The Truth About Creation

FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

Recall that last week, our examination of the Genesis account of creation concluded with highlighting several truths of faith: God is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, eternal and infinite. In freedom and love, God created all things ex nihilo in accord with His eternal Reason. He created with order, design, purpose. All that God created is considered "good." Moreover, He created human beings male and female in His image and likeness and endowed them with an unique, immortal soul.

Given this understanding of Genesis, how then can we reconcile it with the scientific theories of "Big Bang" and evolution? First, we must remember that a theory is a statement, or "story," which tries to explain a set of phenomena. Just as Genesis is a story albeit inspired by the Holy Spirit which presents truths of God's creativity, the Big Bang coupled with evolution form a story or theory posited to explain scientific evidence surrounding creation.

According to these theories, billions of years ago, an explosion — a "Big Bang" — started the expansion of the universe which continues to this day. In essence, creation has evolved over time and will continue to evolve. One must pause, however, and note that the Big Bang theory presents creation by chance, error and dissonance rather than a reasoned, ordered, designed progression.

Nevertheless, scientific evidence does give some credence to the theory, and for this reason the Holy Father said, "Today new knowledge leads us to recognize that the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis." Note the Holy Father did not say that either theory Big Bang or evolution captures the whole truth surrounding creation.

To date, scientists are continually refining the Big Bang theory and evolution, especially in light of DNA research, NASA's Hubbel space-telescope findings and recent fossil discoveries in the Nambian desert of southwestern Africa. Honest scientists would be the first to admit that they simply do not have all the answers regarding creation. Legitimate questions are still left unanswered: "If evolution has occurred, why haven't any fish climbed onto the beach or an ape evolved into a human? If "Big Bang" is true, with its chaotic chain reaction, how did such order come to the universe and all creation, including our own physical being? How did life ever come about, especially human life with all its abilities to create and to think?"

Such questions lead one to admit that science does not have all of the answers, and probably never will. We can accept many of the findings of science and yet tenaciously hold onto the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent, eternal God who freely and lovingly creates and continues to guide creation to its fulfillment. Even Einstein admitted that in the laws of nature "there is revealed such a superior Reason that everything which has arisen out of human thought and arrangement is, in comparison with it, the merest empty reflection."

What than about Adam and Eve and the evolution of human beings? Here we also struggle with science, especially those who would contend that human beings evolved form a lower life form. We also wonder how the world grew in population when according to Genesis God made Adam and Eve who had three sons Abel, Cain and Seth, yet later Cain has relations with his wife who seems to appear in the story (Genesis 4:17). Keep in mind that science focuses on how we came to be whereas theology is more concerned with who we are. Science again does not have all of the answers, and the Bible does not provide all the details of creation. Anthropologists continue to revise their "theories" about the development of man and the transition from homo habilis to homo erectus to homo sapiens. Actually, studying DNA sequences, Allan Wilson of the University of California at Berkeley, with other scientists, have posited that all living human beings share a single common female ancestor (whom they interestingly have dubbed "Eve") who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago. (In all fairness, other anthropologists offer critiques of this theory, again showing that no one has all of the details about creation.)

Responding to the creation of human beings and evolution, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950) reminded that in our Catholic faith we believe that God directly creates and infuses an unique soul to each individual. (In Pope John Paul's address, he cited Humani Generis and underscored this truth.) Concerning Adam and his progeny, Pope Pius XII asserted, "For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church propose in regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own." While "in no way is it apparent" now does not entail that it will not be later.

Reflecting on the story of Genesis and its compatibility with science, Cardinal Ratzinger in a homily preached, "We must have the audacity to say that the great projects of the living creation are not products of chance and error. Nor are they the products of a selective process to which divine predicates can be attributed in illogical, unscientific, and even mythic fashion. The great projects of the living creation point to a creating Reason and show us a creating Intelligence, and they do so more luminously and radiantly today than ever before. Thus we can say today with a new certitude and joyousness that the human being is indeed a divine project which only the creating Intellegence was strong and great and audacious enough to conceive of. The human being is not a mistake but something willed; he is the fruit of love. He can disclose in himself, in the bold project that he is, the language of the creating Intellegence that speaks to him and that moves him to say: 'Yes, Father you have willed me.'" From Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks, we see the need to appreciate the scientific understanding while maintaining the truths of faith.

The Catechism summarizes the discussion well: "Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint, these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the 'beginning': creation, fall, and promise of salvation" (#289).

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Saunders, Rev. William. "The Truth About Creation." Arlington Catholic Herald.

This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.

THE AUTHOR

Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.

Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald