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Matt Cannaday



Creation Theology: A Perspective from Evolutionary Biology

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Throughout the history of humanity, there have been three essential questions which have
been approached by philosophers, theologians, and scientists alike: where did we come from
(origin), why are we here (purpose), and where are we going (end)? In this history of humanity,
these have been analyzed in a number of different ways, but Id like to speak to how they are
being popularly addressed today and how they need to be addressed by means of Christian
theology, given the growth of modern science. The three main means of discussing the origins of
the universe, the purpose of humanity, and its end goal are creationism, intelligent design, and
Darwinian evolution. Since the late 1800s, Darwinian evolution has been seen as the most
popular mode of explaining human existence in both science and media, and has recently gained
momentum in the Catholic Church. In recent decades, the most popular form of evolutionary
science has been taken up by Neo-Darwinian scientism, led by scientists such as Daniel Dennett
and Richard Dawkins. This notion of Neo-Darwinian scientism contends that Darwinian
evolution leaves no place for any divine entity, stating that complete chance and randomness are
the most logical explanations of organic existence.
With creationism, intelligent design, and Darwinian evolution in constant conflict with
one another, there is a pertinent need in our present culture for a new way of expressing our
understanding of nature in the realm of faith. I am offering a very brief means of bridging the
gap between faith and reason as it pertains to the three questions outlined above. My proposal is
one that approaches creation theology from a perspective of Darwinian evolution. I believe that
approaching creation theology from an evolutionary perspective allows for a greater
understanding of Gods ongoing act of creating in the context of not only the physical world, but
of revelation itself.

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Why do we need a Modern Synthesis of Theology and Evolution?

The reasons I wish to embrace this particular project are numerous and stem from our
present situation in upper-class society. Across the world in fully industrialized and commercial
societies, there is a growing sentiment of austere secularism, making the divide between faith
and reason even wider than it has been in times past. From judiciary courts to academic journals,
the growing sentiment is not that of freedom of religion, but it has become one of freedom from
religion. This misinterpretation (in my opinion) of the message of the founding fathers in the
United States Constitution has not aided in creating a society in which we (as many bumper
stickers suggest) co-exist, but it has aided in creating a society in which communities are
becoming isolated and placed solely within the political spectrum.
Out of this growth of cultural secularism, there has been a threat placed against traditions
of faith, most notably the Christian faith, which is dominant in not only numbers, but in
influence as well. Throughout the history of the United States, there has been a consistent
influence of Christianity over the laws, customs, and anthropology of America. The point of
contention that America is, at its foundation, a Christian country is not the question I wish to
approach; but rather, I want to simply acknowledge the effect it has had on political leaders,
media outlets, laws, and other distinct aspects of American life. In its history, America has seen
political leaders evolve from the deist worldviews of the founding fathers (men such as Thomas
Jefferson), to evangelical Protestantism and Christian zeal as indicated in the actions of President
Dwight Eisenhower (adoption of under God in the Pledge of Allegiance and In God We
Trust as the nations official motto).

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This growing trend of disaffiliation has become the creed of popular media and is
heralded as the most impartial and objective way of determining what is right and wrong; what is
religious and non-religious. The disaffiliated secularism movement has adopted evolution as its
dogma, creating a progressive camp and embracing the scientific theory as that which is superior
to any fundamentally religious understanding of how nature has come to be, why its here, and
where its going. Given this worldview, there has naturally been a determined effort on behalf of
evangelical Christians to safeguard the traditional view of nature as coming to be by a divine
creator. But, because of the medias adoption of a strictly secular worldview, positions
originating in the Bible and intelligent design have become vastly ineffective. Despite the best
efforts of ecclesial communities across the United States to convince people that the creation
account in Genesis is the literal means of how the Earth came to be, these arguments hold no
ground in either theology or science as verifiably and irrevocably true. And, even though
scientific programs such as the Discovery Institute out of Seattle, Washington work from science
to prove the existence of an intelligent designer, the scientific community sees this work as
fantastical and heretical when placed within the understanding of what is deemed acceptable in
the scientific community now.1
So, to use the colloquial euphemism, this puts the balance of faith and reason in a
pickle. In the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the many bishops and
theologians present at the gathering put together a document which helps orient believers
into an area of harmony with faith and reason. In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church
in the Modern World, or, Gaudium et Spes, the Church recognizes the impact that the

"AAAS - Evolution Resources." AAAS News RSS.

http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/evolution/qanda.shtml (accessed November
24, 2013).

