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The Orthodox View of Evolution
Development, not evolution
“Orthodox evolutionism” and the patristic teaching
The patristic teaching on evolution
The state of nature before and after the fall
Science and Divine Revelation
The Nature of Man

The state of nature before and after the fall.
The state of nature before and after the fall

Now I come at last to the two most important questions which are raised by the theory of evolution: the nature of the first-created world, and the nature of the first-created man Adam.

I believe you express correctly the patristic teaching when you say: “The animals became corrupted because of man; the law of the jungle is a consequence of the fall of man.” I also agree with you, as I have already said, that man, on the side of his body, is bound together with and is an organic part of the whole of the visible creation, and this helps make it understandable how the whole creation fell together with him into death and corruption. But you think that this is a proof of evolution, a proof that man’s body evolved from some other creature! Surely if this is the case, the God-inspired Fathers would have known about it, and we would not have had to wait for the atheist philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries to discover this and tell us about it!

No, the holy Father believed that the whole creation fell with Adam, but they did not believe that Adam “evolved” from some other creature; why should I believe differently from the holy Fathers?

Now I come to a very important point. You ask: “How is it that the fall of Adam brought corruption and the law of the jungle to the animals, since animals have been created before Adam? We know that animals died, killed and devoured one another since their first appearance on earth and not only after the appearance of man.” How do you know this? Are you sure that this is what the holy Fathers teach? You explain your point, not by quoting any holy Fathers, but by giving a philosophy of “time.” I certainly agree with you that God is outside of time; to Him everything is present. But this fact is not a proof that animals, who died because of Adam, died before he fell. What do the holy Fathers say?

There is a very significant hint about this in the commentary on Genesis of St. Ephraim the Syrian. When speaking of the “skins” which God made for Adam and Eve after their transgression, St. Ephraim writes: “One may suppose that the first parents, touching their waists with their hands found that they were clothed with garments made of animal skins - killed, it may be, before their very eyes, so that they might eat their meat, cover their nakedness with the skins, an in their very death might see the death of their own body.”

I will discuss below the patristic teaching of the immortality of Adam before his transgression, but here I am only interested in the question of whether animals died before the fall. Why should St. Ephraim suggest that Adam would learn about death by seeing the death of animals - if he had already seen the death of animals before the transgression (which he certainly had according to the evolutionary view)? But this is only a suggestion; there are other holy Fathers who speak quite definitely on this subject, as I will show in a moment.

But first I must ask you: if it is true as you say that animals died and the creation was corrupted before the transgression of Adam, then how can it be that God looked at His creation after every one of the Days of Creation and “saw that it was good,” and after creating the animals on the Fifth and Sixth Days He “saw that they were good,” and at the end of the Six Days, after the creation of man, “God saw all the things that He had made, and behold, they were very good.” How could they be “good” if they were already mortal and corruptible, contrary to God’s plan for them? The Divine services of the Orthodox Church contain many moving passages of lamentations about the “corrupted creation,” as well as expressions of joy that Christ by His Resurrection has “recalled the corrupted creation.” How could God see this lamentable condition of the creation and say that is was “very good”?

And again, we read in the sacred text of Genesis: “And God said, Behold I have given to you every seed-bearing herb sowing seed which is upon all the earth, and every tree which has in itself the fruit of seed that is sown, to you it shall be for food. And to all the wild beasts of the earth, and to all the flying creatures of heaven, and to every reptile creeping on the earth, which has in itself the breath of life, even every green plan for food; and it was so” (Gen. 1:29-30). Why, if the animals devoured each other before the fall, as you say, did God give them, even “all the wild beasts and every reptile” (many of which are now strictly carnivorous) only “green plants for food”? Only long after the transgression of Adam did God say to Noah: “And every reptile which is living shall be to you for meat; I have given all things to you as the green herbs” (Gen. 9:3). Do you not sense here the presence of a mystery which so far has escaped you because you insist on interpreting the sacred text of Genesis by means of modern evolutionary philosophy, which will not admit that animals could ever have been of a nature different from that which they now possess?

But the holy Fathers clearly teach that the animals (as well as man) were different before the transgression of Adam! Thus St. John Chrysostome writes: “It is clear that man in the beginning had complete authority over the animals…. But that now we are afraid and terrified of beasts and do not have authority over them, this I do not deny…. In the beginning it was not so, but the beasts feared and trembled and submitted to their master. But when through disobedience he lost boldness, then also his authority was diminished. That all animals were subject to man, hear what the Scripture says: ‘He brought the beasts and all irrational creatures to Adam to see what he would call them’ (Gen. 2:19). And he, seeing the beasts near him, did not run away, but like another lord he gives names to the slaves which are subject to him, since he gave names to all the animals…. This is already sufficient proof that beasts in the beginning were not frightful for man. But their is another proof not less powerful and even clearer. Which? The conversation of the serpent with the woman. If the beasts had been frightful to man, then seeing the serpent the woman would not have stopped, would not have taken his advice, would not have conversed with him with such fearlessness, but immediately on seeing him would have been terrified and run away. But behold, she converses and is not afraid; there was not yet then any fear” (Homilies on Genesis, IX, 4).

Is in not clear that St. John Chrysostome reads the first part of the text of Genesis “as it is written,” as an historical account of the state of man and creation before the transgression of Adam, when both man and animals were different from what they are now?

Similarly, St. John Damascene tells us that “at that time the earth brought forth of itself for the use of the animals that were subject to man, and there were neither violent rains upon the earth nor wintry storms. But after the fall, ‘when he was compared to senseless beasts and was become like to them’…. Then the creation subject to him rose up against this ruler appointed by the Creator” (On the Orthodox Faith, Book II, ch. 10).

Perhaps you will object that in the same place St. John Damascene also says, speaking of the creation of animals: “Everything was for the suitable use of man. Of the animals, some were for food, such as deer, sheep, gazelles, and the like.” But you must read this passage in context; for at the end of this paragraph we read (just as you have noted that God created man male and female foreknowing Adam’s transgression): “God knew all things before they were made and He saw that man in his freedom would fall and be given over to corruption; yet for man’s suitable use He made all the things that are in the sky and on the earth and in the water.”

Do you not see from the Holy Scriptures and the holy Fathers that God created creatures so that they will be useful to man even in his corrupted state; but He does create them already corrupted, and they were not corrupted until Adam sinned.

But let us turn now to a holy Father who speaks quite explicitly about the incorruption of the creation before Adam’s disobedience: St. Gregory the Sinaite. He is a holy Father of the highest spiritual life and theological soundness, who attained to the heights of the Divine vision. In the Russian Philokalia he writes: “The presently-existing creation was not originally created corruptible; but afterwards it fell under corruption …. He who renewed and sanctified Adam has renewed the creation also, but He has not yet delivered it from corruption.”

Further, the same Father gives us remarkable details about the state of the creation (in particular, Paradise) before Adam’s transgression: “Eden is a place in which there was planted by God every kind of fragrant plant. It is neither completely incorruptible, nor entirely corruptible. Placed between corruption and incorruption, it is always both abundant in fruits and blossoming with flowers, both mature and immature. The mature trees and fruits are converted into fragrant earth which does not give off any odor of corruption, as do the trees of this world. This is from the abundance of the grace of sanctification which is constantly poured for the there.” (This passage is expressed in the present tense - because the paradise in which Adam was placed is still in existence, but is not visible to our normal sense organs.)

The Holy Scripture teaches us that “God made not death” (Wis. 1:13), and St. John Chrysostome teaches that: “Just as the creation became corruptible when your body became corruptible, so also when your body will be incorrupt, the creation also will follow after it and become corresponding to it” (Homilies, XIV, 5). And St. Macarius the Great says: “Adam was placed as the lord and king of all creatures…. But after his captivity, there was taken captive together with him the creation which served him and submitted to him, because through him death came to reign over every soul…” (Homily 11).

The teachings of the holy Fathers, if we accept it “as it is written” and do not try to reinterpret it by means of our human wisdom, is clearly that the state of creatures before the transgression of Adam was quite different from their present state. I an not trying to tell you that I know precisely what this state was; this state between corruption and incorruption is very mysterious to us who live entirely in corruption. Another great Orthodox Father, St. Simeon the New Theologian, teaches that the law of nature we now know is different from the law of nature before Adam’s transgression. He writes: “The words and decrees of God become the law of nature. Therefore also the decree of God, uttered by him as a result of the disobedience of the first Adam - that is, the decree to him of death and corruption - became the law of nature, eternal and unalterable” (Homily 38).

What the “law of nature” was before Adam’s transgression, which of us sinful men can define? Certainly natural science, bound up entirely with its observation of the present state of creation, cannot investigate it.

Then how do we know anything at all about it? Obviously, because God has revealed something of it to us through the Sacred Scripture. But we know also, from the writings of St. Gregory the Sinaite (and other writings which I shall quote below), that God has revealed something besides what is in the Scriptures. And this brings me to another extremely important question raised by evolution.

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