Question 85:

What is your view on evolution theory?


Answer: The Catholic Adult Catechism (published in 1985 by the German Bishops Conference) touches on this question stating on page 93 ff:

If we differentiate between the theological intention behind the creation story and its imagery, which is based on the world view of the writer, then we have a major problem: the relation between creation and evolution. Most representatives of modern science start with the hypothesis that all material being has systematically evolved to higher and higher beings and life-forms until the emergence of mankind; the goal of evolution. According to this, the world would have been created approximately 12 billion years ago, our earth 5-6 billion years ago, the first life would have appeared 3 billion years ago and human life would only have existed for approximately 2 billion years.


How does this view relate to the belief in creation? Of course, we have to reject a materialistic doctrine of development, which assumes that all life, including the life and soul of mankind, has developed from uncreated matter. Most scientists no longer interpret the evolution theory like that. Today, there is an increasing opinion that creation and evolution are the answers to two completely different questions and are therefore answers at different levels. Evolution is an empirical term which answers the question of a horizontal from where and of the sequential appearance of creatures in time and space. Creation, on the other hand, is a theological term and demands an answer to the "vertical" question why and for what purpose. Evolution always assumes that something existed beforehand, something that changes and develops; creation shows why and for which purpose something exists, which can then change and develop.


To combine both views, many theologians now say that: God creates in such a way that the created are empowered to participate in their own development. God makes things make themselves (P. Teilhard de Chardin). In this sense, God did not just create the universe in the beginning and only to then leave creation to develop itself. He continuously ensures the existence of reality and supports and guides it in its becoming. God is therefore the all encompassing creative power which releases and pervades the participation of the created. It is precisely in their creative ability that the creatures are the image of the God of creation. There is thus no fundamental contradiction between belief in creation and evolution theory; on the contrary, both statements answer completely different questions; they are found at different levels and belong to different kinds of knowledge.


Despite this necessary differentiation, science and theology are not speaking of two separate worlds. They speak of one and the same reality which is analyzed from different aspects. Scientists and theologians must therefore not carelessly walk past each other; but they depend on a mutual conversation.


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