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sciences are beginning to have in the context of society and recognizes great beauty in
This scientific spirit has a new kind of impact on the cultural sphere and on
modes of thought. Technology is now transforming the face of the earth, and is
already trying to master outer space. To a certain extent, the human intellect is
also broadening its dominion over time: over the past by means of historical
knowledge; over the future, by the art of projecting and by planning. Advances
in biology, psychology, and the social sciences not only bring men hope of
improved self-knowledge; in conjunction with technical methods, they are
helping men exert direct influence on the life of social groups. (GS, 5)2
In the above passage, we see that science is clearly an instrument of truth to the
world and that it can help humanity learn more about itself in order that it may grow in
harmony with the rest of nature in an autonomous way. Furthermore, Gaudium et Spes
also speaks on how there is no inherent conflict between faith and reason:
if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a
genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly
conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from
the same God. (GS, 36)3

Flannery, Austin. "Gaudium et Spes." InVatican Council II: the basic sixteen
documents : constitutions, decrees, declarations. Dublin, Ireland: Dominican
Publications ;, 1996. 166-167.

Flannery, Austin. Gaudium et Spes, 201.

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In Gaudium et Spes challenging the Church to achieve a greater synthesis of faith
and reason, the greatest challenge to this is the current dialectical tension of evolution and
creation. Because evolution is being taught as a scientific doctrine, it only follows that the
Church should develop some sort of doctrinal, or at least catechetical response to it.
Finding a theological balance between creation and Darwinian evolution could help
develop our understanding of where the Church is in relation to the modern world. The
most important audience of this synthesis is undoubtedly young people in the Church as
they are not only the Churchs present and future, but they are also the present and future
in the study of the sciences. Providing them with a balanced and understandable approach
to a distinctly Christian understanding of Darwinian evolution will not only equip them
with knowledge necessary to achieve sound apologetic practice, but will allow them to
begin to understand how God uses the sciences as means of a continual creation of the
Christian spirit. According to a recent document of the USCCB, Disciples Called to
Witness: The New Evangelization, The New Evangelization provides the lens through
which people experience the Church and world around them.4 In essence, this synthesis
of the Christian faith tradition and evolution is, in my opinion, a pertinent aspect of the
New Evangelization. These are just a few of the pertinent reasons as to why we must
develop a modern synthesis of theology and evolution.
Historical Perspective of Nature
As previously mentioned, there are three popular accounts of how nature came to
be: creationism, intelligent design, and Darwinian evolution. From the beginning of time,


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humanity has attempted to make peace with its existential reality and the mystery that
comes along with it. As we continue to move forward and learn more about ourselves by
means of our individual and societal experiences, we advance our understanding of the
mechanisms of nature. In this section, I will discuss these means of approaching the three
questions hanging over this project: origin, purpose, and end.
Throughout the history of humanity, many different cultures have attempted to
explain their origin via static accounts of creation. The earliest recorded story of creation
is that of the Sumerians written around 1600 BCE, which includes many common themes
found in the many stories of beginnings throughout the religions and cultures of the
Ancient Near East. Many of the cultures surrounding the Jewish peoples, though
polytheistic, hold in them similar narratives such as the great flood, humans being formed
from the earth, and women being seen as derived from man as opposed to a mutual
exchange. The Sumerian account of creation even states that the god Enki formed
creation out of the clay of the earth, creating a correlation between the scriptural adage of
humanity being made out of dirt, or dust of the earth.5 If one were to travel outside of the
Ancient Near East, they would even be able to see that other cultures hold this same
principle as being a truth of creation. The ancient Hawaiians, in their traditional chant of
creation, note that human beings climbed out of the seas as slime and that the god of
creation formed them to be humans from the slime of the earth.
These references to other cultures are important for us to note because it shows that
the book of Genesis in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures is not completely distinct in
its understanding of creation. Most likely, the various Hebrew authors based some of

Wasilewska, Ewa. "Of Mud And/Or Divine." In Creation stories of the Middle East.
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2000. 145.

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their story on how other cultures presented creation and from there, added in their own
monotheistic ideals and presentations, leaving small, but important differences in regards
to other accounts of creation at the time.6 Now, whereas there are similarities and
differences in the different cultural accounts of creation, these static accounts in a modern
context offer the merit of being transmissions of primordial truth grounded in tradition.
Primordial truth is a truth that can be defined as being the first of developed truths which
have withstood the test of time. In the case of the book of Genesis specifically, some of
these truths (from a religious perspective) are what can be considered articles of faith.
The two most important for this particular conversation are that there is a God and that
God in turn created the world.7 Again, in stating these, we are making religious
comments, not within the realm of the natural sciences, so it is important to note that
Darwinian evolution is not geared toward proving the existence of a creator, but is a
mechanism of an act of the creator already existing.
Given that religions have been the driving force behind the explanation of meaning
for humans throughout the vast majority of our existence, these static accounts of creation
have been and are presently very fundamental to the core values and beliefs of certain
ecclesial communions and groups the world over, especially in the United States. Given
that these creation stories are, as previously mentioned, parts of various articles of faith,
their literal interpretation has been paramount in the formation of our understanding of
origin, purpose, and end. For centuries, Christendom was content with the notion of the
universe as being created in six chronological days with God resting on the seventh. So,

