Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Contents: The harmony of the two revelations. God and the world. Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The book of Genesis. The biblical story of the creation. The cause and consequences of the atheism. The good and the evil. Providence of God. Belief in the Holy Trinity. Overcoming of idleness and gloom. The 9th of Av.
The Lord reveals Himself to people in two ways: through immediate spiritual enlightenment of the human soul, and through the nature, of which the entire order is the witnesses of wisdom, goodness and omnipotence of the Creator. Both the interior and exterior revelations have one Source, and their contents must supplement one another and cannot be contradictory under any circumstances. It should be therefore accepted that genuine science, based on the facts of study of the nature, and the Holy Scriptures, this written witness of the enlightenment of spirit, must be in full concord regarding each and every issue related to knowing God and His acts. Throughout the length of the history, sharp conflicts have occurred between people of science and people of religion (mostly Roman Catholic); however, a thorough investigation into the causes of their controversies would explain that they arose out of pure misunderstanding. The case is that religion and science have their own goals and methods, and, while their elements can come into partial contact in certain principal areas, they cannot tally up in full.
Conflicts of science and religion occur when, for example, certain scientists express voluntary and unreasonable opinions about God, the Original Cause of the world and life, the utter aim of existence of man etc. These opinions of scientists have no scientific facts supporting them; they are constructed from superficial and hasty generalizations which have nothing to do with science. In a like manner, conflicts of science and religion occur when clerics wish to derive the laws of nature from their own apprehensions of religious principles. For example, the Roman Inquisition accused Galileo’s teaching about the revolution of the Earth around the Sun. The Inquisition opined that, as God created everything for the sake of man, then the Earth should be placed in the center of the Universe, and everything else should be rotating around it. This was an absolutely voluntary conclusion, not based on the Bible, because being in the focus of God’s care has nothing to do with the geometrical center of the physical world (which can possibly be inexistent). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries atheists were ironical about the Biblical narration on the creation of light before anything else. They were ridiculing the believers, saying, “Where could the light come from if the source of light, the Sun, had not existed!” But today’s science has advanced far from this childish, naive notion of the light. Now physics knows that light and matter are two different states of energy, able to exist and translate into each other, irrespective of stellar luminaries. Fortunately, such conflicts of science and religion disappear when a deeper study of the issue supersedes the zeal of disputation.
Far from all people are able to achieve a stable balance of faith and reason. Some blindly believe in human intellect, and are ready to agree with any theory, even the most newly-invented and unproven, e.g. the theory about the origins of the universe and life on the Earth irrespective of what is said in the Holy Scripture. Others suspect scientists of crookedness and mischievousness, and are reluctant to learn about the positive scientific discoveries in the fields of paleontology, biology and anthropology, because they are afraid to weaken their faith in the truth of the Holy Scripture.
However, there will never be any serious conflict between our faith and reason, if we adhere to the following: Both the Holy Scripture and nature are true witnesses of God and His acts, and they confirm each other.
Man is a limited creature, unable to comprehend fully the mysteries of nature, and the depths of the truth in the Holy Scripture. What seems to be controversial now may receive explanation when man becomes able to understand better what nature and the Word of God communicate to him.
One also needs to be able to distinguish precise scientific facts from suggestions and opinions of learned people. Facts will remain facts, but scientific theories built upon them often change radically after new data become known. In a similar manner, one must be able to tell the difference between a direct witness of the Holy Scriptures from its interpretations. People comprehend the Holy Scripture by the measure of their spiritual and intellectual development, and the baggage of their knowledge. That is why we cannot demand from interpreters of the Holy Scripture perfect infallibility in the areas related to religion and science at the same time.
In the Holy Scripture, only the two first chapters of the Book of Genesis were dedicated to the creation of the world and humans on the earth. It is noteworthy that no other writing in the world’s literature was read with greater interest than this God-inspired book. On the other hand, no other book has met such brutal and undeserved criticism as the book of Genesis. Therefore, in a series of articles we wish to speak for the defense of this holy book, and particularly of the contents of its first chapters. These articles will cover the following topics: God’s inspiration of the Holy Scripture, the author and circumstances of writing of the Book of Genesis, the days of Creation, man as a representative of the two worlds, properties of soul of primeval man, religion of the first people, causes of atheism, etc.
Neither individual, nor common human intelligence can embrace in full the mysteries of existence, but it takes the divine wisdom in homeopathic doses in the course of gradual development and refinement, and learns by trial and error. This true and vivid thought of Hegoumenos Gennady Eikalovitch is strongly confirmed by the discoveries of science in the 20th century, which we wish to discuss here.
Until the beginning of this century, scientists in general and astronomers in particular believed in infiniteness of the universe in time and space. They admitted that some parts of the universe could change (e.g. development of stellar systems), but considered the elementary particles, which constitute matter, and the laws of physics as eternal.
This naive conception about the steady-state ‘eternity’ of the universe was rejected in the first half of the 20th century. In 1913 astronomer V.I. Slipher, in performing spectral observation of galaxies through a powerful telescope, found that all galaxies, irrespective of the direction of observation, moved away from our solar system at high speed. He also noted that this speed was proportional to the distance. In a word, Slipher found that our universe expands, or inflates as a giant balloon. We need to mention here, that galaxies are defined as multi-billion-star systems, revolving around galaxy centers by the effect of the binding gravitational field. For example, our solar system is located at the edge of a medium-size galaxy called the Milky Way. Closest to us is a galaxy called Andromeda at a distance of more than 2 million light years. The entire universe consists of billions of galaxies of various sizes and shapes.
Slipher’s discovery of expanding universe shook the world of scientists. The staggering consequences of this discovery for the traditional science became obvious to everyone. If the world is expanding, then at some moment in the past it was condensed in one point, and therefore it is not eternal and not infinite. What force set this point to motion that transformed it into this colossal universe? Many observatories around the world immediately repeated spectral observations of distant galaxies. Slipher’s conclusion was confirmed: the universe is expanding at an incredible speed. The furthest spots of the universe fly away from us at about the speed of light. Finally, it was calculated that our universe came into existence approximately 15 billion years ago, when a microscopic point blew out forcefully, emitting radiation in all directions. The opinion of modern scientists is that neither matter, nor time, nor space existed before this explosion. While cooling down, the primary radiation began to concentrate into atoms; the powers of nature, which subsequently became the laws of physics, appeared at the same time. Later atoms started to cluster into gas clouds; the gas clouds condensed into stars and stellar systems. This is the origin of the universe in a couple of words. The term for it is ‘the Big Bang.’ Is not this ‘bang’ described in the Bible when it tells us: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
Now it would be interesting to mention the sharp scientific disputes ignited by Slipher’s discovery. Many scientists tried to save the former theory of stability of the universe so earnestly as if they were defending an unchangeable dogma. This dispute exposed the inherent human prejudice and non-objectivity, which scientists have not less than religious fanatics. There were attempts to refute the arguments of Slipher and his adherents. But it was hard to cope with facts, because facts are stubborn. Even Einstein, a prominent scientists and founder of contemporary physics, who openly admitted the existence of God, disagreed with this new discovery about the origin of the universe for 17 years. Once he even said, “It (the expansion of the universe) irritates me... It seems senseless to accept this possibility.” Note the emotionalism of these words, so unsuitable for a scientific discussion! Later, mathematician A. Friedman and scientist G. Lemetres proved it to him that the solution concerning the expansion of the universe was contained in his own formulae of the general theory of relativity. Einstein finally agreed with the fact of the expanding universe in 1930 when he personally visited the best-of-its-time observatory on Mount Wilson in California.
