Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Again and again in our travels around the world, we meet Catholics who are convinced that St. Augustine rejected the literal and obvious sense of the sacred history of Genesis and opened the way for Catholic theologians to develop a non-literal interpretation that could accommodate Big Bang cosmology, Lyellian geology, and evolutionary biology with their hundreds of millions and billions of years. Thanks to the excellent article by Joseph Gedney on St. Augustine and the literal interpretation of Genesis on the Kolbe website, we can now refer such people to a single article that demolishes the myth of St. Augustine the proto-theistic evolutionist. However, even some readers of that article seem to find room for long ages in St. Augustine’s interpretation of Genesis, so I would like to devote this newsletter to showing why, in conjunction with the arguments made by Joseph Gedney, it is impossible to reconcile St. Augustine’s writings with a chronology of more than six thousand years from creation to the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Joseph Gedney explains in his article, St. Augustine abandoned the majority view of the Church Fathers that the creation of the entire material universe was accomplished in six 24-hour days because his Vetus Latina translation of Genesis appeared to make that interpretation untenable because of apparent contradictions between the sequence of events in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, understood in a straightforward literal and obvious sense. However, St. Augustine insisted that all of the different kinds of creatures were created at the beginning of time as rationes seminales and that only a creative act of God could actualize these rational principles as living corporeal creatures. The progressive creationist who rejects microbe-to-man or even reptile-to-bird evolution but who believes that the standard geological time scale is settled science will argue that St. Augustine’s view allows Catholics to believe that God intervened over the hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s history to create the different kinds of creatures in the order in which they appear in the fossil record, culminating with the creation of Adam and Eve less than ten thousand years ago. Since this false view has exerted a great influence on many Catholics who are striving to hold fast to the authentic Tradition of the Church, with God’s help I will now show why this view is completely untenable.
“The Beginning” in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition
The key to understanding why the long ages of progressive creation cannot be reconciled with St. Augustine’s interpretation of Genesis is that, for St. Augustine and for all of the Church Fathers, man existed, fully-formed and mature, at the “beginning of creation.” This truth permeates the Sacred Liturgy as well as the pages of Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers of the Church. Thus, in the Byzantine liturgical tradition, we hear:
In the beginning you made man in your image and likeness. You placed him in paradise and gave him power over the whole world. But he was deceived by the devil and transgressed your command by tasting of the forbidden fruit. You sentenced him to return to that dust from which he had been taken: wherefore we pray to You, O our God, to grant peace and rest to the soul of your departed servant (emphasis added) (Seventh Tome, Troparia of John of Damascus, Byzantine Daily Worship, p. 988)
O Most Immaculate Mother of God, He who from the beginning formed Eve, our first Mother, from the rib of Adam, took flesh in your very womb . . . (Prayer Hymns for the Dead, First Ode, Byzantine Daily Worship, p. 997)
O Saviour, You created me at the beginning to be a citizen of paradise and a tiller of the earth . . . (Prayer Hymns for the Dead, First Ode, Byzantine Daily Worship, p. 996).
The Coptic Liturgy echoes the same truth:
In the beginning, God created Man on the sixth day of creation. It was also on the sixth day that Adam and Eve sinned, and fell from the presence of the Lord. Humanity was condemned to death and eternal separation from God. For this reason, mankind became in need of a redemptive death to purify all people of sin. God the Logos accepted this upon Himself, and took the body of Man; and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit.
And in the prayers of the Roman Rite, in the Wedding Mass, we hear:
Father, by Your power You have made everything out of nothing. In the beginning, You created the universe and made mankind in Your own likeness (Ritual Mass – Wedding Mass).
According to the principle of “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” it is impossible to believe that the rational principle of man was activated some billions of years after the beginning of creation, as most progressive creationists believe. But these liturgical prayers – of which I have cited only a few examples – only reflect the plain sense of Holy Scripture which teaches the same truth from beginning to end. Thus, Our Lord Himself in speaking of Holy Marriage, reminds His hearers that:
From the beginning of creation God made them male and female (Mark 10:16)
When speaking of future tribulations that will come upon mankind, He teaches that man has endured tribulations of various kinds “from the beginning of creation,” as He says:
In those days there will be tribulation unmatched from the beginning of God’s creation until now, and never to be seen again (Mark 13:19).
Similarly, St. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds his readers:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
That St. Paul meant that man could see God’s invisible qualities in the things that He made “from the beginning of creation” was confirmed by the Fathers of the First Vatican Council when they defined in their teaching on Divine Revelation that:
The same holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things,
- can be known
- with certainty from the consideration of created things,
- by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.
