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Creation And Evolution Revisited

October 25, 2017 Featured Today No Comments


The purpose of this article is, insofar as possible, to answer the objections of my old friend Fr. Brian Harrison to my article “Creation, the CCC, Evolution, and the Angels” which appeared in The Wanderer on July 13, 2017. Fr. Harrison’s article appeared in the September 7th issue.
Roughly his position, to which he admits to being a recent “convert,” seems to be that favored by the Kolbe Society or Centre in the United States, and by what in England are called Low Church Protestants. God created the universe in six 24-hour days and all suffering and disorder stem from the disobedience of Adam and Eve alone.
Such too, as we all know, would have been the belief of all Christians, Catholic and Orthodox as well as Protestants, until the early 19th century when scientists of one kind and another started producing what seemed to be evidence of the vast age of the Earth and the gradual development of biological species through some kind of transformist process until they became more or less as they are now.
My position is that which Fr. Harrison admits to be also the position of “the vast majority of contemporary Catholic bishops and scholars — not to mention recent Popes in their non-binding expressions of opinion.” It is also the one adopted by the Church’s Magisterium over a period of 150 years or so as it struggled with the above geological and paleontological facts or apparent facts in order to see how far or in what way they could be reconciled with Holy Scripture and the Deposit of Faith as developed over the centuries.
This position is for the most part regrettably described as “theistic evolution.” I say regrettably since, because of its Darwinian origins, the word evolution has come to have so many unacceptable connotations starting with the idea of a blind self-creating cosmic process. What is at issue, it seems to me, is whether God brought the universe and even more important our planet, with all its material and biological wonders, by a short process as stated in Genesis 1 taken literally or an extended one.
The statements of the biblical commission from the time of Leo XIII, it seems to me, allow us to believe it could have been an extended one. How extended I would say is a secondary question. Whether the universe or our planet can be shown to be billions of years old or fifty thousand, both would conflict with the Genesis account if taken literally.
Now for Fr. Harrison’s particular objections. I will start with the title of his article. “Did Demons ‘Help’ God Create the World?” This is just what I didn’t say. The whole drift and tenure of my article is to draw attention to the possibility that God allowed the evil spirits to interfere with a transformative or developmental process of creation, of which He was and remains the sole originator and master just as He allows them to interfere with the smooth course of events throughout history and today. They “created” nothing. They simply interfered.
This statement can equally be applied to what Fr. Harrison says about the Council of Braga and its declaration: “if anyone believes that the Devil made some creatures in the world…let him be anathema.” There is nothing in my article contradicting that. Interfering with a process is not the same as contributing to it. A cabinet-maker who makes a beautiful table is not the same as an enemy who cuts off a leg or covers the surface with scratches. God is not only the Creator of everything that exists, material and spiritual. It is He alone who holds it all in existence from age to age and minute to minute.
Moving on, I will now try to answer Father’s other objections.
My hypothesis, he says, is incompatible with the Book of Wisdom where it tells us that God did not make death. “He does not rejoice in the destruction of the living….” But nowhere do I suggest that He was responsible for death except insofar as He allows it. There is an important distinction here between God’s active and permissive will which it is crucial to keep in mind when dealing with questions like “Why does God allow this; why does He allow that?” St. Francis de Sales has much that is enlightening to say about this.
All I have done is to suggest that, in the light of a great deal of evidence that there was death and suffering outside the Garden of Eden before the creation of Adam and Eve, the Fall of the Angels might have something to do with it.
I turn now to Fr. Harrison’s perplexed young Catholic, whose fellow student said: “A God who would freely create beasts programmed to terrorize, tear apart and devour other creatures would be a cruel sadist! In fact, he’d be the Devil!”
To this objection, as everyone knows, there are no cut and dried answers. Why does God allow innocent suffering? We are dealing with a profound mystery. But at least my hypothesis provides the rudiments of an explanation which is more, I would say, than Fr. Harrison’s can. Does he, incidentally, date the dinosaurs’ appearance on the scene as happening 48 hours before that of Adam and Eve? We are back with the difference between God’s active and permissive will.
Objection 3. I depict creation in my article, Fr. Harrison says, “as an unfinished project in which good and evil together somehow prod the cosmos onward toward ultimate perfection. ‘Creation,’ Mr. Trower asserts, ‘is not something that came to an end or its climax with Adam and Eve. It is still going on’.”
I admit to being at fault here insofar as I did not distinguish clearly enough between creation in the major sense of the cosmos and earth culminating in the making of our first parents and creation in the minor sense of humanity’s contributions — things like British bull dogs produced by selective breeding or Chopin piano concertos — which in my article I compared to children being allowed by their Mother to help her decorate the Christmas cake.
As the CCC puts it: “God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes to complete (sic) the work of creation to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors” (p. 307).
Insofar as creation in the first sense is concerned I agree I should have brought out more clearly that the whole purpose and climax of creation is the making of Adam and Eve, followed by the Fall leading ultimately to the Incarnation of Our Lord for whom everything is made and to whom it all belongs.
However, the main subject under debate is not so much why God made the universe and our planet, as how: Method rather than purpose.
Insofar as method is concerned it seems to me the authors of the catechism leave no room for doubt it was an extended developmental creative process of some kind. “Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created ‘in a state of journeying’ toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained to which God has destined it” (n. 302)
I come now to the apparent inconsistency, which I noted in my article, between the CCC’s overall assent to the idea of a developmental creative process and its more traditional handling of the Fall itself. As a result of the Fall, it says, “Harmony with nature is broken….Because of man, creation is now subject to ‘its bondage to decay’….Death makes its entry into human history” (n. 400, emphasis added).
Fr. Harrison sees this as reinforcing his position. However, it is surely not without significance that the CCC’s authors speak only of human history. They say nothing about animal history.
The following quotations also seem to me unfavorable to Fr. Harrison’s thesis.
“Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine ‘work’ concluded by the ‘rest’ of the seventh day” (n. 337, emphasis added).
“For each one of the works of the ‘six days’ it is said: ‘And God saw that it was good’” (n. 339). Why the quotation marks round the ‘six days’ if they are not to be understood symbolically?
“The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the ‘six days,’ from the less perfect to the more perfect” (n. 342). Quotation marks again.
Just how we are to understand the first two chapters of Genesis can be found in the decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission from the time of Leo XIII onward.
The Catechism authors conclude this section with the following reflection. “It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him’” (n. 395).


I will end with a question, Father, hoping it could bring you around to having second thoughts about what, without meaning to be offensive, I can only call Kolbe Catholicism. Is there not an affinity between their position and yours and that of the 17th-century Catholics who rejected heliocentrism because it apparently conflicted with the Bible and therefore brought pressure on the Pope of the time to condemn Galileo with the unfortunate consequences we are all familiar with?
As Catholics we are not “Scriptura sola” Christians dependent on private interpretation or, as time goes by, the ever-shifting views of individual scholars. We revere Holy Scripture as the Word of God but it is Holy Scripture with Mother Church as its authorized interpreter.
I seem to remember a fresco in one of the catacombs illustrating the point. The Church is shown as a woman carrying scrolls of Holy Scripture in her arms.
Were the Magisterium ever to endorse your viewpoint in an infallible way, I would of course accept it. But I don’t believe that is going to happen!
Thank you for your generous tribute to my motives with which you open your article.

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