Assessment of Darwinism by the Holy Fathers

Numerous Saints have studied the theory of evolution, and have explicitly rejected it. They agree that darwinism is false teaching, incompatible with the Orthodox Christian Faith.

This includes such luminaries as St. Barsanuphius of Optina, St. John of Kronstadt, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Justin Popovic, St. Nikolai Velimirovic, St. Nectarius of Pentapolis, St. Vladimir of Kiev (hieromartyr), St. Thaddeus of Tver, St. Luke of Crimea, St. John Maximovitch, and St. Hilarion Troitsky.

A comprehensive assessment of Darwinism has already been given by the Holy Fathers. These holy zealots of piety definitely expressed their attitude to the evolutionary hypothesis of Charles Darwin. And this fact, by the way, confirms that Darwinism is not a purely scientific phenomenon, but a spiritual one. After all, none of the church teachers gave special assessments to the law of Archimedes, or to the theory of electromagnetism.

Many authorities in the Orthodox Church have spoken unanimously regarding evolutionary "theory" — both contemporaries of Darwin and those who lived after him. So, let us listen to the voice of the Holy Fathers who inherited their unequivocal attitude to Darwin's teaching:

St. Barsanuphius of Optina

“The English philosopher Darwin created a whole system according to which life is a struggle for existence, a struggle between the strong and the weak, where the defeated are doomed to perdition, and the victors triumph. This is already the beginning of bestial philosophy, and people who believe in it do not think to kill a person, offend a woman, rob the closest friend — and are completely calm about all this, with full consciousness of their 'right' to all these crimes” 

St. John of Kronstadt

“The half-educated and retrained do not believe in a personal, righteous, omnipotent and beginningless God, but believe in an impersonal beginning and in some kind of evolution of the world and all creatures . . . and therefore they live and act as if they would not have to answer to anyone for their words and deeds, thus deifying their mind and passions. . . . Blinded, they reach madness, deny the very existence of God, and assert that everything happens through blind evolution (the teaching that everything that is born happens by itself, without the participation of the Creative power). But whoever has a mind will not believe such crazy nonsense” 

St. Theophan the Recluse

“This is exactly the theory of the formation of the world from foggy spots with their supports — the theory of arbitrary origin, Darwinian origin of genera and species, and with his last dream of the advent of man. Everything is like a sleepy delirium”

“We now have many nihilists, naturalist scientists, Darwinists, spiritualists and Westerners in general — well, do you think the Church would keep silent, would not have given her voice, would not have condemned and anathematized them, if there was something new in their teaching? On the contrary, there would certainly have been a council, and all of them, with their teachings, would have been anathematized. To the present Synodicon of Orthodoxy, only this paragraph would be added: 'To Büchner, Feuerbach, Darwin, Renan, Kardek and all their followers - anathema!'

Of course, there is no need for a special council, nor for any addition. All their false teachings have long been anathematized. At the present time, not only in provincial cities, but in all places and churches, the rite of Orthodoxy should be introduced and performed, and all the teachings contrary to the word of God should be collected and announced to everyone, so that everyone knows what to fear, and which teachings to run away from."

St. Justin (Popovich)

“Therefore God gave them over to shameful pleasures — they are satisfied not with heavenly, but with earthly ones, and only with what causes the laughter of the devil and the cry of the angels of Christ. They take pleasure in caring for the flesh . . . in denying God, in a completely biological (animal-like) life, in naming a monkey as their ancestor, in dissolving anthropology into zoology

St. Nikolai Velimirovic

“Millions of years had to pass, say the wordless minds in our time, for the spine to straighten, and the monkey became a man! They say so, not knowing the strength and power of the Living God”

“We are all unworthy children of the king, for our thoughts are not royal, not a royal attitude towards ourselves and our neighbor. Some of us renounce the divine royal dynasty and call ourselves the heir to the monkey dynasty. 'The founders of our human race were monkeys,' these people say. 'The monkeys were our forefathers, and we are their great-grandchildren.'" 

Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis also expressed his righteous anger, denouncing Darwinists who want to "prove that man is the monkey from which they boast they originated."

St. Vladimir of Kiev, hieromartyr — of the new martyrs and confessors of Russia — gave a most profound and accusatory assessment of Darwinism:

“Only at the present time has such a daring philosophy found a place for itself, which overthrows human dignity and tries to make its false teaching widespread . . . It says that man did not come from God's hands; in an endless and gradual transition from the imperfect to the perfect, he developed out of the animal kingdom, and just as little as an animal has a soul, so just as little does a man . . .

How immeasurably deep all this humiliates and offends man! From the highest level in the series of creations, he is relegated to the same level with animals . . . There is no need to refute such a teaching on scientific grounds, although it is not difficult to do this, since disbelief has far from proved its positions . . .

But if such a teaching finds itself now more and more and more followers, it is not because . . . that the teaching of unbelief has become undeniably true, but because it does not prevent a depraved and sin-prone heart from indulging in its passions. For if a person is not immortal, if he is no more than an animal that has reached the highest development, then he has nothing to do with God . . .

Brothers, do not listen to the destructive, poisonous teachings of unbelief, which reduces you to the level of animals and — depriving you of human dignity — promises you nothing except despair and an inconsolable life!" 

St. Thaddeus of Tver, hieromartyr

“A person who does not believe in God wants to explain the origin of the world out of the whirling dust of the world, in which in every blade of grass, in the structure and life of every smallest creature, so much intelligence is embedded beyond human understanding. Centuries-old human wisdom has not been able to create a single living grain, and meanwhile people try to explain all the wondrous diversity in the world by the unconscious movements of matter”

"Life, as they say, is an enormous complex mechanical process; it is not known when, by whom and for what it was put into action . . . But if life is a mechanical process, then one must renounce the soul, thought, will and freedom." 

Saint Luke of Crimea (Voyno-Yasenetsky) 

Darwinism, presuming that man through evolution developed from a lower species of animals, and is not a product of the creative act of the Divine, turned out to be only an assumption, a hypothesis, already outdated for science. This hypothesis is recognized as contradicting not only the Bible, but also nature itself, which jealously strives to preserve the purity of each species, and does not even know the transition from a sparrow to a swallow. The facts of the transition of a monkey into a man are unknown”

We have given a small list of sayings about Darwinism, from Church teachers glorified as saints in the Russian, Serbian and Greek local Churches. This list can be easily continued. 

In the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), St. John of San Francisco (Maximovich) spoke about the error of evolutionism. And a very detailed assessment of the Darwinian theory of evolution from the standpoint of patristic theology was given by his disciple and spiritual follower Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose). Today, many Orthodox Christians consider Father Seraphim of Platina worthy of being glorified as a saint. 

St. Hilarion (Troitsky), Hieromartyr

"The idea of ​​progress is the adaptation of human life to the general principle of evolution, and evolutionary theory is the justification of the struggle for existence . . . But not only did the saints of the Orthodox Church not promote the idea of progress, they almost always denied it in principle."

This study leads to an important conclusion, that the rejection of evolutionist ideas, and in particular the criticism of Darwinism by the Saints who lived after Charles Darwin, is not an innovation in Orthodox theology, but a consistent and faithful continuation of the tradition of patristic spiritual heritage.

— Archpriest Constantine Bufeev

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