Biblical Chronology, Evolution and the Big Bang

Peter Wilders

God paid such importance to the account of creation He decided it should precede all else in Holy Scripture and made it the opening book of the Bible. Yet, our leading theologians today have felt it necessary to defer to science and give the account a new meaning, quite different to that taught by Christ to his apostles and handed on by tradition.  No defiance was intended but the fact remains that the Creator’s Will seems to have been thwarted. In this light the consequent down-hill path of the Church over the last several generations is not only explained but, with no turning back by the theologians, could not be avoided.

Before going on the reader should be alerted to the fact that the concept of multi-million year ages of sedimentary rocks and the fossils they contain has been invalidated by experiments, peer-reviewed by the geological profession. The results were published in the French geological journal in 1993[1] and more recently in the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Geology journal Lithological and Mineral Resources (in 2002 and 2004). The experiments demonstrate that the principles of geology used to determine the geological time-scale were incorrectly formulated. The geological formations to which these experiments have been applied show they were produced not slowly over millions of years, but in a very short period of time.[2]

According to the conventional wisdom in the Catholic Church today, God created matter at the moment of the Big Bang roughly 15 billion years ago, initiating a process of cosmic evolution whereby stars evolved and the earth eventually came into existence roughly 4 and a half billion years ago.  After the earth cooled, God used natural processes over hundreds of millions of years to produce all of the different kinds of living things, including man—although man’s soul was specially created and infused into a body which had evolved from lower forms of life.  According to this scenario, the first man, Adam, emerged from his long evolutionary ascent roughly one million years ago, separated by long ages of pre-history from Abraham and the historical events recorded in chapters 12-50 of the Book of Genesis.     

For almost 1900 years the Catholic Church believed and taught a very different version of human history.  Indeed, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Catholic Church down through the centuries taught that creation of the entire universe, including the earth and the first two human beings, took place during a very brief period—either an instant or six natural days—and that the elapsed time between Adam and Eve to Jesus Christ spanned only a few thousand years.  Without exception, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church believed and taught that the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis contained an accurate account of creation and the early history of man from Adam to Abraham.  This understanding of Genesis shaped their understanding of God and of the work of God in creation, redemption and sanctification.  It also provided the framework within which they understood themselves—and their relationship to the past, the present, and the future. 

This article will briefly examine the authoritative teachings of the Church on the age of the earth and the length of human history, evaluate the new ideas that challenged and obscured those teachings during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and demonstrate the importance of restoring those teachings to their rightful place at the heart of Catholic theology and spirituality.  To accomplish this plan the article will briefly consider the Catholic doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, the history of the interpretation of Genesis from Old Testament times through the patristic era, and relevant magisterial teachings.  It will then consider modern challenges to this traditional interpretation of Genesis—challenges that arose out of a failure to subordinate the unproven theories of natural scientists to the constant principles of Catholic philosophy and the traditional doctrines of the Catholic Faith—and will answer them in the light of traditional Catholic doctrine and the discoveries of modern empirical science.  Finally, the article will reflect on the inter-relationship between our understanding of the span of human history and our relationship with God.  This in turn will enable us to understand why the restoration of the traditional interpretation of Genesis holds a key to the restoration of the Church and the fostering of a new and deeper intimacy between God and man.

The Fathers of the Church on Genesis

Both the Council of Trent and Vatican Council I taught that no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture “contrary to the unanimous agreement of the Fathers.”[3]

The early Fathers of the Church found a complete catechesis on creation and man’s early history in the words of Christ by interpreting his words according to their literal and obvious meaning—except in those places where it would be absurd to do so (e.g. “I am the sheep gate” (John 10:7).  From his words, they knew and taught that God made human beings male and female “from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6).  They also knew and taught that the events in the book of Genesis actually took place.  These events included the creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4), the righteous life and death of Abel (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51), and Noah’s Flood, which Christ said killed “all” but Noah’s immediate family (Luke 17:27).  Moreover, from the genealogies contained in the Gospels (Luke 3:23-38), the Fathers knew and taught that the Scriptures contained a factual record of the ancestry of Jesus. 

