Charles Darwin vs. the New Martyrs of Russia

"Darwin, Renan, Carderc and all their followers are anathema! Yes, there is no need for a special council. . . . All their false teachings have long been anathematized . . .”

We can listen to the saints, and see how they reacted to Darwinian ideas. For a person who is even slightly honest and impartial, all of this will result in an obvious and unequivocal answer.

Translated by Kimberly Gleason

The repressive machine of the communist state often blamed the new martyrs for disagreeing with the Darwinian hypothesis of human origins, which was interpreted as “disagreement with science” and even “agitation against Soviet education”.

The holy martyr Nikolai (Pokrovsky) († 1937) said during interrogation:

“I am a religious person, I never refused and will not give up my convictions, despite the fact that religion and science [appear to] disagree. To take the question at least about the origin of man: I prove to believers and I am convinced that God created man, but science says the opposite" [1]


Martyr Varlaam (Nikolsky) († 1937) — During the interrogation, the investigator asked the following question: “Did you try to conduct religious propaganda among schoolchildren? In particular, they said that the schools did not correctly explain the origin of man?” To which the holy father replied:

“Last year I passed by the school, and a school student addressed me with a question about where man came from, saying that the teacher said during a lesson that man descended from a monkey, and asked me what I think. To this I replied that man came from God.” [2]

Rev. Gabriel (Igoshkin) († 1959) — During the interrogation on the charge that he ignored science, replied:

“This is not true, I love science and I learn all my life and advise others to learn, for learning is light, and ignorance is darkness ... [But] I spoke about the creation of life and man on earth, as it is written in the Holy Scripture, I could not say anything else.” [3]

At the same time, a witness sitting in the same cell along with the martyr Pavel (Andreev) († 1937) told how “priest Andreev ... said that the Soviet government was preaching Darwin's teaching, that man descended from a monkey, and that was blasphemy and a lie.” [4]

Even before the new martyrs mentioned it, the martyr Vladimir Kievsky (+1918) said the same thing:

“Only now has such a bold philosophy found its place that overthrows human dignity and tries to give its false teaching widespread dissemination. ... Not from the hands of God, it says, a man originated; in the endless and gradual transition from the imperfect to the perfect, he evolved from the animal kingdom and, just as an animal has a little soul, so it is a little bit man ... How immeasurably deeply 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 doctrine on scientific grounds, although it is not difficult to do this, since disbelief has not proved its positions” [5]

This position of our new martyrs was not at all accidental and not spontaneous, for even before the revolution the Russian saints unanimously testified to the sharp rejection of the ideas proposed by Darwin. Others who censured them included, for example:

  • St. John of Kronstadt 
  • St. Ambrose of Optina 
  • Reverend Barsanuphius of Optina 
  • St. Theophan the Recluse 
  • St. Macarius (Nevsky) 
  • St. Nicholas of Japan 

The saints of other Local Churches also reacted to these ideas — In the Greek Church St. Nectarios, and in the Serbian Church, St. Nicholai (Velimirovich). Since in a small article it is not possible to quote all their words on this occasion [6], we confine ourselves to one statement by St. Theophan the Recluse:

“Now we have a lot of nihilists, naturalists, and Darwinists have proliferated . . . well, do you think the Church would be silent, would not give its vote, would not condemn and anathematize them if there was something new in their teaching? On the contrary, a council would be called immediately, and all of them, with their teachings, would be anathematized. To the present rank of Orthodoxy, only one point would be added: 'Buchner, Feuerbach, Darwin, Renan, Carderc and all their followers are anathema!' Yes, there is no need for a special council or any sort of addition. All their false teachings have long been anathematized” [7]

A hundred and sixty years ago, all school education in an enlightened and civilized Europe — including Russia — was inseparable from religion, and accordingly, a biblical understanding of the origin of the world, life, and man.

Presumably, it was not easy for numerous atheists of that time. One of them would hear from his own child: “Why, father, you say that there is no God, but we were told at school that He created man. Where did the people come from then?” And the free-thinking parent had to raise his eyes to the ceiling and mumble: “well ... uh ... do you understand, son ... ”

It is not difficult to guess what a gift Darwin's Origin of Species was for all of this "enlightened" public. Actually, there were people before him who wrote books on the topic that “all this somehow formed by itself, without any God.” But when Charles Darwin succeeded in imparting some sort of scientific speculation to such constructions, this caused a sensation among the atheistic public.

