Special Creation

by Hugh Owen

The Inerrant Word of God, as understood by all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching, tells us that God created all of the different kinds of living organisms, by fiat, at the beginning of time. It also tells us that when God had finished creating our first parents, Adam and Eve, He stopped creating new kinds of creatures, because He had created a perfectly beautiful, complete and harmonious universe for us, in a condition which St. Thomas Aquinas calls “the first perfection of the universe.”[1]  Thus, when and how God created the various kinds of living organisms, from which all of the living organisms on Earth today are descended, is not something that can be determined by extrapolation from the present order of nature, since that order of nature did not begin to operate with relative autonomy until the whole work of creation was finished.  We can only know when and how God created the world from His revelation of what He did when there were no other witnesses.

Many present-day Catholics think it “naïve,” “anti-science,” or even a form of “fundamentalism” to answer questions about origins by appealing to Genesis and traditional Catholic teachings. Given this common view, it is important—however briefly—to reflect on the reason for this “modern” position and to ask if it is justified. Historically speaking, the cause of the departure from traditional Catholic teachings on origins is clear.  By the start of the twentieth century, many Catholic theologians had departed from the traditional interpretation of Genesis based on the belief that the Earth is millions of years old and that Darwin had somehow proved the evolution of living organisms over eons of time as demonstrated, for example, by the “fossil record.”  These same theologians had little choice but to demote Genesis to the category of legend, allegory, or myth.

In reality—as will be documented in this and subsequent articles in this series—Darwinism is in a state of collapse from a scientific perspective, as is big bang cosmology and the geological gradualism of Charles Lyell and his disciples.  Catholics willing to study the collapse of Darwinian claims will soon realize that—to reference the great principle of St. Augustine, quoted by Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus—neither “reason” nor “necessity” ever required the Church to depart from the straightforward and obvious sense of Sacred Scripture regarding origins.  In the face of the catastrophic consequences of abandoning this teaching, especially the mass exodus of young Catholics out of the Church, and the spread of a global evolution-based anti-culture of death, all Catholics of goodwill should recognize the urgent need to return to the traditional doctrine of creation.

Sources of Authoritative Teaching

God’s Revelation is contained in the 73 books of the inspired, inerrant Word of God and in Sacred Tradition.  It is infallibly interpreted through the authoritative teaching of St. Peter and the Apostles and their successors, in the unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers and approved Theologians, and in the liturgical prayers and other official expressions of the Faith in the approved rites of the Catholic Church, according to the principle “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.”  According to all of these sources of truth, the entire universe and all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures were created from nothing by God less than ten thousand years ago.  After the entire universe was created, the natural order of Providence began, in which all of the different kinds of living organisms operated according to their particular natures within the framework of the natural laws that God established in the beginning.

What is Creation?

Dogmatic theologian Fr. Peter Fehlner beautifully sums up the Church’s teaching on creation as it has been elaborated by Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Magisterial teaching:

All that exists other than God, the invisible world of angels as well as the visible world of matter, came to be originally, neither by an emanation from the divine substance, nor by development or evolution entailing natural processes of pre-existing agents not divine, but came to be out of nothing by an act of the divine will.[2]

The supernatural creative work of God in the beginning of time brought all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures into existence:

Not only did this creative act give existence to the world; it provided the world order and intelligibility, and this in two ways:

by constituting the essences or species of the natural agents acting within the world, and

by establishing certain patterns, rhythms, and laws according to which these natures act on or are acted on by each other.[3]

God the Creator and Principal Cause

In the traditional creation theology of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers, God as Creator is the sole principal cause bringing into existence the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures, and man:

The principal cause is the agent directly responsible for the specific effect produced, and is contrasted with instrumental cause, the agent responsible only in a subordinate way . . . When a creature acts as principal cause of some effect, God is also involved as the primary Cause conserving and concurring with that action. When, however, God is said to be Creator, He and He alone is the principal Cause. When He is said to work a miracle, He may or may not utilize an instrumental cause, He may or may not act on pre-existing creatures. Although in some cases a miracle may appear to be like a natural process, it is in fact not a natural process at all, because the principal Agent is not a natural agent, and therefore, the process is not uniform or measurable in those terms . . .  In the work of creation, the six days of Genesis, the Church has always understood God to be the principal Agent . . .[4]

