Pope endorses Big Bang, evolution theories, describes God's role as a helper in creation

by Will Hall, |
Pope Francis speaks as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic palace in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi

VATICAN (Christian Examiner) – Pope Francis has proposed God was active in creation, but as a sort of helper who gave internal laws to created beings "and let them develop."

The suggestion contradicts centuries of doctrinal teachings about God's specific activity in the six days of creation recorded in Genesis. But while endorsing the ideas of the Big Bang and evolution he was clear to say God was the origin for all things.

The Pope made his remarks while addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, Oct. 27.

God gave autonomy to the beings of the universe, but at the same time assured them of His presence, "giving being to all reality," he told attendees who had gathered to discuss, "Evolving Concepts of Nature."

Describing the act of creation as ongoing for "millennia and millennia until it became what we know today," he still emphasized God is not a creator or a wizard, but "the Creator who gives being to all entities."

"The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love."

"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world does not contradict the intervention of the divine Creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

Perhaps the most controversial part of the Pope's talk was not his endorsement of the two scientific theories. Other Pontiffs before him have eased toward these same ideas. But he used the awkward imagery of a magician with a magic wand to press his point, and left confusing implications hanging about the power to do all things.

"When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.

There is no indication the Pope's endorsement of the Big Bang and evolution will elicit a conservative pushback similar in reaction to the language in a midterm report issued earlier this month from the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

The preliminary document released Oct. 13, seemed to indicate the bishops would welcome same-sex couples and also appeared to soften official stances on other social issues. Catholic conservatives objected, saying the report misrepresented the discussions. Subsequently, the final account published Oct. 18 was markedly different in tone, calling homosexuality one of the "problems" Catholic families have to confront and confirming marriage as only between a man and a woman.