Grasping at Straws (Men) by using St. Irenaeus

Someone who seriously doesn’t know how to dialogue constructively notes what he believes is the absolute proof that Evolution simply is incompatible with Christian Doctrine. He quotes from the Bishop of Lyons, who by the way supported the primacy of Rome so maybe this person also supports the Primacy of Rome…

God stands in need of nothing, and that He created and made all things by His Word, while He neither required angels to assist Him in the production of those things which are made, nor of any power greatly inferior to Himself, and ignorant of the Father, nor of any defect or ignorance, in order that he who should know Him might become man. But He Himself in Himself, after a fashion which we can neither describe nor conceive, predestinating all things, formed them as He pleased, bestowing harmony on all things, and assigning them their own place, and the beginning of their creation. In this way He conferred on spiritual things a spiritual and invisible nature, on super-celestial things a celestial, on angels an angelical, on animals an animal, on beings that swim a nature suited to the water, and on those that live on the land one fitted for the land – on all, in short, a nature suitable to the character of the life assigned them – while He formed all things that were made by His Word that never wearies.

For this is a peculiarity of the pre-eminence of God, not to stand in need of other instruments for the creation of those things which are summoned into existence. His own Word is both suitable and sufficient for the formation of all things, even as John, the disciple of the Lord, declares regarding Him: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.” Now, among the “all things” our world must be embraced. It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis that He made all things connected with our world by His Word. David also expresses the same truth [when he says] “For He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.” Whom, therefore, shall we believe as to the creation of the world – these heretics who have been mentioned that prate so foolishly and inconsistently on the subject, or the disciples of the Lord, and Moses, who was both a faithful servant of God and a prophet? He at first narrated the formation of the world in these words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and all other things in succession; but neither gods nor angels [had any share in the work].

Now, that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, [saying,] “There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all.” I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord. For what sort of conduct would it be, were we to forsake the utterances of the prophets, of the Lord, and of the apostles, that we might give heed to these persons, who speak not a word of sense? – Philip Schaff, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, electronic ed., 0 (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000).

He then writes,

Today, however, we find that people are trying to present the Genesis account of creation as simply a different form of Ancient Near Eastern myth. They tell us that there is actually no historical narrative in Genesis chapters one through three, but that it is theological, polemical, myth that shows that YHWH is the one true God. They tell us that modern evolutionary science has forced us to reexamine the Genesis creation account and , that Genesis is another ANE myth that does not contradict the theory of evolution. In so doing, they present to us God creating through evolution’s natural selection, or through powers that are greatly inferior to Himself, ignorant of Him, as well as defective and ignorant.

Yes, yes.. those poor people who believe that the authors who wrote the first words actually knew what they were talking about and what they were doing… yeah, those poor people are just wrong. I mean, sure, we have tons of scholarship to support the fact that the Hebrew authors used ANE myths to promulgate their only identity-creating polemic, which by the way, to say scholars suggest that the authors were simply using “a different form” is just stupid and wrong, but hey, why not let a bunch of white guys in the 20th and 21st century dictate what the Text must mean. Further, his notion of trying, desperately to connect theistic evolution to what Irenaeus was talking about not only follows the usual YEC motif of completely obliterating the context of the author but shows his own ineptness at Church History. And, no, I don’t have the time to list all the other assumptions he made what are essentially lies.

But, he doesn’t stop there at completely twisting Irenaeus’ words, context, Evolutionary Science, and actual scholarship… he goes on…

if it was formed such as it really is, then He made it such who had mentally conceived of it as such; or He willed it to exist in the ideality of the Father, according to the conception of His mind, such as it now is, compound, mutable, and transient. Since, then, it is just such as the Father had [ideally] formed in counsel with Himself, it must be worthy of the Father. But to affirm that what was mentally conceived and pre-created by the Father of all, just as it has been actually formed, is the fruit of defect, and the production of ignorance, is to be guilty of great blasphemy. For, according to them, the Father of all will thus be [regarded as] generating in His breast, according to His own mental conception, the emanations of defect and the fruits of ignorance, since the things which He had conceived in His mind have actually been produced. – Philip Schaff, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, electronic ed., 0 (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000).

He concludes that Irenaeus is calling everyone else by Young Earth Creationists blasphemers.. and suggests that we do the same.

Well, silly me, but I thought that context matters. And words. Words matter. Like English words. Or words of authors. Irenaeus is not speaking about theistic evolutionary theory but about Gnosticism and their aeons and other spheres of emanations. This is where a real good study gnosticism would come into play here, to know that the words Irenaeus is using are done in such a way as to refute Gnostic accounts about the creation of the World.

What a shame that someone would stoop so low as to grasp at this straw in a day and age where we have the ability to actually examine the text ourselves. Read Irenaeus in 150-190 and not in 2012. Duh.

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Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

2 thoughts on “Grasping at Straws (Men) by using St. Irenaeus”

  1. That young earth so-called “creationist” does apparently twist the words of Ireneaus , quite a lot .

    What a weird interpretation he presents!

    A number of the typical fundamentalists in the current era tend to have a weird penchant for muddled / equivocal thinking / lateral thinking ….a tendency that they share in common with the lateral thinking, postmodernist secular, hipster sorts of people .

    That guy concludes from Ireneaus writing against the notion that God introduced defects in creation (which was a polemic against the Gnostic sects teaching that some bad demiurge agent took over creation away from God), and, hence, tries to make some weird extrapolation that Ireneaus was somehow writing against theistic evolution ?????What a weird interpretation that guy draws !

    That guy is taking major liberties with the exegetical study of texts …playing quite fast and loose .

    I’ve noticed that a number of fundamentalists when they cannot find the explicit wording in the Bible (or other text they are quoting) to back up some notion they presuppose, they use that “it’s implied” routine . One can weasel in any sort of doctrine with the “it’s implied ” razmatazz …

    So many fundamentalists seem to be so willing to read between the lines , instead of paying attention to what the lines actually say. Very disingenuous stuff they do .

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