When Pope Francis said last week that evolution and the Big Bang theory did not conflict with Catholic teaching, it really wasn’t news. This pope just has a talent for framing long-held beliefs in a fresh way, as he has done before in taking up the cause of the poor. Instead, this news was more a timely reminder.
Despite that unfortunate business with Galileo 400 years ago over his alleged heretical beliefs on the movement of planets, anybody who has been paying attention lately understands that the church has not been at war with scientific knowledge. Other popes have expressed the same ideas, especially on evolution.
Pope Francis, though, has a way of making headlines. In his remarks before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he may have raised the eyebrows of everyone from cardinals on down. “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,” the pope said. “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one, so they would reach their fulfillment.”
In other words, the creator God had a process – “a supreme principle” as he called it. “The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it,” Pope Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
This is a thought that has also occurred to many believers in other branches of Christianity who have wrestled to reconcile their beliefs with the abundant evidence of the workings of evolution in the natural world. What if the Almighty used evolution (and the Big Bang) as His means of creation?
Once again Pope Francis’ intellect has clarified an issue, which in the United States at least has brought shadows, not light. The pope’s words are also a reminder that those who regard evolution as hostile to Christian belief are actually a minority among Christians.
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