Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I want to thank all of you who have supported the production of our DVD series “Foundations Restored” with your prayers and donations. We are finally entering the final phase of the project, and our videographer Keith Jones, will hopefully complete the final editing of the series by the beginning of Holy Week. The main reason why the project has taken so much longer than we had originally anticipated is that we have had to expand the series several times to anticipate new objections that could be raised against our defense of the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation.
One of the most important themes running through our DVD series is the idea that in the world and in the Catholic community today there are two competing frameworks within which to study nature and to explain the origins of man and the universe. They are:
The Naturalistic Uniformitarian Framework
The Supernatural Creation-Providence Framework
According to the first framework – adopted by most natural scientists and intellectuals in the world today – the same material or natural processes have been operating in more or less the same way from the very beginning of the universe. Therefore, God has never acted supernaturally to form the natural world; and man is capable of explaining the origin of anything in the universe in terms of the same natural processes that are going on now.
According to the second framework – the framework embraced by all of the Apostles, Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching – God supernaturally created all of the different kinds of creatures for man in the beginning of time, and therefore it is impossible to explain the origin of things in nature in terms of the same natural processes that are going on now. Following the creation of Adam and Eve on day six, God ceased to create new kinds – He rested from creating. On the seventh day, the world entered the period of Providence in which the world operates according to natural laws, although God is free to intervene if it serves His purposes.
Many of those who subscribe to the first framework act as if its superiority is self-evident. But that is not true. Neither of the two frameworks is self-evidently true. Both of them involve certain assumptions. Those who adhere to the first framework assume that everything in nature and nature itself has a natural explanation. Those who adhere to the second framework assume that supernatural reality exists and that anything that exists or that occurs in the universe may have a natural or a supernatural explanation, the precise nature of which can only be determined by a careful examination of the evidence, with a willingness to accept the best possible explanation, be it natural or supernatural.
So, the question is not “Which of these two frameworks is free from assumptions?” but rather which set of assumptions is more reasonable – the assumptions underlying the naturalistic framework, or the assumptions underlying the supernatural framework?
To bring this into focus, let us look at the most important “fact” related in the Gospel – the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead – and consider how investigators would attempt to explain this “fact” within these two frameworks.
A natural scientist working with the naturalistic uniformitarian framework might say that since dead bodies do not have any natural potential to return to life on their own, the account of Our Lord’s death and Resurrection must actually be an account of Our Lord’s torture and apparent death followed by His awakening from some sort of coma before showing Himself to His Apostles and disciples. This explanation of the facts given in the Gospels is actually widely held by Muslims who believe that Jesus was a prophet but who do not believe that He suffered and died for ours sins, nor that He rose again from the dead.
On the other hand, a natural scientist working within the Supernatural-Creation-Providence Framework would have no trouble concluding that God who created the first Adam body and soul from the dust of the Earth in the beginning of time used the same divine power to raise Himself – the “the last Adam,” Our Lord Jesus Christ – from the dead after His Passion and death on the Cross.
Now suppose a team of archaeologists claimed – to media acclaim – to have found the “body” of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a secret tomb in Jerusalem. What should be the proper response of Catholic Church leaders and natural scientists to such a claim?
In the first place, the Church leadership should make clear that the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is a dogma of the Faith and is therefore true beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, they might agree to appoint a team of scientists to examine the claims so as to show the faithful the fatal flaws in the “secret tomb” hypothesis. In a situation of this kind, and in a skeptical age like ours, the Magisterium should also seize the opportunity to remind the faithful that “faith” is a supernatural gift from God and that it does not depend on the reasonableness of the arguments offered for a particular tenet of the faith. Rather, supernatural faith rests on the authority of God who has revealed the truth of many things through appointed witnesses whose testimony has been ratified by the one Church established and endowed by Him with divine teaching authority. Thus, the “argument from authority” for a particular thesis – which is the weakest of all arguments when the authority is human – becomes the strongest of all arguments when God is the authority for the thesis, because God is all-knowing and almighty, and can neither deceive nor be deceived.
