Catholicism on Evolution and the Evolution of Catholicism

Sarah Schnellbacher's picture


Catholicism on Evolution and the Evolution of Catholicism

 

Like many other science majors and Charles Darwin himself, I am forced to reconcile my religious upbringing (specifically Roman Catholic) with evolutionary theory. In my “The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories” course at Bryn Mawr College we began the semester by discussing what our individual views on evolution were and whether or not we personally could reconcile the idea of a creator (or lack thereof) in Darwin’s world. Some of the students in the class had been raised religiously in the Bible belt and therefore had only heard pseudoscientific versions of Darwinism. Religion had become so ingrained in their upbringing that they couldn’t imagine ever really accepting a world of chance. Other students were atheist; they had never thought about the idea of a creator and it seemed completely implausible that one would exist. Others, especially other Roman Catholics, shared some of my own views on the subject. We liked the idea of a creator and enjoyed various aspects of religion but also continuously found ourselves unable to really pinpoint where we stood on the subject. I like to live by a motto that my Confirmation teacher subscribed to, “If your boat is sinking, say a prayer, but remember God gives you paddles for a reason.”

 

My own beliefs border between existentialism and Catholicism. I can’t be sure if there is a God or not but I feel that things always work out for the best in the end. Maybe this is from a higher power or maybe it is of my own intuitive doing, but I don’t believe that if there is a God, He hands things to people on a silver platter—instead I think He gives one the means to earn it. In investigating the Church’s stance on Evolutionary theory, I discovered why my fellow Catholics and I tended to fall in the middle. Unlike many churches, the Roman Catholic Church officially supports Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, but we were not always so liberal as we are today.

 

When Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, Pope Pius IX was the head of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius IX was the longest reigning pope in history and thus very conservative in his stance on new ideas having witnessed the backlash of radicalism in Italy when his prime minister was assassinated and he was forced to flee the Vatican (Brundell). Pope Pius IX came into power in 1846 just two years before the Europe wide revolutions of 1848. As a new pontiff this horrific experience shaped his outlook throughout his 31 years as pope. Naturally he reacted with caution to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through natural selection as it was the most revolutionary idea of its time. Barry Brundell states in his paper “Catholic Church politics and evolutionary theory, 1894-1902” that Pope Pius IX decrees many times in his Syllabus of Errors (1864) that there is “no possibility of reconciliation between the Church and modern society” (82). With such a conservative pope reigning until 1878, evolutionary theory was not appreciated by the Catholic Church until twenty years after the publishing of On the Origin of Species.

 

Compared to Pope Pius IX, the following pope, Pope Leo XIII, was starkly modern. He embraced a changing society and encouraged Catholics to engage with the secular world. In 1895 he lifted the ban on Catholics attending Oxford and Cambridge Universities to allow for a more educated Catholic populace in the evolving world (Brundell). Although Pope Leo XIII had made great strides toward accepting evolutionary theory, he was met with large opposition from Roman Jesuits and became less ardent with age while the Jesuits grew in strength. As Catholics around the world attempted to meet the pope’s demands through scholarly evaluation and reconciliation of the theory of evolution and the many new truths about geologic time that contradicted the exact wording of the Bible, powerful Jesuits influenced the private silencing of scholars who bordered on heresy (Betts). At this point, though, the Church still had not released any official statement of its stance on Evolutionary Theory and maintained control over Catholic scholars through authority rather than argument (Betts).

 

Following the revolutionary Pope Leo XIII was Pope Pius X who took on a stance similar to his predecessor Pope Pius IX condemning Modernism and the Catholic intellectual movement established by Pope Leo XIII. This “U-turn” in progress continued through the papacy of Benedict XV who renewed Pope Pius X’s stance on Evolutionary Theory. Because Pope Benedict XV came into power in 1914 at the onset of World War I, it is understandable that he would disclaim natural selection which is brutal and merciless in his efforts for bringing peace to the world. The following pope, Pope Pius XI, returned to his predecessor Pope Leo XIII’s stance on science after 19 years of conservative popes. He advanced the modernization of the Vatican Library, established the first Vatican broadcasting station, and reconstituted the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences in 1936. Unlike his more conservative predecessors, he represented a great stride in the evolution of the Catholic Church in his stance against racism and imperialism over other lands with the dawn of World War II. His urgings for acceptance of other non-Catholic cultures made him an evolutionary thinker and set the path for true modern reform in the Catholic Church.