On the strength of the infallible words of Scripture, the early Fathers—including even those of the Alexandrian School—knew and taught that God created all things out of nothing, that He formed Adam’s body from inert matter and Eve’s body from Adam’s, and that the subsequent events recorded in Genesis actually took place.[4]  Moreover, even the allegorically-minded Alexandrians agreed that the universe was no more than 10,000 years old.  In doing so, Christian intellectuals like St. Basil of Caesarea defied the respected wisdom of many of the Greek and Roman intelligentsia who believed in an ancient earth. For example, St. Augustine, commenting on this topic in the City of God, wrote:

They [pagans] are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents that profess to give the history of [man as] many thousands of years, though reckoning by the sacred writings we find that not 6,000 years have yet passed (St. Augustine, City of God., 12:10).

And St. Theophilus of Antioch wrote in a similar vein:

If even a chronological error has been committed by us, for example, of fifty or 100 or even 200 years, yet [there have] not [been] the thousands and tens of thousands, as Plato and Apollonius and other mendacious authors have hitherto written (To Autolycus 3:28-29 [A.D. 181]).

The Councils of the Roman Catholic Church

Besides the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, which professed belief in “God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible,” the Roman Catholic Church recognizes several Councils after the separation between Rome and Constantinople in 1054, which further defined the doctrine of creation.  The key dogma on creation was given by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.  Being an authoritative magisterial de fide catholica teaching Catholics are bound to accept it in all its parts.  Elaborating on the doctrine on creation defined by the Nicene Fathers, the fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 taught that God is: “creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal, who by His own omnipotent power at once (‘simul’) 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.

“Simul” was one of the key words used by the Lateran IV Council fathers, who, of course, spoke Latin on an everyday basis.  Although it can be translated several ways, as for instance into English as “all together,” “at once” or “at the same time,” all of these translations express the idea of simultaneity and give rise to no ambiguity. In the Lateran IV text, “simul” had this normal Latin meaning. The CCC translation of simul as “all together” and the Denzinger translation as “at once” both give the meaning of all things being created virtually at the same time, a meaning perfectly consistent with a single short creation period of six days during which all things came into being, but irreconcilable with creation over millions of years. (In this evolutionary age it is often overlooked that the very meaning of the term “creation” leaves no room for evolution.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, creatio: productio rei ex nihilo sui et subjecti, means “creation is the production of a thing out of nothing, both form and matter.”  It is a contradiction in terms, therefore, to speak—as so many do nowadays—of God “creating through evolution.”)

The Council’s use of the word “finally” (translating the Latin “deinde”) indicates that the convenor of the Council, Pope Innocent III, and the rest of the Council Fathers refused to embrace the Augustinian idea of instantaneous creation while still locating the creation of man “in the beginning.” This last point can be illustrated by a letter of Pope Innocent III himself in 1201 in which he stated that “in the beginning one rib was changed into one woman” (Denz, 408).[5]  If the creation of man and woman was “in the beginning,” this can only have been on the sixth natural day.  This is because the only alternative to six natural days of creation ever entertained by any of the Fathers was St. Augustine’s idea of instantaneous creation of all created essences.  Since the Fathers of Lateran IV taught that the first human beings were created “finally” (deinde), after all other creatures and Innocent taught that Eve was created “in the beginning,” this phrase can only refer to the entire creation week—the six natural days of Genesis 1. 

Properly expounded, the Lateran IV statement on creation excludes any possible notion of evolution.  This became apparent at the Council of Trent, when the Council Fathers appointed a committee of theologians to write a catechism for pastors to explain the dogmatic teachings of the Church contained in the Creed.  According to the official introduction to the Council of Trent Catechism:

The Fathers deemed it of the first importance that a work should appear, sanctioned by the authority of the Council, from which pastors and all others on whom the duty of imparting instruction devolves, may be able to seek and find…one standard and prescribed form of propounding the dogmas of faith.

Lateran IV states that God was: “creator of all visible and invisible things…from nothing…from the beginning of time…”  The Nicene Creed affirms that God was: “creator of heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible” Authoritatively interpreting the first article of the Nicene Creed, from which much of the language used in the Lateran IV definition of creation had been drawn, the Catechism of the Council of Trent taught that:

The Divinity created all things in the beginning.  He spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created… [In the phrase “Creator of heaven and earth,” the words] “heaven and earth” include all things which the heavens and the earth contain; for besides the heavens, which the Prophet has called the works of his fingers, He also gave to the sun its brilliancy, and to the moon and stars their beauty; and that they might be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. He so ordered the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course, that nothing varies more than their continual revolution, while nothing is more fixed than their variety.