Collins, John Joseph. "The Primeval History." In A short introduction to the Hebrew
Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. 40.

Aquinas, Thomas. Second Part of the Second Part: Question 1, Article 8. In

Summa Theologiae.

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when modern science burst onto the scene, fundamentalist believers felt as if their core
beliefs were being attacked and bastardized by this man-made conception of science.
After all, the Bible is the inspired word of God, so what can be placed against it?
As science and biblical scholarship evolved, so did the worldviews of certain
religious communions such as the Roman Catholic Church, which acknowledged that not
everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. Particularly in America, mainline
fundamental Protestant denominations opposed the works of science as an explanation of
how nature came to be and have maintained that history began nearly 6,000 years ago, in
correlation with the text of the Bible.8 When this worldview is looked at through the strict
lens of science, many different problems arise as all of these views seem completely and
utterly bombastic. From the perspective of an amalgamation of faith and reason, one can
see merit in this argument, but only from the sense of faith. Thus, some problems arise
within these static accounts of creation. Due to the fact that the actual Genesis story was
not officially scribed by the Hebrews until about 722 BCE and that there are multiple
authors9, the potentiality of inconsistency in the content of the story is drastically
increased in the context of history. When these creation stories are presented as science,
they are thrown aside not just because they cant be scientifically verified, but because
the Bible, first and foremost, is a book containing the story of an interaction between God
and a chosen people, completed in the event of Jesus of Nazareth. This literal
interpretation of Scripture is not one rooted in reason, but one rooted in religious zeal.
Though religious zeal is commendable, it lacks legitimacy if right reason is not involved
in its delivery.


Collins, John Joseph. The Nature of the Pentateuchal Narrative, 33.

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Intelligent Design
Intelligent design is the viewpoint based in reason and science that there is an
intelligent force outside of our understanding and knowledge that sparked the universe
into existence. Throughout the ages, this has been presented in a number of different
manners. I contend that intelligent design is not a religious viewpoint at heart, but it is a
rational viewpoint adopted by certain movements beginning in the Enlightenment Era
and becoming focal points of certain religious approaches to the existence of nature.
The notion of intelligent design began with the concept of deism as a result of the
scientific revolution of the 17th century. According to deism, we can know by the natural
light of reason that the universe is created and governed by a supreme intelligence;
however, although this supreme being has a plan for creation from the beginning, the
being does not interfere with creation; the deist typically rejects miracles and reliance on
special revelation as a source of religious doctrine and belief, in favor of the natural light
of reason.10 The aim of deism is not one of proving the existence of a creator, but merely
affirming that the greatest means of discovering a divine being is through our endowed
light of natural reason. The work of deism is not to begin with the study of nature into an
affirmation of the existence of a creator, rather, it works from the assumption that the
creator sparked humankind to discover the many mysteries of existence via our own will.
This is an important stepping stone in understanding our modern understanding of
intelligent design.
The popular misconception of intelligent design is that it is based out of a religious
point of view in which conservative and fundamentalist sects of intellectuals wish to

10 Bristow, William, "Enlightenment", The Stanford Encyclopedia of

Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

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hinder the progress of the natural sciences. In popular media, proponents of intelligent
design are typically associated with conservative political groups such as the Republican
Tea Party Coalition11, but among scholars dedicated to their belief in an intelligent
designer, they simply see themselves as scientists. The aforementioned Discovery
Institute is somewhat of a safe-haven for scientists whose work has led them to defend a
position of believing in the platform of intelligent design. They offer works in favor of
intelligent design in scientifically peer-reviewed journals and consider this endeavor as a
field of exploratory science unto itself. [Intelligent Design] research seeks to engage
open-minded scientists and thoughtful laypersons with credible, persuasive, peerreviewed, empirical data supporting intelligent design.12 In addition, these scientists
come from different realms of the scientific community including biology, physics,
astronomy, genetics, and many more.
So, intelligent design as seen in our modern day society is a type of rebranded deism
which seeks to point out via scientific discovery that there is an intelligent, creative force
behind the universe. It is popularized by its tendency to apply the God of the Gaps
argument as legitimate scientific theory. Michael Behe, a Catholic biochemist and senior
fellow at the Discovery Institute, has coined the phrase irreducible complexity in
relation to the existence of a creative force in the universe. His theory, popular among
intelligent design proponents, states that the sheer complexity of the cosmos is enough



12 "CSC - Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory

of Intelligent Design (Annotated)." CSC - Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific
Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design (Annotated).
http://www.discovery.org/a/2640 (accessed November 24, 2013).

