Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Evolution and the Catholic Church

Q - I have a question from someone challenging Christian faith. Evolution says humans were not directly created, but evolved. Genesis says God directly created man. Is Genesis a metaphorical interpretation, thus supporting evolution? Or is Genesis literal, thus greatly contradicting evolution? If the church holds it to be literal, do you think one day they will change this view to go along with scientific evidence?

A
- Thanks for the question! The Catholic Church does not see a contradiction between the faith we hold and the search for knowledge in science. The fact is that faith seeks higher truths than science, but both are searching for the same thing - the truth. So if ever there is a misunderstanding, we must see that there cannot be a contradiction between faith and science, just a failure on our part to understand the fullness of the truth.

In this particular case, here is what the Church teaches:
  • God is creator of all things. God pre-exists creation and is uncreated.
  • God's creation is good and ordered.
  • God created from nothing.
  • Man's sin caused the fall from grace and the imperfection of the creative order.
  • The world was created for God's glory.
  • God creates by wisdom and love.
  • God transcends His creation and is present to it.
  • God upholds and sustains creation.
I highly recommend you read the Catechism's short section on this topic. It is from CCC 279 - 324.

With this being said, I would like to address a few other points in your question.

First, Catholics do not understand reading the Bible literally to be a bad thing, but we must properly define what a literal reading is. Literal does not equal "word-for-word". It means to understand what meaning the author is trying to convey. Without understanding the literal interpretation of Scripture, we cannot understand the deeper meanings.

Second, most Catholics today believe that evolution happened, but a Catholic cannot believe that evolution answers the ultimate source of life. Because that is a philosophical, not a scientific question. Once science tries to answer philosophical questions, it has overstepped it's bounds, just as the Church cannot answer scientific questions. So, the followers of Darwin who attempt to "prove" there is no God with science are ultimately overstepping the bounds of science.

I must point out that just because "most Catholics" believe that God used evolution to create the world does not mean that every Catholic is bound to believe this. We are free to decide what means God used to create, but we are not free to deny any of the bulleted points above.

I hope this helps. If you want to read more, I have posted on this topic previously with a little different emphasis.

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