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132. June 29/July 12, 1973. Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Dear Brother in Christ, Alexey,
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We received Fr. Ephraim’s “Open Letter” today, together with your note. Yes, we found too that he completely missed the point, and all the very nice quotes from the Fathers on the different degrees of knowledge mean nothing when one stops to realize that you are not at all attacking scientific knowledge, but only pseudo-scientific pseudo-religious philosophy masquerading as science, and you are using scientific knowledge not to defend theology but only to destroy the self-contradictory theories of the pseudo-scientists. Are these points really so difficult to understand or impossible to defend?

Unless we are crazy, Fr. Ephraim has gone off somewhere in the clouds and is not at all in contact with what is going on in the world today, intellectually — which is very much of concern to Orthodox Christians who live in this world. Fr. Ephraim, in trying to stand so far “above” the whole question, does not give the impression that he speaks from the heights of the third degree of knowledge (which seems to be what he is trying to hint at?), but rather uses such exalted knowledge for rather rationalistic purposes. We are very disappointed to see such narrowness. And the reply of the mother to the Orthodox “high school youth” (p. 17 — this apparently sums up his “answer” to the whole problem of evolution!) — how naive and spineless! Can Fr. E. really be so unaware of the anti- Christian purposes of such “scientific” education? His reply is an open invitation to the youth to accept whatever the school teaches him — because we poor Orthodox Christians, alas, having such high knowledge, cant “know any better.” I’ll tell you frankly (but don’t quote me!) — this isn’t theology, its hogwash. There’s a real and pressing problem here, and you’ve attacked it honestly, freshly, and well (considering the short space you had); if there are deficiencies or mistakes in what you’ve said, they can be talked about in a friendly manner. But alas, his only aim is to discredit you and put you in your place. This is wrong and sick. Forgive my strong language.

Our first thought was — a reply is pointless. However, if you are writing one, we would be glad to read it for an “objective” (or at least third person) evaluation. However, a point by point answer is really pointless. Despite Fr. E’s avowals, he obviously has no sympathy for you and has no particular desire to find out what you’re trying to say — he already “knows better,” and everything you say will be interpreted in the light of this “knowledge.” Every good point you can make in reply will be “picked on” and torn to pieces so as to prove that you are an unreliable convert and theologically unsound. I don’t think this is deliberate on his part — he just has a preconceived idea and isn’t going to change it.

Unfortunately, the overt Catholic references in the “Shroud article” give Fr. E. all the ammunition he needs to prove you’re still a “Catholic,” and he’ll interpret everything you say in this light. Your chief other weak point on which he capitalizes is the overemphasis (so it seems to us) on science in the “Shroud” article. Apart from these points, we don’t see that he has any legitimate cause for such a hostile and public letter — in fact, in any case there’s no cause for anything more than a friendly and concerned note.

It is rather frustrating to get Kalomiros thrown at one again, — still without knowing what he says about evolution! I strongly suspect that he doesn’t really say anything to which any of us would particularly object and that he doesn’t at all believe in the “evolution” you’re attacking. We get the impression that Fr. E. isn’t aware enough about any kind of evolution to tell the difference, but is only using Kalomiros as a handy weapon against you.

After reading Fr. E’s epistle, we begin to despair about the “Greek wisdom” of our own day, which seems to have all too much in common with the ancient variety! What will happen when they really begin to find out how simple and unconcerned about all those things that excite them we “Russians” are? One basic element seems lacking in all their “wisdom,” one which the Holy Fathers emphasize is essential for genuine Orthodox life: suffering. The “wisdom” born of leisure and idle disputes is not worth having; but the wisdom born of deep suffering (such as God has given above all to the Russians in our day) is alone truly balanced and sound, even if it can not give a glib answer to every mocking question. Let us try to enter more deeply into this suffering, God giving us His grace to do so!

A revealing point: the use of “royal jelly” in a supposedly serious theological article is unpardonable levity. A Russian theologian might occasionally bring home some polemical point with humor — but with a sober humor, not just plain levity.

Already you are somewhat entering into this suffering through being unjustly mocked. May God give you the strength to endure and not fight back with the same weapons, but rather continue to look freshly (and not abstractly) at the real problems facing those today who wish to be Orthodox in a world gone mad.

Any reply you make to Fr. E. should be brief and to the point. He has obviously taken unfair advantage of you in order thoroughly to discredit you, based on the reputation of the monastery as against you, a “nobody.” He is riding on a current of intellectual fashion, and this will pass, and it will not be for the good of the monastery that it has allowed itself to do this and not face the real intellectual problems of the day. Pray to Vladika John for guidance. Know that not everything depends on what some people “think” of you, and also that at the proper time others will speak up for you.

You are welcome to visit us next weekend, or whenever you can come.

With love in Christ our Saviour,

P.S. It would doubtless be best not to tell Fr. Ephraim that you are working on a longer study of evolution — let it come as a complete surprise, or else he will try his best to undermine it before it ever comes out.

It will not be easy to get the point of your longer study on evolution across to people who think like Fr. Ephraim, but with God’s help it can be done. There is something deep and important here — a rather “academic” approach to theology that does not come to grips with the anti-theology of our day.

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