We often hear our Protestant friends decry evolution as an assault on the divine inspiration of Scripture. After all, Genesis says that God made everything in six days. Not really enough time for dinosaurs to become birds or apes to become men!
Catholics don’t have to reject every aspect of evolution, but there are some precautions to heed.
Here are six things every Catholic needs to keep in mind when it comes to evolution.
1. Faith and reason are harmonious
Truth is one because reality is one. Legitimate scientific facts will always line up with theological truths. There is no such thing as a “double truth” that’s true in science, but untrue in theology.
2. Catholics must firmly reject scientism
The problem with many evolutionists today is that they embrace scientism — the belief that science can explain all of reality. This is, of course, false. Spiritual realities such as grace or transubstantiation are outside the boundaries of science.
3. God created everything
Whether He chose to create everything directly or through evolution, God is the author of all things and continues to hold them in existence. If evolution is true, it is part of God’s providential unfolding of all creation in love.
4. It’s permissible to believe in material evolution
Belief in material evolution is not contrary to belief in either God or the inerrancy of Scriptures. As the Church has long taught, Scriptural inerrancy does not mean that God willed to describe the universe in a scientifically exact way. Many of the Church Fathers actually believed that the “seven days” are symbolic for longer stretches of time.
5. The human soul is specially created by God
Our bodies may have evolved, but our souls did not. That’s because they are immaterial and immortal. Matter alone cannot produce spiritual effects.
6. We all come from one original pair
This point is necessary in order to affirm the solidarity of the human race, the transmission of Original Sin, and the universal nature of Christ’s sacrifice. However, these beliefs don’t preclude the existence of several human-like pairs from which God chose one pair to infuse with spiritual souls.
To be clear, all of this doesn’t mean a Catholic must accept evolution. The Church still permits belief in direct creation of each thing we see today.
And, of course, a Catholic can’t uncritically accept every aspect of modern evolutionary theories such as Darwinian evolution.
But you do have a LOT of freedom to follow the evidence where it leads. The important thing is to always adhere to God’s divine revelation and exercise charity toward other Catholics who may disagree with you on this issue.
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