Scientist E. Hubble (1889-1953) later worked much in the area of measurement of galactic motion. His efforts helped to confirm and clarify the previous conclusions. Today no one disputes the fact that the universe is expanding.
Now we will discuss the method of measurement of distant luminaries. Measurement of the speed of motion is based on the principle of spectral comparison. It is known that many elements in incandescent state emit light of a certain spectral type (specific alternations of color and black lines). From an analysis of light, emitted by stars, it is possible to determine the chemical composition of these stars. When stars move toward us, then the spectral property of their emitted light shifts to the ultra-violet color, while the shift of spectral emission toward the infrared color (red shift) occurs when light bodies move away. A similar change of sound frequency can be noticed when we hear a vehicle which comes nearer and then pulls away from us: first we hear a higher, and then a lower frequency of sound. Through spectral measurements of typical stellar light emissions (e.g. sodium and hydrogen), scientists determine their speed in relation to us. It turns up that the light that comes to us from distant light systems is always characterized by red-shifted spectrum.
The theory of sudden origination of the universe out of an immensely powerful superhigh-temperature bang also found its confirmation in the following fact. In 1948 Russian scientist and US resident G. Gamov calculated that if the universe had started to exist due to an explosion, then cooled traces of this bang had to be traceable until this time as weak electromagnetic radiation, corresponding to the temperature of 3 degrees above the absolute zero. He predicted that this radiation had to be reaching us in perfectly uniform amounts from every direction. Indeed, in 1965 scientists A. Penzias and R. Wilson found the existence of background radiation, fully in concord with Gamov’s assumption. This radiation is emitted by interstellar space irrespectively of luminous celestial bodies. It is an ancient footprint of that powerful bang.
For us the believers these scientific discoveries have a great religious and philosophic meaning. First, they confirm our faith that the universe was created in time and out of nothing. They strengthen our belief that only God is omnipotent, eternal and infinite. Anything else around us is limited both in time and in space. Everything started to be due to the Creator’s Will, and the same Will may cause everything to return to non-existence where it originated from.
Second, we see that science in its long and windy way does slowly but steadily come nearer to the truth. Therefore, a believer should not keep away from science as from a hostile enemy. Its positive achievements may enrich the religious understanding. For example, materialists at the beginning of the 20th century wanted to crush religion with the help of science. But new scientific discoveries broke the very platform that the materialists rested on. It was found that matter does not exist as an independent solid substance. It is only a temporary condensed state of energy, of this mysterious force, originated somewhere beyond the boundaries of the physical universe. Bearing the former errors in mind, modern science should become more modest in its fundamental statements. May the minor human mind bow to the incomprehensible wisdom of the Maker!
In the focus of attention of the following articles will be the Book of Genesis, as it is closely tied in with a series of contemporary scientific and moral themes. However, prior to the discussion of the content of the Book of Genesis it is necessary to clarify the issue of its divine inspiration and historic accuracy. The matter of fact is that modern Bible criticism brought forward a few contradictory opinions regarding the origin and truthfulness of the content of the Book of Genesis. Modern heterodox Bible scholars dare to refer many narratives of the Book of Genesis and other sacred texts as myths, legends and distorted facts. Such disrespect of this Holy Book did not come from its content, but was the result of the very premises that the modern Bible science in the heterodox world is built upon. First, modern Bible scholars have a prejudice against those Bible stories, which describe mysterious, supernatural events. Second, when interpreting ancient events, modern Bible criticism gives preference in accuracy to extrabiblical writings on the account that the Bible might contain fiction. The principal demerit of modern Bible science is its neglect, if not rejection, of the divine origin and God’s Providence in the development and keeping of the Sacred Scriptures.
A totally different approach to the Holy Scriptures guides the Orthodox theological thought. We base the study of the Scriptures on the belief in its Divine authoring. The goal of this article is to explain the Church’s teaching about the divine inspiration of the Sacred Scripture, and propose the arguments, which support this teaching.
How can we understand the inspired condition of the writers of the sacred books? Were they just impersonal tools for the operation of the Holy Ghost, as though a pen in a writing hand? In such case, there would be no place in their works to any individual human features. However, author’s personality is always perceptible in any book of the Bible. You would never mistake Isaiah for Jeremiah, or Mark for John, because each inspired writer still has his own style and language. This is the evidence that God, inspiring the content to the writer, did not abolish his natural abilities, did not tie up his mind or his will. In this regard the Apostle Paul wrote: “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). On the other hand, shall we consider the divine inspiration as some poetic ardor or excitement, which sometimes comes to secular authors? This understanding of inspiration would effectively deny the divine origin of the Holy Scripture and abase it to the level of secular literature.
The Complete Orthodox Encyclopedia (Volume I, St. Petersburg) provides the following definition: “Divine inspiration is the specific influence of the Holy Ghost on the heralds of Divine Revelation, which guided them in the comprehension and transmission of this latter... At the same time, the human spirit, which thus becomes instrumental for the communication of Divine Revelation, retains and actively displays any of its abilities and skills... Divine and human natures sojourned in Christ in an organic union, and in the same manner for the communication of Divine Revelation everything is inspired by God, and free operation of a man is evinced at the same time.”
The relationship of the two wills — Divine and human — in the business of communicating the divine truth is manifest in an autobiographical note of the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah decided to stop prophesying to the people of Jerusalem about the forthcoming grieves, because this put his life in danger every day. He wrote, “Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9). Here we once again see the action of God, inspiring what to say, and the prophet’s comprehension of his freedom to keep quiet about the Divine word. The writers of the Holy books treated with reverence their mission of ushering God’s will to people. The Prophet Moses was slow of speech and tongue, and did not understand how he could prophesy the word of God with this handicap. Then God told Moses to take his brother Aaron as assistant: “And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do” (Exodus 4:015). The prophet and king David had the following understanding of his gift of inspiration: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).
Though they were inspired, the authors of the sacred books also brought some human elements into them. The already-cited Complete Orthodox Encyclopedia reads: “as far as the human nature is not perfect, certain imperfections might occur in the sacred books due to the participation of the free human activity in the writing thereof. Therefore the divine inspiration of the Scriptures does not by any means come into a contradiction with genuine human thoughts and senses, inaccuracies and discrepancies, which may be found in them. The works of the holy writers are perfect to the extent that is needed for the divine purpose. Where imperfect human comprehension was sufficient for the salvation of mankind, there God permitted imperfections to appear.”
In describing historical events, the Biblical authors used the common tools of learning: written documents, verbal tradition, stories of eyewitnesses and personal observations. Subjective features are present in the historical books of the Bible as well. It is a known fact that the evidence of eyewitnesses of an event would not fully coincide in all details, even if each of them tried to render his observations with maximum accuracy. This subjectivity of witness is considered a norm in judicial hearings. In this respect the parallel narrations of the Bible do not constitute an exclusion.
For example, if we juxtapose the four Evangelists’ descriptions of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, then we will find its own peculiarities and details in each of them. It is usually not hard to reconcile the differences of the parallel narratives in the Bible, because they do not eliminate, but supplement one another. Unfortunately, modern Bible criticism is often too picky on minor discrepancies in the Bible, and seeks to view them as contradictions. The Orthodox Church recognizes the natural methods of historical knowledge, but it believes that the writers of the sacred books put down the truth only, because the grace of God taught them to distinguish true from false.