In this way the Council Fathers made clear that the order of the celestial bodies was instituted by God from the beginning.  There was no hint in their interpretation of the Creed of any “evolution” of stars, of planets, or of the earth. 

The earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world, rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth, He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth. He next not only clothed and adorned it with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.

With these words the Fathers of the Council of Trent demonstrated their understanding that the Creed (and the Lateran IV Council dogma which used similar language) taught that God created all of the different kinds of earth’s creatures by his word, instantly and immediately. During six days, He made, specifically, trees, “every variety of plant and flower,” air creatures, water creatures, land animals—and, finally, man.  The dogmatic teaching of Lateran IV and the many other magisterial teachings on the creation of man and woman enabled Pope Leo XIII to declare to the bishops of the Catholic Church in his 1880 encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae:

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 not only to quench the powerful light of truth, but even to lessen it. 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.

By using the words “never interrupted doctrine” and “what is known and cannot be doubted by any,” Pope Leo underscored his intention to pronounce an authoritative teaching.  According to that teaching, the first man and the first woman were both created on the sixth day of creation week.

The Geological-Theological Revolution

For almost 1800 years, no serious challenge was offered to the patristic and magisterial consensus on the interpretation of Genesis.  In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, however, a number of natural scientists claimed to discover “irrefutable evidence” that contradicted the literal sense of Genesis on several points.  The most important of these claims were made by geologists whose postulates violated certain fundamental rules of science. 

In any scientific discipline the fundamental physical laws of nature must be respected.  A law is considered to be a law so long as there are no known exceptions to it in normal conditions.  Examples include the first and second laws of thermodynamics, the law of conservation of energy and the law of entropy.  Respect for these laws insures that the framework within which research is undertaken is anchored by laws accepted by the scientific community.

Unfortunately, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries researchers in geology and stratigraphy abandoned these basic constraints and proposed revolutionary theories on the basis of unproven principles. The false principles of stratigraphy first arose in the seventeenth century when, Scandinavian clergyman and naturalist Nicolas Steno interpreted his observations of geological formations and published them in Canis Calchariae (1667). Up until that time, and for many years after, the idea that Steno’s principles could be taken to indicate long periods of time were necessary to form stratified rock was not recognized. The idea of sedimentary rock being exceedingly old came in later. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries geology was not the structured discipline in universities it is today. James Hutton (1726-1797) although leaning towards uniformitarianism and long ages, promoted catastrophism as the main explanation of rock formations.

Hutton and subsequent geologists were already applying Nicolas Stenos’ principles to ascertain the age of rocks. The basic principles were superposition and continuity. Not having the sophisticated hydraulic laboratory equipment and research facilities for experimentation available today, these 17th century principles were formulated on purely field observation. Yet despite the fact they have never been tested by experiment, they are still used as the tools of geology to this day. Other principles were added by later geologists, but they were really variations on Steno’s main theme of superposition and continuity of strata. For instance, the principle of paleontological identity mentioned later, used to interpret the fossil record and develop a theory of evolution.

The principle of superposition is uncomplicated and apparently so logical that for a long time most geologists never thought to put it in doubt. Steno, like geologists who succeeded him, considered that particles of sediment in rivers, lakes or seas deposited at the bottom of the water and formed a layer.  Once that layer had hardened sufficiently, a further layer deposited on top. This process, it was assumed, would continue all the time there was water and sediment. After all, the water could dry up, and sediment sources cease preventing further layers from forming. Steno, looking at the massive geological formations around the earth came to the conclusion that, provided there was no physical obstruction to stop a layer or strata forming, the layer would girdle the earth

By looking at the particles of sediment in any particular sequence of layers, he deduced that similar sedimentary particles would be depositing at the same time all along the layer. He concluded from this that any point in the same layer would have the same age, and it was this reasoning which led to his principle of continuity of the layer.

