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307. March 7/20, 1981 Meat-fare Saturday

Dear Father Alexey,

Christ is in our midst!

I’ve had a bad cold this week and have kept to my cell, and therefore have had time for a few reflections on our mission, church life, etc.

First of all, I’ve looked at some of the recent Orthodox periodicals—and on the whole, what a dreary collection of texts. There is very little life anywhere, and so much emphasis on externals, bishops, splendid services, etc. The OCA’s Orthodox Church, it is true, talks a lot about mission, stewardship, responsibility, etc., and I began to wonder why I didn’t like it (maybe I’m just prejudiced or jealous?). But then I looked at the latest Orthodox America—and what a difference! Every page has something for the soul, something to learn and be inspired by; but the Orth. Church only talks about things that might be inspiring (if they were genuine), while giving nothing whatever for the soul. It’s like a two-dimensional facade with nothing at all behind it.

Therefore, not to be proud, but to see things the way they are—what you and we all are trying to do is extremely important in the real missionary sense, no matter how little support some may give it.

I say this having also in mind Fr. Panagiotes’ letter. Perhaps it is uncharitable of me, but my first thought on hearing of it was: if they wish to think that way, I would rather have them as enemies than as “friends” who speak well but are ready to stab you in the back. The whole course of the last years’ events with our Greeks has been positive, I think, in that it has brought concealed attitudes to light and removed the sugary “friendship” which is so frustrating. Recently Fr. Isaac wrote from Boston that we send them “too many” Orthodox Words—five is plenty, and they sent back most of the Calendars we sent them. The year before Fr. Ephraim had already said they didn’t need any of our books (although we sent some since then to individual monks), and now they can give us Psalters and Ladders only with 20% discount. The message is clear: They have their view of Orthodoxy and don’t want anything to do with ours.

But they, it is now obvious, are a small minority. Our subscriptions constantly increase, and almost no one has cancelled over our “controversial” articles. (One person in Boston threatened to do so over our seeming “attacks” on Boston, but after my letter did renew.) Most people in the Church who read English publications are either with us or at least are not against us; only a small, narrow group is opposed. We’ll just have to leave this group to itself and speak to everyone else. We have already broken the ice on “forbidden” topics, and should continue to pay no heed to what the Greeks think about the Shroud, evolution, etc. Public opinion in our Church was almost paralyzed for a while by these “forbidden” subjects, but I think if we lead the way the air will be made healthier for everyone.

Thinking about my Genesis course this summer, I was rereading part of Dr. Kalomiros’ letters. How discouraging! One loses all inspiration to get tangled up in this subject, seeing how he handles it. And really, the tone is just like Deacon Lev’s. I wondered why, and Fr. Herman answered me: They’re trying to keep up with the “advanced” fashions of the universities; and I think that’s probably the answer. Especially Kalomiros’ repeated insistence (Deacon Lev says the same thing) over how many have “lost their souls” because of literal interpretations of Genesis—that is, we have to give them Genesis on their level, changing the truth if need be so as not to offend them or give them more than they can chew. But anyone who is really converted to Christianity will surely begin to rethink this whole intellectual outlook, won’t he? Isn’t the real problem that Dr. Kalomiros, Deacon Lev, and others are intellectuals who haven’t been fully converted, or have brought their intellectual baggage with them into Orthodoxy—the same thing they accuse others of? This was the disease of the Russian intellectual converts earlier in this century, and I think our Greeks fall into the same category.

Therefore, I am plowing ahead with Genesis according to the Holy Fathers, realizing that it may cause more waves among the Greeks (and name-calling—but I’m already a “theosophist” and can’t get much worse than that!), especially since it will be “competition” to Dr. Kalomiros’ talk in Pennsylvania.

Speaking of Genesis, I see no reason why this course on Genesis couldn’t be turned into the main portion of our long-lost “evolution” book. The whole outline of it now becomes clear to me. It should be called something positive (no evolution in the title), such as “Genesis, Creation and Early Man: An Orthodox View,” and the first and main part should be simply an Orthodox interpretation (according to St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephraim, etc) of the first chapters of Genesis, discussing “problems” raised by modern men in the course of the discussion. Then, as the secondary thought (less than half the book), a discussion of the whole question of evolution, something like this:

1. Evolution as a scientific theory: the “proofs” of evolution. This would be a brief discussion of everything people think proves evolution—just enough to show that these aren’t really proofs at all, and evolution can neither be proved nor disproved. The chapter you’ve already written should take care of most of this already, perhaps even shortened to make our contact with the scientific side of the question as brief as possible, since this is the most debatable part of it.

2. Evolution as popular science—basically your chapter on “Early Man” to show how textbooks fill in the “gaps” of scientific knowledge and present a picture much more solid than any facts warrant. Eugene Zavarin will be satisfied to see we aren’t using a highschool textbook as a scientific treatise, but only showing how evolution filters down to this level.

3. Evolution as mythology and cosmic speculation, —some remarks on Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” television series and book. I add this here because one of our subscribers just sent a dipping about this, which seems to be much in the air now, and it seems typical of the way evolution is preached today as dogma and almost religion. What do yo think of this? Are you familiar with this series?

4. Where did the idea of evolution come from?—to explain how it got in the air. I’ve written about half of this already.

5. “Christian” evolution and T. de Chardin—your article. (Or maybe ch.s 4 and 5 should be reversed.)

6. The new reaction against evolution: towards a Christian-inspired scientific approach to origins, with citations from the Creationist literature.

I think this basically takes in the work we’ve done over the past eight years. If we can carry it through, it should be a pioneering work which will make this question at least discussable among Orthodox Christians, many of whom are concerned but just don’t know where to begin to think it through. What do you think? Any ideas or discussions? I will be working on the whole first part for the summer course, and maybe you and I could look over and organize the rest of it sometime this summer. Then it will be timely to print it, especially since the subject will be somewhat in the air with my and Kalomiros’ talks.

Rereading Kalomiros’ letters, I see that there is something quite basic at stake in our differences with the Greeks. In this particular case, it is obvious that Kalomiros has no intention whatever to humble himself before the mind of the Fathers. He “knows better” than they, and therefore he easily categorizes as “absurd” opinions which they held because he himself has thought it out better, with the aid of modern science. In this case he is broader than the Fathers; in most cases, perhaps, our Greeks are narrower—but it is their own wisdom that they trust and which they wish to impose on others. Our key is—sticking to the wisdom of the Church, trusting our own Fathers and the Holy Fathers who lived before. People are ready to hear this.

Please pray for Catechumen Genevieve (Timothy Shell’s Mimi), whom, God willing, we will baptize this Pascha, and Catechumen Andrew (Robert Kencis), who will probably be baptized sooner. Before Lent begins, please forgive me and us all for our sins against you in thought, word, and deed. May God forgive and have mercy on us all, and grant us all a profitable Lent!

With love in Christ,
Unworthy Hieromonk Seraphim

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