Indeed, that teaching would be patently false if man had not existed from the creation of the world and only appeared on the scene billions of years after the creation of the world – and this same teaching can be found in the writings of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers from the time of the Apostles until modern times. Thus, we find the Council of Arles in 475 A.D. teaching that:
From the beginning of the world they [men] were not set free from the original slavery [of Original Sin] except by the intercession of the sacred blood (DZ 160b -Council of Arles 475)
We find Pope St. Leo the Great, teaching that not only the Creation of man but the Fall of mankind took place “at the very beginning of the world”:
For the almighty and clement God, Whose nature is goodness, Whose will is power, Whose work is mercy, signified beforehand, at the very beginning of the world, as soon as the diabolical malice had killed with its envious poison, the remedies that He had prepared, in His mercy, for the restoration of mortal men; declaring to the serpent that there would come a woman’s seed Who by His own power would crush the exaltation of his noxious head; that is, he signified that Christ would come in the flesh, both God and Man, and, born from a Virgin, would condemn the violator of the human race by His incorrupt birth” (St. Leo the Great, Sermo II. In Nativitate Domini, i.; PL 54:123).
Later, in defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Blessed Pope Pius IX reaffirmed the teaching of Pope St. Leo the Great that the Creation of Man and the Fall took place “at the beginning of the world”:
The Fathers and writers of the Church, taught by the heavenly writings, had nothing more at heart, in the books written to explain the Scriptures, to vindicate the dogmas, and to instruct the faithful, than emulously to declare and exhibit in many and wonderful ways the Virgin’s most high sanctity, dignity, and freedom from all stain of original sin, and her renowned victory over the most foul enemy of the human race. Wherefore, repeating the words in which, at the beginning of the world, the Almighty, announcing the remedies of his mercy, prepared for regenerating mankind, crushed the audacity of the lying Serpent, and wonderfully raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will place enmity between thee and the woman, thy seed and hers,” they taught that in this divine oracle was clearly and openly pointed out the merciful Redeemer of the human race – the only begotten Son of God, Christ Jesus, and that his Most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was designated, and at the same time that the enmity of both against the Serpent was signally expressed (emphasis added) (Apostolic Letter Ineffabilis Deus).
St. Augustine himself was, of course, well aware of the pagan evolutionary accounts of origins which held that material processes produced the variety of living creatures over long ages of time. But he was also familiar with the chronologies of the Egyptians and of other ancient civilizations who believed that man himself had a history of tens or hundreds of thousands of years. For St. Augustine, the inerrant word of God in the sacred history of Genesis refuted all of these myths, and he did not hesitate to reject them, saying:
They [pagans] are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of [man as] many thousands of years, though reckoning by the sacred writings we find that not 6,000 years have yet passed (emphasis added)(St. Augustine, City of God, Augustine, 12:10)
Reading this statement of St. Augustine in the light of Holy Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Church, we can see why it is impossible to reconcile his interpretation of Genesis with long ages. In the first place, St. Augustine followed a chronology derived from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, in which the Word of God defined that man had only existed on Earth for about 5,500 years from Creation to the Incarnation. Moreover, as demonstrated above, the whole Tradition of the Church accords with Sacred Scripture in teaching that man also existed, fully formed and mature, from “the beginning of creation” and “at the beginning of time.” Thus, according to St. Augustine, the inerrant Word of God teaches that the beginning of time occurred less than six thousand years before the Incarnation. It follows that, for St. Augustine and for the whole Tradition of the Church, creation cannot have taken place more than five thousand five hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Modern Voices Forced to Echo Tradition
With such a chorus of authoritative witnesses to man’s creation at the beginning of time, it is no wonder that even the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are forced to reaffirm this teaching – in spite of the fact that many of the contributors to the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism undoubtedly rejected the literal historical truth of the sacred history of Genesis. Although strongly influenced by the pantheistic thinking of Teilhard de Chardin, Gaudium et spes echoes the constant teaching of the Church that man existed at “the beginning of time”:
By the work of his hands and with the aid of technical means man tills the earth to bring forth fruit and make it a dwelling place fit for all mankind; he also consciously plays his part in the life of social groups; in so doing he is realizing the design, which God revealed at the beginning of time, to subdue the earth (Cf. Gn 1:28) and perfect the work of creation (emphasis added).
Similarly, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read in a section entitled “In the beginning”:
Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously disturbed. To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them “in the beginning.” (CCC 1608)
To say that God created man and woman “in the beginning” just to say that He created them at the beginning of the human species would be tautological. The phrase only adds meaning to the sentence if it refers to another beginning than the beginning of the human race. In the light of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, this can only be the “beginning of creation” – the “beginning of the entire created universe.”