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proof that there must be an intelligent designer somewhere beyond the realm of human
comprehension and understanding.13
Despite having the Discovery Institute in which different scientific views are praised
for their work in favor of intelligent design, the scientific and political community as a
whole has rejected this view point and barely considers it a valuable form of scientific
thought. In the Supreme Court case of Kitzmiller v Dover, intelligent design was ruled
out as a valid form of science and is merely a rebranded version of creationism, thus
disallowing the use of intelligent design to be taught in a public school classroom in the
state of Pennsylvania. Various testimonies were given in the trial in favor of disallowing
the teaching of intelligent design including John Haught from the theological perspective
and Ken Miller, a biology instructor from Brown University. In the aftermath of this trial,
there has been a backlash in the scientific community of the proposal of intelligent design
and scientists in favor of intelligent design have been ousted nationwide from positions of
scientific power. In 2004, editor of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Biological
Society of Washington, Richard Sternberg, was relieved from his editorial position after
allowing the publication of an article by Discovery Institute founder Stephen C. Meyer.
In turn, the Smithsonian Institute took away his position as an unpaid researcher and
courts ruled that because he was unpaid, he was never officially dismissed. This was the
first of many expulsions, all shown in the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence

13 Behe, Michael J.. "Chapter One." In Darwin's black box: the Biochemical Challenge
to Evolution. New York: Free Press, 1996. 39.
14 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. DVD. Directed by Benjamin Stein. Universal
City, Calif.: Vivendi Visual Entertainment, 2008.

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From my perspective, the biggest flaw in the notion of intelligent design is its
apparent lack of interest in the need for an intrapersonal God. The goal of intelligent
design in proving a creator is merely a journey of the mind toward the concept of God,
not the being of God. This lack of wanting to know who God is is what invalidates
intelligent design as a legitimate theological argument. Proponents of intelligent design
are approaching the metaphysical argument of whether there is a creator by means of
physical science, thus violating the principle of NOMA, or non-overlapping magisteria.15
This concept of NOMA coined by the late Stephen Jay Gould, a noted evolutionary
biologist and historian of science, is a principle that basically states that in any two
disciplines (in this case theology and science), certain tenets of those disciplines should
not overlap into each others respective disciplines. Much like theology would be
violating the principle of NOMA if they sought to prove the resurrection of Jesus via
science, so does intelligent design violate NOMA in its attempts to empirically prove a
non-empirical being.
Darwinian Evolution
In 1859, British biologist Charles Darwin published a book that would become the
hallmark for biological sciences after embarking on a five-year voyage around the world.
The concepts that come from The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the
Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (The Origin of the Species) are
generally accepted as scientific fact and are still taught within science curriculums worldwide. The views of this work have never been without controversy, as seen earlier in our
descriptions of creationism and intelligent design.
15 Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March
1997): 16-22; Reprinted here with permission from Leonardo's Mountain of Clams
and the Diet of Worms, New York: Harmony Books, 1998, pp. 269-283.

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Darwins model of evolution from a purely scientific perspective is the first of its
kind and is groundbreaking in the discipline of biology and environmental sciences. In a
brief description of his findings, Darwin concluded that there is a common ancestor for
all life and that this life has been transformed and mutated through an evolutionary
process over some 3.9 billion years. Another conclusion of this work is that of natural
selection. In the process of natural selection, genes mutate, throughout time, according to
their successes in their respective environments. This aspect of mutation comes out of
something known as the modern synthesis, or, the combination of a number of different
theories into one whole including genetics, classification, fossils, developmental biology,
and ecology.16 From this synthesis, the scientific community has been able to reinforce
the claims of Darwin when he speaks of the notion of survival of the fittest. Survival of
the fittest states that only those organisms best suited to their environment through
genetic mutation will survive, while those organisms that arent adaptable genetically will
be eliminated. In other words, if you want to live, adapt to your surroundings.
Darwin finished his journey around the world in 1836, and England, at the time, was
a primarily Church-oriented society. According to a BBC article17 on Charles Darwin,
most of the people in intellectual power were creationists and vehemently detested
Darwins claims of evolution by means of natural selection. The main opposition to
Darwins findings involved his implication that humans were just another piece of the
ecological puzzle and there really wasnt much that was special about them. For Darwin,

16 Raven, Peter H., Linda R. Berg, and David M. Hassenzahl. "Ecosystems and Living
Organisms." In Environment. 8th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012. 87.
17 BBC. "History: Charles Darwin." BBC News.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/darwin_charles.shtml (accessed
November 24, 2013).

