In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Monday, September 28, 2009
By Father Mark Mary

On last weeks Life on the Rock, we had Dr. Benjamin Wiker on to speak about evolution and the Churchs relationship to science, a topic many young people discuss while in school. Sometimes, one hears in the media that the Church is somehow against science or that to even believe in God is irrational. Oftentimes there is a false dichotomy presented that one either believes in science or in God.

Truth cannot contradict truth. Any truth we find in this world cannot contradict the truth of revelation. Since God is the source of all truth, scientific truth cannot contradict the truth of revelation. Now, the problem has been when people of science or of faith make false truth claims. A scientist can come up with a false theory or a scientific model that still needs perfecting; a person of faith can make scientific claims that scripture or tradition do not intend to make.

In a treatise against the Manicheans, St. Augustine writes, We do not read in the Gospel that the Lord said, I am sending you the Holy Spirit, that he may teach you about the course of the sun and the moon. He wished to make people Christians, not astronomers! ... Christ did indeed say that the Holy Spirit would come, to lead us into all truth, but he is not talking there about the course of the sun or the moon! I maintain that this kind of thing is not part of Christian teaching.

Helix Nebula As Seen By Hubble and the Cerro Toledo Inter-American Observatory

But is there any intersection between the spheres of science and religion? Are they completely independent, having nothing to do with one another? Our faith needs human reason to make it human. If the act of faith is truly a human act, one that is proper to man, it must involve reason. This is not to say that the great mysteries of faith can be explained with human reason; they cannot. We believe in them through faith, which is greater than reason and goes beyond reason thus allowing us to know God and to seek a deeper understanding of Him.

As grace builds on human nature, faith perfects reason. In the words of John Paul II, Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents. Our intellects seek to find meaning and discover explanations of the faith; our love for God pushes us to know and understand more and more about Him. So there never can be a conflict between faith and reason. Both come from God and are used to know Him better.

The Cat

Our Catholic faith does teach some doctrines that speak directly to the intersection of faith and science. One such intersection is that we believe that God creates out of nothing. He did not reshape pre-existing material. There was a beginning to this world and God is the creator. Man fashions and shapes the created world, but God creates where nothing existed before.

He also sustains that creation. He holds it in existence. If He were ever to withdraw His hand from creation, it would vanish into the nothingness from which it was created. God is not the distant watchmaker that observes from afar. He upholds and sustains creation while endowing it with its own existence and activity, having its own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order as part of its nature. In our building of a better world, we respect and cooperate with these laws. Scientists investigate and discover the wisdom of God in the order of His creation.

Because we believe in a created world, we hold that God is distinct from His creation. He is not identified with His creation. If we believed that God and creation were one and the same, then how could we use science to understand something that was mystical? We hold that God creates according to Divine Reason, and that we can explore the logic behind that creation with scientific investigation.

Infant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

We also hold that man has a soul. This is the spiritual component of man and cannot be measured empirically in the lab. Our body-soul composite is taught to us by revelation, but it is also evident in mans uniqueness in the animal world. We stand out from the rest of visible creation with a difference not merely in degree but in kind. We have the ability to look beyond our immediate and vital interests of survival. We have an objective awareness of ourselves and others. We are not wholly immersed in the material world. We can make abstractions and use language in a conceptual way. We can reflect upon ourselves and our feelings. We can cultivate the garden we have been entrusted with here on earth, according to truth, beauty and goodness in a way that manifests the very glory of God.

At his conception, God creates mans soul in an immediate and direct act of creation. The material cannot create the spiritual. The soul does not come from ones parents but from God; by directly creating us, He personally willed you and me to exist. Our personal existence is not the product of chance or randomnessGod wanted you to exist.

We also hold for single parentage. We have to believe that all of humanity comes from an original couple. We all can link our ancestry to one man and woman. At one point, all of humanity was contained in the original couple. Through their disobedience to God, all of humanity fell from grace. Original sin and its effects are passed onto to us in our fallen human nature. To be holy, we need a savior. One who is like us in all things but sin.

Spiral Galaxy M100

Certainly, some theories of evolution can work within the framework of revelation. In its extremely diverse variety of forms, creation and its activity show forth the glory of God. Creation is brimming with life, and it is spectacular to behold in its various forms. Secondary material causes in the world can cooperate with the God of life to bring forth such beauty and diversity. God creates, holds in existence and guides this world by His providence. It is not randomness and chance that account for the world but God. Contingent beings cannot make themselves; we depend on a creator.

But some try to make evolution into an ideology that projects change and mutability on God and human nature. Modernity is very uncomfortable with definite natures and laws of governance. We prefer the fluid, user-defined rules to live where everything is changing and is in a process of becoming something else. Certainly the earths geology, animal and plant life have gone through great changes in her history, but this does not mean that God is evolving or that man is somehow perfecting himself. We do look forward to a future perfection, but it is a perfection found in God and by His grace. We are on a journey, but it is not one where God is pushed aside He is the goal and is guiding it to Himself.

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