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For me, there are two very interesting facets to the twelfth section of St. Gregory the Theologian’s Oration 38, particularly in our own context of modern secularism.

One of the most iconic depictions of Christianity within secular America is defined by the Scopes trial of 1925 and the popularization of this incident through the play and movie Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. Dramatized is the (false) dichotomy between science and Christianity and the crux of this particular conflict is in the historic reading of the Book of Genesis.

Please note that St. Gregory, in the fourth century no less, feels free to interpret Genesis from a metaphoric perspective. He equates the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with contemplation, the sinful weakness of Adam with his own weakness and the skins used by Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness with the sinful flesh of fallen humanity.

In other words, Christianity historically did not limited itself to an historic reading of Genesis. Indeed, one of only three men in the entire history of the Orthodox Church primarily uses a metaphoric reading of Genesis in a homily on Christmas. Thus, the secular depiction of Christians adhering to a literal, historic reading of Genesis even in the face of a scientific reading of history is intellectually dishonest.

Another iconic depiction of Christianity is embodied in the fire and brimstone preacher who is exhorting his people to cower from the anger and punishment of God. St. Gregory also posits that God punishes; however, note what the punishment is and why:

[Adam] gained a certain advantage from [being banished from the tree of life and paradise]; death is also the cutting off of sin, that evil might not be immortal, so the punishment becomes love for humankind. For thus, I am persuaded, God punishes.

God is not an angry God who punishes with the fires of hell. Rather, He is a loving father who limits the amount of damage we can do to ourselves until such time that he can heal what damage has already been done.