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humans were just another animal. When he finally published his works in 1859, he was
not only attacked by the Church of England, but was attacked by the media as well,
prevalent in the depiction below.18 By contrast, however, many up and coming scientists
reveled at his work and sparked the notion of The Origin of the Species as being
biological dogma.

As the centuries progressed Darwins notion of evolution became widely accepted

in the scientific community and his theories were even extrapolated upon. The most
important contributions to the evolution of Darwins works are the studies done in
relation to Mendelian genetics. In applying the studies of Rev. Gregor Mendel (father of
genetics) to Darwins notion of evolution, it made the understanding of natural selection
that much richer, and allowed for a new notion of how certain traits were handed on from
one generation to the next, extrapolating and expanding upon Darwins proposal of
survival of the fittest.19
In the past two decades or so, Darwins theory of evolution has been branded as no
less than a sacred text of atheists worldwide. Popular neo-Darwinians have concluded
18 American Philosophical Society. A Venerable Ourang-Outang : A Contribution to
Unnatural History. The Hornet, 22 March 1871.
19 "Basic Principles of Genetics: Mendel's Genetics." Basic Principles of Genetics:
Mendel's Genetics. http://anthro.palomar.edu/mendel/mendel_1.htm (accessed
November 24, 2013).

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that Darwins theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection rules out the
need for a creative force because his theory allows for nature to evolve by pure chance.
Darwin always strove to stay away from any sort of theological or religious language in
The Origin of the Species, even going as far as saying in a future interview that, "Science
has nothing to do with Christ; except in so far as the habit of scientific research makes a
man cautious in admitting evidence.20 Though Darwin proved to be an agnostic in his
later years, he remained respectful of religious points of view, saying, Let each man
hope and believe what he can.21 These views of Darwin himself are quite interesting
when juxtaposed with those of current materialist neo-Darwinians such as Daniel Dennett
and Richard Dawkins. Dennetts point of view is as follows: If evolution has any
message at all, it is that the universe is devoid of any message. The cosmos as a whole
has no explanation it just is nor does the stream of life that accidentally appears and
evolves within it. And nothing has ever planned for our own existence, either.22
Dawkins goes even further, stating explicitly The universe we observe has precisely the
properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no
good, nothing blind, pitiless indifference.23 Lastly, the Encyclopedia Britannica when
20 van Wyhe, John, editor. 2002 The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online,
21 "Darwin Correspondence Project." letter: 2814.
http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-2814#back-mark-2814.f8 (accessed November
26, 2013).
22 Haught, John F.. "Darwin's Dangerous Idea." In God after Darwin: a theology of
evolution. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000. 12.
23 Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden: a Darwinian view of Life. New York, NY:
Basic Books, 1995. 133.

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speaking about Darwins discoveries that, The significance of these and other
discoveries was that they led to a conception of the universe as a system of matter in
motion governed by laws of nature. The workings of the universe no longer needed to be
attributed to the ineffable will of a divine Creator; rather, they were brought into the
realm of sciencean explanation of phenomena through natural laws.24
A Theology from the Perspective of Evolution
As stated before, there is a dire need for an amalgamation of basic Christian creation
theology with Darwinian evolution. I will hope to briefly achieve this by approaching a
few different aspects of theology and how they blend with Darwinian evolution while at
the same time, discussing how the three popular forms of explaining the origin, purpose,
and end of nature are inadequate ways of expressing the continual creation of nature and
humanity. Before developing a theology, I will briefly discuss how the Roman Catholic
Church has approached this issue in the past and how it approaches it today. As for the
development of a theology from a perspective of evolution, I will focus on three
approaches. Firstly, I will look at the compatibility of Darwinian evolution in the biblical
creation stories. Secondly, I will employ the Pauline notion of kenosis and how
revelation plays into the fabric of an evolutionary view of creation theology. Finally, I
will discuss creations teleology by means of discussing the prevalence of Gods grace as
seen through the lens of kenosis and how this can lend to a paradigmatic shift of asking
why instead of how as it relates to the existence of creation.
The Roman Catholic Church in Relation to Darwinian Evolution

24 Ayala, Francisco. "Charles Darwin." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/197367/evolution/49839/CharlesDarwin (accessed November 26, 2013).

