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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 141||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||May 2009|
REGARDING THE LITERAL MEANING OF THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION
IS THERE A SECOND LITERAL MEANING OF THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION IN GENESIS 1?
1. The problem of the six days. The first chapter of Genesis narrates that God created the universe and the things that are in it in six days, but contemporary empirical science claims that the universe is very old. Thus, according to the World Almanac 2002, “much of the observational evidence currently available supports the idea that the universe we know began its existence between 8 and 20 billion years ago as an explosion of a super-dense, super-small concentration of matter” (p. 650). Moreover, well-known empirical scientist Francis S. Collins reflects contemporary opinion as he dates the age of the Earth at 4.55 billion years and points out that microbial life appeared on this globe about 3.85 billion years ago, while about 550 million years ago “a great number of diverse invertebrate body plans appear in the fossil record.” Furthermore, he adds, “(about) 400 million years ago, plants appeared on dry land, derived from aquatic forms,” and “a scarce 30 million years later, animals had also moved onto land.”1 This is the world-view of most contemporary natural scientists, and it is the cosmogony that is being taught in public education at all levels. This apparent conflict is a factor in the unfortunate fact that a high percentage of Catholic youth are now abandoning their faith by the time they finish high school or in the course of their higher studies. As one high school student remarked a few years ago: “Never mind the myth.”
2. Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Plain literal readers have typically taken this verse to record the initial creation by God of physical entities in outer space and of the Earth down below. But in a more subtle way this majestic statement can also be read with St. Augustine as expressing the creation in the beginning from the highest to the lowest creatures, from the empyrean Heaven of the Blessed and of the angels down to the primal matter of the universe (which was not prime matter in the philosophical sense, but which had the least possible amount of form). In this second reading, the biblical account goes on to depict the furnishing of the universe by adding substances with form and beauty.2 Many exegetes over the centuries have interpreted haarets to mean “the Earth,” and some have even supplied the model of a flat disk or a globe. But neither of these models is actually given, and, in fact, the text of Genesis seems to place the formation of the Earth on the third day (vv. 9-10). In Sacred Scripture, the Hebrew word haarets sometimes means “the Earth,” but more often it means “the ground,” and, in a more subtle reading of Genesis 1:1, the divine Author could well intend here the primal matter which is the ground of all more highly formed material substances. Such an interpretation seems to be not out of keeping with the words of the Fourth Lateran Ecumenical Council (1215 A.D.) where it teaches that the one true God is the “Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal, who, by his almighty power, from the very beginning of time simultaneously created out of nothing both the spiritual and the corporeal creature, that is, the angelic and the mundane” (DS 800).
3. Genesis 1:2. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; . . . . “Void and empty” translates the Vulgate “inanis et vacua.” The Hebrew words are tohu wabohu, which the Septuagint translate as “invisible and unstructured” (or “unequipped”), and, therefore, “without form.” Thus Wisdom 11:18 reads: “For thy almighty hand, which made the world of matter without form ….”3 The Septuagint word here is amórphou (“formless”). A macroscopic image of the Earth as a disk or globe is, indeed, suggested by the graphic popular wording, but the text is not teaching the origin of the universe on a technically precise level, nor does it contradict contemporary technical knowledge regarding the universe and its origin. We note here on a technical level that the text seems to be saying that the “earth” (the primal matter as the “ground” of the universe) was “formless and unstructured.” The abyss (tehom) has been popularly conceived as a watery chaos that engulfed the earth at the time of creation. A Lapide interprets the LXX ábyssos as a “bottomless profundity,” or, quoting Eustathius, “an excess of water having infinite profundity.” On a technical level, the primal matter would have been an abyss, because, having no order or structure, one could conceptually proceed down into it indefinitely without ever coming to the bottom.
4. and the spirit of God moved over the waters. In a neo-Patristic framework, to read rûah (“spirit”) as meaning literally only a material wind deprives the text of its spiritual connotation, as does interpreting it in conformity with pagan mythologies. The Holy Spirit is called a “spirit” for the reason that He is eternally “spirated” (“breathed”) by the Father and the Son in the divine act of love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father.4 When we look at these words of Genesis with the insight of Christian faith, we realize that the Author of this verse (who is the Holy Spirit) is telling us through divine inspiration (which is a “breathing by God into” the consciousness of the sacred writer) that God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit down upon the “waters” of the abyss to “touch” them in some way in the act of creation. In this verse the popular term “waters” may technically mean “fluids,” and the elemental particles are thus seen to have been in a fluid state. Even though this creative act could well have sent some kind of electro-magnetic “wind” through the elemental particles that composed the abyss, the Holy Spirit, under his revealed image as a “breath” or “wind,” is thus seen to be at least the veiled literal subject of this clause.
