Creation and Fall

Creation is the special act by which God freely creates all things that exist out of nothing.

What is Creation?

Creation is the special act by which God freely creates all things that exist out of nothing.

What do philosophy and science say?

Philosophy shows that the universe has a first cause; it is undecided about whether the universe is eternal or temporal. Contemporary science suggests that the universe developed from a compact, primitive and fiery state (the ‘Big Bang’), but is incapable of investigating causes beyond the physical universe.

God, however, has revealed that the universe had a beginning and was created ‘out of nothing’ – out of no other pre-existing thing, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

What is special about human beings?

Scripture testifies that human beings are unique in having a material body and a spiritual soul. Each soul is directly created by God. Human beings are persons, not merely things or even animals, and are therefore of the greatest worth and dignity.

The account in Genesis is not a scientific treatise, but is God’s way of revealing to us certain truths about creation and our origins. It reveals that at some point in time God created one man and one woman with a material body and, uniquely among animals, a spiritual soul. In Genesis these parents of the human race are called Adam, meaning ‘man’, and Eve, “the mother of all those who live” (Genesis 1:20). This teaching does not exclude the possible evolution of the human body from already existing and living matter.

God has revealed that he created Adam and Eve without defect and with special gifts: freedom from disordered desires; bodily immortality; freedom from suffering; extraordinary gifts of knowledge. Above all, they were given the gift of grace by which they enjoyed intimate friendship with God. This relationship was to be completed in heaven.

All these gifts and graces should have been passed on to the whole human race, including ourselves.

What is the Fall?

The Fall is the historical event of the first parents of the human race freely choosing to disobey God and suffering serious consequences for themselves and all subsequent generations. What was the event of the Fall?

Revelation confirms that at the root of the world’s disorder is an actual, personal sin of mankind’s first parents. The event of the Fall is revealed by God and presented in Genesis in a figurative way. Echoes of this reality can also be found in the Creation accounts of other ancient cultures which refer, not just to sin in general, but an actual, historical event.

Scripture teaches that this Fall of human beings followed the Fall of a certain number of purely spiritual beings called angels. The leader of the rebel angels (demons), the devil, was the serpent of the book of Genesis who tempted man to imitate his own disobedience. The choice presented to human beings was to make one simple act of loyalty to God.

God said: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Genesis 2:17

However, the serpent or devil tempted our first parents with a lie and they disobeyed God.

What were the effects of the Fall?

By their sin, Adam and Eve lost their special gifts and perfect state, their intimate friendship with God and the promise of future glory in heaven. As descendents of Adam we inherit: Original Sin – the guilt of his sin as father of our race; Evil concupiscence and disorder – a life of suffering, ignorance and discontent ending in death; a state without grace – a life without union with God and with no promise of heaven.

Was there hope after the Fall?

Unlike the fallen angels, the human race would not be lost forever. God in his mercy promised a means of salvation from sin and death. In God’s plan of salvation history, there would one day be a new Adam and a second Eve.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Common Questions

Does the Big Bang theory contradict the Catholic faith in some way?

No, the Big Bang theory does not contradict the Catholic faith. Indeed, it was a Catholic priest, Fr Georges Lemaître, who first proposed this theory of universal expansion from a primitive, compact and fiery state.

This priest was given great honours by the Church, becoming president of the Pontifical Academy of Science in 1936 and a prelate in 1960. Such honours show that the Church does not consider that the Big Bang contradicts the Catholic faith.

Furthermore, while the Big Bang theory has now won widespread acceptance, it is often forgotton that there was considerable opposition to this theory for over thirty years. Indeed, the Big Bang was often more popular with prominent persons within the Church, including Pope Pius XII, than many scientists outside the Church, such as the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle. In the officially atheist Soviet Union as late as 1948, astronomers agreed to fight against Lemaitre’s theory, which they attacked as ‘reactionary’ and ‘helping clericalism’.

Underlying the opposition of many atheists to the Big Bang theory was the sense that this theory, while not of itself proving the doctrine of creation, is intuitively harmonious with creation ‘out of nothing’, beginning with light (Genesis 1:3).

Does the theory of evolution contradict the Catholic faith in some way?

No, the theory of evolution does not contradict the Catholic faith. Indeed, the theory of genetics, which is closely associated with evolution today, was founded by a Catholic priest and Augustinian monk, Fr Gregor Mendel.

Nevertheless, while the human body may have evolved, the Church rejects any view that a human being is merely an animal, or that human morality should be guided by Darwinian principles (popularly expressed as ‘survival of the fittest’).

By contrast, the Catholic faith holds that we have souls, created directly by God to enable us to know and love him, by grace, as his adopted children.

Furthermore, our greatest vocation is not the propagation of our genes, but to learn to love with God and as God loves and to be happy with him forever in heaven.

This article is originally from ‘CREDO: The Catholic Faith explained’ by CTS.