What did the Pope just say about evolution?
It was not intentional, but this month’s question ties into the previous two months in that they each focus on statements made by figures of authority. Last month was a leading Christian musical artist and the month before that was a prominent Hollywood actor.
This month, we’re headed straight to the top (at least in many people’s minds). We’ll be taking a look at some statements made by the Pope himself! It is not my intention to turn this into a commentary on Catholicism, but since there are a large number Catholics in the world and many of them view the Pope as somewhat of an ultimate authority on Earth, I thought I would at least address this recent “In the News” item.
USA Today headline (Oct 28, 2014) read “Pope says evolution, Big Bang are real”. Among many statements made by Pope Francis was the following:
"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so."
"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
This is actually not really “breaking news” because previous Popes have been sympathetic to evolution and even promoted it, going back to at least 1950, possibly prior to that.
The critical point with this story (and my comments within this article) is that when someone of such stature makes a statement, it is often accepted uncritically by those who hold in high esteem the one who was speaking. In a sense, if there was any doubt among Catholics before regarding the validity of evolution, that doubt should be completed eradicated, because this proclamation came directly from the Pope, who is believed by Catholics to be God’s mouthpiece on Earth. What I find very interesting is when I have shared with Catholics over the years what Catholic doctrine truly teaches, many of them have responded by saying something like, “Well, that’s not what I believe,” or “Well, that’s not what my church (or priest) believes.” I then ask, “Upon what authority to you justify disagreeing with the official teachings of the Catholic Church or the Pope?” They always resort to basing it on their own opinion. I then ask, “How do you decide what to believe and what to reject?” Again, it is all based on their own intuition and reason. They have an absolute authority, but choose when and when not to view it as such.
One news reporter recounting what the Pope said added their own personal story…
“On the way home from religious education class a few weeks ago, my son and I were discussing the creation story. ‘It's just a myth,’ he announced, repeating my previous explanation that while the Bible stories contain truth, they didn't all necessarily happen. If a 7-year-old can get it, it seems others can, too.”
In way too many religions, their own traditions and beliefs trump the authority of God’s Word.
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition.” (Mark 7:13)
Now, before anyone thinks that I am being too harsh on the Catholics… I only shared those thoughts in order to mention that it is sometimes the exact same situation within the evangelical Christian church. We claim to believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God… except when it goes against our own logic and reasoning. “Love the Jesus stuff… but the creation account and the flood?… I don’t know about that. Science has pretty much shown that those can’t be taken seriously.”
We would do well to learn from a number of Scriptural passages…
“…lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
“Be not wise in thine own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:7)
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:19)
While the idea of evolution in general may certainly be compatible with the creative acts of some divine being… it is not compatible with the creation account as conveyed by the Creator in the Bible.
It really comes down to how we view Scripture. Is it truly inspired, authoritative, trustworthy and accurate in all that it conveys, or are we left to our own wisdom to determine what we wish to accept and what should be rejected or explained away? It is extremely easy to simply say that the Bible was never intended to convey truth about the physical world, just spiritual issues, but it’s another thing to defend that view. Genesis was definitely written as Hebrew historical narrative, conveying straight-forward history… not an allegorical story.
I have already covered the specific topic of whether or not God could have used evolution as His process of creation, so I will not repeat all of that here. (See Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3 for more info.)
When we use our own wisdom to join the biblical creation account with the secular teachings of evolution, we end up taking a very scientifically void concept (evolution) and merging it with Scripture, which produces very bad theology and does great disservice to God’s Holy Word. Most people that I have met that hold to this idea of “theistic evolution” (i.e. God used evolution) have neither studied evolution in any real depth, nor have they studied Scripture in any mature, thorough way. They simply accept an argument that seems like a good solution on the surface and allegedly resolves the age-old conflict of science vs. the Bible.
As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions related to this month’s article or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us!