Evolution is the popular name for a set of scientific theories which aim to explain the apparent similarity of different species and the appearance of complex species later in the fossil record. In short, evolution means that all life on earth shares a common ancestry which can traced back to a single species. Orthodox Christians have divergent views on how to react to this development in science.
In general Orthodox responses can be grouped into two large categories, which we might label Compatibilism and Incompatibilism.
Compatibilists hold that science and theology are compatible and view them as complementary revelations of God. As God is the source of both his specific revelation of himself in the Christian faith and the source of the general revelation of himself in nature, the findings of science and theology cannot really contradict; the contradictions must be merely apparent and a resolution possible which is faithful to the truth of God's revelation.
Incompatibilists hold that science can be incompatible with faith. They usually argue either that science is philosophically based on a kind of naturalism or that God's specific revelation is infallible and therefore trumps the findings of human reason in the case of any conflict between them. This is often based on a suspicion of human reason to arrive at reliable conclusions in the first place.
The development of modern science dates to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so no ecumenical council has ever addressed how to integrate it with divine revelation in a coherent and consistent worldview. As a result, there is not a dogmatic treatment examining how to resolve conflicts, whether apparent or real, when scientific findings appear to contradict divine revelation. Many early fathers were happy to use the primitive science of their day to divine purposes, perhaps suggesting to modern Christians a compatibilist resolution to the question. Other fathers, however, clearly see conflicts and contradictions which they resolve in favor of their understanding of Christian revelation.
Fathers of the Church
- Basil the Great. Hexæmeron. NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works .
- John Chrysostom. Homilies on Genesis 1-17. The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Patristic series), Vol. 74. Transl. Robert C. Hill. Catholic University of America Press, 1986. 246pp. ISBN 9780813209722
- John Chrysostom. Homilies on Genesis 18-45. The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Patristic series), Vol. 82. Transl. Robert C. Hill. Catholic University of America Press, 1990. 288pp. ISBN 9780813210872
- John Chrysostom. Homilies on Genesis 46-67. The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Patristic series), Vol. 87. Transl. Robert C. Hill. Catholic University of America Press, 1992. 288pp. ISBN 9780813214962
- Bouteneff, Peter, Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives. Baker Academic, 2008. Provides Scriptural and patristic background for discussions of the doctrine of creation. Bouteneff is Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. Andrew Louth writes: "Bouteneff presents a carefully researched and scholarly reading of early Christian readings of the creation account in Genesis. What emerges is a range of interlocking insights into God's creative purpose and the human place in the cosmos. Genesis 1–3 is seen as neither a myth nor an outdated scientific account, but a poem of creation, yielding deeper meanings upon closer ponderings. Bouteneff unveils the often surprising riches of our patristic inheritance witha rare intelligence and passion." ISBN 0801032332
- Farley, Fr Lawrence, In the Beginning: The True Message of the Genesis Origin Stories. Ancient Faith Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781944967390. Compatibilist
- Reardon, Fr. Patrick Henry, Creation and the Patriarchal Histories: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Genesis. Conciliar Press, 2008. ISBN 9781888212969
- — According to the review by Fr. Hans Jacobse, editor of OrthodoxyToday.org, the author writes that the structures of philosophical materialism (evolutionary theory and its flip-side, scientific creationism), both miss the point; that Genesis reveals that the creation is logo-centric -- it was created by the Word of God, and it is held together by the Word of God's power. The word of Scripture, then, is primarily a literary text, not history (itself a narrative) or a scientific tract.
- Rose, Fr Seraphim, Genesis, Creation, and Early Man — Contains a detailed examination of Patristic cosmology and anthropology as contrasted to the theory of evolution. Incompatibilist
- Woloschak, Gayle, Beauty and Unity in Creation: The evolution of life. (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1996) — Primer on the relationship between evolutionary biology and Orthodoxy by a scientist. ISBN 1880971275 Compatibilist
- Vlachos, Hierotheos, "Orthodox Theology and Science" From the Greek Orthodox Theological Review. Brookline: Spring 1999. Vol. 44, Iss. 1-4; pg. 131, 19 pgs. A useful introduction to the broader relationship between science and Orthodox Christianity.
- Jean-Claude, Larchet, "Patristic Views on the Nature and Status of Scientific Knowledge". An examination of the Patristic understanding of the superiority of spiritual knowledge for understanding the world, with special reference to Clement of Alexandria, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Isaac the Syrian, and St. Gregory Palamas.
- Boojamra, Dr. John, "The Orthodox Idea of Creation" The Word, June 1999, pp.31-34 An overview of Orthodox cosmology, intended for teachers and youth leaders as a background for discussion of various educational segments related to creation. Concise and useful for a general understanding of Orthodox cosmology.
- Breck, Archpriest John V. "Ex Nihilo" Life in Christ, February 2008 #1.
- Freeman, Fr Stephen, "Evolution, Creation, and the Hidden Cause", "Creation and Evolution", and "The Contradictions of Scripture".
- Fritts, Kevin Basil, "On the Dogma of Creation" The author is a contributor to this OrthodoxWiki article.
- Hallam, Fr. Gregory, "Orthodoxy and Creationism"
- Hopko, Fr. Thomas, "Darwin and Christianity" A series of 17 lectures on Darwin and Christianity which touches on evolution and Orthodoxy. Transcripts are available for only some of the lectures.
- Kalomiros, Dr. Alexandre, "The Six Dawns"
- Kharmov, Alexander, "Fitting Evolution into Christian Belief: An Eastern Orthodox Approach" International Journal of Orthodox Theology 8:1 (2017), pp. 71-105.
