Meaning of Life
There a God?
Evolution, and Other Ideas of Interest
THE CREATION OF MAN
Was mankind created by a slow process of evolution, as fossils indicate, or were we made as an “Adam and Eve,” as a literal reading of the Bible tells us? As is often the case, both viewpoints are undoubtedly correct.
The purpose of the Bible is to lead us to God. It was written to provide moral and ethical guidelines, and to explain to us how God chose to be able to forgive his children for transgressions. It is not a scientific treatise, nor is it a history book, and any effort to interpret it literally for worldly matters is self-defeating. That being said, we can examine a question that is frequently asked:
Scientists believe that our ancestor was a man-animal not unlike the great apes. What is the essential difference between ape and Man? We share strikingly similar bodies and have similar genetic codes. Some apes are very intelligent, and can communicate using a language containing hundreds of words. Apes are known to display emotions such as affection and fear, and even have a sense of humor. Where do we draw the line?
The Christian idea of the soul, or inner spirit, is the part of us that is made in God’s image. It is what makes us children of God and fully human. We can lose any part of our bodies without losing any of our humanity.
If we quite reasonably define Man as the complex child of God that combines a material body with a spiritual soul, then the actual creation of man took place when our intelligent bodies (that had evolved through millions of years) were first imbued with this immortal soul. It could very well have been only six thousand years ago.
Our bodies took millions of years of God's evolution plan to form perfectly. It only took an instant for Him to infuse those bodies with a soul, making our ancestors His true children. It was this instant, not the long eons of physical evolutionary development, that defines when "mankind" was created.
God created our souls perfect just as they are; they did not evolve. Only the material world evolved. Evolution is God's way of creating everything that is material.
"How could Adam and Eve be responsible for all the different races on earth, especially if they only started six thousand years ago?"
Scientifically, they couldn't be. For one thing, the gene pool would have been too small, regardless of how many children they may have had.
One possible explanation is that this first couple, "Adam and Eve," were endowed with a soul and were thus "created" many millions of years before commonly thought. The problem here is that their level of agricultural technology and speech skill places them on earth quite recently.
Yet Church doctrine states that their sin of pride is passed on by inheritance to every person on earth. Quite a puzzler. That would surely make primitive tribes and races from many far-flung, remote places on the earth less than (or more than) human. They could not naturally be of the same lineage as Adam and Eve. But the Church recognizes all these tribes, in fact every person on earth, as being true children of God and the inheritors of original sin. It is a contradiction, and there seems to be no way out.
But look closely at the official Church position, as stated by Pope Pius XII:
"For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own" (Humani Generis 37).
The emphasis is ours. The underlined loophole presented is the Church's.
The "first parents" argument states that God went on to create other pairs of first parents like Adam and Eve soon thereafter, all over the world. Some of these people were wives and husbands to the children of Adam and Eve. Others lived in far away places. Remember, the people who wrote Genesis had no knowledge of or contact with the many other races that inhabit the earth. To talk about other "creations" would have been hopelessly confusing.
Note that the Pope said simply that it is not apparent how God could have done this, and still maintain the truth of original sin being passed down to all these other pairs. Well, is it apparent how God does anything? Miracles are, by definition, beyond our ability to understand.
Pope Pius could have said that the multiple pairs theory is flat out wrong. He did not. He left an "out." We can draw an important negative inference. The Pope left a loophole big enough to drive a truck through, and for good reason: this "multiple first parents" theory is the one that is most attractive, and may be the truth. Christ Himself said that what is absolutely impossible for men to even imagine is easy for God. It is the only theory that makes any sense, and is the one your editor tentatively accepts. Yes, it would require a miracle, Divine Intervention if you will, but so does the whole basic idea of the creation of mankind as true children of God.
The Bible only follows the lineage of Adam and Eve, because they are the direct ancestors of the Israelites and of Christ. It is this history, not a general history of the world, which the Old Testament presents.
GENESIS AND EVOLUTION
Did God really take six days to create the universe? The English word "day" is usually used to translate Genesis, and this has caused some confusion. It is better translated by "eon" or "epoch," simply a long, indeterminate period of time.
Enough time for matter to form from God’s energy, and follow his immutable laws, and evolve into the universe as we know it. Evolution is simply his way of creating everything, his Grand Plan. The basic mechanisms of evolution, like everything in the universe, come from God.