 

Pope Pius XII, in the steps of his modern predecessor, marked the first pope to issue the Catholic Church’s acceptance of the theory of evolution in 1950, nearly a century after On the Origin of Species was published. Pope Pius XII took the stance that Darwin’s theory of evolution does not conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church as long as Catholics allow for the direct creation of the human soul by God. He remarked that the material source of the body could be derived from animals but that the soul did not evolve from the immaterial. Pope Pius XII did not decree that evolutionary theory was fact but rather a good theory that was possible (Gould).

 

 Pope John XXIII marked yet another influential pope of modern times in the evolution of the Catholic Church. He believed that the Church needed to think more evolutionarily about the Gospel. On his death bed he said, “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.” He was known for having gone to the sick and imprisoned who could not come to him and called for a reformation of the Catholic Church to better fit modern times. He died before the Vatican II Council but his dream was carried out by his successor Pope Paul VI.

 

 Pope Paul VI was the first pope to visit five continents and his reformation of the Church shattered the glass ceiling of exclusivity in the Church by the translation of the mass into native languages. In traveling outside of Europe, Pope Paul VI further legitimized the acceptance of new cultures into the Church by branching out to Catholics worldwide. Pope Paul VI was succeeded by the one month pope, Pope John Paul I, and then by Pope John Paul II.

 

 

Pope John Paul II continued Pope John VI’s travels and was the first non-Italian pope in 400 years, which gave him a different perspective on papacy than his many Italian predecessors. His relative youth in becoming pope at age 58 allowed him to relate to a 20th century modern world and he was the first pope to officially declare the legitimacy of evolutionary theory in Catholicism. His stance on evolutionary theory was that the teachings of science and religion are two different approaches to the world which don’t overlap. Science reveals empirical data while religion teaches ethics. Science has no reign over the soul and cannot prove its existence or lack thereof but religion is not meant to be an accurate history of the geologic earth, rather an allegorical teaching. There are topics that border the line between religion and science but they can be approached from both angles and neither is more legitimate than the other (Gould).

 

 

The current pope, Pope Benedict XVI, has taken a more conservative approach to evolutionary theory than Pope John Paul II. Three weeks ago he stated during the Easter Vigil Mass, "If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason". Pope Benedict XVI still feels that Catholics can believe in evolutionary theory without it conflicting with their Catholic faith but does not feel that it is as strong a theory as his predecessor thought and stresses that it cannot be proven. Like Pope John Paul II, he warns that the Bible cannot be taken to literally as some Protestant faiths do and the dates therein are not a reasonable argument against evolutionary theory.

 

Having investigated the views of each pope since Darwin published On the Origin of Species, I now understand why I could never resolve my views on evolution and religion: There are too many different opinions and each of the eleven popes since Darwin are correct by Papal Infallibility as established during the Vatican I Council of 1870 (every pope before Darwin doesn’t count so we can still frown on the unrestricted sale of indulgences in the Middle Ages). Pope John Paul II’s address on October 22, 1996 concerning evolutionary theory is titled “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth.”  Pope John Paul II affirms that evolutionary theory has been shown beyond a reasonable doubt to be true and therefore it must coincide with religion. I feel that my beliefs on evolutionary theory best match those of Pope John Paul II. There are questions science cannot answer and questions that can be answered by science. I don’t think that it is difficult to accept that there are multiple answers to the same question, but in having to choose between two correct answers. In economics there is an overlap of the supply and demand curves such that the consumers and producers are both happy with the transaction, but the truths as established in the Church are more difficult to resolve than a simple line plot. If Papal Infallibility is taken in its most literal sense, then there should be “no possibility of reconciliation between the Church and modern society” (Pope Pius IX) and yet Pope John Paul II establishes that there can be reconciliation between the Church and modern society.

Just as the later popes have found reconciliation between the dates in the literal translation of the Bible and the dates shown in geology, I think the best way to look at Papal Infallibility is to look at the statements of popes in their era and not to compare them individually.