5. Genesis 1:3. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. God spoke as one God in Three divine Persons. In the words of St. Thomas: “For the power above all manifested in creation is attributed and appropriated to the Father, and, therefore, to be the Creator is attributed to the Father. To the Son is appropriated the wisdom through which an agent acts intellectually, and, therefore, it is said of the Son ‘through Whom all things were made.’ To the Holy Spirit is appropriated the goodness in the guidance of things to their fitting ends and the giving of life: for life consists in a certain interior motion whose first incentive is its purpose, the goodness [that it seeks].”5 St. Augustine interpreted “Let there be light” to mean “Let there be angels,” and St. Thomas understands this possibility to mean “Let the angels be raised to the light of supernatural faith,” but he favors the interpretation of material light.6 Traditional exegetes saw this light as a luminous body above the Earth, which St. Thomas describes as already having the substance of the Sun, but not having the special illuminative power that it was given on the Fourth Day of creation.7 On a technical level, I would suggest, not only the light possibly flowing from the Big Bang or something like it, but also the endowing at this time by God upon primal matter of the forms of atoms and of the physical laws that go with them, and then the emission of light from these atoms in the course of the explosion. In this way the atomic order was created as formed above the chaos of the primal matter.
6. Genesis 1:5. And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night, and there was evening and morning one day. That the days of Genesis 1 in the plain reading are intended to be taken literally as natural days seems clear from the fact that it sets up the traditional 7-day week. But that they may also in a more subtle way represent indefinite periods of time is highly probable for three reasons: a) an evening and a morning do not represent a full 24-hour day, because the principal parts of the night and of the day are left out; b) the use of the formula “evening and morning” could represent a different definition of the word “day” in this account; and c) the 24-hour day is expressly established on the fourth day of creation (verse 14: “for signs and for seasons and for days and years”). Hence, there is room here for speculation. Let us consider the possibility that the “days” of Genesis 1, as defined by the expression “evening and morning,” represent indefinite periods of darkness followed by indefinite periods of light. This new idea does, indeed, need testing by many competent interpreters, but, in the case of the first day, when the creation of light occurred, it is easy to see that a period of absolute darkness was followed by a period of light.
7. On June 30, 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission replied to the following questions:
Whether, since it was not the intention of the sacred author, when writing the first chapter of Genesis, to teach in a scientific manner the innermost nature of visible things as well as the complete order of creation, but rather to furnish his people with a popular account, such as the common parlance of that age allowed, one, namely, adapted to the senses and to the mental preparation of the persons, we are strictly and always bound, when interpreting these affirmations, to seek for scientific exactitude of expression. Answer: In the negative (DS 3518).
Whether the word yôm (day), which is used in the first chapter of Genesis to describe and distinguish the six days, may be taken either in its proper sense as the natural day or in an improper sense as signifying a certain space of time; and whether free debate on this question is permitted among exegetes. Answer: In the affirmative (DS 3519)
8. Genesis 1:6. And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. Following the lead of St. Augustine, I do not feel constrained by the text of Gen 1:1-7 and related passages to read the Hebrew haarets (“the earth”) necessarily to mean the globe of the Earth and mayim (“waters”) necessarily to mean H2O. St. Augustine read haarets in Gen 1:1 to mean “the ground” of all material beings, the unformed matter of what became the universe.8 While the word “ground” in this sense emphasizes the elemental character of its state of being, the word “waters” of Gen 1:6-7 emphasizes the fluidity, the lack of structure and of solidity of the primal matter.9 In this way two popular words are possibly being used by the divine Author to include a hidden technical meaning for those capable of seeing it. The naming of the “earth” on the third day (verse 10) applies directly to the dry “land” as opposed to the seas, but it also focuses attention upon the globe of the Earth and its atmosphere, as distinguished from the universe in general during the first day, allowing one to consider a cosmological model different from that of the Four Elements used by St. Augustine and other Fathers of the Church and more in keeping with whatever sound and certified contemporary physics, chemistry, and astronomy claim to present, such as that of the periodic table and the expanding universe, keeping in mind that a technical model is always subject to revision or even to rejection by stronger opposing evidence.10
9. The divine intervention of the second day could have involved the throwing of a mass of swirling incandescent gases outward to form the universe as we know it today. Thus, in Ps. 103 (104), 2: “who have stretched out the heavens like a tent.” In such a majestic stroke of God’s hand by which the structure of the universe was fashioned there would probably have been involved both the creation of molecules and other solid substances and also the creation of other physical laws such as the laws of gravity, momentum, and inertia. The hot swirling gases might be the “waters” above and below the firmament, where “below” is the biblical focus on the region of the Earth, and the firmament is the structure of the universe, as held firmly in place by the rest of the laws of physical nature created on this second day by God. The idea occurs that God furnished the universe with its natural substances by creating and infusing higher substantial forms into the primal matter or into formed matter that was higher than primal matter but lower than the new substances that He was creating.