It is also important to remember that the conviction that flows from supernatural faith does not depend on the strength of the arguments for any particular tenet of the Faith. This is why the proclamation of the Gospel to people who have never heard of the Jewish people or of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus can result in some, many or even all of those people receiving the supernatural gift of Faith and becoming as certain of its truth as if they had witnessed the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
All of these considerations help to explain why Catholics should never treat the origins of man and the universe as a proper subject for natural scientists. Indeed, the Catholic doctrine of creation set forth by all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church depends entirely on their acceptance of God’s revelation to Moses about how He created the world. And this revelation to Moses in the sacred history of Genesis clearly distinguishes between the period of creation when God created, formed, and furnished the universe and established the framework of natural laws, and the period of providence, in which we live, and in which creatures interact according to their God-given natures within the framework of natural law. Thus, traditional Catholic theology respects the integrity of the natural world, provides a proper framework for the development of the natural sciences, and welcomes the discoveries of natural scientists, confident that these discoveries will never contradict but will rather confirm the truth of Divine Revelation.
The traditional Catholic doctrine of creation differs drastically from theistic evolutionism, a system of thought that seeks to reconcile Catholic doctrine with evolution. Theistic evolutionists believe that God created matter and energy but used material processes over long periods of time to produce all of the different kinds of living and nonliving things in the universe. Thus, theistic evolutionism makes no distinction between God’s activity during the creation period and God’s activity in the present order of things – except to acknowledge an ex nihilo creation of matter at the moment of the alleged Big Bang. According to this view, natural scientists can extrapolate from natural processes operating in the present all the way back to the beginning of creation and can explain the origin of the different kinds of living things, including the first human body, solely in terms of the material processes occurring in the world today.
In sharp contrast to this view, the Church Fathers and Doctors, including St. Thomas, held that natural science cannot investigate the origin of the different kinds of creatures – not only because this took place in the past, but also because the order of nature that humans experience through their senses differs radically from the order of creation in which God supernaturally created all things in the beginning. On this point St. John Chrysostom writes:
With great gratitude let us accept what is related (by Moses), not stepping out of our own limitations, and not testing what is above us as the enemies of the truth did when, wishing to comprehend everything with their minds, they did not realize that human nature cannot comprehend the creation of God (emphasis added) (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 2:2).
St. Ambrose seconds the view of St. John Chrysostom in his commentary on the Hexameron:
“‘Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters and let it divide the waters from the waters; and it was so [Gen. 1:6].” This is the word of a commander, not of an adviser. It is He Who gives orders to nature, and does not comply with its power….It is His will that is the measure of things, and His word that is the completion of the work….Since His word is nature’s birth, justly therefore does He Who gave nature its origin presume to give nature its law (emphasis added) (Saint Ambrose, “Hom. 3,” Ch. 2(4), Hexameron, FC, 42:48.)
And, writing in the eighth century, St. Anastasios of Sinai sums up the mind of all of the Fathers when he writes of the work of the six days of creation:
God does not follow the laws of nature, but creates in a way beyond nature and technology, Moses says here, ‘God created the heaven’ – which is the sphere – ‘and then the earth’ – which is the center” (Saint Anastasios of Sinai, Hexameron, “Book 1,” § VI.2, p. 21.)
These quotations form a fitting backdrop against which to take a fresh look at the Galileo Affair with the help of a new book by Dr. Robert Sungenis entitled Geocentrism for Dumskies and Smart Kids. In clear, simple language, Robert Sungenis defends the literal and obvious sense of Holy Scripture in regard to the unique position of the Earth in the universe, exactly as it was understood by the overwhelming majority of the Church Fathers and Doctors. And, while the geocentric doctrine has never been taught at the same level of authority as the fiat creation of all things at the beginning of time, Robert shows that in regard to the position of the Earth in the solar system and in the universe as a whole, the burden of proof remains where it has always rested – on anyone who rejects the literal and obvious sense of Holy Scripture on the unique position of the Earth in the universe.
It has been a source of great sorrow over the years to see how many highly educated Catholics have dismissed and even mocked the traditional teaching of the Church on geocentrism without even making a serious effort to examine the evidence. I hope and pray that this new book will allow a much greater number of Catholics to evaluate the arguments for and against the literal and obvious sense of Holy Scripture in regard to the unique position of the Earth in God’s creation.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata,