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What would Augustine of Hippo have to say about the creationism v. evolution debate?

20 February 2010

Blessed Augustine of Hippo(A.D. 354-430) in his work on The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided some outstanding advice that all Christians should keep in mind when they are trying to understand the relationship of faith to science, or to put it another way, interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge.  



“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]”


2 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 February 2010 10:11 pm

    As Christ said,”Let he who has eye’s to see, let him see, he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Christians who are blind and deaf to the facts in front of them are a danger to the faith.

  2. Random Guy permalink
    7 February 2018 11:25 am

    Creationism is a Protestant concept and it was touted so loudly during the last few centuries it is now accepted as a universal Christian truth. Even many Catholic cardinals believe in it, which is nonsense.

    St Augustine and St Aquinas, on the other hand, teach something else. They distinguish creation, which is an instantaneous act of God outside time, and the manifestation of creation. To create anything God needs no time, because God is not influenced by time. But creature understand God’s creation, its purpose and plan through manifestation of the creation set in motion, and motion is defined with space and time. Only based on such a principle Newton could come later and formulate universal law of motion. Based on Creationism, he could not. So you see, Aquinas makes Newton possible, but Protestantism cannot.

    That is an answer also to an apparent contradiction about whether the universe is eternal or it has a beginning, which Aquinas solved by stating those two claims are in no contradiction.
    So, you see, only in climates that have rejected Catholicism’s solid thinking, ideas like the evolution (which was post-Enlightenment reaction to Protestant Creationism) could take place. Protestant heresy and greed for money have brought us many ills, including that of the intellect

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