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Two Questions on Creation

April 12, 2018

As most of you know, I write a “question and answer” type column for Our Sunday Visitor. (For those interested, back issues of my column are available here: Msgr. Pope at Our Sunday Visitor.)

I recently received these two questions on creation:

Q: I wonder if God has not finished creating the world, that we are still in the sixth day of creation. Then God will rest.

Perhaps we can begin by distinguishing macroevolution from microevolution and Natural Law from natural variations within that law. Microevolution refers to developmental changes within a species or small category of organisms that occur over a relatively short period of time. For example, humans can live more or fewer years, be taller or shorter. Macroevolution refers to major changes that occur over very long periods of time. For instance, the introduction of entirely new species, genera, families, or orders that are entirely independent of what currently exists. In our times we have not seen this. According to fossil records, certain species have come and gone rather suddenly (by geological standards). Even in those cases, though, one could argue that none of the new species introduced anything that violated the norms of Natural Law; rather, they were built upon it.

Within the species homo sapiens there is observable variety: tall, short, slender, plump, dark-complexioned, light-complexioned, straight-haired, wavy-haired. These are naturally occurring variations within the species. Similarly, the earth goes through cycles of warmth and cold, stormy and calm, quaking and serene. These are also natural variations, not the creation of something new, not the creation of something out of nothing.

Scripture says, Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done (Genesis 2:1-2).

Thus, although your comment is understandable it is theologically questionable. God is finished; whatever evolves does so in relationship to what already is. Scientists may disagree about certain details but would for the most part agree that creation (understood as the sum of what is, obeying certain norms of Natural Law) is stable and completed.

To extend the argument even further (using New Testament language), we are not on the sixth day of creation or even the seventh. We are on the eighth day of creation, during which God renews and promises perfection to all He has made. This perfection will be complete at the great Second Coming of Our Lord.

Q: I’ve heard that with the sin of the first parents, sickness and death entered the world and that nature was in perfect harmony prior to that. But scientific findings indicate that whole species came and went prior to mankind.  Comments?

In paradise, Adam and Eve possessed preternatural gifts such as immortality and freedom from suffering. It does not follow, however, that all creation possessed these gifts. For example, Adam and Eve were given to eat of all the fruits of all the trees except one. Thus, even in Eden, some living things “died” so as to sustain others. Further, the Garden of Eden seems to have been a certain location on the earth, not necessarily its entirety.

So, the cycle of living and dying is not excluded by the biblical narrative. From this perspective, paradise can be viewed as a kind of “place apart” from the rest of creation (in which the cycle of life and death is part of the Natural Law God established). Creation did receive additional curses due to the sin of Adam (see Gen 3:17), but these curses likely refer more to the hostility of the climate and the difficulty of man’s relationship to it than to the cycle of death and life.

Creation, though cursed now, will receive greater blessings than first received when Christ comes again (see Romans 8:19ff).

Filed in: Creation

Comments (11)

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  1. Peter Wolczuk says:

    There’s a lot about God’s creation. When I first saw this, fairly new, discovery (in physics posts like the following one) where water existed, then stars (let there be light) then solid matter, such as dry land, I immediately thought of Genesis 1 where the same sequence is mentioned.

  2. Howard says:

    Oh, come on Monseigneur! You know there are different sense in which Scripture can be read. Here’s a possible sense I worked out when I was a Protestant teenager (a rather odd Protestant teenager, in retrospect).

    Day 1: Light and darkness separated — Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
    Day 2: Firmament divides waters below from waters above — Separation of Heaven and Earth, expulsion from Paradise?
    Day 3: Separation of the Waters — the Flood
    Day 4: Creation of the sun, stars, and moon — Establishment of nation of Israel (see Gen. 37:9)
    Day 5: Creation of fish and birds — Christian age, featuring the Fish (ΙΧΘΥΣ) and the descent of the Holy Spirit (represented by a dove)
    Day 6: Creation of beasts, creeping things, and man — Reign of the Antichrist, who exalts man above God
    Day 7: God rests — Eschatological triumph

    Later I discovered that this kind of reading is not as crazy as I had feared. St. Augustine engaged in quite a bit of it.

    At the same time, this kind of reading is by no means unique. Let’s compare the sequence of creation with the end of the Flood.