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The Catholic response to Darwinian evolution was initially that of hostility, as a
provincial group of German bishops in 1860 found that those who subscribe to Darwins
studies were in direct contrast with Sacred Scripture.25 The views of hostility, however,
were not uniform within the hierarchy of the Church as John Henry Newman expressed
the view that Darwins studies werent in conflict with the teachings of the Church, going
on to say that it can have a positive effect on theology by opening up further questions
regarding how extraordinary Gods creative will truly is.26 Shortly after Newmans
correspondence, the First Vatican Council was held, and one of the more important
teachings in Church history involving the relationship between faith and reason was laid
Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they
mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the
foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of
divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects
it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds." (Dei Filius, 10)27
As the 20th century came into being, more questions and research arose on
evolution, pressing the question more so than ever before, prompting Pope Pius XII to be
25 Artigas, Mariano, and Thomas F. Glick. "The New Documents." In Negotiating
Darwin the Vatican confronts evolution, 1877-1902. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2006. 23.
26 Newman, John Henry. "John Henry Newman to J. Walker of Scarborough on
Darwin's Theory of Evolution." Inters.org |. http://inters.org/Newman-ScarboroughDarwin-Evolution (accessed November 26, 2013).
27 Broderick, John F.. "Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith." InDocuments of
Vatican Council I, 1869-1870. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1971. Chapter 4,
Article 10.

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the first person to explicitly mention evolution in an official Church document in his
1950 encyclical Humani Generis.28 Pope Pius goes on to state that the Church does not
wish to prevent the fields of natural sciences from expanding their influence in matters
relating to theology, but that if these two are to synthesize, great protection of the
tradition, teaching, and scriptural understanding of Christian theology must be taken with
pride of place. In essence, it is in no way proper for theology to become intertwined with
evolution; rather, evolution must be properly worked into a dogmatically sound
theological context. Furthermore, in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences, Pope John Paul II states that, some new findings lead us toward the
recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact, it is remarkable that this
theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers29 It is
important to note, however, that though these two Pontiffs have expressed an openness to
the Darwinian theory of evolution, both warn of the dangers of evolution becoming a
mere materialist account of creation and explicitly state that the tradition of Scripture and
Revelation in creation as we express it must be upheld.
Evolution in Relation to Genesis
As Catholics, we have a long tradition of not interpreting Sacred Scripture in a
literal fashion. With that said, it goes without saying that a solid Catholic response to

28 Pius XII, Pope. "Humani Generis." Humani Generis.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_pxii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html (accessed November 24, 2013).
29 John Paul II, Pope. "Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: On Evolution."
Address, Magisterium is Concerned with Question of Evolution for It Involves
Conception of Man from Holy See, Vatican City, October 22, 1996.

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Darwinian evolution is not one based in creationism. Zachary Hayes, OFM makes a good
point in stating that The concrete image of the world is not to be taken as the content of
the divine revelation, but as the means whereby religious insight is communicated.30
With this, Hayes is adopting an interpretation that is more figurative than literal, allowing
for a notion of interpreting the accounts of creation in Genesis as means of Gods
communication with the world, not as a means of Gods literal creation of the world.
In the first creation narrative, the first three words of the book of Genesis are In the
beginning These three words are the catalyst for centuries of theological insight,
discovery and debate. It is important to note that in the first account of creation in
Genesis (1:1-2:4), there are traditionallythree dimensions of Gods creative activity:
original creation (creatio originalis), ongoing or continuous creation (creatio continua),
and new creation or the fulfillment of creation (creatio nova). The notion of original
creation is one that has dominated the views of Christendom throughout most of its
history, given the fact that cosmic and biological evolution are relatively new discoveries
as it pertains to humanitys existential state. But, now that we have become more
knowledgeable of cosmic and biological evolution, an entirely new playing field has been
opened up from which theology can continue to grow in its understanding of how to
relate the revelation of God in nature to the scientific reason prevalent in the theory of the
Big Bang and Darwinian evolution. the fact of evolution now allows theology to
apprehend more palpably than ever that creation is not just an original but also an
ongoing and constantly new reality. In an evolving cosmos, creation is still happening, no

30 Hayes, OFM, Zachary. "Science and Theology." In A Window to the Divine:

Creation Theology. Winona, Minn.: Saint Mary's Press, 2009. 9.