During the late nineteenth century, speculation amongst paleontologists regarding the time necessary for large changes in species to take place led to a demand for a dating method. A geological time-scale was formulated on two basic assumptions. The first was that the rate of sedimentary deposit was, on average, uniform over time. The second was that the time needed for a single-celled organism to evolve into a complex multi-celled biological unit, such as a human being, would take many millions of years. Using the rate of sedimentation at the time the scale was constructed, which is the same rate today, 150 years later, and applying  the principles of stratification, mentioned earlier, to all the earth’s sedimentary rocks, they realised that there would not be enough time for macro-evolution. So a time-scale had to be devised so that the sequences of strata corresponded with the biological evolution proposed by the paleontologists. Those strata that were empty of fossils would be considered as having deposited first and would therefore be oldest.  Those containing simple invertebrate fossils would feature next on the scale, and those with vertebrate fossils would follow. Marine fossils would precede terrestrial fossils on the evolutionary scale thus providing a continuum of primitive life through to homo sapiens. Where the strata provided insufficient time for the postulated evolution to take place, it was assumed that the conditions producing strata had stopped, and only started again thousands or millions of years later. A proposed cause for this interruption in stratification was that the ocean under which strata were forming, had retreated or dried up completely.

This scenario would be perfectly feasible if Steno’s principles had not left out one important detail, the effect of moving water upon sedimentary particles. The catastrophic relevance of this omission to the science of stratigraphy (and indirectly to the theology of the Catholic Church) was demonstrated by Guy Berthault’s recent experiments in a laboratory flume with re-circulating water in the Colorado State University.  The results were published in 1993 in the journal of the French Geological Society, and more recently in the Russian Academy of sciences journal Lithological and Mineral Resources (2002 and 2004).

In his experiments Berthault used a pump to create a current in a re-circulating flume and fed particles of sediment into the moving water.  These were shown to deposit according to the velocity of the current: above a certain velocity all the particles were transported without any of them being deposited. When the current slowed, the largest particles started to deposit. They formed a layer, whilst the smaller ones continued to be carried by the water.  A further reduction in current velocity caused smaller particles to deposit, and so on. This meant that the smaller particles were forming a layer on top of the layer composed of larger ones. It showed that the particles sorted into strata not over time but according to size. There was no chronology between strata. An increase in the velocity of current would cause some of the particles already deposited to be eroded and re-transported by the moving water. So the superposition principle of all the sedimentary particles, irrespective of size, being deposited in a single layer, hardening and then another layer superposing on top, was shown not to occur when there was a water current. It must be recalled that in oceans and seas, where the vast majority of the sedimentary strata were originally formed, there are always water currents. Not taking them into account was thus shown to have led to over three centuries of geological confusion, and to the creation of the science of stratigraphy based upon invalid principles. 

It now appears that the entire geologic column was developed on the unfounded superposition principle that layers form in succession, one on top of the other and that by adding together the time taken to form each layer, and leaving gaps for oceans to empty and re-fill, the sedimentary rocks on earth would have taken 500 million years or so to form. The significance of this data used in conjunction with the proof that strata do not deposit in succession becomes apparent when analysing existing sequences of strata. It clears the way for ascertaining the actual time needed for large stratified rock formations to arise. It also shows that the living organisms which became fossils were buried rapidly and provide no data for evolutionary development of life.

Berthault undertook a paleohydraulic analysis of the Tonto Group in the Grand Canyon which is hundreds of miles long and up to 1,700 feet high stretching from the state of Nevada, through Arizona to New Mexico. The study based upon the laboratory experiments showed that it would have taken, not the 13 million years according to the geological time-scale, but less than fifty days to form.[6]  Further field research by other geologists such as Alexander Lalomov in the Crimean Peninsular has resulted in similar findings, which completely invalidate the principles underlying the multi-million year geological time scale.

The most successful propagandist for uniformitarian geology was attorney and amateur geologist Charles Lyell. Lyell’s evidence consisted entirely of his own observations of rock formations and fossils, particularly molluscs.  Being a wealthy man, he was able to travel widely, much more so than his colleagues, and amassed a great collection of fossils from the many geological formations he visited. All this gave the impression that his argument was based on better evidence than others in the field.  It was, however, without empirical proof  and depended upon subjective interpretation.  He was also motivated by his desire to undermine belief in the Bible, and particularly the Genesis Flood not directly but by demonstrating their incompatibility with modern geology. [7]