Modern Bible criticism emphasizes the idea of sources and authors of the Bible. It attempts to find out who and when wrote each book, or portion of a book. Ample academic literature is available in the field of Biblical sources and authors, but unluckily, this literature is full of controversial and disputable theories. From the Orthodox point of view, the significance of inspiration of this or that Biblical book is not dependent on authorship. We do not know the names of authors of some Old Testament books; however the books that they wrote enjoy equal reverence with books, written by great prophets. The Church’s belief in the inspiration of all canonical books of the Old Testament is based upon the testimony of Christ and His Apostles.
When speaking, our Lord Jesus Christ often referred to the Old Testament books. For example, He witnessed the genuineness of the ancient prophecies about the Messiah: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The Lord often quoted the prophetic words of Moses, King David, Isaiah, and Daniel. He also pointed it out to the Jews that the Scripture was infallible in the affairs of faith: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 4:27-28).
By referring to many events, mentioned in the Old Testament, the Lord confirmed their historical accuracy. He mentioned creation of the man by God, establishment of matrimony, Jacob’s vision, Abraham, Lot’s wife and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God’s appearance to Moses, Jonah’s staying in the belly of a whale, coming of the Prophet Elias, etc. In a like manner the Apostles, who had been taught by Christ, instructed Christians to revere the Writing of the Old Testament. Too much space would be needed to list here all Old Testament events, prophecies and quotations that the Apostles referred to in the Gospels and Epistles. This multiple references to the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament prove that the Apostles believed steadfastly in the Divine origin of these Writings. The Apostle Peter says clearly: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). The Apostle Paul’s testimony is similar: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
The clear witness of Divine dignity of the Holy Scriptures, said by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles, convince us in the genuineness of everything contained in these books.
There is no other monument of antique literature that can be compared to the holy Book of Genesis, the most precious ancient document, containing a lot of very important data. Though Genesis cannot be labeled as the most ancient book in the world literature, it is still the oldest reliable book of history. This predominant significance of Genesis becomes obvious when this book is compared to other literary monuments, compiled at about the same time. For example, the ancient Egyptian papyri contain very fragmentary information of low historical value. The surviving fragments of the ancient Chinese literature contain astronomical calculations and some local history facts. Assyrian and Babylonian clay tablets are mostly commercial and legal documents. They may sometimes provide historical information, contaminated with incredible mythological stories, which make it almost impossible to refine the truth.
Tradition has it that the Book of Genesis was written by the Prophet Moses 1,300 years before Christ. It was the first of the five books he compiled. The Mosaic books had no specific names in Hebrew; as the time passed, the Jews came to calling each book by its initial words: the Hebrew title of the book of Genesis is Bereshit, which means “In the beginning,” because these words open the narrative of the Creation of the World. The modern names of the books of Moses are taken from the Septuagint (“the work of seventy interpreters”), the Greek translation of the Bible made in the 3rd century BC. These five Mosaic books are also called the Pentateuch in the Bible science.
The tradition believes that Moses was the writer of the first five books of the Bible, but it does not claim that he wrote each word in these books. They include some additions that were obviously made after his death, e.g. the story of Moses’ death, explanations of geographical names and names of peoples that were unknown to the later generations, and other such comments. The use of ancient genealogies, chronicles and brief descriptions of the past events does not contradict to the concept of Mosaic authorship. It is known that letters first appeared by only 1,200 years before Moses in Mesopotamia, where Abraham came from. Abraham could have passed to his descendants some notes, which later became the basis of the Book of Genesis. We can suggest that such written notes existed because Moses’ disciple Joshua had mentioned a Book of Jasher (the Upright) that later disappeared. Moses was writing his books during the Jews’ forty-year-long wandering in the desert. The volume of these books is almost equal to that of the New Testament. It is natural to reckon that Moses had secretaries, who probably recorded the events involving Moses himself, as these facts were described in the third person. By no means could the scribes, assisting Moses to compile the Pentateuch, have any established style of writing, which is characteristic of professional writers only. Therefore, there is nothing surprising when modern Bible researchers find that portions of Mosaic writing are written in different styles. However, we also have to admit that the stylistic differences depend on the content of components of the Pentateuch, rather than on the assistance of scribes. By its nature, the legislative language varies from narrative, economic and construction lingo is different from contemplative; yet the Prophet Moses had to cover a wide range of topics. Certain parts of the Pentateuch, especially those containing Divine revelation, were written by Moses personally, and this was many times mentioned in the Mosaic books.
The Prophet Moses was an outstanding person for all times. Being a prophet, he received a distinguished intimacy with God, and the Bible witnessed that “The LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). Being a writer and legislator, he had excellent education for his time, because he had been brought up at Pharaoh’s court as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him in infancy.
Moses included in the Book of Genesis the story of Creation of the world and man by God, narration about the life of our forefathers in Eden and about the Fall, about lives of the antediluvian patriarchs, Noah, the universal Flood and the post-Flood patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In line with the lives of patriarchs, Moses recorded in his book a lot of information on ancient kingdoms and dispersion of peoples. The Book of Genesis is closed with the story of Joseph and the relocation of Jacob’s family to Egypt. The content of the book of Genesis follows a schema that allows dividing it into five parts, built on the same principle. Each part has a formalized introduction and a special heading, followed by a brief summary of events, described in the preceding part.
The whole Book of Genesis lets you feel consistency and integrity of composition, thus giving evidence for the existence of an editor. The author of Genesis provided much precious historical information about events, which had not been mentioned elsewhere, or had been recorded in a mythologically distorted manner. However, it was not the goal of the Prophet Moses to encompass the entire complexity of history in this book. Out of all information available to him, Moses selected only what was related to the religious life of people. That is why his book should not be treated as mere history, but as a source of spiritual wisdom, a book inspired by God Himself.
“I believe in One God, the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible,” we confess daily at home and in the church. This means that the universe is more than an object of intellectual comprehension, it is an object of faith. However many mysteries the science may discover in the fields of physics, chemistry, geology, cosmology and so on, the principal questions will still remain unresolved for man: what were the origins of particles that formed up the universe, and of the laws of nature? What is the purpose of everything that surrounds us, and the purpose of a human life? Science is not only unable to answer these thrilling questions, but it basically cannot touch them, because they are out of its reach. These questions are answered by the inspired Bible.
The visionary prophet Moses put down the history of Creation of the Universe and man in the first chapters of Genesis. Until recently, science could say nothing convincing about the origin of the Universe. It was only in the 20th century, after significant successes of astronomy, geology and paleontology, that the origins of the Universe became more open to scientific examination. So what? It turned up that the universe started to exist in exactly the sequence outlined by the prophet Moses!
It was not Moses’ goal to produce a scientific report about the Creation; though, his narration outstripped modern science’s discoveries by millennia. His description was the first testimony that the universe was not eternal but started to exist in the time, and it occurred in a staged, evolutionary manner. Modern astronomers came to the conclusion that the Universe was not eternal after discovering that it expands like a balloon. Like 15 to 20 billion years ago it was all condensed in a microscopic point, which, as though exploding, started to expand in all directions, gradually shaping up our visible world (“Big Bang”).