 

 Pope Pius IX lived in an era where revolution was causing the deaths of innocent people. Pope John Paul II describes the pope as the head of one magisterium or teaching and cannot answer the questions of science (Gould). Darwin’s theory of evolution advanced science, but given the fragile state of Europe in 1848, a papal advocacy of Darwinism just ten years after massive revolutions across Europe could lead to revolt and death of innocent people. From the ethical stance, it is better for the pope to deny Darwinism and maintain peace in Europe than to accept a scientific truth.

 

 Pope Pius X reversed the modernism stance that Pope Leo XIII took before him and believed in traditional values of the Church. During his rule from 1903-1914, rapid industrialism such as the invention of the airplane in 1903 and the assembly line car in 1908 would have led to increased materialism. He was a strong advocate for the poor and led by example in refusing any favoritism to his family members given his position. If Pope Pius X had advocated Darwinism, he would be advocating mercilessness to the poor, materialism, and greed. As a teacher of ethics he was right on opposing materialism and encouraging compassion in a tough world.

 

Pope Benedict XV served during World War I and fought to bring peace to the world. The lessons of Darwinism do not teach compassion but rather survival of the fittest. In world war this message could only provoke countries to continue fighting while millions die.

 

Pope Pius XI reigned between the world wars in which Nazi Germany was rising and it would have become clear that science and industry were needed to defend the innocent from persecution by militant powers. The development of the Vatican Broadcasting Station allowed the pope to speak out against the persecution of Jews and thus policies that supported the advancement of science had ethical benefits, yet advocacy of natural selection would have lacked the message of compassion needed to gain ally support.

 

Because it is not the duty of the pope to teach science but rather to lead Catholics worldwide in questions of ethics, I can resolve that the aforementioned stances of the popes against evolution by natural selection were indeed infallible in their times. The Catholic Church teaches that the Bible should not be taken too literally because it is meant to be an allegorical teaching document and not a history database. As an allegory it should be interpreted for the times, which is why the homily in the mass often contains an anecdotal story which relates the priest’s own experiences with the gospel. In this sense the words of Pope Pius IX and Pope John Paul II, though seemingly contradictory, are in fact both truths.

 

Even the strongest proponents of evolutionary theory appreciate the Catholic Church’s stance on evolution, showing a huge progression in the Church over the last 150 years. Stephen Jay Gould, world-renowned evolutionary biologist and creator of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, recounts his experience at the Vatican in 1984 in his article “Nonoverlapping magisteria”. Gould bemuses himself over being approached by some priests from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences who were worried the theory of evolution was in trouble from hearing of “scientific creationism” in America. Gould calls “scientific creationism” a “homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history” and delights in how clearly the priests state that they see no Doctrinal conflicts in the theory of evolution. Twelve years later he reads about Pope John Paul II’s support of the scientific view of evolution and is confused having thought evolution was old business in the Catholic Church and only remained a hot button in American Protestantism.  An intrigued Gould finds that the pope is more technologically advanced than he is with all the papal documents uploaded on the internet. In reading the papal documents of Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II he discovers that this is in fact the first official declaration of the legitimacy of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in the Catholic Church and despite being agnostic finds personal comfort in Pope John Paul II’s resolution of the disparity between religion and science, in which both are truths and teach us different things. Thus because they occupy different domains, there is no conflict between the two. Gould affirms that though he does not believe God creates the soul directly, he likes the compassionate idea of the immortal soul because nature is brutal and hopes that the Church is right so he can stroll with his friends forever after death.

 

For an institution that originally opposed the theory of evolution, it is amazing just how much the Catholic Church has evolved by the very tenets that it opposed a century and a half ago. The Catholic Church is a perfect example of Gould’s punctuated equilibrium. For centuries it has held fast to its traditional views, however, in only 46 years the Church went from “evolution is possible” (1950) to “evolution is truth” (1996). Though individuals of the population (Gould’s priest encounters) may evolve, it may take years before the alleles or, in the case of the priests, memes reach a large enough percentage of the population to cause dramatic changes. Once a dominant discovery has become accepted in the Church, like a dominant allele invading the gene pool, it becomes permanent within the population. Thus the Church will never go back to saying the Earth is orbited by the sun unless a bottle neck occurs in which all but a few individuals in a tucked away corner of the Earth die of a natural disaster. Pope Benedict XVI is attempting to restrain evolutionary theory in the Church teachings but the 1870 ruling for Papal Infallibility ensures that the Church can only go forward and not backward in its teachings and thus is always evolving to provide the ethical guidance for an evolving world.

