Conducted by Fr. JOHN SYMON
Question. What am I, as a Catholic, to believe about the creation of man7
Mrs. W.M.C., Stockport, Cheshire.
Answer. God is the author of all life, of the universe and of everything in it. We ourselves and every other being derive our existence from him and depend utterly on his power. Were God to desist from the act of his will by which he holds us in existence, we would not simply die—we would cease to exist, we would be annihilated.
These considerations suggest a wealth of ideas for prayer and meditation, but they are all part of what we mean when we say, so often and so simply, "Our Father."
Of course, when we ponder over our Catholic belief
on creation, our thoughts are usually, not so much on these truths, as on the familiar biblical accounts of creation. What are we to make of them?
Granted that God first created the universe and that he continually holds it in being, in the year which looks like seeing the first successful landing on the Moon, just how are we to understand the obviously naive stories at the beginning of the Book of Genesis?
In common with the rest of the Bible, the first chapters of Genesis are, we believe, inspired but this is very far from implying that God intends us to accept them as literally accurate in every detail. By them he means to teach us certain basic religious truths about our dependence on him.
He is the author of life; our proneness to sin derives from the original disobedience by the first members of the human race; to be reconciled with God, we stand absolutely in need of his divine help.
At the beginning of the Book of Genesis, God is teaching us these religious truths but manifestly the book is not intended to tell us anything at all in the nature of a scientific account of the origins of the world and of life. As Catholics, we are perfectly free to believe that the world we know is the result of an evolutionary process extending back over millions of years.
To accept the idea of evolution and to reject the view that God directly created the various forms of life in the world, this is not to deny the infinite power of God, the Master Craftsman. If we hold that the Creator implanted in the earlier and lower species the germ from which the future and higher species have eventually evolved, we are not thereby playing down the power of the Creator. To accept the theory of evolution is, if
anything, to exalt and stress the role of the Creator.
While we Catholics should welcome every aspect of the evolutionary hypothesis that can reasonably be proved, we still believe, of course, that man has an immortal soul and so one word of caution needs to be added.
Unlike the animals and other lower beings, when we die in the body, so far from ceasing to exist, we will live on as spiritual beings outside the conditions of space and time. We cannot imagine how this will be, nor can we really picture the resurrection of the body, but these are all truths of our Christian faith and we believe them on Jesus' word.
Man is immortal; the animals are not. That an immortal being, the first man, should have evolved from a previous mortal being. this is clearly beyond any natural process of evolution. The immortality of the human, soul implies that, at the stage of the evolutionary process when the first humans appeared, there must have been some quite special intervention on the part of God.