Evolution means change, the changes that God made, the changes that rigidly follow God's natural laws, like the law of gravity. It really doesn’t matter how long it took, no one was holding a stopwatch on it. It was finished when we needed it. Of course, God could have created everything in an instant. He can do whatever He wants. But we have ample evidence that He let it form gradually, over a long period of time.
The Church does not officially endorse or deny Evolution. The Bible is not science or history; it is our guide to salvation, as St. Augustine said. We must simply believe that God created everything, and that He is responsible for all that is good. Exactly how He created it is not definitively known, but it is evident that time was not a factor, and that He had no reason to circumvent His own natural laws.
Consider that Genesis was written by a person who believed that the world was flat and that the sky was a solid dome with little lights built into it. Then consider that the earth itself was not made until the third "day." Twenty four hours is what we call the time it takes for the earth to make one complete revolution. A twenty four hour "day" had no meaning until the third day.
Even the concept of light and darkness on the first day is simply ancient thinking. They had no idea at that time that light is constant and that darkness (for us) was just the period when the earth was turned away from the sun. The thinking was that light and darkness were separate "things" in the same way they thought that heat and cold were separate "things." Genesis makes a poor science teacher.
It is moot that the author of Genesis may have intended his word for "day" to mean a standard twenty-four hour period, as is probable. The doctrine of Bible infallibility simply does not extend to matters of science.
No less an ecclesiastic authority than St. Augustine clearly saw this. He wrote:
"At least we know that the Genesis creation day is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar... We must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them... In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation." (On The Literal Interpretation of Genesis [A.D. 408]).
But it is not important. You should only be concerned with how you live your life, and not with how God may or may not have created the universe. Don't get sidetracked with things that do not matter. Love God, love your fellow man, and follow your conscience.
WHY IS THE GOD OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SO DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE IN THE GOSPELS?
Thousands of years ago, common morality was a lot different from what it is now. Heinous brutality was an everyday experience, and there were no religious or moral restraints on it. The world was a very rough place. Concepts like mercy and forgiveness were almost unknown, and if practiced by a king would soon lead to general revolt. A good king or leader was one who slew all his enemies and lined the streets with their heads. The only public entertainments were the daily executions.
A God that preached love in those days would not have been respected or obeyed. God knew his audience, and played to it.
But this was just not the way God intended us to be, and of course He knew it all along. He waited until just the right moment, two thousand years ago, to announce to us that from then on, things were going to be a lot different. Christ said that He came to give us a new and far higher moral law, that of mercy and forgiveness and love.
It is also far more difficult to practice. If you are really angry at someone, perhaps for killing three of your children and burning down your house, which is easier: lop off their heads, or forgive and love them?
This is still difficult for us today--think how hard it must have been for people with no real concept of mercy. One thing we know for certain: God chose that particular moment in history to inform us of the change, so we have to assume it was the one best time. Apparently we were ready to begin accepting it.
God did not change; He is eternal and cannot change. But He did alter the manner in which He wanted us to lead our lives, when He deemed that we were ready. We cannot turn back the clock; we now have to lead our lives according to the teaching of Christ.
A VISION OF HEAVEN ( NOT OFFICIAL! )
"I am thirteen, and I have a problem. What will I do for all eternity in heaven? Will I get bored of living in heaven forever? I want to live here forever. I want to see the year 5000."
When you are in heaven you will not just be a "spirit." It is a doctrine of the Church that our bodies are very much a part of our nature, just as our souls are. In heaven our bodies will be, for want of a better word, "glorified." What this means is that they will no longer be capable of causing us pain, or of offending God.
I want you to think for a moment. The reason God created any of us, any true children, is because He was infinitely happy, and had to share that happiness with others like Himself and not keep it all to Himself, or He would not be infinitely good. How many of us do you think He will make? If it is good to create true children, when could He stop and say, OK, that is enough children, that is enough goodness?
Never. God is infinitely good. Therefore there are an infinite number of us. That means that the material universe must be infinitely large, with an infinite number of planets of God's children, or it must last for an infinity of time, or both. Imagine all those stories and adventures on all those worlds, for all that time.
