Sunday, August 1, 2010

Holy Tradition on Formation vs Generation

Alice C. Lisnley

In conversations about Genesis and creation one must be mindful of the distinction between the original formation of Man and Woman and the generation of the human race. This distinction is necessary to understand the Bible's teaching on Christ's Incarnation by the Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 through Mary, the Mother of God. St. John of Damascus compared the Mary with Eve, writing: Just as the latter was formed from Adam without connection, so also did the former bring forth the new Adam, who was brought forth in accordance with the laws of parturition and above the nature of generation. (On the Orthodox Faith, IV, 14)

Holy Tradition, which in the first order is the unchanging and immutable kergyma concerning Jesus Christ, teaches that all things came into being through Him; that Christ existed with the Father before the world was created. The Beloved Son is the first Man, even before He became Man at His Incarnation. If we think of the creation from the worldly perspective alone we will miss what matters.  All things are to be examined through the lens of the Promised Son for whom God has prepared a Kingdom "not of this world" that is populated by world-lings (imagine that!).  This is the doctrine of the Lord that astonishes (Acts 13).

St. John of Damascus, whose thought is representative of the teaching of all the early Fathers on the formation of man, also wrote: The earliest formation (of man) is called creation and not generation. For creation is the original formation at God's hands, while generation is the succession from each other made necessary by the sentence of death imposed on us on account of the transgression. (On the Orthodox Faith, II, 30)

The woman who Adam named Eve was formed by God also, as St. Cyril explained: Eve was begotten of Adam, and not conceived of a mother, but as it were brought forth of man alone. (Catechetical Lectures, XII, 29). She was formed by God from Man, not born of human flesh. Male and Female were at the beginning formed by God; Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam. This is why it is false to claim that humans are not special; that we are the product of evolutionary generation.

It is also falsely claimed (Aristotle being an advocate) that when humans die their decomposition represents a rebirth. This atomistic regeneration is the basis for many Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, but is not what the Bible teaches. According to the atomistic view, the first humans were produced by nature through spontaneous generation. Yet no examples of spontaneous generation of humans has ever been observed. The idea that matter, when subjected to the correct conditions, can produce human beings is a pagan idea and a popular alternative to what the Bible teaches. But is it supportable?


Mairnéalach said...

The distinction you raise here between creation and generation is helpful and important. However, one must not press it too far. Psalm 139 "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." This suggests strongly that generation and creation are not two separate modes, but are inextricably linked. It also suggests there is no reason to discount evolution as a mechanism simultaneously creational and generational in nature.

Lucian said...

Adam was made from the earth, not begotten; Christ was begotten from the Father, not made.