On Deification and Evolution

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1889-1929

Christianity requires a humble awareness. My forefather, Adam, was perfect, but I, mankind, introduced only sin and corruption. The Church calls us to humility when it calls Adam our ancestor. But evolution? Descent from the ape? No matter how modestly we rate ourselves, it is impossible not to think with a certain pride: “After all, I am not an ape; after all, progress is manifest in me.” Thus, by calling the ape our ancestor, evolution feeds human pride. If we compare ourselves to the ape we can be proud of our progress, but if we think of sinless Adam, outward progress losses its value. The progress is external, but it is also a sophisticated sin. If mankind is steadily progressing forward, then we can hope in ourselves. We create ourselves. But the Church says the opposite: “We could not become incorrupt and immortal had not the Incorrupt and Immortal One first become the same as we are.” Believing in the incarnation means confessing that without God, all of mankind is nothing.

Throughout the ages, the Church carries the ideal of deification. This ideal is very high, but it demands very much from man. It is unthinkable without the incarnation; it demands first of all that man be humble. Mankind is renouncing this high ideal, and has no need of the incarnation of the Son of God. An infinitely depreciated ideal of life allows man to talk of progress, and gives him the opportunity to be proud of his accomplishments. These two series of ideas make up two different worldviews: that of the Church, and that which is not of the Church. The worldview that is not of the Church—descent from the ape, progress, having no need of and denying the incarnation—is pride. Accepting the incarnation is inseparably bound with humility. Pride wars with the incarnation, as with something unneeded. (Hieromartyr Hilarion [Troitsky], Works in Three Volumes [Moscow: Sretensky Monastery, 2004], 3:294)

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