Published posthumously, Genesis, Creation and Early Man is a compendium of the writings of Blessed Seraphim of Platina dealing with the patristic interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and the wider topic of evolution.
Hieromonk Damascene Christenson, editor of Blessed Seraphim’s writings and author of his biography, provides a detailed preface describing the origin of these writings. Much of it was composed and delivered as part of an “Orthodox Survival Course” given in the late seventies and early eighties at St. Herman Monastery to new American Orthodox converts. This course was intended to give them a grounding not only in the content of the Faith, but in the development of the Christian mind.
This preface is followed by an introduction by Phillip E. Johnson, well-known critic of evolution. Dr. Johnson had contact with Fr. Seraphim, before the latter’s blessed repose, and knew of and admired his work. His recommendation of Fr. Seraphim’s writings on these topics is strong and full. Fr. Seraphim was gifted both with a brilliant mind, and a submissive one.
The remainder of the book is divided into five parts: a patristic commentary on Genesis 1-11 (alone worth the purchase of the book), a detailed critique of evolution and an explanation of the relationship between the Faith and true science and the dangers of evolutionary philosophy, a third part detailing the patristic dogma of creation, followed by the final two parts of questions and answers on matters of evolution and patristic dogma and selections from Blessed Seraphim’s correspondence which touch on these matters as well.
This central body of the book is followed by an epilogue in which Hieromonk Damascene details the dangers of so-called “theistic, or Christian, evolution.” And to the entire work are appended excerpts from Fr. Seraphim’s notes on science, evolution and Christian philosophy, an outline of proposed studies dealing with evolution and patristic doctrine, a transcript of Fr. Seraphim’s last talk on creation and evolution (given just weeks prior to his death), a critique of radiometric dating by famed scientist Curt Sewell, and, finally, an annotated bibliography on the various topics covered in this 700-plus page book. There are subject and scriptural indices as well.
Having read the entire book one comes away with some pretty clear points: Faith and true science are eminently compatible; Faith and evolution are not. Along with other well-known scientists, Fr. Seraphim utilized expertly Phillip Johnson’s “wedge”: revealing the dichotomy between the fact of science and the faith of evolution. Evolution is not science, it is philosophy, belief in which takes a leap of faith from fact to interpretation. The faith of evolution, then, banks on an etiology that necessitates nothing but time and chance. This faith is antithetical to the Faith of Christianity. Not even theistic evolution can successfully wed the two. It is a simple tale of two masters; and Fr. Seraphim contends one cannot serve both.
While scientific minds may gravitate towrds Dr. Michael Behe’s writings, or those of Dr. Johnson, theological minds will find Blessed Seraphim’s patristic commentary and his expert criticism of evolutionary philosophy more than amenable to their faith. For those too embarrassed to accept the biblical and patristic (though, Fr. Seraphim clearly contends, not fundamentlist) dogma of creation, this will provide enough stiffening agent to the theological backbone to wed reason and doctrine. Even those unpersuaded by Fr. Seraphim’s critique will nonetheless find they have somewhat less confidence in their previous position.