Meditations for Layfolk - Creation

We make profession of faith in God as the Creator: it is the opening phrase of our Creed. But surely this conflicts with the prevalent scientific theory that the world grew gradually by means of some mysterious and spontaneous power from forms more simple to the complicated species that exist today. It is abundantly evident that among older generations the opinion was common that the whole world sprang straight into being, ready-made, with all the various divisions of earth and water, and the life that clothed its nakedness with myriad forms of beauty in colour and plumage. Not the long persistent war of ages, such as Darwin postulated and such as science now generally demands, but the swift sabre-cut of God's own word, would have been put forward as Christ's own teaching. Can we say, therefore, that the idea of creation as taught us by the Church, depends wholly upon scientific suppositions that are now declared on all hands to be faulty? If so, then surely it is time to set aside all these worn-out methods of explanation and adjust our false science to more perfect knowledge. This is indeed the attitude taken up by a great number of people outside the Church; the examination of the points that they raise will be of help to me in getting a true view of what is meant by creation, and in consequence in obtaining a deeper knowledge of the part that God unceasingly plays in the story of the world. It is clear that the more I understand jthe essential relation that creation bears to the Creator, the more shall I be able to repose in the consciousness of His presence.

Let us admit, then, the principle of evolution. Let us suppose that from nebulous matter or from some cell of simple structure there gradually grew up the still-evolving and complicated universe that we know. There are obvious difficulties against certain presentations of this theory. Schools have arisen that dispute vehemently as to positions that were at one time considered vital to the Darwinian hypothesis: but it is fair to add that these do not really affect the main principle - that out of what was at one time largely undetermined eventually appeared something which apparently by the law of its own growth was widely different from its original parent seed. However, let us suppose that it has been demonstrated that the world, as we know it, has evolved in its material aspect out of some primitive cell, what then do we claim for God? Just this, that the first cell came into being at His command. We may vary the scientific facts, and alter our theories, and restate them afresh in the light of the most recent research; and when we have done all this the Church simply insists that in whatever form it began, it came into that form at the express word of the Almighty. Whether as a single cell or as a full-perfected earth makes little difference to the theological concept; for at least it began, not through any inherent vitality (for certainly that did not as yet exist), but through the external interference of God. The decree of the Biblical Commission (June 30, 1909) insists on the acceptance of two points: (a) the particular creation of man, and (b) the formation of the first woman out of the first man. Science need not teach creation, but it cannot deny it.

Yet does not this modern scientific explanation of the world give me greater matter for wonder at the wisdom of the Creator? His supreme power must be invoked to bridge over the gap between nothingness and being; yet to realize the slow course by which the cell in patient action blossomed at length into the fair world that we know, and by its inherent needs and purposes became fit habitation for the infused soul of man and climbed so high that out of the material of its womb should spring at last the human nature of God is not this to exalt, more splendidly than did the other view of creation, the serene wisdom of the Most High? The deeper the law, the deeper the intelligence. Thus the wonders of evolution become themselves a great Gospel. The more research reveals to us the marvels of creation and draws out for us the long series of species that culminate, after apparently endless ages of uphill struggle, in the universe of which scientific men speak, the more does the whole world show its utter dependence on the power of some one greater than itself. All these laws, as we call them - though they are rather the formulated happenings in nature that experiment records, prove to us the presence of an intelligence presiding over the birth of things. Without chance, without the fortuitous concourse of atoms (a phrase that earlier writers much affected), without the movement of purposeless hazard, life has been patiently planned. My very material body has been created in its original essence by the divine intelligence of God.

- text taken from Meditations for Layfolk by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.