Sunday, March 28, 2010

Catholic Answers on Creation and Genesis

The "literal" interpretation of Genesis 1 insisted on by Young Earth Creationists was NOT a test for orthodoxy in the early centuries of the Church.


Edwardtbabinski said...

Vic, There is nothing on those pages to suggest that any of the church fathers viewed the history of humanity as anything more than a couple thousand years old total.

See David N. Livingstone's book, Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins.

Livingstone is Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen's University, Belfast

His book looks at the history of the idea of pre-adamic or non-adamic humans in western Christian thinking from the early church (Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine) through the middle ages, the explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, the debates on racial supremacy, and on to the present day.


The recorded Egyptian dynasties extend back some thousand years or more before Noah, the flood, or the Tower of Babel. Roughly speaking the great pyramid at Giza was constructed ca. 2560 B.C.E. approximately the same time as the Genesis narrative places the flood, with continuous Egyptian civilization predating and postdating this time. Livingstone notes that Augustine (354-430) confronted these ideas:

Indeed, the continuing dispute over chronology was sufficiently strong that he devoted a whole chapter of The City of God to "the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world's past" and another chapter to the "mendacious vanity" and "empty presumption" of the Egyptians in claiming "an antiquity of a hundred thousand years " for their accumulated wisdom. (p. 9)

While Augustine had no doubt that these reports were false, the seeds of inconsistency and discrepancy were present and were factors to be considered - if only to be refuted soundly.

Augustine ALSO MADE SOME PLAIN statements of what ought to be believed concerning Genesis 1:

“. . . [in Genesis 1] the firmament was made between the waters above and beneath, and was called ‘Heaven,’ in which firmament the stars were made on the fourth day.” [Augustine, City of God chapter 11.5-9]

In that same chapter Augustine also cites Psalm 148:3-4 that states the "sun, moon, stars and heaven" praise the Lord along with "the waters above the heavens."

In his commentary on Genesis Augustine also wrote:

“The term ‘firmament’ does not compel us to imagine a stationary heaven: we may understand this name as given to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and that it constitutes an impassable boundary between the water above and the waters below.”

Augustine adds, “Whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of man’s mind.”

Augustine’s last phrase above was echoed by Martin Luther as late as the fifteenth century:

“Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which . . . are the waters. . . . We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding”

[Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan (St. Louis, MI: Concordia, 1958), pp. 30, 42, 43].

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

Except Edward any professional pre-vatican II Catholic academic will tell you the opinions of the Fathers on the age of the World & their various contradictory concordance interpretations of Genesis with the "science of the day" where not part of the deposit of Faith transmitted by the Apostles but merely their opinions as private scientists. One example of this is they gave different estimates as to the age of the world. Ranging from 4,000 to 12,000 years. That is hardly an example of what St. Vincent of Lyrin would call "Believed by all everywhere".

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

Also it is a mistake to assume Augustine was attacking some pre-evolutionary origin of man theory or an old Earth per say. He was responding to pagan Aristotelian philosophers who taught that both Man & the Earth had existed for eternity. Naturally such a view contradicts the Bible which says both Man & the Earth had been Created by God & thus do not have in infinite past & existence. A modern Theistic Evolutionist & orthodox Christian can agree with Augustine & the rest of the Fathere that there where absolutely NO HUMANS prior to Adam.
But there is nothing in Tradition to stop him from believing there where pre-human animal hominids (i.e. without immortal souls thus not human) before man & then one day God gave one of these creature a Soul & called it/him Adam(& then the rest is explain in Genesis).

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

The Augustinian Principle that whenever a particular interpretation of Scripture contradicts known science & reason one them must give the primacy to science & reinterpret scripture verse in question has always been in operation in Church History. People forget Galileo didn't get in trouble for claiming the Earth moved around the sun. He got in trouble because he claimed it was a brute fact without credible science at the time to back him up & he claimed the Bible "lied" when it said Joshua "stopped the sun".

Historically Galileo is not an example of religion being at odds with science but of upholding it.