10. The New American Bible translates the Hebrew word rāqîa (“firmament”) as a “dome,” in keeping with the opinion of many form-critical Scripture scholars that “the ‘firmament’ is the vault of heaven, the sky, which the ancients conceived as a great hollow bowl inverted over the earth.”11 But the Hebrew word rāqîa doesn’t basically mean a dome or a hollow bowl. According to St. Jerome it means a hot fluid (such as molten metal) that hardened as it cooled and spread out, and he invented the Latin word firmamentum to express this idea. Thus in Job 37:18: “Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a molten mirror?” In keeping with the plain reading of the “waters” in this verse as H2O, Jerome concluded that some of the water was frozen into a wide sheet of ice between the waters above and the waters below. While some others in recent times have explored the idea of an invisible substance that permeates the universe and could be called the firmament, the most likely conclusion seems to me to be that the firmament is the structure of the universe, governed by the (newly created) laws of physics, which prevented the “waters above” (the burning gases of outer space) from interfering with the “waters below” (the burning gases that were cooling to form the Earth).
11. Genesis 1:8: And God called the firmament heaven [or sky], and it was evening and it was morning the second day. It may be considered that the light created on the first day expanded with the firmament on the second day. And so, the immense darkness surrounding the light on the first day was gradually lit up on the second day.
12. Genesis 1:9-10. And God said: Let the waters that are under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry ground appear. And it was so. / And God called the dry ground land, and the waters that were gathered together he called seas. And God saw that it was good. In the plain reading, the globe of the Earth was covered entirely with water, and then this water receded to form the seas. Thus, 2 Pet 3:5: “They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and an Earth formed out of water and through water.” But this verse of Genesis 1 is not telling us the precise process out of which the dry land and the oceans emerged, and, while theories regarding the development of the Earth should not be taken as certified historical facts, neither does faith seem to require unconditional belief that the mountains and the seas arose within a period of twenty-four hours.
13. Genesis 1:11: And he said: Let the earth bring forth vegetation, the plant yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit of its kind, having its own seed in it upon the earth. And it was so. In the plain reading of this text, the original carpeting of the Earth with fully developed plants occurred on the third day, either instantaneously or at least within a period of twenty-four hours. This view is contrasted with the Big-Bang timetable of mainline empirical scientists, such as geologist John Wiester, who writes as follows:
At the end of the first billion years of the earth’s history, the surface of the planet had been transformed from a naked body of rock to one covered by a shallow sea. This blanket of water was in turn surrounded by a dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor. At approximately the same time as the first land rose up out of this shallow sea, life made its appearance. … The fossil record of the first life begins 3.5 billion years ago with structural traces of bacteria and bacteria-like blue-green algae, organisms still with us today. . . . Blue-green algae are endowed with the remarkable capability of releasing oxygen through photosynthesis. For much of the first 2 billion years of the history of life, mats of blue-green algae may have floated like rafts in the oceans of the world. . . . Eukaryotes [all other more organized plants and animals] made their appearance in the form of red, green, and brown algae about one billion years ago. The fossil record indicates that land-dwelling plants appeared about 400 million years ago. . . . The first seed-bearing plants appeared shortly thereafter. . . . Until 130 million years ago the earth’s landscape was a leafy vastness of monotonous and drab greenery. Not a single flower blossomed. Then, in an incredibly brief span of 10 million years, the Big Bloom, the explosion of the flowering plants or angiosperms took place. Later, about 62 million years ago, grasses appeared to complete the roster of our modern vegetative types.
