Two Questions on Creation

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By Msgr. Charles Pope • April 12, 2018

As most of you know, I write a “question and answer” type column for Our Sunday Visitor. (For those interested, back issues of my column are available here: Msgr. Pope at Our Sunday Visitor.)

I recently received these two questions on creation:

Q: I wonder if God has not finished creating the world, that we are still in the sixth day of creation. Then God will rest.

Perhaps we can begin by distinguishing macroevolution from microevolution and Natural Law from natural variations within that law. Microevolution refers to developmental changes within a species or small category of organisms that occur over a relatively short period of time. For example, humans can live more or fewer years, be taller or shorter. Macroevolution refers to major changes that occur over very long periods of time. For instance, the introduction of entirely new species, genera, families, or orders that are entirely independent of what currently exists. In our times we have not seen this. According to fossil records, certain species have come and gone rather suddenly (by geological standards). Even in those cases, though, one could argue that none of the new species introduced anything that violated the norms of Natural Law; rather, they were built upon it.

Within the species homo sapiens there is observable variety: tall, short, slender, plump, dark-complexioned, light-complexioned, straight-haired, wavy-haired. These are naturally occurring variations within the species. Similarly, the earth goes through cycles of warmth and cold, stormy and calm, quaking and serene. These are also natural variations, not the creation of something new, not the creation of something out of nothing.

Scripture says, Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done (Genesis 2:1-2).

Thus, although your comment is understandable it is theologically questionable. God is finished; whatever evolves does so in relationship to what already is. Scientists may disagree about certain details but would for the most part agree that creation (understood as the sum of what is, obeying certain norms of Natural Law) is stable and completed.

To extend the argument even further (using New Testament language), we are not on the sixth day of creation or even the seventh. We are on the eighth day of creation, during which God renews and promises perfection to all He has made. This perfection will be complete at the great Second Coming of Our Lord.

Q: I’ve heard that with the sin of the first parents, sickness and death entered the world and that nature was in perfect harmony prior to that. But scientific findings indicate that whole species came and went prior to mankind.  Comments?

In paradise, Adam and Eve possessed preternatural gifts such as immortality and freedom from suffering. It does not follow, however, that all creation possessed these gifts. For example, Adam and Eve were given to eat of all the fruits of all the trees except one. Thus, even in Eden, some living things “died” so as to sustain others. Further, the Garden of Eden seems to have been a certain location on the earth, not necessarily its entirety.

So, the cycle of living and dying is not excluded by the biblical narrative. From this perspective, paradise can be viewed as a kind of “place apart” from the rest of creation (in which the cycle of life and death is part of the Natural Law God established). Creation did receive additional curses due to the sin of Adam (see Gen 3:17), but these curses likely refer more to the hostility of the climate and the difficulty of man’s relationship to it than to the cycle of death and life.

Creation, though cursed now, will receive greater blessings than first received when Christ comes again (see Romans 8:19ff).