Actually, the worldwide advertisements of this hypothesis that put it on the pedestal as a “generally accepted theory” were despite the objections of many prominent scientists of that time, whose voices were drowned in atheistic triumph. In the process of this advancement, the evolutionists did not disdain a number of deliberate fakes in order to fabricate the missing facts as soon as possible in support of the new teaching. Among them are “Piltdown man”, “Hesperopitek”, “archeoraptor”, “Haeckel embryos” and much more. All of them subsequently, sometimes decades later, were officially refuted and rejected by the scientific community, but they played a role in the advertising of the evolutionary hypothesis.

After the revolution in Russia, the evolutionary hypothesis became one of the main trump cards of anti-religious propaganda, and as we have seen, in some cases it even became a point of accusation against ministers of the Church. It is clear that not all believers, like the new martyrs, were ready to make an unequivocal choice in favor of the Word of God and bravely testify of the choice to be an 'outsider'. 

The situation had changed, and now the children of such believers were asked: “Why, papa, it is written in the Bible that God created man, and we were told at school that man came from a monkey?” So some “believers'” parents decided to mumble back : "Uh ... do you understand, son ... there really is no difference ... it's all the same ... science and religion cannot contradict each other because they talk about different things" — and so on and so forth.

And with the passage of time, those who say that have increased among Orthodox Christians. During Soviet times, in response to an atheistic criticism, to some people it seemed a good idea to say: “It doesn't matter, even if evolution happened, God sent it from heaven and God blessed it, so it couldn't speak against God!”

Such a point of view may not contradict an abstract “belief in God” in a nonchristian religion such as deism. But this sort of thinking has nothing in common with Orthodox Christianity. After all, the Bible has a specific description of the origin of animals and humans, and it is at odds with the evolutionary view. This is obvious to any unbiased person.

Moreover, it diverges fundamentally — in one case, “God created from the earth,” in the other, “it happened itself out of the water, and then from each other.” There is a contradiction, and it cannot be eliminated with spells about the fact that "science and religion cannot contradict, because they talk about different things." How are they about different things? After all, the Bible and Darwinism speak of the origin of the same world, of this world in which we live, and not of any different worlds.

Actually, the whole question of our attitude to evolutionism for an Orthodox person means just this — the question of trusting God. This is a litmus test that shows the presence or absence of such trust, and the place of God in human life. It shows who a person believes more — himself and sinful people like him, or God. It also shows whether he is ready to go after God against the stereotypes of the godless world, or prefers to maintain good, friendly relations with the world. So, there is a contradiction.

In the Orthodox Christian faith, it is not by chance that the Bible is called the Word of God. It contains the truth that God Himself revealed to man. So when the choice is whether to believe God, who said that He created man from the earth, or to believe this world, who says that man came from a monkey, there can be no hesitation for a pious man. A pious person will believe God, even if all the rest of mankind will repeat something different to him, even if his choice will make him look “stupid” and “backwards” in the eyes of the pompous authorities of this century, even if they stop taking him seriously and laugh at him.

And here — for an Orthodox Christian — there are so many additional guidelines that it is impossible to make a mistake. Thank God, we are not Protestants. In addition to the Bible text itself and our own sanity, we can also accept the ancient patristic interpretations of Genesis, seeing that evolutionary doctrine is as alien to them as it is to the biblical text. There are also many later saints, and God breathed the same Holy Spirit into them as He did with the ancient fathers. We can listen to the saints, and see how they reacted to Darwinian ideas. For a person who is even slightly honest and impartial, all of this will result in an obvious and unequivocal answer.

Theistic Evolution

Those "Orthodox" persons who, knowing this, continue to persist in their commitment to evolutionism, do not do this from any "ambiguity", but from the fact that they have made their choice — and this choice, alas, was not in favor of God. If neither the words of the saints, nor the words of God Himself could become a “sufficient argument” for them, then, of course, the words of this article also will not provide one, and it would be naive to think otherwise.

It is necessary to say a few words regarding those who think this is "not a fundamental question” and that it “doesn't matter whether you think God created man from a monkey, or from the earth.”

Even a little reflection on this question — for an honest person — will show that such thinking is incorrect. The simplest question on which it is displayed is the question of death. Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers teach that death was not originally in the world, but that it arose as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, from whom sin spread to all their descendants — “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men” (Romans 5:12). And the Lord Jesus Christ, who is also called the New Adam, came to free mankind from this misfortune.

According to evolutionists, death not only arose independently of human sin, but existed in the world before Adam. Moreover, they act as if death participated in the creation of the world (after all, millions of deaths of “intermediate forms” were needed for man to appear).

