Changing creation

Question: I wonder if it could be that God has not finished creating the world, that we are still in the sixth day of creation?

Name withheld via email
 

Answer: Perhaps we can begin by distinguishing macroevolution from microevolution and natural law from natural variations within that law. Microevolution would indicate changes with a species or category that pertains to its development. For example, we can live longer or shorter years, be taller or shorter. But macroevolution would involve whole new, never-before-seen things; things wholly independent of what is, and that introduce a new category, species, genus or type. In our times we have not seen this. Arguably, according to the fossil record, certain species have come and gone rather “suddenly” (by geological standards). But even here, one may argue that none of the species introduced something new that violated the norms of natural law, but built upon it.

Within the species “human,” there are varieties observable: tall, short, thin, plump, dark complexion, light complexion. These are naturally occurring variations within a species — in this case, human. The earth goes through cycles of warmth and cold, storm and calm, volcanic and serene. But here, too, these are variations within what is natural, not a creation of something new, of something out of nothing.

Scripture says: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Gn 2:1-2).

Thus your observation is understandable, but it is theologically questionable. As for scientists, they will differ, but one could argue scientifically, as well, that creation (understood as the sum total of what is, obeying certain norms of natural law) is also stable, set and completed.

Using New Testament language, we are not on the sixth day of creation, nor on the seventh day! We are on the eighth day of creation wherein God renews and promises perfection to all he has made. This perfection will be complete at the Second Coming of Our Lord.

Harmony with nature

Question: I’ve heard that with the sin of the first parents, sickness and death entered the world and that nature was in perfect harmony prior to that. But scientific findings indicate that whole species came and went prior to mankind. Comments?

Joann R. Capone, via email

Answer: In paradise, Adam and Eve possessed preternatural gifts such as immortality and freedom from suffering. But it does not follow that all creation possessed these gifts. For example, Adam and Eve were given to eat of all the fruits of all the trees, except one. Thus, even in Eden, some living things “died” to sustain others. Further, the Garden of Eden seems to have been a certain location on the earth, not necessarily the whole of the earth.

So the cycle of living and dying is not excluded by the biblical narrative. Paradise, from this perspective, can be seen as a kind of “place apart” from the rest of creation where the cycle of life and death is part of the natural law God established. Creation did receive additional curses due to the sin of Adam (see Gn 3:17), but this likely refers more to the hostility of the climate and the difficulty of man’s relationship to it than to the mere cycle of death and life.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.