In the teaching of the Fathers and Doctors, the overwhelming majority interpreted the days of Genesis 1 as six 24-hour days, the Hexameron, while St. Augustine proposed an instantaneous creation of all things at the beginning of time.  All agreed that the creation of all of the different kinds of living organisms took place through the direct supernatural action of God in the beginning:

On the particular point of the literal or merely figurative interpretation of the six days, St. Bonaventure acknowledges that the Church has never condemned St. Augustine’s view, creation of all as it were in a day. But what St. Bonaventure notes in opting for the literal interpretation of day in the first chapter of Genesis has been commonly overlooked in modern times. The ratio seminalis of St. Augustine is the equivalent of essence, not embryo. It is the same when the world began to operate on its own as it is now. Only God can make it, change it, annihilate it. And thus how long it actually took God to make these species, only God can answer, because no one else was there to observe. It might have taken a day, or 200 days, etc., says Bonaventure, but the only evidence we have is what God has told us. For Bonaventure, the philosophical and epistemological points Augustine wishes to defend can be made just as well or better by holding for six days of twenty-four hours; and for Bonaventure there is no other convincing evidence pointing to a merely figurative meaning. Finally the choice of six days by God to complete His work of creation provides a solid objective basis for the subsequent rhythms of history. The structure of the seven-day week, of the lunar and solar year, all provide a very exact, regular, intelligible backdrop for the unfolding of the divine plan of salvation.[5]

Thus, according to all of the Fathers, the Hexameron is in a class by itself, as the period when God created the different kinds of creatures and established the laws of nature.

Sacred Scripture on the Six Days of Creation

The Scriptural evidence for the fiat creation of all things at the beginning of time could easily take up thousands of words.  We will confine ourselves to a few of the most powerful Scriptural testimonies, beginning with the ones committed to writing by God Himself in the Ten Commandments.  Moses tells us in the Book of Exodus that God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and explained why the Hebrews were to work for six days but to “rest” on the seventh day of the week:

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and in the seventh he ceased from work.  Exodus 31:17

This commandment established a one to one correspondence between the days of Genesis 1 in which God created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh and the days of the week in which the Hebrews were to labor for six days and rest on the seventh day. God’s “rest” after creating Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation signified that the work of creation was complete and that He stopped creating new kinds of creatures.  From that point forward creatures reproduced “after their kind” but no new kind of creature came into existence through divine creation.[6]  All of the different kinds of living organisms existed together on the seventh day of creation, each one perfect according to its nature, and all subordinated to Adam and Eve, who were created in a state of exalted holiness, in union with the Will of God.

“Scoffers Will Arise”

One of the most remarkable prophecies in the entire Bible can be found in the second letter of St. Peter, the first Pope.  St. Peter predicted that “in the latter days”—a future time—“scoffers” would arise who would deny God’s supernatural creative action “in the beginning of creation” and at the time of the Noahic Flood, thus casting doubt on His sovereign intervention in the future at the Second Coming of Christ:

Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. (2 Peter 3:3-7) (emphasis added).

St. Peter foresaw that the scoffers would predicate their denials on the stability of the natural order “from the beginning of creation,” thus denying the creation of all things by the Word of God and the destruction of the first created world by Noah’s Flood. Indeed, just as St. Peter had foretold, “uniformitarianism” became the guiding principle of Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, and other naturalistic evolutionists who argued that natural scientists could extrapolate from present-day material processes in the order of providence all the way back to the beginning of creation.

These thinkers implicitly contradicted the unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers who held, with St. Paul, that “all God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3)—after the creation of Adam and Eve—and that God created all of the different kinds of creatures, including man, by a supernatural divine action, in six natural days (the majority view) or in an instant (the Augustinian minority view).  Indeed, St. Peter’s primary point in the third chapter of his second epistle is that creation—like the Second Coming—is a supernatural divine action which “scoffers” will try to reduce to a natural process:

St. Peter simply denies the truth of the assumption made by the skeptic . . .  The uniformity we presently observe in the world is not absolute and provides no basis for extrapolating into the past or into the future without limit and without taking account of God’s power to modify the form of the world and the order prevailing among the actions of creatures. In fact, the Creator has modified that order at least once since completing His original creative work. He did this at the time of the universal flood, and will do so again by fire at the time of Christ’s coming in glory. The basis for this relative uniformity of the laws of nature is to be located in the difference between a creative-miraculous act and one merely natural. Neither the original existence of the world, nor the constitution of its original order can be explained in terms of merely natural activity by extrapolating from the nature of that activity presently observed.[7]

Original Sin and the “Bondage to Decay”

