Inaugural Sermon Sunday

As part of my attempt to revitalize the blog, I’m instituting Sermon Sundays. Today’s sermon is a sermon from a very traditional priest. The sermon rips apart the theory of evolution and posits that any theory of evolution, even theistic evolution, is completely incompatible with the Catholic faith. I will not let my personal thoughts on the sermon be known until discussion begins in the comment section, but I would like you to listen to the entire sermon (about 24 minutes) and then respond with why you agree, or why you disagree. Please keep the discussion reputable (cite sources, avoid personal attacks, name-calling, etc).

Evolution: The Religion of the Antichrist

[Audio Sancto requests that the identity of the preacher, location and time of the sermon are kept anonymous, so please do not reveal that information if you know it. ]

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5 thoughts on “Inaugural Sermon Sunday

  1. Alright, several thoughts here. If this preacher hadn’t identified as a Catholic, I would’ve sworn this was an evangelical sermon. He bases his beliefs entirely on the Bible, which is fine, but seems to be ignoring official Catholic teaching. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the Catholic Church has basically said that there are no conflicts between science and faith, that evolution of the body is permissible to believe in, but Catholics believe that the soul comes from God. So, kind of a “theistic” or guided evolution as some call it.

    So is this sermon against official teaching, or is the Catholic Church’s position on evolution one of those “optional” teachings that doesn’t have an affect on a person’s faith?

    It’s hard to tackle an issue as big and multifaceted as the creation of the world in 24 minutes. A lot of his characterizations of the opposing side are clearly false. He says evolution has no evidence in support of it: well, that’s not true. It has lots of evidence. But there are also gaps in the evidence. The real question is: is the evidence that’s provided convincing? For many people, yes. For others it is not. But don’t say there is “no” evidence.

    Second, his characterization of “cosmic evolution” is comical and disingenuous. The Big Bag theory is not about an “explosion.” He says the Big Bang is about the creation of the world through destruction. That’s not even close to accurate. The Big Bang simply posits that all matter and energy was once part of some single moment in time, and then that matter and energy expanded outward. Nothing was destroyed, and the creation of the universe follows the orderly laws of nature. So, nothing destructive, random, or chaotic about it.

    (He also mocks the idea of “black holes” saying they’ve never been observed. That’s not true at all. Black holes have been observed, and in actuality, supermassive black holes are quite visible: we observe all the light and matter from the surrounding area getting sucked inside them).

    He also makes a lot of hasty generalizations. I wouldn’t say that the modern idea of relative morality is directly connected to a belief in evolution. Evolutionary theory proper makes no mention of humans, or any creature, “progressing” or becoming “better.” Social progressivism is a separate line of thinking. The idea that humans will keep evolving until we are perfect and gods: that is also a separate idea from evolutionary theory. Scientists don’t believe in such progressivism.

    Even though I have a lot of criticisms of the way he presents his sermon and “stacks the deck” in favor of his idea, I, too, have a hard time believing in evolution, the part about one species becoming another. When I conduct thought experiments on how this might happen, I just don’t see how evolution can account for the variety of species we have, and how so many species are perfectly balanced in nature in a variety of ways. Millions of species randomly evolving sure seem to “evolve” at a similar rate so that nature is always in balance with itself.

    But on the other hand, I have a hard time believing in the young earth hypothesis. There is just too much evidence to the contrary, and I don’t think there is any biblical basis to the idea that God created man and the universe to “look” mature and yet actually not be mature. So I believe in an old earth but not evolution proper: I guess that means I believe in some sort of theistic evolution.

    Personally, I don’t think it matters too much how we arrived at this point in time. I don’t think the Bible was intended to be a science textbook: I think it’s more interested in answering the questions: Who created us? Why were we created? The How is not as important from a biblical standpoint. The first chapters of Genesis then I take to be metaphorical (but not untrue in the slightest).

    I think as long as we acknowledge that God is the source of life, however that happened, that’s really all He expects of us.

    On a side note, though, I will say that study of the cosmos, one of my hobbies, greatly directs my faith toward God. I see God’s hand all over creation, and think it’s amazing that the universe is 13 point something billion years old. God takes his time with his creation, and he guides its creation using the orderly rules of physics. How can one not look at the creation of the universe and not see God’s hand at work?

  2. I too, did not really think he handled “cosmic evolution” well, and I’m not sure why he even brought it up. Even a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 does not really touch upon what happens outside of earth and how that all really came to be. Well maybe a little, I guess.

    Anyway, the teaching of the Church on evolution is that there really isn’t a teaching: that it is permissible at this point to either believe or disbelieve in evolution, but to believe in it you must believe that it was guided by God, that the soul comes from God, etc., etc. But there are problems that I have both theologically and biologically with evolution:

    1. I can’t think of the scientific term at the moment, but it is that species do not speciate with a single mating pair. There are multiple pairs. This stems from the idea that individuals do not evolve, but that populations evolve together. This would posit that homo sapiens is like every other species and that they would have evolved from multiple Adams and Eves. This is NOT permissible under Church dogma. The Church teaches that Adam and Eve were two real people from which all humanity is descended, and that the fall was a real event and is passed on by nature and not imitation.

