Apologetic Tracks: Creationism or Evolution: Which is correct?

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Creationism or Evolution:
Which is correct ?

As we look at these two points of view, it is best to start out with some important principles and truths.

First of all, the Church has continually insisted that there is no contradiction between the truth of faith and the truth of science. Truth cannot contradict truth. There may be some clear difficulties between certain speculations and theories concerning creation, but a truth of revelation and a truth of science by the very nature of truth are compatible.

What is the truth from revelation about creation? The first thing for us to acknowledge is that the revelation that comes to us from the revealed Word of God (the Bible) should not be viewed through a scientific lens. It does not deal with science but with faith.

In 1950 Pope Pius XII stated: “The (Magisterium) of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of (people) experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter. (Concerning Some False Opinions threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine - Humani Generis- no. 36.)

Pope John Paul II further taught:
"In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points…  Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies – which was neither planned nor sought – constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences  October 22, 1966)

When the human writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, speaks about creation in seven days, he is not giving a scientific, chronological, historical   perspective. He is aware of the basic truth he has been given to convey and he knows that he wants to convey this message in a way that it is easy to remember.

To do this he chose a formula that was easy to comprehend: the work week of human beings of his day. He expressed his understanding —scientifically limited — of the created world he was aware of. This was the tool he used. What was the message?

First of all, he states that there is a God who is the source of all creation. Before creation, there was nothing but God, who alone is uncreated.  Second, God created all things out of nothing, not out of necessity but out of the goodness of His love. Third, God created all for His own glorification. Fourth, God created man and woman at the height of all earthly creation. Fifth, man and woman are different from all other animals in so far as God “breathed” life into them. This life is called a soul which is immortal and spiritual.

Sixth, not only did God create man and woman but He shared His very divine life with them.  Seventh, all that God created was good. Eighth, God keeps all creation in existence. Ninth, man and woman sinned against God, experiencing the consequences of their sin. Tenth, God in his providential mercy promised to send a Savior who would reconcile man and woman once more to God. This is the heart of the first three chapters of Genesis.

Over the centuries, as human beings looked at the wonders of creation and came to an ever expanding understanding of its vastness and complexity, questions concerning the origin of creation and the development of creation have challenged the human mind seeking greater clarity.

Many different theories and speculations have developed over the ages as our scientific knowledge has developed and expanded. The various theories on evolution of creation from the first matter through its various manifestations of existence have fascinated the human mind, probing for understanding.

It is not the purpose of this piece to delve into these various speculations and theories. But it is important that we understand the present teaching of the Church in this question concerning evolution.

First of all, while the Church teaches the ten truths stated earlier, it does not teach a literal interpretation of creation as do those who support strict creationism. The Bible is not to be strictly interpreted literally, but must be interpreted from the vantage point of what did God reveal and what was the means by which the human author used to convey these fundamental truths.

Second, it is clear from Romans 5:12-19 that Adam and Eve are the beginning of all human creatures, through whom sin came to all.

“Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, in as much as all sinned for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person's transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person's sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one   person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.”

The Church has opposed what is called polygenism, which proposes that the human race came from a group of original human beings. The Church teaches instead that all human beings have descended from an individual couple, Adam and Eve, and that each of these descendants has been born with original sin —separation from God.

Third, the Church teaches that if biological evolution actually took place, then it didn’t happen haphazardly but according to a plan by God and continues to be directed by God for His purpose.

While there is no contradiction between the truths of faith and the truths of science, there will always be a tension between them. Faith deals with the truth of a spiritual reality that is beyond the scope of the scientific realm. This spiritual reality — God and His plan for creation — is at the heart of all creation, and creation cannot fully be understood without this relationship. On the other hand, science deals with the material, tangible, observable reality of creation. The spiritual realm is beyond its scope and therefore is limited in its understanding about creation.

Let me conclude with a statement by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, prior to his elevation to the papacy.

“We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the 'project' of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary -- rather than mutually exclusive -- realities.” (Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall )

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