If you agree with the evolutionary hypothesis, you will have to admit that death is a natural and inalienable attribute of pristine living nature, including the human, Adam. Although on this occasion, the Church has already defined:

“That whosoever says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he had sinned or not, he would have died in body — that is, he would have gone forth of the body, not because his sin merited this, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema." (Canon 109 of the Council of Carthage)

So, there is a difference, and it is very significant. Moreover, to be at least a little honest and to go to the logical end, you will have to admit that, depending on the recognition or non-recognition of the evolutionary hypothesis by the believer, the very image of God, whom he preaches to others, changes.

Or will a person really claim that there is no difference either, between saying that God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.” (Wis. 1:13), and saying that God Himself created death in the world and innocently “rewarded” His creation?

Would they also have us believe that there is no difference between saying that “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Num. 23:19), and making it clear that God, through an inexplicable whim, lied to His prophet Moses instead of honestly telling him about evolution, kept his other prophets in complete ignorance about it, and also misled the apostle Paul, who said that “the first man was of the earth, made of dust” (1 Cor. 15:47)? 

Would the evolutionist have us believe that God misled all His saints, and many of his sincere followers, until suddenly in the nineteenth century he deigned to reveal the truth through the mouth of a non-Christian English thinker? This "thinker" is the same man who said the following:

“I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true, for if so the plain language of the text [of Scripture] seems to show that the men who do not believe — and this would include my father, brother, and almost all of my friends — will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” [8]

- Charles Darwin

I repeat, for a truly believing and pious person, there will be no doubt about how this issue is solved.

A believer is not intimidated by the authority of science, this modern idol to which evolutionists appeal. He knows well that scientific knowledge is always limited to the bounds of creation, and also perverted by the fall of the human mind, and therefore cannot weigh over the knowledge that we receive through the revelation of Him Who was the only observer of the creation of the world. He knows that the evolutionary hypothesis itself is not an “established fact,” but is merely an interpretation of isolated facts. Moreover, the evolutionary interpretation is far from being the most convincing one, and it has many unresolved questions.

Evolutionism stands on two “pillars” — Abiogenesis and Darwinism. Each of them has a fatal vulnerability, precisely from a scientific point of view.

Abiogenesis (the origin of life from non-life)

Abiogenesis is a hypothesis about the natural origin of living beings (biosystems) from inanimate matter. Evolutionists propose to believe that from common chemical compounds that were in particular conditions, the simplest organisms suddenly appeared "by themselves", which, in turn, began to further develop into more complex ones.

But how? On this, evolutionists have no real answer. All the stages of abiogenesis offered by them (biomonomers, biopolymers, supramolecular structures, etc.) are pure divination and fantasy, not confirmed by anything. Moreover such proposals have been disproved by numerous experiments that have been conducted since the 1920s.

Such a transition is impossible in principle, since even the most primitive unicellular bacterium is a very complex system, all elements of which are interconnected and have a specific purpose within the basic tasks of a living organism — to maintain their existence and reproduce.

For example, the simplest parasitic bacterium, mycoplasma, consists of 500 genes, and the simplest autotrophic bacterium has 1100 genes. And not one element is superfluous. Any such complex system cannot be created “by itself”, self-assembling each individual piece, one at a time. It can only work if all its elements exist at once, and only if they are assembled in a certain sequence.

For decades, entire generations of scientists in hundreds of institutes in various countries have unsuccessfully tried to achieve the “self-combination” of the necessary chemical compounds into the simplest single-celled creature. The results are consistently the same — zero bacteria. And no wonder. After all, this is the same as putting together a few pieces of iron, glass, and pieces of plastic, and starting to experiment with them. However you shuffle them and whatever conditions you put them in, they won’t assemble themselves into a TV.

Abiogenesis cannot take place, due to the impossibility of forming supercomplex systems by "small steps." All that scientists have accomplished is the growth and division of microdroplets, in which enzymes have already been added (A. Oparin), or similar reactions in droplets obtained after heating a mixture of amino acids (S. Fox), that is, some non-viable reactions in ready-made "semi-finished products". After half a century of experiments, S. Miller himself published articles on the instability of biomonomers. Thus, even the simplest bacteria have not yet been obtained.


Now for Darwinism, that is, ideas about the origin of all species a common ancestor, subject to natural selection in the struggle for survival. In its original, “classical” form, Darwinism is no longer accepted. Today, the most widespread approach is the Synthetic Theory of Evolution, which is trying to reconcile Darwinism with genetics, a complex aspect of life which Darwin himself did not suspect. At the same time, alternative variants of evolution are being proposed, and are becoming widespread — various saltationist models, such as Eldridge’s discontinuous equilibrium theory and Baire nomogenesis.

The differences among the various theories are significant. According to Darwinism, changes occur over millions of years — slowly, indirectly, and small — while according to Saltationism, evolutionary changes occur very quickly and directionally, followed by millions of years of slow adaptations.