    2. Is evolution continuing? If evolution is the cause for the present state of life on earth, what reason would we have for the cessation of the process? And if that the process is continuing, will all species continue to evolve? Even humans? If humans are going to continue to evolve, at what point will our descendants cease to be human and where does that leave them in relation to salvation?

    3. Speciation isn’t about drawing a line between two generations. Its not that the parents are one species and the children are another. When I took evolutionary biology at NDSU, I remember one day we talked about population evolution using a hypothetical mountain that had a gradient in climate as one went around the base. As a population began in one spot and moved clockwise bit by bit around the mountain over thousands of generations, each generation gained adaptations and changes. No two adjacent generations were different species in practice. Communities that were adjacent to each other were similar to be considered the same species and reproduce viable offspring. However, by the time adaptation had occurred as the populations moved around the base of the mountain and returned to the beginning, the first and last populations were species that were so different there was no denying that they were different. In theory this makes sense, but in theological practice it makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact point where homo sapiens begins and where it will end in the future.

    4. I’ve always had a difficult time accepting the fossil record or DNA analysis as sure evidence of macroevolution. The fossil record for one is so incomplete. The sheer number of transition species missing is astounding. On top of that, to look at fossils that are similar and to make an assumption that one descended from the other is quite presumptuous in my opinion. DNA analysis is very similar. Similarity in DNA doesn’t necessarily imply common ancestry, but rather could imply that a creator uses the same building blocks for all living things, which makes sense when one considers that we exist in a intricate food web.

    At the time that I was in evolutionary biology, at lot of it made sense, but now that I’m out of that class, the lack of evidence of a mechanism, the sheer magnitude of the number of mutations needed for the biodiversity on this planet, and the small probability that individual mutations are positive as opposed to neutral or negative is so small.

    I too don’t believe in a young earth, but it takes a lot of faith to believe that evolution has occurred unguided, and the question is, what purpose would guided evolution serve to God? I suppose the answer to that isn’t really my business, but it does seem strange.

    I think this priest could have done much better had he left some of the hyperbole at the door, argued rationally from fact, and left the cosmic evolution for another discussion.

    • I think the question of when one species turns into another is a good question, but for the purposes of Christian theology, I don’t think it matters too much. If we believe in an old earth, as the evidence seems to direct, then it seems that at some point there must have been a first Adam and first Eve. Perhaps God took some predecessor to homo sapian and decided to give him a soul one day, that person being the Adam.

      The question about if we continue to evolve in the present, I think, is a moot one. Assuming evolution is still going on I don’t think that will have any impact on God’s message of salvation. And personally, if humans are still evolving, I don’t think we will evolve for so long that our descendents eventually come to resemble a new species. I think before we even get close to that point as a species God will return to earth. God promises he will return soon. We’ve been waiting 2,000 years, but 2,000 years isn’t that long on an evolutionary scale. I think God will be back much sooner.

      Now creationists say that to believe in an old earth means that we must accept that death happened before Adam. But if death is a consequence of the fall, then how can this be? Personally, I believe Adam’s death has much more to do with the spiritual death of mankind, not the physical death. One of Jesus’ main points is that we are all dead (and Paul later expanded) through sin, but physical death is not the end, only a transition to the afterlife. What’s more important is where we go in the afterlife. Jesus also spoke of a “second birth.” This birth is obviously not physical, but spiritual. Being “born again” according to Jesus is much more important than being physically born. When we are born again we have already been resurrected from the spiritual death. Physical death still is a specter, but one we don’t have to be afraid of.

      The fossil record, to me, seems to have lost a lot of credibility with the advent of DNA analysis. For instance, just because two fossils look similar in no way means that species are related or descended from each other. Look at all the incredible variations in nature. Just look at dogs. There are hundreds of dog breeds from huge dogs to very small dogs. If a biologist were to look at a doggy graveyard millions of years in the future, would they conclude that all the variety in bone structure meant that there were many different species of dog? Under current thinking, perhaps. But we know that would be false.

      Also, look at something like a butterfly and caterpillar. Very different looking insects, and yet part of the same species.

  3. I just want to touch on something that DN wrote,

    “If humans are going to continue to evolve, at what point will our descendants cease to be human and where does that leave them in relation to salvation?”

    There is an unstated assumption here: that the incarnation only would save “human” persons, or maybe even more specifically homo sapiens.

    It is certainly conceivable that the incarnation would be fitting to save all incarnated persons, regardless of species. For this same reason it is possible that persons of even alien species are fit subjects for evangelization (should they exist).

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