Such a scenario is, of course, questionable and open to revision, but the contrast with the plain reading of this biblical verse is stark, and it suggests that a more subtle and precise meaning may lie hidden within.12
14. Genesis 1:13: And the evening and the morning were the third day. In the scenario of mainline biology, as described above, the light of the third day consists in the sensitivity to light of vegetative life. We recognize this sensitivity in the phenomenon of heliotropism, and we call the chief vegetative activity photosynthesis.
15. Genesis 1: 14-18: And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years: / To shine in the firmament of heaven and to give light upon the earth. And it was so. / And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night, and the stars. / And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth. / And to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. / And God saw that it was good. The idea that the Sun, the Moon, and the stars were created on the fourth day, after the creation of vegetative life on the third day, constituted a puzzle for St. Augustine and for many other commentators. But the biblical text does not need to be read that way. In a more subtle reading, the fact that God “set” these heavenly objects in the firmament of heaven on the fourth day could simply mean that God “positioned” them in the sky in such wise as to serve as signs and seasons and days and years. In the view of the heliocentric theory, which has never been absolutely proved to be a fact, but which is commonly held by educated people today, this divine intervention could have been accomplished simply by adjusting the motion of the Earth. Thus, the seasons are determined by the speed and degree of tilting of the earth on its axis, the years are determined by the speed of the earth around its orbit, and the days are determined by the speed of revolution of the earth on its axis. In the plain sense of the language of appearance, the fixing by God of the speed and angle of these three motions of the earth is described as a positioning of the lights in the physical heavens, but in the technical precision of the heliocentric theory, it is the Earth itself which could be the subject of the adjustment.
16. Genesis 1:19: And the evening and morning were the fourth day. The evening of the fourth day was the darkness of the sky, perhaps due to the presence of a dense cloud of gases surrounding the Earth, and the morning was the clear vision of the sky with its outstanding lights and signs after the dense cloud had been dissipated. At any rate, the morning was the clear appearance of these heavenly bodies as functioning indications of the seasons, the days and the years. The emphasis for this day of creation is definitely upon the visibility of these heavenly objects.
17. Genesis 1:20: And God said: Let the waters teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the ground across the face of the firmament of heaven. We see in this verse the creation of animal life. Traditionally, in speaking about divine creation, we distinguish between “creation out of the nothingness of self” and “creation out of the nothingness of self and of a subject.” Clearly, the initial creation of the Heaven of the Blessed, of the angels, and of the primal matter of the universe was a creation out of the nothingness of self and of a subject. But this is not necessarily so with regard to all other creatures. Hydrogen and oxygen have the natural power to combine into water, a higher substance having many wonderful qualities not present in either hydrogen or oxygen. Where do these qualities come from? According to the Aristotelian/Thomist theory of essential forms, they belong to the essential form of water, which arises as the forms of hydrogen and oxygen cease actively to function on their own as a result of the substantial change that takes place. The act of creation of water (H2O), which took place on the second day of creation, did not need to be a creation out of the nothingness of a subject from which it sprang; it could rather have consisted simply in the designing by God of the substantial form of water with all of its essential qualities and his impressing upon hydrogen and oxygen the power to be changed into that substance. However, could biological life have evolved on its own from the potency of mineral forms, as neo-Darwinists claim? No, it does not seem possible in any circumstances for inorganic matter to have of itself the inherent power to become living. The question, therefore, becomes whether, in the act of creation of biological life, God could have impressed living vegetable and animal souls upon inorganic matter or even upon lower living species, and hypothetically the answer seems to be “yes.” Thus the issue resolves itself into the open historical question of whether or not God did in fact actually create living species in this way and whether the biblical accounts of creation allow for such an interpretation. Let the waters teem does not say in its plain reading that living biological things sprang from the potency of water, but neither does it exclude that water and lower species could have been the subject from which living things and higher species of living things in their own nothingness were created. And the expression in the following verse, which the waters brought forth, seems even to lean in that direction. The Fathers and many theologians of the past believed in ongoing spontaneous generation, which we do not accept today. However, whether or not such generation could have occurred in the original creation of living species “according to their kinds” (Gen 1:21) by the divine impression of living souls upon living or non-living matter may be open to discussion, and natural history might eventually succeed in providing a certified answer for or against this idea.
18. Genesis 1:23: And the evening and morning were the fifth day. How would the creation of sea creatures and birds fit into the hidden history of darkness into light? Before the fifth day nothing in the material universe could see. But with the creation of animals the light of the universe came into sight.
