"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Friday, March 25, 2011

Comment on Jimmy Akin's site

I posted a comment over on Jimmy Akins site. I was quite happy to see a post about death before the fall on his site! Coincidence...? Please Catholics, I beg you, keep this discussion going. There are some good comments here but I need more. I have been studying this issue for a few months now, not just this but old earth and evolution as well. Jimmy, the Catechism says the tree of knowledge "symbolically evokes..." it does not say that it was not "literal" as you explicitly said that it did in 396. Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac "symbolically evokes" Christ's sacrifice, but it is still literal. Also be careful with the tree of knowledge, it is a type of the cross! We died from eating from the tree of knowledge and we are brought to life from eating from the tree of the cross! There is no reason to see that tree as merely a symbol and not literal. Just as Adam is a symbol of Christ but was a real man, so the tree was both a symbol and real. Why do Catholics want to deny this? My problem is that as a new convert to Catholicism, I now have to deal with this issue more than as a Protestant because the magisterium has left this topic open to opinion. (I wish they would choose) I feel like I am back being my own Pope as a Protestant again (on these issues). For conservative (real) Protestants, this is not an issue because by and large they believe in a 6 day special creation 6000 years ago. In my experience, Catholics have accepted evolution and old earth, but forgot to look at the theological implications of their choice like death before the fall (kudos to Jimmy for discussing it here) and many horrible implications such as baby Adam nursing from a soul-less human mother, abiogenesis, etc. If you believe evolution, this is what you must swallow. I just cannot accept that. The death before the fall issue is a thing Catholics seem (in my experience) to have not pondered that much. Well, young earth people have! It is more than just a desire for wooden literalism that keeps them with the traditional Christian understanding of Genesis. It is theology. One thing about death before the fall that is a problem for even the 6 day creation crowd though... animals designed as killers. There are simply tons of animals that are designed to rip prey apart, and designed in such a way that it can't reasonably be seen as a development (fangs and venom for instance). Most young earth creationists will say that the lions ate grass before the fall, as is prophesied for heaven. But this answer is not very satisfying. Picturing a t-rex grazing is a bit over the top. The next option would be that animal/plant death and violence is not a bad thing. This is also a stretch. It seems like this death and violence of the non human creation must be what is referred to as groaning in travail... it seems pretty bad! So what to do? I am still searching. I have been blogging about it a lot and looking for good Catholic answers. http://newchristendom.blogspot.com/2011/03/theistic-evolution-or-materialistic.html For now though, it is clear to me that there are many more problems in an old earth/evolution model that the traditional model. I liked the Tolkien idea given above. It is true that angels fell before us, and of course God knew we would fall and could have created a shadow of our fall and redemption right into the fabric of creation. It sure seems like that is just what he did. Even before the fall, Adam would have apparently had to KILL fruits and grains to eat. Also it is clear that he was placed in a protected environment (Eden). If this "death in the fabric" theory is true, then the young earther must revise his image of Adam petting the snout of t-rex. T-rex would be outside the protective walls of Eden in that case. Of course the problems multiply if I end up with an old earth/evolution model. Then there would be countless generations of zombie humans with no soul dying before Adams fall. Also what about Eve coming from Adams rib? Do we chuck that out as a symbol too? What about the blood and water from Christ’s side of which it is a "symbol"? Was that real or symbol? Did Eve have a monkey mom too? I beg you serious Catholics to point me to some good resources on these issues. As a new convert this is ending up as the hardest issue to deal with, particularly in regards to teaching my children. In my view, Catholics are totally off the rails on this and have drunk gallons of materialistic, modernist cool-aid when it comes to evolution and age of the earth. So far Catholics have shown me I was wrong to be a Protestant, but their answers on this issue are just simply... naive and bad.


  1. Kudos David, for asking all the same questions I and many other converts from conservative Protestantism are asking... I await good answers as well!!

  2. Actually, there really isn't a problem with evolution or death before the fall.

    In my Christian Anthropology course, we discussed this in light of the Summa Theologia, in consideration of the Church Fathers and even more.

    The fact is that there's a lot of theology and philosophy surrounding this "problem" which renders the problem to be nothing but shadows and straw men.

    Faith and Science compliment each other - it doesn't have to be either/or or one thing to the deprivation of the other.

    I fully believe in the story of Genesis, but recognize that there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding it.

    We are created in the image and likeness of God, but you have to keep in mind that science has not caught up with theology in this matter and totally forgets the soul.