 

Comments

Vijay's picture

Good research Sarah, but

Good research Sarah, but there are several errors in your paper especially as it relates to Catholic theology. You seem to have completely misunderstood the doctrine of papal infallibility. This doctrine does not imply that popes are infallible when they speak, but rather that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra and makes a formal declaration of faith in his role as Vicar of the Church, he is guided by the Holy Spirit. Catholics have always believed this, but Vatican I formalized it. In the 150 years since Vatican I, only 2 infallible statements have been made: one regarding the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and the other regarding her Assumption. Both of these have been cherished beliefs of the church from its conception, and the Pope only declared these as dogma after consultation with all the Catholic Bishops. The statements of the Popes regarding evolution have been personal opinions. Pope Pius implied that Catholics are free to believe that man evolved in his material form, but needed to believe that his soul was created by God. There is no contradiction or infallible statement here. In effect, he says that the literary form of Genesis may be interpreted in diverse ways (many of the church fathers including St. Augustine did so), but Genesis 1-3 contains incontrovertible historical events that are not a matter of debate for even the popes. These include the creation of the heavens and earth by God, man's creation and Fall, and the promise of a Redeemer. These are pivotal truths of the Christian faith and are non-debatable for Catholics. How God created the heavens, the earth, life and man's physical body is completely worthy of scientific quest and inquiry and is not an issue for Catholics. That is God may have created using evolution, and that is not a problem, as long as you don't take God out of the picture.

From this, it is obvious that much of the confusion surrounding evolution and Catholicism is a misunderstanding of what both teach. Evolutionary theory for example, while supported by strong evidence, is still being refined and understood, as old hypotheses are discarded and new ones are proposed in light of new observations made or new paleontological evidence. That is simply the scientific process.

zuma's picture

Despite Pope Pius XII did not

Despite Pope Pius XII did not forbid evolutionary theory, he treated it to be the new erroneous philosophy.

The following are the extracts from the speech of Pope Pius XII at St. Peter’s (Rome) on 12th August 1950:

Pope Pius XII: “5. If anyone examines the state of affairs outside the Christian fold, he will easily discover the principle trends that not a few learned men are following. Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that EVOLUTION, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribe to this opinion so that, when the souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism.”
6. SUCH fictitious tenets of EVOLUTION which repudiate all that is absolute, firm and immutable, HAVE PAVED THE WAY FOR THE NEW ERRONEOUS PHILOSOPHY which, rivaling idealism, immanentism and pragmatism, has assumed the name of existentialism, since it concerns itself only with existence of individual things and neglects all consideration of their immutable essences.

Comment upon the speech of Pope Pius XII as listed above and observe those letters that are placed in capital letters. As the phrase, evolution…have paved the way for the new erroneous philosophy, is mentioned above, it implies that he treated evolutionary doctrine to be misleading and erroneous. As evolution was treated by Pope Pius XII to be the new erroneous philosophy, he did not treat it to be the truth of God.

Pope Pius XII followed his speech: “8. IN ALL THIS CONFUSION OF OPINION it is some consolation to Us to see former adherents of rationalism today frequently desiring to return to the fountain of divinely communicated truth, and to acknowledge and profess the word of God as contained in Sacred Scripture as the foundation of religious teaching. But at the same time it is a matter of regret that not a few of these, the more firmly they accept the word of God, so much the more do they diminish the value of human reason, and the more they exalt the authority of God the Revealer, the more severely do they spurn the teaching office of the Church, which has been instituted by Christ, Our Lord, to preserve and interpret divine revelation. This attitude is not only plainly at variance with Holy Scripture, but is shown to be false by experience also. For often those who disagree with the true Church complain openly of their disagreement in matters of dogma and thus unwillingly bear witness to the necessity of a living Teaching Authority.”

Comment upon the speech of Pope Pius XII as listed above. The phrase, In all this confusion of opinion, as mentioned above should refer to his speech as mentioned earlier pertaining to his thought of evolution. The phrase, In all this confusion of opinion, as mentioned above, gives us the impression that he treated evolution to be full of confusion.