That is a lot of missing out on things. But wait—when we die and go to heaven, we will be infinitely happy, and be in our glorified bodies, too. That means that if we want to, we must get the chance to re-live every moment of all the good things that ever happened on every planet that ever had humans living on it, for all time. Quite a show. There is your answer: you will get your chance to see what happens in the year 5000, and the year 500,000, and re-live it all in first person, perfect detail. lt is something to look forward to.
Now remember, this is all just interesting conjecture. But the logic is sound. And God would have to reveal the truth of Christ's sacrifice to all those other people on all those other planets. But then, this would be no different than revealing the truth to all those billions here on earth who could not possibly have known of Christ, like everyone in fourth century India, or everyone who lived before Christ lived. So it would not be a big job for God.
But first, we have to show that we deserve to be His children. We have to be good, by following our conscience. We have to accept God's authority over us. We have to be as kind as possible to all of God's other children that are here with us now, and not hog the happiness of this earth in just the same way that our Father cannot hog the happiness of heaven. In other words, we must be like Him.
YOUR "BANK" ACCOUNT.
How much do you have in your bank account? We don’t mean money, we mean something far more valuable. Treat the good things you do each day—the kindness to a stranger, putting the desires of your spouse ahead of your own, etc.—as deposits in a special account set up with your Creator. Every time you do something selfish or hurtful, deduct one from the account.
See what kind of a nice nest egg you can build up. Nothing can ever take it away or diminish it, and it will be the only thing you will take with you out of this world on the day you die. You will be awfully glad you have it.
A TIME TO THINK
What exactly do we mean when we speak of a past or future event? The past exists only as very imperfect memories: there is nothing real. There is no essential difference between past fact and past fiction, as neither one now exists at all. This is not to say that there is no evidence that the event took place. Applying any standard of proof, we can substantiate that countless events have indeed taken place. But the actual event itself no longer has any reality. “Time travel” is therefore impossible, as intriguing as that idea is.
The future is an even murkier concept, as it is only an extrapolation of our memories of all past events. We can’t even be sure of just what a memory is. Are they just electrical impulses stored in our brain, like in a computer, destined to be erased when we die, like losing data in our computer when the power goes out?
What does that leave as reality? Only the present. The only reality is the instantaneous moment we live in, and therefore all real events are simultaneous. But if the only reality is instantaneous, what do we mean by “time”? Science measures time between two real events. But this means that one of the events is in the past, and so is not real at all any more. Since all real events are simultaneous, there is no such thing as time! So we are rather left standing out in the rain.
The next time (hah!) someone says you are not on time, explain all this to them and see where it gets you!
OUR CHANGING ROLE
One great truth that is itself obvious, but that has many hidden ramifications, is that we are locked into one body at one point of time and in one place. All of our observations and subsequent conclusions are subject to these terrible constraints. But the rest of the world is not limited as we are.
Go outside and look at the trees, the flowers, the animals. Look at the buildings and the roads, and most of all, look at the people. All this and more is the rest of the world. What do we see?
We see the same world that we first saw as a child. Big trees, little trees. Red flowers, yellow flowers. Houses. Roads. And people: old people all bent over and gray, middle aged people of many kinds, teens, children, babies being taken out in a stroller. The same mix that we saw 10 years ago, 20 years ago, forever ago.
Mankind and our environs don't change. But we, as individuals, do. Our role changes. At one time our role was of the little babies that we see now. Then it was time for us to be the children playing in the street. And so on and on until finally we ourselves become the old people that we watched with so much detached awe as children.
It is like asking the question, what time is it on earth? For the planet, the concept of day and night does not exist. Pick any time of the day or night, any position of the sun or moon in the sky, and at some place on earth it will be exactly that time, the sun will be in precisely that position. For earth there is no time of day or night, only a continuous, perhaps eternal, co-existence of both.
Much of the concept of change, both of time and of our own life and surroundings, is only from our individual perspective, or relative to us. Relative to an intelligence that is removed from earth, change happens on a vastly different scale or not at all.
Is this all a glimpse into what we mean when we say that God is eternal and unchanging? Because surely he is not like a statue. He may be eternal and unchanging only from our point of view. Perhaps from his perspective he is constantly changing and evolving, just as we ourselves, and the night and day we live in, constantly change from our own perspective.
What exactly does all this mean? You tell us. What are your thoughts about this?
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