Several days ago, I listened to a discussion of a current movie plot that, opening with the quotation, “I spoke of things that I did not understand; things too wonderful for me, of which I did not know” (Job 42:3), quite suddenly and unexpectedly, “bursts” into an extravagant, multi-sensual evolutional history of earth extending, literally, from a cosmic “bang” forward. The discussion was focused on “unimaginable” complexity that necessarily pointed to an external “cause,” reminiscent of a secularized “riff” of the Second Theological Oration (Oration 28) 1 of St. Gregory Nazianzus, having been transported “into the Mount” (Ex.24:1) to behold:
And them someone said, “But wouldn’t it be cooler if it [the complexity] was all totally random?” I was stunned by the lack of appreciation for the enormity of the implication: our cause, and ultimately our destruction, was chaos. And more importantly, it spoke to our tragic loss of reference, summarized in a six-word phrase invoked repeatedly by the Fathers in referring to the Creation, “as it was in the Beginning”; reflecting the full intention, and the full wish and desire of our God who “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
Having considered all of these ideas, it seems reasonable to conclude that by providing yet another “exposition” of the relationship of temporal, biological science and the theology of the Church invites unnecessary dichotomy out of hand; for some, immediately suggesting the urgency, if not the necessity, of mounting a defense of the eternal from the contemporant. Further, as seemingly endless “positions,” pronouncements, debates, arguments, and rhetorical mayhem – most of greater authority than my own – are available by print and internet, should you wish to explore the issue, I am confident you will find it a simple matter to support or to depreciate the position you will find here. And so, we may begin by asking, what is the position you will find here?
Comments you will read here derive from a belief that medical science is a fundamental unity or a συμφωνία (meaning a unity of “sounds” that result in a single “voice”) of biology (including human genetics), psychology (including the impact of developmental experience and “events”), social (including environmental events) , and spiritual (including one’s faith, morality, integrity, transcendence, and sobriety) dimensions. And so unified, so symphonic is this relationship, that attempts to “explore” or ascertain the correctness of, say, a biological principle, in isolation from the symphonia will necessarily result in error, a likening to the ancient story of the blind men attempting to define an elephant. Therefore, the message of Καὶ ὁ Λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο (John 1:14), is an Orthodox anthropology as defined at the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon, 2
and by analogy, the Eighth Ecumenical Council as well: “for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in it the reality of what is there represented,” such that the manifestation of His humanity, the human body, is essential to our understanding of Orthodox anthropology.
I have read both posture and lengthy refutation of such questions as “What would the Apostles [or the Fathers, or the various and assorted Theologians] say if they were to have had the biomedical information available to us now?” In my mind, it does not necessitate an “in-depth” analysis to conclude, “Absolutely nothing would change, as the contemporaneous words of the Master and Creator were on their lips.” In my mind this is academic exercise that, while inciting abundant consternation, seems to demand a “defense” of things Eternal. I reasonably conclude that, with a correct understanding of human medicine as an inseparable dimension of Orthodox Anthropology, it is startlingly shortsighted to presume emergent scientific findings are somehow in opposition to the Mind of the Church. If we accept the dogmatic conclusion of the Councils and the Fathers, that the Lord “assumed,” σὰρξ ἐγένετο, everything that is our humanity except sin – and I would emphasize that is also refers to his resurrected body, as St. John of Damascus notes,”which was certainly the resurrection of a real body” – then we must accept the bio-molecular composition of his human nature.
With the increase in the number of states legislating marriage and/or “unions” between same-gender couples, the legalization of adoption for same-gender couples, as well as those entities, for example, that provide “marriage-similar” benefits (e.g. health & life insurance) to employees, and the increasing demand for not simply “parity,” but, in effect, “class protection,” the Orthodox Church has remained relatively silent. Some would suggest that this “silence” is reflective of a question, “asked and answered”: the Tradition of the Church – of which is the Scripture, the Councils, and the Fathers – emphatically rejects homosexuality as a corruption of the nature of humanity, “as it was in the beginning.” Further, many suggest that by simply initiating discussion, we have begun a process of a covert, insidious process of “seduction” – I have read the proverb applied, “The camel’s nose is in the tent.” Quite frequently, those “native” members of the Church find themselves inextricably caught in a feedback loop with “convert” members of the Church who point to the collapse of their native churches as a consequence of entering into dialog with “Gay, Inc.”
I must be frank in admitting that I find the repetitious appeal to the internet monolith of “tradition” which has seemingly come to mean “the past,” exceptionally ponderous: 3
Such circumstances have mistakenly led to the quashing of attempts to re-articulate Eternal Truths – for we are servants of Truth, and not its possessors – as if it were “innovation” 4:
The point here has been to emphasize that “modern medicine,” as the structured investigation of the icon of the Lord’s Humanity, is modern only by virtue of its maturity as a field and investigative technology. “What” is being investigated was carried into this fallen, broken world by Adam and Eve. Secondly, the legitimate servants of the Truth are those who know the Truth needs no defense. By nature it is vigorous and dynamic, animated and free, and whose Spirit is life-giving and the Giver of Life, by which we are empowered in this world to seek the world which is to come. And finally, I end these preliminary comments by acknowledging the Truth as respite from fear; for the vigilant, “dialog,” discussion, and the exchange of ideas do not constitute mechanisms to which we willfully and foolishly tempt seduction, but rather afford opportunities to enlighten.
- P. Schaff and H. Wace, eds. “St. Gregory Nazianzus: Oration 28,” iv.Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894. ↩
- P. Schaff and H. Wace, eds. “The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church”, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955, XIV, pp. 244–295. ↩
- Schmemann, A. The Historic Road of Eastern Orthodoxy. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY. 1997. ↩
- Florovsky, G. “Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert.” in Christianity and Culture, P. 23. Norland Publishing Company (June 1974) ↩