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less in the present than in the beginning.31 Hayes also speaks to this in saying that
More and more, the term creation refers not simply to something that God did in the
beginning, but to something God is engaged in throughout history.32
In terms of biblical interpretation, many years of scholarship have performed their
own project of going back to the sources to find out how the scriptures came to be and
how they can be interpreted. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for day used
in the first chapter of Genesis (yom) does not necessarily denote a 24-hour period of time,
but rather, can denote an unspecified period of time, allowing for an evolutionary
understanding of the first account of creation. But, this position can also be misleading,
as our scientific understanding of how the universe was formed (and is still forming),
certainly disagrees with the ordering of how God created the universe in the first Genesis
So the question remains, how do we amalgamate evolution and the creation
narratives prevalent in Genesis? The most theologically fruitful way of doing this is by
appropriating evolution to the notion of creatio continua. By adoption a view of creation
as an ongoing communication of God with nature, it allows for both the autonomy of
Darwins point of view as well as the inherent goodness of creation. In Genesis 1:22, God
creates the creatures of the oceans and the birds of the skies and blesses them with the
command of Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds
multiply upon the earth.33 God is not doing the reproducing, but in the creativity of his
free grace, is allowing the birds of the air and fish of the sea to multiply on their own,
31 Haught, Theology Since Darwin. 37.
32 Hayes, OFM. A New Reading of the Sources. 15.
33 Jones, Alexander. The Jerusalem Bible. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966.
(Jerusalem Bible is source of all Scriptural references/quotations)

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creating autonomy for the species. There is no protection barrier, but instead a propelling
of creative goodness, thus allowing the creatures of the earth to, in-turn, be good in their
own nature. This communication between God and nature is natural revelation at its core.
According to Avery Dulles, SJ, Revelation, even when given through nature, is a free
and personal self-manifestation of God, calling for the free and personal response of
Furthermore, in Genesis 1:26-27 we see that God freely and willingly creates
humanity in Gods own likeness and image, granting them special mastery over all of
creation.35 This understanding of humanity being elevated above that of the rest of
creation is certainly in conflict with Darwins understanding of humans merely being
another member of the animal kingdom. But, when we look at the notion of Darwins
common ancestry, it is evident that human beings have evolved above all other
creatures, hence our incredible ability to adapt to any kind of environment and still
thrive/survive. An interpretation of this text from an evolutionary perspective is one that
does grant particular credence to the notion of humanity as being exalted above all other
creatures. By means of the freedom inherent in human beings, Gods grace is actualized
in our acceptance of it as a free and novel gift on a personal level. This personal
acceptance leads to a discussion outside of this general revelation into special revelation,
a revelation grounded in the aspect of kenosis.
Kenosis and its Impact on Evolution

34 Dulles, SJ, Avery. "Faith and Revelation." In Systematic theology: Roman Catholic
perspectives. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011. 82.
35 Domain, in this context, refers to humanitys obligation to serve creation as its

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It is dubious to look at the synthesis of science and faith from a lens of merely
appropriating a divine figure to the discipline of science, as that leaves us with nothing
more than an impersonal intelligent designer. Instead, we have to approach this synthesis
with an openness to embracing a personal God, loving us and gracing us with his creative
Spirit in our everyday lives. The question is whether or not a notion of God as active
within religious experience and awareness is compatible with understandings of
contemporary science. There are, of course, the philosophical underpinnings of our
existence ie: to seek out the aims of natural science and to observe the world around us.
But, to take our project into the realm of Christian religious experience, we must turn our
eyes to something beyond just the general revelation of nature and into the special
revelation of the Christ-event.
His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied
himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being
as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a
cross. (Philippians 2: 6-8)
Kenosis is a term coined in St. Pauls letter to the Philippians emphasizing the free
emptying of God into the mediator of Jesus. This incredibly humbling notion of God
freely renouncing the glory afforded to him to take the form of that which is created,
brings us to a greater appreciation of the beauty of creation. That God would take the
form of a created being shows us how beautiful the works of creation truly are. God
makes himself vulnerable in the person of Jesus. The ways of nature take on a distinctly
new definition when we view them in light of the vulnerability of God.36 When we
36 Haught, Darwins Gift to Theology.