According to the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation, God created all of the different kinds of creatures, including man, by fiat, at the beginning of time, each one perfect according to its nature, but the Original Sin of our first father Adam subjected man and the universe to a “bondage to decay” that will continue until the “new heavens and the new earth” at the end of time (cf. Romans 8).  Thus, the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation provided an ideal framework for scientific research—one that recognized the existence of a lawful universe of well-designed creatures, marred (but not ruined) by the effects of Original Sin, whose function (but not their origin) can be discovered through rational investigation.  Natural scientists operating within this framework presumed stable form and function throughout the biosphere and were free to focus on the natures of living things and on their relationships with other living things without wasting time, energy and other resources on unwarranted extrapolation and fruitless speculation about how they came to be.[8]

This framework of Creation, Providence and Fall also perfectly harmonizes with the universe we observe.  On the one hand, we see living organisms of astounding beauty and complexity, far surpassing the ingenuity of any human artist or engineer.  On the other hand, we see matter moving from order to disorder throughout the cosmos, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics; and we see living organisms breaking down, dying and passing on genetic mutations to their offspring, thus steadily eroding the original genomic architecture of each kind of organism.  To explain the origin of the different kinds of living organisms in terms of the material processes we observe in the order of providence would be like trying to explain the origin of a computer by studying its operating system—when the manufacture of the computer with its operating system involves a totally different process from the design and operation of the operating system.

The traditional Creation-Providence Framework also accords perfectly with the unity of all living organisms within Earth’s biosphere.  The creation of all things at the beginning of time explains why there have always been insects to pollinate flowers and food crops to sustain animals and human beings, but also to serve as food for birds. If these different kinds of living organisms had not existed together from the beginning, it would have been impossible for human beings to survive, much less thrive, on the Earth.

Conciliar Teaching on Creation

In 1215, Pope Innocent III convened the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and greeted the Council Fathers by reminding them that God had created all of the different kinds of corporeal and spiritual creatures in “six days” in contradiction to the Albigensian-Catharist heretics who held that God had not specially created the different kinds of corporeal creatures.[9]  The Council then approved the most important dogmatic decree on creation in the history of the Catholic Church, the firmiter, which defined de fide that:

God…creator of all visible and invisible things of the spiritual and of the corporal who by his own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual and corporal namely angelic and mundane and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body.

For 600 years, according to the foremost Catholic Doctors and commentators on this dogmatic decree, the words “at once from the beginning” signified that God created all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures and angels “simul” (“at once”).  Among the commentators who taught that Lateran IV had defined the relative simultaneity of the creation of all things, perhaps the most authoritative was St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619), the last Doctor of the Church to write a detailed commentary on Genesis.  In his commentary, St. Lawrence explained why the opinion of some Fathers that the angels might have existed for some time in a kind of twilight zone between time and eternity prior to the creation of the material universe was no longer tenable for Catholics, because, he explained:

the Holy Roman Church determined in the Fourth Lateran Council that the angels along with the creatures of the world were at once created ex nihilo from the beginning of time.[10]

It was only at the end of the nineteenth century that Catholic theologians began to look for a way to depart from the traditional interpretation of the Firmiter espoused by St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Francisco Suarez, Cornelius a Lapide et al, on the grounds that natural science had produced irrefutable evidence that the earth was millions of years old and that the evolution of the various kinds of living organisms over long periods of time was irrefutably recorded in the “fossil record.”  The acceptance of these false claims persuaded a growing number of Catholic intellectuals that the origins of man and the universe was a legitimate subject for natural scientists and that the natural scientists could therefore dictate to the theologians how best to interpret the first chapters of the book of Genesis.

In reality, natural science in the field of genetics, paleontology, sedimentology and other disciplines has confirmed that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church were correct in their unanimous view that the sequence and timing of the origins of the different kinds of living things is exclusively a subject for historical theology and not for natural science.  In this reply we will mention only the monumental work of plant geneticist Dr. John Sanford whose masterpiece Genetic Entropy demonstrates from peer-reviewed journals in genetics that mutations destroy or degrade genomes, that there are no examples of “beneficial mutations” that produce new functional genetic information, and that the entire biosphere is characterized not by evolution but by devolution from a higher level of organization and functionality to a lower level of organization and functionality.  Moreover, genetics confirms the testimony of the Word of God as understood in the Church from the beginning, that all human beings are descended from one man (“Y-chromosome Adam”) and one woman (“Mitochondrial Eve”) who were created in a state of genetic perfection less than ten thousand years ago.[11]

