we should read it as the Fathers do. they didnt feel the need to pit one level of interpretation against another, and in fact they strongly warn us against doing such a thing.
I don't have a problem with people who believe Genesis depicts how things were created. But I think there is certainly a problem if those people try to apply that literal philosophy to all Biblical interpretation and when they automatically assume that anything not from the church and not from the bible must be wrong.
yes, that would be folly. thankfully, ive never encountered anyone w/ such an attitude. but when it comes to matters of Scriptures we look to the Church - St. Basil explicitly says that he is interpreting the Scripture via the Church and not from any wisdom found outside the Church. That doesnt mean he thinks everything outside the Church is wrong, but that it is not within its realm to try to interpret Scripture.
St Gregory Palamas tells us clearly that we must also be cautious in looking to secular wisdom to tell us anything about the Scriptures:
St. Gregory Palamas, In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.11, p. 34:
If one of the Fathers says the same thing as do those from without, the concordance is only verbal, the thought being quite different. The former, in fact, have, according to Paul, “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), while the latter expresses at best a human reasoning. “As the heaven is distant from the earth, so is My thought distant from your thought” (Is. 55:9), saith the Lord. Besides, even if the thinking of these men were at times the same as that of Moses, Solomon, or their imitators, what would it benefit them? What man of sound spirit and belonging to the Church could from this draw the conclusion that their teaching comes from God?
In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.12, p. 36:
From secular knowledge, St. Gregory writes: “we absolutely forbid to expect any precision whatever in the knowledge of Divine things; for it is not possible to draw from it any certain teaching on the subject of God. For “God hath made it foolish” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:20).
In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.15, p. 44:
The power of this reason which has been made foolish and nonexistent enters into battle against those who accept the traditions in simplicity of heart; it despises the writings of the Spirit, after the example of men who have treated them carelessly and have set up the creation against the Creator.
I don't necessarily disagree with you entirely on this issue.
What we have to understand, is that we cannot project our modern society back onto the fathers. The scientists of today, and science of today is nothing like what "science" was back 1500 years ago. As I've pointed out before, many of the "scientists" of that day were also astrologers and dabbled into the occult or pagan practices. For them, their science was integrated with their religious identity.
Now, one could argue the same about today, but today, many scientists, while they may be atheists, are called, by common scientific practice, to put aside belief in or rejection of God and look at science more objectively since the realm of religion should not be integrated into science.
Darwin himself made this mistake, and bought into a lot of the philosophy of his day. While he isn't an authority, i'll paraphrase another Orthodox layperson about Darwin. That although I believe in evolution (to an extent), the fact that Darwin's ideas suddenly were discovered during a time where philosophers were searching for an excuse to exclude God from creation is just too convenient.
For all of Darwin's faults though, and for whatever errors he may have made, he did discover something quite profound about God's creation.
The Fathers hardly are at a consensus on the issue. We can say that they all were "creationists", but that is to greatly misunderstand their time and the knowledge they had available to them. It is kind of like looking back at the Fathers and asking why were they anti-semites? It's a fundamental misunderstanding of them and their time. They weren't creationists in the modern sense, because creationists have a unique, relatively "new" way of viewing the scriptures. They have brought scripture into direct conflict with science, or at least their view of scripture. Creationists, in the modern context, take scripture and desire to prove that it is a legitimate way to judge science or judge historical research and archeology. This is not a good way to approach the issue, and certainly isn't the way the Fathers looked at the problem. For them, there wasn't a problem, because they didn't feel the need to reconcile the two. This is the same today, religion and science do not and cannot contradict one another. Science doesn't try to pry into the matters of religion and spirituality, and science cannot judge whether or not God exists. At the same time, religion is not about trying to prove science right or wrong.
If science says the earth is older than 6,000 years, we have to understand that they doesn't have to, and does not necessarily contradict the scriptures. It is our interpretation of the scripture, which can sometimes be faulty, that leads us to believe science contradicts the Bible.
There is a whole world out there that science has discovered, and in my view, it has just blown my mind and caused me to marvel at God's creation even more. The fact that we aren't just big bodies of material, but we are all made up of little tiny atomic particles and there is an entire molecular and atomic world that we are a part of, but that we aren't aware of, even while it is essential to our very being. Or the theories that now suggest that not only is our universe very vast, continually expanding and composed of innumerable bodies, but that we are probably not the only universe, and that there might possibly be a multiverse.
Such ideas don't contradict scripture, and we don't have to assume that they inevitably have to. Science deals with creation, but Orthodoxy deals with God, who is uncreated and ever-existing, the creator of all creation. It is about our salvation and how we, God's creation become like God himself.
Whether Adam was a literal human being, or Eve was a literal human being, or that the Garden was a literal physical garden is nearly irrelevant because the point is not to show that it was this "literal" historical act that occurred that caused our fall, but the point is that we are human beings, created by God, after his image and likeness, and we fell and Christ became a human being and saved us from eternal death, separation from God.
The conclusion that some, like Bart Ehrman made, was that because their fundamentalist ideas were wrong, that the Bible and its figures are lying. They jumped from one extreme to the other, rather than considering the middle. Rather than asking themselves that maybe their view of scripture was a bit flawed, their "all or nothing" attitude led to them completely abandoning the very faith and scriptures they had once held as infallible.
Maybe I can draw another analogy. Science, psychology and research has shown that some people are born homosexual. I know some Christians who will fight tooth and nail against this, supposing that to be born that way means God must approve of it. Yet there is another position, which I take, that says that it doesn't matter how we are born, because we are all born into the fallen state of mankind, and we are all born with imperfections and inclinations to sin. Being born a certain way, with certain predispositions doesn't give that person an excuse or "pardon" to entertain those predispositions. Rather, it is more of a reason to sympathize with man's fallen nature and have mercy on these people, and recognize that while we may not be able to change their psychology or predispositions, we can help them grow and be able to fight against temptation and against sin to the best of their abilities.
I've found that Orthodoxy most often pulls toward the middle position rather than one extreme or the other. We also tend not to define things that we don't know about. There isn't a consensus on how to interpret Genesis and all we are called to believe is that God created all things. As I said earlier, my problem with creationism simply lays in the reasoning behind their position. If their position is set upon a theological opinion based on a reading of the fathers and scripture, it's permissible. However, if their position is like the fundamentalists, and based upon the idea that science is opposed to Christianity and also in their notion that the Bible (how they interpret it) "can't be wrong", then that position is flawed and shouldn't be considered an "orthodox" view.