The Questions of Serbian Orthodox Variety

Welcome to the conversation @Djordje. Tell us about your self? What brings you here?

Not much to say really. I’m just a 22 year old guy from Serbia and I’ve kind of observed this forum for a couple of weeks now, since I’ve stumbled upon it from Biologos. I don’t really have any background in science (my interests are mainly literature, history,ethics etc.) but, since I am a Christian myself (although a fairly liberal one) I was interested how some of the scientists who are Christian reconciled their faith and their science (not only because of Genesis, Genesis and Original Sin don’t really play a huge role in Eastern Orthodox church, we’re much more focused on ‘living in Christ’) because I’ve heard many times about how science disproved God or how science and faith are completely incompatible (a misconception that was most certainly cleared), but now I’m just hooked, so to speak, onthis and thought I might join the conversation here and there.

Mind you, as I said, I don’t know much about natural sciences so I won’t interfere much there unless I have some questions but I’ll probably post regularily on theological threads (even though I’m not a theolog myself) and threads like this one.

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Very interesting. We are glad to have you here.

What made that most clear for you?

@jongarvey argues this is a recent development. What are your thoughts on this? I’m also curious what @Mark would say (eastern orthodox too): http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2012/05/17/irenaeus-and-others-on-original-sin/


Tell us more about how Serbians think about origins, theology, and science. What sort of questions do they bring to the table?

Well, as I said, I was lurking around Biologos and your forum and there were many theological questions and answers both here and on Biologos that dispelled that, in my opinion, misconseption. I honestly couldn’t give you only one reason.

Well,from where I’m from (southern part of Serbia, close to Kosovo) we don’t really talk about it much, so I couldn’t really tell you much. However what I can tell you is that in one of my theology classes in basic school (we have basic school from age 7 to 14, middle school from 14 to 18 and either higher school that lasts two years or college which lasts 4 years for a basic degree) our teacher told us that we don’t know whether the Old Testamen’s days meant human days or not (that’s the similar argument that was made by a certain Rabbi who claimed that sixth day from the universe’s point of view would be exactly the time when humanity emerged, don’t know how accurate that is but it seems to be accurate enough to be one of the factors to convert Anthony Flew to deism) so that’s pretty much all I know about the church’s attitude towards that.

Honestly, until fairly recently I wasn’t all that interested about theology myself, because, even though I always believed in God I wasn’t all that interested in the religious aspect of it.

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No, I don’t think it’s a recent development, though at times, differences can be exagerated. We inheret death, sinful inclinations, and are never born into perfection, so there is something we need baptized into immediately, but we definitely don’t inherit guilt. Peter Bouteneff’s book “Beginnings” discusses this more. I have not read @jongarvey 's post closely though, and to be honest, am not that familiar with Irenaeus, although John Behr would be the EO scholar to go to on Irenaeus.

Oh, there’s no question about the inherent guilt pretty much never being part of Orthodox theology (I don’t think Catholic church supports that view either, it’s mainly a protestant thing). I think what @swamidass wanted to ask was whether the Original Sin as a historical event was never that much part of our theology or if it was just recently that we pretty much put it on the backburn.

But yes, if you don’t support the view that original sin means inherent guilt and “total depravity” it’s historicity is not as important as if you do support it.

Ah! Awesome. Looking forward to talking about this later but I have to get ready for work. And @swamidass I should have something to email back to you soon (hopefully today or tomorrow).

I’m not sure if Orthodoxy has ever gotten away from the idea of a fall as an “event.” I mostly agree with James K.A. Smith on this point (see the book Evolution and The Fall). By event, I mean that humans didn’t start out in the state we are now in. Had we not sinned, I agree with J. Richard Middleton that somehow, God would have somehow made the first humans’ flourishing (and the flourishing of all creation) permanent.

As far as Orthodox theologians believing in a literal Adam, this seems to be something that the Orthodox had never seriously questioned till the onset of modern historical criticism or modern science. However! It seems the only reason that Origen accepted Adam as a historic human being was because of the genealogies. Same with Nazianzus. But if we take the spirit of the hermeneutical method first laid out by Origen, and then used by Nyssa, Nazianzen, Dionysius, and Maximus, given what we know now, there seems to be no reason to insist on a literal Adam and Eve. Both Nyssa, and Maximus (not to mention Origen, of course) rejected certain straightforward historical accounts in the Old Testament because these stories contradicted either reason or the ethic we find in the crucified Messiah. They saw these stories as “stumbling blocks” inserted by the Holy Spirit to point the reader (only a reader grounded in prayer) to a higher mystical meaning. We would only need to extend Origen and Naziazen’s spiritual interpretation of paradise to the figures IN that paradise as well. Neither Nazianzen or Origen took the paradise narrative to actually be about a garden with fruit it in. And as far as I can tell, neither did Athanasius or Maximus.