Actually, in order to be convinced of the inconsistency of the theory of evolution, there is not even a need to read the books of creationists — it is enough to get acquainted with the mutual polemic of these two directions of evolutionism and repeat after St. Basil the Great that we, “letting them depose each other, without touching the arguments about the essence, and believing Moses that "God created the heaven and the earth," let us glorify the best Artist who wisely and skillfully created the world." [9]

It is worth pointing out the main trick of evolutionists — they derive the beak from examples of beak changes, and they derive the wing itself from wing color changes, that is, structural adjustment is derived from “parametric optimization", whereas these are fundamentally different things.

Examples of changes within the framework of small adaptations within animal species are well observed in nature, are experimentally produced, and are confirmed archeologically. But serious structural changes — and the whole evolutionary idea of ​​the “natural” transition of some animal genera to another — is not observed in nature, is not produced experimentally, and is not confirmed archeologically. Roughly speaking, it is no problem to bring about a new breed of dog, but it is impossible for a dog "naturally" to produce a cat, or even a winged dog.

For any requests to prove their hypotheses in fact, evolutionists readily cite examples of intraspecies adaptive changes known to people thousands of years before Darwin, pretending that in this way they proved the very basis of evolutionism. The fundamental structural changes of organisms is an idea that they have not been able to prove so far, neither by observations in nature, nor by experiments, nor by archeological finds. [10]

But even if a pious Christian does not know all of this, it is enough for him to make the right choice of knowing the Word of God, so that, as Reverend Ambrose said, “you don’t believe in nonsense indiscriminately: that you can be born out of dust and that people are monkeys.” [11]

Those who make a different choice, calling themselves "Orthodox evolutionists", do their best to "catch up with the fog" and justify their steps at any cost. But in the light of such clear and obvious evidence, all their arguments are in a spirit that can only cause compassionate pity, such as: “the Hebrew word for earth can be understood as clay, that is, reddish earth, and the color red can symbolize blood, thus when considering the ground one can bear in mind the monkey . . . .” In general, one can expect the same sort of reasoning from any unfortunate person who seeks to justify his error in one way or another.

The most frequent argument in practice of “Orthodox evolutionists” is psychological: Pointing to several names of priests and bishops known in the twentieth century who believed in evolution, they threateningly ask, "Would you dare to say that father such-and-such was wrong? Who are you to say that they were wrong, and that you know the truth?" And so on and so forth. To such a question, one can reply in this way:

You put several well-known people of the twentieth century on one side, and us on the other side, and you ask us to choose. But you are mistaken, because we do not stand alone. Justice requires us to include many people on the opposing side:

  • There are many Saints of the 19th and 20th centuries who clearly rejected evolution.
  • In the previous centuries, all the holy fathers who taught about the origin of life and man, taught differently than Darwin.
  • And finally, in God's word — the Bible — God Himself described the origin of animals and man in a completely different way.

In the midst of such a stark contradiction, you should not be offended that we prefer to stand with God and the host of His Saints who disagree with Darwin, rather than with a handful of modern men who agree with Darwin — and we pray that the Lord forgives these people for their error.

If, in this contradiction, you prefer to join the small group of our senior contemporaries, then we have no choice but to mourn for you and recall the apostolic words:

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

[1] Hieromonk Nestor (Kumysh). New Martyrs of the St. Petersburg Diocese. SPb., 2003. p. 209.

[2] Hieromonk Damascene (Orlovsky). Martyrs, confessors and devotees of piety of the Russian Orthodox Church of the twentieth century. Biographies and materials of them. Prince 6. Tver, 2002. p. 313.

[3] Lives of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Twentieth Century Moscow Diocese. September October. Tver, 2003. p. 122.

[4] Hieromonk  Damascene (Orlovsky). Martyrs, confessors and devotees of piety of the Russian Orthodox Church of the twentieth century. Biographies and materials of them. Prince 7. Tver, 2002. p. 162.

[5] CVM Vladimir Kievsky. Where is true happiness: in faith or unbelief? M., 1998. - Ss. 6-18.

[6] For those who are interested I am referring to my article “The Theological Aspects of the Problem of Harmonizing Orthodox and Evolutionary Doctrines on the Origin of Man” in the collection “Six Days Against Evolution”, where all quotations are given.

[7] St. Theophan the Recluse. Contemplation and reflection. M., 1998. - p. 146.

[8] Darwin H. Autobiography, ch. four.

[9] St. Basil the Great. Conversations on the Six Days, 1.

[10] As for the latter, the lack of “transitional links” even forced them to make numerous fakes, which were later exposed with disgrace.

[11] The Venerable Ambrose of Optina. Advice to spouses and parents.

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