In 1830 Lyell published his Principles of Geology which gave Charles Darwin the rationale for his 1859 Origin of Species.  Toward the beginning of his famous voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle, Darwin used Lyell’s principles to explain the origins of the Santa Cruz River Valley in Argentina. Believing that Lyell’s principles had perfectly explained the gradual formation of the River Valley over millions of years, Darwin went on to develop his grandfather Erasmus Darwin’s theory of biological evolution within Lyell’s geological time scale.  (Ironically, even evolutionist geologists now agree that Darwin was wrong—and that the Santa Cruz River Valley was formed by rapid erosion after a period of glaciation!)  Despite the fact that Lyell was a lawyer, who studied geology as a hobby, and whose theories had not been tested, his book influenced public opinion to such an extent that within a few years after the publication of Darwin’s “Origins,” Lyell’s explanation of the origin of sedimentary rocks went almost unchallenged.

During the years following the popularisation of Lyell’s work, the geological time scale began to exert a profound influence on the presentation of Catholic doctrine on the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis.  According to the Church’s constant hermeneutic principle, articulated in the fifth century by St. Augustine, “[Catholics must] carefully observe the rule—not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity permits.”[8]  In the light of the new “discoveries” of natural science, did reason “make untenable” the literal historical interpretation of Genesis unanimously adopted by the Fathers of the Church? By the time of the First Vatican Council many theologians were beginning to think so. A study on the council by Fr. J. Vacant, Doctor of Theology and co-editor of the prestigious 44 volume Dictionaire de Théologie catholique, indicated the extent to which belief in long ages had taken hold within the Church (Etude Théologique sur les Constitutions du Concile du Vatican – 1895). Amazingly, theologians like Fr Vacant and Fr. M-J Lagrange, the influential founder of the Biblical School of Jerusalem, seemed ready to accommodate Lyell’s assertions by modifying the interpretation of Genesis that had been passed down from the Apostles by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.  Subsequently belief in long ages of earth and human history spread very rapidly. 

Leading Catholic Theologians Embrace Lyell’s Long Ages[9]

In 1882, Vigouroux, a Sulpician well known for the polyglot edition of the Bible and who became Secretary of the Biblical Commission in Rome, wrote in his Mosaic Cosmogony According to the Fathers of the Church:

“Geology has established that Creation was not simultaneous” (p.34); and “It was reserved to our time to discover clearly the true meaning of the cosmogonic days” (p.71). And, alluding to saint Gregory the Thaumaturge who taught physics to his disciples before teaching them the Bible: “This principle of our Fathers in the Faith is also ours. If we disagree with them in the details, it is not that the principle changed; it is because science progressed. They accepted what was taught by the learned of those days; we accept what scholars teach today. There is therefore a change in interpretation, only because science changed, and this change is not ascribable to theology but to science itself which, by its proper nature, progresses.”

In 1896, Fr Lagrange (who had founded Jerusalem’s Biblical College in 1893) rejected “concordism,” considered that the hexameron days and geological periods did not correspond.

The shaping of the Earth went on a long time after the appearance of life; plants and animals developed in parallel. But remains established the fact that the Earth took a considerable time to form. We renounced forever the historic precise duration of six 24 hours days.[10]

The further influence of Lagrange on Catholic exegesis is indisputable: he devised the three main ways to render the presence of scientific errors in the Bible acceptable.  These were set out in five lectures given at the Catholic Institute of Toulouse little more than a century ago, in November 1902, and later published under the title The Historical Method. We will not dispute Lagrange’s dedication to the Church and the Bible. But we will touch here upon the direct influence of geology on the exegesis of the 20th century through Lagrange’s ideas.

As a schoolboy, Lagrange used to wander with his uncle, a geologist, in the foothills of the Alps, where he lived. Maybe this explains how readily and completely he accepted the long ages, not only for the earth but also for the history of Man. He wrote in the Biblical Review, which he founded:

Mankind is older than one believed when piously collecting the wrecks of remembrances assumed to be primitive. (…) Humanly speaking, oral transmission from the beginning of the world is supremely unbelievable. (…) To take the Genesis account as historical information … its value is simply nil in informing us about what happened “in the night of times.”

So Lagrange invented a new and paradoxical concept: “Legendary primitive history.” The Fall, the Curse, the Flood are neither true history nor simple myth. Genesis gives an account based on a “generating fact” but inevitably distorted and downgraded by the transmission through thousands of generations. Another such concept is that of “historical appearances.” Here Lagrange tried to transpose to history what Leo XIII said in Providentissimus Deus about astronomy (the Galileo affair!), that the Bible speaks “according to appearances.”

