Wednesday, 24 September 2014
Genesis - Its Creation Account; Purpose and Meaning
Genesis was written, not to answer the question of how this great world came into being, but rather to answer 'Who is the Creator and God, sovereign over the whole world?' The main point of Genesis is to highlight that the One God is the Creator, and is sovereign over the whole universe. The well known creation story functions as a backdrop to this message. It is important to remember that this divinely inspired book of the Old Testament was written in a pagan context - and its message had to emphasise that there is One All-powerful God, Who created and continues to create and work in bringing all things, both visible and invisible, into being out of nothing. Of course the creation account is important, however it is crucial that we are familiar with the overall purpose and meaning of Genesis in its context.
The book of Genesis does not narrate the history of mankind. If it was to do so, the text would not jump chronologically from the creation account to the calling of Abraham and God's covenant with him. In the first eleven chapters, we see Yahweh creating, judging, and saving the world. This is indeed the God of Israel (and of all nations) - continuing to bless and work through His people, and His creation, as the source of goodness and life.
Is the Science of Evolution compatible with the Church' view of Creation?
The Church, with its Holy Scriptures, affirms that God is indeed the Creator of all things, and He is continuously actively engaged with this creation, as His will is to restore us all to full communion with Him through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is not an ideology or theory - but Theology that we experience in our spiritual lives within Christ's Body ( The Church )
There is no conflict whatsoever between the Church' understanding of Creation, and Scientific knowledge and fact. Why? Science increases our knowledge and understanding of this world - which is a gift freely bestowed by the God of Love. Of course when a theory, such as darwinism, promotes the idea that this world exists and works without a Creator, the Church will emphatically disagree with such claims. A theory that intentionally illuminates the active participation of the grace and goodness of God, is understandably contradictory - however the most common understanding of evolution has nothing to do with why we exist - but how. Theology is a completely different matter - concentrating on the inner man, and his relationship with the Source of life and love ( the uncreated Creator ). Our Lord and Creator could well have guided a process of evolution - we should leave these matters to the great field of science, that should be cherished and supported.
Does this mean that the Orthodox Church does not believe in Biblical inerrancy?
'Genesis is divinely inspired and infallible, not because it is historically or scientifically accurate, but theologically true.' ( Fr Vassilios Papavassiliou ) God is speaking to us through the people and context of Genesis - and therefore it is not about time periods, facts and figures, but about the everlasting truth that is conveyed, in the idiom of ancient Hebrew cosmology.
St Basil, in the fourth century, wrote 'On the Six Days of Creation' - and comfortably used the scientific information and philosophical terminology of his day; highlighting that there should be no contradiction between our present scientific knowledge, and spiritual and theological truths. Perhaps more importantly, it tells us that the theological truths are eternal, and do not change along side scientific findings or changing societies.
To conclude, the only way that the Church will reject a scientific theory, is if it intentionally tries to cancel out any need for God - and illuminates the fact that He Has created, and continues to create, work through, and guide His wonderful Creation - in order for every human person to attain a full, loving, eternal communion with Christ.