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152. March 9/22, 1974. Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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

We have started the new Orthodox Word, so typing on my letter to Kalomiros is just beginning. We just spent four evenings, after evening trapeza, listening to the whole Kalomiros letter and then my reply. I can safely say that the whole Brotherhood was deeply shocked by the doctrine of Kalomiros, and also astonished at the low level both of its science and its theology. My reply was approved.

It is clear, however, that my reply is not the “last word.” To be of general benefit it will have to have additions of those points I didn’t discuss either because Kalomiros doesn’t question them (such as Patristic testimony of the Divine inspiration of Genesis) or because there just wasn’t room (Patristic testimony of the age of the world, etc.). Some points might be cut down too, and Kalomiros’ reply will also give us farther indications of what is most needed.

But more important: your scientific and philosophical chapters are absolutely indispensable. An approach solely from the Holy Fathers will be really convincing to a few people (it remains to be seen if it will be convincing to Kalomiros, who says he wants to give nothing but the teaching of the Holy Fathers!), and it also runs the risk of making us a little ostrich-like, taking refuge in our Fathers and not living in the “real world,” where “science” reigns.

So the objective scientific approach is very necessary — not enough to get bogged down in “scientific proofs” — but just enough to show that the scientific proofs cancel each other out, as it were, leaving the question of evolution in its real sphere of philosophy and theology. What you’ve done on “early Man” is good. You’ll notice that my letter, in contrast to the “objective” tone we’ve urged you to have, comes down rather heavy against evolution with no pretense of “not knowing” what’s what. We’ll have to weigh the whole book and judge just when we should be “objective” and when we should push our point across; I have a feeling that the first chapters should be “objective,” allowing the reader to convince himself more or less, and the last part should indeed be a forceful statement of the Patristic position. This should become clearer as we come to the end.

Your “Christian evolution” section is also essential to show how Christians hitherto have “reconciled” themselves to evolution. The weakness of evolution as science and philosophy will only serve to emphasize the importance of the Patristic view, which is so definite and really powerful.

We’ve received your “Christian evolution” chapters and I’ve started writing some suggestions, but probably won’t [be] finished until I’ve sent the Kalomiros letter. Your chapters are good (and don’t feel timid about suggesting changes in anything I send) and the basic idea is shining through clearer and clearer. The polishing now will be in the direction of giving the maximum “punch” to every section and tying it all together. You’ll see in my letter to Kalomiros how much some of my points depend on basic scientific-philosophical preparation of the reader in earlier chapters. For instance, it will have almost no effect at all to say that the world can’t be “millions of years” old because the Fathers say it is 7500 year old — the “modern” reader is already used to “adjusting” his view on the Fathers when they talk about “science.” But if this is preceded by a good exposition of “radio-carbon” etc., and the whole philosophy of how we view the age of the earth — then the seed of the Patristic teaching, cast into this soil, should bear fruit.

By the way, I begin to see that I myself have been harboring some “modern ideas” on the Six Days of Creation. It’s true that this is not the most important question involved with evolution, but it’s not really a matter of indifference either, but there is a profound Patristic teaching in this, as I indicate in my letter to Kalomiros. But it would be good to have further Patristic testimony on this — so please say if you know of any. We will continue to collect Patristic material for the final version of the book.

Spring seems to be here in earnest, as it almost invariably is just at the time of the Forty Martyrs — in fact, every year since we’ve been here, the first lizards always come out within a few days of this feast; this year they were three days early (the first day our temperature got close to 65 degrees).

The new Orthodox Word will have a shocking Life, which is supposed to inspire!
Pray for us.

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, monk

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