Creation vs. evolution in Serbia brings controversy among Orthodox Christians

A controversy about teaching evolution in Serbia shows that the evolution-creation conflict can be played out along Eastern Orthodox lines. After “a group of interested citizens” in Serbia submitted a petition—with signatures from more than 50 academicians and 100 additional people with postgraduate degrees—asking to “revise the curriculum for study of evolution” so that it would be taught only as a theory, a group of 11 Orthodox theologians from the Faculty of Theology at Belgrade University reacted by stating that the petition was inappropriate and even anti-Orthodox, reports Gayle Woloschak and Tatjana Paunesku (both at Northwestern University School of Medicine) in an article published on the website Public Orthodoxy (October 10) of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University. Woloschak and Paunesku writes that it as significant to see theologians reacting to such demands and stating that “the Holy Bible is not, and it was never meant to be, a textbook or an ultimate source for arbitration in any scientific discipline.”

According to the authors, there is currently a challenge from Orthodox “literalist fundamentalists” across the Orthodox world, going along with a new religious rigorism. They find it worth noticing that theologians would develop an articulate rebuke “in the current political climate in Serbia.”

While debates about evolution tend mostly to evoke the reactions by American Christian fundamentalists, they are also found in other places of the world and other religious traditions, as evidenced by the development of an Islamic anti-evolutionist discourse, a trend already mentioned in RW (January 2014). In 2014, Stefaan Blancke, Hans Henrick Hjermitslev and Peter C. Kjærgaard edited a volume on Creationism in Europe (John Hopkins University Press). Two chapters focused on creationist trends countries with a Christian Orthodox religious majority. Among other things, both mention the influence of the works of an American convert to Orthodoxy, the late Hieromonk Seraphim Rose (1934-1982), who wrote several books on various topics, one of them titled Genesis, Creation and Early Man, in which had had developed an Orthodox, Patristic creationist approach.
(Public Orthodoxy, The article includes a link to an English translation of the statement by the 11 Serbian theologians).