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approach evolution with the understanding of a vulnerable, compassionate, and totally
free God, we are able to view evolution as a continual outpouring of Gods creative love
thrusting creation forward into himself. German theologian Jrgen Moltmann states that,
Gods self-humiliation does not begin merely with creationIt begins beforehand,
and is the presupposition that makes creation possible.37 Furthermore, Haught says that
from the perspective of a theological vision that takes seriously both biological
science and what Christian faith understands as revelatory portraits of a vulnerable and
faithful God, natures evolutionary journey may exhibit levels of meaning that could
never be illuminated apart from a prior commitment to such a revelatory framework.38
The Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum)
speaks of this emptying communication of God throughout history and tradition. It shares
that, God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the Bride of his beloved
Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the gospel resounds in the
Church, and through it in the world, leads all believers to all truth and makes the word of
Christ dwell in them abundantly. (DV, 8) Not only does this aspect of kenosis change our
understanding of how to look at the world, but it gives us a greater understanding of how
to experience God working in and through the evolutionary character of creation. It
allows us to see evolution as God uninterruptedly conversing with us as we evolve and
better ourselves in relation to the created reality surrounding us.
This brings us to the purpose of humanity. In light of special revelation, our purpose
is to be representations of the kenosis which makes our being possible. In the Second
Vatican Councils Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), we come to
37 Moltmann, Jrgen. God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of
God. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. 88.
38 Haught, Evolution, Tragedy, and Cosmic Purpose. 110.

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know that The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in
mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world. (LG, 3) In the notion of
kenosis, creation is no longer seen as very good, but is seen as perfect (Phil. 2:15). This
kenotic power of God as visibly shown in the mastery of an autonomous creation is to be
a light to the nations, living in the ever changing and ever growing sphere of nature.
Kenotic Teleology
In the discussion of the teleology of creation, nothing is as paramount as the notion
of the loving communion of the Trinity. If our understanding of the Trinity is of God the
Father, Christ the Mediator and the Holy Spirit as the communication of the two in a
triangle of perfect love, then creation is the design of the Father manifested in the
blueprint of Christ, communicated by the Spirit. In the spirit of St. Bonaventure, Ilia
Delio, OSF states that:
The divine Word is the Art of the Father because the Word expresses all the
divine ideas. When that Word is uttered in time, the canvas of creation unfolds.
The triune God is then revealed as a divine Artist, and creation is intended to
manifest the glory of the Artist-Creator.39
Throughout the tapestry of time, there isnt a picture more beautifully painted than
that of the blueprint himself, Jesus. It is in his life, passion, death, resurrection and
ascension that all of creation is redeemed and fulfills its purpose. According to Delio in
her discussion of Bonaventures view of creation, [Creation] comes from God, reflects
the glory of God and is intended to return to God.40 In relation to evolution, we have to
39 Delio, Ilia. "Part Three: Bonaventure's Theology of Creation." In A Franciscan View
of Creation: Learning to Live in a Sacramental World. St. Bonaventure, N.Y.:
Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University, 2003. 23.
40 Ibid. 23.

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approach the question of telos not from a perspective of why we are here, but how
we are here. The popular notion is to view evolution as emanating from the past and
proceeding toward the future. This understanding roots all of creation in the past
experiences of humanity in its relation to the world around it and allows for us to witness
its evolutionary growth throughout the fabric of time. But, if we view evolution and
creation as emanating from a more future-oriented perspective, we are more apt to
approach the image of God as creating a new future for us by means of emptying himself.
In terms of evolution, the future is completely unpredictable and is open to many
new stories of the progression of humanity and the creation it holds domain over. When
looking back at the course of evolution in history through the lens of a kenotic God as
opposed to a far-off, impersonal God, one can see that in evolution lies the loving and
creative novelty of God, giving an inherent meaning and purpose to the world. Haught
states that, The fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution now appear, in the perspective
of faith, to have always been seeded with promise. From its very beginning this
extravagantly experimental universe has been bursting with potential for surprising future
outcomes.41 The entire cosmos, because of the self-emptying of God in the person of
Christ and the promise of the resurrection, is oriented in such a way that its future is
always promising as opposed to tragic. It is through the humbling power of the
resurrection that evolution is given a hopeful end. This hopeful end is nothing more than
union with God.
In conclusion, it is evident that approaching creation theology through an
evolutionary lens allows us to see the creative artistry of God in a different light. Through

41 Haught, Evolution, Tragedy, and Cosmic Purpose. 115.

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the freeness and humility of God, there lies at the foundation of creation a continual
development through love in which God is continuously pulling creation closer to
himself. As I have hopefully shown, a creation theology from the perspective of evolution
is much more conducive to explaining our existential reality than creationism, intelligent
design, or neo-Darwinian scientism. In approaching creation from an evolutionary
perspective, we can see how this self-emptying God approaches us in our everyday lives,
challenging us, as Church, to be ever ancient and ever new. By means of constantly
evolving in the creativity of God, we are able to approach the world as lights to the
nations, firmly grounded in reason and in the faith that has formed us.