    Hold on..I have an essay question/answer on this that might help a little...

  3. OK< too much to post so I'll send it to you - and it's not really proper for a blog post anyway, but may give you some direction in where to look more deeply for the Catholic position on evolution.

  4. David,

    I have been reading about this for years now. Both before and after returning to the Church. I think those who try and argue for theistic evolution and neccesarily death before the Fall are capitulating to the culture because they don't want to look like ignorant fundamentalists. Catholic Answers has tons of evolution debates. They always degenerate into mountains of sophistry with links to Talk Origins.

    We Catholics believe in the Virgin birth of God Almighty and His rising from the dead, but we have trouble believing He made man uniquely and not through a brutal process over millions of years? Future generations with look at ours and shake their heads at the fairy tales we chace to look intellectual.

    All that said I don't believe the earth is 6,000 years old. In scripture the genealogies often skipped generations and went from half century to have century. So it is likely that the earth is at least in the tens of thousands of years old, if not millions. I don't think that is unreasonable.

    Speciation simply does not fit God's character in revelation. Evolution is real because we can observe it. One species becoming another one via evolution is science fiction. Plenty of Catholics believe this. More should. The alternative is to diminish scripture to fit atheistic theories.

  5. Adoro,
    I apprciate your comments, and of course, there is no problem between faith and science. Actually, I really believe that it would take more "faith" for me to believe evolution though. If I lived in a pagan culture that said the earth rides on the back of a giant turtle, well, I guess I could reconcile that "turtle theory" with Christianity if I wanted to, but why? It is the same with evolution (imo). It is the founding myth of the religion of materialistic naturalism. And it is a VERY SILLY myth! I really encourage you to google "abiogenesis". It is a great example of what happens when a culture becomes blinded and sick as St. Paul describes in Romas chapter 1. They deny the creator and chase after created things.
    "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
    21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles."

    The story of evolution fits perfectly with Pauls statement here.

  6. David H:
    If you can elaborate on how you view these things please do. I just wrote a long comment that didnt make it through for some reason, frustrating. Do you hold to the ark being literral? I have been surprised to find that many Catholics do not. When I mention the new testament references to the ark from Jesus and Peter, there are blank stares.
    If you can point me to resources about the geneology thing you mentioned or any good sites I would appreciate it.

  7. >Just as Adam is a symbol of Christ but was a real man, so the tree was both a symbol and real. Why do Catholics want to deny this?

    I reply: You seem to be assuming that Scripture must be interpreted either entirely literalistically or entirely allegorically. Why can’t it be a mixture of both? After all, the Beast in the Book of Revelation symbolizes a literal person, the antichrist who will come at the end of days to attack the Faith. But that doesn’t mean that he will be a literal seven headed thing from some Aliens movie.

    It is a fallacy to assume that there was ever, in the history of Christian thought, a universal literalistic understanding of the Creation account in Genesis. The first Church Father to give an entirely literalistic interpretation of Genesis was St. Ephrem the Syrian in the fourth century. So we must wait 400 years after Christ's birth before we have anyone who interprets Genesis in any way that remotely resembles modern young-earth creationism.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia lists Catholics through the centuries who took it literally as well as a significant number who took it symbolically. Even those who took things like the days of creation literally often interpreted other elements of the narrative symbolically, mixing and matching the literal and symbolic. If Divine Providence is any indicator, the earliest known commentary on Genesis was Philo of Alexandria, a Jew who died about ten years after Christ was resurrected. He said that Genesis 1 should not be taken literally. Why didn’t God make the earliest-known commentator a literalist? Why do we have to wait four centuries for an exclusive literalist to come along?

    >My problem is that as a new convert to Catholicism, I now have to deal with this issue more than as a Protestant because the magisterium has left this topic open to opinion. (I wish they would choose) I feel like I am back being my own Pope as a Protestant again (on these issues).

    I reply: Actually, the Church has solved this issue because she has dogmatically defined the doctrine of original sin and the historical Fall of Man. I have read many a sad Protestant who has given up belief in a literalistic six-day young earth Genesis interpretation and is either on the brink of losing his faith entirely or denying the historical Adam, the doctrine of original sin and the Fall. That is the spirit of the age. Not the Holy Church. Because the Church has made this matter non-negotiable, any form of theistic evolution that faithful Catholics come up with must include a literal Fall of Man and original sin. Otherwise it’s heterodox.