19. Genesis 1:24: And God said: let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds. Here we note that the creation of land animals is said to have occurred later than the creation of sea animals, and, again, according to their kinds.
20. Genesis 1:27: And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Man is created in the image of God as a rational animal with intelligence and free will. Not only is the special creation and infusion of a human soul needed for the first man, it is needed for the coming into existence of the first woman and of every other individual man and woman. Thus is confirmed the historical fact of the infusion by God of a living soul into previously existing matter (cf. Gen 2:7) and the exclusion of the idea that all things were created from the nothingness both of themselves and of a subject from which they sprang.
OBJECTIONS TO A POSSIBLE SECOND LITERAL MEANING OF THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION
21. If the long-period days are true, the natural days are false. Answer: No. Both interpretations can be literally true. The image of the seven days is clearly intended to set up the calendar of the seven-day week ending on the Sabbath. Also, the hidden meaning is true only to the extent that the conclusions of mainline astronomy, geology, and biology are historically true, a fact that has never been absolutely proved but is assumed in modern culture. And, in any case, the possible subtle meaning shows that the story of Genesis 1 is not a myth from the viewpoint of empirical science.
22. If the long-period days and the theory of the Big Bang are true, the plain reading of Genesis 1 cannot be historically true. Answer: The plain reading of Genesis 1 would still be historically true, but the details of how the creation was accomplished would be differently understood. Genesis 1 is understood in either case to narrate divine creative interventions spread out over six successive periods of time, and this is the historical truth.
23. God would not deceive his readers. Answer: Things are sometimes said in Sacred Scripture that require a search for the more exact meaning. For instance, Jesus said to his disciples: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you (Jn 6:54). And after this many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him (Jn 6:67). But Jesus did not call after them, saying: “Wait, I didn’t mean that in a cannibalistic sense, but only in a sacramental sense to be explained later.” Rather, he let them take his words in their plain meaning, so that even his apostles were puzzled then. Again Jesus answered and said to them: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. . . . But he spoke of the temple of his body (Jn 2:19 and 21). In the plain hearing of this claim, Our Lord here declared that he would rebuild the temple of Jerusalem in three days. This is how his listeners understood him, and he did not explain otherwise to them, although his faithful followers learned later that He meant the temple of his body.
24. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that “the one God . . . created all things out of nothing” (Innocent III, Eius exemplo, 18 Dec. 1208 [DS 790]). The First Vatican Council similarly declared: “If anyone does not confess that the world and all the things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing, let him be anathema” (DS 3025). Answer: These pronouncements mean that every natural thing in the world has been created out of the nothingness of itself, but not necessarily out of the nothingness of a subject. And the change to a newly created substantial form is also a change of the whole substance of a being.
25. Recourse to the idea of substantial forms is unscientific. Answer: Immanuel Kant and, in general, all empiricists falsely limit the concept of “science” and the knowledge of reality to what is observed by the physical senses. Thus, for them, intellectual concepts, reasoned conclusions, and spiritual things are not real. Thomas Aquinas more lucidly explains that “science,” that is, “the certified knowledge of reality,” is broader than the perception of material things and exists on different levels. Thus, there is the real knowledge of philosophical science; and there is the real knowledge of theological science.13 Of these, the knowledge of substantial forms pertains to philosophical science, and, therefore, it is not unscientific. In our day it has become customary to use the Kantian definition of science in common parlance, and thus to distinguish, on the one hand, between theology and science and, on the other hand, between philosophy and science. But this usage is damaging to the reality of the objects of faith and reason.
26. Evolution is science; creation is religion. Answer: This objection is based on the false Kantian notion of science. And, actually, evolution is not a theory of empirical science; it is a historical theory which uses data of empirical science in attempting to explain how the existing living species historically arose. But evolution has not used empirical data to establish any physical or chemical laws. In fact, the so-called laws of random mutation and the survival of the fittest are not evolutionary laws at all, since chance is the absence of all law and the survival of the fittest does not pertain to how the “fittest” came to be. On the other hand, creation science is a historical approach that uses empirical science and higher sciences to defend the historical truth of the biblical accounts of divine creation.
27. “Creation science” is a contradiction in terms. Answer: Creation science is a legitimate pursuit. Just as empirical science is used to defend and promote the (non-empirical) theory of evolution, so may empirical science be used to defend and promote the inerrancy of the Sacred Scriptures and to raise objections to the theory of evolution.