Pope Pius XII followed his speech: “9. Now Catholic theologians and philosophers, whose grave duty it is to defend natural and supernatural truth and instill it in the hearts of men, CANNOT AFFORD TO IGNORE OR NEGLECT THESE MORE OR LESS ERRONEOUS OPINIONS. Rather they must come to understand THESE SAME THEORIES well, both because DISEASES ARE NOT PROPERLY TREATED unless they are rightly diagnosed, and because sometimes even in THESE FALSE THEORIES a certain amount of truth is contained, and, finally, because these theories provoke more subtle discussion and evaluation of philosophical and theological truths.”

Comment upon the speech of Pope Pius XII as listed above. As the phrase, cannot afford to ignore…these…erroneous opinions, is mentioned above, it implies that he demanded Christians to be alert and beware of these erroneous opinions instead of ignoring them to let it has the influence upon the Church. The phrase, these false theories, gives the implication that he treated evolutionary theory to be a false theory and should not be treated as part of the truth of God.

Pope Pius XII followed his speech: “10. If philosophers and theologians strive only to derive such profit from the careful examination of these doctrines, there would be no reason for any intervention by the Teaching Authority of the Church. However, although We know that CATHOLIC TEACHERS generally AVOID THESE ERRORS, it is apparent, however, that SOME TODAY, as in apostolic times, desirous of novelty, and FEARING TO BE CONSIDERED IGNORANT OF RECENT SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS, TRY TO WITHDRAW THEM FROM THE SACRED TEACHING AUTHORITY and are accordingly in danger of gradually DEPARTING FROM REVEALED TRUTH and of drawing others along with them into error.”

Comment upon the speech of Pope Pius XII as listed above. As the phrase, Catholic teachers…avoid these errors, is mentioned above, it implies that Catholic teachers should avoid these errors especially evolution had been treated by him as the new erroneous philosophy. As the phrase, some today…fearing to be considered ignorant of recent scientific findings, is mentioned before the phrase, departing from…truth, it implies that he treated some people that involved in evolution (recent findings) to be those people that depart from the truth of God.

Pope Pius XII followed his speech by: “36. For these reasons THE TEACHING AUTHORITY OF CHURCH DOES NOT FORBID that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to THE DOCTRINE OF EVOLUTION, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the CATHOLIC FATIH obliges us to HOLD that SOULS ARE IMMEDIATELY CREATED BY GOD. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.”

As the phrase, the teaching authority of church does not forbid…the doctrine of evolution, is mentioned above, it implies that Paul Pius XII did not interfere the doctrine of evolution despite he treated it as new erroneous philosophy.

As the phrase, souls are immediately created by God, is mentioned above, it implies that he supported that Catholic faith should be based on the concept that all souls are immediately created by God. This teaching certainly contradicts evolutionary theory that teaches that all souls could not be created immediately by God but it would take many years to evolve so as to come into being. Besides, evolutionary theory supports that God do not create directly all souls but have assisted in the process of evolution. This concept is certainly wrong since it implies that God do not involve in the creation of souls but to stand aside just to assist them to be formed. A question has to be raised. Did God create the souls personally or He just stood aside to assist their formation?

Nevertheless, Paul Pius XII did not support that evolutionary theory is the truth of God despite he did not forbid its teaching.

zuma's picture

Did Pope Pius XII support

Did Pope Pius XII support evolutionary theory?

The following is the extract from Catholic Church and evolution, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“In the 1950 encyclical humani generis, Pope Pius XII confirmed that there is no intrinsic conflict between Christianity and the theory of evolution, provided that Christians believe that the individual soul is a direct creation by God and not the product of purely material forces.”

Let’s analyze the above paragraph as below:

The phrase, Christians believe that the individual soul is a direct creation by God, as mentioned above gives us the truth of God’s direct involvement in creation of individual soul. As the phrase, there is no intrinsic conflict between Christianity and the theory of evolution, is mentioned before the phrase, PROVIDED that Christians believe that the individual soul is a direct creation of God, it gives us the conclusion that Paul Pius XII only supported evolutionary theory provided that it supports individual soul was a direct creation of God. However, evolutionary theory does not support individual soul was the direct creation of God. Instead, it supports that God only assisted in the evolution instead of He created individual soul by Himself directly. Indeed, evolution assumes material force, i.e. natural selection, that causes one animal to be transformed into another.