  8. As for Adam suckling at a “soulless” mother, first of all animals are not, strictly speaking, soulless. This is a Cartesian belief, not Catholic. Animals have sensitive souls that are part of the material realm like their bodies. Humans have intellective souls that belong to the spiritual realm, similar to the angels.

    Second, the bulk of Jewish and Christian traditions teach that God created Adam as a full-grown adult. There are one or two exceptions that have him and Eve as older children, but never as a suckling baby. So if we apply this to theistic evolution, we might conclude that it was an infant animal hominid that suckled at its hominid dame. Later on, after it had grown, God gave that body an intellective soul & so it became Adam. At that point, his existence was so elevated above his hominid ancestors that the dame & sire that produced his body could not truly be said to be his “father” & “mother.” Thus Adam our first father had God alone as his true Father.

    Some have claimed Adam getting his body from an Animal is somehow degrading. But I don’t see how getting his body from non-living matter,(i.e. the slime of the earth) directly is any less degrading? If anything an Animal is by definition higher on the metaphysical ladder than mere slime or dust.

    It is pure novelty to believe that animal death is something that came after the Fall. How can animals have mortal, sensitive souls along with an immortal body? It makes no sense that the body would be immortal when the soul is not! God gave Adam an immortal, intellective spiritual soul made in the divine image. Then it was fitting that he should have an immortal body. That is why God simultaneously gave him the gift of physical immortality(which he later forfeited at the Fall). But no animal had ever possessed that gift.

    The assertion that Catholics who accept theistic evolution are “totally off the rails on this and have drunk gallons of materialistic, modernist cool-aid” is quite judgmental. The Church allows Catholics to be creationists or theistic evolutionists if they so choose. So to judge the latter as heterodox modernists is to go beyond what the Church teaches & assume for oneself the authority to declare them heretics.

    Now granted, some versions of theistic evolution are heretical. Specifically those brain-dead versions that deny a literal historical Adam and Eve. Even some evangelicals are falling into that trap since they are under the delusion that if they accept theistic evolution they must reject Adam & original sin. This is dangerous because Jesus & St. Paul speak of Adam as though he were a real literal person. However, it is possible to be a theistic evolutionist & believe in a literal historical Adam & Eve, the fall of man & original sin! The Catholic Church would not have a problem with that so we shouldn't either.

  9. When Darwin first published his famous writings, someone asked John Henry Cardinal Newman what he thought of it. He basically said, So what? God can make the world any way he wants. As long as we remember that God is the Creator of the human soul(I’m paraphrasing).

    As to the rest of your question (creation of Eve, Nature as Red in the Tooth etc)

    These books that may help:

    Origin of the Human Species by Dennis Bonnette, a Catholic philosopher.

    The author’s website, http://drbonnette.com/

    Creator and Creation, by Mary Daly. This book will give you a good summary, Bonnette's book is more in depth.

    There are others I can recommend but I don't want to overwhelm you all at once.

    Relax. Young earth creationism is not the beginning and ending of the Faith. If anything it is a modern novelty. The Patristic form of what might loosely be called "creationism" was radically different from this modern, novel rebellion against science, which St. Augustine would never have approved of. God be with you.

  10. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." (Job 38:4)

  11. We would all do well to read Dr. Grisez's The Way of the Lord Jesus, Vol. 1, beginning in ch. 13: http://www.twotlj.org/G-1-V-1.html. All available for online reading.

  12. Here is a quote from that link dmwallace cited:

    2. In light of these distinctions, one sees that only a pseudoscientific ideology supports the view that everything human can be accounted for in a single, all-embracing, naturalistic scheme of evolution.

    I reply: Amen!

    >On the contrary, evolution as a biological theory can account only for the organic existence and attributes of humankind.

    I reply: So true!

    >3. Intelligence and the capacity for free choice are not merely organic, however. As we experience and exercise them, these capacities involve self-reference and self-causation. These, in turn, presuppose the personal self which, in the natural world, only human beings possess.

    I reply: In short only God can create the human soul. The human soul can only be a produce of a supernatural act of God. Any natural explanation for the human soul is heterodox.

    Good link.

  13. This is a very late response. Sorry.

    I definitely believe that the story of Noah is literal. As you point out, Jesus believed it and if he believed it he knew it for a fact.

    Biblical genealogy info soon to follow.

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  15. Sounds good David H. Take your time, I am interested.