Q. I recently saw a video where a priest said that evolution and creation is irrelevant in Orthodoxy. He says it isn't consequential. Is this right?
A. I suppose we have to define consequential to decide whether it is right or not. On some very macro scale where the ultimate and only weight is one's salvation, I suppose you could argue that erring in understanding the creation account in its own right probably won't bar one from salvation. If that's your definition of consequential, maybe you can argue that.
If you stop there, though, I think that means you are going to get a whole lot of things wrong about creation and how we understand it and understand our relationship to God. In that sense, I think it is quite consequential. Put aside the issue of whether accepting Darwinian evolution means that Christ shares his nature with an ape and get even more basic. Why did God create? Out of his love, so that other beings, glorifying Him, might share in His goodness.[i] That requires rational creatures, not randomness. One literally has to abandon the understanding of why there is a creation to accept our chance presence via evolution. By accepting evolution, we are no longer a product of a good and loving God who wishes us to be partakers in the Divine Nature, but just lucky accidents born of cosmic chance.
I think in today’s culture, we’ve made such an idol of
science, that there is a reticence to confront how current scientific belief
stacks up against the fundamental understandings of the Church. And there are times when literal and
figurative meanings can be used to find compatible understandings of conflicts
between science and the Church or the fathers.
Geocentrism is a good example of this.
Modern science holds to a heliocentric model, while the fathers were geocentric
in their cosmology. One can reconcile
this to some extent by holding that regardless of how objects in the universe
move in relationship one to the other, from a theological standpoint, we must
understand the cosmos geocentrically, as this earth is the focal point of God’s
creation and care. Regardless of what
orbits where, the theological center of the universe is right here on earth.
I don’t think you can so neatly reconcile evolutionist beliefs and the Church’s understanding of creation. Rejecting a deliberate creation for random evolution fundamentally alters the relationship between man and God. In that sense, I can’t agree that it is either irrelevant or inconsequential.
[i] St. Philaret of Moscow, The Longer Catechism of Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church.