Pope St. Pius V and the Roman Catechism

Three hundred and fifty years after the Fourth Lateran Council, one of the great reformers of the Church, Pope St. Pius V, promulgated the Roman Catechism in 1566 to all the bishops with instructions to have it translated and made available to everyone responsible for religious instruction.  The writing of the Roman Catechism was presided over by a canonized saint, St. Charles Borromeo, and the work has received the approval of more Popes and canonized saints than any catechism in the history of the Catholic Church. Pope Clement XIII said that it contains “that teaching which is the common doctrine of the Church, from which all danger of doctrinal error is absent”; Pope Leo XIII spoke of it as a “precious summary of all theology, both dogmatic and moral”; and Pope St. Pius X ordered that pastors should preach to the people out of the Roman Catechism during his pontificate.

What, then, did this “precious summary of all theology” teach about creation?

In the first place, the Catechism affirmed the creation of all things by divine fiat in the beginning:

the Divinity ­­ created all things in the beginning. He spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created.

Thus, according to this “precious summary of all theology,” God created all of the creatures of the earth by His word, instantly and immediately.  During the six days, He made, specifically, trees, “every variety of plant and flower,” the heavenly bodies, air creatures and water creatures and land animals.   There was no evolution and no long interval of time.  According to the Roman Catechism, the plain sense of the sacred history of Genesis is so sure a guide to the truth of the creation and early history of the world and of man that the pastor who reads “the sacred history of Genesis” can “easily” make himself familiar with the facts.  The Catechism goes on to affirm that God finished the work of creation with the creation of Adam and Eve:

the seventh day was called the Sabbath, because God, having finished the creation of the world, rested on that day from all the work which He had done. Thus it is called by the Lord in Exodus.

Note that God had finished the creation of the world specifically on the sixth day. The Catechism goes on to explain that:

the Church of God has thought it well to transfer the celebration . . . of the Sabbath to Sunday.

For, as on that day light first shone on the world, so by the Resurrection of our Redeemer on the same day . . . we were called out of darkness into light; and hence the Apostles would have it called the Lord’s day.

We also learn from the Sacred Scriptures that the first day of the week was held sacred because on that day the work of creation commenced, and on that day the Holy Ghost was given to the Apostles.

In summary, this Catechism “from which all danger of doctrinal error is absent,” and which has been extolled by St. Pius V, St. Pius X and so many other Popes for four centuries, teaches that God made the heavens and the earth and all they contain in six days and rested from the work of creation on the seventh day.

Blessed Pope Pius IX and Vatican I

Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859 during the pontificate of Blessed Pope Pius IX.  As noted by Darwin’s most successful propagandist, the German anatomist Ernst Haeckel, Blessed Pius IX firmly rejected Darwin’s microbe-to-man hypothesis as “a tissue of fables,” and convened the First Vatican Council to defend the truths of the Faith that were being challenged by the errors of the sons of the so-called Enlightenment.  The Council Fathers reaffirmed verbatim the Firmiter of Lateran IV and added an important decree on Revelation which specifically reaffirmed the creation of mankind at the beginning of time.  Chapter 2, “On Revelation” states:

The same holy mother church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason: ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (emphasis added).

With this decree, the Council upheld the constant teaching of the Fathers, Doctors and Popes that man had existed on Earth “since the creation of the world,” and had been able to know the Creator through His works from “the beginning of time.” In his dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, Blessed Pope Pius IX had already reaffirmed this teaching, writing in Ineffabilis deus:

[A]t the beginning of the world, the Almighty, announcing the remedies of his mercy, prepared for regenerating mankind, crushed the audacity of the lying Serpent, and wonderfully raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will place enmity between thee and the woman, thy seed and hers” . . . (emphasis added).[12]

Pope Leo XIII

Faced with the Darwinian revolution against the Church’s teaching on origins, Blessed Pope Pius IX’s successor Pope Leo XIII continued to defend the traditional teaching and published an encyclical on holy matrimony in which he specifically upheld the Church’s constant teaching on the special Creation of Adam on the sixth day of creation:

Though revilers of the Christian faith refuse to acknowledge the never-interrupted doctrine of the Church on this subject, and have long striven to destroy the testimony of all nations and of all times, they have nevertheless failed . . . We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep (Arcanum, paragraph 5).

