Evolution and Creation II – Church and Family

From Hugh Owen's The Importance of the Traditional Doctrine of Creation

My comments are in red.

2. Theistic evolutionism fosters an anti-hierarchical vision of reality, including the Church and the family; the traditional doctrine of creation supports a hierarchical vision of reality, including the Church and the family.

The traditional understanding of Genesis conveys a hierarchical vision of reality, including a hierarchical understanding of the Church. Theistic evolutionism fosters an anti-hierarchical understanding of the Church. By envisioning the emergence of the first man and woman from ape-like parents, theistic evolution denies any kind of hierarchical relationship between Adam and Eve—although this flatly contradicts the traditional understanding of Genesis. According to patristic understanding, Adam was literally created before Eve. [Here I won't address the question of whether Eve was literally created from Adam's side, as I'm not familiar enough with the patristic texts on it. The theory of evolution does not, in any case, necessarily entail that Eve was the natural result of evolution, rather than miraculously formed from Adam. More importantly, the issue does not have the theological significance ascribed to it in this article. Literal historical fact or not, Eve's relationship to Adam does not depend on her coming from Adam insofar as it is (or is not) a historical fact, but insofar as it is symbolic. If God creates sons of Abraham from the stones, they are not more children of the stones than of Abraham because of a literal derivation from stones. There is a specific relationship between man and woman, found in human nature, which is expressed by the account of woman's creation in Genesis, and, if the creation from man's side is a literal historical fact, by this fact of the creation of woman from man's side. But this relationship is neither established by nor does it depend on a literal creation of woman from man; it is signified by it.]

As dogmatically decreed at the Ecumenical Council of Vienne, Eve was literally created from Adam’s side, forming a type of the creation of the Church from the side of Christ on the Cross. [This statement is misleading statement; the Council teaches that Adam, from whose side Eve was taken, is a type of Christ, from whose side (the blood and water flowing out) the Church was formed. It does not teach that Eve was literally created from Adam's side… nor in fact that the Church was literally created from Christ's side. It is a question what "literally" would mean in this case.]

In this way the creation of Eve mirrored the eternal generation of Christ by the Father. As Christ is “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God . . . one in being with the Father,” so Eve was brought forth from the side of Adam, and shared the same nature as Adam. And just as the Holy Spirit is the endless living Love who proceeds from the Father through the Son, so the offspring of Adam and Eve were intended to be the fruit of their parents’ love, thus completing, in the human family, a perfect finite reflection of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. [This analogy doesn't have much patristic support, most likely because of the fact that Christ is the Son of the Father, while Eve is not the Son of Adam, and the Holy Spirit is not the Son of the Father and of the Word, while Seth (like Cain and Abel) is the Son of Adam and Eve.]

By denying the supernatural creation of Eve from Adam’s side, theistic evolutionism denies the Trinitarian and hierarchical nature of the human family. [The hierarchical nature of the family does not consist in a past fact, but is found in the nature of the family itself–as the Magisterium has frequently emphasized, the nature of the family is not something extrinsic and accessible only by revelation, but is rooted in human nature. Thus the "Trinitarian and hierarchical nature" of the human family does not depend on the manner of formation of the first family.] For the theistic evolutionist, Adam and Eve both arise from the lower animals by a process of natural evolution. The sexual act through which human children are propagated is thus reduced to an animal activity rather than a reflection of the Trinitarian mystery. [This claim is simply a concession to materialism… it assumes that if Adam and Eve were derived from lower animals, then they are essentially no different from those animals, nor does their sexual activity have any many other than that found in the lower animals. Of course evolution interpreted in a materialistic lens is contrary to the Christian faith… but then we are not talking about theistic evolution. This is a straw-man argument.]

According to the patristic understanding of Genesis, Adam was created to be Eve’s mediator, teacher, and protector. [For this reason the Hebrew words for “guard and to keep” connote the activities of a priest.] [More fundamentally, they denote the activities of a servant, as a priest also is. And these terms are used in reference to the guardian, not in reference to Eve.] Adam alone receives the divine command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the Fall does not take place until Adam—seeking to please his wife rather than God—joins her in disobedience to God’s command. [Genesis does not tell us why ]

By denying each human father’s God-given responsibility to teach, govern, and sanctify his family, theistic evolutionism has contributed much to the emasculation and degradation of Catholic men. No longer reminded of his duty to teach, discipline, and spiritually direct his wife and children, the Catholic father now cheerfully abdicates his most important responsibilities, leaving his wife and his children’s teachers to teach, discipline, and sanctify his sons and daughters. [If the Father does not see his duty towards his wife and children in his role as a man and as Father, there's a problem there, which won't be solved by an extrinsic reminder as such. Again, the creation account is significant inasmuch as it teaches something about the real nature of man, male and female, and family.] But—since no one can take the place of a father—this is a burden they cannot bear. And so his abdication sets in motion the total disintegration of society.

The effects of this deviation from Tradition extend far beyond the human family to the very Household of God. By denying the divine design for the human family, theistic evolutionism challenges the hierarchical structure and male character of Church leadership. If Adam was not created before Eve but evolved at the same time as she did from ape-like creatures, then he has no special role in relation to her. [No more true than it was before. This is just as invalid as saying that if a twin-brother and sister are conceived are born together, then the brother should relate to the sister exactly as she should relate to him, ignoring the real difference of male and female.] And, since the Church is the “household (or family) of God,” if there is no divinely-designed hierarchy in the family placing man at the head, then why should there be a hierarchy in the Church, and why should men hold any special role as priests of the Church, since men and women have both “evolved” from the apes through natural processes? Indeed, if man was not created by God to be a priest to his wife and children, then why should the Church insist on a male priesthood? Why should the leader of the Church be a “Holy Father” instead of a “Holy Mother”? [This argument is sufficiently answered by the fact that man and woman's role in God's creation and in the Church does not depend on the physical manner of their original creation. But also, I think this argument suggests a misunderstanding of why only men can be priests. There are lines of analogy connecting the natural relationship of man and woman, the spiritual relationship of God to his people as bridegroom to bride, of Christ, incarnate as a man, to the Church, and ministerial priests, who sacramentally take the role of Christ. But in terms of the theological exposition of the matter, the primary point of reference is Christ, who is the true high priest, and is a man. The reason why Christ is the high priest is not because he is the second Adam; rather, Adam's priesthood is a type of Christ's.]

3 thoughts on “Evolution and Creation II – Church and Family”

  1. "Literal historical fact or not, Eve's relationship to Adam does not depend on her coming from Adam insofar as it is (or is not) a historical fact, but insofar as it is symbolic"

    "Whether in particular the literal and historical sense can be called into question, where it is a matter of facts related in the same chapters, which pertain to the foundation of the Christian religion; for example, among others, the creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the oneness of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given to man by God to prove his obedience; the transgression of the divine command through the devil's persuasion under the guise of a serpent; the casting of our first parents out of that first state of innocence; and also the promise of a future restorer? — Reply: In the negative." (Pontifical Biblical Commission 1909)

  2. "Wherefore we find it necessary to declare and to expressly prescribe, and by this our act we do declare and decree that all are bound in conscience to submit to the decisions of the Biblical Commission relating to doctrine, which have been given in the past and which shall be given in the future, in the same way as to the decrees of the Roman congregations approved by the Pontiff; nor can all those escape the note of disobedience or temerity, and consequently of grave sin, who in speech or writing contradict such decisions, and this besides the scandal they give and the other reasons for which they may be responsible before God for other temerities and errors which generally go with such contradictions." (Praestantia Sacrae Scripturae 18 November 1907

  3. Since the previous anonymous commentator (since he chose no pseudonym, I will use the third person) simply quoted from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, without saying anything about what he intended to draw from it, it seems I would be warranted in doing the same… but I will be more generous. The selection of quotations seems to be intended to convey, at the least, that the creation of Eve from the side of Adam is a literal historical fact, which it is pointless to make hypothetical statements about. To this, I say first, that it is often of value to make hypothetical statements, even when one is convinced that the antecedent hypothesis is certainly false: e.g., to say "even if the early human embryo did not have a rational soul (as many doctors of the Church thought it did not), abortion would still be wrong." The statement does not become pointless on account of a conviction that it is absolutely certain that the rational soul is present from conception. This second post on evolution was not about the Church's teaching, but about the consequences of the theory of evolution for one's understanding of family and hierarchy.

    Secondly, the commentator, if intending by this quotation to exclude discussion of the question, neglects to consider the fact that it is not a definitive declaration of the matter, and thereby runs contrary to later statements of the Magisterium and Biblical Commission itself. I quote:

    "[the present pope proclaimed], The Catholic exegete… ought not by any manner of means to debar himself from taking in hand, and that repeatedly, the difficult questions which have found no solution up to the present time… in an attempt to find a well-founded explanation in perfect harmony with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with that of biblical inerrancy, and at the same time capable of fully satisfying the certain conclusions of the secular sciences….

    If this recommendation of the Pope’s is borne in mind in the interpretation of the three official replies given formerly by the Biblical Commission in connection with the above-mentioned questions, namely June 23, 1905, on narratives in the historical books of Holy Scripture which have only the appearance of history (EB 161), June 27, 1906, on the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch (EB 181-184), and June 30, 1909, on the historical character of the first three chapters of Genesis (EB 324-331), it will be agreed that these replies are in no way a hindrance to further truly scientific examination of these problems in accordance with the results acquired in these last forty years." (Pontifical Biblical Commission, Letter to Cardinal Suhard, January 1948)

    It goes on to declare that the literary forms of Gen 1-11 "do not correspond to any of our classical categories and cannot be judged in the light of the Greco-Latin or modern literary types. It is therefore impossible to deny or to affirm their historicity as a whole without unduly applying to them norms of a literary type under which they cannot be classed…. they relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding of mankind at a lower stage of development, the fundamental truths underlying the divine scheme of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origins of the human race and of the chosen people."

    That this openness to further study applies also to the question of Eve is evident from the fact that the Magisterium has not criticized those persons or catechisms that have proposed various interpretations regarding Eve.

    Regarding the historical character of Genesis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also indicates that while Genesis describes the truth of creation, and in that sense history, it does so figuratively or symbolically. "Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine 'work', concluded by the 'rest' of the seventh day." (CCC 337).

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