From a Thomistic perspective, our senses give a true path to knowledge. But in the Kantian perspective of that time, “appearance” meant the opposite of reality. In 1919, Lagrange abandoned his theory of “historical appearances,” but the idea remained that the Bible had to be confined to the sphere of religion, and this was indeed the most secure way to prevent any conflict with science.

The third method proposed by Lagrange to explain supposed natural science errors in the Bible was the theory of “literary genres.” The idea underlying this explanation was that one does not deceive when simply asserting the false, but only when teaching it:

All that the sacred writers teach, God also teaches and this is true. But what do the sacred writers really teach? What they affirm categorically. But—it has been said for a long time—the Bible is not a collection of categorical theses or affirmations. There are such literary genres where nothing is taught concerning the reality of the facts. They only serve as basis for a moral teaching.”[11] [And further:] “It is impossible that God teaches errors. Of course [there are places in] the Bible, where everybody is speaking errors; but it is impossible that an intelligent examination of the Bible compels us to conclude that God taught errors.”[12]

It is obvious that an intelligent use of these three methods is sufficient to get rid of any difficult passage of the Bible. But the authority of the Sacred Writings disappears at the same time, divine inspiration and inerrancy being inseparable!

The Theological Revolution Advances

Although the 1906 and 1909 Pontifical Biblical Commissions produced magisterial interventions in regard to Genesis which upheld the traditional historical and patristic interpretation of the first eleven chapters of the Bible, most Catholic theologians capitulated to the time scale of the new geology.

What were the implications?

First, by trading the 2000 years of history, indicated by the biblical genealogies between the first man Adam and Abraham, for the hundreds of thousands indicated by Lyell (and now millions of years), the six day creation account becomes impossible to believe. The reason is that according to the evolutionary geological time-scale, the animals, whose fossilised remains are found in the rocks existed thousands or millions of years before man. A short period of creation with man created on the sixth day was, therefore, automatically excluded. Second, if all things were not created in six days, as stated by Scripture, or at the beginning of time, as taught by Lateran IV, then both biblical and Church teaching must have been grossly misunderstood for the first eighteen hundred and fifty years of Christian history.

To replace creation over six days by the theory of progressive creation, which postulates instantaneous creation with interventions by God over long periods of time, is a position of compromise that pleases neither God nor man. It uses the paleontological record (shown by experiments in stratification to be valueless as a time indicator) to pinpoint when new species were “instantaneously” produced. As a result it is as contrary to Scripture and the magisterium as is theistic evolution. Moreover, it has no place in a scientific explanation of origins which insists on gradual change leaving no place for instantaneous production.

Other doctrines, perhaps even more important, are jeopardised by distancing the creation of Adam from the rest of biblical history by long periods of time. It is difficult to conceive of the effects of Adam’s sin affecting thousands of generations of human beings without any mention being made of them in divine Scripture, either as factual histories or as elements in the genealogies. Question Adam’s Original Sin and all the associated doctrinal teachings, such as Redemption, Baptism, the Immaculate Conception are affected.  Why would these millions of years be left a blank, when the four thousand years since Abraham are full of details about humanity?

Then there is the question of the covenants made between God and his people. A covenant is a promise made by God as Father to his people as sons and daughters. The first covenant was between God and Adam. Subsequent covenants were made with Noah and Abraham. God’s people were always protected by his promises and no period of salvific history would logically be possible without them. If the covenants made over 4000 years were so fully reported in the Scriptures from Genesis 12 onwards, why would there be complete silence regarding the subject in chapters 1-11, particularly if the period in question covered millions of years? Are there any other examples of God being so inconsistent in revealing His truth? Yes, of course there is God’s covenant with Noah after the Flood. However, because the notion of a very old Earth conflicts with a catastrophic flood covering the entire earth, the Genesis “story” is held by geologists and theologians alike to be either a record of a local flood or simply a symbolic myth. They are unmoved by the actual text of the Divine Covenant:

 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. (Genesis11)

The Road to Restoration

Now the proof is available demonstrating that the theologians were led astray by geological speculation which has been shown to be wrong, what is stopping a rapid return to the traditional doctrine on origins?  Inevitably it is a question of indoctrination. From early childhood, our parents and grandparents having been led to believe in inarticulate cave men living tens of thousands, if not millions of years ago, it is almost impossible for their progeny to believe otherwise. Despite the experimental evidence, showing that all those years were dated using a method now invalidated by experiment, the indoctrination into belief in eons of time started too long ago for it to be put in doubt. Obviously it seems too incredible to accept that almost the entire theological and scientific community has been wrong for a century and a half—that they accepted, as virtually Gospel truth, the geological principles now refuted in the laboratory.