Pope St. Pius X

While many leading Catholic intellectuals in theology, philosophy and the natural sciences embraced evolution, St. Pius X recognized the grave threat that the new evolutionary pseudoscience posed to the foundations of the Catholic Faith.  In I Moderni in 1907, St. Pius X condemned with the full authority of his office the proposition that “the progress of the sciences demands that the concept of Catholic doctrine about . . . creation be recast.”  Since it is impossible to reconcile evolution or long ages with the Catholic Faith without “recasting” the doctrine of creation, in effect, this anathema made it impossible for the Church ever to embrace these errors.  In 1907, St. Pius X made the Pontifical Biblical Commission an arm of the Magisterium to counteract the modernist trend in Scriptural exegesis.  In 1909, the PBC decrees upheld the historical truth of Genesis, the creation of “all things” by God in “the beginning of time,” the special creation of Adam and the creation of Eve from Adam’s side.  St. Pius X also exhorted pastors to preach from the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent which clearly taught the fiat creation of all things and the special creation of man.

Pope Pius XII

By 1950, the number of Catholic intellectuals who had accepted evolution had reached such proportions that Pope Pius XII had to address the topic of human origins in an encyclical.  The encyclical Humani generis defended unlimited Scriptural inerrancy and the traditional literal historical understanding of Genesis.  The only opening that Pope Pius XII gave to the evolutionary hypothesis was to exhort Catholic scholars to examine the evidence for and against the hypothesis of human evolution.  From that day until this, this “permission” to discuss evolution has been widely touted as “approval” of the evolutionary hypothesis.  But it was nothing of the kind.  “Permission” to discuss the evidence for evolution no more signaled papal “approval” of that hypothesis than Pope Paul VI’s “permission” to the Birth Control Commission to discuss contraception signaled “approval” of birth control.

The Unanimous Verdict of Sacred Tradition and Authoritative Magisterial Teaching

The entire liturgical tradition of the Church confirms the patristic, conciliar, and Magisterial teaching that God created all of the different kinds of living organisms by fiat at the beginning of time.  According to the principle of “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” the unanimous teaching of the liturgical traditions of the Church that God created all things by fiat in the beginning constitutes yet another infallible stamp of approval upon this teaching.[13]  It should now be clear that the fiat creation of all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures at the beginning of time is not what we “think” happened.  It is what God Himself revealed about how He created the world, as that revelation was understood in His Church from the beginning.

[1] ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, ST, I, q. 73, a. 1.

[2] FR. PETER DAMIAN FEHLNER, In the Beginning.

[3] IBID.

[4] IBID.

[5] IBID.

[6] In the language of genetics, God programmed the genomes of the original organisms so that they could adapt to changing environments, but only within the limits imposed by the original genome.  Hence, there is only one human race of mankind, comprised of the descendants of Adam and Eve.

[7] FEHLNER, op. cit.

[8] Cf. “The Negative Impact of the Evolutionary Hypothesis on Scientific Research” in Evolution Theory and the Sciences: A Critical Examination (Bierbronnen, Germany: Gustav Siewerth Akademie, 2012), pp. 441-464. This paper shows how the abandonment of the Creation-Providence framework and its focus on studying the form, function and inter-relationships of organisms and their parts severely retarded scientific progress in regard to the understanding of the appendix, the tonsils, human embryonic development and so-called “junk DNA.”

[9] POPE INNOCENT III, Between God and Man: Six Sermons on the Priestly Office (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2004), p. 61.

[10] ST. LAWRENCE OF BRINDISI, Commentary on Genesis 1-3 (Mt. Jackson, VA: Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009), p. 18.

[11] Cf. JOHN SANFORD, “God, Family and Genetics” in “The Two Shall Become One”: The Creation of Adam and Eve as the Foundation of the Church’s Teaching on Holy Marriage (Rome: Human Life International, 2015), pp. 68-103.

[12] Blessed Pope IX, Ineffabilis Deus.

[13] For example, in his Commentary on Genesis, St. Lawrence of Brindisi cites the prayers of Vespers for Wednesday to clinch his argument that the sun was literally created on the fourth day of creation week, and not merely fashioned into its present form on Day Four from the light that God had created on Day One:

Some think that it is the Sun itself that ought to be understood here . . .  However, Holy Writ indeed denies this assertion, [for the Bible] says that the Sun itself was created on the fourth day. The Church also confesses such, saying in the Vespers hymn for Wednesdays:

Thou, on the fourth day establishing

The fiery wheel of the Sun…