Moses divided the Creation of the Universe by God into seven periods and named them symbolically as days. For six “days” God was making the world, and on the seventh “He rested from all his work which he had made.” Moses did not define the duration of these “days.” The whole history of the mankind is unfolding during the seventh day, which has been lasting for already thousands of years. The numeral seven itself was often used in the Writings in a meaning that was symbolic and not quantitative. It signifies completeness and wholeness.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” — these words of the Bible embraced everything that God created: our visible, material universe and the spiritual, angelic world, which we cannot observe physically. The word “created” means that God made the universe out of nothing. This is the conclusion that modern scientific discoveries are also driving at: the deeper nuclear physics penetrates in the fundamentals of matter, the more often it discovers that the matter is “void.” Even “quarks” that make up protons are evidently not solid particles. It comes that matter is an inexplicable state of energy.
We continue reading the Biblical description of the Creation and see that it generally fits into the scheme, suggested by today’s science. Skipping the details of how galaxies came to be after that “beginning,” Moses focused his narrative on the Creation of the Earth and what fills it. So, on the first day “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” These words probably point at the moment when interstellar gasses and dust, which were the construction material of the Solar System, had become so concentrated by the gravity field, that a thermonuclear reaction with abundant radiation of light began in the middle of the gas ball (fusion of hydrogen to helium) — the Sun began to exist. Light was the factor that later made it possible for life to start on the Earth.
Comets, micrometeorites, asteroids, protoplanets formed out of gasses and dust, which formed the Sun. Moses called this twisting and hurling mass of gasses, dust and particles “water.” As the time passed, attractive interaction formed it into planets. This was the division of “the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament” on the second “day” of Creation. So, the Solar System, called “Heaven” in the Bible, received its final appearance.
The earth, as well as other planets, was initially glowing. Water, evaporating from the depths of the Earth, fogged around in thick clouds. When the Earth’s surface cooled down sufficiently, water started to precipitate as rain, shaping seas and continents. Than, water and solar light let plants grow on the earth. This was the third “day.”
Primordial giant vegetation (and water-borne micro-organisms) began cleaning the atmosphere from carbonic acids and producing oxygen. If anyone had looked at the sky from the ground till then, he would not have seen the contours of the Sun, Moon or stars, because the Earth was all wrapped in opaque gasses. In the same way, until today sky is not visible from the surface of Venus, because thick gasses surround this planet. That is why Moses wrote that the Sun, Moon and stars appeared on the next day after plants, i.e. on the fourth day. Godless materialists in the beginning of the 20th century did not know this and mocked at the Bible’s story, which described the creation of the Sun after that of plants. In accordance with the Bible, dispersed solar light reached the surface of the Earth since the first day of the Creation; the shape of the Sun was not perceivable, though.
Due to the presence of clean oxygen in the atmosphere, more complex forms of life started to exist: fishes and birds (the fifth “day”), and, finally, beasts and humans (the sixth “day”). The modern science agrees with this sequence of origination of creatures.
Moses omitted from the Biblical story many details of the Creation of life, which would be interesting for science. We should remember that it was not the objective of his narrative to list the details, but to demonstrate the First-Source of the Universe, its Wise Maker. Moses concluded his description of the Creation by saying, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” In other words, the Creator had a definite purpose in the Creation of the world: make everything serve the good, and lead to that which is good. Until today, the Nature has retained the stamp of goodness in itself, being the evidence of the Creator’s wisdom and kindness.
According to the Book of Genesis, man was the last creature. Today’s science also thinks that humans were the youngest beings in the world of animals. As regards the origin of man, science and the Bible differ in methodology and definition of purpose. Science tends to establish the peculiarities of human physicality, origins of the human body, while the Bible always refers to man in his wholeness, with his intellectual, God-like soul in addition to the body. However, the Bible states that the human body was created out of “earth,” i.e. out of elements, as well as bodies of animals. This fact is important, because the Bible confirms that physical likelihood between humanity and animality. But the Bible accentuated the exclusiveness of man amongst animals, as the bearer of “Divine breath,” the deathless soul. Through this God-like soul, man possesses special spiritual intuition in distinguishing the good from the evil. This spiritual intuition draws man toward fellowship with God and spiritual world, toward moral perfection. In the extreme, the worldly pleasures only cannot satisfy the thirst of man’s spirit. These facts give a proof of the Bible’s witness that humanity is not merely the utter evolutionary stage of an animal, but is a simultaneous representation of the physical and spiritual worlds. The discovery of this mystery helps man find the right place in the world, hear the call for doing good, and long to God.
In the conclusion of this brief review of the Biblical history of God’s Creation we must mention that, along with the succession of events, this narrative (and the following story about the life of the First Couple in Eden and the Fall) contains symbols and allegories, which are not fully comprehensible. The significance of symbols is that they give a chance to pass by the confusing details, and understand the important message that God reveals to men: in this case, it is the message about the cause of the evil, diseases and death in the world.
Science continues the arduous examination of the universe. It finds a lot of new and interesting things that help us understand the Bible fuller and deeper. But often scientists cannot see the forest behind the trees, as the proverb has it. That is why, understanding of principles should have priority over knowledge of details. The significance of the Bible is exactly in that this Book reveals the principles of existence to us, and this keeps it meaningful while the ages pass.
Atheists are people who do not believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, called God. Some do not believe in God because no one ever told them about Him, and they never came across a thought about God themselves. Others do not reject the existence of God in principle, though they live so as if He and His Law are not for them. These can be counted as practicing atheists. Finally, there are people who principally reject the existence of God, and who wish to justify their disbelief by scientific or philosophical arguments. These can be called convinced atheists. The theoretical, principal atheism often turns into active theomachism, implanted by violence, as it occurs in communist countries.
The theoretical atheism is in its essence an anti-religion, because it is also based on belief. As religions are formed on faith in the existence of God, so atheism builds up on the belief that He does not exist. Indeed, if God is a spirit, then how can material devices “prove” that He does not exist? This is comparable to rejecting the existence of the Earth’s magnetic field on the basis of barometric readings. Atheism replaces the belief in God with a belief in self-sufficiency of matter and laws of nature.
As a mass phenomenon, atheism has come to existence over the last two hundred years. It is the result of separation of humans from direct contact with nature, which occurred when significant amounts of population started to move from countryside to towns. Psychology believes that humans have an inherent desire to comprehend the first cause and purpose of existence. Contemplating over the fundamental questions of existence, man comes to faith in the Maker of the Universe. Nature helps man on his way to the Deity, for at his every step the nature’s beauty, splendor, harmony and purposefulness speak of God, His omnipotence and goodness. In the past people used to be closer to nature, and an atheist was a rare bird. It is a common knowledge that since pre-historic times the idea of a supreme being has been widely spread among people at all stages of development. “Look at the face of the earth,” wrote Plutarch (1st century AD), — and you will see townships without fortification, sciences or hierarchy, you will see people without permanent dwelling, not knowing money, having no idea of the fine arts, but you will not find any one human community without a belief in a Divinity.” This testimony is still in force till now when applied to people who live close to the nature, though their concepts of God may be imperfect and childishly naive.
On the other hand, the life of modern townspeople flows in daily fuss, traffic noise, jungle of concrete, smoke and crime. It gives no noble, lofty feelings; quite on the contrary, it mutilates and spoils any spiritual properties. It is therefore not surprising that atheism, and a variety of psychiatric deviations, propagate predominantly among megapolis inhabitants.
Religion-less and anti-religious teaching systems in a few modern educational institutions also facilitate the spread of atheism. The Biblical narrative about the origins of the world and man is often criticized in textbooks and classrooms. Instead of adding data to expand on the Bible’s information, scientific discoveries are set in opposition to the inspired truths, in order to forge a conflict of faith and knowledge. Sometimes, teachers or professors ridicule the principles of faith and moral in the open. Not many youths have enough independence of thinking to see that their educators’ anti-religion assaults are not based on objective scientific data, but on private opinions of people reluctant to religion. These pupils’ or students’ parents need a lot of knowledge and skill to save their belief in God.