Science misled the world and the Church hierarchy, but now science must do its mea culpa and lead scientists and theologians alike back to before the error took place. Theoretically it can do so without delay. After all, the scientific data is there and, as every scientist knows, observations tested by laboratory experiment are the strongest proof that science can provide. This proof has now been provided and has shown that the principles upon which the geological time-scale was based are not only questionable but wrong. So there is no scientific reason to hesitate. Unfortunately the materialism engendered by belief in limitless time and a natural explanation of origins is not easily given up. If it were, it would mean reverting to moral values which had previously been renounced as constraints upon man’s rights. It would mean science taking second place to the Creator.

By surgically amputating false geological concepts from the Church’s day to day teaching a transformation in people’s theological thinking can also be expected.  Of course, scientists will always exist, who prefer flawed theories to those containing the truth which leads to God. At least they will become aware of their dangerous position. At the moment, there is little or no awareness because the faith has been buried by eons of phantom geological time. For many people the burial has resulted in spiritual suffocation. The faith of those who survive is inevitably impaired. At best, the few who take Scripture and the Magisterium at their word easily fall prey to fideism, believing without the confirmation of their reasoning faculty. They live a dichotomy, accepting both the true theological data, and the contradictory data of false geology. The resultant confusion can only be overcome by the restoration of the traditional doctrine of creation.

It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of this return to a traditional understanding of origins. As natural science administers the coup de grace to particles-to-people evolution, millions of Christians will arise from the empty cornhusks of naturalism and return to the Father.  But it is to be hoped that many will not return unchanged to the Faith of their Fathers.  Like the Gadarene demoniac after his exorcism, delighting in their deliverance from the evolutionary demon, they will repent of their lack of faith and rejoice in the rediscovery of their Father’s goodness.  No longer will these Christians believe that their Heavenly Father used millions of years of death, suffering, mutations and disease to “create” the various kinds of creatures in the world.  No longer will they lay the blame for death and disorder on anyone but themselves. No longer will they doubt that God created a perfect world for them in the beginning and that He wishes to restore that perfection for them through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Through these humble and contrite Christians, on fire with repentant love for their Creator, may the Holy Spirit renew the face of the earth!  

[1] Julien P. Lan Y, Berthault G. Experiments on stratification of  heterogeneous sand mixtures Bull. Soc Geol. France 1993 t.164 N°5 pp 649-660

[2]  Video “Experiments in Stratification” (2000) obtainable from the Kolbe Center, 301 S.   Main St.,    Woodstock, VA 22664, Tel: 540-459-8334 E-Mail: [email protected]

[3] Vatican Council I, Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, Chapter 2 (DS, 1788).

[4] Cf. Robert Bradshaw, Creationism and the Early Church (

[5] The abbreviation Denz refers to Henry Denzinger’s compilation of the authoritative teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on faith and morals.  The abbreviation DS refers to a later edition of Denzinger’s work known as Denzinger-Schonmetzer.  The quotations attributed to Denzinger alone in the main text of this article are taken from the English translation by Roy J. Deferrari from the thirtieth edition of Henry Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolarum (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1957).  

[6] Guy Berthault  “ Sedimentological Interpretation of the Tonto Group Stratigraphy” journal of Russian Academy of Science “Lithology and Mineral Resources”, vol.39. No.5, 2004

[7] Himmelfarbe, 1959, p. 320

[8] Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus.

[9] This section has been adapted from a paper by Dominique Tassot, Ph.D. “The Influence of Geology on the Deviations of Catholic Exegesis” (Proceedings of the First International Catholic Symposium on Creation, Rome, Italy, October 24-25, 2003).

[10] Lagrange, « Hexameron » Revue Biblique 1896, p. 390

[11] Lagrange La Méthode historique (1903), New ed. Paris Cerf, 1966, p. 85

[12] Ibid., p.84.