28. Defense of the scientific inerrancy of Genesis 1 is unreasonable fundamentalism. Answer: The original principles of “fundamentalism” are in agreement with the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church, although extreme literalism has sometimes been used under that name. The chief objection against fundamentalism among many Catholics today is that it opposes the method of “higher criticism,” now called “historical criticism,” a method condemned by Popes Leo XIII and Pius X, because it denies biblical inerrancy. Actually, only extreme literalism is unreasonable.
29. Genesis 1:1 tells us that the Earth was created “in the beginning” and, therefore, on the first day. Answer: Genesis 1:1 does not precisely tell us whether haarets (“the earth”, “the land,” “the ground”) means the globe of the Earth or the primal matter which became the “ground” of all material substances.
30. God said in Gen 1:3: Let there be light, not “Let there be a Big Bang.” Answer: This text tells us that God created light, but it does not clearly specify that the form of light was not conferred upon a preexisting substance (the primal matter), or that it was free-standing and not radiating from any other substance.
32. None of the Fathers of the Church teaches the evolution of species. Answer: The ideas of the evolution of species and of the Big Bang were not in circulation in the time of the Fathers. But regarding this question, Pope Leo XIII says in the same place as just above: “It may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they (the Fathers of the Church) have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect.”15
33. Pope John Paul said in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that “the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis.” Answer: What is more than a hypothesis is a theory, not necessarily a fact. As Pope Benedict XVI later explained this statement at a meeting with a group of his former postgraduate students: “When the Pope said that, he had his reasons. But at the same time it is true that the theory of evolution is still not a complete, scientifically verified theory.”16
34. When some theistic evolutionists conjecture that the ‘dust’ from which, according to Gen 2, God created man was a lower biological species, they are assuming that God uses secondary causes to create. Answer: That God formed Adam from a lower biological species is a historical theory, not an established historical fact, but to have created Adam from a lower biological species would not mean that the lower species was a secondary cause, because the infusion of a human soul, especially in this first instance, by which the human species was instituted, was a direct act of creation having no secondary efficient causes. Thus, if this theory be true, the lower species was just the subject of the creation, and the human substantial form replaced the lower substantial form.
35. Sacred Scripture does not teach heliocentrism. Answer: A main point of the present article is to suggest that, while heliocentrism, the Big Bang, and the evolution of species are not implied in the plain reading of the relevant passages of Sacred Scripture, neither are they necessarily excluded in a more technical reading of the text. The solution lies in what empirical science is able or is not able to prove.
36. Insufficient attention is being paid in these days on all levels of study to the gaps and weaknesses in the theories of the Big Bang and of the evolution of species. Answer: Granted, and this is why these theories should be recognized as mere historical theories and not as certified historical facts.
1 Francis S. Collins, The Language of God (New York: Free Press, 2006), pp. 89, 94-95.
2 The ideas summarized here are presented a length in Part II of my series, “A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Four Days of Creation,” in Living Tradition, no. 46 (May 1993) = www.rtforum.org/lt/lt46.html. Cornelius a Lapide understands hashamayim (“the heavens”) as meaning literally "the Heaven of the Blessed," and he lists twenty-two early and medieval commentators who express this interpretation.
3 The Revised Standard Version renders this verse as “For thy all-powerful hand, which created the world out of formless matter ….”
4 Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 36, art. 3.
5 Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, art. 6, ad 2.
6 Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 67, art. 4
7 Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 67, art. 4, ad 1-2.
8 A. Augustinus, De Gen. ad litt., II, 11.
9 A. Augustinus, Imperf. lib., 3-4. Cf. Living Tradition 47, p. 2 = www.rtforum.org/lt/lt47.html.
10 The ideas summarized here are presented at length in Part IV of my series, “A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Four Days of Creation,” in Living Tradition, no. 48 (September 1993) = www.rtforum.org/lt/lt48.html.
11 B. Vawter, in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, p. 175.
12 J. Wiester, The Genesis Connection (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), pp. 73, 78-80.
13 Aquinas notes that ”Christian theology is a science, because it flows from fonts recognized in the light of a higher science, namely, God’s very own, which He shares with the blessed” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, art. 2).
14 Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, in Claudia Carlen, The Papal Encyclicals, vol. 2, pp. 334-335 (no. 18).
15 Pope Leo XIII, ibid., p. 335 (no. 19).
16 Horn and Wiedenhofer, eds., Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2008) p. 162.