As the phrase, provided that, has been stressed before the phrase, Christians believe that the individual soul is a direct creation by God and not the product of purely material forces (natural selection), it gives us a conclusion that Paul only encourages Christians to believe in evolution on the condition if it supports that God was a direct creator of individual soul, and that each of the creation was not the result of the product or the end-result of purely material force, such as, natural selection that drove the animals to be transformed.

As evolutionary theory does not support a direct creation from God and that it supports that it was the end-result of purely material force, such as, natural selection that drove animals to transform, Paul Pius XII did not call Christians to support evolutionary theory.

Paul Pius XII only called Christians to support evolutionary theory only if the teaching supports that it was God that created individual soul. Besides, they have to support that the existence of individual soul was not the product of material force but God’s direct creation.

Nevertheless, Paul Pius XII did not support evolutionary theory since this teaching does not support God’s direct creation. Besides, this teaching supports the end-result of evolution was the product of material force, such as, natural selection, that drove animals to transform.

zuma's picture

The following is the extract

The following is the extract of the confession (XI) from Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD):
Chapter 5. God Created the World Not from Any Certain Matter, But in His Own Word.
7. But how did Thou make the heaven and the earth, and what was the instrument of Your so mighty work? FOR IT WAS NOT AS A HUMAN WORKER FASHIONING BODY FROM BODY, according to the fancy of his mind, in somewise able to assign a form which it perceives in itself by its inner eye. And whence should he be able to do this, had not Thou made that mind? And he assigns to it already existing, and as it were having a being, a form, as clay, or stone, or wood, or gold, or such like. And whence should these things be, had not Thou appointed them? Thou made for the workman his body—Thou the mind commanding the limbs—Thou the matter whereof he makes anything, — Thou the capacity whereby he may apprehend his art, and see within what he may do without—Thou the sense of his body, by which, as by an interpreter, he may from mind unto matter convey that which he does, and report to his mind what may have been done, that it within may consult the truth, presiding over itself, whether it be well done. All these things praise You, the Creator of all. But how do You make them? How, O God, did Thou make heaven and earth? Truly, neither in the heaven nor in the earth did Thou make heaven and earth; nor in the air, nor in the waters, since these also belong to the heaven and the earth; nor in the whole world did Thou make the whole world; because there was no place wherein it could be made before it was made, that it might be; nor did Thou hold anything in Your hand wherewith to make heaven and earth. For whence couldest Thou have what You had not made, whereof to make anything? For what is, save because You are? Therefore You spoke and they were made, and in Your Word You made these things.

The phrase, For it was not as a human worker fashioning body from body, that is extracted from the Confession (XI) of Augustine of Hippo implies that he personally did not support the heaven and the earth were formed in the same way as a human worker in making an object by fashioning body from body. For instance, if he would support evolutionary theory, he would certainly mention that an object should be formed by moulding it and even shaping it from time to time to the extent of fashioning body from body.

Did Augustine believe the existence of objects prior to God’s involvement in creation? Let’s meditate the extract of his confession as below:

Truly, neither in the heaven nor in the earth did Thou make heaven and earth; nor in the air, nor in the waters, since these also belong to the heaven and the earth; nor in the whole world did Thou make the whole world; BECAUSE THERE WAS NO PLACE wherein it could be made BEFORE IT WAS MADE, that it might be; nor did Thou hold anything in Your hand wherewith to make heaven and earth.

When Augustine wrote the phrase, because there was no place wherein it could be made before it was made, he referred it to the time before the universe and the earth were made. Or in other words, there was no place for God’s creation prior to the creation of the universe and the earth.

What did Augustine believe about the time that the universe and the earth were created?

The following is the extract of the confession (XI) of Augustine:

Therefore You spoke and they were made, and in Your Word You made these things.

The phrase, You spoke and they were made, as extracted above implies that Augustine believed that God’s creation of the universe and the earth was immediate and He did not take more than a day for the creation. God created the universe and the earth speedily after His spoken words.

Nevertheless, it is irrational to support that evolutionary theory could trace back as early as Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD).

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