This is the 7th and final blog in this series which began with the blog Science and the Church: Are the Facts In?. In this series we considered ideas about truth, evolution and the Church. The blog preceding this one is Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain (II). We looked at the works of two authors commenting especially on evolution. First, Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011. Second we considered the claims of James Le Fanu in his book, Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.
While some believers are very troubled by the science of evolution, obviously others are not. A number of evolutionary scientists are theists and many committed Christians accept the claims of evolutionary science. Evolution is a threat to those who insist on reading Genesis absolutely literal and as if Genesis was written as a modern science textbook.
Many Christians are not limited by literalism and read Genesis as speaking more about what it means to be human than as a history of the first human being. Genesis is about us; it is our story and explains our experience of the material world, including such issues as mortality. Genesis is doctrine in the guise of narrative as St. Gregory of Nyssa said. It can be read as holy story one which reveals the meaning of being human: a meaning which is found in and determined by our Creator. It is a narrative that connects mortal materialistic creation to divinity and eternity.
Le Fanu believes that humans are a most wondrous creature – not that all of creation or all other creatures are not wondrous. Humans however have been endowed by God with certain characteristics which give them a special role in creation, a role with the responsibility of stewardship to God in caring for the planet and the creatures with whom we share this earth. Le Fanu contrasts other creatures with us humans:
“We can imagine things to be different from how they are, and plan for our futures. They cannot. We know our beginnings and our end, and recognising the fact of our mortality, are impelled to seek explanations for our brief sojourn on earth. They do not. We inhabit the spiritual domain centred on the self, the soul, the ‘I’, with its several distinct interconnected parts which, being non-material, and thus not constrained by the material laws governing the workings of the brain, is free to choose one thought over another or one course of action over another. And that inextricable connection between the non-material self and freedom is the defining feature of man’s exceptionality, for we, unlike our primate cousins, are free to forge our own destinies to become that distinct, unique person responsible for our actions of which all human societies are composed, and from which virtually everything we value flows.” (Kindle Loc. 4241-47)
Science, biology, evolution are indeed concerned with the material nature of humans. We are material beings, and to this extent we Christians too are materialists. So is God who becomes incarnate as a man in order to unite all humans to Himself. We are not only material, we are created in the Maker’s image and likeness. We have the breathe/spirit of God enlivening us. We have been endowed by our Creator with intelligence, creativity and procreative abilities which allow us to work together with God as co-creators of the present and the future. We are able to be aware of things greater than our limited self. We have a conscience awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. We can imagine a future. We understand that death is a limitation placed upon us. We believe in God’s power to overcome death. We can aspire to things of God and of eternity, far beyond the limits of material creation. God is able to inspire in us the knowledge of and desire for the divine life.
For a wonderful visual presentation and commentary on the wonders of human development from conception see Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to Birth.
For a link to this blog series as one PDF go to Blog Series (PDF).