Given that most scholars put the genre of Genesis 1-11 as myth, and there are plenty of strange difficulties that arise trying to fit Adam into an evolutionary scenario (just listen to William Lane Craig’s second to last Reasonable Faith podcast), I see no reason to see Adam and Eve as pointing to higher spiritual realities without being literal people just like Gregory of Nazianzus thought that the figure of the trees in paradise pointed to higher spiritual realities without being literal trees bearing literal fruit.

If someone really wants all the references for all the patristic citations I just made, it could take me some time, but I could find them.

As far as what to do with what Paul does with Adam, I would use the “spirit of the Fathers” to deal with that as well, but that’s a different issue.

All that being said, I see no problem with seeing the figures of Adam and Eve representing the fact that humans weren’t created IN SIN. In short, evil “came in” from the outside and is not intrinsic to God’s creation of human beings. As Pope Benedict so beautifully puts it, “evil does not come from the source of being itself, it is not equally primal. Evil comes from a freedom created, from a freedom abused.”

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Did you guys read the article?

@jongarvey talks about how original sin in an orthodox context focuses less on guilt, and more on corruption. There is still a concept of original sin.

What you are all writing here is consistent with this.

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No, I haven’t. Yes, I would say we have a notion of original sin. And @Djordje is right, the modern Catholic understanding (and I mean CURRENT) and the Orthodox understanding are pretty similar. Though we’d still have to work out our differences on what they mean by “immaculate conception.”

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By the way, I’m only speaking for myself and maybe a third? of my seminary regarding the historical Adam. The other 2/3rds would be a mix between hardcore young earthers (followers of Fr Seraphim Rose) and people who simply insist on a literal Adam. And I believe @swamidass’s work can be helpful to that second group of people.

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I have to say, this is how I see it too. For example, the genocide in Canaan is eye for an eye reincarnated and Jesus has said:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

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As for Adam and Eve, I’m an agnostic in that regard, they could have been real people but their existence is not necessary for my faith.

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Bombastic and simplistic (esp. With East/West differences), this nevertheless it still represents the essence of what I think both of us are saying.

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Just started reading, so far so good.

I especially liked:

The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is the proper beginning point for all Christian theology.

I’ll let you know when I’m done.

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@Djordje and @Mark thank you for sharing the Orthodox point of view. I found them to be interesting and eye-opening.

As a Catholic I hope that one day the East and the West can be reconciled. Do you know that the closest supernova explosion in human civilization is SN 1054 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1054)? This was a massive star that exploded and was seen in 1054, the year of the East-West schism. For 23 days during the month of July, the very same month as when Cardinal Humbertus and Michael Cerularius decree each other excommunicated, this stellar explosion can be seen even during daylight.

I found this coincidence hilarious, as it seems that even the cosmos frowned upon the split.

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From what I’ve gathered, I might have to read again to understand it a little better but if I got it right, then what he’s saying that the central and most important part of Christianity should be Jesus’ birth, life, death and ressurection. If that’s the case, then I’m in complete agreement with him. Adam, Noah and his ark, even Moses, you can somehow prove to me that none of them existed and I would still be a Christian, because my faith lies with Christ not with one of those guys. In my opinion you could throw away the entirety of the Old Testament (not saying that we should) and I will still believe in Christ, his birth, life, death and ressurection.

I think that’s where me and Dr. Swamidass will agree that our faith lies primarily and centrally in Jesus. Not in Genesis, nor in the Flood.

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I also honestly hope, as well, that one day our differences would finally be reconciled.

And I have to say, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a huge fan of Pope Francis, he seems like a genuinely good and humble man. He kind of reminds me of our (Serbian) late Patriarch Pavle (anglicanized Paul) who didn’t wish to own a limo (even though most of church higher ups had one) until every Serbian family in Serbia and Kosovo had a car of their own.

Huh, quite a coincidence… or was it?

Food for thought.

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I still don’t know about Francis. I think he is not strong enough in his stance and action in the current sexual abuse crisis.

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There, I can agree. He did start something a couple of years ago when he created that cometee and proclaimed that everyone (priest and bishop alike) who participated or covered up sexual abuse would be held accountable (whatever that means) but nothing seems to have come out of it.

However I’m still not certain how much it was Francis’ fault and how much it was that some of those priests and bishops are so good at covering their tracks (now that’s a real nightmare fuel) but the Pope should certainly start taking much stronger actions against those “peope” I think they’ve ruined more than enough lives (it should be noted that I consider one ruined life more than enough). I’m just not sure how much he actually CAN do, I know you might not like hearing this but corruption runs deep there. This problem, unfortunately, won’t just go away overnight.

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