Sin casts gloom over intelligence and dulls conscience, and unruly living drives to loosening of the faith in God. It happens that youths, brought up in religious families and ardently believing in the childhood, give up to temptation of sinful pleasures and get stuck in the spider web of fleshly passions. In several years of sinful life, they retain very little of their former innocence, modesty and heartfulness. They become impudent, evil and shameless. Religious doubts arise along with vice, and they can lead to faithlessness, unless they recollect themselves and turn to God in repentance.
A consequence of atheism is despair. It is not usually realized by a non-believer, but it takes roots in his subconscious and begins to determine his style of life. Once there is no God, there is no afterlife, no reward for labors and good works. That is why an atheist, while still alive, has to hastily use all life’s pleasures available. Once there is no God, the moral law is relative and man is to define the difference between good and evil. Of course, laws of state, shame, fear or merely practical concerns may to an extent restrain the desire to grasp the pleasures and delights of life by any means, but they would not change an essentially atheistic mindset. Beasts and insects can be cruel to their prey. But there is no creature more dangerous and brutal than a man without a supreme moral guidance. A man like that can cause harm not for benefit, but for some perverse pleasure. He revenges others upon his own bad luck. But he is unfortunate because he has no future. This explains why the most senseless and brutal crimes are committed in atheism-governed countries.
How can man come to the faith in God, or strengthen the belief in His existence? Philosophy and apologetics have the so-called “arguments for the existence of God.” They say that admission of the existence of God logically comes out from the observation of the order of nature, spiritual qualities of humans and historical facts. Retelling these arguments here would take too much space. We only wish to say that no external proof of the existence of God can substitute for man’s convincing inner spiritual experience. God is a Spiritual Being and may not be studied by any regular scientific methods, but human soul, created in His image and after His likeness, can be in touch with Him. When a man takes an effort and throws off the darkness of the fuss, in which his life wears out, and takes his heart to follow the Divine light that surrounds, then he can see and hear God. This intimate sense of Divinity cannot be proven or explained to others because it is in the realm of inward experience. Whoever does not have such experience, will not realize what you are speaking about.
This personal experience of fellowship with Divine Grace becomes to man the most convincing proof of the existence of God. It obliges him to change his moral life, learn to sacrifice himself for the sake of obedience to the Supreme Will. Many people are afraid to bother their conscience, not willing to give up their sinful lifestyle, and therefore make no attempt to overcome themselves and have fellowship with the light of the Divinity. But those who are in fellowship with this light, find in it a source of spiritual power, peacefulness and heavenly joy.
The problem of good and evil is handled by religion, philosophy, psychology and social sciences. In a very generic way, good can be defined as everything that attracts us, inducing exalted emotions, what we wish to imitate or make remembered. Evil is everything opposed to the good, receiving negative evaluation, and what in our opinion should not exist. Evil includes suffering, diseases, destruction, injustice, oppression, death.
We accept good as a natural thing, and evil as unnatural. Evil is a problem, which people have been trying to apprehend since the earliest ages. The elusiveness of this problem for a human mind can be illustrated by the fact that different judgments about evil are as numerous as world’s religions and philosophic schools. There can be physical and moral good. Evil can also be classified as physical and moral.
By the experience, roots of good and evil go down to the depth of a human’s moral core. On the one hand, the wish to learn the truth and rethink one’s own life from the moral viewpoint is natural for man. Things that are good attract man. He has inherent compassion toward other people and living creatures in general. A product of this emotion is his desire to help, protect, or save. Man feels moral satisfaction when he pleases others, loves, forgives, gives up his own interests, or fulfils an obligation of a member of his family or community. By doing good, man develops positive qualities of his soul: intelligence, will power, consistency, courage, tolerance, in a word, he gains the nobility of spirit.
On the other hand, from the earliest age of man’s life, the tendencies start to exist which are opposite to those listed above. At times, man does consciously wish to hurt a neighbor. He can offend, lie, defame, harm or injure and deprive another one of his life. Sometimes man can do this for personal advantage, and sometimes for no obvious reason, as though having pleasure in evil doing. If man does not constrain his bad tendencies, then, as the time passes, he becomes bad himself: greedy, insatiable, rude, impudent, lying, hypocritical, insidious, brutal, stuck-up, depraved. After repetition of transgressions, the evil, which was initially a mere predisposition for violation of the moral law, becomes a sinful habit, vice, and weaves into the spiritual nature of man, making him bad morally. The inclination toward evil is like a buckle on cardboard: it makes a sheet defective, because cardboard always folds along it. Science cannot explain why good tendencies coexist with bad ambitions in a man. The Bible’s explanation for this is the original sin.
As good makes man nobler, so much evil cripples him. It darkens intelligence, weakens will, perverts taste. In a while, man’s moral condition starts to alter his appearance. A morally degraded person can be recognized merely from his looks.
The nature abounds in kindness. Variety of food can sustain and also please us. The riches of nature, abundance and diversity of vegetables, fruit and crops that nourish man are innumerable. Sun, water and air warm up and refresh our organism. The beauty of nature, singing of birds, fragrance of flowers make man joyful. This is why a believer senses the caring hand of the Maker in every blade of grass.
However, at all the plenitude of physical goods, man cannot avoid suffering. Diseases and misfortunes cast shadow on our life daily. Death is the unavoidable end of a physical life. Sometimes the inevitability of physical suffering pushed man to the thought that physical evil has autonomous substance. Some believed that nature is a product of two opposed elements, good and evil (the two deities in Persian dualism), or that matter bears evil in itself (Buddhism, Gnostic and modern theosophist teachings).
Contemplating about the problem of good and evil, man always endeavored to understand whether these are absolute or relative notions. Can the evaluation of good and evil differ depending on the circumstances and the level of human development, or good and evil are such in substance? We will see that the notion of physical evil (suffering) is relative because, when viewed from the standpoint of man’s moral development, it can result in good. On the contrary, moral evil, i.e. absolute evil, can only result in evil.
At a close examination of physical evil we can see that it does not constitute an autonomous substance but only receives our negative evaluation. Indeed, childbirth is painful for a mother, but at the same time it develops her love for baby. Labor in wrong conditions can wear and harm health, while in proper conditions it strengthens man, saves him from idleness and serves for development of his abilities. Suffering can embitter and cast down, but it can also enhance man, sharpen courage and patience, teach compassion. Poverty can make man steal and swindle, or it can promote humility and reinforce our confidence in God. From the viewpoint of moral development, a lot of things that we consider physical evil can serve to a good purpose, and thus to eternal bliss. That is why physical evil is not a substance but represents a relative notion.
This is not the case of moral evil. Often, evil things are done for the sake of temporary material benefits; however, together with its seeming advantages, the evildoing cripples the moral self of the transgressor and harms others. We can figure out a case when someone indirectly promotes moral good by doing moral evil. For example, by making a Christian suffer the torturer lets him manifest his faith and patience. In this situation good does not directly result from the action of moral evil (torturer’s brutality), though. It occurs due to the dual effect of physical evil: the martyr’s suffering causes the manifestation of his faith and patience. However, moral evil as such always results in evil. That is why moral evil, as well as moral good, is an absolute concept.