- Kuraev, Fr. Deacon Andrey, "Can an Orthodox Become an Evolutionist?"; "Orthodoxy and Creationism"
- Maletis, John P., "Let There Be Light: An Orthodox Christian Theory of Human Evolution for the 21st Century". Theandros Vol. 5 No. 3.
- McDowell, Maria Gwyn, "The 'Monopoly of Darwinism': An open letter to Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev"
- Metallinos, V. Rev. Prof. Dr. George, "Faith and Science in Orthodox Gnosiology and Methodology" Very briefly mentions evolution, but overall states the traditional Orthodox position of separation between divine and earthly knowledge.
- Mileant, Bishop Alexander of Buenos Aires and South America (ROCOR). The Origins of the World and Mankind: An Attempt to Reconcile the Biblical Account with Scientific Discoveries. Transl. by Karyn and Michael Grigoriev. Ed. by Natalia Semyanko. Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission, La Canada, California, 2004.
- Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki, "An Orthodox Bishop Answers Four Questions on Science and the Theory of Evolution" From the book Αν υπάρχει ζωή, θέλω να ζήσω (If Life Exists, I Want To Live). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
- Nicozisin, Fr. George, "Creationism versus Evolution"
- Smith, Allyne, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Edward Hughes, and J. Henry, "Orthodoxy", in The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition (2000): 268-273.
- Theokritoff, George, with Elizabeth Theokritoff, "Genesis and Creation: Towards a debate" (PDF) — Review of Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision, in St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, Volume 46, Number 2 (2002). George Theokritoff is a paleontologist and Elizabeth is a theological scholar, author and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology (ISBN 0521683388).
- Ware, Metropolitan Kallistos, "Orthodoxy and Evolution", video: answer to a question asked in a lecture on "Salvation in Christ" at Seattle Pacific University. The question on faith and science and evolutionary theory comes at the end, at the 1:29:30 mark.
- Bensusan, Ephrem Hugh, "Orthodox Christianity and the Post-Christian Intelligentsia: A Response to Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo): Part 1" Bensusan deals with the Archbishop's acceptance of evolution.
- Bufeev, S. V, "Why an Orthodox Christian cannot be an evolutionist"
- Christensen, Fr. Damascene, "Interview with Fr. Damascene" Hieromonk Damascene speaks about creation with reference to patristic literature.
- Dominick, Jesse "A Patristic Perspective on a Crucified Mind: Fr. Seraphim Rose and the Doctrine of Creation", A St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary M. Div. thesis in which is discussed the theological and spiritual method of obedience of Fr. Seraphim Rose, as especially exemplified in his posthumous work "Genesis, Creation, and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision." The author is a contributor to this OrthodoxWiki article.
- Dominick, Jesse Orthodoxy and Creationism, a compilation of Patristic and modern quotes about evolution and Genesis; Genesis, Creation, and Early Man, George and Elizabeth Theokritoff's review, linked above, with the blogger's critical comments interpolated in bold; The Entire Creation was Created Incorrupt, a compilation of patristic quotes; Adam and Eve were literally the first people and were created uniquely from all other creatures and subsequent people, a compilation of patristic quotes; No Plant Death Before the Fall, a compilation of Patristic quotes about the state of plants in Paradise. The author is a contributor to this OrthodoxWiki article.
- Gascoigne, Fr. Serafim "Evolution" A New Fundamentalism" from OrthodoxNorth.net
- Moss, Vladimir "Twelve Lectures on the Nature of Man" Chapter 11 of this work, entitled "Created Soul or Evolving Body?" confronts the issue of evolution from a Patristic framework.
- Orthodox Way of Life blog Is Man Responsible for the Condition of the Environment? Although this post does not directly address the question of evolution, it does present a thoroughly literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account.
- Rose, Fr. Seraphim, "Genesis, Creation and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision", several chapters from Fr. Seraphim's book on creation; "Genesis and Early Man: The Orthodox patristic understanding", a letter to Dr. Alexandre Kalomiros.
- Voino-Yasenetsky, St Luke, "Science and Religion" In a fuller version of this work he writes: "Darwinism, which declares that man, by means of evolution, has developed from the lower species of animals, and is not a product of the creative act of the Godhead, has turned out to be merely a supposition, a hypothesis, which has become obsolete even for science. This hypothesis has been acknowledged as contradictory not only to the Bible, but to nature itself, which jealously strives to preserve the purity of each species, and knows of no transition even from a sparrow to a swallow. There are no known facts of a transition of an ape into a man." "Nakuya i religiya" (Science and Religion), Troitskoye slovo (Trinity Word), 2001, pp. 41-42, as quoted in Fr. Seraphim Rose, "Genesis, Creation, and Early Man" (2011), p. 809.
- Byzantine Creation Era Concerning the Church's dating of the world, calculated from Old Testament texts.
- Shestodnev. Shestodnev Orthodox Mission Center in Russia dedicated to defending creationism against evolution by reference to patristic texts.
- REUTERS. Russia Church wants end to Darwin school "monopoly". Wed Jun 9, 2010.
- "Religion and Science" Is Not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution and Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism is Not Enough by Jonathan Hayward. In both articles, the direction of the argument is neither compatibilist nor incompatibilist, but points in a direction not suggested by a compatibilist-incompatibilist axis.
- Pontifical Gregorian University. International Conference on "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories": A critical appraisal 150 years after "The Origin of Species". Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 3-7 March 2009.
- "BioLogos.org" BioLogos is a Christian advocacy group dedicated to inviting the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.