I hope that this brief exposition of the testimony of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to man’s existence on Earth “at the beginning of time” and “from the beginning of creation” explodes the myth that St. Augustine’s writings on Genesis can be reconciled with the long ages of Big Bang cosmology and Lyellian geology. The unanimous teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church proclaims that we are the apple of God’s eye, that He created everything for us – in view of the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception – and that He literally could not wait more than five days to create us!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata,
P.S. Last week’s newsletter contained an error. I said that we had only found one group of theistic evolutionists willing to accept the debate challenge on our website. I failed to mention that we also received and accepted an invitation to debate a mixed group of protestant and Catholic theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, a few years ago.
P.P.S. Our friends at St. Joseph’s Radio in St. Louis recorded the Kolbe leadership retreat talks again this year. We would like to support their apostolate, so we invite you to go to this link on our website, and order the DVDs or CDs you want directly from St. Joseph’s Radio using the contact information provided on the forms.
After this newsletter had already been prepared for publication, I received word from the executor of his estate that our first theological advisor, Fr. Victor Warkulwiz, had died in Philadelphia, on July 11, 2019. Fr. Victor made an enormous contribution to the establishment of the Kolbe Center, and we will always be grateful to him for his willingness to stand almost alone as a priest and theologian in the early days of the Kolbe Center, to defend the traditional Catholic understanding of the sacred history of Genesis.
Fr. Victor’s varied experience as a young scientist and late vocation to the priesthood helped to prepare him for his mission. In his words, it gave him “professional expertise in physics and theology” and an “educational acquaintance” with philosophy, history and various scientific disciplines. His first technical experience was in electronics. He studied radio and television technology in high school, graduating in 1958. His first job out of high school was with Remington Rand Univac, where he worked as an electrical draftsman on the first transistorized computer. He went on to become an electronic designer and also worked as an electronic technician at Univac. He continued his study of electronics in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, specializing in antisubmarine warfare technology. He worked at General Electric Corporation as a mathematics technician doing vibrations studies of re-entry vehicles. He received a B.S. in electronic physics from La Salle College in 1968. After graduation from college, he worked as an electromagnetics physicist for General Electric Corporation, where he studied the effects of electromagnetic pulse radiation on semiconductor diodes.
Fr. Victor’s interest in electronics led him to physics. He received a Ph.D. in physics from Temple University in 1974. At Temple he did experimental work in holography, theoretical work in statistical mechanics, and operated a planetarium. He did his dissertation research at the National Bureau of Standards research reactor, where he gained experience in the fields of precision thermodynamic measurements, cryogenics, vacuum technology, critical phenomena in fluids, neutron diffraction and nuclear instrumentation.
After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Warkulwiz went to work for the Central Intelligence Agency as a physical scientist/intelligence officer, where he specialized in ballistic missile systems. From there he went on to Magdalen College to teach science and mathematics in a “great books” program. At Magdalen he conducted seminar courses in classical mathematics, natural philosophy, astronomy, optics, atomic chemistry and physics, logic, and philosophic biology. He lectured on ancient and medieval history, the history and nature of communism, and creationism vs. the theory of evolution. Dr. Warkulwiz then returned to the Washington, D.C. area to work for aerospace consultant firms. He worked at Quest Research Corporation, where he did a study of dynamic infrared imaging and at ANSER Corporation, where he specialized in space technology. While at ANSER, Dr. Warkulwiz heard the call to the priesthood.
In preparing for the priesthood, Fr. Victor received an M.Div. from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD and an M.A. in theology from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, CT. He taught courses in literature, mathematics and physics at the college seminary in Cromwell and courses in philosophy and religion at the Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate scholasticate. He also conducted Bible and catechism classes in a summer program for youth. Fr. Victor was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1991 as a member of the Missionary Priests of the Blessed Sacrament and helped hundreds of parishes in the U.S. and elsewhere to start or maintain perpetual Eucharistic adoration. He was named national director of the Apostolate for Perpetual Eucharist Adoration in October 1998 and theological reviewer for the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation in 2001.
Fr. Victor’s book The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11 was a milestone in the development of a comprehensive defense of the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation, and it was followed by his publication of the first English translation of St. Lawrence of Brindisi’s Commentary on Genesis 1-3, the last commentary on Genesis by a Doctor of the Church, one who knew all of the Biblical languages and who was familiar with all of the leading commentators on Genesis in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Fr. Victor participated in many Kolbe seminars and conferences, including our first international symposium in Rome in 2002, and he obtained one of the first written testimonials of support for the work of the Kolbe Center from a successor of the Apostles, when Bishop Robert A. Vasa wrote a foreword for The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11.
Please remember Fr. Victor Warkulwiz in your prayers and Holy Masses.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.