Some facts of life may receive controversial interpretation: are they morally good or evil? As an example, divorce is considered as evil, because it is linked to adultery, breach of vows, destruction of family and disregard of children. But what should we think about a mutually agreed divorce, which apparently leads to the better of the parties? Can it be counted as good? The Gospel teaches that any divorce is an act of disobedience to God’s will. Man is a creature with limited and imperfect notions, and his ideas of good and evil are not always correct. Only the One Who is the Cause of the moral law can precisely know what is good and evil. That is why a Christian, willing to do good in all, should always submit his will to the Will of the Creator.
Sometimes, man can be bewildered: why infinitely good and wise God permits evil? Could He not create an ideal world, without struggling, suffering and death? The answer to this is not easy. In “The Karamazov Brothers,” Ivan justified his disbelief by the argument about an innocent child’s suffering.
It is not possible to understand why God permits evil, if we view it within the range of this material life. Materialists explain suffering as phenomenon, which is undesirable but statistically inevitable. They understand human life as a tangle of injustice, which essentially has no sense. Scholastic theology treats suffering as retribution for sin, either personal or original. This is a very legal, formal answer that fails to match the Christian teaching about God who is loving and all-forgiving. In order to understand the undeserved suffering, we need to look at it in the perspective of eternity that man is called for. We believe that God does not send physical adversities but permits them to happen, so that the suffering and patient ones receive the reward of eternal bliss. Philosophers, trying to make out the problem of good and evil from the temporary life’s perspective only, are unable to produce a sufficient answer.
What can we say about God’s permitting of moral evil? Why does He allow sin to ruin man? This question is inseparably bound to the man’s free will. God could create us and give us not the opportunity to choose between good and evil. Had it happened this way, we would have been robots or beasts, but not humans. Without the freedom of choice, there cannot be moral good, and only mechanical, pre-programmed motion can occur. The All-Good Maker wished to give us the freedom of will and let us develop spiritually, by this attaining a certain degree of likeness with Him — comparable to children’s likeness with parents in appearance. That is why the freedom of will is the supreme good which exalts man above the entire nature. However, we need to be able to use this good properly. It is similar to fire, which is necessary for life, and which can be very dangerous when handled without due care and caution.
A heedless and absent-minded man can believe that things just take their normal course, and all events occur by accident and coincidence. It can seem to such an inconsiderate man that God, if He even exists, is somewhere high in the heaven and has no interest in this world, which is too small and insignificant in His eye. People who think so are called deists. Deistic teaching about God has become especially widespread in the West during the last centuries, when people started to lose live contact with God in the Church, Sacraments and prayer. Usually, these people are superstitious at the same time, attaching great importance to stars’ influence on human life, watching tokens and omens, e.g. cats crossing their way, scattering salt on the table, shaking hands across threshold, not sleeping with their feet turned toward doors and so on. Some people have immense numbers of superstitions, and it just complicates their lives wastefully.
It is best not to pay attention to these stupid superstitions at all, because everyone’s life in particular, and universe as a whole are governed by God.
We pray: “Our Father which art in heaven,” but at the same time we know that God is everywhere, because He is a genuine Spirit, who is “living everywhere.” That is why David the Psalmist exclaimed, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee” (Psalm 139).
Some agree that the world in general is not ruled by accidents, but by God. However, they think that God does not care about each and every one, because man is unworthy and negligible, and God will not look after this uncountable multitude of creatures. But this reasoning is incorrect and sinful. To express it in human notions, if God decided that microbes were worthy of existence and gave specific organization and form to all of them, why then these creatures would not be worthy of His care further on? God cared to give them life; He also cares about the continuation of their lives. Some say that there are too many living beings. But how dare we assign our limitations onto God, Who is infinite in perfection? Had He created billions of worlds with myriads of humans, beasts, insects and germs, it would not have worn Him out to take care about each particular life. One might say that these creatures are too small and insignificant, but we create our concept of sizes by comparison to ourselves. What is huge in our sight is negligible before the majesty of God, and what seems little to us is great for His goodness and love. The Lord provides for everything, gives life to all, and leads to the victory of truth and good.
The Savior said that even a sparrow shall not fall on the ground without the will of our Father (Matthew 10:29); all the more, nothing in our lives can happen without His will. Things that are good and kind are given from the Lord, Who is the eternal source of goodness. Things that are evil are not sent from God directly, because there is no even a shade of evil in God. For our benefit and salvation, though, the Lord permits evil to harm and hurt us. In this case, various troubles have the effect of bitter, unpleasant, but saving medicines. Almost all pills and medical operations are unpleasant for us, but we have to take them because we know they are necessary and health-giving.
Everyone should clearly know that only God is the source of happiness, peace and bliss. God created consolations and joys of the visible world for the sake of our corporeal nature. Man with intelligent soul, using everything moderately, should not forget God. The soul cannot be satisfied with anything worldly and tangible. In most cases we follow our bodily lusts insatiably, and absolutely forget about soul and its spiritual needs. Because God does not want us to step back from our vocation of children of God toward the degree of unintelligent beasts, He sends us sorrows. Getting beaten on things we were seeking irresponsibly, we slowly start to understand the futility of our activities and turn to God.
We should firmly know that God is infinitely good and wishes our happiness and salvation only; this is why we should also be thankful in accepting grieves from Him. Children do not stop loving parents when parents punish them unjustly, because they know that parents want better for them. The Scripture says that the Lord punishes him whom He loves.
If the Lord provides for us all the time, meaning that He always cares about our life and salvation, then we also have to learn how to follow His Providence in our lives. Sometimes we notice that things happen not as we want them to. We get angry and indignant, murmur about fortune, but after years pass we understand that what happened was to the better, and it would be worse for us otherwise. We Christians should thank God for our sorrows, rather than triumph over our success, because sorrows clean off our passions, while worldly success leads to forgetting God and the purpose of our life on the earth.
The underlying teaching of the Christian faith is that of Tri-Une God. God is one in substance and three in Persons. Father is God, Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. However, there is only one God and not three Gods. The notion of Person is close to that of personality, self-consciousness, individuality. In the everyday life, self-conscious personalities are separate beings. It would not have been hard to master the doctrine of Divine Unity, if it had been a teaching about three divine powers, or three operations, or three appearances; but how to explain that the three Persons comprise one Substance in God? To uphold the Christian doctrine of God in its fidelity, we must reconcile with the idea that understanding of inner life of Deity is above our limited intelligence. That is why it is necessary to complement imperfect intellect with faith to comprehend the truth of Divine Tri-Unity.
Man cannot explore the sun directly, because he would be burnt down in an attempt to approach him. However, man lives, moves and has food due to sun light. In a like way, we cannot come in so close a fellowship with God which would let us experience the mysteries of His inner life. But the light of His grace warms our hearts and enlightens our intellect. This divine light comes into us when we open up our souls for it. It also comes from the inspired Scriptures, which is from and about God.
The Persons of God have Their Personal, or Hypostatic properties, which are described as follows: Father is not begotten; Son is begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost proceeds from God Father. Different words are given use in the Holy Scripture to denote personal properties. However, the difference between begetting and procession is inexplicable. The word “begotten” applied to the Son is usually in the past tense, while “proceeding” is normally in the present tense when applied to the Holy Ghost. These different grammatical tense forms do not signify any time relations: both begetting and procession are pre-eternal, beyond time. The Father has never been without the Son and the Spirit. He has always been in Trinity, for God is unchangeable and immutable. Each Person of the Trinity possesses the entirety and wholeness of perfection, being eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely good and just. All Persons of the Trinity co-acted in the creation of world and man, as the Scripture has it, “become as one of Us” (Genesis 3:22). The plural form is used in the Old Testament, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26), and later on, “Behold, the man is become as one of Us” (Genesis 3:22), which can be comprehended only in the context of New Testament’s teaching of the Holy Trinity.
All attempts to bring the Trinitarian teaching closer to our experience of physical life inevitably led to perversion of this teaching. A few non-orthodox teachings about Triune God have sprung up throughout the history of Christianity. They can be divided into two categories: they either diminished the Divinity of the Second and Third Persons and treated these Persons as creatures, superior to humans but inferior to the Father, i.e. a sort of “half-gods” (Arius, Macedonius, Paul of Samos); or they considered the Second and Third Persons as manifestations or revelations of the First Person (modalists). Teachings that distort the true faith of the Holy Trinity are called antitrinitarian. They are quite attractive because they appear to be logical for the limited human intellect. Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, Moonies and some other cults can be listed as modern antitrinitarian sects.
The attempts to comprehend the teaching of the Holy Trinity in full have a hidden threat of perversion of the true faith, thus suggesting that God communicated this knowledge about Himself to us because the belief in the Trinity is necessary to master many other truths of Christianity, and it is the cornerstone and foundation for the belief in Christ the God-Man.
The trinity in the persons of God is manifested in the New Testament by the advent of the Son of God and sending down of the Holy Ghost. The Lord send the Apostles to preach and told them to disseminate the belief in the Holy Trinity: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19), and “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). He did not say, “in the names,” but “in the name,” for Father, Son and the holy Ghost is the name of One God. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7), writes St. John the Theologian. The belief in the Trinity is also confirmed by all those passages of the Holy Scripture which speak for the unity of God the Father and God the Son, e.g. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17); “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30); “The Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:38); “...And of whom (Jews) as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Romans 9:5); “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14.9).
In the same way, there are passages in the Scriptures where the Holy Ghost is called God, directly and indirectly. “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?... Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God,” said Peter to Ananias (Acts 5:3-4). “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matthew 12:32).
The doctrine about the Son’s begetting of the Father points at the mysterious inner relationship of Persons in God, God’s life within Himself. This temporal relationship is clearly distinguishable from manifestations of the Holy Trinity in the created universe, from God’s providential acts in the world. These providential acts were taking place at all times. In the historical era, the Son of God was born from a Virgin, and the Holy Ghost descended onto the Apostles as tongues of fire. In this providential aspect of human salvation, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity put Himself in a sort of subordination to God the Father. The Son, as expressed by the Apostle Paul, “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7-8). In the light of salvation of man, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks about His seeming disparity with the Father: “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28); “But of that day and that hour (end of the world) knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32); “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39) and other like words. These words in their totality refer only to temporal relations between the Father and the Son of God, Who became Man and obeyed the Father in order to rectify our disobedience. Still, it is important to remember that naming Our Lord Jesus Christ as God does already speak for the completeness of His Divinity. “God” cannot be (from a logical and philosophical point of view) of a “second grade,” “lower rank,” limited in any way. The qualities of Divine nature are not conditional and cannot be diminished. If “God,” then God in full, not in parts.
Thus, upright belief in the Holy Trinity, founded on the Scriptures, is necessary for the adoption of Christian truths in their entirety. The pure faith gives the right direction not to our thought only, but also to our will. Indeed, Christianity calls for spiritual unity of all people. In this unity, any enmity, dislike, rivalry, malevolence, touchy selfishness, ethnical pride, race discrimination, and anything causing people quarrel and war, should cease to exist. Removing petty, trifling and sinful elements from us, our faith does not suppress personal good qualities and abilities of man, though. Contrarily, it makes them even nobler, lets them reveal clearer and brighter. So, in the perfect spiritual unity of Christians, each member of this born-again community would shine with the beautiful qualities of his soul. In this aspect, Christian teaching is opposed to Buddhism, which has its utter ideal in complete psychic extinction, dissolution in nirvana. In Christianity, we are encouraged to develop and improve our abilities. The Holy Trinity provides an ideal of non-confusion of Persons and oneness of substance, as it is obvious in the High Priest’s prayer of Our Savior: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21).
“My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen
thou me according unto thy word” (Psalm 119:28).
Everyone instinctively longs to pleasures, joy and happiness. The feeling of joy pours cheerfulness and optimism into person, as much as lack of joy makes life dull, gloomy and senseless.
Through God’s goodness, there are many things in life which can gladden man. From the first moment after coming to the world, man is pleased by some subjects and phenomena: nice food and drink, fresh air, sun shine, beauty of nature, conversation with his nearest and dearest. As man grows, he finds new sources of joy in deeper knowledge of the universe and its harmonious laws, works of art, pieces of music and poetry. Man’s ability to differentiate between what is pleasing and what is not has a gigantic significance for his physical and psychic development.
However, very soon man finds that physical and aesthetic subjects only cannot satisfy him completely because he also has some merely spiritual needs. These spiritual needs are expressed through inner, subconscious longing for good, moral perfection and fellowship with God. This longing creates his spiritual thirst and hunger. If man pays no attention to the thirst of his soul, then it accumulates with time, strengthens and turns into a blunt inside feeling of emptiness, discontent and gloom.
Man has never had such abundance and diversity of entertainment as in the 20th century. The life is filled with theaters, movies, musical entertainments and electronic games, sports competitions, books, newspapers, magazines and so on. It seems that today’s man should be many times as happy as his ancestors. It turns up to be the opposite, though. Today’s man often feels very unfortunate, and even more unfortunate than his parents and grandparents. Unprecedented modern epidemic of abuse of tobacco, liquor, drugs, tranquilizers or stimulators is a convincing proof of it. Moreover, it is known that a noticeable percentage of population in large cities suffers from various mental diseases that even the best psychiatrists cannot cure. The large number of psychic disorders can be explained only by the disturbed balance of complex human nature: surfeit with entertainment and fun on the one hand, and acute spiritual emptiness on the other.
These sorrowful observations of reality lead to the conclusion that it is a must for a modern man to understand the cause of the resulting spiritual crisis, and that he should, in particular, pay attention to his spiritual needs. Understanding that it is necessary to restore the balance between one’s physical needs and the demands of the soul would push toward the start of spiritual life.
Spiritual life, as well as any inner process, requires certain discipline and effort. But it is through this effort and discipline that we gain peace and spiritual joy. Not each and every effort is beneficial, of course, but only that shown to us by Our Creator and Savior Himself, the effort described in the Gospel and implemented in the Church. God gave Church everything soul seeks after: grace and truth. That is why we satisfy our most lofty and noble pursuits by partaking in the Church’s life. Blessed we are if we have the ability to understand it and change our life accordingly!
We the Christians believe that the Messiah, heralded by the prophets, came about two thousand years ago as the Lord Jesus Christ. The majority of the Jews in Christ’s times did not recognize Him as the Messiah promised by God, and rejected Him. They wished the Messiah to be a mighty king and conqueror to gain glory and wealth for the Jewish people. Christ preached voluntary poverty, meekness and love for enemies, though, which was not acceptable for many of His contemporaries.
Centuries passed, but the religious attitudes of the Jewish people have not changed much and the Jews still do not recognize Christ. However, the Apostle Paul convincingly predicted that at the latter times, before the end of the world, masses of the Jews would turn to Christ. Timewise, this conversion, and the believing of many Jews that Christ is the Savior of the world, coincides with the cooling down of many traditionally Christian nations toward their centuries-established faith. Saint Paul’s prediction about the conversion of the Jewish people is found in Chapters 10 and 11 of his Epistle to the Romans. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (the Church). And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (11:25-26).
