconcile belief in a Creator with the science of evolution and with what reasoning?

Resources  browse

1. Evolutionary and Geological Timelines by Niel Brandt

2. Orthodoxy and Creationism by Fr. Deacon Andrey Kuraev

3. Orthodoxy, Creationism and Evolution by Fr. Gregory Hallam

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