    Day 1: Spirit of God moves on the Face of the waters. Light and darkness separated — Wind is sent to help dry the waters. Storm recedes enough for day/night alternation to be seen as periods of relative light and darkness.
    Day 2: Firmament divides waters below from waters above — Mists lift from the surface of the water, leaving clear air between the water and the clouds.
    Day 3: Separation of the waters into sea, dry land appears — The same thing, obviously
    Day 4: Creation of the sun, stars, and moon — Clouds break; sun, stars, and moon become visible
    Day 5: Creation of fish and birds — Signs of life appear. Birds are released from ark
    Day 6: Creation of beasts, creeping things, and man — Earth is ready for land-based life
    Day 7: God rests — Thanksgiving for surviving the Flood

  3. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh says:

    Most scientists agree that evolution – macro and/or micro – is an on-going process and that descent with modification (Darwin’s concept) still occurs and will continue to occur as long as living organisms are influenced by random genetic changes and environmental factors. The “days” of the Creation Account need not be thought of as discreet time segments with beginnings and endings as we think of days today.

    While we may not have witnessed the appearance of “new” species (some scientists would argue that we have), genera, or orders “in our time,” we have certainly seen the marked evolution of some species. Since the introduction of antibiotics, we now have antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. (https://www.sciencealert.com/the-12-deadliest-drug-resistant-bacteria-have-officially-been-ranked) Also, many agricultural pests can no longer be controlled by pesticides that once killed 99% of them in the fields.

    But it was that 1% that was resistant that survived and passed on its resistance to its offspring that is the essential cog in the wheel of the on-going evolution of organisms on our planet.

  4. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh says:

    Portion of book one precis: “If the nation’s moral freefall is to be reversed, the systematic indoctrination of students into the evolution-based worldviews of humanism, post-modernism, and the New Age must be stopped, and exposing Darwinian claims as false must be part of the strategy.”

    Portion of book two précis: “He (Chaberek) shows also that despite her clear historical teaching, the contemporary Church lacks an unambiguous statement of how Catholics should understand this question.”

    Book three subtitle: “Why St. Thomas’ Teaching on the Origins is Incompatible with Evolutionary Theory”

    Saint Pope John Paul II: “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.” (MESSAGE TO THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES: ON EVOLUTION, 22 October 1996)

    Saint Pope John Paul II: “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 an 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.” (Ibid)

    • Howard says:

      What are these books which you reference?

      When considering the question of “Where did the human species come from?”, I think it is worth considering how a parent may TRUTHFULLY answer a child’s question of “Where did I come from?” Regarding the matter that makes up the child, that comes from food and drink, so it comes from the supermarket. That is a scientific answer, but it is not what the child really means to ask. Regarding the genetic information that gives shape to the child, that comes through the recombination of the parents’ DNA. That is also a scientific answer, but it is also not what the child is really asking. The child really means, “I know that there was I time before I existed as a conscious, spiritual being. How did I come to have a rational soul?” The answer to that is, “God made you in a way only He understands;” that is a true answer and more profound than the others, though it is not a scientific answer.

    • Howard says:

      Sorry, I see now that you were referring to John’s 3 books. Not to be confused with First, Second, and Third John.

  5. John says:

    Father Kavanaugh,

    A Blessed Easter to you! The issue of St. Pope John Paul II’s 1996 statement, the scientific problems with evolution, and the history of Catholic Church teaching are all addressed in these books. In particular, Fr. Chaberek’s book, “Catholicism and Evolution” would be well worth your time. It is well—researched, thoughtful, and engaging. Peace to you!

    John

  6. Mark P. says:

    The fact that the Assumption of Mary is a dogma, based not on eyewitness accounts but on Scriptural foreshadowing and allusion combined with theological reasoning, should be seen as providing an even stronger basis for proclaiming the miraculous creation of Adam and Eve – both body and soul – an infallible teaching of Holy Mother Church. In Scripture, this event and references to it is described not only in Genesis but also 1 Chronicles 1, Tobit 8:6, Wisdom 10:1, Sirach 33:10, 40:1 and 49:6, Hosea 6:7, Luke 3:38, Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Timothy 2, and Jude 1:14. So the totality of direct references to the instantaneous creation of Adam in Sacred Scripture far outweighs the rather scant allusions to the Assumption. Humani Generis requires only a belief in the immediate soul of Adam, which leaves open the possibility that God simply infused and intangible, rational soul into the already-existing animal body of Adam. This is problematic in that 1) it reduces God’s miraculous capability to create a man, body and soul, instantaneously if He so wished, 2) it separates God from material creation in that it is implied He is spiritual and unproven, able to intercede only in matters outside the physical realm and 3) it contradicts the Church’s current teaching that a soul is formed at the moment of conception. Albeit invisible to the naked eye, at conception a physical human is present, complete with an instantaneously created soul. Hence, Adam can just as well have been formed miraculously as an adult, which is clearly, definitively, and unambiguously stated in Scripture. And, once again, held up to the criteria used to dogmatically declare the Assumption, the creation of Adam and Eve has strong grounds to stand on as a dogmatic tenet of the Faith.

  7. Salonsar War says:

    Fr. Chaberek’s books will open many eyes that hv been blinded by the lie that is evolution and brains that hv been brain washed by propaganda.