Over the last 30-40 years signs have been noticeable that the belief in Christ is revitalizing among the Jews. In several large US cities Jewish Christian mission centers appeared that preach the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ to blood brothers. It is very interesting and explanatory to familiarize with their religious brochures and books. It is obvious that their authors have very clear understanding of the Holy Scripture and the Old Testament Jewish religion. They expand explicitly and cogently on the prophets’ prophecies about the Messiah and His Kingdom of grace. Currently, throughout the world, there are nearly 200 Messianic Jewish congregations, i.e. Christian Jews that observe their national customs. In telephone books, their communities appear under the rubric — Jewish Messianic. The following are Jewish Christian Congregations that are in existence: Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, the Fellowship of Jewish Congregations, International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Jews for Jesus, The Chosen People, American Board of Mission to the Jews and others. In confessing to the cardinal Christian dogmas, members of these Congregations strive to preserve their national identity and continue to observe ancient Jewish holidays and customs, like Sabbath (Saturday), circumcision, Pascha (Passover) and others.
Supplementary data on the Messianic movement can be found in the books: “Return of the Remnant” by Dr. Michael Schiffman, Lederer Publication, Baltimore, Maryland, 1992 and “Messianic Jews,” John Fieldsend, Marc Olive Press, Monarch Publications 1993. Some Messianic congregations are active in publishing journals and books, in which they convincingly prove — on the basis of the Old Testament prophesies — to their fellow Jews that the Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. This type of literature can be received, for example, from the publisher Jews for Jesus, 60 Haight St. San Francisco, CA 94102, tel. (415) 864-2600.
Apart from direct prophecies of the Messiah, written down in the books of the Old Testament, the Jewish history itself has one very persuasive fact in favor of recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah. This is the second destruction of the Old Testament Temple in Jerusalem on the 9th day of the month of Av.
It is worth reminding that dates of Jewish religious events are calculated in accordance with lunar calendar. The first month of the year for Jews is Nisan, corresponding to late March or early April. Av is the fifth month of the Jewish calendar, falling on July or early August in the solar calendar, adopted in the West. From one year to another, dates of the western calendar do not coincide with those of lunar calendar, but occur several weeks earlier or later. The resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ took place during the Jewish Pesah, or Passover (celebrated in mid-Nisan). This is why the Christian Easter is also calculated by lunar calendar and falls on different dates every year.
9 Av is the day of grief for the Jews, when they commemorate the first and the second destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. The destruction of the Temple caused great sorrow in the Jewish nation. Christians can build their churches anywhere as the need may be, but the Old Testament law allowed the Jews to have only one Temple at the place indicated by God in Jerusalem. The First Old Testament Temple was built by Solomon 950 before Christ. It was the most magnificent and decorated building of the time. It was a real masterpiece of architecture. Solomon’s Temple was brought to ruins by Nebuchadnezzar on the 9th of Av in 586 B.C. After their return from captivity in Babylon 70 years later, the Jews build a new Temple at the same place, though it was not as splendid and rich in decorations as Solomon’s. And this Second Temple, where the Lord Jesus Christ had prayed, was destroyed by Roman legions under the command of Titus in 70 A.D., and on the 9th of Av again! The Lord Jesus Christ predicted in detail the destruction of the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem itself, saying, “they (destroyers) shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:44).
Historians noted the fatal coincidence of dates of ruination of the two Temples in Jerusalem. The Jews hold strict fasts on 9 Av to commemorate those very tragic events.
The Jerusalem Temple had both religious and national significance for the Jews. The Temple was the core of life for the nation. The most important national holidays were celebrated here. The Temple gathered Jewish tribes into one people and was the place for Jehovah to abide with the elected nation. The Jews hoped that the Messiah would enthrone and proclaim himself in the Jerusalem Temple. And now, there is no Temple any more! Synagogues are not temples but prayer houses, which cannot be used for full-scale worship, prescribed in the Mosaic law. The destruction of the Temple meant for the orthodox Jews that God was wrathful with His people, rejected their sacrifice and offerings.
So why were the First and the Second Temples ruined on one and the same date? Could it be a coincidence? The Jews believe that God guides the life of His elected nation, and cannot agree that it was a mere accident in this important case. The dates of destruction of the two Temples coincided due to the sameness, or homogeneity of the intrinsic causes of destruction, i.e. the sins of the Jewish people, which incurred both destructions, were equally big.
Let us try and understand the essence of these sins.
Before the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the Old Testament prophets had been warning their nation for over one hundred years that, unless they stop worshipping idols, the Lord would send a destroyer who would ruin their towns and the Temple, slay some people and lead the rest as captives to Babylon. The Jews did not trust these prophecies; they continued idol worship, and it happened to them according to the prophecies.
What was the sin of the Jews before the destruction of the Second Temple? It was not the sin of idolatry. By then, the Jews not only despised pagan idols, but they were also very devout and followed every prescription of their ritual law. However, the Temple and the very city of Jerusalem were destroyed, the casualties of that war and events that followed turned up hundredfold more tragic than what the Jews suffered from Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion. For comparison, the Babylonian captivity lasted just for 70 years, while the dispersal of the Jews after Titus — about 2000. In fact, it was only after World War II that the Jews could re-establish their state. Tens of thousands of Jews died under Nebuchadnezzar, and millions under Titus and in the following years.
Why was the sin of the Jews in the time of Titus worse than idolatry of their ancestors? The answer to this question can be found in the Book of Deuteronomy, where Moses put down the following words of Jehowah regarding the coming of the Messiah: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee (Moses), and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:18-19). The new and heavier sin of the Jewish people was the denial of the God-sent Messiah! The Jews not merely denied their Savior, they abused and crucified Him. Whatever modern theologians say to relieve the culpability of the Jews for the Crucifixion of Christ, the facts are obvious. Pontius Pilate and Roman soldiers complied with the will of the Jewish High Priests, elders and the crowd of public. After the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the culprits of His Crucifixion did not repent of their crime. Only a small share of the Jewish people believed in Christ, while most of the Jews remained deaf for the Good News, and some of them persecuted and brutally murdered the Apostles and Christians. This sin of resistance to God caused the cup of the longsuffering of God to be overfilled, and the Temple was destroyed.
By the coincidence of the dates of the first and second destructions God indicated that the second destruction occurred not due to the current political conditions and bad luck in the war with the Romans, but was a punishment for the awful sin of the Jewish people — the killing of Jesus Christ, and disbelief in Him afterwards. This punishment was inflicted for the shouting of the Jewish mob: “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). The challenge to God was thrown down.
We are not bringing up these circumstances in order to blame the Jewish people, but to help the Jews understand the spiritual essence of what happened to them. The Russian nation also sinned against God terribly by the bloodshed of the revolution, ruination of temples, blasphemies, sacrilege, slaying of clergy. Like the Jews in the times of Nebuchadnezzar, we have been suffering in exile for more then 70 years.
The Babylonian captivity ended when the Jews understood their sin, repented and turned to God with their hearts. We should hope that today, if the Jews understand their fathers’ sin of denying the Messiah and believe in Him as their Savior, then God would clean off their sin and give them His benevolence again. We believe that this joyful event, predicted by the Saint Apostle Paul, will happen one day, and we would wish to see it with our own eyes!
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